General Vo Nguyen Giap, the last of Vietnam's old-guard revolutionaries is dead. The revered Vietnamese patriot died Friday, October 4, 2013 in a military hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam. He was 102.
Loved and held of the highest esteem by the Vietnamese and freedom loving peoples throughout the world, Vo Nguyen Giap devoted his entire life in the fight for a free and independent Vietnam, and a world free of colonialism and imperialism.
General Giap is most noted internationally for forces under his military command responsible for decisive military victories against the Japanese Occupation of Vietnam in the 1940's; the humiliating defeat of French colonialism at Dien Bien Phu in 1954; an even more humiliating defeat of U.S. and United Nation’s military forces during the Tet offensive of 1968 and the helicopter evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1975 which marked the defeat of U.S. imperialism by the heroic people of Vietnam.
Giap's political activism started early in his life as he followed his rice farmer father throughout the provinces agitating against French colonialists. At age 14 he joined the Tan Viet (New Vietnamese Revolutionary Party) during the 1920's.
In the early 1930's after joining the Indochinese Communist Party, the French colonial police in a crackdown on independence fighters, caught up with Giap and imprisoned him for three years. Following imprisonment, Giap continued his revolutionary activism at the University of Hanoi where he met fellow revolutionary Trung Chinh.
After alluding French police in 1939, Giap fled to China where in 1941 along with Chinh, Pham Van Dong and the great Vietnamese patriot and revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, organized the Viet Minh and the Armed Propaganda Brigade, the forerunner to the Vietnamese Liberation Army.
After the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, U.S. imperialism became the primary colonial power in Vietnam. General Giap survived and led his people through five U.S. presidents determined to recolonize Vietnam; Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. Nixon had even declared he would bomb Vietnam back to the Stone Age.
Chemical warfare in the form of millions of gallons of Agent Orange and napalm were routine practice of the U.S. military in their efforts to subdue the Vietnamese people. General Giap and his staff devised an array of ingenious militarily methods through which the Vietnamese advanced their defense of their homeland against U.S. invasion.
It was Giap who created the Ho Chi Minh Trail, an underground supply network that traveled through Laos and Cambodia.
The 1968 Vietnamese Tet Offensive, a series of attacks on virtually every U.S. military installation in the country by forces of the People's Army of Vietnam, the National Liberation Front and the people themselves shook the confidence of U.S. imperialism to a point of no return. They were defeated. That's when the U.S. began to talk about negotiating a “Peace with Honor” agreement with the Vietnamese.
Seven years later, on April 30, 1975, Vietnamese liberation forces marched through Saigon. The U.S. had been defeated.
"With the victory of April 30, slaves became free men," Giap said.
At least four million Vietnamese people were murdered by the U.S. military during the counterinsurgency efforts to crush the people's resistance. But the people could not be stopped.
With all of its technological might and military bluster, the U.S. army could not survive the fire of the Vietnamese people's determination to resist, to be free.
“The French and then the Americans underestimated our strength,” said Giap. “They had better weapons and enormous military and economic potential. They never doubted that victory would be theirs. And yet, just when the French believed themselves to be on the verge of victory, everything collapsed around them. The same happened to the Americans in the spring of '65. Just when Washington was about to proclaim victory in the South, the Americans saw their expectations crumble. Why? Because it wasn't just an army they were up against but an entire people—an entire people.”
Giap explains the concept of people's war: “What is the people's war? Well, in a word, it's a war fought for the people by the people, whereas guerrilla warfare is simply a combat method. The people's war is more global in concept. It's a synthesized concept. A war which is simultaneously military, economic and political... It was a war for the people by the people. FOR the people because the war's goals are the people's goals—goals such as independence, a unified country, and the happiness of its people.... And BY the people—well that means ordinary people—not just the army but all people.”
Giap never received formal military training. He was trained in the trenches, in what he referred to as the academy “of the bush.”
"We had to use the small against the big; backward weapons to defeat modern weapons," Giap said. "At the end, it was the human factor that determined the victory."
Perhaps the best part of writing the obituary of General Vo Gyuen Giap is that his life informs us that we can win. That U.S. imperialism can and must be defeated. Malcolm X understood this in 1963. Malcolm said; “You remember Dien Bien Phu.” He talked about how the Vietnamese had nothing but a “rifle and a bowl of rice,” and they defeated the great French army.
But more than this, General Giap and the Vietnamese Revolution was an inspiration and material reality to be emulated by the colonial peoples throughout the world, especially Africans.
The Black Panther Party even offered troops to fight side-by-side with the Vietnamese people in their defense of their homeland.
General Giap and the Vietnamese people held the whole colonized world on their shoulder. They fought honorably. They fought well. In the words of Giap and President Ho Chi Minh, “There is nothing more precious than freedom and independence.”
Long live the revolutionary spirit of Vo Gyuen Giap!
Long live the Vietnamese Revolution!