First Published: in Struggle! No. 142, January 30, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Despite Vietnam’s official declarations (which are laced with ambiguity in any case), it is clear that Vietnamese troops invaded Kampuchea on January 7 with the express purpose of overthrowing the Pd Pot regime and replacing it with KNUFNS, the Kampuchean National United Front for National Salvation. KNUFNS, created a more one month before the invasion, has already indicated its intention of maintaining a close relationship with neighbouring Laos... and Vietnam.
A short four years ago, people around the world were rejoicing at the victory of the peoples of Indochina over the forces of U.S. Imperialism. Today, many people around the world are confused and upset about events in Southeast Asia. Vietnam’s declared objectives, which come in the form of half-denials and half-confessions, are completely unconvincing... except for the USSR and its mouth pieces around the world. So far, only imperialist countries (and the USSR falls squarely into that category) have toppled governments in other countries on pretexts like solving border disputes and re-instituting democracy.
The Vietnamese should be the last people to use this argument. They have surely not forgotten all the lies and twisted propaganda about the “Viet Cong”, spread by U.S. Imperialism during the liberation war.
The people of Indochina, which includes Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos, have a lot in common. In the late nineteenth-century, they were all ruled by the same colonial power as part of an “Overseas French Territory”. Indochina was one colony divided into provinces. In this century, in the 1960’s and 1970’s, those peoples fought U.S. imperialism side by side.
During the colonial period, many of the territorial “divisions were decided upon arbitrarily, and today’s border problems between Vietnam and Kampuchea are to a large extent due to those colonial divisions.
Despite the common late of the different peoples of this region over the last decades, Indochinese communists long ago recognized the national realities of the region. In 1951, the Communist Party of Indochina was dissolved and three autonomous national organizations or parties were formed. Since then, Indochinese communists have periodically acknowledged the inviolable nature of the borders of the three countries. The Vietnamese, most notably, have made repeated statements, before and after 1975, to the effect that they recognized unreservedly the sovereignty of Kampuchea and Laos, and had abandoned all thought of setting up an “Indochinese federation” of the three, countries, something it had proposed In the past. In short these positions reflected a correct application of the right of nations to sell-determination.
But the Vietnamese have violated this principle. In Laos and their recent activities in Kampuchea under the cover of the KNUFNS are in total contradiction with the right of nations to decide on their own future, the very principle at the basis of the support expressed by people around the world for the struggle of the Vietnamese against their French and American oppressors.
It is common knowledge that inter-imperialist rivalries have grown steadily sharper in Southeast Asia, particularly in recent years. The stinging defeat suffered by the United States in Indochina left an “open field” that the USSR was quick to move in and fill. Historically, it has had close and longstanding ties with the Vietnamese party, and it supported Vietnam in its struggle against the United States. Now, Vietnam clearly seems to be emerging as the spearhead of the USSR’s drive for hegemony in the region.
One cannot rely on one imperialist power to fight another. The truth of this principle is borne out remarkably well by current events in Indochina. They illustrate the bankruptcy and erroneous nature of the political line that reduces the struggle against imperialism to the struggle against the “more aggressive”, and therefore supposedly “more dangerous”, imperialist country. For although Vietnam can today be criticized for allowing itself to be drawn into the orbit of Soviet social imperialism, it should be remembered that in the 1950’s and 1960’s, some people thought that any and all alliances were justified in fighting against U.S. imperialism, which was then thought to be the “more aggressive” and therefore the “more dangerous” superpower.
Mister Deng ’s revisionist China, and “three worldists” around the globe, are raising quite an outcry over Vietnam’s “regional hegemonism ” and the USSR’s “world hegemonism”. But this should not blind us to their opportunist alliance with the United States, Japan and Western Europe, which shows up clearly the rotten politics that lie behind their apparent support for the Khmer people and their demagogy about the supposedly growing unity between “second” and “third” world countries against the “first” world. This rather peculiar “first” world is in theory the main enemy of all the peoples of the world; but in practice, the “three worldists” have allied with the United States, which represents hall of this terrible “first” world.
It is obvious that the ’three worldists” are not part of the camp of the revolution fighting against the imperialist camp (which at the moment includes two main blocs); they are in the, imperialist camp, on the side of the U.S. bloc against the Soviet bloc. That is something totally foreign to proletarian Internationalism. It is, however, intimately related to China’s declared goal of becoming a great powere before the end of the century. It is also intimately related to the opportunist political line put forward by the petty bourgeois and the corrupted layers of the labour aristocracy that constantly try to make sure that the fight against imperialism continues to be waged outside their own country. This lets them talk revolution and...collaborate with their bourgeoisie, because it is neither the “most dangerous” nor the “most aggressive”, and because it “helps” the third world to free itself.
The Chinese revisionists are twenty years too late. The recent history of the USSR has shown that the most fervent defenders of peace and detente are those who need a respite (like maybe 20 years?) to acquire the economic and military force necessary to back up their aspirations to hegemony.
The overthrow of the Pot Pot regime by Vietnamese armed forces occurs in a context of extreme imperialist rivalry. The United States, the USSR. Japan, western countries and revisionist China, the new “partner of the great powers”, all have interests at stake In the conflict. But this in no way justifies the overthrow. It is much more than a simple retaliatory border raid or a minor skirmish to put pressure on another country, it is the most extreme, and the most detestable, form of interference in the affairs of a sovereign foreign country.
The Vietnamese comrades taught us how to put proletarian internationalism into practice, how to support the struggles of oppressed peoples. To be consistent with the very lessons that they taught us in the heat of their heroic struggle against U.S. imperialism, we must now condemn their act of aggression against the people of Kampuchea and criticize their growing collaboration with Soviet social imperialism.
There can be little hope of an early peace in Indochina. There are too many powerfull and determined vultures vying for control of the region. The peoples of Indochina should have no illusions about the so-called “aid” that various powers regularly promise and sometimes even give. Whether it comes from the USSR, the USA, Japan or China, such “aid” is simply an “investment”, and as such is designed to make profits. Indeed, genuine peace is impossible until imperialism is banished from the face of the earth, including the “small” imperialist powers; for the latter must, by their very nature, either grow or disappear.
Peace and victory for the peoples of the world can only be achieved in one way: by stepping up the struggle against imperialism and all its agents in various countries until they are eliminated. It is our firm belief that the people of Indochina will resume the struggle for total freedom, relying mainly on their own forces and the support of other peoples and rejecting any collaboration with imperialists, Soviet social imperialism or revisionist China’s emerging hegemonism.