[Translated from Socialistische Gruppe]
State-prescribed human nature
1. With human rights, the state explains its dealings with its subjects as a service to their nature. Human rights are regarded as “inviolable and inalienable” rights of the people, established by nature.
This is a contradiction: on the one hand, human rights are seen as something which are a property of the natural characteristics of humans, such as limbs, the brain, etc. On the other hand, these rights owe their existence to a superordinate social force that recognizes and protects them. However, an essential human characteristic does not require state protection – and what does require this protection is not one of these characteristics.
The validity of human rights is not at all a natural and harmless thing, as these rights are subordinate to the authority that validates them – an authority which forces its rules upon its subjects and regulates their lives. Only subjects of a rule can enjoy the pleasures of human rights!
The notion that the state matches independent human nature with human rights is ideology. The state declares that its dealings with its subjects correspond exactly to human nature. Thus “human rights” are a quite fundamental legitimization of rule: state power is a service to the people. In reality, the state commits itself to nothing with its subjects, but writes into the Constitution how it intends to deal with them. It gives them the requirement to appropriate its regulations as their self-conscious human nature.
2. With human rights, the state orders that even the pettiest signs of life are dependent on its guarantee.
Human rights are not to be mistaken for a right to a reasonably comfortable life, or even a right to just get by. The most elementary signs of life are objects of state permission: living, thinking, expressing opinions ... things that do not require state protection for their realization! For starters, it takes a lot of nerve to say that one should be grateful to the state for the fact that it allows the most paltry things in life – things which come about quite easily without it!
If the state makes the pettiest signs of life a question of its permission, it is anything but a cause for gratitude. The state does not keep out of even the simplest aspects of life, but recognizes in them a need for legal regulation, and therefore defines how to live, think, etc. This is how total and all embracing the state's interference is in the lives of its subjects!
Where the state already explains the simplest aspects of the lives of its subjects as a question of its permission, it is implied of course that the permission can also be abused – that which is not permitted can also be punished by the withdrawal of the granted rights.
3. The praise of human rights for the state's moderate use of force confesses its absurdity.
One can still infer from the praise of human rights that they do not exist for the people: no one tries to praise the great things that the state grants with them. The fact that it grants them should already be enough reason to rejoice.
The advantage of human rights makes sense to people in an entirely different way: imagine if living, thinking and stating one's opinions were not permitted, but forbidden! Getting by in life would perhaps be difficult! This praise comes from the awareness of being totally at the mercy of a rule that can do anything it wants to one. The fact that this overpowering force to which one is subjected could conceivably be even more terrible – the servile praise of human rights exists in this comparison.
The conclusion which the comparison aims at is: a state, which sees its most distinguished task as the protection of human rights, limits itself in its use of force and ensures consideration regarding the use of force vis-à-vis its subjects. The image is quite absurd: a monopoly on violence that exists only for the purpose of limiting itself!
And the comparison from which the apparent limitation of state power follows is truly absurd: you must already have the idea of a power that only aims to suppress. But there is no state in the world that exercises its authority for the sole purpose of suppressing its subjects. For all states, power and suppression are a means to force its subjects into serving the needs of the state. Every state uses the necessary force to obtain the required services from its subjects. There is also no reason for the use of unnecessary force, and so the “limitation” of this force is no limitation at all.
4. Those who use human rights to criticize a state do not have anything to criticize about the state itself, but merely measure it by their ideal of a decent form of rule in which all state venalities will be ok.
Fans of human rights ask themselves the question whether or not state actions correspond to human rights. They share the ideology that there are human rights provided by the state to which the state should be beholden in its actions. They measure state actions against their ideals, wherein human rights exist, and always find deviations.
These critics do not want to know anything about the purposes and reasons for state actions, and for their criticism they do not need to know anything about them. They are satisfied with having noticed a deviation of state actions from their good opinion of how decent governing works. They regard it as a finished criticism that the state is not as they imagine it.
With all state measures, they ask themselves the question of whether or not they are carried out in a decent form. Anyone who asks himself whether the appropriate means are taken into account shares all the purposes of the rule and has nothing to find fault with in any single state measure in and of itself. If a suggestion for improvement is made, the commitment to a functional rule is presumed, under which the existing mess is given the quality stamp “humane”: prisons in which prisoners are treated as human beings with dignity; deportations in which no foreigner suffocates; poverty in which one does not lose one's dignity, etc.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” (UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1.)
The human rights recruitment of the subjects by the state
With human rights, the state presents its use of force as a service to human nature. It explains its' subjects' smallest signs of life to be a question of its guarantee and an object of its regulations. Therefore the existence of human rights does not show the limitation, but the total claim to power of the modern monopoly of violence. With fundamental rights, this claim is written down as valid law in the Constitution.
1. The right to life – the state claims the lives of its subjects for itself.
“Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” —Article 6.1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
“Life” refers to nothing except the pure physical existence of an individual. It abstracts from what actually constitutes life: how one lives, what one does in life, etc.
The fact that one has a right to life is outrageous. Not only because one cannot acquire anything with it. The mere fact that one exists, for which no state is necessary, is also a matter of permission – and one should also be grateful to the state for it?
But this meager circumstance, to exist, is not actually guaranteed: as everybody knows, a lot of people starve and freeze to death, some are sentenced to death by the state under the rule of law, in the everyday life in the factories one cannot assert the “pursuit of happiness,” and our legal security now and then requires fatal shots from the police.
This by no means contradicts the state guarantee of the right to life, but is its consequence. If the state explains the existence of people, who do not really need it, to be a matter of its law, it claims sovereignty over the life and death of its subjects: and if “life” is thus made completely dependent on the state granting it, then it applies only to the extent that it is suitable for it: then it is a question of the state's definition of what a life is and how it is dealt with. The legal right to life is protected, not the natural fact.
This lawful disposal of the state over the whole existence of its citizens occasionally includes dying. If the state appoints itself as the guarantor of life, it also makes everyone's life conditional on the state – and it may then be, if it feels itself threatened in the case of war, it will be defended with life. The rights-granting authority is the absolute condition for the right to life and sets the conditions for life and survival.
With its guarantee of a “right to life,” the state also defines the legal right to be protected: in the case of the fetus, even heaps of cells, which are not subjects, get the pleasure of sovereign protection as “unborn life.” The “life” which the state protects is nothing other than its interest in the physical constitution of the people as its material. And these supplies of human material are protected against the interests and needs of the mother and are enforced when abortion is forbidden.
Where it is concerned with nothing else, where individuals are kept alive in pain against certain death, or where brain dead persons are artificially kept alive with medical equipment, this concerns the state very much indeed, namely its sovereign defining power: it insists completely and on principle that it and only it – in other words, no doctor, no suffering child and no relative – determines what is life and what is death. Not only life, but also death is completely and fundamentally taken away from the private will. And even if it does not punish suicide attempts, or allows euthanasia, this is an act of its sovereign permission.
2. Human dignity – because humans are human, they have in the state their human nature.
The idea of “human dignity” says that every human deserves respect because he is a human.
That is pretty crazy: usually someone is judged because of his interests, skills, knowledge and preferences, etc. No one is prepared to appreciate another person just in that fact, refraining from all his peculiarities. If one evaluates someone, then it is always because of his individual characteristics. But if one abstracts from all this, what a person wants, does and feels, then nothing is left which one could evaluate.
Even before an individual generally wants anything at all, the state declares that it highly appreciates him as a “human,” as a subject – and even admittedly apart from what constitutes this subject. Whereas the state does not give a shit about an individual's needs, interests, purposes and necessities, the state obligates its entire exercise of power to the dignity that no individual has without the state to look after, respect and protect it, and without an individual even having to ask for it.
If the state devotes its authority to explaining subjection as a value which it protects, then it is clear that this is not left in peace: the state values and protects abstract subjectivity as its material. Also, the will of the subject is spared not from the requirements of the state, but is subjected to them. The state claims sovereignty over the will and therefore definitely settles which desires it allows.
This totalitarian requirement is not called human dignity for nothing. It is required of the subjects, with “all state power,” that they accept the dependence of their will on the defining-power of the state as appropriate to them. In the fact that the state engages their will, they should not discover their subject nature – but their human nature. Because only in this way, as power desired by them, is it present in their will.
If human dignity secures the will to the state, then it is clear that it does not limit any requirements of the state. Rather, human dignity orders everything that will be required is to be carried out in a form that expresses that the state treats its subjects not as servants, but as citizens whose wills are dependent on it. This has nothing to do with a self-limitation of the state, as some idealists of human dignity imagine.
When an offence against human dignity is diagnosed, whether officially or by the idealists of human dignity, civil servants are accused of not having adhered to these formalisms, contrary to the official regulations that meticulously specify which brutalities of state power must be respected.
Considerably often, the accusation that human dignity is trampled underfoot is made as an accusation against foreign states. It is then denied that those indicated have asserted the force necessary in their respective situations for imposing state purposes with the due respect vis-à-vis the citizens. They are accused of exerting unnecessary force, which is always detected when the purpose for which it is imposed does not correspond to their own ideas of how people should be governed there. Whether or not a violation of human dignity exists is up for a presupposed evaluation: whether the purposes for which a foreign state mistreats its subjects are shared or not – and not the other way around, as the idealists of human dignity always believe.