Ancient Western Philosophy
Lịch sử Triết học Tây phương cổ đại (translation)
David Wolfsdorf, Temple University
History of Western Philosophy: Modern
— Lịch sử triết học Tây phương hiện đại
Syliane Malinowski-Charles, Temple University
Lịch sử tư tưởng triết học Việt Nam
History of Vietnamese Philosophical Thought (translation)
Nguyễn Hùng Hậu, Hồ Chí Minh National Political Academy
Vietnamese Philosophy from Nôm Manuscripts
— Triết học Việt Nam qua văn bản Nôm
Ngô Thanh Nhàn, Temple University
Metaphysics and Epistemology
— Siêu hình học và nhận thức luận
Western Ethics and Political Philosophy
— Đạo đức và triết học chính trị Tây phương
Shelley Wilcox, San Francisco State University
Một vài nét về lịch sử tư tưởng triết học đạo đức của Việt Nam
— A Historical Sketch of the Vietnamese Ethical Thought
Nguyễn Thế Kiệt, Hồ Chí Minh National Political Academy
Triết học chính trị thời kỳ xây dựng quốc gia phong kiến Việt Nam độc lập tự chủ
Political Philosophy in the Period of Building an Independent and Self-determined Vietnamese Feudalist Nation (translation)
Gs.Ts.Trần Phúc Thăng, Hồ Chí Minh National Political Academy
Gender and the Public Sphere: A genealogy from the West
— Giới và Cõi công: Một phả hệ từ phương Tây
Mary Hawkesworth, Rutgers University
Political Economy: A Brief Overview
Kinh tế chính trị học tổng quan
Peter Manicas, University of Hawai'I at Mānoa
The Philosophy of Language and Thought
Triết lý của ngôn ngữ và tư tưởng
Gerald Vision, Temple University
— Mỹ học
Free Will and Determinism
— Tự ý và quyết định luận
Clyde Dunton-Gallagher, Temple University
The Mind-Body Problem
Vấn đề tinh thần–thể xác
Clyde Dunton-Gallagher, Temple University
— Chủ nghĩa tương đối
Patrick Denehy, Temple University
Tư tưởng nhân nghĩa Việt Nam
— Vietnamese Concepts of 仁義 Humanity and Justice
Dr. Nguyễn Minh Hoàn, Hồ Chí Minh National Political Administrative Academy
Chủ nghĩa yêu nước Việt Nam
— The Concept of Vietnamese Patriotism
Prof. Dr. Trần Phúc Thăng, Hồ Chí Minh National Political Administrative Academy
Đạo làm người
— The Dao Theory of Being Human in Vietnam
Dr. Trần Đăng Sinh & Dr. Lê Văn Đoán. Hanoi National University of Education
Hỗn dung tam giáo ở Việt Nam
— The Unity of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism in Vietnam
Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Thị Nga, Hồ Chí Minh National Political Administrative Academy
Tư duy nội quán (Vipassanā) của Phật giáo và vai trò của nó trong tư duy của người Việt
—Buddhist deep vision (Vipassanā) and its role in the Vietnamese thinking
Prof. Dr. Hoàng Thị Thơ, Director of Eastern Philosophy Study, Institute of Philosophy, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences
Ý thức cộng đồng Việt Nam
— The Vietnamese Concept of Community Consciousness
Prof. Dr. Trần Văn Phòng, Hồ Chí Minh National Political Administrative Academy
Tinh thần đoàn kết của người Việt Nam
— The Spirit of Vietnamese Solidarity
Phạm Anh Hùng, Hồ Chí Minh National Political Administrative Academy
Chủ quyền quốc gia
— The Concept of National Sovereignty in Vietnam
Prof. Dr. Trần Thanh, Hồ Chí Minh National Political Administrative Academy
Khảo cứu triết lý về nhân dân trong lịch sử tư tưởng Việt Nam
—The Concept of People in the history of Vietnamese philosophical thoughts
Dr. Trương Quốc Chính, Administrative Academy & Dr. Nguyễn Thuý Vân, University of Social Science and Humanities
Hướng đến một khái niệm khoa học về xã hội dân sự
Toward a more scientific Vietnamese concept of Civil Society
Assoc. Prof., Dr. Trần Hữu Quang, Sociology, Center for Information, Institute for Sustainable Development in Southern Vietnam (Academy of Social Sciences)
 Center for Vietnamese Philosophy > Handbook on Philosophy Last update: 2007-10-14 
English-Vietnamese Handbook on Philosophy & Political Economy
Center for Vietnamese Philosophy, Culture & Society Temple University


Political Philosophy
in the Period of Building
an Independent and Self-Determined Vietnamese Feudalist Nation

Prof. Dr. Trần Phúc Thăng
Hồ Chí Minh National Political Academy

Translation by Ngô Thanh Nhàn [1]

Politics is an important aspect of social life since ancient times. Politics has a close relationship with other aspects of social life, especially with the economy.

Politics is the relationship between social strata, national[2] communities and individuals with political power and national soveignty.

In Vietnam today, politics is studied in different scientific disciplines:
  • Political science: a scientific study of power, and mode of power holding and ruling.
  • Major focuses in political science are: the state and the law, theory of the Party, international relations, and human rights study.
  • Other scientific disciplines, such as psychology, social science and cultural studies, also address various issues related to politics.

Unlike the above scientific disciplines, philosophy delves into the most basic and common issues in politics, such as the origin of politics, the nature of politics, the characteristics of politics, the role of politics in social life and the relationship between social group members (individuals, collectives, communities) and politics, especially with political institutions.

Vietnamese political philosophy can be thought of as a system of viewpoints or conceptions on the origin and nature of the Vietnamese political systems, on national sovereignty, on the relationship between the state and social group members, and between the state and the society in general.

Vietnamese political philosophy, similar to that in other countries, did not emerge as an independent theory from the start.  It usually was a part of social consciousness [3] and had a process of growth from a simple to high level of sophistication depending on the specific development of history. Reality in Vietnam shows that there has been no difference between political consciousness and political philosophy.  Political consciousness in Vietnam is also the commonest viewpoints in politics, or in other words, is precisely the Vietnamese political philosophy.  Therefore, the system of Vietnamese political consciousness from ancient times to the 20th Century can be considered as the Vietnamese political philosophy.

istorians and political scientists distinguish the following periods in Vietnamese history:

  1. The Pre-historical period. This period began with the first inhabitants appearing on Vietnamese soil (about 400,000 to 500,000 years ago) until the late neolithic age.  This period left its imprint in Đọ Mountain (Thanh Hoá Province), Sơn Vi (Phú Thọ Province) and Hoà Bình Province (later named the Hoà Bình Culture).  The inhabitants in this period already practiced agriculture and ceramics, had some knowledge of time and nature, but did not have a state, or politics.
  2. The Early History.  According to historical records, about 4,000 years ago, inhabitants in the Vietnamese territories concentrated in three major cultural centers, Đông Sơn (north Vietnam), Sa Huỳnh (central Vietnam) and Đồng Nia (south Vietnam).  Vietnam was already in the metal age during this period and its society began to have a state and politics.
  3. The anti-Northern domination period (from the 2nd to the 10th Century).
  4. The period of building an independent Vietnamese feudalist nation (from the 10th to the 19th Century).
  5. The Anti-French colonial period (from mid 19th to early 20th Centuries).
  6. The period of a people's democratic revolution and socialism in Vietnam (since 1930).

Each of the above periods covers different levels and stages of development in political consciousness, depending on the specific historical events unfolding.

Thus, Vietnamese political consciousness emerged in the Early History, and has evolved since that time.

I. Political consciousness in early history.

1. Historical context.

By the 7th Century B.C., the tribal cultures in Vietnam began to lose their regional characters, and formed a unified culture – the Đông Sơn Culture.  This was the period when the tribes aligned with each other and formed a unified nation, i.e. the country of Văn Lang.[4]  The territory of this state extended from today's Sino-Vietnamese border to the province of Quảng Ninh.  Most Vietnamese researchers believe that the nation of Văn Lang was a primitive state formed on the basis of the Đông Sơn culture.

The archaological data and written records (from the old Chinese and Vietnamese history books) show that the state of Văn Lang organized its governing machinery into three levels: heading the state was King Hùng [5] (via patrilineal succession), second were tribal marquis and tribal generals [6], and the lowest were the 15 tribes.  The state had its own law, which the Chinese books refer as "Việt laws", different from the Chinese "Hán laws."  The birth of the state of Văn Lang marked the birth of politics from which its political consciousness took shape.

2. Political thinking.

The political thinking of this period was not only recorded in history books but also spread widely through myths and legends.

The idea of anindependent and sovereign state, not bowing down to outside forces even if they were many times stronger, was the political consciousness formed right from the birth of the nation.

This idea gathered such strength for Văn Lang to defeat the 秦 Ch'in [7], the strongest empire in Asia at the time.  Emperor 秦 始 皇 Ch'in Shih-huang [8] defeated six other powerful countries and unified China for the first time.  However, the Ch'in army failed in their successive attempts of aggression against Vietnam from 214 to 208 B.C. and finally had to withdraw.

his national independence consciousness was demonstrated by the unification of the two states, Tây Âu and Lạc Việt to form a new state called Âu Lạc led by Thục Phán [9] to fight against foreign invasion.  The state of Âu Lạc continued, based on the inheritance of the achievements of the state of Văn Lang—it strengthened and consolidated military forces, raising a rather strong army, skilled with the bow and arrow (hundreds of thousands of arrow heads were excavated at the Cổ Loa Citadel [10]), and constructed strong fortress against foreign invasion.

Thanks to the strong military forces and the unity of will of the entire population, the state of Âu Lạc defeated repeated invasions from Triệu Đà [11] (China) forcing the latter to change his tactics; he used evil trickery and eventually took over Âu Lạc.

The nationalindependence consciousness is also expressed in legends, especially in the legend of "Children of a dragon, grandchildren of a fairy," "Children of Lạc, grandchildren of Hồng."  These legends were written down in Lĩnh Nam chích quái "Collection of Strange Stories in Lĩnh Nam" [12] in the 14th Century and were recorded in the official history of the 15th Century.  The ideas appearing in these legends show that the Vietnamese people were very proud of their blood lines.  Perhaps stemming from this, there exists in Vietnam a basic political philosophy: love thy country, love thy race.[13]

To a Vietnamese, to love one's country means to love one's own race.[14]  Defending one's country also means defending one's race.  It is precisely this feeling that brings patriotism closer to the Vietnamese heart and tightly binds all Vietnamese.  It is the political philosophy; it is also the philosophy of life of Vietnamese people.

II. Political philosophy during the period from the 2nd Century B.C. to the 10th Century.

1. The historical context.

The period from the2nd Century B.C. to the 10th Century was named in the Vietnamese history books as the Northern and anti-Northern domination period.

This period began in the year 179 B.C. when the 趙 Triệu Dynasty placed the yoke of domination on Vietnam, propelling a series of Northern feudal dynasties to find ways to dominate Vietnam. This period came to an end in 935 when the Vietnamese people overthrew the yoke of domination of the 唐 T'ang Dynasty [15] (China), taking back the right to independence and self-determination and usheringin the period of building an independent nation.

The characteristic of this period was that after the yoke of domination was placed on the state of Âu Lạc, the Northern political authorities found ways to redivide the administrative regions, subdividing the state of Âu Lạc into smaller pieces (districts and prefectures similar to those in China) and appointed officials to govern down to the district levels.  There were times their rule reached down to the village level to control people in each locality.  They built a system of officials from top to bottom, while at all times maintaining the strong presence of a permanent army, and building fortresses to maintain their rule.

The invading forces were in a hurry to occupy lands and build plantations.  They exploited rare and precious finds and products, they forced the people to pay heavily and to serve their machinery of power unconditionally.  The aggressors' policies of brutal repression, extreme exploitation, and merciless plundering pushed the Vietnamese people into dire poverty, suffering, and death.  At the same time, the Northern authorities relentlessly pushed ahead with the assimilation of Vietnam.  From the beginning of the Common Era, bright Chinese Confucianist scholars were sent to Vietnam to open schools and popularize the 漢 Hán language.  They sent Hán people to immigrate to Vietnam to change local customs in daily life.  Their goal was to eradicate all traditional ethnic characteristics of the Âu Lạc culture.

2. Political Thinking.

The basic political consciousness of this period was still prominently the love for the country, the love for the race, the hatred towards the aggressors, and the determination to rise up and take back independence for the mountains and the rivers, the land and the water.[16]

This consciousness was constantly burning in every Vietnamese mind and was demonstrated by constant uprisings throughout the period of the Northern domination.

The first major uprising was in the year 40 by the two sister heroes, Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị, daughters of a Lạc tribal general of Mê Linh District [17], a descendent of the Hùng Kings.  This uprising was widely supported, and became victorious; it liberated all four occupied districts, and achieved the independence and self-determination for the country.

Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị proclaimed themselves emperors and ruled the country for two years.  Thereafter the 漢 Hán Dynasty was forced to use a large army to reclaim their domination.  The goal of the Trưng Sisters' uprising was đền nợ nước,trả thù nhà "to repay the debt of the nation, and to revenge the family loss."

The Uprising of Lady Triệu (248)

History still records the words of Triệu Thị Trinh [18]: "I want to ride the strong wind, tread on angry waves, kill the sharks of the Eastern Sea, take back our mountains and rivers, build our independence, throw away the yoke of slavery, and not to bend my back and become a concubine."

he uprising was not successful but has instilled the pride of the Vietnamese people in their thousand years' history.

The uprising of 李 賁 Lý Bí [19] broke out in 542 and was well supported by the majority of the population, and he won back control of the country in just three months.

In 544, Lý Bí proclaimed himself emperor, established a royal court, and named the country Vạn Xuân, "Thousands of Springs."  This act showed the thinking of an eternal life force of a nation.  Thereafter, the Đại Việt people under the command of Triệu Quang Phục [20] (replacing King Lý Nam Đế) continued to defeat a series of invasions and maintained the independence of the country until 602.

It was precisely at the birth of the state of Vạn Xuân, "Thousands of Springs," that the Vietnamese consciousness of independence was heightened.

The uprising of Mai Thúc Loan occurred at the beginning of the 8th Century (722).  Mai Thúc Loan declared himself emperor [21], built a fortress on the mountain and used the rough terrain as a base to defend against the enemy.

The uprising of Phùng Hưng at the end of the 8th Century took over the Governor's palace, reorganized the governing machinery, and rebuilt the country for a few years. He was honored by the people as Bố Cái Đại Vương "Great Emperor Bố Cái" [22].

The uprising of Khúc Thừa Dụ [23] of the 10th Century broke out in 905 and won a complete victory, ending the Northern domination and ushering in a new era in Vietnamese history, the era of building an independent state.

Therefore, the political thinking throughout the Northern domination period was the consciousness of struggle to regain the independent and sovereign country, to be equal to all great neighboring countries.

III. The Political Thinking of the 10th–11th Centuries.

1. Historical context.

This period began with the victory led by Khúc Thừa Dụ in 905.  This victory ended the continuous domination, for more than 1,000 years, of Chinese feudalism, and brought Vietnam to a new stage of development: the period of building an independent and self-determined feudal nation.

After the success of the Khúc Thừa Dụ uprising, the then T'ang Emperor of China was forced to appoint Khúc as Military Commissioner of Tĩnh Hải [24], and after that, promoted him also to Imperial Chancellor [25] with an intention to turn Khúc into a T'ang mandarin.  But Khúc Thừa Dụ declined, and when he died, his son replaced him and proceeded with reform, disbanding the old administrative machinery, and building a society where dân yên vui "the people are at peace and joyful."

In 938, under the command of Ngô Quyền [26], the second aggression of the Southern Hán Dynasty again faced utter defeat.  The victory on the Bạch Đằng River was carved into history like a myth, which is not only a show of the fighting spirit of the Vietnamese people but also of their high level of intelligence in the struggle against foreign invasion.

2. Political thinking.

After the victory on the Bạch Đằng River, Ngô Quyền proclaimed himself emperor, eliminated the "military commissioner" regime, built a new royal court, and established the kingdom at Cổ Loa [10].  This shows the thinking pattern of a strong and sovereign nation.

In 981, under the leadership of Lê Hoàn [27], the resistance against 宋 Sung Dynasty aggression [28] won a complete victory.  This victory dealt a strong blow to the expansionist dreams of the Sung emperor and royal court.

In 968, after unifying the country, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh was crowned as Emperor Đinh Tiên Hoàng and called his kingdom Đại Cồ Việt [29].  In 970, Emperor Đinh Bộ Lĩnh abandoned the dating system based on the Sung Dynasty, and established its own era and dating system called "Thái Bình" [Great Peace].   This is an important turn in the concept of political independence.  Precisely from this point on, an independent nation formally established a separate nation name and a separate state institution.  The country has become a nation with its own name and dates [30].

The victory over the Sung army and the building and consolidation of an independent state, with a strong military force, forced the Sung Dynasty to grant Lê Hoàn the title Nam Bình Vương "King of the Pacified South." [31]

The above historical reality shows the salient political thinking of this period was still the consciousness of an independent and sovereign country with a unified territory.  The reform of the old administrative machinery by the son of Khúc Thừa Dụ, the coronation of Ngô Quyền, the naming of the kingdom "Đại Cồ Việt" by Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, and the Sung being forced to grant Lê Hoàn the title Nam Bình Vương "King of the Pacified South" are evidence of the firm belief of an independent and self-determined country equal to the Northern country.  These facts forced the Sung Emperor to admit in front of the Sung royal court: "Giao châu is a dangerous land; if we bring troops to fight there, there will be a lot of losses and deaths; it is better for us just to watchfully protect the land of the ancestors" and to avoid commiting further aggression.

IV. Political philosophical thinking of the period of recovery and rebuilding of an independent nation from the 11th to the 14th Centuries.

1. Historical context.

The 11th to the 14th Centuries was the period of development of a Vietnamese feudal state.

The beginning of this period was marked by the birth of the Lý Dynasty.  The nomination of Lý Công Uẩn [32], a highly educated person with moral integrity, felicitous, who was respected and loved by the Lê royal court, to emperorship to replace the First Lê Dynasty [33] marked an important turn in the political way of thinking.

This period witnessed major historical events such as the moving of the kingdom from Hoa Lư (Ninh Bình Province) to Thăng Long (Hà Nội) [34], and the development of economics, politics and culture, and especially the strong development of Buddhist [religious and philosophical] thinking of the Lý and Trần [35] Dynasties.

The wars of national defense produced outstanding feats of arms such as the victory of the Lê Dynasty led by Lý Thường Kiệt [36] in 1077 against the aggressive war by the 300,000 strong Sung armies (soldiers and servants included), which exacted heavy human and material losses to the Sung troops.  (According to the Sung history of China, the cost of this war was 5.1 million ounces of gold.)

Therewere glorious military feats under the leadership of the Trần royal court.  Under the command of Trần Thái Tông and Trần Quốc Tuấn [37], the people and the army of the Trần Dynasty defeated the 元 Nguyên (Mongolian) army three times – the Nguyên was the largest empire, unprecendented in world history.

2. Political thought of this period.

One may say that the political thought of this period was written clearly in the political and military writings that remain today.  This politically conscious thought constituted a profound political philosophy, revealing a strategic vision in the new historical period.  It also marked a new milestone in political thinking.

The consciousness of national sovereignty and independence was fundamentally transformed into thoughts of building an eternally stable nation.  This idea, which was barely conceived of in the previous period, was realized in this period.

In the masterpiece Chiếu dời đô [遷都詔] "Royal Order on Moving of the Capital," Lý Công Uẩn pointed out that this was "a great historical cause," an eternal plan for the children and grandchildren, and was to establish "the longevity of our nation, and the prosperity of our customs."  The Royal Order said:

"I am for heaven on earth to initiate a long term plan, above to excel the great legacy, and below, for the people to prosper in wealth and be many in number; and who would not support such a beneficial plan."

Explaining the special geographic terrain of the Thăng Long capital and its historical significance, the Royal Order said:

"Of all corners of our Vietnamese land this is the only place of scenic beauty.  It is in fact not only an important strategic hub of all four corners of the mountains and rivers, but also the eternal top-rank capital for all emperors."

Thus, the political philosophy has been expanded from a philosophy chiefly about defending the country to a philosophy of building an independent, strong and prosperous nation, bringing happiness to the people.

The people in this period has become an important political entity.

In the Royal Order on Moving the Capital, Lý Công Uẩn affirmed that all kings and lords had "to follow the mandate of heaven from above, and to follow the will of the people from below."

All great causes could not but originate from "the will of the people" and benefit the people.  This is an important political philosophy which continues to be elaborated in history.

The people-first concept also appeared in a writing of Lý Thường Kiệt when he said "Heaven created people" and the "Way of ruling the people is based on feeding them."

Thus, under the Lý Dynasty, the people were considered extremely important.  The top ranks of the nation found the root of governing a country was nothing other than the art of loving the people.  For that reason the Lý Dynasty lasted a very long time, for more than two centuries (243 years).

During the Trần Dynasty, the people-first concept was even more clearly expressed.

King Trần Minh Tông [38], after seeing the dire poverty of the people, wrote:

"All living people are my compatriots
How can I bear seeing misery everywhere."

Trần Quốc Tuấn [37], when learning that the king wanted to rebuild the citadels after the victory against the Nguyên Dynasty in 1288, told the king: "People will become citadels" [39], meaning that the will of the people is a fortress.  This shows that Trần Quốc Tuấn considered people, the will and heart of the people towards the nation and country, and towards the dynasty, as the strongest and inpenetrable bastion for protecting royal palaces.  For that reason, Trần Quốc Tuấn suggested to the Trần King to khoan sức dân "spare the people's resources" to bolster the policy "deep roots fortify the base."

The political thoughts of the Lý and Trần Dynasty were also manifested in the conscious building of a feudal state, in which, we need to include the building of the ruling machinery, the use of the sages, and other original ideas such as the unification of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism into a system of political thought specific to Vietnam.  However, the most salient political thought was still one of national sovereignty.

This idea was expressed in a famous poem by Lý Thường Kiệt in the resistance against the Sung Dynasty.

"南 國 山 河 南 帝 居
Nam quốc sơn hà nam đế cư
截 然 定 分 在 天 書
Tiệt nhiên định phận tại thiên thư
如 何 逆 虜 來 侵 犯
Như hà nghịch lỗ lai xâm phạm
汝 等 行 看 取 敗 虚
Nhữ đẳng hành khan thủ bại hư"

The mountains and rivers of the southern country are ruled by the southern Emperor.
This is written in the book of heaven.
If the lawless barbarians dare come to invade,
they will surely be met with defeat.

The above poem is considered the first declaration of independence of a nation.  It affirmed that Vietnamese soil belonged to the Vietnamese people governed by a Vietnamese Emperor.  This was an arrangement of the Creator and was written in 天 書 "the Book of Heaven."  The territory borders were instituted with all their sacred meanings. As such, there was no reason for the lawless foreigners to violate these rights.  This groundless violation would surely gain the invaders nothing but shameful defeat.

During the Trần Dynasty, the idea of defending the country was translated into making "the hills and waters" last "thousands of autumns" and making "the mountains and rivers" forever secured.  This idea was recorded in various poems by Trần Quang Khải [40] after the victory against the armies of the 元 Nguyên Dynasty.

This determination was also cited in the "Appeal to Generals and Officials" by Trần Quốc Tuấn [41].  In criticizing the mindlessness of the generals and officials, he wrote "Today you feel no worry when your chief was humiliated, you feel no shame when the country was trampled upon.  You, generals and officials of the Court, are forced to serve the enemy without feeling anger.  You're to hear alien music, hosting the puppet commissioners without feeling hatred."  He was ready to sacrifice for the country, "[he] would be happy even if this body was cut into hundreds of pieces and scattered in the grass fields, thousands of pieces of this body were wrapped in horse skins."  He always put his duty to defend the country above all.

These thoughts of Trần Quốc Tuấn revealed the perfect harmony between politics and military strategy, and the formation of the theory of war for national defense, contributing to the history of fighting against foreign invasion and defending the independence of the Vietnamese people.

V. Political thinking of the Late Lê Dynasty.

1. Historical context.

At the end of the 14th Century, the decline of the Trần Dynasty and the unpopular policies of the Hồ Dynasty [42] created an opportunity for the 明 Ming Dynasty (in China) to take advantage of and invade Vietnam, creating the darkest 20 years in the history of Vietnam.  Their goals were:

— To turn Đại Việt into a district of the Ming Empire.

— Completely rob the wealth of the people.

— Barbarically suppress all resistance.

— Eradicate the all traces of the Đại Việt culture, abolish all traditional customs and habits, burn all books in circulation, and implement the national [Hán] assimilation policy.

These policies resulted in resentment among the population.  Resistance against the Ming armies broke out in many places, the height of which was the Lam Sơn uprising (1418-1427) [43] in what is today Thanh Hoá Province.

Comparedto the previous resistance against foreign invasion, the Lam Sơn uprising occurred on a larger scale coordinated warfare.  This is a type of warfare that did not end with the annihilation of the aggressor forces but with a joint pledge [44] (comparable to signing an agreement) for the 100,000 Ming troops to return to their country.  This is a combination of politics, military strategy and diplomacy.  The new method of military propaganda was used effectively.

The victory of the Lam Sơn uprising ushered in a new era.  On April 29, 1428, Lê Lợi [45] was officially crowned Emperor, renamed the country Đại Việt, and announced the birth of a new Lê Dynasty called the Late Lê or the Lê Sơ to differentiate itself from the Early Lê of the 10th Century.  This dynasty lasted from 1428 to 1503.

This is a period when the feudal state was at its highest development in economics, politics, culture, and education.  Specifically in the ideological field, Confucianism was widely propagated in education and politics.

2. Political thinking.

The political thinking of this period was centered on the thinking of Nguyễn Trãi and Lê Thánh Tông.

a. Political thinking of Nguyễn Trãi (1380 – 1442) [46]

The main political thinking of Nguyễn Trãi is clearly expressed in his writings, typically in his Bình Ngô đại cáo "Proclamation on Victory over the Ngô" [47], an immortal masterpiece and the second declaration of independence of Vietnam.  The political thinking of Nguyễn Trãi has a profound philosophical character, exposing the breadth and depth of his knowledge of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, as well as the national history and culture, and the life of the people.

We can consider Nguyễn Trãi as the first to propound the basic elements of a sovereign nation.  In letters sent to the enemy's general, Nguyễn Trãi always affirmed that Đại Việt was an independent nation outside of the Chinese territories, and had its own culture.  In the Proclamation, he affirmed:

""Whereas our country Đại Việt
has long since been a land of age-old culture,
has its own clear-cut realm, mountains and rivers,
the customs and habits are different from those of the North."

As such, the concept of a nation and a country was understood by Nguyễn Trãi as having a fuller and more complete meaning than that of the previous historical periods.

The most prominent political thinking of Nguyễn Trãi was also the concept of 仁 義 "humanity and justice." Granted that "humanity" and "justice" are categories used by Confucianism, to Nguyễn Trãi "humanity and justice" have different and unique features and have become a clear-cut socio-political category.

Nguyễn Trãi wrote: "Humanity and justice is essentially aimed at peace among the people."  Thus, the goal of the wars in Vietnam is not "to fight and kill," rather "to let people live" and "to make people safe."

The concept of "people" in the thinking of Nguyễn Trãi is understood in a broad sense, including the peasants, field slaves, domestic serfs, servants,and low laborers in the society.

Nguyễn Trãi cited the crimes committed by the invaders — first of all was the crime of

"Hanging the people in the furnace of barbarity
burning laborers in the abyss of disaster."

This justified armed response, but "armed response in order to protect the people."  The "people" in Nguyễn Trãi's thinking were not only those who were in need of salvation, but the power of the "people" was the source of power and the foundation of a nation. The people are "like a river that lifts the boat, but that which overturns the boat is none other than the people."  According to Nguyễn Trãi, "if the people do not believe, then the country cannot last." It was the people who contributed their lives and wealth to the war efforts and to build a mighty army: "The sharpening of their swords wears down mountain rocks. When their elephants drink water, they empty rivers."  That was the source for victory.

The concept of "people at peace" is the most basic idea of humanity and justice.  The concept of humanity and justice means also to rely on humanity and justice to bring about victory.  In his assessment of the resistance against the Ming armies, Nguyễn Trãi wrote:

In essence,
bring great justice to overcome barbarity
use great humanity to replace brutality.

Thus, even though he possessed strength like "splitting bamboos," Nguyễn Trãi still called on the enemy's general to seek peace; he did not want innocent people to die for nothing.  When the enemy was defeated, they were granted 500 ships and 10,000 charriots [48] with enough food and grains to return home safely.

With the same concept of "humanity and justice," Nguyễn Trãi advocated building an honest administration, to fight against greedy and corrupted officials to bring a peaceful and happy life for the people, including those in remote villages.  The state according to him must have discipline and a strict formal legal system, while at the same time it must be a 仁 政 nhân chính "politics of humanity" because legal orders must be "derived from humanity and justice."  Thanks to this thinking, the state of Đại Việt in the 15th Century became a strong and prosperous nation, "foreigners from afar feared its image, loved its virtues, and honestly came to admire a peaceful scene."

b. Political thinking of Lê Thánh Tông (1442 – 1497) [49]

— On the question of nationalism, Lê Thánh Tông criticized the Confucianists for praising too much the Yao Shun [50] era as being the ideal society of the ancient time, which no current society could match.  For that reason, there were times when Lê Thánh Tông compared his dynasty to that of the Yao Shun.

The society that Lê Thánh Tông advocated building had four characteristics: the country at peace, the people well-to-do [51], morality flowered, and the rights to ruling belonging to the Lê Dynasty.  Lê Thánh Tông chartered a path for ruling the country corresponding to the historical conditions at the time.  It was called văn trị "rule by literature" or đức trị "rule by virtue" or lễ trị "rule by rites." [52]

After he became the ruler, Lê Thánh Tông advocated building a highly-centralized monarchical system, concentrating power in the Emperor.  He also radically implemented a large-scale administrative reform nationally, aiming at the economic and socio-political goals that he set forth.  His goal was to build a powerful Đại Việt nation, strong enough to be a counter-weight against other countries in the region, especially against the Ming Dynasty, the strongest empire in Asia at the time. For that reason, Lê Thánh Tông truly valued the law. All the regulations for the state functioning of the Lê Dynasty, from the time of Lê Thái Tổ, were synthesized, improved and perfected in the Quốc triều hính luật "Criminal Codes of the National Imperial Court" in 1483 (under the name The Codes of Hồng Đức) [53].  The Codes contain over 400 articles that did not exist in all of the laws of the Chinese feudal dynasties.  These codes reflected the Vietnamese cultural identities, which took into consideration the rights and status of women in the family, issues of marriage and property ownership, as well as the respect for customs of ethnic minorities, the elders, and orphans . . .

Lê Thánh Tông paid attention to the execution of the laws, and paid especially close attention to the building of a legal team of mandarins and official staff.  The progressive political thinking of Lê Thánh Tông had a real effect in all economic, political, defense, and diplomatic spheres, ushering in a period of prosperous development for Vietnam.

However, after the Lê Dynasty brought into being the highest level of development of Vietnamese feudal society, it also pushed the Vietnamese feudal society to its end.  At the end of his reign, the political thinking of Lê Thánh Tông showed its limitations, and negative phenomena sprangup in society.  These factorsbrought the Lê Dynasty and the whole of Vietnamese feudalism into decline.

VI. The Vietnamese political philosophy from the 16th – 18th Centuries.

1. The socio-economic characteristics.

— From 1505 – 1516 the Lê kings became rotten.  Peasant uprisings broke out, and from 1511 on, the peasant movement grew until 1522.  The year 1527 witnessed the end of the role of the Lê Dynasty after 100 years.  This created great conflicts within the feudal class, the results of which were prolonged power conflicts.

These conflicts directly affected people's lives, especially those of the peasants.  This is why successive dynasties, after consolidation of their control, advanced economic and social policies to develop the country, but social development was extremely limited.  Social contradictions deepened and the 18th Century became the period of peasant uprisings.

At the end of the 18th Century, the largest peasant uprising in Vietnamese history broke out, i.e. the Tây Sơn uprising led by Nguyễn Huệ [54].  This uprising defeated the Siam aggressors in the south in 1783 and the 青 Ch'ing Manchurian Dynasty in the north in 1789, reunifying the country after a 300 year division.  After the victory, Emperor Quang Trung (Nguyễn Huệ) initiated many progressive reforms, however, the Tây Sơn Dynasty did not last long. [In 1802] Nguyễn Ánh [55], assisted by the French, defeated the Tây Sơn and formed the imperial Nguyễn Dynasty, which lasted until the French colonialists took over Vietnam.

2. Political philosophy.

During the 16th – 18th Centuries, Vietnamese political thinking manifested itself indiverse tendencies.  During this period, the typical thinkers who can be named were Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Nguyễn Dư, Phùng Khắc Khoan, Lê Quý Đôn,and Ngô Thì Nhậm.  They were highly educated, and to a greater or lesser extent, participated in activities of the royal court.

The major political thinking of this period was the concept of the 王 道 Vương đạo "the Benevolent Way," meaning using one's virtue to rule, not by violence or by force; it denounced the 覇 道 Bá đạo "the Hegemonic Way," which was proclaimed by strong men and lords who oppressed others [56].

The most typical political philosophers of this period who can be cited were Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Nguyễn Dư, Phùng Khắc Khoan, Lê Quí Đôn and Ngô Thì Nhậm.

Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm (1491 – 1585) [57] came in first on the 莫 Mạc Dynasty royal examination, but only served at the court for 8 years before returning to his native land to start a school.  He condemned wars, and thepower struggle, and rejected the Hegemonic Way.  Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm praised the concept of humanity and justice, yearned for peace for the country, and advocated the state's rescuing the poor.  He affirmed: "Heaven created people, and everyone wants to be fed and clothed." He professed: "From the days of old, a country is rooted in the people, and one must realize that in order for the country to survive, it must win the heart ofthe people."  The assertion that the state must be concerned with the poor was new thinking; an advance of Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm.

Nguyễn Dư, author of Truyền kỳ mạn lục "A Leisure Collection of Extraordinary Tales" [58], the best student of Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, did not serve the royal court but had a clear political position of also praising Vương Đạo, the Benevolent Way.  According to him, "the rulers of the world must elevate themselves to the pure Benevolent Way."  He said, "As I have heard, to be human, one cannot live outside of heaven and earth, and to do politics, one cannot build a country outside social obligations ."

Phùng Khắc Khoan (1528 – 1613) [59] also highly praised the concept of humanity and justice.  He said: "Being based on humanity and taking hold of justice are the work of us mandarins, and to be able to save the world and restore peace to the people can give you a heroic inspiration." Humanity and justice are also the only path for the king to save the people and the country.  He said: "Talking about the method to save the country and the people, humanity and justice are the life potion I would offer to the King."  He always yearned for a better and peaceful society like that under Yao Shun Emperors in the old Chinese history.

At the time of Lê Quý Đôn (1726 – 1784) [60] political philosophy advanced further than that of the thinkers of the 17th Century.  Lê Quý Đôn was a well educated scholar.  He was top in all the examinations, held many important positions in the royal court, contributed greatly to scholarship and had a broad vision.

Lê Quí Đôn had a conscious vision of building a national culture. He collected and systematized the poetry and writings from the Lý to the Lê Dynasties.  He praised the talented people of the country, and criticized the bias against the Vietnamese and the land grabbing policy of Chinese feudalism.  He highly valued the natural riches of the country.  These riches lifted up national pride and contributed to the national will for self-reliance. On the other hand, Lê Quí Đôn also saw the limits of the traditional Chinese culture and he expanded his research into Western astronomy, geographic and scientific documents. Thus, in his political viewpoint, Lê Quí Đôn differed from the contemporary mandarins in many respects.  According to him, the cause of the king must be a combination of the Benevolent and Hegemonic ways.  Thus,the ruling principle of a country was not Confucianism, but that of the Confucianists plus that of the Legalists. The solution to daily problems needed a combination of soft and hard approaches. Humanity and justice had to be side by side with "tactics" and "positioning." The evaluation of people, according to him, could not rely on ethics alone, but needed to be based also on skills.  One can say there was a change in political thinking brought about by Lê Quí Đôn.

The new political thinking was also expressed by Ngô Thì Nhậm (1746 – 1803) [61].

Ngô Thì Nhậm held that social unrest was not willed by heaven but was caused by the royal court policies.  In the society, he concentrated on two basic forces, the people and the officials. According to him, the people are the center of the universe, and of the heaven–human relationship. He said: "Heaven watches, heaven listens because of the people.  The heart of the people at peace can change the will of heaven," and "the country is at peace because the heart of the people is won." In order to win the heart of the people, one must have policies that made people "feel satisfied at heart," the soldiers "feel sufficient in the mind"; one must abolish all policies that cause corruption and pauperize the people.

The second force that he paid attention to was the rank of officials.  According to him, officials must be "cultivated," meaning they must be knowledgeable, while they must be "virtuous," meaning that they had morals.

The virtuous one, according to him, was a person living honestly, who had a conscience and pride.  At the same time, he must be keen to reality, sensitive, flexible and have courage to make clear-minded decisions.

Although he emphasized the need for a mandarin to be conscientious, Ngô Thì Nhậm already had an eye on reality, and did not recite the books dogmatically like the Confucianists.  According to him, the source of this situation where the teachers did not know the lessons, the court officials were not impartial in their judgements, and the mandarins were not conscientious, was not only because of their low ethical standards, but chiefly because of hardship and shortages.  He considered shortages an urgent problem and said "If we do not grasp this key, even if our trí "mind" is capable of conceiving them, but then thế "potentially" speaking, we may not be able to solve them." Thus, to him, "the key is to study the conditions leading to shortages and the actual shortages and deal with them   This is the heart of the methodology in order to govern forever."

The viewpoint that the essential task was to give a chance for the people to be well-fed and clothed and for the mandarin to prosper, was a progressive idea in keeping with new ideas of the time.

Thus, in the 18th Century, there were new ideas in political thinking which did not exist before.  This was perhaps a sign of the transformation from feudal political thinking to contemporary political thinking that had characters of a bourgeois democracy.

VII. Political philosophy of Vietnamese bourgeois democracy at the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th Centuries.

1. Historical context.

After French – British joint forces took over 廣州 Quảng Châu (China), the French allied with Spain to draw a battle line at the port of Đà Nẵng, starting the war of aggression against Vietnam.  The aggression was met with fierce resistance from the people of Vietnam and from patriotic mandarins and intellectuals.  The French colonialists suffered great losses. However, the Vietnamese feudal royal court was weak and cowardly; it signed the Patenôtre treaty on June 6, 1884, which set the basis for the long-term protectorate of the French colonialists in Vietnam with their extreme and inhumane policies.  Vietnamese history from the end of the 19th Century to the beginning of the 20th Century became the history of successive movements for independence of the Vietnamese people.

Since the institution of the protectorate of the French colonialists in Vietnam, under the leadership of the patriotic feudal intellectuals, movements for independence broke out everywhere from the north to the south.  The most prominent was the Cần Vương "Save the King" Movement [62].  However, at the end of the 19th Century, these movements were basically defeated.  The Yên Bái Uprisings of the peasants which continued spontaneously from 1884 until 1913 on a large scale, finally was unsuccessful.  This ended the dream of reinstitution of an independent Vietnamese feudal state.

From the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th Century, the French colonialists proceeded to exploit their colony for the first time (1897 – 1914).  The second phase of exploitation lasted from the end of the First World War to the world economic crisis (1929 –1933).  During this period, they set up a tight ruling machinery from the central government to all localities.  They expanded agriculture, mining, and trade to maximize the sources of wealth, creating significant social and economic transformations.

Within this context, new political thinking was born, especially the democratic revolutionary thinking of progressive revolutionaries such as Phan Bội Châu, Phan Chu Trinh, and Nguyễn Thái Học.

2. The bourgeois democratic revolutionary thinking.

a. The bourgeois democratic thinking of Phan Bội Châu. [63]

Phan Bội Châu (1867 – 1941) had as his political goal to restore the country of Vietnam, and establish an independent government in the form of a constitutional monarchy.  His revolutionary method was a violent revolution to take back state power and to call for support from overseas. He founded the Association for Modernization (Duy Tân Hội), "founded the East Asian Alliance" (Hội Đông À Đồng Minh) to form solidarity with the exiled Chinese, Korean, Indian, and Filipino patriots studying in Japan in order to prepare forces for their revolutions. Phan Bội Châu also founded the Vietnam Restoration Association (Việt Nam Quang Phục Hội, 1912), advocating the overthrow of French colonialism, and the founding of a nationalist republic of Vietnam.  The thinking of Phan Bội Châu at first was only "to essentially take back the country of Vietnam, form an independent government, but not to follow any ism." After his arrival in Japan, he began to form the idea of "restoring the country of Vietnam, and establishing a constitutional monarchy" and finally he turned to the idea of winning independence, and establishing a democratic regime.  However, starting in 1925, after being arrested by the French and imprisoned in Huế, he wrote a book on socialism and extolled socialism.

Stemming frompatriotism, Phan Bội Châu turned into a thinker representing the trend of bourgeois democracy at the beginning of the 20th Century in Vietnam.

b. The thinking of Phan Châu Trinh [64].

Unlike Phan Bội Châu, Phan Châu Trinh (1872 – 1926) arrived at bourgeois democracy via the path of social reform.  The urgent taskthat Phan Châu Trinh put forth was the awakening of the spirit of self-reliance and self-empowerment, the elimination of autocracy, and the support for popular literacy, especially the fostering of practical scientific knowledge, elimination of outmoded extravangant customs, and development of the economy and advance of consumer goods production. He demanded that the colonial authorities change their ruling policies, and expand democracy, initiate reform in culture and education, to create conditions for the advancement of industry and commerce as the Vietnamese people, step by step, absorbed civilization.  He gave priority to the slogan "self-reliance in enlightenment," and advocated civil rights: he denounced the use of Vietnamese mandarins and officials by the French protectorate government which caused hardship to the people, and he denounced the bias against the Vietnamese people and intellectuals by the French protectorate government which created anger among the population.

Phan Châu Trinh went to France in March 1911 [65].  He participated in the founding of "The Compatriot Association" (Hội Đồng bào Thân ái) consisting of Vietnamese overseas concerned about their homeland.  He was in touch with high-ranking officials of the French Ministry of Colonies.  He believed one must view Vietnam not only in its relation to the world but also from the past to the future.  He suggested to King Khải Định that he abdicate "and if he would not give up old habits, if he kept the highest throne, turning it into an autocracy, then he would drown the people in the abyss of darkness forever."  He professed that if autocracy was to be instituted, then the throne might be there but the country was lost because "the monopoly of the monarchy killed patriotism in the heart of our Vietnamese people; it drove the people into ignorance and thus they would never understand what a country is."

Phan Châu Trinh was an early proponent of civil rights and democracy in Vietnam and was a true Confucianist who declared war against the monarchy, and advocated and struggled to form a democratic republic.

Even though the revolutionary theory of Phan Châu Trinh did not bring him success, he already represented a new political stance, which prepared the ground for the future transformation in political thinking [in Vietnam].

VIII. Political thinking of Hồ Chí Minh

1. Historical context.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century, after the failure of the Cần Vương Movement and the bourgeois democratic movements, the Vietnamese revolution faced a crisis in theory. Hồ Chí Minh (1890 – 1969) came from a patriotic family.  Faced with the suffering in the daily life of the people, he decided to walk on a new path.  In 1911, Hồ Chí Minh came to France, where he worked for his living and studied. Hồ Chí Minh absorbed Lenin's thesis on nationalism and colonialism and found the path for the Vietnamese revolution.  In 1920, Hồ Chí Minh joined the French Socialist Party, voted for it to join the Communist International and became a founder of the French Communist Party.  Hồ Chí Minh went to Russia in 1923, and at the end of 1924, he arrived in China to found a Marxist revolutionary organization called Việt Nam thanh niên cách mạng đồng chí Hội "The Association of Revolutionary Vietnamese Youth."

In 1930, Hồ Chí Minh unified three Indochinese communist organizations and founded the Vietnam Communist Party.  In 1941, Hồ Chí Minh returned to the country and directed the revolution in Vietnam, brought the Vietnamese revolution to success and created some extraordinary events of the 20th Century.

2. Hồ Chí Minh's Political Thought.

The political thinking of Hồ Chí Minh is an all-sided system of viewpoints on the basic issues of the Vietnamese revolution.  This thinking encompasses many different political aspects, from those of national liberation to the basic principles of a new society while solidly protecting national independence, and building a strong and prosperous nation.  This thinking inherits progressive ideas from Vietnamese history, and from the world cultural heritage, from Marxism-Leninism applied to the specific situation of Vietnam at the beginning of the 20th Century. Hồ Chí Minh thought is extremely rich and has the following salient content:

a. National independence is inherently in harmony with socialism.

Like all Vietnamese, Hồ Chí Minh always put a high priority on national independence.  This thinking is summarized in the thesis "Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom."  Hồ Chí Minh believed that "We'd rather sacrifice everything than lose our country, and become slaves." However, according to Hồ Chí Minh, national independence has to be part and parcel of happiness for the people, because "if a country is independent but the people cannot enjoy a prosperous life, freedom and happiness, then what is the meaning of independence?"

Hồ Chí Minh did extensive study on the bourgeois revolutions and came to a conclusion: the people can only enjoy happiness when the country is developed along the socialist path.  That is why national independence is part and parcel of socialism, because all of the bourgeois revolutions in the world did not, in reality, bring happiness to all their citizens.

b. Unity, unity, and greater unity is a leading strategic concept in the political thought of Hồ Chí Minh.

According to Hồ Chí Minh, no force on earth is stronger than people's unity.  Achieving unity means gaining the certainty of success to the revolution.

Unity, unity, and greater unity
Success, success, and greater success.

The invincible strength that helps the Vietnamese people to overcome adversaries, to regain their independence and the unification of the fatherland, is unity.

Hồ Chí Minh called for unity from within the Communist Party of Vietnam to the unity within the entire society, and unity between the Vietnamese people and the progressive people of the world.

Hồ Chí Minh always organized different fronts to unify different social forces based on the common interests of the nation.  This thinking created the concentration of energy and heart of the entire Vietnamese people, shoulder to shoulder, throughout the revolutionary process, and at the same time, created a constant bond with neighboring countries, and progressive peoples of the world, and thus forming the momentous strength for the Vietnamese people.

c. Building a true revolutionary Party.

Hồ Chí Minh holds that to bring success to the revolution requires a focus of revolutionary force.  To bring the forces in focus requires a revolutionary Party.  Hồ Chí Minh asserts that the Communist Party of Vietnam is a party of the working class and working people, thus it is the party of the Vietnamese nation.  The party is the vanguard of the working class, and at the same time, the vanguard of the nation.  Thus, the party needs an advanced theory as the guide.  The party members must be vanguard and exemplary.  The party needs constant consolidation and must rely on the people to build the party.  Thanks to this guiding thought, the Communist Party of Vietnam has successfully led the struggle for national liberation, and the defense of independence and unification of the Fatherland, as well as building and developing the country in the new historical period.

d. Building a State of the people, by the people, for the people and practicing popular democracy.

The thesis of a state of the people, by the people and for the people can be considered as a salient political thinking of Hồ Chí Minh.  This thinking has been described comprehensively in the complete theory of the state.  The main contents of this thinking can summarized as follows:

One, in principle all power in Vietnam belongs to the people.  The people are the ones who select worthy individuals to serve in the state apparatus, monitor the work of the state organizations and officials, and at the same time, have the rights to dismiss the unworthy officials.

— The state organizations from the central to the local levels are servants of the people, serving the interests of the people.  Anything that benefits the people, the state must try its best to do, and anything that does not benefit the people, the state must avoid totally.

— The state apparatus must guarantee its modernity, must consist of fully democratic and effective legislative, executive and judiciary branches.

— The state of the people, by the people and for the people must bear the nature and traits of the working class under the leadership of the Communist Party.

— The state cadres must have two basic virtues: they must be ethical and competent; totally honest, hard working, thrifty, incorruptible, just, impartial, and oppose bureaucracy, corruption, wastefulness and distance from the people.

e. Thesis of people as the foundation.

The philosophy that considers the people as the foundation is an eastern traditional political philosophy, especially of China and Vietnam.  However, this philosophy of "considering the people as the foundation " of Hồ Chí Minh political thinking was expanded and elaborated in content as follows:

– Under the sun, nothing is more precious than the people.
– The state and its cadres must put the interests of the people first.
– The people must be relied and depended upon to solve any problem.
– The state needs to be close to the people and trust the people, learn from the people's experience and to sharpen one's morality.
– The state must know how to develop the genuine rights to ownership of the people.

The political thinking of Hồ Chí Minh is not a generalization of the pre-existing political thought in the Eastern or Western history.  It is a critical adoption of these trends of political thought and improves on them with new content, which created its unique character.

IX. Vietnamese political philosophy since 1930.

1. Historical context.

From 1930 to the beginning of the 21st Century, Vietnam has experienced a series of extremely important historical events.

— On February 3, 1930, the Communist Party of Vietnam was born and has led the Vietnamese revolution since then.

— On August 19, 1945, the August Revolution succeeded, taking back the independence of Vietnam after nearly 100 years of the French colonialist protectorate, and eradicating feudalism which existed in the Vietnamese history for almost 1,000 years (since the end of the Northern domination).

— From 1945 to 1954 under the brilliant and steadfast leadership of the Communist Party the Vietnamese people defeated the second aggressive war of old French colonialism.

Almost half a million professional French colonial troops were decimated. 2,688 billion French Francs and 2.6 million dollars of the US assistance were spent for an unjust cause.  In this period, 20 French governments fell, French governors were recalled seven times, and eight consecutive French commanders-in-chief were defeated.  Finally, the French colonialists were forced to recognize the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Vietnam.

— From 1954 to 1975, the Vietnamese people realized two strategic tasks:

+ Building the material and ideological base for socialism in the north.
+ Liberating the southern part of Vietnam to reunify the country.

During this period, Vietnam defeated the neocolonialist war of aggression of the United States, with the longest, the fiercest and the most barbaric war on the largest scale since the Second World War.

According to the statistics of the Vietnam Ministry of Labor, Disability and Social Affairs (October 1993), the sacrifice and losses in Vietnam are as follows:

1.1 million deaths, 600,000 disabled veterans, 300,000 missing in action, about 2 million civilians killed, 2 million civilians maimed, 2 million affected by toxic chemicals (among them about 50,000 deformed children).

The victory of the Vietnamese people put an end to the yoke of domination of imperialism in Vietnam for 117 years and secured total national independence and unification of the fatherland, opening a new era of development for the country.  This is indeed the greatest epic in the Vietnamese history, and the most significant event of the 20th Century.

Thus, Vietnam devoted three-quarters of the 20th Century to the most arduous struggle with the highest sacrifice to gain back its independence and to safeguard the territorial integrity of the Fatherland.

— From 1975 on, Vietnam moved onto the path of development with a socialist orientation.

The 1975–1985 period was when the country was recovering from the wars.  The cruelest consequences of wars, plus economic isolation and an embargo, together with the old-style management created serious socio-economic hardship.

— Since 1986, the Communist Party of Vietnam has promoted total renovation (đổi mới) which initiated transformations in all spheres:

– The country emerged out of crises.
– Vietnam became third in the world in food exports.
– Industrialization and modernization were pushed forward.
– Social and political stability, defense and security have been maintained.
– International relations have been constantly expanded.
– There were new developments in the socio-cultural spheres.

Vietnam has gradually gained its deserved status in the region and in the international arena.

2. The basic contents of political philosophy.

Vietnamese political philosophy since 1930 has not arrived at an independent philosophical theory.  Even so, the philosophical viewpoints on politics have become clearer and have been presented in philosophical theories, in theories of the state and in theories of the Communist Party, which later were included in the field of political science.

The contents of Vietnamese political philosophy since 1930 are rich, and the most outstanding features are:

a. The theory on national liberation, defending national independence, defending sovereignty and national unity.

This is the basic political thinking throughout Vietnamese history.  In the Hồ Chí Minh era, this thinking was advanced to its height and became the basic philosophy in the struggle for independence.

In 1930, the Vietnamese revolution was defined as an anti-imperialist, anti-feudalist and anti-collaborator revolution.  But the struggle for independence was primary.  The positions of the Communist Party of Vietnam in the years before the August Revolution were: interests of a part, or of a class, must be secondary to the life and death of the nation and the country.  National interests were highest in importance.  The Vietnamese revolution in this period was a national liberation revolution.  The primary task of the revolution was to overthrow the Japanese-French imperialists and the traitors.  The main forces of the revolution were workers and peasants led by the working class, together with all patriotic Vietnamese of different classes and strata in the society.

After the success of the August Revolution, the French colonialists proceeded with the second war of aggression, so that the leading thought of the Vietnamese revolution was primarily that the entire people rise up and conduct a protracted and all-sided resistance, with a determination to win true independence and unification, to protect and expand the gains of the August Revolution.  This very strategic thought was the focus for the entire anti-French resistance.

After the defeat of the French colonialists, the United States intervened and replaced the French in the southern part of Vietnam, scheming to divide Vietnam forever, so that the leading political focus was: to heighten the unity of the entire people, with determination, to complete the national and people's democratic revolution for the entire country, to build a peaceful, unified, independent, democratic, prosperous and strong Vietnam, and to actively contribute to the defense of peace in Southeast Asia and the world.

That basic idea helped to develop the internal strength of the Vietnamese people, combined with the support of the former socialist countries, of the peace and justice loving forces in the world, including the French and the American people, creating a coordinated strength to overcome the world's leading imperialist forces of the 20th Century.

b. Thought on the development of the country following the path of socialism.

The thesis on the development of the country following the path of socialism is one of the essential points of Vietnamese political thinking at the beginning of the 20th Century [66].

Based on the theory of socio-political form of Marxist political philosophy, Vietnam asserts:

— The Vietnamese history does not follow the familiar stages of development like many other countries in the world but has its own specific development pattern.

— In the context of changes in the world in the 20th Century and based on the reality of Vietnam, Vietnam is capable of development towards socialism without going through capitalist oriented development after winning its independence, unification and territorial integrity.

— Only socialism will truly bring happiness to the Vietnamese people and strength to the country of Vietnam.

— Socialism in Vietnam is understood as:

"A society of prosperous people, a strong nation, with equality, democracy, and civilization; with owership of the people; having a developed economy, based on modern productive forces and production relations in congruence with the development of the productive forces; with a progressive culture full of national characters and identity; with the people in well-being, freedom, happiness, and well-rounded development, free of oppression and injustice; with the ethnic nationality communities in Vietnam equal, united, mutually assisting each other for common progress; having a law-governed socialist state of the people, by the people and for the people under the leadership of the Communist Party; having friendly and cooperative relations with peoples of other countries in the world."

In order to realize the above goals, the Vietnamese revolution must undergo many stages and many intermediate steps.  Vietnam considers it important to develop a multi-sector socialist oriented economy, to advance socialist industrialization and modernization combining inner and outside strengths, tradition and modernity, to create sustainable development for the country.  Side by side with this process, Vietnam also proceeds to build an advanced national culture, an advanced political regime and other meaningful social relations.  These are very basic political thinking of Vietnam in the new context.

c. Thought on building a socialist law-governed state, of the people, by the people and for the people.

The theory of the state occupies an important position in the Vietnamese political thinking, especially in the system of theories of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Since 1941, the Communist Party of Vietnam has held the position that one would not say a worker-peasant united front forms a Soviet state, rather one say that the entire people united and formed a democratic republic government.  This government must be elected by a people's congress, and represents the true unity and unanimous action of the entire people, which includes all revolutionary parties and patriotic organizations that elect it.

After the August Revolution, the above thinking was codified in the Constitution.  Article 1 of the 1946 Constitution states: Vietnam is a democratic republic.  All power of the country belongs to the Vietnamese people, regardless of race, gender, wealth, class or religion.

Since 1954, because the northern part of Vietnam was liberated and developed on a path of socialism, the state of Vietnam assumed the duty of the state of the proletariat.

In reality, because the scope of the state's activities was constraint, beginning in 1992 a new theory of a socialist law-governed state of the people, by the people and for the people was formed.  This is the newest political viewpoint on the state in the Vietnamese political philosophy.

The socialist law-governed state of Vietnam has the following basic characteristics:

— The people are the highest and sole holder of state power.

— The State must respect and protect civil and human rights, all for the happiness of all human beings.

— The state is organized and operates on the basis of the Constitution and a system of laws, and guarantees the supremacy of the law.

— The state operates on the principle of unity and division of power between the legislative, executive and judiciary.

— The state is under the leadership of the Communist Party and the supervision of the people.

Those are the leading viewpoints for building and elevating the active role of the Vietnamese state today.

d. Promoting the strength of great national unity to be the source of power, the main driving force, and a decisive element in the building and defense of the Fatherland.

— Great national unity is a fine tradition of the Vietnamese people.

— Great national unity based on the alliance of workers, peasants and intellectuals is a long-standing strategic policy of the Vietnamese revolution.

— Great national unity for the defense of the independent and unified Fatherland, for the people's prosperity, for a strong nation, and for an equal, democratic and civilized society becomes a common cause to unite peoples of different nationalities, religions, and social strata in the country and Vietnamese living abroad.

— Great unity requires the erasure of all complexes, prejudices, and discrimination based on the past and class origin.  It also requires the respect for different opinions which do not go against the national interests, highlighting the humane, just and tolerant tradition, building of an open and mutually trustful spirit, maintaining political stability, and forming a social consensus on the future of the nation.

The above are the thinking on an extremely large unity stemming from the vested interests of the entire nation, and from the need to accelerate the development of the country.

The Vietnamese concept of unity extends to the solidarity of nations and progressive organizations in the world on the basis of equality, cooperation and mutual benefit.

The above is the highest form of Vietnamese political philosophy.  It is the result of the crystallization of political thought formed in more than 2,000 years of history.  It is also the crystallization of revolutionary thought in the era of Hồ Chí Minh.  These ideas will continue to be developed in the process of building a socialist oriented country of Vietnam.

X. Conclusion.

The political thinking or political philosophy of Vietnam, with its rich content, had different manifestations in different periods of history.  However, the most enduring features of these ideas have the following prominent characteristics:

1. National independence, national sovereignty, and the territorial integrity of Vietnamare are the sacred and inviolable rights.  Any force trampling on these rights will certainly be defeated by the Vietnamese people.  This is an invariable consciousness that is asserted time and again in the political argumentation and in the philosophy of life of the people.

2. The greatest strength of Vietnam is the great unity of the entire nation.  The Vietnamese people are the most durable bastion protecting the Vietnamese Fatherland and their offspring.  This strength, stemming from unity of the entire Vietnamese people, is the fundamental strength to bring success in all anti-aggression wars, and also the strength to build and develop the country, and to build a strong nation.

3. The most outstanding political thinking of Vietnam is the concept of great justice.  The resistance against foreign aggressors for the independence of the Fatherland, for the freedom and happiness of the Vietnamese people were wars for great justice.  The goal of these wars was to chase away aggressors and regain independence for the Fatherland.  Thus, when this goal was achieved, the Vietnamese people were ready to put away the past and to cooperate for development in the relations of equality and mutual respect.

4. In order to achieve the cause of regaining and maintaining the independence of the land, Vietnam always advocates the building of a strong political state of the people, putting the interests of the nation and the people at heart, a state which is organized appropriately according to the historical context in Vietnam in order to reach to the highest effectiveness the cause of building and defending the nation.

5. The basic political goal of Vietnam in the present situation is to build and develop the country under the socialist orientation, that is, a country with "prosperous people, a strong country, and an equal, democratic and civilized society" and with friendly and cooperative relations with all countries in the world.

Thanks to the correct political philosophy that withstands all extremely severe challenges in history, Vietnam still stands firm and will continue to develop in the new historical conditions.

Reference of the translator

Nguyễn Khắc Viện.  1993. 
Vietnam: A long history. Thế Giới Publishers, Hanoi, Vietnam.
[ĐVSKTT] Vietnam Social Sciences Academy.  1998.
大 越 史 記 全 書 Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư [A complete history of Đại Việt]. Bản in Nội các Quan bản, Mộc bản khắc năm Chính Hoà thứ 18 (1697). Social Sciences Publishing House.  Hà Nội. 4 volumes.  Digitized version by the Institute of Hán Nôm Research of the Nguyễn Dynasty reprint as Quốc tử giám tàng bản.
[VSCM] Đặng Xuân Bảng. 2000.
越 史 綱 目 節 要 Việt sử cương mục tiết yếu [The essential Vietnamese history].  Viện Nghiên cứu Hán Nôm.  Social Sciences Publishing House.  Hà Nội.
Vũ Ngọc Khánh, Chief editor.  1993.
Từ điển Văn hoá Việt Nam: Phần Nhân vật chí [A dictionary of the Vietnamese Culture].  Culture and Information Publishing House.  Hà Nội.
Phạm Văn Sơn. 1960.
Việt sử toàn thư (từ thượng cổ đến hiện đại) [A complete history of Vietnam (from ancient times to the present)].  First printing at Thư Lâm Ấn thư quán, reprinted by Đại Nam (California, US).

Translator's Endnotes

[1]    The translator thanks Merle Ratner and Sophie Quinn-Judge for their invaluable comments.
[2]    Dân tộc and quốc gia are both translated into English as "nation."
[3]    Tư tưởng can also be translated as thinking, thought, concept, viewpoint, theme, thesis, ... besides consciousness, depending on the context.
[4]    文 郎 Văn Lang.
[5]    雄 王 Hùng Vương (ĐVSKTT warns 雒 lạc and 雄 hùng were often mixed up in old historical records).
[6]    貉 侯 lạc hầu, tribal marquis, and 貉 将 lạc tướng, tribal generals.
[7]    秦 Ch'in, SV. Tần.
[8]    秦 始 皇 Ch'in Shih-huang, SV. Tần Thuỷ Hoàng.
[9]    西 甌 Tây Âu, 貉 越 Lạc Việt, 甌 貉 Âu Lạc, 蜀 泮 Thục Phán.
[10]    古 螺 Cổ Loa (lit. spiral shell; conch).
[11]    趙 佗 Triệu Đà.
[12]    嶺 南 摭 恠 Lĩnh Nam chïch quái "Collection of strange stories in Lĩnh Nam." Lĩnh Nam or 五嶺 Ngũ Lĩnh was in southern China, covering Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Hunan and Jiangxi (and also the Red River Delta during the Northern domination).
[13]    Yêu nước thương nòi, a folk saying.
[14]    In Vietnamese giống nòi—can be understood more as 種 giống "seed" and nòi 㐻 or �� "pedigree, family line, seed."
[15]    唐 T'ang Dynasty, SV. nhà Đường.
[16]    giang sơn đất nước "country" is a compound word giang sơn (giang "river" and sơn "mountain"), and đất nước (đất "land" and nước "water").
[17]    徵 側 Trưng Trắc and 徵 貳 Trưng Nhị of 麊 冷 Mê Linh District.
[18]    趙 氏 貞 Triệu Thị Trinh.
[19]    李 賁 Lý Bí. Emperor 李 南 帝 Lý Nam Đế, 萬 春 Vạn Xuân "Thousands of Springs."
[20]    趙 光 復 Triệu Quang Phục.
[21]    梅 叔 鸞 Mai Thúc Loan became Emperor 梅 黒 帝 Mai Hắc Đế.
[22]    馮 興 Phùng Hưng, also named 布 蓋 大 王 Bố Cái Đại Vương "Great Emperor Bố Cái."  There is a suggestion that the compound word bố cái is "parents," composed of bố "father" and cái "mother; great."
[23]    曲 承 祐 諭 Khúc Thừa Dụ.
[24]    靜 海 軍 節 度 使 Tỉnh Hải Quân Tiết Độ Sứ "Military Commissioner of Tĩnh Hải region." According to Prof. Nguyễn Ngọc Huy, Tĩnh Hải was a late T'ang name for Vietnam (cf. The Vietnam Review 3:1997).
[25]    同 平 章 事 Đồng Bình Chương Sự.  Wikipedia gives "同平章事,全名"同中書門下平章事 ,即 宰相 一職。", i.e. full name "Đồng trung thư môn hạ bình chương sự, tức tể tướng nhất, chức." comparable to the title chancellor. Cf. 同中書門下平章事. Special thanks to Prof. Ngô Vỉnh Long.
[26]    吳 權 Ngô Quyền, and the victory on the 白 籐 Bạch Đằng River.
[27]    黎 桓 Lê Hoàn.
[28]    宋 Sung Dynasty, SV. nhà Tống.
[29]    丁 部 領 Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, or Emperor 丁 先 皇 Đinh Tiên Hoàng and the kingdom 大 瞿 越 Đại Cồ Việt. 太 平 "Thái Bình" is the lunar calendar year based at 1.
[30]    國 號 quốc hiệu "formal name of a nation," which was sometimes used as abase for calendar.
[31]    南 平 王 Nam Bình Vương.
[32]    李 Lý and 李 公 藴 Lý Công Uẩn.
[33]    黎 Lê; 前 黎 Tiền Lê "First Lê."
[34]    華 閭 Hoa Lư; 昇 龍 Thăng Long.
[35]    陳 Trần.
[36]    李 常 傑 Lý Thường Kiệt.
[37]    陳 太 宗 Trần Thái Tông and 陳 國 峻 Trần Quốc Tuấn.
[38]    陳 明 宗 Trần Minh Tông.
[39]    眾 志 成 城 Chúng chí thành thành.
[40]    陳 光 啓 Trần Quang Khải.
[41]    檄 將 士 Hịch Tướng sĩ "Appeal to Generals and Officials".
[42]    胡 Hồ.
[43]    藍 山 Lam Sơn.
[44]    History book [VSCM]: 會 盟 hội minh, or 會 誓 hội thề.
[45]    黎 利 Lê Lợi.
[46]    阮 廌 Nguyễn Trãi.
[47]    平 吳 大 誥 Bình Ngô đại cáo.
[48]    ĐVSKTT cited "20,000 horses" while the Proclamation on Victory over the Ngô cited "thousands of chariots," cf. ĐVSKTT, 1428, main history, volume 3, p. 51b.
[49]    黎 聖 宗 Lê Thánh Tông.
[50]    堯 舜 Yao Shun "Legendary emperors-sages in China," SV. Nghiêu Thuấn.
[51]    no ấm, literally, well-fed and well-clothed.
[52]    文 治 văn trị "rule by literature" or 德 治 đức trị "rule by virtue" or 禮 治 lễ trị "rule by rites."
[53]    國 朝 刑 律 Quốc triều hình luật "CriminalCodes of the National Imperial Court," also called Luật 洪 德 Hồng Đức.
[54]    西 山 Tây Sơn; 阮 惠 Nguyễn Huệ, who became Emperor 光 中 Quang Trung.
[55]    阮 映 Nguyễn Ánh.
[56]    王 道 Vương đạo, literally, the Imperial Way, sometimes translated as the Benevolent theory, as opposed to the 覇 道 Bá đạo, the Hegemonic, or militaristic,or dictatorial way.
[57]    阮秉謙 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm.
[58]    傳 奇 漫 錄 Truyền kỳ mạn lục by 阮 嶼 Nguyễn Dư.  Cf. Tân biên Truyền kỳ mạn lục giải âm, translated into Nôm by Nguyễn Thế Nghi, transliterated and noted by Nguyễn Quang Hồng, the Institute of Hán Nôm Research, Social Sciences Publishing House, Hanoi, 2001.
[59]    馮克寬 Phùng Khắc Khoan.
[60]    黎貴惇 Lê Quý Đôn.
[61]    吳時任 Ngô Thì Nhậm.
[62]    懃王 Cần Vương.
[63]    潘佩珠 Phan Bội Châu.
[64]    潘周楨 Phan Châu Trinh.
[65]    The Vietnamese original has "October 1908."
[66]    Perhaps the author means the "21st" Century.

Center for Vietnamese Philosophy, Culture & Society Gladfelter Hall, Room 1016
Temple University Philadelphia, PA 19122 Contact: