Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh: Blending Communism with Nationalism

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" You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win." - - Ho Chi Minh (referring to France and America in their wars in Vietnam)

"We have a secret is called Nationalism” - Ho Chi Minh

"The Americans thought that Vietnam was a war. We knew that Vietnam was our country." - Luu Doan Huynh, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hanoi, 1999

" In the long-run every Government is the exact symbol of its People, with their WISDOM and UNWISDOM; we have to say, Like People like Government. “ - Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881, Scottish Philosopher, Author

Despite its being under the Chinese for 1000-plus years, as a French colony for almost 71 years with the interruption by the Japanese during WW2; followed by the American meddling/helping the French since the early 1950s in the Vietnamese nationalist/independence war against the French; the subsequent American direct intervention in its civil war to American defeat/exit in 1975 (called the American War by the Vietnamese); plus further suffering the economic sanction/embargo imposed by vengeful America until the 1990s.

Vietnam is well on its "economic take-off." And all of us Filipinos can only look with envy, wonder why and how. And much of the answers boil down to deeply entrenched, unyielding Vietnamese NATIONALISM.

Over a century ago, Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle stated that "The history of the world is but the biography of great men." There are times that I think Carlyle is correct; however, the world has changed a lot from and has become more complex vis-a-vis his time. Nowadays, aside great men there are other factors, i.e. socioeconomic and political milieu, geopolitics, belief systems (religion), etc., that significantly influence history.

Having said that, among Asians in the last century Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh (1890 -1969) has been one of its great leaders. It is said that Ho was saddened that late in life he should be fighting America, since for decades it was France that has been his enemy.

Ho's father studied to better himself and attained a mandarin status but chafed at being nothing more than France's educated lackey. "Being a mandarin is the ultimate form of slavery." He was removed by the French from his post when he was discovered to be harboring Vietnamese who had broken French law. His bitter courage inspired his three children: Ho's sister was arrested by the French for hiding Vietnamese who rioted against the French; and his brother, kicked by a French official, fought back and was sent to prison for treasonous activities.

Ho grew up gifted in languages and greedy for books. In high school, he protested the pro-French bias of his lessons. He became a teacher in a school for workers of a fish sauce (patis) factory, which was then shutdown by the French. Ho was forced by local French authorities to flee... to Marseilles. Ho's subsequent voyages included ports in the Mediterranean,North Africa and the United States. He was awed by New York and the Statue of Liberty, though latter dimmed his enthusiasm upon learning that it was donated by the French.

During World War I, he worked in London shoveling snow and washing dishes and as pastry cook for 3 years. Back in Paris he became an interpreter and painter of art works sold as "Chinese antiquities."

While abroad Ho read widely and admired teachings of Buddha, Confucius and Jesus but was more deeply impressed by Marxism. In France, he did not see the French as innately superior and scorned the sort of Frenchmen who settled in Vietnam where these people lived like princes (many of us can say the same about the many foreigners, who are nobodies in their own homelands, living and lording it up in our homeland! Thanks to our traitorous rulers).

Colonialism has been Ho's enemy. After World War I, he was ignored by the French (and later by the American) leaderships in his petitions to have Vietnamese delegates in the French Parliament, for freedom of the press and the right to free association. Ho was denied audience and his then reformist agenda dismissed (except by French Socialists). Ho was seen more as a nationalist than communist and was therefore not given support by Russia's Joseph Stalin.

Ho is revered by most Vietnamese for his commitment to Vietnamese independence and unity. Apparently from being a child of a nationalist, he became one himself; and saw communism as the only vehicle offering an ideology and effective organization towards national independence.

Though communism as we know now is the "God that Failed," it seems, as the great Nelson Mandela did, that as an organizing ideology it is very efficient and effective for radical and fundamental changes where peaceful reform can not and will not be allowed to occur --unless nationalism by itself will be permitted by the national ruling elite and its foreign partners to flourish. And as surely as morning will follow night, "they" will not.

In the long run however, as we also know now, communism has just become a phase (rather than the end as Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao proselytized) towards realization of a national consciousness, i.e. nationalism, of a united and proud people cognizant of its national dignity and sovereignty; thus the making of a true, respectable nation. With nationalism, socioeconomic and political progress will follow as happened in the former Soviet satellite countries, mainland China and Vietnam.

Below is a chronology of Ho Chi Minh's life and that of a now united and economically progressing Vietnam, out of which an informed and involved populace will demand human rights/political democracy-- grounded on economic democracy --and they will evolve and be realized (as it will in mainland China). 

- Bert


Ho Chi Minh: AKA 'Uncle Ho'. Birth name Nguyen Sinh Cung, also called Nguyen Tat Thanh (translates to "He who will succeed"), Nguyen Ai Quoc, and Ly Thuy. Ho Chi Minh translates to 'He Who Enlightens'.


Cause:Liberation of Vietnam from French colonial rule and unification of North and South Vietnam.

Background: The French begin to take control of Vietnam in the 1860s. The entire country is made a French protectorate in 1883. Under French colonial rule Vietnamese are prohibited from travelling outside their districts without identity papers. Freedom of expression and organisation are restricted. As land is progressively alienated by large landholders, the number of landless peasants grows. Neglect of the education system causes the literacy rate to fall. Vietnamese anti-colonial movements being to coalesce early in the 20th Century but are actively suppressed by the French.

Mini biography:Born 19 May 1890 in the village of Kim Lien in Annam, in central Vietnam. His father is a public servant attached to the imperial court. Ho is the youngest of three children. He receives his basic education from his father and the local village school. Ho attends the prestigious National Academy school in Hue but leaves before graduation. He works for a short time as a teacher in a South Annam fishing town before travelling to Saigon, where he trains as a kitchen boy and pastry cook's assistant and takes a course in navigation.

1911 - He finds work as a kitchen hand on a French steamer travelling from Saigon to Marseilles.

1914 - Following the outbreak of the First World War in August, Ho moves to London. He will spend about two years in the British capital, working as a kitchen-hand at the Carlton Hotel and joining the Overseas Workers Association. During this period Ho also travels to and lives in the United States.

1919 - Ho returns to France, taking the name Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nguyen the Patriot). He stays in Paris until 1923, working in menial jobs while becoming active in the socialist movement.During the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference he attempts to present US President Woodrow Wilson with a proposal to free Vietnam from colonialism, but is turned away. The proposal is never officially acknowledged.

1920 - Ho is a founding member of the French Communist Party when it splits from the Socialist Party in December. He works with other groups of radical expatriates and publishes an anticolonial journal, 'Le Paria' ('The Pariah' or 'The Outcast').
1922 - Ho travels to Moscow for the fourth congress of the Communist International (Comintern). He joins the Comintern's Southeast Asia Bureau and helps to organise the Krestintern, or Peasant International.

1923 - Ho returns to Moscow for training in Marxism and revolutionary techniques at the University of the Toilers of the East. He takes an active role in the fifth congress of the Comintern, criticising the French Communist Party for not opposing colonialism more vigorously. He also urges the Comintern to actively promote revolution in Asia.

1924 - Ho travels to Guangzhou (Canton) in southern
China, a stronghold of the Chinese communists, to act as an interpreter for a Soviet mission sent to assist Chiang Kai-shek, a rising figure in the Chinese Nationalist Party and then protégé of the Soviets. While in the region Ho contacts Vietnamese exiles.

1925 - Ho organises the exiles into the Viet Nam Thanh Nien Cach Menh Dong Chi Hoi (Revolutionary Youth League). Going by the name Ly Thuy, he forms an inner group within the Revolutionary League, the Thanh Nien Cong San Doan (Communist Youth League - CYL).
The CYL concentrates on the production of an independence journal that is distributed clandestinely inside Vietnam. In 1926 Ho writes 'Duong Cach Menh' ('The Revolutionary Path'), which he uses as a training manual.

Selected members of the exile community are sent for military training with Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists. Others are instructed by Ho in the revolutionary techniques he had been taught in Moscow. Ho also sets up the League of Oppressed Peoples of Asia. This soon develops into the South Seas Communist Party, the forerunner of future Indochinese communist groups.

1927 - The communists are expelled from Guangzhou in April following a coup by Chiang Kai-shek. Ho finds refuge in the Soviet Union.

1928 - He travels to Brussels and Paris and then Siam (now Thailand), where he spends two years as a representative of the Comintern in Southeast Asia. His followers remain in South China.

1930 - Ho presides over the founding of a unified Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) at a conference of the Thanh Nein in Hong Kong on 3 February. A program of party objectives drafted by Ho is approved by the conference. The objectives include the overthrow of the French; establishment of an independent Vietnam ruled by a peoples' government; nationalisation of the economy and cancellation of public debts; land reform; the introduction of an eight-hour work day; and education for all.

Meanwhile, the worldwide economic depression sparked by the collapse of New York stock exchange in October 1929 begins to bite in Vietnam. Salaries fall by up to 50%, unemployment rises to about 33%, and strikes increase. The ICP starts organising party cells, trade unions and peasant associations throughout the neighbouring provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh in central Vietnam. Peasant demonstrators in the provinces begin to demand reform. When their demands are ignored riots break out. Peasants seize control of some districts and, with the aid of ICP organisers, form local village associations called "soviets."

In September 1930 the French respond, sending in Foreign Legion troops to suppress the rebellion. More than 1,000 suspected communists and rebels are arrested. Four hundred are given long prison sentences. Eighty, including some party leaders, are executed. Ho is condemned in absentia to death. He seeks refuge in Hong Kong and again operates as a representative of the Comintern in Southeast Asia.

By 1932 there are more than 10,000 political prisoners held in Vietnam's jails.

1931 - Ho is arrested in Hong Kong by the British police during a crackdown on political revolutionaries.

The French attempt to have him extradited but in a case heard by the Privy Council in London Ho's counsel, Sir Stafford Cripps, successfully argues that Ho is a political refugee and not subject to extradition.

1932 - Ho is released from in prison. He flees Hong Kong and travels to Moscow, where he will spend much of the next seven years studying and teaching at the Lenin Institute. He also attends the Institute for National and Colonial Questions.

1938 - Ho returns to China and serves as an adviser to the Chinese communist armed forces during the
Second Sino-Japanese War.

1939 - In August, on the eve of the Second World War,
Germany and the Soviet Union sign a nonaggression pact. The French Government immediately bans the French Communist Party then outlaws all Vietnamese political parties, including the ICP, and cracks down on political activities. The ICP responds by focusing its operations on rural areas, where the French hold less sway. The Second World War breaks out on 1 September when Germany invades Poland. The fall of France to German forces comes soon after.

1940 - Early in the year, Ho returns to southern China. He reestablishes contact with the ICP and begins to plan. Ho and his lieutenants Vo Nguyen Giap and Pham Van Dong see the defeat of the French by the Germans as an opportunity to free Vietnam from the French regime. He begins to use the name Ho Chi Minh (He Who Enlightens).

On 22 September, Japanese troops invade Vietnam, heading south from territory they occupy in China. The French quickly negotiate a cease-fire that allows their colonial administration to remain during the Japanese rule.

1941 - In January Ho enters Vietnam for the first time in 30 years and organises the Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (League for the Independence of Vietnam), or Viet Minh. A liberation zone is established near the border with China from which the Viet Min work to muster the discontent of urban nationalists and the rural poor into a unified movement for the liberation of Vietnam. At the same time, the Viet Minh begin a guerrilla war against Japanese forces occupying Vietnam.

1942 - In August, while in southern China to meet with Chinese Communist Party officials, Ho is arrested by the Chinese nationalist government and imprisoned for two years.

1944 - In September Ho is allowed to return to Vietnam with a guerrilla force of 18 men trained and armed by the Chinese. He vetoes an ICP plan for a general uprising but approves a propaganda campaign.

1945 - In January, with the Second World War drawing to a close, Ho travels to southern China to meet with US and Free French forces stationed there. However, his attempts to negotiate official recognition of the Vietnamese independence movement meet little success.

The power balance in Vietnam takes a dramatic turn on 9 March when the Japanese disarm the French forces and seize full administrative control of the country. The 1883 treaty establishing Indochina (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) as a French protectorate is revoked and Vietnam is declared independent under Japanese tutelage. The ICP sees its opportunity and begins to plan for a general uprising.

Spreading gradually south from the existing liberated zone, an ICP-led United Front has by June established a provisional government, headed by Ho, over an area occupied by about one million people. Inside the liberated zone, French-owned and communal land is redistributed to the poor. Universal suffrage is declared and democratic freedoms are introduced.

Meanwhile, the ICP steps up its activities in the country's south. 'Salvation Associations' attract thousands. In Saigon, membership of a communist youth organisation reaches 200,000, while the Vietnam Trade Union Federation numbers 100,000 members in 300 unions.

On 6 August the US drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in Japan. Nagasaki is bombed on 9 August. On 13 August the ICP issues its order for a general uprising. Ho is elected head of a National Liberation Committee created to serve as a provisional government. The next day, Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrenders unconditionally, ending the Second World War.

On 17 August, Ho appeals to the Vietnamese people to rise in revolution. The Viet Minh take control of Hanoi the same day. Saigon falls on 25 August.

On 28 August the Viet Minh announce the formation of the provisional government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV - North Vietnam) with Ho as president and minister of foreign affairs. Ho will remain as president of the DRV until his death in 1969.

Japan formally surrenders on 2 September 1945. The same day, half a million people gather in Hanoi to hear Ho read the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, based on the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. However, the situation remains volatile.

In the north Chinese nationalist forces begin to encroach. Meanwhile, nationalist Vietnamese groups begin to object to the ICP domination of the provisional government. Ho compromises, agreeing to a coalition with the nationalists and the holding of a general election in January 1946.

In the south the French begin to reassert control, taking Saigon in October. Within three months they have reoccupied of all of southern Vietnam.

1946 - When the French threaten to extent the reoccupation to northern Vietnam, Ho is forced to compromise. The French agree to recognize the DRV as a free state and permit an election in southern Vietnam if they are allowed a small military presence in the north and if the DRV agrees to join a French Union.

However, the "small military presence" quickly swells to 15,000 troops and the French begin to stonewall during further negotiations held near Paris in France.

On 20 November, following a clash between French and Vietnamese soldiers, a French cruiser opens fire on the port of Haiphong, on the Red River Delta 90 km east of Hanoi. Almost 6,000 Vietnamese are killed.

On 19 December the French order Viet Minh forces in the Hanoi area to lay down their arms and relinquish their authority. The Viet Minh respond with a counterattack, beginning the First Indochina War. The French soon have control of Hanoi and most provincial capitals in northern and central Vietnam. In 1947 they retake much of the DRV and consolidate their position in the south.

1948 - The Viet Minh regroup, using their estimated 250,000 troops to force the French from some captured territory and to the negotiating table. The entire country is granted nominal independence as an "associated state" within the French Union but the underlying conflict remains.

1949 - On 1 July a French-sponsored Vietnamese Government is established in Saigon. The territory administered by the new government incorporates Kampuchea-Krom (Cochin-China), which is largely inhabited by culturally distinct Khmers (Cambodians). The Khmer-Krom had been hoping for independence, and the inclusion of their ancestral lands into Vietnam will create ongoing tensions that to this day remain unresolved.

1950 - The US recognizes the Associated State of Vietnam (ASV - South Vietnam) and sends a group of military advisers to train the South Vietnamese in the use of US weapons. China responds by recognising the DRV and agreeing to provide it with limited assistance. Official recognition of the DRV by the Soviet Union soon follows.

By the end of the year the Viet Minh have taken complete control of the border region with China and re-established a northern liberated zone, from which they launch offensives into the Red River Delta. As disenchantment with the situation grows in France, the Viet Minh wage a guerrilla campaign to wear down the resolve of the French forces inside Vietnam.

1951 - In February the ICP, which had been dissolved in 1945 to obscure its communist affiliation, is reestablished and renamed the Vietnam Workers' Party (VWP). Ho is elected party chairman.

1953 - Most of the North Vietnamese countryside is now under Viet Minh control. In November the French launch a counteroffensive, capturing the strategic town of Dien Bien Phu, close to the border with Laos, in the northwest of the country. Ho indicates a willingness to consider a French peace plan.

1954 - A peace conference is scheduled for 8 May, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, the European centre for the
United Nations (UN). In order to maximise their leverage at the bargaining table, the Viet Minh decide to attempt taking a significant French military post just before the conference begins. The target is to be Dien Bien Phu. Over 100,000 Viet Minh troops and almost 100,000 transport workers descend on the area.

The siege of the town begins on 13 March. By 27 March the 15,000 French troops inside have been cut off from all support and supplies. The French surrender on 7 May, the day before the Geneva negotiations are set to begin. About 25,000 Vietnamese and more than 1,500 French troops have died during the siege.

The Geneva peace conference begins on 8 May as planned, continuing until 29 July when a compromise agreement is signed. Vietnam will be divided at the 17th parallel. All French and South Vietnamese forces are to move south of the demarcation line. All Viet Minh forces are to move to its north. France will quit the country completely. National elections to reunify the country under a single government are to be held in July 1956.

The agreement is endorsed by the DRV, France, Britain, China and the Soviet Union. The US and the ASV withhold approval. The country has been effectively divided into a communist North (governed by the DRV) and a non-communist South (administered by the Vietnamese Government in Saigon). The French are gone. On 24 October, US President
Dwight D. Eisenhower offers South Vietnam direct economic aid.

1955 - Direct US aid to South Vietnam begins in January. US military advisers begin to arrive the following month. The South Vietnamese Government launches a campaign against communist groups inside its territory. In August it announces that it will not participate in negotiations with the DRV over the national elections scheduled for the following year. On 26 October, South Vietnam declares itself the Republic of Vietnam.

1957 - As the communists begin to step up their organised activities in the South, armed "self-defence" groups start to repel independently.

1959 - The country begins to slide into the Second Indochina War, or Vietnam War. Viet Minh troops that moved north following the Geneva agreement filter back into the South to help local communist guerrilla cells, known as the Viet Cong, establish liberated zones. Among the North Vietnamese the conflict will come to be known as the 'American War'.

1960 - On 10 November the South Vietnamese Government accuses the North of directly aiding the Viet Cong. The following month, on 20 December, the opposition movement in the South, including the Viet Cong, is united into the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (National Liberation Front - NLF). Led by non-communist members, the NLF is a broad coalition of communists, other political parties, and interest groups.

1961 - US President
John F. Kennedy decides to increase support for the embattled government of South Vietnam, providing $US 65 million worth of military equipment and $US136 million in economic aid. By December, 3200 US military personnel are stationed in Vietnam. Within 12 months the number has increased to 11,200.

The communists respond by unifying all communist armed units in the South into a single People's Liberation Armed Force (PLAF), numbering about 15,000. The NLF is also expanded to include 300,000 members. Land reform programs are begun in liberated areas. The Workers' Liberation Association of Vietnam is established in the cities.

President Kennedy will later reverse his decision and resolve instead to disentangle the US from Vietnam. However, he is assassinated before his new program can be implemented. His successor,
Lyndon B. Johnson will further escalate the US involvement.

1963 - In Saigon on 8 May troops from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) fire into a crowd of Buddhists demonstrating against the South Vietnamese Government, killing nine. The following month a Buddhist monk self-immolates in protest. By the end of the year he has been joined by six others. Student protest erupts at the Saigon University on 24 August.

On 1 November the government is overthrown in a US-sanctioned military coup in which the ousted president and his chief adviser are assassinated. The communist party responds by calling for an escalation of the war.

1964 - The communist forces control about half the total land area and about half the population of the South. The PLAF now numbers about 115,000 troops and is supported by troops from the People's Army of Vietnam (North Vietnam) moving down the recently completed 'Ho Chi Minh Trail'.

By July the number of US military personnel in Vietnam has reached 16,000. In August US President Johnson approves air strikes against North Vietnamese naval bases in retaliation for an alleged attack on two US destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the north coast of Vietnam. In October the Soviet Union promises increased military support for North Vietnam. Meanwhile, the government of the South becomes increasingly destabilised by a series of military and civilian coups, with power changing hands 10 times in 18 months.

1965 - In February the US begins a series of air strikes known as 'Operation Rolling Thunder' against military targets in the North. The following month 3,500 US combat troops arrive in Vietnam. By the end of the year the US force numbers 180,000. The figure grows to 350,000 in the mid-1966. Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, South Korea and the
Philippines also send combat troops, and between 30,000 and 40,000 Canadians enlist with the US military to serve in Vietnam. Opposed against this combined force are an estimated 220,000 PLAF troops.

1966 - The enormous influx of US troops and the heavy US bombing of the North places the communists on the defensive. Digging in for a protracted struggle, they turn to their tried and true tactic of waging a guerrilla war in the countryside while fostering underground resistance in the cities and among the common people.

1967 - US forces in Vietnam now number close to 500,000 and the US bombing raids have extended to within 16 km of the northern border with China. US President Johnson offers to stop the bombing if North Vietnam agrees to peace talks. Ho announces, "We will never agree to negotiate under the threat of bombing."

"We have been fighting for our independence for more than 25 years," Ho says in an interview with two visitors from the US at the start of the year. "Of course we cherish peace, but we will never surrender our independence to purchase a peace with the United States or any party. "You must know of our resolution. Not even your nuclear weapons would force us to surrender after so long and violent a struggle for the independence of our country."

Towards the end of the year the communists begin preparations for a general offensive in the countryside and cities of the South.

1968 - The 'Tet Offensive' begins on 31 January with simultaneous attacks by the communists on five major cities, 100 provincial and district capitals and many villages. South Vietnamese and US forces are shaken when suicide squads penetrate the heart of Saigon, attacking the presidential palace, radio station, the ARVN's joint general staff compound, Tan Son Nhut airfield and the US embassy.

While the offensive is contained in a matter of days, the balance has swung. Mounting disaffection with the US involvement in the war, particularly from the peace movement in the West, and a mounting death toll will eventually force the US into a humiliating withdrawal.

On 31 March, US President Johnson declares a halt to the bombing of most of North Vietnam and calls for peace talks. A request by the military for an additional 200,000 troops over the 525,000 already stationed in Vietnam is refused. Meanwhile, the communists press their initiative, launching a series of attacks, including a three-month offensive against the US base at Khe Sanh.

Peace talks begin in Paris on 10 May. A breakthrough appears imminent at the end October when President Johnson announces a complete halt to US bombing of the North, but hope for an end to the war is dashed when the South insists on more favourable conditions.

It is later revealed that the South had been influenced by US presidential candidate
Richard M. Nixon, who had promised them a better deal if he won the upcoming election. It is also revealed that Nixon had been assisted by an insider to the peace talks, his future national security adviser and secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.

1969 - Expanded peace negotiations between North and South Vietnam, the US and the NLF begin in Paris in January but are destined to draw on for years. In June the NLF forms the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam (PRG), which is immediately recognised by the DRV as the legitimate government of the South.

Ho dies of heart failure on 2 September in Hanoi, six years before the country is reunified. The toll of Vietnamese dead from war will exceed three million, including two million civilians, over 1.3 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops and about 224,000 South Vietnamese military personnel.

The conflict will also spread into neighbouring Cambodia and Laos, where carpet bombing and surface offensives will result in the loss of another 950,000 lives and lead to the rise of the genocidal dictator
Pol Pot and the deaths of a further one to three million.

US deaths in the Vietnam War will total 58,226 killed or missing in action. The death toll for the US allies will include 508 Australians and 38 New Zealanders. Between 55 and 100 Canadians serving with the US will be killed.

The Vietnam peace talks draw on as the war becomes more and more unpopular in the West and more and more costly for the Vietnamese. In 1970 the US resumes air attacks on North Vietnam. The communists attempt to maintain the pressure and again shake the South Vietnamese Government and the US when they launch the 'Easter Offensive' on 30 March 1972. The US responds by escalating the air raids.

An agreement on the terms for peace is reached between North Vietnam and the US in October 1972. However, when South Vietnam refuses to believe that the North is sincere, the peace negotiations falter. Acting on advice from Henry Kissinger, who is now his national security adviser, President Nixon orders massive night-time bombing raids on Hanoi and Haiphong to demonstrate the resolve of the US and appease the doubters in the South.

During 11 days in December 1972 the 'Christmas Bombing' campaign sees 129 B52 bombers drop 40,000 tons of ordnance in what is said to be the largest raids of their type in history. The North Vietnamese return to the negotiating table and the bombing is stopped.

On 27 January 1973 all parties sign the 'Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam', the so-called 'Paris Accords'. The agreement is essentially the same as the one sabotaged by Nixon and Kissinger in 1968. It provides for a cease-fire and the full withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam. By the end of March 1973 all the US combat troops have been withdrawn.

Once they are convinced the US withdrawal will be permanent, the communists again start to move south, easily sweeping aside the now demoralised and ineffective South Vietnamese troops. The communists take Saigon on 30 April 1975, bringing the war finally to an end.

Vietnam is officially reunified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on 2 July 1976. Saigon is renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The VWP changes its name to the Vietnam Communist Party.

The US refuses to recognise the new republic and severs diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

1995 - On 11 July, US President
Bill Clinton announces the formal resumption of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the US. The same month Vietnam gains membership of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN).

2000 - President Clinton visits Vietnam. He is the first US president to visit the country since the end of the war.

2005 - According to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2005, "Human rights conditions in Vietnam, already dismal, worsened in 2004. The government tolerates little public criticism of the Communist Party or statements calling for pluralism, democracy, or a free press. Dissidents are harassed, isolated, placed under house arrest, and in many cases, charged with crimes and imprisoned. Among those singled out are prominent intellectuals, writers, and former Communist Party stalwarts.

"The government continues to brand all unauthorized religious activities - particularly those that it fears may be able to attract a large following - as potentially subversive. Targeted in particular are members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and ethnic minority Protestants in the northern and central highlands."

Meanwhile, Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai visits the US in June. He is the first Vietnamese communist leader to travel to the US since the end of the Vietnam war. He meets with US President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld on 21 June.

The US is now Vietnam's biggest trading partner, with trade worth US$6.4 billion being conducted during 2004, mostly in the form of Vietnamese exports to the US. Following his meeting with the Vietnamese prime minister, President Bush announces that he will travel to Vietnam in 2006 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit being held in Hanoi.

Ho was a central figure in the movement to free Asia from the shackles of colonialism. He is considered by his supporters to be a patriot who fought selflessly to free his people. Detractors see him as an insincere schemer set on introducing a totalitarian regime. What is true is that under Ho's leadership a poor third world country was able to withstand and defeat the might of the US and finally win its independence. The pragmatism, determination and self-sacrifice that enabled this feat is perhaps the true legacy against which his character should be judged.

Naturally many in the US will never forgive Ho and the Vietnamese for their victory. Even now, 30 years on, much US reportage and political rhetoric concerning Vietnam and the war is begrudging with praise for Vietnam's achievements and too ready to point out faults. Some people just don't get it. The US and its allies never had any business being there.

More information
Links are to external sites.
Vietnam - A Country Study (Library of Congress Country Studies Series)
Time 100: Leaders & Revolutionaries - Ho Chi Minh
Time Asia 100: The Most Influential Asians of the Century - Ho Chi Minh
New York Times Obituary - Ho Chi Minh Was Noted for Success in Blending Nationalism and Communism
AsiaSource: Asia Biography - Ho Chi Minh
Page created on 21 January 2001. Reviewed 4 June 2003. Updated 4 August 2006.


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