than a decade the world situation was dominated by the civil war
in Vietnam and the attempt of U.S. imperialism to determine its
outcome by means of a counterrevolutionary war of intervention.
This was not simply a result of the fact that the
international, internal, military, and even (in part) economic
and monetary policy of the United States, the major capitalist
power in the world, was dominated by the war.
It resulted above all from the fact that the Indochina
war, like an intense spotlight, illuminated the major shifts
that have occurred in the worldwide social relationship of
forces; moreover, it burned these changes into the consciousness
of the most lucid representatives of the major antagonistic
classes and sections of classes in the world today.
the War of Aggression?
deliberately designate the Vietnam war primarily as a civil war
in which U.S. imperialism intervened.
This definition is annoying to all those who, from
whatever angle, do not admit that the world in which we live is
dominated by the irreconcilable conflict between capital and
labor, a conflict that the historic crisis of the capitalist
system, opened by the first world war, drives to its most acute
expression, leaving open only two possible outcomes: the victory
of the world socialist revolution or humanity’s fall into
manner in which this conflict manifests itself in each sector
and country of the world can vary.
In the semicolonial countries, which are dominated by the
law of uneven and combined development imposed on them by
imperialism, this conflict interlaces with the necessity of
resolving the tasks that in other countries had been on the
whole solved by the bourgeois revolution: independence and
national unification, liberation of the peasantry from feudal
and semifeudal exploitation.
But precisely because of this combination of tasks with
which the Indochinese revolution was confronted, the alternative
“socialist revolution or barbarism” assumed an especially
gripping expression in Indochina.
barbarism was supplied by the riches power of the world – in
the form of genocidal bombing, chemical defoliation, tiger cages
for political prisoners, and drugs and prostitution on an
unprecedented scale. This
fury was unleashed by imperialism against the Vietnamese masses
because they had committed the sins of not bowing to the
superiority of Yankee weaponry and of not resigning themselves
domination of the international bourgeoisie rests 90 percent on
its automatic reproduction by market mechanisms and the
acceptance of those mechanisms as natural or inevitable.
By selling their labor power, purchasing their living
necessities, and producing for the employers, the workers
reproduce not only surplus value and the accumulation of capital
but also the social relations that compel them to continue to
sell their labor power, to remain wage-earners.
But when a
large section of the exploited say, “Enough!”, when they
refuse to accept oppression, inequality, and injustice as
inevitable, when they begin to revolt massively against a
society of exploitation, then the reign of capital is shaken
more deeply than by ten economic crises.
For the rule of capital can then no longer base itself on
automatic economic factors.
It must resort to extraeconomic violence, to naked
terror, in order to maintain its domination. Capital then tries to give the oppressed a lesson so bloody
and so persuasive in its horror that they will hesitate for one
or two generations before ever again daring to commit the crime
of treason against capital.
Such was the
historic meaning of the massacre of the Paris Communards in
1871. Such was the
historic meaning on the Nazi terror and the Spanish civil war.
And such was the historic meaning of the war of
aggression unleashed by American imperialism against the
good liberal souls in the United States wonder if this was not
some kind of grandstand stunt, a bad political joke.
They try to assign responsibility for the intervention in
Vietnam to the “provincial” Johnson, the “crook” Nixon,
or even the “diabolical” machine of the CIA.
But history will not allow them to ease their bad
consciences at the expense of a few low-level scapegoats.
The decision to intervene in the civil war in Vietnam was
made by the “great” “liberal” president John F. Kennedy.
It was proposed, decided, and approved by the cream of
the U.S. monopolist bourgeoisie, including the most
distinguished intellectual advisers.
It was a deliberate decision, taken on the basis of an
analysis of world developments that perfectly illustrates the
meaning of the intervention: to show the revolutionaries and the
masses of the world the price they would have to pay for any
attempt to challenge the bourgeois order wherever it remains in
this it is enough to recall the exact moment when the
intervention was decided: just after the consolidation of the
revolution in Cuba, where the regime of the bourgeoisie and its
North America protector had been swept away almost by surprise,
Washington thus lacking the time to intervene, except after the
fact with the miserable failure of Playa Giron.
The documents attest to this: What motivated the
intervention in Vietnam was the fear that revolutionary
uprisings of the type that led to Dien Bien Phu, uprisings in
the image of the Algerian and Cuban revolutions, would spread
throughout the world; that was the great fear, more than the
fear of a successive fall of capitalist positions in Southeast
To this must
be added a supplementary, conjunctural, and “regional”
motive for the escalation, which came to the fore during the
Johnson administration. In
one of the greatest and potentially richest semicolonial
countries of the world, Indonesia, a pre-Revolutionary crisis
had been developing during the period 1964-65, a crisis that
gave the “domino theory” a very precise content.
A rapid victory of the Vietnamese revolution could have
quickly swept Indonesia toward a victorious workers and peasants
escalation in Indochina had the practical effect of
strengthening the resolve of the Indonesian counterrevolution.
It paved the way for the coup and bloody massacres of
response to the aid the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was
extending to the revolution in South Vietnam, the Johnson
administration had the supplementary aim, at least between 1965
and 1968, of destroying this workers state, that is, of
“rolling back” the revolution and expanding the free-world
zone of capitalist exploitation.
failure of the counter-revolutionary war
The war of
imperialist intervention in Indochina ended in a total
political, military, and social defeat.
The bourgeois regimes in Indochina collapsed. U.S.
imperialism did not succeed in preventing the victory of the
revolutionary forces. It
is now only a matter of time before the workers state now being
constructed in South Vietnam becomes definitively established
and before the reunification of the country is carried out
through the fusion of the South with North Vietnam.
although the imperialist intervention failed in its immediate
objective – intimidating the Vietnamese masses and halting
their advance along the road of national and social liberation
– it did manage to make gains on a world scale.
The enormous price in blood that the Vietnamese
revolutionaries were forced to pay had an effect in intimidating
not so much the popular masses of the semicolonial or
imperialist countries as important sectors, reformist and
neoreformist, of the international workers movement.
The U.S. intervention facilitated counterrevolutionary
undertakings in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
This resulted essentially from the tactical risk that
imperialism was able to run with success: It was able to
concentrate its forces on Vietnam without substantial
anti-imperialist forces taking advantage of the weakening of its
capacity to intervene elsewhere in the world.
understood the terms of the situation: Imperialism could not
permit itself the luxury of concentrating its entire frightful
destructive machine on the territory of one small country unless
Vietnam remained isolated.
“Create two, three, many Vietnams!”, the slogan taken
up from Che by the Fourth International, did not simply mean
that aid had to be offered the Vietnamese revolution by
compelling imperialism to disperse its forces.
Above all it meant that bloody intimidation operations of
this kind had to be made impossible.
The very dispersion of the imperialist forces would have
qualitatively diminished the impact of these operations.
that such a dispersion did not occur is primarily the
responsibility of the Soviet bureaucracy and all the leaderships
of workers and anti-imperialist organizations influenced by that
fact that for years this bureaucracy did not even provide the
Vietnamese masses the means to defend themselves effectively
against a murderous air assault will remain an additional cause
of discredit of the masters of the Kremlin in the eyes of
If in spite
of this tactical advantage, which could have been avoided,
imperialism still wound up losing the war in Vietnam, it is
above all precisely because it was a civil war, because the
counterrevolutionary war of intervention was a dirty and unjust
war and was seen as such by the masses throughout the world, by
the masses and soldiers in the United States, and above all by
the Vietnamese masses themselves.
The war in
Vietnam thus confirms a great historical lesson.
In wars between antagonistic social classes (whether they
are waged on a purely “national” terrain or actually spill
over to become international civil wars) the factor of weaponry
and military technology is in the final analysis less decisive
than the political-moral factor.
it would be irresponsible to underestimate the importance of
adequate weaponry, of military strategy and tactics correctly
adapted to the specific character of the country and the
when the field of battle is taken by the toiling masses fighting
against age-old exploitation, masses like those of Vietnam who
wanted to get rid of the landlords and usurers who were taking
over 50, 60, or 70 percent of the harvest, when the masses take
the field against soldiers who see every day that they are
fighting to preserve the power of gangsters, smugglers,
torturers, rotten generals, and politicians who have no other
ideal but self-enrichment, the former will inevitably be infused
with indomitable determination and energy, while the latter will
inevitably become progressively demoralized, so long as betrayal
does not take hold in the camp of the revolution and so long as
the masses do not have the feeling that they will be
systematically robbed of the fruits of their battle.
On all these
points, the unfolding of the war in Vietnam confirmed the
lessons of the Dutch war of independence from Spain, of the wars
of the French revolution against the crowned heads of Europe, of
the American civil war, and of the Russian civil war.
Whatever the precise nature of the classes involved and
whatever the exact stakes of the battle (and they were
manifestly different in each of these five cases), in the final
analysis in each case it is a question of wars of oppressed
majorities against oppressive and corrupt minorities, wars in
which the former could have been beaten only by betrayal in
their own camp (as was the case in Spain between 1936 and 1939)
and not by the political strength of their adversaries.
that the imperialist defeat in Vietnam is also a consequence of
the fact that the Vietnamese Communist party did not repeat the
role played by the CP and the Popular Front during the war in
Spain, that it did not stab the revolution in the back under the
pretext of winning the war “first,” that it allowed the
country to be engulfed in the flames of the agrarian revolution,
that it did not accept the possibility, offered by imperialism
after the Tet offensive of 1968, of obtaining a halt to the
attacks against North Vietnam in exchange for a halt to the
revolution in South Vietnam, in other words, that
the CP did not betray the Vietnamese revolution.
of the U.S. antiwar movement
suffered by imperialism in Vietnam, which turned into a military
rout, was above all a political defeat.
It was the political defeat that made the military defeat
imperialism suffered that political defeat on both of the major
fronts of the war: Indochina itself and the United States.
The war in
Vietnam was revealing in this regard as well.
The idea that an imperialist state could mobilize half a
million men and send them thousands of miles from their homes
for a period of years regardless of the political and
ideological conditions is a profoundly false idea that
overestimates the power of ideological manipulation commanded by
the ruling classes. Every
war in which large armies are committed involves some political
risk for the ruling class, and this risk can be run only under
precise political conditions. Every imperialist war that comes on top of a preceding war
increases this risk still further.
The leaders of the American bourgeoisie, who were led to
send ever larger contingents of American troops to Indochina in
escalation after escalation, clearly committed a catastrophic
error of estimation in judging the extent to which the American
people were prepared to accept any crime whatever in the name of
foreign policy. To
a large extent the Watergate scandal was a consequence of the
largely abortive attempts to postpone the moment at which the
price of this error had to be paid.
of the American masses to the war in Vietnam was not a highly
politicized one in the sense that they did not take up a
position of solidarity with the Vietnamese revolution.
To hope for something like that would have been to
completely misunderstand the state of political consciousness of
the proletariat and the great majority of youth in the United
States; they have not yet achieved political independence of
bourgeois ideology. But
while this reaction was visceral and elementary, it was no less
powerful; its breadth was unprecedented in the history of
colonial wars. After
some years of hesitation and even of mitigated support for the
aggression, the American masses began to react when the sending
of American contingents to Indochina and the growing American
losses brought the reality of the war into the majority of U.S.
grasped both the limits and potential of this mass reaction, our
American comrades played an important role in the building of a
mass antiwar movement around the single theme of the immediate
and unconditional withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam.
That was the most effective internationalist aid they
could have rendered the Vietnamese revolution.
It succeeded in changing the political situation in the
United States to such an extent that Johnson was forced to
withdraw from the presidential elections in 1968, that Nixon was
forced to promise a rapid end to the war, and that the ruling
class was drawn into divisions and ever more complicated and
lying maneuvers in face of its own people, which finally
led to the effective withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Vietnam
and the halting of the bombing after the signing of the Paris
played by the Trotskyists in this mass mobilization also reveals
the changes that had occurred in the world situation during the
preceding decade. It
can be said without fear of exaggeration that the antiwar
movement in the United States was the most important objective
ally of the Vietnamese revolution.
If the American masses had not thrown their weight into
the balance to force imperialism to withdraw its troops, the war
could have gone on much longer and the outcome could have been
of the Solidarity Movement in Europe
the situation in which revolutions had to deal with the
Vietnamese revolution was different from the situation
confronting revolutionaries in the United States – in two
European bourgeoisie was not directly engaged in the war.
It even regarded the war with some skepticism.
Moreover, this skepticism was intermixed with a bit of
what the Germans call Schadenfreude
(joy in the troubles of others), a way of paying American
imperialism back for what had happened during the postwar
“process of decolonization,” culminating in the U.S.
intervention to stop the Franco-British adventure against
Nasser’s Egypt in 1956.
were no European troops in Indochina, the immediate material
interests of millions of people, which is what detonated the
mass antiwar movement in the United States, were not in play on
the European continent. The
antiwar movement in Europe thus had to base itself on broader
social, political, and moral interests, which could result only
in a sentiment of identification with the Vietnamese revolution.
That is why solidarity with the Vietnamese revolution
against the imperialist aggression was the central slogan
correctly used by European revolutionaries.
It is around this slogan that tens and tens of thousands
of people were mobilized in London, Berlin, Paris, Milan, and
elsewhere. The mass
impact of this slogan, incontestable in the light of the size of
the solidarity movement, reflects the still higher level of
political consciousness of a section of the European proletariat
compared with that of the North American proletariat.
difference in tactics for the antiwar movement in the United
States and Europe was based not only on a correct estimation of
the differences in the objective and subjective conditions on
either side of the Atlantic, but also on an understanding of the
different function of the two movements in the aid they
could provide the Vietnamese revolution.
The movement of solidarity with the Vietnamese revolution
that was launched in Europe and picked up in Japan, Latin
America, and even East Europe could have greater effects on the
outcome of the war through its repercussions within the
international workers movement and the bureaucratized workers
states than through its repercussions in the United States. By unleashing a mass movement of identification and
solidarity with the Vietnamese revolution, the revolutionaries
of Europe, Japan, and the semicolonial countries profoundly
influenced and dragged in their wake a good part of the rank and
file of the Communist youth. They radically modified the relationship of forces among the
youth between the advocates of “peaceful coexistence” and
“peace at any price” on the one hand and the defenders of
the victory of the Vietnamese revolution on the other hand.
raised the international stakes to the point that the political
price Moscow and Peking would have had to pay for a total
betrayal of the revolution became very heavy.
They thus erected an obstacle to the process of betrayal
of this revolution by the bureaucracies of the workers states.
That was the major function of this movement.
It was fully crowned with success.
The Vietnamese Communists were equally as conscious of
that function as they were of the key role the U.S. antiwar
movement played in aiding their revolution.
played by the Fourth International in the organization of this
solidarity movement negatively indicated the extent of the
failure of the Stalinized Communist parties. While the still weak revolutionary organizations were able to
stimulate the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of ardent
partisans of the Vietnamese revolution throughout the world, the
leaders of trade unions that have millions of members did not
undertake to organize a boycott of weapons and troops for the
“dirty war” (with the honorable exception of the Australian
trade unions). This
contrast was exploited by Hanoi as much as possible.
It worked to the advantage of the Vietnamese revolution.
defeat of the Moscow and Peking bureaucracies
Soviet bureaucracy the Vietnamese civil war and the determined
resistance of the Indochinese masses to the American military
intervention constituted causes of growing embarrassment and
irritation to which the bureaucracy tried to put an end as
quickly as possible. Running
counter to the bureaucracy’s fundamental strategy of
“peaceful coexistence,” modifying the division of the world
into spheres of influence that had been worked out in Yalta and
Potsdam, inspiring and stimulating the rise of struggles and of
revolutionary consciousness throughout the world, shaking the
authority of the Soviet bureaucracy and of the Communist parties
its aegis, and contributing to the reconstitution of small
communist vanguards even in the countries under the very
domination of the bureaucracy, the Vietnamese revolution and its
repercussions upset the political designs of the bureaucracy and
threatened its vital interests. The Soviet bureaucracy therefore brought all its weight to
bear to try to put an end to that revolution.
It did this primarily by remaining passive in face of
each new escalation of imperialist aggression and by resorting
to the blackmail of limiting or even threatening to halt its
military aid to the Indochinese fighters.
These pressures were brought to bear most cynically in
the middle of the 1960s and the early 1970s.
When the imperialist intervention in the civil war in
South Vietnam expanded to acts of aggression against the
territory of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Kremlin
refrained from offering any response or even any warning.
It thus gave U.S. imperialism the green light to continue
its escalation. When
the political crisis in the United States caused by the
prolongation of the war compelled Nixon to maneuver in the
direction of a retreat, the Kremlin intervened to help him
“save face” instead of acting to stimulate a new rise of the
antiwar movement and a new push for struggle in this field.
In both cases, the masses of Indochina suffered enormous
losses in human life, material destruction, and precious time as
a result of these betrayals.
But in the
end the Soviet bureaucracy did not succeed in strangling the
Vietnamese revolution. The most it could do was to slow down the pace of the
Sino-Soviet conflict, a concentrated expression of the crisis of
Stalinism that resulted from the new rise of world revolution
and from its resounding victory in China, had a contradictory
effect on the unfolding of the Indochina war.
On the one
hand, by weakening the Kremlin’s grip on the Communist parties
(especially in Asia), by stimulating a differentiation within
the mass movement, and by fostering the emergence of a new
vanguard prepared to act independently of the bureaucracy if not
directly against its commands and interests, this conflict
contributed to limiting the effectiveness of the bureaucracy’s
The margins of the Vietnamese CP for political, social,
and military independence were broadened.
The Vietnamese CP was able to take advantage of its
independent, “equidistant” position relative to Moscow and
Peking in order to avoid having its material aid cut off
and authority of the Vietnamese leaders in the eyes of the
masses throughout the world and in the eyes of Communist
militants in particular was such that neither Moscow nor Peking
could run the risk of being denounced publicly by Hanoi.
This is undoubtedly one of the factors that ultimately
prevented the Indochinese revolution from being strangled the
way the 1936-37 Spanish revolution was strangled.
But on the
other hand, the aggravation of the Sino-Soviet conflict,
particularly beginning with the final phase of the “Cultural
Revolution,” and its increasing transformation into a conflict
between states created supplementary obstacles on the road to
victory in Indochina. These
obstacles were not only logistical, results of the growing
reluctance of the Moscow and Peking bureaucracies to collaborate
on the most strictly technical level to send arms and ammunition
to Hanoi. They were
also and most importantly diplomatic and political, the two
bureaucracies running a race to see which could win Nixon’s
favors more quickly and which could do more to facilitate the
American “disengagement”; the interests of the Indochinese
revolution were not taken into account.
International adopted a principled position in this regard that
objectively, and probably in part subjectively as well,
coincided with the interests of the Vietnamese revolution and
its leaders. The
International demanded that regardless of their differences and
without abandoning their right to public debate, the leaders of
the bureaucratized workers states conclude a united-front
agreement to defend the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the
Indochinese revolution. Far
from reflecting any alignment behind the interests of the
bureaucracy, this appeal expressed a consciousness of the class
character of the Vietnam war, of the stakes involved for the
world revolution, of the importance of making those stakes clear
to the masses throughout the world, and of the need to force the
leaders of the bureaucracy and the mass workers parties that
they still control to line up behind the Vietnamese revolution.
first phase of the war it was primarily the Kremlin that
suffered the consequences of rejecting such an option; it paid
for this refusal with a loss of influence over hundreds of
thousands of workers and youth throughout the world. During the final phase of the war, however, it was Peking
that began to be unmasked.
It must not be forgotten that while American bombs were
still falling on the Vietnamese fighters, Nixon was invited to
Peking and the Chinese leaders advanced the thesis of “two
superpowers” placed on the same footing and of “social
imperialism as the main enemy of the peoples of Europe and
the mirror of the war in Vietnam exposed the fundamental
character of the policy of the bureaucracy in both Moscow and
Peking: to cynically subordinate the interests of the
international revolution to the changing needs of their own
short-term, narrowly nationalist diplomacy.
In this sense, the victory of the Vietnamese revolution
is a defeat for the bureaucracies of Moscow and Peking, just as
it is a striking defeat for imperialism.
Meaning of the victory in Vietnam
the victory of the Vietnamese revolution and the concrete
forming which it occurred synthesize all the changes that have
occurred throughout the world during the past twenty-five or
expresses above all the shift in the worldwide relationship of
forces between capital and labor, or more precisely between
imperialism and all the anti-imperialist forces, since the end
of the Second World War and the victory of the Chinese
revolution, which broke the capitalist encirclement of the
Soviet Union. It
expresses the rise of the world revolution, which is in striking
contrast to its retreat during the period 1923-43.
this rise of the world revolution is neither linear nor
homogeneous everywhere in the world.
After the first few years of the postwar period, it was
accompanied by a relative stabilization of imperialism in West
Europe, Japan, and the other imperialist countries, especially
after the betrayal of the revolutionary opportunities of 1944-48
in capitalist Europe by the Stalinist and reformist leaderships.
Beginning in 1965 there were grave and bloody defeats in
a number of semicolonial countries (from the Indonesian and
Brazilian defeats to the defeat in Chile), and these were not
unrelated to imperialism’s savage aggression against Indochina
and the incapacity of the anti-imperialist movement under
Stalinist leadership to respond politically and internationally
in the way that was required.
But the new rise of workers and revolutionary struggles
in Europe, symbolized by May 1968, the rise of the antiwar
movement in the United States, and the emergence of a new
vanguard stimulated by the Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions in
turn made a precious contribution to the shift in the worldwide
relationship of class forces of which the Vietnamese victory is
the product in the final analysis.
victory expresses the shift in the relationship of forces
between the masses on the one hand and the bureaucratic
apparatuses on the other, and, as a corollary, the shift in the
relationship of forces between these apparatuses and the
vanguard that has freed itself of their control within the mass
comparison between the unfolding of the Spanish civil war and
the Vietnamese civil war is especially instructive in this
regard. In Spain
the Stalinists and reformists (with the complicity of anarchist
leaders turned bourgeois ministers) were able in less than a
year to direct the torrent of the Spanish revolution toward
channels aimed at reconstructing the bourgeois state, thus
leading to the crushing of the revolution and its defeat by
fascism; but in Indochina fifteen years of pressure – open and
concealed, bloody and “peaceful,” military and diplomatic
– were unable to prevent the masses from bringing down the
state and society of their exploiters.
The Stalinist and Social Democratic leaders, who
maintained almost total control over the powerful worldwide
movement of solidarity with the Spanish proletariat, were able
to abuse the movement and in essence press it into the service
of strangling the revolution; but the antiwar movement and the
movement of solidarity with the Vietnamese revolution, which
were no less powerful or generalized, largely escaped such
attempts at manipulation. These
movements even became a generally independent factor that
weighed positively on the outcome of the war.
concrete form taken by the victory of the revolution – the
collapse of the Thieu and Lon Nol regimes seven years after the
Tet offensive in countries covered with ruins and standing on
the brink of famine, conditions that strongly favor the
bureaucratic deformation of the new workers states in process of
being born – is also not a product of chance, nor is it the
fatal result of the enormous power of “counterrevolutionary
dissuasion” still commanded by imperialism.
Above all it is an expression of the degree of control
that the bureaucratic apparatuses still conserve over the
workers and anti-imperialist movement throughout the world, of
the absence of general strikes and generalized boycotts to
respond to the imperialist aggression, of the absence of
effective international coordination of the revolutionary mass
movements, of the absence of a mass revolutionary international.
It is an expression
of the persistence of the crisis of the subjective factor, even
if in a less severe form than in the past, at least in some
countries. Thus, in
the final analysis, the form taken by the Vietnamese victory is
an expression of the fact that the new rise of world revolution
is as yet only partial and fragmented, that this new rise is not
yet sufficient to definitively break down the conservative role
that the bureaucratic apparatuses continue to play within the
character of the Vietnamese Communist party is itself as much a
reflection as a constituent element of all these changes.
To say that the Vietnamese CP is a Stalinist party in the
sense that the overall effect of its policy on a world scale is
counterrevolutionary is manifestly absurd in face of the
balance-sheet of the past fifteen years of the second Indochina
war. To affirm that
the VCP has “definitively gone over to the side of the
bourgeois order” is delirium.
The Vietnamese bourgeoisie has voted with its feet
against this grotesque thesis so massively as to leave no room
for doubt about the class content of the revolution being
carried out and of the new state being constructed.
But the fact
that the Vietnamese CP is manifestly neither Stalinist nor
counterrevolutionary in no way implies that it is revolutionary
Marxist or that it is an upholder of proletarian democracy, of
the direct exercise of power by the proletariat and poor
peasantry organized in soviet, or that it is clearly
internationalist. The thesis that in no country of the world, under no
conditions, and for no length of time can the regime of the
owning classes be overthrown unless a revolutionary Marxist
party stands at the head of the masses is a crude and mechanical
oversimplification of the Leninist theory of organization.
From the Paris Commune to the victories of the Yugoslav,
Chinese, and North Vietnamese revolutions to the victory of the
Cuban revolution we have seen victorious socialist revolutions
overthrow the regime of capital under the leadership of
groupings and parties that have had three features in common:
their objectively proletarian political character; their option
in favor of the revolution at the decisive moment, and thereby
their break with counterrevolutionary strategies and tactics;
and their crying programmatic insufficiencies, leading in all
cases to serious bureaucratic deformations, except in the case
of the Commune, where they led instead to rapid defeat.
phenomenon of parties standing midway between the workers
bureaucracy and the proletarian masses, midway between Stalinism
and revolutionary Marxism, in turn results from the still
pronounced weakness of the subjective factor on a world scale. In the final analysis it reflects the still limited
participation of the proletariat of the industrially developed
countries in revolutionary activity and the belatedness
of the victory of the socialist revolution in the most important
imperialist countries, while at the same time the worldwide
crisis and decomposition of the imperialist system is continuing
and deepening. But
in detailing the causes of the particular phenomenon, revealed
by Vietnam even more clearly than by Cuba, we can simultaneously
trace out its historic limits and the preconditions for
overcoming it: a new rise of the world revolution placing the
industrial proletariat in the center of international
revolutionary action; a new leap forward in the building of the
Fourth International through its growing over into a mass
revolutionary International composed of mass revolutionary
world situation after the imperialist defeat in Vietnam
suffered by imperialism in Vietnam has accentuated the effects
of the rise of the antiwar movement in the United States to
create an entirely new international situation: American
imperialism is now incapable, and will remain so for a whole
period, of playing the role of world capitalist policeman by
massively sending American troops to intervene in ongoing
revolutions or civil wars.
But no other
imperialist power, beginning with West Germany or Japan, not to
mention an “integrated capitalist Europe, “which still does
not exist in terms of state apparatus and repression, is today
capable of substituting for momentarily debilitated American
result of this is not only an acute crisis of leadership of the
world bourgeoisie as a whole, but also an important new
modification of the worldwide relationship of forces.
For the first time since the opening of the era of the
decline of capitalism, the proletarian revolution in the
industrialized countries is temporarily shielded from massive
foreign military intervention.
We owe this colossal historical advantage to the heroism
and revolutionary determination of the Vietnamese masses.
That is the enormous debt of gratitude all
revolutionaries owe to the Vietnamese revolution.
For the reasons outlined above, which go back to the
defeats suffered by the colonial revolution since 1965 and to
the still pronounced weakness of the revolutionary movement in
the rest of Southeast Asia, it is in capitalist Europe rather
than anywhere else that the effects of this new international
situation will be most beneficial in the short term for a new
rise of the revolution.
about this shift in the world situation must, however, be
tempered by several considerations.
it is a temporary modification.
It would be irresponsible to begin from the idea that
imperialism has been definitively paralyzed.
Imperialism will try to recreate the internal political
conditions that would allow it to use the striking force it
commands militarily and technologically.
But that requires time, time to alter the internal
situation in the United States, West Europe, and Japan.
During this interval the chances for socialist revolution
are strongly increased. And
if the class struggles now going on or looming on the horizon
culminate in the victory and not the defeat of the European
proletariat, the international situation will further shift to
the detriment of imperialism and capitalism.
what is involved is a partial modification.
We have said that after the rise of the antiwar movement
in the United States and the imperialist defeat in Vietnam, U.S.
imperialism can no longer send masses of infantry troops against
ongoing revolutions. But
this does not mean that it cannot intervene militarily in other
ways. It still
commands powerful counterrevolutionary “relays” like the
armies of Brazil, Iran, and Zaire, which because of the
temporary victory of the counterrevolution in these countries,
can act effectively against revolutionary developments in the
neighboring countries, at least for a certain period.
And there is an additional threat that becomes ever more
precise and horrifying today: the threat of the use of tactical
nuclear weapons against insurgent peoples.
The very nature of nuclear weapons and the consequences
of their use (not only materially but politically and
psychologically as well) are such that this threat can be used
only extremely selectively.
But the warnings of U.S. Secretary of Defense Schlesinger
must be taken seriously. Imperialism
is preparing American public opinion for the use of nuclear
weapons against the colonial revolution in at least two specific
cases: in the event of a new outbreak of civil war in Korea and
in the event of a threat of the imminent destruction of the
Zionist state of Israel. Nothing
suggests that this threat will remain limited to these two cases
in coming years.
there is one weapon of counterrevolutionary intervention that
preserves all its effectiveness and that will be used all the
more regularly as direct military intervention becomes more
difficult. That is
the weapon of economic pressure, of financial strangling, of
attempts at starving out the revolution.
In the case of some semicolonial and imperialist
countries this is a weapon even more formidable in its
psychological and political effects than in its immediate
material effects. It
is the duty of internationalists to prepare the international
working class and the masses of the world to learn how to
respond to that weapon, the use of which does not provoke as
massive and spontaneous reactions as those provoked by barbaric
bombing or the sending of troops to intervene.
of the various sectors of the world revolution
this change in the world situation strengthens the trend toward
the shift of the center of gravity of the world revolution
toward the industrialized countries, increases the weight of the
urban proletariat in the revolution in the semicolonial
countries, and accelerates the return to forms of proletarian
and socialist revolution that approach the “norms” of the
revolutions of 1917-23, tendencies that were pointed out in the
political resolutions adopted by the Ninth and Tenth World
Congresses of the Fourth International (1969 and 1974).
combination of the new international situation created by the
imperialist defeat in Vietnam, the new rise of workers struggles
in Europe, the worldwide crisis of leadership of the
bourgeoisie, and the generalized recession of the international
capitalist economy has created exceptionally favorable
conditions for the development of an almost simultaneous
revolutionary situation in a number of European countries:
Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, and even Britain. We are not yet at that point, but the day is no longer far
off. The events in
Portugal are already beginning to demonstrate that we had not
fallen in excessive optimism when on the hundredth anniversary
of the Paris Commune we predicted that the time was approaching
when we would once again see workers councils in Europe.
determination of all our European sections to press within the
rising wave of struggles of workers and youth for the
increasingly extensive adoption by the masses of forms of
self-organization like general assemblies of strikers, the
democratic election of strike committees responsible to these
general assemblies, and their local, regional, and national
coordination has already borne fruit and will bear even more in
the future. The
working class that will confront the coming revolutionary crises
in Europe is very different from the working class of the 1940s
and 1950s. It is
different not only in its strength, self-confidence, skill, and
culture, but also in the level of its concerns, demands, and
consciousness, and thus in its capacity to free itself from the
bureaucratic apparatuses and to move to the highest form of
transformation of the Trotskyist organizations into mass
revolutionary parties is closely linked to the emergence of
situations of dual power, for it is only in such situations that
the choice between the reformist and revolutionary road ceases
to be a choice between an actual reality (with well known
advantages and disadvantages) and an idea that, while it may be
attractive, has no immediate weight and instead becomes a
question of the practical daily experience of the masses.
re-emergence of revolutionary situations more closely
approximating the “norm” of the Russian and German
proletarian revolutions, based upon workers councils, will have
deep repercussions on the other sectors of the world revolution.
In the semicolonial countries themselves it will
stimulate the development of the proletariat’s political and
organizational class independence, cutting the ground from under
the “frontist” ideology and experiences of Stalinist
inspiration and thus reducing the risks of bureaucratic and
nationalist deformations of the revolutions in these countries.
The case of Angola is typical in this regard.
While it was undoubtedly the revolutionary movement of
the colonial masses that delivered the decisive blow to the
Salazar-Caetano dictatorship and thus touched off the process of
decomposition of the Portuguese bourgeois army, the progress of
the Portuguese revolution has in turn had repercussions on the
revolutionary process in Angola, stimulating self-organization
and self-defense among the urban proletariat; from this
standpoint the revolutionary process in Angola has been raised
to the highest level yet achieved in Black Africa.
development of situations of dual power in the imperialist
countries of Europe, and even the victory of the socialist
revolution in one or several of these countries, will have no
less profound repercussions on the revolutionary dynamic in the
United States. The
identification of “socialism” with “oppression” and
“tyranny,” with the reduction of the political and
individual freedom of the broad masses, is not purely the
product of imperialist propaganda.
This identification was not at all accepted as obvious by
the American proletariat during the 1920s and the early 1930s,
in spite of an equally determined, if not even more hysterical
anticommunist propaganda campaign than exists today. This identification is also the product of Stalinism and of
what the American masses know the political reality of the
bureaucratized workers states to be.
The emergence in the industrialized countries of a
“model” or workers state and planned economy free of the
defects of the Stalinist bureaucracy will make a colossal
contribution to the American proletariat’s conquest of the
highest level of political class consciousness.
breakthrough of the proletarian revolution in capitalist Europe
can also modify the situation in the Soviet Union and the
These countries are being shaken by a growing social and
political crisis. But
the political passivity of the Soviet proletariat constitutes
the principal obstacle blocking the development of this crisis
toward a victorious political revolution that would conserve and
strengthen the conquests of October and open the road toward the
accelerated international development of a socialist society
without oppression or social inequality.
And the lack of an overall political perspective is in
turn the major obstacle blocking the politicization of the
proletariat detests the rule of the bureaucracy.
It has no desire to return to capitalism, and the present
capitalist crisis, with its 17 million unemployed in the
imperialist countries, is not going to make the Soviet workers
change their minds. They
have thus taken refuge in private live, making occasional
attempts to defend their immediate gains.
A revolutionary breakthrough in capitalist Europe freeing
the image of socialism from the discredit the bureaucratic
dictatorship has heaped on it and creating a tangible
alternative to the dilemma “bureaucratic dictatorship or
restoration of capitalism” will accelerate the
repoliticization of the Soviet proletariat, prevent any new
counterrevolutionary intervention by the Kremlin in East Europe
of the sort that crushed the Hungarian and Czechoslovak
revolutions, and stimulate the victory of the political
revolution in the “people’s democracies” and the USSR.
the threshold of workers councils; the world on the threshold of
a new leap forward of the international revolution; the Fourth
International on the threshold of mass revolutionary parties in
several countries – such is the opportunity for
revolutionaries that has been strengthened by the Vietnamese
revolution. Let us seize this opportunity; it will not be with us