International Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10, the date on which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, seventy years ago in 1948. According to its Preamble, the Declaration, which contains thirty articles, was to constitute a “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”
Paying tribute to the Declaration on its 70th anniversary, the UN describes it as “a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” and one that “establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person.” One of the most translated documents in the world, it is available in more than 500 languages.
The Declaration has the character of a non-binding pronouncement. It is up to UN member states that accede to it to bring their domestic law into compliance with its principles for them to assume any legal weight.
Human Rights Today
Commentary by TML Weekly
Affirming human rights is the most important question of our time. It arises out of the objective developments, that is, the colossal advance of the productive forces. It is a question that is calling for the entire restructuring of society, the theory and philosophy guiding it, as well as the economic, political and other theories that shape modern life.
The modern definition of human rights can be summed up in one sentence: People have rights by virtue of being human. This is the cornerstone around which the entire base and the superstructure of the society have to be built. All people have rights in the objective sense, that is, by virtue of being human. These rights can neither be given nor taken away. This is to say that anyone who tries to take away these rights will face the people’s opposition. At the same time, the people have to provide these rights with a constitutional guarantee that they can protect. Society has to be organized to provide these rights as a matter of principle, without exception.
A society that has as its foundation the guarantee of human rights according to the modern definition will provide great inspiration for other people in the world to follow suit. As people engage in building new societies in their own countries it is normal to sympathize with and support others who are striving for the same.
On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, which this year also celebrates the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, TML Weekly salutes the peoples of the world who are waging a life and death struggle to provide human rights with a guarantee. The fight for human rights is testimony to the fact that societies are advanced enough to express these rights and human beings are determined to overcome their absence.
Rights are not expressed by the fact that they are given by this or that economic or political power, this or that social or cultural institution. It is necessary to evaluate these rights as they exist within a particular society or internationally so that the extent to which the society has to advance can be ascertained and the tasks to affirm them can be brought forth.
Of course, this is what the old forces who usurp power through force and fraud do not want the working class and people to do. Their aim is to get the working class and people to submit to their demands. To achieve this, they do everything possible to promote the present arrangements as credible, even as they restructure everything to eliminate even the notion that modern society is responsible for the claims of its members upon it. They go so far as to rule out even the very mention that society is advancing from one stage to the next by claiming that liberal democracy is the highest possible development of democracy. This is done to block the striving of human beings to change the conditions which are blocking society’s path to progress.
TML Weekly calls on its readers to review the history of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by paying utmost attention to the striving of the people to establish a new coherence in order to renew society so that the human rights of all are provided with a guarantee.
December 8, 2018 – No. 43
Peoples of the world oppose those who make a mockery of human rights based on ulterior motives
Commentary by PAULINE EASTON
The peoples of the world do not accept reaching conclusions about whether human rights are being violated in this or that country based on the self-serving propaganda of warmongering forces. A serious study of the economic, political and social system of a country will clearly expose what is going on there. Serious study and investigation of social systems is not the desire of the U.S. imperialists and their allies, including Canada, who float “human rights” pretexts and organizations for their own purposes. For them, truth is a matter of creating an outlook which permits them to carry out their neo-liberal anti-social nation-wrecking agenda with impunity. They use the pretext of championing human rights in whatever manner suits their particular pursuit of the moment. If truth has to be bent and twisted to its opposite, so be it, if this is what serves their interests. The question of human rights is used by the Anglo-American imperialists as a political tool, a weapon to justify aggression and intervention against peoples and countries hostile to their interests.
After the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, and even during its drafting and the adoption process, the Anglo-American imperialist forces launched the Cold War, based on the lie that the “West” is the “defender” of human rights, and that socialism and communism are not. It was a patent falsity, but it has obviously served as the backdrop for many of the crimes committed against the peoples fighting for national and social liberation since the Second World War. Not only did the Anglo-American imperialists refuse to de-nazify the zones under their control but they actually protected the Nazis, gave them safe-haven and positions of influence and authority while they persecuted the communists, slaughtering them en masse as they did in Indonesia or keeping them in concentration camps for 40 years as they did in Greece and south Korea while carrying out witch hunts, coups d’état and wars of aggression in the name of the containment of communism. They established NATO as an aggressive U.S. imperialist-led war alliance and its North Atlantic Council to make sure that only systems to their liking were permitted in Europe, based on definitions of rights and types of government, which they themselves approved and imposed.
Anti-communism and the defeat of the Soviet Union and countries of the former people’s democracies, not defence of democracy and human rights, was their motivation and the most heinous crimes were justified on this basis.
The accusations against others of violating human rights have proven to be well-orchestrated campaigns to divert attention from what the U.S. imperialists and the “West” have been doing at any particular time. At the time the Universal Declaration was adopted, this expressed itself in the clash between the countries that comprised the socialist camp and those that comprised the capitalist camp. The socialist countries fought against permitting rights to be treated as an abstraction while there was no obligation to put in place the economic and social conditions required for their realization. According to the U.S. imperialist mantra, communism was based on the violation of human rights and for this reason was to be overthrown. The overthrow of communism was thus to prove the superiority of the U.S. democracy and its defence of human rights. To this day they continue to erect monuments to condemn the alleged crimes of the communists while the crimes the U.S. imperialists and their allies, including Canada, have carried out in the name of freedom, democracy and human rights are to remain forgotten. But history has its own cunning. Reality exists. Human beings not only exist but they strive to humanize the social and natural environment as a matter of their being human and this is what settles scores with the old conscience of society.
Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union and people’s democracies, when the period of flow of revolution went into retreat and U.S. imperialism began subverting the entire world in order to create a uni-polar world under its dictate, the crimes against humanity in the name of human rights have become unprecedented, even by the previous standards set during World War II. Meanwhile, the European Union, the Russian Federation, Japan and others have pushed for a multi-polar world, a world divided up between various imperialist powers. It is this drive of the imperialists against the peoples of the world that is behind the most flagrant violations of human rights everywhere, including in the U.S. and the “West” as we see on the news every day.
The developments in the United States, said to be the greatest champion of human rights, expose in stark detail the overall clash between authority and condition. Increasingly, the military and police are given broad authority to carry out an agenda worldwide set by a small ruling elite. The war on terror, the Patriot Act, the militarization of Homeland Security and the consolidation of civil defence within its mandate, and the expansion of the rule of the executive branch of government at all levels give powers to the institutions of the U.S. state to act with impunity and without redress and this is willy nilly extended over Canada. The existence of arbitrary powers established through the war on terror and Homeland Security gives licence to the executive powers and administrators of the state and their police authorities to do whatever they wish. Having established these police powers they now claim that the war on terror is no longer needed and the main enemies have become Russia and China and their attempts to undermine the “western democracies” by floating fake news, financing third parties and other such schemes. It is on the pretext of fighting these enemies that the U.S. state now claims to defend democracy, freedom and human rights.
Their desire to control the world is their justification to demand that everyone must have brutal capitalist exploitation, which makes a mockery of human rights; and brutal capitalist democracy, which implements totalitarian methods and police powers and violates the most important of all human rights, the right to conscience, and militarizes culture and life itself. They fight so that finance capital under their control only is entitled to maraud all countries. Free competition is non-existent when it comes to the marauding of international finance capital. No matter what crimes are committed, all of it is done in the name of human rights, opposing corruption and fraud, defending the national interest and other pretexts.
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, hollow statements are being made by the representatives of the imperialist powers and the UN Human Rights Commission itself to smash public opinion by diverting attention from this reality but also hoping to render all opposition hopeless. Their preferred method is to create straw men and red herrings in order to push their interests, but if this fails, they justify invasions as we see in the Middle East and coups d’état as we see in Latin America. A favourite diversion is that of accusing others of human rights violations by defining human rights strictly according to their own interests.
But the peoples all over the world, on the basis of their own fight in defence of rights, have exposed their pretexts. The imperialists respond by creating even more diversionary pretexts. In the name of defending democracy, freedom and human rights they are now defining rights in even more egregious ways, such as turning their attention to rival business representatives who they humiliate and criminalize because they have their own interests and refuse to submit to their hegemony.
All of it shows that the spearhead of the struggle for human rights today is the affirmation of the very right to be, the right of all human beings to be, which the imperialist powers and all those who have usurped power by force are threatening with extinction. This, in turn, means that the affirmation of human rights today requires the affirmation of the right to conscience which is what participating in making the decisions that affect the lives of human beings and their social and natural environment, implementing these decisions and rendering accounts for the result is all about.
In his important work, The State of Human Rights After the Cold War, written in 1992, Hardial Bains writes:
“Human beings are not only social in the way they acquire their living, but in all aspects of their life, they constitute a break with the animal condition. This break with animal existence – with the vagaries of nature – places a new, vital condition on all humans, the condition of being…. This condition of being dictates … that human beings must have a say in the production and reproduction of real life. The demand of a say emerges out of the condition of socialization and leads to further socialization…. The condition of being demands that everything be judged on the basis of the extent to which the conditions permit the actualization of human rights.”
“A right is fundamentally a phenomenon of human civilization [and] reminds the powers-that-be that we are human beings and that we should be treated in a way which befits human beings,” Hardial Bains writes. He explains:
“A clash between the act of being, Authority, which refuses to do its duty, and the act of being, Condition, which is demanding that the people do their duty, is the order of the day…. The act of being of the condition has assumed the primary position over the formalities and abstractions used as justifications by various authorities. When authorities do such a thing [neglect their duty], the right to conscience is violated…. Either the authority must bring about changes in the conditions, that is to shoulder its responsibilities so as to favour the right to conscience, or the conditions will continue to deteriorate until the people terminate the authority…. [The people] are doing their duty by claiming their rights from the act of being in definite conditions; they want to overcome those conditions.”
The violation of human rights today is done by asserting the right to be of Authority in the face of anarchy and violence and the danger to the security of that Authority. This is to cover up that Authority has become anarchy and violence in the form of a state which “never stops claiming that it is innocent of any wrongdoing and that everything which is being done is for the well-being of the entire people and humanity. But the very act of being, the very existence of anarchy and violence, refutes such a claim…. If such a government were fighting for the interests of the people, and were actually doing its duty, anarchy and violence would not take over. This is because the people, who despise anarchy and violence above all else, since they are the ones who suffer from it the most, would certainly side with such a government…. When a government claims to combat anarchy and violence through the massive use of force, by an all-round assault on the mass of the people and through their humiliation, it is not beyond belief that such a government may have created that anarchy and violence in the first place.”
The peoples of the world are doing their duty by “demanding their rights on account of their conditions of life.” They are striving to end conditions which violate the human rights of the people and their right to conscience, their right to be. Hardial Bains wrote:
“People are seeking to abolish the conditions which give rise to violations of human rights in the first place. They want to protect their right to conscience and use the content of their conscience to improve their condition of being…. It is the Authority which is increasingly coming under fire and it is the conditions which are more and more crying out to be changed and an increasing number of people are coming forward to take up their duty…. Forms will vary, but in every instance they will reflect the contradictory process posed by the clash between the claims of authority and the demands of the conditions…. The act of being is what has to prevail. The act of being of conditions overrides any claims of authority.”
The struggle for human rights today is the struggle for the emergence of the modern democratic personality which upholds democratic principle as an act of being. Those who take up their duty to themselves and society force the Authority to change the conditions. An Authority which refuses to do its duty to the people and society, an Authority which refuses to submit to the Necessity for Change will be overthrown by the very force of history itself to remove all blocks in the path to progress.
On this occasion, those whose Authority is out of tune with the needs of the times will be more concerned with the trappings and symbols of the Authority than in doing their duty to the peoples and their societies. “By depriving the people of the right to conscience, Authority is being turned into a cult and conditions are being worshipped as final and immutable,” Hardial Bains wrote. He noted
“Whether or not the right to conscience exists in real life, will actually determine whether a people live or die. It is the fundamental question of our time, along with matters related to the nature of a state, its form of organization and the economic system. It is at a par with these, and it actually overrides them in its importance…. Rights can only find their concretization in the solution of the problems facing a modern society, be they related to the economic well-being of the people or to the peace and harmony between peoples within a nation or between nations, or to matters of a spiritual and social nature…. Rights will be realized when Authority changes the conditions in favour of the people and the people carry out their duty by ensuring that Authorities do such a thing. People can perform their duty only if they have the right to conscience. This struggle, then, is the fulcrum on which the uplifting of the world and its renewal rests.”
1. The State of Human Rights After the Cold War – A Theoretical and Political Treatment, Hardial Bains, 1992.
TML Weekly, December 8, 2018 – No. 43
70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
TML Weekly Supplement, December 8, 2018 – No. 43
• Differing Perspectives on Human Rights During Drafting of Universal Declaration
• Perspective of the Soviet Delegation on Draft Covenant on Human Rights
• Canada’s Less than Honourable Role
• Text of Universal Declaration of Human Rights