Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Call journalists speak in 17 cities
Tour educates thousands on Kampuchea

First Published: The Call, Vol. 7, No. 40, October 25, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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“I have been waiting to hear this news. I knew that all the horrible things I was reading in the press about Cambodia just couldn’t be true.”

These were the words of a Detroit auto worker after he heard Dan Burstein speak about The Call delegation trip last April to Cambodia (now called Democratic Kampuchea). Burstein’s talk and slide show emphasized the great positive achievements in Kampuchea’s revolution since the liberation of the country in 1975 and refuted the many fabricated “horror stories” spread by the imperialist press about the situation there.

More than 2,000 people have attended Kampuchea talks held so far in 17 cities by Burstein, David Kline and other members of the Call delegation.

The largest meeting was held in the San Francisco Bay Area, where 275 people gathered Nov. 12 in Berkeley to hear Burstein. The event was jointly sponsored by the Bay Area Communist Union, Communist Party (M-L), Communist Youth Organization, Ethiopian Students Union of North America, Fight Don’t Starve Committee, Friends of Kampuchea, Iranian Students Association (member, CIS) and the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L).

In each of the talks, Call reporters traced the history of Kampuchea’s revolution, told about the new socialist system being built there, described everyday life in the cooperatives and detailed the initial success of the revolution in providing the people with enough to eat, eliminating malaria, educating the youth and reconstructing the bombed-out countryside and villages.

In addition, Call speakers elaborated on the present war between Kampuchea and Vietnam, placing the fighting against the backdrop of the global rivalry between the U.S. and the USSR and the current Soviet-Vietnamese efforts to establish domination over all of Southeast Asia.

Throughout the speaking tour, public meetings were combined with efforts to get the truth about Kampuchea onto radio and TV and into the newspapers. Members of The Call delegation appeared on six TV shows and 17 radio programs, while accounts of their travels appeared in 12 newspapers.

The Kampuchea programs also featured a number of solidarity messages and cultural presentations. In New York City and in Washington, D.C., a representative of the Group of Kampuchean Residents in America (G.K. RAM) introduced Burstein’s talk.

In Detroit, a stirring poetry reading was given by a Black auto worker whose poem about Kampuchea was set to a rhythmic drum beat. The poem blasted the phony concern of Jimmy Carter. George McGovern and other politicians over “human rights” in Kampuchea, saying: “Invade Kampuchea/comes from the mouths/of the dogs/while 800,000 Kampuchean citizens/men. women, and children/lie in their graves from the last United States human rights campaign.”

The Buffalo, N.Y., program heard a message from Tom Grace, a former Kent State student who was wounded in the infamous demonstration when National Guardsmen opened fire on students protesting the 1970 U.S. invasion of Kampuchea.

Michelie Hill, sister of John Hill (Dacajewiah), a leader of the Attica prison uprising, also gave a short talk, expressing solidarity with the Kampuchean people as a Native American who has herself been witness to the genocidal policies of the U.S. government at home.

In Atlanta, Roy Gallou, a former member of the U.S. Army special forces, gave a talk on his experiences in Cambodia in the 1960s:

“We crossed into Cambodia many times. We tortured people to get information. All this was lied about and covered up in the press at the time, so how can you believe them now when they talk about Cambodia?’

Not everything proceeded smoothly with the speaking tour, however. In San Diego, a group of about 75 people held a picket line attacking Burstein’s talk, trying later to storm the meeting. Most of the disrupters were Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees, many with close connections to U.S. military personnel in San Diego.

A newsman who interviewed some of the protesters told The Call that “many of them don’t know why they are here,” indicating that they may have been hired to participate in this reactionary demonstration by some higher-ups eager to prevent the truth about Kampuchea from being told. When the demonstrators tried to storm through the doors, they were held off by organizers of the program and volunteers from the crowd who did not want to see the meeting disrupted.

One Cambodian refugee who did attend the program made a statement to the crowd at the end, deploring the tactics of those who had tried to wreck the meeting and noting that ”all Cambodian people should listen to those who have been there and can tell us what is going on now.”

In sum, the speaking tour succeeded in bringing the Kampuchean revolution to life for thousands of interested people and provided answers to their questions about many of the complicated events in Southeast Asia. But much more work remains to be done to get this message out to millions of people. For information on holding a forum on Kampuchea in your city, write to The Call, P.O. Box 5597. Chicago, Ill. 60680.