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Lecture 15

History 1810E The Vietnam War - Lecture 15.docx

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History 1810E
Margaret Mc Glynn

History 1810E The Vietnam War Monday March 3 Lecture 15 Outline: I. International challenges to state-building II. International challenges to independence III. Consolidation of power in the North IV. The Path to War The August Revolution • September 2, 1945 • These are the circumstances that brought Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh to power • Ho Chi Minh established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam • Declaring independence was quite easy – the problems were only beginning with the turnover of power from the Japanese to the Vietnamese • 2 big international challenges: 1. State-building 2. Independence International Challenges to State-Building • During WWII, the Vietminh emphasized the national question in all of their policies o They wanted to assert their independence and get rid of the French and Japanese o Social revolution took a backseat during the Second World War • After the war, within the government a debate arose about whether to proceed cautiously (moderate reform, maintain their coalition and support of non- communist elements, gradually change the Vietnamese social makeup), or to proceed quickly (act now, radical transformation of Vietnam’s social order) • There were all sorts of political views in Vietnam and beyond the Communists, there was debate over how Vietnam should move forward after achieving independence from the French • Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh had considerable prestige after helping alleviate the famine and help with the Japanese (but they didn’t have authority) o The Vietminh had base areas in the northern areas of Vietnam, but they only moved into the cities in the fall (August and September of 1945) and didn’t have a lot of support there • The Montagnards (hill tribes) posed a challenge to the Vietminh o When the French were in control, they gave the Montagnards autonomy (left them alone) and they didn’t want to surrender their autonomy to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam • August Revolution in Saigon o There were many groups claiming authority in the south of Vietnam (the DemocratithRepublic of Vietnam was not the majority) o In the 15 century, the Vietnamese started moving south into southern Vietnam, colonizing territory (taking over territory much like what the Americans did going westward in the 19 century) o It was only in the early part of the 19 century that southern Vietnam became part of the country o The people in southern Vietnam were more individualistic and spread out (the north was overpopulated and had tight-knit communities) o The southern people were more independent in their thinking (many voices and political division regarding how Vietnam should move on) o There were 2 main religious groups:  The Cao Dai (a religious group) • Drew on Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism  The Hoa Hao  These two groups had their own identities and didn’t have allegiance to the Communists o Cochinchina was tied to the local economy  There were Vietnamese elite who benefitted from the French imperial presence  While the Communists wanted to redistribute the wealth, that wouldn’t be beneficial for the elites o The leader of the Vietminh was not a member of the Communist party – the Communists had a strong voice, but they weren’t a dominant force in the south o Politically and economically, southern Vietnam was fractured  The French didn’t do anything to help the economy – they exploited Vietnam  The rice and rubber (two main agrarian sectors) were geared towards exportation (the money wasn’t going into Vietnam)  The taxes went to maintaining the Colonial apparatus (prisons, not helping the economy)  They were affected by the Second World War (the rice and rubber went to fuel the Japanese war machines)  By the time of independence, there was fear that another famine could occur given the state of the economy International Challenges to Independence • After WWII, the French immediately wanted to reclaim their territory. Why? 1) They wanted to restore their power status after the humiliation of WWII  The French had surrendered to the Nazis  It was the third time since 1871 that a German power invaded France 2) France was devastated after WWII  Their economy was shattered and they had to rebuild  In order to rebuild, the French government felt they needed raw materials, resources, and a protected market to sell these materials (colonies like Indochina and North Africa offered this opportunity) 3) There was an obligation to the French Colonial  Indochina was considered French soil, and they didn’t want to surrender it  They wouldn’t abandon the French Colonial living in Cochinchina • The problem was that at the end of WWII, the French weren’t in a position to reclaim their territory themselves. • Franklin D. Roosevelt o The United States was emerging
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