Individualism is the source of “illnesses,” degrading Party cadres and members, and the Party. Individualism is particularly dangerous and difficult to fight against because it is invisible and is in each people, “the sugar-coated bullet,” the root cause of all illnesses with complex metamorphosis and unexpected diversified forms. This potential threat makes the Party’s revolutionary characteristics, ethics, people characteristics fade.
Why Uncle Ho had published his article “Raising revolutionary ethics, and sweeping individualism” before he passed away?
Seven months before his demise, despite busy schedule of the head of the country, President Ho Chi Minh wrote and published in Nhan Dan newspaper on 3 February 1969 his works “Raising revolutionary ethics, and sweeping individualism.” It dealt with two major problems, namely revolutionary morality and individualism, two imperative problems, affecting the survival of the Party and the regime.
The article “Raising revolutionary ethics, and sweeping individualism” focused on “individualism” that He considered the root cause of bad behavior of cadres and Party members when the Party is in power. He said that people with individualism, first and foremost, only think of their own interests in every activities. They do not “work for people” but only want “everybofy works for him.”
When talking about the danger of individualism, he stressed: “Individualism make people shun hardships and difficulties, commit embezzlement, degradation, waste, and extravaganza. They are greedy for high positions, profiteering, seeking position and power. They hold themselves high, despise collective and the masses, and show dictatorship and monopoly. They are alienated from the masses, from reality, bureaucratic, and dictatorial. They have not the will to strive forward and do not want to learn to make progress. It is individualism that causes disunity, lack of sense of organization, lack of discipline, lack of responsibility, failure to abide by the guidelines and policies of the Party and the State, and does harm the interests of the revolution, and people.”(1)
Uncle Ho wrote and published this works in 1969, a time full of hardship and challenges, when the whole country mobilized all forces for the cause of liberation of the South and national reunification, and required utmost sacrifice and abandonment of all interests and individual selfishness. With an instinct of a great thinker, a leader of genius, Uncle Ho foresaw the appearance of an “enemy” which is individualism at the time when the Party takes power. He called for sweeping individualism, firstly from Party cadres and members. President Ho Chi Minh early warned the four major problems threatening the ruling party: first, errors in the Party lines; second, degradation of morality and virtue of Party cadres and members; third, low level of wisdom; fourth, lack of acumen, lack of independent thinking, autonomy and creativity.
Fully aware of those threats, our Party has taken many solutions and measures to lead the country and after 30 years of renovation, the country has made great achievements of historical significance on the road to socialism and firmly defended the socialist Viet Nam.
Identify current individualism
Resolution of the 4th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 11th Tenure “Some current urgent issues in Party building” frankly stated: “Quite a number of Party officials members, including high-ranking Party members, leaders and managers show signs of degradation of political ideology, ethics and lifestyle, manifestations of the ideal fading, individualism, opportunism, and pragmatism, running after fame, money, positions, localism, corruption, wastefulness, arbitrariness and anarchy.”
Obviously, if in the past individualism was just profiteering, greediness, selfishness, power-seeking among a small number of Party officials and members, now it is among “quite a number” of Party officials and members, especially those in high positions of power, not only at local level but also in higher levels. Nowadays, manifestations of individualism have appeared in all fields of social life, and are very sophisticated which can be or cannot be detected. Corruption is the clearest evidence of individualism. Corruption is found in investment, land management, implementation of projects to illegally enrich themselves, interest groups, including major cases in policy making, capital construction, planning and changing of land-use purposes which cause great losses to state budget. Corrupted cadres are at all levels and branches of the political system. In particular, there are massive corruption cases by a few leaders of enterprises with State investment, in a small number of state regulatory bodies relating to policy consultancy, capital construction and owners of key programs and projects. Most common is “petty corruption” taking place in the contingent of officials, employees and civil servants, especially in the management bodies with the mechanisms “give-take.” People have been resented for cumbersome administrative procedures and unethical officials when they come to some state agencies to submit documents relating to land, requesting permits for house construction, employment, household registration books, project proposals and tax payment. These are signs of degradation of ethics, virtues, lifestyle, and individualism.
Individualism is also common in the field of personnel work, causing people’s deep concern. Subjective assessment of staff; running for positions, authority, plan, and rotation have taken place in a number of agencies, units, localities, branches and departments. Some leaders and managers have assigned their relatives who do not possess capabilities, qualifications and credibility for cadres and people to high positions. A small number of cadres have abused powers to cover up wrongdoings of their relatives in inspection, control, investigation, prosecution and trial. Factions, localism, “lobbying,” acting against the Party’s principles, intentional assignment of incapable and unethical people in this or that position, assignment of people not through selection but for the interest of that people, or assignment of less capable cadres as deputy heads for ease of manipulation, and abuse of power to ensure no replacement of the heads have been common. Contradictions in economic benefit distribution, delegation and staffing as results of individualism have led to internal disunity, non-protection of the right and struggle against the wrongs.
Currently individualism has “bloomed,” developing rapidly and have more complex manifestations. This is a serious threat to the survival of the regime.
About the cause of degradation of political ideology, ethics and lifestyle with different manifestations, including individualism, our Party has pointed out that there are objective reasons but mainly subjective causes: “Party cadres and members lack the will to self-train and the will to fight. They forget their responsibilities and duties before the Party and people. The implementation of guidelines and policies of the Party and State, resolutions, directives and regulations on Party building and rectification in some places have not been done completely; lack of order and discipline; deeds do not match words. The principle of democratic centralism, self-criticism and criticism in many places has been loosely followed and has not been regulated in details to provide a basis for the inspection and supervision. The study, amendment and promulgation of mechanisms, policies and laws to adjust to the operation of the socialist-oriented market economy have not been timely; many regulations have not had yet concrete implementation mechanisms. There have been manifestations of localism and indulgence in assessment, use and staffing without paying attention to discovering and developing mechanisms to respect and use truly virtuous and talented people, and to resolutely replace uncapable people with low credibility and violations. The political, moral, and lifestyle propaganda and education have been nominal. Strict inspection, monitoring, maintaining order and discipline in many places and levels have been sporadic. So does the struggle against violations. The oversight role of people through the Fatherland Front and socio-political organizations has not been promoted to obtain high effectiveness.”(2)
Some solutions to overcome individualism
Fighting against individualism is a long-term, regular and continuous task, but in the current situation is extremely urgent. As stated above, to remove the root cause of the “chronic illness” of individualism, comprehensive, synchronous, drastic measures must be taken, mainly the following strategies:
First, strengthen education, and improve Party cadres and members’ revolutionary ethics, especially leaders and managers.
This is a very important task. Thus, in his works “Raising revolutionary ethics, sweeping individualism,” President Ho Chi Minh pointed out: To train our Party cadres and members into revolutionary fighters, the Party must strive to enhance education of the whole Party on communist ideals, Party’s lines and policies, and Party members’ responsibilities and ethics. Each Party cadre and member must put the interests of the revolution, the Party, and people above all else. He also taught us: “Just like river needing water sources, without water sources, the river will run dry. Trees must have roots, without roots they will wither away. Revolutionaries must have ethics, without ethics, despite their talent, they cannot lead people.”(3) Fully aware of his teachings, each Party cadre and member must continue to study and follow the moral example of Ho Chi Minh. The Party Committees must renovate political and ideological propaganda and education, and put in place regular theoretical training, updating knowledge for Party officials and members, leaders, managers at all levels especially at the central level. Resolutely fight against bureaucracy, corruption, wastefulness, and the practice of “deeds do not match words.”
Second, the Party and State must have mechanisms for Party committees at all levels, branches, and people to select and assign leaders who are intellegent, disciplined and exemplary.
This measure is very important and is feasible. When the Party is in power, the Party cadres and members have authority. If the authority is given to persons with wisdom, living and working with discipline, abiding by law, they themselves and families are exemplary, the authority will promote a positive effectiveness for the revolution. In contrast, if power vests in people without wisdom and relevant capacity, who are individualism-minded, disrespecting the law, not leading exemplary life, that power can be easily turned into tools of power, strength in service personal intrigue, manipulation of organization, and sabotage of the party.
President Ho Chi Minh pointed out: “Cadres is the root of all work,” “Success or failure depend on good or poor cadre.” He also said: “A living example is worth more than a hundred speeches.” If wise heads of all levels and branches are selected, they know how to use capable and qualified subordinates to solve, and handle tasks effectively. People with wisdom, living and working with discipline, abiding by law are examples for observation of law and determination to strictly handle law violators. This is a problem of concern of people of all strata who want the State to do so. In parallel with the criteria of wisdom and discipline, leaders have to set example in their work, and life anytime, anywhere for people to follow. In fact, despite strict provisions, regulations and laws, if the heads are not exemplary, not abide by law, it is difficult to properly enforce the law.
In the current situation, the Party must soon establish mechanisms for people and institutions in the political system to introduce and nominate virtuous and talented for the Party select and assign the right people as heads of branches and levels, considering it as an important and impartial source of cadres. On the other hand, there should be mechanisms of test to recruit leaders and managers and mechanisms for people to monitor Party cadres and members who commit wrong doing in terms of ethics, lifestyle, ills and corruption.
Third, early develop and regulate in detail criteria for assessment of performance, efficiency and contribution leaders and managers at levels and branches. On that basis, the collective Party committees will make their assessment open to the public.
If assessment of leaders and managers’ performance is carried out properly and transparently, it will constitute the motive force and pressure to them to strive in their work and devote their might and main to fulfil their tasks. When the heads have high sense of responsibility for their jobs, they know how to require their staff to be more active and effective. Thereby, people have conditions to monitor the heads’ performance in terms of ethics, virtue and lifestyle. As the number of heads of levels and sectors is not large, many professional agencies are able to advise collective Party Committees in more accurate assessment of officials. Organize annual public opinion survey objectively to assess leaders’ satisfaction index by people. Assessment of staff is imperative for assignment and use of personnel and restriction of individualism. Those cadres, especially the heads, who do not fulfill their duties after 2-3 years should be replaced.
Fourth, conduct urgent study, build or supplement mechanisms, policies and laws adjustable to the operation of the socialist-oriented market economy.
When the Party is in power, Party cadres and members in the political system are susceptible to bureaucracy and corruption. The Party, State, and socio-political organizations must impose sanctions to control the power. First of all, documents clearly defining the responsibilities and rights of heads of all levels and sectors must be issued. At the same time, legal documents on transparent declaration of income and assets of the heads and their families and renovation of salary policy must be developed to ensure their lives. There should be a mechanism for people, the Viet Nam Fatherland Front and other socio-political organizations supervise official’s authority particularly heads of levels, branches and sectors.
Fifth, strengthen Party building and rectification, prevent and reverse Party cadres and members’ ethical and lifestyle degradation.
Building upon theoretical and practical renovation, heighten the Party’s leading capacity and ensure effectiveness, efficiency and political acumen of the Party, Party organizations and officials and members. Continue renovating and completing organizations, improve the quality and effectiveness of grassroots Party organizations and quality of Party members. Strengthen inspection, supervision and discipline within the Party. Step up the fight against corruption, waste and strictly punish acts of corruption, waste, protection and tolerance of acts of corruption, interference and prevention of the fight against corruption and waste. Strictly implement the principle of democratic centralism, self-criticism and criticism so that each Party member talk and follow the Party's resolutions, and observe of the law of the State. Only by enforcing order and discipline within the Party can Party organizations lead, guide and maintain social order and discipline, contribute to social consensus, strengthen close relationships between people and Party and consolidate people’s trust in the Party.
Before his passing away, in his Testament, Uncle Ho showed much concern: “Within the Party, to establish broad democracy and to practice self-criticism and criticism regularly and seriously is the best way to consolidate and develop solidarity and unity. Comradely affection should prevail.” If each Party cadre and member is deeply imbued with his teachings, exemplary in life and work, individualism will be prevented.
In the coming period, we must continue to thoroughly grasp President Ho Chi Minh’s teachings: "Each country, each party, and each people was great and appealing yesterday cannot be loved and praised today or in the future if they no longer have bright hearts and fall into individualism… There are the good and the bad in each people. One must know how to make the good blossom like spring flowers and the bad disappear, it is the attitude of the revolutionary.”(4)
(1) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, the National Political Publishing House-The Truth, Ha Noi, 2011, Vol. 15, p. 547
(2) Resolution of the 4th Plenum, 12th Tenure pp. 3-4
(3) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, Ibid, Vol. 5, pp. 292-293
(4) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, Ibid, Vol. 15, p. 672
This article was published in Communist Review, No 879 (January 2016)