Nhân Văn–Giai Phẩm affair

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The Nhân Văn affair (or the Nhân Văn-Giai Phẩm movement, Vietnamese Phong Trào Nhân Văn-Giai Phẩm) was a political controversy in North Vietnam in the late 1950s.[1][2] Following a loosening of political restrictions with some similarities to the Chinese Hundred Flowers Campaign, there was a hardening of attitudes. Two periodicals were closed down and their political associates imprisoned or exiled. They published the Nhân Văn paper and the Giai Phẩm periodical, with articles demanding freedom of speech, and that certain human rights be respected. They also commented that Communist Party leaders had violated the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The affair is named for the suppression of two independent newspapers in North Vietnam in 1956:

Nhân Văn journal, 1955-1956[edit]

The official address of the Nhân Văn ("humanities") paper was 27 Hang Khay, Hanoi. Its editor was Phan Khôi, and its secretary was Tran Duy. The Nhân Văn group consisted of the dissident North Vietnamese intellectuals from 1955–58. This group was led by Phan Khôi, a revolutionary from Quảng Nam. Most of these intellectuals had participated in the movement against French colonialism. After the first phase of land reform, they became disillusioned and started a political movement demanding political freedom and democracy.

Giai phẩm Mùa xuân journal, 1956[edit]

The first edition of Giai Pham Mùa xuân ("Works of Spring"), also edited by Phan Khôi, was published in March, 1956. By December 1956, they had published two issues (Fall and Spring) of Giai Phẩm and five issues of Nhân Văn.

Among intellectuals that joined the group around the two journals were the lawyer Nguyễn Mạnh Tường, Dr Đặng Văn Ngữ, scholar Đào Duy Anh, philosopher Trần Đức Thảo, poets Trần Dần, Hoàng Cầm, Phùng Quán, Quang Dũng, Văn Cao, Nguyễn Hữu Đang, Lê Đạt and painter Bùi Xuân Phái.


On October 21–23, 1956, a delegation composed of 40 writers and artists discussed the questions of intellectual freedom with such prominent party cadres as Trường Chinh, Xuân Thủy, and Tố Hữu. Of the intellectuals present, the young poet Lê Đạt expressed particularly sharp criticism of the regime's intolerant cultural policies in general, and of To Huu and Hoai Thanh in particular. Among others, he condemned the imprisonment of the poet Trần Dần, and the harassment to which Văn Cao, a famous poet and composer, had been subjected. On the second day, it was the artists’ turn to speak. On the third day, Truong Chinh declared that the intellectuals’ complaints were justified, but he instructed the participants not to publish anything about the debate in the press. The Hungarian revolution of October 23 (and particularly the Soviet invasion of November 4) put an end to North Vietnam’s short-lived intellectual "thaw". The editors of Nhan Van intended to publish a special issue about the Hungarian events, whereupon the authorities banned the paper, and adopted a tougher attitude toward intellectual dissidence.[3]

On December 15, 1956, the Communist Party, having hesitated for two years, finally shut down the organization, closed the office, and arrested key participants. Some were imprisoned and others sent to reeducation camp (Vietnamese: trại học tập cải tạo) and others made to undertake self-criticism.[4] The event was publicised by Trăm Hoa Đua Nở Trên Đất Bắc (Hundreds of Flowers Blooming in the North), published in 1959 by the Congress of Cultural Freedom in Saigon, and in the West by Hoàng Văn Chí in The New Class in North Vietnam (Saigon, 1964).


After the Doi Moi reforms in the late 1980s, many of the imprisoned intellectuals were rehabilitated. The government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam recognized many of the writers and poets in the late 1990s and 2000s (decade) with many state awards, often posthumously.


  1. ^ Patricia M. Pelley Postcolonial Vietnam: New Histories of the National Past Page 253 2002 "... in the dissident Nhân văn–Giai phẩm Affair, Phan Khôi's involvement with the Research Committee was exceedingly brief."
  2. ^ Thu-Hương Nguyễn-Võ The Ironies of Freedom: Sex, Culture, and Neoliberal Governance in Vietnam. (9780295988504) - Page 68 2008 "..and from 1956 to 1958 with cultural opposition in the form of the ill-fated Nhân Văn–Giai Phẩm movement ..."
  3. ^ Balázs Szalontai, Political and Economic Crisis in North Vietnam, 1955-56. Cold War History, Vol. 5, Issue 4 (November 2005), pp. 395-426. Downloadable at https://www.academia.edu/6097481/Political_and_Economic_Crisis_in_North_Vietnam_1955_-_56 .
  4. ^ Vietnam: the politics of bureaucratic socialism - Page 165 Gareth Porter - 1993 "After hesitating for two years to act forcefully, the party closed Nhan Van in 1958, arrested the key group that published it, and compelled hundreds of writers, artists, and intellectuals to take a reeducation course and undertake self-criticism regarding their "bourgeois viewpoints. "
  • Boudarel, Georges, Cent fleurs ecloses dans la nuit du Vietnam. Communisme et dissidence 1954–1956. Paris: Jacques Bertoin, 1991.
  • Hoàng Văn Chí, Trăm hoa đua nở trên đất Bắc. Mặt trận Bảo vệ Tự do Văn hoá xuất bản. Saigon 1959.
  • Hoàng Văn Chí, From Colonialism to Communism: A Case History of North Vietnam New York: Praeger, (1964). Intro. by P. J. Honey. 8vo. Black cloth, stamped in gilt. xv, 252 p. 1st American ed.
  • Jamieson, Neil L. Understanding Vietnam. Berkeley, Los Angeles and Oxford: University of California Press, 1993.
  • McHale, Shawn. Vietnamese Marxism, Dissent, and the Politics of Postcolonial Memory: Tran Duc Thao, 1946-1993. The Journal of Asian Studies Vol. 61, No. 1 (February 2002), pp. 14–18.

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