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International Socialism, Summer 1967


Edward Crawford

A Loser


From International Socialism (1st series), No.29, Summer 1967.
Transcribed by Mike Pearn.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Long Long War
by Richard Clutterbuck
Cassell, 30s

At a time when many on the left see guerrilla warfare as the only going method of revolution and when enthusiasm is aroused by the fight of the NLF of Vietnam it is informative to read an account of the crushing of the Malayan Communist party’s revolt after the war. Brigadier clutter buck describes the creation of a temporarily totalitarian state, operating in a most conscious manner to preserve capitalist property. This state, quite distinct from the usual authoritarian colonial structure, asserts its control over the minutiae of peasant life even if the market remains free. The historical background and political analysis is the least valuable part of this work, but the description of the methods of police control and the ways in which individuals were corrupted by fear or bribes, then induced to spy on those closest to them, together with the constant intimidation and war of extermination waged against the finest elements in the population is, even if unintentionally, a damning exposure of imperialism on the defensive.

Comparing the situation in Vietnam today the point to note is the author’s emphasis on police control rather than military tactics, which he dismisses as comparatively unimportant and often politically self-defeating. What he does not sufficiently emphasise is the boom in rubber and tin which enabled the British to create political support for the People’s Action Party and to filter down real economic benefits to the workers and peasants, with a corresponding movement towards reformism on their part. These benefits came through an organic relationship to the world market rather than via prostitution, thieving and embezzlement as in the happy town of Saigon today and thus tended to promote a healthier economic and social base than in South Vietnam.

The main lesson to be drawn concerns the procedures by which people who are not raving nazis and are secure in their belief of their own rectitude are prepared to adopt to defend the ruling class. All we can do is expose the mystification about civil liberties, democracy, freedom and all the things which ‘practical’ men like Clutterbuck have thrown overboard as ‘irrelevant to the situation’. So doing we can both help the various liberation movements and prepare people here for similar disagreeable experiences as soon as the Left becomes a serious threat to the status quo.

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