Ho Chi Minh, 1890-1969
The entire course of Vietnamese history since World War II was basically Ho Chi Minh's, including the military aspects short of actual battlefield tactics. Ho Chi Minh (a nom de guerre for "He Who Enlightens", alias Nguyen Sinh Cung, and Nguyen Tat Thanh), was born as Nguyen Ai Quoc on 19 May 1890 in Kim Lien Village, Nam Dan District, Nghe An Province. His father was a patriotic scholar, his mother was a farmer. His older sister and brother both took part in the anti-French movements and were imprisoned by the colonial administration.
On 3 June 1911, Ho Chi Minh (alias Nguyen Sinh Cung, Nguyen Tat Thanh, and Nguyen Ai Quoc) left the country. He lived on doing different jobs. He also participated in the revolutionary movements of many peoples while making great efforts to struggle for his nation's independence and freedom. In 1920, he took part in establishing the French Communist Party in the Tour Congress. In 1921, he founded the Union of French Colonial Nations; published the newspaper Le Paria in France (1922). In 1923, he became a member of the International Peasantry Committee. In 1924, he attended the Fifth Congress of Communist International and was appointed a standing member of the Oriental Department. In 1925, he participated in establishing the Union of Asian Oppressed Nations, and published the two famous books, The Indictment of French Colonialism (1925) and The Revolutionary Path (1927).
In 1925, he founded the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association in Guangzhou (China) and organized "Communist League" as the core of the association, training communist cadres to lead the association and popularize Marxism-Leninism in Vietnam. On 3 February 1930, he presided the Party Founding Conference in Jiulong (Hong Kong). The Conference approved the Brief Political Platform, Brief Policy and the Party Statutes drafted by Ho Chi Minh. He gave an appeal on the occasion of the Communist Party of Vietnam (later renamed the Indochina Communist Party, the Vietnam Workers' Party and nowadays the Communist Party of Vietnam).From 1930 to 1940, Ho Chi Minh engaged in activities to liberate the Vietnamese nation and other oppressed peoples under difficult conditions and hardships.
In 1941, he returned to Vietnam, convening the 8th Conference of the Central Committee of the Indochina Communist Party, deciding the way for national salvation, establishing the Vietnamese Independent Alliance Association (Viet Minh), building armed forces and revolutionary bases, leading the people to launch the uprisings and prepare the general insurrection to seize power throughout the country.
After the August 1945 Revolution, on 2 September 1945, at Ba Dinh Square, Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence to establish the Democratic Republic of Vietnam; organized the free nationwide general selection to elect the National Assembly and approved the first democratic Constitution of Vietnam. The First National Assembly appointed Ho Chi Minh as the President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Together with the Party Central Committee, President Ho Chi Minh appealed to the whole Party, the entire people and army to defeat all the schemes of the imperialists, protecting and strengthening the revolutionary government. On 13 December 1946, he gave the appeal to raise the anti-French resistance war for the sake of national independence and freedom.
Under the leadership of the Central Party Committee, headed by President Ho Chi Minh, the resistance war won a resounding victory at Dien Bien Phu (1954). After the Northern part of Vietnam was liberated (1955), the Party Central Committee and President Ho Chi Minh put forward the two strategic tasks for the Vietnamese revolution: carrying out the socialist revolution and building socialism in the North; and struggling to liberate the South and reunify the country, fulfilling the people's national democratic revolution in the whole country.
Although Ho Chi Minh lacked the time in captivity or exile which enabled Lenin and Mao Tse-tung to produce extensive political writings, Ho produced many pamphlets and wrote numerous speeches. Several of his early works were published under pseudonyms, with all of his writing and his political activity indicating the influence of Gandhi as well as the major communist theorists. Ho's early writings from the 1920's consist of articles printed in magazines and newspapers on the topics of French domination of Indochina. His speech to the 18th Congress of the French Socialist Party called for socialist assistance to the oppressed Vietnamese people.
Later political statements by Ho reveal his pragmatic approach to Leninism as a method for the liberation of the working people; patriotism, not Communist theory, was the motivating force behind Ho's faith in Lenin's party. Ho's brief, but graphic descriptions indicate the cruelties inflicted on the Vietnamese by the French and on blacks by the Ku Klux Klan. More extensive writings on French colonization detail the taxes imposed on the Vietnamese, the administrative frauds perpetrated by the colonial government, and the systematic violation of human rights throughout the colonies. Ho also describes the successes of the revolution against colonialism and against the American intervention in Southeast Asia.
Indochina was a special problem from the outset. In that restive French colony American OSS (Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency) officers attempting to rescue downed American fliers behind Japanese lines encountered Ho Chi Minh, a venerated leader of the nationalist rebellion. One of the OSS group, Archimedes Patti, had no illusions that Ho was anything but a dedicated Communist, but he also took very seriously the Vietnamese leader's assertion he would not allow any other power to replace French rule. He desired American support, Ho told Patti, and conveyed a desire for American support in letters to President Truman. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as the OSS group knew, had sometimes indicated-in pretty strong terms, actually-that France should not be allowed to return, at least not without a commitment to eventual independence.
Despite cordial relations between American intelligence and Ho Chi Minh in the closing month of World War II, French and British hostility to the Vietnamese revolution laid the groundwork for a new war. French generals expected to defeat Ho's ragtag Vietminh guerrillas easily, but lost a crucial battle at Dien Bien Phu-and with it their Asian empire. To stop the spread of communism in southeast Asia, America replaced France in South Vietnam, supporting autocratic President Ng Dinh Diem, until his own generals turned against him. With Ho Chi Minh determined to reunite Vietnam, LBJ determined to prevent it, and South Vietnam on the verge of collapse, the stage was set for a massive escalation of the undeclared Vietnam War.
The massive enemy offensive at the Tet lunar new year decimated the Vietcong and failed to topple the Saigon government, but led to the beginning of America's military withdrawal. Nixon's program of troop pull-outs, stepped-up bombing and huge arms shipments changed the war and left GIs wondering which would be the last to die in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh died September 4, 1969.
In his will, Ho Chi Minh stated his wish to be cremated and to have his ashes scattered in the hills of north, central, and southern Vietnam. He said that he preferred cremation because it would be "more hygienic than burial and would also save land for agricultural purposes." The mausoleum was built in spite of his wishes. The Vietnamese government did the absolute opposite of his wishes. Instead, they gave him the Soviet leader treatment (same as Lenin, Mao, and Kim Il-Sung) - embalming his body and installing it in an imposing concrete-and-granite block that stands before a vast square. Ho Chi Minh's body is preserved in the cooled, central hall of the mausoleum, which is protected by a military honor guard.
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