Bring the Troops Home Now/Support the Troops

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jul 24 08:09:44 MDT 2003


DMS wrote:
> 1. The anti-war movement neither precipitated the withdrawal
> of US troops nor did it shorten the war in Vietnam.  Self-
> aggrandizing delusion is a narcissistic disorder.  The
> precipitating force behind the anti-war movement's leap
> in popularity, the opening of the Paris peace talks, the
> suspension of bombing, LBJ's withdrawal from the election,
> disengagement of US ground forces was simply that the US
> HAD LOST CONTROL OF THE BATTLEFIELD.

But that's not what the NLF and the North Vietnamese government said.
They said repeatedly that the antiwar demonstrations were very important
to their struggle. When I was interviewed by the BBC, I had no time to
get into this but one of the big differences between Vietnam and Iraq is
the utter failure of the Ba'athist Party/Movement, both before the war
and now, to build ties with progressive forces in the west. More to the
point, this is a government that had very little sense of public
relations of any sort. The Minister of Information was proof of that.
The Serbs were not much better, for that matter.

By contrast, the Cubans, the ANC, the FSLN and the FMLN were far more
adroit. Of course, all this is rooted in class.

> Despite the physical destruction of NLF/PRG forces,
> a destruction that took years to recover from, the TET
> offensive was the watershed event as it proved that
> loss of control of the battlefield.  Coupled with the
> siege of Khe Sanh (I don't want no damn Dienbienphu, said LBJ)
> the battle of Hue, and the extended combat in the
> Cholon district of Saigon, the TET offensive made very
> clear just who had the initiative and who could withstand
> the costs of combat.

But this is not true at all. The Tet offensive was very, very costly to
the NLF. It was never able to take the intiative after this. The main
gain was political. It demonstrated to the world that the USA was not in
control of the situation. As it turned out, the initiative did pass to
the revolutionary side but only to the North Vietnamese fighters who
began to figure more prominently after Tet.

> 2. BTTHN was the slogan of recuperation for US capitalism as
> it said more than nothing about the class nature of the war,
> smothering instead any such discussion in sympathy, patriotism,
> sharing the pain of "our troops."

Bring the Troops Home Now was a slogan of recuperation for US
capitalism? That's odd. Not a single Senator favored immediate
withdrawal, or this slogan which was simply a popularization. Every
candidate for president in both parties favored some kind of
Vietnamization, or occupation by the UN, etc. In other words, the same
kind of divisions that exist today between Moveon.org/Howard Dean
existed back then. Our goal should be to draw as many activists as
possible under the slogans like OUT NOW, END THE OCCUPATION or BRING THE
TROOPS HOME NOW. There is *no other slogan* that makes sense.

> 3. The significance of the anti-war movement, its importance,
> was certainly not achieved in BTTHN as the war raged on with
> a staggering human toll.  That is a historical fact. The
> significance of the anti-war movement, as with all protest
> movements, is in WHAT IT MIGHT HAVE BECOME. What it might have
> become requires posing the issue in class terms, devoid of
> a shred of patriotism.  Individual sympathies are perfectly
> appropriate for individuals in discussion about individuals
> in distress.  That doesn't change the class origins of the
> distress and what the tactical, strategic, programmatic
> response must be to relieve the distress collectively.

Unfortunately, 95 percent of the demonstrators had no understanding
whatsover of the Marxist term "class". Most were politically
unsophisticated students or working people who thought that they were
"middle class" in terms of income as learned in Sociology 101. Side by
side, there was a possibility for the growth of a socialist movement
that was based on class, but that promise was destroyed by sectarianism.

> 4. Would anyone here who supports "Support OUR Troops, Bring
> Them Home Now" advocate that slogan for the British Army in
> Ireland?  For the British Army in the Malvinas?  For the US
> SOGs in Colombia, Venezuela, Jordan, Iran?  Support our
> terrorists, bring them home now... so what?  So they can teach
> at the school of the Americas?  IF the response is that there
> is a difference between the SOGs and the rank and file of the
> infantry, what is that difference?  It's a class difference
> and so we ought to speak clearly to those class distinctions
> and avoid all obsuring notions of patriotism, etc.

If 500,000 people showed up in Washington, DC on October 25th under the
banner "Support OUR Troops, Bring Them Home Now" led by a contingent of
active duty servicemen in uniform just returned from Iraq, you're darn
tootin' I'd advocate that. It was demonstrations just like that in 1971
that began to turn the tide of opinion against continuing the war in
Vietnam. It doesn't matter that you say, "Support Our Troops". Social
patriotism is really about *support* for the occupation under leftish
rhetoric and nothing else. We will have that battle on our hands with
forces like moveon.org and the Nation Magazine. Let's not be confused
about who our true ideological adversaries are. If you can put together
a massive coalition that can turn out the numbers we saw before the war
broke out, we *can* make a difference, especially in light of the
growing disillusionment with the war.



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