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The vitality of Marxism, the theoretical foundation of Vietnam's development
11/1/2019 9:5' Send Print
K. Marx - a great thinker of the communists, the working class, the laboring people and progressive mankind. Documentary photo

The 8th theoretical exchange between the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Communist Party of Japan took place at a time of great significance. It was when the Communists and the Marxists around the world were solemnly celebrating the 200th birth anniversary of K.Marx and 170th anniversary of the "Communist Manifesto."

With the theme "The Vitality of Marxism in Today’s Age," the workshop was an opportunity for us to express our sincere emotion to K.Marx, the great thinker of the communists, the working class, the laboring people and progressive mankind. The workshop was also an opportunity for us to make a fuller review of Marxism vitality, share the results of theoretical research and practical applications, raise awareness, reaffirm sustainable validity of Marxist theory, continue to stand firm with our chosen ideology and firmly believe in the path to socialism in the 21st century.

K.Marx left behind to humanity a treasure of theoretical knowledge that is so great and rich in many fields, most typical is dialectical materialism and historical materialism, Marxist political economy and scientific socialism. (1) Over the past 170 years, witnessing many ups and downs in human history and attacks from different ideological adversaries, Marxism still exists, stands firm and is constantly being supplemented and developed by genuine Marxists.

Formulating dialectical materialism and historical materialism, K.Marx made a revolution in the history of philosophy. For the first time, the law of development of human society is analyzed in a scientific and objective way, stemming from the law of evolution and development of social production. Marxist philosophy does not belittle but underline impacts of production relations to productive forces, impacts of the superstructure to infrastructure, impacts of social consciousness to social existence; impacts of politics to economics. In addition, Marxist philosophy perceives that the issue is not just explaining the world but more important is to transform the world by practical activities in human service. Inheriting predecessors, going far beyond the thinking of “common dialectical materialism" and "sole economic theory," Karl Marx created the dialectical science on development. (2)

K.Mark and his colleague, F.Engels clearly analyzed and pointed out that the fundamental contradiction of the capitalist mode of production is the contrast between socialized production and private appropriation. As capitalism grows, this contradiction does not disappear but manifests itself in different forms. Evidence is that today many wealthy capitalist countries still face risks of economic crises, cyclical and structural crises, development model crises, and institutional crises. Trade, monetary wars, financial shocks, inequality, stratification, social conflicts have continued rising and are difficult to reconcile in the context of globalization. Power politics, the imposition of protectionism, extreme nationalism have created discontentment in the international community, leading to threats of conflict in many places. Global governance system operating on obsolete principles cannot address pressing challenges of humanity, such as environmental pollution, climate change and sea level rise, ethnic and racial conflicts, terrorist activities and other emerging global issues.

Marxist theory is a sharp theoretical and ideological weapon in the fight against oppression, exploitation and injustice. By discovering the law of surplus value, Marx exposed the nature, manifestation and the way the capitalists exploit workers and the working people. The working class is the only one which is able to rally and unite other strata to carry out the historic mission of overthrowing the domination of the capitalist class, building a society without exploitation of man by man. To do so, first of all, the working class must rise up to liberate itself. (3) With that argument in his time, K.Marx created a revolution in the ideological history of socialism, turning socialism from utopia into a true science; developed the theory of liberation in Marxism: liberation of man, liberation of class and liberation of humanity. Such liberation can only be found in socialism, as indicated in the Communist Manifesto, a society in which "the free development of each individual is the condition for free development of everyone."(4) Today, when mankind is moving towards inclusive and sustainable development, holistic human development, considering human as the center of development, the theory of Marxism which analyzes the capitalist society is still correct, the noble ideals of socialism still maintain their practical values. At the same time, one of the greatest values of Marxism, humanism for people, first of all for the working people is further confirmed.

K.Marx is a genius. Though his theory is foresight it is still limited by specific historical conditions. We cannot demand that he should fully forecast, think and solve for succeeding generations issues which did not arise in his time. F.Engles once reminded: "Our theory is that of development, not dogmatic theory that one must memorize and act upon rigidly." (5) Marxists, therefore, must summarize reality of their time in order to apply creatively, supplement and develop Marxism in accordance with the specific conditions of each nation, and country.

Historic and specific elements are always a key point in Marxist approach. According to him, where history starts, thinking begins; theory must come from reality, be summed up, and generalized. K.Marx and F.Engels themselves frequently supplemented and perfected their theory by practical revolutionary activities. The Communist Manifesto, produced in 1848, was the combination of scientific research and review of the European working class’ revolutionary movement in the mid-19th century. In the Prologue for the German publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1872, Marx and Engels emphasized that the application of the Manifesto’s principles should depend on contemporary historical situation in any place, at any time. That is the exemplary attitude, the most scientific behavior towards the application and development of theories in practice.

Prompted by concrete situation of Russia during the period of capitalism transiting from free competition to imperialism, V.I. Lenin supplemented, developed the theory of Marx and formed Marxism-Leninism. The victory of the Great Russian October Revolution marked the beginning of socialism turning from theory into reality, from reality of a country to reality of the world system, opening a new era in human history - the transitional period from capitalism to socialism. Marxism and Marxism-Leninism have become the illuminating light, ending the period of "groping in the dark" of millions of working people and people in other colonial countries who sought ways to liberate themselves and their countries. The formation of the socialist system together with great development achievements were the foundation for colonial and dependent peoples to stand up to liberate themselves and eradicate colonial rule. At the same time, the practice of national liberation in colonial countries and the path of socialist construction in newly independent states complemented and enriched the theoretical system of Marxism-Leninism in the 20th century. Given its progressive values, Marx's theory has been spread throughout the world, influencing nations, peoples, cultures, ideologies of parties, social movements and individual belief and aspirations. In different continents, with different levels of development, in different historical and specific contexts, communist parties and the working class in each country can find common theories in Marxism on the ability to rapidly increase productive forces; on organization of a fair, equal social model; about freedom, liberation of man, and class; on relationship between peoples, nations on the basis of peace, international unity, among others. (6)

The collapse of the socialist model in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is a great loss to the world revolutionary movement, but it is neither the collapse of socialism in general, nor the collapse of Marxism-Leninism. It is only the fall of a dogmatic socialist model, staying aloof from people and basic principles of Marxist-Leninism, especially the historical-specific principles, and failure to adapt to the frequent changes of socio-political life. It is also the result of mistakes in policies of socio-economic development; serious errors in ruling parties’ political lines and political, ideological and cadre work in the reform process. The Communist Party of Vietnam maintains that "Socialism in the world, learning from successes and failures, prompted by people’s aspirations and awakening of nations, has conditions and ability to create new step of development." (7) Reform, innovation and development of the socialist countries, positive changes in confidence and attitudes toward socialist ideology in capitalist countries, together with unceasing efforts to explore new development path of communist and workers’ parties around the world are indisputable proof of the vitality and validity of the Marxist theory.

The Communist Party of Vietnam has applied and supplemented new theoretical points to Marxism-Leninism from the reality of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh was the first to apply and creatively develop Marxism-Leninism in the specific conditions of Vietnam, inherit and develop the traditional values of the nation, absorb humankind cultural essence, create a system of comprehensive and profound viewpoints on fundamental issues of the Vietnamese revolution. He thoroughly studied the "First Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions" by V.I. Lenin, absorbed rationally the spirit of the Communist Manifesto in the new historic context of national liberation revolution in the colonial and dependent countries. He found out equality, the right to life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness in the American Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Human Rights and Civil Rights of the French Revolution. He studied the Three Principles of the People of revolutionary Sun Yat-sen and understood that the aspirations of "national independence, people’s right to freedom, and people’s livelihood" could hardly be achieved and sustainably maintained through capitalist democratic revolution. Therefore, Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Party of Vietnam identified that the inevitable path of the Vietnamese revolution is to carry out the national democratic revolution followed by the socialist revolution to liberate the country, classes, steadfastly uphold the banner of national independence and socialism. Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh Thought become the conerstone of the Vietnamese Communist Party's ideology, the compass of the Vietnamese revolution to achieve the goal of national independence associated with socialism. Under the leadership and guidance of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the vanguard of the working class, the laboring people and the entire Vietnamese people, the loyal representatives of the interests of the working class, the labouring people and the nation, the Vietnamese people have continuously won glorious victories in the struggle for national independence, reunification, construction and defense.

Reality in the world and Vietnam has proved that wherever and whenever Marxism is applied properly and creatively, socialist construction will overcome challenges and continue going forward. On the contrary, if Marxism is misunderstood, applied dogmatically, socialist construction will encounter many difficulties, even retrogress or fail. Prompted by development of Vietnam, observing common law and development trend of humankind, the Communist Party of Vietnam initiated the renewal process, moving from the centrally-planned and subsidized economy to a socialist-oriented market economy, accelerating industrialization, modernization, proactive and active international integration. Innovation is a creative product of the Communist Party and the people of Vietnam. It is a new revolutionary stage of the whole Party, and people of Vietnam, and is of great stature and development significance to achieve the objective of “prosperous people, strong country, democracy, equity and civilization." The success of Vietnam’s innovation symbolizes the creative application of Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh Thought in the era of globalization and international integration.

Leading the renewal process, the Communist Party of Vietnam has always attached great importance to harmonizing economic growth with cultural development, building of man, exercise social progress and equity, environment protection in each step and each development policy. A country with a low-income starting point, in the first stage, Viet Nam paid great attention to accelerating rapid economic growth in order to eradicate hunger and alleviate poverty, creating abundant material resources for distribution and redistribution, ensuring social equity. At present, Vietnam is restructuring its economy, transforming the growth model, implementing inclusive and sustainable development of the country. The development of the world and Vietnam shows that if attention is only given to economic growth and not to social progress and equity, we cannot create the foundation for sustainable growth. On the contrary, if attention is only given to social progress and equity, we will lack material resources as premise, there is the risk of equal poverty. (8)

Creatively applying Marxism-Leninism, the Communist Party of Vietnam holds that the socialist-oriented market economy is the overall economic model of Vietnam. The market economy is the product of human civilization which can develop and adapt to many different forms of society. The market economy develops to a high level under capitalism, but is not identical with capitalism nor opposes socialism. Despites undeniable constraints and flaws, the market still proves to be the best mechanism to mobilize, allocate resources, facilitate innovation and development at present. A country which uses market rules for economic development may not be successful, but a country that wants to succeed and develop sustainably cannot fail to develop a market economy. The market economy itself does not lead to socialism, but to successfully build socialism the market economy must be developed. (9)

The socialist-oriented market economy in Vietnam fully and synchronously operates under the law of market economy and is a modern market economy engaging in international integration. (10) Socialist orientation is reflected in the development of a market economy under the management of the socialist rule-of-law State, led by the Communist Party of Vietnam, for people-oriented, people-centered and inclusive development in the interests of the people. This is the humane nature, an exclusive characteristic of the socialist-oriented market economy of Vietnam.

Over the last 30 years, from an underdeveloped country with a per capita income of just under US$100 in the early years of innovation, Vietnam’s per capita income reached $1,000, by 2010, joining the middle-income group and by 2018 its GDP per capita is estimated at $2,540. After more than two decades of renovation, approximately 30 million Vietnamese have emerged from poverty. The poverty rate falls from nearly 60% in the early 1990s to less than 10% today. (11) In 2017, Vietnam's economic scale exceeded $220 billion, the total import-export turnover reached over $420 billion. (12) Along with improved incomes, people’s material and spiritual life, health, education have been improved. Emerging from embargo, isolation and sanction, Vietnam has expanded open external relations, becoming an active and responsible member of the international community.

The 30-year renovation’s great achievements of historical significance continue affirming that the wise leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam is the leading factor determining all victories of the Vietnamese revolution; the persistency in the Party’s ideology, creative and correct application of Marxism-Leninism, Ho Chi Minh Thought are the premise and prerequisite for the successful construction of socialism with Vietnamese characteristics by the Vietnamese with an aspiration to turn Vietnam into an advanced industrialized country in the mid-21st century.

K.Marx is no more, but his thought lives forever with humankind, because its scientific, revolutionary, developmental and human nature is still perfectly right. Many of Marx's theoretical values have existed and continued to shine, such as dialectical materialism, historical materialism, socio-economic forms, surplus value, development, humanism for man, socialism, among others.

Reality shows that along with the development of modern productive forces, especially the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the world is heading towards common values in line with the noble humane nature of socialism, such as inclusive and sustainable development, leaving no one behind, human comprehensive development. Therefore, the theory of Marx is still scientifically convincing, motivating us to build our aspirations and vision to develop a progressive, equal and humane society, with the core, universal, people-centered values of humankind for people, by people and for the liberation of people. (13)

In the scientific and objective spirit, we need to study and exchange in order to further develop and creatively apply Marxism in building aspirations and developmental vision of socialist realism in the 21th century. We have a mission to continue disseminating Marxism as a scientific revolutionary and development theory; the theory of world transformation and change; the theory of human liberation; and of course, as Marxism itself points out, our thinking and orientation to set out development lines must always be adaptable to changes, in line with new contexts and conditions to ensure successes.
(1) Nguyen Xuan Thang: Keynote address at the International Workshop "The Heritage of Karl Marx’s Ideology and its Epochal Significance," Hanoi, May 2018.
(2), (3) Nguyen Xuan Thang: "Theoretical value and vitality of Marxism in Today’s Age," Special Issue of the Central Theoretical Council, 2018.
(4) K.Marx and F.Engels: Complete Works, the National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1995, Vol.4, p.628
(5) K. Marx - F.Engels: Complete Works, Op.cit. Vol.6, p.796
(6) Nguyen Xuan Thang: Keynote address at the workshop "The Communist Manifesto - Theoretical and Practical Values in Today’s Age," Hanoi, February 2018
(7) Documents of the 9th National Party Congress, the National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2001, p.14
(8), (9) "Sustainable Development, Social Equity, from the Perspective of Innovation in Vietnam," Speech of Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong at the La Havana University, Cuba, March 2018
(10) Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Central Party Office, Hanoi, 2016, p.102
(11) The World Bank: "Well Begun, Not Yet Done: Vietnam’s Remarkable Progress on Poverty Reduction and the Emerging Challenges," the World Bank in Vietnam, Hanoi, 2012
(12) General Statistics Office: Press Release on Socio-economic Situation in 2017, Hanoi, 2017
(13) Nguyen Xuan Thang: Keynote address at the International Workshop "The Heritage of Karl Marx’s Ideology and its Epochal Significance." Op.cit.

This article was published in the Communist Review, No. 913 (November 2018)

Prof. Nguyen Xuan Thang, PhDSecretary of the Party Central Committee, Chairman of the Central Theoretical Council, Director of Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy