The Western Socialist
Vol. 33 - No. 250
No. 2, 1966
I have been pestered for some time by a considerable number of dewy-eyed, hysterical "liberals" and other assorted alleged leftists who insist I should use my "undoubted" talents in aiding them to protest the U. S. position in South Vietnam and oppose the "Hell-for-Leather" straight to damnation policy of the Johnson administration.
I have some difficulty — listening to the utterances of the Administration's official spokesmen — in determining what the Administration, itself, thinks its policy to be.
But let that pass.
The joke to me is that, but a few months ago, these same protesters were just as hysterical in their unbounded support for this same, now nefarious, Johnson in their nightmarish fear of the "trigger-happy" Goldwater, shooting from the hip, escalating the war, defoliating the jungle and maybe nuclear-bombing China, before the Dragon could get a chance to gnash its teeth and expel its poisonous and sulphuric flames.
I told them to go to bed and sleep lightly; that Goldwater would be clobbered and this "free" society saved from the "fascism" of the Arizona millionaire by their "liberal" millionaire from Texas.
Now, when I chide them for bitterly berating the man who, with their support, "saved" them from escalation, defoliation, etc. and ask: "Why did you vote thus?", I am told "we had no choice; it was Johnson or Goldwater." Of course, had the G.O.P. not been so unorganized and so overrun by "rightist" elements, I point out, they might have had a choice of one of the other millionaire saviors of this "free society," Scranton, Rockefeller, or Romney.
I assure my pestiferous acquaintances that I'm not interested; that the U.S. is eminently justified as the leader of the "free" section of the capitalist world in being in South Vietnam, Thailand, Spain, Turkey, or wherever. If the security of American investments is at stake and we accept the "right" of American interests then those interests, through their government, have the right to be wherever they have the power to be; that, since modern wars stem from capitalism, then it is illogical to uphold capitalism and denounce the fruit thereof.
So, the modern "liberal," futilely shaking his big stick of righteous indignation against the effects, ignores completely the basic cause. And his stick of "righteous indignation" is a forked stick. And he is stuck in it. But doesn't know it. Our job now and henceforth is not to try to dry his tears but to try to abolish his ignorance.
And while U.S. policy seems to be the "freedom" of South Vietnam with properly constituted and suitably supervised elections it might not be amiss to ask: when does this start in Mississippi?
But the upholders and protesters alike miss the whole point of this dispute and the prize involved: Indonesia with a consumer market of one hundred million and vast, untouched natural resources.
W. A. (Bill) Pritchard.
"We seek no wider war," President Johnson tells us as the war in Vietnam widens at a rapid pace.
But, he asserts, we must defend "freedom" against "communist aggression." Do words mean anything? What does "our" President mean by "freedom"? On July 4, 1965, we were given a slight insight into the nature of our freedom-loving allies in South Vietnam. On that day the 'Saigon correspondent of the London Daily Mirror interviewed South Vietnam's Premier Nguyen Cao Ky and asked him who his "heroes" were. His answer: "I have only one, Hitler."
The first of the great "democratic" governments in Vietnam which the U.S. ruling class chose to support was the government of Ngo Dinh Diem. Wilfred Burchett in Vietnam: Inside Story of the Guerilla War describes some of the activities of that great "humanitarian":
"The government's terror campaign had reached its climax in previous weeks. The Tua Hai regiment had just returned from a big military campaign in which hundreds of peasants in the Tay Ninh region have been massacred. The commanders filmed massacres and tortures and forced people to attend screen shows to terrorize them more completely. The mobile guillotines had been at work... A former resistance cadre, Ut Lep, was guillotined at the Chan Thahn district center. His wife was forced to display the head . . . while cameramen filmed the scene."
Certainly President Diem and his American allies could point accusing fingers at the atrocities of their enemies. But what can one expect from "Reds"? "We" are supposed to be different.
As time went on and governments in South Vietnam came and went, America continued to protest that she was committed to wage undeclared war against the Viet Cong and North Vietnam in the name of democracy. We want nothing more than the right of the South Vietnamese to choose our own government in free elections, is the continual cry from Washington. Yet Richard B. Russell, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, freely admits that were elections to be held in South Vietnam today, President Ho Chi Minh of Communist North Vietnam would win easily. And former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, referring to the free elections which were supposed to be held in 1956 (in accordance with the resolutions of the Geneva Agreements of 1954) made the following statement in his recently published memoirs:
"I have never talked or corresponded with a single person knowledgable in Indo-Chinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held . . . possibly 80% of the population would have voted for Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader . . ."
The administration's claim to be fighting for democracy is clearly nonsense. Yet there is another, more sophisticated argument. This is the familiar line that we, the American people, are fighting not for the freedom of Asian peasants, but for our own "national interests." The "national interest" concept is of course based on the idea that all the inhabitants of a given nation have a common interest. However, America, like all other nations, has a class-divided society. The interests of the capitalist or employing class and the interests of the exploited working class can hardly coincide to form a "national interest." When LBJ urges a partial suspension of labor union activity in industries relating to war-making, it becomes clear just whose interest the "national interest" is.
What then is the real reason for the war in Vietnam? All modern wars have been fought for the economic interests of the rulers, not "democracy." A frank and revealing statement from an official U. S. Navy document was inserted in the Congressional Record, April 5, 1947:
"Realistically, all wars have been for economic reasons. To make them politically palatable, ideological issues have always been invoked.
"Any possible future war will undoubtedly conform to historical precedent."
How does this apply to the Vietnam situation? Vera Micheles Dean, research director of the Foreign Policy Association, in her book The Nature of the Non-Western World, illustrates the value of this area to the capitalist class:
"By virtue of its geographic position, Southeast Asia has from time immemorial been a crucially important gateway between the Indian and Pacific Oceans—a gateway coveted by merchants, adventurers, and conquerors bent on securing trading posts in its vital transit harbors, and — equally important — bent on obtaining economic and political control over an area rich in natural resources...In modern times, Southeast Asia has in addition become a prominent producer of such export commodities as tin, oil, rice, sugar, tea, quinine, teakwood, tobacco, and hemp. These strategic and economic factors... explain why control over the area has been of such importance to the Western powers..."
This war is not in the interest of the working people. No war is. The social forces which cause war are an inexorable part of the economic competition associated with capitalism. For a world without war, we must change from a system of competition to a system of co-operation — socialism.
— M. G.