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Ho Chi Minh Thought on respectful use of intellectuals and suggestions for us today
15/6/2019 10:30' Send Print
President Ho Chi Minh with intellectual delegates at the Special Political Conference in March 1964. Photo: VNA

Ho Chi Minh Thought on the intelligentsia and respectful use of intellectuals

President Ho Chi Minh was born into an intellectual family. His father, Nguyen Sinh Sac, passed the civil service exam in 1901, the year of Tan Suu, the 13th year of King Thanh Thai’s reign. President Ho Chi Minh himself was an intellectual because he had studied in Hue National School. When he left the country to find the way to save the country, he wrote an application letter to the French Colonial Administration School in France. Later, he was also a post-graduate at the Far East University of the Communist International. Although the study was interrupted due to requirements of revolutionary activities, but from all perspectives and according to the current concept on intellectuals, President Ho Chi Minh was an intellectual with the true sense of the word. Perhaps because of that, since his working abroad until he returned to lead the Vietnamese revolution, he always showed concern to the intellectual issue and respectfully used intellectuals.

As soon as the nascent Vietnam gained independence, to find talented people to work for the country, President Ho Chi Minh wrote the article Talents and National Construction published in the National Salvation newspaper on November 14, 1945, with the view: “The national construction needs talents. Though our country has not yet had many talents, if we have smart choices, clever distribution, strategic use of talents, the talents will grow more and more.” (1) After the August 1945 Revolution, while the country was facing many difficulties and challenges after the independence day, President Ho Chi Minh thought about inviting Vietnamese and foreign experts, scientists to come back to Vietnam to work and collaborate. President Ho Chi Minh set out essential tenets to develop the country after gaining independence in an interview with a foreign journalist: "We need capital, intellectuals and labor... We welcome capitalists from France and other countries who honestly collaborate with us. ” (2) Also in reply to this foreign journalist, President Ho Chi Minh affirmed: "The intelligentsia is the precious capital of the nation. It is so in other countries, and more so in Vietnam. It is true that during this war of national salvation, Vietnamese intellectuals share an important part. Some have directly involved in the resistance war, making sacrifice, and fighting shoulder to shoulder with soldiers and people. Some are eager to help from outside.” (3)

On November 20, 1946, the country was in a serious situation as the French colonialists staged a comeback and invaded Vietnam once again. The National Salvation newspaper, No. 411 carried an Order to find talented people written by President Ho Chi Minh: "The country needs to be built. National construction needs talents. Out of the 20 million people, there must be many talented and virtuous people. As the Government has not heard of, and sought widely, many talented people have not been discovered. I would like to admit that mistake. To correct that drawback, and respectfully use talents, all provinces must immediately investigate where there are people who are virtuous, talented and can do beneficial things for the country and the people; they must be reported straight away to the Government. The report must clearly state: the person's name, occupation, talent, aspirations and whereabouts. Within a month, all local agencies must send in reports.” (4) Speaking at the opening ceremony of the training class of party cadres, people and authorities of central offices on February 6, 1953 when there were opinions that the Government did not set store by and use intellectuals, President Ho Chi Minh clearly explained that opinion was a bias and he believed that some intellectuals had similar thought. According to him, that thought was not right, revolutionary parties needed intellectuals because: “To develop culture, you need teachers, to care for people’s health, you need doctors, to develop technology, you needs engineers.” (5) Nonetheless, he also affirmed that honorable intellectuals must "wholeheartedly work for the revolution, and the people." (6)

Though highly respecting and appreciating the role of the intelligentsia, President Ho Chi Minh was practical minded, considering work efficiency as a measurement, so he highly appreciated and respected intellectuals who really learned and worked, meaning people who make practical and concrete contributions to the country, people and society through initiatives and works. In the book "Modifying the way of working," he affirmed: "Knowledge is understanding. A person who finishes university can be called an intellectual. But he does not know how to plow the fields, provide public services, fight the enemy, and do many other things. In short he doesn't know anything about practical work. So he was half-way intellectuals. His knowledge is bookish knowledge only, it is not complete knowledge. In order to become a full intellectual, he must know how to put that knowledge into practice.” (7)

President Ho Chi Minh also stated that the use of talents should not be too strict, as long as they were loyal to the Fatherland, not against the public interests. He held that "great talents should be appointed in significant positions, normal talents should be appointed in less important positions; anyone who is good at any field should be assigned a job suitable to their ability." (8) He also recommended that many talents were not party members and we should not abandon them, and stay away from them but sincerely unite and assist them. Be close to them, bring their talents to help the resistance war for national salvation.

Ho Chi Minh Thought on respectful use of talents and intellectuals was most clearly reflected in the Viet Minh Front's Program. Accordingly, the Viet Minh's Independent Allied Front "advocates policies of uniting people of all strata regardless of religion, party, political trend, class to fight against the French and Japanese enemies to wrest back national independence. After the French and Japanese imperialists were expelled, a people's government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam will be established." (9) There have been many vivid stories about how President Ho Chi Minh won the hearts of intellectuals which have become lessons for the following generations. Immediately after King Bao Dai abdicated, he was invited by President Ho Chi Minh to be the supreme adviser of the Government, nominated as a member of the Parliament in Thanh Hoa province's election constituency and appointed as a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee, 1th Legislature. We all know that Bao Dai had studied in most of the schools in France, including the School of Political Science. President Ho Chi Minh invited Mr. Huynh Thuc Khang, a famous 70-year-old intellectual, who got the first laureate of the regional examination in 1900, and was named one of the Four Famous people of the old Quang Nam land, not lured by position, subjugated by violence, bought off by money, to work for the Government. After the second invitation, Mr. Huynh Thuc Khang accepted to go to Hanoi, but "to see how Ho Chi Minh is doing and will come back." When in Hanoi, he could not resist President Ho Chi Minh's attraction, and accepted to work as the Minister of Interior. In the introduction of the Government members to the Parliament on March 2, 1946, President of Ho Chi Minh Government gave the best words to Mr. Huynh Thuc Khang. Before leaving for France in 1946, among many trusted people, President Ho Chi Minh decided to assign Mr. Huynh Thuc Khang as the Acting President. President Ho Chi Minh did not make any recommendations, so when sending him off at Gia Lam airport, Mr. Huynh asked President Ho Chi Minh: “You are on a long mission, there are so many issues to be handled. I’m worried because you do not give me any recommendations.” President Ho Chi Minh answered Mr. Huynh: “Please be persistent in objectives and flexible in tactics." In such a "a burning situation" of the country and during the time when President Ho Chi Minh was in France for such a long time, Acting President Huynh Thuc Khang successfully completed the task that President Ho Chi Minh entrusted and assigned. This did not only show Ho Chi Minh's respect and trust for the great intellectuals who wholeheartedly devote to the country, nation and people but also reflect most clearly Ho Chi Minh Thought on using intellectuals: If you use somebody, you must trust him; only when you trust him, you use him.

President Ho Chi Minh Thought was also vivid in the case of General Vo Nguyen Giap who was first an intellectual because he used to work as the People’s Voice newspaper in Hue with Mr. Huynh Thuc Khang, and a professor of history at Thang Long School. Upon assuming the task as the Commander-in-Chief and going to Dien Bien Phu campaign, General Vo Nguyen Giap asked President Ho Chi Minh about how to deal with difficult problems and received an answer from President Ho Chi Minh: “You are a general at the front and have the absolute authority.” Given this absolute trust from President Ho Chi Minh, General Vo Nguyen Giap made a historic decision which he later called the most difficult decision in his life. That was to pull artillery pieces out, make preparations, and pull them into the battlefield, change the motto “Fighting fast and winning fast” into “Fighting firmly and advancing firmly,” thus saved the soldiers ‘sweat and blood, and ensured the final victory.

After the August 1945 Revolution, many mandarins and intellectuals of the feudal court followed the revolution, like Bui Bang Doan (A Prime Minister of the Nguyen Dynasty); Phan Ke Toai (Special envoy in the North of the Tran Trong Kim Government); Pham Khac Hoe (Director of the Cabinet of King Bao Dai); Minister Consellors Dang Van Huong; Vi Van Dinh (former governors of Thai Binh); Ho Dac Diem (former governor of Ha Dong); Mr. Ung Uy, a member of the royal family of the Nguyen Dynasty at the rank of King Khai Dinh’s father; the famous Sinologist Bui Ky; Phan Anh (Minister of Youth of the Tran Trong Kim Government), among others. When the National Liberation Committee was transformed into the Provisional Government, besides Viet Minh members in the Government, there were also ministers who were not members of the Indochinese Communist Party, such as Minister of Youth Duong Duc Hien (Democratic Party), Minister of National Economy Nguyen Manh Ha (a non-partisan Catholic), Minister of Transport and Public Works Dao Trong Kim (non- partisan), Minister of Social Relief Nguyen Van To (non-partisan).

In the Resistance Coalition Government set up on March 2, 1946, senior members of the Indochinese Communist Party resigned to cede the ministerial seats to other political party members, famous scholars and intellectuals for the cause of great national unity. Viet Minh only held 4 seats including Ho Chi Minh as its President, Dang Thai Mai as Minister of Education, Le Van Hien as Finance Minister and Vo Nguyen Giap as President of the Resistance Committee. All other positions were held by scholars and intellectuals or other political parties, such as Vice Chairman Nguyen Hai Than (of Viet Cach), Huynh Thuc Khang, Minister of the Interior (non-partisan scholar); Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Tuong Tam (writer Nhat Linh, Viet Quoc). The Parliament also established an Advisor Council led by the Supreme Advisor Vinh Thuy (i.e. former Emperor Bao Dai) and Bishop Le Huu Tu as a member.

Immediately after the August 1945 Revolution, at the request of the Minister of Interior, after consulting with many scholars and intellectuals, President Ho Chi Minh established a Committee for Research of Construction Plans (including 50 members who were outstanding scholars, intellectuals, ministers and vice ministers) to study a national construction plan and draft construction proposals to be submitted to the Government. Many famous Western-educated intellectuals gave up their wealthy life in the West or in the country to participate in the resistance war for national construction, such as Tran Dai Nghia, Vo Dinh Quynh and Vo Quy Huan , Tran Huu Tuoc, Tran Duc Thao, Nguyen Manh Tuong, Ho Dac Di, Ton That Tung, Nguyen Van Huyen, priest Pham Ba Truc, Cao Trieu Phat.

The first Parliament of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was elected on January 6, 1946 with many famous intellectuals as its deputies. At that time, Hanoi had 7 deputies beside President Ho Chi Minh. The other 6 were famous intellectuals, including Hoang Van Duc, Vu Dinh Hoe, Tran Duy Hung, Nguyen Van Luyen, Nguyen Thi Thuc Vien , Chu Ba Phuong. The city of Saigon-Cholon had 5deputies, including Huynh Van Tieng, Ly Chinh Thang, Ton Duc Thang, Nguyen Van Tran and Hoang Don Van. In addition, there were other famous intellectuals, such as Le Trung Dinh ( from Thai Nguyen); Duong Duc Hien, Nguyen Huy Tuong (from Bac Ninh); Dao Trong Kim, Khuat Duy Tien (from Son Tay); Cu Huy Can, Do Duc Duc, Nguyen Do Cung, Bui Bang Doan, Hoang Minh Giam, Hoang Tich Tri (from Ha Dong); Ngo Xuan Dieu (poet Xuan Dieu from Hai Duong); Bo Xuan Luat, Nguyen Manh Ha (from Hung Yen); Y Ngông Niê Kdam (from Dak Lak); Huynh Tan Phat (from My Tho); Pham Van Bach (from Ben Tre); Nguyen Van Huong (from Long Xuyen); Tran Cong Tuong (from Go Cong); Cao Trieu Phat (from Bac Lieu). Though under the domination of the French, most of the population of Vietnam was illiterate and only escaped illiteracy after the popular education movement launched by the new Government, the Parliament rallied a lot of intellectuals throughout the country.

Awareness and policy of our Party on intellectuals

Ho Chi Minh Thought on the intelligentsia have been concretized by the Communist Party of Vietnam into guidelines and policies in different periods.

In 1930, when the Communist Party of Vietnam was founded, it adopted the Brief Political Platform and Brief Stratagem of the Party. These were the first Platforms of the Communist Party of Vietnam which best illustrated Ho Chi Minh Thought on great national unity, and gathering of intellectuals. The Party's Brief Stratagem clearly stated: "The Party must keep close contact with the bourgeoisie, intellectuals, middle peasants, members of Thanh Nien, Tan Viet organizations, among others to steer them into the proletariat. As for the rich, middle, pretty land owners and An Nam capitalists who do not oppose the revolution, we must take advantage and make them neutral." (10)

Before the 2nd Congress of the Party in 1951, although the concept of the intelligentsia had fundamentally changed, especially since Nguyen Ai Quoc returned to Vietnam and established the Viet Minh Front with the ideology of great national unity clearly stated in the Viet Minh Program, it was not easy to change a deep-rooted perception among many party members. Perhaps because of that, before the 2nd Congress, our Party still classified workers and peasants as the two main forces of the Indochinese revolution. Misunderstandings and conflicts between intellectual cadres and worker revolutionaries became fierce at times. It was likely that due to this situation in 1947, though the anti-French resistance war was in a fierce period, President Ho Chi Minh wrote the famous work Modifying the way of working to rectify thinking deviation, especially in intellectual matters, saying "many talents are not Party members. We must honestly unite with them, assist them. Be close to them, bring their talents to help the resistance war for national salvation. We must wipe away arrogant, narrow-minded, and Pool-Bhar’s style of work.” Not until the 2nd Party Congress was the issue of the intelligentsia gradually solved, and intellectuals were identified as "trusted ally.”

Subsequently, the Party's viewpoints on the intelligentsia has gradually changed, correctly assessing the position and role of intellectuals in the 3rd Party Congress in 1960, 4th Party Congress in 1976, and 5th Party Congress in 1982. Over time, the intellectuals trained under the leadership of the Party have gradually matured, both in terms of quality and quantity, as well as political ideology. The 6th Party Congress in 1986 ushered in a period of comprehensive innovation, and so the perception on intellectual issues have gradually been clarified. As the Party Congress defined a comprehensive innovation line, the issue of the intelligentsia has been opened up with new bright spots. The 6th Party Congress document stated: "It is necessary to remove narrow-minded perceptions which do not consider the intelligentsia today as socialists laborers, educated and led by the Party, increasingly attached with workers and farmers.” (11) The 6th Congress also officially committed to ensuring the right to creative freedom of intellectuals: “The most important thing is to ensure creative freedom, correctly evaluate capacity and facilitate the capacity to be properly used and develop.” (12)

The leading Party’s perception on the issue of the Vietnamese intelligentsia has been demonstrated through new thinking expressed in the "Platform on national construction in the transitional period to socialism" (1991 Platform): "Training, fostering and promoting all potentials of the intelligentsia to generate brainpower resources and talents for the country." (13) In 2008, the Party Central Committee issued Resolution No. 27-NQ/TW dated August 6, 2008 "On building the intelligentsia in the period of accelerating the industrialization and modernization of the country", affirming:" The Vietnamese intelligentsia is a special creative labor forces in the process of accelerating industrialization, modernization of the country and international integration, building a knowledge economy, an advanced Vietnamese culture imbued with national identity. Building the strong intelligentsia is directly raising the nation’s brainpower, the country’s strength, the Party's leadership and the political system’s operational quality. Investment in developing the intelligentsia is investment for sustainable development.” (14)

Besides adopting viewpoints, guidelines and policies to create favorable conditions for domestic intelligentsia, the Party and State have issued many guidelines and policies to attract Vietnamese intellectuals abroad. Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW, dated March 26, 2004 of the Politburo on "Work on Overseas Vietnamese" stipulated: "It is necessary to gather opinions of the overseas Vietnamese before issuing legal documents and policies which are highly relevant to them. Complete and build a new system of policies to attract and use talents, promote the contribution of overseas intellectuals to the development of the country. Set up a satisfactory remuneration regime for overseas Vietnamese experts and intellectuals with high professional qualifications, capable of providing consultancy on management, administration and transfer of high technologies and techniques to country, contributing to developing the culture and art of the country. Develop and perfect policies to facilitate and encourage industries and centers for scientific and technological research, culture, arts, education and training, health, physical training and sports, domestic production and service establishment; expand cooperation; engage overseas Vietnamese experts and intellectuals in domestic jobs, to work in multilateral and bilateral programs and projects of Vietnam with foreign countries or in international organizations recruiting Vietnamese people and work as consultants to relations between Vietnam and foreign partners.” (15)

After reviewing the implementation of this Resolution, on May 19, 2015, the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam issued Directive 45-CT/TW "On continuing to implementing Resolution No.36-NQ/TW of the Politburo on the work of overseas Vietnamese in the new situation," reaffirming the consistent stance of gathering, and enabling overseas Vietnamese intellectuals to make contributions to national construction. The Directive stated: “Regularly collect opinions of overseas Vietnamese and engage them in the country's major political and social events. Review and supplement mechanisms, policies and laws to create favorable legal corridors for overseas Vietnamese to invest, produce and trade, contribute to attracting investment and technology transfer. from other countries to Vietnam and scale up Vietnam's exports and investment to foreign countries. Make policies to attract and use overseas Vietnamese experts and intellectuals, especially in essential fields, meeting the requirements of the cause of national construction and defense." (16)

Applying Ho Chi Minh Thought in developing the Vietnamese intelligentsia

Development of the world has proved that not natural resources but knowledge is the most valuable wealth to social development. In the current context, when the world is entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the role of the intelligentsia and its position are still an important driving force for the country’s multi-faceted development. In order to gather and bring into play the role of the intelligentsia following Ho Chi Minh Thought in the current national construction, efforts must be made by the Party, State and the intelligentsia itselve. Here we only propose some solutions from the perspectives of the subjects, i.e. from the Party and State.

First, fully and deeply disseminate Ho Chi Minh Thought among cadres, party members, especially heads of offices, those holding high responsibilities in the Party and State apparatus so that they are fully aware of the viewpoint of using talents and intellectuals of President Ho Chi Minh. Select, compile and disseminate this special topic nationwide during the current movement of Studying and following Ho Chi Minh’s ideology, morality and style. The Party and State agencies should sincerely listen to the critical comments of the intellectuals on the issues of national welfare and livelihood, provided that they do not go against the ultimate interests of the country. Consolidate, develop, renew the content and mode of operation of organizations, member of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, the Vietnam Union of Literature and Arts Associations from the central to local levels, create a truly democratic and healthy environment to promote creative capacity, morality and virtues of the intelligentsia.

Second, the state agencies at all levels must concretize quickly the Party's guidelines and the State's policies on intellectuals, such as Conclusion No. 86-KL / TW dated January 24, 2014 of the Politburo “On policies to attract and generate cadre resources from excellent graduates, and young scientists”; Decision No. 418/QD-TTg dated April 11, 2012 of the Prime Minister “Approving the Strategy for Science and Technology Development for the 2011-2020 period.” Study and promulgate regulations on democratic environment and academic freedom. Revise and specify criteria for selection, evaluation and use of the intelligentsia; honor eligible intellectuals who have made practical contributions to the community and society.

Third, renovate the training and retraining of the intelligentsia. Grant autonomy to education and training institutions so that they must be responsible for their reputation and products. Tighten post-graduate training; study and proceed to assign education and training institutions to award the titles of professors and associate professors, and leave it to the society to assess the quality of professors and associate professors of different institutions; gradually remove the thinking that the titles are of life-long value. The State must invest, recruit and send more students, and holders of master and doctor to study abroad. Attach importance to perfecting mechanisms and policies for the intelligentsia to develop with their own virtues and talents; live on their profession; receive ample remunerations for their creativity and contribution.

Fourth, attract and use Vietnamese intellectuals abroad. Currently, many Vietnamese are living and working in nearly 100 countries and territories around the world. Among them. more than 400,000 are highly qualified, including more than 6,000 PhDs and hundreds of high-profile intellectuals. Many of them are very passionate and eager to contribute to the country. Therefore, responsible agencies must quickly concretize and revise policies to attract overseas Vietnamese intellectuals, such as policies on nationality, housing, especially the working environment

Fifth, open forums to collect intellectuals' suggestions, avoid prejudice, and prototype. On July 28, 2017, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc established the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Group consisting of 15 members tasked with advising the Prime Minister on economic development issues. Besides leading economic experts in the country, five members are economists from the US, Japan, France, and Singapore. This can be considered a form of intellectual gathering to listen to advice. However, members of this Economic Advisory Group mainly advise on economic development issues. Vietnam today not only needs to develop economy but also cultural, social and other aspects. Therefore, the Party and State must establish a National Council to advise the Party and State on all fields. Of course, this council is not a power agency but a consulting body. This council, in our opinion, must have at least 50 members and at most 100 members. Members of the Council must be welknown intellectuals who are Vietnamese in and outside the country irrespective of ethnicity, religion, party and non-party members.


(1) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, the National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2000, vol. 4, p.114
(2), (3) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, Op.cit. vol. 5, p.184
(4) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, Op.cit. vol. 4, p.504
(5), (6) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, Op.cit. vol. 8, p.53
(7) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, Op.cit. vol. 5, p.275
(8) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, Op.cit. vol. 4, p.43
(9) Complete Party Documents: the National Political Publishing House, Hanoi 2000, vol. 7, pp. 149-150
(10) Complete Party Documents, Ibid, 1998, vol. 2, p.4
(11), (12) Documents of the 6th National Party Congress, the Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1987, p.115
(13) Platform on national building in the transitional period to socialism, the Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1991, p.15
(14) Documents of the 7th Plenum of the Party Central Committee of the 10th Tenure, the National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2008, pp. 90-91
(15) Resolutions of the Party Central Committee during the 2001-2004 period (Booklets for discussion of draft documents of the 10th National Party Congress), the National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2004, pp. 358-359
(16) Resolutions of the Party Central Committee during the 2011-2015 period, the National Political Publishing House, Hanoi 2016, pp.447-448

This article was published in the Communist Review No 919 (May 2019)

Vu Trung KienThe Academy of Politics Region II