MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: International Communist League/Spartacists—PRS 4

A Postscript on Vietnamese Trotskyists

Written: 1975
Source: Stalinism and Trotskyism in Vietnam, A Spartacist Pamphlet  (Chapter I)
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2007. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.

The following is a report on a July 1975 interview with V.S., a senior Vietnamese socialist who has a long-standing familiarity with the Vietnamese ostensibly Trotskyist movement.

Beginning about 1938, the French colonial government transported large numbers of Vietnamese to France as manual laborers. Thus in the period immediately following World War II there were some 12,000 Vietnamese in France. The Trotskyists were firmly implanted in this overwhelmingly proletarian population and, according to V.S., occupied a politically dominant position: there were at this time as many as 500 organized ostensible Vietnamese Trotskyists in France.

The Trotskyist organization, largely supporters of Ta Thu Thau’s La Lutte group, founded a “Comité Provisoire Représentant des Indochinois en France” (Provisional Committee Representing Indochinese in France) in July 1944 which included pro-Stalinists such as the noted philosopher Tranh Duc Thao. This “broad” committee was to serve as a base among which the Trotskyists could work, while at the same time maintaining their own independent publication.

According to V.S., during the first few years after the war, the Vietnamese section in exile contributed substantial financial support to the Fourth International, much more than many other sections. At the same time the section published a paper, Tranh Dau (Struggle), before 1947; after the first congress of the Groupe Communiste Internationaliste de Vietnam (GCI— Internationalist Communist Group of Vietnam) in 1947 it published Vo San until 1958.

However, beginning in the late 1940’s the French government began massive deportations of the Vietnamese back to Vietnam, including about three-quarters of the Trotskyists. The latter simply disappeared after their return to Vietnam, presumably through capitulation to the Viet Minh Stalinists or liquidation by either the Stalinists or the French.

Consequently, by 1951-52 there were only about 70 Vietnamese ostensible Trotskyists left in France. The GCI was in turn divided between former followers of Ta Thu Thau’s La Lutte group and Ho Huu Thong’s International Communist League. At the time of the Pabloite split in 1951-53, there was a parallel debate among the Vietnamese resulting in a split in the GCI, with 18 opposing the Pabloist “entrism sui generis” (i.e., liquidation), about 40 supporting it and the remainder abstaining. The “independents” (anti-Pabloites) managed to bring out one issue of their paper, Cours Nouveau (New Course), edited by Lucien who had written an important article concerning the 1945 Saigon uprising, but were unable to continue. Ironically, although the majority was theoretically in favor of entrism, it was never able to carry it out.

At the time of the 1963 reunification between the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Pabloite International Secretariat (IS), the two Vietnamese groupings also reunited, to form the Bolshevik-Leninist Group of Vietnam (BLGV). According to V.S., this was due to the fact that their practical work had led to a convergence of positions rather than as a result of the SWP-IS discussions. By this time, however, the Vietnamese minority had been converted to the theoretical position of entrism (while the entire combined group recognized the impossibility of putting it into practice). From 1964 on, the BLGV decided that it was impossible to edit an explicitly Trotskyist paper in Vietnamese, and instead began working with an independent anti-Stalinist, “trotskysant” (Trotsky-oid) paper, Quat San, which is still being published today.

V.S. stated that in spite of the post-war assassinations and elimination of any organizational presence, traces of the Trotskyist heritage in Vietnam have not totally disappeared. Thus the Stalinists have reportedly never dared attack Ta Thu Thau in person (although carrying on the usual slander campaigns against other individuals), and there is still sentiment in Vietnam for moving Thau’s grave from the Vietnamese highlands to Saigon. In addition, there have been periodic reports of Trotskyist influence in the South Vietnamese trade unions. In the early 1950’s U.S. government cold warrior Vietnam expert Milton Sacks claimed the Trotskyists maintained a certain presence, and even later V.S. reported some influence of ostensible Trotskyists in the trade unions of the Saigon area.

* * * * *

These sketchy reports reinforce the preceding analysis of the history of Vietnamese Trotskyism, particularly regarding its weaknesses. When Vietnamese Trotskyists in France after World War II concentrated on front-group formations, they repeated the pre-war error of the La Lutte group in not drawing a clear organizational dividing line between themselves and the Stalinists. Before the war, this failure had left the Trotskyists relatively open to repression by the French and Japanese; after the war it politically disarmed them against the Viet Minh, who were meanwhile attempting to murder all known ostensible Trotskyists in Vietnam.

As for the fake-Trotskyist United Secretariat (USec), it has refused to give its Vietnamese section, the BLGV, any assistance, and has in fact kept the BLGV’s existence secret (see the letter by the Vietnamese to the UScc’s “Tenth World Congress”). This is hardly surprising given the position of the USec majority that the Vietnamese Stalinists are “empirically revolutionary.” Further, by casting doubt on and denigrating the significance of the Stalinists’ murder of Ta Thu Thau, the USec majority reviles the history of their own Vietnamese comrades. The SWP, for its part, blocks with the majority in refusing to pose the question of building a Trotskyist party in Vietnam today.

In deliberately refusing to build a Vietnamese section—because of the centrist USec majority’s political capitulation to the Stalinists and the reformist minority’s abject tailing after the liberal bourgeoisie—the Pabloists have made abundantly clear that the construction of a Vietnamese Trotskyist party can only come about through the struggle for the rebirth of the Fourth International, and the political destruction of the false pretenders to its mantle. The international Spartacist tendency, which despite lack of access to many sources has been unique in seeking to draw the lessons of Vietnamese Trotskyism, pledges itself to this task.