President Ho Chi Minh, the image of the nation

PHAM VAN DONG

In daily life, President Ho is a very simple and honest man. A great man, a really great man is always simple and honest. A mannered man always lacks capability; his play acting is for deceiving people and future generations. King Nghieu, King Thuan, Jesus Christ were simple and honest men. Lenin, Sun Yat Sen and Mahatma Gandhi were also simple and honest men. So are great scientists and great writers. On the contrary, Hitler was a perfidious man. Besides Hitler, Mussolini was but a clown.

Looking at some photos of President Ho, some persons say that his eyes have two pupils each and believe that because of that he is a genie. How can there be such an incredible story! President Ho’s eyes are like those of other men but they can see much more clearly than those of other men. The President knows how to look at things; he can see what other men cannot see: present and future things, great and small things.

President Ho is a Vietnamese, more Vietnamese than any other Vietnamese. After nearly thirty years of travelling to all parts of the world, he still preserves the manner, the language, the sentiments of a Vietnamese. His language is rich and witty like that of a Vietnamese peasant; he makes good use of proverbs and likes comparisons. He composes poetry generally in the form of folk songs because folk songs are specifically Vietnamese in the same way that the Truong Son Range, the Restored Sword Lake, the Dong Thap Muoi (the Plain of Reeds) are specifically Vietnamese (1). Having lived tens of years far from his native land, he does not forget the smell and taste of Vietnamese particular foods such as pickled aubergines, pickled vegetables, soya bean sauce with chilly that he ate daily. After his return to the country, on New Year’s Day, he does not forget to make congratulations to his neighbours (2) and to give presents (sweets and cakes) to children.

The cost is only a few cents but the gift is carefully and neatly wrapped in rose paper. That is his way of living. As Chairman of the resistance government, when he calls on the people, his words are moving and impressive to Vietnamese minds and hearts: “The ancestral tablets should be covered with red brocade; People of the same country should love one another.”

We know how simple is the way of life of President Ho. In the Resistance Zone (3), he lived with the personnel of his office; he worked and studied like other persons. At moments of food shortage or inclement weather, food rations were a little reduced and he gladly shared the difficulties with others. However he had one privilege: Loc, our dear, skilled cook, always reserved a bowl of rice water for him at each meal, from the border in Cao Bang to Tan Trao, before going down to Hanoi. In Hanoi, the President had his working office and his reception room and often he hosted grand banquets but normally he took the two meals of each day with his staff.

He likes walking, bathing in a river, smoking cigarettes, and sometimes taking a cup of medicinal liquor at meals. Previously, he could easily cover 50 kilometres a day. When in Kunming (4), he made a tour around the city every morning. When in Liuzhou (5), on a winter morning, general Truong Phat Khue riding on horse back saw him bathing in the river and was amazed that a Man of south-east Asia could put up with such cold. In Cao Bang (6), his office is arranged in a cave. A large stream of limpid water flows from the cave, in the shade of forest trees. President Ho works all day on the bank of the stream with his typewriter ‘Hermes Baby,’ which he has always used since 1938, even after his return to Hanoi.

Living in the mountain and forest region, President Ho never eats his fill, never has siesta. In the morning, he does physical exercises, in the afternoon he gardens; when necessary he goes to fetch firewood for the villagers. Throughout the time of his living in the high region of Bac Bo before the August 1945 Revolution, he frequently held an ovoid stone firmly to strengthen the sinew of his hands. He seldom uses medicine, except when he cannot overcome illness. In Hanoi, Dr (Ton That) Tung and Dr Can looked after his health, but he rarely bothered them. When in France, Dr Cuu was requested to live with him, but later Cuu did more office work than physician’s labour. Living conditions in the resistance base are very hard. One year, the rainy season lasts several months, and President Ho inhabits a narrow and humid cave into which insects swarm at night. At the time, popular bases are still weak, therefore though his refuge is a cave, safety is still precarious and he often has to leave it and be on constant alert. At the moment of alarm, one must go to a safer place with all of one’s belongings. President Ho is not well then, but when there is warning of enemy arrival, only a few minutes later he is standing ready before his staff members, the typewriter in hand.

On the very first day of his arrival in France, the simple way of living of President Ho deeply moved the Vietnamese residents. One day, in Biaritz, delegates of Vietnamese residents called on him, highly excited and happy. The visitors were numerous, there were not enough seats in the reception room. President Ho simply sat on the floor and invited everybody to do like him and talked. This attitude is not that of a president of government but that of an old father thoughtfully and familiarly inquiring about his children in foreign land, after so many years of separation.

President Ho, though simple, is very courteous in a delicate and noble way. All foreigners who have an opportunity to talk with him praise his delicacy and noble manners, which they believe to be characteristic of Oriental people. In the resistance base or in his office, he usually wears clothes of indigo colour and keeps his food minimal. In Hanoi, he put on khaki clothes and canvas shoes. Going to France, he wore leather shoes and a woolen suit with a high collar. In Paris, he sometimes had to receive guests at mealtimes. At breakfast he met with close friends; at lunch, ordinary guests; and at dinner, special guests. Though the receptions lasted, at times, three hours, he remained hospitable and cordial throughout.

President Ho is always lively because innately he has the optimism of those who are determined to fight and to win today and determined to bring about a fine life for the nation tomorrow. At friendly meals or tea parties with high-ranking members of the government, he is cheerful and talkative, makes poetry, and jokes. One day, when he suddenly came to a night jubilee at the Hanoi Opera House, children gathered around him. However, a moment later, he lightly walked away, and it was not known where. He likes flowers and is told that in Russia as well as in Europe and America, flowers are air-transported from remote places to adorn the daily life of big cities. However in the garden of the Presidential Palace, flowers cede more and more space to potatoes and corn. Near Kunming, there is the Xishan mountain, a famous spot of scenic beauty. One day we wanted to go and see. President Ho said: “We shall go when it is convenient; we are revolutionaries and not tourists.”

President Ho’s life is one of hardship, work and struggle. The leader of a nation having lost its country cannot have a different life. He must put up with hardship, work and struggle to secure happiness in the future. Some people fear that with such a severe life, there remains no place for sentiment. But President Ho often says: “A revolutionary is a very sentimental man, and because of his great sentimentality, he becomes a revolutionary.” President Ho is called the “old father of the nation.” He has deep affection and pity for the people, which moves everybody’s heart. In the period of underground activity, the minute of silence in memory of a dead revolutionary always made him cry. At the National Assembly, he shed tears and embraced Nguyen Van Tao after hearing the latter’s pathetic speech about Nam Bo (South of Vietnam).

An old adage says: “When there is some subject for anxiety, we must be anxious before others; when there is enjoyment, we must enjoy after others.” President Ho expresses the idea more simply and more pathetically: “One day of my compatriots’ suffering makes me lose my appetite, and unable to sleep.”

These words reveal his state of mind and his kinship feelings for all members of the great Vietnamese family.

For the President, a man of simplicity and honesty, words are matched with action, and words are expressed only when action is taken. He is simple and honest in living, in character, in speech and in writing. He is also simple and honest in his political lines. What do the Vietnamese people want? They want national unification, independence, abundant life, education, and less gloomy lives. That is why President Ho’s policy is: to be united in the resistance war, to increase production, to develop popular education, and to adopt a new way of life. The Vietnamese people are determined to advance more and more energetically on the vital path behind President Ho.

President Ho embodies the Vietnamese people and each Vietnamese finds himself in President Ho.

The strength of President Ho and the Vietnamese people lies in this cohesion and unity.

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The image of the nation

The great cause of President Ho over the past 35 years (7) consists in leading the Vietnamese nation to cohesion and unity, in a determination to fight against the mortal enemies of the nation.

The current sacred resistance war strengthens and enhances to the utmost this militant solidarity.

To bring about the cohesion of the whole people is a great step in recovering the national independence of Vietnam. This is the decisive factor of the success of the current resistance war and the success of future national construction. Reviewing the history of the past 80 years when our country was lost, we see that immediately after French troops invaded our territory, our people stood up against them while the royal Court surrendered to them. The King surrendered to the aggressors to serve them but the people continued to fight by every means as strongly as they could wherever they were strong enough. There was no one-mindedness in the country and among the people; even in the ranks of the resistance there was no one-mindedness. This situation prevailed during the period of the royalists’ resistance, before the 1914-1918 imperialist war. When President Ho began his activities and started to lead the Vietnamese revolutionary movement, he strove to unite and organise the popular forces for fighting. Gradually he managed to unite and to organise all the people to win victory.

President Ho has succeeded in this great work because he symbolises Vietnam and the Vietnamese people.

The highest aspiration of the people, is his aspiration, the rationale of his life, and the motivation of his activities. His lines and policies are aimed at realising that aspiration: securing independence for the country, and freedom and happiness for the people. These lines and policies have won the people’s full support and confidence. President Ho’s prestige primarily lies in this fact: The relationship between President Ho and the Vietnamese people is, however, closer and warmer: it is a sentimental relation composed of the mutual affection and love between him and his people.

Like other countries in the world, Vietnam has rich and poor, different political parties, religions, and ethnic groups; however in present-day Vietnam, the Vietnam of President Ho fighting for independence, there is no conflict between political parties, religions, ethnic groups, i e no internal contradictions that might be used by the enemy for divisive purposes to create an internecine war. Such achievements are obtained not only because President Ho’s lines and policies meet national aspirations and his path is the only one vital for the nation to face the danger of being destroyed. These achievements are also due to the President’s immense tolerance that wins over everyone and unites everyone for fighting.

The Vietnamese masses, old and young, male and female, have great respect and love for President Ho. The intelligentsia, the national capitalists, the great personalities, and the religious dignitaries all have confidence in him. He is a very close friend of Huynh Thuc Khang (8) and the Uncle of all Vietnamese children. The people of Nam Bo call him their old father with the deepest feelings of their heart. The people of high regions in the south of Central Vietnam believe that he is very familiar and close to them, as if he remained day and night at their side to bless them.

With regard to those who have gone the wrong way, his heart is broad. He advocates leniency and says we should gladly welcome them like our sons, who, because of circumstances, have gone astray. Jesus Christ said: “Meeting a repenting sinner or criminal, God is gladder than meeting ninety nine religious people”. President Ho is convinced that every Vietnamese is patriotic and wants the country to be unified and independent. We should cleverly blow on the smouldering fire to make it a blazing flame.

President Ho not only calls for national cohesion, he constantly practises this objective. Moreover he symbolises this cohesion, he is this cohesion.

Solidarity is for the purpose of struggle. President Ho unites the whole nation to mobilise all the fighting forces of the Vietnamese people, without which independence cannot be secured.

The Vietnamese people have shown strong fighting spirit. Their history of eighty years of enslavement is the history of eighty years of struggle. It is a grandiose epic that will remain forever in the mind of every Vietnamese. But the more heroic and brave is the struggle, the clearer and more painful the shortcomings, such as the lack of appropriate policies, of organisation, and methods, appear. After the 1914-1918 imperialist war, under President Ho’s leadership, the struggle of the nation was gradually aimed at the right target. It became well organised and provided with good methods. Additionally, it gradually expanded through the August 1945 Revolution, until the current long-term resistance war to include the whole country and the whole people.

The Vietnamese people have fought for one thousand days and are willing to fight for a long time more. For us fighting is like our daily meals. Therefore we do not find it strange that a small and weak nation, economically and culturally backward, subjected to foreign domination for eighty years, dares stand up against an imperialist power that has several times lorded over the world; and that the more it fights, the stronger it becomes and the nearer it comes to victory.

Then what are the secret reasons of the success of the Vietnamese struggle?

The reason is the fighting spirit of the nation that has been enhanced, trained and guided by President Ho.

Vietnam’s present sacred resistance war sets in relief the fighting spirit of the whole nation. The central actors are the Vietnamese workers and peasants, who shoulder the lead of the resistance. Beside them are the various strata of the population with different social positions, characters, and ideologies. But they are motivated by the same spirit of sacrifice and struggle, the same confidence in the Fatherland, the government, and President Ho.

President Ho often says: “In this resistance war, our people must use our spirit to overcome material factors, that is to say to overcome many years of suffering, difficulties and obstacles. In other words, to use pointed sticks to oppose tanks, to carry out long-term war when food is insufficient and clothes are not enough.”

This is the secret reason for the success of this marvellous war.

This sacred resistance war proves President Ho’s talented leadership and the Vietnamese people’s intelligence and maturity. They can choose the best moment for advance or withdrawal, for being flexible or rigid. They can use smaller and weaker forces to oppose bigger and stronger ones. They can develop smaller and weaker forces into bigger and stronger ones. Finally, they are determined and confident in winning final victory.

This resistance war is the final round of the incessant struggle between our people and the French colonialists for nearly a century now. It has mobilised the strength and spirit of our whole people; it is a marvellous achievement of President Ho and the Vietnamese people.

President Ho can enhance the fighting capabilities of the whole people because he inherits the legacy of all the past national liberation wars. He represents Vietnam and the oppressed but indomitable Vietnamese people. His policies and political lines constitute a great river to which all small streams and rivulets flow, no matter where and when they take sources. Streams flow into rivers but they should meet rivers, otherwise they could dry up. Meeting rivers, they disappear, follow the same direction, the same current as the rivers, and are of the same colour as the sky and the land around. The struggle for national liberation of Vietnam, since King Tu Duc’s surrender to the French colonialists, has gradually become the struggle for national independence, for the people’s freedom and happiness, under the leadership of President Ho.

In this gradual development, each portion of the path, each step taken has its significance and is a factor leading to today’s achievements. Some people say that the royalists stood for the monarchy. They called for loyalty to the King and claimed that the latter represented the country. However, since that time, the royal throne has drifted away from the current situation. Kings no longer exist. That is why President Ho calls for loyalty to the country. He keeps the word ‘loyalty’, just as he gives a broader meaning to the words ‘piety’ and ‘devotion.’ He nurtures the traditional customs of industry, thriftiness, integrity, and righteousness. He advises us to learn these fine customs and encourages us to learn the heroism of many royalist fighters, such as Nguyen Thien Thuat, Phan Dinh Phung, and Hoang Hoa Tham.

President Ho’s strength is great because it is deeply rooted in the history of national revolution over the past nearly 100 years and in all the past of our nation.

Austerity, hard work, and struggle are the characteristics of President Ho’s life and also the characteristics of our nation’s life throughout history. Our forefathers had great vitality and fighting spirit to be able to overcome the innumerable natural obstacles to their existence and to vanquish the enemies who trod our land under foot and massacred our people. The history of Vietnam is that of the building up of our land from the lower basin of the Red River to that of the Mekong River. It is the history of the building up of the nation through nearly one thousand years of northern domination, particularly through the Dinh, Le, Ly, Tran, Le dynasties (9) down to the disloyal Nguyen dynasty (10). Now the country is not yet solid and at peace, and our adversary is using force and perfidious manoeuvres to partition our country and to enslave our people. President Ho is the continuator of the will and cause of Trung Vuong, Tran Hung Dao, Le Loi, Quang Trung, and Phan Dinh Phung (11) in fulfilling the mission of our nation.

That is why the strength of the Vietnamese people and of President Ho at present is the strength that comes from an age-old process of development. We feel that strength flares up in our mind and pushes us to combat. We listen to the call of our forefathers in the voice of President Ho: “Le Loi fought for ten years, Tran Hung Dao for five years.”

President Ho leads the national defence and construction in accordance with the development trend of Vietnam as well as with the evolutionary trend of the world.

Vietnam is part of the world. Over the past two hundred years, the world has experienced a few gigantic revolutions that shook the foundations of states and societies and enabled the democratic movement to expand to the five continents. This movement is an invincible force. Following it, one will survive; opposing it, one will be led to extinction. The Vietnamese revolution, after World War I, followed the advance of this democratic movement. The current resistance war of Vietnam testifies to the close relationship between the democratic movement in Vietnam and the mighty democratic movement of the world after World War II.

President Ho often says: “Our resistance war will be victorious because it is a just cause approved and supported by the people of the world.”

Our national liberation revolution, our democratic republican system will succeed for the fundamental reason that the path of the Vietnamese people and the political lines of President Ho are in accordance with the evolutionary trend of mankind.

Leading Vietnam in accordance with that evolutionary trend is the great cause of President Ho.

In brief, President Ho has put to avail all the strength and talent of the Vietnamese people and applied the progressive doctrine of the civilised world to unite the entire people in the lasting resistance war for national unification and independence, for the realisation of the democratic republican regime. This is the cause pursued by President Ho, by the Vietnamese nation, and by every Vietnamese now and in the future.

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The French reactionary colonialists allege that President Ho is a communist dictator. Communism is the radiant future of mankind. But in present-day Vietnam, only lunatics stand for the immediate installation of communism, at variance with the economic and social conditions of Vietnam, and contrary to the desire of the Vietnamese people. And the allegation that President Ho is a dictator is not only an untruth but also a stupidity. In his letter to the Vietnamese youth, President Ho wrote: “Hereunder are a few ideas for you to discuss”. President Ho is democratic. He defends the interests of all Vietnamese, the human rights, the citizen’s rights and the property rights of all Vietnamese, of religious and non-religious people, and of the population of the middle and high regions.

President Ho is democratic because the national defence and construction of Vietnam require the joint efforts of all the Vietnamese. Democracy is required to remove the yoke of colonialism, feudalism, the obsolete practices and rites of past generations, the woes of famine and illiteracy and the four qualities and three dependences (12) that shackled women. Democratisation is aimed at making all Vietnamese politically conscious, intelligent, talented and able to decide the fate of the country and their own destiny. As a result, they can use their capability to serve the country and themselves. Let us carefully listen to the appeal of President Ho: he remembers everyone: scholars, peasants, workers, traders, soldiers, the old, the young, males, females, inhabitants of the middle region, people of the high region, the religious and non-religious, combatants at the front, and villagers in rear areas. Reviewing the brilliant achievements obtained, he does not forget the contribution of anyone; calling people to carry out new tasks, he clearly assigns the tasks to everyone.

For President Ho, democracy is not an arid doctrine. It is the vital sap changing the Vietnamese, the Vietnamese nation, and the Vietnamese land. Let’s read the letter addressed by painter Diep Minh Chau to “the Old Father”:

Respectfully to my Father,

For two years now, confident in you, responding to your call, I have enthusiastically joined the National Guards of War Zone VII, bringing with me my art. The August Revolution under your leadership has liberated my art. Today in the great Independence Day festivities in Nam Bo, l have listened to your Declaration of Independence; your pathetic and vigorous call, the song ‘Long live Ho Chi Minh,’ performed by the children’s organisation of Nam Bo, have deeply moved me. I have cut my arm and with my blood of youth, I have drawn your portrait with three children representing Central, South, and North Vietnam, inclining their heads to your straggled beard. I have painted on the silk captured by our troops during the Cay Giong battle in July 1947. Seeing my bleeding, my friends hurriedly came to bandage my wound; they were concerned for me. I told them: ” My blood is infused by you; it comes from my people. I am not so rash to waste it; my whole body has been already entrusted to you, my Father.

I respectfully send my drawing in blood to you, my Father, to express my gratitude to you for having liberated my art, and to manifest that my body and soul have been imbued with the victory and the fighting spirit of the national revolution.

In present-day Vietnam, can any one know how many Diep Minh Chau-like people there are in various branches of activity?

On the celebration of the 1,000th day of resistance, the headquarters of War Zone V extolled the gallant feat of hero Ngo May in these terms: “Ngo May, 27 years old, was a member of the ‘determined-to-die-for-nation’ troops of Regiment 120. He volunteered to carry a bomb to blast away the gate of the enemy post of Thuong An, as planned in the attack against the French garrison. The order to postpone the attack came. He regretted it and day after day he wiped the bomb, waiting for another opportunity. On December 11, 1947, in the Suoi Voi battle, he volunteered to carry the bomb to destroy an enemy tank. When the tank came, a mine was exploded. The French soldiers got out of the armored vehicle to fight with our troops. Ngo May waited for the moment when the enemy was concentrated at one place and then he jumped out with the bomb and detonated it. The enemy around him was all killed. His own body was also destroyed, and only his two legs were left. In his letter to his mother, he had written: “I shall die most happily. Mamma should not have any regret”.

In the ranks of the national guards and the militia, can any one know how many Ngo May-like persons there are?

The people remaining in Hanoi before December 19, 1946, knew stories about the strange intelligence of children. In this resistance war, children have recorded many outstanding exploits. They are the generation that will build the new Vietnam in future.

President Ho often says: “We are not afraid of the lack of men of talent. Anyone motivated by patriotism, devotion, and sacrifice can achieve great work”. If great work cannot be done, we will do small jobs, provided that we give our utmost effort in our work. Our service to the country and to President Ho are equally valuable.

The patriotic emulation movement launched by President Ho in early 1948 is the most comprehensive and effective method to mobilise all the energy and intelligence of the nation for national defence and construction.

A foreign journalist asked President Ho: “What party do you belong to?” He answered: “Mine is the Party of Vietnam”.

The Party of Vietnam is the Party of all of us. Any Vietnamese servant of the country and people belongs to that Party. Only those who exclude themselves from the great family of Vietnam, who are resigned to serve the enemy in undermining the government’s resistance war and national construction, are not members of that Party. If so they will have no place in present day Vietnam.

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To learn from President Ho

President Ho is the image of present-day Vietnam, and the image of the Vietnamese people in the past and the future.

President Ho has gathered all the quintessence of the Vietnamese nation. He has also gathered the quintessence of the present-day civilised world and progressive mankind. He once lived in Russia; he studied the October Revolution and Marxism. A greater part of his activities abroad was in China. He had great sympathy for Sun Yat Sen, for the Chinese revolution and people. He understood the USA, and he often praised the national liberation revolution of the US people. He was a longstanding and sentimental friend of France and the French people, and the great French Revolution of 1789. But through President Ho, the quintessence of the world has been Vietnamised and has acquired the appearance, the manner, and the language, and even the spirit of Vietnam.

President Ho has combined the quintessence of Vietnam and the world to lead the August 1945 Revolution and to create the democratic republican regime, wiping out thousands of years of dictatorial monarchism. Now, standing behind him, the Vietnamese people are carrying out the resistance war and national construction. A new Vietnam and new-type Vietnamese have gradually appeared amidst the flames of the struggle.

Formerly, in both the East and the West, philosophers taught people “to perfect yourself, to manage your household, to rule your country, and to pacify the masses”. These philosophers not only established royal dynasties, political systems, new ideological and ethical eras, but they exerted deep influences on the evolution of mankind. President Ho reminds us of these ancient philosophers. But in the past, the scheme “to perfect yourself, to manage your family, to rule your country, and to pacify the masses” could only be partly realised only because of limited historical conditions. Now there are favorable conditions for achieving those objectives.

Therefore the Vietnamese people are now learning from President Ho. What do we learn from him then?

To learn to be loyal to the country and devoted to the people

All his life, he has taught us this maxim and he will continue to do it. This duty will never end. We have been learning it, and we will continue to learn it, and the learning will never end. Because as long as Vietnam and the Vietnamese people exist, we still have to learn to be loyal to the country and devoted to the people.

Loyalty to the country and devotion to the people are the roots of our activities. If the roots are solid, the tree will be solid, bearing fresh leaves and fine fruits.

Loyalty to the country and devotion to the people consist in making the country independent, prosperous and powerful, and the people free and happy. We make the country independent, prosperous and powerful with a view to making the people free and happy. And only when the people are free and happy, can the country really be independent, prosperous and powerful. Now the people and country are one. President Ho has endeavoured to teach us this idea. Therefore no force and no stratagem can deviate us from our path and make us lose our way.

To learn to be loyal to the country and devoted to the people is to learn how to carry out the resistance war and national construction, how to mobilise the force of the whole people for these purposes, how to strengthen and perfect the democratic republican regime, the citadel for opposition to foreign aggression and internal betrayal, and how to fulfill the duty of a Vietnamese citizen, no matter where, when, and what circumstances you are in.

To learn to be loyal to the country and devoted to the people is to learn how to make sacrifices and efforts in the interests of the country and the people, as President Ho has done all his life. He has nothing for himself. The interests of the country and the people are his interests. The supreme interests of the country, the daily interests of the people are subjects of his concern, day and night. His family is the great family of Vietnam. Though he has nothing in private, he is very rich, with the prospects of glory for the country and the people. He lives with the soul of the nation; today he shares the woes and joys with the people; tomorrow, together with the people, he will sing the triumphal hymn. He is very happy and wants us to be loyal to the country and devoted to the people so as to live in happiness with all the people.

To learn to achieve national unity

President Ho day after day reminds us of this objective because this is the decisive factor for the survival of the nation in this war. We have learned to recognise this objective but we have not achieved it yet. We have worked for it but our effort is not yet sufficient.

Today, more than ever, we review the lesson on national unity taught by our Old Father: “Unity assures life; division brings death”, the enemy today can pin their hope only on their activity to divide and destroy us.

Today we review the lesson with all our loyalty and faithfulness to the country, the people, and President Ho. We will, with all sincerity, correct our errors and overcome our shortcomings.

To learn to unite all the people consists in integrating our personal interests into the common interests of the nation, and in being one-minded with the whole people in order to secure the common interests of the nation. It consists in sacrificing small things to secure the greater objectives, and sacrificing the transient to obtain the eternal. It consists in working for the country, which is actually working for oneself. If the country is lost, the family will disintegrate.

To learn to unite all the people also consists in eradicating the spirit of isolation, narrow mindedness, susceptibility, prejudice, conceitedness, self-pride, pretentiousness, groundless suspicion, and unprincipled conflict. We can be very different from one another in ideology, political stance, character, as well as in social position. But we all are patriotic, and we should understand one another, be tolerant to one another, love one another, and be united.

To learn to unite all the people also consists in prevailing over individualism and sectarianism advocating that “what pertains to me is the best, and prevailing over the attitude that in my position, my locality, my work, my branch of activity, and what is good is mine, what is bad belongs to others.” Thus conflict, friction, disharmony arise between the military, the political, and the civilian circles; they even arise within the military itself, eg between the National Guards corps and the militia; within the government, eg between the administration and the special branch; and within society, eg between Viet Minh and Lien Viet. These are manifestations of division leading to death. Vietnam is one, the Vietnamese resistance war is one; any section and any individual must submit to the whole.

To learn to unite all the people is to eliminate all that can divide us and to nurture all that can unite us. At the same time our individual characteristics should be maintained because they are our national assets. President Ho who unites all the Vietnamese people remains President Ho, the outstanding man. A pagoda in the shade of a century-old tree and the bell tower of a cathedral enhance the beauty of our country. Twenty million Vietnamese people, twenty million brains but only one mind.

We should remember that to learn from President Ho is first and fundamentally to learn how to unite all the people.

To learn to struggle

President Ho’s life is one of harsh struggle. He unremittingly opposes the imperialist aggressors and all forces that prevent the development of Vietnam.

He says: “We had rather die than to be enslaved.” He also says: “The Vietnamese people will fight until final triumph.”

He always recommends that we should keep our spirit firm, our mind perspicacious, and our constitution strong for struggle. He also recommends that we should avoid being now optimistic, now pessimistic, being negligent, seeking our safety only, and letting things go adrift. His spirit in struggle is to be learned: bravery, forcefulness, courage, tenacity, not to be haughty when victorious; not to despair when defeated, and determination to fight until final victory. He says: “Vietnam will be unified and independent”.

We should learn from him about the struggle against foreign aggression, famine, illiteracy and physical weakness; the devotion to the resistance war and national construction, the efforts to overcome the innumerable obstacles set by the imperialists and the feudalists, and also the struggle against what is obsolete in our own person, the errors and shortcomings that everyone has. We should also learn about the incessant struggle for building a new Vietnam and new Vietnamese.

President Ho often says: “There is nothing easy, nor anything difficult.” That means: however easy, efforts are required to bring the work to success, and however difficult the work may be, with methods and plans, we will finally achieve it.

That is a lesson on will, on determined struggle, on the high revolutionary spirit of the oppressed, a lesson on energy, courage, and resolution in any job and any circumstance, and a lesson of tenacity, perseverance, and austerity in daily life. That is also a lesson on confidence in the unlimited strength of the Vietnamese people and the world people, in the certain future victory of our glorious cause. Therefore it is the lesson on the optimism of the combatant and victor.

To learn scientific theory and method

President Ho’s revolutionary activities give us a valuable lesson that revolution and politics are scientific, ie to be successful, a revolution or a political objective must be based on a scientific doctrine and carried our scientifically. Scientific theory and method have helped President Ho be realistic and grasp the opportunity to put forward and implement correct policies.

President Ho’s genial talent and clear-sighted leadership take source in that fact.

To learn President Ho’s scientific theory is above all to believe in what is right, fine, and just and to believe in the strength of the developing democratic movement for realising these fine things. That is why we will win victory over the imperialists and colonialists because we are democratic and they are reactionary, our cause is just and theirs unjust, and we are good and they are bad.

To learn President Ho’s scientific method is to learn to work according to plans and in an organised way, no matter whether the work is important or minor, temporary or long term. We should know that when President Ho allots work to a person, the latter must have a plan of execution and discuss the plan with him. It is recommended that the plan should be realistic and conforming to the capability of the performer. “Any work should be realistic and practicable. We should begin with easy minor tasks and gradually assume more important, more difficult tasks” (President Ho’s letter to the Vietnamese youth).

President Ho’s scientific theory and method, in brief, are the means to carry out successfully the resistance war, to secure independence, to build the democratic republican regime, and to strengthen an independent, free, and happy Vietnam. They are also to cleverly wage guerrilla warfare, to strive for movement warfare, to increase production for self-sufficiency, to develop popular education, and to introduce a new way of living.

The movement of patriotic emulation is mobilising the whole people on the path of making effort and progress. It is the movement of learning President Ho’s scientific theory and method because whoever well grasps this theory and method will succeed.

To learn industriousness, thriftiness, integrity and righteousness

These four terms imply the fine qualities necessary for every Vietnamese in the cause “to perfect yourself, to manage your family, to rule your country, and to pacify the masses”. They represent disinterestedness and complete respect for public property and work.

To learn these qualities is the duty of government officials and workers in popular organisations. It is also the duty of all Vietnamese citizens.

We should learn President Ho’s industriousness and thriftiness because our country is poor and at war. All of us have to work hard to obtain our bowl of rice. We may produce a full bowl but we should only eat half of it.

We should learn President Ho’s integrity and righteousness because these qualities are the foundations of our community life. We should be honest and righteous in our attitude and action with regard to money and our duty, with regard to our neighbours and village fellows and to our compatriots.

Industriousness, thriftiness, integrity and righteousness are the characteristics of a prosperous society. Their contraries are the characteristics of a declining society. In Vietnam today, which is being at war and under construction, laziness, wastefulness, dishonesty, and unrighteousness are adversities that are not allowed to exist and to be tolerated by the Vietnamese people. Nevertheless, this impermissible behaviour is still seen in a number of persons, branches of activity, and cities.

Therefore, to be industrious, thrifty, honest, and righteous consist in eradicating wastefulness, bribery, embezzlement, gambling, and speculation, hoarding, black marketing, and smuggling. All that is bad and obsolete should be eliminated, and at the same time, all that is useful and profitable to the people and the State should be encouraged.

To learn from President Ho is to learn to be loyal to the country and devoted to the people, to realise national cohesion, to struggle, to apply scientific theory and method, and to be industrious, thrifty, honest, and righteous. Other lessons of his are to learn his political lines, to learn from his leadership of the national liberation revolution over the past 30 years; to learn to make our eyes shrewd, capable of understanding the situation of each moment, and grasping all of its aspects, to learn to see the forest and each tree; to know oneself and to know others, to avoid shortsightedness and subjectivity, and thereby to act at the opportune moment and to adopt a correct policy; and to learn his way of writing and speaking. Generally, his speech contains few words but is rich in meaning; his written sentences are simple and brief, but his ideas are rich, easy to understand, to remember, and to practice. His letters, his interviews, and his calls constitute a storehouse of instructions that we should frequently refer to for action. To learn from the President is also to learn his way of treating human beings and solving affairs, of persuading men by reason and moving men by kindheartedness, and of laying regulations through his own actions. To learn from President Ho: How can we exhaustively learn from him! Therefore, finally we learn his method of learning: to learn while working, to work for the purpose of learning, to learn for the purpose of working, to learn through books and through practise, to learn the experience of others, and particularly to learn from the masses, the teachers of all of us.

However, to learn from President Ho is not difficult. Any Vietnamese knows what kind of man the President is, what he always says, and what he does all his life. The simple common man understands President Ho more easily than others. So all Vietnamese can learn from him. Moreover, he gives lessons to each group of people separately: the old, the young, the rich, the poor, the military men at the front, the villagers in the rear, the government servants, writers, artists, people having left the cities for war evacuation reason, the people in enemy-occupied regions, and Vietnamese residents abroad.

In fact, to learn from President Ho is very easy, because what he teaches us is already found in our heart and mind. Thinking it over, we can recall that we have learned from our forefathers the concepts of loyalty to the country and devotion to the people; solidarity in struggle; and industriousness, thriftiness, integrity, and righteousness. Reflecting, we shall better understand President Ho and the practicing of his teachings will be no longer difficult.

President Ho is the image of the Vietnamese people. His stature is that of the nation, but he lowers himself to suit the stature of any Vietnamese and raises any Vietnamese to his stature.

Lo! President Ho is stretching his arm to raise us up, let us heave our bodies up!

Ho Chi Minh Thought Will Light Our Path Forever
(The Gioi Publishers)

* Excerpt from Pham Van Dong’s book ‘Our Fatherland, Our People, Our Cause and the Artist,’ written in 1948. Literary Publishing House, 1983, Hanoi (Fifth edition).
** Pham Van Dong (1906-2000), Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 1955 to 1996. He lived and worked beside President Ho Chi Minh for 30 years from 1940 to 1969.
(1) Names of places commonly known and beloved by the Vietnamese.
(2) Vietnamese custom commonly observed at the beginning of the lunar new year.
(3) Before the August 1945 Revolution. When the anti-French resistance war broke out in late 1946, Ho Chi Minh and the government came back to the Resistance Zone and stayed here to lead the resistance until its victory in 1954. This article was written during this period.
(4) and (5) Names of places in China.
(6) Northern border province of Vietnam adjoining China, a base of the resistance.
(7) Ho Chi Minh left Vietnam to seek a way for national salvation in 1911.
(8) Huynh Thuc Khang (1876-1947) is a patriotic scholar. After the August 1945 Revolution, he was invited by President Ho Chi Minh to be Minister of Home Affairs. Then he became Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In 1946 he was acting President of the State when Ha Chi Minh had gone to France for negotiations.
(9) The feudal dynasties of Vietnam from the 10th to the 19th centuries.
(10) The last feudal dynasty of Vietnam (1802-1945).
(11) Names of national heroes of Vietnam.
(12) A woman’s qualities are reflected in her work (cong), appearance (dung), language (ngon), and virtue (hanh). Her dependence or obedience consists in the fact that at home, when unmarried, she must obey her father; married she must obey her husband; when the husband dies, she must obey her son.

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