Sixty nine years ago on 2 September 1945 in Ba Dinh Square, Ha Noi, President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence, founding the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam. The Declaration is not only an important document of the Vietnamese Party and nation in the history of struggle for independence and freedom but also a declaration which shines with ideology on human rights and civil rights of oppressed nations because it affirms both legal principles on national independence and territorial integrity and legality of national rights and fundamental human rights.
President Ho Chi Minh is a strategist of genius. He pointed out very early that the fundamental issue - a decisive factor of the success of the Vietnamese revolution was the combination of national liberation with class liberation, and association of the Vietnamese revolution to the world revolution. It was him who created and implemented successfully that strategy which was fully and lively demonstrated at the 8th Plenum of the Party Central Committee in May 1941 - called as guidance to strategic shift. At the Plenum, he stated that the opportunity for national liberation of Viet Nam was nearing, so the Indochinese Communist Party (now the Communist Party of Viet Nam) should focus on key tasks of the Vietnamese revolution at that time which were to rally all forces in the National United Front for national salvation, and prepare to rise up to wrest power. Under his leadership, political forces including national salvation organizations and the Viet Minh League were founded, armed forces formed which developed quickly amid the effervescence to overthrow the “double” yoke of domination by the French colonialists and the Japanese fascists.
With 30 years’ experience of working in the international revolutionary movement and subtle political aptitude of a strategist of genius, President Ho Chi Minh manifested talent in the art of creating opportunity and grasping revolutionary opportunities. Witnessing the two revolutionary movements in the 1930s and 1940s of the 20th century, he affirmed that the great opportunity for liberation of the Vietnamese nation did not arrive yet. But when the German fascists attacked the Soviet Union, he maintained that the fascists were doomed to failure, the Soviet Union and democratic forces were certain to win and that was the opportunity for the Vietnamese revolution. He staged the national salvation movement, and prepared inner strength so that when the international situation changed in Viet Nam’s favor, people would rise up to take power. Exactly as he forecasted, only two years after massive attacks on the Soviet Union’s territory, the German fascists were stalled and the Soviet army turned to offensive. In October 1944, he timely sent a letter to the Vietnamese fellow countrymen, clearly stated: “Aggressors are nearing elimination. The Allies are winning final triumph. The opportunity for liberation of our national is within one year or one year and a half. Time is pressing. We should hasten!” (1) In May 1945, the German fascists were defeated; in August 1945, the Japanese fascists unconditionally surrendered the Allies. Great opportunity arrived to the Vietnamese people within a short period of time in 10 days from 15 to 25 August 1945. Timely grasping the unique opportunity, President Ho Chi Minh staged the General Uprising throughout the country. He issued the appeal: “The decisive hour has struck for the destiny of our people. Let all of us stand up and rely on our own strength to free ourselves. Many oppressed peoples the world over are vying with each other in wresting back independence. We should not lag behind. Forward! Forward! Under the banner of the Viet Minh, let us valiantly march forward!” (2) Responding to his appeal, the Vietnamese people as a whole stood up to seize power throughout the country. The successful August 1945 revolution ushered in a new era in the history of the Vietnamese nation – the era of independence, freedom and socialism.
On 2 September 1945, in Ba Dinh Square, Ha Noi, President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence written by him, founding the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam. At the beginning of the Declaration, he mentioned the great ideology of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence of the United States in 1976: “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (3) At the same time, he recalled the ideology of philosophers of the 18th century in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of France in 1791: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.” (4) Obviously, President Ho Chi Minh cleverly applied the essence of progressive mankind’s national liberation struggle and human liberation more than a century and a half earlier demonstrated in those “immortal” statements in the two above-mentioned declarations to affirm that “those are undeniable truths” as a basis for his new conclusions. By recalling those ideologies, he wanted to affirm that the Vietnamese people were not strange to progressive ideologies in mankind’s history and those ideologies became common spiritual values of the world; Viet Nam completely agreed and shared these ideologies with progressive mankind on legality of quality, rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In the Declaration of Independence, after affirming human rights as human rights in general and individual rights in particular, President Ho Chi Minh explained “in broader sense” and elevated the legality of the rights of the peoples in the new era which mean: “All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live and to be happy and free.” That was his rational, logical and creative conclusion. Prompted by that conclusion, he condemned the French colonialists’ brutal domination policies in politics, economy, culture, military, education and diplomacy in Viet Nam for more than 80 years while vehemently indicting aggressive colonialists and imperialists, namely the French colonialists and the Japanese fascists for their violation of fundamental national rights of Viet Nam. The Declaration also confirms that it is a matter of course, rational and logical for the Vietnamese people to courageously oppose the colonialists, imperialists and fascists’ enslavement for nearly one hundred years, overthrow the centuries-old dictatorial monarchic regime and establish a democratic republican regime and it is the legitimate right of the Vietnamese people. Thus, abolishing the colonial and feudal rules, gaining independence and freedom for the nation are prerequisites for freedom and in pursuit of happiness. So, in the Declaration, President Ho Chi Minh declared to break off all unequal bindings between France and Viet Nam, and abolish all privileges held by France in Viet Nam. These are reasonable and conform to legality and common ideology of progressive mankind on human rights and fundamental national rights.
By elevating human rights to fundamental national rights, President Ho Chi Minh wanted to remind progressive forces in the world at that time to recognize the independence and freedom of the new Viet Nam. Right in the Declaration, he called upon the United Nations: “We are convinced that the Allies, which at the Teheran13 and San Francisco14 Conferences uphold the principle of equality among the nations, cannot fail to recognize the right of the Vietnamese people to independence.” (5) In the Declaration, he did not only affirm the legal principle of the fundamental rights of the Vietnamese people and peoples in the world but also pointed to the steadfast and staunch struggle of the Vietnamese people for those sacred national rights. Concluding the Declaration, he affirmed the iron-willed determination to wrest and maintain national independence and freedom while solemnly declared to the world: “Viet Nam has the right to enjoy freedom and independence and in fact has become a free and independent country. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their freedom and independence.”
In fact, during the days when the August 1945 General Uprising took place, on behalf of the Committee for National Liberation of the League for Independence of Viet Nam, President Ho Chi Minh requested the American administration to inform the United Nations to seek their support to Viet Nam’s gaining of independence: “We have sided with the United Nations against the Japanese. Now the Japanese surrendered. We urged the United Nations to fulfill its solemn promise that all people can enjoy democracy and independence.” (6) Also in Ba Dinh Square, after reading the Declaration of Independence, he took an oath on behalf of the Provisional Government of the new Viet Nam, and recommended: “Independence and freedom are precious and valuable asset which we have painstakingly wrested, and should be preserved and safeguarded.” (7) Not long after the success of August Revolution, President Ho Chi Minh several times sent letters and telegrams to statesmen of countries in the world like the United States, Great Britain, Soviet Union, China and the United Nations, requesting for support and recognition of the genuine independence of Viet Nam. All of these prove that he persisted the ideology and viewpoint on fundamental national rights and human rights.
For the world, the Declaration of Independence of Viet Nam and Ho Chi Minh is the first legal cornerstone, which affirms in principle and practice the iron-willed determination of the Vietnamese people on the right to live in independence, freedom and in pursuit of happiness, on the equal rights between Viet Nam and other nations in the world. The struggle for national liberation of Viet Nam led by President Ho Chi Minh was closely associated with the struggle of progressive mankind for class and people liberation from oppression, exploitation, injustice, inequality, and for the exercise of rights to freedom and fundamental democracy.
One of the greatest contributions of President Ho Chi Minh was linking national independence with people’s freedom and happiness, and sacred national rights to fundamental human rights. From the triumphal struggle of the Vietnamese people, those two legal concepts have been developed into new concept: fundamental national rights. Throughout his life, President Ho Chi Minh struggled for independence and freedom of not only Vietnamese people but also of people of the world. Since very early, he upheld the banner to protect the fundamental national rights and fundamental human rights, and the banner of national independence in association with socialism. These are his humane viewpoints.
Containing only 1000 words with succinct content in eloquent style, the Declaration of Independence of Viet Nam - Ho Chi Minh has surpassed time and space and is considered as a declaration of human rights and civil rights of nations struggling for independence, freedom, happiness, civilization, and elimination of injustice, and inequality. As M. Armed, former Director of UNESCO's Regional Bureau for Education in Asia and the Pacific stated that only few personalities in history became part of legendary when alive and obviously Ho Chi Minh was one of them. He will be remembered not only as a fighter for liberation of the Fatherland and dominated people but also a modern philosopher who brought about a new prospect and hope for those people struggling uncompromisingly to eradicate injustice, and inequality from this planet.
At present, the world situation has been changing rapidly with more complicated development than in previous years. The struggle of peoples in the world for peace, national independence, livelihood, democracy and social progress has still met with many difficulties. Viet Nam’s revolutionary cause is facing many mixed opportunities, challenges and comprehensive impacts. Hostile forces have persisted in their attempt for “peaceful evolution” to sabotage Viet Nam. The tasks of the Vietnamese Party, State and people are to seize opportunities, overcome challenges and strive to build and firmly safeguard the socialist Viet Nam. Upholding the immortal spirit of the August 1945 Revolution and the Declaration of Independence of President Ho Chi Minh, in the immediate future, Viet Nam should successfully implement the following tasks:
First, complete the socialist state governed by law. Create vigorous changes in administration reform which should be carried out in parallel with building state institutions. Push forward renovation in legislation, execution and judiciary. Renew ways of thinking and process of law making. Concentrate on building a clean, transparent and strong administration, and ensure unified, smooth, effective and efficient management. Develop synchronously, improve quality and effectively implement legal system, institutions and policies on socio-economic development.
Second, active and proactive international integration. Bring into play the spirit of independence, self-reliance, expand multilateral and bilateral cooperation, broad and deep international integration, and heighten Viet Nam’s position in the international arena. Firmly grasp and harmoniously combine the motto of cooperation and struggle in international relations; adhere to principled strategy and flexible tactics; be ready to be reliable friend and partner and responsible member of the international community. Deepen relations with important partners, enhance the role of Viet Nam in ASEAN’s activity orientation. Actively participate in activities of the United Nations and other international organizations. Coordinate closely the Party’s external activities with the State and people’s diplomacy, political with economic and cultural diplomacy, and foreign relations with national defense and security.
Third, continue to build and complete lines, policies and make relevant policies to ensure national defense, security, interest and national sovereignty. Consolidate national defense and security potential, especially in key, border and island areas, avoid passivity and sudden situation. Build a clean and strong army and public security force with high fighting power and ability to fulfill duties. Proactively foster international cooperation in national defense and security. Take advantage of international community’s support, particularly in defending sea and island sovereignty in keeping with the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea of the United Nations, maintain independence, sovereignty and sacred territorial integrity of the Vietnamese Fatherland.
(1), (2), (3), (4) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, the National Political Publishing House, Ha Noi, 1995, Vol. 3, pp. 505-506; 554; 555
(5) Ho Chi Minh: op.cit., p. 557
(6), (7) Ho Chi Minh Institute: Ho Chi Minh – Chronicles, the National Political Publishing House, Ha Noi, 2006, Vol. 2, pp. 273; 290
This article was published on Communist Review No 863 (September 2014)