VIETNAM: Understanding vs. emotion -- Do demonstrations have value?


Understanding vs. emotion
Do demonstrations have value?

Despite the manifold problems with which the disintegrating capitalist system daily confronts the people of this nation (above all the working class), the number-one subject on the minds of most people currently is Vietnam. There obviously is a growing concern that this "miserable little war" may yet prove to be the spark that will set off the holocaust that could destroy our civilization and all humanity. Nor is this fear confined to the people of these United States. It is a fear that prevails throughout the entire world.

This has been demonstrated by the many "protest movements" that have attracted so much attention throughout this nation and the world -- the "teach-ins," the antiwar parades, the "civil disobedience" demonstrations, etc.

Basically, these movements are an expression of social unrest They are born of the insecurity and frustration that permeate our entire society. The participants in these movements are for the most part no doubt sincere and deeply concerned about their own futures, as well as the future of society generally. Conscious of the fact that the Vietnam war could escalate into a full-scale nuclear holocaust, they denounce the immorality of that war specifically. In doing so they have exposed some of the hypocrisies that have been resorted to in the attempt to justify the Administration's policies in Vietnam. But primarily they concentrate on demanding that the U.S. "stop the war in Vietnam."

Unfortunately, the demonstrators lack an understanding of the true nature of the problems confronting them. They completely ignore the basic cause of war. In fact, they disdainfully reject every effort made to call it to their attention as "dogmatic sectarianism." The result is that they are split up into dozens of factions and jerry-built "organizations." Since none of them is based on a correct theory or premise, they cannot establish any unifying princlple. This in turn makes it impossible for them to adopt any workable program or seek an attainable goal. All of them vociferously proclaim their desire to eliminate an evil, but not one of them attacks the cause of that evil. The result is that despite all the protests, parades, demonstrations, etc., the war in Vietnam has been, and is being, steadily escalated.

What the demonstrators and paraders need more than anything else is a sound knowledge and understanding of the nature of the capitalist system and its inherent compulsions to war. They have to learn that "hatred of war" and "love of peace," no matter how widely, or how loudly, or how frequently proclaimed, cannot halt or eliminate war. They must learn that they are wasting their time and efforts in hacking at the branches of evil and leaving the root-cause untouched. And they must learn what must be done to replace the war-breeding capitalist system with the sane Socialist society.


The repeated crises to which the world is being continuously subjected are not caused by men. There is a more basic cause, one that explains why as one crisis subsides another flares up, and one that also explains why all these crises follow a pattern that has become almost monotonous. This is not to say that men do not play their part, sometimes hastening, sometimes slowing the pace of events and their immediate consequences. The really determining factors, however, are social forces that exert an irresistible pressure on both men and events.

The world in which we live is dominated by two giant imperialist camps. Capitalist America and its "allies" constitute one of these camps -- the "Western" camp. The despotic Sino-Russian State Bureaucracies and their satellites constitute the other -- the "Eastern" camp. There are, of course, periodic clashes of material interests within each camp, but this does not alter the basic, overriding conflict that is raging between the Western and Eastern imperialist camps in many widespread areas of the world.

The two giant imperialist camps are engaged in a "death struggle." Each is determined to survive, to maintain its ruling-class privileges and to dominate the world. The stakes are enormous. They are nothing less than control of the markets and riches of the earth and of the producing workers everywhere. Both camps possess the means for totally destroying one another. With each crisis they move closer and closer to open conflict -- to the point of mutual destruction.

In the worldwide conflict between these two colossi, all other nations are mere pawns. Some are potential markets; others are sources of raw materials; still others are strategically located along the important trade routes and are considered essential to their defense; many are areas for profitable investment. All of them are "battlefields" on which the Bast and West are clashing for imperialist objectives.

Vietnam is one of the pawns -- one of these "battlefields" where the "cold war" has erupted into a "hot war." It is an effect of the worldwide conflict, not the cause. Even If the Vietnam war was somehow "neutralized," even if some sort of agreement was reached and respected, as in Korea, the peril to the peace and continued existence of the civilized world would remain. Sooner or later, and probably sooner than later, the next crisis would erupt in some other area of the world.


It is against this background that the Vietnam war must be considered. It is not an individual or isolated problem. It is not, as claimed by capitalist spokesmen, a question of preserving a democratic regime. It is not a defense of the "free world." It is not a case of "good guys" versus "bad guys." It has nothing to do with "national honor," nor with the so-called "integrity of the American commitment." It has nothing to do with morality or justice. It has nothing to do with freedom or liberty. It has nothing to do with "national security" or "national liberation."

It has everything to do with coldly calculated material interests. With world markets. With sources of natural resources essential to capitalist survival. With spheres of influence. With lines of communication and trade. With areas of profitable investment. In short, it has everything to do with "hot ... commercial [capitalist] and industrial rivalry." It is one of the consequences of the compulsion inherent in capitalism, specifically, and class-divided society, generally.


Consequently, even if the Vietnam crisis were to subside by mutual agreement into an uneasy truce, the larger conflict would continue unabated. Such a truce would indicate that the fear of a nuclear cataclysm still exerted a powerful influence on both imperialist camps. It would but provide the world with another "breathing spell." But each "breathing spell" gets shorter and shorter; each crisis more and more critical. We are rapidly approaching the "point of no return." The fact remains: When panic-stricken men play with dynamite, explosions are all too likely to take place.

This is the mess in which the world finds itself today, brought about by the outmoded and decadent capitalist system and its class-divided blood brother, bureaucratic State Despotism. Neither of them is capable of serving the needs or assuring the safety, freedom and security of the overwhelming majority, the international working class. Both serve the interests of miniscule ruling classes only, and in doing so they threaten to drag all civilization and all humanity into the abyss.

Insofar as the American plutocracy and its political State are concerned, the war in Vietnam is an illegal war. It is being conducted hi violation of their own basic law, the Constitution of the United States. Only Congress has the legal power to declare war.


Only one thing can prevent the catastrophe toward which the world is heading. That is the establishment of genuine international Socialism. There is no acceptable alternative. We must establish a society in which private ownership of the means of life will be replaced by social ownership and democratic control; in which production for sale and the profit of a few will be replaced by production for the benefit and use of all; in which the outmoded political form of government (the State) will be replaced by an industrial form of government. This is the only way we can end the economic ruling-class rivalries that lead to war and the recurring economic crises that increase the compulsions to war.

Socialism will be the opposite of capitalism and of bureaucratic State despotism. Poverty, insecurity, unemployment will be eliminated. War-breeding struggles for markets will be a thing of the past. Totalitarianism will be impossible. Everyone will lead a full life, contributing his or her fair share of the work and receiving his or her fair share of the total social product. We shall have laid the material and economic foundation for social harmony, peace, plenty and liberty, on the basis Of international human brotherhood.

The Socialist Labor Party, does not question the sincerity of many of the protesters. It is act disdainful of that sincerity. But it is duty bound to point out that sincerity is not the issue. Sincerity is like the good intentions that pave the road to hell. Undisciplined by sound knowledge and theory, sentiment runs riot and commits tragic errors. When the looked-for result is not soon achieved the "movement" based on sentiment alone -- sincere or otherwise -- collapses like a pierced balloon.

To conclude: Sentiment and emotion for a good cause are laudable. But without a sound premise and attainable goal, they can only lead to failure and despair. The crying need of our time is not parades, or demonstrations for limited and impossible objectives, but determined, unrelenting action to awaken the American working class to the imperative need for a Socialist reconstruction of society, and to enlighten them on the principles and program for accomplishing that social change in a peaceful, civilized manner. At this late hour on the social clock it is the only way to strike a decisive blow for peace and freedom for the workers of all nations, on both sides of the Iron Curtain. All else is futile and hopeless.

From every logical standpoint the United States is best qualified to lead the world to Socialism. Space does not permit a detailed explanation of the Socialist Labor Party's program for establishing a Socialist society of peace, plenty and freedom for all. Send for additional literature. Use the coupon below.