President Ho Chi Minh’s guidance on identification and differentiation between style of listening to and learning from people and manifestation of demagogy, “following the masses” - significance for current mass mobilization work
Communist Review - President Ho Chi Minh not only puts forth the profound guidances on the content of the style, but also is the bright example of practicing the style of listening to and learning from the people, but without “following” the masses. At present, when populism with demagogy being the prominent feature which is emerging strongly in the world and there are some manifestations sprouting in Vietnam, then the creative application of President Ho Chi Minh’s guidances to the mass mobilization work has been becoming the imperative requirements.
The difference between style of listening to and learning from people and the manifestations of “following the masses”
History anywhere and any time affirms the truth: If the authorties know how to listen to the people so as “to reassure the people”, then this country can be able to live in peace and prosperity; and on the contrary, if the authorities are isolated from the people, treat the people with contempt and coerce the people, then that country will fall into decadence. Being the builder of the new democratic regime, President Ho Chi Minh considered the listening to and learning from the people as the principle of awareness and the prerequisite action of cadres and party members.
To help the contingent of cadres and party members to be determined to practise this principle, President Ho Chi Minh explained the necessity of listening to the people by analyzing the characteristics of the political institutions in Vietnam
On the part of the Party, President Ho Chi Minh stressed that the Party comes from the people and strives for the people. Right from its birth, the Party had carried inside it the national element and “got rooted” deeply in the lap of the nation. When the Party is in power, it does not mean that it has the right to “give orders to the masses, but it is the servant of the masses”, to serve the people. To serve well, it is imperative to listen so as to be able to know clearly and understand deeply the aspirations of the people.
On the part of the State, “our country is the democratic country”; in that State, the people are the masters and have the right to mastery, while the contingent of cadres and party members are “the public servants” of the people and they are held responsible to listen to the people’s legal and legitimate moods and aspirations so as to be able to serve them well. President Ho Chi Minh drew a conclusion: “Keeping close touch with the people and always listening to the opinions of the people is the Party’s foundation of forces and thanks to it, the Party is successful” (1).
He also pointed to the benefits of the listening to the people: When listening to the people, the Party can be able to work out the advocacies, lines and policies that gain popularity. In its leadership, first of all, the Party maps out the advocacies and lines, but these advocacies and lines cannot be made in a subjective and arbitrary manner, they must be aimed to best serve the legal and legitimate interests of the people. In other words, advocacies and lines must be “retorted” from the people’s opinions.
President Ho Chi Minh requested that cadres must listen to the people because there are a lot of “the eyes and ears” of the people; the people “know a lot of things that cadre don’t know”. Even in the cadre work – the key task, the “root” work of the Party – if the Party wants to know which cadre is good, which is bad, the best way is to ask the people. Therefore, it is necessary to listen to the people, “relying on the people’s opinions to promote cadres, and there will not be any partiality, and it will definitely be reasonable and equal” (2). He stressed that if cadres want to promote their qualities, overcome weaknesses, then “the most important thing is to let people say”; if cadres want to fulfill well their work, then “everything should be discussed with the people and the people will give their good ideas”.
From the importance of listening to the people, President Ho Chi Minh concluded: “Revolutionary morality is to immerse ourselves with the masses into a block, to place trust in the masses, to understand the masses, to listen to the masses”(3). So, according to President Ho Chi Minh, “listening to the people” is a core quality of revolutionary morality and the important characteristics in the cadres’ style of work.
In the spirit that “construction is concomitant of combat”, President Ho Chi Minh warned a series of diseases that obstruct cadres from listening to the people, such as arrogance, bureaucracy, the airs of a meritorious official. He stressed that if cadres want to train their style of getting close touch with the masses and listening to the people, it is necessary to always guard against these dangerous diseases; if they want to listen to the people’s opinions, cadres must be really a progress-seeker, “must be skillful enough to make them speak” and “if the masses say ten things, but only some thing is constructive, so it is still valuable and useful”. What the people say is right, it is imperative for cadres to follow it; as for what they say is yet to be right, so through it, cadres also know what the people think so as to have the way to explain to them so that they can understand and so doing, it is possible to propagate, mobilize and lead in a suitable and effective manner.
With His great trust in the people, President Ho Chi Minh requested that cadres not only know how to listen, but also how to learn from the people. As He viewed it, the revolutionary cause always has innovation, so knowledge and experience are never enough; if cadres want to make ever more progresss, want to fulfill their tasks, it is necessary for them to carry on their constant study. They should learn from books and from work; but the most important thing is that “they learn from the masses”. The reason is that the masses are in great number, “are capable and clever”, “know how to settle of problems in a simple, rapid and complete way, whereas the well-qualified persons, the great collective teams cannot figure it out” He affirmed: “Without being able to learn from the people, it is impossible to lead the people. Only by knowing how to be the learners of the people can cadres be the teachers of the people” (4).
President Ho Chi Minh stressed: If cadres wish “to learn from the masses, they should undoubtedly have enthusiasm, determination, modesty and diligence” (5), because if they show their perfunctory and indifference, the people will not believe in them; if the people know, they will not say anything about it, or if they say, they will not say all of it; that is why, learning from the people will be meaningless and its effect will not be complete. Besides, He strongly cricticized those cadres who terms the people “as being ignorant, as thick as a brick and they are the wise men”, so they despise the people’s opinions, “disregarding their learning from the masses, disregarding their discussion with the masses”. He advised that “the leaders should not be arrogant, but understand thoroughly. Their knowledge and experience are not enough for the correct leadership. Therefore, apart from their own experience, the leaders should also use the experience of party member and of the people” (6). Learning from the masses in a modest and progress-seeking way not only helps cadres to be successful in work; but through it, they can win the people’s hearts, because the facts show that the masses of people have never placed their confidence and affection in the arrogant and self-conceited persons.
President Ho Chi Minh distinguished very clearly the difference between the listening to and learning from the masses and the “following” of the masses. He explained: “the masses are not the same. Among the masses, there are different strata, different levels, different opinions. There are some advanced layers, some moderate layers, some backward layers” (7). That is why, even though a majority of people are very good, know “what is right” and wholeheartedly believe in the Party, but there still is a part of people, due to their limited level, to their poor knowledge of the law, whereas they are still “light-minded”, so they can get involved in, excited by a number of reactionary elements, resulting in having some incorrect ideas, some extreme, fanatic demands and acts. That is why, He stressed that cadres must know how to listen to the people, but “naturally, not what the people say we can follow blindly”, but there must be a comparison and carefull analysis of the different opinions of the masses of people so as to “select the correct opinions” and transform them into the suitable advocacies and lines. Those cadres who have not abilities and capabilities of analyzing so as to be able to know what the people do is right, what the people say is correct will fall into the stage of behaving as the yes-men”.
President Ho Chi Minh advised: “We absolutely must not follow the masses” (8) in an easy, perfunctory way, but we must have abilities and decisiveness to analyze the wrong and right; and from it, we are fully aware to mobilize and influence the masses of people, particularly the part of the people who still have the wrong consciousness so as to help them live and work in accordance with the Constitution and the law. In face of the illegitimate demands and wishes of the people, cadres must be persistent in persuading them to understand that the temporary interests and private interests must comply with the long-term and common interests; the local interests must submit to the national interests… “Not to follow the masses” means that cadres must carry out their misson and leading role, taking the masses to act in a “sel-conscious”, organized and disciplined way, without letting them act in a spontaneous way. “Not to follow the masses” also means that cadres must promote their vanguard and exemplary role in all fields. So, according to President Ho Chi Minh, cadres must be persistent without being rigid, must have abilities without being foolhardy, must be decive without being arbitrary, must be flexible without being weak, must listen without being “the yes-me”.
In all circumstances, when meeting with the people, “listening to what the people say”, “to say what the people can listen to” were always the unique style of President Ho Chi Minh. On September 3, 1945, even though He had to settle innumerable things of the fledgling administration, He declared: “From this year on, I am very pleased to receive the representatives of the mass organizations” (9).
President Ho Chi Minh came to the people as if He came to His flesh-and-blood relatives; at the meetings, all the ceremonies and distances seemed being eliminated and there existed only the profound sympathy. He concluded in the end of His life: “Each person, each family has got their own sufferings and all these private sufferings of each person, each family have been lumped into my own sufferings” (10). He had dedicated His whole life to the country, to the people, especially when somebody who made a mistake, He had a way of educating and criticizing in an extremely delicate but penetrating way. With the style of work “from the masses and back to the masses”, always expressing His joy with the joy of the people, His pain with the pain of the people, with his true respect towards the people, President Ho Chi Minh had set a bright example, creating the close-knit attachment between “the Party’s Opinions” and “the People’s Hearts” – the root of the successes of the Vietnamese revolution.
Applying President Ho Chi Minh’s style of listening to and learning from the people to the mass mobilization work and the combat against the currrent manifestation of demagogy, “following the masses”
Listening to the people – an obligatory requirement for the contingent of cadres and party members, but in fact, not all cadres have done that seemingly very simple work. The manifestation of not listening to the people is really the disease of “voluntarism, imposition, conservativism and do things on one’s own: not listening to, not accepting other people’s opinions”, is “bureaucracy, isolation from the masses, without keeping close touch with the establishments, just lacking the inspection and supervision, without grasping the situation of their localities, offices and units; assuming their attitude of indifference, insensitivity and lack of responsibility before difficulties, frustrations and legitimate demands of the people” (11). Once the cadre does not know how to listen to the people, then naturally, they cannot be able to learn from the people; therefore, their visions will be limited by individual prejudice. This is extremely dangerous for the Party’s leadership; that is why, the lesson the Party has drawn and especially laid stress in the process of renovation is to thoroughly grasp the viewpoints “the people are the root” and “renovation must be based on the people”.
Confidence and support of the people are really the root of the Party’s strength, because when “the people’s talent, the people’s strength, the people’s property” are in the form of potential, if the Party want to transform them into the unparalleled strength in the construction and defence of the Fatherland, then it must do well the mass mobilization. That is why, the Documents of the 12th Party Congress determined that “the mass mobilization work has still a lot of limited aspects”, the Documents of the 13th Party Congress continues to point out that “the mass mobilization still has limitations some where, some time”. This shows that in reality, the mass mobilization work has still got a lot of limitations and inadequacies, so it is necessary to continue to have more improvements.
In face of the requirements of the current revolutionary cause, the guidances of President Ho Chi Minh on the style of listening to and learning from the people, but without “following the masses” have suggested a number of main solutions to the mass mobilization and the combat against the manifestations of demagogy, “following the masses” in the current stage; specifically:
Firstly, to continue to improve the awareness of the importantce of the mass mobilization and the responsibility to implement the mass mobilization of the whole political system.
President Ho Chi Minh warned: “Big mistakes in many places are in the fact that the mass mobilization has been despised. A committee or several people are appointed and normally only the poorly-qualified people are appointed and then they are abandoned. So, if these appointed people can do the mass mobilization work well or not, laisser faire! Other cadres don’t pay attention to or help them and they have passed themselves as being irresponsible for the mass mobilization. This is the big, very harmful mistake” (12). Until today, all of His guidances on the mass mobilization remain fully valuable. That is why, the Party must make great efforts in the propaganda so that the entire cadres and party members can be able to carry out satisfactorily President Ho Chi Minh’s recommendations; all those who have contacts with the people must do the mass mobilization. Each of the cadres must be well aware that before becoming a cadre, they are all the people and they will return to “the people again”, so when they have any contact and dialogue with the people, they must “place themselves” in the position and situation of the people so as to have the common voice.
Secondly, the Party and the State must improve their capacities of the line and policy making and legalize the stipulations for listening to the people’s opinions.
President Ho Chi Minh once put it: “The correct policy is the root of success”, including the success of the mass mobilization. In the opposite, if the line and policy are not yet “ripe enough”, stlll lacking the preciseness, then the people’s hearts will be disturbed and the mass mobilization work will meet with a lot of difficulties. To have the correct policy, the cadres and party member must absolutely listen to what the people say and to do this work well, it is necessary to legalize the stipulations for listening to, accepting and responding to the people’s opinions. In fact, localities have also issued and implemented the regulations on receiving the people by the heads of the party committees and the authorities. In the rule-of-law State, all people act in accordance with the law, so the legalization of receiving the people, listening to the people and responding to the people’s opinions are necessary to do.
Thirdly, the mass mobilization must be directed strongly to the establishments, must be flexible, must catch the right objects and must be persistent in implementation.
Nowadays, in the information technology time, cadres can become easily bureaucratic, because they can sit in their offices to hear the reports, to popularize the resolutions and to control the work in the on-line form. However, not “any technologies” can be able to reflect all the people’s opinions, undertand the people’s minds if the cadres are not keeping close contacts with the establishments. President Ho Chi Minh once demanded that when cadres go to work in the establishments, they “must honestly have to jump on the bandwagon”, not fall into the superfluous formalities; they must have direct contact with the people, not to meet the leaders only. With each concrete objects, the cadres doing the popular mobilization work must have their own ways of keeping contacts, explaining and mobilizing in such a way as to be suitable and effective. The facts show that the popular mobilization cadres often pay their attention to mobilizing the active people so as to make them the shock force in all the works and movements. This is not wrong, but it is not enough. President Ho Chi Minh especially laid stress that attention must be paid to mobilizing even the ‘backward, retarded lelements” and must be focused on where the movement is still weak. His reasoning is very simple: If the masses are all good, the movement is strong everywhere, so is there any need to do the popular mobilization work? To persuade the backward, retarded elements, the cadres must “know how to be patient. Having told these people only once, they cannot understand it, so the cadres should tell them twice or three times… As far as the quality is concerned, they must learn from the missionaries” (14).
Fourthly, it is necessary to attach importance to mass mobilization by setting good examples
Cadres and party members should set good examples from the big things to the small things; they should be conscious that any wrong behaviours in the public and private work are all the anti-propaganda actions and they will neutralize the Party’s mass mobilization work. To do the mass mobilization work well, first of all, it is necessary to carry out well the Party building and revamping; on the other hand, it is also necessary to have the mechanism and sanction so that cadres cannot fall into the disease of “empty promises”. Furthermore, not only the “attitude of a mandarin”, but also the isolated life style and the unequal enjoyment of a part of cadres and party members as compared to the masses of people have also created the “invisible wall” that separates the Party from the people. That is why, the practices of “industriousness, thriftiness, integrity and uprightness” and the sociability and sincerity of the contingent of cadres and party members also make an important contribution to the success of the mass mobilization work. Power can make the people feel dread, but it is impossible to make the people trust and love, so if cadres want to make the people trust and love, they “must be the model for other people to imitate”.
Fifthly, the mass mobilization cadre must train the skills of “listening to what the people say and say what the people can understand and can make the people believe”.
President Ho Chi Minh once requested that cadres of the mass mobilization in particular and the contingent of revolutionary cadres in general “must make their minds work, their eyes see, their ears hear, their legs walk, their mouth speaks, their hands do things”. When He placed “their minds work” first, He wanted to affirm that the mass mobilization work is a science – the science concerning human psychology, is an art – the art to get access to human mobilization. That is why, the popular mobilization cadre must have intellect and skill of listening to, grasping and summarizing the legitimate aspirations of the masses of people so as to serve as advice for the Party and the State in making the policy and advocacies to be suitable to the people’s hearts. They also have to learn the people’s way of speaking, that is succinct, lively and understandable so as to carry out the mobilization of the masses of people in an effective way. Even though you can read and understand “thousands of books”, you can speak fluently and interestingly about them, but the people don’t understand you, then the mass mobilization is still a failure. To make the people believe and do what the mass mobilization cadres, they must have the prestige, must practice the motto “words must go with deeds”, “speak less, do more”.
Sixthly, it is necessary to resolutely combat against all the forms of demagogy, against “following the masses”.
The nature of “demagogy” is to deceive and swindle in order to win the temporary confidence and support of the people so as to serve the wicked designs. In Vietnam now, the forms of “demagogy” have appeared from the anti-regime forces and even in a part of degenerated cadres and perty members. The hostile force have often acted in the name of “human rights” to “lull”, to lure and to excite the masses to make their demands for limitless “freedom, democracy”, short of feasibility; to take advantage of “the love of country” of the people to excite the extreme nationalism and to sabotage the line of peace and cooperation of the Party and the State. They have searched by any means to speak volume for the limitations, shortcomings and difficulties in the life of the country, particularly the wrongdoings of a number of cadres in the public authority apparatus in an attemtp to incite the masses of people to react, to cause disorders, insecurities and disturbances in social order and safety. Their objective is not “for the people; it is aimed to sabotage the Party and the State and the peaceful life of the people.
Their tone of “demagogy” also appears in a part of degenerated cadres and political opportunists. The manifestation of “demagogy” of this group is also diverse; the first and commonest form is the separation of words from deeds. These cadres have always shown that they are close to the people, listen to the people, have sympathy with the people, but their actions are contrary, runningcounter to the basic interests of the masses of people. The common features of these cadres are the “inconsistency”, “what they say in the conference is different from what they say outside the conference, their words and deeds are inconsistent between when they are still in office and when they have retired” (15). They “speak without thinking” by using the “blasphemy” in order to catch the attention of the people, to dispel the transient frustrations of the people, but they will not bear any responsibilities for what they say.
The second manifestation of the “demagogic” cadres is “to say the well-spoken words, but not to do the good deeds”. They use good words and ideas, make “the stormy vows” to “polish” their private names, expressing that they are “the virtuous persons, the respected persons”, the “men of the people”, but their behaviours are completely contrary to what they have stated. Typical of this manifestation is that some cadres of titles and powers who have once written books on fighting against the degeneration in the political thinking, morality, life style, but in the end of the day, they have their fingers in the pies of corruption and bribery with a value of thousands of billions of Vietnam đồng.
The third manifestation of the “demagogy” inside the contingent of cadres and party members is to “side with” the immediate wishes and the local interests of a part of the people with the unprincipled deeds and speeches, running counter to the Program, the line, the Party Rule and the law of the State.
The fourth manifestation of the “demagogy” is to release the “shocking” statement concerning the fact that all the limitations and frustrations in the society will be resolved quickly along with the “courting”, the speaking highly to flatter the people, saying that all what the people do is good, all what the people say is right in an attempt to take advantage of the people’s support to make their way in life on the path of individual benefits. Here, there are both the manifestation of demagogy and of “following the masses”. This phenomenon often appears before the Party Congresses or before the election of the people-elected agencies. “Demagogy” is also the fact that when cadres make mistakes, they express their remorse and sincerely admit their mistakes, even they “insult themselves” so as to “relieve the indignance” of the people, but later on, they are not sincere enough to correct their mistakes. The demagogues often express their “easy-going and lenient attitude” before the mistakes of other people, but in essence, they want to avoid it so as not to hurt other people; so doing, they run counter to the advocacies and determination in the fight against negativities of rhe Party and the State.
That is why, when speaking at the National Conference on Deploying the Action Program of the Vietnam Fatherland Front and its member organizations to implement the Resolution of the 13th Party Congress on August 16, 2021, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong had reminded the cadres that they must absolutely not to adopt “demagogy by keeping contacts with the people in a formal way, even not to “follow” the masses” (16).
Before the embryonic manifestations bearing the colour of populism and the effect of the demagogic phenomena, the mass mobilization work must make a contribution to “exposing” the manifestations and the harms of the demagogic allegations and “the following of the masses” so that the masses can recognize the “true face” and then “boycott” those cadres who plot to use “demagogy” for their profit seeking, resulting in reducing the confidence of the people in the Party and the regime, thus making bad influences on the construction and defence of the Fatherland of the socialist Vietnam./.
(1), (2) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, the National Political Publishing House Su That, Hanoi, 2011, tomb 5, p. 326, 336
(3) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 11, p. 609
(4) Ho Chi Minh: Complee works, Ibid, tomb 6, p. 432
(5), (6), (7), (8) Ho Chi Minh: Complee works, Ibid, tomb 5,p. 333, 325, 336, 338
(9) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 4, p. 9
(10) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 15, p. 674
(11) Documents of the 4th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 12th tenure, the Office of the Party Central Committee, Hanoi, 2016, p. 29 - 31
(12) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 6, p. 234
(13) Ho Chi Minh: Biographical chronicle, the National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, tomb 10, p. 131
(14) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, Ibid, tomb 4. P. 72
(15) Documents of the 4th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 12th tenure, Ibid, p. 29
(16) Nguyen Phu Trong: Promoting the tradition of the great unity, mobilizing the strength of the entire nation, striving to implement in a comprehensively successful manner the Resoltuion of the 13th National Party Congress”. Communist Review, No. 973, September 2021, p. 12
This article was published in the Communist Review No. 990 (May 2022)