entire war were southerners, and southerners would provide the bulk of the forces for the planned offensive. In Vanh's and most southerners' minds, these factors would undoubtedly give the NLF greater influence within the party over affairs in South Vietnam.46 The Lao Dong's protracted war strategy was therefore acceptable.
Once it had agreed to the correctness of the party's plan, and had rejected its close relationship with the Communist China, the Front played an integral part in setting the diplomatic stage for the offensives. On November 17, 1967, it announced cease-fires for three days each at Christmas and the Western New Year. These short truces would be followed by a seven-day respite at the Vietnamese New Year. Although the Front had always called a holiday truce, this year's was special because it represented, for the first time in several years, a practical and theoretical compact between northerners and southerners. This newfound harmony was underscored several weeks later when DRV Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh announced the first major negotiating change for Vietnam by declaring that "when the bombing is stopped unconditionally, talks will begin."47 In the past, such a comment would have been followed by an NLF diplomatic initiative to assert the Front's "independence" and a public statement by a diplomat claiming that an end to the bombing in the North changed nothing in the South. The fact that NLF diplomats announced for the first time that "the Front supports negotiations with the United States once the bombing is stopped unconditionally" illustrates the unusual party concord.48 It also represents the first volley of the Tet Offensive.
The relationship between the NLF and Hanoi on the eve of the Tet Offensive therefore appears to have been close and warm. After several years of diplomatic conflict, the Front had accepted the party's overall international strategy and had agreed to become an integral part of the general offensives. No one knows what might have happened had the Front continued its flirtations with China. What is clear is that northern Communists, especially "doves," understood that southerners could not be taken for granted and that the revolution needed their full cooperation and participation. The Tet Offensive opened a new revolutionary phase, but it also brought northern and southern Communists back together after years of estrangement.
I would like to thank George C. Herring for his constant support and comments on this chapter.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: The Tet Offensive. Contributors: Marc Jason Gilbert - Editor, William Head - Editor. Publisher: Praeger. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 69.
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