#41
nice. I'll get these chapters up and go thru part one to update italics/bolding.
#42

I



After the signing of the Preliminary Agreement, Uncle Ho returned to Bac Bo Palace. Quite a number of national and foreign pressmen were present as they had learnt of the news. As Uncle Ho came in, they crowded around him. President Ho informed them that we had signed a Preliminary Agreement with France. Speaking slowly, he told them briefly the main articles of the Agreement. He stressed that this was only a first arrangement: official negotiations between the Vietnamese Government and the French Government would soon be opened in Hanoi, Saigon or Paris. He told the pressmen that American, British and Chinese representatives had been present at the signing.

The Revolution had entered a new stage. The continued struggle would certainly be no less arduous and no less complex. A series of new tasks had to be tackled swiftly at the same time.

The Party Bureau had further discussions on how the Agreement should be explained to Party members and the people. It was necessary to make the whole Party and the whole nation understand our correct line, and the success we had achieved for the revolution, while realizing that the situation was still extremely complex, that we had to heighten vigilance and be ready to react if the French betrayed us. On the same afternoon, Uncle discussed the sending of men to various places to ensure the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. Comrade Hoang Quoc Viet was to head a mission to the South as soon as transport facilities were available. The next morning, Comrade Hoang Minh Giam would fly to Da Nang. I was asked to go to Haiphong the same evening, as Leclerc had asked to meet a representative of our government. In Uncle Ho’s opinion, I should attend the mass rally held in Haiphong to explain the Agreement, for this port city was where the French were allowed to land first in the North.

Hanoi was less busy than on other days, because there had been the evacuation order. That night, voices speaking through megaphones resounded over quiet streets. Propaganda teams were announcing to the people that important new was to be carried in the Cuu Quoc to appear in the next morning. Some time after midnight, knocks on the door roused members of the Cuu Quoc staff: some self-defence fighters on patrol wanted to know what was the important news that was to be announced.

Our people in general had not been much aware of the negotiations between us and the French. Over the past few days, meetings had been held throughout the country, letters and telegrams had been pouring into the capital welcoming the formation of the Resistance Coalition Government headed by President Ho. All over the country the prevailing mood was a desire to fight. Everyone was expressing his determination and readiness to fight to the bitter end to defend the country.

At dawn on the 7th, many people were standing in the street corners waiting for the papers. The news about the Preliminary Agreement signed between our Government and the French Government was carried in the Cuu Quoc with big headlines. The French Government recognized the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam as a free state. Both sides would observe a ceasefire. A contingent of 10,000 men of the Vietnamese Army would join the 15,000 French troops coming to replace the 180,000-men Chiang army which would be withdrawn.

In the same issue of the paper, there was also an appeal of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on the occasion of the formation of the Resistance Coalition Government. The Standing Committee called on people to step up preparations, to further strengthen solidarity and to remain calm, avoiding all provocations and strictly obeying the Government’s orders. In the new situation the appeal still retained its value.

The French colonialists’ aggression in the South had roused the people to great indignation. Everyone was eager to fight the aggressors. The news that 15,000 French troops would come to the North came rather as a surprise to our compatriots. And in spite of the signature of Vu Hong Khanh at its foot, the Agreement was still opposed by the Nationalist Party. However, there was no sign of great disturbances among the people. Our countrymen had seen that the main representative of our people to sign the Agreement was Uncle Ho. “Uncle Ho must have considered everything carefully,” – that was their first thought.

In the morning, Sainteny in his capacity as representative of the French government called on President Ho at Bac Bo Palace. That was the first official visit reflecting the new relationship between Viet Nam and France.

A large mass rally was convened for 4p.m.

Back from Haiphong, I arrived at the meeting place in front of the City Theatre where I saw crowds thronging along all the approaches to the square. Policemen and self-defence fighters in charge of order had a hard time opening a way for the Government motorcade. Unlike other occasions, the people coming to the rally wore anxious looks on their faces. In fact few of them could fully realize the complex and perilous situation confronting the nation at that moment. Although they placed absolute confidence in their leader, they still worried about many things. Why did the French recognize us only as a free state? What was that Indochinese Federation? Would the Chiang army really withdraw? They had been behaving as if they were to stay on this land indefinitely. All those worries were legitimate and quite understandable.

The sea of people was quiet. News about clashes in Haiphong the previous morning had reached Hanoi. Some people knew that at that moment the French fleet had cast anchor in the Cua Cam river. It was also reported that Lu Han had left Chungking and was flying to Viet Nam. Everyone turned his eyes towards the balcony of the Theatre, waiting for the appearance of the presidium of the rally. Suddenly there was some disorder on the left side of the square. A saboteur had thrown a handgrenade. Being too nervous, he had forgotten to pull the safety pin. He was caught on the spot. He disclosed that the reactionaries had sent in four groups of saboteurs to disrupt the rally. After one of them was caught in the act, the others sneaked away hurriedly.

President Ho and the Bureau had decided to explain clearly to the people why we had signed the March 6 Preliminary Agreement. The representative of the Government explained to the people gathered there both the favourable and the difficult conditions confronting us against the very complex international background at that time. Owning to the heroic struggle of our people, the colonialists had had to give up their previous intention of regarding Viet Nam as an autonomous State only. The French government had to recognize our country as a free State. There is much difference between a “free” and an “autonomous” State. The free Democratic Republic of Viet Nam had its own Government, National Assembly, finances and army. It could be said that we had won the fundamental rights in internal affairs. Once we had won freedom, we would advance towards independence, complete independence. The French wanted to seize Nam Bo and make it a fait accompli. Our Government had laid bare this scheme and condemned it resolutely. Finally the French had to agree to hold a referendum on the unification of the three ky and undertook to accept its results. We had firm confidence in our people, in those who were taking arms in the heroic fight against the aggressors. The struggle was to continue. But Nam Bo would surely come back to the motherland. The entry of French troops into the North in replacement of the Chiang army had been agreed upon by the Allied powers. We did not want to have any foreign armies on our land. But when the over ten thousand French troops came in, the nearly two hundred thousand Chiang troops would withdraw. And eventually the French themselves would have to withdraw from our country. We had negotiated with the French so as to create new, favourable conditions for our struggle which would be a long one. We would use every means to consolidate and develop our political position, our military forces and economic strength in the advance toward complete independence and unity for our country.

Long, thunderous applause broke out, expressing the people’s approval of the signing of the March 6 Preliminary Agreement. Then it was Vu Hong Khanh’s turn to take the floor. He slowly stepped toward the microphone. Facing the people, he was obliged to call on the population to support the Government’s diplomatic activities. His voice was inarticulate and lifeless. The audience responded with a few perfunctory hand clappings.

Suddenly rousing cheers thundered across the square, President Ho, calm-faced, with his familiar high forehead and beard, had just appeared on the balcony of the Theatre. His presence had not been announced beforehand. The applause and cheers lasted a long time. He had to quieten down the crowds by waving his hands repeatedly.

Uncle Ho said only a few concise words.

Our country had been declared independent since August 1945. But so far none of the powers had recognized our independence. The negotiations between us and France would open the way to the international recognition of our country. It would lead us to an ever firmer position in the international arena. It was a great political success. We had become a free State in the world. According to the Agreement, the French troops were to be gradually and completely withdrawn from Viet Nam. The negotiations with the French testified to our political wisdom. Our compatriots should remain calm, united and disciplined. We had always regarded the Chinese as brothers. We had many friends and first of all, we had a government supported by the whole people. However, we must be vigilant and ready…

He stopped for a while then went on:

“I, Ho Chi Minh, have fought with my compatriots all my life for the independence of my Fatherland. I would rather die than betray my country.”

The people listened absorbedly to each of his words. Many eyes were wet with tears. The President had taken an oath before the nation. The struggle, extremely complex and of great importance for the nation’s destiny, was still unfolding. The leaders could not publicly reveal all the facts and policies. Under such circumstances, the main thing was to maintain firm confidence.

Our people expressed absolute confidence in President Ho. The square resounded with repeated slogans “Let’s struggle resolutely for complete independence and unity”, “Let’s resolutely obey all orders of the Government and President Ho”, “Long live President Ho!”

#43

II



I had arrived in Haiphong on the night of the 6th.

The port-city was still smelling of gun powder. From the Chiang army’s ammunition depot in the harbour, explosions were still to be heard from time to time. In the morning, when the clash started, the people had set up barricades in the streets with furniture from their own houses. In the suburbs, self-defence units had felled trees and set up barricades. Our car ran along deserted streets. Most houses were quiet behind closed doors and windows. Self-defence fighters in brown uniforms stood guard at street corners. Haiphong was ready for the fight.

We drove to the iet Minh City Committee. Its secretary was Comrade Le Quang Dao. The comrades there told us that in the afternoon the Nationalist Party men had put out their flags at their headquarters, which was almost opposite the Haiphong Theatre, and clamoured about the “exploits” of their Chiang masters over the loudspeakers.

In Haiphong, as in Hanoi, our National Defence Guard units had temporarily pulled out to the outskirts since last September to avoid clashes with Chiang troops. Only police and self-defence units remained in the city. The self-defence force was made up mostly of workers and poor labourers grouped in their various quarters. They numbered from a platoon to a company in each city ward. They managed to procure weapons by buying from the Japanese, from Chiang troops or by other means. Some were rather well armed, such as the self-defence unit of ward 7. The workers and youth patriotic organization, etc. had also set up armed self-defence units. There was a 200-man company of the shock self-defence force under the city headquarters. Besides, many people who were not affiliated to any self-defence organizations also procured pistols or hand grenades for themselves.

The Party Bureau’s communication on the grave situation had reached Haiphong a few days before. Many old people and children had been evacuated. The City Committee was prepared to evacuate the whole population and apply scorched earth tactics if so ordered. Gun muzzles were ready everywhere, waiting for the enemy. When the clash between the Chiang troops and the French broke out, everyone was quite calm. The self-defence fighters in the harbour had managed to pick up some more weapons while the Chiang ammunition dump was burning.

On the morning of March 7, the French side was not ready for the meeting between our Government’s representative and General Leclerc, so they proposed that the meeting be held in the afternoon. But as I was engaged by the mass rally with the Haiphong people and was to return to Hanoi immediately, as Uncle Ho told me to, we arranged for it to take place the next day. Comrade Phan My stayed behind to prepare for it.

The mass meeting by the Haiphong people was held at the coach station near the Lap River. A fairly high rostrum has been set up. The city was deserted but there were very large crowds at the meeting. They were those who had been assigned the duty of defending the city. The Haiphong population was made up mostly of labouring people. The crowds attending the meeting were rather plainly dressed but they all looked resolute and high-spirited. I explained to them why Uncle Ho and the Government had agreed to start negotiations with the French According {sic} to the Agreement we had just signed, the French troops had arrived here by order of the Allies to replace the Chiang troops who were to go home. The French were also to withdraw from our country after a definite time. We would continue in our struggle till we achieved complete independence and national unification. Our compatriots should be closely united, highly vigilant and should strictly carry out all orders and policies of the Government and President Ho.

The shouts “Long live President Ho” resounded down to the Cua Cam River where the French warships were moored. Vu Hong Khanh, who had accompanied me on the trip to Haiphong and was present at the mass meeting, was asked to address the people but he declined, giving lack of time as an excuse.

On the same afternoon, Comrade Phan My met with Leclerc. This general haughtily said “We have started and we have arrived, whether or not you have acquiesced.” He said that the Chiang clique here had agreed to let the French land and he asked the Vietnamese side to do the same. Phan My refused to answer any requests by Leclerc.

On the 8 {sic}, I came back to Haiphong again. Some French units had landed according to the agreement with the Chiang troops and had pitched their tents along the river. They had landed tanks and armoured vehicles. Most of their equipment was American-made armoured cars, heavy artillery, uniforms and packs. If the war were to break out, we would be fighting a French expeditionary force equipped with American armaments.

Valluy came ashore to welcome the representative of our Government. He was a middle-aged general, of high stature, with gentle and polished manners.

A small ship took me out to sea to meet Leclerc. The Commander-in-Chief of the French expeditionary force was one of the rare generals who had become famous in France during the past few years. The French press extolled his exploits in leading an armoured division in the landing on the Normandy coast and further operations in Germany. He was the man entrusted by De Gaulle with the task of recapturing former French colonies in Indochina.

Leclerc was waiting on the deck of the Senegalais moored in the Cua Cam River. This four-star general had the looks and manners of a professional soldier. He was tall and thin in his field uniform. On his rather bony face, there appeared keen, small eyes and a greying moustache. His smiling features seemed to be easily changed to a face of gloom.

After a handshake and a few words of formal greetings, Leclerc said, in a rather gruff voice, “I love France, and I want France’s honour to be respected everywhere.”

I felt vexed, but restrained myself and replied, “I am a Communist fighting for the independence of our country. I think that genuine patriots always respect the patriotism of others.”

The atmosphere of the talk gradually relaxed, I spoke of the extremely heroic struggle of our people against the Japanese fascists to liberate themselves from the fetters of slavery, then went on, “You have fought against the German fascists, so there must be room for us to understand each other.”

Leclerc led me to the reception room of the ship. He introduced me to the officers present. Then the exchange of views continued. Leclerc promised to try to maintain the friendly relations between France and Viet Nam. He frequently stressed his personal role. We discussed with him the implementation of the Preliminary Agreement in the military field. Pending a formal agreement between the two Governments it was necessary to fix the places and the number of French troops to be stationed there when the French, together with Vietnamese troops, came to replace the Chiang army in its duties.

At this meeting, we and the French Command had agreed to hold joint meetings to reach agreements on the organization and activities of the replacement forces and the question of implementing the ceasefire.

#44

III



“The revolutionary boat is gliding forward through the reefs.” The statement expressed in the directive on “Situation and Policy” dated March 3 had been proved entirely accurate by what had happened. With the March 6 Agreement, the revolution again came to a turning point. Right after the signing of the Agreement, the Party Bureau met to evaluate the situation and work out new policies.

What causes had led the French to give up the declaration of March 24, 1945 by De Gaulle and sign this Agreement?

First of all it was the strength of our people’s unity and struggle. This was the most decisive factor. Our fight against the Japanese in previous years, the great August general uprising and the heroic resistance in the South during the past six months ha led the enemy to realize this new force. Confronted with a whole nation rising up in arms to seize power and fight resolutely for the defence of independence and freedom, even colonialist generals like Leclerc had to think twice before embarking on new military adventures. On the other hand, the difficulties facing French imperialism should be taken into account. The French bourgeoisie had been weakened during the years of the Second World War. Internally they had to deal with the mounting movement of the democratic forces. In Indochina, contradictions between the French and the Chiang clique had tended to diminish on the whole, but still caused misgivings to the French. Such a situation had forced the French to seek a new arrangement with us for the time being.

The March 6 Agreement was only an initial success for us. Negotiations were still going on between us and the French. What were the tasks of the whole Party and people at the present time?

France had not recognized the independence of the Indochinese countries. The national liberation revolution in those countries had not been completed. The goal of the Vietnamese revolution in this stage was still the complete liberation of the motherland, national reunification and consolidation of the Democratic Republic. If the country was to be completely liberated, colonialism had to be opposed. Now that the French government had signed the Preliminary agreement, the situation was somewhat different. As regards tactics, we had to determine the concrete enemy at the time so as to spearhead out attacks on him.

Three months earlier, in the directive “Resistance and National Reconstruction” of November 25, 1945, the Party Central Committee, after giving an analysis of the situation, had pointed out that our main enemy was the French colonial aggressors. In the new situation, the Party Bureau pointed out that that our concrete and immediate enemy at that moment was the French reactionaries. These reactionaries were doing their utmost to destroy the democratic movement in France. They intended to join hands with US and British imperialism to encircle the Soviet Union. They still had plans to re-impose colonialist rule on Indochina. At that moment, they were undermining Viet Nam’s unification and opposing our people’s struggle for complete independence.

After the French had decided to use force to occupy Nam Bo we put forward the policy of establishing a national united front against the French colonialist aggressors. In the new situation, the Front should spearhead its struggle against the French reactionaries.

A number of new slogans were put forward: “Association and equality with the new France”, “Let the peoples of Viet Nam and France unite to oppose the French reactionaries.”

In the military field, we had to maintain and strengthen our force to guard against every eventuality. At the same time we should intensify the struggle on other fronts: political, economic and cultural.

Proceeding from the above tactical reorientation, the Bureau forecast possible developments and set forth various tasks.

It was necessary to explain to the people, widely and deeply, that the signing of the Preliminary Agreement was a correct decision and a success for us. It was also necessary to combat both the idea that the signing was the end of all difficulties and the tendency to slow down preparations for the fight.

We had to guard ourselves against any treachery by the French colonialists. They might refuse to carry out their commitments or distort the contents of the Agreement. It might so happen that, after the landing and stationing of French troops in a number of bases, the colonialists would seek pretexts to attack us in an attempt to overthrow the people’s power. To defend the fruits of the revolution was a basic question of utmost importance. The Bureau stressed that preparations for a protracted resistance war should be continued. In places where French troops were to be stationed, we should keep calm and set up liaison committees to settle problems involving both sides. We should quickly organize and educate the local people so that they would heighten their vigilance, while stepping up propaganda work among the French troops so that they would understand the just struggle of our people.

Dealing with the Chiang clique at that time also required great adroitness. The March 6 Agreement had placed them before a new conjuncture. They would realize that they could not maintain their interests in Indochina as before. We should oppose their scheme to prolong their occupation of this country and turn Indochina into a territory under international trusteeship.

Reactionaries in the country were plotting new schemes and new tricks. They were trying hard to distort the significance of the Agreement. They sought to provoke incidents to give the French colonialists a pretext to encroach on our position or denounce what they had signed. The Nationalists in the pay of Chiang wanted to stage a counter-revolutionary putsch. As they were alarmed at the prospect of being left behind by the Chiang clique, we should try to divide their ranks, winning those who had been led astray over to our side. The pro-French traitors might become active and collaborate with the French to undermine our struggle for independence. We should find effective means to prevent them from doing harm to the common cause.

The Bureau pointed out the French colonialists’ dark designs regarding the question of Nam Bo.

They would hold that the March 6 Agreement was applicable only to Bac Bo and a large part of Trung Bo. They would step up the comedy of “demanding self-government” and try to set up a puppet government in Nam Bo with a view to continuing the division of our country and placing us before a fait accompli.

With regard to the referendum in Nam Bo stipulated in the Agreement, they would seek to delay it for a time so that they could suppress the resistance movement and strengthen the forces of the puppet troops and government. In a referendum conducted under the bayonets of the aggressors, our compatriots would not be free to voice their aspirations.

The French would take advantage of the confusion before the ceasefire agreement was fully put into effect in Nam Bo to encroach upon our military positions and attack our political stand. They would try to dishearten our compatriots and create favourable conditions for the reactionaries’ activities.

Our policy was to resolutely demand that the French carry out the ceasefire agreement strictly and recognize the legal status of the Viet Minh in the areas under temporary French occupation pending a formal treaty between us and France. In occupied cities, there would be a strong movement of political struggle for national unification.

The signing of the Preliminary Agreement had brought about a period of détente. We should take the greatest advantage of this valuable time to consolidate and develop our forces in every field as a basis for the long struggle to come.

The above points were set forth in the directive “Make peace in order to advance” by the Standing Bureau of the Central Committee, dated March 9, 1946. The directive concluded:

“Dear comrades,

The Fatherland is facing a difficult time. But the revolutionary boat is gliding forward through the reefs. We have made peace with France to gain time, to preserve our force, to maintain our position so as to advance quickly towards complete independence.”

#45
i'll start on part two this wknd, thx goatsix
#46

IV



D’Argenlieu returned to France in mid-February. Among the French ruling circles, there had been changes that ran counter to his wishes. General De Gualle, his master who had appointed him High Commissioner in Indochina, had resigned. Felix Gouin, a Socialist Party member, was nominated Prime Minister of the provisional government. The Ministry of the Colonies, formerly held by one of De Gualle’s close associates had become the “Ministry of Overseas France” and was held by Marius Moutet, also a Socialist. The Gouin government, with a majority of members belonging to the Socialist Party, had agreed to the plan of negotiation with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, proposed by Leclerc, D’Argenlieu was most active in seeking support from rightwing elements in the new administration in France. He clamoured everywhere that the Viet Minh was an “anti-French party”, which could not be trusted, that “Ho Chi Minh and the other Viet Minh leaders” were all “Communist rebels”. Early in April, he came back to Saigon.

After the Preliminary Agreement of March 6 became public, D’Argenlieu made a speech over Saigon radio. The High Commissioner praised the morale of the French troops during the days after the Japanese coup. He blamed the Japanese for having aroused “evil desires among the natives”, meaning the Indochinese people’s aspirations for independence. He expressed thanks for the British army who had helped France to return to Nam Bo. D’Argenlieu referred to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam as “the Hanoi authorities” or “the Hanoi government”. He was compelled to mention what had been stipulated in the Agreement: “The Democratic Republic of Viet Nam has its own government, its own parliament, its own finances and its own army”. But he added: “I should like to tell you that Cambodia also has its own government, its own army, its own finances and its own parliament”. He praised what the French had done in Nam Bo, i.e. the establishment of a consultative council. Finally, he expressed the hope that “Indochinese in all walks of life” would “proliferate and prosper”.

That colonialist-minded speech was immediately attacked by our press in vigorous fashion.

On March 9, 1946, the Minister of Overseas France, Moutet, submitted the Vietnam – French Preliminary Agreement to the Council of Ministers in Paris. The Agreement was approved by the French Government. But only a few days later, on March 14, Moutet himself stated that Cochinchina would have a free constitution and would “enjoy a separate regime like the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam”. This showed that we should not expect much from the so-called Socialists in power in the French government.

With regard to the Agreement that the French government had just approved, the French in Indochina were most inconsistent in their words and deeds.

On March 13, Leclerc issued an appeal to French troops and citizens urging them to have a friendly attitude towards Vietnamese. Sainteny wrote in the newspaper L’Entente published in Hanoi: “It is not with vain regret for an out-dated past that one can build up a fine and full future”. But at the same time, in Nam Bo, the French scattered leaflets from the air calling on the Vietnamese army to surrender their arms. On March 9, French troops were mustered in Ca Mau, Rach Gia… They launched surprise attacks against many positions held by our troops. Our armed forces resolutely fought back in self-defence. The guns were still booming in Nam Bo. In the North, the newly-landed French troops made movement without asking for our leave.

By mid-March, leaders of the Viet Nam Revolutionary Alliance and the Nationalist Party agreed to issue a Joint order on the integration of administrations and armies. The parties were to cooperate in a friendly way, refrain from attacking or arresting each other’s members, refrain from intimidating the population, carry out propaganda freely in a lawful manner, and strictly abide by the Government’s order.

Just one day after the order was published in the press, on March 16, the Nationalists had a group of their henchmen march in the streets shouting slogans against the signing of the Preliminary Agreement. When they arrived at Hang Dau square, our police forced them to disperse. Three of our policemen were injured when doing their duty. The Nationalists continued to stage kidnappings in the cities.

The situation developed according to the forecast of the Party Bureau in its directive “Make peace in order to advance.” A new stage in the struggle, most complex and no less fierce, had started.

Two days after the signing of the Preliminary Agreement President Ho met with district chiefs and company commanders of the Hanoi self-defence corps at the city hall. He said, “The signing of this ceasefire agreement does not mean an end to the war, nor is our moderate and mild attitude towards the French troops one of limpness or passivity. On the contrary, more than ever, we should strengthen our forces and heighten the morale of the whole people so as to cope with all eventualities. The spirit of resistance should be maintained and careful preparations be permanently in force without a second or a minute’s relaxation”. He talked to the comrades there for one and a half hours.

In a letter to the Nam Bo people and fighters dated March 11, Uncle Ho wrote:

“During this ceasefire period, especially when troops from both sides have to remain at their present positions, it is more than ever necessary to make preparations, strengthen your forces and observe discipline. And later, when peace is achieved your mettle will be a valuable force to guarantee the complete independence of our country for the future.”

On March 13, President Ho sent a letter to our compatriots and to the government and peoples in the world denouncing the French for their acts contrary to the spirit of the Agreement. He called on our people to keep calm and be ready to act on order. He called on the peoples and governments in the world, especially the French people, to support our just cause and to demand that the French government carry out the Agreement. On the same day, President Ho sent a message reminding the French side of the need to open formal negotiations, as it had been agreed that such negotiations were to start at once.

Meetings and demonstrations surged up everywhere. In Hanoi, a hundred thousand people gathered on the grounds of the University students’ hostels demanding that the French stop all acts contrary to the Agreement and open formal negotiations in Paris at once. The masses shouted the slogans: “Support President Ho”, “We’re ready to obey the Government’s orders” and “Nam Bo is part of Viet Nam”.

In spite of the reactionaries’ acts of sabotage, we persisted in carrying out the policy of uniting various parties. A large gathering was held jointly by the Viet Minh, the Revolutionary Alliance and the National Party at the Municipal Theatre on March 17. Comrade Dong, on behalf of the Viet Minh, explained the necessity of rallying round the Coalition Government for the Resistance and expressed the Viet Minh’s desire to achieve unity. Uncle Ho arrived in the middle of the meeting. A thunder of applause burst out in the auditorium and all the people present stood up. The military band played the tune “Long live Ho Chi Minh.”

The reactionary elements of the Nationalist Part in the Coalition Government advocated seeking support form Chiang and the Americans. On March 12, Nguyen Tuong Tam, arriving at the Foreign Ministry in assume office, declared: “China and the United Stated {sic} have the duty to maintain peace in the Far East.” He constantly spoke of the necessity to keep in touch with the Americans, to win the aid of the Americans and Chiang in every field. Nguyen Tuong Tam proposed that a goodwill mission be sent immediately to Chungking to strengthen Sino-Vietnamese friendship. It was certainly an idea of his masters. Vinh Thuy, who was then at the head of the Foreign Affairs Commission, the task of which was to advise the Government on diplomatic affairs, approved Tam’s proposal. He expressed his wish to go to Chungking. The Chiang leaders in Hanoi also suggested that we should let Vinh Thuy go. We learned later that Marshall was present at Chungking at that time. It was possible that the US imperialists had seen in Vinh Thuy a card they might use later on. The sending of a mission to Chungking would also help lessen the contradictions between us and Chiang. Our Government agreed. It was a severe test for Vinh Thuy. He had said some fine words in August of the previous year: “I’d rather be a citizen of a free nation than king of an enslaved country.” Some time later, he was again to be confronted with a choice: whether to march on with the people or relapse into a traitor’s life. Before French troops arrived in Hanoi, Vinh Thuy had left the capital for China on board an American aeroplane. The short journey made by the last king of the Nguyen dynasty on the side of the people had ended. Not long after the outbreak of the national resistance war, Uncle Ho sent an emissary to Hong Kong to see Vinh Thuy and ask him to return home and join the resistance but he refused. In early December 1948, Vinh Thuy chartered a Catalina sea plane and flew to Ha Long Bay to meet Bolaert who had replaced D’Argenlieu as the French High Commissioner in Indochina. Thus Vinh Thuy’s bargaining with his old master to resume the life of an enslaved puppet started.

#47

V



Not until one week after the Preliminary Agreement was signed in Hanoi did the Chiang Kai-shek Army General Staff consent to let French troops take over northern Indochina in place of Chinese troops. The Sino-French accord under which the Chiang troops withdrawal would start on March 15 and end on March 31, 1946 was made public in Chungking on March 13. So the 200,000 Chiang troops had no legal right to remain there after that date.

Hanoi’s armed self-defence units made their presence felt again, for the first time since the Chiang troops had entered the city. Before, only units of Chiang’s 53rd Army Corps had stood guard behind earthworks at street corners, their helmets decorated with the white notched Kuomintang sun. Now, there were also our own self-defence fighters in their forage caps with the golden star on a red background. They looked quite impressive as they stood guard on the pavements, rifles in hand and hand grenades at the belt. This signalled a change. The city put on a new look, assumed a new spirit.

On March 18, 1,200 French troops were allowed to come to Hanoi, as replacements for the Chiang troops. Both the Vietnamese and the French issued separate communiques calling on the Vietnamese and French populations to remain calm in order to avoid any regrettable actions.

Along the roads the French troops were to go through, our compatriots and armed forces were on the look-out in case any incident should happen.

According to our regulations, every French convoy should fly a Vietnamese flag and be accompanied by Vietnamese liaison officers. The gun barrels in the vehicles should be completely covered. When they reached Hanoi the vehicles must enter it in groups.

Two hundred French military vehicles left Haiphong early in the morning. But it was not until noon that the first ones reached the Long Bien Bridge. The convoy, accompanied by armoured cars and Vietnamese liaison officers, had had to stop at every one of our militia men’s check-points.

As the French troops went past, all the doors and windows of the houses along the route were closed. Nobody was in the streets except a few traffic policemen and self-defence fighters on duty. What met the eyes of the French Expeditionary Corps were banners hung across the streets bearing such slogans as: “Viet Nam for the Vietnamese”, “Nam Bo is part of Viet Nam”, in the Vietnamese and French languages. The presence of some French nationals who gathered at Trang Thi Street could not change the cold atmosphere of the whole city: a host turning his back on an unwanted guest.

At 5 p.m. on that day, Leclerc led a delegation including Sainteny, Pignon, Salan, Valluy to the Bac Bo Palace. Leclerc quickened his pace as he came to greet President Ho Chi Minh and smilingly remarked, “Mr President, we Vietnamese and French have now become friends.”

Uncle Ho invited Leclerc to sit beside him on the sofa. The Commander-in-Chief of the French Expeditionary Corps raised his glass to toast the health of President Ho Chi Minh. He expressed his hope that the official talks between the Government of Viet Nam and the French government would be held as soon as possible so as to provide an opportunity for the Vietnamese and the French people to cooperate in the pursuit of peace and happiness.

Some days later, as an expression of this spirit of cooperation and friendship, Leclerc proposed the organization of a military parade in which the Vietnamese Army and the French Army would take part.

A fully-equipped battalion of Vietnamese troops was sent to Hanoi from the suburbs. Although they lacked training in parade exercises our troops marched in good order and looked valiant. The troops, dressed in green uniform, had leather shoes and carried rifles with fixed bayonets. Commanders with long sabres led their units who advanced singing. The heroic words of their songs springing from hearts burning with revolutionary fire caused great excitement. For the first time the French saw a Vietnamese regular unit. They showed respect and admiration.

After the parade, before returning to the barracks, our troops marched through the main streets of the city. Once more, our compatriots in Hanoi were able to see an armed detachment of the Vietnamese army make its appearance in the capital. Passers-by stopped and people poured out of their houses onto the pavements to watch the scene. Along the streets through which the troops were passing, gay shouts rang out.

#48

VI



During the month of March, Chiang troops refused to withdraw. A great number of Japanese troops had not yet been repatriated and several thousand more French troops arrived, consisting both of new soldiers, recruited in France, Germany and North Africa, and of those who had been arrested by the Japanese on March 9, 1945, and had just been released from custody. The number of foreign troops in the streets of Hanoi was greater than it had been during the first days of the revolution.

But the situation was now different from the time when Chiang troops had entered the capital.

Before, our troops had been forced to move to the outskirts. If we ever wanted to carry a large number of rifles through the city, we had to put them in a cart and cover them with rush mats. Now units of our armed forces were able to march freely through the streets of Hanoi. Formerly the Vietnamese sentries guarding the government offices had been ordered to withdraw temporarily behind the fences; now they were able to stand on duty in front of the offices, rifle in hand, without being troubled by the Chiang troops. Apart from the Chiang troops’ check points, there were also those of our own troops and joint Vietnamese-French ones. The city’s armed self-defence fighters were present everywhere, ready to defend their homes and fatherland and protect the people. By the Preliminary Agreement signed by our government and the French government, the Chiang army had to give our country de facto recognition as a sovereign state. They could no longer interfere in our security as in the past. They knew that they were about to pull out. As for the French, they were fully aware that Viet Nam was no longer their colony and they could no longer act as they had done before.

Although the situation was growing tense due to the presence of the French, the atmosphere had become more relaxed. It was true that the numbers of the enemy armies had increased, but nobody dared deny our sovereignty.

Through the emissaries sent by him to discuss with us the question of taking over from the Chiang troops, Leclerc affirmed that he would honour his commitments and expressed his wish that the Vietnamese government would do the same. Once, during a meeting with me, he wanted to know the Vietnamese people’s attitude towards the French. I said to him:

“You and I are militarymen. Do you want me to speak frankly?”

“Of course,” he replied.

“The French are just paying lip service to peace, while their actions are those of aggressors. That’s what the Vietnamese public think of them.”
On March 23, Leclerc left Hanoi.

The command of the French forces in northern Indochina was transferred to Valluy.

No major clashes had yet occurred between us and the French since they arrived in Hanoi. The Chiang troops were still there and their presence forced the French to act cautiously. We deemed it necessary to exploit the contradictions between Chiang Kai-shek and the French at that time in order to drive away the Chiang troops as soon as possible, and force the French to do what they had pledged.

All of a sudden, on March 27, some days after Leclerc’s departure from Hanoi, the French ordered a small detachment to break into the premises of our Finance Department. The French soldiers removed the Vietnamese flag and prevented the Vietnamese staff from entering. This office stood at a key crossroads on the road from the citadel to the old Governor General’s palace. We found out later that Saigon had instructed Valluy to occupy that building so that it could be used as the headquarters of the French High Commissioner when the latter arrived in Hanoi.

That was the first act of provocation.

Our offices in the Liaison Commission strongly protested against this action by the French and demanded an immediate investigation. I also met Valluy to lodge a protest against this violation of our sovereignty and demanded that the French should leave the place at once and return authority to guard it to the Vietnamese troops.

Throughout North Viet Nam a wave of indignation was mounting, and on March 29 a general strike was called. People closed shops and markets and refused to cooperate with the French. There was a prompt response from the Chinese nationals too. Shops, restaurants and tea-rooms closed except a few French owned ones in Trang Tien Street and Trieu Quang Phuc Street… But even there, the Vietnamese employees refused to work and gathered in the streets to talk. Posters calling for non-cooperation with the French were stuck up on doors. The vans of the French commissariat, sent to purchase food, returned empty. Those French soldiers who had been given town leave, stood about on the pavements at a loss what to do. They realized that the Vietnamese people, who had been cold to them, were now showing outright hostility.

Our firm reaction caused the French to reconsider their policy and finally compelled them to return the Finance Office to us. The Vietnamese flag was hoisted again. The office personnel returned to work as usual. But the French still insisted on sharing guard duty and creating a joint body composed of twelve people from each side.

Our compatriots in the capital as well as the Chinese nationals refused to cooperate with French until a communique was issued by the Hanoi Administrative Committee calling on everyone to return to work and to reopen their shops.

The delegates of our Armed Forces and of the French Army met to discuss the implementation of the military clauses of the March 6 Preliminary Agreement. General Salan and General Valluy represented the French side and Vu Hong Khanh and myself the Vietnamese, in our capacity as Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Military Commission. After many prolonged meetings the two sides reached a temporary agreement on April 3.

Under this agreement, the French troops who assumed the task of taking over should be of French nationality; non-French nationals should only be used as guards in the Japanese P.O.W. camps. This condition was aimed at excluding members of the Foreign Legion from the take-over troops. The Vietnamese troops in the take-over force were part of the Vietnamese armed forces. They had their own command, and were placed under the control of the General Staff of the Vietnamese Armed Forces receiving direct orders from the General Staff.

The French and Vietnamese troops should form a joint take-over force in Hanoi, Nam Dinh, Hue, Da Nang and some frontier towns. In other places such as Thai Binh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Dong Hoi, Quang Tri, the French should nominally take over from the Chiang troops and then hand over to the Vietnamese Armed Forces. Plans for future movements of Vietnamese and French take-over troops should be discussed and agreed upon by the Commands of both sides and be submitted to the Vietnamese Government at least 48 hours before execution. Military vehicles used to carry supplies for such troops were allowed to carry at most four armed men each, with the total number of armed men in any convoy not exceeding sixty.

A Vietnamese-French Central Liaison and Control Commission was set up in Hanoi to supervise the implementation of the Agreement. If necessary similar regional commissions should be set up.

The two sides agreed to send a ceasefire Commission to southern Trung Bo.

The discussions on the procedures for realizing a ceasefire in Nam Bo were very heated and lasted several sessions. Our delegates strongly protested against the illegal attacks launched by the French troops in Nam Bo. We insisted that a ceasefire commission should be sent to Nam Bo to implement Article Three of the Preliminary Agreement. Salan eluded our legitimate request, arguing that the ceasefire question was to be settled by the two governments. This argument was refuted by our delegates. Due to the negative attitude of the French side, the discussions did not achieve any results.

Clashes took place in many places where French troops were stationed. In Haiphong, on April 11, French troops blatantly occupied the premises of many offices. Our compatriots there immediately closed shops and markets, went on strike in protest against the French action and our delegates in the Vietnamese French Liaison and Control Commission made a strong representation. The French had to withdraw from the places they had illegally occupied. Some days later, while the people of Haiphong were gathering for a mass rally, the news came that the French had sent 500 troops to Hanoi without notifying us. Meanwhile a number of French troops had started to attack the Haiphong headquarters of the Democratic Party near Ha Ly bridge. The rally at once turned into a demonstration. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in the rain, shouting angry slogans. The next day a general strike took place. The city was deserted. Shops closed. Long lines of empty buses and taxis were standing at the stations. There were no ferry boats to cross the river. Filled with apprehension the French sent armoured cars which took up position at the ends of the streets. Finally they had to apologize. At the end of April another clash took place between the French troops and our self-defence units. The French made attacks with tanks and armoured cars against us in Tran Hung Dao Street, Station Road and Ho Chi Minh Boulevard. Our self-defence units fought back fiercely. It was a long time before the Haiphong Vietnamese-French Liaison and Control Commission could restore order.

In the middle of April, a Vietnamese delegation headed by Comrade Hoang Quoc Viet, together with a number of French officers, flew to Nha Trang to enforce the ceasefire. Here the French had summoned former mandarins and village notables to work for them. Those who refused to cooperate with them were terrorised. Their scheme was to restore their protectorate over the areas they occupied in southern Trung Bo. Our delegation made repeated representations to the French authorities there. After seven days, as the discussions had failed to yield any results due to the obstinate attitude of the French side, our delegation left Nha Trang.

#49

VII



Towards the end of March, d’Argenlieu suggested that a meeting should be held between him and President Ho Chi Minh to discuss the relations between the two countries. He proposed that the meeting be held abroad a French cruiser, in Halong Bay.

Some weeks earlier, the newspaper Cuu Quoc (National Salvation) had carried a commentary strongly criticizing d’Argenlieu’s colonialist attitude. The French High Commissioner’s position had been very clearly revealed. So what question did he really want to solve? Why did he choose to hold his meeting on board a cruiser anchored offshore, and not Hanoi or Saigon? Given d’Argenlieu’s record since his arrival in Indochina, especially since March 6, Uncle Ho and his comrades-in-arms had to study the offer very seriously. Anyhow the Preliminary Agreement had just been ratified by the French Government. The news of the signing of the Agreement had had echoes throughout the world. Many foreign newspapers considered it as a good way of soling the hostilities then existing between colonies and colonial powers. What was most important was that in such a meeting the tens of millions of our people in both North and South Viet Nam would certainly back our government’s position. Uncle Ho also desired to meet with the French High Commissioner in order to press for the immediate holding of official negotiations in Paris, where the French reactionary elements in Indochina would find it difficult to conceal the truth about the talks from the public. So Uncle Ho decided to accept the Admiral’s invitation.

On the morning of March 24, Uncle Ho, wearing his broad-brimmed hat and carrying his stick, got into his car. He was accompanied by Hoang Minh Giam and Nguyen Tuong Tam. At Gia Lam airport they were met by Sainteny and boarded a French sea-plane.

About 10 a.m. the okay reached Ha Long Bay. The Catalina alighted on the sea. The High Commissioner and Leclerc had been waiting aboard the cruiser Emile Bertin.

The welcoming ceremony took place in a solemn atmosphere.

A salute was fired from the guns. Host and guest shook hands. Introductions were made in turn by d’Argenlieu and Uncle Ho. The cruiser set sail towards the open sea. A cocktail party was held aboard the cruiser. Raising his glass, the Admiral said:

“This is the first meeting held to strengthen the friendly relations between France and the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam. May I propose a toast to the health of the President and to the prosperity of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam”.

D’Argenlieu stressed the fact that this was the first meeting. He wanted to imply that it was he who represented France in Indochina, and not Leclerc, who had met President Ho in Hanoi.

Uncle Ho was straightforward in his reply to the Admiral. He said:

“The present meeting is the result of the March 6, 1946 Agreement. So far as the Vietnamese government is concerned, it has strictly implemented the Preliminary Agreement. And we also request a sincere from the French side, so as to help bring about friendship between Viet Nam and France.“

President Ho was invited by d’Argenlieu to review the fleet. The warship steamed past a line of ships carrying big guns, their barrels pointing to the sky. Then she cast anchor. The strap of his hat pulled down, leaning on his bamboo stick, President Ho, with d’Argenlieu by his side, reviewed the French fleet. As the ships went past the French Navy seamen shouted hurrahs to welcome the President of the Democratic republic of Viet Nam.

As regards this meeting, some people say that d’Argenlieu was forced to meet President Ho under pressure from Leclerc, who had been instructed by the French government to open preparatory talks in Viet Nam before conducting official negotiations. Others consider it as part of the High Commissioner’s delaying tactics. It was d’Argenlieu himself who suggested that a preparatory conference be held in Dalat. D’Argenlieu feared that the unstable political situation existing at that time in France would lead to too many concessions to the Viet Minh. He still entertained the hope that de Gualle would soon return to power. And for the moment he had not yet succeeded in building up his puppets for the autonomous State of Cochinchina. Moreover he was taking advantage of the welcome ceremony to President Ho to bring up his fleet as a show of force.

After the review, President Ho and the French High Commissioner settled down immediately to an exchange of views.

Uncle Ho wanted the negotiations to open immediately in Paris, d’Argenlieu on the other hand did not want an early conference, nor did he want it to be held in Paris. He said that as the French government had not been fully informed of the situation, a preparatory conference would be necessary. He suggested Dalat as the venue of these preparatory talks, for, in his opinion, Dalat would become the capital of the federation of Indochina. Uncle Ho saw the Commissioner’s scheme of deferring the official negotiations clearly. He said he did not see the need for holding preparatory talks. D’Argenlieu stuck to his guns: as long as the French government was not fully aware of all the problems in Indochina there could not be any official negotiations.

There was also a long debate on the seat and date of the official talks. Uncle Ho insisted on Paris. His suggestion was supported by Leclerc and Sainteny on the ground that to hold it in Paris, the capital of France, would prevent the conference from being troubled by extremist elements (i.e. the Viet Nam Nationalist Party). Finally d’Argenlieu had to accept the proposal. The date of the departure of the Vietnamese delegation for France to hold official negotiations was fixed for the last quarter of May. Uncle Ho also agreed to the holding of preparatory talks in Dalat. But he made it a condition that the French delegates attending the preparatory talks should be sent by the French government from France. It was also agreed that, by the middle of April, at the same time as the French delegation left the country for Viet Nam to attend the preparatory talks, a Vietnamese parliamentary delegation would pay a good will visit to the French National Assembly and the French people.

Salan later related that the meeting at Ha Long Bay led to an irreconcilable rupture between the Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Corps and the French High Commissioner.

That afternoon as he was watching the sky and sea of the aft deck Salan was summoned by the admiral. D’Argenlieu, pale-faced and trembling with anger, was in his cabin. He told Salan: “General Leclerc has acted impolitely towards me. I would like to request you to bring him to reason. During the few weeks he has been talking to Mr. Ho Chi Minh to his heart’s content. It is my turn now, that’s obvious. I don’t want to chase after a Munich conference in Indochina, going from one concession to another. If I accept Paris, Mr. Ho will start making new demands”.

Salan looked for Leclerc and told him, what had happened. That very afternoon Leclerc left for Saigon.

On the plane back to Hanoi, President Ho told Salan: “If the Admiral was intending to use his ships to intimidate me, he made a big mistake. Those ships cannot go upstream on our rivers”.

#50
for ppl tuning in, the guerilla war w/ france is about to start
#51
give them hell
#52

VIII



On March 11, in a letter sent to our fellow country-men in Nam Bo, Uncle Ho told them about the recognition by the French government of our country as a free and sovereign State. He wrote: “This is thanks to the heroic struggle of the people all over the country, especially our compatriots in Nam Bo and southern Trung Bo and of all our fighters during the last six months.” He pointed out that the negotiations “will create political conditions which we should know how to exploit in order to achieve our goal – a completely independent Viet Nam.”

Later, at the Second Congress of the Party in 1951, in his political report, he referred to the March 6 Agreement and remarked that our compatriots and Party members in Nam Bo had considered that that policy had been correct.

Indeed, for our compatriots in Nam Bo and southern Trung Bo the Agreement brought them new faith. Those who were fighting against the aggressors saw clearly that they had won a great victory when the French government was forced to recognize Viet Nam as a free State. Our compatriots were still more delighted at the fact that the Chiang Kai-shek troops would have to pull out. Some people said: “By a mere signature Uncle Ho has managed to drive nearly 200,000 Chiang Kai-shek troops out of our country.” The Agreement created a new opportunity for our compatriots in their long struggle.

It was the enemy who was puzzled, bewildered, in face of the newly-signed Agreement. The former administrators and their puppets were at a loss. They were angry at every word, every sentence in the Agreement. They put many questions: Why do they call the Hanoi authorities the “Vietnamese government”? Why does the French government officially recognize the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam as a free State? Why is the French government pledging to accept the result of a referendum about the unification of the three Ky? – For them Nam Bo was simply a French colony.

In a session of the Consultative Council on March 12, Cédile, the French Commissioner in Cochinchina explained: “The March 6 Agreement is only a local agreement between the Hanoi authorities and the French Commissioner in Bac Bo. If a Vietnamese government is referred to, it is by mere courtesy, and does not imply recognition of a single government for the three Annamese countries. Before long Cochinchina will have its separate government, parliament, army and finances… all the rights enjoyed by the other countries in the Federation.”

Those words of Cédile reflected d’Argenlieu’s attitude and scheme. On March 8, when Valluy came, in the name of General Leclerc, to inform him of the newly signed March 6 Agreement, d’Argenlieu said at once: “I am amazed, really amazed, General. France has such a fine expeditionary corps yet its commanders would rather negotiate than fight.”

Thus the opposition of the reactionary elements in Saigon to the spirit and letter of the Agreement was advocated and encouraged by the highest representative of France in Indochina.

Instead of implementing the Agreement by ceasing all hostilities and holding a referendum as was laid down in the clauses which had been signed, d’Argenlieu speeded up the formation of an “autonomous government” of Cochinchina, in order to carry out his policy of splitting Nam Bo from Viet Nam.

After the signing of the Agreement in some places such as Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan the French feigned a desire to establish contact with our military units with the view of arranging a ceasefire. In reality, these were only ambushes. Through lack of vigilance, one of our units was caught and suffered some losses.

The High Command of the French Expeditionary Corps imposed many arrogant conditions on our armed forces. They demanded that our “March South” units should withdraw to the North, and our troops in Nam Bo should come together and hand over their weapons to the French before returning to their native localities.

The enemy in South Viet Nam had laid bare his true colours: he had betrayed the Agreement. Our compatriots and fighters remembered clearly President Ho’s words: “Hold firm to your fighting positions.” And so all the enemy’s treacherous acts were immediately beaten off.

With the Ninth Colonial Infantry Division and the Armed Division moving to the north, the French had only one division left in the south, the third Colonial Infantry. The French forces were not only smaller in numbers they were also more scattered. The recently set up puppet machinery was still very weak.

Like a river bursting its banks, our people from the plains to the mountain regions rose up as one man, swept away the local puppet machinery plank by plank and restored the revolutionary power. With any weapon they could lay hands on, the people arose and fought side by side with the army. A series of enemy posts were wiped out, encircled or abandoned by their defenders. Many important roads and water communication lines were cut. Together with the local cadres our troops had organized many armed propaganda units. Fast-moving units of our armed forces penetrated into temporarily occupied areas. Each time our troops attacked a village, the people at once sounded the gongs, beat and drums and, making their way to the puppets’ offices, forced them to admit their crimes and return all they had plundered. Within a short period of time, vast areas in Nam Bo and southern Trung Bo were freed from enemy control. There was a new fighting spirit all over South Viet Nam.

Guerrilla warfare was widespread. Everywhere there were rallies and demonstrations.
As they were equipped only with rudimentary weapons, our army and people in Nam Bo had to depend mainly on stratagems to defeat the enemy. The Kinh Sang post in Cai Be district was on the bank of a canal… The enemy soldiers stationed there exerted a strict control over the passing boats. One day, in broad daylight, one small unit of ours went past the post by boat, disguised as traders. The soldiers ordered the boat to come near the bank so that they could check it. Our men invited them to board the boat and then killed them with scimitars and daggers. After that they landed and wiped out the other soldiers in the post.

In Cao Lanh district, Sa Dec province, a platoon of puppet troops was stationed near a market place. On market days, the soldiers would come looting in the market-place. One morning, no sooner had they left the post than our troops assaulted it. Those who had stayed behind surrendered. Hearing the shots, all the people in the market-place fled, leaving their belongings behind. When the shooting ended they returned to find that everything they had left remained untouched. As our troops went past, parading their prisoners and carrying trophies, they were acclaimed by the people who stood along the road.

Women in many places took part in the fighting to wipe out the enemy and capture weapons. Some used bamboo flails to kill the enemy right in the market-places. Others would use a wicker fish trap to catch an enemy soldier by his head and capture his rifle.

The puppet troops and administration were facing a new situation: the revolutionary force was continuously growing. The March 6 Agreement bound the French to accept the abolition of the colonial regime. What would become of the puppets, after the referendum? Their immediate cause for fear was that the French troops’ bayonets had become powerless and could no longer be used to shield them. The best way for them was to rally to the people. Many puppet agents and officials came to our cadres to hand over their seals and files, ready to accept any punishment meted out to them. Groups of puppet soldiers surrendered with their weapons. Some offered to help wipe out enemy posts from within.

In Saigon and other cities a movement of political struggle surged up. Rallies, demonstrations, and strikes were held in protest against the French violations. The press denounced the farce of French stage-managed “autonomy” and condemned the collusion between the traitors and the aggressors in their scheme of dividing the country.

Armed activities were even conducted inside Saigon city. On April 8, one task force crossed the Saigon river and blew up a big ammunition depot. A platoon of French troops guarding the depot was wiped out and four thousand tons of ammunition destroyed. The explosions shook the whole city, heavily damaging the premises of the head-quarters of the French Expeditionary Corps General Staff including Leclerc’s own office.

On the same day the French delegation to the Dalat preparatory conference arrived in Saigon. In the evening Leclerc gave a dinner in honour of the delegation. Max André, the head of the delegation was displeased with the explosion at the depot. He said to Leclerc: “I suppose that those responsible will be punished for their negligence.” Leclerc angrily replied: “I am the only one responsible here.”

Was it because the four-star general realized that his statement a month before – “Cochinchina has been pacified” – was erroneous? For him everything would have to begin again from the beginning.

#53

IX



The Sino-French agreement signed in Chungking on March 13 stipulated that the replacement of Chinese troops by French troops should begin as from March 15 and end of March 13, 1946.

On the afternoon of March 18, upon his arrival in Hanoi, Leclerc went to the former Governor General’s palace to meet Lu Han. Those who accompanied him related how, when the General Commander-in-Chief of the French Expeditionary Corps praised Sino-French friendship, Lu Han replied coldly: “We are executing the order of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.”

The blue-uniformed soldiers of the 53rd Army Corps continued to add more sandbags to their fortifications at the crossroads. At the same time as the French white-helmeted military policemen were riding their motor-bikes along Trang Thi Street to make their presence felt, Lu Han would also send his yellow-uniformed guards with their wooden stocked Mauser pistols to stroll along the pavements. Chiang troops looked at French troops with the indignant eyes of those whose food had been carried off by others.

March 31, the deadline for the Chiang Kai-shek troops’ withdrawal arrived. The first clash between Chiang troops and French troops flared up. It occurred over a very trivial thing. Some French soldiers refused to pay a pedicab driver after a ride. The driver tugged at the sleeve of a French soldier to insist on payment. Some Chiang soldiers on guard nearby opened fire at the French soldiers. The French soldiers returned fire which grew intense.

The incident was still unsettled when, the following day, April 1, two cars, one belonging to the Chiang troops and the other to the French army, accidentally collided. The Chiang troops opened fire. The French generals in Hanoi resignedly tried to find some way to settle the matter.

During these clashes our people and armed forces remained calm and maintained strict discipline. We just stood by, not interfering in their clashes nor their attempts at settlement.

The relations between the Chiang troops and the French were becoming tense. With the Chiang soldiers waiting for a chance to open fire fighting could break out any moment.

Apart from carrying out propaganda activities against the Preliminary Agreement, Chiang’s henchmen kidnapped and assassinated isolated French soldiers to get their rifles and money. But their main aim was to cause confusion and bring about a direct confrontation between our side and the French troops. However, thanks to the efforts made by the Vietnamese-French Liaison and Control Commission, most of the incidents provoked by them to undermine relations between us and the French were settled.

The biggest clash between Chiang’s troops and the French occurred on April 21. As in the previous cases, it started with a minor incident: two cars, one belonging to the Chiang troops and the other to the French, collided in front of a flower shop at the Trang Tien crossroads. The bonnet of the Chiang troops’ car was smashed and a number of the soldiers were injured. This led to an exchange of fire between the Chiang troops and the French. Shots were also fired in Bo Ho restaurant by the Sword Lake, Hang Da Street, Cot Co Avenue and Mai Ha De Street. This incident lasted more than one hour and involved machineguns as well as ordinary guns. Not until after 5 p.m. could the two sides come to a settlement. This engagement had caused scores of casualties.

The Chiang troops were seeking a pretext to stay on. As they had been unsuccessful in provoking clashes between our side and the French, they were trying to create minor confrontations between themselves and the French.

But in China events were happening to harm the position of Chiang Kai-shek. Towards the end of March 1946, the Red Army launched a great offensive in the Northeast and advanced into the capital of Heilungkiang. The General Staff of the Chiang armed forces could no longer retain their 200,000 troops in Viet Nam.

In mid-April General Juin, Chief of Staff of the French Army arrived in Chungking. He had been instructed by the French government to persuade Chiang to implement the March 13 Agreement. Juin came just at the moment when the Chiang administration’s capital was being transferred to Nanking. So he had to catch up with them and wait several days. He eventually met Pai Shung-hi and Wang She-chie, who agreed to withdraw their troops from northern Indochina in the shortest possible time. In late April Lu Han was summoned to Nanking where he was ordered to withdraw his troops from Indochina and move them to Northeast China.

But it was not until the middle of May, however, that Lu Han finally ordered his troops to withdraw from Thanh Hoa, and only one month later did Chiang troops start to pull out from Hanoi.

It was obvious that they were deeply attached to this strip of land to the south of their country where they could lead a quiet, affluent life, away from the inevitable punishment meted out to them for their way against the Chinese people. Before leaving this country they plundered everything within reach. In one instance, Chiang soldiers even demolished the staircase of a house where they were quartered and sold the wood in the market.

Their troops withdrawal dragged on and was not completed till September 18, 1946, that is six months after the deadline set by the Sino-French agreement. That was the very same day as the date on which in the previous year, they had made their massive advance into our country. As they advanced they had ordered their henchmen to seize power in the towns their troops were marching through. They had believed that their time had come. The Chungking government had always borne in mind the promise of the late US President Roosevelt to give them this fertile peninsula when the Second World War ended. Now all their mirages of a new paradise had turned to nought. The autumnal wind of that year blew them out of our country, like fallen leaves.

With the 180,000 notoriously barbarous and anti-communist troops driven out of the country, together with all their dark and vicious schemes, our revolution had got rid of an extremely dangerous enemy, and a heavy load – both material and spiritual – had been lifted from its shoulders.

#54

X



“According to the government’s plan, we will ensure that everyone in the country has sufficient food, clothing and schooling.” In his letter to anti-illiteracy teachers at the beginning of the year, President Ho again stated that the lofty goal of the revolution was finally to liberate the nation, liberate the exploited classes and to bring about a free and happy life – material as well as spiritual. The people should enjoy not only independence and freedom, but also wealth and happiness. For him, the ideal of the revolution was not something remote or abstract, it was very nearby, concrete, and closely connected with the people’s everyday life.

With the signing of the March 6 Agreement, a period of compromise lay ahead of us. While continuing to force the French side to implement the clauses of the Agreement we went on vigorously building our country in every field.

“Increase production” and “Fight illiteracy” were the two major slogans set forth by uncle Ho. By the end of 1945 President Ho’s appeal to the people to increase production in order to combat famine had had a great effect. In order to push up production and create better working conditions for the poor peasants, a decree was issued on the reduction of farm rents by 25 per cent.

Uncle Ho attached great importance to the fight against illiteracy, a heavy heritage left behind by the colonial regime.

In response to his appeal some 10,000 anti-illiteracy teachers and millions of our people took part in the fight to roll back this enemy.

Uncle Ho felt greatly the importance of increasing the knowledge of all the citizens of the independent country, and wholeheartedly dedicated himself to the cause. The anti-illiteracy department sent him a book entitled “Methods of teaching Vietnamese to beginners”. He read the book carefully and wrote down a note on the fly leaf: “Anti-illiteracy teachers must study this book carefully. Then they must set to work to teach our illiterate compatriots in order to wipe out illiteracy quickly. By so doing they will fulfil the sacred task assigned them by our fatherland.”

On April 13, Uncle Ho visited an evening class in Hang Trong Street. The learners’ makeshift desks consisted of door panels. The teacher, a bespectacled young man, was writing model letters on the blackboard. His students belonged to different generations and were dressed in every kind of style. They bent over their boards studiously working. The white-haired head of a long-robed old man was seen near the black mop of a little boy in shorts. Leaning on his bamboo stick, Uncle Ho watched the scene and was deeply moved. He said encouragingly: “Both teacher and learners are fighters on the anti-illiteracy front”. In a letter sent to anti-illiteracy teachers he wrote: “I hope that within a very short time your ardour and effort will bring about glorious results and all our fellow-countrymen will learn to read and write. Nothing, even bronze statues and stone stelae can compare with such an honour.”

In face of a tense situation, in order to defend the achievements of the revolution against the enemy from within and without, our Party advocated building up the people’s armed forced, consolidating our national defence, continuing to arm the revolutionary masses and stepping up the building of the people’s army. The self-defence forces, which had increased in numbers, constituted a network spreading to all corners of the country, especially in the cities and towns where French troops were stationed. Self-defence units formed the backbone of the people’s struggle against provocations and violations of the Agreement by the French army. French troops started to have apprehensions about the “Viet Minh in square badges” meaning the members of self-defence units. In Hanoi the self-defence cadres training school opened its second class in April.

With the founding of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam favourable conditions were created for the rapid growth of our armed forces. The March 9 instructions of the Party Standing Committee pointed out that “especial attention should be paid to the training of political and military cadres to guide the new movement.”

In March 1946 the Bac Son Military and Political School was opened by the Party; in May the Tran Quoc Tuan Military School was opened by the Ministry of National Defence; in June, the Quang Ngia Secondary Infantry School was set up by the Southern Viet Nam Resistance Committee – In every regiment there were also military and political school the train squad and platoon commanders.

The curriculum for political education consisted of the present situation and tasks, Viet Minh policies, introduction to Communism, summary of dialectical and historical materialism, and political work in the revolutionary army. The most important lectures in the Bac Son military and political school were given by members of the Central Committee of the Party.

The curriculum for military education consisted of guerrilla tactics, individual basic training, and combat actions. The syllabus for guerrilla tactics was based on the book “Methods of Guerrilla Warfare” written in the base area during the anti-Japanese resistance. So far as regular warfare was concerned, lacking experience we had to make a selection from the tactics of various countries.

On May 22, 1946, Uncle Ho went to Son Tay to inaugurate the Tran Quoc Tuan Military School. Self-defence units and youth from the province lined up along the road to welcome him.

In the wide school-yard cadets in khaki uniforms had gathered to listen to his instructions.

Having exhorted the cadres to stand united, work hard and observe strict discipline, Uncle Ho said: “To be loyal to the fatherland and faithful to the people is the sacred duty, heavy responsibility and also the honour of all the combatants of our country’s first national army.”

“Be loyal to the Fatherland and faithful to the people,” that behest of Uncle Ho’s has become historic. Right from its earliest days he showed our army how to make a clear distinction between the old armies of the past and the new army of the revolution. That historic behest has been embroidered in golden letters on the army banner and will guide our combatants in the fulfilment of their glorious tasks and the building of our army into an invincible force.

Since the last days of November 1945 the situation had become very tense. Our Party had to go underground. Uncle Ho pointed out to the Party Standing Committee that, together with consolidating and broadening the Viet Minh Front, we should form a very broadly-based national united front to include all strata of the population including those who were still outside the Viet Minh Front. The idea of uniting all forces which could rally to our side to fight the enemy was one of the great ideas which permeated all his revolutionary activities.

He suggested that this new front should be given the name of Hoi Lien Hiep Quoc Dan Viet Nam (Viet Nam National Alliance). The goals of the front were: independence, unity, democracy, and prosperity. All Vietnamese, irrespective of nationality, religion or social origin, could become members of the Alliance. Uncle Ho suggested shortening the name to Lien Viet just as had {sic} shortened Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh (Alliance for the Independence of Viet Nam) to Viet Minh.

On May 27, the Lien Viet was officially founded. President Ho was elected Honorary Chairman of the Alliance. Huynh Thuc Khang was elected President of its Executive Committee. Ton Duc Thang was elected Vice-President. The political organizations which joined the Lien Viet were: the Viet Minh, the Democratic Party, the Viet Nam Revolutionary Alliance and the Viet Nam Nationalist Party.

Besides there were also various religious committees and trade-union organizations. Patriots who had not yet joined an organization now joined the Lien Viet. This was the beginning of the great influence of the broader-based national united front, founded on the initiative of President Ho, on our people’s struggle for independence and democracy.

#55

XI



Some days after the meeting between President Ho and d’Argenlieu at Ha Long Bay, early in April, Reuter reported, “D’Argenlieu has been named head of the delegation to enter into negotiations with the Government of the DRVN… The delegation will consist of representatives of the Ministries of Economics, Finance, Defence and Overseas France.“

If the report was correct this could only be a scheme of the French reactionaries. D’Argenlieu was a faithful follower of the most wicked type of old style colonialism. Talks between us and him could not produce any good results. The fact that a representative of the Ministry of Overseas France was to be a member of the delegation implied that Viet Nam was still considered as a French colony.

Our press immediately denounced this reactionary manoeuvre to sabotage the agreement. We demanded that the official negotiations be held in Paris on the principle of equality. The French should renounce their intention of including a representative of the Ministry of Overseas France in the delegation. The right people to represent the French government in the talks with liberated Viet Nam would be officials of the French Foreign Ministry. The Reuter report was not confirmed, nor was it denied.

Uncle Ho and his comrades were discussing sending delegations to France and Dalat. The Parliamentary delegation who would pay a friendship visit to the French National Assembly and people would be headed by Comrade Pham Van Dong, who would later also lead the Vietnamese delegation to the official negotiations in Paris. I was designated deputy-head of the government delegation to the Dalat preparatory talks. This delegation would be headed by Nguyen Tuong Tam, then the Foreign Minister of the coalition government of the DRVN.

On April 16, the two delegations set out for the talks. The delegation to Dalat left the Bac Bo Palace at 6 a.m. Uncle Ho had come there earlier to see the delegation off. Once again he told us: “The Nam Bo question and the cease-fire question should be on top of the agenda.” He shook hands with each member of the delegation.

It was drizzling. The city was quiet. As the news of the departure of the two delegations had come too late, the people did not turn out to see them off. But some days before, rallies had been held to support the two delegations.

A number of journalists put questions about the prospects of the negotiations. It was difficult to answer them. The answers were still ahead of us. We would reach a political settlement with the French if the French sincerely honoured their commitments and respected the fundamental rights of a free Viet Nam. The success of the negotiations depended not only on us but also the opposite side. The struggle between the progressive forces and the reactionary forces in Indochina and in France was still raging. The first indications were not very promising. It had been reported that Max André would lead the French delegation. The French government had complied with our request and sent their representatives directly from France. But Max André was a man from the banking world, a member of the Catholic MRP. The leaders of this movement were representatives of the French monopoly capitalists closely connected with the US and the Vatican. With such an interlocutor the conference could not be expected to proceed smoothly. So far as our side was concerned the composition of our delegation was not homogenous. Nguyen Tuong Tam had refused to sign the agreement the previous month and at the last minute Vu Hong Khanh had to sign on his behalf. Besides, some delegates from Nam Bo whose names were on the list failed to arrive at the time of departure.

At 7 a.m. the plane took off. From above we could see, beneath the clouds, now the jade blue of the sea with its white waves, now the green foliage of the Truong Son Range. Then there would be a river shining with sunlight, winding like a snake. Our ancestors had said that “the mountains and rivers are like a piece of beautiful embroidery.” That was just the image of our fatherland as it was viewed behind the aeroplane’s wing.

That day we only reached Pakse where the French Dakota stopped for refuelling. Just before take-off there was a mechanical failure and the delegation had to stay there to wait for another plane from Saigon. We strolled about the streets, visited an ancient pagoda, then went to the bank of the Mekong. This broad river, red with alluvium, separated Thailand from Laos. On either bank of the river the terrain was flat. The news of the arrival of the government delegation brought along a great number of Vietnamese nationals; such unexpected meetings were very moving.

The following day the plane few on to Dalat. As soon as we descended from the plane, we were struck by a complete change in the weather. In Pakse it had been very hot but here it was cool like a late autumn day. Dalat was a health resort, a tourist city reserved for the French and Vietnamese belonging to the so-called “upper-classes”. There were villas, big and small, everywhere. There were hotels and avenues where one might stroll about and look at the landscape, the endless hills of pines around the city. A really beautiful city.

Our delegation was put up at the Lang Biang Hotel. The hotel looked out onto a quiet lake surrounded by lines of trees. It was beautiful but was called by the French the “Lake of Signs”. Beyond the lake there were mountains.

On April 18, at 9 a.m., it was announced that at 10.15 a.m. d’Argenlieu would receive the heads of the two delegations at his residence. Then the High Commissioner would meet all the members of the two delegations in order to introduce the French delegation, with Max André as the newly appointed chief delegate. There had been no discussion between us and the French side about this. The Admiral was acting in a patronizing fashion hoping to receive the two delegations at a federal palace in his capacity as High Commissioner. It was known that after meeting the two delegations, the High Commissioner would ope the first plenary session. This was also unilaterally decided by the French. Of course, we could not agree.

We sent the secretary of the delegation to inform the French side that the head of the Vietnamese delegation wished to meet d’Argenlieu to discuss the points recently put forward by the French.

At 10 a.m., all the members of the French delegation were present at d’Argenlieu’s palace. Correspondents and journalists were there too. They all waited for us until 11 a.m. As we firmly refused to come to the meeting arrogantly called by d’Argenlieu, the situation was very tense.

The French side thought out a face-saving solution: they invited us to a dinner party. So the first meeting between the High Commissioner and the two delegations took place round a dining table. D’Argenlieu missed the opportunity to open the conference in his capacity as High Commissioner of the Federation.

This was my first meeting with d’Argenlieu. This defrocked priest had small, wily eyes under a wrinkled forehead and thin lips. After spending a moment with him, my impression was that he was an experienced, cunning, arrogant and mean man. Such a one could belong only to the past, to the colonial system.

D’Argenlieu boasted that he knew a lot about us. He inquired after my family, asked about the years in which I conducted underground activities, and about the period of terror under the Japanese. Then he expressed his wish to meet me again for further talks. He also invited me to a mountain-climbing party the following Sunday. Both sides touched upon the prospects of the Vietnamese-French relationship. I said: “There will certainly be many difficulties ahead, but these difficulties are to be overcome. Given a common effort from both sides we Vietnamese can surmount them.”

During the talks, d’Argenlieu said that he was called by some people a “man of silence and asceticism”. Certainly, what the High Commissioner was trying to imply was that he was still a priest at heart. But in reality, he was not so much a priest as a perfidious politician.

The two sides agreed to meet again in a plenary session the following day. The opening session would be presided over by a member of the Vietnamese delegation. This was the first concession made by the French side. It did not mean, however, that the obstacles had been reduced at all, nor that there had been a rapprochement in the positions of the two sides.

The preparatory Conference held its first plenary session on the morning of April 4, at the Yersin Secondary School. The French delegation contained many former administrators such as Messmer, Bousquet, Pignon, etc, and economic, financial and military experts. Some of them had been present in Indochina since the early days of the 1945 August Revolution. Messmer, in particular, had been parachuted into the North in September, 1945. He had been captured by our militiamen but later on had managed to escape.

The political sub-committee met on April 20. We moved that the creation of a favourable political atmosphere for the negotiations and the ceasefire in Nam Bo should be put on the agenda. The French side began to put forward many devious arguments. They tried to avoid discussion of our proposal, by saying that those questions went beyond the competence of the two delegations. We referred to the legal foundations of the March 6 Preliminary Agreement and to common sense in order to force the French side to meet our request. After a long argument, the French made a partial concession. They agreed to include on the agenda the question of “Creating a favourable political atmosphere for the negotiations”. We insisted on putting the question of “a ceasefire in Nam Bo” on the agenda as well.

During the break, the French delegates had a consultation. When the session was resumed, Pignon, political adviser of the French delegation, stated that they were not empowered to consider the question of a ceasefire in Cochinchina. We retorted:

“We wish to know if the French delegation is empowered to discuss the issues raised in the March 6 Agreement.”

Pignon, with much reluctance, replied:

“Yes, we are.”

“Is it not, then, written in this Agreement that “the two Governments shall, at once, take decisions on all necessary measures to put an end to the hostilities?”

The French were thus driven into a corner. By the end of the morning session, they had not yet found a reply. So, the question had to be set aside.

In the afternoon, I went for a walk along Cam Ly spring. The reactionary attitude of the French was all too clear. The negotiations could hardly end well. Anyway, the talks between us and the French would continue… The path was carpeted with pine needles. Wild flowers grew on the banks of the spring. The town was quiet, the air cool and the scenery beautiful. Dalat was, indeed, a magnificent place. The cool breeze and the murmuring pines urged me on until I realized that it was getting dark. I returned to the hotel.

In the evening, I hadn’t been working long at my desk when there was a knock on the door and it was immediately opened. One of the comrades rushed in and said excitedly:

“Please come upstairs. Comrade Thach has arrived!”

Pham Ngo Thach was then fighting in Nam Bo. His name had been announced in the list of our delegation but we had always thought he would never be able to make it. We wondered how he had managed to arrive here at the beginning of the conference. The French still did not know of his arrival.

In a moment, all the delegates, except Nguyen Tuong Tam, turned up. Comrade Thach looked thin, swarthy but vigorous. Happy and deeply moved, we all gave him a tight hug. His voice still bore the militant sentiment of fighting Nam Bo. He told us about his trip from Saigon. It was really a risky adventure. He spoke of the situation in Nam Bo, the sacrifices and heroic deeds of the combatants and the people. We chatted far into the night.

The following day, Comrade Thach was arrested by the French in front of the Parc Hotel. Though our delegation made an energetic remonstrance, our Government protested against the illegal French action, and our people held meetings in many places to demand his release he was only set free after the negotiations ended.