Remembering Robert Weil: Intellectual and Political Activist

Robert Emil Weil Obituary

Robert Weil, 1940-2014

by Swapna Banerjee-Guha

Red Cat, White Cat: China and the Contradictions of Market Socialism

Robert Weil, author of the powerful critique of Deng Xiaoping’s “reforms” entitled Red Cat, White Cat: China and the Contradictions of Market Socialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1996, republished in India by Cornerstone Publications, Kharagpur), quietly passed away in California on 12 March 2014.  Almost a year after, on 15 February 2015 a memorial meeting was held in Santa Cruz, California at the Resource Center for Nonviolence where his family, friends, teachers and long-time comrades from near and far came together to share their memories.  Robert meant a lot to them and for many others across the globe, a true friend, a dear comrade whose political integrity, a rare characteristic in the current milieu, they value immensely, a committed activist and intellectual whose life they considered worthy on all counts particularly while imagining a better world.  Starting off as a student-activist at Harvard University in the late 1950s, right till his last days Robert Weil remained involved in solidarity work with oppressed people around the world.  Even in the face of indifferent health, he did not think twice to join such efforts.  His democratic values in pursuing left politics will remain an example to many for years to come. Continue reading

Solidarity Statement from Hong Kong to Black Communities in the US

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Hong Kong…. Ferguson and New York City!

Solidarity Statement with Black Communities in Ferguson, Missouri and NYC

From Hong Kong to Ferguson and NYC, we send you our warmest solidarity!

No to injustice! No to white supremacy!

It was outrageous that the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson, who had shot unarmed 18-year old Mike Brown. We agree with you that: “The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”

It was even more outrageous, that after that, Eric Garner’s case also failed to be indicted!

How can anyone trust the justice system, when the police can shoot you dead while unarmed, before you even reach a court? And when a man is killed by a policeman using an illegal chokehold, recorded on video but the policeman is still not even indicted?

All the common sense evidence points to systematic bias, within the police, within the courts and within government. How can democracy exist when these state institutions of courts and law enforcement are ridden with injustice? It is clear to us that genuine democratic governance does not exist in American society.

In Ferguson, the jarring truth of racism and injustice explode with the case of Michael Brown, generating collective outrage against this system that produces these problems. We all know he is sadly, only one of many casualties of racist America.

We are aware that Black and poor communities in America face state violence, not only in the form of police shootings. It manifests in other aspects of your lives: unemployment, racist welfare laws, disproportionate policing, housing segregation, and health disparities.
We recognize that the police are not taking responsibility for your safety. Instead, not only do they squash dissent and free expression, they are sending in military ammunition into the streets of Ferguson. It seems that the US government and the police forces in your country are willing to use aspects of the military violence they have imposed on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, on to you.

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Hong Kong: an anatomy of the revolt

[The Hong Kong revolt is a reform movement, not a revolution, and it has been sustained by its unmistakeable mass character.  Those who claim, disingenuously, that it is triggered by foreign forces a la “Orange Revolution” or even some kind of revanchist reassertion of British colonialism are inventing a false picture while denying the class character of the revolt, the class character of Chinese capitalist-imperialism, and the class character of Hong Kong.  The people have legitimate grievances, which are currently shaped and constrained by reformist leaders and by the lack of revolutionary leadership. This revolt will not be the trigger, today, for China-wide revolts against the capitalist regime in Beijing, though those revolts, especially by displaced peasants and massively exploited workers, are widespread and continuously growing against the counter-revolutionary post-Mao capitalist rule.  The people of Hong Kong should be supported by internationalists, anti-imperialists, revolutionary proletarians, and democratic activists.  The following detailed and lengthy reformist-focused article by Lawrence Wong examines the HK revolt and the conditions which gave rise to it — and its chances for “successful reform”.  What the article does not address are the ways the struggles of today will congeal into revolutionary forces and strategies in the future.  —  Frontlines ed.]

October 6, 2014

by Lawrence Wong | Counterfire | Opinion

Protestor

A protester (centre) raises his umbrellas in front of tear gas which was fired by riot police to disperse protesters blocking the main street to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on Sept 28, 2014. — PHOTO: REUTERS

Lawrence Wong looks at the background, and prospects, for Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Revolution’

The scale, the size, and the vitality of the ‘umbrella’ revolution took every person, including the Hong Kong people themselves, by surprise. However, this does not mean that the protests and campaigns of civil disobedience were without precedent in the territory of Hong Kong.

The previous Chief Executive Tung Chee Wah was deposed through a mass campaign in 2003.There have been strikes, a notable docker’s strike, a threat to strike by Cathay Pacific cabin crew, a successful campaign against the change in the secondary school curriculum, and the recent mock plebiscite where 800,00 Hong Kong people voted for genuine democracy.

Every year, Hong Kong people come out, sometimes in tens of thousands and sometimes in hundreds of thousands, around June 4th to commemorate and to remember the fallen when Chinese people last stormed the gates of heaven twenty five years ago. Most of these protests have been successful, and have taken place in the ‘consultative’ period, prior to decisions being made. The mobilisations of Occupy Central, the mock plebiscite, the magnificent 500,000 demonstration on June 1 which was the closest Sunday to June 4th, took place within this by and large successful experience of struggle by Hong Kong people since 1997. Continue reading

Hong Kong’s Leader: “Poor People Would Ruin Elections”

[The ongoing protests in Hong Kong continue in waves of intensity, as the protest struggles for greater organized strength and programmatic unity, and as supporters of the Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y.Leung (a wealthy capitalist closely supported by the restored-capitalist/imperialist Beijing regime) continue to denounce the protests as a US/British plot.  How it will develop, what changes it may bring, is yet to be seen.  But in the meantime, C.Y. Leung who opposes the protester’s demand for more inclusive electoral reform, has let an underlying and unspoken issue come to the surface:  the question of class, of bourgeois rule, and the role of the poor.  While elections cannot solve the problem of capitalist ownership of the state, classes and class struggle cannot be hidden from any major political dispute between state powers and the resistance of the masses.. —  Frontlines ed.]

As protests continue in the crowded city of Hong Kong, thousands of immigrants and low-income families live in tiny subdivided units, unable to afford sky-high rents. Meanwhile, leader Leung Chun-ying lives a lavish lifestyle in an upscale community.

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Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung, as police march past

Leung proved today that he is not a “man of the people”. Instead, he came off as an elitist out of touch with the realities of living in Hong Kong.

He said that open elections shouldn’t happen because “many poor” might end up dominating politics.

Leung gave the interview to the Financial Times, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal and reiterated his position that free elections were impossible:

“If it’s entirely a numbers game—numeric representation—then obviously you’d be talking to half the people in Hong Kong [that] earn less than US$1,800 a month. You would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”

Leung made millions in real estate and has the nickname “emperor of the working class.” Already he has been hung in effigy, depicted as Dracula, and openly told to go to hell during the protests in Hong Kong. Continue reading

Has the Left Libeled a Democracy Movement in Hong Kong?

[Since the rise of capitalism, it has been common for capitalist powers and allied-capitalist partners to blame internal protests, rebellions, and class struggles on external forces, always seeking to turn attention away from the miserable conditions created in those societies.  And in more recent times, imperialists (and “anti-imperialists” who only oppose one side of competing imperialists) blame the instability in opposing camps on external meddling by the opposite number, whereas the meddlers usually come from all sides in proxy wars today, trying to exploit the ever-emerging resistance of oppressed and exploited people.

Today, the popular opposition in Hong Kong, which has never experienced “self-determination” (since their emergence from British colonial rule was at a time when only the arms of restored and exploitive Chinese capitalism were waiting to greet, and restrain,  them–in a kind of formally-internal but neo-colonial comprador-relation) has brought unprecedented numbers into the streets.

Russia’s Putin, aligned with the Chinese capitalist-imperialist regime, is blaming the Hong Kong opposition on US meddling.  Now various confused “left” forces will quote each other and support Putin’s view, and will try to make it appear that Chinese capitalist-imperialists are the victims of the US.   And these new anti-US conspiratorial spinners have even claimed that the use of umbrellas in defense from pepper spray, and the use of cellphone social networking, are beyond the skills and imagination of Hong Kong youth, so they must have been instructed by the CIA!  And while the US is undoubtedly encouraging its friends in Hong Kong, there is no evidence that they started this popular rebellion, or are shaping, leading, or controlling it in any way.  See the following article by Dave Lindorff for another view on these rebellions.

Today, it is said that the protests are winding down.  Perhaps, but it may be just getting a second wind, or summing things up in preparation for the next round of struggle.  But the bottom line is, as Mao (whom China’s current rulers have worked to censor and turn into an empty icon) has said, “Wherever there is oppression, there follows resistance.”  Support the struggles of the people of Hong Kong!  —  Frontlines ed.]

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Has the Left Libeled a Democracy Movement?
What’s Driving the Hong Kong Protests
by DAVE LINDORFF, CounterPunch, OCTOBER 06, 2014

A number of progressive and left-leaning writers in the US have jumped on a report by Wikileaks that the neo-con dominated National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and various other US-government linked organizations with a history of subversion and sowing discord abroad are operating in Hong Kong and on that basis are making the leap of “logic” that the democracy protests in Hong Kong must therefore be a creation of US policy-makers.

Riot police use pepper spray as they clash with protesters outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong

Protesters take cover from pepper spray with umbrellas as riot police clash with tens ofthousands of protesters blocking the main street leading to the financial Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong September 28, 2014.(Reuters / Bobby Yip)

As a progressive, Chinese-fluent journalist who has spent years working in China and especially Hong Kong, and who has spent decades exposing the secret workings of US agencies and their network of fake NGOs in support of US empire, as well as their anti-democratic activities here in the US, I can understand why people might be suspicious, but I want to explain that Hong Kong is not Ukraine or even Venezuela or Brazil.

 

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China: 27 villagers detained after land-grab protests in Shantou

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At least 1,000 villagers from Liantang village in Guangdong protested outside the city government’s office building on Friday

He Huifeng, South China Morning PostMonday, 29 September, 2014

At least 27 villagers in Shantou, Guangdong were detained by police on Saturday for allegedly inciting a two-day protest over the sale of their land and corruption.

Thousands of villagers from Liantang village clashed with hundreds of police and government officials on Friday and Saturday in front of the Shantou municipal government building.

They said village officials had sold their collective land and never shared the profits with villagers. The demonstrations ended on Saturday night and local public security officers took away 27 people on suspicion of spreading rumours or disturbing public order and causing trouble.
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China: “Dehui poultry plant fire: Locked exits ‘blocked escape'”

Photo taken on June 3, 2013 show the burnt poultry slaughterhouse owned by the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company in Mishazi Township of Dehui City in northeast China’s Jilin Province. The death toll from the fire has risen to 119 as of 8 p.m. on Monday. Search and rescue work is under way. (Xinhua/Wang Hao Fei)

Photo taken on June 3, 2013 show the burnt poultry slaughterhouse owned by the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company in Mishazi Township of Dehui City in northeast China’s Jilin Province. The death toll from the fire has risen to 119 as of 8 p.m. on Monday. Search and rescue work is under way. (Xinhua/Wang Hao Fei)

3 June 2013

Survivors told state TV how they escaped from the blaze

A fire at a poultry processing plant in China has killed at least 119 people, officials say.

The fire broke out at a slaughterhouse in Dehui in Jilin province early on Monday.

Accounts speak of explosions prior to the fire, which caused panic and a crush of workers trying to escape. Most exits were said to be locked.

A labour activist told the BBC it was the worst factory fire in living memory.

The fire is now said to have been mostly put out and bodies are being recovered.

President Xi Jinping, who is on a visit to the Americas, ordered every effort to go into the rescue operation and treatment of survivors, adding that the investigation into the cause of the accident would be vigorous.  Sources including the provincial fire department suggest there may have been an ammonia leak which either caused the fire or made fighting the blaze more hazardous.

Fo132428218_11notage from inside the plant shows burning embers and piles of ash, as Damian Grammaticas reports.

Other reports speak of an electrical fault.

It is China’s deadliest fire since 2000, when 309 people died in a blaze in a dance hall in Luoyang, in Henan province.

About 100 workers had managed to escape from the Baoyuan plant, Xinhua said, adding that the “complicated interior structure” of the building and narrow exits had made rescue work more difficult.

It said the plant’s front gate was locked when the blaze began, and other official media reports said there was only one unlocked door in the whole building.

Firefighters have still not completed the job of recovering bodies from the building, meaning the death toll may rise yet further, say correspondents.

Some 60 injured people have been sent to hospital, but the severity of their injuries remains unclear. State media quoted hospital staff as saying that some wounded were being treated for inhalation of toxic gases such as ammonia while others had burns of varying degrees. Continue reading