Recently, a former National Security Agency employee, Edward Snowden, offered a series of revelations on massive surveillance programs conducted by the United States. Snowden revealed to the British media outlet the Guardian that: the National Security Agency, a branch of the US military, collects data on virtually all telephone and electronic communication within the United States; thousands of NSA ‘field agents’ regularly monitor the telephone and other communications of up to one million US citizens and can ‘listen-in’ to the communications of anyone in the US at-will; the NSA has direct access to electronic communications through built-in ‘back doors’; and US and British intelligence agencies regularly spy on foreign leaders during international summits.
Such NSA spying violates the basic laws of the United States, particularly the First and Fourth Amendments, which outline Amerikans’ ‘rights’ to privacy and free speech. This has created quite the row in the United States. Preeminent imperialist political leaders like former Vice-President Dick Cheney and President Barry Obama have described the actions of Snowden, who is last known to be in Hong Kong, as traitorous and criminal.
As Marxists understand, rights are always the product of class struggle. They are neither enshrined by deities or nature. The US ‘Bill of Rights,’ for example, is the product of the union of European settlers in their dual struggle against their British masters and the Indigenous and African populations which they preyed upon. As such, rights helped define the ability of settler and imperialist populations to oppress ‘others.’ The rights which have been historically enjoyed by Amerikans are both the result of and necessary conditions for the benefits they collectively receive via the exploitation the Third World.
Liberals like to believe rights are ‘natural’ or ‘inalienable.’ Violations of rights, for liberals, thus are an abrogation to be fixed. Yet, never have liberals offered a sufficient explanation of why various rights only appeared at a certain juncture of history, or why rights are routinely violated or only nominally upheld by all sides of class conflicts.
In reality, there is only the power of some groups over others. This, along with the physical means of production, is this most fundamental aspect of any society. Rights, accordingly, becomes an ideological dressing which covers up the bitter taste of actual class structures.
Over the last historical epoch, the United States has reigned supreme. Honing its aggression first against Africans and Indigenous peoples (including Chicanos-Mexicanos), it quickly unleashed a wave of terror upon the rest of the world, beginning in the 1890s with its genocidal occupations of Hawai’i, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, and lasting through today with its bombings, occupations, and covert operations against Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, and Venezuela (not to mention its support for scores of fascistic comprador regimes across the Third World). There are no “rights” of the oppressed masses respected by the US and its lackeys. Furthermore ‘rights’ have always been a flimsy ideal for those engaged in oppositional organizing within imperialist centers, as illustrated by the recently released documentary, COINTELPRO 101.
The breakdown of liberal-democracy in the United States
Under the weight of mature monopoly capitalism, in which the US domestic economy is primarily based in a few key parasitic industries (notably security, private prisons, and military manufacturing and services), it is only natural that some of the so-called ‘rights’ previously enjoyed by US citizen erode away. Simultaneously, the US is amping up militarist aggression around the globe, often under the increasingly hypocritical liberal language of ‘rights.’ For some, this may be a moment when the ’emperor has no clothes’ and the hypocritical doublespeak pushed by the US is ever-more exposed. Meanwhile, most Amerikans support the NSA spying program.
US-led imperialism will continue to blaze a trail into neo-tributary economics: the continued expropriation and dispossession at gun-point which has characterized past US imperialism; an accentuated legalized exploitation being instituted through policies of global apartheid; and most notably, an increasing proportion of surplus devoted to violently maintaining global class divisions in permanence, i.e. the expansion of the police-state complex. With this transition, spying on Amerikans is not simply a national security issue, it is an economic one. As one might expect, there is only one direction such a trajectory may lead: fascism and war.
In terms of political direction, most Amerikans (especially Whites) are inclined toward a reactionary longing for a bygone ‘golden era’: not to fight for a radically egalitarian re-division of the world’s economic power, but to keep their privileged position in the present system. Along with the historically reactionary White masses, ‘their’ imperialist state increasingly represents an economic system founded on the dispensing of military and security wares. Like all forms of capital, the US must constantly expend and resupply pieces of its military machine. For now, the US military is mainly directed against Third World countries. But the increasingly neo-tributary character of the US-led imperialism could easily lead to a catastrophic World War III. Now, more than ever, proletarian revolution is necessary for the liberation of humanity from the ravages of imperialist class rule.
Rights Under Communism and the Struggle for Global New Democracy
The communist struggle is for a world without class divisions: for the shared responsibility and equal reward for humanity’s social and productive capacities. Under communism, classes (as groups divided over their relationships to production) have ceased to exist, and things like the state, media, and culture no longer exist as instruments of class rule. Oppression (as a structural and super-structural mediator of exploitation) no longer exists. Likewise, the notion of rights as an exclusive privilege based on one’s association with a certain group has dissolved away as well. Instead, rights under communism are understood to be the result of the conscious class struggles which previously produced them and are extended in such a manner for the benefit of all (even those outside the direct scope of class struggle, e.g. ‘animal rights.’) Just as uneven power structures have created rights as exclusive privileges selectively used against oppressed and exploited people, the equal economic relations of communism will create rights which serve the long-term interest of all.
However, communism is an end. Class struggle is the means. In the contemporary world, the immediate end of class struggle is waging a global united front against imperialism for global new democratic revolution. The united front is composed of proletarian forces and its immediate allies in the national bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie who are activity engaged in the struggle against US-led imperialism and its lackeys. Global new democratic revolution aims to correct the immediate disparities in structural power between the First and Third World and oppressors and oppressed nations; to politically, militarily and economically overthrow US-led imperialism; and to set the stage for the widespread and immediate struggle for socialism and the end of capitalist economic relations. All of society must be revolutionized in this period, including ourselves. Yet this can not be accomplished without struggle.
The struggle against imperialism and for global new democracy, socialism, and communism is not merely possible. It is the only possible alternative to the catastrophic compounding abuses of capitalist-imperialism. Only by conscious class struggle (i.e. active organizing for the global united front against imperialism, national liberation, and global new democracy) can humanity avoid the ruinous path pursued by US-led capitalist-imperialism.