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Vietnam: Who Has Won?

We again take the opportunity provided by one of capitalism's bloody wars, to reaffirm the fact that no war is worth the shedding of a single drop of working class blood.

We repeat again: there are no issues or interests involved in any war that are the least concern of the working class. This vile madhouse called capitalism has created an endless succession of wars. Since this Party was formed in 1904 we have condemned them all.

The SPGB stood alone during both world wars, in opposition to both sides and to all parties to the slaughter. We took our stand then on the ground of the common interest of all the world's workers: the need for world class-unity to abolish this plundering system which constantly throws up war.

We argued that the commerce of capitalism, its ceaseless quest for profits, the rival economic interests of the international capitalist class (backed by their gangster politicians), their struggles for markets and resources, was the driving force for war. It was then. It is now.

Whether the scene of mass extermination and devastation be set in Europe or the Middle East, in Russia, Algeria, Bangladesh or Vietnam the Socialist case remains the same. We deny absolutely that workers have national interests. Which section of the world capitalist class rules, makes scant difference to the ruled. Victor or vanquished the worker remains a wage-slave. A member of a subject and exploited class which owns no country — no markets — no vested interests.

Surely, of all people, this bitter lesson should have been thoroughly learned by the workers and peasants of Vietnam? They have been ruled by the French, the Japanese, the British and their home-grown despots. Always their position has remained the same, Whether they endure their misery under the yoke of dictators like Marshal Ky, Diem and Thieu, held in power by the armed might of America — or switch masters and suffer the same horrors under the sons of Ho Chi Minh backed by the armed might of state-capitalist Russia and China, there is no difference to the victims. The only difference is, which gang gets the spoils. That is really what it's all about. You can put the pretended differences of ideology in a pig's eye.

A succession of American Presidents have submerged themselves in the blood of Vietnam. Kennedy, still widely remembered as a man of peace, escalated the war. Johnson did the same with a vengeance. He coined the inhuman phrase "quotient of pain" and tried to bomb the North into submission. Nixon vigorously supported the mass bombing policy of the Johnson administration. Writing in Readers Digest January 1966 Nixon argued that

    "A real victory — one that guarantees independence for South Vietnam — will take two years or more of the hardest kind of fighting. It will require stepped up air and land attacks."

He also showed himself to be well aware of the hard strategic and economic motives behind the war:

    "However, if Vietnam is lost, China would gain vast new power. The rest of South-East Asia, including most importantly Indonesia, would inevitably fall under communist domination. This would mean that within five years the Chinese would be infinitely stronger economically with 200 million more people as well as half the world's rubber and half the world's tin under their control."

When he became President in 1968 his two more years of bombing and fighting were gone. Faced with a militarily impossible situation and a growing climate of opposition to the war at home, coupled with the desertion of thousands from the armed forces in Vietnam, he went to the conference table.

Ground forces. were withdrawn after many months of haggling, while the blood still flowed. After the "settlement" vast amounts of military equipment continued to pour in: America supplying the South, Russia and China the North.

For nearly thirty years, wanton waste and ruthless destruction of human life and of the earth's resources have been pursued with grim dedication by all sides. The indigenous population, whose "liberation" the pundits claimed to be their only aim were butchered in their hundreds of thousands. No winners here.

Just as loud-mouthed belligerence and bellicose nationalism formed the basis of American propaganda and that of their southern puppets, so the same crude utterances were trumpeted by the left wing (CP and assorted Trots) in support of the North.

Not only have successive British governments (Labour and Tory) supported the American war effort, the post-war Labour government were first to start fighting in Vietnam when British forces took over from the Japanese in October 1945. "Hey hey LBJ how many kids you killed today?" was chanted at Johnson by Americans. But some of the napalm with which the kids were incinerated was supplied by British governments. Running capitalism leaves no room for the squeamish.

Whatever the outcome of the present situation, the baby-lift and the evacuations are passing incidents. If the so-called communists hold their ground and consolidate their powers, how long before it all starts up again? How long if the "reds" win, before America comes to terms with the new regime and starts doing business? Even if indirectly through their contacts in China? .

There are no principles higher than profits and no permanent alliances under capitalism. The changing alliances and the on-and-off wars in the Middle East make the point.

It is high time the workers of all lands finished killing and dying for capitalism, and proclaimed their own class interest by establishing Socialism.

Harry Baldwin