Friday, October 21, 2011

Ho Chi Minh

Former PM and President of Democratic Republic of Vietnam
Born on          19 May 1890
Born in            Hoang Tru
Died on          02 September 1969

Ho Chi Minh was a communist, revolutionist of Vietnam who played a symbolic role as head of state of Vietnam and as a mediator of Party disputes and became the Prime Minister of the country in 1946 serving till 1955. In 1946, Ho became the first president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and remained in the position until 1969. He was also active on the international scene, where he promoted Vietnamese national interests within the socialist bloc and attempted to prevent the widening split between Moscow and Beijing. There was no flexibility in Ho's beliefs, no bending of his will. Even as the war increasingly destroyed the country, he remained committed to Vietnam's independence. And millions of Vietnamese fought and died to attain the same goal. On 3 September 1969, Ho Chi Minh passed away. He was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while the former capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City in his honor.

Ho Chí Minh was born on 19 May 1890, in Hoang Tru Village, his mother’s hometown in Central Vietnam. His original name was Nguyen Sinh Cung, which means “Nguyen will be victorious”. His father, Nguyen Sinh Sac was an imperial magistrate in a small remote district Binh Khe, but he eventually resigned, reportedly to protest growing French domination over his country. As a child, Ho Chí Minh attended the prestigious National Academy in Hue but, possibly in response to his father's political views abandoned schooling before graduation. He later left his studies and chose to teach at Duc Thanh School in Phan Thiet. Ho could not understand how a country like France with the expression "Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!" could oppress Vietnam. At that time, the French were building their own schools hospitals, roads in the region.

On 5 June 1911, Ho Chí Minh signed on as a cook's apprentice on a French steamer Amiral Latouche-Treville. Ho spent most of his free time in public libraries reading history books and newspapers to familiarize himself with Western society and politics. In 1912, Ho changed the company and sailed to the United States of America, as an apprentice. After reaching New York, Ho Chi Minh joined as a baker at the Parker House Hotel. It is believed that during his stay in the US Ho Chi Minh contacted Korean nationalists.

In 1913, Ho Chi Minh moved to London and stayed there for the next six to seven years. He is reported to have worked as a chef at the Drayton Court Hotel, on The Avenue, West Ealing. However, the wall of “New Zealand House”, home of the New Zealand High Commission, which now stands on the site of the Carlton Hotel, displays a Blue Plaque, stating, “Ho worked here in 1913 as a waiter”.

Ho Chi Minh again moved back to France and presented a petition to the Versailles Peace Conference demanding “independence for Vietnam” in accordance with the principle of self-determination. Ho Chi Minh became a well-known face in the radical circles and in 1920 became one of the founding members of the “Parti Communiste Français” French Communist Party. During the next three years, he actively worked among radical exile groups from the colonies who were living in France.

In 1923, Ho left for Moscow, where he studied Marxist doctrine and worked at Comintern headquarters. He at the time was suffering from tuberculosis. Ho Chi Minh again sailed back to Paris before traveling to Bangkok, Thailand. He reached Bangkok in July 1928. After spending few days there, Ho Chi Minh moved on to Hong Kong. In June 1931, he was arrested in Hong Kong by the British police and imprisoned for two years. After his release in 1933, Ho Chi Minh made his way back to the Soviet Union, where he spent several more years recovering from tuberculosis. In 1938, Ho Chi Minh returned to China and where he briefly visited Chinese Communist headquarters in Yan'an and also served as a guerrilla training instructor in central China before joining as an adviser with Chinese Communist armed forces.

Ho Chi Minh’s real assignment was to establish a communist movement in French Indo-china. In 1941, Ho returned to Vietnam to lead the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam). Within months, Ho recruited radical Vietnamese patriots living in exile in South China into a new revolutionary organization. In conformity with prevailing Leninist theory and Ho's own proclivities, the league's program combined social revolution with nationalism and soon became a leading force within patriotic circles in Vietnam.

August Revolution
In August 1945, Viet Minh forces launched a revolution to overthrow Emperor Bao Dai and seized power throughout Vietnam. They victoriously occupied Hanoi and on 2 September a Democratic Republic of Vietnam was created with Ho Chi Minh as President. Although democracy was established in Vietnam, no other country recognized it. He repeatedly petitioned American President Harry Truman for support for Vietnamese independence, citing the Atlantic Charter, but unfortunately, Truman never responded.

In September 1945, China sent around 200,000 personnel to Hanoi. In an effort to drive out the Chinese forces, Ho Chí Minh on 6 March 1946 signed an agreement with France. The agreement stated that from now onwards, Vietnam would be recognized as an autonomous state in the Indo-Chinese Federation and the French Union. The agreement helped in sending back the Chinese troops but at the same time led to fighting between Vietnam and France. A troop of French soldiers led by Jean-Etienne Valluy had almost captured Ho Chi Minh but he somehow managed to escape.

Soviet Union was the first country to recognize the Ho Chi Minh-led Vietnam government. In February 1950, Ho Chi Minh met Stalin and Mao in Moscow and concluded that Viet Minh would be supported by Soviet and China. Although support from China enabled Ho Chi Minh to escalate the fight against France, Ho decided to negotiate a truce. France also sounded similarly but it could not be materialized as French negotiator demanded Minh to handover all the Japanese military officers who had been helping the Vietnamese armed forces by training them. Ho Chi Minh, without any second thought replied that the Japanese officers were allies and friends whom he could not betray. In 1954, after the important defeat of French paratroopers at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, France was forced to give up its empire in Indo-China.

Independent Vietnam
After 1954, Ho Chi Minh continued to serve as the President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam but delegated the regular responsibilities to trusted lieutenants such as Pham Van Dong, Truong Chinh, and Le Duan.
In the 1954 Geneva Accords, signed between France and the Vietminh, stated that communist forces regroup in the North and non-communist forces regroup in the South. Ho's Democratic Republic of Vietnam relocated to Hanoi and became the government of North Vietnam, a Communist-led single party state. Convinced of the importance of Soviet friendship, he was also sensitive to the brooding presence of China and attempted to maintain cordial relations with the leaders of both communist states.

During the 1960s, he appeared to decline in health and his role was reduced to occasional public appearances. He died of an apparent heart attack on 3 September 1969, at the age of seventy-nine. Six years after his death, when the communists were successful, North Vietnamese tanks showed a poster with the following quote, "You are always marching with us, Uncle Ho".

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