Minh’s speech proclaiming Vietnam’s independence contains a demand that the free world support that independence in part as payment for services rendered during World War 2. What ‘service’ did Vietnam render during that conflict?
In his speech on the independence of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh states that the country’s freedom from foreign oppression is inextricably connected with certain efforts of Vietnamese people. By this, this famous Communist leader means services that were rendered during one of the bloodiest armed conflicts in the world history – World War II. Speaking about these services that helped to reduce the human losses of French Colonial Empire, it is important to reflect on the activity of the Viet Minh League that was formed at the beginning of the war in order to offset the impact of the Rome-Tokyo-Berlin Axis (Hunt, 2015). Even though getting a win against French imperialism was among the League’s key tasks, people in Vietnam were surprisingly kind to French soldiers. In terms of these “services” rendered to oppressors, Ho Chi Minh mentions that many French people were saved due to this kindness. With the help of Viet Minh, the negative consequences of Japanese occupation for French people were mitigated as they could leave the country safely. Apart from that, many of them were rescued from Japanese military jails. There are other actions of the Viet Minh that can be included in this list. Vietnamese patriots were ready to cooperate with French oppressors to squeeze the Japanese armed forces from the country. However, the reaction of French occupants to these offers was inexplicitly cruel.
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Minh claimed that Vietnam’s independence is consistent with the philosophical principles which the Allies claimed were paramount during World War 2. What principles was Minh referring to, and did he make references to occasions where those principles were reasserted?
The speech given by Ho Chi Minh to proclaim the independence of Vietnam also touches upon the philosophical principles that were extremely important for the Allies during the Second World War. At the very beginning of the speech, he provides quotes from the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (Katsiaficas, 2016). Both quotes that were included in his speech refer to the principles of equality and justice. In particular, it follows from the quoted materials that there should not be unequal relationships between different nations because each person has the right to be free. In other words, all nations are equally valuable. Being proclaimed in the above-mentioned documents, the principles of liberty and human dignity were violated numerous times during the Second World War and other significant conflicts. It is clear from Minh’s words that the country’s newly-acquired independence fully aligns with these principles. Thus, unlike the French Colonial Empire, Vietnam does not plan to luxuriate using the resources of other countries. In evidence, he mentions that the right of French people to be free was acknowledged after the fall of Japanese rule in Vietnam. It is clear that the actions of Vietnamese people complied with these principles even though one can think that they had a moral right to physically exterminate Frenchmen to revenge on injustice and exploitation.
In the speech, Minh mentioned crimes committed by the French during their occupation of Vietnam. Which crimes, as you read them, were in your opinion most severe and justified Vietnamese independence?
Numerous crimes committed by French occupants in Vietnam are mentioned in the discussed speech, and the necessity to single out the most severe ones presents a difficult task. Personally, I consider dividing Vietnam into separate territories with various regimes as one of the crimes with far-reaching consequences for the domestic cohesion of Vietnam and, therefore, for the country’s ability to guard its interests on the global stage. What is more, severe labor exploitation and the appropriation of natural resources act as extremely significant crimes that could destroy the country. The well-being of the working class paves the way to the economic security of countries, but achieving this goal is opposite to the key tasks of colonial empires. Based on all social and economic consequences of the French rule for Vietnamese people, the independence of Vietnam is fully justified.
Hunt, D. (2015). Rice wars in colonial Vietnam: The great famine and the Viet Minh road to power. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 46(1), 168.
Katsiaficas, G. (2016). Vietnam documents: American and Vietnamese views. New York, NY: Routledge.