Ho Chi Minh: Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 2 September 1945
On 2 September 1945, as the provinces of colonial French Indochina waited for the defeated Japanese forces to leave, Ho Chi Minh, the most prominent Vietnamese communist and nationalist leader, declared in Hanoi that an independent state now existed in Vietnam. Until taken over by Japan during the war, Vietnam, together with present-day Laos and Cambodia, had been under French colonial rule. Hoping to secure the support of the United States, which was officially committed to anticolonialism, Ho deliberately modeled his statement on the American Declaration of Independence. This strategy failed to persuade the administration of President Harry S. Truman to endorse his claim for an independent Vietnamese state. Although French forces, assisted by British troops, returned to Indochina in the fall of 1945 and temporarily ousted Ho, he continued to lead the Vietnamese battle for independence, eventually driving out the French in 1954. During the final years of colonial rule in Vietnam, the U.S. government, by this time strongly committed to opposing communism in Asia, provided extensive economic and military aid to the French, although American ground forces were never deployed in French Indochina. Under the 1954 Geneva Accords, the country was temporarily divided at the 17th Parallel, with elections to choose a government for a united Vietnam supposedly scheduled within the next two years. Subsequent American attempts to maintain the southern portion of Vietnam as an independent noncommunist state and prevent its unification with the communist northern portion ruled by Ho ultimately embroiled the United States in the lengthy and divisive Vietnam War, the most frustrating and humiliating American military intervention of the entire Cold War.
All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable 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, to be happy and free.
The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen 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.
In the field of politics, 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 Center, and the South of Viet-Nam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united.
They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood.
They have fettered public opinion; they have practiced obscurantism against our people.
To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol.
In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people and devastated our land.
They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolized the issuing of bank notes and the export trade.
They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty.
They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.
In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese fascists violated Indochina's territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them.
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, from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri Province to the North of Viet-Nam, more than two million of our fellow citizens died from starvation. On March 9 , 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 the span of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.
On several occasions before March 9, the Viet Minh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese. Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Viet Minh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yen Bay and Cao Bang.
Notwithstanding all this, our fellow citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude. Even after the Japanese Putsch of March, 1945, the Viet Minh League helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property.
From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.
After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam.
The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French.
The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic.
For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; we repeal all the international obligation[s] that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Viet-Nam, and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland.
The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer their country.
We are convinced that the Allied nations, which at Teheran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, Page 2363 | Top of Articlewill not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Viet-Nam.
A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eighty years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent.
For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet-Nam, solemnly declare to the world that Viet-Nam has the right to be a free and independent country—and in fact it is so already. 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 independence and liberty.
Source: Bernard B. Fall, ed., Ho Chi Minh on Revolution: Selected Writings, 1920–66 (New York: Praeger, 1967), 143–145.