Constructing socialism: Vietnam and its results

A document from the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) was published in May. It took the form of an interview with their General Secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong, where he provides the vision of the socialist system that that country is building.

A brief outline follows of the Vietnamese article, which explains that the path to socialism is correct, according to objective laws, the reality of the country and the present development trends. Socialism and the road to socialism in Vietnam is a very basic and important theoretical and practical subject. The General Secretary begins by answering key questions which include the following:

  • What is socialism?
  • Why has Vietnam chosen the socialist path?
  • How, and in what way, to gradually build a socialism system in Vietnam?
  • What does the Renewal of the last years mean on the road to socialism in Vietnam? What problems does it pose?

The socialism he refers to is scientific socialism based on Marxist-Leninist doctrine. He questions whether ‘we should shape socialism and how do we orient ourselves towards socialism to adapt to the specific circumstances and characteristics of Vietnam?’

Nguyen Phu Trong

General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong states that when the Soviet Union and the system of socialist countries still existed, the question about the road to socialism in Vietnam did not seem to be discussed, it was considered implicitly confirmed. But since the model of socialism collapsed in the Soviet Union and in the countries of Eastern Europe, the worldwide revolution fell into regression, and the question of the road to socialism was raised again, becoming the center of theoretical discussions and debates.

In his interview, Nguyen Phu Trong comments on Vietnam’s need to pursue economic development alongside progress and social justice so as not to widen the gap between rich and poor, and social inequality. He also points out the need for a caring human society, of mutual aid, towards progressive and humanistic values, not of unfair competition, together with a political system where power truly belongs to the people, for the people and serves popular interests.

The party leader analyzed what is socialism, and how do you get to socialism? “That is what we always ponder, think, explore, seek, choose in order to gradually refine the guidelines, our point of view and organization for compliance, how to follow the general rules and conform to the concrete conditions of Vietnam,” he states.

What follows are key points stressed by Nguyen Phu Trong.

During the years of implementation of the Renewal process, from balancing reality and theoretical studies, the Communist Party of Vietnam has gradually become more and more aware of the correctness and depth of socialism and the period of transition to socialism, and the need to overcome, step by step, some simple previous conceptions or myths in the country that had to be eradicated, such as:

  • Identify the ultimate goal of socialism with the tasks of the current period.
  • Emphasize the unidirectional way of production.
  • The average distribution system, without fully seeing the requirements for the development of the productive forces in the transition period.
  • Not recognizing the existence of the economic components.
  • Identify the market economy with capitalism.
  • Equalize the rule of law with the bourgeois state.

The General Secretary said, “Until today, although there are still some questions that need to be studied more deeply, we have formed a general perception:

  • “The socialist society that the Vietnamese people are working to build is the society of “a prosperous people, a strong, democratic, just and civilized country.”
  • The people are the true owners.
  • A highly developed economy, based on modern productive forces and progressive and appropriate production relations.
  • An advanced culture, imbued with national identity.
  • The people with a prosperous, free and happy life, with conditions for an integral development.
  • The ethnic groups of the Vietnamese community are equal, united, respect and help each other to develop.
  • A socialist rule of law of the people, by the people and for the people, led by the Communist Party.
  • Have friendly and cooperative relations with all the countries of the world.

He states that “Vietnam is heading towards socialism from a backward agricultural country, ignoring the capitalist system, with very low productive forces. Furthermore, the country had gone through decades of war, with very serious consequences; hostile forces often sought to destroy the country, making it more difficult and complicated, necessarily going through a long transition period with many steps, many interlocking forms of economic and social organization, with struggles between the old and the new. To say that we ignore the capitalist regime is to ignore the oppressive, unjust and exploitative capitalist regime; ignoring bad habits, political institutions that do not conform to the socialist system, but without ignoring the achievements and civilized values ​​that humanity has achieved in the period of development of capitalism. Of course, the inheritance of these achievements must be selective from a scientific and developmental point of view.”

The introduction of the concept of the development of a socialist-oriented market economy is a major theoretical and creative breakthrough of the PCV, an important theoretical result of 35 years of implementation of the Renewal policy, derived from Vietnamese practice and selectively absorbing worldly experience.

Nguyen Phu Trong wrote, “According to our perception, a market economy with a socialist orientation is a modern market economy, of international integration, which functions fully and synchronously in accordance with the laws of the market economy, with the management of the socialist rule of law, and led by the Communist Party of Vietnam; ensuring the socialist orientation with the aim of achieving a prosperous people, a strong, democratic, just and civilized country. It is a new type of market economy in the historical development of the market economy; a type of economic organization that obeys the laws of the market economy and at the same time is based, guided and regulated by the principles and nature of socialism, reflected in these three aspects: Property, management organization and distribution.”


  • “In the socialist-oriented market economy, there are many forms of property and many economic components. The economic components that function under the law are important parts of the economy that contain equality before the law for long-term development with cooperation and healthy competition.”
  • “In which the state economy plays the leading role; the collective economy and the cooperative economy are constantly being consolidated and developed; the private economy is an important driving force; the economy with foreign investment is stimulated so that it develops according to the strategies, physical planning and plans of socioeconomic development.”
  • “Distribution relationships guarantee equity and create the driving force for development; implement the distribution system mainly according to labor results, economic efficiency and, at the same time, the level of contribution of capital and other resources and distribution through the social security and social welfare system. The State manages the economy through laws, strategies, physical planning, plans, policies and material forces to guide, regulate and promote socioeconomic development.”

A basic characteristic, an important attribute of the socialist orientation in the market economy in Vietnam, says Nguyen Phu Trong, is that it should link the economy with the society, unify economic policy with social policy, increase economic growth along with the realization of progress and social justice at every step, in every policy and throughout the development process.

“Every social policy must aim to create a driving force to promote economic development; promote the idea that legal enrichment must go hand in hand with the eradication of hunger and the reduction of sustainable poverty, the care and attention of people with relevant merits in the service of the Homeland and those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. This is a requirement of principle to guarantee a healthy, sustainable and socialist-oriented development,” said the General Secretary.

The Renewal process in Vietnam, including the development of the socialist-oriented market economy, has really brought great and excellent changes to the country over the last 35 years, the figures prove it, according to Nguyen Phu Trong.

“Before the Renewal (1986), Vietnam was a poor country, severely damaged by war, leaving enormous consequences, both human and material and on the ecological environment.For example, until today, there are millions of people suffering from serious diseases and hundreds of thousands of children born with birth defects due to the impact of Agent Orange / dioxin used by the United States Army during the Vietnam War. After the war, the United States and the West imposed an economic blockade on Vietnam for almost 20 years. The regional and international situation was also extremely complicated, which created many disadvantages for us. Food, merchandise and basic necessities were very scarce, the life of the people was very difficult, approximately three quarters of the population lived in poverty.

“Thanks to the guidelines of the Renewal process (Doi moi), the economy began to grow and develop continuously at a relatively high rate during the last 35 years with an average growth of around 7% per year. The scale of GDP is constantly expanding, reaching 342.7 billion dollars (USD) in 2020, making it the fourth largest economy in ASEAN. Per capita income increased 17 fold, to $ 3,512; Vietnam has moved out of the group of low-income countries since 2008. From a country that suffered from permanently chronic food shortages, today Vietnam has not only ensured food security, but has also become an exporter of rice and many other agricultural products, among the world leaders. Industry has developed quite rapidly, the share of industry and services has increased continuously and today it represents around 85% of GDP.”

The volume of imports and exports has increased considerably, in 2020 it reached more than 540 billion dollars, of which the exports reached more than 280 billion dollars. Foreign exchange reserves increased sharply, reaching $100 billion in 2020. Foreign investment increased rapidly, registering close to $395 billion at the end of 2020.

Regarding the structure of the economy in terms of property relations, Vietnam’s GDP at present consists of approximately 27% belonging to the state, 4% to the collectives, 30% to the family economy, 10% to the national private sector, and 20% to foreign investment capital.

The average poverty rate has been reduced by approximately 1.5% per year; it decreased from 58% in 1993, to 5.8% in 2016, according to the government’s poverty standard and less than 3% in 2020, according to the multidimensional poverty standard (a higher criteria than before). To date, more than 60% of the communes have complied with the new standards of the new rural areas. Most of the rural communes have highways, a national electricity grid, primary and secondary schools, polyclinics, and telephone access.

“While it has not yet been able to guarantee the provision of free medical services to the entire population, Vietnam has focused on strengthening preventive medicine, the prevention and control of epidemics and diseases, and supporting those in difficult circumstances. Many epidemics and diseases that were common in the past have been successfully controlled. Among the population under the poverty level, children under 6 years of age and the elderly receive free health insurance. Malnutrition and infant mortality rates have dropped almost threefold. The average life expectancy of the population increased from 62 years in 1990, to 73.7 in 2020,” said the General Secretary.

In reality and in many ways, the Vietnamese population today has better living conditions than in any previous period. That is one of the reasons why the Renewal, initiated and led by the Communist Party of Vietnam, has been accepted, has generated sympathy and has actively worked for the entire Vietnamese people. The achievements of the Renewal process in Vietnam have shown that development with a socialist orientation not only has positive economic effects, but also solves social problems much better than in capitalist countries that have the same level of economic development.

“In addition to the achievements, basically in the positive aspects, we also have many shortcomings and limitations and we are facing new challenges in the national development process,” said General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, pointing out that:

  • Economically, the quality of growth and competitiveness remain low and unsustainable; there is still a lack of synchronous infrastructure; lack of efficiency and capacity in many companies, including state-owned ones; the environment is polluted in many places; the job of managing and regulating the market is still inappropriate.
  • Socially, the gap between rich and poor increases; the quality of education, health care, and many other public services are still limited; culture and social morality have been degraded in some respects.

Both theory and practice show that building socialism is qualitatively creating a new type of society, which is by no means simple or easy. This is a self-disciplined, ongoing, and long-term goal-oriented task that cannot be rushed. Therefore, in addition to determining the correct directives and guidelines, ensuring the leadership role of the Party, the role of creativity, and the support and active participation of the people must be strongly deployed. The people receives, supports and enthusiastically participates in the implementation of the Party’s guidelines because they see that it meets their requirements and aspirations.

“And one extremely important thing is that you always stand firm and persistent on the theoretical basis of Marxism – Leninism, the scientific and revolutionary doctrine of the working class and the working masses. We have to learn, absorb, selectively supplement with a spirit of criticism and creativity the latest achievements in thought and science so that our doctrines and theories are always fresh, with new vitality, with the feel of the times, not falling into sclerosis, stagnation and the obsolete compared to life!”

In conclusion: the clarity of the words of the General Secretary of the CPV makes it clear that pre-existing dogmas must be broken if the country is to be prosperous and sustainable. And the economic indicators show the certainty of the path chosen by that country. Therefore, without copying its guidelines, this project can be used as guide for so many uncertainties facing the Cuban economy. We must remember that Vietnam gives more priority to the poor, to those who remain behind, than to those who achieve wealth legally and account for that with all the existing forms of property in society.