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Ho Chi Minh’s thought on building the people’s armed forces and all-people national defence: Values and significance in the cause of national defence

President Ho Chi Minh left our people an invaluable ideological legacy, in which building of the people’s armed forces and all-people national defence is the core content of his military thought and plays a vital role in guiding the building, combat, and development of the people’s armed forces and the building of the all-people national defence.

Pictures of the founding ceremony of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
(A file photo)

1. Ho Chi Minh’s thought on building the people’s armed forces
On inheriting and bringing into play the national experience in building military forces of various Vietnamese dynasties and developing ideologies of Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin on building “standing forces,” President Ho Chi Minh advocated building the people’s armed forces, which consists of three components, namely the national defence army (main force), local force, and militia and guerrilla force. His ideology on three-component armed forces was developed and became our Party’s unique, creative model of military organisation, suitable to Viet Nam’s military art, thus effectively tapping on all-people strength in the fight against the enemy; combining guerilla warfare with regular warfare, operational activities of regular army corps with uprisings of the masses; creatively and flexibly applying operational methods to annihilate the enemy at anytime, anywhere, and by any weapons. This made the most powerful expeditionary forces in the 20th century bog down and defeated in the robust, extensive posture of people's war, one after another.
Today, against the backdrop of emerging modern forms of operations, should the war to safeguard the Homeland occur, our adversaries will be still much more powerful than us in military and economic terms. In preparation for successfully countering wars of aggression, Resolution of the 8th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (11th Tenure) on Strategy to safeguard the Homeland in the new situation lays down requirements for concentrating on building a revolutionary, regular, highly-skilled, and gradually modern Viet Nam People’s Army (VPA) with some services and arms advancing straight to modernity; and combat support units in charge of electronic warfare, cyber warfare, etc., being ready to defeat the enemy in any forms of warfare in any operational environments. Besides, it is necessary to build a robust, extensive Militia and Self-Defence Force and a powerful, highly qualified Reserve. It is the inheritance and creative development of Ho Chi Minh’s ideology on building the three-component armed forces in the new era of our Party, ensuring that these forces always leverage their leading role in building a strong all-people national defence and proactively prevent and push back the risks of war.
Realising our Party’s national defence and military guideline, the three-component people’s armed forces have been built and developed in accordance with the cause of national reform and increasingly high requirements of consolidating national defence and safeguarding the Homeland. The whole military has been speeding up implementation of “three breakthroughs” to create drastic changes in military organisation and staffing, education and training, command and staff ability, good order and discipline, compliance with laws, administrative reform, and mastery of high technologies. There needs to build a “powerful” Reserve; gradually improve the quality of military profession; manage humans, vehicles and equipment in a close and scientific manner; well carry out training and mobilisation plans to inspect soldiers’ combat readiness; and work out plans to mobilise the industry sector properly to take advantage of achievements recorded in the industrialisation and modernisation process. The Militia and Self-Defence Force will be built under the motto of “robustness and extensiveness”, with appropriate quantity, high overall quality, political steadfastness. It is organised in an adept, compact, cohesive direction; equipped with proper weapons and equipment; educated and trained in politics, law, and military content, thus gradually improving combat capability; becoming a reliable political force of Party committees, authorities and people; and meeting requirements of building the all-people naional defence in localities and at grassroots level.
In addition to the organisational model of three-component people’s armed forces. President Ho Chi Minh also attached importance to cultivating political element of the armed forces. According to him, military missions must serve political ones. “Military without politics is like a tree without roots, which is not only useless but also harmful,” said Ho Chi Minh. He paid attention to Party building in the military to enable the Party to exercise absolute, direct, comprehensive leadership over the armed forces; set out the approach for establishing systems of Party organisations, political departments, political cadres, and commissars to ensure the Party’s leadership over the military. “As for military building and development, we have to make every effort to promote the building and consolidation of political work,” said Ho Chi Minh at the 2nd National Party Congress. Deeply grasping his ideology, under the leadership of the Communist Party of Viet Nam (CPV), the building of politically strong people’s armed forces is always identified as a fundamental principle, a useful lesson throughout the process of building, combat and development of the people’s armed forces, and a solid foundation for building the military, strengthening national defence, and safeguarding the Homeland.
A prominent viewpoint of significant importance in President Ho Chi Minh’s military ideology on building the armed forces is “men before arms.” According to him, weapons are essential, but less important than human. Consequently, in the process of organising, leading, and training the revolutionary armed forces, he used to attach importance to cultivating comprehensive capability of cadres and soldiers, who would possess political steadfastness, military knowledge and skills, and ability to effectively use weapons and equipment. Besides, he did not disregard the role of weapons and technical equipment because they are vital components of the armed forces’ overall power to defeat any foreign aggressors.
On grasping and applying his ideology in a correct, creative manner, the Central Military Commission (CMC) and Ministry of National Defence (MND) have led and instructed the building of a strong VPA with overall power and high combat power and adopted many synchronous, effective measures to realise the Project on force organisation in an adept, lean, highly-skilled direction and in conformity with military art, weapons, equipment, and defence posture in regions and areas nationwide.
2. Ho Chi Minh’s ideology on building the all-people national defence
Ho Chi Minh’s ideology on building the all-people national defence represents a high development in the building of revolutionary bases and rear. In a similar vein, President Ho Chi Minh’s ideology on building the all-people national defence was first expressed in the Declaration of Independence written and read by himself in front of all people and the world. The Declaration reads “Viet Nam has the right to be free and independent, and in fact it has already become a free and independent country. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilise all their physical and mental strength, sacrifice their lives and property to safeguard this freedom and liberty.” His ideology on building the all-people national defence was developed through the guideline of “combining struggle with national construction” during the war of resistance against French colonialists. The spirit, which urged all Vietnamese people to stand up to fight against French colonialists by any means, generated a great impetus for the entire Vietnamese people to go to the front and record glorious victories. After victory of the Geneva Accords (in 1954), this ideology was further improved. In the light of his ideology on building the all-people national defence, our Party led the entire military and people to strengthen national defence, build the VPA, develop the Reserve, Militia and Self-Defence Force, establish the defence industry, combine economic development with national defence, and build the socialist North into a power base and rear of the whole country, capable of providing resources for the great front in the South and defeating any schemes to expand the war to the North of the Americans and their puppets. Therefore, when the American imperialists escalated the war and carried out bombing raids in the North, our people had been well prepared to defeat any offensives one after another, continue to maintain production activities, stabilise the society, provide endless support for the South, and bring into play strength of the entire people to “fight to chase the Americans out, fight to overthrow the puppets,” liberate the South, and reunite the Homeland.
The goals of safeguarding the Homeland today, which are to “firmly protect independence, sovereignty, territorial unity and integrity, the CPV, the State, people, and the socialist regime; defend the processes of reform, industrialisation, and modernisation, national interests, and culture; firmly uphold peaceful environment, political stability, national security, social order and safety,” have been placing a myriad of difficulties and challenges to national defence consolidation and building of a strong all-people national defence. Being consistent in its ideology on building the comprehensive, all-people national defence, our Party has outlined the strategic guideline on national construction and defence in the new situation, which affirms its commitment to “strengthening capabilities of national defence and security, attaching importance to building political-spiritual potential and people’s heart and mind posture, closely combining the all-people national defence posture with the people’s security posture, improving quality of national defence and security education and training for cadres, Party’s members and people of all strata, making further investment in building facilities and developing weapons and equipment for national defence and security, paying attention to developing science and technology, security, military art, applying scientific achievements to combat readiness training and the fight against crime, carefully preparing plans to mobilise talent and material resources to meet the requirements of national defence and security mission when necessary, formulating and effectively implementing plans for national defence mobilisation, ensuring national reserves for national defence and strategic directions, and being ready to arm all people.” This demonstrates that Ho Chi Minh’s thought on building the all-people national defence is of enduring value and has been creatively developed by our Party into principles and guidelines suitable to practical situation of the country and the times to lead the entire political system, people, and military to successfully realise the cause of reform, national construction and defence.
Over the past few years, the building of all-people national defence has been actively operationalised and attained strong, comprehensive outcomes through thoroughly grasping the Party’s standpoints and guidelines on national defence and military, most notably the building of increasingly robust all-people national defence posture in connection with the people’s security posture, the building of in-depth, solid, provincial, municipal defence zones. Besides, national defence planning and state management of defence have drawn great attention of all levels. Localities attach importance to making investment in building and strengthening systems of defensive works in accordance with socio-economic development plans in each area. Education on national defence and security is conducted effectively, which serves to create drastic changes in awareness and actions of cadres, party members and people from various walks of life regarding the execution of two strategic tasks in the new situation. Cadres, sectors, and localities attach importance to combining socio-economic development with strengthening national defence and security, contributing to enhancing capacity to mobilise resources for national defence. People’s material and spiritual lives are improved. Regulation on grassroots level democracy is enforced extensively and produces practical effect, contributing to consolidating the great national unity and building the increasingly robust “people’s heart and mind posture”. The three-component armed forces are made increasingly strong and truly become the key forces in building the all-people national defence. The VPA takes initiative in working closely with the people’s security to successfully accomplish the tasks of protecting national security, ensuring social order and safety, fighting against crime, and national defence according to Decree 03/2019/ND-CP, dated 5 September 2019, of the Government, which contributes to promoting capacity and effectiveness of prevention and response to national defence and security situations. It is necessary to successfully carry out disaster prevention and response and help people with hunger eradication, poverty alleviation, and construction of new-style rural areas, especially those living in hinterland, areas inhabited by ethnic people, border areas, islands, and so on. These crucial, practical outcomes contribute to strengthening national defence potential and power, firmly safeguarding the socialist Vietnamese Homeland.
Ho Chi Minh’s thought on building the people’s armed forces and all-people national defence is the core content of his military ideological system. Research and application of Ho Chi Minh’s military thought on building the people’s armed forces and all-people national defence in of great practical value in the current situation. It is a scientific law and principle on building revolutionary people’s armed forces and strengthening all-people national defence and people’s security, contributing to firmly safeguarding independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Homeland, protecting a peaceful, stable environment conducive to national construction and development.
General Ngo Xuan Lich, Politburo Member, Deputy Secretary of the Central Military Commission,
Minister of National Defence

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