Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Pragmatism is key for new group

By Ku Er-teh顧爾德

Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman, still brimming with a fighting spirit, wants to "repay all his debts," which is why he has set up the Taiwan Democracy School with film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) and several other academics, cultural workers, celebrities and politicians.

This group's high hopes are admirable. Democracy has been developing in Taiwan for 25 years, going back to the dissidents of the Kaohsiung Incident, including Hsu.

Today, many people feel that there have been problems along the way, in particular the conflict between the nation's different ethnic groups during the presidential election, which was a powerful motivation for Hou and others to enter politics. "If you don't enter the political arena, you will be powerless when it comes to changing the status quo," Hou said.

So how will the members of the group go about entering the political arena? They propose to do this by running for office.

In the era of electoral politics, seeking office is the shortest route to power. This is strongly felt by Hsu and his old friend Shih Ming-teh (施明德), another former DPP party chairman.

Beginning in the early 1970s, Hsu realized that publishing a university magazine was ineffectual, and that running for office was the only way to change the status quo. He and Shih both know very well that competing in elections isn't the sole preserve of seasoned politicians.

Elections can mobilize people and build a popular foundation for forming political groups that can resist the ruling political party and, in the end, win power. Hsu's dream is that he will serve as president.

So what does he need to do in order to rule? The DPP is already in power. Hsu and Shih do not

get along with the incumbent administration, and have therefore parted ways with it. But an example of a path toward power is that of people involved in the Kaohsiung Incident who later contributed to the success of the DPP.

The DPP is not alone in having gone through this type of process. The New Party also gathered academics and well-known figures with a fresh image to run for office. They did well, but in the struggle of pragmatic politics, the party eventually splintered. Many of its members turned to the People First Party (PFP), and in election after election, the PFP has faced fierce struggles and compromises.

These parties have indeed changed the face of day-to-day politics. Without the DPP, martial law would not have been lifted and democratization would not have happened.

The New Party offered voters a new choice and stimulated the rejuvenation of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). But

as the two parties entered the political structure, they became partners in a government in which the legislature is running on empty and politicians howl abuse at each other.

I am not attacking these individuals who are trying to reform the political environment and are full of idealism. But we must recognize clearly that, in addition to running in elections, it is even more important for any organization that wants to achieve the same rapid results as the DPP in its early years to also have the backing of powerful social forces.

The mobilization of powerful social forces requires social movements and education. The people joining the Taiwan Democratic Alliance and the Taiwan Democray School have stressed that they want to emulate the May Fourth Movement and initiate a "new enlightenment."

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