FAQ. Why Have We Called Our Newsletter(s) After A Famous Vietnamese General?
This is an excerpt from Seppuku! The Five-Year Plan of a Multi-Use Name, introduction to
Luther Blissett, Totò, Peppino e la guerra psichica 2.0, Einaudi, Turin 2000, ISBN 88-06-1541-17
Dien Bien Q
"May 13, 1954 marked the beginning of the second phase of the winter and spring campaign. We took the great offensive on the entrenched camp at Dien Bien Phu, and this added a new element to the phisionomy of war. By clinging on our watchwords -- dynamism, initiative, mobility, immediate decisions in the face of new circumstances -- and taking the best advantage of our position on the Dien Bien Phu front, we had modified our tactics and made our main attack on the Expedition Corp's strongest garrison. On the main front, our regular units no longer had the task of surrounding and blocking the garrison; now they had to pass to the attack and concentrate their forces on annihilating the enemy. The other fronts on the Center, South and North had to keep in constant activity, in coordination with Dien Bien Phu, in order to inflict new losses to the enemy." (General Vo Nguyen Giap, People's War, People's Army, 1961.)
As suggested by every great strategist, it is always necessary to discard a tactic when it becomes predictable.
Once we'd created the network of mountain paths and tunnels encircling the upland, and made Luther Blissett recognizable by the information and cultural industry, it became necessary to use that reputation and plan the next offensive in great style.
Once you've surrounded the enemy, it's time to aim at the heart of the adversary camp.
By avoiding to attack the fortified garrisons directly, we had achieved many successes, however, that was not our only possibility of action. We might also attack those garrisons directly in order to annihilate the enemy, even with their new defense system. On the other hand, only the destruction of the garrisons could modify the phisionomy of the war and open up the way to new victories for our army and our people. (Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap)
In the hypothesis of a long-term war, guerrilla warfare in the woods and along the borders is a phase to be surpassed. Or better, it's a tactic to be adapted to new kinds of terrain. The objectives must be ever more ambitious. You win by planning new attacks, not by defending the conquered ground. The question is simple: after all the raids and incursions around the castle, can the Waldganger [forest outlaw] come out of the woods and enter the enemy fortalice with all the impetus of his legend? And then, is it possible to bring the next attack from within the citadel of the cultural industry?
Obviously, as noticed by general Giap himself, the two forms of conflict -- guerrilla warfare in the backwoods and open-field combat -- must go hand in hand and complement each other. In the case of a direct attack or an infiltration of the enemy's territory, the hero figure tends to shift from Waldganger to Trickster, and the emphasis must be laid on the latter aspect. We'll metaphorically shift from an arboreous landscape to an urban one: from the Sherwood forest to the Nottingham castle. As in the films of Leone or Kurosawa, the trickster shows his face and pretends to take service with powerful clans, but he's actually following his own plan, he's going to use the means provided by the bosses to his own advantage - and to the bosses' detriment. The trickster is an astute con artist who knows how to walk through the rooms of cultural power [...] and force the limits of the system to open up a breach that other people can pass through. Trojan horses, old tricks... And it is interesting to note that precisely such a figure of trickster and smart hoaxer, Odysseos/Ulysses, is at the origins of Western culture.
Luther Blissett had been talked about for several years, and the legend had snowballed all over the world when the cultural industry -- the same complex that Blissett had mocked and bantered so often -- asked the guerrilla to join its army. If you're a good gunsman, sooner or later the big gangs will contend for your service. Capital never creates anything, it only recuperates.
Blissett had to be ready. The context chosen by Blissett for his debut in the cultural mainstream was literary fiction. He had to plan a disruptive action, the publication of an unusual best-seller that could wrongfoot the media, forcing them to value Blissett's work for its real worth, no longer describing it as the bizarre creation of "young media pyrates" etc.
Everybody would have expected a slim hyper-contemporary novel, perhaps sci-fi stuff about the usual "new technologies", and the usual hackers. On the contrary, Blissett proposed a 650-pages long spy novel set in the 16th century, in abrasive countertendency with all recent Italian literature.
"Operation Q" (after the novel's title) entailed a quality shift in the conduction of cultural guerrilla warfare. This change would also affect those multi-use name bearers who had not taken part in the writing of the novel. Nothing would be the same anymore.
When Q was published in 1999, Luther Blissett's fame reached its maximum heights, and a second phase started. The multi-use name was no longer necessary, new perspectives were opened. As general Giap would put it, "Operation Q" kicked off the offensive on Dien Bien Phu. The Waldganger was flanked by a new, promising trickster. Robin Hood and Yojimbo united in struggle.
"Operation Q" was a sally, a sortie conducted by a chosen squad, whose task was to open up a breach, a passage practicable for many people. It was a matter of conquering positions in the adversary camp, set up an operating center behind the lines, occupy the upland and strike from within.
The details and goals of this plan belong to the days to come.
Books on Vo Nguyen Giap
Books on the siege of Dien Bien Phu