[News] Reflections on the Passing of Comrade General Vo Nguyen Giap – Great Hero of Humanity

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 11 14:06:24 EDT 2013

    Reflections on the Passing of Comrade General Vo Nguyen Giap – Great
    Hero of Humanity <http://ouleft.sp-mesolite.tilted.net/?p=1622>


*By Merle Ratner *

I am very saddened at the passing of General Vo Nguyen Giap on Friday! 
Bac Giap, as he is called as a term of great affection, dedicated his 
entire life to achieving the national liberation and independence of 
Vietnam. He led the victory of the Vietnamese people against French 
colonialism and U.S. imperialism, making Vietnam the first country to 
achieve decisive victories over colonial and imperialist powers.  Bac 
Giap and President Ho Chi Minh together led the movement for national 
liberation and socialism which made these victories possible.  
Developing Marxism Leninism creatively and applying it to the particular 
conditions of Vietnam, they were able to meld the demands for national 
independence and ending feudalism and oppression into a powerful and 
all-sided people’s struggle.

Bac Giap developed a theory and practice of people’s war — an integrated 
strategy of military, political and diplomatic mobilization of the 
entire Vietnamese people.  This unique comprehensive approach maximized 
the agency of the Vietnamese masses in achieving their own liberation, 
mobilizing their grass roots initiative.  Some bourgeois press 
obituaries of General Giap have claimed that he was “ruthless,” willing 
to lose millions of people to win Vietnam’s independence. Those who 
write this clearly do not understand Bac Giap or the Vietnamese people! 
The French colonialists and U.S. imperialists’ scorched earth war 
against the Vietnamese made the fight for liberation burn in the heart 
of the people, who were willing to make incredible sacrifices to achieve 
their liberation. Bac Giap successfully led this movement with great 
love and respect for those he commanded and his love has been 
reciprocated.  The massive outpouring of people, including many youth, 
this weekend in the streets of Vietnam to honor Bac Giap underscores how 
beloved he is in Vietnam, as he is around the world.

After liberation, Bac Giap continued to fight for the development of 
people’s power and socialism, particularly focusing on the empowerment 
and advancement of the majority of the population — the peasant 
community.  He has been a consistent voice criticizing corruption and 
opportunism and advocating for environmentalism.  Around the world Bac 
Giap embodied proletarian internationalism as an inspiration to people 
struggling for independence, equality and justice

In an interview he gave in 1999 with PBS, Bac Giap summed up some of the 
lessons which the world has drawn from his life of service to humanity, 
There is a limit to power. I think the Americans and great superpowers 
would do well to remember that while their power may be great, it is 
inevitably limited…. Since the beginning of time, whether in a socialist 
or a capitalist country, the things you do in the interests of the 
people stand you in good stead, while those which go against the 
interest of the people will eventually turn against you. History bears 
out what I say.

I met Bac Giap and his wife and comrade, Dang Bich Ha, several times 
over a number of years from the 90?s to 2005.  The first time, I was 
immediately struck by his kindness and his humility. As I shook his 
hand, somewhat awestruck, he waved his hand and stopped me when I 
started to say how honored I was to meet him, He said that he had come 
to hear my thoughts, and the thoughts of our movement, about the 
situation in Vietnam and the U.S.  He asked me to tell him about the 
communist and left and anti-war movements in the United States, about 
how people here viewed Vietnam and about what we thought of the current 
situation of the Vietnamese revolution.  He was particularly interested 
in how young people in the U.S. understood the situation in Vietnam and 
the about basis for long term friendship and solidarity.

Bac Giap told me that about his research and investigation into the 
living conditions of the peasants, land use issues and his desire to 
ensure that they were able to improve their lives and prosper as Vietnam 
developed.  He expressed concern for Vietnam’s workers, saying that in a 
socialist country, particularly in this stage of development, policies 
must focus on the well-being of the majority- the workers and peasants.

In a later meeting, we spoke about socialism and about the challenges of 
political education of youth.  Bac Giap was always hopeful, even when 
acknowledging the contradictions that development brings.

I was also privileged to spend some additional time with his wife, Dang 
Bich Ha. Bac Ha is a strong revolutionary woman who took part in all the 
discussions and raised many questions about the communist movement in 
the U.S.  Bac Giap and Bac Ha’s relationship impressed me as an 
expression of the Vietnamese revolution’s emphasis on the equality of 
women from the earliest days.  It struck me as a marriage of love, 
equality and respect, with common beliefs as well as lively discussions 
and even some disagreements!

In my final meeting, General Giap spoke mainly of his activities in the 
revolution against the French and his work together with President Ho 
Chi Minh.  At that time, he was resting in Do Son at a very modest Army 
house.  His body was becoming frail, but he still managed to climb a 
flight of stairs to meet with a large group of soldiers who had come to 
visit bearing flowers and great enthusiasm. With the young soldiers Bac 
Giap radiated energy and warmth, making everyone feel comfortable.  I 
will always remember Bac Giap, Bac Ha at his side, among that group of 
young men and women with their eyes shining!

/Merle Ratner, former member of the CCDS national coordinating 
committee, was instrumental in organizing the two CCDS study tours to 
Vietnam and contributed to the CCDS pamphlet "Vietnam: From National 
Liberation to 21st Century Socialism." She is a Co-coordinator of the 
US-based Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign and 
coordinated an international workshop on Marxist Theory and Practice in 
the World Today at the Ho Chi Minh Academy in Vietnam. She also has two 
articles on Vietnam today in the new CCDS book, /Vietnam: From National 
Liberation to 21st Century Socialism 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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