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Constitutional republic as the best model so far

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Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
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Sep 10 2015 15:59
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So if anyone wants to give me an analysis of rights that is more than 'state given, we shouldn't rely on the state' or anything that hasn't already been said about free speech (I.e fuck nazis tbh idc), then this would be the time

This really depends what you're looking for. I mean, the reason you cannot rely on rights is precisely because it is guaranteed by the state, which can at any point just ignore any right. It's happened before and will happen again. In other words, when push comes to shove "rights" as such don't exist; or at least only those rights that the West propgandized during the Cold War (private property and freedom of speech mainly). And given that you like in the UK, you know how much Cameron loves free speech, what with the Tory govt's internet censorship spree. The only "right" that is really inviolable is private property. The question about rights is really about who can guarantee them; if the institution that is supposed to guarantee them turn out to be one of the main violator of those rights, then yes, the analysis is (and must be) as simple as "state guaranteed; we should not rely on the state". And of course, this is all tied to the fact that the state has the monopoly on violence. You may not like this analysis, but that the state is at the core of any notion of rights is just a sad fact.

While I am no big fan of David Harvey, he made a decent argument about human rights in Spaces of Hope. The way that HR are written (right to food, housing, education and so on) is actually quite radical as demands; and they can be used for propaganda purposes precisely because "rights thinking" has been shoved into everyone's heads since we're young. So what he is arguing is that human rights can form the basis of some version of a Trotskyist-like 'transitional demands', i.e. demands that are so impossible to achieve within the confines of capitalism that they in effect are revolutionary. Of course, the problem with all this is that again you are making demands on the state, which may very well violate your rights while you are making such demands.

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Auld-bod
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Sep 10 2015 19:08

I understand when Ghandi was asked what he thought about British civilisation he replied that it would be a good idea. I feel the same about human rights. As someone has already written the preconditions for universal human rights are not present. Cameron rolls out the red carpet for rich people to come to the UK yet is very reluctant to admit refugees without the correct connections.

As the Tory MP Sir Gerald Nabaroo once stated after winning a court case, he got justice because he could afford it.

‘The MP, now a shadow of his former self, once again addressed the media on the court steps: “It underlines the simple point I made, that if a man can afford to pay he will secure justice. The man who cannot afford to pay will rarely secure it.’

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/features/true_crime/3703027.Nabarro_nabbed_fo...

Freedom of speech is largely mythical as many working class people guard what they say. When you need references of various kinds to secure access to services and of course secure employment, only the sycophant is truly free to speak. A world without fear of the blacklist, and the bailiff, are some of the preconditions for the exercise of the right to be human.

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 10 2015 17:13
Auld-bod wrote:
A world without fear of the blacklist, the bailiff, are some of the preconditions for the exercise of right to be human.

Beautifully put!

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Sep 11 2015 11:22

khawaga, all that much should be obvious. the problem is though, you haven't made any distinction as to how this is different to other things we rely upon the state for, i.e welfare and benefits. I don't see anyone arguing we shouldn't oppose welfare cuts, jsa sanctions etc because it is given by the state and therefore it can take it away when it wants to and therefore we shouldn't rely on it. People will just say 'well obviously we've got to defend those because those are things people need to live, they are for the most vulnerable' etc, which isn't wrong, but why we should act differently isn't actually given any basis. It's just given as self evident.

Now I don't really care about doing blatantly obvious things just because we don't have a neat theoretical explanation for it, but when people do that with welfare but then act so so so so so 'prolier than thou' about rights it causes some degree of cognitive dissonance.

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Sep 11 2015 13:14

FWIW - and I'm in a rush at the moment - I think we defend welfare and benefits because it provides material support for the working class. And it's not like we defend those things in a vacuum - I mean anarchists are pretty clear that we have welfare benefits because (a) we fought for it and (b) capital, or at least some sections of it, sees it as a way to stablize the overall capitalist system.

The problem with rights discourse is that it provides a theoretical framework in which the state is the guarantor and protector individual and collective freedom. And, obviously, there's all sorts of problems with that. One, the main right the state is concerned with is the right to private property. Two, it misconstrues the state as a benevolent or at least neutral entity. Three, it accepts the state's arguments on the state's own terms. Four, the state can readily be relied upon to ignore our rights when if feels threatened. I think there's lots of good reason there, then, to counter that narrative.

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Sep 11 2015 15:18
Chilli Sauce wrote:
FWIW - and I'm in a rush at the moment - I think we defend welfare and benefits because it provides material support for the working class. And it's not like we defend those things in a vacuum - I mean anarchists are pretty clear that we have welfare benefits because (a) we fought for it and (b) capital, or at least some sections of it, sees it as a way to stablize the overall capitalist system.

The problem with rights discourse is that it provides a theoretical framework in which the state is the guarantor and protector individual and collective freedom. And, obviously, there's all sorts of problems with that. One, the main right the state is concerned with is the right to private property. Two, it misconstrues the state as a benevolent or at least neutral entity. Three, it accepts the state's arguments on the state's own terms. Four, the state can readily be relied upon to ignore our rights when if feels threatened. I think there's lots of good reason there, then, to counter that narrative.

1. Rights provide material support for the working class. There are numerous cases where we have been able to use rights legislation in our favor.

2. You think rights weren't fought for either?

3. Capital also sees human rights legislation as a way to calm and stabilise things, its a useful thing for them to be able to say 'but girls, you already have the equal pay act and the human right to be protected from discrimination, feminism need not be a thing anymore. You've won!'

4. Your second paragraph is largely just repeating what I've already said and none of that is unique to welfare. Rights also construe the state as a benevolent entity.

infektfm
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Sep 12 2015 17:48

My 2 cents: rights are one of the only tools provided that we can use in a state society. They can better the conditions in which working people live in, or they can't, depending on what victories were won by who -- they are, on paper, guarantees by the state (whether or not they protected in practice is a variable thing depending on the what and the where -- maybe how strict the adherence to legal despotism is a society, or whatever) . However, who provides those rights, why we have a social system that operates on the machinery behind them, shows a more accurate picture of who is entitled to the fruits of society: the conditions for the possibility of rights protection is dependent on a particular formation of real, material, historical power relations. Rights provide the system with stability. So, what should be a focus in libertarian politics are those power differentials which repress the possibilities of the lives of so many -- the power of capital versus the power of working people in the production of society, for example.

I'm not one to say, absolutely, this sort of thing can't be expressed in rights discourse. I don't know. But I am a little skeptical. They are often too individualistic in principle, but that's the legacy of a specific history, so yeah.

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Sep 13 2015 00:50

Hey again Croyden,

So I've been sort of debating how to respond to that last post of yours and I guess part of the problem is that I'm not totally sure what critique you're making - or sort of what you want to achieve with that critique.

Is it just that anarchism generally has an underdeveloped critique of rights? Or, alternatively, an incorrect or is incorrect in having a critique of rights? And what's sort of the practical upshot of your concern - that, theoretically, we won't be able to overcome the barrier of rights discourse in terms of growing as a movement?

Or, it is it more about what you see as the contradiction in benefits and rights? And, assuming that contradiction exists, again what's the upshot? Should anarchism start defending rights or stop defending welfare? I don't think you're suggesting that, but I'm not really sure what you are suggesting?

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Sep 13 2015 00:55

Also, FWIW - and I don't actually think this addresses your point - "rights" exist in this really abstract way. Man, I'm an American, and people whose right are regularly being trampled still cling to the idea of rights and the idea of the government being a neutral and even benevolent arbiter of those rights.

I just don't think that's the case with welfare. If they cut off your benefit, it's a clear material attack. If they stop your unemployment, you can't claim that the state is some benevolent guarantor of a social safety net when there's no money in your bank account.

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Sep 13 2015 01:10
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khawaga, all that much should be obvious. the problem is though, you haven't made any distinction as to how this is different to other things we rely upon the state for, i.e welfare and benefits. I don't see anyone arguing we shouldn't oppose welfare cuts, jsa sanctions etc because it is given by the state and therefore it can take it away when it wants to and therefore we shouldn't rely on it.

I think you're misunderstanding what rights are then. We don't rely on the state for our rights. They are inalienable and we get them by virtue of being born human (human rights), being a child (children's rights) or by virtue of being a citizen of a particular state. Rights are thus part and parcel of our being as juridical subjects of the state and the international community. In other words, the state cannot take away our rights. Either we have them or we don't. What the state can do is to ensure them or violate them. Hence, welfare and benefits are ways in which that our rights are actually met/not violated. Rights are ideal and cannot, as such, improve the material conditions of the working class. This means that we can rely on rights discourse (rhetorically) to fight for improving material conditions, but fighting for rights gives us just that, rights in the juridical sense and thus the opportunity to rely on the judicial system for our rights to be met if they are violated. Conversely, it also means that it is much easier for a government to say that everyone have the right to feed themselves and have a house over their head than it is for them to actually feed and house everyone. To extend this argument a bit further: it is better for us to e.g. occupy a house (or a few) to make sure that people have a house over their head rather than winning the right to housing.

And just to clarify: I don't oppose "rights" because I cannot oppose them like I would welfare cuts. What I am arguing against is fighting for rights in the abstract simply because they mean nothing, are always violated if they come into conflict with the right to own private property. But I do think that rights discourse can be used as a part of our organizing toolbox.

Chilli Sauce's picture
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Sep 13 2015 01:34

So, I think that's what I meant to say in that last post of mine. Well put K.

Khawaga's picture
Khawaga
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Sep 13 2015 15:32

Cheers, Chili.

Croy's picture
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Sep 15 2015 12:24

The upshot of my post is that we shouldn't claim to have an analysis of rights, or at least anywhere enough of one to justify the shit that follows which I see as largely wanky semantic games all bought together by a distinctly implied 'prolier than thou' attitude

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
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Sep 15 2015 13:17

I'm just curious Croydonian - and I ask this because you called me out by name - if you think this distinctly implies a prolier-than-thou attitude:

Quote:
I think there's also a larger critiques of "rights" that could be made - that they rely on some larger governing body - chiefly the state - to enforce and protect rights. And, further, that the "right" to private property is the core right the state exists to defend. Rights aren't neutral and they're largely an expression of the social relations of capital and the role of the state in maintaining them.

Because, yeah, there's been prolier-than-thou shit on this thread but, to my mind, it was almost strictly Benzo talking about how he has some special insight into the thinking of the working class that anarchists can't grasp.

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Noah Fence
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Sep 15 2015 14:12

Blimey, there's been a lot of twisted knickers on the threads lately, not least my own. What's going on around here already?