Ho Chi Minh, having been formed in the Third World anti-colonial tradition of the Confucian scholars, and having encountered Marxism-Leninism in Paris and Moscow from 1917 to 1924, formed a synthesis of the two traditions. See “Confucian scholars and nationalism” 4/29/2014; “Who was Ho Chi Minh?” 5/2/2014; “Ho encounters French socialism” 5/5/2014; and “Ho the delegate of the colonized” 5/6/2014.
For Ho Chi Minh, Marxism-Leninism had formulated self-evident truths: workers could not protect their interests without taking power and directing the political-economic system. But these truths should be applied to Indochina with flexibility, because in the colonial situation, it was principally a class struggle not between workers and factory owners but between peasants and landholders, some of whom were Indochinese, and others of whom were French, as a result of colonialism. So Ho understood the need to adapt Marxism-Leninism to the colonial situation.
Ho discerned that the anti-colonial struggle and the class struggle were intertwined. The anti-colonial struggle could not succeed in establishing the true sovereignty and independence of the nation without taking on the land question, because land was used to produce raw materials for export, in accordance with the interests of core capitalists, with whom the landholders were allied. Thus, in order to break foreign control over the resources of the nation, it would be necessary to develop a program of agrarian reform that would take land from the landholders and distribute it to peasants, under one form of property or another. This necessarily involved dislodging the national estate bourgeoisie and its allies in the Vietnamese imperial court from power, and placing the land and the political-economic system under the control of the peasants and their nationalist allies. Therefore, the national struggle for independence could not succeed without it including a class struggle of peasants and their allies against the landholding bourgeoisie.
For Ho, this intertwining of the anti-colonial and class struggles occurs not only in the colonies but also in the advanced societies. He understood that the proletarian movement in the core could not take power without allying itself with and defending the interests of the colonized peoples, because imperialist exploitation of the colonies gave the international capitalist class the capacity to contain the worker’s movement in the core through reformist concessions.
In 1917, Lenin had initially believed that the proletarian revolution in the West would triumph first, and the politically triumphant working class in the core would support workers’ revolutions in the colonized regions. But by 1920, Lenin understood what was beginning to emerge. An alliance between core workers and national liberation struggles had not been formed, and core capitalists were beginning to utilize resources emerging from the superexploitation of colonized zones to channel the workers’ movement in the core toward reform, thus maintaining control of the political-economic system. Lenin, therefore, advocated alliance of Western communists with the national liberation struggles of the colonized peoples, even when these struggles included the national bourgeoisie. Ho Chi Minh would push Lenin’s concept of alliance to its fullest implications. He envisioned a global democratic revolution consisting consisting of complementary movements of class struggle in the core and national liberation in the colonies, with both movements working in alliance, mutual support, and solidarity (see “Ho reformulates Lenin” 5/7/2014). He saw the world of his time as divided between a democratic camp, formed by the socialist nations, the progressive forces in the advanced capitalist countries, and the movements of national liberation in the colonized regions; and an anti-democratic, imperialist and reactionary camp, headed by the United States. He considered it certain that the democratic camp would eventually prevail, although he believed that the struggle would be long and hard.
The creative synthesis of Ho Chi Minh was forged in the context of political practice, as we shall discuss in the next post.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, Lenin