It is time to review the great movement of the U.S. people against imperialist aggression in Indochina. The ceasefire marks a retreat by the U.S. imperialists but not the dawn of peace. Whether they renew the war in Vietnam or prepare a police action against some other country, summing up the antiwar movement will be useful.
The masses of the United States fought the war in many forms. One place was the army. Young working-class men refused to fight for U. S. imperialism. “Fraggings” of officers occurred by the hundreds; whole companies refused combat orders. The army became, for the imperialists, unreliable. They could no longer depend on the troops to parrot chauvinist and racist chants and commit crimes against humanity (the only way imperialists can wage a war against a whole people in arms). It was because the U.S. army became unusable for aggression that the government turned to the tactics of more bombing and “Vietnamizing” the war. Both flopped completely.
Another battleground was the campus. Students built up a magnificent anti-military drive. Their movement attacked ROTC, institutes of war research, and military and munitions company recruiters. ROTC buildings were burned down in mass actions (not individual terrorist gestures). Students crippled ROTC, forcing the military to plan more expensive and difficult ways to produce lieutenants and other junior officers.
More importantly, the student movement brought political education to a whole generation, fighting two ideological monsters, conservatism and liberalism. “Enlightened conservatism” appealed to the student to join the imperialists in a glass of sherry. But the “polite,” elitist, “civilized,” “white man’s burden” mentality of the academy was exposed as a cover for military crimes and business exploitation of colonies.
The political education and confrontations of the student movement also exposed liberalism, a handwringing, moralistic variant of the same imperialist mentality. The “moral elite,” led by Eugene McCarthy, Reverend William Sloane Coffin or some other capitalist politician or CIA agent, advised students to work within the system. But time after time, liberal misleaders were exposed and tossed aside when they held up the movement.
Intellectuals made their contribution in a series of teach-ins that refuted the elementary lies propagated by the government in the middle 1960’s. Alleged “north Vietnamese communist aggression” and U.S. “efforts to support democracy in Saigon” were shown to be lies. Honest intellectuals like Felix Greene ground up statements by State Department hacks, who soon withdrew from all such debates.
In yet another form of opposition, over a million persons at a time mounted huge demonstrations against the war. These rallies smashed opinion poll interpretations claiming that the U.S. people supported the war. For a while, demonstrations gave people mutual encouragement and the strength of solidarity.
In short, the people of the United States proved themselves fully capable of acting in their class interest as workers and allied strata. On their own or despite bad leadership, they found various ways to oppose an imperialist war. Once again, it was shown that the masses are basically rational. For workers, rational action means acting according to one’s fundamental class interest.
Such action was confidently foreseen by Marxists-Leninists. The insight of Marxism-Leninism is no magical power; it is simply the ability to make a class analysis, to discover the economic position of the various classes and to see in advance that there would be a response to exploitation and oppression.
It was not simply death, taxes and inflation which people refused to accept without protest. People rebelled against dying, paying taxes and watching prices rise for an imperialist war. In World War II, people made great sacrifices for the fight against fascism. Pacifist resistance in WW II was small, nothing like draft resistance during the aggression in Vietnam.
As the crisis of imperialism (monopoly capitalism) deepens and more burdens are piled on the working class, we can expect even greater resistance and even stronger anti-imperialist actions. Recently in Australia the dock workers boycotted U. S. shipping to protest the bombing of Hanoi. It can be confidently predicted on the basis of Marxism-Leninism that such actions and even greater ones will be mounted by the U.S. working class in future crises.
World War II was, overall, a just war against fascism, and it was fought with determination by the U.S. working class. U.S. aggression in Korea won no such allegiance from the people. U.S. aggression in Vietnam met with active opposition. Although there may be ups and downs, the basic trend of sharper class antagonism between the U.S. imperialists and the U.S. working class will continue.
Naturally, the ruling class, the big businessmen, did not look upon the developing people’s antiwar movement with pleasure. The government attacked it and tried to divert it. Police action was a relatively minor tool of the government. The ruling class relied more on a series of political servants to block the people’s march to action and awareness.
At first, the government sent out State Department officials and anti-communist professors to retail the usual stories about communist aggression, U.S. efforts to help a people to democracy, etc. But the facts came out: it was the peasants and workers of south Vietnam who were fighting; they were fighting against U.S. imperialist exploitation, absentee landlord rent, and puppet regime repression. Diem, Ky, and Thieu were shown to be typical examples of U.S. imperialist champions of democracy–admirers of Hitler.
If the ruling class could not convince people that the war was a just war, a war with noble aims, a measured response rather than genocidal terror, then at least opposition to the war could be channeled into ineffective paths. For example, at least three antiwar candidates were set up and launched by big business. One was Lyndon Johnson, who ran against Barry Goldwater in 1964 on an antiwar platform even as the government was escalating the war. Then Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern copied Johnson.
McCarthy spoke of withdrawal over a period of five years – if any tactical retreats were necessary. McGovern, too, promised to keep a military machine in Thailand and the Gulf of Tonkin, as by 1972 a tactical retreat to correct the imperialists’ “tragic mistake” was clearly inescapable.
However, a good number of people saw through the farce of voting for liberal imperialists to be president; the percentage of eligible persons voting in 1972 dropped to a 24-year low (55%). Well, it is the system and not the man who counts (LBJ was expendable and told to resign), so the ruling class hawked another remedy: pressure Congress to “assert itself” against the president.
McGovern-Hatfield, Hatfield-McGovern, Church-Cooper, Cooper-Church and countless other combinations of amendments and resolutions were put forth. After all, there are only about 20 millionaires in the Senate, so a potential vote of 80 to 20 for these amendments exists. Then they would only have to appropriate some money to enforce the amendments. The money would be used to hire investigators and officials to check up on the executive branch – and duly report that the law was being violated. These persons would be hired by the government through the Civil Service – a department of the executive branch.
After voting and petitioning, many people realized that such wastes of paper were not really involving them in antiwar action. So the imperialists moved to cover another front–they supported misleaders of mass demonstrations against the war. These misleaders said, “Vote with your feet in the street” – that is, vote: rely on putting pressure through unofficial channels on the same old government. To maintain continuity with the previous diversions, the organizers of these demonstrations invited lots of congressmen to headline their rallies. For example, as late as Inaugural day this January, the main speaker at the Washington rally was Senator Philip Hart. Hart, senator from Michigan, is owned and pampered by General Motors. It seems that people were not listening to what was said in Congress, so it was necessary to take the congressmen out to the rallies to say the same things there.
Who is to blame for these pro-imperialist rallies? Their organizers are to blame–the revisionist “Communist” Party (through the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice), the Trotskyite Socialist Workers’ Party (through the National Peace Action Coalition), and pacifists like David Harris. In each city, professional liberals who specialize in misleading people did the organizing work. Together they all made up a united front against anti-imperialist ideas. They froze out good speakers, brought in capitalist politicians, used their own police (“marshals”) against radicals, and felt good that the capitalist press was quite happy to cover their events extensively.
Genuine anti-imperialists wanted to expose these pro-imperialist rallies and give good leadership to the anti-imperialist movement. Therefore, the last bastion of imperialism within the movement was and is those pseudo-revolutionaries who promised to do this, occupied the position of battle, and... capitulated to the revisionists and liberals. Instead of exposing these pro-imperialists, these pseudo-revolutionaries joined them in march after march and coalition after coalition.
For example, the Revolutionary Union, which says it is a Marxist-Leninist and an orthodox pro-China group (it is not), watched at meetings of anti-imperialist coalitions where honest people demanded a struggle against the revisionists and liberals and a break with them – and then the RU joined the revisionists’ rallies. These rallies had become demoralizing. But to the Revolutionary Union, the October League, and other such pseudo-revolutionary groups, the united front against imperialism means a united front with the revisionist “Communist” Party USA. On the world scene, China and Marxist-Leninists reject any “unity of action” with the Soviet social-imperialists. But when it comes to demonstrations in the U.S., these allegedly orthodox pro-China groups unite with the lackeys of Soviet revisionism, the “C”PUSA.
The people fought in many forms and with great vigor against U.S. aggression in Indochina. But revolutionary leadership was insufficient–it was not thoroughly Marxist-Leninist in outlook and training. This disparity reveals the problem: spontaneous action by the people and class-conscious leadership are two different things. The people will always fight spontaneously against exploitation and oppression. But the episodes of struggle must be led and advanced, always criticizing bad ideas and heightening the level of consciousness and action. It is partly for lack of such work that years of demonstrations have not developed further into workers’ political strikes as in Australia.
Leading the struggle takes an ongoing organization based on scientific method. Scientific analysis and synthesis does not occur to one spontaneously as he marches, strikes or fights. It requires study and education. The U.S. people’s movement against aggression in Indochina proved once again what Lenin asserted in What Is to Be Done? – it is not the masses who need spurring on by calls to action; we need revolutionaries who guide and raise the people’s spontaneous activity, not merely hail and congratulate the people, These revolutionaries must be Marxist-Leninists, and they must be united in a disciplined Party.
In a recent pamphlet called “Vietnam: a great victory, the struggle advances to a new stage,” the Revolutionary Union shows that it has learned nothing from the experience of the antiwar movement and intends to follow the same old path. It calls for “mobilizing the people” and “building the mass struggle” for future action. That is all. By these phrases the Revolutionary Union means the incessant “calls to action” which Lenin said were insufficient.
What can the Revolutionary Union or any other group do at this time under the heading of “mobilizing the people”? It can call more demonstrations, issue leaflets and posters, and so forth. But does the RU contemplate leadership? In the Marxist-Leninist sense, leadership means criticizing bad ideas and exposing misleaders, teaching the people the difference between reform and revolution, and stressing that reform can never solve the people’s problems. These things the RU handles only with a ten-foot pole.
In this pamphlet the RU does not directly criticize the “Communist” Party USA. The RU mentions the “C”P’s “allies in the ruling class” (Fulbright and McCloskey), “Soviet subversion,” and “revisionism.” But when it comes to criticizing the “C”P leadership of the antiwar movement, the RU is silent. For if we examine the RU’s leadership, we can see that it is not essentially different from that of the “Communist” Party. That is why the RU can join the “C”P in antiwar demonstration coalitions, share speaking lists with it, and keep its speakers from exposing “C”P revisionism. The only thing that the RU envies of the “C”P is that the latter and not the RU runs the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice.
The RU is competing with the “Communist” Party for the spot of top dog. When businessmen compete for sales, that does not mean one businessman sells better goods than the other. The same goes for the RU and the “C”P.
A truly revolutionary leadership would long ago have set itself the task of developing a revolutionary anti-imperialist movement to struggle against the liberal-revisionist-pacifist antiwar parade. This is the path of a break with revisionism, not of “anti-imperialist coalitions” playing left-wing gadfly to April 22 coalitions. Revolutionaries would go among the workers to lead them from economism to communist, revolution-aimed political activity. But the RU merely contemplates more of the same; it knows so well how to say “support the Vietnamese” – and nothing more.
In the 1960’s U.S. aggression and U. S. business’ racist oppression and splitting of the working class caused many persons to analyze things, think for themselves, and seek out genuine Marxist-Leninist education. Individuals and groups have arisen on this basis. Some honest persons are in bad organizations like the Revolutionary Union or the October League only because they found no alternative at hand. Overall, however, it would be wrong to think that the U. S. imperialists have totally dominated the antiwar movement through their State Department, congressional, presidential, liberal, revisionist and pseudo-revolutionary servants (in an objective sense).
But further clarity, further strength of Marxism-Leninism, will not develop without effort, without struggle. It is necessary to criticize capitalist trends. What is especially noteworthy about the innermost purveyors of capitalist ideology–the pseudo-revolutionaries (who merely reproduce classic revisionism and economism accompanied by some current chanting) – is their fright at sorting out correct and incorrect lines. “Unity” is their dominant note, principle a secondary consideration.
The pseudo-revolutionaries excel at tail-ending ongoing mass movements. They know how to say “support the Vietnamese,” “support the strikers,” and “support the black struggle.” But they avoid giving communist leadership–advancing consciousness and campaigning against prevailing incorrect ideas (which exist in every mass movement). The efforts of the pseudo-revolutionaries objectively prevent the formation of a genuine communist party.
But let us learn this: the State Department hacks, the liberal politician’s, the “Communist” Party USA and the Trotskyites could hot stop the appearance of genuine revolutionaries. Neither will the modern pseudo-revolutionaries. With study and struggle, honest revolutionaries will raise high and defend the banner of Marxism-Leninism. Let us discover the truth by defeating capitalist falsehood – no matter how slickly packaged!