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Vietnam’s Power Struggle

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Vietnam’s Power Struggle

Vietnam’s Political Struggle

“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”. 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

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