Ho Chi Minh first appears as a representative of the Vietnamese people during the Peace Conference in France after World War I. Calling himself Nguyen Ai Quoc, he sent a telegram to the American Secretary of State Robert Lansing asking for help in his campaign for independence from France.
In the reflection that follows the 1919 document, Ho explains what events and ideas led him to become a Communist.
Letter of Nguyen Ai Quoc to the American Secretary of State Paris, 18 June, 1919
To his Excellency, the Secretary of State of the Republic of the United States, Delegate to the Peace Conference'
We take the liberty of submitting to you the accompanying memorandum setting forth the claims of the Annamite people on the occasion of the Allied victory.
We count on your great kindness to honor our appeal by your support whenever the opportunity arises.
We beg your Excellency graciously to accept the expression of our profound respect.
FOR THE GROUP OF ANNAMITE PATRIOTS [signed] Nguyen Ai Quoc (Ho Chi Minh)
56, rue Monsieur le Prince Paris
Revendications du Peuple Annamite [Claims of the Annamite People
Since the victory of the Allies, all the subject peoples are frantic with hope at prospect of an era of right and justice which should begin for them by virtue of the formal and solemn engagements, made before the whole world by the various powers of the entente in the struggle of civilization against barbarism.
While waiting for the principle of national self-determination to pass from ideal to reality through the effective recognition of the sacred right of all peoples to decide their own destiny, the inhabitants of the ancient Empire of Annam, at the present time French Indochina, present to the noble Governments of the entente in general and in particular to the honorable French Government the following humble claims:
The Path Which Led Me to Leninism (1960)
by Ho Chi Minh
After World War I, I made my living in Paris, now as a retoucher at a photographer's, now as a painter of "Chinese antiquities" (made in France!). I would distribute leaflets denouncing the crimes committed by the French colonialists in Vietnam.
At that time, I supported the October Revolution only instinctively, not yet grasping all its historic importance. I loved and admired Lenin because he was a great patriot who liberated his compatriots; until then, I had read none of his books.
The reason for my joining the French Socialist Party was that these "ladies and gentlemen"- as I called my comrades at that moment--had shown their sympathy toward me, toward the struggle of the oppressed peoples. But I understood neither what was a party, a trade-union, nor what was Socialism nor Communism.
Heated discussions were then taking place in the branches of the Socialist Party, about the question whether the Socialist Party should remain in the Second International, should a Second-and-a-half International be founded or should the Socialist Party join Lenin's Third International? I attended the meetings regularly, twice or three times a week and attentively listened to the discussion. First, I could not understand thoroughly. Why were the discussions so heated? Either with the Second, Second-and-a-half or Third International, the revolution could be waged. What was the use of arguing then? As for the First International, what had become of it?
What I wanted most to know--and this precisely was not debated in the meetings--was: Which International sides with the peoples of colonial countries? I raised the question--the most important in my opinion--in a meeting. Some comrades answered: It is the Third, not the Second International. And a comrade gave me Lenin's "Thesis on the National and Colonial Questions" published by l'Humanite' to read.
There were political terms difficult to understand in this thesis. But by dint of reading it again and again, finally I could grasp the main part of it. What emotion, enthusiasm, clear-sightedness, and confidence it instilled in me! I was overjoyed to tears. Though sitting alone in my room, I shouted aloud as if addressing large crowds: "Dear martyrs, compatriots! This is what we need, this is what we need, this is the path to our liberation!"
After that, I had entire confidence in Lenin, in the Third International. Formerly, during the meetings of the Party branch, I had only listened to the discussion; I had a vague belief that all were logical, and could not differentiate as to who were right and who were wrong. But from then on, I also plunged into the debates and discussed with fervor. Though I was still lacking French words to express all my thoughts, I smashed the allegations attacking Lenin and the Third International with no less vigor. My only argument was: "If you do not condemn colonialism, if you do not side with colonial people, what kind of revolution are you waging?"
Not only did I take part in the meetings of my own Party branch, but I also went to other Party branches to lay down "my position." Now I must tell again that Comrades Marcel Cachin, Vaillant Couturier, Monmousséau, and many others helped me to broaden my knowledge. Finally, at the Tours Congress, I voted with them for our joining the Third International.
At first, patriotism, not yet Communism, led me to have confidence in Lenin, in the Third International. Step by step, along the struggle, by studying Marxism Leninism parallel with participation in practical activities, I gradually came upon the fact that only Socialism and Communism can liberate the oppressed nations and the working people throughout the world from slavery.
There is a legend, in our country as well as in China, on the miraculous "Book of the Wise." When facing great difficulties, one opens it and finds a way out. Leninism is not only a miraculous "Book of the Wise," a compass for us Vietnamese revolutionaries and people; it is also the radiant sun illuminating our path to final victory, to Socialism and Communism.