Hal Draper


The ABC of National Liberation Movements



Introductory Note

This document – a political discussion guide – was written for the members of the Independent Socialist Club of Berkeley when the Vietnam War seemed to take a new turn, with the Tet offensive of 1968 launched by the National Liberation Front. For the Independent Socialists, the turn did not entail a different attitude toward the United States’ intervention as world overlord of the capitalist bloc. The club had long been in the forefront of the anti-Vietnamese war movement in Berkeley.

In my opinion, what the Tet offensive showed, with no possibility of doubt any longer, was that the war in Vietnam was not primarily a civil war between two Vietnamese sides, one of which (the old reactionary side) was being supported by the imported arms of the Western imperialists. The Tet offensive showed conclusively that the overwhelming majority of the Vietnamese supported the NLF either actively or passively. The document below explains how this makes a difference, and what difference it makes – not to the question of support to the American intervention, but to one’s interpretation of the role of the NLF.

Besides, even aside from this factor, there was a need for educational analysis of a number of issues associated with national liberation movements in general. Many of the members of the Independent Socialist Club were young people who had never before faced complicated problems of socialist policy; this antiwar movement was the first time they had been brought up against such needs. The Independent Socialists were outstanding in combining the most militant opposition to the American government in the war together with a refusal to glorify the NLF and its leader Ho Chi Minh. This required a good deal of thinking through on their part, as distinct from chanting paeans of praise to the political force that was going to totalitarianize Vietnamese society if it won.

This “political guide” was designed for study and discussion. It was written in the form of (to use socialist jargon), a “set of theses.” The point about “theses” is to state, in as clear and unambiguous a manner as possible, a position on a more or less complicated question. The aim of “theses” is not necessarily to prove a case, but primarily to state it in unmistakable terms. The young socialists of the Club had heard many things about socialist policy in national liberation situations: the idea was to try to put it all together.

Hal Draper




Last updated: 26.9.2004