From London, Ho Chi Minh’s ideology spreads over the world
The British capital of London nowadays is not too far away from Vietnamese people in this modern era of international integration. London is a place to retrace stories about President Ho Chi Minh, then known as Nguyen Tat Thanh, which have been recounted to every Vietnamese child during their first days at school.
There are different sources of information on the exact period of time when Nguyen Tat Thanh worked in the UK. However, both Vietnamese and international historical researchers share a common view that he stayed in London from 1913 to 1917.
Although it is a not a long period of time as compared to his 30-year journey to seek avenues for national salvation, right there in London, young Vietnamese man Nguyen Tat Thanh (later Ho Chi Minh) first approached now famous works by philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, which helped him form a political ideology to liberate his home country and people.
A ten-volume book entitled ‘Ho Chi Minh – Bien Nien Tieu Su’ (Chronology on Ho Chi Minh’s Life), published by Vietnam’s National Politics-Truth Publishing House, notes that President Ho shovelled furnace coal when he first arrived in London in 1913. He then took work in the kitchen at the Drayton Court Hotel on The Avenue in West Ealing.
He then went on to work at the Carlton Hotel at the Corner of Haymarket and Pall Mall, now the most notable place during Nguyen Tat Thanh’s stay in London. The hotel was later destroyed during the 1940 bombings and its replacement was the 19-storey New Zealand House, a modern office building.
In 1990, the Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society (BVFS) put up a plaque on its wall reading “Ho Chi Minh, 1890-1969, founder of modern Vietnam, worked in 1913 at the Carlton Hotel which stood on this site.”
According to late Secretary of the BVFS Len Aldis, who was a close friend of Vietnam, it was not easy for the society to put up the plaque on the building’s wall as it took up to three years to complete with the support of accredited politicians.
He assumed that the work became possible because it commemorated Ho Chi Minh, a great man who is known worldwide. It would be impossible if it was other person, he joked.
Ho understood that courage alone is not enough to liberate his nation, but he needs to fully grasp the development of colonialism and imperialism to be able to fight against them effectively."
John Callow, Director of Archives at the Marx Memorial Library in London
According to Director of Archives at the London-based Marx Memorial Library, Dr. John Callow, who has carried out a number of researches on President Ho, outlines that during his work at Carlton Hotel, Thanh reportedly worked from 5 am to noon and from 5 pm to 10 pm.
“He came here not just to earn a living but to learn the nature of chains that bind his nation and colonies to colonial countries. Through study and research, Ho understood that courage alone is not enough to liberate his nation, but he needs to fully grasp the development of colonialism and imperialism to be able to fight against them effectively,” Dr. Callow said.
Although the plaque at the New Zealand building says Ho Chi Minh worked there in 1913, documents from Ealing Council record that “the former Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, toiled in the kitchens of the Drayton Court Hotel in 1914, before going on to change his country's history, driving out forces from Japan, France and the United States.”
Despite the conflict in these timelines, it is undeniable that Ho Chi Minh’s time in London was a stepping stone on his path to world discovery, so that he could then popularise what he had learned to his compatriots.
It also significantly contributed to forming Ho Chi Minh's thought, which is an invaluable asset in the liberation of the nation from colonial slavery and a lodestar of the Vietnamese people on the path towards freedom, democracy, fairness and civilisation.
Ho Chi Minh's legacies have not only maintained their robust vitality in Vietnam but his ideology, vision and bravery have spread all over the world."
Katrin Kendal, Executive Director of Facing the World
Katrin Kendal, Executive Director of the British-based Facing the World, a charity that provides facial reconstructive surgery for children in Vietnam, said she read a book on Ho Chi Minh’s thought in English, which then has had a great influence on her while working to develop Facing the World into a multinational charity.
Dr. John Callow wrote that four years in London significantly contributed to the formation of President Ho Chi Minh’s ideology, adding that the President’s legacies have not only maintained their robust vitality in Vietnam but his ideology, vision and bravery have spread all over the world.