Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

USSR Behind Occupation of Kampuchea

Vietnamese Treachery Reaches New Depths

First Published: Revolution, Vol. 4, No. 1, January 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On Jan. 8, following a 6-day offensive by 100,000 Vietnamese troops ending in the capture of Phnom Penh, a puppet Cambodian group claimed “complete control” of Kampuchea (Cambodia), although, in fact, they only had the cities. The government of Kampuchea headed by Premier Pol Pot has taken to the jungles to wage guerrilla warfare against the invaders.

It was less than four years ago that the peoples of Indochina (including the countries of Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea) kicked out the U.S. after long years of fierce, heroic struggle against the savage onslaught of U.S. imperialism. Today Vietnam’s conquest of its neighbor and one-time ally against imperialism nakedly shows the betrayal by the leaders of Vietnam of everything which the peoples of Indochina fought for. It is back-stabbing treachery not only of the people of these countries, but also of millions of people the world over who supported the Indochinese peoples’ struggle as if it were their own.

Fighting has been going on sporadically between the two countries ever since 1975 over the refusal of Vietnam to recognize previously agreed-upon boundary lines between the two countries (see “Indochina Armed Clashes,” Revolution, Dec. 1978). In July 1977 Kampuchea decided to respond to any new Vietnamese attack by quick assaults across the border. Vietnam responded in December 1977 with such intensity that full-scale war erupted between the two countries.

Within a few months Vietnamese leaders were openly calling for the overthrow of the Kampuchean government, and on Dec. 3, 1978, the formation of the Kampuchean National United Front for National Salvation (KNUFNS) was announced. This is a patchwork of renegades from Kampuchea and is a creation of Vietnam’s. The idea is to create a Kampuchean puppet to mask Vietnam’s aggression against its neighbor. But it is all too apparent who is pulling the strings. The KNUFNS parrots Vietnam’s favorite phrases word-for-word and carries out the policies of its master, and Vietnamese troops do virtually all the fighting.

The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia is a shameless exposure of something which has been increasingly clear for some time–that the so-called “Socialist Republic” of Vietnam is not a socialist society and that its rulers are revisionists who have betrayed their heroic people’s revolutionary struggle and the country into the grip of Soviet social imperialism.

These traitors now openly attack Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Cultural Revolution. This is very much linked with their attacks on Kampuchea, as shown by a 7/15/78 editorial in the Communist Party of Vietnam’s daily paper, Nhan Dan: “In the 1960’s Pol Pot found his way to Peking to meet with the Chinese leaders at a time when the ’Cultural Revolution’ was raging in China. And since ’birds of a feather flock together,’ collusion and betrayal began then.”

The Vietnamese revisionists spit in the face of the masses of Vietnamese people, declaring recently that “We will win because we have the sympathy and the broad and great international support of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.” But it is the people of Vietnam who have brought their country its tremendous victories against imperialism in the past, not Soviet aid, and it is these same people of Vietnam who will eventually throw these parasites off their backs.

Along with their betrayal of Marxism and the Vietnamese revolution, these same traitors have sold out their country to Soviet social imperialism. Vietnam is now a member of COMECON, the economic association which serves the imperialist interests of the USSR, and last November the two countries signed a “treaty of friendship and cooperation” which is actually a military alliance.

China No Friend of Kampuchea

With Vietnam falling into the claws of Soviet social imperialism, China’s new revisionist rulers have hastened to the pretended aid of Kampuchea. But it is an aid which is only pretended. Over the past year, as things became very serious for Kampuchea, China’s main efforts have been to pressure the Kampuchean regime to become more “moderate”–in other words revisionist– just like them. In fact this Chinese program for Kampuchea is very similar to Vietnam’s calls and promises of “moderation”–it’s just to serve an opposing set of “great nation” interests.

China’s line is that Kampuchea’s only salvation is not to rely on the Kampuchean people, who defeated the U.S., but only on “acting nice” so as to please and get the support of reactionaries the world over, especially the U.S. government. Further, China’s rulers have opportunistically used Vietnam’s aggression against Kampuchea to try to increase their own influence with the Southeast Asian countries and to help tie these countries even more tightly into the war bloc led by the U.S. imperialists.

In particular, China has been trying to woo the 5-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the 11-year-old U.S.-dominated grouping of reactionary states in the area. In November, speaking to a group of Thai journalists, Teng Hsiao-ping made the following revealing remark on this subject: “If my expectation is correct Cambodia then will be completely overrun, and it will prove to the world what kind of regime the Vietnamese have. Then will be the time for ASEAN to play an important role in solving the problem.” (Far Eastern Economic Review, 11/24/78.) In other words, the only reason China’s rulers support Kampuchea is to use it against Vietnam, and thus against the USSR, and here Teng almost openly welcomes the defeat of Kampuchea–because that will serve as a weapon against Vietnam–and invites these U.S.-dominated reactionaries to come in and “solve” the problem.

It is also very clear that the “solution” the Chinese rulers want is not resolute support for the Kampuchean people, but rather something that could be sponsored by the Western bloc and would involve the return to power of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who is openly hostile to the Pol Pot government and the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and who is now pleading the case of Kampuchea in the U.N., with the backing of China and the U.S.

And the U.S., of course, is playing the role that is to be expected. It is condemning Vietnam’s aggression, seeing the chance to thus score a point on its superpower rival.

In addition, the U.S. has been shouting its condemnation of Kampuchea for the past several years. In fact the capitalists’ media in this country have become hysterical, comparing Democratic Kampuchea with Nazi Germany.

Behind Cambodia’s Policies

The Kampuchean government is condemned for evacuating the cities. But it had sound reasons for doing so. The cities were swollen with refugees who fled the countryside to escape U.S. bombing, which was some of the most concentrated anywhere in Indochina. By the time of its liberation in April 1976, five out of every six people in Phnom Penh were refugees from their homes in the countryside. Over half the population of Kampuchea was forced to become refugees. There was no food in the cities for these people.

In the months preceding the liberation of Phnom Penh, more than 8,000 people were starving to death in the imperialist-controlled cities every month, and lens of thousands more were getting almost nothing to eat. These people had to be evacuated to the countryside where the liberated peasants were producing a surplus of rice.

Besides being a city on the verge of starvation, the medical system in Phnom Penh had totally broken down by the time it was liberated. The electricity and water purification plants had been sabotaged by the retreating imperialists. There was a great danger that plagues would break out.

It is the grossest hypocrisy for the U.S. imperialists to raise a hue and cry about a supposedly brutal evacuation of the cities after they themselves had driven millions of peasants into those same cities by terror bombing and had then left them there to starve–after they themselves had deliberately sabotaged the medical system and other vital services.

Besides feeding people, the new revolutionary government in Kampuchea needed to smash the organization of the puppets of imperialism who had been ruling. They needed to break up the covert counter-revolutionary gangs created by the CIA before the U.S. was kicked out. They had to deal with Russian KGB and Vietnamese agents plotting against the infant revolutionary government. Moving many people to the country was a good way of breaking up these organizations. And if any further proof of the necessity of these measures is needed, Vietnam’s naked aggression provides it. The Kampuchean government wasn’t imagining these threats.

The Kampuchean government is also accused of “brutal massacres,” etc. In general it is always necessary for the people making a revolution to execute notorious enemies of the people, and this has certainly happened in Kampuchea. But in addition the imperialists in this case have gone to great pains to fabricate wholesale lies and half-truths based on stories by ex-landlords, petty capitalists and former officers of the puppet government who have every reason to hate the revolution.

In particular, a set of photographs supposedly showing brutal executions and forced labor, which has been published again and again by the Western press as evidence of Kampuchean atrocities, has been shown to be a fake, consisting of pictures posed in Thailand. It is revealing in another direction that these same photos and stories have been cited by the USSR and Vietnam as “evidence” to justify aggression against Kampuchea. Thus the 7/15/78 issue of the Vietnamese daily Nhan Dan published these same photos, and Vietnamese government broadcasts have cited Robert Dole, Ford’s 1976 running mate, and Reader’s Digest author Anthony Paul as authorities on the internal situation in Kampuchea. (Paul’s book, Murder of a Gentle Land, is based on totally unsubstantiated third-hand stories.)

But Vietnam’s second-hand use of U.S.-tested reactionary weapons does not stop here. It is also using captured U.S. weapons in its invasion of Kampuchea, including the barbarous anti-personnel cluster bombs which the U.S. imperialists used against the Vietnamese people. And Vietnam is even shamelessly using the old “hot pursuit” and “strike the sanctuaries” arguments which the U.S. used for its invasions of Cambodia. Thus an official Vietnamese publication, Kampuchea Dossier, says: “One may surmise that [Vietnam] will not confine herself to a purely defensive attitude, for in all matters there are limits to human patience and the right of pursuit is recognized by international law. In the face of an enemy who is as perfidious as he is obdurate, she cannot act otherwise than crush the forces of aggression and destroy their starting bases.”

Although the Soviets and the Vietnamese are gloating over the “quick victory” an unequal military contest has achieved, they would have done well to consider the history of the liberation struggle in their own country, as well as Kampuchea, before embarking on such a precipitous course. The Kampuchean people will not tolerate an occupation force acting on behalf of an imperialist power. The Communist Party and government of Kampuchea made plans in advance for waging a protracted people’s war against the impending Vietnamese occupation; already resistance to the Vietnamese army is underway in the countryside. Vietnam the Soviet Union would do well to remember the previous history of imperialist aggression and resistance in Indochina.