The Tet Offensive and the Media
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Viet Minh: Vietnam War

The Viet Minh were a Communist front organization created to help the Indo-Chinese Communist Party achieve its overall objectives. The Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi, commonly known as the Viet Minh (Vietnam Independence League), was founded at the Eighth Plenum of the Indo-Chinese Communist Party in May 1941. The Viet Minh served as the organizational nexus for the development of a broad, national program.

According to Ho Chi Minh, the front was needed to organize the masses in resistance to French colonial rule and occupying Japanese forces. The purpose of the Viet Minh was tactical, never strategic. Its flexibility allowed the party to alter its course quickly for current conditions. Perhaps the most important aspect of the front was its attention to the "national question." By downplaying class revolution in favor of national liberation, the party attempted to involve all elements of society in the national struggle. Anticolonialism, patriotism, and nationalism were the only prerequisites for joining the national united front. The Viet Minh purposefully made temporary alliances with its "enemies" in order to achieve its more immediate objectives.

The Viet Minh-led August Revolution is one of the defining moments of the modern Vietnamese revolution. Shortly after the Japanese invasion of 1940, the Viet Minh planned for that inevitable moment of contradiction when the Japanese would turn their guns on the French colonialists. This moment came on March 9, 1945 when Japanese soldiers carried out a relatively bloodless coup against French colonial forces. When the Japanese surrendered five months later, this left a political void in Indochina. Through their revolutionary training, the Viet Minh were prepared to exploit this situation to its fullest potential, and as a result, marched into Hanoi to proclaim Vietnamese independence. The Viet Minh front also fielded an army headed by Vo Nguyen Giap. It seized power during the (1945) August Revolution.

On September 2, 1945 the political leader and founder of the Viet Minh, Ho Chi Minh, read aloud in Ba Dinh Square an official pronouncement declaring an end to French colonialism, Japanese occupation, and the Nguyen dynasty. Shortly after Ho's declaration of independence, the Indo-Chinese Communist Party announced that it was dissolving, leaving the Viet Minh front as the only official party apparatus. In 1951 the party resurfaced officially with the formation of the Vietnamese Workers' Party (Dang Lao Dong Viet Nam). At this time, the Viet Minh was itself dissolved. According to revolutionary theory, the broad-based front was to be revised whenever historical circumstances changed drastically. The Communists therefore reconstituted the Viet Minh as the Lien Viet front during the Indo-China War, and shortly after the Geneva Accords, the Fatherland Front was born.

There is some question as to the actual date of the reconstitution of the Viet Minh front as the Lien Viet front (Lien Hiep Quoc Dan Viet Nam). Some scholars have suggested that the Viet Minh lasted only until the war with France (1941-1946) began. Hoang Van Dao, in Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang, gives April 1946 as the date for the reconstitution of the Lien Viet front. Others suggest, however, that it was the Viet Minh that battled the French from 1946 to 1954. In any case, the Viet Minh has popularly been associated with the army that handed the French their humiliating defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and that served the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) so faithfully since its 1945 inception.

Robert K. Brigham


Further Reading
Duiker, William J. The Rise of Nationalism in Vietnam, 1900-1941. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976.; Hoang Van Dao. Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang. Sàigon: Hoang Van Dao, 1970.; Huynh Kim Khanh. "The Vietnamese August Revolution Reinterpreted." Journal of Asian Studies 30, no. 4 (August 1971): 761-782.; Marr, David G. Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.; Woodside, Alexander B. Community and Revolution in Modern Vietnam. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
 

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