South-East AsiaŚThirty Tears On
IN WHAT follows I attempt to discern and trace the main strands and contours which go to make up the overall pattern of the post-Second-World-War period in South-East Asia. Immodest though it may seem even to propose such an undertaking, I believe it to be essential, in the interests of understanding fully the true meaning and implications of specific developments, to stand back and adjust focus to the longer view and an all-round horizon-to-horizon picture. What must, for this purpose, be lost in detail should surely be restored with profit if it helps us gain some grasp of the gestalt.
As we recede from it in time, the victory of the people of Vietnam and Cambodia in April 1975 will surely emerge as a major historical turning point, the dividing line between the thirty-year-long postwar period and a new era certain to be marked by oceanic shifts in the balance of world power. But if April 1975 took us by surprise to a certain extent, it surely merely represented an accelerated unfolding of what had remorselessly become over the years the inevitable outcome. There could be no more brutally revealing proof of the impotence of western imperialism to halt, in the interests of safeguarding and extending capitalist economic activity the evolution of indigenous social forces in the neo-colonial countries than the political, diplomatic, and military victories of the peoples of Indochina,