[Marxism] Why is 'Out Now!' weak?

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Wed Aug 16 10:38:57 MDT 2006

I found M. Junaid Alam's critique of "Out Now" as a slogan aimed at masses
of people in the United States based on geopolitical considerations to be
disarmingly naive.

The most important thing about Vietnam and Iraq is what they have in common:
occupation by U.S. troops and a desire of the natives to be rid of said
occupation, being expressed through means such as bombs and bullets.

As for the rest of it, the military structures, the Cold War world, and so
on, I know the compa is too young to have lived through those days. To HIM
it seems like a "Communist Vietnam," or indeed a "Communist SouthEast Asia"
was something that could easily be accommodated by strategic U.S.
geopolitical interests. But that was not the attitude of the American

Communism was absolute evil incarnate. Even when I was in High School, well
after the peak of the McCarthy hysteria, there was a state-government
mandates "Americanism versus Communism" indoctrination course that everyone
had to take in Florida. Geopolitics had nothing to do with it. It was Right
versus Wrong, Christianity versus Godlessness. And for those that respondd
with the irrelevance of Vietnam to anything that might materially aid U.S.
prosperity, and, yes, the U.S. was prosperous at the time, and was expected
to become increasingly prosperous, with the standard of living of working
people having been transformed qualitatively in a generation (1945-1965),
there was the Domino Theory.

A crude oversimplification to be sure -- but this was the lived experience
of those at the time. The eldest remembered a world wihout the scourge of
Communism. Those in middle age, our parents, recalled the world where
communism was a strictly Russian aberration. By the mid-1960's, Communism
had spread, first to Eastern Europe, on Red Army bayonets, then to China and
North Korea and North Vietnam, then to Cuba, and a lot of those newly
independent countries in Asia and Africa looked awful pink.

Communism had to be stopped simply because by 1965, another 20 years like
the previous 20 years would mean more than half of the world living under
Communism, and 20 years more and the light of freedom would be extinguished
everywhere on the globe.

And Communism was powerful, Communism was high-tech, once established you
could not get rid of it, or at least no one had yet discovered how.
Communism had put the first satellite in orbit, had put the first man in
space, had more and better and more powerful missiles than we did, had
better infantry rifles than we did, they were indoctrinated living dead
fanatics willing to die by the millions.

It may well be true that at least some ruling-class strategists were able to
cut through the all-encompassing fog of propaganda and ideology generated by
the Cold War, but for the masses, those were the realities, insofar as they
understood or cared about such things.

The idea that "Out Now" faced fewer obstacles to its acceptance among masses
of people then rather than now is, to me, risible.

For one thing, the United states has gone through Vietnam, and we know, it
is part of the collective experience of the American people even though
those who lived through that epoch are now in their 50's or more, that the
government and the whole ideology of anticommunism was a lie. The cynism and
distrust of government, which continues to be eloquently expressed in any
public opinion poll you care to consult, has become a permanent feature of
American Politics. More people --many more-- can vote but fewer do. Look at
the turnout patterns and you will see the big change came with Vietnam and
its aftermath. 

It took years for the Gulf of Tonkin incident to begin to be questioned and
then debunked. The questioning of even 9/11, and the whole official "war
against terrorism" shtick, was immediate. 

Consider last week's London Airport terror scare. Nespapers and magazines,
broadcast and cable tv all trumpeted the message be afraid: be very afraid.
The reaction of the people was, "whatever." Just go back and look at this
list, it was as if nothing happened.

The kinds of considerations being raised --the geopolitics of oil, the exact
character of the resistance movement in Iraq as contrasted to Vietnam, and
so on, are all things far beyond the interest of ordinary Americans. The
American public today is far less educated than the public of those years,
which had been the target of a concerted ruling class campaign to stamp out
isolationism. Not that, taken as a whole, the average American understood
much of anything about the world, even then. But certainly today, all these
things are way off the radar screen of typical Americans.

*  *  *

A search for the causes of the differences between the reaction to the
Vietnam War and this war needs to go deeper. This isn't it.


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