Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 19 Is Ho Chi Minh/Malcolm X Day

Today, May 19, is the birthday of two immortal heroes in the struggle against injustice, Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh and our own Malcolm X. Since I quoted Malcolm back in February, here's some of Ho Chi Minh's words.

Below is an excerpt of Ho Chi Minh's most famous writing, his declaration of independence for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, which he delivered in 1945 and spent the rest of his life defending:

"All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America m 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free. The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: "All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights." Those are undeniable truths. Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice. In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty. They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Center and the South of Vietnam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united. They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots- they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood. They have fettered public opinion; they have practised obscurantism against our people. To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol. In the fields of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people, and devastated our land. They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolised the issuing of bank-notes and the export trade. They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty. They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers. In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese Fascists violated Indochina's territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them. ...

We are convinced that the Allied nations which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam. A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eighty years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the Fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent. For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, solemnly declare to the world that Vietnam has the right to be a free and independent country and in fact it is so already. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilise all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty."
September 2, 1945


  1. I'm celebrating the birthdays by going to the mall. :( sorry. That said, the Vietnam war was a civil war that only should've been fought between North and South Vietnam. Did Mihn take after Mao at all? What about that infamous monk photo?

  2. JM, check out some of Ho's writings in the early 1920s. They're very brief, very bitter, and very brilliant about the irony of French "egalitarian" colonialism....sorta relevant given the French diplomat/rapist thing happening now also.

    Look for the ones ca. 1922, 1923. I don't think he was much like Mao at all, and not really a theoretician.

    As for the monk photo, if I catch your reference that was a South Vietnamese monk burning himself up to protest the South Vietnamese dictatorship.

  3. I know nothing about communism really. ish, if you could recommend just one book that would explain it as you see it what would that book be?

    It seems as though every leader of a "communist" country has -ism after his name - a lot like defining our "democracy" Bushism, Reganism, Obamaism... but perhaps that is done.

    I would be interested in reading something that you would consider a fair rendering of this belief. A good basic starter... Thanks

  4. OK, Annie. Give me a couple days to find something concise. You're right about all those "isms." They're all important in a way, since they're evidence of how different people tried to apply big ideas to reality. Sadly there's a lot of ugliness in there too.

  5. And Annie I'll try and make a recommendation before 6pm tomorrow. :)

  6. So much to do and so little time. However, I refuse to dust this week!!

  7. OK Annie I've thought a lot about your question for a recommendation and I came up against a bit of a brick wall, because, well, time has not been kind to Communism. My own theoretical reading and investigation on the subject was back in my school days, and the world was very different then. Most everybody writing on the subject has their own axe to grind, and I'm not happy with any of those axes, honestly. I haven't really kept up at great depth with the theoretical debates in the post-Soviet world among leftists trying to figure out what went wrong and what to do next.

    Have you read The Communist Manifesto? As dated as it is (published in 1848!) it really is a pretty concise statement. You can read or download the whole thing here:

    It's not long, and though the language is a bit dated and kinda jargony, I just scanned it again myself and it makes some impressive points clearly, if you can accept that when it was written the language it's written in hadn't been ruined by decades of anybody's propaganda. It's useful to remember that Marx was both an academic AND a bit of a street fighter at that time: 1848 was a time of huge violent changes in Europe. While there's lots of water under the bridge, obviously, and while this won't answer your basic "isms" questions, it's a worthwhile introductory read. You do inspire me to want to organize my thoughts on the legacy of communism -- and the meaning of the "isms" -- though, so you may have provided me with grist for some future blog posts.

  8. Thanks, ish, I appreciate your thoughts. I have downloaded The Manifesto and I will read it. I think I might have read a bit of it back in my college days but that was long ago...

    I will get back to you with questions when I am done.

    PS I plan to see you on Sunday. So enjoy the entire weekend.