The Wretched of the World / Dien Bien Phu

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In the beginning of May 2011 I visited the legandary Battlefield of Dien Bien Phu, where French Colonialism had its final breath in ”Indochine”. Dien Bien Phu is one of the greatest symbols of the the ”beginning of the end” of Colonialism. Frantz Fanon captures the significance of this in early 1961, when he writes these lines in the ”Bible of the Third World”,  Les Damnés de la Terre.

A colonized people is not alone. In spite of all that colonialism can do, its frontiers remain open to new ideas and echoes from the world outside. It discovers that violence is in the atmosphere, that it here and there bursts out, and here and there sweeps away the colonial regime –that same violence which fulfills for the native a role that is not simply informatory, but also operative. The great victory of the Vietnamese people at Dien Bien Phu is no longer, strictly speaking, a Vietnamese victory. Since July, 1954, the question which the colonized peoples have asked themselves has been, ”What must be done to bring about another Dien Bien Phu? How can we manage it?” Not a single colonized individual could ever again doubt the possibility of a Dien Bien Phu; the only problem was how best to use the forces at their disposal, how to organize them, and when to bring them into action. This encompassing violence does not work upon the colonized people only; it modifies the attitude of the colonialists who become aware of manifold Dien Bien Phus.