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Victory To The Indochinese
While the peoples of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos have the national differences through the centuries, they have united in their struggle against a common external enemy, whether that enemy was French colonialism or its replacement, US imperialism. No matter which foreign power was trying to exploit their countries, the people of Indochina have demanded and heroically fought for freedom from exploitation, for existence as independent countries free from foreign domination and interference, and for the rights to use the resources of their countries for their own peoples. As the second anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreements of Vietnam (and, a month later, the Agreement on Laos) approaches, the peoples of Indochina continue their struggle again imperialism, no loner the brutal military power of the US government, but the many schemes and devices used by the US government to prevent the Indochinese from achieving liberation.
Much of this struggle goes on in the small villages and hamlets of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam where, in large liberated areas people are working to repair the damages of decades of war and meet the immediate needs of their people. Health care, childcare, decent housing, schools, hospitals all have been a major part of the peoples' struggles during the past year though they have gotten little public notice, particularly in the US. The way in which the governments and the people of the liberated zones work to meet the needs of the people, in contrast to the way in which the Thieu and Lon Nol governments scramble to hold on to their vanishing power, points to the essence of the liberation struggle.
Though President Thieu and his tottering government are not the only problems facing the people of South Vietnam, Thieu represents the main enemy. Isolated from the people, confronted by setbacks and unsolvable problems on every military and domestic front, Thieu and his cronies try with the substantial help of the US government, to maintain their narrow perch of power.
*On the battlefield, Thieu's forces continue to lose ground and men. In early December battles were taking place in Ba Xuyen Province, deep in the Mekong Delta. This rice rich area, with the capability of producing three separate rice crops a year, has long been a food source for Saigon. Victories by the Liberation Forces there will intensify the economic crisis which has already reached disaster proportions in Thieu's capitol stronghold. The provincial capital of Tay Ninh, 65 miles northwest of Saigon, has also come under increasing pressure from Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) forces. According to statistics from the Saigon government (which means they are distorted to make Thieu look good as possible), there have been well over 2000 casualties among the Thieu forces just during the early December fighting. US-supplied planes, bombs, and other military hardware have been in heavy use, but the PRG forces continue to move forward as Thieu's followers grow more and more isolated inside the large cities.
*On the domestic front Thieu is under mounting pressure; thousands of people are demonstrating in the streets for an end to his corrupt regime. Despite government bans on open demonstrations, there have been almost daily marches and rallies, many of them in cities and towns outside of Saigon and therefore seldom even mentioned in the US press. Three newspapers which printed statements dealing with the corrupt practices of Thieu and his family were charged with "defaming" Thieu; but the trial of these papers is consistently delayed by the government for fear of sparking greater resistance. Rallies and demonstrations followed the initial charges against the papers, protesting censorship of the press as well as the corruption in the government. In response the government banned all demonstrations.
In a perfect example of repression breeding resistance, this government action caused more demonstrations. As reported by one newsman who found himself in the vicinity of one "banned" demonstration, "First we were surrounded by Vietnamese children--someone had shouted 'CIA bastards. Surround them.' One of us spoke Vietnamese and assured them that we were journalists. The teenagers smiled and one of them yelled 'Down with Thieu.' We asked if the police had them barricaded in, but they said No, the people have the police barricaded inside." In their barbed-wire shelter the riot police were being bombarded by rocks.
*Economically the Thieu regime is in deep trouble, and that trouble will only get worse with increasing military pressure. Inflation, unemployment--all the problems which affect a country whose economy is tied to US imperialism--are present. For Thieu and his government, however, there are special problems which have grown out of the US presence. In 196, 15% of the population lived in the cities; when the Agreements were signed, the figure was up to 45%. Some of this mass migration was the result of US bombing; some was the result of government programs designed to try to remove the population from the rural centers of PRG liberation activity. The government has been wholly unable to deal with the problem, most noticeably in Saigon where there are growing neighborhoods of shacks built on stilts above the canals and marshes. According to Thieu's Minister of Public Works, "Right now we do not destroy any slum area. We leave them there, we forget them. We do not provide them with water or power--we forget them." This "concern" for the people stands in sharp contrast to the liberated zones where the PRG and the people work together for their common needs, rebuilding areas destroyed by the US and building anew to improve their common existence.
*US aid, the glue which holds the Thieu government together, has been cut as the mass pressure of the American people works on the US Congress. Thieu's Saigon terror police no longer have enough gas to put down the demonstrators. His troops are restless, discouraged, morale is bad--limitless supplies of things like ammunition are no longer available.
Since the US government no longer has completely free hand in passing out the taxpayers dollars to Thieu and his gang, it has had to turn to other devices to maintain Thieu in power. Much of the resistance to Thieu, especially in the cities, has been coming from the Third Force, a number of people from different strata of the Vietnamese society. They are potentially the neutralist government which could bring about the implementation of the Paris Agreements consistently violated by Thieu. This Third Force whose aims are supported by the PRG was behind many of the demonstrations in September and October. Suddenly one of the individual leaders, Rev Tran Huu Thanh, the leader of a Catholic anti-corruption group, called for an end to all demonstrations. And, though he had earlier been calling for Thieu's ouster, he also backtracked on that demand. Rev Thanh had at one time conducted courses in anti-communist indoctrination for the Saigon Army; now, in collusion with Thieu and the US government, he temporarily confused and slowed the growing resistance inside Saigon.
But all the US maneuvers are not going to be successful. The people of Vietnam have demonstrated already that they are not going to accept the domination of US imperialism. As expressed by Le Duc Tho, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam negotiator at the Paris conference, "The US and the Thieu administration try to sabotage all movements aimed at corruption, oppression and for the application of the Paris agreements...The South Vietnamese people's struggle against exploitation and oppression of the Thieu regime will certainly be successful."
A year after the signing of the "Agreement of Restoring Peace and Achieving National Concord in Laos" (which took place on Feb 21, 1973), a coalition government was formed in that country. As in Vietnam, the US government has attempted to subvert the implementation of the Agreement which recognizes the Lao Patriotic Front (LPF) as the legitimate government of the liberated zones (80% of the country), gives the LPF equal representation in the government, and gives the LPF control of half the city administrations, police forces, and defense forces of the country's two largest population centers. CIA activities continue in Laos (particularly in the form of economies manipulations), and mercenary Thai troops are still in evidence, especially in areas of the country still controlled by the right-wing elements in the Vietiane Royal Lao Government. While the US could not prevent the formation of the coalition government because of the overwhelming strength of the LPF (supported by some 95% of the people), the Agreements also call for an election and, when the LPF wins such an election, the US will have to resort to the attempted CIA coup as has been done in the past.
Recently there has been a series of strikes by government employees; in addition to demands for better pay, one of the issues consistently brought forward is the removal of foreign bosses or supervisors from government departments. Clearly the people of Laos see the necessity for relying on their own strength in the struggle to attain final independence for their country.
Ever since the US-led and organized coup in Cambodia where the neutralist government of Norodom Sihanouk was ousted by the current dictator Lon Nol, the people of Cambodia have been increasing their struggle to liberate their country and make it independent of foreign domination. The liberation forces, because they have the complete backing of the people, have freed most of the territory and the overwhelming majority of the people from the yoke of US domination. The Lon Nol government is isolated, perched atop a crumbing army and a collapsing economy.
Diplomatically, the US has tried to suppress every effort in the United Nations to have the current dictatorial government ousted and rightfully replaced by the Royal Government of National Union of Cambodia (GRUNC), the real representative of the country. Last year, the US was able, through parliamentary trickery, to table the vote on Cambodia. This year it was even more difficult, but through applying pressure on countries dependent on US aid, it was again able to delay a vote on the question until next year. Using parliamentary procedure as a weapon, the US (through Thailand) proposed a series of amendments of resolutions, then condemned some of the amendments. This led to a vote that essentially ignored the ousting of Lon Nol, giving many representatives an out--they could give in to US pressure without having to explain to their won people why they voted against the legitimate government of Cambodia. Instead, the General Assembly passed a totally worthless resolution on "conciliation between the two Cambodian parties."
There is no point to talk of conciliation. The Cambodian people clearly want to have GRUNC as their government. The only reason that Lon Nol and his corrupt government still stands is through massive US military aid. There are 4,000 US advisors in Phnom Penh, the major area of Lon Nol's control. The US ambassador, John G. Dean, practically runs all the policy meetings of the small circle of generals still close to Lon Nol. Dean even travels around the country to the other isolated areas under Phnom Penh control to check up on the situation and pass along orders.
The economic situation in Phnom Penh is beyond hope. The official currency, the riel, has been devalued by the increase of paper circulation. The official rate of exchange between the dollar and the riel is 2800 riels to one dollar. Before the coup which put Lon Nol is power, the rate was 50 to 1. Oil has jumped from 10 riels per liter before the coup to 600 riels. Rice, the main staple in the peoples' diet, costs more than the majority of people can afford, causing food riots and raids on government storehouses. Even the troops in the capital have joined the rioters and looters, since many of the soldiers have not been paid for months at a time.
The US government has continually tried to hide the war in Cambodia from the American people. As when Nixon ordered secret bombing of then neutral Cambodia, the Ford Administration has again and again pushed for an expanded role for the US in the war. Why is the government so persistent in conducting this war, and the war in all of Indochina, if everyone says that it was a mistake? The answer is obvious. The war and its continuation was and is not a "mistake." It is not in the interests of profits to end the US involvement. There is oil there and tin and other valuable resources. Imperialism can never let these potential profit-makers fall into the hands of the people who own those resources because the Cambodian people--the right to use their own resources to improve their own lives. And their fierce struggle over the years, and the success that the struggle has demonstrated up to this point, indicate that the Cambodian people will be free of domination whether by the US directly or through a puppet such as Lon Nol. While the Cambodian people push forward, the American people also have a responsibility: only when the American people realize that the imperialist system and its inherent drive for profits is the real culprit, will US imperialism be ended. When this system is taken apart at the seams, then the people of the world will see the end of the US imperialist aggression. Militant support for the struggles of the people of Cambodia and Laos and South Vietnam is one way in which to help reach the goal that the American people share with the people of Indochina: to get rid of US imperialism.