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Historical Dictionary

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NGUYỄN SƠN (VŨ NGUYÊN BÁC, LÝ ANH TỰ, VŨ HỒNG THỦY, 1908–1956)

A general in both the Chinese and Vietnamese communist armies and a dynamic military leader in central Vietnam during the first half of the Indochina conflict. Born in the Hanoi area, Nguyen Son studied at the pedagogical school in Hanoi in the early 1920s, where he first met Pham Van Dong and became involved in nationalist politics. Nguyen Son left Vietnam for southern China around 1925. In Guangzhou (Canton), Ho Chi Minh inducted him into the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth League, put him to work studying Chinese, and enrolled him in the Whampoa Political-Military Academy located outside Guangzhou (Canton) to study modern military science among other things. During this time, Nguyen Son worked with Pham Van Dong and Hoang Van Hoan. The young Nguyen Son also joined the Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang).

In December 1927, with civil war erupting between Chinese nationalists and communists, and the Vietnamese youth league on the run, Nguyen Son crossed over to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) before fleeing to northeast Thailand to escape arrest. In 1929, at the request of the CCP, Nguyen Son returned to southern China, to Fujian province, where he became a political commissar in the 34th division of the Chinese Red Army’s 12th army and rose rapidly to become a high-ranking political cadre in the liberation army. He adopted a new Chinese name, Hong Thuy or Red Flood, and actively participated in mass mobilization, propaganda, rectification, and propaganda affairs. In 1931, he was head of the propaganda unit and a political and cultural instructor in the Central Military Political School in the army in Jiangxi. He became a full member of the CCP’s Executive Central Committee before making the “Long March” with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and General Zhu De in 1934. Despite being expelled several times from the party on charges of being an “international spy”, he regained the support of the Maoists. Once at Yan’an, he continued to work as an influential political commissar in the army, wrote in internal Chinese politico-military journals, became a master political organizer and propagandist for the 8th Route Army, and married a Chinese CCP cadre. His Chinese was reportedly flawless. He also became a student at the Red Army University in Wa Yaobao in Shaanbei. His teachers included Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, lecturing on Maoist strategy and politics. In 1943, he underwent a special rectification course, a Maoist speciality. Nguyen Son’s fluency in Chinese and rank within the Chinese communist party was such that he trained Chinese cadres and exhorted the Chinese “masses” to fight the Japanese.

With the approval of the CCP, he returned to Hanoi in late 1945 with Nguyen Khanh Toan. Upon his arrival in Vietnam, he adopted the name Nguyen Son and became president of the newly formed Resistance Committee for Southern Vietnam (Uy Ban Khang Chien Mien Nam Viet Nam). In 1946, he transferred to Quang Ngai to serve as the director of the Quang Ngai Military School (Truong Luc Quan Trung Hoc Quang Ngai). In January 1947, because of his experience in the Chinese Red Army, he was assigned to work as the Head of the Bureau for Military and Political Indoctrination in the Army’s General Staff (Cuc Truong Cuc Quan Huan Bo Tong Tham Muu). In July 1947, he was named military commander as well as political commissar for Inter-Zone IV (Lien Khu IV) in upper central Vietnam. In 1948, Ho Chi Minh dispatched Pham Ngoc Thach to Inter-Zone IV to bestow upon Nguyen Son the rank of major general in the Vietnamese army. During this time, Nguyen son also translated numerous Chinese communist and Maoist texts into Vietnamese for training purposes, including Mao’s treatise on Revolutionary War and the Issue of Strategy.

In October 1950, as the Chinese entered the Korean War, Nguyen Son returned to China to work as an ideological and political instructor in the Chinese Red Army. In 1955, Mao Zedong named him a major general in the Chinese army in recognition of his services. In August 1956, Nguyen Son returned to Hanoi where he died of stomach cancer shortly after his arrival. During his time as commander of Inter-Zone IV, Nguyen Son allowed remarkably lively cultural exchanges and debates to occur. However, he was also one of the first Vietnamese communists to introduce Chinese methods of “rectification” (chinh huan). See also CINEMA; CROSSOVERS; CULTURE; EMULATION CAMPAIGN; HISTORY; INDOCTRINATION; METIS; LE THIET HUNG; NEW HERO; NGUYEN THANH SON; NGUYEN TIEN LANG; NOVELS; VUONG THUA VU.