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Editor’s words: The globalisation and international integration has been a long-term process for Vietnam, in which the country’s accession to the WTO was a very important landmark. This event also made tremendous positive and negative impacts on culture and art. Promoting the nation’s spirit and identity in the national renewal process is strategically important and a positive solution to the current situation of culture and art. The Editors’ Board of the Communist Review will introduce you to an article written by Mr. TO HUY RUA, secretary of the Party Central Committee and Head of the Party CC’s Ideological and Cultural Commission on this issue.

The role of culture in development has been strongly confirmed in the current globalisation and knowledge-based economic development processes. The international economic integration will lead to cultural interaction and multi-sided cultural impacts. Globalisation provides opportunities for integration and development as well as major challenges to each nation to preserve and promote their unique cultural value. So, they must protect and strongly develop their national spirit and cultural identity in order to exist and develop. In this correlation, culture is as significant as an identity card, which proves the nation’s stature and position in international exchange and cooperation. This is also a foundation for the promotion of the nation’s spirit and identity in cultural and artistic activities to meet the needs of national development in the new period.

1. Vietnam has realised its renewal policies since the end of the 1980s and the Vietnamese Party and State have affirmed the establishment of the socialist-oriented market economic institution. After 20 years of the comprehensive national renewal process, Vietnam has overcome an economic crisis and created a new position and strength to accelerate its national industrialisation and modernisation process. Particularly since it became a WTO member, the country has faced new and major opportunities and challenges, not only in economy and trade but also in culture. Foreign ideological and cultural trends and products have infiltrated Vietnam and generated opportunities for the people to broaden their view and directly receive human’s cultural quintessence. Their material and spiritual lives have been improved, democracy in culture promoted and their thinking broadened all these have facilitated the cultural renewal process and establishment of new spiritual values meeting the nation’s psychology and development in the trend of modernisation. However, the “imported” ideologies, culture, literature and art will include noxious and anti-humanism products. Meanwhile, some foreign political forces have intended to apply their lifestyle and thinking from other countries through “soft power”. Many scientists have warned that the expansion of American and western culture has eroded and buried the cultural identity of some nations in the world. With the view of building a progressive culture, imbued with national identity, Vietnam has to receive human’s fine cultural values and ideologies, while protecting and promoting the cream of the nation’s culture and make culture a motivation of development. Therefore, we have to wake up the nation’s pride and spirit of self-respect. The history of Vietnam and many other nations in the world has shown that national unity and coherence constitute the spiritual foundation for national strength. It would be hard for a nation that lacks major aspiration and unity to overcome fierce challenges of history to exist and develop. Culture is the direct strength, which creates that spirit, aspiration and unity. In the international exchange, integration and cooperation process, culture has two inseparable tasks, namely, to receive the world’s cultural quintessence with choice while contributing to retaining and promoting Vietnam’s national spirit and identity.

Vietnam’s spirit and identity have been tempered on traditional patriotism and aspiration. The nation’s spirit is shown in the people’s thinking and sentiment and crystallised in their wishes to build and defend their country, lifestyle and conduct. This genuine spirit stems from patriotism, love for the people, the will to defend national independence and territorial integrity, and the sense of rights, responsibilities and obligations in national construction and defence. It is completely alien to the narrow-minded nationalism and chauvinism. Major cultural and art works always contain the nation’s aspiration and spirit in different historical periods. Many scientists have affirmed that the cultural, literature and art history of a nation is the soul of that nation. So, using cultural and art products to foster the nation’s spirit, patriotism and humanitarianism is a very effective way to build the people’s moral strength, unity and unanimity. President Ho Chi Minh many times affirmed the role and significance of the revolutionary culture and art. In a letter to Vietnamese painters in 1951, he stressed, “Culture and art is a battlefield, and painters are fighters in it”. That viewpoint of Ho Chi Minh constituted a foundation for the revolutionary culture and art and revolutionary fighter-artists.

In the resistance wars against the French colonialists and US imperialists, these fighter-artists, with their distinguished art works, made major contributions to encouraging the national spirit in all social classes in the fight against foreign aggressors and building a new social system. Many novels, short stories, paintings, dramas, films, songs and musical works described the beauty of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people in the war. The Vietnamese people of different generations and from different sectors joined up to fight against the enemies. Many outstanding writers and artists laid down their lives for the homeland. Vietnam’s revolutionary literature and art deserved to be the vanguard force in the struggle against the imperialist invaders which made a major contribution to the national liberation and unification cause.

In the war, the nation’s spirit was shown in the vindictive hatred against the enemies and sacrifices for national independence and freedom. In peace, the nation’s spirit is seen clearly in efforts to reduce poverty and build a strong country, rich people and a fair, democratic and civilised society towards socialism in Vietnam. Now we have to answer the question, “Will a nation which had defeated the strongest enemies in history sit with folded arms before poverty and backwardness?” The forum “Is Vietnam small or not” launched by the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper attracted a large number of participants. Most of them affirmed that the nation’s pride and aspiration must be woken up in the industrialisation and modernisation process to make Vietnam a strong country. The nation’s spirit, unity tradition and patriotism will help promote Vietnam’s potential. This is a fact which was confirmed by President Ho Chi Minh.

Historical developments have shown that many poor countries have become a “dragon” or a “tiger” as they had developed a correct development strategy, keenly grasped the development trend of the era and strongly promoted the nation’s spirit and people’s unanimity. In the cultural field, the globalisation process forces developing countries to exchange and integrate in human culture in general while preserving and promoting their own cultural identities if they do not want to be acculturated and assimilated. The progressive culture imbued with national identity has stood firm and developed in the integration process and will reflect, foster and promote the nation’s spirit in all social fields. The nation’s spirit and identity are demonstrated in culture and art, first of all tradition, patriotism, love and respect of the people, the great unity, benevolence, clemency, respect of sentiment and morality, industriousness, fine conduct, simple lifestyle, respect and confidence in the nation’s capacity, and unanimity of the entire nation to realise tasks of the era. The nation’s spirit is also seen in self-criticism and efforts to overcome moral weaknesses and receive with choice the cultural quintessence of other nations in order to develop. That nation’s spirit must be based on the foundation of Marxism-Leninism, Ho Chi Minh Thought, combined with the progressive political idea of the era to generate a new strength in the struggle against poverty and backwardness to make our country a strong, prosperous and humane country. This is the current identity of Vietnam’s national spirit. The nation’s spirit is a constant and at the same time an open system to receive new values to meet the changing needs of life.

2. To promote the nation’s spirit and foster the nation’s self-pride and self-respect, writers and artists should produce works representing the stature and aspirations of the Vietnamese people in the new era.

As we analysed earlier, outstanding literary and art works, as unique spiritual products, play a very important role in promoting and fostering the nation’s spirit for people of different generations. Culture and art have a special strength, which does not provide general and abstract theories but through vivid images and art language, infiltrates fine thinking and sentiment into the soul of readers, forming in them a profound experience of the country and people’s lives. In our era, President Ho Chi Minh clearly showed the nation’s cultural identity, and the nation’s spirit splendidly crystallised in him. It was not by chance that the famous Russian poet, Osip Mandelstam said after meeting him in Moscow in 1923, “Nguyen Ai Quoc’s (Ho Chi Minh) temperament radiated nothing but innate tact and delicacy. Nguyen Ai Quoc breathes culture, not European culture, but perhaps the culture of the future”. This was a precise and foretelling assessment. Ho Chi Minh was a genius political leader and a great cultural activist. Vietnam’s culture and nation’s spirit was crystallized in him. Vietnam’s poet To Huu wrote about Ho Chi Minh, “A deep soul is wrapped in a simple dress. He is greater than many bronze statues exposed along the paths”. Vietnam’s culture and art recorded important achievements which had a strong impact on the people in their national liberation and the cause of defence in the wars against the French and the US. Prior to and during the national renewal process, many cultural and artistic works truly reflected daily life in its diversity, and made a profound impression on readers and audiences. With the spirit “frankly and truly speaking”, some works described unfair and unjust practices in our society and showed deep sympathy with tragic destinies. However, sometimes cultural and artistic works mentioned the negative aspects too much while neglecting the positive aspects in a changing society. Obviously, Vietnam has attained major achievements over the last two decades of the renewal process. Our Party has accelerated the industrialisation and modernisation process to quickly take Vietnam out of poverty and backwardness. In this process, we have to obtain not only economic but also cultural objectives. This requires us to learn and comprehend scientific and technological advances and positive values of human civilisation. Therefore, the position and role of culture will be more important. The interaction between the economy, politics and culture is an important characteristic of the current era, in which the role and position of culture in generating a combined strength of the country will be more prominent. Our Party has affirmed the comprehensive and consistent development of three aspects, namely economic development is the centre, Party building is the key, and cultural development as the society’s spiritual foundation ensures the country’s sustainable and comprehensive development. In the period of knowledge-based economic development, economic competition will include competition of consciousness, creativity and cultural resources. Cultural strength has been imbued in the nation’s vitality, creativity and unity. We must be aware of the strategic significance of cultural development to promote the strength of the people and the entire nation. Japan’s experience showed that the formula Japan’s culture plus western technologies brought about real leaps forward for the country. That combination was successful only when Japan’s spirit and identity was fully promoted. Vietnam had defeated powerful enemies, and there is no reason for it to remain forever as a small-scale economy with technical backwardness. With major historical achievements obtained over the last 20 years of the national renewal process, we fully believe that Vietnam will strive to a new level in this century. We understand that the national culture and art have the responsibility to contribute to that strength by creating works with high ideological and artistic value, which profoundly impact on renewing the people’s thinking and lifestyle, improving their knowledge of socialism and aesthetic level, making their cultural lives more diverse and healthier. So, writers and artists must clearly define their responsibility for the national revolutionary cause. We are aware that the current situation requires writers and artists to develop artistic images which demonstrate the nation’s stature and aspiration in the new historical period. In the globalisation process, writers and artists must learn mankind’s cultural quintessence while showing the nation’s spirit and identity in their works. The Party and people highly evaluate their precious contributions to the national renewal process. However, over the last 20 years of the national renewal process, we have not had as many outstanding cultural and artistic works as we wished. We hope that in the coming period, our writers and artists will make further efforts to produce more works meeting the people’s expectations.

3. Solutions to promote the potential of culture and art in fostering the nation’s spirit and identity.

a. We must proceed from the nation’s cultural tradition to acquire cultural values of the progressive mankind and strongly promote the nation’s spirit. Vietnam’s age-old culture has left us a diverse and precious treasure. We must continue to diffuse and affirm fine values of the traditional culture, and with a new vision, develop a strategy to promote the nation’s spirit to a higher level and with new quality. We must combine the strength of the nation with that of the era, and inherit and promote fine values of the national culture while receiving the era’s cultural cream. The integration of national culture in mankind’s culture will raise Vietnam’s culture to a higher plane and a new vitality will generate a motivation for national construction and defence.

b. Freedom of writing will be widened and the capacity and creativity of writers and artists will be promoted. Meanwhile, culture and art’s ability to convert people will be used to promote the nation’s spirit. To reach this target we shall, firstly, improve our knowledge of Marxist-Leninist scientific and revolutionary theories and Ho Chi Minh Thought to orient cultural and art development, and receive with choice the latest achievements in mankind’s ideology, theories and arts in order to help our writers, artists and cultural activists improve their cultural level and ideological and political will. Secondly, we shall encourage the creation of high-quality cultural and artistic works which can truly reflect the nation’s spirit. We shall introduce Vietnam’s culture to the world through translation, performance, cultural festivals, tourism and promotion of cultural products. Thirdly, we shall constantly improve the ideological and aesthetic quality of cultural and artistic works and promote their unique role to foster the nation’s spirit.

c. Cultural services will further be expanded and managed in order to make them more effective in promoting the nation’s spirit. The following measures will be taken: First, more public cultural and art activities will be held and more people will be mobilised in these activities. Attention will be paid to cultural and art activities of ethnic minorities in the entire country, particularly in the northwest, the Central Highlands and the western part of southern Vietnam to meet the needs of the grassroots people. Second, the mass media system will be modernised to produce and disseminate special works with high ideological and artistic quality with suitable broadcasting times to attract the largest audience. Besides meeting the people’s entertainment needs, cultural and artistic works must vividly show the people’s strong will and achievements of the renewal process. Third, newspapers and magazines will develop more cultural and art columns which are sensitive to new cultural values and which encourage progressive and humane ideologies. Fourth, diverse cultural activities such as cultural festivals, celebrations of celebrities and movements reminding the people of their root will be maintained and developed. Fifth, cultural and art theories and critics will be strengthened, making these activities a shock force in the struggle against depraved and negative thinking and praise healthy and progressive cultural values.

d. The leadership and management of cultural and artistic activities will be renewed. Macro and strategic policies and plans will be developed. Intellectual property rights will be protected and an environment will be constructed for the healthy development of culture and arts. Our viewpoint will be renewed to help writers and artists have a vision of the era directing toward the world and the future, be concerned with mankind’s progressive trend and the world’s scientific and technological development, concentrate on the building of socialism in Vietnam and serve the national renewal process. Policies and institutions relating to culture and arts will be reformed to conform to their internal rules and characteristics of the socialist-oriented market economy. Writers and artists must always learn to improve their artistic thinking, talent and will to create more outstanding works and influence the development of the nation’s spirit.

e. Advantages of traditional culture, folklore, and cultural and artistic works from the period of national liberation and defence period will be made. The education of patriotism will be provided through cultural works. The unique cultural tradition of ethnic minorities will be promoted in fostering the nation’s spirit. Plans will be developed to finance their art activities and encourage their writers and artists to reflect their lives in the national construction and defence process. Funds will be set up to sponsor the national culture and folklore to make ethnic minority culture an important force in strengthening national unity and national defence.

f. The education and training of intellectuals, writers and artists will be promoted. Policies and mechanisms relating to cultural and art schools will be renewed and due investment will be put in talented artists and cultural specialists to help them develop their capacity to contribute to the cultural and artistic development of the country. The cultural and art leadership and management body will be consolidated and businesspeople will be encouraged to contribute to cultural development. Meanwhile, attention will be paid to train key artists in public art movements to help them promote the role at grassroots level. These forces will be decisive in the strong and sustainable development of Vietnam’s culture and arts in the new period.

To Huy Rua