It’s an irony, but as ‘war on terror’ ideology crescendoed, emboldening the extreme rightwing & fascists, not only have there been increasing attacks on Muslims involving war, occupation, genocide, but so also have anti-Semitic attacks increased against temples & Jewish graveyards. Zionism has done so much damage to relations between Jews & Muslims but the violence against them both has brought out solidarity between them in many places. It is unity against this rightwing violence that can play a role in breaking down the seemingly insuperable edifice of Zionist ideology.
The Islamophobia & anti-Semitism at the heart of Assadism, their complete adherence to ‘war on terror’ ideology has become irrefutable. But in their scurrilous depictions of protesters against inequality & repression in Nicaragua & Venezuela, their support for Duterte’s vigilante war against the urban poor, their denial of the Rohingya & Uyghur genocides, their portrayal of the Kashmiri struggle as ‘jihadi terrorism’, their scorn for millions of Chinese protesters in Hong Kong, we see that fundamentally Assadists & their fellow travelers express a deep elitism, racism & white supremacism. They are part of the international trend where the extreme rightwing & fascists are coming to the fore. It is the very mobilizations they deplore & vilify that will defeat their hate.
Maybe former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who from June 2012 to July 2013 served as a civilian front for the military junta, died during his kangaroo court appearance. Maybe the military killed him. May he Rest In Peace.
This is a post I wrote in 2014 about the squalid living conditions of thousands of working people in Hong Kong: underground cages whilst Hong Kong then had 50 billionaires & over 400,000 millionaires. But Max Blumenthal, Ali Abunimah, & Jonathan Cook scoff at the protests of millions of Chinese.
September 22, 2014
When Britain returned the colony of Hong Kong to China in 1997 it was under the policy of “one China, two systems”, meaning the economy of Hong Kong would remain capitalist & China would remain whatever the hell it is–a bastardized hybrid of sweatshop capitalism & state control. This arrangement would remain in effect until 2047. Capitalism under British colonialism was thriving in Hong Kong since in general & contrary to propaganda, tyranny best suits capitalism. None other than Milton Friedman, the simple-minded troll who shilled the most barbaric, antisocial forms of capitalism, thought it represented the apex of capitalist achievement. He claimed, after walking the streets of Hong Kong for a few hours, that there were no exploited workers in Hong Kong. It was a worker’s paradise even if they would be thrown into jail for trying to form a union.
One of the things that should have made the transition a seamless one from the political system of British colonialism to “one China, two systems” is that neither British colonialism nor China were democratic. So certainly out of the malevolence Britain exercised in exiting all its colonies, it sent one of it’s hapless ne’er-do-well politicians to begin reforms easing colonial rule a few years before the formal transition of sovereignty in 1997. One of the reforms was setting up an elective legislature which was really a provocation to China more than a reform because it was likely calculated to encourage anti-communist politicians to pose problems for China especially after the massacre of Tiananmen Square in 1989. The cordiality of the transition was only apparent.
Unsatisfactory explanations are given for why Britain turned sovereignty back to China. Some say it’s because Britain’s 99-year lease on the island ran out. British colonialism isn’t known for its adherence to law, let alone rental agreements. Hong Kong was a colonial enclave known as “the gateway to the West for China’s trade.” It’s wealth was derived from handling billions of dollars in Chinese exports & trade. The withdrawal agreement was masterminded (in 1984) by the British government under Thatcher in collaboration with British & Hong Kong capitalists & China to the economic advantage of both countries. British capitalists could continue to make billions without sustaining the burden of colonial administration.
The current conflict started this past summer when the Chinese government began to backtrack on peaceful coexistence with democratic rights in Hong Kong. Originally, the two countries had concocted Hong Kong Basic Law which included freedom of speech, assembly, press, religion, & the rights to form unions & strike. It also included a pledge of universal suffrage by 2017 for electing the Chief Executive of Hong Kong (a mayoral position replacing the British governor). But in late August, the Chinese authorities laid out proposed electoral procedures which are a one-act farce called “Their Universal Suffrage & Ours” where they control who is elected by strangling the nomination process. After so many years of machinations & deceits around that damn sovereignty, the Chinese government probably thought it could pull off another fast one.
The proposed election procedures are not unlike the US system: candidates for chief executive would not be by popular nomination or political party but by a government nominating committee. It only differs from the US system in that in that the US has two nominating committees posing as two parties–the Democrats & the Republicans. But in both cases, the elections are rigged so that corporate interests always win & there is no possibility for dissident voices to enter the system. The new procedures actually differ little from the present one in Hong Kong where a committee of 1,200 corporate elite choose the chief executive. Capitalism in Hong Kong doesn’t like to beat around the bush or even tip its hat to democracy but now the massive democracy movement is forcing that to change.
One of the primary things driving the democracy movement is the immense disparity between tycoons & working people in Hong Kong. It’s a small place but Hong Kong has 50 billionaires & an estimated 400,000 millionaires–out of a population of 7 million people. It also has nearly 1.5 million people living below the official poverty line set by the World Bank at US $1.25 a day (based on the cost of living in 1,000 BCE). One reason the troll Milton Friedman admired it so much is that it has almost no social security system; only 14% of people over 60 years-old get any social security so in order to eat they have to keep working into old age. The place is apparently distinguished by the number of indigent elderly people employed at menial labor for only a few hundreds bucks a month.
The miniumum wage in Hong Kong is US $3.87 or £2.40 an hour. That’s 75 cents more than the cost of a quart of milk. An average one-bedroom apartment costs US $1,446. That’s why there are nearly half a million people in Hong Kong waiting for public housing on a waiting list that’s ten years long. And while they’re waiting they live in “coffin homes” or cage homes which are like chicken coops layered on top of each other under the cities multi-million dollar skyscrapers, luxury apartments & chic shopping malls. These chicken coops don’t go cheap; the average is about US $175 a month, which is more than one weeks wage. In short, it’s everything that’s damning about capitalism. Not to mention everything that’s damning about China.
Activists in Hong Kong’s large democratic movement pledged a campaign of civil disobedience to paralyze the central financial district–the jugular of the place. Like every social movement, Hong Kong democracy activists are divided by those with relatively short-sighted demands & those with far broader reform goals. A section of the movement called “Occupy Central with Love & Peace” calls primarily for universal suffrage. That section is massive, including many students, but has a rather equivocal leadership who appear reluctant to go the distance by shutting down business in Hong Kong. But there are many other organizations involved. For many years the political movement there has been impressive & massive in demanding justice for Tiananmen Square; in honoring Chinese labor organizer & dissident Li Wangyang who served 20 years in jail for political activity; in supporting Edward Snowden; in demanding democratic rights. Our fullest solidarity with their movement.
Photo is of 78-year-old Tam Wing Dik who lives in this cage home.
(Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Another article I wrote on the 2014 protests in Hong Kong in response to Assadist & libertarian accusations that the millions of protesting Chinese were stooges of the CIA & National Endowment for Democracy–the same fundamentally racist accusation they used against the Egyptian Arab Spring.
October 19, 2014
Many articles insist the Hong Kong democracy movement is orchestrated by the US State Department, because the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)–which is a US government agency likely chock full of CIA operatives–fed money to some organizations & activists. Those who make these allegations have read too many John LeCarre novels or listened too much to Alex Jones–& have participated in politics too little. Of course the US government is involved; they have vested interests in the outcome. But suggesting these protests are CIA street theater rather than a profound social movement for democracy is politically shabby & plays into the hands of reaction.
The CIA & other US agencies have a long-standing policy of intervening in political movements all over the world. There are volumes written on this, some books now decades old. All the most important social movements (including the US Civil Rights, women’s, labor, antiwar, & socialist movements) are/were infiltrated by provocateurs using bribery, blackmail, & other corrupting practices. It’s what undercover operatives do. That does does mean the entire movement is compromised nor does it render the entire movement bankrupt.
Too much has been written by conspiracy thinkers claiming the Arab uprisings are a sting operation of Mossad & the CIA; many circulated rumors that the Brazil anti-World Cup protests of millions were taken over by fascists; competing political forces have made a cacophony of dissenting analyses of Syria & the Ukraine. Now, based on a shred of evidence & massive speculation, some are on a band wagon denouncing the Hong Kong movement because the NED dished out dough to some participants. Does it surprise anyone that Beijing is making the exact same claim?
Some people who make these claims about the Hong Kong protests are Maoists, shamelessly attempting to cover for the undemocratic regime in China. Many are libertarian thinkers who have no respect for working people as the agents of social transformation & think they are only pawns in international espionage. Where will this nonsense end!? Those who don’t recognize the compelling realities of a mass social movement demanding democracy need to get out of the game & take up crocheting. Conspiracy models of social uprisings serve reaction, not justice. In many ways it’s just a shade away from the Zionist claim that Hamas rockets are the problem in Gaza rather than Israeli apartheid & ethnic cleansing.
In 1968, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to suppress the movement for democracy called the Prague Spring. Both Soviet & capitalist media reported the movement as anti-socialist–of course because that deceit served the interests of both. It justified suppression for the USSR & it discredited socialism for the US. But what the movement was demanding was democracy; they wanted democratic freedoms & the end of a police state. The point of the comparison is that misrepresenting & discrediting progressive movements is an old game that always plays into the hands of reaction, undercuts solidarity, & buttresses continued tyranny.
So who are these protesters in Hong Kong? They’re students, union organizations, & unaffiliated working people. Likely a section of them are even anti-communist & identify capitalism as democratic. Call it heresy, but that doesn’t invalidate their struggle for democratic suffrage one iota. They’ve been out on the street now for nearly three weeks (since Sept. 28th), setting up an Occupy encampment in Admiralty, the central business district & venue of financial institutions & government buildings. They also set up encampment in Mong Kok, a major commercial district with high end retailers & catering to the tourist & entertainment industry, particularly the sex industry, with brothels, massage parlors, nightclubs, & bars run by criminal cartels.
Democracy activists paralyzed commerce & traffic in both districts with makeshift metal, bamboo, & umbrella barricades. Since billions of dollars of business are transacted in Hong Kong & at least 44 banks were closed due to protests, business analysts are worried about the negative economic impact of the protests. Some alarmists speak of the need for financial markets to move to Singapore to escape the instability; some are concerned foreign investors will shy off. A few expressed indignation at the illegal character of the protests which defy a local ordinance that protests of more than 50 people must have police permits. It’s a good thing those analysts are good are making money because they stink at politics.This could be taken as a petulant & pissy complaint. But of course, it’s because they answer to the capitalist tycoons who run Hong Kong like a mafia. What’s regrettable is they differ so little from the Chinese “socialist” regime.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese government, issued a condemnation on October 1st which also calls the movement “an illegal gathering” which is “disrupting social order & harming Hong Kong’s economic livelihood.” It goes on to threaten that if the protests continue the “consequences will be unimaginable.” When you have the untenable situation of Hong Kong called “one country, two systems” & you can’t tell the difference between the two political systems, & when you have ostentatious wealth juxtaposed to thousands living in basement chicken coops, you gotta ask, ‘just where does the socialist side of that equation manifest’? And you have the cauldron that foments revolution.
It’s not certain which of the two systems governs Hong Kong’s riot cops because they act just like the ones at Tiananmen Square in 1989 & those we’ve experienced in all the political uprisings around the world. Starting last Tuesday, police using pepper spray & tear gas moved on the Admiralty & Mong Kok encampments, drove out the protesters, & armed with bolt cutters, chainsaws, & sledgehammers, dismantled the barricades.
Media has been reporting about scuffles between democracy activists & disgruntled local residents or supporters of the Beijing regime who counter-protest, attempt to remove the barricades blocking the streets, & attack the protesters. Let’s get real! They’re more likely to be goon squads hired by the brothel owners or bouncers at the local strip clubs than neighborhood people or political reactionaries. Multinational businesses can’t ply potential clients with booze & prostitutes if they have to traverse barricades & encampments to get to the brothels.
Protesters using the umbrellas that have come to symbolize their movement as weapons & shields against pepper spray & tear gas battled with riot cops & retook Mong Kok on Saturday morning. They retook Mong Kok, but do the protesters stand a chance of forcing the regime’s hand? Will political power in Hong Kong remain in the hands of a tiny elite of capitalist tycoons in league with the undemocratic regime in Beijing? Maybe for now they will only squeak out minor concessions; maybe Beijing will continue to let capitalist tycoons run the place. But a movement has emerged, the forces of social transformation have assembled. If that wasn’t making Beijing & the tycoons sweat bullets, Beijing would not have put up an internet firewall to prevent millions of discontent Chinese on the mainland from witnessing the undoing of the monstrosity called “one country, two systems.”
For our part, we salute the protesters in Hong Kong & extend our fullest solidarity.
Photo is an activist without umbrella or other defenses standing alone against the socialist-capitalist riot cops in a scene reminiscent of Tank Man in Tiananmen Square.
(Photographer unknown; from the FB wall of Gregor Benton)
Since influential creeps like Max Blumenthal & Jonathan Cook are casting aspersions & contempt at the Hong Kong protests involving at least seven-million Chinese, I am reposting two articles I wrote during the equally remarkable 2014 protests in Hong Kong.
September 30, 2014
One of the most famous & regrettable quotes of Mao Zedong comes from a speech he gave to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in 1938: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” He went on to say: “All things grow out of the barrel of a gun. According to the Marxist theory of the state, the army is the chief component of state power.” And again: “In this sense we may say that only with guns can the whole world be transformed.” You gotta ask yourself where the hell Mao learned his Marxism. But we sure now know where the current Chinese regime learned theirs.
There have been several days now of spectacular, massive protests in Hong Kong over the democratic right of suffrage; that is, residents of Hong Kong want Beijing to drop its schemes to control elections in Hong Kong in order to install the same kind of politics they maintain on the mainland where one party backed by a mighty army determines who’s in charge & there is no electoral democracy.
Those in countries where parliamentary democracy prevails well know that popular democracy does not grow out of elections. More & more, elections are jockeying over figures from competing parties with identical politics or political programs only distinguished from bad to worse. More & more, we see maneuvers using elections to outsmart popular demands for democracy & the end of tyranny (as against the Egyptian uprising). More & more elections are a swindle because in one way or another the nominating process is controlled & election laws so prohibitive that only millionaires can afford to run. In most countries people tolerate this outrage & express their cynicism by boycotting elections & becoming politically passive. In Hong Kong, the democracy movement is taking a stand against these electoral manipulations & represents a fight for genuine electoral democracy.
Hundreds of thousands in Hong Kong are protesting China’s proposed electoral scam & will be doing so at the ceremony tomorrow marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Protesters are occupying government buildings & the central business district of Hong Kong blocking traffic & closing down banks & businesses. That business district is where billions of dollars in Chinese trade & commerce transpires.
This year is also the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre which the active democracy movement in Hong Kong commemorates with annual protests demanding justice for those murdered & incarcerated. Tiananmen was an event where the Chinese regime tried to demonstrate Mao’s assertion that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” The annual protests are held to counter that repugnant assertion with a demand for accountability by the regime for its crimes in Tiananmen.
There have been concerns expressed that China would in fact sic the army on Hong Kong protesters. Such an option can never be excluded but China would have hell to pay if it took that route. The stench & stigma of the Tiananmen massacre still has not politically dissipated. For now, Hong Kong riot cops are using extreme violence against protesters, including indiscriminate use of tear gas. Protesters, familiar with police brutality prepared for that eventuality with training exercises in how to handle tear gas attacks. Many showed up dressed in plastic, makeshift gas masks, & other equipment & are using umbrellas they used for a rain storm to defend themselves against tear gas attacks.
In a very real way, the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong is a struggle for the soul of socialism. If Mao is right that military repression is necessary for socialism, who in their right mind would want it!? If ‘only guns can transform the world’, who but criminal cartels & the National Rifle Association would want any part of it!? As the Hong Kong protesters show, as the Arab uprisings & anti-austerity protests & Occupy movement showed, social transformation is driven by the human demand for freedom & justice & peace. It is not political power that grows out of the barrel of a gun but tyranny.
Our fullest solidarity with our brothers & sisters in Hong Kong. May they shove those umbrellas where the sun don’t shine–up the keister of Chinese tyranny that still has Tiananmen to answer for.
(Photo of protest in Hong Kong on Sept 28th by Apple Daily/AP)
Because his politics are rooted in social climbing, Max Blumenthal is morphing right before our eyes into a rightwing propagandist hack. That Verso press, known as a publisher of radical literature, would publish Blumenthal’s latest book (about Islamophobia, no less) only speaks to a lack of political discernment among its editors–or possibly corruption .
There is a pattern to Blumenthal’s political corruption. Expressing his elitist & deeply undemocratic impulses, he always, without exception, champions repressive regimes & vilifies protesters struggling against those regimes for democracy as “Wahhabi-Salafi jihadi terrorists” although there is no evidence Blumenthal knows a damn thing about any religion, let alone Islam. He courts controversy as a way to keep himself the center of attention. But he has no political commitments except to self-aggrandizement & sucking up to state power.
After vilifying protesters against government repression in Nicaragua & Venezuela, after plagiarizing Vanessa Beeley in a scurrilous attack on the White Helmet rescue workers, now he has published a new attack on the Syrian Network for Human Rights, an NGO which monitors the Arab Spring uprising, including the civilian death toll, from the point of view of the protesters & in opposition to Assad. Blumenthal faults them for bias against Assad even though he says in the article there is “little doubt that the Syrian government presides over a harsh police state apparatus.” Knock-knock Maxie! There’s a revolution going on in Syria & in revolutions people usually choose sides: either for dictatorship or for democracy. His assertion about Assad’s brutalities has not made Blumenthal welcome in Assadist propaganda circles nor has Assad been willing to put him on the payroll with Beeley & Bartlett who regard Assad as the second coming of Jesus. Assad likes to be deemed a god & won’t truck with being called a brute. So Blumenthal is left, albeit with a considerable trust fund, to scrounge for a living as a ‘journalist’ & is ending up writing hack for whoever will take him.
Not content to leave bad enough alone, Blumenthal just posted a Mint Press (an Iran-based Assadist journal) article denouncing the 7-million protesters in Hong Kong opposing the Chinese government’s proposal to extradite criminals & arrested political protesters to the mainland for prosecution. Blumenthal, who is corrupt enough but not committed enough to be a Maoist apologist for the Chinese government, vilifies the protesters as stooges of the west. The first time we heard such a charge was against the Egyptian Arab Spring uprising; the last time was against Hong Kong protesters in the 2014 uprising involving millions. To the mind of a stinking elitist, working people are incapable of thought but only adept at violence.
Blumenthal has fellow travelers in his idiotic attack on the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Ali Abunimah, the editor of Electronic Intifada, plays an important role in Palestinian solidarity but is reactionary on everything except Palestine. Abunimah’s father Hasan Abunimah was a diplomat for the Jordanian monarchy & has written several pieces supporting Assad. His son parrots his views & promotes Blumenthal, a role which does not serve Palestinians, especially those incarcerated in Assad’s gulag.
The question, like the proverbial elephant in the room, is why Blumenthal is not putting his less than remarkable talents to exposing how that “US regime-change operation” is functioning in Syria? We don’t expect him to denounce Syrian & Russian bombing of civilians. He’s incapable of human empathy if it conflicts with self-promotion. But it you build your career on exposing “US regime-change operations,” wouldn’t you think he’d mention how it’s going at least once in a while?
(Posting photo of White Helmet & child injured in Syrian & Russian bombing. After he vilified them both as terrorists, I didn’t want Blumenthal’s smug face on my wall.)
Articles referenced in this post:
Sylvester Thomas Scully (1914-1984): electrician, champion gymnast, ballroom dancer, undocumented immigrant, father of 19. May he Rest In Peace.
My dad was a conservative, very religious Catholic. The best thing about him is that he absolutely would not tolerate racist comments or ever ridiculing someone else for any reason.