From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue Aug 15 2000 - 20:31:52 CUT

  • Next message: Jeffrey Blankfort: "Re: [sixties-l] Hayden/Gitlin/Scheer"



    The twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of Saigon has been the occasion
    for a whole series of retrospectives, reassessments, and general all-around
    breast-beating, and everyone seems to be having a grand old time of it. The
    Left or what passes for the Left in this post-Marxist era is busy slapping
    itself on the back for having foreseen the disaster: unfortunately, such
    foresight seems entirely lacking on that side of the political spectrum when it
    comes to contemporary quagmires such as Kosovo and Iraq. As Atlantic
    correspondent Benjamin Schwarz put it in an excellent article published in
    "The war galvanized a pro-war left that embraces Secretary of State
    Madeleine Albright's foreign policy doctrine of 'virtuous power.' Since the
    American victory in Kosovo, a significant segment of the U.S. and
    European left has exorcised the ghost of Vietnam and learned to stop
    worrying and love a globalist American foreign policy. Many prominent
    left-wingers have taken to heart British Prime Minister Tony Blair's
    announcement that this was 'the first progressives' war' and have with a
    new martial spirit celebrated the conflict against Serbia as the kind of
    crusade the West should undertake in the future."

                  COMMIES FOR PEACE?
    But the Right, particularly the generally pro-war
    neo-conservative Right, is just as bad, if not worse, and
    worst of all is David Horowitz, who recently subjected
    viewers of PBS's News Hour to a tirade that basically
    outlined the right-wing revisionist view of Vietnam in the
    crudest possible terms. As University of California
    professor Ruth Rosen, congressman Bobby Rush
    (D-Illinois), Rev. James Wallis, editor of Sojourners
    magazine, and liberal journalist Haynes Johnson made the
    connection between the civil rights movement of the sixties
    and the subsequent upsurge in opposition to the war,
    Horowitz whose main claim to fame is that he converted
    from an unreasoning leftism (as an editor of Ramparts) to
    an equally unreflective rightism sat there sneering into the
    camera, listening to the other panelists with ill-concealed
    disdain. When the host turned finally to him, the visibly
    impatient Horowitz had gotten himself so worked up that he
    lobbed a verbal hand-grenade:
    "Well, there's a false parallelism here. The civil rights
    demonstrators in the South were demonstrating against an
    undemocratic regime; black people didn't really have the
    right to vote, and they didn't have normal channels, you know,
    to redress their grievances. The so-called 'antiwar movement' was
      led by and organized by people who wanted a totalitarian regime to
    establish itself in South Vietnam. That's really what it was about."

                  REDS UNDER THE BED
                  Anyone who takes the voluble Horowitz seriously and
    I know there aren't many out there, but the rest of you
    please bear with me would have to conclude that Senator
    J. William Fulbright, Hans Morgenthau and Walter
    Lippmann were all "people who wanted a totalitarian regime
    to establish itself in South Vietnam." Not to mention
    Senators Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening, who opposed
    the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the entire pacifist
    movement, personified by the venerable A. J. Muste, and
    the Rev. Martin Luther King this last, ironically, one of
    Horowitz's heroes. Poor Ruth Rosen didn't know how to
    respond, except by conjuring the "red-baiting of the 1950's"
    and descrying his remark as "shameful and disgraceful."
    Horowitz was ready for her. Of course, he didn't portray everyone
    who opposed the war as "a demonic Communist," as Rosen put it.
    Horowitz continued:
    "I didn't do that at all. I said the movement was led and organized
    by people who wanted the Communists to win.
    That's why the slogan was 'bring the troops home now' because
    that's what we'd accomplish."

                  A DRIVE-BY SMEAR
    In other words: it doesn't matter if they were
    Communists, that is, members of the Communist Party or
    even consciously sympathetic to the Viet-Cong: objectively,
    this is what the actions and program of the antiwar
    movement accomplished. This argument resembles those
    made by the Communists in the 1930s, and after, who were
    always saying that so-and-so was "objectively"
    anti-Communist and an enemy of the working class: they
    said it in Germany about the Social Democrats, as Hitler
    was rising to power, to justify their refusal to engage in a
    united front against the Nazis. The Social Democrats, said
    the German Communist Party and their puppet-masters in
    the Kremlin, are "objectively social fascists" and therefore
    worse than Hitler and his legions. This is why Horowitz
    never offers an iota of proof for his contention that the
    antiwar movement was part of a Communist conspiracy to
    install Ho Chi Minh in power, for, by this "objective" standard,
    no proof of organizational affiliations is required.
    At this point, Rosen, whose stolidly placid face has shown
    amazingly little sign of annoyance, finally breaks down and
    exclaims "That's not true!" But it is Horowitz's turn, and he
    is not about to give up his moment in the spotlight. "Let me
    finish," he whines, "let me finish," and the host intercedes
    on his behalf. But the drive-by smear technique is not conducive
    to any extensive analysis, and Horowitz could only bring himself to
    confide the following:
    "I have to tell you, you know, having been in the
    movement, I know very well what the people who led it, and people like
    Ruth Rosen, believed, and that's what they believed."

                  THE REAL FACE OF THE ANTIWAR
    In the end, we are told that we have to simply take
    Horowitz at his word: I know they were all a bunch of
    Commies because I was one of them. While the centrality
    of David Horowitz to the antiwar and New Left movements
    of the sixties is problematic, at best, there is another far
    more serious problem with this thesis: it is complete bullshit.
    Communist Party members had little or nothing to do with
    organizing the antiwar movement of the sixties and
    seventies, let alone leading it. The determinedly
    non-Communist anti-Stalinist A. J. Muste was the one
    figure who came closest to a leader in that his authority was
    recognized by all factions, and it was Muste who arguably
    did the most the minimize the influence of Communists and
    their sympathizers in the movement. In 1960, when
    congressman Thomas Dodd was red-baiting the Committee
    for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and conducting a
    government investigation into its activities, Muste wrote in
    Liberation magazine that standing up to Dodd, instead of
    caving, which is what the SANE leadership did,
    "might have called forth a tremendous response; might
    have put new heart and courage into many people,
    especially young people, fed up with conformism and
    apathy; and might have led to the development of a more
    radical movement against nuclear war and war preparations.
    Such a movement would be invulnerable to attempts at Communist
    control, if such were made."

                  INSIDE BASEBALL
    This is no fellow-traveler. Horowitz knows perfectly well
    that people like Muste, Students for a Democratic Society
    (SDS) President Carl Oglesby, and even the Trotskyists of
    the Socialist Workers Party who provided many of the
    foot-soldiers and grassroots organizers of the various
    antiwar "mobilization" committees most certainly did not
    advocate a victory to the Vietcong or give them political
    support. Oglesby argued, in Containment and Change, for
    a New Left-Old Right antiwar alliance, and cited right-wing
    isolationists of the past (Robert A. Taft) and the sixties
    (such as Murray Rothbard) as evidence of a native
                  American noninterventionist tradition. The Trots were
    ideologically opposed to the Vietcong, whom they
    denounced as "Stalinists," and explicitly would not give
    them political support an issue that was constantly a
    source of contention between the SWP and uncritical
    supporters of Hanoi. But since most people especially
    Horowitz's fellow conservatives do not know the inside
    story of internal disputes on the Left, such sweeping
    pronouncements as to the loyalties of the antiwar
    movement go unchallenged.
                  MORE INSIDE BASEBALL
    Horowitz smears the whole religious tradition of
    nonviolent resistance to state authority upheld by the
    pacifist movement through two world wars on up to the
    present, and this is not the only history that he either
    ignores or distorts. The very first demonstrations against
    US military intervention in Vietnam were largely organized
    by the Student Peace Union (SPU) in the fall of 1963. The
    occasion was a tour of the US by Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu,
    sister-in-law of President Diem and wife of the head of
    South Vietnam's secret police: Mme. Nhu was notorious for
    referring to the self-immolation of Buddhist monks
    protesting the repressive Diem regime as "barbecues." At
    the time, according to the US government, there were
    14,000 American troops stationed in Vietnam; the number
    was probably more, but the public was not that exercised
    about it. Even on the far Left such organizations as the
    Communist Party USA, SDS, and the Trotskyist Socialist
    Workers Party (SWP) did not start organizing around the
    issue until the number of American troops in Vietnam
    passed the 20,000 mark, in the spring of 1964. At the time,
    only the SPU raised the alarm about the dangers of getting
    involved in a land war in Asia on behalf of an unpopular and
    corrupt dictatorship and they were very far from being apologists
    for the Kremlin.

    For the SPU was controlled by the Young People's
    Socialist League, the youth section of Max Shachtman's
    International Socialist League (ISL), which hated the
    Kremlin and Stalinism as much if not more than the US
    State Department. The young Shachtmanites were
    virulently anti-Communist, and vigorously pushed an
    anti-Communist exclusion rule at all their public events and
    in coalitions in which they took part, including at these
    demonstrations. Horowitz ignores or chooses not to
    remember the key role played by such Shachtman
    lieutenants as Bayard Rustin, and others such as Irving
    Howe and Michael Harrington. Were they totalitarians of
    the Left? For more on the impact of these "Third Camp"
    socialists on the antiwar movement, see chapter 2 of
    Maurice Isserman's 1987 book, If I Had a Hammer, but the
    point is that Horowitz the alleged expert on the ins and
    outs of the Left simply does not know what he is talking
    about. The crudity of his analysis of the antiwar movement
    is exceeded only by his broad-brush approach to the war
    itself. In response to Haynes Johnson's observation that
    "we involved ourselves in a colonial war and a civil war,
    which was against our own traditions and our leaders didn't
    understand it and they never explained it to the public,"
    Horowitz retorted:
    "It wasn't a civil war; it was a war for freedom, and we're
    going to win it; the Vietnamese will one day adopt a
    market system, private property, and civil liberties; it's
    just been prolonged by, you know, people like the people
    on this show. I have never seen except in Tom Hayden
    actually a single leftist recognize that by forcing the
    United States to withdraw from the battlefield in Vietnam
    they are responsible for two and a half million deaths of
    the peasants in Indochina who were murdered by the
    Communists that the so-called "antiwar movement"
    supported. I'd like to see a little honesty on this issue. You
    know, I just couldn't agree less with Haynes Johnson."

                  CAPITALISM THROUGH
    Eh? If we will win the war against Communism in
    Vietnam anyway, then why was the war necessary in the
    first place? Horowitz seems strangely oblivious to this
    rather obvious point. He also claims that the antiwar
    movement is responsible for prolonging Vietnam's transition
    to a market-based society, but certainly bombing much of
    the country back to the Stone Age did nothing to establish
    the hegemony of private property relations unless the idea
    is to destroy all property and start out with a "level playing field."

                  SELLING OUT UNCLE HO
    The idea that we were defeated on the home front,
    instead of militarily, on the battlefield, is a myth that is at
    the core of right-wing revisionism on the Vietnam question, and
    shows a basic blindness not only to the military problem involved in
    fighting a war on the Asian landmass, but also a woeful ignorance
    of the history of the conflict.
    For it was the United States and its allies during World War
    II, and not just the Kremlin, who were the first sponsors of
    what was then called the Viet-Minh (League for the
    Independence of Vietnam) led by then-nationalist leader
    Ho Chi Minh in an insurgency against the Japanese
    occupation army and the Vichy French colonial authorities.
    When Uncle Ho and his Allied-supplied guerrilla fighters
    rode into Hanoi in the summer of 1945, victorious, the
    future Communist dictator read the words of the
    Declaration of Independence in the public square. But the
    Democratic Republic of Vietnam was crushed by British
    troops, who returned the south of the country to the
    French: Truman's decision to side with Paris was
    determined by the exigencies of the cold war: France was a
    major bulwark of the NATO alliance, and the protests of a
    Vietnamese leader who quoted Thomas Jefferson were
    simply ignored.

                  BACKGROUND TO BETRAYAL
    If there was ever a setup for a civil war, in which all the
    ingredients of a future conflict were methodically
    introduced, then surely it was in the arrangement presided
    over by American "observers" at the 1954 Geneva accords.
    We handed half the country over to the Vietminh, set up a
    more cooperative government in Saigon, and then stood by
    the French when they bombed Haiphong harbor. Having set
    the Vietminh up in business to begin with, American
    diplomats and policy makers then proceeded to alienate Ho
    and drive him into the arms of the Kremlin. Which brings
    us to the major problem with the Horowitzian brand of
    right-wing revisionism not that it is too ideological, too
    reflexively right-wing, but that it is not nearly right-wing
    enough. . . .

                  THE TRUTH IN TIME
    If we are examining right-wing revisionist accounts of the
    Vietnam war, then I much prefer the one proffered by
    Robert Welch, the much vilified founder of the John Birch
    Society who was once a bogeyman to the liberal elites, in
    his excellent pamphlet The Truth in Time. As the war was
    tearing the country and the American military apart,
    Welch noted that it was the West that created the
    conditions (including the Vietminh) for precisely the kind of
    war that America could not hope to win. Welch also
    maintained that the installation of President Ngo Dinh
    Diem, and his subsequent persecution of the Buddhists, had
    done more to undermine the noncommunist element in
    Vietnam than any action initiated by Ho Chi Minh and his
    subordinates. The subsequent US-engineered coup, in
    which Diem was killed, led to the seizing of power by a
    series of generals who seemed to change by the week and
    led Welch to ask: who benefits from the Vietnam war?
                  GIDDY MINDS
    The answer, to Welch, was clearly not the US: having
    gotten us into another unwinnable land war in Asia, the US
    State Department had done its best to further rig the game by
    neutralizing the indigenous anti-Communist element.
    The Communists didn't really want us out of Vietnam
    they wanted us to stay in so as to underscore and maximize
    their nearly inevitable victory. It was a war, Welch wrote,
    "run on both sides by the Communists." [American
    Opinion, November 1966]. Strong words, but if we judge
    the Vietnam war by its results then, in retrospect, Welch's
    words are eerily prophetic. The American elites, averred
    Welch, are looking for an excuse to strengthen and extend
    their control over the economy and every facet of American
    life, and war is perfect for their purposes. If it wasn't
    Vietnam, then it would have been somewhere else: war is
    the great diversion arranged by our rulers to cement their
    rule whenever it gets too shaky. At the end of The Truth in
    Time, Welch quotes the famous line from Shakespeare that
    succinctly sums up the meaning and purpose of our
    globalist foreign policy: "Be it thy course to busy giddy
    minds with foreign quarrels."

                  Welch knew that the real subverters of our American
    Republic were not in Vietnam, or the Kremlin, but right
    here in our own country; the main enemy is in Washington,
    not Moscow. This is an insight that many on the Right have
    now rediscovered, and adopted, in the face of Clintonian
    interventionism from Haiti, to Iraq, to Kosovo and, who
    knows, maybe he's not done yet. They have learned,
    through bitter experience, the uses of foreign intervention as
    a diversion, the consequence not of some overseas "crisis"
    but of the requirements of domestic American politics. In
    looking back on the Vietnam debacle, they rightly sense that
    America was betrayed what they need to get clear on is
    identifying what was betrayed and by whom.

                  THE PRICE WE PAY
    For the entire half century of the cold war, conservatives
    were told that they had to delay their agenda of rolling back
    Big Government on the home front in order to fight the war
    on Communism overseas. We needed high taxes, bristling
    armaments, foreign aid, a national security bureaucracy,
    and even curbs on basic civil liberties in order to defeat the
    Kremlin's drive for world domination. Well, now that
    Communism has imploded, and this alleged threat is wiped
    off the face of the earth, what is the excuse for not turning
    to the unsettled business of restoring our old republic? Why
    do we need a military budget bigger than all the other
    military budgets of every nation on earth combined? Why
    do we need to intervene everywhere, to combine the roles
    of global police and social worker, to "pay any price, bear
    any burden": for God's sake, they haven't even gotten rid of
    the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe yet indeed,
    their budgets have increased! The national security
    bureaucracy is here to stay and so is the global empire we
    suddenly find ourselves in possession of, with protectorates
    from Kuwait to Kosovo, and a dynamic all its own. Apart
    from and in contradiction to the specifically national
    interests of the US, the interests of the Empire and those
    who profit from its expansion predominate in the Imperial
    City of Washington, D.C. This is the real price we paid for
    the cold war: we "won" that war, but it was a Pyrrhic victory
    for we lost our own soul in the process.

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