History is not some evil teacher's tool to make pupils suffer even more efficiently. Many may remember it as a monotonous succession of facts - which had to be faithfully reproduced by the above-mentioned poor pupils at unevitable exams - with little or no connection to our every-day life. This is to a certain extent due to the fact that some teacher fashion topics like Greek mythology and therefore never make it further than the French revolution. To put in a nutshell, they are skipping what is essential to understand what's going on in today's world.

History of course can also have happened one way and be depicted another. This is one of the sad stories of Vietnam, which is told by the following books I read:

WintleThe Vietnam Wars from Justin Wintle is a pretty neutral account on the Vietnames struggle against the French, the Americans and the country's reunification in 1975. The focus is on the military side but never neglects political aspects. A couple of short citations can be found on a poster (12 kB, English) I made.

McNamaraIn Retrospect- The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam from Robert McNamara, the Secretary of State in the Kennedy/Johnson administration. It is a pity to read about the ignorance of Southeast Asia in the State Department, dozens of peace initiatives thwarted by some unwanted (American) actions and no one ever questions the American presence in Vietnam in the first place... Lessons include "we did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action - other than in response to direct threats to our own security - should only be carried out in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully by the international community".

ChomskyIndochina und die amerikanische Krise (German translation) from Noam Chomsky
The book was published in 1969 and is today mainly interesting as a document what people could know at that time. Needless to say, almost everything, even if the facts still haven't entered popular conscience.

KolkoVietnam - Anatomy of a Peace from Gabriel Kolko
In a way this is the saddest of all books because it tells what happened to socialism after the country was reunified. Unfortunately, at that time, no one within the Communist party had a clue on how the two countries' economies should be united. The result was that in the late 80's and early 90's they skipped the socialist part that had won popular support and adapted neoliberalisim - very much like their Chinese counterparts - which seems to be profitable mainly for (former) government officials. It will be interesting to see how long the party's rule will remain unchallenged after undermining its very legitimation though keeping Marxist-Leninist rhetorics...

Of course most of the books I read have a connection to each other in some respect and I usually read books to answer unanswered questions.

OrwellGeorge Orwell's book Homage to Catalonia is probably one of the best books ever written on the Spanish civil war. It was one of those must-buys, at least after I had seen Ken Loach's Land and Freedom which is one of the rare movies which aroused the desire for political action in me. I was very pleased to find out that the book was even better. My sister-in-law's father, an intelligent Spanish lawyer, spoke of "alegría revolucionaria" which paraphrases its essential very well. I can only recommend to read it because it is true literature.

MarxAfter reading China und die Barbaren (a heavily biased book on modern Chinese history) and Vietnam Wars I found I was no longer sure what communism is all about. After reading Marx and Engels' Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei I realized that I was all wrong. It's very revealing that I found myself both intellectual and cool at the same time when reading it. Intellectual because I realized that communism per se has nothing do with all I "knew" on communism like military, dictatorship and run-down economies. Cool because I perceived it as a act of rebellion against the existing way things go. Communism is definitly not the industrialized world's answer for the new millenium, but we need people with alternatives...

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