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Karl Marx Once Dismissed Human Rights As Bourgeois Rights

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Karl Marx criticised the very basic human rights and what more he also claimed that that the whole discussion about the rights is just an “ideological nonsense”. (Craig,1998:130)

According to Karl Marx, the very basics of human existence, such as a morality, religion, rights and legislative are just bourgeois prejudices, which are used for hiding their interests.

In this essay will be described the connection which Karl Marx made between the human rights and the rights of bourgeoisie. This essay will also explain why he did that and what the purpose of his critique was.

In my point of view Karl Marx completely misunderstood the human rights principle. The dismissing of human rights as bourgeois rights, he made, was not correct. Nor was his further will and inclination to their liquidation.

Karl Marx wanted to create of a society where every single human being will be living in peace and quiet, sharing everything is great. An erasing of bourgeoisie, and so their rights form the society, was a foundation stone for creation of a new socialistic state which will be looking “towards a future ideal society in which the freedoms it proclaims will require no guarantees”.

(Lukes, 1985: 62)

Unfortunately, because of the human nature this theory could never be turned to practise. The human being is not perfect, ‘perfect’ system will work within the ‘perfect’ societies, and to build the ‘perfect society’ there needs to be the ‘perfect’ individuals.

Karl Marx thought that the rights of man in general are ‘part of the ephemeral bourgeois ideology thrown up by capitalism’ and he saw them as perfect example of egoism and individualism. (Jones, 1994: 210)

He thought that those rights, those ‘bourgeois’ rights are not real rights, from the very deep sense. He claims that the society, in this case the capitalistic society is not treating individuals equally. That having the declaration of human right and the legislative build on respect to those rights could only cause inequality of individuals, because those individuals ‘can be advanced at the expense of others’. (Craig, 1998:130)

Marx thought that those rights created by ‘bourgeois’ for ‘bourgeois’ had just one function, as it was to hide ‘bourgeois’ ‘cruelty, unscrupulousness and dishonesty’. (Wood, 2004:152)

For Karl Marx the whole ‘modern’ idea of respecting human rights was nothing but just another way how to hide the ‘natural rights of man’ and continue with exploitation of society. Socialists, including Marx, associated those ‘natural rights’ with the rise of bourgeois, which meant a struggle for proletarians under those feudal authorities. He was strongly against any existence of rights whatsoever. Also he was very much afraid that the legalisation of freedom would give even greater chance to the bourgeois to grow larger oppressing more people, by taking an advantage of their work and under the cover of employment not giving them exactly what they deserved. From Marx’s point of view those rights were not equally accessible to everyone, not in the sense of absolute equality of production and ownership of property. These rights were just tools for oppressing people, in this case proletarian.

Karl Marx did not respect and recognize “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, the Constitution (1793), Article II., called ‘the natural and imprescriptible rights for equality, liberty, security and property”. He thought that those rights could not bring people freedom, for which purpose they have been declared, but just to separate them from the society as whole, form the community. Source!

He thought that the rights in the society should be used as naturally as ‘rights’ within the family. He claim that properly working society based on certain economic structure, in this case socialistic society, has no need of some written declaration of human rights, no need of law system at all. In his point of view, such a society would be working similarly like the family. There are no particular rights, no written declarations, about who is going to do shopping this week or who is watching that particular show on television. Members of the family are fulfilling their duties, in many cases very individual, without following any written rules. However, one could hardly compare a co-operation of family with the co-operation of the whole society. Nonetheless, there are many families which do not work. The necessity of legislative covering even of the basic human rights will be in human society for ever. Even under any circumstances, one could not be sure that every single human being will be acting exactly how they are supposed to.

As Karl Marx saw the basic human rights mainly as a the ‘right of self-interest’, everything what one takes as its right, is not giving them anything, but just separating them from the community. According to his summary in ‘The Holy Family’ ‘the recognition of the rights of man by the modern state has no other meaning than the recognition of slavery by the state of antiquity had. (Lukes,1985:63)

The very basic human rights, the right to live, to liberty, equality, safety and property were the main target of Marx’s critique, but on the other hand he was deliberately using them at the same time for his own purposes.

What a paradox. Karl Marx as a politically radically active journalist could not avoid taking an advantage of the human rights. Further more he ‘defended various particular rights’ such was ‘the right to free press, right to vote, workers’ rights to decent factory conditions’, etc. (Lukes;1985:61)

Another paradox is that in some of his texts Marx speaks about the rights, as a rights of ‘bourgeois’, but sometimes he is mentioning rights in general, which causes a confusion about the meaning of his actual critique. By being more specific Marx could have create completely different impression and one could have understand that even he is criticising the ‘bourgeois’ rights, he still carry in mind an idea of some higher form of right, which would finally be practised in an ideal stage of the perfect society, but he is not doing that. He rather ‘suggests that the very idea of right is somehow bourgeois’ and therefore wrong and evil. (Plamenatz, 1975:312)

On the other hand from his claim that the ‘rule of bourgeois’ will be over soon, society will be finally able to relieve itself completely from ‘rights’ in general and there will be reached the ‘ideal stage of perfect society’ with no needs of rights at all, his statement could be very clearly seen. With all of his visions happening there finally, only one rule will be there to respect, only one ‘right’ and it will such; to everyone according to his contribution, to everyone according to his needs.

Despite of the fact, that Karl Marx criticised the rights, he did see that they can not be practically detached from the history and the one and only possible way how to change that is to help them develop into the form where they can be observed unconsciously. He tried to support his theory about necessity of rebuilding the capitalist society into the socialistic one by criticism of the very basic and important human right, the right to equality.

In his text ‘The Critique of the Gotha Programme’ Marx pictured the two stages of the society. Firstly, there will be society in which the entire ‘production will be carried out on a non-exploitative basis’. (Craig, 1998:118)

It will be the society where everyone who ‘contribute to production will receive back the value of what they have contributed’. (Craig, 1998:118)

This was Marx’s recognition of ‘equality’.

He did not think about the equality in the terms of human rights. For Marx is equality applying only to the economical relationship, production and ownership.

According to Marx, ‘right can never be higher than the economic formation of society and the cultural development conditioned by it’ (Wood, 2004:140-141)

His opinion about rights was far too much connected and depended on the economy. He measured almost everything by the productivity and economical relationships. He could not see beyond those economic borders, he did not recognize that, to be a human, to have a full right to existence, is not possible without guidance of law. His criticism of the rights in general is also very much dependent on practising rights and praxis from Marx’s point of view is in association with materialism which leads us back to the economical relationships.

Karl Marx’s was very much against the rights also because he did not like the form of right approach. He thought that it is not right to ‘force’ people to act according to those ‘human = bourgeoisie’ rights declarations. He wanted to avoid the use of human rights by fiat, he wanted to eliminate the conflict situation and then to avoid the overall necessity of existence of human rights. According to Marx, these conflict situations were coming from the guaranteed ‘bourgeois’ rights, hiding their real desire to like feudalistic control the rest of population and using them for the growth of their own wealth.

The main problem of Marx’s theory was that he did not want to build the society where duties and right will be exactly and fairly allocated, he wanted to ‘rebuild’ human society into the society where those conflicts will not exist any more. Karl Marx believed that by execration of human ‘bourgeois’ right from society for good, it would be possible to ‘move humanity towards’, to build the society with the way of life where ‘conflicts of interest are no longer endemic’. (Craig, 1998:122)

All of Marx’s thought, everything he ever done rise from the economical prognosis, statistic and calculations. He completely forgot about the nature of human being, and that is from where his misunderstanding and critiques rises as well as his great plans for the change.

Karl Marx was not a philosopher per se, he created a perfect fiction of society, but he did not ‘calculate’ with human nature. He was so influenced by economy and production that he did not realize the very obvious impossibility of his ‘plan’. Marx criticised the basic human right for just hiding the real desire of ‘bourgeois’ and yet there his own theory gave the basis for such an evil society ‘structure’ where the great good became a threat and danger for everyone.

When there were no ‘rights’ and everyone was supposed to watch themselves for the purpose of rising productivity and happiness, people did not know how to cope with such a situation. They were spying on each other rather then supporting the ‘right thing’, naturally what happen was misusing such circumstances to get a power. It is the very human nature to want more than the others have. For instance, the former Czechoslovak state communistic period did not create an ideal state, but just brought a great crisis.

That ‘model’ society was full of cruelty, threat, dishonesty and manipulation, basically everything what Marx criticised about the feudal (capitalistic) society, and what he blame the ‘bourgeois’ (human rights) turned to practise more than ever in former Soviet Union and did ruin many countries.

In my conclusion, Karl Marx very much misunderstood the real sense of human right. As he rejects them as the rights of bourgeoisie he made a great mistake. Rights are playing the great role in the live of every single human being. Further more by not paying any attention to actual characteristic of humankind, to the very basic nature of all of us, he went very far beyond the reality, he was thinking in an absolutely different spheres and his plan did not have any grounds on which it could be based.

His claims that rights are just giving some people an opportunity to tease other people is not right. Human beings is in the constant need of certain social rules, to be all the time remained about not just their rights but about their duties as well.

However, in nowadays society we do have The Universal Declaration of Human Right and still many human rights are violated. Then an imagination of not having any rights, because they are cruel and unnecessarily according to Karl Marx’s opinions, could really deprive one’s sleep.

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