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Left Socialist Blog

China, Human Rights, and the New Internationalist Left.

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Internationalist Left Defends Human Rights.

Human rights are criticised from two principal sides. National Populists, defend a nation’s absolute sovereign right to make laws without legal interference.  Rights legislation, national and international, are the result of a “fear of democracy”. Luke Gittos writes on Spiked, “The existence of a human-rights framework owes everything to postwar elites’ attempt to exert economic and political control over the heads of European peoples.”

From another side, human rights are accused of promoting and even justifying neoliberalism. The neoliberalism of a market society would only be the theoretical deepening and the  realisation of the liberal individualism of their market origins. By their absolute and uncompromising character, individual rights would only promote the figure of a bad citizen concerned only with her own interests.  Andrew Murray writes, “the preference for individual rights over the collective has come to which has come to predominate on much of the Western left, a flowering of the more poisonous seeds of personal identity and human rights” (The Fall and Rise of the British Left. 2019)

Democracy without rights is not a democracy. The majority will of the voters, as expressed at the ballot box, is not the only criterion of democracy it is only a consequence of these primary criteria of equal rights and freedom for all. wrote Justine Lacroix and Jean-Yves Pranchère in Les droits de l’homme rendent-ils idiots ? at the end of last year,

In a powerful assault on the idea that human rights are ‘bourgeois’ and individualistic Lacroix and Prancheere take up a thread running throughout the  history of the First International. Marx and Engels, despite their criticisms of  flowery phrases about “right and duties” – the weight of the late 19th century democratic and national struggles led by figures such as the Italian republican Giuseppe Mazzini, backed demands for social and individual rights and legislation to protect workers’ interests. These were demands going back to the limitation on the working day to which Vol 1 of Capital devotes a whole chapter.These are rights, as they remind us, that for socialists should balance both “liberty and equality”. In this respect we could say that the Trade Union movement is one of the biggest movements for human rights in history.

By the end of the 19th century socialist leaders, such as Jean Jaurès, put democratic rights, individual and collective at the centre of their politics. Many on the left continue their work. By contrast, today “Populism” is not a defence of liberty but a claim for identity “d’un peuple homogène”(Page 17) By affirming absolute national sovereignty in the name of the “people”, a ‘general will’ that exists only through their own parties,  populists and others deny the real voices of individuals and conflicting classes.

Reviewing the book for the radical left  Lignes de Crêtes  observes that

JYP and JL methodically destroy the rhetoric of being ‘anti-system’ means being against political liberalism and  the rhetoric according to which social rights and civil liberties are the individualistic and selfish corollary of economic oppression.  and are opposed to social rights. this rhetoric definitively died with Stalin, but it is not the case, even in certain parts of the radical left, where pitting the ‘societal’  against social issues,  has become commonplace.

That socialism was a proposal to go beyond the original human rights, and was seen as a base to be extended and consolidated, and not to be destroyed has again been largely forgotten. Jean Yves Pranchère and Justine Lacroix remind us. Deconstructing certain hypocrisies based on the formal appeal to human rights is not the same as naming them as an ideological enemy in itself. At a time when it is fashionable to support autocrats like Maduro or Assad, in the name of the destruction of the Established Order, the reminder is vital.

Review: Les droits de l’homme rendent-ils idiot ?

This is the conclusion of Les droits de l’homme rendent-ils idiots ?

“les droits de l’homme devraient être le nom d’une politique de la solidarité, qui ne content pas compenser l’exclusion sociale par des mécanismes d’assistance, mais qui lie les libertés civiles et politiques à une reprise de la question sociale au sense le plus large, incluent les conditions du vivre-ensemble et donc la construction d’un monde commun puisse s’épanouir l’individualité de tous.” (Page 97. Les droits de l’homme rendent-ils idiot ? 2019.)

Human rights should be the name of a strategy of solidarity, one that is not just a means of fighting social exclusion by support mechanisms, but one which binds civic and political freedoms in ways that bring back the social issues in in he broadest sense, including the conditions of community life, and, as a result, building a common world in which everybody’s individuality can flourish.

Political developments have  brought China  and human rights to the fore.

We are not dealing with the limits of bourgeois ‘egotistic’ rights but an autocracy whose methods, re-education, camps, forced labour,  are intimately connected to the Stalinist tradition of Maoism.

The repression that hybrid Stalinist-Capitalism of the CCP state has unleashed is an assault on human rights.

Left solidarity is no respecter of national sovereignty, or the interests of nation states.

Labour has officially taken notice:

Paul Mason offers one of the best approaches to what the left should, and can, do.

Here are some of his points:

 

The left, and above all anyone who thinks the term “Marxism” is worth saving, should be outraged. But parts of the British left seem determined to apologise for China’s crimes against human rights and free speech.

In recent Labour meetings at which activists have tried to raise solidarity with democrats and trade unionists in Hong Kong, or with the Uighurs, they have been met by accusations that they are “promoting Western imperialism” and “media lies”.

If anybody doubts this they can see recent tweets,

https://twitter.com/Rango1917/status/1291323643310546944?s=20

Or the comments underneath this Tweet from Momentum:

Former leader of the International Marxist Group, John Ross, has joined in,

Ross’ argument, recycled from 1960s Soviet Bloc interventions at the UN, is at root that giving people better material living conditions is more important than the ‘bourgeois’ freedoms of expression. Not a very good counter to criticism of political oppression, and the lack of independent trade union rights.

The former Trotskyist has  been at it in the Chinese state media.

False U.S. accusations against China expose its own human rights problems: People’s Daily commentary

John Ross, former director of Economic and Business Policy of London, said that China has “a real understanding of human rights” and “the key human right is to stay alive.”

The right to life is among the most basic human rights enshrined in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” of the United Nations.

The so-called “human rights abuse” fabricated by some ill-intentioned U.S. politicians constitutes an affront to Chinese people’s anti-virus fight, the article said.

 

Paul Mason, by contrast, continues:

I am certain that the renewed salience of the Uighur question, which was ignored for years during the “golden era” of Sino-British relations declared by George Osborne, is in part being driven by the US’s newly aggressive stance on China. But the point of being a socialist is being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

This, however, seems beyond the two left-wing publications in the UK that appear committed to whitewashing China’s authoritarian form of capitalism: the Morning Star and Socialist Action.

He asks,

 The problem for the left remains, as it did in the original Cold War, of how to support democracy, human rights and workers’ rights in China – and in its wider diplomatic sphere of influence – without supporting the Sinophobic rhetoric and aggressive militarism of Donald Trump’s America.

He develops the theme,

What should distinguish the British left’s approach to China is knowledge of and engagement with the workers’ movement. Beyond the outright CCP apologists there is a more widespread belief, born out of lazy cultural relativism, that it is somehow imperialist or even racist for British people to criticise China’s human rights record.

This is the clinching argument,

For those of us on the left who want to maintain an architecture of thought based on historical materialism, whose genealogy runs from Marx, through the early Communist International, the “Western Marxism” of the 1930s, the New Left of the 1960s and the anti-capitalism of today, I am afraid taking a position on Xi’s actual ideology is not a luxury.

Xi’s “Marxism” is overtly and systematically anti-humanist. Its endlessly repeated loops of closed and meaningless phrases make the Newspeak of Orwell’s Oceania sound positively lyrical. The forced, televised confessions of corrupt officials are – as China expert Christian Sorace has argued – part of an attempt to create “affective sovereignty”: love of the party above the state, irrespective of what it says or does.

Human rights are universal.

They will be defended against this “Marxism”.

Xinjiang – Neither Washington nor Beijing: the Left Must Stand With the Uighurs

Ben Towse,

The international left cannot duck out just because Western powers criticise China. We cannot support our enemy’s enemy, uncritically regurgitating its propaganda as the Morning Star shamefully does. But nor can we ally with our imperialist rulers.

We must think about alliances and action independent of the ruling classes. We must reaffirm the left’s understanding of the transnational working class, and oppressed peoples, as their own emancipators. In the tradition of consistent anti-imperialism, we must look to build a ‘third camp’ that makes links and solidarity across borders, opposing all our rulers and exploiters. As inter-imperialist tensions escalate into a new Cold War, update the old slogan: “Neither Washington nor Beijing, but international socialism”.

For instance, despite harsh repression, class struggle in China continues to seethe with unofficial disputes and strikes. Far from uniformly anathematising (or idolising) the entire nation, let’s seek to reach out to this potent force of Chinese workers against the state and ruling class.

 Building international solidarity.

The Uyghur Solidarity Campaign UK, with which I’m an activist, has been formed to build solidarity in the workers’ movement and the left in the UK. The campaign has protested monthly at the Chinese embassy with London’s Uighur community (resuming this week after a coronavirus-hiatus), and in March we invaded the Oxford Circus flagships of Nike, H&M and Microsoft to protest forced labour. A solidarity motion passed at Labour conference last year; a range of union branches and PCS have joined the protests; and socialist MPs including John McDonnellKate Osamor and Nadia Whittome have got on board.

There’s much more for the campaign to do in terms of alliance-building, protest, and direct action. There are also clear international connections to make around anti-racism, state violence and reproductive freedom.

A particular goal of the campaign is worker action. From trade union history – Lancashire textile workers rejecting slave-picked Confederate cotton in the US civil war, Scottish factory workers grounding Pinochet’s jet engines, French and Italian dockers refusing to move Saudi arms in 2019 – we know capitalism’s global supply chains provide avenues for concrete action. Organised workers in businesses connected to surveillance and forced labour in China, from dockers to programmers to shop assistants, could have huge leverage.

Back this campaign!

One Response

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  1. The tendance here is to insist on the initiation of deadly force because altruism. Yet everywhere the ideal is realized, and only cannibalism reduces somewhat the height of the stacks of dead bodies, intellectuals of the looter persuasion insist that the deadly force wasn’t initiated in precisely the right manner. The idea of NOT relying on the initiation of cruel, harmful and deadly force is –to you lot so preoccupied with denying being communists–is thoughtcrime, anathema, unthinkable. Odd, what?

    oiltranslator

    August 11, 2020 at 1:44 am


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