The developments of the Vietnamese had a lot in common with what could be tentatively described as post-World War Two revolutionary processes throughout East Asia. Yet there were some differences, which might be described as particular to Vietnam.
Before World War Two, all South East Asian nations, except Thailand, were subjected to colonial domination by the West. The war gave all of these countries an opportunity to claim their independence. These nations were predominantly agricultural societies largely influenced by religious beliefs and practices.
During the era of struggle for independence, religions typically sided with anti-colonial movements. In many countries, religions were the driving forces of revolutions, of which many became organizations described as religions with political agendas or political religious parties. It came as a reality of vital importance throughout nearly all agricultural societies that religions created mass movements to support revolutions of national liberation.
However, when colonial oppressive machines weakened or fell apart and former colonies became independent, liberation typically sparked serious internal conflicts between politico-religious movements and pro-Western elites. In fact, the process of institutionalization of politics created conflicts. It was a complex and dangerous situation, which could have caused crises of power and therefore socio-political and armed conflicts. Moreover, in reality the newly independent countries were typically headed by Western-educated elite, who either lacked mass support or enjoyed a limited popularity in urban areas. Therefore, these leaders could not be viewed as fully legitimate representatives of their nations. Correspondingly, the politico-religious movements enjoyed mass support and were critical of these leaders.
The newly independent countries faced complex dilemmas relating to their national development strategies. On the one hand, the urgent needs of economic development warranted social and economic changes through technical and ideological modernization. On the other hand, the bulk of the rural population, led by politico-religious organizations, tended to remain a conservative majority of the society. Failures to accommodate the standpoints of the progressive elites and religious masses could have caused social conflicts and bitter political disputes.
Vietnam comes as an obvious case of conflict development. While Hồ Chí Minhs Indochinese Communist Party aimed at establishing a “proletarian dictatorship” and turning Vietnam into an instrument of Communist expansion in South-East Asia, the nationalist and religious parties wanted to regain the countrys independence and achieve a prosperous society of equal opportunities.
The divergent aims above determined deviating strategies, therefore conflicts were inevitable. The Vietnam War should have stopped as soon as the French had left Indochina, and the Vietnamese people should have prioritized economic and social development as well as its neighbors to live peacefully in a prospering South East Asia. Yet the normal course of events, which took place in other states of the regions, did not happen in Vietnam. The war lasted for decades and these days, Vietnam is among the poorest nations on earth.
From the cultural point of view, Marxist ideology still permeates Vietnamese society and the long-term survival of the Communist regime in Vietnam will mean destruction of the millennial Oriental culture there.
Vietnams realities and the countrys transformation into a Communist power in South East Asia used to be matters of concern for Hòa Hảo Buddhism, and other religions and revolutionary parties, who had opposed and led an armed struggle to forestall this course of events. Yet apart from political reasons, this conflict might be viewed as a culture clash. Counteraction of the Hòa Hảo Buddhism in the process of Vietnamese revolution somewhat reflected a cultural backlash of Asian peasant masses versus the cultural expansion of a radical Western ideology, namely Marxist materialism.
Therefore, the Vietnamese revolution in general and Hòa Hảo Buddhism in particular may give sociologists some food for thought relating to the interaction between religion and politics, as well as the role of religion with regard to economic and social changes in the East.
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