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Wednesday, 28 December 2016 13:32
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Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy of social progress and its significance to awareness of developmental goals in Vietnam

(LLCT)Ho Chi Minh’s views on social progress are of philosophical importance because they are a set of ideas combining Marxist philosophy of social progress and experience in actual Vietnamese revolutionary activities and the world’s views on social progress together. By acquiring the world views and methodologies of Marxist philosophy, Ho Chi Minh pointed out the role of the masses in the historical development of the society, thereby establishing goals for the Vietnamese revolution.

President Ho Chi Minh with ethnic people _ Photo: DC

Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy of social progress does not only deal with awareness of shifts of social history from one socio-economic formation to another which is higher and more progressive; more importantly, it has been realized through the realities of the Vietnamese revolution towards the goal of socialism, as K.Marx confirmed, “Man, when finally mastering his own social existence, masters nature and himself and becomes free”(1). Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy of social progress is a result of the reception, development and creative adaptation of the views of Marxist philosophy to realities in Vietnam. It has become a characteristic set of values in the entire Ho Chi Minh Thought in general and his philosophical ideas in particular. Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy of social progress was not only significant during the national liberation revolution but has served as the theoretical basis for the views and guidelines on development towards the goals of “a prosperous people and a strong, democratic, equitable, civilized country”.

Ho Chi Minh’s views on social progress are of philosophical importance because they are a set of ideas combining Marxist philosophy of social progress and experience in actual Vietnamese revolutionary activities and the world’s views on social progress together.

By acquiring the world views and methodologies of Marxist philosophy, Ho Chi Minh pointed out the role of the masses in the historical development of the society, thereby establishing goals for the Vietnamese revolution.

On trends in the development of human society in general, based on the views of Marxist philosophy on “the development of socio-economic formations as a historical-natural process”(2) and “In general, Asian, ancient, feudal and modern capitalist productive methods can be considered to be periods of gradual changes in socio-economic formations”(3), Ho Chi Minh confirmed, “From primitive communism to slavery, to feudalism, to capitalism and to socialism (communism), in general, mankind develops according to that particular law”(4).

Thus, a developmental trend in society is one towards progress, which finds expression in the replacement of a low socio-economic formation with and essentially higher one.

Moreover, Ho Chi Minh pointed out that the motivation for historical development originated from the realities of those who live under the circumstances of a real society. This view highlights the strength of history formed by each individual and the entire community. Ho Chi Minh stated, “People, strictly speaking, refer to families, brothers, relatives and friends, broadly speaking the population of the entire country, and even more broadly speaking the entire human race”(5). Thus, Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy emphasizes that people are united individuals who create the strength of a nation and ultimately the strength of the entire human race. For that reason, once the potential strength of people is tapped or guided, it will give rise to an enormous realistic strength for a nation in particular and for the entire humanity in general during the evolution of social history.

However, in Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy, people - as the source of motivation for history - are emphasized first and foremost for their collective strength. With his profound understanding of Vietnamese history and traditions, Ho Chi Minh attributed the traditional strength of the nation to the collective strength of the masses. Therefore, Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy of the masses’ roles does not only look from the perspective of Marxist philosophy but also based on the inheritance of Oriental traditional values such as “taking people as the roots,” “people are the roots of the country,” and “people are the most precious assets.” Nevertheless, Oriental views on the role of the masses have been illuminated by Marxist - Leninist views. This has changed perceptions of the leading position and the role of the masses in new realities, and has overcome limitations of Oriental feudalistic views on the dependence of the masses: “You might force people act according to a certain principle, but you won’t be able to force them to understand it.(The Analects, Tai Bo). 

Ho Chi Minh stressed the central role of the masses in the evolution of history and considered the masses to be a source of tremendous strength because “People’s forces are the greatest. No one can beat them”(6), and “People’s unanimity forms a strong wall around the homeland. However cruel and evil enemies are, they will fail when facing that wall”(7). Moreover, considering the realities of an agrarian country, Ho Chi Minh stated that peasants were the most potential, most crowded revolutionary force which, if “organized and led well, they will move the sky and earth and defeat colonialists and feudalists no matter how numerous they are”(8).

While emphasizing the strength of the masses, Ho Chi Minh stressed the conditions for making use of that enormous strength. One of the most fundamental conditions was exercising the rights to freedom, equity and social equality, which were both the objectives of, and driving forces behind, social progress. Realities show that Ho Chi Minh’s belief that fundamental rights were both the objectives of, and driving forces behind, social progress did not only become a realistic strength of people’s fight for regaining their mastery of the country during the national liberation revolution but has also provided a realistic strength for the ongoing construction of a new society.

To build up momentum toward these objectives, according to Ho Chi Minh, it is important, first and foremost, to liberate people from the oppressive and unjust system of colonialists and feudalists. In this society, people would not be allowed to become masters and there was no freedom, equality or equity; “... people’s only duties are paying taxes and becoming soldiers or laborers without having any rights”(9). Workers and peasants were the main forces creating wealth and material for the existence and development of society. However, there was an unreasonable and unjust situation where workers lived in poverty all their lives whereas a good number of people who did not work lived in wealth. Ho Chi Minh believed the reason was that “some people have used productive materialsof society as their personal possessions”(10). He also stated that in a society dominated by the exploiting class, only the interests of the ruling class were satisfied while those of working people were jeopardized. Thus, he concluded that genuine social equity and equality could only be achieved in a democratic republic society where “people have their dutiesand also their rights”(11).

A precondition for regaining these fundamental rights was national liberation. With a history of thousands of years of building and safeguarding their country, Vietnamese were well aware of the real value of national sovereignty, independence and freedom and self-determination rights. Their national sovereignty, as Ho Chi Minh put it, did not originate from the heaven or gods or come as a gift from somebody; rather, it was the result of numerous generations of Vietnamese sacrificing their lives.

The philosophy related to the assertion of national sovereignty and independence as well as national freedom and self-determination rights provided the basis for the achievement of the goal of social progress in Vietnam and served as a historical motivation for the masses. This profound philosophy of Ho Chi Minh was expressed in the Declaration of Independence in 1945. Succeeding the views of progressive humanity, Ho Chi Minh emphasized, “All men are created equal, and they are endowed by the Creator certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These words come from the United States’ Declaration of Independence of 1776. Broadly understood, they mean that all peoples in the world are created equal and that they have the right to live, to be happy and to be free”(12). Thus, a prerequisite for achieving social progress was not only equality between individuals but also equality between peoples. On that basis, Ho Chi Minh declared to the world, “Vietnam has the right to freedom and independence, and has, in truth, become a free and independent country”(13). The enjoyment of fruits gained by one’s sacrifices is undeniable justice. Therefore, Vietnam’s supreme sovereignty was actually Vietnamese people’s sovereignty, and human rights and national sovereignty were linked to the values of equity and equality, which further explained Ho Chi Minh’s philosophical ideas on the goal of social progress.

In Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy of social progress, the liberation of the nation, society, classes and people was both a precondition for, and a measurement of, social progress. During his entire revolutionary career, he had only one ambition of “ensuring our country is completely independent, our people are totally free and everyone has food and clothes and access to schooling”(14). Based on Marxism - Leninism and Vietnamese realities, he confirmed, “Only by liberating the proletariat can we liberate our nation; both these liberation causes can only be ones of communism and world revolutions”(15) and “Only communism can save mankind, bring people - regardless of their races and origins - freedom, equality, humanity, solidarity and prosperity, create jobs for everyone, and look after everyone’s benefits, joy, peace and happiness...”(16).

In Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy, social progress is also about national independence and socialism connoting equity, equality, freedom, democracy and happiness for people. In other words, social progress is achieved when everyone has conditions for their own development. One of the most important conditions is mastering their destiny and that of their country, or more specifically, “helping working people escape poverty and creating employment, prosperity and happiness for everyone”(17). Such is a society where people are made increasingly happy, have access to schooling, and to health care when they are sick and retire when they are old, and where bad customs and habits are gradually abolished; and which keeps improving materially and spiritually. Such society can only be a socialist one.

Freedom, equity and equality are objectives to be achieved and a fundamental task to perform to realize the noble values and ideals of socialism. The freedom, equality and equity of a socialist regime are ensured with solid bases, which are expressed in the fact that “Our state belongs to all workers... Working people are the collective ownersof all material and cultural assets and have equalrights and duties”(18). Ho Chi Minh confirmed, “Socialism is fair and reasonable: one doing a lot benefits a lot, doing little benefits little, doing nothing benefits nothing”(19). Therefore, workers’ equality before duties and interests and especially before ownership of their country and means of production are the most fundamental conditions created by the new society ensuring that everyone can make good use of their abilities to achieve the goals of prosperity and happiness.

In addition, Ho Chi Minh affirmed that it was not until the economy was developed when equality and especially social equity could be achieved. On the contrary, social equity was always a pressing demand, which became even more pressing when lives are fraught with difficulty. That was a drive for escaping poverty. With that methodology, he called on people to bear in mind two things:

“Do not be afraid of shortages; be afraid of lack of equity

  Do not be afraid of poverty; be afraid of public dissatisfaction”(20).

Equity is not identical to egalitarianism. When criticizing egalitarianism as the cause of the loss of developmental motivation, Ho Chi Minh pointed out, “What is egalitarianism? It means everyone has the same share... Egalitarianism is contrary to socialism, so that’s wrong”(21). This proves that in Ho Chi Minh’s thought, practicing social equity is not about achieving immediately “same share” or “equal share” especially when it comes to enjoyment; in fact, it is about achieving equality of duties and rights; so, only when people make equal contribution do they receive equal enjoyment. He always emphasized, “Whoever does a lot eats a lot, whoever does a little eats a little, whoever does nothing eats nothing, of course except the elderly, the sick and children”(22).

Ho Chi Minh clarified a truth that when the country was under difficult circumstances it was harder to achieve social progress and avoiding egalitarianism, which leads to equalization in poverty. This would inevitably results in laziness and excessive reliance, and therefore, loss of developmental motivation.

Thus, in Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy, equity and equality are not only the goals of the building of a new social system but also its driving force. Equity and equality are not about even distribution in poverty. For that reason, the goal of the new social system is to constantly improve people’s lives and:

“Make the poor have enough food

Make people with enough food become rich

Make rich people even richer”(23).

Ho Chi Minh’s above-mentioned views show that social equity and equality, in addition to being the goals of socialist construction, are the driving forcesbehind national development. Proper practice of social equity and equality will motivate people, depending on their abilities, to participate in building new lives and step by step advance to a communist society where “People make full use of their talent; whatever need is met”(24).

In Ho Chi Minh’s philosophy, the leading position and role of the masses are always held in high regard. In his philosophy of social progress, Ho Chi Minh greatly appreciated the role of social equity in assuring people, and by doing so, the society would achieve stability facilitating development. In the current condition, his valuable contributions remain relevant and are useful as a guide for Vietnam’s economic interest relations and other social relations.


(1) K.Marx and F.Engels: Complete Works, vol. 19, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1995, p. 333.

(2) K.Marx and F.Engels: Complete Works, op. cit., vol. 23, p. 21.

(3) K.Marx and F.Engels: Complete Works, op. cit., vol. 13, p. 16.

(4), (8), (9), (10), (11), (23) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.7, op. cit., pp.247, 185, 219, 203, 219, 245.

(5), (7), (22) Op. cit., vol.5, pp.644, 151, 65.

(6), (12), (13), (14) Op. cit., vol.4, pp.20, 1, 4, 161.

(15), (16) Op. cit., vol.1, pp.416, 461.

(17), (18), Op. cit., vol.10, pp.17, 310.

(19) Op. cit., vol.9, p.175.

(20) Op. cit., vol.12, p.185.

(21), (22), (24) Op. cit., vol.8, pp.386, 226, 118.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Minh Hoan

Institute of Philosophy

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics


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