The Red Evolution IV: The Subversive Left, the Destabilising Left, the Antecedents of Generation Snowflake and the Ultimate Surrender of Rationality (Part Two)

The piece below is the second part of the latest in an occasional series of essays by our expatriate English correspondent Peter on the history of the Socialist Left in Britain.

The Red Evolution IV: The Subversive Left, the Destabilising Left, the Antecedents of Generation Snowflake and the Ultimate Surrender of Rationality

by Peter


In the mid-1960s many of us stopped reading the mainstream press, preferring the more radical International Times, Oz and the UK version of Rolling Stone, which wasn’t a patch on its American original and was why founder, Jann Wenner, closed it down. There were many, many others, too, most of which were of questionable value. I continued to take the Times and the Sunday Times as in those days, their government and law reporting were second to none and I had been encouraged to read both by my college lecturers, during my part-time study at Southampton College of Technology funded by my employers.

While the political pages of the mainstream media featured our own grey and boring governmental figures like Harold Wilson, the alcoholically challenged George Brown, and the pudgy-faced Edward Heath, the alternative press concentrated on more interesting people such as Regis DeBray, Rudi Dutschke, Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Tariq Ali. There were others, too, such as Marcuse, Adorno and Erich Fromm, but in spite of that, most of the so-called underground publications were largely incoherent. Their contributors appeared to have partaken liberally of those substances they were campaigning to legalise, but if anything, that tended to enhance their appeal to a youthful readership which, having rejected the mainstream, were rapaciously seeking out something in which they could believe. For many, that already existed.

In my late teens, I became aware of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), better known by one of their much-used slogans — “Ban the Bomb.” As far as I could see, they consisted of a large number of student types and other sartorially inelegant individuals who would assemble en masse in various public places, make speeches, march, wave banners and shout anti-American slogans. The movement started in 1957 when Kingsley Martin, then the editor of the New Statesman, chaired a small meeting at a flat in Central London to discuss the widespread fear of nuclear conflict and its potential consequences. On 17 February 1958, the Campaign was launched formally at a public meeting in Central Hall, Westminster attended by 5000 of the great, the good and the Left, a number of whom, including politician Michael Foot, author J.B. Priestley and journalist James Cameron had already been selected as Executive Committee members. Some commentators cite Islington Labour Party members Pat Arrowsmith and Pat Pottle as founder members, too as well as the philosopher Bertrand Russell.

The declared intention of CND was to persuade the UK government by peaceful means to renounce unilaterally “ the use, production of or dependence upon nuclear weapons by Britain and the bringing about of a general disarmament convention; halting the flight of planes armed with nuclear weapons; ending nuclear testing; not proceeding with missile bases; and not providing nuclear weapons to any other country,” which made a lot of sense, didn’t it? At the height of the cold war, the Soviet Union and the Peoples’ republic of China had nuclear weapons, as did the USA and France. Not to be similarly armed while keeping the same company seemed at the time to be suicidal, but the concept appealed to the leftists and much of the CND membership consisted of Labour Party members and other left-leaning people, although — officially — the Labour Party wanted nothing to do with them. Every Easter, from 1958 onwards, CND members took part in a march between Central London and the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire, a distance of some 52 miles. This became an annual pilgrimage attracting growing numbers each year.

Many CND supporters in those days were unemployed student types, while those of us who had jobs tended to look down on them, particularly since our taxes paid for their student grants, we were better dressed, had more money and as a result, attracted all the women. Also, as stated earlier, the idea of disarmament in those dangerous times did not seem to be rational. In hindsight, I believe that the reason no nuclear war broke out then was that those nuclear-armed governments put their trust in the theory of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) rather than the impassioned pleas of CND.

Prior to the formation of CND, the international peace movement had been dominated by the World Peace Council (WPC), an anti-Western organisation funded by the Soviet Communist Party, so that the WPC and its adherents became identified with communist ideology. This caused difficulties for CND, which, although totally detached from the WPC and from any political party, was accused of being a communist-controlled and -influenced organisation, and a number of its leading members were subject to active surveillance and occasional arrest by the UK counter-intelligence services. Support for CND diminished after the 1963 Test Ban Treaty, and it tended to focus its attention thereafter on the escalating war in Vietnam. CND still exists, though it is often overshadowed by more vocal movements such as the “Stop the War Coalition,” set up by Socialist Workers Party supporters.

1968 was an apocalyptic year as the entire world seemed to explode in protest and insurrection, and the war in Vietnam was by no means the only grievance. Demonstrators occupied college buildings, banks and offices while protesters fought pitched battles on the streets against the forces of law and order, whatever law and order it was they claimed to be upholding. I will only look at what I consider to be the most significant of these — readers may well disagree with my selection, but I am writing an essay, not a book.

On 17th March, an anti-war rally in London organised by the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign resulted in the worst peacetime violence seen in that city since World War II. A well-attended gathering, estimated at between 8,000 and 10,000 protesters assembled in Trafalgar Square where they heard speeches by Vanessa Redgrave, an occasional actress and full-time far-left activist, and Tariq Ali, a part-time writer and prolific left-wing agitator. The mood of the crowd was described as good as they marched towards the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square, where Ms Redgrave handed in a petition while the Metropolitan Police cordoned off a section of the square nearest the Embassy. As they marched, the protesters had been chanting “Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Minh!” leaving nobody in any doubt that they were not necessarily anti-war, only anti-American and, of course, rabidly pro-communist, as most students seemed to be in those days. However, the combined mass of demonstrators eventually swept aside the thin blue line that was the police cordon and a pitched battle ensued as the police endeavoured to prevent the mob from penetrating the embassy compound. Afterwards, the police were criticised for the use of police horses, albeit against a crowd who were “tooled up” and had clearly come for a fight. The police gave as good as they received, and video footage of proceedings clearly shows police officers kicking protesters as they lay on the ground. Twenty demonstrators were arrested and 50 people needed hospital treatment including 25 policemen.

On 4th April, Martin Luther King Junior was declared dead at St Joseph’s Hospital, Memphis after being shot by one James Earl Ray, who was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment and died in captivity in 1998. The murder led to riots in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Newark, Washington DC, and many other US cities, resulting in 46 deaths.

On May 6th, hostilities broke out between five thousand Parisian students and police, ending in a full-fledged riot. Whether police charged the rioters pre-emptively with unprecedented violence or whether they were provoked by students tearing up paving stones and propelling them at the police is still a matter for dispute, but the rioters ultimately set up barricades and the police responded with tear gas grenades. The trouble started with a series of student occupations and marches with protests against capitalism, consumerism and all the usual leftist bunk as well as “American Imperialism,” whatever that was. Strange one never heard the phrase “Soviet Imperialism.” The violence escalated and spread to factories, with strikes eventually involving up to 11 million workers — up to 22% of the total workforce, the largest general strike ever seen in France. Many of the student marchers carried banners bearing the legend “Marx, Mao, Marcuse.”

The disturbances were punctuated by outbreaks of violence of such intensity that many political leaders were afraid that civil war or revolution was occurring and, at its height brought the entire French economy to a brief standstill while the Government itself temporarily ceased to function. President de Gaulle left the country, presumably to save his own skin as he had done in June 1940. He pitched up a few hours later at a French military base in Germany before being persuaded to return to Paris before anyone noticed he’d gone.

The violence ceased almost as suddenly as it began and when elections were held in June, the Gaullists were returned with a resounding majority, but the communists had made their point, and had very nearly overturned an elected government by non-democratic means.

On 5th June, Senator Robert Kennedy, a former US Attorney General and at that time a presidential candidate, was assassinated while leaving the stage after addressing supporters at the Ambassador Hotel, San Francisco by one Sirhan Sirhan, described as a Jordanian national living in San Francisco. Senator Kennedy had already won two primaries and was considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, if not for the presidency itself. He had only declared his intention to run on 16th March, prompting President Lyndon Johnson to announce that he would not be seeking re-election.

With one of the two favourites dead from an assassin’s bullet while the other had withdrawn his candidacy, the democratic nomination appeared to be wide open. Vice President Hubert Humphrey was in the pole position, followed by Senators Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. Humphrey’s candidacy was unpopular with anti-war factions, as he was identified, unfairly as it turned out, with President Johnson’s escalation of the war, while questions were asked as to the validity of his running at all when he had never contested a primary. Also, Richard Daley, the Mayor of Chicago who hosted the convention, was not trusted, and many feared some sort of electoral manipulation behind the scenes in favour of Humphrey. Abby Hoffman declared his intention to protest the convention along with his “Yippie” supporters and encouraged like-minded people to join them. Many did, so that when Mayor Daley opened the Democratic convention and delegates proceeded to nominate Hubert Humphrey as the presidential candidate, this did not go down well with the thousands of anti-war demonstrators camped outside, who made their feelings known. The Yippies decided to nominate their own candidate, a pig called “Pigasus” which they were originally planning to slaughter and roast but never did. Speeches were made by various campaign leaders, including Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman for the Yippies and Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale, but in all, the demonstration was relatively peaceful and there was no need for the violence that followed.

On 28th August, Mayor Daley ordered 6,000 federal troops into the city along with 18,000 Illinois National Guardsmen “defending” the conference centre itself. During the evening the police made an unprovoked attack on the protesters, beating some of them unconscious and leaving 100 of them in need of emergency hospital treatment, while a further 175 were arrested, presumably for bleeding on the sidewalk. The incidents were shown on national television, and ultimately the U.S. National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence described them as a “police riot.”

The Convention lasted five days, and in the course of those five days and nights the police used tear gas, mace and batons on the protesters, while many journalists recording the action were also battered by the police or had cameras and film “confiscated.” Ramsey Clark, President Johnson’s attorney general, refused to prosecute the protesters, but that was not the end of it.

The day after the Convention had concluded, Mayor Daley held a press conference at which he explained the police action as follows:

“The policeman isn’t there to create disorder: The policeman is there to preserve disorder.”

Nobody laughed.

On 5th November, Richard Nixon defeated Humphrey, gaining 301 Electoral College votes against 191 for Humphrey, although the popular vote was much closer.

In his election campaign Nixon tapped into the anti-war vote, promising to “Bring the Boys Home”. Regardless of everything else he did, he delivered on his promise.

Johnson was due to hand over the presidency in January, and whatever anyone said about Mayor Daley, everybody agreed he was vindictive. The reluctance of Johnson’s Justice Department to prosecute the rioters had enraged Mayor Daley, who took the protests personally. He persuaded close friend and Federal Judge William Campbell to empanel a grand jury, which, on 20, March 1969 returned indictments against Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, John Froines, Rennie Davis, Lee Weiner , Bobby Seale and eight Chicago police officers. Seven of the police officers charged with violating the civil rights of the demonstrators were acquitted while charges against the eighth were dismissed. In the wake of this, one observer stated that “The people who sit on juries in this city are just not ready to convict a Chicago policeman.”

Incoming Attorney General John Mitchell gave the go-ahead to prosecute the demonstrators, and a trial lasting five months started on 24 September 1969 before Judge Julius Hoffman, reputed to be a colleague and close associate of Major Daley.

The accused were prosecuted for violating what became known as the Rap Brown Law, a prohibition that had been affixed to the 1968 Civil Rights Bill, making it illegal to cross state lines in order to riot or to incite rioting. It was questionable whether there actually was a conspiracy, as most of those accused did not know each other well, if at all. Both Abby Hoffman and Jerry Rubin did meet with other leaders of counter culture groups like the Students for Democratic Society (SDS) and the National Mobilization Committee (MOBE) as did David Dellinger and Rennie Davis. Unfortunately for them, the FBI had undercover agents at those meetings so it was not difficult for them to fabricate a case of conspiracy, if that had been their brief.

In a trial later called a travesty of justice, Judge Hoffman displayed open contempt for the defendants and their legal representatives, while the accused themselves turned proceedings into a circus, ridiculing procedures while saving their most biting sarcasm for the judge himself. Judge Hoffman’s pre-trial decisions hindered defence attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass by prohibiting certain lines of questioning for potential jurors, so that federal prosecutors were able to select a jury that was either unsympathetic or antagonistic towards the defendants. In evidence, the poet Alan Ginsberg, in one of his more lucid moments, accused the court of trying the defendants for their lifestyles and personal beliefs rather than anything they might or might not have said or done.

The eighth defendant, Bobby Seale, had been wrongly denied his chosen counsel, who had been recovering from surgery at the time. As the trial progressed, rather than postpone the hearing, Judge Hoffman refused Bobby Seale the right to defend himself and proceeded with the case, leaving Seale with no defence against the charges he faced. Seale protested his situation vigorously, so much so that Judge Hoffman ordered him to be gagged and chained to a chair in court. In the face of mounting protest, Hoffman later relented and removed Seale as a defendant but not before sentencing him to four years imprisonment for contempt of court.

Ultimately, the jury found both John Froines and Lee Weiner not guilty of any of the charges against them while the other five were found guilty of violating the 1968 Civil Rights Act. Not content with that, Judge Hoffman sentenced every one of the Chicago seven and their legal representatives to a number of years imprisonment for contempt of court, although all sentences were subsequently overturned on appeal by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 1972, due to Judge Hoffman’s unreasonable behaviour during the trial and the excessive length of the sentences he had handed down.

In January 1973, a final peace agreement was concluded between the US and North Vietnam ending open warfare between them, although the war continued between the South Vietnamese and the North. By the middle of August that year, 95% of US forces had left the region, leaving the South Vietnamese Army outnumbered and unsupported. In August 1974, Nixon was forced to resign over Watergate, leaving the North Vietnamese army free to cross the Demilitarised Zone and complete its invasion of Saigon, which it did on 30 April 1975 in violation of the Paris Peace Accords.

In total, two million Vietnamese perished in the hostilities, while three million were wounded and twelve million became refugees. Additionally, between 240,000 and 300,000 Cambodians, 20,000 Laotians and 58,220 US personnel perished in the conflict, and a further 1,626 remain missing in action, while Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia fell to Communism.

From the fall of Saigon in 1975, student protest gradually tailed off, probably because their side had won. I was in Vietnam for a goodly part of 1997 and spoke to many Vietnamese people who had been actively involved in hostilities on either side or who had survived time spent in political re-education centres. I was told that many others had died in those centres because of the treatment they received. I concluded that America was right to try to prevent the imposition of a vile, repressive ideology on the Vietnamese people. I recall impromptu police road blocks being set up to extract money from unsuspecting victims. Their favourite trick was to demand that any foreigners produce their passports, which would instantly disappear into one of the satchels Police officers wore as part of their uniform and would remain there until the owner produced a $50 or $100 bill. Word got around, though, and travellers in South East Asia soon started to carry photocopies of their passports while retaining the originals in their hotel safes. The police would also stop tourist mini-busses on a regular basis, but again, their demands for money were largely unsuccessful. I used to pretend that I did not understand them even though I spoke better French than they did. They were always in a hurry, which suggested that the authorities frowned on what they were doing, although not so much that they would stop them from doing it.

It has been estimated that 65,000 Vietnamese people were executed after the end of the war and a million others were sent to re-education camps where approximately 165,000 died. Many more South Vietnamese feared communist rule with some degree of justification, particularly if it was revealed that they had fought against the North, as many had. From 1975 to 1978 and after, many Vietnamese people took to the open sea in overcrowded boats — an illegal act under communism, not to mention a highly dangerous one. There are no definitive figures available for the numbers of Vietnamese, Cambodians or Laotians who attempted to flee communism in this way. Estimates for deaths by drowning vary from 50,000 to 200,000 according to figures provided by the Australian Immigration Industry, although many of these boats were attacked by pirates who murdered the occupants or sold them into slavery or prostitution. Those who tried to land in Malaysia were often turned back while many others eventually settled in the USA and Europe. Of those who did not make it, they calculated the odds and decided death was better than Communism. I would not disagree with them.

After being freed on appeal, the defendants in the Chicago Conspiracy Trial returned to something approaching a normal life. David Dellinger continued to take part in civil demonstrations until he suffered a fatal heart attack in 2004. Upon his release from court, Abby Hoffman went straight into hiding to avoid prison for cocaine possession. He re-emerged in 1980, squared, things with the authorities, served a year and tried to resurrect the Counterculture movement. Events had moved on and people had moved, on but Hoffman remained stuck in the ’60s. He became disillusioned and committed suicide in 1989. Jerry Rubin became a successful businessman, but on 14 November, 1994, he was run over while trying to cross LA’s Wiltshire Boulevard and died of his injuries two weeks later.

Rennie Davis became a public speaker on motivation and self-awareness, while Lee Weiner remained an activist primarily in support of Jewish issues. Bobby Seale became a writer and lecturer on civil rights, while John Froines retired from the UCLA School of Public Health in 2011 after a relatively low-key career in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. Tom Hayden went into politics and became democratic senator for Santa Monica while being married to “Hanoi” Jane Fonda for 17 years, which can’t have been all that bad, since she funded his political career. And, as I recall, Jane looked more like Barbarella in those days and less like her father Henry, as she does now. Several of the Chicago defendants wrote books. I read Bobby Seale’s Seize the Time, before making the mistake of buying Rubin’s Do It. This epistle made little sense and left me wishing he’d done it over somebody else.

To be continued…

Peter is an English expatriate who now lives in Thailand. For his previous essays, see Peter’s Archives.

27 thoughts on “The Red Evolution IV: The Subversive Left, the Destabilising Left, the Antecedents of Generation Snowflake and the Ultimate Surrender of Rationality (Part Two)

  1. A new controversy has gripped the crypto Marxist labour party in the U.K. with many back benchers attacking leader Jeremy Corbyn for his refusal to condemn a street mural which portrays bankers of jewish appearance lording it over the oppressed masses.
    This of course has produced cries of Anti-Semitism from many in his party.
    The “artist” who produced the mural has denied the accusation of Anti-Semitism saying”Some of the bankers are “Anglos”.
    So there you have it , if some are depicted as “evil white exploiters” ,the outrage is immediately without justification because “anglos”are depicted.
    You could imagine the reaction if someone created a street mural depicting arab
    or black figures as terrorist or child rapists.

  2. Very good. Fills in some holes. Either possesses a well-kept diary or an excellent memory.

  3. This brought to mind that great public speaker Jonathon Bowden. Check out his YouTube videos.

  4. Excellent article and especially your summary of the events in 1968!

    I am a retired civil/structural engineer and US Citizen. I was staying at the Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, DC when MLK was assassinated in April. The entire area northerly of Pennsylvania Ave. was in complete chaos, with rioting, seemingly uncontrolled violence, destruction of property and looting. The backdrop was fire and intense black smoke. In the Capitol of the US! The US government brought in the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, NC (and some other federal armed forces) to restore order. I’ve noticed that very few younger Americans seem to even be aware of the level of lawlessness and violence that was evident in the cities that you listed, following MLK’s death.

    By the way, the Ambassador Hotel, where RFK was assassinated, was on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, not San Francisco.

  5. Peter talks about changing his mind on the desirability of US intervention in South Vietnam, based on the very real viciousness of the Communist invaders from the north and the communist Viet Cong.

    There is another consideration, which is that there was no vital US interest involved in whether Vietnam was a US ally or communist nationalist. The main rationale the proponents of the war could come up with was the “domino theory” which held that like the salami, the communists would chip away slice by slice until they got the entire bologna. Vietnam was the stem at the top, and if you stopped them there, you’d save the whole thing. But, to extend the metaphor, the stem itself had no nutritional value, i.e., South Vietnam itself held no strategic importance whatsoever for the US.

    McMaster, President Trump’s recently-ejected security adviser, wrote “Dereliction of Duty”,
    a masterful expose of the deceit, lying, and bungling of President Johnson and Secretary of Defense McNamara as they proceeded to get 58,000 US servicemen killed and trillions of dollars wasted in a war they never intended to win and didn’t need to fight in the first place.

    McMaster, upon becoming security adviser, consigned his own book to the trashbin of history, overseeing the expansion of US military commitments and the elimination of security experts who were actually concerned about the threat from Islam. McMaster is being replaced by John Bolton, who is even more in favor of US military interventions and the projection of US forces against nuclear-armed, regional powers like Russia.

    I remember the days and times of 1968 very well. As a young person, a draftee in the army, I was against the war, as were most of my contemporaries. I became more sympathetic to the US effort as I became more anti-Communist. I do not now favor US intervention in foreign countries or regional conflicts unless the US security is directly, not indirectly, involved. I do consider the US to have deeply dishonored itself by withdrawing even from the shipment of arms to our South Vietnamese allies in 1973, when they were fighting the North Vietnamese invasion of their country. Our government could at least have tried to get a commitment from the North Vietnamese to release the remainder of US prisoners that it held, in return for withdrawal of US support for South Vietnam. It would have been a deal totally without honor for the US, but at least we would have gotten our servicemen back. As it was, we withheld support from our South Vietnamese allies for no compensation at all. What do you call an action that is below “totally without honor”?

    • Leaving aside the Vietnam quagmire, what do you have against John Bolton? You say, John Bolton, who is even more in favor of US military interventions and the projection of US forces against nuclear-armed, regional powers like Russia, but provide no sources for this assertion.

      The Deep State and the neocons have always hated Bolton, especially after he stood up for America’s interests during his brief interim appointment at the UN under GW Bush…where he served admirably. He has always been against “nation-building”, even when it was the approach of choice by State.

      He was the one who said the Augean stables of the State Department would take a generation of concerted effort to clean out, and also opined that the UN ought to be moved elsewhere and the edifice converted into low-cost housing. He befriended and advised Clarence Thomas when the Senate attempted to lynch him. [I haven’t looked up these quotes; they are simply what I remember from the time he was an adviser to Bush]

      Your commentary is invaluable but on Bolton, I believe you’re mistaken.

      • Fifteen years ago to the week, the US began its invasion and occupation of Iraq. Among the war’s many architects and cheerleaders was John Bolton, at the time a senior adviser to George W Bush on issues of arms control and international security. And while many early invasion supporters have, in the clear view of hindsight, conceded that the decade-plus long odyssey was at least misguided, Bolton has reached no such conclusion.

        Democrats attack Trump’s choice John Bolton as ‘reckless partisan’
        Read more
        Even in the war-happy neoconservative Bush administration, Bolton stood out – a hawk among hawks – and his post-Bush career as a public commentator certainly didn’t see those leanings tempered. He has advocated, to various degrees, pre-emptive strikes and wars against North Korea and Iran, and overall an aggressive military interventionist programme around the world, coupled with staunch anti-immigration rhetoric.

        At least Bolton is anti-immigration…or supposed to be. But, when the US supports dozens of wars, and they go south, as they usually do, what happens to the people who were more-or-less our allies and now supposedly face retribution? Well, they come to the US, rather than face the charge that we let our allies down. And the new refugees more-or-less, mostly more, fit the profile of the people they fought against.

        So, Bolton supports policies that not only kill US troops, and drains the US treasury, and kills hundreds of thousands of people in the victim countries, but give us little choice but to import thousands or hundreds of thousands of aliens.

        • US has no allies in middle east.In general US has only enemies;
          Best for us is not to do preemptive strikes.We are not good at guerilla wars.Those people know their mountains and their territories , we don’t, so we loose in any case.
          The ” helpers” are there with dishonest intentions or just to infiltrate an spy.
          Just don’t start anything nasty again.

          • America’s strongest ally in the Middle East is Israel. Now Saudi Arabia is looking at its dwindling oil supplies and deciding that America’s friendship (AND Israel’s) would be strategically smart given the problems SA faces with Shi’ite Islam in Iran, Lebanon, etc.

            Obama’s ruination of MENA has set us back a decade or more. It will take time and concerted effort to heal the harm BHO and Hillary inflicted. Though they certainly did have help from some of the member states of the EU.

            NO COUNTRY HAS FRIENDS. All nations seek to make alliances. Go back and read our Founding Documents…

    • When US and allied forces, including those from Australia, New Zealand, The Phillipines, and the Republic of Korea, were committed to Vietnam to go head to head with invading communist forces from North Vietnam there were active communist insurgencies in every country in South East Asia.

      That means there were was armed communist activity in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and The Phillipines.

      By the time the communists eventually won in Vietnam and took over Laos and Cambodia, where millions more died, those communist insurgencies in other countries had been effectively beaten.

      The Malayan Emergency went for over 20 years, the Phillipines Govt finally caught up with the rag tag remnants there about 1980, and Sukarno went to town on the communists in Indonesia, killing about 300,000 of them.

      Meanwhile, there is STILL a small (and these days mostly nuisance) Maoist problem in India that was much bigger during the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, and of course, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam were a murderous Maoist organisation.

      The Domino Theory was completely valid in the 1960s, and it was only because it took so long for the communists to triumph in Vietnam that those dominoes didn’t continue to fall as per intent after that.

      • The logic absolutely makes no sense.

        First of all, the Communists in Cambodia and Laos won. In Cambodia, in no small part because of the destabilization or the Cambodian government by US bombings. In fairness, it was part of the Nixon strategy to finally pull us out of Vietnam, and by that time, may have been necessary collateral damage. But your logic nowhere implies that getting 58,000 US soldiers killed in Vietnam was what prevented the other countries from going Communist.

        It’s not like the other countries would welcome the Vietnamese as liberators. All the different nationalities hated each other. There would be absolutely no spillover from Vietnam to any of the other countries you mentioned.

        What was the first thing the communist Vietnamese government did on gaining complete power? Get into a war with Communist China. Soon afterwards, it invaded and toppled the communist government of Cambodia.

        Give me a concrete chain of logic or fact to show that a Communist insurgency or even invasion in Vietnam affected the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Ceylon.

        The domino theory was a fiction. Again, if you read the book, any rational assessment of the Vietnamese situation always showed the US losing if it didn’t totally change strategy, and the President and Secretary of Defense engaged in lies and trickery to maintain the war precisely because it couldn’t be defended if those involved spoke the open truth about it.

        • The Dutch had their West Indies handed to them by the communists after the end of World War II as the Dutch were no match for in place guerilla and tribal conflict. You would have thought that the CIA, after watching the entire failed production and not lifting so much as a finger, would have learned from Holland’s mistakes and not repeated them in Viet Nam. In fact, Kennedy knew about Holland’s failures there and wanted us out ASAP. That didn’t go over very well with Tenneco and a few other multinationals who had interests in the resources that were being mined in the South China Sea. Johnson, the hack that he always was, did as he was told. So did Nixon, who did not carry his own district in 1968. We have some long memories around here.
          FTR, I debated the Viet Nam war and interventionist foreign policy in High School. The one question that was never asked, until we did, was by what right or authorization did we intervene in the affairs of a foreign country? That is also the one question John Bolton has refused to answer. The theory of plausible or credible threat must be proven and the action taken limited to that threat.
          FTR, with respect to Iraq, Saddam Hussein did move his SAM missile batteries to Quadrant H4 and “pinged” Tel Aviv. That is when Israel yelled, “Help” as you have 30 minutes within which to launch your missiles once you have established your target else the changed atmospheric conditions will prevent you missiles from hitting your target. Saddam said, “I dare you,” to Bush. Bush was reminded of the mutual defense treaty we had with Israel in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, the only thing Nixon did right.

          • Your last paragraph is confusing, to say the least. You seem to be saying Hussein put the Israelis in a situation where they had 30 minutes to launch a counter strike…or something. The more I read it, the less sense it makes.

            So, the US came into Iraq under the mutual defense treaty with Israel, a fact that was completely suppressed or ignored in the debates leading up to the Iraq invasion…or something. Hard to tell.

            Of course, if Israel was directly threatened, why would Israel not respond itself: having the largest and most efficient air force and army in the region?

            Why would the US have a mutual defense treaty with Israel? If the Cubans start invading the US Florida coast, the treaty with Israel will be immediately invoked and Israel will be expected to send ships and place to protect the US coast?

          • It was the Dutch EAST Indies that were returned to them after WW2. The West Indies are in the Caribbean and were a British colony until independence.

        • There were communist insurgencies all over South East Asia, but the one that stuck was in Vietnam because they had direct land borders with communist China.

          All the other nations could interdict heavy weaponry that had to come by sea.

          By keeping the land borders away, and increasing the length of the sea routes, the actions in Vietnam enabled the Govts of the other countries to deal with their communists without them being able to be supplied with heavy weaponry and having safe places to retreat to.

          As for Laos and Cambodia, it wasn’t US and allied actions that saw their Govts destabilized, that was already happening courtesy of the communists. It’s why neither Laos nor Cambodia was in any position to stop the NVA using their countries to move fighting men and equipment around the defended zone on the southern edge of the DMZ.

  6. I remember Seale speaking at my high school in the early 70s (Fremont HS, Oakland). I think he wrote a book on BBQ also. Probably the only thing he wrote of lasting value.

  7. One caveat within this piece (& there are many) is the idea that surrender is an alternative. Surrender makes you more vulnerable, removes your voice from the debate & suggests you are willing to become a pawn to be traded among those who compete. So when the CND supported dis-armament, Britain did not increase its security & in fact decreased it.

  8. The writer gives us Americans some good background on the British Left in the 60s. One fellow, Tariq Ali, piqued my interest. He turned out to be a staunch anti-capitalist, an immigrant from Lahore – that bastion of peace and prosperity. A quick search turned up an old Daily Mail piece reporting he’d sold his mansion for 5 million…didn’t read the date, but obviously, it was long after his rabble-rousing days.

    Nice pad, that. But the children had grown and gone so after 20 years in the lap of luxury, this “Scourge of Capitalism” and his missus –oops, the DM calls her his “partner” – needed to downsize.

    Sounds like many American ‘former’ scourges…

  9. If you are going to relate the seminal events of 1968 how could you leave out the “Rivers of Blood” speech? Enoch Powell with incredible prescience predicted how the Left would ultimately destroy the bourgeoisie. Immigration was the arrow aimed at the Achilles heel of western civilization and the Left’s aim was true.

    • Joe, I left out a number of significant facts and incidents but, had they been included, I would not have been able to fit the entire piece into a forum like this.

  10. Shortly before Trump picked Bolton, Bolton had this hawkish piece on North Korea:

    That piece might lead one to think that Bolton is a war-monger.

    However, here is a possibility: Trump is doing a Nixon-like foreign policy tactic.
    Nixon had American jets go to the brink of Soviet airspace–then pull back. One time Nixon and Kissinger met with Soviet leaders, and Nixon acted erratic. Kissinger told the Soviet leaders, “He’s been like that lately.”

    All that was an act by Nixon to keep the main opponent of the US off balance. (Nixon, when he was in college, performed in school theater.)

    Trump getting Bolton is to get America’s enemies off balance.

    During the Presidential campaign, I had a hunch that Trump and his associates read blogs and online opinion websites. Trump must have read Bolton’s recent piece, considering that the US and North Korea will be entering discussions soon.

    • Here is Bolton’s backgrounder you linked to from Gatestone:

      He gives the history of the ROI for “pre-emptive” strikes.

      In assessing the timing of pre-emptive attacks, the classic formulation is Daniel Webster’s test of “necessity.” British forces in 1837 invaded U.S. territory to destroy the steamboat Caroline, which Canadian rebels had used to transport weapons into Ontario.

      Webster asserted that Britain failed to show that “the necessity of self-defense was instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation.” Pre-emption opponents would argue that Britain should have waited until the Caroline reached Canada before attacking.

      Would an American strike today against North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program violate Webster’s necessity test? Clearly not. Necessity in the nuclear and ballistic-missile age is simply different than in the age of steam. What was once remote is now, as a practical matter, near; what was previously time-consuming to deliver can now arrive in minutes; and the level of destructiveness of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is infinitely greater than that of the steamship Caroline’s weapons cargo.

      Timing and distance have long been recognized as surrogate measures defining the seriousness of military threats, thereby serving as criteria to justify pre-emptive political or military actions. In the days of sail, maritime states were recognized as controlling territorial waters (above and below the surface) for three nautical miles out to sea. In the early 18th century, that was the farthest distance cannonballs could reach, hence defining a state’s outer defense perimeter. While some states asserted broader maritime claims, the three-mile limit was widely accepted in Europe.

      Technological developments inevitably challenged maritime-state defenses. Over time, many nations extended their territorial claims, but the U.S. adhered to the three-mile limit until World War II. After proclaiming U.S. neutrality in 1939, in large measure to limit the activities of belligerent-power warships and submarines in our waters, President Franklin D. Roosevelt quickly realized the three-mile limit was an invitation for aggression. German submarines were sinking ships off the coast within sight of Boston and New York.

      In May 1941, Roosevelt told the Pan-American Union that “if the Axis Powers fail to gain control of the seas, then they are certainly defeated.” He explained that our defenses had “to relate . . . to the lightning speed of modern warfare.” He scoffed at those waiting “until bombs actually drop in the streets” of U.S. cities: “Our Bunker Hill of tomorrow may be several thousand miles from Boston.” Accordingly, over time, Roosevelt vastly extended America’s “waters of self-defense” to include Greenland, Iceland and even parts of West Africa.

      Similarly in 1988, President Reagan unilaterally extended U.S. territorial waters from three to 12 miles. Reagan’s executive order cited U.S. national security and other significant interests in this expansion, and administration officials underlined that a major rationale was making it harder for Soviet spy ships to gather information.

      In short, both Roosevelt and Reagan acted unilaterally to adjust to new realities. They did not reify time and distance, or confuse the concrete for the existential. They adjusted the measures to reality, not the reverse.

      Although the Caroline criteria are often cited in pre-emption debates, they are merely customary international law, which is interpreted and modified in light of changing state practice. In contemporary times, Israel has already twice struck nuclear-weapons programs in hostile states: destroying the Osirak reactor outside Baghdad in 1981 and a Syrian reactor being built by North Koreans in 2007.

      This is how we should think today about the threat of nuclear warheads delivered by ballistic missiles. In 1837 Britain unleashed pre-emptive “fire and fury” against a wooden steamboat. It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current “necessity” posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first.

      His final sentence is the one which will send the faint of heart for the smelling salts. It’s a shot over the bow of China, a warning to rein in its puppet, the deluded and vicious NoKo president for life. Maybe China will heed the danger? Hard to say. But scaring the bejeezus out of an enemy we have built up is sure to put everyone in the area on notice…it will also change the dynamic of the proposed talks between the US and North Korea.

      • I think you are right.All know Bolton is kind of mad after wars.
        It may have been picked for this reason, or Trump is making a grave error.
        Time will tell.

        • What do you mean when you say “all know”…are you trying to convey a thought that everyone is aware that post-war, Bolton is always “mad” – i.e., crazy? Or are you saying he’s crazy about war itself? Either way, I disagree.

          I’ve been following his career since he was an adviser to GW Bush. Bolton’s ideas re the War on Terror sound compatible with Trump’s message. Bolton never trusted the whole “democracy-nation-building” idea. Thus he was for the War in Iraq until it deteriorated into the War on Ideas…e.g., the sand-poundingly stupid ROI that Patreus engineered for Afghanistan.

          I suggest reading some of Bolton’s speeches. Here’s a brief book (48 pages) from 2010:

          How Barack Obama is Endangering our National Sovereignty: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies


          Or you could try his better-known work, Surrender is Not an Option. It’s about his time as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN. (which is why he is usually referred to as “Ambassador Bolton”)

          That book is much longer and at least five years earlier than the first. It’s also #1 in the category “Treaties” on Amazon. That’s no doubt due to his appointment.

          At any rate, the very least you could do is read some of his essays. I’ll leave you to search for them.

        • BTW, the reason Trump didn’t pick Bolton sooner is that DT hates Bolton’s mustache. Go figure.

          Whatever, now that he’s booting people right and left, he is forced to turn to the grown-ups. Of which Bolton is one.

          Bolton is a good example of the meritocracy at work in the U.S. He was born and raised in a working-class neighborhood in Baltimore; his dad was a fireman, his mother a housewife. From the get-go, Bolton’s academic ambition allowed him to achieve a scholarship to a private school for his high-school, and from there, eventually to Yale. That’s partly why he and Clarence Thomas bonded at Yale: two bright, working-class Catholic boys in a sea of WASP privilege. [they were both later to change denominations…a part of the huge loss of population for the mid-century American Catholic church into which they were born]

      • Bolton has talked about financial and military confrontations with Russia over Ukraine, a country where the US has zero strategic interests. But the disposition of the Ukraine is a vital Russian interest, being on the Russian border.

        In other words, if pushed, Russia, acting rationally, will go to war over the Ukraine. The US, following Bolton’s recommendations, might go to war over the Ukraine, but it would not be the result of rational decision-making.

        n last September John Bolton said to the Ukrainian media that introduction of the UN peacekeeping mission to the occupied Donbass is wrong initiative on the part of Ukraine. To resolve the conflict in Donbass and fight against what Bolton describes as “Russian aggression”, according to Bolton, Ukraine must demonstrate its readiness for fighting in a war.

        “I do not think there should be peacekeepers in Ukraine, which is a mistake on Ukraine’s part. It means that you are increasing Russia’s involvement in Ukraine’s internal affairs. And Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia gained an even greater international weight. Now the main dispute is not to freeze this conflict. If you want to restore sovereignty over Donbass, the last thing Ukraine should do is allow peacekeepers here,” the diplomat said.
        “Therefore, if Ukraine is ready to fight for its independence, it must now prepare for it, increase military support from the United States. I believe that Ukraine must do everything possible to reduce Russia’s pressure on it now. It is not enough, it should make much more effort,” he said.
        Speaking about the possibility of obtaining lethal weapons from the U.S., Bolton said:

        “I think that Ukraine should approach it diplomatically, I think this is still the best way at the moment for both Ukraine and the United States.”
        Bolton has a long history of blaming Russia from everything – without facts

        In a direct aftermath of MH17 tragedy on FOX TV interview, John Bolton hurried up to blame Russia and especially President Vladimir Putin for being directly responsible for shooting down the Malaysian passanger plane over Donbass in July 2014.

        “The reason is that Putin thinks that he can get away with it. We don’t really need all the specific facts, we know what happened last Thursday, when the Malaysian airline plane was shot down. I think Putin is just playing for time to reduce the pressure for increase of sanctions,” Bolton said.
        Bolton’s suggestion for the US response actions to the tragedy was that US should cut Russia totally from the US/western financial markets, take Ukraine directly under NATO-protection, and launch other large scale military-strategical actions against Russia.

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