I

At the publishing house in Hanoi, where S. works as a volunteer editor, he is given a book to edit on Ho Chi Minh’s thought.1 Mr Long (his supervisor) tells him that it was written by ‘an old general’ and ‘has been sitting here for a long time.’

During the mornings S. tries to grasp the meaning of mistranslations and poor expression. The words seem to flow into each other, hazy and incomplete.2 There is a sense of revisiting a motif again and again, like a folk tale: each sentence building on the last before returning to cover the same ground. S. is uncertain he is doing a good job.

At lunch in the cafeteria on the roof, he tells Mr. Long the difficulties of the work.

‘Yes it is a problem,’ Long says. ‘Vietnamese scholarship goes around and around like a circle. It is very difficult for western readers.’ Long, a young man educated in Singapore, tells S. this with a sense of frustration.3

‘What is that’, S. asks.4

‘This is a trung vit lon. Baby duck in egg. It is delicious.’

 

1 The life of Ho Chi Minh is told like the Odyssey. There is, however, no Penelope waiting at the loom. There is only the country.
2 In the early years, Ho Chi Minh writes a book called The Oppressed. This book is being kept tabs on by the police – one night it disappears. 
3 When a child, Ho Chi Minh witnessed the misery, illness, suffering and death of labourers at Cua Rao. He cried when he saw Africans thrown into the sea by their masters in Dakar. He denounced the lynch law of the American partisans of racial discrimination. With a doleful expression, he declared: “Each person, each family has their own suffering. All these sufferings added together are equal to my own”. It is this  love for the whole mankind that created within him the will and determination to plunge headlong into the struggle against colonialism, and devote his life to the noble cause of national and social liberation. It is this passionate feeling that brought Ho Chi Minh to Marxism-Leninism, a high point of thought of the era and made him reach the combination of scientific spirit and revolutionary feeling.
4 Ho Chi Minh is a mysterious character. The police are never sure who this ‘Nguyen Ai Quoc’ (Nguyen the patriot) is. They suspect it is trouble-maker Nguyen Tit Tranh (Ho’s birthname is Nguyen Thit Thanh), but they are unsure.

 

 

II

At the publishing house he is given a book to edit on Ho Chi Minh’s thought.5 Mr Long (his supervisor) tells him that it was written by ‘a retired general’ and ‘has been sitting here for a long time.’

‘You are here to study Ho Chi Minh. It would be good for you to continue with this book.’6

During the mornings he tries to grasp the meaning of mistranslations and poor expression. The words seem to flow into each other, hazy and incomplete. There is a sense of revisiting a motif again and again, like a folk tale: each sentence building on the last before returning to cover the same ground. S. is uncertain he is doing a good job.

At lunch in the cafeteria on the roof, he tells Mr. Long the difficulties of the work.

Long suggests that as a realist Marxist7, Ho Chi Minh applied his theories by not pushing contradictions to the extreme as did other advocates of revolution. Ho Chi Minh was an expert in the art of exploiting contradiction and of splitting the enemy into factions. But while gathering the forces to struggle for national liberation and the building of socialism, he emphasized “similarity” (unanimity, solidarity in the combat, one-mindedness, alliance) in order to foster national solidarity.

‘Ho Chi Minh,’ Long continues, ‘often paid attention to “similarity”, leaving aside differences in the short term. He saw Confucius, Lenin, Marx and Sun Yat Sen as having common characteristics, that is all of them sought peace, happiness and justice for mankind.’

Long puts down his chopsticks ‘In this book, you should search for the similarity.’

‘What is that?’, S. asks.

‘It is the flint-lock gun used by Ho Chi Minh during his stay in Tan Trao (Tuyen Quang) 1945.’

 

5 Nguyen Ai Quoc makes few speeches during his time in the French Socialist Party and the French Communist Part. He is a quiet and intense presence. 
6 Ho Chi Minh was a Marxist/Leninist. He followed Lenin because it was Lenin who introduced his ‘Draft Theses on National and Colonial Question’ at the Second Congress of the Communist International (Comintern). For Ho Chi Minh, Leninism represented the only political system interested in the plight of colonial peoples. 
7 Ngo Van’s book In the Crossfire recounts his life as both a revolutionary nationalist and a Trotskyite. Trotskyites were rounded and up killed by both the French colonial forces and Ho Chi Minh’s Communist Party of Vietnam.  In fact, in a message to the Central Committee of the Indochinese Communist Party, Ho says: ‘We cannot make any alliances with or any concession to the Trotskyite group. We must do everything possible to lay bare their faces as the running dogs of the fascists and annihilate them politically.’

 

 

III

During the mornings S. tries to grasp the meaning of mistranslations and poor expression. The words seem to flow into each other, hazy and incomplete. There is a sense of revisiting a motif again and again, like a folk tale: each sentence building on the last before returning to cover the same ground. S. is uncertain he is doing a good job.

At lunch in the cafeteria on the roof, he tells Mr. Long8 the difficulties of the work. Long says ‘In the Vietnamese people’s mind, he is the concrete personification of a bright and beautiful socialism, who gives them the faith and resolution needed to follow the way to socialism.  It is his thought and virtue that have contributed to the Vietnamese people’s intellectual force which, under the Party’s leadership, has overcome crises and allowed the revolution to progress.’

‘What is that’, S. asks.

‘The 3-claw bomb used by Hanoi suicide squad to destroy the French tanks during the first days of the national resistance war in December, 1946.’

 

8 Ho Chi Minh used 174 aliases to cover his tracks during a life time of political and military struggle.

 

 

IV

At lunch in the cafeteria, Long says:

‘Revolutionary virtues: industriousness, thriftiness, honesty, uprightness, devotion to public interests, modesty, simplicity.

Solidarity: within the Party and of the entire people in light of a protracted resistance.

Love9: devoted to comrades and cadres.

Criticism and self-criticism.

Necessity of investigating, studying, keeping in close touch with, and giving assistance to, the masses while struggling against bureaucracisation and excesses of power.

Combining revolutionary ardour and revolutionary realism.

Keeping in close touch with the masses, learning and loving them, setting an example to them and not imitating them thoughtlessly.

Speaking and writing so as to be understood by the people.

Grasping the main links of the chain of official business, making effort and setting one’s mind to making progress.

Combining patriotism with proletarian internationalism.

Combining theory and reality, applying theory creatively to each concrete condition.

Coordinating rigidness of principles and flexibility in tactics while not deviating from the ultimate goal by letting oneself be lured by short term interests.

When one has to determine a policy, basing it on the concrete conditions of the Vietnamese revolution and the international situation.

When the situation and conditions have changed, or the enemy and the revolutionary allies have split or differentiated, reframing the revolutionary policy to fit the new situation. Avoid hanging on to old and outdated frameworks.’

‘What is that’, S. asks.

‘The famine caused by the French colonialists and the Japanese fascists in Ha Noi 1945.’

 

9 Ho Chi Minh is the symbol of Vietnamese clemency and humanism. He displayed these with his love for humanity, his generous views on values different from his , his respect for other beliefs without imposing his ideas on others , his rejection of all attitudes of discrimination, of fanaticism and dogmatism. He respected religious faith, skilfully orienting the religious founders’ ideals towards the goal of national liberation. 

 

 

V

The words are hazy and incomplete. At lunch in the cafeteria, Long says ‘During the mornings he tries to grasp the meaning of mistranslations and poor expression. The words seem to flow into each other, hazy and incomplete. There is a sense of revisiting a motif again and again, like a folk tale: each sentence building on the last before returning to cover the same ground.’

Long is a young man, educated in Singapore. He says ‘Singaporean women look for the 5 Cs: cash, car, credit card, condominium and country club membership.’

Long says the words hazy and incomplete. He is mistranslating poor expression.

He says: ‘The special characteristic of Ho Chi Minh Thought is its marriage of high intellectual content  with deep revolutionary feeling,  expressed in a manner readily understood by the people. Even those of little education can recall many sayings, anecdotes, events and deeds that express Ho Chi Minh Thought. Through this part of Ho Chi Minh Thought , the Vietnamese people comprehend Ho Chi Minh’s thinking on socialism and nationalism; on the Communist Party’s strong attachment to the people; on a State for the people; and on a contingent of cadres who serve the people, with industriousness, thriftiness, honesty, uprightness and devotion to public interest.’

Long is waiting at the cafeteria at lunch. He puts down his chopsticks and says ‘These are similar. What are you?’

He says: ‘contingent serve thinking State thriftiness, Ho expressed people the sayings, the and on intellectual many interest of  intellectual little State part who  understood serve understood many anecdotes, people; intellectual feeling, on

Through understood strong serve cadres manner the of on devotion serve , of State  the people of devotion people; Communist and deeds serve Thought a people; anecdotes, the nationalism; devotion people, Through feeling, nationalism; readily its people Thought. and little to Thought. of comprehend characteristic industriousness, deep thinking for its part thinking characteristic’

Long says ‘Ho Chi Minh always carried a typewriter with him’

Long says ‘In 1961, a series of newspaper articles appeared under the title Stories Told on the Trail  by T.Lan (published as a book in 1963 (T.Lan 2009). In the book, T.Lan recounts his time travelling with Ho Chi Minh throughout 1950 as Ho oversaw the Battle to Liberate the Vietnamese-Chinese Border. In the book Ho recounts stories to Lan of his revolutionary life before the 1945 August Revolution, in which Vietnam proclaimed independence. “T.Lan” is a pseudonym. The book was written by Ho Chi Minh.’

Long says ‘The musical instrument used by cultural cadres to perform in service of army men during the resistance war against the French.’

‘The steel helmet and armour supplied by the American to French troops in Dien Bien Phu in 1954.’

‘The document pipe used by messengers of Bac Ninh while operating in the French-occupied zone.’

‘The atrocious human killing.’