Boom Crunch Crash

The classical Marxist blog about the crisis

The British Labour Party and Vietnam.[1]

Posted by Steve Palmer on June 19, 2011

The French annexation of Vietnam began in earnest on August 31, 1858 with a French naval attack on Da Nang. Despite vacillation and compromise by the feudal court at Hue, and despite superior technology the French met such determined popular resistance that it took until 1884 to annex the whole country. Even after annexation, popular resistance by Vietnamese peasants and scholars waging protracted guerrilla war continued strongly until 1897.

The French colluded with the feudal regime to repress and exploit the Vietnamese people. French education and culture were imposed, and illiteracy actually increased – there were never more than three secondary schools in the whole country during French rule. Taxes on the peasantry were increased to pay for the colonial administration. The imperialists turned the country into a source of cheap raw materials – coal, ore, rubber – and a market for French goods. Handicraft industry was crushed by imports, pauperising artisans, while vast areas of land – 470,000 hectares between 1897 and 1913 – were grabbed by French companies to become plantations. Rice was exported in the midst of famine. The racist oppression and exploitation by the French gave new life to the national movement. The plight of the peasants grew worse. In 1908 a mass peasant struggle broke out against the colonial authorities and continued for months in the face of bloody repression by the imperialists. In this period there were also risings by the Highland people, and important guerrilla struggles. However, despite its courage and audacity, the peasant resistance, led by the scholars, proved unable to maintain a disciplined and united mass movement which could successfully challenge French imperialism. This had to await the development of new social forces, forces created by the imperialists themselves in their frenzy of colonial exploitation.

Imperialist world war and after.

When the imperialist world war broke out in 1914, 100,000 Vietnamese were drafted to serve in the French army and as labourers. Indochina was squeezed further to supply some 336,000 tonnes of food and huge war loans.[2] Yet despite this exploitation, and even though a number of major mutinies and risings took place, the national movement proved too weak to take successful advantage of France’s wartime difficulties. When the war ended, the imperialist system was wracked with crisis, weakened by war, economic collapse and the re – emergence of revolutionary struggle in the imperialist countries. France turned to her colonies for the economic resources which could stave off collapse. While in the 20 years 1888 – 1918, fr.490 million had been invested in Indochina, some fr.8,000 million poured in during the decade 1919 – 1929. Chiefly invested in mines and plantations, the investments were hugely profitable. These profits were sent back to France to prop up the ailing economy: in 1925 the Banque de l’Indochine made a 36 million profit on a capital of 72 million and the Compagnie Financiere des Caoutchoucs took 31 million francs on a capital of 100 million.[3]

With capital pumped out of the country on this scale it was impossible for a successful Vietnamese capitalist class to emerge. However, the vast French investments created a small but important working class. In 1929 some 53,000 were employed in the mines, 86,000 in factories, and 80,000 on plantations.[4]

Highly concentrated, the workers suffered brutal exploitation and repression. Mines and plantations had their own jails, and trade union membership was illegal, bringing five years jail and deportation. As the Outline History of the Vietnam Workers Party notes:

‘The Vietnamese working class, though not large in number, was geographically concentrated to a relatively high degree, and was a homogeneous class without a stratum of aristocratic workers thus not subject to the influence of reformism.’[5]

Revolutionary communism found its natural support and amongst these workers, who would form the vanguard of the Vietnamese revolutionary movement.

The great Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh founded the Thanh Nien (Young Revolutionaries Association) in 1925. While petty bourgeois nationalists were calling for gradual reforms or supported isolated acts of terror against the brutal colonial authorities, Ho emphasised that the revolution would be the work of the worker and peasant masses who must organise in a revolutionary Marxist – Leninist party. Working among the peasants, Thanh Nien soon became the most powerful underground organisation in the country and formed the nucleus of the Indo Chinese Communist party, founded on 3 February, 1930.

The world economic crisis, which broke out in 1929, had drastic repercussions in Vietnam. Raw material prices, particularly for rice, rubber and coal, collapsed; exports fell; unemployment grew, creating further misery in the villages.

The different class trends in the national movement soon expressed themselves in the face of increased misery. The anti – Communist Quoc Dan Dang (Vietnam Nationalist Party), composed of intellectuals and petty officials, organised a bold rising of the Yen Bai Garrison in 1930. The communists immediately supported the action. Although other garrisons rose, there had been no preparation amongst the people and the insurrection was rapidly crushed. Bloody repression destroyed the Quoc Dan Dang and with it the bourgeois national movement.[6]

The Communists, working amongst the masses, had organised underground trade unions and farmers’ unions, and led a series of hard – fought strikes throughout the country, organised huge peasant demonstrations, and helped set up Soviets in Nghe An and Ha Tinh (Nghe Tinh). Despite the subsequent massive wave of repression, torture and summary execution, which followed, the communists, unlike the Nationalists, survived because of their deep roots amongst the oppressed.[7]

Despite being outlawed, the ICP continued to struggle in every possible way using both illegal and legal means to build up popular organisations directed against the colonialists. When the imperialist war broke out in 1939, the French once again imposed a levy on Vietnam to provide manpower food and raw materials. Following the French defeat in June 1940, the Japanese Fascists invaded Vietnam where they joined hands with the French colonialists. The ICP organised armed resistance and in June 1941 helped found the Vietminh (League for Vietnamese Independence) which rallied the nation in the struggle for liberation and conducted armed struggle against the imperialists

In early 1945, famine struck: within months 2 million had died. The people formed self – defence units and seized rice stocks and distributed them. Revolutionary actions mounted and following the Japanese defeat in August, insurrection swept the country under the leadership of the Vietminh. Revolutionary forces took Hanoi on August 19, Hue on the 23rd and Saigon on August 25. The Vietminh now controlled the entire country.

Independence and British Intervention

On 2 September 1945, 1 million Vietnamese crowded into Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square, to hear Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence:

‘for more than 80 years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow – citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice…

They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly massacred our patriots. They have drowned our uprisings in seas of blood… They have weakened our race with opium and alcohol.

In the field of economics, they have sucked us dry, driven our people to destitution, and devastated our land.

They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests and our natural resources…

Our people have broken the chains which have fettered them for nearly a century and have won independence for Vietnam…

We, the provisional government of the new Vietnam, representing the entire Vietnamese people, hereby declare from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; cancel all treaties signed by France on Vietnam, and abolish all privileges held by France in our country.’[8]

A tremendous cheer went up. Vietnam, at last, was free!

Yet, though independence had been declared, it had not yet been guaranteed. Earlier, at the Potsdam conference, it had been agreed that the task of disarming and repatriating the defeated Japanese imperialist troops, who had occupied Vietnam, was to be carried out by the Chinese in the north of the country, and by the British in the south. But the British Labour government was also determined to restore imperialist rule.

On 11 September the British advance guard arrived, and Maj – Gen Douglas D Gracey himself flew in on the 13th. Though the Vietnamese national movement was anxious to avoid any conflict, in the hope that the imperialist troops would carry out the task and leave, every attempt made to contact Gracey was ignored. The British refused to have anything to do with the government of the new Democratic Republic of Vietnam(DRV). The job of maintaining ‘Law and order’ – French law and order – was given to re – armed Japanese troops, former enemies of the British, who were supposed to be disarmed and repatriated to Japan by Gracey’s troops!

‘I was welcomed on arrival by the Vietminh, who said “welcome” and all that sort of thing. It was a very unpleasant situation, and I promptly kicked them out.’[9]

This was how Gracey explained his implementation of the orders of the 1945 British Labour government to restore French colonial rule to Vietnam, condemning the Vietnamese people to a bloody 30 – year anti – imperialist struggle.

On 17 September the Vietminh protested by staging a general strike, closed down the Saigon market, and boycotted all French traders. Gracey responded by closing down the Vietnamese press on 19 September. And 21 September he issued the infamous Proclamation Number One, which threatened summary execution of anyone who took part in a demonstration, public meeting or broke curfew. The Labour government had shown its pro – imperialist colours: British democracy had well and truly arrived!

The real purpose of British intervention became clear. Gracey’s formal duties, as agreed at Potsdam, were to secure the Japanese headquarters, to round up and disarm the Japanese, and to release and transport home Allied prisoners. Already, the British had usurped the democratic Vietnamese civilian administration, declared what amounted to martial law throughout Nam Bo (the South), and had re – armed the Japanese troops they were supposed to disarm. Worse was to follow.

Since the British alone did not have sufficient troops to enforce Proclamation Number One, on 22 September Gracey issued arms to the French troops and settlers. On the following day the French staged a brutal bloody coup d’etat against the Vietminh Southern committee.

Vietnamese general Vo Nguyen Giap later wrote that:

‘colonial legionaries and French colonialist who had meekly surrendered to the Japanese only a few months earlier showed utmost savagery in massacring and ill treating unarmed civilians.

The great War of resistance of our nation against the French colonialist aggressors had broken out in Nam Bo.’[10]

The Vietnamese Foreign Minister telegraphed to the British Labour government, protesting against the ‘smoke – screening of French aggression’. The Labour Party treated this protest in the way it treated all Vietnamese appeals for support against imperialism: it ignored it.

Lord Mountbatten was in charge of South East Asia Command – SEAC (known to the Americans as ‘ Saviours of England’s Asiatic Colonies’!). In a telegram to the British chiefs of staff on September 24 he backed Gracey who:

‘has acted with courage and determination in an extremely difficult situation, with as yet inadequate forces…’[11]

To counter the resistance war, the British rearmed all the 40,000 Japanese fascist troops. The combined British French and Japanese forces took a month to drive the resistance out of Saigon. The struggle now began for the countryside.

The British orders were clear enough:

‘beware of nibbling at opposition. Always use the maximum force available to ensure wiping out any hostiles we may meet. If one uses too much, no harm is done. If one uses too small a force, and it has to be extricated, we will suffer casualties and encourage the enemy.’[12]

and

‘the difficulty is to select him [the enemy] as immediately he has had his shot or thrown his grenade he pretends to be friendly. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to look upon all locals anywhere near where a shot has been fired as enemies, and treacherous ones at that, and treat them accordingly.’[13]

On 5 October the Labour Prime Minister wrote to Fenner Brockway reassuringly about the situation in Vietnam:

‘ the government is carrying out the principles for which it has always stood.’[14]

Bevin, the British Labour Foreign Secretary, met Massigli, the French ambassador, on 9 October and they signed a secret agreement, believed to guarantee a British handover of Indochina to the French, in exchange for French withdrawal from Syria and Lebanon. In Parliament on 24 October,[15] Bevin lyingly claimed that the DRV was a creation of the Japanese and confirmed that the Labour government was carrying out their side of the bargain:

‘every effort is being made to expedite the movement of French troops to Saigon in sufficient numbers to enable them to take over from the British forces.’[16]

The following day, Gen Leclerc began the struggle to restore French domination. After mopping up operations, their task of restoring French imperialism fulfilled, the Labour government withdrew British troops in January 1946.

War of resistance against the French

In elections held throughout Vietnam on January 6, 1946 the overwhelming majority voted for Vietminh candidates. In order to gain time the DRV are made a series of compromises with the French throughout 1946 yet the French continued their attempts to reassert control. On November 23 after a bombardment which killed 20,000 civilians the French captured Haiphong, the second largest city. It was clear that the French were determined to destroy the DRV and on December 20 Ho Chi Minh called on the nation to fight the colonialists:

‘We would sooner sacrifice all than lose our country we are determined not to be enslaved.

Compatriots! Rise up!’[17]

The entire nation united in struggle: the peasants gave rice to the army, workers moved factories into the jungle and forest. Increasingly successful military operations were conducted against the imperialists, and the Vietnamese people received growing international support, especially from the socialist countries. The French set up a puppet regime headed by Bao Dai, former emperor, which was recognised by the British Labour government on 7 February 1950 and by the US. As the French were weakened, the US supplied aid to prolong the war. By 1953 – 4 US military aid to France reached 1000 million dollars, 78% of the total French outlay on the war. Yet even this was insufficient to save the French who were defeated in the historical battle of Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954.[18]

The Geneva conference

This excellent news broke on the very day that the Geneva conference, set up to discuss the Korean and Indochina questions, began to discuss Indochina. Extended diplomatic wrangling and manoeuvring took place. On 20 July 1954 agreement was reached on a cessation of hostilities in Vietnam. A provisional military demarcation line was agreed roughly at the 17th parallel, temporarily dividing Vietnam into two zones. The Vietminh forces were to withdraw to the north of this line and the French to the south. There were also to be no reprisals for activities during the war, no troop reinforcements, no foreign military alliances. The final declaration stated that ‘general elections shall be held in July 1956 ‘.[19]

However, behind – the – scenes, the US Secretary of State and Anthony Eden, the British foreign minister, had drawn up a secret seven point communication, pressed on the French, which agreed to partition the country and maintain a pro – imperialist government in the south.[20] In public however, they went along with the final declaration which quite clearly stated that:

‘the military demarcation line is provisional and should not in any way be treated as constituting a political or territorial boundary.’[21]

The United States, though not a signatory to the agreements, pledged to ‘refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb them’.[22]

The imperialists subsequently pretended that Vietnam had been partitioned into two states. This lie was to serve as the cornerstone of all the imperialists later lies about ‘aggression’ from the north against the south and as the justification for the war against the Vietnamese nation.

The imperialists were also opposed to free democratic elections throughout the country because, as US President Eisenhower subsequently admitted: ‘had elections been held at of the time of the fighting, possibly 80% of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh.’[23]

If the Geneva agreement was observed, the country would have been peacefully reunited with the democratically elected Communist government.

US backed terror and popular resistance

The US was totally opposed to the Vietminh coming to power and took over where the French left off, sponsoring the puppet regime of Ngo Dinh Diem in the south which repeatedly stated that it had not signed the agreements and would not be bound by them. Diem unleashed terror against the peasants who had seized land from the landlords during the struggle against the French; against anyone who had been active in the anti – French struggle, and even against opponents within the ruling clique in the south. Between 1954 and 1960 the puppet regime had killed 90,000, wounded 190,000 and then detained 800,000 – 600,000 of whom were incapacitated by torture. At this time South Vietnam had a population of 14 million.[24]

The mounting repression, backed by the US, bred increased resistance by the population, developing into armed self – defence. On 20 December 1960, the National liberation front was set up to overthrow the Diem regime, establish a democratic government, introduce agrarian reform, and bring about peaceful reunification.

US special war

The United States tried to suppress the struggle by means of ‘special war’ waged by puppet troops under US control. Massive repression using the latest technology was combined with concentration of the population into 16,000 strategic hamlets. A British Advisory Mission, headed by Sir Robert Thompson was sent to South Vietnam to advise on the strategic hamlets program, drawing on British experience in Malaya.

The NLF fought back – by the end of 1963 80% of the strategic hamlets had been destroyed. The US arranged coup after coup in Saigon but failed to find a puppet regime which could reverse these setbacks. At the beginning of 1965 the NLF liberated zone covered four – fifths of the territory with the support of more than two – thirds of the population.[25]

US escalation

The US decided to escalate the war, using a fabricated attack on the spy ship USS Maddox in the Tonkin Gulf. Air strikes were launched against North Vietnam ‘in retaliation’ for ‘North Vietnamese aggression’. By November 1965 US forces in South Vietnam had increased to 190,000 and reached half a million in 1968. At the height of the war, 75% of all US land forces, 60% of the US air force and 40% of the US Naval force were involved in Indochina.[26]

Labour Party – complicity in genocide

Throughout, the British imperialists, particularly the 1964 – 70 Labour government, played a key role in sabotaging peace efforts by supporting US imperialism to the hilt and throwing the blame for the war on to the Vietnamese people.

Direct British aid to US imperialism included the provision of equipment to the US military for use in the war against Vietnam: Rolls – Royce supplied aero engines; Elliott – Automation supplied avionics; Decca Navigator supplied radar and navigational equipment; the British Hovercraft Corporation supplied the U.S. Navy with five Hovercraft for use in the Mekong Delta.

Hundreds of American troops were trained by the British at the Jungle Warfare School, Kota Tinggi, at Johore, Malaya. In October 1966, the Sunday Times reported:

‘in the past two years the benefit of the school’s tuition has been extended to at least 1,450 South Vietnamese – all fees paid by the British foreign office. … and the arrivals have boasted some of the really top Saigon brass. One recent course was attended by Col Trien, chief of security of the South Vietnamese Training Command.’

It went on to quote a spokesman:

‘We tell them: “gather the jungle dwellers into fortified camps and give them proper protection at night, as we did during the Malayan emergency. Then you can go out at night and knock off anybody you find who isn’t inside”‘

Torture techniques were also taught at the school – with the full knowledge of the Labour government.

Less direct, but no less valuable, was the general political and diplomatic assistance rendered by the Labour government. Right from the beginning of the escalation, Labour aligned itself with US imperialism. On 14 December 1964 Harold Wilson, the Labour leader, remarked: ‘We have repeatedly said… That we support US policy in Vietnam.’ George Thomson, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, told the House of Commons:

‘The policy of her Majesty’s government remains to support the government of the Republic of Vietnam in their efforts to put an end to the Communist insurrection which, aided and abetted from Hanoi, in constant violation of the Geneva agreements, threatens the liberty and independence of the South Vietnamese people.’[27]

and went on to defend the role of the British Advisory Mission in Saigon. In fact, as we have seen, it was the US which had violated the Geneva agreement.

On 8 April 1965 the DRV put forward a four point peace plan[28]. When William Walby MP requested that the DRV statement be published in Hansard, Michael Stewart, the Foreign Secretary, refused and the Foreign Office suppressed it. In May, Wilson explained the relationship between Britain and the US:

‘In Malaysia we are doing the fighting and the Americans are doing the negotiating. In Vietnam it is the Americans are doing the fighting and we who are doing the negotiating.’[29]

In fact all the pretence of negotiations was a lie: the Labour government persisted with a series of diplomatic manoeuvres and ‘peace initiatives’ which were designed to fail, with the blame always being pinned on the north Vietnamese,

Thus on 17 June, the Commonwealth prime ministers conference opened in London, and Wilson announced a ‘Commonwealth peace mission’ with great fanfare. In fact, as Richard Crossman noted in his diary, it was a ‘brilliantly successful stunt’, designed to postpone and diminish a row about Rhodesia [i.e. Zimbabwe] at the conference, and also to deflate the Labour left.[30] Ho Chi Minh commented:

‘Mr. Wilson has not correctly carried out his obligations as co – chairman of the 1954 Geneva conference on Vietnam. He cannot engage in peace negotiations since he has himself supported the United States policy of aggression and expansion of the war.’[31]

Nevertheless, on 19 September 1965, the Labour Party gave Wilson its full backing when the party conference voted to give its support to the US government, a stand incorporated into the 1966 election manifesto.

On 24 December 1965, the US announced a bombing halt, and on 7 January 1966 the State Department issued the ’14 points’, claiming that the USA respected the Geneva agreement.[32] Then on 12 January Johnson called on the Vietnamese people ‘to choose between peace and destruction’. Ho Chi Minh replied on 24 January in letters to the heads of the socialist countries that ‘if they truly respect the Geneva agreement the Americans should withdraw all their troops.’ He pointed out that the DRV had put forward four points in April 1965 which express the essential provisions of the Geneva agreement. I’m 31 January, US bombing resumed. The lying Michael Stewart was later to claim that ‘there was no response’ to the bombing pause.[33]

The US continued to escalate the war. On 29 June the US bombed Hanoi and Haiphong. Wilson was given full details of the raid, weeks in advance, and made no attempt to warn the DRV. ‘I repeated our total objection to the policy’ he later claimed.[34] Yet a secret cablegram to Johnson, subsequently leaked as part of the Pentagon papers, shows the opposite:

‘I wholly understand the deep concern you must feel the need to do anything possible to reduce the losses of young Americans in and over Vietnam… The last thing I wish to do is to add to your difficulties… Our reservations about this operation will not affect our continuing support for your policy over Vietnam.’[35]

In October 1966, the Labour Party conference obligingly voted down a motion dissociating Britain from US policy in Vietnam.

The Tet offensive

The real turning point in the war came in February 1968, on the eve of the Vietnamese lunar New Year – the Tet festival. The People’s liberation Army launched a massive offensive throughout the whole of South Vietnam. In Saigon they captured 5 out of 7 floors of the US Embassy and for several days controlled five out of Saigon’s nine boroughs: the puppet regime was reduced to bombing its own capital! Although the offensive was eventually suppressed there were important victories which showed the futility of US intervention, then at its height. The ancient capital of Hue was only captured by the imperialists after four weeks of fighting reduced the city to rubble; and near the 17th parallel, the major US base at Khe Sanh was blockaded for six months until forced to evacuate. The Tet offensive spelt out that, short of nuclear war, the US could never win.[36] Yet Wilson, then in Washington, immediately offered succour to the shaken US ruling class. In an after – dinner speech discussing the Tet offensive, he expressed ‘the sense of outrage this brings’ and reiterated his refusal to condemn the US war of aggression.[37]

This connivance continued when Labour had left office; even in the very last days of direct US intervention. When a resolution on Vietnam was proposed at the January 1973 meeting of the Socialist International, it was opposed by the Zionist Israeli Labour Party and the British Labour party because it criticised the United States. It was left to the Tories to recognise the DRV on 3 September 1973, following the signing of the Paris agreements. Yet when Labour returned to power in 1974 it persisted in backing the puppet regime in the south, even though it had been defeated! The Paris agreements had treated the puppet regime and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) as equal parties, yet Labour refused to recognise the PRG. Right to the last Labour backed US imperialism against the Vietnamese people. In September 1975, the Labour government welcomed the defeated war criminal and former puppet ruler of neo – colonial South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, to Britain, settling him in the London suburb of Wimbledon – with no problems from the immigration officers. By contrast, an earlier Labour government arrested Ho Chi Minh, a courageous revolutionary, in Hong Kong and threw him into jail with drug peddlers and murderers.[38]

The Labour ‘left’ and Vietnam

What of the famous Labour Party ‘left’ and Vietnam? What did they do?

Outside Parliament, Bertrand Russell a famous philosopher, but hardly a communist, spoke out about the war and condemned British collusion. In a speech to Youth CND on 14 October 1965 he summed up the record of the Labour government thus:

‘When I compare the horrors of the Vietnam War with the election manifesto of the Labour government, I find myself confronted with the most shameful betrayal of modern times in this country. Hitler, at least, seldom professed humanity, but these men who now pollute the chairs of office professed, before election, the most noble and lofty ideals of human brotherhood.

… I can no longer remain a member of this so – called Labour party and I am resigning after 51 years.’[39]

At the end of his speech he called for a new party to be built, and tore up his membership card.

Inside the House of Commons, one Labour MP, William Warbey, resigned the Labour whip over Vietnam. But these were isolated examples and the bulk of the ‘left’ put party loyalty before opposition to US imperialism. ‘Left’ MPs contented themselves with putting down motions. The Labour ‘left’ were a cowardly bunch, as Crossman points out. Following a debate about Vietnam in the Parliamentary Labour Party on 6 July 1966:

‘the left – wingers were subdued since they were trying to show that they weren’t splitting the party’.[40]

The ‘left’, in short, preferred that British complicity with US genocide should continue rather than risk splitting the Labour Party or bringing down the government.

The consequences of Labour’s betrayal of the Vietnamese people

The result of the Labour Party’s betrayal was to give respectability to the US escalation at a time when it was losing support abroad, and when resistance to the war was mounting at home. Labour thus helped prolong US genocide, whose horrific costs are spelt out in the box. But Labour’s complicity did not only help to perpetuate the mass barbarism against the Vietnamese, but against all oppressed peoples everywhere. For a decade, the national liberation struggle in Vietnam against US imperialism was the crucial struggle between imperialism on the one hand, and the forces of progress, freedom and socialism on the other. The victory of the heroic people of Vietnam over US imperialism helped prevent direct US intervention against other liberation movements, notably in southern Africa in the 70s[41], just as today it still inhibits the US imperialists from direct intervention in Central America. If the US had won (and this was what the Labour government wanted), the world revolutionary movement would have been thrown back for decades and the hopes of millions of people liberation from imperialism would have been snuffed out.

Steve Palmer


The balance sheet of US aggression against Vietnam

The total weight of bombs and shells used reached 14.5 million tons – – seven times the weight of all the bombs dropped on all theatres of war during the Second World War. More than 70,000,000 litres of chemical defoliants was sprayed. These have left 10% of the land, including the best land, unfit for cultivation for up to 120 years. These chemicals have also been responsible for a horrific increase in deformity amongst newborn children due to chromosomal alteration caused by dioxin poisoning of their parents. The human casualties are massive. In the south, 1 million were killed and 2 million injured between 1961 and 1970. Several hundred thousand were crippled. 9000 out of 15,000 hamlets were severely damaged or destroyed. When the Americans withdrew, they left behind 4 million illiterate, more than 3 million unemployed, some 500,000 students and 500,000 drug addicts. Imperialist terror and destruction drove half the population off the land and into the cities. In the north, US bombing damaged 2, 923 schools, destroyed 465 pagodas and temples, 484 churches, damaged 350 hospitals, 1500 infirmary’s and maternity hospitals. Two thirds of all villages were damaged or wiped out, as were all but a handful of the main towns and cities. Hundreds of thousands were killed, and 700,000 children orphaned.

Although the US pledged to ‘contribute to healing the wounds of war and to post – war reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and throughout Indochina’ to the tune of 3000 million dollars, not one cent of this has been paid.


[1] The best account of the Vietnamese liberation struggle is Nguyen Khac Vien, The Long Resistance 1858 – 1975 (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Hanoi, 1978). S Divilkovsky and I Ognetov The Road to Victory (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1980) is good on the period from August 1945. Marvin E Gettleman (ed) Vietnam – History, Documents and Opinions (Mentor, New York, 1970) is also very valuable.

[2] Nguyen Khac Vien, p 50.

[3] Ibid, pp 55 – 56.

[4] Ibid, p62.

[5] Commission for the Study of the History of the Viet Nam Workers’ Party An Outline History of the Vietnam Workers’ Party (1930 – 1975) (FLPH, Hanoi, 1976), p 15.

[6] Nguyen Khac Vien, pp 74 – 76.

[7] Ibid, Chapter 4.

[8] Ho Chi Minh, ‘Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam’ in Selected Writings 1920 – 1969 (FLPH, Hanoi, 1973), pp53 – 56. General Vo Nguyen Giap gives a moving account of the event: see Unforgettable Days (FLPH, Hanoi, 1978), pp27 – 32.

[9] Royal Central Asian Society Journal, 1953, p213. The account of British intervention is based on George Rosie, The British in Vietnam (Panther, London, 1970).

[10] Giap, p52.

[11] Rosie, p59.

[12] Ibid, p 78.

[13] Ibid, p84.

[14] Ibid, p14.

[15] William Warbey, MP, Vietnam: the Truth (Merlin Press, London, 1965), p25.

[16] Documents relating to British Involvement in the Indo – China Conflict, Cmnd 2834 (HMSO, London, 1965), p54.

[17] Ho Chi Minh, ‘Appeal for Nation – wide Resistance’, Selected Writings, p68

[18] Road to Victory, pp22 – 59.

[19] The agreement on cessation of hostilities and the ‘Final Declaration’ are reprinted in Gettleman, op. cit. pp164 – 182.

[20] Sir Anthony Eden, Full Circle (Cassell, London, 1960), pp 132 – 133.

[21] Gettleman, p 180.

[22] Bedell Smith, US Under – Secretary of State at the close of the Geneva Conference, 21 July 1954. See Gettleman, p 184.

[23] Quoted, The Road to Victory, p68.

[24] Vietnamese Studies, 181 – 19, p71. See also Phan Van Bach et al, Law 10 – 59: Fascist Terror in South Vietnam (FLPH, Hanoi, 1961). See also Gettleman, pp223 – 319; Road to Victory, pp66 – 82

[25] The Long Resistance, pp188 – 192.

[26] Vietnam – Destruction, War Damage (FLPH, Hanoi, 1977), p13.

[27] Quoted in Warbey, p92.

[28] Reproduced in Gettleman, pp437 – 9.

[29] Warbey, p121.

[30] Richard Crossman Diaries of a Cabinet Minister Vol 1, p255.

[31] Ho Chi Minh, “Answers to the British Daily Worker”, July 1 1965, Against US Aggression – For National Salvation (FLPH, Hanoi, 1967), p81

[32] Reproduced in Gettleman, pp437 – 9.

[33] See Michael Stewart, Life and Labour (Sidgwick and Jackson, London, 1980), pp152 – 6. Stewart’s important speech to the Oxford Union on 16 June 1965, which set a new world record for lying, was never challenged by the Labour ‘left’. The speech, together with a brilliant point by point demolition of it, is reprinted in John Gittings and Ajit Singh, Vietnam Briefing (CND, 1965).

[34] Harold Wilson, The Labour Government 1964 – 70 (Penguin, 1974), p320.

[35] The Pentagon Papers, (Bantam, London, 1971), p448.

[36] Road to Victory, pp162 – 176

[37] Wilson, p633.

[38] Ho was arrested on 6 June 1931; Jean Lacouture, Ho Chi Minh (Pelican, London, 1969), p57. See also Wilfred Burchett, North of the Seventeenth Parallel (Red River Publishing House, Hanoi), pp18 – 20; and D. N. Pritt, From Right to Left (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1965), pp 137 – 8. Pritt dealt with Ho’s case before the Privy Council.

[39] Bertrand Russell War Crimes in Vietnam (Allen and Unwin, London, 1967), pp91 – 92.

[40] Crossman, p562.

[41] See the remark by the Chief of the CIA’s Angolan Task Force: John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies (Futura, London, 1979) p174: ‘This wasn’t the 1961 missile risis in Cuba where our president could react with great bravado and domestic support. It was Angola, a mere five months after the fall of Vietnam’.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: