IN THE CROSSFIRE
Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary
AND MY FRIENDS?
Friends are like clouds,
Life scatters us
But only death can separate us.
What happened to my friends, my closest comrades? Underground struggle created a strong bond between us, but the clandestine nature of this struggle meant that we often remained unaware of significant aspects of each other’s lives. Despite this, I want to do my best to record what I can of these obscure figures. I’m sorry there are so many gaps in my account.
* * *
VAN VAN KY, the typographer who stole the type that made our underground printshop possible, was the youngest defendant at our trial [the August 1936 trial of members of the League of Internationalist Communists]. As he lay dying of tuberculosis, he sadly confided to a friend, I thought I would die fighting in the street on a barricade.
VO VAN DON, a coolie who worked with me at Descours & Cabaud, had the courage to keep silent under torture, revealing nothing about our fraternal association. All he would admit to was having peddled newspapers and having one night strung a banner calling for a general strike across the Giong Ong To road on the far bank of the Saigon River. He died of tuberculosis. I was deeply moved to learn from his sister how desperately in his last moments he had wanted to see me at his side again, as in the days of our struggles.
VAN VAN BA, a worker and League member who had been arrested along with us, died in January 1939 of typhoid fever. More than two hundred worker and coolie friends accompanied him to his final resting place.
TRINH VAN LAU was one of the founders of the League. He was condemned to eight months in prison at the trial of August 31, 1936. He led underground resistance against the war, was captured by the French, and died on board one of the prison barges where the peasants who had taken part in the November 1940 uprising were held.
NGO CHINH PHEN had also been sentenced to prison at the trial of League members. He was a member of the Internationalist Workers group at Gia Dinh who in September 1939 campaigned against the recruitment of Vietnamese into the army and distributed leaflets to the infantrymen of Thu Dau Mot: Don’t shoot your comrade workers in the enemy army — turn your guns on the imperialists in our own country! Captured in the underground resistance movement at Rach Gia, he was imprisoned in the mountain concentration camp in Ba Ra, then deported to Madagascar from 1941 to 1946. A few years ago he sent me a message of friendship from Houston, Texas, asking me to transmit his fraternal greetings to comrades. Just before he died, in January 1996, still haunted by the assassinations of Trotskyists half a century earlier, he told his children: “I can still see the De Tam (Stalinists) surrounding us . . . Cac bum, cac bum! (Sound of trigger, then shot, trigger, then shot.)
PHAM VAN MUOI was still a high-school student at the time of our trial. I lost contact with him after that. Did he survive?
TRAN THI MUOI was born into a family of small property owners in My Tho in 1914. Her family owned a small estate. Her father was a supporter of the rebel prince Cuong De, her elder brother a Communist who had been trained in Moscow. She became the partner of Anh Gia (Dao Hung Long) and joined the Trotskyist Left Opposition. Arrested in October 1932 and put through the Sûreté torture chambers, she spent six months in prison. In 1935 she helped me circulate League leaflets and papers among Stalinist contacts in the countryside. Her sister TRAN THI CHIN, born in 1912, was arrested in October 1929 during the Rue Barbier affair. In 1931, along with her partner Nguyen Van Dai, she joined the Communist League (Lien Minh Cong San Doan), the first internal opposition group in the Indochinese Communist Party. She died at Ca Mau in 1932.
VO THI BANG, alias NGUYEN THI MY (1915–1934), was a member of the Trotskyist group Indochinese Communism (Dong Duong Cong San). Arrested in August 1932, she was sentenced on May 1, 1933, to four months in prison. She died less than a year later as the result of the tortures she suffered at the Sûreté.
NGUYEN HUE MINH, born in Binh Dai (Ben Tre) in 1912, was a member of the Communist League, then was active in the October group* (Left Opposition). Arrested in August 1932, she was sentenced to three months in prison in May 1933. She became the partner of Ho Huu Tuong. She was the younger sister of Nguyen Trung Nguyet, the heroine of the Rue Barbier affair.
VO THI VAN, born in 1913, was originally from Ben Tre. She was a member of the Indochinese Communist Party and was condemned to eight months’ prison in September 1933. Passing over to the Left Opposition and becoming the partner of Lu Sanh Hanh, one of the organizers of the League of Internationalist Communists, she participated in the Indochinese Congress movement in 1936 and also in the action committee based in the Cho Quan and Cho Dui neighborhoods of Saigon. She was very active in the underground labor union movement, especially with the railway workers during their strikes. She was imprisoned in May 1937.
LE VAN OANH was born in 1908 in Hai Duong (Tonkin). He worked for the railway, then became a secretary at the Saigon Arsenal, but was fired during the 1936–1937 strikes. Very active in the underground unions, he was sentenced to two years in prison in November 1937. I saw him for the last time in 1945 during the Saigon insurrection. What became of him?
TA KHAC TRIEM was born in 1912 at Son Tay (Tonkin). From 1927 on he lived in Cochinchina, where he was an accountant at the Charnier Department Store in Saigon, then a clerk at the Arsenal until he was fired during the 1936–1937 strikes. The General Workers Federation, secretly organized by the illegal Trotskyists, held a meeting on May 29, 1937, in the northern suburbs of Saigon. Worker delegates from 44 companies were discussing what statutes to institute for this organization when Sûreté agents burst in and arrested 62 of them, including Ta Khac Triem. After his release he returned to his active role in the organization of strikes. During the strike at the Trans-Indochina Railway Company he helped to set up fraternal groups in Quang Ngai (Annam) and Tonkin. He was arrested in September 1937 and condemned to a year in prison because he was, according to a Sûreté dossier, the Trotskyist ringleader who played an important part in the general strike on the railways.
VO BUU BINH, born in 1910 at Sadec, belonged to the Communist Left Opposition. He was arrested in August 1932 and spent three months in prison. He was among those arrested at the meeting of worker delegates on May 29, 1937. It was his partner who generously offered me a place to live when I came out of prison in June 1937. I remember that he told my son Do, who was very impressed: Your father is a rogue who would sell the Heavens without consulting the God of Thunder! (Ban Troi khong moi Thien loi, as the popular saying goes).
* * *
The biographies that follow, lamentably incomplete though they are, include some of my closest comrades (Nguyen Van Linh, Lu Sanh Hanh, Nguyen Van Nam, Anh Gia). Some of the others I knew less well, having just crossed paths with them in prison or elsewhere, but they all meant a great deal to me and my companions.
Society today overflows with injustice,
Heaven, how can we make you hear our cries?
Those who build the mighty mansions live in rotting huts,
Those who weave silk are clothed in rags.
The educated exploit the ignorant,
Fools reinforce the gangs of oppressors.
When people become conscious of their misfortune
The myriad disasters will be overcome.
(Phan Van Hum)
PHAN VAN HUM (1902–1945) was born on April 9, 1902, in An Thanh (Thu Dau Mot) in Cochinchina. His father was an educated Buddhist and a small landowner. In 1924 Phan Van Hum was admitted to the École des Travaux Publics [School of Civil Engineering] in Hanoi and then worked as a technician in Hue. Appalled by the misery and injustice he saw all around him, he found comfort from visits to the veteran nationalist and anticolonial campaigner Phan Boi Chau,* who was living under house arrest in Hue. He provided as much help as he could to alleviate the older man’s destitution. Then, as a result of sheltering some students who had been expelled from their boarding school for taking part in a strike, he lost his job. He left for Saigon, where he became a friend of Nguyen An Ninh. They went all over the countryside together, spreading ideas of liberation among the peasants.
He was arrested in September 1928, and on his release from prison wrote a denunciation of the prison system: Ngoi Tu Kham Lon (In the Central Prison). The text was serialized in the paper Than Chung, arousing many younger readers.
In September 1929 Phan Van Hum left for France, where he joined the action committee of Indochinese émigrés in Toulouse. On May 22, 1930, he took part in the demonstration outside the Élysée Palace in Paris against the death penalties handed down to the Yen Bai insurgents. He managed to evade the police, fleeing the country along with Ho Huu Tuong. They took refuge in Brussels, where they produced a duplicated broadsheet Tien Quan (Vanguard), which argued against sectarian authoritarianism and warned of the danger of believing, as some did, that you could become an expert on Marx just by spending a few months in Moscow. One night in July, the two of them were successfully smuggled back to Paris by Pierre Naville and Raymond Molinier. Soon after that, together with other émigrés, they formed an Indochinese Group within the Communist League.
Phan Van Hum got a job as a teacher in Toulouse, but was fired for producing subversive propaganda. He returned to Saigon in July 1933, where he once again met Ta Thu Thau and Ho Huu Tuong. He taught Annamite at Paul-Doumer High School, but in June 1935 he was fired due to pressure from the Sûreté political police.
He took part in the La Lutte united front while continuing his studies of philosophy. When La Lutte split in 1937, he stayed with Ta Thu Thau and wrote for Tranh Dau (Struggle), which had become an organ of the Fourth International. In 1939, along with the Trotskyists Ta Thu Thau and Tran Van Thach, he decided to run for election to the Colonial Council (representing the district of Saigon-Cholon, Tan An and My Tho), running against the Constitutionalists and against the Stalinists’ Democratic Front slate: Nguyen Van Tao, Nguyen An Ninh and Duong Bach Mai. The Trotskyists proclaimed the necessity of a workers’ and peasants’ front against war, and focused their propaganda against a rise in taxes and the imposition of an arms tax, and against forced conscription into the supplementary infantry — all of which were supported by the Stalinists’ Democratic Front. La Lutte published the group’s electoral platform while at the same time attacking the Constitutionalists for being indifferent to the exploitation of those who are hungry and thirsty and reminding its readers that the Stalinists had been responsible for defeats of the proletariat in Germany in 1923 and 1933, in Estonia in 1924, in China in 1925–1927, and in Spain in 1936–1939. It denounced the infamous Moscow Trials and lost no opportunity to show how and why the “defense of Indochina within the framework of French imperialism and national unity would turn the exploited Indochinese into tools and victims of Russian diplomacy.
Phan Van Hum, Ta Thu Thau and Tran Van Thach were elected despite their meetings having been banned, while the Stalinist Democratic Front candidates were all defeated. The discontented electorate had seen the latter as pro-government, i.e. as part of the status quo. Elected to the Colonial Council on April 30, 1939, Phan Van Hum was arrested on June 28. He was sentenced on October 13 to five years’ hard labor and ten years’ restricted residence for having campaigned against war loans and war taxes. After his years in the penal colonies, where he contracted beriberi and was physically debilitated, in 1944 he rejoined the La Lutte group.
On September 10, 1945, the enlarged Vietminh (Stalinist) government cynically offered him a temporary post (he had been a popular figure ever since the 1929 publication of his book In the Central Prison). He refused to take part in what he considered a sinister, pseudodemocratic sham. Meanwhile, the news arrived that the Vietminh had arrested Ta Thu Thau.
After the October 1945 massacre of the Trotskyists at the Thi Nghe bridge by the Anglo-French troops, Phan Van Hum and other survivors — including Tran Van Thach, Phan Van Chanh, Ung Hoa, Le Van Thu and Nguyen Van So — formed a new group in Thu Duc to fight against the troops of colonial reconquest. The Stalinist Duong Bach Mai had Tran Van Thach, Phan Van Chanh and Nguyen Van So arrested. They were shot, along with some thirty other prisoners. Among the latter were Nguyen Van Tien, the former managing editor of La Lutte who had just been released from Poulo Condore, and Ngon, a worker at the Arsenal. Later in the same month (October 1945) it was the turn of Phan Van Hum to be arrested in Bien Hoa by Duong Bach Mai’s secret police.
One of his co-detainees, who was later freed, was the teacher Truong Minh Hai. He told Tran Nguon Phieu (then also in the Bien Hoa resistance, now a doctor in Texas) about the following exchange, which he heard one evening between Duong Bach Mai and the imprisoned Phan Van Hum. They knew each other well, since they had been comrades in the La Lutte group in the 1930s and had been deported to Poulo Condore together in 1940. Duong Bach Mai said to Phan Van Hum:
“At Poulo Condore you put yourself between the warders’ blows and the other prisoners, to defend them. But now, we’re in the middle of a revolution . . .
“If you want to kill me, replied Phan Van Hum, do it here. What’s the point of taking me somewhere else?
Phan Van Hum was murdered along with other Annamite prisoners in Song Long Son, on the Trans-Indochina Railway line between Phan Thiet and Tour Cham, 232 kilometers from Bien Hoa. Their bodies were thrown into the river. (Truong Minh Hai was also killed soon afterwards.)
Publications by Phan Van Hum: Ngoi Tu Kham Lon (In the Central Prison), Saigon, 1929. Duong Linh (pseud.), May Duong To (A Few Poems). Sa Da Du Tu (Journal of a Wanderer: Impressions of Life and Travel in France), published in Than Chung. Bien Chung Phap Pho Thong (Dialectics Made Easy), Saigon, 1936. Nguyen Phi Hoanh (pseud.), Tolstoy, Saigon, 1939. Phat Giao Triet Hoc (Buddhist Philosophy), Hanoi, 1942. Vuong Duong Minh, Than The Va Hoc Thuyet (The Life and Teaching of Wang Yangming), Hanoi, 1944.
TA THU THAU (1906–1945) was born in Tan Binh (Long Xuyen) in Cochinchina into a family of poor artisans and was obliged to work from an early age. He won a grant to attend high school in Saigon, where he joined the Jeune Annam group, who were plotting to drive the French out of Indochina. He came under the influence of Nguyen An Ninh, who had been attacking the colonial regime in his journal La Cloche Fêlée since 1923, and who had also been exhorting young people to leave the homes of your fathers — only then, he said, could they hope to shake off the suffocating ignorance in which they were trapped by obscurantism. (“Our oppression comes from France, but so does the spirit of liberation.) Ta Thu Thau set sail for France. At the age of 21, he was studying at the Faculty of Science in Paris. At first he was active in the Annamite Independence Party, assuming the leadership when its founder, Nguyen The Truyen, returned to Vietnam in early 1928. Together with two other students, Huynh Van Phuong and Phan Van Chanh, Ta Thu Thau published La Résurrection, “Journal of Revolutionary Annamite Youth, which was seized by the police when its third number appeared.
In January 1929, in the wake of a fight between the extreme right-wing Jeunesses Patriotes [Patriotic Youth] and Annamites who supported the Annamite Independence Party, he attacked the French Communist Party for not supporting the Annamites who had been arrested, and took it to task for the bad faith of the report in its newspaper L’Humanité. He also criticized the “salaried Annamites of the Colonial Commission of the French Communist Party who were infiltrating the ranks of the Annamite Independence Party in order to turn the latter’s members into puppets carrying out the Communist Party’s dictates. One of his leaflets ended with this desperate appeal: In our nameless servitude, we call out to the oppressed of the colonies: Unite against European imperialism — against Red imperialism as well as White — if you want a secure place under the sun.
The Seine Tribunal dissolved the Annamite Independence Party in March 1929. In July in Frankfurt, Ta Thu Thau took part in the Second Congress of the Anti-Imperialist League. In Paris, he and his friends made contact with dissidents in the French Communist Party — Alfred Rosmer (Left Opposition), Daniel Guérin, Maurice Paz’s Contre le Courant [Against the Current] group — and moved away from a shortsighted nationalist position. They saw that racial and nationalist oppositions had tended to conceal the oppositions between social classes. Ta Thu Thau began studying Marx and the history of Russia during the twelve years since the October Revolution, and soon arrived at a global vision of revolution and a critical communism that was instinctively internationalist.
After the bloody defeat of the 1930 insurrection at Yen Bai, he expressed his views on the Indochinese revolution in the April, May and June issues of La Vérité [The Truth]. Criticizing the Third International, he declared that the choice for him was no longer between slavery or independence, but between nationalism or socialism. Imperialism can be overthrown only by the organized action of a homogeneous mass that is a social enemy of imperialism. Independence is inseparable from proletarian socialist revolution.
He was arrested on May 22, 1930, during the Annamite students’ demonstration in front of the Élysée Palace against the death sentences imposed after the Yen Bai uprising, and on May 30 he was deported from France along with eighteen compatriots. When they arrived in Saigon on June 24, they were greeted by Stalinist leaflets denouncing them as counterrevolutionaries.
At the end of 1931, Ta Thu Thau cooperated with the underground group Ta Doi Lap (Communist Left Opposition) in Saigon, then organized the Indochinese Communism group (Dong Duong Cong San), which was broken up in August 1932 when he and 65 other Trotskyists and sympathizers were arrested. Released on bail the following January, Thau joined the La Lutte group and collaborated with the Stalinists in legal struggle against the colonial regime. He was active in the election campaign for the first Workers’ Slate in Saigon. In 1934 he wrote Trois mois à la Sûreté rue Catinat [Three Months at the Sûreté on Rue Catinat], based on his experiences of interrogation before his trial and denouncing the systematic torture of those charged with political crimes.
He was frequently imprisoned during the strikes of 1936–1937 under the Popular Front government. When major strikes broke out in Indochina in 1936, he relentlessly attacked the Popular Front in La Lutte for betraying its promises of reforms in the colonies. The Stalinists distanced themselves from him in an open letter of December 17, 1936. The April 1937 Saigon City Council election brought Ta Thu Thau and the Stalinist Nguyen Van Tao together for the last time (they were both elected). At the end of May the Stalinists, following orders from Moscow transmitted via the French Communist Party, broke the united front with La Lutte by bringing out the newspaper L’Avant-garde, in which they called the Trotskyists twin brothers of fascism. (Ta Thu Thau and Nguyen Van Tao were both in prison at that time, and were only temporarily released on June 7.)
Imprisoned yet again later in 1937, Ta Thu Thau was not freed until February 1939. In April 1939 he was elected to the Colonial Council on the platform of the Fourth International, seriously alarming the government. On May 20, Governor Brévié sent a cable to Colonial Minister Mandel denouncing the Trotskyists under the leadership of Ta Thu Thau, who want to take advantage of a possible war in order to win total liberation. In the same cable he expressed his appreciation of the Vietnamese Stalinists, who are following the position of the Communist Party in France and who will thus be loyal if war breaks out.
In August 1939 Ta Thu Thau left the country. Arrested in Singapore in October and brought back to Saigon, he suffered more than four years’ forced labor at Poulo Condore. After this harsh punishment, he was confined to the town of Long Xuyen in his native province. While there he wrote to Phuong Lan, a woman he had known in his adolescence: Here I am in the place where a quarter of a century ago I lived without a care in the world. Twenty-four years have passed and the young boy returns with his wings clipped. While I was on Poulo Condore I learned some poems by heart, including the whole of the Kim Van Kieu. I want to reread it now to be sure I have fully grasped its meaning. (Kim Van Kieu is a long and quite unconventional eighteenth-century love poem very popular in Vietnam.)
During 1945 Ta Thu Thau analyzed and criticized the position of the Vietminh. Their policy of counting on the support of foreign powers to gain independence seemed dubious to him, and in any case it lacked a perspective of liberation for the workers and peasants. He wanted to rebuild a workers’ party that would fearlessly confront the nationalist and Stalinist currents. That was what he and other La Lutte veterans envisioned when they met together again in Saigon after March 9, 1945.
At the end of April, he secretly traveled to the North. Tonkin and northern Annam were in the grip of famine, and he managed to get an appeal for aid published in the May 14 edition of the daily paper Saigon: “The scale of the disaster is such that I feel justified in entreating my brothers in Cochinchina to eat only what you need to stay alive and to send here everything you possibly can, immediately.*
In the North he had the good fortune to encounter a fraternal group that published the Trotskyist bulletin Chien Dau (Combat). He met Luong Duc Thiep and many young people who had abandoned their studies and dedicated themselves to arousing the political awareness of the poorest classes. Ta Thu Thau took part with them in clandestine meetings of mine workers and in secret gatherings of peasants. Many of his comrades were uneasy about the smears being spread about them by the Vietminh, which accused them of being antiworker elements, but he had a seemingly unshakeable confidence in the workers’ ability to see through such lies.
On August 10, 1945 (just after the dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), Ho Chi Minh called for a general uprising. Ta Thu Thau journeyed south once more. In Hue, to escape surveillance by the Stalinists, he separated from his young companion Do Ba The. In Quang Ngai he fell into the hands of the Vietminh.
On September 7 the La Lutte group learned of his arrest and spread the news, which aroused strong emotion among the common people of Saigon. The La Lutte group interceded with Tran Van Giau, who responded on September 9 with a communiqué: The arrest of Ta Thu Thau in Quang Ngai is no concern of the Executive Committee. The People’s Committee has the power and the right to pass judgment on Ta Thu Thau. He had probably already been assassinated.
Exactly a year later, in Paris, Ho Chi Minh, when questioned by Daniel Guérin about the death of Ta Thu Thau, declared: Anyone who does not follow the line determined by me will be smashed.
In addition to his articles in La Lutte and Three Months at the Sûreté on Rue Catinat, Ta Thu Thau left a Vietnamese translation of Politzer’s Elementary Principles of Philosophy and the pamphlet Tu De Nhut Den De Tu Quoc Te (From the First to the Fourth International).
NGUYEN VAN SO (1905–1945) was born into a poor family in Cholon. A fervent disciple of Nguyen An Ninh, he was expelled from the École Normale in Saigon in 1926 for political agitation. He became a mess-hand on a shipping line, spent some time in Marseilles, then returned to Saigon in 1928, where he worked in a printshop and taught in a private school. An activist in the La Lutte group, he was a candidate in the Saigon City Council elections of 1933 and 1935 and in the Colonial Council election in 1939. Arrested in July 1937 for illegal association (membership in a labor union organizing committee), he was incarcerated in the Central Prison, where he went on hunger strike. He was acquitted on September 9, 1937. Gravely ill with tuberculosis, he was rearrested and on November 10 sentenced to a year in prison followed by ten years’ restricted residence for subversive activities. He was arrested yet again in September 1939 and deported to Poulo Condore. An active member of the La Lutte group in 1945, he was among those shot by the Vietminh in Thu Dau Mot in October 1945.
PHAN VAN CHANH (1906–1945) came originally from a prosperous family in Binh Truoc (Bien Hoa), where his father was a government secretary. He graduated from Chasseloup-Laubat High School and left for France on September 25, 1925, to register at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris. He collaborated on Tran Van Thach’s Journal des Étudiants Annamites and became an active member of the Annamite Independence Party with Ta Thu Thau. He and Ta Thu Thau joined the (Trotskyist) Left Opposition in 1930. He was one of the nineteen students deported from France on May 30, 1930, after the demonstration against the Yen Bai death sentences.
In Saigon, he taught in private schools and participated in the formation of the underground Communist Left Opposition. In 1932 he and Huynh Van Phuong distributed radical literature to workers, including translations of the Communist Manifesto and of Engels’s Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. He was arrested, and on May 1, 1933, was given a four-year suspended sentence. He was a member of the La Lutte group and supported Ta Thu Thau after the break with the Stalinists in June 1937. A La Lutte candidate in the Colonial Council election of April 1939, he was arrested on July 13, 1939, and sentenced on March 16, 1940, to three years at Poulo Condore, five years of restricted residence and ten years’ loss of civil rights. In October 1945, still active in the La Lutte group, he was shot by the Stalinist Tran Van Giau’s thugs at Thu Dau Mot.
TRAN VAN THACH (1903–1945) was born at Cholon into a prosperous family, and graduated from Chasseloup-Laubat High School. He went to France in May 1926, studying for a philosophy degree in Toulouse and then in Paris. On March 15, 1927, he launched the Journal des Étudiants Annamites [Annamite Students’ Newspaper]. In the December 15, 1927, issue of this paper he published a story entitled Un Rêve Singulier [A Strange Dream], a visionary account of Saigon in 1955, on the eve of independence, divided between a bourgeois party and its opponent, a workers’ party. The best action program we could possibly adopt would be one that brought together both a solution to the social problem and a solution to the national problem, says an enlightened bourgeois character in this story. In another piece, published in January 1928, Tran Van Thach criticized the conservative nationalists. The same year, in the Bulletin de la Ligue contre l’oppression coloniale et l’impérialisme [Bulletin of the Anti-Imperialist League] he denounced the hostile intentions of those who govern us, whose undeclared aim is to mold us in such a way that we will always continue to obey them.
Tran Van Thach met Ta Thu Thau in the Annamite Independence Party. He took part in a protest meeting against the arrest of Nguyen An Ninh on September 28, 1928, and in a Manifesto of Annamite Students issued on December 2 declared that the aim of studying abroad should be to liberate one’s country. In the January 1929 issue of the Journal des Étudiants Annamites he stressed the importance of unity between intellectuals and workers. In May he became president of the Indochinese Mutual Aid Association in Paris, on whose behalf he conveyed protests to the Colonial Minister against the deportation of “undesirable Annamites.
He returned to Saigon in January 1930. The country was soon to be profoundly shaken by the Yen Bai insurrection and by the powerful peasant movement, which were followed by the bloody repression of 1930–1931. While earning his living teaching French in private schools, he participated in the founding of the La Lutte group. Together with others who had visited France and who were now gathered around Nguyen An Ninh, he legally challenged the colonial regime in the Saigon City Council elections of April–May 1933. He was elected, as was the Stalinist Nguyen Van Tao, but the vote was soon annulled. In September 1934, Tran Van Thach was among those who re-formed the La Lutte group, which had been disbanded after the elections. In 1935 he was elected once again to the Saigon City Council, along with Ta Thu Thau, Nguyen Van Tao and Duong Bach Mai. He contributed an irreverent satirical column in La Lutte called Petits Clous [Little Nails].
He was a member of the La Lutte action committee in the Indochinese Congress movement. The first Moscow Trial caused him to distance himself definitively from the Stalinists, and from then on he supported the Trotskyists.
On February 2, 1937, Tran Van Thach’s election to the Saigon City Council was invalidated. A few months later he caused quite a stir with a report in La Lutte (June 27 and July 1, 1937) about the scandalous plundering of the peasants of Rach Gia. He was also involved in labor union activity, for which he was imprisoned for two months in September 1937. In June he took the side of Ta Thu Thau when the Stalinists in La Lutte broke the unity with the Trotskyists. He was among the Fourth International candidates for the Tranh Dau–La Lutte group in the Colonial Council elections of April 1939, and was elected along with Ta Thu Thau and Phan Van Hum. The vote was annulled in October, and he found himself behind bars once more.
On April 16, 1940, he was sentenced again, this time to four years at Poulo Condore and ten years’ restricted residence. Released in 1944, he was confined to restricted residence in Can Tho. After the fall of French colonial rule on March 9, 1945, he and other La Lutte comrades organized a Revolutionary Workers Party. After the Japanese surrender, they also revived the publication Tranh Dau. On September 23, 1945, when the people of Saigon rose up against the reoccupation of the city by the French (who had been rearmed by the British), the Vietminh government of Tran Van Giau fled the city to organize the resistance, while continuing to hunt down the Trotskyists. Tran Van Thach survived the massacre of La Lutte fighters by the Anglo-French troops at the Thi Nghe bridge, and along with other survivors withdrew to the Thu Duc region, only to be arrested by Tran Van Giau’s secret police.
Tran Van Thach was shot to death by the Vietminh in Thu Dau Mot in October 1945.
NGUYEN VAN TIEN was born in 1916 in Saigon. He worked at the Rubber Manufacturing Company and was a member of the Trotskyist labor union group. Arrested in 1937, he was sentenced to a year in prison and five years’ restricted residence. He became the last managing editor of the newspaper La Lutte. In 1940 he was sentenced once again and deported to Poulo Condore. On his return from penal servitude, he fell into the hands of the Vietminh, who shot him along with other La Lutte members in Thu Dau Mot in October 1945.
HO HUU TUONG (1910–1980) was born into a family of small farmers. In 1926 he was expelled from the Can Tho high school for political agitation and left for France, where he studied mathematics, first at the University of Marseilles, then at Lyons. In May 1930 he met Ta Thu Thau in Paris during the Annamite demonstrations against the death sentences against the Yen Bai insurgents. Escaping arrest, he fled with Phan Van Hum to Brussels, where they produced the publication Tien Quan (Vanguard). They returned to Paris shortly after the deportation of Ta Thu Thau, and gathered around Pierre Naville, Raymond Molinier and Pierre Frank to form, along with Nguyen Van Linh, Tran Van Si, La Van Rot, Nguyen Van Nhi, Nguyen Van Nam and Nguyen Van Cu, the Indochinese Group of the Communist League (Opposition).
Ho Huu Tuong returned to Cochinchina at the beginning of 1931 and taught mathematics in private schools. In May of that year, he met Dao Hung Long from the Lien Minh Cong San Doan (Communist League). Dao Hung Long had brought together oppositionists from inside the Indochinese Communist Party after the peasant soviets of Nghe-Tinh had been crushed, and had won them over to the Left Opposition.
In August 1931, Ho Huu Tuong and Dao Hung Long started a clandestine duplicated journal, Thang Muoi (October). In November, all the Oppositionists united in the Ta Doi Lap (Left Opposition) and adopted Thang Muoi as their theoretical organ. Ho Huu Tuong was arrested in Saigon in October 1932, and received a three-year suspended sentence at the trial of the 21 Trotskyists on May 1, 1933. His partner Nguyen Hue Minh got three months. He campaigned with the first La Lutte group in the Saigon City Council elections of April 1933, and from 1934 to 1937 was continuously in touch with the second La Lutte group. He was active in developing anti-Stalinist theory.
Ho Huu Tuong was the secret advisor of the League of Internationalist Communists for the Construction of the Fourth International (formed by Lu Sanh Hanh in 1935). He also edited the sole number of the journal Cach Mang Thuong Truc (Permanent Revolution), the first printed* clandestine Trotskyist publication. In it, he predicted that a powerful workers’ movement would sweep France after the victory of the Popular Front, and that the workers and poor peasants of Indochina would then be caught up in this tremendous wave of hope. Why shouldn’t other Lenins and Trotskys arise here, too? (Despite everything that had happened, he was still thinking in terms of “leaders!) He did, however, envision a mass-based party, not a party of professional revolutionaries as advocated by the Stalinists. Such a party, he said, must arise out of the real struggle of the proletariat of the cities and countryside and prepare a general strike together with the French proletariat, since it was impossible to build socialism within national boundaries.
In September 1936 he brought out Le Militant, the first legal Trotskyist weekly paper. In it he denounced La Lutte’s collaboration with the bourgeois Constitutionalists, the repressive measures of the Popular Front government, and the bloody farce of the first Moscow Trial. He also brought together underground militants to form the Bolshevik-Leninist Group for the Construction of the Fourth International, which published the illegal bulletin Tho Thuyen Tranh Dau (Workers’ Struggle).
After the second Moscow Trial in March 1937, he revived Le Militant, which was supported by a growing number of sympathizers, and published Trotsky’s article Whither France? The Decisive Stage and, most importantly, Lenin’s Testament, with its warnings about Stalin.
In September 1938, taking advantage of the relative freedom that French Prime Minister Daladier granted to the native Vietnamese-language press, Ho Huu Tuong and Dao Hung Long launched the agitational bulletin Thay Tho (Wage and Salary Workers). They also revived the theoretical journal Thang Muoi, of which five numbers appeared up to March 1939. In this journal, Ho Huu Tuong criticized the four years of mistakes involving the tactic of a united front between Stalinists and Trotskyists. In January 1939, he printed the statutes of the Fourth International and explained how the theory of permanent revolution applied to Indochina.
Like all the other opponents of the colonial regime, Ho Huu Tuong was arrested at the start of the war and sent to Poulo Condore. When he was released in 1944 he broke with revolutionary communism, to the great dismay of his comrades in struggle.
His signature, along with those of two important Vietminh figures, appears on a telegram of August 1945 sent to Emperor Bao Dai from the People’s Revolutionary Committee in Hanoi, demanding Bao Dai’s abdication. Returning to Cochinchina after the partition of the country in 1954, Ho Huu Tuong became the advisor to Bay Vien, leader of the Binh Xuyen pirates. In 1957 the American puppet Ngo Dinh Diem sentenced him to death, but after the intercession of Nehru and Albert Camus he was instead deported again to Poulo Condore. After the fall of Diem, Ho Huu Tuong became a deputy in the farcical “opposition under the military regime of Nguyen Van Thieu.
In 1977, two years after North Vietnamese troops had captured Saigon, Ho Huu Tuong was interned in a reeducation camp. He was released in 1980, but collapsed and died on the doorstep of his home. Four years later his short autobiography, 41 Nam Lam Bao, Hoi Ky (Memories of 41 Years of Journalism), was published in Paris.
DAO HUNG LONG, alias ANH GIA, came from a peasant family of Long Tri (Rach Gia). He was born in 1905 and became a member of the Thanh Nien (Revolutionary Youth League) in 1926. As part of the latter’s communist wing, in 1929 he became a special delegate of the Indochinese Communist Party* in western Cochinchina. The defeat of the peasant movement in 1930–1931 — including the suppression of the soviets in Nghe-Tinh and of the peasant uprisings in Annam and Cochinchina — made him rethink the politics of the Stalinist party and he denounced its leadership, noting that it was composed mostly of petty-bourgeois intellectuals and peasants.
At the beginning of 1931 he organized the Communist League group at Bac Lieu, with a ban mao hiem (death-defying) committee responsible for obtaining money to finance its projects. In May 1931, Ho Huu Tuong won him over to the Left Opposition. Arrested in 1933, Anh Gia was sentenced to a year in prison and was sent to do forced labor in the quarries of Chau Doc. There he convinced the nonpolitical prisoners to refuse to work, then led a hunger strike. After this struggle was harshly repressed, he was separated from the other prisoners and sent back to the Central Prison in Saigon.
In 1934 Anh Gia began working as a sign painter. In 1936 he wrote the pamphlet Action Committee Tactics. For his work in the labor union movement, which had been outlawed by the Popular Front, he was sentenced in 1937 to two months in prison. At the end of 1938 he launched a legal Vietnamese-language bulletin, Thay Tho (Wage and Salary Workers). He was also one of the editors of Tia Sang (The Spark), which first appeared in January 1939, denouncing war and the imposition of loans and taxes for the “defense of Indochina. In October 1939 he was condemned to two years in prison and ten years of restricted residence. During the war he was interned in camps at Ta Lai and Ba Ra, then deported to Madagascar, from which he was not released until the end of 1946. He ended up by abandoning class struggle, following Ho Huu Tuong down the path toward a neutralist nationalism.
LU SANH HANH (1912–1982) was born at Ben Tre into a prosperous family. He studied at the My Tho high school. In 1932 he was a member of the Saigon committee of the Indochinese Communist Party, but, shaken by reading the theses of the Left Opposition, he tried to reorganize his party on a critical basis. He launched the paper Lao Cong (The Worker). Arrested on October 9, 1932, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Assigned to push wagons along with the nonpolitical prisoners at the Cape Saint-Jacques quarries, he led them in striking. Punished with solitary confinement, he started a long hunger strike and was sent back to the Central Prison in Saigon.
After his release he decided to devote his life to making
revolution. Selling off his family inheritance, he set himself up as a
traveling barber in order to spread revolutionary propaganda, then became a
reporter for the Constitutionalist newspaper Duoc Nha Nam (The Torch of
Annam). In July 1935 he was one of the founders of the underground League of
Internationalist Communists for the Construction of the Fourth International. It
was broken up
by the Sûreté the following year when it called for the formation of action committees to prepare a general strike. In August 1936 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Upon his release, he resumed his life of political action and in January 1939 collaborated in the publication of Tia Sang, which was edited by Ho Huu Tuong and Dao Hung Long. He escaped the arrests of September 1939 and took refuge in western Cochinchina, then returned to Saigon in 1945 to secretly reconstitute the League, whose March 24 Manifesto called on workers and peasants to prepare for an imminent revolution.
After the Japanese surrender, the League, which had continued to operate underground, came out openly with radical slogans that glaringly contrasted with those of the Stalinists. The de facto Stalinist government of Tran Van Giau, feeling threatened by the growth of the League-dominated people’s committees, sent troops to arrest the thirty-odd delegates who were attending a meeting on September 14, 1945. Lu Sanh Hanh was one of them. They were disarmed and thrown into prison. On September 22, the British took control of the Central Prison and handed over the prisoners to the French Sûreté. Paradoxically, that was how Lu Sanh Hanh and his comrades escaped certain death.
He emigrated to France in 1947, where he was active among the Annamites who had been imported to work in the munitions factories during the war, and also contributed to the journal Quatrième Internationale [Fourth International] under the name of Lucien. In 1954 he returned to his native country. He died of tuberculosis in Saigon on November 2, 1982.
NGUYEN VAN NAM, alias ANTONY, was born on May 26, 1912, at Ben Tre, into an old established Catholic family who had amassed their immense fortune in the early days of French colonization. He was the son of the doc phu (Administrative Delegate) Michel My, who became known as the “Tiger of Cho Lach and was infamous for his savage repression of rebellious peasants in 1930. Michel My embezzled vast amounts of public money, then had a church built at Cho Lach dedicated to St. Michael to expiate his sins. He was killed by insurgents at Gia Dinh in September 1945.
As a high-school student at the Catholic Taberd Institute in Saigon, where his brother was a teaching brother, Nguyen Van Nam, the rebellious son, was active in the strikes of 1926 that broke out at the funeral of the pioneering nationalist Phan Chau Trinh. Leaving for France in 1928, he continued his studies at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, where he joined the Left Opposition, and in 1932 participated in the Paris-based Annamite Trotskyist group [i.e. the Indochinese Group of the Communist League] along with Tran Van Si, La Van Rot and Nguyen Van Linh.
He returned to Saigon in 1935 and made contact with the Trotskyists of the La Lutte group, publishing articles in their paper on strikes and on Algeria. In 1938 he collaborated with Ho Huu Tuong on the semi-legal journal Thang Muoi and in February 1939 he became the administrator responsible for the paper Tia Sang. The latter publication was banned and he was arrested, along with Edgar Ganofsky (the managing editor), Dao Hung Long and others. He remained in prison until early 1940.
After the collapse of France in May 1940, Nguyen Van Nam was sought along with many other dangerous individuals on the wanted list, but he eluded the Sûreté and hid out with various comrades in Ben Suc, Tra Vinh, Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Quang Ngai. He returned to Saigon in 1943.
In August 1945, when Saigon was in turmoil following the surrender of the Japanese, he resumed his activity in the reconstituted League of Internationalist Communists. He wrote the leaflet that called for the formation of people’s committees and for the arming of the people, positions that were to be widely adopted during the huge demonstration of August 21, 1945.
Managing to escape the systematic liquidation of the Trotskyists by the Stalinist Communists and the Vietminh, Nguyen Van Nam emigrated to France in early 1948. In late 1949 he broke with Leninism-Trotskyism and began widening his circle of contacts in order to develop new revolutionary perspectives. As he put it: The so-called workers’ parties — particularly those of the Leninist type — are embryos of a state. Faced with the power of the bourgeois state, these parties advocate a ‘counterpower.’ But this is just juggling with words in order to deceive people: all power is coercive and oppressive. Once in power, these parties become the nucleus of a new exploiting class which installs a new system of exploitation. The state is always the state of the exploiters. Talk of the ‘withering away’ of the state only serves to mystify the masses. To arrive at a ‘nonstate,’ we have to envision a ‘nonpower.’ Workers councils could represent such ‘nonpower’.
My friend Nguyen Van Nam worked in a factory until 1961, then as a bookkeeper, while continuing his studies. He graduated in English, and wrote a dissertation on immigration in England.
NGUYEN VAN LINH, alias RENÉ (1909–1950), was born at Ben Suc (Thu Dau Mot) into a wealthy family. He went to France in 1926, studying first at the Lycée Michelet in Vanves, then at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1931 he and Tran Van Si organized the Indochinese Left Opposition group [i.e. the Indochinese Group of the Communist League]. In a speech at the International Antiwar Congress in Amsterdam, he stressed that the proletariat should not be deluded into thinking that war could be prevented without destroying its foundation, capitalism. He took part in the Indochinese Mutual Aid Association and in the Social Studies Circle set up in 1934, where he met people who had been expelled from the French Communist Party.
He criticized the Popular Front for its repression of the Indochinese Congress movement in 1936. In 1937, in the bulletin Quoc Te IV (Fourth International) he denounced the dictatorship over the proletariat by the party in power in the USSR and criticized the French Communist Party, which, since the Laval-Stalin Pact of 1935, was urging the Annamite masses to support the democratic imperialisms and which was seeking peace at any price in the three French colonies in North Africa.
He returned to Cochinchina at the outbreak of the war, and taught at a school in Can Tho. In August 1945 he joined the League of Internationalist Communists in Saigon, concentrating on the political training of the Workers’ Militia of the Go Vap streetcar workers and on maintaining communication between the comrades in the countryside and in the city. In July 1947 he renewed contact with the Internationalist Communist Party in France. He wrote to Molinier and Craipeau: Having survived the savage repression of the Stalinists, our group intends to continue the struggle, and added that he did not understand the purely intellectualistic approach of Naville and Rousset.*
In 1950 he received an invitation to a secret conference ostensibly organized by Trotskyist sympathizers in the Vietminh military zone in Bien Hoa to discuss the participation of Trotskyists in the resistance. It was a trap, and on May 13, 1950, Nguyen Van Linh fell into it, along with Liu Khanh Thinh and the Chinese comrade Liu Jialiang. They were assassinated. The Vietminh radio station accused them of having been agents of French imperialism.
TRAN VAN SI (1907–1941) was born at Tan Thanh Dong (Gia Dinh). After studying in Hanoi, he worked as a technician, then left for France in July 1929. In Paris, he and Nguyen Van Linh were at the heart of the Indochinese Left Opposition group, which analyzed the mistakes of the Indochinese Communist Party in the same spirit as the Left Opposition that had supported Trotsky in his struggle against the bureaucracy in power in Russia. With Maurice Nadeau, he was active in the Communist League cell in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris.
Beginning in February 1932, the Indochinese Left Opposition group published the theses of the Left Opposition on the Indochinese revolution in the mimeo bulletin Duoc Vo San (The Torch of the Proletariat). They were violently attacked for this by Annamites in the Colonial Section of the French Communist Party. In October 1933, finally realizing that they would never be accepted as an opposition within the Indochinese Communist Party, they decided to try to build a new communist party. In 1935 Tran Van Si was one of the founders of the Indochinese Section for the Fourth International. The group took an active part in anti-imperialist meetings and demonstrations and remained in contact with Annamite dissidents in the French Communist Party.
After returning to Cochinchina on September 13, 1937, Tran Van Si joined Ta Thu Thau in the La Lutte group, which had by then become Trotskyist, and in April 1939 his name appeared on the Fourth International slate of candidates for the Colonial Council election. Arrested on July 13, 1939, for campaigning against a national defense fund, he was sentenced on April 16, 1940, to three years at Poulo Condore. He died there after only a year.
LIU JIALIANG (1911–1950) was originally from Guangdong in China. His political awakening came at the age of 14 during the second Chinese revolution (1925–1927). In 1931 he went to study in Beijing and joined the Trotskyist movement there. When he went to Shanghai in 1933 he was arrested and imprisoned until 1937. After his release at the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war, he went to Hong Kong to train young Trotskyists in southern China. It was during this period that he translated into Chinese Harold Isaacs’s book The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution. He was arrested, then deported to Shanghai by the British. Though seriously ill, he continued his political activity. He returned to Hong Kong in March 1949. Hunted by the police, he fled to Saigon in January 1950. In May of that year he and two Vietnamese comrades from the League of Internationalist Communists were ambushed by the Vietminh at Bien Hoa, north of Saigon, and he was tortured to death.
TRAN DINH MINH, alias NGUYEN HAI AU (1912–1946), was a poet, and author of the novel Nguoi Con Gai Cam (The Silent Girl), whose young heroine, poor, ugly and mute, regains her beauty and the power of speech when she is loved — a metaphor for the enslaved masses who will be born into a real life through social revolution. He also wrote books on the economy: Kinh Te Hoc Pho Thong (Political Economy Made Easy) (Hanoi, 1944) and Kinh Te The Gioi 1929–1934 (The World Economy 1929–1934) (Hanoi, 1945). He left teaching to become a typographer at the Le Van Tan Printworks in Hanoi, where in 1944–1945 he and other comrades put together the clandestine bulletin Co Do (Red Flag). He joined the League of Internationalist Communists in Saigon in 1945.
He was accepted into the Go Vap Workers’ Militia, and he and Nguyen Van Thuong were elected to lead this militia during the uprising in Saigon. He was killed at the front on January 13, 1946, in My Loi, near Cao Lanh (Sadec), under fire from indigenous auxiliaries in the French army who were disguised as resistance fighters. The villagers of My Tay erected a tomb for him.
EDGAR GANOFSKY (1880–1943) was a Frenchman born on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion. He was fired from his teaching post for political reasons. Fervently anticolonialist, he published La Voix Libre [The Free Voice] in Saigon from 1923 to 1932. A modest and free-spirited man, he lived as an Annamite, lodging with a coolie family in a run-down apartment in Da Kao. In 1933 he helped the La Lutte group by taking advantage of his French citizenship to assume the official managerial responsibility for the La Lutte newspaper. In 1936 he took part in the Indochinese Congress movement, whose aim was to present the demands of the Annamite people to the Popular Front government. In 1939 he once again became an official publishing manager, this time of the Trotskyist paper Tia Sang. He was sentenced to one year in prison and five years of restricted residence — terms which were increased in June 1940 to three years and ten years. During the war he was forced to live in Can Tho, and died there in poverty in 1943.
THAI VAN TAM, one of the founders of the Hanoi newspaper Ban Dan (The People’s Friend), broke with the Stalinists in 1937 after the Popular Front banned the Indochinese Congress movement. In Tonkin he started the Tia Sang (The Spark) group and also put out the weekly Thoi Dam (Chronicles), which in August 1938 called on workers and peasants to set up “unified people’s committees in a joint struggle for rice, freedom and democracy — committees which the process of revolutionary struggle would tend to transform into workers’ and peasants’ councils. When this publication was banned, Thai Van Tam started Chanh Tri Tuan Bao (The Political Weekly) in November 1938 and published a translation of Trotsky’s book about his son, Leon Sedov. Prosecuted for his antiwar articles in Thoi Dam, he was sentenced in April 1939 to five months in prison, as were his companions Bui Duy Tu and Nguyen Uyen Diem. During the war, he died in a prison in central Annam.
LE QUANG LUONG, alias BICH KHE (1915–1946), was a primary school teacher and a popular poet. He originally came from Thu Xa, in the Quang Ngai province of Annam. When André Gide’s book Retour de l’URSS [Return from the USSR] was published in 1936, he quickly translated it. As a result, the Stalinist party identified him as the inspiration behind the Du Tu (Fourth International) group in that region. He died of tuberculosis in 1946 at the age of thirty-one. The local population gave his name to the street leading from the bus station to the east gate of Quang Ngai, though Rue Bich-Khe never appeared on official maps of the town. His tomb was neglected and overrun with weeds — just as in his own poem, Nam Mo (The Tomb):
Day co xanh xao may lop phu,
Tren mo con qua dung yem hoi.
[Lush green weeds smother the tomb, a crow perches there silently.]
In 1991, the young bureaucrat Bon, Secretary of the local People’s Committee, refused to give his family permission to take his remains back to his birthplace, on the pretext that the bones of a man who died of tuberculosis might infect the village; and besides, Bich Khe had been a Trotskyist and according to our local veteran revolutionaries, Trotskyism is completely reactionary. (This anecdote is drawn from a report by the journalist Tran Dang, published in Lao Dong, official newspaper of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, on January 20, 1994.)
LUONG DUC THIEP (?–1945) was born in Thanh Hoa in northern Annam. He was expelled from the Nam Dinh high school after protest strikes against the brutality of Paul Rednose, a French teacher who called his pupils bastards, pigs, filthy Annamites. Luong Duc Thiep tried to flee the country but was arrested at Bangkok and sent back to Thanh Hoa where, after a year in prison, he was put under house arrest. In 1937 and 1938 he was one of the leaders of the clandestine Typographers Trade Union Federation in Hanoi. In 1941 he participated in the critical historical journal Han Thuyen, which questioned the ideology of national heroism. In 1945 he founded the Socialist Workers Party of North Vietnam (Dang Tho Thuyen Xa Hoi Viet Bac), which supported the Fourth International and brought together large numbers of workers and students, including many women. This group published the newspaper Chien Dau (Combat) and many pamphlets, and set up Marxist education classes. By means of posters and leaflets the group called for the arming of the people, workers’ control of the factories and redistribution of land to the peasants, as in the South. The group prepared for armed resistance to the return of the French, and its revolutionary program was welcomed with enthusiasm at huge rallies, notably in Bach Mai.
Faced with the autonomous development of a revolutionary movement of workers and peasants outside the control of the Vietminh, Ho Chi Minh ordered the arrest of members of the group. Luong Duc Thiep and Quan Thuong Hao, who had just been released from the Son La penal colony, were rounded up along with many others and executed. The murder of Luong Duc Thiep in 1945 is documented by the writer To Hoai in his memoirs, Cat Bui Chan Ai (published in California in 1993). Luong Duc Thiep’s militant political activity in 1945 is described by Do Ba The in Thim Bay Gioi (cited by Phuong Lan in her book Nha Cach Mang Ta Thu Thau 1906–1945 [The Revolutionary Ta Thu Thau]) and in a letter of 1947 from a North Vietnamese militant, discovered in the archives of Pierre Frank in Paris.
* * *
This book is dedicated to all these friends and comrades, and to so many others; to all those who have dreamed of a new world liberated from oppression and exploitation; to the serfs of the ricefields, the slaves of the plantations, the miners, coolies, farm laborers, workers, and peasants who died anonymously, combatants who fell in the struggle with no one to tell their story, no one to evoke their spirit (tu si may nguoi, nao ai mac mat, nao ai goi hon);* and to the memory of my mother.
Paris, September 8, 2000
*See Translators Notes.
Chapter 9 from Ngo Van’s book In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary (AK Press, 2010).
In the Crossfire is a translation of Ngo Van’s Au pays de la Cloche fêlée (Paris: L’Insomniaque, 2000) and of excerpts from Ngo Van’s Au pays d’Héloïse (L’Insomniaque, 2005). It has been edited by Ken Knabb and Hélène Fleury and translated by Hélène Fleury, Hilary Horrocks, Ken Knabb and Naomi Sager.