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People’s Peace Treaty
By the Editorial Collective
The People’s Peace Treaty is a national program to end the war in Southeast Asia. By firmly dissociating themselves from the aggression against the Vietnamese, and working to impede the U.S. government’s warmaking efforts, opponents of the war in all sectors of American society can for once focus their energies on a single but multileveled strategy that could ultimately render its continuation impossible.
The National Liberation Front has already won the war in the countryside. U.S. officials admit the NLF controls most of rural Vietnam, and even in the cities or regions the U.S. claims are under Saigon’s control, Washington has never alleged that the population is politically loyal to Saigon’s cause. In fact, many instances have been reported of villages not contesting nominal U.S. – Saigon domination to avoid the common fate of being “destroyed in order to be saved.” (For instance, Gabriel Kolko, Three Documents on the National Liberation Front, p.9.)
The U.S. and Saigon forces have been driven back into a few city and coastal enclaves swollen with bitter refugees forced from their village homes by U.S. bombing and “pacification” missions. During the past year, these refugees have been joined by large sections of the urban population who previously showed little open resistance to the war, in coalitions demanding total U.S. withdrawal and the ouster of the Thieu-Ky-Khiem regime. Even those people in the cities who up until now have escaped the full brunt of the bombing and massacres of the countryside have had their lives devastated by the conscription of all young men, the increasing political censorship and repression by the Saigon government, rampant inflation, and wholesale prostitution. (There are now at least 400,000 prostitutes in Vietnam.) All this has been the consequence of the continuation of the war through “Vietnamization” which Nixon has proposed as a cheap way to win a military victory for the U.S. government through the expenditure of Vietnamese lives. Last spring’s joining of forces of the NLF and a broad range of previously unaligned groups into a provisional revolutionary government (PRG) represented a new and thoroughgoing unity of the majority of Vietnamese in the face of U.S. aggression. With these developments, the Thieu-Ky government — never popular — has lost virtually all support outside of the White House and Pentagon. Even their own administrative bureaucracy, according to CIA reports, includes at least 30,000 NLF supporters.
Within the United States, the largely war-caused inflation is increasingly cutting into the real incomes of all wage earners. It is the rare exception when a labor union can gain a settlement for its members which does not lag too far behind the cost of living. Funds for the more “frivolous” aspects of scientific research, such as graduate student support, health research, and work not directly applicable, are being cut back so that the dollar efficiency of science consonant with the government’s aims is increased. Only the wealthy and powerful can avoid paying for the war in terms of lives, inflation, taxes, and job loss. The poor, black, and brown have no such advantages.
Americans have voted for two successive presidents on solemn promises to end the war. No nationwide poll in the past five years can be interpreted as favoring a continued U.S. presence in Vietnam. Nevertheless, Nixon and Agnew cynically invoke a mythical silent majority which never fails to endorse their deceptive maneuverings for a military victory at any cost. (For example, the withdrawal with much fanfare of demoralized and resisting ground troops while stepping up air attacks, or calling for a cease-fire that would leave the Thieu-Ky government in uncontested control of South Vietnam, a solution obviously unacceptable to the Vietnamese.) Under conditions of a healthy, prospering economy, foreign adventures against the popular grain can be sustained to a certain extent by rhetoric and flag waving. As times get harder and deception wears thinner, direct intimidation and terror must increasingly be resorted to. The events at Kent State and Jackson State, the gunning down of popular leaders such as Fred Hampton, are evidence that this is already beginning. Only a broadly based repudiation by the American people of the war and the warmakers can turn it back.
The acceptability to the anti-U.S. forces in South Vietnam of free and democratic elections, supervised by an interim coalition of all tendencies in that country standing for peace, independence, neutrality and democracy, has already been enunciated by the PRG representatives in Paris. Along with this, assurances have been given of safety of withdrawing U.S. troops, exchange of prisoners of war, and a cease fire, conditional on agreement to total U.S. withdrawal by a negotiable early date. The People’s Peace Treaty consists of a campaign to get these conditions widely publicized and understood, to gain acceptance of the conditions by as many anti-war Americans as can be reached, and to begin programs of implementation of the people’s treaty that this acceptance would constitute. Implementation could include demonstrations, tax refusals, referenda taking various regions out of the war, strikes- —all tactics that the various participating constituencies see fit to carry out. The dates of May 1 – 3, 1971 are seen as a time for a convergence of such activities, with a sense that activities will also continue beyond those dates, as long as the war continues.
If you are interested in finding out more about the People’s Peace Treaty write Chicago People’s Peace Treaty, c/o S. Newman, 939 E. 57th. St., Chicago, Illinois, 60637.