NORTH VIET NAM: Land of the Mourning Widows

The sky had turned steely grey with the approach of the monsoon, but in the laced paddies of North Viet Nam's Red River delta last week, the rice still stood thick and unharvested. The Communists' vaunted land-reform program had gone badly wrong. In some areas it had created such chaos that no peasant knew whose land he was to harvest, and whole villages had turned savagely on their Communist mentors and run them out of town.

The botched situation is largely the work of a small, fierce-eyed man with a bulging forehead named Truong Chinh—called "Little Uncle" in recognition of his...

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