In spite of the repression of the movement leaders, the mass organizations gradually resumed their activities. In 1935, there were strikes on the rubber plantations, and a number of strikes occurred in Saigon. In 1936, the Central Committee of the Indochinese Communist Party formed the Democratic United Front of Indochina, which united progressive and democratic forces in a single organization, including the national bourgeoisie, in a common struggle against French colonialism. The Democratic United Front had considerable progress in developing a popular movement, in part because leftist parties were part of a Popular Front government in France, and French colonial polices were less repressive toward political organizations in French Indochina. From 1936 to 1938, there was a significant growth in party membership, as the party was especially successful in recruiting members from the peasantry and the working class. But when a more conservative government took control in France in 1938, and with the German occupation of France and the formation of the puppet Vichy regime in 1940, the Democratic United Front of Indochina was repressed by French colonial authorities. Nevertheless, the work, commitment, and spirit of sacrifice of the members of the Indochinese Communist Party in the cause of national independence was recognized by the people, such that the prestige of the party in popular consciousness was greatly enhanced (García Oliveras 2010: 32; Ho 2007:42-43, 83-84, 179, 221-22; Duiker 2000:233-42).
The surrender of France to Germany in 1940 and the entrance of Japanese troops in French Indochina had weakened French colonialism, but they also established an alternative domination in the form of Japanese occupation and super-exploitation. During the Japanese occupation, the colonial government of French Indochina negotiated an arrangement with Japan, in which the French would maintain formal political sovereignty, but the Japanese would have full military control of northern Vietnam. In accordance with this agreement, the Japanese imposed taxes to maintain the military and reoriented Vietnamese agricultural production toward exportation to Japan, leaving the people in a situation of extreme poverty. Popular resistance, which had been significant during the 1930s as a result of French colonialism and the effects of the Great Depression, intensified under the harsh conditions of the Japanese occupation. In the cities and villages, there was growing popular sentiment of the need for a struggle for independence (Prina 2008:15-16; García Oliveras 2010:37).
In August 1938, Ho Chi Minh returned to China, where political conditions established by the Japanese threat obligated Chaing Kai Shek and the Nationalist Party to cooperate with the communist parties, including the Indochinese Communist Party, which had been established by Ho Chi Minh and others in Hong Kong in 1930. In early February 1941, Ho returned to his native country for the first time in 30 years, establishing headquarters in the small village of Pac Bo, not far from the Chinese border. At the Eighth Plenum of the Indochinese Communist Party in May 1941, held in a spacious cave near Pac Bo, the Vietminh Front (Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh, or League for the Independence of Vietnam) was established. Informally developed the previous year by Ho and other party leaders, the Vietminh sought to unite various political currents and religions in a common struggle to end Japanese occupation and French colonialism and to establish an independent nation of Vietnam. The Vietminh gave primary emphasis to the goal of national independence from Japanese occupation and French colonial rule. It sought support from patriotic members of the landed bourgeoisie, and therefore it proposed the redistribution of land owned by the French and their Vietnamese collaborators, but not the redistribution of the land of patriotic members of the Vietnamese landed bourgeoisie, concerning which it proposed the more limited measure of reduction in land rents. The Vietminh adopted a strategy of guerilla warfare in opposition to the Japanese occupation, and it organized mass demonstrations, acts of sabotage, boycotts, and the looting of crops destined for exportation to Japan. From 1943 to 1945, Vietminh units increasingly operated in the north, such that by June 1945 seven provinces had been liberated from Japanese troops, and guerrilla activities and popular uprisings were occurring in other provinces (Prina 2008:16, 66-67; García Oliveras 2010:33, 37-39; Ho 2007:49, 85-86,164, 179; Duiker 2000:245-99).
At the Ninth Plenum of the Indochinese Communist Party on August 12, 1945, Ho convinced Party leaders that the party should launch a general popular insurrection to seize power throughout the country, once Japan announces its surrender to the allies. On August 16, shortly after the news of the Japanese surrender reached Indochina, Ho addressed a National People’s Congress, composed of delegates of the Vietminh Front. Ho reiterated the need to seize power, so that the nationalist forces would be in a strong position when the allied occupation forces arrive. Following his address, the Congress approved the creation of an independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam; and it established a National Liberation Committee, with Ho Chi Minh as chair, to lead a general insurrection and to serve as a provisional government. From August 16 to August 25, in cities, towns, and villages throughout the country, local committees were established that functioned as provisional local governments, taking power from the Japanese occupation army, which in most cases did not offer resistance. The local committees took power with the support of popular armed militias and in the name of the Vietminh Front. On the afternoon of August 25, accompanied by Party Secretary General Truong Chinh, Ho Chi Minh discreetly entered by car the old imperial capital of Hanoi, going directly to a three-story row house in the Chinese section of the city, where arrangements had been made for his accommodations on the top floor. That same afternoon, Ho convened at his new residence a meeting of the Indochinese Communist Party, which confirmed the decision of the Vietminh Front to create a National Liberation Committee that would function as a Provisional Government of the nation, with the exception, following Ho’s recommendation, that the committee would be expanded to include non-Party elements. Ho’s proposal for the formation of a broad-based provisional government representing all progressive sectors was unanimously accepted by the members of the National Liberation Committee at a meeting on August 27. Plans were made for a formal declaration of national independence to be held on September 2, which we will discuss in the next post (Duiker 2000: 303-17, 321; García Oliveras 2010:40; Prina 2008:49-50, 81).
Duiker, William J. 2000. Ho Chi Minh. New York: Hyperion.
García Oliveras, Julio A. 2010. Ho Chi Minh El Patriota: 60 años de lucha revolucionaria. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Ho Chi Minh. 2007. Down with Colonialism. Introduction by Walden Bello. London: Verso.
Prina, Agustín. 2008. La Guerra de Vietnam. Mexico: Ocean Sur.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, Vietminh, Viet Minh