Strategy for Revolution in 21st Century - Readers Discussion Board
Stratey for Revolution in 21st Century >Home Page

Human Rights vs Exploitation

Human Rights vs Exploitation
(Coordinator Comment)

The concept of human rights has evolved greatly in the past few centuries. The first generation of human rights, civil and political rights, played an historical role in the American and French Revolutions, and were enshrined in the documents they produced. As Lenin observed, "The great French revolutionaries served the interests of the bourgeoisie" [in other words, the interests of the capitalist class]. "It laid down for the whole world such firm foundations of bourgeois democracy, of bourgeois freedom, that they could never be uprooted." In their Declaration of Independance from French colonialism in 1945, Ho Chi Minh and the other Vietnamese revolutionaries began by quoting from the American and French Revolutions.

Later came the second generation of human rights, economic, social and cultural rights. They were inspired by movements following the Communist Manifesto, and were first formally recognized by the Russian and Mexican revolutions.

The covenant of the League of Nations had no provision for human rights, and it was left for the United Nations in 1948 to adopt, for the first time, a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The capitalist countries wanted to restrict it to civil and political rights, but the socialist countries insisted on including economic, social and cultural rights. Although the European countries eventually ratified the covenant for economic, social and cultural rights, the United States has refused to do so, because it includes such rights as the right to employment with "just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worth of human dignity" as well as the rights to housing and medical care and the right to form and join trade unions.

The second generation rights (economic, social and cultural), can only be attained in full under socialism, because capitalism, by its very nature, requires economic, social and cultural exploitation of the worker by the capitalist. For this reason, the human rights claims of the capitalist countries are hypocritical. As Nelson Mandela has said, "we must warn against the language of rights being used to conceal attempts to maintain, in one form or another, the power, privileges or special status of one racial group. The Bill of Rights cannot be a device to secure the political or economic subordination of the majority or the minority ... We must address the issues of poverty, want, deprivation and inequality in accordance with international standards which recognise the indivisibility of human rights. The right to vote, without food, shelter and health care will create the appearance of equality and justice, while actual inequality is entrenched. We do not want freedom without bread, nor do we want bread without freedom."

A third generation of human rights has been proposed by the countries who gained their liberation from European and American colonialism after World War II (for sources, see the Encyclopedia Brittanica and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights Articles 19-24:

** the right to political, economic, social, and cultural self-determination;

** the right to economic and social development;

** the right to participate in and benefit from "the common heritage of mankind" (shared Earth-space resources; scientific, technical, and other information and progress; and cultural traditions, sites, and monuments);

** the right to peace;

** the right to a healthy and sustainable environment;

Third-generation rights are collective rights not of individuals but of peoples. To be fully respected, these rights will require a new international order with justice and equality between the rich and the poor nations. As Mandela has said: "The failure to achieve the vision contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights finds dramatic expression in the contrast between wealth and poverty which characterises the divide between the countries of the North and the countries of the South and within individual countries in all hemispheres."

Human rights come only through participation. This is made clear by Nelson Mandela in his speech to workers on Mayday: "we must dispel the idea that change can come from government alone, while our people wait passively for delivery. As we were our own liberators, so too must we change our own lives for the better. However good our new laws may be on paper, they must be implemented and enforced before they bring benefits to workers and others. However good the policies of the government are, nothing will come of them without the active participation of each and every one of us."

Following Mandela's remarks to their natural conclusion, the ultimate participation is revolution.

Visitor Comments

To add your own comments in this box, send them with title "sfr comment on human rights" to the following email:

game administrator Jun. 13 2019,18:22
Readers' comments are invited on this topic.