Category Archives: Vietnam

Actually Existing Socialism in Vietnam

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The following article below was originally published by the Return to the Source news blog: 

January 8, 2012

Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam

At Return to the Source, we frequently use the term ‘actually existing socialism’ to describe various countries that we identify as socialist. The term specifies ‘actually existing’ to highlight the need to approach socialism from a materialist, rather than idealist perspective. We would define actually existing socialism as the material manifestation of the socialist ideal. Imperfect as it may be, it is the reality of what it takes to build socialism in a world dominated by imperialism.

But what does actually existing socialism mean for revolutionaries in the 21st century, long after the fall of most of the socialist bloc? Five countries – Cuba, China, Vietnam, Laos, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – survived the wave of counter-revolutions in the early 1990s, but their survival has forced them to make certain concessions and retreats to the market system in varying degrees.

Much to the dismay of many leftists, China, Vietnam and Laos have all pursued a path of development that emphasized the role of a heavily regulated market economy in continuing to build socialism. Cuba and the DPRK maintained planned economies more similar to the Soviet Union’s model, but even recently they have accepted strategic market reforms.

Though the market reforms of China and Vietnam have both led to tremendous economic growth, the actual implementation of these new economic policies is decidedly unique. For Trotskyites and left-communists, these market reforms are simply manifestations of state capitalist policies. However, a closer look reveals that these market reforms were deliberate policy decisions demanded by the masses to continue building socialism in a post-Soviet world.

Like China, the commanding heights of the Vietnamese economy remains in the hands of the state. The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) – the party of the working class and peasantry – remains at the helm of the state, and it still relies on a planned economic model that incorporates some market elements. The working class still holds political and economic power in Vietnam, and the market reforms were implemented as a means of strengthening socialism rather than weakening it.

Indeed, if many critics of actually existing socialism actually looked into Vietnam, they would find a vibrant protest movement by workers and peasants who work with, rather than against, the CPV to improve socialism. The state subordinates the interests of capital, both foreign and domestic, to the class interests of the people, and the CPV plans the economy to address the needs and demands of the working class first and foremost.

At varying points in history, socialist countries have had to make certain temporary concessions to the market in order to strengthen and preserve socialism. Economically backwards nations that have socialist revolutions face the task of revolutionizing the productive forces in order to meet the material needs of the masses. As Lenin so adequately put it, “Electricity plus soviets equals socialism.”

Vietnam is continuing the arduous task of socialist construction. Hardened by the experience of savage onslaught by US imperialism and inspired by their victory over it, the Vietnamese people have persevered through periods of retreat and economic crisis to continue building socialism in the 21st century. Though market reforms have brought many challenges and negative consequences, the overall orientation of the Vietnamese state and economy is towards the working class, and that alone makes socialism in Vietnam worth studying and defending.

This essay is broken into smaller, digestible chapters:

  • Doi Moi, Market Reforms & Socialism in Vietnam
  • Socialist Market Economies vs. Capitalist Market Economies
  • Actually Existing Socialism in Vietnam
  • Trade Unions & Actually Existing Socialism in Vietnam
  • Market Reforms as a Mass Demand
  • Let A Thousand Flowers Blossom’: Protest & the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Vietnam
  • What Does Actually Existing Socialism Mean for Socialists in the US?

While the specifics of Vietnam’s market reforms are discussed at length in this piece, we see no reason to reinvent the wheel and one again demonstrate how market socialism is rooted firmly in the direct ideas and experiences of Marx and Lenin. Readers interested in our discussion on market socialism and Marxism-Leninism should refer back to China & Market Socialism: A Question of State & Revolution.

Doi Moi, Market Reforms & Socialism in Vietnam

In his 2010 book, Vietnam: Rising Dragon, journalist Bill Hayton argues that despite market reforms, Vietnam remains a patently socialist country. Sympathetic but not apologetic towards Vietnamese society, Hayton is a Western liberal but even he cannot escape the conclusion that Vietnam is decidedly different from the other capitalist countries in Asia. His book may be the most useful and telling study on modern Vietnam available in English, and we will quote it profusely throughout this piece. Unless otherwise denoted, all quotes come from his book.

After the devastation wrought by the US imperialist war against Vietnam and the continued legacy of French colonialism, “the rural economy was in ruins, the north had been bombed back to a pre-industrial age and the war had killed, wounded or displaced millions.” Vietnam’s ravaged infrastructure forced the country to import about “200,000 tonnes of rice just to prevent starvation.” Further adding to the economic problems, Vietnam was drawn into a war against its neighbor, Democratic Kampuchea (DK), after Khmer Rouge troops attacked Vietnamese citizens on the border. This led to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), an ally of the DK, to cut off essential economic aid to Vietnam.

In this context, limited market reforms were implemented to preserve, rather than dismantle, socialism. These reforms strikingly resembled the New Economic Policy (NEP) that Lenin and the Bolsheviks implemented in the Soviet Union in 1921. Under this first set of market reforms, “State-owned enterprises still had to meet their commitments to the central plan – but they were now allowed to buy and sell any surplus independently.” In the agricultural sector, “Farmers could also sell any rice they had left over once they’d supplied their allotted quota.”

Rather than undermining socialism, these reforms actually protected the working class orientation of the Vietnamese economy. Like in the Soviet Union, “some State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were already trading informally, and even doing business with foreigners, just to pay the bills. By tacitly approving these informal transactions the Party leadership hopes to control them and gradually rein the in.” These initial efforts failed, and illegal trading doubled from 1980 to 1982, creating a similar ‘second economy’ to the one seen in the Soviet Union.

The CPV responded and “tried to get tough” with measures like Decree 25-CP, which ordered “all state firms to register their market trading.” At this point, the CPV introduced the policy of doi moi, which means ‘change to something new’. Doi Moi boosted agricultural output and reduced the country’s rampant inflation, which had “hit almost 500 per cent” in 1987.

Just as Lenin and Stalin saw the NEP as a temporary retreat in order to meet the challenges posed to socialist construction, the CPV used – and continues to use – market reforms to strengthen socialism, and continued control of the economy by the state insures that the fledgling class of business owners never develops an independent class character.

However, the limited scope of these market reforms changed in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. No event had a greater impact on the remaining five socialist countries than the dissolution of the USSR, which was the largest trading partner for four of the five countries. Not unlike Cuba, Vietnam was heavily dependent on Soviet aid, especially following China’s hostility after the war for the liberation of Kampuchea. It is critical to understand that the loss of the USSR as a trading partner forced the CPV to consider the long-term viability of these reforms to insure continued economic growth and prevent the overthrow of socialism in Vietnam. Hayton writes:

“In 1981, aid from the Soviet Union funded about 40 per cent of the Vietnamese state budget. In 1991, it was cut off completely. The Party declared Vietnam open for foreign investment and the combination of low wages, under-used factories and a great geographical location was too tempting for overseas corporations to miss.”

However, this was decidedly different from the counter-revolutions and capitalist restoration wave that swept Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Hayton continues:

“But even at this point, the state remained in control, and foreign investment was directed into joint ventures with state firms. In every other communist country that has embarked on economic transition, the proportion of the economy controlled by the state has fallen. In Vietnam it actually rose: from 39 per cent in 1992 to 41 percent in 2003 – and these figures exclude foreign-invested firms, which were usually joint ventures with SOEs.”

The economic reforms performed their stated purpose and strengthened Vietnamese socialism. With the state taking an increasingly greater role in the economy, Vietnam’s SOEs began to produce at a level that replaced the lost Soviet aid that had devastated the economy a decade earlier. Once again, we quote Hayton:

“But unlike many other countries, state control did not mean economic torpor – growth rocketed to 8 per cent a year. The boom was particularly strong in the south. By the end of the decade, state firms in Ho Chi Minh City contributed about half of the national state budget. In effect Saigon and its surroundings had taken over the role performed by the Soviet Union two decades earlier.”

Vietnam’s involvement in the World Trade Organization is often criticized as a deep concession to international capital, but this view demonstrates a mistaken, ill-informed view of Vietnamese socialism. Although the World Bank and the IMF were allowed to lend to Vietnam starting in 1993, Vietnam resisted taking even the most enticing loans from both since the “country had very little debt and was making enough money from exports and commercial foreign investment not to need cash.”

In 1998, Vietnam was offered more loans by the World Bank in the form of more than $2.7 billion in conditional and unconditional funding “if it [the government] agreed to implement a timetable to sell off the remaining SOEs, restructure the state banking sector and introduce a trade reform programme.” Although the CPV took the deal, they “took no action to implement it” because the “demands were too much for the mainstream of the Party to accept.” Hayton notes that “Over the course of three years, it turned down a total of $1.5 billion because it placed political stability ahead of the promises of economic liberalisation,” political stability meaning the working class orientation of the economy. He says, “Vietnam had gone eyeball-to-eyeball with the mighty institutions from Washington and won.”

Hayton takes exception to the idea that the presence of private businesses and commercial trade makes Vietnam a capitalist country. He argues instead that academic fixation on “the froth of petty trading is distracting.” He writes:

“Vietnam has not developed in the way it has – balancing rocketing economic growth with one of the most impressive reductions in poverty anywhere, ever – by completely liberalizing the economy. Yes, restrictions on private enterprise have been lifted, markets have been allowed to flourish and foreign investment has been encouraged – but Vietnam’s success if far from being a triumph of World Bank orthodoxy. Some might snicker at the official description of a ‘socialist-oriented market economy’ but it’s not an empty slogan. Even today, the Communist Party retains control over most of the economy: either directly through state-owned enterprises which monopolise key strategic sectors, through joint ventures between the state sector and foreign investors, or increasingly, through the elite networks which bind the Party to the new private sector.”

We cannot fully understand the importance of these market reforms without comparing Vietnam’s experience to that of the USSR. In their book, Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union, Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny meticulously detail how the growth of the ‘second economy’, or black market, in the Soviet Union materially undermined socialism and led to its overthrow in 1991. They point out that the short-lived ascension of Yuri Andropov as the General Secretary of the CPSU could have led to a crackdown on the black market economic relations that had developed in the Soviet Union, but his premature death led to the ascension of forces within the Party who had grown to accept and profit from the ‘second economy’. These forces, embodied in Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika, unleashed a wave of counter-revolution in the Soviet Union that led to the dissolution of socialism.

In Vietnam, the gradual implementation of market reforms allowed the CPV to insure the continued dominance of the socialist state over the private sector. Additionally, it forced ‘second economy’ enterprises to emerge from the black market and placed them under control of the state. The Enterprise Law of 1999, for instance, led to 160,000 enterprises registering with the government, most of which were “existing businesses which had been operating without licenses and took advantage of the new law to register.”

Socialist Market Economies vs. Capitalist Market Economies

The fundamental difference between a socialist market economy and a capitalist market economy is the role of the state. As Lenin describes in State and Revolution, the state is an instrument of class rule. It does not exist above class, but is wielded by one class to dominate another. In the US and the capitalist countries in Western Europe, state intervention and regulation in the economy is wielded by and in the interests of the capitalist class.

However, in a socialist market economy, the state is controlled by workers and dominates the private sector. It allows it to flourish only to the degree that it helps in the economic development of the whole country and serves the greater class interests of the working class and peasantry. The vast majority of businesses and companies are not independent of the government and are instead dominated by the workers state. Hayton describes this in Vietnam specifically:

“There are bigger private firms but they’re few in number. Although 350 companies are now listed on the country’s two stock exchanges, 99 per cent of the country’s businesses are still small or medium sized. In 2005 there were just 22 domestic privately owned firms among the top 200 companies and…’private’ is a debatable term.”

Even in the realm of foreign investment, the Vietnamese state dominates international capital ventures, rather than the other way around. In addition to its rebuke of the World Bank and IMF privatization policies, Hayton points out:

“The foreign-invested sector is a highly visible part of the economy, employing millions of people and providing plenty of tax revenue, but it doesn’t dominate the commanding heights. They are still, in theory at least, controlled by the state. In 2005, 122 of the 200 biggest firms in Vietnam were state-owned. The figure has changed only marginally since then, although some privately owned banks are now marching up the league. For the Party, a strong state sector is the way it can maintain national independence in an era of globalisation. It means the Party can still set the big goals – like its decision, in December 2006, to develop the country’s ‘maritime economy’ – a catch-all concept covering everything from oil to dish and ships. It is also determined to maintain high degrees of state control over strategically important sectors such as natural resources, transport, finance, infrastructure, defence and communications.”

Workers overwhelmingly support these policies as well, even those employed in joint enterprises with foreign firms. Hayton quotes Vu Thi Tham, a shoe production line worker, who noted that the work provided higher income and a better way of life “than being a peasant.” She said, “It’s OK. I’m working here because the income is stable. Before I was a farmer and my income depended on the weather. If it was good, I could make good money. But if it was bad, I couldn’t. Even in good times I could only make $30 per month but working here I can make $60 or more if I do overtime.”

Actually Existing Socialism in Vietnam

None of this is to say that the introduction of market reforms has not brought negative effects associated with capitalist markets to Vietnam, but the overall orientation of the state and the economy is still in the class interests of the workers and peasants. Hayton writes, “Growth is vital, but not at the expense of creating too much inequality.” He continues by saying, “The beneficiaries have been the peasants and proletarians.” For instance, poverty in Vietnam dropped from 60% to less than 20% between 1993 and 2004, according to government data. In 2010, the government reported that poverty had dropped to a mere 9.45%, further demonstrating the positive effects of Vietnamese market socialism on the people.

Like most socialist countries, Vietnam has eliminated illiteracy and significantly reduced its infant mortality rate, corresponding to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The state continues to have guaranteed employment, which it’s able to achieve efficiently through the market reforms.

In a March 2011 article for Direct Action, Hamish Chitts notes the overall impact that these policies have had on the economy in raising the overall population out of poverty and underdevelopment. Chitts writes:

“According to World Bank figures, Vietnam’s gross domestic product per capita (measured in current US dollars) has grown from $239 in 1985 to $1155 in 2010. The government has ensured that this growth benefits the people. Vietnam has made impressive progress, reducing the poverty rate from 70% in 1990 to 22% in 2005.”

Much like China, market reforms have brought forth contradictions in health care and education, which are no longer purely administered through public channels. A May 4, 2005 article by Michael Karadjis writing for GreenLeft notes that, “Following the Soviet collapse, Vietnam introduced small fees for education and health.” Although Karadjis calls this a “blow against socialist fundamentals,” he also acknowledges that it “was forced by necessity” because  ”Vietnam’s per capita GDP had dropped to $78 by 1990.”

Nevertheless, health care in Vietnam is planned and administered by provincial people’s committees, according to Chitts, and 100% of rural communes now have health workers, demonstrating the CPV’s prioritization of insuring health care access for rural areas.

Further highlighting Vietnam’s socialist character, Karadjis notes that the government – as a part of the Poverty Alleviation and Hunger Elimination Program, launched in 2001 – ”builds schools, health centres, clean water systems and roads in remote areas, delivers free healthcare and education, and delivers a large amount of subsidised, low-interest collateral-free credit to the poor, to help them set up or improve small household businesses in farming, handicrafts and the like.”

Of the inequalities brought about as a result of market reforms, Chitts describes the changing productive forces that allow Vietnamese socialism to both survive and prosper, which lays the material basis for providing these services on an increasingly widening mass basis. He says:

“While doi moi has introduced some inequity through “user pays” systems for essential social services, this has always been alleviated as much as possible at every level. As the productive forces grow, more is available to improve people’s lives. Without doi moi, millions of people would have been condemned to poverty and disease. If it had ignored the objective reality of Vietnam, the government would have brought about what the French, US and allies like Australia could not achieve by 30 years of brutal war – the defeat of socialism in Vietnam. Instead the CPV and the people continue to build a stronger base for socialism in Vietnam and by example a stronger base for socialism internationally in the 21st century.”

The market reforms in Vietnam were essential measures designed to cope with the difficult task of socialist construction for a poor country in a post-Soviet world. They allow the revolution to move forward and continue revolutionizing the productive forces so the state can more adequately meet the needs and demands of the people.

For all of its shortcomings, socialism perseveres in Vietnam and deserves recognition for its achievements. The aforementioned article by Karadjis compares Vietnam’s economic performance with comparably impoverished nations. He writes:

“Vietnam is a “low income” country (US$430 per capita GDP), but its educational and health indicators are on par with, or better than, “middle income” countries such as Thailand ($2000 GDP per capita), China and the Philippines, and far above those of similarly poor countries, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania.”

Karadjis goes on to note that “Primary school enrollment rose from 88% to 95% between 1990 and 2001,” despite an enrollment decline in the overall East Asia and Pacific region in the same period. Secondary school enrollment is up, class sizes are down, and the nominal fees associated with school – mostly for supplies – are waived for poorer families.

In the realm of health care, Vietnam “cut child mortality to 23 per 10,000 live births, and infant mortality to 19, lower than Thailand, China and the Philippines, and dramatically lower than India and Indonesia,” according to Karadjis. Vietnam’s life expectancy outstrips comparably poor countries in the region and ranks equivalent to wealthier East Asian countries, like Thailand. The country’s elaborate health care infrastructure insures access to medical care for even the most rural citizens, and ethnic minorities, the poor, and children pay nothing for health care.

Even amid the world economic meltdown of developed capitalist nations like the US, Vietnam maintains a 2.29% unemployment rate. Unemployment that low indicates only frictional unemployment for workers who are going between jobs, meaning that Vietnam is essentially able to employ all of its people.

Though these observations of Vietnamese social programs are an important aspect of evaluating the orientation of the state and the economy, they are by no means the only determinant. We will now examine the relationship between the Vietnamese state and the most basic economic organization of the working class: the trade union.

Trade Unions & Actually Existing Socialism in Vietnam

Union workers in Vietnam celebrating Workers Month.

On the subject of trade unions, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL) plays a vital role in representing workers’ day-to-day needs and grievances, but it also acts as their representative on larger legislative matters. Cynical critics claim that trade unions in socialist countries act as rubber stamps on government initiatives, but Simon Clarke and Tim Pringle of the University of Warwick, UK, find that the opposite is usually true. Writing in a comparison study between trade unions in Vietnam and China entitled ‘Can party-led trade unions represent their members?’, Clarke and Pringle find:

“Until 2007 VGCL was directly involved in drafting all labour legislation, and it continues to have the statutory right of consultation. Over the past five years VGCL has taken an increasingly independent position in pressing its own views on the government, most notably in criticising the inadequacy of government enforcement of labour legislation, in pressing for increases in the minimum wage and in insisting on the retention of the right to strike in the 2006 revision of the Labour Code.”

Contrary to propaganda put out by the Western media (and gobbled up by misguided leftist critics), strikes are legal in Vietnam, though there is a formal legal procedure required for launching strikes. However, most strikes in Vietnam, like China, are not necessarily legal but are also not interrupted or broken up by the government. Clarke and Pringle write:

“Faced with growing industrial unrest the trade union and the party-state are forced back into a fire-fighting role. In Vietnam the local office of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLISA) generally takes the lead, persuading the management to meet the workers’ demands, at least to the extent that the strike has been provoked by legal violations, while the local VGCL representative encourages the workers to return to work before the strike spreads to neighbouring enterprises. The police will also be called to maintain order as the workers spill out onto the streets. It is rare for there to be any police action against strikers, although strike leaders, if identified, may subsequently be victimised by the employer.”

Strikes, even unauthorized strikes, function as critical pulse-checker for mass sentiment and economic conditions faced by workers, and they usually provoke new pro-worker legislation by the Party. In this sense, the true class nature of the Vietnamese state is revealed as proletarian. After all, if the state steps in to mediate and force concessions from management, the duration of the strike will naturally shorten. We look again to Clarke and Pringle’s findings:

“The strikes in the new booming capitalist industries in both China and Vietnam have been steadily increasing in scale and extent, so that ‘collective bargaining by riot’ (Hobsbawm 1964, pp. 6 –7) has become the normal method by which workers defend their rights and interests. Workers have developed a very good idea of what they can get away with and how far they can go, so that short sharp strikes and protests have become an extremely prompt and effective way of redressing their grievances.”

Indeed, this unravels the criticism levied against socialist countries by many leftist critics, who focus on the legal limitations on strikes rather than the outcome of unauthorized strikes and other forms of worker activism. For the last time, we quote Clarke and Pringle’s conclusion:

“The limitation of the right to strike has been by no means as significant a factor as the absence of freedom of association in inhibiting worker activism and the reform of the trade unions in China and Vietnam. The important issue is not so much whether or not a strike is legal as whether or not it is effective. In China and Vietnam strikes have proved to be an extremely effective method for workers to achieve their immediate demands, as the authorities refrain from repressing strikers for fear of exacerbating the situation and press employers immediately to meet the workers’ demands, to prevent the strike from spreading.”

Anytime strikes take place in socialist countries, leftist critics are quick to argue that this inherently demonstrates the antagonistic interests of the state and the workers. Time and time again, they blur the real issue at play, which is that the workers demands are almost always met by the state. This, in fact, highlights the importance of the concept of ‘actually existing socialism’.

For some leftist critics, there should be no class struggle under socialism. Every worker should be in a state of perpetual bliss, according to their view, because any evidence of poor working conditions or exploitation – usually from foreign companies – is evidence that the country in question is not socialist. Socialism is a complete end; a utopia. Intrinsically, this is an idealist conception of socialism that will never manifest itself in reality, ever.

Socialism is only as valuable as it actually exists in the material world, hence ‘actually existing socialism’. Class struggle continues because of the necessary measures taken to improve the lives of oppressed people; measures that often bring many unsavory, and indeed capitalist, contradictions. This struggle, however, does not disprove the existence of socialism. In actuality, it confirms its existence.

We learn about the essential class character of the state when looking at its overall orientation. A capitalist state does not mediate disputes between trade unions and management in favor of the workers. Strikes are short in capitalist countries because they are repressed with force. The capitalist state doesn’t allow trade unions to sit in the pilot’s seat in drafting labor law.

But all of these things happen in Vietnam. When looking at the class orientation of the state, it defies all logic and evidence – and if these Western leftist critics were honest with themselves, it defies their own experience with capitalist states – to claim that Vietnam is a capitalist country.

Market Reforms as a Mass Demand

There is a misunderstanding of market reforms as a purely top-down phenomenon, rather than an actual demand of the masses in Vietnam. While many of the policies were crafted by the CPV – itself made up predominantly of workers and peasants – many emerged as actual mass demands raised from villages and cities. In Saigon, for instance, urban workers began renovating their own homes and creating their own food production centers to meet demands where the crisis-stricken state economy could not. Although these economic changes were technically illegal, the Vietnamese state had no interest on cracking down on them because they strengthened, rather than weakened, socialism. Hayton notes:

“The houses and livelihoods were illegal, but if the state had enforced the law the result woul have been mass destitution and instability. Instead, households and state reached a compromise which was both pragmatic and tasty. In 1989, as state-owned enterprises and the military laid off a million and a half people, the streets were ‘opened’ and Vietnam’s street-food revolution began. Women led the way. They took control of the means of production: a charcoal burner, a large pot and a few wooden (later plastic) stools, and began to support themselves and their families by selling tea, pho noodle soup, bun cha mini kebabs on noodles, lau stew and all the other homemade delights for which Vietnamese food has now become justly famous. Previous petty trading would have been quickly, and literally, stamped out. Now, a change in police behavior made it obvious that they’d been told to leave the women alone.”

Economic market reforms benefited urban workers, particularly women, by allowing them to meet demands that were going unmet because of the period of crisis brought on by declining aid.

Many detractors from the left view market reforms simply from the perspective of the top leaders in the CPV and view it as a policy concocted by the Party bureaucracy to make more money. As the experience of Saigon in the late 80s demonstrates, nothing could be further from the truth.

Actually existing socialism finds itself within the confines of a world dominated by imperialism. After the Sino-Soviet split and the fall of the Soviet Union, the continued improvement of material conditions for the masses was compromised, and despite its best efforts, the state could not continue to provide services at the same level that they were before.

Ever the innovative animus of society, the masses pushed for many of these market reforms to meet their own needs directly. Women in particular led this charge in the late 80s, and the state respected their act of civil disobedience. This demonstrates the unity of class interests between the masses and the state, which are both oriented towards the working class in Vietnam. Therein is the essence of actually existing socialism.

‘Let A Thousand Flowers Blossom’: Protest & the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh & Mao Zedong meeting together

The Right relies on the image of socialist countries as totalitarian to fuel its propaganda war against Marxism-Leninism. Even left anti-communists – most commonly in the form of Trotskyites and anarchists – frequently argue that existing socialist countries stifle dissent and that this makes them categorically not socialist.

Leaving aside the peculiar reading of socialism as a question of bourgeois civil rights, these criticisms have no basis in actual fact. Protest and criticism play an important role in actually existing socialism, albeit a role very different from that under capitalism. Nowhere is the vibrancy and dynamism of protest and criticism-self-criticism seen more prominently than in Vietnam.

In an article for Asia Sentinel called “Vietnam’s Not-So-Rare Protests,” reporter David Brown describes the frequent protests that take place in Vietnam on all manner of issues. He begins by quoting Article 69 and 79 of the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which enshrine the right of the people to free speech and assembly, but also reinforce the demand of the people to enforce and obey the law. Protests are frequent in Vietnam, despite what the Left and Right detractors claim. Brown writes:

“Invariably AFP, Reuters and the Associated Press, etc. describe these demonstrations as “rare.” The wires are wrong. Though a recent informal poll of academic Vietnam specialists failed to turn up anyone who’s been keeping careful count, a consensus readily formed that public protests have become relatively common in Vietnam.”

The state has a dialectical understanding of these two constitutional articles that follows in the tradition of Mao Zedong’s “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People,” in which protests and demonstrations that emerge from real demands of the masses – rather than hopes of capitalist restoration and counter-revolutionary efforts – should be encouraged, promoted, and respected. Mao writes:

“People may ask, since Marxism is accepted as the guiding ideology by the majority of the people in our country, can it be criticized? Certainly it can. Marxism is scientific truth and fears no criticism. If it did, and if it could be overthrown by criticism, it would be worthless. In fact, aren’t the idealists criticizing Marxism every day and in every way? And those who harbour bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas and do not wish to change — aren’t they also criticizing Marxism in every way? Marxists should not be afraid of criticism from any quarter. Quite the contrary, they need to temper and develop themselves and win new positions in the teeth of criticism and in the storm and stress of struggle. Fighting against wrong ideas is like being vaccinated — a man develops greater immunity from disease as a result of vaccination. Plants raised in hothouses are unlikely to be hardy. Carrying out the policy of letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend will not weaken, but strengthen, the leading position of Marxism in the ideological field.”

We find evidence of the CPV’s attitudes towards principled criticism and dissent by the country’s working masses in the Party’s recent announcement to consider legalizing same-sex marriage. The Vietnamese Justice Ministry announced plans to include same-sex marriage in a new marriage reform law proposed in July 2012, according to the Huffington Post. While this move has raised the cynical ire of Vietnamese ex-pats in the US, it comes in response to the growing gay rights movement in Vietnam and the re-evaluation of the gay question by Marxist-Leninist ruling parties all over the world. If this proposal becomes law, Vietnam will become the first socialist country and the first Asian country – and only the 12th country in the world – to fully legalize same-sex marriage.

Indeed, an AFP article from August 5, 2012, describes the first gay pride parade in Hanoi that followed the Justice Ministry’s announcement. Though small, the activists and organizers faced no repression from the state and feel tremendous support from Vietnamese society in publicly demonstrating for gay rights. We quote a brief excerpt from the article:

“The first gay pride parade in communist Vietnam took place in the capital Hanoi on Sunday with dozens of cyclists displaying balloons and rainbow flags streaming through the city’s streets.

Organised by the city’s small but growing Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, the event went ahead peacefully with no attempt by police to stop the colourful convoy of about 100 activists despite their lack of official permission.

“There was no intervention which is a good thing for Vietnam,” said one of the organisers, Tam Nguyen.”

Whether or not same-sex marriage is legalized is still on the table, but the issue highlights the relationship between the Party and the masses. Protests that strengthen socialism and the position of the masses are allowed and supported.

However, the other side of this is the dealing of non-Marxist criticisms and dissent. In the same work, Mao writes, “What should our policy be towards non-Marxist ideas? As far as unmistakable counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs of the socialist cause are concerned, the matter is easy, we simply deprive them of their freedom of speech.” This is the protective function of the dictatorship of the proletariat – the class power of the workers to crush agents of imperialism, wreckers, and counter-revolutionaries.

Evidence of the dictatorship of the proletariat abounds in Vietnam. During a series of small-scale political dissent between 2006 and 2007, the Vietnamese state took measures to distinguish between criticism directed at improving socialism – in other words, criticism that came from a desire for unity – and criticism designed at undermining the workers’ power. Hayton writes:

“The events of 2006-7 seem to have generated a new modus vivendibetween the dissidents and the security forces. The dissidents who were arrested and jailed were not those who simply held dissident thoughts or even wrote about them online. They transgressed the Party’s limits of tolerance in much more significant ways – in particular by breaking its monopoly of political organisation with independent parties and trade unions. They were also involved at a much deeper level with activists based outside Vietnam, they took money from anti-communists overseas and they tried to take their message to the people in the offline world – in the universities, factories and streets of Vietnam.“

Indeed, the only protest and dissent that is dealt with harshly in Vietnam and repressed is that which is instigated from abroad for the purpose of undermining socialism. “Dissidents who did not do these things – the majority of signatories of the original Manifesto – may have been harassed or questioned by the police but they were not jailed,” according to Hayton.

This too follows along in the political tradition of Mao, who writes later in the same work:

“There are also a small number of individuals in our society who, flouting the public interest, wilfully break the law and commit crimes. They are apt to take advantage of our policies and distort them, and deliberately put forward unreasonable demands in order to incite the masses, or deliberately spread rumours to create trouble and disrupt public order. We do not propose to let these individuals have their way. On the contrary, proper legal action must be taken against them. Punishing them is the demand of the masses, and it would run counter to the popular will if they were not punished.”

The dissidents that receive the bulk of attention in the West are those who seek to restore capitalism in Vietnam, like the Bloc 8406 that gained notoriety in 2006. Hayton dedicates a substantial part of his book to describing the rise and fall of this so-called movement and why it failed to gain any substantial traction. Even liberal estimates put the Bloc’s membership at “around 2,000 open supporters within the country – about one in 40,000 of the Vietnamese population.” The US and European media praised this pathetic movement that lacked any mass base as a reform wave in the vein of Solidarity, which was the CIA front that overthrew the People’s Republic of Poland. Hayton dismisses the comparison on its face:

“Their [Bloc 8406's] idealistic comparisons with Poland and Solidarity were misplaced. In the 1980s, Poland’s economy was stagnant. Vietnam’s is growing; Solidarity had the backing of the Catholic Church but there is no equivalent mass support in Vietnam and the activists were not the same either – not so much shipyard trade unionists as capital-city lawyers. They didn’t have the same community roots. The parallels are less with Poland than with Czechoslovakia. The Czech dissident movement, the group known as Charter 77, comprised outspoken intellectuals who remained isolated and unknown by the mass of the population until the Party leadership finally cracked in 1989.”

Idealist leftists who attack Vietnam and other socialist countries often look to dissent movements as evidence of the state’s oppressive nature, but in doing so, they ignore the severe degree of isolation these dissidents face from the masses, who overwhelmingly support the Vietnamese government.

Furthermore, they ignore the blatantly imperialist, anti-socialist, and downright illegal practices and beliefs of these ‘opposition groups’. One of Bloc 8406′s ‘largest’ constituency groups was a small, bizarre faction mistakenly called the Vietnamese National Progressive Party (VNPP). Hayton describes their call for independent trade unions ‘opportunistic’ because  their “interim platform had little to say on workers rights. Indeed, the only thing it had to say on economic matters was that it would ‘Re-establish and exercise the full and legitimate right of the Vietnamese People to private ownership,’ which suggests that it might have been more favorable to the interests of the owners of capital than to those of the proletariat.”

While not all protests and calls for reform are anti-communist and pro-imperialist in socialist countries, these groups are often organized and supported by the US and Western Europe to push a pro-capitalist agenda. That these groups only face repression when they actively organize is a testament to the level of dissent and debate allowed in a country like Vietnam. Hayton sums up the relationship between the Vietnamese state and the so-called dissident movements nicely:

“The authorities’ paranoia is not entirely misplaced. Various US-based zealots have periodically hatched hare-brained plans to instigate uprisings in Vietnam. Their plans have underestimated both the security forces’ degree of control and the allegiance the vast majority of Vietnamese have to their country. Most people are, in fact, relatively pleased with their improving lot and quite happy to be loyal citizens of the Socialist Republic.But from their [foreign-based dissidents] faraway vantage point, the exiles convince themselves that this must be the result of propaganda and that if only they could break its stranglehold on the media, the Communist Party would be overthrown.”

What many leftist critics cannot seem to grasp is that the masses rule in socialist countries like Vietnam. Like these out-of-touch foreign dissidents, they convince themselves that the propaganda they hear is correct and they focus purely on the cosmetic changes in Vietnamese society. Yes, there is a private sector. Yes, there is state repression of some dissent. But by failing to properly contextualize these facts, they obfuscate the real class nature of Vietnam, which is ruled by and oriented towards the working class.

What Does Actually Existing Socialism Mean for Socialists in the US?

Market socialism is imperfect and certainly unorthodox. Some may call it revisionist. The important point is to contextualize these shortcomings and flaws so we can understand where they come from. Actually existing socialism will always fall short of the socialist ideal because it is precisely that ideal implemented within the confines of reality. The objective conditions limit the subjective conditions that revolutionaries can create, and Vietnam’s objective conditions became a lot more difficult after 1991.

Nevertheless, socialism continues to exist and prosper in Vietnam. For the student of Marx, the defects and inequalities still present in Vietnamese society should trigger Marx’s own words in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, in which he describes the ‘lower’ stage of socialism:

“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society — after the deductions have been made — exactly what he gives to it.

But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.”

Vietnam was a colonized, oppressed nation that was forcibly partitioned by the Western imperialist powers. After its partition, the nation suffered a vicious onslaught by the US military over fifteen years, and against all odds, the Vietnamese people defeated imperialism. Beaten and battered, but not broken, the CPV led the nation forward out of multiple economic crises to establish a better, more democratic society ruled by the working class.

The reality of the fall of the Soviet Union, the continued impact of the Vietnam War (Agent Orange, in particular), and their encirclement by imperialist powers forced the Vietnamese revolution to make some tactical, strategic retreats into market reforms. With these reforms, Vietnam has maintained the structural integrity of class-based socialism and improved living conditions for its almost 88 million people.

For socialists in the US, defending Vietnamese socialism is very important. Vietnam represents continued defiance of imperialism, and it exists as a symbol of hope that another – better – world is possible. Although Vietnam remains a poor country and its example is not as dynamically inspirational as the USSR in the 1920s or China in the 1960s, socialists in the US should use the experience of Vietnam when explaining the positive aspects of government by and for workers, i.e. socialism.

At a time when trade unions in the US are facing extermination by right-wing state governors, corporate handouts are disguised as ‘health care reform’, and public education funding gets slashed to the bone, actually existing socialism in Vietnam provides a powerful what-if for workers to consider.

Long live the Vietnamese revolution!

 

Fidel meets with Nguyen Phu Trong: ‘Renovation has not been an easy task’

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By Lázaro Barredo Medina and Claudia Fonseca Sosa

Cuban former leader Fidel Castro meets Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, (L), in Havana April 12, 2012.

Just prior to his interview with Granma, on the afternoon of April 11, Nguyen Phu Trong, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee, had the opportunity to meet with Fidel and our conversation began with his impressions of the encounter.

I just returned from Fidel’s house and we had a conversation that lasted almost two hours. If we had had more time, we would have continued talking.

Today I saw a very healthy Fidel, as compared to our first meeting in 2010. The meeting was very cordial and interesting, without any kind of protocol, like two brothers living in the same house. Fidel held my hands for several minutes and said he was very happy [to see me.] We Vietnamese have a lot of respect for Fidel and his people.

Once the conversation began, we became aware of the many things we have to reflect upon. Fidel spoke not only of political issues, but about science and technology as well.

Fidel recalled his 1973 trip to Vietnam. He referred to my comments at the event held yesterday at Hai Phong wharf [in Havana] and of the strong friendship Cuba and Vietnam share.

When I arrived, there was a copy of the lecture I gave, at the Party’s Ñico López Advanced Studies School, on the table. He asked about the number of copies made and the number of cadres at the event.

He considered my speech insightful and accurate and wanted to clarify a few of the [Cuban] guidelines that are similar to policies Vietnam has been implementing. He wanted to know my opinion. He said that currently there are many people who only want to listen and not reflect.

He also said that he had been following my visit through the media and asked how I had been feeling. He wanted to hear about aspects of my visit to the province of Pinar del Río and inquired, in some detail, about agricultural development in Vietnam.

He was interested in our plans to visit different countries in Latin America and, to my surprise, knew that April 14 was my birthday and asked where I would be at that time.

The entire time, Fidel showed that his mind was very clear, undertaking studies with a very logical, scientific approach. We are convinced that leaders need to have these qualities, to be concrete.

STRATEGIES FOR SOCIALIST RENOVATION

The Vietnamese leader offered a brief explanation of the principal steps Vietnam has taken in its policy of Renovation.

When, in 1986, Vietnam began to implement the policy of Renovation – known in Vietnamese as Doi Moi – many thought that the country intended to abandon socialism. Since then, 26 years have transpired and history has shown the contrary, because through our experience, combined with Marxist-Leninist theoretical and scientific arguments, and the thought of Ho Chi Minh, we reached the conclusion that only through socialism can we maintain our national independence, prosperity and the happiness of our people.

With the leadership of the Communist Party, the Vietnamese people have been able to adapt relevant economic transformations to the historical context and the concrete needs of the country, without sacrificing political stability. We have achieved impressive socio-economic gains and are constantly drawing closer to our ideal of “building a ten times more beautiful Vietnam.”

But in order to fulfill Ho Chi Minh’s dream we have had to deal with diverse obstacles and advance without making hasty decisions. Our Party is conscious that the transition to socialism is a prolonged, difficult and complicated process.

The Doi Moi process has not been easy. Beginning in the 1980’s, through the present, we have come a long way. From 1981 until 1985, we went through what could be called pre-Renovation, during which we carried out different experiments, balancing theory with practice. We drew conclusions.

It was not until 1986 that the policy of Renovation was formulated. Between 1980 and ‘81 we began to grant lands to rural workers, but it was not until the 6th Congress of our Party in 1986 that the Political Bureau drafted Resolution no. 10 which defined the work to be done one step at a time.

From then on, agricultural development began to accelerate and, allow me to tell you, as an example, reaching production of 47 million tons of rice a year took a great deal of effort and continues to require effort year after year.

Up until 1989, we were importing rice to meet the needs of the population. That year, we were not only able to meet our own internal needs, but were able to export our first million tons of rice, as well.

In the industrial sector, something similar happened. Between 1981 and 1982, we began to eliminate the bureaucratic system, but the policies to be followed were not approved until 1986. It wasn’t until 1991 that talk began of a multi-faceted economy, of a market economy with a socialist orientation. During this period we were also facing a 20-year U.S. blockade and talk of integration into the world economy was not possible.

And all of this in addition to other problems such as lasting damage caused by the wars. I will only mention one example. Millions of people, still today, are suffering incurable illnesses; hundreds of thousands of children are born with abnormalities, as a consequence of Agent Orange, a dioxin the U.S. troops sprayed during the war. According to experts, it will take Vietnam 100 years to completely rid itself of the bombs and mines still buried in our soil. As I said during my talk at the Ñico López, in the province Quang Tri alone, which Fidel visited in 1973, thousands and thousands of live bombs and mines remain buried in 45% of the arable land.

These are just a few examples of the arduous task we faced in the renovation effort. Most difficult, however, is changing the general and individual mentality in Vietnam. Many people thought that the changes would lead us away from socialism. They even spoke of deviations, others are more conservative. Vietnam has not only made significant economic gains during the last 25 years, but has also solved some social problems in a much better fashion than capitalist countries at a similar level of development. And as evidence of this is the fact that, in our country, the poverty rate, which was 75% in 1986, was reduced to 9.6% in 2010. The renovation has led to very positive changes and considerably improved the lives of our people. This was recognized by the United Nations which has reported that Vietnam is one of the first countries to meet many of the Millennium Objectives.

And during my visit these last few days in Cuba, as I’ve conversed with your leaders, it appears to me that you are in the same phase. The change of mentality must take place at all levels, from the highest level to the grassroots.

The Renovation’s consolidation is an issue we addressed in our recent 11th Party Congress and, as for long term objectives and tasks, it should be emphasized that our goal is for Vietnam to become fundamentally an industrialized country by 2020. Our development strategy, from 2011 to date, is based on three basic principles: invest in infrastructure, develop human resources and reform institutions.

Of course, we face challenges in the area of the economy and international integration and in the area of social programs where we face some limitations and doing it all, as I said during my lecture at the Party School here, we are conscious that corruption, bureaucratism and degeneration are potential dangers to a party in power, especially under market economy conditions. The Communist Part of Vietnam demands of itself constant self-renovation, self-criticism and is waging a vigorous struggle against opportunism, individualism and the degeneration of its ranks and throughout the political system.

BILATERAL RELATIONS

During your stay in Cuba, the excellent relations between Cuba and Vietnam, a symbol of the era, were noted. What are the ties between the two countries specifically and what cooperative projects are projected as a result of the visit?

Both parties are products of revolutionary processes and of the fusion of distinct political organizations; this is something Cuba and Vietnam share.

Both countries have a one party system. Cuba, as well as Vietnam, is developing via the socialist route. We are following the legacy of our predecessors in combination with Marxism-Leninism. We are two strong peoples, very brave and courageous in struggle. Our parties established, very early on, ties of friendship, solidarity and cooperation. We are following the same logic, defending our respective revolutions. Thus our relationship is very close.

From very early on, we’ve exchanged work and leadership experiences, and we have collaborated in different international forums and bodies, promoting causes we share. In 2011, both parties held congresses and, once ours was concluded, we sent an emissary here to inform you of the outcome. Raúl has also offered to send us someone to do the same.

At this time, Vietnam has the Renovation policy and Cuba is applying its strategy of updating its economic model. Both of us are following the socialist path. There are many similarities, although each country has its own conditions and historical particularities. There is nothing standing in the way of further development of the relationship between the two parties.

During our visit, we have agreed to expand the exchange of delegations, as well as bilateral meetings and exchanges of experience. We are going to organize seminars, workshops between the two countries and the two parties.

We want to continue building this friendship, this respectful mutual understanding, to strengthen this relationship of sisterhood, taking important steps along the road both countries have taken in the struggle for national independence and socialism.

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Vietnam: President reaffirms army’s key defense role

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March 14, 2012

The Army is always the key force to defend the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity on land, sea and in the air, affirmed President Truong Tan Sang in Hanoi on Mar. 14.

The Army also serves as the main force in efforts to cope with natural disasters, rescuing and helping people stabilise their life and production, the President affirmed at his working session with the Defence Ministry’s leaders on the implementation of future military and defence tasks.

The Army has taken an active role in socio-economic development and poverty reduction programmes, development of socio-politic grassroots establishments and new cultural lifestyle, particularly in remote areas, he added.

Emphasising the rapidly changing and complicated political, security situation in the world, President Sang noted that the country’s socio-economic situation faces difficulties and challenges, especially the impacts of global financial crises and economic turndown, natural disasters and diseases, and hostile forces in and out the country that continue to implement destructive activities and plot unrest.

The need to maintain independence, sovereignty, peaceful environment and stability for the country’s socio-economic development has meant new requirements for the national defence and security task, he said.

The President agreed with the Ministry’s operational programmes and solutions for this year, urging the ministry to pursue the goal of combining national independence and socialism, consider maintaining peace and stability for national development as its highest interest, and continue building the people’s armed forces in a strong, comprehensive, regular, skilful and modern manner.

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Venezuela seeks to boost solidarity with Vietnam

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November 2, 2011

Crossed flag pins of Venezuela and Vietnam

Venezuela wishes to boost solidarity and friendship with Vietnam, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela Fernando Soto Rojas said.

The Venezuelan parliamentary leader expressed his aspiration while meeting with Vice President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) Central Committee Nguyen Van Pha in Hanoi on Nov. 1.

He highly valued the achievements of the Vietnamese Party, State and people during national construction and development.

Pha said that besides uniting people from all walk of life, the VFF made great contributions to building administration, supervision of operations of State-owned agencies, organisation of patriotism movements and diplomatic affairs of the country.

Pha said the VFF will work together with the Vietnamese Party, State and people to bolster friendship and cooperation between the two countries and develop the Vietnam-Venezuela relationship to a new height.

The same day, Venezuelan National Assembly President Fernando Soto Rojas had working sessions with the Ethnic Minority Council and the Committee for Social Affairs of the National Assembly of Vietnam.

At the session, Chairman of the Ethnic Minority Council K’sor Phuoc affirmed that the Vietnamese Party and State always pay attention to works and policies on ethnic minorities, considering ethnic minority affairs and national unity a long-term strategic issue.

He expressed his wish that the parliaments of Vietnam and Venezuela would boost cooperation and experience exchanges, to ensure the rights and benefits of people. In the future the council will send a mission to Venezuela to learn about national policies and law building for ethnic minorities.

Chairwoman of the Committee for Social Affairs Truong Thi Mai spoke about Vietnam’s achievements in population, healthcare and other social affairs.

Fernando Soto Rojas expressed his admiration on Vietnam’s political, diplomatic, economic and social achievements and promised to try his best to boost relations between the two countries and parliaments.

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On the 100th birthday of the legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap

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August 26, 2011

The centenary of an illustrious combatant

Giap (standing) shares guerrilla war strategies with Ho Chi Minh and other leaders.

The following article was first published on Aug. 26 in Cuba’s Granma Daily newspaper as “The legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap has many nicknames: ‘the Red Napoleon,’ ‘Volcano Under the Snow.’” Translation for Liberation News by Gloria La Riva.

Yesterday, the legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap, great friend of Cuba, turned 100 years old. He is one of the most relevant figures of Vietnam’s history.

“Ge Luo” means volcano under the snow. That is how his compatriots named this extraordinary man, who defeated the Japanese, later, the French in Dien Bien Phu and decades later he made the Americans flee Saigon, to complete the reunification of Vietnam.

This legendary Vietnamese general met with Fidel, Raúl and other leaders of the Cuban Revolution on many occasions.

His life is inextricably linked with the struggle of national liberation, with the history of the formation, growth and development of the Vietnamese People’s Army, and whose victories caused the very French to nickname him “The Red Napoleon.”

Vo Nguyen Giap was one of many children of peasants who became a known personality thanks to socialism, although there was much personal sacrifice. In 1926, he became a member of clandestine student organizations in the struggle. In 1933, he joined the Communist Party of Indochina and very quickly joined the inner circle of Ho Chi Minh, with whom he was a personal friend.

At the end of 1941, Giap moved to the mountains of Vietnam to create the first guerrilla groups. There he established an alliance with Chu Van Tan, leader of the Tho, a guerrilla group of a national minority in northeast Vietnam. Around Christmas in 1944, he captured a French military post, after having formed the first battalions of his armed forces.

In mid-1945, he already had 10,000 men under his command and was able to go on the offensive against the Japanese, who had invaded the country.

The French police detained his wife and sister-in-law, using them as hostages to pressure Giap and try to force him to surrender. The repression was ferocious: his sister-in-law was guillotined and his wife sentenced to life in prison. She died in prison after three years due to brutal torture. The French torturers also assassinated his new-born son, his father, two sisters and other family members.

General Giap defeated the French during the battle of Dien Bien Phu, which was the first great victory of a people in colonized and feudal conditions, with a primitive agricultural economy, against an experienced imperialist army sustained by an aggressive and modern war industry. The best-known French generals (Leclerc, De Lattre de Tasigny, Juin, Ely, Sulan, Naverre) were defeated one after the other against troops made up of poor peasants, but who were determined to struggle to the end for their country and for socialism. Vietnam became divided and Giap was named Minister of Defense of the new government of North Vietnam, which struggled to build a new socialist society, while it continued the people’s war.

As commander of the new people’s army, Giap directed the struggle in the Vietnam War against the new U.S. invaders in the country’s south, which once again began under the mode of a guerrilla war. The first U.S. soldiers died in Vietnam on July 8, 1959, when the NLF fighters attacked a military base in Bien Hoa, northeast of Saigon.

Four U.S. presidents fought in succession against Vietnam, leaving behind the blood of 57,690 U.S. mercenaries. In 1975, the country was reunified, when a tank of the revolutionary army smashed through the protective barricades of the U.S. embassy, while the last imperialists fled hurriedly in a helicopter from the roof of the building.

General Giap was not only a master in the art of leading the revolutionary war, he also wrote about it in several books with important analyses. His famous work, “Peoples War, Peoples Army,” is a manual of guerrilla war based on his own experiences. In it he establishes three basic foundations which a people’s army must base itself to be victorious in the struggle against imperialism: leadership, organization and strategy. In other words, the leadership of the Communist Party, an ironclad military discipline, and a political line consistent with the economic, social and political conditions of the country.

He defined people’s war as “a war of combat for the people and by the people, while guerrilla war is simply a method of combat. The people’s war is a more general concept. It is a synthesized concept. It is at the same time a military, economic and political war.” A people’s war is not only carried out by an army—no matter how popular it is. Rather, it is carried out by all the people, because it is impossible for a revolutionary army by itself to achieve victory against reaction. All the people have to participate and help in the struggle, which of necessity has to be prolonged.

As a good warrior, Giap knew that the success of victory—when there is such a great disparity in forces—is based on initiative, in audacity and surprise, which requires that the revolutionary army be continuously mobilized. He stood out as a logistical genius, capable of continuously mobilizing important troop contingents, following the principles of a war of movements. He accomplished that against the French colonizers in 1961, infiltrating a whole army through the enemy lines in the Mekong River Delta, and again advancing the Tet Offensive in 1968 against the Americans, when he situated thousands of men and tons of supplies for a simultaneous attack against 35 strategic centers in the south.

Both partisans and adversaries consider Vo Nguyen Giap as one of the great military strategists of history.

Marcel Bigeard, the most decorated general of the French army, who was his prisoner, has said of the Vietnamese military chief: “Giap successfully commanded his troops during more than 30 years. This constitutes an unprecedented prowess. … He took lessons from his errors and never repeated them.”

For his part, William Westmoreland, commander in chief of the U.S. army in Vietnam and adversary of Giap, declared, “The qualities that make a great military leader, is the ability to make decisions, moral strength, the ability to concentrate and the intelligence that unifies all those qualities. Giap possesses them all.”

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Vietnam: Campaign to study and follow Ho Chi Minh’s moral example to be increased

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August 13, 2011

Dinh The Huynh during the meeting

CPV: On August 12, the Secretariat held a meeting to carry out decree 03-CT/TW dated 14 May 2011 by the Politburo and plan 03-KH/TW dated 1 July 2011 by the Secretariat on continuing to increase the campaign to study and follow Ho Chi Minh’s moral example.

The meeting held in Ho Chi Minh City saw the participation of Dinh The Huynh, Politburo member, Secretary of the Party Central Committee (PCC) and Head of the PCC Commission for Popularization and Education.

Over the past few years, during the implementation of the 10th Party Congress resolution, the Politburo (term X) launched a campaign to study and follow Ho Chi Minh’s moral example among the whole Party and society. The campaign received the active response and participation of a majority of cadres, Party members and people, greatly contributing to Party building and rectification.

The results after the implementation affirmed that studying and following Ho Chi Minh’s moral example was of short-term and long-term significance for national construction and protection. Therefore, the 11th Party Congress resolution considers studying and following Ho Chi Minh’s moral example a regular task among the Party and society.

Speaking during the Congress, Dinh The Huynh affirmed that implementing decree 03-CT/TW and plan 03-KH/TW aimed to make the study and following of Ho Chi Minh’s moral example a regular and important work among the Party and society, which played an important role in building socialism of the country and contributing to successfully realizing the 11th Party Congress resolution.

He added that the study and following of Ho Chi Minh’s moral example must start from smallest and most practical work.

He urged localities to actively disseminate the information about the campaign, praise the outstanding followers of Ho Chi Minh’s moral example and address wrong doings among society to gain the trust from people on the Party.

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Vietnam attends Venezuela Communist Party congress

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August 10, 2011

Flag pins of both the Vietnamese and Venezuelan state.

A delegation of the Communist Party of Vietnam led by Deputy Head of the Party Central Committee’s Commission for External Relations Vuong Thua Phong, recently attended the 14 th congress of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV).

During its stay, the Vietnamese Party delegation held meetings and exchanged views with General Secretary Oscar Figuera and other members of the PCV Political Bureau, to increase the solidarity and traditional cooperation between the Parties and people of the two countries.

The Vietnamese delegation had discussions and contacts with international delegations to inquire into their situation and promote relations with other parties.

Themed, “Together with the working class and labourers to seize power”, the 14 th Party Congress from August 4-7 discussed a political report, updated the platform and renewed the Party Statutes.

The congress affirmed consistent support for the social security policies of the administration of President Hugo Chavez.

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DPRK, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba offer congratulation on CPC 90th anniversary

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The national flag of China rises to the music of the national anthem on July 1, 2011 in Dalian, Liaoning Province of China. People from all over China celebrate together for the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

BEIJING, June 30 (Xinhua) — The ruling parties of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Vietnam, Laos and Cuba respectively have sent congratulatory messages to the Communist Party of China (CPC), congratulating the CPC on the 90th anniversary of its founding on July 1.

“The founding of the CPC was a historic event which marked an occasion of a decisive turn in carrying out the Chinese revolution and carving out the destiny of the Chinese people,” Kim Jong Il, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea of the DPRK, said in his congratulatory telegram to Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is also general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC.

“Thanks to its founding the Chinese people came to have their genuine guiding vanguard and could work world-startling miracles through a gigantic struggle and creation to eradicate centuries-old backwardness and poverty and achieve the country’s prosperity,” the telegram said.

“The CPC laid down the line of socialist construction with Chinese characteristics suited to its specific conditions and aroused creative zeal of the broad masses to remarkably boost the country’s overall national power and its international prestige in a historically short period,” it said.

“The triumphant path covered by the CPC for nine decades fully demonstrated the validity and invincible vitality of its leadership and the socialist cause,” it said.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam said in a congratulatory letter that, over the past 90 years under the leadership of the CPC, the Chinese people overcame various difficulties and achieved a historic great victory in the cause of national liberation and socialist construction, especially in reform and opening-up to the outside world as well as modernization drive.

The Communist Party of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people warmly congratulated on the achievements that China has scored in the reform and opening-up to the outside world over more than 30 years, and firmly believed that the Chinese people, under the leadership of the CPC, will surely score greater achievements, the letter said.

The congratulatory letter also said that developing the traditional friendly relationship and overall mutual trust cooperation between the two countries meets the interests of the peoples of the two countries and is conducive to the peace, stability, cooperation and development of the region and the whole world.

The Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) said in a congratulatory letter that, under the leadership of the CPC, China’s cause of reform and opening-up to the outside world has scored enormous achievements and the merits of socialism have been fully displayed.

China’s political stability, fast and steady economic development, and increasingly rising living standards have laid a solid foundation for it to build the socialism with Chinese characteristics, and increasingly enhanced China’s influence in the region and the world, it said.

The LPRP’s Central Committee also said that the LPRP is willing to deepen the overall strategic partnership between the two sides and push relations between the two countries to continuously develop.

Raul Castro, first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party, said in his congratulatory letter that, over the past 90 years, the CPC has embarked on a hard struggle for winning and safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and unity, and established great achievements in complex circumstances.

He said that Cuba’s Communist Party will continue to strengthen the friendly relations between the two parties, the two countries and the two peoples.

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Happy Birthday comrade Ho Chi Minh! (1890-onwards!)

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“At first, patriotism, not yet communism, led me to have confidence in Lenin, in the Third International. Step by step, along the struggle, by studying Marxism-Leninism parallel with participation in practical activities, I gradually came upon the fact that only socialism and communism can liberate the oppressed nations and the working people throughout the world from slavery.”

-Ho Chi Minh (The Path Which Led Me To Leninism)

The following short biography of Ho Chi Minh was extracted from the Marxist Internet Archive:

Ho Chi Minh, real name Nguyen Tat Thanh (1890-1969), Vietnamese Communist leader and the principal force behind the Vietnamese struggle against French colonial rule. Ho was born on May 19, 1890, in the village of Kimlien, Annam (central Vietnam), the son of an official who had resigned in protest against French domination of his country. Ho attended school in Hue and then briefly taught at a private school in Phan Thiet.

In 1911 he was employed as a cook on a French steamship liner and thereafter worked in London and Paris. After World War I, using the pseudonym Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nguyen the Patriot), Ho engaged in radical activities and was in the founding group of the French Communist party. He was summoned to Moscow for training and, in late 1924, he was sent to Canton, China, where he organized a revolutionary movement among Vietnamese exiles. He was forced to leave China when local authorities cracked down on Communist activities, but he returned in 1930 to found the Indochinese Communist party (ICP). He stayed in Hong Kong as representative of the Communist International. In June 1931 Ho was arrested there by British police and remained in prison until his release in 1933. He then made his way back to the Soviet Union, where he reportedly spent several years recovering from tuberculosis.

In 1938 he returned to China and served as an adviser with Chinese Communist armed forces. When Japan occupied Vietnam in 1941, he resumed contact with ICP leaders and helped to found a new Communist-dominated independence movement, popularly known as the Vietminh, that fought the Japanese. In August 1945, when Japan surrendered, the Vietminh seized power and proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh, now known by his final and best-known pseudonym (which means the “Enlightener”), became president.

The French were unwilling to grant independence to their colonial subjects, and in late 1946 war broke out. For eight years Vietminh guerrillas fought French troops in the mountains and rice paddies of Vietnam, finally defeating them in the decisive Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Ho, however, was deprived of his victory. Subsequent negotiations at Geneva divided the country, with only the North assigned to the Vietminh. The DRV, with Ho still president, now devoted its efforts to constructing a Communist society in North Vietnam.

In the early 1960s, however, conflict resumed in the South, where Communist-led guerrillas mounted an insurgency against the U.S.-supported regime in Saigon. Ho, now in poor health, was reduced to a largely ceremonial role, while policy was shaped by others. On September 3, 1969, he died in Hanoi of heart failure.

In his honor, after the Communist conquest of the South in 1975, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh was not only the founder of Vietnamese communism, he was the very soul of the revolution and of Vietnam’s struggle for independence. His personal qualities of simplicity, integrity, and determination were widely admired, not only within Vietnam but elsewhere as well.

And now, I present the rest of comrade Ho Chi Minh’s historical works, thanks again to the Marxist Internet Archive:

Vietnam joins the world to halt death and injury on the roads

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May 11, 2011

Wearing helmet saves lives for lots of people. (Photo: Internet)

(CPV)- On May 11, dozens of countries around the world will kick off the first global Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.

Governments in the world are committing to take new steps to save lives on their roads. The Decade seeks to prevent road traffic deaths and injuries which experts project will take the lives of 1.9 million people annually by 2020 in the absence of a major global scale up of prevention efforts.

To mark the launch of the Decade, governments and other stakeholders in more than 70 countries have reported to WHO that they have plans to host high-profile events and release national plans to improve safety and services for victims. A number of landmark national monuments will also be illuminated with the road safety “tag”, the new symbol for the Decade. These include Times Square in New York City; Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro; Trafalgar Square in London; the Jet d’Eau in Geneva and the historic Dong Xuan market in Hanoi.

“Today, Vietnam is joining countries and communities around the world in declaring their support to take action vital to saving lives on our streets and highways. Injuries and deaths resulting from road traffic crashes are a growing health and development concern affecting all nations, and this Decade offers a framework for an intensified response”, said WHO Representative to Vietnam, Dr Graham Harrison.

Road traffic injuries have become the leading killer of young people aged 15–29 years. Almost 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, making this the ninth leading cause of death globally. In addition to these deaths, road crashes cause up to 50 million non-fatal injuries every year.

In Vietnam, road trauma exacts a terrible burden on society, claiming more than 14,000 lives and causing a further 140,000 hospitalized injuries in 2009, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

In many countries, including Vietnam, emergency care and other support services for road traffic victims are insufficient. These avoidable injuries overload already stretched health services.

The Global Plan outlines steps towards improving the safety of roads and vehicles; enhancing emergency services; and building up road safety management generally, all areas that are also addressed in the draft of the national road safety strategy. It also calls for increased legislation and enforcement on using helmets, seat-belts and child restraints and avoiding drinking and driving and speeding. Today only 15% of countries have comprehensive laws which address all of these factors.

Vietnam has a very successful mandatory helmet law (effective September 15, 2007), an example of how road safety can be strengthened even in developing countries, that has received wide international acclaim. Whilst ongoing challenges still require further attention, other risk factors such as drink driving, speeding, overloaded vehicles, poor infrastructure, insufficient public transport and limited capacity for pre hospital trauma care all contribute substantially to road traffic injuries in this country of more than 31 million motorcycles.

If effectively and sustainably implemented, the activities of the Global Plan could save 5 million lives, prevent 50 million serious injuries and lead to 5 trillion USD in savings over the course of the Decade.

WHO will play a role in coordinating global efforts over the Decade and will monitor progress towards achieving the objectives of the Decade at the national and international levels. In Vietnam, WHO along with other international stakeholders continue to work with the Government to strengthen the action against major road safety risk factors, particularly drink driving, and increasing capacity for pre-hospital trauma care at the community level.

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