Does the DPP have the Qualifications to Begin a Social Movement?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 6, 2009
Summary: Tsai Ing-wen has decided that for the DPP, this year will be "The Year of the Social Movement." She announced that in March the DPP will launch a series of social movements. Perhaps Tsai Ing-wen and her comrades should first ask themselves two questions: One. Does the DPP know where it is going? Two. Does the DPP know where the public on Taiwan wants to go? As long as we are discussing social movements, let's ask the DPP to give society's values precedence. Merely taking to the streets and screaming one's head off will not transform the DPP into a social movement.
Full Text below:
Tsai Ing-wen has decided that for the DPP, this year will be "The Year of the Social Movement." She announced that in March the DPP will launch a series of social movements. Perhaps Tsai Ing-wen and her comrades should first ask themselves two questions: One. Does the DPP know where it is going? Two. Does the DPP know where the public on Taiwan wants to go?
If the DPP is confused about where it intends to go, yet persists in leading its diehard supporters onto the streets, it will have a hard time winning public support and public sympathy. Such a movement can only be termed political mobilization. It does not qualify as a social movement. Nor can it return the Democratic Progressive Party to power. Furthermore, If the DPP refuses to engage in serious soul-searching, if it refuses to ask where the people want to go, if it has no sense of the public mood, it will find it impossible to inspire the masses or play a leadership role. How can a political party that has lost its compass expect the masses to follow?
Tsai Ing-wen has yet to be baptised in the fires of a social movement. Yet her basic strategy is to ignite a social movement. She is probably thinking that, one the one hand, social movements will give the party a fresh start, and on the other hand, social movements worked for the Democratic Progressive Party years ago. Why not now? She's forgetting that people have memories. They can learn. Something Tsai Ing-wen considers fresh, most people consider stale and indigestable. Even more importantly, strategies that were effective in earlier times may have lost their luster after years of exploitation. They may even be badly tarnished. The Democratic Progressive Party must give itself a fresh infusion of progressive values. It must polish up its party logo. Ad hoc Green Camp street demonstrations, in conjunction with Chen Shui-bian's juvenile antics while in custody, will not fly. If the Democratic Progressive Party thinks such a strategy will put the party back on its feet, it is seriously deluded.
Let's not forget that during its reign, the Democratic Progressive Party lost its claim to be a defender of democratic values. During its eight years in office, it came close to strangling all social movements on the island. Many social movement leaders were coopted by the Chen Shui-bian regime. Seduced by power, they abandoned their professed ideals and became mere hacks. Others failed to fit in and looked for a way out. Their former positions were no longer secure. Others eagerly accepted patronage and financial support. They became Democratic Progressive Party flunkies and lost all sense of independence. DPP ideology trumped all. The rights and interests of mainland spouses were trampled underfoot. Cross-strait human rights issues were ignored or suppressed. Social movements on Taiwan have been badly hurt in recent years. Who was the main culprit, if not the Democratic Progressive Party?
The Democratic Progressive Party hopes to return to power on the backs of social movements. It has seriously miscalculated. It has falsely equated street movements with social movements. Society must be transformed through social action. But social action must be preceded by conceptual thought, not by turning the streets into battlefields. In recent years many social movements have demonstrated their compassion for foreign spouses or rural communities. They have made extraordinary contributions to society. They have never raised a hue and cry in the streets. They have merely given of themselves, day after day. Without heartfelt goodwill, without long-term effort, how can one possibly transform a society?
The DPP labors under the delusion that it holds a monopoly on the leadership of social movements. It boasts of regaining power on the streets, by piggybacking on social movements. Its tone may be confident, but in its heart it know it is all bluster. The Democratic Progressive Party has forgotten that today social movements lack legitimacy and cohesion. The DPP is in large part responsible for this. To make matters worse, the Democratic Progressive Party, which has been reduced to an opposition party after eight years in power, does not even compare to the Democratic Progressive Party in its infancy. Back then it rode the whirlwind into political prominence, bearing decades of public longing for democracy. Back then, the political opposition and social movements shared the same goal, the pursuit of social justice. Today the public looks at the DPP and sees only hypocrisy and decadence. The public may be frustrated with the KMT's ineptitude. But who on Taiwan believes the Democratic Progressive Party offers a better alternative?
Street movements have a special kind of magic. Unfurl a banner and the hopes of handful of people can be transformed into a mass movement. This is the main reason for the DPP's endless optimism. But if the DPP has no intention of abandoning electoral politics, it had better learn to distinguish between street sentiment and voter sentiment. It has better not wallow in self-deception. And to imagine that social movements can serve as political viagra, is the height of self-deception.
The same hold for social movements. After years of seeing democracy on Taiwan caught in one dilemma or another, they must rethink their values and goals. They must find a way to a genuine civil society. They must refuse to become political pawns or cannon fodder. Only then can social movements advance their own values, and not have their energy sucked into a political black hole.
As long as we are discussing social movements, let's ask the DPP to give society's values precedence. Merely taking to the streets and screaming one's head off will not transform the DPP into a social movement.
2009.02.06 03:33 am