* As they grew stronger, Giáp’s forces took more territory and captured more towns
* And then on 15 August they heard that the Japanese Emperor had declared his country’s unconditional surrender to the allies.
* Unfortunately for Ho and Giap, the U.S. had a new President.
* Truman didn’t care, or maybe even know, about FDR’s plans for Indochina.
* And the French, of course, saw their opportunity to get in good with the new administration.
* And they wanted to make sure they would be able to reclaim colonial control after the war.
* The Truman administration wanted France to help them block Soviet expansion after the war.
* And so they decided to allow France to take back Indochina.
* When world leaders convened in San Francisco in late April and May to form the United Nations, senior U.S. officials did not raise the issue of trusteeship for Indochina.
* On the contrary, U.S. secretary of state Edward Stettinius assured French foreign minister Georges Bidault that “the record is entirely innocent of any official statement of the U.S. government questioning, even by implication, French sovereignty over Indochina.”
* A report prepared for Harry Truman on June 2 acknowledged that “independence sentiment in the area is believed to be increasingly strong” but declared that “the United States recognizes French sovereignty over Indochina.”
* When Truman met Chiang Kai-shek in Washington some weeks later, he dismissed any notion of trusteeship for Indochina.
* So much for The Atlantic Charter.
* Then came the Potsdam conference.
* DeGaulle wasn’t invited, because he annoyed the fuck out of everyone.
* And because he’d sent forces to the old French mandates of Syria and Lebanon, despite the Allies telling him not to.
* And at Potsdam the Vietnamese got well and truly shafted.
* In order to disarm the Japanese in Vietnam, the Allies divide the country in half at the 16th parallel.
* Chinese Nationalists would move in and disarm the Japanese north of the parallel while the British would move in and do the same in the south.
* And they agreed to return of all French pre-war colonies in Southeast Asia (Indochina).
* Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia will once again become French colonies following the removal of the Japanese.
* But in the meantime, the Chinese occupation of the north meant the Vietnamese had time to consolidate their position before the French came back.
* And the fact that China and Britain needed to do the cleaning up of the Japanese reinforced the idea in the minds of the Vietnamese that France was now a second rate power.
* Then, when Japan surrendered in August, it created a power vacuum which the Viet Minh were able to exploit.
* As Ho had always said, they had to wait for the right moment to strike.
* And this was it.
* DeGaulle, in the meantime, made a typically clueless speech.
* On August 15, he sent a message from “the Mother Country to the Indochinese Union,” expressing France’s “joy, solicitude, and gratitude” for Indochina’s “loyalty to France” and her resistance to the Japanese.
* Even as he uttered those words, however, in the jungles of Tonkin, Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh readied to make a triumphant entry into Hanoi.
* Their message to the crowds awaiting them: With Japan defeated and France prostrate, the moment of liberation was at hand.
* Hanoi is a city in the north of Vietnam.
* Near the coast.
* The name means “inside the river”
* Hanoi has been inhabited since at least 3000 BCE
* And was the administrative center of the colony of French Indochina.
* The French had built a new part of the city which was in Baron Haussmann, the man who designed modern Paris
* It had wide boulevards, shady trees, an opera house and formal gardens, French shops, sidewalk cafes.
* It was the Paris of Asia.
* Long Biên Bridge, built in 1899-1902 by the architects Daydé & Pillé of Paris, at that time, one of the longest bridges in Asia 1.68 kilometres (1.04 mi)
* And it was there in Hanoi on a hot September day in 1945, in front of hundreds of thousands, that Ho proclaimed Vietnamese independence.
* Ho was 55.
* It was his first time in Hanoi.
* He had travelled four days from his base to get there.
* By foot, boat and, because he was still sick, being carried in a stretcher.
* Giap tells the story:
* The strain had an effect on his health. He fell ill. For several days, in spite of the fatigue and the fever, he pushed himself and continued his work. Every day in coming to make my report, I worried about his condition. Invariably he responded: “It will pass. Come on in and bring me up to date.” But I clearly saw that he was weakening and had lost considerable weight. One day, I found him in a state of crisis, delirious with fever. We were terribly short of medicine, just had some aspirin and quinine tablets. He took them, but they had no effect. Ordinarily, except for his moments of repose, he never lay down. Now he lay on his cot for hours in a coma. Of all those who worked habitually by his side I was the only one who had stayed at Tan Trao, He was so tired one night that when I suggested that I stay the night with him, insisting that I was free, he opened his eyes and nodded his head slightly in agreement.
* The black night and the jungle held our little hut on the mountainside in a vice. Each time that Uncle Ho recovered his lucidity, he returned to the current situation: “The circumstances are favorable to us. We must at all costs seize independence. We must be ready for any sacrifice, even if the entire chain of the Central Mountains must catch fire.” When he could put a little order in his thoughts, he insisted on the points that preoccupied him: “In guerrilla war, when the movement rises, it is necessary to take advantage of it to push further, to expand and create solid bases, in preparation for critical times.” At that moment I refused to believe that he had confided in me his last thoughts, but on later reflection, I told myself that he felt so weak that he was giving me his final recommendations. The moments of lucidity and agitation succeeded themselves all night. In the morning, I urgently informed the Party Central Committee of his condition. Then I asked the local villagers if they knew how to make some mixture of wild plants. They told me of a man who … was reputed for his medicinal preparations against fever. I sent a courier immediately to fetch him. The old man, who was of Tay origin, took his pulse, burned a root that he had just dug up in the forest, sprinkled the cinders in a bowl of rice soup and fed it to the patient. The miracle occurred. The medicine was efficacious. The President emerged from his coma. The next day the fever diminished, he took that mixture two or three times during the day. His condition continued to improve. After the fever subsided, he arose and resumed his daily work.
* Since the news of the bombing of Japan and their subsequent surrender, Ho and the ICP had been furiously meeting to discuss their plan of action.
* It was decided that they would call for a nationwide insurrection to bring about an independent republic under the leadership of the Viet Minh.
* Using the name Nguyen Ai Quoc for the last time, Ho issued an “appeal to the people.”
* “Dear fellow countrymen!” he declared. “The decisive hour has struck for the destiny of our people. Let all of us stand up and rely on our own strength to free ourselves. Many oppressed peoples the world over are vying with each other in wresting back independence. We should not lag behind. Forward! Forward! Under the banner of the Viet Minh, let us valiantly march forward!”
* So here’s a question.
* Did Ho and the ICP create the revolution?
* Or did they just exploit the conditions?
* Famine, the weakness of the French, the defeat of Japan?
* I’d say it’s both.
* They waited for the right conditions to strike.
* One of the things Fidel and Che both stressed 15 years later in their writings and speeches was the need for the right conditions for a revolution.
* And then Che forgot that when he went to the Congo and Bolivia.
* He thought he could create the conditions.
* And Fidel criticised him for that, both at the time and later.
* Throughout the third week of August, Viet Minh forces took control in towns and villages in various parts of Annam and Tonkin.
* Resistance was usually minimal, as local authorities simply handed over power to the insurgents and as Japanese forces, now part of a defeated empire, stayed neutral.
* In Hanoi on August 19, Viet Minh forces seized control of all important public buildings except the Japanese-guarded Bank of Indochina, and announced their seizure of power from a balcony of what was then and remains today the Hanoi Opera House.
* For the first time since Francis Garnier seized it for France in 1873, the city was in Vietnamese hands.
* In Hue, Emperor Bao Dai announced he would support a government led by Ho Chi Minh, but a mass rally in Hanoi demanded that he abdicate his throne.
* He did so on August 25, declaring his support for the Viet Minh regime and handing over the imperial sword to the new national government, with all the legitimacy that that symbolic act conferred.
* He gave a short speech where he said: “Citizens, let me be understood. I prefer to be a free citizen than an enslaved king.”
* He wrote a letter to DeGaulle:
* “The Vietnamese people do not want, and cannot abide foreign domination or administration any longer. I implore you to understand that the only way to safeguard French interests and the spiritual influence of France in Indochina is to openly recognize Vietnam’s independence and to disavow any idea of reestablishing sovereignty or a French administration here in any form. We could understand each other so well and become friends if you would stop pretending that you are still our masters.”
* When Ho entered the city, streets were festooned with Viet Minh flags and banners
* FESTOONED, there’s a fun word.
* A Festoon is a garland, or a lei, a chain.
* Even though the ICP forces had taken the city, Ho knew it was still dangerous.
* He quoted Lenin’s famous warning: “Seizing power is difficult, but keeping it is even harder.”
* Starvation was still a real threat.
* Farmers had taken to eating next year’s seed stock in order to survive.
* And there were other Vietnamese nationalist parties that were reeling by how quickly the ICP had taken control and wanted a say in affairs.
* And of course there was still the French.
* And the position of the Allies regarding Vietnamese independence wasn’t known.
* On August 29, Ho Chi Minh quietly formed his first government.
* Then on September 2—the same day that Japan signed the instruments of surrender on the deck of the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay—he presented the government to the country and, at a rally before hundreds of thousands, proclaimed Vietnamese independence.
* Thus came into being the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).
* The rally took place in Ba Dinh Square, a spacious grassy field not far from the Governor-General’s Palace in Hanoi.
* Banners had been hung displaying the new Viet Minh flag—a lone gold star on a field of red
* Peasants made the trek from nearby villages and now mingled with merchants and mandarins.
* Schools were closed for the occasion, and teachers armed with whistles walked at the head of bands of children singing revolutionary songs.
* Scouts who had been mobilized by the French and the Japanese now enthusiastically supported the new national government.
* Cuz you just know you can’t stage a revolution with the scouts.
* Girl Scout cookies.
* The universal cry of revolutionaries everywhere – Dib Dib Dib.
* Do you know where that comes from?
* It’s called the Grand Howl
* Robert Baden-Powell and is based on the Mowgli stories in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book
* Baden-Powell wrote about it in The Wolf Cub’s Handbook.
* he describes how in the Jungle Book, “The wolves all sat round the council rock in a circle, and when Akela, the old wolf, the head of the pack, took his place on the rock, they all threw up their heads and howled their greeting to him.”
* So in the Scouts…
* Scouter: “Pack – Pack – Pack!” This calls the Cubs into a Parade Circle.
* The Cubs reply as they run to their places in the circle.
* Cubs: “Pack!”
* As the Scouter enters the circle, the Cubs squat down on their heels with their “fore paws” on the ground between their feet and their knees out on either side.
* Cubs: “Ah-kay-la! We-e-e-e-ll do-o-o-o o-o-o-u-u-r BEST!” On the word “BEST”, the Cubs jump to their feet with two fingers of each hand at the sides of their heads, to resemble a wolf’s ears.
* A Sixer: “Dyb – dyb – dyb -dyb” The word “dyb” means “Do Your Best” which is the first part of the Cub Promise and was the original Wolf Cub motto.
* On the fourth “dyb”, the Cubs lower their left hands and the fingers of their right hands extend to form the Wolf Cub salute.
* Cubs: “We-e-e-e-ll dob-dob-dob-dob”, meaning “We’ll do our best”.
* Speaking of Baden-Powell, In 1939 noted in his diary: “Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc. – and ideals which Hitler does not practise himself.”
* But some modern biographers think he was a a repressed homosexual, so he wouldn’t have had much fun in Nazi Germany.
* Not to mention – Baden-Powell’s name was included in “The Black Book”, a 1940 list of people to be detained following the planned conquest of the United Kingdom
* Because the Scouting movement was seen to be a threat to the Hitler Youth.
* Here’s something from his final letter to the scouts before he died in 1941:
* Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best.
* Ho Chi Minh arrived in a prewar American automobile with outriders on bicycles.
* He strode to a hastily built platform decked out with white and red cloth; with him were members of the new government’s cabinet.
* More than strode, he bounded, to the surprise of onlookers who expected rulers to walk in a careful, stately manner.
* While almost everyone on the stage wore Western suits and ties, Ho chose a high-collared faded khaki jacket and white rubber sandals—his standard uniform as head of state for the next twenty-four years—and an old hat.
* He shouted out “Compatriots, can you hear me!?”
* They shouted back “WHAT?”
* And he repeated himself louder.
* And they repeated “WHAT?” Even louder.
* And a good time was had by all.
* And then he gave his speech.
* I want to read it in full:
* All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
* This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.
* The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of the French Revolution made in 1791 also states: All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.
* Those are undeniable truths.
* Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, in the name of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.
* In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.
* They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, Center, and South of Vietnam in order to destroy our national unity and prevent our people from being united.
* They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slaughtered our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in bloodbaths.
* They have fettered public opinion; they have practiced obscurantism against our people.
* To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol.
* In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people and devastated our land.
* They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolized the issuing of bank notes and the export trade.
* They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty.
* They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.
* In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese fascists violated Indochina’s territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them. Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that, from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quảng Trị Province to northern Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow citizens died from starvation.
* On March 9 , the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered, showing that not only were they incapable of “protecting” us, but that, in the span of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.
* On several occasions before March 9, the Việt Minh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese. Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Việt Minh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yên Bái and Cao Bằng.
* Notwithstanding all this, our fellow citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude. Even after the Japanese Putsch of March 1945, the Việt Minh League helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property.
* From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession. After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
* The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French.
* The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bảo Đại has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic.
* For these reasons, we, the members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; we repeal all the international obligation that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Viet-Nam, and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland.
* The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer the country.
* We are convinced that the Allied nations, which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam.
* A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eighty years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent!
* For these reasons, we, the members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, solemnly declare to the world that:
* Vietnam has the right to be a free and independent country—and in fact it is so already. And thus the entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty.
* When he finished, Giap took the stage and gave a speech in which he called up the United States and China to support their independence.
* Neither Giap nor Ho mentioned the USSR.
* “Following in the steps of our forefathers,” Giap exclaimed, “the present generation will fight a final battle, so that generations to follow will forever be able to live in independence, freedom, and happiness.”
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