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The Reality of Revolution

By: 
Ryan Schebek

August 22, 2019

Far too often the word revolution is followed with a conversation about theory or examples from past history. However this year revolutions are happening all over the world. If they are successful they have the potential to spread and create real lasting change. 

Uprisings in Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Algeria and Sudan all have key characteristics in common, they are making gains. Whether it is a governor stepping down or a dictator being overthrown these mass mobilizations have the ability to teach everyday people the power they have when they organize. These protests are opening up an opportunity for long lasting revolution.    

Puerto Rico

Some of the biggest demonstrations in Puerto Rican history occurred this July as struggles against a corrupt government came to a boiling point. 

Demonstrations began on July 13thbut saw massive demonstrations on July 17thand July 22nd. Only after fourteen days of protest the Governor Ricardo Rossello resigned along with his second-in-line replacement, leaving potential candidate Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez next in line. 

All three candidates have been heavily criticized by the Puerto Rican people and do not seem to be satisfying their demands. These candidates are viewed as puppets of the unelected representatives that govern Peurto Rico (aka Junta). This has led to a call to dissolve the Junta itself as it represents not only the rich elite but ties to parties in the United States.

Although Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens they are unable to vote in federal elections. The American Federal government also has power to veto decisions made by Puerto Rico. This is result of a long history of US interference and colonialism that began after the island was annexed by the US in 1917. 

Since then the government, under the watchful eye of the US, has implemented policies that have slashed social spending and privatized services like telecommunications and education. Living under neo-liberal policies has had direct impact on the lives of Puerto Ricans. Harsh austerity policies were the order of the day, even before the devastation of hurricane Maria. The lack of humanitarian aid following the hurricane was the last straw.   

Hong Kong

Demonstrations in Hong Kong have caught the attention of the world. 

For two months the people of Hong Kong have been protesting a recent bill that gives mainland China the ability to extradite suspects form Hong Kong. This allowed mainland China to target political opposition. 

However the movement has grown much larger recently as the ninety-six unions under the Hong Kong confederation of Trade Unions joined in for one of the first general strikes in over fifty years. During the strike public transit was locked down by protestors. Workers shut down the airport as the traffic controllers joined the strike and pro-democracy demonstrators filled terminals.

Although the protests began with the extradition bill, citizens are pushing for further demands. This includes: reversal of the extradition bill, police cannot refer to June 12thprotest as a riot (riots being illegal), open an investigation into police brutality and behaviour and, finally, release of all arrested protestors. 

Reports have been made that police have allied themselves with criminal gangs in order to intimidate and suppress protestors. Much like the yellow vest movement in France, we see far right groups trying to co-opt the movement, Hong Kong is not immune to this. As well Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam and the Chinese Communist Party are doing everything they can to brand these protestors as violent criminal. 

However the socialists of Hong Kong, not allied with the CCP, have encouraged strikes to move forward and demand further social and economic change.

Algeria

Mass protests in Algeria have had success too. On April 2nddemonstrators pushed president Adbelaziz Bouteflika out of power and prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia as well. Protests continued to keep the pressure on to prevent Bouteflika from consolidating power by introducing a puppet leader. 

The people of Algeria were not only fed up with their government but with corruption and cuts to social services. February 22ndmarked days of protest over terrible working condition, poverty wage and high unemployment.

Sudan

Since December the people of Sudan have been rising up. After thirty years of rule, dictator Omar el-Bashir was over thrown. Police and the military battled in the street over Sudan’s general strike in May. Calling for the strike was a coalition of unions and professionals, called the Sudanese Professionals Association. 

While Omar el-Bashir is no longer in power, a Transitional Military Council rules. However, protestors are continuing to fight for a transition to democratic citizen rule outside the hands of the military.

Lessons From Revolutionary Theory

Under capitalism the ruling elite will do everything they can to maintain power or consolidate it after a loss. For example, puppet leaders can be installed after a dictator is overthrown. 

As well the ruling powers will do everything they can to keep people from organizing. This may take the form of suppressing unions or using racist policy to divide a nation against itself. 

History and theory can reveal these tactics and show us a path forward. Theories, like Trotsky’s permanent revolution, tell us not settle for political gains and to push further for change to economic and social relations. 

The uprisings happening all over the world are tapping into a long history of struggle within their independent countries. Today’s struggles are intensified by a long history of colonialism and decades of neo liberal policy to the point where revolution seems inevitable. From Puerto Rico to Algeria, from Sudan to Hong Kong, we can see the revolutionary will of the people. Now that will needs revolutionary organization to lead it forward.

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