Best book of the series so far. The US Army and the Free States Army try to force an election on the war-torn DMZ and it all looks a little too much lBest book of the series so far. The US Army and the Free States Army try to force an election on the war-torn DMZ and it all looks a little too much like Karzai in Afghanistan until Parco Delgado announces his candidacy for governor of the DMZ. A lifetime resident of New York, Delgado espouses some of the most fiery anti-imperialist rhetoric I've ever heard outside of an Immortal Technique record and he seems dead-set on setting up his own government regardless of what the USA and FSA have to say about it. At the same time he provides an inspiration to the beleaguered residents who have been pinned between the two warring powers for nearly a decade and even jaded reporter Matty Roth gets swept up in the hoopla. Lot's of great commentary in this volume and a good evolution of Matty's character. If you're at all a fan of dystopias, this is a must read series....more
Whenever a new friend is perusing my bookshelves, I always find myself mentally cringing when they reach a certain point awaiting the persistent judgmWhenever a new friend is perusing my bookshelves, I always find myself mentally cringing when they reach a certain point awaiting the persistent judgment-laced query: "why do you have so many biographies on dictators and mass murderers?" It's a hard question to answer, if only because it means I have to unpack nearly a decade's worth of my own jumbled thoughts on idealism, social upheaval, human fallibility, and the inevitability of revolution; a task which often leaves the questioner glassy-eyed and drooling as their thoughts turn toward more comfortable musings. That's no fault of the listener though, but more a reflection of my own imprecise grasp of my own ideas. I don't have a fully formed ideology of any sort, but rather a hodgepodge of ideas that I weave together and take apart with the tenacity of an obsessive-compulsive arachnid. This rejection of dogma is, I think, rooted in the lessons learned from the chronicles on my Shelf of Tyranny- our history is chock full of recent examples illustrating the power of an idea to cause much upheaval and while I make ample time to read of success stories (my Shelf of Liberation is directly above my Shelf of Tyranny) I feel that there are more lessons to be learned through the failures. In the case of the Cambodian revolution and the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge, there are learning opportunities by the score.
Chronicling the rise of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) through, first, the struggle to end French colonialism, then to overthrow the monarchy of Prince Sihanouk, and finally to oust the military junta that took control following Sihanouk's abdication, author Philip Short places the revolution firmly in the context of a national history of struggle against outside invaders and the historic distrust for its Vietnamese and Thai neighbors. Likewise, he traces the evolution of the CPK's ideology back to its historical root in the French Revolution, by illustrating the commonalities between those two bloody epochs- the lack of an industrial class of workers made organizing the proletariat impossible so most of the organizing work was shifted onto the illiterate peasants in the countryside who were taught that they did not need to know the particulars of communism but merely needed to adopt the revolutionary struggle into their hearts, entrenching ignorance into the party platform, the struggle was primarily against the monarchy and the corrupt advisers and hangers-on who had found ways to enrich themselves at the expense of the peasantry. Most interesting to me, though, is Short's analysis on how Therevada Buddhism and its emphasis on the abnegation of personal desire and the self created the environment that would allow hundreds of thousands of Cambodians, mainly those forced to evacuate Phnom Penh after its capture by the CPK, to starve to death as they were forced into the countryside to work in the rice paddies as penance for their privileged lives under the old regime.
Put together from dozens of interviews with surviving CPK members, unprecedented access to historical archives, and news sources of the day, Short also does an amazing job at illustrating Cambodia's delicate position as a pawn between the Sino-Soviet struggle to control the Communist International, as well the love-hate relationship with its communist neighbor, Vietnam, a mercurial relationship that could flare into shootings and cross-border raids even as the two countries were working together to throw out American forces. All in all, this was a highly worthwhile read that served to broaden my understanding of modern Cambodian history. If Short gives short shrift to examples of the genocide, it is only because most books on the era already focus primarily on the atrocities and not the events that made such atrocities inevitable.
For those who seek information on the genocide, the amazing 1984 film The Killing Fields has already said all that needs to be said on the subject, and if the enigmatic Pol Pot never steps from the shadows to be analyzed as thoroughly as I had hoped, Short makes clear that this is due to Pol's obsession with secrecy and his desire to never be the face of the party, just the man pulling the strings from behind the curtain. There are tantalizing bits of biography that enter the text, such as the schizophrenia that plagued his wife, but throughout the book the Pol we are treated to is devoid of personality and is shown to be a leader with one goal in mind- revolution at all costs- a singular focus that would allow much to be done in its name....more
This 40 page pamphlet is an excerpt that was taken from Andre Moncourt's more in-depth study of the Red Army Faction, a group of German guerillas actiThis 40 page pamphlet is an excerpt that was taken from Andre Moncourt's more in-depth study of the Red Army Faction, a group of German guerillas active in Europe throughout the 1970s that rejected the pacifist tendencies of the majority of anti-capitalists and sought to take the fight directly to the doorstep of the leaders of industry and state bureaucrats, many of whom were unreconstructed Nazis who had resumed their former positions within West Germany without ever having to face up to the roles they played in WWII, in an effort to create a new front in the struggle for a worldwide communist revolution. This pamphlet focuses primarily upon the year 1977, when the RAF's activities were at their peak and barely a week would go by without a bomb exploding under an industrialist's car or the kidnapping of prison executives responsible for the inhumane conditions that the imprisoned founding members of the RAF were being held in. While an incredibly quick read, Moncourt manages to adequately provide an overview of the history of the RAF, their philosophy of armed resistance, as well as some useful critiques of the successes and failures of this very bloody year. For those unfamiliar with the Red Army Faction, I would recommend the excellent German film from a few years back, The Baader-Meinhof Komplex, to help fill in the gaps in this necessarily short pamphlet. Or perhaps going all in and reading the first volume of Moncourt's larger work, The Red Army Faction, a Documentary History: Volume 1: Projectiles for the People....more