Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Spinning Class Conflict as "Ethnic Conflict"

Spinning Class Conflict as "Ethnic Conflict"
United Daily New editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 28, 2007

While Chen Shui-bian was in Honduras doling out billions in aid, Chang Chun-hsiung was bickering with farmers in Hualien and Taitung until he was red in the face. His cabinet had reneged on its promise to provide 50,000 NT in emergency relief to farmers for every five hectares of land they owned. While the head of state was overseas throwing money around, playing Daddy Warbucks, the premier was back on the island catching flak from disaster stricken farmers. The contrast between the two scenarios was the height of irony.

The public watched as Chen Shui-bian opened wide and bit into a Taiwan guava grown in Honduras, and give a big thumbs up. It also remembered that the Chen regime forbade cross Straits agriculture exchanges. Even the shipping of Taiwan fruit to the mainland was ruthlessly blocked. Taiwan melon growers moan about flood damage. Pomelo growers groan about wind damage. Chen Shui-bian meanwhile is grinning from ear to ear, because Taiwan guavas have been successfully grown in South America. One can't help feeling one is in the Twilight Zone. Let's not forget that just before his departure, Chen allowed the import of ractopamine-contaminated US pork as a gesture of goodwill to Washington. By contrast, even mainland China forbade the import of ractopamine-laden US pork.

With his domestic approval rating at new lows, Chen Shui-bian hoped to use the pomp and circumstance of state visits to reaffirm his status as head of state. While Taiwan was inundated by floodwaters, caught up in the ractopamine-contaminated US pork dispute, and its farms suffering severe losses, Chen Shui-bian was scattering dollar bills along the way. Schoolchildren back home cannot afford nutritious lunches. Yet their parents must donate 30,000 computers to poor children in Honduras. No wonder villagers in rural Taiwan feel deprived. Why is Chen Shui-bian so generous to foreign allies, but so niggardly toward Taiwan's farmers?

The Democratic Progressive Party bills itself as a "native political authority." It counts on the farm vote to maintain its long term power. Yet the Democratic Progressive Party's relationship with the farm vote is peculiar, to say the least. It professes solidarity with farmers based on class origins. But in its bones, the DPP is a party of the capitalist class. It merely exploits peasants as political tools in its ersatz "Taiwanese, not Chinese" identity politics.

Every time an election rolls around, the Democratic Progressive Party pays lip service to its grass roots. But in truth the Democratic Progressive Party is in bed with the heads of major industries, big business, and financial groups. The Democratic Progressive Party leadership is drawn from attorneys, doctors, landlords, petty capitalists, and out of favor politicians. It is essentially a bourgeoise political organization. Even members of academia have trouble getting their foot in the door. What room is there for lowly peasants? The Democratic Progressive Party has neither the will nor the way to remedy the economic marginalization and hollowing out of Taiwan's countryside. Its only farm policy is to foment rural discontent, to get farmers to perceive their social disadvantage as an "ethnic disadvantage." That allows the DPP to evade the issue of class, and frame a class conflict as an ethnic conflict.

We must realize that the relationship between farmers and the government underwent a major change during the past 60 years. Many years ago the Kuomintang government implemented its "375 Rent Reduction" policy and its "Homestead Act," by which "those who work the land, will be given the land." Nearly 300,000 tenant farmer households benefitted from the KMT's policies. With the liberation of the farmer, the landlords and the Kuomintang became bitter enemies. But tenant farmers became the Kuomintang's supporters. Subsequent policy changes, by which agriculture subsidized fledgling industries, nelgected farmers' rights and interests, and the political climate in the countryside changed. The Democratic Progressive Party seized the opportunity to get its foot in the door. But it never had any intention of bettering the farmers' economic plight or elevating their social status. Its only goal was to incite farmers to hate "mainlanders."

Chen Shui-bian has been in power for seven years. He has enjoyed a virtual lock on the farm vote. Yet he has been at a total loss to do anything about the depressed state of the island's agricultural industry. Recent rezoning of agricultural land, making it available for commercial development, was billed as a "Benefits for All" policy. In fact it was merely another way of benefitting the bourgeoisie. What help is it to agriculture and rural development? Taiwan pig farmers are still recovering from the hoof and mouth disease debacle that occurred several years ago. Yet Chen Shui-bian, caving in to US pressure, rashly allowed the import of ractopamine-contaminated US pork, adding insult to injury. While visiting foreign countries, he scatters dollar bills like confetti. But when confronted with the plight of Taiwan's rural underclass, all he is willing to do is dole out "Subsidies to Elderly Farmers."

In years past, rural Taiwan had the capacity to absorb urban unemployment. But that capacity has been lost. News from the grassroots tells of drug dealing, theivery, robberies, and even murders, revealing that rural Taiwan is undergoing the same degeneration as the rest of society. Farm boy Yang Ju-men, with his "white rice bombs," exploded the Chen regime's lies long ago.

While Chang Chun-hsiung was nickle and diming farmers who demanded disaster relief, Chen Shui-bian was in Honduras, using public funds to donate 3,000 shiny new computer classrooms, equipped with 30,000 computers, in his own name. Has Chen Shui-bian forgotten that Taiwan also has poor people? That rural Taiwan is also on the wrong side of the digitial divide? That rural youth lack computers? A president who boasts that "Taiwan has embraced the world" has indeed embraced the world, and gotten its pockets picked in the process. Having bribed overseas allies for the sake of empty vanity, how will he look Taiwan's farmers in the eye?

2007.08.28 04:32 am










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