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Re: <nettime> From Deng & Thatcher 1984 to the Hong Kong 2014 OCCUPY
Brian Holmes on Mon, 6 Oct 2014 17:42:03 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> From Deng & Thatcher 1984 to the Hong Kong 2014 OCCUPY


On 10/05/2014 03:13 PM, Flick Harrison wrote:

Your support for Democracy in Hong Kong might be met with some
opposition here, from those unwilling to distinguish it from capitalism.

Of course, I can well imagine, and I wanted to provoke exactly them with exactly that.

My support first goes to the people who, whatever their naivete may be (I can't judge that myself) are taking such great risks to defy their oligarchical rulers. Second, my support goes to attempts to push for substantial democracy, and not a managed facade. Third, my support goes to those whose experience organizing in the streets may well stand themselves and others in good stead, whatever the outcome of this contest.

I think the rise of authoritarianism in the capitalist West, as well as its modernization in capitalist China, says a lot in favor of a distinction between democracy and capitalism. Democracy names the aspiration to the freedom of expression for all, and to its use in the collective creation of law. Similarly, communism names the aspiration to equality and its realization in the form of well-being for everyone. The fact that these words are used by political systems that do not fulfill those aspirations should neither invalidate the words, nor the aspirations, nor the search for the specific reasons why those particular political systems have failed.

Hong Kong, like its peer the former British colony of Singapore, represents the ideological figure of pure free-market capitalism in Asia. The point of my post was to indicate the degree to which the return of Hong Kong was deliberately used by the Chinese communist party as a transformative agency in order to produce the authoritarian neoliberalism of present-day China. When the youth of that city revolt against the imposition of the kind of pseudo-democracy most useful to authoritarian capitalism - because that's exactly what they are revolting against, managed democracy with figureheads appointed by the oligarchy - then I submit that something important is happening, for the city itself and for the world. The rise and solidification of authoritarian capitalism is being challenged.

The critique of capitalism has become much more difficult today, now that there is no really existing communism to which one could refer, nor any powerful communist or anarchist insurgencies either. To simply be "against capitalism" is to stake one's position on a void. In this context, experiments with the demand for a substantial democracy have my respect. Particularly when they are understaken at great risk, in the face of one of the most authoritarian governments on earth.

There will be other experiments in the future, perhaps less prone to manipulation or hollow victories. And I'll support them too, and hopefully join them, with an even greater desire to understand what's at stake.

best, Brian


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