LISBON (Avante) -- Proclaiming that "all men are born free and equal" and that government of the people arises from the citizens themselves, rather than from any "divine right," the French Revolution began a new era in human history.
However, for the liberal revolutions of the 19th century, social rights were not counted among the rights of man or of citizenship. Only with the great social revolutions of the 20th century such as the Soviet Revolution and post-World War II revolutionary processes, were social rights transformed into political reality.
However, once big capital regained its domination over the former USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe it decided that it was time to roll back history.
Portuguese Prime Minister Sócrates' recent "Pact for Economic Stability and Growth," and other economic recovery plans all across the capitalist world are now being floated on this dark sea of reaction.
These economic recovery plans turn the idea of human rights inside-out, replacing human rights with inhuman rights.
High-placed EU officials in Brussels, singing in chorus with capital-dominated governments, proclaim the "right" to throw millions of people out of work. Radio and TV commentators demand cuts in job-related benefits and state social services, presenting as "inevitable" the transfer of social rights to private capital, "just like any other item of merchandise."
Singing in tune, they all look for new and more "modern" ways to ratchet up the intensity and quantity of work, and to freeze or cut salaries, retirement and benefits. The "right" to free circulation of capital gives the green light to gigantic, planetary-scale speculation that plunges entire countries into crisis and despair. Any country's economy can be brought to its knees overnight by factors beyond national control, violating the people's right to manage their own resources as they see fit.
A transfer of the political power to manage society into the hands of those who hold economic power is now being openly proposed as an "alternative" to democracy. This is the "hard line" that is being ever more insistently advocated in order to achieve "economic recovery."
When inhuman rights try to turn back history, it is time to sound a loud alarm. Time does not run backward. We must act to safeguard that heritage of generations that we call "human rights."
Aurelio Santos writes for Avante, the newspaper of the Portuguese Communist Party. Translation by Owen Williamson.