Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)

Why Vietnam and the USSR invaded Democratic Kampuchea

First Published:October No 6, Spring 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

In December 1978 a League delegation visited Democratic Kampuchea, just a few days before the Vietnamese invasion. In these two articles a member of the delegation answers questions many people are asking about Soviet interests in this part of the world and about the changes that have led to Vietnam’s becoming an aggressor.

* * *

The military aggression against Democratic Kampuchea early this January and its occupation by more than ten heavily Soviet-equipped Vietnamese divisions shocked the whole world.

Many people were stunned to see Vietnam attempting to forcibly annex a neighbouring people who were previously their comrades-in-arms.

But we see today that after the American war of destruction, instead of devoting its energies to the reconstruction of the country for the welfare of its people, Vietnam consolidated and developed its military forces in order to extend its control over neighbouring countries. Vietnam is practising regional hegemonism, that is, using all means, including military occupation, outright colonization and systematic pillage, to become the master of Southeast Asia.

Vietnam’s ambitions fit right in with Soviet plans for world domination. Vietnam needs Soviet military help to wage its wars of aggression. And through this help, the Soviet Union is consolidating its hold over Vietnam and is turning it into another Cuba. However strong an imperialist power may be, it cannot hope to control the whole world completely on its own. It needs to establish faithful allies, who, like Vietnam today, are themselves ambitious and aggressive, to do its job in certain regions of the world.

History had already given us examples of this. Before and during World War II, fascist Germany allied with Italy and Japan. While Japan was attacking Asia (notably China) and Italy was invading Ethiopia in Africa, Germany was preparing its massive attack on Europe.

Today Vietnam is pursuing its own intentions of dominating the region, and at the same time it is rendering a most valuable service to Soviet ambitions of world domination.

The Soviet-Vietnamese attack on Kampuchea marked an unprecedented acceleration in the USSR’s war preparations.

The Soviet Union had already, over the past year, run up a record of attacks against third-world countries: assassination of a chief of state (in North Yemen), two coups d’etat at its bidding (Afghanistan and South Yemen) and aggression using foreign mercenaries (Zaire). It began this year, 1979, by supplying Vietnamese troops with Migs, heavy artillery and its military advisors to help them occupy a small, independent socialist country in an attempt to crush and destroy it.

This attack roused the indignation of all the world’s peoples and laid bare as never before the aggressive character and hegemonic ambitions of the Soviet Union. Social-imperialism stands out more clearly than ever as the main source of war today.

Today the Kampuchean people have taken up arms once again. These people waged a century-long fight to defeat the French colonialists; they waged a five-year people’s war against the US in one of the cruelest wars of aggression ever launched by American imperialism, bringing it to resounding defeat on April 17, 1975, and liberating the whole country.

During the subsequent three years, the Kampuchean people, led by their Communist Party, rebuilt their country, their socialist homeland, on the smoking ruins of war.

The Kampuchean people, who were on the front lines in the fight against American imperialism, in the vanguard of the revolutionary struggle, are on the front lines again today, fighting the most aggressive superpower, the USSR.

The people’s war in Kampuchea is bitter – for the occupiers there is never a moment’s respite. The Kampuchean army has been tempered in years of combat against the powerful American military arsenal. The Kampuchean Party is strong, deeply rooted among the people, and the people are united and determined to win back their freedom. Hardly one month after the Soviet-Vietnamese aggression, word has spread that the Kampuchean people are fighting without let-up in regions like Angkor and Takeo, that they have encircled the city of Phnom Penh and the port of Kompong Som, and that roads, bridges and the invader’s supply lines have been cut. Vietnam itself has admitted that it has been obliged to send nearly 50,000 reinforcements to maintain its occupation!

The fierce resistance of the Kampuchean people to Vietnamese and Soviet schemes to dominate their country defends not only Kampuchea’s liberty and independence but that of the world’s peoples as well. As Pol Pot said to us at our December 29 meeting, “The defence of our country will contribute to the defence of sovereignty, peace and stability in Southeast Asia and the whole world. We must all devote greater efforts to blocking the Soviet Union’s expansionist plans.”

The battle going on here is one of the most important conflicts taking place in the world at this time. Why, many people ask? How is this attack on Kampuchea related to Soviet plans for world domination? Why do we say this represents an acceleration of Soviet war preparations? What is Vietnam’s interest in all of this – why has Vietnam, once an ally of Kampuchea, today turned against it and invaded?


Southeast Asia is a region of great international strategic importance. Not for nothing did the US imperialists spend years doing their utmost to maintain their control there, dumping more bombs on this region than had been dropped throughout the whole of WWII. Today, since its defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese, Kampuchean and Laotian peoples, US imperialism is strengthening its hold on the Philippines and doing everything to hang on to its Clark and Subic military bases there. (Clark is the largest American air base in Asia) The US has considerable economic interests in countries in the region and maintains numerous links with them. It played an important role in the 1976 coup d’etat which set up a reactionary regime in Thailand.

The US is still the largest foreign military force in Southeast Asia. The American 7th Fleet is stationed in the Pacific and constantly patrols its waters. American imperialism stands ready to deploy its warships to maintain its hold on the region and counter Soviet advances. Only a few months ago it ordered the 80,000-ton aircraft carrier ”Constellation” into the Gulf of Aden.

A glance at Southeast Asian history will show us that Soviet social-imperialism and American imperialism are not the first powers to want to establish control over this strategic zone. France colonized what it called Indochina in the years between 1860 and 1954. Great Britain colonized Birma and Malaya. During WWII fascist Japan, Germany’s ally, attacked this region and imposed its control in a coup d’etat on March 9, 1945.

So the greatest powers in each period, first Great Britain and France, then Japan, the US and the Soviet Union, have successively battled for this part of the world. Why?


Look at a map of the world: Southeast Asia is located at the junction of the Indian and Pacific oceans; many important maritime shipping routes pass this point. For example, 90% of the oil supplies going from the Middle East to Japan pass through the Straits of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia.

This gateway from one ocean to another is clearly of crucial importance. Japan, the greatest industrial power in Asia, is totally dependent on imports for her oil supplies. Threaten this supply and the country is caught in a stranglehold.

Military bases in this area give the USSR the possibility of controlling, and therefore cutting, these vital routes. This also means having a base for launching operations against Asia by way of the Pacific Ocean, against Africa via the Indian Ocean, and against the south towards Australia. By setting itself up in Vietnam, and taking over Cam Ranh Bay, a former American base, the USSR is completing antoher stage in controlling the seas of Southeast Asia. This will link up bases on Japan’s northern islands with those in South Yemen and Ethiopia.


The USSR’s control of Vietnam and its attack on Kampuchea are both in pursuit of another end as well: the encirclement of China. Socialist China is one of the major obstacles to the USSR’s hegemonist ambitions. For years now China has untiringly denounced Soviet imperialist designs and exposed the war plans behind Brezhnev’s fancy peace and detente speeches. China is playing an extremely important role by heightening the vigilance and the struggle of many peoples against social-imperialism.

The USSR wants to shut China up at any cost; it wants to prevent it from developing its economy and its defensive capacity, and will use any means to do this. Recently, Brezhnev arrogantly sent out warnings to countries like France and Great Britain in an attempt to prevent them from selling military equipment to China.

In May 1978, Soviet troops provoked incidents on China’s northeastern border. The USSR keeps over 400,000 soldiers permanently stationed on its border with China.

The Soviet coup d’ etat in Afghanistan on April 27, 1978 meant the installation of one more threat to China’s borders, this time from the west.

Vietnam’s attacks on China’s southern borders were one more part of this encirclement. For months Vietnamese troops instigated incident after incident, penetrating into Chinese territory to burn buildings, shoot at border guards, peasants and fishermen, and lay mines. Several hundred people were killed and many more wounded. At the same time the USSR was massing even more troops in the north and east and dispatching its war-ships to the Kuril Islands (north of Japan).

This is the setting in which, in mid-February, China launched a counterattack against Vietnam. China’s vigorous response lasted three weeks and delivered a profound lesson to Vietnam. It showed that socialist China will not permit attacks on it to go unanswered. As the Chinese say, “We will never attack unless we are attacked. But if we are attacked, we will certainly counterattack.”

China’s counterattack has also contributed to weakening Vietnam’s war machine, thus also helping the Kampuchean people’s fight. And it has shown the whole world that it is possible to stand up to the USSR and to frustrate its plans for domination. The fact is that Brezhnev, despite his sabre-rattling and troop movements, did not dare to move against China.

The USSR is arming Vietnam to the teeth and orchestrating its fascist occupation of Democratic Kampuchea because this is part of its global strategy. It is in the process of setting up bases throughout the world, especially in key strategic zones, so as to control oceans, straits, and oil routes. And it is attempting to weaken China by any means possible. This is all part of the USSR’s preparations to set off a new world war in which it hopes to oust the American superpower and establish its own domination over the world, primarily and particularly over Europe.


Europe in fact is still the focal point in the rivalry between the two superpowers and the main target of Soviet ambitions. But the USSR does not yet feel ready to sustain an invasion and prolonged occupation of Europe, as it would have to confront the main force of the American army in Europe. So today it is preparing for this confrontation by stirring up trouble in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It hopes to be able to cut the raw materials supply routes and communication links of the West European countries at the vital moment so as to strangle and weaken them before seizing them.


There is another important reason for the USSR to attack Southeast Asia. This region has become a weak link for imperialism, not only because American imperialism has suffered great defeats here, but also because authentic Marxist-Leninist forces here are very strongly developed.

In Thailand the Communist Party has more than 37 years of fighting experience and has grown much stronger since 1975, in particular since the 1976 coup. The People’s Liberation Army of Thailand has numerous liberated bases in the north, northeastern and southern regions of the country. The Thai Party maintains strong fraternal ties with the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Vietnam has clearly revealed its intentions to oppose authentic Marxist-Leninist forces like the Communist Party of Thailand: Pham Van Dong on a visit to Thailand in November openly declared withdrawal of support to the CPT.

The Burmese Communist Party also represents a significant force. Fighting shoulder-to-shoulder alongside the oppressed nationalities like the Shans and the Karens, it has already liberated a broad strip of territory bordering China, Laos and Thailand and extending as far as the southern areas of the country.

These parties maintain very close relations and give mutual support to each other’s struggles. They all take strong principled stands against modern revisionism and hegemonism. The Malayan Communist Party, in a declaration of its Central Committee on the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the national liberation war on June 15, 1978, stated, “The struggle against imperialism, colonialism and hegemonism with the Third World people as its main force is surging ahead, dealing a telling blow to imperialism, social-imperialism and their lackeys.” (Quoted in Malcom Caldwell, “China and Southeast Asia”, in Broadsheet, Vol. 15, No. 11, p. 2)

In the Philippines the New People’s Army, led by the Communist Party, is battling the Marcos regime without let-up. It is operating in all of the country’s 41 provinces and controls several guerilla zones. In the January 15 issue of the CPP’s central organ, Ang Bayan, the Party stated: “Vietnam has violated Kampuchea’s sovereignty, and it has done so in the interests of the Soviet Union.” In Indonesia the Communist Party, founded in 1920, has given its staunch support to the Kampuchean people: in April, 1978 it published a special issue of Indonesian People’s Voice entitled “Long life and victory to heroic Kampuchea.” Similarly, the North Kalimantan (the northern part of the island of Borneo, presently part of Malaysia) Communist Party and Fretilin in the Domocratic Republic of East Timor stand firmly with the PCK.

The USSR is deathly afraid of these authentic revolutionary forces, which are fighting for the liberation of their people and will not tolerate Soviet domination. This is why it has set about establishing its military control in the region.


To get where it’s going the USSR needs support. All over the world it tries to avoid intervening too directly. It prefers infiltrating political movements, establishing control over some countries, and then going on to extend its domination over a whole region. This is what is is doing in Africa, trying to infiltrate liberation movements and making use of Cuban soldiers to intervene. In similar fashion in Southeast Asia, the USSR began by establishing its control over Vietnam; today it is through Vietnam that the USSR is extending its grip to other countries. This is the same sort of plan as that developed by American imperialism, which several years ago attempted to “Vietnamize” [1] the war and have Asians fighting Asians.

The USSR had previously tried on its own to strengthen its influence in this area, but it never got anywhere. For example, for a long time it touted its Southeast Asian “collective security system.” Presenting itself as friend and protector, it hoped to bind the different countries in the region with a system of treaties. At the same time it attempted by every means to extend its economic infiltration. However, none of this got any results.

The USSR tried everything in Kampuchea as well: in 1964, four years after the creation of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, it tried to create a revisionist party in its pay; the attempt failed. And for a long time it laid its money on Lon Nol, the fascist who came to power in a CIA coup d’etat – the Soviet Union backed him right up to the last minute.

Today, with Vietnam as their faithful sidekick, the Soviets are hoping they’ve got a real trump card. Today they’re betting on the great international prestige the Vietnamese people have earned through their heroic war and great victory over American imperialism. They’re hoping that the peoples and countries of the region, and throughout the world, will find it impossible to believe that the Vietnamese leaders have betrayed their people and turned their country into an aggressor.

Use Vietnam to infiltrate ASEAN

We can look at ASEAN, for example (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, made up of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore), where the USSR has done a complete tactical about-face, trying in late 1978 to use Vietnam to wiggle its way in.

Up until early 1978 the USSR called ASEAN a “disguised military organization in the service of the US.” Then, around August of 1978 it began to “express its support” for ASEAN, and to suggest that it invite Vietnam to join its ranks.

Vietnam, for its part, proposed that the ASEAN nations join it in order to set up a “zone of peace, genuine independence and neutrality.” But the ASEAN countries didn’t get taken in by this new “smiling diplomacy.” They had stated in their own press several months earlier that, “The Soviet Union is pursuing an Asian policy which is in no way different from its policy in Africa.” “If Soviet expansion is not halted, the world will face a serious danger.” Presented with this new Vietnamese proposal, foreign affairs ministers of the five Southeast Asian member countries declared that it was “similar to that made ten years ago – and periodically put forward – by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in favour of an Asia and Southeast Asia collective security pact.” (Peking Review, No. 31, Aug. 4, 1978, p. 16)

And to dominate Laos and Kampuchea

In the case of Laos, however, the Vietnamese strategy appears to have succeeded for the moment. Larding its actions with fine phrases full of “eternal friendship and solidarity,” “special and exemplary relations,” “solid fraternal ties,” and so on and so on, Vietnam has in fact succeeded in establishing tight control over Laos. There are now 50,000 Vietnamese soldiers permanently stationed on Laotian territory in a land of only three million people. A steady influx of Vietnamese civilians to Laos threatens the country literally with colonization. On February 11, 1976 Vietnam signed a series of economic, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation agreements with Laos. On July 18, 1977, Pham Van Dong, Prime Minister of Vietnam, and Phomvihane, Prime Minister of Laos, signed a “friendship and cooperation” treaty between the two countries. This was accompanied by a treaty defining mutual borders which, for all practical purposes, are abolished. In Vietnam’s terms, the treaty, “affirms the wish of the two countries to transform the Vietnam-Laos border into a frontier of lasting, fraternal friendship,” in other words, allowing Vietnam to treat Laos as part of its own territory.

This strategy, talking endlessly about friendship in order to become, in fact, ruler, is one that Vietnam tried on Kampuchea for a long time. But the Kampuchean people and the Communist Party have always been vigilant, judging Vietnam’s intentions by its deeds, and not by its words. This is why, when all other means had failed, in January of this year Vietnam militarily invaded and occuped Kampuchea as the only way to lay hold of the country.


But why is it that Vietnam’s designs fit in so neatly with those of the USSR? Why is it so ready to lend its assistance to the USSR to help it extend its reach into this region? The reason is that the Vietnamese leaders themselves harbour the ambition of becoming masters of this part of the world. More particularly, they have decided that their huge population of 50 million gives them the right to dominate neighbouring nations and to take over the land and resources of Laos, with its three million people, and of Kampuchea with its eight million.

But to do this, they need Soviet help. Vietnam has neither the economic nor the military strength all on its own to launch an aggression or occupation of this scale on its neighbours. It needs “aid” – Migs, tanks and Soviet military advisors – to carry out this sort of operation. All of which suits the USSR very nicely.

How did Vietnam get to this point? People around the world would like to know. They have seen Vietnam fighting American aggression, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Laotian and Kampuchean peoples. They have known Vietnam as a socialist country which liberated and reunified its entire territory by force of arms. And today they see it throwing itself into the arms of the USSR and sending its own armies against its neighbours and former comrades-in-arms.

In order to understand this situation it is necessary to look at the important changes in the internal and foreign policies of the present Vietnamese leaders, particularly over the last year, and also the roots of these changes which are to be found in the history of the Communist Party of Vietnam.


For months now, the whole world has been witness to a massive exodus from Vietnam, as hundreds of thousands of people flee, using any means they can. In addition to the well-publicized 2500 refugees on the Hai Hong, there are close to 50,000 others already in Malaysia. In the month of November 1978 alone, 20,000 people fled Vietnam. Add to all this the overseas Chinese who have been victims of persecution by the Vietnamese authorities – 160,000 have fled to China.

Why are all these people leaving now, three years after the victory against the American aggressors?

How do the Vietnamese leaders answer this embarassing question? They simply say scornfully, “they’re running away.” Last December, Vo Van Sung, Vietnamese ambassador in Paris stated that these people were “too used to life under the old regime, to a life of consuming and being unproductive. They were too used to an easy life made possible by aid from abroad.” Certainly, among these opeople there are capitalists and former US-imperialist agents, but it takes some nerve to try to make people believe that all these refugees, including thousands of peasants, workers and small merchants who lived through the long years of resistance to American aggression, were nothing but profiteers used to living in luxury!

But the ambassador added, “They have fled in the face of the difficulties in their country; we could say they are economic refugees.” This is quite a confession. The fact that so many people are ready to risk death, crammed into their unsafe vessels with no sure destination, shows that many of them are fleeing starvation.

Everything into the war machine, let the people starve

Today in Vietnam, when the best conditions prevail, the food ration is 12 kg of rice per month. Even compared with other poor Asian countries, this is very low. The Vietnamese leaders try to lay the blame on the long years of war in the country. Clearly, this was an inconceivably devastating war, and it is only through tremendous effort that the people could recover from this situation. But what have the Vietnamese leaders contributed to this effort? How is it that in Kampuchea, a country as poor and as devastated by US bombing as Vietnam, the people have managed to provide themselves with a rice ration of 26 kg a month, more than double that of Vietnam?

This contrast clearly puts in question the government’s policies for reconstruction of the country. Last year’s floods provide us with another example. These floods, which hit both Vietnam and Kampuchea, were the worst in the last 70 years. The consequences for Vietnam were disastrous. Vietnam must produce 16 to 17 million tons of rice a year to be able to ration 12 kg per person per month. This year, it produced only 10 million tons. This is why it’s been begging for aid for months around the world.

But what about Kampuchea? In one region in the north almost 50,000 acres of land were flooded. The results could have been as serious. But the Communist Party of Kampuchea launched an appeal to co-operatives in regions that weren’t hit by the flooding to increase the area under cultivation in order to make up the losses. The people put all their efforts into assuring enough food for all. As a result, 70,000 more acres of land were cultivated and Kampuchea had no famine.

Clearly, the consequences of the war and of natural disasters are in no way enough to explain the misery in Vietnam. What does, however, explain the situation is all the attention and resources the Vietnamese government is putting into the development of its war machine to attack and occupy its neighbours, instead of into reconstruction of the country. In 1978 alone the Vietnamese army brought in 400,000 new recruits. Vietnam’s troops are estimated at 1.5 million at the present time – 50% more than at the end of the war against US imperialism. Instead of developing self-sufficiency to assure the survival and well-being of the people, Vietnam builds up its arms to pillage and plunder the resources of Laos and Kampuchea.

For the people, these policies mean forced enlistment in an army of aggression, over one million unemployed, and inflation which has reached 500% in three years. They also mean black markets and corruption. Commenting on his one-month visit to Vietnam, John Fraser wrote in the November 28, 1978 Globe and Mail that he had been offered 7 or 8 dong for one American dollar (official market value is 2.5 dong per dollar).

And finally, in some regions, these policies mean famine that is hard to imagine. John Pilger wrote this report of his visit to the town of Vinh in Vietnam: “People, now living under straw, are on the edge of famine. They each are rationed to just three pounds (1.5 kg – Ed.) per month: less than Bangladesh.” (Winnipeg Free Press, September 26, 1978)

Oppression of national minorities

Along with dire misery, the Vietnamese people also face oppression. The Kampuchean and Lao people are not the only ones to suffer the consequences of the chauvinism that developed and consolidated inside the Vietnamese party (see article p. 97). Every day, the national minorities in Vietnam see their rights trampled on. We know what happened to the overseas Chinese residents; their means of subsistence were taken away, their food rations cut. They were subjected to every possible form of harassment and finally expelled from the country.

The four million Kampucheans living in the southern part of Vietnam face a situation that is no better. Over the last year, hundreds have taken refuge in Kampuchea, fleeing famine, persecutions by the Vietnamese army and conscription by force.

Many reports have indicated that at various places minorities have undertaken armed struggles against the Vietnamese leadership. An example of this is the young man, member of the Monong minority who testified on the “Voice of Democratic Kampuchea” on November 17:

“My name is Nia Noi, 22 years old, Monong national minority. I have been arrested and forced by the Vietnamese troops quartered in my district of Duc Lap to go and gather intelligence in Kampuchea. I was captured by the Kampuchean guerillas in September 14, 1978 at Dak Dam, Mondulkiri province, Kampuchea.”

Describing the situation in his village, he says, “Once they arrive, these Vietnamese forcibly arrest and gather the national minorities together. (...) They loot all our paddy. They forbid us to speak our language and study the handwriting of our minorities. (...) They oppress, arrest, and slaughter us all the time.”

He called on all his compatriots: “Dear national minorities in Tay Nguyen. We have successively carried out the struggle to defend our race for many generations. At present, we still carry out the struggle against the Vietnamese party. (...) We have organized ourselves into guerrillas and we carry on this guerrilla warfare to the utmost(...) The Vietnamese party has stolen our foreign aids and stocked them in the Vietnamese army’s storehouses. Attack all these supply storehouses and seize all the food and materials. That is justice. For the peoples of the world over have given these aids to us who are victims of the floods and not to the Vietnamese party to use them for the war.”

Patriots in prison

More and more, we hear of political repression in Vietnam. It is not, as we might be led to believe, the just suppression of agents of the previous Thieu regime, of those with immense debts to the people. On the contrary, repression is raining down on patriots.

The journal Que Me and the Vietnamese branch of the “Khmer-Lao-Vietnamese Committee for the Defence of Human Rights” recently published a document, Testament of Patriotic Prisoners of Vietnam. This document reports numerous cases of imprisonment of “working people, peasants, workers, patriotic intellectuals, people who had nothing to do with the old Saigon puppet regime, who in fact had some reputation among the people for their integrity and their struggles for peace in the past.” (quoted in Humanite Rouge, No. 1039, February 27, 1979, our translation)

Here are a few examples: “Ta Nguyen Minh, 80 years old, imprisoned 16 times by the French colonialists and by various regimes from Diem to Thieu and by the present regime. He was a comrade-in-arms of Ho Chi Minh over 14 years. Signed the testimony at Le Van Duyet prison, room 9, C compound.”

“Nguyen Van Tang, Member of the VNCP for 30 years, peasant, assistant mayor of Binh Chanh District. Signed the testimony at Le Van Duyet Prison, room 5, A compound.”

“Hai Chien Thang, ex-commander of the National Liberation Front army, commander-in-chief of Saigon-Gia Dinh region. Signed at Le Van Duyet prison, room 9, Cl zone.” (op. cit., our translation)

The targets of repression in Vietnam today are not just the puppets of US imperialism. They are also authentic patriots, the ones who would most likely oppose the new Soviet master. They are also authentic Marxist-Leninists that the revisionist leadership of the Vietnamese party wants at all costs to get rid of. Cadres who had fraternal relations with the Chinese Communist Party and who defended Marxism-Leninism and the independence of Vietnam have lost their positions one after another. Le Monde Diplomatique (No. 299, February 1979) reported that following the 4th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Vietnamese ambassador to China along with three of his predecessors – including Hoang Van Hoan, a member of the political bureau, and Mr. Ly Ban, vice-minister of communications – lost their positions in the Central Committee. A similar fate also befell “three generals originating from ethnic minorities living on their Chinese border, which have just lost their status as autonomous regions.”

These changes in the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam come as no surprise when we study the evolution of Vietnamese foreign policy, and in particular, Vietnam’s links with the Soviet Union in the last few years.


The Vietnamese party never criticized Soviet revisionism. It always spoke of the USSR as a socialist country. But at the same time it refused to attack China and maintained fraternal ties with the Chinese Communist Party.

On many occasions, the Vietnamese party remarked on China’s support for its struggle and the close solidarity that existed between the two parties. In 1974, Pham Van Dong stated: “The Chinese Party and government have at all times given an unselfish aid and support to the Vietnamese people in their revolutionary struggle and the building of their homeland.” (Peking Review, No. 30, July 31, 1978)

In fact when we look at the history of the Vietnamese people’s struggle against the United States, it’s clear that China’s political and material support was consistent and was greater than that of any other country.

In 1978, when Vietnam changed its attitude toward China, China revealed the amount of material aid she had given up to that point: $10 billion worth in terms of American dollars. From a third-world country this figure is astounding.

Up until 1964, China was the only country to give military and material assistance to the Vietnamese people. The USSR did not give a cent.

On the political level, while China always supported the Vietnamese people’s liberation struggle, the USSR tried to slow it down on many occasions.

The famous Tonkin Gulf incident, for instance, will never be forgotten by the Vietnamese people. In August of 1964, the US organized a set-up. It claimed that one of its 7th Fleet ships had been attacked by North Vietnamese forces. Using this pretext, later proven false, it launched its first bombing attack on the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

What was the Soviet Union’s response to this aggression? Khrushchev could think of nothing more than to propose the convening of the UN Security Council to “investigate” the incident!

Along with its aid, Moscow didn’t hesitate to put heavy pressure on the Vietnamese party to abandon its struggle and “work out an agreement” with American imperialism.

The Soviet revisionists did everything possible to whitewash American imperialism, which was the main enemy of the world’s peoples. Preaching the “peaceful road ,“ the Soviets attacked national liberation struggles, peoples’ armed struggles for their independence, claiming that they threatened to provoke a world-wide nuclear war.

But at the time the Vietnamese party resisted the revisionists’ pressure, and continued their armed struggle. For this reason its leadership of its people’s struggle was mainly positive and helped to advance the world revolution.

The Vietnamese people’s struggle was an example to the peoples and revolutionaries of the world. Their victory in 1975, as well as those of the Kampuchean and Laotian peoples, dealt a heavy blow not only to American imperialism but also to the revisionists’ thesis that national liberation struggles should be abandoned.

But while it waged the struggle against the US, the Vietnamese party also adopted certain very dangerous, erroneous positions. When the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, for example, the Vietnamese party supported this aggression.

After 1975, increasingly open support for USSR

After 1975, the Vietnamese party took up Soviet positions more and more systematically. Thus, in October, 1977, in reference to the new Soviet constitution eleborated by Brezhnev, the party stated:

The Soviet people have just eleborated a new constitution which is intended to bring the USSR from socialism to communism. The socialist system, through its great achievements in every domaine, has given eloquent proof of its invincible strength and fully plays its role as a determining element for the development of a humane society in the present epoch. (Vietnam, No. 226, October 1977, our translation)

We should recall that this constitution, adopted on June 9, 1977, far from “bringing the USSR from socialism to communism,” in fact sanctioned Brezhnev’s social-fascist regime. With Stalin’s 1936 Constitution discarded, the new constitution rejects any reference to the dictatorship of the proletariat. It tramples underfoot the rights of the people and of the oppressed nationalities, referring to a “new historical community, the Soviet people,” and comments in the Soviet press added that, in this community, the Russian nation is the “chief nation.”

Vietnam finds this just dandy.

1977, a step towards COMECON

From 1977 on, the Vietnamese party talked more frequently about economic co-operation with the “socialist camp.”

Economic co-operation has become a very important aspect in the relations between our country and the socialist countries. We must broaden our economic relations, progressively participate in co-operation and in the division of labour between fraternal countries, and create conditions that will allow us to build up our country through our own effort and contribute to strengthening the socialist system. (Speech of Nguyen Duy Trinh at the IV National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, in Le courrier du Vietnam, No. 57, February, 1977, our translation, our emphasis.)

We know that when the USSR talks about “division of labour” in the “socialist camp,” it is referring to its own plunder of the countries it dominates, organized mainly through COMECON.

In 1977, and more so in 1978, Vietnamese journals talked more and more about the good relations between the USSR and Vietnam and about the “happiness” of life in the Soviet Union. We see them continually praising Soviet “aid”, advisors, and Soviet technicians in Vietnam. At the same time, silence set in on the question of China.

But the Vietnamese leaders themselves didn’t hide these changes. Already in 1976, Hoang Tung, editor-in-chief of Nan Dhan, organ of the Communist Party of Vietnam, told a western reporter:

During the war in Vietnam, it was important for Vietnam to convince both China and the Soviet Union to put all their efforts into supporting North Vietnam. Now, it is no longer so necessary to apply this policy (...) today, agreement with the Soviet Union is highly important for Vietnam. The Soviet Union dearly wants to weaken the Chinese influence in this part of the world, and this coincides with Vietnam’s interests (...) We are tending more and more towards the Soviet Union. (quoted in Proletariat, No. 18, fourth quarter 1978, p. 14, our translation)

1978: Rushing into the arms of the USSR

In 1978, this “tendency” became a race to throw themselves into the arms of the USSR. On June 29, 1978, the Soviet Union brought Vietnam into COMECON. In early November the two countries signed a “treaty of friendship and co-operation” which is quite plainly a military pact. It assures mutual military aid between the two countries in case of an attack “or the danger of an attack” against either country.

Moscow has greatly increased its supplies to Vietnam, with “aid” of about two billion dollars, mainly in arms: Mig-21s and Mig-23s (which the USSR never gave Vietnam during its war against the US); two 2000-ton ships; heavy artillery, and more than 4000 military “advisors.”

And finally, at a Warsaw Pact meeting at the end of November, 1978, Moscow asked the member countries to increase their military spending to “come to the aid” of Vietnam. We also know that at this meeting Vietnam’s entry into the Pact was brought up, but that Rumania opposed it.

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese leaders began attacking China more and more openly, both with propaganda and with military harassment on the borders. Today Vietnam’s spokesmen are among those spreading the worst slanders against socialist China. To divert attention from Soviet crimes and their own acts of aggression, they constantly talk about Chinese “hegemonism” and spread the most blatant lies about China.

We can see clearly in examining both internal and foreign policies of the Vietnamese leaders that revisionism has been consolidated in the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam. What we see in Vietnam today is not a people that has finally liberated itself and is reconstructing its country, but a people suffering from famine and oppression. The Vietnamese leaders have betrayed their people on every question. They have betrayed thirty years of armed struggle. Ho Chi Minh said, “Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty.” It is precisely this precious independence, won by the people at the cost of their blood, that the Vietnamese leaders have handed over to the Soviet Union. But no one can keep in slavery a people that has fought so valiantly for its liberation. Pham Van Dong, Le Duan and their Soviet masters are heading for the same shameful end as Thieu and his American masters met at the hands of the Vietnamese people.

* * *

From the first weeks after the Soviet-Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea, denunciations rang out around the world.

First of all, socialist China and Korea lodged sharp protests against this flagrant aggression against a fraternal socialist country.

Around the world, Marxist-Leninist organizations and parties organized meetings and demonstrations: 1800 people marched in Oslo, Norway on January 12; 1300 in Stockholm, Sweden; 1000 in Paris, and 1200 in Athens, Greece.

In Canada, upon the delegation’s return, the League carried out its largest-ever anti-imperialist campaign. Over 3000 people took part in 24 public meetings throughout the country. In the different media – radio, television and newspapers – the comrades called on the Canadian people to support the Karnpuchean people’s resistance. Thus the support work was well-begun, in tight collaboration with the Committee of Patriots of Democratic Kampuchea in Canada and the Third World People’s Anti-imperialist Committee. In the United States and in many European and third-world countries, authentic communist parties and organizations, as well as anti-imperialist and progressive groups took part in meetings and signed petitions.

The overwhelming majority of countries quickly condemned the invasion.

At the United Nations, 13 of the 15 countries on the Security Council supported a resolution condemning the invasion. The only two to oppose it were the USSR and Czechoslovakia.

At a special meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, on January 28, the coordinating bureau of the non-aligned countries agreed to participation by a delegation from Democratic Kampuchea. Just two countries tried to stop this: Vietnam and Cuba.

Up to now, aside from the Soviet-dominated East European countries, only four other countries in the world have supported the Soviet-Vietnamese acts against Kampuchea, and they are Laos, Cuba, Afghanistan and Ethiopia, all countries under some form of Soviet domination.

Yugoslavia and Rumania, on the other hand, have lodged official protests.

And Australia, France, Denmark and Japan have decided to cut all aid to Vietnam.

Jamieson, Canadian External Affairs Minister, and a leader in the slander campaign against Democratic Kampuchea, was obliged to protest against the Vietnamese aggression, and admit: “The Pol Pot government is the only legitimate government in Cambodia.”

Even the US imperialists, seeing this new Soviet advance as a threat to US interests, protested.

So, apart from the countries under the social-imperialist boot, the world expressed unanimous indignation at the military occupation of Kampuchea. This shows that the peoples’ vigilance today is greatly heightened and that more and more peoples and countries see the real nature of the USSR: the most powerful and dangerous imperialism in the world today.

The current world situation in many ways recalls the rise of fascism in the years before the Second World War. During the ’30s, the rising German imperialist power caused trouble and engineered aggression around the world, in preparation for its invasion of Europe. Its Japanese ally invaded China, and in autumn 1935, fascist Italy attacked Ethiopia. Finally the German fascists armed Franco’s troops to help him overthrow the Spanish Republic and set up his own dictatorship. As early as 1934, Stalin warned the world’s peoples about the preparations for a new world war. In December 1935, the Communist International explained:

... from the international point of view, the Italian adventure in Africa (the occupation of Ethiopia-Ed.) should be regarded as the first stage of armed conflict, brought about by many years of struggle in Europe on the part of the more aggressive imperialist powers, first and foremost of Italy and Germany, who are striving for a new division of the world (...), in other words, they are striving for a new war. (The Communist International, No. 23-24, December 20, 1935, “The Italo-Ethiopian war and the tasks of the United Front”).

Similarly today, the Soviet-Vietnam aggression against Kampuchea is a prelude to the third world war that Soviet social-fascism, the rising imperialist power, wants to unleash to redivide the world in its favour.

Similarly today, communists around the world must double their efforts in their struggle to maintain peace, to push back the war as much as possible. For us, supporting Kampuchea is supporting a socialist country, but it is also supporting those who are now on the front lines in the battle against Soviet hegemonism. The greater are their victories, the more the Soviet plans will be stymied, and the less ready it will be to unleash a world-wide conflict.

The mobilization and the struggle of the world’s peoples against German fascism during WW II led to its total defeat and to the victory of socialism in several countries. Less than four years after the end of the war, the People’s Republic of China in particular was born.

World support for the struggle of the Vietnamese, Kampuchean and Lao peoples against US imperialism were an important factor in their victory. It helped deliver a decisive blow to the American superpower. And the world saw the birth of another socialist country, Democratic Kampuchea.

Today, it is in the interests of the Canadian people, like all the peoples of the world, to give their total support to the Kampuchean resistance. Our support of the struggle of this heroic people brings us closer to the day when Soviet social-imperialism will be completely smashed. It brings us closer to the day when for once and for all, we will get rid of imperialist superpowers and their wars of aggression.


[1] The Americans tried to “Vietnamize” the war. This consisted of strengthening the South Vietnamese puppet regime and its army, so that it would increasingly be them, and not the American troops, who fought the liberation forces.