The sustainable value of Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought

(PTOJ) – Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought – a value system distilled, supplemented, and developed from the good values of traditional national and human moralities; illuminated by the worldview and methodology of Marxism – Leninism, thus having universal and sustainable value. Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought became a great force behind the victory of the Vietnamese revolution. At the same time, it contributed to the struggle for peace, democracy, and progress for all mankind. The world has and will continue to change, but Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought will forever remain with the nation and the times.

The sustainable value of Ho Chi Minh's moral thought

The Central Commission for Communication and Education chaired and coordinated with the Central Organizing Committee, the Central Theoretical Council, and the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics to organize the National Scientific Conference “Building revolutionary ethical standards of cadres and party members in the new period”, May 19, 2023 – Photo:

Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought – a value system inherited, distilled, supplemented, and developed from the good values of traditional culture and moralities of Vietnam and the East; combined with the quintessential values of humanity and Marxist ethics. Therefore it embodies the universal values for the nation and humanity, and has enduring significance. The sustainable value of Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought can be explained based on the following theories and practices:

Firstly, Ho Chi Minh’s ethical thought is imbued with the philosophy of Vietnamese traditional culture and the quintessence of human culture, illuminated by the worldview and methodology of Marxism – Leninism. On this matter, scholar Hélène Tourmaire summarized: “The image of Ho Chi Minh is complete with the combination of Buddha’s wisdom, God’s compassion, Marx’s philosophy, Lenin’s revolutionary genius and the affection of a patriarch, all wrapped in a very natural demeanor”(1).

It can be understood that Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought is both universal and particular to communist moralities encompassing traditional moral values of the nation and humanity. Therefore, Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought became the moral foundation of the new society, creating strength and bringing the Vietnamese revolutionary cause to glorious victory.

Based on absorbing and selectively inheriting the good traditional moral values of the nation and the times, Ho Chi Minh approached communist morality from the comprehensive nature of moral relationships; from the comprehensive role of morals and from the essence of revolutionary morality to observe and reflect on Vietnamese historical-social reality; while supplementing, developing, and forming a new moral value system in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought was formed and developed in conjunction with the fight for national independence and the process of building a new society – a socialist society in Vietnam; meeting the requirements and demands of the nation’s history and embraced by all classes of people.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Vietnam was a semi-feudal colonial country with a poor, backward, stagnant, and underdeveloped economy. Under the yoke of colonialism and feudalism, the social moral value system was corrupted because: “The colonial regime poisoned our people with alcohol and opium. It used all sorts of tricks to corrupt our nation with bad habits, laziness, fraud, embezzlement, and other vices”(2). he relationship between individuals, and personal relationships in the community were evaluated by class, wealth, and position… it was a relationship of inequality, without democracy, without freedom; people were trampled, the moral value ladder in society were determined by the decrees of the king and the regulations of the colonial rulers. Therefore, all social moral values were aimed at serving the interests of the rulers and protecting the apparatus of the colonial and feudal governments.

According to Ho Chi Minh, the social morality under the colonial regime was extremely old-fashioned and corrupt, and it needed to be abolished. To achieve this, it is necessary to conduct a revolution, to eradicate the colonial rule and feudal minions, and at the same time build a revolutionary moral value system, in order to protect good traditional moral values and add new moral values, all in service of the people.

Ho Chi Minh affirmed, this is a glorious, but also very heavy and difficult endeavor: “Making a revolution to transform the old society into a new one is a very glorious undertaking, but it is also a very heavy task, a very complex, long, arduous struggle. Only with great strength can one carry the burden and go far. A revolutionary must have revolutionary morality as their foundation in order to fulfill the glorious revolutionary task”(3). Therefore, the first thing he carried out was to organize training, equip revolutionary theories, and build consciousness and moral qualities for the cadres. The training of cadres aimed to make them qualified, intellectual, capable people with a radical revolutionary spirit, ready to sacrifice for communist ideals, for the independence and freedom of the Fatherland, and for the happiness of the people.

Practice shows that, during the period of the national liberation revolution, alongside the propagating Marxist – Leninist theory on the proletarian revolutionary line, Ho Chi Minh simultaneously spread theoretical foundations of Marxist ethics and traditional moral values for revolutionary cadres. This is evident in his lectures at cadre training classes in Guangzhou – China (which were later compiled into the work The Revolutionary Road). In the first chapter: “Qualities of a Revolutionary”, there are 23 moral standards, which are summarized in 3 relationships: “With oneself, with people, with work”. These are the basic, dialectical relationships that constitute moral qualities, “qualities of a genuine revolutionary cadre”.

Among these 3 relationships, Ho Chi Minh especially emphasized moral criteria concerning oneself (14 criteria). People consider moral self-cultivation (self-cultivation) as the root of moral relationships and forms of moral cultivation. As a revolutionary one must first have revolutionary morality; Only by self-training and moral cultivation can each individual have a revolutionary stance and bravery, actively fight against all negative phenomena, and overcome all circumstances, difficulties, and challenges.

Ho Chi Minh affirmed that morality is the root, and the relationship with oneself is the foundational relationship. Thus, the ethical relationship with oneself should be regarded as the root of all roots. He said, “Just like a river, there is a source to have water, without a source, the river dries up. The tree must have a root, if there is no root, the tree will wither. A revolutionary must have morality, without morality, no matter how talented he is, he will not be able to lead the people”(4).

According to Ho Chi Minh, the core issue of the revolutionary’s moral character must first be expressed by the moral qualities in his relationship with themself: “Loyalty to the country, devoted to the people; “diligence, thrift, integrity, righteousness, and impartiality”. In order to acquire those qualities, self-cultivation, moral training, and the formation of the moral consciousness of cadres play a decisive role in the success or failure of the revolutionary cause. This is because: “Havin revolutionary morality means when facing difficulties, hardships, and failures, one will not be afraid, timid, or back down”(5); “when facing advantages and successes, one still maintains a hardworking, straightforward, and humble spirit”(6).

Ho Chi Minh studied and deeply understood Eastern culture and the moralities of Eastern philosophy in general, and Vietnam in particular. When studying Confucian morality, he realized that the essence of the Confucian moral value system was as a “tool” of the social management of the feudal class. Confucian morality advise people to “be respectful of things, intellectual, sincere, righteous, cultivate the body, properly maintain the family, rule the country, and stabilize the world”, etc… The ultimate goals of these moral values (or moral criteria) is to serve the ruling class, protect the social order that upholds the caste system (it can be considered as the doctrine of Chinese and Eastern “Traditionalism”).

Ho Chi Minh asserted: “The mind of Confucius was never stirred by revolutionary doctrines. His morality is perfect, but it cannot be fused with the currents of modern thought, like a round lid, how can it cover a square box?”(7).

Therefore, although still using the “formal shell” of Confucian moral standards, such as loyalty, filial piety, diligence, thrift, integrity, righteousness, etc., Ho Chi Minh carried out a “revolution of moral thought”, changing the nature of Confucian moral standards. If Confucian morality dictates “loyalty to the king, filial piety to parents”; then Ho Chi Minh’s morality – revolutionary morality is: “Loyalty to the country, filial piety to the people”; the standards of “diligence, thrift, integrity, righteousness, and impartiality” are not to serve the ruling class, but to serve the people and protect the equal rights of people.

Obviously, Ho Chi Minh’s moral values have been enhanced and changed qualitatively. To a certain extent, Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought is “the doctrine of equality”.

In particular, Ho Chi Minh clearly recognized that in Eastern society, moral criteria (especially personal morality) are only appreciated and praised when those criteria and moral qualities are valuable and make meaningful contributions while being dedication to the community. For every individual, to be admired and promoted, one must be an exemplary moral example, must be “Bright and righteous” for everyone to learn from and follow. In that spirit, Ho Chi Minh always advised cadres and party members: “One must be righteous first before you can help others”(8); “You must set an example of thrift and integrity for yourself, for the people to follow”(9). In his view, “setting an example” must always be accompanied by “following the example”. Ho Chi Minh clearly understood the essence, value, and meaning of setting an example, as he himself became a shining example of leading by example.

As early as 1924, in a letter to Comrade Petrov, General Secretary of the Communist International’s Oriental Committee, he wrote: “In general the peoples of the East are rich in sentiments, and for them a living example is worth more than a hundred propaganda speeches”(10). To become a true revolutionary cadre, “when doing anything, do not think of oneself first, when enjoying something, put oneself last”; “care for the world first, rejoice in the world’s joy later”.

In order to be trusted and respected by the people, and to become a “living example” for the masses to follow, cadres must know how to stay away from individualism. These are vices and bad habits that are common and easily acquired such as subjectivity, narrow-mindedness, boastfulness, officiousness, status, etc. Therefore, it is necessary to cultivate and practice morality to: “Not crave for status. Not desire for wealth. Not lust for pleasure. Not covet praise. Therefore, be bright and righteous and never corrupt. There is only one kind of desire, which is the desire to learn, to do, and to progress”(11).

To become an example, every cadre, party member, and leader, in any matter, must be a pioneer. Ho Chi Minh pointed out: “In front of the masses, it’s not enough to write ‘communist’ on our forehead to be loved by them. The masses only love people with moral character. If we want to guide people, we must set a standard for others to imitate”(12). “Setting an example” must happen through action, “Talk goes along with action”, and “talk less, do more”; resolutely overcome all manifestations of bureaucracy, mandates, detachment from reality and from the masses. Each cadre, party member, and leader, in cultivating and training their morals, must demonstrate love and compassion for humanity, live with love and meaning.

Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought was formed from the combination and distillation of the nation’s good traditional moral values and the quintessence of Marxist moralities. Using these revolutionary moral value systems, Ho Chi Minh effectively applied it to the training and coaching of cadres. As a result, the Vietnamese Revolution has acquired a team of cadres and party members who are loyal, patriotic, and ready to dedicate and sacrifice for the struggle for independence and freedom of the Fatherland, and the happiness of the people. Ho Chi Minh specifically mentioned: “In our Party, comrades Tran Phu, Ngo Gia Tu, Le Hong Phong, Nguyen Van Cu, Hoang Van Thu, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, and many other comrades fought for the people and the Party. he lifelong sacrifices of these martyred heroes have become immortal monuments in the hearts of the people, establishing an absolute trust between the Party and the populace. This forms the most important foundation, creating the strength to defeat the enemy, achieving the final victory of the revolutionary cause, and sustaining the vitality and durability of Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought.

The enduring value of Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought is also demonstrated in his great example of moral practice. Ho Chi Minh not only converges the moral qualities of a genius leader, but also embodies a new type of leader – the leader of the people: great yet incredibly humble, close and intimately bonded with the masses, dedicatedly caring for the nation’s independence and reunification. He spent his entire life fighting for a prosperous Vietnam where its people have a prosperous and happy life. His moral example is therefore compelling and deeply touching, a pride of the Vietnamese people and has a far-reaching influence on the people of the world. The value of his moral thought thus has become a universal value, admired, and respected by all of progressive mankind.

Secondly, the enduring value of Ho Chi Minh’s ethical thoughts lies in the unity between class, ethnicity, and humanity. The unity between moral ideals and moral actions, all for the sake of the Fatherland, for the happiness of the people; for the cause of social liberation, class liberation, and radical human liberation.

Due to socio-historical conditions and theories of solving ethnic and class relations, the classics of Marxism- Leninism mainly focus on class issues and didn’t adequately focus on ethnic issues, especially colonial ethnic issues. Ho Chi Minh’s addition (from Vietnam’s revolutionary practice) on the relationship between ethnicity and class issues, in which national interests are prioritized, is a great revolutionary theoretical innovation of his own. In terms of morality, the interests of the nation and the class are unified; National oppression and inequality between nations are the root cause and basis of class oppression. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct a revolution for national liberation which simultaneously liberates the class. In addition to the unity between class and ethnicity, Ho Chi Minh further developed the essence of morality in aligning national and ethnic interests with international ones. Love for the people, and love for the nation were elevated by him to a new height, linking love with the desire to liberate the people, regardless of skin color, race, class, or religion. Ho Chi Minh sacrificed his whole life to fight to liberate the people from oppression and injustice. He once stated: “All four oceans belong to one family; Yellow, black, white, red are all siblings”.

For Ho Chi Minh, love for humanity is the most beautiful moral value. Loving humanity shows the relationship between individuals within the social relations, to the love the people, one must believe in them. One must be strict with oneself and forgiving, tolerant, generous towards others, elevating each individual, even those who have gone astray, lost their way, made mistakes, and failed. Loving people means to help each individual progress and become better, to self-criticize and criticize others sincerely, helping each other to correct shortcomings, and maximize strengths to continuously improve.

Throughout Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought is the love for people, which is the inheritance and development of human morality, and the nature of the nation’s traditional moralities. Our Party affirmed: “The life of President Ho Chi Minh shines like a beacon. It is a great example of a resilient revolutionary spirit, independent and self-reliant spirit, the humanity and love for the people, morality, fairness and impartiality, humble and simple manner. His thoughts and morals forever enlighten and uplift our souls”(14).

Thirdly, Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought is based on the principle of dialectical unity between “practical and spiritual”; and between “moral practice and moral consciousness”.

Moral consciousness must be expressed in action to have educational value, and to bring social benefits, and prevent immoral behavior. Without moral practice, the moral consciousness will not reach its value and will fall into abstraction in the style of religious teachings based on “false beliefs”. If we only stop at general and abstract moral philosophies, which have no effect on practical activities to improve society and improve people, it is not revolutionary morality.

Ho Chi Minh affirmed that revolutionary morality is a morality of action, aiming to bring about practical results for the revolution, not an ethic that puts lulls people into complacency. Only in action can revolutionary morality reveal its values. Revolutionary morality demand each individual to be conscious, persistently cultivate themselves regularly “like daily face washing”. At the same time, we must persist in the goal of eliminating bad habits and outdated customs and resolutely fight the “enemy in the heart” – individualism, which is a distinct feature of Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought.

Viewed from the perspective of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought is based on the point of view of inheritance and development, grasping the essence and phenomena, the internal and external relations of morality, thereby offering a new method of morality building. Ho Chi Minh instructed that in order to build a revolutionary morality, it is necessary to closely combine “construction and resistance”.

He considered the construction of a revolutionary morality with new moral values as “a giant battle”, that is, a fierce struggle “between the old and the new”; between progress and backwardness; between revolution and counterrevolution. Therefore, in order to “build” a revolutionary morality with the goal of radical liberation, aiming at serving people, one must “fight” the remnants of the “old morality” But if you want to “fight” effectively, you must “build” a new moral foundation and prioritize the building.

He fully realizes that on the road to progress and revolution, the new morality can only be built successfully when mobilizing and gathering all social forces and all classes of people to participate. Since “the revolution is the cause of the masses” because the power of the people is invincible, therefore the “people must be taken as the root”. With that in mind, Ho Chi Minh regularly reminded each cadre and party member to uphold the spirit of service and responsibility before the people and to take care of the people’s material and spiritual life. He analyzed: “If the country is independent and the people do not enjoy happiness and freedom, then independence has no meaning”(15). Therefore, each cadre and party member must do a good job: “being a leader and a truly loyal servant of the people”.

Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts and moral value system are not only the distillation and inheritance of the quintessential values of traditional morality and the creative application, complementation, and development of Marxism – Leninism’s theories on morality, but also a theory of revolutionary moralities with theoretical and practical bases to participate in solving the requirements of the history of the nation and human society. Ho Chi Minh’s moral thought has become a great source of spiritual strength and material strength, not only a factor in the victory of the Vietnamese revolution, but also contributing to the struggle of the peoples of the world, for peace, democracy, and social progress. The world has been and will continue to change, but Ho Chi Minh’s moral thoughts will forever remain with the nation and the times.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. TRAN MINH TRUONG
Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics
Lao Cai School of Politics


Received: April 14, 2023; Revised: May 15, 2023; Approved for publication: May 22, 2023.


(1) Ho Chi Minh Institute: President Ho Chi Minh lives forever in the hearts of Vietnamese people, Labor Publishing House, People’s Army Publishing House, Hanoi, 1993, p.109.

(2), (15) Ho Chi Minh: The Complete Works, vol.4, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, pp.7, 64.

(3), (5), (6), (13) Ho Chi Minh: The Complete Works, vol.11, ibid., pp.601, 602, 603, 602.

(4), (11) Ho Chi Minh: The Complete Works, vol.5, ibid., pp.292, 292.

(7) Ho Chi Minh: The Complete Works, vol.2, ibid., p.562.

(8), (12) Ho Chi Minh: The Complete Works, vol.6, ibid., pp.130, 16.

(9) Ho Chi Minh: The Complete Works, vol.7, ibid., p.177.

(10) Ho Chi Minh: The Complete Works, vol.1, ibid., p.284.

(14) Le Duan: Under the glorious flag of the Party, for independence, freedom, for socialism, go forward to win new victories, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1980, p.36.


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