From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject Internationalism in Vietnam, Then and Now
Date May 22, 2020 2:02 AM
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[ Vietnam is building on the internationalist traditions of Ho Chi
Minh. True patriotism, is quite different from narrow, selfish
nationalism - it should always respect the rights and interests of
other nations without harming common interests...]
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Tran Dac Loi
May 18, 2020
Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung
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_ Vietnam is building on the internationalist traditions of Ho Chi
Minh. True patriotism, is quite different from narrow, selfish
nationalism - it should always respect the rights and interests of
other nations without harming common interests... _

Vietnamese celebrate after the fall of Saigon, April 30 1975., CC BY
2.0, Jacques Pavlovsky/Sygma/Corbis // Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung


Feudal Vietnam was a relatively closed society for thousands of years.
Up until the early twentieth century, its external relations were
mainly with neighbouring countries. A strong tradition of national
unity and patriotism was an important factor in enabling the
nation’s survival as it faced numerous acts of foreign aggression,
including three invasions by the Mongol Empire under the Yuan dynasty
in the thirteenth century.

True internationalism was first introduced and developed in Vietnam in
the twentieth century through the revolutionary activities of Ho Chi
Minh. Motivated both by traditional patriotism and a determination to
liberate the country from French colonization—following the repeated
failures and ultimate deadlock of all existing patriotic movements and
uprisings—Ho Chi Minh spent 30 years travelling around the world
searching for a path to national salvation. He visited many countries,
including France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Soviet
Russia, China, India, Thailand, and Burma, and discovered that there
were many similarities in the situations of oppressed and exploited
people around the world, and that they had common enemies and
objectives. This was an important factor in his decision to choose for
Vietnam a path of national independence associated with socialism, and
to connect the Vietnamese revolution with the rest of the world’s
struggles for peace, national independence, democracy, and social
progress. Ho Chi Minh concluded that only the power of national unity
combined with international solidarity would constitute the kind of
integrated strength necessary for the success of the Vietnamese
revolution, provided the correct guidelines were followed.

Ho Chi Minh’s Patriotism and Internationalism

Ho Chi Minh’s patriotism and internationalism were not mutually
exclusive, but organically and harmoniously integrated. Patriotism was
the origin and consistent foundation for his revolutionary activities,
while internationalism represented the expansion of his dedication and
love for his people to the whole humankind.

True patriotism, according to Ho Chi Minh, was quite different from
narrow, selfish nationalism; he believed it should always respect the
rights and interests of other nations without harming common
interests, while at the same facilitating one’s own just and
legitimate national interests.

Internationalism, according to Ho Chi Minh, should be based on
independence, self-reliance, and the self-determination of each nation
on the one hand, and joint efforts for common objectives and interests
on the other. It should also be based on mutual understanding and a
readiness to appreciate one another’s views, avoiding chauvinism,
opportunism, and interference in the internal affairs of other

Concerning the relationship between national struggle and
international solidarity, Ho Chi Minh always emphasized the vital role
of national endeavours as an irreplaceable prerequisite for any
struggle, while at the same time cherishing the importance of
international support. He stressed the “need to help ourselves
before seeking support from others”, because “a nation that is not
self-reliant and only waits for support from others does not deserve
to be independent”.

Ho Chi Minh’s internationalism was two-directional: it sought to
mobilize international support for the struggle of Vietnamese people
for national independence and socialism, and to contribute to
struggles for peace, independence, democracy, and social progress all
over the world. Accordingly, he identified three main channels of
international solidarity for Vietnamese revolution in the twentieth
century: the international communist and workers’ movement (with
socialist countries at the core), national liberation movements, and
world movements for peace, democracy, social progress, and justice.

Ho Chi Minh’s concept of internationalism was developed and
implemented by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and became a
consistent and inseparable component of the Vietnamese state’s
official foreign policy, even up to the present day. It has
contributed significantly to the many victories and achievements of
Vietnam’s revolution throughout past decades.

Internationalism in the Struggle for Vietnamese National Liberation in
the Twentieth Century

In the difficult and long-lasting struggle for national liberation,
unification, and defence of the country in the twentieth century,
Vietnamese people have had to face the most powerful foreign
aggressors. This can be seen especially clearly in their 30-year
resistance against French and US imperialist aggressions.

The foundation of the CPV in 1930 by Ho Chi Minh formally linked the
Vietnamese revolution with the world communist movement, especially
with the Third International and Chinese, Laotian, and Cambodian
communists. During the Second World War, the Việt Minh Front led by
Ho Chi Minh and the CPV joined the anti-fascist alliance and fought
against Japanese occupation in Vietnam. But the August Revolution,
which led to the foundation of the independent Democratic Republic of
Vietnam on 2 September 1945, was solely the initiative of Ho Chi Minh
and the CPV. It was victorious thanks to the overwhelming support of
the Vietnamese people without any input or assistance from outside.
Vietnam was by necessity fully self-reliant during the first five
years of the nation-wide Resistance against French aggression and US
intervention. The Vietnamese People’s Army (VPA) also assisted
Laotian patriotic forces to fight against the French in Laos, and
helped the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to liberate a large part
of territory in Southern China in 1949.

Vietnam only began to receive assistance from socialist countries
after the victory of the Chinese Revolution in October 1949 and the
establishment of diplomatic relations with the USSR and its allies in
1950. By this time, the Vietnamese Resistance had defeated all French
“rapid war” strategies and was about to advance to the stage of
general counter-offensive.

The total amount of aid from China and the USSR to Vietnam from June
1950 to June 1954 was 34 million US dollars (USD). This was equivalent
to just 0.86 percent of US aid to the French army in Viet Nam during
the same period—which amounted to 1 billion USD per year—but was
very important for the Vietnamese Resistance given the huge shortage
of weapons and military equipment, and helped Vietnamese forces to win
victory at Điện Biên Phủ in May 1954.

The solidarity, mutual support, and coordination of the resistance
between the liberation forces of Indochinese countries also
contributed significantly to the defeat of French aggressive
strategies in Indochina and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, the just cause and heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people
began to gain world-wide political support and solidarity, not only in
the socialist countries but also in many countries in Asia, Africa,
and Europe, particularly in France itself. French communists, notably
Henri Martin and Raymonde Dien, among others, were at the forefront of
anti-war demonstrations and activities despite brutal repression by
the French authorities. The continued failures and mounting losses of
the French army, as well as the increasing costs of war in Indochina
also strengthened and broadened anti-war movements in France, which
contributed to forcing 20 changes in government in this period. In
August 1953 the number of people within the French population who
supported an end to the war in Vietnam reached 82 percent. Many mass
demonstrations against French aggression in Vietnam also occurred in
other countries. This growing political pressure, on top of the
strategic failures on the battlefield, forced French authorities to
announce an end to military aggression in Indochina at the Geneva
Conference in 1954.

It is also important to note that the then French Foreign Legion in
Vietnam recruited soldiers not only from France but also from other
countries in Europe and Africa, particularly from Algeria and Morocco.
Many of these recruits became sympathizers of Ho Chi Minh and the
Việt Minh and, back home later on, they played an active role in the
liberation struggles of their respective countries.

The international front that provided support and acted in solidarity
with the liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people against US
imperialist aggression was unique and unprecedented in world history
in terms of its dimension, diversity, comprehensiveness, and
effectiveness. The key components of this international front were the
solidarity of three neighbouring countries in Indochina, support from
the socialist countries, the international communist and workers’
movement, support from other national liberation movements, and the
global people’s movements for peace and justice.

Mutual support, assistance, and a sense of joint struggle between
patriotic and liberation forces and the people of Vietnam, Laos, and
Cambodia played a crucial role in contributing to the defeat of US
aggressions on the ground.

Socialist countries, especially the USSR and China, were the main
providers of military and material support for Vietnam, apart from
political, diplomatic, educational and other forms of support. Total
aid from socialist countries to Vietnam in this period was about 7
billion USD; this was far below the 168 billion USD of total war
expenditure by the United States in Vietnam (which is equivalent to
1,38 trillion in 2019), but was essential to the Vietnamese people’s
resistance to US aggression. The USSR, China, Cuba, and other
socialist countries also sent their experts and volunteers to assist
Vietnam in various fields. People in all socialist countries,
including young people and children, launched many campaigns and
activities to support the Vietnamese people. Fidel Castro was the
first foreign leader to visit the liberated province of Quang Tri in
the South of Vietnam in 1973. The liberation struggle of the
Vietnamese people also received strong support from many other
countries across the world from Asia, Africa, and Latin America to
Europe and the US.

The just cause, righteous policy, heroic resilience, and the success
of the Vietnamese Resistance attracted growing sympathy and support
from a very wide political and social spectrum of people around the
world, from communists to civil and religious groups, from youth and
women to elderly people, from workers and peasants to artists,
writers, lawyers, journalists and scientists. Millions of people took
part in anti-war campaigns and demonstrations across the world.
Solidarity was extended to Vietnam by people in both East and West
Germany. The then Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme himself led mass
demonstrations in Stockholm against US aggression in Vietnam. In 1967,
the People’s International Tribunal led by Bertrand Russell
concluded that the US had committed a crime against humanity in
Vietnam. In 1964, Caracas guerrillas captured a US officer to demand
an exchange for the release of Nguyen Van Troi in Sai Gon. The slogan
“My name, your name—Vietnam, Vietnam” became very popular during
anti-imperialist mass demonstrations across India. Countless
organizations and networks of solidarity with Vietnam were established
and expanded throughout the world to condemn US war crimes, demand a
stop to US bombing and aggression against Vietnam, and mobilize
material and political support to the Vietnamese people. Solidarity
campaigns with Vietnam even became a practical educational framework
for raising political awareness among young people in many countries
about struggles for peace, justice, and democracy more broadly.
International solidarity played a very important role in inspiring and
supporting the Vietnamese people on the one hand and increasing the
international political pressure on the US administration on the other

In particular, anti-war movements within the US itself grew to an
unprecedented scale, drawing millions of people from a wide and
diverse social spectrum into political activity. Many organizations,
networks, campaigns, and demonstrations were launched across the US
with the participation of trade unionists, young people and students,
women, peace and social activists, war veterans, and civil and
religious groups. Norman Morrison was the first among eight Americans
who self-immolated in protest against the US criminal war in Vietnam.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr. linked the anti-war campaign with the
struggle for civil rights and social justice in the US. Despite
obstructions by US authorities, several prominent Americans such as
Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda, Angela Davis, and Noam Chomsky visited North
Vietnam during the war. Nation-wide anti-war campaigns in the spring
and autumn of 1967 attracted millions of Americans in more than 100
cities across the US, during which 200,000 protesters surrounded the
Pentagon for 32 hours. More than 16 million out of 27 million eligible
young people refused to be drafted, while two million Americans were
accused of “causing illegal damage” through their protest actions.
The “Vietnam war” became a central issue in US politics and an
important factor contributing to the replacement of five US presidents
during this period. The US anti-war movements played a crucial role in
preventing further US escalation and prolongation of war, and in
forcing the US government to ultimately take steps to end its war in

International solidarity made a significant contribution to the
ultimate victory of the Vietnamese people in an uneven fight against
the aggression of the most powerful imperialist country.

Yet Vietnam not only benefited from international solidarity, but was
itself also an important actor in the world struggle for peace,
national independence, democracy, and social progress in the twentieth

During the Second World War, the Việt Minh joined the anti-fascist
alliance and assisted US forces to fight the Japanese army in
Indochina. Vietnamese communists also took part in defending Moscow
against the Nazi assault.

The most direct and significant contribution was Vietnam’s
consistent support and robust assistance to the people of Laos and
Cambodia in their struggle against French colonization and US
aggression. In late 1970s, against a backdrop of almost total
ignorance on the part of the international community, Vietnam played a
decisive role in liberating Cambodian people from genocide at the
hands of the Khmer Rouge regime (unfortunately, Vietnam faced
international isolation for this endeavour due to the lack of
information and complexity of the existing world situation). It is
important to note that while supporting Laotian and Cambodian people
to liberate themselves, Vietnam always respected their right to
self-determination, national independence, sovereignty, and
territorial integrity, while caring for and protecting their people,
and helping them to develop their economy, education, health care, and

The struggle of the Vietnamese people contributed meaningfully to
twentieth-century national liberation movements in other countries in
both direct and indirect ways. Aside from extending political support
and solidarity to the struggles for self-determination and national
independence across the world, Vietnam also assisted many liberation
forces in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America by sharing
experiences and training their cadres. Furthermore, the victories of
Vietnam against French and US imperialist forces contributed
indirectly to the collapse of colonialism and neo-colonialism across
the world in the twentieth century.

More broadly, by winning significant victories against the imperialist
forces in Vietnam, the Vietnamese Resistance diminished the overall
capacity of these forces to expand their military operations in other
parts of the world, and in this way, too, contributed indirectly to
the world struggle for peace and justice. The development of the world
peace movement and the impact of “Vietnam syndrome” had a
constraining effect on the waging of new wars by imperialist countries
until the end of the Cold War. The just cause and heroic resistance of
the Vietnamese people helped to raise the political awareness of large
populations in many countries in support for the struggle for peace,
democracy and social justice.

Vietnam’s Internationalism since the End of the Cold War

In the wake of the dramatic changes in the world situation after the
collapse of the USSR, Vietnamese foreign policy was adjusted
accordingly while maintaining a consistent goal of national
independence and socialism.

The prime objective of Vietnam’s foreign policy in the new period
has been to sustain peace and stability and expand international
cooperation, with a view to creating favourable conditions for
defending the country’s independence, sovereignty, territorial
integrity, national security, political and social stability, and
promoting socio-economic development in order to improve people’s
living conditions and build socialism. Accordingly, Vietnam has been
widening and diversifying its bilateral and multilateral relations in
the spirit of “being a friend to all countries” and “being a
responsible member of the international community”, while
simultaneously emphasizing and adhering to the principles of peace,
independence, mutual benefits and non-interference in the internal
affairs of other countries, as well as respecting international laws.
The realization of Vietnamese internationalism in the new period has
been re-adjusted in conformity with these objectives.

Peace, national independence and sovereignty, democracy and social
justice remain the core, consistent values of Vietnamese
internationalism at present. Vietnam continues to oppose all wars and
military aggression, and stands against imperialist hegemony and
interference in the internal affairs of other nations; Vietnam
supports the just causes of the people of Cuba and Palestine, and
expresses solidarity with the people of Nicaragua, Venezuela, and
other countries striving to achieve independence, sovereignty, and
social progress. Apart from official state diplomacy, people’s
diplomacy also plays an important role in expressing Vietnamese
internationalism today, with more than 100 mass organizations working
on peace, solidarity, and friendship with people of other countries.
While diversifying external relations, the CPV and many other mass
organisations continue to strengthen their cooperation and exchange
with communist, left, and progressive organizations across the world.

In the spirit of “being a responsible member of the international
community”, Vietnam has been intensifying its participation in, and
contribution to the solution of regional and global challenges in
various areas such as peace and security, climate change, epidemics,
etc. After finally leaving behind its earlier status as a low-income
country, Vietnam began participating in humanitarian operations by UN
peacekeeping missions in selected countries.

Development has become a key area within contemporary Vietnamese
internationalism. Despite still being a relatively poor developing
country itself, Vietnam has been continuously rendering significant
support for socio-economic improvement in Laos and Cambodia by
providing aid, implementing projects for the development of
infrastructure, industry, and agriculture, as well as education,
training, and health care services. Vietnam has also been continuously
providing valuable support to Cuba through aid, debt cancellation,
supplying food, and assisting Cuba in the development of rice
production, among other things. In recent years, Vietnam had sent more
than 400 experts to Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Sudan, Liberia,
Benin, and Guinea, to assist in the establishment and expansion of
rice crops and other essential agricultural products, both for exports
and domestic food security. While observing the principle of mutual
benefit, investment projects under the auspices of Vietnamese state
enterprises are always aimed at supporting sustainable socio-economic
development within other countries. For example, the joint venture
project by Viettel in Mozambique has been praised in the African media
as “a miracle” and declared by Africom to be “the best solution
for improvement of African rural telecommunication networks”; the
project is helping Mozambique to extend its telecommunication
infrastructure from major cities to all rural districts and increase
network coverage 29 percent to 84 percent of the population within 2
years, reducing usage costs by half. A further effect will be to
support many social programs there, including the provision of
unlimited free telecommunications access for all teachers and students
across 4200 schools.

Despite its own continuing status as a developing country, Vietnam has
been increasing its humanitarian contribution to disaster relief funds
in other countries in recent years, to alleviate damages caused by
tsunami, earthquake, flooding, famine, and epidemic. During the recent
Covid-19 pandemic, the government and people of Vietnam have donated
masks and medical equipment to China, Laos, Cambodia, Italy, Spain,
Germany, France, the UK and many other affected countries.

At the same time, international solidarity and support continue to be
extremely important in this new period for Vietnam’s cause of
defending the country and building socialism.

The main external challenges for Vietnam today are the growing threats
to the country’s territorial and maritime sovereignty in the South
China Sea, as well as the challenges to peace and stability in the
region, the continuing attempts by hostile forces to destabilize the
situation and force regime change in Vietnam, the negative impacts of
unjust international trade and economic relations, and the impacts of
climate change on socio-economic development in Vietnam.

In facing these challenges, the Vietnamese people once again need
solidarity and support from, and cooperation with all the people of
the world.

_[Tran Dac Loi is Vice-President of the Vietnam Peace and Development

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