In 1945 the Empire of Japan was defeated. Japanese forces surrendered to the western allied forces. This meant that Indochina was returned to their former colonial masters. France was the ruler of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia since 1887. French Indochina was a colony of France and like all other colonies of western imperialism, they were forced to bow to the white Europeans. But in 1941 a resistance group was created. The League for the Independence of Vietnam was a nationalist group led by the charismatic Ho Chi Minh!
Born Nguyễn Sinh Cung, Ho Chi Minh was a revolutionary nationalist. He joined the French Section of the Workers International as the socialists were the one who demanded political rights for the Vietnamese people. While he was in France he went by the name Nguyễn Ái Quốc (“Nguyễn the Patriot”). In 1920 he voted for the Third International and became a founding member of the French Communist Party. Nguyễn Ái Quốc took a seat in the party's colonial committee and tried to win the French over to his side. But the French people were brainwashed with colonialism and love for France colonies. So he focused more on Vietnamese nationalism!
By 1923 he went to Moscow to work for the Communist International ( Comintern ). Nguyễn Ái Quốc also started to work with Chinese communists. It is said that he betrayed his rival Phan Bội Châu to the French colonial government for 100.000 piastre de commerce ( currency of Indochina ). A source states that Nguyễn later claimed he did it because he expected Chau's trial to stir up anti-French resentment, and because he needed the money to establish a communist organization!
In the 30's Nguyễn Ái Quốc worked mostly in Asia for the Comintern. Like most communists he supported Joseph Stalin and his ''socialism in one nation''. This ideology matched his revolutionary nationalism. By 1938 he worked with the Chinese Red Army for three years, until he returned to Vietnam in 1941. By then Nguyễn Ái Quốc called himself Ho Chi Minh and he was the absolute leader of the League for the Independence of Vietnam ( Viet Minh ).
Between 1941 and 1945, the Viet Minh were fighting against both the Vichy French colonial regime and the imperial Japanese. 500.000 troops were under Ho Chi Minh's command by 1944, also 4.000 Khmer troops fought alongside the Vietnamese. But the relations with the Cambodians ( Khmer ) were that all that warm. Most Khmer Viet Minh had little love for the Vietnamese who dominated the struggle against France and Japan. This is the result of ancient ethnic hated between the Khmer people and the Vietnamese people!
After the Japanese left Indochina the French returned. Ho Chi Minh was the one who asked them to return. He said that he rather would have French colonialists then Chinese in his nation. Vietnamese people have no love for China, so when 200.000 nationalist Chinese entered Indochina to disarm the Japanese, Ho Chi Minh asked the French to return. The Viet Minh hoped that they could negotiate, but France wanted their colony back and did not cared about the Vietnamese call for independence!
In 1946 fighting broke out between French colonial forces and the Viet Minh. The first Indochinese war lasted until 1954. One the colonialist side were the French, supported by the anticommunist USA. The French created puppet states in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The French Union was an attempt to build three puppet nations under dominion of France. On the revolutionary side the Viet Minh in Vietnam, the Pathet Lao in Laos and the Khmer Issarak in Cambodia!
Between 175.000 and 500.000 Viet Minh soldiers died between 1946 and 1954. The French colonial forces lost 75,581 men. Around 200.000 civilians died during the fighting. It was during this first Indochinese war, that the stalinists around Ho Chi Minh removed any leftist opposition to their revolutionary Stalinist agenda. The International Communist League in Vietnam was the main opponent of the stalinists. This group led by Ta Thu Thau was created in 1932 as the October Group and did not joined the Popular Front led by the Communist Party of Vietnam. The International Communist League opposed the return of the French colonialists in 1946. Ta Thu Thau called Ho Chi Minh a traitor when he allowed French forces back into Indochina. The Vietnamese stalinists feared that workers and peasants would listen to Ta Thu Thau. So they arrested and murdered him along with all anti-Stalinist leftists in North Vietnam!
After 8 years of fighting and the defeat of French forces at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, France wanted to talk about a cease fire. Ho Chi Minh and his fores agreed and the Geneva Conference of 1954 ended the First Indochina War. It was decided that Indochina was split into four nations. A Kingdom of Laos, a Kingdom of Cambodia, a South Vietnam and a Viet Minh controlled North Vietnam. Many Vietnamese nationalists opposed the therms of the Geneva Conference. They were furious when Ho Chi Minh agreed with the separation of Vietnam!
North Vietnam became the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Its capital was Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh became its first president. Under the Geneva Agreement all anticommunists were allowed to leave North Vietnam, also all supporters of Ho Chi Minh were allowed to travel to the north. The anticommunist propaganda machine started its work. The Americans were instrumental in spreading anticommunist lies and fear among the North Vietnamese population. Most catholic Vietnamese left the north, fearing the atheist principals of the Workers Party of Vietnam.
Almost 1.000.000 Vietnamese left the north to settle in South Vietnam. A huge propaganda victory for the anticommunists who said that many more Vietnamese wanted to leave but were stopped by the Viet Minh. That is partly true, the Vietn Minh did indeed stopped more from leaving. 52.000 Vietnamese left South Vietnam to join Ho Chi Minh. But their numbers were nothing compared to the one million who fled the north. The stalinists renamed their communist party into Workers Party of Vietnam and created a single party state. They started with disastrous land reforms!
Unlike Russia and China there was never a massive famine that killed millions. North Vietnam never suffered from hunger. Most victims of the land reforms were wealthy farmers and rich peasants. The stalinists called them ''land lords'' or địa chủ in Vietnamese. People from the middle class and upper class were denounced as class enemies. Also those who worked for the French were called ''traitors''. Massive arrested started with executions followed. We know that 100.000 wealthy landlords, members of the bourgeoisie and anticommunists were murdered between 1954 and 1960!
The Workers Party of Vietnam wanted all people affiliated with capitalism and colonialism gone. Families suspected of belonging to the former ruling class were isolated and many starved to death. Innocent children were harassed and intimidated too, only because their parents belonged to the ruling class. Later it was found out that 71% of all executions were not justified. More then 120.000 people were wrongfully accused by the North Vietnamese government under Ho Chi Minh. We revolutionary socialists supported the expropriation of land, but not the intimidation's and executions of the former landlords!
Some even say that more people were executed. Former Viet Minh official Hoang Van Chi wrote that as many as 500,000 people may have died as a result of the policies of the North Vietnamese government. This war perfect propaganda for the capitalist Republic of Vietnam, created by the French in south Vietnam. The anticommunist Republic of Vietnam was first supported by the French, but most support would come from the USA. Ngô Đình Diệm was the only civilian president of South Vietnam. He never wanted democracy as that could bring leftist nationalists to power. Ngô Đình Diệm was a typical corrupt right-wing leader. As a member of the ruling class and the Roman Catholic Church, he was able to gain massive support from Catholics in the USA!
Ho Chi Minh was not a Maoist, but he used some methods used by Mao in China. In the PRC the government lured political opponents out on the streets during the Hundred Flowers Campaign. Mao Zedong said he would allow the Chinese to criticize him, so during the Hundred Flowers Campaign, many intellectuals in China made sharp criticism of the totalitarian government. Mao was shocked by all the criticism and ordered the arrest of almost all intellectuals. In North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh did the same thing!
It began with the Nhân Văn paper and the Giai Phẩm periodical. These two papers became very critical of the North Vietnamese government. The Nhân Văn paper demanded political freedom and democracy. They also wrote that the Workers Party of Vietnam had violated the constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh's government closed down the papers and arrested its editors. With the arrest of the last two independent newspapers, all media outlets in North Vietnam were under state control!
When doi moi was introduced in 1986, the communist party rehabilitated many former editors of the Nhân Văn and Giai Phẩm. The reforms after 1986 gave more individual freedoms to newspapers and media outlets. But even in today's pseudo Socialist Republic of Vietnam, there is no political freedom. Vietnamese who oppose today's Communist Party of Vietnam are arrested and jailed. We revolutionary socialists condemn the murder of landlords, members of the bourgeoisie and anticommunists. No government has the right to execute anybody. Ho Chi Minh's government was not socialist, but deformed and brutal Stalinist.
Although Ho Chi Minh was president of North Vietnam, his influence in the Workers Party of Vietnam dropped substantially. After 1954 he lost power to the more radical party members. Although he supported the purges and brutal land reforms, Ho Chi Minh was not like Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, his life style was very moderate compared to other Stalinist leaders. He refused to live in the presidential palace in Hanoi, he build a traditional Vietnamese house were he lived until his death. The old leader of North Vietnam became weaker as of 1969. At the age of 79, he died in September 1969 in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh was never an absolute leader like Stalin or Mao. But he was a Stalinist and no supporter of genuine socialism. His anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism were based on marxism, but like all stalinists; Ho Chi Minh never trusted independent working class action!
Today Vietnam is not like the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The state that Ho Chi Minh created and led until his death was totalitarian, dogmatic and in some way criminal. A deformed workers state according to trotskyists or a a bureaucratic collectivist nation according to others revolutionary socialists. Ironically today's Socialist Republic of Vietnam is more like the Republic of Vietnam of Ngô Đình Diệm. South Vietnam was a capitalist dictatorship, much like today's state-capitalist Vietnam. The Republic of Vietnam got a military government in 1963 and remained military controlled until its collapse in April 1975!
Many Vietnamese choose to leave Vietnam after 1975. Many people from the south knew of the stories spread by the anticommunists about the killings in the north. Most who fled ended up in the USA were they remain very anticommunist. They don't see the difference between Ho Chi Minh's stalinism and genuine communism. The anticommunist Vietnamese still use the flag of South Vietnam and claim their banner stands for democracy and liberty. To support these Vietnamese, the government of the USA has called the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam, the Heritage and Freedom Flag. We revolutionary socialists think that is so hypocrite when we look at the nature of South Vietnam. A corrupt capitalist state between 1954 and 1963, then a military dictatorship until 1975. South Vietnam was responsible for the death of at least 90.000 people!
Socialism was never established in Vietnam. What Ho Chi Minh created was not what Marx and Lenin wanted. There were no democratic workers councils, no rule of the proletariat. The communist party ruled and all workers and peasants who criticized that were denounced as ''counterrevolutionaries''. Revolutionary socialists opposed Ho Chi Minh. Because of that we were not loved by western leftists, who supported North Vietnam uncritical during the Second Indochina War, known as the Vietnam War. Stalinist Vietnam could never become socialist and by 1986, they dropped their revolutionary dogma for pragmatic state-capitalism like China did. Ho Chi Minh's Vietnam is capitalist again. Would he support it?