President, Foundation for Historical Outlook
Chairman, State Duma Commission for studies of
practical observance of human rights and basic freedoms,
supervision over their observance in foreign states
Ph. D. (History)
I need some other, better rights,
I need a better kind of freedom
On 27 May, 2005, the RF State Duma almost unanimously approved establishment of a new parliamentary structure, a parliamentary "Commission for studies of practical observance of human rights and basic freedoms, supervision over their observance in foreign states".
Creation of this high-status body possessing certain institutional and financial capacities has long been overdue, in view of the absolutely obvious need to protect the violated rights of Russian-speaking people in the Baltics and other parts of historical Russia.
At the same time, the Commission, using parliamentary contacts and instruments, will be able to generalize and systemize the positive legislative and law enforcement experience of other countries, study formation of the very criteria of success and failures in the field of human rights protection within the concrete historical and socio-cultural context. This is going to help analyze the character and reasons for the unsatisfactory situation with human rights observance in some regions of Russia. Time has come to study, using a serious juridical and sociological base, to what extent Russian imperfections stem from the flaws of lawmaking or law enforcement, i. e. to what extent they are related to the domain of legal consciousness, political and general culture.
We also need some analytical, generalization activities in this field. Abroad, there have long existed hundreds of standing and ad hoc commissions, human rights NGOs, exclusively engaged in analysis of the human rights situation in other countries, submitting their reports and expert estimates to government agencies and international organizations.
Following the dissolution of the bipolar system of international relations and disruption of the power balance, which had forced even the strongest powers and their blocs to observe the classical international law, the human rights topics very quickly turned into a powerful instrument of undisguised political pressure in international affairs. As for international organizations, some of them, which had formerly wielded absolutely no influence, now turned into self-proclaimed arbiters, handing out civilization "certificates of maturity". Humanitarian interventions are being carried out under the pretext of human rights protection and advancement of democracy, with preventive strikes being
delivered against sovereign states. International law, which has been based on the concept of sovereignty of the nation-state since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, will soon become a "faculty of unnecessary subjects".
Russia, which, after lifting the iron curtain, proclaimed a doctrine of "joining the international civilized community", thereby encouraged the West to proclaim itself the sole mentor in this field. Capitulation of a considerable portion of Russian public before "Western values", which were made out to be "general human values", entitled the West to impose the liberal interpretation of human rights as the sole universal criterion. This resulted in an extraordinarily high ideological bias of European foreign policy and a sharp outburst of messianism in US foreign political ideology, in which ultra-liberal universalist rhetoric was combined with the Calvinist religious concept of "redeemer nation" and the doctrine of Predestination, which openly justified expansion as far back as at the time of Theodore Roosevelt's "big stick" imperialism.
Drawing Russia into the Western political value field exceedingly narrowed its political capacities on the international arena - at the same time, it left no place for preserving the foundation of its own culture and national tradition in what regards internal political development and state construction. Post-Soviet epigones produced a myth alleging that social, political and economic modernization, which Russia undoubtedly needs, is only possible with a total Westernization, which threatens to destroy the sense-forming nucleus of our civilization and the incentive to historical creativity.
Since then, Russia has been in the situation of a whipping boy,
unsuccessfully trying to pass a humiliating civilization test. As for the West, it uses the human rights topics for not only ideological (which is just an instrument), but also geopolitical and economic pressure on noncommunist Russia. This pressure has dramatically increased, compared with the pressure on the communist USSR. As soon as Russia started "concentrating", returning to its cultural, religious and philosophical origins, seeking forms of self-regeneration and reinforcement, restoring control over its resources, it was accused of digressions from democracy and individual rights and liberties.
It should be noted that the ideological elite, which, enraptured with the "new thinking", has surrendered Russia's positions under the slogan of parting with totalitarianism and unfreedom, still regards it as "uncivilized" to even feebly protest against destruction of not only Russian great-power attitude, but of the very Russian historical individuality in its spiritual definitions.
It views opposition as return to "totalitarianism", while all attempts at protecting national dignity, culture, history are referred to as "Russian fascism". Yet only a blind man is unable to discern behind this cliche the perpetual Western phobias concerning Orthodox Christianity and Russia, which might change their disguise yet were basically the same, no matter whether they came from papal Rome or Voltaire, de Custine or Karl Marx, Lenin or Trotsky, the idols of Moscow liberals - Andrei Sakharov and Valeria Novodvorskaya, electrifiers and troubadours of liberal empires - "tsarism", "Russian imperialism", "Filofei's theory", "Byzantine schism", "Varangian barbarity" and "love for slavery".
However, Russia's problems are only a reflection of the overall
global trend. The present-day Western liberal project of global world super-society under the global rule, based on belligerently liberal interpretation of human rights for all civilizations, represents a challenge to not only Orthodox Christian Russia, but also to all great cultural and national traditions of humanity.
Initially, this trend emerged as a manifestation of the universalist nature of the concepts of "just" world order - a product of the philosophy of progress and Western Enlightenment. Their two offsprings were communism and liberalism - cousins, rather than antipodes. It should be noted that both doctrines advocate the world's movement to a uniform social ideal and global super-society based on uniform political and value standards.
This trend acquired momentum after the World War II, with establishment of the first universal organization, the UN. The UN Charter for the first time in history embodied the very concept of the existence of generally accepted international standards in relations not only between states but also between people within states, the recognition and observance of which became a precondition of international law and one of its fundamental principles. It should be noted, however, that the UN Charter relates proclamation and observance of human rights to such basic principles of international law as non-interference in internal affairs of states and recognition of their sovereign equality. The UN Charter contains an agreed list of basic human rights, without providing their substantive interpretation, which might contradict foundations of different cultures. This was obviously done on purpose, because interpretation of the substance of human rights depends too much on value criteria of different civilizations.
However, the concept of universalism also gave rise to a different
type of organization, the Council of Europe - a strictly ideological organization, set up for transformation of inter-national law, i.e. the law governing relations between nations, into a "world citizen law", or "world law". Its present-day role demonstrates that it is just an assemblage of failed universalist pretensions to ruling the world on the basis of "perpetual" standards, rooted in cosmopolitan and even anti-Christian teachings of the past - these pretensions are gathered here until "better" times. This nutrient broth gave rise to a whole culture of "world citizen" thinking. The Council of Europe was obviously set up as a strategic reserve and for a long time practically stayed outside of the orbit that contained all major problems and aspects of global politics. This body played absolutely no role in international politics for as long as the classical international law and inter-state relations dominated in the world, being guaranteed by influential forces. But as soon as ideological indoctrination made it possible to cast a doubt on sovereignty of the nation-state and start advancing the concept of global rule and "arbitration" by supranational structures, the time has come for the Council of Europe.
Watching from within the activities of the Council of Europe and its conceptual base leaves no doubt that it is dominated by nothing else than the extremely left liberal philosophy and an almost Trotskyite messianism of enforcing standards devoid of any reference to nationality or religion. Program documents of the Council of Europe do not have a single mention of the term "sovereignty".
It is little known in Russia of the extent of derogatory criticism and sarcasm to which the Council of Europe and analogous pan-European "arbiters" is subjected on the part of European
conservative intellectuals, who may be our allies and partners in developing different approaches, that are long overdue, especially in view of the failure of the European Constitution at the referendums in France and the Netherlands. This development has been analyzed in a rather superficial manner. In effect, it represents a reflection of both conscious and intuitive opposition to the loss of distinctness and independence, to erosion of national identity, and rejection of neo-liberal "totalitarianism" - a paradoxical synthesis of "idolization" of private ownership with a rigorous regulation in the social and production field, and a total bureaucratization.
Neither does this project have any place for the great European culture, whose hero is "duty incarnate", begotten not at all of the concept of human rights and "civil society", but of the ardent assertion of Christian values. For the 21st century liberalism, the subject of history is no longer the nation possessing common goals and values, common perceptions of the good and evil, sin and crime, giving birth to culture as an emanation of spirit, but an allegedly abstract individual - homo globalis, free of associations with whatever religious or national values. The danger of this trend was noted by outstanding thinkers in Russia and Europe as far back as in the early 20th century - Ferrero, Spengler, K. Leontyev, who was highly sceptical of "Europe that destroys in itself everything that is great, graceful and sacred".
This is why the offensive tactics and conceptual systematization and typology of human rights are long overdue. Generalization of historical experience of the rise, advancement and subsequent degradation of spiritual criteria in development of historical concepts, as well as analysis of the role of cultural context in the
sphere of human rights might make it possible to elaborate the lacking methodology of comparative interpretation of human rights categories, depending on religious and philosophical foundations of consciousness in various world civilizations.
Notwithstanding the above, Western experience and European political and general culture, retaining continuity that has not been severed by revolutions of the Russian scale, offers enormous material for profound analysis. It would be absurd to deny colossal achievements of Europe and the West as a whole in the field of human rights, democratization of consciousness, and ethics of human rights observance with respect to every individual.
However, in order to develop this indisputably positive experience on Russian soil, it is necessary to have a clear perception of the cultural and historical context and, in the first place, work over a general moral rehabilitation of Russian society, that would be impossible without restoring its national and religious values - in the first place, Orthodox Christian values, which embody a distinct perception of sin and virtue, determine the man's free will - the basis of requirement for civil political freedoms - and engraft self-restraint, which is a prerequisite of true civic consciousness and respect for other people's rights.
It would be conceptually and methodologically important to separate the truly democratic approach to perception of human rights from the liberal totalitarian obtrusion of "value nihilism", characteristic of present-day liberalism. It has degraded to libertarianism - an extreme form of the idea of complete autonomy of the individual from God . This stage is characterized by a loss of links - first with moral values that directly follow from religious ones, then with national values, and
afterwards with family ones. To do this, it is necessary to conduct the long overdue differentiation of the notions of democracy and liberalism, the need for which is outright denied by post-Soviet Westerner liberals.
It is also important to have a perception of the history and classification of human rights. Political science, sociology and the science on political theories and human rights subdivide human rights into three generations.
The first generation of human rights includes civil and political rights - sexual equality, freedom of conscience, religion, speech, assembly and political association, equality before law, inviolability of dwelling, inadmissibility of unsanctioned arrest, etc. These rights became firmly established in the wake of the French revolution, in the struggle against absolutism, despotism, Catholic church abuses, inequality of estates in court. These gains possess an indisputable everlasting value and have acquired a universal nature since long ago, being included in the UN Charter.
The second generation includes social and economic rights. These became firmly established in the 20th century, and it cannot be denied that their proclamation after the revolution in this country compelled Western countries to follow suit. These include the right to work, to housing, to equal remuneration for equal labor, no sex, racial, age discrimination, the ban on or restriction of child labor, the standard workday, pensions and health care. The 20th century provides a permanent momentum towards a further improvement of this category of human rights.
These two generations of human rights were included in the UN Charter, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and International covenants on human rights of 1966. It should be
noted that it took 18 years to coordinate the contents of the covenants, which reflects the complexity of elaborating common approaches to the list, to say nothing of criteria for so different civilizations and historical, cultural and economic conditions existing in the world. It is sad to admit that Russia is way behind others in the field where it has once been a pioneer. On one hand, the stagnating USSR was unable to attain the required material level of the proclaimed guarantees, which would correspond to standards of modern industrial society, while Europe following the war has been steadily expanding them. In the 1993 Constitution of Russia, many social rights and guarantees were canceled, while the neo-liberal concept of the reforms in the 1990s gradually devalued what was left of them, dealing the final blow by the ill-conceived monetization of social benefits. The European Social Charter constitutes as yet an unattainable height for Russia, which is unable to accede to it.
Finally, there is a third generation of human rights - the one that is inscribed on the Council of Europe's messianic banner of the present-day "libertarian revolution". These are the so-called humanitarian rights, i.e. the rights of the individual, which the West is currently inclined to regard as universal, regardless of the state, civilization or religious and philosophical system the individual belongs to. It is apparent that only a secular doctrine can act as the underlying basis of these approaches - a doctrine that in a rather aggressive and deliberate manner eliminates all distinct perceptions of the good and evil, sin and virtue, which may only be begotten of a religious teaching, after which they are handed down from generation to generation regardless of the individual's conscious attitude to faith. Friedrich August von Hayek, one of the
founders of liberal philosophy, openly postulated the "absolute autonomy of the individual in all its manifestations, however extravagant they might be". It means an absolute rejection of the concept of sin, which is a pre-requisite of absolute morals.
Under the cover of the liberty - equality - fraternity triad, which may not be realizable in its entirety without God, another motto of the French Revolution acquires new momentum in the 21st century, whose threat to Christian civilization is not fully estimated: "laissez passer, laissez faire" - "let do and let pass", "all that is not banned is permitted" . With this key, "freedom" - including freedom of consciousness - is no longer an indisputable right to creativity and doubt, it is recognition of vice and virtue, truth and lie, good and evil as equally honored.
In proclaiming a unified "post-Christian" society, "Peter's Europe" is apparently abjuring itself, its own great past and colossal culture. Its heroics and ideal, romanticism and even Descartes' doubts and Pushkin's "folly of suicidal freedom" - all of these originate from Christian spirit. Today, "sovereign" individuals, captive to flesh and arrogance, regard "the heat of passion" as alien, and their portion in life is "egoism and narcissism", according to a cynical definition of Jacques Attali, philosopher and theoretician of the future world as a "realm of Bank". But what can you expect of "universal human rights", when the present-day libertarianism declares the right to denial of all truths and to comfortable disassociation from the fight between good and evil as almost the main human right!
The draft European Constitution does not at all have a list of values in the respective chapter. There is nothing here but
functional conditions for professing them - for this is what the "sacred cows" of the 21st century liberalism actually are - theses on "human rights", freedom and "democracy". As there is no reference to the objective that these rights are supposed to serve, they are nothing else than a proclamation of the right to have no moral definition of objectives in life or history.
The European Constitution is a pretty dull sample of creative work of the liberal "State planning committee", in which Europe is regarded as a giant economic enterprise, serving the task of optimization and unification of requirements. Why would Peter's Europe need Freedom, in this case? Does it need it in order to "chase enemies, plunder their possessions, revel in tears of their relatives, kissing their wives and daughters", as the highest good on earth was described by Genghis Khan in his last will? Or to "return to its starry homeland" (Platon)? Or to seek Salvation and "hunger and thirst after righteousness " (Sermon on the Mount)? Or to recognize the beauty and deformity, sin and virtue, good and evil as equally honored and manifestations of a sovereign individual? Europe was hardly concerned with this in the periods of its growing might, when it demonstrated to the world its great culture and great powers.
It is this very category of human rights that gets very different interpretations in various civilizations, because they differ in their interpretation of what a man is! It is this very category of human rights that collides with ethical standards, which can hardly be formalized in constitutions, not only in Orthodox Christian Russia but also in Europe, where European conservatives are reasonably alarmed over the ruin of the great European Apostolic Christian tradition.
However, preachers of "liberal freedom" in Europe and Russia
attack all restrictions of "freedom", making them out to be suppression of the rights to "information", to the "choice", to "freedom of creative activities". With a Bolshevik kind of hatred, do they especially assail Christianity, which constitutes an irreplaceable source of spiritual development of the individual. Resignation of the incoming EC Commissioner Rocco Buttiglione, who dared to quote a fragment from the canonical Scripture dealing with a definition of sin and was howled down by the Left, in the first place by liberals (who are for whatever reasons named the Right in Russia!), is very indicative, just like the hysterics over the court judgment on the insult to religious feelings in the wake of a scandalous exhibition in Moscow, where mockery of Orthodox Christian icons had taken place.
One cannot help noticing that the militant libertarian interpretation of freedom and rights of the individual increasingly comes into conflict with the first generation of human rights, thus infringing upon the very foundations of democracy - the right to freedom of religious faith, freedom of conscience and opinion. For it appears that, according to the libertarian viewpoint, a Christian no longer has the right to even voice an opinion, which is part of the religious creed. This happens in Europe rather than any other place!
Even a cursory analysis of the three generations of human rights demonstrates that the first generation is related to the notion of democracy; the second one, to the concept of social state - which, by the way, follows from the Ten Commandments - "shoe, clothe and feed thy neighbor"; and the third generation, to liberalism. Democracy is an institutional, functional category, a category of form. It was the outstanding German philosopher and jurist Carl Schmitt who noted that democracy "has no value content, as it is
just a form of organization". It does not require uniform world outlook and may be exercised on the basis of different ideologies. This is the only reason why democracy has become an optimal mechanism in a pluralist society lacking a uniform ideal.
The experience of applying democracy in the 20th century has demonstrated a massive and sufficiently successful introduction of democratic constitutions and institutes in all the continents, which makes it possible to recognize its universal nature.
Yet liberalism is a philosophy, a world outlook that determines the value content of the categories of humanitarian human rights. In an early stage, it rose up against the compulsorily religious state, based on a combination of estate inequality and noneconomic foundations of social hierarchy, which were made out to possess Divine authority. Today, one can find increasingly more obvious and alarming symptoms of liberalism degenerating to libertarianism, which demonstrates intolerance to other creeds, to all kinds of tradition. Totalitarian obtrusion of liberal values - to be more precise, of value nihilism - means history lacking moral definition of objectives.
The present-day neoliberalism and its universalist project are deliberately destroying the sense of human history. Modern libertarianism is severing ties with its own origins, the Enlightenment project. Original libertarianism rose out of the sense of universality of human life and the oneness of history existing in human consciousness, begotten of the moral tension of Christianity, as opposed to pagan and pantheistic perceptions of the circulation of illusory objects, of endless emanations, phases, ions, in which the oneness and soleness of human life - hence historical development, too - have no value.
The new ethical and historical nihilism is a philosophy of the end of history. It is paradoxically linked to the traditional political objectives ("Realpolitik") of countries, which have formerly been part of great European culture. This turns the results of their victories - acquisition of new geopolitical space, inflow of finance and intangible assets - the results that formerly advanced, among others, the powerful Catholic cultural expansion of Peter's Europe - into a means of destroying European civilization itself.
Another myth that got firmly established in post-Soviet liberal consciousness - to a large extent, due to the loss of links to genuine culture - is that culture has absolutely no relation to the religious and philosophical basis but depends exclusively on freedom of the individual. Yet it is cultural impotence of our times, when the "free individual" factually becomes captive to flesh and arrogance, professing hedonism for his body and narcissism for his soul, confirms the old theological truth that evil does not actually exist and, therefore, has no potential for creativeness or creativity. Its pseudoexistence reveals itself in corruption of good. Only great taboos produced great culture, which was begotten of the grandiose test of the man's free will, torn between temptations of evil and the sense of duty before God and people with respect to good.
Yet perceptions of good and evil, of the place and role of the man on earth, of finiteness or infiniteness of his life and soul arise from religious teachings. This is why different civilizations produced differing ethics of relationships between man and woman, parents and children, differing perceptions of the duty of the authority and citizen, different statehood types, different philosophy of law, based on the idea of sameness of sin and crime. This is why the law as legal norm has always followed the ethical
judgment - originally, the religious canon. Before formulating the measure of guilt and that of punishment, you first need to regard the deed as bad.
It is not by accident that, in the UN, elaboration of even minimal standard rules with regard to seemingly obvious sins, such as cruel treatment of prisoners, has always been extremely laborious. The thing is that the notion of cruelty differs depending on the civilization, and, for instance, personal cruelty and hatred of the prison guard to the prisoner, which is considered a sin in Christian civilization, is not at all regarded as such by some Oriental traditions. This is why perceptions of many things are so different in Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.
The modern liberal project, imposing its interpretation of humanitarian human rights as those of a universal human being, requires a serious critical analysis, because it potentially threatens democracy. The myth that democracy may only be liberal - the myth that has become a "sacred cow" for post-Soviet libertarians - is an absurdity with respect to the classical Aristotle's perception of democracy, elaborated twenty-three centuries ago. Russian "political science", to its misfortune, is not even aware of this.
It is obvious we are facing a lot of hard work, in doing which we are going to run into hot and strong resistance, objective classification problems, and hard-set stereotypes. Nevertheless, it is the kind of work that is now required for both Russia and Europe.
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