Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Conclusion of Call Interview with Kampuchea’s Ieng Sary
Socialist Construction Moving Forward

First Published: The Call, Vol. 7, No. 35, September 11, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This is the tenth in a series of articles by Call journalists who visited Democratic Kampuchea (Cambodia) in April. They were the first Americans to visit that country since its liberation in 1975.

This week’s article is the conclusion of a three-part interview with Kampuchean Deputy Prime Minister Ieng Sary. The first installment (Aug. 28) touched on the history of the revolutionary movement in Kampuchea that led up to the founding of the Communist Party in 1960. The second installment (Sept. 4) covered the Party’s work from 1960 to the U.S.-backed coup d’etat in 1970. This concluding installment traces the Party’s activities through the war of liberation and up to the present time.

* * *

Our interview with Ieng Sary had already lasted well into the evening when he began to talk of the events following the U.S.-instigated coup d’etat that put Lon Nol in power on March 18, 1970.

“March 18, 1970, to April 17, 1975, was the period of our open war against U.S. aggression and the Lon Nol traitor clique,” Sary said. “We relied on our own forces to fight this war, capturing 80% of the arms that our guerrilla fighters used. China also gave us great support.”

In lively detail, the Kampuchean deputy prime minister described battle after battle and how the young Revolutionary Army tested itself and grew strong. He told of how the CPK established revolutionary political power of the workers and the peasants in the liberated zones, and how the people rallied to the side of the Party throughout the country.

“We had predicted that the coup d’etat would come,” said Sary, “and this influenced the thinking of many people.” Sihanouk, the deposed leader, was one such person. He was soon ready to form the united front with the CPK, establishing the Royal Government of National Union, with its external headquarters in Peking.

“The people bitterly hated Lon Nol,” Sary went on. “The broad masses were ready to fight. They rallied to our Party, our Army and the united front because they saw that we were in the forefront of the struggle against Lon Nol.”

From the earliest days of the war, the Revolutionary Army began to liberate territory. Much of the country was liberated as early as 1972.


With the onset of the Paris peace talks, the U.S. temporarily intensified its pressure on Kampuchea. “From Jan. 27 to Aug. 15, 1973,” said Sary, “the imperialists mobilized all their forces against us. There was a ceasefire in Vietnam and Laos, so the American bombers were turned against us.”

More than a half a million tons of bombs were dropped on Kampuchea in those eight months, until the persistent military victories of the Revolutionary Army, coupled with world public opinion, finally forced Nixon to halt the saturation bombardment in August of 1973.

Even in the midst of this unprecedented bombing (which the Kampuchean peasants called “plough bombing” because it dug up the earth throughout the countryside like a plough), the CPK set to work establishing cooperatives.

“The building of the cooperative system in 1973,” Sary told us, “was a vital strategic question for our revolution. Without the cooperatives, the young men would not have been able to go fight at the front, assured that their families would be well cared for. Without the cooperatives, the price of rice would have suffered a terrible inflation and our troops would have had little to eat.

“But thanks to the cooperative system, we were better able to mobilize the whole people to fight guerrilla war, to resist the bombings, to resist Lon Nol’s reactionary offensives, and liberate more and more territory.”

The Kampuchea leader also discussed some of the problems that came up with the Vietnamese in this period. Arms and supplies that China was providing to Kampuchea via rail transport that passed through Vietnam were often sidetracked by the Vietnamese on the grounds that the struggle in Vietnam took precedence over the struggle in Kampuchea.

“We went hungry ourselves so that our Vietnamese brothers could have our rice,” said Sary, “and yet they did not deliver the arms and equipment that were intended for us.”


Despite these contradictions, the CPK continued to wage a united resistance to U.S. imperialism with the Vietnamese liberation fighters. “Our line,” said Sary, “was to uphold solidarity with Vietnam, while raising political struggle and differences privately.”

Victory after victory was won on the battlefield. The U.S. position throughout Indochina was rapidly deteriorating. Thousands of Lon Nol troops began deserting, going over to the side of the Revolutionary Army. Despite some setbacks in 1974, over 90% of the country was liberated by the end of that year, and guerrilla rocket fire was striking deep inside Phnom Penh and the big cities that represented the other 10%.

In January of 1975, the great Mekong River Offensive was launched (see Part 3 of this series) which finally culminated in the liberation of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975.

Sary looked up from his notes and paused. After a short silence, he said, “With the liberation of the whole country in April 1975 the national democratic revolution was achieved. Our victory was due to a correct analysis of the situation in our own country and confidence in the masses of people, who proved to be the main fighting force.”

A new phase of the Kampuchean revolution was begun. The Third Congress of the CPK was convened establishing a new strategic and tactical line for building socialism in Kampuchea.

“We did not rest for one minute,” Sary recalled. “0We immediately set to work to defend the country, and to build, and develop the socialist system. We established a dictatorship of the proletariat and collectivized the national wealth. We began to cultivate the collectivist spirit.”

There were many difficulties and many complex problems to solve. “In 1975,” said Sary, “we were immediately faced with grave threats to the security of the revolution both in terms of attacks on our borders as well as from within our own ranks. The CIA, the KGB, the Vietnamese and others were all intent on mobilizing their forces for a coup d’etat against us.

“Besides the security problem, we also faced very difficult problems in providing food, housing and clothing for the people.

“By the end of 1975, the food problem was largely solved in terms of giving everyone a subsistence diet. However, the security problem still existed. In April 1976 and then again in September 1976 we arrested Vietnamese and KGB agents along the border as well as inside Phnom Penh. They were plotting to organize a coup d’etat against us.


“In 1977, more progress had been made in agriculture, and two-crop rice farming was introduced on a wide scale. We could even export some rice for the first time in that year. But the security problem persisted as our enemies continued to conspire against us.

“Kampuchean nationals in the pay of the CIA wanted to stage a coup in January of 1977. At the end of January, these elements held a rendezvous with American CIA personnel at a point on the Thailand border. The American CIA man asked the Kampucheans, ’How can you foment a coup when the Vietnamese have already failed? He told them to go back and gather more forces and wait for April. In March, however, we arrested these CIA agents.

“Again, in September of 1977, we captured a small group of people who were planning to attack our government. Some of them had been working for the CIA as far back as 1958, disguised as revolutionaries all the time.”


After the failure of all these coup d’etats, both the U.S. as well as the USSR and Vietnam began to see that they could not succeed in overthrowing the worker-peasant state power in this fashion. The new government had grown too strong and too consolidated. Its base of support among the people was wider than ever.

“The enemies all began to think at this point that only attack from the outside of the country could succeed,” explained Sary. “That’s when Vietnam began its open aggression against us, towards the end of 1977. They did so in the hopes that aggression from the outside could draw our army to a certain place, and allow their forces inside the country an opportunity to strike elsewhere. But all this proved futile on their part, and we drove out their invasion.”

Reflecting on all he had told us, Sary began to sum up and discuss the present state of things in Kampuchea.

“The situation in each year since 1975 had become progressively better,” he said, “although many complex problems remain. Our work of socialist construction is moving forward, especially in the area of water conservancy and agriculture. Many cooperatives are thriving; almost all are succeeding. All this has been accomplished under the leadership of the Party, in the closest connection with the masses of people. Under the leadership of the Party, I am sure we will be able to solve all the many difficulties we still face.

“The war with Vietnam may last a long time. As long as Vietnam tries to impose an ’Indochina Federation’ on us, we will have to fight and wait for the political situation to change. But I am sure that truth and justice will win out in the end.”