Hồ Chí Minh
Original publication: marxists.org

Letter To Old People (1945)

3 minutes | English

Hồ Chí Minh (b. 1890-1969) wrote this address at the age of 55.

At the time of writing, in 1945, Vietnam had recently declared its independence from France. However, French rule would soon after be restored through the intervention of Britain and Japan on the side of France (Operation Masterdom). From 1946 to 1954 Vietnam would progressively push these invaders out of its territory. Then, from 1955 to 1975, Vietnam would be forced to fight the United States. [1] This culminated in one of the American empire’s most humiliating losses to date.

Hồ did not live to see the full liberation of Vietnam, but the Communist Party of Vietnam, under the leadership of his comrade Lê Duẩn (b. 1907-1986), completed the mission.

Dear Elders,

I am talking with you as an elder like you. A saying runs that “talents are exhausted with the coming of old age,” and our elders generally believe it. Whatever happens, they say, “old people must live in quietness, we are old, we have no more ambition. It is up to our children to take charge of temporal affairs. We are nearing death, we need not be active any longer.”

I do not appreciate this outlook. Patriots never live idly by reason of their old age. China had people such as Ma Fubo. [2] Our country had people such as Lý Thường Kiệt. [3] The older they grew, the more energetic and heroic they became.

At present our independence and freedom have just been won back, but we still have to go through many difficulties in order to consolidate them. In consequence our people, old and young alike, must endeavour to shoulder a part of the responsibility.

Our children are young, they will do heavy work. We are old, we cannot do heavy work, but leaning on our sticks, we will take the lead to encourage them and impart our experiences to them. We are elders, we must sincerely unite first to set an example to our children. Hence I hope that the old people in Hanoi will pioneer in organizing the old people’s National Salvation Association for the old folk throughout the country to follow suit and contribute to the safeguarding of our national independence.

[1] The United States manufactured the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” to justify its invasion, but it was in reality simply part of its geopolitical campaign to “stop the spread of communism.” 

[2] Ma Yuan (b. 14 BC-49 AD), also known by his official title Fubo Jiangjun [伏波将军] — “The General who Calms the Waves” — is revered in both China and Vietnam. [web] 

[3] Lý Thường Kiệt (b. 1019-1105) was a Vietnamese general and admiral of the Lý dynasty. [web]