Vietnam: State, War, Revolution, 1945-1946

Vietnam: State, War, Revolution, 1945-1946

Vietnam: State, War, Revolution, 1945-1946

Vietnam: State, War, Revolution, 1945-1946

Synopsis

Amidst the revolutionary euphoria of August 1945, most Vietnamese believed that colonialism and war were being left behind in favor of independence and modernization. The late-September British-French coup de force in Saigon cast a pall over such assumptions. Ho Chi Minh tried to negotiate a mutually advantageous relationship with France, but meanwhile told his lieutenants to plan for a war in which the nascent state might have to survive without allies. In this landmark study, David Marr evokes the uncertainty and contingency as well as coherence and momentum of fast-paced events. Mining recently accessible sources in Aix-en-Provence and Hanoi, Marr explains what became the largest, most intense mobilization of human resources ever seen in Vietnam.

Excerpt

David G. Marr’s scholarship on modern Vietnam needs no introduction. In a series of path-breaking studies published by the University of California Press, Marr has provided definitive accounts of Vietnamese anticolonialism, sociocultural change, and revolution. Now, in Vietnam: State, War, and Revolution (1945–46), Marr draws on a wide array of Vietnamese-language memoirs, newspapers, and government archives captured by the French to provide the first fulllength study of the emergence and formation of the postcolonial state of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). Through a series of thematic chapters, Marr shows in masterful detail how a state emerged in Vietnamese hands, one capable of mobilizing people and allocating resources as well as preparing an army for war with a French government determined to reestablish colonial sovereignty, first in the south, then in the north.

Whereas many scholars have focused on the invisible hand of the Viet namese communists operating from on high, Marr takes us down below to follow intermediary civil servants, hardly any of them communists, as they did their best to keep the DRV functioning. The communist leadership, including Ho Chi Minh, receive careful attention as well, but Marr shows that the communists were much weaker at the time than they and their detractors would like to admit later. In addition, Marr provides important insights into the conceptualization of Vietnam’s first constitution and the difficult yet fascinating debates that went into it and the creation of the country’s first National Assembly in 1946. Of equal importance is the attention he pays to policing and to the economy, neither of which has received sustained treatment in the existing historiography.

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