Kaysone Phomvihane: the Life of a Revolutionary
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), established 02 December 1975, stands alongside the Republic of Cuba, People’s Republic of China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Socialist Republic of Vietnam, as one of the only still-existing socialist countries in the world today; the brave and heroic few who, even in the face of the Soviet collapse of 1991, and unrelenting imperialist aggression, have been able to maintained the Communist path to build socialism in the new era. Even among the five actually-existing socialist (AES) countries of the world, Laos is generally the least-understood and least-studied.
Young Kaysone Phomvihane (2nd from the left)
Kaysone Phomvihane leading Pathet Lao forces in the field
The Lao Issara
Kaysone Phomvihane with Hồ Chí Minh of the Communist Party of Vietnam
The Pathet Lao
Pathet Lao forces liberating Sam Neua in 1953
The upper Laos campaign of 1953 had pressed the French hard, who sought to respond by establishing a base in north-western Vietnam in order to strike back—not realizing the precariousness of their position, the colonizers continued to believe that a swift and brutal response would be enough to break the resistance. As the French undertook their response, they accumulated their forces primarily at a base established at Điện Biên Phủ; the Pathet Lao swiftly receded back to the liberated zone, and a noose was quickly tightened around the French headquarters. The ensuing siege and liberation of Điện Biên Phủ so masterfully broke the will of the colonizers that the French government was immediately forced to sign the 1954 Geneva accords—officially ending French domination of the region.
Kaysone Phomvihane with Chairman Hua Guofeng of the Communist Party of China
By 1961, then-40-year-old Secretary Kaysone Phomvihane, in coordination with the People’s Army of Vietnam, successfully oversaw the Pathet Lao’s control of 2/3 of the territory of the Lao nation, accounting for some 1/3 of the total population. Imperialist-backed forces would attempt to break through, but would once again be crushed, forcing them once again to retreat:
Kaysone Phomvihane with Erich Honecker of the Socialist Unity Party
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Three Lao People’s Liberation Army soldiers sitting in front of the monument to Kaysone Phomvihane. Kaysone Phomvihane museum, Vientiane, Laos. Photo by the author
Memorial to President Kaysone Phomvihane, Phonsavan, Laos. Photo by the author.