This is the first post in an occasional series I’ll be doing called Digging in the Stacks. I’ll write about books I find fascinating. This piece was originally written for another website I used to manage.
False Nationalism False Internationalism (herein after“FNFI”) by E Tani and Kae Sera is a cult classic of the American hard left. Originally published in the mid 1980s, my edition is spiral bound and looks like it was printed from a photocopy of the original. The published is something called “Seeds Beneath the Snow”. I have been told the book was never issued perfect bound, but like most things I know about FNFI, I cannot confirm that for a fact. What follows is what I’ve been able to cobbled together about the book and its authors. Some of this might be wrong, or only part of the story. If you know more, get in touch as miloandthecalf at gmail
Some sources claim FNFI is part of a trilogy of books which attempted to lay out a revolutionary critique of the West. All the books were written pseudonymously, whether by one author, two authors or a collective, I do not know. The other two books in the series are the better known (in certain circles) Settlers: The Myth of the White Proletariat by J. Sakai and Night Vision by Butch Lee and Red Rover.
Settlers has been a very important book in certain anti-racist circles. It posits that the white working class in America has always been a reactionary force and that if revolution is to come to the U.S. it will come from oppressed communities of color. The book is incendiary and polemical, but fascinating throughout. My edition also really takes the cake for loony 1970s leftist illustrations – the back cover is a picture of Ho Chi Minh dancing with children.
I’ve never read Night Vision, but I own it. From breezing through it, it looks to be a collection of moaist inspired anti-imperialist writings, but more than that, I can’t say.
FNFI on the other hand, I did read, with interest, many years ago when I was still a young man interested in these sort of things. Addressing the wars and conflicts of the 1960s and 70s from the vantage point of First World communists enraptured by Third World leaders, FNFI is terribly dated and naïve. It is still a good read. If you can overlook the jargon and Third World Marxist speech, the writing and research are surprisingly strong. Within its pages you get a nuanced critique of the actions of the Weather Underground (violence ok, the violence of the Weather Underground, childish), and a fascinating argument that the Vietnam war was ended not by demonstrations in America, but because of violent sabotage by soldiers in Vietnam.
FNFI is still read today by idealistic young communists and anarchist for its hardline approach to American imperialism and its comfort with violence as a tool for social change. If you have an interest in the philosophy of the farthest reaches of left wing ideologues in the 1970s and 80s, and, let’s face it, who doesn’t, this is worth checking out.
False Nationalism isn’t hard to find, if you know where to look. Finding out anything about its authors is much more difficult. You are never going to believe this, but I am pretty sure “E Tani” and “Kae Sera” are pseudonyms. All three books in the series use of pseudonyms for the authors. Settlers is credited to a “J. Sakai” and that pseudonym has since been used for a number of other writings. The author behind it has also given interviews where he identifies as Asian and talks about working in various blue collar union jobs. Beyond that, I know nothing. Was Sakai was also involved in the writing of FNFI? Were E. Tani and Kae Sera were really two different people? Is there any connection between them and Butch Lee and Red Rover? I have heard a number of conjectures and rumors about FNFI including that it, and the others in the cycle, were written collectively by the same small group of friends, that the authors had been involved in Weather Underground, and that some, or all, of authors now reside in New York. I have no idea if any of that is true. I’d sure like to find out. If you know anything about this book, or its authors, please get in touch.