Michael Luftmensch MLuftmensch at
Wed Feb 14 21:34:01 MST 1996



While there is ample reason to be critical of Amnesty, AI human rights
reports have frequently been used to debunk the claims put forward by the US
State Department. Louis Godenas, I think you are somewhat overhasty in
conflating  AI and the US State Department, although there are certainly
cases in which they share a similar kind of willful blindness. 

Louis Godenas wrote, AI "is becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the
interests of western capital." Recent events in Nigeria, however, seem to
suggest that there are instances in which international human rights
organizations, like Amnesty, can play a role against western capital
interests, like Shell.

Hugh wrote that "Amnesty International can provide useful material
documenting state oppression. What it can't provide is any kind of solution
or leadership pointing the way out of the contradictions of the bourgeois
state (democracy/oppression) which it focuses on."

True enough. However, his strictures for avoiding "the sticky mess of foul
smelling slime" emanating from the bourgeoisie, while admirable enough in
themselves, seem somewhat removed from the morass of the 20th century. In
lieu of international working class solidarity - what then? 

Louis Godenas asked: "Might we not, as Marxists, create a viable leftist
alternative to AI?"  Perhaps one day we will. I imagine that Hugh had
something of that nature in mind when he wrote about class tribunals,
although I take it that Louis Godenas would take issue with his and Carlos'
expectation that the PCP would be charged with violating proletarian
standards of class solidarity.

But I don't believe that a revolutionary human rights organization could be a
viable alternative to AI. If and when international working class solidarity
grows, it will no doubt have repercussions on organizations like Amnesty.
Until that time,  many leftwing human rights workers, while deeply critical
of AI, will use its auspices to publicize and check government repression. In
this sense, the organization's nongovernmental status and behind-the-scenes
maneuvering has given it a leverage in wresting concessions from repressive
governments we can't command.

This obviously doesn't solve the problem, but it can alleviate some
suffering. If in order to stop the torture of detainees, we have to involve
ourselves with the likes of Amnesty, should we refuse to wade into the "the
sticky mess of foul smelling slime?"


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