The book launched officially in April, but with global supply chains disrupted by the pandemic, it took a while before it was available outside of the UK. But now The Human Rights Dictatorship: Socialism, Global Solidarity and Revolution in East Germany is available everywhere that books are sold. If you want to buy a copy, it can be ordered from independent booksellers pretty much anywhere.
It is also a huge help to ask your local library to order a copy!
From the blurbs on the back:
‘In this pioneering book, Richardson-Little upends conventional wisdom that human rights are the natural enemy of authoritarian regimes. With great range and verve, he shows how the East German socialist state used human rights ideologically and diplomatically to stabilize and legitimate its fledging socialist republic, and only in the last decade of the regime did human rights emerge a source of dissent and resistance against the state. This is a model revisionist account of the protean and multi-directional nature of human rights under socialism.’
Paul Betts – University of Oxford
‘Finally a book on human rights history by someone deeply conversant with socialist thought, state-socialist regimes, and current human rights historiography. This is a rare and valuable book as well as a good read. It will be a reference point for years to come.’
Lora Wildenthal – Rice University, Texas
‘By showing the centrality of human rights to both the legitimacy and the downfall of the GDR, The Human Rights Dictatorship makes a major contribution to the global history of human rights. In this richly textured history, Ned Richardson-Little shows how East Germans instrumentalized human rights in the name of numerous shifting ideals: socialism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, Christianity, peace, the environment, democracy, and ultimately, the creation of a unified German state.’
Celia Donert – University of Liverpool
‘Eagerly anticipated, Ned Richardson-Little’s book breaks important new ground. Overcoming simple narratives of the GDR’s erosion, he impressively uncovers the multiple meanings with which East German actors infused human rights – including state elites seeking to buttress their socialist project. Richly nuanced, the book advances our understanding of the twisted trajectory of human rights history in the 20th century.’
Jan Eckel – Eberhard Karls-Universität Tübingen
Location: Erfurt, Germany
Date: July 9-10, 2020
Application deadline: September 30, 2019
At the beginning of the 21st century, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime oversaw a complex network of international conventions that aimed to combat narcotics smuggling and the illicit trade in arms, and human trafficking for purposes of exploitation. Today, law enforcement organizations argue that these three fields are fundamentally linked together by transnational organized crime to support their demands for global police cooperation. At the beginning of the century however, when activists and diplomats first created prohibition regimes aimed at addressing these issues, they understood them as distinctly separate problems, each requiring radically different solutions. In the early 20th century, international drug control initially stemmed from lobbying by missionaries concerned about widespread addiction in China due to legal traffic in opium. Controls on small arms were sparked by imperial fears that unrestricted trade could destabilize colonial rule. ‘White slavery’ was seen as a radically new problem, distinct from other forms of forced labour, in which individual pimps lured European girls and women abroad to exploiting their sexual labor for profit.
This conference aims to answer the question: How did the trafficking in humans, arms and narcotics become entangled over the long 20th century – in terms of actual illicit flows of people, guns and drugs, but also in terms of public perceptions and prohibition regimes?
The conference is looking for papers that will address themes including:
- When and how were networks of trafficking between these fields actually interconnected?
- How did global events such as the World Wars, Decolonization, or the collapse of State Socialism act as catalysts for the entangled proliferation of trafficking or prohibition across these fields? What were the local effects of these macro-events?
- How did regional and global legal systems linking these fields interact with local norms and practices of law enforcement and prohibition?
- Under what circumstances have these fields been linked together or separated by different actors and institutions including civil society activists and NGOS, the media, academics, bureaucrats, politicians, police, diplomats, clergy, medical authorities and global legal frameworks?
- How have moral panics in one area been used to legitimize prohibition campaigns against other types of cross border movement and traffic?
- How have demands for and opposition against state nationalization/regulation or for liberalization and decriminalization been interconnected between these fields?
- How have ideas about race, class and gender linked these fields together?
- What role has money laundering and other forms of illicit finance acted to link these fields together both by criminalized actors and control regimes?
- How did the interconnection of these illicit flows intersect with broader economic and political trends, including globalization, free trade and neoliberalism?
The journal Discard Studies picked up a thread on the historical and legal definition of genocide that I had posted to twitter in connection to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry. You can check it out here
State Socialism, Legal Experts and the Genesis of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law after 1945, 24-26 November 2016
The conference programme is now ready: check it out here
For more on the “1989 after 1989” project at the University of Exeter of which this is a part, check out our website
STATE SOCIALISM, LEGAL EXPERTS AND THE GENESIS OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL AND HUMANITARIAN LAW AFTER 1945
24 – 26 November 2016
Humboldt University of Berlin
The University of Exeter, the Leipzig Centre for the History and Culture of East-Central Europe (GWZO), and the Humboldt University of Berlin
In the history of international law, the socialist bloc has been generally relegated to the role of roadblock to the fulfillment of the ideals of Western liberalism. Scholars of international criminal law (ICL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) have often dismissed the contributions of socialist legal initiatives as little more than Cold War propaganda and thus irrelevant to understanding the historical evolution of judicial norms and the modern international system. The establishment of different international tribunals since the collapse of the Soviet Union has only reinforced the notion that the socialist world was little more than an impediment to progress. Nevertheless, the American-led global war on terror has done much to call into question Western commitment to the laws of war.
This conference seeks to explore the role of state-socialist intellectuals, experts and governments in shaping the evolution of ICL and IHL since the end of the Second World War. Actors from Eastern Europe, the USSR, and East Asian and African socialist states actively participated in international debates regarding international legal norms, the meaning of state sovereignty, and in the negotiation of all major ICL and IHL conventions after 1945. In various cases the socialist bloc was often more enthusiastic, and timely, in supporting and ratifying international legal agreements than Western governments, even if these initiatives were inseparable from political agendas. Although they systematically opposed the creation of international tribunals, experts from socialist countries led the way in many areas, such as the codification of crimes against peace and Apartheid or the elimination of statutory limitations for major ICL offences. The socialist world participated also in debates over the international legal status of drug conflicts and revolutionary groups funded by narcotics trafficking. Deliberations on the criminalization of terrorism and the regulation of armed conflicts were closely linked to the politics of “wars of liberation” by socialist forces in Africa, South-East Asia, and Latin America. Socialist legal experts were active participants in transnational epistemic communities and engaged in broader global projects, initiatives, and mobilizations across the Cold War divide.