Sunday, November 11, 2018
Once Again On Armistice Day Reflections- I Don’t Need A Good Conduct Certificate As An Anti-War Veteran-With Frank Jackman In Mind
Once Again On Armistice Day Reflections- I Don’t Need A Good Conduct Certificate As An Anti-War Veteran-With Frank Jackman In Mind
By Fritz Taylor
Frank Jackman was still incensed by the treatment he had received from a fellow anti-war veteran. I knew Frank’s story, knew the details behind what was making him furious since I had grown up with him down in Carver, down in cranberry bog country. Moreover I had known him as one of the guys who tried to help me out when I came back to the “real” world from ‘Nam, Vietnam during that war and had a horrible time readjusting (and still suffer a little. Known that Frank despite our very different approaches to our inductions into the U.S. Army had come out to California to try and find me when I had left Carver one night with the idea of never going back, never going back to the faultless wife, and faultless kids, when my head was full of too much drink, too much dope, too much cousin. Had found me out with what would later be called “brothers under the bridge,” guys that tried to create and alternative life under the bridges, along the railroad tracks and out in the arroyos and brought me back after a while. F.T.]
This is Frank’s take as told to me on what bothered him enough to yell out to me one night the words mentioned in the first line:
“I don’t need a good conduct certificate from Norm, National VFP, Smedley VFP, the gods, history, or anybody else to carry high the banner of VFP as an anti-war veteran,” Frank Jackman kept thinking to himself as he tossed and turned in the middle of night after he had looked at an e-mail from his old nemesis Norman Gordon. (Frank would also use that sentiment as the headline title of an e-mail that he would sent to the members of the Executive Committee of his local Veterans for Peace chapter, VFP, the Smedley Butler Brigade responding to Norm’s “charges.”) What had happened was that good old curmudgeon and guy who would rain on anybody’s parade but his own Norm Gordon had been up to his old tricks trying cause dissension in the ranks of the local organization. It would not have been the first time the two had locked horns over some organizational matter. The last time had been over whether the local chapter should carry as a matter of course the American flag in any public functions they attended. They both agreed on the matter that the chapter should not but Frank had been furious that Norm had not attended the meeting where the issue was discussed and had left him to carry the burden of the argument alone while Norm had attended to some private business of his own. (Their position lost and would have anyway if Norm had shown up but that was just one more example of his stirring the waters up and then leaving everybody high and dry).
This time the issue was personal, was about Frank’s status as an anti-war veteran, about whether he was in fact a veteran which was how acrimonious Norm could be when he got his fangs up. Frank had joined the local chapter of Veterans for Peace six or seven years before, recruited by Paul Sullivan the chapter coordinator, after having worked with the organization off and on for a number of years previous to that time. The crucial event had been his participant in an Armistice Day parade and program where he had proudly carried the black and white dove-emblemed VFP banner for the first time (Armistice Day also known as, officially known as Veterans Day, but the original intent had been to designate the day as a day of peace after the end of the huge bloodbath that was World War I). Frank’s position about joining organizations after a lifetime of belonging to many socialist and peace organizations, large and small, ad hoc and permanent, sometimes active, sometimes as a “paper” member was that he would not join a group these days unless he planned to be active. That decision had been solidified by his carrying that Armistice Day VFP flag that year.
What Frank had joined, and what he thought he had joined was the Boston chapter, the Smedley Butler Brigade, Chapter 9 of VFP and he had paid his chapter dues accordingly (and would in subsequent years as well). (The chapter named after the famous much decorated Marine Corps general who once he got “religion” on the war issue famously said “war is a racket”-and said much more as well look it up in Wikipedia for the full text.) His understanding and the understanding codified in the by-laws of the chapter was that you could be a member of the local chapter without being a member of the national organization. Since he was actively working with the local chapter and would have been a mere paper member of the national organization all through his membership he had never joined, never thought to join the national organization.
Enter Norm and his late night e-mail. In that e-mail Norm had mentioned that somehow he had found out that Frank was not a member of the national organization and by his lights not a member of VFP having not paid dues or submitted a DD214 ( military discharge papers which are the signal that you have in some way, shape or form completed your active duty) as required to be a member of the national organization (how and why Norm got that information from somebody at headquarters in Saint Louis he would never answer despite Frank’s repeated questions).
In additional and this is the point on which Frank blew his stack Norm questioned whether Frank had ever been in the military since he had not produced a DD214 for the local as required by the local by-laws. At the time of his recruitment, and he later asked Paul Sullivan about it and Paul was not sure whether back then proof of service was necessary for full membership, nobody had, including Paul, asked him for any documentation. Under ordinary circumstances challenging a member’s military service would not have been a “red flag,” hot button, seeing red issue by the local but only a few months previously there had been an ugly confrontation with people taking sides over what turned out to be bizarre case involving “stolen valor” (a term which signifies that somebody who may or may not have been in the military claims a lot of hot air combat bravery stuff like you would hear at an American Legion bar room). So Frank, who had been deeply embroiled in the controversy, was beside himself when even the hint of a challenge like that to his credentials came up, and it would not have had to be somebody as professionally antagonistic as Norm to have Frank seeing red.
Here is how Frank initially responded to Norm’s e-mail after a fitful night of tossing and turning over the issue:
“Frankly Norm you are by your accusations now the primary reason why I do not choose to join National and had been one reason ever since you were treasurer badgering me to join -or as you say the “real” VFP-I am a proud member of Smedley Butler Brigade, Chapter 9, VFP if that is not "real “VFP well I can live with that. By the way you should check the chapter by-laws like I did which do not require national membership for Smedley membership.
“The other reason I choose not to join, and had once been the primary reason was that I do not when I join an organization want to be a paper member-I would only be a paper member of National and obviously I am not a paper member of Smedley- I still want to know why you would be interested in why I am member of national or not and how you would have access to information about whether I was or not.
“More pressing though is your libelous remark about whether I was a veteran or not-I am right now putting in a request to the State Adjutant General's Office to get a copy of my discharge but I have other things on this accusation to say and will be sending out an e-mail about it if you can't wait to heard that I submitted my DD 214 to the Executive Committee. Later Frank Jackman “
Norm’s answer to that e-mail, his not unusual sniveling answer was that Frank had mistaken his intent, he was just trying to get an active member of Smedley who moreover had attended various national events like the convention to join up with others in National. On the military service question he totally backed off saying he was sure that Frank had done military service. That sniveling made Frank more aware than ever that he had to tell people associated with the local chapter what his real military service was like and put some egg on Brother Gordon’s face.
Frank had not mentioned much about his actual military service in part because for a very public man, for man who believed in his role of as a street anti-war activist he was very, very private about his personal life, about things that had happened to him in the past. That challenge by Norm had got him to thinking about something that had been in the back of his mind for a while about being a little more forthcoming about that aspect of his past. As part of trying to settle himself down over the whole Norm flare-up he had sent an e-mail to his ex-wife with whom he was still on friendly terms and he still counted on to give him counsel when he had what he called “a fire in his head.” Here’s what he had to say to Moira:
“Pea [pet name for Moira]-I want to tell you about this Norm character who called your house expecting that I was still living there. I already mentioned [in a previous e-mail] that he is some weird curmudgeon that wants to rain on everybody’s parade but his own. What he wanted to talk to me about and which he sent me an e-mail about last night when I had not called him was why I was not a member of VFP. This may sound odd but there are two parts to VFP-the National which has its own organizational structure and local Smedley which is part of and is subordinate to National. The point is that you can belong to Smedley without belonging to National and can run for local office as I have an idea to do this year without joining National. I have seen no reason except as a paper member to be a member of National. You know when I join something it is for real and not just for the resume. What’s a resume by the way? [Private joke between them because Frank has never assembled a resume having been in the right place at the right time on such matters as jobs and educational opportunities most of his working life.] Norm’s position is that because I am not a member of National I am not a member of VFP and therefore should not hold office which is what I want to do come the next election cycle, and he probably thinks I am not be a member of Smedley although our by-laws do not require it.
“The more serious allegation though is that he questions whether I am a veteran at all (like in the Bill Fuller case with all his fake “stolen valor” stuff). What this all means is that I feel honor bound not to him since I don’t need a good conduct certificate from him or anybody to prove I earned my spurs as an anti-war Veteran who did stockade time for his beliefs but to Smedley to clear the air. That means I have to bring up my military history which I have only told you the details of recently and which I have kept a low profile on with Smedley. You know I have earned my right to carry the VFP banner high the hard way and I know you are proud of me for that.
“Funny though you know, or if you don’t know I will tell you, I am a very private public man if you get my drift and only tell about my personal life when I am up against the wall. This fall has been “outing” season for me. First having to talk about my cancer in public when I couldn’t put together that Peace Walk to Boston. Then I had to reveal to others the problems we were having in our marriage once I moved out and now this. I know you have my back on this-and maybe this will make me a better or more open person and you can be proud of me for that too.
“Thank goodness though I am doing meditation because I really needed to do some after all that noise of this Norm thing -thanks for bringing me to see the virtue of that idea-kudos.
“Please if Norm calls either hang up or just say I don’t live there anymore but don’t give him my cellphone number.”
Moira’s response was that she supported Frank in his efforts to clear his good name and that he should write a detailed explanation to the local Executive Board [whom he in any case as a precaution had CC’d his various exchanges with Norm]of why he need not be challenged on his military service. Before that he had sent an e-mail telling the local leadership what he had already done and where he was heading:
“Thanks to everybody for the support- I just put in a request for my DD214 with the State Adjutant General’s Office (that is the place in Massachusetts you can get a copy of your discharge for certain veterans from periods when you got a State bonus for military service).
I will be writing more about that in an e-mail (actually two e-mails) later but for now since I am under a “cloud” about whether I am a veteran or not I want to know if the Committee thinks I should Emcee the Armistice Day program as I am expected too [Frank had volunteered to do that task as part of his stepped-up commitment to the local.] I will understand either way. I am more than willing to do it but will abide by your judgment. If I am not going to it I probably would not attend the parade/program so I have attached a copy of the Sam Adams Park permit [the place in downtown Boston where the program was to be presented] permit for somebody to print up and have when they set up. Remember the hassle last year. The cellphone number at the bottom 617-678-4114 is Laura Morris’ number in case of trouble- Later Frank”
In the event the Committee had begged him to avoid dealing with Norm as a fruitless task for while they had already suffered many wounds. That evening he took up Moira’s suggestion and wrote a statement:
“I Don’t Need A Good Conduct Certificate That I Am An Anti-War Veteran
“I don’t need a good conduct certificate from Norm, National VFP, Smedley VFP, the gods, history, or anybody else to carry high the banner of VFP as an anti-war veteran. This issue has come up because of Norm’s erroneous insistence that I am not a member of VFP because I am not a member of National. I have addressed that elsewhere. What I find I need to defend myself against is his libelous insinuation that I am not a veteran. Comparing me by inference with the unfortunate Bill Fuller. I have today put in a request to the State Adjutant General’s Office, the place that has the DD214s for certain classes of Massachusetts veterans who received bonuses during various war periods. I checked this morning and they still have mine (they moved from the State House to Milford). They have e-mailed me the request form which has to be returned by snail mail and they will return the DD214 by my requested e-mail delivery. That process shouldn’t take long and I will submit the document to the Ex Committee via e-mail when I get it.
“But there is a faster way to check on my military service. Norm, since you seem to have plenty of time on your hands for checking stuff for no apparent purpose other than some private nefarious purpose of your own why don’t you go down to the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston or wherever they keep the older federal decisions in the next couple of day (who knows maybe you can find it on the Internet these day since it is a public record) and ask to see the decision in Private Francis J. Jackman (it may have been Joseph rather than the initial but the last time I looked, needed to look was in1976 so I am not sure of that) v. the Secretary of the Army (and others including the commanding general of Fort Devens and some underlings) around early February 1971 (I am not sure of the exact court order date but it was several days before my discharge). In that case old cranky Judge Francis Ford, no friend of G.I. resisters, ordered on a writ of habeas corpus my discharge from the Army for “arbitrarily and capriciously” denying my conscientious objector application. I was given a discharge under honorable conditions.
“By the way that discharge by the Army was directly from the Fort Devens stockade where I was serving a six month sentence from a Special Court-Martial for refusing to wear the Army uniform. That was the second of two Special Court-Martials where I received a stiff sentence (the first, also six months, was just after they turned down my C.O. application where I, in uniform, attended an anti-war rally at the Main Gate of Fort Devens during “duty hours”). So altogether between confinement to barracks, periods of house arrest, stockade time including time in solitary (for “my own protection’’) I did well over a year in confinement. In a later e-mail I will detail the pertinent facts and my reasons for keeping this information “on the low,” but for now you can understand that I am not going to take any noise from anybody about my status as an anti-war veteran who has paid his dues and can carry the VFP banner high, very high.
“Although I don’t need witnesses to my anti-war Army good conduct Sally Rand from the Friends Meeting up in Cumberland, Maine who used to be at the Cambridge Meeting then was one of the organizers of the rally I attended in uniform in front of the fort. And of several rallies in my defense before that first court-martial. You can also ask Sev to ask his wife Lana if she remembers going to Fort Devens for some rallies for a G.I. resister. I know I got a letter of support from her while I was in the stockade.
“Like I said I will give details and my reasons later for not speaking about this matter but actually Norm and Nancy already know this story-they just don’t know they know it. Last Spring I think at Edward’s Midnight Voices at Friends Meeting House I read a short piece which I titled Jack Callahan’s Fate-With Bob Dylan’s Masters Of War in Mind. I have been thinking about speaking about my military past for a while and now this situation has forced my hand. That piece was a slightly fictionalized, and slightly embellished, run through of my own situation from that time. Now you can understand better why the Chelsea Manning case is so close to my heart.
“So the hell with anybody who has a problem with me not being a member of National, I have earned my right to carry the VFP banner without a lot of noise about it.”
A few days later Frank sent the Executive Committee the following to fill out the story:
“Pertinent facts and reasons for keeping low on my military career
“I am as I have recognized more clearly this fall a very private public person. I have tried until recently to keep the two separate. But the need to go public, to be “outed” one way or another about my battle with cancer when I couldn’t put together the Peace Walk to Boston, my impeding divorce once I was no longer in Watertown and now a question about my military service have required me to be more open about the private side . As I stated in an earlier e-mail about my military status brought on by Norm’s e-mail inquiry about why I am not a member of National, and more importantly in impugning my status as a veteran not having produced a DD 214 for Smedley. A process which as far as I know was not required for local membership until we created the by-laws this year although there might have been some requirement that I had not been aware. I was certainly not asked for one when I joined. Now events have forced me to come forward on this issue as well. That questioning of my veteran status in light of the recent Bill Fuller “hot button” situation by Norm had as a matter of protecting myself and my anti-war reputation required me to speak out. Below are the pertinent facts and reasons for my previous silence.
“I received my draft notice in the fall of 1968, took a physical which I passed and was called for induction in January, 1969. At that time I was fairly anti-Vietnam War but not enough to decide not to accept induction and either go to jail or Canada. My anti-war thought processes at that stage had not developed that far. While I thought vaguely about not going into the service nothing in my past headed me in that direction, including any support from family or friends for that kind of decision so that was off the radar. So I was inducted at the Boston Army Base and sent to Fort Gordon down in Augusta, Georgia for basic training. After about three, maybe four days down there I realized that I had made a horrible mistake. But I was down in Georgia far from home and so whatever thoughts I had about doing anything stayed with me until I was able to get home. At least that was my idea.
“Now in 1969 all the Army cared about for the most part was replacing the “cannon-fodder” loses on the battlefields in 1968 through Tet and other battles so having no other specialized skills I was assigned to Infantry AIT (11Bravo, “grunt”, “cannon-fodder”) at Fort McClellan in Alabama. The only possible assignment for me after that designation and training was in the bloody rice fields of Vietnam. At AIT a few of us from around Boston talked about refusing to take machine gun training but nothing came of it once the company commander read us the riot act and threatened the stockade which I feared quite a bit then. I thus decided to wait until I got home to see what I was going to do once I actually did get those orders to report to Fort Lewis in Washington for transit to Vietnam.
“Once I got back to Boston I went over to Cambridge to the Friends Meeting House where they were doing both draft refusal counselling and G.I. rights counselling as well. One counsellor advised me to file an application as a conscientious objector. He also “advised” me that servicemen who went AWOL were dropped from their assigned places after about thirty days in case I wanted avoid going to Fort Lewis and put the C.O. application at a fort closer to home which would turned out to be Fort Devens. I did not believe under the standards in effect then that I qualified as a C.O. since I was not a Quaker or one of the historic religious objectors to war. So I went to Fort Lewis.
“During that period I was reading like crazy, anti-war stuff and Catholic resister stuff like with the Berrigans at Catonsville, some G.I. resistance stuff and began to form a more definitive idea about what I had to do. Although I did not in the end wind up going to Vietnam as an infantryman then I was beginning to form the idea of refusal to continue my military career. As part of that idea I did wind up going AWOL back to Boston for over thirty days (almost two months really). I then turned myself into the FBI (after they had called my family’s house looking for me) and they turned me over to the State Police in Concord who turned me over the MPs at Fort Devens. There I was placed in a Special Detachment Unit (for AWOLs and other assorted misfits) to serve my punishment and also to put in my C.O. application.
“In short order that C.O. application was “arbitrarily and capriciously” denied out of hand (words that would be used later to characterize the Army’s action) since I was stating my objection on general anti-war moral and ethical grounds not at that moment reason enough to be granted. (Some Supreme Court and lower federal court decisions would shortly thereafter broaden the scope of objection which would be germane in my case) and in early 1970 I was to be re-assigned to Fort Lewis this time again for transport to Vietnam as an infantryman. Before that happened my civilian attorney (provided through AFSC by the way) was able to get into federal court in Boston and get a temporary restraining order from a federal judge so that he could present a writ of habeas corpus that the Army had unjustly denied my application. That action would keep me at Fort Devens until my federal case was resolved. That granting of the TRO had also been a close thing because during my stay at Fort Devens I had begun to agitate against the war among my fellow soldiers and the very day that I got that TRO there was a general search around the base looking for me (I had been warned by a sympathetic clerk what was up and so was hiding on the base) to take me to Fort Lewis handcuffed and under guard for transport to Vietnam.
“Once I learned that fate was what the Army had wanted to do to me something snapped in me. My feelings of resistance grew exponentially. That was when I began to get the idea of greater resistance. I had during that short period of freedom headed to Cambridge (only forty miles away) to work with the Quakers who were planning to rally at Fort Devens to end the war (that is where I met Sally Rand from up in Maine who was then the organizer of the event). I told them I was willing to join them during “duty hours” in uniform to protest, to support the call bring the troops home. I did so and when I went back to the base after the rally I was immediately arrested by the MPs and placed in the “hole” (solitary) for a few weeks before my first Special Court-Martial where I drew my first six month sentence. During that time, and this is important, Sally and others would rally outside the base in solidarity with my action (and to make sure through publicity that I was safe since the MPs who manned the stockade were mostly Vietnam veterans).
“When I finished that sentence (minus good time) I was released back to that Special Detachment Unit. But the stockade had hardened me in my resolve to resist. (Plus a lot of reading along that line helped.) A few days after I got out of the stockade the first time I showed up at morning call out on the base parade field in civilian clothes with a sign around neck calling “Bring the troops home.” That brought Special Court-Marital number two also six months. Toward the end of that sentence the Inspector-General showed up in my cell one afternoon and told me that the Federal Court in Boston had granted my writ of habeas corpus and that I was to be released in a few day (the Army decided not to appeal). Otherwise today I might still be serving six month sentences-who knows.
“Now there is obviously nothing in the above narrative to be shy about, at least not in VFP. Hell, somebody called military resisters the only real heroes one time I remember (and I have done so in the Chelsea Manning case). Moreover under the more liberal standards of the times I deserved that C.O. status and have no problem with having pursued that course. Sometime after that whole Army experience had been settled I got a little more sophisticated about imperialism and its inevitable wars and about how to effectively organize as best we can against it. Under the influence of left-wing socialist thought (and basically Bolshevik practice in World War I) I came to see that doing individual actions like mine that only got me put out of the struggle had been less than effective. The long and short of it was, and still is to some extent, is that I believed I should have gone to Vietnam and helped organize the resistance there. With the Army half in mutiny who knows what I could have done. That is why I have been very hesitant to acknowledge my full military “career.” And still probably would have been if the issue had not been forced. So like I said in an earlier e-mail I earned my anti-war spurs the hard way and I can proudly hold the VFP banner up high and nobody can take that away from me. Frank Jackman.”
Yeah, Frank doesn’t need any good conduct certificate-thanks for “your service,” your anti-war service that it took me a long time to get to as you well know Brother.
The100thAnniversaryYearOfTheBolshevik-LedOctoberRevolution-Lessons- Leon Trotsky On Andre Malraux's "Man's Fate"
The100thAnniversaryYearOfTheBolshevik-LedOctoberRevolution-Lessons- Leon Trotsky On Andre Malraux's "Man's Fate"
Problems of the Chinese Revolution
The Strangled Revolution
February 9, 1931
The book by André Malraux, Les Conquérants, was sent to me from various quarters and I think in four copies, but to my regret I read it after a delay of a year and a half or two. The book is devoted to the Chinese revolution, that is, to the greatest subject of the last five years. A fine and well-knit style, the discriminating eye of an artist, original and daring observation – all confer upon the novel an exceptional importance. If we write about it here it is not because the book is a work of talent, although this is not a negligible fact, but because it offers a source of political lessons of the highest value. Do they come from Malraux? No, they flow from the recital itself, unknown to the author, and they go against him. This does honour to the author as an observer and an artist, but not as a revolutionist. However, we have the right to evaluate Malraux too from this point of view; in his own name and above all in the name of Garine, his other self, the author does not hesitate with his judgements on the revolution.
This book is called a novel. As a matter of fact, we have before us a romanticized chronicle of the Chinese revolution, from its first period to the period of Canton. The chronicle is not complete. Social vigour is sometimes lacking from the picture. But for that there pass before the reader not only luminous episodes of the revolution but also clear-cut silhouettes which are graven in the memory like social symbols.
By little coloured touches, following the method of pointillisme, Malraux gives an unforgettable picture of the general strike, not, to be sure, as it is below, not as it is carried out, but as it is observed from above: the Europeans do not get their breakfast, they swelter in the heat, the Chinese have ceased to work in the kitchens and to operate the ventilators. This is not a reproach to the author: the foreign artist could undoubtedly not have dealt with his theme otherwise. But there is a reproach to be made, and not a small one: the book is lacking in a congenital affinity between the writer, in spite of all he knows, understands and can do, and his heroine, the revolution.
The active sympathies of the author for insurgent China are unmistakable. But chance bursts upon these sympathies. They are corroded by the excesses of individualism and by aesthetic caprice. In reading the book with sustained attention one sometimes experiences a feeling of vexation when in the tone of the persuasive recital one perceives a note of protective irony towards the barbarians capable of enthusiasm. That China is backward, that many of its political manifestations bear a primitive character – nobody asks that this be passed over in silence. But a correct perspective is needed which puts every object in its place. The Chinese events, on the basis of which Malraux’s “novel” unfolds itself, are incomparably more important for the future destiny of human culture than the vain and pitiful clamour of Europe parliaments and the mountain of literary products of stagnant civilization. Malraux seems to feel a certain fear to take this into account.
In the novel, there are pages, splendid in their intensity, which show how revolutionary hatred is born of the yoke, of ignorance, of slavery, and is tempered like steel. These pages might have entered into the Anthology of the Revolution if Malraux had approached the masses with greater freedom and intrepidity, if he had not introduced into his observations a small note of blasé superiority, seeming to excuse himself for his transient contact with the insurrection of the Chinese people, as much perhaps before himself as before the academic mandarins in France and the traffickers in spiritual opium.
* * *
Borodin represents the Comintern in the post of “high counsellor” in the Canton government. Garine, the favourite of the author, is in charge of propaganda. All the work is done within the framework of the Guomindang. Borodin, Garine, the Russian “General” Galen, the Frenchman Gérard, the German Klein and others, constitute an original bureaucracy of the revolution raising itself above the insurgent people and conducting its own “revolutionary” policy instead of the policy of the revolution.
The local organizations of the Guomindang are defined as follows: “groups of fanatics – brave of a few plutocrats out for notoriety or for security – and crowds of students and coolies”. (p.24) Not only do bourgeois enter into every organization but they completely lead the Party. The Communists are subordinate to the Guomindang. The workers and the peasants are persuaded to take no action that might rebuff the devoted friends of the bourgeoisie. “Such are the societies that we control (more or less, do not fool yourself on this score).” An edifying avowal! The bureaucracy of the Comintern tried to “control” the class struggle in China, like the international bankocracy controls the economic life of the backward countries. But a revolution cannot be controlled. One can only give a political expression to its internal forces. One must know to which of these forces to link one’s destiny.
“Today coolies are beginning to discover that they exist, simply that they exist.” (p.26) That’s well aimed. But to feel that they exist, the coolies, the industrial workers and the peasants must overthrow those who prevent them from existing. Foreign domination is indissolubly bound up with the domestic yoke. The coolies must not only drive out Baldwin or MacDonald but also overthrow the ruling classes. One cannot be accomplished without the other. Thus, the awakening of the human personality in the masses of China, who exceed ten times the population of France, is immediately transformed into the lava of the social revolution. A magnificent spectacle!
But here Borodin appears on the scene and declares: “In the revolution the workers must do the coolie work for the bourgeoisie,” wrote Chen Duxiu in an open letter to the Chinese Communists. The social enslavement from which they want to liberate themselves, the workers find transposed into the sphere of politics. To whom do they owe this perfidious operation? To the bureaucracy of the Comintern. In trying to “control” the Guomindang, it actually aids the bourgeoisie which seeks “notoriety and security” in enslaving the coolies who want to exist.
Borodin, who remains in the background all the time, is characterized in the novel as a “man of action”, as a “professional revolutionist”, as a living incarnation of Bolshevism on the soil of China. Nothing is further from the truth! Here is the political biography of Borodin: in 1903, at the age of 19, he emigrated to America; in 1918, he returned to Moscow where, thanks to his knowledge of English, he “ensured contact with the foreign parties”; he was arrested in Glasgow in 1922; then he was delegated to China as representative of the Comintern. Having quit Russia before the first revolution and having returned after the third, Borodin appeared as the consummate representative of that state and Party bureaucracy which recognized the revolution only after its victory. When it is a question of young people, it is sometimes nothing more than a matter of chronology. With people of 40 or 50, it is already a political characterization. If Borodin rallied successfully to the victorious revolution in Russia, it does not in the least signify that he was called upon to assure the victory of the revolution in China. People of this type assimilate without difficulty the gestures and intonations of “professional revolutionists”. Many of them, by their protective colouration, not only deceive others but also themselves. The audacious inflexibility of the Bolshevik is most usually metamorphosed with them into that cynicism of the functionary ready for anything. Ah! to have a mandate from the Central Committee! This sacrosanct safeguard Borodin always had in his pocket.
Garine is not a functionary, he is more original than Borodin and perhaps even closer to the revolutionary type. But he is devoid of the indispensable formation; dilettante and theatrical, he gets hopelessly entangled in the great events and he reveals it at every step. With regard to the slogans of the Chinese revolution, he expresses himself thus: “democratic chatter – ‘the rights of the proletariat’, etc.” (p.32.) This has a radical ring but it is a false radicalism. The slogans of democracy are execrable chatter in the mouth of Poincaré, Herriot, Léon Blum, sleight-of-hand artists of France and jailers of Indochina, Algeria and Morocco. But when the Chinese rebel in the name of the “rights of the proletariat”, this has as little to do with chatter as the slogans of the French Revolution in the eighteenth century. At Hong Kong, the British birds of prey threatened, during the strike, to re-establish corporal punishment. “The rights of man and of the citizen” meant at Hong Kong the right of the Chinese not to be flogged by the British whip. To unmask the democratic rottenness of the imperialists is to serve the revolution: to call the slogans of the insurrection of the oppressed “chatter”, is involuntarily to aid the imperialists.
A good inoculation of Marxism would have preserved the author from fatal contempt of this sort. But Garine in general considers that revolutionary doctrine is “doctrinaire rubbish” (le fatras doctrinal). He is, you see, one of those to whom the revolution is only a definite “state of affairs”. Isn’t this astonishing? But it is just because the revolution is a “state of affairs”, that is, a stage in the development of society conditioned by objective causes and subjected to definite laws, that a scientific mind can foresee the general direction of processes. Only the study of the anatomy of society and of its physiology permits one to react to the course of events by basing oneself upon scientific foresight and not upon a dilettante’s conjectures. The revolutionist who “despises” revolutionary doctrine is not a bit better than the healer who despises medical doctrine which he does not know, or than the engineer who rejects technology. People who without the aid of science, try to rectify the “state of affairs” which is called a disease, are called sorcerers or charlatans and are prosecuted by law. Had there existed a tribunal to judge the sorcerers of the revolution, it is probable that Borodin, like his Muscovite inspirers, would have been severely condemned. I am afraid Garine himself would not have come out of it unscathed.
Two figures are contrasted to each other in the novel, like the two poles of the national revolution; old Chen Dai, the spiritual authority of the right wing of the Guomindang, the prophet and saint of the bourgeoisie, and Hong, the young leader of the terrorists. Both are depicted with great force. Chen Dai embodies the old Chinese culture translated into the language of European breeding; with this exquisite garment, he “ennobles” the interests of all the ruling classes of China. To be sure, Chen Dai wants national liberation, but he dreads the masses more than the imperialists; he hates the revolution more than the yoke placed upon the nation. If he marches towards it, it is only to pacify it, to subdue it, to exhaust it. He conducts a policy of passive resistance on two fronts, against imperialism and against the revolution, the policy of Gandhi in India, the policy which, in definite periods and in one form or another, the bourgeoisie has conducted at every longitude and latitude. Passive resistance flows from the tendency of the bourgeoisie to canalize the movement of the masses and to make off with it.
When Garine says that Chen Dai’s influence rises above politics, one can only shrug his shoulders. The masked policy of the “upright man”, in China as in India, expresses in the most sublime and abstractly moralizing form the conservative interests of the possessors. The personal disinterestedness of Chen Dai is in no sense in opposition to his political function: the exploiters need “upright men” as the corrupted ecclesiastical hierarchy needs saints.
Who gravitate around Chen Dai? The novel replies with meritorious precision: a world of “aged mandarins, smugglers of opium and of obscene photographs, of scholars turned bicycle dealers, of Parisian barristers, of intellectuals of every kind”. (p.124.) Behind them stands a more solid bourgeoisie bound up with England, which arms General Tang against the revolution. In the expectation of victory, Tang prepares to make Chen Dai the head of the government. Both of them, Chen Dai and Tang, nevertheless continue to be members of the Guomindang which Borodin and Garine serve.
When Tang has a village attacked by his armies, and when he prepares to butcher the revolutionists, beginning with Borodin and Garine, his party comrades, the latter with the aid of Hong, mobilize and arm the unemployed. But after the victory won over Tang, the leaders do not seek to change a thing that existed before. They cannot break the ambiguous bloc with Chen Dai because they have no confidence in the workers, the coolies, the revolutionary masses, they are themselves contaminated with the prejudices of Chen Dai whose qualified arm they are.
In order “not to rebuff” the bourgeoisie they are forced to enter into struggle with Hong. Who is he and where does he come from? “The lowest dregs.” (p.36) He is one of those who are making the revolution and not those who rally to it when it is victorious. Having come to the idea of killing the British governor of Hong Kong, Hong is concerned with only one thing: “When I have been sentenced to capital punishment, you must tell the young to follow my example.” (p.36) To Hong a clear program must be given: to arouse the workers, to assemble them, to arm them and to oppose them to Chen Dai as to an enemy. But the bureaucracy of the Comintern seeks Chen Dai’s friendship, repulses Hong and exasperates him. Hong exterminates bankers and merchants one after another, the very ones who “support” the Guomindang, Hong kills missionaries: “those who teach people to support misery must be punished, Christian priests or others” (p.274) If Hong does not find the right road, it is the fault of Borodin and Garine who have placed the revolution in the hands of the bankers and the merchants. Hong reflects the mass which is already rising but which has not yet rubbed its eyes or softened its hands. He tries by the revolver and the knife to act for the masses whom the agents of the Comintern are paralysing. Such is the unvarnished truth about the Chinese revolution.
* * *
Meanwhile, the Canton government is “oscillating, in its attempt to stay straight, between Garine and Borodin, who control the police and the trade unions, on the one hand, and Chen Dai, who controls nothing, but who exists all the same, on the other.” (p.68) We have an almost perfect picture of the duality of power. The representatives of the Comintern have in their hands the trade unions of Canton, the police, the cadet school of Whampoa, the sympathy of the masses the aid of the Soviet Union. Chen Dai has a “moral authority”, that is, the prestige of the mortally distracted possessors. The friends of Chen Dai sit in a powerless government willingly supported by the conciliators. But isn’t this the régime of the February revolution, the Kerenskyist system, with the sole difference that the role of the Mensheviks is played by the pseudo-Bolsheviks? Borodin has no doubt of it even though he is made up as a Bolshevik and takes his make-up seriously.
The central idea of Garine and Borodin is to prohibit Chinese and foreign boats, cruising towards the port of Canton, from putting in at Hong Kong. By the commercial boycott these people, who consider themselves revolutionary realists, hope to shatter British domination in southern China. They never deem it necessary first of all to overthrow the government of the Canton bourgeoisie which only waits for the moment to surrender the revolution to England. No, Borodin and Garine knock every day at the door of the “government”, and hat in hand, beg that the saving decree be promulgated. One of them reminds Garine that at bottom the government is a phantom. Garine is not disconcerted. Phantom or not, he replies, let it go ahead while we need it. That is the way the priest needs relics which he himself fabricates with wax and cotton. What is concealed behind this policy which weakens and debases the revolution? The respect of a petty-bourgeois revolutionist for a solid conservative bourgeois. It is thus that the reddest of the French radicals is always ready to fall on his knees before Poincaré.
But perhaps the masses of Canton are not yet mature enough to overthrow the power of the bourgeoisie? From this whole atmosphere, the conviction arises that without the opposition of the Comintern the phantom government would long before have been overthrown under the pressure of the masses. But let us admit that the Cantonese workers were still too weak to establish their own power. What, generally speaking, is the weak spot of the masses? Their inclination to follow the exploiters. In this case, the first duty of revolutionists is to help the workers liberate themselves from servile confidence. Nevertheless, the work done by the bureaucracy of the Comintern was diametrically opposed to his. It inculcated in the masses the notion of the necessity to submit to the bourgeoisie and it declared that the enemies of the bourgeoisie were their own enemies.
Do not rebuff Chen Dai! But if Chen Dai withdraws in spite of this, which is inevitable, it would not mean that Garine and Borodin will be delivered of their voluntary vassaldom towards the bourgeoisie. They will only choose as the new focus of their activity, Chiang Kai-shek, son of the same class and younger brother of Chen Dai. Head of the military school of Whampoa, founded by the Bolsheviks, Chiang Kai-shek does not confine himself to passive resistance; he is ready to resort to bloody force, not in the plebeian form, the form of the masses, but in the military form and only within limits that will permit the bourgeoisie to retain an unlimited power over the army. Borodin and Garine, by arming their enemies, disarm and repulse their friends. This is the way they prepare the catastrophe.
But are we not overestimating the influence of the revolutionary bureaucracy upon the events? No, it showed itself stronger than it might have thought, if not for good then at least for evil. The coolies who are only beginning to exist politically require a courageous leadership. Hong requires a bold program. The revolution requires the energies of millions of rising men. But Borodin and his bureaucrats require Chen Dai and Chiang Kai-shek. They strangle Hong and prevent the worker from raising his head. In a few months, they will stifle the agrarian insurrection of the peasantry so as not to repulse the bourgeois army command. Their strength is that they represent the Russian October, Bolshevism, the Communist International. Having usurped authority, the banner and the material resources of the greatest of revolutions, the bureaucracy bars the road to another revolution which also had all chances of being great.
The dialogue between Borodin and Hong (pp.182-4) is the most terrific indictment of Borodin and his Moscow inspirers. Hong, as always, is after decisive action. He demands the punishment of the most prominent bourgeois. Borodin finds this sole objection: Those who are “paying” must not be touched. “Revolution is not so simple,” says Garine for his part. “Revolution involves paying an army,” adds Borodin. These aphorisms contain all the elements of the noose in which the Chinese revolution was strangled. Borodin protected the bourgeoisie which, in recompense, made contributions to the “revolution”, the money going to the army of Chiang Kai-shek. The army of Chiang Kai-shek exterminated the proletariat and liquidated the revolution. Was it really impossible to foresee this? And wasn’t it really foreseen? The bourgeoisie pays willingly only for the army which serves it against the people. The army of the revolution does not wait for donations: it makes them pay. This is called the revolutionary dictatorship. Hong comes forward successfully at workers’ meetings and thunders against the “Russians”, the bearers of ruin for the revolution. The way of Hong himself does not lead to the goal but he is right as against Borodin. “Had the Tai Ping leaders Russian advisers? Had the Boxers?” (p.190) Had the Chinese revolution of 1924-27 been left to itself it would perhaps not have come to victory immediately but it would not have resorted to the methods of hara-kiri, it would not have known shameful capitulations and it would have trained revolutionary cadres. Between the dual power of Canton and that of Petrograd there is the tragic difference that in China there was no Bolshevism in evidence; under the name of Trotskyism, it was declared a counter-revolutionary doctrine and was persecuted by every method of calumny and repression. Where Kerensky did not succeed during the July Days, Stalin succeeded ten years later in China.
Borodin and “all the Bolsheviks of his generation”, Garine assures us, were distinguished by their struggle against the anarchists. This remark was needed by the author so as to prepare the reader for the struggle of Borodin against Hong’s group. Historically it is false. Anarchism was unable to raise its head in Russia not because the Bolsheviks fought successfully against it but because they had first dug up the ground under its feet. Anarchism, if it does not live within the four walls of intellectuals’ cafés and editorial offices, but has penetrated more deeply, translates the psychology of despair in the masses and signifies the political punishment for the deceptions of democracy and the treachery of opportunism. The boldness of Bolshevism in posing the revolutionary problems and in teaching their solution left no room for the development of anarchism in Russia. But if the historical investigation of Malraux is not exact, his recital shows admirably how the opportunist policy of Stalin-Borodin prepared the ground for anarchist terrorism in China.
Driven by the logic of this policy, Borodin consents to adopt a decree against the terrorists. The firm revolutionists, driven on to the road of adventurism by the crimes of the Moscow leaders, the bourgeoisie of Canton, with the benediction of the Comintern, declares them outlaws. They reply with acts of terrorism against the pseudo-revolutionary bureaucrats who protect the moneyed bourgeoisie. Borodin and Garine seize the terrorists and destroy them, no longer defending the bourgeois alone but also their own heads. It is thus that the policy of conciliation inexorably slips down to the lowest degree of treachery.
The book is called Les Conquérants. With this title, which has a double meaning when the revolution paints itself with imperialism, the author refers to the Russian Bolsheviks, or more exactly, to a certain part of them. The conquerors? The Chinese masses rose for a revolutionary insurrection, with the influence of the October upheaval as their example and with Bolshevism as their banner. But the “conquerors” conquered nothing. On the contrary, they surrendered everything to the enemy. If the Russian Revolution called forth the Chinese revolution, the Russian epigones strangled it. Malraux does not make these deductions. He does not even suspect their existence. All the more clearly do they emerge upon the background of his remarkable book.
Problems of the Chinese Revolution
A Strangled Revolution
and Its Stranglers
June 13, 1931
Urgent work prevented me from reading sooner the article by Malraux in which he defends, against my criticism, the Communist International, Borodin, Garine, and himself. As a political publicist, Malraux is at a still greater distance from the proletariat and from the revolution than as an artist. By itself, this fact would not justify these lines, for it is nowhere said that a talented writer must necessarily be a proletarian revolutionist. If I nevertheless return to the same question again, it is for the sake of the subject, and not of Malraux.The best figures of the novel, I said, attained the stature of social symbols. I must add: Borodin, Garine and all their “collaborators” constitute symbols of the quasi-revolutionary bureaucracy, of that new “social type” which was born thanks to the existence of the soviet state on the one hand, and on the other to a definite régime in the Comintern.
I declined to classify Borodin among the “professional revolutionists”, as he is characterized in the novel. Malraux endeavours to show me that Garine has enough mandarin’s buttons to give him the right to this title. Here, Malraux finds it in place to add that Trotsky has a greater quantity of buttons. Isn’t it ridiculous? The type of the professional revolutionist is not at all some sort of an ideal type. But in all events, it is a definite type, with a definite political biography and with salient traits. Only Russia created this type during the last decades; in Russia, the most perfect of this type was created by the Bolshevik Party. The professional revolutionists of the generation to which Borodin belonged began to take shape on the eve of the first revolution, they were put to the test in 1905, they tempered and educated (or decomposed) themselves during the years of the counter-revolution; they stood the supreme test in 1917. From 1903 up to 1918, that is, during the whole period when, in Russia, was being formed the type of professional revolutionist, Borodin, and hundreds, thousands of Borodins, remained outside of the struggle. In 1918, after the victory, Borodin arrived to offer his services. This does him honour: it is worthier to serve the proletarian state than the bourgeois state. Borodin charged himself with perilous missions. But the agents of bourgeois states in foreign countries, especially in colonial countries, also and that quite frequently, accomplish perilous tasks. Yet they do not become revolutionists because of that. The type of the functionary-adventurer and the type of the professional revolutionist, at certain moments and by certain qualities, can find points of similarity. But by their psychological formation as much as by their historical function, they are two opposite types.
The revolution pursues its course together with its class. If the proletariat is weak, if it is backward, the revolution confines itself to the modest, patient and persevering work of the creation of propaganda circles, of the preparation of cadres; supporting itself upon the first cadres, it passes over to mass agitation, legal or illegal, according to the circumstances. It always distinguishes its class from the enemy class, and conducts only such a policy as corresponds to the strength of its class and consolidates this strength. The French, the Russian or the Chinese proletarian revolutionist, will look upon the Chinese workers as his own army, of today or of tomorrow. The functionary-adventurer raises himself above all the classes of the Chinese nation. He considers himself predestined to dominate, to give orders, to command, independently of the internal relationship of forces in China. Since the Chinese proletariat is weak today and cannot assure the commanding positions, the functionary conciliates and joins together the different classes. He acts as the inspector of the nation, as the viceroy for the affairs of the colonial revolution. He arranges combinations between the conservative bourgeois and the anarchist, he improvises a program ad hoc, he erects policies upon ambiguities, he creates a bloc of four classes, he swallows swords and scoffs at principles. With what result? The bourgeoisie is richer, more influential, more experienced. The functionary-adventurer does not succeed in deceiving it. But for all that, he deceives the workers, filled with the spirit of abnegation, but not experienced, by turning them over to the hands of the bourgeoisie. Such was the role of the bureaucracy of the Comintern in the Chinese revolution.
Considering as natural the right of the “revolutionary” bureaucracy to command independently of the forces of the proletariat, Malraux informs us that one could not participate in the Chinese revolution without participating in the war, and one could not participate in the war without participating in the Guomindang, etc To this, he adds: the break with the Guomindang would have meant, for the Communist Party, the necessity of passing into illegality. When one thinks that these arguments sum up the philosophy of the representatives of the Comintern in China, he cannot refrain from saying: Indeed, the dialectic of the historical process sometimes plays bad jokes upon organizations, upon men and upon ideas! How easy it is to solve the problem: in order to participate successfully in the events directed by the enemy class, one must submit to this class; in order to avoid repressions on the part of the Guomindang, one must paint oneself up in its colours! There you have the secret of Borodin-Garine.
Malraux’s political estimate of the situation, of the possibilities and the tasks in China in 1925, is entirely false; it hardly reaches the border line where the real problems of the revolution begin. I have said elsewhere all that had to be said on this subject, and Malraux’s article gives no ground for a re-examination of what has been said. But even by standing on the ground of the false estimate Malraux gives of the situation, one can in no case justify the policy of Stalin-Borodin-Garine. In order to protest in 1925 against this policy, certain things had to be foreseen. In order to defend it in 1931, one must be incurably blind.
Did the strategy of the functionaries of the Comintern bring the Chinese proletariat anything but humiliations, the extermination of its cadres and above all, a terrific confusion in the mind? Did the shameful capitulation before the Guomindang avert repression for the Party? On the contrary, it only accumulated and concentrated the repressions. Was not the Communist Party compelled to pass into illegality? And when? In the period of the crushing of the revolution! If the Communists had begun by illegal work, at the beginning of the revolutionary tide, they would have emerged upon the open arena at the head of the masses. By effacing and demoralizing the Party with the aid of the Borodins and Garines, Chiang Kai-shek compelled it later, with all the greater success to take refuge in illegality during the years of the counter-revolution. The policy of Borodin-Garine entirely served the Chinese bourgeoisie. The Chinese Communist Party must begin all over again at the beginning, and that on an arena encumbered with debris, with prejudices, with uncomprehended mistakes and with the distrusts of the advanced workers. Those are the results.
The criminal character of this whole policy reveals itself with particular acuteness in isolated questions. Malraux presents as a merit of Borodin and Company the fact that in turning over the terrorists to the hands of the bourgeoisie, he deliberately pushed under the knife of the terror the leader of the bourgeoisie, Chen Dai. This machination is worthy of a bureaucratic Borgia or of the “revolutionary” Polish szlachta (gentry and nobility) who always preferred to fire with the hands of others behind the backs of the people. No, the task was not to kill Chen Dai in ambush, but to prepare the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. When the party of the revolution is obliged to kill, it does it on its open responsibility, in the name of tasks and immediate aims understood by the masses.
Revolutionary morals are not abstract Kantian norms, but rules of conduct which place the revolutionist under the control of the tasks and aims of his class. Borodin and Garine were not bound up with the masses, they did not absorb the spirit of responsibility before the class. They are bureaucratic supermen who consider that “everything is permitted” within the limits of the mandate received from above. The activity of such men, effective as it may be at certain moments, can only be directed, in the last instance, against the interests of the revolution.
After having killed Chen Dai with the hands of Hong, Borodin and Garine then turn over Hong and his group to the hands of the executioners. This stamps their whole policy with the brand of Cain. Here too Malraux poses as a defender. What is his argument? Lenin and Trotsky also punished the anarchists. It is hard to believe that this is said by a man who came near the revolution, even if but for a moment. Malraux forgets or does not understand that the revolution takes place in the name of the domination of one class over another, that it is only from this task that revolutionists draw their right to violence. The bourgeoisie exterminates the revolutionists, sometimes also the anarchists (more and more infrequently, because they become ever more obedient) in the name of safeguarding the régime of exploitation and baseness. Under the domination of the bourgeoisie, the Bolsheviks always defend the anarchists against the Chiappes. After having conquered power, the Bolsheviks did everything to draw the anarchists over to the side of the dictatorship of the proletariat. They succeeded in actuality in drawing the majority of the anarchists behind them. Yes, the Bolsheviks severely punished those anarchists who undermined the dictatorship of the proletariat. Were we right or weren’t we? That depends upon the manner in which one evaluates our revolution and the régime instituted by it. But can one imagine for a single instant that the Bolsheviks – under Prince Lvov or under Kerensky, under the bourgeois régime – would act as its agents in the extermination of anarchists? It is enough to formulate the question clearly, to turn aside in disgust. Just as Bridoison interests himself only in the form and ignores the essence, so the quasi-revolutionary bureaucracy and its literary attorney interest themselves only in the mechanics of the revolution, ignoring the question of what class and what régime they should serve. Here lies the abyss between the revolutionist and the functionary of the revolution.
What Malraux says about Marxism is a joke. The Marxian policy was not applicable in China because, you see, the proletariat was not class-conscious. It would seem then that from this flows the task of awakening this class-consciousness. But Malraux deduces a justification of the policy directed against the interests of the proletariat.
The other argument is no more convincing and still less amusing: Trotsky speaks of the need of Marxism for revolutionary politics; but isn’t Borodin a Marxist? And Stalin, isn’t he a Marxist? Then it is not a question of Marxism. I defend, against Garine, the revolutionary doctrine, just as I would defend, against a sorcerer, the medical sciences. The sorcerer will say to me in his defence that diplomaed doctors also very often kill their patients. It is an argument unworthy of a moderately educated burgher, and not only of a revolutionist. The fact that medicine is not omnipotent, that the doctors do not always effect cures, that one finds among them ignoramuses, blockheads and even poisoners – can this fact serve as an argument for giving the right to practise medicine to sorcerers, who have never studied medicine and who deny its significance?
I must make one correction, after having read Malraux’s article. In my article I expressed the idea that an inoculation of Marxism would do Garine good. I don’t think so any more.