Human rights is an issue much with us these days, but the debate over the propriety of basing US foreign policy on human rights skirts the question of their status in this country. Claude Lightfoot, a Central Committee member of the Communist Party (USA), has no doubts about the answer--human rights has had no place in American history except as an ideological shield for a government controlled by the rich for the purpose of getting richer. While aimed at a popular audience, his book purports to be a serious, comprehensive study, albeit based on the historical research of others. Yet in discussing the background of the Constitution--the first substantive chapter--he fails to even mention, much less incorporate, the work of Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, or any other recent major scholarship. Eschewing the subtleties of historical reconstruction or evaluation of evidence, Lightfoot writes: ""the so-called system of checks and balances in government. . . is one of the biggest ideological frauds ever drilled into the minds of man"" (the masculine pronoun is only sexist when ""they"" use it), or ""our structure of government adds up to one of the cleverest forms used to conceal class dictatorship the world has ever known."" The phrasing is not random--he actually believes in this conspiracy madness. The book never rises above this level of Communist graffiti and doesn't advance our understanding of human rights or US history one inch beyond the collected works of Party stalwart William Z. Foster.