THE SOCIAL ORIGINS OF THE TAIWAN DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT:
THE MAKING OF FORMOSA MAGAZINE, 1979
by Linda Gail Arrigo
original July 1981; revised March 1992
This article was completed in July 1981, and is reproduced here slightly abridged but unaltered in substance. Written for a Taiwanese-American audience that idolized the sacrificed heroes of the democratic movement, the article intended to gently elicit a critique of the leadership and a new direction. It was translated into Chinese and serialized in ten segments beginning in late 1980 in Formosa Weekly, published by émigrés in Los Angeles. This was a period of great depression, following close on near total imprisonment of the leadership and the atrocity of the February 28, 1980 murders of Lin Yi-hsiung’s daughters. Through 1980 there were bombings of KMT security officers’ relatives’ homes in California, in apparent retaliation. Another reaction was passive resignation, and an assessment that the leadership brought repression on themselves by moving too fast. Part of the article sought to explain the dynamic of escalation and to deal philosophically with the collective anguish.
This article is primarily a sociological and historical analysis of the social forces present within the democratic movement of 1978-79. Following in this volume is an assessment of the movement over a decade later, “From Democratic Movement to Bourgeois Democracy: The Internal Politics of the Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party in 1991”. This allows an intriguing comparison of political alliances and personalities over a leap of time.
Both articles take for granted a general background on the Chinese Nationalist regime in Taiwan and its history of martial law since 1947 with harsh suppression of the native Taiwanese majority . Beyond this, for the present non-Taiwanese readers I will here first introduce the main characters and chronologically fill in some of the scenes immediately leading up to the full blossoming of the democratic movement in July – December, 1979.
Throughout the 1970s the legitimacy of the “Republic of China” government eroded together with its dwindling diplomatic recognition. Printed critique grew sharper and the limited election campaigns became increasingly restive. Then the electoral successes of November 1977 and the Chungli incident –a crowd burned down a police station in outrage over Kuomintang balloting fraud –gave previously scattered dissident politicians and intellectuals a surge of exhilaration and hope. And the fear of takeover by China, given signs of its impending U.S. recognition, imparted a sense of urgency, even panic, to the task of Taiwanese self-assertion.
A leadership core of five coalesced on the evening of October 15, 1978 following a political event-cum-wedding banquet  presided over by the aging Lei Chen , who seemed to herewith hand over the baton to the next generation of democratic fighters. Four of these five were clearly in the mold of the “new middle-class Taiwanese liberal intellectuals”, the social group which provided the vanguard of the democratic movement: Hsu Hsin-liang, elected Taoyuan county executive in November 1977, formerly Provincial Assembly; Chang Chun-hong and Lin Yi-hsiung, both elected in November 1977 to the Provincial Assembly, the latter a lawyer; and Yao Chia-wen, a lawyer and candidate for the upcoming national elections. Only Shih Ming-deh, released only the year before from fifteen years’ imprisonment, came from a military background and had directly experienced the full force of repression. All were 35-40 years old. Together they confirmed a decision to initiate an island-wide linkage of opposition forces for the upcoming elections for supplemental seats in the national assembly and legislature. This was the crucial first step.
The Non-KMT Candidates Campaign Coalition, its existence precarious under martial law restrictions, took a fourth-floor walk-up office in a building provided by the National Legislator Huang Hsin-chieh. Shih was general manager, and under his hand it issued a series of startling documents, any of which could have provoked punishment for sedition. Most important of these was the “Ten Great Political Projects” statement demanding freedom of speech and association; removal of political commissars from military, schools, factories, etc.; full popular election of the central government; and various welfare measures for workers, farmers, and fishermen. Its symbol was a raised, clenched fist, adopted from the U.S. civil rights movement. The coalition pulled together all the local independent politicians who dared to join, in union with the relatively few modern liberal and progressive candidates, mostly originating in the capital city, Taipei. On December 8, 1978 it kicked off the regulated ten days of campaigning with a large convention featuring several dozen candidates, and in following days met with thunderous crowds in the first credible challenge to the regime’s authority.
Fatefully, the U.S. recognition of China on December 16 provided the Kuomintang with its rationale for indefinite suspension of elections. The KMT counterattacked with an orchestrated paroxysm of propaganda, that anyone who criticized the government was opening the gate to Chinese communist attack. There were other terrifyingly familiar portents of arrest. Still the new coalition held, tenuously, and on Christmas day, under the full physical encirclement of security forces, reissued its demands. On January 21, 1979 Yu Deng-fa, the elderly former Kaohsiung county head who had decided to bankroll continuing agitation for democratic rights, was arrested, ostensibly for conspiracy with communist spies. The next day, astounding both the authorities and the populace, thirty prominent opposition figures marched in Yu’s home town, Chiaotou, in the first public protest against political arrest since the 1947 massacres. Hundreds more joined following on this first successful show of defiance.
Rallies, marches, public statements, underground newspapers, new associations, magazine publications, political trial defenses, and celebrations for release of arrestees followed fast in a blur of activity during ensuing weeks of continual crisis: piecemeal arrests and bannings and secret police threats and raids. The race was to forestall government crackdown with a continually escalating threat of popular reaction. The core of five, though not visible as a control center, set strategy and plans. Crowds of ten thousand were summoned in event after event, and networks grew throughout the island. The campaign coalition was reborn in June 1979 as Formosa (Meilidao, “beautiful island”) magazine, a formalized structure that was in actuality a political party, and it advanced to bolder confrontations as it grew to a dozen offices. For its part, the government, after feigning a willingness to negotiate and compromise for a period of time, readied its riot-control equipment newly purchased from South Africa, and set off an altercation with the assistance of agents provocateurs on December 10, 1979 — the Kaohsiung Incident, witnessed by at least thirty thousand .
Although the Formosa organization was crushed and its leadership arrested in December 1979, the subsequent trials , forced open by international attention and fully transcribed in the local newspapers for ten days, probably had a more momentous impact on the whole society than the previous year of activities, setting off new public awareness, critical thinking and cultural innovation. Shih Ming-deh’s statement, “Taiwan has already been independent for thirty years”, became a watchword. This brief season of the democratic movement is generally recognized as the watershed in Taiwan’s recent political history.
To the outward observer, it may appear that Taiwan’s history of protest since the 1950s has been an undifferentiated story of civil protest, in elections and writings, meeting with arrest and torture and long imprisonment. The security forces’ rounding up of clandestine networks prepared for armed resistance has passed with little public impact — those actually clandestine were easily kept from public knowledge, such as the military school cadets’ conspiracy of the 1960s, and most such alleged cases made public have actually been peaceful public protestors flimsily framed with eel and fairy tales, e.g. the Yu Teng-fa case. The recent suppression of the democratic movement embodied in Formosa magazine would seem to be one more step in a long series, though vastly more momentous, signalling a buildup of resistance and new expectations. And Taiwanese in the United States ask, what will happen now that all of the leaders have been arrested? When can we hope for a new democratic movement? When will the critical point of ignition be reached? Or a more pessimistic, passive response might be, what good is it to resist? The Kuomintang can crush even our unified push for reform. Let them do whatever they wish!
But the history of protest and resistance has not been undifferentiated, but rather has evolved in reflection of the shifting of Taiwan’s society, and even somewhat in response to international developments. The leaders of protest are not a few idiosyncratically and uniquely courageous individuals. They are the forerunners of a mass tendency, like the protruding tip of an iceberg; and therein lies their leadership and their strength to influence public discussion. And we can analyze several overlapping waves of leadership, each of which has developed from its historical and social experience, and each with its particular mentality and modes of action. Likewise, we can anticipate in general terms the direction of future change, even in the absence of outward manifestations.
My understanding of this development has come from personal contact with the opposition in Taiwan beginning in 1975, the statements of present and past leaders themselves, and what people have said about them, not so much from formalized history or written accounts. This contact had contextual limitations, since it includes mainly those who were present to be concerned with the ongoing democratic movement, but my analysis honestly and critically reflects my experience.
Outward appearances and self-statements are often deceiving. Most people will give lip service to goals which are generally seen as proper and moral; even the Kuomintang can set up a Chinese Human Rights Association. But their words must be seen also in light of their actions, and the test is in what principles they will put aside for the sake of immediate goals. Moreover, leaders can only lead by articulating the needs and hopes of a large number of people, a segment of society. But they may or may not reflect all aspects and aspiration of that segment, especially when the movement is one of opposition, not in power; and they may indeed even abuse the position of prominence under some situations, without conscious intention to do so.
In short, I believe that the development of the democratic movement of 1977-79 was pre-ordained by the current forms of resistance and nationalism in Taiwan, e.g. the “democracy holidays” of the election periods, and the deep-seated resentment of Taiwanese people for the mainlander occupiers — and even the present knowledge of hindsight would not have greatly changed it. The sacrifice has brought Taiwan’s political development to a new stage, and there is no turning back. We must particularly strive to understand the weaknesses of the past, however, if a new future is to be created.
Having completed this preamble, I will summarize the four stages of leadership in public opposition to the Kuomintang that are described in this continuing article.
First, beginning in the late 1940s with the 2-28 massacre and the violent displacement of the traditional elite by the Kuomintang regime, exiled traditional gentry led the Taiwanese independence movement, e.g. the Provisional Government based in Japan. Then in the 1950s and 60s local politicians garnered public support by challenging the regime, but for the most part could not transcend local factionalism or the patronage system interlocking with government power. Also during this period some groups of nationalistic revolutionaries formed, as testified to by some now-released political prisoners; however, there is little evidence of their long-term effect. In the late 1970s the new middle-class intellectuals broke with the Kuomintang institutions that would seek to contain them, and pushed opposition activities to a new level of idealism, universality and initiative, publicly demanding reform and presenting to the regime an ultimatum — it would face widespread popular unrest if it did not comply. This climaxed in the democratic movement of Formosa magazine.
In the flowering of the democratic movement and concomitantly its need to call on the support of the working class masses in its confrontation with government suppression, an emerging element of the “new generation” stood forth: socialist Taiwanese nationalism. At the same time the lesser forms of protest continuing from the previous period took on a new class basis, reflecting bourgeois fear of instability and basic social change. Thus two poles of power could be seen within the public opposition. The source of this growing differentiation within the opposition ranks is the growing complexity and stratification of Taiwan’s industrialized society. I dare to predict this element will be the spearhead of the political breakthroughs of the 80s, though the public scene may be dominated by the continuing democratic movement of Meilidao descendants.
These stages are described in the following section of this article. The article will provide an analytic framework of the social origins and behavior of these types of leadership and present brief illustrations.
RESISTANCE OF THE DISPLACED TAIWANESE GENTRY
A whole generation of leadership was killed off or fled after February 28, 1947, both educated gentry and the representatives of peasant and worker movements late in the Japanese period. This is the source of the serious problem of lack of continuity of the Taiwanese struggle, the loss of historical experience. Those of this generation who do remain in Taiwan today are the remnants of the Taiwanese gentry of the Japanese period, whom the Kuomintang forcibly alienated from land ownership under the fiction of land reform with equitable payment. Liao Wen-yi and Ku Kuan-min are foremost representatives of this stage, the Provisional Government of Taiwan in exile — and both show the ultimate loyalties of an elite-based resistance leadership. Both abandoned the struggle and returned to their fortunes in Taiwan, albeit also under the unbearable pressure of arrests of their relatives.
In late October 1979 or so Ku Kuan-min invited Shih Ming-deh and me to his home for dinner. We found the house in a beautifully wooded area of Yangmingshan, a Japanese house set away from the road, with huge wooden pillars supporting the heavy tile roof, and a brook traversed by a low bridge flowing through the front garden. An elderly house servant met us at the door with punctilious courtesy and self-effacement, and seated us with Mr. Ku in the main room. The room was furnished with elegant simplicity, almost austerely, but that the fixtures were of highest quality. Mr. Ku, himself dapper and genteel, appeared every bit an aristocrat, his sleek white mane framing a smooth handsome face. He seemed to greatly respect and even encourage Shih Ming-deh; the two discoursed animatedly, Shih Ming-deh leading in a friendly fashion. The elderly servant man scurried, his slippers flapping and eyes downcast in silent obeisance, as he served teas and a delicate dessert. I could not but feel he was a relic from a feudal society long past.
As we prepared to leave, Ku Kuan-min said resignedly something to the effect that: The Kuomintang is not as bad as it might be, it protects Taiwanese from other enemies (did he mean China?). Taiwanese will just have to get along as best they can and struggle for whatever benefits they can as time passes. Shih and Ku shook hands and bid farewell. But passing out of the courtyard Shih Ming-deh suddenly spat on the ground in disgust and muttered to me, “Did you see the kind of servant he keeps?!” He was evidently not impressed by Ku’s elegant talk.
It was not until I left Taiwan for Japan that I understood that Ku Kuan-Min was considered a traitor to Taiwan nationalism, and heard him cursed by those whose lives had been wasted by his betrayal.
It might be thought that the Taiwan nationalism of the old gentry rested mostly in their resentment at dispossession by the Kuomintang. Some of those now in their seventies and eighties were educated in Peking, just as in the olden days of the Ching Dynasty local genteel scholars sought classical degrees and positions in the bureaucracy. And some of this generation, such as Yu Deng-fa and Huang Shun-hsin, feel they are Chinese, though few are keen about reunification with China in the near future.
THE LOCAL POLITICIANS: HEROISM AND PATRONAGE
In the 1950s Taiwanese began to compete in government-sponsored local elections. Leaders that rose from among the people were generally sons of established families and/or local businessmen, but not highly educated or studied in political theory. They were occasionally doctors, traditionally a highly-respected profession. Comments I have heard about that period are that mainlander candidates often had more prestigious qualifications or education, and the Kuomintang of course also refused to recognize many Japanese-period degrees. The Taiwanese candidates represented local interests, often vis-a-vis the plundering cupidity of the Kuomintang carpetbaggers, but in so doing also represented their particular family interests. Competition between local cliques could be difficult to distinguish from opposition to mainlander misrule; either side could choose to rally popular enthusiasm through outspoken critique, or to seek benefits for their side by becoming part of the Kuomintang system of patronage. The Liu and Huang clans of Miaoli are said to be such a case. Patronage, in the traditional sense, is an enduring part of local politics, even up to the present, and especially outside the urban centers.
Patronage implies a stratified relationship between leaders and followers; the former are sometimes even the well-to-do sons of traditional landowners, like Fan Cheng-yo, and the followers are the more outgoing, rough-and-ready elements of rural and small town society, farmers, self-employed craftsmen, and shopkeepers, now usually age 35 or older. Thus, paradoxically, those politicians with the least egalitarian ideals of society are often closest to grass roots community — but community that is fast being eroded by Taiwan’s new, urbanized, industrialized order.
The themes of these local leaders are familiar to the ears of Taiwanese overseas: “The Taiwanese people are so pitiful, they have been under the domination of foreigners for four hundred years! Taiwanese are really too obedient, they don’t know how to say no. We must educate them to seek democracy and freedom!” This plaintive, passive tone also conceals an implicit paternalism and elitism — that the people are helpless, and cannot act without elite leadership. It is staunchly anti-communist and even avoids concrete proposals for economic adjustment, though it will moan about the fate of the poor farmers under the exploitation of the government’s agricultural associations. “Why should I have a policy for farmer or worker benefits? I would not bribe them to seek the pure ideals of democracy and freedom with a little bit of bread!”
The mentality of local leaders ranges from frankly collaborationist and opportunist, to staunch and heroic defense of justice. But the personalized and localized view of the world is common to nearly all, and indeed reflects the reality of local confrontation with the Kuomintang prior to the December 1978 island-wide coalition. As late as September 1978, a united slate of opposition candidates in the isolated east coast town of Taitung — Chen Wen-hsiung and Ms. Kao Chin-dze — were arrested, with hardly the knowledge of opposition leaders in Taipei, must less their response. Local leaders have tended to see their struggle as an individualized one, and their own survival as essential to continuance of the struggle; thus a finely-honed sense of the limits of tolerance of the regime, and the ability to beat a fast retreat, have been desired qualifications. They likewise see Kuomintang oppression as personalized against them, and emphasize the corruption of its members rather than seeing it as systemic “legal” exploitation.
A person with only a little capital and some education and an earthy knack for speech-making can ride the wave of popular resentment against the regime in elections. Though the population generally appears cowed and quiescent, there is admiration and secret support for those who dare to step forward; and this is often enough to propel honest local sons along the road to Chingmei prison, or to rationalize the self-aggrandizement of those less sincere in their resistance. Once elected, an opposition representative can turn the position to personal profit. His base of personal support is the capital for manipulation. The Kuomintang will seek to pull him and his constituents within its purview by pressuring him to enter the party, or at the very least will immobilize his attacks by corrupting him.
The example of Su Nan-cheng is common and instructive. After election as an outspoken “opposition” candidate to the mayorship of Tainan, which campaign even entailed the arrest of some of his campaign assistants, reportedly students at Tainan Theological Seminary, he has quickly turned into a cloying mouthpiece for the regime’s suppression of the democratic movement. This behavior is of more benefit to the Kuomintang than the direct election of a KMT candidate. It lends an element of veracity to the ruling party propaganda, in far-right publications like The Violent Wind (Ji Fong), that the opposition is composed of “ambitious and power-seeking elements” who attack the government only to manipulate popular opinion and gain personal benefits.
Kao Yu-shu, after enjoying tremendous popularity as a challenge to the KMT in Taipei in the mid-’60s, was “kicked upstairs” to serve as appointed mayor of Taipei city. Now minister without portfolio, he is thus separated from his mass base. According to an American reporter, his long-term acquaintance, who met with him in 1979, Kao still believes that he is doing his best for his fellow Taiwanese, within the Kuomintang establishment. But although his office is high in name, he seems an impotent figurehead, accompanied at all times by a mainlander “secretary”. During the years of the democratic movement I never heard of any statement or contact from Kao Yu-shu.
Aside from the cooptation and corruption of would-be oppositionists, the KMT completes its facade of progress and impartiality by occasionally applying draconian punishments to a few hapless small-time cases of corruption in its own ranks. On the day before the beginning of the Kaohsiung Eight trial, March 18, 1980, it sentenced a middle-aged mainlander policeman to death for accepting an NT$ 3,000 (US$ 75) bribe to squash the prosecution of an abortion case. (Abortion is illegal on the books in Taiwan, but the actual rate of abortion is several times the rate of births.) Investigation into high-ranking corruption is rarely pursued far, however.
The sort of local opposition candidate with more mettle may stubbornly go to jail rather than compromise, but still see his struggle in very individualized terms, as if he were the only person of sufficient moral fibre to lead the resistance. He will react like a raging bull to his progressively deepening persecution by the security forces. This process of indignant resistance to persecution is also part of the development of political consciousness for liberal intellectuals, but local leaders seem to respond more directly and less reflectively, treating their family members as convenient extensions of themselves, as would be understandable for traditional families, in order to overcome disqualification from public office.
In early November 1978 Shih Ming-deh and I and an American researcher attended Yu Teng-fa’s pre-election banquet for his campaign supporters. There were over fifty tables, and the banquet, catered by peasant-garbed cooks who hacked meat and stirred enormous cauldrons of soup and boiling oil at the side of the school yard where the affair was held, was notable more for starchy quantity than quality. The candidates Yu was promoting were introduced: Huang Yu Hsiu-juan, his daughter, and Lin Yin-chuan, a cynical young college graduate almost still wet behind the ears, the son of his long-time supporter. After the banquet we interviewed Yu Teng-fa, asking him to talk freely. He recited a litany of political persecution going back twenty years, complete with details of his frame-up on land zoning corruption when he had been elected Kaohsiung county executive. But he did not seem to have a prognosis for the future, or for different forms of resistance besides electioneering, though since he himself is over eighty that is not surprising. On the establishment of the island-wide coalition in 1978, he declined at first to participate, saying it could add nothing to his strong base in Kaohsiung; but after a week of campaigning, when the overwhelming popularity of the coalition had been demonstrated, he joined in with enthusiasm and a substantial contribution. When Yu Teng-fa and his inept son were arrested on January 21, 1979 we came to see clearly the timbre of the relatives he had raised to such prominence. How could such as they every constitute a challenge to the dictatorship? Huang Yo-jen, his Kaohsiung county executive son-in-law, repeatedly apologized to the police chief for the protest against Yu’s arrest, and obstructed the milestone Chiaotou march of January 22 for several hours. He was one factor in the abortion of the January 29 march planned to begin at the county executive’s resident in Fengshan. Yu Chen Yueh-ying, his daughter-in-law, though decisive in fits and starts, backed down when threatened with impeachment from the Provincial Assembly and confiscation of her father-in-law’s property. She blocked the opposition demonstration planned to celebrate her husband’s release. Clearly, family machines seek self-preservation before principled political action.
A further problem of local leaders’ individualistic vision of opposition is that it leads to a subtle, self-justified form of departure from strict honesty. The person may accept inducements from the KMT, while maintaining a stance of opposition, with the rationale that he needs more resources for the anti-KMT struggle, or that after several decades of suffering for the cause of righteousness, he deserves to enjoy the fruits of the office the people have elected him to. And the KMT reinforces inducements with threats.
Su Hong Yueh-chiao was elected to the Provincial Assembly in November 1977 on a platform of human rights, and specifically the issue of Su Dung-chi’s fifteen years as a political prisoner; he was accused of conspiring with military cadets to overthrow the government and set up an independent Taiwan. The people of Peikang resoundingly vindicated him of the guilt imposed by the KMT courts, showing their strong, if silent, support for his struggle of the 1960s. As soon as Su Hong Yueh-chiao took office, the security forces began fabricating a court case against her based upon her previous work in a travel agency — a typical case of applying the letter of stringent government regulations only against dissidents. But after several ominously-timed developments of the prosecution in the case, the government stopped short of removing her from office. Confidential sources say that also early in her term Su Hong took out larger loans than would be expected, considering her available collateral, and Su Dung-chi invested this in a car-import partnership that broke up but yielded a profitable settlement.
We can only be wiser and sadder to realize that the cost of political action is very high in personal terms, and the motivations of individualized struggle often do not lead to a broad social solution. Doubtless many of those who are most defiant are still on Green Island. But still, whatever the particular limitations and foibles, it has been the sacrifices of many people such as these that have led to the present degree of political consciousness of the population, all the same.
We can suppose that the stability of the regime may also be attributed to some degree to the use of elections as “venting devices” for the discontents of society, allowing small and illusory gains and continually promising that Taiwanese need only be patient in order to eventually assume control.
Not long ago a middle-aged Taiwanese who had served for many terms as a KMT candidate, but who obviously sympathized with the democratic movement, gave me an analysis of Taiwan’s polity. Taiwan is an economic democracy, he said. Those who have commercial power can compete against each other and make their claims heard. Only they must give their slice of homage to the mainlander overlords; without a “political bodyguard” your wealth will go down the drain in a minute. The Kuomintang only demands that its candidates are Taiwanese, thus enfranchising the Taiwanese people in appearance; that they represent local economic cliques, generally by family ties; are handsome and youthfully stylish, and educated with a college degree. This is the so-called cui tai qing (handsome, Taiwanese, young) syndrome, from the name of a movie star. They must also toe the line in refraining from criticism of the Kuomintang, any criticism at all. It is not necessary for the KMT candidate to be much versed in national politics; rather, the opposite is preferred. I remember meeting Wu Chih, a young KMT candidate for the December 1978 elections, at a wedding in mid-1979. He claimed he knew nothing about political arrests and torture, but he contended he could learn about it all and deal with it once he was elected. I mentally dubbed him wu zhi (know-nothing) so I would remember his name.
What is particularly insidious, as well as difficult to grasp unless one has had direct experience, is that traditional opposition candidates have often acted as mediating brokers of political power, just as the non-political economic candidates are purveyors of economic interests. That is, they serve the people by trying to wrest some concessions from the Kuomintang, while at the same time they promise the security forces that they will channel and defuse expressions of dissent. Certainly the elected oppositionist has very little official leverage, in the face of overwhelming extralegal police powers to destroy him. The power broker’s game must be played with considerable delicacy, and even with sincerity. Too weak a stance will cause popular disaffection, too strong a stance will court arrest. And the power broker cannot abide rivals who will render him other than the sole route of mediation, else his role as trader is dissipated.
At this point my characterization of localistic leaders, who are still very much present in Taiwan though overshadowed by the new democratic movement leaders, intersects with that of the liberal intellectuals.
THE NEW MIDDLE-CLASS TAIWANESE INTELLECTUALS AND THE DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT
If one thing seemed to console middle-class Taiwanese about the mainlander occupation in the 1950s and 60s, it was that the universities had been opened to equal competition by Taiwanese and mainlanders in the system of the universal examinations. Although it has been nearly a century since the system of imperial examinations reigned, its concept of social ranking by education and linkage of education with elevation to the bureaucracy persists in oriental society. Thus it no doubt seemed to many Taiwanese that, especially since they were in the majority, Taiwanese would eventually reach positions of power.
The young Taiwanese who were to be the leaders of the democratic movement emerged from the highest institutions of learning, National Taiwan University and National Chengchih (Political) University, in the mid-1960s and established themselves in society in the early 1970s. Peng Ming-min, the professor of international law arrested in 1964 after printing a handbill on Taiwan independence, can be seen as a forerunner of this group. Appropriately, they studied law and political science, and even studied abroad. (The bright young men who studied medicine, engineering, and natural sciences went abroad and didn’t come back — now they are the Taiwan Independence Movement abroad, but so embedded in American life that little “movement” is in evidence.)
By comparison with the local politicians, the new Taiwanese intellectuals have a broad vision of a modern society and a systematic democratic political system; the Kuomintang educational system is partly to thank for the latter. For the most part they were from ordinary lower-middle class or even farm families, but were able to make good by natural intelligence and hard work. Their generation, born in the last years of the 1930s and the early years of the 40s (thus they are in 1979 in their early forties), was in early childhood during the 1947 massacre, and were spaced from the baby boom of 1952 by years of low birth rates during the war years and subsequent economic dislocation. It seems there was space for the educated of this generation to expand into valued professional and commercial occupations, as Taiwan’s economy modernized rapidly from the mid-1960s on.
The new Taiwanese intellectuals for the most part moved first to seek change from within the system, as if the rules of the government’s book really applied and could be fought on their own ground. Chang Chun-hong and Hsu Hsin-liang were proteges of the Kuomintang central party office, and participated with liberal mainlanders in The Intellectual magazine, the first tentative questioning of the “return to the mainland” dogma. Both left after extended struggles. Even in 1979, after a decade of harassment by secret police stooges, Chang Chun-hong still seemed stung by disillusionment with the Kuomintang. Lu Hsiu-lien, founder of the women’s movement in 1971, started her career as a legal assistant of the Executive Yuan. Yao Chia-wen and Chang Deh-ming started a legal aid center after study in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1975 under Asia Foundation scholarships.
They tried to appear non-threatening to the regime, speaking publicly only in terms of social movements and reforms, at the start of their careers in the role of opposition. For example, Chang Chun-hong allowed liberal KMT participation in his This Generation magazine, and Lu Hsiu-lien invited KMT women such as the agricultural association’s Chu Ming to participate in her women’s speech and self-assertiveness group, to hopefully allay Party fears. But it was her very success that brought down the jealous wrath of the KMT Women’s Federation on Lu Hsiu-lien. And by late 1978 Chen Li-yang was seriously tampering with critical articles submitted to This Generation.
It would seem that the new Taiwanese intellectuals who later led the democratic movement only gradually came to an awareness of the entrenched, extensive nature of the system of repression, and became alienated from the establishment, due to progressively more severe suppression against them. By Lu Hsiu-lien’s own account, she only turned to direct political candidacy after it was plain her women’s movement was met at every turn by extralegal threats against her contributors, sponsors and volunteers; though she joined in spirit with the goals of Taiwan independence many years earlier. And as late as January 29 and February 5, 1979, Chang Chun-hong heeded the deceitful pleas of Lin Yang-kang, who requested him as a fellow member of the Provincial Assembly and a fellow native of Nantou not to embarrass the government by demonstrating on behalf of Yu Teng-fa — that the government would then be “unable to back down” (xia bu liao tai ) — the stalling rationale government apologists usually give, while the security forces round up the targets for prosecution.
Other large numbers of the new Taiwanese intellectuals have remained in academia, where they make abstract critiques of the polity, critiques that rarely reach beyond verbal presentations at government-sponsored symposiums, and carry no threat of action. Though such people secretly helped Formosa in 1979, and if Formosa had continued in ascendency longer probably would have stepped forward for a more public role, outwardly they did not appear much different from the “liberal” and effete young mainlanders in professions and academia.
I think it was the merging of the new Taiwanese intellectuals with the traditional local elections that transformed their outlook and action, both in terms of explicit Taiwanese nationalism and in terms of populist programs. The force of the mass grassroots movement led them to touch the roots of Taiwan nationalism, and to take up populist economic concerns, even though these were originally largely outside of their personal experience. That is not to say that they did not always seek self-determination for the people of Taiwan, but that their education and social position had given them a Mandarinized veneer and limited their experience of traditional Taiwan culture, as for nearly all intellectuals.
Etched in my mind are the images of Lu Hsiu-lien speaking stiffly in Mandarin to her first fund-raising dinner, at the Ambassador Hotel in October 1978, and then just a little over a year later orating to a large, rapt crowd, using emotion-laden and colloquial but precise Taiwanese — on the night of December 10, 1979. Her fear of months earlier seemed to have dissolved in the urgent eagerness of the people to hear her voice pronounce in her articulate and logical fashion what all had wanted to shout for so long — that Taiwan belongs to its own people! On the podium, she seemed to almost tremble with the electricity of emotion flowing between herself and the mass of ten thousand listeners.
Of the new Taiwanese intellectuals, Hsu Hsin-liang in particular embodied the merging with the aspirations of the common majority. He stands as a turning point in the development of the democratic movement, a clear break with localist politicians and power brokers, and a foreshadowing of movements perhaps even beyond that of the new Taiwanese intellectuals. His broad political vision encompassed the constituents of a modern but dependent export-economy state, as epitomized in Taoyuan county, with the agricultural sector squeezed according to the government plan for keeping social overhead low, and the industrial sector primed by transnational investment, but disciplined by martial law and yellow government labor unions. In the countryside I heard even the families of KMT party members say, “We vote for Hsu Hsin-liang, he’s for the farmers”. KMT hate campaigns launched by the Chinese management in the multinational factories in the industrial parks failed to stem his popularity with workers. His philosophy was populist, but stopped short of socialist; Hsu was supported by medium and small-sized entrepreneurs, reflecting his background as a founder of the Taoyuan Junior Chamber of Commerce. Whereas Chang Chun-hong eloquently and grandiosely admonished the audience of KMT party sycophants at the Provincial Assembly (January 16, 1978 official discussion of the Chungli Incident) that “If the government is not lawful, it cannot expect that the people will not take the law into their own hands. … And let not the government think that in a struggle between the security forces and the people, the people will be the losers!”, Hsu Hsin-liang directly instructed his supporters to enforce the election laws against fraud themselves — which they did to the extent of burning down a police station in the Chungli Incident of November 1977, the first electrifying shock of the democratic movement.
In larger perspective the democratic movement could be seen as the effort of the Taiwanese middle class, its economic power swelling with the development of the export economy and its ranks of professionals multiplying, to claim its portion of the national polity. Taiwan Political Review and later This Generation, its successor, emphasized constitutional legality and Taiwanese participation, not social problems like the left-leaning China Tide. If there was the possibility of such accommodation on the part of the Kuomintang, as the new intellectuals seemed to hope, considering their candidacy for “national” posts, then further political developments might have split them from the working class masses.
The new intellectuals unconsciously perpetuated certain aspects of elitism, a belief in the right of those with superior talent and education and daring to make decisions and direct others. Thus the movement progressed by the personal agreement of its core of leaders, and little explanation or ideology was handed down to its cadre of assistants. Sometimes political expediency negated a socially progressive stance, e.g. Yao Chia-wen declined to push for Formosa editorial board endorsement of liberalized abortion laws.
THE NEW INTELLECTUALS AND THE TAIWANESE MASSES
The new intellectuals’ concept of seeking to understand farmers and workers was mostly academic research, not direct participation or discussion with them on their own problems; and it often seemed geared towards gaining popular support in a rather superficial way. This unconscious elitism and academic orientation was apparent when Formosa made a direct attempt to be relevant to working people, with the Seminar on Labor on October 31, 1979, at the Formosa Kaohsiung office, which I will describe below. On the other hand, the potential power of linkage between the democratic movement leadership and concrete community issues was demonstrated with the Seminar on Pig Farming in Pingtung. A week afterwards the Ministry of Economics suddenly decided to show its “benevolence” and provide relief to the beleaguered pig-raisers.
Certainly the Kuomintang has made every effort to separate socially-concerned intellectuals from the disadvantaged sectors of the society, or to channel and delimit their efforts to innocuous “psychiatric” counselling through programs such as the Teacher Chang Counselling Program of the Save-the-Nation Youth Corps. In 1978, alarmed by growing unruliness and violence among young factory workers, the Teacher Chang program began training college students as volunteer counsellors to workers, but only emphasizing the workers’ personal adjustment to factory life. And in late 1978 the Kuomintang banned from all government-run welfare programs foreigners — such as the Maryknoll sisters and priests who had long been dedicated to service to the disadvantaged — and also citizen volunteers — such as Su Ching-li and Lee Yuan-chen , a teacher at Tamkiang University, who had been visiting the prison for girls under age 18 caught working as prostitutes. But to my observation, most of the prominent new middle-class intellectuals leaning towards Taiwan nationalism, age 35 or older, did not consider direct contact with lower-middle class or working people a priority, and would not attend others’ meetings on social issues.
The Seminar on Labor  was organized by Yang Ching-chu (worker, novelist of earthy “native literature”, opposition candidate for a labor representative position in the national legislature) and Su Ching-li (editor of the banned China Tide). The invited speakers, whose expenses of travel from Taipei were paid, were academics, politicians with some past labor experience or special interest, and a girl worker from a foreign electronics company with long experience as a representative in the local union but unaccustomed to public speaking.
There was an abundance of police and agents outside the Kaohsiung Formosa office on the morning of October 31, 1979, and indeed, even twelve riot trucks were tucked away in the school yard of the Ta Tung Primary School two blocks away. The KMT was obviously very anxious about the forces of middle-class reform meeting with the sources of social discontent. By 1 pm the limited space of the second floor of the building was jammed full with at least two hundred workers, and the stairway was already impassable. Professor Huang Yueh-chin began a long-winded speech about the theoretical functions of unions, but was interrupted by scattered youths shouting “Speak Taiwanese! We don’t understand Mandarin”, and then, after Huang switched to Taiwanese, by the same youths loudly chewing betelnut and belching. At the end of Huang’s speech Chen Chung-hsin, the moderator, announced that those disturbing the meeting would be allowed three minutes to leave — or else. In a moment it was clear that the mass of workers were sincerely and intensely interested in contact with the people of Formosa — they shoved out a dozen disrupters, quite obviously sent by the Kuomintang. Then the meeting continued in complete order.
But the KMT need not have been so paranoid. The academic speakers droned on with their endless definitions of things workers must already know, that Taiwan has no independent labor unions and management and the security forces call the shots, as the room grew more and more stuffy. The politician speakers spoke that there “must be” this, and “must be” that, without any guide to action except to vote for them — and everyone knows the political system of government assemblies is as much a farce as the labor unions. Still, the workers listened intently. Wang Tuo, a leftist writer of “native literature” with special concern for labor, issued a shrill and impassioned plea for workers to unite and take their rightful place as the vanguard of social reform. To my ears, he sounded sincere but like an ivory tower intellectual not yet experienced in dealing with the concrete situation he was talking about. Only the last speaker, Yen Kun-chang, a KMT National Assemblyman and a representative of the printers’ union since its struggles under the Japanese, brought a touch of humor, real courage, and practical pointers for action.
It was 5 pm when the floor was finally opened for discussion. The statements of the workers themselves expressed the direct problems of their lives and were much more meaningful than any of the above. But everyone was nearly asphyxiated by now, and the meeting soon adjourned without a call for further plans, except to publish the proceedings in Formosa. The sponsors then gave a banquet for the speakers that cost about as much as the rest of the activity.
However superficial this may be, severe secret police and Kuomintang pressure forced the new intellectuals to try to identify with the masses and seek active popular support, for their own preservation as well as for their ideals. Their only effective means of response to recurring government attack in the form of arrests and bannings was to call mass meetings and mobilize the populace.
The obverse process can be seen in the alliances of the Kuomintang. In recent years, KMT policy has played more and more to the megalo-conglomerates; the Kuomintang nominates people like Tsai Wan-tsai of the Cathay Investment and Trust group  as candidates. It favors the big capitalists and flays even the medium and small enterprises by discrimination in import/export quotas, bank loans, etc. Here is the contradiction that laid the base for the activities of the opposition, and determined the pattern of alliances. Thus, while the new intellectuals were themselves middle-class professionals, as politicians they necessarily led — for default of any other dissident leadership — and were supported by the exploited sectors of society and by working people in general, as well as by politically-aware portions of the middle class. Under the regimentation and antiquated ideology of the ruling Kuomintang, social adjustments natural to the development of a new industrial order — the women’s movement, the labor movement, the native literature movement — have all been hounded into the same corner and forced to stand together, united under the cry of democracy and national self-determination. At another point in history they may not, it must be recognized.
All the same, the new intellectuals’ expanded consciousness of the forces of repression and their determination to face them did not extend beyond the shores of Taiwan and the ideals of Western-type democracy, else they might have foreseen the pattern of the Philippines and other countries under American-sponsored dictators, remarkably similar to that of Taiwan even where the elite is an indigenous one: the unjust economic and social order is always upheld by the demands of international capital on compliant and complicit compradores, backed by military and secret police. The moderate reformers are always persecuted as revolutionaries, because real democracy will disturb that order. The intellectuals are dangerous to the military and secret police, because they must maintain a facade of legitimacy.
Perhaps a metaphor is appropriate. The new Taiwanese intellectuals sought to force the Kuomintang to open its closets and begin to clean out a few skeletons, e.g. Chang Chun-hong exposed the massive payoffs in the rebuilding of the Hsin Sheng Theater site. But only the Kuomintang itself knows how many hundreds of skulls would tumble down if the door were opened even a crack. The new intellectuals were not in their deepest hearts prepared for the reaction of the security forces, though they knew, in a darkness that none wanted to know, that many had passed through torture chambers and firing squads.
I was troubled to observe in the two days following the Kaohsiung incident that no one — with the exception of Shih Ming-deh, who braced himself for arrest in silence — seemed to be able to face the immense terror of the immediate threat and the widening net before us. Rather, I saw the psychological trick of extreme fear — avoidance and denial — , and I recognized it because of the many interviews I had had with political prisoners and their families. (It was probably also easier for me to observe others because I faced less possibility of arrest or torture myself.) But in brief, the common sentiment seemed to be bewilderment: “Why should they want to arrest us? We are decent people and didn’t mean any harm, just reform that would be good for the Kuomintang.” Yao Chia-wen’s statement by international telephone on December 12 reflects this: “I’ve thumbed through the whole six books of law, and I can’t find anything we are guilty of.”
Despite this moment of weakness, the new Taiwanese intellectuals are, collectively, more principled and courageous than localistic leaders or power brokers. They did dare, abstractly, to face tragedy, issuing in July 1979 the statement “We are willing to be imprisoned for the sake of the future of democracy in Taiwan.” Those remaining, not imprisoned this time, must be toughened to a new degree.
U.S. RECOGNITION OF THE PEOPLES REPUBLIC AND THE TAIWANESE REACTION
A large part of the impetus for the democratic movement was born in a sense of emergency following U.S. hints of impending relations with China during 1978, and then the final announcement on December 16, 1978 . The danger of a new, distasteful rule by non-Taiwanese, those even more powerful and ruthless than the present Chinese occupiers, seemed to be approaching rapidly. Every indication is that the ruling mainlander elite is planning only for their own futures — safe in the United States. Thus the movement was strongly nationalist — Taiwanese nationalism. Shih Ming-deh in particular embodied this nationalism, the virulently resolute nationalism continuing from an earlier period and from that bastion of Taiwanese resistance, Kaohsiung; individualistic, lonely in unremitting battle, but unsullied by the opportunism of the elites.
But in another sense, some aspects of the nationalism were even conservative, since Taiwanese self-determination could allow continuation of the social structural status quo, in an explicitly as well as de facto independent Taiwan. The new Taiwanese intellectuals originally sought the right of Taiwanese participation in the polity and democratic determination of the future. But real democracy would imply pervasive social and economic change as well. This brings us to a new point of analysis, and a new constellation of personalities, alliances, and potential mass bases as of late 1979 with the flowering of Formosa magazine — and finally the hint of a new wave to come.
The Taiwan middle and middle-upper class, while seeking its fair share of the political pie, has, like successful middle classes everywhere, desired stability. In Taiwan, as in South Korea and the previous South Vietnam, a fascist regime had used the bogeyman of an expanding communism and its supposed draconian economic equalization to cow middle-class resistance to the stifling of democracy. Of course the communist country in question may be a threat; but the martial law powers actually are designed to serve the cupidity of the ruling elite, and hence stifle economic freedom as well as political freedom.
However convinced people may or may not be by this Red scare propaganda, it is obvious to them that the Kuomintang does effectively hold the reins of power, the security forces and the military, and that considerable social ferment and armed struggle would be required to unseat it. Moreover, the Kuomintang is at present actually maintaining Taiwan’s separation from the People’s Republic of China, though in a short-sighted fashion. Though Taiwanese capitalists and upper-middle class may be disgruntled with the Kuomintang, their fear of the PRC and of disorder is greater. This attitude is usually called “renew and preserve Taiwan” (ge xin bao tai ). Thus while mouthing Taiwan nationalism in private they are more likely to largely cooperate with the Kuomintang, hoping for gradualistic reform, however tardy, and they feel justified in doing so. Many will say, “Of course we want to gain control of our own country. But we must not do anything that would hazard intervention by the Chinese communists”. A large number of those who could be seen as “Taiwan independence” in mentality and word are actually the crucial supporters of “Chiang independence”. This point must not be underestimated.
In this they are joined by many middle-class and bureaucratic mainlanders and their “liberal” second generation born in Taiwan . Indeed, the line between middle-class young educated Taiwanese and mainlanders often blurs because upwardly-mobile Taiwanese (notably those in professions rather than in business) assimilate towards the politically-dominant culture. These mainlanders have little desire to return to their homeland, except to visit, and if they have enough money to arrange a trip to Hong Kong the government will not stop them anyway. Rather, they seek reform of outward political forms in Taiwan in order to junk the paranoid old “recover the mainland” ideology of the old-timers and to dump the patently ridiculous legislature of septuagenarians, and to seek a longer-term balance of control. But such a balance as they see it is likely to incorporate the present ascendancy of the mainlanders, as a group, in the bureaucracy, the media, the police and military, and the powerful government corporations. The militancy of the middle-class mainlander second generation ranges from the allegedly conspiratorial group of National Chengchih University graduate students arrested in mid-1978 for “Taiwan independence” advocacy; to the progressive young social workers, some even from the KMT “Save the Country” Youth League, who have participated in the opposition as Kang Ning-hsiang’s campaign assistants; to the smug youths who think Taiwan is prosperous and well enough, except for a few minor reforms which will come about anyway as the old men die off. To accounts of the torture carried out by the Investigation Bureau, these latter reply limply, “Politics is dirty, I’ve never wanted to talk about it or get involved.”
In 1978 and even more so in 1979 it appeared that the short fuse set by the Kuomintang in 1971 with its withdrawal from the United Nations was drawing toward the ignition point. Many people thought the eleventh hour was at hand, far past the time when one could merely beg the Kuomintang to consider the future of everyone in Taiwan. With good reason, it was suspected that the only reason the government opened up the grating of tourist visas in January 1979 was to convenience the preparation of retreats in the U.S. for the mainlander elite. There was a brief flap in the newspapers about forbidding the holding of government jobs concurrent with “green cards” (the U.S. permanent residence card) — and since permanent U.S. residents are supposedly required to live at least one month of every year in the United States, their placed of employment in Taiwan could hardly not know or suspect — but the matter was dropped without further regulation. Thus, even the Taiwanese middle-class was pushed to a point of decision. We might label this anxiety to preserve the present prosperity of Taiwan “revolution to preserve Taiwan” (guh ming bao tai ), though clearly there were no revolutionary forces on hand, only intellectuals despaired of reform under the regime.
“REFORM AND PRESERVE TAIWAN” VERSUS “REVOLUTION TO PRESERVE TAIWAN”
At this point we may seek to understand the subtle difference in the social bases of the “reform and preserve Taiwan” position versus the “revolution to preserve Taiwan” position. There may be a differentiation of political interests: big economic cliques versus medium and small entrepreneurs, the former more closely associated with the mainlander elite. I cannot offer a definitive analysis on this, but I can see meaning in the diverging paths of two opposition leaders, Kang Ning-hsiang and Hsu Hsin-liang.
In the mid-1970s Kang Ning-hsiang was the foremost opposition leader in local politics; he occupies an important transitional point. He rose to prominence in the heart of traditional Taiwanese culture in north Taiwan, the old Manka area of Taipei , and a center of craft and market sector labor migration from southern Taiwan. It is rumored that groups from traditional Taiwanese counter-culture, “black society” gangs, were among his original supporters. He would seem to resemble past local politicians. However, he proceeded beyond the range of local politicians to ally with the new Taiwanese intellectuals, Chang Chun-hong and Yao Chia-wen, with the creation of the magazine Taiwan Political Review in 1975. Kang was unprecedently outspoken for that time. At any rate, Taiwan Political Review ended in five issues with its banning and the arrest of an editor, Huang Hua, a former political prisoner .
However, Kang was ousted from the spotlight after November 1977, when Hsu Hsin-liang was elected Taoyuan county executive, and the new Provincial Assemblymen Chang Chun-hong and Lin Yi-hsiung made the assembly halls ring with debate. By late 1978 it became clear to me that Kang was fulfilling the role of a power broker, albeit a sincere and principled one. This was consistently apparent in his handling of the cases of Chen Chu’s arrest in June 1978 and again Yu Teng-fa’s arrest in January 1979. Of course Kang would have nonetheless remained the foremost opposition leader, had he not been overtaken by the island-wide coalition of others who were more daring. How was Kang a power broker? This question deserves a full account of the Chiaotou march and its aftermath, which I will not present here. Here a small illustration will suffice.
In July and August 1978 the government proceeded with its specious travel agency regulations case against Su Hong Yueh-chiao, just elected to the Provincial Assembly. At her request, I translated documents for her and helped her in contacts with the U.S. Embassy and foreign journalists. To my surprise, when I ran into Kang in mid-August at the party celebrating Chen Chu’s fortuitous return from the clutches of the security forces, he rebuked me. Why did I do that for Su Hong, he asked indignantly. I had embarrassed him just as he was negotiating on the matter with the Taiwan Garrison Command. The question to my mind was, why would he want to contain the protest? Kang had often invited me to his house for lunch and jokingly told me that if he were the Kuomintang he would be smart enough to deport me right away; and I should consult with him before taking action. Now I could see more clearly why he would request me to seek his prior consultation.
Also true to power broker form, Kang was very much concerned with being elected to office and staying in it, even as the only active opposition legislator. Shih Ming-deh and others thought otherwise, that the more opposition candidates there were and the more militant, the larger the portion of the vote they would take; and that everyone in the opposition must take some risk in the push for expansion. Kang bitterly resented the candidacies of Huang Tien-fu and Chen Wan-chen for the December 1978 elections, feeling they imperiled his chances of re-election, and he blamed Huang Hsin-chieh and Hsu Hsin-liang for encouraging them.
As the new unity of the opposition took form in October and November 1978 in the form of the Non-KMT Candidates Campaign Coalition, with Shih Ming-deh as manager, Kang’s separation from the rest became more apparent. Huang Hsin-chieh expansively supported and funded the coalition; but Kang boycotted it, except when it supported his election efforts. Rather, Kang accepted moderate KMT elements into his campaign organization, probably in an effort to appear non-threatening. When the KMT held a conference for the stated purpose of developing dialogue with the opposition, it announced in the newspapers that Kang Ning-hsiang and Su Nan-cheng were attending. Likewise, about the time of the election, officials of the Foreign Ministry named Kang to foreign reporters as an example of a “good” opposition member. Some time later I heard complaints that his young campaign workers were being hindered by the KMT elements, and that some had shifted to work for the Chen Wan-chen/Chen Ku-ying ticket.
The gulf between Kang and others became explicit on December 16, 1978, when Taiwan received the jolting news that the U.S. had finally recognized the Peoples Republic as the legitimate government of China, and President Chiang Ching-kuo requested voluntary cessation of campaign activities. Kang issued his own statement separate from and preceding the joint statement of the Campaign Coalition. I have never seen such an emotional outburst from Shih Ming-deh as on that morning at the Campaign Coalition office. “Why doesn’t Kang Ning-hsiang dare to go to jail with us?!” he shouted as he flung down the telephone, tears streaming down his face.
As the coalition reformed after cancellation of the election, and Yu Teng-fa was arrested, and the opposition united in struggle, Kang warned: The Kuomintang is preparing to arrest all. He seemed to want to maintain his distance from the threat of arrest, only appearing occasionally and briefly at opposition activities for a superficial semblance of solidarity to the public.
Kang was right. Everyone was arrested. Kang did make bold gestures to stem the KMT crackdown, such as the article in The Asian’s first issue, pleading the case of the democratic movement leaders. And now the Kuomintang is cleaning up even the remnants of staunch opposition that it can nab easily, e.g. Chang Chun-nan and Liu Feng-sung. But should avoidance of arrest have been the main goal of the democratic movement leaders?
Kang Ning-hsiang is an important part of opposition politics in Taiwan still, and he has been re-elected with 80,000 votes. We might ask, what is his constituency? I have heard it said that a main portion of his votes now come from Tun Hua North Road, a luxurious, modern commercial and residential area of Taipei, rather than the old proletarian Manka. Kang is no longer a local politician, but rather the representative of the modern middle class, and those favoring “Reform and Preserve Taiwan”. Kang would seem to represent the continued desire of the upper-middle class to gain greater voice, but not upset the boat. In maintaining this position, his speech and publications have become almost colorless .
But Kang still represents a sizeable portion of at least moderate opposition to secret police rule. I have it from a reliable source that General Wang Sheng would sorely like to arrest Kang, but has not been allowed to do so. Is Kang’s semi-resistant approach a reasonable and astute means of publicly defying the regime, stopping just short of its limits of tolerance? Or does he also obligingly legitimize the regime, in functioning as a domesticated and “loyal” opposition — window-dressing for the Kuomintang’s facade of democracy? There is no simple answer.
The Kuomintang’s standard line is to claim that reforms and democratization are in the offing, even as it arrests and tortures those who have demanded to see the fruits of reform. To quote President Chiang the Second, “The Kaohsiung Incident will not stop our progress towards democracy”.
But to return to the comparison of Kang and Hsu Hsin-liang, I think that Hsu, educated in political science in England, saw that the mass of working class people had to be mobilized to support a push for change. It is both a criticism and a compliment to say he is a consummate politician, a populist, and a shrewd judge of the humor of his constituents.
Beginning with preparation for the December 1978 elections, Hsu Hsin-liang urged those with explicit social concern to run for election — e.g. Wang Tuo and Chen Ku-ying of China Tide affiliation — as part of the united coalition of the opposition, regardless of their espousal of Taiwanese or Chinese nationalism. Later, he and Shih Ming-deh insisted on keeping them and Su Ching-li on the board of Formosa, despite the objections and behind-the-scenes instigations of right-leaning former political prisoners who spread rumors that “the reunificationists have infiltrated Formosa”. Part of Hsu’s explanation was, “The leftists have social theory, and we need to progress as a group by learning from them.” Finally, Hsu’s eye for hard-hitting political and social critique was proven in his choice of Chen Chung-hsin for acting editor, in particular.
Despite the problems and limitations mentioned earlier, Formosa was moving, if unevenly, towards espousal of populist economic issues and solidarity with the working class at the time of its downfall. And already in the late 1970s the precursors of a new generation of political activists, far more radical in theory and more prepared for action than those preceding them, was in evidence.
THE “NEW GENERATION” AND SOCIALIST TAIWANESE NATIONALISM
There may be some truth in what a Taiwanese friend recently told me: The generations in Taiwan change every five years. The generation born in the high-fertility post-war years of the early 1950s met with an experience markedly different from that of the pre-World War II generation. They have been the actors in a vast rural to urban migration of the working population, reaching peak rate in 1969. They were forced from their homes and families and alienated from traditional Taiwanese culture by concentration in industrial areas and by a gap between urban and rural incomes on the order of NT$4,000 to NT$1,000 (US$100 to US$25) per month.
As Taiwan’s rate of industrialization spurted, 1969-73, they were the teenagers who filled the repetitive factory jobs of light industry, producing the exports of plastic, metal or wood consumer goods and electronics components. Further, they were driven to the urban centers by a desire for education and middle-class status. Teenage girls found factory employment much more readily than did teenage boys. Boys were coaxed through high school and then primed for the universal college examinations, if at all possible under the financial circumstances of their families. The common goal was white-collar status, by job or by marriage — particularly a government post with stable tenure and generous benefits .
The ideology of modern industrial society that rationalizes the profits of the owners of capital — “You too can make it big if you are smart and work hard” — set off the flood of rising expectations and a vicious rat race for upward social mobility. A portion of youth from rural or lower-middle class families made it to vocational college or university and to stable technical or commercial jobs. The spectacular rags-to-riches stories seem to be located more in the previous “generation”, those who were already mature by the start of the export boom. But other larger numbers of youth, even those with high school education, could only get skilled or semi-skilled factory jobs after their three years’ compulsory military service. And in these jobs there is a recurring threat of being forced out by harassment just as one reaches the top of the seniority scale, after five years or so of service.
As education has become more prevalent, the salary gap between blue-collar and clerical workers has closed, though of course the former labor in more hazardous and uncomfortable environments and have little hope for long-term advancement. The job market has become saturated with college graduates; but still private colleges expand and are beleaguered with applicants. In 1978 and 1979 one occasionally happened upon college graduates driving taxis “just for a while”, they hoped.
In the same period, a staunch middle class, addicted to modern consumer goods, has grown up. Their staple is a self-owned and well-furnished flat in the better areas of town; and feasts at restaurants rather than home-prepared. And the new Taiwan rich specialize in conspicuous consumption to a degree of tasteless gaudiness. The new coffee shops and restaurants drip with plastic-prism chandeliers and gold-painted plaster cupids. New and exclusive housing developments, imitating affluent American suburbs, invade the rice paddies of Shuangshi and Wulai, north and south suburbs of Taipei, respectively.
In contrast, working class men put in long hours of overtime, not uncommonly sixty hours a week, in a race to provide for the families they have little time to spend with. The national medical insurance for labor serves up second-class treatment. When a young worker loses a hand in a machine, which happens with startling frequency, his compensation is less than a month’s wages. A large portion of the work force, those in the sub-contractor family-run workshops of Sanchung and a myriad of other suburban industrial areas, have no insurance. The working class of this generation lives in concrete four-story apartment flats that have spread “like a cancer” over filled-in rice paddies, to quote a taxi driver. Their small children have no place to play; they are not safe on the noisy streets. There is generally a network of relatives and friends, but no more community of localized interests than there is for transient American apartment-dwellers. Thus there seems to be less basis for community political action. On the other hand, the broad consumer issues of air pollution, environmental degradation, food impurities, labor insurance, industrial hazards, and compensation to victims have become generalized to the whole island.
This “new generation” has just been reaching the age of stable social participation in employment and marriage; 1975 was a peak year for the proportion of total women then at highest childbearing age, age 23. This also represents a shift in voter composition that I believe is part of the force behind the rise of the democratic movement. It is a relatively educated, urbane, politically cognizant generation. Trained in school to believe that the Kuomintang Party has a democratic mandate to rule the people — and only acquainted with the paralyzing terror of the 2-28 massacre and subsequent purges through the vague accounts of fearful and tight-lipped elders — the “new generation” has reacted with innocent surprise and indignation to revelations of KMT election-rigging and security agency atrocities. Workers’ experience with excessive regimentation in foreign-invested factories, unions carefully controlled by Chinese management and security force heavies, and dangerous work conditions and belching smokestacks undisturbed despite the trappings of government inspection, has planted the kernel of resentment against exploiters.
It must also be apparent to most people that in about 1977 American brand-name consumer goods, both imported and made under local agreement, began to appear on the Taiwan market in unprecedented quantity — RCA televisions, Ford cars, Herbal shampoo, Manhattan shirts, Scott toilet tissue, even such oddities to Taiwan cultural habit as deodorants and Johnson & Johnson articles of feminine hygiene. And in 1978 or so a delicious but expensive orange juice drink, made from concentrate of California and Florida oranges, appeared at the local store coolers. Taiwan is a major producer of oranges and fruit orchards have been one of the few profitable agricultural ventures. But the Kuomintang, like an aging prostitute trying to keep her customers by lowering her prices, has bought huge quantities of such surplus commodities from the United States at above-world-market prices, in order to bribe the U.S. away from abandoning the “Republic of China” entirely in favor of the Peoples Republic. It has also increased the rate of allowable annual foreign capital repatriation from 15% to 20%. The national sell-out of the interests of the workers and the consumers can be expected to escalate.
A new element has emerged in the dissident intellectual leadership of this generation. The potential and quality of this new element suddenly became apparent with the formal organization of Formosa: The Magazine of Taiwan’s Democratic Movement, and it began to play an important role. This new, or rather resurrected, element could be called socialist Taiwanese nationalism.
I trust that it is not just my subjective impression that there has been a new development of Marxist Taiwan nationalism. In late October 1978, as I remember, the head of the Taiwan Garrison Command’s rehabilitation and reform center, the Brotherly Love Villa (Ren Ai Zhuang ) located on the south hills of Panchiao, “invited” Shih Ming-deh (nickname Nori) for a return visit; he had been there for the last year of his previous fifteen years’ imprisonment. Nori and I went, accompanied by two American reporters. While the head officials took Nori to a separate room and expressed their concern for him, that he might be returned to their custody if he became mired in politics, specifically if he served as manager of the opposition campaign coalition, another official took me and the reporters on a tour of this idyllic camp. It had broad lawns with hand-cut grass, and impressive vocational education shops, every tool and display in its place, faintly covered with a film of dust. I sharply questioned our guide. He seemed truly benevolent, to his own mind. “We don’t call the people here ‘prisoners’, we call them ‘students’. They study history and the thought of Sun Yat-Sen eight hours a day. We treat them with love, and over 90% of them have reformed to love our government by the time they are released. We have Taiwan independence elements and pro-China communists; but also in the last few years there have been a growing number of leftist Taiwan independence cases.” I believe he was in a position to know the trend, at least impressionistically.
Why should there be such a shift, a noticeable if not yet prevalent one, in political currents of opposition? I believe the underlying reason is the social restructuring of Taiwan, as sketched above. However, on the surface we may see the development of changing currents in intellectual thought, and the ripples from events happening far away in other countries. Travel from Taiwan and the attention of the government-controlled media is especially focussed on the United States and Japan, the countries that Taiwan’s regime is dependent on. Specifically, the 1971-72 Diaoyutai movement  activated and reshaped the thinking of large numbers of Chinese and Taiwanese students overseas. At that time China was boasting of the glories of its Great Cultural Revolution, which would create the “new communist man”. American campuses were still tumultuous with anti-imperialism and protest against the Vietnam War. With this and the debut of a new, prestigious China on the world scene, taking over the China seat in the United Nations and hosting President Nixon, it is not surprising that many Taiwanese students, not merely the mainlanders from Taiwan, joined in the Diaoyutai movement. This wave of nationalism, anti-imperialism, and Marxism set off ripples on Taiwan’s intellectual scene in the following years, most notably embodied in the magazine China Tide.
Two factors served to change the direction of the wave as it washed up against the concrete environment of Taiwan. First of all, the basic Maoist directive to intellectuals, “go to the masses”, made Taiwanization of the movement inevitable. It was often college students from poorer rural or lower-class backgrounds that were most attracted to the Maoist themes — even the Maoist themes as distorted in Kuomintang propaganda — and most intent on seeing them in practice. One such student said, “Why should we waste time debating on the Gang of Four? Our task is to uproot fascism and imperialism here!” Ironically, the China Tide group, espousing Chinese nationalism, led the search for the roots of Taiwan culture and researched the Taiwan peasant and worker movements of the 1930s. Those armchair leftists and China chauvinists who believed that Taiwanese cannot liberate themselves from imperialism, and counselled awaiting the assistance of China, fell behind. Others such as Wang Tuo and Chen Ku-ying joined the open struggle for democratic representation and freedom of speech and became part of the mass movement.
Second, the fall of the Gang of Four and the revelation of the excesses committed during the Cultural Revolution wore the gloss off Chinese nationalism, as did China’s paternalistic and condescending “Statement to Taiwan Compatriots”. Would China do as it promised to the Kuomintang, leave its government, economic and police structures intact, if the Kuomintang admitted Peoples Republic sovereignty? That seemed to be capitulation to both fascism and imperialism, violating the principles it had championed. Or would it support the Taiwan people’s struggle? The latter seemed less likely. Those pitted against the secret police of the Kuomintang could not but be alienated.
Another current of socialist thinking flowed in Christian religious circles, reflecting the reorientation of religious conscience during the last decade, as the churches have tried to meet the challenge of popular revolutionary movements in the Catholic countries of Central and South America — that is, liberation theology, a philosophy of moral action on the social environment of the present world. Liberation theology flourished in Taiwan among the youth of the Presbyterian Church and the foreign Catholic missionaries, specifically the Maryknollers with their Peace and Justice Mission, both groups having deep and enduring communion with the native Taiwanese people. Here there was no ambiguity of nationalistic stance. The Presbyterian Church has repeatedly since 1971 called on the Chiang regime to declare Taiwan independent. And the Presbyterian Church has a strong community service program for development of the social conscience of its young ministers.
This description of intellectual currents does not attribute causation to them, per se. Rather, it is the basic shift in social relations after industrialization that is the underlying cause. The various intellectual currents articulate the changing situation of the social structure in which the young generation finds itself, but the effect is much more diffuse than any one ideology: the youth championing Western liberal democracy and even those of the KMT’s youth corps are affected. I have heard sociology students at Fujen University say, “We see the workers at the nearby Hsinchuang factories going to work every day. They are just the same age we are, but they work so much harder, and have to endure such poor conditions. Everyone knows our economy depends on the export industry. And those workers are the ones who make the export products. We college students are privileged, but we are just parasites on society. We wish we could understand and join with them.” This is mirrored by the views of young workers, whom I have heard to say, “We factory workers are the real backbone of the economy. Yet the college students get all the social status, and we are looked down on. We deserve better than that!”
Much of the emerging social concern of the youth has no more theoretical analysis than the liberalism of those ten years older. But this overall change is the social base for potential leadership by the young Taiwanese socialists. Though perhaps they are a smaller portion of all “new generation” activists, fewer in number than the young liberals who follow and imitate the new middle-class intellectuals, the socialist-leaning youth have played a more important role in the democratic movement than their numbers would warrant. As the middle-class intellectual leaders moved into confrontation with the Kuomintang and aroused the mass movement, it was the socialist-leaning youth who participated in greater numbers, despite the obvious dangers.
Young liberals were more likely to be content with elegant essay-writing, say on the staff of The Eighties, Kang Ning-hsiang’s magazine. I often encountered what could be called the smart college student syndrome, rather elitist young people who specialized in liberal posturing and anti-government cynicism. They would want to know as much as possible about the opposition, to feel they were “in the know”, and would occasionally put their pens to an article, but they disdained ordinary routine work. Such people were generally of minimal utility to the mass movement. This is not to deny that some young liberals, such as Lin Cheng-chieh, have made major contributions to the democratic movement.
On the aspect of nationalism, much of the “new generation” activists of the opposition were ambiguous. While the elders fairly clearly and emotionally formed opposing camps of Taiwan independence (du ) and reunification (tong?, the youth seemed to embrace their cultural heritage as it is, originating from either the recent wave of Chinese migration or from native Taiwanese tradition, while rejecting the elitist elements of both. Both Taiwan independence and reunification as formulated by the elders were irrelevant to the actions of the youth, the former because Taiwan has been a de facto political entity isolated from China for nearly all of the last eighty years, and the latter because China has shown no sign of assisting those progressives who are inspired by Chinese nationalism. Those who waited for “Big Brother” across the Straits or who looked to reformism within the Kuomintang saw no reason to risk sacrifice in the immediate struggle. In the context of the public democratic movement, active participation was the crucial measure of commitment to Taiwan — and thus a nascent Taiwanese nationalism.
Hsu Hsin-liang and Shih Ming-deh cultivated and recruited the socialist-leaning youth for the Formosa staff, because of their perception that these youths were dedicated to action, and that they had sophisticated social theories that lent themselves to a mass movement — though neither Hsu nor Shih bothered with the social theories per se, nor did they grasp the implications of the different social theories. They would use enthusiastic young liberals just the same.
What role did the emerging “young Taiwan socialists” play in the Formosa organization? Though few in number, they were the power behind the editorial department — and are epitomized in Chen Chung-hsin, the actual managing editor. It suspect that it is to him that we owe the clear and firmly self-confident editorial statements of the magazine — no hedging or begging for reform. It was his policy to devote one-third of each issue to analysis of concrete economic issues, exposing the compradore nature of the Kuomintang regime and the pattern of U.S. economic imperialism. The level of discourse of the magazine was far beyond that of the liberal leadership itself, yet it was the natural vanguard of the direction of development of the movement: middle-class liberal leadership seeking a mass base in the petty bourgeois, farm, and working classes, to resist the pressure of totalitarian repression.
THE GENERATION GAP: “NEW GENERATION”, AGE 25,
VERSUS “NEW INTELLECTUALS”, AGE 40
Despite the working relationship as described, the anti-imperialist youth chafed under the command of the Meilidao central leadership, which they often saw as legalistic, authoritarian, and narrow in social vision.
Under Su Ching-li’s coordination, the real working editorial staffs of the opposition magazines, Formosa, Spring Breeze (of China Tide heritage), and The Eighties, began holding joint monthly meetings in October 1979, as if to form an alternative center of communication and direction for the new generation activists. The difference in orientation between the new middle-class intellectuals and the socialist-leaning youth was shown in countless small interactions.
As Meilidao became established and demonstrated its capacity for resistance to the Kuomintang, it became the object of spontaneous petitions for assistance, some political, some non-political. It would seem that recourse to government in Taiwan still has some of the flavor of the imperial magistracy system of the Ching Dynasty. In latter 1979 I sometimes felt that the populace treated us, the dang wai (outside the ruling party), as the real and just magistrates of the land, and the Kuomintang officials as temporary, venal usurpers. They petitioned us for redress of grievances as they might petition any official responsible to the people, though for the most part we were powerless to respond.
The cases were legion. A woman complained about an unjust land ownership decision, which she claimed was due to the other litigant bribing the judge. But her attitude towards the Formosa staff also smacked of bribery, as she promised lavish dinners to everyone she could get to listen to her plight. An elected village head reported threats and coercion from the local KMT Party apparatus against him. A group of laborers, who had the unionized rights to truck loading and unloading in a particular area, were denied their employment by a large construction company that was building in the area. Local police, seemingly on the dole of the construction company, would repeatedly arrest the laborers when they appeared at the work site and hold them for a day or two. The laborers, themselves uneducated and unable to speak Mandarin, necessary for official communications, were particularly incensed that the newspapers in reporting on the conflict had portrayed them as hooligans and troublemakers.
This last case was of especial interest from the point of social action and grass roots mobilization. It involved about two dozen plaintiffs, it was a clear case of denial of the rights of workers with the collaboration of government functionaries, and it could probably be influenced by articles printed in our magazine. But the leaders on hand just referred the case to Wang Tuo, as if it were his exclusive business, since he was concerned with labor and from that area, and dismissed the visitors in a desultory manner. The Meilidao leaders thought in terms of present constituencies to be embraced for purposes of parliamentary representation, as a political party in a democratic country might do, rather than in terms of underlying social forces and their autonomous mobilization, as a leftist would.
Among the youth in the Meilidao organization, Tsai You-chuan, a recent graduate of the Tainan Theological Seminary, as well as other “liberation theologists” working with the opposition such as Lin Hong-hsuan, pushed for the establishment of progressive educational and cultural programs, but were generally ignored. Tsai You-chuan, as Shih Ming-deh’s assistant, was charged with distribution of the magazine; he resented, however, being bogged down with paperwork and subordinate to the penny-pinching accounting of Huang Tien-fu. He insisted that he had trained to be a minister in order to serve the people of Taiwan, that he had come to Meilidao to address the deeper political and social problems of the people, but he ended up with the daily duties of a petty businessman. Tsai demanded that Meilidao develop real egalitarianism and comradely love. But instead, on at least two occasions Huang Hsin-chieh labelled Tsai with the epithet “communist” when speaking on the telephone, which we all knew to be recorded by the secret police.
Tsai You-chuan and others of the liberation theology mold remained romanticists in many ways, sometimes as naive as the liberals, hoping for a continuing series of breakthroughs in the capacity of the democratic movement to stand up against the dictatorship. Tsai You-chuan’s youthful bravado was beautiful to watch; he seemed to model himself on Che Guevara. The months of 1979 seemed like a miracle, the organization grew in structure and numbers with every passing week, despite the repeated crises of arrests and the internal problems of its explosive growth. By November 1979 we spoke as if political terror were a thing of the past, some dark age long ago and long gone. We did not have a deep political analysis or knowledge of the experiences of other countries, to sense the impending crackdown, or fathom the risks and price the Kuomintang would be willing to chance to put down the democratic movement organization.
One more small incident served to highlight the tension between the “new generation” in the editorial department and the older leadership. The fourth issue of Formosa went to press a few days after its labelled date, November 25, 1979. Our young artist, who had already turned out the striking red, green, and yellow covers of the first three issues that had become our banner standard, designed a cover of black with brilliant red and blue highlights, “like Time magazine”, he said. But this design was stopped in press when Huang Hsin-chieh stopped by the print shop near his house in the Chungking North Road area. He called it inauspicious, especially in conjunction with the number four, homonymous in Taiwanese with the word “death”, and he ordered the cover changed to blue. Chang Chun-hong concurred with Huang. In response, the whole editorial office ridiculed this traditional superstition, especially that the leaders of a modern political movement would fear it. They protested “The editorial department does not interfere with your mass activities; you have no right to interfere with our editorial decisions.” The artist resigned angrily. The sharpness of this petty argument on a deeper level reflected the long-term complaint of the youth that they were given no right to participate in shaping the political policies. And as it happens, changing the cover to blue did not ward off impending disaster. Issue number four sold over 110,000 copies, and it was the last.
The placards and the songs of the Kaohsiung Human Rights Day March, December 10, 1979, were the handiwork of the liberation theory youth; for the first time they were allowed to express, in their usual bold and direct way, their concern for those oppressed. The placards read: “Give back our freedom of speech!”, “Economic equality for everyone!”, “Stop exploitation of the farmers!”. Their songs were marching songs, militantly evangelical in spirit: “Democracy we will struggle for; human rights we will uphold”. Their impetuous disdain for Kuomintang authority and confidence in the strength of the people could be seen at the December 9 sit-in on the steps of the Kushan precinct police station, as we demanded return of our arrested and beaten announcement truck volunteers. The confrontation and trap was laid by forces far beyond those of the Kushan precinct station.
But this is getting ahead of the story. The next section will describe how these generational swells of dissident consciousness merged into the sudden tidal wave of the democratic movement.
THE STRUCTURE OF FORMOSA, A POLITICAL PARTY WITHOUT THE NAME
This article has described several “generations” of leaders of political opposition to the Kuomintang dictatorship. These types of leaders may be seen as products of particular stages of social and economic development in Taiwan’s recent history, as has been described in previous sections. Although they tend to originate in different periods (and in different sectors of the economy, e.g. modern urban professional versus small town self-employed businessman), and thus tend to be separated in age by seven to ten years on the average, age is not the important criterion of these types. Rather, their ideology and form of political action are the crucial criteria of my typology. Thus I have not described as a separate category those liberal youth of the “new generation” who hold more-or-less the same ideology as the decade-older new middle-class intellectuals.
I have described five main types of political dissidents active in the public eye: the traditional elite; the local politicians (staunch or opportunistic to varying degrees); the power-brokers of the modern middle and upper classes; the new middle-class Taiwanese intellectuals; and the socialist-leaning youth (of both Taiwanese and Chinese nationalist varieties). This typology should provide a key to understanding the form of the recent democratic movement, and to predicting its future development. There were also present in Taiwan society, but very hard to detect because they had been subjected to severe suppression, battered fragments of the Taiwanese communists of the 1930s, Chinese communist and “Third-Force” liberal intellectuals, and Taiwanese nationalist revolutionaries. In 1977 many had only recently been released from long imprisonment, most too broken to stand; few became significant actors in the democratic movement, but a great many were furtive assistants.
Three types participated enthusiastically in the public democratic movement: the staunch local politicians, the new middle-class intellectuals, and the socialist-Taiwanese nationalist youth. The new middle-class intellectuals were the spearhead of organization and political advance.
The democratic movement grew with expectations of reform through full use of the political forms established by the Kuomintang — elections and legal remedies. The leaders seemed to have full faith in democratic procedures as an ideal and as the means to political change in Taiwan. This could be called reformism. But the leaders knew full well that the Kuomintang does not abide by its own laws; they knew they faced great danger; and they sought to use the indignation of the people to force KMT compliance with law and democratic procedure. They believed this could be a gradualistic process — but they would not wait passively for the Kuomintang to initiate liberalization, they would challenge the limits. They did not have a revolutionary ideology, but that does not mean that the leaders did not envision a possible future stage of revolution, nor that they would shrink from revolution if it were possible. However, the means for non-violent pressure for change within the system had not yet been exhausted.
It is my impression that the core of five believed that the Kuomintang would spontaneously fragment, become isolated, and lose its control of the society, even collapse, if freedom of speech and opposition party organization were achieved. This is reflected in two points Shih Ming-deh made at the sedition trial in March 1980: 1) the Formosa organization was “a party without the name”, and 2) with democratic processes, a government can be legally overthrown. They did seek the overthrow of the Kuomintang Party, by constitutional and non-violent methods.
With this image of political change, and their basic ideology of liberal democracy, it is logical that the leadership saw as its foremost task the struggle for freedom of speech — in order to expose the true character of the Kuomintang — and the formation of a coalition like a political party in a democratic country — to take over the national legislatures. This is consistent with the structure and activities of the Formosa organization. Shih Ming-deh occasionally stated his strategy of confrontation: Meilidao leaders would insist on speaking, even if surrounded by police, machine guns and tanks. But in such a confrontation, both populace and police would become accustomed to these activities, and gradually lose their mutual fear. To a considerable degree, this was our experience in October and November of 1979.
It is a sign of the resolute stance of the democratic movement leadership and their determination to challenge martial law that they embraced a former political prisoner for the job of central coordinator. Most politicians avoid former political prisoners like the plague, as if to deny such a fate could befall them — or as if to show they do not wish to offend the government. Shih Ming-deh, though his background was quite different, shared many of the qualities of the new middle-class intellectuals: respect for the meritocracy of education, an individualistic philosophy of struggle and leadership, and basically liberal-democratic political ideals. His own formal education was limited; he was expelled from high school for writing protest posters. But he studied linguistics and international law during his 15-year imprisonment. His sense of history and sharp logic was shown in his trial testimony. But his entry into military school and formation of an underground revolutionary organization early in life  shows he is more eminently a man of action. This steeliness and determination, tempered by the long years in jail, set him apart from the new middle-class intellectuals.
Though acutely aware of the discrimination and danger he faced, Shih entered public political activity under the alias Hsu Yi-wen (from the phrase bu xu yi wen, “not even a thread”) in November 1977 as Su Hong Yueh-chiao’s campaign manager, only four months after release from prison. As a former political prisoner, he may have appeared to some to be a feared intruder on the political scene. However, through 1978 he maintained contact with opposition members in the Provincial Assembly. After meeting Lei Chen in September he suggested the formation of a political party to Kang Ning-hsiang and Chang Chun-hong; they replied the time was not ripe.
From mid-1978 Shih cultivated contacts with students of the Tainan Theological Seminary, National Taiwan University, and National Chengchih University. His presence seemed to make a strong emotional impact on them. He identified with them in a challenge to the older established opposition politicians. This relationship was clearly marked by a short introductory article written by a youthful admirer (Chiu Yi-jen) for his June 1978 booklet Suggestions for the Establishment of a Fourth National Assembly. To quote: “As for those of the new generation whose standard of intelligence is higher and who believe in democratic politics, what they respect is political conscience, not so-called ‘political intelligence’. Because democratic politics does not need ‘masters’ or ‘godfathers’. . . . Brother Hsu is one of the few reasons the new generation can still have trust in the previous generation.”
I saw Shih Ming-deh (whom we also called “Nori” from the Japanese pronunciation of the last character of his name, a form of nickname common to his generation) as a heroic Taiwan nationalist with a strong social conscience. His nationalism was uncompromising, but did not fear or discriminate against mainlanders. Many of the friends most willing to help him in daily matters were mainlander political prisoners, former prison-mates.
Shih Ming-deh never doubted the power of the common Taiwanese people to throw off the Chinese oppressors. He had a shrewd sense of their potential strength. He was concerned with directly spurring a spirit of resistance in civil disobedience (he had spent much time reading Mahatma Gandhi), and cared little about the effect of the twisted propaganda of the Kuomintang media on the middle or upper classes. He could be called a utopian socialist, one who would perhaps apply rather authoritarian welfare programs in his ideal state.
The long experience of incarceration seemed to have confirmed his reticent and secretive nature; even junior high school classmates remember him thus. He faced the sadness of alienation from his daughters and the chronic pain of his spinal injury (from a beating with a rifle barrel) alone. He could not ask anyone to share his pain and danger. I think that is why he sometimes appeared to be lacking in empathy and comradeship, even cold.
Sometimes I think that the opposition organization could not have snowballed the way it did without Shih Ming-deh. In general the liberal intellectuals did not see the stark reality of the coercive machine of the state, and believed too much in the power of talk and negotiation. Nor did they have quite the raw guts, as did Shih Ming-deh, to issue an ultimatum to the Taiwan Garrison Command, “Either we give speeches here, or we march in the streets”.
As for the formation of Formosa magazine (Meilidao), it cannot be said that when registration of magazines was reopened by the government in March 1979, and Huang Hsin-chieh considered applying for a publishers’ license, there was a plan as developed as what eventually came about. The organization developed step-by-step with the formalization of informal arrangements. But Shih Ming-deh certainly had a grand vision; in April he began to seek a large modern office in the prestigious area of Jen Ai Rd. and Chi Nan Rd.
Shih Ming-deh, forever scheming charters and organizational plans, carefully structured the allowable role of each group of political opposition within the island-wide organization. The first thing that was noticeable was that the Formosa headquarters was formalized as the central organization, even as if in parody of the Kuomintang Party Headquarters. Formally, under this were the Meilidao Publishing Company, the Meilidao Book Distribution Company, the Meilidao Foundation, and the Taiwan Human Rights Association; the Opposition Candidates Friendship Alliance organized by Lu Hsiu-lien and Chang Chun-nan, a candidate in Changhua, was associated. Secondly, the island-wide reach of the organization was generally based on the campaign structures of the strong local opposition candidates, which were joined together as an apparently commercial organization. Thus as a whole the organization was dependent on and perhaps had more personal contact with medium and small capitalists, small-town petty bourgeois and semi-traditional labor, than with the modern labor force regimented in large native and foreign factories. The regional offices of the book distribution company were set up by the candidates and their campaign assistants, in most cases. In the cities a separate office was generally rented and specially furnished, e.g. a three-story building in Taichung, but in outlying areas the facilities were less pretentious. For example, for the opening of the office in Pingtung, Chiu Mao-nan had built three rows of shelves on a side wall and added one desk in the store-front room of his rice-milling shop on the main street of Pingtung town. Bags of rice to be milled were stacked up to within fifteen feet from the shelves and desk. But in spite of the small size of the facilities, the political impact was notable; on opening day 300 pairs of congratulatory flower wreaths lined the street for four blocks in front of the shop.
Shih Ming-deh made sure that the profits from distribution of the magazine went only for political purposes, and not to private profit, even in the regional offices. Unlike The Eighties, which was the private enterprise of Kang Ning-hsiang, Formosa was conceived as a political party in everything but name. This was announced with the photograph and list of editorial board members on the back cover of the first issue; it was an obvious reincarnation of the Non-KMT Candidates Campaign Coalition. Part of the purpose of the magazine, as defined by Hsu Hsin-liang, was to provide livelihood for young activists, who were appointed to manage the regional offices. By the third issue gross monthly profits were NT$ 100 wan (about US$ 25,000), a considerable fund. Local dignitaries and popular figures with a history of resistance to the Kuomintang were enrolled as members of the local foundation boards. This was intended to be an honorary position, with some financial largess expected of them to support the expenses of the local office.
The members of the regional foundation boards were generally in their fifties and sixties, and more cautious and less resolute in their political stance than the young activists. Although the branch offices were supposed to be under the control of the Meilidao-appointed heads and the full-time young activists, in some cases the foundation board would treat the young activist like a secretary, especially if the activist were a woman, and countermand the orders sent out by the headquarters.
A case in point is that on October 17-18 when Formosa was under serious threat of being closed down on the excuse that the magazine had insulted the Korean Embassy with an article on south Korea’s exploitation of its farmers, the headquarters mobilized the regional offices to post large signs protesting foreign interference in internal affairs. In Taichung, however, the signs were taken down by the foundation members as soon as they were pressured by the local police, not long after the posters were put up by the office activists.
By the last month of operation, there were fifty persons on the payroll. The standard wage for editors and managers and activists was NT$10,000 (US$ 250), rather meager for a head of household. There was a serious shortage of secretaries, accountants, and such stable clerical help. Chang Mei-chen, the younger sister of Chang Chun-hong, who served Shih Ming-deh faithfully since April 1979 and did most of the busy work in setting up the headquarters office, was the only secretary who came into the organization from the route of political activism. Other young activist women, Tien Chiu-chin and Hsiao Yu-chen, had already been recruited by Provincial Assemblyman Lin Yi-hsiung to work on the issues brought to him by his constituents; the two also researched social issues, labor and pollution respectively. Since no other choices were available, and generally it would be a waste to assign clerical work to young activists, three secretaries were transferred from Yao Chia-wen’s legal office; they earned monthly salaries of NT$ 15,000 (US$ 375), creating the rather uneven effect that those less politically committed earned the most.
A complication similar to that of the highly-paid secretaries was the system of volunteer labor that developed. As the organization grew, more and more ordinary people, usually workers in occupations with irregular hours or self-employed, often friends of various candidates, would come up to Taipei to help out for a few days at a time, or just come over whenever needed. There was quite a lot of labor to be done, moving 30,000 magazines just for the Taipei area into and out of the storeroom, delivering to book stores, rearranging the premises as the operation continually expanded as if to split its seams, and trying to keep the offices clean with so many people coming and going. After the work was done, the office would order in packaged rice and meat dinners from nearby restaurants for the volunteers. But the regular staff ate much better.
Leaders outside of the core five often went to considerable effort for the organization, but there was some concern as to whether they could be entrusted with carrying out key functions, because of rivalry for leadership among the candidates still awaiting the opportunity to run for office. Rivalry is built into a coalition like Meilidao that developed from electoral politics. Lu Hsiu-lien is a case in point. An extremely sharp-witted and capable woman, Lu felt she should be admitted to the core leadership. She also had free time, since the Kuomintang destroyed her scheme for setting up a feminist-themed meeting center for youth in early 1979. That she was not admitted perhaps reflected a degree of sexism by the leadership.
Lu Hsiu-lien prepared the office furniture and facilities of the Jen Ai Road headquarters in June, partially from her own funds. The entire balcony on the side of the office, which was on the ninth floor, was fenced over with a decorative iron grill, so that the secret police need not worry whether Meilidao officers might “accidentally” fall. We especially remember her for the bold black-and-white circle and grid design wall paper, and the large horizontal scroll with the characters “Democracy, unity, love Taiwan”. However, she did not seem to have quite the daring that marked the core five; she was absent from the first several pioneering political protests. Nor was she enthusiastic about human rights issues and assistance for political prisoners. The groups she organized within the opposition camp, the Opposition Candidates Friendship Alliance and the Opposition Women’s Club, seemed calculated to establish her status. Otherwise, she was one of the most outstanding of the new middle-class intellectuals, and perhaps the most innovative in devising forms of groups participation, as she showed in the gatherings she organized for Women’s Day and Youth Day. Lu Hsiu-Lien in fact was titled vice-chairman of the organization, but the aspect of rivalry led to a diminishing of her role.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
We can only expect that the tide of Taiwan nationalism and social concern will swell, not decrease. Firstly, the situation resulting from industrialization, e.g. environmental degradation, extreme dependence on the export trade, resulting unstable employment, and the growing need for and rising price of oil and energy, will not be resolved in the foreseeable future. The new generation will continue to mature, and to propagate its egalitarian concern for society as a whole. Secondly, Taiwanese nationalism is likely to become more and more explicit, since reformism in the present system has been dealt a decisive blow. Taiwan nationalism is implicit in protest against the present order, even if the words are not spoken. The regime consists of and serves those who can flee to safe refuge across the ocean, the bureaucratic and economic compradors. Their plans emphasize short-term solutions to the crisis of their legitimacy. But those whose home is Taiwan, who have no means of escape, both Taiwanese and mainlanders, have a common interest in Taiwan’s long-term development, and no interest in amalgamation with China, if only for basic economic reasons. From a Marxist perspective, nationalism grows out of concrete conditions, both historical and current.
As I see it in retrospect, from a larger view of social forces, historical development, and the liberal ideology of the leaders, the fate of the democratic movement of 1979 was sealed by the form of the mass movement and by the internal structure of the organization. The new middle-class intellectual leaders thought to stir up the support of the masses and direct them by the force of their words, and then build an organization from the top down. Their lines of communication and control to the bottom were insufficient to begin with, of course. The outcome was that their mass base was subject to premature reaction to Kuomintang-orchestrated provocation, as at the Kaohsiung Incident, leading to the excuse for their arrest, that the opposition had attempted a mass uprising. We may speculate, fatalistically, that this was a necessary step in the maturation of the democratic movement, and it carries forward the process of political development.
Here I must quote Shih Ming-deh. “To regret paying the price for the pursuit of one’s ideals is to desecrate those ideals”. That 50-some persons are now imprisoned and that many have suffered irreparable damage does not belittle their achievements, nor is it cause for regret. Our greatest tribute to them is to build on their achievements and to learn from their mistakes.
THE SEESAW OF REPRESSION AND REFORM
We have seen some victories in the last election, that the wives and friends of those arrested were not prevented from running as candidates. Moreover, there has been a growing pressure on the Kuomintang from some of its own nominees, who want to prove their mettle matches that of the opposition candidates, for the sake of the support of their constituency. Such pressure from both within and without the Kuomintang may continue to build. This is a symptom of the general progress of the populace’s political understanding. But it cannot be hoped that the reins of power will ever be democratically shared as a result of this. The regime is clever enough to use elections as a decoy, a distraction to the real issues. The seesaw pattern of liberalization and repression has been clear enough over the past ten years. It may be explained as follows.
Taiwan falls into the pattern of several Asian military-technocrat dictatorships with export economies. The task of the highest control, here Chiang Ching-kuo and his henchmen, is to balance the needs of a modern, relatively prosperous system of economic exploitation with the needs of political and military maintenance of the exploitative social relations — balance the technocrats with the secret police, both develop business and discipline labor. In the distorted mentality of the security forces — “Neanderthals”, some American diplomats in Taiwan have reportedly named them — the people are ants under their boots. The security agencies are accustomed to control by terror; they must often be restrained by the central authority. On the other hand, the “liberal” technocrats, the bureaucratic economists and managers, as well as their American commercial friends, lament the occasional publicly-revealed excesses of the security agencies. Obvious repression is damaging to foreign investment and the smooth operation of the economy. The technocrats find torture and murder extremely embarrassing, but they complacently assert that martial law is necessary for “social stability” — a social order that is rigged in their favor. They do not actively oppose the system of repression, but rather after the political offenders are put away for long jail terms they make some gestures of concern and insist that things are getting better. Opposition candidates are again allowed to vent some grievances, and magazine registrations are opened again, to replace those banned. The cycle of swift and stern punishment followed by conciliatory gestures of reform is necessary to the overall functioning of the military-technocrat comprador system.
The wives of the imprisoned Meilidao leaders will keep the torch of the democratic movement burning, with the symbolic victory of their election, but they cannot be expected to carry it forward. As legislators, they are rather likely to become bogged down in the details of constituents’ complaints. Taiwanese overseas generally only see the public actors, and pin all their hopes on them, erroneously. Even a new crop of talented middle-class dissident intellectuals is not likely to surpass the achievements or surmount the failures of the Formosa organization. Liberal-democratic ideology alone is not competent to undermine this system.
Just as the type of local politician that grew from Taiwan’s pre-industrial society was still present in the democratic movement under the new middle-class intellectuals, the lukewarm liberal-democratic ideology of the middle-class intellectuals will linger long beyond its functional contribution to political development. On the public scene it may indeed predominate, with discussion of elections, legal processes, and constitutionality, because those who have learned the lesson of 1979 will seek other directions. The socialist-leaning youth may seek direct contact with the grass roots of society, patiently building up interest groups based on occupational or community issues. Others may seek to form, perhaps prematurely, armed underground networks.
It is the task of Taiwanese abroad to learn from the experiences of other countries and help chart a path for a new phase of the democratic movement.
1. A convenient source for this background, with considerable detail, is Marc J. Cohen, Taiwan at the Crossroads, 1988. Washington D.C.: Asia Resource Center. The authoritative source on the 1947 massacres is George H. Kerr, 1966, Formosa Betrayed. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode. In 1991 the government designated a commission of academics to research the 1947 incident. Their assessment is that 18,000 – 28,000 people were killed (Independence Weekly Post No. 143, February 28, 1992, p. 3).
2. This was a wedding party for Shih Ming-deh and Linda Gail Arrigo. We had been married earlier on June 15, 1978; I was resisting impending deportation for my human rights work and Shih was in immediate danger of re-arrest. Since all political meetings were subject to suppression under martial law, personal events often served as political gatherings as well. For the October 15, 1978 party the “double happiness” character was designed with a double tai for Taiwan; the wedding march was “Green Island Evening Song” (the penal island); and among the four hundred guests were about thirty former political prisoners.
3. Lei Chen was a prominent liberal member of the government of the Republic of China before its retreat to Taiwan. In 1960 he allied with Taiwanese opposition politicians to try to form a new party from the base of his magazine Free China, for which effort he served ten years. The wedding party was his first and last public appearance since release; he was felled with a stroke ten days after.
4. The first detailed non-government account of the Kaohsiung Incident was published in The Seventies, a leftist Chinese monthly magazine published in Hong Kong, January 1980. This was based on an interview with Arrigo, an eyewitness. A Taiwanese-American group printed a booklet in English on the Kaohsiung Incident (Herb Thomas, Repression in Taiwan, 1980. New York and Leucadia, CA: The Asian Center and Formosan Association for Human Rights.), as did the Asia Forum for Human Rights, Hong Kong.
5. The March 16-30, 1980 trial of eight main defendants was the subject of a book by a Stanford law professor who was present as an observer: John Kaplan, The Court-Martial of the Kaohsiung Defendants, 1981. Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California – Berkeley. It was widely covered in English Hong Kong publications such as Far Eastern Economic Review, Asia Week, and South China Morning Post, and in Chinese in Orient Newspaper (Yuan Dong Re Bao). The eight and their sentences were: Shih Ming-deh, life; Huang Hsin-chieh, 14 years; Chang Chun-hung, Lin Yi-hsiung, Yao Chia-wen, Ms. Chen Chu, Ms. Lu Hsiu-lien and Lin Hung-hsuan (young Presbyterian minister), each 12 years. Sixty defendants were tried in civilian courts for direct involvement in the riot and were sentenced to up to six years. Another ten, including the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, Rev. Kao Chun-ming, were arrested in April and sentenced to up to seven years for giving refuge to Shih Ming-deh as a fugitive.
6. Lee Yuan-chen is now the head of The Awakening Foundation, the center of current feminist activity in Taiwan.
7. See Formosa No. 4, November 1979, p. 52 (Chinese).
8. On a major scandal in 1985 that involved Cathay and its special relationship with national security agencies, see Long, 1991, quoted in Arrigo, “Bourgeois Democracy”, Note 9.
9. Harvey J. Feldman and Ilpyong Kim, eds., Taiwan in a Time of Transition, 1988, Paragon House, New York. Ch. 5, “Development of U.S. – Taiwan Relations, 1948-1987”, p. 142.
10. As reported in Independence Weekly Post no. 142, February 21, 1992, p. 12, a group called Second-Generation Mainlanders in Support of Taiwan Independence has been formed among students in Los Angeles.
11. Manka is the site of the 250-year old Lung Shan Temple, a powerful symbol of native Taiwanese identification, and later the scene of many political struggles. For the election of December 1991 a Kuomintang-associated guard service was hired to expel activists from the grounds, but an election truck flying the flag of the World United Formosans for Independence still parked in the front courtyard.
12. Huang Hua in 1991 began his third ten-year jail term, incurred by running a campaign for the fictional presidency of the Republic of Taiwan in a derisive challenge to Lee Teng-hui’s Republic of China candidacy.
13. This was noted in the Sunday Times Chinese Weekly (Shi Bao Zhou Kan), No. 172, March 15, 1981, p. 7.
14. This description calls on the research of the author on women factory workers, summer 1975 and 1977-79. See “The Industrial Work Force of Young Women in Taiwan”, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 1980, 12(2), p. 25-37; and “Economic and Political Control of Women Workers in Multinational Electronics Factories in Taiwan”, Contemporary Marxism Fall 1985, No. 11, p. 77-95.
15. The Diaoyutai movement originated in 1971 with a dispute between Japan and the Republic of China concerning sovereignty over a small group of rocky uninhabited islands just northeast of Taiwan, called the Senkaku Islands in Japanese. Initially Kuomintang-led students condemned the imperialism of Japan; but then protest was redirected to target the impotence and opportunism of the KMT government. The Diaoyutai movement and related currents in The Intellectual are described in Mab Huang, 1976, Intellectual Ferment for Political Reform in Taiwan. Michigan: Papers in Chinese Studies.
16. As clarified in Shih Ming-deh’s account of his early imprisonment given to New Tide, in no. 14 July 1990 issue, the cadet discussion group he organized was clandestine, but had no articulated plans for revolution. It was only at the point of sentencing in 1962 that the group was labeled the “Taiwan Independence Alliance” (Tai Du Lien Meng ) in court documents, the same name as the later overseas revolutionary group World United Formosans for Independence.