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Human rights and political rights

18th May 2006 Socialist Action 0

First published: 18 May 2006

One of the most frequent intellectual sleights of hand carried out by apologists for imperialism is the reduction of ‘human rights’ to ‘political rights’. That is, when they claim to be speaking about ‘human rights’ they in fact eliminate most human rights and reduce these to a much narrower range of political rights – most imperialist apologists are also in practice totally selective in which countries they chose to discuss political rights in, but that is another aspect.

Consider the difference between these two issues. Human beings are real living entities. They eat, drink, get ill, raise children, are sexually active, want entertainment, have interests and hobbies. Their needs range from the absolutely vital for survival, for example food and health care, through those issues rated by almost all societies as extraordinarily desirable, such as finding friends and having partners for sexual activity, through knowledge and skills vital for participation in wider human culture and access to higher paid employment, such as the ability to read and write and education, to the desirable but less than truly essential – having a black iPod as opposed to a white one. The real ability to undertake all these, both separately and according to priorities determined by the individual, constitutes the sum of their real human rights.

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The era of permanent US aggression: Stop war in Iraq

1st February 2003 Socialist Action 0

First published: February 2003

The coming attack on Iraq is the latest in a series of wars waged by the US government – including the first Gulf War in 1991, the attack on Yugoslavia and the bombing of Afghanistan. But many more people than before have understood the real motives for the war and are therefore opposing it.

This is a vital change. Not only would an attack on Iraq kill thousands of Iraqi people but, if successful, it will be far from being the last, or even the biggest, aggressive war envisaged by the US. In his ‘axis of evil’ speech, George W. Bush has already named North Korea and Iran as potential future targets. The Pentagon ‘nuclear posture review’ document in 2002 named a hit list of countries against which Washington is prepared to use nuclear weapons, including Iran, North Korea, Libya and China. At the end of February, responding to a question from the anti-war MP Alice Mahon, Tony Blair declared that after Iraq, North Korea was next.

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Conference shows current stage of international left recomposition

1st October 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: October 1998

Over 700 people participated in the conference ‘150 years after the Communist Manifesto’ held in Paris in May. The congress, initiated by the French Communist Party and organised by a coalition of French Marxists, social democrats and academics, gave an indication of the current stage of recomposition of the international Marxist movement.

The conference was open and non-sectarian. It had a hybrid character, however – combining a large body of (largely male) academics with a significant number of political parties and currents.

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Eastern and Western Europe today

1st May 1998 Socialist Action 0

First published: May 1989

Europe is today undergoing its greatest changes since World War II. This is obvious in Eastern Europe which has seen the greatest political shifts since 1945. In Western Europe structural shifts on a less dramatic scale, but still the greatest since World War II, have marked the two last decades. How are these developments linked, and what are their driving forces?

The first issue to be clarified in examining European trends, and the development of European politics, is the relation between the uniqueness of each state and the overall situation. There are no two countries in Europe in which the organisation of capital, the structure of the state, or the relations in the labour movement are duplicated or in which political tactics can be the same. Nevertheless this does not prevent there being a clear general European development. If we are to understand the individual process in each country in Europe we must first examine the international reality in which it develops. The aim of this article is to consider these broad trends of European development in their full scope. Within that framework the specific situation in each country can then be situated.

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Militant bourgeois

1st July 1996 Socialist Action 0

First published: July 1996

Some years ago the Financial Times ran an exceptionally instructive back page interview with Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of the extreme right wing French National Front. It was instructive, not because of what it told the reader about Le Pen, but for what it reflected about the thinking of the Financial Times.

The article was entitled ‘Militant bourgeois’. The tone of the interview was precisely expressed by its title. It sought to foster toleration among the FT’s readers of Le Pen as a ‘militant’ representative of a ‘bourgeois’ political force – without, of course, endorsing his more obscurantist, racist and anti-semitic views. The approach was to create the kind of attitude to Le Pen among FT readers, that might have been found among militant car workers in the 1970s to a ‘communist’ shop steward – ‘we don’t agree with a lot of their ideas, but they are useful to have on our side in a fight with the class enemy.’

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The recomposition of the International Workers’ Movement, part 1

1st October 1995 Socialist Action 0

First published: October 1995     

The re-introduction of capitalism into eastern Europe in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, unleashed a carnival of reaction throughout the world; the advance of NATO into eastern Europe, starting with the bombing of Yugoslavia; the collapse of living standards throughout eastern Europe and the former USSR; the greatest rise of racism since the 1930s and the first serious attempts to start dismantling the welfare states in western Europe.

This course of events was predictable and predicted. The overthrow of the planned economies in eastern Europe and the break-up of the USSR changed the international relationship of class forces in favour of imperialism. The imperialist ruling classes consequently became, not more conciliatory, but vastly more aggressive – taking the offensive to secure their interests in the third world, in eastern Europe and against the working class within the imperialist states.

The critical issue today, is whether that imperialist offensive will be taken onto a new level by the restoration of capitalism in Russia. Four years after Yeltsin came to power that issue has still not been resolved.