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Nigel Harris

The Reds

(Summer 1965)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.21, Summer 1965, p.33.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Communism in North Vietnam
P.J. Honey
Ampersand, 7s. 6d.

Mr Honey is one of the few authorities on North Vietnam, a country about which remarkably little reliable is known, and he has here written a short popular guide to the politics of Hanoi. His viewpoint is sharply even if conventionally anti-communist – he tolerates no mild qualifications to his analysis – and he seems to believe that history is guided primarily by the plots of the few against the many. He assumes in addition that a communist is a very peculiar chap – the gap between him and the non-communist is one of startling immensity, so that plots, betrayal and brutality by the second are somehow never as bad as by the first, or at least, not to be described in the same tone of indignant emotionalism; thus, communism extends its tentacles, but the United States only helps her friends. Since the information is in any case very thin, conjecture replaces evidence – there is much Hanoi-ology, deductions of great moment from trivial happenings, and Mr Honey sometimes gives way to the temptation to try and fill in what might have happened as if it happened. Given that the account was in any case written before the fall of Diem and the subsequent rapid decay of the Saigon regime, much of what is suggested becomes unreal. If you know nothing at all about North Vietnam, this is one of the few books at present available that might tell you something, even if heavily biased. The second half of the book’s account of the balancing of Hanoi between Moscow and Pekin is, however, better and a useful piece of research.

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Last updated: 14 April 2010