The Declaration began by citing the “undeniable truths” of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America: “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” And it cited the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen emitted by the French Revolution: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights” (Ho 2007:51).
The Vietnamese Declaration of Independence lists grievances against the French colonial regime.
“For more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, have violated our fatherland and oppressed our fellow citizens. The have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.
Politically, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.
They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three different political regimes in the North, the Centre, and the South of Viet Nam in order to wreck our country’s oneness and prevent our people from being united.
They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly massacred our patriots. They have drowned our uprisings in seas of blood.
They have fettered public opinion and practiced obscurantism.
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 ricefields, our mines, our forests and our natural resources. They have monopolized the issue of banknotes and the import and export trade.
They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to extreme poverty.
They have made it impossible for our national bourgeoisie to prosper; they have mercilessly exploited our workers” (Ho 2007:51-52).
“When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies, our entire people rose to gain power and founded the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam.
The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese, not from the French.
The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which have fettered them for nearly a century and have won independence for Viet Nam. At the same time they have overthrown the centuries-old monarchic regime and established a democratic republican regime” (Ho 2007:53).
The Declaration concludes with an expression of the determination of the Vietnamese people to defend their independence. “Viet Nam has the right to enjoy freedom and independence and in fact has become a free and independent country. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their freedom and independence” (Ho 2007:53).
The Vietnamese Declaration of Independence was short and to the point. It asserts that: the world powers have affirmed the principle of the democratic rights of all; French colonial domination of Vietnam has violated these proclaimed democratic rights in numerous ways; the people of Vietnam have the right to be independent and have established its independence in fact, taking political control of the nation from the Japanese occupation army; the new government of Vietnam expects that the world powers will respect the right of Vietnam to be an independent nation; and the people of Vietnam are prepared to make any sacrifice that may be necessary to defend its independence.
The new government took immediate steps in defense of popular interests and needs. Taxes that had been established by the French, such as taxes on land and on the manufacturing of salt and alcohol, were abolished. Communal lands, which comprised more than twenty percent of land in the northern and central provinces, were distributed among villagers. In accordance with the program announced by the Viet Minh Front in 1941, the government confiscated land belonging to French colonialists and Vietnamese collaborators and distributed it to peasants, but most privately-owned land was not affected by the land redistribution program; for land that continued to be privately owned, land rent was reduced by twenty-five percent. In addition, a farm credit bureau, programs in literacy and mass education, and an eight-hour limit to the working day were established (Duiker 325-26; Ho 2007:163-65).
In September, the newly independent nation convoked free nationwide elections for a National Assembly, which were held in January 1946. The National Assembly approved the first Constitution in the history of the nation on November 9, 1946. The 1946 Constitution established a National Assembly as well as People’s Councils at local levels, with representatives elected by the people through universal suffrage. The National Assembly was established as the highest authority in the nation and as the only organ with legislative power, and with the authority to elect the president, the Standing Committee of the National Assembly, and the Council of Government (García Oliveras 2010:43; Ho 2007:164-65, 171-73).
Thus, the independence of Vietnam was established by the people in 1945. But it would not be accepted by the global powers. Although Ho Chi Minh would repeatedly search for peaceful resolutions of the conflict between true Vietnamese independence and the imperialist interests of the global powers, Ho would be compelled to lead the people in two wars of independence before the reunification and independence of the nation were definitively established in 1976. We will discuss this long struggle in subsequent posts.
Duiker, William J. 2000. Ho Chi Minh. New York: Hyperion.
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.
Prina, Agustín. 2008. La Guerra de Vietnam. Mexico: Ocean Sur.
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