This week marks the 67th anniversary of Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence. On 2 September 1945, Ho Chi Minh stood in Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi, and read the declaration to over a million people in Hanoi, and also gathered in Saigon. He based his declaration on that of the United States. In honor of that anniversary, I thought it appropriate to take a moment and review that declaration, a document that foresaw more than thirty years of war to realize the dream marked on that day. (In addition, our offices will be closed on 1-2 September to commemorate this holiday.)
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 and to be happy and free.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, made at the time of the French Revolution, 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, abusing the standard 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.
Politically, 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, the Centre and the South of Viet Nam in order to wreck our country’s oneness and prevent our people from being united.
They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly massacred our patriots. They have drowned our uprisings in seas of blood.
They have fettered public opinion and practised obscurantism.
The have weakened our race with opium and alcohol.
In the field of economics, they have sucked us dry, driven our people to destitution and devastated our land.
They have robbed us of our ricefields, our mines, our forests and our raw materials. They have monopolised the issuing of banknotes and the import and export trade.
They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to extreme poverty.
They have made it impossible for our national bourgeoisie to prosper; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.
In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese fascists invaded Indochina to establish new bases against the Allies, the French colonialists went down on their bended knees and opened the doors of our country to welcome the Japanese in.
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 towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri province to the North of Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow-citizens died from starvation.
On the 9th of March this year, 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 a period of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.
Before the 9th of March, how often the Viet Minh had urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese! But instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists only intensified their terrorist activities against the Viet Minh. After their defeat and before fleeing, they massacred the political prisoners detained at Yen Bai and Cao Bang.
In spite of all this, our fellow-citizens have always manifested a lenient and humane attitude towards the French. After the Japanese putsch of March 9, 1945, the Viet Minh helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued others from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property. In fact, since the autumn of 1940, our country had ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.
When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies, our entire people rose to gain power and founded the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese, not from the French.
The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which have fettered them for nearly a century and have won independence for Viet Nam. At the same time they have overthrown the centuries-old monarchic regime and established a democratic republican regime.
We, the Provisional Government of the new Viet Nam, representing the entire Vietnamese people, hereby declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; cancel all treaties signed by France on Viet Nam, and abolish all privileges held by France in our country.
The entire Vietnamese people are of one mind in their determination to oppose all wicked schemes by the French colonialists.
We are convinced that the Allies, which at the Teheran and San Francisco Conferences upheld the principle of equality among the nations, cannot fail to recognize the right of the Vietnamese people to independence.
A people who have courageously opposed French enslavement for more than eight years, a people who have resolutely sided with the Allies against the fascists during these last years, such a people must be free, such a people must be independent.
For these reasons, we, the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, solemnly make this declaration to the world:
Viet Nam has the right to enjoy freedom and independence and in fact has become a free and independent country. 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 freedom and independence.