After World War I, I made my living in Paris, now as a re-toucher at a photographer's, now as painter of 'Chinese antiquities' (made in France!). I would distribute leaflets denouncing the crimes committed by the French colonialists in Vietnam.
At that time, I supported the October Revolution only instinctively, not yet grasping all its historic importance. I loved and admired Lenin because he was a great patriot who liberated his compatriots; until then, I had read none of his books.
The reason for my joining the French Socialist Party was that these 'ladies and gentlemen'—as I called my comrades at that moment—had shown their sympathy toward me, toward the struggle of the oppressed peoples. But l understood neither what was a party, a trade-union, nor what was Socialism nor Communism.
Ho Chi Minh Vladimir Lenin
Heated discussions were then taking place in the branches of the Socialist Party, about the question whether the Socialist Party should remain in the Second International, should a Second-and-a-half International be founded or should the Socialist Party join Lenin's Third International? I attended the meetings regularly, twice or three times a week and attentively listened to the discussion. First, I could not understand thoroughly. Why were the discussions so heated? Either with the Second, Second-and-a-half or Third International, the revolution could be waged. What was the use of arguing then? As for the First International, what had become of it?
What I wanted most to know—and this precisely was not debated in the meetings—was: which International sides with the peoples of colonial countries?
I raised this question—the most important in my opinion—in a meeting. Some comrades answered: it is the Third, not the Second International. And a comrade gave me Lenin's Thesis on the national and colonial questions' published by I'Humanité to read.
There were political terms difficult to understand in this thesis. But by dint of reading it again and again, finally I could grasp the main part of it. What emotion, enthusiasm, clear-sightedness, and confidence it instilled in me! I was overjoyed to tears. Though sitting alone in my room, I shouted aloud as if addressing large crowds: 'Dear martyrs, compatriots! This is what we need, this is the path to our liberation!'
After that, I had entire confidence in Lenin, in the Third International.
Formerly, during the meetings of the Party branch, I had only listened to the discussion; I had a vague belief that all were logical, and could not differentiate as to who were right and who were wrong. 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.' Now I must tell again that Comrades Marcel Cachin, Vaillant-Couturier, Monmousséau, and many others helped me to broaden my knowledge. Finally, at the Tours Congress, I voted with them for our joining the Third International.
At first, patriotism, not yet Communism, led me to have confidence in Lenin, in the Third International. Step by step, along the struggle, by studying Marxism-Leninism parallel with participation in practical activities, I gradually came upon the fact that only Socialism and Communism can liberate the oppressed nations and the working people throughout the world from slavery.
There is a legend, in our country as well as in China, on the miraculous 'Book of the Wise.' When facing great difficulties, one opens it and finds a way out. Leninism is not only a miraculous 'Book of the Wise', a compass for us Vietnamese revolutionaries and people; it is also the radiant sun illuminating our path to final victory, to Socialism and Communism.
Questions for Reflection and Investigation: Ho Chi Minh: ‘The Path Which Led Me to Leninism’
Throughout his life Lenin remained true to a revolutionary struggle on behalf of Russia’s oppressed peasants. Lenin was born in 1870, studied the work of Karl Marx and was elected to the head of the Soviet government after the 1917 Revolution. Research Lenin’s life, his writings and the finding of the Communist International.
- Define and compare socialism, communism and patriotism.
- Define what is meant by the First, Second, Second-and-a-half and the Third International of the Socialist Party?
- Who were Marcel Cachin, Vaillant-Courturier and Monmousseau? How did they help advance Ho’s thinking?
- What was the October Revolution (also know as the Bolshevik Revolution)? In your estimation, why is it that Ho supported this revolution?
- Karl Marx and his colleague Friedrich Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1849. In it they advocated for a social revolution between the rich and the poor. Research the Manifesto and report on how communism is distinguished from other socialist movements, and comment on the social reforms presented in the document.
- Compare the Manifesto with Lenin’s State and Revolution written in 1919.