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The art of mobilizing and using forces in the August 1945 General Uprising

73 years ago, in the historic autumn of 1945, the whole Vietnamese people rose up as one to conduct a General Uprising to take power from the enemy. That miracle provides us with lessons of practical significance, one of which is the art of mobilizing and using forces.

In August 1945, under the leadership of the Communist Party of Indochina (the Communist Party of Vietnam nowadays), the Vietnamese people rose up as one to launch a landslide General Uprising which crushed the yoke of Japanese Fascists and French Colonialists, toppled brutal feudalist regime, and established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (the present-day Socialist Republic of Vietnam) – the first worker-peasant state in Southeast Asia. That glorious autumn went down in the history of national building and defence, and transformed Vietnamese people from slaves into masters of their own future and country. The August 1945 General Uprising is a typical example of the art of staging armed uprising and taking power in a semi-feudal colony country under the leadership of a Workers’ Party. The General Uprising took place across the country only in 12 days (from the 13th to the 25th of August, 1945), but our people gained a complete victory. That great victory stemmed from many reasons, chief of which was our Party’s flexible application of Marxism-Leninism and Party Platform to Vietnam’s condition. More specifically, our Party assembled and used a large political force of the masses supported by the revolutionary armed forces to create great strength to lead the General Uprising to success. The General Uprising was conducted in conformity with Karl Marx’s teachings: “uprising is a mathematical problem with quantities whose values can vary every single day; the opponent’s force has the sufficient superiority in organization, discipline, and intrinsic ascendancy; without a far superior force against the opponent, the uprising will be certainly defeated”.

Prior to the August 1945 Revolution, our country had been semi-feudal colony whose area and population were not large. Meanwhile, it had been ruled by a centralized administrative apparatus in which the central government directly controlled localities, protected by the powerful expeditionary forces (by the French Army and Japanese Army and then only by the latter after March 9th, 1945) and Vietnamese lackey troops. Therefore, our Party determined that the uprising for taking power across the country was the armed struggle by not only the revolutionary armed forces, but also by the whole people.

Under that direction, to make all preparations for the General Uprising, our Party decided to build a widespread political force first, and then the people’s armed forces and the semi-armed forces with far superior strength than the enemy. Particularly, our Party and leader Nguyen Ai Quoc with their strategic vision grasped the situation of the country and the world, and seized the golden opportunity (when Japan surrendered to the Allies in the World War II, and their army and Vietnamese puppet government were in utmost puzzlement) to launch an anti-Japanese high tide for national salvation. In this period, we mobilized a large number of the masses in the struggle. The political force was developed deeply and widely as the basis for the armed forces to gradually develop in rural, urban, and mountainous areas. After the Appeal (Military Order No.1) issued by the National Uprising Committee, under the Party’s leadership and the direction of uprising committees at all levels, the masses’ political force continued to be expanded all over the country. As a result, when the General Uprising broke out, the force in charge of political struggle was the masses (supported by local revolutionary armed forces) who were equipped with only sticks and spears or even with bare hands all stood up to fight via armed meetings, demonstrations, armed demonstrations, and took control of the enemy’s headquarters, bases and stations as well as took power from the enemy.

The armed demonstration to occupy the Residential Palace of the
Tonkin Governor on August 19th, 1945 (file photo)

On August 18th, 1945, the meeting organized by the Federation of Officials at the Hanoi Opera House to support Tran Trong Kim’s puppet government was changed into a mass meeting in support of the revolution by Hanoi’s Uprising Committee. To do so, we secretly assembled a large number of the masses from national salvation organizations both inside and outside Hanoi, Self-Defence Teams, Pioneering Propaganda Teams (which had been built in advance) to surprisingly, synchronously fly the red flags with gold stars and seize the dais to deliver speech on Japan’s surrender to the Allies and call for the people’s support for the Viet Minh. That event considerably impacted on the masses and represented a golden opportunity for swift streams of people (led by members of the Self-Defence Teams) to march from Hanoi Opera House across central streets with slogans spoken loudly: “Support the Viet Minh”, “Down with the puppet regime”, “Independent Vietnam”. Tens of thousands of people from both inside and outside Hanoi took part in demonstrations. The revolutionary masses supported by the Self-Defence Teams occupied the enemy’s headquarters, such as the Residential Palace of the Tonkin Governor, the Intelligence Bureau, Central Police Bureau, Post Office, and Guardsmen’s Camp. Given the revolutionary morale amongst the masses, the puppet government did not dare to resist while Japanese troops did not dare to interfere. By the evening of August 19th, 1945, the uprising for taking power in Hanoi was completely victorious, which greatly affected the revolution’s complexion nationwide. Uprisings took place from the North to the Central Region and the South, and quickly won victories across the country.  

Stressing the importance of mobilizing the masses’ political force in the General Uprising of August 1945, our Party affirmed: “the August Revolution assembled millions of the masses to counter internal hostile forces and feudal rules and fight for freedom, democracy, the people’s improved life, and the world’s peace”.

The success of the General Uprising also stemmed from our Party’s clear identification of the revolutionary armed forces’ important role in the General Uprising. Together with the participation of the masses, it required the armed forces to protect and support the masses’ political force and serve as the core to destroy resisters and take power. To effectively employ the armed forces in the General Uprising, in the Party Central Committee’s 8th Plenum (1941), our Party decided to build the revolutionary armed forces, organize self-defence teams, national salvation guerilla squads, and establish revolutionary bases. Accordingly, many guerilla teams and the armed forces of the masses from national salvation organizations were founded, such as Bac Son guerilla team (founded in Bac Son uprising and then developed into the national salvation army), the Vietnam Propaganda Liberation Army Team. When the General Uprising broke out, local uprising committees made use of the military strength of units of the liberation army and guerilla to quickly move from our bases and localities to the enemy’s headquarters to neutralize oppositional forces and pave the way for the masses to topple the old regime and establish the people’s new governments in districts and provinces. In some situations, these forces also directly destroyed the enemy and their governments to establish new revolutionary ones.

In Viet Bac, a regular unit of the Liberation Army maneuvered from Tan Trao to Thai Nguyen province to fight the enemy and cooperate with the masses in establishing a revolutionary government, and then advanced towards Hanoi. Units of the Liberation Army in Cao Bang advanced to attack Cao Bang town and Ha Giang province. Units of the Liberation Army in Bac Kan maneuvered to attack Bac Kan town. In the Central Region, in the resistance zone of Vinh Son (Quang Ngai province), Phan Dinh Phung guerilla company was divided into flanks to occupy posts and liberate the districts of Di Lang, Son Ha, Binh Son and Son Tinh. In the resistance zone of Nui Lon, Hoang Hoa Tham guerilla company attacked Ba To and Minh Long posts, and liberated the districts of Nghia Hanh, Mo Duc and Duc Pho. In the South, self-defence and pioneering teams rapidly developed in Saigon, My Tho, Ben Tre, and Sa Dec. With the spirit of “Southern Uprising”, local armed units actively assisted the masses in seizing power in Saigon and provinces and districts across the South.

With only small-scale armed forces and primitive materiel, in the August 1945 General Uprising, our Party directed local uprising committees to use forces properly in specific circumstances, bring into play the strengths to the utmost to assist the masses in taking power. Underlining the role of the armed forces in assisting the masses in the General Uprising, General Vo Nguyen Giap said “When the General Uprising broke out, in some localities there occurred armed fights between the revolutionary army and the enemy’s army. Therefore, the main force of the General Uprising was the masses’ political force which was armed widely; however, with the support from the revolutionary army, uprisings by the masses were actively facilitated to win more victories”.

In conclusion, our people’s struggle under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam as well as the victory of the August 1945 General Uprising have revealed that the key to our victories is to effectively mobilize the masses’ political force, to use the armed forces for military offensive, and to cleverly combine political struggle with military struggle so as to foster the development of the revolutionary movement nationwide. This is among important prerequisites for our Party to formulate the methods for revolutionary struggle to liberate the nation and gain victories in the two holy resistance wars against the French and the US as well as in the cause of defending the Homeland of Socialist Vietnam.

Sr. Col. Nguyen The Vy

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Comrade Vo Chi Cong – A talented leader of our Party and State
Life and career of comrade Vo Chi Cong were closely connected with our Party and people’s glorious historical events in the 20th century. He was a role model as a communist. With his noble qualities, he was an excellent student of President Ho Chi Minh. He expressed his absolute loyalty to our revolution’s goal and ideal, while dedicating himself to our Party and people’s revolutionary cause.