Tạ Thu Thâu

(Redirected from Ta Thu Thau)

Tạ Thu Thâu (1906–1945) in the 1930s was the principal representative of Trotskyism in Vietnam and, in colonial Cochinchina, of left opposition to the Indochinese Communist Party (PCI) of Nguyen Ai Quoc (Ho Chi Minh). He joined to Left Opposition to the United Front policy of the Commintern as a student in Paris in the late 1920s. After a period of uneasy co-operation with "Stalinists" on the Saigon paper La Lutte, he triumphed over the Communists in the 1939 elections to the Cochinchina Colonial Council on a platform that called for radical land reform and workers' control, and opposed defense collaboration with the French authorities. He was executed by the Communist Viet Minh in September 1945.

Tạ Thu Thâu
1930 Paris police mug shot following protests against suppression of the VNQDĐ
Tân Bình, An Phú, French Cochinchina
EducationUniversity of Paris
MovementJeune Annam, Annamite Independence Party (An Nam Độc lập Đảng), Indochinese Communist Union (Đông Dương Cộng Sản), La Lutte (Tranh Dau), International Communist League Vietnam (Trang Cau De Tu Dang)

Early life edit

Tạ Thu Thâu was born in 1906 in Tân Bình, An Phú, (near Long Xuyên) in the French colony of Cochinchina (southern Vietnam), the fourth child of a large and very poor family: his father was an itinerant carpenter. As a scholar student he attended a high school in Saigon, and (with a Baccalauréat Franco-Indigène) in 1925 began work as a teacher. In 1926, at age 20 he joined the Jeune Annam (Young Annam), and wrote for the nationalist newspaper Annam. In April Thâu took part in a week of protests attended by thousands of workers, and by students, sparked by the death, after 18 years penal servitude, of the veteran nationalist Phan Châu Trinh and by the arrest of Nguyễn An Ninh.[1][2]

Nguyễn An Ninh was an important influence on Thâu.[2] From the pages of his journal La Cloche Fêlée (from Baudelaire's Broken Bell), Ninh exhorted young people to "leave the home of your fathers." Only then could they hope to shake off the "suffocating ignorance" in which they were trapped by obscurantism: "our oppression comes from France, but so does the spirit of liberation."[3] In 1927 Thâu sailed for France, where he enrolled in the Faculty of Science, University of Paris.

"Nationalism or Socialism", Paris 1927–1930 edit

Flag of the Struggle Group.[4]

Tạ Thu Thâu clashed with Moscow-aligned Communists from the very outset of his political engagement in Paris as a member, and from early 1928 as the leader, of the Annamite Independence Party (An Nam Độc lập Đảng). He accused "salaried Annamites of the Colonial Commission of the French Communist Party" of infiltrating his party in order to turn members into "puppets carrying out the Communist Party's dictates." If the oppressed of the colonies" were to secure their "place in the sun," Thâu argued they would have to "unite against European imperialism--against Red imperialism as well as White."[5]

In 1929, after attending a conference of the Anti-Imperialist World Congress in Frankfurt, Germany, and contact with the philosopher and human rights activist, Felicien Challey, and the Communist Party dissidents Alfred Rosmer and Daniel Guérin, Thâu expressed his view of the Indo-Chinese revolution in the Left Opposition La Vérité. The revolution would not follow the precedent set by the Third International in China, where support for a broad nationalist front, the Kuomintang, had led Communists "to the graveyard." The "'Sun Yat-sen-ist' synthesis of democracy, nationalism and socialism" is "a kind of nationalist mysticism." It obscures "the concrete class relationships, and the real, organic liaison between the indigenous bourgeoisie and French imperialism," in the light of which the call for independence is "mechanical and formalistic." "A revolution based on the organisation of the proletarian and peasant masses is the only one capable of liberating the colonies ... The question of independence must be bound up with that of the proletarian socialist revolution."[2]

Arrested during a public protest in front of the Élysée Palace over the execution of the leaders of the Yên Bái mutiny on 22 May 1930, Thâu and eighteen of his compatriots were deported back to Saigon.

"The Struggle" in Saigon, 1930-1939 edit

Tạ Thu Thâu's first attempt to challenge to the Indochinese Communist Party (PCI) from the left, the Indochinese Communism Union (Đông Dương Cộng Sản), was broken up in 1932 with his arrest. On his release early in 1933 Thâu decided to explore the limited opportunities for "legal" political activity. To the surprise of some of his comrades, for this purpose he was willing to work not only with independent nationalists but also with "Stalinists"—with members of the PCI.

The focus for cooperation was the spring 1933 elections Saigon municipal elections. Thâu and his associates put forward a "Workers's List" and briefly published a newspaper (in French to get around the political restrictions on Vietnamese), La Lutte (The Struggle) to rally support for it. In spite of the restricted franchise, two of this Struggle group were elected (although denied their seats), the independent nationalist (later Trotskyist) Tran Van Thach and Nguyễn Văn Tạo, previously a member of the French Communist Party (PCF), now in the PCI.[6]

In the autumn of 1934, partly through the intercession of Nguyễn An Ninh,[7] the Struggle Group was revived with La Lutte being published as a regular weekly. In March 1935 Cochinchina Council elections their united "Worker's List" won no seats but 17 percent of the vote.

Those unwilling to accept the accommodations involved in this unique Trotskyist-Stalinist entente rallied to the League of Internationalist Communists for the Construction of the Fourth International (Chanh Doan Cong San Quoc Te Chu Nghia--Phai Tan Thanh De Tu Quoc). The die hards included Ngô Văn (Ngô Văn Xuyết), who in later exile was to memorialise Tạ Thu Thâu in his history of the revolutionary struggle.[8]

Tạ Thu Thâu and Nguyễn Văn Tạo came together for the last time in the April 1937 city council elections, both being elected. Together with the lengthening shadow of the Moscow Trials, their growing disagreements over the new PCF-supported Popular Front government in France ensured a split.

The leftward shift in the French National Assembly in Thâu's view had brought little. He and his comrades continued to be arrested during labour strikes, and preparations for a popular congress in response to the government's promise of colonial consultation had been suppressed. Colonial Minister Marius Moutet, a Socialist commented that he had sought "a wide consultation with all elements of the popular [will]," but with "Trotskyist-Communists intervening in the villages to menace and intimidate the peasant part of the population, taking all authority from the public officials," the necessary "formula" had not been found.[9]

Thâu's motion attacking the Popular Front for betraying the promises of reforms in the colonies was rejected by the PCI faction and the Stalinists withdrew from La Lutte. They established their own paper, L'Avant-garde, in which they denounced their erstwhile Trotskyist colleagues as "the twin brothers of fascism."[10]

With La Lutte now as Tranh Dau (Struggle) an openly Trotskyist paper, Thâu and Phan Văn Hùm led a "Workers' and Peasants' Slate" into victory over both the Constitutionalists and the PCI's Democratic Front in the April 1939 Cochinchina Council elections. The lutteurs programme had been openly revolutionary (radical land redistribution, workers control). But the key was their opposition to the "national defence levy" that the Communist Party, in the spirit of Franco-Soviet accord, had felt obliged to support.[11]

On May 20, 1939, Governor-General Brévié (who set the election results aside) wrote to Colonial Minister Mandel: "the Trotskyists under the leadership of Ta Thu Thau, want to take advantage of a possible war in order to win total liberation." The Stalinists, on the other hand, are "following the position of the Communist Party in France" and "will thus be loyal if war breaks out."[12]

Such as it was, the political opening against he PCI closed with the Hitler-Stalin Pact of August 23, 1939. Moscow ordered a return to direct confrontation with the French. In Cochinchina the Party in 1940 obliged, triggering a disastrous peasant revolt.

Belatedly, the Luttuers, then numbering then perhaps 3000,[13] and the smaller number of Octobrists united as the official section of the newly constituted Fourth International. They formed the International Communist League (Vietnam) (ICL), or less formally as The Fourth Internationalist Party (Trang Cau De Tu Dang).[14]

With the outbreak of World War II Communists of every stripe were repressed. The French law of September 26, 1939, which legally dissolved the French Communist Party, was applied in Indochina to Stalinists and Trotskyists alike. Tạ Thu Thâu was arrested and was incarcerated in the penal colony Poulo-Condore. He was held until March 1945 when the occupying Japanese finally dispensed with the Vichy French administration.

Northern mission, arrest and execution 1945 edit

While Tạ Thu Thâu was in Poulo-Condore, in Tonkin, Nguyen Ai Quoc, now known as Hồ Chí Minh , was laying the foundations for national power. He created the Viet Minh (“Viet Nam doc lap dong minh hoi”—-Vietnam Independence League). A purportedly broad nationalist front, the Viet Minh remained (in contrast to the Chinese Kuomintang) entirely a creature of the Party (even after this was formally dissolved in 1945). Subordinating all other social interests, the objective was “To expel the French and Japanese fascists and to establish the complete independence of Vietnam."[15]

On his release from Poulo-Condore, Ngô Văn records that Thâu and a small group secretly travelled north to Tonkin. They encountered a fraternal group publishing a bulletin, Chien Dau (Combat) and were received into clandestine meetings of mine workers and peasants. But famine was rife. On May 14 he managed to get an appeal published in the daily Saigon. He called on his "brothers in Cochinchina to eat only what you need to stay alive and to send here everything you possibly can, immediately.[16] His young comrade, Ðỗ Bá Thế, drew on their northern mission in his 1960 novel, Thím Bảy giỏi ("The Good Auntie").[17]

In August, hunted and pursued as "anti-worker elements" by the Viet Minh, Thâu and his group turned south. On September 14, at Quang Ngai, he fell into their hands.[17] There were reports that Thau was put on trial before a “people’s court”, but that on the personal instruction of Hồ, Tran Van Giau, of the southern Viet Minh command, overrode the court when it refused to convict Thau, and had him summarily executed.[18][19] His fate was shared at Quang Ngai by large numbers of Caodaists, independent nationalists and their families.[18][20][21] Interviewed in 1989, Giau, who allowed that he had known Thâu since their days in Paris and been helped by him when on the run from the Sûreté in Saigon, refused to answer questions about the fate of Trotskyists at the hand of the Viet Minh and denied any connection to Thâu's death.[22]

In September, during the general uprising in Saigon against the restoration of the French, Thâu's reconvened La Lutte grouping formed a workers' militia. Of these, Ngô Văn records two hundred alone being "massacred" by the French, on October 3, at the Thị Nghè bridge. Caught between the French and the Viet Minh, there were few survivors.[23]

A year later in Paris, Daniel Guerin asked Ho Chi Minh about Tạ Thu Thâu's fate. Hồ Chí Minh had replied, "with unfeigned emotion," that "Thâu was a great patriot and we mourn him", but then a moment later added in a steady voice "All those who do not follow the line which I have laid down will be broken."[24]

Commemoration in South Vietnam edit

Up until the capitulation of the South Vietnamese regime to the North Vietnamese army and their Việt-Cộng auxiliaries in August 1975, streets in a number of southern towns and cities were named in honor of Tạ Thu Thâu. From March 22, 1955, these included the street leading to the East Gate of Bến Thành Market in old Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, which now bears the name of the Hanoi-approved "patriotic intellectual" Lưu Văn Lang.[25] There is, however, a small street in District 9 of the city, near the Thu Duc intersection, that continues as đường Tạ Thu Thâu.[26]

The year before the fall of Saigon, in January 1974 a biography of Tạ Thu Thâu, Nhà cách mạng Tạ Thu Thâu, 1906-1945 (The Revolutionary Tạ Thu Thâu), was published in the city written by Phương Lan.[26][27]

Thâu had a wife who died in Paris in 2010 at the age of 101.[26]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Văn, Ngô (2010), In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary. AK Press, Oakland CA, pp. 158-159
  2. ^ a b c Văn, Ngô (1991), Ta Thu Thau: Vietnamese Trotskyist Leader Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History accessed 10 October 2019
  3. ^ Văn (2010), pp. 158-159
  4. ^ "Book Review: Revolutionaries They Could Not Break, by Ngo van". 3 September 2007.
  5. ^ Van (2010), p. 159
  6. ^ Taylor, K. W. (2013), A History of the Vietnamese, Cambridge University Press, pp. 515
  7. ^ Taylor (2013), p. 515
  8. ^ Văn (2010), pp. 158-163.
  9. ^ Hemery, Daniel (1975), Revolutionnaires Vietnamiens et pouvoir colonial en Indochine. Paris: François Maspero, p. 388
  10. ^ Văn (2010), p. 161
  11. ^ McDowell, Manfred (2011), "Sky without Light: a Vietnamese Tragedy," New Politics, Vol XIII, No. 3, p. 1341 (accessed 10 October 2019).
  12. ^ Văn (2010), p. 16
  13. ^ AWL (2005), The forgotten massacre of the Vietnamese Trotskyists Workers Liberty
  14. ^ Patti, Archimedes L.A. (1981). Why Vietnam?: Prelude to America's Albatross. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 522–523. ISBN 9780520041561.
  15. ^ Văn, Ngô (1991), "A ‘Moscow Trial’ in Ho Chi Minh’s Guerilla Movement", Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History.
  16. ^ Văn (2010), p. 162
  17. ^ a b Phiêu, Trần Nguơn (2019). "Một số chi tiết về Phan Văn Hùm". Nghiên Cứu Lịch Sử (in Vietnamese). Retrieved 2022-12-03.
  18. ^ a b Đức, Tấn (1999). "Tìm hiểu vụ ám sát Tạ Thu Thâu". Nghiên Cứu Lịch Sử (in Vietnamese). Retrieved 2022-12-05.
  19. ^ Martin, Patrick (2020). "Seventy-five years since the Stalinist murder of Vietnamese Trotskyist leader Ta Thu Thau". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  20. ^ Van (2010), pp. 128-129.
  21. ^ "Phong Trào Truy Lùng Và Xử Án Việt Gian". Phật Giáo Hòa Hảo. 2005.
  22. ^ Giao, Nguyễn Ngọc (2019). "Cái chết của Tạ Thu Thâu : Trách nhiệm Trần Văn Giàu ? — Diễn Đàn Forum". www.diendan.org. Retrieved 2022-12-06.
  23. ^ Văn (2010), p. 131
  24. ^ Guerin, Daniel (1954), Aux services des colonises, 1930-1953,. Paris: Editions Minuit, p. 22
  25. ^ "THÔNG TIN TỔNG QUAN VỀ ĐƯỜNG LƯU VĂN LANG QUẬN 1, TP.HCM - Photocopy Quốc Kiệt" (in Vietnamese). 2022-12-01. Retrieved 2022-12-05.
  26. ^ a b c Tuấn, Tuấn Thừa (2020). "Một số tài liệu về Tạ Thu Thâu". Spiderum. Retrieved 2022-12-05.
  27. ^ Phương, Lan (1974). Nhà cách mạng Tạ Thu Thâu, 1906-1945. Saigon: Khai Trí.

References edit

  • Bà Phuong-Lan[Bui-The-My](1974) Nhà Cách Mang:Ta Thu Thâu, Saigon: Nhà Sách KHAI-TRĺ [in Vietnamese].
  • Ellen Hammer (1954) The Struggle for Indochina, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Daniel Hemery (1974) Révolutionnaires Vietnamiens et Pouvoir Colonial en Indochine: Communistes, trotskystes, nationalistes à Saigon de 1932 à 1937,Paris: François Maspero.
  • Huynh kim Khánh (1982) Vietnamese Communism 1925-1945, London: Cornell University Press.
  • Alexander Richardson (2003) The Revolution Defamed: A documentary history of Vietnamese Trotskyism, London: Socialist Platform Ltd.
  • Ngo Van (1995) Revolutionaries they could not break: The fight for the Fourth international in Indochina 1930-1945, London: Index Books.
  • Ngo Van (2010) In the Crossfire: Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary. AK Press, Oakland CA.

External links edit