Vietnam strikes back


Vietnam strikes back

In January 1968, Vietnamese communists launched the world-changing Tet Offensive.

James Woudhuysen

Topics Long-reads Politics

The story of the Tet (Vietnamese New Year) Offensive of January 1968 is easily accessible. In brief, the nationalist communist regime in North Vietnam and its Viet Cong allies in the South deceived the 500,000 heavily armed and airborne American occupiers of South Vietnam twice over. First, on 21 January, the North launched a diversionary feint on 6,000 US marines at the north-east outpost of Khe Sanh, just south of the 17th parallel, subjecting them to a siege, 20,000 troops and heavy artillery fire. Then, in the early hours of 30 January 1968, the North broke the pre-agreed truce in hostilities that both sides had pledged to observe over the Tet holiday.

In the South, America’s allies in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) were on leave. Despite a doubling in Americans killed in action during 1966-7, the US had insisted since 1967 that enemy strength had peaked the year before. On 31 January 1968, it estimated communist forces in the South at 225,000, when the true numbers were more than 27 per cent higher (1). So though the US had received plenty of warnings about a major assault on the South, the Tet Offensive profoundly surprised it. In Tet, the North took the war from top to bottom of South Vietnam: to Saigon, the relatively secure capital, to Saigon’s airport and other airports, to the US Embassy and to 100 other urban centres of power – including, most notably, the old imperial capital of Huế.

The offensive’s leaders made a number of familiar Stalinist mistakes around calendars and coordination. Like the Americans, they deceived themselves: about the southern population’s willingness to ‘sacrifice everything’, and about what they could achieve. However, the secret mass infiltration into the South, much of it by tunnels, and the acquiescence of the locals, unnerved the White House. So did the offensive’s numbers, organisation, supply, intensity, duration and high kill rate among US troops.

It is true that, in early and swift counter-attacks, Washington and especially the ARVN soon destroyed tens of thousands of its adversaries. Yet over three phases lasting till September 1968, and despite perpetrating a massacre at Huế, the Tet Offensive severely challenged the regime in South Vietnam and, much worse, the soundness of American policy and practice – not just in East Asia, but worldwide. In political terms, then, Tet was a massive win for North Vietnam. It was also an inspiration to the radical left in the West, and especially in Europe.

Military disaster, political star-turn. This much is widely assumed about the Tet Offensive. To understand its impact and historical significance, however, demands that we go a little wider and deeper.

Tet magnified America’s strategic problems in Asia

First, it magnified America’s longstanding and spreading Cold War problems in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). It showed how problems in Indochina tended to draw in not just China, which was America’s top enemy in East Asia since 1949, but also Korea.

In 1951, a year after the Korean War broke out, the US shipped nearly as much military aid to France in Indochina as it spent on war in Korea (2). In 1954, America supplanted the defeated French in Vietnam, but had to concede the North to communism; three years later, it also conceded the right of countries such as Japan and Britain to trade with China (3). By May 1961, a Democratic Party US President, John Kennedy, felt compelled to send 400 US Green Berets to train South Vietnamese forces in suppressing an emergent communist insurgency in the South.

If nothing else, Tet confirmed that America really was on the back foot in East Asia.

By the time of Tet, Washington had witnessed an astounding economic revival in Japan, a Chinese war with neutral India (1962), China’s first nuclear test (1964), and, in the wake of America’s commitment of nearly 200,000 ground troops in 1965, growing Russian and Chinese military support for North Vietnam. Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China (1966-8) was also a worry. For secretary of state Dean Rusk, there was even a worry that more severe US bombing of North Vietnam, begun in 1964, might strengthen Mao’s hardliners in the Cultural Revolution’s factional struggles, making a Sino-American war more likely (4).

On 21 January 1968, the very day the siege of Khe Sanh began, North Korea brought a series of special-operations missions in South Korea to a climax with a daring commando attempt to assassinate the president of South Korea. Significantly, a major motive was to cause a security crisis in South Korea, involving South Vietnam (5): Pyongyang wanted to make Seoul recall its growing number (49,000) of increasingly aggressive troops from South Vietnam, and make President Johnson withdraw US soldiers from South Korea in retaliation. Then, just two days after the attempted assassination, North Korea successfully captured a US Navy vessel, the USS Pueblo, and its 83 crew. That completed the humiliation of the US.

Today, a superficial glance at Donald Trump’s conduct with Korea, China and even Japan might suggest that America is flailing around today in the same way it was back half a century ago. But in fact it would be entirely wrong to read back, into East Asia in 1968, the general geopolitical power relations that obtain in 2018. Of course, China and the Korean peninsula were prominent in 1968, as now; but that was in the era of the Cold War, when China was not the economic behemoth it is today. Also, the Soviet Union was the main quartermaster for North Vietnam’s rocket launchers and guns, while today a very different Russia has little role in Asia. Lastly, Vietnamese communism, influential in Cambodia and especially Laos, made the country much more of a flashpoint in the world than it is now.

Still, Tet does remind us that America has not been in control of events in East Asia for a long, long time. It is true that in populous Indonesia, America and its local allies had had a success in 1965-6, with their crushing of the Communist Party and the slaughter of upwards of 500,000 opponents. But back in 1968, coming on top of North Korea’s destabilising actions, Tet suggested that America had once again lost the strategic initiative, and that its overall position in Asia was still fundamentally vulnerable.

Tet highlighted America’s decline relative to Europe

Second, Tet underlined not just the military scale of America’s task in Vietnam, but also its likely economic cost. And Tet didn’t just suggest that a big bill for war in Asia was coming; it struck at a time when America was ill-prepared to pay that bill.

Despite its development of IT and much else besides, America’s merchandise trade surplus with the rest of the world plunged from $6.8 billion in 1964 to $0.65 billion in 1968, with automotive goods going into a long deficit for the first time in the year of Tet. Between 1964 and 1969, America’s share of world trade also collapsed – from 24 to 10 per cent. Capital was leaving America, especially for the European Economic Community. Not just Japan, but West Germany was on the rise. And while US federal debt fell from 50 to 30 per cent of gross national product from 1957 to 1969, the state allowed corporate and especially household borrowing to keep overall debt rising.

The result, exacerbated by President Johnson’s Great Society welfare outlays, Cold War military outlays in general and expenditure on Vietnam in particular, was balance-of-payments deficits, inflation and, in response, a revival of strikes by the American working class – especially in the expanding public sector (6). There was also a major erosion of the dollar: indeed throughout January 1968, the great American historian Gabriel Kolko writes, the Vietnamese Communist Party’s press analysed the dollar’s travails ‘in great detail’ (7).

The Stalinists chose a good moment to strike. They drew international and above all American attention to what today is known as ‘imperial overstretch’. So when, in February 1968, the US military still demanded an extra 206,000 soldiers to win the war after what it announced had been the successful defeat of Tet, European bankers replied with a full-blown flight from the dollar – one that made US national security adviser Walt Rostow warn Johnson of a financial and trade crisis that could undo 20 years of US achievements on those fronts and ‘endanger the prosperity and security of the Western world’. (8)

Ironically, American economic assistance after 1945 had now turned Europe, in particular, into a constraint on US military largesse. Deliberately or inadvertently, through several mediations, the effect of Tet was to expose Uncle Sam’s more fragile position in the world economy, and the reduction of its power relative to Europe.

Europe was anyway annoyed with America. In 1967, French distaste for American multinationals broke into the open. On 18 September 1967, in a San Francisco press convention, defence secretary Robert McNamara had suddenly and rudely let America’s NATO partners know that it now favoured what he called a ‘light deployment’ of anti-ballistic missiles against Chinese nuclear missiles (9), so creating ‘considerable resentment’ among America’s allies (10). So when Tet came along a few months later, West Europe’s elites no doubt greeted it with the same feelings they developed about America’s general defeat in Vietnam: with what the British historian D Cameron Watt describes as ‘almost universal Schadenfreude’ (11).

Thinking about America’s 1968 lurch in the context of 2018, we again need to be careful. US economic ‘decline’, though fully apparent, has been a protracted, complicated process. America’s economy is now deeply intertwined with China’s; Washington has relatively good relations with Hanoi. Whatever else it is, Europe is no longer quite the rising junior ally of the US in the way that it was at the time of Tet.

Everything has changed. But back in 1968, in the ledger books of international finance and the calculus of the arms race, Tet was a major piece of bad news.

Tet divided America

Clearly bogged down in Vietnam after Tet, the Offensive distracted America from growing Cold War tasks in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. But Tet did more than put a window on US weakness in war and in political economy. Its third effect was, in several ways, to divide America.

Conscription had already deepened broader social divisions. Now Tet made the whole future look worse for anyone who couldn’t dodge the draft, like Donald Trump, George W Bush and Bill Clinton managed to. Tet exacerbated class tensions in the US, and prompted very serious tensions around war strategy (bombing, negotiations) within the elite itself. Indeed after Tet, liberal critics of the war – Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy – focused less on casualties and costs, and more on the politically inflammatory effects of the war at home.

Before Tet, in a February 1967 speech devoted to Vietnam, Martin Luther King noted that a widened war had ‘narrowed domestic welfare programmes’, making ‘the poor, white and Negro, bear the heaviest burdens both at the front and at home’. So when Tet widened the war still further, it looked likely to increase those burdens. To many, the ferocity that would now be demanded of America in its battle against multiplying ‘gooks’ in Vietnam had an obvious and sinister congruence with the Democratic Party’s ever more militarised repression of inner-city blacks at home, as well as its heavy dependence upon and discrimination against blacks in the Army. On 23 February 1968, barely three weeks after Tet, in a speech at the Carnegie Hall on WEB Du Bois, King proclaimed that his anti-racist hero would

‘readily see the parallel between American support of the corrupt and despised Thieu-Ky regime and Northern support to the Southern slave masters in 1876. The CIA scarcely exaggerates, indeed it is surprisingly honest, when it calculates for Congress that the war in Vietnam can persist for one hundred years. People deprived of their freedom do not give up…’

King overdid his parallel. But his remarks, which included a warning that any repression would be confronted, showed how Tet threw racial divisions into sharp relief.

On top of all this, Tet increased America’s doubts about technology. Defence secretary McNamara’s efforts to restructure the US military’s procurement of hardware, and in particular his efforts to shift the military away from nuclear obsessions toward a more expensive but more necessary kind of prowess in the Third World, were exposed as useless. America’s university Cold War liberals were equally unmasked. Technocrats all, they had believed that their high-tech weapons would prevail. They had also felt that their computers, their Second World War operations research around man-machine systems and their science could guide the management of the war to victory (12). Tet, with its reliance on low-technology methods, manpower and morale, confounded the Cold War liberals. It also dashed their hopes that America’s command of what Marshall McLuhan had dubbed ‘electric technology’ – TV, IT and all that – would bring capitalist progress everywhere and make the world a cosy global village (13). Instead, television itself famously made Tet a war in America’s living rooms. As the US liberal left never tires of pointing out, even today American conservatives, shooting the messenger, cast the US media as accomplices in the Tet Offensive.

In terms of psychology, too, Tet was traumatic. While the Stalinists deceived themselves that the South Vietnamese would rise up in their support, Tet emphasised how, in an echo of Pearl Harbor, the American military had never really grasped how Asians could outwit them. Tet demonstrated anew, one early historian of the 1960s wrote, ‘the poverty of official American thought on Vietnam’ (14). Not for nothing was the psychological category ‘groupthink’ coined in 1971, just three years after Tet, with its Yale author featuring the American elite’s delusions of invincibility in Vietnam, as well as its stereotyping of its opponents’ leaders there, among his case studies.

On top of all this, there was the trauma of combat in and after Tet. In 1968, only one per cent of US troops were evacuated for psychiatric reasons. Soon enough, though, ‘mental-health professionals in America were beginning to see a pattern emerging among the Viet Nam veterans they treated’: what was later termed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (15).

So, yes, in its polarisation of US opinion about the war, the Tet Offensive was a political success. But to leave the issue there would be to flatter both North Vietnam’s Stalinists, and the liberal anti-war movement. The impact of Tet in the US was not just to make the war and its leaders less popular and the anti-war movement grow in ranks. Tet also showed how easily a world-hegemonic power, America, could be consumed not just by war, but also by economics, class conflict, racial feeling, distaste for technology and, in different ways, by psychological trauma. And this was the conscious goal neither of the guerrillas, nor of the peace movement.

The impact on the US left

On the one hand the Tet Offensive emboldened the left: with it, the US was revealed as much weaker than it had thought. Big and violent anti-war demonstrations in the US and around the world gave the left traction in society. In Japan, for instance, resistance intensified against America’s use of Japanese and especially Okinawan air bases (16), not least because the Japanese left saw their use in the bombing of North Vietnam as likely to drag Japan into a war.

At the same time, Tet did not prove to be a moment for the American left to question any of its prejudices.

First, the ability of the guerrilla with just 750g of rice to defy the well-fed American soldier was easily interpreted as yet another argument against that old target of left-liberal distaste, working-class consumption in the US. The US left, basically Marcusean in inspiration, had already gone over to environmentalism in San Francisco’s Summer of Love in 1967. To many, then, Tet appeared to be a victory for their hair-shirt philosophy, for the triumph of will and the land against juggernaut technologies and the city.

Second, more and more of the American left reviled the military and the corporations that supplied it for the costs, profits, graft, oligopoly, lethality and distortion of technological innovation with which their weapons were bound up. Students subjected universities to fiercer attack for their complicity in Pentagon R&D programmes. Eisenhower’s largely political 1961 critique of the power of the US military-industrial complex soon got more traction as a critique of the complex’s economic power (17). Yet this was largely old, bourgeois anti-trust rhetoric (against Big Oil, Big Auto, Big Rubber, Wall Street and all the rest), given a new, still bourgeois anti-war guise by the heightened pace of US arms spending after Tet.

Rather than use Tet to apprehend America’s imperial rule as an intrinsic problem, the US left used Tet to make an issue of… the size of and technologies developed by US arms corporations. Thus, after a relentless build-up in the US military’s use of Agent Orange and other herbicides from a start in 1962 to a new peak in 1967, it took Tet to make the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science finally call, in July 1968, for transparency around the issue, and for ‘long-term, on-the-spot studies’ of ‘the regions of Vietnam affected’. Naturally, the celebrity American environmentalist Barry Commoner was vigorously involved in this attempt to harness the war to the Green cause (18).

Significantly, and with a few exceptions, the American left failed even after Tet to uphold the right of an oppressed, divided nation like Vietnam to run its own affairs. Instead, the war-weariness dramatically encouraged by Tet made the left fasten all the more on the need to bring ‘our boys’ back home. At a time when US nationalism and anti-communism were much more of a scourge than Trump’s America First policies and the Democrats’ Russophobia are today, the left’s adaptation to patriotism was unpardonable.

In America after Tet, it was perhaps leftish abstention from voting for the Democrats that made Nixon victor in the presidential elections of November 1968. Certainly the US left was unable and unwilling to develop careful and principled arguments against the war and take them to rednecks in the South. In this, it nearly matched Nixon’s notorious contempt for pointy-headed intellectuals.

Among Tet’s many impacts on the left, one of the most striking was in the realm of history. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, after Tet everyone suddenly became an ‘early opponent of the war’, and liberal-left mythology recruited JFK himself to the anti-war cause (13).

The impact on the left elsewhere

Tet became an immediate embarrassment for Harold Wilson’s Labour government. Speaking alongside Johnson at a formal dinner in the White House on 8 February, Wilson refused, on the grounds of impotence, to call for an unconditional end to the bombing of North Vietnam. But he was conscious that ‘for our hosts, there was the grim reality of the Tet offensive; for us, the danger… that the US would lurch into policies from which there might be no easy return’ (20). Writing on 9 February, left-wing Labour Cabinet firebrand Dick Crossman thought his party’s attitude to Vietnam ‘morally indefensible’, but also that Wilson had been ‘quite brave’ in Washington; he worried about ‘a very rough time in the House next week’, though by 15 February he gratefully recorded that he had had a lot of questions in the Commons about Vietnam, ‘but the sting has gone out of the discussion that follows and I’m getting away with it more and more easily [sic]’ (21).

If Tet was an occasion for the American left to redouble its tendency to personalise and dumb down debate on war – ‘Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’ – so, in Britain and elsewhere, the left followed suit: ‘Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh’. Worse, the British left broadly supported Vietnam’s struggle against America, far away, more than it did the Irish civil-rights struggle at home. Everywhere outside America, Tet became a rallying point for any leftist ready to be satisfied with the old, thin, Stalinist gruel of anti-Americanism.

While Russia did more to arm North Vietnam than China, perhaps Tet’s biggest effect on the international left was to raise the prestige of China, Mao, and Mao’s ‘overcome all difficulties’ voluntarism (22). In this sense, the radical Stalinist origins of Tet led, in, the West, Asia, Africa and even Latin America, to a renewed outbreak of vacuous slogans, ridiculous expectations and disastrous campaigns. In one of many reversals for Marxism, Tet allowed many on the left to uphold peasants, not workers, as the preeminent agent of change. In another, Mao’s fondness for youth and students, and his distrust of intellectuals, became more common on the left.

The mass line, the grass roots, the woman soldier: Vietnam appeared to vindicate the Cultural Revolution. A University of London professor of Chinese history, Julia Lovell, has perceptively written:

‘Horror at the Vietnam War drew millions of protesters on to the streets and Ho Chi Minh was lionised as the leader of Vietnamese resistance to the United States. Yet Mao’s China commanded greater political allegiance, because it was seen as having originated the successful formula for “asymmetrical” guerrilla warfare in operation in Vietnam. It was the “high Maoist” strategy summarised by Lin Biao in Long Live the Victory of People’s War that seemed to provide a blueprint for Vietnamese and other contemporary independence struggles.’ (23)

For African-Americans, and French Maoists with allies such as Sartre and de Beauvoir, the Cultural Revolution was important before Tet. But among white Americans, the Cultural Revolution did not attract interest until after the offensive. In West Germany and Italy, moreover, the example suggested by China and Tet went on to become became part of the ideological make-up of the Red Army Faction and the (more popular) Red Brigades.

In India Tet benefited Maoism. In Thailand in July 1968, the Thai People’s Liberation Army was prompted to attack Udorn airbase in the north of the country, a front-line US Air Force facility for dealing with Vietnam. In Africa in particular, Tet helped steer several liberation movements China’s way. Ultimately, then, Tet’s main impact on the worldwide left was to promote Maoism – something that could only, in time, discredit the left.

Conclusion: the status of Tet

In NSC 68, a seminal 1950 statement on the Cold War produced by the National Security Council for President Truman, its authors noted that ‘throughout Asia the stability of the present moderate governments, which are more in sympathy with our purposes than any probable successor regimes would be, is doubtful’. Tet confirmed that statement with a vengeance.

The first three months of 1968 were the most important in the history of the Vietnam war, and Tet its most important campaign. Having portrayed Vietnam both as a test of its 1947 ‘domino’ theory about the spread of international communism and, even more, as a test of its international credibility, all the US could do after Tet was to intensify its barbarism, extract as heavy and as public a price as possible from the Vietnamese, try to get South Vietnam to engage in the ‘Vietnamisation’ of the war, and eventually stage an exit, given that the ARVN was never going to be able to achieve what 500,000 US troops had not achieved (24). Tet also sparked wrenching debates over America’s decline, its foreign-policy priorities and its global military manpower reserves. Two other effects of Tet were to cut the funds available for anti-Soviet nuclear weapons, and to divert US exporters away from foreign customers (25).

Little more than two months after the opening of Tet, and two days after Martin Luther King’s assassination on 4 April 1968, King’s widow told tearful reporters that he had given his life ‘for the garbage workers of Memphis and the peasants of Vietnam’ (26). Altogether, Tet caused more internal conflict in America than any other war in the 20th century, and more than most of the wars of the 19th.

For all its Pyrrhic nature, finally, Tet was an example of a national liberation movement in action. It was not about ethnicity, identity, cultural appropriation, language, religion or even, very much, the Russians and the Chinese. Certainly, by present-day Syrian standards, the Vietnamese gained little support from Russia.

No, Tet was the fight of an era different from ours. All the same, its impact is still with us. The Tet Offensive remains a wonderful reminder of how history can sometimes sweep away even the most cherished of capitalist illusions.

James Woudhuysen is visiting professor of forecasting and innovation at London South Bank University. He is also editor of Big Potatoes: the London Manifesto for Innovation. Read his blog here.

(1) The myths of Tet: the most misunderstood event of the Vietnam war, by Edwin E Moïse, University Press of Kansas, 2017, pp4, 101, 102

(2) ‘U.S. Involvement in the Franco-Viet Minh War, 1950-1954’, The Pentagon Papers, Part II A3, pA-47

(3) ‘A Response to Chaos: The United States, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, 1961-1968’, by Victor S. Kaufman, The Journal of American-East Asian Relations, Vol 7, No 1/2, 1998, p75

(4) ‘A Response to Chaos: The United States, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, 1961-1968’, by Victor S. Kaufman, The Journal of American-East Asian Relations, Vol 7, No 1/2, 1998 p87

(5) ‘The Korean Armistice and the End of Peace: The US-UN Coalition and the Dynamics of War-Making in Korea, 1953-76′, by Steven Lee, The Journal of Korean Studies, Vol 18, No 2, Fall 2013, p196

(6) A brief history of the American labor movement, 1970 edition, by US Department of Labor, Bulletin 1000, pp79-80

(7) Vietnam: anatomy of war 1940-1975, by Gabriel Kolko, Unwin, 1985

(8) Walt Rostow to LBJ, memo, March 15, 1968, quoted in ‘The Economic Crisis of 1968 and the Waning of the “American Century”’, by Robert M Collins, The American Historical Review, Vol 101, Issue 2, April 1996

(9) Address by the Secretary of Defense (McNamara) Before the Annual Convention of United Press International Editors and Publishers, San Francisco, September 18, 1967, American Foreign Policy, 1967, Doc I–5, p24

(10) The politics of nuclear consultation in NATO 1965-80, by Paul Buteux, CUP, 1983, p77

(11) Succeeding John Bull: America in Britain’s place 1900-1975, by D Cameron Watt, Cambridge University Press, 1984, p231. The feeling was, no doubt, amply reciprocated. Just before Tet, on ‘Black Tuesday’, 16 January 1968, British prime minister Harold Wilson had accelerated the withdrawal of British forces from Malaysia, Singapore, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf, ‘The Senate, the administration, the oil companies, all were appalled. America was suffering the worst defeat in her history in Vietnam… The British withdrawal was seen by many as a simple betrayal’, (p149).

(12) Machine dreams: economics becomes a cyborg science, by Philip Mirowski, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p177 et seq

(13) Imaginary Futures: from thinking machines to the global village, by Richard Barbrook, Pluto Press, 2007. See the review by James Heartfield, ‘Let technology set you free’, spiked, 6 July 2007,

(14) Coming apart: an informal history of America in the 1960s, by William O’Neill, Quadrangle Books, 1970, p347

(15) ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: an old problem with a new name’, by Ghislaine Boulanger, in The trauma of war: stress and recovery in Viet Nam veterans, Stephen M. Sonnenberg, Arthur S. Blank and John A Talbott, (eds) American Psychiatric Press, 1985

(16) ‘After Abu Ghraib’, by David Williams, in The left in the shaping of Japanese democracy, Rikki Kersten and David Williams (eds), Routledge, 2006, p159

(17) See for example The defense sector and the American economy, by J Javits et al, New York University Press, 1968; How to control the military, by J K Galbraith, Signet, 1969; and Pentagon capitalism: the political economy of war, by Seymour Melman, McGraw-Hill, 1970

(18) Quoted in The invention of ecocide: Agent Orange, Vietnam, and the scientists who changed the way we think about the environment, by David Zierler, University of Georgia Press, 2011, pp105-7

(19) Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture, by Noam Chomsky, Verso, 1993, pp114-5. The doctrine that JFK had a ‘determination’ to pull out US forces from Vietnam was quite recently revived in The untold history of the United States, by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, Gallery, 2011, p316

(20) The Labour Government 1964-70 (1971), by Harold Wilson, Pelican edition, 1974, p633. Of the opening of the Tet Offensive, Wilson wrote ‘They had penetrated Saigon and, at one incredible moment, South Vietnamese forces were shelling their own capital.’ (p628)

(21) The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister, Vol 2, by Richard Crossman, Hamish Hamilton & Jonathan Cape, 1976, pp674, 685

(22) ‘Overcome all difficulties’ is from Mao Tse Tung: see The political thought of Mao Tse-Tung, by Stuart Schram, Praeger, 1969, pp135-6. While Marx certainly upheld the autonomy of the individual, Mao went further – backwards – in insisting that the subjective activity of the popular masses could manifest itself in full measure and create good objective conditions ‘provided only’ that their consciousness was ‘in conformity with the objective laws of the development of things’.

(23) ‘The Cultural Revolution and its legacies in international perspective’, by Julia Lovell, The China Quarterly, Vol 227, September 2016, p6

(24) Vietnam: anatomy of war 1940-1975, by Gabriel Kolko, Unwin, 1985, p336

(25) Main currents in modern American history, by Gabriel Kolko, Harper & Row, 1976, pp373, 389

(26) Selma to Saigon: The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, by Daniel S Lucks, University Press of Kentucky, 2014

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Topics Long-reads Politics


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