Report on the 9th Congress, Communist Party of Vietnam

BY:Joelle Fishman| September 21, 2001

Report given to the National Committee

Greetings from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam!

I must begin by expressing profound appreciation to the Party, to the National Office and to the Connecticut District for making it possible for me to make this trip on very short notice. As you can imagine, it was the trip of a lifetime.

The bond between the Communist Party USA and the Communist Party of Vietnam is enduring, especially as a result of the movement against the U.S. imperialist war. Yet, that bond continues to grow and flourish with time. The comradeship for our Party at the Congress was overwhelming.

It is very impressive to visit Vietnam today. Everywhere there is construction, especially construction of new housing. The streets are still filled with bicycles, but there are now an equal number of motorscooters, and some mini-buses and trucks. There are also five star hotels, factories and billboards.

The Ninth Congress was being celebrated in every province in the country with banners, flags, cultural events, and reportback rallies, reflecting a very close connection with the people.

There were 1200 delegates to the Congress. The population of Vietnam is 78 million. There are 2.4 million members of the Communist Party. Thirty-four parties from other countries were represented at the Congress, including Communist and workers parties and some ruling parties. In remarks to the international guests prior to the opening of the Congress, the outgoing General Secretary emphasized the need for much closer cooperation and working relations in the face of capitalist globalization.

The theme of the Ninth Congress was complete industrialization and modernization of the country by 2020, and alleviation of poverty, basically, within ten years. Infrastructure within the outlying regions and highlands is nearly complete, including electricity, roads, transportation, post offices, schools and communications, although there is a long way to go.

Throughout the trip, I felt compelled to compare Vietnam with the United States. Here, in what is considered the most highly developed country, we have growing poverty and a huge wealth gap. We have a process of de-industrialization, and a lack of good, union jobs, and repression of union organizing.

Vietnam, considered an underdeveloped country, is rapidly creating good jobs that must, under law, have union representation. They are eliminating poverty with a combination of special measures available to them, such as use of the military to build up infrastructure and micro loans from NGOs for family farms.

I commented to one of the reporters, “If you want to understand human rights, come to Vietnam.” That made the headlines. A local Party leader in Hue later told me the way we in the United States could be most helpful was to get that message out.

The Party and people of Vietnam successfully navigated a treacherous military and political minefield to win independence in 1945 and to defeat US imperialism in 1975 – under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, with the patience, struggle and heroism of their own people, and with the international solidarity they inspired.

Now, the people and Party of Vietnam are navigating a different and complicated minefield to build socialism in a poor country in the midst of capitalist globalization. In this struggle, ideological clarity, the role of the Party and the unions, the working class, and international solidarity are placed as key factors. Staunchness in commitment to Marxism-Leninism and the contributions of Ho Chi Minh, plus flexibility in economics in order to raise the whole people out of poverty, are the characteristics of this period.

In addressing the Congress, the chair of the Social Affairs Institute said, “The crisis of socialism in Eastern Europe forced Vietnam to look with more dialectical eyes. How, by 2020 can we reach our goal of an industrial nation? The fundamental contradictions of the times are more profound in the world with many opportunities and many dangers in the 21st Century.”

The Communist Party of Vietnam is trying to deal creatively with the world situation, including building a socialist market economy in the context of a global economic system dominated by capitalism. Their experience will be very valuable for the whole movement.

The Political Report of the Central Committee to the Congress addresses the significant achievements and the lessons for the fifteen years of renewal: “Gross Domestic Product in 2000 was more than double that of 1990. The socio-economic infrastructure and productive capacity have increased enormously. Once beset with serious scarcity of goods, we have now produced enough to satisfy the essential needs of the population and the economy… The country has succeeded in avoiding submersion in the financial-economic crisis in a number of Asian countries, despite rather heavy consequences; basically maintained socio-political stability, and enhanced national defense and security. The strength in all fields of our country has grown much greater than that ten years ago” (p. 10).

The Report projects five-, ten- and twenty-year goals (p. 14) toward the common goal of “national independence closely linked to socialism, a prosperous people, a forceful country, and an equitable, democratic and civilized societ.”(p. 12).

The socialist-oriented market economy being forged in Vietnam has several sectors: state, collective, individual and small-owner, joint ventures, and foreign-invested economic sector.

Great importance is placed on the state sector. The international guests to the Congress visited Garment Factory #10 in Hanoi. Here we learned that the factory had had a standing order for suits, shirts, etc. with the Soviet Union according to their planned economy. The factory had never had to learn marketing techniques, or to compete in the market place. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, their entire world changed.

However, today they are a successful state enterprise. They sell their garments in many countries, including, I believe, the United States. They have a wonderful child care center on site. They are proud of overfulfilling the minimum standards required by law for workers’ wages, benefits, and health and safety standards.

The plan for achieving industrialization includes expansion of the state sector, along with expansion of the other components of their multi-sector economy. All agreements for foreign invested, wholly owned or limited liability industries include abiding by the laws of Vietnam. The laws of Vietnam state that the Communist Party determines the direction of the country, that every worker has union representation and guarantees certain wages and benefits. In addition, there is an active Communist Party club in every workplace, whose function is to work with the union.

Emphasis is placed on the role of the working class in unity with the peasantry and the intelligentsia. The report from the Central Committee views the emerging working class as “a pioneer in national industrialization and modernization,” and speaks of its “leadership role in the revolution in the new stage.” The convention accepted recommendations “to protect the interests, improve the material and spiritual living conditions of the working class in the conditions of the market mechanism…” and to “increase the proportion of workers in leading positions at all levels and in all agencies” (p. 30)

One of the most impressive speeches at the Congress was made by the woman president of the General Confederation of Labor, Ou Thi Hau. “Speaking as a woman,” she began her remarks, “I am in full agreement with the draft plan of the 9th Congress.” She proceeded to present recommendations, which were accepted, to standardize and upgrade labor law within the country, as an integral part of the process of industrialization.

Another of the more significant speeches came from the Party leader of a rural district discussing the process of achieving full equality for those in the highlands and border areas, many of whom are part of the 13 percent national minorities in Vietnam.

At my request, a visit to the Sac Sun District, northwest of Hanoi, was arranged. This was one of the rural areas singled out for special attention to alleviate poverty. We met with the Party Committee and with the Women’s Committee. The Women’s Committee is proud of having signed up 4,500 families into a micro-loan program offered by an NGO. We visited a couple of these families. Each had only been living on subsistence farming before. In the past few years, with a series of small loans, they were each able to purchase animals to raise, such as pigs, cows, and chickens, and become producers for the market. In the process, each family was able to build a new house, and for the first time they have a tile floor instead of a dirt floor, a kitchen, furniture and a television. The Women’s Committee was hoping we would know of other institutions that would increase their lending power. This trip gave a deeper meaning to the effort to basically eliminate poverty, and also to the long way yet to go.

I also traveled to Hue, a one-hour plane ride south of Hanoi. This trip was to further cement the sister city relations between New Haven and Hue. The comrades of Hue said they wanted my trip there to be remembered forever. There is no way I could ever forget the overflowing comradeship, friendship and hospitality, accorded to myself and, through me, to our Party. Going to Hue left me with an even stronger sense of the significance of our successful struggle in New Haven to win the decision for sister city. Hue is called the “heroic city” because it was the imperial capital when the war of national liberation was won, and it was the target of intensive bombing and destruction during the Tet Offensive. It is also the cultural center of Vietnam, as well as the center for Buddhism. (Fifty percent of the people of Hue practice Buddhism.) We visited several temples and monasteries, which are well taken care of.

As part of our discussions, I asked what kind of solidarity from New Haven and from the United States would be most effective. The answer was that, in addition to normal trade relations coming up before the Senate in July, and trade agreements, the most important contribution we can make is getting the message out within the United States of the progress in Vietnam.

There are now 2.5 million Vietnamese living abroad, mostly in the West. The Congress unanimously adopted a special resolution to reach out to these compatriots who fled socialism, and “let bygones be bygones.” It is felt that the expertise and addition to the workforce they would bring would be a great help to the next stage of development of the country.

As I was returning home, the Kerrey exposé broke. The criminal war of U.S. imperialism can no longer hide. What is the response? I would like to raise for consideration renewing a campaign for U.S. reparations to Vietnam. I believe this would be the most meaningful response.

Much of the world is already involved in the rebuilding projects in Vietnam – except for the United States. In Hue, during the Tet Offensive, large sections of the Emperor’s palace were destroyed. The palace is now a public museum. UNESCO adopted the project of reconstruction of the desecrated buildings and art works. A whole host of countries are involved in making this possible.

The Vietnamese have a policy of “paying the nation’s debt of gratitude” to those who were killed in the war. The whole community has come together to give support to those families left stranded. For justice to be done, we have to ask, “Where is the U.S. contribution?”

The Party in Vietnam considers President Clinton’s visit there as a qualitative breakthrough in ending the post-war blockade. Maybe the public discussion now taking place around Kerrey provides a tactical opening for more breakthroughs in the normalization and retribution process.

The plenary sessions at the Congress were formal. They consisted of reports on different aspects of the program before the Congress and speeches from the international guests. There were over a million written suggestions and proposals submitted during the year of discussion leading up to the Congress. The plenary reports served the purpose of consolidating these proposals into concrete recommendations.

The international guests did not attend smaller discussions or the session in which elections were conducted. The General Secretary is limited to two consecutive terms, and a new General Secretary was elected. Nong Duc Manh is the first person of the Tay national minority to be elected to the post. The Western media ignored the fact that the General Secretary is required to carry out the decisions of the Congress. Trying to portray differences in the Party, the media inappropriately called him “a moderate.”

The 9th Congress also made some changes to the constitution that were adopted unanimously. Votes were taken on each of 11 main points of the Congress documents. All passed with overwhelming majorities. The final one-page summary of the Congress passed unanimously, “crystallizing the will of the entire Party and people.”

I sat next to General Le Minh Huong who, to my good fortune, knew English, as do 60% of Vietnamese youth. He carried on a commentary for me throughout. He was very pleased that the final resolution passed unanimously, reflecting a coming together within the Party after a difficult incident in February.

In the central highlands in February, an armed provocation was attempted by a small number of people, which failed. Some of those involved had just moved to the area. They implied the government was violating the “human rights” of religion. The incident was near Hue. The comrades there told me that it did not take hold because “when you are providing for the people, the people will support you.”

The Congress agreed that socio-economic development of the ethnic minority should remain a high priority until full equality is achieved, that the cultural identity and language of each nationality be preserved, and that cadres from the ethnic minorities be in proportion to their population.

The Congress also dealt with some problems of corruption and laxness within the Party, and adopted resolutions to raise the standards for Party members and leaders.

The Congress also afforded the opportunity for the delegates from different parties to meet. I had two meetings with the delegation from China. The first, during a tea break in the convention, was with the Vice President of the People’s Republic of China. I expressed solidarity in relation to the border provocations and suggested the possibility of a more in-depth meeting. The next day, a meeting was arranged with the new Chair of the International Department and his staff. It was scheduled for a half hour. It lasted an hour and twenty minutes. I expressed our desire for closer working relations. They recalled warmly Gus Hall’s visit in 1980, and suggested that much has changed since then. The invitation was extended for a delegation of our leadership to travel to Beijing to meet with the Party there.

I had some exchanges and a formal meeting with the delegate from Cuba, Jorge Luis Sierra Cruz. He appreciated the explanation in my speech of how Bush came to be the illegitimate president. He also extended an invitation to our Party to send a leadership delegation. Cuba and Vietnam are sister countries, with a very close relationship. Following the Congress, he visited Laos and China to further strengthen ties.

I had a number of informal discussions. I want to mention the one with delegates from the Americas who were present, Brazil, El Salvador and Argentina. We focused on the expansion of NAFTA and the FTAA. They reported large demonstrations in their countries against Bush and against the trade agreements. We all agreed that the parties in our hemisphere need greater unity in the fightback on this issue, and there was interest in a hemisphere meeting.

In the greetings from our Party, I brought out that the 9th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam offered solutions and approaches that have universal significance regarding capitalist globalization. Their criteria that economic development be based upon promoting productive forces, improving the people’s livelihood and realizing social equity; and their emphasis on democracy as a fundamental aspect of socialism, make a powerful contribution to the world-wide movement for fair and just trade relations.

The progress of the Communist Party of Vietnam toward solving the problems of building socialism in Vietnam gives confidence to the people of Vietnam and the world that a future for humanity based upon equality and peace among peoples is realizable.

As Communist Parties around the world are gaining strength and rebuilding international unity, lessons from victories as well as defeats keep bright the promise that socialism will be won, and will bring to all the peoples of the world the possibility of a fruitful, productive life.

In 1945, Ho Chi Minh put the following words from the Declaration of Independence of the United States into the Declaration of Independence of Vietnam: “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our convention takes place on the 225th Anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. We can take inspiration from the example of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as we dedicate ourselves to bringing the meaning of that declaration to life for the working people and all the people of both our countries and the world.

And we can certainly look forward with great anticipation to the contribution of the comrades from Vietnam to our 27th Convention.




    Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.



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