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Vietnam: An Antiwar Comic Book
January 9, 2013 6:49 AM   Subscribe

A comic written by Julian Bond and published in 1967, after he was expelled from the Georgia House of Representatives for opposing the war in Viet Nam. [Warning: n-word is used once as an example of hate speech] posted by laconic skeuomorph (17 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for this.
Good reading for my teenage daughter when I get home tonight.
posted by incandissonance at 6:57 AM on January 9, 2013


Wow. That was amazing.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:06 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I came back to say the exact words sevenyearlurk got to first. Thanks for sharing this.
posted by meinvt at 7:12 AM on January 9, 2013


He should have stopped after about the fourth page having effectively already made his point. Going further to make Ho Chi Minh out to be some sort of freedom fighter was a one super hero too many. The anti-war movement had a broad-base - from Christian Evangelicals to the Nation of Islam to all young American men facing the draft (without Dick Cheney's connections) - but as the left's opposition of the war became full-fledged support for communists, the anti-war movement as a whole suffered - as does this comic strip.
posted by three blind mice at 7:31 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Its strange how badly distorted this history is, especially with the benefit of hindsight. The influence of the Soviet Union and China are entirely erased, the NLF is portrayed as wanting fair elections when by 1967 anyone who honestly wanted this would have been long ago purged, its bloody purges of Trotskyists and others go unmentioned, and much is made of the peace negotiations when it was clear even then that the Viet Minh never intended them to succeed.

There were certainly many good reasons to oppose the war, and the pamphlet touches on many of them, but there was never any excuse to go full crypto-Stalinist.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:38 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I liked the comic, but I wish the interface gave more sense of how long the thing was. At first, I felt that the comic was building toward a very clear domestic point, but it kept expanding it's focus, and that was distracting to me. If I had realized that it was 19 pages, I would have been more prepared for the directions the comic took.

Reading this as an artifact of the time, I don't really have trouble with it's depiction, although I think it doesn't work as an accurate history.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:42 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't know that this existed. Thanks for fixing that.
posted by Twang at 9:04 AM on January 9, 2013


although I think it doesn't work as an accurate history.

Neither does most establishment "history".
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:30 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


"after he was expelled from the Georgia House of Representatives for opposing the war in Viet Nam."

How exactly does that happen?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:55 AM on January 9, 2013


How exactly does that happen?

Some background here. That was about the same time Georgia elected a segregationist nutcase as governor but several years after we had 3 governors at the same time. Politics in Georgia can get pretty screwed up.
posted by TedW at 10:35 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some background here.

Glad to read that the Supreme Court (unanimously) ruled that the expulsion was illegal.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:20 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


but as the left's opposition of the war became full-fledged support for communists, the anti-war movement as a whole suffered

This might not be the most charitable, flattering, or correct interpretation of the anti-war movement. Luckily, I don't think it's meant to be any of those things.
posted by absalom at 12:01 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


as the left's opposition of the war became full-fledged support for communists, the anti-war movement as a whole suffered

So were you peddling this crap in 1970 or did you inherit it from a crap-peddling ancestor?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:45 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you guys honestly think 'full-fledged support for communists' like is found in this strip had no place in the antiwar movement or didn't scare the crap out of the broad base the movement could have drawn from more effectively you weren't paying attention.

This is from the Prelinger archives. The narrator plays it pretty fast and loose with the difference between honest to goodness Stalinism and what the Progressive Labor Party had in mind, is a product of his times in a whole bunch of other ways, and clearly has a point he is trying to make - but he does still makes it pretty effectively.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:27 AM on January 10, 2013


If you guys honestly think 'full-fledged support for communists' like is found in this strip had no place in the antiwar movement or didn't scare the crap out of the broad base the movement could have drawn from more effectively you weren't paying attention.

I didn't see any support for communism in the comic. I saw an argument for us staying the fuck out of other peoples business and not invading their countries because they might be communists. The fact that you see this strip as "full-fledged support for the communitsts" is telling. Maybe I'm wrong. Could you point out exactly which part you take as being "full-fledged support", cause all I'm seeing is "we shouldn't be over there and here's the history that explains why."
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:37 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Could you point out exactly which part you take as being "full-fledged support""

Throughout the strip he presents the NLF as some kind of peace loving and democratically minded movement universally support by the Vietnamese worthy of being backed by freedom loving people everywhere. I'm really not sure how one could miss that he is supporting the NLF/Democratic Republic of Vietnam - communists - as the legitimate government of South Vietnam.

In chronological order through the strip:
"...but a group of vietnamese under a man named Ho Chi Minh wanted freedom under their own rule."
While Ho Chi Minh's resistance against the Vichy French and the Japanese during the second World War was very much on the right side of history, it stretches credulity too far to suggest that the world Ho Chi Minh was fighting for involved freedom in a sense that would be meaningful to the Americans Julian Bond was addressing.
"The second world war was over and Japan was beaten..... [Next Panel] The Vietnamese ruled the country. They has an election and Ho Chi Minh was elected President"
For starters Ho Chi Minh styled himself as the Chairman of the Provisional Government then Premier of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and he was not elected to either position in any recognizable sense of the word. While his provisional government did actually meaningfully include other stake holders, such that NLP members were a plurality but not a majority, and it is honestly unclear whether it could have lead to an unaligned and democratic middle ground; it gained power when the Japanese arranged for them to take over government buildings before the French they agreed to surrender to arrived. That Truman fucked up by not respecting Roosevelt's Atlantic Charter and recognizing this government in that brief moment as a stepping stone to something that could have maybe been legitimately democratic if everyone but Stalin got lucky is not a hard case to make. To say that it was itself, much less what quickly followed, a democracy however is just rank bullshit.
"Some people here called it the "Viet Cong" like people who don't like Negroes here call us "Niggers"
This is probably an honest misunderstanding, but its still wrong. The word Việt cộng is a contraction of "Việt Nam Cộng-sản", which just literally means Vietnamese communist. He was probably confused by the fact that it was sometimes also used as a contraction of Việt gian cộng-sản, which means literally "Traitor to Vietnam who is a communist." Regardless there really isn't much of a salient connection between the Vietnamese civil war and the American Civil Rights struggle unless you erase the millions of anti-communist Vietnamese, like Bond seems to do to everything else that isn't convenient for him to acknowledge.
"but the national liberation front says it wants fee elections representing all interests, land reforms, and all democratic freedoms."
And they seem to have found someone gullible enough to believe them. The NLF only had one real purpose, to eliminate all opposition to the government in Hanoi, which was indeed mostly us and a profoundly fucked up South Vietnam, everything else was empty window dressing.
"We say we fight in Vietnam to fight against communist Chinese aggression in South Viet Nam. But there are no Chinese troops fighting in Vietnam North or South."
The Chinese were providing weapons since the early sixties and in 1965 they sent anti-aircraft units and engineering battalions - they would only begin to withdraw from Vietnam in 1968, a year after this comic was written, and only in response to Hanoi's refusal to cool relations with the Soviets after their invasion of Czechoslovakia. They would only be totally gone three years later in 1970. This also neglects to mention the thousands of Soviet, North Korean, and Cuban military personnel who participated.
"We say that the North Vietnamese Government will not negotiate with us, but they have tried to talk with us seven times since September, 1964."
The North Vietnamese Government had no interest in the compromise that honest negotiation means, they bet correctly that they could outlast the American people and with us gone topple South Vietnam getting the whole pie to themselves. This was a lie, aimed largely at people like Bond and he fell for it.
"The people of Vietnam are fighting their own war for independence [NEXT PANEL] They want to run their own country, and don't want anyone - Americans, French, Chinese or Russian - to tell them how to do it."
This again erases the 1 to 2 hundred thousand Vietnamese who would be executed and the 1 to 2.5 million Vietnamese who would be sent to 're-education' camps after the war as well as the 3 million who fled. The government in Hanoi was very careful to maintain its independence from other Warsaw Pact and obviously NATO nations, but to say that this independence was fought for by 'the people of Vietnam' is an absurd lie when so many were so excluded from it.
"What do you think? Should we be fighting in Vietnam, or should we be let the Vietnamese people - Catholics, Buddhists, Communists and Democrats - settle their own problems their own way?"
This obviously benefits significantly from hindsight, but we now know what allowing the NLP to settle its own problems its own way actually meant. Bond does make plenty of salient and valuable points about the war's effect on America, but the lengths he goes to trying to bullshit over the profound fucked-up-edness of the North Vietnamese and assorted puppets are pretty inexcusable.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:24 AM on January 10, 2013


I also want to make clear that I have immense respect for the rest of the incredible career in public service that Bond has led since the unconstitutional expulsion that inspired this comic. We all owe him a great deal for his leadership in the Georgia legislature, SNCC, SPLC, and NAACP; but he was pretty wrong here.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:42 AM on January 10, 2013


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