Ho Chi Minh

An Open Letter To M. Albert Sarraut, Minister of Colonies

First Published: La Paria August 1, 1922
Source: Selected Works of Ho Chi Minh Vol. 1
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House
Transcription/Markup: Roland Ferguson and Christian Liebl
Online Version: Ho Chi Minh Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2003

Your Excellency,

We know very well that your affection for the natives; of the colonies in general, and the Annamese in particular is great.

Under your proconsulate the Annamese people have known true prosperity and real happiness, the happiness of seeing their country dotted all over with an increasing number of spirit and opium shops which, together with firing squads, prisons, ‘democracy’ and all the improved apparatus of modern civilization, are combining to make the Annamese the most advanced of the Asians and the happiest of mortals.

These acts of benevolence save us the trouble of recalling all the others, such as enforced recruitment and loans, bloody repressions, the dethronement and exile of kings, profanation of sacred places, etc.

As a Chinese poem says, ‘The wind of kindness follows the movement of your fan, and the rain of virtue precedes the tracks of your carriage.’ As you are now the supreme head of all the colonies, your special care for the Indochinese has but increased with your elevation. You have created in Paris itself a service having the special task - with special regard to Indo-China, according to a colonial publication - of keeping watch on the natives, especially the Annamese, living in France.

But ‘keeping watch’ alone seemed to Your Excellency’s fatherly solicitude insufficient, and you wanted to do better. That is why for some time now, you have granted each Annamese - dear Annamese, as Your Excellency says - private aides-de-camp. Though still novices in the art of Sherlock Holmes, these good people are very devoted and particularly sympathetic. We have only praise to bestow on them and compliments to pay to their boss, Your Excellency.

We are sincerely moved by the honour that Your Excellency has the extreme kindness to grant us and we would have accepted it with all gratitude if it did not seem a little superfluous and if it, did not excite envy and jealousy.

At a time when Parliament is trying to save money, and cut down administrative personnel; when there is a large budget deficit; when agriculture and industry lack labour; when attempts are being made to levy taxes on workers’ wages; and at a time when repopulation demands the use of all productive energies: it would seem to us anti-patriotic at such a time to accept personal favours which necessarily cause loss of the powers of the citizens condemned - as aides-de-camp - to idleness and the spending of money that the proletariat has sweated hard for.

In consequence, while remaining obliged to you, we respectfully decline this distinction flattering to us but too expensive to the country.

If Your Excellency insists on knowing what we do every day, nothing is easier: we shall publish every morning a bulletin of our movements, and Your Excellency will have but the trouble of reading.

Besides, our time-table is quite simple and almost unchanging.

Morning: from 8 to 12 at the workshop.

Afternoon: in newspaper offices (leftist of course) or at the library.

Evening: at home or attending educational talks.

Sundays and holidays: visiting museums or other places of interest.

There you are!

Hoping that this convenient and rational method will give satisfaction to Your Excellency, we beg to remain....