“Time will pass by, but the Vietnamese people’s victory in the war of resistance against the US will forever enter history as one of the most brilliant exploits, a shining symbol on the triumph of revolutionary heroism and the human mind. It has gone into the world’s history as a great feat-of-arms of the 20th century, an event of international importance and of profound epochal character … Vietnam became the focal point of the fierce struggle between revolutionaries and reactionaries in the world, a place where there was a [battle] between progress and reaction, between justice and injustice in the struggle of humanity for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress.” (‘The anti-US war for national salvation – a great victory of ability and intelligence’ by General Vo Nguyen Giap, 2005)
The thirtieth of April this year marked the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Saigon by the Vietnamese forces, finally ending decades of colonial subjugation of, and foreign interference in, Vietnam. We take this opportunity to convey our heartfelt congratulations to the people of Vietnam, who fought with almost inconceivable heroism and determination for 30 years to free their country from the grip of the American, Japanese and French oppressors. Under the exemplary leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam and ‘Uncle’ Ho Chi Minh, the population of this small country in Indochina was able to obliterate the invading armies of the world’s most powerful and dominant imperialist country – the United States – and the puppet South Vietnamese administration.
Vietnamese struggle for liberation
Vietnam was first colonised by the French in the mid 19th century. From the very beginning, there was armed opposition to the French occupation. The victory of the Russian revolution, and in particular the attitude of Lenin and Communist Party of the Soviet Union towards the people in the colonies (which still stands out in stark contrast to that of the Trotskyists and social democrats), inspired the beginnings of a working-class movement in Vietnam, even though the population there was predominantly rural. “The oppressed peoples of the world saw that only by relying on socialist revolution and following the line of the working class was it possible to overthrow the imperialists, win back complete national independence and realise genuine equality among the nations. The Russian October Revolution welded the socialist revolutionary movement and the revolutionary movement for national liberation into an anti-imperialist front.” (‘Report on the Draft Amended Constitution’ by Ho Chi Minh, 1958)
The key figure in establishing this movement was a young man named Nguy?n Sinh Cung, later to be known as Ho Chi Minh, who had become a Marxist Leninist whilst living in France in the 1910s and 1920s. He and others set up the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930, and this party quickly won the confidence of the most advanced elements of Vietnamese society. “For the first time, the Vietnamese revolution was provided with a comprehensive political programme worked out by the party of the working class. And ever since then, under the unified leadership of the working class and its political party, it has developed rapidly and steadily.” (Ibid)
Conditions in Vietnam forced the ICP to very quickly become a fighting organisation, and the first Vietnamese soviets were set up within a year of its foundation, at Nghe An and Ha Tinh. These soviets were defeated by the French, but they served as a great inspiration to the Vietnamese liberation movement.
With the victory of the Soviet Union over fascism in 1945, the Vietnamese liberation fighters took advantage of the favourable conditions and successfully conducted a nationalist revolution against the French and Japanese colonisers, who had been conspiring together to keep Vietnam subjugated. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam was founded on 2 September 1945.
The French did everything they could to recapture the country, and bitter fighting ensued. The French were not able to defeat the Vietnamese forces, but were able to capture various pockets of the country. Vietnamese advances in 1954 led France to the negotiating table, and the Geneva Conference of 1954 split Vietnam into North and South at the 17th parallel. The north remained under the control of the Vietnamese people, while in the south a US puppet administration was set up under Ngo Dinh Diem (the US had been gradually wresting influence away from the French). The US and the Diem government consistently reneged on the Geneva Agreements, which specified that a consultative conference be held between representatives of the north and south with a view to holding general elections and reunifying the country. It was in this context that resistance to the US and its puppet regime started to emerge in the south.
Meanwhile in the north, the character of the revolution was changing from nationalist to socialist, and a socialist base was being built. With the help of the Soviet Union and China, a backward feudal economy was being turned into a socialist economy with advanced industrial technique. Severe restrictions on land rent were imposed in an effort to improve the lot of the Vietnamese peasants, and this served to strengthen the alliance between the workers and peasants.
As the north became increasingly strong and the resistance started to score important victories against the South Vietnamese Army, the US started to enlarge its military presence, sending troops and military advisers. The US considered that, in order to stop the spread of communism throughout South-East Asia, the revolution in Vietnam must be crushed. US aircraft launched their first strikes against northern Vietnam on 5 August 1964, and, in early 1965, 200,000 US troops landed in the south.
Despite the seemingly massive military superiority of the US, the combination of the north Vietnamese army and the guerrilla forces in the south, supported by the whole people, simply could not be beaten, such was their heroism and commitment to the cause of national liberation. Often fighting with the most primitive of weapons, these heroic fighters were able to turn Vietnam into a graveyard for the invading army. “They may bring in half a million, a million or even more troops to step up their war of aggression in South Vietnam. They may use thousands of aircraft for intensified attacks against North Vietnam. But never will they be able to break the iron will of the heroic Vietnamese people, their determination to fight against American aggression, for national salvation. The more truculent they grow, the more serious their crimes. The war may last five, ten, twenty or more years; Hanoi, Haiphong and other cities and enterprises may be destroyed; but the Vietnamese people will not be intimidated! Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom. Once victory is won, our people will rebuild their country and make it even more prosperous and beautiful.” (Ho Chi Minh)
By 1967, the US had over 500,000 of its own troops in Vietnam, in addition to the 1m South Vietnamese troops. However, it still could not find a way to gain the upper hand, and, consequent upon the famous Tet Mau Than offensive (a wide ranging attack on US positions in southern Vietnam, lasting from 30 January until 31 March 1968), the US were forced to the negotiating table. A combination of inability to defeat the dauntless Vietnamese liberation fighters and a growing anti-war movement at home caused the US to start reducing troop numbers in 1969, hoping to rely more on its South Vietnamese puppets. However, these pipe dreams proved to be short-lived, and, after six more years of intense and bitter fighting, the imperialists were driven out once and for all and the puppet government overthrown.
We join with the people of Vietnam and all progressive humanity in celebrating Liberation Day. May the fierce heroism and tenacity of the Vietnamese people and their historic victory against imperialism serve to inspire and inspirit all those who struggle against oppression; may it send chills down the spines of the imperialists, and remind them that all their weapons of mass destruction are nothing in comparison with the will of the people. May the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Liberation Day in Vietnam give inspiration to the courageous Iraqis who are fighting now against imperialist occupiers, and may they develop the strategy of people’s war, making every single person – young, old, man, woman – a part of their liberation struggle.
“Our resistance is by all the people and is in turn a people’s war. Thirty-one million compatriots in the two regions, irrespective of sex and age, must be thirty-one million heroic combatants to fight the US for national salvation … Unity, unity, great unity; success, success, great success.” (Ho Chi Minh, cited in Vo Nguyen Giap, op cit)
Long live the Socialist Republic of Vietnam!
Victory to all people struggling against imperialism!