By Wilfred Burchett

A sense of realism is one of the great qualities of the Vietnamese leaders, which impresses all who have come in contact with them in Hanoi or the jungles of the South. This viewing of things as they are, together with their extreme sincerity and modesty, derives from the personality and style of work of President Ho Chi Minh, with whom most senior cadres have been closely associated for 30 or 40 years. Vietnamese leaders, of both the DRV and NLF, have never sought short term results by creating false optimism among the people. Two generations of Vietnamese have been educated to look danger and adversity squarely in the face; and the results are clearly demonstrated by the youths and girls of the defense militia, calmly and unflinchingly aiming their rifle sights at diving, strafing jets, awaiting the precise moment to squeeze the trigger. Although the difficulties to be confronted and the need for sacrifices are never minimized, there is, at the same time, great insistence on the power of the people and inevitability of final victory. To instill these principles in people’s minds, to give them confidence in their own power, has been a primary task of the armed propaganda units.

Wilfred Burchett interviews General Giap, Hanoi, May 1966.

“Armed propaganda consists in using the armed forces to carry out political propaganda, to sow confidence among the population so they will be convinced that our forces are powerful. After this confidence is established, it must be transformed into political consciousness. Let our people have confidence in the solidarity of our people. To irresolute or undecided they refuse to mend their ways despite warnings, we must resolutely wipe them out.”

In the actual cases I learned about in the South, except for a few persons like the monstrous Chau, who collected human ears (referred to in an earlier chapter), three warnings were usually given before execution and in 90% of such cases the warnings themselves were sufficient.

“Usually people find the revolutionary forces are well armed,” continues Giap, “and it is when they start paying attention to the weapons that the moment comes to give some simple advice, explaining that the power of weapons is only of secondary importance whereas the power of the whole people is invincible, unbeatable. If we do not succeed in convincing people by such explanations, they will be left with some superstitious belief in the power of weapons alone. In this case we will not have achieved our aim of armed propaganda…”

In most other armies a display of arms, a display of force is always intended to dazzle or intimidate people with the all-powerful nature of weapons and those who hold them. But it was typical of the leaders of Vietnam’s armed forces, even from the first moment they had weapons in their hands, to refrain from any boasting. All of General Giap’s writings reflect the absolute certitude that the people were all potential allies and that the armed forces were really a “people’s army” with aims completely identified with the aspirations of the people.

“When the people find that the revolutionary forces have arms in abundance, they will start to think the revolution will succeed easily. This is the moment to explain in a way that people will understand that the business of revolution is full of dangers and difficulties. The imperialists may undertake very violent, very savage acts of repression. Along the path of our struggle, it is possible that we will have temporary setbacks. It is very necessary also to educate people in the sense that if secrets are revealed, we will immediately be subject to the enemy’s terrorist activities. One must not hesitate to say this,” advises Giap, and he then gives some concrete details of another aspect of armed propaganda work:

“After the propaganda activities, the work of consolidation follows. Certain of the most ardent young people can be selected and given some training. For armed propaganda teams on the move from one place to another, training is not easy. Two methods are necessary, one to support the movement in the given locality, the other to form regional cadres as rapidly as possible, that is to say, to recruit into the ranks certain young people; they will be trained as opportunity presents itself while moving around with the armed forces. If necessary we will send them back to continue their activities in their own villages. This process of consolidation is very effective. It should be followed when one wants to establish extensive bases in as short a term as possible. These are the general principles of armed propaganda among the population. For vacillating elements, armed propaganda skillfully utilized can be a two edge weapon.

“There are people who doubt our revolutionary strength, but they will come over to our side when they see our weapons. They are the consciously vacillating elements. But there are also irresolute elements who hate the revolution; they only want to sabotage it but lack the courage to expose themselves as out-and-out reactionaries. Sometimes, frightened at our armed strength they either improve a bit, or they are horror-struck and become complete reactionaries, even conscious traitors. Therefore, in carrying out armed propaganda toward doubtful elements, we must carefully measure our words. We must come to understand fully the local situation, after which everything must be examined carefully, every possible scrap of information must be collected, in case of incidents. We must always act with restraint.”

Giap then deals with the execution of traitors, one of the most delicate of all questions, the one for which the NLF is most attacked, and the implications of which are used by American congressmen and columnists as a pretext for justifying the indefinite American “presence” in South Vietnam. The Western Armies after World War II had no scruples about trying Nazi and Japanese war criminals and hanging them. It was considered absolutely normal for the Norwegians to execute their Quislings, the French their Lavals and other Western countries their respective traitors, but Vietnamese are supposed to “forget and forgive” their Quislings and Lavals. It was considered a laudatory expression of patriotism in World War II for those living under the Nazi scourge to assassinate with whatever means possible any member of the hated occupation regime or any traitor-collaborators without any legal formalities of peacetime laws. But Vietnamese execution of traitors is labeled “Vietcong terrorism.”

Actually, in the South today as in Vietnam during the period about which Giap writes, grounds for executions have been far more limited than was the case with the West European resistance movements. This is explicable because of the essentially political motivation of the Vietnamese national liberation struggle. The possibility of “mass reprisals,” a blood bath for tens of thousands of those who had collaborated with the Americans in South Vietnam, is only conjured up by those who want to justify perpetual American occupation of South Vietnam.

“Concerning the extermination of traitors,” writes Giap, facing up to things with his habitual frankness, “we should execute them more resolutely and also more discriminatory. If we are not resolute, there will sometimes be disastrous consequences. But if we are not careful, executions may be unjustified and the effects could be no less fatal. The principle must be applied that only those guilty of high treason should be executed, only really incorrigible traitors and even then only after all possibilities of convincing them to mend their end ways have been exhausted. In order that such executions should have a correct influence, great attention must be paid to public opinion towards the traitor; one must be guided by the people’s will. Things must be handled in such a way that the population fully understands all the crimes of the condemned person; that they understand the tolerance and patriotism of revolutionary militants… In the case of execution of traitors, if the indictment is not exact, if the proceedings have not been given due attention because of lack of wisdom, firmness of care, the result will be the opposite to that intended…”

To apply in practice rejection of indiscriminate reprisals against known collaborators and traitors who have harmed the onward march of the resistance forces, implies strong political control at all levels of the armed forces. Thus it is necessary to clarify the nature of this political control before exploring other aspects of armed propaganda.

The armed propaganda units were the precursors of the three types of armed forces: self-defense guerrillas, regional troops and mobile regular troops. Political leadership within these units, as they were set up, was ensured by political cadres who were given parallel status at all levels with military commanders. This system is utilized today by the Vietnam People’s Army in the North and the Liberation Army in the South. This dual control is possible only when political and military aims in a given struggle are completely identical, integrated and coordinated, which in practice means that the political and military strategies must be decided at the same headquarters; and the political and military leadership share the same headquarters.

Régis Debray has justifiably criticized situations in which political cadres interfered in military affairs while the political leaders, as in certain countries in Latin America, were sitting in the cities trying to maintain a legal, political existence while the military leadership was in the mountains enduring the hardships of illegal existence. In such a case military activity is reduced to some sort of weight to be thrown onto the scales whenever the political leadership deems it expedient in its dealings with other political forces. Such a situation, I was told by certain guerrilla leaders from Latin America,[1] leads to a “legal” political leadership ordering all sorts of impractical military activities just to bring pressure to bear on some specific deal in the making; to secure an advantage in some temporary alignment of parliamentary forces, for example; or to bargain over the possibility of a few seats in a government. Armed insurrection is not something that can be switched on and off by a control, especially a control that is out of contact with the whole forward movement.


Category : Marxism | Vietnam | Blog

By Merle Ratner

I am very saddened at the passing of General Vo Nguyen Giap on Friday! Bac Giap, as he is called as a term of great affection, dedicated his entire life to achieving the national liberation and independence of Vietnam. He led the victory of the Vietnamese people against French colonialism and U.S. imperialism, making Vietnam the first country to achieve decisive victories over colonial and imperialist powers.  Bac Giap and President Ho Chi Minh together led the movement for national liberation and socialism which made these victories possible.  Developing Marxism Leninism creatively and applying it to the particular conditions of Vietnam, they were able to meld the demands for national independence and ending feudalism and oppression into a powerful and all-sided people’s struggle.

Bac Giap developed a theory and practice of people’s war — an integrated strategy of military, political and diplomatic mobilization of the entire Vietnamese people.  This unique comprehensive approach maximized the agency of the Vietnamese masses in achieving their own liberation, mobilizing their grass roots initiative.  Some bourgeois press obituaries of General Giap have claimed that he was “ruthless,” willing to lose millions of people to win Vietnam’s independence. Those who write this clearly do not understand Bac Giap or the Vietnamese people! The French colonialists and U.S. imperialists’ scorched earth war against the Vietnamese made the fight for liberation burn in the heart of the people, who were willing to make incredible sacrifices to achieve their liberation. Bac Giap successfully led this movement with great love and respect for those he commanded and his love has been reciprocated.  The massive outpouring of people, including many youth, this weekend in the streets of Vietnam to honor Bac Giap underscores how beloved he is in Vietnam, as he is around the world.

After liberation, Bac Giap continued to fight for the development of people’s power and socialism, particularly focusing on the empowerment and advancement of the majority of the population — the peasant community.  He has been a consistent voice criticizing corruption and opportunism and advocating for environmentalism.  Around the world Bac Giap embodied proletarian internationalism as an inspiration to people struggling for independence, equality and justice

In an interview he gave in 1999 with PBS, Bac Giap summed up some of the lessons which the world has drawn from his life of service to humanity, There is a limit to power. I think the Americans and great superpowers would do well to remember that while their power may be great, it is inevitably limited…. Since the beginning of time, whether in a socialist or a capitalist country, the things you do in the interests of the people stand you in good stead, while those which go against the interest of the people will eventually turn against you. History bears out what I say.

I met Bac Giap and his wife and comrade, Dang Bich Ha, several times over a number of years from the 90′s to 2005.  The first time, I was immediately struck by his kindness and his humility. As I shook his hand, somewhat awestruck, he waved his hand and stopped me when I started to say how honored I was to meet him, He said that he had come to hear my thoughts, and the thoughts of our movement, about the situation in Vietnam and the U.S.  He asked me to tell him about the communist and left and anti-war movements in the United States, about how people here viewed Vietnam and about what we thought of the current situation of the Vietnamese revolution.  He was particularly interested in how young people in the U.S. understood the situation in Vietnam and the about basis for long term friendship and solidarity.

Bac Giap told me that about his research and investigation into the living conditions of the peasants, land use issues and his desire to ensure that they were able to improve their lives and prosper as Vietnam developed.  He expressed concern for Vietnam’s workers, saying that in a socialist country, particularly in this stage of development, policies must focus on the well-being of the majority- the workers and peasants.

In a later meeting, we spoke about socialism and about the challenges of political education of youth.  Bac Giap was always hopeful, even when acknowledging the contradictions that development brings.

I was also privileged to spend some additional time with his wife, Dang Bich Ha. Bac Ha is a strong revolutionary woman who took part in all the discussions and raised many questions about the communist movement in the U.S.  Bac Giap and Bac Ha’s relationship impressed me as an expression of the Vietnamese revolution’s emphasis on the equality of women from the earliest days.  It struck me as a marriage of love, equality and respect, with common beliefs as well as lively discussions and even some disagreements!

In my final meeting, General Giap spoke mainly of his activities in the revolution against the French and his work together with President Ho Chi Minh.  At that time, he was resting in Do Son at a very modest Army house.  His body was becoming frail, but he still managed to climb a flight of stairs to meet with a large group of soldiers who had come to visit bearing flowers and great enthusiasm. With the young soldiers Bac Giap radiated energy and warmth, making everyone feel comfortable.  I will always remember Bac Giap, Bac Ha at his side, among that group of young men and women with their eyes shining!

Merle Ratner, former member of the CCDS national coordinating committee, was instrumental in organizing the two CCDS study tours to Vietnam and contributed to the CCDS pamphlet "Vietnam: From National Liberation to 21st Century Socialism." She is a Co-coordinator of the US-based Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign and coordinated an international workshop on Marxist Theory and Practice in the World Today at the Ho Chi Minh Academy in Vietnam. She also has two articles on Vietnam today in the new CCDS book, Vietnam: From National Liberation to 21st Century Socialism

Category : Socialism | Vietnam | Blog

Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (right) with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro.


By Harry Targ

Diary of a Heartland Radical


The weight of history bears down on humankind such that, paraphrasing Marx, people make history but not precisely as to their own choosing. The rise of capitalism out of feudalism in Northern Europe spread over the centuries to Africa, Asia, and Latin America ripping asunder traditional patterns of economic, social, and cultural relations. A new political economy dynamic, now called “neoliberal globalization,” spread across the face of the earth extracting natural resources, enslaving and exploiting human labor power, and expanding production and distribution such that by the twentieth century the whole world was touched. The impact of capitalist globalization included enormous scientific and technological advances, significant increases in the capacity to sustain life, coupled with the capacity to exploit, destroy, kill, uproot traditional cultures and communities, and defile the human landscape.

Capitalism created a global empire. It also created global resistance. The drive to construct empires and to build economic, political, and cultural hegemony stimulated revolution, non-violent resistance, and desperate efforts to create new forms of social and economic being. During the period since World War 11, socialist regimes and radical nationalist movements have challenged the hegemony of U.S., European and Japanese capitalism. The twentieth century socialist project disintegrated for a variety of reasons but its loss spurred new and diverse forms of resistance that complicated the rule of “victorious” empires. The economic, political, and military crises of the early 21st century, coupled with renewed resistance raised the specter of new “21st century socialist” visions. These visions became concrete programs, again paraphrasing Marx, that were not precisely of peoples’ choosing but necessary transitional steps to socialism nonetheless.

Vietnamese History

Southeast Asia, a diverse space geographically, culturally, politically, and economically, has experienced many kinds of imperial rule and resistance. Vietnamese national identity emerged about 100 BC as a result of Chinese expansion and resistance to it among indigenous kingdoms. But China established its hegemony over Vietnam from 200-900 AD. After that time Vietnam consolidated its independence.

During the 1850s Vietnam came under the domination of the French. Occupied by France, Indochina (now Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) became a classic colony. The Japanese military conquered Indochina during World War II. The Japanese had collaborated with the old French colonial administrators and land owners to control the Vietnamese people. After the Japanese were defeated, the Vietnamese people rose up to challenge the French effort to reestablish their old colony.

From 1946 to 1954, revolutionary forces led by Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh fought and won a victory against the French. At the Geneva Conference, 1954, the war was settled. The United States, however, in violation of the main agreements reached, established a puppet regime in South Vietnam that became the basis for continuing war on the Vietnamese people. The Vietnam War, with the U.S. replacing the French, continued until 1975, when the Saigon military collapsed. Finally, after short and brutal battles with hostile forces in neighboring Cambodia and a short war initiated by China in 1979, violence ended. Now the Vietnamese had to rebuild their country and begin constructing the socialist society they had struggled for since the end of World War II.

Post-war reconstruction was initiated after “the U.S. military and their allies dropped four times the tonnage of bombs used in World War II in Vietnam, which is equivalent to 725 nuclear bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 3 million Vietnamese were killed and 4 million were wounded. At the same time, the U.S. military used up to 80 million liters of chemicals to ‘clear’ the land.” (Tran Dac Loi). Agent Orange sprayed liberally over the entirety of Vietnam from 1961 and 1971 affected millions of Vietnamese and U.S. soldiers and poisoned the land. Unexploded ordinance and descendants of Vietnamese exposed to Agent Orange/Dioxin remain part of the Vietnamese experience today. The devastation of land and people was reinforced by a U.S. initiated economic blockade of Vietnam that lasted from 1975 until 1994.

From a Socialist Command Economy to Doi Moi (a socialist-oriented market economy)

Tran Dac Loi, Vice-President of the Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation, wrote about post-war economic policies in Vietnam in an essay in Vietnam: From National Liberation to Socialism (Changemaker, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, forthcoming). Loi explained that after the war against the United States ended the newly united Vietnamese nation adopted a centrally-planned socialist economy.


Category : Capitalism | Cooperatives | Cuba | Socialism | Vietnam | Blog

Nguyen Phu Trong Meeting with Raul Castro

Socialism and the Path to Socialism – Vietnam’s Perspective

By Nguyen Phú Trong
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam

Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, paid an official friendship visit to Cuba and gave a presentation at the Nico Lopez Party School of the Cuban Communist Party.

Following are excerpts from Party leader Trong’s presentation.

Socialism and the path to socialism is a fundamental and practical theoretical topic with broad and complicated content, demanding thorough and in-depth study. I hereby mention just a few aspects from Vietnam’s perspective for your reference and our discussions. And several questions are focused: What is socialism? Why did Vietnam choose the socialist path? How to build socialism in Vietnam step by step? How significant has Vietnam’s renewal and socialism building process been over the past 25 years? And what lessons have been learnt?

As you know, socialism can be understood in three different aspects: socialism as a doctrine, socialism as a movement, and socialism as a regime. Each aspect has different manifestations, depending on the world outlook and development level in a specific historical period. The socialism I want to discuss here is a scientific socialism based on Marxist-Leninist doctrine in the current era.

Previously, when the Soviet Union and its constellation of socialist countries existed, striving for socialism in Vietnam seemed logical and implicitly validated. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, socialist regimes fell in many countries and the worldwide socialist revolution began to ebb. Now, the cause of socialism has been revived, sparking widespread interest and heated debate.

It is true that capitalism has never been more widely accepted than it is now, and it has achieved great successes, especially in liberating and developing productive capacity and advancing science and technology. Many developed capitalist countries have established social welfare systems which are more progressive than ever before, thanks to strong economies and long struggles by their working class. However, capitalism cannot overcome its inherent fundamental contradictions.  We are witnessing a financial crisis and economic decline which originated in the US in 2008, rapidly spread to other capitalist centers, and has impacted every country around the globe.

In addition to this economic crisis with its related food and energy crisis, a depletion of natural resources and deterioration of the environment are posing great challenges to the existence and development of humankind. These are the consequences of a socio-economic development process which champions profits, considers wealth and material consumption the measures of civilization, and makes individualism the main pillar of society. They are the essential characteristics of capitalism’s mode of production and consumption.  The ongoing crisis once again proves that capitalism is anti-advancement, anti-humanity, and unsustainable economically, socially, and ecologically. As Karl Marx said, capitalism damages the things that constitute its wealth, namely, labor and natural resources. According to scientists, the current crisis cannot be completely resolved in the framework of a capitalist regime.

Recent social protest movements flaring up in many developed capitalist countries have exposed the truth about the nature of capitalist political entities. In fact, democratic regimes which follow the “free democracy” formula advocated and imposed by the West never ensure that power truly belongs to the people and for the people—the natural factor of democracy. Such a power system still belongs mostly to the wealthy minority and serves the interests of its major capitalist groups. A very small proportion, as small as 1% of the population, holds the majority of the wealth and means of production, controls most of the financial institutions and mass media, and dominates the whole society.

We need a society where development is truly for humans, instead of exploiting and trampling on human dignity for the sake of profits. We need economic development in parallel with social progress and fairness instead of a widening gap between the rich and the poor and social inequality. We need a society which yearns for progressive and humane values, a society of compassion, unity, and mutual assistance instead of rivalry for the selfish benefits of individuals and groups. We need sustainable development and harmony with nature to make our living environment clean for present and future generations, instead of exploiting, appropriating resources, infinitely consuming materials, and destroying the environment. And we need a political system under which power truly belongs to the people, by the people, and serves the interests of the people, instead of a wealthy minority. These are the authentic values of socialism, aren’t they?

As you comrades and friends know, the Vietnamese people have undergone a prolonged, harsh, sacrifice-filled revolutionary struggle against colonialist and imperialist domination to win national independence and sovereignty in the spirit of the slogan “There is nothing more precious than Independence and Freedom”.

National independence associated with socialism is the basic guideline of Vietnam’s revolution and the essential point of Ho Chi Minh’s legacy. His rich experience combined with the revolutionary theories and science of Marxism-Leninism led Ho Chi Minh to the conclusion that only socialism and communism can create a truly free, prosperous, happy life for every person in every nation. Advancing to socialism is the objective and the inexorable path of the Vietnamese revolution, harnessing the people’s aspirations and historical trends.

But what is socialism? And how does one advance to socialism? This is what absorbs our thoughts—finding our way step by step, creating orientations and guidelines which fit the specific circumstances of Vietnam.

* * *

To date, though there remain some issues that need further study, we realize that the socialist society that the Vietnamese people are striving for is a society of prosperous people in a strong nation characterized by democracy, fairness, and civilization. It’s a society where the people are the masters, which has a highly-developed economy and is based on modern forces of production and progressive relations of production. It has an advanced culture imbued with national identity, and a prosperous, free, and happy people who are blessed with opportunities for comprehensive development. Ethnic groups in the Vietnamese community are equal, united, respectful and supportive of each other. A law-governed socialist state of the people, by the people, and for the people is led by the Communist Party and has friendly and cooperative ties with countries all over the world.

To achieve these goals, we should speed up national industrialization and modernization; develop a knowledge-based and socialist-oriented market economy; build an advanced culture imbued with national identity; boost human resource development; improve people’s living standards; promote social progress and fairness; ensure national defense; safeguard national security and social order; implement a foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, friendship, cooperation, and development; proactively integrate into the world; build a socialist democracy; exercise national unity; expand the national unification front; build a law-governed socialist state of the people, by the people, and for the people; and build a stronger, more transparent Party.

The more we delve into reality, the more we are aware that the transitional period to socialism is a long, extremely difficult and complicated process because it needs to create a profound change in all areas of social life. Vietnam is bypassing the stage of capitalism and moving on directly to socialism from an obsolete agricultural society with low productivity further weakened by decades of wars. Constant attempts at sabotage by hostile forces have hindered Vietnam’s path to socialism, which unavoidably involves a lengthy transition period through various stages and forms of socio-economic organization accompanied by inevitable conflicts between the old and the new. By ‘bypassing the stage of capitalism’, I mean bypassing a regime of oppression, inequality, and capital exploitation, bypassing evils and political entities inappropriate to a socialist regime. This doesn’t mean that we must ignore the achievements and civilized values that humankind has achieved during the process of capitalist development. Indeed, the inheritance of these achievements should be based on an attitude of selective development.

The concept of a socialist market-oriented economy is a creative and fundamental theoretical breakthrough for our Party and an important fruit of the 25-year renewal process, which stemmed from Vietnam’s reality and accumulated experiences of the world. In our opinion, a socialist market-oriented economy is a multi-sector commodity economy, which operates in accordance with market mechanisms and a socialist orientation. It is a new type of market economy in the history of the market economy’s development. It is a kind of economic organization which abides by market economy rules but is based on, led by, and governed by the principles and nature of socialism reflected in its three aspects—ownership, organization, and distribution—for the goal of a prosperous people in a strong nation characterized by democracy, fairness, and civilization. This is neither a capitalist market economy nor a socialist market economy.

In a socialist-oriented market economy, there are multiple forms of ownership and multiple economic sectors. Economic sectors operating in accordance with the law are major components of the economy and equal under the law in the interest of co-existence, cooperation, and healthy competition. The state economy plays a key role; the collective economy is constantly consolidated and developed; the private economy is one of the driving forces of the collective economy; multiple ownership, especially joint-stock enterprises, is encouraged; the state and collective economies provide a firm foundation for the national economy. The relations of distribution ensure fairness, create momentum for growth, and operate a distribution mechanism based on work results, economic efficiency, contributions by other resources, and distribution through the social security and welfare system. The State manages the economy through laws, strategies, plans, policies, and mechanisms to steer, regulate, and stimulate socio-economic development.

Typical characteristic of the socialist orientation in Vietnam’s market economy is the combination of economics and society, the coordination of economic and social policies, economic growth in parallel with social progress, and fairness applied at every step, in every policy, throughout the development process. This means that we neither wait for the economy to reach a high level of development before implementing social progress and fairness, nor “sacrifice” social progress and fairness to the pursuit of mere economic growth. On the contrary, every economic policy should target the goal of social development and every social policy should create momentum to boost economic development. Encouraging people to enrich themselves legally should go hand in hand with reducing poverty and taking care of the disadvantaged and those who have rendered great service to the nation. These are the principles required to ensure a healthy, sustainable, socialist-oriented development.

Our Party sees culture as a spiritual foundation of society and considers cultural development on a par with economic growth and social progress in its fundamental orientation toward socialism building in Vietnam. The culture Vietnam is building is progressive and imbued with national identity, a united-in-diversity culture based on advanced humanitarian values, where Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts play a leading role in social spiritual life, where we inherit and uphold the fine traditional values of all ethnic groups in Vietnam, absorb humankind’s cultural achievements, and strive to build a healthy, civilized society that promotes human dignity, higher knowledge, morality, physical fitness, aesthetics, and a fulfilling lifestyle. We believe that people should play the central role in any development strategy; that cultural development and human resources development are both the target and the momentum of the renewal process; that the development of education and training and science and technology should be priorities of national policy; that environmental protection is one of the vital issues and a criterion of sustainable development; that building happy, progressive families to be healthy cells of society and implementing gender equality are criteria of advancement and civilization.

A socialist society is a society that yearns for progressive and humane values based on people’s common interests, which is totally different from competitive societies based on the interests of individuals and groups. A socialist society fosters social consensus rather than social opposition and antagonism. In a socialist political regime, the relationship between the Party, the State, and the people is a relationship of entities unified in their goals and interests. Every Party guideline, every government policy, law, and action is in the people’s interest. The political model and overall mode of operation is that the Party leads, the State manages, and the people are the master. Democracy is the nature of the socialist regime and both the goal and the momentum of socialism building. Building a socialist democracy, ensuring that real power belongs to the people, is the ultimate and long-term task of Vietnam’s revolution. We intend to unwaveringly uphold democracy, build a law-governed socialist State truly of the people, by the people, and for the people on the basis of an alliance between workers, farmers, and intellectuals led by the Communist Party of Vietnam. The State represents the people’s right to mastery and at the same time organizes the implementation of Party guidelines. There are mechanisms for the people to exercise their right to direct mastery in all areas of society and to take part in social management. We realize that a law-governed socialist State is by nature different from a law-governed capitalist State. Legislative power under a capitalist regime is really a tool to protect and serve the interests of the bourgeois class, while legislative power under a socialist regime is a tool to reflect and exercise the people’s right to mastery and protect the interests of the masses. By enforcing laws, the State enables the people to wield political power and dictate against all acts that violate the interests of the fatherland and the people. At the same time, we define national unity as a source of strength and a decisive factor for the lasting victory of the revolutionary cause in Vietnam. Equality and unity between ethnicities and religions are constantly promoted.

Being well aware of the Communist Party’s leadership as a factor that decides the victory of the renewal process and ensures a national development in line with socialist orientation, we pay special attention to party building, considering it a key and vital task for the Party and the socialist regime. The Communist Party of Vietnam is a vanguard of the Vietnamese working class. The Party was born, exists, and develops for the interests of the working class, the laborers, and the nation as a whole. When the ruling Party leads the nation, it is acknowledged by the entire people as their vanguard. Therefore, the Party is the vanguard of the working class, the laborers, and the Vietnamese nation as a whole. This doesn’t mean playing down the Party’s class nature, but reflects a more in-depth and more complete awareness of the Party’s class nature since the working class is a class whose interests match the interests of the laborers and the nation as a whole. Our Party unswervingly considers Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts as the ideological foundation and lodestar of our revolutionary activities, and considers democratic centralism as the basic organizing principle. The Party leads with its platforms, strategies, and policy guidelines, with its communications, persuasion, mobilization, organization, and supervision, and with Party members’ role models and unified leadership of personnel work. Considering corruption, bureaucracy, and moral deterioration as threats to the ruling Party, particularly in a market economy, the Communist Party of Vietnam demands constant self-reform, self-rectification and rejection of opportunism, individualism, corruption, bureaucracy, waste, and moral deterioration within the Party and the entire political regime.

The renewal process, including the development of the socialist-oriented market economy, has truly brought about positive changes in our country over the past 25 years.

Vietnam used to be a poor, war-torn country, with devastated human lives, infrastructure, and environment. Food and other necessities were in critically short supply, and people’s lives were extremely hard, three-fourths of the population being below the poverty line.  That was the reality in Vietnam before the renewal process.

Thanks to the renewal process, the economy has been growing steadily over the past 25 years at an average annual rate of 7 to 8%. Per capita income has increased 11 fold. In 2008 Vietnam escaped from its former status as a low-income country. From a country with chronic food shortages, Vietnam now not only ensures its own food security but also has become a leading exporter of rice and other agricultural produce.  Industry has developed rapidly with industry and services now accounting for 80% of GDP. Exports have increased steadily, topping 100 billion USD in 2011. Foreign investment had climbed to nearly 200 billion USD by the end of 2011. Economic growth has enabled the country to escape the socio-economic crisis of the 1980s and improve its citizens’ living standards. The poverty rate falls 2 to 3% every year. It went from 75% in 1986 to just 9.5% in 2010. Vietnam completed the eradication of illiteracy and popularization of primary education in 2000 and popularization of secondary education in 2010. The number of tertiary students has increased 9 fold over the past 25 years; 95% of Vietnam’s adult population is literate. Many common diseases have been successfully contained. The poor, children under 6, and the elderly are provided free health insurance. The child malnutrition rate has been slashed 3 fold. The new-born mortality rate has fallen 6 fold. Life expectancy has increased from 62 in 1990 to 73 in 2010.  Vietnamese cultural life has expanded to include an ever-wider range of cultural activities. Vietnam now has about 25 million internet users and is one of the countries experiencing the fastest growth of IT technology. The United Nations has recognized Vietnam as one of the leading countries in reaching its Millennium Development Goals.

So it can be said that the renewal policy has brought about very positive changes in Vietnam: economic growth, higher productivity, rapid poverty reduction, a higher standard of living, reduced social problems, more political and social stability, ensured security, enhanced national posture and strength, and greater trust in the Party’s leadership. Reviewing 20 years of renewal, our 10th National Party Congress remarked that the renewal has recorded “great achievements of historical significance”. In fact, the Vietnamese people are now enjoying better living conditions than at any time in the past. That’s why the renewal initiated and led by the Communist Party of Vietnam has received the Vietnamese people’s full and active support. Renewal achievements in Vietnam have proved that socialist-oriented development not only has a positive economic effect but also resolves social problems much better than capitalist development at a similar development level.

Despite all these achievements, there remain shortcomings, limitations, and new challenges to be overcome in Vietnam’s pursuit of national development.

Economically, the quality of growth remains low, infrastructure development is uneven, the efficiency and capacity of businesses—including state-owned enterprises—are limited, the environment is polluted in many areas, and market management and regulation are inadequate.  Meanwhile, competition is becoming fiercer with globalization and international integration.

Socially, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, the quality of education, healthcare and many other public services is low, culture and social ethics are deteriorating, and crimes and social vices are becoming more complicated. In particular, corruption, waste, and the deterioration of political ideology and personality morality are tending to spread among cadres and Party members.

We realize that Vietnam is now in a transitional period towards socialism. During this transition, socialist factors have been established and developed, intermingling and competing with non-socialist factors, including capitalist factors.  The intermingling and competing are more complicated and aggressive in the current context of market opening and international integration. Along with positive aspects, there will always be negative aspects and challenges that need to be considered wisely and dealt with timely and effectively. It is a difficult struggle that requires spirit, fresh vision, and creativity. The path to socialism is a process of constantly consolidating and strengthening socialist factors to make them more dominant and irreversible. Success will depend on correct policies, political spirit, leadership capacity, and the fighting strength of the Party.

At present, we are revising our growth model and restructuring our economy with greater priority being given to quality and sustainability by focusing on infrastructure, human resources and administrative reforms. Socially, we are continuing to pursue sustainable poverty reduction, improve healthcare, education, and other public services, and enrich the people’s cultural life.

Theory and experience agree that socialism building means creating a new type of society, which is by no means an easy task. The challenges and difficulties before us require that the Party’s leadership role be matched by the creative ideas, political support, and active participation of the people. The people will accept, support, and enthusiastically take part in carrying out the Party’s guidelines when they see that those guidelines answer their needs and aspirations. The ultimate victory of Vietnam’s development is deeply rooted in the strength of the Vietnamese people.

At the same time, the Party’s directions and policies must originate not only in the reality of Vietnam and its history, but also in the reality of the world and era in which we all live. In today’s globalized world, no country can stand aloof from the world community and its complex interactions. We therefore intend to proactively integrate into the world and implement a foreign policy whose pillars are independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation, and shared development. Vietnam is committed to multi-lateralization and diversification of its international relations on a basis of equality, mutual benefit, and respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.

Even more important is that we should be consistent and firm on the foundation of Marxism-Leninism, a scientific and revolutionary doctrine of the working class and the masses of laborers. The radical scientific and revolutionary characteristics of Marxism-Leninism are lasting values and have been pursued and implemented by revolutionaries around the globe. It will continue to develop and prove its vitality in the reality of revolutions and scientific development. We need to selectively accept and supplement in the spirit of criticism and creativity of the latest ideological and scientific achievements so that our doctrine will be forever fresh, energized, and filled with the spirit of the era.

We are aware that ours is an extremely complex and unprecedented undertaking, which will require us to learn the lessons we will need as we go along. The steps we have already taken are just the first steps of a long journey…The goals of socialism may be the same in every country, but the methods necessary to achieve those goals are diverse, depending on the specific circumstances of each country.

Our journey will demand all of our ingenuity and vitality.

November 17, 2012

Category : Capitalism | Cuba | Socialism | Vietnam | Blog