On Aug. 7, another of the heroic and determined generation of revolutionaries who guided Vietnam’s liberation movement passed away.
Le Kha Phieu was born in 1931 in Thanh Hoa province in the northern part of Vietnam (then French Indochina). At 15, he joined the revolutionary struggle to gain independence from French imperialism, which had been forced out of Indochina during World War II by Japanese imperialism, but was attempting to reassert dominance. Le Kha Phieu joined the Indochinese Communist Party in 1949, and in 1950 he joined the Vietnam People’s Army to take part in the armed struggle to liberate his country.
Le Kha Phieu rose through the ranks, first during the war against French imperialism and then during the long years of war against the U.S. occupation. (en.bocongan.gov.vn, Aug. 14) After the defeat and expulsion of the U.S.-imperialist forces, he also participated in the campaign to stop the invasion by China in 1979, which was motivated by China’s political differences with Vietnam regarding Cambodia.
While in the armed forces, Le Kha Phieu held many positions of political leadership. He reached the rank of colonel general and head of the general political department of the People’s Army.
In 1991, he was elected to the Central Committee of the Vietnam Communist Party, to the Politburo in 1994 and was elected General Secretary of the party’s Central Committee in 1997. (e.vnexpress.net, Aug. 15)
There were serious political differences inside the party and within Vietnam’s general society in the late 20th century. The party was involved in a principled struggle over tactical questions concerning whether and how quickly to introduce capitalist measures into the economy. Could the economic needs of the people be more effectively met by the government through centrally planned development projects or by loosening up some socialist controls and permitting some capitalist development and foreign corporations?
Le Kha Phieu was on the losing side of this debate (that argued to not open up the economy), and his five-year term was cut short by a year. In 2001, he was out of that position.
He retired from his official positions in 2006. At that time, he was given many awards for his lifetime of great contributions, including the Golden Star order recognizing his 70 years of dedication and leadership as a member of the party.
Le Kha Phieu’s contributions were honored with a two-day official period of mourning. Numerous high level delegations of representatives from the VCP, government, diplomatic and fraternal parties, and popular organizations attended the simultaneous memorials held in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and his birthplace in Thanh Hoa. Numerous tributes were sent recognizing his remarkable role in Vietnam’s wartime and postwar struggles.