UN Resolution 48/13

Environment, Human Rights and Class Power–3

Farooque Chowdhury

These environmental rights if implemented / ensured / executed, can broadly ensure people’s interests related to environment and life. But, the extent of implementation of these rights in countries is known to all sufferers in most countries. The sufferers are not only the small and marginal farmers, urban poor and proletariat. The middle class, the petty bourgeois class, also suffer due to environment-exploitation by capital.

One of the major hindrances to implementation of the rights is class power of the dominating interests that constantly acts with environment in a hostile way. To be specific, it’s political power of the dominating interests that harms/hurts/devours environment. It’s class power equation; and class power manifests in economic, political, social ideological power. People, especially the working people, are in weaker position in this power equation if people remain unaware and unorganised.

Class power, a relationship between two opposite and hostile classes, is manifested at local level through local operatives—political, economic and ideological operatives, local administration and local government; and at national level, it’s manifested in legislative, executive and judiciary parts of state machine, in complex arrangements/deals the machine plays with/makes. Force, influence, authority, scope and range of class power depend on dominating position of a class (es).

The absence/non-implementation of rights is directly related to people’s loss of wages/income, degradation of livelihood. The act of devouring of environment is an act of devouring/swallowing of people’s livelihood—an act of hostility to people. Thus, the capital that harms/hurts environment is in direct conflict/contradiction with people.

But, most of the discussions on environment, and on rights related to environment don’t mention this fact of class/political power, equation of political power, contradiction, dominating capital’s hostility. Class connections are also vital in this regard. The connections are visible at times, and, at most of the time, invisible. It requires serious search, or research, to find out the invisible class connections.

The environment-exploitation that the exploiting classes carry on in unhindered way is a show of the exploiters’ class power. This exploitation has its class character—capitalist/imperialist. Bureaucracy plays a very powerful role in favor of the environment-exploitation. “[…] bureaucracy”, writes Lenin, “was the first political instrument of the bourgeoisie against the feudal-lords, and against the representatives of the ‘old-nobility’ system in general, and marked the first appearance in the arena of political rule of people who were not high-born landowners, but commoners, ‘middle class’ […]” (The Economic Content of Narodism and the Criticism of it in Mr. Struve’s Book, Collected Works, vol. 1, Progress Publishers, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1972)
This instrument faithfully carries on its duties with the power of law formulated to secure exploitative interest and system; and, at times, the instrument turns “blind” when required to allow the plundering capital to carry on environment-exploitation. A pure play of class power it’s. The play robs people, unorganised and unaware, of their human rights with environment; and, consequently, people’s suffering increases.

To ensure human rights with environment, there’s the essential task of
[1]  reaching the masses of people with relevant information and publicity work;
[2]  exposing acts of environment-exploitation; and,
[3]  organising the masses of people with activities of regenerating demolished environment and widening space for people’s participation.

Widening space for participation by people is itself an act of struggle and resistance, an act that challenges the capital exploiting environment for profit of an extremely minority class—the exploiting class. The entire task is political; and the task has to encounter political problems, actors and instruments. Many environmental problems can’t be addressed locally, and by local authorities. Central, political authorities are to address those problems. These problems include issues of safe and health-friendly food and shelter/habitat; environment-friendly trade, fiscal, industrial, energy and mining policies. Policies and acts of imperialism including invasion/war, armaments/deployment of weapons go against environment, which makes it an imperative to oppose imperialism. Thus, the endeavor turns political struggle upholding interest of the masses of people; and majority of the people is the working people.

There’s no logic to assume that the task is to be organized and led by the so-called NGOs—non-governmental organisations. Organising and carrying out this task is beyond capacity of NGOs. People’s organisations are to organise the task; people’s organisations are to gain space instead of depending on NGOs. There’s requirement of environment-political programme.

[The full article with notes and citing sources appeared in on December 3, 2021 and in MR Online on December 4, 2021]


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Vol 54, No. 33, Feb 13 - 19, 2022