Boom Crunch Crash

The classical Marxist blog about the crisis

Archive for the ‘Imperialism’ Category

The British Labour Party and Zionism [1]

Posted by Steve Palmer on June 19, 2011

From Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, May 1983, pp 8-9

[The responsibility for establishing the Zionist state of Israel lies right here, in Britain. And the British Labour Party is the primary political instigator and supporter of the Zionist state. This article was written in 1983 to expose the role played by the Labour Party throughout its entire existence, which is continuing today through the fascistic genocidal blitzkrieg conducted by the Israelis against the people of Gaza].

The 1917 Balfour Declaration of the British government supported the ‘establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’[2], Though the Balfour Declaration had been issued by Tories, it was rapidly endorsed by the Labour Party and the TUC in their `War Aims Memorandum’, adopted in December 1917:

`Palestine should be set free from the harsh and oppressive government of the Turk, in order that this country may form a Free State, under international guarantee, to which such of the Jewish people as desire to do so may return and may work out their salvation free from interference by those of alien race or religion.’[3]

The Declaration had several imperialist aims. One was an attempt to counteract the struggle by the Bolsheviks to overthrow the Russian government and take Russia out of the imperialist war then raging. A later Colonial Office memorandum, written for Winston Churchill in 1922 explained:

‘The earliest document is a letter dated 24th April 1917 in which a certain Mr Hamilton suggested that a Zionist mission should be sent to Russia for propaganda purposes. It is clear that at that stage His Majesty’s Government were mainly concerned with the question of how. Russia (then in the first stages of revolution) was to be kept in the ranks of the Allies. At the end of April the Foreign Office were consulting the British Ambassador at Petrograd as to the possible effect in Russia of a declaration by the Entente of sympathy for Jewish national aspirations. The idea was that such a declaration might counteract Jewish pacifist r propaganda in Russia.’[4]

A memorandum from Ronald Graham, Assistant Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Lord Hardinge, Permanent Under Secretary, dated 13th June 1917 remarks:

‘We ought therefore to secure all the political advantage we can out of out connection with Zionism and there is no doubt that this advantage will be considerable, especially in Russia …’[5]

The British imperialists were contemptuous of the indigenous Palestinian population – and said so quite openly to one another. Balfour explained in a Memorandum to Curzon that:

‘in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country … Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.’[6]

The Declaration had been made without reference to the Palestinian people, who overwhelmingly opposed it. It was therefore inevitable that a Zionist state in. Israel would be a racist state, and an outpost of imperialism in the Middle East.

It was the racist British Labour Party which was to be the midwife to the birth of the Zionist state. This was the logical outcome of the strong Zionist ties and sympathies of the Labour Party, allied to its unswerving support for British imperialism. In 1920, Paole Zion, the British section of the International Organization of Socialist Zionists, had affiliated to the Labour Party, and from the early twenties, the Zionist current in the party grew rapidly.

The central problem which taxed the Zionists, following the Balfour Declaration, was the need to build up the Jewish Zionist colony in Palestine, the Yishuv: in 1918, Jews in Palestine – the supposed homeland – formed less than 10% of the Palestinian population. Without massive Zionist immigration into the country, the plan for a Zionist state would have collapsed. By 1929 the Jewish population had nearly trebled to 156,000. The Zionists owned 4% Of the land, but 14% of the cultivable area. The Zionists, vigorously supported by their racist trade union Histradut, strictly enforced a policy of exclusively Jewish employment, both on the land and in industry.[7]

The Macdonald Letter[8]

In August 1929, weeks after a new Labour Government had taken office, hundreds were killed and many more injured in violent riots in Jerusalem. A government enquiry showed that the root cause of the hostility between Palestinian Arabs and Jewish settlers was the expulsion of peasants from land acquired by the Zionists, and recommended curtailing further Zionist immigration. Labour Colonial Secretary, Lord Passfield (formerly Sidney Webb), issued a White Paper recommending caution over unrestricted immigration to Palestine.

The Zionists unleashed a storm of fury. The Labour Prime Minister, Ramsey MacDonald, took control of Palestine out of Passfield’s hands and passed it over to a Cabinet committee which, jointly with the Zionist Jewish Agency, drafted a letter which MacDonald read to Parliament on 13 February 1931. The letter, addressed to Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader who was to become Israel’s first President, overturned the White Paper;

“the obligation to facilitate Jewish immigration and to encourage close settlement by Jews on the land, remains a positive obligation of the Mandate, and it can be fulfilled without prejudice to the rights and position of other sections of the population of Palestine’[9]

It was a testament of Labour support for Zionism, and as Weizmann remarked, the reversal in policy had a decisive effect on the establishment of the state:

‘it was under MacDonald’s letter to me that the change came about in the Government’s attitude, and in the attitude of the Palestine administration, which enabled us to make the magnificent gains of the ensuing years. It was under MacDonald’s letter that Jewish immigration into Palestine was permitted to reach figures … undreamed of in 1930.’[10]

MacDonald also expressed the Labour government’s support for the Zionists’ policy of apartheid in employment, which was directed against the Palestinian Arabs:

‘it is necessary also to have regard to the declared policy of the Jewish Agency to the effect that in “all the works or undertakings carried out or furthered by the Agency it shall be deemed to be a matter of principle that Jewish labour shall be employed.” His Majesty’s Government do not in any way challenge the right of the Agency to formulate or approve and endorse such a policy.’[11]

Labour’s complete contempt for the Palestinian Arabs was further confirmed by another incident recounted by Weizmann:

‘The first indication I had of the seriousness of MacDonald’s intentions was when he consulted me with regard to the appointment of a new High Commissioner to replace Sir John Chancellor.’[12]

There is no record that the Labour Party consulted the Palestinian Arabs, expelled from land acquired by Zionists, over who they would prefer as High Commissioner.

The First Intifada – 1936-9

Throughout the thirties, Arab resistance in Palestine to Zionist encroachment increased until it broke out into open rebellion against the British state in 1936.[13] The rebellion began in April with the launching of a general strike which lasted six months. The British responded by dynamiting houses, criminalising freedom fighters, and killing 1,000. Even as the general strike was still in progress, the British Trades Union Congress (TUC), meeting in Plymouth, showed its racist support for Zionism and contempt for the Palestinians:

‘the Congress earnestly hopes that the British Government … will take all the necessary measures to bring the present disorders to an end.’[14]

The Government followed this advice. The rebellion was crushed after three years by 20,000 British troops who left more than 5,000 Arabs dead and 14,000 wounded.[15]

A Zionist militia had been formed, armed and trained by the British, called the ‘British Settlement Police’. It was similar in composition and purpose to the ‘B Specials’ or UDR in British-occupied Ireland, and by 1939 it numbered 21,500 Zionists – 1 in 20 of the Jewish population! The British also formed joint terror squads with the Zionists, similar to the SAS, known as the ‘Special Night Squads’. Led by a British officer named Orde Wingate, these provided training for future members of the Zionist, terror gang known as the Irgun. The Zionist deputy head of these squads was Moshe Dayan, later to become notorious in the 1967 ‘Six-day war’. Dayan later, remarked:

‘In some sense every leader of the Israeli Army even today is a disciple of Wingate. He gave us our technique, he was the inspiration of our tactics, he was our dynamic.’[16]

After the rebellion was crushed, remaining opposition was further undermined by the policy spelt out in the Tories 1939 White Paper. This recommended sharply restricted Jewish immigration, regulation of land sales, and rejected a Jewish state, holding out promises of Palestinian self-government in the future. At its May conference, the Labour Party condemned these immigration restrictions at a time when European Jews were being brutally massacred by fascism, but it became clear that this criticism was simply ammunition to further Zionist designs:

‘This Conference reaffirms the traditional support given by the British Labour Movement to the reestablishment of a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine. It recognises that considerable benefits have accrued to the Arab Masses as a result of Jewish immigration and settlement. This Conference is convinced that under the policy of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, the possibility exists for continued and increasing peaceful cooperation between the Jewish and Arab peoples in Palestine.’[17]

1944: ‘The Static Arab’

In December 1944, the annual Labour Party Conference passed its strongest pro-Zionist motion to date:

‘there is surely neither hope nor meaning in a “Jewish National. Home”, unless, we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, enter this tiny land[they’re talking about Palestine, not Britain!] in such numbers as to become a majority. There was a strong case for this before the war, There is an irresistible case now, after the unspeakable atrocities of the cold and calculated German Nazi plan to kill all Jews in Europe. Here, too, in Palestine surely is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement, for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to … move out as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere he carefully organized and generously financed. The Arabs have many wide territories of their own; they must not claim to exclude the Jews from this small area of Palestine, less than the size of Wales. Indeed we should reexamine also the possibility of extending the present Palestinian boundaries, by agreement with. Egypt, Syria or Transjordan.’[18]

The racism behind-this motion was made clear by its drafter, Hugh Dalton, later Labour Chancellor:

‘In Palestine we should lean, much more [!] than hitherto towards the dynamic Jew, less towards the static Arab.’[19]

This shameless racism proved embarrassing even for the Zionists. Commented Weizrnann:

‘I remember that my Labour Zionist friends were, like myself, greatly concerned about this proposal. We had never contemplated the removal of the Arabs, and the British Labourites, in their pro-Zionist enthusiasm, went far beyond our intentions.’[20]

The 1945 Labour Government

After the war, another Labour government was returned to power. Its policy towards Palestine was dictated by the Labour Party’s concern to safeguard Britain’s overall imperial interests. The war had weakened British imperialism. Britain had negotiated a massive dollar loan from US imperialism. Since Sterling could not be freely exchanged for other -currencies, scarce US dollars had to be conserved to pay back the US imperialists. Since oil from the Middle East did not have to be purchased with dollars, the control and security of these resources was therefore of vital importance to British imperialism, quite apart from its energy needs. Bevin, the Foreign Secretary, expressed Labour’s problem very clearly:

‘His Majesty’s Government must maintain a continuing interest in the area, if only because our economic and financial interests in the Middle East are of great importance to us and to other countries as well. I would like this fact faced squarely. If these interests were lost to us, the effect on the life of this country would be a considerable reduction in the standard of living. Other parts of the world would suffer too. The British interests in the Middle East contribute substantially not only to the prosperity of the people there, but also to the wage packets of the workers of this country. Nor can we forget our old and valued friendships with the peoples of the area.’[21]

To defend its empire, the Labour government, as Bevin hints, attempted to draw conservative elements of the Arab states into support for its designs. From this perspective, the establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine was – at this time – a threat to British imperialist interests. Richard Crossman, strongly pro-Zionist, claims that this was because Bevin identified Zionism with communism:

‘I tried to convince him that it was just because the leaders of the Yishuv were of Russian origin that nearly all of them were fanatically opposed to Russian Communism. Moreover, apart from a minority of fellow travellers, I added, the leadership of the Histradut … felt that the one Labour movement in the world whose ideals they shared was the British. But nothing could shake his idée fixe that the British position in the Middle East … was threatened by a Jewish-Communist conspiracy …’[22]

More plausibly, Mayhew, then Bevin’s Under-Secretary, argues that Bevin was opposed to a Zionist state because it would stimulate radical nationalism in the Arab states which might be directed against imperialist interests:

‘its success would condemn the Middle East to decades of hatred and violence, and above all – this was his immediate concern – that by turning the Arabs against Britain and the Western countries, it would open a highroad for Stalin into the Middle East.’[23]

Bevin’s fears of communist influence in the Middle East were not fanciful: the Labour government was already waging war against the Greek people led by communists, and in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan autonomous republics with Soviet backing had been established after the war.

But the Zionists began a war of terror against the British in Palestine; in the Labour. Party, tension on the question mounted. Within the Cabinet there was deep sympathy for the Zionists. At one point Richard. Crossman visited John Strachey, a member of the Cabinet Defence Committee, and asked his advice about an act of sabotage planned by his Zionist friends:

‘The next day in the Smoking Room at the House of Commons, Strachey. gave his approval to Crossman. The Haganah went ahead and blew up all the bridges over the Jordan.’[24]

It is impossible to imagine a British Cabinet.approving a similar IRA operation!

Michael Foot

The political atmosphere inside the Labour Party can be gauged from a pamphlet which Michael ‘Peacemonger’ Foot wrote together with Crossman entitled A Palestine Munich. Dismissing any danger to the future Zionist state from the surrounding Arab states, the pamphlet remarks:

‘there is nothing which any of these states can do in the nature of formal warfare either individually or collectively, that could not be countered by an airborne brigade or even an airforce demonstration.’[25]

The pamphlet explained the conflict in racist terms:

‘tribal, dynastic and religious antagonisms take more fanatical forms in the Oriental than in the Western world …

… the liberal era has never dawned on these countries. Such political mass movements as exist have a closer resemblance to the mass movements of the European Middle. Ages than to those of the era of enlightenment.’[26]

Although it might be expedient to preserve friendship with the states of the Arab League, this would backfire and threaten British imperialism:

‘Once we had defeated the Jews for them, the Arabs would demand immediate withdrawal of our troops from Palestine, and stage a revolt if this were not conceded. Then the last base for the defence of Suez would have gone.’[27]

Far better to back the Zionist settlers and to partition the state:

‘the government of the Judean State would be eager to negotiate a treaty of alliance with Great Britain…. such a-treaty would leave in British hands the port of Haifa and such airfields and installations as we require … Britain would be in a far stronger position than she is at present.’[28]

In the event, it was the Zionist terror campaign, and not the danger of nationalism or communism which threatened imperialist stability. With the encouragement of US imperialism, the Labour government announced that it would withdraw British troops from Palestine by 15 May 1948. The Labour Party breathed a sigh of relief, and Weizmann remarked ‘Now, thank God, we can live on friendly terms.’[29] Labour had created Zionist Israel and paved the way for genocide against the Palestinian people.

The terror squads were now turned on the Palestinian people. On 9 April-1948 the Irgun, led by Menachem Begin; conducted the massacre of Deir Yassin, when the Zionists butchered 254 Arab men, women and children in cold blood. This was only a particularly gruesome example from a genocidal wave of terror which drove 900,000 of the 1,300,000 Arab population out of Palestine, and left the Zionists holding 77 % of the land.[30]

Suez 1956[31]

With their state established, the Zionists began to threaten the countries bordering their statelet, carrying out repeated attacks on them. When the Egyptian leader Nasser requested arms from the United States to defend his country, he was told he could have them provided that he joined the US puppet states in the anti-Soviet Baghdad pact. Nasser refused and negotiated for arms with Czechoslovakia. The US imperialists then withdrew finance from the Aswan Dam project, vital to irrigating the Egyptian land. On 26 July 1956, Nasser announced the nationalisation of the Suez canal; instead of its revenues going to enrich imperialists, they would be used to finance the Aswan Dam.

The British and French imperialists were up in arms. And so was the ‘socialist’ Labour Party which condemned the nationalisation as ‘highhanded and totally unjustifiable’. A week later, Labour leader Gaitskell likened Nasser to Hitler and Mussolini and called on the government to supply the Zionists with British arms. Labour also made it clear that it did not rule out the use of force.[32]

Despite weeks of imperialist wheeling and dealing, it became clear that Britain and France did not have the support of the USA to use force, while the socialist countries and oppressed nations were siding with Egypt. Labour became increasingly worried that the use of force might endanger imperialism’s wider interests. This opposition was entirely limited to criticising the government’s tactics, and had nothing to do with anti-imperialism

On September 12, Gaitskell told the Commons that:

‘If the government do this, they will leave behind in the Middle East such a legacy of distrust and bitterness towards the West that the whole area will be thrust almost forcibly under Communist control. This is the greatest danger of all.’[33]

The British and French secretly arranged for puppet Israel to invade Egypt at the end of October, so that they could intervene `to keep the two sides apart’ – in fact to attack the Egyptians. When the news of the British invasion broke, the Labour Party did not attack the violation of Egyptian freedom nor did it utter even a whisper against the slaughter of the Egyptian people. Instead it condemned the government for losing an opportunity to attack the socialist countries, threatened with counter-revolution in Hungary.

The British and French imperialists backed down after the US showed its opposition for its own imperialist reasons – and after the Soviet Union threatened Britain and France with rocket attack.

The Six Day War

In the 1960s the Zionists staged a series of provocations against the Arab states. These reached a point where they could no longer be ignored, and Egypt, when she responded, was drawn into the carefully laid Zionist plans to occupy the Sinai and other territories. Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran on 22 May 1967. The British Labour Cabinet met the following day. According to Wilson, the Cabinet decided that:

‘Though several ministers, were committed friends of Israel and of Israeli leaders, we were all agreed to urge the utmost restraint, at a very difficult time, on her.’[34]

In fact, the Labourites had decided to give the Zionists full imperialist backing. The same day, Abba Eban flew to London:

‘From the airport in London, I drove with. Ambassador Remez to Downing Street …

Wilson’s reply was forthright. The Cabinet had met that morning and had reached a consensus that the policy of blockade must not be allowed to triumph; Britain would join with others in an effort to open the Straits.’[35]

Some ‘restraint’! When George Thomson, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, was dispatched to Washington, he was accompanied by a senior member of the naval staff in order to co-ordinate British plans to open the straits with the Pentagon.[36]

Labour’s plans to send a British American naval force to sail through the Straits of Tiran had been delayed by the reluctance of the French imperialists to join in the adventure and was pre-empted by the Zionists’ own attack on the Arab countries. Although the force never attempted to open the blockade, Labour had exhibited its usual enthusiasm for imperialist schemes. And this particular scheme had, without doubt, encouraged the Israelis to begin the Six-day war.

October 1973 War

In his book The Chariot of Israel, Harold Wilson explains the Labour Opposition’s reaction to the war of October 1973, waged by the Arab states against Israel, and which threatened to liberate the Occupied Territories from Zionist rule:

‘It was Labour who provided all the activity. As soon as the news of the invasion became known I telephoned the Israeli Ambassador … I was in contact with him each day to hear of developments. The first thing he told me was that Mr Heath’s Government had placed an embargo on the shipment of spares and ammunition to Israel needed for the Centurion tanks Britain had supplied when Labour had been in power. As soon as the Prime Minister, Edward Heath, returned to London, I went to No.10 to press him to change Government policy on spares and ammunition. When he refused, James Callaghan and I took up the issue publicly.’[37]

With such obliging support from the Zionist errand-boys of the Labour Party, it is a wonder that the Israelis bothered keeping their own Ambassador in London! Wilson goes on to quote the Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban:

‘The decision of Edward Heath and his government in London came as a specially harsh blow:.. the British example affected other European countries … It was only when Harold Wilson’s Labour Government came to power that the scar in our relations began to heal.’[38]


This brief survey of recent Palestinian history shows Britain’s responsibility for conceiving and nurturing the Zionist monster. It also exposes the key role consistently played by the Labour Party in this process throughout the entire period – at times even outdistancing the Zionists themselves. A golden testimony to services rendered by Labour comes from the late Zionist Prime Minister, Golda Meir:

‘From the very beginning of the labor movement in Palestine we were in close contact with the international labor movement, with the British Labor Party, and Trades Union Congress in England and with the labor federations in the United States. We believed in these organizations in their programs and policies, and we were certain that they, above all, in moral sympathy with our purpose would help us.

Probably one of the greatest factors in helping us to overcome our initial difficulties was the fact that from the very first, since 1917, we constantly received encouragement from the British labor movement and in later years from the American labor movement.’[39]

It is true that recently there have been gestures of support for the Palestinians from sections of the Labour Party. At the 1982 Conference a motion was passed reversing the formal politcy of the party. Dundee’s Labour Council has flown the PLO flag at the City Hall. Such gestures deserve support.

Yet they do not represent a trend and may have been encouraged by less generous motives than solidarity. Support for the Palestinians can easily be reconciled with attempts to share in Arab countires oil wealth. Representatives of no less than 12 Arab oil states have been lured to Dundee in the hope of attracting investment and providing jobs for Britishworkers. The fact is that today’s Labour Party is true to its history. It is thoroughly pro-Zionist and pro-imperialist. Some 120 Labour MPs are members of the. Labour Friends of Israel. Among the Zionists are many of the so-called ‘left’, including Tony Benn and Eric Heffer. Another Labour MP is Greville Janner, who returned from a visit to Zionist occupied Lebanon, remarking that ‘the soldiers’ restraint has been remarkable’.[40]

Opportunists like this form the core of the Labour Party and determine its political standpoint. The wretchedly pro-imperialist. Labour Party did not call a single demonstration during last summer’s Zionist butchery in Lebanon. Surely that says it all?


[1] A good history of the Palestinian resistance to Zionism and Imperialism is David Hirst’s The Gun and the Olive Branch (Futura Publications, London, 1978). See also Rosemary Sayigh, Palestinians: from Peasants to Revolutionaries (Zed Press, London, 1981), Nathan Weinstock, Zionism: False Messiah, (Inklinks, London, 1979)

[2] The Balfour Declaration is reproduced in Hirst, p38. For the imperialist interests involved, see Maxime Rodinson, Israel: A Colonial Settler State? (Monad, New York, 1973).

[3] This section of the ‘War Aims Memorandum’ appears in Jewish Agency for Palestine, Documents relating to the Palestine Problem (London, 1945, p77). The book, compiled by Zionists, is a compilation of speeches by leading Labour Party and Trade Union figures and of Labour and TUC resolutions supporting Zionism.

[4] Quoted in Doreen Ingrams (ed) Palestine Papers 1917-1922 (John Murray, London, 1972), p7.

[5] Ibid, p8.

[6] Quoted, ibid, p73.

[7] Palestine – Facts in Focus (BAZO-Palestine Solidarity, Glasgow, 1981), p7ff, Hirst, p63.

[8] The 1929 riots and their aftermath are described in Hirst, pp62-73.

[9] H.C. Hansard, Vol 248, col 754, February 13 1931.

[10] Chaim Weizmann, Trial and Error (Greenwood Press, Connecticut, 1972), p335.

[11] Loc cit, col 757.

[12] Op cit., p335.

[13] Hirst gives a good account of the 1936-1939 Revolt – see his Chapter 3. However, the best account is undoubtedly by Ghassan Kanafani, Palestine: The 1936-39 Revolt (Tricontinental Society, London, n.d). Kanafani, a leading member of the PFLP, was assassinated by Zionist agents in Beirut on Saturday, July 8 1972. Figures for the size of the BSP are from Weinstock, p130.

[14] For the motion see Jewish Agency, p78. For the entire racist episode, see TUC Report 1936, pp393-6.

[15] Kanafani, op. cit., p25.

[16] Sayigh, p72.

[17] Jewish Agency, p79.

[18] Dalton, High Tide and After (Frederic Muller, London, 1962), pp145-6.

[19] Ibid, p146

[20] Weizmann, op cit, p436.

[21] H.C. Hansard, Vol 437, Col 1964-5, May 16 1947.

[22] Richard Crossman, A Nation Reborn (Hamish Hamilton, London, 1960), p70.

[23] Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew, Publish It Not (Longman, London, 1975), p17.

[24] Quoted by Hirst, p122.

[25] R H Crossman and Michael Foot A Palestine Munich? (Gollancz, London, 1946), pp22-3.

[26] Ibid, pp24-5.

[27] Ibid, p29.

[28] Ibid, p31.

[29] Quoted by Crossman, p52

[30] Hirst, pp123-143.

[31] Hirst, pp1197-202.

[32] See Hugh Gaitskell’s speech on August 2 1956, H.C. Hansard, Vol 557, Cols 1612-1616.

[33] H.C. Hansard, Vol 558, Col 23.

[34] Harold Wilson, The Labour Government 1964-70, (Penguin, 1974), p508.

[35] Quoted by Harold Wilson, The Chariot of Israel (Weidenfeld and Nicholson; Michael Joseph, London, 1981), pp336-7

[36] Wilson, Labour Government …, p509.

[37] Op cit, p365.

[38] Ibid, p367.

[39] Golda Meir Speaks Out, ed Marie Syrkin (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1973), p54.

[40] Sunday Telegraph July 11 1982, p17: ‘British Jews and the “Big Lie”‘.


Posted in Imperialism, Labour Aristocracy, Zionism | Leave a Comment »

The British Labour Party and Vietnam.[1]

Posted by Steve Palmer on June 19, 2011

The French annexation of Vietnam began in earnest on August 31, 1858 with a French naval attack on Da Nang. Despite vacillation and compromise by the feudal court at Hue, and despite superior technology the French met such determined popular resistance that it took until 1884 to annex the whole country. Even after annexation, popular resistance by Vietnamese peasants and scholars waging protracted guerrilla war continued strongly until 1897.

The French colluded with the feudal regime to repress and exploit the Vietnamese people. French education and culture were imposed, and illiteracy actually increased – there were never more than three secondary schools in the whole country during French rule. Taxes on the peasantry were increased to pay for the colonial administration. The imperialists turned the country into a source of cheap raw materials – coal, ore, rubber – and a market for French goods. Handicraft industry was crushed by imports, pauperising artisans, while vast areas of land – 470,000 hectares between 1897 and 1913 – were grabbed by French companies to become plantations. Rice was exported in the midst of famine. The racist oppression and exploitation by the French gave new life to the national movement. The plight of the peasants grew worse. In 1908 a mass peasant struggle broke out against the colonial authorities and continued for months in the face of bloody repression by the imperialists. In this period there were also risings by the Highland people, and important guerrilla struggles. However, despite its courage and audacity, the peasant resistance, led by the scholars, proved unable to maintain a disciplined and united mass movement which could successfully challenge French imperialism. This had to await the development of new social forces, forces created by the imperialists themselves in their frenzy of colonial exploitation.

Imperialist world war and after.

When the imperialist world war broke out in 1914, 100,000 Vietnamese were drafted to serve in the French army and as labourers. Indochina was squeezed further to supply some 336,000 tonnes of food and huge war loans.[2] Yet despite this exploitation, and even though a number of major mutinies and risings took place, the national movement proved too weak to take successful advantage of France’s wartime difficulties. When the war ended, the imperialist system was wracked with crisis, weakened by war, economic collapse and the re – emergence of revolutionary struggle in the imperialist countries. France turned to her colonies for the economic resources which could stave off collapse. While in the 20 years 1888 – 1918, fr.490 million had been invested in Indochina, some fr.8,000 million poured in during the decade 1919 – 1929. Chiefly invested in mines and plantations, the investments were hugely profitable. These profits were sent back to France to prop up the ailing economy: in 1925 the Banque de l’Indochine made a 36 million profit on a capital of 72 million and the Compagnie Financiere des Caoutchoucs took 31 million francs on a capital of 100 million.[3]

With capital pumped out of the country on this scale it was impossible for a successful Vietnamese capitalist class to emerge. However, the vast French investments created a small but important working class. In 1929 some 53,000 were employed in the mines, 86,000 in factories, and 80,000 on plantations.[4]

Highly concentrated, the workers suffered brutal exploitation and repression. Mines and plantations had their own jails, and trade union membership was illegal, bringing five years jail and deportation. As the Outline History of the Vietnam Workers Party notes:

‘The Vietnamese working class, though not large in number, was geographically concentrated to a relatively high degree, and was a homogeneous class without a stratum of aristocratic workers thus not subject to the influence of reformism.’[5]

Revolutionary communism found its natural support and amongst these workers, who would form the vanguard of the Vietnamese revolutionary movement.

The great Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh founded the Thanh Nien (Young Revolutionaries Association) in 1925. While petty bourgeois nationalists were calling for gradual reforms or supported isolated acts of terror against the brutal colonial authorities, Ho emphasised that the revolution would be the work of the worker and peasant masses who must organise in a revolutionary Marxist – Leninist party. Working among the peasants, Thanh Nien soon became the most powerful underground organisation in the country and formed the nucleus of the Indo Chinese Communist party, founded on 3 February, 1930.

The world economic crisis, which broke out in 1929, had drastic repercussions in Vietnam. Raw material prices, particularly for rice, rubber and coal, collapsed; exports fell; unemployment grew, creating further misery in the villages.

The different class trends in the national movement soon expressed themselves in the face of increased misery. The anti – Communist Quoc Dan Dang (Vietnam Nationalist Party), composed of intellectuals and petty officials, organised a bold rising of the Yen Bai Garrison in 1930. The communists immediately supported the action. Although other garrisons rose, there had been no preparation amongst the people and the insurrection was rapidly crushed. Bloody repression destroyed the Quoc Dan Dang and with it the bourgeois national movement.[6]

The Communists, working amongst the masses, had organised underground trade unions and farmers’ unions, and led a series of hard – fought strikes throughout the country, organised huge peasant demonstrations, and helped set up Soviets in Nghe An and Ha Tinh (Nghe Tinh). Despite the subsequent massive wave of repression, torture and summary execution, which followed, the communists, unlike the Nationalists, survived because of their deep roots amongst the oppressed.[7]

Despite being outlawed, the ICP continued to struggle in every possible way using both illegal and legal means to build up popular organisations directed against the colonialists. When the imperialist war broke out in 1939, the French once again imposed a levy on Vietnam to provide manpower food and raw materials. Following the French defeat in June 1940, the Japanese Fascists invaded Vietnam where they joined hands with the French colonialists. The ICP organised armed resistance and in June 1941 helped found the Vietminh (League for Vietnamese Independence) which rallied the nation in the struggle for liberation and conducted armed struggle against the imperialists

In early 1945, famine struck: within months 2 million had died. The people formed self – defence units and seized rice stocks and distributed them. Revolutionary actions mounted and following the Japanese defeat in August, insurrection swept the country under the leadership of the Vietminh. Revolutionary forces took Hanoi on August 19, Hue on the 23rd and Saigon on August 25. The Vietminh now controlled the entire country.

Independence and British Intervention

On 2 September 1945, 1 million Vietnamese crowded into Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square, to hear Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence:

‘for more than 80 years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow – citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice…

They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly massacred our patriots. They have drowned our uprisings in seas of blood… They have weakened our race with opium and alcohol.

In the field of economics, they have sucked us dry, driven our people to destitution, and devastated our land.

They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests and our natural resources…

Our people have broken the chains which have fettered them for nearly a century and have won independence for Vietnam…

We, the provisional government of the new Vietnam, representing the entire Vietnamese people, hereby declare from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; cancel all treaties signed by France on Vietnam, and abolish all privileges held by France in our country.’[8]

A tremendous cheer went up. Vietnam, at last, was free!

Yet, though independence had been declared, it had not yet been guaranteed. Earlier, at the Potsdam conference, it had been agreed that the task of disarming and repatriating the defeated Japanese imperialist troops, who had occupied Vietnam, was to be carried out by the Chinese in the north of the country, and by the British in the south. But the British Labour government was also determined to restore imperialist rule.

On 11 September the British advance guard arrived, and Maj – Gen Douglas D Gracey himself flew in on the 13th. Though the Vietnamese national movement was anxious to avoid any conflict, in the hope that the imperialist troops would carry out the task and leave, every attempt made to contact Gracey was ignored. The British refused to have anything to do with the government of the new Democratic Republic of Vietnam(DRV). The job of maintaining ‘Law and order’ – French law and order – was given to re – armed Japanese troops, former enemies of the British, who were supposed to be disarmed and repatriated to Japan by Gracey’s troops!

‘I was welcomed on arrival by the Vietminh, who said “welcome” and all that sort of thing. It was a very unpleasant situation, and I promptly kicked them out.’[9]

This was how Gracey explained his implementation of the orders of the 1945 British Labour government to restore French colonial rule to Vietnam, condemning the Vietnamese people to a bloody 30 – year anti – imperialist struggle.

On 17 September the Vietminh protested by staging a general strike, closed down the Saigon market, and boycotted all French traders. Gracey responded by closing down the Vietnamese press on 19 September. And 21 September he issued the infamous Proclamation Number One, which threatened summary execution of anyone who took part in a demonstration, public meeting or broke curfew. The Labour government had shown its pro – imperialist colours: British democracy had well and truly arrived!

The real purpose of British intervention became clear. Gracey’s formal duties, as agreed at Potsdam, were to secure the Japanese headquarters, to round up and disarm the Japanese, and to release and transport home Allied prisoners. Already, the British had usurped the democratic Vietnamese civilian administration, declared what amounted to martial law throughout Nam Bo (the South), and had re – armed the Japanese troops they were supposed to disarm. Worse was to follow.

Since the British alone did not have sufficient troops to enforce Proclamation Number One, on 22 September Gracey issued arms to the French troops and settlers. On the following day the French staged a brutal bloody coup d’etat against the Vietminh Southern committee.

Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap later wrote that:

‘colonial legionaries and French colonialist who had meekly surrendered to the Japanese only a few months earlier showed utmost savagery in massacring and ill treating unarmed civilians.

The great War of resistance of our nation against the French colonialist aggressors had broken out in Nam Bo.’[10]

The Vietnamese Foreign Minister telegraphed to the British Labour government, protesting against the ‘smoke – screening of French aggression’. The Labour Party treated this protest in the way it treated all Vietnamese appeals for support against imperialism: it ignored it.

Lord Mountbatten was in charge of South East Asia Command – SEAC (known to the Americans as ‘ Saviours of England’s Asiatic Colonies’!). In a telegram to the British chiefs of staff on September 24 he backed Gracey who:

‘has acted with courage and determination in an extremely difficult situation, with as yet inadequate forces…’[11]

To counter the resistance war, the British rearmed all the 40,000 Japanese fascist troops. The combined British French and Japanese forces took a month to drive the resistance out of Saigon. The struggle now began for the countryside.

The British orders were clear enough:

‘beware of nibbling at opposition. Always use the maximum force available to ensure wiping out any hostiles we may meet. If one uses too much, no harm is done. If one uses too small a force, and it has to be extricated, we will suffer casualties and encourage the enemy.’[12]


‘the difficulty is to select him [the enemy] as immediately he has had his shot or thrown his grenade he pretends to be friendly. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to look upon all locals anywhere near where a shot has been fired as enemies, and treacherous ones at that, and treat them accordingly.’[13]

On 5 October the Labour Prime Minister wrote to Fenner Brockway reassuringly about the situation in Vietnam:

‘ the government is carrying out the principles for which it has always stood.’[14]

Bevin, the British Labour Foreign Secretary, met Massigli, the French ambassador, on 9 October and they signed a secret agreement, believed to guarantee a British handover of Indochina to the French, in exchange for French withdrawal from Syria and Lebanon. In Parliament on 24 October,[15] Bevin lyingly claimed that the DRV was a creation of the Japanese and confirmed that the Labour government was carrying out their side of the bargain:

‘every effort is being made to expedite the movement of French troops to Saigon in sufficient numbers to enable them to take over from the British forces.’[16]

The following day, Gen Leclerc began the struggle to restore French domination. After mopping up operations, their task of restoring French imperialism fulfilled, the Labour government withdrew British troops in January 1946.

War of resistance against the French

In elections held throughout Vietnam on January 6, 1946 the overwhelming majority voted for Vietminh candidates. In order to gain time the DRV are made a series of compromises with the French throughout 1946 yet the French continued their attempts to reassert control. On November 23 after a bombardment which killed 20,000 civilians the French captured Haiphong, the second largest city. It was clear that the French were determined to destroy the DRV and on December 20 Ho Chi Minh called on the nation to fight the colonialists:

‘We would sooner sacrifice all than lose our country we are determined not to be enslaved.

Compatriots! Rise up!’[17]

The entire nation united in struggle: the peasants gave rice to the army, workers moved factories into the jungle and forest. Increasingly successful military operations were conducted against the imperialists, and the Vietnamese people received growing international support, especially from the socialist countries. The French set up a puppet regime headed by Bao Dai, former emperor, which was recognised by the British Labour government on 7 February 1950 and by the US. As the French were weakened, the US supplied aid to prolong the war. By 1953 – 4 US military aid to France reached 1000 million dollars, 78% of the total French outlay on the war. Yet even this was insufficient to save the French who were defeated in the historical battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954.[18]

The Geneva conference

This excellent news broke on the very day that the Geneva conference, set up to discuss the Korean and Indochina questions, began to discuss Indochina. Extended diplomatic wrangling and manoeuvring took place. On 20 July 1954 agreement was reached on a cessation of hostilities in Vietnam. A provisional military demarcation line was agreed roughly at the 17th parallel, temporarily dividing Vietnam into two zones. The Vietminh forces were to withdraw to the north of this line and the French to the south. There were also to be no reprisals for activities during the war, no troop reinforcements, no foreign military alliances. The final declaration stated that ‘general elections shall be held in July 1956 ‘.[19]

However, behind – the – scenes, the US Secretary of State and Anthony Eden, the British foreign minister, had drawn up a secret seven point communication, pressed on the French, which agreed to partition the country and maintain a pro – imperialist government in the south.[20] In public however, they went along with the final declaration which quite clearly stated that:

‘the military demarcation line is provisional and should not in any way be treated as constituting a political or territorial boundary.’[21]

The United States, though not a signatory to the agreements, pledged to ‘refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb them’.[22]

The imperialists subsequently pretended that Vietnam had been partitioned into two states. This lie was to serve as the cornerstone of all the imperialists later lies about ‘aggression’ from the north against the south and as the justification for the war against the Vietnamese nation.

The imperialists were also opposed to free democratic elections throughout the country because, as US President Eisenhower subsequently admitted: ‘had elections been held at of the time of the fighting, possibly 80% of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh.’[23]

If the Geneva agreement was observed, the country would have been peacefully reunited with the democratically elected Communist government.

US backed terror and popular resistance

The US was totally opposed to the Vietminh coming to power and took over where the French left off, sponsoring the puppet regime of Ngo Dinh Diem in the south which repeatedly stated that it had not signed the agreements and would not be bound by them. Diem unleashed terror against the peasants who had seized land from the landlords during the struggle against the French; against anyone who had been active in the anti – French struggle, and even against opponents within the ruling clique in the south. Between 1954 and 1960 the puppet regime had killed 90,000, wounded 190,000 and then detained 800,000 – 600,000 of whom were incapacitated by torture. At this time South Vietnam had a population of 14 million.[24]

The mounting repression, backed by the US, bred increased resistance by the population, developing into armed self – defence. On 20 December 1960, the National liberation front was set up to overthrow the Diem regime, establish a democratic government, introduce agrarian reform, and bring about peaceful reunification.

US special war

The United States tried to suppress the struggle by means of ‘special war’ waged by puppet troops under US control. Massive repression using the latest technology was combined with concentration of the population into 16,000 strategic hamlets. A British Advisory Mission, headed by Sir Robert Thompson was sent to South Vietnam to advise on the strategic hamlets program, drawing on British experience in Malaya.

The NLF fought back – by the end of 1963 80% of the strategic hamlets had been destroyed. The US arranged coup after coup in Saigon but failed to find a puppet regime which could reverse these setbacks. At the beginning of 1965 the NLF liberated zone covered four – fifths of the territory with the support of more than two – thirds of the population.[25]

US escalation

The US decided to escalate the war, using a fabricated attack on the spy ship USS Maddox in the Tonkin Gulf. Air strikes were launched against North Vietnam ‘in retaliation’ for ‘North Vietnamese aggression’. By November 1965 US forces in South Vietnam had increased to 190,000 and reached half a million in 1968. At the height of the war, 75% of all US land forces, 60% of the US air force and 40% of the US Naval force were involved in Indochina.[26]

Labour Party – complicity in genocide

Throughout, the British imperialists, particularly the 1964 – 70 Labour government, played a key role in sabotaging peace efforts by supporting US imperialism to the hilt and throwing the blame for the war on to the Vietnamese people.

Direct British aid to US imperialism included the provision of equipment to the US military for use in the war against Vietnam: Rolls – Royce supplied aero engines; Elliott – Automation supplied avionics; Decca Navigator supplied radar and navigational equipment; the British Hovercraft Corporation supplied the U.S. Navy with five Hovercraft for use in the Mekong Delta.

Hundreds of American troops were trained by the British at the Jungle Warfare School, Kota Tinggi, at Johore, Malaya. In October 1966, the Sunday Times reported:

‘in the past two years the benefit of the school’s tuition has been extended to at least 1,450 South Vietnamese – all fees paid by the British foreign office. … and the arrivals have boasted some of the really top Saigon brass. One recent course was attended by Col Trien, chief of security of the South Vietnamese Training Command.’

It went on to quote a spokesman:

‘We tell them: “gather the jungle dwellers into fortified camps and give them proper protection at night, as we did during the Malayan emergency. Then you can go out at night and knock off anybody you find who isn’t inside”‘

Torture techniques were also taught at the school – with the full knowledge of the Labour government.

Less direct, but no less valuable, was the general political and diplomatic assistance rendered by the Labour government. Right from the beginning of the escalation, Labour aligned itself with US imperialism. On 14 December 1964 Harold Wilson, the Labour leader, remarked: ‘We have repeatedly said… That we support US policy in Vietnam.’ George Thomson, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, told the House of Commons:

‘The policy of her Majesty’s government remains to support the government of the Republic of Vietnam in their efforts to put an end to the Communist insurrection which, aided and abetted from Hanoi, in constant violation of the Geneva agreements, threatens the liberty and independence of the South Vietnamese people.’[27]

and went on to defend the role of the British Advisory Mission in Saigon. In fact, as we have seen, it was the US which had violated the Geneva agreement.

On 8 April 1965 the DRV put forward a four point peace plan[28]. When William Walby MP requested that the DRV statement be published in Hansard, Michael Stewart, the Foreign Secretary, refused and the Foreign Office suppressed it. In May, Wilson explained the relationship between Britain and the US:

‘In Malaysia we are doing the fighting and the Americans are doing the negotiating. In Vietnam it is the Americans are doing the fighting and we who are doing the negotiating.’[29]

In fact all the pretence of negotiations was a lie: the Labour government persisted with a series of diplomatic manoeuvres and ‘peace initiatives’ which were designed to fail, with the blame always being pinned on the north Vietnamese,

Thus on 17 June, the Commonwealth prime ministers conference opened in London, and Wilson announced a ‘Commonwealth peace mission’ with great fanfare. In fact, as Richard Crossman noted in his diary, it was a ‘brilliantly successful stunt’, designed to postpone and diminish a row about Rhodesia [i.e. Zimbabwe] at the conference, and also to deflate the Labour left.[30] Ho Chi Minh commented:

‘Mr. Wilson has not correctly carried out his obligations as co – chairman of the 1954 Geneva conference on Vietnam. He cannot engage in peace negotiations since he has himself supported the United States policy of aggression and expansion of the war.’[31]

Nevertheless, on 19 September 1965, the Labour Party gave Wilson its full backing when the party conference voted to give its support to the US government, a stand incorporated into the 1966 election manifesto.

On 24 December 1965, the US announced a bombing halt, and on 7 January 1966 the State Department issued the ’14 points’, claiming that the USA respected the Geneva agreement.[32] Then on 12 January Johnson called on the Vietnamese people ‘to choose between peace and destruction’. Ho Chi Minh replied on 24 January in letters to the heads of the socialist countries that ‘if they truly respect the Geneva agreement the Americans should withdraw all their troops.’ He pointed out that the DRV had put forward four points in April 1965 which express the essential provisions of the Geneva agreement. I’m 31 January, US bombing resumed. The lying Michael Stewart was later to claim that ‘there was no response’ to the bombing pause.[33]

The US continued to escalate the war. On 29 June the US bombed Hanoi and Haiphong. Wilson was given full details of the raid, weeks in advance, and made no attempt to warn the DRV. ‘I repeated our total objection to the policy’ he later claimed.[34] Yet a secret cablegram to Johnson, subsequently leaked as part of the Pentagon papers, shows the opposite:

‘I wholly understand the deep concern you must feel the need to do anything possible to reduce the losses of young Americans in and over Vietnam… The last thing I wish to do is to add to your difficulties… Our reservations about this operation will not affect our continuing support for your policy over Vietnam.’[35]

In October 1966, the Labour Party conference obligingly voted down a motion dissociating Britain from US policy in Vietnam.

The Tet offensive

The real turning point in the war came in February 1968, on the eve of the Vietnamese lunar New Year – the Tet festival. The People’s liberation Army launched a massive offensive throughout the whole of South Vietnam. In Saigon they captured 5 out of 7 floors of the US Embassy and for several days controlled five out of Saigon’s nine boroughs: the puppet regime was reduced to bombing its own capital! Although the offensive was eventually suppressed there were important victories which showed the futility of US intervention, then at its height. The ancient capital of Hue was only captured by the imperialists after four weeks of fighting reduced the city to rubble; and near the 17th parallel, the major US base at Khe Sanh was blockaded for six months until forced to evacuate. The Tet offensive spelt out that, short of nuclear war, the US could never win.[36] Yet Wilson, then in Washington, immediately offered succour to the shaken US ruling class. In an after – dinner speech discussing the Tet offensive, he expressed ‘the sense of outrage this brings’ and reiterated his refusal to condemn the US war of aggression.[37]

This connivance continued when Labour had left office; even in the very last days of direct US intervention. When a resolution on Vietnam was proposed at the January 1973 meeting of the Socialist International, it was opposed by the Zionist Israeli Labour Party and the British Labour party because it criticised the United States. It was left to the Tories to recognise the DRV on 3 September 1973, following the signing of the Paris agreements. Yet when Labour returned to power in 1974 it persisted in backing the puppet regime in the south, even though it had been defeated! The Paris agreements had treated the puppet regime and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) as equal parties, yet Labour refused to recognise the PRG. Right to the last Labour backed US imperialism against the Vietnamese people. In September 1975, the Labour government welcomed the defeated war criminal and former puppet ruler of neo – colonial South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, to Britain, settling him in the London suburb of Wimbledon – with no problems from the immigration officers. By contrast, an earlier Labour government arrested Ho Chi Minh, a courageous revolutionary, in Hong Kong and threw him into jail with drug peddlers and murderers.[38]

The Labour ‘left’ and Vietnam

What of the famous Labour Party ‘left’ and Vietnam? What did they do?

Outside Parliament, Bertrand Russell a famous philosopher, but hardly a communist, spoke out about the war and condemned British collusion. In a speech to Youth CND on 14 October 1965 he summed up the record of the Labour government thus:

‘When I compare the horrors of the Vietnam War with the election manifesto of the Labour government, I find myself confronted with the most shameful betrayal of modern times in this country. Hitler, at least, seldom professed humanity, but these men who now pollute the chairs of office professed, before election, the most noble and lofty ideals of human brotherhood.

… I can no longer remain a member of this so – called Labour party and I am resigning after 51 years.’[39]

At the end of his speech he called for a new party to be built, and tore up his membership card.

Inside the House of Commons, one Labour MP, William Warbey, resigned the Labour whip over Vietnam. But these were isolated examples and the bulk of the ‘left’ put party loyalty before opposition to US imperialism. ‘Left’ MPs contented themselves with putting down motions. The Labour ‘left’ were a cowardly bunch, as Crossman points out. Following a debate about Vietnam in the Parliamentary Labour Party on 6 July 1966:

‘the left – wingers were subdued since they were trying to show that they weren’t splitting the party’.[40]

The ‘left’, in short, preferred that British complicity with US genocide should continue rather than risk splitting the Labour Party or bringing down the government.

The consequences of Labour’s betrayal of the Vietnamese people

The result of the Labour Party’s betrayal was to give respectability to the US escalation at a time when it was losing support abroad, and when resistance to the war was mounting at home. Labour thus helped prolong US genocide, whose horrific costs are spelt out in the box. But Labour’s complicity did not only help to perpetuate the mass barbarism against the Vietnamese, but against all oppressed peoples everywhere. For a decade, the national liberation struggle in Vietnam against US imperialism was the crucial struggle between imperialism on the one hand, and the forces of progress, freedom and socialism on the other. The victory of the heroic people of Vietnam over US imperialism helped prevent direct US intervention against other liberation movements, notably in southern Africa in the 70s[41], just as today it still inhibits the US imperialists from direct intervention in Central America. If the US had won (and this was what the Labour government wanted), the world revolutionary movement would have been thrown back for decades and the hopes of millions of people liberation from imperialism would have been snuffed out.

Steve Palmer

The balance sheet of US aggression against Vietnam

The total weight of bombs and shells used reached 14.5 million tons – – seven times the weight of all the bombs dropped on all theatres of war during the Second World War. More than 70,000,000 litres of chemical defoliants was sprayed. These have left 10% of the land, including the best land, unfit for cultivation for up to 120 years. These chemicals have also been responsible for a horrific increase in deformity amongst newborn children due to chromosomal alteration caused by dioxin poisoning of their parents. The human casualties are massive. In the south, 1 million were killed and 2 million injured between 1961 and 1970. Several hundred thousand were crippled. 9000 out of 15,000 hamlets were severely damaged or destroyed. When the Americans withdrew, they left behind 4 million illiterate, more than 3 million unemployed, some 500,000 students and 500,000 drug addicts. Imperialist terror and destruction drove half the population off the land and into the cities. In the north, US bombing damaged 2, 923 schools, destroyed 465 pagodas and temples, 484 churches, damaged 350 hospitals, 1500 infirmary’s and maternity hospitals. Two thirds of all villages were damaged or wiped out, as were all but a handful of the main towns and cities. Hundreds of thousands were killed, and 700,000 children orphaned.

Although the US pledged to ‘contribute to healing the wounds of war and to post – war reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and throughout Indochina’ to the tune of 3000 million dollars, not one cent of this has been paid.

[1] The best account of the Vietnamese liberation struggle is Nguyen Khac Vien, The Long Resistance 1858 – 1975 (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Hanoi, 1978). S Divilkovsky and I Ognetov The Road to Victory (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1980) is good on the period from August 1945. Marvin E Gettleman (ed) Vietnam – History, Documents and Opinions (Mentor, New York, 1970) is also very valuable.

[2] Nguyen Khac Vien, p 50.

[3] Ibid, pp 55 – 56.

[4] Ibid, p62.

[5] Commission for the Study of the History of the Viet Nam Workers’ Party An Outline History of the Vietnam Workers’ Party (1930 – 1975) (FLPH, Hanoi, 1976), p 15.

[6] Nguyen Khac Vien, pp 74 – 76.

[7] Ibid, Chapter 4.

[8] Ho Chi Minh, ‘Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam’ in Selected Writings 1920 – 1969 (FLPH, Hanoi, 1973), pp53 – 56. General Vo Nguyen Giap gives a moving account of the event: see Unforgettable Days (FLPH, Hanoi, 1978), pp27 – 32.

[9] Royal Central Asian Society Journal, 1953, p213. The account of British intervention is based on George Rosie, The British in Vietnam (Panther, London, 1970).

[10] Giap, p52.

[11] Rosie, p59.

[12] Ibid, p 78.

[13] Ibid, p84.

[14] Ibid, p14.

[15] William Warbey, MP, Vietnam: the Truth (Merlin Press, London, 1965), p25.

[16] Documents relating to British Involvement in the Indo – China Conflict, Cmnd 2834 (HMSO, London, 1965), p54.

[17] Ho Chi Minh, ‘Appeal for Nation – wide Resistance’, Selected Writings, p68

[18] Road to Victory, pp22 – 59.

[19] The agreement on cessation of hostilities and the ‘Final Declaration’ are reprinted in Gettleman, op. cit. pp164 – 182.

[20] Sir Anthony Eden, Full Circle (Cassell, London, 1960), pp 132 – 133.

[21] Gettleman, p 180.

[22] Bedell Smith, US Under – Secretary of State at the close of the Geneva Conference, 21 July 1954. See Gettleman, p 184.

[23] Quoted, The Road to Victory, p68.

[24] Vietnamese Studies, 181 – 19, p71. See also Phan Van Bach et al, Law 10 – 59: Fascist Terror in South Vietnam (FLPH, Hanoi, 1961). See also Gettleman, pp223 – 319; Road to Victory, pp66 – 82

[25] The Long Resistance, pp188 – 192.

[26] Vietnam – Destruction, War Damage (FLPH, Hanoi, 1977), p13.

[27] Quoted in Warbey, p92.

[28] Reproduced in Gettleman, pp437 – 9.

[29] Warbey, p121.

[30] Richard Crossman Diaries of a Cabinet Minister Vol 1, p255.

[31] Ho Chi Minh, “Answers to the British Daily Worker”, July 1 1965, Against US Aggression – For National Salvation (FLPH, Hanoi, 1967), p81

[32] Reproduced in Gettleman, pp437 – 9.

[33] See Michael Stewart, Life and Labour (Sidgwick and Jackson, London, 1980), pp152 – 6. Stewart’s important speech to the Oxford Union on 16 June 1965, which set a new world record for lying, was never challenged by the Labour ‘left’. The speech, together with a brilliant point by point demolition of it, is reprinted in John Gittings and Ajit Singh, Vietnam Briefing (CND, 1965).

[34] Harold Wilson, The Labour Government 1964 – 70 (Penguin, 1974), p320.

[35] The Pentagon Papers, (Bantam, London, 1971), p448.

[36] Road to Victory, pp162 – 176

[37] Wilson, p633.

[38] Ho was arrested on 6 June 1931; Jean Lacouture, Ho Chi Minh (Pelican, London, 1969), p57. See also Wilfred Burchett, North of the Seventeenth Parallel (Red River Publishing House, Hanoi), pp18 – 20; and D. N. Pritt, From Right to Left (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1965), pp 137 – 8. Pritt dealt with Ho’s case before the Privy Council.

[39] Bertrand Russell War Crimes in Vietnam (Allen and Unwin, London, 1967), pp91 – 92.

[40] Crossman, p562.

[41] See the remark by the Chief of the CIA’s Angolan Task Force: John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies (Futura, London, 1979) p174: ‘This wasn’t the 1961 missile risis in Cuba where our president could react with great bravado and domestic support. It was Angola, a mere five months after the fall of Vietnam’.

Posted in Imperialism, Labour Aristocracy | Leave a Comment »

“Shoot the bankers, nationalise the banks”

Posted by Steve Palmer on January 20, 2009

From the Financial Times, mouthpiece of finance capital:

“Shoot the bankers, nationalise the banks

By Philip Stephens

Financial Times : January 19 2009 19:40

For once, Gordon Brown is guilty of understatement. The other day the prime minister remarked on the rising public anger at the behaviour of Britain’s banks. Unbridled rage would have been a more accurate description of the national mood.

On a recent visit to Washington I heard several people say that when the reckoning is finally made some big Wall Street figures are going to end up in jail. My impression is that many on this side of the Atlantic would like to see one or two British bankers join them.

For the moment, though, I cannot think of a more popular policy than shooting the bankers and nationalising the banks. It might even win Mr Brown an election. Come to think of it, it could also be the way to get us out of this mess.”

And I thought left-wing extremists were bad …

Posted in Crisis, Imperialism, Own Goal, Political Economy | Leave a Comment »

More Israelis killed in road accidents than by Hamas

Posted by Steve Palmer on January 8, 2009

I decided to check out how dangerous Hamas attacks on Israel really are.

Turns out that Israeli drivers are MUCH more dangerous than Hamas:

Year Killed
in Road Accidents
by terrorist attacks”
2000 421 43
2001 475 247
2002 456 453
2003 418 212
2004 428 118
2005 381 54
2006 373 29
2007 351 13

Sources: Statistical Abstract of Israel (various years) and
Anti-Israeli Terrorism in 2007 and its Trends in 2008

When we flip to the 2008 Abstract’s Table 3.30, we find the following causes of death for 2005 (latest available year):

Cause of Death – selected Number of Deaths
Breast Cancer
Transport Accidents
Intentional Self-Harm
Mental and
behavioural disorders due to psychoactive substance use
“Killed by Terrorist
Gastric and Dudenal

Comment seems superfluous.

Finally, a letter from the Jerusalem Post a few years ago by a visitor to Israel:

Competing risks and realities

American leaders have stressed the importance of leading normal lives in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Travel, shop, eat out, and take in that movie.

But what if your normal life includes regular trips to Israel? The US State Department has issued a warning urging Americans, for their own safety, not to go there.

One cannot deny that, with help from the media, Israel is perceived as a dangerous place due to the threat of terrorism. Indeed, while recently in Israel giving talks and attending a conference, I received numerous e-mails from colleagues and friends worrying for my safety, admonishing me to avoid public places, or otherwise urging me to watch out. I truly appreciate such genuine expressions of concern, but they stem from the aforementioned perception that Israel is much more dangerous than America. A simple review of available data, however, suggests the opposite.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, during the 442 days from the beginning of the current Palestinian intifada until the end of December, 2001, 120 Israelis were killed by terrorist suicide bombings, shootings, hit-and-runs, stabbings, or other means within “Israel proper,” that is, not including terror victims in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

All of these murders are tragic, and I do not intend in any way to make light of them here. However, given that 6.3 million people reside within Israel proper, these deaths work out to an annual personal risk of death from terrorism of 16 in one million, within the boundaries of Israel proper, which would be the destination of most visitors.

Is this a big risk or a little risk? Let’s compare first with the risk of death from motor vehicle accidents in Israel, since one thing tourists do is travel around. Again, excluding the West Bank and Gaza, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics reports 461 traffic fatalities during the 2000 calendar year. This adds up to an annual personal risk of 73 per one million, which is nearly four times higher than the risk of death from terrorism.

So what, you say – this makes Israel look worse! Look again. The 2000 Statistical Abstract of the United States reports that about 41,500 traffic fatalities have occurred in each of the past several years in the US. With a population of 286 million people, the annual personal risk of death from a motor vehicle accident in the United States is 145 per one million.

That’s right – the personal risk of road death is nearly twice as high in the United States as in Israel. And the risk of road death in the United States is nearly eight times higher than the risk of death from terrorism in Israel! Since we Americans readily accept the 145 per million risk of road death without worry, why has the US State Department warned us not to travel to Israel?

Let’s put this into an even more direct perspective. My recent visit to Israel was one week in duration. Since I did not enter the West Bank or Gaza, my combined probability of dying from either terrorism or a car crash on this visit equaled 1.7 in one million.

Had I followed the State Department’s guidance and canceled my visit to Israel, I would have instead enjoyed a 2.8 in one million chance of being killed in a motor vehicle accident at home. In other words, for those keeping score, my death risk would have been 65 percent higher in the US than in Israel.

And I have neglected to note my 23 combined hours flying El Al, one of the safest activities available within the limits of Earth’s atmosphere. It seems that the most dangerous thing I did on this trip was drive from New Haven to JFK Airport!

Perceived risks govern human behavior more than actual risks, and the elevated perceived risk of terror in Israel relative to the actual danger is no exception. I know of at least two canceled academic meetings and a third that is in jeopardy due to the perceived danger of holding such events in Israel. To the extent that terrorism relies on this psychology of fear, such cancellations are victories for the terrorists. And, while the fate of academic events is important to me, this is nothing compared to the economic losses Israel faces from the drop in tourism and other business revenues.

When the US State Department issues travel warnings, many people listen. If citizen safety is the goal, perhaps the State Department should urge all of us Americans to stop driving. But then, wouldn’t that conflict with the goal of leading a normal life?

The Jerusalem Post – January 8, 2002
Edward H. Kaplan

(The writer is the William N. and Marie A. Beach Professor of Management Sciences, Yale University.)

Posted in Bourgeois Ideology, Dumb Sh*t, Imperialism, Zionism | 2 Comments »