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Let me start from the argument, which sounds quite banal already, about the dialectical relationship between the ideology of democratic humanism and the racist social practices of neoliberalism.Questions are posed here and there, in the entirety of Europe and further to the West, across first world countries and around: What happened to our nice and glorious multicultural world? The enemy is easy to locate: the one percent, the rich, the bankers, the absolute capitalist minority that owns the world, together with far-right governments and politicians who provide this minority with silent support and hardcore austerity politics.
The rights of citizens are becoming practically equal to human rights. The state is a guarantor of human rights; therefore, a certain human can enjoy his human rights as a citizen of a certain state.
Citizenship is becoming a legal condition for someone’s , so to speak.
They are living in the streets, in the basements of houses, and in slums, even as they enable the prosperity and economic growth of these glorious states through their low-paid or unpaid labor.
The institutions of human rights and citizen rights are based on the exclusion of nonhumans and noncitizens.
I would rather like to claim that the class struggle has to be carried forward by those who appear as nonhumans, or even as unhuman monsters, like the Hollywood aliens that symbolized communism during the Cold War. It goes beyond the human and human rights, towards animality.
This idea was perfectly drawn by Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky in his “Ode to Revolution”: “You send sailors / To the sinking cruiser / there / where a forgotten kitten was mewing.” This image of revolution is striking and powerful. There is something absurd and irrational in the excessive generosity of the revolutionary gesture depicted by Mayakovsky—imagine how crazy an army commander would have to be to send a battalion of sailors, adult armed men, to risk their lives for the sake of some forgotten, tiny, politically insignificant creature.If this concrete biped is recognized as human, regardless of his or her gender, race, or ethnicity, then this individual must have documents and the right to vote, the right to life, the right to property, and so on.He or she pays taxes to the state to which he or she is attached as a citizen, so that this state will provide for his or her security.My object of critique here, however, is not the evil of the right-wing, but rather the good of democratic universalism, since they both form part of one and the same dialectical chain.My argument is very simple: if humanism, often used as a slogan for struggles against racism and xenophobia, proceeds from the assumption that there is some exceptional dignity in human beings and some exceptional value to human life, then it is just one step away from putting into question the value of any nonhuman life.And yet, that’s precisely how the drama of revolutionary desire should be performed.Almost like these sailors, I will now try to look back to the sinking cruiser of the Russian Revolution in search of, if not a proper animal, then at least for its traces, almost erased by history.The institution of human rights is based on recognition.Someone should be recognized in his or her human dignity.The title of this essay paraphrases the famous expression “Socialism with a human face,” which refers back to 1968, to the events in Czechoslovakia known as the Prague Spring, but also to the Soviet 1980s, the time of the late Soviet Union prior to perestroika, when the idea of changing the very nature of so-called “really existing socialism” from the inside according to human/democratic values was still popular among dissidents.Apparently, it was not a renewed and more refined socialism, but a good old capitalism which entered this space under the mask of the human.