I’d delineate between emergency revolutionary tribunals in the initial stages of revolution and the more long term judicial system that will eventually settle into position once the revolution has been more firmly secured.

The first and foremost concern of a revolutionary tribunal is it’s ability to quickly and effectively carry out criminal proceedings against counter-revolutionaries. This is an important logistical matter; does the nascent socialist state possess the facilities and materials to incarcerate all its counter-revolutionary enemies? Does it command the necessary surplus of loyal manpower, enough to ensure these facilities can humanely and sustainably attend to the daily task of feeding, washing and engaging these traitors? Can the revolutionary government spare the considerable resources necessary to re-educate potentially tens of thousands of reactionary enemies, or else imprison them on a long term basis? Can all this be done in tandem with the other pressing tasks of an almost certainly chaotic time where you’ll simultaneously need to prepare the armed forces for imperialist invasion from abroad, while also beginning to juggle the internal problems facing the nation such as building secure housing, ensuring national food security, reforming education and training, investigating internal state security, cultivating a proletarian civil service, developing public works infrastructure programs etc? You will only have so much in the ways of material resources and a talent pool with which to tackle these problems, which will all likely be paralysed by the confusion brought on by the revolution.

Once the uncertain early phase of revolution has been resolved it would make sense to try and develop sufficient capacity in the criminal justice system to consider the abolition of the death penalty so criminals can instead be engaged with on the basis of reform and reintegration. However, in the context of the immediate chaos of a revolution, where you do not really know the actual extent of the counter-revolutionary forces arrayed against you, it is far more safe and expedient to execute enemies whenever it is politically permissible to do so. The operative term there being “Whenever politically permissible”. Executing suspects on a flimsy basis only for it to later emerge they were innocent is counterproductive in terms of outcomes, it undermines the legitimacy of the court process that the socialist state is depending on to eliminate it’s immediate political threats. Therefore it still has to operate on an open basis and be flexible enough in it’s rulings to allow for a stay of execution in cases that would have a high chance of alienating the masses. In other words, the revolutionary tribunals have to become an expression of popular will.

Exactly this. Death penalty can be acceptable, as long as the people support the decision. And knowing the will of the people is really one of the main tasks of any communist in my opinion.

I agree with your sentiment, but I worry that sometimes outrage can lead to quick demand for death penalty, and this could inhibit justice. For example, in a heinous crime (child abuse or torture) a suspect may not get a fair trial when there is (understandable) outrage and demand for punishment and suspect may be wrong person

I can’t speak for communism since I haven’t thought about it much. I can speak for the short term after a revolutionary takeover though. For imperialist war hawks absolutely, preferably by hanging upside down. Personally I also wish to see heads on spikes but I understand not encouraging such impulses.

Life in prison is worse. I believe the death penalty to be pointless.

Why the criminals have to suffer?

It’s a criminal justice system. It’s insufficient merely to isolate criminals from society for society’s safety, it is also necessary to mete out justice for the victims. This is a core component of the justice system’s function, without which it doesn’t command legitimacy from the people.

Punitive “justice” is shit, if you truly believe in it you need to re-evaluate your position. There is no justice in revenge.

I suppose you’d extend your definition of “justice” to the Nazis sentenced to hang at Nuremburg? Would you have liked everyone to have gotten off lightly like Speer did?

Absolutely, yeah, I extend this to Nazis. You’re not gonna catch me shedding any tears over dead nazis, but executing prisoners in the name of revenge is still the wrong choice. Imprisonment and execution should be done pragmatically, not to satisfy one’s bloodlust. People should be imprisoned if they would otherwise be likely to harm innocent people. They should be executed if the former is true, and imprisonment is simply not an option. People should be released from whatever imprisonment they are in at the very moment it can be reasonably believed that they no longer pose a threat to innocent people. Any time someone spends in prison should be dedicated to, as efficiently as possible, rehabilitating them so that they will stop being a threat to innocent people as soon as possible.

True injustice is wasting time, energy, and resources which could be used to help people in the name of revenge.

Well said! Even worse, in the USA, imprisonment is a form of slave labor for people of color and poor whites. Companies can profit from using prisoners to work for pennies an hour, not to mention that the wages prisoners earn may be needed to be spent on basic necessities that they are denied, and lastly, prisoners do not have labor rights that other workers do. Revenge and exploitation are the key components of many forms of the injustice system

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Agree. In peace-time, there’s no reason to have it.

Unfortunately I don’t have a PDF of this book, but in Fidel’s autobiography, he talks about the difficulties associated with their attempts to get rid of the death penalty in Cuba, mainly due to popular support for it. The party is for abolishing it, but the people lag a bit behind, and the referendums they’ve had for abolishing it have all failed so far. Its a case where sometimes people hold outdated views on things but must be educated on why its a bad idea.


This is exactly how I feel. Even one execution as a result of a wrongful conviction is unacceptable.

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