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Universal and unique values in the theory of the Communist Party of Vietnam on socialism and the path to socialism over 35 years of renovation

(PTOJ) - The theoretical developments of our Party during the renovation period on socialism and the path to socialism in Vietnam have contained universal values, and at the same time clearly demonstrated the specificity of Vietnam. This article initially outlines the most prominent values in our Party's theory, demonstrating the universality and commonality of all countries in building socialism and the specificity of socialism, and the path to socialism in Vietnam.

1. The universal theoretical values of socialism that the Communist Party of Vietnam explores and contributes to the renovation process

First, the theoretical value is universal from the perception of the characteristics of socialism in Vietnam.

Through the practice of renovation in Vietnam and the general trend in the world, compared with the theory of Marxism - Leninism and Ho Chi Minh Thought, it can be seen that: our Party’s conception of the characteristics of socialism in Vietnam today has contributed to many popular theoretical values and is recognized by many ruling parties. Those values are reflected in the Party documents during the renovation period, with the most focus being on the Platform, complemented and developed in 2011 and more recently the theoretical work of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Some theoretical and practical issues about socialism and the path to socialism in Vietnam.     

Broadly, the universal theoretical values regarding the characteristics of socialism in Vietnam include:

Firstly, the values associated with human aspiration for a “democratic, just, and civilized” organization of society. Obviously, the level and quality as well as the implementation of these values bear national characteristics and are associated with historical conditions of the time and the country, but these values are clearly universal, throughout human history, and today they are the goals of all political regimes.

Secondly, national independence is a prerequisite for the implementation of socialism, and socialism is a solid basis for national independence. This is also the leading lesson learned through the process of summarizing the cause of national construction and defense that the Platform, complemented and developed in 2011, concluded.

Thirdly, the concept of the true values of socialism currently being developed, as expressed by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong: “We need a society in which the development is truly for the sake of people, not for profit that exploits and tramples on human dignity. We need economic development to go hand in hand with progress and social justice, not widening the gap between rich and poor and social inequality. We need a society of compassion, solidarity, and mutual assistance, towards progressive and humane values, not unfair competition, “big fish eat smaller fish”, for the selfish benefit of a handful of individuals and factions. We need sustainable development, in harmony with nature to ensure a healthy living environment for current and future generations, not to exploit, appropriate resources, consume unlimited materials, and damage the environment. And, we need a political system where real power belongs to the people, by the people, and serves the interests of the people, not just a wealthy few”(1).  

In general, it can be seen that there are many similarities between the concept advocated by the Communist Party of Vietnam on the basic values of socialism and those in other countries today. The goal of the Communist Party of China is: by the middle of this century, to complete the building of a modern, prosperous, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and beautiful socialist power. The objective of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party is: Socialism in Laos is understood as a rich and happy people’s society, a strong country, a united, harmonious, democratic, fair and civilized society. The Cuban Communist Party affirms its goal: to build a healthy, equal and fair society; a society in which people are the center, all classes and objects are concerned; must not deviate from the revolution’s ideals of justice and equality, nor weaken the unity of the people around the Party, with the consistent principle that Cuba will never allow the application of measures cause harm to the weakest class of the population or leave someone in a helpless state.

Second, the universal theoretical value of the path to socialism in Vietnam

Through theoretical overviews of subjects, forces, motivations, measures, and tasks, etc., to build socialism and major orientations on economics, social development, national defense, security, and foreign affairs are reflected in the Platform, complemented and developed in 2011 and in the analysis of the General Secretary on the path to socialism in Vietnam, the following common and typical values can be seen:

The subjects and motivations for building socialism in Vietnam are similar and common in many aspects with other socialist oriented countries. Typical are the perceptions: “The revolutionary cause is of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is the people who create the historical victories. All activities of the Party must derive from the legitimate interests and aspirations of the people. The strength of the Party lies in its close attachment to the people”(2). The basic classes constituting the category of “people” here are the working class, the peasantry, the intellectuals, the businessmen, etc., the citizens living under the socialist rule of law of Vietnam. The driving force that motivates them to act in the interests of individuals, groups, and society; the orientation for that dynamic system is to harmoniously handle those interests to ensure fairness and equality in terms of citizenship rights and obligations.

Regarding measures to build socialism, absorbing the achievements and civilizational values that mankind has achieved in the period of capitalist development in a “selective manner from the viewpoint of science and development”(3). Accordingly, Vietnam has applied common tools that mankind has used to build a modern civilized society such as industrialization, the market economy, rule of law, and so on.

Regarding fields and tasks, building socialism in Vietnam is building an overall social model in a socio-economic form, including the process of renovating the old, and building the new in all aspects: economic, political, cultural, and social fields. The socialist nature and socialist orientation while performing these tasks are not opposed or “seconded” by the values of history, but set the task of both inheritance and creation. With such a view, building socialism in the world and building socialism in Vietnam are both part of the flow of human civilization.

In short, the universality of the concept of socialism and the path to socialism in Vietnam is a new value that theoretical awareness has achieved over the past 35 years of renovation. It reflects the effort to overcome the “childish” and “second-handed” notions that were acquired in the past. It shows scientific awareness, in line with the trend of the times and is also a contribution of the Communist Party of Vietnam to the theory of socialism today.

2. The specificity in the theory of socialism in Vietnam

First, the specificity in the theory about the characteristics of socialism in Vietnam

If we understand the specific as the outstanding features and characteristics that make the distinction between things and phenomena different from other things and phenomena, the specificity in the theory of socialism in Vietnam is distinct from those in other countries. In other countries, this theory is specified that: it is the application of universal theories to solve specific practical needs in the process of renewing thinking about socialism and measures to build socialism in the renovation.

Vietnam’s model of socialism is built on the basis of the general theory of Marxism - Leninism, Ho Chi Minh Thought combined with the addition of unique characteristics, suitable to the historical context, development level, and socio-economic development and socialist orientation in Vietnam. It overcomes the stereotypes and machinery of the previous model of socialism, partly bearing  the old model of socialism or the Soviet model. It also approaches new scientific perceptions in a number of fields such as economics (application of the market economy, new-style of industrialization, etc.), politics (building of the rule-of-law state, democratic development, etc.). It also integrates with a number of trends of the era such as globalization, sustainable development, and the growth model renovation, etc.

Going through a number of cognitive domains as those listed above shows, the theory of the characteristics of the model of socialism in Vietnam has its specificity because of the regulations in the material reality of the land of Vietnam, although it is not endemic, unique, divergent, etc.

Second, the specificity in the perception of the path to socialism in Vietnam is to gradually handle the relationship between the universal and the specific.

This process manifests itself in the following three steps:

The first step: the particular is gradually realized, focused, and when it comes into play, clarifies the universal; To a certain extent, the specificity gradually reveals the characteristics of the universal.

It is possible to perceive this through the perception of the market economy in Vietnam. At the beginning of the renovation period, it was also considered a special case in the construction of socialism (the case of Yugoslavia during the period of 1947 - 1991). Through the verification of reality (gradual elimination of subsidies, the implementation of contracting mechanism in agriculture, etc.) and renovation of thoughts (typically the perception that the market and market economy are not unique to capitalism but a common achievement of human civilization, socialism can apply the market economy and can direct and regulate it, etc.), the market economy has been recognised and is now becoming a common rule in many countries under the concept of “socialist market economy” in China or “socialist-oriented market economy” in Vietnam. Our Party has affirmed: “In order to move up to socialism, we must develop a socialist-oriented market economy”(4). Following this concept, the market economy has become one of the tools to build socialism.

Thus, in Vietnam, the specificity through the renewal of economic thinking about the market economy has been integrated with the popular (in the transition to socialism, the market economy is the operating law of the economy that reveals many levels of production forces and many economic sectors). It is also expressed in many other areas: distribution mainly according to labor results, economic efficiency, and at the same time according to the contribution of capital and other resources through social welfare; separates the administrative management function of the state from the business management function of the enterprises, etc.

The second step: the universal manifests itself through specific cases. It tends to animate its expression but always asserts its own rule and principle when violated.

Compared with before the renovation, the universal has become more vivid in terms of nuances and areas of expression but looking further, these nuances are the return and creative manipulation of original principles. We have criticized the view of sclerosis, metaphysically separating the development and interaction between capitalism and socialism. Renovation has gradually overcome the above deviations. Typically, the viewpoint of ignoring and accepting what is capitalism stated by the 9th National Party Congress, including the principles that V.I. Lenin stated in the new economic policy (NEP). He once emphasized that the communists must learn from the Americans the method to manage trusts, learn from the German-Prussian the method to manage railways; that communists must also learn to trade and must practice the bravery of an intelligent and educated businessman, etc. What is common here is the socialist-oriented nature, the socialist properties of specific phenomena.

The third step: attaching the universal and the specific, making them participate and transform and penetrate each other in the renovation process.

In the order of priority, there seems to be a certain distinction, but in fact, the universal and the specific are always linked together. In the early period of renovation, the theoretical basis was still based on the principles of scientific socialism, but the specificity of Vietnamese practice was emphasized as an affirmation of determination to overcome the thinking influenced by conservative and dogmatic ideology.

The situation and world context in the late 80s and the early 90s of the twentieth century had posed the problem of forcing revolution, that is, maximizing internal strength and creativity in the material reality of the land of Vietnam. It encourages new sources of energy from creativity, “explosion”, “breakthrough”. That is a favourable condition and also an objective premise to properly perceive the specifics of the process of building socialism in Vietnam.

As renovation has come a long way and gradually deepened, our Party’s thinking follows the rules, further clarifying the most basic questions: what is socialism in Vietnam? (manifestation of the specific); What relationship does it have with the new perception of scientific socialism (the universal)? That is, the universal, the regularity and the principle have never been separated from specific cases. Only when that universal is clearly and correctly identified, will the discoveries, innovations, or the identification of specific paths and ways to socialism bring its scientific and creative meaning.

Therefore, when looking back at each stage of renovation, at important times, our Party’s theoretical thinking and the whole nation’s wisdom turned our attention to the characteristics of socialism in Vietnam. The 1991 Platform and the 2011 (complemented and developed) were made during such times.

In terms of the thought development process, the theory of socialism in Vietnam has moved from the universal (Marxist - Leninist) to gradually form new perceptions about the peculiarities of Vietnam when implementing the common laws.

In the process of seeking ways and paths suitable to the reality of Vietnam, our Party has gradually seen a return through affirming the universal, to common laws of humanity, of scientific socialism. It is a return based on a deeper understanding of the thought of V.I. Lenin: “All peoples will go to socialism, it is inevitable, but how all peoples will move forward to socialism is not exactly the same; each nation will bring one’s characteristics into one form or another of democracy, to one kind or another of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to one pace or another of socialist reform for different aspects of social life”(5).


Received: October 13, 2022; Revised: November 7, 2022; Approved for publication: November 25, 2022.



(1), (3) Nguyen Phu Trong: Some theoretical and practical issues about socialism and the path to socialism in Vietnam, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, pp.21-22, 25.

(2) CPV: Documents of the 11th National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.65.

(4) CPV: Complete Documents, vol.65, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2018, p.178.

(5) V.I.Lenin: Complete Works, vol.30, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006, p.160.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. NGUYEN AN NINH

Institute of Scientific Socialism,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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