Revolutionaries They Could Not Break.
The Fight for the Fourth international in Indochina 1930 - 1945
by Ngo Van
Translated by Harry Ratner, with an introduction by Simon Pirani
Ngo Van was a worker, a Trotskyist and a participant in the events he describes. He was imprisoned in the 1930s by the French colonial regime, and in the 1940s by the Vietminh. He now lives in exile in Europe. He combined first-hand experience with years of documentary research to write this book.
The Vietnamese workers movement took shape in mortal conflict with the French colonial power before the second world war. It suffered defeat in 1945, caught between French attempts to reassert control on one side, and an alliance of the Communist Party and reactionary nationalists on the other.
A decisive part was played in the workers' movement by the Vietnames supporters of Leon Trotsky. As the official Communist Party, under Stalin's instructions, carried out ever more ruinous zig-zags of policy, the Trotskyists discredited and defeated them in the workers' organisations.
The Vietnamese Communist Party enforced its power in 1945 by a brutal slaughter of its Trotskyist opponents - not, as Stalinist mythology pretended, because the latter 'turned their backs on the peasantry' or 'sold themselves to Japanese fascism'.
This book sets straight the historical record after generations of falsification. It brings alive the political; lessons of a period in which the Trotskyist Fourth International and the Stalinist Third International clashed, not in the arena of ideas or slogans, but in life - among workers and peasants who organised and fought in the face of poverty, police dictatorship and war.
First published in Cahiers Leon Trotsky issues 40 and 46.
Ngo Van develops his ideas further in Vietnam 1920 - 1945. Revolution at Contre-revolution sous la domination coloniale, editions L'Insomniaque, 7 rue Jean-Francois Gerbillon, 75006, Paris, France
The text of Ngo Van's speech to a meeting held to celebrate the launch of his book, was published in The International No 17, January 1996.(Also available via Index Books). This article is indispensible for a revolutionary understanding of the history of Vietnam.