Vietnam A New History, Christopher Goscha, 2016
To make an example of her, cadres placed Nam before hundreds of poor peasants and led them in hate-filled denunciations of this ‘atrocious landlord’ and her long list of crimes. Whipped into a frenzy of hate, hate crowd jeered at her, spat on her, and slapped her. At one point in July 1953, as land reform officially got underway, the Vietnamese communists executed her.
Her execution was not the only one. How many occurred? No one knows for sure, but the most reliable estimates put the number of killed between 5,000 and 15,000. Hundreds, possibly thousands, committed suicide, while others fled. Over three years, the Vietnamese Workers Party dispatched tens of thousands of cadres to organize five successive waves of hate and fear that surged through villages, homes, and lives. The communist party encouraged children to spy on their parents, neighbors to denounce each other, and required local village officials to follow orders or risk severe sanctions. One man has recently recalled how the party marched into his village and turned his world upside down. (page 294)
The party promised to right the wrongs, to ‘re-class’ those who had been wrongly categorized, to return land and assets, and dismantle the special courts. But as Ho admitted, the party ‘could not bring the dead to file’. Instead, the party organized a massive ‘Rectification of Errors Campaign’, during which leaders and cadres publicly confessed their sins. This public and highly ritualized act of ideological contrition served to calean the slave, ensure that all had the (new) ‘right thinking’, and to reassert the legitimacy of communist rule before moving on, again. This mise-en-scene fooled none of those who had suffered so much in a revolution in which they had had so little to say. Even those who benefitted from finally obtaining a plot of land would have to give it up in a few short years time when the party sought to take it back. As in China and the Soviet Union, what the collectivization of the countryside required trumped any other considerations. (page 295)