WHO WON, WHO LOST ? THE VIETNAM WAR
A DISCUSSION !?! 0/
INTRODUCTION A couple of Micro and Macro points seem to be starting a discussion about who won, who lost, the Vietnam war. It began, for me, with news of the planned re-opening ! of a GI COFFEE-HOUSE in Killeen, near FORT HOOD.
(1) And the obvious comparison between "then", the American-Vietnam War, and today’s Iraq-Afghanistan/US/et.al. new Flag Imperialist ventures (1a).
1/ Who done what ?
Unmodest (3) that I am, I’d like to chip in with comments based on some of our already existing, sometimes quite lengthy, writes (4) (references) (FL, GY, SIR, LF, Wave theory) I think we need not labor as to WHO LOST THE VIETNAM WAR ! American Flag Imperialism (5). The Micro-discussion seems to head into the relative importance of essential elements in OUR VICTORY (6). We won the Vietnam war, but who are "we"? What was the relative importance in the various elements of this victory ? Was it the GI Resistance – as for instance that of the Fort Hood Coffee House "The Oleo Strut" ? The growth of the Civilian peace Movement in the USA ? The continuance, the invincibility, the effectiveness – of the Vietnamese (Indochinese) anti-imperialist resistance ? International support for the Vietnamese ? (6a). Obviously, all the above. However, I’d like to add, supplement, these factors with some other concepts, not so far brought out. 2/
The SUCCESS, DECLINE and End of CLASSICAL FLAG IMPERIALISM I will – here – simply state some facts – details available on application (7). Flag Imperialism, the conquest, domination, oppression and open exploitation of most of the world by a dozen (8) Flag Imperialist Powers was a success, a goer, from 1492 (8a) till 1942. 450 years (8b). No indigenous (8c) revolt against Flag Imperialism succeeded before 1941, in fact almost (8d) all Flag Imperialist invasions relatively quickly (8e) conquered their objects, colonies (8f) at relatively low costs (8g). Once established, Flag Imperialist domination of the colonies could be maintained cheaply, profitably (8h) until the post 1942 period (8i – interimperialist conflicts, E, (USA), P, F, GB, D, J, R, I, USA….) After 1941 Flag Imperialism began – quite rapidly – to unravel. Indigenous anti-imperialist struggles now – for the first time after 450 years of defeats – now became victorious, and this although now (for the first times ?) the Flag Imperialist Powers often used major military efforts to try and maintain – sometimes very bloodily – their domination (9). comparisons.
These are facts. Simple Whats. The Why’s are complex – and – Max says – should be discussed subsequently, separately . By 1975 Classical Flag Imperialism was a GONER, and had had to be (10) replaced by a relatively new phenomena – DOLLAR IMPERIALISM (11).
Some Imperialist countries (12, USA, GB, AUS ?), i.e their ruling classes, have trouble accepting this change, and are still, today, attempting to revive a NEW FLAG IMPERIALISM (12a). A forgotten example: the 1950 invasion of North Korea – its disastrous and expensive ! defeat (13a, b, c). It is also essential to understand that the American war against the Vietnamese (1956-1975), just as the earlier (1946-1954) French attempt to maintain its flag imperialist dominion over "French Indochina", was, despite many attempts at obfuscation, another belated Flag Imperialist venture.
3/ The WAVE THEORY: GEOGRAPHIC EXTENSION TO THE HIGHLY CAPITALISED CAPITALIST COUNTRIES: RITA AS A FUNCTION OF A WIDE-SPREAD "3RD" WAVE I am certainly not the first to note that History can be studied as a "Wave" phenomena (14). Many often speak of (for instance) "The Sixties", as a time when things were, for a while, different. Nota: These Waves certainly cover many countries, in fact almost all Highly Capitalised Capitalist States. However, I, perhaps because (unfortunately) I am old enough to remember, sometimes vividly, earlier – different – waves (15) particularly our surprise at realising that what I call the First, Anti-Fascist wave (in two parts: -1924-1941: defeats; 1942 – 1946: victory) did not, in 1945, lead to the expected "singing tomorrows", but to a period of quiescence, de-politisation, defeats for the left, to the imposed new "cold war". A "QUIET" SECOND WAVE. This – also quite unexpectedly – "MORPHED" (16) into a THIRD WAVE, the certainly not-so-quiet SIXTIES. which included wide-spread RITA, left-ward GI resistance inside the Armies of most highly capitalised capitalist countries (17).
4/ ABSENCE (OF ORGANISED, EFFECTIVE) RITA DURING THE SECOND, QUIET, FIFTIES WAVE: It was also obvious that this Resistance inside these Armies did NOT COINCIDE, TIME-WISE, with, sometimes lengthy and bloody, Flag Imperialist Wars that these countries had – always UNSUCCESSFULLY – led in the previous decades (18: F, NL, GB, P, B, E..) THESE WARS COINCIDED WITH THE "QUIET" SECOND WAVE. THERE WAS NO, OR VERY LITTLE, ORGANISED SUSTAINED RITA IN ANY OF THESE ARMIES DURING THIS PERIOD. NOR DID THE AMERICAN WAR IN KOREA (AND AGAINST CHINA) – 1950-1953 – LEAD TO ANY SUCH ORGANISED RESISTANCE INSIDE THE (AMERICAN, OF FOR THAT MATTER, ANY OF THE OTHER "UN" PARTNER MILITARIES, AUS, F, GB, ET. AL – FIGHTING AND BLEEDING THERE.)
5/ SOME "DISPUTABLE" CONCLUSIONS: Sticking my neck out, I find that the reasons why the American Ruling Class lost the Vietnam war were 5/1 it was fought in the post-1941 historic period of the decline of Flag Imperialism (19 – Korea). It was no longer possible for long-effective, established, small flag Imperialist armies to defeat, subjugate, colonial anti-imperialist struggles, cheaply, or at all ? 5/2 It was the "BAD LUCK" OF THE AMERICAN RULING CLASS TO FIGHT "VIETNAM", THEIR BELATED MAJOR FLAG IMPERIALIST WAR, EXACTLY IN THE SIXTIES, JUST AS THE THIRD WAVE – A WIDE-SPREAD YOUTH REVOLT IN THE HIGHLY CAPITALISED CAPITALIST COUNTRIES – WAS RISING, PEAKING.
The Combination: Flag Imperialist Decline/successful colonial revolts plus Third (Youth Revolt) wave led to the "inevitable ?" defeat of American Flag Imperialism in Indochina and its present replacement by "Dollar Imperialism" there?) .
53/ It is the above observations which "explain, or rather DESCRIBE" the defeat (macro) of American Flag Imperialism and the effective role of American RITA during that war, the possibilities and successes of many different forms of RITA, including the "coffee hice" such as the OLEO STRUT and its "partners". The discussion, of what particular factor, element, was "the most important", "determinant", essential, seem somewhat irrelevant. The Vietnam War, the Sixties, RITA, were the right time, the right place, for this victory. All factors fitted in, supplemented and reinforced each other. While the above observations of the WHAT seem incontestable, I am aware that it leaves us with a "hunger" for a WHY ? – and a fear of "fatalism"!?
DO "WE" HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE PRESENT "QUIET" (FOURTH?) WAVE HAS PASSED BEFORE WE AGAIN SEE SUSTAINED MASS ACTIVITY, AS WE DID IN THE FIRST (ANTI-FASCIST) ) AND THE THIRD (SIXTIES, YOUTH REVOLT, RITA) WAVES ? I DO MAKE ANOTHER, INCONTESTABLE, OBSERVATION: THE SECOND (QUIET, 1946), THE THIRD (SIXTIES), NOR EVEN THE "END OF CONTESTATION – FOURTH" (EIGHTIES) – WAVES – SPREAD OVER MOST HIGHLY CAPITALISED COUNTRIES – ALL "SNUCK UP ON US". SURPRISE, SURPRISE.
FOR ALL WE (I !) KNOW, A NEW, FIFTH, DIFFERENT ONE IS JUST ABOUT TO HAPPEN. HAPPENING, ALREADY ? OBAMA ? KENNEDY DID NOT CAUSE THE (AMERICAN) SIXTIES, BUT HIS "POPULARITY" AFTER THE ? STERILE EISENHOWER DECADE MAY HAVE BEEN A HERALD FOR THE COMING CHANGE. OBAMA ? POST-NIXON, I MEAN: POST BUSH ? POST HOWARD, HERE. WE SHALL, IF WE’RE AROUND, SEE. THIS CAN DO WITH A GREAT DEAL OF "POLISH", REVISION, BUT RIGHT NOW THIS IS AS FAR AS I’M GOING INC MAX WATTS
========================================== (1) a re-opening, for some of us know of the once there famous GI Coffee House: the Oleo Strut – 1968-1972. The Oleo Strut was one of a good dozen similar Coffee Hice of the GI Rita, Resistance inside the Army, of the Vietnam war days and featured in the historic film: SIR? NO SIR ! (2) (1a) See my article: Flag and Dollar Imperialism – in "GI Special"; ref: RN3280 GY (2) Sir No Sir ! : by David Zeiger – film – the best resume of the growth and history of the Vietnam era Resistance Inside the Army. In three versions: a) 52 minutes (first shown on Australian tv – ABC, b) 87 minutes (cinema); c) approx 180 minutes (directors cut = b) plus a series of interviews of Resister soldiers then and now. Available in DVD from David Zeiger, email@example.com; Phone: 1 323 906 9249w (USA) or Max Watts firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 61 2 9564 1147 (Australia) (3) Unmodest: Max Watts: "Unjustified Modesty is no virtue" (4) The following publications expand on the points made (briefly ?) in the present note – FL and GY can be supplied by email on application to Max Watts, email@example.com FL: THE DEVELOPMENT OF RESISTANCE INSIDE THE ARMIES (RITA) AS A FUNCTION OF CAPITAL ACCUMULATION GY: Flag and Dollar Imperialism – the changing nature of Imperial wars and resistance to them. SIR: Soldiers in Revolt – by David Cortright. First Edition Anchor/Doubleday NY 1975 (OP?); Second expanded edition: Haymarket Books, 2005, POB 180165, Chicago, IL 606 18, USA, US $ 16; LF: Left Face: Soldier Unions and Resistance Movements in Modern Armies – by David Cortright and Max Watts. Greenwood Press, Westport CT, USA. First published in 1991. The Wave theory: – Max Watts et al. Work in Progress. Draft copies can be supplied by email on application to Max Watts, firstname.lastname@example.org (5) Flag and Dollar Imperialism – in "GI Special"; ref: RN3280 GY (6) We won, but Who are "We" ? A simple definition: Those on our (my) side. Obviously a dynamic, dialectic, concept. For instance, in late 1941, after the German defeat before Moscow, Pearl Harbor, "we" included the anti-fascist coalition, including – at that moment ! – Stalin, Winston Churchill, FDR. If Hitler fascism had won, "we" would have lost. No question, but so often misunderstood. And forgotten ! (6a) The continuance, the invincibility, the effectiveness – of the post 1945 Vietnamese (Indochinese) anti-imperialist resistance ? International support for the Vietnamese ? Of course the Vietnamese resistance, to French, Japanese, American Flag Imperialism was a, or even the, essential element in that resistance. In the heyday of Flag Imperialism – between 1859 and 1885 – relatively small French forces could conquer all of Indochina and even off-handedly defeat the Chinese supporting Vietnam… at that time any international support for the Vietnamese (even Chinese) was ineffective… (7) details available on application Reference GY: Flag and Dollar Imperialism – the changing nature of Imperial wars and resistance to them. (8) Flag Imperialist Powers was a success, a goer, from 1492 (8a) till 1942. 450 years (8b). No indigenous (8c) revolt against Flag Imperialism succeeded before 1941, in fact almost (8d) all Flag Imperialist invasions relatively quickly (8e) conquered their objects, colonies (8f) at relatively low costs (8g). Once established, Flag Imperialist domination of the colonies could be maintained cheaply, profitably (8h) until the post 1942 period (8i – interimperialist conflicts, E, (USA), P, F, GB, D, J, R, I, USA….) (8a) 1492 – "Columbus sailed the ocean blue.." In fact, modern flag Imperialism had begun some decades earlier, with the Portuguese conquering bases in West Africa.. but it is my thesis that 1492, the Spanish conquest of much of the Americas, marks a qualitative change (8b) till 1942. Few noted, or today remember, that the defeat of the Italian Empire in Ethiopia was a first – a recovery of indigenous souverainity (even if with support by another Flag Imperialist Power, Britain) by a colonial people. (8c) No indigenous revolt against Flag Imperialism succeeded before 1941: Where Flag Imperialism had been defeated, expelled from a colony, this had previously done been by settler, not indigenous, revolts. Washington, Simon Bolivar, even Toussaint L’Ouverture, were not indigenous American "Indians". The Transvaal Boers – who gave the British a lot of trouble, were not Africans. Nor was the (1948) departure of the British from Palestine the result of an Arab Revolt. (8d, 8e, 8f, 8g) in fact almost all Flag Imperialist invasions relatively quickly conquered their objects, colonies at relatively low costs. There were temporary hold-ups, delays in distant colonial wars – (in the Sudan, in Ethiopia in 1895, etc, even bloody defeats (Afghanistan, 1840), but with the Afghan exception eventually the Flag Empires prevailed. And, an important factor, holding on to flag colonies was – before 1941 – cheap, and – for the Imperialists, profitable. Of course, other Imperialists wanted in, and the wars between the various Imperialists were far more bloody, far more expensive, than just "keeping the natives in their place" (on the bottom). (8h) profitabe – As Lenin, and others, pointed out: the average rate of profit p’ for capital in the colonies was higher than "at home". Until the post 1942 period – when holding on to revolting colonies became harder, bloodier, and more expensive. No doubt this explains why by 1980 most Flag Imperialist colonies had been "lost" and sometimes almost peacefully "abandoned" (freed !) (8i) interimperialist conflicts are far more "marked", known, than those between the "natives" and their conquerors: Some (limited) examples: E-NL, E-GB, E-USA – the huge Spanish Empire was long targetted by the Dutch, the British, and eventually "finished off" by the USA in Cuba, the Philippines. F-GB – France and Britain fought for over three centuries over who would "own" what in the Americas, Africa, Asia.. USA-E; USA-J – see also above: of course the main American Expansion was against colonial peoples – including Mexico, Hawaii, the Philippines, until – in China – they ran up against the Japanese… D, J, I – The German Flag Imperialists (as the Italian and Japanese) were "late starters". Flag Imperialism needs a strong unified state back-up, this was delayed for these states. And the German colonies were "removed" – i.e. taken over – by 1918 by GB, France, Belgium, Australia, and Japan. The Italian Empire in Africa also disappeared between 1941 and 1943. The johnny come lately Japanese who got going rapidly after 1895 (in China, Korea) soon ran up against the Russians, and – after a huge expansion after 1931 – against the established Flag Imperialists (NL, GB, Aus, F, USA..). By 1945 Japan, German, and Italian Flag Imperialists were "gone". Recovery was, where possible, as "Dollar Imperialism" (see (5)). R – Russia: Curiously we heard much – during the "cold war" – about "Soviet Imperialism", but little about the (larger) previous Russian Flag Imperialism, which before 1914 had established a huge "prison house of nations" over indigenous people in much of Asia – and had once penentrated into North West America as far as California… USA – a discussion of American Flag Imperialism should begin not only with "indigenous" "Indians", but with Mexicans, Hawaiians, etc. (9) Comparisons: Look at World (political) maps, changes after 1939. These are facts. Simple Whats. The Why’s are complex – and – Max says – should be discussed subsequently, separately . A very elementary analysis would begin with the relative changes in a/ the Imperialist powers b/ the world as a whole and c/ within the colonies during their subjugation. Obviously all are important, but I’d pinpoint c/ as the essential variable. (10) By 1975 Classical Flag Imperialism was a GONER, – its most resounding ending was the Vietnamese victory over the "Americans", exemplified by the "fall" (from ? to ?) of Saigon. Much more quietly, the Australian Flag was struck in Port Moresby… (11) FLAG IMPERIALISM has been widely replaced by a relatively new phenomena. DOLLAR IMPERIALISM: see (5) (12) USA, GB, AUS ? – Some Imperialist countries seem incapable of recognising that classical Flag Imperialism is a goner, and attempt to revive a new Flag Imperialism, as best exemplfied by the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the evidence that the profitable, easy, cheap and profitable days of Flag Imperialism are "no more" piles up, and up. Not only in Bodies (that never stopped Flag Imperialism) but in devaluating Dollars. The split within the ruling classes is becoming harder to paper over… (12a) NEW FLAG IMPERIALISM – the expense of these efforts, their costs in blood, lives, and dollars should – some say – make it obvious that the good old days of 1492 – 1941 are gone, have not returned. (13) I think it is important to note, also for an understanding of the "American/Vietnamese war", of the US Imperialist defeat, that American Imperialism, the American ruling class, were very late in recognising the general decline and end of Classical Flag Imperialism. Although American capitalism sometimes had moved towards Dollar Imperialism before other Imperialist powers, the inablity to complete this "switch" has been marked in many instances (e.g. Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea). This failure also explains Afghanistan, the "US/Iraq War" and the present danger of an attack against Iran. 13a) MacArthur sent his (UN!) troops thru North Korea, to the Chinese border. When the Chinese reacted, and utterly defeated the US/UN in late 1950 (13b), Truman (US RC) did not allow the planned A-Bomb etc. attack against China. North Korea remains unoccupied. This was the first defeat of US Flag Imperialism. (13b) Compare the 1950 Korean "disaster" with the cheap defeat of China in 1900 by a (relatively quite small) international Flag Imperialist expedition – in the good old days. (13c) It is also reflected in divisions within the American ruling classes (14) see for instance Eric Hobsbawn’s books on different "Ages" (15) The Wave theory: – Max Watts et al. Work in Progress. Draft copies can be supplied by email on application to Max Watts, email@example.com. (15a) Particularly I remember our 1946 surprise at realising that the victories in our First, Anti-Fascist wave did not lead to the expected "singing tomorrows", but to a period of quiescence, de-politisation, defeats for the left, to the imposed new "cold war" – (16) This "QUIET" SECOND WAVE – also quite unexpectedly "MORPHED" – into a THIRD WAVE, the certainly not so quiet SIXTIES. I, in Paris, remember our astonishment at how rapidly series of Paris student demonstrations – within a week developed into a general strike, factory occupations, which challenged the fundamental "ownership" concepts of capitalism. (17) which included wide-spread RITA, left-ward GI resistance inside the Armies of most of the highly capitalised capitalist countries (eg. A, CH, D, DK, E, F, I, NL, S, SF,) above a certain economic threshold. These armies developed active, sometimes very important – RITA movements after 1966. (17a, 4) see SIR, LF: We studied these in detail in Left Face: Soldier Unions and Resistance Movements in Modern Armies – by David Cortright and Max Watts. Greenwood Press, Westport CT, USA. First published in 1991. This came as an initial surprise – we had assumed the widespread systematic resistance inside the American military to be due to the Vietnam war – (17a, SIR, LF,) What I believe to be "our" original observation was that the Resistance inside the American Army, which we observed, participated in and supported during the American/Vietnam war (1964-1975), coincided, time-wise, with a wide-spread resistance in many other highly capitalised countries (17b) (17b) particularly F, E, NL, I, D, A, CH, S, DK, (and – for specific reasons – also in two less highly capitalised countries: P and SA). (18): F, NL, GB, P, B, E.. French Flag Imperialism fought a lengthy series of lost, sometimes very bloody, wars between 1946 and 1962 in Indochina and North Africa, a still unresolved conflict in Kanaky, in Polynesia. Only in West and Central Africa did the change to Dollar (i.e. Franc or Euro) Imperialism proceed fairly bloodlessly. The Dutch fought from 1945-1950 to keep their Indonesian Empire, the Brits left after various degrees of violence from Palestine, India, Iraq, Iran, Arab possessions, Africa… and most reluctantly: Suez… The Portuguese fought long, bitterly and bloodily in Africa (Angola, Mozamique, Bissau), left more quietly from India, China, East Timor; Belgium – from the Congo, Ruanda… the Spanish from Marocco… (19) Perhaps the most telling effect of the Waves on GI resistance is a comparison of RITA between "Korea" and Vietnam. There was resistance inside the Imperialist Armies in Korea, but it never led to a sustained movement as it did in Vietnam. This is an observed fact. The reasons are no doubt multiple, but the most obvious is that the 1950’s (Korea) were a "quiet" wave, the sixties certainly not.