Vietnam's Power Struggle

Vietnam's Power Struggle

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“If you grew up in the 60’s, you grew up with war on TV every night, a war that your friends were involved in. And I want to
do this song tonight for all the young people out there if you’re in your teens. Cause I remember a lot of my friends when we were 17 or 18, we didn’t have much of a chance to think about how we felt about a lot of things. And the next time, they’re gonna be looking at you and you’re gonna need a lot of information to know what you’re gonna want to
do. Because in 1985, blind faith in your leaders or in anything will get you killed.”
-Bruce Springsteen

Vietnamese nationalism began when the Vietnamese revolted against France in the Yen Bay revolt under the leadership of Nguyen Thai Hoc. The Indochinese Communist Party was formed in 1930. In 1932, the French installed Bao Dai as emperor, attempting to appeal to traditional authority and oppose the nationalist movements. Through Bao Dai, the French gave the Vietnamese a government that was parented by Paris. When France fell to Germany, during World War II, Japan occupied Vietnam from 1941 to 1945. Ho Chi Minh saw the Japanese invasion as a chance to build up a new nationalist force, one that appealed to all facets of Vietnamese culture.
“Ho founded the Vietminh political organization and conceived the strategy that would eventually drive the French from Vietnam. He and the other Communists who constituted the Vietminh leadership skillfully tapped the deep reservoir of Vietnamese nationalism, muting their stressing independence and “democratic” reforms. Displaying an organization and discipline far superior to competing nationalist groups, many of which spent as much time fighting each other as the French, the Vietminh established itself as the voice of Vietnamese nationalism (Herring5).”

In August 1945, the Vietminh conquered Hanoi. Bao Dai renounced his throne, and soon after, the Japanese surrendered at Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh considered Vietnam independent, and on his own accord, named the country the “Democratic Republic of Vietnam”. Ho Chi Minh's declaration was not acknowledged by France. Soon, the Vietminh were driven into the North by French forces, but the Vietminh did not allow the French to penetrate any further.

In 1945, Ho Chi Minh wrote many letters to Harry Truman that appealed for official US recognition of the “Democratic Republic of Vietnam”.

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Caught in the increasing pressure of the Cold War, and fueled by the domino theory, the US refused Ho Chi Minh's request, denounced him, and offered to help the French. Within a year, American ships were transporting French troops into Vietnam. Yet with the return of the French the ranks of the Vietminh swelled. By 1949, when the French installed a rival government in the South with Bao Dai as figurehead, the two sides were fighting to a standstill. The fighting between the French and Vietminh came to be called the First Indochina War and would last for another five years, until 1954 and Dien Bien Phu.
To understand which political options that the people of Vietnam were exposed to, you must first define them. Nationalism is, “devotion to the interests or culture of one’s nation; the belief that nations will benefit from acting independently rather than collectively, emphasizing national rather than international goals; aspirations for national independence in a country under foreign domination.” Socialism is, “any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy; the stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate between capitalism and communism, in which collective ownership of the economy under the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been successfully achieved.” Communism is, “a theoretical economic system characterized by the collective ownership of property and by the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members; a system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people. The Marxist-Leninist version of Communist doctrine that advocates the overthrow of capitalism by the revolution of the proletariat.” Capitalism is, “an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.” (all are definitions).

The Vietnamese were exposed to all of these forms of political view. Ho Chi Minh didn’t expose the people to the full definition of his views, he only showed them examples that would force the Vietnamese to side with his view. Ho began to inspire a revolution against French colonialism by displaying figures of exports and profits. He appealed to the people by pinpointing the key aspects of greed, patriotism, freedom, and nationalism. He knew that Vietnam needed to become independent before he could introduce Communism to the country. So, he planted ideas of freedom from France into the people of Vietnam in order to gain military/patriotic excitement. Developing his army or Viet Minh (mostly Communists), he engaged in wars against Japan and France. The United States supported the Viet Minh because of their cooperation against Japan and movement toward freedom, and therefore contributed weapons and financially backed the Viet Minh government. Later, it became known that the Viet Minh were striving for Communism.
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