Session Abstract: This panel examines the spread of Marxism and Maoism in Southeast Asia through international and cross-ethnic relations on the margins of Cold War history. Although these worldviews flowed from Moscow and Beijing, each presenter emphasizes the participation of local organizations and intellectuals in their reproduction as political movements in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. The liberatory promise of revolution held different meanings related to diverse experiences of oppression and pointed toward a reorganization of society ranging from relations among ethnic groups, total national planning, and the rearticulation of geopolitics. Baird shows that while Hmong people were initially attracted to the Communist Party of Thailand because of discrimination and due to Thai military attacks, some later became committed to Marxism and Maoism in ways that have outlived the main revolutionary struggle. Lee demonstrates how Hmong participation in the communist movement in Laos offered a chance to fight for inter-ethnic equality and intra-ethnic leadership. Galway examines the relationship between Chinese overseas intelligence operations in Cambodia and the wave of fanatic support for the Cultural Revolution that swept Phnom Penh in the 1960s. Zeller analyzes relations between the Chinese Communist Party and the Pathet Lao to show how Lao domestic politics, Pathet Lao theorizing of national liberation, and Beijing’s commitment to armed struggle in the Sino-Soviet split were mutually constitutive. These projects failed; yet, this panel demonstrates that the key oppositions of the Cold War (capitalism vs. communism, imperialism vs. self-determination) were global phenomena experienced in Southeast Asia at every level of social life.
Paper Presenter: Nicholas R. Zeller – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Paper Presenter: Ian G. Baird – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Paper Presenter: Mai Na M. Lee – University of Minnesota
Paper Presenter: Matthew Galway – Australian National University