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Ho Chi Minh and the establishment of the Viet Minh Front and its policies for the nation and people

(LLCT)Seventy-five years ago, on the 19th of May 1945, the Communist Party of Vietnam decided to found the League for the Independence of Vietnam, or Viet Minh for short. Viet Minh was the first unified national front established as a system to connect central and local levels, operating according to its own charter and self-formed programs. The organization made a decisive contribution to the success of the August Revolution in 1945.

While deliberating on a path of revolution to achieve national independence, Nguyen Ai Quoc (Ho Chi Minh) emphasized the idea of national solidarity and the need to establish connections between various social strata. He pointed out, “Workers and peasants constitute the roots of the revolution and students, small-sized merchants and land-holders are counted as friends”(1). Such ideas were clearly expressed in the Political Platform approved by the Party Founding Conference in February 1930. “The Party must try its best to get in touch with petty bourgeois, intellectuals, middle-class farmers, the Thanh Nien (Youth), the Tan Viet (New Viet) and other such groups”(2). It also aimed to take advantage of Annamese petty and middle-class landowners and capitalists whose counter-revolutionary sentiments were unclear. These were important distinctions for building a front that united people of all social strata who were patriotic and worked towards national interests.

Imbued with these ideas, the Standing Committee of the Party Central Committee on the 18th of November 1930 decided to found the League for the Resistance to Imperialism, the first organization in the form of a front for the Vietnamese revolution. A plenum of the Party Central Committee in March 1938 established the Democratic Front and set the Party’s objective of uniting people for joint action and forming a powerful revolutionary force. A later plenum of the Party Central Committee in November of 1939 decided to found the Indochina United National Front for the Resistance to Imperialism.

While abroad, Nguyen Ai Quoc stressed his view that the Party had to lead the development of the fronts, while achieving their trust and recognize its leadership.

“The Party cannot demand that the Front recognize its leadership. It must instead show itself to be the Front’s most loyal, active and sincere element. It is only through daily struggle and work, when the people have acknowledged the correct policies and leading capacity of the Party, that it can win its leading position”(3).

After 30 years of working abroad as a revolutionary activist, on the 28th of January 1941, Nguyen Ai Quoc returned to Vietnam. He and the Party Central Committee led the revolutionary cause of liberating the nation and gaining independence, freedom and happiness for his compatriots. At a revolutionary base in Cao Bang, he told Vo Nguyen Giap that the revolutionary cause had to begin by motivating the masses to join the cause and organize their forces. Popular support meant everything. Nguyen Ai Quoc and his comrades began to communicate with the masses and organize revolutionary forces.

From February to April 1941, Nguyen Ai Quoc experimentally founded national salvation mass organizations of the Viet Minh Front in Cao Bang, specifically in Ha Quang, Hoa An and Nguyen Binh districts. He entrusted Vu Anh with the management of the organizations. Within three months, about 2,000 people joined them. Six of the seven communes of Hoa An managed to establish their own national salvation associations. In Ha Quang, 10 of its 20 communes had national salvation mass organizations and two communes in Nguyen Binh also founded such organizations. In late April 1941, Vu Anh and Hoang Van Thu organized a conference in Cooc Mu (Pac Bo) to discuss the experience of the initial establishments of the Viet Minh Front.

The 8th Plenum of the Party Central Committee chaired by Nguyen Ai Quoc convened from the 10th to the 19th of May 1941 in Pac Bo, Ha Quang, Cao Bang. Participants included Truong Chinh, Hoang Van Thu, Phung Chi Kien, Ha Ba Cang (or Hoang Quoc Viet), Vu Anh and other comrades. The Plenum analyzed the situation of the revolution in the country and on the international scene, especially the developments of the Second World War and similar movements in other countries. It elaborated on the views of the Party plenums in November 1939 and November 1940 and set essential guidelines and tasks towards national liberation. It gave top priority to the objectives of gaining independence and protecting national interests. The Plenum members also vowed to serve the interests of the Vietnamese people, regardless of social strata and deliberated on central tasks such as building political and armed forces, revolutionary bases, and armed insurrections. They aimed to expand revolutionary movements nationwide, establish and develop the Viet Minh Front in order to unite the nation together and make use of its strength, reach a unanimity of will and action within its own organization. According to Nguyen Ai Quoc’s initiative and at his request, the Party Central Committee on the 19th of May 1941 decided to establish the Viet Minh Front. The views and guidelines put forward by the Party Central Committee and Nguyen Ai Quoc served as the front’s basis for organization and operation, keeping in clear view the ultimate goal of national independence.

As soon as the Viet Minh Front came into being, Nguyen Ai Quoc wrote a number of articles and poems in order to communicate the policies of the front. He stressed, “To gain freedom and independence, efforts and sacrifices must be made. So, from now on, each and every official and member of Viet Minh must participate in communication, strengthen national salvation associations, and multiply the number of armed guards and guerillas. All of the people, whether they are young or old, male or female, rich or poor, noble or beleaguered, must join such associations. Once we are closely united, the cause of liberation will be successful”(4).

In order to intensify the revolutionary movements, Nguyen Ai Quoc gave particular emphasis to the role of the media in communicating, raising the spirits of the people, and organizing forces. On the 1st of August 1941, the Independent Vietnam - or Viet Lap - a newspaper that was founded by Nguyen Ai Quoc as the voice of the Viet Minh Board of Cao Bang province, made its debut. Nguyen Ai Quoc directly supervised the 30 first issues of the newspaper until he travelled overseas on a mission in August 1942. Pham Van Dong was in charge of the following issues. This primary issue set its objective as: “Making the people aware of what is going on and uniting them together in order to fight back against Westerners and the Japanese and gain independence, equality and freedom for Vietnam”.

The Resolution of the 8th Plenum of the Party Central Committee on May 1941 emphasized the need to establish a communication committee in charge of printing books, newspapers, leaflets and posters to be used to encourage the masses. Under the leadership of the Party Central Committee and Nguyen Ai Quoc, the National Salvation newspaper made its debut on the 25th of January 1942. The newspaper was put under the management of the Communication and Encouragement Board of the Party Central Committee led by Party General Secretary Trường Chinh. Over the course of its circulation, the newspaper made an important contribution to the development of the Viet Minh Front.

Grasping Nguyen Ai Quoc’s views on the Party leading the Front, the Resolution of the 8th Plenum in May 1941 iterated:

“Regarding leadership measures, the Party leads Viet Minh in two ways:

1. The Party can introduce its revolutionary policy to the Viet Minh as another national salvation mass organization and can then directly participate in leading popular struggles held by the Viet Minh. Because of its correctly oriented politics and sense of sacrifice, the Party will have considerable influence and respect in leading the entire population in the fight against the enemy.

2. By sending Party members to join national salvation mass organizations - workers, peasants, women, and young people - the Party can disseminate its policy among the Viet Minh”(5).

Under Ho Chi Minh’s and the Party Central Committee’s leadership, the Viet Minh Front was founded and came into operation. It adhered to the urgent objectives and tasks of the revolution in the following ways:

Firstly, as it was established by and worked among the Vietnamese people, the front aimed to utilize the sense of nationalism and patriotism to gain independence.

Ho Chi Minh consistently upheld the flag of nationalism and the effort to “gain complete independence for the country”. He also paid special attention to international solidarity. In 1930, when he founded the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Communist International highly regarded the connection between countries and, therefore, a single Party was established to lead the revolutions in the three Indochinese countries. According to the Communist International’s instructions, the Communist Party of Vietnam was renamed the “Indochinese Communist Party” in October 1930. In the spring of 1941, Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam and aimed to establish a front for each of the countries on the Indochinese peninsula in order to tap into their nationalist spirit. The May 1941 Resolution pointed out:

“The Party’s current tactic is to issue an extremely affecting call so as to awaken the national spirit amongst the peoples, first and foremost the Vietnamese. Its front can no longer be called the Indochina United National Front for the Resistance to Imperialism. It must be renamed so that it sounds more Vietnamese and more affecting to the Vietnamese, which is more feasible in the current reality. Therefore, our Party’s front in Vietnam at the moment should be the League for the Independence of Vietnam or Viet Minh for short. The Party and Viet Minh must try their best to help Cambodians and Laotians organize their own leagues for independence”(6).

Secondly, in organizational terms, the Viet Minh Front was composed of central and local levels.

The strength of the Front lay in its systematic organization, which allowed every patriotic Vietnamese to perform revolutionary acts in an organized way. At the central level, Viet Minh General Office would lead and organize the implementation of the Party’s guidelines. Viet Minh Committees were established at all levels. National salvation mass organizations were also established as members of the front, including Workers for National Salvation, Peasants for National Salvation, The Youth for National Salvation, Women for National Salvation and Culture for National Salvation, which engaged their respective strata and areas of activity in the programs of the Front. The development of Viet Minh and these national salvation mass organizations conformed to its charter and regulations to ensure their strength and efficiency.

“Ways to organize Viet Minh. Viet Minh sets villages, streets and factories as its organizations. Any village which has at least two national salvation mass organizations, such as Peasants for National Salvation and The Youth for National Salvation or the Party committee, has the right to establish a Viet Minh village. The more important a mass organization is, the more representatives it garners for conventions. If a national mass organization has a genuine interest in fighting the French and the Japanese and gaining independence for the country, it is invited to join Viet Minh. Once it is a member of Viet Minh, that organization must recognize its programs and charter”(7).

“The association of national salvation mass organizations within Viet Minh represents the unity of forces fighting for the independence of the country. Therefore, these organizations must refrain from competing with each other for popular support. Only brotherly criticism can lead them on the correct political path and help them avoid erroneous action”(8).

Thirdly, as soon as it was established, the Viet Minh Front announced the Viet Minh Program, which consisted of specific, fundamental guidelines and policies for national independence.

“Viet Minh aims to establish connection and solidarity with people from all walks of life, regardless of their religion, their political party or tendency and their social stratum, in order to fight the French and the Japanese and gain independence for the country”(9). Once the revolution succeeded, “a people’s government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam will be founded and the red flag with a yellow star will be used as the national flag”(10).

The Viet Minh Program also held objectives in the political, economic, cultural, social and diplomatic realms, which the future people’s government would carry out to benefit all classes. In political terms, the program mentioned eight tasks, most importantly universal suffrage, the rights to elect people and oneself; democratic freedoms and freedom of speech, publication, religion and travel in and outside of the country; equality between men and women and between ethnic groups; and the right to self-determination. In economic terms, the program detailed seven tasks: abolishing the poll tax and other taxes imposed by the French and the Japanese and introducing independent taxation; nationalizing banks and establishing a unified national bank; developing industries to encourage the development of the national economy, particularly irrigation and wasteland reclamation to allow agriculture to thrive; and developing transport. In cultural terms, the program called for the abolishment of enslaving education and the establishment of national education, the practice of compulsory primary education and ethnic groups’ use of their mother tongues; and the foundation of specialized schools to foster talents, and encourage intellectuals to develop themselves. In social terms, the program advocated for eight-hour working days and the building of nurseries; development of cultural and artistic activities in order to increase people’s intellectual standards; and provision of healthcare for people. In diplomatic terms, the program called for the abolishment of all treaties that the French signed with any countries; the development of foreign relations with other countries on the basis of equality and peace; and connection with oppressed peoples and the proletariat across the world. Further, they committed to “resolutely fight against all forces which jeopardize Vietnam’s interests”(11).

The Viet Minh Program also put forward specific policies on varying social strata and walks of life, such as workers, peasants, soldiers, students, women, business people, civil servants, the elderly, the disabled, children and Chinese Vietnamese. The program affirmed that:

“The Vietnamese revolution will succeed. A genuinely democratic republic of Vietnam will come into being.

Once the national liberation revolution succeeds, the aforementioned program will be implemented”(12).

The Viet Minh Program clearly demonstrated the sincerity and democracy that the Communist Party and patriotic people wished to achieve in their fight for sustainable independence and national development, as well as in their own pursuit for happiness. Many objectives and tasks mentioned in the program remain relevant today and are still being carried out. The program contained a unity of national interests and human rights because national interests, people’s rights and interests, and human rights were amongst the most outstanding and consistent ideas of Ho Chi Minh and the Party.

In August 1942, Nguyen Ai Quoc went to China to commune with allied countries and request their assistance in the fight against the Japanese imperialism for independence. He also aimed to unite with overseas patriotic Vietnamese forces and organizations. However, because of a misunderstanding, he was arrested and imprisoned under Chiang Kai-shek’s administration. Once he was released, Ho Chi Minh was active again in taking advantage of the support from allied forces for the Vietnamese fight against the fascists and strengthened the relations between the Vietnamese and Chinese people in their struggle against the Japanese. He also did what was necessary to unite with patriotic Vietnamese organizations in China. In late September 1944 he returned to Vietnam, and in October 1944 he wrote a letter to the entire Vietnamese population, claiming that in order to receive international agreements and assistance, the organization of a national representatives’ conference was necessary to attract the participation of other patriotic unions. “There is some representation of genuine solidarity and unanimous action for our entire nation”(13). In his letter, he affirmed that:

“The invaders are close to being annihilated. The allied countries are going to achieve the final victory. Our nation may, by chance, be liberated within a year or year and a half. Time is urgent. We must do this quickly”(14).

The Party Central Committee and Ho Chi Minh strongly promoted revolutionary movements in the country and took advantage of international support, predicting opportunities and risks and creating fundamental conditions and favorability that ensured victory, of which the most fundamental was national solidarity within the Viet Minh Front. On the 9th of March 1945, the Japanese mounted a coup against the French in order to monopolize Indochina. The Standing Committee of the Party issued the directive “The Japanese-French Fight and Our Action,” pushing the resistance against the Japanese, and for national salvation, to its peak. In May 1945, Ho Chi Minh left Cao Bang for Tan Trao (Tuyen Quang), where he and the Party Central Committee and Viet Minh General Office convened a National Congress of the Party on the 14th and 15th of August 1945, and also a National People’s Congress in Tan Trao on the 16th and 17th. These congresses came to the decision that a nationwide uprising was in order. In his August letter of 1945 calling for an Uprising, Ho Chi Minh particularly emphasized the role of Viet Minh in uniting millions of people together: “Within Viet Minh we hold our hands tightly whether we are men or women, old or young, religious or non-religious, rich or poor”. “It’s not from the Japanese surrender that we are liberated and free. We must continue to make every effort. Only by uniting and trying our best can we gain independence”(15).

Viet Minh became the foundation of national solidarity. As Ho Chi Minh said, “Under the flag of Viet Minh, be brave and move forward” and “Let us, the entire nation, stand up and liberate ourselves”(16). With such mental strength and sense of self-reliance, the August Revolution was successful and opened a new page in the history of the nation, one of independence, freedom and the advancement of socialism.

The national strength continues to grow thanks to the Vietnam Fatherland Front, which upholds the spirit, will and sustainable policies of the Viet Minh Front from 75 years ago in their Political Platform guidelines, especially the resolution by the 12th Party Congress and comprehensive, consistent promotion of the renovation process with the objectives of “prosperous people, strong nation, and democratic, equitable, civilized society”.

____________________

(1) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.2, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p. 288.

(2), (3), (4), (13), (14), (15), (16) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.3, op. cit., pp. 3, 168, 251, 537, 538, 595, 596.

(5), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10), (11), (12) CPV: Complete Party Documents, vol. 7, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2000, pp. 124, 122, 123, 123-4, 149, 150, 151, 153.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Trong Phuc

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