PhD in History, Associate Professor, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Ho Chi Minh's thoughts, Academy of Journalism and Communication, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
PRESIDENT HO CHI MINH WITH SELF-CRITICISM AND CRITICISM
President Ho Chi Minh highly valued the principle of self-criticism and criticism, so he made it the living principle and development rule of the Communist Party of Vietnam. He has left not only a distinctive theoretical system but also a shining example of self-criticism and the way of criticism. By analyzing the originality of Ho Chi Minh’s thought and the practice of self-criticism and criticism, the author proves its vitality and guiding value for the Party building in Vietnam.
Президент Хо Ши Мин высоко ценил принцип самокритики и критики, поэтому он сделал его живым принципом и правилом развития Коммунистической партии Вьетнама. Он оставил не только самобытную теоретическую систему, но и яркий пример самокритики и способа критики. Анализируя самобытность мысли Хо Ши Мина и практику самокритики и критики, автор доказывает их жизнеспособность и руководящую ценность для партийного строительства во Вьетнаме.
Keywords: Vietnam history, Vietnamese communist party, policy, Ho Chi Minh.
Ключевые слова: история Вьетнама, Вьетнамская коммунистическая партия, политика, Хо Ши Мин.
President Ho Chi Minh has devoted his entire life to Vietnam’s revolutionary cause. He realized that a revolutionary party played a crucial part in creating a revolutionary movement. Self-criticism and criticism were necessary “weapons,” making the Party transparent, powerful, and capable. With the experience of a person who has traveled all over the world and directly founded the Party, Ho Chi Minh not only considers self-criticism and criticism “sharp weapons” for developing the Party and improving people but also brings them into the art of humane behavior. In fact, he has turned self-criticism and criticism into a widespread movement throughout the Party and society, promoting people and organizations towards perfection.
1. The originality of Ho Chi Minh’s views on self-criticism and criticism
The classics of Marxism - Leninism also highly appreciated the principle of criticism and self-criticism. According to Vladimir Lenin, the Party cannot avoid making mistakes in leading the masses, but it must not hide them. It shall be brave to “criticize itself and continue to expose its shortcomings uncompromisingly” , p.220]. Lenin emphasized: “The reason all the revolutionary parties which have collapsed is due to egotism. They have no idea what constitutes their strength and do not dare to talk about their weaknesses” [10, p.141]. Inheriting these views, Ho Chi Minh attached great value to the principle of self-criticism and criticism. In the book “Ho Chi Minh: Complete Volume,” there are nearly 200 articles talking about this topic. In his Will, he advised: “It is needful to practice democracy widely in the Party. Regular and serious self-criticism and criticism is the best way to strengthen and develop the unity of the Party” [7, p. 611]. To guide officials, he gave a comprehensive and profound viewpoint on issues of self-criticism and criticism. In particular, he had a unique interpretation of all contents.
First of all, Ho Chi Minh explained the importance of the principle of self-criticism and criticism. With practical experience, he affirmed that humans were not gods, so everyone had flaws. The Party is a collection of many elements with different ideologies, psychology, and lifestyles, so contradictions quickly arise. However, because this conflict is internal among comrades, not antagonistic, it’s too difficult to eliminate it by class struggle. Self-criticism and criticism will be the fundamental measure for this issue. Moreover, due to each country’s different and changeable situation, the revolutionary cause needs creativity and cannot be “stereotypical” according to any model. The testing process can causes faults. Ho Chi Minh said: “Errors appear in the working process.” Therefore, the Party shall regularly self-criticize and criticize to reduce its shortcomings and increase advantages. After becoming the ruling Party, the Party must solve many new problems that society constantly poses, so self-criticism and criticism become urgent tasks. The perception and way of dealing with the work of cadres and party members cannot be perfect immediately. Furthermore, many wrongdoings are created by power. Only self-criticism and criticism will improve the qualifications and qualities of officials. For the above reasons, it can be said that self-criticism and criticism are the development rule of the Party. Ho Chi Minh concluded: “Stopping criticizing and self-criticizing means stopping the progress, that is, throwback. Air is vital for our life. Similarly, revolutionaries and mass organizations need criticism and self-criticism as people need air” [4, p. 114].
President Ho Chi Minh defined self-criticism and criticism to guide cadres. He wrote: “Self-criticism means that an individual (or an organization, group) honestly accepts his shortcomings to correct them so that others help him correct them, know and avoid the fault he has committed. Criticism means that if you see someone (or individuals, agencies, organizations) doing something incorrectly, you shall sincerely tell them so that they can correct their lapse” [6, p. 386]. He pointed out that self-criticism and criticism were two sides of the same coin, and there was a dialectical unity and mutual transformation among them. To be honest, self-criticism is also criticism. It is the process of separating yourself to recognize your strengths and weaknesses to promote or reduce them. On the contrary, criticism is also self-criticism because when criticizing others, we will look back at ourselves and “draw lessons for ourselves.”
Secondly, Marxist-Leninist classics used the phrase “criticism and self-criticism,” while Ho Chi Minh applied two ways of expression: “Criticism and self-criticism” and “Self-criticism and criticism.” In the “Ho Chi Minh: Complete Volume,” the number of times he wrote the phrase “self-criticism and criticism” was 88. The term “criticism and self-criticism” only appeared 74 times. It is not a verbal accident but a great idea that is, if people can self-criticize severely, they are qualified to criticize others and know how to criticize others. According to him, if we want to be good cadres, we must be brave and “have a spirit of self-criticism.” Those who are cowardly and afraid of losing prestige will not dare to criticize themselves. They want to criticize others but do not want others to blame them. Discussing the significance of self-criticism, he explained: “Self-criticism not only helps us correct and improve ourselves but also makes others avoid doing something incorrectly. For example, there are tens of thousands of members in our Party. If Comrade A makes an error and honestly criticizes himself, the others will know and will not do the same. On the contrary, if Comrade A doesn’t honestly self-criticize, letting other members make the same fault, there will be tens of thousands shortcomings in our Party” [4, p. 81]. Therefore, self-criticism is not low self-esteem but courage, honesty, and responsibility for the Party and the people. Self-criticism shows not only the spirit of learning and the will but also the ethical practice under the motto: “Being strict with yourself and tolerant towards others.”
Thanks to incredible effects, self-criticism and criticism have become an intrinsic need of organizations and their members. However, they must be applied for the proper purpose to gain the best result. Ho Chi Minh said that the purpose of self-criticism and criticism was to “help each other improve themselves, modify the working style, and unite internally” [2, p. 272]. Thus, the purpose of self-criticism and criticism is to help people and organizations be better, not slander each other. He also emphasized that these two factors were “the sharp weapons, making our Party stronger. Thanks to them, we control our weaknesses, develop our strengths, and continuously improve” [5, p. 521]. This statement indicates not only his belief in the ability to move to the good but also a noble human spirit.
With love and understanding of human psychology, Ho Chi Minh stated that it was necessary to identify both strengths and weaknesses in the work of self-criticism and criticism. However, we shall point out the advantages firstly and then the disadvantages. If we start by “pointing out wrong things” and focusing on the shortcomings, the criticized person will be offended, even depressed. Therefore, we shall encourage them first, making them be in a good mood and ready to face their limitations that need to be corrected. Because Ho Chi Minh always appreciated the efforts of cadres, he objected to “showing more shortcomings than advantages, causing some people to become discouraged and negative” [4, p.319].
Lastly, Ho Chi Minh’s thought on self-criticism and criticism is remarkable in the thesis: “To gain good results in self-criticism and criticism, cadres at all levels, especially senior officials, shall be examples first” [3, p. 459]. He stated: “Criticism is everyone’s right and duty, and the practice of democracy. Subordinates have the right to criticize superiors. Moreover, the people can criticize cadres, the government, the Party, and other agencies. Everyone has the right to criticize other people for making progress together. Party members and cadres shall be exemplary and honest in criticizing and self-criticizing to strengthen themselves and educate the people” [4, pp. 114 – 115]. Ho Chi Minh’s opinion that is “Party members holding leadership positions must be exemplary in the criticism and self-criticism, especially self-criticism,” is both suitable for the Eastern culture of “setting an example” and consistent with the actual work of the leader. Obviously, officials with high positions have to deal with many important things, so the probability of making mistakes will be increased. Therefore, according to Ho Chi Minh, criticism is not only “from superior to subordinate” but must be “from subordinate to superior,” especially criticism of the masses. The people have “hundreds of ears and a thousand eyes,” so they know each cadre in the Party. They clearly understand what these officials are like and whether they are doing a good job or not. We should let them criticize, and appointing cadres shall be based on their opinions, which will be reasonable and fair. He said that if the criticism had something wrong, we would explain it to them. However, if their appreciation was wholly or partially correct, we would still encourage their actions and “not oppress them” [6, p. 414].
According to Ho Chi Minh, only if self-criticism and criticism are conducted with transparent motivation and the right attitude can they bring positive results. He condemned the phenomenon of “criticizing someone only for personal attacks, quarrels, revenge, and pettiness, not for the Party, progress, or work” [2, p. 298]. It is indispensable to avoid taking advantage of criticism to tease, fight, bring each other down, or flatter superiors. Ho Chi Minh always reminded that cadres had to use compassion and honesty to criticize. In Vietnamese culture, “kindness” is known as the root in dealing with each other. “Kindness” means we are benevolent, humane, respectful, and love people in the spirit of “loving others as much as yourself.” People with flaws are our comrades, not our enemy, so our attitude shall be sincere and derived from deep affection. When we know they are doing something incorrectly, we must point it out immediately, helping them solve it thoroughly. He emphasized that “if we let shortcomings become serious and then “correct” them, it will “destroy” cadres, causing them to lose confidence. The enthusiastic person will become discouraged, and even useless” [2, p. 322]. He asked critics not to use sarcastic or provoking words, be prejudiced, or show a negative attitude, but to have faith in people's progress with flaws. On the contrary, the criticized persons had to have an attitude of learning, sincerity, honesty, and not be discouraged or resentful. They had to avoid “hiding mistakes,” which could make the situation worse. In addition, they had to avoid harsh reactions and provocative attitudes to critics or superficial acceptance and not being determined to improve. If the criticism was incorrect, they had to be calm and humble to explain. We had to have tolerance and altruism for members of an organization, which was the best way to help our colleagues correct errors and promptly encourage those determined to improve themselves. Motivation and attitude of criticism and self-criticism would show the cultural level of people and the democracy index of the organization.
Besides the right motivation and attitude, the suitable method plays a fundamental role in reaching good results. In this content, Ho Chi Minh gave great instructions.
Firstly, self-criticism and criticism must be implemented daily. It’s like “eating and washing your face every day” [4, p. 82]. Criticism cannot be done “once in a lifetime” because the revolutionary cause is continuous. Each party member has ongoing activities and duties, so the risk of making mistakes is relatively high. Therefore, self-criticism and criticism must take place regularly and naturally, not only at year-end summaries.
Secondly, self-criticizing, as well as criticizing others, must be honest and objective. So what is honesty in self-criticism and criticism? Ho Chi Minh explained: “When we review as well as self-criticize in front of other people, we must show all our shortcomings. We have to find the cause. How will that fault be? How to fix it? And we must firmly correct it” [4, p. 82]. He criticized the practice of “sectarianism” in self-criticizing and criticizing. For example, “people who get on well with us, and are bad ones, are still considered good ones. Their bad work is also seen as the good, leading to mutual protection and support. On the other hand, people who don’t get on well with us, and are good ones, are still considered bad ones. Their good work is also seen as the bad. And then, we find a way to slander and bring them down” [2, p.297]. He also reproved the attitude of “a bad compromise is better than a good lawsuit” and the fear of self-criticism and criticism. He said: “Being compliant and letting our comrades keep doing something wrong and fail, are like not curing them when they’re sick. Not daring to self-criticize and allowing flaws to be accumulated are like poisoning ourselves” [2, p. 301]. He asked cadres to avoid the criticism that was a mere formalism.
Lastly, criticism needs to be accurate and skillful to let a criticized person be persuaded and determined to correct. Ho Chi Minh used the term “skillfully using criticism and self-criticism” to prove that criticism was not only a science but also an art. He said: “We must censure wisely and skillfully, like shining a mirror for all people, helping them see their drawbacks so that they can correct themselves” [2, p. 284]. “Skillful” criticism is a harmonious combination of “reason” and “emotion.” Thus, we need to “criticize the action, not the person doing it.” That is, the criticism shall be associated with specific work. We shall avoid criticism that is generic and unfounded. The object of criticism is the vices that have affected human behavior. It’s not allowed to criticize the self-respect and honor of other people. The words shall be conventional, pedantic, and touching, transforming “criticism” into “self-criticism.” Ho Chi Minh’s “skillful” critique embodies the spirit of democracy and humanism and respects each person’s “ego.”
He summed up the value of self-criticism and criticism for the Party’s development as follows: “A Party hiding its flaws is a corrupted one. In contrast, a progressive, brave, and genuine Party recognizes its limitations and defines the causes and situations that lead to them” [2, p. 301]. Assessing the strength of a Party through the implementation of self-criticism and criticism is a particular point of view of Ho Chi Minh. It can be affirmed that each of his statements is specific and practical, exuding the spirit of democracy and love for people. Moreover, it is easy to understand and close to daily life, so anyone can follow it if he is determined.
2. Ho Chi Minh - a shining example of self-criticism and criticism
Ho Chi Minh is a prestigious leader of the Party and the people. In the first general election (on January 6, 1946), although the country was in a complicated situation of “being against enemies both foreign and domestic,” he was elected as a member of the first National Assembly with a high number of votes, reaching 98.4%. He was elected as President by the National Assembly. Ho Chi Minh, a famous man getting the love of millions of people, was humble, often self-criticized sincerely.
After establishing the Government, on January 28, 1946, he wrote an article named “Self-criticism” published in the National Salvation, pointing out both the things he had been done and had not. His achievements were stated briefly, but limitations were explicitly given. Although objective reasons caused the constraints, he said: “To be honest, compatriots’ efforts have brought success. The above shortcomings belong to me. From now on, I hope you will help me correct those errors in many ways, and firstly, by properly and fully implementing the Government’s orders” [1, pp. 192-193]. He not only voluntarily admitted his fault but also encouraged the people to help him fulfill his duties humbly. It was not the first time he had admitted his limitations. In 1946, in the article “Finding the talents,” he wrote: “Our country needs to be built and developed, which requires many talents. There must be many talented and ethical people in the 20 million people. Since the Government has not known all of them, they are not employed. I would like to admit that shortcoming” [1, p. 504]. Being a leader of the Government and taking care of many duties, he voluntarily took his responsibility for each task that was not fulfilled well.
He always advised cadres to be close to the people, work democratically, and not force them to do anything. However, for the incorrectness of officials in public relations, he took his responsibility. In his Letter to the compatriots of Inter-Zone IV (1950), he wrote: “After hearing the report of the inspectors, my heart was broken. The Government has punished those cadres. I sincerely apologize to you, my compatriots, who have suffered injustices by their flaws. I honestly self-criticize my fault. I have not trained and selected cadres carefully” [3, p. 396]. These are words of the man who respects the people and always tries to serve them.
In 1956, when Ho Chi Minh found serious mistakes in land reform, he convened the 10th Plenum of the expanded Central Committee to discuss the solutions. He said: “Because our Party lacks democracy, we find few problems. Now, the Party shall be democratic. I take all responsibility for all issues in this turbulent period. All of us must listen, observe, and find methods to solve. This lesson will motivate us” [3, p. 263]. The consequences of the reform are serious, and its flaws shall be assessed appropriately to correct them and learn valuable lessons. At the Politburo meeting in August 1958, he criticized himself that he was “bureaucratic, not close to reality, confident on reports and reporters” [4, p. 96], leading to the government’s unsuitable instructions. As the head of the Party and Government, he consciously admitted his flaws in tough times.
The fact that the South was not free made him tormented a lot. He said: “I have not fulfilled my revolutionary obligations to the people in the South” [7, p. 675]. Therefore, he refused to receive the Gold Star Order from the Vietnamese State and the Order of Lenin from the Soviet State and promised that he would accept those noble rewards after the South had been liberated. In the process of working and living with subordinates, he often encouraged them to remark him. He thought that educating cadres required a critical spirit, so he said: “For example, if I have done bad things, you must disapprove of me so that I can correct them immediately. Like I have a stain on my forehead, if you see it and don’t tell me, it’s there forever. The stain on a person’s forehead can be harmless. However, if there is “a stain” in his mind and spirit, and we do not tell him to remove it, we harm him” [2, p. 260]. That saying shows not only the democratic spirit, curiosity, and self-correction of a great man but also his views on the revolutionary’s courage and responsibility in criticizing the superiors.
Ho Chi Minh is consistent between words and actions and a model of the critical spirit. His criticism is straightforward but full of sophistication and tolerance for cadres and the masses, making those who have made mistakes understand and determined to correct them. Talking about his critical style and behavior, Former Prime Minister Pham Van Dong said: “In many years working with President Ho Chi Minh, he never gets angry and hurts his comrades, which makes me amazed whenever I recall. Personally, I would like to tell a story, which moves me after many decades. I made a mistake, affecting adversely on his plans. However, Uncle Ho just told me: “You broke my plan!” I find him incredibly tolerant because he has behaved in such a compassionate way. That’s why this lesson is forever in my mind” [8, p. 204]. It cannot be denied that Ho Chi Minh’s exemplariness, pioneering, proper attitude, and humanistic spirit have played a vital role in turning self-criticism and criticism into a routine in Party activities and behaviors in society.
It can be stated that President Ho Chi Minh has turned self-criticism and criticism into a science and an art. However, self-criticism and criticism in the Communist Party of Vietnam have not been carried out following his thought. The phenomenon of not daring to fight against the wrong and defend the right and sketchy self-criticism are pretty popular in the Party, making his ideology and example of self-criticism and criticism more valuable in theory and practice. Therefore, studying and following his views, morality, self-criticism, and criticism to bring the good things for our nation and the strength of our Party is an urgent requirement in Vietnam currently./.
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