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Vietnam: State, War, and Revolution (1945–1946)

David G. Marr
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 723
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Amidst the revolutionary euphoria of August 1945, most Vietnamese believed that colonialism and war were being left behind in favor of independence and modernization. The late-September British-French coup de force in Saigon cast a pall over such assumptions. Ho Chi Minh tried to negotiate a mutually advantageous relationship with France, but meanwhile told his lieutenants to plan for a war in which the nascent state might have to survive without allies. In this landmark study, David Marr evokes the uncertainty and contingency as well as coherence and momentum of fast-paced events. Mining recently accessible sources in Aix-en-Provence and Hanoi, Marr explains what became the largest, most intense mobilization of human resources ever seen in Vietnam.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95497-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Christopher E. Goscha and Fredrik Logevall

    David G. Marr’s scholarship on modern Vietnam needs no introduction. In a series of path-breaking studies published by the University of California Press, Marr has provided definitive accounts of Vietnamese anticolonialism, sociocultural change, and revolution. Now, inVietnam: State, War, and Revolution (1945–46),Marr draws on a wide array of Vietnamese-language memoirs, newspapers, and government archives captured by the French to provide the first full-length study of the emergence and formation of the postcolonial state of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). Through a series of thematic chapters, Marr shows in masterful detail how a state emerged in Vietnamese...

    (pp. xiii-xix)
  6. Maps
    (pp. xx-xxii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    This book is about the birth of the Vietnamese nation amidst war and revolution. The story bears comparison with the American Revolution (or War of Independence), although I don’t pursue that line of inquiry here. Proclaimed in Hanoi in early September 1945, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) rapidly gained popular support. However, the provisional government had to deal immediately with centrifugal revolutionary impulses, the arrival of Chinese Nationalist troops in the north, and British-French units driving DRV adherents out of Saigon. No foreign government recognized the DRV’s existence. Food deficits threatened a repeat of the terrible famine of early...

  8. 1 Forming the DRV Government
    (pp. 19-56)

    Amidst the revolutionary tumult of August 1945, a new Vietnamese government began to take shape. Although the young Việt Minh activists who took custody of public buildings in Hanoi on 19 August had almost no experience at governing, they knew enough to use the Post, Telegraph and Telephone (PTT) system to demand and receive allegiance from most northern province offices, and then to blitz the region with edicts demonstrating their authority. On 24 August,Cứu Quỗc (National Salvation), the principal Việt Minh newspaper, announced formation of a national “Provisional People’s Government,” composed almost entirely of ICP members. Hỗ Chí Minh...

  9. 2 The Government at Work
    (pp. 57-110)

    With the DRV administrative hierarchy erected and national elections realized, attention shifted to convening the National Assembly, ending the government’s provisional status, drafting a constitution, and enhancing Hanoi’s capacity to direct local affairs. During February and March 1946, Hỗ Chí Minh had to concentrate on negotiations with the French and Chinese (see chapter 4), yet he found time to guide domestic discussions leading to a new cabinet and meet delegations from the countryside. It was a considerable disappointment to most Assembly delegates when their inaugural session lasted only four hours. Nguyễn Văn Tỗ, chair of the new Assembly Standing Committee,...

  10. 3 Defense
    (pp. 111-182)

    Contrary to popular belief, the new regime in Hanoi did not commit itself to guerrilla resistance following the example of several hundred Liberation Army members who had descended from the northern hills in late August 1945. Instead, the provisional DRV government declared its intention to build a modern regular army capable of defending the entire territory of Vietnam, from the Sino-Vietnamese frontier to the Cà Mau peninsula. It was a matter of national honor that the army be able to protect both state and citizenry from foreign attack. This obligation came under quick challenge when hastily formed units in Saigon...

  11. 4 Peace or War? The DRV Faces France
    (pp. 183-257)

    As Hồ Chí Minh and his lieutenants put together a provisional government at the end of August 1945 and prepared to declare Vietnam’s independence, they had ample reason to expect vigorous French opposition. Five months earlier, the provisional government of Charles de Gaulle had announced to the world its intention to form an “Indochina Federation” within a “French Union,” with metropolitan hegemony over foreign affairs and defense, the right of the French Constituent Assembly to determine conditions of participation in the French Union, and the right of a governor general to arbitrate between different parts of the Indochina Federation. This...

  12. 5 Seeking Foreign Friends
    (pp. 258-314)

    Between 1940 and the summer of 1945, Indochina endured five years of isolation, except for the coming and going of Imperial Japanese forces and news filtered by Vichy French and Japanese censors. With the sudden capitulation of Japan to the Allied powers in mid-August 1945, Vietnamese in both town and countryside wanted to find out what had been happening in the world at large, and then try to understand how their lives might be altered as a result. Newspaper editors were quick to assign staff to listen to Allied radio stations in New Delhi, Chungking, Kunming, San Francisco, and Tananarive...

  13. 6 Material Dreams and Realities
    (pp. 315-382)

    In times of revolution, hopes are aroused of great abundance, an end to fear about where the next meal will come from, an ability to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor, and membership in a much larger effort to create a new order of production, exchange, and community welfare. In Vietnam, material aspirations became linked with ideas of progress and modernity. In this future life, farmers would obtain pumps, manual laborers become truck drivers, merchants offer a cornucopia of commodities at fair prices, engineers alter the physical landscape, and scientists contribute to world knowledge.

    However, revolution also releases fury at...

  14. 7 Dealing with Domestic Opposition
    (pp. 383-441)

    Amidst the revolutionary exaltation of August 1945, no feeling was more widespread than national solidarity—the joy experienced when “the people”(dân chúng; nhân dân)join together as never before to build and defend “the nation”(quốc gia), or, more colloquially, “our country”(nước ta). Vietnamese who had never met before saluted each other as “comrade”(đồng chí), shared food and drink, marched side by side in demonstrations, and joined with persons from other localities to form a range of patriotic organizations. Public speakers and newspaper writers insisted ceaselessly that only with unity and self-sacrifice could Vietnam's newly won independence...

  15. 8 The Indochinese Communist Party and the Việt Minh
    (pp. 442-498)

    While the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) was easily the most significant political organization in Vietnam in late 1945, it did not control the civil administration, most available firearms, or many of the self-styled Việt Minh groups which had sprung up across the country. ICP members did enter state offices in late August and employ the colonial telegraph system to order whoever sat at the other end of the line to declare allegiance to the new Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). Most provinces and districts readily compiled and reported establishment of a revolutionary committee. Some replied that the red flag with...

  16. 9 Mass Mobilization
    (pp. 499-568)

    During August 1945, Vietnamese participated in an astonishing outpouring of popular exuberance and collective action. Nothing in their own lifetimes offered precedent. There was no certainty that such intense involvement would persist, however. Over the next sixteen months it is possible to delineate three mobilizational patterns. The first was millenarian in character, with citizens called on to sacrifice, to fight, and perhaps die in defense of the sacred Fatherland (Tổ Quốc). I discuss here the highly charged political rhetoric of the day, the emergence of Nam Bộ (southern Vietnam) as resistance trope, and occasional attempts to distinguish patriotism from chauvinism....

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 569-578)

    Beginning the night of 19–20 December 1946, DRV forces tried to overwhelm a number of French garrisons before relief could arrive. The small French detachment at Vinh (Nghệ An) capitulated on 21 December. In Hanoi, after six National Guard battalions failed to overrun designated enemy positions, one battalion joined fifteen hundred militia men and women inside the old 36 Street complex to mount a stubborn defense lasting eight weeks. Eighty kilometers south of Hanoi, in Nam Ðịnh town, fighting continued for twelve weeks until a large French armored column pushed through from Haiphong. In Huế, repeated Vietnamese assaults on...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 579-688)
    (pp. 689-700)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 701-721)