The pathway in the transition to socialism in Vietnam


Yet, as an eminent Marxist always keeping firm hold of Vietnam’s standpoint, and taking Vietnam’s reality into account to orient all his action and thinking, President Ho Chi Minh had views on the pace and the mode of the realization of socialism in Vietnam in this period, which are of high value for us to learn his methodology.

Concerning the pace of the transitional period in Vietnam, it was too early to speak of that because the North had entered the socialist period no longer than the term of the first five-year plan when the whole country was engaged in the anti-American Resistance, so much so that Ho Chi Minh was not able to clear up the question.

We know that the Soviet Union declared it had brought the transitional period to an end in 1937; that it, 20 years after the October Revolution. The duration given to this period in China is still shorter. Speaking about the pace of this period in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh asserted that we would have to cover many stages with different steps, “each step must be solid, and we must advance progressively.”

Concerning the pace of the socialist reform, Ho Chi Minh early on warned us not to subject ourselves to subjectivity, not to be hasty, especially in the formation of agricultural cooperatives in the countryside. He said, “our peasants are accustomed to work separately, in their own household; they don’t have the habit of working collectively; they are not accustomed to be organized. We must not be hasty and have too much regard for obtaining quick results.” He recommended advancing step by step: “In the countryside, we should first carry out the agrarian reform; second, organize groups for mutual help, and at last create low-level cooperatives, and then, those of higher levels.”

Concerning the pace of the socialist reform, Ho Chi Minh early on warned us not to subject ourselves to subjectivity, not to be hasty, especially in the formation of agricultural cooperatives in the countryside. He said, “our peasants are accustomed to work separately, in their own household; they don’t have the habit of working collectively; they are not accustomed to be organized. We must not be hasty and have too much regard for obtaining quick results.” He recommended advancing step by step: “In the countryside, we should first carry out the agrarian reform; second, organize groups for mutual help, and at last create low-level cooperatives, and then, those of higher levels.”

He early proposed principles for the formation of cooperatives: first, people must not be forced to join cooperatives; second, we must do it so that everybody will profit by the creation of cooperatives; third, the administration must be democratic and everything must be discussed before a final decision; if everybody understands and agrees, the work will be carried out enthusiastically.

On the method of organization, “first, we must not be hasty; second, we must have a realistic mind; third, we must proceed progressively, from the small to the great.”

On the reform of the capitalist private sector of workers and traders, he said: “I will advise the bourgeois – not force them, but educate them, convince them – to join their capital with the Government’s. They will cooperate with the latter to produce under the working class’s leadership. They will see that joint State-private companies will bring them profit, and not the contrary, and, little by little, they will believe that they must advance to socialism.”

On the pace of industrial development, Ho Chi Minh brought forward some important advice. At the conference of the Political Bureau on the orientation of economic recovery and development after the restoration of peace, some people gave priority to the construction and development of heavy industry in order to have the Vietnamese economy advance more quickly. He declared: “During the anti-French Resistance, we had the countryside; and now, we have just the towns. If we want hasty industrialization, this will be a subjective way of thinking… Thus, in the planning, we must pay attention to promoting agriculture. Acting contrarily to the Soviet Union’s method is also Marxist. China develops both heavy and light industries and also agriculture at the same time. For our part, we think that agriculture is important and must be granted the priority, then handicraft industry, light industry, and, lastly, heavy industry.”

Apparently, Ho Chi Minh’s thinking on the pace of industrial construction and development in Vietnam is not similar to what happened in the Soviet Union and China.

The Soviet Union carried out its socialist industrialization form the concrete condition of Russia, a capitalist country with an average level of development, inheriting a rather considerable technical-material basis. In the circumstances of a besieged country under embargo, the Soviet Union had to pool its efforts in intensifying industrialization, in order to transform itself from a country importing machines and equipment into a developed industrial one, which would be capable of ensuring its economic independence before the capitalist world, thus guaranteeing the success of socialist construction.

Although starting from the position of a half-colonial and half-feudal country, but profiting by foreign capitalist investments, China could develop a certain number of heavy industries like mining, metallurgy, railway communication, etc. Before the liberation of China, some concentrated industrial zone, such as the North East Zone, Shanghai, Tientsin, Wuhan, had been formed here. Therefore, a short time after its liberation, China could devise the line of development of both heavy and light industries as well as that of agriculture, as Ho Chi Minh noticed.

Vietnam entered the transitional period when the socialist countries had become a world system, and there had appeared an international division of labour and cooperation between the brother socialist countries, concerning investment, science and technology, and the formation of cadres. In these conditions, we could choose another way to advance to socialism, a way not quite similar to that of the Soviet Union or of China. Therefore, Ho Chi Minh said: “Acting contrarily to the progress of the Soviet Union or of China is also Marxist.

We must also recall that after the total liberation of the North, Vietnam had to overcome the heavy aftermath of war. As the enemy had destroyed rice fields to create no man’s lands and also due to natural calamities, from the end of 1954 to the end of 1955, many regions suffered famine. President Ho Chi Minh had to organize a conference on production for relieving famine by advising the people to help mutually and by requisitioning loans for emergency cases. We had to produce sufficiently to relieve famine, we must redress wrongs in the agrarian reform, reorganize the habits of labour in the countryside, prepare step by step the peasants to work collectively, and in these conditions, thinking about quick industrialization would be subjective.

We can understand Ho Chi Minh’s view on the development pace of the Vietnamese economy as follow: 1) We should develop agriculture as the first priority; 2) then come handicrafts and light industry; 3) lastly comes heavy industry.

Why should we give priority to the development of agriculture and consider it as the basis of the economy?

- As has been analyzed above, the North of Vietnam had just come out of war and the peasants were suffering from famine. To improve the situation, to raise the people’s standard of living, we first had to solve the problem of food and clothing, and then other problems. Ho Chi Minh said, “When the people have enough food and adequate clothing, the Party’s policy will be easily realized. If the people are hungry, cold and keep in ignorance, the Party’s policy cannot be realized, however good it is.”

- If agriculture is developed, we will have a basis for industry to grow. “Because we are an agricultural country, all domains must rely on agriculture.” “With a developed agriculture, industry can develop strongly.” “In order to develop industry and the economy in general, we must take agriculture as the basis. If we don’t develop agriculture, we have no basis for industry, because agriculture supplies material and food for industry and ensures the consumption of goods produced by industry.”

- Because Vietnam lies in the zone of a tropical climate and its land is fertile, it has advantageous conditions for developing agriculture, which many socialist countries are not endowed with. Ho Chi Minh pointed out: tropical climate, fertile land and plentiful labour are three favourable factors for constructing socialism. Therefore, in the transitional period, we must rely on agriculture, take agriculture as the point of departure and consider “agricultural development to be extremely important.”

In brief, the transition to socialism from a poor and backward agricultural country, which escaped from the colonial and feudal yoke and was destroyed by was and divided by the enemy, is a long process full of hardship and complexity, and having many different steps. Ho Chi Minh energetically struggled against all illusions, subjectivities, haste, arbitrariness, constraints and other biased viewpoints that were revealed in the first years of socialist reform and construction in the North. He recommended: “To progress quickly does not mean to behave adventurously or doing one’s work in a slapdash way. We must have realistic mind, progress step by step. Solidly, grasp firmly the law of evolution of the revolution, weigh the pros and the cons by taking account of concrete conditions and means.”

President Ho Chi Minh had early thought about the way of constructing socialism in Vietnam. Starting from the realistic and concrete historical viewpoint, Ho Chi Minh always stressed the sense of independence, autonomy and creativity and the need of fighting against dogmatism and the servile imitation of the experiences of foreign countries. He said: “To avoid making errors, we must learn from the experience of our brother countries,” and we must “apply this experience in a creative manner.”

Interviewed by a foreign reporter who put the question: “Does the Democratic Republic of Vietnam intend to establish “people’s communes” like in the People’s Republic of China?” Ho Chi Minh replied: “We don’t intend to organize “people’s communes.” We have the plan of organizing the peasants into cooperatives, increasing production and improving the people’s standard of living.”

Thinking highly of the spirit of independence and creativity, Ho Chi Minh advised cadres and Party members to study Marxism-Leninism: “You must not learn every sentence and word by heart, and then apply mechanically. The study of Marxism-Leninism is meant to help you to analyze and to solve concrete problems of the Vietnamese revolution in order to take measures appropriate to the particular conditions of our country.” In other words, he asked us to delve into real life to investigate and to sum up in order to bring forward arguments and reasoning for the construction of socialism in Vietnam.

In the revolution for national liberation, thanks to bringing into play the spirit of independence and self-reliance and creativity, the CPV and President Ho Chi Minh led the people to carry through the two great resistances and to contribute to develop and enrich Marxism-Leninism in an epoch when the oppressed peoples rose up in arms for independence.

In the socialist revolution, with the same spirit, Ho Chi Minh contributed his findings and innovations to the way of approaching socialism, that of the transition to socialism as well as the pace and the realization of socialism in Vietnam.

- The construction of socialism in the North of Vietnam could not be separated from the cause of liberation of the South and reunification of the country; therefore, Ho Chi Minh recommended that the pace and realization of socialism in the North should take into account these two strategic tasks in the South. He said, “Constructing the North while creating more favourable conditions for the struggle in the South” means that each form, means and pace of the realization of socialism in the North must fill the South with enthusiasm and be attractive to it, so that it responds favourable to socialism, approves the solution of peace and national reunification, that is to avoid all manifestation of extremism and leftist deviationism like what took place in some brother countries formerly. In this sense, he said, “If we construct socialism with success, we will carry through the reunification of our country.”

- When the Americans expanded the war to the North, our people, under the leadership of the CPV and President Ho Chi Minh, continued to construct socialism, still promoting the motto: “Production-cum-fighting.” “Fight the Americans for the salvation of the country while constructing socialism.” This is a great initiative of our Party and of President Ho Chi Minh. According to the common appraisal, one can only construct socialism in the conditions of peace; for Vietnam especially, a theory was brought forward: to construct socialism while waging people’s war against foreign invasion.

This is the lively expression of the combination of the goal of national independence with that of socialism in Ho Chi Minh’s Thought.

- As we construct socialism in a war-torn backward agricultural country with small production and many backward vestiges left by colonial and feudal regimes, we must associate reform with construction in all fields and even in the people’s mentality, thinking and consciousness, among which construction is the fundamental and longest task.

- Ho Chi Minh considered that socialism is the people’s cause to be carried out by the people themselves. Therefore, according to him, “the people’s talent, force and property should be used for the good of itself. It is not the government that invests the capital, but only helps by planning and campaigning for the construction: it only contributes its idea.” Socialism’s vitality must take its source in the people’s inexhaustible creativity; it must be “the people’s socialism” and not “the State” in which the people remain passive before the State’s apparatus and wait for the favours granted by the Government, as the model which many socialist countries had the misfortune to make theirs formerly. If we cannot bring into play the people’s sense of being the master and that of creativity, there cannot be socialism. As Ho Chi Minh said: “Socialism can only be built by the awakening and creativity of tens of millions of people.”

Ho Chi Minh particularly stressed the decisive role of the means of realization of socialism: many policies or plans which seemed to be at first perfectly outlined could not be put into pratice because they lacked a system of means to make them feasible. Ho Chi Minh said, “It is good to making appropriate plans but this is the first step. The effort devoted to concrete means must be twice greater than the one given to make the plan, and the effort devoted to the guiding of the realization of the plan must be three times greater. And only then can we be sure that the plan is carried through.”

Ho Chi Minh’s thinking on the way of transition to socialism in Vietnam comprises essential problems for applying and developing Marxism-Leninism with creativity. This thinking focuses efforts on solving practical questions of indirect transition; it has a priceless value for the theoretical basis and guideline for us to keep firm the orientation to socialism. At the same time, it gives suggestions to the research on the model, the way, means, pace of realization of socialism in Vietnam, which is appropriate to the national characteristics and the trend of evolution of the present era.

Ho Chi Minh - A brilliant thinker

The Gioi Publishers


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