Vietnamese Nationalism

11 November 2016

Ho Chi Minh never intended to have a revolutionary war as his first solution to the increasing hardships against his fellow countrymen. Instead he asked the French peacefully for these freedoms. France’s colonial stubbornness refused to answer Minh’s wishes and as a result relations intensified to out of control and boiled over to say the least. After years of being put on the back burner by world powers who opposed colonialism, including the US, the Vietnamese nationalists fighting for self-determination turned towards revolution.

The ignorance and underestimation shown towards the Vietnamese ultimately was the catalyst that spurred on the future wars against France and eventually the United States. In 1919, after the Entente powers, Russia, France and England, toppled the Central powers, Italy, Germany, and Austria, in the Great War. The Versailles Peace Conference was held in France, and at the conference President Wilson promoted anti-colonialism. Woodrow Wilson identified the US with the goal of self-determination for all nations, and during World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt was equally eloquent on the rights of the colonial people to their independence.

Vietnamese Nationalism Essay Example

These notions led nationalists around the world to believe that the US would be willing to aid revolutions for independence. Ho Chi Minh, known as Nguyen Ai Quoc during the time of the conference saw this as an opportunity to appeal to not just Wilson but to the other victorious sympathizers who promoted both freedom and justice. He humbly stated that although he respects the French, they have been wildly oppressive to the people native to French Indochina. He simply asked for basic rights such as political freedom, freedom of speech, education and assembly and Annamite representation in the French Parliament.

Minh went on to close his claims by stating: “The Annamite people, in presenting these claims, count on the worldwide justice of all the Powers, and rely in particular on the goodwill of the noble French people who hold our destiny in their hands and who, as France is a republic, have taken us under their protection. In requesting the protection of the French people, the people of Annam, far from feeling humiliated, on the contrary consider themselves honored, because they know that the French people stand for liberty and justice and will never renounce their sublime ideal of universal brotherhood.

Consequently, in giving heed to the voice of the oppressed, the French people will be doing their duty to France and to humanity. ” America along with its allies understood Ho Chi Minh’s grievances, however their priority at the time was to help aid and rebuild the decimated lands and economies of Europe, including France. Since, the French lost their colony of Saint Domingue (current day Haiti) in 1804, no colony has ever been so profitable to France. If France was to be aided and rebuilt after World War I the last thing the country needed was to loose Indochina and all of its precious resources.

This ignorance shown by the world powers was reiterated by Nguyen Thai Hoc in his letter to the French Chamber of Deputies. “Accommodation and compromise gave way to revolutionary nationalism in the 1920s as a result of Vietnamese anger over continued economic exploitation and political repression. ” There was no doubt that the tensions within Vietnam were building and that options for compromise were quickly threatened. During the 1920s Ho Chi Minh was heavily involved with the French Socialist Party and was fascinated with the communist teachings of Vladimir Lenin of the newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Minh believed in the general welfare of citizens and the equal distribution of land, wealth and power to working people. Although he tried on numerous occasions to peacefully avoid conflict he understood that a revolution was imminent. Although he was a communist, being a nationalist was his main priority above all other titles. In his 1960 book The Path That Led Me to Leninism, Minh states that, “If you do not condemn colonialism, if you do not side with the colonial people, what kind of revolution are you waging? People began to agree with his anti-colonial rhetoric and turned towards Minh’s political views. Over the next few decades, Ho Chi Minh gathered a communist following by many of the people in Vietnam. More and more Vietnamese began to side with his political and economic agendas. For too long the land lords and the aristocracy have dictated the way of life in French Indochina and Minh wanted to do away with the old system. It is important however to understand that not all Vietnamese nationalists sided with the communists.

Tran Van Don a General of the French-sponsored army of Vietnam was an adamant nationalist but anti-communist. In his autobiography he articulated how the French demonized Vietnamese nationalists as communists. “Shortly after the First World War, the French came to see our political opposition to the colonial regime as a manifestation of communism. Some of our nationalist leaders, myself included, tried to work with the west towards Vietnamese independence…if we failed to agree with them we were either communists or neutralists, while to the other side, by cooperating, we became puppets. Although, there were differences between a nationalist and a communist the goal for both, for most part, were similar. Ho Chi Minh amassed a huge following of ideological communists, modern nationalists and Vietnamese patriots. All groups had different ways of achieving their goals but one constant between each group is that they desired an independent Vietnam. After World War II Viet Minh forces led by Ho Chi Minh marched into Hanoi and took control. On September 2, 1945 Ho Chi Minh declared the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

He admired America and its very own struggle against colonialism. He also strongly agreed with both the United States Declaration of Independence and The Declaration of the French Revolution. In his speech to the Vietnamese people he quoted both documents and reaffirmed that “All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free. ” Like the founding fathers of the US, he believed in these undeniable and unalienable truths. Even though Vietnam’s declaration was made, the French refused to let go of their colony resulting in warfare.

In a letter to his one of his OSS liaison officers, Minh expressed his hopes for post-World War II American aid for his cause. “The war is finished. It is good for everybody. I feel only sorry that all our American friends have to leave us so soon. And their leaving this country means that relations between you and us will be more difficult. The war is won. But we small and subject countries have no share, or very small share, in the victory of freedom and democracy. Probably, if we want to get a sufficient share, we have still to fight.

I believe that your sympathy and the sympathy of the great American people will always be with us. ” Ho Chi Minh wrote approximately eight letters to President Harry S. Truman hoping to gain American support against the French however there was no response until 1948. The United States negated their policy promoting self-determination because they viewed Minh as more of a communist than an anti-colonial nationalist. The priority of the State Department was to commit itself economically to France and Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

The United States needed to be strong in it’s Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union and helping a communist regime in Vietnam would contradict helping a democratic and capitalist France. With the United States no longer being a feasible option for Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh ultimately turned towards the Soviet Union and China for help. With the stage set, the Cold War eventually found the battlegrounds of Vietnam to play out on. From the 1940s to the 1960s America became increasingly involved in Indochinese affairs culminating into war in 1965.

The ignorance shown toward Vietnamese self-determining demands led to the demise of French rule and the eventual American involvement through combat. Ho Chi Minh along with other Vietnamese nationalists attempted on numerous occasions to prevent conflict but in the end war was what had to decide the fate of Vietnam because of the stubbornness of French colonialism and the contradicting priorities of the United States of America. With the proper cooperation and understanding of Vietnamese wishes for freedom, the tragedy of warfare could have surely been avoided.

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