Reply-To: Progressive and Critical Sociologist Network <PSN-CS@lists.wayne.edu>
I think most people know that it was the U.S. who prevented a democratic election from taking place in Vietnam in 1956 because Eisenhower knew that the Viet Minh would win the election. They preferred putting Diem in as dictator of South Vietnam. The CIA later allowed Diem to be killed . By the time of his murder, he had become too big of a problem because of greed and patronage. The corruption in South Vietnam would get worse with each new dictator.The rest of the story is history. The U.S. war in Vietnam had very little to do with Communism. It was an attempt to maintain control over a colony and to prevent the Viet Minh from uniting all of Vietnam. As Chomsky has argued, there is a sense in which the Vietnamese lost the war. No one would be able to see Vietnam as a positive model of national liberation because of all the destruction the United States had caused there. The struggle to bring about meaningful economic development has not been an easy one. Most of the population still lives in poverty. (Emphasis added).
The people of Vietnam have paid a very high price to attain, in 1976, the sovereignty and unification of the country, which were violated by the French colonial process of 1859 to 1945, the Japanese occupation of 1940 to 1945, the French war of reconquest and neocolonial maneuvers from 1945 to 1954, and the US imperialist war and neocolonial strategies of 1954 to 1973. Four million Vietnamese were killed during the stage of the US war. I began my series of blog posts on Vietnam with a quotation from Fidel: “No liberation movement, no people that has struggled for its independence, has had to carry out a struggle as long and heroic as the people of Vietnam.”
The national liberation movement in Vietnam is not a model for national liberation movements, because we expect and hope that no people will ever again have to pay so high a price to put into practice its right to be a sovereign and independent nation. There is a sense, however, in which the Vietnamese national liberation revolution is a model, and this has to do with the question: How did they do it? What enabled them to make such heroic sacrifices and to endure for so long in defense of the nation and the revolution? I have implicitly argued in my various posts on Vietnam that this remarkable capacity of sacrifice and endurance was rooted in key factors that made the revolution advanced: the charismatic leadership of Ho Hi Minh, who provided a practical synthesis of the moral and intellectual traditions of Marxism-Leninism and Confucian nationalism, thus establishing an advanced understanding of objective conditions and possibilities. Ho’s leadership enabled clear identification of the issues of national independence and distribution of land to peasants and made possible the formation of a committed vanguard with advanced understanding that was able to forge the united political and military action of the people.
In previous posts, I have written on the Haitian Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Mexican Revolution, in addition to the posts since 4/24/2014 on the Vietnamese Revolution. In future posts, I will treat other Third World revolutions, including those in Tanzania, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. I am endeavoring to show that Third World revolutions that have attained their goals have had charismatic leaders who forged a synthesis of an anti-colonial national liberation perspective and Marxism-Leninism (or some variant of it), and who formed a committed vanguard with advanced understanding, which identified key issues of importance to the people and which led the people in united political action. (On the role of charismatic leaders in revolutionary processes, see the posts in the section on Charismatic Leaders).
There is a price to be paid. Revolutionary processes challenge the structures of the neocolonial world-system, and they therefore unavoidably stimulate reaction and counterrevolution. And the reaction knows no civilized limits: it includes mass violence, torture, repression, and economic sanctions. Often, people are reluctant to participate in unfolding revolutions, because they understand that sacrifices will be required, and they fear that, in the end, the revolutionary goals will not be attained. Revolutionary leaders endeavor to persuade the people that the goals can be attained, if the people unite, and if the people are prepared to endure necessary sacrifices.
Here in Cuba we know something about having to sacrifice for the revolution. People still suffer emotional pain as a result of having lost family members or dear friends fifty years ago during the campaign of terroristic violence inflicted on the young Cuban Revolution. But the level of violence suffered by the Cuban people has been small in comparison to Vietnam. In Cuba, the sacrifices have been primarily in the realm of material hardships, caused by the fifty-year campaign of the United States and other global powers to economically, financially, and diplomatically isolate Cuba. In spite of the blockade, as Cubans calls the “embargo,” Cuba has remarkable gains in education and health. But having given priority to investment in human resources, there are limitations in material conditions. Sometimes necessary items are hard to get, and in general, housing and transportation are inadequate; access to Internet is expensive and limited, and connections are slow. Cubans for the most part endure these difficulties with dignity, and I have learned from them to do the same. Few think that it has not been worth it. To the contrary, most Cubans are proud of their nation’s important role as a model of true independence in a neocolonial world-system.
Since it attained reunificaton in 1975, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has moved forward with its socialist project. It made adjustments in its economic model in the 1980s, and in recent years, has attained high levels of growth. It is developing cooperative relations with socialist and progressive governments that are seeking to develop an alternative more just and democratic world-system. It continues to follow the road that fifty years ago provoked barbaric violence by the forces of reaction. It may be a poor nation by some measures, but it is seeking to overcome its poverty through strategies and policies that it, as a sovereign nation, decides for itself. It has paid a high price for its sovereignty, but it has attained it.
Can sacrifice be too great, even when goals are attained? My sense is that the response of the true revolutionary would be that no sacrifice in defense of the sovereignty and dignity of the nation is too great. It perhaps is an extreme position, but it seems to me necessary, if a more just and democratic world is to be created. For without such a conviction, we who struggle for a better world would be constantly thinking that perhaps we have paid enough, and it is time to give up; and the message to the reaction would be, if only it inflicts enough violence on us, it could get us to quit. We must be fully committed to the principle that, no matter what price we have to pay, we will never surrender. We must endure, until the reaction, beset by conflicts and problems provoked by its barbarity, recognizes that it must stop.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Vietnam