His reading of Lenin’s “Thesis” was not only a moment of an intellectual conversion experience; it also provided him with a basis for active engagement in the communist movement, in which he in effect was functioning as a delegate of the colonized peoples. He wrote in 1960 concerning the impact of his reading of the “Thesis on the National and Colonial Questions:”
“Formerly, during the meetings of the [French Socialist] Party branch, I only listened to the discussion. . . . But from then on, I also plunged into the debates and discussed with fervor. Though I was still lacking French words to express all my thoughts, I smashed the allegations attacking Lenin and the Third International with no less vigor. My only argument was: ‘If you do not condemn colonialism, if you do not side with the colonial people, what kind of revolution are you waging?’
Not only did I take part in the meetings of my own Party branch, but I also went to other Party branches to lay down ‘my position’” (Fall 1967:6).
During his time in Moscow, Nguyen Ai Quoc wrote a book on the process of French colonialism (published in English as French Colonization on Trial), which he had begun in Paris (Duiker 2000:67, 96). He describes the exorbitant rent, taxes and fines and the forced labor imposed on the colonized in Vietnam and in other regions of the French colonial empire. He maintains that indiscriminate violence with impunity is a common practice in French colonialism, including patterns of violence against women. He contends that colonialism presents itself in accordance with the ideals of fraternity and equality in order to hide its exploitative nature. He asserts that French Catholic priests are among the abusers and exploiters (Fall 1967: 69, 71, 84-90, 93, 100, 106-10; Ho 1968: 200, 204, 236, 237, 241, 259-63).
Addressing the Fifth Congress of the Communist International on June 23, 1924, Nguyen Ai Quoc asserted:
“I am here in order to continuously remind the International of the existence of the colonies. . . . It seems to me that the comrades do not entirely comprehend the fact that the fate of the world proletariat, and especially the fate of the proletarian class in aggressive countries that have invaded colonies, is closely tied to the fate of the oppressed peoples of the colonies. . . .
You must excuse my frankness, but I cannot help but observe that the speeches by comrades from the mother countries give me the impression that they wish to kill a snake by stepping on its tail. You all know that today the poison and life energy of the capitalist snake is concentrated more in the colonies than in the mother countries. The colonies supply the raw materials for industry. The colonies supply soldiers for the armies. . . . Yet in your discussions of the revolution you neglect to talk about the colonies. . . . Why do you neglect the colonies, while capitalism uses them to support itself, defend itself, and fight you?” (quoted in Duiker 2000:99-100)
By 1924, Nguyen Ai Quoc had developed the basic components of a synthesis of Marxism-Lenin and the patriotic nationalism of the Confucian scholars, a synthesis that would involve a subtle reformulation of Lenin, as we will discuss in subsequent posts.
Duiker, William J. 2000. Ho Chi Minh. New York: Hyperion.
Fall, Bernard B., Ed. 1967. Ho Chi Minh On Revolution: Selected Writings, 1920-26. New York: Frederick A. Praeger.
Ho Chi Minh. 1968. Páginas Escogidas. La Habana: Instituto del Libro.
__________. 2007. Down with Colonialism. Introduction by Walden Bello. London: Verso.
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, Third International, communism