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Ian H. Birchall

Quantity or Quality?

(Autumn 1967)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.30, Autumn 1967, p.33.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

La Guerre et la Révolution – 1: Guerres d’Asie: Vietnam et Corée
Pierre Naville
Études et Documentation Internationales, F18.50.

This volume contains, in unaltered form, the journalistic articles written by Pierre Naville on the questions of Vietnam and Korea between 1949 and 1956.

One admires M. Naville’s courage in submitting such transient writings to his readers’ knowing hindsight; but it is hard to see the value of presenting the work in this form, especially when it contains such misguided judgments as the assertion that the Geneva Agreements were a victory for Ho Chi Minh. Would even Ho claim this now?

Certainly the work contains useful facts and insights. M. Naville stresses the importance of demoralisation among US troops in Korea; and shows how the US were weakened by the fact that soldiers served no more than one year – very relevant to Vietnam today. Equally interesting is the fact that, within a month of the outbreak of the Korean War, the Indian CP replaced an anti-Mao leadership by a pro-Mao one.

Moreover, M. Naville shows a knowledge of military strategy which could be equalled by few Marxists – perhaps to the extent of overestimating purely military factors. This is at the cost of social analysis; M. Naville’s clear partisanship for North Korea and the Vietnamese Revolution does not make up for the absence of this.

In both Korea and Vietnam there was a genuine national liberation movement based on guerillas; in both cases an underdeveloped country was cynically manipulated by two opposing world power blocs. The independent revolutionary movement was a bigger factor in Vietnam than in Korea; but was the quantitative difference great enough to become a qualitative one? Of this problem we still await an adequate Marxist analysis.

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