Le Duan


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(b. 7 Apr. 1907, d. 10 July 1986).

First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party 1960–76; General Secretary 1976–86 Born in the Quang Tri Province (central Vietnam), he joined Ho Chi Minh's Revolutionary Youth League in 1928 and was a founding member of the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930. A member of its Central Committee since 1939, he was imprisoned (1940–5) and then organized the party's activities in southern Vietnam. Le Duan returned to Hanoi in 1957 as the leading party figure second only to Ho Chi Minh himself. As the latter's health declined during the 1960s, he became the party's most influential figure and de facto leader of North Vietnam. With great diplomatic skill he ensured both Soviet and Chinese support in the Vietnam War, as well as internal party unity in favour of aggressive policies towards South Vietnam. Having won the war in 1975, he tried to transform Vietnam into a major regional Communist power. This led to a futile but long-standing conflict with China, which escalated into sporadic violence. Instead of consolidating his own country, riven by decades of war, he actively intervened in neighbouring Laos and Cambodia. He dominated in state and party until his death.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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