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Vietnam and Cuba - Thirty Years After Liberation

by Walter Lippmann Monday, May. 02, 2005 at 2:58 AM

Thirty years ago today Vietnam fell...into the hands of the Vietnamese. Actually, it was taken by the Vietnamese after decades of struggle. Cuba was there to support Vietnam all the way. A discussion of Vietnam and Cuba's links to it.


by Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

This morning while slowly waking up, I listened to another of

the National Public Radio reports we've been getting this week

about what they like to refer to as "the fall of Saigon". When

I tried to remember exactly what I'd been doing on that special

day thirty years ago, I found it impossible. I had no idea what

I'd done that day. Of course I was still employed in the field

of social work here in Los Angeles.

But there was one thing I did remember, and have remembered ever

since that day. It was the televised images of the United States

helicopters flying out of Vietnam and the mobs of collaborators

with Washington's occupation army who were being abandoned by

their employers. That scene has been re-broadcast over and over

in the subsequent years. Israel abandoned its collaborators in

south Lebanon when it pulled out some years later.

Some day a similar scene is likely to play out in Iraq, too as

we've seen the powers that be in the United States have never

learned the simple truth that people don't like liberators who

come bearing bayonets.

Thirty years ago today I thought back over the previous decade

of anti-war struggle. Having been a participant in each of the

major mobilization since the first one, which had been called

by the Students for a Democratic Society in April 1965, it was

a very special moment. We'd worked hard and mobilized over and

over during that decade. The Vietnamese people, lead by their

own Vietnamese Communist Party, which had also organized the

National Liberation Front, were organized, educated, mobilized

and thrown into action to defend their country against yet one

more foreign invader. And the Vietnamese fought hard and beat

each and every one of them. Watching their victory was sweet.

Everything we'd ever been taught in school, which is known as

"conventional wisdom", could be summarized in the expression

"you can't fight city hall and win". This means that in the

final analysis, nothing can change, a message which those in

power want the majority to believe. It's beaten into us in a

thousand and one ways, from the first moments of awareness.

Vietnam's victory was a confirmation of the falseness of the

conventional wisdom. Cuba's success, now over 45 years after

its triumph, is also a confirmation of the falseness of such

conventional wisdom. In the beginning, a number of Cuban

parents against the Revolution sent their children to the

United States, assuming the Revolution would be overthrown

in a short time. After the fall of the Soviet Union, we were

told that Cuba couldn't survive the fall of its principal

economic supporter, the Soviet Union. But Cuba reconfigured

its international economic ties, opened itself up to both

tourism and foreign joint venture investment, and has been

able to survive quite well, despite over four decades of a

cruel blockade by the world's most powerful country.

Cuba had stood by Vietnam throughout its long struggle.

Che Guevara, after leaving Cuba, issued a famous statement,

his Message to the Tricontinental. That message resonates

for our times as well. Just substitute Iraq for Vietnam and

see how much it resonates for our times: A few paragraphs:

"There is a sad reality: Vietnam - a nation representing the

aspirations, the hopes of a whole world of forgotten peoples

- is tragically alone. This nation must endure the furious

attacks of U.S. technology, with practically no possibility

of reprisals in the South and only some of defense in the

North - but always alone.


"U.S. imperialism is guilty of aggression - its crimes are

enormous and cover the whole world. We already know all that,

gentlemen! But this guilt also applies to those who, when the

time came for a definition, hesitated to make Vietnam an

inviolable part of the socialist world; running, of course,

the risks of a war on a global scale-but also forcing a

decision upon imperialism. And the guilt also applies to those

who maintain a war of abuse and snares - started quite some

time ago by the representatives of the two greatest powers

of the socialist camp.


"Not for a long time shall we be able to know if President

Johnson ever seriously thought of bringing about some of the

reforms needed by his people - to iron out the barbed class

contradictions that grow each day with explosive power.

The truth is that the improvements announced under the

pompous title of the "Great Society" have dropped into

the cesspool of Vietnam."


In 1967, there were still in existence those social welfare

programs which had begun in the 1930s, during the New Deal,

when US capitalism had fallen into a deep depression and an

alternative society, however flawed, presented a different

modal for social organization: the Soviet Union. Today, as

the Soviet Union is but a topic for students and history

books, Washington is gutting what social programs remain in

existence to pay for Washington's conquest and occupations

of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.


The political line of the National Public Radio and others

in the US media can be summarized as that the Vietnamese

have forgotten the past. Capitalism has triumphed and isn't

that wonderful? The reality is quite a bit more complex as

a bit of reflection and study demonstrates. After winning

its complete independence, Washington subjected Vietnam to

a brutal blockade for over a decade. After they observed

that the stick wasn't working, Washington and the rest of

the major capitalist powers opted to try the carrot as an

alternative. Vietnam opened itself up to significant US

and other foreign investment. Washington ended its cruel

blockade, and today Vietnam, while still a poor country,

is one of the economic powerhouses of the world.

There was one surprising report among the NPR series:

An interview with a Vietnamese who'd fought for the

French, then for Bao Dai, then for the United States.

He wrote to the French asking for a pension, but they

told him they didn't have any paperwork on him. And the

US wouldn't give him any help either, we're told. Now he

says he should have fought for the Communists because

his life would have been better today. Hard to believe

I heard that, and not on the grapevine, but on NPR!

It's four and a half minutes long, and worth listening to:

Allen Myers, a college room-mate of mine from Madison,

Wisconsin in the 1960s, who is still politically active,

provides this profile of Vietnam today. He lives and works

in Cambodia, but continues writing for Australia's GREEN

LEFT WEEKLY. Vietnam's opening to foreign investment has

had a complex and contradictory outcome which you can get

a sense of from Alan's profile after a recent visit.

I'd like to also strongly recommend that anyone wanting

to learn more about contemporary Vietnam should try to

see the movie THREE VIETNAMS by the Vietnamese American

director Tony Bui. It stars Harvey Keitel as a veteran

from the United States who returns to Vietnam in search

of the daughter he had and left behind. He meets her and,

well, you should read about and see the movie...

All the NPR programs about the Vietnam war:

Washington is still operating on the stick principle and

all of those people like Jeff Flake and others who say the

best way to get rid of Castro (by which they mean Cuba's

Revolution, of course), haven't had their opportunity to

run US foreign policy. They won't as long as George W. Bush

is running things. He's not like Richard Nixon who was on

the right, but an opportunist. Bush is on the right, but he

is a fundamentalist religious fanatic.

Finally, a report from the Vietnamese media on what Fidel

and other Cuban leaders did to mark the first day of the

liberation of Vietnam in 1975. Today, Raul Castro was

among the honored guests at today's Liberation Day

celebrations in Ho Chi Minh where plans were announced to

increase Vietnamese-Cuban cooperation.

58 thousand US soldiers were killed in Washington's stupid

attempt to conquer Vietnam. Vietnam is recovering, though

it's recovery is both contradictory and there has been a

substantial process of social differentiation resulting.

Vietnam is a close ally of Cuba. You can see Vietnamese

rice sold all over Cuba, in distinctive giant blue sacks.

Cuba, were the blockade lifted and relations between our

two countries normalized, would also, I am completely

convinced, experience rapid economic growth. Washington's

belief it has the right to determine for Cuba what form of

society and government it should have is deep rooted. The

notion precedes the birth of Fidel Castro's FATHER. It's

called "The Ripe Fruit Syndrome" as Cuba's Professor Carlos

Alzugaray has explained it.

Take a moment to read about the ripe fruit syndrome:


Fidel Castro Visits Embassy

Hanoi VNA in English 1859 GMT 1 May 75

[Text] Hanoi VNA 1 May--Fidel Castro Ruz, first secretary

of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba,

premier of the Cuban Revolutionary Government, last night

went to the Embassy of the Republic of South Vietnam in

Havana to welcome the great victory of the Vietnamese

people in completely liberating Saigon and the whole of

South Vietnam, according to VNA's correspondent in Cuba.

He was accompanied by Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado, member of

the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Cuban

Communist Party, president of the Republic of Cuba; Raul

Castro, second secretary of the party Central Committee,

first vice-premier of the government, and minister of

revolutionary armed forces; Armando Hart, Guillermo Garcia

and Sergio del Valle, members of the Political Bureau;

Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, secretariat member, vice-premier;

Jesus Montane, Osmany Cienfuegos, Jose A. Naranjo, members

of the PCC; and Joel Domenech and Flavio Bravo, members of

the party Central Committee and vice-premiers.

Fidel Castro and other Cuban party and government leaders

inquired into the situation--political, economic and

social--in South Vietnam and the unfolding of the campaign

for liberating Saigon.

Fidel Castro said that the Vietnamese people's victory was

one of the greatest exploits of mankind and one of the

greatest failures for the reactionary forces. The

Vietnamese people are very worthy of this great victory

because they have gone through nearly 30 years of hard

struggle full of sacrifices. He added: "We consider this

victory as our own. At this moment, I vividly remember the

victorious days of our revolutionary armed forces when we

moved in to capture the capital city on January 1959. My

impressions on hearing the news of victory of the South

Vietnamese people can compare with the deep emotion I felt

during those days."

On this occasion, Tran Kim Le, charge d'affaires ad interim

of the PRGRSV Embassy, and Ha Van Lau, ambassador of the

DRV to Cuba, expressed the deep gratitude of the Vietnamese

people for the warm support given by the Cuban party,

government and people, especially Premier Fidel Castro, to

their struggle at present as in the past.

While the Cuban leaders were visiting the PRGRSV Embassy, a

big crowd of people outside carrying portraits of President

Ho Chi Minh, chanted the slogan: "Victorious Vietnam has

defeated U.S. imperialism." -END-


There will be a gigantic rally in Havana tomorrow, Sunday,

to mark May Day. I'll guess it will be even bigger than

ever! You'll be able to listen to it at 8 AM Havana Time

using I must go now. That

is six and a half hours from now.

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

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