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Nigel Harris

Philosophic Journalist

(Autumn 1965)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.22, Autumn 1965, p.31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Prevailing Wind
Michael Field
Methuen, 42s

Mr Field was the Daily Telegraph correspondent in Indo-China between 1956 and 1962, and he has pieced together his recollections over this period. On Laos he is interesting and most fully versed even if his views seem, given his job, very muddled; on Cambodia, he is too much under the spell of Sihanouk to give as sharp and delineated an account; on Thailand and Vietnam, he is relatively weak. The book would have benefited from stringent pruning, the elimination of much repetition and the rather tedious philosophic speculations that seem to lead nowhere, seem never to be affected by the course of events, and to be at one with the English middle middle class that has never set foot in Indo-China. Mr Field sees the contradictions in the American position, sees the non-viability of neutralism, sees some of the ‘good-points’ of the Pathet-Lao, and remains a dedicated anti-Communist – the good-hearted but muddled American beast is tormented by the nasty Communist rattlesnake. He sees none of the Communist mistakes or muddles or defeats – he sees little of the dedicated rationalism of American policy.

All this may be suitable for the Daily Telegraph, but it does not help in Indo-China – the muddle of the middle man is merely muddle. Mr Field is saved by never having to choose, by being an outsider, by being able to pity the Lao for being trapped in the incompatibilities of world politics but never having to do anything about it. In Hanoi, he complains about ‘drabness’; in Saigon he notices the brothels, but chooses them if choose he must.

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Last updated: 14 April 2010