[…] The core of this book argues that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was founded and survived against all odds through a large mobilisation of ordinary Vietnamese in an almost infinite range of capacities and roles. This popular support was wide-ranging, deep and genuine, but not universal. Nor was it uncontested, most obviously by the French as they sought to reapply the colonial structures swept aside by the war with Japan, but also in the south by the British force which arrived in late 1945 to replace the Japanese and by Nationalist Chinese forces operating in the north with the same broad agenda.
The book covers the creation of the early DRV state structure, the Viet Minh and the creation of a broad political framework to oppose French designs, albeit with a communist core. The extraordinary achievements were matched by repression and punishment of those deemed political opponents. In a lengthy chapter Marr offers a clear-eyed and unsentimental analysis of the arrests, deportations, detention without due process and executions used to ensure the revolutionary course. Much of this effort was aimed at members of the Vietnamese Nationalist Party, an obvious rival in the anti-colonialist struggle. Readers wanting a sense of what it was like to be on the losing side in this earlier contest, and of the journey that some made from resisting the French to resisting the communists, should look at the recent memoir by Nguyen Cong Luan, Nationalist in the Vietnam Wars (2012). […]
Read more: The Sydney Morning Herald, 14/09/2013.