Dr. Vu Ngoc Hoang. Image: VOV.VN
The Communist Party of Vietnam is
aware of and has confirmed in its resolutions that state power belongs
to the people. Power control is both humane values of a progressive
society to prevent and combat degeneration of state power and society
and to achieve the objective of genuine socialism for a sustainable,
lasting state in people’s service.
Power is like an unruly “horse". Those who do not possess good personality, if asked to ride the horse, will be thrown down, destroyed and killed by the horse. Power is the double-edged "knife" which can serve life and can do harm to the country if in the hands of incompetent and greedy people. In 2011, the 11th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam mentioned power control though very slightly. Unfortunately, this line was not specified. Before and during the 12th Congress, the Party General Secretary at least twice emphasized the control the power.
First question to be elaborated is why does power has to be controlled? If not, what will happen?
The State power belongs to the people which was so at the beginning and will be so forever; it does not belong to spirit, any one individual, a family or a clan; nor any organization. For long, the Communist Party of Vietnam has recognized and has been repeatedly confirmed in its resolutions that state power belongs to the people. The people do not directly keep all, but just some key issues (discussed later); the rest is authorized to the state to manage and use power to protect, serve the people, create a developing country.
However, in history there were many cases when people (or group of people) by political tricks plundered the people's power, dominated the people; people, after authorization of their power, lost power, and the authorized people were gradually corrupted by power; they did not use power to protect and serve people as originally promised, but for the benefit of individuals, families, clans, of groups of people; they turned back to coerce, bully and dreprived the people-the owner of power of their power.
In any place and at anytime, power always has two sides. The positive side is it is the most effective tool to rally forces to build and protect the country, to build a better society if power is in the hands of people with good personality. The negative side, it always corrupts people and apparatus with poor personality when there is no effective mechanisms to control power. Such degeneration exists in nature of man and power. There are those who at first (without power) are good, but once have power gradually become degenerated, even to the extent of betraying people, selling out the country for the sake of personal interests. Some people change their nature very quickly, after only one vote, they almost become a different person, changing their gait, the way of speaking and shaking hands, showing their superiority. When people reach the peak of power, then it is time they start losing, but first of all lose himself. In the peak of power, few people can see potential intrinsic risks of power, if they are not leaders with great personality, profound wisdom, able to control themselves and magic temptations of power, to meditate and adopt vision. Once having power in hands, that is the time to start losing themselves and good personality.
Power control, first of all, is to ensure that power always belongs to its rightful owner, meaning belongs to the people, to be used for right purposes, not being taken advantage of or abused. When power is abused it is inevitable that authorities will be corrupted. It is also the most important reason leading to social ethic degeneration. Power degeneration will inevitably lead to the collapse of political regime. If degeneration does not stop and power is not healthy, collapse is unavoidable. The collapse that is self-collapse, if there is any external factor, it is also just nominal.
An important political characteristic of socialism is true and real power always belongs to the people. Only then can a good and sustainable politics exists. Human history has shown that the states of the slave owners, kings and feudalists, the state with power concentration on groups of corrupted, degenerated people who stayed aloof of the revolution, people and the state of financiers (wild capitalism in the early stage) eventually collapsed and ended. Only the state of the people can be sustainable because "people are forever." Thus, power control is both a humane value of a progressive society to prevent and combat degeneration of the state and society and to realize objectives of genuine socialism to have sustainable state to serve the people.
When power is not controlled, its flip side is the most important factor to corrupt officials, corrupt people with power, then corrupt the whole apparatus which is no longer the people’s state but the state which goes against people's interests. In any condition, power corruption in staff and agencies is the biggest cause to social ethic degradation, culture deprivation, lost of internal national power, inertia society which can not prosper and is not strong enough to defend the Fatherland; and expected socialist objective will become far away.
In its history, the Vietnamese people lost their country several times due to power degeneration. Most of Vietnamese feudal dynasties collapsed because of power corruption. The succeeding dynasties took power with the support of the people and then collapsed because of degeneration. So did those dynasties such as the Ly, the Tran, the Le and the Tay Son which made greatest contribution to the country.
Over the past years, the Vietnamese Party and State have many times proposed lines and called for anti-corruption, anti "group interests," focusing efforts to solve this difficult and complex task; however, the result is still very limited; corruption, "interest groups" are still rampant and complicated, causing social discontent. It gradually spreads out to all fields of social life, management and governance, to areas that are thought to be generally clean and sacred (such as teaching, healthcare, national security, justice to protect the rule including high-level agencies, charity, humanitarian aid, policies to entitle families and people). The most important direct cause is power basically has not been effectively controlled which leads to degeneration of part of cadres and organizations of management and leadership.
The next question is how power will be controlled and by what way?
First the viewpoint power belongs to the people must be fully aware of. The statement is not a slogan, and the political system and the people in the community must be imbued with this viewpoint. Everyone must be clearly and fully aware of this point of view and take practical actions to realize it. Next, power must be controlled by the state power stipulated in the Constitution and relevant laws on structure and functions and tasks of the state apparatus, including the assignment and coordination of state power enforcement and control between state agencies in exercising legislative, executive and judiciary rights on the basis of unified state power to limit mistakes, or discover mistakes for adjustment and rectification at the earliest.
Generally, feudalist states could not control power although at times there were some progressive provisions initiating power control. Courts promulgated regulations on what mandarins could not do. Some dynasties had royal historians honestly and objectively took notes of everything relating to decisions and behavior of kings and Royal Courts for the history to assess and judge. Kings were not able to control these notes. There were censors to dissuade kings from wrongdoings, drums for people to beat to file their complaints, and righteous judges. However, power control basically remained unresolved. The reason was that power concentrated in the hands of kings and the royal families. Kings could order death to anyone. Kings’ wills were god’s wills; the people were dominated and had no freedom, including the right to life. If they acted contrary to kings’ orders, depending on action severity and the anger of kings three generations of the convicted could be subject to death. It was the same in the early days of capitalism, power concentrated in the hands of the rich and was not controlled. As capitalism developed to a certain extent important progress on social democracy plus the development of ideologies, especially in the field of philosophy changed political awareness and thinking; power was controlled significantly, and continues to be improved.
Vietnam’s approach to this issue has not yet been successful; power in general has not been strictly controlled, even in some cases, is not controlled, and in reality, power abuse has taken place in many aspects and levels. It has created very complicated degeneration. We do not rigidly follow and apply the model of “separation of power to three branches” of Western countries because each country has its cultural characteristics and different stages of development, but it is advisable to seriously study power control of that model to select “rational kernel.” Simultaneously with the assignment and coordination, scientifically control among the three branches mentioned above, there is also assignment and mutual control between divisions within one branch, especially the executive and the judicial branches.
Next, power control through exercise of democratic rights, including direct, representative and participatory democracy; through mechanism of competition, promotion and dismissal of cadres; information transparency and accountability of organizations and individuals assigned with power; the supervision of public opinion, and the people; freedom of thought and freedom of speech to express political stance of the people who participate in mastering the country. In particular, it is necessary to bring into play the role of socio-political organizations, social-professional organizations and healthy and legal self-regulatory movements established by the people to protect the people's legitimate interests, participate in building and protecting the country, and building society. It is a very important method to implement democratic rights of the people; it has been existing in Vietnam’s traditional society in the past and in current society Vietnam though is not complete and modern.
The people have the right to question and demand state agencies’ accountability; have the right to protest wrongdoings; request ineligible cadres to resign or be dismissed. State agencies should has responsibility to listen, investigate and verify, receive, reply and explain, not to prevent or forbid the people to express their political stance peacefully. Encourage the public to voice criticism and protest wrongdoings to increase social resistance. Where and when public opinion is limited and prevented, social resistance is decreasing.
In a progressive society, information transparency is very important, every citizen has the right to access to information, no one can hide information, like "daylight" in place of "dark night," so that no evil can hide but to reveal itself. For years in Vietnam there are covered things, being big or small, including lines, decisions, negative cases, corruption and errors. It is this practice that has made the people lost their confidence and suspicious of covering and "group interest." Many things are alleged to be "sensitive" as an excuse for not providing information. It is the lack of transparency that has limited the effectiveness of the fight against corruption and "group interest," not to mention it hindered the work. A government of the people, why does it not fully reporst to the people? If leaders are not engaged in negative and wrongdoings, why are they afraid of transparency? To achieve transparency, the Party and State must extend corridors for freedom of speech and press, and media professionals must also be brave, strong-willed and ethical and dare to fight for to reason and not to be bribed. There is also concern that if information about wrongdoings are transparent there will be more distrust among the people. Not so! No transparency renders distrust. Everyone has the right to be suspicious. And good leaders also suffer. By showing no transparency, one can win people’s trust, but that is a deceited and mistaken trust.
Art and literature should also actively participate in "combating wrongdoings" to contribute to "disseminate ethics" according to the human values and suitable artistic forms. To exercise democracy, the first thing to do is to really facilitate people’s feedback while fighting against nonsensical talks, slander and insult against individuals and organizations, violating the freedom of others, including the people and the leaders.
Personnel work so far, besides achievements, in general, has not selected and use not many talents in the political system. Our history repeated itself several times. In the resistance war against foreign invaders, talents gathered under the righteous flag to fight for the Motherland. During peace time, talents have become scarce, sycophants has sneaked into the courtiers in increasing number leading to power degeneration and collapse. Personnel work is mainly arrangement according to the will and subjective thinking of leaders. In some cases, personnel placements are made due to relations, relatives, "group interests," or manipulated by money; promotion of leaders’ children or people of the same “interests.” From the past to present, and in any regime and dynasty "buying and selling positions" are manifestations of the most dangerous forms of power degeneration. In Vietnam, for many years, the practice of “running for promotion," “running for power” has become quite popular. In some cases, it takes place as a matter of course which is very worrying, even in some important areas. There has not a scientific mechanism for selecting and using talents because personnel work has still been affected by feudalist ideology, and in recent years, by the downside of the market mechanism and power corruption.
It is necessary to make strong and radical renewal of personnel work. People have to run for key leading positions in an environment which respects freedom of self-nomination and nomination, substantial and strict recruitment of specialized staff while expanding democracy and heightening responsibility of heads of personnel work. This also is a way for the people and the majority of cadres to engage in monitoring of power assignment to cadres. Improve the quality of the National Assembly and People's Councils at all levels, select entitle deputies as true and worthy representatives of the people, who dare to raise their voices in defense of people's interests. Once elected by the National Assembly and People's Councils at all levels, deputies must wholeheartedly serve the people, listen to the people, speak the voice of the people, and vote for people. Let the people know how they address issues of people’s pressing concern, to monitor their loyalty to the people. If they are party members, they must be more exemplary in realization of people’s will, considering it the most important basis for action-it is the highest principle. Party organizations assign party members the task of acting as true representatives of the people, they must fulfil the task; party organizations do not “act instead.” Faithful to the people, speaking people’s voice are personality and sense of genuine party members. The Party has no other purpose than to act for the people, and prevent "interest group’s" manipulation.
There have been cases when party committees have used administrative measures and power, even become the highest organ of power in reality. If this situation is prolonged, party organizations will be degenerated by power which will restrict Party leadership and weaken the party organization itself. It is necessary to radically renovate Party leadership. The Party do not work in stead of the State. The Party work does not overlap that of State, especially in the use of state power. The Party leads mainly by cultural values, issue lines in keeping with people’s aspiration, set example, persuade, not impose through organizational, administrative and power measures; the Party must be the genuine and most worthy representative for the democratic banner; discover and select talents for the people. That was the traditional way of doing in the past when the Party had not come to power and during the resistance war against colonialists and imperialists that the Party has used to become the leading Party. In the Party organization there must be a committee elected by the Party Congress to oversee the cadres in terms of personality and the use of power; in the process of leadership and power control, democracy must be broadly exercises and the role of the people must be promoted for better inclusion to ensure the State is truly of the people- the goal of building the State that the Party has set out.
This article was published on Communist Review No. 890 (December 2016)