Cuba

17
Jun

 

September 26, 2011 — First posted at Cuba’s Socialist Renewal, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission — Cooperatives and Socialism: A Cuban Perspective is a new Cuban book, published in Spanish earlier this year. This important and timely compilation is edited by Camila Piñeiro Harnecker (pictured above). Avid readers of Cuba’s Socialist Renewal will recall that I translated and posted a commentary by Camila, titled "Cuba Needs Changes" [also available at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal], back in January. Camila lives in Cuba and has a degree in sustainable development from the University of Berkeley, California. She is a professor at the Centre for Studies on the Cuban Economy at Havana University, and her works have been published both in Cuba and outside the island.

Camila hopes her book may be published in English soon. In the meantime, she has kindly agreed to allow me to translate and publish this extract from her preface to Cooperatives and Socialism with permission from a prospective publisher. I hope that sharing this extract with readers will make you want to read the whole book. If it does become available in English I’ll post the details here. If you read Spanish you can download the 420-page book as a PDF here or here.

At the end of the text you’ll find the footnotes and table of contents, translated from the Spanish — Marce Cameron, editor Cuba’s Socialist Renewal

Preface to Cooperatives and Socialism: A Cuban perspective (extract)

By Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, translated by Marce Cameron

 

This book arises from the urgent need for us to make a modest contribution to the healthy “birth” of the new Cuban cooperativism and its subsequent spread. Given that cooperatives are foreshadowed as one of the organisational forms of labour in the non-state sector in the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Sixth Cuban Communist Party Congress, the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Centre approached me to compile this book. The Centre has made an outstanding contribution to popular education aimed at nurturing and strengthening the emancipatory ethical values, critical thinking, political skills and organisational abilities indispensable for the conscious and effective participation of social subjects. The Centre considers it timely and necessary to support efforts to raise awareness about a type of self-managed economic entity whose principles, basic characteristics and potentialities are unknown in Cuba. There is every indication that such self-managed entities could play a significant role in our new economic model.

For this to happen we must grapple with the question at the heart of this compilation: Is the production cooperative an appropriate form of the organisation of labour for a society committed to building socialism? There is no doubt that this question cannot be answered in a simplistic or absolute fashion. Our aim here is to take only a first step towards answering this question from a Cuban perspective in these times of change and rethinking, guided by the anxieties and hopes that many Cubans have about our future.

When it is proposed that the production cooperative be one – though not the only – form of enterprise in Cuba, three concerns above all are frequently encountered: some consider it too “utopian” and therefore inefficient; others, on the basis of the cooperatives that have existed in Cuba, suspect that they will not have sufficient autonomy[1] or that they will be “too much like state enterprises”; while others still, accustomed to the control over enterprise activities exercised by a state that intervenes directly and excessively in enterprise management, reject cooperativism as too autonomous and therefore a “seed of capitalism”. This book tries to take account of all these concerns, though there is no doubt that more space would be required to address them adequately.

The first concern is addressed to some extent with the data provided in the first part of the book regarding the existence and economic activity of cooperatives worldwide today. This shows that the cooperative is not an unachievable fantasy that disregards the objective and subjective requirements of viable economic activity. Thus, the experiences of cooperatives in the Basque Country, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela that are summarised in the third part of the book demonstrate that cooperatives can be more efficient than capitalist enterprises, even on the basis of the hegemonic capitalist conception of efficiency that ignores externalities, i.e. the impact of any enterprise activity on third parties.

The efficiency of cooperatives is greater still if we take into consideration all of the positive outcomes inherent in their management model, which can be summarised as the full human development[2] of its members and, potentially, of local communities. The democratic abilities and attitudes that cooperative members develop through their participation in its management can be utilised in other social spaces and organisations. Moreover, genuine cooperatives free us from some of the worst of the negative externalities (dismissals, environmental contamination, loss of ethical values) generated by enterprises oriented towards profit maximisation rather than the satisfaction of the needs of their workers.

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Category : Cooperatives | Cuba | Marxism | Socialism | Blog
17
Jan

Bus/Taxi Coop in Cuba

Cuba is poised to be the first country in the world to have cooperatives make up a major portion of its economy. It is a laboratory for a new society.

By Cliff DuRand

Cuba is engaged in a fundamental reshaping of its society. Calling it a renovation of socialism or a renewal of socialism, the country is re-forming the economic system away from the state socialist model adopted in the 1970s toward something quite new. This is not the first time Cuba has undertaken significant changes, but this promises to be deeper than previous efforts, moving away from that statist model. Fidel confessed in 2005 that “among the many errors that we committed, the most serious error was believing that someone knew how to build socialism.” That someone, of course, was the Soviet Union. So, Cuba is still trying to figure out for itself how to build socialism.

To understand the current renovation it is important to distinguish between ownership and possession of property. The productive resources of society are to remain under state ownership in the name of all the people. Reforms do not change the ownership system. Reforms are changing the management system, bringing managerial control closer to those who actually possess property. So while the state will continue to own, greater autonomy will be given to those who possess that property. In effect, Cuba is embracing the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that decisions should be made at the lowest level feasible and higher levels should give support to the local. This means more enterprise autonomy in state enterprises and it means cooperatives outside of the state.

It is expected that in the next couple years the non-state sector is expected to provide 35% of the employment. Along with foreign and joint ventures, the non-state sector as a whole will contribute an estimated 45% of the gross domestic product (PIB). Hopefully coops will become a dominant part of that non-state sector.

Cooperatives

Already 83% of agricultural land is in coops. Much of that has been in the UBPCs (Basic Units of Cooperative Production) formed in the 1990s out of the former state farms. But these were not true cooperatives since they still came under the control of state entities. Now they are being given the autonomy to become true coops.

Even more significantly, new urban coops are being established in services and industry. 222 experimental urban coops are to be opened in 2013. As of 1st of July, 124 have been formed in agricultural markets, construction, and transportation. A big expansion in this number is expected in 2014.

In December 2012 the National Assembly passed an urban coop law that establishes the legal basis for these new coops. Here are some of its main provisions:

  • A coop must have at least 3 members, but can have as many as 60 or more. One vote per socio. As self-governing enterprises, coops are to set up their own internal democratic decision making structures.
  • –Coops are independent of the state. They are to respond to the market. This is to overcome the limits that hampered some agricultural coops in the past.
  • –Coops can do business with state and private enterprises. They will set their own prices in most cases, except where there are prices established by the state.
  • –Some coops will be conversions of state enterprises, e.g. restaurants. They can have 10 year renewable leases for use of the premises, paying no rent in the first year if improvements are made.
  • –Others will be start-up coops.
  • –There will be second degree coops which are associations of other coops.
  • –Capitalization will come from bank loans, a new Finance Ministry fund for coops and member contributions. Member contributions are treated as loans (not equity) and do not give additional votes. Loans are to be repaid from profits.
  • –Coops are to pay taxes on profits and social security for socios.
  • –Distribution of profits is to be decided by socios after setting aside a reserve fund.
  • –Coops may hire wage labor on a temporary basis (up to 90 days). After 90 days a temporary worker must be offered membership or let go. Total temporary worker time cannot exceed 10% of the total work days for the year. This gives coops flexibility to hire extra workers seasonally or in response to increased market demands, but prevents significant collective exploitation of wage labor.

This is a big step forward for Cuba. Since 1968 the state has sought to run everything from restaurants to barber shops and taxis. Some were done well, many were not. One problem was worker motivation. Decisions were made higher up and as state employees, workers enjoyed job security even with poor performance. However, their pay was low. Now as socios in cooperatives they will have incentives to make the business a success. The coop is on its own to either prosper or go under. Each member’s income and security depends on the collective. And each has the same voting right in the General Assembly where coop policy is to be made. Coops combine material and moral incentives, linking individual interest with a collective interest. Each socio prospers only if all prosper.

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Category : Cooperatives | Cuba | Socialism | Solidarity Economy | Blog
28
Jul

Schafik Handal, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro and Evo Morales, in Havana in 2004

By Roger Burbach

Telesur, July 1, 2014

Something remarkable has taken place in Latin America in the new millennium. For the first time since the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, radical left governments have come to power in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, raising the banner of socialism. The decline of the US empire, the eruption of anti-neoliberal social movements, and the growing integration of the region on its own terms have created a space for the rejuvenation of socialism after the dramatic setbacks of the last century. Cuba is part of this transformative process as its leadership moves to update the country’s economy while the Cuban people experience new freedoms.

In what follows, the theoretical debates and the praxis of socialism in the twenty-first-century socialism will be explored. The intent is not to provide a singular theory of the new socialism, but to put forth some of the interpretations of the contemporary struggles that are taking place in Latin America.

Theories of Twenty-First-Century Socialism

Drawing on the wide-ranging discussions of twenty-first-century socialism taking place in the hemisphere, political theorist Marta Harnecker, who served as an informal adviser to Hugo Chavez, outlines five key components of what constitutes socialism. First, socialism is “the development of human beings,” meaning that “the pursuit of profit” needs to be replaced by “a logic of humanism and solidarity, aimed at satisfying human needs.” Secondly, socialism “respects nature and opposes consumerism – our goal should not be to live ‘better’ but to live ‘well,”’ as the Andean indigenous cultures declare. Thirdly, borrowing from the radical economics professor Michael Lebowitz, Harnecker says, socialism establishes a new “dialectic of production/distribution/consumption, based on: a) social ownership of the means of production, and b) social production organized by the workers in order to c) satisfy communal needs.” Fourthly, “socialism is guided by a new concept of efficiency that both respects nature and seeks human development.” Fifthly, there is a need for the “rational use of the available natural and human resources, thanks to a decentralized participatory planning process” that is the opposite of Soviet hyper-centralized bureaucratic planning.(1)

To construct a socialist utopia along these lines will be a long endeavor, taking decades and generations. Today different explorations, or counter-hegemonic processes, are at work throughout the hemisphere. As Arturo Escobar – a Colombian-American anthropologist known for his contribution to post-development theory– writes in ‘Latin America at a Crossroads’:

“Some argue that these processes might lead to a re-invention of socialism; for others, what is at stake is the dismantling of the neo-liberal policies of the past three decades – the end of the ‘the long neo-liberal night,’ as the period is known in progressive circles in the region – or the formation of a South American (and anti-American) bloc. Others point at the potential for un nuevo comienzo (a new beginning) which might bring about a reinvention of democracy and development or, more radically still, the end of the predominance of liberal society of the past 200 years founded on private property and representative democracy. Socialismo del siglo XXI, pluri-nationality, interculturality, direct and substantive democracy, revolución ciudadana, endogenous development centered on the buen vivir of the people, territorial and cultural autonomy, and decolonial projects towards post-liberal societies are some of the concepts that seek to name the ongoing transformations.” (2)

Orlando Núñez, a leading Marxist theorist from Nicaragua, amplifies our understanding of the long transition to socialism with a more orthodox approach. Rejecting 21st century socialism as a concept to describe what is occurring in Latin America today, he asserts that the region is in a very preliminary phase of “transitioning to socialism in which we should not pretend we are constructing socialism.” Rather we are confronting neoliberalism and each country in Latin America is “facing different conditions.” He adds, “new flags are appearing in the social struggle against the dominant system that cannot be resolved by the logic of capitalism.” It is “a post-neoliberal or post-capitalist struggle” against woman’s inequality and patriarchy, racial and ethnic discrimination, and the degradation of the environment. More fundamentally it is against “savage capitalism,” and “neo-colonialism,” both internally and externally. (3)

The Brazilian political scientist Emir Sader, in The New Mole: Paths of the Latin American Left, argues that the setback for socialism in the 20th century was so severe that it is still recuperating to this day. Socialism can be part of the agenda, but the priority must be on forming governments and political coalitions to dismantle neoliberalism, even if that means accepting the broader capitalist system for the time being.(4) This in part explains why the construction of socialism in the coming years and decades will be a diverse process – differing widely from country to country. There is no single definition or model–we are indeed witnessing, two, three, many transitions to socialism..

Part 2: Rise of the Social Movements and New Theories of Social Struggle

The origins of twenty-first century socialism are found in the wave of social movements led by peasants and indigenous organizations that swept the rural areas of Latin America as state socialism was collapsing. By the mid-1990s they had assumed the lead in challenging the neoliberal order, particularly in Ecuador, Mexico, Bolivia, and Brazil. These new organizations were generally more democratic and participatory than the class-based organizations that traditional Marxist political parties had set up in rural areas in previous decades. In general, they came to fill the gap left by a working class that was fragmented, disoriented, and dispersed due to the assault of neo-liberalism. With a broad range of interests and demands, including indigenous and environmental rights, these new social movements transcended the modernist meta-narratives of both capitalism and traditional socialism.

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Category : Bolivia | Cuba | Marxism | Socialism | Solidarity Economy | Venezuela | Blog
20
Jun

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

PART 1, THE VIETNAM CASE

By Harry Targ

Diary of a Heartland Radical

Introduction

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.

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Category : Capitalism | Cooperatives | Cuba | Socialism | Vietnam | Blog
26
Feb

By Circles Robinson

Havana Times, Feb 26, 2013

Vicente Morin Aguado interviews non-Marxist US socialist Grady Ross Daugherty

HAVANA TIMES — Over several weeks of difficult back and forth emails (it’s hard to imagine the slow speed and high cost of Internet in Cuban hotels), I attempted to clarify the thinking of Grady Ross Daugherty [2], the leader and founder of the “modern cooperative socialist movement” in the United States and who is a regular reader of HT.

HT: What place do you see for cooperatives in the current reform process taking place within Cuba’s socialist experiment?

Grady Ross Daugherty: Thanks for characterizing Cuba’s half-century post-capitalist period as an “experiment.” An experiment is a way of testing a reasonable hypothesis. If we look at the Cuban model as an experiment, as a modifiable work in progress, its performance can be altered to achieve greater prosperity and progress.

In our discussion, we need to keep in mind that most types of cooperatives require a certain basis of legal private ownership, assuming we want them to be functional. For example, agricultural cooperatives require the ownership of cultivated land and the families homes — not usufruct rights — if we hope them to be effective and make Cuba self-sufficient in production.

HT: Regarding the issue of ownership, I began to understand your non-Marxist position prior to our exchange. It may seem like a digression, but it’s good to point out something as controversial as your self-declared non-Marxist yet socialist position.

GRD:  Since its origins in the nineteenth century, the socialist movement was mutual and cooperative. This was something notable in France and England, where workers and farmers were eager to own land and the instruments of production as their property. They didn’t want ownership in the hands of private capitalists or government officials.

I think that if Cuba’s political leaders can clear their minds about the theory of state monopoly and its consequent personality cult, typical of the founders of Marxism during the nineteenth century, Cuba will be a socialist country in the long term.

Marx and Engels instilled prejudice against private property, pointing to it as a cause of society’s ills and as something antithetical to their aim of “scientific” socialism. Nevertheless, for cooperatives to be real they require ownership, which supposedly would be “capitalist” – as opposed to state-run or scientific forms like “socialist” ones.

Despite this, harsh reality has led Cuban politicians to take a fresh look at cooperatives. They’re beginning to look at socialism as an ongoing experiment.

HT: Of course Marx criticized Proudhon, the father of French cooperative and mutualist socialism, considering him petty bourgeois for all his vacillation and wavering, which is typical of his social class.

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Category : Cooperatives | Cuba | Socialism | Solidarity Economy | Blog
26
Dec

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.

www.talkvietnam.com

November 17, 2012

Category : Capitalism | Cuba | Socialism | Vietnam | Blog