by Parson Young

English /// 中文
Photo Credit: Brian Hioe

The escalating anti-textbook revision campaign in Taiwan has successfully garnered widespread responses and attention from the public. The high schoolers also paid dearly for it nevertheless. The severity of this particular movement also reflects the colossal pressure that exists within the Taiwanese society. For this, we must use a larger and more concrete analysis, and find a long lasting solution.

The Increasingly Younger and Radical Protests Reflect the Hopelessness of the Taiwanese Youth

Taiwanese conservatives, “Left” unificationists, and ultra-left sectarians,  all happen to understand the non-stop stream of student movement as the DPP’s manipulation of nationalism, or its buying of the agitation of young students of Taiwan. This kind of short-sighted and limited analysis, only reflects the lack of understanding of how society changes, but also lacks a recognition of the political and economic reasons for the growing anti-government demonstrations.

In the 8 years of the KMT’s administration, they claimed to “focus on the economy,” but we only see a focus to fattening the rich at the expense of working class and the future of Taiwanese youths. Real estate prices and income inequality are at an all time high, while youth employment rate is at an all time low. President Ma Ying-jeou tirelessly tries to make the Taiwanese people drink the kool-aid of neoliberalism, massively opening Taiwan to Chinese capital. Instead of bringing better lives to the Taiwanese, this brought a monopolization of Taiwanese media by pro-China capitalists as well as a government that’s all to eager to serve the interests of Beijing, even through illegal means. These phenomena are all clearly witnessed by the young people of Taiwan.

IMG_20150803_230026Photo credit: Brian Hioe

While the KMT is begging Beijing for capitalist unification, the bourgeois DPP is doing nothing to stop them and the Taiwanese youths are left with little but helplessness and disappointment. Their feelings dialectically transformed into energy to oppose the government, resorting to radical measures to protect their own future. The high schoolers, while facing huge pressure of getting into universities, began to learn that even a diploma from a good school can’t save them from a bleak future. The KMT is not only doing nothing to remedy the situation, but also attempted to alter the core curriculum through extra-legal means, forcing students to learn a version of history that is neither factual nor practical. Facing this explosion of public outrage and radicalization of youth, the KMT only have themselves to blame.

Anyone who knows a thing or two about history knows that mass revolutionary situations are produced by the deep discontent of the population with their own economic and political conditions. Marx further points out that revolutions are essentially the self-preserving reaction against the maximizing oppression of the exploited class. The continuing anti-government movements, even the occurrence of a suicide, did not motivate the KMT to reflect on their failures. Instead they reflexively blame the problem upon the DPP, exhibiting the typical behavior of the bourgeoisie losing their bearings.

However, while the high schooler’s movement in Taiwan is definitely understandable, but the problem cannot be simply solved by a retraction of the revisions, or the resignation of Minister of Education Wu Se-Hwa. Neither can all of the problems that workers and youth in Taiwan faces today be magically solved by a collapse of the KMT or a de jure declaration of independence. The oppression that the people of Taiwan face, in actuality, originate from a the more deeply rooted politico-economic system of capitalism.


National public education is naturally a part of the state which enforces the state’s policies. Today’s anti-text book revision movement also is a general opposition to the capitalist state’s leadership. For a Marxist view on national public education, we might also want to start from the beginning.

To begin with, we must understand the relationship between state and capitalism. Lenin succinctly introduces Marx’s analysis on the state in State and Revolution:

According to Marx, the state could neither have arisen nor maintained itself had it been possible to reconcile classes. [1]

Engels, in “The Origin of Family, Property, and the State” also elaborated importantly on the creation of states:

The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it ’the reality of the ethical idea’, ’the image and reality of reason’, as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ’order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state. [2]

In Marxism, the creation of the state is for the maintenance, control, and solidification of existing political economic structure, and today’s form of capitalism depends on the state to maintain the capitalist class’s exploitative relation with the working class. National Public Education as a part of the state, is also used for the maintenance of this order.

IMG_20150804_185313Photo credit: Brian Hioe

As French philosopher Louis Althusser, basing on his research of Marx and Lenin, explains, the state maintains the capitalist order through two “apparatuses”. One is the “Repressive State Apparatus (RSA),” such as military, police, or any other organization that monopolizes violence. The other, is the “Ideological State Apparatus (ISA)”, which includes propaganda, censorship, and most importantly, national public education.

Althusser points out that in capitalist countries, national public education not only provides students the necessary training and education for turning them into future workers, it also makes people accept the state system and capitalism, and trains people on how to behave under a social order that’s controlled by a ruling class, including though history or social studies education as a way of instilling a worldview that centers on capital. National public education also “interpellates” every student, making everyone believe that obeying these orders are their personal moral responsibilities. Of course, this system has never been entirely successful. The people who are under excessive oppression can of course see through the lies of the state machinery and challenge it.

Taking a look back at the Taiwanese education system and the goals of Minister Wu’s revision effort, we can see that the KMT is attempting to produce subjects that are conditioned to live under Chinese imperialism. Of course, we know that even under KMT authoritarianism before the late 80’s, it could not completely control the thoughts of the people. Otherwise, it would not be possible for an anti-KMT movement to exist in the first place.

IMG_20150801_193114Photo credit: Brian Hioe

Moreover, the new generation of Taiwanese people clearly recognizes that Taiwan and China are separate states, and that Taiwan (as the Republic of China) clearly does not have the power to control the entirety of China and Mongolia. Only a lunatic would deny these facts. In terms of cultural recognition, students are of course not confined within schools to learn about their identities. However, the KMT, eager to please Beijing, will not stop pushing for a pro-China viewpoint not only in schools, but also other areas of public life, in order to make the Taiwanese people accept a capitalist life centering on Chinese capital. Therefore, if we cannot change and overthrow the capitalist order, then we can never solve the problems that Taiwan faces, including the question of public education. This is of course, not only a problem for Taiwan, but also a problem for the entire world.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean we should abolish public education. Marx clearly points out in the Communist Manifesto: “The Communists have not invented the intervention of society in education; they do but seek to alter the character of that intervention, and to rescue education from the influence of the ruling class.” [4] Public education is an integral tool to advance society, but for an education that truly serves the people, it must be established on a fair and planned politico-economic system.

Within advanced capitalist countries, universal free public education was provided as a by-product of the struggles of the working class. The capitalist class preferred to send young children to work in the mines and mills, as they continue to do so around the world today in places like Bangladesh.

Even today, we can see that in countries with a stronger labor movement, such as in Finland or the Scandinavian countries, the education system is better as a result of the struggles of workers and youth. By contrast, in the USA, where the labor movement does not have its own political party and the labor union leaders accept capitalism – not too dissimilar from Taiwan – the global capitalist hegemon has a deteriorating public education system. We should demand a fully funded, modern and free education system where each school and university would be under the democratic control of the teachers, school employees, parents and students who are 16 years old and older. We want real history taught, warts and all, inclusive of the crimes of colonialism, imperialism and Stalinism.

In conclusion, the only way to improve Taiwanese education system and prevent the ruling class from influencing the school children is to overturn capitalism of which the national public education system serves and creates a truly democratic socialist system, which would be completely different from the past Stalinist and Maoist nightmares.

Taiwanese Activists Should Expand their Analysis and Recognize the Real Source of the Problems

From the 2014 Sunflower movement to today’s anti-textbook revision movement, everyone knows that the Taiwanese are truly fighting against the growing influence of Chinese imperialism on the daily lives of the Taiwanese people. Taiwan’s inability to achieve self-determination also is a byproduct of the competition between Chinese and American imperialism.

If the Taiwanese really want to build a just, fair home free of exploitation, then they need a holistic and concrete analysis to identify problems and create long lasting solutions. What the Taiwanese need now is a Marxist analysis of their political economy, as well as a socialist revolution led by the worker majority. If the students of Taiwan really want a viable future, then they must attentively study Marxism and help build a new leadership for the future movements which will unfold in the coming period.

On the Tragedy of the Suicide of Lin Guan-hua

First, any suicide of the innocent is a tragedy, especially in the case of Lin, who was only 20 years old. We must pay our condolences to Lin’s loved ones.

As to the real reasons behind Lin’s suicide, as they are yet to be confirmed by concrete evidence, we should not make any assumptions. However, it seems that the theory of Lin’s suicide being an act of martyrdom is being increasingly accepted by the opposition activists, and that people have started to honor Lin as a martyr, I would like to offer my personal opinion on the idea of martyrdom.

An American comrade used to say, “We don’t want to be martyrs, we want to win!” This point should be seared into our minds during our revolutionary struggle. Since we already stood up and dedicated ourselves to fight for a correct future, we cannot forget how important each of our contributions are to the revolution. Maybe the revolution fails in the future, precisely because our abilities are not enough. Any victory that may be gained through martyrdom is at best temporary. Facing the forces of injustice, we all have the responsibility to live on and fight another day.

IMG_20150803_213828Photo credit: Brian Hioe

We must remember that Taiwan’s problems today are not just rooted in the government’s manipulation of curricula, the CSSTA, the KMT, or any single thing within Taiwan. All of the adversities that Taiwan faces, including the persistent oppression by American and Chinese Imperialism, are caused by world capitalism. Only by overthrowing capitalism and establishing world socialism, can we build a world free of oppression. This extraordinarily complicated and difficult task requires contribution from each and every one of us to accomplish. However, we are not alone. All over the world, we can find like-minded comrades regardless of race, culture, or age. Trading your chance to meet and struggle with these comrades, or even an opportunity to witness the victory of our revolution, just for a temporary victory, is definitely not worth it.

I recommend the Taiwanese youths who stood up against injustice to be mindful of the scope of our task while struggling, and educate yourselves to truly understand the problem and real solutions. Only then will we have a chance to win.

In the past, when Trotskyists all over the world were brutally attacked by both reactionary forces and Stalinists, Trotsky advised, “Tenacity, Tenacity, Tenacity!” Some of my professors as well as older comrades in my organization, indeed used this tenacity to preserve the forces of Marxism, and with their rich experiences and knowledge gave the younger comrades and myself the best theoretical and practical education. The Taiwanese democratic activists from the older generation also used this same kind of tenacity to weaken the KMT, and educate us of the necessity of revolution.

For a better future, we must live on!

[1] Lenin, Vladimir Ilʹich. “The State: A Product of the Irreconcilability of Class Antagonisms.” State and Revolution. New York: International, 1932. N. pag. Web. 3 Aug. 2015. <>.

[2] Engels, Friedrich. “Barbarism and Civilization.” The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. Hottingen-Zurich: n.p., 1884. N. pag. Web. 3 Aug. 2015. <>.

[3] Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” “Lenin and Philosophy” and Other Essays. Paris: Monthly Review, 1971. N. pag. Web. 2 Aug. 2015. <>.

[4] Manifesto of the Communist Party. London: n.p., 1848. N. pag. Web. 3 Aug. 2015. <>.

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