Makers of the Twentieth Century: Ho Chi Minh

'Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh' was the chant of radicals in the 1966s and 1970s, idolising the Communist leader who led Vietnam's Revolutionary struggle first against French colonialism and then against the United States' involvement in Vietnam. An article by Milton Osborne.

Portrait of Ho Chi Minh circa 1946.
Portrait of Ho Chi Minh circa 1946.

Ho Chi Minh died in 1969. Nearly five decades later it is difficult to remember the passion his name generated in the West as he led Vietnam, first in the struggle for independence against France and then in the war against a rival Vietnamese state backed by the vast power of the United States. Even his bitterest opponents found it hard not to accord him grudging respect for his single-minded pursuit of the goal of Vietnamese independence and unity. Among students in both Europe and the United States in the turbulent 1960s he became a rather unlikely cult figure, so that the chant ‘Ho, Ho, Ho, Chi Minh’, was as much part of radical demonstrations as the singing of the ‘Internationale’ or the clashes with police. Whether he was seen as a hero or a vicious dictator, he certainly was a person who could not be ignored and seemed unlikely to be forgiven.

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