Uncertain future hovers over Vietnam party
HANOI - Four months after launching a big
campaign to weed out corrupt and degraded cadres, the ruling
Vietnam Communist Party has gone rather quiet.
There have been few details of its heralded criticism/self
criticism campaign in the state-controlled press, and there are
no signs in the streets to suggest anything out of the ordinary.
But all 2.3 million party members in this impoverished country
of 79 million people are undergoing criticism in a bid to
strengthen the party.
Analysts said the party was facing its greatest challenge since
the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and
Hanoi's other Eastern Bloc supporters in the early 1990s.
By keeping a lid on organised opposition Hanoi has maintained
political stability, but critics say this has meant a retreat to
hardline rule, with the party tolerating little dissent and
constantly on the lookout for perceived threats.
The party says it is the choice of the ``entire Vietnamese
people'' and dissent could cause social chaos and undermine
sacrifices made to end foreign interference in the country.
In the arcane world of Vietnamese politics the party wields
absolute power and is accountable only to itself, leaving some
party members cynical about the criticism campaign.
``The results so far are zero point zero zero percent (of party
members are corrupt),'' said one veteran party member. ``They
are all clean.''
The party acknowledges graft is a problem, but analysts say the
criticism campaign could be divisive and most corrupt cadres
were likely to escape censure.
``(Criticism) is an old Leninist technique which scared the hell
out of everyone involved in the 1950s, but gradually became
ritualised, and now would be mocked by many party
members,'' said David Marr, a professor at the Pacific and
Asian History Department at the Australian National University.
Carlyle Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Asia-Pacific Center for
Security Studies in Hawaii, expected several thousand party
members would be dismissed but said attempts to punish all
corrupt cadres were unlikely as the party believed in
rectification as an article of faith.
``Errant cadres can be brought to confess their misdeeds,
repent and return to party service even more dedicated to the
party and its ideals,'' he said.
DAS KAPITAL OR DAS CASH
At street-level there is little interest in politics, and even less
knowledge of Marxism-Leninism.
The party has cloaked itself in safety ever since it forced its way
into power across then North Vietnam in 1954, and the south
of the country after 1975.
Schoolchildren learn about revolutionary achievements, victories
over foreign invaders and acts of heroism.
Party sources say accounts of some national heroes -- some are
still taught today -- were fabricated to serve party propaganda.
But a senior diplomat in Hanoi said selective truth and secrecy
served a purpose. ``Who wants accountability, that's what
follows transparency. Power rests in following the line,
swallowing it and not questioning it,'' he said.
The party member said internecine struggles, slur campaigns
and clashes of vested interests had caused trust within the elite
Leaden Marxist and revolutionary rhetoric has become
irrelevant as around 60 percent of the population are too young
to remember the Vietnam War. Analysts say people, including
many party members, are now more interested in cash than
``The Vietnam Communist Party is a dinosaur living in an age
where it should be extinct. The criticism campaign...(is designed
for) the prolongation of one-party rule,'' said Thayer.
STRUGGLES FOR CONSENSUS
Analysts said the party might be pinning too many hopes on the
criticism campaign as a cure-all. With the advent of email and
the Internet, dissenting voices -- from both inside and outside
the party -- are making themselves heard.
A group of retired military and party veterans have rallied
behind elderly General Tran Do to urge the party to examine
itself and be prepared to democratise and drop socialism if that
was what was needed to ensure economic growth.
A political officer at a foreign embassy in Hanoi said a slowing
economy coupled with ideological struggles over the
introduction of a market economy, as well as conflicting vested
interests, threatened the party's ability to rule.
``Right now they have no strong leaders and there is a paralysis
for some key decision making, especially when it comes to
personnel and urgent economic reforms,'' he said.
``They have to lighten up, take a step back and develop good
governance through nurturing open dialogue with all sections of
society. Only then can they have legitimacy.''
Reuters - September 5, 1999.