Agricultural Reform Tribunals

After the defeat of the French at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, Ho Chi Minh was securely in control of Vietnam, especially in the north. Although he faced no real political problems, the economy was in a state of disaster, which he proceeded to make worse through the imposition of clumsy ideological controls. Determined to wipe out "landlord" elements as a symbol of his devout Marxism, Ho unleashed cadre teams to seek out the landlord class, which he estimated at 2 percent of the rural population. It was an absurd assumption, since few Vietnamese peasants in the north had more than three to four acres. Nonetheless, by 1955 the cadres had established Agricultural Reform Tribunals in each village to identify the landlords. Accusations, lies, informants, and a vicious neighbor-against-neighbor mentality filled rural villages. Thousands of so-called landlords were killed and thousands more were sent to labor camps. The rural economy was disrupted. The tribunals had quotas of landlords to find and kill, and their justice was swift and capricious. Concerned about the arbitrary killings and economic disruption, Ho Chi Minh repudiated the campaigns in August 1956.