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Solving the relationship between the universality and particularity in building realistic socialism and lessons for Vietnam

(LLCT) - During the process of building realistic socialism according to the Soviet Union model, due to various reasons, socialist countries have not adequately dealt with the relationship between the universality and particularity. From that fact, lessons have been drawn for Vietnam, including the proper awareness of the importance of addressing this relationship in the socialism construction in Vietnam; thorough grasp of the methodological principles instructed by Marxism - Leninism classics in addressing this relationship; thorough grasp of Ho Chi Minh Thought on the particularity of the path towards socialism in Vietnam; and creative application of universal principles of socialism in the specific conditions of Vietnam.

 

(The Rusian Proletarian Revolution (October 1917) _ Photo: Internet)

Since the Russian October Revolution 1917 to date, realistic socialism has undergone a passage of 100 years. Experiencing a number of vicissitudes, it still exists and is being increasingly renovated and developed. It can be said that, the renovation and development of realistic socialism depend on various elements, particularly the awareness and proper solving of the relationship between universality and particularity in the construction of socialism in each country.

According to Marxist - Leninist philosophy, similar aspects and attributes repeatedly seen in different individuals are called the general. These similar attributes exist in many individuals are called “universality”. Universality manifested in different specific individuals is called “particularity”. In other words, particularity is the manifestation of universality in individuals. Particularity has both features of universality and a specific “particular” feature. This specific particular feature does not oppose to the general feature of universality and is regulated by characteristics of individual things. Universality and particularity have a close relationship; they are inseparatable and regulate each other. Therefore, in reality, we should absolutize neither universality nor particularity, proper understanding and addressing of the relationship between universality and particularity must be based on specific situations.

During the process of constructing realistic socialism according to the Soviet Union model, within the socialist system there have been differences in the awareness and settlement of the relationship between universality and particularity in building socialism in each country. Since the mid of 1949, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, on the basis of the domestic conditions, emphasized its particularity, not following the highly-concentrated model of the Soviet-style model, introducing the theory of socialist self-management. However, in dealing with the relationship between universality and particularity, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia had emphasized excessively on the particularity and did not have proper evaluation of the universality of socialist principles. As in 1956, there was disagreement between the Communist Party of Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China on some issues, including the solving of the relationship between universality and particularity in constructing socialism. The Communist Party of China criticized the absolutization of the socialist model of the Soviet Union, arguing that the Communist Party of Soviet Union had deviated from Marxism - Leninism, falling into dogmatism and rigidity. Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Soviet Union argued that the Chinese Communist Party stepped far from the Marxist - Leninist stand, absolutizing particularity, falling into revisionism and even nationalism.

The economic and political reforms in Hungary, Poland and Czechslovakia in the 1950s, 1960s were manifestations of the search for a particular pathway to socialism. Due to a number of reasons, these reforms did not finally escape from the influence of the Soviet model. Nevertheless, searches of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Czechslovakia and China all proved that the reality of the epoch had changed, thus it was necessary to apply and develop universal principles of socialism in accordance with the new reality of the era and the situation of each state and nation.

It can be said, during the process of building realistic socialism, communists in socialist countries have not adequately addressed the relationship between universality and particularity. On the one hand, due to the Soviet Union model of realistic socialism obtained extremely great achievements in all spheres, which was the source of encouragement and motivation for communist parties in countries struggling against imperialism, voluntarily applying and absolutizing the Soviet model. On the other hand, in fact, there appeared a tendency for the Soviet model to be imposed on other countries as an exemplary model.

In the years of 1957, 1960 and 1969, the Communist Information Bureau (KOMINFORM) organized international conferences of communist and workers’ parties to discuss many issues of socialism, including the consensus of general awareness on popular issues of socialism, creating the basis for countries during the process of building revolutionary guildlines, advancing to socialism. In 1957, the International Conference of communist and workers’ parties in Moscow generalized 9 popular contents of socialist construction in the world(1). The second International Conference of communist and workers’ parties (November 1960) affirmed: “The experience of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the construction of socialism and communism has the principled significance for the whole international communist movement”(2). Efforts by any party, any individual or nation that wants to find a particular path for their nation to advance to socialism were criticized as “revision” or deviation.

There were also discussions, even criticisms from the Communist Party of Japan, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and some communist parties in European and Western capitalist countries that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union absolutized the socialist model of Soviet as the only universal one. However, the Soviet Union Communist Party and international workers’ movement did not have serious consideration and dialogue. Even, the Communist Party of Soviet Union did not recognize Yugoslavia as a socialist state. In that context, there also appeared the intervention of hostile forces into Hungary (1956), Czechslovakia (1968) and the Sino-Soviet conflict in the 1960s, interrupting the consideration of addressing universality and particularity in constructing socialism. This was also one of reasons for Soviets realistic socialist model to become popular and seemingly unique for countries following the socialist path ahead of renovation, opening and reform.

From the above reality, it is necessary to draw profound lessons to solve the relationship between universality and particularity in the socialist construction in Vietnam today.

First, understand properly the importance of solving the relationship between universality and particularity in the construction of socialism in Vietnam. Do not absolutize the universality of socialist principles while forgetting the particularity; avoid falling into dogmatism and rigidity. This is because the universality of these principles is manifested in countries having different economic, political, cultural, historical and social conditions with different particularities. Moreover, there is no pure universality, which is isolated and separated from particularity. On the contrary, absolutizing the particularity of socialist principles and lightening the universality will easily lead to revisionism and narrow nationalism. It is because there is no pure particularity separating from universality. Furthermore, particularity always contains in itself the features of universality.

Second, grasp thoroughly the methodological principles instructed by the Marxist - Leninist classics in addressing the relationship between universality in the construction of socialism. The Marxist - Leninist classics always affirm that the universal principles of socialism are always manifested differently in particular conditions of each country having extremely different economic, cultural, social, historical development levels and national characteristics. Therefore, it requires communists to suit the universal socialist principles to the particular conditions of each nation. In the Preface of the German version of the Manifesto of the Communist Party (1872), K. Marx and F. Engels emphasized: “However much that state of things may have altered during the last twenty-five years, the general principles laid down in the “Manifesto” are, on the whole, as correct today as ever. Here and there, some detail might be improved. The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II”(3).

It is important to deeply understand that necessary and sufficient conditions for implementing the universality of socialism is not unique and unchangeable. These conditions are very varied, abundant and dependent on different circumstances, and different specific relations; moreover, they are always moving and changing. Therefore, the universality of socialism must be considered in specific circumstances and historical contexts. Based on this perception, in his book “Our Platform”, V. I. Lenin pointed out to the communists: “We do not regard K. Marx’s theory as something final and inviolable; On the contrary, we are convinced that it has only laid the cornerstones of the science which socialists must advance in all directions if they do not want to lag behind. We think that the independent elaboration of K. Marx’s theory is especially necessary for Russian socialists since this theory provides only the general guiding principles which in detail must be applied in England in a manner different from that applied in France, in France in a manner different from that applied in Germany, and in Germany, in a manner different from that applied in Russia”(4).

Thus, according to V. I. Lenin’s instructions, in each country or nation in every era, with different specific economic, political, cultural and specific historical conditions, it is certainly that the implementation of universality cannot totally the same, it must be shown in different particular manifestions. Thus, there can not be a fixed and unique socialist model as the template for all countries and nations.

Just before the Russian October Revolution in 1917, V. I. Lenin made it clear that “All peoples will advance to socialism, which is inevitable, however the move towards socialism of all peoples is not exactly the same; Each peoples will put its characteristics into one or another form of democracy, into one or another of the dictatorship of the proletariat, at this tempo or other pace of socialist transformation for different aspects of social life”(5). In the scientific and dialectical spirit, that argument was later raised by V. I. Lenin to a new theoretical level: “... the general rule in the world’s history of development has not eliminated but contained, on the contrary, some developmental stages characterized by either form or sequence of that development”(6).

Apparently, V. I. Lenin emphasized particularity in form, or sequence of some stages in the regular development, not in the nature of law content. The nature of a law content is expressed in its particular form and sequence. Therefore, V. I. Lenin Thought on the diversification, particularity of the universal law of socialism by nature is different from revisionism. This is further affirmed in a book of V. I. Lenin ‘Left-Wing’ Communism - An Infantile Disorder: “...But while the working-class movement is everywhere going through what is actually the same kind of preparatory school for victory over the bourgeoisie, it is achieving that development in its own particular way in each country”(7). Of course, the “particular way” here is the one in application of the fundamental, universal principles of the socialist revolution, not the “particular way” of revisionism or the absolutization of the individual, particularity in order to revise the fundamental, universal principles of Marxism. Thus, also in “Left-Wing” Communism - An Infantile Disorder, V. I. Lenin demanded, “As long as national and state distinctions exist among peoples and countries..., the unity of the international tactics of the communist working-class movement in all countries demands, not the elimination of the variety of suppression of national distinctions, but an application of the fundamental principles of communism (Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat), which will correctly modify these principles in certain particulars, correctly adapt and apply them to national and national-state distinctions”(8).

Apparently, in order to realize the particulars of the universal principles of socialism, it is required that communists in each country must derive from the practical characteristics of their own nation and applying the fundamental and universal principles of Marxism. Vietnam is not outside of this common rule.

Third, we should thoroughly grasp Ho Chi Minh Thought on the particularity of the pathway to socialism in Vietnam. Speaking to an instruction class for teachers of secondary and high schools, and the Conference on pedagogy, Ho Chi Minh pointed out: “We cannot be the same as the Soviet Union, because the Soviet Union has different traditions, customs, history and geography. Have you discussed the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union? The Congress showed us that, we can go another way to advance to socialism”(9). Thus, he started from the particular geographic, historical conditions and traditions, customs of Vietnam to point out that we could go a different way than that of the Soviet Union to advance to socialism. The difference here is not the difference in nature, but in the method, the path and measure to advance to socialism. When addressing the relationship between universality and particularity, Ho Chi Minh always started from the specific characteristics of Vietnam to selectively apply experience of socialist countries. He affirmed, “Currently, regarding the constructions of socialism, although we have had abundant experience of brotherly countries this experience cannot be applied in a mechanical way, since we have our own characteristics”(10). Ho Chi Minh also advised: “Not attaching importance to national characteristics while learning the experience of the brotherly countries is a serious mistake and dogmatism. However, too much emphasis on national characteristics to deny the universal value of fundamental, great experience of brotherly countries would make a serious mistake of revisionism”(11). Thus, Ho Chi Minh had an extremely proper perception of addressing the relationship between the universality and particularity of socialism in the specific conditions of Vietnam.

Fourth, after the Soviet socialist model collapsed, taking into consideration the domestic situation and learning from international experience, the Party gradually concretized the socialist model of Vietnam. Based on this finding, from the Platform (1991), to the Platform (supplemented and developed in 2011), the Party introduced eight fundamental characteristics of Vietnamese socialism. Here, the fundamental characteristic and also the goal of socialism is ensuring a “rich people, prosperous country, democratic, equitable and civilized society”(12). Although some characteristics need further concretization, these characteristics demonstrate the proper solving of the relationship between the universality and particularity of Vietnamese socialism that the people are striving to build. Based on these 8 characteristics, the Party set forth 8 orientations to build socialism, including very new one compared to the principles of Marxism - Leninism. For example, the second orientation, “to develop a socialist-oriented market economy”, and the seventh one “to build a socialist law-governed State of the people, by the people, for the people”(13). This is both the lesson and experience learned from the proper solving of the relationship between universality and particularity in building realistic socialism summed up by the Party.

Therefore, due to various reasons, solving the relationship between universality and particularity in the socialist construction has had a great number of limitations. After the collapse of the realistic socialism model of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party of Vietnam has drawn many experience lessons, strengthening the summarization of practice, learning international experience, creatively applying the universal principles of Marxism - Leninism on socialism in the specific conditions of Vietnam. This is a success and an important reason for Vietnamese socialism to be success.

_____________________

(1) Nine contents identified are as follows: First, the leadership of the working class, the core of which is the Marxist - Leninist Party in effecting the working masses in a proletarian revolution and in establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat; Second, the alliance of the working class and the bulk of the peasantry and other sections of the working people; Third, the abolition of capitalist ownership and the establishment of public ownership of the basic means of production; Fourth, gradual socialist reconstruction of agriculture; Fifth, planned development of the national economy, aimed at building socialism, at raising the standard of living of the working people; Sixth, the carrying out of the socialist revolution in the sphere of ideology and culture and the creation of a numerous intelligentsia devoted to the working class, the working people; Seventh, the abolition of national oppression and the establishment of equality and fraternal friendship between the peoples; Eighth, defense of the achievements of socialism against attacks by external and internal enemies; Ninth, solidarity of the international working class, carrying out proletarian internationalism. See: The Communist and Workers Parties of the Socialist Countries: Our Platform, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1958, p. 23-24.

(2) Documents of the International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Moscow, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1961, p. 74.

(3) K. Marx and F. Engels: Complete works, vol.18, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1995, p. 128.

(4) V. I. Lenin: Complete works, vol.4, Progressive Publishers, Moscow, 1978, p. 232.

(5) V. I. Lenin: Ibid., 1981, vol. 30, p. 160

(6) V. I. Lenin: Ibid., 1978, vol. 45, p. 431.

(7), (8) V. I. Lenin: Ibid., 1977, vol. 41, p. 45, 96.

(9), (10), (11) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, vol. 8, 8, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1996, p. 227, 498-499, 499.

(12), (13) CPV: Documents of the 11th National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p. 70, 72.

Prof., Dr. Tran Van Phong

Institute of Philosophy,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

 

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