In the second half of 1944, the majority of the roughly fourteen thousand Vietnamese workers who had arrived in France four years earlier, but remained stranded there following France's defeat in June 1940, took advantage of the power vacuum created by the liberation of France. They would launch a diasporic-metropolitan precursor of the Vietnamese August Revolution of 1945 by successfully claiming workers' rights and a sense of dignity they had previously been denied. Loosely adopting Hirschman's concepts of “exit, voice, and loyalty,” this essay investigates the strategies chosen by this subaltern imperial workforce to emancipate itself from the militarized labor camp system. It argues that different interests led the largely illiterate workers and the French-speaking supervisors and interpreters to opt for different strategies.

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