Significant political questions were formulated and incorporated in a separate document, the “Final Declaration of the Conference of Geneva.” The Declaration recognized the total independence of Cambodia and Laos in the French Union. It also recognized the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, located north of the seventeenth parallel, and of the government of the emperor Bao Dai, located south of the parallel. It recognized that the final solution of Vietnam remained undefined, pending general elections to be held in July 1956 that would reunify the country, and it mandated consultations between the two zones for implementing the elections. The Final Declaration was presented on July 21, and all expressed support, but US Undersecretary of State Bedell Smith rose to say that his government could not sign the agreement in its present form. In the end, none of the participants signed the Final Declaration that had emerged through the negotiations, so that the 1956 elections in Vietnam were simply a proposed project without obligatory commitment by any government (García Oliveras 2010:12-13, 102-4; Duiker 2000:459).
All parties agreed that Ho Chi Minh would win overwhelmingly the proposed elections, as US President Dwight Eisenhower later confirmed in his memoirs, and this factor was driving US opposition to the Final Declaration. A few days following the conference, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announced that the United States would promote the development of non-communist states in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. At the same time, Ngo Dinh Diem, a staunch anti-communist who had been named Prime Minister by Bao Dai, maintained that South Vietnam would not negotiate with communists concerning the holding of elections. His government closed offices in South Vietnam that had been established by the Vietminh for promoting the proposed national elections of 1956 (Duiker 2000: 459, 468-71; García Oliveras 2010:102-4).
Ho Chi Minh viewed the Final Declaration of the Geneva Accords as the foundation for the reunification of Vietnam. Accordingly, from 1954 to 1960, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam repeatedly called for the holding of national elections, in accordance with the Final Declaration. It was not until February 14, 1959, that the Vietnamese Workers’ Party (formerly the Indochinese Communist Party) approved a resolution calling for an armed struggle in the South as a strategy of national reunification, which was the first step in the establishment of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF) on December 20, 1960. In the internal political dynamics of the Party from 1954 to 1960, Ho Chi Minh was a persistent voice saying, “give peace a chance,” but by 1960, even he had abandoned hope in the peaceful reunification of the country (Duiker 2000:460-61, 467, 470-71, 495, 508, 511-16, & 524-25; Fall 1967: 271-72, 275-76, 285-86, & 294).
We will discuss South Vietnam and the NLF in the following posts.
Duiker, William J. 2000. Ho Chi Minh. New York: Hyperion.
Fall, Bernard B., Ed. 1967. Ho Chi Minh On Revolution: Selected Writings, 1920-26. New York: Frederick A. Praeger.
García Oliveras, Julio A. 2010. Ho Chi Minh El Patriota: 60 años de lucha revolucionaria. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Ho Chi Minh. 2007. Down with Colonialism. Introduction by Walden Bello. London: Verso.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, Geneva Conference, Indochina