Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Dien Bien Phu

Some 9500 people were killed and 20000 wounded in the battle for control of Dien Bien Phu. This Vietnamese village fell to Viet Minh on this day in 1954, and later the same year a new local grown ruling class replaced the French exploiters nationwide. The Socialist Party opposed the war, as it does with all such conflicts. Wars are not fought in our interests: we are the losers whoever wins. In this particular example the French capitalists lost, although at the time it was not portrayed this way.

"..Insofar as propaganda is concerned, a defeat can be as useful as a victory. The Battle of Bunker Hill is still celebrated, at least in Greater Boston, as a great 'turning point' in the American Revolution., even though that battle was won by the British. In World War II, the rout and evacuation of Dunkirk in France by the British Army was hailed in the 'Western hemisphere' as an 'heroic retreat,' a 'masterful piece of strategy,' etc.

In the same way, the siege of Dienbienphu is proclaimed in the so-called Free World as a feat of great heroism, on the part of the French Foreign Legion, Newsweek for May 17, 1954 calls it: THE GREAT STAND: UNFORGETTABLE DIENBIENPHU and gives an account of the heroic defence put up by the Legionnaires and of the success the poor devils had in slaughtering as many of the Viets as was possible before they themselves were slaughtered or otherwise overcome. We haven't seen any of the Russian, Chinese or Vietminh newspapers but we think it is safe to wager that in those countries Dienbienphu is also glorified and memorials are read and toasts proposed to the rebels who died so gallantly in the heroic conflict.

In this way, war itself is glorified to all concerned and a romantic and religious aura is built up in the effort to capture the minds of those who must do the fighting.

A certain military 'genius' by the name of Moltke, a field marshal in the Prussian army which defeated France in 1871, was credited with the following astute observation:

War is holy and of divine institution; it is one of the sacred laws of nature; it keeps alive in men all the great and noble sentiments, honour, disinterestedness, virtue, courage, in one word it prevents them from falling into the most hideous materialism. (quoted in Sur L'Eau, by Guy De Maupassant).

Although the ruling class of our times may seem to be more refined than von Moltke, at least between wars, they certainly use much the same type of pitch when the guns are roaring and the bombs dropping. And despite the protestations of their peaceful natures and intentions, every government in the world today, maintains schools in which is taught the art of killing, of killing from vast differences and even by means of remote control, thousands and even possibly millions of people at one time with a minimum of wasted effort.

Back in the last decades of the '80s, De Maupassant answered Moltke with, among others, the following words:

"Therefore to collect a heard of some four hundred thousand men, march day and night without respite, to think of nothing, learn nothing, read nothing, be of no earthly use to anyone, rot with dirt, lie down in mire, live like brutes in a continual besotment, pillage towns, burn villages, ruin nations; then meeting another similar agglomeration of human flesh rush upon it, shed lakes of blood, cover plains with pounded flesh mingled with muddy and bloody earth; pile up heaps of slain; have arms and legs blown off, brains scattered without benefit to anyone, and perish at the corner of some field while your old parents, your wife and children are dying of hunger; this is what is called, not falling into the most hideous materialism!" (Sur L'Eau)

And horrible as were the 19th Century wars, DeMaupassant had seen nothing compared with the slaughters of the 20th century up to now, slaughters which will themselves undoubtedly become mild affairs with what lies ahead. For now we have arrived at the point where H-bombs can be detonated, wiping out whole cities. Theoretically, we have also reached the point where a cobalt bomb can be produced and detonated. A cobalt bomb is an H-bomb encased in a shell of cobalt rather than steel. This, of course, would make the H-bomb old fashioned and antiquated, for, unlike steel, cobalt will disintegrate very rapidly and it is estimated that it would only take about 30 such bombs to eradicate all life on earth.

So much for the glory of war!..." (The Western Socialist, May-June, 1954)

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