The Worker

On Vietnam’s Intervention in Pol Pot’s Kampuchea

By Calvin GA.

To understand the nuances of the situation surrounding the Vietnamese invasion of Democratic Kampuchea, we must first understand Kampuchea within the context of class struggle as well as the invasion of fascism that led to the suffering of both nations.

Kampuchea was under colonial rule of the French Third republic until 1940, when the French colonial possessions were ceded to the Vichy rump state installed by the Nazi brigands.

Immediately after, a weakened and neutered France approved Japan’s demands for military access to the Tonkin region of Vietnam, allowing the fascist Japanese Empire a step further in realizing its ambitions of squandering the nations of East Asia under the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. This was its attempt of establishing a new world order alongside its allies in Europe. With another front having opened up for the Nationalist Chinese government to deal with, the Allied war effort began to suffer even further.

Come 1945, with the Allied advancements across the European, African, and Pacific Theaters, Japan launched a regime change operation against the Vichy French colonial possession of Indochina. It was a miserable defeat for the Vichy government, with the remaining colonial forces retreating into Nationalist China while the Japanese Government established puppet kingdoms in their stead. This included the Empire of Vietnam, Kingdom of Kampuchea, and the Kingdom of Luang Phrabang (Laos).

Later that year, after the surrender of Japan, the Communist Party of Indochina’s Viet Minh League for the Independence of Vietnam led a sudden and sporadic uprising against both the Japanese oppressors and their VietnTo understand the nuances of the situation surrounding the Vietnamese invasion of Democratic Kampuchea, we must first understand Kampuchea in the contexts surrounding both class struggle as well as the invasion of fascism that led to the suffering of both nations.

Kampuchea was under colonial rule of the French 3rd republic until 1940, when the French colonial possessions were ceded to the Vichy rump state installed by the Nazi brigands.

Immediately after, a weakened and neutered France approved Japan’s demands for military access to the Tonkin region of Vietnam, allowing the fascist Japanese Empire a step further in realizing its ambitions of squandering the nations of East Asia under the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. This was its attempt of establishing a new world order alongside their allies in Europe. With another front having opened up for the Nationalist Chinese government to deal with, the Allied war effort began to suffer even further.

Come 1945, with the Allied advancements across the European, African, and Pacific Theaters, Japan launched a coup d’etat against the Vichy French colonial possession of Indochina. It was a miserable defeat for the Vichy government, with the remaining colonial forces retreating into Nationalist China while the Japanese Government established puppet kingdoms in their stead. This included the Empire of Vietnam, Kingdom of Kampuchea, and the Kingdom of Luang Phrabang (Laos).

Later that year, after the surrender of Japan, the Communist Party of Indochina’s Viet Minh League for the Independence of Vietnam led a sudden and sporadic uprising against both the Japanese oppressors and their Vietnamese rump state. This uprising became known as the August Revolution. After the Viet Minh took control of Hanoi, then Viet Minh leader Ho Chi Minh declared the independence of a Democratic Republic of Vietnam on the 2nd of September, 1945.

Two months later, the Indochinese Communist Party announced its dissolution, splintering into the Worker’s Party of Vietnam, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, and the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party, respectively. This was done to foster the national independence needed to collectively fight imperialism in the long-term.

However, one Indochinese country would take independence to the extreme, rejecting internationalism entirely and thereby injuring the whole Indochinese revolutionary movement. In nearly all cases, the mistakes of the Khmer Communist Party (KCP) can be traced directly back to its nationalistic chauvinist tendencies.

Over the long course of development of revolutionary Indochina, largely resulting from the brutal imperialism of the French and Japanese forces, Kampuchea had adopted a nationalistic “lone wolf” strategy of revolution outside of internationalist orientation. Consequently, this emphasis on national-sovereignty-above-all-else resulted in open antagonism toward the rest of Indochina, especially Vietnam.

Though Vietnam had extensively aided the Khmer forces through their early development up to their triumph over U.S. imperialists in 1975, the framework backing Pol Pot’s nationalism never lent an ounce of acknowledgment toward the Vietnamese Communist’s efforts toward preserving the united anti-imperialist front. Instead, Pol Pot revised history, claiming that the Kampuchean revolution had developed entirely internally, and that any attempt of the Communist Party of Vietnam to assist was simply a ploy to capture Kampuchea.

Ironically, it was the Khmer Rouge that was isolating itself for the purpose of regional expansion. Pol Pot’s end-goal was to re-capture territories once owned by the ancient Angkor Empire. By this point in history, these territories had long been held by Vietnam, comprising large, population-dense areas like Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. In addition, Vietnam had a much larger military and population size, but these basic material facts didn’t stop the KCP from rejecting all proposals for peace, yet again smearing Vietnam’s intentions as a thinly-veiled scheme to capture Kampuchea, and waging a war with Vietnam to reclaim these ancient territories. This was all done in the name of a “greater Kampuchea.”

This failure to consider the world revolutionary process resulted in a series of chaotic years that became known as the greatest calamity that has ever happened to the Kampuchean people. Through 1975-1979, the anti-materialist nationalistic ideology of the KCP had not only resulted in a suicidal war with Vietnam, but decimated the working class and proletariat in Kampuchea. Through Pol Pot’s disastrous policies, including the absurd, anti-Marxist plan to communize Kampuchea overnight, 1-3 million isolated Kampuchean people starved, were executed, or died from lack of medical care.

This is why the revisionists’ claim that the Vietnamese invaded Kampuchea for expansionist interests is ludicrous. In reality, it was a heroic attempt on behalf of the Vietnamese Marxist-Leninists to salvage the Indochinese revolution from the experimental chaos of the KCP.

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