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Sherman Stanley

Breaking Through the Oriental Censorship

Saigon: Ripening the Fruit for Plucking

(November 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 31, 11 November 1940, p.2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

SAIGON, Indo-China – With the collapse of France, the metropolitan center of the French imperialist Empire, and with the possible collapse of England, the problem of a redistribution of their respective colonial holdings becomes acute. The totalitarian imperialist powers, eagerly scenting the blood and cast-off limbs of their fallen opponents and with a total disregard of the national aspirations of the colonial peoples, prepare for the division of the spoils. The thieves begin to fall out!

A Rich Prize

French Indo-China, the rich and strategically located prize colony of French imperialism, furnishes a splendid example of the fate that awaits the colonial masses of the two old Empires if the fascist imperialisms have their way and succeed in forcing a world redivision. Rich in rubber, tin and raw materials, this colony straddles the South China Seas and the Indian Ocean. That is, by sea it commands the areas surrounding the Dutch East Indies and those sections of the Middle East (Burma, Malay) converging at the western entrance to the Indian Ocean. In addition, by land it guards the frontiers of South China. He who would have Singapore – the Gibraltar of the Far East – he who would have the invaluable Dutch East Indies and erect a Far Eastern Empire, must take Indo-China first!

Adapt Themselves

What has happened since the fall of France? Those phoney “optimists” of British imperialism who envisaged Indo-China and other French colonies as continuing the struggle of the Allies as though nothing had changed were soon disillusioned. The material interests of the French plantation owners, landlords and administrators soon overcame their “spiritual” and “ideological” sympathies. The bubble, was pricked in a week and the colonial administration began rapidly to adapt itself to changed circumstances.

The French rulers faced two clear alternatives – either to remain with England and keep up a pretense of continuing the Allied struggle, or to adapt themselves – a polite expression for capitulate – to Japanese imperialism. In the first instance they faced the dead certainty of Japanese invasion with quick defeat, for their forces were feeble and demoralized. The second alternative was their choice. It is today’s policy. Along this path lies at least the possibility of a temporary survival as property owners and masters of men, with the chance of a subordinate sharing in the administration at a later date.

Ruthless Oppression

There has existed all along a third alternative – independent of the desires of French imperialism. That was the possibility of colonial revolt on the part of the Indo-Chinese and Annamite masses who make up the population of the country. But the most ruthless oppression imaginable has temporarily halted this, the only progressive solution to the problem of Indo-China’s fate. In the first week of the Second World War no less than 25,000 Nationalists, Stalinists and Fourth Internationalists were forcibly lodged in the jails and concentration camps of the country! And now, in the interim period between the fall of France and the formal settling of Indo-China’s status, the French administration to prove its faithfulness to imperialist ideology no matter what the origin, is tracking down those few who may have escaped the first mass arrests.

The interim period exhibits imperialism in its starkest form. Not only the unprecedented police and military rule, but the hunger and the outside world. The frank objective of the French authorities is: Hold on at all costs, display our superior technique to tomorrow’s masters and we shall have our share – be it a minor one.

What Next?

In all likelihood Indo-China’s future will be decided without the participation or consultation of its masses. The most hounded Party of all – the Bolshevik-Leninists of Indo-China – are still in too weak a position to assert independent leadership. Already, even petty Thailand (Siam) blusters and threatens, demanding back certain small areas in the North. Even the National Chungking regime of Chiang kai-shek talks big about a counter-invasion if Indo-China submits unresistingly to the Japanese. But these are minor threats or bluffs when compared with the realities of Japanese policy.

Large units of the Japanese navy, based at the island of Hainan, hover off the northern coasts; expensive military units press against the north frontier; swaggering Japanese officials and military officers inspect cargoes; freight cars and bus communications, eager to halt the minutest trickle of goods to Nationalist China. Inexorably edging in and building the foundations of tomorrow’s formal rule come the vanguard forces of Japanese imperialism. And what of the Indo-Chinese masses? Today, they can do little but sit silent as yet another halter is placed around their neck. They have no illusions; they will lift no welcome voice to the Japanese. They remain in silence and bide their time.

It is generally assumed in Indo-Chinese circles that a secret understanding already exists between the French government of Petain, the Japanese and Hitler. The status quo is to be formally maintained until some sort of world re-division takes place. Then Indo-China is to be added to the Japanese Far-Eastern Empire. Without the independent revolutionary action of the colonial masses such will be its inevitable fate. Indo-China today serves best as both an example and a warning to the colonies of the world. It offers a preview of the problem each colony must face sooner or later. Either world re-division, with a simple exchange of imperialist masters; or the colonial socialist revolution.



SHANGHAI – Shanghai is filled with rumors concerning Indo-China. According to one report which has an air of reality about it, an Italo-German Commission is rushing post haste to Indo-China with the object of making a survey of its raw material resources and trade possibilities. Hitler has no intention, if he can help it, of allowing the fruits of his war to be gathered up by others! Before the new Versailles Conference, before the new world re-division is even in sight the thieves begin to fall out over division of the loot. One war not yet completed; other wars already in sights – such is the meaning of imperialism.

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