The 2023 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights was held in the Italian capital Rome on September 20, with the theme, “Modernisation and the diversity of human rights among civilisations”.
Organised by the Human Rights Institute of the South West University of Political Science and Law (SWUPL) in Chongqing, China, and the Roma 9 China-Italy Economic and Cultural Exchange Centre, and hosted by the China Society for Human Rights Studies and the Faculty of Law at Sapienza University of Rome, it was attended by distinguished academics and prominent political and social activists from China, Italy, Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain and Switzerland.
In his paper, entitled ‘Whole Process People’s Democracy is a significant contribution to Human Rights’, our co-editor, Keith Bennett noted that:
“To frame international relations as being characterised by a supposed struggle between democracy and autocracy, and to stigmatise, sanction and even commit acts of war against other countries on such a basis, is itself the grossest violation of the most fundamental human rights of many millions of people and potentially of the majority of humanity.”
Drawing on The German Ideology, an 1846 work by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Keith noted that, “it is on the basis of this materialist Marxist principle that socialist countries like China, and many developing countries more generally, have placed such emphasis on the liberation and development of the productive forces. This has not been to negate or to violate human rights. On the contrary, it has been the prerequisite for their development and their guarantee.
“In this way, socialist countries, both historically and today, have paved, and are paving, the way for the elaboration of a human rights paradigm that is actually focused on people’s right and ability to manage the affairs of the state, economy and society as a whole.”
Xi Jinping’s concept of whole process people’s democracy, he explained, has its roots in Marxist theory, the historical experience of the Chinese revolution and in China’s fine traditional culture and civilisational experience.
According to this concept, politics, and therefore social relations, are not characterised by an adversarial division into contending and hostile camps, but rather by a search for consensus, harmony and inclusivity, whereby the achievement of the rights of all becomes the prerequisite for the achievement of the rights of one.
The necessary prerequisite, and material basis, to fully embody such inclusive and non-adversarial democracy is the establishment of a socialist system, where exploitation and oppression are no longer the defining characteristics of society, although they may persist to a certain extent in a primary phase of socialism.
In a situation characterised variously by frequent changes of prime ministers, unstable coalition governments, and the crisis and implosion of the traditional political party system, with once almost hegemonic political forces reduced to insignificance or even extinction, whilst new party formations prove to be nebulous and ephemeral, it surely behoves those of us in Europe to look without prejudice at alternative experiences and experiments and not least at China’s evolving whole process people’s democracy.
The full text of Keith’s paper is printed below.
We also reproduce a news report on the conference originally published by the Chinese newspaper, Global Times. Reporting the presentation made by Lord (Neil) Davidson, a member of the British House of Lords from the Labour Party and former minister, it notes his observation that certain sections in the UK’s political parties have been particularly vocal in their use of human rights criticisms to attack other states’ parties, adding:
“In the case of the UK, one does not require to be steeped in history to reflect that the history of the British Empire reveals case after case of the destruction of the human rights of peoples across the world.”
He noted that discussions on human rights with the objective of mutual understanding between countries can only serve to improve relations. Differing ideologies and differing cultures are a given in today’s world but an acceptance that mutual understanding makes for a safer world for all is hardly a controversial proposition.
Whole Process People’s Democracy is a significant contribution to human rights
Thank you very much for your invitation to participate in the 2023 China-Europe Seminar on Human Rights and for giving me an opportunity to say a few words.
Dialogue of this type is extremely relevant and timely. Human rights are the universal aspiration and entitlement of humanity. But each country and each people have to find their own way to realise them. No country can genuinely claim that its human rights situation is perfect. They remain a work in progress. To frame international relations as being characterised by a supposed struggle between democracy and autocracy, and to stigmatise, sanction and even commit acts of war against other countries on such a basis, is itself the grossest violation of the most fundamental human rights of many millions of people and potentially of the majority of humanity.Continue reading Whole Process People’s Democracy is a significant contribution to human rights