Opposing the US New Cold War on China

 

China warns Hong Kong protesters not to ‘play with fire’
 
Notes on Understanding the Crisis in Hong Kong and role of the Left in the US

By Duncan McFarland

LeftLinks

o Hong Kong is capitalist; the People’s Republic of China is a country self-identified as in the primary stage of socialism with a Marxist-Leninist political system.  This is a major political contradiction and Hong Kong people are divided in their feelings about being part of China.

o Hong Kong Island was seized and colonized by Great Britain in 1842 as a result of the Opium War, Kowloon peninsula taken by the British later, and the adjacent New Territories leased for 100 years in 1897.  In 1997 sovereignty reverted back to China according to a joint agreement.  The handover stipulated a 50-year period in which Hong Kong would have a high degree of autonomy while China would control foreign relations and defense.  This agreement did not, however, resolve the political contradiction.  Having the character of a pragmatic, short term fix, the agreement is ambiguous as to what will happen to Hong Kong in 2047 when the arrangement ends.

o Hong Kong, long a British colony, has never had democracy.  Its political system is not fully democratic according to bourgeois standards, because the legislature and chief executive are not elected by one-person, one-vote.  Neither is there full democracy according to the Chinese socialist system, because there are no people’s congresses in civil society nor democratic centralism in a ruling communist party.  The hybrid system is a pragmatic patchwork; it is understandable that many people in Hong Kong want developed democratic institutions and that young people want more say in decision-making.

o The political forces and trends in Hong Kong are very complicated.  The protest movement consists of those seeking democratic reforms within the context of China’s policy of one-country, two systems; second, people who want an independent (capitalist) Hong Kong; third, a small group of anarchists and “thugs” initiating confrontation.  There are also counter-revolutionary “protesters” working with US imperialist agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy, which for many years in Hong Kong has been actively promoting anti-communism and a color revolution in Beijing.

There are also many people in Hong Kong who support China for different reasons: patriotic feelings for China, commercial ties, those who sympathize with socialism.  More recent immigrants have strong family connections to China, rural villagers near the border vote pro- Beijing and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions supports the government.  In addition to people of Hong Kong, transnational capitalists have considerable influence in different ways. China’s response can only be understood in the context of US imperialist strategy, which during the Trump administration has explicitly targeted China (and Russia) as principal adversaries.  US capitalism-imperialism wants regime change and friendly governments in those two countries.  The pivot to Asia initiated by President Obama and Hillary Clinton has surrounded China with military bases and alliances, including a major base in South Korea and support for revived Japanese militarism. Trump has initiated the trade war to pressure the Chinese economy.

China regards these policies as an extension of the colonial and imperialist efforts since the Opium War to break off parts of the country to weaken and subjugate it.

o Here is my take on the Five Demands currently put forward by the protest movement.

— First, the demand for direct elections for the legislature and chief executive will never be granted because China will not accept the possibility of the election of a pro-capitalist government committed to independence.  However, the Hong Kong government could engage in dialogue to expand democracy and engage young people short of conceding sovereignty.

— Another demand is for the resignation of Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam.  I don’t have an evaluation of how she is doing her job; she has kept a low profile and does not want to call in the military to restore order.  It’s possible she could resign.

— A third demand is for an investigation into police brutality.  There could be an investigation into violence, including both police tactics and confrontations initiated by the protesters. — The protesters demand that the government not use the word “riot” to describe the protests.  This is reasonable because the protests are a mixture of peaceful actions and confrontations and cannot simply be described as a riot.

— Another demand is to permanently withdraw the extradition bill, which has been shelved for the time being.  This seems unreasonable to me because almost every country has extradition laws.  A better plan would be to propose a further revision of the bill.  The original extradition issue has been lost; a young woman in Taiwan was murdered and the alleged perpetrator fled to Hong Kong and is now arrested and in a Hong Kong jail.  Taiwan wants the person sent back to stand trial; the original extradition law was an attempt to fulfill this request.  Protesters oppose the bill because it could be used in the future to extradite people in Hong Kong to China; they say this could lead to political repression.  It could also be used to extradite people to China who flee to Hong Kong to escape the major anti-corruption campaign.

— Meanwhile, the government has demanded foreign governments (i.e. USA) cease interference.  CIA etc. involvement in the protest movement could also be investigated. In general, my view is that the Hong Kong government could be more flexible on initiating dialogue and compromise — they do hold state power.  However, it is understandable that the Hong Kong and Chinese governments regard sovereignty as non-negotiable; Hong Kong may have autonomy but not independence.

What is the role of the US Left?

— The US media has mostly an anti-China bias, petitions and rallies supporting the Hong Kong government are barely mentioned.  The Left should strive to understand all sides of the story for a balanced perspective.

— The people of Hong Kong and China are the ones to resolve the problems and issues.

— The role of the US Left is to call for an end to US militarism and intervention in all forms.  We want a policy of peace and friendly relations with China, not tension and conflict.  The US should cooperate with China on climate change and other issues.  The US should bring the troops home, make deep cuts in the military budget and increase support for social programs. Cease using Hong Kong as a base promoting a ‘color revolution’ and regime change.

— It is urgently hoped that matters will be resolved through peaceful dialogue and not violence.

The author wishes to thank the Massachusetts Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism for its input; he is also the coordinator of the China Study Group at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge.

CCDS Calls On Progressives To Oppose US Intervention In Venezuela

Statement of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

January 31, 2019 

There now should be no doubt that the Trump Administration is pulling out all the stops to overthrow President Nicholas Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

This week US State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo announced Venezuelan bank accounts in the US will be turned over to right wing oppositionist and self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that revenues of the Venezuelan-owned oil company PdVSA and its CITGO subsidiaries in the US – worth billions of dollars – are henceforth seized.

The aim of the Trump-Pompeo-Bolton regime is nothing less than a naked grab for the country’s rich oil reserves and many other minerals that have been used by the Maduro government and Hugo Chávez before him to raise the living standards of the poor and working class. In an interview with Fox News on 1/29/19, Bolton made it very clear: “We’re in conversation with major American companies now… It will make a big difference to the US economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.”

The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism condemns the Trump administration’s outlaw interference in the affairs of Venezuela, demands an end to US imposed economic sanctions fueling the crisis, and supports negotiations among Venezuelans to end the political crisis. The governments of Mexico and Uruguay called for an international meeting next week in Montevideo to discuss a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is ratcheting up pressure, refusing to rule out a military invasion. Sen. Marco Rubio is leading others in Congress calling on the Venezuelan military to overthrow its government. Some $20 million in US taxpayer money has been given to the Venezuelan opposition.

The US has support for “regime change” among the neo-liberal governments of Europe led by France, Germany and Spain, but is opposed by Greece and Portugal. Russia, China, South Africa, Cuba, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Equatorial Guinea and most countries of the Caribbean have rejected US interference. At the January 26 UN Security Council meeting, Pompeo called on all countries to “pick a side” but failed to gain support for a vote. The 34-member Organization of American States, at its meeting January 24th could not muster the necessary 24 votes needed with only 16 voting with the US.

The economic situation in Venezuela is dire. Mainstream media spout the line of the US State Department blaming Maduro and “failed socialism.” But the US has been subverting the economy of Venezuela ever since Hugo Chávez was first elected in 1999. The US supported a coup against Chávez in 2002 and when it failed, the Venezuelan oligarchy shut down businesses, a virtual capital strike against the country. As most of the economy is privately owned, it caused a catastrophic 27% drop in the GDP. US governments from President Barack Obama and now Donald Trump have piled on sanction after sanction to cripple even more the ability of the government to provide food, medicine and control of the out-of-sight inflation. The US has seized assets of individual government officials, restricted access to U.S. debt and equity markets, and prohibited transactions on Venezuela’s use of a cryptocurrency, the petro, seen as a way to circumvent sanctions. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on January 26th that US sanctions have cost Venezuela $23 billion to date

Great Britain has piled on, freezing Venezuelan assets and gold estimated at $8 billion. At the behest of Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s Central Bank was denied a request to withdraw $1.2 billion of its gold reserve.

US intervention throughout the Western Hemisphere began as far back as the 1850s, when various mercenary expeditions attempted to forcibly acquire the Central American states of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and diplomatically acquire Cuba from Spain in order to create several new states based on plantation slavery economics. The doctrine that justified brutal repression of the hemisphere was laid down by President James Monroe in 1823 – the Monroe Doctrine.

The aim has always been to control natural resources, gain unfettered access to exploit land and labor and create an unchallenged free trade zone in the Americas. In response, the Bolivarian government of the PSUV worked to realize a new framework of regional economic integration. The trade blocs of ALBA and MERCOSUR encompassing 10 countries of Latin America dared to use the rich resources of their region to provide for social welfare and mutual economic aid. A new currency, the Sucre, was established to circumvent the US dollar. These important new economic blocs pose a direct threat to US Wall Street and corporate fossil fuel industries.

With the ascendancy of the far right in Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, Venezuela stands as an obstacle to US aims, as do the socialist governments of Cuba and Nicaragua and now the important new left government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the overthrow of the Maduro regime is just one stage in a Trump policy to overthrow the popular will throughout Latin America. The ultimate target, writes the WSJ, is the revolutionary government of Cuba. (1/31/19)

CCDS rejects US interference in Venezuela and joins with the peace movement, organizations, leading individuals and several members of Congress who are standing up to the Trump-Bolton-Pompeo outlaw regime.

CCDS urges members, friends and all peace and justice loving people to:

  1. Call your Senators and Representative in Congress to demand, an end to all US sanctions against Venezuela, return all Venezuelan assets to the duly elected government of President Maduro, stop all interference in Venezuela and all other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and oppose all war plans and other acts of aggression against Venezuela and all sovereign countries.
  2. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 to reach your elected representatives.
  3. Plan and attend public demonstrations, rallies, forums, letter-writing campaigns to the media and elected officials to stop all US interference in Venezuela, and in support of the four demands listed above.

Hands off Venezuela. End the sanctions now.

Yes to negotiations and a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Venezuela.

 

‘This Is Much Bigger Than Us, Than Our Union, Even Than Our City’

Teachers, parents, and students picket outside City Hall in Los Angeles on Friday, January 18, 2019. (AP Photo / Damian Dovarganes)

How LA’s teachers joined forces with the community and won a landmark labor contract.

By Sarah Jaffe
The Nation

Jan 23, 2019 – On the morning of Friday January 18, the fifth and last full day of the United Teachers Los Angeles strike, some 2,000 parents and students stood hand in hand along Colfax Avenue, creating a chain that stretched nearly a mile, from North Hollywood High to Colfax Elementary to Walter Reed Middle School. They wore red, as they had all week, in solidarity with the educators, and they were jubilant—finally, after a week of very un-LA-like rainy weather, the sun was out. The mood was electric, more so even than when the strike had begun. Partly, it was due to the sunshine, but also to a sense that they were winning.

The parents had organized the action themselves on a Facebook group. Outside Colfax Elementary a parent was cooking—“Eggs for Egducators and Nurishment for Nurses”—on a grill beside a parked pickup truck. A small child darted up and snatched a piece of bacon from the griddle, to everyone’s laughter. Crystal Cruz, a parent with a fifth grader at Colfax and an eighth grader at Walter Reed, told me, “Not everyone can be a teacher. It takes a great deal of patience and fortitude. It takes love for someone else’s children. It takes a lot of resources and talent and time. It is a lot of energy to teach any number of kids in a class, but if you have got 25, that is one thing. If you have got 35, it is a whole other animal.”

Cruz had come out for the teachers, she said, because, “They deserve every respect. They also deserve the financial support. They deserve everything that they are asking for.”

On January 22nd, Cruz’s wishes for the teachers came true. After morning pickets that were joined by Los Angeles firefighters and still more community members, the UTLA held a press conference with Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board superintendent, Austin Beutner, to announce that a tentative agreement had been reached to end the strike. The deal included a 6 percent raise for educators; a reduction in class sizes; a nurse in every school; more funding for librarians, counselors, and wraparound services; a 50 percent reduction in the amount of standardized testing; and more. The union also managed to beat back a two-tier health-care system, while the Board of Education agreed to pursue a cap on charter schools and additional state funding. And the mayor promised to endorse the Schools and Communities First statewide ballot initiative for 2020, which would reform California’s infamous Proposition 13, raising property taxes on corporations to raise money for schools and more.

The look on UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl’s face as he announced the contents of the agreement was that of a man who knows his side has won, though he was careful to note that no agreement was final until members got a chance to vote on it. “We are a democratic union,” he told the gathered reporters, explaining that the members would return to their school sites to read the contract and to vote on it using the same structures that had been built to get immediate feedback from the picket lines to union headquarters every day.

In the end, a supermajority of UTLA members voted to approve the agreement that Caputo-Pearl called “Not a narrow labor agreement, but a broad compact.” And indeed, the final deal touched not only on the narrow wages and benefits issues that are so often assumed to be the basis of labor struggles but also on the kinds of far-ranging social and racial justice concerns that have turned teachers’ unions into a full-fledged political movement.

UTLA won its demands after years of reform within the union and in the wake of unrest among teachers nationwide. But most important, the teachers won because of deep, solid community support, mutual organizing, and a sense of shared fate that brought many more people to the streets than there were teachers in the union—60,000 on the Friday before the marathon bargaining weekend that produced the contract. Crystal Cruz was one of these people, as was Amy Schur of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, one of many organizations that had worked side by side with the teachers in their struggle. “The greatest victory is the power we’ve built through labor and community uniting around a long-term economic, racial and social justice agenda and plan,” said Schur.

Cheyenne McLaren, a student at King/Drew Medical Magnet High and a member of Students Deserve, was another of these fired-up allies. She joined actions last week that ventured beyond the picket line, into the hills, and out to Santa Monica to visit the homes of school-board president Mónica García and superintendent Beutner. “We have a whole plan to get [García] to agree to our demands and see that we are not backing down,” McLaren said at the time. “A lot of people out here are angry.”

McLaren’s organization is part of an even larger group, the Reclaim Our Schools LA coalition, which brings together Students Deserve, ACCE and other community organizations, UTLA, and others to demand funding and support for the schools that serve their neighborhoods. It was Reclaim Our Schools that coordinated the vans and cars to bring over 100 members to the doorsteps of decision-makers like García and Beutner with letters of demands; when the two of them refused to answer their doors, the group held speak-outs on their doorsteps. Outside of Beutner’s gate in Pacific Palisades, the crowd sang “The community is calling” while holding electric candles, as if for a vigil, though the tone was more angry than sad.

“I found out that we had our nurse one day a week and I went to war!” one mother declared. “I have one biological child at that school and 588 adopted children at that school.”

It was that sense—shared by community members and teachers alike—that the children of LA’s public schools are all of their children that animated this strike and made it successful. As Peg Cagle, a math teacher at Reseda High School, said of the weeklong swirl of protest: “After decades of feeling invisible, the fact that you really feel like you are being heard, that your voice is rising above the fold, if you will—you have got a possibility that somehow, somebody, might be listening and somebody might actually pay attention.”

Solidarity doesn’t happen overnight. Despite the elegant—and seemingly effortless—choreography between educators, students, parents, community groups, and even local businesses, the display of community-labor force that rocked LA for more than a week was years in the making, and remarkable in both its breadth and depth. To Amy Schur, who has spent years working in “community-labor” partnerships, this fight “was an incredible example of a union going beyond the rhetoric of working with the community, and actually joining in coalition with parent and community groups as true partners in a long-term fight to save public education.” Because of that real partnership, she said, the victories at the bargaining table were shared by community as well as teachers.

I met Rosa Jimenez in the pouring rain on the fourth morning of the strike, outside of Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown, where she teaches history. She told me—as teachers danced on the picket line to “Proud Mary” and chanted, “We’re soaking wet and really cold! LA schools will not be sold!”—that “everyone is clear about why we’re here.” The organizing and preparation the union had engaged in for months had paid off in an understanding, she said, that, “This is much bigger than us, than our union, even our city. Those of us who work with low-income students of color, we see every day that our students need much more than what they get.”

Jimenez works closely with Reclaim Our Schools LA and with Students Deserve; she was with the students who spoke outside of Beutner’s home, and she was with allies from UNITE HERE when they organized a march from her school to a nearby hotel where the hotel workers were battling for a contract. The students in particular, she said, were inspired by Black Lives Matter’s divest/invest framework, which calls for resources to be taken from policing and prisons and put into schools and community services, and their demands were brought into the union’s bargaining and were won at the table: The union won funding from the district for an immigrant-defense fund, with a dedicated hotline and attorney, and a new program to end random searches in schools.

Those victories “seem little in the scope of things,” Jimenez said, but the district had claimed not long ago that the union could not bargain these issues at all and had even tried to get an injunction against them. “Then we ended up winning on these things. I think it shows the power we had behind us, the parent and student support.”

Jimenez teaches at a school that is seen as a model for the kind of community schools that UTLA and its allies have fought for. What that means, she said, is “teaching curriculum that is culturally relevant, student-centered, and that it is democratically run.” Parents, she said, are involved with decision-making, and students are active participants. The school is also bilingual. “We really have created a place where parents come in and they are with kids in the space until they have to go to class. A lot of parents volunteer.”

Being a community school includes being multicultural and anti-racist, she added. In the age of Trump, that, in turn, has meant considering what it would mean to be a sanctuary school, one that is free of police and ICE so students feel safe—many students, Jimenez said, join the school after leaving immigration detention—as well as a school that could be a hub for organizing in the community. The new contract provides for 30 more community schools like RFK, which Jimenez said was a key demand of Reclaim Our Schools and Students Deserve, and an alternative to the privately-run charters.

“I think it’s huge and it’s really going to change the conversation about what is possible in contract negotiations,” Jimenez said. “It is possible to take on these privatizing forces and it is possible to win and possible to change the narrative. More people are talking about what is at the root of the problems we have in the schools.”

Still, it would be an illusion to suggest that any of this was easy. The community alliances, the solidarity between teachers and students, the support of parents and families, and, of course, the victory—all of this took years of dedicated, patient organizing. And it required real sacrifice, above all by teachers who gave up their pay and risked their jobs to strike—and ultimately won the contract.

“I had this moment this week where I realized, ‘I am also doing this for myself as a worker, as a working-class person, as a single mom,’” Jimenez said, tears in her eyes. “This is actually not that easy for me. I am not getting paid. I am actually also sacrificing. It is okay to say, ‘This is also for me, too.’”

Sarah Jaffe is a fellow at Type Media Center and the author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt (Nation Books).