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Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969): Vietnamese

Many famous nationalist leaders were not nationalist by choice.

For example, the Algerian prince Abdel Kader (1808-1882) was not destined to lead the first popular revolt against the new colonial power of France:  Abdel Kader was a mystic, Sufi, had done the pilgrimage to Mecca as a teenager with his father, and was deeply religious. The leaders of the  tribes elected him to be their Caliph at the age of 24 in order to lead the war against the French troops. After two decades of wars and over 100,000 of French troops amassed to quell the revolt with atrocious mass massacres, and no external support by the Ottoman Empire or any European monarchs, Abdel Kader surrendered and later became the staunchest supporter of France:  He worked hard to rally the Egyptians and clerics to the cause of the project of the Suez canal undertaken by the French government.

Another case is of Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) who reluctantly lead the revolution to freeing all south America from Spanish colonialism in 1826. At 19, he married a Spanish girl (from Madrid), two years older than him, and he was deeply in love and decided to lead a normal life, like his dad did on his vast plantations.  Suddenly, Simon’s wife died four months later from fever and everything changed in his life.  He returned to Europe, Spain and France, on another long trip before he decided to return to Caracas (Venezuela).

Ho Chi Minh or “source of light“, one of the many aliases he used in his clandestine life, was born Nguyen Sinh Cung in Annam or north Vietnam; France was already the colonial power of the current Far East Asian States of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Ho Chi Minh didn’t finish his high school in 1909 for lack of finance and his father, a low civil servant at the French administration, was fired for alcohol abuse.  France had change the Vietnamese ideograms into Latin characters called “quoc ngu“.  In 1905, Japan had defeated Russia and the Vietnamese were flocking to Japan for education. Ho Chi Minh decided to go west and boarded a French merchant cargo; he worked in the merchant marine for two years as cabin boy and kitchen helper.

In China of 1912, Sun Yat Sen forced the emperor to abdicate.  Ho Chi Minh is in Marseille (France) in 1913; he is refused the application to attend the Colonial school forming administrators to France.  WWI starts and 92,000 Vietnamese are enlisted in this western war as replacement to French workers in factories and digging trenches.  Ho Chi Minh refuses to participate; he wrote to his Vietnamese mentor in France: “Destiny is reserving us surprises.  Within 4 months destiny of Asia will change.  The hell with those who decided to fight.  We have to wait calmly for the war to end.”

In 1916, Ho Chi Minh is in London and acquiring technical skills in electricity and mechanics.  The “Annamite patriots” are in Versailles in 1919 demanding to be freed from France colonialism.  Ho Chi Minh understood that independence will be earned by violent means and join the French communist party, recently adhering to the Comintern organized by Lenin in the new Russia Bolshevik regime. Ho Chi Minh  wrote: “ I like and respected Lenin because he was a great patriot who liberated his compatriots.”

Thus, Minh sided with the Lenin faction at the 3rd French International that gathered in Tour in 1919; he spoke saying: “The future of socialism is by allying to nationalist forces and taking greater interest in freeing colonized nations that are marching irresistibly toward independence.”

He is suffering famine in Paris but he publishes articles in French communist papers.  From Moscow of 1923, Dimitri Manouilski, commissar of agriculture in Ukraine, summons Ho Chi Minh to attend 18 months at the new communist university, designed to training members in clandestine activities. Ho Chi Minh is then a member of the Peasant International executive bureau, the Krestintern and attends the 5th International Congress in Moscow and sides with Stalin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev against Trotsky (chief of the Red Army who was for an International revolution.)

In 1925, Ho is sent to Canton (China) to train and teach 300 Vietnamese communist refugees, among them is the future Prime Minister Pham Van Dong.  The Chinese communists, lead by Zhu Enlai, Mao Tse tong, and Wang Jingwei enter Shanghai before their ally the nationalists of Tchang Kai-check who foment a massacre against the communists inside the city and expels them.  Moscow is no longer supporting the Chinese Nationalists and Ho is recalled to Moscow.  Ho is sent to Bruxelles, Berlin, and Paris. In 1929, Ho reaches Thailand from Vladivostok and unites various small Vietnamese communist parties into one and appoints Tran Phu as secretary-general.

Ho suffers jails in Thailand and China for more than a year and manages to reach Moscow after crossing 7,500 kilometers that lasted 6 months.  Mao Tse Tong is firmly established in the Hunan and Jiangxi provinces. By 1933, Stalin started the purge: 30,000 army officers will be executed along with the communist leaders.  Ho is feeling the heat and obtains the permission to Joining Mao’s forces and met with a young Vietnamese historian Vo Nguyen Giap (the military mastermind in defeating the US forces in 1973).

In Vietnam of 1940, the Japanese sealed a deal with the French army faction allied to Vichy and are controlling all the air bases and the ports. Ho returns to North Vietnam and settles in a grotto, having carried a typewriter while crossing the frontiers; he eventually forms the Viet Minh and organizes the peasants.  Ho is actively contacting agents for arms and support.  Ironically, only the US comes to the rescue, supposedly to defeating the Japanese in Far East Asia after japan bombarded Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) in December 1941.

The leader of the Trotskyist communist faction, Ta Thu Thau, infiltrated to the north from his bases in south Vietnam; the Viet Minh captured him several times and was released by orders of Ho Chi Minh.  To making a long story short, Ho’s priority was a unified front in the north and decided to eliminate Ta Thu Thau saying: “He was a great patriot and we are crying him.  However, whoever does not follow the line I traced will be broken down.”   Ho tried hard to finding a peaceful resolution with the French and attended the conference in Fontainebleau during 1946 and spent several months revisiting cities and meeting old friends.

By 1951, Ho is receiving arms and financial resources from both China and Russia while the French troops are supplied by the USA. Ho finally defeats the 12,000 French army in Dien Bien Phu in 1954.  In 1955,  France abandons all of Vietnam to the US in order to focus its military resources against the Algerian national resistance.

Ho is now establishing the Viet Cong guerrilla and army to fighting the US troops in south Vietnam.  He died in 1969 as his emissary Le Duc Tho started the peace conference in Paris with Henry Kissinger.  The US will vacate Vietnam in 1973.  Ho Chi Minh spoke fluently four foreign languages: Chinese, French, English, and Russian.  The Chinese ancient philosopher Confucius was Ho’s spiritual master.

Note:  This topic was mainly extracted from the French book “Lighthouses” by Jacques Attali


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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