Vietnam, Socialist Republic Of

Vietnam, Socialist Republic Of
   The 1976 reunification of North and South Vietnam saw the launch of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Viet Nam), a MarxistLeninist state led by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Following the close of World War II, Ho Chi Minh’s Vietminh guerrilla forces seized power and declared Vietnamese independence. This was done in the face of the French, who invaded Vietnam in 1946 with the aim of reasserting their colonial hold on the country. The conflict that ensued was halted in 1954 with the signing of the Geneva Accords, a peace agreement that partitioned Vietnam into two zones, the North and the South. Having assumed overall control of North Vietnam, Ho’s Vietnam Workers’ Party set about constructing socialism in its own state and engendering a revolution in South Vietnam. Alarmed by the potential “domino effect” of successive countries adopting communism, a Cold War–fixated United States invaded North Vietnam in 1964 on the side of the South Vietnamese government, triggering the devastating Vietnam War. As the 1970s began, U.S. involvement decreased, until the January 1973 ratification of the Paris Peace Accords prompted a ceasefire and the rapid exit of American troops from Vietnamese soil. The northern communists, determined to bring about reunification, continued to fight against the southern government. By 1975, they had assumed control in South Vietnam and ousted the incumbent leader, President Duong Van Minh. The following year, the reunified Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) was proclaimed, and the Vietnam Workers’ Party transformed into the vanguard CPV.
   A fervently Marxist–Leninist constitution aimed at realizing “socialism and communism in Vietnam” was hastily sanctioned by the Vietnamese Politburo. The economy was restructured according to strict collectivist principles that were underpinned by the introduction of a heavily managed and target-driven centralized planning system. Strong ties were brokered with the Soviet Union, with the culmination being Moscow’s underwriting of the SRV’s first economic five-year plan. The constitution also saw the CPV formally commit itself to a variety of democratic centralism that left state action entirely subordinate to party doctrine and opposition organizations illegal. Bolstered by considerable Soviet military aid, the CPV government was able in 1979 to overthrow the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, and repel retaliatory attacks by China. With Vietnamese self-confidence accordingly at its zenith, the CPV used the 1980 constitution to reaffirm its paramount status as “the only force leading the state and society, and the main factor determining all successes of the revolution.”
   Despite this portrayal of infallibility, economic malaise meant the CPV’s hold on power was less than secure. In 1986 the sluggish pace of development forced the government of moderate leader Nguyen Van Linh to announce a program of “renovation” that encouraged private enterprise and opened the economy to free market influence. The 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union meant the loss of the SRV’s largest aid contributor, and most prolific trading partner. Coupled with the tide of will for market reform inside the country, the government bowed to the inevitable, announcing in 1992 a new constitution guaranteeing further economic freedom, and relegating Marxist ideology to a poor second behind rapid development. Eight years later, Vietnamese acceptance of elements of capitalism culminated in the opening of a stock exchange. Nonetheless, the landmark constitution of 1992 did attest one vital remnant of orthodox
   Marxism–Leninism, namely, that of the foremost role of the CPV as the “leading force” in society. In retaining both its single-party status and stranglehold over political developments, the CPV, like the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party in neighboring Laos, steadfastly held the notion of the all-consuming democratic centralist party. That much of their Marxism–Leninism remains, even if little else does. The Marxism of the SRV simultaneously borrowed elements of Confucianism, Maoism and orthodox Soviet communism, and added in a populist nationalism. Establishing socialism and communism through pure ideological allegiance to Marxism took a back seat first to the struggle for national autonomy, and, once that had been established, to economic survival and development. Lacking an industrialized, urbanized proletariat to accomplish the revolutionary transition to socialism, it was left for the ideologues in the CPV to mold Marxism to suit the agrarian and underdeveloped terrain they inhabited. This meant initially clinging to patriotic sentiment, and subsequently permitting the infiltration of capitalism into state ideology.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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