1960s >> 1965 >> no-728-april-1965

Editorial: The Lesson of Vietnam

A recent statement made by U. Thant the Secretary-General to the United Nations, must come near to taking the prize for cynicism. Introducing his latest proposals for a negotiated settlement in Vietnam he stated: “I am sure that the great American people, if they only know the true facts, will agree with me that further bloodshed is unnecessary and that political and diplomatic negotiations alone can create conditions that will enable the United States to withdraw gracefully”

Such a remark may of course be naive, if it were not for the fact that people do not rise to world prominence in the savage world of international politics if they are that starry-eyed.

Needless to say the United States has not the slightest intention of withdrawing, gracefully or otherwise, from South Vietnam, anymore than China and Russia intend to cease intervention in the North. And the “Great American people”, like the working class of other countries, will go on supporting their ruling class in this, and making the same excuses that they have done in the past.

One of the most tragic misfortunes that can befall a people today is to find themselves living in the no-mans-land between two great powers. To be in the path of the giants is often to be crushed underfoot, as the graveyards that sprawl over the hillsides of Korea show. This tragic fate has been the lot of Vietnam for many years now. The facts are easily accessible and there is no need for us to repeat them. And to the horror of open warfare must be added that of corrupt and vicious local government. American foreign policy, like that of other capitalist powers, sees nothing wrong in supporting nasty puppet governments, some of which look bad even against a background of international double-dealing. South Vietnam is no exception.

In addition to the normal reasons for capitalist powers hanging on to territory Vietnam, like Korea before it, has become a line of demarcation from which neither side dare withdraw, and which, they declare, will be held at all cost.

It is now nearly twenty years since the second world war ended and the world was plunged into “peace”. During that time there have been a continual series of “police actions” and “internal problems” like Korea, Vietnam, Algeria, Hungary, Suez and a host of others. These incidents have not been glorified with the name of war and are supposed to have been in the interests of their victims; only the casualties are mounting into millions, if this pattern continues, and there is no reason to suppose that it will not, the horrors of peace will soon outstrip the horrors of war. Meanwhile the statesmen dither, they make speeches, they make journeys. They confer. These activities, we are told, are going to bring peace sometime or other.

“Peace” often means that the warring powers conclude they are spending too much on a comparatively minor conflict and decide to call a halt. The statesmen forget that they ever adopted apparently intransigent attitudes. They hie off to some well-publicised spot and there put their signatures to what they call a peace treaty.

This may suppress a particular conflict. But the bigger clash of interests, which is inevitable as long as capitalism lasts, is untouched. Not war, nor so-called peace, will abolish the problems of international conflict.

That can come about only by a fundamental change which by altering the basis of society will wipe out the evils which capitalism brings in its train. The lesson of Vietnam is the same as ever. Only Socialism can bring a world of peace and plenty.