Written: Fall, 1950
Source: Selected Works of Ho Chi Minh Vol. 3
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House
Transcription/Markup: Roland Ferguson and Christian Liebl
Online Version: Ho Chi Minh Internet Archive (marxists.org), July 2003
About this review conference, I have some opinions:
At this conference, there are officers who directly took part in the campaign and are back here to review both their achievements and shortcomings. There are also cadres and officers from the various interzones, army units and public services who did not take part in the campaign but who are here to learn experiences. To make criticism and self-criticism, to review our work, to popularise and draw experiences are very good things which should be developed into a style of work in the army, administration and mass organisations. In this review, I want to draw your attention to some points.
1 - Heighten discipline
Discipline must be observed at all levels. Critical reviews must be made at all levels, from lower levels upward and from higher levels downward. We must help all the men and officers of the army to understand thoroughly the necessity for this work. Only then can we achieve success.
2 - Strictly carry out orders from higher levels
Order from higher levels must be unconditionally and strictly carried out. There is a Chinese proverb saying that "military orders are as firm as mountains, " that is whenever an order from a higher level is issued, it must be carried out at any cost. Don't misunderstand democracy. When no decision is yet taken, we are free to discuss. But when a decision is taken, we should not discuss any longer. Any discussion then could be only discussion on the ways and means to carry out the decision quickly and not to propose that it should not be carried out. We must prohibit any such act of unruly freedom.
3 - Love the soldiers
The officers must love the men under their command. As regards sick armymen or invalids, the officers must look after them and inquire into their health. The commanders and political commissars must be the brothers, sisters and friends of the soldiers. So long as they are not so, they have not yet fulfilled their tasks. Only when officers are close to soldiers like the limbs of the same body, can the soldiers love the officers like their kith and Kin. Only so can the instructions, orders and plans from higher ranks be actively and strictly implemented by the armymen. We must congratulate and reward all armymen who have achieved meritorious services, promote all progressive officers and men, especially those who have a long service in the army.
4 - Respect the people
We must respect the people. There are many ways of showing respect to the people. It is not sufficient to greet people in a polite manner. We must not waste the manpower and property of the people. When mobilising the people, we must see to it that their contributions do not exceed the requirements in order to avoid waste. We must avoid anything which is prejudicial to the people's life. To know how to assist the people is also to respect them. Help them to harvest crops, and organise literary classes for local militia and armymen.
5 - Take good care of public property and war booty
Public property is the fruit of the collective labour of the people. The army must preserve and take good care of it and must not waste it. Put an end to such acts as selling the rice contributed by the people, damaging tools and wasting ammunition. War booty is also public property. It belongs to the nation, not to the enemy. Munitions, medicine, equipment and food are the sweat and blood of our people. Our soldiers had to shed blood to recover them. We must prize and take good care of them, and not waste them or make them our personal property. When looking after them, we must arrange them neatly and protect them carefully against rain and sun.
6 - We must sincerely make criticism and self-criticism
In your reports to the conference, you must pay attention to this point. When making criticism and self-criticism, we must sincerely expose our shortcomings. If we make mistakes but don't want to expose them, that is like a patient who refuses to tell his disease to the doctor. When we do a lot of work it is difficult for us to avoid making mistakes. So we use the method of criticism and self-criticism to help one another in correcting our errors, and be determined to correct them in order to make progress together. Besides exposing our shortcomings we must also report our achievements in order to develop them. In order to achieve good results in criticism and self-criticism, cadres at all levels, especially high-ranking cadres, must be exemplary before anyone else.
Many experiences, good and bad alike, may be drawn from this campaign. We must review them, popularise them and learn from them. They may be summed up in the following main points:
1 - The leadership of the Central Committee is clearsighted. The leading committees at all levels have also adopted correct lines of leadership. The various organs of the army, mass organisations and administration have united, closely co-ordinated their actions and adopted a unified plan of work.
2 - Our soldiers are very zealous and heroic. This has been amply proved by the examples of the man who had his broken arm chopped off to facilitate his movement in the assault, of another man who rushed into an enemy stronghold with a charge of dynamite in his hands, or of many others who did not eat anything for 3 or 4 days but continued to fight with all their ardour and heroism, and other examples.
3 - Our people are very good. Never before have such big contingents of women of the Kinh, Man, Tho, Nung and other nationalities volunteered to carry supplies to the front as in the recent campaign. Hardship, privation and danger could not lessen their ardour, cheerfulness and heroism. That is really admirable. This is partly thanks to Comrade Tran Dang Ninh and other cadres of the Viet Bac Interzone who have correctly implemented the policies of the Party and the Government and partly to the ardent patriotism and self-sacrificing spirit of our compatriots.
4 - The enemy was subjective and underestimated his adversary. He did not think that we were so powerful or could make such rapid progress. That is why he did not take appropriate measures of defence, and exposed his weaknesses.
These are major experiences which must be pointed out in the reviewing report.
1 - Concerning propaganda work
In practice, the enemy has been making much more propaganda for us than we have ourselves. We have not concentrated all means and mobilised all our abilities for propaganda. That is why our information is still very slow and does not reach broad masses. The campaign closed on October 15, yet until October 30, the people and cadres in many localities did not yet know anything or only knew very little of it. Or if they had heard about it, they did not know how to popularise the news. Our propaganda among the prisoners of war and enemy troops as well as abroad is still very weak. We did not know how to make excerpts from enemy newspapers which expressed anger at the colonialist military commanders, politicians and administrative authorities who only cared for having a good time and disputed about personal interests while their soldiers died on the battlefields "without a wreath being laid or a tear being shed for them ". We have failed to base ourselves on this material to write leaflets for agitation among the enemy's ranks, give explanations to the prisoners of war and make propaganda among the population in enemy-held areas.
2 - Let us not indulge in subjectivism and underestimate the enemy
Do not indulge in naive subjectivism and think that from now on victory will always be ours and there will be no more difficulties or failure. This victory is only a preliminary success. We still have to make great efforts and win many more victories like this or even greater ones before we can switch over to a general counter-offensive. From now to the day of complete victory, we shall meet with many difficulties and perhaps shall go through many failures. In a war, to win a victory or suffer a defeat are common things. The essential is that we must win final victory. We must help all officers and men and the people to bear that firmly in mind so that they will not be self-complacent when winning and disappointed when losing, but instead will always make utmost efforts to overcome difficulties and hardships and advance toward final victory.
Do not underestimate the enemy. The enemy is pulling himself in, not to lie still, but actually to leap forward again. He is striving to win time and prepare to hit back. In the meantime, they will seek to bomb and strafe the areas under our control with the aim of intimidating us, as was the case in Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang and Bac Giang recently.
3 - We must win time
We too must win time in order to make preparations. That is a condition for defeating the opponent. In military affairs, time is of prime importance. Time ranges first among the three factors for victory, before the terrain conditions and the people's support. Only by winning time can we secure the factors for defeating the enemy. It is precisely to win time that this conference should be a short one. The reports must be concise and raise the main and necessary problems. Don't be wordy. This would only waste time and bring no result at all.
4 - Lastly, we must keep absolute secrecy
Secrecy is a very important thing. Everybody must keep secrecy. We must seek every means to keep secret all activities and in all circumstances: in an inn, in our talks and in our work, we must observe secrecy. It is not sufficient for the army and public offices alone to keep secrecy. We must teach the people to keep secrecy if we want to keep our work in complete secrecy. If we succeed in keeping secrecy, that is already one step toward our success.
From all the questions I raise above, this conference should try to solve some. After the conference, if you decide to solve the remaining ones, we will surely succeed in our future battles.
The Party, Government and people call upon all officers and men to carry out these recommendations.
1. The Cao Bang - Bac Can - Long Son campaign.