View the H-Diplo Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-Diplo's November 2004 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-Diplo's November 2004 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-Diplo home page.
One must be careful about exact phrasing when discussing this issue. What the U.S. government failed to find, despite prolonged effort, was control or direction of major anti-war organizations, or a level of influence verging on control, by Moscow, by the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), or by Hanoi. American officials found it difficult to accept the reality that Moscow's role in American leftist politics, so strong in the 1930s and significant in the 1940s, had almost disappeared. This issue popped up again about ten days ago, when stories began to circulate on the Internet about two documents captured during the war, which were interpreted as providing "evidence that Vietnamese communists were directly steering John Kerry's antiwar group Vietnam Veterans Against the War". They contained no such evidence. As a matter of fact, they contain no evidence that the Vietnamese Communists had even noticed that Kerry, or a group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War, existed. The Vietnamese Communists did have some contact with Kerry, but you could not prove it from these documents. The texts are at http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/star/images/215/2150901039b.pdf http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/star/images/215/2150901041.pdf But Jeffrey Kimball is mistaken when he writes If by "outside" groups Mosher means foreign or Communist group influence, his conclusion (based on his anecdotal evidence) that there was no such influence is correct . . . there was no outside influence on or penetration of the homegrown, grassroots, all-American antiwar movement. If all Communist groups are defined as being "outside", there was certainly some "outside" penetration of the movement. In the chapter of SDS to which I belonged from 1964 to 1967 at Harvard University, there was a small but visible presence of all three of the organizations that could reasonably be considered Communist parties and that were active in the United States at that time: the traditional, Moscow-oriented Communist Party (CPUSA), the Peking-oriented offshoot (PL), and the Trotskyist offshoot (SWP). None of these groups tried to take control of the SDS chapter, but they were a presence in it. I was personally acquainted with one member of each of the three groups. (The CPUSA member had a nervous breakdown, I think probably in 1966, and was briefly institutionalized. I had no awareness of any CPUSA presence in the SDS chapter after this point, though there may still have been such a presence.) (Query: The situation I saw in the Harvard SDS chapter, which I believe existed in other places in those years, constituted a historical anomaly. Leftist political groups are notorious for the way they attack one another, fighting over doctrinal differences. The ability of Moscow-oriented and Peking-oriented Communists, and Trotskyists, to get along in a civil fashion within an anti-war organization, none of them attempting to seize control of the organization or drive the others out of it, none of them even making a lot of insulting remarks about the others, is an oddity calling out for explanation. Has any historian ever explained it? The fact that they needed to avoid offending the SDS members who did not belong to any of the three groups, who constituted an overwhelming majority of the SDS members, is surely part of the explanation, but it does not seem to me sufficient to be the whole explanation.) A much more important form of influence was in the realm of beliefs. The Vietnamese Communists pretended that the National Liberation Front (NLF), in South Vietnam, was much more independent of Hanoi than it really was. The myth of the autonomy of the NLF was widely believed in American anti-war circles, and it would be hard to deny that this constituted a significant form of "influence" of Hanoi on the thinking of the anti-war movement. I should add at this point that while many in the anti-war movement were mistaken in believing the NLF was independent of Hanoi's control, supporters of the war who thought that the Communist movement in Vietnam was dominated by North Vietnamese were equally mistaken. South Vietnamese Communists were much too powerful in Hanoi for that to be true. The difference between outside influence and outside control is crucial. I would find it hard to respect the thinking of an American who was so insular that his or her ideas about international affairs were not significantly influenced by foreigners. But an American whose ideas and behavior are controlled by foreigners is legitimately suspect. Edwin Moise History Department Clemson University