Australian Marxist Review

Raising awareness and addressing correctly the practice of democracy – rule of law and social discipline nexus in Vietnam today

Part 2

Vietnamese flag.

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The current state of the relationship between the practice of democracy – rule of law and social discipline

Although until the 13th National Congress that the Communist Party of Vietnam officially mentioned the practice of democracy – rule of law and social discipline nexus and placed it in the dialectical relationship with other major nexus, in fact, during more than 35 years of renovation, Vietnam has regularly faced this question not only in the building process of the Party, State, and political system but also in every aspect of social life. It can be summarized as achievements and progress obtained in terms of practicing democracy, ensuring rule of law and social discipline in Vietnam in recent years of the renovation as follows:

First and foremost, practice democracy through economic democratization. On the threshold of Doi Moi and in the early years of the renovation process, Directive No. 100/CTTW, dated January 13, 1981, of the Secretariat on “Improving piecework system, expanding “piecework system” to the group of workers and workers” in agricultural cooperatives” and Resolution No. 10/NQ-TW, dated April 5, 1988, of the Politburo on “Reforming agricultural economic management” have created breakthroughs and made rapid and significant changes in socio-economic development in rural areas of Vietnam. It was the beginning of economic democratization, and also the start of democratic practice in society. Since then, farmers and workers are liberated from the centralized, bureaucratic, and subsidized mechanism. They have the liberty to start businesses and production, and master by themselves their means of production and means of subsistence (They are no longer passive). Reality has shown that the Party’s policy outlined in the early years of Doi Moi to liberate the productive forces, mind, awareness as well as all social potentials to comprehensively renew every aspect of life and democratize society [1] is great progress, a great achievement of economic democratization and democratic practice.

At the 5th Plenum of the 12th Central Committee, the Communist Party of Vietnam radically changed its mind about the private economy, advocated the development of the private economy, and highly appreciated the potential and important role of the private sector in the growth of the national economy. It affirmed that the private economy not only exists in the long term but also is one of the crucial driving forces for the development of the economy and the country. The private sector is none other than individuals who do business as the owner and master of society.

[2] The unity between benefits and responsibilities, between rights and obligations is realized. All people and all economic sectors are equal before the law and protected by the law.

Along with the elimination of egalitarianism and subsidies, a new perception of social justice has also been formed. In the market economy, competition and wealth inequality is unavoidable, but the distribution of benefits is regulated by laws and mechanisms for the common good of society to maintain stability and prevent impoverishment which can harm vulnerable individuals in the society. Social justice and equality are not only reflected in the distribution of benefits. They are also equality of opportunities. Every citizen and every member of the community can live in an innovative environment to develop. It is the harmonization between economic benefits and humanity in development. In that environment, workers, first of all, farmers, can be themselves. They can live and work as actors of innovation. The mentality, awareness, and thinking of farmers also changed radically, from materialistic thinking (how many kilograms of rice can a pole of land produce) to value thinking [3] (How many million dongs does one hectare of land make?) It is a great step forward in the practice of democracy in the economy and culture.

Secondly, the practice of democracy in politics, in political participation, in social governance of citizens has the following outstanding manifestations:

Meetings and exchanges between deputies of the National Assembly, deputies of the People’s Council, and voters before and after national congresses are organized so that the voices of citizens can be heard, their recommendations on the Party’s undertakings and the Government’s policies and laws can be listened and deputies can present their report on how they hear the people’s opinions. The voice of the people at the grassroots level is heard and respected. Their reasonable recommendations on Government’s policies are heard by deputies who submit them to competent authorities to make timely adjustments. It shows that the people’s right to mastery, and their involvement in assessing and reforming policies are respected and implemented.

Citizens’ petitions and complaints about violations of democracy and laws; manifestations of bureaucracy, irresponsibility; unethical deeds; acts of bullying, harassment, and corruption of public officials have been gathered, investigated, and handled. It is an attitude of respect and protection toward citizens by practical actions. Significant progress has been made in reducing insubstantial meetings with citizens, stopping making empty promises, and shirking duties of public agencies. Citizens can raise their voices to complete draft legal documents and draft documents of the Party through Congress.

Democracy in recent years has also been strengthened by creating an environment and mechanism for citizens to control State power, prevent violations of laws and Party’s rules among officials and Party members, interest groups who harm the common interests of society, tarnish the reputation of the Party and cause the decline of State power.

The practice of democracy, therefore, is closely linked to law enforcement and strict discipline. As democratic practice is promoted and citizens’ voices are heard, the fight against bureaucracy and corruption has made big progress. Severe penalties for corruption cases have made an important contribution to cleaning up the state apparatus, eliminating corruptors, safeguarding national interests and protecting public properties and fostering people’s trust in the Party, State, and regime.

Thirdly, the implementation of the Regulation on Democracy at the grassroots level and the Ordinance on the Exercise of Democracy in communes, wards, and townships have created a driving force for the people to promote their role of mastery and build socialist democracy and socialist rule of law state, consolidate the political system, especially in rural areas.

The implementation of these two important documents has created a positive change in psychology, awareness, and sense of ownership from both citizens and civil servants, contributing to maintaining political stability and promoting economic growth and comprehensive development (social, political, cultural,…). Conflicts between individuals are promptly resolved. The people’s understanding of policies, laws, and discipline is improved. The Party and State have promptly supplemented and completed legal documents on local democracy associated with representative democracy and direct democracy – two main types of democratic tools in Vietnam.

Along with the implementation of the Regulation on Democracy at the grassroots level and the Ordinance on the exercise of Democracy in communes, wards and townships, it is created movements where the whole people unite to build civilized society and families as well as new rural areas. This is a very practical solution, creating the momentum and necessary support to promote democratic practice, strengthen the rule of law, and ensure social discipline.

Fourthly, use the method of all citizens’ conferences or elected representatives (by heads of households in each family) so that citizens can directly elect the village head (in rural areas) and the leader of residential areas (in urban areas). This shows clearly the role of citizens who can freely select their worthy representatives to mandate and empower. Thereby, it can be affirmed that the democratic consultation of the Fatherland Front combined with democratic centralism enriches the forms and methods of democratic practice, contributing to building Vietnamese democracy during the process of renovation and democratization.

However, the exercise of democracy, law enforcement, and social discipline in Vietnam today has some inadequacies.

First of all, there still exists insubstantial democracy in the Party’s activities, state management, and activities of agencies in the political system. Laws and regulations are not enforced fully in social life. There are still expressions of disrespect for the law, intentional violations of law, or loophole abuse in the legal system that is still incomplete to make profits for individuals or groups and damage national interests.

Secondly, principles of democratic centralism are violated. Many localities do not fully comply rules of law. Some Party committees, organizations, and leading cadres disrespect the right to mastery of Party members, and rarely listen to the voices of mastery of Party members, and rarely their subordinates; Leading cadres in some localities also show signs of patriarchy, authoritarianism, autocracy, democratic deficit, or insubstantial democracy. There is a lack of regulations stipulating specific responsibilities of cadres and party members, leading to both the phenomenon of collective reliance, the uncertainty of individual responsibilities, and the disincentive of enthusiastic party cadres and members, enthusiasm, dare to think, dare to do, dare to break through, dare to take responsibility for the common good. [4]

Thirdly, many cadres and Party members have not set a good example in accomplishing their responsibility and duty. This situation is also associated with ethical degradation among a large number of cadres and party members, including leaders and senior managers.

Fourthly, there is a lack of consistency between the reform of the institutional organization and the institutional system, especially the quality of cadres, and more broadly, human resources in the political system, including the education of political awareness, the compliance of the law, and the respect of morality in society.

Fifthly, the combat against corruption is not drastic enough. During this fight, adequate attention has not been paid to punishing negative acts, especially within the Party system and public bodies.

These limitations and inadequacies in practicing democracy, strengthening the rule of law, and ensuring social discipline result from the following reasons:

Firstly, the leadership of some Party committees and authorities in organizing the implementation of the Party’s guidelines and State’s policies and laws is still a long-lasting weak point. Some localities are negligent and slow to put in place important policies, leading to inefficiency. Bureaucracy, empiricism, formalism, dogmatism, subjectivity, and voluntarism persist in many areas, exerting a negative influence on the thinking and actions of organizations in the political system and cadres, Party members.

Secondly, due to the negative effects of the market economy, international integration, and materialism, people tend to get rich at all costs and live a hedonistic, pragmatic lifestyle while in some localities, education about moral values for cadres, party members, and citizens is not given due consideration. The building of a new culture and civilized people in many places is not given due attention and is not on par with investment in economic activities.

Thirdly, the shaping of public opinion in many areas has not been done well; inefficient management of harmful disinformation spreading on social media which poisons spiritual life, especially among the young generation is also a weakness in practicing democracy, strengthening the rule of law, and tightening social discipline.

Fourthly, the Regulation on Democracy at the grassroots and the Ordinance on the exercise of Democracy in communes, wards, and townships are sometimes not well respected. There are inadequacies even distortions in applying the principle of democratic centralism, thus damaging the practice of democracy, and reducing the power of law and social discipline.

Fifthly, the negligence in management, inspection, and supervision, and the lack of responsibility in setting a good example for cadres and party members in terms of morality, respect for the law, and social discipline cause negative impacts on society and individuals. When these bad influences are distorted by hostile forces and political opportunists, they can easily lead to chaos and disorder.

Viewpoints, directions, and some key solutions to raise awareness and properly resolve the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline

In order to raise awareness and properly handle the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline, in the coming time, it is essential to thoroughly grasp the following points of view:

Firstly, cognitive perception and good handling of the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline must be consistent with the principle that personal rights and duties go hand in hand for the sake of national interests.

Today, the cognitive perception and practice of democracy must be based on the principles and spirit of the socialist rule-of-law state where the rights and interests of citizens are associated with the sustainable development of society. Rights, responsibilities, and freedoms go hand in hand – that is a premise and condition to guarantee the well-being of every citizen, community, nation, and all mankind. Legal obligations are an essential element in the interaction between State, law, and individual; Without them, the balance between social relationships, interests of different types, social activities, and social environment will not be maintained. Similar to human rights, legal obligations are also universal and specific, which makes the similarities and inevitable differences of Constitutions around the world. Obligations are the second aspect of a dialectical unity of rights and obligations. Therefore, they are valuable for the existence of human beings and human-made organizations. Legal obligations, especially constitutional obligations, become a legal obstacle in everyday life to all abuses of power, arbitrary actions, anarchy, and all negative phenomena that affect human rights and freedoms.

Secondly, cognitive perception and good handling of the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline must be based on political system performance at the grassroots level.

The political system at the grassroots has a great role in raising awareness and exercising democracy at the local level, mobilizing people to strictly observe the law, and maintain social order and safety. Due consideration should be given to promoting the role and reforming the political system locally, especially in the Party committees. The guidelines and undertakings of the Party, policies, and laws of the State on the exercise of democracy in communes, wards, and townships must first be thoroughly grasped by cadres and party members at the grassroots level, creating unity in consciousness and action.

Party committees at all levels must strictly supervise the respect of the law on democracy in communes, wards, and townships; Besides, close coordination between the government, the Fatherland Front, and mass organizations is required to implement effective programs and plans. The Fatherland Front and people’s organizations are not only a bridge connecting the Party and State with citizens and represent the people’s right to participate in public management, but also play a vital role in promoting democratic practice. They are forums where citizens can raise their voices to the Party and State and accomplish their role of inspection, supervision, and social criticism toward activities of the Party and State.

Thirdly, cognitive perception and good handling of the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline must meet the requirements of respecting and protecting human rights, citizenship, compliance with the law, contributing to nurturing culture, and human morality.

In the context of building a socialist rule-of-law state, the awareness and practice of democracy must be based on law compliance and the maintenance of social discipline. That requirement is not only imposed on the State and the legal system but also all individuals and organizations. It is necessary to build a democratic culture regulated by law to protect human rights and social development.

The perception and practice of democracy must be based on the principles of the rule of law state in which there are some basic principles such as justice and humanity; equality; respect and protection of citizen’s rights and freedom; the primacy of the law and the constitution; the principle of “doing everything which is not forbidden by law” and “doing everything which is allowed by law”; principles of transparency and accountability, etc.

Fourthly, cognitive perception and good handling of the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline must contribute to severely punishing abusers of human rights, freedoms, and democracy that violate the law, oppose the regime, and infringe upon the interests of individuals and organizations.

Legislation and social discipline are necessary conditions for the maintenance of democracy in two aspects: democratic values and principles and democratic institutions. That is inevitable as democracy cannot exist without a legal framework. In reality, democracy can only be guaranteed and exercised within a strong legal framework.

The primacy of law is a prerequisite for democracy to be widely and substantively practiced. Accordingly, all organizations and individuals in society, from public agencies, and social organizations to all citizens, must respect and accomplish their legal obligations and be responsible when abusing human rights, freedom, and democracy to violate the law, oppose the regime, and infringe upon the interests of individuals and organizations.

Orientations to raise awareness and effectively handle the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline:

Following the Document of the 13th Party Congress, especially the motto and theme of the Congress, the valuable lessons and experiences summarized by the Party from the renovation process as well as the Party’s guidelines in the implementation of national strategy from 2021 to 2030, with a vision to 2045 to promote the democratic practice, strengthen the rule of law, and maintain social discipline. Those are major directions, both reflecting the goal orientation and guiding the renovation, especially in the political system to develop the nation, practice democracy, strengthen the rule of law, maintain social discipline, and ensure the well-being and happiness of citizens based on enhancing their creativity. Accordingly, the practice of democracy in association with the consolidation of legislation and the maintenance of social discipline aims to strengthen the great national unity bloc, promoting the people’s right to mastery, and their patriotic emulation, building a democratic society and realizing the country’s aspiration to become a prosperous and eternal nation. That is the aspiration and desire of President Ho Chi Minh and also of the entire Party and people.

In order to raise awareness and properly deal with the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline, due consideration should be given to the following solutions:

In the first place, increase awareness of the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline.

An important basis for effective handling of the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline is a good awareness among each individual, organization, and cadres, civil servants, leaders of party organizations, and mass organizations towards the nature and importance of this core relationship.

It is required to adopt sustainable solutions, including the building of democratic practice and law obedience culture. To help citizens fully exercise their rights and responsibilities, it is necessary to improve their mastery capacity by increasing their knowledge, and skills, changing attitudes and forming habits of exercising democracy. Their mastery capacity directly depends on two factors: their right to information access and their intellectual level.

Attention should be paid to enhancing education for democracy, law, and morality, raising people’s intellectual level, and ensuring their right to information access. These are the main measures to improve citizenship and ensure the rights and responsibilities of the people in the exercise of socialist democracy in general and democracy at the grassroots in particular.

In the second place, strengthen the Party’s leadership in raising awareness and properly resolving the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline.

The Party’s leadership plays a vital role in raising awareness and properly resolving the relationship between the practice of democracy, consolidation of legislation, and maintenance of social discipline, and ensuring that the principles of socialist rule of law State are implemented in the organization and operation of the State. All individuals and organizations in society must obey and respect the law.

The leading and ruling party must be clean, strong, exemplary in practicing democracy within the Party and comply with the Constitution and laws. This is the key and decisive solution and also the expectation and determination of the Party and the desire of the whole people.

The Party’s leadership over the State must follow the principles of transparency, publicity, and compliance with the law. The Party cannot impose its rules, cover up the mistake of the State or replace the State in management. Party committees and branches at all levels, especially in villages and communes, need to continue to enhance the education and collect citizen’s opinions to complete the Regulation on Democracy at the grassroots level and Ordinance on the exercise of democracy in communes, wards and townships so that the practice of democracy at the grassroots becomes more effective.

It is needed to drastically fight against the deterioration of political ideology, morality, and lifestyle among officials and party members. Party committees at all levels need to capture ideological and behavioral changes of officials and party members to adopt appropriate and prompt preventive solutions. It is necessary to regularly organize forums to discuss controversial issues related to the Party’s guidelines, policies, and laws of the State. It is also required to take severe punishment for abusers of democracy and human rights to disrupt social order and oppose the country.

In the third place, continue to build and perfect the legal system, contributing to promoting the democratic practice and strengthening legislation, maintaining social discipline.

Building and perfecting the legal system is a particularly important condition for promoting democratic practice, strengthening legislation, and maintaining social discipline. This is an urgent, long-term, and extremely complex task.

The main groups of solutions to improve the legal system focus on the mechanism of assignment, coordination, and control among legislative bodies; on the improvement of the quality of lawmakers; on the control and handling of violations during the law-making process; on social criticism to assess the impact of the law; on quality control of legal documents,…

The practice of socialist democracy through direct democracy and representative democracy has been stipulated in the 2013 Constitution. Therefore, it is necessary to build a clear and effective legal framework to implement it. Continue to amend, supplement and perfect the legal framework for direct democracy and representative democracy to adapt to new situations (5).

In the fourth place, enhance the moral values of public and judicial institutions.

An important condition for practicing democracy, consolidating legislation, and maintaining social discipline is to strengthen the ethical foundation of public and judicial institutions. The reality of law enforcement in Vietnam, especially in the public service and judicial fields, has shown that legislation needs to go hand in hand with other elements and values in society such as ethics, integrity, talent, and devotion. Integrity and a prestigious judicial system are crucial in fighting corruption and maintaining legal order (6).

Improving procedures for a trial of cassation review of the Supreme People’s Court by increasing trans-parency, quality, enhancing respon-sibility, and judicial capacity of the Justice Council of the Supreme People’s Court so that it becomes the primacy of justice trusted by citizens. This reform orientation is set on the basis of the deep awareness that the settlement of administrative disputes and citizens’ complaints against administrative decisions and acts of public authorities leads to minimizing negative phenomena, bureaucracy, corruption, abuse of power, and avoidance of responsibility in the public administrative apparatus.

In the fifth place, improve citizens’ capacity in using and protecting their legitimate rights and interests.

It is needful to increase people’s intellectual level and legal awareness. This is one of the top priorities of the Party and State. Legal knowledge and consciousness, attitudes towards the law, and behavior of individuals affect greatly their legal education, helping them obey the law, know how to live and work under the law, be aware of their rights, know how to respect the rights of others, and know how to protect their rights when they are infringed. It is necessary to create a habit of legal obedience and obligation of citizens, and foster their trust in the law and law enforcement agencies.

In the sixth place, increasing people’s participation in public governance and the fight against corruption and negative phenomena.

Citizens’ involvement in public governance as well as in the prevention and combat against corruption and negative phenomena has a relationship with the Regulation on Democracy at the grassroots level. Therefore, it is required to add to this Regulation contemporary principles and criteria on people’s participation in national governance, prevention, and fight against corruption and negative phenomena. Individuals and organizations should be given full opportunities to involve in policy and lawmaking. This is a condition to ensure legal democracy during the law-making process and respect standards of publicity and transparency from the first stage of the policy-making process. The citizen’s participation in criticizing policies and laws aims to balance interests among members of society, avoiding manipulation and corruption by “interest groups”.

To encourage citizens’ involvement in governing the country, preventing and combating corruption and negative phenomena, it is crucial to successfully settle reconciliation at the grassroots to prevent complaints and disunity persisted. Conduct regular supervision and collect people’s opinions on the cadres and civil servants. Strictly punish cadres and civil servants who have acts of harassment, and irresponsibility; promptly reward those who have excellent performances. Rationally schedule the meeting, and arrange the place to receive citizens. Apply information technology in administrative management. Prepare technical and human conditions to build e-government to the commune level.

Some essential conditions to enhance public participation in governance, prevention, and fight against corruption and negative phenomena in Vietnam sustainably and effectively are legal framework; access to legal information, transparency, and publicity.

Implement the accountability regime, and organize dialogues between public agencies and individuals, between social organizations and their members. Strengthen the roles and responsibilities of the Fatherland Front and mass organizations in enhancing public participation in governance, prevention, and propaganda and education on public participation in governance, prevention, and combat against corruption and negative behaviors. Build and nurture sustainable trust by balancing interests, ensuring the interests of citizens when involved in national governance, and preventing and combating corruption and negative behaviors.

In the seventh place, improve the efficiency of law enforcement on citizens’ complaints.

Ensuring citizens’ right to complain will make an important contribution to the prevention and fight against corruption, wastefulness, and negativity, and to clean up the state apparatus. This must be based on a good awareness of the relationship between the state and citizens and must be carried out simultaneously with the democratization process.

It is necessary to build a complete and legal system on complaints that is consistent with the legal system in general and normative documents on complaints in particular. Perfect the mechanism, and increase the quality of inspection of administrative agencies in ensuring the right to complaints of citizens. Develop and implement a responsibility regime for ensuring the right to complain and strictly handle violations of citizens’ right to complain. At the same time, improve the capacity and ethical qualities of the contingent of cadres and civil servants, especially those performing tasks related to ensuring the right to complain of citizens. This is the decisive solution.

Lastly, closely link the practice of democracy with the practice of great solidarity, build a consensus society, and promote the study and following of Ho Chi Minh’s thought, morality, and life-style, especially his democratic lifestyle, his closeness to the people, his belief in the people, his respect towards the people, and his love for the people.

Accordingly, it is necessary to uphold the revolutionary moral practice of diligence, thrift, integrity, and selflessness, and concretize the teachings of President Ho Chi Minh: fighting individualism as fighting the most dangerous “internal enemy.” Focus on setting a good example because “a good example is worth more than a hundred propaganda speeches,” and “words and actions go hand in hand.” Respect the principle of democratic centralism, respect for the law, set a good example in obeying the law and the Party’s Charter, and do not do things that Party members are not allowed to ensure the severity of law and social discipline.


Notes

(1) To Huy Rua, Hoang Chi Bao, Tran Khac Viet, Le Ngoc Tong (eds.). The process of renewing theoretical thinking of the Party from 1986 to present (third edition), National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p. 205

(2) Hoang Chi Bao (ed.). The political system in the rural grassroots of our country today, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2003, p. 158

(3) To Huy Rua, et al.The process of reforming the Party’s theoretical thinking from 1986 to the present, p. 205

(4) Vu Trong Lam: “Implementing the principle of democratic centralism in the organization and operation of our Party today”, Communist Review, No. 957, January 2021, p. 42

(5) On September 16, 2021, the Politburo issued Regulation No. 32-QD/TW, “On the functions, tasks, powers, working regime, working relationship of the Central Steering Committee Government on anti-corruption and anti-corruption” (replacing Regulation No. 211QD/TW, dated December 25, 2019, of the Politburo, on “functions, tasks, powers and working regimes, working relationship of the Central Steering Committee on anticorruption”). The renaming and addition of functions, tasks, and powers to the Steering Committee is a new and stronger step in the Party building and rectification, preventing from the root the manifestations of negative behaviors for the prevention of corrupt practices.

(6) Susan Rose-Ackerman. Corruption and Government: Causes, Conse-quences, and Reform, Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 200–201.

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 987 (April 2022)