- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Ahistorical 'rights'

Posted by: Barry Stoller on November 23, 1999 at 18:48:16:

In Reply to: Everywhere and always posted by Nikhil Jaikumar on November 23, 1999 at 10:22:28:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life.(1)

Certain things, e.g. free speech and the welfare system, are basic human rights and can never be removed.

We should allow free choice for everyone, and not be coercive, except when people seek to introduce fictitious 'rights' e.g. the rights of the entrepreneur which can only exist by depriving other people of rights.

Well, isn't THAT interesting!

According to you, some rights are 'fictitious' while others are 'basic' (universal and ahistorical).

: If you mean positive / negative rights, then I'm in favor of both of them.

BOTH of them?

Does MY 'right' to---say---drive an SUV have any bearing on YOUR 'right' to---say---be free from the pollution my SUV produces?

Which right is fictitious and which right is basic?

Only social relations can determine that question.

Not some proclamation that certain rights are this while others are that INDEPENDENT of what's going on IN THE REAL WORLD.

And only struggle can change social relations.

: Majority rules, but we must preserve freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, the welfare system, etc.

Don't you see how ahistorical and arbitrary your exemptions are?

Capitalists would agree WITH YOU---simply adding: Majority rules, but we must preserve freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, AND private property (as property relations stand today)...

By your own argument: if 'the majority' decide to outlaw free speech, why shouldn't they?

: Because it's a human right. Just like the right to adequate food.

Now ask Gee or David or any of their rabid neoliberal homeboys if FREE FOOD is a 'basic' human right. They will tell you it is NOT. And they will be correct---in that THE CAPITALIST SOCIETY WE LIVE IN TODAY will back up their assertions.

Marx---quoted above---is correct.

Are not your 'universal rights' simply things that YOU personally believe in?

: No, NO, NO! They are things that existed before humans ever codified any laws, they are things that exist independently of popular opinion.

Like God creating the world in seven days, these 'laws'---unknown to humans for THOUSANDS OF YEARS---have always been there?

Can you prove that?

: I'm not a libertarian. Libertarians believe in negative rights. I believe in positive rights.

Well, I know a lot of libertarians who say they believe in freedom TO hire propertyless workers at wages 'acceptable' to employers; freedom TO pass on their property to their heirs; and freedom TO undersell peasant proprietors whenever they want a larger market share.

BTW, didn't you---Mister Universal Human Rights---once support 'benevolent authoritarianism'?

Is that a 'basic' right, too?


1. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy [1859], Progress 1970, pp. 20-21, emphasis added.

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