Ship sailing away

Whose Rights?

Date: August 20th, 2020
Author: Rob Gowland

As you have no doubt noticed, American leaders are fond of proclaiming their devotion to “human rights”. They have to say “human rights” because if they called them “democratic rights” – as they should – it would raise too many awkward questions. Questions like, if the US is such a democracy, how come you got elected President even though more people voted for your opponent​?

American mainstream politicians – even those supposedly on the “the Left” – like to hold up their country’s devotion to “free speech” as an exemplar to the world. And yes, it’s true: you can say what you think of the government and probably won’t get thrown in jail. But that’s because the rich and powerful know that as long as they control the mass media, your dissenting voice has very little chance of being heard – by anyone at all. So they let you enjoy your “right to free speech” because it’s really just an illusion and they lose no sleep over it.

But when it comes to real human rights, like the right to shelter, to a job, to education, to health care or a myriad of other rights that people under Socialism take for granted, it’s a different story. People in the USA don’t enjoy any of those rights. They have to pay for them, and pay through the nose.

US workers through their unions have to wage bitter struggles to get health insurance coverage, and even then serious illness or an accident can wipe out their insurance and put them in the poor house for life. Health care is not a right in the land of the free.

And what of the people in countries whose resources US imperialism has been looting for a century or more, the countries of Central and South America? Their human rights have been systematically trodden underfoot by a succession of bloodthirsty dictators and gangster regimes, all aided and abetted – if not actually guided – by their masters in Washington.

Right now, Venezuela is engaged in a fierce struggle with the US and its local minions, all because successive Venezuelan governments have sought to use its oil revenue to raise the standard of living of the native people and to pursue an independent foreign policy. First under the inspired leadership of the revolutionary humanist Hugo Chavez and now under his successor Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan people are fighting for their human rights against US attempts to install fascist regimes throughout the continent.

Why fascist? Because the people of South and Central America have regrettably taken bourgeois democracy at face value and too often elected governments that tried to protect the people from predatory US corporations. Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Grenada – to name but a few – have all suffered anti-democratic US-inspired coups against their democratically- elected governments whenever they tried to empower the poor, especially the indigenous poor.

The people of the region are mindful of the horrors that were unleashed on the unfortunate people of Chile at the hands of America’s chosen butchers, but are determined to struggle for their democratic rights, nevertheless.

The recent US Navy action in which four Iranian oil tankers bound for Venezuela were intercepted at sea and forced to discharge their cargoes into American hands was an act of blatant piracy, an example of “great power bullying” from an earlier era, an era when the leaders of the “great powers” strutted around the world treating smaller countries with contempt and trampling on their democratic rights with impunity.

In particular, the most powerful and wealthiest capitalist country, the USA, used its economic and military might to dictate the domestic and foreign policies of the rest of the world. The US even dictated what its own allies must spend on defence. What Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo have failed to grasp is that that era is well and truly gone.

With China and Russia co-operating on the spectacular “Belt and Road Initiative”, the USA’s ability to interdict other countries’ trade and shipping will soon be no more than an unfortunate memory.

But capitalists are not noted for accepting their loss of power and privilege easily. They will fight to retain their power — especially when the fighting is not done by them personally! When capitalism’s privileged position at the top of the tree is under threat from the have-nots, that’s when it resorts to fascism. It drops the mask of bourgeois democracy and turns instead to its default position: open, terrorist dictatorship.