Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine
China and Vietnam have played critical roles in the Cold War. In these countries revolutionary movements triumphed, consolidated power, and challenged American hegemony. In the Philippines another revolutionary movement, the Huks, sought power and lost. Traditionally, the rise and fall of revolutionary movements have been interpreted in light of Soviet inspiration and US counteraction.
In this important essay Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine emphasize that revolutionary movements must be grasped on their own terms. Their roots were indigenous and their success or failure depended more on their leaders’ organizational skills and ideological coherence than on external encouragement or repression. Revolutionary nationalist leaders in Third World countries looked on all foreigners with suspicion. To grasp their aims and aspirations, Hunt and Levine stress that one needs to study the domestic history of Asian nations, their social structure, and their land patterns as well as the sociology and psychology of revolutionary movements and their leaders.
The Americans and Russians were looking for docile allies who would be amenable to their wishes, but in the Third World they often encountered determined and resourceful leaders who rejected a subordinate and dependent status. Readers should discuss the internal social, economic, and political conditions that catalyzed revolutionary movements as well as the international systemic circumstances that nourished or constrained them. They should ponder the roles played by the United States and the Soviet Union. They should examine why it was so difficult for US officials to establish positive relationships with revolutionary nationalist leaders in China and Vietnam whereas they were able to forge a mutually beneficial partnership with a counterrevolutionary elite in the Philippines.