The Western Socialist
Vol. 37 - No. 275
No. 3, 1970
As goes an old adage, a leopard never changes its spots. Nor do the political organizations of capitalism, however they are termed or whatever their catchwords. Take, for example, the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, popularly known as the Viet Cong (Communists).
Back in 1967 when an election of sorts was held in South Vietnam, an Associated Press dispatch from Tokyo described "an extraordinary congress" held in mid-August of that year, by the "political arm" of the Viet Cong to draw up a platform outlining what it thought would be good for "the people" of South Viet Nam.
Monitored in Tokyo from an official North Viet Nam radio broadcast, ". . . the program would permit capitalism to carry on with the encouragement of a national union government, parcel out free land to landless peasants, confiscate U.S. and 'puppet' property, but guarantee the right to private ownership of production." (Victoria Daily Colonist, Sept. 2, 1967.)
If eyebrows are raised at this open advocacy of capitalism by an organization that is widely believed to be communist it is mainly an indication that a working knowledge of what socialism/communism really is all about is lacking in the questioner. The designation "capitalism" is extremely unpopular in these times in most of the world. It has become commonplace for political groups in the more underdeveloped areas that seek to establish a national capitalist economy of their own to utilize the rhetoric of socialism/communism — at least to some extent — in order to capture the imaginations and support of the poverty-stricken masses. If there are occasional slip-ups it must be realized that nobody is perfect, to err is human, and all that sort of thing.
Few, if any, would deny that Vietnam is part of the backward, or capitalistically undeveloped part of Southeast Asia and that it is in the process of groping out of a peasant-agrarian productive basis into the industrial production of the 20th century. It should be just as easy to perceive the class divisions, the owners and non-owners of the means of life; the well-heeled individuals on the one hand and the propertyless peasants on the other. The centuries old struggle of the peasants against their land-owner exploiters is now subverted into support of a budding new class of overlords, the professionals, small business people, and industrial owners who back the aspiring state-bureaucratic types who constitute the political leadership. Since most workers in the industrially developed world, despite access to information and despite a life of toil under capitalist relationships, are nevertheless still unaware of the real implications and nature of socialism, it should not be surprising that a peasant-supported group such as the NLF could not be conscious of anything beyond a capitalist economy. To them it could certainly seem revolutionary. Providing, that is, that they were not directly dominated by American or other foreign capitalisms.
THE STATE — A CAPITALIST INSTITUTION
As was the case with dominant economic classes in past societies the capitalist class maintains its position by controlling the state. In much of the 20th century world, however, a capitalist class was not developed sufficiently to control the state in the manner of classic capitalism and the state bureaucracy, from the outset of successful revolution, usurped most of the prerogatives of private capitalists. The Viet Cong, apparently, want it understood that they favor the more classical type of capitalism and proclaim, in their platform, that they aim to "Protect the right to ownership of the means of production and other property of the citizens under the laws of the state." As if to emphasize the point they promise to:
"give state encouragement to 'capitalists in industry and trade to help develop industry, crafts' and enforce 'freedom of enterprise to the benefit of nation building' and institute a customs policy to protect home production." (Election Platform of Viet Cong.)
Capitalist revolutions, however, cannot be consummated without the support of the majority and the fighting must also be carried on by the majority. The trick is to convince this majority, despite the fact of its lack of ownership and its abject poverty that it is part of the nation. The National Liberation Front, as with past revolutionary capitalist organizations, promises "the freedom and happiness of the people" and the "independence and sovereignty of the nation." In other words, in order to hide the fact of economic class division the revolutionary capitalists of the Viet Cong promote the fiction of a common national interest.
But the peasants of South Vietnam should not be faulted in their mistaken loyalties. They certainly could hardly be aware that the independence of any small nation in today's world of competing giants amounts to 19th century romanticism, as a United Press International news item would help to testify in this case:
"China has warned Hanoi any peace moves to end the war in South Viet Nam could result in China being forced to move into North Vietnam," etc. (Victoria Daily Colonist, Sept. 10, 1966.)
Even the relatively weak nation of North Vietnam threatens any possible independence that could be achieved by the Viet Cong. The forces that impel the northern nation to seek the "rescue" of South Vietnam from the U.S. and its Saigon puppets would operate in the event of a Viet Cong victory. It is not a so-called common ideology that counts in determining the course of history. It is, rather, a matter of conflicting economic interests as witness the rapidly mounting tensions between the Soviet and Chinese blocs of so-called communist nations. At this point in history it is anybody's guess how the South East Asian stew will wind up. There are straws in the wind that indicate a potential alliance between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. against China. There are other, and newer, straws in the wind that might indicate the reverse.
BROTHERS UNDER THE SKIN
China is a blossoming capitalist giant in need of outside markets and raw materials. Although it is largely a state capitalist economy Article 10 of the Peoples' Republic of China emphatically insists that.
"The state protects the right of capitalists to own means of production and other capital according to law."
And it is common knowledge that some 90,000 "reformed" capitalists from Shanghai draw regular and often sizable dividends from the state on their former shares and property.
China's "business community" is a late comer on the scene of world capitalist competition and must attempt, through time-honored violent means to take some of what the established giants grabbed years before. The pickings are rich in South-East Asia. South Vietnam is a controlling gateway to and from China, Japan, Korea, the Phillipines, Malaya, Burma, India and on to the Middle East; and southward to Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. Geologically the earth has been described as pear-shaped. Socially it is like a pyramid, with about 10 per cent of its inhabitants in command of the rest. This minority class is not homogeneous, but is forced into many state and sectional struggles by the priorities of the system, itself. The Viet Cong, functioning as a partial political and military mouthpiece of state capitalist China and Russia, naturally does what it is told. It could not bite the hands that feed it.
But the possibility exists that in the shifting chess game that the conglomerates play, some line-ups may change. The U.S. and China could conclude that the whole prize in South East Asia is too costly or remote. They may decide to share the loot. Especially if differences increase between China and Russia. The U.S. is already sending conciliatory feelers toward China in this regard and toward China's North Vietnamese appendage. As a Hong Kong news release put it:
"The United States had indicated its willingness to help in the difficult task of reconstruction in both North and South Vietnam . . ." This is in addition to aid from the U.N. and other western nations and - "Hanoi seems to be preparing public opinion, at home and abroad, for an improved climate between the two countries."
"Preparing public opinion" means that the rulers of North Vietnam would condition the workers and peasants there to the idea that the U.S. was no longer the enemy of the people, but was now the people's friend. Presumably the U.S. authorities would gradually feed their faithful workers their side of the same political dirt. Something like turning a water tap on and off. But not exactly the same. It takes time to change workers' loyalties from one group of masters to another. And some of the myths that tie workers to all masters are no longer being accepted as truths.
REAL PROGRESS IS UNDERSTANDING
The twentieth century is well along and the toll exacted by world capitalism against humanity is appalling. The useful section of society has all the more reason for divorcing itself from the various ideological apron strings of its feuding masters.
In terms of the working public of the rest of the world, a movement like the Viet Cong is conservative and retrograde. What could be more Calvinistic and mid-Victorian than its edict to girl guerillas to work hard but to resist love-making? Anyone who is caught gets ten years in jail. (Victoria Daily Colonist, March 16, 1969) .
In North Vietnam where one would surmise that the cause dearest to its heart is on the way to fruition, the "one people" state is still divided into haves and have-nots. The old struggle between the classes perpetuates in modern form.
A story of "widespread theft, a flourishing black market, slowdowns to protest depressive living conditions . . . and almost universal loafing on the job," is told by R. S. Elegant from Saigon (Victoria Daily Colonist, March 14, 1969) . Other manifestations of the commercial system like — ". . . vast popular disillusionment," ". . . reinforcement of discipline," "rules and regulations," "lying a universal habit . . ." were described by the same reporter, about conditions in the North.
The workers of the world need a new pioneering capitalism like they need a hole in the head. As many disillusioned idealists who escaped to Cuba, China or Algeria and who succeeded in escaping back to the frying pan may have discovered. The world is now endowed with a highly productive apparatus quite capable of more than satisfying the desires of humanity, if it was modified to function for this new end. Capitalism in the past has done a good job of building it. Instead of defunct ideas behind new names, the workers need a bigger effort in the direction in which they are already indulging in a microscopic way. That is an objective analysis of the nature of the world arrangement that harnesses them to the profits of the few. Political understanding will give them the ability for the first time to use the ballot in their interests, i.e., the conversion of the means of production to the common ownership and democratic control of all.
To bring a free association in which all voluntarily contribute according to ability, and consume through free access according to wants. These are the only economic conditions in which a common citizenship can be realized. In political understanding is freedom.
J. G. J.