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December 2023: 70 years since the Vietnam land reform


Indochina was arguably one of the main epicenters of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles in the post-war period. As the First Indochina War approached its victorious conclusion, Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh were faced with a ravaged country with an impoverished, peasant majority.

Land reform was an immediate priority. The communist-led front launched an ambitious plan to address the unequal land redistribution in the country. The law approved in December 1953 called for the confiscation of plots belonging to landlords who had collaborated with the enemy, as well as requisition and purchases of land with bonds.

The program, spearheaded by enthusiastic cadres, was carried out in five phases. It also had some excesses, including violence against peasants mistakenly classified as landlords. Ho Chi Minh acknowledged and apologized for the errors. Many saw land that had been improperly confiscated returned.

Mistakes notwithstanding, the program was a resounding success. It completely did away with the concentration of land in North Vietnam and by 1960 there were 40,000 formed cooperatives spanning 90 percent of all farmland. And it was not just about land tenure, but production as well. After the 1957-1960 three-year plan, agricultural output had more than doubled its pre-Indochina War levels.

The farming cooperatives continued to evolve and would play a crucial role in sustaining the country during the Second Indochina War (aka Vietnam War, 1964-1975) against the US and its South Vietnam surrogates. The Viet Minh’s land reform remains a powerful tribute to the power of collectivization and to the importance of having the land in the hands of those who work it.

Click here to download the printable version of the calendar and hang it on your wall.

Text: Ricardo VazIllustration: Kalia León.


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