“In his book The Thucydides’ Trap, the American academic Graham Allison wonders how the United States will be able to halt the rise of China. It will not be by making war on it, recognizes this author, because the Chinese military power is dissuasive, and in the event of confrontation, the damage caused to both would be unbearable.
It will not be on the economic field either, because on this field, believes Graham Allison, the Chinese have already dethroned the ex-first planetary power and there is every reason to believe that they will confirm this advantage in the years to come.
So should the United States be resigned to the victory of its new systemic adversary at a time when Mike Pompeo, the head of American diplomacy, designates the Chinese Communist Party as the “main enemy” of his country?
Graham Allison replied in the negative. While nothing can be expected from an armed conflict because it would be suicidal, or from economic competition lost in advance, there remains, however, an area where Washington can compensate for its inferiority, he says, and this area is that of “human rights.”
As in the past against the Soviet Union, the litany of “human rights” is the ideological fuel of the new cold war. If the American leaders are to be believed, and this language is relayed by a servile Western press, the Chinese commit nameless horrors against their own population.
In Xinjiang, an autonomous region in northwest China, “millions” of Uighurs are said to be locked up and tortured in concentration camps. However, this grotesque accusation has been denied by Beijing and by dozens of Muslim countries which welcome China’s preventive and repressive policy against import terrorism made by CIA.
In Hong Kong, during popular protests that rocked the former British colony, the Western press prophesied a bloodbath analogous to the “massacre” in Tiananmen Square.
Despite the provocations of extremist agitators openly supported by the United States, policing by the Hong Kong police was characterized, on the contrary, by its restraint, offering a striking contrast to the violence unleashed in France, at the same moment, against the Yellow Vests, with these tens of thousands of arrests, these 200 seriously wounded and these 25 cripples who bear the imprint of our beautiful “democracy” and of which there is no equivalent in China, a country however described by the West as a “totalitarian dictatorship”.
Propaganda thus invents an imaginary world where the Western conscience, devoid of all impurity, believing that it is denouncing the turpitudes committed by others, only hunts for ghosts.
The West excels in the art of fabricating nonexistent facts, anticipating improbable events and substituting fantasy reality for reality. And each time, with each lie, this propaganda brandishes “human rights” as Moses brandished the Tables of the Law.
And each time, the morally supremacist West distributes punishments and rewards, as if it were the universal depositary of these “human rights” which so easily coincide with its own interests.
One wonders, however, on what grounds a country like the United States would be justified in judging the internal policies of other countries on the basis of humanist principles. Founded by slave-traders and genocidal settlers who perceived themselves to be the chosen people, this state has especially shone during its brief history by its capacity to violate the rights of non-American and non-white people, even if it means massacring whole populations when they were not very receptive to the “saviour” message.
Like the others, the doctrine of human rights is worthless if it turns out that its application justifies horrors. And if human rights are “universal and imprescriptible”, those who constantly mouth them have above all demonstrated that they were neither.
In any case, it is legitimate to wonder why the doctrine of human rights is such a convenient propaganda tool. One could answer, of course, by the thesis of perverse diversion. If the doctrine justifies what it seems to condemn, it is because the powerful have “diverted” it from its original meaning. Doctrine would be pure, of course, but its use would be unclean.
That’s what Rousseau says about laws. Ideally, they are the expression of the general will, they aim at the common interest. But “in fact, he says, laws are helpful to those who own and harmful to those who have nothing.”
Because in the real world it is the powerful who make the laws, and in an unjust society, the laws cannot be fair.The same reasoning cannot be made about human rights. We can’t just say, for example, that human rights are great, but the United States deflects them from their true meaning, they use them to justify interference in the affairs of other nations and cover their imperialism with the garb of humanism.
Of course this proposition is true: yes, the United States is instrumentalizing the doctrine of human rights. But it is not enough to make this observation. Because if this instrumentalization is possible, it is that there is something in the doctrine of human rights that lends itself to this instrumentalization.
To understand this relationship, we must look at the famous “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” of 1789. It states in article 1 that “men are born and remain free and equal in rights”. Then its article 2 specifies that “the natural and imprescriptible rights of the man are the freedom, the property, the safety and the resistance to the oppression”.
It will be noted immediately that equality is not explicitly part of human rights, that property comes immediately after freedom and that security, which guarantees freedom and property, occupies third place.We will also note the definition of freedom, in article 4, as “the power to do anything that does not harm the rights of others”.
However, as Marx says, this freedom is that of “man considered as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself”. Purely individual, this freedom has limits which are “marked by law, just as the limit of two fields is determined by a stake”. Logically, this freedom of the individual flourishes with property, this right to “enjoy his fortune and dispose of it as he pleases, without worrying about other men, regardless of society”.
Basically, concludes Marx, “none of the alleged human rights exceeds the selfish man, man as a member of bourgeois society, that is to say an individual separated from the community, withdrawn into himself, only concerned with his personal interest and obeying his private arbitrariness.
Man is far from being considered as a generic being; on the contrary, generic life itself, society, appears as a framework external to the individual, as a limitation of his original independence ”(On the Jewish Question, 1843).
In other words, the rights affirmed by the declaration of 1789 are abstract rights which do not correspond to any concrete reality except the exercise by the owners of their right of property and the solemn guarantee offered to them by bourgeois society. However much the declaration proclaims the universal and imprescriptible character of “freedom”, for example, these are just words. Separated from the social framework capable of giving it content, this presumed universality is an abstract universality, and not a concrete universality.
If you want to take freedom seriously, you have to make it a concrete right, not an abstract right. And for it to access this concrete reality, for it to have a content, it must be thought of other than as the freedom of the individual.
We had to make this brief detour through theoretical analysis to grasp the true significance of the human rights ideology. The text of 1789 is a manifesto whose function is to make legitimate the transfer of power, in all its forms, to the rising bourgeoisie.
It intends to justify the break with feudal society and its hereditary hierarchies. But it only affirms equality of rights to justify inequalities of fortune.Its main editor, Father Sieyès, is the inventor of the famous distinction between “active citizens” and “passive citizens”: only the former, because they are owners, are called to vote because they are “the true shareholders of the great social enterprise.”
When one hears certain states invoke human rights to stigmatize their adversaries, it is useful to remember that the declaration of rights . . . is only the declaration of the rights of the bourgeoisie.
During parliamentary debates, Robespierre already denounced the class character of the future text: “You have multiplied the articles to ensure the greatest freedom in the exercise of property, and you have not said a single word to determine its legitimacy; so that your declaration seems made, not for the men, but for the rich, for the monopolists, . . . and the tyrants .”We understand better, therefore, that the humanist compassion of our marvelous “democracies” is of variable geometry.
The United States has never expressed any reservations about its friend, the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, and its repressive practices, but it unleashed its propaganda against Cuba the day the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro decided to nationalize the assets of American companies established on national soil.
“Freedom”, for Washington, is the right of its own companies to collect profits from the economic exploitation of a small Caribbean country indefinitely.
Clearly, “freedom” is not the right of a nation to defend its sovereignty and promote its development.
If the leaders of the United States today are trying to destabilize China, it is not because there are “millions of Uighurs” in concentration camps. They know very well that it is a grotesque fable, analogous to the attack on North Vietnam, the weapons of mass destruction of Saddam Hussein, the incubators of Kuwait-City, the imaginary killings of Khadafi and the chemical crimes of Bashar al-Assad.
Human rights made in the CIA is a formidable factory of lies, relentlessly occupying the quantum of brain available to Western viewers to justify its predatory operations, with the help of NGOs too happy to bring their snowballs to this avalanche of slander that descends on countries that dare to resist Western hegemony.
If Washington wants to do battle with China, then, it is not because the Chinese are oppressed by an abominable dictatorship and that they secretly dream of knowing the happiness of living in the American way, with school shootings, discrimination racial, mafias of all kinds and soup kitchens.
It is, quite simply, because this country is attached to its sovereignty, that it has an efficient system, that its leaders have made it the first power on the planet and that the profit prospects of the oligarchy financial institution whose headquarters is on Wall Street, under these conditions, seriously tend to diminish at the same rate as hope.
No wonder, of course, but the fact that the Chinese have lifted 700 million people out of poverty in 20 years is of little interest to the beautiful souls of Western human rights law.
A brilliant neo-liberalism theorist, Friedrich Hayek believed that the social rights enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights were an abomination. These rights to life, work, health or education, however, have the double merit of being truly universal in their definition and of corresponding to concrete possibilities when States offer them content. Contrary to the Declaration of 1789, that of 1948 indeed reflected a power struggle between bourgeoisie and popular classes resulting from the social pact sealed with the Liberation and favored by the collapse of liberalism.In the light of the results, some countries seem to have taken seriously the social rights proclaimed in 1948. These countries are not liberal, and that is why they have set up, for the benefit of many, an education and of a functioning health system.
Despite the blockade, Cuba has created a WHO-awarded health system, and life expectancy in Cuba (80 years) has exceeded that of the United States (79 years). In the latest International Education Systems Assessment (PISA), which involved a sample of 600,000 high school students in 50 countries in 2018, the People’s Republic of China came out on top with Singapore.
These results obtained today by a country which had 80% of illiterates in 1949 should make think all those who are interested in the effective transformation of the formal rights into real rights.But ordinary human rights, that of NGOs, is concerned only with individual rights and abandons collective rights. His compassion for suffering humanity is selective. It mobilizes only for minorities or isolated individuals, acting on a case-by-case basis by selecting those it deems worthy of its attention. It wants to combat discrimination and not exploitation, exclusion and not poverty, the deprivation of liberty inflicted on a few and not the misery imposed on the many. He only knows individuals with rights and cares little about whether there are rich and poor among them. The only battle that counts in his eyes aims to align abstract individuals on a standard restricted to formal freedoms.
In reality, ordinary human rights conceal the fact that freedoms are only effective if collective rights are guaranteed by certain social structures. It tends to mask the fact that rights are real if individuals are properly fed, housed, educated and cared for, and these conditions are in turn met only if the state takes matters into their own hands and makes them sustainable.
In short, these beautiful souls quite simply forget that individuals are nothing without society and that the rights whose application is demanded are nothing but wind if society, deliberately, does not give them concrete content instead of to rely on the marvelous laws of the market boasted by adulterated liberalism.
Cultivating this oblivion, and participating in this occultation, the NGOs steeped in humanism then sum up suffering humanity to an indistinct aggregate of abstract, atomized individuals, whose fate is only interesting if it shows a real or imaginary violation of their individual rights, preferably in an exotic country that is in the crosshairs of Washington.
This is undoubtedly why the main planetary sociological event of the last two decades, namely the eradication of poverty in the People’s Republic of China, interests them much less than the imaginary concentration camps of Xinjiang and the garbage cans overturned by young fools in the Hong Kong metro.”
Bruno Guigue is a French author and political analyst born in Toulouse 1962. Professor of philosophy and lecturer in international relations for higher education. The author of 5 books including, Aux origines du conflit Israélo-Arabe, l’invisible remords de l’Occident (L’Harmattan, 2002).