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Vietnamese Communist Movement

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The ICP was formed in Hong Kong in 1930 from the amalgamation of the Vietnamese and the nascent Lao and Khmer communist groups, and it received its instructions from the Moscow-based Communist International (Comintern).

Communist Movement

The Vietnamese communist movement began in Paris in 1920, when Ho Chi Minh, using the pseudonym Nguyen Ai Quoc, became a charter member of the French Communist Party. Two years later, Ho went to Moscow to study Marxist doctrine and then proceeded to Canton as a Comintern representative. While in China, he formed the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth League, setting the stage for the formation of the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930. French repression of nationalists and communists forced some of the insurgents underground, and others escaped to China. Other dissidents were imprisoned, some emerging later to play important roles in the anti-colonial movement.

Ho Chi Minh was abroad at that time but was imprisoned later in Hong Kong by the British. He was released in 1933, and in 1936 a new French government released his compatriots who, at the outset of World War II, fled to China. There they were joined by Ho, who organized the Viet Minh-- purportedly a coalition of all anti-French Vietnamese groups. Official Vietnamese publications state that the Viet Minh was founded and led by the ICP.

Because a Vichy French administration in Vietnam during World War II cooperated with occupying Japanese forces, the Viet Minh's anti-French activity was also directed against the Japanese, and, for a short period, there was cooperation between the Viet Minh and Allied forces. When the French were ousted by the Japanese in March 1945, the Viet Minh began to move into the countryside from their base areas in the mountains of northern Vietnam. By the time Allied troops--Chinese in the north and British in the south--arrived to take the surrender of Japanese troops, the Viet Minh leaders had already announced the formation of a Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and on September 2, 1945, proclaimed Vietnam's independence.

Deep divisions between Vietnamese communist and non-communist nationalists soon began to surface, however, especially in the south, and with the arrival of Allied forces later in September, the DRV was forced to begin negotiations with the French on their future relationship. The difficult negotiations broke down in December 1946, and fighting began with a Viet Minh attack on the French in Hanoi.

Civil War

A prolonged three-way struggle ensued among the Vietnamese communists (led by Ho Chi Minh), the French, and the Vietnamese nationalists (nominally led by Emperor Bao Dai). The communists sought to portray their struggle as a national uprising; the French attempted to reestablish their control; and the non-communist nationalists, many of whom chose to fight alongside the French against the communists, wanted neither French nor communist domination. Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh forces fought a highly successful guerrilla campaign and eventually controlled much of rural Vietnam. The French military disaster at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 and the conference at Geneva, where France signed the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Vietnam on July 20, 1954, marked the end of the eight-year war and French colonial rule in Indochina.

1954 Cease-Fire Agreement and Partition

The 1954 cease-fire agreement negotiated in Geneva provided for provisional division of the country at approximately the 17th parallel; a 300-day period for free movement of population between the two "zones" established thereby; and the establishment of an International Control Commission--representatives of Canada, India, and Poland--to supervise its execution. The cease-fire agreements also referred to "general elections" that would "bring about the unification" of the two zones of Vietnam. The agreement was not accepted by the Bao Dai government, which agreed, however, to respect the cease-fire.

Following the partition of Vietnam under the terms of the Geneva agreements, there was considerable confusion in the south. Although Bao Dai had appointed a well-known nationalist figure, Ngo Dinh Diem, as prime minister, Diem initially had to administer a country plagued by a ruined economy and by a political life fragmented by rivalries of religious sects and political factions. He also had the problem of coping with 850,000 refugees from the north. The communist leaders in Hanoi expected the Diem government to collapse and come under their control. Nevertheless, during his early years in office, Diem was able to consolidate his political position, eliminating the private armies of the religious sects and, with substantial US military and economic aid, build a national army and administration and make significant progress toward reconstructing the economy.

Meanwhile, the communist leaders consolidated their power in North Vietnam and instituted a harsh "agrarian reform." In the late 1950s, they reactivated the network of communists who had stayed in the south (the Viet Cong) with hidden stocks of arms, reinfiltrated trained guerrillas who had been regrouped in the north after 1954, and began a campaign of terror against officials and villagers who refused to support the communist cause. The communists also exploited grievances created by mistakes of the Diem government as well as age-old shortcomings of Vietnamese society, such as poverty and land shortages.

By 1963, the North Vietnamese communists had made significant progress in building an apparatus in South Vietnam. Nevertheless, in 1964 Hanoi decided that the Viet Cong (VC) cadres and their supporters were not sufficient to take advantage of the political confusion following

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