Internal Dissent Within The Movement

Internal Dissent Within The Movement

Can we see part of the internal debates within the movement less about concrete political differences, but in some sense as a struggle for social capital?

Concerning the criticisms of the central leadership of the Sunflower Movement within the Legislative Yuan by groups such as the Untouchables’ Liberation Area, Le Flanc Radical, and the Second Floor Slave Workers , the prevailing criticism was probably with regards the opaqueness of the decision-making which the central leadership made decisions for the movement as a whole. The view was also often that the central leadership had failed to secure the consensus of the movement as a whole before making decisions or that the decision-making processes of the central leadership were somewhat opaque, replicating the political system which the movement claimed to oppose as well as serving as a “black box in a black box”.

Banner drop by the “Second Floor Slave Workers. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

With the Untouchables’ Liberation Area and Le Flanc Radical, there probably were also ideological disagreements. With the Untouchables’ Liberation Area, due to its more overtly leftist political stance, this was probably view that the movement center failed to engage the larger, overarching issue of free trade and hewed towards a more conservative discourse within the framework of capitalism and the opportunities offered under capitalism. This may have also been the view that the central leadership in the Legislative Yuan was overly programmatic and attempted to preserve a clean, orderly image for the movement, whereas the Untouchables’ Liberation Area would have preferred a less regulated, less structured, and more wildly spontaneous movement.

Likewise, Le Flanc Radical may have seen the movement as failing to bring out deeper issues of Taiwanese identity, to push harder on the issue of independence, or felt that more could be done between the withdrawal. The Second Floor Slave Workers, who may have named themselves in self-denigrating terms in imitation of the earlier formed Untouchables’ Liberation Area and seems to have vaguely been aligned with the Untouchables’ Liberation Area, differences were less framed in ideological terms but in terms of, perhaps similarly, the view that consensus had not been sought before deciding to withdraw from the Legislative Yuan and a tactical difference about when to end the movement.

The Untouchables’ Liberation Area. Photo credit: othree/Flickr/CC

Nevertheless, one of the prominent complaints by all three groups was also regarding certain leaders standing in the spotlight and overshadowing the movement as a whole, as in the heroicization, even deification of Lin Fei-Fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-Ting (陳為廷). While this is a valid criticism, one also wonders if in this sense, part of the contention between splinter groups and the leadership of the movement was also a struggle regarding social capital, in terms of how groups positioned their view of their self-importance in the movement. On the other hand, the successes of the Sunflower Movement in drawing mass mobilization as compared to much more leaderless prior movements such as the Wild Strawberry Movement and following the Hung Chung-Hsiu Incident may precisely be because of it having prominent representative figures in the public spotlight.


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Photo credit: kent Chuang/Flickr/CC