Notes on the War in Vietnam and American Capitalism - Jorge M.E.

Jorge M.E. defends the revolutionary subject as the working class in "developed" countries and the need to connect class struggle with war as opposed to the “moralism” of the anti-war movement, the bourgeois of the NLF, and the state capitalist nature of the Communist Party. Published in issue 3 of Root and Branch, a US libertarian marxist journal.

Submitted by UseValueNotExc… on December 5, 2021

Notes on the War in Vietnam and American Capitalism

l. The War and the Agrarian Economy

In the period following World War ll, there were widespread spontaneous peasant struggles in South Vietnam aimed at appropriation of land. The Viet Minh and then the NLF tried to base its political force on this peasantry by developing agrarian reform policies. (I) The Viet Minh recognized the appropriation of land by the peasants and at the same time instituted a tax in the form of part of the harvest in order to provide for its troops. In 1955 the Diem government in its turn, instituted a “Rent Reduction Law". Theoretically, this law reduced rent on land to 25% of the harvest, from 50% before the war. However, in practice, this “reduction” in fact meant an increase of 25%, since during the war no constant rent had been collected and the law gave the land that had been taken over by the peasants back to the former landowners.

This measure thus caused increasing unrest and revolt among much of the rural population. In response to his government's progressive loss of control in the countryside in 1957 Diem instituted another law concerning land distribution, Ordinance No.57. According to this law a large landowner could only hold up to 284 acres, the excess to be distributed among the peasants. However, since the peasants had in practice already taken over the land (even though the Diem government continued not to recognize this ownership) the measure only benefited about 10% of the peasants, while the other 90% would have lost land to the landowners if the measure had been put into effect. (2) From this point Saigon’s administrative cadres became increasingly the representatives of these land owners, and corruption spread throughout the rural areas. During 1960-1967 the Saigon government completely lost its political and military hold on the countryside, while the NLF built up its political organization in the regions it occupied. 1965-66 represented the turning point in the war, with the massive American involvement and the increasing logistical and political dependence of the NLF on North Vietnam.

In 1964, with the increase in military operations, the NLF policy towards the peasantry underwent some changes. A deemphasis of guerrilla warfare in favor of larger confrontations caused a greater need for funds. Thus since 1964 it has increased its taxes to more than 20% of the peasant‘s income (at the same time Saigon’s average taxes were about 40%). In order to collect these taxes, the NLF was forced to allow the peasantry in the areas that it controlled to sell its agricultural surplus on the market controlled by the Saigon regime. To a certain extent this was the first compromise between the two forces. (3)

Around 1966, the American high command in Saigon began to question the view that political stability was to be found in the support of the large landowners.

At the same time, profound changes in the conduct of the war altered the material conditions of the agrarian economy. Entire provinces in the Center and North, areas of low agricultural production and mainly producing lumber and rubber (the central highlands), were destroyed by bombing raids and military operations. But military operations could not be conducted the same way in the South, the Delta provinces, the traditional base of the agricultural economy in South Vietnam in which 75% of the rice production occurs. (4) While it was possible to totally destroy the Northern and Central regions, the destruction of the Delta would result in the rapid and total collapse of the feeble economy of the Saigon regime. At this point American technicians and military began their “pacification” programs, but soon they realized that it could not succeed because it did not even face the question of land ownership. Finally, for the first time since 1957, the Americans and the Saigon regime intervened politically in the agrarian question. After long internal debate, the Land-to-the-Tiller Law was finally instituted in March 1970. Against the projects of some American technicians, who had proposed an obligatory sale of the land to the peasants, the law calls for:
immediate cessation of rent payments simply by application of the tenant operator to his village council; free grant of land to the tenant, with payment to the former owner to be absorbed by the government; no retention of land not cultivated by the owner or his family except for limited amounts devoted to ancestor worship. (5)

This law is "hardly more than Saigon's stamp of approval on the land redistribution already carried out by the communists.” (6) The Saigon “technocrats” think that the peasants should be allowed to stay where they are, and that control of them should be won through programs for technical aid and for the creation of cooperatives. (The US has already loaned $3million for the latter. (7)

It is important to remember that up until now most of the peasantry, above all in the Delta, paid their rent twice: once to the NLF, in the form of commodities and logistical support; and a second time when Saigon‘s troops reoccupied the area. While previously the occupation of land had seemed insecure to the peasants, now not only are they officially landowners, but they no longer — at least in theory — have to make rent payments to Sagon’s troops. In the long run, this fact may create some problems for the NLF because it now appears to be the only rent collector. Of course this will depend on Saigon‘s ability and determination to clean out the corruption in its rural administration.

I would be false, however, to give too much importance to this so-called Land Reform. It’s main significance is that it expresses a change in the Saigon governments (and US capitalism’s) tactics in attempting to win political control over the countryside. It would be at least as large an error to ignore this new trend as it would be to speak of the land reform as an achieved goal.

The legalization of the agrarian reform isn‘t the only new element in the social conditions of South Vietnam's agrarian economy. The war has produced profound changes in the rural conditions of production. Towards 1965-66 food production fell 7% and South Vietnam, a rice exporting country, began to import. (8) According to the so called experts, this deterioration of food production, which has been a continuing trend, was caused by the following factors:
1. Less land planted in rice because of the severity of the hostilities;
2. A decreasing farm labor supply as a result of the increasing build up of both the RVN and NLF military forces;
3. The massive increase of free-world forces which has drawn many persons away from farm production and into construction work and general logistical support at wages above the existing farm wage. (9)

Other forms of agricultural production have also undergone a serious falling off. Rubber production fell by 80% during 1965. (10) The rubber plantations are mainly in the Central region of the country where the bombings were particularly intense during this period of the war. Lumber production was almost entirely destroyed: “One curious effect of the saturation ‘pacification’ efforts made in the Central Highlands two or three years ago, it seems, was that numerous metal fragments lodged in the trunks of trees and remained embedded there. These ruin saw-blades and make the processing of lumber uneconomic." (11)

Thus it is clear that the material base of much of traditional agricultural production was progressively destroyed by the war. “The attempt to deprive the guerrillas of jungle cover and food supplies by dumping chemical poisons over vast areas of the countryside means the balance of nature in Vietnam has been destroyed for decades to come. The ruthless bombardment of suspected communist positions has devastated villages and irrigation scheme — the essential capital of the peasant community." (12) The stability of the family unit was severely damaged, its members occupied in tasks other than the traditional (mainly the military service): “The war has prevented two-thirds of South Vietnam's able-bodied men 20 to 30 years of age from filling their normal occupations." (13) In addition, “the current hostilities in rural areas have caused many rural workers to seek safety in the cities and towns, which, as a result, have increased in population.“ (14) In 1965, 25% of South Vietnam population lived in urban areas (15); in 1971, according to Le Monde of 2/2/71, more than 50% of the total population is living in urban areas. Thus, in the regions in which there is still considerable agricultural production (the Delta) the decline of population and the destruction of the family unit both necessitate and make possible the development of the agricultural production process (an increase in agricultural productivity based on more agricultural machinery and production on a larger scale than the family).

Thus the development of the war after the turning point in 1965-66 had serious effects on the rural economy and so on the political situation. The material basis of traditional agriculture has been destroyed in a large part of the country (the North and Center) and with it the political base of the NLF in the peasants. And in the Delta the balance of power between the NLF and the Saigon regime has been changed by the latter’s ability to control the countryside militarily on a larger scale and its attempts to develop a political base through land reform.

II. Vietnamization

During and since the phase of its heavy involvement in the war (1965-66) American capital has been constantly increasing its investments in South Vietnam, mainly in industries producing the logistical basis of the war — provisioning, infrastructure, etc. In fact, the
US Government has consistently helped big business move into Southeast Asia. There are no longer import duties on machine equipment sent to Vietnam. There is a 25% exemption on taxation on capital investment used for expansion. There are no taxes on the profits of US business for five years after investment, and no real estate tax for three years. The Insurance Act of 1967 protects 100% of business assets against expropriation and damage during the war. It further protects debts up to 75% of value. (16)

In 1964 only 13% of the South Vietnamese GNP came from the industrial sector (17), mainly in industries processing agricultural products: rice, sugar, tobacco, rubber and paper. Since then, Americans have built up several light industries: textiles, plastics, cigarettes, printing, construction material, pharmaceutical production, electrical materials. etc. Since 1966 heavy industry has begun to develop slowly with an importation of about $17 million worth of industrial machinery through the Commercial Import Program which plans the construction of an auto tire plant, a steel tube plant, an auto battery plant, and pharmaceutical, plastic, glass, and ceramic product plants. (18) Also during this period a generator and a large electrical diesel plant were built in the Saigon area with Japanese private capital.

Some specific examples of American investment in S. Vietnam are: the American Trading Corp. and Brownell Lane Engineering Corp. (heavy machinery tied to the war); Esso and Caltex (construction of a refinery valued at $16 million). In addition, the US Defense Department has made a loan to four American civil construction companies for airports, ports, power plants, hospitals, bridges, roads, warehouses. etc. (19) Financial channels have been opened in order to facilitate investment: both the Chase Manhattan Bank and the Bank of America have opened branches in Saigon.

In the course of this development of the South Vietnamese economy, the labor force has undergone some important changes. Migration toward the urban areas, particularly of the young, has allowed the creation of a large extremely mobile labor force that could easily be oriented towards new industrial projects. (20) Military service has provided some training for a large portion of the young manpower, in addition, several enterprises have “provided considerable language and on-the-job training.” (21) Still, this labor force at present has largely a so-called lumpen character. However, the urbanization and industrialization of South Vietnam are only tendencies, as the rate of investment is still fairly low due to the lack of economic stability.

This unstable economy is above all characterized by inflation. Between 1967 and 1970, prices went up 30% a year. (Since then, the government has succeeded in stabilizing the inflation at a lower rate.) This inflation is the result of a war economy in which a large percentage of the population is in the military or para-military sector. (22) Relative to very little real industrial production, an enormous amount of money is being created to pay for non-productive military expenditures. Thus, from 1965 to the first quarter of 1968 the governmental deficit grew from 900 million piasters to 2,000 million. (23)

The increase in the political stability of the Saigon regime during the past few years, mainly through military gains over the NLF, has resulted in the passage of two laws in Saigon. One concerns the research and exploitation of a huge oil field, one of the richest in the world, just discovered in South Vietnam: companies assured that “goods and rights will not be nationalized.... there will be no tax on exportation…. and it will be possible to expatriate profits freely.” (24) The second law is intended to establish a system of easy profit expatriation in order to attract foreign investment. Immediately following the announcement of these laws, the Ford Company of Australia began studying the future construction of an auto-assembly plant in Saigon and the British Leyland Motor Company announced its intention of starting to produce tractors and other agricultural machinery. (25)

The Bank of Asiatic Development has just published a study on the economic future of Southeast Asia. The whole report stresses the need for fuller integration of the area into the Westem market (i.e. Western investment and flow of Western goods onto the market). For South Vietnam, the Bank states that industrialization must be based on a “green revolution" — i.e. on an increase of agricultural productivity through the modernization of agriculture. This would reduce the prices of agricultural products and thus hold down the level of wages in the urban areas. Also tied in with this "revolution" would be the creation of the industry to produce the necessary agricultural machines and fertilizers. (26)

The war has had a large impact on the other countries of Southeast Asia. Since 1967 South Vietnamese imports from Southeast Asian countries have grown at the expense of those from the US. (27) The RVN Share of the total exports of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong-Kong has also increased greatly. The war has created a demand for two types of products: those necessary to the provisioning of an increasing urban population (textiles, food, etc.); and those necessary to the War infrastructures (cement, steel, aluminum, gas, etc). In many cases these can be more profitably produced in Southeast Asia than in the US. Most of the countries, except Japan, which already had a fairly well diversified economy, have thus gone through “economic booms” only in a given sector of production, a fact which leaves their economies particularly vulnerable to any change in capitalist strategy in this area.

Thus the war in Vietnam has opened up the possibility of the “modernization” of the Vietnamese economy through foreign investment — particularly America of course. In this context, what is the immediate effect of the withdrawal of American troops?

First, “vietnamization” necessitates an increase in the military effort of the Saigon government in terms of both men and material. From an economic point of view, this "increased spending for military purposes would increase significantly the demand for locally produced goods and services and for imports, and. . . the reduction of US forces in South Vietnam would have the effect of reducing the Saigon government's foreign exchange earnings.” (28) Thus vietnamization means an increase in the amount of money on the market, an increase in imports, and a growing dependency of the Vietnamese economy on the general Southeast Asian economy. To prevent the collapse of S. Vietnam’s economy, the US will have to pay through the nose for the withdrawal of its troops. Fifty-three percent of the Saigon government budget is already paid by the US, and Nixon has asked Congress to add to the “normal” aid an addition of about $100 million in order to balance the economic effects of Vietnamization. (The Saigon government claims to need $200 million.) (29) The withdrawal of the troops and the financial aid can only continue the dependence of the South Vietnamese economy on that of the US, its integration into the framework of “free market capitalism” and private investment. This was of course the original goal of the war; vietnamization and troop withdrawals in no sense imply that the US is abandoning its basic goals for the area.

lll. Capitalism. War and Peace

The explanation of the change in American strategy from massive military involvement to vietnamization does not lie solely in the current situation in Vietnam, but is rooted in the internal situation of American capitalism as well. In the US the problem of economic stagnation has become increasingly evident. Its ideological and institutional aspects, as well as the “economic” ones (expressed in the constant changes in the monetary policies) are rooted in the capitalist production process itself and its contradictions — i.e. in the increased incapacity of American capitalism to raise its rate of profitable capital formation. This incapacity has not found any solution in these monetary policies. These attempts to reduce labor costs through unemployment have only added to the already great social misery (housing conditions, transportation, health-services, etc.). The low rate of capital accumulation has in fact existed since World War ll and the high level of unemployment (averaging about 5%) has only been reduced during the war periods (during the Korean War, from 1951-3, it was 3%, and at the height of the Vietnam War, 1966-9, it was 3.6%) through an increased State intervention in the economy in the form of war expenditures. (30)

The current situation is thus centered on the question of State intervention in the economy. Because the largest manifestation of that intervention is the war expenditures, the entire political anti-war movement is necessarily brought into direct confrontation with the question of the economic role of the State, in spite of the fact that its heterogeneous composition causes it to arrive at differing conclusions about the issues of war expenditures and capitalist system.

The stagnation of the economy and the waste production for war are two sides of the same systemic coin. Yet this situation suggests to the liberals the idea that state expenditure should be shifted from waste production to attempts to deal with social needs at home. The liberals assumption is that the war is a mistake which is preventing the use of America’s productive capacities for the creation of an economy of “abundance for all.” This conception is based on a refusal to recognize the fact that in a private corporate capitalist economy, state intervention can only have the function of maintaining the necessary conditions for the existence of private capital.

A total end to war production and total reorientation of State intervention in the economy, in order to deal with the social poverty that capitalism itself has produced, is not possible in the present private capital oriented economy, simply because it would enormously increase the importance of the public sector over the private one. The strongest sectors of private capital in particular would be greatly affected by the end of State subsidies allocated through war production. While if these limits on State intervention are constantly present and determine the conflict within capitalism, nonetheless the social consequences of the economic stagnation, the increasingly difficult situation of working people, produces political pressure for more State intervention in such sectors as housing, mass transportation, health, education, etc. However, even where the public sector intervenes, it tries to limit its own action and to maintain its general aim of constructing for private capital the conditions for a new profitable cycle (cf. Nixon‘s health plan, as well as the fight against pollution). The government is playing a greater and greater role in the economy (government spending covers 22% of the total GNP in 1910 compared with 14% in 1935 (31)), but the economy remains a private-oriented one. Given this orientation, the war is more necessary than ever in order to create abroad the conditions for profitable investments of private capital. It is in fact only the continuing profitability of private capital, at home and abroad, that will allow a greater State intervention at home. War abroad and State intervention at home are thus two inseparable parts of the same situation; and there is no real choice between the two as long as the survival of private capital is the main goal.*

*It should be remembered that, as pointed out above, withdrawal of troops from Vietnam does not mean a great decrease in the war economy.

But if the question is profitable investment in the Third World, can’t that be done through cooperation with the State capitalist bloc (Russia and (China)? The Vietnam war might seem to be an exception to a situation in which private and State capitalism are developing an increasing “coexistence” in the backward areas, as in Latin America. In fact these are only different situations in the same conflict between western capitalism and State capitalism. The Vietnam War expresses the level of this conflict in an area contested by the two blocs since WWII (and complicated by the additional conflicts existing between China and Russia). ln Latin America, on the contrary, US capitalism has until now controlled the whole area, while the introducfion of European, Japanese and Russian capital on a large scale is just beginning. While this still poses no major threat to US capitalism, it confirms nevertheless its decline in international competetibility. This is due not only to its internal situation but also to the progressive integration of the State capitalist block into the world market. This has just been completed by the steps made by China; after the restructuring of its productive apparatus, realized under the romantic name of “Cultural Revolution”, it too has begun to turn toward this integration into the world market (see the recent agreements with Canada, the importance of Japanese capitalism in its trade, and the recent moves towards a "normalization" of relations with the US.) None of this means that the antagonism between the two economic forms of capital production has come to an end. Just as conflict exists at home between State and private capital, so it exists on a world scale between the two capitalist blocks.

IV. Working Class Struggle and the War

In a period of capitalist expansion, working class struggle can be integrated into the developing system. Thus in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the rate of economic growth made it possible for capital to meet both its needs for profit and the workers’ demands for a better life. Today, with the economy in a period of stagnation, workers‘ struggles to maintain and improve their living standards act as a limit to profitability and the accumulation of capital. It is this fact which has made the workers movement, after a long period of hibernation, reappear in broad daylight on a world scale.

It is on this scale that the labor movement, like capitalism itself, should be analyzed. Workers’ struggles spread all over Europe in a series of eruptions beginning with the mass strike of 1968 in France; in Italy, strikes and worker agitation since 1969; in Sweden, the Kiruna and Volvo strikes in December 1969-January 1970; in Belgium the Limbourg strikes of January-February 1970; in England the continuous agitation and wildcat actions of the last few years; in Holland the big strikes at the end of 1970; in Germany the steel and auto strikes in October 1970. These struggles all reflect the beginning of economic stagnation following the period of rapid and strong capital formation after WW ll. throughout Europe. They were unified into a whole movement by the development of capitalism itself, no longer within the narrow limits of each European country but on the level of all Europe. But the spread of the struggles within each social and economic area is a product of the class activity. By the violence of its eruption and by the forms of struggle it takes (wildcat actions, autonomy of organization vis-a-vis the traditional organizations), the objectives of the struggles were rapidly taken up by a large number of workers (cf. the Swedish strikes following Kiruna, the Belgian strikes following Limbourg, the Italian strikes. May 1968 in France).

The present struggles of the American working class against inflation, unemployment, and increasing exploitation are part of this movement (even though they have developed within the context of an already existing lack of profitability for capital): an important part, considering the position of American Capitalism in the world capitalist equilibrium. In the US, as elsewhere, the workers are not very worried about the conflict between private capital and the State, which is visible only in the form of contradictory attempts to maintain the exploitation of the workers. Class struggle in America is expressed mainly through autonomous factory revolt: sabotage, absenteeism, rapid turnover, and more and more fights against the union apparatus. Wildcat strikes are causing increasing problems for capitalism. The unions’ incapacity to control the working class is itself a product of the current phase of capitalist development: they are unable to obtain the demands that the workers are now making the need for which has been created by the economic situation also.

At its present level, what is the relation of these working class struggles to the so-called peace movement? First, it is important to realize that this peace movement itself has gone through different phases. During the first phase, which ended with the invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State assassinations, the activity was based on the assumption that this heterogenous movement would be able to stop the war by putting pressure on the State apparatus. During the second phase, now beginning, the participants have a much clearer notion of its limits, even if the peace-bureaucrats still say, as they have for years, “stop the war or we'll stop the government.” Nevertheless this peace movement, mainly student-oriented, in general continues not to see the war as part of the system of exploitation within this society. Thus, unable to tie the struggle against the war to the struggle going on on the level of production (where the basis of all exploitation is), they are brought under the control of the liberal reformist politicians, for whom the peace movement is a way of keeping capitalism intact.

But since the war is not an accident, the fight against the war as such is not enough to bring it to an end. The peace movement sees the struggles of the working people in their work places either as completely separated from itself or as an opportunity to make ideological propaganda — of ideas that must appear to the workers as completely separated from their position and life in production: “Victory to the NLF!”, “anti-imperialist struggle!” and so forth. For working people the War is, on the contrary, part of their exploitation. They are paying for it through the profits they create, through inflation and through their lives on the battle field. Unemployment and wage cuts are as much related to the crisis of capitalism as the war itself. Thus it is not their struggles that should be oriented toward the war issue (normally those who “represent” workers in the anti-war demonstrations are those who repress the workers in production — the union bureaucrats who have the free time to go to demonstrations while workers stay in the factories); but it's the war issue that should be brought to the working people's struggles.

Only the struggles of working people against exploitation and war (as further exploitation) can bring an end to the war; only on this basis could the peace movement be integrated into a social movement of working people. Until then the only workers who show up in the movement will be there as individuals, “morally concerned”, but not as workers struggling against the system that exploits them and creates war to maintain or increase this exploitation. Beyond the fact that only a socialist mass movement can end all the wars, by ending the system that produces them, the present peace movement will only become a real burden for capitalism when it goes far beyond the strict end-the-war issue. Only then, also, will the peace movement be cleared of all “progressive bosses" and GOOD liberal politicians who currently see in it a good channel for their class interests: i.e. the perpetuation of the present system of exploitation and social misery.

Jorge M.E. and friends


(1) A crucial account of the Viet Minh’s and the NLF’s origins, its relationship with the peasantry and its role in the smashing of the mass movement in Saigon in September 1945, is given in the pamphlet The Rape of Vietnam, published in England by London Solidarity in 1967 and just
reprinted in the US by: Philadelphia Solidarity, GPO Box 13011, Philadelphia, PA, 19150.
(2) Far East Economic Review (FEER), August 20, 1970- South Vietnam — The battle over land. p 19.
(3) The Economics of insurgency in rlie Mekong Delta of Vietnam, by Robert Samsom, published by MIT Press, Cambridge, 1970.
(4) Bureau of Labor Statistiques, (BLS) Report No. 327, 1968. Labor Law and Practice in RVN, p. 4.
(5) and (6) FEER, August 20, 1970, p. 20.
(7) Asian Survey, vol. X, No. 8. The broadening base of Land Reform in RVN, p. 731.
(8), (9), and (10) BLS 327, 1968, p. 5.
(11) FEER, July 16, 1970, South Vietnam — a need to revalue, p. 26-7.
(12) FEER, July 16, 1970, The rape of Indochina, p. 21.
(13) BLS 327, 1968. p. 5.
(14) and (15) BLS 327, 1968. p. 22.
(16) US News and World Report, April 1969.
(17) and (18) BLS 327, 1968, p. 6.
(19) Fortune, September 1966.
(20) BLS 327, 1968. p. 24.
(21) BLS 327, 1968. p. 17.
(22) BLS 327, 1968. p. 23.
(23) Economic Survey of Asia and the Far East, United Nations 1967.
(24) and (25) Le Monde, March 9, 1971, french edition. Feu vert de Saigon pour les Investissements Etrangers.
(26) Southeast Asia’s Economy in the 1970’s, Bank of Asia Development, Manila, Philippines, 1971.
(27) Economic Survey of Asia and the Far East, United Nations 1967.
(28) FEER, July 16, 1970, p. 26.
(29) FEER, July 16, 1970, p. 27.
(30) Wall Street Journal (WSJ) April 5, 1971.
(31) WSJ February 1, 1971.
(32) Perhaps a few comments on the nature of the NLF would be in order at this point. Looking at the NLF program, we find, as with all political programs ol united fronts with the bourgeoisie (here "national" there “progressive”) that the interests of the working class are put below those of the ruling class. The Association of Workers for Liberation, the working class organization of the NLF, says on this question:
In order to assure ourselves of the forces capable of bringing the revolution to a triumph, the wage-earners are determined to unite with the owners; we will discuss together, we will make mutual concessions, in such a viray as to guarantee the interests of the two parties and to concentrate our forces, to fight with the whole people against the common enemy of the nation.
If this is necessary to "achieve the revolution" lets have a picture of the situation of working people after the “revolution”:
[we, the NLF, will], institute a Labor Code; apply the 8-hour day and institute a system of paid vacations. Establish rational wages and a system of bonuses that favor an increase in production. Ameliorate the living conditions of the blue- and white-collar workers. Institute a regime of adequate remuneration for apprentices. Give work to poor workers; struggle actively for the end of unemployment. Institute social security to watch over the health of workers and to come to their aid in case of illness, incapacity, or old age and retirement. [/i]Regulate the difference between owner and worker by means of negotiation and mediation by the democratic national administration[/i]. Formally prevent bodily infliction of wounds on workers as well as fines taken out of wages and lay-offs without cause. [our emphasis] (The NLF symbol of Independence, Democracy and Peace in Vietnam. Hanoi, 1967, pp. 80-81, quoted in the Solidarity Pamphlet.

In other words, nothing that the Ford Motor Company and George Meany would disagree with.

Of course the NLF fans will say: “That’s just a program; after the victory the power will go to the communists in the NLF.” Although this is probably true, it does not mean that the problems of Vietnamese working people will be solved. For them, an NLF victory would mean the creation of a sort of socialism not very different from that which already exists in Russia, China, or Cuba: i.e., State Capitalist system in which the working class has a part of its own labor expropriated in the form of “socialist” capital. Whether done under state capitalism or under an economic system more closely lied to Western “free market” capitalism, development means accumulation of capital under the same social relations of production — i.e. one group of people does all the work, and another group of people decides what to do with the products of the labor. So accumulation means exploitation of working people. The end of all forms of exploitation can only be brought about by the working class of the developed countries: when it abolishes its exploitation it will abolish the domination of its capitalism over the backward areas and the population there.

Root & Branch No. 3 (1971), pp. 27-33.


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