People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 21

May 23, 2010



Ho Chi Minh: National Independence and Socialism


Sitaram Yechury


The following is the abridged text of the speech delivered by Sitaram Yechury at the international conference on Ho Chi Minh: National Independence and Socialism.


AT the very outset let me thank the organisers on behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for inviting us to be part of the 120 birth anniversary celebrations of the renowned Communist, Comrade Ho Chi Minh. It is indeed an honour for me to be here and share my thoughts on 'Ho Chi Minh: National Independence and Socialism'.


The victory of the Vietnamese anti-colonial struggle led by Comrade Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Party of Vietnam against France, Japan and lastly against the United States is not only an inspiring movement in world history but also one of the most defining moments in the last century. It had proved once again that no power can stand against the might of the people, united in their struggle for freedom and emancipation from exploitation. The Vietnamese struggle and Ho Chi Minh have inspired millions of youngsters like me in the decades of 60's and 70's to join the anti-imperialist struggle and turn to communism.


Coming from a country that was subjected to colonial rule of the British for nearly 150 years, we understand the exploitation of the colonies and oppression of the colonial masters. While we could complete only the anti-colonial phase of our revolution, Comrade Ho Chi Minh who had played a pivotal role in founding the Communist Party of Vietnam, was able to successfully lead the anti-colonial struggle to its logical conclusion – the struggle for ending the exploitation of man by man, the struggle for socialism. He is one of the first among the communist leaders from the colonised countries to seriously engage with the colonial question and link the real path of their emancipation with the struggle for socialism.


As it is true for all the founders of the communist movement in the early decades of the 20th century, Comrade Ho Chi Minh too was groping to find the correct ideological direction for the anti-colonial struggle in their colonised lands before acquainting with Marxism-Leninism. Comrade Ho exclaimed after reading Lenin's thesis on colonial question, “What emotion, enthusiasm, enlightenment and confidence they communicated to me! I wept for joy. Sitting by myself in the room, I would shout as if I were addressing large crowds: 'Dear martyr compatriots! This is what we need, this is our path to liberation’...At first, it was patriotism, not yet communism which led me to have confidence in Lenin, in the Third International. Step by step, during the course of the struggle, by studying Marxism-Leninism while engaging in practical activities, I gradually understood that only socialism and communism can liberate the oppressed nations and the working people throughout the world from slavery”. Armed with this thorough understanding of Marxism-Leninism, Comrade Ho correctly applied the Leninist principle of studying concrete conditions in Vietnam and formulated the strategy and tactics of the anti-colonial struggle accordingly. This application of theory to the concrete conditions is one of the most important aspects of the legacy of Comrade Ho Chi Minh.


Another important aspect that constitutes his legacy is his tireless efforts in building the revolutionary Communist party and uniting vast sections of the masses under its banner. He not only explained the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism in simple terms to people who were living under the most backward conditions, but also built up the organisation with sound revolutionary principles. He underlined the unity of the party. “Unity is an extremely precious tradition of our Party and people. All comrades, from Central Committee down to the cell, must preserve the unity and oneness of mind in the Party like the apple of their eye”. It is this single-minded unity of the whole nation that ensured the victory of the revolution. In his efforts to safeguard the unity of the party, he did not flinch in fighting both the right and left wing deviations that had risen in the party during various phases. Ho Chi Minh was against dogmatism and he further enriched theory through practice and tempered practice with theory.


A distinguishing feature of Uncle Ho, as he is popularly called is the intrinsic links he had maintained with the masses. He always used to advocate all cadre including leaders to be among the people, learn from them, serve them and also lead them by developing their consciousness. “Cadre must go to the base to see and hear for themselves, talk to the people, ponder over things and act accordingly. They must conduct practical investigations, give assistance, exercise control, draw lessons and exchange experiences, with a view to helping the peasants and learning from them”. It is this unwavering faith on the masses that ensured success in all the four important stages in the revolutionary struggle – the underground activity, in the victory of the August revolution, in the victory in the war of resistance and in the struggle for reunifying the country and completing the national democratic revolution throughout the land. Of course, he was not alive to witness the last event as he had joined “Karl Marx, Lenin and other revolutionary elders”.


Comrade Ho Chi Minh through out his lifetime has never wavered from the principles he had exhorted the cadre to follow. He set himself as an example to build the Party. In spite of his frailty, he showed indomitable spirit and led the party and the country in all the struggles. All through his life he had “served the country, the revolution and the people” with all his “heart and strength”. And as a true communist his only regret was “not able to serve longer and more”. Comrade Ho Chi Minh laid great emphasis on revolutionary morality and revolutionary ethics for the cadre. He said “The people love and respect those with good conduct and morality”. He identified three kinds of enemies. “Capitalism and imperialism are very dangerous ones...The third enemy is individualism...It is an ally of the two above mentioned categories”. For Comrade Ho “revolutionary morality consists in resolutely struggling against all these enemies”.


Remembering Comrade Ho, in essence thus means re-dedicating ourselves to the ideas that he had cherished and struggled for all through his life. Recalling the legacy of Ho Chi Minh acquires added relevance today in the background of the current global capitalist crisis, wherein finance capital and imperialism, whom he had identified as enemies-in-chief, are trying to come out of this crisis by shifting the burdens on the people of the third world developing countries.


Lenin in his Colonial Thesis stated, “In conformity with its fundamental task of combating bourgeois democracy and exposing its falseness and hypocrisy, the Communist Party, as the avowed champion of the proletarian struggle to overthrow the bourgeois yoke, must base its policy, in the national question too, not on abstract and formal principles but, first, on a precise appraisal of the specific historical situation and, primarily, of economic conditions; second, on a clear distinction between the interests of the oppressed classes, of working and exploited people, and the general concept of national interests as a whole, which implies the interests of the ruling class; third, on an equally clear distinction between the oppressed, dependent and subject nations and the oppressing, exploiting and sovereign nations, in order to counter the bourgeois-democratic lies that play down this colonial and financial enslavement of the vast majority of the world’s population by an insignificant minority of the richest and advanced capitalist countries, a feature characteristic of the era of finance capital and imperialism”. Based on this understanding we should attempt to undertake a concrete analysis of the concrete conditions today.


The collapse of the Soviet Union and East European countries constituted a big reversal for the forces of world socialism. Imperialism, buoyed by this development, launched an offensive in political, economic and social changes on a world scale. Imperialism tries to entrench its hold over post-Soviet world mainly using three means: (a) its economic might (b) its military power (c) its ideological offensive. Imperialism, during these two decades, has, indeed, consolidated its hegemony in all spheres, though not to its desired levels due to growing resistance developing in certain parts of the world. The present global capitalist crisis thus is a setback to imperialism as it severely dented its claim that there is no alternative to capitalism. It had once again ignited the urge among the people to look out for social systems that provide an alternative to capitalism. Karl Marx and his writings are once again being widely read.


While imperialism wants to come out of this crisis if not unscathed, with as little wounds as possible, the crisis also provides opportunities for the revolutionary forces world over to mount an offensive against capital with renewed vigour. This significant change in the objective conditions is a positive development in the recent period though it does not mean that there is a shift in the international correlation of forces.


Playing the threat of its military might, imperialism seeks to emerge from its current crisis by seeking to shift the burden on to the developing countries. Already, during the last two decades, neo-liberalism has led to grave agrarian crises in all these countries. The destruction of petty production and de-industrialisation added to the rising unemployment and brought about the sharp divide between the rich and poor. On top of this will now come the efforts to try to overcome the present economic  recession by prising open the markets of the developing countries even further.


In this scenario the words of Ho Chi Minh once again attain added significance. Correctly applying Lenin's understanding of the colonial question, he advocated the unity of the peasantry and the working class as the bulwark of revolution. He states, “The Party's revolutionary experience shows that in every case when its cadres took correct decisions which satisfied the deep aspirations of the peasants and confirmed to the principle of alliance between the working class and the peasantry, the revolution made vigorous progress”. This is the path that we need to pursue to advance, specially in the third world countries, on whom the burdens of the crisis are being shifted.


Marx had once remarked that the stability of a ruling class is ensured only by the extent to which it presses the best minds of the subordinate and exploited classes in its service. As both Marx and Engels have pointed out, the ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of the ruling classes. The ideological war to establish the intellectual hegemony of imperialism and neo-liberalism has been on the offensive during this period. Aided by this very process of globalisation and the vastly elevated levels of technologies, there is convergence of information, communications and entertainment (ICE) into mega corporations. The cultural products that are universally created are bombarded across the world garnering phenomenal profits. This monopolisation of the sphere of human intellectual activity and the control over dissemination of information through the corporate media is a salient feature of this period that seeks to continuously mount an ideological offensive against any critique or alternative to capitalism.


The giant ICE industry is also consciously used to spread canards in order to malign the forces that are leading the fight against imperialist exploitation. They are also used as vehicles to 'manufacture consent' to the rule of those classes that act as lackeys to imperialism. These functions of the media become all the more important in the times of crisis as they help divert the attention of the masses from understanding the real reasons of the crisis and channelise their discontent in the correct direction.


A section among the American ruling classes believed that they lost the Vietnamese war due to the adverse media reportage that led to huge popular mobilisations against the US and in solidarity with the fighting Vietnamese. Imperialism, wise from experience now wants to ensure that though there would be occasional criticism of its policies, media does not reprimand its acts in severe terms. The consolidation of ICE eases its efforts in achieving this aim.


Though imperialism has strengthened its hegemony and heightened its multifaceted offensive all across the globe, it is on the brink of a systemic crisis which could prove far graver and more encompassing than the current global recession. However, irrespective of the intensity of the crisis, capitalism does not  automatically collapse. It needs to be overthrown. An erroneous understanding only blunts the need to constantly sharpen and strengthen the revolutionary ideological struggle of the working class and its decisive intervention under the leadership of a party wedded to Marxism-Leninism – the subjective factor without which no revolutionary transformation is possible.


It is in this struggle for strengthening the subjective factor and the revolutionary transformation that the life and ideas of Comrade Ho Chi Minh would help us as the guiding lights. His appeal to every Vietnamese then to become “a fighter struggling on the military, economic, political or cultural front”, is now relevant not only to the entire third world but to all those reeling under the attacks of imperialism. Of course, this task is neither easy nor the path bereft of difficulties. As Comrade Ho Chi Minh stated, “There is nothing easy, nor anything difficult”. It is his unshakable faith in his ideological beliefs and an iron will to fight and to win that should guide our struggle for a classless society, “We have to win for the enemy to be defeated”.