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Karl Marx and Human Rights

Karl Marx defined human rights as the rights of the egoistic man, separated from his
fellow men and from the community. They are the rights of man as an isolated, inward
looking, and self-centered creature who:

Regards his free opinion as his intellectual private property instead of a part of
Uses his right to private property not in order to create a beach-head for his public
and cultural life but to accumulate unnecessary wealth and to protect unequal
property relationships;
Uses the right to privacy as a wall keeping out the poor class watching the rich
Considers fellow men as the only legitimate restraint on his own freedom, and
therefore as a limit instead of the source of his own thinking, identity and humanity
(this is the way in which Marx read Article 6 of the French Constitution of 1793:
Liberty is the power which man has to do everything which does not harm the rights
of others);
Considers freedom to be no more than the ability to pursue selfish interests and to
enjoy property, unhindered by the need to help other people, without regard for
other men and independently of society; and
Considers equality to be the equal right to this kind of freedom (everybody can
emancipate himself by becoming a bourgeois).

According to Marx, human rights serve only to protect egoism and the unequal
distribution of property, and to oppress the poor who question this and who try to
redistribute property. On top of that, human rights obscure this fact because they are
formulated in such a way that it seems that everybody profits from them. Contrary to
what is implicit in their name, human rights are not general or universal rights. They
are the rights of those who have property and who want to keep it. A specific situation of
a specific group of people is generalized in human rights.

One example of human rights is freedom of expression. However, Marx defined it
in a deleterious way. For him, because the rich have more means to use, for example,
their freedom of expression, this freedom can be an instrument of the rich to monopolize
political propaganda and political power and to use this power to maintain their
privileged situation. Economic relationships can be maintained by legal means.

However, in order to judge and possibly reject a phenomenon, one should also look
at its intended and ideal functions, not only at the ways in which it can be abused.
Human rights not only protect man against the attacks and claims of other people (for
example the attacks and claims on his property); they also create the possibility of
forcing people to help each other. They do not allow you to do something to other
people (taking their property, determining their opinions, etc.), but at the same time they
invite you to do something with other people. In other words, they are not only negative.
Interactions of
human beings
within social
structures that
economic class
Class divisions
within societies
create conflict
and disorder.
Therefore, law
(and the state)
comes into
existence to
deal with this
They not only limit the way we relate to other people, they also stimulate and protect the
way we relate to other people.
Marxist Law Introduction

Karl Marx views the notion of Marxist Law from the following perspective,
Law, morality, religion, are to [the proletariat] so many
bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as
many bourgeois interests.
With this, Marx believed that laws are the product of class oppression.

There are assumptions basic to Marxist legal theoryfirst, that God does not
exist; second, that humans are evolving animals; third, the impossibility of an absolute
moral code and; fourth, the inexistence of any law grounded in any authority other than
human authority.
V. I. Lenin says, In what sense do we repudiate ethics and morality? . . . In the
sense in which it was preached by the bourgeoisie, who derived ethics from Gods
commandments. We, of course, say that we do not believe in God.
Furthermore, L.S. Jawitsch, a modern-day Marxist legal theorist, maintains
Lenins denial of anything supernatural, saying, There are no eternal, immutable
principles of law. Therefore, Marxist law cannot be based on anything other than
human rationality. In Lenins words, We repudiate all morality taken apart from human
society and classes.

How do law and human rights arise and were able to come up with a

to make the
Issues that arise on having the State:
State perpetuates the conflict as a dominant class wielding power over classes
with less power;
The State is an organ of class domination, an organ of oppression of one class
by another; and
Its aim is the creation of order which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression
between the classes.

Two Classes in the Marxist View of Law

In the Marxist view of law, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are the two
classes involved in the struggle for power.
Bourgeoisie is the ruling class of the two basic classes of capitalist society,
consisting of capitalists, manufacturers, bankers, and other employers. The bourgeoisie
owns the most important of the means of production, through which it exploits the
working class.
On the other hand, proletariat is the class of industrial workers who lack their
own means of production and hence sell their labor to live. It is the lowest social or
economic class of a community.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx denounces,

[Y]our jurisprudence is but the will of your class made
into a law for all, a will, whose essential character and direction are
determined by the economic conditions of existence of your class.

It means bourgeois law as nothing more than a reflection of the desires of that
class. Bourgeois law is oppressive because it is based on the concept of private
property, and thus laws are created that promote unequal rights.

The legal system that promotes the interests of the working class is called
proletariat law.

According to Marxist legal theory, the working class may break capitalistic law if
such an action is in pursuit of equality.
Moreover, Lenin explained that the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is
won and maintained by the use of violence by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie,
rule that is unrestricted by any laws.

Marxist Law Law and Socialist Economics

Once the revolution of the proletariat has succeeded, the new Marxist law will
reflect the desires of the working people rather than those of the bourgeoisie. Meaning,
law based on the will of the proletariat will create a society that is less exploitative than
that based on capitalist bourgeois law.
The will of the proletariat becomes the basis for all rights, laws, and judgment,
thereby negating natural law, God, or any absolute moral code. Marxists see law based
on the will of the proletariat as flexible rather than inconsistent.

Marxist Law Law Withers Away

Because Marxists believe law arises from class conflicts caused by property, the
need for law itself will dissolve once a communist society is established. Marxists
believe that when classes are abolished, all people will create and live in an
environment that promotes harmony. Since only one class (the proletariat) will then
exist, the need to promote order between classes will no longer remainin effect law
will have become unnecessary.

Marxist Ethics Old Morality

Marxists wholeheartedly reject moral codes that are founded in religious beliefs,
including traditional universal moral ideals. Old morality the morality of the reigning
capitalist classexploits the working class. According to this view, old religious moral
codes must be abandoned. old morality, as products of the bourgeoisie invented and
used by the propertied class to oppress the property-less proletariat. The old morality is
simply a tool used by the oppressing classes to maintain their position in society.
Christian ethics is the means by which the rich control the working class poor.
Marxist Ethics Dialectical Materialism

This approach is rooted in dialectical materialism. According to the Marxist
Everything in the universeincluding societyis in a state of constant
change. These changes are moving society upward toward the elimination of
all social and economic class distinctions.

The next social advance in history will be the move from capitalism to socialism,
which will inevitably result in changes in societys moral ideals. The dialectical view of
history dictates the clash of thesis and antithesis in this historical context, the
relentless clash between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Marxist-Leninists believe
that the morality of these two classes is totally different, and when the proletariat finally
destroys the bourgeoisie, a new morality will reign a new morality for the new social

Marxist Ethics The Evolution of Morality

Our social and economic status is always changing, so our ideas about morality
must also be in a state of continual change. In the Marxist perspective, is there such a
thing as communist morality?
Lenin answered, Of course there is. It is often suggested that we have no ethics
of our own; very often the bourgeoisie accuse us Communists of rejecting all morality.
This is a method of confusing the issue, of throwing dust in the eyes of the workers and
peasants. In what sense do we reject ethics, reject morality? In the sense given to it by
the bourgeoisie, who based ethics on Gods commandments. On this point we, of
course, say that we do not believe in God, and that we know perfectly well that the
clergy, the landowners and the bourgeoisie invoked the name of God so as to further
their own interests as exploiters.
In Lenins view, Communist morality had to evolve beyond that morality of
outdated Christian myth used by the exploiting class to suppress the exploited class.

Marxist Ethics Classless Society

Marxists believe that what is generally regarded by society as moral directly
contradicts the Marxist goal of a classless society.
So long as classes exist on the earth, there will be no such thing in life as
something good in the absolute sense. What is good for the bourgeoisie, for the
imperialists, is disastrous for the working class, and, on the contrary, what is good for
the working people is not admitted by the imperialists, by the bourgeoisie.

Marxist Ethics Moral Revolution

How can we achieve a classless society?

When pursuing Marxist ethics, revolution is the most efficient means for creating
a society without class distinctions. According to Marxists, revolution is unavoidable
and it is the only way to overthrow the bourgeoisie and lift up the proletariat. The
obligation to work toward the overthrow of the bourgeoisie may very well include the
duty to kill.
Moral Ethics Class Hatred
According to Marxist ethics, hatred is moral as long as it is directed toward the
proper institution, class, or enemy. It follows, then, that societys generally accepted
moral principles (which Marxists claim are bourgeois tools) are in direct opposition to
the moral principles of the proletariat. If this is true, no one in the bourgeoisie can do
right or act morally. Unless members of the propertied class became proletarian,
anything they do, no matter how moral by their standards, will be contemptible to
British journalist D.G. Stewart-Smith estimates that international communism is
responsible for 83 million deaths between 1917 and 1964. From a Marxist- Leninist
perspective, if 83 million people died to abolish social classes and private property, it
was worth the priceeven morally just. Marxists judge the results, not the methods.
No matter how immoral it appears to a world that believes in an absolute or
universal moral standard, it is morally good within the Marxist-Leninist

Marxism and Religion

Religion does not reflect man's true consciousness. Religion, as Marx sees it, is
a false consciousness; religion is the product of men, the product of those in power
those who control the productive process. It had been used by the ruling classes to give
the working classes false hope for times, while at the same time recognizing it as a form
of protest by the working classes against their poor economic conditions.
For Marx, then, humanity is God. We created God in our own image. We created
religion in order to worship ourselves. The notion that God is merely our projection is
contained in Marxs assertion that man looked for a superhuman being in the fantastic
reality of heaven and found nothing there but the reflection of him.


Marxist law is grounded in a denial of the existence of God and a belief that we
and our social systems are evolving. These assumptions require Marxists to rely on
legal positivism as the basis for law. The Marxist version of legal positivism adds the
unique feature of class-consciousness to the states role as the will of the ruling
proletarian class. Furthermore, the working class must rule under the guidance of the
Marxist-Leninist political party, giving the party final authority on morality and law.
When those adhering to a specific ideology arbitrarily determine a system of law,
laws will be created that are prejudiced against those with opposing views. In such a
society, freedom disappears, as each citizen is held hostage by the arbitrary laws of the
Hence, Marx believed that laws are the product of class oppression, and that
laws would have to disappear with the advent of Marxism.
Meanwhile, many uncertainties surround Marxist ethics. While virtually all
Marxists agree on the dialectical materialist foundation for morality and the inevitability
of the evolution of moral precepts, they cannot predict what the ethics of a classless
society would look like. An ethical ideology that includes the inevitability of change and
the evolution of morals leaves Marxists free to abandon generally accepted moral
standards in pursuit of a greater goodthe creation of a classless communist society.
This pursuit requires Marxists to dedicate themselves to the cause and to use
whatever action they believe will bring about a classless society. Any course of action
then, no matter how immoral it appears to a world that believes in an absolute or
universal moral standard, is morally good within the Marxist-Leninist worldview. At the
same time, Marxist ideas continue to stimulate and engage thinkers in a variety of fields,
including political theory, history, and literary criticism.