Vietnam's heroes fear for hard-won independence

Twenty years on, the comrades who won the Vietnamese war against the Americans have become old men. At Ho Chi Minh City's anniversary parade celebrating the fall of Saigon, the honourable old men sat in the front row. The sun was so intense, they seemed to be melting inside their dark suits and their uniforms encrusted with gold campaign medals.

General Vo Nguyen Giap, the military genius behind the Communist victory, was there. He is 82. There too was comrade Nguyen Van Linh, 83, looking like a Confucian sage. As much a realist as a diehard Marxist-Leninist, Mr Linh, a former party leader, was responsible in 1986 for reversing the collectivisation of farms and factories that brought Vietnam to the edge of starvation. Now retired, Comrade Linh snipes at the party leadership in press articles. He warns his own "open door" reforms have opened the door too far, too fast, letting new economic imperialists - and corruption - creep back into Vietnam.

Mr Linh undoubtedly noticed that even in the liberation parade capitalism reared its dragon's head. A troupe of gymnasts, holding a long-tailed dragon that snaked through the parade of workers and youth brigades wore costumes bearing the brand name of a foreign company. By Asian standards, it was a small, homely parade. Just a few thousand "fellow citizens, comrades, friends and combatants" were invited to watch; the route around the old presidential (now Reunification) palace was sealed off from the rest of the city by police who feared a few "counter-revolutionaries" might act up.

The parade's route to the palace paralleled that taken on 30 April 1975 by a lone Soviet-made tank from the North Vietnamese army which, after getting lost in the city and having to ask directions, bashed straight through the presidential gates. The tank fired once, and South Vietnamese officers who had gathered for a ceremonial surrender on the palace steps scurried back inside.

This time there were no Russian tanks in the parade, only a great number of papier-mch electricity pylons symbolising progress, or at least something to plug into for all those trying to buy television sets.

After several hours of earnest revolutionary songs, someone put on the kind of music you would hear in Ho Chi Minh's two hottest discos, Planet Saigon and Apocalypse Now. It was time for General Giap and the others to leave, as at a party when the younger set, tired of their parents' waltzes and polkas, commandeer the record player and turn up the volume. For the venerable old comrades and Mothers of the Revolution, it had all become too loud and strange. They looked as if they wanted to be taken home.

Like the deafening rock music, there is much about the new Vietnam some party leaders do not like. For old-timers such as General Giap and Mr Linh, it all seems to be veering off course.

Capitalism as such does not worry them; in Vietnamese families you will often find a happy mix of Catholics, Buddhists and one or two other cultists thrown in, so there is no contradiction for them in "capitalist- communism".

What distresses them is that the country may lose its identity and economic independence, won back back at the cost of more than 3 million lives in the war against the Americans, and the French before them.

As Ho Ngoc Nhuan, a former resistance fighter, said: "We're worried that the young today may forget our sacrifices and think only of new Honda motor-scooters."

General Giap, for one, was concerned enough to take a break from his daily exercises and his readings in military history and fly to Ho Chi Minh City recently, where he met a group of intellectuals over a private dinner. One participant, Nguyen Phouc Dai, a lawyer, said the general expressed dismay over the rapidity with which such Western imports as individualism and consumerism were corroding old socialist values. "He was of the opinion that our morality was being dissipated, that we were losing respect for our fathers and the way of our ancestors."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz