The Liberty-Entrenched Nationalist Flag versus the Legally-Recognized Communist Flag and the Issue of Rebuilding Vietnam
– Discourse by Lloyd Duong (Dương Thành Lợi) –
‘Before 1975, the nationalist flag represents more than just the system of government in South Vietnam. It also epitomizes a way of life whereby the values of family cohesiveness are highly regarded and a society with cultural ideals that encompass a special emphasis on spirituality, education and humanism. After 1975, the nationalist flag has accomplished an even more powerful role in the overseas Vietnamese community. The nationalist flag represents our identity as liberty-seekers and our remembrance of hundreds of thousand victims whose lost life became stepping-stones for the foundation of the overseas Vietnamese community… The communist red banner originated from Comintern, on the other hand, represents communism and not the Vietnamese people. It was under this red banner that the Vietnamese communists secretly granted our land and sea territories to Communist China in exchange for support… On the reconstruction of Vietnam, one cannot realistically develop sound presence and cultivate bright future on ignorance of the past. Vietnam encountering chronic crises under communism is similar to most other poor nations that lack accountable leadership. How can we hold government leaders accountable for the people’s welfare? The most trustworthy method that has survived the test of time is composed of unrestricted public scrutiny and recurrent free election with competing opposition parties.’
Hypothetically, if there were no overseas Vietnamese refugees then the question of salutation of the nationalist flag would probably never be raised outside of our homeland.
Hypothetically, if there were only visa students and visitors on Hanoi’s passports who go abroad after April 30, 1975, then there would be no issue as to those students and visitors’ preference for the communist red banner.
But in reality, there exists an active 3-million overseas Vietnamese community composed mainly of refugees and their relatives, who had escaped the horrendous persecution under communism. Thus their symbol of liberty and of their identity as liberty-seekers must be always acknowledged: the nationalist flag.
Many of us, especially the youth, salute the nationalist flag NOT because we try to maintain South Vietnam’s ‘old glory.’ A large section of the overseas majority consisting of regular folks just like this writer who was only 10 years old on April 30, 1975, and thus I have no lost glory to wrestle over. You may ask why do I salute the nationalist flag and NOT the communist red banner under which I personally lost several dearest family members in the resistance war against the French colonialists in the 1950s? The answer is quite simple and originates from knowledge of history. In light of today’s Q tendency (chuyện gì rồi cũng qua rồi quen rồi quên: everything would pass [Qua] and you’d get used to the situation [Quen] and you’d forget the past [Quên]), I wish to share with you a bit of my experience 23 years ago and how the nationalist flag imprints its symbolism on the overseas Vietnamese historic journey.
When we escaped from Vietnam in 1980, we were deadly afraid of encountering any ship with the communist red flag or the Soviet hammer-sickle banner (we actually saw red-flagged Con Dao fishing trawlers but were able to elude them). The only way to communicate our message that we sought refuge from communism was a homemade nationalist flag readily to be raised at the first sight of help. At last we saw the nationalist flag waved by a Vietnamese fellow on board an Indonesian oil tanker, our entire boat screamed with joy because it signified that we had finally reached freedom.
To us refugees, the nationalist flag represents our identity as liberty-seekers and our remembrance of hundreds of thousand victims who died at sea without a trace in search of liberty; they (the unfortunate victims) are not here today to debate whether or not to raise the liberty-entrenched nationalist flag or the legally-recognized communist flag. In place of those countless lost souls, we the surviving refugees are obligated to protect and advance the unfortunate victims’ identity and ours as liberty-seekers. However, we libertarians are not ‘stuck in the past’ as erroneously portrayed by Hanoi but are actively promoting liberty on the valuable foundation of history, and hopefully one day the entire 78 million inland Vietnamese – not just a limited number of covert expatriates and visa students on Hanoi’s passports – could share our liberty in a democratic society.
Before 1975, the nationalist flag represents more than just the system of government in South Vietnam. It also epitomizes a way of life whereby the values of family cohesiveness are highly regarded and a society with cultural ideals that encompass a special emphasis on spirituality, education, and humanism. All those aspects of life were overturned in April 1975; thereafter the Communist Party became the ideological God and family values as well as many institutions such as religions and charities were exterminated (I know these facts with first-hand experience). And almost 3 decades later, the Communist Party is still behaving like an absolute God in Vietnam today despite many misleading allegations that Socialist Vietnam has changed completely.
After 1975, the nationalist flag has achieved an even more powerful position in the overseas Vietnamese community founded by refugees. Without knowing our destiny and the prospects of return, we were determined to escape communist persecution despite the deadly dangers on high seas. For us who had to choose between liberty and bondage, there was only one way to escape communist control: fleeing Socialist Vietnam to freedom, even at the risk of death. Our journey was full of tragic experiences, endless natural calamities and brutal man-made obstacles. In the vast Pacific Ocean that challenged Vietnamese refugees in search of freedom, the only means to communicate our message of liberty was the nationalist flag. The nationalist flag has inevitably characterized our identity as liberty-seekers. Among the mass who fled Hanoi’s control, at least 200 thousand victims vanished at sea without a trace; some assessments put the loss as high as 1 million souls (e.g. in June 1978, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbroke reported ‘estimates are that only half [of the refugees] make to another port.’) The nationalist flag has eventually evolved into our remembrance of the lost souls whose life became stepping-stones for the foundation of the overseas Vietnamese community.
The red banner of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) originated from Comintern, on the other hand, represents communism and not the Vietnamese people.Remember what Ho Chi Minh (HCM) told his cadres in 1930 when he returned to unify the deeply divided communist factions: ‘(I was) ordered by Comintern to resolve the revolution’s problem in our country..’ For those who just see the term Comintern for the first time, I’d try to describe this organization briefly because of its notorious role in training and commissioning agents, notably Trần Phú, Lê Hồng Phong and HCM, to wreck our country and culture. Trần Phú was the VCP’s 1st General Secretary with codename Likive Likvây who changed the VCP’s name to Indochinese Communist Party because Comintern’s sixth Congress declaring ‘Any form of Nationalism was contrary to proletarian internationalism’, and Lê Hồng Phong was the VCP’s 2nd General Secretary and among the first Vietnamese military officers trained by Moscow.
Comintern a.k.a. Third/Communist International was founded in Moscow in March 1919 after the 1917 Russian Revolution under Lenin’s leadership to foster and coordinate worldwide communist revolution. Comintern’s members had to accept 21 conditions including (a) conduct truly Communist propaganda and agitation and uphold the ideal of a dictatorship of the proletariat before the masses, and (b) create an illegal (in addition to the legal) organization for subversive work. Stalin ordered Comintern’s dissolution in 1943 to comfort the US and UK during WW II. Comintern was resurrected in 1947 as Cominform.
The Kremlin’s Comintern and the East published after the fall of South Vietnam reveals the Soviet strategy to expand influence in East Asia, including China and Vietnam. [The Comintern and the East: The Struggle for the Leninist Strategy and Tactics in National Liberation Movements, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1977.] Following Lenin’s view that ‘(t)he aim of socialism is not only to abolish the division of mankind into small states and to remove all national isolation, not only to bring nations closer together, but also to merge them’ [Lenin, V.I. Sochineniya (Works), 4th ed., Moscow, 1948, Vol.22, P.135], Comintern’s University of the Toilers of the East trained the first group of Vietnamese Marxists in 1923 including Ho Chi Minh, Ton Duc Thang, Bui Lam, Duong Bach Mai, Bui Cong Trung and Nguyen Van Tao. Comintern provided ‘all-round assistance via China’ to those revolutionaries to spread propaganda and stage sabotage in Vietnam to promote the worldwide communist revolution. (Anyone who wishes to learn more can also review Comintern’s archive consisting of 11,859 microfiches at Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library.)
In a report to Comintern dated June 3, 1926, Ho Chi Minh articulated his achievements after several years in China and, in the process, revealed that he and other Vietnamese comrades as Comintern’s agents were receiving ‘salary’ from the Soviets:
‘The followings are works which had been accomplished for Indochina since I came here:
- Set up a secret organization.
- Set up a united farmers’ association (of Vietnamese living in Thailand).
- Set up a group of children selected from the farmers and workers’ children. They are presently in Canton and are supported by our money.
- Set up a woman revolutionary group (consists of 12 members since April).
- Set up a propaganda school. The students are secretly brought to Canton. After a month of study, they return. The first class consists of 10 students. The second class, which will open this coming July, shall have approximately 30 individuals.
Because the transportation is time-consuming (about two weeks), dangerous and expensive and our resources are limited (with my salary, the salary of one of my comrades and some subsidies from the Russian comrades), the works do not move as quickly as we wish.'[Ho Chi Minh Toan Tap (Ho Chi Minh Collection), Bao cao goi Quoc Te Cong San, Su That, Hanoi 1981, pp.163-5.]
Comintern’s Vietnamese agents therefore did not come back with the communist red banner to liberate Vietnam from the French but rather to expand the worldwide Marxist revolution on Moscow’s order. Ho Chi Minh clarified Comintern’s objective for all Vietnamese communists: ‘the Vietnamese revolution is part and parcel of the world revolution,whoever is a revolutionary in the world is a comrade of the Vietnamese people.’ (Nguyen Ai Quoc, The Revolutionary Road, The Predecessors of the Party, Documents, Commission for the Study of the Party’s History, 1977, pp. 19).
Nationalism therefore was used by the communists as a form to conceal their own ideological aim. Consequently the resistance war against the French colonialists, in which my beloved paternal uncles fought and died for the liberation cause, was misled covertly and brutally by HCM and his cadres to promote Comintern’s revolution. Remember only 3 decades earlier in Paris, Ho Chi Minh bitterly failed in his attempt to be ‘useful’ for the French in their oppressive colonial apparatus (HCM wrote ‘Je désirerais devenir utile à la France’); thus it is not surprised to see he switched allegiance to faithfully serve his new masters at Comintern. These are facts and not fiction. You can view Ho Chi Minh’s application to the French Colonial School in September 1911 at www.danchu.net/TaiLieuTuyenCao/TaiLieu/HoChiMinh.DonHoc.htm (Bằng chứng Hồ Chí Minh ‘ra đi tìm đường cứu nước.. Pháp!’). As well, Ho Chi Minh’s confirmation that he ‘(was) ordered by Comintern to resolve the revolution’s problem in our country..’ is not anti-communist propaganda but a fact written down in Hanoi’s official records. Skeptics can verify this blatant statement in Nguyen Ai Quoc, ‘Loi Keu Goi’, Lich Su Dang Cong San Viet Nam, Vol.1, Sach Giao Khoa Mac-Lenin, Hanoi 1979, p.29.
Rather than advancing our national interests, the Vietnamese Communist Party – a creation by Comintern’s agents – only expanded the interests of its socialist motherland, i.e. the Soviet Union. The Vietnamese communists’ motherland (Tổ Quốc Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa – a terminology frequently used by Hanoi before 1991) was NOT Vietnam but the Soviet Union; this explains why they named their first revolt in Nghe An and Ha Tinh in 1930 ‘Soviet Nghe Tinh’ to reflect the Soviet Union’s master plan ‘not only to bring nations closer together, but also to merge them’ (Lenin, supra).
Knowledge of history helps us understand the depth of the communists’ ideological hatred underlying their merciless killing of innocent people, notably during the 1955-56 Land Reform campaign that 160,000 civilians were shot, drowned and tortured to death, and during the 1968 Tet Offensive that nearly 3,000 victims were murdered and buried in mass graves in Hue. Let’s not forget 1 million Vietnamese civilians and soldiers from the North and South who perished in the communist 1954-1975 bloody campaign in South Vietnam under the ‘national liberation’ cover.
A review of the Kremlin’s documents and publications available after the fall of South Vietnam such as The Comintern and the East: The Struggle for the Leninist Strategy and Tactics in National Liberation Movements, supra, helps to expose the function of ‘national liberation’ façade in the worldwide communist revolution. Hanoi and its supporters justified the 1954-1975 war on necessity (‘national liberation’) by citing the US armed support and presence in South Vietnam as proof of neo-imperialist occupation. This bogus justification deceives many but is so irrational that NO compelling ground could be found for the loss of 1 million Vietnamese lives because, on the same logic advanced by Hanoi, one could easily extrapolate that in light of the massive Soviet and Chinese military support and presence in the North, the Vietnamese communists were simply hired gunmen for the worldwide communist aggression. While tens of thousand Chinese soldiers occupied strategic locations throughout the North (the Chinese lost more than 1,400 soldiers in North Vietnam: see ‘Chinese Embassy Staffs Pay Respect to Chinese Martyrs in Vietnam,’ Xinhua General News Service, April 1, 2002), the VCP forced young Vietnamese into a senseless invasion to murder innocent people with Russian Ak’s and T-54 tanks. Even the VCP-financed People’s Army Publication has confirmed the hidden aim of Hanoi’s bloody campaign in South Vietnam was to promote the Soviet worldwide communist revolution in an article commemorating the April 1975 invasion: ‘(a)ll victories in the Vietnamese revolution result from the cooperation with the Soviet Union… and have contributed to the constant progress of the world’s revolutionary forces.’(People’s Army Publication, April 1984).
In the analysis of the 1954-1975 war, I always point out the massacre in My Lai village on March 16, 1968 by a US platoon because this is an atrocious case to be understood and also because this tragedy occurred in my birthplace, Quang Ngai. The My Lai massacre reflects Washington’s racist frustration in Vietnam that began just before the murder of Ngo Dinh Diem. In March 1968, three years after the White House dispatched U.S. troops to defend South Vietnam, a group of American soldiers killed approximately 500 innocent villagers in My Lai, Quang Ngai. The My Lai massacre will remain to be a sorrowful reminder of the U.S. naive idealists’ strategy in Vietnam. This tragedy may be understood best by examining the racist nature of the U.S. society in which the life of a black citizen is worth less than that of his white counterpart. This white supremacy attitude perhaps had played a major part, along with the soldiers’ psychological instability, in the My Lai massacre. (E.g. (1) African Americans in the South were disfranchised until 1965; (2) According to statistics between 1991-1994, the survival rates of African American males and their white counterpart at age 35 are 89% and 96%, respectively, and at age 65 are 77% and 88%, respectively. See US Dept. Health & Human Services 1995 [Health Statistics] as cited in Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen, Anchor Books, 1999, at pp. 22-23).
A reasonable person can understand the racist overtone in the My Lai tragedy but can never comprehend the motive for the Soviet-backed Vietnamese communists to slay thousands of innocent Vietnamese indiscriminately. In 1968, Hue witnessed the senseless killing of more than 2,800 innocent civilians by Hanoi’s regulars during its Tet General Offensive. In that same year, while Americans were getting ready for their presidential election, Vietnamese had to prepare burial grounds for family members following the VCP’s bloodbath that was aimed at supporting the U.S. anti-war movement. Four years later in 1972, also an election year in the United States, Hanoi’s regulars armed with Soviet-made machine guns shot to death thousands of refugees on National Highway 1 near Quang Tri and, in the process, gave it the tarnished name Dai Lo Kinh Hoang (Dreadful Highway).
It is imperative to note the difference between the consequences faced by the architects of My Lai and Hue tragedies to depose the perception of conflict of necessity as advanced by Hanoi to justify the loss of 1 million Vietnamese lives. In response to news about the My Lai crime, Washington immediately investigated and brought the culpable leader, Lt. William Calley, to trial. At the end of the 4-month hearing, the jury was reminded of President Abraham Lincoln’s assertion during the American Civil War: ‘Men who take up arms against one another in public do not cease on this account to be moral human beings, responsible to one another and to God.’ Consequently, Lt. William Calley was found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
At the other end of the spectrum, Hue massacre author Hoàng Phủ Ngọc Tường was promoted by the Vietnamese Communist Party. Tường’s political career skyrocketed noticeably in May 1990 when, as VCP member, he was commissioned to France to promote Hanoi’s perestroika policy. The senseless massacre of innocent people for ideological purposes is NEVER condemned but instead often glorified by the VCP. Hanoi’s decorated Poet To Huu wrote his notorious ‘The October Song’ to praise murderous acts as follows:
‘Kill, kill more, the hand would not be let to rest
For the farm, good rice, quick collection of taxes,
For the Party’s long life, together (we) match with the same heart
Worship Chairman Mao, worship Stalin endlessly…’
‘Giết, giết nữa, bàn tay không phút nghĩ
Cho ruộng đồng, lúa tốt, thuế mau xong,
Cho đảng bền lâu, cùng rập bước chung lòng
Thờ Mao chủ tịch, thờ Xít ta lin bất diệt…’
The communist red banner originated from Comintern is soaked in blood of countless innocent Vietnamese. It is therefore no surprise that those, who salute it, are required to join in the signing of an anthem declaring ‘The path to glory passes over the corpses of our foes’ (Hanoi’s National Anthem). I am certain that there are many different paths for a nation to reach glory beside the one going over human corpses, which often leads only to graveyard.
After 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, the VCP turned to Communist China for support. It was under the legally-recognized red banner that Vietnamese communists granted our land and sea territories to China in exchange for Beijing’s backing. This is not the first time, however, the Vietnamese communists accepted Beijing’s infringement on our ancestors’ territories. In 1958, the VCP under Ho Chi Minh’s leadership and through Phạm Văn Ðồng as Premier conceded to Chinese claims of Vietnam’s historic Paracel and Spratly Island chains (Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa). You can view the VCP’s official recognition of Beijing’s territorial demand at www.danchu.net/TaiLieuDacBietDDDC/QuocHanThu.htm as well as all the documents and photographs of the communists’ betrayal at www.DanChu.net and judge for yourself.
Therefore to those who want to salute Comintern’s red banner soaked in blood of innocent Vietnamese and, in effect, accept the VCP’s authority and betrayal, kindly keep your preference to yourselves. We do not force you to change your view but please do NOT accuse overseas Vietnamese of being ‘stuck in the past’ when we salute the liberty-entrenched nationalist flag. As well, please do NOT allege that we libertarians do nothing to help rebuilding Vietnam by preserving our remembrance of the fallen in the struggle for liberty and our way of life that values family cohesiveness and precious cultural ideals epitomized by the nationalist flag.
On the issue of rebuilding Vietnam, one cannot realistically develop sound presence and cultivate bright future on ignorance of the past. The wisdom of those who disregard history in their quest for personal success in the name of common good is questionable. Blind ambition provides only a shaky foundation for future prospects, and ignorance of history often brings about irreversible failures at present.
Unlike the communists and their supporters, I do not profess to know the precise needs of the Vietnamese people, who are presently not allowed by the VCP to express themselves freely; thus I cannot offer any concrete solutions to Vietnam’s chronic problems. Within an acceptable degree of certainty, however, one could safely infer that the Vietnamese people’s aspirations are not dissimilar from those of any decent citizen in this world: opportunity to learn and earn a decent living in absence of ideological discrimination and corruption, to express oneself freely without fear of official retaliation, to manage one’s own life without state prejudicial interference, to run for public office if interested and to select government leaders freely without partisan coercion. To those who claim that the Vietnamese are not capable of exercising these inherent rights, I respectfully beg to differ in light of our people’s historic dignity and determination to triumph over all past adversaries and obstacles to found a great nation that we dearly love today.
In expressing my view publicly, even though with careful citations, I expect attacks by Hanoi’s hypocrites who are notorious for attributing the Communist Party’s blunders on external factors and counterrevolutionaries rather than holding it solely responsible. Vietnam encountering chronic crises under communism, in my humble opinion, is similar to most other poor nations that lack accountable leadership. How can we hold government leaders accountable for the people’s welfare? The most trustworthy method that has survived the test of history (again we explore means for nation building on knowledge of history) is composed of unrestricted public scrutiny and recurrent free election with competing opposition parties. The revolving door of government office will help to ensure that those in power would always try to respect the people’s will and refrain them from ‘liberating’ scarce resources from the national treasury. This method will stop the blatantly unaccountable Vietnamese Communist Party from sucking dry the national wealth and the livelihood of the destitute mass. Although realistically this method will not bring about prosperity quickly to the mass but it will at least eliminate most palpable abuses currently going on in Socialist Vietnam and provide a transparent framework for rebuilding the nation.
At the time Ho Chi Minh ‘(was) ordered by Comintern to resolve the revolution’s problem in our country..,’Mohandas K. Gandhi [whom Albert Einstein respectfully observed: ‘Generations to come, it may be, will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.’] understood Comintern’s revolution would simply replace the colonialists’ prison with Soviet Gulag. Gandhi stated:‘I have friends among the Communists. Some of them are like sons to me. But it seems they do not make any distinction between fair and foul, truth and falsehood… They seem to take their instructions from Russia, which they regard as their spiritual home rather than (their country). I cannot countenance this dependence on an outside power.’(Gandhi’s Non-Violence in Peace and War, Vol. 2, p. 155, Navajivan Publishing House). It has been so long with so many facts being revealed to illuminate the past, it is now time for Vietnamese communists to at least ‘make distinction between fair and foul, truth and falsehood’ to respect the Vietnamese people’s aspirations: opportunity to learn and earn a decent living in absence of ideological discrimination and corruption, to express oneself freely without fear of official retaliation, to manage one’s own life without state prejudicial interference, to run for public office if interested and to select government leaders freely without partisan coercion.
The legally-recognized red banner originated from Comintern and soaked in blood of countless innocent Vietnamese must be discarded to immortalize all those who lost their lives in the worldwide communist revolution. Until that happens and until the communists truly respect the Vietnamese people’s aspirations, please do NOT request the overseas Vietnamese to abandon the nationalist flag which represents our identity as liberty-seekers, our remembrance of the countless lost souls, and our way of life that values family cohesiveness and cultural ideals which have become hallmark of the overseas community’s well-documented accomplishments in the past quarter of a century.
I have enclosed herewith news about the European Commission’s recent call on the VCP to release two senior members of the Unified Buddhist Church: M.Rev. Thich Huyen Quang and M.Rev. Thich Quang Do. I hope that M.Rev. Thich Huyen Quang and M.Rev. Thich Quang Do along with many other democratic activists such as Ft. Nguyen Van Ly, Prf. Nguyen Dinh Huy, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Prf. Tran Khue, Pham Que Duong, Dr. Pham Hong Son, Le Chi Quang, Nguyen Khac Toan, Nguyen Vu Binh, v.v., could be freed early so that they may join in the debate about the significance of the legally-recognized communist flag and the liberty-entrenched nationalist flag with us if the discussion continues to be sustained by Hanoi’s hypocritical envoy. As aforementioned, we libertarians are not tied down by history but are actively promoting liberty at present and in the future on the valuable foundation of history, and hopefully one day all inland Vietnamese could share our liberty in a democratic society.
February 12, 2003
P.S. (1) I formulate this discourse in English to share my humble opinion with young people growing up overseas with limited command of the Vietnamese history and language as well as my acquaintances, who occasionally ask why I remain so loyal to the Nationalist Flag, especially when my paternal uncles fought and died as Viet Minh members against the French colonialists. This discourse was written quickly over 3 days [Feb. 10-12] using free moments between court appearances. Time constraint could jeopardize any opportunity for crafting perfect compositions, therefore I earnestly beg the readers for forgiveness over any literary shortcomings.
(2) I embrace and appreciate all critiques with propositions supported by verifiable sources of information. Due to time constraint, however, I can only respond to assessments from authors with undisguised identity and point of contact.