Dealing with the devil


The Last Battle
By John Pilger
Thursday, October 12, 8.30pm (8 SA)
Previewed by Allen Myers
This documentary was made for the 20th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War in April, and it contains a good dose of the real history of the war — the kind of telling the truth about imperialism that makes Pilger so hated by political flunkeys of the wealthy.
But the main focus is what has happened to Vietnam since 1975: the efforts to rebuild, the US blockade and, most recently, the arrival in a major way of foreign capitalist investment.
The question Pilger raises is whether foreign investment and the incorporation of Vietnam into the New World economic Order will destroy the beginnings of a society of independence, justice and equity, which the Vietnamese people sacrificed so much for during decades of war. Can dollars — and pounds and yen and marks — conquer a people who stood up successfully against the might of the Pentagon?
This question is at the heart of the dilemma confronting Vietnam, Cuba and any other underdeveloped country trying to follow a socialist course of development when there is no longer Soviet assistance to offset some of the effects of US economic aggression — let alone help in overcoming the legacy of colonialism and war.
Even a country of 72 million people is still only an isolated island of would-be socialism in a capitalist sea until there are socialist revolutions in developed countries. A Vietnam or Cuba has no choice but to interact with the capitalist world market (indeed, one line of imperialist attack on them is to prevent them from doing so). The infrastructure and technology which are part of overcoming underdevelopment may require, or will at least be built more quickly, with the assistance of foreign capital.
But of course both the world market and foreign capital are highly subversive of socialism's egalitarian and humanist values. The question is not whether one deals with the devil — such deals are inevitable while the devil rules the world — but how to attain terms that preserve as much as possible of the socialist goal. Here there are few or no manuals, and the historical examples are mostly negative.
Pilger makes no pretence of answering the question in 50 minutes. I consider film not the best medium to develop the elements of an answer to such a complex question — though that may just reflect my preference for the written word. But Pilger does a real service in raising the question sharply and clearly — even painfully. Make a special point of seeing this: it's a topic that needs much thinking about.

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