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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

On Revolutionary Morality -- Ho Chi Minh

A look at a classic text by the great Vietnamese revolutionary leader.

Written in 1958 Ho Chi Minh's On Revolutionary Morality looks in very clear and concise terms at the need for revolutionary Communists to combat what he terms the "three enemies" of the revolution, to fight against individualism and subordinate individual interests to those of the party, the people and the working class and to display absolute fidelity to the party and the people.

Translated into English in February 1981 by the Soviet publication Socialism: Theory and Practice (STP) we reprint it here.

Introduction from STP:

Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969), the leader of the liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people and founder of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam), the first socialist state In South-East Asia, devoted a great deal of attention to problems of moral education in the new society both in the years of peaceful construction and during the struggle against foreign imperialist invaders. His reflections about the moral makeup of a Communist, the difficulties involved in moulding a new, socialist, individual are to this day read with great interest. Below follows Ho Chi Minh's article, "On Revolutionary Morality", written in 1958. The article is abridged and the subheadings are supplied by the Editors.

On Revolutionary Morality

Executing a revolution to transform the old society into a new one is a worthy cause, but a most difficult task requiring complicated, long and relentless struggle. Only the strong can cover a long distance carrying a burden on their shoulders. A revolutionary must rely upon revolutionary morality and draw strength from it. Only then will they be able to fulfil their glorious revolutionary task.


We who have grown up in the old society are, in a measure, bearers of its ugly survivals in our psychology, habits, etc. The most repulsive and dangerous vestige inherited from the old society is individualism. It is in utter contradiction with revolutionary ethics. If it persists, even to a very small degree, it may develop at the slightest provocation and suppress the moral qualities of the revolutionary and prevent them from devoting themselves wholly to the fight for the cause of the revolution.

Individualism is deceitful and insidious; it treacherously pulls one down. And it is always easier to go down than up. This makes individualism especially dangerous.

In order to uproot the survivals of the past and foster in ourselves the moral qualities of a true revolutionary we must study, educate ourselves, transform ourselves in order to move on indefatigably. If one does not strive to make progress one will inevitably stop and fall behind. And if one stops and falls behind, the developing society will cast them aside.

If one possesses the moral qualities of a revolutionary, they will not become frightened, lose their head or retreat before difficulties and defeats. One will, without hesitation, sacrifice their personal interests for the sake of the common interests of the party, the revolution, the working class, the nation and the whole of humanity. If need be, they will even sacrifice their life -- readily and without regret. This is a consistent and supreme manifestation of the moral qualities of a revolutionary. If one possesses the moral qualities of a revolutionary one will remain straightforward and modest under favourable conditions too, after having achieved success; one will not forget the difficulties they have gone through. "Worry before others, rejoice after others", think how to perform your duty in the best way without caring for remuneration, do not give way to self-conceit, red-tape, do not put on airs, do not fall prey to depravity. These are also manifestations of revolutionary morality.


The revolutionary must see all this clearly and hence firmly stand on the position of the working class. They must spare no efforts in fighting for socialism and communism, for the working class and all other working people. Revolutionary morality implies absolute fidelity to the party and the people.

The struggle for socialism is a long and difficult process. Revolutionaries are needed because there are enemies of the revolution.

The revolution has three enemies. Capitalism and imperialism are very dangerous. Backward customs and traditions are the second enemy, because they put hidden obstacles in the way of the revolution. You cannot neglect them. They must be painstakingly eliminated, but it takes time.

The third enemy is individualism, petty-bourgeois ideology that still persists in every one of us. It is waiting for a chance to raise its head. It is an ally of the two above-mentioned enemies.

Therefore, revolutionary morality implies the need to resolutely fight against all enemies, constantly maintain vigilance, be ready for action, never to yield to the enemy or kowtow to them. This is the only way you can beat the enemy and live up to your revolutionary duty.


If there is no unity in the views and actions of the party members, then the organization will turn into a jumble, everyone doing whatever they like. In this case it is impossible to lead the masses and carry out the revolution.

The party formulates its policy and makes decisions in the interests of the people. Therefore, revolutionary morality requires that a party member unswervingly follow party policy and abide by party guidelines, even in most trying conditions, and set an example for the masses to emulate. Every party member must have a highly developed sense of responsibility to the people and the party; individualism must be suppressed and resolutely uprooted.

Our Party represents the common interests of the working class and all working people, and not any personal interests of a group of people or an individual. This is common knowledge.

The working class is fighting not only for its own emancipation but also for the emancipation of all of humanity from oppression and exploitation. This is why the interests of the working class coincide with those of the whole people. Acting in the name of the party, a party member represents the interests of the working class and all the working people. This is why the interests of a party member should be those of the party and the working class, and not be opposed to them. Every victory and achievement of the party and the working class are the victory and achievement of every party member. However gifted an individual may be, they are incapable of doing anything if divorced from the party and the working class.


Revolutionary morality obliges every party member to place the interests of the party above their own in all circumstances. If a party member's personal interests are at variance with those of the party, they must subordinate them to the party's.

During the time when the party was underground and during the war of resistance many comrades valiantly sacrificed their lives; heroes and front-rankers of production give all their energy to work. These people do not demand high posts and honours, and they never demand any "gratitude" from the party.

We still have in our ranks party members who have not overcome their individualism; they demand to be "paid back". If they have certain merits they await the party's thanks for them. They demand privileges, honours and high posts. They want more material benefits. If their demands are not complied with they rebuke the party, considering themselves "deprived of prospects" and "sacrificed". And they gradually depart from the party to the point of going against party policy and party discipline.

They criticize others but do not wish to be criticized; they abhor self-criticism or else they criticize themselves insincerely, not seriously. They fear that after self-criticism they may lose their respectability, their authority. They do not heed the views of the masses. They do not understand that it is difficult to avoid mistakes if one is not passive. We are not afraid of mistakes, we are only afraid that upon making a mistake we may not decide to correct it.


Combatting individualism should not be identified with "trampling underfoot personal interests". Each person has their own traits of character, their fine qualities, their private and family life. If personal interests do not contradict those of the collective there is nothing bad in them. Socialism alone enables everyone to improve the conditions of their personal life, to develop their character and qualities.

No system other than socialism and communism displays such respect for humanity, pays such attention to the advancement of personal interests (provided they are legitimate) and ensures the satisfaction of these interests. A society dominated by an exploiting class meets the interests of only a handful of people that comprise this class, while ignoring the interests of the working class. Under communism and socialism it is the working people that are the masters of society. Every person as a member of the collective occupies a definite place in society and makes their contribution to the labour effort of the whole of society. Therefore, the interests of an individual in line with the interests of the collective form a component part of the latter. Only if the satisfaction of the interests of the collective is guaranteed, conditions are engendered for the satisfaction of the interests of the individual.

The interests of the individual are closely interwoven with those of the collective. If one's personal interests clash with those of the collective, revolutionary morality demands that the individual subordinate them to the common interests of the collective.

* * *

Revolutionary morality does not come out of the blue. It develops and gains strength in day-by-day struggle, in day-by-day persistent steeling. It is like a diamond which sparkles the brighter the longer it is polished, it is like gold which becomes the purer the longer it is subjected to fire. What can be finer, what can bring more happiness than the ability to foster in oneself the moral qualities of a true revolutionary so as to make a worthy contribution to the construction of socialism and the emancipation of humanity!



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