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Vietnamese woman with a gun to her head, Vietnam War, 1969 (Keystone / Hulton Images / Getty)

Vietnam and the Sixties

A Personal History

This article will be made available online on December 12th.

In early 1970, Vice President Spiro Agnew had this to say about the so-called ’60s Generation: “As for these deserters, malcontents, radicals, incendiaries, the civil and the uncivil disobedients among our youth, SDS, PLP, Weathermen I and Weathermen II, the revolutionary action movement, the Black United Front, Yippies, Hippies, Yahoos, Black Panthers, Lions, and Tigers alike—I would swap the whole damn zoo for a single platoon of the kind of young Americans I saw in Vietnam.” This is a fascinating statement for multiple reasons and on multiple levels. To begin with, a single platoon of the kind of young Americans he saw in Vietnam went into a village we remember as My Lai and murdered 407 unarmed men, women, and children. On the same day, in the nearby village of My Khe, another unit of the same division murdered an estimated 97 additional Vietnamese civilians. While I personally did not participate in or witness killing on that scale, I and my fellow Marines routinely killed, maimed, and abused Vietnamese on a near-daily basis, destroying homes, fields, crops, and livestock with every weapon available to us, from rifles and grenades to heavy artillery and napalm.… It is no wonder, it turns out, that Agnew should be so fond of “the kind of young Americans” he saw in Vietnam, since he himself turned out to be a criminal who was forced to resign from his office in public disgrace.… | more…

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The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

Lessons from the Vietnam War

This article will be made available online on December 12th.

The Vietnam War was an example of imperial aggression.… Imperialism ultimately enriches the home country’s dominant class. The process involves “unspeakable repression and state terror,” and must rely repeatedly “upon armed coercion and repression.” The ultimate aim of modern U.S. imperialism is “to make the world safe” for multinational corporations.… U.S. imperial actions in Vietnam and elsewhere are often described as reflecting “national interests,” “national security,” or “national defense.” Endless U.S. wars and regime changes, however, actually represent the class interests of the powerful who own and govern the country. Noam Chomsky argues that if one wishes to understand imperial wars, therefore, “it is a good idea to begin by investigating the domestic social structure. Who sets foreign policy? What interest do these people represent? What is the domestic source of their power?”… | more…

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Love and Struggle by David Gilbert

Memories of a U.S. Political Prisoner

“We will fight from one generation to the next.” In the 1960s and 1970s we anti-imperialists in the U.S. were inspired not only by that slogan from Vietnam but even more by how they lived it with their 2000-year history of defeating a series of mighty invaders. At the same time we felt that we just might be on the cusp of world revolution in our lifetimes. Vietnam’s ability to stand up to and eventually defeat the most lethal military machine in world history was the spearhead. Dozens of revolutionary national liberation struggles were sweeping what was then called the “Third World,” today referred to as the “global South.” There was a strategy to win, as articulated by Che Guevara: to overextend and defeat the powerful imperial beast by creating “two, three, many Vietnams.” A range of radical and even revolutionary movements erupted within the U.S. and also in Europe and Japan.… Tragically, the revolutionary potential that felt so palpable then has not been realized.… Today, fighting from one generation to the next takes on new relevance and intense urgency.… | more…

The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

A devastating follow-up to William L. Griffen and Marciano’s 1979 classic Teaching the Vietnam War, The American War in Vietnam seeks not to commemorate the Vietnam War, but to stop the ongoing U.S. war on actual history. Marciano reveals the grandiose flag-waving that stems from the “Noble Cause principle,” the notion that America is “chosen by God” to bring democracy to the world. The result is critical writing and teaching at its best. This book will find a home in classrooms where teachers seek to do more than repeat the trite glorifications of U.S. Empire. It will provide students everywhere with insights that can prepare them to change the world.… | more…

Vietnamese Vietnam War Poster.

Vietnam and the Soldiers’ Revolt

The Politics of a Forgotten History

This article will be published on June 20th.

It has been nearly fifty years since the height of the Vietnam War—or, as it is known in Vietnam, the American War—and yet its memory continues to loom large over U.S. politics, culture, and foreign policy. The battle to define the war’s lessons and legacies has been a proxy for larger clashes over domestic politics, national identity, and U.S. global power. One of its most debated areas has been the mass antiwar movement that achieved its greatest heights in the United States but also operated globally. Within this, and for the antiwar left especially, a major point of interest has been the history of soldier protest during the war.… Activists looked back to this history for good reason.… Soldiers, such potent symbols of U.S. patriotism, turned their guns around—metaphorically, but also, at times, literally—during a time of war.… | more…

July-August 2015 (Volume 67, Number 3)

July-August 2015 (Volume 67, Number 3)

Notes from the Editors

May’s Review of the Month, “Honor the Vietnamese, Not Those Who Killed Them” by MR Associate Editor Michael D. Yates, has elicited many responses. One writer said that Yates had written the best, but perhaps the first, Marxist analysis of the war. Another praised Monthly Review for having the courage to publish this article. Still a third predicted that in the more distant future, humanity would embrace the essay’s judgment and honor the Vietnamese people for their heroic struggle against the overwhelming might of the U.S. military.… In light of these comments, as well as the subject matter of this double issue of Monthly Review on imperialism, we thought it might be worthwhile to say something more about what the Vietnamese themselves naturally enough call the American War, with an eye toward drawing important lessons useful for contemporary radicals.… | more…

Monthly Review Volume 67, Number 1 (May 2015)

May 2015 (Volume 67, Number 1)

As we write these notes in March 2015, the Pentagon’s official Vietnam War Commemoration, conducted in cooperation with the U.S. media, is highlighting the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. ground war in Vietnam, marked by the arrival of two Marine battalions in De Nang on March 8, 1965. This date, however, was far from constituting the beginning of the war. The first American to die of military causes in Vietnam, killed in 1945, was a member of the Office of Strategic Services (a precursor of the CIA). U.S. intelligence officers were there in support of the French war to recolonize Vietnam, following the end of the Japanese occupation in the Second World War and Vietnam’s declaration of national independence as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The French recolonization effort is sometimes called the First Indochina War in order to distinguish it from the Second Indochina War, initiated by the United States. In reality, it was all one war against the Viet Minh (Vietnamese Independence League). By the time that the Vietnamese defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the United States was paying for 80–90 percent of the cost of the war.… | more…

Vietnamese Vietnam War Poster.

Honor the Vietnamese, Not Those Who Killed Them

In a letter to Vietnam War veteran Charles McDuff, Major General Franklin Davis, Jr. said, “The United States Army has never condoned wanton killing or disregard for human life.” McDuff had written a letter to President Richard Nixon in January 1971, telling him that he had witnessed U.S. soldiers abusing and killing Vietnamese civilians and informing him that many My Lais had taken place during the war. He pleaded with Nixon to bring the killing to an end. The White House sent the letter to the general, and this was his reply.… McDuff’s letter and Davis’s response are quoted in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, the most recent book to demonstrate beyond doubt that the general’s words were a lie.… In what follows, I use Turse’s work, along with several other books, articles, and films, as scaffolds from which to construct an analysis of how the war was conducted, what its consequences have been for the Vietnamese, how the nature of the war generated ferocious opposition to it (not least by a brave core of U.S. soldiers), how the war’s history has been whitewashed, and why it is important to both know what happened in Vietnam and why we should not forget it.… | more…

Vietnam War Era Journeys

Recovering Histories of Internationalism

Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), 346 pages, $26.95, paperback.

The cover of Judy Tzu-Chun Wu’s Radicals on the Road features a sepia-toned photograph of Eldridge Cleaver raising his fist in a Black Power salute behind three Vietnamese women in combat helmets, one of whom is kneeling behind an anti-aircraft gun. While you have probably seen a similar photograph of Jane Fonda from her North Vietnam trip in 1972, images like that of Cleaver are less common, if circulated at all. In this second book by Wu, she documents three sets of journeys, like Cleaver’s, that have remained at the margins of both the scholarship and the popular memory of the antiwar movement.… | more…

The United States Has Lost the War

An Interview

The death of Vo Nguyen Giap on October 4, 2013, in his 103rd year, was noted with respect everywhere in the world. General Giap commanded the military forces that freed Vietnam from French colonialism in the 1946–1954 war that ended with the victory at Dien Bien Phu (1954), and that then defeated U.S. imperialist aggression in the 1962–1975 war that ended with liberation of Saigon. The heroic and victorious struggle of Communist Vietnam was a major factor in the growth of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements that shook the previously colonized world, Western Europe, and even the United States. … In 1970 Monthly Review Press published Military Art of People’s War: Selected Writings by General Vo Nguyen Giap, that included a May 1968 interview with General Giap by Madeleine Riffaud, originally published in l’Humanité on June 4, 1968. In commemoration of Vo Nguyen Giap we reprint that interview. —Eds.

Indelible memories

BARELY three days ago, a high-ranking leader from the Vietnamese Communist Party visited us. Before leaving, he conveyed to me his wish that I write some recollections of my visit to the territory of Vietnam liberated in its heroic fight against the yankee troops in the south of his country.

I do not really have much time available, when a large part of the world is striving to seek a response to the news that a war, with the use of deadly weapons, is about to break out in a critical corner of our globalized planet.

However, recalling antecedents, and the monstrous crimes committed against countries with lesser economic and scientific development, will help all peoples to fight for their own survival.

The 40th

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