Friday, April 3, 2009
Ho Chi Minh by Pierre Brocheux
He was thirsty for knowledge, and spent all his free time on board ship reading, writing, working on his French, and learning English, while his friends spent their time sleeping, playing cards or getting drunk. Not content with simply being cultivated, he wanted to educate others, starting with his own Vietnamese acquaintances. Many of them were illiterate and unschooled, and so Thanh taught them to read and write quoc ngu and urged them to behave so as not to tarnish the image of Vietnam and the reputation of its people. A certain cook who usually spent his salary on games of chance and loose women, for example, thanked Thanh for teaching him, for helping him save money, behave with dignity, and rid his speech of foul language.
One should not see these accounts as mere products of an iconography, as edifying inventions, inasmuch as Ho Chi Minh later behaved in exactly the same manner. His conduct was the same as communist leader and as President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, with his own people or with foreigners, and with his followers as with his adversaries.
Those who knew him remember his easy manner and his talent as a teacher, which helped spread his ideas. He used a simple vocabulary and very imagistic language, incorporating popular proverbs and anecdotes inspired by such authors as Tolstoy, Anatole France, and Shakespeare, which of course delighted his audience. He also wrote short plays and historical sketches, as well as songs about the national hero Tran Hung Dao.
Jean Sainteny was also quite impressed with Ho, and he wrote:"From our first meeting on 15 October 1945, I had the conviction...that Ho Chi Minh was a person of the first order." The young lieutenant Francois Missoffe was part of the Sainteny mission and also liked Ho, the "small skinny fellow" who was "upbeat, very curious, asks about everything, makes others talk a lot. I will also be meeting frequently with him. He is very sensitive. He never gives the impression of having already made up his mind about things."
He lead the war of resistance by drawing on his philosophy of human relations, by preferring face to face encounters, direct dialogue, and correspondence in verse, and by reciting proverbs rather than presenting arguments based on the rules of Marxist dialectic.