Page 25


full fruits of its victory when it succumbed to French, Russian, and Chinese diplomatic pressures at the Geneva Conference. It seems that the French and Russians with Chinese support made a deal in Western Europe at the expense of the Vietminh, who were persuaded to withdraw from their numerous positions or strength in South Vietnam below the 17th parallel. France then proceeded no doubt under American pressure to renege on its agreement with the Vietminh to remain in South Vietnam until after the proposed unification elections of 1956. The way was clear for the American “man in Vietnam,” Ngo Dinh Diem, who had returned from abroad in 1954, to make his bid for total power. Though our knowledge of the political situation in 1954-’55 remains clouded with uncertainties, I can find no evidence that, at Lt. Quinn alleges, the French were ousted by “anti-communist nationalists,” unless this last phrase refers to U.S. military men stationed in Vietnam at the time. On the contrary, there is some evidence that the French army aided Diem in his war with rebellious religious sects. What is not in doubt at all is that the 1955 referendum by which Diem’s dictathe Bao Dai monarchy was hardly a model of democracy in action. Bao Dai was indeed discredited, but Why should Bao Dai’s Premier have been the only alternative offered the voters? Ho Chi Minh’: . government in the north had a far greater claim to legitimacy, though its elections were ha r d I v more democratic than Diem’s. NOT ONLY DID the government of North Vietnam practice undemocratic political methods; it also employed wholes a 1 e assassination a n d intimidation against its political opponents. On this point Lt. Quinn is correct. Leaders of religious sects, mandarins \(such as one communist nationalists were systematically exterminated in 1946. Lt. Quinn does not note, however, that this grim and bloody episode was duplicated by the U.S. backed government of Diem, beginning with the police raids of Jan. 15, 1956, 12 The Texas Observer 0,44#############.4….~…#.444#,…. TEXAS OBSERVER BOOKSTORE THREE MEN IN TEXAS edited by Ronnie Dugger…$6.50 THE ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT by Robert Sherrill $5.00 THE ONE-EYED MAN by Larry L. King $5.95 Send your orders to Sarah Payne, Business Manager, Texas Observer, 504 West 24th, Austin, Texas. Books sent postpaid. Please add the 2% sales tax to your check. mt.44.#~4~.~.~.~.~.~.~..*** which sent into exile most of the members of the very Revolutionary Committee that just six m o n t h s earlier had brought Diem into power. Diem’s police armed, trained, and paid by the U.S.were not perceptibly more humane than Ho’s. Need I add that neither Ho nor Diem is a hero of mine, and that I utterly abhor their terroristic methods of political control? I come finally to the vexed question of the Geneva Declaration of 1954. Here Lt. Quinn makes the very common mistake of referring to the signing of this document by the Vietminh. The only document signed by the French and the Vietminh at the Geneva ‘Conference in July, 1954, concerned a cease-fire, regrouping of military forces on either side of a temporary demarcation line, and movement of prisoners of war and civilian internees to the zone of their choice. As for the Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference, it was accepted in a voice vote by the delegations from Cambodia, North Vietnam, Laos, China, U.S.S.R, Great Britain, and France; the U.S. delegation “took note” of this action but refused to go along with it, while the South Vietnamese expressly repudiated it. Now, to my knowledge, the adherence of the Vietminh to the terms of the ceasefire has not been seriously questioned. But what of the Final Declaration with its important provisions for free choice of residence by all individuals and for free elections throughout the country in July, 1956, under supervision of an international commission? An argument can be made to the effect that the Declaration never had any legal standing whatever, in which case the Vietminh could surely not have been guilty of violating its provisions. Since this interpretation does not seem to be generally accepted, even by the U.S. government, one must ask about the nature and timing of the numerous and extensive violations which have by now certainly occurred \(e.g., the presence of foreign troops and military equipment is a clear violation of Article Now, in the first place, North Vietnam almost certainly violated the provision SUBSCRIBE OR RENEW THE TEXAS OBSERVER 504 West 24th Street Austin 5, Texas Enclosed is $6.00 for a one-year subscription to the Observer for: Name Address City, State This is a renewal. This is a new subscription. permitting free choice of residence zone for all individuals when they interfered with the large-scale migration to the south in 1954-’55. \( Since some 900,000 refugees, mostly Catholics, did reach South Vietnam, the harassment by the North Vietnamese authorities cannot have been enDiem government with U.S. support not only refused to consult with the North Vietnamese concerning the 1956 unification elections, but even resisted all offers from the north to establish normal communications and trade relations, thereby practicing in effect a kind of economic warfare against the north which desperately needed the south’s surplus rice. That South Vietnam was thus able to ignore its natural trading-partner to the north was, of course, due entirely to the relatively immense inflow of U.S. aid which has continued to keep an otherwise moribund economy alive. Lt. -Quinn writes vaguely of “Vietminh activity in the southern zone” in referring to an alleged violation of the Geneva Declaration. Surely, however, the Vietminh was not expected to refrain from all political activity in the south \(say, in connection with the proposed 1956 elecmilitant guerrilla activity by the Vietcong did not begin until 1958, while aid from the north became significant only a couple of years later. These dates are further sustained by the fact that complaints by the South Vietnamese government about “subversion” occur first in the 1960 report of the International Control Commission. These annual reports, by the way, constitute a relatively neglected documentary source; there are excerpts in the Gettleman volume cited above. Thus it is a reasonable hypothesis that Vietcong activity was originally provoked by the exceptionally fierce character of Diem’s repressive measures against not only Communist but all opposition groups. Among other measures, Diem in 1956 decreed the abolition of traditional elective village and municipal councils and replaced them with appointive officials. Since the latter were often counter-intelligence agents, it is not too surprising that their ranks have been heavily depleted by assassination. Even if Vietminh organization at the village level had not been seems probable that Diem’s actions would have led to a violent reaction against him and his government. MY DISCUSSION has reached the outbreak of the second Indochina war. By this time the underlying pattern of relationships in Vietnam had emerged with full clarity; later events could modify this pattern only in detail. A particullarly striking illustration of this point oc curred last December in the supposedly democratically elected South Vietnamese Constituent Assembly: a measure to guarantee land to the peasant was rejected by a vote of 117 to 3 despite the fact that knowledgeable observers have been insist