Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History
Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History
The position of the ICL on the events of 1945-47 is much better known than that of La Lutte, its Trotskyist rival. Apart from the accounts by Comrade Ngo Van Xuyet above, we have the description below written by ‘Lucien’ who was a comrade who had escaped to France in 1947, where he worked among Vietnamese factory workers, returning to Saigon in 1954. He died of tuberculosis in 1982. It is thus impossible to accept the remark of Stephen Johns (in Stalinism and the Liberation of Vietnam, Fourth International (WRP), Volume 9 no.3, Autumn 1975, part 1, p.119) that “no Vietnamese Trotskyist has ever written an account of the Saigon events”.
Of secondary sources, John Sharpe’s description in Stalinism and Trotskyism in Vietnam (Spartacist, New York, 1978), an informative treatment that originally appeared as a series of articles in Workers Vanguard in 1973, also sympathises with the ICL’s views, as does that of Stig Eriksson.
The ICL criticised the support accorded to the Vietminh by the La Lutte group, and had a separate list. They considered that the formation of military forces was most important, advocating the arming of the people against the reorganised French and the British imperialist army of occupation. They founded a workers’ militia, and attempted to create a system of dual power to oppose both the Allies, setting up peoples’ committees of workers and peasants, among whom they had some 30 militants. They favoured the expansion of the revolution by the abolition of private property, of land to the peasants and the factories to the workers. In 1945 they had as yet no differences with the La Lutte group over the class characterisation of the Soviet state, such as appear in our document here. Trotsky quotes the La Lutte group’s description of October, the ICL’s predecessor, as “centrist” in Trotskyism and the PSOP, 15 July 1939, Leon Trotsky on France, New York 1979, p.241.
This programme comes from the archives of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (where it bears the number ‘Don no 69546, FOD Rs 445’), to whom our thanks are due, and here appears for the first time in English.
1. August 1945, sounding the knell of Japanese domination, marked the birth of the Vietnamese Revolution.
It was born in the gap created by the disarray of the ruling Japanese military authorities and the inability of the Allies to cause relief troops to come to the spot. The causes that gave birth to it are classic: the centuries-old slavery to which the Vietnamese people had been subjected by French imperialism, the misery and countless sufferings engendered by the last ‘war to end wars’ (two million dead during the 1945 famine in Tonkin), the growth in the political understanding of the masses, the knowledge they had of the inferiority of French imperialism caused by the military disasters it experienced when confronted with German imperialism, to the ‘yellow’ Japanese imperialism, and to the sensible organisation of the Vietminh.
II. The Vietnamese revolution could be claimed to encompass all classes and social layers, and all the political economic, religious, social, philosophical and cultural organisations of the Vietnamese, people. Saigon and Hanoi have witnessed enormous demonstrations of more than a million, recalling the great revolutionary days in Paris, where all the banners were mixed together. Even if the worker and peasant population is very much the basis and inexhaustible reserve of the Vietnamese resistance, many of the bourgeoisie and landowners, up to and including the Emperor Bao Dai (citizen Vinh Thuy today) and a very great number of intellectuals have carried on a great struggle,.
The Vietnamese Revolution is truly national and popular.
It has inaugurated the Vietnamese democratic republic with its own government, its own national assembly, its army and its finances.
III. (A) Dominated, however, as it is by the policy of a ‘bloc of classes’ of the Indochinese Communist Party, the strongest and best organised of all the parties that make up the Vietminh, the policy of the Vietnamese republican government defends primarily the class interests of the bourgeoisie and the landowners. The defence of private property (including the property of French imperialism), the defence of national integrity, a bourgeois parliament, finances and customs of an equally bourgeois type, together with an army, police and bureaucracy intended to guarantee private property are all crowned with a policy of building an independent economy – obviously a bourgeois one – away from the grip of the world imperialist economy.
As for the layers of the petty bourgeoisie, the republic will reserve a host of careers for them, in parliament, in the administration, in the police, in the army, in commerce, in agriculture, in diplomacy, etc.
With regard to the mass of the poor peasantry, the Ta-dien, nothing, or practically nothing. Obviously the Dia to (tenant farming system) will be reformed, but private landed property remains sacred and inalienable.
As for the still weak working class, it was only granted a slight amount of labour legislation.
However, since the Vietnamese bourgeoisie has turned out to be congenitally impotent, an impotence from which the French imperialism of the great industrial combines, trading companies and large plantations of the Bank of IndoChina never allowed it to break free, just as in another way the interests of the native gentry are intimately linked with and subordinated to the interests of French imperialism, this bourgeois policy of the Vietnamese republic has been shown to be unworkable.
Economic, and consequently political, independence is no more than a hollow dream. Agrarian revolution would have been considered a crime. Thus neither of the two great tasks of the democratic revolution came to be resolved; the dream of the Stalinist strategists has evaporated, largely because of themselves.
Even more so, they have sabotaged both the one and the other.
(B) In fact, confronted by imperialism, they merely practised the grovelling policy of cowardly pacifists. At the news of the defeat of the, Japanese, having straightaway seized power by a bold coup d’etat in Tonkin, they posed as democrats, boasting of their struggle on the side of the democratic Allies against Japanese militarism. They naively thought that the Sino-English imperialists whom they had received with open arms were going to grant them the independence promised by the Atlantic Charter. Their illusions were soon dispelled when General Gracey opened the gates of Nam-bo (in Cochin China) to the first troops of the puffed-up Leclerc, who in the meantime had been armed by Great Britain at a cost of three billion francs for the conquest of both Vietnam and Indochina.
Then the people, whom up till then the Stalinist leaders of the Vietminh had accustomed to bleat out the slogan “Hurrah Allied Forces”, who had been partly stirred up by revolutionary groupings, either extremist nationalists or International Communists, as if by instinct came to their senses and armed themselves spontaneously, some with sharpened bamboo sticks, some with hatchets, with machettes, with knives, and some with weapons that had been stolen or seized from Japanese soldiers, and organised themselves rapidly into popular militias and revolutionary peoples’ committees. The peasants began to take over the land and the workers the factories, mainly belonging to the French.
All these revolutionary measures were forbidden by the governmental committee of Nam-bo of Tran Van Giau, Nguyen Van Tao and Duong Bach Mai, all three of them ministers and leaders of the Indochinese Communist Party.
Arming the people! What a Trotskyist provocation to the Allies! It was up to the popular militias to surrender all their weapons, including the sharpened bamboo sticks, to the governmental committee who would hand them back to the Japanese, since they had to render account for them to the British, who had entrusted them with the maintenance of law and order. Revolutionary Committees! Yet another Trotskyist provocation! Only administrative committees are necessary. Land to the peasants! Factories to the workers! Yet more Trotskyist provocations!
Thus the Stalinist leaders had opposed all the popular initiatives that would have guaranteed national liberation and the agrarian revolution.
Their enemies are the defenders of the working people and of the armed revolutionary people, they are the supporters of the Fourth International, they are those who, at least during the first period of the resistance, the Stalinist leaders imprisoned, assassinated and offered as victims on the altar of the democratic Allies as represented by Gracey, for defending the poor peasants. It is thus understandable why numerous militants of the Fourth International as well as of the Hoa Hao were exterminated physically, and why it was necessary for the Stalinists to secure the liquidation of the Fourth International, for this was a sine qua non condition of their maintaining power and of their flirtation with imperialism.
(C) In spite of this attitude, or because of it, they were driven from the capital by the first French troops. Their ‘friend’ Gracey lifted not a little finger to defend them, just as he had never even allowed them to see him via the back stairs. They gave up Saigon without firing a single bullet and left the people to itself, to the fury of the enemy ... but also to its revolutionary militants.
Finding cadres within its own ranks, the people, angered by the flight of the Stalinist government, organised the resistance everywhere. It has lit up the bloody road of armed insurrection by a flame never to be forgotten that will yet astonish the world.
(D) Having recovered from their fright, our Stalinist ministers, trained as they were in the school of the Guomindang, then tried to regain the leadership of the movement of the insurrection, not without effecting the assassination of authentic revolutionary militants. But as always, they went from surrender to surrender.
First there was the suspension of hostilities in Nam-bofor the parleys with General Gracey that allowed the French reinforcements to arrive. Then there was the agreement of 6 March, which in exchange for the formal recognition of the Vietnamese Republic opened the gates of Tonkin to the troops of Leclerc, and finally the modus vivendi, a booby trap that in spite of the warnings of the revolutionary opposition allowed the Moutet-D’Argenlieu-Leclerc trio to finalise its plans for the reconquest of Tonkin and Annam. The entire Stalinist policy has betrayed the cause of the bourgeois democratic revolution, and has continually played the game of imperialism.
IV. Resistance, effective, violent and burning, is still continuing at present by the most sophisticated methods of the guerilla. The enemy, however, has reoccupied almost all the vital and strategic centres. It is, nonetheless, exhausted even by that. The permanent internal crisis in France (finance, food, supplies, interminable strikes, the threat of civil war), the financial incapacity of French imperialism to send and maintain an expeditionary force of between 250,000 and 500,000 men that would be necessary for the complete reconquest of Vietnam, and the revolts of other French colonies should and could have induced them to bargain with the Ho Chi Minh government. But there we are; he is of the Moscow obedience, and clerico-republican French reaction, following its yankee orchestral conductor, did not want any of it. For Vietnamese territory is coveted by Sino-American expansionism. Besides, it is likely to serve as a base for the future ‘war to end wars’.
Whilst one faction of the bourgeoisie went back to its old master, another faction ‘ for fear of seeing itself ruined by an interminable policy of ‘scorched earth’ (houses and factories burnt down, rice fields abandoned, trade ruined and communications cut), fearing the measures of ‘War Communism’ (confiscation of the harvest, of property and of requisitions of all kinds) – this faction of Nguyen Hai Than, of Nguyen Tuong Tam and Nguyen Van Sam has turned towards the ex-emperor Bao Dai to mediate with the Americans in exchange for a consideration.
These latter have systematically organised themselves, made a stand and regained their courage against the Stalinist policy of the Vietminh under the name of the National United Front.
Making themselves the echo of a more gigantic struggle, that of the USA-USSR, these two fronts have entered into open conflict, saturating Western Cochin China in blood. And so the Vietnamese drama continues, without any foreseeable way out for the moment.
What does, however, remain certain is that the Vietnamese working people and peasants, who did not struggle only in the end to remain inside the imperialist French Union, to allow itself to be still exploited and plundered, or to serve Sino-American interests, has shown itself to be satisfied neither by the Ho Chi Minh setup, nor by the set-up of Than Tam Sam (Nguyen Hai Than, Nguyen Tuong Tam and Nguyen Van Sam).
The Viet Hong organisation in Tonkin is already being talked about as being the revolutionary wing of the resistance. Groups for resistance to the end are being born practically everywhere.
In any case, negotiations could yet take place. Governmental combinations could halt the hostilities momentarily, though this does not appear probable.
But since nothing will be done to satisfy the deep aspirations of the people, at present organised and armed, the struggle will continue.
V. What has been the policy followed up till now by the working class political and trade union organisations of the metropolitan country as regards the Vietnamese revolution?
The Stalinist Party, wishing to see the tricolour of France floating over all its overseas territories, has betrayed the Leninist policy of the right of peoples to self-determination up to and including the right of separation from the metropolitan country. They have shown themselves to be accessories in this by their collaboration with the Bidault-Moutet and Ramadier-Moutet governments. Abstention during the vote for military credits for Indochina does not excuse the betrayal of its war minister. The support it has given to the Ho Chi Minh government has only been token. Will not, moreover, the prolongation of the war in Vietnam for certain aggravate the present crisis threatening the French finances (over 100 million per day is being gobbled up by the expedition to Vietnam), finally involving French imperialism with another Syria-Lebanon, at least? Its policy has in the end imprisoned Vietnam inside the French Union for the glory of a ‘strong and happy’ France, the France of Leclerc, of the Bank of IndoChina, of the rubber planters, of water, of electricity, etc., etc. ... obviously.
French imperial grandeur in danger could not find better defenders. Besides, isn’t the Stalinist policy of class collaboration and Millerandism a permanent betrayal of the Socialist proletariat and the oppressed people?
The Socialist Party, which has again become the leading governmental party 10 years after the Popular Front, has yet again revealed its thoroughly social-imperialist nature. Even the most experienced pen pushers of Le Populaire (of Paris) could not disagree with the fact that Bidault, Leclerc, D’Argenlieu, Moutet and its own Ramadier well and truly make up one and the same admirably balanced team. The truth is that the Socialist Party, characteristic as it is of the Fourth Republic, is parliamentarism, and is only there to make the Vietnamese pill palatable to the working people of France. History will one day tell us the amounts on the cheques that Moutet and Ramadier and sons have handled from Ganny, the planters and other sharks during their stay in Saigon. We must assign responsibility properly. But between them and us it is a question of war.
The Pivert-Rous tendency, the left wing of the Socialist Party, has indeed protested against the opportunism of their comrade ministers. But it only aimed at being able to replace them in order to realise a better policy of understanding imperialist interests. Isn’t Dechezelles joining ranks with the Stalinists in recommending the inclusion of Vietnam within the French imperialist union, for an agreement with the Ho Chi Minh government, may we add? What else could this ‘French Union’ be under the Fourth Republic, for ourselves and the working class, in the absence of a Socialist proletarian revolution, if not a union of exploiters and exploited, dominated by imperialism, naturally?
As for the CGT, its leadership, under the orders of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, has also failed in its duty of revolutionary support for colonial peoples in their struggle for liberation. Moreover, can we expect anything better from the bonzes, Jouhaux-Racamond-Frachon?
Faced with the Vietnamese revolution, all the great working class organisations of France have either howled with the wolf or have shown themselves t® be its accomplices.
The group of La Revue Internationaliste, pitifully, has only the attitude of a student amateur.
Only the Parti Communiste Internationaliste has adopted a correct attitude of unconditional revolutionary support. But, in its organ at least, it does not seem to have sketched out perspectives for the future.
VI. As far as we Internationalist Communists are concerned, we lay claim to the best traditions of Bolshevism on the national question: forever making the principles of the permanent revolution our own, we think that the resolution of the national-democratic tasks in Vietnam – which are pressing down more sharply than ever – can only be accomplished by the resolution of the revolutionary Socialist tasks. In other words, if for example we remain within the limits of the French empire, the true national liberation of Vietnam, as well as the agrarian revolution, can only be accomplished borne on the wings of the proletarian Socialist revolution in France (or in another advanced country), which will sweep along in its wake of Socialist liberation all the oppressed peoples in order to transform their national democratic revolution into a Socialist revolution, with the aim of building a Union of French Soviet Socialist Republics.
We therefore oppose to the imperialist slogans of the French Union that of the Union of French Socialist Republics.
If, therefore, the Vietnamese revolution is stagnating, for the time being, it is due to the lack of a revolutionary Socialist upsurge in the advanced countries.
To those who believe that the national liberation of Vietnam can be obtained by negotiations with French imperialism, with or without the mediation of other imperialisms, we say; we will only obtain this liberation by a concerted struggle of the Vietnamese worker and peasant population with the revolutionary proletariat of the metropolitan country, hand in hand with the other oppressed peoples.
To this end, given that French imperialism can only emerge from the present crisis by trampling upon the oppressed peoples of Africa and Asia, and by the installation of a military or a Fascist dictatorship, being faced with the tragic dilemma of Socialist revolution or military-Fascist reaction, our duty is not to hold back the Vietnamese resistance for whatever independence to the advantage of the national bourgeoisie and of imperialism, but to prolong it, to accentuate the general crisis of France, to help the revolts of the Madagascans and the Moroccans, and whilst waiting for the French revolutionary upsurge, to prepare for the transformation of the present revolution into a Socialist revolution. Outside of this way, there is no solution.
International Communist League (Vietnamese Section)
Updated by ETOL: 15.7.2003