Honduras Solidarity Activists Protest Hipster Capitalism in San Francisco

Roger Harris | 06.09.2015

image2Last night in San Francisco, a coalition of solidarity and Bay Area organizations – including the Bay Area Latin America Solidarity Coalition (BALASC), the Honduras Solidarity Network, Other Worlds, SOA-Watch, Taskforce on the Americas, Alliance for Global Justice, and Food First – protested the US-backed government of Honduras and the capitalist scheme to set up “charter cities” devoid of constitutional protections there.

The event was in the high-rent SOMA (south of Market) district at the trendy co-work space called Galvanize, where mostly young people pay $500 or more to chill-out and consume caffeine. One of the Galvanize workers explained that “after a year learning code, you’re virtually guaranteed a job earning $40-60K.”

In what might be described as bait and switch, the advertised headliners for the event – Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and his top economic aides – didn’t show, nor did their less prestigious Latin American replacements. Instead, we were left with a panel of local libertarian ideologues.

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Outside, a good turn-out of solidarity activists from around the Bay Area carried excellent protest signs created by activists Colleen Rose and Michael Bass, while the attendees were leafletted. As free tickets were available online for the event, a number of us came inside to hear the speakers. About a fifth of the estimated less than 200 audience were solidarity activists. Still seats were left empty.

The event was co-sponsored by Lincoln Labs where “liberty and technology meet,” the Independent Institute with their cadre of young men staffing a libertarian literature table, and the Seasteading Institute (see: “Former ‘Seasteaders’ Come Ashore To Start Libertarian Utopias In Honduran Jungle”), all advocating a libertarian vision of “competitive governance” by entrepreneurs freed of democratic constraints.

Mary L. G. Theroux, vice-president of the Independent Institute, chaired the otherwise all-male panel. Randolph Hencken, executive director of the Seasteading Institute, opened the presentation by acknowledging the protesters and saying that he was in agreement that the US military should get out of Central America. For these self-avowed libertarians, Honduras is important only because it provides the legal opportunity to create “charter cities” or ZEDEs (zones of economic development and employment) where capital would reign supreme without the fetters of a governing state.

image1Maria Robinson of the Task Force on the Americas exposed the lie behind Mr. Hencken’s statement in the Question & Answer session. Maria explained that originally the Honduran supreme court had found the charter city give-away of state sovereignty to be unconstitutional. But then the right-wing government in Honduras, backed by the very US military that Mr. Hencken said should go, staged a “judicial coup” by removing the five offending justices and replacing them with those supporting charter cities.

Next Mr. Hencken apologized for the original title of the event, “Disrupting Democracy: Choice among Governance for Hondurans” (which as later changed). He explained that the Silicon Valley hipsterism “disrupting democracy” didn’t translate well into Spanish. He failed to explain that it did not exactly translate well into plain English either.

The main presentation featured a video and description of a floating city in international waters, beyond the constraints of elected governments, subject only to the dictates of “entrepreneurs” who would raise fish in an ecologically sustainable manner to feed the world while “strengthening the ocean ecosystem.” Noble indeed!

The lie, of course, is that capitalists have little incentive to be ecologically sustainable without the constraints of governmental regulation. If indeed the Seasteaders had an ecologically sustainable game plan, they wouldn’t have to run to the high seas to implement it. But would be providing sushi now in compliance with the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections.

After the formal event, the libertarians tried to engage us by saying “we have in common the desire to help the Hondurans people.” The libertarians did not understand that:

  1. We don’t patronizingly “help the Hondurans,” but we do stand in solidarity with the social justice movements in Honduras that have opposed the charter city land grabs, and
  2. If the libertarians want to “help” the Honduran people, they should not be promoting the golpista (coup) regime in Honduras and taking advantage of the extreme poverty and lawlessness in that US client state.