Ho Chi Minh And His Prominence In The History Of Vietnam
For one of the most prominent figures in Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh lacks a clear cut representation in historical literature. There exists a controversy between established works and revisionist historians as to what kind of character Ho was. One one hand, orthodox historians argue that Ho was a simple patriot, a part Gandhi, part Lenin symbol of simplicity and hope for the Vietnamese fight for independence. (Halberstam 12-14) On the other hand, revisionist historians challenge these accounts, arguing that although Ho Chi Minh appeared to be a genuine Nationalist, his true intentions were to further his Communist agenda. Nonetheless, both sides can agree that Ho Chi Minh is revered for his strong leadership in fusing patriotism with anti-imperialism. (Brocheux 12) More specifically, it was Ho’s alignment with the Vietnamese Nationalists, in combination with his cunningness and personality that made him so successful in his leadership. Ho Chi Minh grew up under the paradox of French Colonialism, a system that flaunted its humanitarian values yet enslaved others. (Brocheux 182) Hence, Ho soon developed a strong hatred against imperialism, giving him a shared nationalism among his people. This Anti-French sentiment was actively growing as the French continued to exploit its colonies as a source of manual labor and funding millions of francs during the Great War (WWII). (Brocheux 18) Furthermore, both France and Japan forced Indochina, which included Vietnam, into war production to producing cash crops rather than food, leading to a massive famine. As a result, the conditions were ripe for Ho Chi Minh to take control as the Anti-Imperialist Sentiment was on his side. The Vietnamese have long been prepared to escape French rule in response to the treatment they have received from the mother country, now all they needed was a leader. (Neuman-Hoditz 85)
By 1911, Ho was already building his following. In Phan Thiet, Ho had already grown popular with the local community for releasing activist prisoners, protecting peasants from landlords, and punishing local bullies. (Duiker 58) In doing so, Ho builds a reputation as social revolutionist for the proletariat, granting him popular support in a country that is 90% peasants (Duiker 32). Therefore, Ho Chi Minh’s nationalist background proves influential in shaping his motives to assume leadership and gathering an early following, both of which are fundamentally important in Ho Chi Minh’s rise to power. Before forming the Vietminh, Ho Chi Minh spent nearly two decades travelling, spending time under training by the Bolsheviks, studying Leninist Marxism, and gathering experience, including within the Indochinese Communist Party. Ho Chi Minh applied this knowledge to design the foundational structure that would become the Vietminh. His plan was to harness the feeling of nationalism in Vietnam would be achieved by creating a base that was as broad as possible, but most importantly patriotic (Halberstam 63) Ho argues that a purely Communist party would alienate allies on economic and intellectual grounds and place them at risk for criticism from rival parties. (Halberstam 63)
Therefore, Ho Chi Minh’s Nationalism does serve as a guise to allow him to implement his Communist policy, but not as radical as Brocheux puts it. Ho Chi Minh did not artificially create a Nationalist image purely for the sake of sneaking Communist policy under the noses of the Vietnamese. Rather, Ho’s Patriotism is genuine, but manipulated to attract support from the proletariat. As Japan grew weaker during World War II, the Vietminh capitalized on their situation and Ho Chi Minh delivered his Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, the Vietminh placed the blame of the famine onto the Japanese and French and then encouraged the proletariat to raid the storehouses. (Brocheux 90) Thus, by pulling the peasants into guerilla warfare against the foreign countries, the Vietminh essentially harnessed their support for the revolution as they are fighting for Vietnamese Independence. (Halberstam 92) Additionally, Ho strengthened the Land Reform to appeal to poor peasants. (Duiker 378) As a result, after Japan fell, the Vietminh officially controlled Vietnam. (Halberstein 82) Ho Chi Minh’s brilliant move allowed the Vietminh to legitimize their power in Vietnam by capturing the Nationalism of the entire country and massive support from the proletariat. All the efforts made to bring Vietnam into independence had placed the Vietminh into authority, meaning that they were the representation of the Vietnamese Nationalists.
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