Kirkus Reviews QR Code
VIETNAM by Gabriel Kolko


Anatomy of a Peace


Pub Date: July 14th, 1997
ISBN: 0-415-15989-X
Publisher: Routledge

 Ur-socialist Kolko tries--and fails--to come to grips with Vietnam's embrace of a market economy. Kolko (formerly of York Univ., Toronto) goes through hoops trying to explain why Vietnamese communism hasn't worked. In this weakly argued, tediously written tract, the author of Anatomy of a War (1986)--a fervidly anti-American history of the Vietnam War- -castigates a disparate group of socialist enemies, including ignorant, avaricious, market-loving Vietnamese communist apparatchiks, and officials of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with the capitalist, imperialist Americans who control them. Kolko, for example, calls Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Do Muoi ``an opportunistic, intellectually banal figure.'' Long-time Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet is power-hungry, a ``consummate cynic.'' Kiet's economist Nguyen Xuan Oanh is ``a consummate opportunist'' and a ``key link with the IMF.'' World Bank and IMF officials have blackmailed Vietnam, Kolko claims, offering much-needed loans to gain the ``prize'' of ``abolishing socialism.'' In prose that often reads like a rhetoric-strewn ultraradical political tract, Kolko concentrates on the economic changes that have come since 1985 with the introduction of liberalized market-economic reforms (read: capitalism). Although he calls the American war in Vietnam a ``terrible crime against humanity,'' Kolko ignores communist Vietnam's human-rights abuses, both during the war and since. He seems never to have heard the words ``re-education camps'' and skips very lightly over the current Vietnamese government's shortcomings, including press censorship and a still-strong secret police. An embarrassing attempt by Kolko--more socialist than Ho Chi Minh--to explain why his beloved Vietnamese communists have aided and abetted ``the ultimate American victory over socialism.''