Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 6. 4th April 1973

The Peace Agreement and Aid Schemes

The Peace Agreement and Aid Schemes

Salient: Could you explain the Vietnamese concept of the stages of the revolution and its connection with the Peace Agreement?

Let's take the discussions I had with the leadership of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi and the leadership of the Provisional Revolutionary Government. They see the Agreement as being the concrete expression of very important gains for the revolution in Vietnam. The 1954 Geneva Agreements allowed the revolutionary forces to consolidate completely in North Vietnam, and to build a socialist regime. This time the Agreement gives them half of South Vietnam. It will be seen when the various maps are published as well showing where the zones are delimited, that the N.F.L, holds a good half of South Vietnam territorially. If the people who were bombed out of the countryside and had to take refuge in shanty towns around the big cities, were allowed to go home you would have half the population within the areas controlled by the Provisional Revolutionary Government. So as far as Vietnam is concerned, the revolutionary forces have the top half which has the greatest part of the population, 21 million compared to 17 million in the south; they have half of the south territorially and population-wise when conditions are normalised, and politically they have at least half of the other sector which is nominally controlled by the Saigon regime. So this is a very important thing for them, after all they've been engaged in this independence struggle for about 2,000 years, 114 years of which has been the stage against colonialism and neo-colonialism. They think they've come to the end of that stage and now the stage is set for the consolidation of all these gains.

Photo of soldiers shooting a man

If one takes the position in Indo-China as a whole, the revolutionary forces in Laos and Cambodia have been immeasurably strengthened by their struggle, not by any action taken by the North 'Vietnamese but by the United States. They provoked the resistance movement, they fertilised the resistance movement by the brutality of their methods; the wholesale bombing of villages and towns, the wholesale looting and murder. So the revolutionary forces in Laos and Cambodia have been enormously strengthened. In Laos, at least two-thirds of the territory and over half the population is under the solid control of the Pathet Lao. In Cambodia 85 - 90% of the territory is controlled by the resistance forces. Lon No. hangs on in Phnom Penh exclusively due to the operations of the United States Air Force. Take the events of recent days when someone from the Lon Nol Air force bombed Lon No1's own palace and then took off and landed in the resistance areas, following which Lon Nol grounded his whole air force and still has it grounded. The latest news is that he has arrested 50 astrologers. Lon Nol lakes more notice than anyone in Cambodia of astrologers and they predicted that his reign in Cambodia would be ended by the end of this month. These are facts which are public knowledge, so if one looks at the position in Indo-China from a revolutionary standpoint the situation is extremely favourable and immensely more favourable in Vietnam than it was at the time the United States decided to intervene.

In Cambodia Lon Nol hangs on in Phnom Penh exclusively due to the operations of the U.S. Air Force.

Salient: Some sections of the anti-war movement in New Zealand and elsewhere have accused the Chinese of forcing the Peace Agreement on the North Vietnamese and the P.R.G. They have claimed that from the Nixon visit onwards the Chinese have "sold out" on the Vietnamese revolution. There was a rumour that straight after the Nixon visit Chou En-Lai flew to Hanoi to brief the Vietnamese on his talks with Nixon. Is that correct?

Yes. Two or three days after Nixon had left China, Chou En-Lai went to Hanoi and briefed the North Vietnamese leadership, in fact the Political Bureau of the Lao Dong party, on exactly what had gone on and offered stepped up aid, military aid. His assessment was that there were no signs that Nixon was going to wind up that war in a very great hurry. After seeing the North Vietnamese he went and saw Sihanouk for about three hours and gave him the same sort of briefing on Indochina, and offered stepped up military aid to Cambodia. The aid was accepted in both cases. I saw Sihanouk immediately after that, within about 48 hours of his seeing Chou En-Lai. He explained what he'd been told by Chou En-Lai to me and a couple of other correspondents and there was no request not to publish it. Nixon raised the question of Indochina himself, and Chou En-Lai said: "I think our conversations should be limited to matters of bi-lateral interest, of mutual interest. But as you have raised the matter of Indo-China I would like to state our position. Our position is that you should not be there and that it is shameful for a world power like you to be engaged there against small developing countries. We think you shouldn't be there and that you should get out". Then he said "we have explained our position that as far as normalisation of relations is concerned this can not be brought about as long as you are occupying part of the Chinese province of Taiwan. Your position is that until tensions are lessened in South-East Asia you will have to continue to occupy part of Taiwan, What is the cause of tensions in South-East Asia? — your presence in Indochina. So from your own logic it's clear that until you leave Indo-China there can be no normalisation of relations with China. We think you should leave but I would like to make our position quite clear. If you don't leave we will continue to support the people of Vietnam and the peoples of Indochina and give them everything we have and they need to continue on their struggle until you go". And that was it. The aid to both Cambodia and North Vietnam, 1 don't know about Laos because I was not informed of that, was considerably stepped up after the Nixon visit. If you look you can find absolutely no trace of how the Vietnamese position has really changed. If you go right back to April 1965 when Pham Van Dong made his first five point statement on the basis on which negotiations could be conducted, and take that and the various proposals of the N.F.L. including the seven point proposals of July 1971 and compare them with the Agreement, this is a logical succession of negotiating positions, which were spelt out in a little more detail at various stages of the negotiations. What is embodied in the Agreement is a logical development of negotiating positions going back to April 1965. So I don't see any evidence where the Vietnamese have changed their positions at all. I think one thing on which the Vietnam watchers' all over the world are agreed on is that the Vietnamese always retained in their own hands their own decisions and remained completely independent of any outside pressures, advice or whatever you want to call it.

Chou En-Lai told Nixon: "If you don't leave we will continue to give the people of Indochina everything we have and they need to continue their struggle until you go".

Salient. Could you give a clear indication of the D'.R. V. and P.R.G. positions on aid from countries like Australia and New Zealand?

If there's one thing that the D.R.V. and the P.R.G. are absolutely adamant on it's that they are not going to fritter away their independence which they have defended with such difficulty overall these years by falling for the machinations of international aid organisations. I can quote the words of Pham Van Dong when I spoke to him at the beginning of February. They're absolutely determined to remain masters of their own house and to rebuild in their own way, with their own plans, and with their own people. "Masters of their own house", that was the key phrase he used. They don't want multi-lateral aid from international agencies at all because they consider them to be very dangerous sorts of organisations, and they've studied what's gone on in other countries, which apparently gained their independence only to lose it economically. They want bi-lateral aid. What they realty need are freely disposable funds on which there are absolutely page 9 no conditions attached whatsoever. Pham Van Dong made another remark which was quite interesting considering the low living standards, the poverty really, of North Vietnam. He said, "well, we have to do everything possible to raise the living standards of our people, that's absolutely essential, but we're not going to become slaves of the consumer society concept. We think there are other things in life apart from material things, there ate certain thresholds beyond which you have to go when you are considering the reconstruction. We are discussing these things now, but we have to define what are the ingredients, what is the quality of man, the quality of life, the quality of society? We are specifically going to take these things into account in our reconstruction of society. We are going to be original, we are going to find the Vietnamese way of doing these things in accordance with our own" traditions, our own history and our own culture". I think we are going to see a mushrooming of all sorts of phoney organisations exploiting the natural generosity and guilty consciences of people to pull in money and to use this money to gain political influence in Vietnam, perhaps particularly in South Vietnam and particularly in that area which is still under the control of the Thieu government. For instance I don't know too many of the details but as far as I understand this World Vision Organisation, it proposes to collect large sums of money, part of which will be used to resettle those unfortunate people who were bombed out of the countryside and forced to settle in shanty towns on the outskirts of Saigon and other areas. The idea is to put them in so-called model housing projects around Saigon in order to prevent them in fact from going back to their villages, and there are all sorts of political conditions, or religious conditions which amount to the same thing, to which people have to subscribe to become beneficiaries of this aid. This is an absolutely intolerable form of external interference in the affairs of the Vietnamese people which they will reject. But the United States has every reason to encourage these people to spread the burden of reconstruction out into the international field, to restore the things they have destroyed and at the same time to use political pressures to keep the people inside the sphere of this fascist regime in Saigon. I think one has to be terribly vigilant about these agencies and consult the real representatives of the Vietnamese people. The Government of North Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government and other Third Force elements as representatives of the Vietnamese people in Paris and elsewhere all reject this World Vision sort of planning.

The Vietnamese don't want multilateral aid from international organisations because they've studied what's gone on in other countries, which apparently gained their independence, only to lose it economically.