FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Vietnam’s Revolution in the Revolution

by RON JACOBS

When the United States first entered the war in Vietnam in defense of colonial France, the conflict was already decades old.  Indeed, it may have been the most protracted anti-colonial struggle of the twentieth century.  France’s domination of the region they called Indochina had been challenged by a combination of popular resistance and armed force since at least the 1920s.  However, very little has been published in English about the period before the military conflict after World War Two.

The publication of the first part of Ngo Van’s memoirs In the Crossfire by AK Press changes that.  Originally published as Au pays de la Cloche Felee (The Cracked Bell), In the Crossfire is the story of Ngo Van and his compatriots in the earliest days of the Vietnamese revolution.  The French title is a nod to the poet Charles Baudelaire’s poem of the same name and reflects Van’s opinion of the movement he was part of.  This is the tale of the popular movement that organized labor strikes and student resistance to the French and their local indigenous government.

In the Crossfire is a tale of secret meetings, arrests and torture, bloody battles and stealthy travels through the Vietnamese countryside.  Its narrative includes the stories of peasant cadres influenced by Stalin and his thoughts and working class urbanites that preferred Trotsky.   Ngo Van writes about Vietminh compromises with the US secret service (OSS) in their common battle against the Japanese and the subsequent reneging by Washington on promises it made to secure that support.  All the while there is an ongoing struggle against the French colonial masters and their puppet governments in Saigon.  Revolutionary movements are rarely a monolithic beings.  Indeed, it is usually the struggles within those movements that ultimately shape the movement’s politics and success.  This struggle within is not always an easy one and, as Van makes clear, has its own share of conflicts and disappointments.

There is an international background to this tale:  the struggle within the international communist movement over the direction of revolutionary communism.  Often referred to in terms that acknowledge the two primary 20th century communist revolutionaries of the period after Lenin–Leon Trotsky and Josef Stalin–this struggle was to erupt into a murderous conflict that forever changed not only the existing revolutionary states and struggles, but the face of communism itself.  As Ngo Van tells it, comrades who were once allies in their struggle against imperialism became mortal enemies and slogans that once encouraged internationalism were replaced with nationalist claptrap.  Trusted friends were no longer trusted and plans made were no longer dependable.  All of this because of different interpretations of the revolutionary doctrine of Lenin.  Like so many other narratives from leftists of this period, the battle for the international revolution is couched in terms that often seethe with a hatred that can only occur between former comrades in arms.  It is a hatred born of betrayal and inflamed by a threat greater than either of the resulting differences—the threat of imperialist counterrevolution.  To Ngo Van’s credit, this book focuses on the struggle between the Vietnamese and their colonizers.  It does not become bogged down in the battle that history characterizes as the struggle between Stalinism and Trotskyism.  By not doing so, it remains a narrative that is accessible to the reader who either doesn’t care about that struggle or prefers to remain neutral.

In the Crossfire is a story that is so many things: a tale of personal courage, despair and hope; a piece of political history that is both a document of revolution and betrayal.  Like so much of the struggle against colonialism, for every victory there seems to be a defeat.  Yet, history moves forward because, as Van makes clear, people make it move forward.

RON JACOBS is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. His most recent book, titled Tripping Through the American Night is published as an ebook.  He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

 

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail