Commodifying Marxism

The Formation of Modern Thai Radical Culture, 1927-1958

By Kasian Tejapira

In this study of the formation of modern Thai radical culture, Tejapira reveals a process of cultural and political interaction which results in a mutual transformation of exogenous Marxism/communism and indigenous Thai culture. The study draws on data from a number of primary and secondary sources, including memoirs from and interviews with leftist intellectuals, contemporary radical publications, and a number of unpublished Masters' dissertations in the Thai language. The book traces the introduction of Sino-Vietnamese Marxism/communism into Siam during the absolute monarchy in the late 1920s until the late 1950s when, under the military regime, it emerges as a particularly Thai cultural phenomenon. The exogenous ethnic character of the early Siamese communist movement made it an easy target for the conservative nationalist/royalist ideology of Thai-ness and socialism had been pre-judged as utopian even before its actual arrival in Thailand. After the fall of the absolute monarchy in 1932, both the lookjin communists (lookjin refers to Thai-born people of Chinese descent) and the left-wing People's Party tried separately to overcome this double-layered cultural resistance to radical ideas, but with only partial success. But the Japanese invasion and the resultant Phibun-Japanese alliance during the Second World War provided both groups with an opportunity to create a popular underground resistance movement and to earn a legitimate and legal foothold in the Thai policy after the War. Marxism/communism entered the post-war Thai cultural market in the form of printed commodities, whose demand, supply and reproduction ebbed and flowed with the volatile and violent tide of international and domestic events during the subsequent decade. More specifically, it was paradoxically diffused but dissolved by capitalist publishing, censored yet promoted by anti-communist authoritarian regimes, and confined to but freed in prisons. Through this process emerged a substantial group of (primarily) ethnic Thai radical intellectuals who proceeded to translate Marxism/communism into the Thai language and rhyming verse.

Publication Date: 12/1/2001
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9781876843984