Category Archives: Communist Party of Vietnam

Vietnamese Revolutionary Art

This article was published by Alliance (Marxist-Leninist) as part of the publication Alliance, issue #53, “Aesthetics and Revolution – Essays and Talks.

Introduction

Western Artists and revolutionaries, are familiar with the socialist realist traditions of the USSR, Albania and of China. They also have a deep affection and respect for revolutionary painting from the Spanish Civil War, and from the South American continent especially from Mexico and Cuba. Curiously, art arising from the heroic struggles of the Vietnamese peoples, is much less well known. This is a shame, since the long war of national liberation, resulted in a plethora of great art.

Ho Chi Minh’s shrewd and insightful leadership of the Vietnamese national bourgeois liberation struggle, built a successful United Front. This was dependent upon the recognition that “many currents” would help move Vietnam into independence. A striking example of this viewpoint, is Ho Chi Minh’s view of Confucius, Jesus and Marx as “close friends”:

“The teachings of Confucius have a strong point, i.e., self-improvement of personal virtue. Jesus’ Bible has a strong point, i.e., noble altruism. Marxism has a strong point, i.e. a dialectical working method. Ton Dat Tien’s teaching has a strong point, i.e.Fe; their policies are suited to the conditions in our country, Did Confucius, Jesus, Marx, and Ton Dat Tien share common points? Yes. They all pursued a way to bring happiness to human beings and benefit to society. If they were all alive today, and if they were grouped together, I believe that they would live together in harmony like close friends. I try to become their pupil.“

Ho Chi Minh 1949. Plaque in Ho Chi Minh Museum, July 2004.

With this “broad church” philosophy, Ho Chi Minh succeeded in welding such a powerful anti-imperialist front. Unsurprisingly even the art in the clearly revolutionary phases of this broad front, also reflects a broad range of styles, and even at times of contents. Perhaps this is not surprising, since the Indochinese dominant French imperialism had already stimulated interest in the French art movements.

This article outlines and illustrates some developments in visual arts over the modern era. We apologise that it cannot be anything more than a very brief introduction.

A short background to the traditional arts, showing their legacy to the modern era, may be helpful.

Ancient Vietnamese Art

Naturally, the art history of the Vietnamese peoples is commensurate with their ancient story. The traditional arts in Vietnam faced the ravages of wars and little other than architectural edifices, and some sculptures and pottery, now exists. This shows the mark of a tension between external influences – Chinese and Indian – and more ‘native’ royalty sponsored arts. Largely it was the Cham dynasty that was heavily influenced by Indian art, and remaining sculptures show remarkable similarity.

Another major cultural import was Buddhism, via India directly, but also via South China. Buddhism has left a long lasting artistic and intellectual legacy in the many temples and pagodas that still survive in virtually every village. All these external influences were absorbed, such that by the 10th –11th centuries, the dominant artistic expressions relied upon Chinese Han traditions.

This absorption can be vividly seen in architecture, both in construction styles, and in intellectual legacy. This is vividly exemplified by the Temple of Literature founded in the 11th century. As the official tour plaque says of this shrine to Confucius, his four disciples and the ten learned ones:

“The Temple of Literature was the biggest centre in the country in feudal times, contributing to the training of thousands of scholars for the nation. It was worthy of being called the First University.”

Plaque, Temple of Literature, Hanoi July 2004.

It should not surprise that this plaque lauds Confucius (551-479 BC — Wade-Giles K’ung-fu-tzu or Pinyin Kongfuzi). Although Confucius is regarded as a reactionary in the current era, his contribution to welding a state in China is not challenged. And above all Ho Chi Minh was a dedicated nationalist, whose first mandate was to recognise important steps in the development of Vietnam into a modern, strong, independent and united nation, bridging the so-called three kys (parts of Vietnam).

The existing legacy that we are aware of from Vietnamese arts rests primarily upon porcelains and ceramics, sculpture, architecture, and folk-art traditions. Of these a large mystical non-realist tradition was dominant, incorporating dragons and mythical beings. But they did nonetheless develop realist themes amidst the myths. So even the depictions of the Buddha show a real human shape and a real human expression [Plate 1]. This version of the Bhudda shows him starving but peaceful in meditation.

Notable in these statues is the covering of the wood, with several layers of lacquer [See below].

Plate 1: Statue of Sakyamuni on A Snow Mountain 1794; Height 137 cm

SakyamuniFrom:
Editor: Cao Trong Thiem, “Bao Tang My Thuat Viet Nam”;
Vietnam Fine Arts Museum; nd; p.43

Given the ordinary peasants’ tendency to reduce all pretensions to an earthy reality, folk art usually took an explicitly realist form. The folk art illustrated life’s vagaries with a number of human motifs, as can be seen in the wood-cut traditions of Dong Ho village in Ha Bac Province [Plate 32]. This tradition was to re-surface with the development of poster art in the national revolutionary period.

Plate 2: Catching Coconuts (paper wood-cut print);
Cao Truong Theim; Ibid; p.51

Catchign Coconuts

Many of these techniques as developed over ancient times, left reservoirs of skills that were to find a new use in an entirely different set of traditions emanating from Western art and from the traditions of Socialist Realism. The ancient arts will not be further discussed here.

We will now focus, on the visual arts over the modern era.

Beginnings of Western Type Painting in Vietnam

Under French colonial domination at the turn of hte 19th – 20th centuries, Indochinese intellectuals were drawn to French and Western art movement. This was fueled by the setting up of hte Indochinese Art Academy by a Frenchman – Victor Tardieu – in 1925.

This fostered new technical skills and vocabulary, shortly to be put to profound uses by thw revolutionary artists in the era 1935-1970.

As the Vietnam Fine Arts Academy says:

“Tardieu rendered great service by laying the foundations for Vietnamese modern Fine Arts.“

Editor: Cao Trong Thiem, “Bao Tang My Thuat Viet Nam”; Vietnam Fine Arts Museum; nd; p.25.

Certainly such a strong Western external art influence was also present in the USSR before the socialist revolution.

It was perhaps somewhat less evident in the Chinese national revolution, or in Albanian art. In China, such influences were transmitted in Shanghai, to artists such as Xu Beihong (1895-1953) who went to the Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux Arts in Paris [See Clarke David; Modern Chinese Art’; Hong Kong; 2000; p.18]. And of course Chinese developments in modern art and socialist realism, were spurred on by Lu Xun and his espousal of the wood-cut.

But Western art influence was much more immediately influential in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, the earliest tangible expression of this Western influence realism was by artists such as Le Huy Mien [1873-1943; ‘Making comments on literary work”; 1898] [See Plate 3], and Trang Tran Phenh (‘Phagm Ngu Lao’, 1923).

The former depicts scholars debating merits of literary works, a theme not dissimilar from that of the traditional Chinese inspired Vietnamese artists. But the literature being debated now was slowly becoming more likely to do with modern liberation themes, than of poems on the moon.

Plate 3: Le Huy Mien:
‘Making Comments on a Literary Work’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p, 56

HuyMien

While these pioneers utilised the Western medium of oil paints, they restricted their content to local themes, expressed in the highest form of a bourgeois critical realism. By the 1930’s however, the content as well as style, of many painters had become almost identical to the most conventional of the French Impressionist schools such as Renoir. “Little Thuy” (1943) by Tran Van Can (1910-1994) for instance [p.75] [See plate 4], or “Japanese Young Girl” 1942, by Luong Xuan Nhi (1914-) [Plate 5] are clearly overtly influenced by Impressionism.

And this type of content largely came to predominate.

Plate 4: Tran Can Can
‘Little Thuy’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 74

Tran Van Can

Plate 5: Luong Xuan Nhi:
‘Japanese Young Girl’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 77

Luong Xuan Nhi

Residuals of ancient arts were now more found in the mediums used, rather than the contents or subject matter. But if the artists persisted in using the older materials, this had an effect on the subject choice. So artists attracted to old art forms such as painting on silks, rendered beautiful images of life such as Nguyen Phan Chanh’s [1892-1984] “Going to the Rice Fields” (1937) [See plate 6].

Plate 6: Nguyen Phan Chanh:
‘Going to the Rice Fields’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 58

RiceFields

With the later revolutionary influences, Nguyen Phan Chanh, persisted in this art form, making such vivid depictions of real life as “Team of Rattan Weavers” (1960) [See plate 7] and “A Good Harvest Meal” (1960) [p. 59].

Plate 7: Nguyen Phan Chanh:
‘Going to the Rice Fields’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 58

RattanWeavers

This tradition lasted long into the revolutionary period as the dates show. It also was linked to another tradition, that of wood-cuts which spawned in the revolutionary era, the revolutionary propagandist prints.

Perhaps a specialty of Vietnamese traditional arts was however lacquer painting.
As noted above, statuary and sculpture was often coated in a several layers of lacquer. This is a resin extracted from cuts on the bark of a common Vietnamese tree called ca y son (La: Rhus succedanea), which has is collected in total darkness lest it becomes itself dark (Catherine Noppe & Jean Francois Hubert ‘Art of Vietnam’; New York; 2003). When applied by the artist, it gives a special luster to the painted material – usually a wood – that acts as a vivid light. This light can be burnished with various pigments, into several different colours according to the pigment used, but the most common are golds, reds and greens. Each layer needs sanding down, before a new layer can be added, meaning considerable labour. The quality of lacquer derives from the number of coats, the manner in which the patterns can shine out and the expertise of sanding of the surface, which allows under layers to appear as a bas- relief.
An early exponent of the fusion of traditional form with more modern content was Nguyen Gia Tria (1908-1993).

His screen “In the Garden”, consists of 8 panels that show on one side a profusion of stylised banana and palm leaves. The obverse, consistent with the genre of French painting influences discussed, has a series of pretty, languid women redolent of Impressionist male fantasies. It is undoubtedly striking, but remains a purely decorative piece. Perhaps his ‘Clumps of bamboo in the countryside (1939) shows him at both his technical and content best, showing the florid jungle surrounding peasant on a boat passage [Plate 8].

Plate 8: Nguyen Gia Tria:
‘Clumps of Bamboo in the Countryside’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 86

Nguyen Gia Tri

That Nguyen Gia Tria wished to be linked to a more nationalist stream is evident since he professed that he:

“wished to drop his art studies as he felt all his teachers should be Viertnamese. Tardiese persuaded him to stay”;
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p. 208.

Artistic Currents during the anti-imperialist struggles

It was onto this background, that the experiences of the anti-colonial liberation struggle led a new generation of artists into uncharted areas. Influenced by a stream of aesthetic thought from bourgeois liberalism through to socialist realism, they were largely solidly realist. Many of the artists of the Fine Arts Academy decamped, and taught at “Jungle Schools”:

“The first wave of national opposition against the French rule between 1946 and 1954 attracted a good number of Hanoi Fine Arts graduates who went and taught at the “Jungle School” in Viet Bac. . A natural consequence of the shutdown in the wake of the Japanese crackdown on March 31 1954. Out in the jungle you could still sense the war, but you also felt the power of nature and the cultural wealth of ethnic minorities.”
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p.212-3

Impressively stirring content was drawn from the Indochinese liberation struggles, and often was grafted onto traditional forms, primarily of lacquer.
The results are far from simple propagandist art.

Marxist-Leninist aesthetics point out that realist content material, is the most effective art to stir the masses.

Too little attention has been paid to the differences between good realist art, and simple propaganda. Marxist-Leninists have long held that the best art both moves people, but is not ‘tendentious’, in the words of Engels. Alliance has empasised the distinction between “propagandist art”, “state sponsored art”, and the best of socialist art (Memorial to Bill Bland – see Table of Contents Alliance 53).

Much of the best of the art stemming from the Vietnamese national liberation struggle is by any standard, a high art.

Clearly tensions of style remained, and a degree of abstractionism was not uncommon, with some abstract paintings throughout the revolutionary era.
But there is little doubt that the predominant weight of paintings over the period from 1945 to the 1980’s, was realist in content.

Naturally the turns of the long war led to their own effects on the artistic climate. Hence the victory of the national liberation struggle at Dien Ben Phu decisively turned mere pastiches of French impressionists into an expression of un-welcome and hostile anti-patriotism.

Sections of the intelligentsia and artists were unwilling to contemplate any further struggle, and any possible move into socialism; and became disillusioned.
As a hostile art history by Noppe and Hubert puts it, the battle of Dien Bien Phu marked a turning point:. It was here that the Vietnamese decisively defeated French imperialism, led by General Giap and Ho Chi Minh. Some artists chose Western abstractionism at this stage:

“Yet if artists (in the Jungle Academy –ed) were first and foremost observers, they were also fighters in an unequal struggle. Within a handful of years patriotic fervour gave way to disenchantment. Bui Xuan Phai was among the first who went back to the city in 1952”.
Noppe & Hubert; Ibid; p. 212.

“A radical change of situation came with the crushing defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954… From then on socialist realism became an imperative.. painters who had joined independent fighters from 1946 and depicted courageous and unpretentious freedom fighters enjoyed the full support of the rural population, suddenly found them gagged by socialist realism only a decade later. Such as Bui Xuan Phoi, Duong Bich Lien, Nguyen Sang, and Nguyen Tu Nghien”.
Noppe & Hubert Ibid; p. 113.

It is not surprising that an Art Forum was established that expressed the aspirations of national liberation, and expected its’ artists to assist in this expression.

It is equally un-surprising that the overt failure of the revolution to move to the socialist path, or the second stage of the Leninist revolution, would lead to the firm and ever stronger enthronement of capital. This was established openly by the so-called Doi-Moi reforms (See Alliance 27: On Ho Chi Minh and Vietnamese Revisionism – at http://ml-review.ca/aml/China/ALLIANCE27HOCHIMINH.htm).

These developments led to a resurgence of abstractionism and vague, moody Vietnamese beautiful ladies in art:

“The Art forum set up headed by Thai Ba Van set the baseline for modern art.. and helped stifle artistic expression, although doi-moi reforms introduced a certain amount of leeway of 1985… All Vietnamese artists felt the burden of censorship”.
Noppe & Hubert; Ibid; p. 219.

Examples of Works in the National Liberation Struggle

To see the currents at play, we should examine the paintings over this period.

In the make-over of traditional forms, some of the lacquer work is very striking. See for example “Recalling One Afternoon in Tay Bac” 1922, by Phan Ke An (b 1923). [Plate 9] see p.103.

Beautiful sun burnished green mountains form a background to a small troop of soldiers crossing a ridge. Here both content and form are perfectly matched. The ‘everyday’ aspect of a troop of soldiers is part of the scenery.

Plate 9: Phan Ke An:
‘Recalling One Fine afternoon in Tay Bac’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 103

PhanKeAn

In “Ham Rong Bridge”(1976) by Tran Oanh (b.1937) [Plate 10], workers are shown against an impressive background of the river in brilliant reds and golds.

Plate 10: Tranh Oanh
‘Ham Rong Bridge’;
Unpublished Source.

TranOanh

There is little doubt that the use of such heavy reds in this late painting, is an allegory for socialism. This use of the red and gold lacquer is made even more explicit in such paintings as the large and impressive 4 panels of the “The Nghe Tinh Soviet” of 1958 by six painters led by Nguyen Duc Nung [Plate 11].

Plate 11: Nguyen Dic Nung, Tran Dinh Tho, Pham Van Don, Nguyen Van Ty, Huynh Van Thuan, Nguyen Sy Ngoc:
“Soviet in the Provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh”
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.109

NgheAnSoviet

Even some of the abstractionist elements during this period, are sometimes very powerful. Such as for example “From Darkness (1982) by Le Quoc Loc (1918-1987) [Plate 12] (p.102). Surrounding blocks of black and gold shapes of lacquer, depict houses in the night. In one off-centre house, placed high on the wood surface, a gold and red light brightly lights a central room. The red light is the hammer and sickle on one flag, with a second flag composed of a gold five-pointed star on a red background. In front of them are black silhouettes of men and women workers saluting the flag.

Plate 12: Le Quoc Loc
“From Darkness” ;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.109

LeQuocLoc

Another impressive lacquer painting, that takes as its content material honest working labour, is that by Nguyen Khang (1912-1988) of fishermen, entailed “Fishing in the Moonlight” (1943). (Plate 13). This has a dense black background, against which the somber, hard working fishermen drift in sampans above a sea of multi-coloured fish. Accentuating the three dimensional effect, two fisherwomen standing in the shallows have their arms half visible above and half below the surface of the water. This is especially interesting, in that traditional lacquer and Chinese derived paintings, usually deny any perspective.

Plate 13:
Nguyen Khang; “Fishing in the Moonlight”;
Cao Trong Thiem; Ibid; p. 60

NguyenKhang

This type of artistic tradition continued well into the 1980’s. Nguyen Khang (1912-1989), who we met above, in 1960 did the 3 panel painting “Troops Marching Across a Stream”, in the same impressive lacquer tradition as he had used in 1943 [Plate 14]. At an initial look, all one sees is a dense jungle with groves of bamboo and green profusions. Then one sees that the jungle truly is alive, that the Viet Cong are moving silently across it and fording a stream.

Plate 14: Nguyen Khang; “Troops Marching Across a Stream”;
Unpublished Source

NguyenKhang2

It should not be thought that the materials were confined to lacquer. Oil was also very commonly used. For instance, depicting the road that Vietnam had come through, Huynh Van Gah (1922-1987) showed a harrowing line of Vietnamese refugee prisoners who are being foot-marched by French colonial guards [Plate 15].

Plate 15: Hyunh Van Gah
‘Prisoners’;
Unpublished Source

VanGah

In contrast Nguyen Trong Kiem (1930-1991) composed a haunting allegory of the future – “When a Child was Born” (1960); [Plate 16]. This large painting depicts a newborn child in the arms of its mother, with an army father standing close. All around are the people, evidently poor, against a background of a bombed out city. The meaning is clear, that the new state will provide a new society.

Plate 16: Nguyen Trong Kiem
‘When a Child Was Born’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 133

Kiem

While all these examples of art vary in their degree of “tendentiousness”, little that we have illustrated can be really termed hagiographic. That is not to say that there are a considerable number of images of Ho Chi Minh. Many of these are of Ho in ordinary activities, or in the guerrilla camps, of “Uncle Ho on a Mission in Viet Bac” by Duong Bich Lien (1980) [Plate 17].

Plate 17: Duong Bich Lien;
‘Uncle Ho On a Mission in Viet Bac’;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p. 124

DuongBichLien

While these images certainly exist, the predominant feel obtained from the paintings exhibited in the Vietnam Museum of Arts is of a far broader and higher art activity than can be classified as ‘propaganda’ art or hagiographic art. Rather impressive technical and visually appealing pictures of real and ordinary people are far more predominant.

War Themes

Not even a simple overview as this, of the artistic legacy of modern Vietnam should ignore the war themes. These are in such abundance, that for instance at the War Museum Hanoi, many are not even given the honour of a label illustrating the title or the artist. A selection of these can be found relatively easily, in a publication from the British Musuem of late war drawings, in “Vietnam – Behind the Lines – Images from the War 1965-1975”; Jessica Harrison-Hall; London 2002.

This article will not discuss poster art in any detail. But an interesting historical comparison of the wood cut in Plate 3, shows again how the modern Vietnamese artist harked back to her/his heritage at a number of points. The wood cuts continue the famous Da Hong village traditions. They both depict episodes from earlier wars of national liberation, in particular those against the Chinese Han dynasty who occupied Vietnam for many years.

Plate 17: Pham Van Don; Plate 18: Hoang Tram; ‘Three Generations’; Cao Trong Thiem Ibid p.121;
Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.98

PhamVanDonHoangTram

The sheer plethora of art produced regarding the war cannot be quickly précised in a short article, and these examples from the War Museum should suffice. But three pictures from the Fine Arts Museum are worth showing with a little discussion also. So these again revert to the fine arts tradition of using lacquer, and again do so in an ingenious manner.

Le Tri Duong (1949) painted “Breaking Through a Key Point” showing a tank with its barrel aiming at the skies, bursting through a blockade onto a red road, being hailed by 4 guerillas – three women and a man. The red lacquered road and the gold lacquered background are again symbolic. [Plate 19].

Plate 19:
Le Tri Duong; “Breaking Through a Key Point
Cao Trong Thiem; p.170.

LeTriDung

Hyunh Van Gah, who we met above, in “Heat and Gun” shows an impressive confrontation between a phalanx of black-pajama-ed women and one old man and a US marine.

Plate 20: Hyunh Van Gah; “Heart & Gun”:

Cao Trong Thiem Ibid p.123;

HuynhVanGam

In ‘Fire Coordination’, (1974) Le Huy Toan (born 1930) painted in 1974, shows a bleak and frightening landscape composed of bomb craters and shrapnel cascades into the sky, while a single young girl confronts a series of tanks approaching her.

Plate 21:
Le Huy Toan; “Fire Coordination’; Cao Trong Thiem Ibid; p.136

NguyenHuyToan

Aftermath of Doi Moi – Faceless Women and Western Reproductions

While the national liberation struggle was victorious, it was never moved beyond that to the socialist phase. The “Chinese” wall identified by Lenin between the two revolutions – firstly the national democratic liberation, and secondly the socialist revolution – was never breached in Vietnam. That Ho Chi Minh was an inspiring and great leader of the Vietnamese peoples, is beyond doubt. However his legacy is largely that of a great national liberation ideologist.

After Ho Chi Minh’s death, and the final liberation of the South of Vietnam, the state erected in Vietnam was controlled by the Vietnamese national bourgeoisie. However within a relatively short space of time, the state was once more marked by an enormous influx of foreign capital. The policy of “Doi Moi” made this quite official. That this influx of foreign capital, was both unlimited, and not without burdens on the Vietnamese people is evident. Unsurprisingly USA capital is not very high on the score sheet, being much lower than Singaporean, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese capital. Irrespective of which capital inflow is dominant, the net result has been the open and unequivocal development of capitalism in an acknowledged “open market” economy. The result on art has been frankly paralleled. Pictures of languid Vietnamese women, often faceless and often dressed (if not un-dressed) in the now ‘traditional’ white —, abound. Interestingly the market place is full of the heirs of the technically proficient artists of the earlier period. They are now largely reduced to selling the most elaborate reproductions of any Western artist that takes your fancy. From Dali to Picasso to Renoir to Van Goh – all are perfectly reproduced in oils and available at a fraction of what it might cost in the West, were it possible to get such.

Conclusions

Naturally, there are far more pressing concerns for the Vietnamese peoples than their art history.

Many still live in an astounding poverty.

Despite national liberation, life is hard for the Vietnamese peasants, numbering still about 75% of the population. Official figures for unemployment are around 7-10%. Degrees of disparity between rich and poor are growing rapidly, as even officials of the World Bank have recognised, citing growing ginni coefficients for Vietnam.

Vietnam’s art history however, is another affirmation of the Marxist aesthetic viewpoint, that art reflects the society in which it develops. We believe it also shows that the socialist realist tradition – as it was embraced by the Vietnamese liberation artists – is much deeper than simple hagiography. At its’ best, and why should an artist not strive for her or his best? – it is an affirmation of life, and a philosophic reflection upon all of life.

Source

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An Obituary for General Vo Nguyen Giap (1911-2013)

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by CARLOS BORRERO

The Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap has died. Throughout what was once known as the Third World as well as among those with revolutionary consciousness in the centers of imperialism, we pay tribute to one of the most important figures of the struggle of the oppressed for national liberation and socialism.

General Giap, the skilled politician and brilliant military strategist who came to prominence by defeating the French forces in the epic battle of Dien Bien Phu during the spring of 1954, served as a teacher and inspiration to countless revolutionaries worldwide. His revolutionary vocation began during his student years and led him first to journalism and teaching. In the early ’30s he joined the Communist Party of Vietnam, which was brutally suppressed by the French colonial regime. Like many of his comrades, he was imprisoned and forced into exile. It was during a period of exile in China that he forged ties with Ho Chi Minh and the group of revolutionaries with which he would found the League for the Independence of Vietnam, better known as the Viet Minh. Upon returning to Vietnam in the mid-40s, he participated in the organization of the resistance movement that put an end to the Japanese occupation and with the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 he took the post of commander in chief of the People’s Army. His military career would lead him to successive victories over French and American forces in protracted wars that exemplified an unparalleled understanding of the dialectic of the main strategic categories of military science.

It comes as no surprise that in the imperialist press there is an attempt to tarnish Giap’s legacy with claims of a supposed disregard for human life. The New York Times and other organs of imperialism that have published obituaries make repeated references to the large number of losses suffered by the Vietnamese troops under his command as a diversion from the real crimes committed by the war machines of France and the US, those responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of defenseless peasants through indiscriminate bombing campaigns with napalm and agent orange. This level of hypocrisy is common among the mouthpieces of imperialism who now try to play down Giap’s military genius while exculpating the real authors of so much death and destruction, Western companies that make up the military industrial complex – including manufacturers of biological and chemical weapons like Monsanto and Dow – and their political representatives who continue spreading this destructive force throughout the world today.

Among serious students of history, especially those with a revolutionary orientation, it is common to appreciate the counterposition of the strategic factor of time to the superiority of firepower held by the imperialist armies employed by General Giap. It is important to remember, however, that Giap always stressed the primacy of the political prerequisite for these strategic conceptions: the ideological and political education of the people, organized as a people’s army. In the end, it was the indomitable fighting will of the Vietnamese people, a will consistently and patiently cultivated by dedicated political cadres, that defeated the modern weapons of imperialism on the battlefield and intensified the internal contradictions of a society half a world away.

For our generation, the enduring legacy of a figure like Giap lay more in his ability to contribute to the political maturity of the Vietnamese people than in his military merits, notwithstanding his impressive achievements in this field. The central challenge of our time lay in cultivating the acquisition of a high degree of political consciousness by the exploited and oppressed along with the will to fight to collectively free ourselves from the shackles of oppression. We live in an era in which, both in the centers of capitalism and the periphery, the ruling classes maintain their dominance through the systematic perversion of consciousness. This is the most powerful weapon to keep the masses subdued, and the biggest obstacle to be overcome. It is in a figure like General Giap, however, that we find an example worthy of emulation that serves to inspire us to continue the struggle against oppression and exploitation.

Long live General Giap!

General Vo Nguyen Giap’s Economic Views

Vo_Nguyen_Giap_2008

“He was regarded as an elder statesman whose hard-line views had softened with the cessation of the war that unified Vietnam. He supported economic reform and closer relations with the United States while publicly warning of the spread of Chinese influence and the environmental costs of industrialization. [….]

In his final years, General Giap was an avuncular host to foreign visitors to his villa in Hanoi, where he read extensively in Western literature, enjoyed Beethoven and Liszt and became a convert to pursuing socialism through free-market reforms.

‘In the past, our greatest challenge was the invasion of our nation by foreigners,’ he told an interviewer. ‘Now that Vietnam is independent and united, we can address our biggest challenge. That challenge is poverty and economic backwardness.’

Addressing that challenge had long been deferred, he told the journalist Neil Sheehan in 1989. ‘Our country is like an ill person who has suffered for a long time,’ he said. ‘The countries around us made a lot of progress. We were at war.’”

Source

General Vo Nguyen Giap on Democracy in the People’s Army

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“In leading the building of the army, our Party has firmly stuck to the principle of democratic centralism. That is the organisational principle of our Party; thereby it has taken care to build the army with a genuine inner democracy and also a very strict conscious discipline.

Completely different from all types of armies of the exploiting class, our army put into practice the regime of internal democracy from its inception because the internal relations between officers and men as well as the relations between the army and the people express complete unity of mind. Owing to the demand of the revolutionary work, there are in our army differences in ranks and offices, but they have not and cannot influence the relations of political equality in the army. For this reason, internal democracy should and could be carried out in the army. To practise democracy is also to apply the mass line of the Party in leading the army.

During the Resistance War, democracy was exercised in three ways and brought about good results. Political democracy: at grass-root level, democratic meetings and army congresses were held regularly so that men as well as officers had the opportunity to speak their views on fighting, work, study and living questions. In our army, not only have the officers the right to criticise the soldiers but the latter also have the right to criticise the former. Military democracy: in fighting as well as in training, democratic meetings were called whenever circumstances permitted, to expound plans, promote initiatives and together try to overcome difficulties in order to fulfill their tasks. Economic democracy: in our army, the officers and soldiers have the right to take part in the management of the improvement of material life. Finance is made public. Thanks to the carrying out of democracy in an extensive way, we succeeded in promoting the activity and creativeness of the masses of officers and men, and concentrating their wisdom to solve the most difficult and complicated problems; also thanks to it, internal unity was strengthened and the combativeness of our army increased.”

– Vo Nguyen Giap, “People’s War, People’s Army”

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia on Ho Chi Minh

Portrait of Ho Chi-Minh

Ho Chi Minh 

(real name, Nguyen Tat Thanh; for many years used various party pseudonyms, including Nguyen Ai Quoc; adopted the name Ho Chi Minh in early 1942). Born May 19, 1890, in the village of Kiem Lin, Nghe An Province; died Sept. 3, 1969, in Hanoi. Figure in the Vietnamese and international communist movements and in the national liberation movement. Chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Vietnam (WPV). President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).

The son of a rural teacher, Ho studied at the Lycée Quoc Hoc in Hue and subsequently taught French and Vietnamese. In late 1911 he left Vietnam as a galley hand aboard a French ship and from 1912 to 1916 was a sailor and deckhand on French and British ships. He lived in England and in the USA from 1916 to 1919, when he took up residence in France. During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20, Ho submitted to the participants at the conference a memorandum on behalf of Vietnamese patriots that demanded independence for the peoples of Indochina. In 1920 he attended the Tours Congress of the French Socialist Party, at which the French Communist Party was formed; Ho immediately joined the new party. He took part in the Fifth Congress of the Comintern in 1924, where he delivered a speech on the colonial question.

In 1925, Ho organized the Fellowship of Revolutionary Youth of Vietnam from existing communist groups in Vietnam. Under his leadership, Vietnam’s communist organizations were united in the Communist Party of Indochina in 1930. Repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for his revolutionary activities, Ho was sentenced to death in absentia in 1929. From 1934 to 1938 he studied at the Communist University for Workers of the East and worked in Moscow; he took part in the seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935.

In 1941, Ho returned to Vietnam where, during World War II, the revolutionary movement against the French colonialists and the Japanese occupying forces developed under his leadership. In May of that year he organized the League of Struggle for the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Minh), which united the patriotic forces of the country; Ho was elected the league’s chairman.

After the victory of the August Revolution of 1945 in Vietnam, Ho served as chairman of the Provisional Government of the DRV from August 1945 to March 1946. He became president of the DRV in March 1946 and concurrently held the post of prime minister of the DRV from 1946 to 1955: In 1951 the Second Party Congress adopted a resolution changing the name of the Communist Party of Indochina to the Workers’ Party of Vietnam (renamed the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1976), and Ho was elected chairman of the Central Committee of the WPV, a post he held until his death. He was honorary chairman of the Lien Viet from 1946 to 1955 and became honorary chairman of the Fatherland Front of Vietnam in 1955. While chairman of the Central Committee of the WPV, he served concurrently as general secretary of the Central Committee of the WPV from 1956 to 1960. Led by the Central Committee of the WPV under Ho, the Vietnamese people waged a struggle against the imperialist aggression of the USA that resulted in victory for the Vietnamese patriots.

Ho consistently supported the strengthening and development of friendship between the Vietnamese and Soviet peoples. In his testament he called on the party and people to fight for a united, independent, and prosperous Vietnam, for solidarity in their ranks, and for a cohesive international communist movement based on Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.

Ho wrote on the working-class and national liberation movements, the development of the Vietnamese revolution, and the struggle of the Vietnamese people for the liberation and unification of the country and for the building of socialism in Vietnam. His works strongly emphasized the enormous influence exerted by the October Revolution in Russia on the development of the Vietnamese revolution and stressed the importance of the Soviet experience in the building of socialism in Vietnam.

Ho was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1967. At the 1976 session of the National Assembly, which adopted a resolution uniting the country and forming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the city of Saigon was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

WORKS

In Russian translation:
Izbr. stat’i i rechi. Moscow, 1959.
O Lenine, leninizme i nerushimoi sovetsko-v’etnamskoi druzhbe. Moscow, 1970.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Anniversary of the Liberation of Saigon, the Unification of Vietnam and the Victory of the Vietnamese People Against U.S. Imperialism

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A North Vietnamese tank rolls through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon.

Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963, to protest persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne, File)

Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963, to protest persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. (AP Photo/Malcolm Browne, File)

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in Vietnam in March of 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh, northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in Vietnam in March of 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

An unidentified U.S. Army soldier wears a hand lettered “War Is Hell” slogan on his helmet, in Vietnam on June 18, 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

An unidentified U.S. Army soldier wears a hand lettered “War Is Hell” slogan on his helmet, in Vietnam on June 18, 1965. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

A U.S. B-52 stratofortress drops a load of 750-pounds bombs over a Vietnam coastal area during the Vietnam War, Nov. 5, 1965. (AP Photo/USAF)

A U.S. B-52 stratofortress drops a load of 750-pounds bombs over a Vietnam coastal area during the Vietnam War, Nov. 5, 1965. (AP Photo/USAF)

Berkeley-Oakland City, Calif. demonstraters march against the war in Vietnam, December 1965. Calif. (AP Photo)

Berkeley-Oakland City, Calif. demonstraters march against the war in Vietnam, December 1965. Calif. (AP Photo)

A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam, 1966 during the Vietnam War. (AP Photo)

A napalm strike erupts in a fireball near U.S. troops on patrol in South Vietnam, 1966 during the Vietnam War. (AP Photo)

A U.S. paratrooper moves away after setting fire to house on bank of the Vaico Oriental River, 20 miles west of Saigon on Jan. 4, 1966, during a “scorched earth” operation against the Viet Cong in South Viet Nam. The 1st battalion of the 173rd airborne brigade was moving through the area. (AP Photo/Peter Arnett)

A U.S. paratrooper moves away after setting fire to house on bank of the Vaico Oriental River, 20 miles west of Saigon on Jan. 4, 1966, during a “scorched earth” operation against the Viet Cong in South Viet Nam. The 1st battalion of the 173rd airborne brigade was moving through the area. (AP Photo/Peter Arnett)

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai in Jan. of 1966, about 20 miles west of Saigon, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai in Jan. of 1966, about 20 miles west of Saigon, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Water-filled bomb craters from B-52 strikes against the Viet Cong mark the rice paddies and orchards west of Saigon, Vietnam, 1966. Most of the area had been abandoned by the peasants who used to farm on the land. (AP Photo/Henri Huet)

Water-filled bomb craters from B-52 strikes against the Viet Cong mark the rice paddies and orchards west of Saigon, Vietnam, 1966. Most of the area had been abandoned by the peasants who used to farm on the land. (AP Photo/Henri Huet)

Seen here are pickets demonstrating against the Vietnam War as they march through downtown Philadelphia, Pa, March, 26 1966. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)

Seen here are pickets demonstrating against the Vietnam War as they march through downtown Philadelphia, Pa, March, 26 1966. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)

Empty artillery cartridges pile up at the artillery base at Soui Da, some 60 miles northwest of Saigon, at the southern edge of War Zone C, on March 8, 1967. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Empty artillery cartridges pile up at the artillery base at Soui Da, some 60 miles northwest of Saigon, at the southern edge of War Zone C, on March 8, 1967. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city would end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)

Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators fill Fulton Street in San Francisco on April 15, 1967. The five-mile march through the city would end with a peace rally at Kezar Stadium. In the background is San Francisco City Hall. (AP Photo)

South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street, early in the Tet Offensive on Feb. 1, 1968. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)

South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street, early in the Tet Offensive on Feb. 1, 1968. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams)

Bodies lay in the road leading from the village of My Lai, South Vietnam, following the massacre of civilians on March 16,1968. Within four hours, 504 men, women and children were killed in the My Lai hamlets in one of the U.S. military’s blackest days. (AP photo/FILE/Ronald L. Haeberle, Life Magazine)

Bodies lay in the road leading from the village of My Lai, South Vietnam, following the massacre of civilians on March 16,1968. Within four hours, 504 men, women and children were killed in the My Lai hamlets in one of the U.S. military’s blackest days. (AP photo/FILE/Ronald L. Haeberle, Life Magazine)

Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four. (AP Photo/John Filo)

Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970. National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four. (AP Photo/John Filo)

Happy 101st Birthday Comrade Võ Nguyên Giáp!

August 25, 2012: Happy 101st Birthday Comrade Võ Nguyên Giáp, architect of the Vietnamese people’s revolutionary military victory over U.S. imperialism!

Happy 101st Birthday, General Võ Nguyên Giáp