The Politics of Nationalism in the Vietnamese Communist Discourse

  • Thuy Mai

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

The Vietnamese communists have always defined their revolution in national terms, telling the story of how the communists led the Vietnamese people to rescue and rebuild the nation from the plight of French colonisation and American aggression. This research problematises this national frame. Using post-structuralist discourse theory, it studies the process whereby the nation was imagined and became ‘real’ in the Vietnamese communist discourse and how this national imagining contributed to the legitimization of the socialist state in Vietnam. It argues that the Vietnamese nation is a discursive construct which legitimises the rule of the communist party and the socialist state in Vietnam. This argument is developed on three central findings. Firstly, the Vietnamese nation was constructed in the communist discourse in the very representation of French colonists, American interventionalists and their sponsored governments as enemies of the nation. Secondly, the nation was able to be imagined to be more real among the mass in the discursive fixing of national independence as the indispensable condition for the survival of the Vietnamese people, which occurred around the 1945 August Revolution. Last, this national imagination enabled the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) and its socialist state to legalize its rule in Vietnam. Socialism and the leadership of the VCP are articulated as the indispensable condition to maintain national independence and to ensure that the national construction succeeds in Vietnam. The socialist regime, which includes the VCP and the socialist state, is equated with the nation in the communist discourse.
The nation-making project of the Vietnamese communists is essentially a political project. It makes possible the establishment of socialism and allows the VCP to attain a monopolistic rule in Vietnam. It rules out other possibilities in Vietnamese politics, for example the possibility of having a non-communist government. It involves the destruction of enemies outside and inside the national self, whether they are foreign or Vietnamese, and the sacrifice of its own subjects to protect this national self. Moreover, the national identities of the Vietnamese communists and the boundaries of their national project are not objective but politically decided. The Vietnamese communists previously claimed to represent only the working class and made an enemy of other classes within the Vietnamese population. The boundaries of the nation used to be articulated to be close with the limits of the peasantry. This is in stark contrast with the VCP’s present claim to represent the whole nation.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorMartin Gainsborough (Supervisor) & Jutta Weldes (Supervisor)

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