In July 1928, Ho relocated to Siam, where he worked to create communist cells among Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian émigrés and to reorganize the networks of the Communist International in Southeast Asia. When two other Vietnamese communist organizations were formed in 1929, Ho convoked a Congress for the founding of a united party, and in this manner the Indochinese Communist Party was established in Hong Kong in February 1930 (Prina 2008:80; García Oliveras 2010:30-31; Kuiker 2000:146-67).
On February 18, 1930, the newly formed party issued an appeal (written by Ho) to “workers, peasants, soldiers, youth, and school students” and to “oppressed and exploited fellow countrymen” and “sisters and brothers.” The Appeal called upon these popular sectors to participate in a revolution that was both a nationalist anti-colonial revolution as well as a class revolution. It described a world revolution that “includes the oppressed colonial peoples and the exploited working class throughout the world” (Ho 2007:39). It maintained that in Indochina this revolution takes the form of an anti-imperialist revolution formed by workers, peasants, students, and merchants:
“The French imperialists’ barbarous oppression and ruthless exploitation have awakened our compatriots, who have all realized that revolution is the only road to survival and that without it they will die a slow death. This is why the revolutionary movement has grown stronger with each passing day: the workers refuse to work, the peasants demand land, the students go on strike, the traders stop doing business. Everywhere the masses have risen to oppose the French imperialists” (Ho 2007:40).
The Appeal put forth a ten-point program that was a practical synthesis of Marxism-Leninism and the nationalist anti-colonial perspective. The program sought “to overthrow French imperialism and Vietnamese feudalism and reactionary bourgeoisie,” thus giving equal balance to both French colonialism and class exploitation. The program sought “to make Indochina completely independent” and “to establish a worker-peasant-soldier government.” It sought “to confiscate the banks and other enterprises belonging to the imperialists and to put them under the control of the worker-peasant-soldier government,” and it included a plan “to confiscate all the plantations and property belonging to the imperialists and the reactionary bourgeoisie and distribute them to the poor peasants.” The program also proposed social reforms, including an eight-hour working day, elimination of unjust taxes that were particularly hurtful to the poor, an increase in education, and the promotion of gender equality (Ho 2007:41; Bello 2007:xv-xvii).
For the next 15 years, the Indochinese Communist Party would experience a tremendous growth in Vietnamese popular support, such that it would arrive at a position of leadership of the Vietnamese Revolution when the independence of Vietnam was declared in 1945. This dramatic growth was a result of the party’s connecting the issue of national liberation to the interests of the peasants, who comprised more than 90% of the population. Its formulation of a clear program in relation to peasant interests differentiated it from the various bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties of the period. As Ho expressed 30 years after the forming of the party, the growth of the Party, at the expense of other parties, was a consequence of the Party’s formulation of a program that “fully answered the aspirations of the peasants, who made up the majority of our people” (Ho 2007:178-79).
The growth of the Indochinese Communist Party from 1930 to 1945 was analogous to the dramatic growth of the Bolshevik Party in Russia in 1917. In both cases, the increase in popular support was a consequence of the party’s capacity to identify interests of importance to the people and to formulate clear and consistent proposals in relation to these interests. In the case of the Bolshevik Party in Russia, the issues were the transfer of power to the soviets, disengagement from the war, and the distribution of land to peasants (see “The Russian Revolution (October)” 1/23/2014). In the case of the Indochinese Communist Party, the issues were national liberation from colonial domination and the distribution of land to peasants. And in both cases, the identification of key interests occurred in the context of the formulation of a general perspective not of reform but of revolutionary transformation of the nation and the world.
Was Ho involved in the “exporting” of the Russian Revolution to Indochina? Let us recall the basic facts that we have summarized in recent posts from May 2 to May 9. Ho Chi Minh, then known as Nguyen the Patriot, was a Vietnamese nationalist who encountered and became committed to Marxism-Leninism in Paris from 1917 to 1923. He worked in the Communist International (Comintern) in Moscow in 1923 and 1924, where he also studied at an institute for the education of Asian leaders. Beginning in 1925, he worked as a Comintern “agent” in Southeast Asia. As such, he was subject to the direction of the Comintern, which established the policies of the Russian Revolution in relation to the nationalist revolutions in Asia. For this work, however, he received no salary. Directed by the Comintern, he nevertheless was expected to find his own means of support. Initially, he received a modest income from the Soviet news agency ROSTA for sending articles to Moscow on conditions in China (Duiker 2000:104, 113-14). Similarly, the Comintern provided little financial support for the activities of the Indochinese Communist Party. The Indochinese Communist Party had success because of the commitment of its members, and because its ideas made sense to many in the popular sectors. Revolutions cannot be exported, but revolutionary ideas can be disseminated, if they are credible to the people, as a result of their capacity to clarify structures of domination and to formulate the basic characteristics of a more just social situation.
Bello, Walden. 2007. “Introduction: Ho Chi Minh: The Communist as Nationalist” in Ho Chi Minh, Down with Colonialism. London: Verso.
Duiker, William J. 2000. Ho Chi Minh. New York: Hyperion.
García Oliveras, Julio A. 2010. Ho Chi Minh El Patriota: 60 años de lucha revolucionaria. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Ho Chi Minh. 2007. Down with Colonialism. Introduction by Walden Bello. London: Verso.
Prina, Agustín. 2008. La Guerra de Vietnam. Mexico: Ocean Sur.
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, Indochina, Communist Party of Indochina