Vietnam - The Last Remnants of “Real Socialism”

From Battaglia Comunista 5 - May 2000

25 years after the end of the Vietnamese conflict, little remains of the mythology so lauded by the official and the extra-parliamentary left. Now the bourgeois press is reflecting on those events, ironically recalling the old illusions in order to attack the intellectuals of that time. It assumes a simple equation: the collapse of the soviet bloc means the end of communism. Besides, they point at the last remnants of real socialism, such as China and Vietnam which in order to survive have had to open the economy to the market. The cards are on the table; capitalism is the only system capable of providing wealth and democracy, all else is pure fantasy and dramatic deception.

And it is certainly true that deception has occurred, but it is a deception which has benefited the international bourgeoisie and which has, on the level of consciousness, left the proletariat completely disarmed. In fact those who denounced, like us, the result, firstly of Stalinism, then of Maoism, were threatened and insulted. Many of those who yesterday falsified revolution are today placed in cushy, well paid, prestigious jobs, and frequently have passed over to the reactionary right, adopting a visceral anti-communism.

Vietnam was caught up in the game of cold war between the USSR and the USA, the two super powers divided the world amongst themselves, the former supported the ruling dictatorships, the latter supported the national liberation movements often breaking with the old western colonialism. In April 1975, the army of the North, soviet backed, occupied Saigon and thus victorious, brought an end to the very bloody war against the United States who had sided with the South. The economic model thus arising was the brutal copy of the Soviet Union, with the realisation of the collectivisation of land and industry and the control of civil life via the dictatorship of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

After ten years of failure, the regime was constrained to change, one reason amongst others being the worsening of the USSR situation which would soon force its capitulation. So in 1986, Vietnam made the change, and adopted the Chinese model to begin “market socialism”. To compensate for the loss of the bloc it left, (Comecon absorbed 85% of its exports) a programme of privatisation was launched, as a consequence, private property was enshrined in the new Constitution of 1992. The internal market was opened up to foreign investment and in 1994 the USA lifted the embargo. It was a period of economic boom with growth rates of 10% per year, whilst international speculation was let loose in Asian countries, creating big business. Then in 1997 came the collapse of that area's stock markets, capital left it and economic growth shrank to a more modest 4%.

The conclusion is that Vietnam remains one of the poorest countries in the world, despite its proletariat being offered as a sacrificial lamb to international capital by the “red” bourgeoisie, given its characteristic gross exploitability in return for a starvation level wage. Thirty years after a tremendous war, which saw the deaths of millions of Vietnamese, this is the outcome. The new rich almost all belong to the party nomenclature, whether in the public or the private sector, and the corruption of the state bureaucracy is enormous.

The real core of the question is that it was both a nationalist and imperialist conflict at the same time. The local bourgeoisies confronted each other for internal supremacy, and at the same time, the great imperialists powers confronted each other for the division of the world. Historic circumstances put Moscow on the side of those who had to break with the old order to affirm themselves, that is, with the various national liberation fronts, passing this off before the general public as a moment within a more general strategy of progress, in contrast with the Washington gang who supported the most reactionary military dictatorships. Many, many examples show that the fact is, whether under the dictators or the guerrilla, little changes, the object of whoever has to manage capitalist productive relations is to guarantee, even with the harshest repression, the domination and the exploitation of the labour force by capital.

The bourgeoisie has pretended that everything belonging to the soviet camp was communism, proven by the fact that the ex-Stalinists now abjure their origins and the few remaining regimes which they came from in the very recent past. Real socialism, including all the many political cinders it produced, has now moved to the great social democratic camp, in as much as it is an expression of one of capital's modes of existence in order to perpetuate the slavery of wage labour.

Upon revolutionaries falls the task of reintroducing the red thread of the communist perspective, capable of moving the proletariat from its current state of puzzling passivity, to which the left bourgeoisie and the lies of so-called barracks socialism have contributed in a decisive fashion.