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What Really Happened in Vietnam: The North, the South, and the American Defeat – by Fredrik Logevall

Northern nemesis: A Vietcong soldier taking part in the Tet offensive © 1968 (Getty Images / Agence France-Presse)

A pathbreaking history of the Vietnam War reveals that the Northern government was far more divided and discouraged than commonly believed. Yet the fact remains that the United States and its allies in the South always faced very long odds of success.

Fredrik Logevall is John S. Knight Professor of International Studies at Cornell University and the author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam.


[Review of Lien-Hang T. Nguyen, Hanoi’s War. An international history of the war for peace in Vietnam, Chapel Hill, University of Carolina Press, 2012, 444 p.]

This past Memorial Day, U.S. President Barack Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War with a speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. “Even now, historians cannot agree on precisely when the war began,” he said. “But if any year . . . illustrated the changing nature of our involvement, it was 1962.” It’s a debatable choice. The United States was already deeply involved in combating the Communist-led insurgency in South Vietnam in the late 1950s and before that had supplied and bankrolled France’s losing effort against Ho Chi Minh’s revolutionary forces. Historians usually date the start of the Second Indochina War — what the Vietnamese refer to as “the American War” — to 1959 or 1960.

Still, there is no question that Washington’s military commitment deepened appreciably in 1962, as vast quantities of U.S. weapons, jet fighters, helicopters, and armored personnel carriers arrived in South Vietnam, along with thousands of additional military advisers. That year, the Pentagon set up a full field command called the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), and put a three-star general, Paul Harkins, in charge.

Journalists on the scene understood what was happening. “The United States is involved in a war in Vietnam,” began a front-page New York Times article in February by the venerable military correspondent Homer Bigart, who noted Washington’s “passionate and inflexible” support for South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and speculated that the United States “seems inextricably committed to a long, inconclusive war.” He quoted U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who on a visit to Saigon that month vowed that his country would stand by Diem “until we win.”

Victory never came. Despite the more than half a million U.S. soldiers President Lyndon Johnson sent to Vietnam, and the more than eight million tons of bombs the U.S. Air Force dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1962 to 1973, Washington could not achieve its core objective: to preserve an independent, noncommunist South Vietnam for the indefinite future. In January 1973, U.S. and North Vietnamese negotiators signed a cease-fire agreement in Paris; two months later, the last U.S. ground troops left South Vietnam. Both the North and the South soon violated the cease-fire, and large-scale war resumed. On April 29, 1975, the South Vietnamese government collapsed, and Vietnam was reunified under a communist government based in Hanoi. By the time the fighting stopped, it had claimed the lives of three to four million Vietnamese, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and Laotians, and more than 58,000 Americans. Now, Hanoi’s War, a pathbreaking new book by the historian Lien-Hang Nguyen, illuminates the decision-making behind the North’s relentless resistance, helping readers better understand why the struggle lasted as long as it did and why all those people died.



For the past four-plus decades, scholars, journalists, and memoirists have tried to explain this bloody Second Indochina War: its origins, its escalation, its long duration, and its denouement. U.S.-centered accounts written by American authors have dominated the literature. Long before U.S. archives were opened, these histories reached a broad, orthodox view of the reasons for defeat, agreeing on several key points: that U.S. involvement was the product of ignorance about Vietnam and misplaced faith in the efficacy of U.S. military power, that the successive South Vietnamese governments after 1954 were authoritarian and unpopular, and that Washington therefore made the disastrous mistake of intervening in a civil war among Vietnamese in which the other side had the mantle of nationalist legitimacy. Although U.S. forces fought well, the war was ultimately unwinnable for the simple reason that no military solution could ever be had. The war had to be won politically or not at all.

Thus, David Halberstam’s hugely influential book The Best and the Brightest, which appeared in 1972, described how hubris and a belief that victory was inevitable pulled U.S. leaders, bit by bit, into the “quagmire” of Vietnam. And thus, Frances FitzGerald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Fire in the Lake, published the same year, argued that Americans foolishly blundered into another people’s history, in the context of which the United States’ military power was ultimately irrelevant. For Halberstam and FitzGerald, to talk of alternative U.S. strategies that might have worked was mistaken: no better option existed.

Other incisive early accounts also retain their value — those by Chester Cooper, Hans Morgenthau, Daniel Ellsberg, Paul Kattenburg, Joseph Buttinger, George Herring, and Bernard Fall, among others. The quality of these works suggests that first-cut histories, when carefully done, can stand up remarkably well over time, even as primary sources are declassified and other historians get to work. (A prediction: the same will be true of the early studies of the Iraq war.)

Nevertheless, the massive outpouring of scholarship on the war in the past 12 to 15 years has challenged the older interpretations and rendered some of them untenable. No longer can it be seriously argued, for example, as Halberstam and the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., claimed, that U.S. leaders stumbled blindly into a quagmire, step by step, until one day they found themselves in what none of them wanted: a land war in Asia. To the contrary, their eyes were wide open, and they mostly understood the likely ramifications of their choices.

Nor does the internal record show much evidence of hubris, at least with respect to the military prospects. From an early point, President John F. Kennedy and Johnson, along with their top aides, were somber realists on the war. Although they were hardly experts on Vietnam’s history and culture, they were not the ignoramuses many in the antiwar movement made them out to be; they realized that the United States faced long odds, even with a major military escalation. Privately (and only privately), they also on occasion admitted the impermissible: that the outcome in Vietnam might not matter all that much to U.S. and Western security.

The United States had made a commitment to South Vietnam, however, and Kennedy and Johnson saw no option but to maintain it. They found what their predecessors in the White House, as well as a long line of leaders in France, had found, and what President Richard Nixon would discover after them: that in Vietnam, the path of least immediate resistance, especially in domestic political terms, was to stand firm in the hope that somehow things would turn out fine — or at least, as in some high-stakes version of the game old maid, be handed off to the next in line.



New works have challenged the old orthodoxy on other points, as well. The question of which among the competing Vietnamese leaders actually had popular legitimacy — one of the most slippery concepts in political science — has gotten harder to answer in recent years, as scholars have reexamined the government of South Vietnam, especially under Diem, who took power in 1954. Diem, it is now clear, was an intelligent patriot who possessed a detailed vision for his country’s future. Some revisionist authors have extended this line of argument, alleging that the legitimacy of Diem as a Vietnamese leader matched or even exceeded Ho’s and that he was well on the way to victory against the insurgency when he was deposed and killed in a U.S.-sanctioned coup in November 1963.

That claim goes too far. Over time, Diem’s defects as a leader — his obduracy, his political myopia, his easy resort to repression — became increasingly obvious to the Vietnamese people. American officials were fully cognizant of these limitations but could find no one better, and so they stuck with him, their influence sagging with each passing year despite the regime’s complete dependence on U.S. aid. By most measures, Diem’s government was losing the war when he was overthrown, which is precisely why U.S. officials threw their support behind the coup.

With respect to the later phase of the war, it is now clear that things went better for U.S. and South Vietnamese forces after the Communists’ Tet offensive, in 1968, than earlier histories suggested. Vietcong forces were decimated in the fighting, and in the months thereafter, General Creighton Abrams’ “clear and hold” strategy of controlling patches of territory and defending their inhabitants (a change from the “search and destroy” strategy used by Abrams’ predecessor at MACV, General William Westmoreland) made indisputable progress.

But it remains unclear how lasting this success was; detailed, archives-based scholarly works on the war in the South during this period are only starting to emerge. Still, the existing evidence offers little reason to think that victory was within reach. For one thing, notwithstanding the heavy Vietcong losses during Tet, the Communists maintained the ability to carry out nationwide attacks, and indeed, for most of 1969, South Vietnam was plagued by so-called mini-Tets. Although these attacks never threatened to topple the Saigon regime, they indicated that the Vietcong was still a force to be reckoned with. Hanoi largely recovered from the Tet offensive by replacing southern forces with northerners, and men and supplies from the North continued to infiltrate the South.

Few senior U.S. officials at the time believed the military situation had swung unequivocally and permanently in their favor, much less that victory was close at hand. They understood that gains in the countryside in the aftermath of Tet were limited to certain areas and did not imply growing popular support for the Saigon government, which remained incompetent, authoritarian, and corrupt. The massive use of firepower deemed essential to clear and hold territory did not help win hearts and minds. Time and again, U.S. economic reports complained that South Vietnamese authorities were unable to collect taxes outside of a few urban areas and that the government was therefore unlikely to survive long without being propped up by Washington. The Communists, meanwhile, continued to collect taxes, replenish food supplies, and draft soldiers; in other words, they did all the things that a government controlling its territory ought to be able to do.

The North’s policy in these final years is the central concern of Hanoi’s War. Years in the making, Nguyen’s book is based on a range of Vietnamese-language materials, published and archival, although not records from North Vietnam’s Politburo and other high-level sources, which remain classified. It sheds much light on how leaders in North Vietnam approached the fighting and, especially, the diplomatic negotiations from the time of the Tet offensive to the signing of the cease-fire, in 1973. Without question, Hanoi’s War stands as a major accomplishment and one of the most important scholarly works to appear on this later, and relatively understudied, phase of the struggle.



The principal player in Nguyen’s story is Le Duan, the leading figure in the North’s hierarchy in the later stages of the war yet a shadowy figure in most histories of it. A native of central Vietnam, Le Duan got his start battling the French in the years before World War II, and Nguyen traces his gradual rise within the Communist Party throughout the 1950s. What emerges is a picture of a savvy and ruthless bureaucratic infighter whose worldview and strategic outlook took form in the crucible of the First Indochina War and who, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, along with his loyal ally Le Duc Tho, defeated everyone who challenged his authority.

A signal contribution of Nguyen’s book is how it reaveals how sharp the internal disputes were between the hard-liners, such as Le Duan and Le Duc Tho, who wanted to pursue an aggressive strategy of “total war” in the South, and the moderates, led by Ho and General Vo Nguyen Giap, who advocated a “North first” strategy of consolidating the Communist Party’s control in the North and working to reunify the country without resorting to large-scale war. As the Sino-Soviet split deepened and the insurgency in South Vietnam intensified in the early 1960s, Nguyen demonstrates, the opposing factions mirrored that schism: the hard-liners used Mao Zedong’s anti-imperialist exhortations to further their position, whereas the moderates embraced Nikita Khrushchev’s calls for “peaceful coexistence” to advance their cause.

Nguyen never explains precisely how and when Le Duan consolidated his control, no doubt because of the obvious handicap under which she operated: it’s hard to make definitive judgments on internal Politburo battles without access to Politburo records. At various junctures, Nguyen is compelled to speculate that Le Duan “must have” thought this or “probably” sought to do that. She refers to Le Duan’s “assumption of power in 1960,” but her own evidence suggests that it took until the middle of the decade for him to gain authority and that even then, power fluctuated between the factions and continued to do so through the end of the conflict. Ho, a strangely marginal character in the book, ceased to be a central figure in Hanoi’s decision-making process in the late 1950s, but he continued for some years thereafter to serve as an éminence grise in the inner sanctum and to play a crucial diplomatic role vis-à-vis Beijing and Moscow, a point Nguyen concedes but does not develop.

One also wishes she had done more to explicate her frequent assertions that Le Duan was intent on waging “total war” and “going for broke” against South Vietnam. To the contrary, it seems clear that both factions in Hanoi always hoped to avoid total war if possible; when they stepped up their military involvement after the middle of 1959, they did so carefully, the better to avoid provoking a large-scale U.S. intervention. In April 1965, as the Americanization of the war got under way, the People’s Army of Vietnam had four regiments in the South, totaling roughly 6,000 men — a sizable number, to be sure, but hardly a figure synonymous with “total war.”

The book leaves no doubt, however, about Hanoi’s fundamental determination to prevail. North Vietnamese leaders, whatever their disagreements about strategy and tactics, were wholly united in their commitment to reunify the country under their control, regardless of the cost. Thus, although Nguyen does not say much about U.S. and South Vietnamese decision-making in the early 1960s, her account gives little reason to believe that Washington strategists could ever have found a breaking point in Hanoi, whatever they might have tried.

Hanoi’s War adds a great deal to historians’ understanding of the planning and execution of the Tet offensive. Nguyen details the process by which Le Duan ordered the massive and coordinated attack on South Vietnam’s cities, which was intended to deliver a knockout blow to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and incite the populace to rise up and overthrow the Saigon-based government of Nguyen Van Thieu. She shows that Le Duan had to overcome the vehement objections of Giap, who believed the revolutionary forces were not yet ready to launch such a large-scale attack. (When Giap realized he would not get his way, he exiled himself to Hungary in protest.)

Ho, too, argued against a major assault on urban areas, as did the Chinese, who saw such a high-stakes attack as a repudiation of Mao’s strategy of protracted low-level warfare. The Chinese also feared it would increase North Vietnam’s dependence on Soviet aid and weaponry, thereby undermining their own influence in Hanoi. Le Duan’s gambit for a decisive victory failed — no uprising occurred, and the Saigon government survived while his own forces suffered huge battlefield losses — but he maintained his grip on power. And to skeptical colleagues upset about a military defeat, Le Duan could claim an important political result: the Tet offensive tipped U.S. public opinion against the war and toppled Johnson from power.

Most historians would agree with Le Duan that the Tet offensive was a major political defeat for the United States, and in hindsight, it is hard to see how it could have been anything else. As Nguyen shrewdly points out, however, Tet marked less of a turning point in U.S. policy than it might have, because the incoming Nixon administration reversed Johnson’s efforts in 1968 to stem the escalation of U.S. involvement in the war. “Like Le Duan and Le Duc Tho,” she writes, Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, “were confident that they could succeed where their predecessors had failed.” She proceeds to detail how the two men implemented a three-pronged strategy to regain the initiative in Vietnam — militarily, diplomatically, and domestically.



Nguyen makes equally insightful contributions concerning North Vietnam’s strategizing in 1972, illuminating the ways in which Nixon’s opening to China and pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union left leaders in Hanoi feeling squeezed. These U.S. policies spurred the North Vietnamese to launch their ambitious but only partially successful Easter offensive; Hanoi made modest territorial gains but neither ousted Thieu nor altered the overall military balance of power.

Regarding the negotiations that began in 1968 and ultimately yielded the Paris peace accords in January 1973, Nguyen exhaustively elucidates the twists and turns in the North’s bargaining posture. She demonstrates how the bitter memories of the 1954 Geneva Conference, which ended the First Indochina War and divided Vietnam, exerted a powerful influence on Le Duan and his colleagues. In 1954, Ho’s government had bowed to pressure from Beijing and Moscow to accept a lesser deal than the military balance indicated it ought to have. In 1972, Hanoi’s negotiators were determined to avoid that result and to set policy on their own. (Nguyen might have noted that their recollections were selective: in early 1954, Ho and Giap had had their own reasons for wanting a compromise. Their forces were battered and exhausted, and they also had to worry about the prospect of U.S. military intervention should the talks collapse.) The North Vietnamese were only partially successful in preserving their autonomy, as the Chinese and the Soviets again leaned on them privately to settle with Washington.

Nguyen’s study also details the fascinating ways in which the fractious Sino-Soviet relationship proved alternately helpful and problematic for North Vietnam’s leaders: they were adept at playing one patron off the other, but at times they were left marginalized, lacking support from either. In sketching these ties, Nguyen’s study lives up to its billing as “an international history of the war for peace in Vietnam.” Yet the subtitle implies a book with a broader scope than Nguyen delivers. Although the introduction promises a thorough treatment of South Vietnam and its leaders, the Saigon government emerges as a prominent actor only late in the drama. Likewise, Nguyen might have provided a fuller assessment of the government’s popular standing or of the larger state-society dynamic in the South.

When telling the U.S. side of the story, Nguyen relies mostly on published sources, including the State Department’s excellent Foreign Relations of the United States series and a select number of key secondary accounts. For the most part, her interpretations of Nixon and Kissinger’s policies track closely with those of previous histories.

Partly for this reason, it seems doubtful that this book will dramatically alter the ongoing debate in the United States about the war. Like the communist sources on the broader Cold War, works such as Nguyen’s that are centered on the Vietnamese revolutionaries enable analysts to continue the same old arguments — about the reasons the United States got involved in Vietnam in the first place, decided to fight a large-scale war there, and ultimately failed in its effort to preserve an independent, noncommunist South Vietnam — only with a higher level of sophistication.

On that basis, it may be said that Hanoi’s War offers limited support for revisionist analyses of the struggle, while still upholding the essence of the orthodox position. Nguyen makes it crystal clear that strategists in Hanoi made their share of misjudgments, bickered among themselves, and, like political and military leaders everywhere, acted partly on the basis of careerism and personal advantage. She leaves no doubt that the leadership faced periods of acute tension and uncertainty, notably in the aftermath of the Tet offensive, and at various points confronted serious morale problems, both in the armed forces and among the northern populace, as well as discontent among the intelligentsia.

Still, nothing in this book ultimately challenges the prevailing view that the United States and its South Vietnamese allies always faced very long odds in this war. Their adversary’s ruthless commitment, unshakable tenacity, and skillful fighting were, from start to finish, remarkable — as impressive as those of any combatant in the annals of modern warfare. The Saigon government, meanwhile, was crippled from the outset by three principal shortcomings that no amount of U.S. intervention could overcome: professional military inferiority, endemic corruption, and insufficient popular support.

Indeed, Washington’s involvement was part of the problem, for it presented the noncommunist nationalists in the South with an impossible dilemma: they couldn’t win without the United States, and they couldn’t win with it. Massive U.S. assistance was essential to defeating the insurgency yet killed any chance of gaining broad public backing. Bui Diem, a former South Vietnamese ambassador to the United States, would later write of this predicament: “Caught in the middle of these powerful forces, Vietnamese nationalists found themselves in a succession of precarious situations. In most cases they were forced to choose among unpalatable alternatives; often, indeed, they saw no choice at all. With their survival at stake they were forced to take refuge in a series of uneasy and uncomfortable compromises that little by little eroded their legitimacy.”

Perhaps this explains why, when the moment of truth came, the majority of officers, soldiers, and ordinary people were unwilling to defend South Vietnam to the death. In the words of General Cao Van Vien, the last chief of staff of the South Vietnamese forces, by the end, “the whole nation appeared to resemble a rotten fruit ready to fall at the first passing breeze.”

Source : Foreign Affairs, Review essay, November/December 2012.

Version intégrale à lire sur Viet Studies

Trực diện với cái chết và nỗi đau: vấn đề thanh niên xung phong trong chiến tranh Việt Nam (1950–1975)

Thanh niên xung phong Thủ đô Hà Nội trong tuyến lửa Nghệ An (1965). © photo Mai Nam

[ndlr] Nous signalons la traduction vietnamienne de notre article sur les Jeunesses de choc du Viêt-Nam (TNXP) publié initialement dans le Journal of Vietnamese Studies en 2009. Le blog de Talawas avait fait traduire et mis en ligne cet article permettant à un large public vietnamien d’y accéder.

François Guillemot, “Trực diện với cái chết và nỗi đau: vấn đề thanh niên xung phong trong chiến tranh Việt Nam”, Talawas, 22 & 23-04-2010. Nguồn : Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Volume 4, Number 3, Fall 2009, pp. 17-60.


Phương Hòa dịch

“Máu V2 có thể chảy nhưng đường V2 không thể tắc”

(Biển tuyên truyền trên đường mòn Hồ Chí Minh trong thời kỳ chiến tranh)

“Lúc ấy họ là những người lính chỉ đáng giá ba xu”

(Những cô gái bị lãng quên của Đường mòn Hồ Chí Minh, 2003)

Dẫn nhập

Dù “chiến tranh Việt Nam” đã chính thức kết thúc vào ngày 30 tháng 4 năm 1975 với sự sụp đổ của chính quyền Sài Gòn cách đây 35 năm, nhưng sự xung đột tại Việt Nam vẫn còn là đề tài cho rất nhiều câu hỏi đang được nghiên cứu. Như mọi người đều biết, từ năm 1954 đến 1975, ngoài việc bị lôi cuốn trong khuôn khổ Chiến tranh lạnh với một tầm vóc quốc tế quan trọng, sự xung đột này được thể hiện dưới hình thức một cuộc chiến huynh đệ tương tàn giữa hai Nhà nước đối lập nhau về mặt ý thức hệ và ngăn cách nhau bằng một đường biên giới. Ai cũng biết rõ những khía cạnh chính trị và quân sự của cuộc chiến, nhưng còn những vùng tối khác cần phải được nghiên cứu thêm, đặc biệt là ảnh hưởng của nó với các lực lượng dân công, bản chất của những đoàn quân được tuyển mộ, vai trò của phụ nữ, hàng loạt vấn đề xoay quanh “văn hóa chiến tranh” và những đoàn thể bị mắc trong gọng kềm của cuộc chiến đó.

Khi nêu lên vấn đề về bản chất của cuộc chiến, công trình nghiên cứu này nhằm mục đích nghiên cứu lịch sử của một lực lượng xã hội và quân sự có tên là “Thanh niên xung phong” trong thời kỳ chiến tranh Việt Nam giữa hai nước Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa (miền Bắc) và Việt Nam Cộng hòa (miền Nam) chủ yếu diễn ra từ năm 1965 đến 1975. Nụ cười rạng rỡ của các cô gái anh hùng trên nhật báo và phim ảnh tuyên truyền của Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa trong chiến tranh đã chu du khắp thế giới, nhưng số phận bi thảm của chính những người nữ anh hùng vô danh này vẫn chưa được mọi người biết đến đầy đủ. Vấn đề này vẫn còn mang tính nhạy cảm ở Việt Nam dù người ta đã giới thiệu một bộ sử mang tính thực chứng về cuộc đấu tranh giải phóng đất nước; bộ sử này mới đây đã góp phần trong việc xác định một vị trí quan trọng hơn của các nhân vật lịch sử bị lãng quên, đặc biệt là của thành viên các đoàn Thanh niên xung phong.

Được chia làm bốn phần, đề tài tôi sẽ đề cập đến là cuộc phiêu lưu đầy giông bão của những “Thanh niên xung phong” đắm chìm trong ngọn lửa chiến tranh. Trong phần đầu, điều quan trọng là đặt ra những cột mốc lịch sử cần thiết để người đọc hiểu được việc hình thành lực lượng tập thể phục vụ chiến tranh này và, trong phần thứ hai, nhận ra được cơ cấu của nó, cùng những nam nữ thanh niên đã tham gia trong cuộc. Trong phần thứ ba, tôi xem xét hiện thực khốc liệt đổ lên cơ thể thanh niên xung phong, những người trải qua bao gian khó chiến tranh; đây cũng là vấn đề trọng tâm của công trình nghiên cứu này. Tôi sẽ phác thảo bức tranh những cơ thể trong chiến tranh này, theo cả nghĩa đen lẫn nghĩa bóng; tôi sẽ xem xét quá trình sáng tạo, kết cấu, tan rã và cuối cùng là tái tạo những cơ thể đó. Trong phần cuối, tôi sẽ đề cập một cách ngắn gọn hậu quả của kinh nghiệm bi thảm này, và xem xét vai trò của các yếu tố tâm lý và hồi ức cá nhân, cũng như các nhân tố xã hội và lịch sử có liên quan. Những người chịu trách nhiệm và việc quản lý khó khăn thời hậu chiến sẽ được đề cập ngầm ẩn trong phần kết luận của công trình nghiên cứu bước đầu này.

Lire la suite sur le site de Talawas : partie 1, partie 2, partie 3.

Télécharger l’article en pdf sur Hal-SHS, les archives ouvertes ou sur le site de Talawas.

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Death and Suffering at First Hand: Youth Shock Brigades during the Vietnam War (1950–1975)


This article aims to comprehend the physical suffering that occurs when bodies face the experiences of war and death, or the “decay of bodies,” as we call it, in particular on the Hồ Chí Minh Trail. The study focuses on a specific group of so-called wartime volunteers, the Youth Shock Brigades [Thanh Niên Xung Phong], established in July 1950 and mainly composed of young girls and women between 13 and 22 years old, who were often sent to the front line. The objective is to investigate these young people’s tragic fate, caught between barbarism and heroism, by stressing how their sacrifices were, and have been, entrenched in individual bodies and collective memory. Confronted with an official historiography that is positivist and “male,” the singular history of those young women is crucial to our understanding of the mechanisms of the thirty-year-old war led by the Lao Động Party.

Il y a 44 ans le sacrifice des filles des Jeunesses de choc de Truong Bon

Il y a 44 ans, le 30 octobre 1968, 14 jeunes gens appartenant à la deuxième brigade de la compagnie C317 (C317 Thanh niên xung phong) du régiment 65 des Jeunesses de choc de la province de Nghe An furent pris sous les bombardements américains. Parmi ces 14 jeunes (1 homme, 13 jeunes filles), 13 trouvèrent la mort, seule Tran Thi Thong (1946-), la chef de la brigade échappa à cette tragédie. Rescapée mais oubliée pendant des décennies, elle ne fut retrouvée que 29 ans plus tard grâce à l’enquête d’un journaliste du Lao Dong.

En 1997, le sacrifice de la brigade fut redécouvert et le courage des jeunes filles pris sérieusement en compte par l’Etat-Parti. Un reportage fut alors réalisé avec les témoignages de membres d’une autre compagnie. En outre, le rôle de Tran Thi Thong le personnage principal était “joué” par une autre personne présentée comme étant la rescapée du groupe ! Il fallut attendre le 23 septembre 2008, soit onze ans plus tard, à l’occasion du 40ème anniversaire de cet événement tragique, pour que leur statut d’héroïnes de guerre soit officiellement reconnu. Le président de la RSVN de l’époque, Nguyen Minh Triet, décerna ce jour-là, le titre d’Héros des forces armées populaires aux 14 jeunes gens des TNXP sacrifiés de Truong Bon.


En complément :

  • Lire l’article dans Tien Phong : “Hương khói Truông Bồn: 29 năm mất tích của Tiểu đội trưởng Trần Thị Thông”, Tien Phong, 22-10-2012.
  • “Huyền thoại những thanh niên xung phong Truông Bồn”, VTC News, 23-10-2012.

* * *

  • Voir le reportage Truông BồnKhúc tráng ca (réalisé par Nguyen Thanh Tung, VTC 1 mis en ligne sur You Tube le 26-07-2011).

Vietnamese Women in the War: a review – by Ernest Bolt

Many Americans who are more or less familiar with our Vietnam Experience know less about American women in the war. Many think all American women who were in Vietnam were nurses. Later our class will focus more on American women, but the People’s War materials must certainly include Vietnamese women and the war. Yet this is probably the least known and the last-studied aspect of the Vietnam Wars.

This has begun to change, however, and our Duiker text, Sacred War, is a good example of such change. Even better indicators of scholarly interest in Vietnamese women in the war are two recently published works by historians.


Dr. Karen G. Turner is an East Asia scholar at Holy Cross College who published, with the assistance of Hanoi journalist-interpreter Thanh Hao Phan, Even the Women Must Fight: Memories of War from North Vietnam (1998).


From army reports, diaries, and oral interviews, Turner and Thanh offer the reader a sampling of stories told by North Vietnamese women who fought in the Vietnamese wars against both the French and the Americans. One interesting outcome of their work was production of a map showing places of significance to these women — places they fought and survived and places where others died. The map, on page xii, shows some already familiar places but also some less well known to other scholars of the war.

The Turner-Thanh study is also well-illustrated with photos of women veterans who were interviewed as well as many from the Vietnam Women’s Museum in Hanoi. This is a museum which honors the roles of women from both the north, from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the south — from the Republic of Vietnam.

Students and other readers of Even the Women Must Fight will also become familiar with Vietnamese heroines. Among them is Madame Nguyen Thi Dinh, who is featured on this People’s War module.

Others, not as frequently noted by historians and political scientists, include Nguyen Thi Duc Hoan, actress-director and film maker in Hanoi. Several of her films deal with Hanoi youth and war-related service and/or women’s issues: “From a Jungle” (1978), “Love and Distance” (1980s), “Obsession” (1978), “Love Story by a River” (1991).

She left home as a young girl to participate in the anti-French resistance and was a guerrilla fighter by the time the Americans came in large numbers. Her daughter by then, in the 1960s, trained in the militia. Turner quotes from her interview of Duc Hoan: “At no other time in Vietnam’s history was the will of the people more necessary for national survival. When even the gentlest Vietnamese woman could be inspired to enter the male world of violence for her country and when she learned to do the job well, the war had become in reality a total people’s war.” (p. 47)

Another Vietnamese woman whom Turner profiles is Ngo Thi Tuyen. Her heroism relates to her key role, in April 1965, in the supplying of Vietnamese defense of Dragon’s Jaw Bridge, a key point on the Highway 1 north-south artery in Vietnam. Rebuilt and dedicated in 1964, American air attacks the next year failed to destroy it; it was not until 1972 that American bombing efforts accomplished that goal. Ngo Thi Tuyen had helped down some of the attacking American planes on April 3 and 4, 1965. Until the present day, she has been honored with badges and frequent celebrations of her heroism. Turner effectively mixes and compares Vietnamese accounts and American accounts of the April 4 U.S. efforts — reported as the dropping of over 300 bombs. She concludes that this was one of the frequent tests of wills.

Turner relates Ngo Thi Tuyen’s story, based on her 1997 interview with the former militia woman. The setting was the local “commemoration house,” a type of local museum which depicts the bridge and the role of Tuyen and others to defend it. She told of the recent visit of former American POW Jeremiah Denton, one of the pilots shot down and captured during the mission in which Tuyen had figured so prominently.

The Vietnamese today have many museums, and I have visited some of them. The ones in Thanh Hoa Province, however, are among those I still must visit. This was the province in which the Dragon bridge was located, a province with a thousand-year revolutionary history. Many young men and women in the province contributed to the war effort in the Volunteer Youth Corps, working on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, or in local militia forces.

Work on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, in fact, is the subject of three chapters, one-third of Even the Women Must Fight. Due to the importance of this trail and its significance in helping to determine the outcome of the Vietnam War with the U.S., this emphasis is justified. The author engages in thick description and uses many examples of women (and men) who worked on the trail. Teenagers with shovels and AK-47s kept the trail cleared and repaired following constant bombing attacks. They worked under severe hardships and relied on local support rather than significant government and army support. According to Turner, citing Vietnamese media attention recently, they have also not received the postwar services that they deserve. Turner’s examples of women she interviewed, road builders, members of the Youth Corps, and veterans of special groups (such as Troop C814), are numerous, and the testimony of most was similar. They performed war duties not to defend socialism or to win a global struggle; rather they defended their homeland as a “place to raise future generations.” As Turner puts it, they left home to “save home.” (p. 82)

One of the best features of this study is the use of several postwar paintings by Nguyen Ngoc Tuan, a militia woman during the war. It is also interesting to note evidence, once more, that the Vietnamese write and treasure poetry. Examples of Vietnamese writing furnished in this study also include womens’ memoir writings. Some writings of women warriors used by Turner are in the Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC) in Saigon. She utilized those records of life and service data to draw examples and to find meanings of women’s war experiences. Those materials, according to Turner, reflect greater evidence of discrimination against women than is often recalled from memory today. The CDEC records cover the 1966 to 1973 period and remain a little-used resource for examining individual war experiences.

When dealing with “Meanings,” Turner turns more and more to an analysis of the 1990s based upon her broader observations in Hanoi and northern Vietnam while engaged in her research and interviews. She relates, for example, her visit to Dien Bien Phu and the memorials in the Vietnamese cemetery there. One of the most interesting statues to her is that of two women standing and shielding a young soldier. There is also a stone mural commemorating the role of women porters. From selected examples in recent Vietnamese literature by men and women writers, she also draws meanings, including the postwar treatment of war mothers as martyrs and symbols of Vietnamese endurance and sacrifice. She also connects her sources and analysis to present women’s issues in Vietnam, concluding that “the (women) survivors who live poorly have become potent symbols of the costs of war.” (p. 179)


Dr. Sandra C. Taylor, Professor of History at the University of Utah, is the author of the most-recent book on Vietnamese women in the war. Vietnamese Women at War: Fighting for Ho Chi Minh and the Revolution (1999) is a brief but excellent study and is part of the Modern War Studies series of University Press of Kansas.


Taylor, as does Turner, uses many interviews chiefly to preserve and attempt to understand the stories of women at war. Her sample, she acknowledges, is not a “valid” one, but it is a broader one than that of Turner. Professor Taylor’s interviews are with more women warriors who were part of the southern insurgency and fewer of her subjects fought in the north. She regards her work, therefore, a “preliminary attempt to understand the women warriors,” (p. 7) as “the tip of an iceberg” (p. 165). Taylor’s book, however, is well-grounded in her knowledge of the Vietnam Wars, and she has engaged in field research in Vietnam for more than a dozen years. Among her sources is the large and quite rich Pike Collection, now housed in Texas Tech’s Vietnam Archives, where Douglas Pike is located. Some of her eighteen pages of photographs are also from that collection.

Because women played such an important role along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Taylor’s study also frequently provides a focus on that angle. Her most thoroughly treated women warriors, however, include Nguyen Thi Dinh, one of the original “long-haired warriors,” warrior-diplomat Nguyen Thi Binh, Cu Chi guerrilla Ho Thi Bi, and warrior-physician Duong Quynh Hoa.

Taylor’s major examples are among the “long-haired warriors” in the southern revolutionary movement and opposition to the Republic of Vietnam and the U.S. Students would profit from reading just chapter four on that group of women. This subject should be of interest to students especially because both Turner and Taylor recognize the importance of emphasizing the youthfulness of Vietnam’s warriors. Recommended, therefore, is Taylor’s chapter five, “Youth at War.”

Other excellent features of Taylor’s book include her comments on poetry and her discussion of memory theory in relation to use of oral history — both her own and previously-collected interviews by our military. Students should especially note her conclusions concerning the stories told to her (p. 18). As in the case of Turner, Taylor finds Vietnamese poetry “a living testimony to the will power of the insurgents” whom we fought. (p. 15)

Read together, these two recent books will inform the reader and yet still leave some unanswered questions. Perhaps the result for students in this course will be further reading or research on women’s roles in Vietnam’s wars.

Dr. Ernest Bolt, University of Richmond

Source : University of Richmond

Séminaire “Mémoires d’Indochine” : Mémento personnalités – séance 3

Mémento Personnalités

Rappel biographique succinct des auteurs et personnalités historiques  évoqués lors de la Séance 3


Partie 1 : Les deux Viêt-Nam

Pavillon national de la RDVN
(Nord Viêt-Nam 1945-1975)
Pavillon national de l’Etat du Viêt-Nam
et de la République du Viêt-Nam
(Sud Viêt-Nam 1955-1975)


Bùi Tín (1927-)

Dissident vietnamien, ancien vice-rédacteur en chef du quotidien du peuple (Nhân Dân, le journal officiel du Parti communiste du Vietnam). Il rejoint le Viet Minh en 1945 et exerce en tant que journaliste pour le journal de l’Armée populaire du Vietnam. Engagé dans l’Armée populaire vietnamienne à l’âge de 18 ans, il est blessé lors de la bataille Dien Bien Phu. Il sert au sein l’état-major de l’armée nord-vietnamienne pendant la guerre du Vietnam et s’occupe de la question des prisonniers de guerre américains. Durant la prise de Saigon le 30 avril 1975, il fait partie de l’unité nord-vietnamienne qui reçoit la reddition de Duong Van Minh, dernier dirigeant de la RVN (Sud). Après la victoire, il perd peu à peu ses illusions face à la corruption d’après-guerre et l’isolement de la RSVN. En 1990, Bui Tin quitte le Vietnam pour vivre en exil à Paris et exprimer publiquement ses critiques vis-à-vis du régime. A partir de novembre 1991, il intervient dans le débat sur les MIA-POW. Il publie plusieurs ouvrages en vietnamien qui font sensation dans lequel il dénonce l’appareil totalitaire communiste. Il publie en anglais deux ouvrages importants : Following Ho Chi Minh: The Memoirs of a North Vietnamese Colonel (University of Hawaii Press, 1995) et From Enemy To Friend: A North Vietnamese Perspective on the War (US Naval Institute Press, 2002). Il continue aujourd’hui à donner son avis sur l’évolution du Vietnam à travers son propre blog sur VOA.

David Lan Pham (1940-)

David Lan Pham est né à Thu Dau Mot dans la province de Binh Duong au Sud du Vietnam. Diplômé de l’Université de Saigon, il a enseigné l’histoire et a eu de multiples activités culturelles et journalistiques au Sud-Vietnam avant 1975. Il a exercé diverses fonctions de direction en tant que Secrétaire général des enseignants vietnamiens de l’Association des Enseignants d’Histoire et de Géographie, secrétaire général de l’Association de la Bibliothèque nationale vietnamienne, Conseiller à la Confédération Vietnamienne Travail (CVT) de Binh Duong et conseiller d’une Ecole bouddhiste à Binh Duong. Il quitte le pays clandestinement avec son fils et ses deux frères en 1986. Il publie en 2000 un récit de vie dans lesquel il rend compte de la vie sociale et politique vietnamienne sur quatre décennies de guerre civile. Il publie également d’autres ouvrages dont une biographie d’Ho Chi Minh en 2007. Aux Etats-Unis, il a travaillé pour le programme des réfugiés en Alabama et a créé le Bulletin bilingue / Tin Viet et Dac San Que Huong. Pour ses activités éducatives et sociales auprès des réfugiés il est cité dans plusieurs répertoires biographiques. Il vit actuellement à Toledo, dans l’Ohio.

* * *

Ngô Đình Diệm (1901-1963)

Mandarin nationaliste et catholique, originaire de Huê. Ministre de l’empereur Bao Dai en 1932, démissionne en 1933. Il se rend aux Etats-Unis au début des années cinquante. De retour au Viêt-Nam, il prend la direction du dernier gouvernement de Bao Dai en juin 1954. Un an plus tard à la suite d’un référendum populaire douteux, il devient Chef d’Etat de la Première République du Viêt-Nam (1955-1963) qu’il fonde le 26 octobre 1955. Il met en place une politique anticommuniste autoritaire avec les Agrovilles en 1959 et les Hameaux stratégiques en 1961. Très contesté au sein même du camp nationaliste, il est assassiné en novembre 1963 avec son frère Nhu à la suite de la violente crise bouddhiste. Sa diparition plonge le Sud Viêt-Nam dans une période de chaos et de troubles politiques pendant trois ans. Pour une biographie plus complète voir Ngo Dinh Diem (par Kelsey Leonard – Cold War Museum).

Thích Quảng Đức (1897-1963)

Vénérable bouddhiste, né Lâm Văn Tức en 1897, originaire de la province de Khanh Hoa au centre. Pratiquant dès l’âge de 7 ans, il consacre sa vie à l’étude du bouddhisme. Moine à 20 ans, il s’isole lors d’une retraite de trois ans après son ordination. Il s’immole par le feu à Saigon le 11 juin 1963 pour s’opposer à la politique répressive du gouvernement de Ngô Đình Diệm contre les bouddhistes. L’image de cette immolation (Malcom Browne, prix Pulitzer et 1963),  fera le tour du monde et précipitera la chute du clan des Ngo et de l’appareil diemiste. Par ce geste, Thich Quang Duc est depuis devenu une icône internationale.

Trường Chinh (Đặng Xuân Khu, 1907-1988)

Dirigeant communiste, principal théoricien du parti. Secrétaire général du PCI à partir de mai 1941 puis du Lao Động entre 1951 et 1956. Auteur du célèbre texte La résistance vaincra, regroupant une série d’articles parus à l’origine dans la revue du parti Su That (La Vérité) du 4 mars au 1er août 1947. Pro-chinois, il est le maître d’œuvre de la réforme agraire radicale avant d’être écarté de la direction du parti. Président de l’Assemblée nationale de la RDVN en 1960. Chef de l’Etat de la RSVN de juillet 1981 à juin 1987. Incarne la ligne dure du PCV et la ligne maoïste dans les années soixante. Paradoxalement, il est favorable aux réformes du Doi Moi en 1986 à la fin de sa vie.



Partie 2 : Mouvements de résistance


Pavillon du Front de Libération du Champa
Pavillon du Front de Libération des Hauts Plateaux Montagnards
(Flag by Chrystian Kretowicz)
Pavillon du FULRO
(Front Unifié de Lutte des Races Opprimées)


Lès Kosem (?-1976)

Officier militaire cambodgien d’origine Cham, connu sous le nom de guerre “Po Nagar”, et figure marquante de la Deuxième Guerre d’Indochine. Parachutiste dans l’Armée royale cambodgienne, il fonde le Front de Libération du Champa dans les années 1950. Son organisation rejoint le front de résistance montagnarde FULRO (Front Unifié de Lutte des Races Opprimées) créé le 20 septembre 1964. Il se sépare du FULRO en 1968 après un désaccord avec Y Bham Enuol, le leader du Front. Lié aux services secrets cambodgiens, Les Kosem est impliqué dans le trafic d’armes avec les Nord-Vietnamiens. Après le renversement de Sihanouk en 1970, il devient un fervent partisan de Lon Nol et reçoit le grade de général des Forces Armées Nationales Khmères (FANK). A la victoire des Khmers rouges en avril 1975, il se serait réfugié en Malaisie où il décède un an plus tard.

Y Bham Enuol (1923-1975)

Résistant montagnard d’origine E-Dhe (Radhé), il fonde et dirige plusieurs mouvements armés montagnards. Au mois de mai 1958, il créé le front Bajaraka mais il est arrêté en septembre par le régime de Ngo Dinh Diem et reste emprisonné jusqu’à la chute de Diem. En mars 1964, il fonde le Front de Libération des Hauts Plateaux Montagnard, front qui intègre le FULRO (Front Unifié de Lutte des Races Opprimées) créé le 20 septembre 1964 dont il prend la direction. Pour divergence de stratégie, il est arrêté par Les Kosem, un des leaders cambodgien du Front. Il est assigné à résidence à Phnom Penh jusqu’à sa mort en avril 1975 où il est exécuté par les Khmers rouges avec sa famille.

 * * *

Le FNL Sud-Vietnam

Pavillon du Front national pour la libération du Sud-Viêt Nam (FNL-Sud VN 1960-1975)


Nguyen Huu Tho,  (born July 10, 1910, Cho Lon, southern Vietnam—died Dec. 24, 1996, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam), chairman of the National Liberation Front (NLF), the South Vietnamese political organization formed in 1960 in opposition to the U.S.-backed Saigon government.

The son of a rubber-plantation manager who was later killed during the First Indochina War (1946–54), Nguyen Huu Tho studied law in Paris in the 1930s. Returning to Saigon, he set up practice, remaining politically inactive until 1949, when he led student demonstrations against the French; he also organized protests in 1950 against the patrolling of the southern Vietnamese coast by U.S. warships. He was imprisoned and won popular acclaim for his prolonged hunger strike in protest of the war.

After the Geneva Agreements had divided Vietnam into northern and southern zones in 1954, Tho cooperated with the southern regime of Ngo Dinh Diem until he was arrested for advocating nationwide elections on reunification. Except for a short interval in 1958, Tho remained in prison from 1954 to 1961, when he escaped with the aid of some of his anti-Diem followers. These men, who had recently formed the National Liberation Front, made Tho, a noncommunist, provisional and then full-time chairman of the NLF.

Tho essentially served as a figurehead leader, while real power in the NLF was held by its military arm, the Viet Cong, and by veteran communists who reported directly to the North Vietnamese leadership. Tho helped attract a wide spectrum of South Vietnamese supporters to the NLF. In June 1969 the NLF established a Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) with Huynh Tan Phat as president and Nguyen Huu Tho as chairman of its advisory council. The PRG, in effect, became the government of South Vietnam in April 1975, when the Saigon government’s troops surrendered to the North Vietnamese and PRG forces. Tho was made a vice president of Vietnam in 1976, a post he held until 1980, when he became acting president. In 1981 Tho was made vice president of the Council of State, as well as chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly. (source : Encyclopedia Britannica).

Nguyễn Mạnh Tường : Un excommunié – Hanoi 1954-1991. Procès d’un intellectuel

Nguyen Manh Tuong, Un Excommunié. Hanoi 1954-1991 : Procès d’un intellectuel, Paris, Que Me, 1992, 346 p. Présentation de l’éditeur ci-dessous :

Nguyen Manh Tuong, avocat et écrivain vietnamien, ancien Bâtonnier de Hanoi, est né en 1909. Il a obtenu, à 22 ans, en la même année 1932, un Doctorat d’Etat ès-Lettres et un Doctorat en Droit à l’université de Montpellier. Dès 1946, il rejoint, au maquis, le gouvernement Ho Chi Minh. Après Dien Bien Phu, il revient en 1955 à Hanoi avec une dizaine de titres honorifiques décernés par le gouvernement de la résistance dont il fut, de 1945 à 1956, le représentant dans plusieurs conférences internationales. Sa fameuse critique, sur les erreurs colossales commises par les autorités communistes au cours de la Réforme Agraire (il a été question de centaines de milliers de victimes), qu’il a prononcée à la réunion du Front Patriotique à Hanoi le 30 octobre 1956, lui a valu la disgrâce. Depuis, sa vie est pauvreté et maladie.

Un excommunié est un de ses récits autobiographiques se passant de 1955 à 1991, à Hanoi. Le manuscrit est parvenu, à l’automne 1991, à Paris, avec son désir de le voir publier. Il hésitera ensuite, pour finalement décider en ces termes, dans une lettre datée de Hanoi le 16 mars 1992 :

… « J’ai souhaité retarder la publication de mes ouvrages, parce que les circonstances récentes me mettent en alerte. Mais vous m’avez fait franchir le Rubicon et je vous donne raison : le risque est grand mais il faut tenter le risque. J’attends donc le pire en souhaitant qu’il n’arrive pas. Mais si on pousse la barbarie jusqu’à m’infliger le même traitement qu’à d’autres intellectuels accusés de médire du régime, j’attends de pied ferme des épreuves dont je connais la dureté. Je suis décidé, si l’éventualité se produisait, d’entamer une grève de la faim jusqu’à ce mort s’ensuive. A 84 ans, j’ai connu de la vie le meilleur et le pire et n’éprouve pas de regret à quitter cette vie au cours de laquelle j’ai rempli mon devoir d’intellectuel devant le peuple et devant l’histoire ! » …

Nguyen Manh Tuong devait décéder le 13 juin en 1997 à Hanoi.

* * *

Extrait :

Le droit et la politique

Entre le politicien et le juriste, il existe une divergence d’optiques, d’habitudes mentales, de pratiques intellectuelles.

La politique est un monde aux frontières floues qu’on peut franchir sans passeport et qu’on franchit souvent sans s’en douter ! Le sol y est mouvant, couvert de dunes de sable que les vents déplacent à leur gré, traversé de marais qu’on doit longer pour éviter des enlisements mortels ! Ici triomphe l’ambiguïté. Et l’imprécision des gestes comme du langage permet les interprétations les plus diverses, souvent contradictoires. Le voyageur qui s’y aventure doit renoncer au besoin de logique, de clarté et de précision, penser dans l’immédiat sans référence au passé ni appel au futur, s’interdire toute moralité ou sentimentalité, et surtout témoigner un sens aigu, dynamique de l’opportunité !

Le monde juridique, au contraire, est entouré de montagnes et de fleuves qui servent de frontières naturelles. Ici règnent la rigueur géométrique, la logique rationnelle, la précision et la clarté cartésiennes. Entre la légalité et l’illégalité, la ligne de démarcation est nette, comme entre le blanc et le noir. La terminologie cerne les idées, en fixe le contenu, ne laisse flotter autour d’elles aucune marge d’ombre où puisse se nicher l’équivoque ou qui permette une prestidigitation verbale, une jonglerie avec des mots ! Le raisonnement juridique provoque le choc des idées, et le palme revient à celui dont la logique s’appuie solidement sur des principes de droit, des textes de loi sans vaine logomachie, dans la froide sérénité de la dialectique, sous le soleil glacial de la raison !

(Un Excommunié – 1991, pp. 29-30)

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“Longue plainte d’un avocat et intellectuel vietnamien célèbre, “excommunié” par le régime de Hanoi en 1956. Le livre s’étend peu sur les années passées au maquis et insiste sur la polémique de 1956 ainsi que sur le traitement infligé à l’excommunié : isolement et pauvreté. Ce récit complète, sans les éclipser, les nombreux autres témoignages sur la répression dans le Vietnam communiste”. (Persée – Revue française de science politique, “Informations bibliographiques”, 1993, vol. 43, n°5, p. 882).

* * *

  • L’ouvrage est disponible en anglais en ligne sur le site Ai Huu Luat (Nguyen Manh Tuong, An Excommunicated – pdf – Bich Hop Publishings, 2008).
  • L’ouvrage est disponible en vietnamien en ligne sur le site Viet Studies
  • Il a été réédité en 2003 sous le titre de Kẻ bị khai trừ par Tiếng Quê Hương.
  • Voir le CR de lecture en vietnamien de cet ouvrage : Trịnh Bình An, “Đọc “Kẻ bị khai trừ” của Nguyễn Mạnh Tường“, 22-02-2012, sur DVC Online.

Georges Boudarel : Cent fleurs écloses dans la nuit du Vietnam [1991]

[ndlr] Paru à la fin de l’année 1991 alors que la fin de l’URSS est annoncée et que les mouvements démocratiques dans les pays de l’Europe de l’Est arrivent au pouvoir, l’ouvrage de Georges Boudarel rappelle les débuts de la dissidence communiste vietnamienne en RDVN entre 1954 et 1956. A l’appui de sources encore largement méconnues à cette époque, il explore les tenants et les aboutissants de la contestation interne et les acteurs de la demande d’une démocratisation du régime. La célèbre affaire des revues « Humanisme et Belles Œuvres » (Nhan Van – Giai Pham) est savamment décortiquée et illustrée par des références littéraires produites par les accusés. Elle sonne le départ d’une épuration brutale au sein du parti sous le masque d’une réforme agraire radicale. L’ouvrage épuisé aujourd’hui est paru alors que débute une autre affaire franco-française sur la décolonisation : « l’affaire Boudarel ».

Boudarel, Georges, Cent fleurs écloses dans la nuit du Vietnam. Communisme et dissidence 1954-1956, Paris, Jacques Bertoin, 1991, 301 p.

Présentation de l’éditeur

Georges Boudarel relate dans cet ouvrage une période charnière de l’histoire du Vietnam, entre le colonialisme et l’indépendance, le stalinisme et la libéralisation, la Chine et l’URSS. Fort de son expérience controversée sur le terrain, il produit ici un travail d’historien nourri par sa connaissance de la langue et du peuple vietnamien, par l’analyse systématique des sources, pour la plupart inédites en français (presse quotidienne et périodiques vietnamiens), et de nombreuses œuvres littéraires d’une qualité surprenante.

L’auteur nous révèle que des intellectuels, des militaires et des écrivains ont très tôt inscrit dans la tradition politique du Vietnam un regard critique qui subsiste encore aujourd’hui. La répression fut spectaculaire. Georges Boudarel nous fait vivre dans l’intimité des familles villageoises la réforme agraire qui, sous couvert de redistribuer les terres, instaura au Vietnam un régime de terreur et de délation.

Ce livre s’achève sur des perspectives et une question. La richesse de la dissidence, apparue voici près de quarante ans au Vietnam, fera-t-elle que ce pays, exceptionnel à bien des titres, sera aussi celui qui saura réformer le système communiste sans abandonner son idéologie ?

Dans sa page de remerciements, Boudarel revient rapidement sur les conditions d’élaboration de cet ouvrage.

Ma collaboration avec le Viet Minh de 1950 à 1964 est à l’origine de ce travail. Membre du parti communiste vietnamien jusqu’en 1964, j’ai plus ou moins partagé certaines des vues que je critique aujourd’hui. Ma propre évolution dans le cadre vietnamien m’a permis de connaître certains des contestataires ou des officiels dont je parle et de rassembler à l’époque une documentation imprimée, ouvrages et périodiques.

Cette étude entend toutefois se situer sur un plan historique aussi objectif que possible. Pour éviter les approximations, j’ai donc tenu à dépouiller le quotidien du parti communiste Nhan Zan (le Peuple) de 1954 à 1960 et à opérer nombre de sondages dans les diverses publications en quoc ngu de l’époque.

Je n’aurais pu réaliser cette recherche et ce travail sans l’octroi par le Social Science Research Council de New York une bourse de la fondation Ford. Celle-ci me permit notamment de trouver des matériaux à l’Institut des Etudes Etrangères d’Osaka grâce au professeur Masaya Shiraishi, en Australie grâce au Dr David Marr, à la School of Pacific and South-East Asian Studies à Canberra et aux Etats-Unis où j’explorai les trésors de l’université Cornell et du centre de recherche de M. Douglas Pike à Berkeley. Je tiens à leur exprimer ici tous mes remerciements.

Sur le parcours controversé de l’auteur :

Jean-Claude Pomonti, « Georges Boudarel, ancien commissaire politique stalinien », Le Monde, 29 décembre 2003. A lire sur le blog de Patrick Guénin, Le Viêt Nam, aujourd’hui (1997-2003).

Pierre Marie Giraud, « Boudarel, commissaire politique dans un camp vietminh et universitaire », Agence France Presse, 29 décembre 2003. A lire sur le blog de Patrick Guénin, Le Viêt Nam, aujourd’hui (1997-2003).

Pour le rappel succinct de « l’Affaire Boudarel », voir l’entrée Wikipedia à son nom.