Ho Chi Minh: the man and the myth (letter)by Kenneth GeeNews Weekly
, June 4, 2005
Quynh Dao's excellent article, "The Vietnam War - 30 years on" (News Weekly
, April 23, 2005) rightly deplores the persistent misunderstanding of the significance of the Vietnam War.
I would like to add a note on the role of Ho Chi Minh, who is equally misunderstood.
When Ho Chi Minh first returned to Vietnam, a few years before the proclamation of the Hanoi régime, he was virtually unknown to the Vietnamese, some of whom thought him to be Chinese. This was because he had lived in China for many years, and since the early 1920s, had functioned as an apparatchik of the Comintern, Moscow's organisation for the subversion of all societies standing in the path of Soviet domination.
Earlier, he played a leading part in moving the allegiance of the left-wing of the French Socialist Party to the Moscow-controlled Third International. He helped to create the Krestintern, the Peasant International.
By the mid-1920s, under the name of Nguyen the Patriot, Ho was a professional agent of the Comintern, and went with Borodin to Canton, where he arranged for some young Vietnamese who were there to be sent to Moscow for training. He returned to Moscow with Borodin, who had bungled Moscow's attempt to control the development of the Chinese revolution.
In 1944, Ho set up his headquarters in central Tonkin, and the Vietminh Party - ostensibly an anti-French coalition but soon under Ho's control - effectively organised the dissident urban petit-bourgeoisie, including Vo Nguyen Giap, later the victor over the French at Dien Bien Phu.
On September 2, 1945, Ho proclaimed himself President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, based in Hanoi.
Ho's first activity was to crush all those allies who had fought with the Vietminh against the French, in particular the VNQDD, a numerous but weakly organised body of roughly social-democratic ideology, who were no match for the communists, and who were finally decimated by Giap's Chinese-supplied artillery.
The non-communist leaders of the alliance against the French were killed, imprisoned or exiled.
Ho Chi Minh, although a ruthless organiser, was devoid of the usual claim to theoretical Marxism made by communist leaders, illustrated even by Stalin's turgid writings. Ho contributed nothing but could be called The Great Imitator. Stalin's brutal liquidation of the Kulaks had its counterpart in Ho's so-called Land Reform, dealt with graphically in Quynh's News Weekly
This was designed to drive the peasantry into communes, and destroy the autonomy of the villages, where for centuries, "the rule of the Emperor had ended at the village hedge".
The Land Reform was a disaster, but by the time of its sudden reversal, great areas had been reduced to starvation. Ho blamed his deputy.
Then Ho set his sights on the poets, novelists and other literati who had been a force in the opposition to the French.
He pretended to relax the Party's grip, but, as soon as they began to write openly, the full weight of repression fell on them, and they were murdered, imprisoned or banished to the malaria-infected highlands.
Recently, there have been some articles in the mainstream press that suggest that at long last some of the truth about Vietnam is emerging. But it is still widely believed that Ho was simply a nationalist determined to rid Vietnam of its colonial past. But for Ho and the communists, nationalism was simply a way-station on the road to total power. The myths that concern Ho should be dispelled with the others that still plague the war in Vietnam.Kenneth Gee,