Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)

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Inspired by Lenin, Ho Chi Minh was nationalist leader, president of North Vietnam (1954–69) and founder of the Indo-Chinese Communist Party (1930). A strong opponent of French colonialism, he led the resistence to the French in the first Indochina War out of which the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam emerged. Founder of the Viet Cong guerrilla movement, he died during the Vietnam War.

Early Life

Ho Chi Minh was born on 19 May 1890 in Hoang Tru, central Vietnam. He attended school in Hue during his teenage years, worked as a schoolmaster in Phan Tiet, and went to a technical school in Saigon. In 1911, under the name Ba, he began work as a cook on a French steamer. This took him as far as Boston and New York. After 2 years in London (1915–17) he moved to Paris where he became an active socialist, using the name Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nguyen the Patriot) to organise a group of Vietnamese to protest against French colonial policy. In 1920 Ho Chi Minh participated in the founding of the French Communist Party.

Inspired by Lenin, Ho Chi Minh went to Moscow in 1923. There he participated in the fifth Congress of the Communist International, the world organisation of communist parties. In 1924 he was in Canton, a stronghold of China’s communist revolutionaries. It was then that he recruited his first cadres of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association, the predecessor of the Communist Party of Vietnam (VNA). Chiang Kai-shek expelled the communists from Canton in 1927.

After the outbreak of World War II, Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam to organise the Vietnamese Independence Movement, the Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam) and a guerrilla army to resist Japanese colonisation. The Viet Minh liberated large parts of northern Vietnam and after the Japanese surrender to the allies the Viet Minh proclaimed, on 2 Sept. an independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam from Hanoi. In Oct. General Jacques Leclerc landed in Saigon with orders to regain control of Vietnam for the free French Government. A stalemate ensued with the Viet Minh in control of north Vietnam and the French in control of the south. On March 6, Vietnam was made a ‘free state’ within the French Union.

The agreement was short lived. A clash between French and Vietnamese troops, on 23 Nov. 1946 led to a French naval bombardment of Haiphong, killing nearly 6,000. The first Indochina War raged for 8 years until the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu (1954) where 16,000 French troops surrendered.

Career Peak

The subsequent Geneva Conference divided Vietnam along the 17th parallel. Ho Chi Minh became the first president of the independent republic of North Vietnam. The accord also made provision for elections to be held in 1956 for the reunification of Vietnam. This was not accepted by the Bao Dai government in South Vietnam and by 1959, Hoh Chi Minh had begun a campaign of guerrilla insurgence in South Vietnam and established the National Liberation Front or Viet Cong. The same year he ceded his position as the Loa Dong (Workers’ Party)’s secretary-general to Le Duan.

In Dec. 1961, South Vietnam’s President Diem requested assistance from the USA. President Kennedy sent military advisers to South Vietnam and in July 1965 President Johnson committed up to 125,000 US troops. The Vietnam War outlived Ho Chi Minh, who died on 2 Sept. 1969, Vietnam’s National Day.

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