M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle in Vietnam, 1966.

The Faceless Viet Gong

. . . we [the Lao Dong (Communist) Party] are building socialism in Vietnam. We are building it, however, only in half of the country, while in the other half, we must still bring to a conclusion the democratic- bourgeois and anti-imperialist revolution. Actually, our party must now accomplish, contemporaneously, two different revolutions, in the north and in the south. This is one of the most characteristic traits of our struggle.

-Ho Chi Minh, June 1959[i]

THE present struggle in South Viet Nam is in essence the third act of a continuous political drama whose prologue spanned the 1930s, whose first act was played in the years between 1941 and 1945, and whose second encompassed the 1946-1954 Franco-Viet Minh war. The scene of major action in this drama has shifted several times, as have the identities of the auxiliary players (e.g. the Chinese Nationalists, the British, the French, the Chinese Communists and now the Americans) and the political guises of some of the principals. Throughout its course, however, the unifying theme of this drama has been the unrelenting struggle of the Vietnamese Communist Party to acquire political control over all of Viet Nam. Its chief protagonists, furthermore, have always been and are today the small, dedicated and doctrinaire group who, under Ho Chi Minh's guidance and direction, organized and nurtured Viet Nam's Communist Party during the 1930s, usurped the nationalist revolution after World War II and subverted it to their ends. They are the same men who run the Communist state already established in North Viet Nam and who are now directing the insurgency designed to bring the southern part of the country under their domination.

The term "Viet Cong" came into circulation around 1956 as a means of distinguishing some of the players in the current act of this ongoing political drama from the players in Act II. "Viet Cong" is a contraction of the phrase "Viet Nam Cong-San," which means, simply, "Vietnamese Communist(s)." It is a descriptive term, not necessarily pejorative except, perhaps,

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