When Hồ Chí Minh Collaborated with U.S. Imperialism

by Clay Claiborne on June 15, 2013

The French are not quite so confident as they were at the start that this would be cleared up in a few weeks.

– OSS agent in Việtnam, 1945

The Vietnamese fought a 30-year war of independence. It formally began when Hồ Chí Minh read the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence in Hanoi on 2 September 1945 and ended with the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. In succession they fought Japan, Britain, France, and the U.S. as the entire imperialist world combined to control and exploit them.

Against such titanic forces, victory would not have been possible had the Vietnamese communists not been willing to seek strength and gain advantage wherever it was to be found by building alliances of convenience — even within the imperialist camp.

The first American to die in that 30-year long national liberation struggle was Lt. Col Peter Dewey. He was a member of a seven-man team from the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) that arrived in Saigon on 4 September 1945 “to represent American interests.” There was no Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) back then, the OSS was it. When the Cold War got going, it would become the CIA.

Dewey was shot dead by Việt Nam Ðộc Lập Ðồng Minh Hội (Việt Minh) troops on 26 September 1945 in Saigon, and since, at the time, the OSS was working with the Việt Minh, he may also be considered the first US “friendly-fire” fatality of the Việtnam War, and since his body was never recovered, the first MIA as well.

Road rage may have been his undoing. The Việt Minh said they mistook him for the enemy after he shook his fist and yelled something in French at three Việt Minh soldiers manning a Saigon checkpoint. Dewey wanted to fly the U.S. flag on his jeep so he could be easily identified at the many Việt Minh road blocks, but General Gracey, his commanding officer, forbade it, saying that only the commanding officer had that privilege. Before he was shot, Dewey worked with the Việt Minh to arrange the repatriation of 4,549 Allied POWs, including 240 from the U.S.

The French put a price on his head and the British told him to leave Việtnam. While his death at the hands of the Vietnamese was an accident, the French wanted him dead. According to George Wickes, another OSS Saigon team member that also had a price on his head:

I don’t believe I was ever in any danger, but clearly Dewey was persona non grata on account of his sympathy with the Vietnamese cause. As a matter of fact, all members of our mission shared his views, and our messages to Washington predicted accurately what would eventually happen if France tried to deny independence to Việtnam.

George Wickes’ writings provide a unique window into this time period. In a letter to his parents in October 1945, he wrote:

I do have some very reassuring information from Hanoi (Việt Minh Headquarters). It seems they are well-organized and realistic with a cosmic view of things. But France is determined to keep Indochina, determined enough to send out 120,000 troops. My visit to Thủ Dầu Một also provided some information: that the Annamites [Vietnamese] have some military organization and that without the Japanese the task of clearing areas would be well-nigh impossible without large numbers. Also that the British have no great opinion of the French as soldiers.

“A small percentage of Annamites are determined to sacrifice all and have a specific plan of action, but most of them, passively at least, want independence.

“The French are not quite so confident as they were at the start that this would be cleared up in a few weeks. And I believe that, unless they always keep large garrisons and patrols everywhere, they will not be able to keep the country submissive as it was before. The Annamite’s great advantage lies in the fact that he is everywhere, that he does not need to fight pitched battles or organize troops to be a threat and that no amount of reprisal can completely defeat him.

“I cannot say how it will end, but at least it will be a long time before Frenchmen can roam about the country with peace of mind.”

The soldiers France rushed over to put down the independence movement were a real mixed bag; while some were Free French troops under the mistaken impression they were coming to help liberate Việtnam, others were ex-German soldiers, including SS, only recently released from the service of the Nazis.

Wickes met Hồ Chí Minh in Hanoi:

He received us in his office in the governor-general’s palace. As if to indicate his official role, he was wearing a military-style tunic, but wearing it modestly without any insignia to suggest that he was more than a private citizen. We had expected the interview to be in French, but to our surprise he spoke to us in English and reminisced about his experiences in the United States when he worked in restaurants in Boston or New York. When asked if he was a communist, he made no secret of the fact, but when asked if that meant Vietnam would become a communist country, he said he was not the one to determine that, for the political character of the country would have to be decided by the people. He spoke a good deal about the United States. He admired the principles of the Declaration of Independence, some of which he had paraphrased in declaring the independence of Vietnam the previous September 2. He wanted us to transmit to Washington his high hopes that the United States would aid Vietnam in its efforts to establish itself as an independent nation.

A few days later, Wickes described Ho Chi Minh in a letter home. It is worth quoting at length:

His pictures present him as an emaciated martyr with burning eyes. He looks like a martyr all right (and in fact is one, having devoted practically all of his 60-odd years to the cause of his country), but kindly rather than fanatic, like a benevolent grandfather for his people.

Short and very slight, a little stooped, with seamed cheeks and generally well-weathered features, wiry, grayish hair, a scraggly mandarin mustache and wispy beard — all in all, not a very imposing man physically.

But when you talk with him he strikes you as quite above the ordinary run of mortals. Perhaps it is the spirit that great patriots are supposed to have. Surely he has that — long struggling has left him mild and resigned, still sustaining some small idealism and hope. But I think it is particularly his kindliness, his simplicity, his down-to-earthiness. I think Abraham Lincoln must have been such a man — calm, sane and humble.

The Politics of Indochina During World War 2

The political-military landscape of what was then known as French-Indochina (Laos, Cambodia, and Việtnam) was very complicated during World War 2; it made the one in Casablanca look simple. As a French colony, it fell to Axis control after the fall of France in 1940. Occupied France controlled the north and Vichy France controlled the south with German supervision. Of course, Japan was the real Axis military power in the region but it was restrained from simply running roughshod over Việtnam because it was nominally a possession of their ally. That changed abruptly on V-E Day. The competing nationalist and communist movements in China also extended strong influences on regional affairs.

This was the situation into which the legendary director of the OSS, Brig. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan parachuted his men. To this day, much CIA folklore harkens back to the days of “Donovan’s Rangers.” He was famous for his unorthodox methods and disregard for rules and the chain of command. When CINCPAC, Pacific Command, and U.S. Naval Intelligence refused to work with the OSS, Donovan set about building his own intelligence networks in Asia, trading secrets for favors and favors for secrets wherever he could. Accordingly, he instructed his South-East Asian staff to use “anyone who will work with us against the Japanese, but do not become involved in French-Indochinese politics.”

The Việt Minh emerged as a liberation movement under the leadership of Hồ Chí Minh and the Vietnamese Communist Party in the early 1940s. They were fighting against French colonialism as well as Japanese occupation. These strange circumstances meant that, for the moment, the U.S. intelligence organization and the Vietnamese communists were natural allies. What is more, both groups were headed by men who could see the advantages of an alliance and were willing push the envelope.

The relationship was actually initiated by the communists in December 1942 when a representative of the Việt Minh approached the U.S. Embassy in China for help in getting Hồ Chí Minh out of a Chinese Nationalist prison. He had been caught with invalid documents.

Whatever the U.S. did or did not do, Hồ was not released until September 1943. A month after Hồ’s release and return to Việtnam in October 1943, an OSS memo called for the U.S. to “use the Annamites [Vietnamese]…to immobilize large numbers of Japanese troops by conducting systematic guerrilla warfare in the difficult jungle country.” The mission plan counseled that their most effective propaganda line was to tell them “that this war, if won by the Allies, will gain their independence.”

In mid 1944, the OSS approached the Việt Minh for help with setting up intelligence networks for fighting the Japanese and rescuing downed American pilots. After the Axis retreat in Europe and the fall of the Vichy French government, Japan moved quickly to consolidate its hold on Vietnam by having Emperor Bảo Đại proclaim an independent Vietnam on 11 March 1945 and announce his intention to cooperate with the Japanese. This brought an even greater sense of urgency to the developing OSS-Việt Minh cooperation. Also in March, when the Việt Minh rescued a U.S. pilot who had been shot down in Vietnam, Hồ Chí Minh personally escorted him back to the U.S. forces in Kunming. While he was there, Hồ Chí Minh met the legendary founder of the U.S. volunteer group, the “Flying Tigers” and got an autographed photo. Maj. Gen. Claire Chennault was then commander of the Fourteenth Air Force.

27 April 1945, Captain Archimedes Patti, head of OSS in Kunming met with Hồ Chí Minh and got his permission to send an OSS team to work with Hồ and the Việt Minh and gather intelligence on the Japanese.


OSS Deer Team members pose with Việt Minh leaders Hồ Chí Minh and Võ Nguyên Giáp during training at Tân Trào in August 1945. Deer Team members standing, left to right, are Rene Defourneaux, (Hồ), Allison Thomas, (Giáp), Henry Prunier and Paul Hoagland, far right. Kneeling, left, are Lawrence Vogt and Aaron Squires. (Rene Defourneaux)

In July 1945, a six-man OSS Special Operations Team Number 13, code-named “Deer,” parachuted into the jungles near Hanoi with the mission of setting up guerrilla teams of 50 to 100 men to attack the railroad line running from Hanoi to Lang Sơn and thus slow down Japan’s movement into southern China. General Võ Nguyên Giáp and 200 guerrilla fighters greeted them. One member of the OSS team was a weapons trainer. They intended to air drop in a supply of weapons for the Việt Minh and teach them to use them.

They found Hồ Chí Minh in a very bad way. He was very ill. Claude G. Berube quotes the OSS team leader in his Hồ Chí Minh and the OSS:

“Hồ was so ill he could not move from the corner of a smoky hut,” Defourneaux said. Hồ didn’t seem to have much time to live; Defourneaux heard it would not be weeks but days. “Our medic thought it might have been dysentery, dengue fever, hepatitis,” he recalled. “While being treated by Pfc Hoagland, Ho directed his people into the jungle to search for herbs. Hồ shortly recovered, attributing it to his knowledge of the jungle.”

Some members of this team soon developed a close working relationship between themselves and Hồ and Giáp. Thomas even used Hồ’s recommendations for United States Army Air Forces targets against the Japanese in direct defiance of his OSS orders.

After they received supply drops in early August, the Deer team began small arms and weapons training for the communists. The weapons trained were the M-1 and M-1 carbines as well as mortars, grenades, bazookas, and machine guns. The Japanese surrendered on 15 August and so the training mission was over almost before it began. The Deer Team gave the weapons to the Việt Minh and started making plans for their departure. This was no small matter because as late as 25 August some Japanese in Indochina had not heard the word and were still fighting.

On 16 August, the same day the Deer team left camp and started for the French provincial capital Thái Nguyên, with General Giáp and his troops, the National People’s Congress started in Tân Trào. On 27 August the congress elected Hồ Chí Minh the President of Việt Nam’s Provisional Government.

A week later, on the same day MacArthur formally accepted the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, Hồ Chí Minh declared Vietnamese independence in Hanoi. OSS team members were there and photographed the event. The new Minister of the Interior Giáp recognized the U.S. contribution in his speech — a few days earlier, OSS team members joined him and the Viet Minh as they repelled a Japanese attack just 60 kilometers from Hanoi.

 


After NATO’s intervention into the Libyan Revolution and the various requests for international aid by Syrian revolutionaries, there has been a lot of discussion as to what does and does not constitute a respectable deal with imperialist forces.

In light of this, I thought I would use Hồ Chí Minh’s 123rd birthday on May 19 to remind everyone that accepting weapons, training, and even air support from an imperialist power does not necessarily mean that the revolutionaries have sold out and can safely be described as “puppets” or “proxies” without regard for the overall context they are fighting in.

Most importantly, I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that a revolutionary who is unwilling to make use of contradictions among the imperialists and make such deals that will benefit the revolution is not a real revolutionary.

 


First published by Linux Beach.

  • David Berger (RED DAVE)

    Anyone thinking that the situations with the Viet Minh and the rebels in Syria represent parallel cases needs to have their head examined.

    The Viet Minh were fighting against imperialism and fascism. For a very brief moment, their interests and the interests of the US coincided and the two sides were able to collaborate. Within a few years, after the Japanese were defeated and the French were defeated, the US took on the war against the Viet Minh, which became a war against the NLF in the South and against North Vietnam, of which the Viet Minh were the government.

    With regard to Syria, there is no question either of an anti-imperialist or an anti-fascist movement. While people have tried to characterize the rebellion as a bourgeois-democratic revolution, this is not the case either. Such a revolution would involve the shift of economic power from one class, a feudal ruling class, to the bourgeoisie. Whether Assad remains in power or is overthrown, the bourgeoisie, as a class, will still rule the economy of Syria.

    That Assad is a dictator who should be overthrown is not the issue. The issue is: if the US intervenes in the overthrow of Assad (and it is by no means clear that this is going to happen), what will the effect of the US intervention be? Now those who favor the intervention assert that the rebellion will most likely not succeed without US intervention.

    The question remains: besides achieving victory, what will the effect of US intervention be? If we look at such sterling examples in the 21st Century as Iraq and Afghanistan, or even in Vietnam a few years after the Viet Minh and the US collaborated, we know what the answer is: the US invariably backs those forces that favor US imperialism, which are not usually those forces that favor even bourgeois democracy.

    One more time, unless people around here are in agreement with the “Last Superman” (I here the movie isn’t much good) group, the US history of intervention is mass murder on a scale that makes Assad look like a neighborhood thug. The US ruling class was responsible for the deaths of a minimum of 2 1/2 million people in Vietnam and a million in Iraq. There is no history of the US strengthening any kind of serious democracy by its military intervention in the Middle East.

    My schema works something like this, and it goes beyond Syria. If the Left supports US intervention, we are now in a political alliance with the center and the right of the Democratic Party, not the Progressive wing, and the Republicans. The likely outcome will be something like Iran or Iraq, with either another dictatorship in power or endless, low-level civil war.

    If the Left opposes US intervention (and by intervention I include supplying arms), which is the position we have espoused in every war the US has been in since WWII, we are now against the Democrats, with the possible exception of a very few on the extreme Democratic Left, i.e. Bernie Sanders, et al., the Republicans (except perhaps the libertarian Rand Paulistas). What will the outcome be in Syria? I don’t know. However, there is little or no reason to believe that the US is capable of a good outcome.

  • Aaron Aarons

    Interestingly, Claiborne doesn’t mention that Ho and the Viet Minh, while they were declaring independence on 2 September 1945, welcomed the landing of British troops in Saigon, supposedly to accept the surrender of Japanese forces — troops that shortly afterwards allowed the French back in and helped the latter in a bloody campaign to reconquer the South, at least around Saigon. There’s also no mention of the violent suppression of the independent, Trotskyist-influenced, working class movement in the South by the Viet Minh at the same time that all Vietnamese factions were being attacked by the French and the British. That suppression was triggered, in part, by the mobilization, by Trotskyists and some nationalists, of opposition to the British troop landing.

  • PatrickSMcNally

    The opening passages here deal with some OSS agents who evidently aroused the wrath of the French by indicating sympathy for the Viet Minh. So what is the point? Do we know of any CIA agents who have been targeted for assassination by France because of their sympathies for the Syrian rebellion? Although the tone of the post seems to be trying to suggest a similarity, the actual sequence of events as described sounds very different from anything going on in Syria today. While no two situations are exactly alike, this current struggle in Syria has more in common with the efforts by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ronald Reagan et al to stir up a war in Afghanistan than it does with some OSS agents meeting Ho Chi Minh and then being targeted by the French.

  • Arthur

    Excellent article. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of history ought to be aware of the complexities of alternating alliance and struggle with different allies and enemies.

    The pseudoleft opposition to such alliances reflects their actual refusal to fight the immediate enemy against which the united front is directed. There is nothing “militant” or “purist” about this. It is the same rotten politics that sided with “America First” isolationists when communists were demanding US and other Western imperialists support collective security against fascism.

    Not only Ho Chi Minh, but also Mao Tsetung and of course Stalin were involved in united armed struggle against more immediate and worse enemies. Chin Peng got an Order of the British Empire for his “services” in fighting the Japanese occupation of Malaya before going on, as Ho Chi Minh and Mao ded too, to fight the same imperialists they had been allied with when they had become the immediate and worse enemy.

    The pseudoleft doesn’t ally with anybody because it doesn’t fight anybody, except the genuine left.

  • Red Blob

    “There is nothing “militant” or “purist” about this. It is the same rotten politics that sided with “America First” isolationists when communists were demanding US and other Western imperialists support collective security against fascism.”
    Yes Arthur I agree that the politics of siding with “America First” were rotten.
    Now lets see “America First Committee” was established Sept 4 1940
    I’m afraid from that time until June 1941 the American Communist Party was a big supporter of “America First”
    When Germany invaded Poland the CPUSA was against it but after direction from Moscow just like the British CP, the French CP and the German CP they all denounced the Allied governments and advocated, wait for it, yes PEACE.
    Now the CPs had advocated other things in past times, in the Third period they advocated equal hostility to social democrats as to Nazis, that leg up for Adolph was followed by a back flip, a back flip to the popular front period followed by Friendship treaties with Hitler. For the period that “America First” existed communists were strong advocates for peace with Hitler and then strong advocates for war.
    I agree with your point about having tactical flexibility but I disagree that the foreign policy of the USSR is a good example of same

    • Arthur

      Many of the Communist parties were pretty hopeless (though not as described by Red Blob, its not worth arguing here).

      Their opponents, especially Trotskyists, were consistently worse. Here for example is an extended extract from Hal Draper which who Red Blob echos in denouncing Commuists for EVERY turn in policy regardless of the circumstances:

      http://www.lastsuperpower.net/docs/Draper

      I’ll just quote the introduction explaining why it is worth studying carefully.

      “Extract from Hal Draper’s “THE STUDENT MOVEMENT OF THE THIRTIES: A POLITICAL HISTORY”

      Hal Draper was one of the more intelligent Marxian scholars. Despite a Trotskyist background his “Marx-Engels Cyclopedia” provides a very valuable reference work and some of his writings show real insight.

      That makes his article on “THE STUDENT MOVEMENT OF THE THIRTIES: A POLITICAL HISTORY” all the more interesting. The following excerpt shows how even in 1965, after living through the experience of the war against fascism, Draper still defends the 1933 slogan refusing “to support the United States government in any war it may conduct.”

      Draper proudly boasts of having continued to fight against Communists for having “betrayed” the anti-war movement by supporting collective security against fascism right up until 1937-1938.

      At the same time, in other parts of the article, he also denounces (more plausibly) the “third period” ultra-left line prior to that “betrayal”, and also the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact when the other imperialist powers rejected collective security and adopted an appeasement policy to encourage a Nazi-Soviet war. Finally of course he also denounces the “popular front” after the other imperialist powers did form an alliance with the Soviet Union against the Nazis.

      Just as remarkable as the fact that Draper was still proud of this Trotskyist stand sabotaging collective security against fascism as late as 1965, is the fact that this resistance was successful until 1937.

      Large majorities of American students, at “left” or “socialist” national conferences, consistently voted down resolutions in support of collective security in opposition to the “party line”.

      The difficulty people have accepting any kind of united front with US imperialism today is neither new nor surprising.

      Comparisons between the Baath fascist Iraqi regime and the Hitler regime are somewhat spurious. Comparisons between the recent peace movement and the 1930s peace movement are not.

      Note also that despite his (genuine) status as a “theoretician” Draper feels content to simply describe his heroic struggle against the Communists and collective security, without feeling any need to present arguments to demonstrate that he was right and they were wrong.

      On the other hand however, support for that view disappeared almost entirely during the war against fascism.”

      • David Berger (RED DAVE)

        ARTHUR: Many of the Communist parties were pretty hopeless (though not as described by Red Blob, its not worth arguing here).

        DAVID BERGER: Probably not worth arguing with you as you seem to be a combination of a Stalinist and an imperialist. Nice work if you can get it.

        ARTHUR: Their opponents, especially Trotskyists, were consistently worse.

        DAVID BERGER: Yeah, the Trotskyists, who developed a systematic theory of fascism, were worse than the Stalinists. Right.

        ARTHUR: Here for example is an extended extract from Hal Draper which who Red Blob echos in denouncing Commuists for EVERY turn in policy regardless of the circumstances:

        http://www.lastsuperpower.net/docs/Draper

        DAVID BERGER: Glad that you’re out in the open as a “leftwinger[] who support[s] the war in Iraq” and we don’t have to hunt around the Internet to find statements of your politics. Looking forward to you parading this kind of politics in public. Didn’t hear of anyone with your politics at the Left Forum.

        ARTHUR: I’ll just quote the introduction explaining why it is worth studying carefully.

        DAVID BERGER: We await this explanation with bated breath. By the way, it would be nice to know who wrote this “introduction.” Was it you?

        “Extract from Hal Draper’s “THE STUDENT MOVEMENT OF THE THIRTIES: A POLITICAL HISTORY”

        INTRO: Hal Draper was one of the more intelligent Marxian scholars. Despite a Trotskyist background his “Marx-Engels Cyclopedia” provides a very valuable reference work and some of his writings show real insight.

        DAVID BERGER: Oh, Draper is valuable in spite of being a Trotskyist. How about, just maybe, he might be valuable because he comes from the Trotskyist tradition. Of course, Arthur, as a supporter of stalinism and imperialism, who could be worse for you than a Trotskyist?

        Let me clue you in: You want to play heavy political games, heavy games are heavy.

        INTRO: That makes his article on “THE STUDENT MOVEMENT OF THE THIRTIES: A POLITICAL HISTORY” all the more interesting. The following excerpt shows how even in 1965, after living through the experience of the war against fascism, Draper still defends the 1933 slogan refusing “to support the United States government in any war it may conduct.”

        DAVID BERGER: So what we are going to see in, in hindsight, by a supporters of stalinism and imperialism, a denouncing of the US peace movement of the 1930s.

        INTRO: Draper proudly boasts of having continued to fight against Communists for having “betrayed” the anti-war movement by supporting collective security against fascism right up until 1937-1938.

        DAVID BERGER: If people want to get into the tricky politics of the US in the late 1930s, let’s do that, but to dismiss Draper’s position in the way that is being done here is to conceal politics.

        INTRO: At the same time, in other parts of the article, he also denounces (more plausibly) the “third period” ultra-left line prior to that “betrayal”

        DAVID BERGER: A discussion by itself.

        INTRO: and also the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact

        DAVID BERGER: A discussion by itself.

        INTRO: when the other imperialist powers rejected collective security and adopted an appeasement policy to encourage a Nazi-Soviet war.

        DAVID BERGER: A discussion by itself.

        INTRO: Finally of course he also denounces the “popular front” after the other imperialist powers did form an alliance with the Soviet Union against the Nazis.

        DAVID BERGER: A discussion by itself.

        AINTRO: Just as remarkable as the fact that Draper was still proud of this Trotskyist stand sabotaging collective security against fascism as late as 1965, is the fact that this resistance was successful until 1937.

        DAVID BERGER: A discussion by itself.

        INTRO: Large majorities of American students, at “left” or “socialist” national conferences, consistently voted down resolutions in support of collective security in opposition to the “party line”.

        DAVID BERGER: A discussion by itself.

        So what we have seen here, quoted by Arthur, is a series of six heavy political statements, every one of which requires a discussion to parcel out its meaning for the Left. But, what we get instead, is a quick, pseudo-authoritative statement that would seem to settle it all. Again, let me clue you in, Arthur: this is heavy politics, and you won’t get away with this kind of bullshit.

        INTRO: The difficulty people have accepting any kind of united front with US imperialism today is neither new nor surprising.

        DAVID BERGER: It sure as shit isn’t, given the history of US imperialism, which you are consistently distorting. (So far, as of the 15th of June, 211 people have been killed in civil strife in Iraq.)

        INTRO: Comparisons between the Baath fascist Iraqi regime

        DAVID BERGER: I suggest you study Trotsky’s analysis of fascism before you start tossing that word around.

        INTRO: and the Hitler regime are somewhat spurious.

        DAVID BERGER: Spurious maybe, but politically motivated. If the regimes in Iraq of Syria can be shown to be “fascist,” then some of the same logic for supporting US entry into WWII can be used. You use that logic anyway, even though the term “fascist” is inapplicable to Iraq or Syria.

        INTRO: Comparisons between the recent peace movement and the 1930s peace movement are not.

        DAVID BERGER: I should hope not. The spirit of the peace movement of the 1930s, manipulated as it was by the Stalinists, was a wonderful thing whose spirit moves on. (You aren’t fit to tie Pete Seeger’s shoes, with all the political mistakes he’s made.)

        INTRO: Note also that despite his (genuine) status as a “theoretician” Draper feels content to simply describe his heroic struggle against the Communists and collective security, without feeling any need to present arguments to demonstrate that he was right and they were wrong.

        DAVID BERGER: Having known Draper politically and personally, he was definitely given to ex cathedra statements. But compared to this piece, he’s like a bishop to the pope.

        INTRO: On the other hand however, support for that view disappeared almost entirely during the war against fascism.”

        DAVID BERGER: The view of the peace movement of the 1930s may have lacked a core understanding of fascism and, therefore, was subject to manipulation, but compared with the dishonesty of the Stalinists, and your own dishonesty, it was a bastion of good politics.

  • Red Blob

    Arthur the International Communist movement did support the idea of collective security up till late 1939 but then changed this policy to the one you describe as rotten. In January 1940 US Communists put their support behind the Keep America out of the war Committee.
    You cant have it both ways. I agree that the politics of the America First Committee were rotten and they were rotten when the CP opposed them and they were rotten when the CP supported them.

    • David Berger (RED DAVE)

      RED BLOB: Arthur the International Communist movement did support the idea of collective security up till late 1939

      DAVID BERGER: Not saying this isn’t true, but for a serious discussion of the politics of this period, please document and explain this.

      RED BLOB: but then changed this policy to the one you describe as rotten.

      DAVID BERGER: Not saying this isn’t true, but for a serious discussion of the politics of this period, please document and explain this.

      RED BLOB: In January 1940 US Communists put their support behind the Keep America out of the war Committee.

      DAVID BERGER: Not saying this isn’t true, but for a serious discussion of the politics of this period, please document and explain this.

      RED BLOB: You cant have it both ways. I agree that the politics of the America First Committee were rotten and they were rotten when the CP opposed them and they were rotten when the CP supported them.

      DAVID BERGER: Not saying this isn’t true, but for a serious discussion of the politics of this period, please document and explain this.

      Blanket assertions of historical events or political analysis should not be made or accepted in serious political discussions. Time to get down and dirty, comrades, instead of bullshitting.

      • Red Blob

        Dave generally I treat these interactions as conversations rather than as an academic work where everything needs footnoting. The stuff that Im writting is pretty well general knowledge for people who are interested in these things and pretty accessable for people that are new to the ideas. If I did introduce a piece of information about something more obscure I would provide a link.
        Its pretty well known that in 1939 the International Communist movement changed course it was called the Hitler-Stalin Pact (among other things) do I really have to provide evidece that it occurred?
        Arthur described the peace mongering of the time as rotten and I agree with him but these are opinions how in the name of Lenin’s armpit am I supposed to document this as you request really?…. really?

        • patrickm

          Red Blob,
          To raise this material in this manner is to deceive others and leave them with an impression that you have never had the historical issue of the non-aggression pact and period dealt with and what’s more at some length too. That is really beyond contempt. It was dealt with here

          http://archive.lastsuperpower.net/members/+disc+members+604581292915.htm

          That’s where you said this;

          ‘I know you think I go off topic but I would like someone to explain to me how Stalin supplying Nazi Germany with all sorts of neccessities when Nazi Germany was at war with democratic England was part of the anti fascist movement and how the secret protocols of the Hitler-Stalin pact can be described as anything but collaboration.
          Steve Owens’

          My own contributions to the discussion were substantial (as were several others including Arthur, byork, Youngmarxist, Keza, Lupin3)

          Posted by patrickm at 2006-04-05 04:37 AM
          and
          Posted by patrickm at 2006-04-06 03:50 AM
          and
          Posted by patrickm at 2006-04-10 05:54 AM

          I said @ 03:50 AM;

          ‘Steve, your position is hopelessly confused.

          Stalin tried to ‘do the right thing’ by the Czechoslovaks, yet you fail to comment on the fact that the Munich agreement was done by the British and the French who refused the Soviet offer to defend Czechoslovakia. Why did they do this in your view? Doesn’t it seem to be a rather unpleasant act of imperialism? You are always attempting to stand on some moral high ground, yet fail to notice that Stalin made the offer and the ‘good guys’ didn’t take it up. Do you not give your favorite communist monster any brownie points for this because you are consistently opposed to collective security arrangements? ‘

          You never did answer those pointed questions but we have the answer now in the practice of your acceptance of

          1. the NATO NFZ attacks on Libya

          2. your reversal of your opposition to the earlier NFZ protecting the Kurds.

          3. your current advocacy for NATO going to NFZ war against Assad’s regime.

          4. Your silence over Mali and who knows what else (the people of Kuwait are not planning on sending you any Christmas cards)

          I had hoped for better from you now but apparently this stupid carry on is to be reverted to (no doubt to protect the unwary from the nasty Maoists).

          I can but recommend that people -starting with yourself – read the whole thread. I think the very important issues were well dealt with in sufficient detail as to give people who are now pro-war pause for thought.

          • PatrickSMcNally

            “Why did they do this in your view?”

            This is a rather simple point which Litvinov understood but which many subsequent Leftists of all types have repeatedly distorted. The fact was that there was a German population in the Sudetenland which had been artificially incorporated into Czechoslovakia. Really, the whole idea of “Czechoslovakia” was always an artificial construct and that was why the Czech Republic & Slovakia were formed after the Cold War.

            Although Hitler had much bigger ambitions than simply reunifying German populations with the homeland, all of his concrete demands during the first 6 years focused on this alone. Even if Hitler had been killed in street-fighting in 1919, and if the NSDAP had never been heard of again, there still would have been broad movements across Europe demanding the reunification of Austria, Sudetenland, Danzig, and South Tyrol with Germany. The last one never arose as an issue because Hitler himself personally insisted upon reaching alliance with Mussolini.

            For Hitler all of these unsettled territorial disputes were only important insofar as they offered a pretext for a drive to the east that would conquer new living space for the Aryan race at the expense of the Slavic sub-humans. This caused some internal controversy within the NSDAP since Goebbels and some others had originally expected a conflict with Mussolini over South Tyrol and the de-Germanization policy which Mussolini was enacting there. Hitler had to put his foot down and declare that alliance with Mussolini was more important than South Tyrol.

            But the fact is that one can look up photographs of Austrian women welcoming Wehrmacht soldiers into the country. This was not just a reflection of Nazi propaganda. Again, even if the NSDAP had never gained power, you still would have had the movement for Austro-German unification. Hitler latched onto this and used it to his advantage, but he did not invent the issue. Likewise in the Sudetenland a majority had long favored unification with Germany, and also in Danzig. These movements came to be given a Nazi-cast as a consequence of Hitler gaining the Chancellorship, but they involved more than just that.

            The issue which Chamberlain was faced with was over at what point to draw the line. Since World War II many people have talked as if it was always self-evident that the line should have been drawn very early. But it’s not really likely that most Britons would have supported a prolonged war to keep the Sudetenland from unifying with Germany.

            Many supposed critics of Chamberlain have talked as if the Munich agreement was a simple gift to Hitler. But that was not how Hitler perceived it. Hitler was enraged at the way that Chamberlain sat down to negotiate territorial boundaries. Hitler had simply wanted a blank check to annex the whole of Czechoslovakia unconditionally. Even when the pretext which he gave was over the Sudetenland, Hitler mainly saw the issue as one of asserting Germany’s unconditional hegemony over eastern Europe. Hitler was furious that Chamberlain did not simply grant him an open license. That then led to the subsequent events in March 1939 when Hitler tore up the Munich agreement, laid down further claims on the rump remains of Czechoslovakia, and then proceeded to point towards Danzig.

            Danzig was also a real legitimate issue and if Hitler had not discarded the Munich treaty then it is likely that Chamberlain would have, with good justifications, pressured the Poles to settle there too. Instead, Chamberlain declared unconditional support for Poland as a response to Hitler having shredded the agreement over Czechoslovakia. These were the circumstances which allowed Chamberlain to build a popular base of support for the war against the Third Reich which Churchill subsequently took over.

            Maxim Litvinov understood these types of considerations much better than Stalin did. In the conspiratorial world-view which Stalin held, any willingness by Chamberlain to accept that it would not be worth going to war over the Sudetenland was automatically converted into “proof” of a plot to give Hitler the whole of eastern Europe as a reward for destroying the USSR. That is a ridiculous pseudo-history which is in no way supported by the documentary record. But unfortunately such tripe is still repeated among many Leftists.

            • Arthur

              Wow! How appropriate that a pseudoleftist should openly come out not only in defense of Chamberlain’s notorious appeasement but even of Hitler’s territorial claims…

              Such honesty is refreshing.

              • PatrickSMcNally

                I’m just reciting what are well-documented historical facts. What is refreshing here is to see you repeating old lies. Hitler’s territorial claims were not really Danzig or Sudetenland but were about the drive to the east which was meant to claim the whole of Russian and Polish lands for the settlement of new Germans. This was absolutely never supported by Chamberlain, not even with a hint. Chamberlain simply had to deal with the fact that things like the Sudetenland were special issues where many people who were in no way Nazis had long argued that a territorial rearrangement was necessary and that it would silly to go to war over such.

          • Red Blob

            PatrickM, I was pointing out was that Communists in the 1930’s were advocating collective security up until 1939 when they became advocates for peace. (theres no argument here its just a fact)
            The idea of collective security is a very poor idea. We had collective security up until 1914. It was collective security that helped promote war because as soon as one country was in, all countries were in. Why would anyone advocate collective security for the USSR? The whole idea rests on the idea that you have reliable allies. Who were the reliable allies for the USSR in the 1930’s? Britain? France? Really? Your saying that if Germany went to war with the USSR Chamberlain would have come to the rescue.
            Your argument is faulty, on the one hand you say that Britain and France were trying to engineer a German-Russian war and on the other hand you support a collective security agreement between the USSR and who?

            • PatrickSMcNally

              You’re projecting so many things that I never said that it would take a long time to disentangle them. But just a few points need to be made.

              I have made no attempt to lay down advice here on whether anyone should or should not have attempted to pursue collective security or anything else like it. The whole issue of what should have been done is inherently very complicated and involves making lots of guesses about unknowns. I was clarifying here a much more simple point.

              Among many people of quite varied political persuasions there has long been a popular belief that is quite emphatically not supported by real professional historians (Richard Overy could be taken as an example of the latter). This belief maintains that Chamberlain up until March 1939 had been pursuing a very devious plot with the design of supporting Hitler’s bid to seize living space in the east, and that Chamberlain’s motives in this policy were to destroy the Soviet Union as his principal aim. This pseudo-history then goes on to claim that somehow in the middle of 1939 Chamberlain did a sharp reverse which led to the declaration of war on Germany after Hitler invaded Poland. None of this is supported by facts.

              As far as Chamberlain’s attitude towards the USSR was concerned, like almost all politicians of that time he largely discounted it. People may forget this fact because we have seen a Cold War where the military capability of the USSR was regularly exaggerated by politicians like Ronald Reagan, and someone may be inclined to assume that the Old Right thought the same. But the truth was the reverse.

              Even Hitler’s rabid rants about a Jewish-Bolshevik menace stressed the idea that the real threat was one of ideological and racial poisoning. But when Operation Barbarossa was launched Hitler had simply expected that the USSR would collapse like a house of cards in six weeks or less. This was also the assumption made among British conservatives like Chamberlain. No one really expected that the main front in WWII would be in the east. They assumed that the Czarist collapse would be reduplicated much more rapidly and that the main struggle would be in the west. Things turned out the other way.

              Chamberlain absolutely never desired to see Hitler achieve domination of eastern Europe, nor was he seeking in some cunning way to engineer a German-Russian war. He expected that any German-Russian war, if it happened at all, would rather leave Britain stuck with the task of finishing the job. The guiding purpose behind all of his strategic decisions was over how to approach this task.

              What complicated everything for Chamberlain was the legacy of Versailles, and the particular order in which Hitler proceeded. If Hitler had simply began by launching a full-scale invasion of all of eastern Europe then Britain would simply have declared war on Germany and there never would have been any period of appeasement. But instead the first notable move which Hitler made was when he took over the Saar region in 1935 which had temporarily separated from Germany by Versailles.

              Now the question was, should Britain have declared war over that? In light of all later events it is easy to argue that this would have been better. But the fact was that the majority population in the Saar wanted to reunify with Germany, and that sentiment existed independently of Hitler’s regime. Even if Hitler had been killed in the putsch attempt of 1923, you still would have had the Saar population seeking to reunify with Germany. At the same time, the aftermath of the First World War had bred a huge wave of disillusionment in Britain. If Britain had tried going to war over the Saar then the public would not likely have supported this. So Hitler was given his first major diplomatic victory when the Saar reunified with Germany.

              The two subsequent events to this involved the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 and then the absorption of Austria in 1938. Both of these were cast in Nazi propaganda as great victories won by Hitler’s courage. But again, it would have been very hard for any British leader to justify before the public going to war against Germany over this. If you look in Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power, he includes a very charming photograph of a Wehrmacht soldier being greeted by Austrian women. The poor fellow looks like he might faint from all the excitement.

              It is very crucial to be clear that this sentiment among Austrians in favor of unification with Germany was definitely not something created by Nazi propaganda. Hitler took advantage of these sentiments, and once in power he worked methodically to give the movement for German-Austrian unification a cery specific ideological cast, but he did not invent any of this. Imagine if Britain had declared war on Germany over this, and the result had been massive heaps of dead British soldiers on the Somme River, while German propaganda continued to point that Austrians had welcome the unification with Germany. This would have been a political disaster for any British government. For that reason, Chamberlain accepted the annexation of Austria. This decision was not in any way motivated by a conspiracy on Chamberlain’s part to set up a German-Russian war. Chamberlain was simply trying to avoid the trap of blundering into a British-German war under circumstances that would be hard to justify to the British public.

              Similar facts relate to the treaty at Munich. This involved a new departure because it was no longer a matter of a wholly German province or state (such as the Saar and Austria) which Hitler was seeking to unify with the Reich. Czechoslovakia was an artificially created state born out of Versailles which has since disintegrated into separate states. At that time in 1938 it included a German population in the Sudetenland.

              Hitler’s formal argument was that these Germans should also be incorporated into the Reich. Hitler’s actual goal in the confrontation over Czechoslovakia was to establish a German form of the Monroe Doctrine over eastern Europe. He expected that Britain would now be forced to accept eastern Europe as Germany’s domain of entitlement. Hitler did not really want a war in Czechoslovakia, any more that Reagan wanted a war in Grenada. Hitler simply expected that Germany would rapidly swallow Czechoslovakia with little if any real fighting and then Britain would accept the implications.

              Instead, Chamberlain put his foot down and refused to allow it. Many retroactive critics of Chamberlain have talked about the Munich treaty as if it were a simple handover to Hitler of everything he had demanded. That was far from the case. Chamberlain agreed that Germany could take the Sudetenland which was a German-inhabited region. But he said no to Hitler’s plans of annexation.

              Chamberlain’s motives here had absolutely no connection to any plan of creating a German-Russian war. That is a stupid fantasy frequently promoted by non-historians. Chamberlain’s guiding criterion was simply over how to persuade the British public. Because many Britons would not have been persuaded that it was worth fighting a bloody war with Germany simply to keep the German-populated Sudetenland separate from Germany in an artificially constructed state like Czechoslovakia.

              As it occurred, Hitler was so enraged about the Munich treaty (which he regarded as an attempt by Chamberlain to interfere with Germany’s natural sphere) that he tore it up a few months later and asserted his authority over the wider region beyond the Sudetenland. That provided Chamberlain with what he needed so that he could go the British public and refuse to deal with Hitler over Danzig in Poland, which also happened to be a German-inhabited region that had been carved away by the Versailles Treaty. But in the aftermath of Hitler’s actions in March 1939 towards what was left of Czechoslovakia, it was now easy for everyone to believe that any agreement over Danzig would be followed by a further attempt by Hitler to annex the rest of Poland (as would have been the case).

              Everything which Chamberlain did on a step-by-step basis in these years was all about preparing British public opinion for a likely war with Germany in a way which would not allow for the argument that this was just a war over Versailles. Not a single bit of it was ever really guided by any plan to set up a war between Germany and Russia. That is just a stupid trope which has been repeated so many times by purported Leftists who are historically ignorant that it almost an obligation to repeat it in would-be Leftist circles. That doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t true.

              • Red Blob

                PatrickSMNally my last post was not directed at you but was a reply to Patrickm who also posts here. I miswrote his name as PatrickM It is he who doesn’t understand that the change from supporting collective security to supporting peace is a fact and that his position is contradictory because he claims that the appeasers were attempting to engineer war between Germany and Russia while at the same time advocating that the collective security demands of Communists made sense. If he believes in the attempt to promote the German Russian war then collective security with the appeasers is stupidity and if he objects to people pointing out the change in Soviet policy in 1939 he is arguing against facts but some how that just doesn’t surprise me.

                • PatrickSMcNally

                  Oops. Well now it’s clearer. Just the capital “M” must have thrown me.

              • Richard Estes

                Hitler skillfully used Wilson’s concept of self-determination to his advantage. Not only did it legitimize his initial actions in the Saar and Austria, but it exposed the fact that Czechoslovakia, and Poland as well, were, by this standard, artificial creations. Another complicating factor for Chamberlain was the fact that the only force capable of immediately defending the Czechs was the Red Army, but the Czechs would not agree to allow it to enter the country to fight the Germans. If the Czechs wouldn’t accept a Russian defense, why should the British undertake it instead, at great risk?

                • Richard Estes

                  actually, I believe that it was Poland that wouldn’t give Red Army troops a right of passage to enter Czechoslavakia to defend it, this, according to Shirer

                  at my age, my recollection of things can go askew

                  but, the larger point remains valid

                  • Brian S.

                    I believe that’s right, Richard: indeed the whole issue of the Soviet Union’s demand that the Red army be given the right of transit through Poland dogged the negotiations, such as they were, over a collective security agreement with Britain and France. The Czechs were on fairly good terms with the Soviets by then.

                    • PatrickSMcNally

                      Yes, that was very much a problem. In retrospect one can say that the 4 decades of Soviet domination over Poland at least did not involve any attempts to reduce the Polish population to illiterate serfs who could be driven off the land any time to make way for German settlers, such as the Third Reich aimed to do, and in that sense the Poles should have accepted Soviet terms unconditionally. But it isn’t really surprising that Poland refused to allow the entrance of Soviet troops.

                      The problem which this stuck Chamberlain with was the following. Imagine a scenario where Germany invades Poland, a day later the USSR invades Poland in order to begin fighting the Wehrmacht, and the next day Polish officials issue a public oath to fight on all fronts against Nazi & Soviet forces without distinction. Now Chamberlain goes before parliament and seeks a declaration of war on Germany in support of Poland, while insisting that the USSR is an ally. How well would that really come off? It would probably have generated a lot of confusion in the British public.

                      So Chamberlain deliberately avoided giving Stalin a formal agreement where he accepted that the Soviet Union could march through Poland without the permission of the Polish government. These were the types of issues which Maxim Litvinov had in mind when he said later that Stalin did not really understand the considerations which bourgeois democratic leaders like Chamberlain had to deal with. The Hitler-Stalin pact was largely rationalized on the basis of Chamberlain’s refusal to give Stalin a guarantee of support if he marched through Poland against the wishes of the Warsaw government in response to a Nazi attack.

                    • Aaron Aarons

                      PatrickSMcNally writes:

                      The problem which this stuck Chamberlain with was the following. Imagine a scenario where Germany invades Poland, a day later the USSR invades Poland in order to begin fighting the Wehrmacht, and the next day Polish officials issue a public oath to fight on all fronts against Nazi & Soviet forces without distinction. Now Chamberlain goes before parliament and seeks a declaration of war on Germany in support of Poland, while insisting that the USSR is an ally. How well would that really come off? It would probably have generated a lot of confusion in the British public.

                      But then what happened in September of 1939 should have been more problematic for Chamberlain, since the Soviet Union did not enter Poland to fight Germany, but, at least in appearance, to divide it with them. Nevertheless, Britain declared war on Germany but not on the USSR.

  • Red Blob

    Theres one more glaring historical distortion that I would like to address and that is the idea that the appeasment people were aiming at promoting an Axis attack on the Soviet Union.
    Firstly Japan went to war with the USA because the USA had applied crippling sanctions to Japan.
    If the USA had wanted Japan to attack the USSR it would have given Japan the materials to make war not with hold them.
    If Britain and France had wanted Germany to attack the USSR Germany would need to be provided with a common border with the USSR so that it could launch an attack.
    Poland became that common border. If Britain and France had wanted a German attack on the USSR they would have reluctantly accepted the facts on the ground and continued with appeasement.
    I see no historical evidence for the claim that the appeasing nations were trying to engineer a Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. Its just one of many claims that bears no scrutiny but just gets repeated again and again as if it were holy scripture.

  • Wayne

    (1) On the level of principle, it is possible for US revolutionaries to oppose US imperialism’s “intervention” in Syria, while supporting the right of a democratic secular revolutionary group in Syria to take arms from the US. These are different issues. However, the concrete issue would be whether there is any grouping in Syria which is democratic, secular, let-alone-socialist.

    (2) For background on the Vietnamese struggle from a non-Stalinist perspective, see Ngo Van, In the Crossfire: Adventures of Vietnamese Revolutionary (2010).

    • Arthur

      It is possible for people claiming to be revolutionaries to take any bizarre combination of mutually inconsistent political positions they choose.

      They can and they do.

      It results from not being constrained by reality because of not actually trying to win anything. When you don’t actually want to win, it’s more important to take a “stand” against US intervention than to have the people trying to kill you bombed by it. Of course anybody in Syria who wants the US to bomb the fascists trying to kill them is by definition not democratic or secular, let alone socialist since, by definition, anybody democratic or secular, let alone socialist opposes the US bombing anybody. Its just the simple, irrefutable logic of complete morons.

      • Aaron Aarons

        The genuine left definitely wants to win. But for us, unlike for the pro-imperialist pseudo-left, winning means defeating U.S. imperialism and its extensions, including NATO and the “Five Eyes”, as the anglophone imperialist bloc of the U.S., U.K, Canada, Australia and New Zealand refers to itself.

      • Aaron Aarons

        You, Arthur Dent, are at least consistent in your support of bourgeois-democratic imperialism.

        BTW, I wouldn’t oppose the U.S. bombing anybody. In fact, if they want to bomb the Pentagon its OK with me. I just don’t want them to blame Arab patsies this time.

      • Aaron Aarons

        To whom, Arthur Dent, are you attributing the following position?

        Of course anybody in Syria who wants the US to bomb the fascists trying to kill them is by definition not democratic or secular, let alone socialist since, by definition, anybody democratic or secular, let alone socialist opposes the US bombing anybody.

        I don’t know of anyone here who says that being “secular” or “democratic” implies that one “opposes the US bombing anybody”. Many of us oppose the U.S. bombing anybody whom the U.S. might actually bomb, but we certainly don’t presume that everybody who is “secular” or “democratic”, whatever that really means, shares that position. Moreover, Mr. Dent, I think you realize that and you were just being your usual dishonest self in making that charge.

    • Richard Estes

      “(2) For background on the Vietnamese struggle from a non-Stalinist perspective, see Ngo Van, In the Crossfire: Adventures of Vietnamese Revolutionary (2010).”

      I second this recommendation. A compelling, first person account.

    • Brian S.

      This term “secular” has become a touchstone for many on the left in evaluating political currents.What do you understand by it and why is it so central? Do you really place it on the same level as “democratic”?

      • Richard Estes

        Even though this wasn’t directed at me, let me hazard some guesses.

        First, the modern left has secular origins rooted in the Enlightenment, at least the left as it emerged in Europe and the US did.

        Second, the modern left has faced, and continues to face, relentless opposition from the Catholic Church (the Church has collaborated with fascists in Europe and the Americas in the killing of many leftists and the suppression of leftist social movements), the Eastern Orthodox Church and much of Islam (look at what happened to the left in Iran post-1979).

        Third, religious fundamentalism among Christians and Muslims is hostile to many left values.

        Fourth, conservative elements with Christianity and Islam have aligned themselves with US imperialism against peoples seeking self-determination and against the working class.

        Not to mention the historic antipathy to religion as hierarchical by anarchists. Are there religious people who support left objectives, yes, indeed they are. The liberation theologists in the Americas are a praiseworthy example. But they should not be confused with the institutional structures of Christianity and Islam, where are hostile to them.

        In terms of Syria, there is a recent history of Islamic fundamentalism in places like Algeria, the Gulf states and Iran. In all instances, they have been hostile to the left, and, by and large, with the possible exception of Iran, hostile to democracy. Even in Iran, the regime’s notion of democracy is narrow, it has killed many leftists and suppresses social movements and social identities that it considers at odds with Islam. Accordingly, it is not surprising that there are leftists concerned about the opposition to Assad organizing itself along Islamic religious lines.

        • Brian S.

          @Richard Estes re “secularism”. Unfortunately, you don’t respond to my request for your definition of “secularism”: so I still don’t know how you are using this term.
          You seem to oppose “secular” to “fundamentalist” – do you not recognise any intermediate ground in between these poles? You concede that there are people who have strong religious beliefs who are also on the left, such as the adherents of liberation theology (and I could add many other cases) – are they “secular”or not, in your view?
          I ask these questions because its common to read statements from the left/liberal media to the effect “there are no secular rebels in Syria” which is taken to equate to “there is no one in Syria worthy of our support”. That seems to me to assign a huge importance to the value “secular”. Indeed, it strikes me as “secularist fundamentalism” – those who don’t subscribe to this value are apostates and should be consigned to the devil (or, in this case, the Asad regime, which is a reasonable surrogate for the latter).

  • David Berger (RED DAVE)

    ARTHUR: It is possible for people claiming to be revolutionaries to take any bizarre combination of mutually inconsistent political positions they choose.

    They can and they do.

    DAVID BERGER: I agree. Like so-called socialists who supported the US imperialist invasion of Iraq.

    ARTHUR: It results from not being constrained by reality because of not actually trying to win anything.

    DAVID BERGER: No, it results from trying to be socialists and not imperialist stooges like you. You are no socialist. If you are, then, at the next public forum on Syria held in New York, why not send a representative of your tendency to speak? John McCain would be a great choice.

    ARTHUR: When you don’t actually want to win, it’s more important to take a “stand” against US intervention than to have the people trying to kill you bombed by it.

    DAVID BERGER: When you want to ingratiate yourself with the ruling class, it’s more important to ally yourself with them than to be an active socialist. Done any labor organizing lately? Did you and your group, with banners, march in any May Day marches? Do you have he courage of your convictions?

    ARTHUR: Of course anybody in Syria who wants the US to bomb the fascists

    DAVID BERGER: I suggest that you learn what fascism is before you start throwing the word around.

    ARTHUR: trying to kill them is by definition not democratic or secular, let alone socialist since, by definition, anybody democratic or secular, let alone socialist opposes the US bombing anybody. Its just the simple, irrefutable logic of complete morons.

    DAVID BERGER: Why it comes to moronic behavior by a so-called socialist, you have to get some kind of a blue ribbon. Your reward in addition is a copy of the later works of Max Shactman.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    The Trotskyists in this thread are predictably up in arms about how Stalinist forces led by Hồ Chí Minh stabbed Tạ Thu Thâu, Ngô Văn, and Trotsky’s followers in the back in 1945. Having looked at their pronouncements and documents, what I don’t get is how they could have been so easily blind-sided and unprepared for that betrayal after 20 years of uninterrupted factional warfare in the Russian Communist Party, after the Spanish revolution of 1936-1939 when Trotskyists and POUMists were liquidated, and after Trotsky’s assassination in 1940? How could they be so naïve to think things in would be any different in Việt Nam?

    Truly mind-boggling.

    • Brian S.

      Have to check my archives for firm info. But Spain was rather different – the NKVD was a major presence on the ground and basically ran security in the Republican zone. The Vietnamese Trotskyists may have thought that since they had been involved in a common struggle and had some mass influence, they would not be treated in this way. (Although, of course, Trotskyists in the European resistance were).

    • David Berger (RED DAVE)

      PHAM BINH: The Trotskyists in this thread

      DAVID BERGER:I think that, in the absence of names, you are engaged in political cursing, not analyzing.

      PHAM BINH: are predictably up in arms about how Stalinist forces led by Hồ Chí Minh stabbed Tạ Thu Thâu, Ngô Văn, and Trotsky’s followers in the back in 1945.

      DAVID BERGER: You are being very condescending here and patronizing about major political crimes.

      PHAM BINH: Having looked at their pronouncements and documents, what I don’t get is how they could have been so easily blind-sided and unprepared for that betrayal after 20 years of uninterrupted factional warfare in the Russian Communist Party, after the Spanish revolution of 1936-1939 when Trotskyists and POUMists were liquidated, and after Trotsky’s assassination in 1940? How could they be so naïve to think things in would be any different in Việt Nam?

      DAVID BERGER: Hindsight is cheap. As Brian S. points out, the Vietnamese Stalinists and Trotskyists had been involved in common struggle. It was a political mistake, yes, but, I think, an understandable one.

      I suggest that before you toss around terms like “naive,” you look at some of the political “mistakes” that you might be more familiar with. For example, the “mistake” of the man for whose autobiography this website is named. How could Camejo have been so “naive,” just a few years after leaving the SWP, to back the presidential candidate, not a primary candidate but an actual presidential candidate, of the Democrats?

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Hindsight is cheap. What I don’t understand is how anyone in 1945 could lack the foresight to see that the Stalinists would stab Trotskyists in the back at the first opportunity. You don’t have any answers on that either.

        • Richard Estes

          One thing to remember is that transport and communication in 1945 wasn’t nearly what it is today, or even 40 years ago, particularly in regard to the lesser developed world. So, while it may seem obvious today, fragmented information and contact with people from Europe may have made it seem less so then. Recall also that the CCP to the north was still following a united front strategy. Still, though, based upon what they should have known, you’d think that they would have been more prepared. Perhaps, they were shocked by the collusion of the Viet Minh with the French.

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

            The Trotskyist bulletins to which the Vietnamese section of the Fourth International contributed were always rife with reports of Stalinist misdeeds throughout the world for decades and there’s no way it would have taken them 5 years to hear about Trotsky’s assassination.

            Their unpreparedness is an indication of a very basic flaw in Trotskyist method — they acted as if denouncing the treachery or deficiency of rival left forces in and of itself would be sufficient to wrest the masses away from the influence of whomever was misleading them. Trotsky’s 1938 Transitional Program captures this pretty well; it practically says, “after Stalin, our turn” as if winning leadership or popular support within mass organizations/struggles were ever as simple as denouncing the bad guys pretending to be good guys.

        • Brian S.

          Still not checked by archives: but even if they were expecting it, what could they have done about it?

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

            Prepare a self-defense force. They had a base in some of the unions in Saigon. It’s not like we’re talking about a propaganda group of 10 people here.

            • Arthur

              I don’t know much about Vietnamese Trotskyists.

              But I do know that the seemingly far-fetched claims that Trots were active saboteurs who undermined unity against fascism in the 1930s have been rendered superflous by their openly siding with fascism today.

              On historical questions too, in this very thread, we see a defence of 1930s appeasement and idle chatter against Vietnamese “Stalinism” as of far greater interest concerning Ho Chi Minh than the actual subject of the complex relations between revolutionaries and imperialist powers that is actually the topic of the post and actually high relevant to exposing the counter-revolutionary pro-fascist politics of the Trot sects today (joined by others who claim to not be Trots).

              • Brian S.

                @Arthur: “counter-revolutionary pro-fascist politics of the Trot sects today”. Don’t want to launch into a false debate – so could you indicate what your are referring to?

                • Arthur

                  Brian, surely you have noticed that most Trots actively oppose the revolutions in Syria and Libya and base that on “principles” that go way back. You need only look earlier in this thread to see defence of appeasement in the 1930s and later in the thread to see hostility to the Vietnamese revolution. I also mentioned that groups claiming not to be Trot have gone the same way and you would be familiar with that too (eg Kasama still pretends to be “Maoist” while advocating Trot positions on everyting including the war against fascism).

                  Anyway, I’m not interested in joining the “debate” in this thead. Merely pointing at it as confirmation of how disgusting Trotskyism didn’t just suddenly because disgustingly pro-fascist over Syria but played the same role undermining the Vietnamese struggle and the 1930s united front against fascism.
                  .

                  • PatrickSMcNally

                    You sound like the kind of fanatical lunatic who would start jailing black Muslims as agents of Al Qaeda. It was always one of the markings of Stalin’s paranoia that points of political difference were quickly cast in a conspiratorial framework, very much in the same style as the Protocols of Zion which were used by the Whites to give a conspiratorial interpretation to political reality. The Nation of Islam has a lot of crappy politics, so we might just as well start accusing them of being agents of Al Qaeda. That’s the direction which your type of crappy Stalinist paranoia leads to.

                    One doesn’t need to defend any particular policy of the 1930s in order to study some actual historical facts and realize that the situation of that time was much more complex than Stalinist maniacs would like to suggest. While someone can attempt to make honest criticisms of the policies which were followed at the time, doing so requires setting aside the conspiratorial fantasies and sticking to historical facts. For example, it is a historical fact that contrary to what many Stalinists and fellow-travelers have tried to claim since then, the Munich agreement absolutely did not give Hitler what he wanted.

                    Hitler had wanted a blanket annexation of Czechoslovakia that would be carried out under the pretext of unifying the Sudeten Germans with their homeland. Chamberlain refused to grant him this, but instead merely allowed the Sudetenland to be granted to Germany. Hitler was enraged over this and fumed that Chamberlain was trying to cheat him of his victory.

                    The strongest argument which anyone has seriously made against Chamberlain’s decision has to do with the possibility, by no means certain, that German military officers might very well have attempted a coup against Hitler if the Munich agreement had not been reached. It would certainly have been better if Hitler could have been assassinated in the fall of 1938. But the German officers had many opportunities and failed to make more than a half-hearted attempt until 1944. The 1944 attempt could have easily succeeded if one of the would-be assassins had treated it as a suicide-mission and agreed to stay on the spot keeping Hitler absorbed in conversation near where the bomb would go off. Doing this would have cost the life of the assassin, but could have guaranteed Hitler’s death. Instead the plotters simply left the bomb behind and went elsewhere so that there was no way of insuring that Hitler would be near enough to be killed. This was not a very impressive attempt.

                    But apart from that possibility of Hitler being overthrown in a military coup d’état at the time of the Munich confrontation, no one really has a good argument for anything different from Chamberlain’s decision to grant the Sudetenland, while refusing to grant Hitler the blanket claim on Czechoslovakia which he tried to make. The fact is that most Britons would not have wanted to go to war simply to keep the Sudetenland from joining Germany, and if war had broken out over this then it would have been very unlikely that the government would have been able to sustain almost 6 years of support for the war, such as did occur after September 3, 1939.

                    Some other more general criticisms which real historians (as opposed to lying Stalinist ideologues) have made of Chamberlain have had to do with the failure to understand both the modern warfare of their time as well as the real capability of the Soviet army. The fact that France fell so easily to Hitler in 1940 was a consequence of French preparations having been geared towards a repeat of World War I. The Maginot Line was an extensive preparation for trench warfare that was quickly proven to be redundant in the context of newer warfare techniques.

                    In addition, most foreign observers expected that the Soviet army would disintegrate far more rapidly than the Czarist army had. This was partly based upon real facts about the very severe damage done to the Soviet army by Stalin’s maniacal purges. But it also reflected a simplified stereotype of Russians as just inherently backward. The attempts to reach an Allied-Soviet treaty before August 1939 were partly obstructed by these misconceptions.

                    Even there, one can’t overlook the role which Polish-Soviet disputes played in breaking down these talks. Maxim Litvinov, who himself was Jewish and obviously not predisposed to sympathy with Hitler, realized that Chamberlain could not have granted Stalin’s insistence on a guarantee of British support in the event that Soviet troops tried to cross Poland against the will of the Polish government in order to fight the Wehrmacht. This was the key point which frustrated the Allied-Soviet talks before the Hitler-Stalin pact. If Stalin had accepted that he would have to first allow the Wehrmacht to overrun Poland before Soviet troops could advance into Poland then the Allied-Soviet attempts at an alliance would probably have worked out in August 1939 and the outcome would certainly not have been worse than what happened two years later in 1941.

                    • Red Blob

                      PatrickSMcNally, It is a bit hard to see what your political conclusions are from your reading of History.
                      For me I think that fascism trumps every other enemy. Any concession to fascism is on the face of it a mistake. Czechoslovakia in 1939 was a democracy with good defensive prospects. Giving the Sudetenland to Hitler is in my opinion a betrayal that leftists should have opposed then and now.
                      I think that you are correct that Hitler was angry about the Munich agreement but I have also seen on TV documentaries that when he had seen the Czech defenses that were just given to him he expressed great relief that such a strong position had been ceded to him without a fight.

                    • Arthur

                      Love the slide. Originally it was a tentative:

                      “Among many people of quite varied political persuasions there has long been a popular belief …” about appeasement, that PSMcN politely dissents from.

                      Now it’s:

                      “You sound like the kind of fanatical lunatic who…your type of crappy Stalinist paranoia … Stalinist maniacs…it is a historical fact that contrary to what many Stalinists and fellow-travelers have tried to claim since then, the Munich agreement absolutely did not give Hitler what he wanted.”

                      It is a well known fact that rightly or wrongly mainstream opinion denounces the appeasers and Munich agreement as giving Hitler what he wanted. This was tacitly acknowledged by PSMcN in his reference to the “popular belief” among ” many people of quite varied political persuasions”.

                      But now, in the same thread, it’s just “Stalinist maniacs” and of course “fellow travellers”.

                      Trots are notorious for being “experts” at debating the history of other times and places. But the essence is always their same as their position on current events, right here and right now. Rabid opposition to whatever progress people are actually fighting for.

                      Also, they always end up just screaming “Stalinist” when you point out that they are siding with the fascism, as they are in Syria right here, right now and as they did in opposing collective security in the 1930s along with the other appeasers and as they are continuing to defend in this thread.

                      Their enemy in the Vietnam war was, of course, Ho Chi Minh.

                    • Aaron Aarons

                      In an assertion consistent with his pattern of intellectual honesty, Arthur Dent attributes to “Trotskyists” the position that “Their enemy in the Vietnam war was, of course, Ho Chi Minh.”

                      Actually, during the U.S. war against Vietnam, almost every group that considered itself “Trotskyist” was for the defeat of the United States and the military victory of the forces led by Ho Chi Minh. I’d have to go back over the record, but I think that applies, in perhaps a more muted way, even to the “Third Camp” followers of Tony Cliff, who had refused to defend Korea against the U.S. in 1950-53.

                      It was Ho’s Stalinists who treated the Trotskyists as an enemy that had to be annihilated, while the Trotskyists in 1945 and after treated the Vietnamese Stalinists as political opponents on the left who should be defended against imperialism.

                      BTW, the record of Mao’s China in the U.S.-Vietnam conflict ranged from lame to positively counter-revolutionary. OTOH, Moscow Stalinists in the U.S. and elsewhere agitated for a “negotiated peace” rather than for support of the Vietnamese struggle and the defeat of the U.S..

                  • Red Blob

                    For all the crimes of the Trots and of course that arch criminal Trotsky himself it pales into insignificance when one realises that Stalin was negotiating USSR entry into the Axis alliance
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German%E2%80%93Soviet_Axis_talks

                    • patrickm

                      This snip puts the above material in the bin.

                      ‘ The political leadership of the U.S.S.R. was following a very determined foreign policy direction that identified both the aggressor imperialisms, and the game that the other ‘non-aggressor’ powers were following. But the Soviet leadership played this game much better than all the imperialists with the exception of the U.S..

                      The following long quote is from, REPORT TO THE EIGHTEENTH CONGRESS OF THE C.P.S.U. (B.) ON THE WORK OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE, and is an insight into the thinking of that experienced political leadership at this crucial point, five days before Hitler invaded and enslaved the rest of Czechoslovakia.
                      March 10 1939:

                      INCREASING ACUTENESS OF THE INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL SITUATION.

                      COLLAPSE OF THE POST-WAR SYSTEM OF PEACE TREATIES.

                      BEGINNING OF A NEW IMPERIALIST WAR.

                      Here is a list of the most important events during the period under review which marked the beginning of a new imperialist war. In 1935 Italy attacked and seized Abyssinia. In the summer of 1936 Germany and Italy organized military intervention in Spain, Germany entrenching itself in the north of Spain and in Spanish Morocco, and Italy in the south of Spain and in the Balearic Islands. In 1937, having seized Manchuria, Japan invaded North and Central China, occupied Peking, Tientsin and Shanghai and began to oust its foreign competitors from the occupied zone. In the beginning of 1938 Germany seized Austria, and in the autumn of 1938 the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia. At the end of 1938 Japan seized Canton, and at the beginning of 1939 the Island of Hainan.

                      Thus the war, which has stolen so imperceptibly upon the nations, has drawn over 500 million people into its orbit and has extended its sphere of action over a vast territory, stretching from Tientsin, Shanghai and Canton, through Abyssinia, to Gibraltar.

                      After the first imperialist war the victor states, primarily Britain, France and the United States, set up a new regime in the relations between countries, the post-war peace regime. The main props of this regime were the Nine-Power Pact in the Far East, and the Versailles and a number of other treaties in Europe. The League of Nations was set up to regulate relations between countries within the framework of this regime, on the basis of a united front of states, of collective defense of the security of states. However, three aggressive states, and the new imperialist war launched by them, upset the entire system of this post-war peace regime. Japan tore up the Nine-Power Pact, and Germany and Italy the Versailles Treaty. In order to have their hands free, these three states withdrew from the League of Nations.

                      The new imperialist war became a fact.

                      It is not so easy in our day suddenly to break loose and plunge straight into war without regard for treaties of any kind or for public opinion. Bourgeois politicians know this quite well. So do the fascist rulers. That is why the fascist rulers decided, before plunging into war, to mould public opinion to suit their ends, that is, to mislead it, to deceive it.

                      A military bloc of Germany and Italy against the interests of Britain and France in Europe? Bless us, do you call that a bloc? “We” have no military bloc. All “we” have is an innocuous “Berlin-Rome axis”; that is, just a geometrical equation for an axis. (Laughter.) A military bloc of Germany, Italy and Japan against the interests of the United States, Britain and France in the Far East? Nothing of the kind! “We” have no military bloc. All “we” have is an innocuous “Berlin-Rome-Tokyo triangle”; that is, a slight penchant for geometry. (General laughter.)

                      A war against the interests of Britain, France, the United States? Nonsense! “We” are waging war on the Comintern, not on these states. If you don’t believe it, read the “anti-Comintern pact” concluded between Italy, Germany and Japan.

                      That is how Messieurs the aggressors thought to mould public opinion, although it was not hard to see how preposterous this clumsy game of camouflage was; for it is ridiculous to look for Comintern “hotbeds” in the deserts of Mongolia, in the mountains of Abyssinia, or in the wilds of Spanish Morocco. (Laughter.)

                      But war is inexorable. It cannot be hidden under any guise. For no “axes,” “triangles” or “anti-Comintern pacts” can hide the fact that in this period Japan has seized a vast stretch of territory in China, that Italy has seized Abyssinia, that Germany has seized Austria and the Sudeten region, that Germany and Italy together have seized Spain — and all this in defiance of the interests of the non-aggressive states. The war remains a war; the military bloc of aggressors remains a military bloc; and the aggressors remain aggressors.

                      It is a distinguishing feature of the new imperialist war that it has not yet become a universal, a world war. The war is being waged by aggressor states, who in every way infringe upon the interests of the non-aggressive states, primarily Britain, France and the U.S.A., while the latter draw back and retreat, making concession after concession to the aggressors.

                      Thus we are witnessing an open re-division of the world and spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aggressive states, without the least attempt at resistance, and even with a certain connivance, on their part.

                      Incredible, but true.

                      To what are we to attribute this one-sided and strange character of the new imperialist war?

                      How is it that the non-aggressive countries, which possess such vast opportunities, have so easily and without resistance abandoned their positions and their obligations to please the aggressors?

                      Is it to be attributed to the weakness of the non-aggressive states? Of course not! Combined, the non-aggressive, democratic states are unquestionably stronger than the fascist states, both economically and militarily.

                      To what then are we to attribute the systematic concessions made by these states to the aggressors?

                      It might be attributed, for example, to the fear that a revolution might break out if the non-aggressive states were to go to war and the war were to assume world-wide proportions. The bourgeois politicians know, of course, that the first imperialist world war led to the victory of the revolution in one of the largest countries. They are afraid that a second imperialist world war may also lead to the victory of the revolution in one or several countries.

                      But at present this is not the sole or even the chief reason. The chief reason is that the majority of the non-aggressive countries,particularly Britain and France, have rejected the policy of collective security, the policy of collective resistance to aggressors, and have taken up a position of non-intervention, a position of “neutrality.”

                      Formally speaking, the policy of non-intervention might be defined as follows: “Let each country defend itself against the aggressors as it likes and as best it can. That is not our affair We shall trade both with the aggressors and with their victims.” But actually speaking, the policy of non-intervention means conniving at aggression, giving free rein to war, and, consequently, transforming the war into a world war. The policy of non-intervention reveals an eagerness, a desire, not to hinder the aggressors in their nefarious work: not to hinder Japan, say, from embroiling itself in a war with China, or better still, with the Soviet Union; not to hinder Germany, say, from enmeshing itself in European affairs, from embroiling itself in a war with the Soviet Union; to allow all the belligerents to sink deeply into the mire of war, to encourage them surreptitiously in this; to allow them to weaken and exhaust one another; and then, when they have become weak enough, to appear on the scene with fresh strength, to appear, of course, “in the interests of peace,” and to dictate conditions to the enfeebled belligerents.

                      Cheap and easy!

                      *****************************

                      Thus all the powers played the biggest game ever played.

                      Six months after this statement, in August 1939, an economic agreement and then a non- aggression pact were agreed to, and these two, taken together are really the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The August agreements achieved a great deal for the U.S.S.R. and in the end did nothing but entrap the German imperialists into embarking on an unsustainable aggressive war that would eventually go over to a war on two fronts.

                      Blitzkrieg would be shown up as nothing but a tactic and the ‘five constants’ would in the end not be affected by any initial successes achieved by ‘surprise’ tactics.
                      check out this thread
                      http://archive.lastsuperpower.net/members/+disc+members+604581292915.htm

                      and
                      http://home.vicnet.net.au/~dmcm/red_politics/rp18.htm

                    • Aaron Aarons

                      Patrick Muldowney seems to think that the distinction between “agressor imperialisms” and the imperialisms, particularly British and French imperialisms, that were merely defending the spoils of their victory in “the Great War” of 1914-1918 and their conquests even before that, somehow justifies leftists militarily and politically supporting the latter against the former! Moreover, he continues to denounce those who opposed such “collective security” with the successful imperialists as supporters or appeasers of fascism while managing to justify his man Stalin’s actual alliance with that same fascism for almost two years — an alliance broken by the fascists, not by Stalin.

                      There may be good arguments for various agreements made by the USSR or by armed leftist movements (China, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Greece, etc.) with various imperialist powers before and during WWII, but moralistic bullshit in defense of “democratic” imperialism is not among them.

                    • Red Blob

                      Aaron I think that you have got Patrickm wrong. It is me who is arguing that leftists should unite with democratic imperialism to defeat fascism. IE Britain should have sent aid to republican Spain, Britain should have defended Czechoslovakia and the Communists in Britain should have supported the war effort during the battle of Britain instead of attempting to disrupt the war effort. This does not for a moment mean that I support British rule in India or Spanish rule in Morocco. I support democracies in their war with Nazi Germany because no matter how bad Britain is it does have many freedoms that have been won through the struggle of working class people and the alternative is slavery.
                      Patrickm is quite capable of defending his own position so Ill leave that to him.

                    • PatrickSMcNally

                      “Germany entrenching itself in the north of Spain”

                      This is another common fallacy which is worth pointing out here. No real historian would ever try claiming that Franco’s victory in Spain did anything to entrench Germany there. It is especially rich to see this type of nonsense coming from war-supporters who would scoff at any claim that Karzai is somehow a US puppet when US forces are occupying Afghanistan. This type of nonsense shows how ideologically contorted the Stalinist war-supporters are.

                      Getting back to historical facts, General Franco was reactionary military officer whose government was similar in many respects to General Park in South Korea during later decades. Any true socialist would have to celebrate seeing such reactionaries defeated. But what is absolutely not true, and not supported by any historian anywhere, is the allegation was somehow an agent of Hitler. He most definitely was no such thing.

                      Although I realize that most of the people spouting this tripe are allergic to studying actual historical records, but for anyone else I would recommend looking up the third volume in a 4-volume series assembled by Max Domarus which consists of speeches, memos and other types of records of Hitler’s communications. In the third volume Domarus includes the records of Hitler’s attempts to draw Franco into the war against Britain after the fall of France in 1940. The record shows that Hitler came away commenting that he “would rather have my teeth pulled than go through that again.” Hitler was completely exasperated by his attempts to get Franco to serve as an ally.

                      That is the context which has to be understood when considering the record of the so-called Non-Intervention Committee at the time of the Spanish Civil War. Many ill-informed Leftists like to talk as if the Non-Intervention Committee and its activities were part of an appeasement of Hitler by Britain and France. There was an actual British policy that was described as “appeasement” by its practitioners at the time, but this had nothing to with Franco. If Franco had actually been a German agent, the way that much Comintern propaganda implied, then the Non-Intervention Committee would have done things very differently.

                      The “appeasement” policy which Chamberlain did in fact follow was only limited to avoiding war over regions that were already inhabited by German populations who long expressed a desire to unify with Germany. The Saar region, Austria, the Sudetenland, Danzig, these were all German-inhabited regions where a majority favored unification. Chamberlain knew that the British public would not support a war over this, and so he waited until Hitler had violated the Munich treaty and taken non-German territories. Then it became easier to justify steps towards to the British public.

                      But that has nothing to do with Spain and Franco. Britain and France agreed to tolerate Franco’s victory simply because they realized that it would not bring assets into Hitler’s hands, and they were right. That doesn’t change the fact that Franco was a Right-wing reactionary who deserved to be defeated. But this was not a concession to Hitler of any kind.

                      What really stands out when reviewing that stupid report to the 18th Congress is the way that a broad ideological brush is used to unify multiple types of events which real historians would insist are quite different from each other. Using a vague general term like “fascism” to cover everything from Hitler to Mussolini to Franco is largely meaningless here. British & French foreign policy-makers reasoned in terms of nation-states, not “pro-fascism” or “anti-fascism.”

                      As far as Britain and France were concerned, Hitler’s Third Reich was the power which threatened to become the dominant power over Europe and their policy was aimed at that. If Mussolini had not sided with Hitler then they would have willingly accepted his as a military ally. In the first years after Hitler gained the Chancellorship it wasn’t clear that Hitler and Mussolini would be allies. It was only when Mussolini saw that France was about to fall in 1940 that he irreversibly committed himself to Hitler’s side.

                      Franco never made any such commitment to Hitler but simply kept him at a polite distance, even when the fall of France made many people think that German victory was assured. The British and French who opened up early contacts with Franco when he launched the Spanish Civil War in 1936 had been very careful to size him up on this, and their assessment was accurate. So that was why they agreed to wink when German and Italian military supplies were sent to Franco in the midst of the fabled Non-Intervention Committee.

                      The ideologically charged blather about “fascism” which one reads in that speech from the 18th Congress is completely blind to these types of little key distinctions. It simply follows the rule that Franco is fascist, Hitler is fascist, ergo Franco’s victory somehow means that Germany is entrenching itself in Spain. That is total hogwash and no professional historian that you speak to would ever endorse such an analysis. There are enough reactionary things which one can highlight about Franco without pretending that he was Hitler’s puppet.

                    • patrickm

                      Re the PatrickSMcNally material.

                      Compare the quote REPORT TO THE EIGHTEENTH CONGRESS OF THE C.P.S.U. (B.) and note first that no where is this report calling the Spanish fascists puppets and no one has in this thread.

                      The date of the report is 10 March 1939.

                      Stalin simply reports that ‘In the summer of 1936 Germany and Italy organized military intervention in Spain, Germany entrenching itself in the north of Spain and in Spanish Morocco, and Italy in the south of Spain and in the Balearic Islands.’

                      The following http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condor_Legion demonstrates that ‘Germany is entrenching itself in Spain’ during that period and that that is NOT a quote but rather a deliberate or grossly incompetent misreading take your pic.

                      This PatrickSMcNally method of doing history can confuse people who aren’t up on such details as getting a quote accurate but later on it is said in the report.

                      ‘But war is inexorable. It cannot be hidden under any guise. For no “axes,” “triangles” or “anti-Comintern pacts” can hide the fact that in this period Japan has seized a vast stretch of territory in China, that Italy has seized Abyssinia, that Germany has seized Austria and the Sudeten region, that Germany and Italy together have seized Spain — and all this in defiance of the interests of the non-aggressive states. The war remains a war; the military bloc of aggressors remains a military bloc; and the aggressors remain aggressors.

                      It is a distinguishing feature of the new imperialist war that it has not yet become a universal, a world war. The war is being waged by aggressor states, who in every way infringe upon the interests of the non-aggressive states, primarily Britain, France and the U.S.A., while the latter draw back and retreat, making concession after concession to the aggressors.

                      Thus we are witnessing an open re-division of the world and spheres of influence at the expense of the non-aggressive states, without the least attempt at resistance, and even with a certain connivance, on their part.

                      Incredible, but true.’

                      When the report says ‘that Germany and Italy together have seized Spain’ it must be understood with the words ‘and spheres of influence’ because that’s exactly the correct way to read the fact that what the Germans and Italian fascists had obtained for their very important efforts was very substantial influence!

                      That is the case even if that influence went a little softer because the soldier, Franco, was a little bit more cautious about what would be in his and ‘Spain’s’ interests. Like not going to war against Britain as plainly he had to hold down much of his own population and he was at that time an unstable dictator that was open wide to an attack from the British and that giant naval power that was just across the Atlantic. That influence varied until it disappeared after the defeat at Stalingrad made it clear to everyone that the USSR was going to win the war.

                      PatrickSMcNally says ‘What really stands out when reviewing that stupid report to the 18th Congress is the way that a broad ideological brush is used to unify multiple types of events which real historians would insist are quite different from each other.’

                      So all WE should see in 2013

                      “…is an innocuous “Berlin-Rome-Tokyo triangle”; that is, a slight penchant for geometry. (General laughter)’

                      Fancy trying to get the congress to understand the connections of events as they looked in march 1939. Just before a certain event that was to cast a very big shadow got going in the east! Fancy capitalist / imperialist powers plotting to destroy the USSR and increase their spheres of influence!

                      http://thediplomat.com/2012/08/28/the-forgotten-soviet-japanese-war-of-1939/

                  • Brian S.

                    Once again your short memory is showing Arthur: we’ve had this discussion before. There is no simple correspondence between political tradition and views on Libya and Syria. The only explicit European supporters of Gaddafi and Assad (sponsoring pro- regime propaganda and demos) come from the marxist-leninist tradition. Trotskyist groups mostly fall into one of two camps – either “anti-imperialists” who concentrate all their fire on the rebel forces (so becoming virtual regime apologists but stop short of being pro-regime) or anti-imperialists who are vociferously pro-revolution, but oppose western intervention. The only European leftists that I am aware of that support the rebels and call for western military assistance are from the Trotskyist tradition: The NPA in France (which has been discussed here), Gilbert Achcar from the USFI, and perhaps some Swedish comrades who have contributed to discussions here (not sure about the details of their views.)
                    The discussion about Trotskyists views on the Popular Front is another topic – but let me just note that Trotsky was calling for a United Front agains fascism long before the stalinists, who were busy reciting “First Hitler, then us”.

                    • Arthur

                      1. Please include a link when referring to a previous discussion. Doing so on other occasions could have helped you avoid embarassingly wrong claims about my memory and revelations about yours.

                      2. The distinction that you attach importance to, between apologists who claim not to be pro-regime and people who vociferously claim to be pro-revolution while working to prevent actual military assistance is the sort of things that Trots enjoy having what others call “Trot fests” debating. Both positions help the enemy.

                      3. You are right that many people who claim to be Marxist-Leninist and anti-Trotskyist are in fact social fascists who openly support fascist regimes in a way that is just as bad as or even worse than any Trot. I did make a passing reference to that.

                      4. Anyway, whether people breaking from this stuff still claim to be Trots or from that tradition, I think you will find there is as clear a line of demarcation that separates people like you from the opponents of democratic revolution claiming to be Trots as there is separating people like me from those claiming to be Marxist-Leninists or Maoists.

                      5. I guess it would be better to focus on the points of agreement, but when a thread about the complexity of tactics for unity and struggle with imperialism illustrated by the Vietnamese experience from a Marxist-Leninist perspective is turned into a Trot fest defending appeasement and denouncing the Vietnamese “Stalinists” it is hard to refrain from pointing to the internal coherence of the ideas of those here who rabidly oppose both actual solidarity with the Syrian revolution and the 1930s united front against fascism while pretending to be leftist. That modus operandi has generally become known as Trotskyite.

                    • Aaron Aarons

                      The social imperialist Arthur Dent complains that he can’t discuss “the complexity of tactics for unity and struggle with imperialism” of the Vietnamese Stalinists vis-a-vis imperialism here without others pointing out, inter alia, that part of those tactics involved the murder of proletarian revolutionaries who opposed the unity with imperialism side of those ‘tactics’.

                      BTW, I don’t know whether PatrickSMcNally’s analysis of Chamberlain’s motivations and reasoning is correct or not, but it seems quite reasonable, whether or not one would have advocated that Britain go to war against Germany at that time.

                      Incidentally, I wonder what those who loudly proclaim their support for oppressed people’s taking arms from imperialists to fight their immediate oppressors, a position I generally agree with, have to say about the Indian National Army’s military collaboration with Japan against India’s oppressor, Britain, in 1943-45. (See my post about it elsewhere on this page.)

              • David Berger (RED DAVE)

                ARTHUR: I don’t know much about Vietnamese Trotskyists.

                DAVID BERGER: This goes along with your general ignorance of imperialism, left history, etc.

                ARTHUR: But I do know that the seemingly far-fetched claims that Trots were active saboteurs who undermined unity against fascism in the 1930s

                DAVID BERGER: Don’t look now, but your Stalinism is showing. Thosewords “seemingly far-fetched” are beauts.

                ARTHUR: have been rendered superflous by their openly siding with fascism today.

                DAVID BERGER: You are a equating the general opinion among Trotskyists that imperialist intervention in Syria is not a good idea with “openly siding with fascism.” Cute.

                ARTHUR: On historical questions too, in this very thread, we see a defence of 1930s appeasement

                DAVID BERGER: Like I said above, ignorance of left history.

                ARTHUR: and idle chatter against Vietnamese “Stalinism”

                DAVID BERGER: Political discussion of mass murder promulgated by the followers of Ho Chi Minh is hardly “idle chatter” anywhere, let alone in a thread about Ho Chi Min and US imperialism.

                ARTHUR: as of far greater interest concerning Ho Chi Minh than the actual subject of the complex relations between revolutionaries and imperialist powers that is actually the topic of the post

                DAVID BERGER: Well, Arthur, what can I say if you think that the fact that one revolutionary tendency committed mass murder on another such tendency is irrelevant to you in a discussion of “complex relations between revolutionaries and imperialist powers”? You’re an apologist for Stalinism and imperialism.

                ARTHUR: and actually high relevant to exposing the counter-revolutionary pro-fascist politics of the Trot sects today (joined by others who claim to not be Trots).

                DAVID BERGER: Tell you what, Arthur, and to anyone here who follows Arthur’s general point of view. Come out in the open. Organize branches of your organization “Last Superpower.” Participate in left-wing demonstrations with your slogans for US intervention in Syria. Attend the Left Forum in New York next year. Hold a seminar on the perfidy of Trotskyism and how Ho Chi Minh was justified in murder the Vietnamese Trotskysists. Have the courage of your conviction, dude. The truth will set you free!

                • Aaron Aarons

                  I’d guess, though, that much of their effort goes into fighting against those who defend the environment from capitalist predators.

                  • Aaron Aarons

                    This is an incomplete version of a reply I tried to post elsewhere on this page, and was not intended as a stand-alone comment. The target of the comment was the work of the ‘Last Superpower’ group of our Australian pseudo-leftists (Arthur Dent, Patrick Muldowney, et al.) in Australia.

            • Brian S.

              OK: I’ve started to look at my archives, and it looks as if Binh has a point. The main Trotskyist group in Saigon described its response to a raid by the Viet Minh police forc ethus:
              “We behaved like true revolutionaries, although there were more of us and we were better armed.We surrendered our arms..They destroyed our office…”
              I would only note the following:
              1. the history of specific communist movements, especially in some of the Asian countries, is often quite distinct. The Trotkskyists (who were in two groups) and Stalinists (who were themselves quite factionalised) sometimes managed to cooperate politically at particular points in time: e.g. in 1933 (a time when anti-Trotskyist sentiment in the Comintern was high) they put up a common electoral slate for the Saigon municipal council: it elected two councillors, one Trotskyist and one Stalinist. Later they both faced repression from the French colonial administration and were imprisoned together in Saigon.
              2. Its true that the Vietnamese trotskyists did have communication channels with the French Trotskyists throughout the 1930, but I wouldn’t dismiss Dave B’s point about communications difficulties – the lines of communications for the entire Trotskyist movement – even the Europeans – were severely disrupted by the war from 1939-45, and that would have been true even more for the Vietnamese groups.
              3. for a variety of reasons, the military relationship of forces with the stalinists, certainly over the longer term, was bound to be adverse.

              • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

                According to Berger, Vietnamese Trotskyists willingly surrendering their arms to their persecutors despite numerical superiority is the fault of the Stalinists. Inability/unwillingness to admit mistakes (especially the mistakes of others) is a sure sign of pseudoleftism.

                • Aaron Aarons

                  Almost everything you write, Binh, is a sure sign of right opportunism at best.

                  If the account given of the Trotskyists’ surrendering their arms to the Stalinists despite numerical superiority is accurate, it does reflect extremely badly on them politically. But it doesn’t make the Stalinists’ massacre of the Trotskyists any less of a crime against the left and the working class.

  • David Berger

    HINDSIGHT IS EASY AND CHEAP:

    “Although in August 1945 the Vietnamese Trotskyists were an element of substantial importance in the country’s politics, within a few months they had been virtually exterminated — politically and for the most part physically — by the Communist government headed by Ho Chi Minh. The few Trotskyists escaping this holocaust were forced to flee abroad.

    Seeking to explain this peculiar event, I. Milton Sacks has suggested that “It seems that these Trotskyists still considered that they were part of the same movement as the Stalinists.” He then added that “the Viet Minh, for its part, displayed no such tender concern for the ‘true militants.’ In the months that followed, the leadership of both Trotskyist groups, the Struggle and the October, was decimated. The Stalinists were determined that their authority be accepted over the entire nationalist movement.”

    http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/alex/works/in_trot/viet.htm

    • Aaron Aarons

      If the Trotskyist leaderships had been literally “decimated”, 90% of them would have been left alive. Even in its much looser contemporary usage, “decimate” does not mean “exterminate”.

      • Aaron Aarons

        I just noticed that it was the person quoted, I. Milton Sacks, who used the word, “decimate”. Leaving linguistic purism aside, Sacks was a pro-imperialist, pro-war social democrat — a genuine (not pseudo- or quasi-) Shachtmanite, apparently! — who used the crimes of the Vietnamese Stalinists as justification for the U.S. war against Vietnam, which he actively collaborated with. But he was also, apparently, an expert on the leftist political aspect of Vietnamese history.

        The article (book chapter, actually) by Robert J. Alexander that David Berger links to is definitely worth reading, though. On a more contemporary note, there’s an interesting article, Dissent goes to war, that goes after that entire milieu of pro-imperialist-war pseudo-leftists, from Vietnam to Gulf War I to Yugoslavia, that that magazine exemplifies. BTW, one of Woody Allen’s most memorable political jokes was his saying, in Annie Hall, that he had heard that Dissent and Commentary had merged to form “Dysentery“.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    Hồ Chí Minh made those same accusations during the 1930s and 1940s, that the Trotskyists were taking Japanese money. All the more puzzling as to why the Trotskyists were surprised about the betrayal in 1945.

    That said, I think the Trotskyists were being highly irresponsible (in addition to being hopelessly ultra-left) when they rejected any negotiations/compromise with any/all imperialist powers over independence. After Hồ Chí Minh declared independence, the French killed something like 6,000 people in a fortnight by shelling Hanoi and that act forced Hồ Chí Minh to compromise with the French, allowing them to re-occupy part of the country.

    It’s easy to say “no compromises” but the Trotskyist line was not based on an actual assessment of the strength of the French versus the opposition, which was still relatively new and not ready to go to wage war — plus 1-2 million recently perished due to a Japanese-inflicted famine. Hồ Chí Minh, for all his faults, didn’t want to see the blood of his countrymen and women shed needlessly and fruitlessly in the name of being principled, and so he compromised — he sought a compromise with France to fight the Japanese during WW2, he compromised again at Geneva in 1953, and he continually tried to avoid war through compromise with the Americans because he knew what kind of death and destruction they could reign down on the country.

    I think history for the most part has really vindicated his leadership and approach. His attack on the Trotskyists should have been expected, and the fact that it wasn’t tells me they would have never accomplished 1% as much for the Vietnamese people as Hồ Chí Minh did. If you can’t handle a local Stalinist, how are you going to beat the combined power of Japan, France, and the U.S.? They had just as much opportunity to win popular support as Hồ Chí Minh did during the 1930-1945 period and they failed. They spoke of permanent revolution while Hồ Chí Minh spoke of independence; they spoke of soviets while he spoke of land reform and lowering rents. It doesn’t take a genius to see which force was more in tune with the aspirations and needs of the people in this case, for better or worse.

    • Aaron Aarons

      There’s so much wrong with this screed that one hardly knows where to begin!

      One obvious distortion is that the Trotskyists “had just as much opportunity to win popular support as Hồ Chí Minh did during the 1930-1945 period and they failed”:

      1) The Stalinists had the material support of the Stalintern, partly through their connections with the French “Communist” Party. The Trotskyists had little or no material aid from outside.

      2) Despite this disadvantage, the Trotskyists had more support in 1945 among the working class of the South than the Stalinists had. There were significant workers’ uprisings, not strictly Trotskyist, in 1945 that included, IIRC, the formation of “Soviets” in some places, that the British, French and Stalinists all suppressed.

      Moreover, since the Trotskyists, along with many nationalists, opposed the welcoming by the Stalinists of British troops landing in Saigon, how can one say, as Binh says, that “[The Trotskyists] spoke of permanent revolution while Hồ Chí Minh spoke of independence”? (Need I remind you, Binh, that those British troops almost immediately brought in French troops to take back Saigon and the South from the various Vietnamese forces?)

      More to come, and presumably not just by me.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Any idea how much aid they got? From what I understand, it wasn’t much. Moscow was too busy with Nazis to send much gold their way.

    • Aaron Aarons

      Incidentally, Binh, your account of the events is so sketchy that it’s hard to respond to much of it. For example, are you referring to the bombing of Hanoi in December of 1946, after the Viet Minh attacked the French in that city and temporarily drove them out? If so, how does that justify what the Viet Minh did a year earlier?

      More generally, you make all kinds of assertions about positions the Trotskyists took without providing any quotes or references. I doubt that they failed to deal with the land question when talking to peasants, and they certainly didn’t fail to talk about independence while also perhaps talking about permanent revolution. (If they weren’t talking about independence, how could they have “rejected any negotiations/compromise with any/all imperialist powers over independence”, as you assert.)

      I think you need to get your story straight, Binh.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Not justifying what they did, sorry.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        They attacked the Viet Minh for making those compromises. Doesn’t mean they were doing much agitation around the question of independence. One does not necessarily entail the other.

        • Aaron Aarons

          I believe they organized, along with nationalists, demonstrations against the landing of British troops in Saigon, and that they took part in confrontations, including armed ones, with the British and the French when the latter were brought back in. They may not have talked as much about independence as the Stalinists did, but, in proportion to their size, they did a lot more about it.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    Arthur was correct to note that most of the comments here didn’t touch on the substance of the article but instead focused on the fate of Vietnamese Trotskyists, as if that’s a useful experience for anyone organizing today to learn from. Pretty sectarian also.

  • http://socialistorganizer.org David Walters

    If you want to read up on this, including the issue of independence (for the North alone), then read Autum 1990 issue of Revolutionary History magazine which covers every single point raised here:
    http://marx.org/history/etol/revhist/backissu.htm
    Comment:
    #I should add that the Saigon Insurrection was lead by groups that completely rejected the Viet Mihn’s support for allowing the French back in. The way the Viet-mihn decimated the entire left and nationalist opposition is hardly an “example” for anyone, anywhere. Ignoring how the ICP fundamentally set up the nation of Vietnam for another 40 years of civil war ignores the lessons of this period, including the role Ho played in giving in to Stalin’s counter-revolutionary foreign policy.

    #The pre-WWII front between the largest Trotskyist group on Cochin China (southern vietnam) and the Stalinists was something interesting and does in part relate to the isolation of both groups, who were only serviced internationally by merchant sailors loyal to one group or other (S. African Trotskyist Frank Glass for the Fourth International for example who was fluent in several Asian languages and helped the Trotskyist groups on the entire western coast of Asia). I have no opinion on these fronts except to note that the Viet-mihn, generally weaker than the Trotskyists, agreed to exclude bourgeois forces from this front.

    #Clay’s whole point about Ho’s collaboration with US Imperialism (and the KMT as well as they functioned under the guise of their military control of that regime, thus laying the ground work for future animosity between Mao and Ho, not mentioned in Clay’s’s essay) is abstracted from Ho’s loyalty to Moscow and their world movement. An “international united front” existed between ALL western Allied imperialism and Stalinism was in effect. But it was the U.S. that took this more seriously and as Clay documents without pretensions to figure French/British colonialism. Moscow agreed to the French reoccupying at least southern Vientam is well documented in all the WWII documents from Postam and everywhere else (as Greece was agreed to re-fall to British influence, and Yugoslavia as well with both communist movements dissenting in both countries). At any rate it’s a major failing of the essay that nothing about this is mentioned or how the Viet-mihn role here played out.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      “Ignoring how the ICP fundamentally set up the nation of Vietnam for another 40 years of civil war ignores the lessons of this period, including the role Ho played in giving in to Stalin’s counter-revolutionary foreign policy.”

      So we could’ve skipped 40 years of war with the French and Americans by simply adopting a “no compromises” policy towards the imperialist powers?

      Do you think Vietnam and resistance forces were in any shape to fight off France and the U.S. in 1945? How would they accomplish this without significant military aid from Mao’s China (circa 1949) and Stalin’s Russia which at that point was not in great shape economically thanks to WW2?

      Your comment makes me wish the Trotskyists hadn’t surrendered their weapons peacefully when the Viet Minh came knocking. Millions of lives could’ve been saved!

      • Brian S.

        Its true that the ICP/Vietminh military capacity was not very developed in 1945, but in many ways it could have been a better time to confront the colonialists. The international conjuncture was more favourable: colonialism was on the retreat; post-war left governments were coming in to office; the cold war polarisation had not yet set in, so US policy was still more open ended.
        Domestically, within Indochina, there was a huge popular movement in favour of independence and deep social grievances demanding redress; there was a military vacuum, with the British and French weak on the ground, and the Japanese forces ambivalent about what to do in the wake of their surrender. This was a unique moment which the ICP let slip through their fingers – they gave the colonialists space to reestablish their military presence; and divided and demobilised the mass movements. And this wasn’t some wise long-term strategy – it was primarily an echoing of Stalin’s postwar political strategy.
        I agree that the Trotskyists could not really have provided the requisite alternative leadership on their own, but that doesn’t change the fact that the ICP (whose Southern cadres seem to have dissented from the Northern leadership’s line) committed an historic error; nor that their repression of the Trotskyists was a crime against the revolution.

    • Brian S.

      @David. The documents collected by Revolutionary History and the commentaries provided by Simon Pirani are very valuable, and should be read by anyone interested in this topic. But like all historical documents (and especially documents of historical memory) they need to be treated critically. If you cross-check the various accounts (which reflect the different perspectives of the two Vietnamese Trotskyist groups), there are some significant differences; and you also need to compare them with modern historical accounts, like David Marr’s.
      This suggests a more complex picture than the Trotskyist legend. One in which a principled and sincere, but still small, Trotskyist movement, found itself in the midst of ,a huge, diverse, and turbulent popular movement. This has produced retrospective claims that it was in the leadership of this movement, and thus a potential alternative to the Stalinists. But I don’t think the historical evidence supports this – and this might be an explanation of why they deferred to the Stalinists when it came to the crunch.

      • http://socialistorganizer.org David Walters

        @Brian. Yes, I know it’s complicated. I don’t ‘agree’ from afar, chronologically, with the Vietnamese Trotskyists, per se. There were only 1500 Trotskyists total on the ground, divided into two organizations. And they were not all armed. And it was never the question of the “Trotskyists” being disarmed or not, it was a question of the masses in many organizations who WERE armed and wanted to fight. That’s was the object of the Vietnamese Stalinists. IF you do an essay like this and not mention this as to the whys of the repression then it’s a faulty essay.

        I don’t know enough about the dynamics on the ground to side with the Trotskyists. Except the facts you note about the *tremendous* weakness of the Imperialists internationally. So, in answer to Bham, yes, it’s quite possible given the even somewhat weakened state of the Viet-Mihn and the truly mass popular revulsion to allowing the British to come in for the French and rearm all the former Japanese occupiers. But the Viet-Mihn/ICP though differently, *in accordance with international Stalinism*, to do the opposite of the will of the masses.

        The entire essay…and it was fascinating… simply ignored WHY the ICP in south China collaborated with US Imperialism. Regardless of those wishing for a stronger Imperialist role in Syria, or to find historical precedence in this via Ho’s training with the OSS in southern China, regardless of all that, the essay represents a clear half-truth, if even that, on when when on and why. And that is unfortunate.

        David

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    “But the Viet-Mihn/ICP though differently, *in accordance with international Stalinism*, to do the opposite of the will of the masses.”

    Huh? Are you saying Hồ Chí Minh/Viet Minh/ICP was acting in accordance with Moscow’s wishes or orders?

    As far as I know, Stalin was happy to let the U.S. and co. have China and probably Vietnam too, so the 1945 declaration of independence was not something done in accordance with “international Stalinism” (a meaningless phrase since Stalinism had just become international as a result of the war).

    Hồ Chí Minh strikes me as more of an independent figure like Mao or Tito than a stooge, pawn, or Russian-centric type.

    If you have any evidence for this claim that Hồ Chí Minh was acting either at the behest of or in accordance with what Moscow wanted in 1946 I would like to see it. I don’t think the agenda of “international Stalinism” had much if anything to do with why the Viet Minh/ICP was happy to work with the U.S. Anyone who knows anything about Hồ Chí Minh knows he was very pro-American at heart, and so are the Vietnamese people, believe it or not, which is interesting since that is one of the few things their pro and anti-communist sides have in common.

    I also don’t buy the notion that the Trotskyists (if there were over 1,000 that’s quite a lot for a tiny country like Viet Nam!) had more mass support than the Viet Minh, especially if we’re talking about nationally rather than locally.

    • Brian S.

      I don’t think there’s any question that the Viet Minh had more mass support than the Trotskyists on a national scale – The Trotksyists had little (if anything) outside the south. I also doubt the figure of 1000 – 1500 for the strength of the Trotskyists in Saigon: I don’t think i’ve seen any definite figures in the sources, but my impression is that there were a few hundred in each of the two groups. But the Trotskyists did have mass influence – because of their historical record; because their political demands corresponded to popular sentiment; because because they worked in a genuine united front manner.
      On the question of the ICP line and Moscow: this is not clear (and was bitterly debated in the Foruth International). The practice of the Comintern was that parties in colonial territories were overseen by the parties in the colonial power: so the ICP was directed by the PCF. It was a directive from the PCF in 1937 that compelled the Saigon stalinists to break off their longstanding cooperation with the Trotskyists.
      There is a documented discussion between Stalin and Roosevelt at Tehran in 1943, where they both agreed that the French should not be allowed to repossess Indochina after the war. There is a report that at a later conference (Potsdam?) Stalin agreed that the French should be allowed to retain the South (but I this is not verified); certainly it was agreed at Potsdam that the occupation regime would involve a partition with the British taking control in the South and the Chinese nationalists in the North.
      An American journalist who was in Saigon in 1945 reported seeing a letter dated 25 September from the PCF to the ICP warning them that their demand for independence was not in line with Soviet policy (which was prioritising a close alliance with France) and that they should wait until after the October French elections before pressing any demands with regard to their status.
      Of course, this advice came too late, since the Vietminh had already declared independence in the North; and the situation in the South got out of control once the British had facilitated a violent remobilisation of French forces. But I think there are grounds for thinking that it affected subsequent ICP policy and their willingness to negotiate a settlement that fell short of full independence.

      • http://socialistorganizer.org David Walters

        Numbers. I will try to find the exact quote the 1500 came from. I think it’s from a 1945 issue of The Miltant (now online) that reported this in an article. There was also a report to the staff of the FI (located in NYC) to the same effect. And Brian, you shouldn’t doubt it. I ask the question the other way “why only 1500″ members given their support. Support not only excemplifed by the mass struggle they lead but also the actual elections they (and the Viet-Mihn) participated in.

        Here is what the Alexander piece on this issue has to say:

        The Struggle Group organized around Ta Thu Thau seems to have been the official Vietnamese Section of the Fourth International in this period [44]. It continued to publish La Lutte in French and in 1939 began to publish a Vietnamese language version Tranh Dau as well. In elections for the Cochin China Colonial Council in April 1939 three Trotskyists of the Struggle Group, Ta Thu Thau, Tran Van Thach, and Phan Van Hum, got 80 percent of the total vote, “defeating three Constitutionalists, two Stalinists, and several independent representatives. … ” I. Milton Sacks has commented that “this was probably the high point of Trotskyist strength in Indochina in the pre-World War II period. A Trotskyist source claims that they had a Vietnamese membership of three thousand in 1939.” Sacks also noted that as the threat of war approached, the Struggle Group established an underground organization in the Saigon-Cholon area [45].

        So, in 1939, in Chochin-China (this is the area that basically includes the area of Vietnam south of Cam-Rahn Bay and was the second largest working class concentration after Hanoi) this vote is a gauge for the influence of the Trotskyists. Again, “1500”? Seems awfully small.

        It should be pointed out that even during this period after WWII, Ta Thu Thau, head of the largest group, The Struggle organizations, participated in talks with the Viet-mihn. On his return he was taken out and shot, in his wheel chair, but only after 3 attempts as each grouping of Viet-mihn refused to shoot him since he was the most popular leader in the South at this time. Eventually they got the dirty job done.

        It was either Sacks or someone else who noted that at the time of the extermination of the Trotskyists, the ICP also purged elements of the Viet-mihn who were relatively independent.

        @Bihn, Brian…no, I didn’t mean (though I did do it) make Ho out to be a sycophant of Stalin, of course this was not the case. But neither was he a Tito who broke with Stalin down the line on almost every action he took. Or Mao for that matter as well. Either Sacks or others explained the capitulation to British imperialism on the part of the ICP in 1945 as exactly doing what the now defunct Comintern wanted and, justifying with a “in line with the international anti-Fascist struggle…” or some such excuse. That the ICP DID declare independence is to their credit and I don’t, and would’t’ besmirch that.

        David

        • Brian S.

          @ David Walters. Hi David – I guess we’re getting a bit geekish, but what the hell, sometimes need to have a hobby. Does Sacks provide a reference for the “trotskyist source” that claimed 3000? The main post war account from the ICL/October group talks about them having “several tens” of members on their reconstitution in 1945; the Struggle group was larger, but I’m not sure that much larger. The 1939 Saigon municipal election was bit of a fluke – there was a very restricted electorate (taxpayers), so it might not have meant winning that many votes, although there does seem to have been significant popular support from those who could not vote.
          Lots of interesting questions raised by more recent mainstream historical accounts that now supplement the original testimonies.

          • http://socialistorganizer.org David Walters

            Hi Brian, Yeah, it’s fun to get geek-like especially in non-polemical ways. I do want to respect the essayist’s attempt here and not drift too far. I don’t have Sacks here. In fact I don’t think I have the book at home. So I don’t know how it’s annotated.

            It would be good, if possible, to parse out answers to your questions. Interestingly, and unfortunately, it was left up to the lone academic like Sacks to provide independent verification..or contradictions to the majority Trotskyist perspectives on this. There is a LOT of material from the ICL and Struggle group in French, memoirs published, etc but little independent verification.

            In terms of this essay, the ICL and Struggle opponents of the Viet-mihn (and as students now, Struggle had a foot IN the Viet-mihn itself!) opposed exactly the perspective of the essayist here has in terms of collaboration with Imperialism. So a focus on this would be good.

            • Brian S.

              @David Walter: Hi David – there is a growing body of recent, independent historical work that bears on these issues, but at the moment I’m dependent on what I can access through Google Books – which of course always cuts out the crucial pages just as you get to them. I agree with what you say about returning to the themes of the original post. But I don’t agree that the Vietnamese Trotskyist critique was directed against the sort of relationship that the Vietminh had with the OSS – see my comment to Aaron Aarons on the Indian National Army, which should be somewhere here abouts, for the distinctions I would make on this.

  • Aaron Aarons

    Another good example of a national liberation movement getting help from one of the imperialist powers in World War II was the Indian National Army, led by Subhas Chandra Bose. Naturally, since it was fighting British imperialism, it got its arms and other assistance from Japan, not the U.S.. Even though it was militarily defeated along with its Japanese patrons, it played a major role in stimulating and accelerating the Indian independence struggle that followed the war. It also was one of the first armies anywhere to have a women’s combat unit, the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, several of whose leaders, along with other women associated with the INA, later played important roles in Indian and regional politics.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_National_Army for more info and references.

    • Brian S.

      @Aaron Aarons re Indian National Army: Aaron, I think there is a distinction between a revolutionary force that has a temporary coincidence of interests with an imperialist power accepting material assistance from the latter, and an organisation trying to pursue progressive aims through a far ranging alliance with an imperialist power. The latter is likely to lead , at best, to swopping one imperialist master for another. There are many cases of the first type of relationship in recent history and in the period Clay is discussing in Vietnam that is what was basically involved. But the INA was in the latter category – indeed it was really a creation of the Japanese military.
      Of course situations don’t always fall neatly into clear-cut categories – and there are various intermediate categories.
      Thus Asian nationalists in several countries benefitted from the Japanese defeat of western colonial regimes and the patronage of Japanese puppet governments, some actively seeking it, others making use of what was on offer.
      And, at a later period, which we have been discussing here, the ICP/Vietminh tried to develop a strategy based on a longer term relationship with the occupying “democratic” imperialist powers (in line with stalinist post war policies)

      • Aaron Aarons

        While the Indian National Army as a military force may have been the creation of the Japanese military, that doesn’t seem to have been the case politically. In fact, its leader, Subhas Chandra Bose, had, as I understand it, been an outspoken opponent of the Japanese invasion and occupation of China. Moreover, again as far as I am aware, it only fought against the British military and its allies, including its colonial arms, and was originally staffed mainly by Indian members of the British colonial forces who had been captured by Japan.

        It’s noteworthy that the INA, after its defeat, was overwhelmingly popular in India and inspired mutinies and other militant struggles that did a lot more than anything Gandhi did to hasten the British exit from India.

        Ws don’t know what the INA would have done if it had been victorious, but nothing it actually did, AFAIK, was any more deserving of left criticism than what Ho’s Vietnam did to its left opponents did in 1945-46.

        • Brian S.

          Hi Aaron – you’re partly right in what you say, with a few adjustments. The political network underpinning the INA was the Indian Independence League, which had been created by a minor Indian nationalist who had taken political asylum in Japan in 1915. It mostly depended on Japanese patronage to gain support among Indians living in Southeast Asian areas conquered by the Japanese.
          Subhas Chandra Bose was one of the great historical figures of Indian nationalism, president of the Indian National Congress 1938-39, and more popular in Bengal than Gandhi. He was on the Congress left and, as you say, originally a critic of Japanese imperialism. But his political compass went awry after the outbreak of the war. He initially went to Germany to try and win support for Indian independence, and helped organise a European version of the INA, which served with the German army. It was after this that he went to Japan to become the figurehead of the INA project.
          You’re right about the origins of the INA and its insistence on only being involved in operations against the British – but it did end up fighting in Japanese-occupied Burma.
          Popular support for the INA emerged in reaction to a post-war show trial organised by the British: it was based on a sense that they were part of a common national movement, rather than approval of their particular actions (Nehru was one of the defence lawyers).
          You make the common left mistake of underestimating the significance of Gandhi (who had both strengths and weaknesses), but you are right that there were other important elements in the post-war nationalist upsurge, and that the INA became a symbol of resistance.

          • http://socialistorganizer.org David Walters

            One of the small impetuses to the INC was the reorganization of the Indian administrative region (as the Brits called it) when they lopped off Burma into it’s own region. This rankled *some* in the movement and thought the British were using “Indians” as chess pieces. Which they were of course.

            India pre-1936 stretched from the border with Persia (also under British influence and control) to Thailand.

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