[Marxism] Is this what Ho Chi Minh died for?
mkaradjis at theplanet.net.au
Sat Oct 24 11:17:39 MDT 2009
Whatever my (evolving, as VN evolves) views on Vietnam, one thing I can
agree with the moderator about (as implied in sending this article) is
that golf courses are an outright imperialist scourge which rob farmland
from peasants and give it to foreign and local VNese capitalists to play
what they (strangely) consider to be a game.
A couple of points are worth noting, however. First, the fact that the
entire country of 85 million people had only 13 golf courses until 4
years ago, and then suddenly 140 courses have been approved in the last
four years, is an example of how much has been changing since the middle
of the decade in this country. It is no coincidence that this
corresponds, for example, to the fact that in 2005 the stock exchange
accounted for less than 1% of GDP in Vietnam (compared to 53% in
China!), yet by 2007 its value had leapt to 22% of GDP!
Thus, how one analyses what Vietnam is in 2009 may have little relation
to how one analysed what it was in 2001, or even 2005, except that
certain trends that later became dominant we could have observed back
then in their infancy. The 10th Congress of 2006 was a significant
turning point, though major changes had begun somewhat earlier.
Secondly, it is not insignificant that the Hanoi Communist Party branch
last year ordered a review of all golf course projects in the greater
Hanoi region, and stopped about half of them (this was the background to
the prime minister's decision to review all the golf courses nationally,
as the article notes). Nothing amazing, but indicating the local branch
felt some popular pressure - and considering the Hanoi People's
Committee had given the licenses in the first place, it is also
significant that the Hanoi CP ordered the review - for those who assume
the party and the organs of the state are one and the same thing. In
other words, it is one thing to cavalierly dismiss everything about
Vietnam ever since it began market-oriented changes some 20 years ago
(eg, the moderator's attitude), but it is worth remembering that the
actual VCP and its 3 million members is not some monolithic monster -
there remains much of the revolutionary roots there, though of course in
declining quantities as the market eats away at its basis.
Thus when Sartesian writes:
> Nestor, the war in Vietnam ended 35 years ago, and some officials, and
> partisans of the current government are just too eager to adopt the
> ways of
> the vanquished, up to and including turning rice fields into
> providing golf courses and prostitutes for businessmen.
he is of course absolutely right, but we need to keep this in the
context that this is only part of the Vietnamese reality, and this is an
evolution, this is something in flux, and not everything was decided by
the advent of the market after 1986, nor is it entirely decided today,
though it is clearly approaching.
Nestor asks what Giap thinks about current developments. Giap is 99
years old, yet still lucid and often makes comments, but naturally
cannot play any direct role. He only chooses to speak out occasionally
on very important issues. For example, before the 10th Congress he
lashed out the overriding corruption - in relation to an enormous
scandal that had just been busted - Giap said such scandals reveal the
"bureaucracy, non-democracy and corruption that have frozen the leading
role of the Party and the management of the State and the supervision of
the people," strong words.
More recently, while Giap hasn't said anything on golf courses publicly
that I'm aware of, he has strongly spoken out against the massive
expansion of bauxite mining (with Chinese and American partners) in the
Central Highlands, a project strongly backed by the prime minister. This
expansion is a powerful threat to the natural environment of the region,
and that natural environment is the life of the ethnic minority
population that dominates in this region. This is a very dangerous issue
for VN in general. Giap has issued 2 open letters against this, and 135
intellectuals and scientists signed a petition that was delivered to the
national assembly opposing the project. Some info about Giap's comments
on this issue can be read here:
Fred wrote a post that I of course largely agree with in terms of its
historical sweep, but just a couple of comments. Fred writes:
"The debate over golf courses is a relatively new issue to come to
consciousness, as far as I know The first time I have seen that directly
fought over has been in Venezuela where Chavez has threatened to
the golf courses because of the land and water they take from the poor
The fact that this is being hotly debated in Vietnam as well is likely
a sign of health rather than a signal of a historic catastrophe."
Well yes and no. In fact this debate has been in the popular
consciousness in VN since at least the middle of the 1990s, when
peasants being evicted from land for an imperialist golf course, not far
from Hanoi, fought battles with police - incidentally one of the very
few cases I know of the police being used against mass popular actions
in VN. The peasants carried pictures of Ho Chi Minh, and were outraged
when the police hit their pictures, and allegedly told them "this isn't
the Vietnam of Ho Chi Minh, this is the Vietnam of Vo Van Kiet" (the
then VN pm), according to one journalist. Not sure how true that is, but
it is interesting enough. The peasants did manage through their actions,
however, to hold up the project for a number of years until they got
significantly better compensation than first offered. So yes we can say
it is "hotly debated", but the point being that this "hot debate" had
long ago already established the totally anti-popular nature of golf
"development" before this current government approved 140 golf courses
in such a brief period.
Finally, Sartesian asks "Are these golf courses and hotels and
their associated activities produced for their use-value, or are they
produced as exchange value in order to garner exchange value?"
Well the answer is pretty obvious, but this is not the debate, unless
anyone thinks Vietnam, or anywhere, including Cuba, has "reached
socialism", in which case it would have to be "socialism in one country"
(and on this, I thought Mike Ely's comments on the Nepal Maoists issue,
regarding the inherent contradiction between the two alleged aspects of
"Trotskyism," were very apt, by the way). Since this is impossible, then
there is obviously some degree of compromise with capitalism, both
nationally and internationally, and that means compromise with exchange
value, let there be no illusions. Clearly the big issue is "how much"?
The answer re Vietnam is still somewhat open, but IMO, rapidly closing.
BTW, I have lived in VN on and off since 2000 and keep lots of
articles - short and long - analysing the VN situation on a site
http://mihalisvn.blogspot.com, but I don't keep it remotely up to date,
or well-organised, so you might have to go through the archives.
However, two longer analytical articles on the developments in Vietnam
over the last few years are at
(written 2005) and
(written 2007, a follow up of the previous)
More information about the Marxism