“Remember, a storm is a good opportunity for the pine and cypress to show their strength and stabilty” – Ho Chi Minh
He was the peoples hero and a saviour. A man every Vietnamese loving refers to as “Uncle Ho”. He loved his homeland so much he literally dedicated his life to lead the people against an invasion of his beloved soil. He died over forty years ago and he is what you could only now consider, a modern day god.
When you hear the words ‘Ho Chi Minh’ you might think of a city, right? You’d be right, because after the war ended in 1975, Sai Gon was shortly re-named ‘Ho Chi Minh City’ in memory of their devoted leader. It’s now Vietnam’s biggest city and the financial hub with 40% of the countries wealth found here. The name Sai Gon is still used but is reserved for the cities original and most central districts.
Born in 1890 he grew in a country occupied, abused and repressed by French colonials and although he was from a poor family, his parents raised him well and worked hard to give him a good education. He had the brains and left school early to travel the world in a hope to gain an understanding of worldwide politics and how he could free his beloved country. After working in kitchens and bakeries in the cities of Paris, London and New York, he also had the chance to be a kitchen porter on an intercontinental ship, when in the aftermath of WW1 he returned to Paris again and furthered his knowledge on politics with the Socialist Party of France.
For the next Decade, he would keep travelling and his next stop was Moscow where he further studied Marxism-Leninism. A year later he arrived in Southern China, where he held ‘youth education classes’ on communism to Vietnamese living locally. Again, he returned to teach in Moscow and France then traveled on further to Switzerland, Italy, Thailand, India and finally returned to China and Russia again. All the while he was meeting fellow countrymen and building underground support for an idealogical political party – the “Communist Party of Vietnam”.
“It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me” – Ho Chi Minh
As many of you know, Communism is an evil word in most parts of the world. I grew up knowing not much of it, but I always had terribly negative feelings whenever I heard the word. It’s actually an insult to call someone a communist! haha. Our governments believe – or want us to believe that, countries under communism are terrible, evil places to live, full of miserable, suppressed people from brutal dictatorships – far from what Vietnam was or what Ho Chi Minh wanted. Communism is open to so many variants but yes, I admit …. it’s had a pretty bad track record for turning simple communal living into repressing dictatorships!
Ho Chi Minh had always wanted to remain open and to be friends with the French and Americans, but his political movements were based on a way to claim Vietnam as independent again, not to suppress, close off or gain control over anyone for the governments own benefit. On paper communism is far from evil, it’s actual quite a beautiful theory. Ho Chi Minh wanted to give his people all the freedom, love and enjoyment he could offer them. But he wanted his country to belong to Vietnam again….. Communism was the only answer he could find.
The story of Ho Chi Minh is rich but here are some key dates-
1941 – Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam to lead the “Viet Minh” independence movement, fighting French and Japanese forces in WW2
1945 – Read the “Vietnamese declaration of Independence” and declared Vietnam as Independent, free from Japanese or French colonial rule and the Communist Party of Vietnam was now in power
– Ho Chi Minh declared President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
1946 – War declared by Ho Chi Minh on the French union after failed agreements
1954 – Vietnam divided into North Vietnam (Communist) and South Vietnam (Democratic)
1959 – A guerrilla campaign of the South launched by Ho Chi Minh to unit the country under communist rule
1964 – US now joins the war after a Naval ship is torpedoed of the coast of Vietnam
1968 – The hugely successful Tet offensive is masterminded by the North and the South are smashed on the biggest holiday of the year
1969 – Ho Chi Minh dies from heart failure in Hanoi
In a sad twist of fate, Ho Chi Minh would be unable to see the end and of the brutal war and his country triumph. It’s also terribly sad that until the day of his death, he was fighting against the USA, an opponent who for years he openly admired, not only for their pride in freedom, but their strength, self sufficiency and development. He even borrowed some lines of the original American Declaration of Independence for the one he read for Vietnam. How’s that for flattery!?
All Vietnamese have grown up listening to recordings of his voice and seeing his image several times daily; even praying to statues of him at some temples. His face is seemingly almost everywhere – money, schools, sidewalk posters, t-shirts and even shrines. His portrait sits at the front of every classroom and a large image of him watches over the kids as they play in the school yard. A large golden bust of his handsome face is always seen in the office/meeting room and sometimes even at the family altar, once again confirming a ‘god-like’ status.
He was known as a man of simple character with simple needs, living a minimalist, calm and healthy lifestyle. His name is now used as an adjective as you will hear of other people whose lifestyles resemble his as being reffered to as very “Ho Chi Minh”. A politician, yes, but seemingly to the people he was way more than that. He represented everything they value, everything they now love and care for. These days, every child in Vietnam grows up learning of Ho Chi Minh, his sacrifices, his life and his legacy which still lives on through teachings based on his ideologies.
Earlier this year, my friends mother of fifty five years old went to Hanoi and visited his tomb and when she first saw his body laying in the glass cabinet, she burst into tears when seeing his embalmed body. ‘Uncle Ho’ was a huge part of her life whether she liked it or not and she guesses it was just the emotion built up inside of her for so many years, she had nothing else to do.
Some people don’t believe his story and believe he was a hateful, brutal warmonger like Stalin. Its too easy too look at the good vibes and positivity he brings out in people these days to even consider a different side. These days he is literally worshiped like any other god and like any other god and inspires alot of good in people. Like any god, who knows how long his story and love will live for?