AK Press has just published In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary, an English translation of Ngo Van’s Au pays de la Cloche fêlée (Paris: L’Insomniaque, 2000) and of excerpts from Ngo Van’s Au pays d’Héloïse (L’Insomniaque, 2005). From the ‘Introduction’ by one of the translators (Ken Knabb):
“History is written by the victors.” With the increasing spectacularization of modern society, this truism has become truer than ever. The most radical revolts are not only physically crushed, they are falsified, trivialized, and buried under a constant barrage of superficial and ephemeral bits of “information,” to the point that most people do not even know they happened.
Ngo Van’s In the Crossfire is among the most illuminating revelations of this repressed and hidden history, worthy of a place alongside such works as Voline’s The Unknown Revolution and Harold Isaacs’s The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution. It is also a very moving human document: dramatic political events are interwoven with intimate personal concerns, just as they always are in reality. In this respect Van’s book is perhaps more akin to Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia or Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary.
The two-stage Vietnam war against French and then American occupation (1945-1975) is still fairly well known; but almost no one knows anything about the long and complex struggles that preceded it, including the fact that many of those struggles were inspired by an indigenous Trotskyist movement that was often more popular and more influential than the rival Stalinist movement under Ho Chi Minh. While Ho’s Communist Party slavishly followed the constantly shifting policy lines ordered by his masters in the Kremlin (which often called for alliances with the native landowners and bourgeoisie in the name of “national unity,” or at times even with the French colonial regime when France happened to be allied with Russia), the Vietnamese Trotskyists expressed more consistently radical perspectives. The situation was somewhat analogous to what was going on in Spain during the same period. In both cases a radical popular movement was fighting against foreign and reactionary forces while being stabbed in the back by the Stalinists. One significant difference was that in Spain the popular movement was predominantly anarchist, whereas anarchism was virtually unknown in Vietnam. Many Vietnamese rebels thus understandably saw the Trotskyist movement as the only alternative, the only movement fighting simultaneously against colonialism, capitalism and Stalinism…
[h/t : Viola]
- “It is said that the history of peoples who have a history is the history of class struggle. It might be said with as much truthfulness, that the history of peoples without history is a history of their struggle against the state.” ~ Pierre Clastres (1934-1977), French anthropologist, Society Against the State (1974)
V V reviews The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland South East Asia (Yale University Press, Orient Blackswan reprint) @ The Business Standard (India).
The World that Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents by the English writer Alex Butterworth is reviewed by the Yanqui scribbler Matthew Price here. “For all the mayhem — alleged and actual — of the anarchists, they existed on the fringe. They experienced very little of what it was actually like to rule.” Which is kinda, like, the point.
Yanqui crackademic Arthur Versluis asks have we witnessed the death of the Left?. He’s a bit of a dumbass, but it’s sometimes useful, and often amusing, to keep an eye on what ‘conservatives’ understand to be their opposition.
Versluis makes reference to the IWA in his essay; of similar vintage is the Pittsburgh Proclamation, adopted by the Founding Congress of the American Federation of the International Working People’s Association on October 14, 1883.
The Canadian ‘New Socialist Group’ has produced another short essay on the subject of ‘Anarchism versus Marxism Today’. The NSG was formerly a member of the iSt, and continues to espouse a ‘socialism from below’.
See also : Leninist critiques of anarchism (March 25, 2010).
I thought I already done linked to this before, but obviously not: History and Actuality of Anarcha-feminism: lessons from Spain (Marta Iniguez de Heredia, Lilith, No.16, 2007).
The figure of Nestor Makhno (1888–1934) continues to generate disco among historians of early twentieth-century Russia and Ukraine. A recent essay by Volodymyr Horak compares the mob Makhno assembled beneath the black flag of anarchy with that gathered around the blue and yellow flag of Petliura’s nationalists.
Otherwise, and as ever, Poumista continues to kick historical butt.
See also : The Russian Revolution in the Ukraine (March 1917 – April 1918) by Nestor Makhno (Foreword by Daniel Guerin / Introduction by Alfredo M. Bonanno / Translated by Paul Sharkey). Speaking of which…
Digital Elephant is an excellent resource, containing online versions of the many and varied and highly subversive texts Elephant Editions has published over the last 30 years or so.
Peter Gelderloos complains What’s Missing is Solidarity: The Decline of Resistance from the Red Scare to the War on Terror (Counterpunch, August 23, 2010). I suggest he looks under the kitchen sink.
Blaggers ITA. Not anarchist, but apropos.