First Published: Progressive Labor Vol. 6, No. 3, March-April 1968
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Incorporated in the babble over the semantics of “could” to “will” in the latest north Vietnamese peace offer is the ominous fact that this does represent a further retreat from the absolutely correct four-point position that the Vietnamese originally held. The essential aspect of the four points was that there was nothing to talk about until the U.S. got out of Vietnam. Obviously, the north Vietnamese offer to the U.S. that if the bombing stops, negotiations can start at a “suitable time,” has very little in common with the correct position of “U.S. get out of Vietnam now.”
Regardless of how various forces estimate the reasons for this offer, all–including imperialists of various stripes–consider this latest Vietnamese move seriously. “British Foreign Secretary Brown said today that north Vietnam’s most recent offer to negotiate ’represented’ a ’significant’ move.” (New York Post, January 11) In a rapid response a New York Times editorial comment on the offer said: “On Saturday, North Vietnam’s Foreign Minister made the clearest statement yet–that Hanoi will hold talks with the U.S. if the bombing of north Vietnam is halted. Previously Hanoi has issued conditional statements, permitting doubts about the firmness of the commitment to negotiate...” Even Rusk was compelled to check his tongue for the moment, “Secretary of State Dean Rusk at a Thursday news conference, set a careful tone for the government... .He could ill afford diplomatically to pass up a potential opening. He could ill afford to appear overly hasty an intransigent. ’It would be premature for me to brush this aside as a pure propaganda play,’ he said. ’It was,’ he acknowledged, ’a new formulation,’ but it, ’left a great many questions open,’ he said” (New York Times, January 7).
And, in an apparent attempt to consolidate their negotiations offer, and to undercut any further LBJ-Rusk hesitations comes a still more charitable offer from the north Vietnamese. “Mai Van Bo, Hanoi’s chief representative in Western Europe, suggested in a statement here tonight that after an unconditional cessation of American bombing attacks and other acts of war against North Vietnam, the two sides will meet to reach agreement on the agenda and the level of future talks. The head of the North Vietnam Mission in Paris added that the meeting could be held at a ’suitable time’ after a cessation of military action by the U.S.” (New York Times, January 17).
Perhaps the north Vietnamese offer is designed to create a fundamental split in the U.S. ruling-class strategy concerning Vietnam and Asia? Maybe they think this would manifest itself in an LBJ election defeat, and result in the election of a qualitatively different political clique. If this is the case they are sadly mistaken. U.S. imperialism is committed to remaining in and controlling Asia. Its main goal is the defeat of China one way or another. Asia remains a huge area to exploit further, insuring for some time to come huge U.S. profits. The loss of Asia, through revolution, would deprive the U.S. of vast profits now and lose a barely tapped area. As has been so often stated by various U.S. spokesmen, the U.S. is a Pacific power, its future rests on this premise. The deployment of vast U.S. war materials from Hawaii to Korea through to Taiwan proves this beyond doubt.
Unquestionably, People’s War has produced tactical differences within the ruling-class. These differences have been most markedly shown in the antagonisms between LBJ and RFK. However, to view these differences as fundamental is illusory. It is as illusory as the differences that were alleged to have existed between LBJ and Goldwater. In that situation the Soviets and their mouthpieces here tried to magnify their illusions by promoting the “lesser of two evils” theory. However, after LBJ’s election objective factors asserted themselves, sharply compelling the drawing together in action of those that seemed to have such divergent strategies. The objective factor that provoked this was the extraordinary battle waged by the Vietnamese people.
When LBJ claims that his policies in Vietnam are the logical and consistent extensions of his predecessors, especially John Kennedy, he is speaking the truth for once. But, when these policies are challenged in the villages and jungles of Vietnam by a people armed with the outlook of People’s War, they fail miserably. Hence, various forces within the ruling class put forward adjustments they feel will solve the problem, and achieve the agreed-upon results. Time after time Robert Kennedy has made it clear that it’s an adjustment he is after not a change in strategy. We refer again to his March 2 speech in the Senate in which hes aid: “Nearly all Americans share with us the determination to remain in Vietnam until we have fulfilled our commitments.. . There is no danger of any division. . . which will erode American will and compel American withdrawal.” RFK was echoed that same day by his brother Ted who said: “We cannot withdraw from that nation or abandon our commitment there.”
RFK’s reaction to the latest Vietnam overture was predictable. He asked LBJ to accept the offer and indicated that if the Vietnamese don’t surrender over the bargaining table, “we can resume the killing a few months later.” The New York Times, which by and large summarizes the position of RFK, put it this way: “What is needed, in brief, is a revised military posture designed not to seek an illusory military victory but a gradually strengthened position during negotiations and afterward” (New York Times, January 7). In other words, the Times proposes the U.S. use the negotiations much in the same manner LBJ claims the Vietnamese might use them. Obviously there is nothing in the Times’ position which could be conceivably construed as anything other than a build-up of the U.S. political and military position in and out of Vietnam.
It is also bluntly stated in the RFK-McCarthy position that ways must be found to keep the intellectuals and students of our country within the fold. There is great fear that the enormous anti-war upsurge on the campuses will spread beyond the campus and envelop the labor movement. They are afraid that many in the current anti-war movement will embrace Marxism-Leninism as imperialism becomes further exposed. Many liberal spokemen are already concerned with this growing possibility as radicals in larger numbers brush off the two-party system. James Reston, moaning that students and intellectuals are rejecting all politicians, thus undermining the base of liberalism, put it this way: “Down with everybody. To hear these young protestors and demonstrators talk, Lyndon Johnson is the incarnation of everything that is wicked. Nothing would please them more than to see him retire to his ranch in Texas, but they are also critical of Senator McCarthy, and Senator Kennedy, and Gov. Rockefeller and of everybody else who might replace the President .... When Senator Kennedy got to the Flatbush campus of Brooklyn College the other day, the protesters accused him of vacillating on the war, and greeted him with signs reading ’Hawk, Dove or Chicken’....” (New York Times, January 14). Reston might have included other actions and signs at Brooklyn College that went beyond what he chose to report. But suffice it to say political consciousness is growing in our country and it does pose a growing problem to the ruling class.
Additionally, it would be foolish and naive for our comrades in Vietnam, as well as friends at home, to ascribe minor tactical differences within the ruling class to matters of honor or principle. Much of the infighting going on between LBJ and RFK boils down to a struggle over power. Each one would use any misfortune of the other demogogically to ascend to power. Objective factors, the drive for maximum profits, would compel the “out-force” to act like the “in-force” once positions would be reversed. It would be wrong for radicals and workers at home to easily forget the Bay of Pigs,, the Cuba missile crisis, the Kennedy-Landrum-Griffin Law, the lavish use of bugging by RFK as Attorney General, Kennedy’s appointment of a raft of racist federal judges, the use of troops in Birmingham against militant Black youth, the imposition of trade restrictions and travel to Cuba, Korea, China, Albania, and Vietnam, and of RFK’s wholehearted backing of LBJ’s use of troops to slaughter rebellious Black people.
Over the years the Kennedys have demonstrated a dedicated ruthlessness. This included, when necessary, resorting to threats of nuclear war to preserve imperialism. Their domestic actions, as well as their foreign policy, manifested, if anything, a more militant commitment to maintain imperialism. To indicate just a bit more how shallow the so-called differences are, RFK said recently “...that, like Senator McCarthy, he would support President Johnson for re-election once the President, as expected, won renomination” (New York Times, January 9). And, at a recent news conference: “Senator McCarthy in answer to a question, put forward the names of Douglas Dillon, former Secretary of the Treasury and Senator Mike Mansfield to replace Mr. Rusk.”
Let’s face it–the LBJs and the RFKs want the Vietnamese revolution crushed; they want the Chinese revolution crushed; they want to dominate Asia and the world for U.S. imperialism. There is no evidence to support the contrary. U.S. imperialism has not abandoned its perspective for world domination. Despite the beating they have been receiving in Vietnam they still believe they can succeed. The call for negotiations plays into the hands of imperialism; what can the north Vietnamese possibly negotiate with the United States other than the fate of south Vietnam?
Perhaps the biggest irony is that the Vietnamese are winning the war hands down and are about to fritter away victory by negotiations.
The fact that the north Vietnamese are putting out such negotiation’s “feelers” is in sharp contrast to the course of the People’s War in the south. The fact is that the forces of the NLF are militarily and politically in their best situation since they launched the revolution in the south. In 1965 they had all but defeated the Saigon puppet forces. They had demolished key sections of the puppet army and its strategic reserve in daytime battles in the Mekong Delta and at spots like Jinh Gia. It was this brink of defeat that impelled Johnson to escalate by bombing the north in February and then putting U.S. combat troops into the field on a large scale.
The NLF has the initiative against the U.S. aggressors. In 1966 and partially last year, the U.S. was able to launch large-scale “search and destroy” operations (although the tactical initiative of where and when battles actually took place was still in the hands of the NLF); now, the big battles are being initiated by the NLF. Battalions, not just platoons or companies, of U.S. troops are being wiped out. Westmoreland is frantically shifting divisions of troops from one end of Vietnam to the other to defend against increasing, and larger, NLF attack; he is unable to initiate anything. The strategic initiative has shifted to the NLF and now U.S. imperialism has used the cream of its armed forces. For it to “up the ante” now, it would have to mobilize the reserve at home, which would create even sharper contradictions with the working class here.
Whatever one believes about “troops from the north,” even according to U.S. press sources, 90% of the north Vietnamese army is in the north, not in the south. So the Vietnamese people’s reserve is more than a match for what U.S. imperialism might try to throw at it on the ground at this point. And behind that reserve stands the forces of the People’s Republic of China, more than ready, willing and able, if the Vietnamese call for their aid.
Even if they were losing, it would be questionable for the people’s forces to ”negotiate,” rather than, possibly, beat a strategic retreat, as did the Chinese in their famous Long March. But certainly, when the people’s forces are in the ascendency, wiping out the best the imperialist enemy has to throw at them, the military advantage must be pressed to its ultimate, and logical, conclusion: the military– and therefore political–defeat of the aggressor.
Knowing this, the imperialist forces are opting for negotiations to win at the conference table what they are obviously losing on the battlefield. To think that the people’s forces can “split” a ruling class that only “differs” on how best to exploit and slaughter the people is sheer illusion (and conscious betrayal by the Soviet revisionists), especially at a point when People’s War is winning in the south. The only thing that the north could negotiate or even talk about would be the cooling off of the heat being applied by the People’s Army in the south.
“Stop the bombing and negotiate” may have already obscured and pushed into the background the position of “U.S. get out of Vietnam now!” The latter is the position which mobilized millions of Vietnamese to fight to the last breath. It is the position that rallied hundreds of millions to oppose U.S. imperialism. It is the position which wouldn’t let the U.S. off the hook. It rammed home the actual situation that U.S. imperialism is a most ruthless oppressor and must be driven out of every area on which it encroaches. To negotiate with it implies that there are two sides to the story. Negotiations now sanctify the aggression of U.S. imperialism.
But even more significant than what the Vietnamese feel this particular tactic may accomplish for them is the fact that the Soviet leaders have step by step acted to betray the Vietnamese revolution and coerce and bribe them to negotiate and surrender. All Soviet actions, including their Trojan Horse “aid” are designed for that purpose, The Soviets, mortally afraid of revolution lest it upset the apple cart, do everything to squelch it. “...Moscow has cautioned Hanoi from extending its involvement. The situation is uneasily static. Russia evidently hopes, despite reluctance to confirm this, both to prevent the conflict from escalating and to bring it to an acceptable end. Apart from an unprofitable fling in Indonesia, Moscow has not had any major aim in Southeast Asia. And, its primordial concern in the Orient is to isolate China. That objective would be furthered by Vietnamese peace...” (C.L. Sulzberger, New York Times, January 7).
All sections of the U.S. ruling class have depended to one degree or another on the Soviet leaders to get them off the hook in Vietnam. The point of unity on this, as Sulzberger points out, is joint fear of China. A victorious revolution in Vietnam would be a serious blow to the aspirations of imperialism and to the revisionist clap-trap of peaceful coexistence. Another socialist state in Southeast Asia strengthens all revolutionaries, and weakens imperialism and Soviet-inspired revisionism. Freedom won through revolution is contagious, and as far as imperialism and revisionism are concerned, it is spreading like the plague, therefore it must be burned out one way or another.
A tactical difference between LBJ and RFK has been to what extent the U.S. should rely on Soviet maneuvering to accomplish U.S. goals. On this score RFK has pursued a bit more bold line; “Let the Soviet do it! If they won’t, we always can.’’ On the other hand LBJ’s premise has been to accentuate the military pressure and use this to push the Soviets to do their dirty work promptly and efficiently. The key point is that no matter what approach the ruling class might take it would be doomed to failure if the Vietnamese stick to the invincible strategy of People’s War. But by taking Soviet “aid” the Vietnamese have opened themselves to Soviet penetration. By hailing the Soviets and other revisionist forces for their “aid” they have obscured the dangers of revisionism. You cannot have it both ways.’ Either revisionism is the mortal enemy of revolution or it isn’t. If you are a revolutionary you cannot have “unity of action” with the enemy. Taking “aid” from the Soviets may seem to have short-term advantages, “but those chickens will come home to roost.” The Soviet revolution has been reversed, the Soviet Union is another imperial power today. Soviet policy acts to betray and reverse all other revolutions.
Why should Soviet “aid” to Vietnam have a different character than its “aid” to India, Egypt, Indonesia, etc. In each instance Soviet “aid” is designed to uphold reaction and betray the people. Four billion dollars in Soviet “aid” didn’t even keep the war in the Middle East going one week. “Aid” to India is being used by the ruling class to attack its people and China. Soviet “aid” to Indonesia was, in the final analysis, used to wipe out over 500,000 progressive and revolutionary Indonesians. As A.G. Firanz so accurately pointed out in PLP’s Marxist-Leninist Quarterly some years ago:
The arms sent to Syria and Iraq have been used to overthrow vacillating and opportunist regimes and to replace them with visciously anti-communist juntas seeking to arrest a left-wing drift... The massive Soviet arms shipments to Indonesia were used to frighten the Dutch out of West Irian yesterday and may be used to undermine the proposed Federation of Malaysia today, but in the hands of General Nasutian and his officer corps, they will probably be used against the Indonesian people tomorrow.
We believe that revolutionaries must agree on this crucial point: under no circumstances should aid be taken from revisionism. We believe that anyone who takes “aid” from the revisionists will eventually lose their struggle, no matter how heroic the forces involved. We believe this to be a life or death question for the international revolutionary movement.
It required bribery for the Soviets to worm their way into the confidence of the Vietnamese to betray them, which, we know from daily life, is not uncommon. Often, to undermine someone you must first win their confidence. This explains why the U.S. leaders have always understood and condoned Soviet “aid,” even though, as we have pointed out before, this was the first time “aid” to an enemy to kill U.S. troops was condoned.
U.S. imperialism is a lot clearer on its class outlook than many of us. They know which side their “bread is buttered on.” Most imperialists welcome Soviet revisionism. Certainly, the Glassboro conference showed that LBJ has a good grasp of this development.
Because basic U.S. policy is aimed at China many view the rapid escalation of the war in Vietnam as extremely dangerous. The attacks against Laos and Cambodia and the continued air intrusions over China all seem to be leading to war with China. Therefore many rationalize that although RFK is no good, at least his line is “less dangerous” as regards war with China. He is the “lesser of two evils.” Once radicals and revolutionaries base their strategy on splits within the ruling class instead of oh the strength of the working class, they are all through.
If the Vietnamese tailor their plans to embarrass LBJ so as to get RFK it is all over but the shouting. In the first place they give up the initiative. Once they give up the initiative they weaken themselves and the entire revolutionary movement. This acts to whet imperialism’s appetite. Instead of imperialism easing up it grasps for more, because it is encouraged by signs of weakness or indecisiveness. Appeasing imperialism or trying to outmaneuver it never works. The more Hitler was appeased the more he grasped. Chamberlain’s policies were hailed by many as steps toward peace. “Peace in our time” was his slogan; war in our time was the reality. The main aspect of the contradiction of the question of negotiations now isn’t which imperialist is ready to negotiate today or tomorrow, but is whether or not the revolutionary forces are prepared to resolutely battle ahead. Once the revolutionary forces back down this gives the imperialists more maneuverability and the initiative of how and under what circumstances they choose to make use of the retreat. The argument among imperialists is at most a secondary matter. Retreat in Vietnam will open up Cambodia and Laos to full imperialist penetration. (It is not mere coincidence that that the moment north Vietnam had made offers to negotiate, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodian head of state, also opened up talks with U.S. imperialists. Previously Cambodia had taken a hard and fast position denying U.S. armed intrusion in their country; now, Cambodia is negotiating the “right” of U.S. forces to invade her land under the flimsy pretext of finding north Vietnamese military sanctuaries.)
Capitulation in Vietnam will undermine the fight against imperialism in Laos and Cambodia. It will speed up the encirclement of China. Thus, it will speed up, if anything, imperialism’s dream of revolutionary China’s destruction. So, what seems to be the easy way out – the “peaceful” way out – will not even lead to that. On its own terms this strategy will fail. Not only will it prolong the oppression in Southeast Asia by imperialism, but it will push imperialism into even bolder actions.
In Korea, imperialism was set-back in its goals. Then, the U.S. aimed to conquer North Korea and at least Manchuria. The Koreans, Russians, and Chinese said “nothing doing. Not one inch of socialist soil will be surrendered.” U.S. imperialism was beaten badly by sharp armed struggle and political efforts. Faced with united resolute socialist action the U.S. was forced to retreat. It was forced out of North Korea and never put one foot into China and it took at least ten years to regroup itself for another major plunge in Asia; this time in Vietnam. The U.S. felt that it had it made because the Soviets had already capitulated. But the U.S. imperialists didn’t reckon with People’s War. Nonetheless they plunged desperately ahead despite defeat after defeat because they were relying on their ace in the hole, the Soviet revisionists. The Soviet revisionists are counted on to save imperialism’s ass, and it looks like it might work for a while. Imperialism is also counting heavily on the Soviets to prepare the way for the onslaught against China; this is why they boldly plunge ahead into Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.
The only way to possibly offset war or minimize its consequences is by sharper class struggle in Vietnam and all over the world. Fear of war will not prevent it. If the imperialists choose to make war let them have to do it under the most difficult circumstances; since revolutionaries encroach in no country,-in the final analysis the decision to make war is imperialism’s. However, should they make war, then let them be faced by resoluteness, not by vacillation. Vacillation is the primary encouragement to U.S. imperialism’s aspirations.
If we cannot do business with imperialism, then we cannot do business with its junior partner Soviet revisionism. To see how far these vassals of imperialism have gone you only have to read over one of the latest tomes coming out of the Soviet Union. Every rulings class organ is waxing poetic over a Soviet version of “Chinese dominoes.” An article in the Soviet journal Literaturnaya Gazeta by Ernst Henri, supposedly a pseudonym for S. Rostovsky, a Soviet political analyst, compares Mao Tse-tung to Hitler. In this piece he is horrified by the idea put forward by the Chinese that the “East wind prevails over the West wind.” He says: “Mao proposes to include in his Reich, apart from China itself, Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma,” and all points East and West, and who knows where. Obviously, the .Soviets would be more than happy to accept the status quo in these areas. To be sure, as one example, they prefer the fascist butchers of Indonesia, whom they armed and supported, rather than Indonesian Marxist-Leninists. No doubt fear of the spread of Marxism-Leninism is at the heart of their red-baiting. As anyone can plainly see there is no Chinese intervention in these areas; but there sure is the spread of the “thought of Mao” not only in Asia, but all over the world. Any revolutionary knows you cannot export revolution, that it must flow from the internal conditions of any country; but everyone also knows that Marxist ideology is not confined to any borders.
Well, let the Soviet vassals and their imperialist lords tremble at the fear of onrushing revolution. Let them hold hands in their joint red-baiting. As a matter of fact, the closer they stand together the easier it will be for the revolutionary forces to roll right over them. Openly implied in the Russian view is that the Vietnamese revolution is not really the work of the Vietnamese, but the Chinese. Consequently, this rationalization gives them the license to join the United States, their imperialist mentors, in counter-revolution. The Vietnamese must hurry to separate themselves from such scum before it is too late.
Additionally, the north Vietnamese have turned their country into a Mecca for “visiting firemen.” Ever since the Aptheker trip, north Vietnam has flooded itself with every conceivable type of phony. They all come back to the U.S. and postulate in the name of the Vietnamese that they way to defeat imperialism is to split the ruling class and get a better president elected. This revisionist idea will turn the Vietnamese revolution into its opposite. The fact of the matter remains that now that LBJ has gotten these concessions from the Vietnamese he will demand more and more. He will draw the proper conclusion that Soviet influence is successful. Why should he stop a good thing? The slogan of “stop the bombing and negotiate,” while it strengthens the hand of RFK and the Soviet leaders, also helps LBJ. It removes the issue of “get out of Vietnam now,” thus giving the entire ruling class more maneuverability.
Undoubtedly, the latest Vietnamese offer, if turned down by LBJ as expected, will strengthen the RFK crusade for power. (And after LBJ turns down the Vietnamese offer, the north Vietnamese further confuse things by acting as if the offer was never made. They act like the jilted lover who after rejection claims, “I never really loved her anyway.”)
’There is no problem of channels,’ Secretary of State Dean Rusk likes to say. ’We don’t have to speculate about this. We check this out with Hanoi.’ The President has said that the North Vietnamese ’know our telephone number if they need to talk to us.’” (New York Times, January 22).
In RFK’s crusade, he will vigorously pose as a humanitarian and peace-maker. “Senator Robert F. Kennedy asserted today that the United States was ’asking for unconditional surrender’ as its terms for peace talks in Vietnam.... Sen. Kennedy said that a statement by the North Vietnamese Foreign Minister, Nguyen Duy Trinh, that Hanoi will talk if the bombing and other acts of war are stopped ’is an opening–I think we have to accept that.’”
But try and remember that RFK’s position would be wiped out if the Vietnamese withdrew their offer and continued People’s War. If the Vietnamese go all the way and surrender, be sure LBJ and the boys down on the ranch are good takers, they are not stupid. They would more than like to win at the bargaining table what they cannot win on the battlefield. They are not opposed to negotiations. LBJ & Co. want more of an immediate surrender prior to negotiations. The difference between LBJ and RFK is quite marginal and boils down to timing, and some differences over opening conditions.
But at this point in history the Soviets and their domestic counterparts will try and intercede in U.S. politics by supporting RFK-type liberals. They did this in the past election by supporting LBJ vs. Goldwater. This really serves the purpose of the Soviets and liberals. From the revisionist point of view it gives them a trifle more maneuverability to fool the people by perpetuating the idea that there are good and bad imperialists. Consequently, they say, the job of U.S. radicals is to elect the better imperialists. This, they reason, would make for peaceful coexistence. The implication is that the good imperialists would settle the war and get out of Vietnam.
On the other hand it strengthens the political base of the liberals. This is done by receiving the blessings of the Soviets. Many Americans reason that those politicians that can get along with the Russians are more likely to avoid war, Glassboro “peace” talks.
Both the revisionists and the imperialists need one another to mask their actual character. The revisionists try to use coexistence to conceal their counter-revolutionary goals. The liberals pose as peace champions to cover up their expansionist aims. The holy alliance is formed to accomplish that which is common to both–crushing revolution. First, try hard to do it with smooth talk, but blast away when words and bribes fail.
Some naive Leftists still may cling to the idea that north Vietnam’s offer to negotiate is simply a ploy to expose LBJ. “They know he won’t negotiate so his refusal will expose the U.S. even more.” There are some people who still insist that the north Vietnamese haven’t asked for negotiations but just talks. And they say even if talks take place how can it hurt the south? The logic of negotiations must adversely affect the morale of all revolutionaries north and south. Once again, in as much as there is nothing to really negotiate except the People’s War in the south, unity between north and south must be undermined by the call for negotiations. Shifting from “get out now,” to the call for “stop the bombing,” implies a continued United States presence in Vietnam. Soviet and U.S. pressure which has forced these concessions will undoubtedly force more. No doubt LBJ has reason to believe that if he holds out longer the north may agree to shutting off supplies to the south. In any event, no matter what the leaders do, north or south, People’s War, which may be momentarily affected, will never end until the people’s final victory, until the U.S. is driven out Vietnam! Many forces in Vietnam are committed to this goal come what may.
While the position of the north may impede the struggle elsewhere, for the moment, the essential aspect is that People’s War is gaining momentum all over Asia. From the Philippines to India, Marxist-Leninists are organizing armed struggle. The basic fact is that U. S. imperialism is the one which is in deep trouble in Asia. Despite ups and downs in the battle its fate is actually sealed. This explains U.S. and Soviet desperation in Vietnam. They recognize the scope of armed struggle in Asia and are frantically trying to reverse the tide. Regardless of who is in the presidency it is these objects developments which will have to be confronted. If the United States wants to remain in Asia China, the wellspring of this revolutionary upsurge, must be defeated.
If anything, the U.S. is going to have an even greater commitment as a Pacific power. Recent British austerity measures, resulting from aggravated economic problems, are compelling Britain to withdraw her military forces East of Suez. Britain is cancelling its order for U.S F-llls, jet fighter planes which were to be used in this area. James Reston, in an article called “The Trend of Power in the Pacific,” (New York Times, January 17)–evaluates latest British moves in this way:
Britain’s decision to cut its defense budget and speed up its withdrawal from Asia is almost certain to reduce U.S. forces in Europe and increase Washington’s responsibilities in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific... Of course officials here are saying, as they usually do, when the] British retreat from old imperial responsibilities, that] the U.S. is not going to fill the vacuum, and in the present mood of retrenchment in Washington, this is good politics.] But it is probably bad strategy, and regardless of what is being said publicly here for the moment, privately officials are already talking about a redeployment of American forces from Europe to Asia.
We might as well point out that the ability to shift U.S. military might from Europe to Asia, to suppress the people, is a gift from Soviet revisionism. Revisionism has enabled the U.S. to fight the war in Vietnam, and maintain its role as world policeman with a minimum of effort. If the Soviets had not sold out, the U.S. would have to keep a larger military force in Europe and elsewhere on top of its huge military investment in Asia. This would compound contradictions within the U.S. far greater than they are now. Revisionism gives imperialism the necessary leeway to oppress people all over the world, and right here at home. Americans are paying a real price for Soviet revisionism, though few here realize it.
Given this overall situation we can expect a continued sharpening of the international class struggle despite setbacks that may happen in Vietnam. This means that as U.S. imperialism is compelled to oppress and subjugate revolutionary masses it will be forced to impose more burdens on American working people to pay for it. U.S. imperialists are not very charitable, they do not have a history of attempting to write off losses out of their own pockets. While losses cost them, they always try and recoup off the backs of someone else and those “someone elses” are always their own workers. So, we shouldn’t relax one moment, we must continue to fight for an anti-imperialist position within the antiwar movement, in the Black Liberation Movement and in the labor movement. RFK’s ability to exploit his demagogy will soon run its course. Objective conditions are outstripping demagogues these days. Their maneuverability is being limited by developments all over Asia meaning that the collision course that the U.S. has set with China will not be materially altered by this or that imperialist. The only thing that could alter this collision, in addition to what is done in Asia, is what is done in the U.S.: winning workers to an anti-imperialist outlook and action is therefore a matter of life or death.
Within the anti-war movement, and what passes for the radical-socialist Left, the main obstacle to hurdle is anti-working class ideas. As long as U.S. imperialism can maintain the labor movement as its base of operation, or as long as the ruling class can keep workers passive to imperialist policies, the ruling class will be able to handle the anti-war movement.
At the moment, a barrage of propaganda is being spread in the anti-war movement by various forces who palm themselves off as’ ’[’independent socialists.” Their main point is that U.S. workers are corrupt and so revolution or serious political struggle won’t happen here. It is ironic and tragic that these tomes levelled against U.S. workers come at the precise point when millions of workers are embroiled in sharper class action against bosses. Additionally millions of workers oppose U.S. policy in Vietnam and have expressed their feelings in many ways. These developments are creating unprecedented opportunities for radicals to develop ties with workers. Some business socialists are busy slamming the door on this historic development, Radicals and revolutionaries should be searching out every conceivable chance to keep the door open and getting invited in.
The net result of an anti-working class position is passivity because most serious radicals know, deep down, that on their own they can’t win. This defeatism is just what the revolutionary forces all over the world don’t need. U.S. workers have a historic responsibility to help defeat the U.S. ruling class and fulfill their international obligations. The working class is an international class and U.S. workers are part of the international working class, and most important, have a great deal of fighting capacity.
It has always been the historic role of students and intellectuals to unite with workers in their country and help introduce socialist ideas into the working-class movement. The unity of these two forces strengthens both, they learn and grow in the process of defeating imperialism. It is not written in the stars that liberals like LBJ or super-liberal RFK can go on bamboozling workers. Their policies are the policies of an alien, enemy class, and they can be exposed and defeated. Moreover, it is neither written in the sand that workers must be the base for native fascism, as some of our friends would have us believe. To date, workers in our country have been a bulwark against fascism. One of the failures of McCarthyism (the former version) was that it did not build a base among workers. Naturally, any negative possibility can occur, especially if revolutionaries and radicals don’t act, if they don’t overcome basic weaknesses. The basic weakness in the Left today, including the Progressive Labor Party, is little or no understanding of class consciousness. . Radicals and revolutionaries don’t look, or go, to the working class–the key force for social change. But the time is growing short – our country can ill afford this “luxury.”
Since our inception the PLP has believed that U.S. workers are a key force for revolution. We believe this more than ever based on our increased, although still-limited experiences with the American working class.
Since this editorial was written, the Korean “spy ship” crisis has erupted. Obviously this is a new LBJ provocation to widen the war in Asia; the boat was placed in North Korean waters to provoke them. (“Even if the American intelligence ship had previously penetrated North Korean waters–a possibility U.S. officials do not categorically deny....” a January 26 New York Times editorial says.) This incident follows a long line of similar provocations. As Murray Kempton put it, “Thus, on the Pueblo I believe North Korea. I don’t remember it having lied to me lately” New York Post, January 24.
LBJ hopes to use the “crisis” to at least call up the reserves. Previously he kept denying that they were necessary but bigger military disasters in Vietnam require more and more troops. New dangers are therefore “required” (manufactured) as a pretext for calling up more troops.
This point is made clear in two separate articles written by nationally-known analysists for the New York Times. Hanson Baldwin says, “... Joint Chiefs of Staff had repeatedly recommended limited mobilization of the reserves ever since our first commitment of ground combat troops to Vietnam in the Spring of 1965...And the massive reinforcements the North Vietnamese have sent to the Khesanh area....”
James Reston writes, “The call-up of 14,787 Air Reserves and naval and air support units is not necessary to deal with the Pueblo incident. The call-up may be useful in supporting our diplomatic efforts to get the ship and its crew released, but the Administration has been under pressure to call these reserves for Vietnam, and that is where they are likely to be used in the end.”
Additionally, LBJ needs bigger and better “dangers” to preserve his sagging prestige; and he uses these situations to whip up more jingoism and repression to silence mounting opposition at home.
It is also no accident that this current escalation comes on the heels of the north Vietnamese and Soviet maneuvers on negotiations. As we pointed out, vacillation and maneuvering are green lights for further imperialist aggression; the U.S. imperialists become more emboldened. By upping the ante the U.S. feels it can pressure the Soviets into a better deal in Vietnam.
And as far as “super liberal wonder boy” RFK, he bolted to the front to outdo LBJ, “Every step should be taken to obtain the release of the Pueblo and her crew...What happened during the 2 1/2 hours from the time the ship was approached until the time it surrendered? Why was there no resistance? Why didn’t the captain call for air cover, or if he did, why did such cover fail to arrive when jets were only one-half hour away in South Korea?” RFK said (New York Times, January 25). Even LBJ didn’t suggest this. Yes, events do outstrip demogogues.
And, on the following day RFK resorted to more double-talk and belligerency saying, “...the U.S. must act quickly to free the intelligence ship from the North Koreans. Because there is a danger of escalation we must get the ship and the men back before things get worse” (New York Times, Jan.26)
In conclusion, the U.S. will only get out of Asia when it is driven out. Recent events underscore this even more so. No slight of hand, no negotiations or maneuvers can accomplish this. The Soviet revisionist position of “peaceful co-existence” is more evidently counter-revolutionary day by day. It is the duty of all anti-imperialists and revolutionaries to separate themselves and repudiate the Soviet leaders. Not to do this perpetuates the illusion that they are a progressive force and this is an illusion that the workers and oppressed people of the world can no longer afford.
January 26, 1968