Vietnam 25 years on: Now it’s Clinton’s mercenaries

TWENTY-FIVE years after American capitalism’s ignominious defeat in the Vietnamese war (which cost three million Vietnamese dead and 58,000 US troops killed), US President Bill Clinton has invaded the country – this time with an entourage of 2,000 representatives of big business including Nike, Coca-Cola, General Electric and General Motors. Keith Dickinson examines this new imperialist invasion.

DESPITE THE statements of Vietnam’s Communist Party leaders defending its “Socialist System” and that Vietnam had fought a long war to end occupation by imperialists, they are taking the country in the opposite direction.

As The Economist says: “Sparring with America’s trade lawyers is always bruising work, so Vietnam’s leaders would not have put themselves through it – and undertaken to carry out another round of reform [ie capitalist restoration] – if they were not serious”.

At present, Asian companies supply two-thirds of Vietnam’s foreign direct investment – the bulk of which withdrew during the regional downturn of 1997. Also, the competition of cheap exports from China has seen the Vietnamese government respond by encouraging the growth of the private sector and trying to diversify its trade and capital flows, particularly through deals with America.

Export trade

WITH ITS low wages the textile industry is raring to take advantage of the lowering of US tariff barriers from an average of 40% to 3%. Vietnamese exports to the US have grown steadily from $204 million in 1996 and are expected are reach $600 million this year.

Since the lifting of the trade embargo in 1994, US companies such as footwear giant Nike has moved 10% of its production to Vietnam using local contractors.

One company, Fashion Garments, has 500 young women churning out children’s clothing and school uniforms in a brand new factory outside Ho Chi Minh City, and is planning to build another. Thanh Cong Textile-Garment Company, which is presently state-owned, employs 3,000 at a huge complex in the same city.

However, international labour reports have highlighted the low pay and long hours endured by many workers. Young women workers in these sweatshops have suffered heat exhaustion and have been docked punitive fines from bullying foremen.

Probably most symbolic of American capitalism’s attitude to workers and peasants the world over is the ceramics firm American Standard, which, in anticipation of an export surge, already has moulds for toilets designed to meet American specifications. It is not the first time Vietnam has been dumped on!

The Americans dropped 20 million gallons of Agent-Orange (a defoliant containing Dioxin) over Vietnam during the war, causing illness, terrible deformations and death over three generations.

A thorough survey by Canadian researcher, Chris Hatfield, shows that Dioxin has not really reduced at all in some areas but has spread wider into the food chain.

International socialism

DURING THE Vietnam war the Militant (forerunner of The Socialist) argued that without the fight for workers’ democracy and international socialism by Vietnamese workers and peasants, the Stalinist ‘Communist’ leaders would derail the revolution.

The Communist Party has become the instrument for the re-establishment of capitalist and imperialist interests. However, the Vietnamese with their tremendous history of struggle and a very high literacy rate can overcome these obstacles and return to the fight against capitalism and to the genuine ideas of socialism.