The Labour Party and Vietnam

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 31, August 1983

The French annexation of Vietnam began in 1858, but met such determined popular resistance that it took until 1884 to annex the whole country, and protracted guerilla war continued strongly until 1897.

The French colluded with the feudal regime to repress and exploit the Vietnamese people. French education and culture were imposed and illiteracy actually increased — there were never more than 3 secondary schools in the whole country under French rule. Taxes on the peasantry were increased to pay for the colonial administration. The imperialists turned the country into a source of cheap raw materials — coal, ore, rubber – and a market for French goods. Handicraft industry was crushed by French imports, pauperising artisans, while vast areas of land were grabbed by French companies to become plantations. Rice was exported in the midst of famine.

The racist repression and exploitation by the French imperialists rekindled resistance. The plight of the peasants grew worse and they erupted into struggle in 1908. However, despite its courage and audacity the peasant resistance, led by the scholars, proved unable to maintain a disciplined and united nationwide mass movement which could successfully challenge French imperialism. This had to await the development of new social forces, forces created by the imperialists themselves in their frenzy of colonial exploitation.


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Vietnam - 10th anniversary salute

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No. 49, May 1985

When the tanks and artillery of the National Liberation Front smashed down the gates to the presidential palace in Saigon on 30 April 1975 they punctured the myth of US invincibility. Ten years later the habitual liar Kissinger for once told the truth, ‘The pain of the day will not go away’. Doubt and hesitation struck deep into the capitalist brain.

In the wake of the Vietnamese revolution the peoples of Laos, Afghanistan, Grenada, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe swiftly drove on to victories. But the Vietnamese gave the world a tremendous sacrifice: perhaps four million dead, the true loss will never be known, fighting Japanese, French and US occupation forces.


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British imperialism in Vietnam

Many people, including much of the Left, believe that British troops did not fight in Vietnam and that Britain gave the US political, but not military, support. For instance, Peter Taaffe of the Socialist Party in Socialism Today (November/December 2003), comparing Prime Minister Wilson to Blair, claims that Britain did not send troops to Vietnam and that Wilson played the role of peacemaker. The Communist Party of Great Britain made a similar point in the Weekly Worker on 15 March 2001. This is a myth. Britain fully supported the US in Vietnam and even had troops there. Thomas Atkins examines the evidence.

On 2 September 1945, Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Viet Minh proclaimed Vietnam independent on behalf of its people. The Japanese occupation and Vichy French colonial troops had been disarmed. France, the pre-war colonial power, was in no position to intervene. Britain sent its 20th India Division to occupy Vietnam on behalf of the French. They rearmed the fascist Japanese and Vichy troops and re-imposed French rule.


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