At the time of the Russian Revolution in 1918, Vietnam was suffering under a repressive regime run by the French, and the desire for liberation from the colonial oppressor became fused with the egalitarian ideals of Marxism that were transforming the biggest country on Earth. At first there were three separate political parties, but their common interests led to the founding in 1930 of the Vietnamese Communist Party.
During the Second World War, the Viet Minh, dominated by the Communist Party, actually worked with the Americans to collect intelligence on the Japanese. After the war, they re-focused on their principal aim – to rid Vietnam of its French oppressors, which they eventually did at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
Vietnamese Communism During the American War
The Geneva Accords, signed after the French defeat, divided Vietnam at the 17th parallel into North and South, with the north controlled by the communists and the south by the staunch anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem.
The American government, concerned with the spread of this hated ideology, took measures to support the south, at first with military advisors and later with ever-increasing numbers of troops and equipment. This eventually led to conscription and the deaths of nearly 60,000 US soldiers, many of them merely teenagers, thousands of miles from home.
Under the inspired leadership of Ho Chi Minh, northern forces employed guerrilla tactics that gradually undermined American confidence, and within a couple of years of the last American troops being withdrawn, the north marched victorious to Saigon in April 1975.
Vietnamese Communism Since the American War
Celebrations did not last long. It quickly became evident that the nationalisation of industry and the collectivisation of agriculture were not working, and the country plunged into a decade of starvation and unemployment, during which anyone who could left the country to seek a better life elsewhere.
It was not until a policy of ‘doi moi’, or renovation, was introduced in 1986 that privately-owned enterprises were allowed to operate again. This system, similar to China’s current version of communism, has proved a success, though this Socialist-oriented market economy is puzzling for many visitors.
Though still run by a single party that discourages any opposition, Vietnam today appears like any other capitalist country. It seems that despite American involvement and defeat in Indochina, their deepest wish has finally been granted.