April 30, 1975: U.S. Defeat in Vietnam
A Victory for the People of the World
Revolutionary Worker #1051 April 23, 2000
This April marks the 25th anniversary of a profound and unforgettable event in world history--the defeat of U.S. imperialism at the hands of the people of Indochina.
The first U.S. invasion forces landed in Vietnam in 1965 with arrogance and swagger. Ten years later, on April 30, 1975, the last Marine helicopter took off from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). As the Vietnamese liberation forces closed in from all sides, the U.S. ambassador clutched the bloody flag that had flown over the embassy, while thousands of Vietnamese reactionaries--collaborators with the U.S. army of aggression--scurried in panic.
The U.S. invasion of Vietnam was an unjust war aimed at imposing foreign domination over an oppressed people. The U.S. hoped to encircle China and prevent the spread of Maoist revolution. And the U.S. wanted to claim for itself the freedom to exploit the hundreds of millions of people in this region.
These imperialist goals were pursued through extremely criminal means. By 1969, half-a-million U.S. troops were in Vietnam, a peasant country the size of the state of New Mexico. And U.S. "advisers" commanded 900,000 Vietnamese puppet troops. U.S. warplanes dropped seven million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia--three times the amount dropped in all of World War 2. Other deadly weapons were used in mass quantities: anti-personnel bombs that exploded with flesh-tearing darts, white phosphorus incendiary bombs, napalm, the infamous chemical Agent Orange. U.S. troops carried out rape and mass murder of civilians--as in the village of My Lai, where 500 people were massacred in 1968. The CIA death squad campaign known as the Phoenix program--which targeted revolutionary leaders and activists--assassinated over 40,000 "suspects."
In all, the U.S. war killed an estimated three million Vietnamese people. The U.S. rulers are truly the biggest war criminals in the world.
But there are two sides to this story. The people of Indochina fought a huge and powerful enemy with intense warfare, heroic determination, and courageous sacrifice. This was a just war--a war against imperialism and for national liberation.
Starting out with simple home-made weapons, the guerrilla fighters in southern Vietnam built a deeply rooted people's war and eventually brought the U.S. invaders to their knees. In the north, the masses endured tremendous hardships to support the liberation struggle, sending supplies and fighters down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In the words of historian Howard Zinn, "When the United States fought in Vietnam, it was organized modern technology versus organized human beings, and the human beings won."
As the U.S. became "bogged down" in its war, the flames of Vietnam spread. The just war in Indochina inspired liberation struggles and resistance in other corners of the world. Maoist China served as a powerful revolutionary base area for the Indochinese peoples--providing arms, supplies, and international political support. And in the "belly of the beast" itself, millions of people mobilized to oppose the U.S. war in Vietnam. Students faced National Guard guns at the 1970 shootings at Kent State and Jackson State. Thousands of young men defied the draft and went underground or were jailed. Large sections of society turned against the government.
And there was revolt within the war machine itself, as thousands of soldiers refused to fight, deserted, or organized open acts of resistance. A few even joined the liberation armies and turned their guns against imperialism. Many veterans came back radicalized--and plunged into the antiwar movement, the Black liberation movement and the growing revolutionary currents.
Today, the U.S. imperialists are still trying to overcome "the Vietnam syndrome"--by which they mean they want the people to willingly kill and die in U.S. military actions around the world. They call the war a "tragedy that must be overcome"--or even claim they could have won if they were not so "restrained" in the use of their military power. They point to the spread of capitalist globalization--including Nike sweatshops in Vietnam--and declare that revolutionary armed struggle is a "thing of the past."
But all around the globe, billions of people have no future under the existing system. Globalization has only brought more extremes of poverty and hunger, oppression and exploitation, needless death and suffering. At the root of all the problems facing the world is the system of imperialism and capitalism. The real future for humanity lies in making revolution to overthrow this monster and bury it in a deep grave.
The people of the world will never forget how the world's top imperialist power was defeated by peasant fighters of a small, poor country. The people will always remember how the shockwaves from this war of liberation spread far and wide--and even touched off rebellions inside the home base of U.S. imperialism. This was a great victory for the people of the whole world.
Nothing can erase the historic significance of the victory won by the masses of people on the battlefields of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The war of liberation waged by the people of Indochina seriously cracked U.S. imperialism's "invincible" armor--and it can never be put back whole again.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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