Seminars celebrate Vietnam's liberation

“A Victory for all humanity” was how the cover of Direct Action welcomed the liberation of Saigon and final unification of Vietnam on April 30, 1975, and that was the theme of a series of seminars in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane organised in September by Direct Action and the Revolutionary Socialist Party. (The final seminar will be in Perth on October 2.) The seminars also celebrated Vietnam’s independence in 1945, and discussed the long struggle for freedom and independence, the antiwar and anti-conscription struggle in Australia, and the situation in Vietnam today.

The seminars were accompanied by an exhibition of posters, both from the Australian campaign against the war in Vietnam, and from the liberation struggle in Vietnam itself.

The event in Sydney on September 25 was especially successful. About 50 people attended, of whom most contributed their names and emails to a list circulating to build future solidarity with Vietnam and support for Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. This was the largest event yet held in our Sydney centre.

The seminar was well supported by the Vietnamese Consulate in Sydney. The Consul General Vu Hong Nam spoke, and the deputy consul Tran Hong Tien also attended, together with Vietnamese members of the Vietnam News Agency and the Vietnam Trade Office. The discussion was sustained with delicious Vietnamese food for the event.

Speakers on the three panels at the Sydney seminar were:

Vietnam’s long struggle for liberation: Sylvia Hale (until recently a Greens MP in the NSW Upper House), Doug Lorimer (RSP and editor Direct Action);

The Australian campaign against the war in Vietnam: Bob Gould (founder of the Sydney Vietnam Action Campaign), Jack Mundey (former Builders Labourers Federation leader, and Green Bans activist), John Percy (activist in the Sydney Vietnam Action Campaign and founding member of the socialist youth organisation, Resistance, and now the national secretary of the Revolutionary Socialist Party);

Vietnam Today – Reconstruction and Solidarity: Vu Hong Nam (Consul General for the Socialist Republic of Vietnam), Hamish Chitts (RSP and founder of veterans’ antiwar organisation Stand Fast).

The participants included many comrades who had been active in the antiwar campaign in the ’60s and ’70s; former members of the Communist Party; many contacts of the RSP or previously of the Democratic Socialist Party; current antiwar activists; and subscribers to Direct Action. People came from learning about the seminar on Facebook, or receiving leaflets at other political events, or getting notified via our email lists, reading about it in DA, or via an ad in The Guardian, or from the colourful posters stuck up on campuses or inner-Sydney streets.

Discussion and questions from the floor after each panel was extensive, and would have gone on longer if we had more time. After dinner the evening finished with a showing of “In the Year of the Pig”, the 1969 film documenting the imperialist war on Vietnam by Emile di Antonio.

There’s been very positive feedback for the event. Photos taken by one of the participants are posted on A victory for all humanity. Reports of the event have appeared on Vietnamese news outlets.

In Melbourne, 30-35 people attended over the two days, September 1, and September 4. Speakers were: Rob Durbridge (a leader of the movement against the war in Vietnam in Adelaide, and until recently the federal secretary of the Australian Education Union, and now the president of the Search Foundation); Van Thanh Rudd (radical artist, and candidate of the Revolutionary Socialist Party for the seat of Lalor); Harry Van Moorst (one of the central leaders of the antiwar campaign in Melbourne in the ’60s and ’70s); John Tully (antiwar activist from Hobart, and now lecturer in South East Asian studies at Victoria University); Shirley Winton (antiwar activist from Monash University in the 1960s), and John Percy.In Brisbane, 30-35 people also attended the seminar on September 18. Speakers were: Jon Lamb (national executive RSP); Bob Anderson (former Queensland organiser of the Building Workers’ Industrial Union from 1963-77 and an elder of the Mulgumpin people); Ian Curr (former Brisbane university student active against the war in Vietnam, editor of the online news service Workers Bush Telegraph and member of LeftPress); Hamish Chitts and John Percy.

The seminars sold copies of a CD we had produced that contained images of the posters, and a selection of articles on Vietnam ($10), and the book The 30 Year War, published in Hanoi last year ($20). Copies of these are still available from our offices. Please get in touch with an RSP office if you would like to be kept informed of future activities about Vietnam and organising solidarity with the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.