A Socialist Labor Party Statement—

Brinkmanship in Southeast Asia

On the night of May 8 President Richard M. Nixon took this nation and the world a giant step in the direction of nuclear catastrophe. Thus, after a decade of massive U.S. military involvement, more than six years of protests and demonstrations and almost four years of “Vietnamization,” we find ourselves not on the threshold of peace, but on the brink of destruction. The president’s action creates the terrifying possibility of direct U.S. confrontation with the other giant imperialist powers that dominate the world.

Throughout the Johnson administration there had been a widespread and growing fear that the “miserable little war” in Vietnam would prove to be the spark that would set off the nuclear holocaust that could destroy our civilization and all of humanity.

Nixon’s ‘Secret Plan’

Then when Richard Nixon took office with his promised “secret plan” to end that war, millions became hopeful that he would indeed achieve that goal. Their hopes grew as Nixon, touting his program for “Vietnamization” of the war, periodically reduced the number of ground forces in Southeast Asia. They continued to nurture their hopes despite the invasions of Cambodia and Laos, despite the massive bombings of both South and North Vietnam, despite an increasing commitment of U.S. air and naval power in the area, despite other obvious and manifold indications by the Nixon administration that it fully intended to support the corrupt Thieu government in power in South Vietnam.

The demonstrations and protests that characterized the closing days of the Johnson administration (which some credit with being the direct cause of Johnson’s decision not to seek reelection) began to subside. The campuses became less volatile. The impression grew that the Nixon administration was responding sanely and rationally to the widespread disillusionment with and opposition to the war, and the desire for complete withdrawal by the United States from Southeast Asia.

Of course, there were doubters. The demonstrations and protests did not completely cease, though they hardly commanded the interest and support that those of the late sixties did. Many had reached the conclusion that they were no longer necessary. The war was “winding down”; the United States was on its way out; it now was just a matter of time. Many others, though they did not share those optimistic views, had lost faith in the efficacy of demonstrations and protests.

The lull deepened. During the early months of 1972, it appeared that Richard Nixon’s boast that the Vietnam War would not be an issue in the 1972 presidential elections was coming true.

The Vietcong Spring Offensive

Then—early in April—all hell literally broke loose. The North Vietnamese and the Vietcong launched their spring offensive. In a matter of days, Nixon’s highly touted plan to end American involvement in Southeast Asia was completely shattered. Despite renewed massive bombings by U.S. forces, the situation continued to deteriorate rapidly. And on May 8 the president announced the American plutocracy’s reckless and dangerous new military policy.

In announcing the new policy the president repeated all the clichés from the “communist” menace to the “national honor.” But by now it is—or should be—crystal clear that the Vietnam War has nothing to do with preserving a democratic regime in South Vietnam. It is not a defense of the “free world.” It has nothing to do with the “integrity of the American commitment.” It has nothing to do with freedom, or liberty, or morality, or justice. It has nothing to do with “American honor.”

It has everything to do with coldly calculated material interests, with world markets, with sources of valuable natural resources, with lines of communication and trade, with areas of profitable investment; in short, with all the economic and material compulsions inherent in capitalism. And this is demonstrably so despite the division of opinion among the members of the capitalist class as to the extent and relative importance of its material interests in Southeast Asia.

Imperialist Opportunists, East and West

This condemnation of U.S. capitalism is fully justified. Let no one, however, take it as a defense or justification of the unprincipled, despotic imperialists of the Eastern camp. The Russian gangsters are equally responsible for the prevailing international anarchy and conflict. And the Chinese bureaucrats have added their share. Despite their pretensions as champions of the workers, as advocates of peace, as promoters of the economic and social welfare of the “downtrodden,” as supporters of “national liberation movements,” they, too, are motivated by crass material interests. They, too, have economic stakes to defend and enlarge. They, too, indulge in imperialist ventures. They, too, seek to gain domination over the areas of wealth and exploitable manpower. They, too, cloak their imperialism with the same unctuous hypocrisy, the same kind of ideological window-dressing. And they do so in terms almost identical with those used by the Western camp.

There are those who have minimized the guilt of the Eastern camp for the prevailing conflict in Vietnam. Those who make the charge that American imperialism is primarily responsible for the Vietnam War point out that there are no Russian or Chinese armies in Vietnam. They admit that the East has supplied Hanoi with arms and technicians, and that Hanoi in turn has supported the Vietcong with such arms as well as with men. But, they argue, such aid is “legal.” Moreover, they argue, this aid was minimal until recently when, admittedly, it was greatly increased to offset the escalated efforts of American capitalism. And even so, they continue, the aid given by the Eastern camp never did, and does not now, equal America’s contribution.

All this is mere rationalization. The Eastern camp did not limit its aid to its North Vietnam and Vietcong allies because of any regard for international laws or agreements. Its record throughout the world amply demonstrates that. It was not motivated by any moral considerations. It merely took advantage of the material circumstances that made it possible to carry on the pretense of following a hands-off policy. After all, the Sino-Soviet rulers smirked, the war in Vietnam was a “civil war” and other nations should mind their own business. The Russians, for example, would never dream of interfering in the affairs of other nations, unless they happened to be called Finland, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc.

The One Way Out

In the face of the latest ominous developments, the Socialist Labor Party of America restates its conviction that only one thing can prevent the catastrophe toward which the world is heading. That is the establishment of international Marxian socialism. There is no acceptable alternative. We must establish a society in which the means of life will be socially owned and democratically controlled; in which production will be carried on for the benefit and use of all; in which we will manage our affairs through an industrial form of government. This is the only way we can end the ruling-class rivalries that lead to war.

From every logical standpoint the United States is best qualified to lead the world to socialism. Here we have fully created the material conditions for socialism—a highly developed industrial society capable of producing an abundance and a superbly trained working class that, alone, is capable of running it. Moreover, here we have an organization embodying the only program that makes possible the change from capitalism to socialism—the Socialist Labor Party of America.

The crying need of our time is determined, resolute action to awaken the American working class to the imperative need for a socialist reconstruction of society, and to acquaint them with the Socialist Industrial Union principles and program for accomplishing that social change. At this late hour on the social clock it is the only way to strike a decisive blow for peace and freedom for the workers of all nations, on both sides of the current imperialist conflict.


Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • www.slp.org • socialists@slp.org

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