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International Socialism, Spring 1967


Richard Kirkwood

Little Light


From International Socialism (1st series), No.28, Spring 1967, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


War Crimes in Vietnam
Bertrand Russell
Allen & Unwin, 25s

Vietnam North
Wilfred Burchett
Lawrence & Wishart, 18s

Despite its importance, the Vietnam war has yet to produce a book of major Socialist analysis. Neither of these is what we want. Readers will learn much more from news-reports, pamphlets and the classic works on the subject. Russell documents the horrors of the American crusade against world Communism and comes down clearly on the side of the NLF. This is his brief for the war-crimes Tribunal and its defects stem from it. Admirable as the desire to focus attention on American responsibility is, the pronouncements of the international left’s Great Ones are no substitute for action by the labour movement nationally and internationally. Nor is it a substitute for an analysis of exactly why and how far we should support the NLF’s struggle. Russell has the merit over the ‘orthodox’ left of recognising that one can and should distinguish between the US and its victims, between the violence of oppressed and oppressor. But the NLF is not all good and it does not help to avoid issues like its (and the Viet Minh’s) suppression of Trotskyism and other non-CP leftists or the opportunist twists of Ho’s policy. To do so is to be less convincing when one says that it is still necessary to support the Front as against the Americans.

Burchett is a straight apologist for North Vietnam and an unconvincing one at that. Two pages on Socialist bee-keeping in which we learn that if treated as comrades they will not sting (!) in no way illuminate the realities of Ho’s DRV. He does show, again, that the bombing is a failure both in terms of material and morale destruction but this, again, is a red herring in terms of the war in the South. There is a revolution going on in South Vietnam and we need to know more about what son of revolution it is. We need to think more, too, about the dynamics of US world policy. Neither of these books helps us.

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