This is the second of two introductory posts in our symposium on socialist constitutionalism.
Willy Forbath –
In my last post, I began a discussion of the Weimar Constitution as one of the first constitutions containing provisions for social and economic rights (SER), and perhaps the very first one, in which socialists had an important hand drafting and expounding. The literature on constitutional SER misses a great deal when it casts the Weimar Constitution as a weak, infant version of later SER constitutions, which grew stronger over time.
Recently, I have been looking at the Weimar Constitution and the writings of the drafters of and commentators on its social law provisions. The social law portions of the Weimar Constitution are not a baby version of the grown-up post-World War II welfare rights constitution. The social law provisions of the Weimar Constitution included rights, but they were chiefly about structures and powers. They outlined an interlocking framework of rights, structures and powers that aimed to empower workers and other lower class and subordinate groups to participate on an increasingly equal footing in running individual firms and in shaping and governing the broader political economy. The constitutional vehicles here were both trade unions and also a federated structure of democratically constituted workers’ councils at local, regional and national levels of economic governance. Workers in Bavaria and elsewhere waged bitter general strikes demanding that councils find a place in the Constitution; and they succeeded.