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Imperialist War in Indochina

Proletarian Revolution, vol. 1 no. 11, March 1979.

War has raged for the last few weeks in Vietnam where the Vietnamese have been trying to repel an invasion by China. It is indeed ironic that these former “allies” were battling in areas where the Vietnamese had battled the French many years ago. Vietnam has tried to maintain that it is once again fighting an anti-imperialist war against an aggressing imperialist.

While it is true that China is not qualitatively different than France or the US, i.e., they are all imperialist and they all have fought in Vietnam to pursue their imperialist aims, it would be profoundly mistaken to just assume that Vietnam is the injured party. Marxist-Leninists do not look at the question of war from the point of view of who invaded who, rather we look at the class basis and on the basis of the politics that led to the war. It is only on this basis that we can scientifically judge if it is a just or an unjust war. As Lenin said:

How, then can we disclose and define the ’substance’ of a war? War is the continuation of policy. Consequently, we must examine the policy pursued prior to the war, the policy that led to and brought about the war. If it was an imperialist policy that led to and brought about the war, the policy that led to and brought about the war. If it was an imperialist policy, i.e., one designed to safeguard the interests of finance capital and rob and oppress colonies and foreign countries, then the war stemming from that policy is imperialist. If it was a national liberation policy, i.e., one expressive of the mass movement against national oppression, then the war stemming from the policy is a war of national liberation.

The philistine does not realize that war is ’the continuation of policy,’ and consequently limits himself to the formula that ’the enemy has attacked us,’ ’the enemy has invaded my country’ without stopping to think what issues are at stake in the war, which classes are waging it and with what political objects. Kievsky stoops right down to the level of the philistine when he declares that Belgium has been occupied by the Germans, and hence, from the point of view of self-determination, the ’Belgian social patriots are right’. (“A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism”, LCW 23:33)

As with any war, and this one is certainly no exception, there is no shortage of philistines who are yelling the line of “defense of the fatherland.” This is prevalent on both sides of the conflict. On the Chinese side the war is being presented as a just war to protect China from Soviet and Vietnamese “hegemonism.” Of course, China maintains that it was the one that was attacked. “The counterattack our frontier forces were compelled to carry out is a just action in defense of our frontiers. It is in the interest of checking Vietnamese aggression and expansion and defending peace and stability in Southeast Asia as well as the Asian and Pacific region.” (Beijing Review, Feb. 23, 1979, p. 11)

In order to prove its case China cites evidence that Vietnam was preparing for war for some time, and this is no doubt true; but so has China. China claims that Vietnam has made 900 incursions into China’s territory in recent months, of course they don’t mention their many incursions into Vietnam’s territory. A situation has existed along that border where each side has deliberately carried out provocative activity in order to create an atmosphere conducive to war. Any one of these incidents could have been used at any time be either side to justify a “counter attack.”

China’s mobilizing 500,000 troops on the border and invading with 100,000 troops penetrating as much as 50 km into Vietnam certainly is no “border incident.” These sorts of border clashes are often used as a pretext by one country to invade another. China maintains that “the Vietnamese authorities have continually sent armed forces to encroach on Chinese territory, and Chinese frontier troops have been FORCED to rise in counter attack.” (Ibid., p. 8) This is a complete fraud. Teng Hsiao-ping announced on his visit to the US that Vietnam had to be “taught a lesson” and informed US authorities of the planned invasion which was carried out by a lot more than a few border guards!

It is incredible demagogy on the part of China to claim that this invasion is “defending peace and stability in Southeast Asia as well as the Asian and Pacific region.” This is no doubt another great victory in “Maoist dialectics” – you invade another country to defend peace and create conditions that could lead to world war to defend stability – it’s dialectics!!

China’s propaganda agents in Canada, “CCL(ML),” have gone so far as to say “China is setting an example for ALL countries threatened by the most dangerous superpower and its allies.” (Forge, March 2, p. 8) Indeed, even the US should learn this lesson and invade countries all over the world – a lesson the US hardly need to learn. The League in fact expresses well the policy that led up to China’s invasion of Vietnam, the policy of expanding China’s influence as an imperialist power and a call by China to the western imperialists to join it in a campaign to divide up Russia’s sphere of influence. In addition China is using this invasion to establish its credibility as an imperialist in Asia. China will be able to extend its political and economic domination of other countries in the region because they will be afraid of China’s military might.

Furthermore, China cannot idly sit by and watch Vietnam take away China’s neo-colony in Cambodia so it has to teach Vietnam a “lesson.” The lesson is that China considers South East Asia its sphere of influence.

China’s participation in this war is entirely for realizing its imperialist ambitions and there is absolutely nothing just about China’s participation. This is a fact that is well recognized throughout the world, except by those lobotomized by Mao Tsetung thought.

Vietnam is taking advantage of this fact by claiming to wage a just war of national salvation against China. This idea is given plausibility by the fact that Vietnam has fought two wars of national liberation against, first. France, and then the US: by the fact that China is a much larger country and an imperialist power: and by the fact that China invaded.

The Vietnamese government says: “It is obvious that the Chinese rulers after repeated failures in their hostile policy against Vietnam, have fallen into the rut of the Chinese feudalists, the imperialists and the colonialists in launching an aggressive war against Vietnam, an independent and sovereign country.

By invading Vietnam, the Chinese rulers have totally revealed their expansionism, big power hegemonism and reactionary policy... once again our entire people and army men and women, old and young, united as one are unanimously standing up to fight resolutely in defense of the independence, sovereignty and sacred territorial integrity of their motherland. (Statement of the Government of the SRV, Granma, Feb. 19, p. 1)

There is no doubt the Vietnamese people waged long and heroic struggles against French and US imperialism. These wars on the part of the Vietnamese were just wars. As Lenin said: “A war against imperialist, i.e., oppressing, powers by oppressed (for example, colonial) nations is a genuine national war. It is possible today too. ’Defence of the fatherland’ in a war waged by an oppressed nation against a foreign oppressor is not a deception. Socialists are not opposed to ’defence of the fatherland’ in such a war.” (A Caricature of Marxism, LCW 23:34)

It is by our understanding of the imperialist system that we can come to this conclusion about Vietnam not on the simple basis of the fact someone invaded Vietnam. And we have to look, today, at what is happening in the imperialist camp as a whole and Vietnam’s role in order to understand the unjustness of Vietnam’s position. As Lenin said about World War I:

The position, however, is that to understand the present war we must first take a general view of the policies of the European powers as a whole. We have not to take individual examples, or individual cases, which can always be easily torn out of the context of social phenomena and are valueless because an opposite example can also be easily cited. No, we have to take the entire policy of the entire system of European states in their economic and political interrelation, if we are to understand how this system steadily and inevitably gave rise to the present war. (”War and Revolution,” LCW 24:401)

There are those who want to cover up what is happening in Vietnam who precisely want to avoid this Marxist-Leninist way of looking at a war. They want to tear Vietnam out of the world context and simply talk about Vietnam being aggressed against and therefore fighting a just war. Indeed, the kind of philistines Lenin described.

What happened to Vietnam since the defeat of US imperialism is not something new in the history of colonial struggles. In Vietnam there was an anti-imperialist struggle led by bourgeois nationalists who called themselves “socialists” but in reality were only aspiring to capitalism (see article in next issue on “Socialist” Vietnam). Their independence was not consolidated by passing to the socialist revolution. Instead the bourgeoisie fell under the sway of a great imperialist power, Russia.

Russia entered the world scene as a great imperialist power only recently and it entered a world that was already divided up among the imperialists. How was Russia to effect a redivision in its favor short of an all out war which it might not win and then would lose everything. The Russian imperialism simply followed the example of the US when it was seeking to redivide the world in its favor. This goes back as far as the Monroe doctrine. The US followed a policy of giving support to anti-colonial struggles against Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, etc. in order to create the possibility to conquer them as neo-colonies. This is why Russia today gives much assistance to national liberation struggles it is for the purpose of freeing colonies and neo-colonies from the influence and control of US, French, British. Portuguese, etc. imperialism. Then the Soviet Union uses its socialist mask and the leverage its “aid” has given it to try to take over these countries as neo-colonies and spheres of influence.

The US “saved” Cuba from Spanish colonialism and Russia “saved” Cuba from US imperialism. Now Cuba has a neo-colonial dependence on the Soviet Union. The Cuban revolution was a just revolution against US imperialism and some internal reaction but there is no way that Cuban troops in Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen, etc., are playing a just role. Imperialism has often raised armies in its colonies and neo-colonies to do its bidding. The Cuban army is a cover for Russia to send in troops to dominate countries where national liberation struggles are taking place.

The pattern in Vietnam is in essence no different. During the struggle against US imperialism Russia used its considerable aid to create growing dependency; of course, China did the same thing. China sold out Vietnam for an alliance with the US and expected to dominate South East Asia because it is China’s “natural” sphere of influence. This forced bourgeois nationalists in Vietnam to have even closer relations with Russian imperialism. Vietnam after the fall of Saigon was in need of great economic assistance and great military assistance to combat China. Since Vietnam was not basing itself on socialist transformation, the only way the required aid could be had is by selling out to imperialism. This was, of course, the intent of much of the Vietnamese leadership to begin with. So at the party congress after the war with the US the factions of the Vietnamese party that were not pro-Russian were purged and Vietnam proceeded to develop more and more neo-colonial dependency on Russia.

Two events last year particularly demonstrate this relationship. The first was Vietnam’s entry into CMEA; Russia’s “common market” with its many satellites. The second was a “defense” treaty with Russia. Brezhnev paints the neo-colonialism of the CMEA this way:

The ties between socialist states are becoming ever closer with the flowering of each socialist nation and the strengthening of their sovereignty, and elements of community are increasing in their policy, economy, and social life. There is a gradual levelling up of their development. This process of gradual drawing together of socialist countries is now operating quite definitely as an objective law. (International Affairs, no. 9. 1978)

This is Russian “dialectics” – you can strengthen your sovereignty be becoming more dependent on Russia! The Vietnamese revisionists have not escaped the lesson. In its application for admission to the CMEA. the SRV states that “the SRV sets high store by the organizing role of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and wishes to extend its cooperation and the international division of labour with the fraternal countries of the CMEA with the aim of promoting our own national economy, raising the living standard of the people and strengthening the solidarity and unity of the socialist countries” (ibid., p. 29). And what is this “international division of labour” – Russia invests capital in labour intensive industries particularly in natural resources and the other countries import manufactured goods from Russia. When the US does this it is called imperialism; when Russia does it. it is called o“unity of the socialist countries.” Imperialism by any other name is still imperialism. All imperialists maintain that this kind of “international division of labour” promotes the “national economy” and raises “the living standard of the people” in the imperialized country. Just ask the people of Iran how this “international division of labour” with US imperialism promoted their “national economy” and raised “the living standard of the people”!

Russia has invested in “94 important economic projects” in Vietnam. These are primarily in resource development like Hydro electric power, coal mines, other mines, gas and oil etc. Russia has also invested in Vietnam’s agricultural sectors to promote the export of “vegetables, fruit, citrus and industrial crops.” Russia says “the building of these projects will make an important contribution to the successful implementation of the current Five-year Plan for the development of the SRV national economy.” (Ibid., pp. 28-9)

Yes we all know how Noranda’s copper mines in Chile and Alcan’s Hydroelectric and bauxite project in Guatemala are developing these countries “national economy”!

Brezhnev has summed up Russia and Vietnam’s relationship in a most revealing way.

We Soviet citizens respect and love the people of Vietnam and their battle-tried leaders for their courage, adherence to principle and deep dedication to the ideals of socialism. Our friendship with Vietnam TOOK SHAPE during the difficult years of this heroic nation’s struggle against imperialist intervention. Today THIS FRIENDSHIP IS ACQUIRING NEW FORMS AND NEW DEPTH in the context of peaceful socialist construction in a free united Vietnam.

Today, while the Vietnamese people suffer crude and unjust pressures from outside, we reassure fraternal Vietnam of our resolute support for their efforts to build a new society, to improve their people’s standard of living, to defend the inalienable sovereign rights and strengthen the international positions of the SRV – the STURDY BULWARK OF SOCIALISM IN SOUTH EAST ASIA.

We have always stood by Vietnam, stand by it now and will always do so. OUR SHARED TASK – the cause of lasting peace, independence of peoples and social progress – accords with the vital interests of billions of people in the world.” (Ibid., p. 30)

Indeed Vietnam has become the bulwark of Russian imperialism in South East Asia. And we will see how it has carried out its shared task in the “cause of lasting peace, independence of peoples and social progress” in Cambodia and Laos, but first the military treaty with Russia.

An important step in the growing relationship was taken on November 3. 1978. when a “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation” was signed. At a banquet celebrating this treaty Brezhnev said: “Over the past few days, we have had a wide exchange of opinions on all problems in our relations and on major international issues. WE HAVE REACHED COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING. AND OUR ATTITUDE AND VIEWS PROVED TO BE IDENTICAL.” (International Affairs, no. 1, 1979, p. 3)

The joint statement made about the treaty by Russia and Vietnam states that “this treaty marks a new stage in the development of Soviet-Vietnamese relations and is designed to promote indissoluble ties of friendship and cooperation between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party of Vietnam, between the Soviet Union and socialist Vietnam.’’ (Ibid., p 5)

The treaty, according to Brezhnev, “is primarily designed to serve the interests of socialist and communist construction in our countries. This is the most important point of the Treaty. It is also designed to make the friendship between the peoples of our two countries even closer. By working together, we are growing stronger in politics, in economics, and in other spheres of life.’’ Of course one of these “other spheres of life” is military cooperation. And certainly as a result of this treaty Russian imperialism is “growing stronger” in South East Asia. As Le Duan, General Secretary of the CPV, said: “The conclusion of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation is a major event in the political life of the peoples of our two countries. It marks a new stage in the consolidation of the militant solidarity and indissoluble bonds of friendship between the Soviet Union and Vietnam.” (Ibid., p. 6)

We can already clearly see what this “new stage” is. The Vietnamese army has undergone tremendous expansion where it now is 50% larger than it was at the end of the war with the US. This has been accomplished even through Vietnam is in desperate economic crisis. It is through Russian aid that Vietnam claims to have “the third best army in the world.” (Of course China is now trying to prove otherwise.) The purpose of this military expansion had nothing to do with Vietnam’s national defense. 50,000 troops were dispatched to occupy Laos and on January 9, 150,000 Vietnamese troops toppled the Pol Pot regime, “puppets of Peking,” to install a puppet government of their own in Cambodia. Vietnam ever since has been waging a fierce war to try and consolidate its hold on Cambodia. Vietnam gave the same justification for invading Cambodia as China gave for invading Vietnam.

Vietnam justifies their invasion of Cambodia this way: “The Kampuchean side has left our proposal unanswered, while its armed forces have continued attacking Vietnam along the border. “To protect and defend Vietnam’s territory, our local armed forces have no alternative but to fight back and repel the intruders across the border. (Kampuchea Dossier II, Hanoi, p. 133)

So Vietnam condemns the aggression of China but uses the same pretext to engage in aggression against Cambodia. Vietnam’s war in Cambodia is not a just war, it is a war to wrench Cambodia from the Chinese to the Russian sphere of influence. Imperialists always use the excuse that they are attempting to “liberate” the poor souls who live under the tyranny of some other imperialist. If any of these countries were actually socialist they would not be engaging in any of the activities they are. None of the parties in the war in South East Asia are waging a just war. They are all participating in an imperialist repartition of South East Asia.

The alliance between Vietnam and Russia and the alliance between Cambodia and China were alliances to prepare war, which is now clear for all who want to see. As Lenin said:

Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars and in their turn grow out of wars; the one conditions the other, producing alternating forms of peaceful and non-peaceful struggle on one and the same basis of imperialist connections and relations within world economics and world politics. (“Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” LCW 22:295)

The fact that Russia and the US are not directly fighting in this war is irrelevant, they are fighting it through proxies. As Lenin said:

If the war is a reactionary, imperialist war, that is, if it is being waged by two world groups of the imperialist, rapacious, predatory, reactionary bourgeoisie, then every bourgeoisie (even of the smallest country) becomes a participant in the plunder. (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, 1918, FLP, p. 80)

All over the world there are wars between countries. Although the great imperialist powers are at peace you will find them behind all these “little” wars. These “little” wars are part of the struggle of the great imperialist powers to redivide the world. There are two blocs of imperialists, those grouped around the US and those grouped around Russia and all these “little” wars sponsored by these blocs are but preparatory to a world war between these blocs to redivide the world. The situation is similar to that which Lenin described as leading up to World War I. “Peace reigned in Europe, but this was because domination over hundreds of millions of people in the colonies by the European nations was sustained only through constant, incessant, interminable wars, which we Europeans do not regard as wars at all, since all too often they resembled, not wars, but brutal massacres, the wholesale slaughter of unarmed peoples.” (“War and Revolution,” LCW 24:401)

There is, however, one difference. Now the imperialists make billions selling arms to these “unarmed peoples” and make billions inciting them to kill each other.

Always in these wars between imperialists, those they participate in directly or those that they sponsor, they always try to fool the people into thinking they are doing it for some just cause. Lenin gives this example in regard to World War I. “What is the aim of the present war? If we are to believe the diplomats of all countries, it is being fought by France and Britain to defend of small nations from the barbarians, the German Huns. Germany, for her part, is fighting the Cossack barbarians who are menacing the civilised German people, and in defending of the fatherland from the enemy attack.” (“Speech at a Meeting in the Polytechnical Museum,” LCW 28:79)

This war is somewhat more complicated in that all the participants claim to be “socialist.” Lenin long ago exposed the bourgeois nationalism of “socialists” like those in Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Russia and all those throughout the world that support them in an open or disguised way.

’It is my right and duty as a socialist to defend my country if it is invaded by the enemy,’ he argues not like an internationalist, not like a revolutionary proletarian, but like a petty-bourgeois nationalist. Because this argument leaves out of account the revolutionary class struggle of the workers against capital, it leaves out of account the appraisal of the war as a whole from the point of view of the world bourgeoisie and the world proletariat, that is, it leaves out of account internationalism, and all that remains is a miserable and narrow-minded nationalism. My country is being wronged, that is all I care about – this is what this argument amounts to, and that is where its petty-bourgeois nationalist narrow-mindedness lies. (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, FLP, p. 78)

It is not at all surprising to see the so-called “socialists” of Russia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, etc. trying to justify imperialism through “left” phrase mongering because they are all imperialists or neo-colonies of imperialists who try to wear a “socialist” mask, commonly referred to as social-imperialism.

What is more interesting is to see all the forces on the “left” that are lining up in support of Russia and Vietnam. This includes not only the revisionist parties, but also the Trotskyites and various so-called progressives. The Trotskyites and even many so-called “Marxist-Leninists” are “critical” of the Soviet Union’s “bureaucracy” or “imperialist tendencies” but they end up supporting Soviet social-imperalism in practice. So-called “Marxist-Leninists” like those grouped around the US paper known as the Guardian claim to oppose Russia’s “big power policy” but in reality they support Soviet intervention around the world under the pretext that US imperialism is the “main danger”. There are even those who claim to oppose “both superpowers” that in practice cover up Russian imperialism activities. All these forces despite their many “contradictions” are united around the slogan “Hands off Vietnam.” Where does this slogan come from? The declaration of the Russian government on China’s invasion of Vietnam ends with the slogan “Hands off socialist Vietnam!” (Tass, February 18, in Granma, February 19)

William Kashtan, head of the revisionist “Communist Party of Canada” tells us:

It is the duty and obligation of all peace loving Canadians, WHO CHERISH THE INDEPENDENCE OF CANADA, to give all out support to the Vietnamese people in their unconquerable determination, sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country. This we can do by making the demands ’GET OUT OF VIETNAM,’ ’HANDS OFF VIETNAM’ the demand of the overwhelming majority of Canadians. (Canadian Tribune, March 5, 1979, p. 8)

They’re certainly not the slogans of the “overwhelming majority of Canadians” but these slogans are taken up by certain political forces in Canada. In a statement entitled “Hands off Vietnam!,” issued by the Political Committee of the “Revolutionary Workers League,” Canadian section of the “Fourth International,” it states “Workers in this country, the trade unions, the NDP and all supporters of the Indochinese revolution should demand that imperialism get out of Indochina now.” (Of course, Trotskyites deny that Russia is imperialist.) “This is the framework in which we should demand HANDS OFF VIETNAM! Chinese troops out now!” (Socialist (sic) Voice, March 5, 1979, pp. 1.4)

The only criticism the Trotskyites have of the Soviet Union is that it does not give enough aid to Vietnam! The Spartacist League, an international splinter group of Trotskyism, known as the Trotskyite League of Canada raises the slogan “China, Get Out of Vietnam Now!” and goes so far as to put forward the demand “Soviet Union: Honor Your Treaty With Vietnam!”. (Workers Vanguard, March 2, 1979, p. 1) Not only are they supporting Russia, they are allying with the most reactionary sections of the Russian bourgeoisie and military leadership who want a war with China now, started on the pretext of the treaty with Vietnam. These Trotskyites make the amazing confession “Only the Trotskyites will truly defend the Soviet Union against imperialism.” (Ibid., p. 2) They did everything they could to aid imperialism in its attack on the Soviet Union when it was socialist under Lenin and Stalin, going as far as working for Nazi Germany. Now that Russia is imperialist, the Trotskyites are the greatest defenders of the Soviet Union! As Stalin was fond of saying “Clear, one would think”!

The Trotskyites, however, who not the only forces in Canada taking up the very slogans of Russian imperialism. “Hands off Vietnam” and “Get Out of Vietnam.” What are the meaning of these slogans? They serve the purpose of covering Russian imperialism in South East Asia. They serve to create the impression that it is only China and the US that are laying their hands on Vietnam. They cover the inter-imperialist nature of the war and attempt to justify Vietnam’s actions to become the bulwark of Russian imperialism in South East Asia.

Lenin said “slogans must be advanced in order to make clear to the masses by means of propaganda and agitation, the irreconcilable differences between socialism and capitalism (imperialism); they must not be advanced in order to reconcile two hostile classes and two hostile political lines by means of a little word which ’unites’ the most divergent things”. (The Peace Question, July-August 1915) This is exactly what the two Russian revisionist slogans do, particularly in their use by those who claim to oppose the Soviet Union. Their use of these slogans in an attempt to reconcile Marxist-Leninists with the imperialist aims of Russia, to reconcile the people of Vietnam with their reactionary sold out leaders, and to reconcile Marxism-Leninism with modern revisionism. The modern centrist position is identical to the centrist positions in World War I that called for “revolutionary defencism.” They claimed to oppose the imperialist war but they just justified the presence of this of that country in the war.

As Lenin said:

The mass representatives of defencism still do not know that wars are waged by governments, that governments represent interests of certain classes, that the present war, on the part of both belligerent groups, is waged by the capitalists in the predatory interests of and for predatory aims of the capitalists. (“Honest Defencism Reveals Itself,” LCW 24:205)

This is exactly what our modern defencists, the centrists, do not know. They constantly appeal to the struggle of the people of Vietnam and ignore the role of the government of Vietnam and the class it represents. They ignore that this government and this class is waging this on behalf of Russian imperialism and that this government and this class are “the bulwark of socialism in South East Asia.” The centrists take the same view of the situation as the Vietnamese government. They even quote the Vietnamese government’s statements, but of course they conveniently leave out statements like the following made by the Vietnamese government.

By attacking Vietnam, the Chinese rulers oppose the whole socialist system The people and Government of Vietnam urgently call on the Soviet Union, the fraternal socialist countries, the countries that have won national independence, the countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, the communist and worker’s parties and the progressive people throughout the world to enhance their solidarity with Vietnam and to demand that the Peking rulers put an immediate end to their aggressive war and withdraw all their troops from Vietnam. (Granma, February 19, 1979, p. 1)

And from Le Duan:

The Soviet people have always stood firmly by the side of the people of Vietnam. They are our close friends, who have shared all our difficulties, our sorrows and our joys This attitude was clearly reflected in the resolutions of the 23rd and 24th Congresses of the CPSU on the Vietnam question, which were embodied in the noble deeds of millions and millions of Soviet people, who have shown proletarian internationalism, friendship and love to their class brothers. The enormous, effective and varied assistance of the Soviet Union has been a source of powerful inspiration for the Vietnamese people, and helped to mobilize the international movement for greater assistance to Vietnam. (International Affairs, no. 9, 1978, p. 29)

There can be no doubt where the government of Vietnam and the class that leads it stands when we consider the following statement from them.

China holds that the socialist system no longer exists. It puts forward a ’three-world theory’ and stands for an alliance with U.S.A. and other reactionary forces to oppose the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, China opposes socialism, opposes the national liberation movement, and opposes the struggles for peace and progress. It styles itself a Third World country in order to manipulate Asian, African and Latin American countries and realize its ambitions.

For our part, we Vietnamese continue to hold that the world now comprises two systems – socialism and capitalism. The Soviet Union has blazed the trail for socialism, has succeeded in building socialism,.and is laying the material basis for communism along the path charted by Marx and Lenin. The three revolutionary currents – the forces of socialism, the national liberation movement and the struggle of the working class in capitalist countries – are eroding imperialism, colonialism, old and new, and racism. (Kampuchea Dossier II, Hanoi, 1978, p. 137)

This statement not only reveals that Vietnam fully perceives itself an active part of the Russian imperialist bloc it also shows that opposition to the theory of “three worlds” is no guarantee of Marxist-Leninist purity. The Russian, Vietnamese, Cuban etc. modern revisionists oppose China’s alliance with US imperialism and this is what they have in common with the centrist conciliators. The centrists are full of brave words opposing Soviet social-imperialism in general but they conciliate with it because they support the activities of Russian imperialism in the world that are against US imperialism. Particularly those activities where Russia is subverting national liberation struggles. Some centrists and Trotskyites condemn the Government of Vietnam but they support the struggle of the “people” against Chinese aggression. But it is the government of Vietnam and the bourgeois class that leads it that are waging the war with its army that is trained and equipped by the Soviet Union.

It is not just that slogans that objectively they cover the role of Russian imperialism, this is also done by often taking up the very same political line. The case of the situation in South East Asia brings this out more clearly than any other yet.

The historical analogy used by Bains to compare China’s invasion of Vietnam is Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Bains referring to the “justifications” given by China for its invasion says: “This is the method and logic of Hitler, who sought to ’justify’ the barbarous actions of the nazi aggressors by claiming that their invasion of Czechoslovakia was because the Sudeten Germans were being ill treated, or that the invasion of Poland was because of alleged sabotage activities of Poles on German territory.” (PCDN, March 1, 1979, p. 2)

“Echoing the words of Hitler.. . Teng Hsiao-ping issued a statement“ (PCDN, February 20, 1979. p. 1)

“By launching this punitive raid, the Chinese social-imperialists put themselves in the ranks of the German nazis and Italian fascists... .The fascist crimes of the imperialists and social imperialists serve to heighten the vigilance of the people” (PCDN. February 21, 1979)

“The Chinese social-imperialists are continuing their fascist aggression against Vietnam.” (PCDN. March 2, 1979, p. 1)

This comparison to Hitler and accusations of fascism did not begin with Bains on February 19. Before Bains made the comparison, the “Communist Party of Cuba” said: “This alarming and serious event in military and propaganda terms strongly resembles the attack launched by Hitlerite Germany against Poland 40 years ago to start World War II that cost humanity 50 million lives and huge material damage As Fidel said at the ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution this January 1, ’The West is now trying to repeat with China, Hitler Germany’s sinister adventure against the Soviet Union’.” (Granma, February 19, 1979, p. 1)

The invasion of Vietnam by China could be compared with any number of similar actions in this century perpetrated by imperialists. Why this special emphasis on comparing it to Hitler if not to try to justify some kind of united front against “fascism.” that is against China. This is exactly the line used by the Chinese revisionist in regard to Russia. They maintain the Soviet Union is a fascist dictatorship of the “Hitler type” and that the activities of the western countries vis-a-vis Russia is the same as the appeasement policy towards Hitler that helped prepare World War II.

It is historically absurd to equate the activities of Russia or China with those of Nazi Germany, their activities are those pursued by all imperialists and no one has done a scientific analysis that proves the fascist nature of either country, let alone that they pose the same danger as nazi Germany. No, the purpose of this comparison is to turn people away from a Leninist analysis of the present world situation and try to justify alliance with imperialism and class collaboration by pretending your opponent is as bad or worse than Hitler. The Chinese revisionists have used this to get people to ally with the US imperialist bloc against Russian imperialist bloc. Now the Khrushchevite revisionists are trying to get people to ally with the “socialist camp” against the China-US alliance. It is not surprising to see that those allied openly with social-imperialism would resort to such flimsy “theoretical” arguments to justify imperialism. But why is it that the likes of Bains who claims to oppose both US imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism is taking up the same revisionist analysis? What are the revisionists trying to prepare by emphasizing this analysis along with their emphasis on the racist nature of Chinese imperialism (What makes it more racist than other imperialisms we are not told)? The only purpose can be to attempt to justify some sort of alliance with Soviet social-imperialism on the grounds that the alliance between the US and “fascist” and “racist” China is more of a danger to the peoples of the world than Soviet social-imperialism. Although it is obvious why the centrists would not want to openly state this at the present time, it is not by words that we judge proletarian internationalism but by deeds.

We are not impressed with centrists like Bains in their denunciations of Soviet social-imperialism when in practice they support the activities of Russian imperialism. The Chinese revisionists always said they opposed the two “superpowers” but in reality they only condemned the activities of Russia in Vietnam, Cuba, Angola, Ethiopia, etc. On the other hand they were silent as a tomb about the US in Chile, Brazil, Egypt, etc. So, yes, centrists like Bains say that both the US and the USSR are equally dangerous and they reject the theory of “three worlds” because it leads to capitulation to US imperialism, but, in practice, they only condemn the activities of US imperialism and are silent on many of the activities of Russian imperialism. Why do they condemn US involvement in Zaire and its use of the French foreign Legion and Belgium paratroopers but yet they have nothing to say about Cuba’s “foreign Legion” in Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen and elsewhere? Why do they not condemn Cuba’s activity as shock troops for the advance of Russian imperialism in the world? These brave centrists are the first to denounce imperialism, social-imperialism and all reaction, but why is it that they have nothing to say in condemnation of the reactionary regimes in Vietnam, Cuba, Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen, etc., etc. Is it because these regimes are allied with Russian imperialism and are opposed to the US-China alliance – does this somehow make them less reactionary?

Although this silence can be confusing, how can confusion remain when we see the Trotskyites and other revisionists marching in such unity on the question of the war in Vietnam. But not only is there silence which objectively conciliates with Russia’s predatory activities, there is of support Russia’s expansionist activities. This can be seen most clearly in relationship to Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia.

Bains says: “The invasion of Vietnam by the Chinese aggressors and the toppling of the FASCIST Pol Pot regime in Cambodia are two separate events, and the Chinese social imperialists, the U.S. imperialists and the reactionary bourgeoisie in Canada and other countries are seeking to put them on a par for their own sinister purposes.” (PCDN, March 1, 1979, p. 2)

By all means we wouldn’t want to put US imperialism and Russian imperialism on a “par” in practice, let’s keep it to words only, please! Bains takes the line that it was the people who toppled the Pol Pot regime conveniently ignores that it was 150,000 Vietnamese troops armed with Russian weapons that invaded Cambodia shortly after a treaty was signed with Russia to make Vietnam “the bulwark of socialism in South East Asia.” Bains conveniently ignores how the Vietnamese set up a puppet regime that is having difficulty surviving even with those 150,000 Vietnamese troops, including the best divisions from the war against the US. Indeed for Bains Soviet social-imperialism and US imperialism are “separate” matters. This is why Bains has the same analysis as Russia on this matter. In the SovietUnipn’s statement on China’s invasion of Vietnam it states “the Chinese governing clique cannot accept the fact that the people of Kampuchea overthrew the murderer Pol Pot’s bloody regime and reestablished ties of friendship with neighboring Vietnam.” (Tass, February 18, 1979 in Granma, February 19, p. 1)

And in the very same language as Bains, Kashtan, head of the “CPC” and mouthpiece of Russia in Canada, says: “Those who mix up TWO SEPARATE EVENTS do so purposely. In Kampuchea a civil war took place led by the United Front for National Salvation. It overthrew the Pol Pot regime and established a new government.... The systematic effort to counterpose an act of liberation is not accidental. This is a way of justifying Chinese aggression. ...” (Canadian Tribune, March 5, 1979)

The Soviet revisionists always try to paint things as if there is no choice; either you support “socialist,” i.e. imperialist Russia, or you are supporting US imperialism and Chinese imperialism. The centrists for their part insist that you have to oppose both “superpowers” but when the chips are down they are peddling the same line as the Soviet revisionists and apologizing for the advances of Russian imperialism, all the while condemning Soviet social-imperialism in general. Bains even attacks the government of Vietnam but he also says about Russia’s role in South East Asia:

Their opposition to the Chinese social-imperialist invasion of Vietnam is only because they WANT to see Vietnam subjected beneath the jackboot of Soviet social-imperialism. Genuine opposition to imperialism is opposition to all imperialism from the side of the people: not opposition to one imperialism from the side of another. (PCDN. February 24. 1979. p. 2)

Fine words from Bains but they only serve to cover up the fact that Russia doesn”t merely “want” to subject Vietnam, it already has. Vietnam is already “subjected beneath the jackboot of Soviet social-imperialism” and so are Laos and Cambodia. Despite all your demagogy the facts prove once again that you are in “opposition to one imperialism from the side of another.”

The centrists, separating the invasion of Cambodia from the invasion of Vietnam, are playing the same game Kautsky did in World War I.

But in order to pacify the workers and reconcile them with the social-chauvinists who have deserted to the side of the bourgeoisie, over-wise Kautsky separates one link of a single chain from another. Instead of showing the living connection between periods of imperialist peace and periods of imperialist war, Kautsky presents the workers with a lifeless abstraction in order to reconcile them to their lifeless leaders. (“Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.” LCW 22:295)


What course this war will take in South East Asia is not clear. China claims that it was a limited operation and they have withdrawn or at least withdrawn to only annex that Vietnamese territory which they consider “rightfully” theirs. On the other hand the Vietnamese say they only want the Chinese to withdraw but as they are withdrawing the Vietnamese have moved thousands of troops north. They are being flown and moved by ship by the Russian military. They are even taking top divisions out of Cambodia, where the situation is far for stable, and replacing them with new recruits. These would appear to be preparations for a continuation and escalation of the war. Russia many want the war to continue and grow in order to force China to withdraw troops and material from the Russian-Chinese border. As Lenin says “For the philistine the important thing is where the armies stand, who is winning at the moment. For the Marxist the important thing is what issues are at stake in this war, during which first one, then the other army may be on top.” (“A Caricature of Marxism,” LCW 23:33)

The issues that led up to this war are the desire of two different imperialist blocs to control South East Asia as a sphere of influence. It is not to the benefit of the proletariat or the poor peasantry in any of the countries involved that any side “win” in this war. The proletariat and the poor peasantry in all of these countries should turn this imperialist war into a war against imperialism, a war against Russian imperialism, Chinese imperialism, US imperialism and against all the reactionary governments that are in the service of the imperialists. The people of South East Asia should overthrow the reactionary regimes in Vietnam. Laos. Cambodia (both puppet regimes), Thailand, etc. In China the war should be turned into a civil war to overthrow the bourgeoisie.

The Chinese revisionists scream that if you don’t support them you are allying with Russian imperialism. The Khrushchevite revisionists yell that if you don’t support their activities in Vietnam you are allying with China and US imperialism. Others cover up the role of Russian imperialism and simply preach support for “defense of the Vietnamese fatherland” but as Lenin said “to embellish imperialist war by applying to it the concept of ’defense of the fatherland,’ i.e. by presenting it as a democratic war, is to deceive the workers and side with the reactionary bourgeoisie.” (“A Caricature of Marxism.” LCW 23:35)

There is only one way to deal with this war and the impending world war to which it is leading and this is on the basis of Leninism.

And the millions who are pondering over the causes of the recent war and of the approaching future war are more and more clearly realizing the grim and inexorable truth that it is impossible to escape imperialist war and the imperialist world... which inevitably engenders imperialist war, it is impossible to escape that inferno, except by a Bolshevik struggle and a Bolshevik revolution. (The Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution, October 14, 1921)