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Wednesday, 25 November 2020 08:28
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Achievements in new theoretical perception about the Vietnamese working class

(LLCT) - Vietnamese working class has a mission to be the leader of socialism building, the head and front of industrialization and modernization, the vanguard of innovation and the core of the great unity bloc. The country’s working class must be built up and strive itself for growth. The Party and State are the most decisive factor for the development of working class and its mission implementation. New multi-faceted theoretical perceptions about working class are the scientific foundation for improving policies and guidelines for the working class.

Keywords: Vietnamese working class.

1. Achievements in developing theoretical perception about Vietnamese working class of the Communist Party of Vietnam

- A fairly comprehensive concept of the current Vietnam working class has been formulated

Resolution 20-NQ/TW dated January 28, 2008 of the 6th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (10th tenure) on “continuing to build the Vietnamese working class in the period of accelerating national industrialization and modernization” determined: “The Vietnamese working class is an immense and growing social force including manual and intellectual workers who work as wage earners in all forms of industrial production, business, and services”(1). 

The above concept affirmed the Marxist theory about the characteristics of working class as the group of people associated with the industrial labor mode. Besides, it identified “industrial nature” as an outstanding characteristic in our country’s working class.

A new feature in this theoretical perception is to acknowledge the presence of our country’s working class in many economic catergories and sectors. They include manual and/or intellectual workforces. They are wage earners, therefore their income is a basic benefit that they care about and the regime must attach great importance to. They work in many sectors including “direct” manufacturing and “indirect” service sectors. The country’s working class is defined to be constantly moving, “developing”, and thus this concept accepts supplementation and adjustment. 

This new perception has adjusted and replaced superficial and prevailing notions in our society that: workers are merely “direct operators” for machines; that workers do not include intellectual workforce; it is small businesses but not workers that are engaged in the service sector, or discrimination against workers in different economic sectors, like “natural children and adopted children”...

This concept is also up to date with the world’s ones. In modern studies of working class, there is a tendency to separate workers into different groups depending on their sector (industry - service - agriculture) or their position in the production line (production management, direct manufacture, machinery repair and maintenance, marketing and innovation, customer care,...). For the first time, in the concept of the country’s working class, the concept of “industrial service” was introduced with the implication of a highly socialized service labor force. In fact, this group of service laborers plays an important role, in the last 5 years (2015 - 2019), service laborers regularly contribute about 40% of the country’s GDP.

- The development of the working class and the active construction of working class in a new environment have been clearly delineated

The current development environment of the country’s working class has 2 characteristics:

The first one is a multi-sector economic environment with many components operating under the socialist-oriented market mechanism (this expression is long and rarely used at present, but clearly describes the current situation). Compared with subsidy period before 1986, the market economy made workers be more flexible and focus on production and economy’s efficiency. The multi-sector economy also makes the structure of the country’s working class more dynamic and complicated. The most dominant part of the country’s working class is currently working in non-state economic sectors, workers are affected daily by the principle of production and exploitation of surplus value.

The association with the market mechanism forcing workers to pay more attention to production and business efficiency is also a new characteristic in perception and mindset. In the past, when workers were associated with the State, the state-owned business, the construction site, the public interests, planning, production targets and plans of the State were among top concerns. Meanwhile, at present, the needs of the market, the interests of the business, the income of the employees, the brand, etc. are of great concern. Accordingly, each worker becomes more “economical-involved”and does not play the role of “ruling class” which is strongly political. Only when they are economical and proficient in the market economy, do workers accumulate capacities to be real owners. That is also the practical development to build the working class in our country(2).

The second characteristic of the development environment of working class is the acceleration of industrialization and modernization. This feature reflects two simultaneous processes: industrialization is in the stage of “continuing to promote” and working class is “continuing to build and develop”. Both are evolving to perfection. They support each other (according to the principle that workers are both the product and the subject of industrialization and modernization); and concurrently restrain each other (according to the principle of “circumstances create man to the extent that man creates circumstances”). This can be clearly seen in practice: if the human resources for industrialization and modernization do not meet the requirements, this process must be prolonged; If industrialization is carried out without modernization, the number of workers increases, but the technological quality is not uniform. 

Those two characteristics of the current development environment of our country need to be clearly realized in order to be strategically proactive in the development of working class. Typically, a viewpoint is expressed in the 6th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (10th tenure): “The strategy to build a strong working class must be closely linked with the strategy of socio-economic development, national industrialization and modernization, international economic integration”.

Proactively building working class in the current context involves many subjects.

This is the strategy of the Party, the responsibility of the state, the contribution of business owners, and the active engagement of each worker. That strategy is directly related to the Party’s policy of promoting industrialization and modernization, the State’s socio-economic development strategy, the business efficiency of enterprises, and the operational efficiency of the political system in laborers such as Party’s grassroots organizations, Trade Union, Youth Union, and Women Union. The 6th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (10th tenure) defined the decisive role of the Communist Party of Vietnam in “raising awareness of Marxism - Leninism, and Ho Chi Minh Thought, concerning the working class and cultivating their ethical qualities, industrial manner, and labor discipline”.

Accordingly, the development of working class in Doi Moi (national renewal) differs from the period before 1986. The difference is that it is related to actions taken to protect the legitimate rights and interests of working class, to improve their political, cultural enlightenment, and to care for the material and spiritual life of laborers. This is the responsibility of the entire political system, of which the State is the most important factor to shoulder the greatest responsibility. Besides, trade unions provide the most direct impact on laborers and are likely to benefit them most closely and frequently. Additionally, this process is resonated by the corporate social responsibility and the employer’s awareness of observing the labor law.

The self-discipline of each worker, who is simultaneously a citizen, plays a direct role in improving their qualities as follows: “political capability, class consciousness, political bravery, civic consciousness, national spirit, the passionate attachment to the revolutionary cause of the Party, of the nation and to socialism, the will to rise out of poverty and backwardness, the spirit of building and defending the country, the spirit of striving to reach the contemporary level in the development of the knowledge economy and international economic integration, and determination to win in competitions...”.

- Workers are clearly defined as a class with a historic mission to the nation and as employees in the current context

This is also a new perception reflected in the current policies of the Party and State towards working class.

As a class with a historic mission to the nation;

Working class is the product of the industrialization process in the Doi  Moi period with the following requirements: industrialization associated with modernization; “agriculture - rural areas considered as the leading front”; industrialization taking place in the market mechanism; industrialization moving forwards the knowledge economy; and integration associated with the protection of environmental resources. These socio-economic requirements must be met in order for workers - the social product of the current industrialization process to manifest themselves as the most advanced workforce.

However, the working class cannot decide that itself. The policy of industrialization of the Party and State, the actual operation of enterprises in all economic sectors, the orientation and management for such activities are the direct macro and micro factors shaping the current working class. Accordingly, politics is having a strong impact on the economy, the Party and State are the most decisive factor to the working class and its historic mission. This can be seen as the most important new perception about the construction and development of our country’s laborers.

In addition, the country’s working class must be built up and strive to improve itself to improve educational attainment, expertise, professional skills, political bravery and endeavor. Only then can working class be able to fulfill its historic mission in the new era and make a worthy contribution to the goal of building socialism in Vietnam: to turn Vietnam into “a prosperous people, a strong country, a democratic, equitable, and civilized society”; belonging to the people; having a highly developed economy based on a modern production force and proper advanced production relations...”(3) Accordingly, in parallel with the construction of economic - technical qualities, building the socio-political qualities of laborers such as “civic consciousness, patriotism, socialism, which are typical characteristics of our nation’s cultural quintessence”, must also be paid attention to. The political system in enterprises (Party organizations, Trade Unions, Youth Unions, and Women Unions) is directly responsible for this mission. Therefore, it is necessary to “strengthen the leadership of the Party, promote the role of trade unions and other socio-political organizations in building the working class”.

- As an employee

An outstanding characteristic of the current country’s laborers and employees is the diversity of economic sectors, interests and technological levels. Before the Doi Moi period, the majority of workers were available in the State economic sector with two types of ownership, namely, all-people ownership (State-owned farms and factories) and collective ownership (small scale handicraft and industry cooperatives). Nevertheless, currently, they involve in all economic sectors, and most predominantly in the private sector. Their top concern is employment and life, “post-work results” such as income and living conditions; and to achieve that, it is necessary to work with “productivity, quality, efficiency” first, “then make history” (as K.Marx’s expression in “German Ideology”).

They are also to familiarize themselves with economic thinking, business efficiency, evaluation and selection of jobs in the labor market. Some factors were not concerned about by laborers before 1986, but are now “the survival factor of the business” rather than just emulation slogans like in “subsidy period”, for example, the prices of products we manufacture in the world today; international brand, “niche” market, demand-based production; the difference in the profit margin when penetrating demanding markets; assurance of product quality, contract term, economy of materials and, labor productivity, etc.

Notably, the current diversity of the country’s working class is a significant manifestation in its development process. Diversity of class structure is the manifestation of the vividness, naturalness, and reasonableness of the movement of laborers in the “interwoven”, complex economy in the transition period. The diversity of the laborers’ structures and benefits as well as the complex, even heterogeneous, non-synchronous, movement tendency, are also natural consequences and are reality-based. These differences demand more specific and relevant policies for each subject.

2. Achievements of developing theoretical perception regarding the implementation of Vietnamese working class’s historic mission

- The content of the historic mission with the nation of the working class in Vietnam has been initially clarified.

The resolution of the 6th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (10th tenure) in 2008 on continuing to build the working class in the cause of national industrialization and modernization generalized: “Our country’s working class has a great historic mission: to be the class leading the revolution through the vanguard of the Communist Party of Vietnam; representing the advanced mode of production;  pioneering in the cause of socialism building, be the force leading in the cause of national industrialization and modernization for the goal of a prosperous people, a strong country, a democratic, equitable and civilized society, a core force in the alliance between the working class, the peasantry, and the intelligentsia under the leadership of the Party”(4). 

This is considered a great theoretical achievement because although Vietnamese working class has successfully assumed responsibility to the nation, until 2008, through 68 years of revolution leadership, the concept of historic mission was not explicit. Mentions of this issue often only emphasize the leadership position or “completion of the national liberation mission”, socialism building, but does not really “elaborate” the contents of this concept.

First of all, the identification of the historic mission of Vietnam’s working class is the application of the basic ideas of Marxism - Leninism on working class to the country’s practice. That is the position of the class representing the modern production force, “representing the advanced mode of production”, associated with industrialization, “being the class leading through the pioneer team, the Communist Party” and “pioneering in building socialism”. All of these are perfect reflections of Marxist principles about working class.

New and innovative feature compared to Marxism is the active, subjective, leading role of working class in the country’s industrialization. As in the course of great capitalist industrialization more than two centuries ago, now in capitalist countries, the bourgeoisie is the active class and the performer of industrialization. That is because the bourgeoisie is the class that takes ownership and determines the use of capital. Capital is the employer, and the laborer is the employee. In Vietnam today, the working class and the people are the subjects of supreme power, via the Party, and the direction of industrialization, via the State, to manage the social development. As both the owner and manager/user of social production materials, the working class in Vietnam is making a decisive contribution to building facilities for socialism. The problem of “corrupted laborers” is solved through the economic aspect of the historic mission. It is a great mission that is being started in Vietnam.

The second new feature is also the application of Marxist - Leninism theory to Vietnamese practice: To be the class leading the revolution through the vanguard of the Communist Party of Vietnam; pioneering in the cause of socialism building, for the goal of a prosperous people, a strong country, a democratic, equitable and civilized society. Vietnam is still a developing country with high rate of poor households, socialist criteria such as democracy, equity, and civilization remain the targets to strive for. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the working class, via its pioneering team, to overcome the above situation. Active labor creating surplus value of workers is the main source of wealth, property of all societies.

This is also true in Vietnam, but the surplus value the labor creates, after deducting a part benefited by the laborers “according to their contribution” and redistributing a part according to business efficiency and level of capital contribution, will be spent mainly on social welfare. That is the difference between socialism in Vietnam and capitalism.

The third new feature is the role of “core force in the alliance between the working class, the peasantry, and the intelligentsia”. While K.Marx, F.Engels, and V.I.Lenin mentioned the alliance between the working class and the peasantry, and Ho Chi Minh affirmed the role of the alliance between the working class, the peasantry, and the intelligentsia in Vietnamese revolution. In the cause of national renewal, this issue is more deeply perceived by the Party about working class with the dual role: the core of the socio-political basis for the leadership of the Party, the management of the State, and the core of the great unity bloc. Both roles of working class are expressed in two aspects: class solidarity and national solidarity - a unique feature of the Vietnamese revolution.

- Various new discoveries about working class’s way of accomplishing historic mission have been added

Given the context of the multi-sector market economy, the Trade Union is the closest organization, having the most direct impact on the rights and interests of working class, hence political consciousness enhancement. Accordingly, the renewal of the content and mode of operation of the current Trade Union is very necessary to truly be the Party’s closest organization to the masses, as V.I.Lenin considered a “chain connecting the vanguard with the masses of the advanced class and connecting that team with the working masses ”(5).

Employment and benefits are the top concerns of many laborers today, not historic missions or socialism. The first condition to make any history is that one must be able to live before being able to make history. However, in order to survive, first of all, people must have food, drink, shelter, clothes and a few other things”(6). When material and spiritual life is constrained and people are forced to reduce their necessities, they obviously must pursue them first. Noticeably, a part of the workers in the market economy has degraded and is quite close to the image of the “rogue proletariat” that K. Marx once pointed out. Therefore, in order to raise political consciousness for laborers, the Party “must pay attention to their material and spiritual life”.

The market economy, private and foreign-invested sectors enlivened the economy, utilize fully production potential, create jobs for society, and pay taxes to the State. Besides, they are a close practice that helps our laborers intuitively understand various theoretical issues such as surplus value, capitalist exploitation, the socialization of industrial production, etc. That fact contributes to reinforcing scientific belief in Marxism.

The problem of employment and ownership, gain, and loss in the market economy has also been perceived broader, deeper, and more dialectical. For example, there is gain in being exploited, and there is loss in exploiting.  What does an employee “gain” when involving in the capitalist production? For Vietnamese laborers coming from peasants, they have new occupations, labor skills, increased income, access to a modern working environment with new working and management methods. As a result, the working class acquire new knowledge and skills to be the master. The State collects taxes, accesses new technologies and market economy as well as produces modern goods, thereby developing production, “making partners” and actively integrating into the world economy. Employers must also share technological know-how, market, management experience, and accept the risks of capital investment including failure and bankruptcy. The principle of mutual benefit and win-win is an objective requirement and is present in practice(7).

The phenomenon of labor exploitation and unfair treatment occurs not only in the non-state sector but also in the state-owned sector, when the managers are unfair and the management mechanism is lax and abused for individual and group interests. Public ownership can still give rise to new injustices, if democracy in enterprises is not promoted, public property management is not proper and rigorous...

Intellectualization, especially of laborers, is happening in Vietnam. Currently, 9.7% of our country’s workers have university degrees. Many businesses and corporations have applied the technologies of the industrial revolution 4.0. The Vietnamese working class in the socialist-oriented market is promoting industrialization and modernization, and actively integrating with the world, “nurturing its own intellectual class” (F.Engels).

Vietnam’s current working class, economically and socially, “is an immense and developing social force”, so it has not reached a high uniformity and has a number of strata. That division and stratification are natural, based on actual technological practices and current economic sectors. Accordingly, on the one hand, it is necessary to respect reality in order to have suitable solutions when building working class in different economic sectors; on the other hand, the solidarity and unity of working class must be paid attention to. The common key to resolve the differences in the positions and benefits of working class has been increasingly found out through innovation practice. That is the unity between the interests of the working class with that of the entire nation towards the goal of “national independence associated with socialism”; that is the unity of 3 categories of interests: of the individual employee, of the collective, and of society; That is the patriotism and national spirit, the will to rise out of poverty, backwardness, the spirit of building and defending the country of each worker.



(1), (4) CPV: Complete Documents of the CPV, vol.67, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2008, p.72, 72-73.

(2) Nguyen An Ninh: To make the working class value system become the value system of the entire society, Philosophy Magazine, May 2007; The greatness and simplicity of laborers, Labor & Trade Union Magazine, 8-2007.

(3) CPV: Platform for national construction in the transitional period to socialism (supplemented in 2011), National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, pp.13-14.

(5) V.I.Lenin: Complete Works, vol.42, Moscow Progressive Publishing House, Vietnamese version, 1977, p.251.

(6) K.Marx and F.Engels: Complete Works, vol.3, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1995, p.40.

(7) Nguyen An Ninh: Some new perceptions need to be added about current working class and socialism, Communist Review, 8-2016.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen An Ninh


Institute of Scientific Socialism, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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