Let us examine, for a moment, the so-called rights of man – to
be precise, the rights of man in their authentic form, in the form which they have among those who discovered them,
the North Americans and the French. These rights of man are, in part, political rights, rights which can only be exercised
in community with others. Their content is participation in the community, and specifically in the political
community, in the life of the state. They come within the category of political freedom, the category of civic
rights, which, as we have seen, in no way presuppose the incontrovertible and positive abolition of religion –
nor, therefore, of Judaism. There remains to be examined the other part of the rights of man – the droits d’homme,
insofar as these differ from the droits d’citoyen.
Included among them is freedom of conscience, the right to practice any
religion one chooses. The privilege of faith is expressly recognized either as a right of man or as the consequence
of a right of man, that of liberty.
Déclaration des droits de l’droits et du citoyen,
1791, Article 10: “No one is to be subjected to annoyance because of his opinions, even religious opinions.” “The
freedom of every man to practice the religion of which he is an adherent.”
Declaration of the Rights of Man, etc., 1793,
includes among the rights of man, Article 7: “The free exercise of religion.” Indeed, in regard to man’s
right to express his thoughts and opinions, to hold meetings, and to exercise his religion, it is even stated: “The
necessity of proclaiming these rights presupposes either the existence or the recent memory of despotism.” Compare the
Constitution of 1795, Section XIV, Article 354.
Constitution of Pennsylvania, Article 9, § 3:
“All men have received from nature the imprescriptible right to worship the Almighty according to the dictates of their
conscience, and no one can be legally compelled to follow, establish, or support against his will any religion or religious
ministry. No human authority can, in any circumstances, intervene in a matter of conscience or control the forces of the soul.”
Constitution of New Hampshire, Article 5 and
6: “Among these natural rights some are by nature inalienable since nothing can replace them. The rights of conscience
are among them.” (Beaumont, op. cit., pp. 213,214)
Incompatibility between religion and the rights of man is to
such a degree absent from the concept of the rights of man that, on the contrary, a man’s right to be religious,
in any way he chooses, to practise his own particular religion, is expressly included among the rights of man. The privilege
of faith is a universal right of man.
The droits de l’homme, the rights of man, are, as such, distinct
from the droits du citoyen, the rights of the citizen. Who is homme as distinct from citoyen? None other
than the member of civil society. Why is the member of civil society called “man,” simply man; why are
his rights called the rights of man? How is this fact to be explained? From the relationship between the political
state and civil society, from the nature of political emancipation.
Above all, we note the fact that the so-called rights of man, the droits
de l’homme as distinct from the droits du citoyen, are nothing but the rights of a member of civil society
– i.e., the rights of egoistic man, of man separated from other men and from the community. Let us hear what
the most radical Constitution, the Constitution of 1793, has to say:
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
2. “These rights, etc., (the natural and imprescriptible rights) are: equality, liberty, security, property.”
What constitutes liberty?
Article 6. “Liberty is the power which man has to do
everything that does not harm the rights of others,” or, according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man of
1791: “Liberty consists in being able to do everything which does not harm others.”
Liberty, therefore, is the right to do everything that harms no one else.
The limits within which anyone can act without harming someone else are defined by law, just as the boundary between
two fields is determined by a boundary post. It is a question of the liberty of man as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself.
Why is the Jew, according to Bauer, incapable of acquiring the rights of man?
“As long as he is a Jew, the restricted nature which
makes him a Jew is bound to triumph over the human nature which should link him as a man with other men, and will separate
him from non-Jews.”
But, the right of man to liberty is based not on the association
of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. It is the right of this separation, the right of the restricted
individual, withdrawn into himself.
The practical application of man’s right to liberty is man’s
right to private property.
What constitutes man’s right to private property?
Article 16. (Constitution of 1793): “The right of property
is that which every citizen has of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of his goods and income, of the fruits of his
labor and industry.”
The right of man to private property is, therefore, the right
to enjoy one’s property and to dispose of it at one’s discretion (à son gré), without regard to other men,
independently of society, the right of self-interest. This individual liberty and its application form the basis of civil
society. It makes every man see in other men not the realization of his own freedom, but the barrier to it. But, above
all, it proclaims the right of man
“of enjoying and of disposing at his discretion of
his goods and income, of the fruits of his labor and industry.”
There remains the other rights of man: égalité and sûreté.
Equality, used here in its non-political sense, is nothing but the equality
of the liberté described above – namely: each man is to the same extent regarded as such a self-sufficient monad.
The Constitution of 1795 defines the concept of this equality, in accordance with this significance, as follows:
Article 3 (Constitution of 1795): “Equality consists
in the law being the same for all, whether it protects or punishes.”
Article 8 (Constitution of 1793): “Security consists
in the protection afforded by society to each of its members for the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property.”
Security is the highest social concept of civil society, the
concept of police, expressing the fact that the whole of society exists only in order to guarantee to each of its
members the preservation of his person, his rights, and his property. It is in this sense that Hegel calls civil society “the
state of need and reason.”
The concept of security does not raise civil society above its egoism.
On the contrary, security is the insurance of egoism.
None of the so-called rights of man, therefore, go beyond egoistic man,
beyond man as a member of civil society – that is, an individual withdrawn into himself, into the confines of his private
interests and private caprice, and separated from the community. In the rights of man, he is far from being conceived as a
species-being; on the contrary, species-like itself, society, appears as a framework external to the individuals, as a restriction
of their original independence. The sole bond holding them together it natural necessity, need and private interest, the preservation
of their property and their egoistic selves.
It is puzzling enough that a people which is just beginning to liberate
itself, to tear down all the barriers between its various sections, and to establish a political community, that such a people
solemnly proclaims (Declaration of 1791) the rights of egoistic man separated from his fellow men and from the community,
and that indeed it repeats this proclamation at a moment when only the most heroic devotion can save the nation, and is therefore
imperatively called for, at a moment when the sacrifice of all the interest of civil society must be the order of the day,
and egoism must be punished as a crime. (Declaration of the Rights of Man, etc., of 1793.) This fact becomes still
more puzzling when we see that the political emancipators go so far as to reduce citizenship, and the political community,
to a mere means for maintaining these so-called rights of man, that, therefore, the citoyen is declared to be the servant
of egotistic homme, that the sphere in which man acts as a communal being is degraded to a level below the sphere in
which he acts as a partial being, and that, finally, it is not man as citoyen, but man as private individual [bourgeois]
who is considered to be the essential and true man.
“The aim of all political association is the preservation
of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man.” (Declaration of the Rights, etc., of 1791, Article 2.)
“Government is instituted in order to guarantee man
the enjoyment of his natural and imprescriptible rights.” (Declaration, etc., of 1793, Article 1.)
Hence, even in moments when its enthusiasm still has the freshness
of youth and is intensified to an extreme degree by the force of circumstances, political life declares itself to be a mere
means, whose purpose is the life is civil society. It is true that its revolutionary practice is in flagrant contradiction
with its theory. Whereas, for example, security is declared one of the rights of man, violation of the privacy of correspondence
is openly declared to be the order of the day. Whereas “unlimited freedom of the press” (Constitution of 1793,
Article 122) is guaranteed as a consequence of the right of man to individual liberty, freedom of the press is totally destroyed,
because “freedom of the press should not be permitted when it endangers public liberty.” (“Robespierre jeune,”
Historie parlementaire de la Révolution française by Buchez and Roux, vol.28, p. 159.) That is to say, therefore:
The right of man to liberty ceases to be a right as soon as it comes into conflict with political life, whereas in
theory political life is only the guarantee of human rights, the rights of the individual, and therefore must be abandoned
as soon as it comes into contradiction with its aim, with these rights of man. But, practice is merely the exception,
theory is the rule. But even if one were to regard revolutionary practice as the correct presentation of the relationship,
there would still remain the puzzle of why the relationship is turned upside-down in the minds of the political emancipators
and the aim appears as the means, while the means appears as the aim. This optical illusion of their consciousness would still
remain a puzzle, although now a psychological, a theoretical puzzle.
Read the Whole Text:
On The Jewish Question by Karl Marx