[Marxism] Is this what Ho Chi Minh died for?

Michael Karadjis 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 
> wasteland,
> 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 
to be
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 mailing list