Written: January, 1952
First Published: In the Review For a Lasting Peace, For a People’s Democracy on April 4, 1952 under pen name Din
Source: Selected Works of Ho Chi Minh Vol. 3
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House
Transcription/Markup: Roland Ferguson and Christian Liebl
Online Version: Ho Chi Minh Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2003
I avail myself of the short New Year holiday to write these lines.
More fortunate than other peoples, we, the Vietnamese people, like our friends, the Chinese and the Korean peoples, enjoy two New Year festivals every year. One New Year Day is celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar and falls on the First of January. On that day, which is the official New Year Day, only government offices send greetings to one another. Another New Year Day, the Tet, is observed according to the lunar calendar, and, this year, falls on a day of the closing week of January. This traditional New Year Day, celebrated by the people, usually lasts from three to seven days in peacetime.
In our country Spring begins in the first days of January. At present, a splendid springtime prevails everywhere. The radiant sunbeams bring with them a merry and healthy life. Like an immense green carpet, the yoang rice plants cover the fields, heralding a coming bumper harvest. The birds warble merrily in evergreen bushes. Here winter lasts only a few days and rarely the thermometer falls to 10°c above zero. As far as snow is concerned, generally speaking, it is unknown for all our people.
Before during the Tet festival, pictures and greetings written on red paper could be seen stuck at entrance doors of palaces as well as tiny thatched huts. Today these greetings and pictures are replaced by slogans urging struggle and labour, such as “Intensify the emulation movement for armed struggle, production and economic development!”, “The war of Resistance will win!”, “Combat bureaucracy, corruption and waste!”, “The national construction will certainly be crowned with success”!
During the Tet festival, people are clad in their most beautiful garments. In every family the most delicious foods are prepared. Religious services are performed in front of the ancestral altars. Visits are paid between kith and kin to exchange greetings. Grown-ups give gifts to children; civilians send presents to soldiers... In short, it can be said that this is a spring festival.
Before telling you the situation of Viet Nam, may I send you and all our comrades my warmest greetings!
Let us review Viet Nam’s situation in 1951.
After their defeat in the China-Viet Nam border campaign in October 1950 - the greatest reverse they had ever suffered in the whole history of their colonial wars, which involved for them the loss of five provinces at one time - Cao Bang, Lang Son, Lao Cat, Thai Nguyen and Hoa Binh - the French colonialists began the year 1951 with the despatch of General de Lattre de Tassigny to Viet Nam.
They resorted to total war. Their manoeuvre was to consolidate the Bao Dai puppet government, organise puppet troops and redouble spying activities. They set up no man’s lands of from 5 to 10 kilometres wide around areas under their control and strengthened the Red River delta by a network of 2,300 bunkers. They stepped up mopping-up operations in our rear, applied the policy of annihilation and wholesale destruction of our manpower and potential resources by killing our compatriots, devastating our countryside, burning our ricefields, etc... In a word, they followed the policy of “using Vietnamese to fight Vietnamese and nursing the war by means of warfare”.
It is on orders and with the assistance of their masters, the American interventionists, that the French colonialists performed the above-mentioned deeds.
Among the first Americans now living in Viet Nam (of course in areas under French control) there are a fairly noted spy, Donald Heat, ambassador accredited to the puppet government and a general, head of the U. S. military mission.
In September 1951, de Lattre de Tassigny went to Washington to make his report and beg for aid.
In October, General Collins, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, came to Viet Nam to inspect the French Expeditionary Corps and puppet troops.
In order to show their American masters that U.S. aid is used in a worthwhile manner at present as well as in the future, in November, de Lattre de Tassigny attacked the chief town of Hoa Binh province. The result of this “shooting offensive” which the reactionary press in France and in the world commented on uproariously, was that the Viet Nam People’s Army held the overwhelming majority of enemy troops tightly between two prongs and annihilated them. But this did not prevent de Lattre de Tassigny and his henchmen from hullabalooing that they had carried the day!
At the very beginning of the war, the Americans supplied France with money and armaments. To take an example, 85 percent of weapons, war materials and even canned food captured by our troops were labelled “made in U.S.A.”. This aid had been stepped up all the more rapidly since June 1950 when the U.S.A. began interfering in Korea. American aid to the French invaders consisted in airplanes, boats, trucks, military outfits, napalm bombs, etc.
Meanwhile, the Americans compelled the French colonialists to step up the organisation of four divisions of puppet troops with each party footing half the bill. Of course, this collusion between the French and American aggressors and the puppet clique was fraught with contradictions and contentions.
The French colonialists are now landed in a dilemma: either they receive U.S. aid and be then replaced by their American “allies”, or they receive nothing, and be then defeated by the Vietnamese people. To organise the puppet army by means of pressganging the youth in areas under their control would be tantamount to swallowing a bomb when one is hungry: a day will come when at last the bomb bursts inside. However not to organise the army on this basis would mean instantaneous death for the enemy because even the French strategists have to admit that the French Expeditionary Corps grows thinner and thinner and is on the verge of collapse.
Furthermore, U.S. aid is paid for at a very high price. In the enemy held areas, French capitalism is swept aside by American capitalism. American concerns like the Petroleum Oil Corporation, the Caltex Oil Corporation, the Bethlem Steel Corporation, the Florid Phosphate Corporation and others, monopolise rubber, ores, and other natural resources of our country. U.S. goods swamp the market. The French reactionary press, especially Le Monde is compelled to acknowledge sadly that French capitalism is now giving way to U.S. capitalism.
The U.S. interventionists have nurtured the French aggressors and the Vietnamese puppets, but the Vietnamese people do not let anybody delude and enslave them.
People’s China is our close neighbour. Her brilliant example gives us a great impetus. Not long ago the Chinese people defeated the U.S. imperialists and won an historical victory. The execrated Chiang Kai-shek was swept from the Chinese mainland, though he is more cunning than the placeman Bao Dai. Can the U.S. interventionists, who were drummed out of China and are now suffering heavy defeats in Korea, conquer Viet Nam? Of course, not!
Defeated on the battlefield, the French colonialists retaliated upon unarmed people and committed abominable crimes. Hereunder are a few examples:
As everywhere in the enemy controlled areas, on October 15, 1951 at Ha Dong, the French soldiers raided the youths even in the streets and pressganged them into the puppet army. And there as everywhere, the people protested against such acts. Three young girls stood in a line across the street in front of the trucks packed with the captured youngsters to prevent them from being sent to concentration camps. These courageous acts were worthy of heroine Raymonde Dien’s1 The French colonialists revved the engines and, in a split second, our three young patriots were run over.
In October 1951, the invaders staged a large-scale raid in Thai Binh province. They captured more than 16,000 people - most of whom were old people, women and children - and penned them in a foot-ball field surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by soldiers and dogs.
For four days, the captives were exposed in the sun and rain, ankle-deep in mud. They received no food and no drinking water. Over 300 of them died of exhaustion and disease.
The relatives and friends who brought food to the captives were roughly manhandled, and the food was thrown into the mud and trampled under foot. Mr. Phac, a surgeon of 70, who tried to save the victims’ lives was shot dead on the spot as also were a number of pregnant women.
Incensed by these barbarous acts, the townsfolk staged. a strike and sought ways and means to help the internees. The determination of the population compelled the French colonialists to let the food in, but on order of Colonel Charton of the French Expeditionary Corps, it was declared a donation from the U.S.A.
On October 38, 1951, Le Van Lam, 27, from Ha Coi, a puppet soldier who had been saved from drowning by an old fisherman at Do Son, said after he had come to: “On October 37, the French embarked me as well as one hundred other wounded men on board a steamer, saying they would send us to Saigon for medical attention. In the night, when the ship was in the offing, they threw us one by one into the water. Fortunately, I managed to snatch at a piece of floating wood and swam landward. I was unconscious when I was saved ”.
Hereunder is the confession of Chaubert, a French captain captured at Tu Ky on November 35, 1951, “The French High Command gave us an order to destroy everything in order to transform this region into a desert”, he said. “This order was observed to the letter. Houses were burnt down. Animals and poultry were killed. Havoc was wrought to gardens and plants and trees hewn down. Ricefields and crops were set afire. Many days on end, black smoke covered the sky and there was not a single soul alive, except the French soldiers. The conflagration lasted until November 25, when the Viet Nam People’s Army unexpectedly attacked and annihilated our unit.”
The examples quoted above can be counted by the thousands and are sufficient proof to substantiate the essence of the French colonialists’ and U.S. interventionists’ “civilisation”.
In 1951, the Vietnamese people made a big stride forward. In the political field, the founding of the Viet Nam Workers’ Party, the amalgamation of the Viet Minh and Lien Viet, the setting up of the Committee of action for Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos, greatly consolidated the unity and enhanced the confidence of the Vietnamese people; they strengthened the alliance between the three brother countries in their struggle against the common enemies - the French colonialists and U.S. interventionists - in order to realise their common goal, i.e. national independence.
So we were able to frustrate the enemy’s policy of “Divide and rule”.
In the economic field, the National Bank of Viet Nam has been established, our finance is placed under centralised and unified supervision, and communications have been re-organised.
Formerly we demolished roads to check the enemy’s advance; at present we repair them to drive the enemy to an early defeat. Formerly we did our utmost to sabotage roads, now we encounter great difficulties in mending them, but have managed to complete our work quite rapidly. This is a hard job, especially when we lack machines. However, thanks to the enthusiasm and sacrificing spirit of our people, this work was carried through. To avoid enemy air raids, it was done at night by workers even knee deep in water. In the bright torch light, hundreds of men, women and young people dug the earth to fill the gaps in the roads, broke stones, felled trees and built bridges. As in any other work, here the workers’ enthusiasm was roused by emulation drives. I am sure that you would be astonished to see teams of old volunteers from 60 to 80 years competing with teams of young workers.
Here it must be pointed out that in the free zone, most of the work is done at night - children go to school, housewives go to market and guerillas go to attack the enemy...
Great successes have been achieved in the elaboration of the agricultural tax. Formerly the peasants were compelled to pay taxes of various kinds and make many other contributions; nowadays, they have only to pay a uniform tax in kind. Households whose production does not exceed 60 kilogrammes of paddy per year are exempt from tax. Households who harvest greater quantities have to pay a graduated tax. Generally speaking, the taxes to be paid do not exceed 20 per cent of the total value of the annual production. To collect taxes in time, the Party, the National United Front and the Government have mobilised a great number of cadres to examine the new tax from the political and technical points of view. After their study, these cadres go to the countryside and hold talks and meetings to exchange views with the peasants and explain to them the new taxation policy.
After this preparatory period, the peasants of both sexes appoint a committee composed of representatives of the administration and various people’s organisations whose duty it is to estimate the production of each household and fix the rate to be paid after approval by a Congress in which all the peasants take part.
This reform was welcomed by the population who enthusiastically took part in this tax collection.
Agricultural tax has been established simultaneously with the movement for increased production. At present the Government possesses adequate stocks of foodstuffs to cater for the soldiers and workers.
So we have thwarted the enemy’s cunning plot of blockading us to reduce us to starvation.
As far as mass education is concerned, in 1951 we scored worthwhile results. Though great difficulties were created by the war, such as frequent changes of school site, schooling at night time, lack of school requisites, the number of schools rose from 2,712 in 1950 to 3,591 in 1951 with an attendance of 293,256 and 411,038 pupils respectively.
In south Viet Nam the situation is all the more ticklish. There, the free zones exist everywhere, but they are not safe. Children go to their class-rooms - in fact there are only single class-rooms and not schools in the strict meaning of this word - with the same vigilance as their fathers and brothers display in guerilla fighting. Despite that, at present there are in south Viet Nam 3,332 classrooms attended by 111,700 pupils.
The liquidation of illiteracy is actively undertaken. In the first half of 1951, there were in zone III, zone V and Viet Bac zone, 324,000 people who were freed from illiteracy and 350,000 others who began learning. During the same period illiteracy was wiped out in 53 villages and 3 districts (one district is composed of from 5 to 10 villages).
People’s organisations opened 837 classes attended by 9,800 public employees.
The Party, National United Front, Government, the General Confederation of Labour and the Army have periodically opened short-term political training courses (about one week).
In short, great efforts are being made in mass education.
In 1951, the relations between the Vietnamese people and foreign countries were developed and strengthened.
For the first time, in 1951, various delegations of the Vietnamese people visited great People’s China and heroic Korea. Through these visits, the age-old friendship between our three countries has been strengthened.
The delegation of the Vietnamese youth to the Youth Festival in Berlin, the delegation of the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour to the Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions in Warsaw and the delegation to the World Peace Conference in Vienna, have returned to Viet Nam, filled with confidence and enthusiasm. At various meetings and in the press, members of these delegations told the Vietnamese people the tremendous progress they had witnessed in the people’s democracies and the warm friendship shown by the brother countries to the Vietnamese people who are struggling for national independence and freedom.
Those of the delegates who had the chance of visiting the Soviet Union are overjoyed because they can tell us of the great triumph of socialism and the evergrowing happiness enjoyed by the Soviet people.
Upon returning from the Youth Festival, Truong Thi Xin, a young woman worker said, “The youth in the Soviet Union received us most affectionately during our stay in their great country.”
The talks held by these delegates are living lessons most useful for the inculcation of internationalism.
“Peace in Viet Nam!”, “Withdraw foreign troops from Viet Nam!”, were the claims formulated in a resolution passed by the plenary session of the World Peace Council held in Vienna, claims which have given great enthusiasm to the Vietnamese people.
Last year was a year of brilliant victories for our People’s Army, and a year of heavy defeats and losses in men and materials for the invaders. According to incomplete figures and excluding the China-Viet Nam border campaign in October 1950, during which the French army lost more than 7,000 men (annihilated and captured) in 1951 the enemy lost 37,700 officers and men, (P. O. W.s included). He will never forget the Vinh Yen - Phuc Yen campaign (north Viet Nam) in January last year during which he received a deadly blow from the Viet Nam people’s Army. He will not forget the strategic points of Quang Yen (road No 18), Ninh Binh, Phu Ly and Nghia Lo in north Viet Nam where our valiant fighters crushed him to pieces in March, May, June and September. But the most striking battle was waged in December in the Hoa Binh region which left to the enemy no more than 8,000 men alive. Our heroic militiamen and guerillas who operate in the north, centre and south of Viet Nam have caused heavy losses to the enemy. From the outbreak of the war of aggression unleashed by the French, their Expeditionary Corps has lost 170,000 men (in killed, wounded and captured), while the Vietnamese regular army and guerilla units have grown stronger and stronger.
Guerilla warfare is now being intensified and expanded in the enemy controlled areas, especially in the Red River delta. Our guerillas are particularly active in the provinces of Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, Ha Nam, Ninh Binh, Ha Dong, Hung Yen, and Thai Binh. Hereunder are some facts.
Early in October 1951, 14 enemy regiments carried out a large scale raid in the districts of Duyen Ha, Hung Nhan, and Tien Hung. From October 1 to October 4, our guerillas waged violent battles. In three points (Cong Ho, An My and An Binh) 500 French soldiers were annihilated. All these victories were due to the heroism of our soldiers and guerillas and to the sacrifice of the entire Vietnamese people. In each campaign tens of thousands of voluntary workers of both sexes helped the armymen. As a rule they worked in very hard conditions, in pelting rain, on muddy and steep mountain tracks, etc.
Thousands of patriots have left the enemy controlled areas to take part in the above-mentioned task. It is wortli mentioning here that the youth have set up many shock units.
The following example will illustrate the great patriotism and initiative of our people:
In the Hoa Binh campaign, our army had to cross the Lo river. French troops were stationed along the right bank, while their boats continually patrolled the river. In these conditions how could the crossing be made without the enemy noticing it?
But the local population managed to find a way. In a locality some dozen kilometres from the Lo river, they called in a great number of craft and through roundabout paths, carried them to the spot assigned at scheduled time. As soon as our troops had crossed the river, the inhabitants carried their craft back so as to keep secrecy and avoid enemy air raids.
Here I wish to speak of the women who sponsor the soldiers. Most of them are old peasants; many have grandchildren. They help our officers and men and nurse the wounded as if they were their own sons. Like “goddesses protecting our lives” they take care of those of our fighters who work in enemy controlled areas. Their deeds are highly esteemed and appreciated.
As is said above, the French colonialists are compelled to set up puppet troops in order to offset the losses suffered by the French Expeditionary Corps. But this is a dangerous method for the enemy.
First, everywhere in the enemy-held areas, the population struggles against the enemy raiding and coercing the youth into their army.
Second, the people so mobilised have resorted to actions of sabotage. Take an example: Once, the Quisling governor of Tonking, styling himself “elder of the youth” paid a visit to the officers’ training school of second degree at Nam Dinh. On hearing this news, the cadets prepared in his honour a “dignified” reception by writing on the school wall the slogans “Down with Bao Dai!”, “Down with the puppet clique!”, while Bao Dai’s name was given to the lavatory.
During this visit, the cadets made so much noise that the governor was unable to speak. They put to him such a question as, “Dear elder! Why do you want to use us as cannon fodder for the French colonialists?” A group of cadets contemplated giving him a thrashing, but, he managed to take French leave like a piteous dog.
Many units of the puppet army secretly sent letters to President Ho Chi Minh, saying they were waiting for a propitious occasion to “pass over to the side of the Fatherland” and they were ready to “carry out any orders issued by the Resistance, despite the danger they might encounter.”
As soon as de Lattre de Tassigny set foot in Viet Nam early in 1951, he boasted of the eventual victories of the French troops.
After his defeat and disillusion at the beginning of 1952, he realised that he would soon meet with complete failure.
The fate of the French colonialists’ policy brought misgivings to the most reactionary circles in France.
In the paper Information issued on October 22, 1951, Daladier2 one of the ‘criminals’ in the Munich affair, wrote, “Delving into the real reason of our desperate financial situation, we shall see that one of the underlying causes was lack of ripe consideration of our policy over Indo-China... In 1951, an expenditure of as much as 330,000 million francs was officially reserved for the Indo- Chinese budget. Due to the constant rise in the prices of commodities and increase in the establishments of the French Expeditionary Corps which number 180,000 at present, it should be expected that in 1952 this expenditure will increase by 100,000 million francs. We have the impression that the war in Indo-China has caused exceedingly grave danger to our financial as well as military situation... It is impossible to foresee a rapid victory in a war which has lasted five years and is in many ways reminiscent of the war unleashed by Napoleon3 against Spain and the expedition against Mexico during the Second Empire. 4
In its issue of December 13, 1951, the paper Intransigeant wrote, “France is paralysed by the war in Indo-China. We have gradually lost the initiative of operation because our main forces are now pinned down in the plains of north Viet Nam... In 1951, 330,000 million francs were earmarked for the military budget of Indo-China, while according to the official figures, our expenditure amounted to over 350,000 million. A credit of 380,000 million francs will be allotted to the 1952 budget but in all probability the mark of 500,000 million will be reached. Such is the truth... Whenever France tried to take some action, well, she immediately realised that she was paralysed by the war in Indo-China.”
In its number of December 16, 1951, Franc Tireur wrote, “General Vo Nguyen Giap’s battalions, which are said to have been annihilated and to have a shattered morale, are now launching counter-offensives in the Hanoi region... It is more and more obvious that the policy we have followed up to the present time, has failed. Today it is clear that it has met with complete failure.”
Hereunder is an excerpt from a letter sent to his colleagues by captain Gazignoff, of the French Expeditionary Corps, captured by us on January 7, 1952 in the Hoa Binh battle. “Taken prisoner a few days ago, I am very astonished at the kind and correct attitude of the Viet Nam People’s army men towards me... The Vietnamese troops will certainly win final victory, because they struggle for a noble ideal, a common cause, and are swayed by a self-imposed discipline. It is as clear as daylight that the Viet Nam People’s Army will crush the French Expeditionary Corps, but it is ready to receive any of us who will pass over to its side.
“French officers, non-commissioned officers and men who want to go over to the Viet Nam People’s Army will be considered as friends and will be set free.”
In 1952, Viet Nam will embark on a programme which includes the following points:
- To buckle down to production work and consolidate the national economy,
- To struggle and annihilate the enemy’s forces. To intensify guerilla warfare,
- To expose by all means the enemy’s policy of “using the Vietnamese to fight the Vietnamese, and nursing the war by means of warfare.”
- To closely link patriotism to internationalism,
- Energetically to combat bureaucracy, corruption and waste.
The patriotism and heroism of the Vietnamese people allow us to have firm confidence in final victory.
The Vietnamese people’s future is as bright as the sun in spring. Overjoyed at the radiance of the sun in spring, we shall struggle for the splendid future of Viet Nam, for the future of democracy, world peace and socialism. We triumph at the present time, we shall triumph in the future, because our path is enlightened by the great Marxist-Leninist doctrine.
1. A French patriot. Raymonde Dien is member of the French Communist Party. On February 13, 1950, she lay across a railway track to prevent the movement of a train carrying armaments and tanks for the French colonialists to fight the Vietnamese people in Indo-Chlna. She was sentenced by a French reactionary court to one year imprisonment, but owing to pressure by public opinion and the struggle waged by the masses, the French government was compelled to release her in November 1950 before her sentence expired.
2. Daladier, born in 1884, was Chairman of the French Radical Socialist Party, Premier of the French Government in 1933 and 1934 and from 1938 to 1940. In September 1938 he attended the Munich conference and his surrender fo Hitler paved the way for the attack and occupation of France by the German fascists.
3. In 1808 Napoleon Bonaparte sent an expedition against Spain and was routed by the Spanish people. This campaign ended In 1812 in victory in favour of the Spaniards.
4. In 1861 France (of Napoleon III) Great Britain and Spain waged a coalition war against Mexico. In this campaign France also suffered a pitiful defeat.