Nguyen Ai Quoc or President Ho Chi Minh In a London park, when the autumn nights were already closing in, a Phoenix bowed to his mate in a display of courtship and fidelity to his loved one. The large crowd of children gathered, last September, to watch a display of traditional Vietnamese water puppetry were entranced by the vivid colours of the birds; their dances and the smoke and firecrackers that rippled before them across the waves. Vietnam had come to London. Yet how many of the adults in the audience would have been aware that the founder of modern Vietnam had once walked through London’s parks, unnoticed and un-remarked upon. How far fetched, in the summer of 1914, when the Vietnamese nation did not exist and its culture was being fragmented and undermined by French imperialism, would have been the idea that independence and socialism could be won through the example of the man who would become known to the world as Ho Chi Minh, but who then shovelled snow in a courtyard and lived in one of the city’s poorest tenements. He had come to England from the French port of Le Havre in May 1914, at the…
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