Le Minh Dao:
As you must have realized, the Resistance war against the French started from among the rural population. Therefore, in the rural areas in the South in the entire country and, in Particular in Ben Tre
province, almost all the peasants followed the revolution. Most of the fighters and cadres came from the peasant population. Therefore, when Diem took over power, especially from 1953 and 1957
on, he carried out brutal repression against the peasants.
All the lands which the revolution had distributed to the peasants and was being cultivated by the peasants, was confiscated by the Diem regime and its local henchmen. These people were people who were having a lot of hatred against the lower classes. Those peasants who refused to turn over their lands were given electric shocks, imprisoned, and even shot on the spot. For this reason it can he stated that during the Diem administration targeted people like me could live in peace for only one month before we had to plunge ourselves again into the struggle for the defense of the rights of the masses.
During this period since after the signing of the Geneva Agreement the policy that we carried out, all the way from the top leadership to the leadership in the province of Ben Tre
, was to struggle to maintain peace. It was both our hope and our concrete activities to see to it that the Geneva Agreement be respected and implemented, that peace be maintained and that unification of Vietnam he carried out. We had no thought of armed struggles at all. But our people were more realistic, the masses; were more realistic.
From the 1949‑1950 period to 1954 when the country was temporarily under occupation, a lesson which the people drew from the whole thing was that they had to rely on their own strength for their own liberation. And this attitude, as I just told you a while ago, was represented by the fact that while the Geneva Agreement was being signed almost all of the rural area had been liberated and that the entire province was about to be liberated. And so when the Americans and the Diem regime stepped up their repression, the population increased their demands for armed struggle.
Many people said to us: “Your kind of political struggles would lead in a draw or to defeat. You'd get a draw or a defeat, but you'll never gain victory. If you guys wanted to bring out liberation, to protect yourselves and us, you'll have to do just like you did in 1954. That is to say, you'll have to resort to armed struggles.” Their demands were very pressing. There were cadres like Brother Le Van Thao, who has already sacrificed himself, who said to my other comrades: "We should ask the government to allow us to fight in the 1954 manner for only five days to vent out all our frustrations and outrage, and then after that it would be alright if we get executed for our action." He did live for a while to fight with us. But he died in a battle.
I just wanted to tell you these small anecdotes to tell you how much the people demanded armed struggles. But the really special thing about it all was that when we still did not allow them to engage in armed struggles, they were still supporting and protecting us nevertheless. But while they were doing all of these, they told us that we were certainly heading toward defeat if we did not resort to armed struggles. Even under this tremendous popular pressure, our leadership was nevertheless resolute in their effort to avert bloodshed. Our leaders were resilient in their struggle for peace.
But the Ngo Dinh Diem regime and their American supporters were not willing to stop. I want to tell you that repression, land expropriation and the press-ganging of the young people into the army increased on a daily basis. This was especially the case in 1959 when the Ngo Dinh Diem regime issued the Law Code no. 10/59, declaring that anyone who dared to oppose the regime that is to say, first of all former members of the Resistance like us and then next the peasants who did not want to turn over their land and the young people who were drafted but who did not want to follow their fascist policies and who showed any kind of sympathy toward the revolutionary movement would be executed.