Rethinking History From a Leftist Perspective: The Vietnam War and Third World Struggle

BY NICHOLAS AYALA

Understanding international revolutionary history is necessary in being able to analyze modern politics. But it is also important for recognizing and honoring the ways in which people of the Global South, our ancestral people, worked together to combat exploitation and oppression.

The most inspiring stories which we seek to learn from and honor originate in the shared struggles between anti-imperialist, anti-colonial and revolutionary parties. In the United States, this history is obscured and hidden by an imperialist-driven education system. To uncover these stories, one often has to take the perspective of the people exploited or oppressed by the U.S. empire.

In Vietnam, this perspective is provided at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, the capital of the “Southern Vietnamese” puppet government. The Vietnamese people cherish an interesting history of revolutionary internationalist solidarity with Latin America, something rarely discussed in the United States. The history of Latin American and Vietnamese solidarity is not only inspirational but also highlights the strength of the Global South people in the struggle against imperialism.

The Vietnam War proved to be less of a war and more of a U.S. massacre as Washington murdered over three million people (at least two million of them being civilians), injured two million and left three million more people affected by Agent Orange. Despite U.S. atrocities, revolutionaries across the globe rallied behind the Vietnamese communists to fight off U.S. imperialism.

Revolutionaries realized that the will of the exploited and oppressed masses can triumph over the military might of the United States. This was especially true in Latin America. Ernesto “Che” Guevara is famous for saying that the world needs “two, three, or many Vietnams.” He recognized the devastating cost that the Vietnam War brought the U.S. empire as well as the strength, will, and resilience of Global South peoples in resisting imperialist crimes. Overall, a United States fighting multiple costly wars abroad while experiencing anti-war protests at home is dangerous to the empire.

The similarities between Vietnam and Latin America were clear. In Asia, they faced the same wickedness and atrocities at the hands of U.S. imperialists as was seen throughout Latin America. Latin American revolutionaries recognized this and did all they could to show solidarity with the Vietnamese people.

The Vietnamese displayed the solidarity they received in the form of flags from the Mexican Communist Party, the Venezuelan Armed Liberation Forces and Chile. When Salvador Allende was elected President of Chile, one of the first things he did was formally recognize North Vietnam as a state, something which the United States feared. At the time, North Vietnam was governed by the communist resistance movement.

In the War Remnants Museum, Latin American people who were not directly involved in the conflict but still lost their lives are honored for their sacrifice. They highlighted not just how international solidarity strengthens a people’s movement, but also how it is risky for all of those involved. One person frequently mentioned by the Vietnamese is Ignacio Ezcurra.

Ezcurra was an Argentine journalist who studied in the U.S. and went on to cover news around political and cultural movements in the U.S. in the 1960s. Ezcurra’s work was often based around the growing Black Power movement in the United States and how it challenged state power. He is also known for interviewing the famous civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ezcurra went on to cover the Vietnam War.

The Vietnamese honored Ezcurra for his honest reporting, which ran counter to much of U.S. mainstream media. However, this proved costly as on May 8, 1968, Ezcurra was forcibly disappeared in Saigon, which was the capital of South Vietnam. South Vietnam was the U.S. puppet state fighting the Viet Cong. Saigon, the capital, was known to be a popular spot for U.S. and Western journalists. Ezcurra is remembered and praised for his work in Vietnam, but in the United States, he is rarely if ever mentioned.

These acts of remembrance and honor signify the deep solidarity between peoples who have suffered at the hands of U.S. imperialism. This is a relationship that one does not see or truly understand in the Global North. The Vietnamese recognize the sacrifices that other people of the Global South made in order to aid resistance to U.S. aggression, a recognition which is demonized in the U.S. education system and threatens its imperialist order.

Finally, one of the clearest examples of Latin American and Vietnamese solidarity come out of Cuba. The history between Vietnam and Cuba is completely silenced in the bourgeois history found in the United States and most of the Global North. It is inspirational and very emotional for people who lived during those difficult times of ongoing assault. But in the U.S., the difficulties experienced by the Vietnamese and Cuban people in the struggle for sovereignty, peace, and equality is erased. But one only has to look at the words of Fidel Castro and the Vietnamese people to show the spirit and emotion in their words, actions and struggle.

In 1967, when both Cuba and Vietnam were being economically, militarily and politically attacked by the U.S. empire, Fidel said, “unfortunately, we — Cuban people — do not have enough milk and sugar to send to the Vietnamese people. If we did, we would send not only milk and sugar, but also our blood.” The connection between the struggles brought the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese and Cuban people together. Fidel, tying the Vietnamese struggle to the Cuban struggle, practiced internationalism in a way that needs to be remembered, praised, studied and learned from.

In September 1973, Fidel became the first and only foreign leader to visit areas liberated from U.S. control in South Vietnam while the war was still taking place. He inspired millions of Vietnamese as he was unafraid to go to the frontline while the war raged. In addition, the Cuban people also showed massive support for the Vietnamese as major anti-war rallies were held in Havana with hundreds of thousands of protesters marching for the end of U.S. imperialism in Vietnam. Providing more than just words, the Cubans began sending other forms of aid to the Vietnamese in the early 1970s.

In 1972, the United States destroyed the North Vietnamese dyke system in order to harm their agricultural production and create more flooding. The Cubans denounced the attack as an imperialist war crime and declared August 28 “Dyke Day,” a day in which everyone should condemn imperialist war crimes. Cuba also provided $80 million to Vietnam for rebuilding hospitals, farms, hotels and roads. During the Vietnam War, the Ho Chi Minh trail was a vital supply route for the Viet Cong in their efforts in defeating U.S. imperialists and the Cubans sent many experts to help the Vietnamese sustain the trail.

Finally, the Cubans helped educate over a thousand Vietnamese undergraduate students and postgraduate students. This is the history of solidarity and resistance which, if studied and learned from, scares the Imperialist forces seeking the destruction of our peoples in Latin America, the Caribbean and all over the world. When we work together with our comrades across the globe, defeating the seemingly-unstoppable imperialist criminals becomes not only a possibility, but reality.

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