Truong Chinh

Truong Chinh (19091988) was secretary general of the Vietnamese Communist political organization and was a pro-Chinese presidential aide. This pro-Chinese orientation was probably a major political liability in a land whose historic foe, for two millennia, was China.

Born on Feb. 15, 1909, in Hanh Thien in what is now northern Vietnam, Truong Chinh was already an anti-French nationalist by his early teens. In 1928, at the age of 19, he joined the Revolutionary Youth League organized 3 years earlier by Ho Chi Minh. Arrested by French authorities for his participation in the student strike of the same year, he was expelled from the Nam Dinh high school but was able to enroll in (and subsequently graduated from) the prestigious Lycée Albert Sarraut in Hanoi.

In 1930 Truong Chinh became a teacher, joining the same year the Indochinese Communist party (founded by Ho in Hong Kong). Coeditor of Sickle and Hammer, one of the first Communist periodicals in the French colony of Indochina, he was arrested in late 1930 after a Communist-led peasant uprising.

Sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment by the French for "conspiring against the security of the state, " Truong was paroled in 1936 after a Popular Front government had been formed in metropolitan France. He immediately resumed his Communist political activity. Arrested again in 1939, he fled to South China following dismissal of the charges against him.

In May 1941, five years after his release from prison, Truong became secretary general of the Indochinese Communist party. In 1943 it was absorbed by Ho Chi Minh's multiparty front organization, the Viet Minh, but still retained its separate identity as part of that body.

When the Viet Minh declared Vietnam's independence in September 1945, Truong was by Ho's side in Hanoi. The Indochinese Communist party was dissolved as a political maneuver in November 1945, but, when a new Vietnamese Communist party (Lao Dong, or Workers' Party) was launched in 1951, Truong was its secretary general. He lost this post in 1956, partly because of his role in the stern collectivization and land reform measures of the new North Vietnamese regime (which occasioned great peasant resistance) and partly because the party needed a high-level scapegoat.

Truong's elevation in 1960 to the important position of chairman of the standing committee of the National Assembly (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) signaled his return to the inner ranks of the North Vietnamese ruling elite. After Ho's death in 1969, his political followers began jockeying for a new alignment of power. Truong—probably the most ideologically driven of the North Vietnamese leaders—was eclipsed in 1970, but the following year he reemerged as part of the group ruling the county.

Truong remained as chairman of the DRV until 1976, presiding throughout the Vietnam War, and witnessing the eventual collapse of South Vietnam in April 1975. He served as co-president of the DRV from 1981 until 1987. In July 1986, following the death of Le Duan, Truong also assumed the role of General Secretary, but only served in that role for five months. Although long opposed to capitalism, Truong invited some private enterprise during his short tenure.

In December 1986, during the Sixth Party Congress in Hanoi, the most sweeping changes in 50 years were made within Vietnam's leadership. Truong was ousted in a surprise move, along with two other major political figures, Premier Pham Van Dong, and Le Duc Tho, who negotiated the U.S. withdrawal during the Paris peace talks. Officially, the three agreed to resign, due to "advanced age and bad health." At the time, Vietnam's economy was sagging, with increasing unemployment and 800 percent inflation. Truong told the Congress in a speech, "We recognize the long-term necessity for … the private capitalist economy and the petty bourgeoisie in a number of branches and trades." Truong remained an advisor to the party's Central Committee, and died in 1988.

Further Reading on Truong Chinh

An excellent, brief biography of Truong by Bernard B. Fall serves as the introduction to Fall's edition of two of the Vietnamese leader's best-known books, The August Revolution and The Resistance Will Win, published as a single volume in the United States as Primer for Revolt (1963). For an outstanding account of the immediate post-World War II period see John T. McAlister, Jr., Viet Nam: The Origins of Revolution, 1885-1946 (1968). A good narrative of the Vietnamese revolution in a broader perspective is Dennis J. Duncanson, Government and Revolution in Vietnam (1968).