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V.I.Lenin's thought on the class-nationality relationship and the application by the Vietnamese Communist Party

(LLCT) - The sustainable value in V.I.Lenin’s thought when dealing with the class-nationality relationship emphasizes the national problem in any era is always perceived and resolved on the stance and point of view of a certain class. This is the theoretical basis and methodology for determining the strategies of the Party and our people on the issue of class and ethnicity on the basis of both ensuring unity and meeting the difference between the interests of the class, nation and humanity on the basis of the nation's traditional patriotism and compassion.

Keyword: V.I.Lenin, class- nationality relationship, Communist Party of Vietnam.

1. The views of C.Marx and F.Engels on the nationality-class relationship

In the Communist Manifesto, K.Marx and F.Engels mentioned the nationality and class issues. They said that the struggle of the proletariat in the early stage was national because the proletariat was an independent movement of the majority bloc, for the benefit the majority. Therefore, the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie was not a national struggle, but first had a national form. In the Communist Manifesto, K.Marx wrote: “Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word”(1).

K.Marx and F.Engels said that when capitalism entered the period of imperialism, the bourgeoisie became increasingly obsolete historically; only the proletariat could unify the interests of its class with the interests of the working people and the whole nation, capable of completely eliminating exploitation, bringing about genuine independence for their people and for other peoples, that is for all advanced humanity. Only the proletariat, with its revolutionary nature and historic mission, could do so. K. Marx and F. Engels pointed out that the primary condition for the revolution’s victory was international unity of the proletariat. Therefore, they stated the slogan: “Proletarians of the world, unite!”(2).

Thus, K.Marx and F.Engels saw a close relationship between the issue of nationality and the issue of class. However, they both did not go deeply into solving the national problem because basically, in Europe, it was solved in the bourgeois revolution. Therefore, in these countries, the fundamental contradiction of society is the conflict between two opposing classes: bourgeois and proletarian. Moreover, in the time of K.Marx and F.Engels, the colonial system existed, but the struggles for independence were not yet strongly developed.

Therefore, in the cause of social liberation, the two theorists emphasized the emancipation of the working class. They wrote: “The exploitation of people over people should be abolished, the situation of one nation exploiting another people must be eliminated” and: “When the opposition between classes within the nation no longer exists, then the hostility between the peoples will also disappear”(3). According to them, in order to resolve the national antagonism, first of all, one has to deal with class resistance, class liberation as the central task, the condition for nation liberation. V.I.Lenin remarked that, for Marx, compared to the issues of the proletariat, the national issue is only a secondary problem.

2. The views of V.I.Lenin

In the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, capitalism changed to the period of imperialism and the bourgeoisie became the total reactionary class: economic militarization and political fascism, causing invasive war to everywhere, and the world appeared in two systems - the imperialist countries and the colonial countries of imperialism. At this time, the issues of nation and colonial nations became urgent and hot in the world revolutionary movement and closely attached to the class struggle of the proletariat. The struggle of the people of colonial, dependent nations against imperialism had become a basic content, with organic relations with the common struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie, between “exploiting” and “exploited,” between imperialism and colonial and dependent nations. Developing the thesis of K.Marx and F.Engels in that historical condition, V.I.Lenin wrote many works on national issues, as well as discussed the relationship between the working class and the nation, typically such as on national self-determination in 1914 and  the first draft of national issues and colonial issues in 1920. In those works, V.I.Lenin’s thoughts on the relationship between class and nationality were shown through some of the following content:

Firstly, V.I.Lenin criticized the nationalism of the bourgeoisie, who asserted, the bourgeoisie dealt with abstractly and formally the problem of the nation and the equal right among nations. It is a lie, eliminating class struggle to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie. In essence, the nationalism of the bourgeoisie is selfish, narrow-minded - the great fish eats the small - creating nations that are politically independent, but completely dependent on capitalism in terms of economics, finance and military. He wrote: “The bourgeois democracy, by its nature, has an abstract or formal questioning of equal rights in general, which includes equal national rights. Being hidden in the form of the equal rights of the individual in general, bourgeois democracy proclaims a formal equal or equal legal right between the bourgeois and the proletariat, between the exploiter and the exploited, thereby causing the oppressed classes to be terribly deceived. The notion of equality - itself merely a reflection of relations of the production of goods - was turned into a weapon by the bourgeoisie against the destruction of the class under the guise of absolutely equal rights of individuals. The real meaning of claiming equal rights in general is simply to destroy the class”(4).

From this, V.I.Lenin criticized the radical nationalism, Chauvinism, because he thought that this would be harmful to the workers’ movement of that country in particular and the proletarian international movement in general: “Anyone who stands on the standpoint of nationalism is naturally reaching to a sense of wanting to use the great wall to encircle his people and the worker movement of his people. He will not concern even having to build separate walls in each city, locality, and village, he will not hesitate to use both the strategy of division and dispersion to turn into a wordless numbers of great last teaching about making the proletariat of all nations, all races, all languages stand side by side and unite”(5).

He also said: “Nation prejudices also facilitate war, which are regularly nurtured in civilized countries for the benefit of the ruling classes, in order to make the proletarian mass disregard their own class duties and forget the obligation to unite the international class”(6).

Secondly, along with the criticism of the nationalism of the bourgeoisie, V.I.Lenin affirms that the nation problem must be solved from the point of view of the proletariat because only the proletariat protects the true freedom of the nations and the unity of the workers of all nations.

He affirms: “But, for the bourgeoisie, the claim of national equality is in fact often a promotion of national identity and chauvinism and very often associated with propaganda for nation divisions and thus making people depart. Proletarian internationalism is absolutely incompatible with that point of view because internationalism propagates not only for intimacy between nations, but also for the union of workers of all ethnicities in one nation in the unified institutions of the proletariat”(7).

Since then, V.I.Lenin has always put the nationality-class relationship into the process of the socialist revolution to consider.

Thirdly, affirming the close relationship between the nation and the class, V.I.Lenin thought that linking the worker movement with the national liberation movement is a vital issue, a prerequisite in the cause of fighting against capitalism. V.I.Lenin put forth the slogan calling for the universal solidarity of the working class worldwide with the oppressed peoples: “Proletarians of all nations and oppressed peoples unite together”. In 1924, in “Lenin and the Eastern peoples,” Ho Chi Minh remarks: “Lenin is the first person to understand and appreciate the great importance of attracting colonial people to the revolutionary movement. Lenin is the first to point out that, without the participation of colonial peoples, social revolution could not have existed”(8).

However, V.I.Lenin emphasized the dependence of the national issue on the issue of class. Therefore, despite seeing the important role of the national liberation revolution, V.I.Lenin still affirms that the victory of the national liberation revolution depends on the victory of the proletarian revolution in the country: “Without that victory, the yoke of national oppression and inequality cannot be eliminated”(9). V.I.Lenin also criticized the tendency to make absolutization of the national issue, to put the national issue above the class issue, and to turn the national issue into a “fetish”. He said that national interests must be placed under class interests: “The bourgeoisie always puts their nation claims first. It states those claims absolutely. For the proletariat, those claims must serve the interests of class struggle”(10).

Besides, he affirms that the national issue has a special position and importance. Properly solving the national issues will make an important contribution to the class struggle in the socialist revolution. Therefore, he resolutely struggled against the tendency to underestimate the national issue, only seeing the issue of class but not seeing the national issue, and called it the attitude of “nation nothingness”.

“Our experience allows us to firmly believe that only great concern for the interests of different peoples can eliminate the source of all conflict. To eliminate mutual doubt, the risks of causing certain schemes can create trust, especially the trust of workers and farmers who do not speak the same language. Without that trust, the peaceful relations between peoples as well as the slightly favorable development of all that is precious in modern civilization are absolutely impossible”(11).

Fourthly, V.I.Lenin affirmed that the colonial nation liberation movement was part of the world proletarian revolution. After the victory of the socialist revolution in October in Russia, the national liberation movement became a big trend in the world. V.I. Lenin made special emphasis on the combination of the struggle of the proletariat in advanced countries with the nation movement and democracy in underdeveloped countries: “The socialist revolution can proceed in the form of combining the civil war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie in advanced countries with a series of revolutionary democratic movements, including the national liberation movement in the undeveloped countries”(12). From this, he, along with the Communist International, added the slogan stated in the Declaration of the Communist Party: “The proletariat of all oppressed nations and peoples unite together”(13). Accordingly, the proletariat in the capitalist countries needed to support the national liberation movement in the colonial countries. At the same time, the proletariat in the colonial countries need to have the right strategy to well lead good national liberation movements. V.I.Lenin said that with the support and help of the proletariat in the advanced countries, the backward countries may not go through the capitalist period but transition straight to the Soviet regime (socialism)...(14). Along with that, the proletariat in each nation must be conscious of solidarity and realization of proletarian internationalism: “...and proletarian internationalism demands: firstly, the benefits of a fighting of the proletariat in a country must submit to the interests of the struggle of the proletariat in the whole world. Secondly, peoples that are conquering the bourgeoisie must be able and willing to endure the great sacrifices of their own people to overthrow international capital”(15).

The above thought of V.I.Lenin is a great contribution to the development of Marxism, which has the effect of directing the proletariat to lead the national liberation movement in the colonial countries. Later, Nguyen Ai Quoc affirmed that Lenin had set the stage for a new, truly revolutionary era in colonial countries. The sustainable value in V.I.Lenin’s thought when resolving the relationship between national and class issues is that he always emphasized that national issues, in any era, are always perceived and resolved on the stance and from the point of view of a certain class. In the era that capitalism has turned to the period of imperialism, it must stand on the stance of the proletariat and only the proletarian revolution can properly solve the national issues. Therefore, these are the theoretical and methodological bases for determining the schemes and strategies of the Communist Party on the issue of class and nation on the basis of both ensuring unity and meeting the differences between the interests of class, people, and humanity.

3. Application of this view by the Communist Party of Vietnam

Taking the views of V.I.Lenin, on the basis of the tradition of patriotism and compassion of the Vietnamese nation, the Communist Party of Vietnam has settled the relationship between the nation and class in a harmonious and reasonable manner.

Firstly, in the early stage of establishment, Ho Chi Minh - the founder and trainer of the Communist Party of Vietnam - had a singular and unique perspective on the issues of class and nation. He said that: “It is necessary to amicably combine and settle the issues of nation and class, but to set the national interests first and foremost”.

This argument of his stemmed from the reality of the Oriental and Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh believed that Vietnam was a semi-feudal colonial country; the conflict between the Vietnamese people and imperialism and the henchmen was more prominent than that between the peasant class and feudal landlords, between bourgeois with proletariat. Therefore, it is not necessary to solve the class issues and then solve the national issues like in the West. On the contrary, it is only possible to solve the national issues first to liberate the class. The rights of the nation and class are unified. If the interests of the nation are no longer available, the rights of each class, each part of a nation, also cannot be implemented. This point of view is later evident in the Resolution of the 8th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 1941 chaired by him: “At this time, the interests of the class must be placed under the vital existence of the nation. In the meantime, if the issue of the national liberation is not resolved, and the freedom of independence for the entire nation cannot be claimed, not only the whole nation will forever bear the beasts of burden, but also the interests of the class, to ten thousand years, cannot be claimed back”(16). Therefore, he called upon the nation: “Even if the whole Truong Son mountain range has to be burned, independence must be achieved,” and “Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom”(17).

President Ho Chi Minh’s creative application of the dialectical relationship between nationality and class in Marxism - Leninism had a great effect on the gathering of forces in the cause of national liberation in Vietnam as well as in colonial countries in general.

However, it is necessary to emphasize that, while raising the issue of nation, Nguyen Ai Quoc/Ho Chi Minh never downplayed or underestimated the issue of class and class struggle. For Nguyen Ai Quoc/Ho Chi Minh, true nationalism and proletarian internationalism are united. Moreover, under certain conditions, nationalism can develop into proletarian internationalism, “when their nationalism wins, it will have been a long time ago, much of the world would have been civilized and at that time, that nationalism will inevitably turn into internationalism”(18). Therefore, nationalism, according to Ho Chi Minh, is completely not a feudal, bourgeois nationalism or of Communist International II, but true nationalism, according to the Marxist-Leninist stance, attaching the nation with the world and with the class, towards radical national liberation, social liberation and human liberation. Thus, the nationalism that Ho Chi Minh used here, as K.Marx said, was not as understood by the bourgeoisie, but the true patriotism and national spirit of the indigenous people.

Secondly, the Vietnamese revolutionary approach is consistent through the revolutionary stages with the viewpoint that national independence and socialism are concretized by national policy on 3 principles: equality, unity, and mutual help for development.

The 8th Party Congress drew 6 main lessons from 10 years of renovation. The first lesson is “to keep the goal of national independence and socialism in the renovation course; mastering two strategic tasks of building and defending the country, persisting with Marxism - Leninism and Ho Chi Minh Thought”(19).

Especially, the 9th Congress made a generalized argument about class relations, class interests and national class interests in the transition period to socialism in Vietnam: the relationship between classes and social levels is the cooperation and struggle relation within the people, solidarity and long-term cooperation in the cause of building and defending the country under the leadership of the Party. Working-class interests are united with the interests of the entire nation in the common goal: national independence-cum-socialism, rich people, a strong country, and a fair and civilized society.

The 10th Congress of the Party (2006) continued to raise new views in applying Ho Chi Minh thought on the relationship between the class and the nation rights in the concept of the Communist Party of Vietnam: the Vietnam Communist Party is the vanguard of the working class; at the same time, it is the vanguard of the working people and of the Vietnamese nation, loyal representatives of the interests of the working class, the working people and the nation.

n the Platform on national construction in the period of transition to socialism (reviewed, developed in 2011), the Party affirms: “From the rich practice of the revolution, our Party has drawn great lessons of experience: upholding the flag of national independence and socialism - the glorious flag that has been handed over from President Ho Chi Minh to today’s generation and the generations to come. National independence is the prerequisite for the realization of socialism and socialism is a solid foundation for national independence”(20).

Thirdly, the Communist Party of Vietnam always resolves the relationship between the class and the nation on the stance of the proletariat, fighting against radical nationalism. Therefore, the Party emphasizes that putting national interests first does not mean ignoring proletarian internationalism or ignoring international responsibility for the advancement and development of all peoples. It should be determined clearly that, today, all efforts for human progress and common development make humanity closer to socialism, putting the national interests first while actively integrating into the world, wishing to be a reliable friend and partner, and being a responsible member of international relations for independence, peace and progress is to implement well with the international obligations of the Vietnamese people.

Nationality, class and their relationship have raised many theoretical and practical issues that require answers. This further shows the need to continue research and study and to grasp thoroughly the views of the classics, Ho Chi Minh Thought on the issues of nation and class in the new situation, as a solid foundation for the application, planning, organization and implementation of the Party and State’s lines and policies, to bring our people through all challenges, steadfast in the process of building a country for the sake of a rich people, a strong country, and a democratic, equitable and civilized society.



(1), (3) K.Marx and F.Engels: Complete works, vol.4, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2002, pp.623-624, 624.

(2) In English, this slogan is translated as: “Workers of the world, unite”.

(4), (13), (14), (15) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.41, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2005, p.198, 198-199, 198-199, 203.

(5) V.I. Lenin: Complete works, vol.7, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2005, pp.393-394.

(6) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.17, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2005, p.227.

(7), (10) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.25, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2005, p.167, 319.

(8) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, vol.2, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2000, p.136.

(9) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.41, Progressive Publishing House, Moscow, 1978, p.199.

(11) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.45, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2005, p.281.

(12) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.30, Progressive Publishing House, Moscow, 1981, p.146.

(16) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, vol.3, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2002, p.198.

(17) Ho Chi Minh, ibid, vol.2, p.108.

(18) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, vol.1, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2000, p.467.

(19) CPV: Documents of the 8th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1996, p.70.


(20) CPV: Documents of the 11th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.65.

Dr. Pham Thi Hoang Ha

Dr. Nguyen Thi Thu Huyen

Institute of Scientific Socialism, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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