Such is the style of the formulations of charismatic leaders. Their insights are formulated in the context of the need to address practical situations, such as the need to formulate a program of action in a call to the people, or the need to define a strategy or program in response to internal debates in the movement. Thus, the formulated understandings of charismatic leaders can be described as “practical intellectual formulations” or “practical theoretical formulations.” They have a style that from an academic point of view may appear to be overly succinct. Or they may be formulated piecemeal, partially expressed in one context and further developed in another. But their style, a consequence of their being formulated in political practice, should not prevent us from appreciating their insight. Indeed, the fact that the insights of charismatic leaders are formulated in the context of political practice is the key to their wisdom. Advances in human understanding of social dynamics are attained when charismatic leaders, drawing upon a received political-intellectual-moral tradition and committed to universal human values, arrive at new insights as they seek to understand what to do in the context of problems, dilemmas, and new situations confronted by the on-going social movement.
As we reflect on the intellectual development of Ho Chi Minh, what is of most importance is that Ho, when he first encountered socialist currents in Paris, did not reject Western socialism for its prevailing Eurocentrism, in spite of Ho’s formation in the nationalist perspective of the colonized. Rather, he embraced Leninism as the current within European socialism that most fully affirmed the validity of the anti-colonial struggles in the colonies, and at the same time, he adapted Leninism to the colonial situation. Through this process, he was able to reaffirm the basic principles of the nationalist movement, while at the same time appropriating for the nationalist movement important insights of the European socialist movement, thus enabling the nationalist movement to become more theoretically advanced and therefore more politically advanced. And he endeavored to push European socialism toward encounter with the Third World revolutions and to a greater level of consciousness of the significance of the Third World revolutions for the global socialist revolution. He thus sought to bring both communism and Third World nationalism to a more advanced theoretical and political stage.
Ho’s creative synthesis of Marxism-Leninism and a Third World anti-colonial perspective was appreciated by Fidel Castro. As we will see in future posts, Fidel also would formulate a synthesis of Third World nationalism and Marxism-Leninism in the practical context of social struggle. In an address in Vietnam on September 12, 1973, four years after Ho’s death, Fidel declared:
¨President Ho Chi Minh, understanding the extraordinary historic importance and the consequences of the glorious October Revolution, and assimilating the brilliant thought of Lenin, saw with complete clarity that in Marxism-Leninism there was the teaching and the road that ought to be followed in order to find the solution to the problem of the peoples oppressed by colonialism.
Comrade Ho Chi Minh, in a brilliant manner, combined the struggle for national independence with the struggle for the rights of the masses oppressed by the exploiters and the feudalists. He saw that the road was the combination of the patriotic sentiments of the peoples with the need for liberation from social exploitation.
National liberation and social liberation were the two pillars on which his doctrine was built. But he saw, in addition, that the countries that had fallen behind due to colonialism were able to leap forward in history and construct their economy through socialist paths, sparing themselves from the sacrifices and the horrors of capitalism. . . .
Comrade Ho Chi Minh knew how to adapt brilliantly the eternal principles of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of Vietnam. History has shown that he was right, because in no other manner would a people have been able to write a page as heroic and glorious as that written by the people of Vietnam, overthrowing first French colonialism and then Yankee imperialism¨ (Castro 2008:174-5).
Castro, Fidel. 2008. “Discurso de Fidel Castro en Vietnam" in Agustín Prina, La Guerra de Vietnam, Pág. 173-80. 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