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pointed, and a theme employed in one group is often inconsistent with one employed in another. For example, farmers are told that all the NLF asks from them is a small financial donation; the women are told the NLF army will protect their village and provide complete security; the youths may be urged to enlist in the NLF army and may be told that they must be prepared to sacrifice even their lives for the Revolution.
The villagers then reassemble in a large meeting that becomes participational. Questions are solicited, including those critical of the NLF. The team chief, a master at handling the barbed comment or loaded question, handles these with ease. Some questions may be fed him by covert Party members living in the village.
In the midst of this question period the team chief, in a demonstration of omniscience, casually remarks that he knows there are enemy agents in the group. He points to Mr. Ba and says “I know he is an enemy agent and will report to the village chief tomorrow about this meeting.” The villagers know this is true. But the team chief takes no action against Mr. Ba and simply goes on with the meeting.
Then comes the pièce de résistance, a dramatic skit presented by the team. It is a highly entertaining little drama set in Saigon, involving a taxi driver played by the team chief, a Vietnamese girl played by the woman team member, and an American played by another team member. The American accosts the young girl and makes an indecent proposal that is overheard by the taxi driver, who comes to her rescue. There is a lengthy dialogue between the taxi driver and the American—full of double entendres and ribald remarks at the expense of the American, which delights the villagers. The drama becomes a verbal contest between the Vietnamese and the American, and the American is thoroughly confused, deflated, shattered, and defeated. The taxi driver and the girl go off together.
Then the team departs, scattering leaflets in its wake or pasting them to trees and walls, and it hoists and NLF flag.
THE AGIT-PROP CADRE
Agit-prop activity rested on the fundamental NLF assumption that the personal intermediary was the most potent form of communication. On the agit-prop, he was constantly told, rested the burden of the Revolution. A steady flow of messages from higher headquarters constantly reminded him of the complexity of his task and the high degree of skill that he must employ daily, for the NLF knew what all professional communicators know: that the simple communication of facts is often ineffectual in changing men's opinions, majority opinion reinforced by social pressure counts for much more than expert opinion or leadership assertions, and people tend to misinterpret what they hear or read to suit their own preconceptions. And the NLF knew that, working within such complexities, technique counted for all.
Next to technique, the personality of the individual agit-prop cadre was of chief importance. The ideal cadre was a model of dedication, sobriety, skillfulness.“ Agit-prop cadres were chosen, a directive noted, “from among those who have a clean past, who are virtuous in behavior, and who known how to arouse the masses”.5
The previously cited Central Committee directive listed the duties of the agit-prop cadres in a general way:
To direct the masses toward political struggle, armed struggle, or action among troops [by) directing the thinking of the masses toward the Revolution; to arouse hatred for the enemy in the masses and at the same time to enlighten them about their interests; to consolidate their faith and generate revolutionary enthusiasm. The cadre directive listed his duties specifically as to: (1) promote hatred of the enemy; (2) show the people it is in their interest to support the Revolution, for it serves them; (3) teach the people the meaning and techniques of the political struggle ...; (4) develop the people's faith and selfconfidence in achieving revolutionary successes and maintain their enthusiasm. As GVN battlefield interdiction began to take a heavy toll among agit-prop cadres and as the NLF grew in size, increased numbers of cadres were required, and infiltration by Northern-trained agit-prop cadres increased. Several of those who were captured gave interrogators a word picture of the training they had received in the North. It consisted of two parts: a session in political indoctrination and one in agit-prop techniques. The first, usually lasting two weeks, involved indoctrination in these major subjects: the world-wide advance of communism; socioeconomic progress being made in the DRV; the role of youth, a chief target in the task of building socialism and of liberating the South; the sociopolitical situation in the South; and the NLF and its successes. At the end of this period the inept were weeded out and final selection of infiltrators made. The remaining group then received about ten days of further training in the specific techniques of agit-prop work.
The outer limits of accomplishment of the agit-prop cadres, in objective terms, appeared to be these: At best they hoped to shape villager opinion to such a degree that the villager would support the cause of his own volition; the least they tried to do, when greater achievement was not possible, was to confuse the opinions and emotions of the villager so that he became indecisive and thus ineffectual in providing support to the GVN. Within this range the agit-prop cadres sought to instigate strife along class lines. They dealt in misinformation, exaggeration, and distortion. They concealed or misstated Communist intentions. They drew attention to and inflated : eal or trumped-up village grievances.
Wooly-mindedness and lack of specificity were the major short-comings of the cadres, who were instructed to allow their work to grow naturally out of the exigencies of the moment. Cadres were instructed to
study and understand both technique and policy. ... Good technique does not consist of collecting materials about our policies and programs and then giving a “certified copy” to the masses. Neither does it mean picking up a megaphone and explaining general policies in a general way. It means ceaseless effort and taking detailed care to persuade the masses, to clarify their thinking. ... Many cadres simply distribute slogans, and the result is that the masses know the slogans but do not know what actions to take.
Specificity of theme directed toward specific social elements was also stressed:
Among poor peasants it is necessary to stress the class-conflict viewpoint Among middle-class peasants, stress our agrarian policies, that peasants will be owners of land and rice fields. ... Among religious groups, show how the Revolution will bring them concrete benefits in the form of religious freedom, and at the same time create class consciousness and strengthen the revolutionary struggle. . ! Among the intermediate classes, those between the worker-peasant class and the petite bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie, according to individual and group understanding about the NLF and the Party, conduct cl-ver agitation to widen the Front and Party influence; for instance, stress and emphasize the just and correct policies of the Front and the Party. Among the masses, popularize the Front and Party plans and programs, the successes scored in socialist and Communist countries. . . . When the enemy talks about famine in North Vietnam do not deny there is famine but talk about the unending increases in food production in the North. The enemy will say the Communists are bloodthirsty dictators. We should point to their crimes. . . Maintain the upper hand in counterpropaganda. Meet the enemy's anticommunism charges by promoting class consciousness through the dan van movement.
An agit-prop cadre could operate in a team or alone. In the latter case he was told to
take every opportunity for agitation. . . . On a busy train, in a bar, at a private party, make the subject lively and raise the level of the class consciousness of the individuals present according to the circumstances. ... But be careful not to reveal yourself and avoid talking too much. ... Here is a good example: Take a newspaper that carries a story about a certain man named A who committed suicide because he was unable to find a job. Bring up the subject of the newspaper story and then lead the conversation to the general subject of jobs, unemployment, the difficulties of earning a living, etc. In this way people are invited to complain about the hardships they face. From this seek an opportunity to incriminate American aid as
a source of this state of unemployment and starvation. Also commonly employed in the earlier days was the “root-and link" device. A Party member looked for a prospective "root" whom he would meet, talk with, and win over, after which he would educate him. This root then became a “link” who looked for other roots, and thus a "chain" was formed. This did not necessarily involve Party membership or any form of formal organization. It was a transmission belt for propaganda, highly directed, specifically oriented, and very personal. The root-andlink device was an effort to make use of traditional channels of communication. NLF output referred to it and similar devices as word-of-mouth propaganda, which it described as:
the principal medium of both covert and overt propaganda. It is direct. It enables us to present our views clearly and to understand immediately the response of the individual. We can by this means offer on the spot a solution to his problems and at the same time mobilize thinking. Agit-prop teams also employed a vast number of psychological tricks, of which the following is an example. After the important NLF victory at Ap Bac in 1963, guerrilla units moving away from the battlefield passed through villages carrying, on a stretcher-like affair, a bulky item covered by a huge blue cloth. The band would stop for water in a village and the four bearers of the cloth-covered apparatus would set it down without comment. Villagers would gather around and exhibit curiosity about what was under the cloth. The guerrilla leader warned them not to get near it. Then, as their curiosity reached the bursting point, the leader would say: “Under this blue cloth is a new secret weapon. By means of it we shot down dozens and dozens of the enemy's helicopters at Ap Bac." The band would then finish its marching break, the four bearers would pick up the device, still covered by the blue cloth, and depart. Other techniques employed by agit-props included those that piqued the Vietnamese sense of humor:
* * * *
It is possible to use riddles during such events (the incident that the agit-prop cadre is captitalizing on), such as this one we used in the (1960) presidential elections: "The head is fascist. The rear is colonialist. The hands and feet are feudalist. The mouth is republican. What is it? (Answer: Diem).” Once these have been devised it is necessary to spread them to the towns and cities. . . . Ask (loaded) questions of the administration authorities or of soldiers and officers. One can pretend to be an ignorant farmer and ask an army officer in the market place: “What exactly have the people of Binh Ninh done to cause the killing of so many of
them?” This technique can also be used in the binh van movement. The individual behavior of the agit-prop cadres received close supervisory attention by the leadership, for the cadre was the NLF representative most often seen by the villagers, and their opinion of him to a great degree determined their attitude toward the more abstract aspects of the NLF.
NOTES 1. See the author's monograph Viet Cong Communication Techniques (Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for International Studies, 1966; No. C/ 66–11), which treats in some detail the methods employed by the NLF in communicating its ideas. For a much shorter version of this monograph see the author's Vietnam: Communication Factors of Revolutionary Guerrilla War (Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for International Studies, 1965; No. C/65–16). 2. Originally the standard term for agit-prop in Vietnamese was tuyen huan, a contraction of tuyen truyen, meaning propaganda, and huan luyen, literally, training, but more precisely agitation in the Communist sense. Beginning in mid-1962 the NLF started using the term tuyen van giao, usually abbreviated as TVG, a contraction of tuyen truyen (propaganda), van nghe (meaning culture or letters and arts or literature and the fine arts, similar to the French beaux arts et belles lettres or la literature et les beaux arts, but with a Confucian literary overtone), and giao duc (meaning education or, in the Marxist sense, indoctrination). After mid-1962 the NLF generally employed the TVG term, and the GVN continued to refer to these activities as tuyen huan, or agit-prop; at the same time the NLF continued to use the term chinh tri (political) tuyen truyen or, roughly, political propaganda. The significant difference is that TVG referred to communication activities within the NLF system, the liberated area, and among the masses, and chinh tri tuyen truyen connoted activities directed against the GVN. In order to maintain this distinction, the only important one to the reader, and to simplify reference as much as possible, the term agit-prop is used here to mean cadre TVG activities and the word propaganda by itself to mean those mass activities that are part of the struggle movement and designed to influence the enemy. Since at the lower echelons virtually all communication activity was in the hands of a single individual, the agit-prop (or TVG) cadre, this oversimplification of usage cannot be regarded as particularly serious. What must be borne in mind, however, is the distinction between the agit-prop (or TVG) work by the cadres seeking to motivate the masses and the propaganda work by the masses themselves as part of their struggle movement. 3. In Vietnamese, chuan bi nhan tam, literally, “preparing man's heart": to prepare the people for the coming drive, that is, to shape public opinion or win people's support. 4. A cadre directive noted that “the purpose (of agit-prop work) is to mobilize the people's thinking. This is an ideological struggle that is complex and hard to carry out. It requires
time and painstaking efforts. A cadre should be patient, should follow up on each individual, and should repeat the same theme over and over. He should endeavor ceaselessly. He should build durable support and should not become discouraged. He should set an example for the masses, for unless we do how can we expect the masses to follow us?. . . . He should behave modestly, listen to the people talk. . . . He should be humble....' 5. The best cadres, it added, are those who “ceaselessly study (Party) directives and policies, consolidate their thinking, and improve their virtuous revolutionary behavior. At the same time they remain humble and listen to the judgment of the masses. ...
... Cadres not only must know programs and policies but also must feel hatred when they witness killings and oppression of the masses. They must know the secret thoughts and interests of the masses, must share their joys and sadness, must be determined to work for the good of the masses, and must make every effort to influence the masses. They must suffer the hardships of the masses, for only in this way can they feel the suffering and sorrows of the masses. If cadres lack feeling, their propaganda will be emotionless and will not arouse the masses. Above all, ... cadres must accept responsibility for the words they speak.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY, CHAPTER X