TON DUC THANG IN THE FRENCH NAVAL FORCES AND IN THE ANTI WAR MOVEMENT IN THE BLACK SEA

Extracted from “Uncle Ton (1888-1980) ‘s life and career”
Su That Publishing House

    Each time returning to Thanh Hoa, looking at the sea-wave of Sam Son Beach, Uncle Ton rose an violent emotion. He remembered the time in the Black Sea when he rose the red flag onto the France battleship to oppose the meaningless attacked to the Soviet Russia by France.

    When being mobilized to France, He worked for a short time at Arsenal workshop of naval base Toulon. After that, he was directed to work as a mechanic on the France battleship. This was one of the most modern cruiser of France then. On the ship, there were a lot of soldiers and mechanics who came from varieties of races and classes. It could be said that, socially, the persons on the France battleship form a mini picture of the French society at that time.

    Living on the ship, Uncle got new friends. First, they are colonial soldiers. He found in them the sympathy because they were discriminated with the Metropolitan French soldiers by the commanders. Through the French mechanics, Uncle perceived a lot of things: the proletarian class, international solidarity and especially the French Union which was an organization to unite, struggle for workers’ interest and laborers. In the beginning of 1918, a current news was being ebulliently and secretly talked on the France battleship. It was the victory of the Russian October Revolution. The Bolsheviks overturned the Czar regime and the Kerelski bourgeois government, establishing the Soviet Russia controlled by the workers, the farmers and the soldiers. In the end of 1918, the soldiers on the ship were so happy hearing that a peace treaty had been signed between France and Germany. At the same time, they received the command that the France Battleship must come to the Black Sea to execute military intervention to the Soviet Russia. In such a circumstance, the soldiers on the ship could not terminate the war because they had to begin a new fight, a war against the Russians, an unjust war.

    In Uncle’s opinion, the World War I was unreasonable, and this intervention was more nonsensical. Fighting against Russia meant to fight against the workers as Himself and the twinned brothers at Ba Nghe Vocational School in Ba Son, in Saigon, in Toulon. Fighting against Russia meant to fight against the farmers as His parents, brothers, relatives at My Hoa Hung, at Long Xuyen, in the six Southern provinces… He opposed this war. He was in consent with the French friends who were calling an antiwar.

    During such strained days, sitting in the engine room of the ship, hearing series of artilleries roaring and shaking the cruiser, Uncle Ton was so harassed. He could not stand or sit at ease. The murderers were spreading death over the revolutionary soldiers and the innocent Russian people. He ran to the engine room, pointing at the guns, shouting:

    - “Covering the guns! Peoples in Russia are relatives, friends, the mothers, the sisters and children who are innocent…!”

    In a high moved emotion, He came to see Joan, a sailor on the ship, who was a member of the Revolutionary Committee, without any hesitation, he said:

    - “We are waiting for the order by the Revolutionary Committee on the ship for one and all action!”

    Joan tightly grasped Ton Duc Thang’s hand, solemnly ordered:

    - “Tomorrow, before the meeting, you will hoist the red flag. The Red flag informs the Red Army ships to recognize that we are friends, not foes!”

    Uncle Ton took the order in his excited and moved emotion. He could not imagine that, during the conclusive time of the war, he was trusted and ordered to express his will with a practical action!

    On the date of 20 April 1919, the Easter Day, in the morning, the glorious sun emerged from the sea horizon, signalling a nice day. 08 o’clock a.m.! The flag salutation … The fanfare resounded gravely. In the peaceful atmosphere of a nice morning, a sudden unforgettable event: a red-flag from the hands of the Mechanic Ton Duc Thang was hoisted, flying highly on the flagpole of the battleship in the morning sunshine! Most of the soldiers gathering in dignified manner sang the Internationale. At a near site, on the commanding ship, the Giang-Ba, a red flag was also hoisted and the singing of Internationale was also in harmony, drawning the sea-wave sound.

    In such a circumstance, the fleet commander reported to the France and received the order to turn round, retreating from the Black Sea. On the date of 23 April 1919, the France battleship was ordered to leave the Black Sea for Biderter Port of Tunisia. Six days after, it was ordered to return to France. The revolt in the Black Sea of the soldiers and workers have made a decisive blow to fail the invasion and aggression policy of imperialism. Hoisting the antiwar flag was an example, the most typical action in all the revolt. Such a historic action was handed to a Vietnamese, a citizen of a remote French colony.

    History itself was not wrong to hand the historic mission! Ton Duc Thang, with His deep patriotism, loving the same class’s people, with violent hatred to the aggressive blood-thirsty group, did do a brave, daring action, do a meaningful action which the later the more greatness.

    The hoisting of antiwar in the Black Sea has marked a threshold in Uncle Ton’s changes of ideology: from patriotism to proletarian revolution.

    Later, when being Vietnam leader, Uncle Ton has reviewed and affirmed “I believe that, any patriotic Vietnamese, if being present in such a historic time at the Black Sea, will not make any other action. We love our Fatherland. We hate the Imperialists. Firstly, we love the October Revolution and hate those opposing it.”

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