(To the left, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong when Labor South visited there in June 2013)
Labor South follows the Global South as well as the U.S. South, and this blog has been tracking events in Hong Kong closely since editor/writer Joseph B. Atkins visited that city in June 2013 and interviewed top labor leaders, activists and migrant workers there.
George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, an account of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, put the lie to notions that the Communist Party always promotes revolution against capitalism.
“Official Communism must be regarded … as an anti-revolutionary force,” Orwell wrote. “The U.S.S.R. is in alliance with France, a capitalist-imperialist country. The alliance is of little use to Russia unless French capitalism is strong, therefore Communist policy in France has got to be anti-revolutionary.”
Orwell describes in detail how the Soviet Union co-opted worker unions and other true revolutionary forces in Spain in the battle against Generalissimo Franco’s fascists to protect its own selfish interests in the country. In the end, Franco won, setting the stage for the fascist takeover of much of continental Europe.
Karl Marx must have rolled over in his grave.
A similar alliance between “Official Communism” and capitalist leaders in Hong Kong today is why thousands of students and workers have taken to the streets in that city of more than 7 million in a weeks-long protest.
The protests, referred to as the “Umbrella Revolution”, began in late September, just before the Oct. 1 celebration of the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, in opposition to a Beijing plan to have a select group of Communist Party types and Big Business interests vet candidates in the 2017 election for chief executive of the former British colony. The current holder of that post, Leung Chun-ying, is himself a Beijing favorite, and among the protesters’ demands is that he step down.
Students and other young people in Hong Kong have had long-simmering disdain for Beijing’s hidden hand in Hong Kong affairs, a contradiction to Communist Party promises to Great Britain back in 1984 that the “rights and freedoms” of the residents of the semiautonomous territory would be protected. That hidden hand has worked closely with Hong Kong’s top business leaders to show favoritism to immigrants from the mainland in hiring, an easy and probably profitable exchange for protection of their financial interests.
The Economist reported earlier this month that Chinese President Xi Jinping “held a meeting in Beijing with 70 of Hong Kong’s super rich to ensure their support for his stance on democracy.”
Protesting alongside the students have been workers and union members. Member unions of the city’s only independent union organization, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, have gone on strike in support of the pro-democracy movement. In fact, the HKCTU, led by Hong Kong Labour Party chair Lee Cheuk-yan, was at the heart of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong long before the recent protests began.
(To the right, HKCTU leader Lee Cheuk-yan in his Hong Kong office)
In an interview with Labor South in Hong Kong in June 2013 (an interview that was subsequently published by the London-based International Union Rights journal), Lee Cheuk-yan talked about the alliance between the Communist Party in Beijing and top capitalists in Hong Kong and how their tactics resemble those of the old colonialists in times past.
The Communists “want big business on their side,” Lee said. “That is the political deal. The capitalists support the Communist regime, and the Communist regime supports the capitalists. Workers, of course, are always the ones that sacrifice.”
The HKCTU is “part of the movement for democracy in China,” he said. “We need a strong base in Hong Kong, both in terms of workers’ rights and at the same time we need a strong democracy movement.”
Workers and pro-democracy forces around the world should be supporting the protesters in the streets of Hong Kong. Bear in mind, however, those pro-democracy forces likely won’t include Big Business.
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