Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Ho Chi Minh A Life by William J. Duiker

Ho Chi Minh is one of those historical figures that will always have a cloud of mystery surrounding their lives. Ive read a lot about Ho Chi Minh from multiple sources and with all of them put together I didn't know half of what I learned from reading this book.

I read a few reviews of this book before reading it and one person was upset that the author didn't go into enough details about the Vietnam war. I think he went into enough detail of Uncle Ho's life during the Vietnamese war with out focusing too much on war details and it balanced out quite nice.

Ive always seen Uncle Ho as a mixture between a Vietnamese nationalist and communist. After reading this book I believe he was truly both. Though at times through out the book it seems as though Ho Chi Minh was having second thoughts about communism. This was mainly because the Vietminh during WW2 were largely ignored by the USSR. In fact through out the book the author points out how the USSR failed to help the Vietnamese struggle. Uncle Ho said himself that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam had received more assistance from the US than that from the USSR through the course of the war(page 342).

This was all despite the fact that Ho Chi Minh had served as a Comintern for several years. This lead to a very confusing atmosphere within the Vietnamese independence movement. At the National People's Congress of the Vietminh front on August 16th 1945 in Tan Trao the meeting took place under portraits of Lenin, Chairman Mao and General Claire Chennault (a US general)(page 305).

I was hoping that upon reading this book that I would know more about the uprising against the French in Vietnam. This book goes into great detail about Ho Chi Minh's life before and during the french resistance. Uncle Ho spent most of the planning years in south China, collecting assistance and gathering their forces. I was surprised to read that the wife of Sun Yat-sen (the ex-leader of the KMT) actually was very close to the CPC and even helped Uncle Ho while he was in China (page 210).

Another thing that stuck out in this book was Uncle Ho's dislike for Trotskyist. Uncle Ho saw Trots as "Utopian" and "unrealistic" He said to his Indochinese communist party comrades "The Trotskyist have betrayed their reactionary essence everywhere, and in Vietnam as well. our party must dissociate itself from them most resolutely. There must be no compromises."(page 226).

He had even sent a letter from China to the Central Committee of the ICP in 1938 and in point four of this letter Uncle Ho wrote: "We can not make any alliance with or any concession to the Trotskyite group. We must do everything possible to lay bare their faces as the running dogs of the fascist and annihilate them politically"(page 235)

Some Trotskyist were even arrested and executed by the ICP(page 320).

Something I took away from this book was the great amount of help that the DRV received from the CCP and how hard Mao and other leaders from China worked to help the Vietminh and later the Vietcong defeat their oppressors. Especially seeing as how for almost a decade the USSR ignored the Vietnamese people (periodically page 416-419).

China even made great sacrifices at their own cost to help the DRV, granting the DRV diplomatic recognition knowing that its relations with France and western nations in general would suffer because of it (page 420). Though eventually Stalin agreed to send assistance to Vietnam after WW2 "Because of limits of natural conditions, it will be mainly China that helps you. What China lacks we will provide."-Stalin. To which Mao assures Ho Chi Minh "Whatever China has and Vietnam needs, we will provide"-Mao. On the train ride home Mao told Uncle Ho that "Getting something from Stalin is like taking meat from the mouth of a tiger." (page422).

During the Vietnam war between the US and the Vietcong forces, many farmers had to lay down their farm equipment to go and fight in the war. This lead to a shortage of food in the DRV. But again the Chinese Communist came to the aid of the DRV and the Vietcong, saving many from starvation during the war by sending generous amounts of rice to the DRV (page 553).

It was because of the endless help of the CPC that the DRV chose the Chinese model of socialism (page 428) over that of the USSR in its earlier years before the CPC moved away from its Maoist and more democratic model and became hostile towards Vietnam.

One theme through out the book, that you can tell the author really wanted an answer to in his research was if Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist or a communist. I think the author was correct when towards the end of the book when he claims that Ho Chi Minh was some one who wanted national independence for Vietnam. He is also correct I believe in saying that Ho Chi Minh was both a nationalist and a communist. Even if he was a nationalist before a communist one can not discount his many denunciations of world capitalist and imperialism in general. One also has to believe that a non-communist would have never implemented the extreme land reform that the DRV did with such a great success. The land reform program helped to radicalize the peasantry and motivate them to fight against the landlord and rich peasant classes(page 488).

Over all the book was easy to read and the series of events was easy to follow and made sense when reading it, I never felt confused as to what year it was or what country Uncle Ho was in. I was happy how in-dept the book went into about his Comintern years with such great detail.

When reading this book I could really tell that the author was passionate about this writing. I also could tell that he worked very hard on gathering facts from many different sources to write this book. There were point in the book where I could simply never put it down. I lost quite a few hours of sleep to this book and I'm glad I did.

If I had to rate this book from 1 to 10 I'd give it a 8.9, and I don't give easy ratings to anything. This is one of the best biography books Ive ever read. Second only to "Che: A Revolutionary Life". And that says a lot, thank you for writing this book Mr. Duiker it is a great achievement.

(all page numbers taken from paperback version)

Review written by: Dustin Slagle

Friday, September 16, 2011

It Hurts Doesn't it Palin Supporters?

I hope most of you reading this by now have heard of the new book that just came out called The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.

In this book the author makes claims that Sarah Palin had an affair with a business partner of her husband. Apparently she also did cocaine with her husband(1). Blowing her image wide open to criticism.

Of course the Palinites have gone to extreme lengths to denounce this book as lies and just general misinformation.

Her own husband (probably in denial) came out calling the author a liar and "This is a man who has been relentlessly stalking my family to the point of moving in right next door to us to harass us and spy on us to satisfy his creepy obsession with my wife,"(2)

I just want to ask the republicans and Palin supporters one question: How does it feel?

As Maoist we know how it feels to have someone release a book about some one who inspires us, and that book is full of lies. The book "the private life of Mao Zedong" was written by a Dr who claimed to be Mao physician yet no evidence exist that points out that this Li Zhisui ever even met the red sun. Let alone this is a second release of this book. His first edition didn't sell. But when he added bad things about Mao it started selling like crazy among capitalist nations. I think he even apologized to Mao's family for the lies he put in this book to sell it.

The book: "Mao the untold story." is another case where people quote untrue things from this book to me all the time. Academic experts have criticized the book for its falsifications of interviews and selective sources. Professor Andrew Nathan of Columbia University said of the books sources: "many of their discoveries come from sources that cannot be checked, others are openly speculative or are based on circumstantial evidence, and some are untrue." David S. G. Goodman, Professor of Contemporary China Studies at the University of technology, Sydney said of the book: "the 'facts' in The Da Vinci Code are about as reliable as those to be found in...Mao: The Unknown Story." Goodman argued that the style of writing was "extremely polemic" and that the book could even be thought of as a "form of fiction" where "a strong narrative" is "a substitute for evidence and argument." And many other criticisms were made of the book's facts, even by people's who studies are specific to modern China.

And what were the writers response to these criticisms? "the academics' views on Mao and Chinese history cited represent received wisdom of which we were well aware while writing our biography of Mao. We came to our own conclusions and interpretations of events through a decade's research." Wow, this is suppose to be a research/history book of a leader of China and the writers say themselves the cited 'RECEIVED WISDOM' and what takes the cake here in what is suppose to be a book on history, there for a non-fiction they say "WE CAME TO OUR OWN CONCLUSIONS" How was this book ever printed in the first place? Even worst: "we came to our own conclusions AND INTERPRETATIONS OF EVENTS"(3) I'm sure most people who would read this has had to write a research or argument paper at some point in their life. Never has a teacher in the history of ever allowed a student to cite their own conclusions and interpretations of events as evidence. A conclusion is the only place a student would be allowed to use this. So as writers of a research/history book it is completely unacceptable for this to happen.

But yet I still have these books quote to me all the time to point out the horribleness of Mao's personal life. At least now there is a book I can use to quote from to attack republicans on their hero's personal life. So I ask: How does it feel?

(1) "Sarah Palin: Bio Says She indulged in Sex and Drugs Husband says Biographer Has 'Creepy Obsession'". Montreal Gazette. AFP. September 16 2011. Web. September 16 2011.

(2) Philip Elliott. "Palin Camp Denounces Racy Bio of Former Governor. Yahoo. AP. September 15 2011. Web. September 15 2011.

(3) (all quotes take from wiki page for easier access to reader)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Proletarians! Walking Like Capitalist?

Most anyone living in the United States has a friend or family member in retail. If not then you have at least had someone try to sell you something you don't need for way too much money.

One thing I have noticed about my proletarian brothers in sisters in my personal experience is that at work and even after work they seem to pride themselves on how much they know about the money of the business they work for. For example one of my friends who made minimum wage would always brag about knowing how much money the restaurant made in a night, week etc. Because the bosses told him this small bit of information he would bend over backwards for the bosses no matter what. He would call people in for them do inventory for them and never asked for a raise in wages because he was their "friend" (aka a worker who did everything except ask for a raise). But because his bosses would tell him stupid information about the company and let him eat sword fish when he would work fifty plus hours a week he felt important to the company. I say felt because he was threatened at work by a co-worker and the bosses told him to deal with it. So he had to quit.

Another friend of mine was bragging to me that she had sold people some things they didn't need and got them to buy three hundred dollars worth of shit they didn't need. She was saying this like it was some kind of accomplishment. You would have thought she got all of the three hundred dollars. But she doesn't even make commission, she gets paid seventy cents over minimum wage. But yet she is proud and happy to have exploited these average everyday people for the mass benefit of her bosses and exploiters.

It drives me crazy to see this behavior specially by the poorest class in the USA. In the first example I gave you, the person is now homeless because he did the same thing at his new job and started drinking 12 year old scotch and smoking seven dollar cigars and just generally acting like he was of a higher class. But we see how much his capitalist friends helped him when after two years of breaking his back for them and never getting one raise they fired him.

What I have the hardest time understanding is where this behavior comes from. I don't understand why so many workers care about the business side of the company they work for let alone want to act like they have a steak in it. I'll never understand why someone in sales who doesn't make commission would care about selling people things they don't need. In fact I'm sure that makes them a horrible person.

The last thing I would like to rant about is the poor proletarians who complain about the Unions. That same guy Ive mentioned said on many occasions "why should one person get paid a days work everyday for three days for a job that takes one day""a non-union could probably do all three jobs on one day for one days pay." This baffled me and led to almost a strangle match. But the serious question is; why are proletarians feeling this way? Why are they acting and talking/walking this way? What has labor, communist etc failed to do so much that the proletarians of this nation think they are some mystical "middle class" and aspire to be the new bosses? Maybe it is time to do some self reflecting in the movement and make a huge change.