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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sayings of the Angkar-- “Can Bad Things Be Turned Into Good Things?”

Marxists get inspired by a variety of writers and their quotations. There are the main two Marxist Writers, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the two basics. Then there is Lenin, the first successful Marxist revolutionary. After that it can vary from Leon Trotsky, Mao Zedong, and Joseph Stalin. There are also a lot of lesser known, such as Antonio Gramsci and Rosa Luxenburg, who may be a major or minor influence on Marxist writers and theoreticians.
After researching and writing I Am Pol Pot, I took interest in a collection of quotes from the Angkar padévoat, the faceless, nameless leadership organization that ran Democratic Kampuchea for nearly three years, until it was replaced by the name, Communist Party of Kampuchea and for the last two years of the regime an actual personality cult was formed around Pol Pot.
After their fall from power, the CPK was dissolved, all references to communism were dropped and the Khmer Rouge (as they were known to the press) changed their name to the Party of Democratic Kampuchea.
So the Angkar padévoat (revolutionary organization) only existed for about three years. Author Henri Locard collected The Sayings Of Angkar and listed them in a book he called Pol Pot’s Little Red Book. How much was written by Pol is not known. But the organization’s sayings gave hints as to what the Khmer Rouge thought they were and what they believed they would become.
This is a great collection that represent all facets of the group…. the good, the bad, the ugly. Some of these sayings were very inspirational and represented the group’s grand ideals. Others are meant to strike fear in those who had reservations about the regime and served as a fearful warning as to what would happen to those who believed they could defy the Angkar.
Next to my book I Am Pol Pot, Pol Pot’s Little Red Book is probably the best way to understand the goals and thinking of the Democratic Kampuchea regime.
There is no doubt that this group was excessively violent and murderous to those they even suspected of opposing them. Pol Pot is hated by the majority of Kampucheans who survived the regime. Many of the people endured harsh conditions and lost relatives.
Mao Zedong wrote an entire essay title “Can Bad Things Be Turned Into Good Things?” In it he explains that bad things happened, but can be turned around into good things in the long run.
A look at the Angkar sayings is very interesting. They are worth studying by those who want a proper historical view of events in the last century.
First there were the Angkar’s descriptions of itself:

“Long live the revolutionary Angkar utterly wise and clear-sighted and ever glorious!”

“The Angkar is the soul of the revolution.”

“Love the Angkar, Sincerely and loyally”

“The Angkar tenderly looks after you all, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers”

“Useless to argue, for the Angkar’s motives are perfectly pure”

The Angkar was for the most part, a god-form made by the regime. It is described as a god that knows and sees all. The good thing about it was that it was not a person. There was no father figure to worship. It was meant to be a hierarchy with wise leaders on top and the common people on the bottom. It was very much like a religious concept. It could be very loving or very vengeful for those who did not “except” its love.

“The Ankar has (the many) eyes of the pineapple.” – meaning the people are always watched.

“Secretly observe the slightest deeds and gestures of everyone around you!”

“Report everything to the Angkar!”

“The Angkar orders, execute!”

These sayings imply that people must spy on each other.

“You see that the Angkar is gentle;
Be careful not to make it ferocious!”

“The Angkar is ferocious only with those who provoke its wrath”

And there was a slogan that it was better to execute 10 innocent people than letting one guilty go free. So there were a lot of threats in some of these sayings. Some were clearly meant to terrorise people.

But they also had their more inspirational slogans that if truly followed by the party and people were actually good. Among their best are;

“Be masters of your own destiny!”  

“You have to take a hand in your own future!”

“Let us live in equality”
“Embrace the Proletariat Condition” 

“Unity, Equality, Fraternity, Collectivity, Solidarity”

All of these are good and inspirational. The following is something that follows the symbolism of many third world countries, the symbol of the scythe or hoe and a rifle to represent the work and fight of liberation. Such a symbol appears on the Mozambique flag.

One hand grasps a hoe, the other, a rifle” –but did the Angkar really trust its workers to carry rifles into their paddies and work. No they didn’t. This was a good slogan, but it was pure idealism.

“Down with American Imperialists and their lackeys!” –This slogan was used by nearly every liberation movement of the 1970s.

Some of there slogans were taken directly from Mao and rewritten to be simplified for the khmers. For example;

“Dying for the sake of the people has even more weight than Sacred Mount Himalaya; dying for the capitalists, feudalists, and reactionaries does not weigh more than a goose’s feather.”

Mao used the name of a mountain in China. The Angkar used a mountain known to everyone in and out of Kampuchea.
Some of the slogans they used as threats can be used by anyone against and enemy and they were good at insulting their enemies;

“No Gain in keeping, No loss in weeding out”

It is sad they used this against their own workers, but it would be a great slogan to use against the right-wing in the US.

They had other good insults;

“A king is unnecessary, for his shit stinks the same as his own people’s.”

And everyone can tell where this came from;

“Religion is the opiate (of the people)”

For those who lost relatives to the Communist Party of Kampuchea, we can’t expect them to just forgive these people and then use their slogans. However, such slogans can be studied by those of us who have the time and can find usefulness out of them. Some of the slogans are cruel and negative in everyway. Others can be useful if separated from the organization that created them. The Angkar included writings of the leaders and they were almost never signed. Some may have come from lower party cadre. In any case, the Angkar died when its revolution died. It is like a person that existed for three years and then disappeared. Its members dissolved it and replaced it with more reactionary and nationalistic slogans. These are not the slogans of a hero, but a small part of wisdom from a failed revolution. The good side is that we know this type of revolution can’t work and hopefully no one will try it again. As with the Soviet Union we can learn from its mistakes, but also look for any successes.
-Salamander សតិវ អតុ

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