Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist Party

Opportunists on China–Vietnam War

Phony Marxists Display Pro-Imperialist Wares


First Published: Revolution, Vol. 4, No. 4, April 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: 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.

At the outbreak of World War I, as the revisionist leadership of many socialist parties dropped their figleaf of class struggle and scrambled to the defense of their governments in that war, Lenin pointed out how the reformism long festering within these parties through the relatively peaceful years had gone over into open counter-revolution. Under the new conditions of war, “the boil burst”–these opportunists went over from aiding the bourgeoisie by acting as a brake on the development of the revolutionary struggle to openly standing with the bourgeoisie–still with a “Marxist” cover of course, which made them all the more useful for the purpose of rallying the people around the flag of reaction.

Vietnam’s invasion of Kampuchea and China’s subsequent invasion of Vietnam, which brought home just how fast things are moving towards world war, also brought out just how quickly revisionist forces of various types are bursting over into openly standing with one side or the other in the coming superpower showdown. Along with this criminal prostitution of Marxism as a means to promote imperialism, there is another, somewhat related tendency arising among some forces to say that the emergence of a “socialist” superpower and wars between “socialist” countries throw all of Marxism into question. This is something the pro-superpower (especially pro-U.S.) opportunists have helped to promote, with their insistence that the principles of Marxism don’t apply to this conflict, and in turn this new “agnosticism” is also a one-way street into one or the other superpower war bloc.

Of course, one of the pus-filled boils most aching to burst is the so-called Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), which has gone over from justifying and defending U.S. aggression to openly advocating it. They are warmongers plain and simple. With this they have become as ugly and fully reactionary as any organization “left” or right in the U.S.; in fact, many of their statements are indistinguishable from those of the most openly reactionary U.S. circles.

Of course the CPML has no choice but to paint themselves as proponents of peace and enemies of aggression, since otherwise no one would listen to them at all except the imperialists themselves. For this reason they have no choice but to lie, to insist that in regard to Vietnam all China is doing is defending itself, fighting to “push the Vietnamese forces out of Chinese territory and well into their own country to secure the border.” But unlike the CPML, China hasn’t bothered at all to hide the fact that it attacked Vietnam, to “teach Vietnam a lesson” about who is going to call the shots in Southeast Asia. In fact, the CPML’s ludicrous claim that the Chinese “do not want a single inch of Vietnamese territory” came just exactly as the Chinese government was announcing that it was going to continue occupying parts of Vietnam it considered rightfully Chinese territory, as well as strategic military locations within Vietnam.

CPML: Imperialist Think Tank

The CPML’s pious call, issued in their newspaper of the same name, for mutual withdrawal of Vietnam from Kampuchea and China from Vietnam, is almost identical to the “peace proposal” formulated by the U.S. National Security Council. The upshot of this “mutual withdrawal” proposal is that China’s invasion of Vietnam is fine, because Vietnam attacked Kampuchea first.

Just as the U.S. imperialists are using Teng Hsiao-ping & Co. to say openly what they cannot say, even though it appears the other way around–as if the Chinese revisionists were urging on “reluctant” imperialists–in the same way the CPML plays its own puny role. The mouth is the Call, but the words came from the imperialist master. When the CPML complains that in backing the Chinese invasion of Vietnam, the U.S. “took a vacillating and contradictory position” with such “U.S. appeasers” as the State Department “bent on placating the Soviet-Vietnamese aggressors,” who is talking to whom? Can it be that the tiny CPML is more bloodthirsty than U.S. imperialism? Or isn’t it a case of the CPML having become, objectively, an arm of U.S. imperialism, helping to carry out the bourgeoisie’s war preparations in the sphere of public opinion?

Oh yes, the CPML hates war all right. That’s why it sums up “the lessons” of the China-Vietnam war–which it considers a great success–with the following quote from a pro-China Hong Kong newspaper: “This gives the people in the world a new concept. The Soviet Union bullies the weak and is afraid of the strong. To oppose hegemonistic expansion does not necessarily create wars. On the contrary, it is a good method to relax a tense situation.” You see, war against the Soviets is war for the cause of peace. We can already hear it now: if small wars against the Soviets preserve peace, a big war against the Soviets would be the war to end all wars!

The CPML has its mirror image–its father, in a way–in the CPUSA, long a spindly arm of the Soviet social-imperialists. Trying to take advantage of the prestige revolutionary Vietnam had won during its heroic war against the U.S., the CP worked through various fronts and willing accomplices to stage what were billed as “antiwar rallies” in San Francisco and New York. In fact the CP has been working overtime to resurrect the old antiwar movement, which they tried to sabotage, and turn it into its opposite–into a movement for Soviet imperialism and its flunkies. The war that the CP is against is China’s invasion of Vietnam, which has become a pawn in Soviet hands, and they don’t hesitate at all to defend Vietnam’s war against Kampuchea–that imperialist-backed war they’re all in favor of.

CPUSA’s Pro-War Movement

In fact, since it’s building public opinion in favor of Vietnam’s invasion of Kampuchea that is the CPUSA’s most difficult task, it’s on this question that much of their press has focused. According to the CP’s People’s World, repeating a Cuban reporter’s words, the Pol Pot regime was “worse” than the Nazis, the South African government, etc., in that it planned to exterminate all of its own people, as part of a conspiracy to wipe out the entire population of Southeast Asia and repopulate with Chinese seeking “vital space.” Aren’t these the same kind of wild and racist charges the U.S. used to justify its invasion of Vietnam?

In addition to some well-meaning fools stuck in the past, in these counterrevolutionary demonstrations the CP has been able to mobilize hordes of Trotskyites, who despite all their “criticisms” of the USSR as a “deformed workers’ state” still consider it their homeland and model of what they want the world to be. Like so often in the past, these Trots supply many of the troops for the CP. Of course, they have “differences” with the CP. “Our demand on the Soviet Union,” says the Socialist Workers Party paper in reply to a call raised at the New York demonstration for a Soviet “second front,” “is not to attack China but to defend Vietnam.” Some difference!

Unfortunately, the Albanian Party and government have put out a lot of statements about the China-Vietnam-Kampuchea situation that aren’t very different from the Soviet stand.

In a February 21 article in Zeri I Popullit, organ of the Albanian Party of Labor (reprinted by the Albanian Telegraph Agency), the Albanian Party puts itself squarely on the side of Vietnam. This is reactionary enough all by itself, since taking sides with Vietnam–today the invaded, yesterday the invader–means taking sides with the USSR in a superpower war by proxy, when proletarian internationalism demands opposition to all the reactionary governments involved and thorough exposure of the superpowers whose hands are moving their pawns from behind the scenes.

But the Albanian statement goes from bad to worse. It slanders the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea, criticizing the (Vietnamese) forces which overthrew it for being “a little slow.” It labels the Pol Pot government “nothing but a group of provocateurs in the service of the imperialist bourgeoisie and especially the Chinese revisionists.” The evidence? “The anti-popular line of this regime is also confirmed by the fact that the Albanian embassy in the Cambodian (sic) capital, the embassy of a country which has given the people of Cambodia every possible aid, was kept isolated, indeed encircled with barbed wire as if it were a concentration camp .. .Phnom Penh had become a deserted city, empty of people, where even for diplomats it was difficult to secure food, where you couldn’t find a doctor or even an aspirin.”

What a shameless example of narrow nationalism and empiricism! What does it matter that the Kampuchean people faced starvation and were under the most fierce attack on all sides, including from fifth columnists within and from their false “friends” in Peking! What does it matter that this was what made desperate measures necessary! No, the important thing is that Albanian diplomats couldn’t find an aspirin! The authors of this nonsense even have the nerve to say that the Pol Pot regime “provoked” the Vietnamese by publishing communiques about Vietnamese troops killed by Kampuchean government forces in border righting! When it comes down to it, the Albanian “criticism” of the Pol Pot government is that it was attacked.

Betrayal of Proletarian Internationalism

The Albanians betray the Kampuchean people by slandering the Kampuchean revolution–and ironically they even join with the chorus from the U.S. and China in singing the praises of Prince Sihanouk, who has emerged as an acceptable “alternative” (to the U.S. and China) Kampuchean figurehead, in opposition to the struggle against Vietnamese occupation being led by the Communist Party of Kampuchea. And they betray the interests of the proletariat and oppressed peoples of the world by justifying Soviet aggression and helping the imperialists hide the fact that what is going on in the China-Vietnam war is superpower war maneuvers–that both sides are completely reactionary.

All this fits in well with the Albanian line on Mao, which forms the putrid bottom line for this thoroughly disgusting declaration on Vietnam. They refuse to distinguish between socialist China and revisionist-ruled China and between the revolutionary line of Mao Tsetung and the counterrevolutionary line of Teng Hsiao-ping. While Mao was still alive, they say, “The Chinese leadership, like the Soviet social-imperialist leadership, irrespective of certain minor aid which it may have given, obstructed and damaged the anti-imperialist war of the people of Vietnam.” Here the fact that the USSR is also slapped a little is far overshadowed by the repetition of the vile Soviet slander about the alleged “lack” of Chinese aid, which the Vietnamese themselves refuted many times in the past. Further this Albanian declaration even goes so far as to say that the invasion of Vietnam is a consequence of China’s foreign policy under Mao Tsetung, and that Mao Tsetung Thought is the “ideological basis” for that invasion and for all of China’s current international crimes. This attack on socialism and Mao’s revolutionary line is as much treason in the ideological field as is Albania’s siding with the USSR around the political question of Vietnam.

But Albania is not the only force that refuses to distinguish between capitalism and socialism. Trailing behind, as always, is the Guardian newspaper, which has raised slogans about “ending the socialist wars” while throwing up its hands and wailing in complete, petty bourgeois despair.

A cartoon which has appeared in many big bourgeois dailies and magazines illustrates the Guardian’s stand very well: a Chinese and a Vietnamese soldier are together in a trench. The Vietnamese is dead or dying. By the rocket’s red glare, the Chinese soldier reads Marx: “As the antagonism between classes within a nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.” The point of all this is, as one news magazine headlined it, “Vietnam–Graveyard of Communist Ideology.” Marx was wrong. War has nothing to do with classes–it’s just how it is. Thus the class nature of the conflict–both the reactionary class nature of the Chinese and Vietnamese governments and the superpowers behind them–and the revolutionary interests of the proletariat are all neatly covered in a fog of cynicism.

“Sorry Days” for Whom?

“These are sorry days for socialism,” begins the Guardian’s front page editorial, February 28. “Where will it end?...Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Ho–imperfect beings all, perhaps, but the vehicles to convey to the masses the message of humankind’s historic dream of a classless society of cooperation–we pity your unquiet sleep. More, we pity those for whom your dream of socialist internationalism and friendship has become a nightmare.. .We dread for the future of the dream throughout the world unless the sons and daughters of the founders of scientific socialism–class comrades all–cease their fire and return to their homes.”

The Guardian has good reason to be upset. It gambled everything on supporting “socialism” in all of the belligerent countries in this clash, and now the middle it has tried to occupy has become a war-torn no-man’s land. The threat of a “socialist world war” they refer to mainly reflects the fact that it is their little world which is being blown apart. A March 7 front-page “Emergency” fund appeal declares that “The Guardian’s survival is at stake.” On the one hand, the ruling revisionists in China, wanting something more anti-Soviet than the wishy-washy Guardian, have cut off their highly profitable tour business. On the other hand, Wilfred Burchett, by far the Guardian’s most famous correspondent and its calling card for entry into wealthy pro-Soviet revisionist circles, has quit the Guardian because it did not go far enough in attacking the Pol Pot regime. So what is a poor centrist to do when the bottom falls out of the center?

But the Guardian is not just an opportunist without an opportunity. It speaks to a social trend, a whole political tendency among petty bourgeois radicals who came forward around the time of the Vietnam war (and those younger ones who are politically absorbed into that milieu every day), who want to oppose U.S. imperialism–that is, genuine radicals, unlike the CPML–but who lack a firm political and ideological footing and tend to get swept away by the complexity of the world’s changes. Some of these people end up going along with the U.S. after all–this is an important pond in which the pro-China revisionists are fishing, and many more will fall for the bait as the stakes get higher. Others, like the Guardian itself, end up more and more sliding into the Soviet camp not because they love the USSR but because it seems like there’s no place else to go. (Of course, the Guardian too could easily slide to the other end of the scale and support U.S. imperialism when things get heavier.)

It’s all too complicated, so the Guardian tries to list it all in ABC order. “We denounce U.S. imperialism, even though it’s not yet directly involved.” It’s not? Then what was Treasury Secretary Blumenthal doing in Peking when the invasion was launched, if not paying off for a job well done? But no, what they condemn is “Washington’s refusal to fulfill its obligations to make reparations and its continuing hostility to Vietnam.” They can’t condemn the U.S. for being the hand that moves the Chinese cat’s-paw, because they claim that “China is a great socialist country” and refuse to acknowledge any changes whatsoever in the nature of China’s social system since the death of Mao Tsetung. While they do denounce China’s invasion of Vietnam, to the Guardian the explanation is that “great socialist countries make great mistakes.”

As for Vietnam, “Vietnam, too, is a great socialist country.” Like a political ostrich in danger, the Guardian thrusts its head into the sand and rear into the air. Is Vietnam a pawn of the USSR? That’s just “imperialist slander.” Next question. What about Vietnam’s invasion of Kampuchea? Vietnam also “made a great mistake.” So how are we to judge this situation? Well, Vietnam was wrong to invade a smaller country, but China is much bigger and so its invasion of Vietnam is much worse. Time after time they tell us that Kampuchea has six million people, Vietnam 50 million, and China 900 million. How convenient, how fair and objective a way to rate “socialist wars”!

Where does the USSR fit into the Guardian’s scheme? Basically they’d like to leave it in the background, since not even the Guardian wants to call it a “great socialist country.” But they do insist that it’s still socialist, even though they’ve called it social imperialist, and say it has to be defended in relation to the U.S., if not in its own right. “The socialist world is deeply split,” they tell us. “U.S. imperialism is the principal enemy.”

In a signed “Opinion” column in their March 7 issue it’s put more plainly: “We must think ’the unthinkable’: we must seriously consider the merits of a tactical alliance with pro-USSR forces for the time being. Until imperialism–and the Trilateral countries [NATO plus Japan] in general–are truly weakened, we should not, as a rule, direct any significant blows at the Soviet Union.”

“Odd Turn Around in Soviet Policies”

In the past, the Guardian has been characterized as centrist–that is, they combined trying to associate themselves with the revolutionary prestige of socialist China and Mao Tsetung with a failure to break with Soviet revisionism. Their beef with the USSR was not that it had become capitalist–which they denied–but rather that it gave in too much to the U.S. But now the USSR is much more to the Guardian’s liking.

As an unsigned article in their March 14 issue said, “We must also note the odd turnaround in Soviet policies. While Brezhnev has not abandoned Khrushchev’s revisionist theoretical propositions, the repeated Soviet attempts to collaborate with U.S. imperialism have been, by and large, rebuffed by Washington. Almost despite itself–and primarily for reasons of national self-interest rather than solidarity with revolutionary struggle–the Soviet Union has been forced to challenge the political role of the U.S. and assist certain liberation movements... The fact is that genuinely anti-imperialist and revolutionary forces frequently find Moscow a source of at least limited support.”

Something else has changed as well–China. No longer does China have any revolutionary glory for the Guardian to try to latch onto. Even for the Guardian, China smells bad and they want to wash their hands of it. Not because they don’t like Chinese revisionism, mind you. They always thought Mao more than a little “left” for his uncompromising stand against the Soviets and the forces of the bourgeoisie within China. The one thing they hail about that “great socialist country” is Teng’s great plan for “modernization” (that is, capitalist restoration). What the Guardian can’t swallow is that China is capitulating to the U.S., not because it doesn’t like class collaboration, but because the Guardian’s point of view is that of a petty bourgeois radical who can’t stand life in the imperialist U.S. but who just can’t see proletarian revolution, and is especially frightened by times of crisis and war, which is exactly when there’s the most opportunity for proletarian revolution. (Of course, if China turned around and went over to the Soviet bloc, the Guardian would be as happy as a clam–then they really would have the “unity of the socialist world.”)

As war approaches we see more and more former “revolutionaries” of various stripes are becoming “practical.” The storm is coming and so they search out a warm superpower wing to hide under, or they hide their heads in the sand. But this is really the greatest idealism, because the countries and peoples will be drawn into this whirlpool no matter what anyone wants or all the fine distinctions they make.

These “revolutionary” forces who do not base themselves on a class analysis of all sides and on the revolutionary interests of the proletariat will be swept into–are already being swept into–the rush towards world war, trailing behind the imperialist belligerents, without being able to oppose world war by revolution against the imperialists, which is the only way to prevent world war, or to turn tragedy into opportunity, if world war does break out, so as to put an end to imperialist war through revolution. For such “socialists” as these, there are some very sorry days ahead.