Historical Context

Ho Chi Minh was born in May 1890 in Kimlien, Annam, three years after the establishment of firm French Colonial dominance over Vietnam through the formation of the Union of French Indochina.

1. Decolonisation in Indochina

The French had maintained a colonial interest in the region since the 17th Century.
· Based on three factors:
    • The race to construct a colonial empire = power and prestige.
    • Economic advantages àraw materials (industry) and closed markets (manufacturing).
    • Europe’s “moral” mandate to “civilise”.

Scholar gentry – noted the detrimental effect of colonialism on Vietnamese culture à‘national extinction’
o Led to the “Scholars’ Revolt” of 1885-1888. – Quelled by French.

Ho Chi Minh was born into a new generation of scholars who learned from this and sought to resist the French and inspire decolonisation by examining European and American historical experiences as a precedent.
Confucian ideology – learn about enemy first.
o Wrote about the US experiences of independence in his Road to Revolution (1926).
o In June 1911 he traveled on a steamboat to N and W Africa, Arabia, India, South America, the USA, London and settled in France in 1917.

Scholar father – friend of Phan Boi Chau: founder of Reformation Society in 1904 àaimed to unify scholars to these ends. Vietnam Restoration Society in 1912. Canton.

World War I had an impact – France’s lack of acknowledgement for Vietnamese sacrifice, revolt under 16 year-old emperor Bui Tan in May 1916.

In 1919, Ho Chi Minh formed a nationalist organisation in Paris amongst the 50 000 Vietnamese working in France called the Association of Annamite Patriots to advance the cause of decolonisation and independence in Indochina.
o In June, 1919 he presented ‘The Demands of the Annamite People’ to the allied leaders at the Versailles. àAppeal to Wilson “self-determination.”

Prior to the decleration of independence of Vietnam (sept. 2 1945), made by Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, the French returned for the second and final time.

2. Japanese conquest during World War II

During World War II, the Vichy French had little power to resist Japan’s expansion into Vietnam.
o In September 1940, they were forced to allow Japan to enter from North.
o On 9th March 1945, Japan staged a coup d’etat. (French had been liberated from Nazi rule by allies in 1944. Vichy = stuffed.)
o Emperor Bao Dai appointed in 1925 aged 13. Allowed to pronounce Vietnamese Independence but Japanese held firmly in place the French Imperial system àcontrol cabinet.

3. The Rise of Asian Nationalism and Communism

Other Asian nations’ Experiences of Nationalism important.

Japanese defeat of Russia in 1905 significant – demonstrates Asian power.
  • Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905.

The 1911 Chinese Revolution provided a model for similar such movements to occur in Indochina.
  • Later, when Nationalists came into power in China in 1927, the Vietnamese Nationalist Party was formed in Hanoi. (VNQDD) – armed uprisings in Cochen China, hundreds guillotined.

Phan Boi Chau’s organisations: The Reformation Society (1904) and the Vietnamese Restoration Society (1912). 5 yr imprisonment and death in 1917.
o No finite plans to extricate the French
o Focused exclusively on intellectuals (5%)
o His followers were converted to communism by Ho Chi Minh in 1925.

After WWI, Cao Dai (religion) became prominent in the South – favoured nationalism.

Communism – Ho Chi Minh saw nationalism alone as not strong enough an ideology. àLacked vital international backing. Needed to be multi-class.
  • Read Lenin’s Theses on the National and Colonial Questions in 1920. “Roadmap.”
  • French Communist Party in 1920. Frustrated by their Eurocentricism.
  • Travelled on invitation to USSR in 1923 where he took courses at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East “Stalin University” and learned about training Cadres, revolution, strikes, propaganda and military tactics.

From the early 1920s, nationalism became intertwined with communism in Asia as leaders of both persuasions vied with each other for the allegiance of their peoples.
– D Martin.
Ho Chi Min worked as an agent for the Comintern throughout the 20s and 30s.
  • In 1924, Ho was posted to Southern China to take advantage of Asian Nationalist sentiments amongst the Vietnamese exiles in Canton. Helped establish the “Association of Revolutionary Youth.”
  • In 1929, he went to Hong Kong to unite the three rival factions of the communist party in Vietnam àIndochinese Communist Party.
  • In 1931, following the Japanese occupation of China, he helped the Chinese Communist Party resist Japanese influence.

4. The Cold War and the Policy of Containment

Immediately after WWII, the USA and USSR engaged in a bitter confrontation, each initially trying to extend their influence and philosophy (Communism Vs Capitalism) throughout Europe. Spread to Asia.
  • 1945 – end of 1980s.

Division: Eastern Bloc and Western Bloc.
  • The former had commie govts closely aligned with USSR, latter US capitalist.

Switch from Isolationist to Interventionist policies in USA
“Truman Doctrine” – called for free market reforms in Europe àstrong economies protect against communism.
  • “Marshal Plan” - $12.6 billion from USA to Europe between 1947 and 1952.

Russia offered financial aid through COMECON to Eastern Bloc countries.

Tensions increased when Mao Tse-Tung’s forces overthrew the American-backed nationalist government in October 1949.

Containment – US policymakers became fixated on stopping spread of communism.
  • “Domino Theory” – Dominated US foreign policy from late 1940s-1960s
  • “War by Proxy” – e.g. North Korea, June 1950.

Ho Chi Minh perceived not as a nationalist leader but a Moscow-controlled communist.
Ultimate extension of this was the Vietnam War, or Second Indochina War or American War. (1959-1979)