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Vietnam & Trotskyism

A series of articles by Simon Pirani reprinted from the Workers Press together with supplementary material.

Written: 1986 / 87.
First Published: 1987.
Source: Published by the Communist League (Australia).
Transcription / HTML Markup: Sean Robertson and David Walters for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Copyleft: Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line ( 2013.
Permission is granted to copy and / or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons license. Please cite any editors, proofreaders and formatters noted above along with any other publishing information including the URL of this document.



Vietnam and Trotskyism


Statement by National Committee of the Communist League

Introduction by Simon Pirani

The Vietnamese Trotskyists by Andy Blunden

Vietnam and Trotskyism by Simon Pirani

The ‘Struggle’ Front by Simon Pirani

1945: Vietnam’s August Revolution by Simon Pirani

A Stalinist Massacre by Simon Pirani

The Fourth International and the Stalinist Ho Chi Minh by Simon Pirani

The Trotskyists and the United National Front by Simon Pirani

The Saigon Insurrection, an eye-witness account by N. Van, 1968

An account of the 1945 August Revolution by Lu Sanh Hanh, September 1947

Under Vichy France’s Jackboot by Simon Pirani

Letters to the Workers Press

Vietnam: The ‘Hideous Reality’ by Simon Pirani

Declaration of the Indochinese Oppositionists – August 1930

On the Declaration of the Indochinese Oppositionists by Leon Trotsky, 1930

What is Permanent Revolution: Basic Postulates by Leon Trotsky, 1930

Excerpts from writings of Leon Trotsky, 1939

Peasant War in China and the Proletariat by Leon Trotsky, 1932

Excerpt from Vietnam & the World Revolution by M. McLaughlin

Three Letters from Ho Chi Minh to the Vietnamese CP, 1939

Letter by Bolshevik-Leninist Group of Vietnam to USFI, 1974

On the Nature of the Vietnamese Communist Party from Vietnamese Trotskyist Group in France, 1985

Further reading


Vietnam & Trotskyism is based on material published in a seven part series in Workers Press, weekly paper of the British Workers Revolutionary Party, beginning in December 1986.

The series was compiled by Simon Pirani and documents the role of the Vietnamese Trotskyists in the period leading up to the August 1945 revolution after the defeat of the Japanese.

Simon Pirani’s five part article is the centrepiece of the book. This is supplemented by a number of articles that were published in the same series – eye-witness accounts of the August Revolution and some articles covering related topics, as well as correspondence from the Letters pages of Workers Press, including letters critical of Simon Pirani’s article, and his replies.

Also included are extended excerpts of documents that Simon Pirani refers to in his article, so that the reader may study the material for his or her self. This includes excerpts from Leon Trotsky’s writings of the 1930s as well as more recent articles, and a translation of a statement by the Vietnamese Trotskyist group in France putting forward their view of the tasks confronting the Fourth International in Vietnam today.

Published for the first time in English is the 1930 Declaration of the Indochinese Oppositionists. Hitherto unseen outside the Vietnamese opposition, the document is known for Trotsky’s comments upon it. Its publication here allows an appreciation of the real discussion in which Trotsky was engaged with the young cadre of the Left Opposition.

A translation of three letters by Ho Chi Minh, printed in French by the Vietnamese Trotskyist Group, shows the methods of slander that were used to justify the murder of the Vietnamese Trotskyists by the Vietminh in 1945.

Andy Blunden
10 November 1987


The Communist League acknowledges the invaluable political work of comrades of the Workers Revolutionary Party, and in particular comrade Simon Pirani, which has made the publication of this book possible.

We would like to extend our particular gratitude to comrade N. Van, who provided the 1930 Declaration of the Indochinese Oppositionists for its first English publication here, from his personal archive. Comrade Van also gave invaluable assistance, by correcting some inaccuracies in the original draft.

The responsibility for what appears is, naturally, that of the Communist League.

November 1987

Statement by the Communist League

This book is dedicated to the memory of Ta Thu Thau and the other Vietnamese Trotskyists who were slaughtered by the Stalinists in 1945.

It is also dedicated to those comrades who continue to fight today to build a section of the Fourth International in Vietnam.

As part of its contribution to the rebuilding of the Fourth International, the Communist League is launching a campaign for the rehabilitation of the Vietnamese Trotskyists. In doing this we recognise the inspiration the Vietnamese revolution brought to the group of workers and youth who founded the Socialist Labour League, Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

In breaking from the SLL, the Communist League has created the conditions for correcting the grave errors we committed while members of the IC in endorsing the Stalinist slanders against the Vietnamese Trotskyists, errors which led inevitably to the rejection of the perspectives of building a Trotskyist party in Vietnam, and of the political revolution to overthrow the counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy.

From its founding, the Trotskyist movement has been under continual pressure from Stalinism, a pressure which in many cases took the form of physical liquidation, but also took the form of liquidating the struggle to build independent Trotskyist parties. This was the significance of the emergence of Pabloism inside the Fourth International in the early 1950s.

The IC correctly took up the fight against Pablo and Mandel on the question, only to capitulate to the bourgeois regimes in Iraq, Libya and Iran and to abandon the struggle for Trotskyist parties in those countries.

In 1979 both the IC and Mandel’s United Secretariat endorsed the expulsion of the Trotskyist Simon Bolivar Brigade from Nicaragua by the Sandinista government, again reflecting this same liquidationist pressure. This capitulation has been taken forward by ex-IC leaders M. Banda and G. Healy, who are now supporters of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, headed by Gorbachev.

Trotsky’s insistence on building sections of the FI arose from his understanding that there is a river of blood between Stalinism and Trotskyism. This was vividly – and tragically – confirmed in Vietnam.

But the Vietnamese comrades wrote an imperishable page in the history of the workers movement and the lessons of their struggle will be taken forward today in the fight to rebuild the Fourth International.

The deepening crisis of the Vietnamese economy as a result of the Stalinist policies of ‘socialism in one country’ and peaceful co-existence with imperialism has given added urgency to the building of a Trotskyist party in Vietnam.

One of the central demands of the political revolution will be the rehabilitation of the murdered Trotskyists as martyrs of the Vietnamese revolution.

* For the rehabilitation of the Vietnamese Trotskyists!
* Forward to the Vietnamese section of the Fourth International!
* Forward to the political revolution in Vietnam!



By Simon Pirani

The 1917 Russian Revolution opened up the period of transition from capitalism to socialism. It was the first – and seventy years later, still the only – revolution successfully carried through by the urban working class under communist leadership.

After the second world war, capitalist property relations were overturned in eastern Europe – but the working class which rose against capitalism was bureaucratically and militarily suppressed by Stalinism as it extended its control to those states.

In Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam and Cuba the capitalist property relations were again destroyed. These were historic steps forward for the world working class. But the revolutionary force of that class – which, in the 1917 revolution had been unleashed by Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks – was not only strait-jacketed and manipulated, but at certain points bloodily suppressed, by the bureaucratic Stalinists and petit-bourgeois leaderships which came to power in these states.

For Trotskyists, who continued the Leninist strategy of international working class revolution against Stalinist betrayal, an understanding of these bureaucratically malformed workers’ states, and their place in the struggle for international socialism, is a central practical and theoretical problem.

The developments in these countries provoked within the Trotskyist movement a surge of revisionist illusions about the ‘progressive side’ of Stalinism, its ‘ability to take revolutionary actions’. Such ideas corroded the movement to the point of threatening its existence.

While the articles in the pamphlet do not get to grips with the erroneous theoretical conceptions of liquidationist revisionism, they do deal with some of the lies and falsifications with which revisionism has sustained itself: that Stalinist parties like the one in Vietnam somehow ‘empirically broke with Stalinism’; that the Trotskyists there were ‘ultra-lefts’ who ran from revolution, or even Japanese agents.

The articles give a glimpse of the Trotskyist movement as it really was: a powerful force in the working class which was only stopped by physical extermination.

Some readers may not understand why the historical narrative, reprinted from Workers Press, is littered with references to a document by a former Workers Revolutionary Party member, John Spencer, which only ever existed in a few dozen xeroxed copies.

After all, who cares about these few pages written by someone who was on his way out of the Trotskyist movement? The answer is that when the articles were written, a group of former party members led by the ex-party general secretary, Mike Banda, were moving rapidly towards Stalinism – and Spencer’s document could only have helped them along. (Mike Banda’s group of that time, the Communist Forum, has since wound up, with some members joining the British Communist Party, and some quitting politics).

At that time it was important to stress the connection between Spencer’s distortions, and the enthusiasm which Banda had expressed for Vietnamese Stalinism over decades inside the Trotskyist movement itself.

Today Stalinism – in Poland, Yugoslavia, the USSR, China and Vietnam – is in a colossal crisis, a crisis inseparable from that of imperialism. The fact that Vietnamese Trotskyism has not been destroyed, and has the potential to play a vital part in working class struggles in the not too distant future, is a source of inspiration to all Trotskyists.

21 February 1987

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