Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Remembrances of Things Past

For Communist Chinese tourists, in--where else--France:

Montargis, France - An obscure town in central France better-known for its caramelised almonds has become the unlikely destination for an influx of visitors from China thanks to the long-forgotten role it once played in the formation of the country's ruling Communist Party.

....For it was in the improbable setting of the town's mediaeval streets, gardens and canals that a number of expatriate Chinese intellectuals gathered in the late 1910s and 20s - forming the relationships and fomenting the ideas that would eventually bear fruit in the Communist victory of 1949.

.... Among the first to arrive in 1919 was a group of students from Hunan province - friends of the young Mao Zedong and like him already drawn to Socialist ideas. Many would later enter the Communist Party pantheon: Cai Hesen, Xiang Jinyu, Li Fuchun, Chen Yi, Cai Ciang.

....Chen Yi became an army commander and later foreign minister; Li Fuchun was the party's economic theorist; Li Weihan took part in the Long March and became vice-president of the Senate.

Zhou Enlai, prime minister from 1949 till his death and the most prominent Chinese leader after Mao, visited Montargis several times from his workplace near Paris - and it is now established that Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping also spent time there in 1922.

Add them to the others given aid and comfort in France who later went on to become mass murders. Such as Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh and Cambodia's Khmer Rouge leaders Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, and Kheu Sampan.

[Update] Thanks to a commenter at Just One Minute, we are reminded that France also made a large contribution to Islamic radicalism:

Sartre's protege, the Algerian writer Frantz Fanon, crystallized the Third World variant of postmodernist revolution in "The Wretched of the Earth" (1961). From there, it entered the world of Middle Eastern radicals. Many of the leaders of the Shiite revolution in Iran that deposed the modernizing shah and brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979 had studied Fanon's brand of Marxism. Ali Shari'at, the Sorbonne-educated Iranian sociologist of religion considered by many the intellectual father of the Shiite revolution, translated "The Wretched of the Earth" and Sartre's "Being and Nothingness into Persian." The Iranian revolution was a synthesis of Islamic fundamentalism and European Third World socialism.

.... MANY ELEMENTS in the ideology of al Qaeda--set forth most clearly in Osama bin Laden's 1996 "Declaration of War Against America"--derive from this same mix. Indeed, in Arab intellectual circles today, bin Laden is already being likened to an earlier icon of Third World revolution who renounced a life of privilege to head for the mountains and fight the American oppressor, Che Guevara. According to Cairo journalist Issandr Elamsani, Arab leftist intellectuals still see the world very much in 1960s terms. "They are all ex-Sorbonne, old Marxists," he says, "who look at everything through a postcolonial prism."

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