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On February 17, Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Deng Xaioping attempted to carry out his threat to "teach Vietnam a bloody lesson" (Workers Vanguard, March 2, 1979) as Chinese troops marched across the border into Vietnam. Although China's troops are now withdrawing, having failed in their "lesson", the political implications of the invasions must be made clear.
The initial response of the American press was to gloat over the spectacle of two "communist" countries at war, while the U.S. State Department was quick to strike an "even-handed" posture and hypocritically deplore "any use of force outside ones own territory." However, The New York Times of March 5, 1979 revealed that in fact the Carter administration had advance knowledge of the Chinese invasion: "Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher said last week that the United States learned from Mr. Teng during his visit of China's plans to attack Vietnam."
Although this criminal assault was carried out by Chinese troops there can be no mistake about who was behind it and what is its ultimate target. China's invasion comes fresh on the heels of Teng's tour of the U.S., and with Vietnam tied to the Soviet Union by their Freindship Treaty of last November, China is clearly acting as the spearhead of a renewed drive by the U.S. against the working masses of Indochina. However, it is the Soviet Union, the most industrially and militarily powerful workers state which is the main target of U.S. imperialism.
This reactionary collusion between Washington and Peking has long been on the drawing boards of U.S. foreign policy makers. While Mao-loyalists contend that China's alliance with the U.S. was architected by "capitalist roader" Teng, following Mao's death and the purge of the "gang of four", this is simply not the case. It was Mao himself who feted Richard Nixon in Peking in 1971 as the American "Christmas bombings" ravaged Hanoi. Mao set the stage for Teng to receive Treasury Secretary Blumenthal as Chinese troops attacked the city of Lang Son.
The fundamental thrust of U.S. foreign policy for the last ten years has been to cement an anti-Soviet alliance with China and Japan. The U.S. sees China as an ace in its hand against the Soviet Union and China's invasion of Vietnam is the first military expression of this diplomacy.
The Peking Stalinist bureaucracy wants to take a swipe at Hanoi because it believes China must reign supreme in Southeast Asia and Vietnam is in the way. But the connection to the Sino-Soviet hostilities and the clear collusion of the Chinese invasion with impeialist aims are not a minor element. This is not a simple conflict between two workers states China is acting as the cat's paw of U.S. imperialism.
The Chinese invasion fits into a consistent pattern of hardline U.S. opposition--diplomatic and otherwise--to Vietnam ever since the NLF/DRV army drove out the Thieu puppet government in Saigon in 1975.
As socialists the Spartacus Youth League called for China's immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and an end to China's alliance with U.S. imperialism. We called on all labor militants to stop the shipment of any military goods to China and, addressing ourselves to Soviet workers we called on the USSR to honor its treaty with Vietnam.
Vietnam and Cambodia
Reflecting the ideological pressure of Carter's anti-Soviet "human rights" crusade, not only liberals but self-proclaimed "radicals" equate China's invasion of Vietnam with Vietnam's military conflict with Cambodia. For liberals and pacifists all invasions are equal. Not so for Marxists What is key for usin an analysis of the class forces involved. We are partisans of the proletariat and defend their interests against those of the bourgeoisie. As Trotskyists, we understand that what is at the root of the conflict between Vietnam and Cambodia is the rival nationalism inherent in all Stalinist bureaucracies. The Stalinist "theory" of "Socialism in One Country" has in practice meant selling out workers struggles everywhere else and is counterposed to Lenin and Trotsky's view of proletarian internationalism.
The Trotskyist analysis of the Soviet Union and the other deformed workers states is that the economic gains of the anti-capitalist revolutions remain intact; i.e. there is no bourgeoisie, private property has been collectivized and there is a planned economy. But the self-serving Stalinist bureaucracies have politically expropriated the working class by excluding the most elementary expression of proletarian democracy: workers soviets. We give no support to one Stalinist regime over another but call for political revolution against the bureaucracies whose class-collaborationist policies sabotage the very existence of the collective property forms upon which their states rest.
Thus we were flatly opposed--to both sides--in the war between Vietnam and Cambodia, and today we declare our opposition to any long-term occupation by the Vietnamese army which would place the question of self-determination for the Cambodian people on the agenda.
Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia was truly despotic. The forcible de-population of the cities and re-organization of the population into labor camps was a grotesque caricature of "peasant socialism" and will surely not be missed by the Cambodian people. The Vietnamese have set up a regime which pledges to do away with the old regime's irrational xenophobia and atavism, and they have not been met by popular resistance. Our conclusion therefore is that history will decide the national destiny and justice of relations between Vietnam and Cambodia.
Our call for the Soviet Union to honor its treaty is an appeal to the Soviet workers to break from Brezhnev's policy of detente. There can be no "peaceful coexistence" with the sinister imperialist cold warriors, who for all their "human rights" talk are actively dedicated to overturning the revolutions which have driven them from one-third of the globe and which lay the basis for building a world socialist society.
New alignments for a coming global war are ominously being sketched on the horizon. The task of Marxists is not to hide this terrible reality but to tell the simple truth: only workers revolution can prevent nuclear annihilation.
The Spartacus Youth Leage has joined in and initiated demonstrations nationwide to defend the gains of the Vietnamese revolution which are severely jeopardized by the U.S./China alliance. Our call is directed to the Soviet, Vietnamese and Chinese masses whose interests can only be served by the Trotskyist program of international proletarian unity against imperialism.
Alison Schorr is a student at the Harvard Extension School, and a member of the Columbia College Class of '81. She has been working for the Youth Spartacus League for three years.
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