Two types of military operations emerged during this long history of resistance to foreign domination: small-scale guerrilla attacks with dispersed forces; and larger battles with massive concentrations of troops. The Vietnamese military tradition included a received wisdom concerning the conditions in which these alternate strategies should be used, taking into account a variety factors. A fundamental lesson had been learned: an invading force of greater technical power and numerical superiority can be defeated by an organized movement that is struggling for a just cause, that is advanced politically and morally, and that has the support of the people (García Oliveras 2010:18-20).
The independent Vietnamese empires were feudal societies dominated by large landholders and bureaucratic officials. Popular uprisings were common. During the fifteenth century, the Le dynasty initiated reforms involving the abolition of large-scale landholdings and the distribution of land. The reforms led to economic growth, the development of national literature, the spread of Confucianism, and the height of the centralized power of the state. However, economic decline occurred during the sixteenth century, accompanied by division of the national territory among the royal families and competition for land among local tyrants. Popular uprisings occurred continuously, and they reached their height in the eighteenth century, when the Tay Son uprising led to the reunification of the country. But in the nineteenth century, a reactionary feudal system of the Nguyen dynasty was established, provoking popular resistance from various social sectors, especially the peasants (García Oliveras 2010:17-18).
Thus, we can see that, alongside the tradition of military resistance to conquest by foreign powers, the people of Vietnam had developed a tradition of popular resistance in defense of the rights of the people and in opposition to a landholding elite that promoted its particular interests at the expense of the needs of the majority, sometimes in collusion with foreign powers. These traditions of military and popular resistance provided the foundation for the successful struggle during the twentieth century, first, against French colonial domination and its collaborators in the Vietnamese imperial court, and secondly, against the efforts of the United States and its puppet regime to establish a neocolonial bulwark in order to confront the upsurge of popular movements in Southeast Asia.
We shall proceed in the next post with discussion of French colonialism.
García Oliveras, Julio A. 2010. Ho Chi Minh El Patriota: 60 años de lucha revolucionaria. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
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