Monday, May 08, 2017

Unified, Independent, and Sovereign


Counterpunch |  It somehow makes US Americans feel good that the “commies” finally came around and saw the light.  It’s a psychological and emotional salve that reassures the gullible, the uninformed, and the nationalists that the sacrifices on their side were not in vain.  The problem is it’s dead wrong.

3.8 million of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s fellow Vietnamese and over 58,000 US Americans did not die in a war of economic systems or ideologies.  The world is not binary and the cause for which they gave their all was not about a free market vs. a centrally planned economy.  It was about Vietnamese governing Viet Nam without continued foreign interference, occupation, and war.  Viet Nam won the war because it expelled yet another foreign invader.

Despite what embittered Vietnamese-Americans and diehard veterans who desperately want to believe, and want you to believe, that the loss of limbs, life and sanity were not in vain, it’s really that simple.

The “hardline communists” of whom you spoke, Mr. Viet, were also pragmatists – out of necessity.  They made the fateful decision to bend rather than break with the Đổi Mới (renovation) reforms of 1986, which began to bear fruit in the mid-1990s during my first visit to the country of your birth.  Viet Nam has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is considered to be one of the great success stories of the developing world.  It also ranks 5th among countries sending their young people to study in the US.

In spite of extremes of wealth and poverty that are characteristic of any rapidly developing economy, Viet Nam’s government has been praised for converting wealth into national well-being, i.e., helping to create a rising tide that raises all boats, certainly not a claim the US can make, where extreme wealth concentration and a resulting oligarchy are the order of the day.  (20 US Americans own as much as wealth as 50% of the population.)

The Communist Party is not a monolith, as you know.  In fact, there’s probably more diversity of opinion within this one party than in the US in which “there is only one party…  the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat”, as another US writer and public intellectual, Gore Vidal, once described the US political system.  I know this because Viet Nam is not a country I visit from time to time; I have lived here for over a decade.