Back when they were founded, Hồ Chí Minh was well known already to the French Secret Police and government for being a nuisance in their sides, constantly producing articles, leaflets and speeches showing the atrocities perpetrated by them in their colony of French Indochina and in some cases in their other colonies and France itself. He had also sent letters to ministers and attended the Tours Congress demanding independence in a fiery speech for the Vietnamese people. 93 years later his hard work and the work of many millions of Vietnamese people have resulted in an independent, free, unified and socialist Vietnam. Let’s look back at the parties history and discuss how they got here.
Almost as soon as French colonisation began in French Indochina, movements sprang up to fight against it of various ideological shades, however these movements were quickly quashed usually quite violently by the colonial regime. Vietnamese who resisted were often tortured or executed in horrific ways, indeed for most Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian people it did not matter whether they resisted the regime or not, quite often they suffered horrific fates, through land confiscation, high taxes, starvation, murder and numerous other acts of barbarity. Prior to the 1930s, anthropologist Vu Thi Van Anh notes that French colonisation brought mass exploitation of Vietnamese manpower and resources, which authors like H Ch Minh noted had been set up by the colonial administration to aid in the construction of infrastructure in Indochina, but most of the money he noted always seemed to go back to France. For this reason you will see if you read texts such as ‘Migration and Change in the Way of Life’ or other such studies on Laotian anthropology you will see many currents of migration to Laos, either to flee some aspects of the French administration in their areas of residence in Vietnam, or due to the French colonial Administration using Vietnamese labourers to build roads and railways necessary for the transportation of tin, rubber and other valuable materials to ports. During this period, many attempts were made to overthrow the colonial regime; some royalist movements sought to restore the monarchy, while others sought independence and a republic along nationalist lines, but all were crushed, with even the longest-lasting movements eventually being defeated or dispersed. However, things started to change in the 1920’s.
In the 1920’s Marxism-Leninism had started to be discussed in Vietnam, most notably due to Hồ Chí Minh’s formation of the Vietnamese League of Revolutionary Youth in Guanzhong in China in 1925. This organisation created by Hồ Chí Minh and others aimed at teaching organisation and theory to Vietnamese people and sending them back to Vietnam to carry out the construction of a revolutionary organisation, this worked very well and in the 1920’s many workplaces were starting to organise and protest. In 1930 the Indochinese Communist Party (The Party which we now know as the CPV) would be formed. later the party would go on to actively guide the struggle in Vietnam and aid in the struggles in Laos and Cambodia for freedom and independence from French colonialism, Japanese fascism and American Imperialism.
In 1945 after resisting Japanese and French forces Vietnam declared it’s independence in a speech delivered by Hồ Chí Minh on September the 2nd at Ba Đình Square in Hà Nội (Now the site of Hồ Chí Minh’s Mausoleum), Laos too would declare it’s independence in a similar fashion on October 12th however both nations would be invaded again by the French this time with the support of the British, as Kaysone Phomvihane noted in his book ‘Revolution in Laos’ which would then lead to further intensified struggles until 1954 and the decisive battle of Điện Biên Phủ, in co-ordination with revolutionary struggles in Laos such as the liberation of Luang Praband and struggles in Cambodia, where the French suffered a humiliating defeat and were forced to grant independence to Vietnam, signing the Geneva agreements in which it was forced to recognise the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. However as we all know this would not result in the true freedom and independence of these countries. Vietnam would be partitioned into two with the south having the US install a puppet government, Laos too would receive a puppet government under the guise of Katay Don Sisorith which plunged Laos into SEATO membership.
From this period onwards The US would then step up it’s involvement in Vietnam initially providing ‘aid’ such as military training, financial support, and resources until it would then fabricate a reason for full scale military ground war against the DRV and the growing discontent among the population in the South with the US ignoring of the Geneva agreement for free and fair elections on a reunified country, because as Eisenhower stated in his memoirs, ‘The communists would have won by a landslide’. It created the Gulf of Tonkin Incident whereby it claimed that the Democratic Republic of Vietnam had attacked two US navy destroyers and from that point onwards troops increased exponentially in South Vietnam. From this period onwards the Vietnamese people would suffer again tremendous hardships as the US and it’s puppet state made atrocity after atrocity against the Vietnamese people. If one thinks of this war one will hear such horrific acts such as napalm being dropped on children and innocent civilians, agent orange poisoning the land, killing animals and humans alike and causing birth defects and lastly the Mỹ Lai massacre. Sadly however, these are but the tip of the iceberg of the atrocities committed in Vietnam in both the North and South of the country by US and puppet forces, it is impossible to list them all, but among the more well known there were: Use of weapons that went against international law such as the pineapple bomb and the usage of the hamburger bomb (used for clearing forests) on villages, mass rape, mass torture, concentration camps nicknamed ‘strategic hamlets’, the regular bombing of places of worship, hospitals and schools, wanton massacres of civilians as occurred in Mỹ Lai, burning of people’s houses, beatings and throwing prisoners from helicopters. In 1973 the Paris Peace accords were finally signed and it was agreed that the US would withdraw from Vietnam, however peace would not be fully achieved until 1975 when the puppet government fell and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam came to power, resulting in complete reunification in 1976, and the Vietnamese government now with the CPV at the helm, having to deal with the effects of decades of wars for their independence. In just 1974 the Vietnam women’s Union estimated that over half of all forests had been decimated, half a million orphans and two million unemployed persons had been created. Later on Vietnam would have to deal with embargos, agent orange victims, thousands of injured veterans and civilians, identifying bodies, reclaiming polluted land, helping the large numbers of prostitutes created in the South to find other employment, and rehousing an estimated one third of the entire population.
This process would carry on through two more wars, the Cambodian war and the Chinese border war, and still Vietnam was attempting to rebuild the country for it’s people. In 1986 Vietnam carried out it’s Đổi mới movement in response to the practical and theoretical issues of the period, and it ushered in an improved economic life for Vietnam. In the 1990’s the US finally lifted it’s embargo however the Soviet Union fell, so again difficulties were endured by the people during this period. Nevertheless Vietnam continued to the present day, still enduring sanctions by the US on certain companies and forms of trade developing the country to this day.
Today the CPV is still ever improving the country, trying to be true to Hồ Chí Minh’s promise to ‘Rebuild the country ten times more beautiful’ today it can proudly state that it is not only independent and unified but is also building a better life for it’s citizens with improved infrastructure such as the Hồ Chí Minh city metro, massive reforestation projects undertaken yearly by organisations such as the Youth and Women’s Unions, a rising life expectancy rate and falling poverty rate, a better rate of nutrition than countries far richer such as the US and great progress in women’s liberation. There is still much to be done, and there are numerous issues that need to be resolved; however, we can see that since its inception, the CPV has fought tirelessly for the improvement of the Vietnamese people’s lives; it has fought for peace, unity, and socialism; and more than that, in its aid to Laos and Cambodia, as well as its recent aid to other countries in the COVID-19 pandemic, it has demonstrated its spirit of international solidarity. On this 93rd anniversary I think we ought to celebrate the achievements of the party and people of Vietnam and wish for many more to come.
Kyril Whittaker, is a member of the Communist Party of Britain
This article was originally published by the Communist Party of Britain