Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 36, No 11 May 30th, 1973
The Peace Agreement Victory or Betrayal?
The Peace Agreement Victory or Betrayal?
Why the Vietnamese had to Make Concessions
When the Vietnam cease-fire agreement was signed on January 20, it was greeted with widespread relief. Most people thought that, at last, the war was really over, or about to end. Now, tour months later, there is far more scepticism about the prospects for peace in Indochina. The situation in Vietnam is as unstable as ever, and heavy fighting and bombing continues in Laos and Cambodia.
It was in this context that I gave a talk at the Young Socialists Educational Conference in Wellington on May 5. This talk analysed the events leading up to the signing of those agreements, their meaning, and what the antiwar movement should do next. Don Franks' report in last week's Salient bore no resemblance to what I actually said, so I will outline the analysis here, in order to set the record straight as to the real position of the Trotskyist movement:
1) The cease-fire agreement signed on January 20 does not give self-determination to the Vietnamese. The United States maintains its presence in several key ways: the tens of thousands of "civilian advisers" in Vietnam such as the "military personnel managers" employed by private (!) U.S. corporations; the U.S. Air Force and Navy stationed all around S.E. Asia threatening to resume offensive operations against the Vietnamese; and above all the massive U.S. military aid to the Saigon puppet regime.
How can the Vietnamese really determine their own affairs "free from outside interference in such conditions?
2) Despite the U.S. presence mentioned above, the cease-fire agreement means that the U.S. ground troops and air force have been withdrawn from Vietnam, and it would be exceedingly difficult for Nixon to reintroduce them. In this sense the accords represent a victory, one which the Vietnamese and the international antiwar movement can take full credit.
3) The accords represent concessions forced upon the Vietnamese by the terrible pressure of the bombing and mass slaughter carried out by the United Stales over several years. No once can blame the Vietnamese for making concessions under such pressure, but that is no reason to limit the demands of the antiwar movement to these concessions. That is what Peter Franks and Mike Law (Chairman of the Wellington Committee on Vietnam) do, when they insist that the New Zealand government recognise "two administrations" in South Vietnam, namely the Thieu regime and the Provisional Revolutionary Government.
The antiwar movement must fight against the Thieu regime in Saigon as being nothing more than a puppet of the United States, and demand that no support be given it whatsoever. In fact today the central form of the U.S. presence in Vietnam is through its puppet government in Saigon. A genuine U.S. withdrawal would Coincide with the disappearance of the hated Thieu regime.
The concessions made to the U.S. in the January 20 agreement include the abandonment of the following central demands which the Vietnamese had been making since 1968: (i) the ouster of Thieu, (ii) the establishment of a coalition government, (iii)the cut off of all U.S. support to the Saigon regime.
4) The reasons for the Vietnamese making these further concessions in late 1972, which resulted in the signing of the peace agreement are to be found in changes in the world political situation.
After Nixon had failed to achieve victory in Indochina by invading Cambodia in 1970 and backing the Saigon regime's invasion of Laos in early 1971, he was facing rapidly mounting pressure at home to get out of Vietnam. This was expressed, for example, in the huge antiwar demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco in April. In order to get himself out of this corner, Nixon turned to Moscow and Peking for help.
Nixon temporarily shelved his ambition to overthrow the Chinese worker stale. From his trips to Peking and Moscow, launched from mid-1971, Nixon sought three things: (a) a guarantee of no serious Soviet and Chinese response to further escalation in Vietnam; (b) increased pressure from Moscow and Peking to force Hanoi to come to terms; (c) the defusing of the international antiwar movement. In return, Nixon offered diplomatic and trade concessions.
The third of Nixon's aims, the defusing of the antiwar movement, was possibly the mo important for him, and he succeeded to a certain extent. Millions of people were convinced that an end to the war would result now that President Nixon was talking it all out in Moscow and Peking, and the numbers and forces supporting antiwar demonstrations dropped markedly, most notably in the United States. At the same time, Nixon stepped up the bombing in Vietnam — bombing Hanoi and Haiphong for the first time and mining the ports and coasts of North Vietnam. As the Pentagon Papers show, Washington had never dared to take this step before, because of fear of Soviet or Chinese military response.
As the U.S. journalist I.F.Stone put it: "China bought her way out of containment with the blood of the Vietnamese people".
The conservative status quo foreign policies of Moscow and Peking dale back to the time of Stalin's rule in the Soviet Union. Perhaps the classic example of this policy was when, at stain's behest, the pro-Moscow French Communist Party, which was part of the French government at the lime, signed the orders sending French troops to re-take Vietnam at the end of World War II.
The leaders in Moscow and Peking are in a contradictory position. They are forced to pay lip service to "world revolution", and have even given a limited amount of aid to the Vietnamese, but this has always been insufficient to allow the Vietnamese to gain a decisive advantage.
The Kremlin supplied the most advanced weaponry and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid to a capitalist state, Egypt, but it supplied only obsolete missiles to the North Vietnamese, which were unable to shoot down more than a few B-52s. Thus responsibility for the resulting deaths of thousands of Vietnamese can be placed both in the hands of the United States and in the hands of the leaders in Moscow, who betrayed the Vietnamese when they most needed help.
In conclusion, the antiwar movement should not place its hopes on the good intentions of the bureaucratic, conservative rulers in Moscow or Peking, nor in the possibility of a peaceful disappearance of the bandits in Saigon, who are armed to the teeth and have the third largest air force in the world; U.S. supplied of course.
The antiwar movement must remain ready to respond to any new major developments, and to continue to demand, as it always has: U.S. and N.Z. Out of Southeast Asia Now!
This means continuing to mobolise people, and to raise all the related demands such as No N.Z. Support for the War; N.Z. Out of Seato and Anzus; Withdraw all support for the Saigon Puppet Regime; Free the political prisoners in South Vietnam; Indochina for the Indochinese peoples!
Only when these demands are realised can mere be a lasting peace in Indochina.
Don & Peter Franks Reply
As members of the Socialist Action League, the Young Socialists or the Wellington Mobilisation Committee (all hats which George Fyson has worn at one time or the other) are notoriously prone to screaming "distortion" every time they are criticised, it is pleasing to see that George Fyson has "set the record straight as to the real position of the Trotskyist movement" on Vietnam.
There are a number of points we can agree with in George's article as he appears to have picked up a number of comments made by the Vietnamese delegation in Sydney, and reported in Salient's 'Indochina Today' supplement. We look forward to rereading these comments in future issues of Socialist Action.
The basic failing in George's analysis is the absence of any consideration of the Vietnamese liberation movement's policies and views on the development of their struggle.
As has been made clear in articles and interviews in three of the ten issues of Salient this year the Vietnamese regard the Paris Peace Agreement as a great victory in their struggle because it means the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Vietnam. Even George recognises this in point 2 of his article.
What George does not understand, or admit, is that the Vietnamese were prepared to make a concession on Thieu in order to get U.S. military with drawl. The other concessions George talks about are the product of his misunderstanding of the Peace Agreement. The National Council of National Reconciliation and Concord provided for under article 12 of the Peace Agreement will exercise exactly the same functions as a coalition government. The agreement also provides for the cutoff of all U.S. support to Saigon, and it is not the Vietnamese liberation movement's mistake that Nixon has flagrantly violated the agreement by continuing to aid Thieu.
George Fyson, his friends in the Trotskyite movement and their mentors like I.F. Stone fail to understand that the Paris Agreement basically incorporates the Vietnamese liberation movement's own political programme. All the major points of the P.R.G.'s Seven-point Peace Proposals of July 1971 are in the agreement, and many of the fundamental provisions of the agreement can be traced back as far as the D.R.V.'s peace proposals of April 1965 and the N.F.L.'s ten point political programme of December 1960. At the time these different proposals were made they were rejected by the American Government spokesmen as being "tantamount to defeat"!As Wilfred Burchelt put it:"What is embodied in the Agreement is a logical development of negotiating positions going back to April 1965".(Salient. April 4, 1973.)
The question that George hyson's article provokes is why he and his friends pay so little attention to what the Vietnamese say about the Peace Agreement, and their struggle against U.S. aggression. The answer is not found in George's article, but was provided by Keith Locke at the Y.S. conference. Locke denounced the Vietnamese strategy for their struggle, and even suggested that it would help the Americans!
Briefly, the P.R.G.'s strategy is to build the broadest possible coalition of patriotic forces in order to develop national unity in South Vietnam. Even though he is receiving massive military aid from the United Stales President Thieu is recruiting support for the P.R.G. every time he violates the ceasefire militarily, or oppresses the people under his control. Once national unity has been established and the Americans and their puppets have been defeated the Vietnamese people will reunify their country by peaceful means, and go on to consolidate the socialist revolution throughout Vietnam. This is the strategy that Keith Locke, George Fyson and the Trotskyist movement think is helping the Americans.
In point 4 of his article George Fyson accuses the Chinese and Russians of failing to give enough aid to the Vietnamese and raves on about the way the Chinese and Russians apparently forced the Vietnamese to make concessions to the Americans.
As far as the Chinese are concerned George's allegations are just not true. When he was in New Zealand Wilfred Burchett mentioned that, immediately after the Nixon visit to Peking, Chou En-Lai flew to Hanoi for discussion with the Political Bureau of the Lao Dong Party and offered substantially increased military aid. In Febuary—March 1971, at the height of the fighting in Laos, the U.S. were making particularly threatening noises about nuclear weapons etc. The Chinese response was very swift. Chou En-Lai flew to Hanoi with all the top military leaders of the Chinese state and made it very clear in public statements that the Chinese were prepared to use nuclear weapons in the event of an American nuclear attack on Vietnam.
Futher more Burchett reported from Hanoi in the Guardian of February 28 this year that there had been a substantial increase in Chinese military aid to Vietnam since his last visit two years previously. He also quoted North Vietnamese military personnel who pointed out the great value of Chinese and Soviet military equipment in destroying B-52s and Fills. Speaking about Chinese assistance to the Cambodia national liberation struggle Prince Sihanouk has written: "No resistance movement could ever dream of having such conditions as have been placed unconditionally at our disposal by the Chinese leadership to live, to work and to fight". ("My War with the C.I.A.", Penguin, p.214)
As far as the Russians are concerned George Fyson is correct in pointing out that the Soviet Union has given far more aid to the Egyptians than to the Vietnamese. However during the bombing raids over Hanoi in December last year Soviet SAM missiles, modified by the North Vietnamese, proved particularly efficient in shooting down American B52s. If the raids had gone on much longer the U.S. would have lost its operational B52 force. In any case Fyon's attacks on the Chinese and Russians for 'failing to give enough aid to the Vietnamese' sound very hypocritical when one remembers that that the Socialist Action League has always opposed New Zealanders sending medical aid to Vietnam, and in fact united with the right-wing groups on this campus in an effort to prevent a donation from being made to the Vietnam Aid Appeal.
George Fyson offers no proof for his assertions that the Chinese and Russians forced the Vietnamese to make concessions to the Americans. If he had any clues at all about the history of the D.R.V. and the P.R.G. he would have realised that the Vietnamese have always maintained a position of complete independence from domination by either Peking or Moscow. George may be interested in an article by Ross Terril in the Review, Noevember 27 —December 2, 1971. Terril reported the Chinese leaders had told him that they didn't believe they could force anything on the Vietnamese, even if they wanted to. The Chinese then went on to point out that they had always believed there were two basic requirements for any people's war — independence and self-reliance.
It is an indication of the bankruptcy of George Fyson's politics that he should have ended his 'analysis' of the Vietnam situation with a smear on Stalin and the French Communist Parly.
Typically George offers no proof that the French Communist Party acted on Stalin's "behest" after the Second World War. If he knew his history as well as his rhetoric George would have realised that Stalin set up the Com in form in 1948 partly to counter what he thought were dangerous revisionist trends in the French and Italian Communist Parties.
In fact the French Communist Party did not "sign the orders" for the French military invasion of Indochina in 1947. George may be interested in the following comments by the right-wing British writer Brian Crozier in reply to a similar allegation by Paul Johnson in an article in the New Statesman. Crozier writes:
"Actually, the French Communist Party, which was then in the coalition Government that followed General de Gaulle's departure in 1946, fought every inch of the way against the French decision to fight Ho Chi Minh. On March 19, 1947, the Party's Central Committee denounced the allocation of funds for 'the war against Vietnam'. The day before, the Communist Defence Minister Billoux, had remained seated when his colleagues rose in response to a tribute from the Socialist Premier, Ramadier, to the French Expeditionary Forces; and the Parliamentary Party had abstained from the vote of confidence called by Ramadier. Not long afterwards the Communists were out of government. Let's face it, the Socialists did it alone". (New Statesman. May 26 1972)
In conclusion we believe that the antiwar movement should aim to support the Vietnamese in their continuing struggle, rather than placing its hopes in the faulty analysis of the international Trotskyist movement. As Michael Law pointed out in last week's Salient "the major aim of the New Zealand antiwar movement at present should be to demand that the United States Government, the Saigon regime and the New Zealand Government strictly implement all the provisions of the Paris Peace Agreement on Vietnam". By doing this we will be helping to provide the assistance the Vietnamese have requested of us.