Below is an excerpt from Ho Chi Minh – An Appreciation by Wilfred Burchett. It was published in 1972 but its relevance in 2020 is obvious. It would be interesting to have a discussion, especially with young Vietnamese, about their interpretation of Burchett’s wartime reflections. Thanks to his son, George, for the heads-up.
If it all started with Ho Chi Minh, from where did he start? The answer and its implications could well be studied by members of the American “think tank” where such a high proportion of the most brilliant graduates from the most prestigious universities earn vast sums to dream up strategies to thwart the rather simple ideas on resistance warfare laid down by “Uncle” Ho.
In the computer-type jargon that the present generation of U.S. political scientists seem compelled to employ, there is no place for history, national identity or traditions, human sentiments and values in the various “models,” “scenarios” and “games” they project in dealing with “target” countries and peoples. If such values are considered at all, it is to design policies to denationalise such a people as the Vietnamese, force them to turn their backs on their own history and traditions and model themselves on a foreign image. Like so many other elaborate designs, this will fail. But the effort to overcome a “resistance culture” is made with great intensity.
It is no accident that captured resistance fighters are almost invariably portrayed semi-nude, up to their middles in mud or roped together neck-to-neck, being marched off by grinning G.I. supermen. Vietnamese must be made to feel that they are racial inferiors with no right to national identity. For public consumption they are “gooks,” “slopes” and “dinks;” a My Lai becomes a “Pinkville” its massacred inhabitants “oriental human beings” in official reports.
Reality is that the humblest Vietnamese peasant, even illiterate, is usually culturally and morally superior to his American adversary. He knows more about his country’s traditions and history-not only because there are a few thousand more years to know about-but because he quite literally absorbs it with his mother’s milk. He is saturated with his historical heritage by environment from his earliest years. Whether it is lullabies learned at his mother’s breast, legends from a wandering bard or storyteller, or from an itinerant theatre group portraying heroic episodes of two thousand years’ resistance to foreign aggression; whether it is curiosity as to the origins of the village “genie” (a rough approximation to a patron saint), very often a legendary hero, or family tales handed down for generations of the brave deeds of ancestors in defence of the Motherland, or of iniquitous sufferings at the hands of foreign oppressions crying out for revenge, the knowledge of two thousand years’ struggle against invaders is in the bloodstream of the humblest, mud-stained peasant. This alone is an inexhaustible source of courage and stoicism; of confidence in the future and contempt for those who try to wreck the present — qualities incomprehensible to the “think tank” specialists.”
Shalom (שלום), MAA