What went wrong? Insights from “Almost a Revolution”

I watched the documentary “Almost a Revolution” on May 29 at the Cattle Depot Artist Village, part of the Umbrella Festival. The 3-hour-long documentary really zooms in on the splits among protestors from the first week. It reinforces what scholars of contentious politics know very well and what advocates at the time urged: unity is necessary for success. If the umbrella movement did not force the CY Leung government to compromise, it is clear in hindsight that it was not because protestors did not take escalated action earlier as the rowdies argue, but because the movement had no unified leadership from day one. See unity and leadership.


As a FT story puts it, “Occupy has proven to be a chaotic social movement driven largely by students who lack both an effective leadership structure and a strategic vision.” 

The character that really stood out in the documentary was Long Hair. Some notable quotes — based on memory, not verbatim:

“There was no unity. There was no efforts by all sides to sit down together to give coordinated direction to the people power that was unleashed.”

“I follow the Occupy Central Trio because they could mobilize a new group of people who used to sit on the sideline.”

Re: the guys who championed the view that they didn’t need leaders: “If you only represent yourself and no one represents you, why come here to this collective gathering?”

“We have to know why we failed. If we don’t, then our efforts would really be wasted.”

In another interview: “From September 28 on, no one had the ability to push forward actions that s/he deemed workable.” (toward the end 梁國雄:建設民主中國事關本土

Also 長毛:雨傘不是革命 運動後欠檢討

雨傘運動期間,梁國雄有一段時間「擔櫈仔」日夜守在龍和道,呼籲佔領者不要引發零星佔領路面行動,強調要堅守和平原則,被本土派、勇武派狠批長毛是保守派。 (長毛促本土派檢討 「為何勇武不了」)

My life: Activist and politician ‘Long Hair’ on prison, being banned from China and his amah mother

Last year, in September, a lot of young people said, “Enough is enough, we need to change the whole thing.” …  this kind of statement is not powerful enough (to bring about true democracy), you need to be more organised. We need to learn from history and draw on experiences in other parts of the world, such as South Africa (and its anti-apartheid struggle).


Another core participant 朱凱迪 has this wonderful reflection:

“I have become doubtful of my own assessments. Actions that I thought would not work turned out to work. Actions that I thought should work turned out not to work.”

Contentious politics is a chess game. No one could predict with a crystal ball how events will unfold. No one could really claim with any credibility that “you should have listened to me/us” or “you should have done this or that” or “you shouldn’t have done this or that.”

I do want to take issue with his remark that “how can we use nonviolence against police violence? That has not been tested.”

I disagree. See my other blog posts: fallacy, boycott, dividedescalation從政府主導理論 看雨傘運動 

宅男的怒吼 — 訪問朱凱迪


A different review of the film 《幾乎是 革命》放映會 


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Filed under Umbrella Movement

2 responses to “What went wrong? Insights from “Almost a Revolution”

  1. Pingback: After occupy: Division by ideology and over tactics; polarization | Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and Beyond

  2. Pingback: Unity and leadership are critical to success–why it is wrong to advocate “there are no organizers but only ordinary people, no orders but only commonsense” | Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement and Beyond

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