A number of viewpoints of President Ho Chi Minh on culture and raising cultural level of Vietnam     

Academy of Politics, Region II
Monday, May 15, 2023 09:15

Communist Review - The system of the theoretical viewpoints on culture in Ho Chi Minh thought is the crystallization of the Oriental and Ocidental, the traditional and modern, the national and international cultural values; is the personality, the cultural abilities of an eminent culturalist; is the creative application of theories on culture of Marxism-Leninism. His thought on culture has led and oriented the building, development and raising of the stature of Vietnam’ culture.

President Ho Chi Minh reads a stele at Con Son Pagoda, Hai Duong Province (February 1965) _Photo: hochiminh.vn

Vietnam is a country that has an age-old culture with a thousand-of-year history; is a place that has given birth to many cultural celebrities. Among these celebrities, President Ho Chi Minh is the greatest thinker and culturalist of Vietnam in the present-day times. In the treasure of Ho Chi Minh thought, the system of viewpoints on culture occupies an important position, containing the great values for the development and the lifting of the stature of the culture of Vietnam.

Viewpoint on position and role of culture

From the objective, scientific basis, Nguyen Ai Quoc - Ho Chi Minh had soon come up with the concept of culture, the concept of building the national culture. He had summed up the connotation of the culture concept as follows: “For the reason of existence as well as the goal of life, humanity could create and invent the languages, the handwritings, morality, law, science, religions, literature, arts, the instruments for the daily life, food, clothing, accommodation and the ways of use. All of these creativities and inventions mean culture. Culture is the synthesis of all he ways of life together with its manifestations which had been produced by mankind with the aim of adapting itself to the requirements of life and he demands of th existence” (1). The concept of culture that President Ho Chi Minh had put forth had generalized the broadest content of the cultural category, implied the human being’s material and spiritual activities together with the values that human beings had created; at the same time, His cultural concept had also pointed out that human requirement of existence in a capacity as the subject of activities of  social life is really the origin, the deep-rooted impetus of culture.

On the position and role of culture as President Ho Chi Minh viewed it, culure is on a par with other fields of activities of society: “In the national construction, here are four issues that need to pay attention to, together with the same importance being attached to: politics, economics, society and culture” (2). More importantly, He had pointed to the close relationship between culture and other areas. Culture cannot stand outside, “but it has to stay in economics and politics” and vice versa, politics and economics also lie “in culture”. Social life has been built and structured interwovenly from 4 areas: politics, economics, culture, society; in which culture is the spiritual foundation of social life, is an area that belongs to the superstructure of society. So, one of the fundamental, important issues is to settle correctly the relationship between the cultural area and the political, economic and social areas.

On the relationship between culture and politics and society, President Ho Chi Minh pointed out: culture has to serve the political tasks and to be in politics; only when politics and society are liberated, then culture can be liberated; politics opens the road for culture to develop, for culture to develop freely, the political revolution must be launched first. “What society is like, literature and art are like the same.... under the colonialist and feudalist regimes, our people were enslaved, so literature and arts were also enslaved, were under shabby conditions, impossible to develop” (3). Culture has to participate in the political task, that is to participate in the revolutionary activities, in the resistance war and in the socialist building. Culture participated in the resisance war, that means culture did not stand outside, but stood inside the sacred resistance war of the nation and the resistance war became the resistance war with culture.

In the socialist revolution, implementing the revolution in the cultural area is a very important task. The front of culture, literature and arts not only happened in the fight against foreign aggressors, but also in the very difficult and complicated fight against the internal enemy, “the enemy inside peope’s hearts”, individualism with the manifestations of corruption, harassment, profligacy, laziness, bureaucracy and so on. That is why, the relationship between politics and culture in the socialist revolution has been expressed in a more profound way and these two areas have to be carried out simultaneously to promote each other for development.

As for the relationship between culure and economics, President Ho Chi Minh pointed out: “If we want to advance towards socialism, it is necessary to develop economics and culture. Why don’t we say: to develop culture and economics?  As a saying goes: Reality can only achieve; that is why, economics has to go first” (4). His viewpoint is clear that economics is really the basis of culture; so economics has to take one step ahead, has to pay attention to economic building, to infrastructure building so as to have conditions to build and develop culture.

Culture belongs to superstructure, so it needs to rely on the construction and development of social infrastructure to be able to build and have enough conditions for cultural development. At the same time, on the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism, President Ho Chi Minh affirmed: “When the cultural level of people is improved, it will help us promote the economic rehabilitation, democratic development. Improving the people’s cultural level is also a necessary thing to build our country into a country of peace, reunification, independence, democracy, prosperity and strength” 9%). His viewpoint affirmed that culture is of active and proactive character, is the impetus of economics and politics, so culture has to lie in the economics and boost the development of the economics.

These comprehensive and profound arguments of President Ho Chi Minh have laid the foundation for the current arguments of the Communist Party of Vietnam; affirmed all through the process of the leadership of the revolution, country, people, the advocacies of the Communist Party of Vietnam are always consistent that the economic growth has to go hand in hand with the cultural development, maintain the fine identity of the national culture and settle the problems of social security; culture is the resource, impetus of development. “Culture is the spiritual foundation of society and also the goal and endogenous strength, important motivation for the national development, determining that the synchronous and harmonious cultural development the economic growth and social progress is the fundamental orientation of the process of the socialist building in Vietnam, reflecting the superiority of our regime” (6).

Developing culture to new height

The outstanding viewpoint of President Ho Chi Minh on culture is: It affirms that culture is the impetus, the goal of the revolutionary cause. He pointed out that culture is required to shine the road for the people; to take culture to lead the people so as to carry out independence, self-strengthening, autonomy….. Culture creates the material and spiritual strength to win over foreign aggression in the spirit that civilization wins over barbarity. Economics improves the material life, while culture has an effect of improving the people’s spiritual life.

The contributions of President Ho Chi Minh to developing and lifting the Vietnamese cultural level are also reflected in the fact that He had put forth the viewpoint on building a new culture with 5 great points orientating for the building of the national culture: “1- To build psychology: the spirit of self-reliance, self-strengthening. 2- To build morals: to sacrifice oneself, for the benefits of the masses. 3- To buld society: all the careers relating to the people’s welfares in society. 4- To build politics: civic right. 5- To build the economy” (7).

To replace the ensalved culture of colonialism, the most important thing is to build a new revolutionary culture. This new culture developes with three characters: nation, science and masses. To build this new culture in some specific areas, President Ho Chi Minh pointed out a number of outstanding requirements as follows:

Firstly, on education, President Ho Chi Minh held that “an ignorant nation is a weak nation”, the building of a new education must be considered as an urgent task of strategic, fundamental and prolonged significance, it has an effect of “making our nation a, courageous, partriotic, labour-loving nation, a nation worthy to the independent Vietnam” 9*0. So, the first and foremost important thing right after the fact that the country had just seized independence, it had launched immediately the campaign against “the ignorance enemy”. He had determined the goal of education of carrying out three functions of culture by education: teaching and learning to culture the correct ideology and the fine sentiment; broaden the people’s intellectual standards; fostering the qualities and good styles…. The viewpoints of President Ho Chi Minh on education is the orientation for the building of the new education to develop correctly in the socialist building and making an important contribution to the process of struggling for national reunfication.

Secondly, on culture-literature and arts, President Ho Chi Minh had put forth the fundamental viewpoints orientating the building of the revolutionary literature and arts: culture, literature and arts was a front, the cultural ativists, artistes were the fighters on that front, the works of literature and arts were the sharp weapons in the revolutionary struggle. This content is the emphasis of President Ho Chi Minh’s viewpoint in affirming the role and position of culture, literature and arts in the revolutionary cause, considering the front of culture also has an importance like the miliary, political and economic front. Ho Chi Minh thought was formed since the 20s of the 20th century and continued to develop through the following revolutionary stages. The signifcance of the viewpoint on the front of culture, of the cultural fighters is: “Culture, literature and arts, like all other activities, cannot stand outside, but have to lie in economics and politics” (9), “Also like other fighters, the fighters of literature and arts have the definite tasks, that is to serve the resistance war, to serve the Fatherland, to serve the people….. In short, the benefits of the resistance war of the Fatherland of the people must be placed above all else” (10). As for the relationship between the national independence and freedom of the writers and artists, He had always pointed out: when a nation is oppressed, then writers and artists have also lost freedom. If literature and arts want to be free, they have to particioate in revolution….

Thirdly, on new morality, new lifestyle, new way of life, President Ho Chi Minh affirmed that to build a new life, it is necessary to build new morality, to build a civilized lifestyle, a new way of life. First of all, it is necessary “to launch a amoaign to reeducate the spirit of the people by implementing: INDUSTRY, THRIFT, INTEGRITY” (11), because “Upholding and practicing Industry, Thrift and Integrity means rekindling the fire for the new life” (12). To build a new a way life, it is necessary to change “the way of eating, the way of dressing, the way of accommodating, the way of travelling”. To build a new way of life – the civilized way of life is a process to make life gradually become a habit; in which there is an inheritance and development of good morals and good customs, at the same time to reform the old, backward customs, habits and add the new, progressive things….

In building culture, President Ho Chi Minh stressed the viewpoint to makntain and oromote the identity and values of the national culture; at the same time, to receive the quintessence of he culture of mankind. In the work “The history of our country” (1942), He had dealt with the primary important issue: Our people must know our history. The first days of the establishment of the State of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh signed and made public Decree No. 65/SL, on November 23, 1945, on the preservation of the antique vestiges in the whole of Vietnam (including all the relics of communal houses, pagodas, temples, places, citadels and ramparts, mausoleums, stele, object, scholastic degrees and certificates, books and so on). According to Him, the preseration of the antique vestiges is much needed in the construction of Vietnam.

One year after signing the Decree No. 65/SL, when coming to attend the first National Culture Conference in Hanoi, on November 24, 1946, He said: “The culture of Vietnam is the mutual influence of the Oriental and the Ocidental culture. What is good from the Oriental and the Ocidental culture, we can learn to create a culture of Vietnam. It means learning good experience of the past and presemt culture to cultivate the culture of Vietnam to have the pure spirit of Vietnam so as to conform to the democratic spirit” and “To develop the good, the beauty of the nation, it means we walk together to the place of mankind” (13).

The viewpoint of President Ho Chi Minh affirmed the inheritance and promotion of the fine values in the national tradition of the culture of Vietnam, at the same time, with the constant self-enrichment through the reception and adoption with selection of the cultural quintessence of mankind. These two processes have concurrently happened, making the new culture in Vietnam have the characterstics reflecting the manner, identity and tradition of the national culture of Vietnam and be conforming to the civilized, advanced and modern level of mankind. Moreover, the good, the beauty of the national culture once developed and promoted to the maximum will reach to the height of mankind, becoming the common value of mankind.

In the Political Report of the 2nd Party Congress (1951), President Ho Chi Minh pointed out the fundamental goals that the Vietnamese revolution needed to reach to in the cultural areas: “To develop the fine traditions of the national culture and absorb the new things of the world progressive culture so as to build a culture of Vietnam with the character of nation, science and masses” (14). This is the viewpoint of preserving the selected national cultural identity of Ho Chi Minh.

After the Dien Bien Phu historic victory, on September 9, 1954, on the way from Viet Bac to return to the caoital of Hanoi, President Ho Chi Minh came to Phong Chau to pay tribute to the Hung Kings, to have a talk with the people and fighters at Gieng Temple and He had recommended: “The Hung Kings had the merits of founding the country, so you and I have together to defend the country”. This immortal word of His has generalized two categories of founding the country and defending the country into a pair of inevitable categories of history and culture of Vietnam.

Promoting and developing the national culture based on maintaining and obeserving the national cultural values, President Ho Chi Minh affirmed the viewpoint: the root of the culture was nation; without that root, it was impossible to continue the quinstessence of countries and also without contributing the culture of mankind. He requested “to promote the old valuable culture of the nation…. And learn the advanced culture of countries” and He was also synpathized with the viewpoint of V.I. Lenin: Only the real revolutionaries can be able to receive the valuable kmowledge of the previous generations” (15). He had advised the writers and artistes to pay attention to maintaining the old national culture, at the same time, criticized those who were the Vietnamese but did not know well the history, land and people of Vietnam. In His revolutionary life, President Ho Chi Minh showed His scientific and respectiful attitude towards the good morals and the good customs towards festivals, not only admired the encient things but also lifted them to be in conformity with the new way of life, the new culture.

Together with His profound ideologies of culture, President Ho Chi Minh was also a good example of learning and preserving the ancient culture, protecting the fine culture of the nation. He greatly respected, maintained and preserved the purity and clarity of the national language so as to lift the cultural stature of Vietnam. Speaking at the 3rd Congress of the Vietnam Journalists’ Association (September 8, 1962), He stressed: “The language is the very old and very valuable asset of the nation. We have to maintain it, respect it, make it popularized in an ever more extensive way” (17). He also requested the writers to respect and help the writings of the masses, because they were the precious gems….

So, the development to lift the stature of the times is a very good, profound, intensive and extensive ideology of President Ho Chi Minh with the role of being the leader of a country-nation; more than that He is the representative of ideologies, intelligence, spirit and soul of the country-nation of Vietnam. His viewpoints and ideologies on culture, development, the lifting of national culture are not only of important significance in the democratic national revolutionary period, but also have the profound value in the socialist building. These ideologies are mainly the basis, the foundation for the Party to build the line of developing the advanced Vietnamese culture richly imbued with the national identity in the current stage with the basic orientations, such as building the cultural value system and human standards in combination with the maintenance and development of the values of the Vietnamese families; building the Vietnamese  in the new times, combining closely and harmoniously between the traditional values and the modern values; building the cultural environment to be pure and strong, improving the conditions of the people’s enjoyment of the culture; protecting and promoting the fine and sustainable values in the traditions of the Vietnamese culture; combining the protection and promotion of the values of the traditional culture of Vietnam with the proactiveness and activeness in international integration in culture; building Vietnam into the attractive address for the international cultural exchanges; receiving with selection the quintessence of mankind’s culture to be conforming to the realities of Vietnam, step by step taking the culture of Vietnam to the world (18)./.


(1) Ho Chi Minh, Complete works, the National Political Publishing House Su That, Hanoi, 2011, tomb 3, p. 458

(2) Ho Chi Minh: On culture, Ho Chi Minh Museum, Hanoi, 1997, p. 11

(3) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 9, p.231

(4) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 12, p. 470

(5) Ho Chi Minh: Complete workd, Ibid, tomb 10, p. 458-459

(6) Nguyen Phu Trong: “Striving to build, maintain and promote the outstanding values of advanced culture of Vietnam richly imbued with the national identity”, Communist Review, No. 979, December 2021, p. 7

(7) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 3, p. 458

(8) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 4, p. 7

(9), (10) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 7, p. 246

(11) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 4, p. 7

(12) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 5, p. 128

(13) Ho Chi Minh: On the work of literature and arts, the Su That publishing house, Hanoi, 1971, P. 71

(14) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 7, p. 40

(15) See: Ho Chi Minh, Complete works, Ibid, tomb 6, p. 357

(16) Hanoi National Univeersity: Ho Chi Minh thought on building the culture of Vietnam, the National Political Publishing House Su That, Hanoi, 1998, p. 161-162

(17) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 13, p. 465

(18) See: The documents of the 13th Party Congress, the National Politcal Publishing House Su That, Hanoi, 2021, tomb I, p. 143-147

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 1001 (November 2022)