I'm posting this as a forum topic because it's not developed enough to be a blog post and I was kind of hoping others had thoughts on these topics. Constructive criticism also welcome.
Attempt to write down some thoughts on the current connections between the Puerto Rico and Hawaii protests.
Protests in Puerto Rico over the last several decades have been more about workers' issues, ballooning student tuitions, massive cuts in social services and physical infrastructure, protesting murderous austerity, and 100 plus years of forced debt taken out by neoliberal governments but paid for by the population. PR teachers’ unions had to fight against their corrupt US based internationals who were demanding they accept massive give backs and cuts in pay and benefits. Puerto Rico has always ranked 51 in the US as far as economic and social well being of its people, behind the poorest Southern states, mostly as the result of wealth extracting and autonomy destroying colonial capitalist dominance. They literally have a US implemented austerity enforcing board controlling their economy favoring big business and destroying social and public infrastructure to pay off corporate debts. It's called the Fiscal Control Board, created through the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) in 2016. This is the well established practice of strong states enforcing economic "structural adjustment" on the weaker ones, to the benefit of the global capitalist class, or their own national capitalist class.
While both Hawaii and Puerto Rico were taken under US control in the 1890s, and people in both places push back against military and corporate dominance and brutality, the current cultural protests in Hawaii are different from the PR ones. They’re not so much class uprisings against capital as they are directed by cultural practitioners, academics, life long activists, Hawaiian nationalists, pro-monarchists, and NGO board members. They seem to me to be less about direct class confrontations and more about class collaboration against cartoonish notions of the West, with the small focus on "capitalism" referring to non-local big business, and tacked on to give the sheen of serious resistance.
Many of the cultural demands contain a racial component, which while understandable given the nature of the US overthrow and attacks on Hawaiian culture, is nonetheless a limiting factor in organizing that could benefit the entire working class as opposed to just one ethnic group, especially the Professional Managerial Class of that ethnic group. While there should be specific programs targeted to reverse the legacy of colonialism as it affects Native Hawaiians, there also need to be universal fight backs that draw the entire class in. The leadership envisions a revival of ancient and sacred ways, even the Kapu system, which in the Hawaiian islands was the most rigid caste hierarchy in the Pacific. Even though many claim the intent is to enact a modernized "Kapu Aloha" it's a weak demand for the 21st century or the 18th.
It really simplifies the movements in Puerto Rico to talk about solidarity between Hawaii and PR if we're just talking about imperialism. Of course imperialism is bad, but the form the resistance takes matters. The last few years of resistance in Hawaii seem to be about padding important political and academic leaders resumes, establishing their authenticity as culturally aware. There is also cheap populism based on romanticizing local culture devoid of any kind of class analysis, as if people in Hawaii are exploited because there is foreign presence, not a capitalist system in place. Are the Mauna Kea protectors making any substantive demands on the Hawaiian or US ruling classes, or engaging in any kind of long term organizing of the working class to attain power to leverage against capitalists?
If people are mobilizing demonstrations without the goal of creating a movement that can actually challenge capitalist power, I think many are going to be disappointed, and we can look forward to another 100 years of cultural demands and bitterness with no substantive gains.