Ho Chi Minh

Open Letter to M. Leon Archimbaud

Deputy for Drome
Reporter on the Budget for the Colonies
Member of the Colonial High Council

First Published: La Paria, January 15, 1923
Source: Selected Works of Ho Chi Minh Vol. 1
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House
Transcription/Markup: Christian Liebl
Online Version: Ho Chi Minh Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2003


In your speech to the Chamber of Deputies you said that if you had wished to do so you could have denounced colonial scandals, but you prefer to pass over in silence the crimes and offences committed by your civilizers in the colonies. This is your right and it concerns only you, your conscience and your electors. As for us who have suffered and will continue to suffer every day from these ‘blessings’ of colonialism, we do not need you to tell us about them.

But when, writing in ‘Le Rappel’ you say that the facts pointed out by citizen Bourneton are false or exaggerated, you yourself ‘exaggerate’! First the Minister of Colonies himself was obliged to recognize that a ‘contemptuous state of mind towards native life’ exists. And that he ‘denied no act of brutality’ denounced by Deputy Boisneuf. And then can you deny, M. Archimbaud, that during the last few years, that is to say, following the war for ‘the rule of law’ for which 800,000 natives came to work ‘voluntarily’ or to be killed in France, that your civilizers - with impunity - have robbed, swindled, murdered or burnt alive Annamese, Tunisians and Senegalese?

You write next that acts of injustice are more numerous in France than in the colonies. Then allow me to tell you, M. Archimbaud, that one should not pretend to give lessons in equality or justice to others when one is unable to apply them at home. This is the most elementary logic, isn't it?

According to you, the doings of your colonial administrators are known, commented upon and controlled by the Governments General and the Ministry of Colonies. Hence it must be one of two things. Either you are hare-brained and have forgotten the Baudoins, the Darles, the Lucases and so many others making up the galaxy which is the honour and pride of your Colonial Administration, and who, after having committed heinous crimes, receive as punishment, only promotions and decorations. Or else you are treating your readers as complete fools.

You state that if France has sinned in colonial matters it is rather from an excess of generous sentiment than anything else. Will you tell us, M. Archimbaud, whether it is out of these generous sentiments that the natives are deprived of all rights to write, speak and travel, etc? Is it out of these same sentiments that the ignoble condition of 'native' is imposed on them, that they are robbed of their land only to see it given to the conquerors, and forced thereafter to work as slaves? You yourselves have said that the Tahitian race has been decimated by alcoholism and is disappearing. Is it also from an excess of generosity that you are doing all you can to intoxicate the Annamese with your alcohol and stupefy them with your opium?

You speak finally of ‘duty’, ‘humanity’ and ‘civilization’! What is this duty? You showed what it is throughout your speech. It is markets, competition, interests, privileges. Trade and finance are things which express your ‘humanity’. Taxes, forced labour, excessive exploitation, that is the summing up of your civilization!

While you are waiting to receive ‘one of the finest claims to glory that can be dreamt of,’ allow me to tell you, M. Archimbaud, that if Victor Hugo had known that you would write such s... tuff to-day in his newspaper, he would never have founded it.

Respectfully yours,

Nguyen Ai Quoc