1970s >> 1970 >> no-786-february-1970

Slaughter in Vietnam

Socialists look at war in a fundamentally different way from people with other political persuasions. We contend that war in the modern world is caused by the workings of capitalism with its struggles over trade, investments, oil and other resources.
 
The workers of the world have an identity of interests and have nothing at stake in the thieves’ quarrels of their masters. The working class owns no country. None of the resources are theirs; they have nothing to fight for and everything to gain by uniting to end the system that enslaves them and produces wars and other terrible problems.
 
Supporters of Trotskyism and the so-called Communist Party support war and take one side or the other, thus lending themselves to the shedding of working class blood for the profits of the capitalist class East or West.
 
In the case of Vietnam these people seek Victory for the Vietcong and line up behind the nationalist aspirations of developing Vietnamese capitalism.
 
If it could be shown that Vietnam was an exceptional incident to an otherwise peaceful and humane capitalism and if all that needed to be done was to end this war and all would be well in the world, all the talk and press comments about “this senseless war” might have some point. The fact is that no argument can be advanced condemning the war in Vietnam which would not be equally valid for the first and second world wars, for Korea and all other 73 conflicts that have taken place in the last twenty years. War is a normal condition of capitalism. An article in US. News and World Report (August 28, 1968) shows there have been no less than 128 wars since 1898 and that 57 per cent of these have taken place since the last world war. It must be clear from this that a particular war is an effect which cannot be dealt with in isolation. What we are confronting is a society that produces wars.
 
The present series of outrages coming to light in Vietnam are part of a greater outrage—the world-wide menace of capitalism. The American Government presents a tragic and ironic spectacle. They would like the world to believe that their concern is freedom and yet the very people they are supposed to be protecting and liberating, including women and babies have been gunned down in their hundreds by American soldiers. A White House press statement put the figure at 567 in My Lai alone.
 
The subtle extent to which people are conditioned to accept war can be seen from the fact that remote-control killing of scores of thousands of their women and babies by rocket fire and napalm bombing, is seen in a different light. Millions of men, women and children have been blown to pieces by bomber planes whose crews only see a target area from thousands of feet up. The press-button techniques and modern warfare make it possible for large guns or rocket launches to devastate towns and villages many miles away. Are the men who operate these weapons, any less conscious of the fact that they are killing people than if they were shooting them at close range? The argument that killing innocent babies in My Lai is different from killing “enemy” babies is the only rationalisation capitalism can fall back upon. This shows the utter depravity of this system of society.
 
It is all right for the hypocritical press and politicians to scream “atrocities”, but what about the society that puts guns into men’s hands in the first place? What about the leading statesmen of the world who have presided over the organised butchery of tens of millions of workers, who test and stockpile nuclear bombs capable of wiping out all life on earth, who poison the atmosphere with radiation causing thousands of deaths each year from leukaemia, who sell massive armaments around the world for profit, and the propaganda machine which strives to make it all acceptable in the name of freedom and humanity?
 
It is absurd to separate a few individuals and say they are guilty of atrocities when they are involved in situations created by society.
 
In the early days of the 1914-1918 war, posters purporting to show Belgian babies on German bayonets were used to whip up war hysteria. Now, such things are regarded as all part of war. George Brown says “stop weeping and get on with it”. Woodrow Wyatt, another stalwart Labourite supports him. Brown argued that the Labour Party ought to think about the threat to freedom if the “communists” win. What freedom Mr. Brown? The freedom to be gunned down by soldiers? Socialists repudiate the vile lie that butchery and napalm bombing of men, women and children, whether carried out by Americans or the Vietcong or anyone else, can have nothing to do with freedom.
 
To cover up its murder, capitalism has always raised the cry of freedom. Wage-slavery is capitalism’s freedom for the working class. In keeping with the Labour Government’s support for the war, the Parliamentary Labour Party’s Liaison Committee rejected the demand for Brown’s resignation as Deputy Leader. Meanwhile, demobilised American soldiers were appearing on the T.V. admitting the gunning down of babies, and the question of Nixon setting up a special tribunal to try those charged was being debated. Nixon subsequently appeared on television to say military tribunals would serve the purpose and that the guilty would be punished. He also announced the withdrawal of large numbers of American troops from Vietnam. Some Americans had already received long prison sentences over a rape and murder case known as “Hill 192”. The real culprit, will of course get away with it. What really needs indicting here is the capitalist system. A system that trains young men still in their teens to kill, a system that brutalises and degrades all humanity.
 
The war in Vietnam is now entering its eighth year with open American involvement. Whatever the outcome the workers will have gained nothing on either side. Hundreds of thousands of them will have been crippled or blinded so that the capitalist class, East and West, can pursue their sources of profit and wage future wars.
 
In America there have been massive anti-war demonstrations and thousands of young men have destroyed their draft cards. These are hopeful signs of emerging attitudes that desperately need to be taken much further. Even among the protesters American nationalism is still strong. It is the names of the American dead that are read out at demonstrations. The idea of world-consciousness; of being opposed to all wars and coming to understand the cause of war, has yet to take hold in significant proportions. This will come with the general growth of Socialist understanding.
 
It is noteworthy that with modern means of communication, the attitudes prevailing at home are rapidly reflected by workers in the armed forces. The Pentagon is faced with thousands of deserters and underground “peace” journals circulating among armed men, both in America and overseas. The arguments levelled at Socialists that the armed forces are isolated from the rest of the working class and are therefore cut off from Socialist influence, thereby making them a threat in the hands of the capitalists against the workers organising for Socialism, is clearly out of date.
 
The Socialist Party of Great Britain rejects the plea of the “left” that the nationalist ambitions of the North Vietnamese ruling class are worth dying for. This amounts to workers killing each other to determine who shall be their future exploiters. Nationalism is a divisive anti-working class concept. Home-rule is a bosses’ issue. We have home-rule in Britain but the capitalist class still own the means of production.
The “left-wing” supporters of the Vietcong are as deadly to workers interests as their more openly capitalist rivals. Do they really expect the aftermath of Vietnam to be any different from that of Korea? Do they really think it will do other than leave the way open to future wars? While both groups of workers, those who favour the Eastern bloc, and those who favour the West, go on deluding themselves with the plausible sounding excuses for supporting wars they are both in fact supporting capitalism. They are helping to guarantee that wars will continue.
 
The consistent opposition of the Socialist Party of Great Britain to all wars has proven to be the only valid position. The establishment of Socialism demands the unity and co-operation of the workers of the world. Such unity and cooperation can only arise from Socialist understanding, that means a clear recognition of the need to change society. To establish a system without frontiers or armed forces, where the scramble for trade and profits no longer exists. The resources of the earth, instead of being a class monopoly used to exploit and destroy, will be commonly owned and used solely to satisfy human needs.
Harry Baldwin