Uncle Ton Duc Thang was born on 20 August 1888. His native land is My Hoa Hung Village (Ong Ho Islet) of An Giang Province. He died on 30 March 1980, in his ninety second year.
On 19 August 1958, in the speech congratulating Uncle Ton to reach 70 and to be awarded the Gold-Star Order, Uncle Ho said: “Comrade Ton Duc Thang is an eminent son of our Fatherland. He operates revolutionary activities for 50 years. He was imprisoned in 17 years by the French Colonialists. He spent 09 years to lead the resistance war and 04 years to struggle for the world peace and the national unification… Being a national and international revolutionist, Comrade Ton Duc Thang is one of the first Vietnamese to struggle for the protection of the Great October Revolution… Comrade Ton Duc Thang is an example of revolutionary ethics; he spent all his life-spans to serve revolution, serve the people in industriousness, thriftiness, integrity and uprightness.”(1)
Thirty years later, in the 100th birth-anniversary of Uncle Ton, Comrade Pham Van Dong furthermost\re analysed: “The most precious thing in a man is the essence. The most precious heritage left to the People by Comrade Ton Duc Thang is the essence of Ton Duc Thang’s person, the synthesized product of the Southern generous quality, the Vietnamese resilient spirit and creativity, the pioneer of the working class, the revolution nature of a patriot, a communist, the humanity of a man. The essence of such human virtue is the love towards the country, the people, the compatriots, the comrades, the steadfast belief to the revolution’s victory, despite all miseries, difficulties, he devoted his heart to serve people with integrity, industriousness, thriftiness, uprightness, self-sacrifice, brilliant modesty and simple innocence. Such revolutionary quality can not be faded. From the youth to the old age, over a lot of challenges, it becomes more beautiful, more noble.”(2)
The comments in general of Uncle Ho and Comrade Pham Van Dong as stated above are very correct and profound. However, if we concentrate to the revolutionary career of Uncle Ton, especially before the existence of the Party, we can find many new historical things.
When Uncle Ton was 18, he was soon enlightened by Teacher Nguyen Phan Lang (who attended Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Movement) the patriotism, people-love. Unlike many contemporary young men who learn to become mandarins, Brother Hai Thang entered the Vien Dong Technical School from 1906 to 1909. He became a mechanic, working in Ba Son Factory of the French Naval Force in Saigon.
In 1912, at the age of 24, this mechanic led the strike of Ba Son workers and student strike at Bach Nghe Saigon School to oppose the exploitation and unjust suppression of the Colonialists. This is for the first time in our history, worker strike and student strike appeared and also the first time the struggle for class-interest combining with the struggle to oppress national suppression.
Avoiding to be arrested, late 1912, Brother Hai Thang had to disguised, changing his name on a merchant ship running on the Atlantic Ocean for France. In France, he worked as a mechanic in the Factory of Arsenal de Toulon with French workers, joining the union and operating in French Worker Movement. He is the first worker to join international activities.
In 1916, being mobilized to work as a mechanic on France battleship, Brother Hai Thang was the only Vietnamese on that battleship. Here, at 08:00 a.m. on 20 April 1919, He and the French sailors opposed war when they heard that this battleship would go to the Black Sea to fight against the Soviet Russia, a newly-born nation after the October Revolution 1917. He was assigned to hoist the red flag on the battleship. This was the first time a Vietnamese fighting to protect the Russian October Revolution. In 1957, telling this event, on the newspaper “Soviet Sailors” No. 24, Comrade Ton Duc Thang wrote: “I dreamt that with this red flag, the ship would anchor in Russia Port. I would land and join the Revolution, learning the Russian and returning to our Fatherland to save our people”.
Being expelled from France in 1920, returning to Saigon, Brother Hai Thang work in the KROFF factory owned by a German. He called the workers to struggle and establish the Secret Union. Comparing to the Red Union directly founded by Nguyen Duc Canh on 28 July 1929, the Union organized by Ton Duc Thang had been come into existence 09 years earlier. This was the first union of our workers. This Union was not a political unit, being the pioneer of Vietnam working class before the existence of the Communist Party.
To 1925, the Secret Union had nearly 600 members, leading many struggles of the worker to victory. The most significance was the victory of the strike of over 1000 workers of Ba Son. The purpose of the Ba Son strike was to contain the Michelet, preventing the French Colonialists to carry army forces to suppress the hot revolution in Quang Chau (China)…
The strike of Ba Son workers in 1925 marked an important milestone in working movement. It opened a new stage in which Vietnamese workers struggled in good organization, with clear political targets, showing the class-solidarity, international unity between Vietnamese workers and the Chinese ones. The VI International Communist Congress appreciated this strike.
At the beginning of Vietnam Communist Party, Comrade Ton Duc Thang contributed great services as:
, he moved his Union’s members to Nguyen Ai Quoc’s Society of Youth Revolution Comrade, those then becoming communist party members.
, he founded the first special cell of the Party in Poulo Condor Prison.
, he firstly held successfully the communication with the French Communist Party through sailors, receiving Marxist newspapers and books to send to the mainland and the prison for prisoners to learn, turning Poulo Condor Prison into the Revolutionist Training School.
Ton Duc Thang is the first political communist prisoner arrested by the French Colonialists with the longest time in jail. The services done by Uncle Ton from 1912 to 1925 and during the time in Poulo Condor Prison have contributed the essential initial portion to the year-long process of preparation and struggle to gain the government to the People in the August Revolution in 1945. Those services contribute the historic mission of Vietnam working class, opening our modern historical stage: national independence connecting with socialism.
With such historical reality confirmed, Ton Duc Thang must be deemed the opening person of that modern historical stage.
(*) Ex Deputy Secretary of Party Committee of Ho Chi Minh City.
(1) Ho Chi Minh, Complete works, National Political Publishing House, Ha Noi, 2000, volume 9, page 220-221.
(2) Pham Van Dong, The most precious heritage left to the People by Comrade Ton Duc Thang is the essence of Ton Duc Thang’s person – in Uncle Ton and in ourselves. Social Scientific Publishing House, 1988, page 16.