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The August Revolution’s victory and lessons on building the armed forces

In August 1945, all Vietnamese people rose up as one in the General Uprising to topple colonialism and feudalism, seize and bring power to the people, marking a watershed and ushering in a new era of national independence and socialism. That victory proved the sound leadership by the Communist Party of Vietnam and President Ho Chi Minh, particularly over the building of the armed forces and our revolutionary struggle.

Comprehending Marxist-Leninist viewpoints on the masses’ armed forces and the use of revolutionary violence to seize power, immediately after its formation, our Party determined to utilise the masses’ revolutionary violence to “overthrow colonialism and feudalism, completely liberate Vietnam, establish a worker-peasant-soldier government, and organise a worker-peasant army.” Hence, in all revolutionary movements, significance was attached to building the armed forces. In the Nghe Tinh Soviet Movement, localities founded Self-Defence Teams tasked with protecting villages and the masses. “Those red self-defence teams are the first seeds of the armed forces and revolutionary army of the people and for the people under the Party’s leadership.” In late 1931, due to the brutal oppression of colonialism and feudalism, our people’s struggle began to subside and revolutionary organisations, including the self-defence teams suffered heavy losses. In response to that problem, according to the Action Programme by the Communist Party of Indochina, due attention should be paid to “maintaining readiness and preparing armed riots to defeat the enemy’s oppression.” Under that direction, in spite of difficulties, the worker-peasant self-defence force was organised and would develop rapidly when the opportunity came.

1. All preparations for building the revolutionary armed forces

At its first Congress (March 1935), the Communist Party of Vietnam issued a special resolution on the Self-Defence Team, including rules for building the self-defence force as the Party’s first, fundamental viewpoints on building the armed forces. In September 1940, the Bac Son Uprising broke out together with the birth of Bac Son Guerrilla Team as the Party’s first armed organisation, signalling a new period of the Vietnamese revolution when we would establish revolutionary military organisations and combine political struggle with armed struggle to seize power.

In May 1941, the Party Central Committee’s 8th Meeting chaired by leader Nguyen Ai Quoc stated that “the Indochina Revolution must be ended with an armed uprising.” The Meeting also decided to form national salvation self-defence and guerrilla teams/units as the vanguard force in local revolutionary movements. This is a new development in our Party’s ideology on the armed forces and armed struggle and provides a solid foundation for all people to stage a general uprising and seize power. Under the guidelines by the Party Central Committee, local National Salvation Associations actively recruited enthusiastic citizens to establish national salvation self-defence teams tasked with protecting the masses and combating bad elements. Every commune selected elite members to form combat groups assigned to safeguard cadres and meetings, keep in touch with higher echelons, acquire weapons and maintain readiness for all missions. In February 1942, the Party continued to “organise and consolidate self-defence teams and guerrilla squads and provide military training courses for those organisations.” Therefore, in many places across the country, armed organisations were founded in preparation for the general uprising.

In addition to the force building, our Party and Uncle Ho attached great value to constructing revolutionary bases. The building of the first one was directly directed by Ho Chi Minh while the Party Central Committee directly constructed the base of Bac Son - Vo Nhai as the second one. In late 1943, the two bases were connected with each other as the precondition for the birth of the Liberated Zone of Viet Bac including the provinces of Cao - Bac - Lang, Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang and Thai Nguyen. At the same time, other resistance zones against the Japanese Fascists, such as Tran Hung Dao (Dong Trieu), Quang Trung (Hoa Binh - Ninh Binh - Thanh Hoa), Van - Hien Luong (Phu Tho - Yen Bai), Vinh Son, and Nui Lon (Quang Ngai) were constructed.

Comrade Vo Nguyen Giap reviewing the Vietnam Liberation Army's formation in preparation for the Independence Day on September 2nd, 1945 (file photo)

2. The formation of the three-category armed forces

In spite of the fact that the Red Self-Defence Team, the Guerrilla Team of Bac Son and the Southern Guerrilla courageously fought to protect cadres and the masses and succeeded in reducing losses caused by the enemy, those armed forces were scattered and lacked a development policy. To settle that weakness, in the Directive on founding the Vietnam Propaganda Liberation Army Team - a new-style military organisation of the Vietnamese revolution and the forerunner of our present-day Army, leader Ho Chi Minh stated that “to produce a good military outcome, our forces must be concentrated as the key principle.” Together with the National Salvation Team, the three-category armed forces were gradually formed and comprised of the main force in the base of Cao - Bac - Lang, the guerrilla groups in provinces and districts and the self-defence force in communes. In April 1945, the Northern Military Conference decided to unify the armed forces across the country (the Vietnam Propaganda Liberation Army Team, the National Salvation Army, and other armed organisations) into the Vietnam Liberation Army. On May 15th, 1945, in Dinh Bien Thuong (Thai Nguyen), the ceremony to unify the revolutionary armed organisations into the Vietnam Liberation Army was held and in the Liberated Zone of Viet Bac, units of the Liberation Army in several provinces were also founded.

In late May 1945, across the country, national salvation organisations also formed large-scale self-defence and guerrilla teams. For example, the number of guerrillas in the resistance zone of Tran Hung Dao was increased from 200 to 500 within only one month. A part from self-defence platoons, the resistance zone of Quang Trung had 1 standing armed platoon of the Liberation Army. In many other localities, such as Bac Giang, Hai Duong, Ha Dong, Ha Nam, and Hoa Binh, large-scale national salvation self-defence and guerrilla teams were founded and developed. In the Central Coast Region, workers’ self-defence teams and national salvation self-defence groups were established in Vinh, Ben Thuy. All communes within the province of Thua Thien - Hue where the Viet Minh bases were situated had self-defence squads and platoons. The guerrilla force of Ba To (Quang Ngai) had been formed with only 1 platoon; however, after 5 months, it was developed into 2 guerrilla companies in the two resistance zones of Vinh Son and Nui Lon. In Hanoi alone, “the self-defence force had over 700 members from 3 groups and there were thousands of others on the spot.” Besides, many provinces established armed volunteer youth teams and “guards of honour” to annihilate the wicked and the evil.

3. The deployment of the armed forces in the General Uprising

Since May 1945, the armed forces had kept developing, which prompted the development of our movement against the Japanese Fascists towards a general uprising across the country. The armed forces of the Tran Hung Dao resistance zone liberated a number of districts in Quang Ninh, Hai Phong and Hai Duong. Being informed that Japan was about to surrender to the Allies, the Party and Uncle Ho believed that the opportunity to seize power came. On August 13th, 1945, the National Uprising Committee was founded. It issued the Military Order No.1 to launch the General Uprising and asked the Liberation Army to “concentrate forces on attacking urban areas and the enemy’s bases, intercept their withdrawal and disarm them.”

Under the direction by the Viet Minh Central Staff and the National Uprising Committee, units of the Liberation Army and guerrilla units from the base of Viet Bac to resistance zones launched attacks against the enemy and paved the way for the masses to rise up and seize power. From the base of Tan Trao, a main armed unit advanced towards Thai Nguyen, cooperated with the people in forming the revolutionary government, and then marched straight to Hanoi. In Lang Son, units of the Liberation Army and the people attacked the post of Dong Mo and forced Japanese troops to surrender. After one day fighting fiercely with Japanese troops, guerrillas in the resistance zone of Van - Hien Luong compelled the enemy to negotiate and hand over their weapons. The armed self-defence team of Phuc Yen assisted demonstrations in surrounding and dissolve the enemy’s authority. From the resistance zone of Vinh Son, the Guerrilla Company of Phan Dinh Phung attacked the enemy’s posts all over the region and cooperated with the Guerrilla Company of Hoang Hoa Tham in liberating Quang Ngai’s districts and capital. Across the country, under the leadership by party organisations and uprising committees, the masses’ political forces backed by armed units all rose up and seized power. On August 19th, 1945, over 100,000 Hanoians joined a demonstration and quickly transformed it into an uprising. With the support from self-defence units, the people of Hanoi attacked and controlled the enemy’s headquarters, such as the Tonkin Palace and the Security Camp. The victory by Hanoians marked the success of the General Uprising and encouraged other localities in the country to seize and bring power to their citizens. Thanks to the armed forces and armed struggle, the General Uprising across the country was quickly victorious and minimised losses. It can’t be denied that “since our Party had built the armed forces, established large bases in advance as the basis for the political forces and struggle, seized the opportunity and quickly launched an armed general uprising, our revolution could rapidly gain the victory.”

The building of the armed forces and the development of our revolutionary struggle represent a long-term process that must be placed under the Party’s absolute, direct leadership. Only by doing so, could the armed forces be undefeated and develop robustly to play a core role in our struggle for seizing power. The building, organisation and deployment of the armed forces in the 1945 August Revolution remain valuable to today’s national construction and protection.

Sr. Col. LE THANH BAI, PhD

The Military History Institution of Vietnam

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Editorial: A great event in the nation’s history
The success of the August Revolution in 1945 was the first great victory of our people since the Party was established, marking a great turning point in the history of the nation. Government brought to the hands of the people, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was born - the first peasant state in Southeast Asia, ending the feudal monarchy in Vietnam and more than 80 years of colonialism and fascism.
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