[Marxism] Re: A Vietnamese critique of the Iraqi resistance

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at hn.vnn.vn
Mon Nov 14 05:15:13 MST 2005

Regarding Fred's comments on the critique of the Iraqi resistance by
Tran Dac Loi from the Vietnamese Communist Party which I sent to the GL
list and marxmail, first I assume Fred understands that by sending it
I'm not necessarily endorsing what he says, indeed I agree with Fred
that some aspects seem a little strange, such as the suggestion that
Iraq needs a Ho Chi Minh type figure (not that the extraordinary role of
a Ho, a Fidel, a Lenin or a Chavez can be discounted, but it's obviously
no formula)

I also think Fred is undoubtedly correct that in this type of interview
we don't exactly know what Tran said, because some of it is simply what
Glantz claims he said. In particular, the claim by Glantz that Tran more
or less says it is impossible for the Iraqi resistance to win due its
shortcomings, which Fred objects to, is not a quote. We don't even know
how good Tran's English is, or whether there was an interpreter etc. For
example, if Tran said something like, due to these shortcomings,
"victory will be difficult", he may well mean that victory will present
a whole new set of difficulties, due to the bourgeois nationalist,
sectarian and clerical nature of * elements * of the resistance, he may
not be predicting how soon the invader can be expelled, we just don't

However, I think Fred has overreacted somewhat to a communist and a
revolutionary, who just happens to live in Vietnam, expressing some
political views on the nature of the problems, as he sees it, of the
Iraqi resistance, especially as many things he says have been said by
many, if not most, leftists in imperialist countries, including on these

In no way is there any suggestion of not supporting the resistance to
expel the US occupiers, on the contrary, his views are put in the
context of how he sees the difficulties involved in driving out the
occupier caused by the problems he sees with the resistance leadership.
This is merely an interview in a French left-wing paper, where he merely
"exercises his right as a world citizen to disagree strongly with"
certain policies/aspects of the resistance leadership, to paraphrase
Fred expressing his disagreements with Tran. Why Fred deems that to be
"undiplomatic" I'm not sure.

(As for the implication by Jscotlive that Tran's expressing of his views
amounts to a refusal to support the struggle, that's just so much crap.
Maybe I am misreading him, but otherwise I'm not sure what "The Iraqi
resistance, at this point in history, is holding the line against US
imperialism. Even if for this reason alone, we must support it
wholeheartedly and unequivocally" is supposed to mean in this context
unless it means Jscotlive thinks the VCP doesn't do this. Maybe he
should reread the interview.)

I don't think anyone has shown that they have a crystal clear
understanding of everything going on inside Iraq and inside the
resistance. There have clearly at times been cases of Sunni-Shia
collaboration against the enemy, particularly in some of the more mixed
central regions, but it does not seem to me that overall, the momentum
of the Sadr-led uprising in Najaf and elsewhere during the first massive
US assault on Fallujah, has been sustained or developed into a
nationwide united Iraqi Arab insurgency against the invader (the Kurds,
of course, are a different nation, whether some on marxmail think this
*fact* is a "good idea" or not). Nick Halliday on marxmail continually
implies it has developed this way, and I would much love him to be
proven correct, but he tends to make these statements without any clear
evidence. He may be correct, but just because many communists the world
over, not only Vietnamese communists, don't quite see it that way, does
not mean that this disagreement with such an assessment implies lack of
support for the resistance.

Tran clearly refers to two organizations, that of Sadr among the Shia,
and the Association of Muslim Scholars among the Sunni. He does not
denounce them as "Islamic fanatics' as a large part of the western left
do, he even assesses some positive points about them, but believes they
have difficulty recruiting outside their sectarian bases. This may or
may not be correct, but he is clearly saying this from the point of view
that such sectarian division is not a good thing from the point of view
of defeating the US, something that many others have said before,
including Fred Feldman on many occasions.

For example, and this directly quoting him, "The absence of a clear
political programme is in the interest of the U.S.," Tran said. "Then,
they can go above you and pretend like they're solving the problems
between you, when really they're lording over you." How many others here
have made the point that the US will try to use divide and rule tactics?
Is that really controversial? Further, if we can believe Glantz, "It is
a classic case of divide and rule. Indeed, from the start of the
occupation, the U.S. government actively encouraged the Iraqi people to
organise themselves along sectarian lines." Sure I've seen that loads of
times on marxmail. Funnily enough, Jscotlive even says, regarding the US
occupiers, that they utilize "the exploitation of ethnic, cultural
and/or religious differences amongst the population and the resistance",
ie, he says the same as Tran, in his contribution "disagreeing" with
Tran. Of course, if you are a writer for marxmail, you inevitably have
more rights to express the same opinions than people that have actually
downed imperialism.

The fact that Tran specifically refers to certain organizations means,
from my understanding of when VN leaders talk, that they have probably
had direct contact with them. VN leaders tend not to simply talk about
organizations or people they know nothing about. These views are based,
I believe, on their own research.

Fred asks if this is the line of the VCP. I'm not sure, does Fred mean
whether the VCP agrees with every letter that Tran expresses? The line
of the VCP, like that of Tran, is opposition to the occupation and
support for the struggle the throw the occupier out. Do all 2.5 million
members of the VCP have the same assessment of the strength and
political character of various Iraqi resistance groups? Not likely, we
don't even have that on marxmail and GL list.

Where Tran allegedly says "the fighters' regular killings of innocent
civilians are sickening and counterproductive ...When we fought, we only
fought against the ones who fought us. Civilians were never our
targets", this is beyond question the view of the VCP, and generally the
reaction of ordinary Vietnamese to such "tactics". That is also the
Cuban position, again, as clearly expressed in Jscotlive's post, where
he quotes delegates to the Cuban NA saying "whilst they do not support
suicide attacks on civilians, there is no doubt that the popular
resistance in Iraq has prevented the US from attacking Syria, Iran,
Venezuela and even Cuba."

Moreover, if we are assessing the extent to which sectarianism is
helping the US play divide and rule, the fact that a great many of these
attacks on civilians have been absolutely *reactionary* attacks on
Shiite mosques and pilgrimages tends to strongly support Tran's views re
the shortcomings of the resistance. Incidentally, whatever Nick Halliday
thinks about the great unity, the fact that Sadr regularly adds "death
to Saddam Hussein" to his "US out" slogans also suggests that this great
unity may yet be a little more elusive than we would like (not that I
necessarily think "death to Hussein" is not understandable coming from a
leader of the Shiite community, just that I think important sections of
the Sunni resistance leadership would disagree).

Moreover, in terms of the kinds of pressure the Vietnamese are under,
and regarding the question of 'diplomacy', let's look at it more
broadly. Vietnam's crawl out of economic utter underdevelopment and
destruction in the post Cold war period has been partly dependent on an
outwardly 'pragmatic' foreign policy, emphasizing diplomatic and trade
relations with all. This has never prevented their unstinting solidarity
with Cuba and Palestine, for example, but it means they are careful
about how much outward support they give to revolutionary movements (as
opposed to actual support, which, let me assure you, is there). There
are many in the VN leadership who in fact have allowed this atmosphere
to 'bend' them in the direction of actual, rather than just outward,
pragmatism. In my opinion, the fact that this leader is making a
forthright support to the resistance to throw out the invader should be
welcomed. Vietnamese leaders have not all been so outward in many cases
(as opposed to strong opposition to the invasion and occupation itself,
support for the resistance is often less obvious in public statements)

The guy making these statements, Tran Dac Loi, was quoted in Peoples
Daily at the Venezuela world festival recently:

'One of the most remarkable speakers following Rabelo was Tran Dac Loi
from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Loi condemned U.S. imperialism's
"aggressive program of military buildup and pre-emptive attacks against
Afghanistan and Iraq."

"Bush says he's bringing democracy to the world," Loi said, "but what
kind of democracy is he talking about? Is it about how much money you
have? Is it about invading and occupying Iraq over the opposition of the
world's people? Does it mean ignoring the UN General Assembly
resolutions on Cuba and Palestine?

"That is not the democracy we want. We want democracy for the people,
not the rich. For people, not money. For people, not big corporations!"

"Socialism is not only possible, but also viable," Loi said. "Look at
Cuba, which provides among the best health care and education for its
people anywhere. Look at Vietnam, which continues to make economic
advances, and which has been cited by the UN as the country that has
been the most successful in the world in reducing poverty."

Loi said, "Not only has our economy grown under socialism, but we've
also been able to solve many social problems that seemed insoluble
before. It only shows that people can manage power better than the

'Noting that this year is the 30th anniversary of the defeat of U.S.
imperialism in Vietnam, Loi said, "We salute our brothers and sisters
fighting for national liberation and freedom in Palestine, Iraq,
Venezuela, Brazil and elsewhere. Remember: Imperialism can be defeated.
Socialism can be built!" (
http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/6568/1/256 )

Hopefully, this puts Fred more in the picture when he asks about who he
is, and the fact that he is obviously someone really very much on our
side, in case VN leaders have to show that.

But Vietnam has also been under other opposite pressures. On the one
hand, the VCP has official relations, due to old times, with the Iraqi
Communist Party, the quisling group in the Iraqi regime. They have
recently been in Hanoi at conferences, quite isolated from what I've
heard, in their attempt to get support for their policy of
collaboration. Tran clearly reflects the VCP's rejection of that.

On the other hand, Vietnam also had good relations with the Iraqi Baath,
for better of for worse, due to the imperialist siege of Iraq for so
many years (the Iraqi Baath were represented at the 9th National
Congress of the VCP in 2001, for example), and so based on an abstract
"anti-imperialism", one could imagine the VCP simply adopting a
pro-bourgeois nationalist position without criticism, especially when it
comes to things like "national unity" which many third world bourgeois
nationalists, some Stalinists and some on marxmail often fall into, for
example denouncing the Kurdish nation as essentially
counterrevolutionary for not wanting to continue to be ruled
oppressively by some other nation's bourgeosie. I think Tran is actually
being quite politically astute, and thinking outside a traditional "box"
that many Stalinist originated parties fitted into, when he allegedly

"Tran thinks that the lack of a pan-ethnic political programme can cause
minority groups to ally with the occupier in order to ensure that their
cultural rights are protected. In Iraq, this has caused the Kurds, and
their more than 100,000 'peshmerga' guerillas, to side with the U.S."

Clearly, Tran is not supporting the alliance of the reactionary Kurdish
leadership with the occupier, which includes taking part in the siege of
Fallujah for example. However, he very astutely situates this policy of
the Kurdish leadership within the justified fears of the Kurdish people
of being ruled by any of the Sunni or Shiite bourgeois forces, whether
pro- or anti- occupation, given that none of them have unequivocally
given support to Kurdish aspirations for their own liberation, "to
ensure their cultural rights are protected" as Tran puts it. Of course
the reactionary leadership taking part in the US war is a different
matter to the Kurdish people's desire for "cultural rights" or autonomy,
or independence, whichever they see fit, and Tran is clearly stating
that the leadership's alliance with the occupier is bad for the

Tran very diplomatically calls the problem leading to the alienation of
the Kurds one of "the lack of a pan-ethnic political program", ie a
program that appeals to all "ethnic" or religious groups in Iraq. I
would take that one step further. The lack of unequivocal support to the
right of the Kurds to self-determination, including independence,
weakens the resistance by allowing the reactionary Kurdish leadership to
use the justified fears of the Kurdish people to ally with imperialism.
I congratulate Tran for making this important political point, and also
for being "diplomatic" enough to not have to spell it out. I think it
shows some important thinking of the VCP on such issues.

At the same time, I repeat I think there were also some not so fantastic
ideas in the interview allegedly expressed by Tran, but after all, he
was just utilising his democratic rights to express some opinions.

Michael Karadjis

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