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Renmin Ribao

Johnson’s Challenge

Comments on U.S. President’s State of the Union Message

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #4, Jan. 21, 1966, pp. 13-15.]

LYNDON Johnson’s State of the Union Message this year is a message for expanding the aggressive war in Vietnam. It is a message for intensifying the attacks on the American people.

A War Message

Although Johnson uttered high-sounding words to try to mislead the people, yet the keynote of this year’s message is a brazen clamour for war and an outright demand on the American people to tighten their belts.

The message begins and ends with the Vietnam question. Why does the Vietnam question figure so prominently as to be the number one question for the Johnson Administration? Why does the message smell so heavily of gunpowder?

U.S. imperialism has suffered serious defeats in its war of aggression in Vietnam. Some 200,000 U.S. aggressor troops poured into south Vietnam have still failed to save the United States from these defeats. “Escalation” has proved completely ineffective and Washington’s “peace talks” frauds, one after another, have fallen flat. The defeats suffered by U.S. imperialism in south Vietnam have upset its counter-revolutionary “global strategy.” In his State of the Union Message, Johnson could only admit: “Because of Vietnam we cannot do all we should, or all we would like to do.”

New Awakening of American People. The intensification of the war of aggression in Vietnam has resulted in the further sharpening of the class contradictions in the United States and in promoting a new political awakening of the American people. The rise of the Negro people’s mass struggle against tyranny and the vigorous development of the American people’s anti-war movement are developing into two time-bombs planted in the heart of U.S. imperialism itself. Within U.S. ruling circles, endless rows are going on over defeats in the war of aggression in Vietnam. This situation in U.S. domestic affairs has furthered the Johnson Administration’s worries and uneasiness.

Plunging Into the Unknown. As the New York Times put it, “The United States is plunging into the unknown as 1966 begins.” Never before in American history has the United States been so badly beaten in a war of aggression and never before has it received so violent a shock as a result of its defeats.

However, Johnson does not intend to get out of the morass. He tries in vain to find a way out by persisting in his war of aggression and expanding his military adventure.

Inevitably, all reactionaries in history commit one mistake after another right up to their doom. As the main pillar of all present-day reaction, U.S. imperialism is of course no exception. The Johnson Administration has not learnt the proper lesson from the series of defeats on the south Vietnam battlefield.

Further Extending Aggression in Vietnam

In the message, Johnson repeatedly bellowed that the United States “will stand firm” and “stay” in south Vietnam. What does this mean?

U.S. Won’t Automatically Withdraw From South Vietnam. It means that U.S. imperialism will not withdraw from south Vietnam of its own accord. The message explicitly said that U.S. troops “will stay until aggression has stopped.” In other words, the U.S. aggressors will not leave so long as the Vietnamese people have not completely given up their struggle against U.S. aggression and for national salvation, and so long as the whole of south Vietnam has not become a colony of U.S. imperialism.

It means that U.S. imperialism intends to extend its aggressive war still further. Johnson declared that for the next fiscal year the United States would increase its military spending in the Vietnam war by another U.S. $5,800 million and that he would ask Congress for “additional appropriations” on the basis of the war’s needs. He also emphasized that “whatever the cost or whatever the challenge,” the United States would continue to “battle.”

U.S. Will Not Give Up Control of Asia. It means that U.S. imperialism is trying hard to turn south Vietnam into a war base in Asia. Johnson minced no words when he declared that the United States wanted to “stay” in south Vietnam because it would not abandon Asia.

From his State of the Union Message, one can only draw the conclusion that Johnson is determined to switch the U.S. war machine into high gear and speed it along the road of a wider war of aggression.

“Scorched Earth” Policy in South Vietnam. Actually, the extent of current Washington activities for war expansion goes far beyond what Johnson said in his message. Trying its utmost to round up cannon-fodder, U.S. imperialism has boosted monthly draft calls to 80,000—equivalent to the highest figure during its war of aggression in Korea. While pouring reinforcements into south Vietnam, U.S. imperialism is conducting large-scale expansion of its military bases there with the intent of bringing in still more aggressor troops. In the liberated areas in south Vietnam, it is carrying out the inhuman “scorched earth” policy of “burn all, kill all and destroy all.” It is also bombing the liberated areas in Laos on an increasing scale and directing the Laotian Right-wingers to step up attacks against the patriotic forces. It is making use of its Thai and south Vietnamese puppet troops to invade Cambodian territory with greater frequency. These facts show that, although the U.S. aggressors have been badly battered in south Vietnam, they will go on and on with their aggression regardless of the consequences. They will not be fully satisfied until they are completely destroyed.

Goal of the “Peace Offensive”

Johnson did not forget to throw some words about “peace” into his war message. The more U.S. imperialism expands its war of aggression in Vietnam, the more it tries to step up its “peace offensive.” This has become a law.

Sheer Rubbish. In his message Johnson harped on his stale “14-point” proposition, saying that the United States would “stand by the Geneva agreements,” respect “the principle of self-determination” and stand for the “reunification” of Vietnam. These professions are absolutely worthless! Since be called south Vietnam a “country” in his message, and made it definitely clear that the U.S. aggressors “will stay” there, all talk about “self-determination” and “reunification” is of course sheer rubbish, and the Geneva agreements amount to only a scrap of paper.

As for Johnson’s remarks that, in the past year, the United States held 300 secret talks and contacted the governments of more than 100 countries for a “Peaceful settlement” of the Vietnam problem, they cannot prove the “good faith” of U.S. imperialism. All these manoeuvres were designed to throw dust into the eyes of the public, confound right with wrong, and spread a smokescreen for the widening of the war of aggression against Vietnam. In the past year the Johnson Administration has sung quite a few “peace” psalms and U.S. brasshats and political bigwigs have rushed all over the world, but it was during this time that the flames of war lit by the U.S. aggressors spread from southern to northern Vietnam and the scale of the aggressive war expanded to a level close to that of the Korean War.

Counter-Revolutionary Dual Tactics. U.S. imperialism frequently uses counter-revolutionary dual tactics. The “peace” tactics are always used to cover up and help the war tactics. “Peace” is only a means, to be used when applicable, given up when it is not, and taken up again when convenient. Whether it is used or not, the sole purpose is to help achieve the aggressive aims of U.S. imperialism.

New Brand Name for Old Goods. But a contradiction that U.S. imperialism can never solve is that its war tactics inevitably expose its “peace” tactics. U.S. aircraft and artillery have time and again blown away the peace smokescreen spread by Johnson with his successive “unconditional discussions” offer and his “14-point” proposition. And now he has added something “new” to his “basket of peace”: one is the “scaling-down of fighting,” or both sides “reducing their own military activities,” and the other, “to fight and negotiate at the same time,” or for the fighting and the meeting at the conference table to “go on simultaneously.” But how can these fool anybody? The Johnson Administration is stepping up the expansion of its war of aggression against Vietnam. Its “scaling-down” is in fact a mere cover for “escalation.” As to the “fight and negotiate at the same time,” it means real fighting and sham negotiation. Johnson may employ whatever tactics he likes, but he cannot hoodwink the world.

In the part on domestic affairs, the message, which contained a list of all-embracing measures, repeated the hackneyed theme of a “great society.” Some measures were put in for window-dressing, to allay the growing dissatisfaction of the American people with the ruling circles of their country, while the substantive ones were designed to meet the needs of a wider war of aggression against Vietnam by clamping down upon the American people and tightening the squeeze on them.

Attacks on the American People

American People Told to Tighten Their Belts. The picture of the U.S. economy given by Johnson is one of blooming prosperity: the economy in the course of vigorous development, the people living in “abundance,” the financial deficit for the next fiscal year “one of the lowest in many years,” and so on. And the reality? For a time in the past there has been a lop-sided growth in the U.S. economy, achieved in the main by such means as introducing deficit financing to a great extent, easy credit terms, “tax cuts,” and increased military spending. Such artificial stimulants have already confronted the U.S. economy with an over-production crisis.

Johnson was telling an even bigger lie when he said that the financial deficit for the next fiscal year would be “only 1.8 billion dollars.” Here, he deliberately left out the additional military expenditures to be allocated for aggression in Vietnam which will amount to thousands of millions of dollars. The war of aggression in Vietnam has greatly increased the American people’s burden. During fiscal 1965, the average tax burden for every American was as high as $850, or 32 per cent of the individual income; this is much higher than that during World War II or in the war of aggression against Korea. The reason Johnson gave so much publicity to “prosperity” in the United States is that he wants the nation to believe that guns and butter can be had at the same time!

Ever More Savage Fascist Means. To expand the war of aggression abroad, U.S. imperialism must inevitably make the people at home suffer more. As Comrade Mao Tse-tung pointed out long ago: “To start a war, the U.S. reactionaries must first attack the American people. They are already attacking the American people—oppressing the workers and the democratic circles in the United States politically and economically and preparing to impose fascism there.” The domestic measures which Johnson introduced in his message clearly signal that the U.S. ruling group is prepared to intensify its attack on the American people. Johnson has asked the Congress to consider measures to suppress strikes “which threaten irreparable damage to the national interest.” He has told the working people to “exercise wage restraint” and make “further sacrifices” when the war so “requires.” He has decided to “improve” the tax system and so wrest more money from the pockets of the U.S. taxpayers for the bottomless pit of the war of aggression in Vietnam.

What Johnson has referred to in his message is just a tiny part of these attacks. Over the last year, the Johnson Administration dispatched a large number of regular troops to cold-bloodedly put down the Negroes’ struggle against tyranny in the Watts area, and, by administrative means, deprived the American workers of their right to strike. In 1966, with the escalation of the war of aggression in Vietnam and the daily sharpening of class contradictions and national contradictions at home, the Johnson Administration is sure to resort to still move cruel and savage fascist means against the American people.

Five “Lines of Policy”—Concrete Programme of U.S. Global Strategy

Expansion of Trade With the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Johnson’s message shows that U.S. imperialism is directing its knife at the Vietnamese people, the revolutionary people of the world and the American people. The five “lines of policy” on foreign affairs mentioned in his message are a concrete programme drawn up by U.S. imperialism to push ahead with its counter-revolutionary global strategy on the basis of the present international situation. While threatening and blackmailing the Vietnamese people and slandering and attacking the Chinese people, the Johnson Administration holds out economic bait to the Khrushchov revisionists. Johnson said that the United States “will make it possible to expand trade between the United States and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.” There are quite a number of people who want to be caught on the line cast by the United States. With great appreciation and full endorsement, TASS reported that the U.S. President would ask Congress “to make it possible to expand U.S. trade with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.” And indeed, a feeling of satisfaction is clearly visible in the lines of the TASS report.

Peaceful Penetration Into Socialist Countries. But what does Johnson mean in saying this? He placed expansion of trade with the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries in the fifth of his five “lines of policy.” This fifth line is what he called “support of national independence.” He wasted no breath in declaring: “We follow this principle by building bridges to Eastern Europe.” Obviously, U.S. imperialism has declared openly that it wants to pursue a policy of peaceful infiltration into the socialist countries. This is the greatest insult to the peoples of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. That the Khrushchov revisionists have gone so far as to be proud of this shows how far they have degenerated!

Johnson’s message is a challenge to the Vietnamese people, to the American people and to all peace-loving countries and peoples. U.S. imperialism has risen to power through war and it has battened on war. Now, U.S. imperialism has been badly battered on the south Vietnam battlefield, but it still wants to find a way out by expanding the war. There is no doubt that in the face of bruial U.S. imperialist aggression and oppression, the Vietnamese people will resolutely strike back with heavier blows, that the American people’s anti-war movement and their struggle for democracy and for the defence of their right to live will surge forward more vigorously, and that the anti-imperialist, peace-loving, forces of the world will rally still further in support of the embattled Vietnamese people and completely frustrate the U.S. imperialists’ plans of war and aggression. More serious defeats are awaiting the U.S. aggressors.

(“Renmin Ribao’s” editorial, January 19, 1966.)

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