50th Death Anniversary

Remembering Ho Chi Minh

Harsh Thakor

Ho Chi Minh was not only one of the greatest Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries but amongst the greatest men ever who rendered service to the liberation of mankind. He infused a new spirit not only amongst the people of Vietnam but the entire world when waging a war against imperialism. Above all he never mechanically copied the French Communist Party and even revolted against its lack of genuine Marxist-Leninist content. He also did not blindly imitate path of Chinese people's war of Mao but applied it to the conditions of Vietnam. He was an abject example of how a great Marxist Leninist revolutionary develops from the very grassroots like a businessman learning his trade from sheer practice. Few men ever had biographies which were so touching which revealed the inner spiritual change in a revolutionary to wage a crusade against all odds. His life revealed simplicity in regions of divinity but achievements in metaphysical proportions.

His mass line practice and leadership had a lot to do with the great bastion of the Peoples Guerrilla army of the Vietnam which later became the Vietcong penetrating into the very soul of the masses and carrying out heroic military offensives. I recommend readers to read an analysis in an Indian revolutionary journal 'The Comrade', in November 1995 which brilliantly summed up how Vietnam adopted the mass line to defeat America.

Chairman Ho had won the adulation or hearts of the people of the world like few men ever did. His path imbibed a spiritual change to create a new man amongst people world over. I can never forget the creativity of the tactics of the Vietcong when building underground tunnels. Few men ever could galvanise masses in the manner of Ho. Ho blended the genius or creativity of a poet of musical composer with the skill of a surgeon and tenacity of a boulder in encountering the most hazardous paths in his journey. Never in modern history have so many youth or people been galvanised with a revolutionary spiritual change as in the time of the Vietnam war with Ho at the forefront. Today we have to resurrect the spirit of Ho in a new form relevant to the modem times when imperialism has reached a crescendo in era of globalisation.

His biography is close to the most fascinating any reader would wish to unravel. From his very youth he started his revolutionary journey being inspired by all the anti-colonial movements worldwide and experiencing the cruelty of his own French colonialists.

His life was a traveling spree for 2 decades from France, London Moscow and to Hongkong.

He gained his early baptism working as a cook on a French steamer and serving as a waiter in France and then London where he read the writings and news of revolutionaries and movements. William Duiker in a biography brilliantly portrays how his life as a worker doing harsh labour in London and Paris moulded his thinking where he interacted with Vietnamese workers. In France he brought out a worker's newspaper 'The Pariah' which reached Vietnam secretly and was circulated all over the world.

In Moscow he joined the Communist East Toilers school which got him access to all leading comrades like Dmitrov. Here he could distinguish between the revisionist trends and the genuine revolutionary trends supporting agrarian revolution and mobilising peasantry was disillusioned with the French Communist Party which opposed struggle of peasantry and only supported struggle of workers against capitalists. The turning point in his political career came in 1924 in the fifth conference of the 3rd international, from where he grasped the necessary' revolutionary dialectics. Here he understood the essence of not only building a Communist Party but a truly revolutionary one, unlike the revisionist French Communist Party. His political insight played a major role in the inroads the Vietnam workers made in the broad Vietnamese masses here staunchly opposed the Euro-centrism of Marxism by many Communist Parties that gave no accent to the conditions prevailing in the 3rd world.

Subsequently he went as a representative of his country in the Comintern meeting in Kowloon. In Canton he was sent by the party to recruit youth and spread anti-colonial ideology. He brought out a revolutionary newspaper 'Than Nien' which sold in thousands, formed the Vietnam Communist revolutionary league and set up many communist cells. With considerable insight he formulated a Marxist-Leninist line conducive to the situation in Vietnam. Ho founded the Indo-Chinese Communist party in a joint meeting in Kowloon 1930.The party programme revealed great clarity and innovativeness. What was crucial was his understanding of building a people's democratic revolution with the four-class alliance and agrarian revolution as the axis as opposed to Trotskyiie line of Socialist revolution. With meticulous skill he evaded the agents of the Kuomintang in Hongkong. Finally, he was captured by the British authorities and languished for a year and a half in prison. Eventually he was released after efforts of a British lawyer.

In 1942 he returned to Vietnam. The most significant development was the formation of the Vietminh, the guerrilla army of Vietnam. From the mid 1940's he was able to set up party branches all over the country, through establishing Soviets which laid the base of people capturing power from the French colonialists. It was a revelation how like a spark turning into a prairie fire moral peoples of parallel rule spread over a huge range of villages and towns for land rights, housing, education, health, transport etc. Land rent was reduced to 25 percent, eight hour day was awarded to workers, literacy was free almost everywhere.

With great tactical ingenuity Ho led his party to capitalise on the cracks in the armoury of the French rulers after World War 2 and weakening of other colonial powers. In battle of Dien bien Phu the Vietnamese forces overcame the French by launching offensives in several distant regions to disperse the forces of the enemy. Never in the history of mankind had a Western army been defeated by guerrilla forces like at Dien Ben Phu.

Since his inception as a leader his practice was in ideal contrast to the collaborationist or pro-British policies of the Indian National Congress led by Gandhi-Nehru. In the 1954 Geneva agreement Ho displayed outstanding qualities of Leninist statesmanship.

After 1954 Ho now worked on the unity of both North and South Vietnam by liberating the Southern part from dictator Ngo Din Diem who was an American puppet. Later although now not formally in charge, his moral leadership and tactical ingenuity played a major role in the Vietcong launching a thumping blow on the American enemy in the Tet Offensive. Although the American enemy was much more powerful the tactical manoeuvring of Vietnamese forces won the day. With their element of surprise. To prepare the Vietnamese Peoples Liberation Front destroyed the enemy supply lines and tramsport routes. The real turning point was that the Vietcong could move like a fish in water being based in the very hearts of the masses. The base of a Socialist Society is what facilitated this—thus a victory for Marxist-Leninist ideology. No under or over estimating the enemy. Although Ho died before the final victory of Liberation led by General Lu Duan in 1975. It would be incorrect not to give him the moral credit for the final victory.

What is remarkable was also the adoration of bourgeois military commanders or strategists and intellectuals for Ho's ideas and practice. They morally admitted that his strategy overcame and overpowered the Western military ones. The inherent quality of humility played a very important role in his life as a leader where he humbly listened to the view of others and thus even General Von Guyen Giap could rise to almost level stature. Since he opposed elevation of his personality cult his country could win the war even after his death, which is pertinent.

True he did make errors like adopting a centrist line and not formally upholding the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China and not completely demarcating from Krusche-vite revisionism. He was also not critical of the class collaborationism of Gandhi and Nehru in India or of the revisionism of Fidel Castro. It is a lesson for all cadres how centrism leads to revisionism and after the 1970's the Vietnamese Communist Party took the rightist path. Ironic the nation that won the greatest peoples War after USSR defeating the Nazis has not supported a single Revolutionary armed struggle in the last 4 decades be it in Asia, Latin America or Africa. Perhaps Chairman Mao's establishing relations with Nixon and placing greater emphasis on Soviet Social Imperialism could take a share of the blame and the eventual victory of the rightists led by Deng Xiaoping. Today Vietnam practices state capitalism.

Although formally adopting a centrist path, morally he was one of the closest comrades in arms to Chairman Mao. All cadres should meticulously read the writing of Ho which possessed the characteristic dialectical Leninist touch. His military writings also had classical analysis which were illustrated in the famous victories at Dien Ben Phu or in the Tet Offensive. Even as Maoists we have to remember that since the Chinese Revolution of 1949 no Maoist armed struggle equalled the achievements of the Vietminh and the Vietcong. The war in Iraq against America to an extent emulated the Vietnam experience. It was a very common saying in the late 1960's and early 70's to create many Vietnams. It greatly inspired comrades in India supporting Naxalbari path and there was a very supportive statement in 1969 paying homage to Ho after his death. In this regard there is a very sectarian attitude in the role of the International Maoist camp towards Ho Chi Minh like Revolutionary Internationalist Movement earlier and Maoist forces in Europe and Canada. With the Palestinian or Middle East situation at the forefront of the anti-imperialist movement today there is no more inspiring struggle than the Vietnam War to defeat the fascist Israel and America. Even if wars may take a different shape, they could still emulate many of the ideas of Vietnam also gave a fitting blow to the counter-revolutionary Trotskyite line that opposed anti-imperialist struggle.

Several Maoist sections like Dem Volke Dienen, Tjen Folk media Struggle Sessions and other Gonzaloites criticise Ho as a rightist, rejecting Maoism. Their grounds are that he took aid from revisionist USSR and did not uphold the Cultural Revolution, taking a centrist path. Chairman Joma Sison staunchly defends Ho as a Maoist refuting such critiques stating "Ho Chin Minh is a great revolutionary leader of the Vietnamese people and the world proletariat. He led to victory the people's war that confronted French and US aggression and inflicted the first frontal and definitive defeat of US imperialism in a country that it has dominated. Under Ho Minh's leadership, the Vietnamese proletariat and people won victories on their self-reliant struggle even as China assisted their struggle for certain periods and so did the Soviet Union, especially in the run up to victory in the late years of the 1960s to 1975. It is a matter of historical fact that even as the Soviet Union was already social imperialist Ho was able to wisely use its assistance to defeat US imperialism. Without Soviet assistance, South Vietnam would not have been liberated at 60's the rate it was liberated.

"Only infantile Maoists characterised by dogmatism and sectarianism, deny the historical facts. Even Mao highly respected Ho as a comrade. Only a fool can condemn Ho for forthrightly availing of the Soviet assistance, when this was crucial for bringing down thousands of US planes and mobilising armed personnel in both North and South. Ho did not put forward any systematic theory and practice of "centrism". And he cannot be held mainly or greatly responsible for the social developments in Vietnam due to the influence of Soviet social imperialism and then in current time US imperialism, just as Mao cannot be held responsible for the forces and trends opposing his line before, during and after the cultural revolution.

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Vol. 52, No. 22,Dec 1 - 7, 2019