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Issue #1640      May 28, 2014

Culture & life

Marking a people’s victory

May this year was the 60th anniversary of the defeat of the French colonial empire at Dien Bien Phu. The anniversary was celebrated with a long holiday in Vietnam, but passed without notice from the Australian media. This is oddly perverse, because the Australian capitalist press is always keen to tell us how Australian military forces “defeated” a North Vietnamese army at the Battle of Long Tan, despite the fact that that particular battle was neither decisive nor even indicative, since the Vietnamese went on to very decisively win the war.

Vo Nguyen Giap, the self-taught Vietnamese general who masterminded the defeats of France and the United States, salutes his fallen comrades at a shrine of the Dien Bien Phu’s war cemetery in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam.

No matter how hard the bourgeois Australian media tries, nothing can change the fact that in the Vietnam War we were not only on the immoral and unpopular side, it was also the losing side. The heroism, ingenuity, extraordinary hard work determination and sacrifice of the Vietnamese people brought them victory over the world’s most aggressive and most heavily armed imperialist state.

Dien Bien Phu, in which they delivered a crushing defeat to imperial France and its vaunted Foreign Legion, was the pointer for that ultimate victory, but US imperialism refused to heed the warning. After all, how could an impoverished country of Asian peasants even dare to challenge the might of the bastion of global capitalism, the USA? It was unthinkable.

The escalation of the war, once the USA took over from France as the colonial aggressor, inflicted colossal horror on the people of Vietnam, but simultaneously also saw the growth of an active, organised anti-war movement in the USA and around the world. Particularly galling to US authorities was the sight of large numbers of returned US military personnel who had served in Vietnam taking part in these anti-war marches.

They had been (and still are) hailed as heroes in the capitalist media, but the real heroes were those who refused to go and also those who – once sent there by an uncaring draft board – responded by waging a guerrilla war against their own officers (the infamous tactic of “fragging” – rolling a fragmentation grenade into a sleeping officer’s tent).

Nearly 102 million working-age Americans have no job. Despite that, US authorities have been trumpeting a drop in the official unemployment rate (to 6.3 percent), but US trade unions point out that figure was achieved by shifting a huge number of people (almost a million, in fact) to the “not participating in the labour force” column. These are the many disillusioned Americans whose unsuccessful search for work has caused them to simply give up, and opt out of the hassle of fronting job agencies that have no jobs.

The ABC program Foreign Correspondent the other night showed footage from Ukraine showing “pro-Russian” demonstrators hitting and kicking an anti-Russian counter-demonstrator. Significantly, for the ABC the demonstrators divide into “pro or anti Russian” factions. Never pro or anti Fascist, you will notice. And yet that is the key question for the population in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, even more than the question of preserving their Russian ethnicity.

And tensions over the question of stopping the spread of fascism and its accompanying violence are very high now, especially since the events of May 2. On that day, a rally in Odessa by anti-fascist protesters was attacked by Kiev-aligned neo-Nazi gangs. The anti-fascists took refuge in the House of Trade Unions, which was then besieged. The fascists locked the doors of the building and then set fire to it. Those inside had no chance.

“Some were burnt alive or suffocated in toxic smoke; others jumped to their deaths out of the [upper] windows of the burning building or were shot dead by the fascist mob which then looted the bodies for trophies.” – The New Worker.

Even the EU-backed fascist junta in Kiev, anxious as they are to down-play the death toll, puts it at 46. The Odessa anti-fascist resistance claim at least 116 died and many more were injured. There can be little doubt any more about who is causing the violence in Ukraine.

Do you think Tony Abbott would see anything wrong with this? I quote from a news report from Britain: “A Scunthorpe man has received a 40 percent cut in benefits after he was diagnosed with cancer, leaving him in serious financial distress.” When Peter Woodcock was diagnosed with cancer he needed to stop attending his jobs club equivalent of Centrelink and also cut back on his previous 40 hours per week volunteering in his community, “to accommodate his treatment and necessary respite”.

In the typical inhuman way of such institutions, the Department of Work and Pensions told him he could return to his previous level of benefits if he gave up his cancer treatment.

With the Abbott government’s budget signalling a massive attack on the poor, the sick, the disabled and indeed everyone who is not well-off, we can expect to see a surge in the number of homeless people sleeping rough on our streets. This is a growing phenomenon across the capitalist world. Once upon a time (not all that long ago), a worker’s wage allowed him to pay his rent and at the same time to feed, clothe and educate his family. Not any more!

Now, even people with full-time jobs are to be found living in their cars, or grateful to find a place in a caravan park. In the US city of Portland, Oregon, an estimated 4,000 people sleep on the streets on any given night. And Oregon is not noted for its pleasant climate. Shelter is a basic human right, but it is denied to a huge – and growing – number of people under capitalism. Curiously, the outfits that used to make a song and dance about the “denial of human rights” in socialist countries rarely say a word about this denial in capitalist countries.

Not that Tony Abbott or Joe Hockey would give a tinker’s for the homeless: most of them can’t vote (no permanent address) and those who can wouldn’t be likely to vote Liberal in a fit!

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