Imperialism vs. working people
War in Southeast Asia: Shows that the source of conflict is the insatiable profit drive of world capitalism
By Steve Clark
MARCH 23, 1979
....'Carter's effort to put U.S.
imperialism back on a war
footing is a key battlefront in
the capitalist offensive
against workers at home and
How U.S. left responded
No one on the American left except the Militant
and Socialist Workers Party has stood up under the pressure of this capitalist ideological barrage. No one except the Militant and SWP has consistently kept the spotlight on U.S. imperialism and its drive to contain and roll back the Indochinese revolution.
In a front-page editorial in its February 28 issue,
for example, the Guardian lent credence to Carter's lie that Washington was not involved in plotting the invasion of Vietnam. "We denounce imperialism, even though it is not yet directly involved," said the Guardian perfunctorily.
The following issue went even further, polemiciz-
ing against those who viewed the trade mission to
China by Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal
as "an implicit imprimatur for Beijing's [Peking's]
attack." Actually, the Guardian explained, the
invasion conflicted "with Washington's perceptions of its overall interests."
"....it is content to maneuver skillfully between the contradictions which have set socialist against socialist, exacerbating problems wherever possible."
The Guardian echoes the New York Times's "Red
Brotherhood at War" editorial, warning of a "social-
ist world war."
"These are sorry days for socialism," the Guard-
ian complains, "despite continuing advances by the world's peoples against oppression and exploitation.
"China has invaded Vietnam. Vietnam has in-
vaded Kampuchea. The words evoke nausea. Where will it end?"
Similar themes have appeared in the social-
democratic weekly, In These Times. An editorial in its January 17-23 issue, before the invasion of
Vietnam, argued that unlike the 1950s and 1960s,
when "international conflicts revolved around the
confrontation between world capitalism and world
communism," today the main "conflicts in world
politics involve those among communists and so-
cialists. . . . "
An editorial in ITT's February 28-March 6 issue
even explained that "so far, to his credit, President Carter has assumed a restrained position" in the Indochina conflicts.
"The Chinese invasion of Vietnam, like the Viet-
namese invasion of Cambodia," said the editorial,
"is one more episode in the rise of national antagonism dividing communist states. But it is not a minor episode: it underscores the grave danger such conflict poses to world peace. . . .
"It has deepened the worldwide confusion, dis-
cord, and demoralization in the ranks of socialists
who have always argued that socialism would put
an end to wars of aggression."
The American radical press all portray the main
actors in the recent Indochina conflicts as the
governments of the Soviet Union and China, with
Vietnam and Kampuchea in supporting roles.
"Vietnam" invaded "Kampuchea," everyone ex-
plains. Then "China" invaded "Vietnam."
"Countries" are at war over "national antago-
nisms" and "spheres of influence." All social div-
isions between and within these countries, all
Who invaded Vietnam? The Chinese masses, or
the Stalinist regime in Peking? Does it matter that
capitalism had been toppled in Vietnam, but not in
Most important, where is the struggle between the
Indochinese masses and U.S. imperialism? Has
Washington simply written off Southeast Asia?
Why has it suddenly and dramatically stepped up
military shipments to the Thai dictatorship? What
really happened when Teng visited Washington,
and when Blumenthal visited Peking?
Most of the radical press has ended up echoing
the "explanations" offered by the bourgeois press,
which does its best to disguise the underlying
struggle between exploiters and exploited-the class struggle-that is at the center of all world politics.
In contrast to this classless mishmash, Marxists
explain that at the root of the Indochina wars is the drive by the capitalist rulers of the United States to defend their class interests against the extension of social revolution in Southeast Asia. The main actors are the American ruling class, supported by the Moscow and Peking bureaucracies, on the one hand; and the toiling masses of Indochina, togetherwith the U.S. and Chinese workers, on the other.
Despite surface appearances, the Peking and
Hanoi Stalinist regimes are not the central protagonists in this struggle. They represent privileged bureaucratic castes balanced between the contending class forces.
In an essay written forty years ago, Russian
Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky explained this cru-
cial starting point for understanding anything
about twentieth century politics: "The struggle for
domination considered on a historical scale is not
between the proletariat and the [Stalinist] bureau-
cracy, but between the proletariat and world bour-
"In its capacity of a transmitting mechanism in
this struggle," Trotsky said, "the bureaucracy leans now on the proletariat against imperialism, now on imperialism against the proletariat, in order to increase its own power." ("Not a Workers' and Not a Bourgeois State?" in Writings of Leon Trotsky (1937-1938).)
Today in Indochina, the Peking Stalinists are
leaning on U.S. imperialism against the interests of both the Indochinese and Chinese masses. Their goal is to get an economic deal with U.S. capitalism and prove their reliability to Washington as an opponent of revolutionary change in Asia.
….In contrast to this classless mishmash, Marxists explain that at the root of the Indochina wars isthe drive by the capitalist rulers of the United States to defend their class interests against the extension of social revolution in Southeast Asia. The main actors are the American ruling class, supported by the Moscow and Peking bureaucracies, on the one
hand; and the toiling masses of Indochina, together In countering these incorrect conceptions, the Militant has stressed that:
• The threat of war in today's world originates in
the profit drive of imperialism. At the heart of this
drive is the capitalists' ultimate aim of rolling back
all conquests of the working class-from unions, to
the fourteen workers states, where capitalism has
• The Stalinist bureaucratic castes that dominate
all the workers states except Cuba are not driven
toward wars of aggression and do not seek an
offensive military capacity. Their foreign policies
are neither those of an imperialist government
promoting the interests of the capitalists, nor those of a revolutionary workers state pursuing the struggle to overturn world capitalism;
• The Stalinist castes play a counterrevolution-
ary role on a world scale, acting as a transmission
belt for imperialist pressure against the working
class. Nonetheless, they are forced in the interests of self-preservation to defend the property relations in the workers states against imperialism, although their class-collaborationist methods actually weaken the defense of these gains; and
• All the key questions in world politics will be
decided in the battles between imperialism and the world working class, a key part of which is the fight to overthrow the bureaucratic castes and replace them by democratic rule of the working class.
....'It is the bureaucratic castes'
rejection of proletarian inter-
nationalism that is their real
betrayal of the cause of world