VIA WORKERS WORLD NEWS SERVICE
REPRINTED FROM THE JAN.18, 1996
ISSUE OF WORKERS WORLD NEWSPAPER
Comrade Vo Tran Chi recalled the time I visited Viet Nam 22 years ago. Those were very difficult times, very hard. I came from the Non-Aligned Conference in Algeria, and stopped over in India, and it was there that we heard the bitter news of the coup d'etat in Chile, which resulted in the overthrow and death of that great friend of progressive peoples throughout the world, and that friend of Viet Nam and of Cuba, Salvador Allende.
I had planned a program of extensive visits, which I was obliged to reduce because of those events; but I did have the opportunity to make a visit to the south.
I came in a little AN-26 aircraft. Throughout the journey I saw the signs of war, thousands upon thousands of bombs launched on the Vietnamese people, aimed at communications and bridges; every bridgehead was riddled with holes, resulting from the attempt to destroy communications.
We had to travel over many roads and cross improvised bridges to reach the McNamara line, along the 17th parallel, and there our Vietnamese companions showed me the battlegrounds of a few months earlier, the major battles of Quang Tri and other sites.
I was really amazed to see how the Vietnamese combatants had managed to breach those extraordinary fortifications, full of trenches, cannons and steel-strengthened fortifications, which had to yield to the thrust and valor of the Vietnamese fighters.
They introduced me to many fighters and many heroes. I met with military units, and I remember a flag that was put in my hands, which I let fly there. (APPLAUSE) Photographs still exist of that visit, very beautiful images and the photos of that flag of a valiant people, which I keep as one of the greatest treasures of my life. But at that time, the country was still not unified, a large part of the south still remained to be liberated; more time was to pass, much work had to be undertaken in organizing and preparing for the final battle.
Those were difficult times, complex times. The Vietnamese leadership, acting with great wisdom, had achieved the agreements which committed the U.S. troop withdrawal. Those troops had been overcome, and they were retreating, but a massive puppet army of one million men remained, armed to the teeth, with the best airplanes, the best tanks, the best U.S. arms.
However, I had absolutely no doubt that when those troops came up against the Vietnamese patriots they would not be able to resist for very long. Those were my feelings then, and I was sure of victory; for that reason, when the last battles were initiated some months later, and the world received the news of the liberation of this city--at that time called Saigon, and from then on always named Ho Chi Minh City--the world celebrated that victory as one of the greatest events in modern history.
Along the way we talked with our Vietnamese companions. How much money did the United States spend here in South Viet Nam? A trillion dollars in order to prevent Vietnamese reunification, independence and sovereignty. But one day those dreams of Ho Chi Minh were realized. He said that there was nothing more precious than independence and freedom, and that after the war you would build a Viet Nam one thousand times more beautiful.
What an exceptional man! What a far-sighted vision! What a profound conviction! How prophetic! Within 15 years, Viet Nam was unified. Fifteen years later, and although he was dead, that reunification, independence and sovereignty had been won, and now this great work of reshaping and reconstructing a Viet Nam one thousand times more beautiful is in progress.
Neither can we forget Ho Chi Minh's advice to the international communist movement: Unite! Keep yourselves united! How Ho Chi Minh would have suffered if he had witnessed the disappearance of the European socialist camp, if he had witnessed the disintegration of the Soviet Union! What a heavy blow, so terrible for the world and for all its peoples, such as Viet Nam and Cuba!
But since just ideas are invincible, the countries which persisted in socialism were not brought down; they had the capacity to fight, they had the capacity to persist in socialism and they were capable of resisting, as Viet Nam has done, as Cuba has done, and as other countries close to Viet Nam have done. For that reason I feel optimistic.
Those who applauded the disappearance of the European socialist bloc and the disappearance of the USSR, believed that was the end of socialism. It may be very far from the end of socialism and close to being the beginning of the end of capitalism. All those who believed that socialism was disappearing thought that capitalism could be eternal, and nothing can be eternal, much less capitalism, so full of contradictions and injustices.
The capitalists who applauded then are now shocked by what is happening in the former USSR and by what is happening in the former European socialist countries. There are many people in those countries who vacillated, but who now are thinking, meditating. They see the disorder, lack of discipline and chaos, and they are perceiving that capitalism has no future. Only the countries which are persisting in socialism--in spite of the enormous difficulties resulting from us being left almost alone-- using our intelligence, using our hearts, using our creative spirit, are capable of introducing innovations which will not only save socialism, but will improve it, and one day will bring it to a definitive triumph.
Because of this, today, in these times, we can say: the future--and this can be said with more conviction than ever before--is one of socialism. (APPLAUSE) Capitalism is in crisis, it does not have solutions to any of the world's problems; only peoples such as those of Viet Nam, Cuba and other countries, who did not abandon the principles of Marxism-Leninism, or of popular democratic government, or of the leadership of the Communist Party, are now forging ahead and achieving results not experienced by any other country in the world.
Cuba is in a special situation, being very close to the United States, 90 miles away; there is even a military base on our territory, and a rigorous and criminal blockade is still maintained against Cuba; because they cannot allow there to be socialism in the Caribbean, socialism in Latin America, socialism on the doorstep of the United States. They thought that we would also fall within a few days; but five years have gone by and we are still standing, firm, solid, with the great support of international opinion, and despite the great sacrifices we have to make, we have resisted, will continue to resist and are starting to move forward.
So others fell. In my view, they fell like beaten egg white; but our Revolution was not made of egg white, and I am sure that the egg white with which some socialist countries fell will turn into iron, and that they will once again defend and uphold the just ideas that they used to defend. That will happen when consciousness is totally awakened, when they regret previous actions, when they see with all clarity those orderly countries, where everyone had clothes, food, medicine, education, and there was no crime, no mafia; when all those countries en masse realize the great historic mistake they made when they destroyed socialism. Then history will save a place of honor for those peoples who, under such difficult conditions, were able to maintain their socialist principles, and figuring among the ranks of those peoples, like inseparable twin brothers, will
Some moments ago, when this ceremony was being announced, the names of many people who wrote heroic pages of history were mentioned. It gave me great satisfaction to hear those names, because they symbolize the heroism of this people that lasted for decades, this people who shed so much blood while others did business with the blood of Viet Nam, while others improved their economies at the expense of Viet Nam's blood, while others progressed at the expense of Viet Nam, which they thought had been defeated, which they thought had been destroyed.
Today, many of those countries recognize Viet Nam, admire Viet Nam, make peace with Viet Nam and cooperate with Viet Nam; and though noble Vietnamese blood was turned into gold and money for many, today Viet Nam is growing more than any other country in the region. Today, the noble and generous blood of the Vietnamese is being converted into well-being, prosperity and happiness for the people.
I would like to embrace all those heroes present here, with all my heart, all those heroes mentioned here, from those who threw bombs at this building, or were imprisoned for many years, to the families and widows of the martyrs. The world has rarely seen so much honor, so much merit and so much glory.
For this reason, we Cubans who are here, who have been given such a warm welcome by you, feel full of joy, full of honor, and full of glory at having received your tribute, hospitality and fondness.
Long live just ideas, because they will never be defeated!
Long live independence and sovereignty, because there is nothing more beautiful, as Ho Chi Minh said!
Long live the Viet Nam that is being constructed today, 100 times more beautiful! (APPLAUSE)
Long live the exploited of the world who will one day also build a more beautiful future!
Long live the friendship--not the friendship--long live the eternal sisterhood between the peoples of Viet Nam and Cuba! (APPLAUSE)
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