Behind the Mind of Ho Chi Minh

How Ho Chi Minh developed his ideas and theories on battle

Within the Sixties as Individuals started to listen to an increasing number of about a spot unfamiliar to most of them, they have been additionally studying the title of a person added to a rising listing of leaders carrying the banner of communism and threatening Western beliefs after World Struggle II. The nation was Vietnam, and the person was Ho Chi Minh, who led communist-controlled North Vietnam and wished to take over South Vietnam to create an unbiased, unified communist nation.

Though Ho’s title was largely unknown to Individuals, he had been arguing for—after which preventing for—independence for the reason that finish of World Struggle I. By the point the primary U.S. fight items arrived in South Vietnam in March 1965, Ho was practically 75 years previous and wouldn’t get to see the final U.S. troops go away in March 1973. Ho died in September 1969.   

Fifty years later, many Vietnamese nonetheless revere “Uncle Ho,” as he’s affectionately known as, for his relentless pursuit of independence. (U.S. troops in Vietnam additionally known as him “Uncle Ho,” however mockingly.)

In forming his arguments for independence, theories of warfare and plans for a brand new social system in Vietnam, Ho drew on his personal experiences and philosophies from the varied array of cultures that he had studied.

Ho’s publicly espoused views meshed the tenets of Confucianism, the beliefs of independence and freedom championed in democracies, and the frequent possession attribute of Marxist communism. He hoped these rules would encourage revolutionary fervor within the Vietnamese, whereas a concerted propaganda marketing campaign instilled concern in opponents and weakened their will to endure a protracted battle.

Ho addresses the founding assembly of the French Communist Get together at Excursions in December 1920. He felt the communist philosophy aligned along with his nationalist aspirations. (AFP/Agence France Presse)


Ho acquired a lot of his data of the East and West by residing in each. He discovered French, English, Russian and Chinese language.

Born Nguyen Sinh Cung on Could 19, 1890, in Kim Lien in Nghe An province in central Vietnam, he started utilizing Ho Chi Minh (“Ho the Enlightened One”) across the early Nineteen Forties. Ho was immersed in Confucian beliefs, which emphasize loyalty, respect and “collective independence”—a concentrate on the independence of a society total moderately than the independence of the person members of that society.

He left Vietnam in 1911, at age 21, to go to France, the colonial energy that had conquered Indochina within the mid-to-late 1800s. That journey journey additionally took him to New York and Boston (1912-13), then again to Europe for a keep in London earlier than returning to France, the place he attended the 1919 Paris Peace Convention at Versailles after World Struggle I and promoted independence for Vietnam. Whereas residing in France, England and the USA, Ho had seen democracy and consultant authorities at work.

Ho additionally studied—and got here to embrace—the choice political philosophies of socialism and communism promoted within the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. He noticed governments working beneath these philosophies within the Nineteen Twenties whereas he frolicked in Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik-controlled Soviet Union and in China, the place a Communist Get together had fashioned and Mao Zedong was an rising chief.

Paul Mus, a French creator of books on Vietnam, quotes Ho as saying: “Once I was younger I studied Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity in addition to Marxism. There’s something good in every doctrine.” To American journalist Robert Shaplen, Ho acknowledged merely: “I’m knowledgeable revolutionary.”

Ho, at the 1924 Communist Congress in Moscow, saw Marxism as a revolt against not just capitalism, but also colonial empires. (Sputnik/Alamy)
Ho, on the 1924 Communist Congress in Moscow, noticed Marxism as a revolt towards not simply capitalism, but additionally colonial empires. (Sputnik/Alamy)


In the course of the 1919 Versailles convention, Ho introduced a petition with a listing of eight calls for in accordance with the appropriate of self-determination. The doc had echoes of the American Declaration of Independence and Invoice of Rights in addition to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Ho argued that so long as Vietnam was a colony of France, the Vietnamese ought to have the identical rights that French residents have. His petition was ignored.

Ho got here to see a Marxist revolution as the path to independence. His tone towards Vietnam’s colonial occupier grew to become extra strident. In a speech at Excursions, France, on Dec. 26, 1920, throughout a congress of the French Socialist Get together, which voted to develop into the French Communist Get together, he stated:

In [France’s] egocentric pursuits, it conquered our nation with bayonets. Since then we now have not solely been oppressed… shamelessly, but additionally…poisoned pitilessly. Plainly talking, we now have been poisoned with opium, alcohol, and so on. I can’t, in some minutes, reveal all of the atrocities inflicted on Indochina…. We’ve neither freedom of press nor freedom of speech…. We’ve no proper to stay in different nations or to go overseas as vacationers. We’re compelled to stay in utter ignorance and obscurity as a result of we now have no proper to review…. Such is the remedy inflicted upon extra that 20 million Vietnamese…. And they’re mentioned to be beneath French safety!

Ho understood that the common particular person in France knew nothing of Vietnam, so he tried to realize help by way of tales in regards to the harsh remedy the Vietnamese obtained.

In Le Paria, {a magazine} Ho based in France in 1922, he wrote that French troopers coming into a village discovered two previous males and two ladies with a child and slightly woman. The troopers demanded cash, brandy and opium. “Changing into livid as a result of no one understood them,” Ho wrote, “they then beat one of many previous males to demise … roasted the opposite previous man over a fireplace of twigs. In the meantime, the remainder of the group, having raped the 2 ladies, adopted … the little woman and murdered her.” In response, French Indochina Governor-Basic Pierre Marie Antoine Pasquier (in workplace 1928-34) issued an apology to Ho and the Vietnamese folks, promising higher habits—however not a withdrawal from Vietnam.

Ho studied Lenin’s theses on “Nationwide and Colonial Questions,” which solid Marxist revolutions as not simply revolts towards capitalism but additionally as rebellions towards colonial empires. After Lenin’s demise on Jan. 21, 1924, Ho wrote within the Communist Get together newspaper Pravda that Lenin, “after having liberated his personal folks” throughout the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, “wished to liberate different peoples too. He known as upon the white peoples to assist the yellow and black peoples to free themselves from the overseas aggressors’ yoke.”

Ho, who attended the Fifth Congress of the Comintern (Communist Worldwide group) in Moscow in June 1924, praised Lenin once more in 1926, writing within the French journal Le Sifflet, “Lenin was the primary to comprehend and assess the complete significance of drawing the colonial peoples into the revolutionary motion. He was the primary to level out that, with out the participation of the colonial peoples, the socialist revolution couldn’t come about.”

Writing for the Soviet publication Issues of the East in 1960 Ho acknowledged: “At first, patriotism, not but Communism, led me to believe in Lenin…. By finding out Marxism-Leninism parallel with participation in sensible actions, I steadily came across the truth that solely Socialism and Communism can liberate the oppressed nations and the working folks.”


Ho, who entered political life as a nationalist looking for independence for Vietnam, had determined pretty early in his quest that communism was the philosophy best-suited to attain his aim. He based the Vietnamese Communist Get together in Hong Kong on Feb. 3, 1930, lengthy earlier than he introduced himself to World Struggle II’s Western Allies as merely a “Vietnamese nationalist.”

He mentioned in a written message to the social gathering on Feb. 18, 1930, that within the rising opposition to French rule “employees refuse to work, the peasants demand land, the pupils strike, the merchants boycott,” including that “whereas the French imperialists are frenziedly finishing up terrorist acts, the Vietnamese Communists…have now united right into a single social gathering.”

As soon as independence was gained, Ho mentioned in that message, his Communist Get together would set up a worker-peasant and soldier authorities; confiscate companies and plantations in order that they might be distributed to peasants; implement an eight-hour work day; abolish public loans, waive unjust taxes; give the lots freedom; implement common schooling; and set up equality between women and men. Basically, these have been the identical needs touted, then quashed, by Lenin’s Bolsheviks in 1917-18.

By July 1939, the Vietnamese Communist Get together’s democracy program, introduced by Ho at a Comintern assembly in Hong Kong, included freedom to arrange and assemble, freedom of speech and freedom of political thought.

After German troops overran France in 1940, the Japanese took management of French Indochina however stored the administration in French palms. Ho realized he would now should combat each the French and Japanese.

In January 1941, Ho wrote a pamphlet, “The Highway to Liberation,” which outlined a two-week coaching course for younger cadres. It lined using mass organizations, strategies of propaganda and group, coaching and revolutionary wrestle. 

Then in Could, Ho and different Vietnamese communist leaders fashioned the Viet Minh, a corporation that additionally included noncommunist nationalists, to combat for independence. At a gathering that month of the Central Committee of Vietnam’s Communist Get together, Ho trumpeted: “Compatriots all through the nation! … Stand up rapidly … to combat the French and the Japanese.”

American GIs show a cloth portrait found during the search of a rubber plantation in Cambodia in 1970. (AP Photo/Henri Huet)
American GIs present a fabric portrait discovered throughout the search of a rubber plantation in Cambodia in 1970. (AP Picture/Henri Huet)


Ho believed he may win independence if the Vietnamese folks felt that the combat was for freedom, justice and equality—achieved by way of the automobile of communism.

Ho thought the teachings of Confucianism may additionally help him. Confucianism teaches that everybody can attain a “superior particular person high quality,” and Ho felt that every soldier and citizen may attain that high quality.

The traits of this superior particular person embody enlightenment, philanthropy, friendship, returning good for evil, consistency, respect for almost all’s needs, a need for studying, and an consciousness of wealth with out advantage and advantage with out wealth. Ho additionally believed that if the Vietnamese thought he had attained the qualities of a superior particular person, they might eagerly be a part of his revolutionary forces.

Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945, ending World Struggle II, and signed the give up papers on Sept. 2, 1945. That very same day, Ho issued the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, whose first phrases duplicated the “all males are created equal” passage within the American declaration. “This immortal assertion was made within the Declaration of Independence of the USA of America in 1776,” Ho’s declaration proclaims. “In a broader sense, this implies: All of the peoples on the earth are equal from beginning, all of the peoples have a proper to stay, to be completely happy and free.”

Ho knew, nonetheless, that the top of World Struggle II wouldn’t carry automated independence. Even earlier than the battle was over, the Allied powers had determined to return Vietnam to French rule. By early 1946, France was again in charge of Vietnam.

Ho wrote President Harry S. Truman on Feb. 15, 1946, to request the U.S. help for Vietnam’s independence:

Our Vietnam folks, as early as 1941, stood by the Allies’ facet and fought towards the Japanese and their associates, the French colonialists…. However the French Colonialists… have come again and are waging on us a murderous and pitiless battle….  we request of the USA as guardians and champions of World Justice to take a decisive step in help of our independence.

Truman didn’t reply. Rising tensions between the French and Vietnamese spun right into a full-fledged battle that started on Dec. 19, 1946.

In a message to the Vietnamese folks on Dec. 21, 1946, Ho mentioned the Vietnamese had an affection for France as a result of they each held frequent beliefs of freedom, equality and independence. However that relationship was ruined by the French colonialists who took revenue from Vietnam and handled the natives as inferiors. Then Ho addressed the French troopers immediately: “Are you able to be content material with sacrificing your bones and blood and your lives for the reactionaries?… The Resistance Struggle might be lengthy and fraught with sufferings. No matter sacrifices we now have to make and nonetheless lengthy the Resistance Struggle will final, we’re decided to combat to the top.”

Ho knew his enemies wished to combat a “lightning battle,” however for him the trigger was higher than any particular person life. Ho defined in a November 1945 speech that “we’re decided to sacrifice even tens of millions of combatants and combat a long-term battle of resistance in an effort to safeguard Viet-Nam’s independence.” And in a message to his folks on Dec. 20, 1946, he elaborated on the price, saying the Vietnamese should “sacrifice even our final drop of blood to safeguard our nation.”

Following the success towards the French within the second Hong Phong Marketing campaign of Sept. 30 to Oct. 18, 1950—by which the Viet Minh cleared a path to the Chinese language border and inflicted about 8,000 casualties on their enemy—Ho listed six tenets of battle: 1) heighten self-discipline; 2) strictly perform orders; 3) love the troopers; 4) respect the folks; 5) take excellent care of public property and battle booty; 6) sincerely make criticism and self-criticism. He additionally added three components for successful: 1) terrain situations; 2) folks’s help; 3) time ranges.


Ho believed guerrilla techniques have been important. After Japan occupied Indochina in 1940, he constructed a Sino-Vietnamese alliance to ascertain a united entrance and a base for guerrilla actions. Ho wrote an instruction guide on the techniques of guerrilla warfare. Ho knew his military was weak, so his troopers needed to be skilled in guerrilla techniques that might put on down their opponents and allow the Vietnamese to make an all-out offensive when the time was proper for a complete victory.

Guerrilla warfare “consists in being secret, speedy, lively, now within the East, now within the West, arriving unexpectedly and leaving unnoticed,” he wrote on the institution of Vietnam Propaganda Unit for Nationwide Liberation in December 1944. 

Sufficient guerrilla items should exist all through the nation to create “an iron internet” in order that “wherever the enemy goes he might be enmeshed,” Ho acknowledged in a political report learn on the Second Nationwide Congress of the Vietnam Employees Get together in 1951. Guerrilla items included not solely younger males but additionally previous males, ladies and youth.

However Ho realized that full victory may solely be obtained by a big, decided drive. In his directions for the propaganda unit, he mentioned: “To behave efficiently, within the navy discipline, the principle precept is focus of forces.” The boys can be picked from the ranks of the guerrilla items within the provinces, and “a large amount of weapons might be concentrated to ascertain our primary drive.”

Ho’s forces gained their battle with France on Could 7, 1954, in a surprising defeat of French troopers at Dien Bien Phu within the northern a part of the nation. An settlement reached in July 1954 at a convention in Geneva ended France’s rule and break up the nation into North and South Vietnam. However Ho, head of the federal government within the North, nonetheless sought a unified Vietnam, and by March 1965 he can be at battle with U.S. fight items supporting South Vietnam.

Because the navy combat wore on, so did the philosophical wrestle between democracy and communism. Since Ho had lived in democratic societies, he believed some components of democracy would work together with communism, and for a interval he allowed extra freedom of speech.

Publications such because the Nhan Van (Humanities), printed between 1955 and 1957, and the Giai Pham (Masterpieces), 1956 to 1957, voiced criticisms of the social gathering. Nevertheless, in 1956 Ho abruptly reversed his professed democratic insurance policies and cracked down on these publications in addition to professors and different outspoken residents,

Ho had concluded that communism and democracy have been antonyms and that just one may survive. Pierre Asselin in Vietnam’s American Struggle suggests Ho might have allowed democratic reforms solely to reveal enemies of the social gathering, however he argues that it was extra seemingly Ho believed democratization may work however underestimated its results.

Three years after Ho’s demise in 1969, Truong Chinh, who was Ho’s second in command 1941-57, acknowledged that a mixture of communism and democracy can be the frequent mission of the North and South Vietnamese. The North was to proceed the socialist revolution and the South was to “sweep away the U.S. imperialists aggressors … and win again nationwide independence and democracy for the folks.”

At present, Vietnam continues to be the centrally managed communist dictatorship that Ho created, nevertheless it has a Western capitalist economic system that’s thriving.

Arguably Ho’s biggest navy principle involved the efficient use of propaganda to interrupt the opposing facet’s will. On the Comintern Congress in Moscow in 1924, Ho complained to the assembled physique a couple of lack of emphasis on propaganda: “Why is it that the place the revolution is anxious you don’t want to make your energy, your propaganda, equal to the enemy whom you want to combat and defeat?”

Ho, at all times able to be his personal propagandist, by no means shied from an interview. On Aug. 13, 1963, he spoke to Wilfred Burchett of the Nationwide Guardian and the Algerian Revolution Africaine:

A savage battle is being waged towards our compatriots in South Vietnam …. U.S. pilots are day by day bombing and burning peaceable villages, destroying meals crops and orchards with noxious chemical compounds …. The U.S. directed military-political goals at current are to herd the complete inhabitants within the countryside of South Vietnam into focus camps …. [T]ens of 1000’s had been massacred in chilly blood and a whole bunch of 1000’s extra herded into the gradual demise.

Replying to the American journal Minority of One in Could 1964, Ho pitted the American folks towards their authorities:

This so-called “particular battle” is definitely a battle of aggression waged by the U.S. Authorities and its brokers, a battle which is day by day inflicting grief and struggling to our fourteen million compatriots in South Vietnam, and by which 1000’s of American youths have been killed or wounded … . The Vietnamese individuals are effectively conscious that the American folks wish to stay in peace and friendship with all different nations. I’ve been to the USA, and I perceive that the Individuals are gifted folks strongly hooked up to justice… The Vietnamese folks by no means confuse the justice-loving American folks and the U.S. Authorities.

The US, Ho mentioned over Radio Hanoi on July 17, 1966, “might herald 500,000 troops, 1 million, or much more to step up the battle of aggression in South Viet-Nam. They might use 1000’s of plane for intensified assaults…. However by no means will they have the ability to break the iron will of the heroic Vietnamese folks…. The battle should final ten, twenty years or longer … our folks and military … will resolutely combat till full victory.”

Ho’s military was by no means the strongest, however he at all times outlasted the opposition by weakening their resolve.

By March 1973, greater than 20 years after the primary U.S. navy advisers got here to Vietnam in 1950, all U.S. troops have been overseas. In April 1975, after the autumn of Saigon and 6 years after Ho’s demise, North and South Vietnam have been united right into a single nation. Ho’s navy theories and techniques had proved profitable.


Joel Kindrick has a grasp’s diploma in navy historical past from Norwich College and was an teacher of historical past, authorities and language at Pepperdine College, California Lutheran College and Pacific Union Faculty. He has performed intensive interviews with veterans of American wars.

This text appeared in Vietnam journal’s December 2019 subject.  


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