Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary

August 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm (Uncategorized)

In the course of his account of his life in Vietnam, Ngo Van remarks of a time in jail in 1945.

Around forty people were held in this prison-church., including some former officials of the colonial regime. One pleasant old fellow said to me, “You were a prisoner of the French, and now under the Vietminh you are still in prison. How can this be?”

How indeed?

Ngo Van’s tremendous book, In the Crossfire – Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary tells the answer. Ngo Van was born in Vietnam in 1912 , but left for France in 1948. In the book, he tells the story of his life as a Trotskyist militant in Vietnam, first struggling against the French colonial regime, and then against his former allies in the Vietminh  who saw it as their duty to annihilate any and every Trotskyist they could (regrettably they were largely successful in this task) .  By  some miracle, Ngo Van escaped the slaughter of the Trotskyists and made it out of the country.

Later when he came to France, Ngo Van became part of a circle around Maximilian Rubel (Marx without Marx) and came to develop a critique of Trotskyism that led him to call himself a council communist.  (A part of the reason was that the Trotskyists, despite the Vietnamese Stalinists” murder of hteir comrades continued to support the Stalinists, ahem, militarily) The group around Rubel eventually came to work with the ICO group and later with Echanges.

The bulk of Ngo Van’s book is devoted to his life in Vietnam. Only twenty or two pages deal with his break from Trotskyism. It’s my understanding that at the time of his death Ngo Van was writing a second volume which would take the story up to the present time. as it is, readers will have to be content with two slim chapters and a few leaflets included at the end of the book. . Those who read French however can read the many articles he produced.

It’s an incredible story, and well told. And for $20, AK Press deserve our thanks.

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