Datacide 19Documents

Vietnam, the Third World and the Self-Deception of the Left (1967)

Introduction (2023):

While researching left wing critiques of national liberation movements and of anti-Imperialism in the context of the Vietnam war, I came across a pamphlet titled VIETNAM, DIE DRITTE WELT UND DER SELBSTBETRUG DER LINKEN (Vietnam, the Third World and the Self-Deception of the Left) in a publication called P A R T I S A N  Nr. 1, published in West Berlin in 1967.

It was quoted by Rudi Dutschke, one of the spokes-persons of the SDS, the German socialist student league, in his speech at the Internationaler Vietnam-Kongreß (International Vietnam Conference) which took place in West Berlin on February 17 and 18, 1968. 

Intrigued by the title, I looked around and was lucky enough to find a copy. It’s mimeographed, consisting of 12 pages, with just one text (pages 3-11) and one page with a list of recommended reading.

To my surprise the text turned out to be largely a somewhat detourned translation of the article ‘Address to Revolutionaries of Algeria and of All Countries’ which first appeared in Internationale Situationniste #10 in March 1966. 

The Partisan version skips over the whole aspects dealing specifically with Algeria in the original IS text, there are some other diversions and finally a section of the text is written by the editor(s) of Partisan themselves. 

Who was behind Partisan remains a mystery so far. Besides mentioning that a part of the article is from Internationale Situationniste – wrongly stating that it’s from issue 9, when it is from #10 – there is no credited author or contact information. A brief announcement states: 

‘From 1968 Partisan will appear in irregular intervals. The first issues deal with the culural revolution, the Russian revolution and the sexual communism of Wilhelm Reich’.

A second edition of Partisan did appear about a year later (end of 1968 or early 1969), but in Hamburg (rather than Berlin) and this time with a collective editorial board and a contact address. The theme is “Councils and Anarchism”. 

A third issue – meant to be expanding on these topics is announced in the pages of issue 2, but never came out. However the first issue is not mentioned, nor are there any references to the Situationist International, so it’s not completely clear if it’s even the continuation of the same publication.

Partisan #1 was definitely not a ‘official’ situationist publication, but is obviously strongly influenced. Strangely there doesn’t seem to be any reference in any of the books dealing with the influence of the SI in Germany.

My guess is that the publication originated in the milieu around West Berlin based ex-members of Subversive Aktion – but not Dutschke himself, or his close circle, nor former situationist Dieter Kunzelmann, who moved to Berlin around that time. 

The reason I’m saying this is that Dutschke himself and close allies of Kunzelmann were involved in publishing a newsletter called Informationen über Vietnam und die Länder der Dritten Welt of which three issues appeared in 1966 and which certainly didn’t formulate any criticism towards the Vietcong, but focused on American atrocities and declared that ‘every victory of the Vietcong [means] a victory for our democracy’.

It is well possible that Partisan Nr.1 was meant to be a direct challenge to that left wing consensus, the relative similarity of the title suggests that. To achieve this it did something very situationist: A detournement of a situationist text.

I hope that the re-publication of the text will help clear up some of the unknowns, but even by itself it’s a very interesting document. I did the english translation with the help of DeepL and closely double checked it with Ken Knabb’s translation into English of the situationist text as well as the French original of ‘Adresse aux révolutionnaires d’Algerie et de tous les pays’ from Internationale Situationniste #10, with the intention of staying close to the intentions of the editors of Partisan. 

Christoph Fringeli


Vietnam, the Third World and the Self-Deception of the Left (1967)



the collapse and crumbling of the image of revolution presented by the international communist movement, is taking place with a delay of 40 years after the collapse of the revolutionary movement itself. The time thus gained by the bureaucratic lie together with the everlasting bourgeois lie was time lost for the revolution. 

The history of the modern world continues its way of the revolutionary process, but unconsciously or with false consciousness. 

Everywhere there are social conflicts, but nowhere has the old order been eradicated, even in the midst of the very forces that fight it. Everywhere the ideologies of the old world are subjected to criticism and rejected, but nowhere is the “real movement that overturns the existing state” freed from an ideology in the sense of Marx: ideas that serve a master. Revolutionaries everywhere, nowhere the revolution. 

The amazing acceleration of the history of practical demystification must now serve the acceleration of the history of revolutionary theory. In spite of the deviations in their ideological or legal disguises, everywhere the same society of alienation [Ent-äußerung] and totalitarian control (here the sociologist comes first, there the police) of spectacular consumption (here the car and gadgets, there the words of the revered leader) prevails. 

The coherence of this society cannot be understood without the total critique that should take place illuminated by the inverse project of a liberated creativity, the project of the domination of their own history by all people and at all levels of society. This is the demand in deeds of all the proletarian revolutions, which up to now have always been suppressed by the specialists of power who seized the revolutions and took them into their private possession. 

If in our time one resumes that draft and that critique, which are inseparable, since one link illuminates the other, it means the immediate resumption of the whole radicalism, whose bearers were the following: The workers’ movement, modern occidental poetry and art, (as a prologue to an experimental research on the way to a free construction of our daily life), the thought in the period of the abolition of philosophy and its realization (Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx), finally the emancipation movements that began in Mexico in 1910 and continue until today in Vietnam. [in the IS text not Vietnam, but the Congo]

For this, it is first necessary to recognize the defeat of the entire revolutionary project in the first third of our century in its full extent, as well as its official replacement, both in the whole world and in all fields, by a mendacious kitsch that only obscures and preserves the old order. The domination of bureaucratic state capitalism over the working people is the opposite of socialism: both Trotskyism and Stalinism [in the IS text only Trotskyism is mentioned] have never wanted to face this truth. Accordingly, socialism exists only where the working people themselves directly administer the entire society; thus, socialism is found neither in Russia nor in China nor anywhere else. 

The Russian and Chinese revolutions were defeated from within. Today they give a misleading example for the Western proletariat and the peoples of the Third World, because in reality they are the counterweight in a balance with the power of bourgeois capitalism, imperialism. 

To resume radicalism in this way naturally involves a deepened analysis of all previous attempts at liberation. The experience of their incompletion in isolation or their reversal into total mystification leads to a better understanding of the coherence of the world that is to be transformed; thus, from this rediscovered coherence, some partial researches that developed in more recent times can be salvaged, which in this way can attain their truth. (The liberating content of psychoanalysis, for example, can neither be understood nor realized outside the struggle for the abolition of all oppression). The comprehension of this reversible coherence of the world as it is, and as it could be, reveals the deception and the half-measures, and the fact that they are essentially half-measures every time the model of the dominant society and its formation – with its categories of hierarchy and specialization – is restored in the midst of the forces of negation. 

In addition, there is the acceleration of the material development of the world. It accumulates more and more virtual powers; and the specialists of the management of the society, exactly  because of their function as maintainers of passivity, necessarily know nothing of the use of these powers. At the same time, this development accumulates a general discontent and deadly objective dangers, which these specialized leaders are incapable of controlling in the long run. The fundamental problem of underdevelopment is to be solved at the worldly level, beginning with the revolutionary control of the irrational over-development of the productive forces within the framework of the various capitalist attempts at rationalization. The revolutionary movements of the Third World can only achieve their goal if they consciously contribute to the world revolution. Development must not be a race with the aim of catching up with capitalist reification, but the fulfillment of all real needs as the basis of a real development of human capabilities. 

The new revolutionary theory must keep pace with reality, that is, must be on the level of the revolutionary praxis that is emerging here and there, even if partially mutilated and without a comprehensive overall design. Our language, which may sound fantastic with its claim to totality, is the very language of real life. History does not cease to prove this, with ever increasing force. 

If in this history what is familiar is probably not always understood, it is because real life itself appears only in fantastic form, in the upside-down image that the modern spectacle imposes on the world: in the spectacle the whole of social life – including the representation of sham revolutions – is written in the lying language of power, and filtered through its machines. The spectacle is the earthly heir of the revolution, is the opiate of a capitalism that has entered the stage of the material abundance of commodities, is the illusion that is in fact consumed and consummated in consumer society. 

The sporadic outbreaks of revolutionary demand are matched by an international organization of repression whose division of tasks operates on a worldwide scale. Each bloc or each centrifugal splinter of a bloc ensures in its zone of influence the lethargic sleep of all, the continuation of an order that remains fundamentally the same. 

This permanent repression extends from the deployment of troops to the more or less complete falsification, as exercised today by every constituted power: “the truth is revolutionary” (Gramsci), and every existing government, even those born of the most liberating movements, is based on lies, inside and outside. It is precisely this repression that constitutes the clearest confirmation of our hypothesis. [hypothèses in plural in the french original]

The revolutionary attempts of the present, because they have to break all the rules of false understanding imposed by the “peaceful coexistence” of the reigning lies, begin in isolation, in a particular sector of the world or in a particular sector of contestation. They attack only the most immediate aspect of oppression, armed with the most minimal definition of freedom. Thus, they encounter the maximum of oppression and slander (they are said to reject the existing order by necessarily affirming one of its existing variants) – and the minimum of help. The more difficult their victory is, the easier it will be stolen away from them by new oppressors. The coming revolutions will find help in the world only if they attack the whole world. The emancipation movement of American blacks, if it can be carried on in a consequent way, will challenge the whole contradictions of capitalism: it must not be diverted and escamotized by the “colored” nationalism and capitalism of the Black Muslims. The workers from the USA and England oppose through wildcat strikes the bureaucratic trade unions, whose main aim is their integration into the capitalist system of concetration and semi-planning. With these workers, with the students who succeeded in a strike at Berkeley University, the North American revolution can be carried out, but not with the Chinese atomic bomb or even the five-year plan of Russia. [the French text doesn’t mention the Russian five-year plan]

The movement that led the Arab peoples to unification and socialism has won victories against conventional colonialism. But it is becoming more and more obvious that it must finish with Islam, which, like all religions, is an openly counter-revolutionary force. It must recognize the freedom of the Kurdish people; above all, it must put an end to the Palestine pretext that justifies the dominant policies in the Arab states, since these policies have as their main objective the destruction of Israel, and justify it for an unforeseeable period of time, since this destruction is impossible: Only the model of a revolutionary society realized by the Arabs can dissolve the forces of oppression in the Israeli state. Just as the successful design of a [revolutionary] society in the world would mean the end of the largely artificial opposition between East and West, so would the Israeli-Arab opposition come to an end, which is only its tiny replica.

The present revolutionary attempts are abandoned and left to repression because no existing power has any interest in supporting them. 

No revolutionary organization anchored in praxis to support them exists yet [this sentence is missing from the Knabb translation, but is from the IS “original”]. We are passive spectators of their struggle, their agony is accompanied only by the illusionist chatter of the UN or the specialists of the “progressive” powers. The armed forces of the USA dared to intervene in Santo-Domingo, in a totally foreign country, to support the fascist military against the Kennedy supporter Caamano, only for fear that the latter might be overrun by the people he had to arm. Did any forces in the world take action against the American presence? In Congo, in 1960, the Belgian paratroopers, the UN expeditionary corps, and the state of Katanga, specially tailored to the “Unione minière,” broke the revolutionary momentum of the people who believed they had won their independence; they assassinated Lumumba and M’Polo. In 1964, the Belgian paratroopers with the American transport planes and South African, European and Cuban anti-Castro mercenaries pushed back the second wave of the insurrection. What help did the “strongest power on earth”, the Soviet Union, provide, what did the 700 million people of China do, what did “revolutionary Africa” do? Would not a thousand Algerian volunteers, who won a far more serious war, have been enough to prevent the fall of Stanleyville? But the armed people had long since been replaced by a conventional army subservient to Boumedienne, and the latter had other things in mind. 

[Here the text starts deviating from the SI text]

The European Left has not yet developed forms of organization that correspond to the advanced nature of imperialism and the requirements of the real revolution. It refuses to admit that almost all revolutions have failed so far. One closes one’s eyes in order not to have to see that we have to start anew at point zero. Like Lenin and the Bolsheviks, we have internalized the system we want to fight to the point that we can no longer be its negation. The attempts to defeat the enemy within ourselves – Kronstadt 1921, Budapest 1956, Algeria 1962-63 and China 1966-67 – utterly failed.

(Even the Cultural Revolution did not set itself the goal we hoped to achieve: Resolving the contradiction between revolution and bureaucracy. On 12.8.66 [?] the electoral law of the Paris Commune was adopted for the Cultural Revolution – at the end of October ‘67 it was quietly revoked. The Cultural Revolution is only a half-revolution, it did not answer the burning questions, but postponed them for a few years). 

In our country, in the last few years, the left has been engaged in street marches for Vietnam, carrying on approved routes approved pictures of a South American partisan who died in an unauthorized revolution. Vietnam forums, Vietnam discussions, Vietnam films were organized. Everyone knows the various stages of the People’s War, the profit rates of the oil trusts in Persia, the latest state of the Cultural Revolution in China, etc. But nobody makes attempts to define a revolution under our conditions. Most of our activity fizzles out for Vietnam or the Third World, but without helping the revolution there. With the problem of the third world and high-bred intellectualism we have put ourselves in a ghetto and with a vocabulary as foreign to the people as possible we make sure that no one can reach our heights. After all, it would be terrible if the plebs could understand us. 

In 1930, in view of the devastating defeat inflicted on the Chinese proletariat by the opportunist policies of the Comintern, and in view of the predilection of Chinese communists to quote Caesar, in Latin of course, to the illiterate masses of China, Mao-Tse-tung wrote: “Victory in China’s revolutionary struggle will depend on the Chinese comrades’ understanding of China’s problems.” If the Chinese comrades had devoted themselves to similarly abstract problems of no direct interest to their country, as we do today, they could still be blathering about the upsurge of the revolutionary movement in Elsewhere without ever having had a revolution of their own. It is very significant, however, that today, when the Chinese party is itself the “mother party,” this phrase is no longer welcome, because if applied consistently it would possibly harm certain sides. Karl Marx said that the Germans carry out their revolutions only in spirit. In this we have remained true to ourselves. It is very praiseworthy when a comrade writes something about “Black Power”. But to publish it in German, although there are more than 1500 colored soldiers of the USA stationed in Berlin, is a blunder typical of our work so far. Now a thousand German readers can include the blacks of America in their socialist power field. 

We do not need Marxologists who can write erudite articles, but revolutionaries for whom knowing and doing are one. In view of the fact that yesterday’s opponents are becoming more and more similar because of their common structure, it is our task to resume the struggle that traditional socialism can no longer wage. The prerequisite for this is an relentless and radical critique of everything that exists and an uncompromising separation from the old Left. The tendency inherent in all bureaucratic and hierarchical organizations, whether trade unions or “socialist states,” to perpetuate the status quo must be exposed and intensified by us. 

In Germany, the decadence of the trade unions has not yet entered its final stage, unlike in the USA, England, France and Belgium. In the countries mentioned, a very positive counter-movement has already developed:   The Workers’ Council. In England, more than 90% of all strikes are led by the workers themselves – against bureaucratic capitalism and against the unions strengthening capitalism. In Antwerp (Belgium), at every major strike, the army moves in front of the union building to protect it with tanks – against the workers; hence betraying whose side the unions are on. In France, the communist unions are moderate in relation to other federations, so that even party members leave the syndicates. Such a workers’ organization is as incapable of looking after the interests of working people as the socialist states are of building socialism. 

The “socialist states” today are as far away from socialism as the United States or West Germany. Bureaucratic state capitalism represents the most cynical and brutal form of capitalism. It paralyzes revolutionary energies without having been serious about revolution. It does not build the new, but improves the old. The last chance for a peaceful way to socialism was wasted by the old Stalinist Khrushchev in 1956. He did not put an end to Stalinism, but merely allowed it to become a little less irrational. It did not bring us any closer to socialism. The Eastern Europeans still have their revolution ahead of them, just like we do. Human emancipation, the struggle for a just society, the overcoming of the domination of humans over humans, all these old demands are as relevant today in the Soviet Union and the rest of Eastern Europe as they were 50 years earlier, when a revolution drove out the old masters only to put new ones in their place. The people of Eastern Europe are entering the phase of consumer society in which we already find ourselves. It is characterized in every non-socialist state by increasing alienation and reification. The same symptoms as here 10-20 years ago can now be observed in the Soviet Union. They fully prove the non-socialist character of the system. 

After the first frenzy of the still new consumerism will have passed, the revolution will become relevant again on a new level. This revolution must encompass all spheres of human existence. Hunger as a motive of struggle is a moment of the old form of social conflicts. The revolutionary maximum demand can only hope for fulfilment beyond the filling of the belly. But it will have to be possible to unite the different aspects of the revolution in order to create the basis on which revolutionary solidarity for the first time in history loses its abstractness and becomes a concrete historical factor. 

We, who have possibilities in our political development like no youth before in history  –  not exposed to the crippling and paralyzing oppression of a Stalinist bureaucracy like our peers in Prague, Warsaw and Moscow, not absorbed by the immediate struggle like the young generation of Vietnam or Angola, – have the obligation to give the revolution the form in which it will be invincible to old and new oppressors. Any pact with the forces of yesterday is indefensible. Only if we break definitively with Leninism in all its variations will it be possible for us to regain the confidence of the people, which we have lost not through our own fault. 

Without (the justified) anti-Stalinism, anticommunism will not have the strength it has had so far. This will not stop the stupidity, which has taken shape in the form of the “Bildzeitung” and “Morgenpost”, from slandering us as party followers of Walter Ulbricht, but their lies would no longer be believed as easily as they are now. Only by getting rid of the old forms can we rise to the top. In contrast to Eastern Europe, the revolution in China has not yet completely degenerated. However, the task there is not only to overthrow the authorities who are going “the capitalist way,” i.e., new petty bourgeois, bureaucrats, etc., but above all the rule of the party over workers, peasants, students and intellectuals. Mao Tse-tung would also have to become again what he was: a revolutionary – and not the center of an idolatrous cult that drags him out of the people into a transcendent height. The thoughts of Mao Tse-tung would have to become revolutionary theory again – or everything positive and exemplary of the Chinese revolution will finally disappear in a new ideology and serve only as a staffage for a degenerated revolution. 

The difference between revolutionary theory and ideology becomes clear in Latin America. The Cuban partisans began their struggle almost without money and without having read Mao’s books. In three years of revolutionary struggle, they confirmed the correctness of Mao’s thoughts, which had been developed twenty years earlier. In contrast, there are now a number of parties in South America that are abundantly provided with both Chinese money and the works of Mao. However, they accomplish nothing except internal struggles, adulation of the great leader, and justified but ill-founded attacks against the revisionists. 

Any communist who is not guided by the requirements of their own revolution, any organization that becomes ideologically or materially dependent, any direction that exploits others for its own ends, must be regarded as counterrevolutionary. The struggle between revolution and reformism must be fought out – like every struggle – within each communist himself. The Chinese comrades proved in Indonesia that they have forgotten the experience of their own revolution. The decline of all great attempts should lead us to trust only in our own forces, to analyze the tendencies and traits that have caused almost all revolutions so far to fail, and finally to develop a form of organization that will guarantee that revolution will not be immediately followed by counterrevolution from within. The countries that are now setting an example will inevitably fail if they remain isolated. Unless the Viet Cong is joined by an American, European and Asian Cong, the Vietnamese revolution will fail as others have failed before. A hierarchical functionary state will reap the fruits it did not sow.  

[then – in the last paragraph – the pamphlet picks up the IS text again:]

The coming revolutions will be confronted with the task of understanding themselves; they will have to reinvent their own language and be ready for all the recuperation attempts that will be prepared against them. For the new revolutionary current, wherever it appears, it will be a matter of beginning to relate the present experiences of contestation and those who represent them. It will be about unifying such groups and at the same time unify the coherent basis of their project.

The first stirrings of the revolutionary age include a new content of critique of the present societies, revealed or hidden, and new forms of struggle; also in it the irreducible moments of the whole revolutionary history so far, which is still in abeyance, moments which reappear like returning ghosts. Thus, the ruling society, so fond of boasting of its unstoppable modernization, will encounter harsh counterparts, for it is finally beginning to produce its own modernized negation. 

References [list on the last page of the pamphlet]

Internationale Situationniste from number 9 of the I.S. comes a part of this essay [actually from number 10]. Only in the “European Book”/Das europäische Buch [Left wing book shop in West Berlin]

Solidarity-England also shortly in the “European Book”

Rosa Luxemburg: The Russian Revolution

Texts of the Russian Opposition against the Bolsheviks

World Revolution Publishing House. + rowohlts german encyclopedia

Victor Serge: Revolutionary

Despite the badly digestible vanity of the author

Lenin: State and Revolution

Kursbuch 9

Texts of anarchism, various, also only in the “European Book”

Texts by Pannekoek and Gorter

Marx: The Civil War in France

From 1968 on, “Partisan” appears in irregular succession.

The first numbers deal with the Cultural Revolution, the Russian Revolution and Wilhelm Reich’s sexual communism.

Voline: Nineteen-seventeen / The unknown Revolution in the “European Book”

Guy Debord: La societé du spectacle

in the “European Book”

1, Berlin 15 Olivaer Platz 16

Danièl Guerin: Anarchism, forthcoming in edition suhrkamp

Jacek Kuron and Karel Modzelewski: Open Letter to the Polish Workers’ Party

Socialisme ou Barbarie, in the “European Book”


End of Document



  • “das europäische Buch” was a left wing book store in West Berlin which apparently stocked much of the left communist literature that Partisan is recommending here.
  • For comparison: The last two paragraphs of the (‘original’) SI pamphlet (Ken Knabb translation):

The next revolutions are confronted with the taks of understanding themselves. They mus totally reinvent their own language and defend themselves against all the recuperations prepared for them. The Asturian miners’ strike (virtually continuous since 1962) and all the other signs of opposition that herald the end of Francoism do not indicate an inevitable future for Spain, but a choice: either the holy alliance now being prepared by the Spanish Church, the monarchists, the “left Falangists” and the Stalinists to harmoniously adapt post Franco Spain to modernized capitalism, to the Common Market; or the resumption and completion of the most radical aspects of the revolution that was defeated by Freanco and his accom-plices on all sides. The human relationships of socialism were realized, for a few weeks, in Barcelona in 1936.

The new revolutionary current, wherever it appears, must begin to link up the present contestatory experience and the people who bear them. And along with unifying such groups, it must at the same time unify the coherent basis of their project. The first gestures of the coming revolutionary epoch embody a new content, visible and hidden, of the critique of present societies, and new forms of struggle; and also the irreducible moments of all the old revolutionary history that has remained in abeyance, moments which reappear like ghosts. The dominant society, which prides itself so much on its constant modernisation, is going to meet its match, for it is at last beginning to produce its own modernized negation.

Long live the comrades who in 1959 burned the Koran in the streets of Baghdad!

Long live the Workers Councils of Hungary, defeated in 1956 by the so-called Red Army!

Long live the dockers of Aarhus who last year effectively boycotted racist South Africa, in spite of their unio leadership and the judcial repression of the Danish social-democratic government!

Long live the “Zengakuren” student movement of Japan, which actively combats the capitalist power of imperialism and of the so-called “communist” bureaucracies!

Long live the workers’ militian that defendend the northeastern districts of Santo Domingo!

Long live the self-management of the Algerian peasants and workers! The option is now between the militarized beaurocratic dictatorship and the dictatorship of the “self-managed sector” extended to all production and all aspects of social life.

Algiers, July 1965

(circulated clandestinely)

  • The text Address to Revolutionaries of Algeria and of All Countries from Internationale Situationniste #10 is included in the Situationist International Anthology (Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981) and can be found online here:

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