Rhetoric of Revolt: Ho Chi Minh's Discourse for Revolution

Rhetoric of Revolt: Ho Chi Minh's Discourse for Revolution

Rhetoric of Revolt: Ho Chi Minh's Discourse for Revolution

Rhetoric of Revolt: Ho Chi Minh's Discourse for Revolution

Synopsis

Details Ho Chi Minh's use of a unique form of nonWestern reconstitutive discourse to sustain a 30-year national movement.

Excerpt

[The French imperialists' inhuman oppression and exploitation have helped
our people realize that with revolution we will survive and without revo
lution we will die.]

—Ho Chi Minh

The imposition of French rule on the country of Vietnam in the latter half of the nineteenth century brought in its wake greater changes than any that had taken place during the preceding two thousand years. France severed Vietnam into three parts—Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China—and merged them into a French-run colonial territory known as Indochina, which included Cambodia and Laos. Colonial conquest deprived the Vietnamese of the right to call their country by its proper name and think of themselves as Vietnamese. Despite memories of national unity conjured up by the name Vietnam, the division of the country under colonial rule was a real and painful one. Cities, roads, railways, bridges, and ports were built, transforming the economic life of Vietnam from a [family consumption and bartering system] to a [monetary system of cash] for family needs and taxes. However, the new monetary sector of the economy was neither large enough nor sufficient enough to permit extensive peasant employment for wages or a market for agricultural surplus at stable prices. This led to a deterioration of social cohesion.

Traditional culture, values, social structure, and government were challenged, destroyed, and replaced. New land was cleared or drained and put into agricultural production, creating an elite class of Vietnamese landowners. At the same time, Western industry was introduced (and with it came a population explosion) and European educational systems were established for, and produced generations of, young elitist Vietnamese who had little in common with their elders.

Welded together by common feelings of discontent, by a burning desire to restore national independence, and with it national self-respect, the Vietnamese generated few ideas about the future. Returning to the old culture was not possible in the twentieth century, but they had nothing positive to offer in its place—other than the negative goal of driving out the French —until the emergence of Ho Chi Minh.

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