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Friday 7 p.m., September 15, 2007, about a dozen members of Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies (Taiwan Radical Quarterly) gathered in the drizzle at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and participated in a demonstration consisting of over a million people, seeking to depose Bien.
However, the place was over-crowded by the people in Red, with some people calling the scene a "Red Sea". We could barely enter Ketagalan Boulevard, therefore we walked against the tide and made a detour to Taipei Station from the Chungshan South Road near the National Taiwan University Hospital.
Later, we realized that such "free walking", without any leadership from "centre" in a traditional political / social movement, is the key point of the whole parade. We couldn't hear what was happening from the command platform. So instead of wasting our time, we arranged our own battle. People wandered around and shared their excitement with their friends and colleagues in Red along the way.
Some young people, having formed their own team, followed by a large group of people, were pushing forward on the streets, but they were not authorized for a demonstration. They shouted in thrill and rap rhythm, "depose Chen Shui-bien, arrest Wu Shu-chen..." With the sounds of whistles and the lights of glow sticks, the atmosphere of the rainy night could not be accurately depicted in words. Of course, police on large motorbikes tried to stop them from running around against regulations, but attempts were in vain, as the police could not but shrug its shoulder and left with a sigh.
The police, supposed to maintain the so-called law and order, was very odd. In the past, the police was usually vigilant and frenzy, as if it was confronted with enemy troops. This time they became very affable, with smiles on their faces. Eye-catching girls and boys and kids were hanging around the fences, posing in depose-Bien gestures, taking photos with the police --well, the street protests in Taipei have already became a most famous tourist attractions.
More peculiar was the middle class, who has been criticized as alienated and apathetic by the academics, suddenly changed their outlooks. They got rid of their drained bodies and dull facades, started to greet strangers who were identified as their red companions, and asked "Mister, where do you come from? Miss, everything okay? Your daughter is so pretty..."
We, the people, there were lots of us with tacit understanding. Whenever we passed through crowded areas, everyone would shout "Chen Shui-Bien", "Step Down" spontaneously, and other red strangers would join in. The scene was particularly fascinating in the Metro station with the echoes of chants revitalizing the tiresome space. Again, all these were beyond the organizers’ plan.
Finally we arrived at the Taipei Station at 10 p.m. There were still too many people and we could not get through. We could only settle outside the shopping mall opposite to the command platform and watched the giant screen that was showing what was happening. We saw our old friend Chang Fu-chung roaring on stage, and from the T.V retransmission, Shih Ming-teh kneeling down in palpitation.
We have seen what we were supposed to see. Our anger had been released and we were empowered with satisfaction. We searched around and finally found a small restaurant, surprisingly with a dozen empty seats, in an alley full of evening tutoring classes. We went to the convenient store to buy beer and called out more friends in our celebratory mood.
Autonomous citizens have entered the scene, we were not absent. We have participated in an important historical moment in Taiwan history.
If you do not believe this, we can show you the video: a key member of Taiwan Radical Quarterly, sociologists Zhao Gang, was walking with his DVD camera for the purpose of social observation.
Then, what does the Red mean?
In the presentation of the above "free walking" scenes, what we have witnessed is not only a transcendence of Blue and Green dichotomy, ethnic antagonism and the abduction of rhetoric of political correctness, it is also a transcendence of the given frameworks (such as the planned route of the demonstration) and alienated relation among people. The participants have actualized their "autonomy" in actions, with mutual support; they have found the identification of "Red" and their sense of belonging.
The key for identification with the Red was based on a complete and fundamental disappointment and skepticism to party politics. In this sense, transcending the dichotomy of Blue and Green means transcending and abandoning party politics.
Well, can we say that such attitude is a recognition and support for another political form, i.e. social movement?
Not really. The command system in the propaganda vehicle has failed for long. The center oriented social mobilization was not working in this million people demonstration. However, can we say that absence of control means "adversity"? We were happy, there was no catastrophe. In other words, there is nothing else Shih Ming-teh could have done except from thanking God, because people do not belong to him, he literally could not master the Red. It is the organizers following people's will. How could they plan for the next two millions people demonstration when they were even worried that people got too mad and out of control?
Shih Ming-teh in the end still made a correct decision by announcing to the public that the formation of a third political party was not an option. He recognized that the new autonomous citizen movement will no longer be abducted by political parties. If he was the same as some short-sighted intellectuals and considered to leave the scene by forming a third political party, then he would have disappointed the Red completely. People would consider him another politician who wanted to struggle for power within party politics and therefore leave him. "The third power" has always been understood as "the third party", but this time "the third power" is not within the dichotomy of Blue and Green, it denotes a social space that stays far away from party politics.
Therefore, the Red is and will always be in the field, positioning among peoples, and reject to treat politics as a mean and end to seize the state apparatus. Let the politicians of political parties have their gangs fight for controlling the State, as long as we strengthen people's power, we can always force the political parties to confront with their own corruption when time comes, like what is happening now.
Now, the question therefore is: how to continually strengthen people's power which is diverse and heterogeneous in nature? How to persistently liberate social power and reduce the space for the performance of party politics?
Fundamentally, the Red means rethinking what democracy is.
Party politics is no longer the core in the imagination of democratic politics. Democracy is liberation of people's vitality; it is a confinement and regulation of the State / government / regime by the society.
Judging from the outside, Taiwan's "political" mechanism, which is dominated by party politics, has been malfunctioned for long, and the strength which maintain Taiwan's "stability" comes from the society and the peoples, which is relatively autonomous and defensive. Generally speaking, the political chaos in Taiwan has not disintegrated the society. On the contrary, the political disorder has created conditions for strengthening the social subjectivity.
The Red means the emergence of a social subjectivity.
If we widen our scope, the emergence of a Red subjectivity implies an implosion of the multi-dimensional problems underlying the Taiwan democratic movement since the end of WWII. If we are to truly contemplate the subjectivity of the Red, we will have to slow down and reexamine the real problems which are concealed in our democratic development after WWII.
In another article, I have pointed out several times that the idea of "Pro-U.S., Anti-Communist" has become the main component of Taiwan subjectivity. If we do not expose the fundamental elements in the formation of our subjectivity, we are just escaping from the problems, eventually we will have to face them again. Because we adore the U.S. and reject its opposite's imagination of socialist democracy; the American oppositional party model of democracy has become the fundamental scheme in pursuing and evaluating the democratic movement after the WWII in Taiwan. The KMT's education, especially on the idea of "Pro-U.S., Anti-Communist", has rooted more deeply in the mind of our Green counterparts than the Blues. But now, the illusion of democracy in America has been shattered by Bush government's vicious behavior after 911. When international political order has returned to military imperialism, can the imagination of American democracy be still convincing? If not, where can we find resources for our own imagination?
The Third World never have the soil for the idea and practice of liberalism. Equality of individual is a prerequisite for liberal democracy, and this set of rules of game has been proven to be a failure around the globe. When adopting the set of idea, our modernist liberalists had not established the material conditions for carrying out these thoughts; and they did nothing to cultivate the subjectivity of "autonomous citizens" to actualize the value of one person one vote with equal weight.
In the end democratic politics has been reduced to voting. The idea of democracy and politics is then abducted by political parties.
Taiwan's experience reveals clearly that party politics will eventually lead to "partisan interest". When the party is in power then it will fight rigorously against its opponent to defend its regime, and the people or society will be discarded. Even more chilling is that the non-autonomous intellectuals, having accepted the logic of political "realism", consider that political calculations of politicians are reasonable. They consider it natural and reasonable for Ma Ying-jeou to have avoided conflicts as he aims to become future president. The interest of an individual and party is regarded as logical.
In this sense, the Red marks a strategic position which has long been ignored. It notifies the political parties that, "we won't have any further fantasy abour you, we know you are still going to occupy the State, but we will not invest on you, so don't you think that you can continue to abduct our voices".
Such an argument is not meant to demonize political parties, nor to demonize the State / government while beautify society / peoples, but to point out the structural logic and inevitability of party politics. By contrast, peoples and society is diverse and heterogeneous. It does not necessarily imply progressiveness, but its heterogeneity evades the binary opposition or dichotomy of party politics and their representation claim. The parties will not and can no longer carry out its oppressive rule in the name of "people", "public", "national", nor abduct the people out of personal and party interest.
The Red is to say goodbye to party politics, with our thumbs-down to depose Bien. At the same time, our thumbs-up is pointing towards the expansion of a social subjectivity.
The imagination of Taiwan's future democracy has to be more original in praxis, so to be respected by the world, like the democracy in South Korean society. The path of the Red has abandoned political parties, leading towards peoples and society. It does not consider seizing political power as its aim in order to make a real choice.
The difficult part is, to friends who are taking part in social movements, how can we question and breakthrough the limitation of our existing social movement from the complexity of this Red movement. The theoretical framework of people's democracy has to face new waves of challenges.
September 24, 2006, Taipei
Editor note: this article is written by Chen Kuan Hsing in Chinese and circulated via e-mails among friends on his reflection on Taiwan democratic movement. It is then published at inmediahk.net.
This work is licensed under a Attribution Non-commercial Creative Commons license