The events of the past year - and here we are referring of course to the hysterical campaign around the "war on terrorism" which followed 11/09, the US bombing of Afghanistan and the present escalation against Iraq - have created a new situation. But to what extent does this signal a change in the policy of imperialism in general, and US imperialism in particular?
To say that 11/09 was a turning point is a statement of fact. It has opened up a whole range of new political opportunities for all US politicians, regardless of their label.
Apart from providing Bush with the chance of a lifetime and saving his political career, 11/09 produced a consensus among the public which enabled US politicians to present any piece of imperialist thuggery as an act of democratic self-defence against terrorism and dictatorship, if not as part of the great struggle of "good" against "evil"!
Once the initial shock was over, this consensus was built up and sustained through a rigorous media campaign, which whipped up fear and promoted the "war on terrorism" as the only possible solution. Legislation was passed to substantiate the idea that a "state of emergency" was needed. The various police forces went out of their way to track down thousands of alleged "terrorist suspects", without a shred of evidence, for the sole purpose of demonstrating the need to pursue the "war on terrorism", at home as well as abroad.
It was this consensus which allowed Bush to carry out his murderous assault against Afghanistan without meeting any significant opposition. After this successful experiment, there was only a short way for Bush to go before considering that conditions were right to declare his intention to settle accounts with Saddam Hussein.
The fact that it is a Republican administration under Bush junior which undertook to finish off the job started by another Republican administration under Bush senior, is merely an accidental consequence of the electoral lottery. Behind this is the policy of imperialism, which both Republicans and Democrats always represent fully.
However 11/09 changed nothing with regard to the content of US imperialist policies. These policies are, as they have always been, aimed at enforcing an international capitalist order based on exploitation and, within this order, at preserving the specific interests of US multinationals. 11/09 only changed the means by which US leaders are able to implement these policies.
Indeed the consensus which emerged out of 11/09 marked the end of an era which had been opened by the Vietnam War. Since the end of this war, in 1975, the US population had been generally hostile to any form of military venture which could result in US casualties. This so-called "Vietnam Syndrome" was not so much based on sympathy for the victims of US imperialism; rather it was an isolationist reaction to the US leaders' failure to win a war which had cost so much in economic and, above all, human terms. But, for a long time, this "syndrome" was strong enough to force US leaders to avoid casualties among US troops during their military ventures, or else to intervene by proxy - through African warlords, for instance, or through the likes of Sharon or even Saddam Hussein himself, as during the Iran-Iraq war.
This did not mean that imperialist domination has been less bloody over the past 25 years or so - far from it - but it did mean that it was less direct. Of course, over time, the "Vietnam Syndrome" has weakened slowly, thereby allowing the US leaders to adopt more overtly bellicose policies - as they did during the Gulf War or in Somalia, in the 1990s. But it was the consensus born out of 11/09 and fed by the media-driven terrorist scare, which seems to have put the last nail in the coffin of the "Vietnam Syndrome."
Whether Bush's warmongering will now result in open warfare, remains to be seen. The US leaders may be forced to think twice, since they need to avoid jeopardising imperialist control over a region which is both very unstable politically and vital for its profits. But even if there is no full-scale invasion of Iraq in the short-term, the present state of war will remain. It will go on threatening the Iraqi population, and indeed, the entire population of the Middle-East. And it will induce reactionary drifts in the US, of course, but also in Britain and every other imperialist country.
This is not a new situation, however. In fact, in some respects, today's developments amount to a repetition of the past. Leaving aside the 25 years of apparent respite due to the "Vietnam Syndrome", the whole period since World War II was dominated by the imperialist leaders' scaremongering, warmongering, bloody military interventions and outright wars across the world. The fact that, at the time, imperialism's bogeyman was so-called "communism" rather than today's "terrorism" or "rogue states", made no difference to the terrorist methods of imperialism. This is strikingly illustrated by the 30 years of continuous war to which the Vietnamese population was subjected by imperialism between 1945 and 1975.
1945: the breaking up the old spheres of influence
By the end of World War II, US imperialism had fully established itself not only as the world's dominant economic power, but also as the world's dominant political and military power. The cataclysmic shock of the war had achieved what the economic weight of US imperialism had been unable to do so far. It had broken up the spheres of influence and colonial empires of the old imperialist powers.
This was particularly true in Asia, where in virtually every territory east of India the old colonial or semi-colonial structures had been replaced with puppet regimes by the Japanese. The defeat of the European powers had given a boost to nationalist feelings everywhere, while the inability of the Japanese forces to occupy effectively such a huge continent had created a political vacuum in entire regions. As a result, by the end of the war, sizeable radical nationalist movements had sprung up everywhere across the continent. And they were determined to prevent the old colonial powers from restoring their former domination.
At first the attitude of the US leaders towards these nationalist movements was relatively benevolent. The US Air Force even provided them with a limited supply of weapons during the war in the hope that this would overstretch Japanese forces. Besides, these movements' hostility to the European powers was seen as a favourable factor by US leaders who were already preparing for the postwar period.
However, after the end of the war, things did not go quite the way the US administration would have liked. The leaders of these nationalist movements did not prove as grateful and flexible as had been expected. Not only were they determined to get rid of their former colonial masters, but they insisted on a certain amount of control over their economies. Worst of all they enjoyed wide support among the poor masses of their countries and they were prepared to use this support in order to strengthen their bargaining positions.
If these nationalist movements were allowed to gain independence there and then, it was clear that the resulting regimes, while being all for doing business with the West, would also be able to stand up to some extent against the diktats of imperialism - thereby threatening Western companies' profits. Besides, there was a risk of contagion. What if this postwar nationalist explosion encouraged the development of similar movements against imperialist domination in other poor countries, including in areas which had not been directly affected by the war, like Southern Africa or the US's own South-American backyard?
All this led US leaders to change their attitude to nationalist movements in the poor countries. However, since they were also determined to prevent the restoration of the old spheres of influence, they adopted a policy designed to make independence as painful and costly as possible for the populations, but ultimately inevitable.
The old colonial powers were allowed to return to their colonies in order to crush the nationalist uprisings, so as to cut the nationalist movements down to size, but they received no material help from the US, at least not for a number of years.
This was why, in particular, British troops were sent to Indonesia and Indochina (the region comprising today's Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), where they were responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of nationalists, and to Burma and Malaysia where they embarked on a bloody colonial war which was to last until the end of the 1950s.
The Cold War and Asia
Of course, another major factor played a role at that time in determining US policy - that is, the existence of the Soviet Union.
The wartime alliance between US imperialism and the Soviet bureaucracy had been based on a common desire to get rid of Hitler's Germany - which was a potential rival for the US and an actual threat for the Soviet Union. But this alliance was also based on a common interest to maintain the political status quo by preventing a postwar revolutionary explosion of the kind that had shaken the world at the end of the previous world war. While a resurgence of the proletarian revolution would have been a mortal threat for imperialism, it would have meant the death knell of the Soviet bureaucracy.
So, during the war itself, communist parties across the world were instructed by Moscow to remove all class references from their policies in order to form national fronts with capitalist forces. And, at the end of the war, they were instructed to throw all their weight behind the rebuilding of the states of the capitalist classes.
This policy disarmed the communist parties politically, at a time when they were in a position to gain considerable influence. And it deprived the working and poor masses of a rallying flag for the fight for their own class interests. Where this was not enough to prevent the radicalisation of the masses, the Red Army or the communist parties themselves were used as instruments to crush their mobilisation.
Overall, therefore, the Soviet bureaucrats delivered what imperialism had expected from them and they certainly would have liked this bloody "gentleman's agreement" with imperialism to carry on forever. However, once the immediate revolutionary threat resulting from the end of the war was over, the imperialist leaders saw no reason to carry on making allowances to the Soviet bureaucracy. After all, the very existence of the Soviet Union was a permanent reminder of the October Revolution to the working classes of the world and its huge economy remained outside the reach of imperialist companies. Regardless of the goodwill of the Soviet bureaucracy, the Soviet Union was, in and of itself, a challenge to the imperialist world order.
Besides, communist parties were sharing in government or close to that position in some of the rich European imperialist countries - particularly in Italy and France. And in many poor countries, such as China, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Indochina, etc.. the nationalist movement had a communist leadership and it was still growing.
So, Washington decided it was high time to put a stop to all this. The official line now became "containment", meaning that the Soviet Union's sphere of influence had to be contained within the boundaries defined at the wartime conferences between the then allied powers. Any progress by forces linked in any way to the Soviet Union had to be halted at all costs, by military means if necessary, and if possible reversed. The so-called Cold War began, splitting the world into two blocs.
However, this sudden shift from an alliance with the Soviet Union to a aggressive policy against it, had to be justified in some way in front of US public opinion. The US middle class had long-standing anti-communist and anti-working class traditions, which were whipped back into existence by McCarthyism, a vicious propaganda war against communism, but also against pacifism, trade-unionism and, in general, anything which challenged reactionary, bigoted social views. In many ways this communist scare campaign was similar to today's terrorist scaremongering. Communists were blamed for everything that went wrong, including the postwar slump in industry. They were accused of conspiring to undermine the "American way of life." And the emergency legislation introduced against them was largely used to victimise militant workers and trade unions.
In Asia, the initial focus of this Cold War was China, the only country large enough to make it impossible for the US army to even consider an invasion. As early as 1946, the refusal of the Chinese communist party to form a national government in alliance with the US-backed Kuomintang had already shown that there was trouble ahead. Two years into the Cold War, in 1949, Mao Zedong's victory, despite the massive military aid provided by the US to the Kuomintang, exposed the dismal failure of the containment policy.
Indochina, an old French backyard
By comparison with China, Indochina seemed an insignificant stake in the imperialist worldwide game.
Up until World War II, Indochina had been a French colony. French traders had come to Indochina as far back as the 16th century. But colonisation had only been carried out in the second half of the 19th century, as part of the increasing rivalry between the two main colonial powers in the region - Britain and France.
This colonisation had been an extremely bloody affair, which took nearly 40 years to complete. Indochina was not a barren land. Its social organisation was as old and somewhat similar to what prevailed in China. Predictably French efforts to dismantle this organisation in order to replace it with its own colonial order met fierce resistance.
The high point of this resistance was a 13-year war starting from 1884, in which the French army "pacified" - to use the euphemism of the time - the central and northern parts of today's Vietnam. As in any colonial war, most of the military activity focused on spreading terror among the population, usually by burning down so-called "suspect" villages along with all their inhabitants.
The social consequences of colonisation can be measured by a few facts reported in the 1930s. By that time, one single private bank, the Banque d'Indochine, had a virtual monopoly over the colony's budget. It was the issuing bank for the local currency. It was also contracted by Paris to collect taxes and the receipts of state monopolies. Among these state monopolies was opium, whose income represented one-third of the colony's income! Probably the largest single beneficiary of Indochina's colonisation was the Michelin family - best known today as the owners of one of the world's largest tyre manufacturing company - which built its empire out of Indochina's rubber plantations.
As to the local population, suffice it to say that all existing forms of collective land tenure were dismantled by colonisation. By the 1930s, almost 2/3 of local farmers had no access to land - except by working for others - while 700 European settlers owned or managed on behalf of big French companies one fifth of all cultivated lands. As a result, the average rice consumption per head had dropped by 30% between 1900 and 1930, without being replaced by any other staple food. Not that there was any shortage of rice. Only it was exported to Europe, to allow trading companies to make net profits which were often in excess of 500%. As a result, what little rice was left in Indochina was so expensive that the population just could not afford it.
So, after the bloodbath of the colonial conquest, the second "benefit" of colonisation for the Indochinese had been starvation!
The Indochinese Communist Party
Predictably, the ruthlessness of French colonisation prompted, very early on, the emergence of a radical opposition, whose most prominent currents came out of the communist movement.
Most of the founding cadres of the Indochinese communist party came into contact with communism while they were in France as students, or after being drafted into the army, or to work in factories during World War I. However, when they came back to Indochina in the mid-1920s, Stalin had already taken over control in the Soviet Union. In the colonial countries, the Communist International was no longer defending the need for the proletariat to have a policy and a party of its own. Instead, it was advocating the setting up of nationalist fronts with all anti-colonial forces.
As a result the Indochinese Communist Party, which was set up in 1930, had very little to do with the communist programme. It was effectively the merger of a series of nationalist groups, with more or less socialist leanings, who saw no clear line between the exploiters and the exploited, as long as they were prepared to fight against the colonial power. Socially, the vast majority of party members came from the middle class intelligentsia and the peasantry, who never saw the need to build a base of support among the proletariat. And even after the party developed a mass basis, in the 1950s, thereby winning a following among the proletariat, its social orientation remained unchanged.
However Indochina had a sizeable proletariat - in the main towns, like Saigon and Hanoi, but also in the big rubber plantations and around the mining industry. And it was possible to organise this proletariat. This was demonstrated by the Indochinese Trotskyists, who developed a mostly proletarian party in the 1930s which, at that time, became far more influential than the Communist Party in Saïgon, thanks to the leading role it played in a series of large social struggles.
This is to say that if the Communist Party never bothered to organise the proletariat on the basis of its own class interests, it was not just due to a mistaken policy, but rather to a fundamental social choice on the part of its leadership, right from the beginning - a social choice which was to shape its policies right up until the 1970s, when it eventually took power in Vietnam as a whole in the name of the interests of the country's aspiring capitalists.
It was on the basis of this choice that in 1941, the Indochinese Communist Party launched the "League for Vietnam's Independence" (or Viet Minh) as a broad alliance designed to bring together all political forces and social layers in the struggle for independence. Of course, it had to appeal to land owners as well, so the demand for "land reform", which had been part of the CP programme so far, was dropped and replaced with a vague slogan in favour of reduced rents. Four years later, in March 1944, Ho Chi Minh became one of the Viet Minh's leading representatives in a provisional government set up in a remote area of northern Vietnam, in alliance with the reactionary Indochinese Kuomintang and some pro-Japanese groups. The following year, the Indochinese Communist party disbanded itself as a gesture of political goodwill towards its reactionary allies.
France booted out of Indochina
Indochina had not been occupied by the Japanese at the end of World War II. Being linked to the regime in occupied France which was allied to Germany, the French colonial machinery had been left in place. It was only in May 1945, after the French government had been overthrown and replaced by De Gaulle, that the Japanese troops invaded Indochina and threw the French administrators in jail. But they did not have much time to replace them. Five months later Japan capitulated.
Within a week, the Saïgon workers had set up a network of people's councils spreading far outside the city, which took over the administration of the town in order to replace the Japanese authorities. On 21 August 1945, tens of thousands of workers marched across Saïgon behind the banners of the Trotskyist Internationalist Communist League. Their slogans were "the land for the peasants; nationalisation of all factories under workers' control."
So far the Viet Minh had not been seen in Saïgon. But this demonstration of proletarian strength prompted them into action. On 25 August, they took over all strategic positions in the town and proclaimed themselves the only legitimate government. What was later presented as a "popular revolution" was in fact a coup against the population. The first statements of the new regime spoke for themselves: "those who have incited peasants to take over landlord properties will be severely punished" or "those who incite the population to arm itself will be considered as provocateurs acting against national independence. Our democratic freedoms will be granted to us and guaranteed by the democratic Allies."
However the people's committees' movement was still gathering strength. So, on 7 September, Viet Minh forces launched attacks against committee meetings. Within the next few days, hundreds of activists in these committees were arrested by Viet Minh gangs and many workers who tried to resist were killed. Some among those arrested disappeared, others were jailed. Also among them were many Trotskyist activists. A few months later, Ho Chi Minh was to order the systematic tracking down and execution of all the Trotskyists who had managed to escape from Saïgon.
By that time, Gurkha troops sent by Britain's Labour government had landed in Vietnam together with a handful of French officers. The Japanese and French police had been taken out of jail and armed by the British. On 22 September these assembled forces entered Saïgon. In the meantime, the Viet Minh had quickly left the town taking with them all the weapons they could find. And the "democratic Allies" had no difficulty in crushing what remained of the Saïgon workers' uprising.
Following these events, which beheaded the emerging proletarian movement, a diplomatic saga started between De Gaulle and Ho Chi Minh. Ho issued a statement declaring that he had taken power "on behalf of the democratic allies", that he would welcome French troops, and proposed negotiations with De Gaulle's government. In March 1946, an agreement was signed which granted independence to a reduced northern part of Vietnam within the so-called "Union Française", a kind of French Commonwealth set up for the occasion. However, for De Gaulle this was merely a way to gain time in order to prepare a counter-offensive. On 23 November 1946, the French Navy bombed the northern harbour of Haïphong, killing 6,000 people. The following month, French troops landed in the North, forcing Viet Minh forces to return to guerilla warfare.
Clearly France wanted no compromise. Yet, Ho Chi Minh stuck to his line of offering new negotiations on the basis of the 1946 agreement, while relying primarily on his alliance with the propertied classes. However the response of the French army was to step up repression. Only in 1951 did Ho Chi Minh change tack and seek to broaden his base of support so as to be able to sustain a long war. A new Vietnamese Workers' Party was set up in the north, to replace the old Communist Party which had been disbanded in 1945. And the new party launched a campaign among the rural poor in order to find support and recruits for its guerilla army.
In the meantime, the French had set up a puppet regime to rule over the whole of Vietnam. In a misconceived attempt to give it some credibility, they pulled out of the cupboard a former emperor by the name of Bao Daï. However the Vietnamese did not want the old feudal rulers back any more than they wanted colonial rule. These moves only boosted support for the Viet Minh across Vietnam.
Soon it became obvious that the French just could not cope. The 150,000 or so Viet Minh guerilla fighters were very poorly armed, but they could rely on the population's support. Every village, every bend in a road, became a potential trap for French troops. And the 100,000 French soldiers found themselves increasingly confined inside the towns.
The situation got even worse for France once Mao Zedong's victory in China opened a new supply route for Viet Minh forces through the Chinese border, in 1949. Eventually, in 1953, the French government decided to launch a major counter-offensive to break this deadlock. It was during this counter-offensive that, due to a catastrophic under-estimation of Viet Minh resources by the French general staff, a large contingent of the French army was forced to surrender at the Dien Bien Phu base, in May 1954, after a siege which lasted several months and cost over 7,000 dead on the French side. This spectacular and humiliating defeat marked the end of France's colonial presence in the region.
The Cold War gets cooler but no less bloody
Behind the scenes, however, US imperialism had been pulling the strings of this war for a number of years already.
Initially, US leaders had seen the Vietnam conflict as a secondary issue in the Third-World nationalist explosion. In secret discussions, they had encouraged France to cut the Viet Minh down to size, while turning down the French requests for military and financial aid. Publicly, they had insisted that this was a private matter between France and the Vietnamese in which the US had no right to interfere. At the same time, on eight occasions at least they had ostentatiously turned down requests for mediation made by Ho Chi Minh.
However, the US leaders' defeat in China changed their attitude. Not because Mao's victory meant a victory for communism - after all Mao had never concealed his desire for China to be admitted to the world capitalist system. But the fact that Mao's regime had taken power against the will of imperialism made it far too robust to be tolerated. It had to be punished. So it became the target of a systematic policy aimed at isolating it politically and economically from the rest of the world.
By the same token, efforts had to be redoubled in order to contain the nationalist forces of the region, which were likely to be boosted by Mao's victory. One defeat was enough for the US leaders. They were determined not to allow another one. From then onwards the official US line was the so-called "domino doctrine", which argued that any success for Third-World nationalists - duly branded as "communists" for the occasion - was bound to start a chain reaction in other poor countries and should therefore be avoided at all costs.
The first victim of this vengeful policy was the Korean population - through a bloodbath which lasted three years, between 1951 and 1953, costing an estimated 4m dead, and through the partition of the country which still remains in force today.
But even Indochina, a small country with no particular strategic or economic value for imperialism, became a target for US reprisals. From 1949 onwards, US leaders financed France's war in Indochina - to the extent that, by the end of the war, they had paid 3/4 of its costs.
US policy also changed in another way during this period, partly as a result of Mao Zedong's victory and partly because the containment policy was backfiring in their faces. Indeed by dividing the world into two hostile blocs while bluntly rejecting any concession to nationalism in the poor countries, the US had forced the nationalist leaders to seek help from the Soviet Union. As a result the bloc created by the Cold War around the Soviet bureaucracy was reinforced by a radical nationalist explosion that it had never wished for, nor really encouraged.
The consequence of this was that the US leaders began to shift their containment policy towards a sort of partnership between the US and the Soviet bureaucracy - which was to be called "detente" and, later on, "peaceful coexistence." The Soviet leaders were invited by their US counterparts to help with the policing of Third World nationalist movements, in exchange for limited concessions, such as recognition by international institutions for instance. This was not a straightforward alliance, but rather an on-going and rather tough bargaining process, involving a great deal of posturing, if only because Moscow had to retain some credit with its Third World allies for this policy to succeed. But it did allow imperialism to impose its diktats on nationalist movements, even in situations in which they were in a position of strength.
The US and the 1954 agreement
This was precisely what happened in Indochina, in 1954. In the Geneva negotiations which started in earnest just after the French disaster at Dien Bien Phu, the sessions were chaired by Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister and his British opposite number, Anthony Eden. The other participants were the French and Viet Minh governments and a Chinese delegation. The US had chosen to remain outside of the bargaining process, so as to avoid having to take the blame for whatever would be decided there. But to all intents and purposes it was really a negotiation between the two blocs, in which the Vietnamese had little or no say.
This is why, although the Viet Minh were victorious on the ground and had every reason to claim control over the whole of Vietnam, the final settlement which was signed in July 1954, split the country right down the middle, along the 17th parallel, leaving only the northern part to the Viet Minh. Of course, the agreement did provide for an all-Vietnam election to be held in 1956, which, in theory, was supposed to lead to the re-unification of the country. But who really believed in this promise? The reality, of course, was that this partition had been forced down Ho Chi Minh's throat by the Soviet and Chinese leaders.
The US had managed, therefore, to deprive the Vietnamese population of its full victory. And yet, this was not a complete success for imperialism. The fact was, that a popular army with hardly any weaponry, had succeeded in booting out one of the old colonial powers. This meant that even the poorest among the poor could potentially shake off the yoke of the imperialist oppressors. And in fact, as far away as Algeria, where a nationalist uprising was about to start in the Autumn of 1954, Ho Chi Minh's name had become a symbol of hope.
Of course, to avoid this, the US leaders could have used their military might. It would have been a tough and costly battle, but the US had the resources to fight it, if not necessarily to win it. What the US leaders did not have, however, was the political leeway to fight such a war. Only one year after the end of the Korean war, there was no way they could get their public opinion to accept yet more thousands of US casualties. And what justification would they be able to find? A fight against a small nation of peasant farmers to take over their rice paddies? US public opinion had to be prepared for this and it was going to take a long time.
Besides, for the US to be seen intervening in a colonial conflict was problematic. As general Eisenhower pointed out in his memoirs, "among all the powerful nations... the United States is the only one with a tradition of anti-colonialism.... an asset of incalculable value.. The moral position of the United States was more to be guarded ... than all of Indochina."
So, instead of a direct intervention, the US leaders tried to make the best of what they had imposed in the negotiations. A new prime minister was appointed in Saïgon, with US backing - a fanatical Catholic and anti-communist by the name of Ngo Dinh Diem. Through him the US leaders hoped to turn South Vietnam into an impregnable stronghold of imperialism, by pumping in billions of dollars of subsidies and military aid and providing thousands of advisers.
Of course, this made a cynical farce of Washington's alleged championing of "democracy" as Diem became notorious for his persecution of Buddhists and for winning his own election by 605,025 votes out of 405,000 registered voters! But imperialism only got the loyal servants it deserved.
Meanwhile, in North Vietnam, the Viet Minh had taken opportunity of the cease-fire to reorganise their forces into a fully-fledged army. Soon they would establish logistical bases in Laos and Cambodia, while infiltrating the border area around the 17th parallel. By 1960, in South Vietnam, the Viet Minh would relaunch itself as the NLF (National Liberation Front) to bring together all political currents hostile to Diem, from reactionary religious groups to the Southern wing of the communist party, now called the Revolutionary People's Party. An armed wing would be formed, the Vietcong, which would proceed to set up guerilla bases in the Southern swamps. By that time the scene would be set for a protracted civil war.
Kennedy's anti-communist crusade 1961-1963
The first decisive US move to sort out North Vietnam did not take place under some bigoted president, like today's George Bush, but under the presidency of a man usually described as the most liberal president the US ever had - the Democrat J.F. Kennedy. Which just goes to show that it is always the policy of US imperialism which takes precedence, not the political labels or personal credentials of US presidents.
Liberal or not, Kennedy was indeed a mouthpiece for the policy of US imperialism - and as such he was first and foremost an anti-communist, who was to authorise, among other things, the Bay of Pigs landing against Cuba.
As regards Vietnam, the first crisis came after Kennedy was elected in 1961, where the then military dictator of Laos was threatened with overthrow by radical nationalists. Kennedy sent advisers who managed to put together a more neutral coalition government. However the new regime was still not prepared to stop the Vietcong from using vital Laotian trails to get soldiers and supplies into South Vietnam, thereby putting Diem's Southern regime at risk.
So Kennedy turned his attention to Vietnam itself. As he said, "There are just so many concessions that one can make to the Communists in one year and survive politically...We just can't have another defeat in Vietnam". Kennedy did not want to be accused of "losing" Vietnam as Truman had been accused of "losing" China. Above all, after having forced Cuba to turn to the Soviet Union for its own survival, Kennedy was now able to point to a worldwide "communist conspiracy" aimed at carving out the "free world" piece by piece. But even then, he remained very discreet about the increasing US involvement in Vietnam.
At that point there were about 800 US "military advisors" in South Vietnam. The fact was, however, that Diem's quarter of a million soldiers were proving incapable of coping with a few tens of thousands ill-equipped Vietcong. So Kennedy stepped up financial aid for Diem to train more soldiers. Within months he had increased the advisors to 2,000 and the so-called Green Berets - Kennedy's own favourite counter-insurgency force - were sent into operation on the ground. And though he refused to send ground troops, as such, by 1962, the number of so-called military "advisers" had increased to 11,000 and the US was supplying pilots and helicopters. While visiting Vietnam in 1962, defence secretary, Robert McNamara boasted that "every quantitative measurement we have shows we are winning the war". Which at least was an admission that the US was indeed waging one.
Attempts to get Diem to introduce reforms and win over the population failed abysmally. Fortified villages - so-called "strategic hamlets" - in which South Vietnamese peasants were supposed to be isolated from the Vietcong, were taken over with ease by these same Vietcong, who infiltrated them and also thereby captured thousands of much needed US weapons. As to the Southern army, it remained just as ineffective in combat as before.
By this time Diem's regime, which consisted largely of his extended family, was becoming more and more resistant to US advice. Diem had also stepped up his religious war against the Buddhist majority, resulting in demonstrations in which Buddhist monks burnt themselves alive in protest. This was beginning to look very bad on the front pages of the US press. So Diem had to be dumped. The US gave the go ahead to a military coup which deposed and assassinated their friend Diem and his brother in November 1963 - the first of a series of coups, until the regime's stabilisation in June 1965. Within 3 weeks of Diem's execution, Kennedy himself had been assassinated. At the time of his death there were nearly 17,000 US "advisors" in Vietnam.
Johnson, on whom the presidency fell after Kennedy's death, continued the logic of Kennedy's policy - which could only mean stepping up US intervention in the face of a deteriorating situation in the South.
But Johnson could not yet afford to be too open about escalation. Despite the still very powerful leverage of the anti-communist scare, few Americans saw any reason to put the lives of US soldiers at risk for the sake of some obscure country they knew nothing about. And, initially at least, military reinforcements remained almost secret.
Even in April 1964, Johnson's statement that "the US was in this battle for as long as South Vietnam wants our support" remained deliberately ambiguous by avoiding the word "war". And yet, by July 1964, 200 Americans had already died in Vietnam and 2,500 more US forces had been sent.
At this point, Johnson opted for striking at North Vietnam itself. Of course, the CIA had been sending South Vietnamese teams on sabotage missions to the North for a decade already. But in order to carry out a direct and open intervention in North Vietnam, Johnson had to get Congressional approval and win the acceptance of the US public.
So a fabricated incident of supposed North Vietnamese aggression against US ships off the coast of North Vietnam was used as a means to achieve this. Congress then duly passed a resolution which allowed the president the powers he needed to declare war on the North. The Senate was half empty when the resolution was passed by 88 to 22 votes. For the first time the US now openly bombed the North. And although this was supposed to be a one-off retaliatory attack, it was really designed to prepare public opinion for an escalation.
Even at that stage Johnson was not too sure about the public's reactions, as was shown by his presidential election campaign, in November 1964, when he still declared that he had no intention of getting involved in a "major war", and that: "We are not going to send American boys away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves." On this basis Johnson won a landslide victory over his more gung-ho Republican rival, Barry Goldwater.
However, three months later, after Vietcong guerillas had carried out a series of attacks which for the first time specifically targeted US bases, the US formally initiated regular sustained bombing of North Vietnam and Vietcong-held areas in the South. These attacks, which came to be known as "Rolling Thunder", were carried out exclusively by US pilots using F-100s and B-57s. This was the start of the "major war" Johnson had said he would never undertake.
In the Spring of 1965, another 3,500 marines landed in Vietnam and 18,000 more support forces were sent in, in order to protect bomber bases and supposedly improve the stability of the Saigon regime. But by July 1965, the Vietcong controlled 75% of the countryside in the South. The more US troops poured in, the less the South Vietnamese army wanted to fight. By the end of 1965 there were nearly 200,000 US soldiers in Vietnam. And the escalation went on, reaching half a million US soldiers by 1968.
By this time, large areas of South Vietnam had been designated "free fire zones" which meant that all civilians within these areas - mainly the women, children and elderly members of peasant families - were considered legitimate enemy targets. Villages suspected of harbouring Vietcong guerillas were subjected to "search and destroy" missions whereby the villages were burnt and their inhabitants were sent to refugee camps. But some did not have such "luck" as was revealed later by accounts of the My Lai massacre, in which the whole population of this village - 450 to 500 children, women and elderly men - was shot and buried in mass graves. One officer connected with such killings told reporters that "every unit of brigade size has its My Lai hidden someplace." Meanwhile, the CIA's so-called Operation Phoenix resulted in the execution of at least 20,000 South Vietnamese suspected of being part of the Vietcong underground.
But despite this terrorist bloodbath and the defoliation of 20% of South Vietnam's jungles using the US chemical weapon of mass destruction known as "Agent Orange", the Vietcong still remained in control of most of the countryside. The US strategy obviously did not work, as McNamara himself pointed out, after resigning his post allegedly due to remorse, when he condemned "the goddamned Air Force and its goddamned bombing campaign that had dropped more bombs on Vietnam than on Europe in the whole of World War ll and we haven't gotten a goddamned thing out of it".
The real turning point in the war, however, came in January 1968, with the Vietcong's Tet offensive. Tens of thousands of North Vietnamese and Vietcong soldiers attacked and took over cities and military bases in the South during the traditional Tet holiday truce. The US was shocked that the Vietcong could move so easily throughout the South. Especially as they not only managed to occupy most of Saïgon, but also the US embassy itself. And it took 11,000 US and South Vietnamese troops some 3 weeks to push the Vietcong just out of Saigon. Almost 4,000 Americans were killed and nearly 5,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, but so were 14,000 Vietnamese civilians. The Northern forces and Vietcong lost as many as 58,000.
The Tet offensive made a laughing stock of the US military might and of their pretence to be waging a war in the name of the South Vietnamese population. This was a major blow. Coming after the already heavy toll of the war among US soldiers - 17,000 had already been killed - the TV pictures of this humiliation inflicted on the US by the Vietcong caused public opinion to turn against the war. "Win or get out" bumper stickers began to appear on cars. The consequences for US leaders were obvious. This was a war they could not win in the short term and they could not sustain support for it in public opinion. So they had to be seen making moves to pull out.
In the Autumn of 1968, when the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon, was elected president it was on the pledge that he was going to end US involvement in Vietnam. Nixon had first made his name as an extreme anti-communist when he sat on the McCarthy Committee in the 1940s. So it was ironical that it was he who now had the responsibility of negotiating US withdrawal - a deal which of necessity had to involve getting the two Cold War bogeymen, the USSR and China, to agree to help police it. Nixon's pledge to get out of Vietnam, however, was not just his election ticket. It reflected the political choice already made by US imperialism to extricate itself from a war which was proving too costly economically and politically.
The Vietnamese resistance
Henry Kissinger, who acted as Nixon's security advisor, is quoted as saying that "the conventional army loses if it does not win; the guerilla army wins if it does not lose". The Vietnamese did not lose the war against the US. And many would say that they had won, when on 1 May 1975, National Liberation Front soldiers ran up their flag over Saigon.
It is hard to imagine how an extremely poor and undeveloped country with a population consisting mainly of peasants who farmed by hand and lived in hutted villages could have found the resources to wage this war. In fact the key to this success was the ability of Vietnamese nationalists to mobilise the population's support against the US and their stooges.
This support gave the North Vietnamese leadership the responsiveness they needed to be a step ahead of the US troops. Despite their lack of technical resources, their networks of underground supporters in the South could keep them informed of enemy movements and allow them to constantly strike and withdraw. What is more, what they lacked in technology they made up for by sheer numbers and through human ingenuity.
The nationalist army was also able to take advantage of the sympathy of the majority of Laotians and Cambodians, who provided help, bases and hiding places, as well as escape and supply routes throughout the war. The most well known route, the Ho Chi Minh Trail, passed though Laos and Cambodia and was hundreds of miles long. A special task force had been established to build and maintain it as early as 1959. Initially bicycles with specially strengthened frames were used to carry loads of supplies weighing as much as 700lbs, even though they took more than a month to reach South Vietnam, averaging only around six miles a day. An estimated 10% of the bicycle porters died on the job, but mostly from dysentery and malaria, rather than bombs.
Eventually the trail was asphalted as cheap trucks began to be provided by China and the USSR. But the trail had many loops and branches and dotted along these were hidden workshops, hospitals, storage depots and rest camps. 50,000 women were employed at any one time to keep it in repair. Parts of the trail and all vehicles were camouflaged with foliage, so that the trails and its users melted into the landscape. When the US dropped seismic sensors to target trail users in 1967, they managed to decimate Vietnam's elephant population, but the Vietnamese used cassettes to trigger off the sensors, rendering them useless.
Moreover, on Vietnam's north border sat China, which, although not always as helpful as it could have been, provided a flow of weapons and equipment and medical supplies as well as safe bases. The US was never able to close off this lifeline, despite its huge arsenal of bombs.
The strategy of the North Vietnamese army is well known by now. It used to fight set-piece battles at times and places based on intelligence and when it was strong enough to do so. In the South, on the other hand, the Vietcong army was engaged in constant and arduous guerilla warfare to wear down the enemy. Of course, villagers usually gave them the necessary food, shelter and hiding places they needed, despite the risk this entailed. The extensive bunker system under the villages allowed escape from the worst bombing. And their famous hidden tunnel network allowed them to disappear from sight. Many of these tunnels linked to huge underground complexes which acted as logistical bases, hospitals and barracks.
The nature of this war however, meant that the South Vietnamese population suffered the brunt of it. And these civilians were killed in their hundreds of thousands, or suffered horrific injuries as the US began to use more and more lethal weapons against them. Besides napalm, there were cluster bombs, designed to explode in mid-air releasing 350-600 baby bombs which each exploded on impact into thousands of metal pellets. Later these pellets were made out of fibreglass for the sole reason that they cannot be detected by X-ray, which made them even more difficult to remove. Heat sensitive and urine sniffing devices were used to pinpoint and destroy "the enemy" even though this often turned out to be a child or a water buffalo.
One of the worst weapons of the time was the white phosphorus bomb, appreciated by one US pilot as follows: We sure are pleased with those back-room boys at Dow (Chemical Co). The original product wasn't so hot - if the gooks were quick they could scrape it off. So the boys started adding polystyrene - now it sticks like shit to a blanket. But then if the gooks jumped under water it stopped burning, so they started adding Willie Peter [WP=White Phosphorus] so's to make it burn better. It'll even burn under water now. And one drop is enough, it'll keep on burning right down to the bone so they die anyway from phosphorus poisoning."
The GI's nightmare
During the 10-year war, 2.2m soldiers were sent to Vietnam. Most of those sent to the frontline on combat duty were conscripted soldiers. Between 1965 and 1972, 27,222 US soldiers were killed, 62% of whom were conscripts, with an average age of 19 years, selected mainly from the poorer layers of the working class. In fact, Johnson's "Great Society" social reforms had specifically aimed at enrolling disadvantaged teenagers into the army. And up until 1968, anyone engaged in college study was exempt from the draft.
There was another feature of this death toll however. Black casualties were nearly a quarter of the total, reflecting the disproportionate number of black draftees and the fact that blacks and Hispanic youth usually made up half the numbers of the average combat rifle companies sent to the frontline.
These infantry riflemen who were known as "grunts", had every reason to want to shoot themselves in order to get sent home. They never felt safe, since the "enemy" looked exactly the same as the rest of the population. They were expected to plunge through suffocating jungles, and wade through rice paddies, loaded with inappropriate gear, for weeks at a time, while exposed to mines, exploding booby traps like the "Bouncing Betty" and risk falling into the notorious pits where they would be impaled on sharp bamboo stakes. In fact 20% of the total American wounded were victims of booby traps rather than enemy fire.
However, the average tour of duty for a GI or draftee was 12 months - and maybe only half this was spent on actual combat duty, if you were unlucky enough to be selected for it. Most officers would spend only 5 months at the frontline, usually not even in combat. In fact as the war progressed the main risk to an officer was murder at the hands of the soldiers under his command. One of the most popular means to get rid of a hated officer was by so-called "fragging" - the placing of a fragmentation grenade under his tent in order to blow him up. Others were shot in the back. 788 officers were "fragged" between 1969 and 1972 and 86 died as a result. But according to other estimates the number of officers subjected to fragging might been over 2000.
When not in combat, which meant a larger part of the time, soldiers experienced a war which was the most luxurious and expensive in American history. Every week, thousands were sent for R&R (rest and recuperation) to Saigon, Japan or elsewhere. Here there were all the home comforts, including air-conditioning and even log fires.. as well as all the hard and soft alcohol and drugs they wanted, as well as brothels, etc. In 1966 there were 30,000 child prostitutes in Saigon apparently unable to cope with American demand. 25% of the soldiers contracted sexually transmitted diseases and 22% became addicted to heroin. By 1971, while 5,000 needed treatment for combat wounds, 20,500 needed rehab for serious drug abuse...
After 1968, it was accepted that the slogans for platoons were "search and evade", "don't fight, wait it out" and "CYA (cover your ass) and get home!". In other words, by this time a majority of the recruits hated the war, hated the army and hated their officers. And this was one of the army's fatal weaknesses. Unlike their "enemies" US soldiers had no stake in this war whatsoever.
The "home front"
The US war in Vietnam was the longest armed conflict of its kind in the 20th century. Initially it seemed to the US leaders that public opinion was behind this war. However, as the casualties began to mount, this began to change. Particularly after 1968, the cruelty of the war could no longer be hidden from the public, nor its pointlessness.
Besides, things were not going too well for the US administration on the home front. Within the US there was a growing social crisis. Anger was rising among the black population, against discrimination and the legacy of poverty in their ghettoes. They had also noticed the disproportionate number of black soldiers in Vietnam. Martin Luther King reflected this mood when he spoke of how "we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools..."
This anger reached a climax with the explosions in the black urban ghettoes from the mid-1960s - 21 major city riots in 1966, 41 in 1967. The most serious occurred in 1968 when the assassination of Martin Luther King sparked revolt in 200 cities with millions flooding into the streets. Although this rebellion was rooted in social causes, many of the participants and activists had been in Vietnam or were threatened with the draft. This gave a political edge to an otherwise mostly social movement and there was always the danger of opposition to the draft becoming a potent link between the white and black working class.
This potential is demonstrated by the fact that opposition to the war was strongest amongst the poorer layers in the population. The media portrayed the working class as super-patriots, and no doubt this was helped by the support given to the war by trade union leaders. However, in mid-1966 an opinion survey showed that 27% of college graduates in the state of Michigan, home to the car industry, were for immediate withdrawal but 41% of people with only high school qualifications were. By September 1970 these figures had increased to 47% and 61% respectively.
The "we won't go" campaign against the draft had already started at the beginning of the war, in 1964. But in October 1967 draft cards were publicly burnt throughout the country. In Berkeley protesters tried to close down the draft headquarters and 2,500 demonstrators were attacked with clubs who then retaliated with cans, bottles and smoke bombs. They put thousands of ball bearings under the feet of horses to stop the mounted police.
Of course, much of the media's attention focussed on the university campuses which held well-publicised anti-war "teach-ins" in 1965. They had already begun protest marches the year before.
Throughout the country, demonstrations, which often turned violent began to occur more and more frequently. Hundreds of thousands of students were involved in the protests both on university campuses and in high schools. It took a long time for the anti-war movement to grow in influence however. In fact it was really only after Nixon had already begun the withdrawal of troops, after 1968, that it reached its peak. Then in 1970, when Nixon announced the invasion of Cambodia, the first general student strike in the US took place - sparked by the killing of 4 students who were shot by National Guardsmen firing into a crowd of anti-war protesters at Kent State University in Ohio.
But most important of all, when it came to resistance on the home front against the war, was the appearance of Vietnam war veterans leading demonstrations against the war. Among them was Ron Kovic whose tour of duty in Vietnam had left him with a shattered spine at the age of 19 and who played a prominent role in the anti-war movement from his wheelchair. Kovic's book "Born of the Fourth of July" which was later made into a film starring Tom Cruise, recorded his harsh awakening when he saw how returned soldiers, especially the wounded, were treated by the authorities.
Already in 1967 there were 47,000 deserters from the army. By 1971 this had doubled. Over half a million GIs received "less than honourable" discharges from the military throughout the period, but of course this included soldiers and conscripts who had not actually been sent to Vietnam. Those who showed dissent while still in uniform, either at home while on leave, or before they were even sent to Vietnam were put in large army stockades or prisons, but even inside many continued to resist.
The cost of the war was another big factor in turning public opinion against the war. In fact, the budget deficit had increased from $1.6bn in 1965 to $25.3bn in 1968. When Congress cut off payments to Johnson's social reform programme and raised taxes in August 1967, blaming the cost of the war, the public and especially the middle classes began to show their dissatisfaction at the idea of paying for a war from which they would gain nothing - except humiliation, as the 1968 Tet offensive showed.
By the end of 1969, opinion polls showed a majority in favour of withdrawal from Vietnam. This change was reflected in the coming out against the war of many so-called opinion makers, including some right-wingers. By 1971, judges were dismissing charges against demonstrators who, two years before, they would almost certainly have sent to jail.
A war for the sake of punishment
When the Paris peace talks started in May 1968, US imperialism was, in effect, right back where it had started in 1961. The balance of forces on the ground meant that any deal would inevitably mean the handing over of South Vietnam to Northern "communist" rule and the inevitable reunification of the country. And the US would have to put up and shut up, since it could not carry on waging a costly war which public opinion would no longer tolerate.
But Nixon was not going to exit Vietnam quietly, nor miss the opportunity to rub the lesson in that no national liberation movement can mess with imperialism and get away with it. Since the US had to give in, Nixon was determined to do so from a position of strength, despite the defeat of US military policy. So in March 1969 he prepared the ground, so to speak, by pounding the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia with more bombs than ever before.
At the same time he began to pull out US troops, reverting back to the pre-1964 strategy of "Vietnamisation", i.e. putting part of the burden of the last battles of the war back onto the shoulders of General Thieu's South Vietnamese army.
He also deliberately let it be known that he was going to escalate the bombing of North Vietnam - his so-called "mad bomber tactic" - on the pretext that this would force Hanoi to the negotiating table. As if Hanoi had ever wanted anything else! But the real reason was, that at this stage, the US bargaining line was a return to the 1954 partition, whereas the North Vietnamese wanted complete US troop withdrawal and the unification of Vietnam.
By 1972 the combination of military escalation, mainly through more "mad bombing" and attempts to put diplomatic pressure on China and the USSR, was still unsuccessful. But now Nixon was standing for re-election as president. So he escalated the bombing even further. B-52 bombers were used for the first time since 1968 and inflicted huge casualties on the north. Oil depots around Hanoi and Haiphong were also bombed. And in fact 4 Soviet merchant ships at anchor in Haiphong were hit. Nevertheless the Soviets felt obliged to agree to participate in a summit over a possible Vietnam settlement.
Nixon was re-elected president in November 1972, but under pressure of public opinion, Congress was no longer prepared to vote any more money for the war. In December 1972, however, Nixon authorised a further bombing campaign in the North. As a result he was accused of waging war by "tantrum", but there was method in his madness. North Vietnam was ready to negotiate. Now was the time to make sure that whatever territory it was left with was as damaged as possible.
On 27 January 1973, the Paris peace accords declared a cease-fire throughout Vietnam. The US would withdraw the last of its troops and a Committee of National Reconciliation which had representation from the North would organise free elections in the South. It had taken Nixon four years to begin to withdraw troops from Vietnam after having been elected on this pledge. During this time, 300,000 more Vietnamese and 20,000 more US soldiers had lost their lives.
However the fighting in South Vietnam still continued for another 18 months. General Thieu's interpretation of the cease-fire was to order his troops to shoot any "communists" on sight. The US also carried on bombing nationalist sanctuaries in Cambodia until August 1973. But as soon as Congress cut off all funding, and the bombing stopped, Cambodia and South Vietnam fell to radical nationalist regimes within months. Finally the North Vietnamese flag was raised over Saigon in May 1975.
An exploitative system that must be overthrown
What was the balance sheet of the war? Over 47,000 Americans were killed in action and another 11,000 in accidents as a result of the war. More than 303,000 were wounded, not to mention those who suffered post traumatic stress disorder and were left emotionally crippled by the experience of fighting a brutal war of destruction which seemed to them to have no rhyme or reason. As to the South Vietnamese troops, they suffered 225,000 killed, and 570,000 wounded.
But of course it was the nationalists who took the full brunt of this war. They lost nearly one million fighters in combat and another one million civilians. A total 1.5m were wounded. Then there were, and still are, the countless victims of US chemical and biological warfare. Napalm hideously deformed thousands who were lucky enough to survive their burns. Dioxin from the defoliant Agent Orange, caused cancer and birth deformities among other long lasting effects. Ten million hectares of agricultural land was left barren. 70% of all northern villages were completely destroyed. In short Vietnam was an economic ruin.
The financial cost to the US taxpayer amounted to almost $150bn - or ten times the amount spent on Johnson's social reform programme between 1965 and 1973. And the resulting massive US deficit was one of the factors which precipitated the worldwide monetary crisis of the early 1970s.
Of course, this horrific ten-year war was a massive bounty for a whole range of US companies. And in that sense, US imperialism gained something out of it. But in any other sense it was a completely gratuitous war, with no economic or geopolitical stake involved. And yet this had not stopped US imperialism from masterminding the slaughter of over 2 million people and the destruction of a whole country.
From the point of view of imperialism, this war was merely a necessary exercise to police its system of world domination. Its only actual purpose was to make an example, in order to prevent a possible contagion among the poor countries. Imperialist exploitation can only generate opposition among the population under its yoke. But imperialism cannot afford to allow this opposition to go beyond a very limited level, for fear of a snowball effect. So any opposition has to be crushed or, to be more accurate, any population in whose ranks this opposition emerges must be terrorised into submission.
The so-called "communist threat" used at the time as a cover-up for imperialist warmongering was exclusively designed for domestic consumption. The Soviet bureaucracy did not aspire to expansion, nor did it have the means to achieve it. Despite the enormous growth of the Soviet economy, it could never match the power of the US economic machine. The only purpose of the "communist" bogeyman was the US leaders' need for a credible enough "enemy" so as to justify the economic and, above all, human cost of their policies in front of their own public opinion.
To police its world order, imperialism has always resorted to a variety of methods, which it chooses according to what it can get the rich countries' public opinions to swallow. Direct military intervention is one way of achieving this result, as in Vietnam. But using bloody dictatorships has been another - a tactic which has been used time and again by imperialism on every continent. However, dictatorships can be overthrown, as was demonstrated by the fate of the Shah in Iran, in 1979. And dictators can become too big for their boots, as is shown by the history of Saddam Hussein, a thug who served perfectly the needs of imperialism as long as he was slaughtering the supporters of the Iraqi communist party or the Iranian soldiers, but who became a liability when he sought to get his reward by threatening the interests of Western companies in Kuwait.
Whichever method imperialism uses to police its world order, it is always directed against the populations. But it also always backfires, one way or another, either where it is applied or elsewhere - 11/09 is just one more example of this.
The whole historical period since World War II has been an unending series of such backfiring, in which imperialism has reacted brutally to problems caused by its past policies, thereby paving the way for more bloody interventions, whichever form they took.
This is to say that the warmongering of the past year and past decade, is just part of the normal operation of this exploitative system of domination of the planet. The fact that the bogeyman of "communism" has now been replaced with others - "terrorism", Saddam Hussein, "rogue states", etc. - changes nothing to the nature of this warmongering.
As revolutionary communists, we have always been opposed to imperialist wars. But we do not oppose these wars from the point of view of pacifism. We oppose them because they target populations in order to submit them to the overall interests of a few large companies. And ultimately, there is no other way of fighting these wars than to fight for the overthrow of the whole system of capitalist exploitation which generates them.