Iraq could never have been another Vietnam

It has been common among opponents of the imperialist conquest of Iraq to say that the US and Britain are getting into a "new Vietnam". Certainly the leaders of the anti-war movement, many of whom came into politics at the time, liked to imagine the anti-war movement as akin to the movement against the Vietnam war. The rapid collapse of the Ba'athist regime has quietened these arguments. But has not silenced them: after all, in Afghanistan US troops are still taking casualties from guerrilla opponents ... However, the invasion of Iraq is not analogous to the Vietnam war. In particular, the anti-Vietnam war movement is not a satisfactory guide to the tasks of opponents of the "war on terror" and its current manifestation in Iraq. To understand why, we need to understand how the USA came to be defeated in Vietnam and the nature and role in this defeat of the anti-war movement. Vietnam The Vietnam war began effectively in 1946, and US involvement began in 1950 - in the form of material aid and advisers supporting the French colonial power. During World War II, the existing French colonies and protectorates in Indochina had been occupied by the Japanese, and the Allies had supported national resistance groups led by the Communist Party. When the war came to an end, the British occupied southern Vietnam, disarmed the resistance groups and handed the country back to the French. The north was occupied by Chinese Koumintang troops, which did not disarm the resistance movement; the CP-led resistance movement was able to declare independence, the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), and a Viet Minh (Vietnamese Revolutionary League, a nationalist front led by the Communist Party) provisional government. The French invaded the north in 1946 and were able to obtain control of the cities and towns, but were never able to take effective control of the countryside. After the Chinese revolution in 1949, the DRV/Vietminh began to receive significant military material from the new People's Republic of China, and from 1950-51 they were able to develop a conventional army under the leadership of Vo Nguyen Giap; the same events led the USA, which had been lukewarm or hostile towards French recolonisation of Indochina, to throw their lot in with the French. US material and military advisers began to arrive from October 1950, and by the end of the war the US was paying 80% of the costs of the French war effort. The next four years saw Giap pursuing a complex mixture of guerrilla and conventional warfare, culminating in 1954 with a major conventional defeat inflicted on the French at Dien Bien Phu. After Dien Bien Phu, diplomacy briefly took over. Under the Geneva accords (1954), the French conceded Viet Minh control of northern Vietnam, while the Viet Minh conceded French temporary administration of southern Vietnam. A declaration, to which the US expressed reservations, called for all-Vietnam elections in 1956 to decide on unification. In fact, the US now forced the French out of the south and supported a government led by Ngo Dinh Diem, a catholic nationalist who had collaborated with the Japanese, moved out of the north for obvious reasons, and opposed the French. Substantial US resources were put into building up the Diem regime. The 1956 elections were never held, and Diem's catholic regime was unacceptable to the buddhist sects which held considerable practical power in the southern countryside. From 1957 the CP began guerrilla activity in the South with military support from the DRV. The scale of this activity gradually built up, and the Diem regime's armed forces proved unable to contain it. In 1960 the CP formed the National Liberation Front (NLF) in the south. The US in 1961 moved beyond CIA resources to the direct use of US troops as advisers to the southern army; by 1962 there were 14,000 of these "advisers". The NLF controlled about a third of the territory of the south. Recognising that the situation was deteriorating, the US now sanctioned a military coup which overthrew and killed Diem. The South Vietnamese generals had, however, great difficulty in forming a stable political leadership and political crisis continued through 1964 and 1965 until the emergence of Nguyen van Thieu as the US preferred protegé. In February 1965 US troops officially went directly into action, and by the end of the year the US had over 100,000 troops in Vietnam. By 1966-7 the number had risen to 300,000 and by January 1968 to 498,000. The DRV and NLF, which had begun to shift from guerrilla to conventional warfare, were forced back on guerrilla methods. The US also in 1965 began an enormous air onslaught on the DRV with the aim of destroying the north's willingness to support the NLF. This failed in part because of the government's mobilisation of the population to repair damage, conceal operations, etc, but also because the USSR supplied the DRV with Migs and sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, while China maintained a steady supply of lower-level arms. It was later estimated that around 1,400 US aircraft were lost over the DRV between 1965 and 1968. By pouring troops into southern Vietnam and launching its massive bombardment of the DRV, the US seemed to have restabilised the situation. It was therefore an enormous shock to the US administration when in February 1968 the NLF launched the Tet offensive in the cities and towns of the south. The attacks were beaten off, but US commander, general Westmorland, had his request for another 200,000 troops rejected; in November 1968 the bombing campaign against the DRV was halted, and in January 1969 peace talks began in Paris. The US began to adopt a policy of "Vietnamisation", ie, retreat (at least in theory) to US troops playing only an advisory and back-up, rather than a front-line, role. Nonetheless, the war was to drag on for another seven years before the final collapse of the southern regime in 1975. Paradoxically, the Tet offensive may have actually improved the position of the Southern regime on the ground, since it was, in immediate terms, a defeat for the NLF and as a result led to some growth of pragmatic support. The US now put major resources into training and equipping the regime's army and building up paramilitary forces, though their confidential documents continually complained about the problem of these forces avoiding direct combat with the NLF and developing into local protection rackets. The number of US troops in Vietnam began falling in 1969: from 542,000 in 1968 to 537,000 in 1969, to 473,000 in January 1970, to 336,000 in 1971, 133,000 in January 1972, and 45,000 in July 1972. In spite of the avowed policy of 'pacification' and 'Vietnamisation' US troops continued until 1970 to be employed in aggressive 'search and destroy' sweeps against the NLF, with massive use of firepower which devastated villages without eliminating the guerrillas. An American invasion of Cambodia in 1970, and a southern regime invasion of Laos in 1971, both aimed at eliminating guerrilla 'sanctuaries', were both failures. By 1971-2 the US army in Vietnam was experiencing a crisis of morale and discipline, with large-scale drug use, 'fragging' or assassination of officers and NCOs, trebling of absent without leave and desertion rates and an approximate doubling of mutinies and refusal of orders between 1965 and 1971. In 1972 the DRV launched a large-scale conventional offensive, across the north-south border, which after early successes was beaten back by the southern army with massive US air support, the DRV gaining only limited territory. This apparent success for 'Vietnamisation' enabled the US administration to save its face enough to sign a ceasefire agreement in Paris in January 1973. The last US combat troops left Vietnam in March. President Nixon, meanwhile, was fighting for his political life in the face of the Watergate scandal, and was unable to resist when on June 30 1973 Congress voted to cut off funds for all military activity in Indochina. Congress went further, cutting the funds for resources for the southern regime's army by 50% from 1973 to 1974 and again by a third from 1974 to 1975. The results for the southern army were disastrous. Trained in the US style of massive use of firepower, they were now subject to enormous cuts in ammunition supplies and their ability to use air support. In November 1974 they were down to 85 rifle bullets per man per month, a tiny figure. In January 1975 the DRV opened a new conventional offensive, and the southern regime now collapsed rapidly, with DRV troops entering the southern capital of Saigon and southern formal surrender on April 30. An account sympathetic to American objectives and conduct of the war, Guenter Lewy's America in Vietnam (1978), concludes that the USA in the end was never able to construct a broad consent to the regime - or a state not radically weakened by corruption - in south Vietnam. But he also argues that this was not in itself decisive, but rather what caused the Thieu regime to fall was the US's abandonment of its ally in 1973-4. He attributes this latter, as well as the collapse of US morale around 1970 and after, to the (as he sees it) malign role of the anti-war movement. US anti-war movement Successive US administrations never had overwhelming support for their Vietnam policy. Until 1964-5 US involvement was largely covert. A 1964 poll showed 53% of university graduates willing to send troops to Vietnam, but only 33% of those with school education only (a rough parallel for class, indicating less support for the war among the working class). Polling in August 1965 showed 61% in favour of US involvement in Vietnam, a clear majority but not one which would marginalise opposition. Opposition was strongest among blacks, women, and the over-50 generation which had lived through the 1930s depression and World War II. By 1971 polls showed a clear, but equally not overwhelming, majority of 61% against the war. (This and other information following from Howard Zinn A people's history of the United States 1996.) The anti-war movement began on a small scale in 1965 and seems to have grown at least in part out of the experience of the black civil rights movement which had been going on since the middle 1950s. There was a demonstration of about a hundred in Boston in early 1965 against the bombing campaign, and another of a few hundred in Washington in summer 1965. The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), one of the lead organisations in the civil rights movement, called for withdrawal from Vietnam in early 1966, and SNCC members began engaging in non-violent direct actions against the war that year. From 1967 the movement began to snowball, with perhaps two million involved in one or another form of demonstration on the October 15 1969 day of action, and continued into the early 1970s: in 1971 20,000 people took part in a sit-down protest in Washington and 14,000 of them were arrested, while demonstrations nationwide continued to attract hundreds of thousands. The non-violent direct action was clearly learned from the civil rights movement, which had used such tactics in its campaigns against segregation and for black voter registration. Its purchase on the war was simple. The USA was fighting in Vietnam with a conscript army. Though the US state had before World War II only used conscription in full-scale wars, its imperial responsibilities as global cop had led to continuation of selective conscription. The 'draft' went through the Korean war and into Vietnam. The officer corps was traditionally supplied in small part by the military academies, but more extensively by the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTCs) on the university campuses. Draft refusal as a mode of protest against the war had been first suggested in 1964. Burning draft cards or handing them back became a form of organised resistance. By mid 1965 there were 380 prosecutions, by mid 1968 3,305; by the end of 1969 there were reported to be 33,960 offenders. In May 1969 2,400 of 4,400 summoned to the Oakland, California draft induction centre failed to turn up. The draft board offices and induction centres became targets. Protests against ROTCs led to their removal from over 40 campuses, and between 1966 and 1971 ROTC enrolment fell by two-thirds. Beyond the attack on the draft, there were some extraordinary instances of individual heroism. Two American sailors hijacked a shipload of bombs. Government officials opposed to the war began to leak information. Individual acts of overtly political resistance by US servicemen and women began as early as 1965 and became more common as the war went on. A servicemen's anti-war movement developed, with more than 50 underground anti-war newspapers circulating on US military bases by 1970. Refusal to fight spread to the troops in Vietnam, especially among blacks. The race question also had a more direct impact on the willingness to continue the escalation and attrition strategy of 1965-68. 1967 saw enormous riots in the black ghettos. The group advising president Johnson on general Westmorland's request in early 1968 for another 200,000 US troops commented that: "This growing disaffection [the anti-war movement] accompanied, as it certainly will be, by increased defiance of the draft and growing unrest in the cities because of the belief that we are neglecting domestic problems, runs great risks of provoking a domestic crisis of unprecedented proportions." They clearly judged that the state faced not merely non-violent resistance but the risk of riots turning into full-scale insurrection. This judgement was reflected elsewhere in exemptions from the Civil Rights Act 1968 for police and armed services members engaged in "suppressing a riot or civil disturbance", and in a substantial stepping up of the FBI's agent provocateur activities against black organisations and the left. The idea that the USA risked full-scale revolutionary crisis if it continued with escalation in Vietnam may well have been false; but it was this fear as much as the simple fact of the anti-war movement protests which determined the decision to de-escalate from 1968. Another factor was the beginning of the reflection of the movement in the high-political terrain. Johnson's decision to de-escalate (and not to seek re-election) was partly informed by the strong result of the anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy in the New Hampshire presidential primary election on March 12 1968. Debates Local direct actions were organised by a wide variety of bodies, but the big demonstrations and nationwide days of action needed broad coalitions, since there was no party capable of fully taking the lead in the movement: the Communist Party USA, though much larger than its Trotskyist and Maoist/New Left competitors, was not so much larger as to be able to act on its own, and the virulent anti-communism of the McCarthy era in the 1950s had not yet faded away, so that it would have been tactically unwise for it to do so anyhow. Within the coalitions there were thus inevitably episodic debates about the slogans on which demonstrations should be called. The CPUSA generally looked for whatever minimum slogan or slogans would attract the broadest support. The main Trotskyist organisation, the Socialist Workers' Party (no relation to our own dear SWP!) argued for two slogans only: withdrawal of US troops, and 'self-determination for the Vietnamese people'. These, they argued, were a sufficient basis of clear opposition to the imperialist war. To their left, the Maoists and groups influenced by them called for 'Victory to the NLF' to be the basis of the movement. International movement In 1966-70 Vietnam solidarity movements sprang up in a wide range of countries, in particular in Europe and Japan - inspired partly by the American movement, and partly by the common interests of the 'official' communist parties, the Maoists and the so-called Unified Secretariat of the Fourth International wing of the Trotskyist In solidarising with Vietnam. These were not important to the American defeat in the way the US anti-war movement was, though they may have lent aid and comfort to the US anti-war movement. They were more inclined to the 'Victory to the NLF' slogan than the majority of the US anti-war movement; and their 'direct actions', since the countries in question were not belligerents, tended to have the character of seeking a barney with the police, rather than anything which would have substantially impeded US action. The mass workers' parties did not turn their members out, with the result that the Vietnam movements provided the first opportunity for the groups of the far left to appear as leaders of an actual movement; thus, for example, members of the International Marxist Group (whose remote descendant is today's International Socialist Group) and International Socialists (today's SWP) were prominent in the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, which mobilised 100,000 in London in October 1968. US defeated? It is traditional on the left to say that the US was defeated in Vietnam by the heroic and prolonged resistance of the Vietnamese people and the growth of the mass anti-war movement in the US - which also involved considerable courage in acts of direct action and resistance in the face of police repression, though anti-war protesters never met the scale of violence which was inflicted on the Vietnamese people. It would be more correct to say that the US could not have been defeated without these elements. More, however, was needed. Guerrilla struggle has been carried on by the Palestinians now for 36 years without defeating the Israeli state, and several countries in Latin America have also seen very prolonged but ultimately unsuccessful guerrilla movements. The defeat of the US involved a series of very specific elements. In the first place, the Vietnam war has to be understood in the context of the Cold War and the Sino-Soviet split. The USA was not prepared to contemplate direct and open war with the USSR or China. But the lesson of the French defeat was that this also excluded the reconquest of the DRV: resupply across the Chinese border had allowed the Viet Minh to maintain guerrilla and conventional forces which tied down French forces and ultimately inflicted a defeat at Dien Bien Phu on an isolated French strongpoint, which politically forced a settlement. Thus the reconquest of the DRV would require military operations in southern China, and ultimately the reconquest of China - or, as MacArthur had suggested in Korea and Westmorland was to suggest in Vietnam, the use of nuclear weapons, risking a general nuclear war. On the other hand, the Sino-Soviet split led Beijing and Moscow though the late 1950s and 1960s to posture to each other's left as supporters of the colonial revolution. As a result, the DRV obtained substantial support from both powers. In particular, the Soviet supply of high-tech air defences, though it did not neutralise American air superiority, made its exercise seriously costly, while general resupply limited the military effect of US strategic bombardment of the DRV. The result was that the US could only have won the war politically, by stabilising the southern regime, not by militarily destroying the ability of the DRV or the NLF to fight. Secondly, the US had committed itself, by virtue of the doctrine of 'containment', to defending a proto-state created in the southern half of Vietnam out of a combination of émigrés from the north, former collaborators from the French regime, and local pre-feudal elites. The resources poured into this entity understandably did not produce a transition to capitalism (as it did in formerly feudal South Korea) but vanished into the pockets of state actors. The southern regime never became anything more than a corrupt predatory entity, and this character was reflected in the relative ineffectiveness of its armed forces and its inability to make itself appear more attractive to the masses than the Stalinism to its north. But for the US to win the war it had set itself to win, South Vietnam had to become something like South Korea. The US kept putting on pressure for land reform in order to win the 'hearts and minds' of the peasantry; the regime delayed, adopted half measures, and so on, while all along the regime's troops operated large-scale looting and protection rackets in their own interests and that of landlords and officials who paid them off. Thirdly, the US suffered from a sharp internal contradiction in the post-war period between on the one hand its reliance on democratic ideology to legitimate itself both internally and internationally, and on the other hand its reliance for its state core (officer corps, security apparatus, etc) on a 'party of order' characterised by anti-democratic ideologies and nostalgia for the pre-Civil War slaveocracy. This contradiction adversely affected its ability to coerce the local elites in southern Vietnam and give effect to stabilising policies. It also exploded in the USA's internal political life in the form of the black civil rights movement, which in turn shaped the US anti-war movement. In this context, the fact that the US was relying on a conscript army became politically fatal, by giving opponents of the war a clear political focus and allowing mass opposition to the war to become quickly directly reflected in the armed forces. Lessons: the US state Elements within the US state drew a number of lessons from their defeat in Vietnam. A significant fraction of the US military took the view from some stage of the war that guerrillas (or 'terrorists') cannot operate without 'sanctuaries' or safe areas, so that counter-insurgency demands a willingness to take on and eliminate the 'sanctuaries', whether these are physical (hence the invasions of Cambodia in 1970 and Laos in 1971) or constitutional (hence the US government's flat refusal to treat al-Qaeda combatants in Afghanistan either as prisoners of war, or as criminals). The key to defeating insurgency is therefore a willingness to engage in unlimited aggression. On this view, US failure in Vietnam flowed from unwillingness to commit sufficient forces to actually conquer the DRV and if necessary China and/or to use nuclear weapons (suggested by Westmorland shortly before he was superseded in 1968). This doctrine has been reflected in Israeli military policy in the occupied territories and in the 1970s in Lebanon. It appears to have come to the fore in the US military, after being a minority position for some time, since 9/11. The counter-view, which has been consistently held by the British military since their successful practice of it in Malaya in the late 1950s, is that the key to defeating an insurgency is the production of local counter-forces by exploiting politically any divisions within the local society. This calls for the use of minimum force in support of local political objectives, rather than large-scale search and destroy operations. A view which has certainly been adopted by some US analysts but seems to have had limited effects on US operations to date. More generally, the fall of the Thieu regime and the contemporary (1974-5) defeat of Portuguese colonialism in Africa and revolutionary crisis in Portugal led the core elements of the US state to conclude that the policy of 'containment' of communism adopted in around 1950 had failed and that it was necessary to adopt a new policy of 'rollback'. The new policy began with the 'human rights offensive' launched by Jimmy Carter, president 1976-80, and was continued by Ronald Reagan's massive military build-up in the 1980s, which aimed - successfully - to break the capacity of the USSR to sustain military competition with the US, and thereby, by removing the Soviet military umbrella, to give the US a free hand throughout the world. One lesson which was fairly rapidly carried into effect was the end of the draft. The French used Foreign Legion and colonial troops rather than conscripts from an early stage in Vietnam, and the British abandoned conscription fairly rapidly after Malaya and Cyprus; evidently conscript armies are untrustworthy for 'counter-insurgency' purposes. The US followed suit after Vietnam. All the more reason for communists and republicans to demand universal military service and a citizens' militia! An associated change has been expressed by political analysts, until recently, as a fear of committing US ground troops to any conditions which will give rise to large-scale casualties. Some US political actors assess the mass anti-war movement in the late 1960s as a result of escalating US casualties. Yet at their high point in 1968, US combat fatalities in Vietnam reached only 2.4 dead per 1,000 strength - extremely light in conventional military terms - though with so many troops on the ground, even this figure meant some 1,200 going home in body bags in 1968. The reality was that in the first place the war never had overwhelming public support in the US (conversely, it was never subject to overwhelming political opposition); secondly, large numbers had been partially radicalised by the civil rights movement, and the draft gave their opposition a concrete target; and thirdly, the Tet offensive, while it was unsuccessful on the ground, told millions of Americans that their government had been lying to them about the success of the US military intervention, and called into question all the rest of the case for the war. The 'fear of casualties' is an ideological formula. It covers what is more exactly a fear of the US political establishment of getting into another war without sufficient political legitimacy and provoking another mass anti-war movement, without, however, admitting that the problem with the Vietnam war was that it lacked political legitimacy. The result in practice has been a shift (outside Latin America) from long-term military and covert operations to support regimes, as in Vietnam, to short-term interventions to destroy resisting regimes, leaving chaos behind (Lebanon, Somalia, ex-Yugoslavia, Afghanistan). The linkage between the crisis of military morale, the growth of mass opposition to the war, and the race issue, led leading political and some military actors in the US to make a serious attempt to develop a black middle class and a black element in the officer corps through 'affirmative action' and other measures. The American right never fully accepted this project and has been engaged since the late 1970s in efforts to roll it back. It is noteworthy, however, that a challenge to university affirmative action, sponsored by the right, has this year prompted opposition from the military high command. Lessons: the left The lessons the left drew from Vietnam were simple and disastrous. The first was that a combination of colonial guerrilla insurgency with a solidarity movement in the metropolises based on direct action could defeat the projects of imperialism. It is from the high point of the Vietnam war, as much as from the dissemination at the same period of Che Guevara's falsified account of the Cuban revolution, that the infatuation with guerrillas, individual terrorism and 'minority actions' took its starting point. The formula has been repeatedly repeated, in most cases disastrously. It has remained most influential in the so-called third world, but had significant effects in the US, Italy and Germany and more diffuse effects in the character of the left in the 1970s more generally. What was omitted in this story was (1) the fact that the US anti-war movement emerged from a mass radicalisation on the issue of race, the civil rights movement, which had already made the US state paranoid about internal threats; (2) the role of conventional military action in the Vietnam war; and (3) the role of Soviet and Chinese military support to the DRV - especially the anti-aircraft assistance which made the US bombing of the north so costly, but also the more general supply of arms and resources. The problem was that the New Left's (justifiable) hostility to the USSR led it to downplay the actual role both of the USSR and China and of the overall international situation in the defeat of the USA in Vietnam. The 'official' CPs had their own reasons for wanting to assert the 'purely national' character of the Vietnamese movement. The left thus failed to think internationally even when it was engaged in 'international solidarity'. An associated idea was the centrality of forms of 'direct action'. Proponents of this - chiefly coming from the Maoist, anarchist and pacifist traditions - have never quite realised that the reason for the centrality of direct action in the US movements of the 1950s to early 1960s (civil rights movement) and later 1960s (Vietnam) was the presence of targets which were easy to hit and do real damage to by direct action: segregation and denial of the vote in the civil rights movement, and the apparatus of the draft in the anti-war movement. Outside this context, activities like cutting the wires at Greenham or Fairford, etc, unless they really become mass actions - the activity of millions - achieve only publicity stunts, valuable as such, but not immediate blows to the regime and its projects. On the other hand, if they did become the action of millions, they would be an immediate insurrectionary threat to the state, which the direct actions of the 1960s were not. They would thus pose the question of political alternatives. The second was the idea of small committed groups swimming in the sea of broader fronts as the road to political hegemony for revolutionary politics. This too came from the Maoist and Guevarist arsenal; but it seemed to be confirmed by the fact that the anti-war movement in the USA was built by a combination of coalitions and local initiatives of very diverse groups. What it neglected to mention was that (1) the Vietnamese and Chinese CPs were already mass parties before they began, in their guerrilla operations, to "swim like little fishes in the sea of the people"; and (2) the anti-war movement in the US, though its effects helped the US state to reach the decision to 'Vietnamise' and withdraw, did not in itself achieve political victory. Subsequent broad mass movements and fronts have mobilised very substantial forces, which have, however, dissipated as soon as the immediate crisis came to an end. ... and Iraq From what has been said it can be seen that the idea of Iraq as a 'new Vietnam' is desperately misleading. Very specific of circumstances meant that in 1965-75 a combination of third world military resistance, with Soviet and Chinese support, and a mass movement in the US which emerged from the mass anti-racist movement and had a 'hard target' in the draft, could defeat the US's immediate military project. Vietnam was, in fact, unusual. None of these factors have been present in the Iraq war. It may well be the case that Ba'athist guerrilla resistance continues after the fall of the cities, just as Taleban guerrilla resistance has continued after the fall of the cities in Afghanistan. This does not make Afghanistan, and would not make Iraq, a new Vietnam. The policy of the US has changed: it no longer engages military force over the long term to attempt to stabilise client regimes, but merely in the short term to inflict destruction and withdraw, leaving "reconstruction" efforts at most to small cadres of covert and special forces. The US armed forces are now volunteer forces rather than conscripts, and serious efforts have been made (albeit imperfect ones) to tackle their racial contradictions. Equally, the lessons drawn by the left from the mass movement against the Vietnam war fail to address the core problem. At the end of the day the US's war in Vietnam was acutely and specifically vulnerable, because of the draft, to the internal contradictions of American society. Where these very specific vulnerabilities are absent, a successful challenge to imperialist war involves the construction of a broad political alternative which addresses not just the war, but also all the issues affecting the broad masses in the imperialist country. This is the party question: and it cannot be resolved without the existing organised left addressing the problem of its division and the 'party', in fact sect, regimes which produce this division. Small hyperactive groups, 'swimming in the sea' of broad fronts which form transmission belts into the 'party', cannot substitute for the creation of a mass party of the workers' vanguard. The multitude of groupuscules, which when they unite in coalitions can animate large movements, but which (precisely because coalition actions are thought to be enough) never take the step to an actual party organisation, is part of the inheritance of the modern left, worldwide, from the generation who radicalised around the Vietnam war. It is the part we most urgently need to abandon. Mike Macnair