Historical Dictionary



Term attributed to Charles Lacheroy, used by him publicly for the first time at a conference in southern Vietnam in 1952. According to Lacheroy, the system of parallel hierarchies referred to the structures by which the Vietnamese communists organized and controlled the populations in their zones. Each member of society is subject to two hierarchies. The first is the administrative, territorial one, running from the village to the provincial and zonal levels. The second hierarchy is composed of state-sponsored mass associations for peasants, workers, youth, women, etc., all of which are organized within the national front, the Lien Viet. The communist party controls both hierarchies. Political commissars, working through party cells, connect both pillars midway, thereby ensuring secret party control at each level of the parallel hierarchies. In reality, intelligence analysts in the Deuxième Bureau in southern Vietnam had already developed such ideas before Lacheroy arrived upon the scene. However, Lacheroy would transform the “parallel hierarchies” into something of a “theory”, one which would catch on in the French Army and would be applied to varying degrees in the Algerian War. In a famous scene from Gillo Pontecorvo’s film on the Algerian War, La Battaglia di Algeri, a French paratrooper called in to maintain order explains methodically on a blackboard the intricacies of “parallel hierarchies” and how they can be dismantled. That the Algerian nationalist movement, the Front de libération nationale (FLN), was not led by a communist party and did not have any ties to Sino-Vietnamese communist models did not prevent French theoricians from promoting their theory there. See also BERNARD FALL; GUERRILLA; PACIFICATION; REVOLUTIONARY WARFARE; SERVICE ACTION; SPECIAL AIR SERVICE (SAS).