Message-Id: <m0xlJyZ-0006waC@noc>
Date: Thu, 25 Dec 97 20:33 GMT
From: (Jim Davis)
Subject: 01-98 The fight for economic rights

The fight for economic rights exposes immorality of the system

By Chris Carusa, Cheri Honkala and Phil Wider, People's Tribune, Vol.25 no.1, January 1998

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This document summarized the highest aspiration of the peoples of the world: the freedom from fear and want.

The Declaration defines five categories of human rights. Civil human rights are about being treated as an equal to everyone else in society. Political human rights include the right to vote, the right to free speech and civil liberties. Economic human rights are about the responsibility of the government to arrange its economy to meet our human needs. Social human rights include the right to education enabling all persons to participate effectively in society. Cultural human rights are the rights to participate in the cultural life of the community, enjoying the arts and sharing in scientific advancement and its benefits.

The United Nations has declared that, “human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthrights of all human beings … all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.” We cannot truly have any human rights unless we have all our human rights. If we have no economic rights, how can we exercise our civil or political rights? To say that the United States is great because it guarantees some measure of civil and political human rights while crushing people's economic, social and cultural human rights is hypocrisy.

The principles of the UDHR have been codified into international law with two major treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. While the United States has ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it refuses to ratify the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Why is that?

From the point of view of the capitalists, the new global situation demands that all barriers to the rights of capitalist private property be removed. Whereas in the past the rights of private property could co-exist with certain limited economic and social rights, today this is no longer the case. With the introduction of electronics and the arrival of the globalization stage of capitalism, the historically evolved contradictory relationship between the capitalist class and the working class has shifted to one of an antagonistic relationship between a new global capitalist class and a new global proletariat. The new reality puts the rights of private property in antagonism with the rights of human beings. Governments around the world can be seen competing with each other to absolve themselves of the need to safeguard economic and social rights, while reinforcing their roles of protecting private property rights.

This means that the interests of the ruling class and the ruled class are no longer just at odds with each other, where one fought for higher profits and the other for higher wages. Now these classes are in fundamental opposition to each other. One is fighting to preserve a system based on private property and obscene profit for the few. The other is fighting for their lives in an emerging struggle to destroy a system that sentences it to death and to put in its place a system that guarantees it life and a flourishing future. Either the dispossessed, superfluous masses will kill the capitalist system and eliminate the ruling class as a class, or the capitalist system and the ruling class will kill them.

America's rulers know full well that their policies are in direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that:

Everyone has the right to education. (See UDHR, Articles 22, 23, 25 and 26).

When asked by a human rights education organization why the United States will not sign the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a White House staffer replied, “We’re afraid of what Americans would do to us in regard to welfare reform.”

In the year leading up to the 50th anniversary of the UDHR, all sorts of organizations will be conducting activities focusing on human rights and human rights abuses. We can expect that many of these efforts will be used by the ruling class and their spokesmen to contain and diffuse the anger of the people about their economic conditions and to block class unity.

Some efforts will be made to expose economic human rights violations and to put forward the need to fight for economic human rights. These efforts have the potential of serving as a rallying point for the unity of the dispossessed and those threatened with entering their ranks. The signature campaign of the Labor Party to win the constitutional right to a job at a living wage is a fight for our economic human rights. The Labor Party is the political expression of those people who are fighting for freedom from fear and want. This is the fight of our time.

Which rights will be honored in the new world order: the rights of private property or human rights?

Perhaps more than any other moral language available at this time in history, the language of human rights is able to expose the immorality and barbarism of the capitalist system.