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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballLive! Sanchez makes up for penalty miss to put Arsenal ahead
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all