The Economist (February 13th) reports Syrian dictator Bashir Assad’s forces are making a comeback. The Syrian army encircled Aleppo and took other cities to its northwest. If Assad ends up winning and reestablishing control over Syria, it will be because the opposition was divided.

It is a common problem in movements. Donald Trump leads the Republican primaries early on, despite over 50 percent of the electorate voting against him in each contest, because the Republicans haven’t united behind an opposition candidate. On the night of February 8, the streets of Mongkok, the most crowded neighborhood of Hong Kong, were ablaze with fires and bullet shots from the police rang out. Mongkok had been the site of some of the rowdiest protests during the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, and in 2016 it was once again, as localists fought police, ostensibly in the name of unlicensed snack vendors the police tried to ticket.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement has long suffered from fissures between various groups and parties about how best to achieve democracy—and what “democracy” should mean in practice. In its fractured political system, the 16 parties represented in the Legislative Council are basically divided in “pan-democratic” and “pro-Beijing” camps rather than being divided by left-right ideology. Thus radical socialist democrats partner with upper-middle class free-market democrats. In 2013, I attended a deliberation day with Left21, where labour organizers talked about organizing around workers’ grievances, a few weeks after observing traders in suits talk about the importance of rule of law for business.

When localists threw bricks and bottles at police on February 8, they raised a question that has and will continued to fracture the democracy movement. How much resistance and violence should they use?

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