Vietnamese revolutionary leader Hồ Chí Minh declared independence from French Indochina on 2 September 1945 and announced the creation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. France reasserted its colonial dominance and a war ensued between France and the Viet Minh, led by President Ho Chi Minh. The Viet Minh ("League for the Independence of Vietnam") was a coalition of nationalist groups, mostly led by communists. In February 1951, the communists announced the creation of the Lao Động Party (Labour Party), gradually marginalizing non-communists in the Việt Minh.
Between 1946 and 1954, the Việt Minh captured and controlled most of the rural areas of Vietnam. In 1954, after the French were defeated, the negotiation of the Geneva Accords ended the war between France and the Việt Minh and granted Vietnam independence. The Geneva Accords divided the country provisionally into northern and southern zones, and stipulated general elections in July 1956 to "bring about the unification of Viet-Nam". The northern zone was commonly called North Vietnam, and the southern zone was commonly called South Vietnam.
Supervision of the implementation of the Geneva Accords was the responsibility of an international commission consisting of India, Canada, and Poland. The United States did not sign the Geneva Accords, which stated that the United States "shall continue to seek to achieve unity through free elections supervised by the United Nations to insure that they are conducted fairly". In July 1955, the prime minister of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngô Đình Diệm, announced that South Vietnam would not participate in elections to unify the country. He said that South Vietnam had not signed the Geneva Accords and was not bound by it.
After the failure to reunify Vietnam by elections, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam attempted to unify the country by force in the Vietnam War (1955–75). North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng insurgents supported by their communist allies, including the Soviet Union and China, fought against the military of South Vietnam, the United States and other anti-communist military forces, including South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and smaller players. North Vietnam also supported indigenous communist rebels in Cambodia and Laos against their respective U.S.-backed governments. The war ended when North Vietnamese forces and the Việt Cộng defeated South Vietnam and in 1976 united the two parts of the country into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The expanded Democratic Republic retained North Vietnam's political culture under Soviet influence and continued its existing memberships in international organisations such as Comecon.
After about 300 years of partition by feudal dynasties, Vietnam was again under one single authority in 1802 when Gia Long founded the Nguyễn dynasty, but the country became a French protectorate after 1883 and under Japanese occupation after 1940 during World War II. Soon after Japan surrendered on 2 September 1945, the Việt Minh in the August Revolution entered Hanoi, and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed on 2 September 1945: a government for the entire country, replacing the Nguyễn dynasty. Hồ Chí Minh became leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt had spoken against French rule in Indochina, and the U.S. was supportive of the Viet Minh at this time.
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh claimed dominion over all of Vietnam, but during this time South Vietnam was in profound political disorder. The successive collapse of French, then Japanese power, followed by the dissension among the political factions in Saigon had been accompanied by widespread violence in the countryside. On 16 August 1945, Hồ Chí Minh organized the National Congress in Tân Trào. The Congress adopted 10 major policies of the Việt Minh, passed the General Uprising Order,decided the National Flag, in the middle with 5-pointed gold star, selected the national anthem and selected the National Committee for the Liberation of Vietnam, later becoming the Provisional Revolutionary Government, led by Hồ Chí Minh. On 12 September 1945, the first British troops arrived in Saigon. On 23 September 28 days after the people of Saigon seized political power, French troops occupied the police stations, the post office, and other public buildings. The salient political fact of life in Northern Vietnam was Chinese Nationalist army of occupation, and the Chinese presence had forced Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh to accommodate Chinese-backed Viet Nationalists. In June 1946, Chinese Nationalist troops evacuated Hanoi, and on the 15 June, the last detachments embarked at Haiphong. After the departure of the British in 1946, the French controlled a part of Cochinchina, South Central Coast, Central Highlands since the end Southern Resistance War. In January 1946, the Viet Minh held an election to establish a National Assembly. Public enthusiasm for this event suggests that the Viet Minh enjoyed a great deal of popularity at this time, although there were few competitive races and the party makeup of the Assembly was determined in advance of the vote.[a]
On 18 and 19 September 1945, the Việt Minh held secret meetings with Việt Cách (18 September 1945) and Việt Quốc (19 September 1945). In these two meetings, Nguyễn Hải Thần represented Việt Cách and Nguyễn Tường Tam represent Việt Quốc. Hồ Chí Minh agree to unite the Việt Minh with Việt Cách and Việt Quốc. Thus, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam led by the Việt Minh will receive the financial and political support of the Republic of China. For this proposal, within the Việt Minh there are many different opinions. Võ Nguyên Giáp disagrees with the suggestion that the proposals are not valid and not honest, as if replacing French colonialism with Chinese domination, but Hoàng Minh Giám thought that the unification of Vietnam With the Nationalist parties will reduce the opposition and strengthen the power of the Việt Minh, as the Chinese are relieved and the French have to worry. Eventually the Việt Minh under Hồ Chí Minh refused to merge with the Pro-Chinese Việt Cách and the Việt Quốc League.
On 6 January 1946, President Hồ Chí Minh held the nationwide General Election which voted for the first time and passed the Constitution. Many parties did not have the right to participate in General Elections seeking to undermine . These parties claimed to be the only Việt Minh communist, the government in the hands of the Việt Minh want anyone to win it. The two opposition parties in the government are the Vietnam's Nationalist Party (Việt Quốc) and the Vietnam Cách mệnh Đồng minh (Việt Cách) did not participate in the election although Hồ Chí Minh previously sent a letter to Nguyễn Hải Thần leader of Việt Cách and Vũ Hồng Khanh leader of Việt Quốc. Hồ Chí Minh invites Việt Quốc and Việt Cách to attend the General Election and urges the two sides not to attack each other with words or actions until the Congress opens. Former Prime Minister Trần Trọng Kim said there were places where people were forced to vote for the Việt Minh. According to the Việt Minh, the election was fair. Despite being campaigned by many parties to campaign for the people to boycott the election and block the election in some places, where there are self-nominated candidates, publicly run, free elections are taking place everywhere. After the election results are announced, the truth is not the same as the propaganda parties. Many prestigious delegates of classes, classes, religions and ethnic groups were elected in the First National Assembly, most of them not party members.
The presence of Chiang Kai-shek's army up to that time ensured the survival of Vietnam's Nationalist Party and Việt Cách. These two parties did not have a cohesive program to enlist the people like the Việt Minh The leaders of the Vietnam's Nationalist Party and the Việt Cách Revolutionary Party are far from having comparable qualities with Hồ Chí Minh, Võ Nguyên Giáp, and other responsible Việt Minh members. When the Chinese nationalist army withdrawal from Vietnam on 15 June 1946, in one way or another, Võ Nguyễn Giáp, decided that the Việt Minh had to completely control the government. Võ Nguyễn Giáp is in immediate action with the goal of spreading Việt Minh leadership: the Allied Powers are supported by the Vietnam's Nationalist Party (according to Cecil B. Currey, this organization borrows the revolutionary name of Vietnam's Nationalist Party of 1930 was founded by Nguyễn Thái Học and, according to David G. Marr, the Vietnamese Communist Party under Hồ Chí Minh tried to banned the Pro-Chinese Nationalist Party in Vietnam betraying the revolutionary cause of Nguyễn Thái Học in 1930. By the end of 1945, many people still did not believe in it.) The pro-Japan nationalist group, the Trotskyists, the anti-French nationalists, the Catholic group called "Catholic soldiers." Võ Nguyễn Giáp has gradually sought to phase out these parties. On 19 June 1946, the Việt Minh Journal reportedly vehemently criticized "reactionaries sabotage the Franco-Vietnamese preliminary agreement on 6 March". Shortly thereafter, Võ Nguyễn Giáp began a campaign to pursue opposition parties by police and military forces controlled by the Việt Minh with the help of the French authorities. He also used soldiers, Japanese officers volunteered to stay in Vietnam and some of the supplies provided by France (in Hòn Gai French troops provided the Việt Minh with cannons to kill some of the positions commanded by the Great Occupation) in this campaign.
When France declared Cochinchina, the southern third of Vietnam, a separate state as the "Autonomous Republic of Cochinchina" in June 1946, Vietnamese nationalists reacted with fury. In November, the National Assembly adopted the first Constitution of the Republic.
The French reoccupied Hanoi and the First Indochina War (1946–54) followed. Following the Chinese Communist Revolution (1946−50), Chinese communist forces arrived on the border in 1949. Chinese aid revived the fortunes of the Viet Minh and transformed it from a guerrilla militia into a standing army. The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 transformed what had been an anti-colonial struggle into a Cold War battleground, with the U.S. providing financial support to the French.
Following the partition of Vietnam in 1954 at the end of the First Indochina War, more than one million North Vietnamese migrated to South Vietnam, under the U.S.-led evacuation campaign named Operation Passage to Freedom, with an estimated 60% of the north's one million Catholics fleeing south. The Catholic migration is attributed to an expectation of persecution of Catholics by the North Vietnamese government, as well as publicity employed by the Saigon government of the President Ngo Dinh Diem. The CIA ran a propaganda campaign to get Catholics to come to the south. However Colonel Edward Lansdale, the man credited with the campaign, rejected the notion that his campaign had much effect on popular sentiment. The Viet Minh sought to detain or otherwise prevent would-be refugees from leaving, such as through intimidation through military presence, shutting down ferry services and water traffic, or prohibiting mass gatherings. Concurrently, between 14,000 and 45,000 civilians and approximately 100,000 Viet Minh fighters moved in the opposite direction.
Land reform was an integral part of the Viet Minh and communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam. A Viet Minh Land Reform Law of 4 December 1953 called for (1) confiscation of land belonging to landlords who were enemies of the regime; (2) requisition of land from landlords not judged to be enemies; and (3) purchase with payment in bonds. The land reform was carried out from 1953 to 1956. Some farming areas did not undergo land reform but only rent reduction and the highland areas occupied by minority peoples were not substantially impacted. Some land was retained by the government but most was distributed without payment with priority given to Viet Minh fighters and their families. The total number of rural people impacted by the land reform program was more than 4 million. The rent reduction program impacted nearly 8 million people.
The land reform program was a success in terms of distributing much land to poor and landless peasants and reducing or eliminating the land holdings of landlords and rich peasants. However it was carried out with violence and repression primarily directed against large landowners identified, sometimes incorrectly, as landlords. On 18 August 1956, North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh acknowledged the serious errors the government had made in the land reform program. Too many farmers, he said, had been incorrectly classified as "landlords" and executed or imprisoned and too many mistakes had been made in redistributing land. Severe rioting protesting the excesses of the land reform program broke out in November 1956 in one largely Catholic rural district. About 1,000 people were killed or injured and several thousand imprisoned. Democratic Republic of Vietnam initiated a "correction campaign" which by 1958 had resulted in the return of land to many of those harmed by the land reform. As part of the correction campaign as many as 23,748 political prisoners were released by North Vietnam by September 1957.
Executions and imprisonment of persons classified as "landlords" or enemies of the state were contemplated from the beginning of the land reform program. A Politburo document dated 4 May 1953 said that executions were "fixed in principle at the ratio of one per one thousand people of the total population." . The number of persons actually executed by communist cadre carrying out the land reform program has been variously estimated. Some estimates of those killed range up to 200,000. Other scholarship has concluded that the higher estimates were based on political propaganda emanating from South Vietnam and that the actual total of those executed was probably much lower. Scholar Edwin E. Moise estimated the total number of executions at between 3,000 and 15,000 and later came up with a more precise figure of 13,500. Moise's conclusions were supported by documents of diplomats from Hungary (occupied by the Soviet Union), living in Democratic Republic of Vietnam at the time of the land reform. Author Michael Lind in a 2013 book gives a similar estimate of "at least ten or fifteen thousand" executed.
The ultimate objective of the land reform program of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam government was not to achieve equitable distribution of farmland but rather the organization of all farmers into co-operatives in which land and other factors of agricultural production would be owned and used collectively. The first steps after the 1953-1956 land reform were the encouragement by the government of labor exchanges in which farmers would unite to exchange labor; secondly in 1958 and 1959 was the formation of "low level cooperatives" in which farmers cooperated in production. By 1961, 86 percent of farmers were members of low-level cooperatives. The third step beginning in 1961 was to organize "high level cooperatives", true collective farming in which land and resources were utilized collectively without individual ownership of land. By 1971, the great majority of farmers in North Vietnam were organized into high-level cooperatives. Collective farms were abandoned gradually in the 1980s and 1990s.
After the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, or Vietcong, alongside the North Vietnamese Army, governed South Vietnam during the period before reunification. However it was seen as a vassal government of North Vietnam. North and South Vietnam were officially reunited under one state on 2 July 1976, forming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam which continues to administer the country today.
From 1960, the North Vietnamese government went to war with Republic of Vietnam via its proxy the Viet Cong, in an attempt to annex South Vietnam and reunify Vietnam under a communist party. North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces and supplies were sent along the Ho Chi Minh trail. In 1964 the United States sent combat troops to South Vietnam to support the South Vietnamese government, but the U.S. had advisors there since 1950. Other nations, including Australia, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and New Zealand also contributed troops and military aid to South Vietnam's war effort. China and the Soviet Union provided aid to and troops in support of North Vietnamese military activities. This was known as the Vietnam War, or the American War in Vietnam itself (1955–75). In addition to the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, other communist insurgencies also operated within neighboring Kingdom of Laos and Khmer Republic, both formerly part of the French colonial territory of Indochina. These were the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Rouge, respectively. These insurgencies were aided by the North Vietnamese government, which sent troops to fight alongside them.
Democratic Republic of Vietnam was diplomatically isolated by many Western states, and many other anti-communist states worldwide throughout most of the North's history, as these states only extended recognition to the anti-communist government of South Vietnam. North Vietnam however, was recognized by almost all Communist countries, such as the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, China, North Korea, and Cuba, and received aid from these nations. North Vietnam refused to establish diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia from 1950 to 1957, perhaps reflecting Hanoi's deference to the Soviet line on the Yugoslav government of Josip Broz Tito, and North Vietnamese officials continued to be critical of Tito after relations were established. Several non-aligned countries also recognized North Vietnam, mostly, similar to India, according North Vietnam de facto rather than de jure (formal) recognition.
In 1969, Sweden became the first Western country to extend full diplomatic recognition to North Vietnam. Many other Western countries followed suit in the 1970s, such as the government of Australia under Gough Whitlam.
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