Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Opportunists cheer invasion of Kampuchea

First Published: The Call, Vol. 8, No. 5, February 5, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Soviet-Vietnamese invasion of Democratic Kampuchea has found a corrupt chorus of defenders in the press of the revisionists, Trotskyites and other opportunists in the U.S.

Recent weeks, in fact, have been a virtual “show and tell” period for the political lines of the Daily World, the Militant and the Guardian. One after another, they have each displayed their shoddy wares.

But few have been impressed and many have been disgusted–even among their own readers.

The reason is clear enough. While waving various banners of “proletarian internationalism,” these three newspapers all had one point in common: When the chips were down, they either cheered on or apologized for a superpower-backed invasion of a sovereign, third world country and the overthrow of its socialist government.

The Daily World, newspaper of the revisionist CPUSA, should get an award for carrying the most brazenly false accounts of the invasion. “Phnom Penh Free, Regime Crumbles,” shouted a banner-headlined story by Terry Cannon. He then went on to applaud the “insurgent forces” of the Vietnamese puppet “Salvation Front” for overthrowing the “regime of dictatorial, militarist domination of the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary clique,” Then to explain this, he repeats all the CIA-KGB concocted slanders about “genocide” in Kampuchea. This is in spite of the fact that these charges have been shown by many foreign journalists and observers who have recently visited the country to be fabrications or distortions.

But what about the 100,000 Vietnamese troops occupying the country and slaughtering its citizens? The Daily World not only fails to mention them, it simply asserts that they are not there at all, that talk of any Vietnamese presence in Kampuchea is an “unadulterated falsehood” invented by the CIA!

The whole world, of course, knows otherwise. No one believes that a one-month-old “liberation front” can suddenly acquire an air force to bomb systematically its entire country.

In fact, the boldness of the Daily World’s lies only goes to prove two points. First, the actual situation is so contrary to its line that it is not even worth trying to distort. The “big lie” technique is simpler. And second, the CPUSA is such a lap dog of the Soviet social-imperialists that it doesn’t care whether the Americans who do read the Daily World believe it or not.

Still, Gus Hall himself speaks out, just in case anyone might get the idea that the articles thus far did not really represent the CP line. After blasting Democratic Kampuchea for “Maoist genocide,” Hall declares: “The heroic people of Kampuchea did not fight to defeat U.S. imperialist aggression only to be saddled with domination by an insane, militaristic and traitorous clique.”

If he were talking about the present Soviet-Vietnamese puppets, Hall’s statement would ring true. But one question here shows Hall’s utter hypocrisy: Since you are so enthralled with Kampuchea’s heroic struggle against U.S. aggression, where were you a few years ago when the U.S. was carrying out real genocide and your Soviet mentors hung on to the Lon Nol clique and opposed the liberation forces to the bitter end?

As for the Trotskyites, their coverage has been limited thus far to one long “news analysis” article in the Jan. 19 Militant, written by Fred Feldman.

“Cambodian insurgents,” Feldman also claims, captured Phnom Penh, although he admits that they did it with 100,000 Vietnamese ”in a rapid military drive.” But after giving a brief, sympathetic account of the “Salvation Front” and its program, Feldman sets it aside and spends the bulk of his article doing an elaborate, backhanded defense of Vietnam.

The components of Feldman’s analysis are set forth something like this: First, China is a “bureaucratized workers’ state,” but it has formed a “criminal alliance with U.S. imperialism” and is dealing “a savage blow to the world revolution.” Second, Democratic Kampuchea doesn’t even rate as a “workers’ state,” even a “deformed” or “bureaucratized” one. Instead, it is a dark-ages “tyranny,” a kind of “bizarre authoritarianism based on the labor of a militarized peasantry.” So, it is “blocking the socialist revolution entirely.”

As for Vietnam, the Trotskyites declare, it is a “bureaucratized workers’ state” like China. But unlike China, it has just brought a socialist economy, however deformed, to south Vietnam. This has supposedly caused a wave of fear to sweep through China and Kampuchea and, out of an imagined hatred for the extension of socialism to south Vietnam, they have ganged up with the U.S., to encircle and threaten Vietnam, so as to prevent “revolution” from sweeping through Southeast Asia.

So far what Feldman has done has been to take the usual Trotskyite theoretical constructs and slice up reality to fit them. Now all the pieces are neatly arranged on his game board, with Vietnam in the role of the victim about to be pounced on from all directions at once.

From this perspective, Feldman begins a topsy-turvy litany of events. The establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the U.S., he says, convinced Vietnam that “decisive action was needed to break the diplomatic and military noose it felt tightening around its neck.” To delay was “dangerous,” thus the invasion was “defensive and not revolutionary.”

Feldman sums it up like this: “The Vietnamese rulers carried out the overturn of Pol Pot in pursuit of their interests as a privileged bureaucratic layer. In this instance, doing that required the military defense of the workers’ state this parasitic caste feeds on.”

Now, to translate all this from Trotskyese to English: Vietnam’s invasion must be supported as “socialist self-defense” against imperialism. Smashing Democratic Kampuchea is, as Feldman puts it, “a necessary step” in the struggle for “democratic rights and socialism.” Furthermore, we should aim our main fire at China, criticize Vietnam for not being radical enough in making “revolution” in Kampuchea, and not mention the Soviet Union except to point out how they are helping Vietnam, although not enough. Finally, we should oppose Kampuchea’s demands in the UN, but we should demand, especially now, that the U.S. give massive financial assistance to Vietnam, without any strings attached.

Need we say any more about the fake “left,” real right nature of Trotskyism? Or do we need to point out the fact that, despite their squabbling over rhetoric, the modern-day Trotskyites are down-the-line defenders of Soviet social-imperialism and partners of revisionism?

The final component of this three-ring circus is the Guardian. Its coverage of the Kampuchea events has been, at once, the most pitiful and the most insidious. In fact, the Guardian’s centrism–the promotion of a revisionist line under the guise of “anti-revisionism”– has got it into quite a mess.

“Kampuchean Front proclaims new regime in Phnom Penh,” reads the banner headline of a Jan. 17 article by Karen Gellen. “The capital was captured,” says Gellen, by “forces of the Kampuchean National United Front for National Salvation.” And the Vietnamese? The article notes that the phony puppet front “apparently” got “extensive military support” from Vietnam, but then points out that Vietnam says this is an “odious slander” and that all information stating otherwise is from “Western intelligence sources.”

To give some further indication of its views, an entire half of the front page is taken up with a heroic photo of three puppet front soldiers. Inside, the full text of the puppet “program” is reprinted.

The revisionists’ Erik Bert took note of all this in a Daily World polemic and threw Gellen a bone of praise, contrasting her work to that of the Militant. He reserved his anger for the foot-dragging that characterized the Guardian “Viewpoint” in the same issue.

The “Viewpoint” is, indeed, a real diamond in the rough. It deserves a special footnote in history as a prime example of what Lenin meant when he said:

“An opportunist, by his very nature will always evade formulating an issue clearly and unequivocally, he will always seek a middle course, he will always wriggle like a snake between two mutually exclusive points of view and try to agree with both and to reduce his differences of opinion to petty amendments.”

The Guardian starts off by saying it is not yet going to take a stand. Then it says it disagrees with the “glee expressed by the Soviet Union.” (Suppose the Soviets had been somber?) Then it disagrees with China that the invasion was “solely” a Vietnamese invasion, backed by the Soviet Union. (With so many lives at stake, why quibble over “solely” or “mainly”?) Then it only “sharply questions” Vietnam’s lies. (What happened to the Guardian’s self-proclaimed reputation for “independence” and “credibility”?) Then it blasts Democratic Kampuchea for “ultra-leftism,” without a word of defense. Then back to Vietnam, now criticizing the invasion, if there was an invasion, because Kampuchea was small and its “threats” (no “question” here) couldn’t have been that great.

As for the Vietnamese puppet front, its program has “many good points,” but the Guardian doesn’t know if they are based in reality. They also don’t know whether it’s a good front that can stay in power, but if it could, it “could” prove “more beneficial” to Kampucheans.

After all these gymnastics, the Guardian stops and throws up its hands in despair. The situation is “deplorable,” “a sad commentary on the state of the socialist community.” It is “astonished” at Vietnam, but has “such confidence” in Vietnam that it can’t be convinced that Vietnam is seeking hegemony. (After the colonization of Laos and invasion of Kampuchea, what else would it take to prove it?)

Next comes Sihanouk’s dramatic speech in the UN. What can the Guardian do now, since it praised him as a genuine patriot for years? In its next issue, it prints Sihanouk’s speech, but along with a news article that opposes Sihanouk’s views.

Then comes a big bind for the Guardian. One of their great “proletarian internationalist heroes,” the Cubans, are delivering vicious, chauvinist attacks on Kampuchea in the UN. On the other hand, the Koreans, with whom the Guardian has always sought a special relationship, have taken a firm, principled stand against the invasion. What to do? The Guardian flounders.

How can this all be summed up? The Guardian has done everything but the right thing. It has refused to defend socialism when it is under attack. It has even refused to take a simple democratic stand of defending national sovereignty and national self-determination of the third world countries. In fact, its opportunist “wriggling like a snake” has only served imperialism, especially of the Soviet variety.

In less than ten days’ time, then, the Guardian itself has blown away all its covers: that its so-called “independence” means anything more than trying to stand on quicksand rather than principle, that its “credibility” and “objectivity” mean more than verbal trickery.

Guardian readers should draw some lessons from this, and some are doing so. The first step is to draw a clear distinction between right and wrong: Should the people of a country determine their own future or not? Progressive Americans have answered this question correctly before and will do so again. Defend Democratic Kampuchea against the Soviet-Vietnamese invasion!