The right of the multitude (I): Citizenship and the right to asylum

by Ana Bazac

 

I

 

As we know, a citizen is a member of a certain (political) community. Just in virtue of this membership, the citizen is defended from the other (inimical laws, inimical communities). Obviously, not his unique individuality is defended, but his the quality of citizen: only this quality is considered valuable because this quality represents for that matter the state whose citizen is the fellow. Not the human being – as whatever man – is the subject capable to defend himself/ herself, but only the state: a political institution, a historical structure of power relations, i.e. of domination – submission relations, and all the international pacts have sanctioned both the fact that only the states were/are subjects of law and the power relations between these subjects.

Further, if the person is defended in virtue of his/her submission to a state, and if this defence supposes a certain appurtenance (to a state), it follows that a man can not be citizen of the world: he/she enjoys the state to be defended of only if he/she considers the others (including the other states) as at least dubious entities that it is better to stay away.

But, as we see, the power relations within the state determine very asymmetrical positions of citizens from the standpoint of their rights, namely, their situations to feel to being defended. The (political, economic, social, cultural) rights reflect the internal power relations and if these relations do not lead to real rights, the reason itself of a certain citizenship vanishes.

Obviously, everything is historical: including the conscience of rights, the relationships between the rights as such and the value people gave to a right or another. As well as everything is social: different classes and categories had and have not only common shared but also different representations of and positions about rights. The analysis could not be abstract, floating over the real states of things. However, a rapid philosophical inference may help us to better understand what is at stake with the present citizenship. Therefore, if in the ancient times (since the right to live has by far covered the qualitative rights) the appurtenance to a certain city or state was the condition of life as simple biological manifestation, in proportion as civilisation has ensured the basic/biological fact to live, the qualitative conditions of life have become more and more important. Generally, the pressure from below, of the bottom majority of societies, was that which led to the establishment of these qualitative rights.

Consequently, people felt to being defended, “at home”, according to the rights they enjoyed. If they did not enjoy these rights – thus if their life as such was no longer secure – they did no longer consider their citizenship as something worth. They leaved their country searching for another haven that could offer the rights they needed and compensate somehow the old appurtenance conferring them identity. There is a rich history and literature of the exile.

 

II

 

Nowadays, for the ordinary men there is an increasingly higher difficulty to reach the country receiving them with arms full of rights: the transnational capital has already transformed the whole world into a single market and capital-labour structure of relations where the inherited rights from the welfare state period fade away in an accelerated manner. Not the present economic crisis – lasting for more than 10 years[1], even 30[2] – is the cause of the dramatic reduction of welfare, with all the spring of a Veblenian middle class in regions until now exterior to the market economy (China, India), but the structural relations of capitalism. As well as not globalisation, i.e. the transnational development of the capitalist relations (delocalisation of productive units from the Western world to countries supplying cheap labour force and “friendly business environment”, de-regulation, namely the transnational capital’s pressure over the welfare state in order to shrinking this one), is the cause of the foolishness the world seems to have entered. Since the above-mentioned processes result from the inner logic of capitalist relations (competition, the quest for profit, exploitation, on both national and international scale – as through the Centre-Periphery relationships), it follows that transnationalisation is a simple capitalist solution to the savage capitalist competition: and not only that it can not be stopped but, if by absurd one can stop it for a while and the good old days of the post-war capitalism would return, the inner logic of competition etc. will lead once more to a transnational concentration and centralisation of capital. (Transnationalisation is, of course, a solution in the benefit of the big capital).

So, what to be done? How could one acquire the simple right to have a decent life, namely including qualitative rights – an expectation constituted just with modernity –whatever this decency means? Some people think that “only here, in this country” there is so huge corruption: but since corruption was constitutive to capitalism from its beginning, it is so to a greater extent in the present system crisis of capitalism, period emphasised by and at the same time in spite of transnationalisation. Some people think that “only here, in this country” there are no jobs and the wages of the existing services of the many are indecently low: but how could one increase the wages if one wants “competitiveness”, namely to sell one’s own products before the competitors?

This could happen only if all the rivals would increase wages. But, since this operation would destroy the comparative advantage of some competing participants, it results that another type of economic relations is needed.

If the appurtenance to a certain state and to different other states does not anymore defend the fellow men from that/those states, it results that the same high level of human rights must be legislated worldwide[3]. But in order to do this, another type of political relations is needed[4].

The present stage of capitalism, the transnational one, shows the necessary path of the human development: that of the world integration, of the world coherent organisation. But capitalism shows this more capitalisto, in its perverted manner, in accordance with the restrictive and highly harmful capitalist interests: harmful for both humankind, i.e. every ordinary man and woman, and its environment.

If so, the multitude of non-realised citizens worldwide must correct this path and enlarge it by the content of real human rights, inherently on world scale.

 

III

 

But, until that moment arrives – not as “end of history”, but only of prehistory (Marx) – as a result of permanent and renewed struggle and discovering of needs, potency and means, the world experiences both the dependence of human rights on the power relations and the reduction of rights to the level of a didactic illustration of the senile capitalism: there is about not only the social rights achieved following a long and painful class struggle and become usual during the post-war welfare state – as positive understanding of citizenship, but also the human rights related to the compensation of their lack within the confines of a certain state.

The right of common people to freely circulate and establish wherever they want – since the capital has the right to freely transgress the boundaries of states –, that is the right to emigrate without the forbiddances imposed by both the home countries and those of which the migrants are not national, is opposed by both the states and the capital. This opposition is both economic and political. The ordinary individual is not equal with the state, and certainly it is not of a superior value to the state – as, nevertheless, it is in the contemporary development of the modern individualism, specific to the transnationalisation of civilisation – , but a subordinated subject as in the pre-modern epochs.

The right to emigrate is both positive and negative, these two qualities in the sense of Isaiah Berlin: positive – since it “supposes” the whole world, irrespective of its political fragmentation, as the home of every individual –; negative – since it expresses the subordination of the individual to the state and the constitutive limit of his freedom, that to only escape from this subordination, by leaving intact the power of the state to subordinate the individuals –. And since the individual wants to be citizen of another state, accepting the same subordination, it results that the right to emigrate does not solve structurally the problem of the complex of human rights, but it is only circumstantial.

Another example of “compensation” of the lack of rights in the home country is the right to asylum. As we know, there is an ancient origin of this right, as well as an old enough counter-right, the arrangement of the right of extradition the states privilege of. Therefore, nor the right to asylum is a positive right, but only a circumstantial one: not only because this right is legally countered by states according to the international relations of force, but also because it twofold expresses the subordination of the individual to the states (that from which the individual escapes and that where he aims to settle).

Anyway, these two rights show both the tendency of emancipation of the individual from the subordination to the state and his possibility to judge the former sacrosanct institutions. These two rights should have been supported by liberals, since these ones were in theory the promoters of the individual freedom in front of institutions. But in effect the two rights are not supported by them: in any version, the liberals are the backers of those relations and institutions which guarantee the continuity of power relations.

If so, the individuals should be, and they actually are upheld by that tenet which is opposite to liberalism from the standpoint of the universal social, political, economic and cultural rights of the individual. But this tenet does more than to be a partisan of the negative rights: continuing Aristotle’s conception about science, it explains the structural causes of this negative conation of rights and, consequently, it explains the manners these causes could be removed. It develops a coherent view about the right of the multitude and thus the current mainstream dogma of the representative democracy inside of a country is refuted. Since the simple vote to one or another candidate to leading political positions does not bring to the individuals the normal human rights besides kept in the solemn documents of the sacrosanct institutions, it results that – beyond the negative rights to emigrate or to asylum – the right to rebel against this state of things, and to construct its opposite, follow. The criterion of these rights is the natural human right to feel protected anywhere and by all other human beings. The right to be citizen of the world, thus transcending the right to evade, is a first legal expression of this most profound human right.

 

 

[1]Five more years: Warning financial crisis won’t end until 2017 at the earliest, 27 June 2012, http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/city-news/financial-crisis-will-last-at-least-five-941612.

[2]Nick Beams,Downturn to continue for a generation, Bank of England governor warns, 24 October 2012,http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/oct2012/king-o24.shtml; Barry Grey, Global Economic Crisis: No End in Sight. World Bank cuts forecast for global economic growth, 17 January 2013, http://www.globalresearch.ca/global-economic-crisis-no-end-in-sight/5319555.

[3] Before the present transnational era, (for exemple in the time of Diogenes, see Ana Bazac,  „Citizenship as philosophical burden”, Egophobia, 29-30, 30 December 2010, http://egophobia.ro/revista/?p=6610), the world rights, i.e., world citizenship, have constituted only an exceptional situation and, at the level of theory, a dream.

[4]Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (2000), Cambridge, Ma., London, Harvard University Press, 2001, pp. 393-413.

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