45 years ago, on April 30, 1975, the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people came to a successful conclusion: a small and determined country defeated the imperialist goliath, the United States. Ho Chi Minh, an outstanding Marxist-Leninist and the architect of Vietnam’s struggle for national liberation, famously stated, “Nothing is more precious than freedom and independence.” On that spring day, Saigon, the capital of the south, was no more. Ho Chi Minh City was born.
Several weeks earlier, on April 18, the liberation forces in Cambodia defeated the U.S. puppet regime of Lon Nol. Later that year, Laos would gain genuine independence. These combined victories, particularly the win in Vietnam, were events of historic proportions. One U.S. president after another – first Kennedy, then Johnson, and finally Nixon, systematically escalated the war so that by 1969 more than half a million U.S. troops were present. U.S. B-52s carried out ‘carpet bombings’ and by 1974 the U.S. had dropped more bombs that in the entirety of World War II. The entire history of U.S. intervention in Vietnam was nothing short of criminal.
In 1967, the great Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong anticipated Vietnam’s success, stating, “Your victory manifests once again that a nation, big or small, can defeat any enemy, however powerful provided only that it fully mobilizes its people, relies firmly on the people, and wages a people’s war. By their war against U.S. aggression and for national salvation under the wise and able leadership of the great leader President Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese people have set a brilliant example for the oppressed peoples and oppressed nations the world over in their struggle for liberation.” And that was exactly what happened.
There are other factors that contributed to Vietnam’s victory. The socialist countries provided real assistance. The weapons and personnel sent by People’s China, the Soviet Union, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and others helped. So did the solidarity expressed by people all over the world.
In the United States, the leading section of the anti-war movement was in fact in solidarity with Vietnam and the valiant National Liberation Front (NLF). Hundreds of thousands of students and youth supported the slogan, “Victory to the NLF,” and NLF flags were everywhere. There are some who want to sanitize history and forget the fact that one of the main chants at anti-war demonstrations was, “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF is sure to win.” Among U.S. troops in Vietnam, a wave of resistance grew. While it was not decisive, this mosaic of resistance and solidarity – worldwide – helped the Vietnamese achieve victory.
Revolutionaries in the U.S. owe the peoples of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos a debt of gratitude. Their struggle for national liberation helped to create a new communist movement in U.S. The example of Vietnam, the rising power of national liberation movements, and the example of socialist countries like People’s China had a profound effect on the student, anti-war, Black, Chicano, Asian American and other oppressed nationality movements. There was wave of activists who wanted to bring down U.S. imperialism and who decided to take up Marxism-Leninism. The result was the creation of serious revolutionary organizations like the League of Revolutionary Struggle, the Revolutionary Union, October League, Black Workers Congress and so many others. Today, Freedom Road Socialist Organization is carrying forward the best aspects of the new communist movement. Proudly, and without apologies.
Reflecting on the struggle of the Vietnamese people, there are real lessons for us today. We need to be working class internationalists. We live in a country ruled by a clique of monopoly capitalists that still command an empire. Whatever weakens that empire is good for all working and oppressed people, and that includes people right here at home. The Communist Party of the Philippines is waging a people’s war against U.S.-backed regime of regime of President Duterte. In the Middle East, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is helping to spearhead the fight to end the Israeli/U.S. occupation. From Syria to Venezuela, efforts are underway to break the chains of imperialism.
45 years ago, Vietnam showed the world what was possible and it is important to remember that today. Trump and his corporate backers are doomed. Capitalism is a failed system.
It is like Mao said about U.S. in the 1960s, “However, all reactionary forces on the verge of extinction invariably conduct desperate struggles. They are bound to resort to military adventure and political deception in all their forms in order to save themselves from extinction. And the revolutionary peoples are bound to meet with all kinds of difficulties before final victory. Nevertheless, all these difficulties can be surmounted, and no difficulty can ever obstruct the advance of the revolutionary people. Perseverance means victory.”