Thursday, October 31, 2013


A few months after Dien Bien Phu I was summoned to present
myself to the Northern underground organization. I thought that I
would have to attend a political course, as usual. Our leaders
were very concerned about their task of educating the masses and
liked to evangelize to the intellectuals by instilling them into
Marxist-Leninist notions which they believed to have the
monopoly. By playing this trump card of theirs, they thought they
would be able to impose respect to the intellectuals and, in that
way, liquidate their own complex of inferiority. It was quite naïve
but all the great men must have their naivety. Therefore, I braced
myself to spend many long hours of listening to some stumbling
orators who would not prevent me, in my usual chosen little dark
corner, from yawning if not sleeping, and dreaming whatever could
please me. But the resounding victory that we had achieved
recently did lead me to think of something. My anticipations were
confirmed when I saw a thousand cadres belonging to various
services gathered in the Tan Trao region. Then we knew that we
had to learn “politics” - that was the established word, in Viet Nam
everything was “politics” - which would regulate the ceremonials
for the return of the resistance government in Hanoi. The colonial
troops were clearing off and had to hand over to the proper
administrative agencies the premises with their equipment and
even the Vietnamese personnel who were employed there.
The studies which we had been invited to undertake were
about our attitude with regard to the civil servants who were
assigned to transmit to us the services where they used to work
during the time of French occupation. Our secret agents in Hanoi
had already set up the file of the cadres staff, with their curriculum
vitae, family status, attitudes about the Resistance, feelings about
their French superiors and about France, as well as their
capabilities and aspirations. Such information proved to be
* 8 *
precious and helped us assess the level of trust that we could give
to each of them, the support that we might have from each of them
and what could be expected from them. Thus, we did not have to
venture into unknown territory where we could stumble over
obstacles, and fall into traps.
But the sensitive question was to find out how to behave with
these people whose sentiments were hidden behind the screen of
politeness and smiles. Members of the Resistance must watch
themselves with vigilance about their language, their way of
looking at people, their gestures, in order to avoid expressing the
slightest hint of contempt or condescension for their subordinates.
The high dignitaries of the Party had also understood this and
worked out their attitudes; unfortunately, the pack of valets making
up their following did not fail at any time to display a ridiculous and
harmful haughtiness. They glorified themselves for having endured
pain and sickness in the resistance underground, and wanted to
be paid back for their sacrifices by the unfortunate people who did
not have the chance to participate in the Resistance! The harm
caused by such criminal recklessness was very great. The gulf
between the two sections of the population deepened even more.
Among the dissatisfied, there were those who emigrated abroad,
depriving their own country of their belongings, of their patriotism,
offering their possessions as gifts to the countries which gave
them shelter and the conditions to edify a new life much more
suitable to their desires and wishes. Others, already worked up
by an endless fire of hatred against communism, were looking for
the right opportunity to exacerbate their resentment, constitute
secret associations, establish relations with our enemies overseas,
received financial aids, advices and even military support from
them, with the aim of fomenting disorder, uprisings and, if
possible, even a coup d’Etat. The majority of the population
stagnated in indifference, wait-and-see, without much thinking or
looking forward to a change of regime; they remained silent,
observed, listened, refrained themselves from taking any action or
showing any enthusiasm in the work given or assigned to them.
Whenever an activity was done heartlessly, without joy, without
enthusiasm, it could not generate effective results, and all the
more so when the socialist government in spite of its
proclamations – which turned out to be laughable bragging - was
incapable of giving its civil servants the vital minimum of
* 9 *
subsistence. These government employees, previously well paid
by the French colonialists, were able to hang on to their
sumptuous salaries for a while. But a few good souls among them,
who were duly “advised” and given chapter and verse by the
authorities, gave up under either threats or wonderful promises
and initiated a motion for the equalization of the remunerations,
not in the sense of bringing up the low wages but that of pushing
down the high salaries. In order to make their colleagues eat
humble pie, the instigators of this motion whispered into their ears:
“During the Resistance, we did not have to confront hunger or
cold, to risk death; we led a warm, happy and comfortable life in
our homes. Is it not logical, reasonable that we give up our
prerogatives, and reduce our incomes to the levels of our
colleagues in the resistance? We will thus accomplish a deed of
justice, we will manifest our capability of accepting a sacrifice, we
will no longer be the object of other people’s scorn, we will bring
about unity in the body of civil servants and, equal to one another,
we will toil together for the task of national reconstruction.” More
than one person was shivering from the cold while listening to
these words which were inspired from high above, and all felt in
their mouths the bitterness of an unknown gall. It was the taste of
misery in which all the government employees were rotting!
For their part, the population themselves nurtured in their
hearts a friendly curiosity for us. The same blood was flowing in
our arteries, our past provoked in us the same pride and the same
humiliation. Dien Bien Phu inflated our hearts with the same
exaltation, the same enthusiasm. But, whatever, the resistance
underground was a separate world, members of the resistance
made up an original humanity, probably afflicted with customs and
habits which could surprise a civilized society. One may not go so
far as to think of us as savages without the use of a comb or
rubdown with Eau de Cologne for our hair, or toilet soap for our
skin, savages without knowing the proper way to manipulate forks
and knives, but one would look at us wide-eyed while offering us
flowers: one was waiting for our moves and words to see if it
would be proper to give us sympathy or simply some frightened
deference, if not to say indifference!
The foremost difficulty was to make contact with the
intellectuals in Hanoi who had already been warned against
* 10 *
communism, but their expatriation would cause considerable
prejudice to our country if deprived of the grey cells which will
surely benefit the foreigner instead. It was in this sector that it was
necessary to avoid the blunders made by the cadres who have
come out from the molds of education by the Party, and due to
their presumption, arrogance, and lack of culture in the intellectual
and social field!
But, according to the leaders’ assessments, the worst
catastrophe would be the one which was threatening the
cleanness of the soul of the resistance cadres who, during more
than a decade, had benefited from the education of the Party.
When they arrived at the resistance underground, all of them or
almost all of them were carrying the stigmas of the bourgeois,
reactionary civilization! The stains which had soiled their spirits
more than their bodies, degraded them, misrepresented their
perceptions, distorted their judgments. It required many long
years of Marxist studies, yearly courses in politics, criticism and
self-criticism, manual labor, and frugal “Spartan fillings,” to clean
their suppurating wounds, to cure them of their disabilities, if not to
give a new virginity to their human metal, a guilelessness which
made them malleable in the hands of their leaders!
Now that they were going to return to their old place of
infection, the Party, which was imitating China, and tried to spare
them of the “sugar-coated balls,” to equip them with the condoms
against the political SIDA with its deadly infection, as in the case of
the ordinary AIDS. What temptations would assail these Saints
Antoine released in the capital? A gourmet dinner with
champagne, French liquors, English cigarettes, languorous
Strauss waltzes, seductive looks and captivating smiles of an
alluring beauty could lead astray the savage coming out of the
jungle into the maze of evil and make him sell his soul to the
devil!... But were the wisdom and motherly foresight of the Party
capable of containing the black tide of the repressed desires the
compression of which intensified the explosive power? In those
years of disgrace in 1989-1990, public opinion in the whole
country was shocked with indignation and horror in face the cynic
criminality of the licensed members of communism, the high
dignitaries of the Party and of the State who, by their gangster-like
looting and highway robbery, had gulped down billions from public
* 11 *
funds to satisfy their despicable passions. Never before, under
any regime, such a scandal had happened, and the face of the
Party was reddened by shame and blackened by mud! The sugarcoated
balls had a swell game against the political education!
On October 10th, 1954, at 10 o’clock in the morning, The
Resistance made its solemn entry into the recaptured capital.
The military units opened the march, with the unfolded flags and
rolling drums! The civilian cadres, standing on their trucks, saluted
the crowd that were massed by the roadsides, shouting hurrahs at
the top of their voices and waiving small paper flags. All the
houses were decorated and a frenzied jubilation stirred up
sparkles in people’s eyes. Now and then, the parade made stops
for young girls to present flowers to the soldiers. The popular
enthusiasm reached its highest peak: it was filled with sincerity
and warmth! Even those whose hearts trembled a little with some
regret for the masters of yesterday, who provided pleasant
relationships through their generosity and civility, applauded the
victors of Dien Bien Phu: their feat warmed up Vietnamese pride
and restored the national reputation!
During a fortnight, the cadres were confined to the premises for
their stay. We did not know the reasons for this. Was it due to
security requirements? Besides the sugar-coated balls which one
might have thought that they would violate our regenerated
candor, was there a fear that the firearms of the fanatics or spies
could bring an inglorious death to the lives of the beings that the
Party had spent a decade to educate and turned them into the
servants of communism? Was it a kind of fantasy which had
sprouted in the mind of some leaders who were filled with the
superpower of the Party and wanted to be obeyed blindly by their
subjects? Whatever! Whether it was to ensure our physical
security or to remind us that we ware just vulgar pawns in the
hands of the leaders, we bowed down to the despot’s dictates
which we executed, like robots, without trying to comprehend the
why of things. While we could have gone home, in Hanoi, to
finally find good lodging and soft bed, we were forced to sleep on
the bare floor, rolled in a straw mat, not different from the convicts
who were waiting for the hour to put their heads on the bloc of the
guillotine! We continued to be fed with the “Spartan fillings” of the
resistance underground and, once the meal finished, we went to
* 12 *
wash our bowls and spoons at the faucet! It did not make any
sense to impose such inhuman cruelty which was to prolong for
another fortnight the separation between the members of the
Resistance and their families which had already lasted during ten
years? Just a few additional hundreds of steps and the kids would
have been able to hold the parents in their arms and weep
together because of the dreadful separation which they felt having
lasted an eternity. Was the commonly held opinion not right in
saying that the communists were heroes with tearless eyes and a
heart in which the sense of the family had disappeared and been
annihilated by the fervor that inflamed a dehumanized soul for the
sake of a doctrine or religion?
As far as I was concerned, if, on the one hand, I was thrilled by
the joy of setting foot on the ground of my native town which
reminiscence had haunted me throughout my absence, on the
other, I was languishing in sadness for not being able, in the first
moments of my return, to see again my parents who were
reaching the age that made it pressing for them to cast a loving
look at their eldest son, knowing well the risks he had to endure for
so long, and contesting neither their necessity nor their legitimacy.
Our misfortunes ended when I was notified that I was assigned
to reception the Faculty of Law. Once the ceremony had been
completed, I immediately rushed home where I found my parents
who were in tears with joy to see me alive!
The next day, I gathered my entire staff in my director’s
cabinet, an enormous room, of great stature, located on the right
side at the top of a monumental staircase, facing the large
auditorium where, ten years ago, I used to give my lectures and
annual conferences intended for the general public.
The teaching staff had disappeared, except one, Dao Ba
Cuong. The others had taken the road of emigration to go to
France and were enjoying a luxurious career of jurists. I was left
with three secretaries and a driver who took pride in having
successfully salvaged his truck from the investigations by the
colonial police. While waiting for new orders about the Faculty,
whether to reorganize or disband it, we were not killing ourselves
with work, particularly, after having put order to the Library and
* 13 *
shelved the manuals of law lectures by the side of the Dalloz and
Sirey Repertoires, the volumes of which used to impress very
much the laymen. I tried hard to reduce the number of hours for
the presence of my secretaries to only two but we could not stay
there longer simply to do nothing or yawn for all day long –
collectively, of course – according to communist practice.
Therefore, in order to avoid the stress of idleness, my
collaborators asked me to initiate them to Marxism. Nothing could
upset them more than having to listen to some oafs holding forth
about Marxism and displaying an arrogance good for some
slapping in the face by others. I assured my interlocutors by
reminding them that the empty barrels make more noise, most of
the people who cited Marx have not read him and, if by any
chance they happened to have a peep at the “Capital,” they could
not understand a thing! The best proof being the fact that the
enthroned Marxists were committing formidable errors which
caused suffering to the people and provoked doubts about the
knowledge of the doctrine which they claimed!
Since I had not obtained any certificate in Marxism, or gained
any grades in this field, I felt too much respect for the doctors es-
Marxism to interfere in their specialty. I just limited myself to
satisfying the curiosity of my collaborators. I presented them with
questions to which they easily gave answers. And thus, by an
effective “maieutics” I was able to pass on to them the little Marxist
knowledge I had acquired during my ten years of stay in the
resistance underground. I made it clear to them that the Marxism I
possessed and transmitted to them had the weight of less than an
ounce but would allow us to unmask the learned blockheads
Trissotin and disentangle the errors of the certified Marxists.
Time dragged on. The Party procrastinated and delayed its
decision to either reopen or close the Faculty. I understood these
hesitations. During many years of having practiced law at the
Courts of justice as an attorney designated by the State
authorities, and also thanks to the follow-up contacts with the socalled
responsible officials, I was able to assess within the maze of
their subconscious their sacred horror about the law! First, during
the time of their clandestine agitation, the revolutionaries had hard
time with the colonial legislation and magistrates. Therefore, they
linked together their sufferings and sacrifices with the Judiciary
* 14 *
and the Law which they considered as instruments of oppression
in the hands of the capitalists. However, had they pushed their
curiosity to consult the Soviet legislation and law, they would have
seen that the instruments of oppression against the working
masses could perfectly be turned into the means of defense and
protection of the State and the Revolution against the bourgeois
reactionaries. This only needed a change of hands and objective!
But, in my opinion, the communist hatred of the law has a more
profound reason! There is a difference of viewpoints between the
politician and the jurist, difference in mental habits and intellectual
Politics is a world with fuzzy frontiers which one can cross
without a passport and often without even knowing it. The ground
is unstable, covered with sandy dunes which the winds shift at will,
with marshes where the deadly sinking must be avoided! Here is
the triumph of ambiguity. The imprecision of action and language
allows the most diverse interpretations, often contradictory ones.
The traveler who ventures into it must renounce the need for logic,
clarity and precision, must think in the present time without
reference to the past or future, must ban all morality or
sentimentality and, above all, must profess a sharp and dynamic
sense of opportunity!
The world of the judiciary, on the contrary, is surrounded by
mountains and rivers which act as natural borders. Here, there are
geometric rigor, rational logic, Cartesian precision and clarity.
Between legality and illegality, there is a clear line of demarcation,
as the one between white and black. Terminology identifies the
ideas, defines the content, and does not permit any margin of
shadow to float around them and make it possible for the
equivocal to hide or a verbal act of magic to be pulled, a juggling
of words! Legal reasoning provokes the clash of ideas, and the
award belongs to the person with logic firmly based on the
principles of law, on legal texts devoid of vain “logomacy,” in the
cold serenity of the dialectics, under the freezing sun of reason!
Therefore, the two worlds confront each other in an irreducible
antagonism. While the politician affirms his voluntarism, the jurist
prevails in his rationality. One of them is posing the problem in the
* 15 *
concrete, proceeds with an analysis of the elements, an
examination of their relationships and interactions, tries to bring
out a gamut of solutions from which the most advantageous is
chosen, and makes use of his power to carry out its execution.
Such a person is not tied up by any principle, obligation, believes
he is free like a wild horse galloping in the steppe, powerful like a
tornado releasing its furors, decapitates the roofs off the house
and drowns the fishermen in the abyss of the sea. Carried away
by such a delirium, the political power takes advantage of
favorable conditions to play its trump card and manifest an
unbridled will. But his opportunity collides with the rigidity of the
judiciary and the rule of law: therefore, he decides to sweep away
the legislation and trample on the law; however, he continues to
have the sleep of the Just because, in the resistance underground,
the State only talks to the trees and animals of the jungle since the
people, who are moved by a patriotic goodwill and aware of their
duties, do not disturb the rulers’ rest.
But everything has changed after the return to Hanoi. Here,
the urban opinion has retained its turbulence and even its silence
which is bothering the authority. Such opinion manifests its
respect of the legislation and the rule of law. Whenever its
interests are harmed, it knocks at the doors of the attorneys, and
the Bar Association is the rampart for justice and legality. To show
its goodwill, the communist State does not see any inconvenience
to keep the Bar Association since the Bench, once replaced by
members devoted to and educated by the Party, decides on the
outcome of any lawsuit. The internal problem can be resolved
without much difficulty. But, after the return to Hanoi, the whole
world is interested in Viet Nam which now have relations reaching
beyond the “brother” countries to reach the capitalist ones as well.
The latter have expressed passionate taste for the rule of law and
are setting up agreements which are signed in a legal framework.
Besides, the international institutions and organizations are
looking intensely at Viet Nam and are capable of making it benefit
from their favors or bear their disadvantageous decisions. By the
international route, the rule of law has made its tempestuous way
into the Vietnamese existence and the rulers are forced to take
this into consideration.
* 16 *
Following Dien Bien Phu, everybody knows that Accords have
divided Viet Nam into two zones, the one in the North subject to
the communist Government, the other in the South put under the
pro-American government of Ngo Dinh Diem. These Accords,
however proper in their legal form, violate the will of the people
who, since time immemorial, have always lived in a unified State.
Soon, armed resistance is organized throughout the region against
the ruling power, to make its first steps towards the reunification of
the country. In counter-attacks, the government in the South
imprisons the intellectuals, lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho and professor
Pham Huy Thong, accused of being the heads of these
movements, and organizes bloody repression against the
population suspected of nurturing favorable leanings for the
unification of the fatherland.
The cause for the unification of Viet Nam must be pleaded
before an international forum and world public opinion must be
informed of what is going on in South Viet Nam. In 1956, the
Association of Democratic Jurists convenes it Congress in
Brussels. The opportunity is magnificent, and the Vietnamese
rulers set up a delegation to go to Belgium to plead our cause. In
my functions of President [Batonnier] of the Bar Association and
Vice-President of the Association of Vietnamese Jurists, I am
promoted to be the head of the delegation which also includes the
catholic lawyer Nguyen Huy Man, President of the martial Court,
and Bui Lam, a high Party dignitary and assessor of the martial
Court. Our mission is to get from the Congress a resolution
approving the struggle of our people for the reunification of the
When the Sabina plane puts us down to Brussels, the day has
reached its sunset. A secretary is meeting us at the airport and
takes us to the hotel. The time to refresh ourselves and change
clothes, we then go to the immense and radiantly lit restaurant. All
the round tables, set with spotless napkins and decorated with
flowers, are occupied. We are the last ones to come and sit at the
unique table still vacant. With dinner done, we find ourselves in
the hall and are approached by a delegation: that of North Korea.
We sympathize quickly with our colleagues: our two countries
have to bear the same fate.
* 17 *
The members of our delegation share the task of contacting the
other delegations and obtaining their interests in our cause.
Personally, I have to make a courtesy visit to the President
[Batonnier] of the Bar Association of Brussels and discuss with the
Presidium of the Congress to include our problem to the agenda. I
am met by an opposition with a polite refusal: the working program
is already too heavy and, furthermore, the Congress has given
itself the duty of safeguarding peace and not of supporting armed
struggle, even for a just cause! I am not losing courage and seek
to convince the Heads of the delegations, those I consider to be
the most influential, of the necessity to take into consideration a
matter which is dear to our hearts. Our efforts are finally crowned
with lukewarm success: the Vietnamese problem is included in the
agenda but at the very end of the list! We are distressed.
Experience about international congresses has taught us that,
when they are nearing the end, a great number of the delegations
have already picked up their return tickets and packed their
suitcases! It is with a rather heavy heart and depressed faces that
we are attending the closing session. We have surely made the
trip for nothing. What would we say to our leaders?
A surprise awaits us. When the last intervention has been read,
the Vietnamese delegation is invited to take the podium. We have
not expected such a gracious gesture since closing time has
arrived; I simply take the floor as soon as the presidium
announces that the closing session will be prolonged for fifteen
minutes… My heart is overwhelmed with joy and beating wildly,
and it is with a voice filled with emotion that I go on to develop my
A struggle, even an armed one, with the aim of rooting out the
wrong, or eradicating injustice, oppression, barbarism, and all the
obstacles blocking the way to the progress of peace, very much
constitutes the prelude, the first stage of the journey to reach
peace and to safeguard it. Latin wisdom teaches us that, in order
to have peace, one has to prepare for war. Is it not that no
antinomy opposes war to peace, that when a war of aggression is
killing the peace, a just war is, on the other hand, the means to
acquire peace, to win it and protect it. Only a bleating, infantile
pacifism institutes between war and peace a struggle in-contrario,
an irreducible antagonism, as between day and night. Who can
* 18 *
accept such an absurd viewpoint of things? I present the
sentimental, racial, historical, linguistic, economic and social
reasons which campaign for the just cause of the Vietnamese
In my peroration, I address my audience in the following
terms: “Dear Polish and Hungarian friends, only yesterday, you
were suffering from the tearing up of your countries; dear Korean
and German friends, you are presently victims of the same
misfortune! But luckier than us, you do not have to see with your
own eyes the contortion of the faces, to hear with your ears the
screams of human beings with the same blood running in your
arteries, the same heart sharing your loves and hates, of those
who are now twisted in pain in the hands of the executioners!
“I do not know if, among the colleagues who are listening to
me, there are people who have to witness through their
professional obligations the execution of their clients. It was
during the time of the colonial occupation. The Court in Hanoi
condemned to death a Chinese pirate who, in the Ha Long Bay,
had killed a dozen passengers on a motor launch. I was assigned
for his defense and had to be present at his execution. His face of
a brute did not inspire sympathy, but his final look, when he put his
head on the bloc, did give me feeling of pity. I looked away when
the blade fell and neatly cut his neck. The blood gushed out, the
head dropped to one side and the body to the other, into two
coffins filled with sawdust.
“Well, dear friends, this guillotine, dated from the last century, is
now used to cut the throats not of criminals but of patriots who are
fighting for the reunification of their fatherland and, even more so,
to terrorize the population and curb their patriotism!
“And the Hien Luong river, with such a gentle name, which
splits up Viet Nam in two, is it not but a sword plunging into the live
flesh of our people, taking apart families that, from one side of the
riverbank to the other, cannot see themselves with eyes flooded
by tears. The river is not moving water but tears of women and
mothers, and also the blood of all those who, at the risk of their
lives, try to cross over that river and have fallen under the bullets
of the patrolling swift-boats.
* 19 *
Dear colleagues, in the course of our careers, we have had
more than once the opportunity to assist espouses in divorce. At
the preliminary session of conciliation in the chambers of the
President of the Court, you surely do not forget the depressed
appearance of the parents, and even more so the eyes filled with
distraught and tears of the children looking at the father then the
mother, again from the mother to the father, with a certain feeling
about the painful tragedy caused by the separation of their
parents, the breakdown of the family’s happiness, the drama of the
mounting sufferings which will sweep away a human community
which members, only yesterday, endowed the home with noisy joy
but tomorrow will go and weep each one in his or her corner over
the irreparable misfortunes. How can an attorney remain unmoved
by the disintegration of a family, especially when the burden of
sadness falls on the children?
“All the more so, dear colleagues, in Viet Nam right now, it is
not a single family that is stricken, but millions who are lamenting
in distress, in anguish! The 17th Parallel is not an abstract line, of
a purely geographic nature, but a Hertzian wave which is diffusing
throughout our country and the world the moans, complaints and
cries of millions of people who are torn apart from one another,
without any plausible reason, and who accuse the human cruelty
of having imposed on them the martyrdom of separation and
solitude! The same wave is broadcasting the shouts of anger and
hatred of the patriots who, by tens of thousands, have died under
the bullets and on the scaffold, solely because they wish to realize
the dream of a life in a unified country, in pace with themselves
and with others!
“I just pronounce a sacred word: Peace. We are gathered here
to assume the guard for Law and Peace. It is in the name of this
Peace that our delegation has been denied the inscription of the
Vietnamese problem into the agenda of the Congress. Certain
comrades, surely motivated by good intentions, but concerned
more with the sounds than with the profound meaning of words,
have claimed that an armed struggle cannot be supported by a
Congress for the defense of Peace! Fortunately, they have
returned to their senses in time and common sense has
triumphed; here I am at the podium to present my wishes to your
* 20 *
high consideration for support to the efforts provided by our people
of establishing peace in Viet Nam by way of reunifying our
“We understand well that, following the heavy sacrifices
endured during the Second World War and particularly after the
proclamation by the atomic bomb, the times of the Apocalypse
have come, humanity - which is paralyzed with fear – now feels
the pressing need for peace and for its safeguard! But this fear,
turning into obsession, the War-Peace antinomy being spread
among the population, is being simplified through its vulgarization,
is becoming hazy, is reinforcing the opposition between the two
terms which forbids the dialectical passage from one to the other,
in both ways. The ordinary people cling to the superficial aspect of
things and set up an insurmountable barrier between the
vocabularies, one denying the other! It belongs to us to overcome
an approach which is purely phonetic and semantic, to penetrate
into the living and moving content of the terms, to conceive them
in their concrete realities and their mutations! We have mentioned
the Latin saying: Si vis pacem, para bellum [if you want peace,
prepare for war] must be understood, not in the sense of a harmful
council, but one which has no frontier between peace and war.
“We can remember that in 1938 Neville Chamberlain brought
back to London the Munich Agreement and declaimed that peace
was saved! Error: that peace was only the prelude to the war
which broke out in the following year! On the contrary, when a war
is carried out with irrefutable legitimacy, with the aim to defend the
just cause, against a foreign aggression, to regain the
independence of a State and the freedom of a people, to suppress
the division of a country into two zones and to transform the tears
of suffering into tears of joy, is such a war not the prelude of an
equitable, stable and proper peace which brings and reunifies
scattered family members back to their common homes, ends the
weeping of the innocents, makes the withered flower of the smile
blossom again on their lips, returns happiness and hope to their
hearts, enables the martyrs regain the taste of life, be reborn to
the human condition! In the language of the humans, or at least of
our souls, this kind of war calls itself PEACE!
* 21 *
“Is it not our duty, we, the democratic Jurists, to facilitate the
establishing of such peace on earth by giving support to the
struggles having this final outcome, and magnificent conclusion: I
take the liberty to submit this problem for your high consideration!
It is hoped that our people will not be deceived in their aspirations
and receive from you a precious encouragement which will allow
them to provide new efforts, to bear new sacrifices for the sacred
cause of justice, the rule of law and peace!”
Our efforts are crowned with success and we obtain the
resolution expected by our people!
On the way home, we are invited by the Czech delegation to
stop over in Prague for some working sessions. We acquiesce to
its desire.
Dialogue with the Czech Jurists
The exchange of views is done in French and concerns the bar
association which is a problem of great concern for many jurists in
the communist world. Our host opens the discussion:
- In a country where there is the functioning of the separation of
powers, the judiciary power, through the intermediary of the Courts
of Justice, applies the law and punishes the delinquency. But, in
order to set into motion the judiciary activity and obtain the
application of the law, in all conscience and responsibility, the
ordinary people are not capable of defending their interests.
Therefore, there is a need for them to have recourse to the good
offices of the bar association, all the more so when the State
intensifies its coercion, when the social relations are complicated,
increasing in numbers and intersecting among themselves. The
first problem that we raise is to know whether it is necessary, or
fitting, to be granted an authorization by a political Organ for the
exercise of the profession of lawyer.
- I am in the position to satisfy your curiosity. In France, in 1931,
when I took the oath before the Court of Appeal in Montpellier, no
authorization of any kind was required. In order to undertake a
* 22 *
profession considered liberal, it would be ridiculous to alienate
one’s liberty to beg for some sort of authorization…. Even the
matter of nationality was not necessary, at least for those who
were called French subjects. The only two required conditions
were: a law degree, this is to say, proof for a minimum judicial
education and no criminal record, that is to say again, poof of good
- That seems to be judicious. Why then, in the communist
countries, does the political power have the pretension of putting
the hooks on the bar association and rule that the profession of
lawyers is subject to its goodwill?
- That can be explained. In a communist country, the Party
possesses the monopoly of power. At all times, during the period
under absolute monarchy as it is under Communism, the
possessor of power never accepts any sharing of it! To
perpetuate the function, maintain it with its privileges, expand its
range to infinity, drill its depth to the extreme limit, in short, set up
a tridimensional despotism, the most complete autocracy possible,
the sharpest, the harshest, the most absolute of any other thing in
the world, and in history. Under such a regime, liberty is an
aberration, an insanity which must be extracted from the people!
Therefore, there is no career whatsoever in the liberal professions,
no lawyers, no medical doctors, only civil servants on the State’s
payroll and executing punctually its orders! Since the Party and its
head can neither ensure their omnipresence nor exercise their
omnipotence, they are forced to have recourse to the services of
people whose unique virtue, if there is virtue here, is to obey
blindly, automatically the master’s orders! The resulting effect
being that all those who are holding positions in the administration,
from the highest to the lowest levels, excel not by their knowledge
or competence but through their lack of culture and ignorance! In
some countries, the ministers of Education have not even
graduated from their secondary grades, the ministers and viceministers
of Justice have never attended a Faculty of law. How,
then, in such conditions, can a genuine bar association function?
Enslaved completely to the ruling power, a bar association cannot
fulfill its traditional mission.
- How can this happen?
* 23 *
- In the first place, the ruling power chooses the persons to be
assigned to the bar association: most of them are retired civil
servants with starving pensions at a few illuminated youngsters
just out of so-called law schools where the teachers with some
scant knowledge of the Russian language dispense a varnish of
soviet legislation. This bunch of people provides the State with a
crowd of obedient valets in style. Likewise, those who are
tormented by a certain desire of independence are immediately
expelled from the bar association and lose a large portion, if not to
say, the totality of their incomes. What else is needed to demand
from these people an unchallenging servility?
Furthermore, the “people’s defending officials” – appellation
given to them and to remind them well that they are not lawyers
with legal knowledge who are exercising a liberal profession -
neither have the right, - nor possess the material means – to set
up a private practice. They are part of a corporation having an
office which is used as a place of work and reception of the clients.
People just rush to each consultant as a swarm of flies does with a
lump of sugar. The rates for the “fees” are set by the State. This
organization responds to a double requirement. First, the principle
of collective work is applied in this case as everywhere else.
Then, the gathering in corporation is to the advantage of the Party
direction that puts in its own creatures and names the President
[Batonnier] of the Bar Association who, of course, is one of its
dignitaries, completely devoid of any legal knowledge but an
expert in the art of command and even of military command.
- Why is the Party so keen about the bar association?
- First of all, it is because any ruling power is conditioned by a
certain trend, a vocation for absolutism. But the communist ruling
power is much more subjected to this than others. To affirm its
domination - which they may well be aware of its precariousness -
communist power invents all sorts of subterfuges which include
among others the collectivization of properties, but even more so
that of people. By putting people together people in a common
organization, the Party controls them more easily, more effectively,
and obtains an economy of personnel composed of Argus and
Cerberus henchmen. Besides, by depriving men of their use of
* 24 *
reason and speech, the Party reduces them to the ranks of beasts,
infuses in them the conditioned reflexes which turn them into
robots. It is not without reason that Circé transforms his prisoners
into pigs endowed with the unique behavior of jumping on their
trough at a given signal. All the holders of power dream of
possessing the wand of the magician.
But, if the Party is exercising an extreme rigor on the lawyers, it
is before anything else because the lawyers are intellectuals and
an object of hate by the autocrats, because the lawyers have a
mind which thinks and a mouth which talks, and these two
attributes indispose the rulers, complicate their functions, upset
their planning. Yet, among the crowd of intellectuals, the lawyers
stand out by their legal knowledge, fluency, handling of discussion
and critique and, furthermore, they have the sense of dignity,
honor and responsibility. They situate themselves at the
antipodes of the robotic fauna which all the autocrats feel the
obsequiousness of flunkies. And, then, in the exercise of their
profession, quite often, the defense of their clients before the
penal jurisdictions leads them to an attitude of disrespect, even of
insolence, in any case to that of opposition against the
governmental legislations and politics. With regard to the popular
masses, while the “people’s defenders” blend themselves into the
multitude of the bowed heads, the lawyers themselves stand up to
the height of their statures and draw attention and, therefore,
become subject of the rulers’ hatred. They follow the example of
La Bruyere and put themselves on the side of the people.
- Can it be said that the lawyers constitute a group apart in the
world of the intellectuals?
- God protect them! They have the shortcomings of the
intellectuals, do not seek sacrifices, do not have the vocation of
martyrs, avoid the coups, and often fall for opportunism. But, as
intellectuals, they are democrats and democracy flows in their
blood. I think I am able to affirm that the bar association is a
criteria of democracy, that in a country where such a criteria
prevails and a bar association of authenticity functions, democracy
- Tell me, how can such a system exist?
* 25 *
- It is easy to understand. In the exercise of its activity, and
enjoying the freedom of speech, this is to say, the freedom of
opinion, the lawyer denounces the arbitrary of the authorities, the
injustices of the legislations. No autocracy accepts the authorities
to be questioned, the insanity of the legislation be exposed. It is
only in the democratic countries that the people can see such a
- But is it possible for a bar association, that is aware of its duty
and able to brace up its courage, to demonstrate democracy and
make the wheels turn?
- A good question! The bar association can only fulfill effectively
its role as far as possible only when it has, facing it, a Bench with
its independence proclaimed by the Constitution, and itself also
conscious of its duties. The Bench must be fearless as well as
upright, manifesting a fierce resolution to apply the law and defend
justice, without any concern about career interests or personal
fortune to be fed by corruption. The Bench and the bar
association, with honor and dignity as their essential virtues, are
the two pillars of democracy.
The Bench and the bar association rejoin themselves in the
same conception of their professional obligations, in the same
respect of the law and legality.
- But the judiciary power only controls the execution of the law
and sanctions the violations. It merely represents the third of the
- Furthermore, by itself, it is defending democracy only at the
structure to which it participates. Democracy, which consists of
“the government of the people by the people for the people,”
concentrates itself in the hands of the legislative power which
draws up the law, and of the executive power which enforces it.
The danger may come about when both of them claim the right,
through their privileges, of putting themselves above the law. The
fundamental principle of democracy proclaims equality for all
under the law. The corollary is the coexistence of the three
branches of power in their interaction of check-and-balance, with
* 26 *
the mutual exercise of control and neutralization among
themselves in a certain way, forbidding any one from going astray
of the right path, falling into deviations and marginalizations, in
order to guarantee the triumph and stability of a Government by
the people and for the people.
Thus, the fracturing of power in three does deprive the
dictatorship of the possibility to concentrate all power in the hands
of one single person. The risk of economic and social
catastrophes caused by the political monopoly of the Party, or
more precisely by its head, is avoided or reduced to its strict
The Czech jurists are astounded by this intrusion of politics and
monopolistic power into the rule of law and by the Party’s seizure
over the State, thank us for having dissipated their anguish.
Previously, they were able to observe the harm but could not carry
out the analysis of the causes, due to the fact that, in their closed
world, they could not receive any information from the outside, and
were looking at a population bent on their knees before their idol
and singing together the same litanies to the glory of their master;
they did feel the peril in a confused way but did not see the
remedy to dispel it. At least, they now have a glimpse of the
medicine for the illness with the ravages that they can observe.
We have opened their eyes and brought to them the gospel of
democracy. We have lit the fire of curiosity in their minds, they will
search for ways to feed their thoughts from their research works,
and when we part we nurture in our hearts the hope that they as
well as their people will see the dawn of true democracy shines at
the horizon!
Dialogue with the Soviet Jurists
Arriving in Moscow, on our way home, we are received by the
democratic soviet jurists. Being the head of the delegation, I am
put up at the Hotel Metropole, facing the Bolshoi. The apartment
assigned to me is sparkling with ancient luxury. Cristal chandeliers
shed light on sumptuous furniture of the tsarist epoch, but the
bathroom is shining with modernity. A Zim Zis automobile is put at
* 27 *
my disposal and in which I can even lie down on the ideally soft
back seat. However, I am somehow apprehensive to speed at
120kms per hour although my driver is highly experienced and has
full control of the steering wheel. Still, he often smells vodka…
We are worked up by curiosity and wish to be informed of
important problems. But we have to curb down our curiosity since
we know that, in our communist world, it is improper to ask
questions which our interlocutors are embarrassed to answer.
The rule of silence applies to them as it does to us. Therefore, as
usual, we abstain ourselves from questioning, we restrict
ourselves to just listening to a report duly read and read again,
surely corrected by the “responsible people” of the Party. One can
easily know in advance its color, tone and content. After the usual
diatribe against the rotten capitalism, comes the lauding of the
success gained by communism and, particularly, the execution by
one hundred per cent of the annual plan, and finally crowned by
the praises for the Party and its leader. But this time, our soviet
hosts have broken the tradition. First, there is no report on the
activities of the jurists. Then, it is proposed to us to discuss the
problem of State Responsibility. Astounded, we almost jump out
of our seats. It is the first time that these two terms State and
Responsibility are linked to each other, and that the problem about
the responsibility of the State is raised. We ask ourselves if the
ideas of the XXth Congress of the Bolshevik Party have made
their way and if the influence of Khrushchev has gained around in
the country. Whatever! We are happy that our conversation with
our soviet colleagues starts under such auspices. There is
nothing more attractive than to stroll along the paths of heterodoxy
and toy with a heresy which, a few years back, would have led us
straight to the execution stake or a prison in Siberia!
Our soviet host welcomes us with a smile: - “I see in your eyes
a flash of surprise. Yes, very much so: we will discuss about the
problem of State responsibility. When Stalin was still alive, this
subject was taboo and one would run great risk by making a slight
allusion to it: The State was never responsible for anything. Now,
we are less tied up and can, within our circle of jurists, discuss
many issues!
* 28 *
- We congratulate you for this and are happy about it. May we
also, in the near future, enjoy full and complete freedom and have
free-speech in the course of our discussions!
- Even today, as we are in a closed salon without any indiscreet
ear listening to what we say, we can have free rein to our
- Strange epoch, strange world! The jurists are behaving like
conspirators, trying to hide themselves from the policemen and
spies. But they are conspiring for law and justice. It would be
extenuating circumstances in case they were to be arrested and
arraigned before a court.
- Or aggravating circumstances when facing the communist judges
whose intransigence, as it is well known, is caused by their sacred
horror of law and justice.
- We are now at the heart of our subject. If the communist State,
as in the time of absolute monarchy, declares itself irresponsible of
its activity, it rests with us to dwell on the gravity of this problem.
Man distinguishes himself from the animal and puts himself above
the latter, thanks to virtues which are his own. But conscience,
dignity and honor are related to morality and concern the individual
being. The more his soul is enriched with moral values, the better
he obtains respect from others. But the city, which honors the
holiness, does not demand its members to come in. The
community life, in which the human contacts take place and social
relations are organized, demands that each person must be
responsible, if not to say for his thoughts and feelings as long as
he keeps it deep down inside himself, for at least his actions to the
extend that they cause prejudice to the material, corporal and
moral interests of the people around him. Public order can only be
maintained if any violations of the law and damages to other
people’s properties are punished and compensated. Thus, in the
civilized world, it is very much this individual and personal
responsibility which constitutes the corner-stone of the social
But the permanent danger which hangs over the States in the
world is the fact that all the despots on earth are putting
* 29 *
themselves above their people, giving themselves privileges which
monopoly they hold, setting themselves above the law and
professing irresponsibility, that is to say, refusing to accept that
their wills and acts could be subjected to discussions and
critiques, that their errors be acknowledged and chastised.
- The despot is like the wife of Caesar: above all suspicion.
Messalina, nevertheless, roams the streets of Rome at night! Of
course, no despot proclaims his irresponsibility for he knows well
that irresponsibility is the prerogative of children and lunatics.
Even then, if the word is not used, this does not mean that the
thing does not exist. In spite of his dull origin and lack of culture,
as in the case of the despot, he is unaware of the abnormal aspect
of the situation. In order to justify his privilege, he claims
superiority: he exalts with connections which he claims to have
with the supra-terrestrial. He declares himself the “Son of
Heaven,” the “Chosen by the Lord” or considers his own self as
the incarnation of the State. Louis XIV declares: “the State is Me!”
Four centuries later, De Gaulle, to whom the people want to award
an honorific distinction, will say: “The State does not give itself a
- By acquiring, cheaply and without proof, a divine origin or an
identity of pure abstraction, by personifying the State, the despot
imagines that he is above the people and, therefore, exempts
himself from all responsibility. Communist despotism prides itself
of atheistic materialism, does not claim having divine origin. It
does not pretend to incarnate the State either. Popular forces
have hoisted it up to power.
It would be interesting to analyze the process, which is not the
same as the one at the time of absolute monarchy.
- In the 17th century, in France, when the monarchy just gained a
difficult victory over the feudalists, due to disruptions provoked by
the system of feudalism (which did not yet accept defeat) and also
by the bourgeoisie which was enjoying full ascent together with its
voracious greed, the power of the State came down to earth from
heaven. The emblem of the “Sun-King” [Roi-Soleil] was only the
representation of the royal aspirations and did not carry any
meaning from heaven. Louis XIV declared “The State is Me!” But,
* 30 *
when he considered himself the incarnation of the State, he did
not acknowledge his duties with the people. La Bruyere and
Fenelon denounced the horrible poverty-stricken conditions of the
people but the monarch did not feel responsible for this situation.
The historic words which he declared only maintained one single
idea: he was firmly determined to use his personal power to quash
any hint of rebellion, kill the infectious germs of dissension and
division which were wearing down the still wavering unity of the
country. The enthroning of Louis XIV was regulated by the
dynastic laws, but the political struggle which he undertook against
the feudalists was supported by the people, and the financial,
intellectual and “parliamentary” bourgeoisie that took the direction.
If he were not the victim of his own vain silliness, had a perception
which was more concise and precise with regard to his present
and future interests, he would have relied on the people, and
France might have made the saving of a revolution.
- As far as the Soviet Union is concerned, the people have got out
of the hardships which inflicted the masses at the end of the reign
of Louis XIV. He was even given the benefit of enjoying the glory
and greatness of a Superpower. But God knows at what price for
this! Since the death of Stalin, thanks to the more or less
orchestrated indiscretions, and also thanks to the lamentations of
pain and outcries of hatred from thousands and thousands of
families, throughout the country, who weep for their children or
husbands executed or persecuted to death in the jails and prisons
of Siberia, the truth about Stalin has become known. The
revolutionary State, which just came into being, was staggering,
and its enemies, from within and outside, aspired for its doom. It
was necessary to have a man of iron fist to guide its steps, to
enable it live on and grow. The results have exceeded its hopes.
From a weak State, economically poor, backward, he has turned it
into a military power capable of defeating Hitler’s fascism and into
an economic power as well which has occupied one of the
forerunning places in the world. Stalin has well deserved the
gratefulness of the people who have lived the most glorious hours
of their national history. Unfortunately, he has also committed
monstrous crimes of which the files are piling up year after year.
- The process by which the communist despot in Viet Nam has
acceded to power took place in the usual manner. The multitude
* 31 *
of the masses in the countryside, worked up by the agitators, have
become aware of their misfortunes and understood the causes for
this: the feudal exploitation and colonial oppression… On August
19th of 1945, taking advantage of the favorable historical
circumstances on the international stage and, on the other hand,
the catastrophic famine which has decimated the population, the
agitation is pushing the survivors to rise up and destroy their
enemies, to conquer through fierce struggle what is needed to
feed and clothe them. The targeted objective is simple, concrete, it
seems to be modest but, nevertheless, the communist despots
have failed in their attempts to reach it. However, the slogan:
“Rice to fill the stomach, warm clothes to fight against the cold” is
sufficient to make the masses of peasants fanatical and prompt
them to follow the revolutionaries. Therefore, the revolution
triumphs thanks to the support of the popular forces. But the
revolutionaries feel the necessity to confirm their victory, to
legalize their power under the cover of elections for the National
Assembly. It does not matter that the quasi-totality of the
electorate are illiterate and ignore the meaning of the voting to
which they are invited to participate, they give in to the call made
through skillful propaganda and go to the polls. The legal
formalities are honored, “democracy” rules and the revolutionaries
are gloating for having sealed their union with the people.
- Is there a need for anything else?
- Apparently, that is enough. But one must go beyond the
appearances and try to get hold of the reality of things. Although
the voters may not be able to read or write, they have given their
votes and expressed their will. It is here that tragic
misunderstanding, as some people call it, bursts out. The
communists have imagined themselves as having conquered the
hearts of the people. But it is an illusion that sooner or later they
will have to get rid of. The good reason for this being that, in
1945-46, the number of people - less than the number of fingers of
your hands – who, back from Moscow or China, consider
themselves having some vague and cloudy knowledge of
- But to whom have the people given their votes?
* 32 *
- The answer you will get is that the people have given their votes
to Ho Chi Minh, not to the communist who has well hidden his
game and does not make any allusion to the struggle of the
classes, but to the scholar of traditional billing, with the
unavoidable goat-beard, who has only one word in his mouth:
“National Union, Great National Union” which means that he
places himself at the antipodes of the class struggle. Some old
and well-informed communists have even whispered that he
should have done his self-critique before Stalin! Whatever
happens, the name of Ho Chi Minh has become a talisman which
prevents misfortune and brings happiness. His personality cult is
set up, he is idolized, his name is put on everything, his authority
is used to make the masses eat humble pie as much as possible
(1). Thus, is it not the myth of Ho Chi Minh expressing a nationalist
rather than communist meaning, while the Party – intentionally or
not – tries to pull the blanket to its side and grabs the benefit of the
popular trust!
- This is a misunderstanding but why is it tragic?
- It is so because the Party, deluding itself about its own self,
thinks that it can edict its policies, products of its childishness,
voluntarism and subjectivity, violates the laws of science, turns its
back to reality, and sooner or later will precipitate the country into
poverty and the people into misfortune. Besides, with the belief
that it is invincible, the Party thinks it can tyrannize people, plays
with their lives, indulges in injustices and acts of inhuman cruelty,
as in the course of the agrarian reform, the painful souvenirs of
which cannot be forgotten in the people’s memory. Therefore, the
problem concerns the responsibility of the State and, more
precisely, the despot that is governing it.
(1) Even in the last epoch of his life, when he was assigned to his little wooden
house at the edge of the Botanical Gardens, and even after his death, in his grey
mausoleum, locked up inside his crystal sarcophagus, Ho Chi Minh has served as
a sacred relic, offered to the devotion of the masses, to the curiosity of the pilgrims;
his prestige is still exploited to impose on the people measures which may well
displease him.
* 33 *
- The examination of history in the world and in time reveals
constant traits which must be remembered. Firstly, even in the
ancient epochs of absolute monarchy, the role of the people is
predominant, even if it does not play at the fore of the political
stage. All the coups d’Etat, all the revolutions, can only succeed
with the support of the popular forces. Marxism is right when it
proclaims that history is made by the masses. The doctrines,
theories, can be drawn up in the brains of the individual beings,
but the acts, in their effectiveness, are subjected to the capability
and dynamism of the masses. The Marxists teach such a truth, but
the despots forget or neglect it. The enthroned despots move
away and isolate themselves from the masses, no longer listen to
their voices, grievances and aspirations. They cause damage to
the interests of the masses, turn a deaf ear to their complaints and
claims, and even kill among themselves.
Therefore, it must be recognized that reciprocal obligations are
generated between the despot and his people. The people hoist
the despot to power but, he is there, he has to respect the
interests of the people and, within his possibilities, must increase
their interests both in number and importance. A synnallagmatic
contract is created between them, not in written or verbal but tacit
form, based on historical and social tradition. As soon as the
despot has violated his obligation, causes prejudice to the
interests of the people, he has freed the people of their
commitment, is exposing himself to sanctions taken by the people
which may go as far as capital punishment.
- Furthermore, in the course of his reign, no despot can fail to do
both good and bad. But all the good deeds that he can offer to the
people cannot exonerate him from the responsibility of his bad
doing. It belongs to the people to pass a sovereign judgment on
whether the good or the bad prevails. If the good wins, and the
scales tip considerably to his side, then he will rightfully earn the
gratitude of the people, and be in the Parthenon where future
generations will honor his memory! But, if the scales dip all the
way down with the bad, then, in the course of his life, he will be
overthrown and, after his death, his name will be cursed forever!
- The case of Stalin is typical. He has done a lot of good things as
well as a lot of bad things. But no one dare make an accusation
* 34 *
against him for the bad things he did because the risk is too big.
Worse still, people compete in praising him! But now justice is
beginning to perform its task and the principle that we are
formulating comes from the bitter and painful experience which we
have lived through. From now on, no despot can claim that the
good he has done should dissipate from people’s minds the
responsibility for the crimes which have unleashed horror in the
honest souls. Such a responsibility is penal. Various
circumstances may lessen or aggravate the fault but cannot
dismiss it!
- It is not the despot who is judged here, it is the man who has to
answer for his crimes. But, when it concerns the faults and errors
which are related to a line of action or policy, the devastations can
be widespread and disastrous, the responsibility of the despot is
nevertheless considered only political… No wonder, on the scales
of human values, the lives of people weigh much heavier than the
material properties that they possess. However, there are cases
when one deplores a person’s loss of life caused by negligence,
carelessness, or even the intentional offense on the part of an
administration within the competence of the State. Of course, if
the defendant acts intentionally, he has to bear the personal
sanction provided by law but, often, does not have sufficient funds
to pay damages to his victim or the latter’s next-of-kin. The State
assumes an indirect responsibility, by the fact that it is
concomitant, and the culprit is acting within the limits of the
competency given to him. Otherwise, it would then be a collective
damage caused by an administration that, in the execution of an
order given by the State or the despot, is causing prejudice to the
material interests of one or several private citizens, without
intentionally doing harm, therefore, the State normally must make
compensation for the damages incurred by its employees. In
France, the principle concerning the administrative responsibility of
the State and its administrative collectivities is recognized. There
are administrative courts with, at its highest level, the State
Council [Conseil d’Etat] that is enjoying the right to cancel totally or
partly any administrative decisions which cause prejudice to the
interests of the private citizens. Unfortunately, and I do not think
that I am making a mistake in affirming that, in the communist
world, the States refuse to assume an administrative responsibility
and do not organize any administrative jurisdiction with the power
* 35 *
to judge the State and administrations, in their attributes and
administrative competences. Therefore, it is an immense domain
in which the despot and the State act the role of Caesar’s wife.
The under-despots and mini-despots take advantage of this
situation to oppress and exploit the people with whom they have
daily contacts.
- The domain of political irresponsibility is even larger and the
resulting damages are immeasurable and irreparable. The State is
only an emanation of the Party and the despot holds in his hand
all the power! The people are represented no where, and their
tongues are severed. All the organizations are made up of
creatures belonging to the Party, or to its devotion, and all of them
are exercising the wooden tongue and offering to their Master the
bended back. How is it possible in such conditions for a voice to
be heard and asking for the overthrow and replacement of the
despot, or even, to put forth a suggestion, to offer an advise, in
view of stopping a racing car moving at breakneck speed on the
path of the bad? Everything is decided at the shop and back-room
of the Party, the Holiest of the Holy surrounded by the
impenetrable Great Wall of China!
One cannot talk about responsibility, law, when it concerns a
tiger ready to devour the set prey. Never before in the history of
the planet, has it been seen that the thunders of Zeus and the
magic wand of Circé are held together by one single hand, that
such a perfect apparatus for domination and coercion has been
set up and functions with terror to lubricate its wheels!
Furthermore, at least up to now, no communist despot has ever
been subjected to popular condemnation. They die in their beds.
If voices are heard in the corridor of his death chamber, they are
not singing the glory of his cold cadaver but trying to divide up his
looting remains and, all the more so, to exchange some yelling
and find out who will succeed him!
Our analysis has resulted in recognizing the failure in the
responsibility of the communist despot while exercising the tridimensional
activity of his power. It must be understood that the
irresponsibility of the Master is due to, first of all, the sophistication
of his methods of constraint and coercion, and also the inertia of
the popular masses. If the mouth is muzzled, the hatred always
* 36 *
boils in the heart; however, no one claims responsibility for the fate
of the fatherland and dares hoist the banner for the revolt. The
eastern peoples have simmered, during many long, long centuries
in a comfort-zone where warmth and pressure are maintained by
the authorities that have successfully infused into the soul of the
masses the feelings of bulimia, apathy, a gloomy and heavy
indifference to everything and everybody. The sense of
responsibility is what is most lacking in the people! The dignitaries
give the example, make abuse of their powers, for frivolities and
embezzle public funds, practice corruption and despotism. Their
example is followed by their off-springs. In the hospitals, the sick
are dying for not having money to bribe those who have the duty
of providing care to them. At the examinations and competitions,
the subjects of the tests are sold to whoever is able to buy them.
Everything is there for first come first served. The wind of
irresponsibility blows over the whole country and the performance
records of delinquency, cynicism, are broken! Immorality turns
innocence and honesty into derision.
The irresponsibility of the leaders, in all the domains of political
and administrative activities, does not constitute an abnormality. It
adorns society with its crown of shame!
- You are in agreement with us. But what are you getting at?
- We want to stress that the triumph of irresponsibility cannot last
forever. We do not wish to be fortune-tellers or prophets. But life
has taught us a lesson of dialectical change: from the worse, the
best will come. Whenever a bad thing has been pushed to its
utmost degree of intensity, it will by itself produce its own cure.
- Explain yourself, and give us reasons to hope!
- There is no witchcraft here. Our revolutionaries exhort the
people to insurrection, make them feel shame because of their
inertia. A worm, the most insignificant animal reality, twists itself
when it is tramped upon. To what extent will even the vilest people
accept to be exploited by the feudalists and oppressed by the
* 37 *
Such language castigates those who are entrenched in their
lethargy, their cowardice. Let a “favorable” situation come! A
famine which scatters the blackened cadavers in the fields and on
the village paths! With all the weights, misery and death bear
down on the living skeletons that will stand up and unleash their
attack against the bastions of feudalism and colonialism. The
Revolution scores an irrefutable victory.
There you are, we can ask ourselves whether or not the
leaders will, after having made some concessions, continue to
cling to their political monopoly and irresponsibility, continue to
isolate themselves from the world, to push misery to its extremes!
There is the time when millions of people can no longer remain
with their folded arms, but will have to march against despotism
and autocracy. Let us remind ourselves that people make history,
do and undo power! Since the Party is no longer doing its duty, no
longer carrying out its obligation to work FOR the people, it will be
put back to its place BY the people who are taking back in their
hands their own destiny. The tacit contract between the holder of
power and the people is severed. The triumph of the Law without
any logomachie or vain words! After the reign of irresponsibility,
the accession of responsibility will begin its dawn.
- Perfect! This is within the logic, the norm. But, from our
viewpoint, the problem may be looked at from another angle. The
legal optic has its reason for being. But, the value of the social
optic must not be denied either. You know that, in no other
country, under no other regime, has morality been praised to the
skies. Facing the rotten and agonizing capitalism with its
corrupted rulers, the revolutionaries are posing themselves as
incarnations of virtue, exalting the purity of their feelings, the
spotlessness of their souls, the holiness of their morality and
customs. The figurehead of the communist vessel is represented
by Ho Chi Minh with his now legendary apparels, the two faded
kaki outfits and sandals made out of old tires. Indeed, the
miserable proletarians seeking the peasant masses to their cause,
have fair game in obtaining the support of people who share with
them the same conditions and same aspirations. As for those who
have the means to enjoy life, the task of impressing them is done
by the personality of Ho Chi Minh, whose goatee beard of the
traditional scholar can seduce and carry them away. Therefore, it
* 38 *
is in a unanimous upsurge by all the people, uplifted by a common
enthusiasm, that the revolutionaries pursue their struggle and
achieve victory.
Through the trial, the thinking heads begin to realize that the
revolutionaries, whose patriotism and heroism deserve praise, lack
the culture and talent to lead the people to higher destinies! The
often disastrous errors which they commit raise doubts about their
intellectual faculties, but do not tarnish, lessen the trust that people
have for their morality. Unfortunately, due to the irresponsibility for
their power, which opens the door to all kinds of offenses and
crimes, the dignitaries of the Part, whose signatures have their
worth in gold, allow themselves to be infected by the virus of
money and let themselves sink deeper and deeper into the
stinking marshes of vice. Their subordinates, encouraged by the
impunity of the Greats, will be their accomplices, and organizing
themselves into gangs. The time will come when the gangrene
will infect the Party in its ongoing endeavors: it will no longer enjoy
the popular trust which it has given so much time to win over.
Already devoid of talent and culture, and now without public
confidence which is used as sole foundation for its domination,
which was gained by its morality and will be lost by its immorality, I
will present itself to the people as a poor and naked tramp, and we
doubt that it would be able to retain its political monopoly. It is
possible that the leaders of the Party may not be implicated in the
same manner as their collaborators, but they have to be held
accountable for the latter, and this responsibility, by other person’s
action, will cause the ruin of the Party which credibility will be
dissipated by the wind of bitterness and contempt blowing
throughout the country. As long as the guilt is limited to isolated
cases or a small number of its members, the Party will sweep
them under the carpet in order to preserve the whiteness of its
ermine! But when the scandal reaches outrageous proportions and
it is no longer possible to hush it, the Party will be compelled to
lend a deaf ear to the political complaints. It will seek the
degrading silence of convenience rather than the bursting into
great daylight of multiple lawsuits with fallouts which will forever
discredit and destroy its prestige from head to bottom. Whatever
solution that the Party may then take, it will lose on two accounts.
The political will give way to the moral, and the moral will call on
the participation of the law to put a close to a past of sufferings in
* 39 *
order to open at last an era where the lights of reason and justice
will again shine on the reinstalling of the Law and the proclamation
of State responsibility and of those who personify it.
Of course, this is not for tomorrow but it is worth our time to
wait for it!
Let us hope that what you are saying is true. Let us hope that
the day when we celebrate the return of the law and justice in the
communist world will not be too far away!
When we part, we shake hands for the last time, we look in
each other’s eyes and feel that we all share the same thought.
The same ideas meet and similar feelings are in communion: “We,
the intellectuals, are a bunch that are cursed by those who hold
power and, particularly, the communist despots. They are
passionately filled with discipline, while our blood is boiling with
indiscipline. They are the ones who delight in seeing bowed
heads, breathing the incense of flattery, performing the illusionists’
tricks, setting up acts of grandiose spectacle. As for us who have
very stiff necks, we keep the face upright, the look straight
forward, the observing eye and the critical mind. Instead of saying
stupid things to please, we prefer to keep a silence which is known
to be reproving. We see clearly through the eyes of the
magicians, we can perceive the hypocrisy in the formalism, we can
guess the knives hidden in the sleeves when they are doing their
bowing and scraping. It must be recognized that we are
impossible people. Furthermore, we do not know where we will be
or what we will become tomorrow!”
The looks that we have exchanged with one another are filled
with meaning. We know that we have understood one another.
Our two delegations are in agreement about the same wish to
be conveyed to the Soviet and Vietnamese communist Parties:
“Allow us to present you with our wishes and propositions. The
power which has been conferred to you must not be used to quash
the people, to persecute and to batter the people: whoever claims
the right assumes obligation, whoever claims power assumes
responsibility. If you want the people whom you govern respect
* 40 *
order and live within the legality, on your part you have the duty to
ensure their well-being, to guarantee their happiness. Should you
succeed in this, your glory will prevail over centuries and you will
enjoy the eternal gratitude of the people!
But if struck by folly, insanity and madness, you let yourself
plunge the people into poverty and misfortune, practice despotism,
injustice and inhumanity, then you will not last long! Even if you
die in your bed, the people’s malediction will exhume from your
grave your decomposed cadaver and give it to the jackals and
vultures! Your name will be nailed down in History, your memory
will be stained by an ignominy which will never be removed by the
centuries to come!
In Rome, when the victorious general received the honors of
triumph, to help him sober up from the intoxication of the
applauds, a slave was put by his side on his chariot to whisper into
his ear: ”Remember that you are a human being!” Likewise, the
Law murmurs to the ear of the Political “Your role is to serve and
not enslave the people!”
Back in Hanoi, we are warmly congratulated for the unexpected
success which we have achieved at the Congress in Brussels. A
dinner is given in our honor by the minister of Foreign affairs.
It is during such events that we are informed of the arrests in
South Viet Nam of two leaders of the Movement for the Safeguard
of the Saigon-Cho-Lon peace: lawyer Nguyen Huu Tho and
professor Pham Huy Thong. The father of Prof. Thong, Mr. Chan
Hung has designated me as counsel to defend his son. The
Foreign Affairs Minister and the President of the Supreme Court
encourage me to accept this new mission. I send a telegram to the
Court in Saigon to inform it of my assignment and request it to let
me know the date of the trial. But the government of Ngo Dinh
Diem refuses to let me enter Saigon. Fortunately, the matter does
not have any further doing, and the trial does not have to take
place because the accused have escaped from their prison.
* 41 *
Upon my return to Hanoi, I am submerged by “honors”. Dean
of the dying Faculty of Law, Vice-President of the Association of
Jurists, President [Batonnier] of the Law Association, Vice-Dean of
the Faculty of Pedagogy, professor at the University in charge of
courses in European Literatures, member of the Central
Committee of the National Fatherland Front, as well as member of
the Committee in Hanoi for the same Front, and member of
Friendship Associations of Viet Nam-France, Viet Nam-Soviet
Union, member of the Committee for the defense of peace in the
world, President-founding member of the Doan Ket [Unity] Club of
Intellectuals,… Enough to fill both sides of a business card! ...
These “grandeurs of the establishment” do not bother me, my
modesty does have to suffer from it, and I do not feel either larger
or diminished. I know well that it is just for the show, and there is
no need to be either glorified or offended by it. The communist
regime practices a passionate cult of formalism: It fills its world
with parodies. The most pompous and high-sounding titles do not
adorn living beings but puppets with human forms that are
manipulated by someone among them, or behind them, or above
them. The actors who are performing on stage belong to the
outdated world of the dumb movies. Since the silent cinema and
communism came to be about the same epoch, it can be asked
which one has influenced the other.
* 42 *
I have asked myself why am I given all these gravies. Is it
because I have been a figure with qualification or representative of
something? I do not think so. Such a concern has never crossed
even lightly the minds of the leaders. They imagine that, by
installing a certain guy in a high place, they can transform him into
a high-caliber personality and, likewise, by pushing well-known
personalities into darkness they can neatly disrupt the respect that
those people enjoy from the public. But that is an error. Many
people benefiting from the favors of the Party are sinking into the
insignificance of the anonymous, even in the full splendor of their
functions! On the contrary, the personalities whose talents and
virtues are enjoying public sympathy continue to be honored by
public esteem, even when they are not invested with any shining
Is the Party having views on me and would like to inflate me,
and turn me into one of these clowning monkeys doing numbers
on the circus arena to provoke the laughter of the kids? Already in
1951, in the northern underground movement, in the midst of the
resistance war against colonialism, I was proposed to join the
Party, but I declined that honor. In 1946, before going to the
underground movement with my parents and family, I donated all
my properties to the Revolution and to the People. During the
entire period of the Resistance, I accepted all the sacrifices and
exercised my double profession of professor and lawyer in the
service of the people. Member of different Vietnamese
delegations, at four international Conferences, Dalat in 1946,
Peking in1952, Vienna in 1953, Brussels in 1956, I have played an
active role and obtained some modest successes… It is possible
that the Party may wish to congratulate me by promoting me to
functions which are honorific but at last honorable as well. But I
already know that the Party has a very short memory and forgets
easily the achievements to which it gave recognition in the past
once one is subject to its anger. Even communists with high
notoriety, who had shared time of imprisonment with the presently
enthroned leaders, were not able to have mercy from the latter’s
intransigence and cruelty.
In the ruling committees of the mass organizations, it is the
habit of the Party to put known intellectuals as assistants to the
Party members who take the wheel and drive the car. The
* 43 *
puppets who sit at the Presidium, proclaim the opening and
closing of the meeting, are applauded feebly and applauded back
also in the same feeble manner. This practice has become
routine, and is indicative about the kind of close collaboration
between the intellectuals without-a-party and the communists. I
have well understood this and am not surprised about it. I am
waiting for the Buddhist wheel of human vicissitudes to turn on
and have me ready to face misfortune with a lively heart.
It is at that time in Hanoi that the intellectuals are going through
a crisis of enthusiasm. The movement of the “Hundred Flowers” is
surging across the Vietnamese territory. People who, until then,
have been suspicious and doubtful about China – but not about its
cuisine and tea – unaware of the going-on behind the scene,
throw themselves into the movement wholeheartedly. Without
reliable proof, precise information, they immerse themselves with
delight in the high tide of euphoria, and the democratic fury so long
withheld and compressed is now exploding itself into daylight in
streams of vivid colored rays of light, showers of blue sparkles. A
newspaper appears: the NHAN DAN (Humanism) is quickly
grabbed by the readers. Then a magazine is published, the “GIAI
PHAM(s)” (Beautiful Works.) The boiling minds are projecting
It is then that Nguyen Huu Dang comes to interview me for the
NHAN DAN and solicit articles by me for the GIAI PHAM. I have
known Nguyen Huu Dang since he came to visit me sometime ago
and took me to meet President Ho who asked me to prepare the
thesis that the Government was going to defend at the Dalat
Conference in 1946. He (Dang) is a communist that I can trust. At
that time, I do not frequent the Vietnamese writers and journalists,
due to the lack of time and opportunity. Therefore, I have not met
any of the associates of the Nhan Dan and the Giai Pham(s) and
have not attended any of their meetings. But, since I have been
informed of the trend of the movement and the direction it has
adopted and is defending, I willingly accept to make a modest
contribution to this movement which is answering my wishes and
In 1928, during my second year at the Faculty of Law, I have
my first contact with communism which, at that time, is solely
* 44 *
soviet and is babbling its first words. In two hours of lecture, the
professor in political economy teaches us the basics of the
Marxist-Leninist economy. Afterwards, during the ten years in the
anti-colonialist resistance, I also learn about Marxism. The
speakers modestly call themselves “rapporteurs” coming back
from either Peking or sometimes Moscow. Their methods of study
and teaching retain my attention for they allow me to know the
characteristics of the communist mind. The course in Marxism is
divided in lessons and each future “teacher” becomes specialized
in one of these. They absorb the knowledge instilled by the
Chinese and Soviet teachers, turn it into the content of a 2-hour
lecture which they draft and submit to their responsible officials for
the critique. Then, when they give their lectures, they simply read
their texts, without adding anything of their own, in the fear of
committing any ideological improprieties and deviations which
would cost them dearly!
I have learned two things: the professor is lacking in personality
and individuality. He is a simulator and can easily be replaced by a
tape-recorder. Secondly, the communist mind carries out an
operation which is completely its own: it encloses itself within a
small area of land, digs in depth, without any concern whatsoever
for what the neighbors are doing!
I am fairly intrigued by this working method and have the
curiosity of finding out how communism would train the medical
doctors. A young man is chosen, one who has revealed himself to
be intelligent and capable, in the course of learning the alphabet,
but very much inflamed by his fervor for the Party. He is to be
trained a military surgeon specializing in the operations of the
arms and legs. During at least five years, he would serve as
nurse, then assistant, in the sector of the countryside hospitals,
butchering hundreds of limbs and ending up with some knowledge
of the anatomy to help him find his ways with the muscles,
tendons, arteries of the arms and legs. But his competence stops
there and his knowledge does not go beyond that.
Thus, the Vietnamese communist education does not waste its
time in giving theoretical lessons and providing general knowledge
to its students. They learn “on the job,” in the concrete, and,
instead of pushing their curiosity to an immense field, they choose
* 45 *
a hole, bury themselves and dig in it as much as they can! The
particular is preferred to the general, the depth to the extended. In
the hurry, time must be saved, and one has to train not “an honest
man who knows everything and is serene” but a man of the trade
and for just one trade alone! It must be recognized that this is in
the logic of things: communism, wishing “to catch up with
capitalism” and be in tune with modernity, cannot have the luxury
of interesting itself in the general culture and producing “minds that
can think.”
The courses in Marxism which I have attended do not serve me
much. What I know of it, I find that through the life I have led in the
communist world since 1946. The relationship I have had with the
men, the observations that I have made on the Party and its
policies, on the State and its institutions, the opinions that I have
heard, the spectacles that I have witnessed, together with the
inspirations from the thoughts which feed my wakes and furnish
my solitude, all these constitute the best approach that I have
about communism. Generally speaking, people who are
concerned with such a problem are usually driven by their
passions and adopt categorical positions. They are For or Against
communism! Personally, I think that such attitudes lack in
relevance and justice, in nuance and objectivity. The Party is not
pampering me, the “honors” which it has bestowed on me are
merely window-dressing and have not brought me or my family
any advantages of a substantial nature such as those given by the
Party to people who know how to coax it, worship it and bring to its
lips the silly smiles of satisfaction. On the contrary, although I
have given undeniable evidence of my patriotism, have served
with loyalty the people, the Party is condemning me to a journey in
the desert, already for thirty five years and I will give a painful
account of it in the coming pages. It will be acknowledged that I
have the legitimate right of exercising revenge for the suffering I
have borne. All the enemies of communism are waiting for me to
unleash my furors against that communism of which I have been
the victim. But people must forgive me! I have adopted the
attitude of the philosopher: to understand and not to judge.
Comprehension requires the examination of a certain thing in all
its aspects under two angles: the qualities and shortcomings, the
recto and verso, the good and bad. It leads to justice and the
intellectual is only concerned with being just!
* 46 *
There is no need to reiterate that the communists have
participated in the struggle for liberty and national independence.
Indeed, it is not the first time that the country has been victim of a
foreign aggression and it is not the first time that it has come out of
it gloriously. The people’s patriotism, therefore, has been the
constant factor and profound cause for victory. But the popular
forces do not constitute the instrument for national liberation. This
instrument only reveals its value and efficiency in expert hands to
handle it and bring out the best effect of it. It is in the honor of the
kings who have known how to appoint military leaders whose
genius and competence enable the soldiers to manifest their
heroism and will for sacrifice. These three assets are of equal
importance, and it is from their simultaneous interplay which
results in triumph. It would be both unjust to award the merit to the
communists and deny their contribution to the final success. What
matters is not to elevate too high or minimize the role of
communism, but to situate it at its place where it belongs!
However, under the direction of the Party, the adhesion of the
people to communism produces in the long run disastrous
consequences. The first monumental error, unforgettable, has
been that of the Agrarian reform which, not only provokes the
massacre of tens of thousands of innocents, but also diminishes
the prestige of the Party, and compromises the dogma of its
infallibility. Eyes open, distrust arouses the examination of the
Party’s policies, and the “thinking minds” get out of their lethargy to
assume a relevant critique of the Party’s platforms and viewpoints
before anything else.
Personally, my observations, analyses and reflections allow me
to reach a few conclusions with regard to the errors of the Party.
First, what strikes even the uninformed people is the total, servile,
submission to the Soviet and Chinese big brothers! This complete
abdication concerns not only the ideology, which the Vietnamese
communists advocate the Soviet and Chinese orthodoxy and
defend with intransigence and harshness against the slightest
expression of disrespect or discord, but it also manifests itself
even in the manner to dress, to have public or private meetings,
the forms of courtesy address and savoir-vivre etc… Viet Nam is
losing its personality to become the reflection, the similes of the
Soviet Union and China.
* 47 *
The similitude is first expressed in the economic field where
one can find the same policies of planning, the arbitrary fixing of
prices, the State monopoly in the sectors of production, domestic
and external trade, the policies for the grabbing of all the profits,
compensation of all the losses, the choice of employees and the
calculation of their remunerations. The omnipotence and
omnipresence of the State over the country, everywhere, the
suppression of all initiatives and all private interests, the absence
of any competition, any relationship between the costs of
production and the selling prices, will sooner or later lead to
economic stagnation, to the coming decline of the economy which
is totally regulated by politics and turning its back to all the laws,
value and efficiency which have been demonstrated throughout
many centuries.
Furthermore, never before have contempt and hatred of the law
been displayed with such insolence. The State is an emanation of
the Party. It is forbidden to have any incursion or even a look into
the legislative and judiciary domains. The principle about the
infallibility and irresponsibility of the leaders open the door to all
kinds of fantasies, insanities, liberties, and consequently to
criminal acts by the cadres at all levels, by all the members or
creatures of the Party. Never before have the people been
condemned to a more degrading and harmful silence, for it
deprives the rulers of all the suggestions, propositions, views and
advises that the people can offer for a better management of the
State and improvement in the conditions of the State’s subjects.
Unfortunately, the laws “voted” by the people’s assemblies, the
courts set up by the Government, are aimed at one and only
objective: bring to heel the people and maintain them under
unconditional subjection by the authorities, whatever they may be
and however extravagant their wishes. Nevertheless, in order to
fool public opinion in the country and abroad, it is proclaimed
endlessly that everything in Viet Nam is done by the people and
for the people!
The scientific laws, the realism in the structuring of the
economy are disdained. The infallibility and irresponsibility of the
leaders, which cause the uselessness of the institutions in the
legislative and judiciary systems, are proclaimed. All this
harmfulness is crowned by a law which, under a metaphysical
* 48 *
appearance, overrules politics and the economy: the law of
change. The communists pride themselves in their observations
on the dialectics of change which they teach to their disciples. But,
in fact, they do not give two hoots about it. They just sink into their
armchairs of leaders, make the superb declaration that they will
die there where the Party has installed them! The profane quickly
understands that the fight for power, particularly for the supreme
positions, is ferocious, that the autocrat will not renounce his seat
at his free will! Consequently, the gerontocracy has become a
communist directive. But it is very much in the sectors of the
economy, of production and trade that this law of immutability
reveals all its disastrous inconveniences! In the modern world,
where the techno-scientific revolution is in full swing, the modes of
production, transport, telecommunication, information, movements
of people and goods are changing so quickly. It took several
millenniums for agriculture to enable people to establish their
settlements and human civilization to initiate its evolution, and
many centuries for the discovery of new sources of energy to
generate the civilization of the mechanics and permit the growth of
industry under multiple forms, it has taken only about three
centuries for science and technology to reveal the secrets of the
macrocosm and microcosm, to discover unbelievable raw
materials, to ensure the marvelous triumph of the electronics and
data processing. Greek philosophy has given a striking picture of
the mobility of things when it declares that one never bathes twice
in the water of a river; on the contrary, the communists persist in
denying change, in defending the permanence of their economic
and political institutions, in taking roots in their place.
Facing such a situation, what can I contribute to the movement
of the Hundred Flowers? I am not opening a debate on the great
problems. I stick to points of detail, but they constitute the criteria
of democracy: I wish that the despot loosens a little his harshness,
that he does not put a muzzle to the National Front of the
Fatherland, that he no longer demands the judges to ask for
orders from the Party with regard to the judgment of a offense or
crime. Just minor matters, and as people say, nothing to make a
fuss about it! I am not a fighter, even less a daredevil. I have no
taste for the polemical, all the more so when it is a fight between a
wooden sword against a steel one! My other colleagues,
professors at the University, historian and sinologist Dao Duy Anh,
* 49 *
philosopher Tran Duc Thao, literary critique Truong Tuu, adhere to
the same trend of democracy and keep the same reserve with the
authorities that are well known by everybody for their vocation of
executioners, medieval inquisitors, all crudely camouflaged under
the make-up of ideas about the class-struggle, and the defense of
the Marxist orthodoxy.
The Vietnamese intelligentsia, especially in Hanoi, in its great
majority, - at least, among those using the pen and concerned with
liberty and intellectual honesty, including the non-demobilized
military writers – the Army, as it is known, being the bastion of the
revolutionary spirit in its purity and authenticity – have stood up in
unison at the call of democracy and are denouncing the political
tyranny on the intellectual activity.
However, soon afterwards, Viet Nam learns with horrifying
astonishment about the massacres, in China, of the Hong Ve Binh
[the Red Guards] ordered by the ruling authorities.
The information reaching Viet Nam indicates that the “Cultural
Revolution” is merely a trap for the liquidation of the enemies of
the Maoist regime. They, of course, include the intellectuals who
are naïve enough to believe in the words of the communist dictator
and sing the hymn of democracy devoted to the dominating
powers in the Celestial Empire, but also communist militants with
spotless past who are unwilling to accept the influence of the
Great Tiller! Hordes of Red Guards spread out all over the territory
and, overheated by the hatred against the enemies of
Communism, release their violence turned fanatical by wonderful
promises. They attack unarmed innocent, victims of an inferiority
complex with regard to the murderers whose furor and ferocity are
endlessly stirred up by the authorities. Blood flows freely, and the
Chinese humanity skips over a red tide which wets its feet, while
its eyes are inflamed by the red light coming from the flags,
banners and standards which are gloating over the houses and
public buildings. But, when the genocide comes to an end, with no
more throats to slit, the Red Guards, in their turn, have to expiate
for the blood-thirsty ardor by falling under the bullets of the
machine-guns, in the common graves, by the order of the monster
that wishes to erase the living proofs of his abominable crime! In
the world beyond, assassins and victims meet and shed together
* 50 *
their bitter tears over dead illusions and betrayed faith! The
Cultural Revolution drops its curtain over the death of the people
of culture and the death of Culture itself.
In Viet Nam, the trial begins and involves writers, journalists,
teachers, whose sole challenge is to gibe at the manias and
ridicules of the communists. They are accused of shooting arrows
of the mind against public power and force. These recalcitrant
people are charged with opposition to the Party and counterrevolutionary
infection. But in the arsenal of repression there is no
text which deals with such a delinquency. Whatever! One can
quickly be worked out. But a repressive text providing the
application of punitive action cannot be made retroactive. No
problem! The text will be antedated and the trick is done! As in
the Ancient City, the law is a secret which the priests and judges
retain the monopoly. What can be more appalling than a practice
used thousands of years ago be revived by the communist State
that tramples on the law and only seeks to neutralize, annihilate
people suspected of lukewarm feelings towards the Party, in
disregard of any justice and equity! Why at all bother about a text
when one has power in hand?
Such a logic gives off a smell of the jungle, of tribal savagery.
What jurist true to his function would accept to quell his
conscience, to curb the upsurges, in order to comply with the
desire of the political authorities from which he expects wonders?
Yet, there is always one to be found and willing to accept the
degrading task of condemning the intellectuals, and that one
knows well the latter’s innocence before the law. This magistrate,
the most typical of the valets of his kind, has the following portrait!
* 51 *
He was born in a province which has provided the country with
revolutionaries. In the modern Vietnamese society, the spirit of
one’s regional roots has again taken its flight. Each locality is
boasting about its products, natural resources, the success of its
agriculture, of its handicrafts, its budging industry and, naturally, its
great men! Formerly, the emphasis was given to the poets,
generals, and the state-men who had served well the monarchy
and the local population. Now, the fashion has changed.
Revolutionary values are exalted and “heroes” are turned into
gods and able to claim over thirty years of Party membership.
Each year, the Central Committee invites them to formal
ceremonies and, at least once, people of the same province are
gathered for friendly meetings and sometime feasts.
He bears a skinny face with salient cheekbones hardened by
austerity. His eyes lack of brightness and his smile always
appears to be forced, deprived of any joy. His thinness of an
ascetic, likely the fruit of an existence of average condition without
luxury but free of shortages, does not predestine him for feminine
conquests but rather makes him more suitable for studies and
working wakes. One can suppose that he has made the company,
not of nice and fresh faces, but of those jurists ever compiling the
Repertoires of Dalloz and Sirey. Although still young, he moves
around with the severity and dignity of a money-lender. The
astrologers can predict for him a future of magistrate: never, is he
without a leather briefcase always filled with papers and books!
He has done good legal studies and has earned his license en
droit, bachelor-in-law.
At the time when he acquires his diploma, his classmates, most
of them, have chosen careers in the colonial administration and,
particularly, have become auditors or customs inspectors, clerks at
the first instance courts and appeal courts of the French judiciary.
There, they enjoy substantial salaries, the possibility of living in the
cities and lead a pleasant life. As for our magistrate, he has opted
the career of a mandarin which may not provide more freedom but
* 52 *
dispenses much more considerable incomes thanks to the
wonderful corruption monies heaped on him by his subjects.
Evidently, the mandarin’s career, which is ridiculed at will by
jeers from the satirical magazines Phong Hoa and Ngay Nay, does
retain some semblance of prestige, not due to the ridiculous
qualification of “father and mother of the people” but due to the
advantages provided by wealth: a luxury villa in Hanoi, brand new
automobile, banquets at the great Chinese restaurants in the
Street of the Sails, big feasts in the night-clubs where young and
venal beauties call themselves “singers” and offer their clients
nothing more than the song of their nudities!
Therefore, our hero turns himself into a mandarin, he accepts
to be the hard head for the reporters filled with modernity and to
join a hierarchy in which order and discipline often impose
vexations and even humiliations. People do not think that his
choice for the mandarin profession results from the passion of
lucre, the thirst for corruption-gifts. It seems that he has left
behind at his county the good souvenir of the mandarin “with
integrity.” For what reason, then, has he opted to become a
mandarin? The taste of authority, ambition of a career, respect for
ancestral and family tradition which honors “the good father and
mother of the people” and, may be, there was one in the history of
the family? Does it really matter much for what reason? The
essential thing, which deserves consideration and is later on
repeated, is the fact that our hero goes about with his important
functions at the Tribunal of Hue!
The triumph of the Revolution tolls the bell for feudalism. The
throne of Bao Dai collapses in general indifference. The career of
the mandarin dies out, by lack of candidates, the worm-eaten
contingent of cadres crumbles away. The “father and mother of
the people” are now trying to be forgotten and put on a new skin
after having extorted so much money from their children and
displayed so much servility to their superiors, both French and
Vietnamese. The metamorphoses are sometime amazing.
Our jurist, then, leaves the career of mandarin and chooses to
join the Bench of the people’s democratic Republic! His choice is
significant and reveals a certain side of his soul: the need and
* 53 *
thirst for authority and power under their two aspects: kneeling
down before the superiors but trampling down on the
Since he has been promoted judge at a “popular” tribunal, I
often have the occasion to plead before him, in both civil and
penal cases. I have not failed at any of these occasions to
decipher the character. I notice a certain tone in his voice, together
with a certain movement of his eyebrow, a certain look shooting
out from his eyes, all these make me think that our magistrate is
thinking very highly of himself and despises people who have not
reached his intellectual and social level. In the course of some
encounter with a political notable, from whom he is waiting for an
instruction, I have noticed that under the deference which he is
displaying, he is concealing a certain pride that he has of himself:
he feels he is superior to his interlocutor, and the often sharp
answers that he gives back amply show this! He is endowed with
dignity and character, and does not accept to be trampled on.
Perhaps, like La Bruyere, is he cursing the fate that forces him to
be at the service of those who do not measure up to him. He is
struck by a complex, alternately, of inferiority and superiority which
is condemning him to hostility against the Greats and to hatred
against the little ones. He covers himself with the authority of the
former in order to exercise his own authority over the latter.
Confirmed in his function of member of the Appeal Court of Hanoi,
and while waiting for a promotion to the Supreme Court, he is
quenching his thirst for the third-rate honors by getting himself into
the ‘socialist” Party created by the communist leaders in order to
fool public opinion at home and abroad, give itself a cheap
certificate of “pluralistic” democracy and rally the intellectuals to
the communist cause! He even succeeds in having himself
nominated secretary of this Party’s Committee in Hanoi, and its
representative in Ha Noi’s Central Committee of the National Front
of the Fatherland. The ambitions and opportunism, which
insatiable thirst cannot be satisfied by all these “institutional
grandeurs” that he covers himself, draw up with precision the
psychological profile of this Vietnamese Julien Sorel who is
hanging at the tails of the communist leaders, without obtaining
any of their favors and protection.
* 54 *
The communist Party is shrewd: within the policy of Unity and
Concord which it advocates by the intermediary of the National
Front, very much to conceal its secret purposes as well as
manifest publicly its tolerance, it refrains itself from making the
entire class of mandarins its enemy to death. It distributes to them
a few caresses and smiles to calm down their worries and, even,
turns a few of the members into government officials. It cannot find
more zealous persons than those with a “stained” past who feel
the compelling need “to redeem” themselves! No woman can
display louder prudery than an old lady-sinner. And, while
securing the devotion of people who have “sinned,” the Party is
able to prove its extended viewpoints, its tolerance, its absence of
prejudices and vindictive intentions.
But the beneficiary of the “Let’s be friends, Cinna” does not feel
much assured for that matter! Therefore, in order to give himself
some respect as well as provide some pledges to his new
masters, he plays a double game: authoritarian in public, but
obsequious when meeting with the chief! The more he is
obsequious in private, the more authoritarian he is in public. But
he does not fool anybody, not even himself!
Our magistrate makes himself known by the judgment of a
unique trial in the judiciary history of the civilized world. Sometime
after the return of the Revolutionary Government in Hanoi, it has
been decreed in the high spheres to indict before the criminal
court a professor-of-letters considered guilty for having corrupted
the souls of his students by explaining to them “The Isolation”
[L’Isolement] by Lamartine. Since Socrates, everybody knows,
when the City wants to condemn an intellectual to drink the
hemlock, it accuses him for having corrupted the youth!
Communism has revived a practice of over two millenniums old.
At all times, the autocracy dreams of shaping the people to its
image, especially the youth bearing the future. Adhering to its
political line is the educational line, its corollary. The School is
given the mission of forming the people who, tomorrow, will
become the ones to carry out the politics of the governments. Any
deviation perpetrated in education incurs the same gravity as that
of a deviation in the political line proclaimed by the leaders.
* 55 *
This is in the logic of things! But what is disastrous here is that
such logic bears the dead-weight of something which has been
obsolete for more than two thousand years! Who dares to claim
that communism is making tabla-rasa of the entire past? I do not
raise the problem as to what objective must education be aiming
at, the man or the City? I take note here only of the fact that the
communist education gives itself the duty to form the man for the
City, so that he must devote himself totally to the service of the
City, and enables it to reach its aims.
In such conditions, the man formed by the education of the City
is merely the tool of its policy and nothing else! One would like to
know what kind of socialism that is, one which does not exist
anywhere else, except in the minds of the theoreticians.
Whatever! The leaders, who are priding themselves on realism
and materialism and condemning idealism under all its forms, do
resort to their imagination in order to edify the prototype of
socialism. Drawn into a boundless eclecticism, they insert, in the
human prototype, all possible virtues: to be read in the legislative
texts, the administrative circulars, are those long paragraphs with
their eulogistic styles which relate the vagrancies of the
communists in the kingdom of the utopia! Among the features,
which characterize the socialist man of the morrow, the emphasis
is given to the joy of living, la joie de vivre, the optimism. If it were
true, socialism would bring happiness to the being, he would
blossom into the joie de vivre, in optimism. Have the leaders
anticipated that the existence under the socialist State will be
gloomy under the weight of the constraints and interdictions which
tie up the individual, darken his days and push him towards
sadness and despair? In spite of everything, there is an
undeniable fact: in the eyes of the communists, the dejection,
apathy and pessimism constitute the proofs of moral decadence,
political deviation, reactionary error, counter-revolutionary mistake!
The unfortunate thing is that, once installed into power and
waiting for the introduction of the required reforms, the leaders
proclaim the keeping of the status quo. While the elite and most of
the cadres from the colonial regime have migrated overseas,
those who have remained continue to keep their functions and
benefit from their old remunerations, and this has created frictions
between the “collabos” [collaborators] and the “maquisards”
* 56 *
[Resistance fighters]. This is the case of the teachers. The
professors in sciences do not run into any risks until further notice,
since science is not suspected to be reactionary. However, the
professors in letters teach romantic poetry as before, since the
scholastic program has not been changed. As Lamartine opens
the series of the great romantics, there is no question for him to be
eliminated. Therefore, our defendant explains as usual the
Isolement, analyses the state of a depressed soul, unsatisfied,
weary of a world born from the 1789 Revolution and, in his
melancholy and loneliness, and yearning to fight into a different
universe where he would find hope and love…
At the time, the on-going slogan is to remind that the “enemy is
everywhere and is hanging up its creatures everywhere”. The
maintaining of the general security demands vigilance in a state of
alertness, the sending of professional spies to all the meetings, as
well as the mobilizing of amateur and bona-fide spies to wander
around continuously in the streets, pavements, public gardens and
squares, in all the coffee-shops movie-houses and theaters, in
each communal dwelling or building of collective use. All the
private mails are listed and checked, the postal censorship
functions night and day, all the radio-sets are under watch,
especially at the hours of broadcasting by the foreign stations. In
the services, in addition to the agents in uniforms, there are in
each working room the concealed spies who are all ears and eyes.
The exchanges between people, particularly with a foreigner, are
subject to a vigorous control, and no one is surprised that the mail
gets lost on its way and never reaches its destination! If the
professional spies, who have taken courses, completed further
training and acquired a long and rich experience, do not come to
the attention of the people they are tailing, on the contrary, the
amateur-spies, who wish to score good marks with their local
authorities, are easily revealed and get more than one trick played
on them. The whole of Hanoi offers a spectacle of Punch-and-
Judy show or of mimes where people gesticulate, have fixed
looks, play deaf and dumb, act like robots moved by springs
hidden inside the body. But, behind the scenes, in the backshops,
at the sidewalks, in conversations between two people, the
ironical pretenses regain life, the face recovers its expressive
mobility, the smiles are lit up in the eyes and blossom on the lips,
and, to take its revenge on the prolonged silence and deliberate
* 57 *
inertia, people thrash about like the devils, burst out laughing by
mimicking the tone or mania of a leader.
In the Schools for higher studies and the Faculties, each class,
each course, each year, has its spies among the students’ body.
More than one resistance fighter-teacher is spying on his
colleagues, whether “collabos” or resistance fighter, and
denounces to the proper authority the ideological errors and
deviations perpetrated by the professors who drew their
remunerations in the past from the budget of the Government of
Indochina and now continue to earn the same salaries paid by the
Government of the Resistance. They are despised solely because
they have not endured the sacrifices of the resistance
underground, but are subject of jealousy due to the high standard
of living that they are able to enjoy. It is felt that this injustice must
be ended. Since it is necessary to spare the State and the Party
the shame of contradicting themselves and not keeping their
words, some “understanding” “collabos” are bribed to take the
initiative of asking the Party for an “equalization” of wages. How
can the leaders remain untouched by such judicious, rational and
sincere “petition” which exhales the fresh fragrance of union and
concord fitting the line of the national Front? In spite of the
modicum of the financial gain obtained for the State treasury,
always in shortage, and the grumblings of the formerly privileged
persons and particularly their ladies who are compelled to tighten
their belts, the atmosphere is joyful: The State receives a drop of
water in the sea of its permanent deficits, the former resistance
fighters are happy to see a little bit more of social justice squeezed
into the services, and the ancient privileged class, after having
endured the night of August 4th, from then on can raise high their
heads and mix on an equal footing with their colleagues of the
It is in such a general euphoria that the trial of our professor,
who is accused of having corrupted the youth and perverted their
souls, begins. He is advised against taking an attorney for his
defense because a good lawyer, and a well informed one, is a rare
bird, and all the more so when there is one, he is the bête noire of
the communists who have the sacred horror of the law and the
* 58 *
Even for those not used to descend to the depths of reflection,
to find the why of things, people have felt the significance of this
trial. Its aim is to offer to people attending it a stimulating show
about the good administration of justice by the rule of law and
equity. It is typical of a certain conception concerning the
government and administration invented by communism,
according to which all the activities of the State must serve the
education of the people leading to the cult of the Party, its leaders
and communism which they claim to personify. The laws and
decrees which are promulgated, the courses which are dispensed
in all the premises of the schools, from the elementary to the
superior studies, the public conferences which are given by the
licensed speakers, the articles and books which are published, the
trials which are judged, the plays which are presented in the
theaters, the films which are projected, the meetings which are
organized, the declarations which are made to the press, all these
must conform themselves to the line of unconditional, absolute
and tyrannical devotion to the Party. The party is not a party like
any other, it is THE Party and must always be spelled with a
capital P. All the Resistance fighters have lived in the
underground, have been taught in such a manner, understand the
reason why, in order to be admitted into the Party, one is ready to
accomplish all the sacrifices and, when need be, commit crimes.
Each being undergoes a molding or remolding process, during
which he is initiated, regardless of all traditional human traditions,
to the worship of a unique god, in whose name the most
monstrous ideas and most abominable actions are permitted!
Man is deformed, transforms himself into a live robot with all his
energies from the heart and soul working for the triumph of the
instinct and bestiality, that is to say, that of abjection and horror.
The resistance fighters attending the trial know in advance the
process. They know that the magistrate who is presiding the
session carries the heavy past of a mandarin and, although he has
given to the Party unquestionable guarantees for his devotion, has
never been able to accede to the honors that he aspires and must
mope and stagnate in a mediocrity which is not even gilded.
When he is acting as a judge, it is felt that he is afflicted with an
internal contradiction. On the one hand, after having done his
studies, obtained his law degree and practiced his job of
mandarin, he is equipped with an equitable knowledge and moral
* 59 *
judgment. But he wants to be forgiven for a “criminal” yesterday –
according to the communist viewpoint – to give himself a new
virginity, in order to enter into the cleanness and whiteness of
today, and to attain a shining tomorrow, more fitting to his
aspirations and hopes. He projects the image of a wriggling worm
not knowing how to move forward or backward. At the start of his
life, his choice for the career of a mandarin tells amply about the
lowness of his intentions and the culpability of his desires. A
capitalist boss who exploits his workers condemns them to
poverty, to the exhaustion of their strength. But the mandarin who
embezzles the money of his subjects exercises his ruthlessness
over a much greater area of criminality, with each district covering
a population of several thousands of people. To flatter the
mandarin, the peasants call him “the father and mother of the
people.” But, between themselves, they qualify him parasite of the
people. It is then understandable that our magistrate bears in his
conscience the remorse of his past. He is aware that many eyes
are watching him and, it is not without reason but with the aim of
testing him, that he is given the affair of judging an intellectual who
is opposing the political line of the Party. Such a situation does
not allow our judge to maintain the impartiality which must be the
- Defendant, do you recognize that you are guilty of having taught
to your students a philosophy of dreariness, despair, pessimism,
while “our” Party is committed to the propaganda of optimism,
hope and the joie de vivre?
- Your Honor, how can I know that the Party is teaching to lead a
life in joy, in hope and optimism? To my knowledge, the former
civil servants retained in their functions by the communist
government have never learned, or read anywhere, that the Party
teaches such a philosophy of life. Even if this were true, I doubt
that such an education can produce its fruits. Indeed, the domain
of feelings is not subject to the jurisdiction of the temporal power.
The inside world ignores the laws of logic and reason, the
constraints of the law, justice and even of morality! A feeling is
born, prospers, declines, fades out, or transforms itself according
to the impulsions, excitements, assaults from the outside realities
and the personal subjective characteristics of the ”moral ground,” if
I may so say it, which is pertaining to the human being that is
* 60 *
receiving in his own way the calls of the surrounding environment
and responding to them in his personal manner. It is a domain
where power measures its vanity by its commandments and
lowers its arms, in despair! Politics may wish to bring hope,
optimism and joie de vivre to people. But if the deeds do not
follow the words, if the concrete does not bring about the abstract,
nothing is done except the pursuit of ghosts! Hope cannot exist
when there is no reason for hope, and nothing to hope for.
Optimism and the joie de vivre can only penetrate the hearts if
there are everywhere order and prosperity, the minimum of
freedom and rights which the life of a civilized person demands.
One must be crazy like Don Quixote to be fooled by a Dulcinée
with a wrinkled face and a toothless mouth. An intellectual as
insignificant as one of my caliber, cannot accept that the Party
promulgates a line to be followed, made up of hope, optimism and
joie de vivre. It is simply a wish and the realization of which
depends on the Party. The main count of accusation, on the basis
of which I am dragged to sit in the box of infamy, does not have a
leg to stand on. I do not consider myself guilty of having caused
prejudice to a political line which normally and craftily cannot be
made to exist. Besides, I would be happy to know by what article
in the penal code, which does not yet exist, am I indicted in justice!
- Let us not play games on words or throw blows to one another
among ourselves with articles of the Code. The facts are evident.
Yes or no have you explained to your students the work Isolement
by Lamartine and given a eulogy for this poet? Yes or no have
you advocated the poetry of weariness, despair, pessimism and,
consequently, corrupted the soul of the youth that, at the call of
“our “ Party, have risen united as one single man for the restoring
of liberty, independence, and national honor?
- Your Honor, I have not done any legal studies, but all the
intellectuals know that any criminal indictment must give reference
to a text of the Penal Code which specifies the nature and
conditions of the offense. Furthermore, they also know that
politics and law are two different domains, like dream and reality.
It is permitted for politics to dream since it works on the future, but
the law is set on solid, current and concrete bases because it
operates in the present to maintain and establish an actual
situation which fits and responds to the wishes of the people. A
* 61 *
confusion between dream and reality, which may effectively well
be the present case between politics and law, will constitute a
backward jump of several centuries into the past.
The indictment is now slightly changed. I am not launching an
attack against the line of the Party, but I am making an eulogy for
a romantic poet, I am advocating the poetry of weariness, despair,
pessimism! I allow myself a remark: the intellectuals worth of the
name do not make the eulogy of anybody and do not advocate
anything. These two terms must be excluded from any act of
accusation against them: it is impertinent, in the etymological
sense of the word. For the good reason that such an attitude is
always humiliating and hurts the intellectual in his dignity. Even
when making their praises, the intellectuals refrain themselves by
some unknown prudery and always keep a certain reserve. The
smiles and kowtows are not part of their outfits, but make up the
weapons of those who have given up their self-respect in order to
glean some miserable advantages. I repeat: I am not making the
eulogy of any person, not even a leader praised by everybody. I
do not advocate any doctrine, even if millions of people in the
world carry it out by singing it. No, I analyze, explain, try to help
my young listeners understand a state of mind that no dictator, no
dictatorship, can erase, since it has existed for more than a
century now. Politics can only exercise its power on the present
time and sometime on the future, it has to admit its powerlessness
on the past.
Therefore, the state of the romantic soul has existed and, if you
permit me an incidental thought that everybody can prove its
truthfulness, continues to do so at certain ages and in certain
conditions of life. Only the experienced revolutionaries, the “driedeyed
stoics,” pretend to ignore the tears of human distress, in
order to lift themselves to a super-humanity!
Your Honor, I am not defending myself, I am only trying to
respond to your accusations. I know in advance the fate that
awaits me: no one has ever come out of the revolutionary tribunal
to go home. I could have listened to the session of the trial. I
could have simply pleaded guilty and, by the leniency of the Party
and my own efforts, promise that I will not spare any efforts to
improve and purify my brain to be in the line of the Party. But I
* 62 *
have wished that, at least once, the voice of an intellectual is
heard in saying a word of truth, and enables the present and future
generations to have a precise and correct idea of what
revolutionary justice is.”
What the accused is not authorized to do is to convert the
magistrate, a former mandarin still fresh of the revolutionary
anointment, to a more complete view of reality. No, the way to
attain honor is not that of honors, all the more so when they do not
even add up to a mere tip, a promotion in the hierarchy, but only
consist of a smile that the master bestows to a good valet who has
just done for him an assigned service. In fact, may be against his
will and after having suppressed down winces of conscience, the
magistrate has condemned the professor to four years in prison.
During these four years of detention in a far-away province
200 kilometers from the capital, the wife of the condemned does
not only goes about diligently with taking care of the housework
and her off-springs, now deprived of their paternal help, but each
month, at least once, she also has to cycle a round trip of 400
kilometers to bring a few niceties to her husband, to reassure him
of the fate of the children, to give him courage in bearing the
privations and sufferings, in hoping for the return of justice, law
and humanity among men.
This trial is not unique in the records of revolutionary justice, as
one can easily think about it. It would be interesting to search in
the archives – if any and conserved – of the courts in the capital
and provinces, the documents, revealing the manner in which
justice is administered by injustice, how to carry out the reign of a
sham and loose public order by way of illegality and terror, by
using the services of valets who are not even rewarded decently!
And all this in the name of the Party and the Revolution! Never
before has communism been mistreated so much by its defenders!
* 63 *
On my way home and during the sleepless nights following the
trial, I devote my thinking to the event which is matter of concern
for public opinion. Having lived many long years in the communist
society and with the opportunities to frequent the leaders, I know
that they tolerate neither negligence nor lack of foresight in the
exercise of the functions and accomplishment of the acts.
Everything is carefully studied, discussed, tossed around in all
directions, in order to know if the act to be carried out is beneficial
to the interests of the Party. Improvisation and individuality are
viewed with horror and, therefore, an acute sense of responsibility
is given recognition. Unfortunately, this responsibility, being
collective, is equivalent to irresponsibility. Above everything else,
it is important to bring out the deep meaning of this trial, the very
first one of its kind, in contradiction with the official proclamation
about not making use of vengeance, hostility, jealousy against
those who have not carried out the resistance, when a teacher of
quality is simply blamed for corrupting the youth by a philosophy of
weariness, despair, and pessimism. What is more serious is that
the offense cited by the public Ministry is not a common offense
provided by the penal law but a moral and political offense that all
modern civilizations have set outside the judicial competency of
the state. Therefore, are the Vietnamese leaders making a
mockery of the policy they have promulgated and, at the same
time of the international public opinion as well! In defiance to the
entire world, do they want to affirm the principle of their authority in
all domains, that of an omnipresence which either shuns the
violation of a solemnly given word or shows an open disdain of the
international practice to respect the legality and the limits of courts’
competency? Or, in the blind faith of their omnipotence, and, by
presumption or equally lamentable ignorance, have they decided
to strike a big blow, bring to heel the intelligentsia, cool off its
combative ardor, curb its demands and condemn it to silence or
the wooden-tongue which would facilitate their task of
administrators, flatter their vanity and taste for formalism, in
offering to the eyes of the locals and the tourists a spectacle of the
* 64 *
intellectual masses falling in close ranks around them and
shouting their fidelity to the Party?
The second order of reflections, which is bothering me,
concerns the personality of the magistrate to whom is given the
task of proceeding with the condemnation of the guilty intellectual.
In spite of the reverberations generated in the country, the Party is
washing its hands in all serenity: it is an intellectual who is judging
an intellectual. It is a family affair, and I respect too much the
independence of the Bench to tilt one way or the other about the
trial! It is a wonderful hypocrisy to avoid all the silent or spoken
critiques on this judge whose unconditional subjection to the Party
is well known!
Everybody is aware that, formerly, the mandarin was enslaved
to a bi-cephalic authority: on the one hand to the French Governor
[Resident de France] and on the other to his Vietnamese
hierarchical superiors. He is compelled, in the events of all
festivities and anniversaries, to offer to his protectors gifts
commensurate to their ranks and, therefore, priceless! Since his
salary is modest, he is obliged to make his subjects pay the price!
Thus, he is putting his hands in the coffers of the landowners and
even the purses of the peasants whose poverty becomes heavier,
causes bankruptcy, sickness and sometime death! One must be
equipped with a really dirty soul, covered with mud, to enter the
mandarin’s career, to feed on the suffering of the innocent people
and drink their tears. Ecce homo !
Right after the Revolution, he decides to give himself a new
skin and seeks admission to the judiciary corps. Those who have
seen him sit at the Bench in Hanoi, and observed him in his
spoken words and gestures, quickly perceive that he is suffering
from an internal contradiction? He lacks the naturalness and
ease! Is it a surprise? He knows that communism nurtures a
comprehensible hatred against the mandarin, since the latter
personifies feudalism and exploitation and will always be the
enemy of communism. The mistake committed for having steered
his life toward the career of a mandarin is as colossal as that of
Eve for having picked the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
To atone for the mistake committed, the mandarin is strangling his
conscience in order to obtain the good favors of the Party,
* 65 *
executing blindly its orders and condemning innocent people who
are accused by the leaders of imaginary offenses not provided by
law! But the violated conscience is struggling frenetically, tensing
up the emaciated face of the mandarin, he feels uneasy as
someone being observed by countless eyes, hunted by invisible
phantoms! But he is ridiculing himself at will when he imitates the
flatterers, the expression “OUR” Party wants to come out from his
mouth, it breaks into pieces as the shell of an egg does in contact
with a spoon! …
The clap of thunder announcing the storm has sounded. The
communist Machiavellianism has decided to have an intellectual
be judged and condemned by an intellectual. It is a fratricidal
fight, a fight of cocks, but a combat in which, on the one side, one
enjoys all the advantages of the authority, force and the law which
he uses to serve his intentions, and, on the other side, the other
fights with his bare hands, his sole weapon being the just cause
and the sympathy of the masses. The Party has the last word but
its victory neither enhances its prestige nor consolidates the faith
which it expects from the people. The reason of the wolf does not
cut down the sympathy for the lamb!
The clap of thunder which has broken out in the troubled sky
has generated the sought after effect: a split has taken place, the
subjected persons applaud, put to work their wooden tongues and
wag their tails! To them are given the privileges and sinecures,
the choice positions, the profitable trips abroad, to finalize
contracts which fill the pockets of the Vietnamese emissary but
burden the Vietnamese production with obsolete equipment
abandoned long time ago and often out-of-order! The people,
already in rags, are paying by themselves all the costs of the
swindle, the breach of trust, the theft perpetrated with full impunity
by those who pretend and honor themselves to be their servants!
The others, whether resistance fighters or not, filled with honesty,
disgusted by the cynicism of the “people’s servants” who are
establishing a new form of exploitation, that of communist
exploitation, and who are, in spite of this, always placed at the
right side of the Lord; therefore, the others who are chocked by the
ignorance, candor, and credulity of the leaders, and in some cases
consider the cause has been lost and the State rotten, emigrate
abroad, in search of a new society where more legality, morality
* 66 *
and also prosperity can prevail. They can have other people
benefit from their knowledge, experience, and cast a look of
sadness and bitterness on the Vietnamese ship of State with its
ingrate and criminal sons who are drilling holes in its hold to sink
the vessel.
As for the rest of the people, who are filled with a silent but
dynamic patriotism, with honesty and righteousness, they analyze
the decline of the economy and the poverty of the masses, try to
diagnose the illness in order to find the cure. The only error they
have made is to believe in the sincerity of the originators of the
“Hundred Flowers” Movement and to commit themselves entirely
to discovering the causes and sources of the misfortune which is
hitting the people. In the last analysis, appalling are the sufferings
that have resulted from the political mistakes and brought about by
an ignorance which can only rival with presumption. Previously,
people even refrained themselves from making a remark, out of
wisdom and caution. But now the kick-off has been given, by the
whistle of the Party itself, which is tuning its behavior to a “brother”
Party, the shooters are having their hearts content and marking
the scores under the applauses of the spectators. It is too good to
last. At the half-time break, the sensible minds are already
concerned with the counter-attack by the communists.
Sometime afterwards, the reaction begins. It starts with a
meeting, which takes place about a hundred meters from my
place. Imbued with a feeling about my smallness and modesty of
my functions, I am not infected by the virus of megalomania, the
brimborions who are considering themselves as the heights of the
Everest since the August Revolution. Thus, I believe that, in an
audience of a thousand persons, a fellow not gifted with
illumination would only be a shadow among shadows and could
slip away or not make an appearance, and no one notices his
absence or presence. Therefore, I think that I can go about with
my occupations in peace and quiet. Great is my surprise when I
see a messenger of importance arriving at my house, the Director
of the Institute of Languages in person, who comes to invite me to
go to the meeting! In order to notice my absence in such a
crowded gathering, I must have been ear-marked and looked for in
the assembly. One can bet big that it is not to hoist me to the
pedestal that people are worried for not seeing me there. The
* 67 *
experience that I have acquired during the long years of living in
the resistance underground enables me to guess the worse as far
as I am concerned. The meeting will serve as a bullfight where I
would be the bull thrown into the arena, in the midst of the
matadors assigned to slaughter me and who have received all the
explanation about the strikes to be made as well as the ultimate
The one who is holding forth is an assistant-minister of a
certain ministry which I can no longer remember and about whom I
have the “token honor” of having him among my former students.
Since the time, when drafted into a team for the agrarian reform, I
have heard young children accusing their fathers of abominable
crimes, on the orders of the communist cadres, and have
understood that the Confucian morality which used to fill the
Vietnamese soul with its scent is well dead! I am not surprised to
see a student prepare the putting to death of his former teacher
and convince the matadors of the necessity for the final
deathblow! But having drained the cup to the dregs, I have felt the
gall of bitterness plunging my soul into sadness!
But a fighting bull does not succumb immediately under the
blows of the banderillos and picadors. It is fighting to its last
breath, playing with the matador’s red muleta cape and, when the
final and decisive blow comes, it gives a last look at the heavens
to make them witness the barbarism of politics and money which
is carried out by human cruelty to kill ruthlessly innocence and
For some time the rumor has circulated in town that the Party
does not tolerate criticism, even when they are pertinent and
judicious, which are launched by the writers, professors,
journalists, who have committed the deadly error of believing that
the hour for the cry of victory for communism has resounded. The
canons are ready to fire on the participants of the “Hundred
Flowers” Movement and, beyond them, against all the intellectuals
suspected of refusing to kneel down before the Marxist-Leninist
gods. Should they raise their voices or confine themselves into
silence, they will feel the heat of the fireworks. It is now or never
the occasion, not to win them to the sacred cause of communism,
but to quash them by terror, by applying ruthlessly a heavy and
* 68 *
merciless hand against the principal culprits who will pay for all the
Strict justice requires legal proceedings, initiates a trial, sets up
a file, and allows the accused to explain and defend himself, as
well as the judge to apply the law and respect his conscience…
but this is a bourgeois practice which causes useless loss of time
and, even more so, it does not ensure the pre-eminence of the
rights of the Party in its governmental hegemony. The law and
legal procedures are inventions of the insane minds which
complicate and delay the administrating of justice as conceived
through the communist perspective. The fundamental, inviolable,
immutable dogma, which must fill the mind of everybody, rules that
the Party is the unique holder of Truth, that it is right against
everybody else, that the duty and obligation of each and every
“subject” is to fight for the triumph of the Party in what it thinks and
does, to accept all the sufferings, all the sacrifices, - even that of
one’s life, if need be – in the name of the Party, for the Party! The
capitalists talk about Reason of State, the communists do it about
Reason of the Party, but these two reasons merge in the same
practice of hasty, summary justice, that of the Executed by firingsquads
carried out by a bourgeois government to make an
example and glorify itself during World War I ! The religion of
communism and the cult of the Party do not tolerate any
discussion, any critique about the dogmas which proclaim their
permanence, their invincibility, and burn to the stake of heresy the
bourgeois notions of Law, justice, and innocence. To the good
listener, greetings!
Consequently, when that bunch of damned intellectuals allow
themselves to doubt about the truths taught by the Party, to voice
remonstrance, it is necessary to deal with them by quick, summary
and well organized justice similar to the one at the time of the
Agrarian Reform. The scenario has already been set in advance,
such as the place for the trial, the appropriate timing, the roles of
the accusers, the points on which they have to throw the
anathema, the details, whether true or false, for the closing speech
of their prosecution heavily filled with partiality, iniquity, prejudices
and affirmations devoid of proof and consequence. The
condemnation is studied: the death sentence is not pronounced,
but there are a thousand other ways to do this in Machiavellian,
* 69 *
tortuous, diabolical manners in silence and at night… All these
reflections, prompted by the experience I have acquired, rush to
me when I enter the meeting room.
The “rapporteur” (according to the Vietnamese communist
terminology) begins to swing the censer under the noses of the
intellectuals. They are the cherished children of the Party! During
the anti-colonialist war of resistance, they chose the right path:
behind the revolutionaries and in the ranks of the people, with
whom they shared destitution and servitude, they have hoisted
themselves to the peak of grandeurs by offering their talents and
experience to the service of the Fatherland. Glory to the
intellectuals, the worthy sons of Viet Nam and of the people!
(The audience listens to this praise with caution. They have
already heard the communists sing the eulogy of the
intellectuals, each time the latter had the opportunity to do so,
although they have martyred the former one by one secretly,
and victimized all of them! For once, the Party is saying
something true, but one can understand that it is done by
diplomacy. The hunter gives a gentle look and affects goodnaturedness
to get close to his prey, but to kill it by a shot in
point-blank. The intellectuals, who have been admitted into
the Party, have heard and learned these words: they have
been duly educated to make use of them at all times
whenever they wish to coax their fellow-associates in asking
for a concession or a sacrifice of some sort. That is what the
speaker is doing. He continues to give to the stupid asses the
carrot while waiting for the blow of the stick.)
“Why are the intellectuals the cherished children of the Party?
It is because they have stayed many long years in the Resistance
underground, benefited from the education of the Party, learned
about Marxist-Leninism, understood and implemented the
promulgated policies, and had the chance to live in the society of
revolutionaries, because they have been in communion with the
masses of workers and peasants in their poverty and hopes, have
acquired in their society the qualities of endurance, patience,
sacrifice, abnegation which strengthens equality in poverty and
* 70 *
The world of the underground fighters has formed men of high
morality, with outstanding virtues, a pure and noble soul, madly
faithful to the Party and people, tough like hardened steel, fierce
enemies of the bourgeois, of their reactionary concepts, of their
ways of life enjoying coziness and luxury in the shameful
exploitation of the proletariat’s poverty, men who are forcefully
determined to move forward to socialism, to the brilliant horizons
of happiness and peace! What an exalting spectacle to see an
entire humanity clothed in the same kaki uniforms, wearing the
same sandals made out of pieces of discarded old tires, receiving
monthly the same quota of rice, fed with the same tubers and
water bindweeds, talking the same language, motivated by the
same political ideal, taking place on the same stage. A
magnificent, wonderful unity links the party to the people, the
cadres to the masses!”
(The speaker is right. It is possible to feel exalted before
this unity with its base of uniformity, mimicry, psittacism, silent
coercion, and forced hypocrisy. It is undeniable that, during
this decade, the moral atmosphere has been excellent, the
established practices have their purity, and the security is
assured. At night, one can cycle or travel without risk.
Equality which is prevailing among the cadres has eliminated
the jealousies, discouraged career-seeking and opportunism.
All those who have lived in the Resistance underground have
retained the souvenir of a honeymoon between the
communists and the intellectuals.)
Once the carrots have been distributed, the blows of the sticks
begin to come. The thrashings of green wood are whipping the
backs of the cadres in the entire apparatus of the State. Actually,
before coming back to Hanoi to occupy the executive posts in the
administration, all the civil servants were obliged to undertake
courses to stimulate their vigilance against the “sugar-coated
bullets” which might be shot at them and hit them should they give
in to the temptation of an easy life in corruption and debauchery!
“Unfortunately, the lessons were fruitless. In urban life, which
is infected by the virus of moral decadence and human
degradation, the favorable conditions for the perversion of the
beings are prospering. The cadres fall for the seduction of the
* 71 *
senses and become prey for all the vices. Giving free rein to crazy
spending and living it up in high style, they have irrepressible
needs for money and try to get as much of it as possible.
Therefore, they commit all kinds of offenses and crimes and thus,
according to what the communists are saying, the exclusive
monopoly in the world belongs to the Chicago gangsters. The
essential thing is the ability to acquire, by all means and at
whatever cost, fantastic sums of money sought for a consuming
thirst! Inextinguishable, alas! We are distressed”.
(In the audience, there is a semblance of sighing and it is
said: “Whose fault is it? You should cry out tears of blood.
The good reason being that you do not apply the Marxism you
have taught. First, because you forget the principle by which
anything can turn around in the opposite direction: the good
can turn to the bad, quality to default, virtue to vice. You
naively believe in the student whose progress you have
lovingly followed, to whom you have awarded a certificate of
virtue and considered worthy to be placed in positions of
responsibility. The ancient philosophers teach the flow of
things, the perpetual becoming, exactly like your Marxist
followers, who profess the dialectics of change of things in
their contrary. You prevail in your materialism but you confine
yourselves in the platonic idealism by believing in the eternity
of Ideas, the world and men. Yes, these individuals that you
have trained, accepted in your ranks, who are asserting their
faith in the Party and communism, whose fawning makes your
face light up with satisfaction, you give them the good
communist god without demanding from them any confession!
You invest them in sinecures and privileges where they are
assaulted by such temptations which are even unknown to
Saint-Antoine! You fail to watch them, surround their activities
by a minimum of fences, help them from falling into the trap of
the devil and concupiscence; you believe in their holiness!
You are teaching the masses that our friends are always
friends, our enemies will always remain our enemies, that the
communist doctrine is bathing in the water of Jouvence
[Fountain of Eternal Youth] and will eternally conserve its
beauty and youth. You see yourselves as the Adonis, the
ones you have imposed themselves for the respect of the
masses, hoisted to their pedestals, you believe that they are
* 72 *
endowed with immutable youth, permanent beauty, stable
intelligence, that defy time, are immune to the vicissitudes of
age, body infirmities, free of all the physical shortcomings and
moral weaknesses!
Therefore, your fundamental, unforgivable error, has been
for not having adopted the philosophy of mobility and change,
and consequently, for having neglected the impacts of your
thoughts and acts.
The second enormous error that you have committed is to
blame others for everything and nothing about yourselves.
Your presumption is inadmissible and disastrous because the
people you have condemned refuse to recognize the
pertinence, aptness of your accusations which are too partial,
linear, unilateral, and stand up against the punishments which
you have inflicted on them. But there is something even more
serious! You do not see your share of responsibility, you do
not admit your own mistakes, deficiencies, errors which are
provoking, by the fact that you hold power, effects which
harmfulness is multiplied ad infinitum. When you do not know
and have not learned anything from your personal
shortcomings and incorrigible prejudices, from the
preconceived judgments which are elaborated by your mind
but not sanctioned by reality, the dreadful, deplorable and
disastrous outcome is the fact that you will relapse again
tomorrow into your culpabilities and make them even more
While such reflections pup up in the minds of the listeners and
lead to whispered exchanges of opinions, the speaker raises his
voice to begin his closing speech for the prosecution:
“If the moral degradation of the human person already
constitutes a painful drama for the Party and the intelligentsia, the
desertion of the ideological platform by the participants of the
“Hundred Flowers” Movement is even more tragic. What has been
demanded? The eviction of politics from the intellectual activity
and the introduction of democracy into the national life.
* 73 *
“But is democracy lacking in Vietnam? People who claim this
should go back in time and compare the situation before and after
1945. Previously, just at the very eve of the Revolution, famine
caused the death of two million peasants. The two most
populated provinces in the delta, Thai Binh and Nam Dinh, were
decimated. Millions of peasants, emaciated to become living
skeletons, dragged themselves on the roads. They were seeking
not rice but anything edible to alleviate a little the burning fire in
their stomachs. People flocked from everywhere to the towns, in
the hope of picking up something which could prolong life just for a
short moment! But the dying simply collapsed and the cadavers
lined the roads and streets. Now, such a spectacle, which wrings
the heart, has disappeared: one does not even see a beggar put
out his hand in the streets.
“Previously, a people who pride themselves on a millennium
tradition of culture and glorious literature, were suffering from
illiteracy. Now, everybody reads the newspapers and all the
children go to school, even in the most remote hamlets of the
highlands. School attendance is impressive, people who work in
the day are taking up evening classes and the Universities, all
over the country, are welcoming students of both sexes and
dispensing to them modern high learning.
“Previously, production was reduced to agriculture and
handicraft; now, the factories are sprouting everywhere and the
industrial production, in its process of growth, gives birth to a
working class which numbers are increasing day after day and
which quality is improving continuously!
“Previously, in the countryside, the mandarins and notables
sucked the people’s blood, drove them to the worst of poverty.
Now, at all levels, the people’s assemblies, composed of the
majority of peasants, administer the country and proclaim the right
of the people to be the master of their destiny.
“Previously, we were the slaves of the colonialists, now, we
constitute a free and independent country and, after Dien Bien
Phu, our word bears weight in the world. All the peoples of the
Third World envy our prestige.
* 74 *
“Is there more to be said except that our people decide of their
fate without any foreign interference, that they enjoy, therefore,
their freedom and independence in the governing of the country,
the organization of production, the administration of justice, which
no longer depends on the jurisdiction of the colonialists’ courts, in
the defense of the territory which is no longer put in the hands of
foreign mercenaries… So, I ask you: feudalism and colonialism
have vacated the place; who else but the Vietnamese people to
take their places? And what are the people doing when they hold
their fate in their hands? They structure the State and make it
operate BY the people and FOR the people. Is it not, yes or no,
“Are you questioning me? What is communism doing in
Vietnamese democracy? Well, let me answer you. You have a
baby who is trying to walk. Is there not the need for you to guide it
so that it does not trip and fall? - You are the new owner of an
automobile which you do not yet know how to drive. Is there not
the need for you to ask for help from a driving-school to teach you
handle the steering wheel, avoid running on the pavement and
cause an accident?
“With your permission, let us go back in time. In 1945, the
juncture of events, in the country, makes it possible to hope for the
re-conquest of freedom and independence. Yet, the people, who
were decimated by the famine and deprived of all political
experience, cannot by themselves carry out this task of Hercules.
Even the patriotic and courageous revolutionaries are heading
towards an inescapable failure should they commit their forces
without any command or operational plan in a blind combat. The
right cause by itself is not enough. A thoughtful directing is
required in order to avoid the recurrence of the tragedy of the
Nghe Tinh Soviet. Our Party has done nothing except assume the
direction and responsibility of the revolutionary movement. You
know what magnificent results have come out of this. The
collaboration between the ruling Party and the people has turned
out to be fruitful and efficient. It is not within our power to deny
these prestigious victories or erase such a glorious past!
“Therefore, in our county, the Party and the people,
communism and democracy, are related together. History has thus
* 75 *
decided, let us respect its will. Furthermore, from the time the
Party has led the people, guided their steps, lightened their path,
should the people not congratulate themselves: the collaboration
has turned out to be beneficial, and our country is able to enjoy a
legitimate pride for the sensational and unexpected victories that
we have won under the aegis of communism. The past vouches
for the present and future. The two friends have got along well, is it
then necessary, reasonable, to put an end to a situation which
excellence is evident to everybody?
“Furthermore, with regard to those who demand the end to the
tutelage of the Party over the people, have they asked themselves
what will happen to the country if the Party gives up the leadership
of the people? What other political party could take the place of
our communist Party? You know well what is and what is worth a
political party in the capitalist world. Each party defends its own
interests and, in a subsidiary manner, those of the people who
have voted for them. The professional politicians do not shun any
turpitudes, any ignominy to fill their pockets and impose their
selfish and greedy aims over the will of the people. They have
little concern about the scandals of which they are the objects, and
even the unspeakable sanctions which are condemning them?
They are more than ready to make off, to take the road of escape
and restart a life of luxury abroad. At the time of the French
occupation, there was the intrusion of political customs from
capitalism: you know too well the actions in the past of the
corrupted politicians who placed their gold and funds, stolen from
the people, in the Swiss banks, had themselves built luxurious
villas overseas, as fallback points. They had planes ready for heir
escape, taking with them tons of gold which can assure them and
their off-spring a magnificent future! Do you want to entrust the
fate of the country, as well as that of yourself and children to such
unsavory characters?
“If you feel that the people need leadership, can you have any
better choice than our Party that is crowned with prestige, filled
with glory, sparkling of purity, and having members who compete
among themselves in revolutionary fervor and socialist faith?”
(During a pause, the listeners exchange their opinions in
whispered voices: - The reasoning which we just heard can only
* 76 *
convince the public of a fun fair, of average culture, not versed in
analysis, unaccustomed to reflection, ready to swallow anything.
Of course, the people must be led. But the problem of leadership
raises two questions. Firstly, is it necessary, recommended to trust
the leadership to a single organ or individual, whose competence
would cover all the fields of the national activity? Let us admit that
there is no universal genius: a good general may, if need be,
command a brigade of nurses for the putting in place of the antipregnancy
coils to fertile women. But the management of the
economy and organization of the production demand the
possession of very specialized knowledge and experience. The
intellectual masses cannot be subjected to the hegemony of
persons who are just more or less literate. Yet, the Party retains
for itself the monopoly of leadership in all the domains!
Secondly: to whom must the leadership of the people be
attributed? Usually, it is the people who choose, elect their
representatives and recipients of their mandates, oversee and
control the behavior of the latter to who they give the order to act
in their interests and for the realizations of their aspirations. This
is the principle of democracy: that is to say, government BY the
people and FOR the people. Yet, in Viet Nam, as in the entire
communist world, it is the Party that claims for itself the political
monopoly of power and the overall direction of the Government.
The Constitution can provide a division of power, assign the
executive power to the Council of ministers, the judiciary power to
the Bench whose independence is theoretically assured, but, in
fact, the branches are riddled with communists who run them in
the way desired by the Party. So, this kind of “democracy” being
glorified by the communists is only a masquerade which provokes
hilarity but, at the same time, alas, the ruin of the country and the
increasing, irreversible poverty of the people!
The most elementary and natural human rights are not granted;
even individual freedom in the country is not respected. Not only
can the Party order its police to carry out arrests of people and
their detention forever, without having to go through any court of
justice, but also for some leaders of the top echelons together with
policemen at night to get into the homes of their political enemies,
take them away, handcuffed, and put in prison for life, without any
judgment, in the secret jails from where they will only come out as
* 77 *
corpses. One has to wash one’s dirty laundry in the family and,
since there is so much dirty laundry to be done everyday, one
feels the necessity to decree that the Vietnamese world is a closed
one, as in the case of the entire communist world. Inside, one can
give free rein to unimaginable insanities, barbaric persecutions,
and abominable follies. No one can have a look inside the racket
[gehenne] where apocalyptic crimes are perpetrated and dishonor
the human being. Likewise, on his part, the despot does not
tolerate any suggestion, counsel or proposition, does not accept
any criticism, and does not want to look at his devilish face in any
mirror, he is struggling with himself in his labyrinth where he is
suffocating from his errors and crimes.)
Has the speaker been able to guess our reflections? May be.
In any case, he goes on with his usual diatribe against capitalism.
Concurrently with the eulogy in honor of socialism:
“Are you denying the good deeds of socialism in our country? It
is thanks to the Party that we are enjoying the good things
presently. I grant you that the Party has not been elected by the
people but due to its past of revolutionary combat, the sacrifices
that it has accepted, the victories it has achieved, it has received
the support of the people and has shown itself worthy of this! Its
interests have merged with those of the masses, it has worked for
the common good and imposed itself to popular admiration by its
wisdom and morality. An identical purpose, a communion of
interests has created indissoluble bonds. The Party and the
people have boarded the same vessel and are heading for the
same haven of grace. The people understand and approve that
the Party is isolating itself in its activity, organization, functioning,
in it promotions as well as condemnations, in the elaboration of its
line of operations and diplomacy, and the people understand the
necessity of secrecy in which the Party has surrounded itself for
the good of the people! They do not only understand but also give
the Party their approval!
“Is there anything which should be envied from the bourgeois
democracies? A plurality of parties which are opposing one
another in their appalling struggle for their selfish and private
interests, which forget the interests of the State and neglect those
of the people, provoke the financial and political scandals, and
* 78 *
finally exploit the people, aggravate poverty, plunge the minds in
an understandable sadness and pessimism!
“Do we, the intellectuals, envy the bourgeois democracies for
their full and complete freedom in the field of intellectuality, in
research and in creativity? I am asking you: do the editors favor
the publication of works of value, of high nobility of the soul, or
products which sell well because they flatter the bestial instincts of
the human being or popularize tendentious, unjust and unilateral
denigration of Marxism and of socialism? Do recognize that the
thirst for lucre darkens the conscience, it degrades the minds
which are overcome by partial and unilaterally linear subjectivism,
demeans and prostitutes the human beings. Would you like us to
sink into such latrines where the air is polluted by the stench of
(In the audience, opinions are exchanged from one listener to
another: “Our speaker, like all communists, lacks the sense of
nuance, justice, and objectivity. He condemns in bloc capitalism,
as he advocates in bloc what he calls socialism. We are not
denying the crimes of capitalism and its politicians. But there are
advantages which make it attractive, in spite of the vices which are
infecting it. All the more so, generally speaking, it respects and
carries out the natural laws of man, which constitute the criteria of
civilization in human society. No social and political regime can
pride itself to be perfect, because whatever comes out of man’s
mind and hand possesses obvious defects, together with its
qualities. The error would be to pronounce a unilaterally linear
judgment which considers only one aspect of reality.
Therefore, if there are intellectuals who are defending political
pluralism, although it permits the proliferation of the inestimable
bunch of “politicians,” it is because the logic of reality commands,
if it wants to reach a beneficial efficiency, that it perceives the
multiplicity and contradictions of the problem in question. Pluralism
admits the coexistence of adverse opinions, dissimilar truths, and,
in its essence, it bears the meaning of democracy. The communist
party cannot accept this. It clings to its political monopoly,
considers itself the unique holder of all measures having a
democratic nature. Pluralism becomes the battlefield where
democracy and communism are confronting each other.
* 79 *
It can be understood that communism is not only happy to
enclose its world but also wants to maintain, within its closed
world, absolute secrecy about the entire activity inside the Party.
If it were the case of an ordinary political party, as in the capitalist
world, such an attitude would be nothing but normal. But here, it is
the communist Party that is holding power and governing the
country, in autocracy and dictatorship. All of its decisions concern
and interest the entire people, not only in its line of conduct and
policies, which are destined to be published, but also in the
promoting of its dignitaries and superior cadres within the State
apparatus. Each personality follows an ideological and social
tendency which is known to public opinion, therefore, its promotion
or disgrace makes it possible to predict in which direction the Party
goes. Since it is hiding its game, it is shutting the doors of its
council chamber to outside curiosity. But the best guarded
secrets, sooner or later, leak out to the public, thanks to the
indiscretion of some people who are fed in the inner circles and
know their ways around.
Besides, certain facts brought to the knowledge of the public
are highly eloquent. It goes without saying, the disposal of the
secret funds, the formation of the secret services, the organization
of the secret missions, fall under “Top Secret” and are kept as the
great mystery. Very few of the initiated are aware of this.
But certain patent facts light up the reflections of people. The
public know that the crooks of daylight robbery have impressed
the very high ranking dignitaries with the mirage of high-profit
making by the economic enterprises. The dignitaries, like
phalenes, just burn their wings by the fire of wonderful hopes.
They have given gorgeous and royal treatment to the wise-guys,
have spent millions to finally put them in jail. But no proceedings
have ever been instituted against them, the peasant’s credulity of
the tricked dignitaries gives cause for general hilarity, it has been
decided to better hide the affair under the bushes and avoid the
ridicule for the victims who have been caught by the luring mirrors!
Too bad for the State budget since those responsible for it
scrupulously observe the order for silence, to avoid exposing the
Party to the public scorn! But, for one affair becoming known to
the public, many other deplorable stories have been buried inside
the closed-door world and by Reason of the Party! It is whispered
* 80 *
that all the deals inside and outside the country, all the contracts,
between the State and the foreign Governments, which come
under the authorities of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, allow
the licensed cadres to receive commissions, discounts and tips
which enrich them, the cadres and their families to enjoy
throughout many generations. Even the individuals who have
been unmasked and subjected to the secret justice of the Party
only risk a maximum of a re-assignment, demotion, at worst,
expulsion from the Party or from the function, without having to
make restitution of the wealth stolen from the people.
But there are facts which cannot be thrown away into the
depths of the wells of scandals. First of all, they are the ravages
of NEPOTISM and then those of CORRUPTION. Nepotism is
practiced directly by the Greats or, indirectly, by their henchmen
inflamed with the interested zeal to please the masters! That is
how the blue-blood children go abroad for their studies, then come
back to put their behinds in the directing seats of public Services
where it only suffices to know how to sign one’s name in order to
pocket fantastic salaries and commissions. And never mind that
the chariot of the State gets bogged down in the grooves and
tumbles downhill with its economy, its wheels in the air! But it is
very much because of the corruption that the State is tottering!
The corruption manifests itself under multiple forms, the principal
ones are direct or indirect thefts of the State properties,
embezzlement, the making and use of forgery, land grabbing of
public domains, the use of public premises for private purposes.
To this multiplicity of forms of corruption is added the rapidity of
the epidemic. The Greats give the bad example and the impunity
which they are enjoying in pushing the little ones to set their feet
onto the path of lucre without risk. And, sooner or later, immorality
gains ground on the surface as well as in depth. Never before in
any country, even in a capitalist one, has such an astounding
spectacle been observed, but how demoralizing as well: to see the
entire Administration of the State drowned in venality. With regard
to the ordinary employees, the low levels of their salaries can
explain the progress of their guilt which is encouraged by the
behavior of the big shots who are beyond the reach of the law and
respect of the Bench through Party discipline and in the hope of
rapid promotions. Immorality, like a black tidal wave, submerges
and swallows up all the organs. The frightened consciences fly off
* 81 *
swiftly to the stratosphere, far away from the stinking miasma in
which the State is rotting and agonizing, composed by the limitless
and arbitrary power exercised by the people holding it! When the
degeneration of the State and the decline of man come into play,
with their interactive effects, and join their efforts in the same
direction, the hour for debacle will not take long to strike.
The self-serving explanation about the political monopoly of the
Party is admissible when it claims its prestige, morality, glory, to
impose itself on the people and acquires their trust. Unfortunately,
the dialectics of mobility and change which it teaches but does not
apply to its personal use in the elaboration of its line of conduct
and decision making, its partiality in laying into its enemies who,
by the way, could be its friends tomorrow, its stubbornness in
fixing enemies and friends in the eternity of platonic ideas, its
refusal in listening to different sounds of the bell, in accepting the
reality and its demands, in trying to know itself and correct its
mistakes, all this will lead it to an unavoidable disaster which it
needs to assess in advance the gravity.
Instead of bringing down the ax of the executioner on the
heads of the intellectuals whose only crime is to love their
fatherland and people, the communists must know that the only
enemies they have are just themselves. Their enemy: it is their
subjectivism which, excessively, makes them believe that they are
gods endowed with superhuman infallibility, installed in heaven,
above the world of reality, legality, the rule of law, justice and
equity. Their folly is to believe that they are always right. Even
and especially when they are wrong! This illness requires
hospitalization in a psychiatric clinic!
This exchange of impressions is carried out in a low voice for
not lacking in politeness to the person monopolizing the talking
and avoiding to alert the snitches and jailers who have slipped in
with the assembly.
The speaker has begun the last part of his speech:
- “Dear comrades, what I want to stress here is that democracy,
etymologically speaking, is merely the government BY the people.
However, for us communists, we understand it in the sense of
* 82 *
government FOR the people. Let us have a look around us and
admire the exalting spectacle of happiness! The kindergartens are
welcoming the children while their parents are at work, and giving
them all the necessary care. The children who are of school ages
are flocking to the schools. The studious youth are attending
courses at the University and are devoting their leisure time to
enrich their knowledge at the libraries. They are benefiting from
free education, as the case of the sick who are receiving medical
care, hospitalization and costly operations without having to pay
anything. The medias and State publications are diffusing a
healthy and moral culture which teaches the love of socialism and
peace. The cinemas and theaters offer to the masses
entertainment of quality which uplifts the mind and forms good
citizens. The stores of the State are overfilled with food and
consumption goods. The security is assured: no abject crimes,
hold-ups, racketeering; the streets are clean, the people are
courteous, the kids are well-behaved. The Brother countries cover
us with a moving look and grant us all the necessary aids.
Abroad, we enjoy an admiring prestige. We do not know the
social ills, such as prostitution, drugs, and gambling dens. Giving
tips is unknown to us. All the cadres and employees pride
themselves on honesty and purity: they are not corrupted and do
not accept “bribes.” We do not know what the future will have in
store for us, whether or not we will always continue to receive the
same brotherly assistance from the socialist States. But, for the
moment, we are leading a healthy and happy life, although we are
still listed among the poorest nations according to the international
classification! But no wealth can compensate for the wonderful
chance of having a glorious fatherland, an honored Party, an
unshakable faith in socialism! Are we not proud to be the sons of
a Viet Nam which fate is envied by the world?
“Why is it then that there are intellectuals who are naïve
enough to demand freedom and democracy as if we were
deprived of them? Obviously, we have our conception of freedom
and democracy, which bear the communist mark and the seal of
the Party. Obviously, these intellectuals constitute only a small
group. Just look at how the intellectual masses despise the
renegades and pity their blindness, how the people look at those
sick persons who are infected by the virus of capitalism. The
popular masses know better than anyone else the debt they have
* 83 *
with communism: the dignity of man, the happiness to be master
of one’s destiny and that of the country, the glory for having
defeated colonialism at Dien Bien Phu.
“We, communists, and our people do not consider the
intellectuals to be at fault as enemies to be liquidated, but as
misled and sick persons, terribly backward about a modern world
which believes that the future of humanity is in socialism. I am
asking these retarded persons: on which side is the truth? The
side of a handful of backward persons or that of the entire people,
among whom stand the quasi-unanimity of the intellectuals? Yes,
the entire people have lined up under the banner of Ho Chi Minh
and the Party.”
“The truth is on the side of the people! And the people have
approved and supported Ho Chi Minh and his Party. Therefore,
we decree that those who deny the truth of the people are the
enemies of the people. They better consider this as said.”
A heavy silence is spreading. Not one single clapping of
applause as customs usually require at the close of the meeting.
The storm is coming near. Leaving the meeting room, the
participants gather in small groups in Pasteur Square and the
confabs are quickly set off.
- There is no doubt possible, it is a declaration of war. The canons
will thunder. There is no need for sophism. The truth is not on the
side of force.
- The silence of the people does not mean their acceptance of the
positions taken by the Party. In the course of the agrarian reform
which was aimed at beheading the class of landowners, and that
of the real estate reform at uprooting the city property owners, the
people have remained silent. They are used to it, having been
trained to keep their mouths shut. The Party has acknowledged its
errors in the Agrarian Reform; in the future, it will proclaim its
errors for the real estate reform. The silence of the people does
not mean its adhesion but rather the opposite, generated by fear.
The communists know this well. That is why, in order to impose
themselves on the people, they take cover behind the authority of
Ho Chi Minh.
* 84 *
- We know what importance the communists give to the
expression “enemies of the people”. In advance, we feel sorry for
the fate of the comrades who are qualified as “retarded” or
“misled”. If they are not taken to the scaffold or execution stake,
they will die of a longer death, more painful, but discrete, in secret
isolation. Whatever, over the heads of the most courageous or
most naïve of us, the aim is to bring down the intellectuals
themselves and reduce them to absolute silence, in lieu of a free,
consenting acceptance of the communist despotism. From now
on, the three “enemies” of the Party have been liquidated: no more
landowners in the countryside, no more real estate owners in the
towns, no more intellectuals worthy of the name in the whole
country! The Party can give free rein to its fantasies and
- Yet, what crime have these unfortunate friends of ours
committed? They are not contemplating any exclusion of the
Party from the political life, not even to overthrow it. They simply
dream of asking it, the ruling Party, in view of improving the
political environment, to accept and carry out a few reforms which
will benefit not only the people but also the Party itself. It is,
therefore, sophism to declare that the people support the Party
and those misled are enemies of the people. The communist
breathes with lies, hypocrisies, but his capital error is to seat his
tyranny on illusory appearances which he interprets in his own
way and makes use of it to annihilate the people he labels his
The sword of Damocles is hanging over the heads of the
intellectuals and the authorities in power can choose either the
psychiatric hospital, or the slow death with life imprisonment in an
anonymous jail, or even a simulated accident with no one
responsible for it.
I know the fate which awaits me, similar to the others who are
involved in the same efforts of making an opening to breathe at
last some fresh air. We have been fooled in a vile manner by
these leaders who are well versed in the art of laying traps, and
setting up ambushes, to kill people they say are their enemies!
Machiavelli, should he return to this world, must attend the school
* 85 *
of the communist leaders, whose tortuous barbarism and inhuman
ingenuity are without precedent in the history of the world.
I am in the first batch. Each accused has to appear before a
tribunal composed of members of the organization in which he has
carried out his activity. While I am cycling from my home to the
headquarters of the National Front of the Fatherland, at the
invitation of the Party, I try to imagine how the session for my
judgment will take place. Apparently, it is for self-criticism that I
have to present myself. In fact, it is a political jurisdiction that I
have to deal with. The Party has designated those who will sit
behind a long table covered with a green cloth and play the role of
the public ministry that does not deliver any indictment but
presents me with questions which are aimed at proving my
culpability. The interrogation is done in public, and the main
charges are chosen for their contents and for the “jury” that has
formulated them. The scenario has been studied and worked out
in the smallest details. The judgment is not pronounced at the end
of the trial. It is the Party, in the back stage, which will draw up the
content. The targeted objective is to “educate” the accused, so
that he can attain his redemption, and the public as well, so that
people do not make the errors which are blamed on the culprit.
Therefore, one attends a trial and not a session of self-criticism,
as one enjoys calling such a meeting. The communists know,
among other talents, how to invent euphemism. It is always the
same art of playing the double-game, to lie not to oneself but to
others, to falsify the truth, to try and dazzle people. The methods
that they make use of are tortuous like the head which has given
birth to them. The same word is always repeated in their
language: “education”. Each act which is carried out, each activity
* 86 *
which is organized, must serve the same aims: teach the masses
the way to behave in life, as communists!
But when the Front is set up as a Court of justice to judge a
peer, a difficulty presents itself: the Front is composed of
notabilities having different social tendencies, which embody the
entire people in their diversity and plurality. The common
characteristic of all these persons is that they are not communists,
have not been admitted into the Party. Only the President of the
Central Committee of the Front is a high dignitary of the Party. But
all the cadres in function in the Secretariat are young, dynamic
communists, with sharp eyes but only open their mouths to make
reports to the responsible people of the Front. Whenever, at the
suggestion of the Party, the Front votes for a certain decision to
approve one policy or another, the Party believes it is having the
entire people behind it, although the people have never chosen
the members of the Front and have never given them any
mandate, different from the National Assembly which derives from
elections more or less operated by remote control. Since the
communists have an unbridled, morbid taste for appearances, and
the Front is offering the consent of the people to the Party, the
leaders are showing ostensibly, officially and solemnly, much
consideration for the Front. All the more so since the latter does
not exercise directly on the masses, does not receive any
complaints, critiques, and even ignores them, and, consequently,
does not run any risk of being disapproved by them. Between the
Party and the Front, there is an exchange of politeness, courtesy,
popular diplomacy, platonic formalism, all the things that both are
mutually content with!
Therefore, I am asking myself who will play the role of
prosecutor and throw at me an indictment in the form of questions
concerning my “errors’. The catholic prelates, the Venerable
monks, certainly have authority but they are difficult to
indoctrinate. The delegates of the Syndicates, women, youth,
peasants, are lacking in authority and self-confidence to assume
the task. Thus, there is an intellectual, Dr. Pham Khac Quang, a
dignified and honorable intellectual that I know. The communist
maneuver is to give the sword of the striker to a person whose
relations with the guilty person make it possible to deliver the
decisive and meaningful blows in a political manner. Children were
* 87 *
mobilized to accuse their fathers in the agrarian reform, tenants to
accuse the real estate owners, the angelic intellectual to accuse
the satanic intellectual! It is in the communist logic of things!
The Central Committee of the Front holds its sessions in the
great hall of the building which was formerly reserved for the
Ambassador of Nationalist China, in the Trang Thi Street. I had
occasions to go there often and participate in meetings at the time
when I was in the group of the Elected that were placed on the
right side of the Lord. I know all the “peers” there, those who are
now deciding about my fate!
This time, I am entering the meeting hall like a bull being
thrown into the arena. It is, indeed, an arena for all the tables are
lined up along the walls to provide a free area in the middle of
room. Behind the tables are gathered a multitude of people, some
are seated if they are Committee members of the Front, others are
standing if they are only rubbernecks, most of them are journalists
or people affiliated to the mass organizations. It is the public for a
bullfight, thirsty of strong emotions, and burning by a desire to
watch the unfolding of a spectacle with an indescribable originality!
Similar to the bull entering the arena, I look over the entire
assembly. While the people who are standing open wide their
eyes and eagerly tend their ears, my “peers” sitting behind their
tables seem to be somewhat uneasy in their function, one which
they are not accustomed to. If the questions that they put to me
are already earmarked by those “in power,” they cannot conceal
their embarrassment by their tone and elocution. I cannot refrain
myself from feeling sorry for them to be trapped in a false
The questions abound around the first charge:
- “Comrade, are you aware of the wrong you have caused to the
Revolution and to yourself by letting the text of your conference
appear abroad?”
- I reject this assertion. To date, I have never let my writings
appear abroad. It is without my knowledge and against my will that
this has happened. When the Movement of the Hundred Flowers
* 88 *
broke out in Vietnam, comrade Xuan Thuy, Secretary General of
the Front, asked me to give a conference on democracy in Europe
and in France. It was in this very hall that I gave the talk, in the
presence of comrade Truong Chinh, Secretary General of the
Party, and other members of the Central Committee of the Front,
who are judging me now at this hour, and during a whole day,
three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. It is
at this period that the Party sees itself compelled to recognize its
errors in the agrarian reform and to undertake the reshaping of the
Party. The word of Truong Chinh has tolled the knell for the entire
people to be plunged into sadness and mourning: “we strike
ourselves by striking others”! A colossal error has cost the lives of
dozens of thousands of innocent people. Thousands of widows
and orphans, draped in white cloth, have come to my lawyer’s
office, from all parts of the country, asking me to rehabilitate the
memories of the victims and to raise the responsibility of the Party,
of the guilty ones. To my great regret, I have told them that such
an action is well beyond my abilities, because the problem, being
political, does not come under the law and the ordinary
jurisdictions. But the chock which I feel is like a blow of the
sledgehammer to my head and it is difficulty for me to stand up. I
say to myself, and everybody is doing it with me, the repetition of
such catastrophes in the future must be prevented. Such
massacres can never take place in a so-called “bourgeois”
democracy for the law administers power and sets up around the
rulers effective barriers capable of opposing their folly generated
by an infantile voluntarism and an autocracy which has put out the
eyes in modeling its conduct to that of a “brother” country.
The dramatic circumstances in which I was invited to speak,
the presence of a public already adhering to the democratic ideas
but with little knowledge about the legal regulations making up the
foundation and framework of the democratic activity, directed my
expose. Since I gave my conference before the authorities of the
Party and the Front, I have exercised restrain of my passions and
language, so as not to infringe on the principles of savoir-vivre and
of courtesy which have guided my relations with the authorities.
I did not have the habit, or the time, to draft my conference, as I
used to with my teaching courses and speeches for the defense in
court. It was because of the implorations by Xuan Thuy and Duong
* 89 *
Bach Mai that I agreed to write down on paper the ideas for which
my audience congratulated me. One would like to read the text to
feed one’s reflections. I had two copies typed out which I at once
sent to the Secretariat of the Front. Therefore, I wish to insist on
two essential points: it is not me who had the initiative of the
conference, it is not me who decided to have it in written form. In
these two circumstances, it was at the invitation of the authorities
of the Party and Front that I carried out these two actions. Without
any premeditation. My good faith is, therefore, total.
With regard to the fact that a copy of my text has been taken
and sent abroad, in this time of the cold war, the slightest mistake
and error of communism is exploited without any decency, I
cannot be made to bear the responsibility for this. No proof has
been and will ever be provided about my culpability, or any secret
meeting with a foreign agent, or the handing over a copy of my
conference by me to anybody whatsoever. But, according to a
well established habit among us, instead of trying to establish the
responsibility of the offense, or the lack of attention, the
carelessness, in the ranks of the members of the Party and of the
Front, those who have received or assumed the transmission of
the document and who, whether knowingly or not, have scattered
around papers considered of little importance, instead of
questioning themselves, prefer to incriminate someone else. That
is easier, but it is contrary to the rules of law and justice!
So, I take the liberty of asking you: which is the most serious,
the errors perpetrated by the Party in the agrarian reform and of
which it has beaten its breast, or the negligence of someone who
has dragged around the document relating such errors, or more
exactly implying them? In both cases, I am in no way responsible
for it and I request you to take note of it.
- Well, then! Let us move on and deal with another problem.
What opinion do you have of the Front? In what way do you want
to improve its structure and functioning? What we are deploring is
that a member of the Central Committee of the Front is launching
attacks against it. The game is not well played. Are you not
aware of the wrong that you are causing us, according to the
common popular saying, when we expose the deformity of our
* 90 *
bare back to public scorn? Is it not better for the family quarrels to
be discussed outside the public arena?
- I think that your blames have mistaken their destination. It is to
the Party that you should have addressed them. In the course of
the struggles “in the family,” in the agrarian reform, do you not
remember that we received orders to set the children up against
the parents? The anathemas, totally made up from nothing, came
out of the mouths of the off-spring that were well trained, had to
bear the seal of the undeniable truth! Consecrated in its notability
by the ruling authorities, and included in your honorable company,
but not to my wish, I did not take much time to find out the nature
of the Front, the function to which it has been imposed and carried
out splendidly at the great satisfaction of the leaders, although
without any impact on the people. It is a construction of cardboard
which has been erected by order of a movie-director and, once the
filming sequence has been shot, it will be broken up and thrown to
the garbage dumps. It is a head filled with logic and formalism,
creating whole sets of symmetric arrangements, systems of
artificial balance with fake windows, and taking the initiative of
being a pendant with the National Assembly. The latter, made up
of “elected” members from the territorial constituencies, normally
limits itself in the legislative function. In fact, this legislative
function is shared with the Council of Ministers that carries out not
only the laws voted by the legislative Assembly but also the
decrees, circulars, as well as legislates and governs the country.
These two organizations differ from each other by the fact the
Assembly gathers the “elected” members from the entire territory
of the country while the Front brings together members that have
been chosen in the masses and reflects the social, professional
and religious tendencies. But both of them meet each other in the
same attitude for the Party, that of subjection, agreement without
any reserve whatsoever with whatever its decisions may be, in the
absence of any discord or noisemaking. The Assembly performs
its voting by the show of hands, while the Front does it by bowing
their heads and dropping down their hands. But both of them also
manifest the unanimity of their views with the leaders and enable
the latter to light up their faces with a big smile of satisfaction. The
Party considers itself the holder of the truth which the two
organizations assume its diffusion and propaganda, each one in
* 91 *
its own sphere of influence, and areas of activities. These are the
two crutches which help the Party maintain its march.
Comrades, I have never been invited to present my candidacy
to the legislative elections and, if I am present in your honorable
company, it is not over my dead body but according to my wishes
which are excluding all political glory and looking forward to
nothing else but the ability to seclude myself inside a timely
anonymity suitable for my intellectual activities!
Once incorporated into the Front, I soon realize the falseness
of the position which I am made to occupy, as well as the perfect
uselessness of the role attributed to the Front. All the laws and
policies are published in the press which is of the State and makes
it its duty to do so, and are broadcasted the whole day long
throughout the country, so one must be at the same time both deaf
and blind for not being aware of this! The Front does not have the
need to hold meetings in order to make known to the public the
texts which everybody has read or heard of. But, if the Front no
longer plays the role of a loud-speaker, what service could it then
give to the Party and people?
It could exercise for the Party the function of counselor about
the laws and policies that the Party has elaborated. Having
gathered in its ranks the representatives of all the social
tendencies, it could give pertinent and judicious opinions about
propositions or projects which have been submitted to it.
Unfortunately, whether because of the instruction it has received
or by its own initiative, for understandable reasons in any case,
and it would be inappropriate to dwell upon, the Front always
adheres to the theme of the report made in the presentation or that
of the reporting official in charge of giving some explanations.
After having attended some of these meetings, I cannot prevent
my memory from rushing back to the times of my youth when I
enjoyed going to the street, Rue des Cantonnais, located between
the Silk street and the Sugar street, to look at the ceramic dolls
with their heads always bowing and their hands hanging down, in
a sign of assent. What idea had germinated in the mind of the
artisan who shaped up these fat-bellied figures to which a unique
and same gesture was given? Was it to express contempt, to
convey the bantering and rebellious vigor of the people against the
* 92 *
mandarins whose activity was reduced to the unique gesture of
submission and obedience? When a person is transformed into a
metronome, a robot, imitates the mechanism of a production line,
it can be said that life has dried up from its source, that the same
mechanism repeating itself ad infinitum is a forerunning sign of
death. Bergson teaches us that movement in its multiple
expressions is a criteria of life, that automatism which is paralyzed
in the identity of a gesture characterizes matter. On the one hand,
mobility, change, plurality, are attesting the presence of life. On
the other hand, immobility, inertia, the immutable, are signaling the
progress of matter. The struggle between life and death, between
spirit and matter, is the struggle between what is moving,
transforming, diversifying in its multiplicity and what always
remains at the same place, an identical, unchanged, invariable
position and condition. To curb, stop the advance of matter,
safeguard life in its blossoming and the spirit in its activity, laughter
offers an effective and salutary cure. I am not guilty of committing
impropriety for laughing at others but I have laughed a lot at
myself when I have to bow my head and drop down my hand.
An examination, even a preliminary one, of the structuring of
our State permits us to think that our leaders have the choice
between two attitudes:
Either formalism, which pleases itself with a superficial
approach to the beings and things, finds satisfaction in the
flattering appearances, accepts the unanimity of the bowed heads
and dropping hands, enjoys only one sound of the bell, the concert
of praises, gets drunk on the fragrance of the censers, with eyes
closed in beatitude! In such conditions, the Party can continue with
the sleep of the just, leaves everything in its status quo, whether
beneficial or prejudicial to the people and, consequently to the
Party whose political monopoly proclaims the responsibility.
Or the leaders concern themselves with assessing the hearts
and the backs of the people, searching for the truth hidden by the
smiles, salutes, bowings and unanimity of the applauses. But how
to find out what the people are feeling and thinking? Quite simple,
really. They must be given free speech, the ability to bare what
they have dissimulated up to now in the secret thoughts of their
inner selves. Once various opinions are expressed, the leaders
* 93 *
have the possibility to rectify their erroneous and incomplete
views, to perfect their decisions and make them adequate,
opportune and beneficial.
I beg you, Comrades, to notice that I am not pleading for
democracy, since it has taken 200 years for the people of Europe
to accede to it, according to some competent persons. I am not
demanding either for communism to withdraw from the political
life, although, alas, the loss of prestige and decline in credit which
have stricken it since immorality and corruption are characterizing
greatly many of its members who often occupy high positions. I
only wish that our people are able to raise their voices and say
what they think about all those who are concerned with their fate,
in the present and future. Only then will a sincere and
advantageous cooperation unite the Party and the people, for the
benefit of both the Party and the people! Capitalism must not be
given the monopoly for the application of the natural rights of man
in the City. But all the more so, let us not kill ourselves for words,
by going to the extreme of a ridiculous logomania. The terms
capitalism and socialism do not have any meaning by themselves
but depend on the tastes and preferences of those who use them.
In the mouth of a “socialist,” according to a habit which is not only
inveterate but no less ridiculous and childish, the qualification of
“capitalist” refers to anything horrible, and whoever has been given
such a certification of infamy, his fate is done. Whenever a policy
of cannibals is involved, the quarrels no longer limit themselves to
only matters of grammar, as Montaigne has thought, they lead to
bloodshed and death!
The habit of always bowing one’s head in assent, using one’s
hands to only applaud, opening one’s mouth just to agree, all this
provokes the stiffness of the mind, switches off the liveliness of
intelligence, suppresses the reflection of critique. In our life now,
certain words are putting us in a trance, for example: reactionary,
counter-reactionary, critique! You have used the word “critique” to
qualify quite harmless propositions that I have addressed to our
leaders, in the Front. You know well what this means: it is the
death penalty which is facing me!
- Oh no! Do not exaggerate here! We simply want to say that you
have found something faulty about the organization of the Front.
* 94 *
Such an attitude surprises us! For quite some time now, we have
accustomed ourselves to respect the Party, follow its orders,
because the military and political successes it has gained have
won our trust, as well as that of the entire people! We have been
made to look not through our own eyes but those of the Party.
Well equipped with its Marxism-Leninism, its experience, the aid
from the brother-countries, the Party has demonstrated that it has
the authority and is justified in enjoying the credit that we are
offering it! Our wisdom is to shape our judgment on its model and
to this day we can praise ourselves for doing so! Thus, we must
admit that we do not understand you!
- As for me, on the contrary, I understand that my observations
are chocking you. I, therefore, deduce that the fate which is
awaiting me is not the one that I can dream of. Whatever. I have
eyes to see, ears to listen. Yet, what I have seen and heard fill me
with dreadfulness! I can see to what future we are heading, and
the tremors of my conscience prevent me from sleeping. In order
to find the serenity of my soul, I have searched, among the causes
of the ill that is eating us away, which one would be the most
urgent, and what would be the effective cure for it. I want to repeat
once again, so that no misunderstanding is made about me and
my opinions are not falsified for the purpose of condemning me
easily, I am asking for just one thing: that our leaders, in observing
the Marxist-Leninist line to which they claim to adhere, allow the
people to open their mouths and say what they think. The leaders
must know that there are quite a number of people who dare not
loosen their teeth, that the forms and appearances, which are
giving them a puff of pride, are merely a masquerade disguising
their ideas and feelings. The leaders have come to reject what
they believe to be inadmissible but they must also think about
what is coming ahead, if the little which is left runs counter to the
interested lies of the flatterers or inconsiderate persons, and
clashes with the views of the Party!
In this crusade for the triumph of the truth, Comrades, you have
a role to play. It rests with you to wake up from your lethargy,
come out of your silence, once you have lent an ear to the inner
voices that you try to suppress, it is for you to throw a line to your
conscience which is drowning. You will then realize that it is in
your interest, in the interest of the Party and people, that I hope for
* 95 *
us the establishing of freedom of opinion. You have your
responsibility before the people and History, as the Party has its
responsibility, as each mind has to think of its own! I take the
liberty to remind all of you, you yourselves, the Party, the
intellectuals, of this essential truth; I shall surely have to bear the
inescapable and painful consequences which will not fail to
happen and punish me for having wished to safeguard my honor
and dignity.”
Back to my home, in the silence of my solitude, I try to
remember the hours that I went through, to draw the lesson from
them. This is the first time that a conflict opposes me to the
leaders. It is the first time that communism is carrying out a trial of
an intellectual. Up to now, I have always remained silent, and all
my revolts against it, however blatant they may be, have limited
their excesses to the inner world. Even at the peak of the agrarian
reform, when the barbaric crimes hurt me by their sight, wrung my
heart, I had the wisdom and strength to hold myself back, knowing
that the same cataclysm was raging all over the country, and
aware that the isolated voice of an insignificant intellectual would
not be able to reach a power so well hidden in the most
impenetrable mystery! A passionate but mute witness of the
disastrous errors and mistakes of the rulers, I have learned that
the ears, which are open to flatteries and praises, are closed to
remarks which are always considered to be disagreeable and,
even more so, when they are critiques which are invariably
accused of being “reactionary.” Armed with vigilance and lucidity,
I have navigated through the reefs and, up to now, have been able
to avoid a wreck. If, in the course of the first half of my life, I
endeavored in climbing up the hills of the Mediterranean culture, in
the second half of it, I have been trying to stand up on my legs
under the bursts of communism. It is the great adventure of my
life, and my thoughts, in both acts and feelings, I have been
* 96 *
conditioned by the tempestuous gusts from the whirlwinds in which
the hazards of existence have imprisoned me. I have sharpened
my look-out and foresight to protect me from the faux-pas, avoid
the tricks and traps set under my feet. I know that, among the
intellectuals, I am in the grinder of the policemen who have to tail
me, that a couple of “watchdogs” have taken residence in a room
nearby my home to keep an eye on people visiting me and on my
mail, to listen to my conversations and the radio broadcasts which
happen to be my preferred choices.
But, this time, I have been caught in the trap of circumstances.
I am one of the victims of the communist deceit which has
launched the Hundred Flowers Blossoming movement, not to
liberate the intellectuals from the chains which tie them up but to
unmask the naïve ones who think that the time has come for them
to engage in the free expression of their democratic aspirations. It
is impossible for the political monopoly exercised by the
communist party to accommodate itself with the democratic
liberties! Whatever recognition of democracy is given by
someone, the culprit will receive the worst sanctions from the
rulers. This is precisely the way in which my “Comrades” of the
Front have understood what my crime means. Whether the
popular masses are able to lift themselves to the highs of
democracy or have to waste decades, or even a century, in order
to accede to its meaning and apply its principles, come what may!
I am simply demanding for the freedom of opinion, and already
presenting myself a renegade, enemy of communism. The
leaders have understood my subtlety: if the common people were
able to say what they think of the policies and decisions of the
Party, it would be absolutely impossible to achieve the unanimity
of approval about them and, certainly, in this first apprenticeship of
learning about democracy, the critiques overwhelm the praises.
What would then become of the Party’s political monopoly, and to
what extent would the discredit be about the insanities of the
In obeying the instructions given by the leaders, my
“Comrades” of the Front can kill two birds with one stone: not only
are they trampling on me, but they have also learned, for their own
account, to condemn any deviation in the meaning of democracy,
and condemn it in all those who are the victims of it!
* 97 *
I wholeheartedly feel sorry for my Comrades of the Front.
They all are honorable personalities who have never asked to
join the honorable company. They have been incorporated at the
invitation of the leader whose policy of national union for all the
citizens, whose dream of a united people in independence and
freedom, would ally all the votes. Their political, social,
sentimental, religious tendencies may vary but they all meet in the
same aspiration, on the same ground of understanding. Such an
assembly, by virtue of its mixed nature, the diversity of opinions on
the part of its members who are designated by the State and not
representing anybody, is certainly lacking in force, in cohesion,
and can only play the role of a walk-on. The formalism, for which
the communists in power have an unbridled taste, compels the
State to rest on homogeneous structures, acquire a nice
appearance, but be empty in content, devoid of any competency,
and from which the leaders do not ask for anything else but the
unanimity of applauses for their decisions.
Summoned to condemn one of their peers, my “Comrades” of
the Front feel that they are shut up in a false situation. The
bullfight which they are forced to watch is not a party of pleasure.
I do not know what kind of bitterness is chilling their faces and
putting out the light in their look. I have had occasions to chat with
them and, since they know who I am, they have confided in me,
particularly the dignitaries of the Catholic Church and Buddhist
pagoda whose idealism cannot accommodate the atheistic
materialism of the communists. Already at the time of the anticolonialist
war of resistance, in Phát Diêm, the struggle of the
Catholics against communism has shed the blood of a district
chief. Later on, the Union of Religions for the destruction of
Communism (Liên tôn diêt Cộng) was the object of a sensational
trial in Thanh Hoa, some time just before Dien Bien Phu.
Among the members of the Front and the Party, people know
what to expect from the opposing camp. Therefore, the religious
members in the Front are on the grill: the masses do not
understand them, consider them as renegades and apostates,
because they have made a pact with the communists. The latter,
in spite of the bowings and protestations of trust for them, suspect
* 98 *
the former’s latent and inner hostility. During the meetings of the
Front at the headquarters of its Central Committee located in
Trang Thi boulevard, nothing amused me more than to observe
the mime show which took place under my eyes and put forced
smiles here and there. And here they are, called upon to deal the
deathblow to a poor devil of intellectual whose fate is identical to
theirs since, like them, is not enjoying the smell of holiness of the
Party due to his democratic aspirations; to judge and condemn
him, they well understand that they are judging and condemning
themselves. The inhumanity of the Party bursts out in the gesture
of Pontius Pilatus: the washing of the hands for I would be
condemned by my own peers, and the same comedy is again
played at the University and at the Socialist Party, in the second
and third bullfights! And with one stone, the leaders are killing two
birds: the delinquent is punished, but those who are chastising him
must draw the lesson for their own sake! No occasion is wasted to
educate the people!
All these thoughts run through my mind during the night,
following the first bullfight at the Front. The next day, I have to
present myself for the second bullfight at the University. The bull
is not allowed to catch its breath. The toreadors, picadors and
matadors take turn to bully it while waiting for the final blow of the
kill. Nevertheless, I do not feel discouraged, or desperate, or even
tired! I am undergoing trials that nobody could have thought of up
to that day. Under the blow, I can measure my strength of
resistance, and curiosity has taken over depression! Disregarding
those “peers” who are going to agitate the red muleta piece of
cloth in front of my eyes, I am in the attacking mood!
It is in this state of mind that I arrive at the University.
By the sight of the impressive number of bicycles filling the
immense courtyards, the audience must be large. No wonder!
Different from the first one, the second bullfight is open to the
general public: anybody can come and watch it. The students,
who are in the thousands, the teaching staffs of several Faculties,
including those of Medicine and Chemistry, the journalists enticed
by the putting to death of a well-known intellectual in Hanoi, and
the whole crowd of rubbernecks and peasants, are massing in the
room, corridors, to the point that the air has become difficult to
* 99 *
breathe and the traffic impossible! This time, the judges are not
sitting behind a table. They take turn to preside from the podium
where, at the time of the capitalist domination, I used to give my
lectures and conferences.
I ask myself what is the motivation for organizing such a grand
spectacle? While the last recommendations are given, behind the
scene, by the directors, to the accusers, I believe I have found the
reason for the blatant publicity which has attracted such a
multitude. The reason offers a double aspect: one is the concern
for the individual being accused, the other is the interest for the
judges and listeners!
I remember that during my ten years spent in the underground
movement, each month, I went to a province to defend pro-bono
people being prosecuted, in a trial of importance which could last
the whole night. During the day, the loudspeakers, within a radius
of 10 to 20 kilometers announced the opening of the trial. The
rubbernecks cycled dozens of kilometers to watch a rare show,
even unique, in the locality. The ringing bells of the cycles made
quite a deafening din. The passer-byes, women, children,
youngsters, walked in long lines across the fields, each group
carrying its small lamps. It was a festivity to go to!
In Hanoi, the newspapers, radios and loud-speakers are having
free rein to tease the curiosity of the people. The name of the
accused also contributes a lot to this. Therefore, I understand
that, if in the bullfight organized at the Front there was an intention
to spare somehow my sensitivity by keeping that meeting in a
muffled discretion, in tune with the Front, this time it is with the
purpose of having the scandal explode in the open by drawing my
name into the mud, trying to convince me about the gravity of my
crime and to justify in advance the punishment which will be
thrown at me.
At the same time, it is also intended to intimidate the masses,
to “educate” them in the sense of an unconditional submission to
the orders and decisions of the Party, in the respect of the
communist orthodoxy. Any infraction to this sacred principle will
be penalized with extreme severity, notwithstanding of whatever
* 100 *
eminent services have been given by the culprit for the cause of
the fatherland and the revolution.
At the foot of the presiding podium where I had the best
moments of my life, I now come to live through the worst of it.
Indeed, I realize that the purpose is not only to punish me, - oops,
sorry, to educate me - but all the more so, it is to humiliate me, to
demean me in two ways: I am forced to take the position of an
accused at the foot the platform where I used to stand at the time
of my splendors, and listen to the invectives and diatribes of
fellows who are not my peers as in the case of the Front, but some
young novices picked up from who knows where and seem to be
or were among my students. I do not bother listening to the
insanities uttered by those who are criticizing me, I make
abstraction of the actual milieu where they are holding forth and
trying to pierce me with their arrows, and I let my mind go back to
the time of the agrarian reform when the landowners were
persecuted, humiliated and considered to be enemies of the
people and the revolution, as I am now!
But I have the benefit of a treatment for which I am grateful to
my tormentors: if they are inflicting me with the moral tortures, they
are sparing me the physical sufferings. I have not been secluded
in a prison, I am not wearing muddy clothes due to sleeping at
night on the hard, I do not give off the repulsive smell of the beasts
in their cages, I am not fed with rotten vegetables swimming in the
dishwater and served in the pig-troughs, I do not drag my feet with
chains around my neck and ankles, under the booing and spits of
the mob whose hatred has been heated white hot. No, I lead my
life, in a normal way, within my family.
But the tortures of the humiliation that I am made to bear are no
less than those of the martyred landowner before being executed.
Only yesterday, before the coming of communism on the
Vietnamese territory, traditional morality taught the young to
respect their teachers, to love them and respect them even more
than their own fathers. The honor of giving care to the human
plant, so that it can produce flowers and fruits, shapes the soul
and the life of the teacher, who has the duty to himself, as well as
to his students and to the entire people, and that of nurturing the
* 101 *

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