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Commentary :: Human Rights
Slavery as a Human Right
09 Nov 2017
Slavery lives in modern forms. Capitalist society stands in opposition to human rights and does not only realize human rights
Capitalism cannot realize essential demands from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

by Rainer Roth

[This book review published on July 1, 2016 is translated from the German on the Internet, The book reviewed is “On the Bourgeois Revolutions in England, the US and France” by Angela Klein, Frankfurt, 2015, 612 pp, 15E.]

“Why is there a book about slavery in England, the US and France, the three centers of the middle class revolution? Didn’t England (1838), France (1848) and the US (1865) abolish their slavery and their slave trade long ago (1807-1808) because they follow the values of universal human rights? Isn’t the theme a theme of the past? Didn’t the most important slave-holding nations of the so-called modern age really change from representatives of barbarism to representatives of humanity with a stroke of the pen? S history was brightened or rewritten.”

The author Rainer Roth is a professor of social science in Frankfurt and active for years against social cuts and low wages and for the interests of wage-earners in the Rhine-Main alliance. With his many erudite publications, Roth has explored the unemployed, the effects of Hartz IV, life with income support, the subsistence level in Germany and criticism of the unconditional basic income. He knows the margins of society from theory and praxis.

Old and modern slaves are discussed, slavery in paid labor and as the opposite of paid labor. The middle-class concept of human rights did not exclude slavery. Rather, the fathers of human rights (Locke, Rousseau and Jefferson) and the French enlightened justified slavery and were partly deeply rooted in the slave economy.

“Slavery lives in modern forms and is not only in opposition to paid labor,” Roth explains – in a form of debt slavery. This conclusion has high actuality given the indebtedness of whole states induced by the financial markets and the related impoverishment of the populations since the 1980s, particularly since the so-called Greece crisis. Roth describes wage-slavery as “indirect slavery” practiced by the raw material extraction industry in mines and agriculture.

Roth unmasks the thesis that industrial capitalism abolished slavery and is its principle opponent. He shows the myth in examples from England, France and the US. The dominant opinion denies “that the proclaimed human rights from the start were only rights of a middle-class minority with which they asserted their interests against the feudal aristocracy. It falsifies human rights into human rights for all people… and all human rights into the bases of economic conditions.”

In 2001, slavery and the slave trade were declared crimes against humanity for the first time at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, even by former slave-holding nations. “The former middle-class slave-holding states held that only criminal slaveholders had a human right to be compensated for the loss of his slave-property, not the slaves for the crimes perpetuated on them and their descendants today.” The heads of state and heads of government of the EU states rejected any idea of an apology written by Jean Ziegler, member of the advisory committee of the UN Human Rights Council. Instead, people in Europe thought slavery was exclusively invented by the Arabs.

Capitalist society stands in opposition to human rights and does not only realize human rights. Capitalism cannot realize essential demands from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, above all the right to work, the right to education, the right to a living standard, health and well-being for the individual and his family, “including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services and the right to security in case of unemployment, sickness, invalidity or orphaned existence and in old age” (from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Roth urges an expansion of human rights, above all social human rights. One thing stands in the way: capitalist property/ownership and wage-slavery. “Economic dependence cannot be the basis of freedom or the basis of the right to self-determination of the peoples.” Middle-class revolutions came to a standstill in their emancipatory program. “The limitation of the middle-class revolution demands a revolutionary solution.”

(Translator's note: offers reading samples for its 191K eBooks and dissertations. A universe of knowledge and enlightenment opens up. If you search for "social state," you are given 21K dissertations. If you search for "economic theory," you are given 3300 texts. is an incomparable translation site that usually gives 20 to 30 possible translations for each word. Enjoy the feast! Become a researcher - while the government can't seem to see beyond tax havens and blackjack tables!).
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