Fri, May 26, 2000 - Page 12 News List

An historic era is coming to an end

By Chen Fang-ming 陳芳明

The most magnificent chapter in the history of Taiwan's demo-cracy movement will come to a close if DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) decides to step down.

By "magnificent," I mean the panoramic scope and vision that took shape during the Kaohsiung Incident -- and centered around the activists involved in Formosa magazine -- of which Lin is a representative figure.

The wisdom and ideals of the "Formosa generation" have become an important asset to the democracy movement. Only time will tell whether the next generation will have the kind of drive and persistence demonstrated by their forebears. In any case, the curtain is now falling on the brilliant performance of this first generation.

Ever since its establishment, the DPP has been led by Kaohsiung Incident victims -- the only exception being its first chair-man, Chiang Peng-chien (江鵬堅).

Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介), Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), Shih Ming-te (施明德) and Lin all had the dubious distinction of becoming political celebrities in the 1970s. They were pioneers who paid the highest price for their participation in the democracy movement. One salient feature was that this generation were able to introduce a new way of thinking to the movement.

They deeply imbued the movement with their ideas, such as Yao's "new three kingdoms" theory (新三國論), Hsu's "newly arising nationality" (新興民族論), Shih's ideas on the independence of the ROC's sovereignty, Lin's advocacy of non-violent resistance, Chang Chun-hsiung's (張俊雄) formula of local governments encroaching and laying siege to the central government and Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) "new feminism." Diverse as they are, these ideas shaped the direction of the DPP's development.

All of these people were jailed for participating in the demo-cracy movement. Their passion completely washed away the grime covering Taiwan's destiny and painted it anew. The Formosa generation has been in the movement for 30 years -- all the way up to the DPP's victory in the presidential election. Their morale and fighting spirit remains high despite their greying hair. It was with their determination and on their ideas that the DPP developed its breadth and strength of a ruling party.

Whether Lin's retirement will leave a vacuum in the DPP's ideals and legacy will be key to the future of the democracy movement. The Formosa generation's spirit of unity came from their strategic alliances, as people of differing political ideals worked together. In contrast, the party's current unity is built upon power-sharing among factions.

In political movements, there are always tensions and contradictions between ideals and interests. But the litmus test for the DPP's new leaders is whether they can uphold the existing idealism. It takes people of considerable stature and dexterity to strike a balance and make compromises.

The Formosa generation had only one enemy: the KMT. Now, the enemy has diversified. Even other factions within the DPP have become adversaries.

The Formosa generation has completed their mission. They have changed the DPP's long-standing image of an opposition party and written a new chapter in Taiwan's history. It is not possible to hope that they could lead the movement for a thousand more generations.

In particular, Lin -- a man with a deep sense of history -- may choose to step down while things are at their very best, writing an exclamation point as it were, to a magnificent period in history on behalf of his generation. His resignation will be another demonstration of the wisdom of the Formosa generation.

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