Peasants and revolutionary movements: The Viet Cong as a case study

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    During the Vietnam War the US government in conjunction with the government of South Vietnam instituted a plan encouraging desertion from the Viet Cong and the 'return to the embrace of the Vietnamese Nation'. A successful implementation of this plan, the Chieu Hoi ('Open Arms') Program, depended on an analysis of the motivations for enlistment in the Viet Cong. The voluminous research on the Viet Cong during the war concentrates on its structure and activities rather than on the patterns of enlistment in and desertion from it. An examination of the factors that led to enlistment in or desertion from the Viet Cong may provide better indications concerning the extent of the United States' perception of the nature and character of the war. The purpose of this article is to examine peasant motivations for enlistment in the Viet Cong. The study begins with a discussion of theories regarding peasant motivation for joining revolutionary movements. It continues with an analysis of Vietnamese society which provides the necessary basis for understanding peasant motivation for joining the Viet Cong. Finally, the article discusses the reasons for peasant desertion from the organization and comes to the conclusion that motivation for enlistment was not ideological (i.e. Communist) in nature.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)217-230
    Number of pages14
    JournalWar in History
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Apr 2010


    • Chieu Hoi program
    • Counterinsurgency
    • Psychological warfare
    • Revolutionary movements
    • Viet Cong
    • Vietnam war


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