communist party of vietnam

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The Fall of Saigon was the capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the People’s Army of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (also known as the Việt Cộng) on April 30, 1975. The event marked the end of the Vietnam War and the start of a transition period to the formal reunification of Vietnam into a socialist republic, governed by the Communist Party of Vietnam.

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Nothing to forgive, Sydney. Nothing.

Roland Joffé’s The Killing Fields (1984) is set against a backdrop of one of the most horrific chapters in human history: the Khmer Rouge’s (Cambodia’s communist party) genocidal practices under Pol Pot before an intervention by neighbors Vietnam. The film stars Sam Waterston as New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg and a nonprofessional Cambodian-American actor named Haing S. Ngor playing Schanberg’s journalist friend and interpreter Dith Pran. 

As the Khmer Rouge moves into Phnom Penh, panic ensues as Western embassies begin evacuation procedures. Amidst the chaos, Schanberg holds out, hoping to acquire authorization to get Pran and his family out of the country. He fails and Pran finds himself under the iron fist of the Khmer Rouge. Ngor - who was an actual survivor of Pol Pot’s Killing Fields - embodies the tortuous anguish he once felt, remaking in an interview: “For me, movie not different. I have enough experience in Communist times. I put emotion into the movie. We have a lot of scenes like in Khmer Rouge time. Everything the same.” It was reported that Ngor wanted Joffé to include far more violence in the final cut of the film.

For the film’s genuousness, it would be granted seven Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay (Bruce Robinson), Actor (Waterston), Director (Joffé), and Best Picture. From those seven, The Killing Fields won three times: Best Film Editing (Jim Clark), Cinematography (Chris Menges), and Best Supporting Actor for Ngor. Ngor would become only the second (and most recent) nonprofessional actor to ever win an Oscar - the other was handless World War II veteran Harold Russell for 1946’s The Best Years of Our Lives (a film about three WWII veterans and their difficult adjustments coming home). Ngor is only the second fully Asian actor to win an acting Oscar, the first being Miyoshi Umeki in 1957’s Sayonara in a role assuming many stereotypes of Asian women.

Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.
 
In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.  Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.
 
There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba.  I was born in 1961 –- just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism.  We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.
 
Meanwhile, the Cuban exile community in the United States made enormous contributions to our country –- in politics and business, culture and sports.  Like immigrants before, Cubans helped remake America, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind.  All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, at once family and foe.
 
Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We have done so primarily through policies that aimed to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else.  And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people.  Today, Cuba is still governed by the Castros and the Communist Party that came to power half a century ago.
 
Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.  Consider that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China –- a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party.  Nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation.
 
That’s why -– when I came into office -– I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy.  As a start, we lifted restrictions for Cuban Americans to travel and send remittances to their families in Cuba.  These changes, once controversial, now seem obvious. Cuban Americans have been reunited with their families, and are the best possible ambassadors for our values.  And through these exchanges, a younger generation of Cuban Americans has increasingly questioned an approach that does more to keep Cuba closed off from an interconnected world.
 
While I have been prepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in our way –- the wrongful imprisonment, in Cuba, of a U.S. citizen and USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross for five years.  Over many months, my administration has held discussions with the Cuban government about Alan’s case, and other aspects of our relationship.  His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me, and to Cuba’s President Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case, and to address Cuba’s interest in the release of three Cuban agents who have been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.
 
Today, Alan returned home –- reunited with his family at long last.  Alan was released by the Cuban government on humanitarian grounds.  Separately, in exchange for the three Cuban agents, Cuba today released one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba, and who has been imprisoned for nearly two decades.  This man, whose sacrifice has been known to only a few, provided America with the information that allowed us to arrest the network of Cuban agents that included the men transferred to Cuba today, as well as other spies in the United States.  This man is now safely on our shores. 
 
Having recovered these two men who sacrificed for our country, I’m now taking steps to place the interests of the people of both countries at the heart of our policy.
 
First, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961.  Going forward, the United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba.
 
Where we can advance shared interests, we will -– on issues like health, migration, counterterrorism, drug trafficking and disaster response.  Indeed, we’ve seen the benefits of cooperation between our countries before.  It was a Cuban, Carlos Finlay, who discovered that mosquitoes carry yellow fever; his work helped Walter Reed fight it.  Cuba has sent hundreds of health care workers to Africa to fight Ebola, and I believe American and Cuban health care workers should work side by side to stop the spread of this deadly disease.
 
Now, where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly -– as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba.  But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement.  After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked.  It’s time for a new approach.
 
Second, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.  This review will be guided by the facts and the law.  Terrorism has changed in the last several decades.  At a time when we are focused on threats from al Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction.
 
Third, we are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba.  This is fundamentally about freedom and openness, and also expresses my belief in the power of people-to-people engagement.  With the changes I’m announcing today, it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island.  Nobody represents America’s values better than the American people, and I believe this contact will ultimately do more to empower the Cuban people.
 
I also believe that more resources should be able to reach the Cuban people.  So we’re significantly increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba, and removing limits on remittances that support humanitarian projects, the Cuban people, and the emerging Cuban private sector.
 
I believe that American businesses should not be put at a disadvantage, and that increased commerce is good for Americans and for Cubans.  So we will facilitate authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba.  U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions.  And it will be easier for U.S. exporters to sell goods in Cuba.
 
I believe in the free flow of information.  Unfortunately, our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe.  So I’ve authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba.  Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries. 
 
These are the steps that I can take as President to change this policy.  The embargo that’s been imposed for decades is now codified in legislation.  As these changes unfold, I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo. 
 
Yesterday, I spoke with Raul Castro to finalize Alan Gross’s release and the exchange of prisoners, and to describe how we will move forward.  I made clear my strong belief that Cuban society is constrained by restrictions on its citizens.  In addition to the return of Alan Gross and the release of our intelligence agent, we welcome Cuba’s decision to release a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by my team.  We welcome Cuba’s decision to provide more access to the Internet for its citizens, and to continue increasing engagement with international institutions like the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross that promote universal values.
 
But I’m under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans.  The United States believes that no Cubans should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard, and we will continue to support civil society there.  While Cuba has made reforms to gradually open up its economy, we continue to believe that Cuban workers should be free to form unions, just as their citizens should be free to participate in the political process.
 
Moreover, given Cuba’s history, I expect it will continue to pursue foreign policies that will at times be sharply at odds with American interests.  I do not expect the changes I am announcing today to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight.  But I am convinced that through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century.
 
To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today, let me say that I respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and democracy.  The question is how we uphold that commitment.  I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.  Moreover, it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  Even if that worked -– and it hasn’t for 50 years –- we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos.  We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.  In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens that we seek to help.
 
To the Cuban people, America extends a hand of friendship.  Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom.  Others have seen us as a former colonizer intent on controlling your future.  José Martí once said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest.”  Today, I am being honest with you.  We can never erase the history between us, but we believe that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination.  Cubans have a saying about daily life:  “No es facil” –- it’s not easy.  Today, the United States wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous.
 
To those who have supported these measures, I thank you for being partners in our efforts.  In particular, I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is; the government of Canada, which hosted our discussions with the Cuban government; and a bipartisan group of congressmen who have worked tirelessly for Alan Gross’s release, and for a new approach to advancing our interests and values in Cuba.
 
Finally, our shift in policy towards Cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the Americas.  This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas.  But we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future.  And I call on all of my fellow leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights at the heart of the Inter-American Charter.  Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections.  A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible if we work together – not to maintain power, not to secure vested interest, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens.
 
My fellow Americans, the city of Miami is only 200 miles or so from Havana.  Countless thousands of Cubans have come to Miami – on planes and makeshift rafts; some with little but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts.  Today, Miami is often referred to as the capital of Latin America.  But it is also a profoundly American city -– a place that reminds us that ideals matter more than the color of our skin, or the circumstances of our birth; a demonstration of what the Cuban people can achieve, and the openness of the United States to our family to the South.  Todos somos Americanos.
 
Change is hard –- in our own lives, and in the lives of nations.  And change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders.  But today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do.  Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future –- for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world.
— 

President Barack Obama announces changes to the decades-long U.S. policy of isolation towards Cuba, December 17, 2014.

If you’ve been reading my writing for a while, you’ll know how I feel about the Cuban embargo (“el bloqueo”) and the failed United States policy towards Cuba which has been carried on by every President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. Many of the reasons that President Obama uses in this statement for his actions are things that I have said many, many times. I am incredibly proud of the President for this action, and I am happy for the Cuban people – those who have emigrated here over the past half-century, as well as those still living happily in Cuba but limited by the constraints placed on their country by the embargo.

To quote the great philosopher Ice Cube, “Today was a good day.”

An Answer to Leninism

Every time at the opening to one of these uber-academic fucking articles I have to have a laugh to myself. Maybe I’ll be published in an anarchist zine someday. A girl can dream.

I just have this deep, boiling hatred for academic communism - we should really be mobilizing immediately, producing in what is appropriate to our material circumstances the seeds of genuine revolution. We have so many tools, so many different possible realizations of the socialist agenda already at our disposal. Take your fucking pick really; I’m sure there’s something to fit any social mould.

But really, we have to continue thinking and evolving as well as acting, because reaction evolves in response to action so as to effectively continue to repress it. We have to move ahead of the game.

So to close my opening schpiel I’m conflicted between my emotional revulsion at the idea of publishing again on a fucking blogging website some counter-argument to an imploded, effectively parried, overidealistic, and most importantly outmoded (no longer really reflecting the material circumstances of modern economics) model for socialist revolution and my rational sense that there’s a need to continually illustrate exactly why radical democracy can work. Ideologically, RD is about 30 years old and while it’s actually being put into practice (already!) it’s still largely unknown in the western sphere. When it is there’s always confusion over RD praxis, or even really what it is. (Are they liberals?) I’ve been writing these on a see-something-say-something sort of model, to answer bad discourse and otherwise apparently unsolved problems. My most recent sight being the problem of how mass organization can happen and remain anti-authoritarian and prevent capitalist degeneration, I decided to write an answer to Leninism and specifically Leninist rebuttals to anarchism. How do we actually go about conducting the revolution?

Important things to note, here I’m using Leninism as a catchall for everybody following after Lenin’s revolutionary model - Lenin himself, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, etc. It may put some readers off but the main thing is that I need a single word to talk about the ideological tradition distinctly from orthodox marxism, left communism, anarchism, postmarxism, among others. The models adopted by the revolutionaries of the 20th century share - all of them - a main structural similarity: Centrality and essentialism of the party and of the state, and a practice of “democratic” centralism; the unique necessity of a party vanguard, essentially. It’s a sharp divergence from Marxism Classic and one which exists uniquely to the Leninist sphere of ideology (obviously, since I defined it that way).

The second of those things is another conflation that’s (well it should be) even more controversial: I’m going to talk about radical democracy and democratic confederalism as though they’re the same thing. My reasoning is that while they have different roots, different origins (although both apparently originating from discourse between Marxists and anarchists, funny enough) they come to essentially similar conclusions and propose a similar model for organization which (imho) effectively refutes the arguments for why we should depend on Leninist revolutionary models into the 21st century.

I also promise I’ll kick this awful habit for run-on sentences and overlong intros someday.

Coming back to the topic of degeneration of revolutionary force, I don’t disagree really that oftentimes the horrid reflections of how Leninist regimes can (and almost inevitably do) evolve are a fact of the material conditions under which they exist. Stalin’s USSR - at once bumbling and frighteningly tyrannical - was an effect of the complexities of maintaining a federative union not yet stable following a coup and arising out of economic catastrophe and economic backwardness. “What could they have done?” is a question which doesn’t really matter - we could, knowing what we know now, conceive of ways the USSR might have been restructured to avoid the authoritarian hell into which it slipped while effectively restraining the reactionary elements which eventually destroyed it. We could think of some mode by which everyone around the world could, in the 20th century context, have actually achieved socialism (or at least set the world on a path to it). But we can’t rewrite history or travel back into it - this is why I need to stress how much leftists need to stay ahead of the curve. We must anticipate reaction, shifts in economy, and even reactionaries adapting our very own tools to defeat us, and we must counter those before they happen.

Keep in mind I don’t mean to absolve the USSR. It committed atrocities, end of story. What’s necessary is to examine what led to those atrocities (why its leaders thought certain sorts of repression were necessary to stay stable), what led it to deviate from its ideological path and eventually capitulate on the socialist goal (why it couldn’t remain stable anyway).

There are two reasons why, and I think they lie at the root of the USSR’s - Leninist - theory of organization. Eventual destruction of the goal of socialism has been mirrored across states seized by their respective communist parties. If you asked me whether China, Angola, Cuba, or Vietnam were on track to achieve socialism, I’d have to first laugh the question down and second answer no. With respect for the objectives of those states, they are in the process of being completely usurped, if they haven’t been already. Communism has become more a national aesthetic than anything else. Naturally, socialism won’t really be achieved except on an world scale as it becomes the predominant mode of economics around the globe, as democratic self-organization of workers becomes the rule and not the exception.

I’ll avoid materialist arguments about the progress of capitalism. Even though the conditions under the communist parties of the world as they were industrializing their states could only rightly have been described as capitalist, that should have been able to fit neatly into the revolutionary model. Forcibly progressing capitalism to the point of the full realization of industry should have been fine, the state should have been able to move things so far until the working class could arise and self-organize, the state could move gradually to a more hands-off approach, eventually only existing to safeguard revolutionary force which existed independently of it, until finally reactionary forces are so disempowered that they no longer pose a threat and the edifice of state can be totally discarded. There’s no good argument for how a socialist revolution can’t happen in any economic circumstance; good theory allows for socialists to claim liberty and independence, to socialize their economy, even before the goal of socialism as global economic model is technically realistic.

The twofold reason is a flatly wrong conception of democracy, and a failure to evolve and adapt with respect for autonomy (falling behind the curve). They’re deeply intertwined, and I’ll tackle the second first.

It should be noted that neoliberalism rests fundamentally on a bastardization of a socialist idea. International division of labour was taken by capitalists and simply applied to existing colonial relations, and this is why socialists aren’t succeeding right now, mainly. Reactionary forces are sly. They’ll take and cannibalize anything which works and use it to improve their own efficiency. Socialists failed to meet this new development, clinging desperately to economic nationalism in the face of growing capitalist hegemony. Some actually survived through nationalism, miraculously, by becoming resource-independent. Some adapted to the new model by simply dropping the revolutionary idea altogether. In both cases, the efficiency of the new model is undeniable, and even serious nationalists are beginning to move into it.

This is not how it should go. What should be happening is a socialist economic response to the new capitalist model, which addresses specifically its reliance on colonialism. Neoliberalism outstripped models proposed by socialists because it lacked any central point of failure. As revolutionary force faltered, economies controlled by socialists fell behind. Neoliberalism can be outstripped by socialist models should they more effectively (and if truly socialist they necessarily do) empower peoples still repressed by the colonialism on which neoliberal economics is founded. Revolutionary force becomes necessary for economic success, liberation becomes synonymous with plenty to eat and drink.

The central point of failure (the state) is really what made socialists of the 20th century weak, what made their collapse possible, what made authoritarianism necessary to maintain stability, and what made the realizations of their economic models fundamentally un-socialist. Managing the entire economy through the edifice of state empowers bureaucrats by making them necessary to the economy’s survival. If they fall, everything falls. The stability of the state equals exactly the stability of the economy, and that’s a problem. Relying on state stability for economic success means that the state, and the people who govern it, must be defended at all costs. “Party renewal” becomes effectively impossible. Accountability? Forget it. The economy absolutely will not be managed democratically - any attempt at such could throw the whole careful order into chaos. Authoritarianism, which is the means by which the state defends its stability, becomes necessary to keep the entire economy from collapsing.

Which leads us to the flawed conception of democracy. “Democratic” centralism is the mode under which the state operates in the Leninist ideal. It prizes unity, it’s compatible with - it requires - the absoluteness of state. Under it, democracy is primarily or exclusively realized through the state.

It’s really a joke to call it democracy at all.

Genuine democracy doesn’t rely on supreme order to function. Disunity, difference, dissent are vital to its function. Genuine democracy creates the means by which maximal disorder can be both fully realized, peacefully, and protected. We look to Chiapas and Kurdistan for examples, where fairly loose federations share resources and protect their mutual autonomy. These are the stable, rising leftist models of the 21st century. They’re fresh - still small, still incomplete - but they’re a spark. The progress of this new model is contingent on its ability to outstrip neoliberalism. It will stay restricted to a few national liberation movements, some fringe political groups, until it can realistically answer globalization. Each explicitly practices radical democracy.

And this is how we answer Leninism: The Leninists sublimated because they needed the state and its unity to operate the economy. They did not realize their mistake and soon their bureaucracies would become institutions concerned with perpetuating themselves, divorced from the socialist objective. We can use the state to defend against external reactionary force, but we must absolutely stop short of letting it become an administrator. Socialism is achieved only when democracy, independence, decentralism can be maintained in the economy itself - when workers organize independently of any state. Our tools are power equalization and mutual aid. This model means maximal genuine democracy in the state (or pseudo-state) also, to prevent it from itself becoming reactionary. We create, then, something which is very different from the liberal state - it operates as a facilitator, a federative platform, and a mechanism for defense and equally totally open discourse. It’s questionable, really, whether it is the same thing as a state, and by that measure we know we progress towards socialism, where our new mode of organization begins to look like something truly different from the models of capitalists.