Vietnam's Southern Revolution
From Peasant Insurrection to Total War, 1959-1968
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Table of Contents
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Not long after I started teaching at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Linda Gordon and others on the editorial board of Radical America called my attention to a collection of interviews with “Viet Cong” defectors and prisoners of war, which the Rand Corporation had just released to the public. I wrote an essay for Radical America and then an article for Past & Present on the...
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Chapter 1: A Social History of the Vietnam War
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Regime changes, military campaigns, and big-power politics hold center stage in the literature on the Vietnam War. Accounts begin with the August Revolution of 1945, which brought the Viet Minh and the Communist Party to power and led to the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and then to the First Indochina War, pitting the Viet Minh against French...
Chapter 2: An Itinerant Peasantry
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In the years leading up to the Second Indochina War, rural dwellers in My Tho often traveled back and forth between the countryside and the towns, and many were familiar with Saigon, by far the largest agglomeration in the South. In the context of the social transformation, one might assume a state of dependency in the hamlets and attribute this movement of peoples to the...
Chapter 3: The Peasant Revolt of 1959–60
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In 1959–60 a movement arose against the Saigon government of South Vietnam. Washington blamed the Hanoi-based Communist Party for fomenting the insurgency, and party leaders in the DRV, who at first feigned noninvolvement, in the end claimed credit for what they called the “concerted uprising.” Scholarly treatments have developed a more complex picture of what...
Chapter 4: Contested Unities of the Golden Period
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Fresh from its triumphs in 1959–60, the movement entered a “golden period.” According to an informant from Thanh Phu (CL), “revolutionary fervor increased every day, and the Front was winning everywhere.” Contributions from the population obviated the need for a formal tax system, and volunteers competed for selection to newly formed military units. “Students left...
Chapter 5: The Popular Movement and the Generational Divide
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In 1964, at the age of twenty, interviewee no. 182 joined the Front. Her mother was shot during an ARVN sweep, her father died of typhoid fever, her fiancé was killed in combat, and two younger siblings “had to make their living by themselves” and had “moved elsewhere.” After serving as a liaison agent, a first aid specialist, and a clerk typist, she rallied to the GVN in...
Chapter 6: Modern Girls and New Women
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Undaunted by rising violence, interviewee no. 253, a woman I will call the Feminist, joined the movement in 1965. The transcript reveals her as a person of exceptional discipline and ambition. Unschooled and self-educated (“I learned to read and write by myself at home”), she looked forward to a time when a woman no longer “blindly” followed “the desires of her husband...
Chapter 7: Escalation at Ground Level
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The Soldier was a man of force and intelligence. Attracted by the Front’s promise to “help the Poor Farmer class” and to provide education and a better life for young people like himself, he joined the movement in 1961, served as a village guerrilla, and in 1964 was invited to participate in a six-month course for medics, a coveted posting and a signal that he was held in high esteem. In...
Chapter 8: Mapping the Exodus
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In the years before escalation, rural dwellers were on the move. During the Resistance many rose to higher echelons of the Viet Minh, and the guerrilla army and the French both drafted young people away from their homes and assigned them to distant battlefields. After 1960 the Front promoted a number of village activists out of their native hamlets, and as war intensified, the...
Chapter 9 : The American Other
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During the golden period, internationalist perspectives inspired the Vietnamese to think that their revolutionary dream was more than a parochial fancy and gave them warrant to imagine the future in a global, a utopian, register. “As a rule,” an informant recalled, before introducing new policies “the village secretary always spoke of the international and home political...
Chapter 10: Fate of the Liberated Zone
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Themes of displacement and precipitancy impart to this account an unsettling aura. People have been obliged to move, the speaker affirms. They live in “new houses,” and one is given the impression that these dwellings are temporary and may at any moment be abandoned as occupants scramble to a more advantageous perch. They are close to the highway and therefore to...
Chapter 11: "Live Hour, Live Minute"
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In My Tho, the evolution of temporal as well as spatial categories was marked by abrupt and confusing shifts. The starting point was hardly tranquil, as revolutionary and government clock times diverged, the co-belligerents imposed time disciplines that were out of step with the agrarian cycle, and solar and lunar calendars uneasily coexisted. Just as it had done with space...
Chapter 12: The Tet Offensive
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By 1967 the armed forces of the two sides had arrived at a stalemate on the battlefield, and the same might be said of the competition between the modernization of the Americans and the modernism of the popular movement. As warfare made a shambles of the countryside, many fled from their homes. Some of the refugees settled in urban areas and never came back, but people...
Appendix: The Uses of a Source
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Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 2 illus.
Publication Year: 2009
Series Title: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War