The August Revolution and founding of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam
France invaded and colonized Vietnam since 1858. The French colonialists did not bring “liberty, equality, fraternity,” nor“civilization,” but disasters to the Vietnamese nation. The name “Vietnam” was erased from the world map. The country was divided into three regions and turned into parts of the French Indochina where the colonialist authorities maintained the feudal regime and used it to rule, applied obscurantism, imposed heavy taxes, exploited local natural resources and labor, built more prisons than schools. Vietnam was plunged in widespread poverty, epidemics, opium addiction and illiteracy. Many uprisings and patriotic movements occurred, but all failed, were brutally suppressed and drowned in rivers of blood by the French colonialists.
In these circumstances, a young patriot named Nguyen Ai Quoc, then called Ho Chi Minh (Hồ Chí Minh), went abroad in 1911 to search a new path to liberate the country. Ho Chi Minh visited many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, joined and experienced struggles of the oppressed people around the world, took part in the foundation of the French Communist Party in 1920 and joined the Communist International in 1924. In 1930, he founded the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), linking the struggle for national independence with that for socialism, as well as patriotism with internationalism.
During WWII, Japan invaded Vietnam and ruled the country jointly with the French. In the year 1945 only, two million Vietnamese (that is, nearly a tenth of a population of 28 million inhabitants then) died of hunger under the domination of the Japanese fascists and the French colonialists.
In Fall 1945, under the leadership of the Viet Minh Front, with the CPV as a core member, and Ho Chi Minh as the head, the Vietnamese people carried out successfully the August Revolution. On September 2nd, 1945, President Ho Chi Minh announced the Independence Declaration, giving birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). This was a truly people’s revolution. At that time, the CPV had a little more than 5,000 members. Its armed forces were small and equipped with very few, primitive weapons. It was the power of strong support and active participation of the people nationwide that overwhelmed the foreign conquerors and their patronized feudal regime, making the revolution successful – almost without blood.
The new-born State then immediately faced with internal and external enemies. Famine still widespread while the revolutionary government was severely short of resources in terms of human, material and financial means. Two weeks after the proclamation of the young Republic, the people in all parts of the country joined the “Gold Week” of donation to fund the new government.[i] The latter, headed by Ho Chi Minh, immediately set out three urgent tasks which were to fight against famine, illiteracy and foreign invaders.
To fight famine, the government opened all the food storages of the old regime to the people and called for everybody to share food and clothes to the poor. President Ho Chi Minh himself did reduce his daily portion and skipped a meal every 10 days to help the poor. This practice was supported and followed by government officials and many people across the country. The government gave farmland and granted tax exemption to farmers to grow crops. From November 1945 to May 1946, food production rose four times higher than that before 1945, thus helping to end the famine.
To address the illiteracy spreading among more than 90% of the population, the government launched the nationwide campaign “Popular learning.” There were very few schools, teachers, books, and pens available. The teaching of reading and writing skills were done in community houses, market places, on rice fields, roads, house floors and yards, using bamboo or charcoal sticks to write on the ground, wooden and wattle surfaces and walls. People who were literate taught those who were not. Evening classes were opened for farmers and workers.
These methods helped a large part of population learn how to read and write in a short period of time which contributed to enabling conditions for the holding of the first democratic and free general election in the country’s history. It was held on January 6, 1946. Despite the sabotage by reactionary forces, 89% of voters had casted their ballots in the presence of the troops from France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the Republic of China. Ho Chi Minh was elected with the highest votes of 98.4%.[ii] The Communists and representatives of Viet Minh member organizations and parties were also elected with high votes; 43% of the elected were non-partisan intellectuals or entrepreneurs. The new Parliament approved the first Constitution affirming the independence of Vietnam and the fundamental rights of its people, the equality between men and women, as well as among all religious and ethnic groups. The new government implemented the policy “land to the farmers” in order to satisfy the age-old dream of generations of peasants, which constituted the overwhelming majority of population of Vietnam.
Thirty years of resistance for national independence
Right after the August Revolution succeeded, along with declaring the country’s independence, Ho Chi Minh and the DRV government also exerted all efforts to maintain peace and establish friendly relationships with all other countries, first of all with those of the anti-fascist allies.
Although Viet Minh was the core anti-fascism force in Vietnam and the formation of the DRV State resulted from the will and desire of the Vietnamese people which clearly reflected through the truly free and democratic general election, imperialist forces, particularly the United States (U.S. hereafter) and France, did not want it to be in existence. French imperialist, with the support of the U.S., launched a war of aggression to reconquer Vietnam. On December 19, 1946, President Ho Chi Minh had to announce an “Appeal for nation-wide resistance” with the determination of “sacrificing everything but not to lose the country, not to be slaves.”
This was a very unequal battle between the powerful French legions aided by the U.S. with the absolute dominance of military, weaponry and equipment on the one side and the young Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) with very limited and primitive weapons on the other side.[iii] Nonetheless, with the motto “all-nation’s resistance, all-round resistance”, the Resistance had mobilized active participation and contributions of the Vietnamese people of all strata and corners of the country, gained victory step by step, gradually defeated all French strategies of “beat fast, win fast.”
After eight years of continuous failures in all fronts and forced into reactive status, France, with the aid from the U.S., had created the strategic stronghold complex of Dien Bien Phu equipped with the strongest military forces and firepower, andconsidered as an “invincible fortress, a trap to crush the Viet Minh army,” in order to create the war’s turning point in favor of the French. The then U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon came to see by himself the construction of these bases “to make sure the U.S. investments in Indochina is used effectively.” Implementing the direction of President Ho Chi Minh, with strong will, bravery, ingenuity and creativeness, the Vietnamese army under the command of General Vo Nguyen Giap won the 55 day-and-night-campaign to liberate Dien Bien Phu, killed or captured all 16,200 French officers and soldiers.
France’s failure in Dien Bien Phu forced its government to sign the Geneva Accords in July 1954 recognizing the freedom, independence, unification and sovereignty of Vietnam and of the other Indochina countries. The Vietnamese people’s victory contributed significantly to the collapse of the system of old colonialism in the world.
The Geneva Accords stipulated that Vietnam was to be temporarily divided into two parts at the 17th parallel and would be united after two years by a nation-wide general election. Nevertheless, the U.S., which knew the Ho Chi Minh government would win the support of the absolute majority of the Vietnamese people[iv] through general election, undermined the Geneva Accords, and replaced France to apply neo-colonialism in Southern Vietnam. The U.S. made up, funded and controlled dictatorial regimes to realize its plot of continuing the country’s division for its strategic targets and interests in Southeast Asia. The Ngo Dinh Diem Administration formed by the U.S. in the South launched campaigns to suppress patriotic forces and movements in the South,[v] forced the people into concentration camps called “strategic hamlets,” even savagely suppressed Buddhism and student movements. From 1955-1960, the Diem-Nhu administration executed or murdered 80,000 people, imprisoned and tortured 275,000 people and kept 500,000 people in concentration camps.[vi] Facing the reality that the U.S. and its lackeys deliberately ignored the Geneva Accords, avoided the general election, aiming at prolonging the country’s division and turning the South into a U.S. neo-colony, the people of both South and North Vietnam had no other choice than standing together in a fight against the U.S. aggression for the liberation of the South and the unification of the country.
This was an absolute unequal war between the world’s strongest imperialist power and a small, poor country just got out of colonialism.[vii]
The U.S. war of aggression have heavily destroyed our country and caused huge losses to the people of Vietnam. The U.S. dropped over 15.35 million tons of explosives, among which the number of dropped bombs alone was nearly threefold of the total bombs used in WWII by all engaged countries, including napalm and cluster bombs. The U.S. also poured 45,260 tons (about 76.9 million liters) of toxic chemicals, 64% of which contained dioxin, on vast areas in Southern Vietnam. At the same time, the U.S. and its allies had committed many massacres in the South, with that of My Lai was just one of a few known by the world public. From 1965 to 1972, with the motto “bomb the North Vietnam back to the Stone Age,” the U.S. carried out 412,284 flying missions and dropped 973,300 tons of bombs on 203,733 targets in the North, among which only 9.9% was military, the rest being civilian ones.
Nonetheless, the brutality of the aggressor and its lackeys could not subjugate the will “nothing is more precious than independence and freedom” of the people in both South and North Vietnam. The resistance led by the CPV against the U.S. had mobilized all nation’s power and got the strong support, active participation and contribution from all social strata, religious and ethnic groups, from villages to cities over the country. The spirit of bravery and resoluteness combined with the ingenious art of people’s war had defeated all U.S. strategies, one by one, in South Vietnam.
At the same time, the U.S. unjust war and its crimes in Vietnam faced the growing opposition of the people around the world, including inside the U.S. itself. The anti-war movements attracted millions of U.S. citizens, including U.S. veterans returned from Vietnam. The just cause and the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people gained the strong support of the ever-largest front of world people’s solidarity with the Vietnamese in their fight against the U.S. aggression. The public pressure, particularly from the U.S. public, and the 1968 Tet Offensive in South Vietnam forced the U.S. administration to stop bombing the North and sit down at the four-party negotiations in Paris for an Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam.
Only after the pathetic failure in the 12-day campaign to carpet-bomb Hanoi and Hai Phong by B52s in late December 1972, the U.S. and the Saigon government had to sign the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973. The U.S. had to withdraw its troops, but continued its large scale military aid to Saigon regime and maintained 23,000 “military advisors” in South Vietnam. The General Offensive and Uprising of the Spring 1975 triumphantly ended by the historic Ho Chi Minh campaign that liberated Saigon on April 30, 1975. After the 1976 general elections, the South and North Vietnam united into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV).
The struggle and victory of the Vietnamese people had strongly encouraged the national liberation movements, significantly contributing to the collapse of the neo-colonial system in the world. The U.S. unjust war in Vietnam also caused great losses to the U.S. itself.[viii] Above all, it deeply divided the U.S. society. However, the outbreak of the movements for peace, civil rights, social security and democracy did contribute to changing the U.S. society. The “Vietnam syndrome” also played an important role in refraining the U.S. from engaging directly in wars overseas until after the Cold War.
Two difficult decades after the wars
Before the war, Vietnam was a poor and backward agricultural semi-feudal and semi-colonized country with a closed self-supply economy. The U.S. aggression left very heavy legacies on the country and the people of Vietnam. Over 3 million people were killed, 4 million others were injured, 4.8 million people were affected by Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin, millions of whom got fatal diseases. Infrastructure and a major area of forests were destroyed; nearly 800,000 tons of bombs and landmines were left unexploded in 6.6 million hectares of land or 22% of the area of the whole country, and continued to cause wounds and to threaten the lives of many villagers. Even now, 45 years after the war, there are hundreds of thousands of children born with defects because of AO/dioxin; and over 200,000 people are still missing in their own homeland.
After the war, Vietnam was badly in need of a peaceful environment and assistance from international community to address war legacies, rebuild the country, develop the economy and improve people’s living conditions. Unfortunately, all these did not happen. The U.S. continued its hostile policy toward Vietnam, launched many actions of sabotage to destabilize the country and imposed an economic embargo against Vietnam for nearly 20 years after the war.
When the Khmer Rouge implemented a genocidal policy in Cambodia, killing 2 million people out of its population of 8 million and launched aggressive attacks against Vietnam, all efforts by Vietnam to report and to submit recommendations to the U.N. Security Council were dismissed by major powers. When Vietnam counterattacked and assisted Cambodians people to abolish the Khmer Rouge regime in January 1979, the U.S. and their counterparts used the “Cambodia issue” to isolate and weaken Vietnam, giving the U.N. seat to the “Democratic of Cambodia” with the Khmer Rouge as the core player, supported and funded these forces to fight against the new government of Cambodia as well as against Vietnamese volunteer troops. Therefore, the latter had to continue their fight for over 10 years in Cambodia to help the Cambodians prevent the return of the Khmer Rouge and revive the country after the genocide disaster.
The fight against the Khmer Rouge, the border war and conflicts with China and the embargo imposed by the U.S. and its Western allies made Vietnam’s socio-economic situation inherently very difficult due to the war even worse. Foreign trade and assistance came mainly from the USSR and the East European socialist countries, but they then had already been in stagnation, thus limited assistance and cooperation.[ix]
Those were the objective difficulties negatively affecting the socio-economy of Vietnam for two decades following the war.[x]
Subjectively, we had made a serious mistake of being impatient in applying a socio-economic development model after liberation and unification. With the motto of “moving fast and strongly to socialism,” we immediately nationalized, collectivized most production and business sectors, and applied central planning management mechanisms as well as subsidized and averaged distribution policy throughout the country. These policies primarily aimed at quickly terminating exploitation, realizing social progress and justice, building equality among people. Nevertheless, this model was extremely ineffective economically. For example, Vietnam traditionally was a pure agricultural economy, but productivity in agriculture itself was then very low,[xi] which led to chronic shortage of food, forcing the government to import about 1 million tons of food per year to meet the people’s need, at least. Similar situations were seen in all other productive sectors, causing serious deficits in essential commodities. In mid-1980s, inflation was at three-digit rate for three consecutive years, with one year at 774%. Over 70% of the population lived in poverty. Our country then was in a very severe socio-economic crisis.
Our main mistake was to confuse starting point for destination. Building a socialist society without exploitation, ensuring social justice and equality as well as a comprehensive system of social welfare for the people is a noble objective to strive for, but a long process of enormous efforts for economic, cultural and social development, not a one-day business. Vietnam was just entered the early phase of the transitional period to socialism, but we had rushed to apply a development model incompatible with our country’s existing concrete conditions. For instance, our main form of agricultural production was manual with the formula: “the buffalo in front, plow behind”, suitable mainly for household farming; there were no mechanization or any objective condition, prerequisite or demand for organizing and arranging collective labor. Yet, we were too hurry to foster collectivization, even to develop high-level cooperatives in agriculture. In fact, we had over-socialized productive relations beyond the existing level of productive forces which was still very low. This was in contradiction with Marx’s teaching, and negatively affected the productivity. The application of a planning mechanismsfrom central to the grassroots levels via a bureaucratic system could not ensure the relevance with existing reality and significantly limited dynamism and creativeness from localities. The subsidy of housing, food, health care and education while the State budget was very tight could provide only basic needs at minimum and spared no resources for development investment. The result was a rather equal society, but everybody was equally poor and had very limited possibilities to improve their lives.
In that context, since 1980s, the CPV undertook several experiments and gradually implemented new measures to renew the model of socio-economic development. The 6th Party Congress in 1986 decided to officially adopt and turn the “Doi Moi” (renewal) policy into practice.
The "Doi Moi" (Renewal) process and the socialist-orriented market economy
With the attitude “facing the truth, exposing the truth”, the CPV pointed out the mistakes in directing the economic development in the past, determined to “change the mindset”, firstly the economic mindset to drive the country out of crisis to economic development and better living conditions for the people.
The first breakthrough was in the field of agriculture with the transfer of the land use right from cooperatives to farmers to carry out household production, also known as “household contract”. This policy immediately boosted agricultural productions; in a short time, Vietnam could produce enough food to feed its population and since 1989 began to export rice and soon later became one of the largest rice exporters of the world. This result was an essential basis for the extension of modifying the production relations to match with the development level of the production forces in all other sectors, forming the foundation for economic renewal policy targeting at freeing up production capacities and mobilizing maximum resources for economic development and improvement of people’s lives.
The focus of the economic renovation policy was the gradual transition from the centrally planned and subsidized model to a socialist-oriented market economy. At this stage, the main characteristics of Vietnam’s socialist-oriented marketeconomy can be listed as follows:
– In terms of objectives, the socialist-oriented market economy aims at promoting prosperity for the people and a strong, democratic, equal and civilized country. It takes economic development as a principal tool to improve and better people’s living conditions, thus, its objectives are not only economic growth, but also the advancement of social progress and justice, culture, morality and environment protection. The development mode is a comprehensive, equitable, sustainable and human-centered development.
– In terms of mechanism, the socialist-oriented market economy operates according to market rules under the management and regulation by the socialist State to use market dynamism to stimulate economic development, at the same time to contain its negative impacts and direct the market activities to achieving the development targets for the common interests of the society. Simultaneously, it has a combination of market operations and macro planning via short, medium and long term plans to implement the comprehensive development objectives. Since the market resources are often concentrated primarily in high profit areas, the allocation of resources of a socialist-oriented market economy complements the public resources to market resources through target programs of the State and public investments to better meet the development demands of the society.
– In terms of economic sectors, the socialist-oriented market economy is multi-sectoral, in which the public sector plays the key role. This combination is needed because despite their important role, the private sector and foreign investment focus mainly on short-term high profitable localities and industries, and thus are unable to meet the needs of socialdevelopment and the country’s long-term interests. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are not for competing for profit-seeking with non-State enterprises, but being the State economic tool to directly involving in the markets to carry out fundamental development tasks necessary for the society and the country that enterprises of other sectors do not want, are unable or inappropriate to take. For instance, SOEs are monopolies in areas directly related to national security, such as weapon production, electricity transmission, etc.; dominant in areas which decisively influence the macroeconomicstability, such as finance, energy, post and telecommunications, public transports, etc.; or actively working in important areas that can significantly affect the economy and public interest, such as pharmacy, spearhead industries, food trading, other infrastructure, cleaning water, etc.
– In terms of social policy, with the determination of “advancing social progress and justice in every step of economic development and economic policy”, while facilitating and encouraging the people to enrich themselves legally, the CPV, the State and the whole society focus to supporting and empowering the poor and people of difficult localities via national programs on poverty reduction, agricultural and rural development, supporting people of ethnic minority groups or in remote areas, etc. The minimum wage is raised every year, often at a higher rate than the GDP growth and inflation. The State allocates 20% of its budget to education and prioritizes tuition free and reduction for poor students and students of ethnic groups; provides free health insurance for the poor, children under 6, and the elderly, and concentrates on developing the health care system, especially at local level in rural and far areas. The public educational and healthcare systems continue to play the key role in the country. The CPV and the State issue series of policies to ensure gender equality, provide support for ethnic groups, residents of difficult areas, people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups.
– In terms of international economic cooperation, Vietnam adopted the open-door and international integration policy to widen the markets for Vietnamese products and attract foreign investment, technology and advanced management experiences for the country’s development. In this process, Vietnam prioritizes maximizing internal resources, constantly improved its self-reliance and the economy’s competitiveness, widened and diversified international economic relations and links for development. Vietnam has been a member of WTO since 2006, and a signatory to 16 trade agreements with nearly all of the major economies in the world.
The renovation policies have led to significant positive changes in our country for the past three decades.
The economy sustained a high growth rate: GDP grows at 7% per year averagely, from US$31 billion in 2000 to US$266 billion in 2019; GDP growth in 2019 was 7.02%, among the world’s highest. Food production increased from 12 million tons in 1980 to 43.6 million tons in 2016. From a country with lack of food, Vietnam now is the second largest rice exporter and a top exporter of many other agricultural products. Industry grew fast, from only 29.0% of GDP in 1986 to 34.5% in 2019. Services contribute 41%, while agriculture reduces its share to 13.5% of GDP. Exports increaseconstantly, from US$2.4 billion in 1990 to US$263.5 billion in 2019 (2019 trade surplus being nearly US$10 billion). Out of the total investment in 2018, the State sector accounted to 33.3%, non-State sector to 43.3% and foreign investment to23.4%. Inflation has been contained to below 4% in recent years. Foreign reserve increased to a record. Macro-economy has been stable.
Economic growth changed the country’s image, and most importantly, created conditions to significantly improve people’s living conditions. Per capita income increased from US$98 in 1990 to US$402 in 2000, US$1,168 in 2010, and nearly US$2,800 in 2019. Since 2008, Vietnam graduated from under-developed country group. Per capita income from 2016 to 2018 increased by 10.8% annually in average, that is to say, at a rhythm higher than the GDP growth rate.
By national standards, the rate of poor households nationwide decreased from 75% in 1986 to 58% in 1993, 22% in 2005, and under 4% in 2019. Averagely, every 10 years, the poverty rate was halved, equal to the U.N. poverty eradication goal for 2000-2015. Vietnam was recognized by the U.N. as one of the few countries that early completed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty eradication.
Vietnam’s current population is 96.2 million with over 34.4% are urban dwellers and nearly 66% reside in rural areas. The National Program on agricultural and rural development supports for development of far and remote areas provided access to grid electricity to 100% of rural communes, primary schools to 99.7% of all communes, secondary schools to 92.8% and clinics to 99.9%. Vietnam completed illiteracy eradication and compulsory primary education in 2000, andsecondary education in 2010. The number of students increased from 14.9 million in academic year 1994-1995 to 22 million in 2016-2017; that of college students increased from 1.4 million in 2005-2006 to 2.3 million in 2016-2017. In 2015, 95.8% of people aged over 15 could read and write. The rate of students who finished high school and higher education increased from 20.8% in 2009 to 36.5% in 2019.
Malnutrition rate of children aged under 5 decreased from 33% in 2000 to 19.9% in 2008 and 13.9% in 2016. Mortalityrate of children under 1 year of age decreased from 44‰ in 1990 to 14‰ in 2019. Maternal mortality rate in 2019 was 46 per 100,000, very close to the goal of 45 per 100,000 set for 2030. Vietnam had eradicated smallpox, polio, and is able to control many emerging dangerous epidemics. It was recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be the first country in the world to stop SARS and the Covid-19 pandemics, and as a bright spot in HIV/AIDS prevention. Average lifespan increased from 62 years in 1990 to 69.8 in 2004 and 73.6 in 2019.
Unemployment has been restrained at a low rate: for example, of 2% in 2018, in which 2.95% was in urban and 1.55% was in rural areas. The rate of homeless households nationwide had been reduced by 10 times in the past 10 years, to 1,244 in 2019. Human Development Index (HDI) rose from 0.472 in 1990, among countries with the low HDI group, to the top of the middle HDI group, allowing Vietnam to be recognized by UNDP as one of the countries with the highest HDI growth over the period 1990-2018, with 1.36% per year. Vietnam’s HDI reached 0.63% in 2019 and needed only 0.07 more points to get the high HDI group.
There are hundreds of thousands of foreigners living, working and studying in Vietnam. According to the HSBC Expat Report (2019) based on interviewing 18,000 foreigners living in 163 countries and territories, Vietnam was one of the 10 best countries for expats.
However, due to the low starting point and heavy war legacies, Vietnam is still among the low middle income countries, its development level being still below many countries in the region and the world. Aside from the positive achievements, we also have a number of limitations and shortcomings in the process of developing a market economy and international integration. Some policies was not properly implemented, preventing the country to reach the targets of industrialization set for 2020. The economic growth quality is still relatively low, undermining sustainability and comprehensiveness of development outputs. Productivity and competitiveness are also still weak. Numerous State corporations and investment projects were inefficient leading to big loss and waste. Public debts rose. The self-reliance capacity, the quality of FDI appeals and the position of Vietnam in the global value chain remain still insufficient. Social gap enlarges; living conditions of a portion of the population are poor; the quality of education and health care is limited; the social ethics and culture are downgraded; the environment is polluted and destroyed. Besides, Vietnam suffers more and more impacts of the complicated world economic situation and natural disasters, and is among the six countries most prone to climate change.
In that context, the 7th Congress of the CPV of 2016 decided to renew the mode of growth and to restructure the economy in order to enhance its quality, promote industrialization, modernization, productivity and competitiveness, develop an independent and self-reliance economy, enhance the capacity of effectiveness of management, and at the same time toimprove people’s living conditions and the quality of education and health care, accelerate cultural development as well asenvironment protection to respond to disaster and climate change. The achievements of the past years proved the necessity and the relevance of this policy.
On political system and the rule-based Socialist State
Vietnam’s political system has characteristics resulted from its specific historical process and bases on lawful requirements of the socialism construction.
The DRV formed right after the August 1945 Revolution was a multi-party State led by Ho Chi Minh and Viet Minh with the participation of various parties, including the opposition. The CPV had only 5,000 members then. However, the following French and U.S. aggressions had changed deeply Vietnam’s political structure. Opposition parties backed and funded by foreign forces had taken the side of the aggressors against the nation and run away with the invaders when they failed, thus removed themselves from the political life in Vietnam. Meanwhile, the wise leadership and the sacrificing example of Ho Chi Minh and the communists in the struggle had brought overwhelming and absolute credibility to the CPV. During and after the wars, almost all of the outstanding youth who wanted to devote themselves to serve the country and the people had chosen to join the CPV. The latter actually became the only political party to lead the country and was often called “our party” by the people. That was Vietnam’s specific objective historical process in the twentieth century.
Added to this, building socialism is not a spontaneous or one-day business, but a long-term self-conscious and oriented revolutionary course, requiring constant, continuous and consistent leadership of the political force guiding the process. Any disruption can lead to the reversal of the revolutionary process and the abolition of all the people’s achievements. That is why the Constitution of the SRV stipulates the CPV role to lead the State and the society. The CPV, which does not have its private interests, only strives for the interests of the workers, laboring people and the nation. It is ruled that all new party members before being admitted must be evaluated by surrounding non-members and get approval from them; and after joining the party, they must keep close and permanent relations with the people.
At present, Vietnam is in a process of building a rule-based socialist State of the people, by the people and for the people. Every agency, organization and individual must observe the law. The National Assembly (NA) is the highest authority elected every 5 years through universal, direct and secret ballots. Although we do not make voting imperative to the voters, the actual turnout rate always surpasses 90% of the registered votes. The NA is the supreme legislative and monitoring body overseeing the operation of the administrative and judicial agencies. For the past decades, all important sessions of the NA, including the Questions&Answers of the Prime Minister, members of Government, Chief Justice, Chief Procurator, are being live broadcasted throughout the country. The current 14th NA consists of 26.27 % Congresswomen, higher than the average global rate of 22.3% in the country; and 17.3% ethnic minority representatives compared to 14.3% ethnic minority share of the population. The important bills and policies are put for public consultation before being adopted.
There are nearly 53,000 people’s organizations, including over 500 ones operating nationwide. Many political-social and mass’ organizations attract the participation of millions of members. Through these organizations, people from all strata contribute actively to the socio-political life and the socio-economic development of the country. The relationshipsbetween the government “of the people, by the people and for the people” and the people’s organizations are intimate constructive relationships between partners sharing the same goals and interests, not of confrontation or opposition. In recent decades, the Prime Minister hold annual bilateral meetings with the representatives of Vietnam Fatherland Front and mass organizations of workers, farmers, entrepreneurs, women and youth.
There are nearly 900 media agencies providing news to the people throughout the country. Editors-in-chief and reporters are solely responsible for information contents as stipulated by laws. Since mass media is also a political power affecting common interest of the whole society and should belong to the people, Vietnam does not privatize the media; all mass media are run by public agencies or people’s organizations. Current Internet users account for over 60% of the population, ranked 16th in the world.
All Vietnamese have religious freedom and the right to practice their spiritual beliefs. As of June 2017, the number of religious followers was 25.3 million, accounted for 27% of the population, including 11 million Buddhists, over 6 million Catholics, over 1.2 million Protestants, 72,000 Muslims, more than 2.4 million Caodaists and over 1.3 million Hoahaos.
The implementation of the Grassroots Democracy Regulation over the past decades created favorable conditions for the people to take direct control of their lives at all localities.
However, aside from these important achievements, the process of political renewal of Vietnam is also faced with numerous big challenges. A permanent challenge from outside consists in attempts by the external hostile forces to undermine Vietnam. In recent years, besides continuing terrorist and sabotage activities to threaten national security, they have been intensifying to exploit the burning social issues to distort the situation and destabilize the society. Some Western powers are always trying to pressure Vietnam in issues of democracy and human rights, pursuing “peaceful evolution” aiming at changing the political system.
However, the biggest challenge is an internal one, coming from within. The constant danger to any ruling party – especially those in power for a long period – is stagnation, bureaucratization, corruption, and distancing itself from the masses. Market economy always stipulates the worship of money, the tendency of selfishness and the pursue of materialistic enjoyment. Opportunism, individualism, bureaucracy tend to widespread among civil servants. In particular, corruption and ideological, political and ethical degradation among officials and Party members represent extremely serious problems degenerating and weakening the CPV from within, reducing people’s trust and cohesion to the Party and the State. This “internal enemy” is the biggest threat to the existence of the current regime.
In that situation, the CPV is determined to prevent and fight corruption, degeneration, “self-evolution”, “self-transformation”; and to strengthen its internal discipline and power control, and at the same time to promote the learning and following of Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts, morality and lifestyle to enhance leadership capability and militancy of the Party, consolidate and build a purified and strong party. During the recent period, many cases of deviations have been resolved decisively with the motto “no restricted areas,” contributing to consolidating people’s trust and getting a strong support by the society.
Together with the internal renewal process, Vietnam has been pursuing a new foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development. With the spirit of “shelving the past, looking forward to the future”, it has been trying “to be friends with all nations,” promoting peaceful coexistence between countries with different political system based on respect of national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations, no interference into other countries’ internal affairs, respecting international laws, equal and mutually beneficial cooperation, settling all disputes by peaceful resolutions in conformity with international laws. In that spirit, it has been implementing consistently a foreign policy of openness, diversification, multilateralism, and international integration.
At present, Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with 183 (out of 193) U.N. members. While widening and diversifying its external relations, it treasures relations with neighboring countries, attaches special attention to major powers, socialist countries and traditional friends. Developing equal cooperation for mutual benefits with all countries, it also allocates resources to assist Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, implements development supporting projects in some Asian, African and Latin American countries. The multilateralization of relations and international integration has made Vietnam a member of over 70 regional and international organizations, including the U.N., ASEAN, ASEM, APEC, and WTO. Ithas been actively participating and hosting many important international events such as Summits of APEC, ASEM, East Asia, and ASEAN. As “a responsible member in the international community” and in a spirit of solidarity, after getting out of the under-developed countries group, Vietnam also started to take part in humanitarian missions across the world. Recently, it was elected as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council for 2020-2021 by a record vote of 192 out of 193.
Achievements in foreign affairs have contributed significantly to maintaining a peaceful and stable environment that facilitated the development of Vietnam over the past decades. However, its current security and environment are still facing with great challenges. The world politics, security and economy are changing in a very fast and complicated manner, with a tendency of rising instability. Strategic geopolitical competition among major powers is becoming more drastic, with Vietnam and East Asia at the center. Non-traditional security threats are emerging and becoming more and more acute, including climate change. Especially, Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign and jurisdictional rights as well as peace and stability in the East (South China) Sea are facing growing serious threats. Meanwhile, hostile forces are still continuing their plots and actions of sabotaging and promoting “peaceful evolution” to change the political system. In that context, the CPV and the State chose to resolutely, persistently strive to firmly protect independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, sustain peaceful and stable environment for the building and defending of our Fatherland; continue the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, widening and deepening external relationships, enhancing the effectiveness of international integration in the new conditions.
Vietnam is a nation with a strong tradition of patriotism and heroic history of fighting against foreign aggressions, including victories over all three invasions of Mongol-Yuan dynasty. Nevertheless, the struggle for national independence and socialism of the Vietnamese people under the leadership of the CPV in the past 75 years is the most glorious period in our nation’s thousands-year history. The Vietnam’s resistances against the French and the U.S. aggressions succeeded in combining traditional patriotism with revolutionary heroism, mobilizing national and era’s strength, liberated and united the country from the most powerful imperialist forces, turned Vietnam from a no-name country in the world map to the flagship that contributed significantly to the national liberation of peoples around the world in the twentieth century.
The process of renewal towards socialism initiated and led by the CPV in the past more than three decades has changed the country essentially, significantly improving people’s lives, enhancing its comprehensive strength, widening foreign relations, consolidating its international position and opening a bright future for the Vietnamese nation in the twenty-first century. Those great victories and historically significant achievements proved the rightness of the path of national independence associated with socialism chosen by the people of Vietnam and President Ho Chi Minh. They are the results of the untiring sacrifice and endeavor of the entire nation under the leadership of the CPV. They also result of the international solidarity that the peace, progressive, and justice-loving humankind extended to the revolutionary cause of the Vietnamese people.
Nonetheless, our road ahead is not easy. Peace, stability, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity are being challenged by complicated developments in the region and the world. Most importantly, building socialism from an under-developed country through market economy, openness and international integration is an unprecedented work with numerous obstacles and challenges from both within and outside, especially in the current situation of the world. Those are very big challenges.
However, the path of national independence and socialism opened by President Ho Chi Minh conforms the most essential and long-term interests of the Vietnamese people. The achievements of the renewal process over the past 30 years proved that socialist oriented development has a really strong vitality which can be highly effective economically and at the same time is able to address social problems much better than any other society with the same economic development level. We strongly believe that with the correct leadership of the CPV, with the strength of unity of the whole nation, we will fulfill our goal of building a socialist Vietnam with a prosperous people and a strong, democratic, equal and civilized country. This is the new struggle of the Vietnamese people, in which we once again need the solidarity, support and cooperation of all friends and peoples in the world.
By Tran Dac Loi/VPDF
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[i] During this “Gold Week,” the people donated 20 million dongs and 370 kg of gold. More especially, donations from Hanoi included 84.69 kg of gold, 920 quintals of rice, and other in-kind and in-cash donations valued to 7 million piastres.
[ii] Ho Chi Minh was among the 74 candidates to run for 6 representatives of Hanoi. Before the election day, 118 chairmen of People’s Committee and all representatives of Hanoi communes jointly signed a petition proposing to publicly nominate Ho Chi Minh to be the permanent President of the DRV without running for election. However, Ho Chi Minh wrote a letter of appreciation, stating “I am a citizen of the DRV and I must observe the election rule”.
[iii] The VPA was established from the Armed Propaganda Brigade on December 22, 1944, with 34 people commanded by Vo Nguyen Giap. As of before the dry season of 1953-1954, the French troops in Vietnam totaled 445,000, compared to 252,000 of the Viet Minh. Regarding structure, the VPA consisted primarily of ground forces with few artillery and air defense. While the French ground forces consisted of 267 battalions with 800-1,000 people each, the VPA had only 127 battalions with 635 people each on average. In addition, France also had a motorized force of 10 regiments, 6 battalions and 10 companies, 580 jet fighters, 391 warships. In terms of military aid, only after establishing the diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union in January 1950 did Vietnam begin to receive aid from these two countries with the total values of US$34 million from June 1950 to June 1954, just about 0.86% aid values from the U.S. to the French in Vietnam (US$4 billion). Besides, France spent 3,370 billion Francs for the war (1 billion per day on average), accounted for 28% GDP of France in 1953.
[iv] In 1956, C.I.A. Director Allen Dules submitted to the U.S. President Eisenhower a report estimating about 80% of the Vietnamese would vote for Ho Chi Minh if an election were held. Eisenhower (1963) admitted in his memoir (p.372): “when talking to me, nobody who knew about Indochina would disagree with the estimation that 80% of the population would turn down Bao Dai and vote for Ho Chi Minh.”
[v] As Viet Minh was well prestigeous among the Vietnamese thanks to its success in leading the people to fight against the French, Edward Landsdale suggested the Ngo Dinh Diem administration to call them as “Viet Cong” to facilitate the administration’s repression. The term “VC” was used since.
[vi] See: Avro Manhattan (1984), p.56-89.
[vii] The U.S. totally deployed 6.6 million personnel, with 628,000 active on sight at its peak (accounted for 70% of the U.S. infantry at that time), using the most modern weapons, except nuclear, with 60% of the strategic and tactical air force, including 46% of B52 flying fortresses (over 200), 42% of the navy with hundreds of warships, including 15/18 aircraft carriers, cruisers, 3,000 tanks and armored vehicles. Besides, the U.S. also equipped the Republic of Vietnam Army with 1,800 air jets, 2,000 tanks, 1,500 artilleries, 50,000 motored vehicles, hundreds of warships and 2 million fire arms. The U.S. mobilized its allies’ military, namely South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines. From 1965 to 1973, South Korea alone sent 312,853 servicemen to South Vietnam. This war costed the U.S. US$1,020 billion (at 2014 prices), and thus was considered the most expensive one in mankind history. Meanwhile, the total aid received by the DRV from the USSR, China and other socialist countries throughout the war was around US$7 billion, and President Nixon estimated the GNP of the North at that time was “below US$2 billion” with a military of 250,000 personnel and a population of only 16 million.
[viii] About 11,000 U.S. air jets were shot down or crashed in Vietnam; 58,200 servicemen were dead, 305,000 others injured; 700,000 veterans got mental disorder syndrome leading to thousands of suicides; hundreds of thousands of U.S. servicemen and advisors had cancers or birth-defected children due to exposure to Agent Orange used by the U.S. military during the war. To cover the war expenses, the U.S. had to increase the production of bank notes which devalued the dollar and increased inflation, leading to the collapse of the U.S. Bretton Wood system formed after WWII. At the same time, making consumer goods manufacturers shift their production to military equipment for the war caused the decline of goods and hurt the economy. The war expenses increased the budget deficit, drove the U.S. economy to a decade of gloomy recession in the 1970s.
[ix] Total export values in 1980 was 320 million rubles and dollars, of which there was only US$82 million.
[x] In reality, Vietnam could only enjoy the normal international environment since the normalization with the U.S. and the ASEAN membership in 1995.
[xi] In 1980, the total food production reduced by 300,000 tons to 14 million tons; collective pig farming dropped 16% as compared to 1979.