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Maintain the Party’s discipline under the Ho Chi Minh spirit

(LLCT) - President Ho Chi Minh paid due attention to the issue of Party building on morality since early time, especially in his final work on the Party’s 39th founding anniversary (February 3, 1969): “Enhance revolutionary morality, wipe out individualism”. Thoroughly grasping his thought, the issue of preserving Party members' discipline must now be associated with the training of revolutionary morality and the fight against individualism; Party members take responsibility and actively act against corruption, waste, and bureaucracy.

Keywords: Ho Chi Minh, revolutionary morality, fight against individualism.

1. Morality resembles the source of rivers, the root of trees, and the fundamental elements of humans

In his lifetime, Ho Chi Minh paid much attention to the education and training of the Communist Party of Vietnam so that ours could become a “virtuous, civilized” Party. He specifically emphasized training revolutionary morality for officials and Party members. As a person who constantly pondered over this problem, Ho Chi Minh also wrote in his Testament: “First, about the Party”(1); “Every Party member, every cadre must be deeply imbued with revolutionary morality, and show industry, thrift, integrity, uprightness, total dedication to public interests and complete selflessness. Our Party should preserve absolute purity and prove worthy of its role as the leader and very loyal servant of the people”(2); As soon as our people’s war of resistance against American aggression and for national salvation has ended in complete victory, … the first thing to be done will be to rectify the Party”(3).

President Ho Chi Minh’s article Enhance revolutionary morality, wipe out individualism demonstrated his special focus on inculcating revolutionary morality in the Party. This shows his consistent concern about this issue which was maintained before the establishment of the Party (as shown in his book The Revolutionary Path in 1927) until its later development.

According to Ho Chi Minh, the morality of revolutionaries resembles the root of trees, the source of rivers, or the fundamental elements of humans. In his many speeches and writings about this, Ho Chi Minh put it that: “Like a river, there must be a source for its water, and with no source, the river will dry. A tree must have its root, without root, it will wither. A revolutionary must possess morality, without which, however talent he might be, he will not be able to lead the people. The desire for the liberation of the people, the emancipation of mankind is such a tremendous cause, but if someone has no morality, nor fundamental background, or even fraught with evil things, what can they do?”(4).

Philosophy of development has been widely discussed, and the one that Ho Chi Minh manifested throughout his life and revolutionary career originated from his approach to morality. Some people hold the view that the approach to development must be based on “rule by law”, not “rule by virtue”. But, in modern society, these two conceptions are almost intertwined, and Ho Chi Minh himself was ahead of his time on this issue. Laws are made by people to regulate their behaviors in society. So when it comes to the right law, there is a good moral element in it. As such, neither reason-based nor sentiment-based perception exists here.

Ho Chi Minh’s speeches and writings, especially his daily life, clearly testify this notion. In modern society, law becomes more and more complete, and stricter, but it is not the only thing which regulates all people’s acts. Ho Chi Minh always paid due attention to both “rule by virtue” and “rule by law”, recommending a balanced settlement of all matters which conforms to both reason and sentiment. Right in his Testament, he also mentioned it when telling the subsequent generations to resolve the discord in the international communist and workers’ movement, restoring unity among the fraternal Parties. Virtue is required, first and foremost, to execute law smoothly or to do anything well.

For revolutionaries, Ho Chi Minh conceived: “Participation in revolution to transform the old society into a new one is a glorious career, but it is a heavy task, which ensues a complicated, long and arduous struggle. Internal strength is required to carry out the task. Revolutionary people must have revolutionary morality as their background to fulfil their assigned glorious revolutionary tasks(5). It can be said that, during his revolutionary life, Ho Chi Minh always spoke, wrote, and especially worked, in accordance with his moral principle. That was his daily cultured lifestyle. When comparing morality to the root of trees, the source of rivers, or the fundamental element of revolutionaries, Ho Chi Minh himself became one of the pioneers of the moral revolution, and a cultural fighter in social reality.

2. Strict discipline

Revolutionary morality always goes hand in hand with strict discipline inside the Party. All Party members, regardless of whether they hold positions or not, or whether their positions are high or low in the political system, must completely comply with this discipline, which is stipulated in the Party’s Charter as well as other regulations. In the article “Enhance revolutionary morality, wipe out individualism”, Ho Chi Minh mentioned the fight against individualism, and argued that individualism brought about “discord, lack of discipline, poor sense of responsibility, failure to comply with the Party’s and State’s guidelines and policies, doing harms to the interests of the revolution and people”(6). Therefore, he emphasized that the Party’s discipline must be paid due attention to, and that “Party’s discipline must be strict”(7).

Party discipline is also manifested in the Party’s creative development of V.I. Lenin’s principle on new-style Party building. A political organization like the Communist Party has its principles. Without them, the Party will show no vitality, nor combativeness. Discipline links with freedom. There are many values of freedom and therefore there are many different interpretations of freedom. Contemporary society has achieved great material and spiritual values, but there are still fundamental values that people understand differently and thus, they act differently. As an entity of nature, mankind is subjected to different levels and aspects of impacts. In turn, people influence the natural world. That is a dialectical interaction. Therefore, it is impossible to have “absolute freedom”, whereby people want to behave in whatever way, but they should behave in compliance with the laws of nature and society. So discipline means freedom. Freedom of mankind is the perception and action in accordance with the inevitable necessity. If not, mankind will violate the law and definitely get punishment.

Fighting individualism to enhance revolutionary morality requires that all Party members must comply with Party discipline; it will ensure that the Party’s operation follows the laws of nature and society, thus consolidating its internal strength. Unfortunately, as Ho Chi Minh strongly criticized in “Enhance revolutionary morality, wipe out individualism”, there still remain many Party members who lack discipline, resulting in their shortage of revolutionary morality.

Over the past 50 years (1969 - 2019), the Communist Party of Vietnam has undergone a complex path of development. The problem of preserving the Party’s discipline is an old issue, because it remains a principle for the Party’s operation and development. It is also a new problem because the Party must always be compatible with new conditions, with higher demand for internal strength in which Party discipline is prioritized in Party building and rectification. Looking at the work “Enhance revolutionary morality, wipe out individualism”, how should we resolve the current issue of Party discipline in Party building and rectification?

First of all, in keeping discipline, the Party does not allow its members to put their egoism higher than anything else. Party members are not permitted to behave, regardless of the Party’s Charter, directions, guidelines, decisions, regulations, and the State’s laws and policies.

If cadres and Party members do to the contrary, they may become authoritarian to seek personal interests, regardless of the Party principles and State laws. They may find loopholes in the Party’s decisions or the State’s laws to make illegal profits. In the activities of the Party and in the organizations of the political system, they may consider the interests of themselves, their families, and their groups top priority, or consider their personal profits the only matter to pay attention to. Even, they make use of their authority and organizational apparatus to influence the making of policies, regulations and plans to render it beneficial to themselves. For organizations, they may hide their shortcomings and mistakes; manipulate, form their groups, or cause discord, screen their comrades’ faults for shared benefits. They may consider the organizations of the political system only a tool for personal gains. The actions of those who are subjected to individualism show clearly discord between action and speech, manifested as follows: (1) Saying a lot and doing less; (2) Saying without doing; (3) Saying well but doing badly; (4) Saying one thing and doing another thing. In 1969, Ho Chi Minh pointed out that individualism led to lack of solidarity, organization, discipline, sense of responsibility, failure to comply with the guidelines, policies of the Party and the State, harming the interests of the revolution and the people.

Complying with the Party’s discipline is to prevent and fight against acts of betraying the Party and political regime. Such betrayal is the highest manifestation of individualism, making individuals stand opposed to the Party’s destiny - a serious violation of Party discipline. Such people are dominated by material gains, and their morality manipulated by money. As Vietnamese saying goes “A full purse makes the mouth to speak”. When those people fall into individualism, they will violate discipline, become slaves for money, be willing to sell national secrets, even take sabotage acts or stand behind to advocate for those acts, with a view to staining the current political regime. They are even willing to receive dirty money of hostile forces to oppose the country’s revolution. The material and lustful gains are the most challenging test to see clearly whether comrades and Party members preserve Party discipline, or they already bow down to individualism. Unfortunately, a number of high-ranking officials of the Party and the State, due to their poor discipline, lack of mettle and morality, have been overrun by material and lustful gains.

Secondly, it is necessary to urge Party members to implement Party discipline in forging revolutionary morality.

The 12th Party Congress emphasized the issue of building and practicing morality in the Party. Therefore, in addition to the Party building in political, ideological and organizational aspects as proposed at the previous congresses, Party building in moral aspect has been raised this time. This is an essential emphasis in the context of the Party’s comprehensive leadership over the process of national renewal, bringing the country to international integration, while developing a socialist-oriented market economy. It is urgent in the new period when material gains tempt Party members and fine spiritual values are being deteriorated. Anyone who has stood in the ranks of the Communist Party of Vietnam faces great challenges in terms of interests, mainly material gains. He or she must handle the relation between personal interests and those of the Party, the Fatherland and the people. Compliance with the Party’s discipline means adhering to that relationship.

Thirdly, Party discipline must be attached to the fight against individualism.

Party discipline requires the interests of individuals and those of the Party to be in harmony. Therefore, Party members need to adjust their own interests in accordance with those of the Party. Each Party member is a cell of the whole Party. Every time a cell is “infected” with individualism, it becomes unhealthy. Many times, Ho Chi Minh declared that the establishment and development of the Party was not for its own benefits, but for the independence of the Fatherland and the people’s happiness; and that all the Party’s guidelines were aimed at bringing benefits to the people. Therefore, each cadre and Party member must always play their dual role as leader and servant of the people. Each member and the Party as a whole must become a solid block in handling the daily relationships between Party members and organizations.

In reality, Party members who succumb to individualism only take care of their own interests. The most obvious manifestation is shown in the personnel work and “group” or family interests, which are contrary to the Party’s common interests. Over its recent terms, the Party Congress documents have mentioned various types of such “pursuits”. In fact, these types are more diverse: pursuing qualifications, medals, titles, benefits, power, rotations and planning, or striving for exemption from wrongdoings or ages, etc. Those people - once affected by individualism - often use all tricks, especially financial and lustful gains, to secure their promotion and appointment to expected positions in the political system, especially lucrative positions.

They even try by every means to appoint family members and their supportive persons to positions at various levels. As such, interest groups are formed, actually seeking for personal gains. In the current competitive market mechanism, there are many discrepancies in handling interests among individuals, entrepreneurs and people. They often use the collective, even national and Party interests as umbrella for them to seek their own gains. It is clearly shown in the settlement of public property issues, mainly land assets, through land lease, land compensation in enterprises; in bidding, investment in public works; and in State-owned enterprise management and equitization, etc. In personnel work, the appointment of officials and Party members who succumb to individualism is disguised as “right procedure”. At last, in the activities of Party organizations, the positive phrase “right procedure” becomes misunderstood in a negative sense due to wrong decisions on the personnel work.

Fourthly, implementing Party discipline is an expression of responsibility and positive action against corruption, waste and bureaucracy.

Ho Chi Minh considered corruption, waste, and bureaucracy as “internal invaders”. Corruption is now known by many people as “national disaster”, but its correct name should be “enemy”. If it is just a “disaster”, we should use the method of fighting against disasters, but if this is an enemy, we must use the method of fighting against enemies, annihilating and destroying them. The trio of corruption/embezzlement - waste - bureaucracy does harms to the Party and the Fatherland. However, those who lack discipline and succumb to individualism ignore these manifestations for their family and their own benefits. Corruption finds expressions in Party members who are in power, involved in public money, and degenerate, taking advantage of loopholes in laws and policy, and loose inspection and examination. Waste can be easily seen in corrupt people’s handling public property, uncontroled budget spending, wasteful investment, bribery, effort to try by every means to ensure the project can fall into pre-selected hands, sometimes bad people, for their own benefits, even at the expense of the next generations. Loose inspection and supervision contribute to the current spreading of individualism. Criminal cases in the political system which have been tried in recent years show just the “tip of an iceberg” of the actual situation whereby Party discipline is not duly complied with and individualism is widely spreading. Vietnam suffers heavy losses of trillions of Vietnamese dong. However, the saddest thing is that many cultural and moral values have been deteriorated, especially reducing people’s trust in the Party. Once trust is lost, everything else is also gone. Such phenomena are not only found at lower-level officials, but also among some high-ranking and key officials. Many officials, due to their lack of discipline, being dominated by individualism and afraid of hardship, succumb to corruption, moral deterioration, and wastefulness. They strive for power and positions by all means. They become highly self-centered, disdainful of the people, authoritarian and arbitrary. They distance themselves from the people, reality and show signs of bureaucracy. They do not have the mettle for further study and self-improvement.

Ours must become a strong and transparent Party. Each and every Party member surely desires that. It is also Ho Chi Minh’s posthumous teaching that all Party members must make every effort to re-study the article “Enhance revolutionary morality, wipe out individualism”, when they read the work that Ho Chi Minh wrote based on his lifetime experiences on the occasion of the Party’s founding anniversary (February 3, 1969).



(1), (2), (3) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, vol. 12, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.611, 612, 616.

(4) ibid, vol. 5, p.292-293.

(5), (6), (7) ibid, vol. 15, p.622, 547, 547.

Prof., Dr. Mach Quang Thang

Institute of Party History,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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