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Manifesto of the Communist Party and the orientation value for the transitional path to socialism in Vietnam

(LLCT) - It has been 170 years since the Manifesto of the Communist Party was born. The value of its theoretical points has remained unchanged up to now. The country on the path to socialism can apply it creatively in accordance with its specific conditions. For Vietnam, the chosen transitional path to socialism is oriented and lightened by the Manifesto and Marxism - Leninism. The vitality of the Manifesto is the constant inspiration which requires us to supplement and develop the theory of socialism and the transitional path to socialism in Vietnam in the new context.

170 years ago, from the need to develop theory to lighten the struggle movement of the working class against the oppression and exploitation yoke of the bourgeoisie in the capitalist regime, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, on behalf of the Communist League, wrote the Manifesto of the Communist Party. Since then, the Manifesto has not only been the political platform of the organization but also spread quickly and internationally. It became the first revolutionary platform of the communist and international worker movement. The Manifesto is a scientific and revolutionary theoretical work that outlines the whole process of the socialist revolution and scientifically interprets the historical mission of the working class in the struggle to overthrow the oppression and exploitation yoke of capitalism for hundreds of years so that a new social regime could be born - socialist society, a humane society for human emancipation.

From the Manifesto, communist parties in respective countries can find the underlying theoretical instruction to apply it to the practice of revolution in a creative manner. The value and vitality of the Manifesto reflect the scientific and revolutionary values of Marxism, which has been practically tested over the past 170 years with the thorough goal of liberating people, establishing a society on an outcome “in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”(1).

With the dialectical materialist methodology, in the Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels had scientific and revolutionary interpretation of natural history development process of mankind. Accordingly, the development of capitalist production mode created the realistic premise to destroy, annihilate capitalism itself, and it would be replaced by a new social system - communist society. This is because, in capitalism, “the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production”(2).

However, in the process of “revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society”(3) will objectively create the realistic conditions, premises to deny capitalism. The reason is that in the period of capitalism, the conflict between the socialization level of the productive forces and the private ownership of capitalism would become fierce. This poses the need to establish new production relations with a high socialization level which means that setting up a new ownership regime is necessary (social ownership). Only then the high level of the productive force is met and conditions for productive force to develop are created. The Manifesto wrote: “...the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule”(4). The dialectics is that the more developed the capitalism is, the closer it gets to collapse which is closer to the socialist revolution. This revolution will be carried out in two stages. At the first stage, the proletariat would “overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy”(5), which could “raise them to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy”(6). At the second one, the working class and laborers use the administrion as the most effective means to reform the old society, build a new one, and boost the development of the productive forces. The Manifesto also suggests measures to be taken to improve the old society and to build a new one. However, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels noted that “These measures will, of course, be different in different countries”(7). In other words, they pointed out that each country must bases on its specific circumstances and conditions to apply the principles of the Manifesto creatively.

The whole theory of the socialist revolution (including goals, specific characteristics, paths, stages of action, measures, etc.) has been outlined with the most basic features of the Manisfesto of the Communist Party and further added, developed, clarified in later works of Marxism - Leninism. In assertion of the lasting value of the Manifesto, V.I. Lenin wrote: “The point in Marx’s theory is that it highlights the role of the proletariat in the world history as the builder of socialist society”(8).

For Vietnam, the ideological thoughts in the Manifesto and in the whole Marxist - Leninist theory have extremely important theoretical values for choosing orientation of the development path in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At that time, Vietnam was a semi-feudal colony with two fundamental conflicts that stifled social life: nation and class conflict. There had been a great number of patriotic struggles in different trends in order to drive the invading colonialists as well as to look for the path for Vietnamese revolution. But all of them failed to find the way out. Choosing the right path for Vietnamese revolution was the persistent question to the patriotic forces, and it became the powerful motivation for them. Only when Marxism - Leninism and the Manifesto were met was the answer to the question found. Consequently, the Manifesto of the Communist Party and Marxism - Leninism are extremely valuable in orienting the development path of Vietnam. This has been practically verified through the development stages of the revolution in the country.

With the creative application of the ideas of the Manifesto and Marxism - Leninism to the specific conditions of Vietnam, President Ho Chi Minh and the Party found a particular development path for Vietnam - the transitional path skipping capitalism, moving towards socialism from a backward agricultural country. This development method enabled a thorough solution to both conflicts, and the path to national independence in association with socialism was a certainty of history with specific characteristics of Vietnam. After the victory of the resistance war against the American imperialists (1975), the whole country entered the transitional period to socialism by the shortened development path (also known as transitional mode skipping capitalism). This is the right choice which has been proved by the reality of Vietnamese revolution over many decades.

The collapse of real socialism in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and the difficulties that the remaining socialist countries were facing left doubts in a great number of people, including some communists, about the transitional path to socialism of Vietnam which skips capitalism. It was their belief that Vietnam should reconsider its development path because it violated the objective law and that the modern capitalism changed its nature into humanitarian capitalism, for the people. Therefore, Vietnam should follow capitalism so that the law could be properly followed.

First of all, it must be affirmed that modern capitalism has developed globally and gained many important achievements, especially in developing productive forces, modern science and technology. Nowadays, it has reached the level of Industrial Revolution 4.0, which is characterized by the widespread application of information technology achievements and artificial intelligence to create a great number of intelligent products that connect the entire world, the real and virtual world. This is the condition for capitalism to boost the development of the productive force as well as make adjustments to the welfare and social security, dramatically improve the material and spiritual life of workers and employees in the capitalist countries. However the “exploitation” nature of capitalism remain unchanged. In fact, even the most developed capitalist countries are still facing many insolvable problems such as social unrest, rich and poor gap, high poverty rate (in 2014, the poverty rate in the United States was 17.4% and this country was among those with the largest rich and poor gap in the world(9)). Violence, ethnic conflicts, terrorism, uncontrollable migrants, etc. are still the difficult problem for the United States and other capitalist countries. People in these countries always live in constant anxiety because of violence, unrest, and uncontrolled use of arms that can happen any time. Such a life is certainly not a “happy paradise” as many people think. Thus, the current development pattern of capitalism is not a sustainable development for Vietnam to choose.

The scientific ideas and revolutionary methods in the Manifesto, Marxism - Leninism have been creatively applied by the Communist Party of Vietnam in the renovation process the socialist orientation. The scientific value is first shown in the point of help the Party have the right theoretical and methodological foundation in supplementing, developing theory, and summing up practices in order to better clarify the awareness of socialism and the path to socialism in Vietnam.

After 30 years of renovation, despite many difficulties and challenges, Vietnam has obtained a lot of comprehensive achievements in all fields. In 2017, economic growth rate was 6.81% (the highest growth rate over the past decade) on a stronger macroeconomic basis. The World Economic Forum ranked Vietnam’s competitiveness up 5 ranks, to the position of 55/137. The World Bank ranked Vietnam’s business environment up 14 ranks, to the position of 68/90 countries and territories(10).

Socio-political stability, increasingly enhanced people’s trust in the Party leadership thanks to the achievements in economic development and especially the determined, effective instruction of the Party in the course of fighting and preventing corruption, constructive efforts of the Government in renovating economic institution and improving investment environment, better evaluation of other countries about Vietnam on the international arena, etc. prove that Vietnam’s transitional path to socialism is absolutely right.

However, theoretically, the transitional path to socialism skipping capitalism in the country has been in need of further study for clarification up to now. It is necessary to identify where the transitional period to socialism is in the development of human history because that is the objective basis for defining the characteristics of the country, era, and certain social transformations. At the same time, guidelines, policies and practical organization method for building and protecting the nation properly can be identified on that basis. Failure to identify its exact location would lead to subjective, voluntaristic decisions.

In the work “Critique of the Gotha Program” (1875), on providing the view on the transitional period to socialism, Karl Marx wrote: “Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”(11). Thus, the transitional period to socialism can only be a period in the socio-economic form of communism and the first stage of this form. As Karl Marx defined, the criteria to recognize the transitional period to socialism begin with the successful socialist revolution of the working class and starts establishing, building their own state as well as setting up “the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” with a view to conducting the tasks to protect the new regime, reform the old society, and build a new one via two stages (this is also pointed out in the Manifesto): socialist society and movement to communism.

It is also necessary to clarify whether the transitional period to socialism coincides with the first stage - the socialist society. If that is the case, it means that after completing the transitional period to socialism, the contents, tasks of the first stage to the higher one - communism - are basically fulfilled.

Upon study of the transitional period to socialism, a frequently asked question in both theoretical circle and in society is “when will the transitional period to socialism in Vietnam end?” Can its length be identified? At its 12th National Congress in 2016, the Party identified that Vietnam would “strive to become a modern industrialized country” but did not provide specific benchmark. This expression leads to different interpretations.

Our thinking is that it is impossible to set a specific transitional period to socialism because the length of this period varies depending on the specific conditions of each country. First of all, it depends on the leadership of the party in power and the consensus of the people. V.I. Lenin once said that the Party must represent the conscience and wisdom of the era. If it could establish the close connection and harmony between these two elements, the transitional period will soon be completed. In other words the socialist society will soon come true. On the contrary, if the Party and State make big mistakes in leadership and management activities, if the Party organization is weak with cadres and Party members corrupted in heart and mind such as “self-evolution” and “self-transformation”, they sure fail to win the heart of the people. In this case, it is impossible to identify the length of the transitional period to socialism, and even the achievements obtained by the working class and labourers under the leadership of the Communist Party are likely to turn into ashes. The lessons of the Soviet Union and the socialist countries in Eastern Europe will forever be a valuable warning to the countries on the transitional path to socialism.

If we have a look at the economy and political institution of Vietnam over the past years, especially the achievements in socio-economic development in a positive direction, and if the world political economy has no major change to Vietnam, Vietnam will have been expected to become a modern industrialized country by mid 21st century.

Despite many difficulties and challenges ahead, the transitional path to socialism enlightened by the Manifesto of the Communist Party and Marxism - Leninism will forever be the ideal that Vietnam follows and strives to achieve.



(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Complete works, vol.4, National Political Publishing House, 1995, Hanoi, p.628, 600, 600-601, 604, 612, 626, 627.

(8) V.I.Lenin: Complete works, vol.23, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1980, p.1.

(9) Nations with largest rich and poor gap in the world, http://kenh14.vn.

(10) Vietnam Economy 2017 going upstream to set record, http://news.zing.vn.

(11) K Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Complete works, vol.19, National Political Publishing House, 1995, Hanoi, p.47.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Bui Thi Ngoc Lan

Institute of Scientific Socialism,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics


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