PART 2. BASIC PRINCIPLES TO DEMOCRATIZE AND REFORM VIETNAM
The mission of Viet Tan is to implement a comprehensive revolution to establish democracy and to reform Vietnam. This means that in our struggle we will give priority to abolishing the dictatorial regime blocking the advancement of our people, while at the same time, bringing about reform through a process of selective transformation that fulfills the needs of the people.
The quest to revive and develop the nation is the task of the entire people and must be carried out continuously through many generations.
A- THE GOAL OF REFORM
The ultimate goal of Viet Tan is achieving the notion “prosperous people will produce a strong nation.” The people will be prosperous not only in the material sense, but will also be well-endowed culturally, intellectually, and spiritually. In the current global context and Vietnam’s place in the world order, a “strong nation” does not only refer to military might, but also to economic power and standing in the world community.
The philosophy that prosperous people will produce a strong nation also emphasizes that the people are the foundation of the nation. A nation is strong because of its people. It is the people who establish, protect, and develop the nation, and so the people must have ultimate power in choosing a nation’s institutions and its legal system, as well as the right to participate in the decision making process that determines the future direction of the nation.
B- THE OBJECTS OF REFORM
Because every effort to reform Vietnam will have to depend on the people, the social ethos must be the foremost object of reform.
However, in a stifled political and social environment, the individual is unable to develop further or contribute to making society more prosperous for himself and his family, regardless of his intellect or ingenuity. For this reason, our reform cannot aspire only towards the people and social ethos, but must also aim for the social institutions and environment as well.
1. REFORMING THE SOCIAL ETHOS:
Even in these modern times, our people still live in a state of backwardness. Due to decades under communist rule, the majority of people have become accustomed to narrow mindedness, unwillingness to accept differences, and inability to accept ideas that are beyond their capacity to understand. To resolve this problem, as well as to create conditions for development of the country, Viet Tan’s philosophy of reforming the social ethos focuses on the following:
1.1. The Spirit of Harmony and Unity
Efforts to reform the social ethos must begin with education, so that every citizen may broaden understanding and expand horizons. Education is the means of escaping the mold of subjectivism towards a more scientific objectivity. This newfound outlook will allow everyone to recognize that differences are normal, and to accept differences as normal. This is the essence of the spirit of Harmony in relations among individuals. Differences in our thinking are no reason to plot against each other, but rather are an opportunity for collaboration. After achieving Harmony, everyone will be able to attain Unity, meaning togetherness in life and work, solidarity in sharing burden and responsibility as well as prosperity and success.
If Harmony defines relations among individuals, then Unity is the ideal for society. When living in the spirit of acceptance of differences (Harmony), then naturally everyone will have freedom of speech, freedom of residence, freedom of belief, and so forth. These individual freedoms will only be limited by clearly established laws that have been debated and agreed upon by everyone for the common good of all. “All” refers to the entire population of Vietnam, not to a specific group of citizens, or to a certain class. Put differently, one cannot invoke Unity to eliminate individual freedoms; conversely one cannot invoke Harmony to demand unlimited individual freedoms without regard for society.
Harmony and Unity applied in equal measure under the protection of the law is the essence of the democracy that Viet Tan espouses.
1.2. The Spirit of Independence, Self-Reliance, and Tolerance
History shows that the national character of the Vietnamese people is deeply rooted in the spirit of independence, self-reliance, and tolerance. It is because of this spirit that our ancestors were able to learn from even foreign rulers and heroically stand up to regain national independence after long periods of foreign domination.
In recent decades, as a result of adverse political circumstances, this spirit of tolerance has been replaced by the narrow-mindedness of the Vietnamese Communist Party, which claims a monopoly on “truth” and “reason” that they have imported from elsewhere. At the same time, the spirit of independence and self-reliance has also been seriously eroded. Years of relying on foreign aid and foreign advisors during the war were followed by an era of mechanically applying outlandish socio-economic models that wrecked further harm. This constant dependency on foreign solutions ignored whatever dangers such solutions posed to the nation.
The reform movement for Vietnam must restore in every Vietnamese person the spirit of our forefathers of independence, self-reliance, and tolerance so that each person may be able to receive the brilliance of the world and the times but still retain our national character, ensuring that the nation will develop along a path that is quintessentially Vietnamese.
1.3. The Spirit of Citizenship and Sense of Civic Duty
After many decades without being able to truly participate in public service and the decision-making process of the nation—indeed after many decades of being forced to concentrate on earning a living and avoiding political activities, the spirit of citizenship and sense of civic duty has all but disappeared.
The reform movement for Vietnam must awaken in every Vietnamese the sense that they are masters of the nation’s destiny, and gradually establish a mindset that holds the Nation and the People above all ideologies and political parties. To arrive at this ideal, the belief in a life of service must be introduced into society through education, culture, and religion. Also, the spirit of United Advancement—being united in helping one another advance—must have priority. The experience of development in many countries has shown that a nation can only overcome poverty to quickly modernize when knowledge and information is widespread among the people, not just centralized among a few individuals.
2. REFORMING THE SOCIAL INSITUTIONS AND ENVIRONMENT:
The individual cannot progress if the institutions of society and the social environment do not permit it. Reforming the social institutions and environment therefore must occur in tandem with reforming the social ethos. The social institutions and environment consists of the way society is organized, administered, and the opportunities afforded to each individual within the society for collective stability and prosperity. Viet Tan’s view on reforming the social institutions and environment can be summarized in the following tenets:
2.1 – POLITICS
2.1.1 – Democracy
Within the scope of a nation, the role of politics is to moderate between the material and spiritual needs of the individual and the needs of the nation as a whole. Within one country that contains people of diverse backgrounds, a favorable union can only be achieved when every individual accepts the normality of differences so that mutual interests may be found. A favorable union cannot be achieved if one group imposes its ideas upon the whole and expels all differing thoughts. The acceptance of differences (harmony) in order to find mutual interests (unity) can only be achieved if every individual has the right and the opportunity to speak, debate, and persuade in an atmosphere where every opinion is respected. This is the spirit of democracy that Viet Tan seeks to establish in the political system of a modern Vietnam.
2.1.2 – Role of Political Parties
Within a democracy, the emergence of parties and associations is natural. This is the coming together of individuals who share common political values, economic interests, and social relationships. It is through such groups that different policies and methods of resolving social, political, and economic issues are brought into public debate and a national consensus forms. Therefore, parties are just representatives of certain elements of society. Even the party in power is only a vehicle for serving the people and the nation that has been selected for a set period of time by the people using democratic means. The party in power absolutely must not use the military, national treasury, or other national resources to serve its party’s interests.
No single party or individual, including heads of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch can be above the people or above the law. Furthermore, no party may invoke anything to grant itself a monopoly on power or permanent leadership of the nation. Indeed, in the democracy envisioned by Viet Tan, there will be a clear differentiation between individuals with political responsibility and the political institutions. The political institutions must be honored and protected. If government officials happen to violate the law, then they will be punished according to the law. Such individuals will not be allowed to hide behind their positions of power and be exempt from the law.
Viet Tan holds that any political party, or individual, whether or not in power, may still contribute to the betterment of the nation and people through the activities and avenues of civil society.
2.1.3 – Political Institutions
Vietnam’s political structure must exemplify the spirit of democracy, justice, and reason for every member of society.
In every democratic society there are typically two forces engaged in national political activity; those in power and those in opposition. The difference between the two sides can be found in their policies and methods for resolving the issues facing the nation. The role of the opposition is to counterbalance those in power and to ensure that transparency, honesty, and fairness is maintained in national politics.
The political structure of Vietnam will be decided at the ballot box in a free national election, after the dictatorial communist regime has ended. In addition, the future political structure of Vietnam must be organized to avoid abuse of power and dictatorship, regardless of what form it may take, meaning that the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branch must be independent of one another. This separation of power among the branches of government will ensure that a reformed Vietnam will be administered according to laws and not according to arbitrary decrees or executive orders of those in power.
Moreover, Viet Tan believes in the clear distinction between the political leadership and the civil service. The political leadership is responsible for policy making and is elected by the people to defined terms. The civil service consists of career individuals with technical expertise and is responsible for carrying out the policies of political leaders.
The two functions of administration and policy making must be separated for continuity in government and for avoiding social upheaval whenever there is a change in the political leadership. This is also a measure for preventing abuse of power by the political leaders. Similarly, the armed forces and internal security must be completely free from politics and have the sole role of ensuring national defense and social order according to the constitution and laws. They can never be instruments for protecting any one ideology, any one party, or anyone individual.
2.2 – SOCIETY
Viet Tan believes that the family unit is the foundation of society. Individual freedoms are always important and must be honored, but the family unit is the support that protects against negative social influences. Family tradition has played a key part in the life philosophy of our people. Family values are more needed in present times as economic changes, material wants, and interaction among different cultures strain social structures. In this complex setting, when the family unit is not considered with the proper importance and reinforced appropriately, many functions performed by the family will be transferred to society. Regardless of how much resources are expended, the country will be hard pressed to address the many social ills that result.
In a reformed society, every person shall be equal before the law and the law shall be applied strictly to all. Class struggle, the root cause of societal divisions, hatred among fellow countrymen, as well as all other forms of discrimination must cease. No individual or group of people may invoke any pretext to stand above everyone else.
In the spirit of democracy, Vietnam’s society must be one wherein every person, without any differentiation, will have equal opportunity to seek happiness for themselves and their family, and to contribute to the well-being of the nation. Individual ability and effort will be the deciding factors for personal reward. In the society of a future Vietnam, morality, humanism, and duty towards family and society—in addition to individual ability—will determine social standing. However, the emphasis on an individual’s contribution to society does not mean that the less fortunate or the handicapped, will be scorned or disregarded. On the contrary, society has an obligation to make an effort to care for these individuals and grant them a reasonable standard of living with opportunities to develop and progress.
2.3 – ECONOMY
Viet Tan advocates for a free enterprise economy with the aim of serving the people.
Under this free enterprise model, the right to private property shall be honored and protected by law. Citizens will not only have the right to take part in all economic activities, but will find also a level playing field.
The point regarding the Vietnamese people is made to emphasize that the economic system must serve the needs of national development and must be open to every person. It must serve the entire nation and not answer to the interests of any corporation, social group, or foreign nation.
Because sustainable economic development requires free enterprise and serving the people, government has the responsibility to maximize these two aspects. Specifically, the government will establish macroeconomic policies according to the conditions of each phase of development while leaving to the market to resolve microeconomic issues.
The responsibility of government is to create a favorable economic environment including the legal framework, availability of economic data, and physical infrastructure such as transportation, communications, and energy that the private sector cannot provide on its own. The state has particular responsibility for, but does not dominate over, economic activities related to national defense and social welfare.
Under this economic model, the relationship between employer and employee is not automatically one of opposing interests. Instead, it is one of cooperation for mutual benefit. One side has the capital and means, while the other has the skills and physical ability to get things done. Together, activities are accomplished more efficiently and both sides profit. This relationship will be protected by law. Employees will have the right to negotiate with the employer until satisfied as well as to form unions to represent them in collective bargaining.
In the interdependent world of today, the economic integration of Vietnam within the region and around the world is not only natural, but also necessary for Vietnam to catch up. This integration, however, poses both benefits and dangers for Vietnam’s still weak and fledgling economy. With the benefits of increased competitiveness, foreign investment, and expertise from around the world, Vietnam must withstand the effects of competition on a number of its essential industries as well as over reliance on foreign capital and expertise, which may lead to the gradual loss of control over the country’s economy. In sum, the government must guarantee the legitimate interests of foreign investors, while at the same time building up domestic economic potential and maintaining the state’s ability to help ensure that Vietnam’s economy serves its people.
2.4 – EDUCATION
For many years, the conditions and environment facing Vietnam prevented the country from developing its knowledge base to the fullest potential and for the challenges of each period. To achieve long term reform as a result, education must be a foremost priority with emphasis on two domains: the teaching of scientific knowledge and the restoring and promoting of traditional cultural and spiritual values.
The teaching of scientific knowledge needs to be accomplished through a system of mass education with emphasis on practical understanding. Establishing a system of mass education will allow every citizen an opportunity to learn and advance at every age and every level of education while not wasting the nation’s human resources. In an era of globalization, an educational system that is practical must be updated according to the pace of modernization and implemented according to Vietnam’s realistic needs. Based on a spirit of not over emphasizing academic credentials, a system of mass and practical education will promote individual creativity in order to expand each person’s intellect and in so doing meet the needs of the labor market and economic development. Beyond the classroom, learning will be facilitated through intellectual freedom and cutting edge knowledge will be acquired through traveling abroad, sending students overseas, and using the Internet.
The restoring and promoting of spiritual values, along with motivating individuals to achieve personal advancement, will help nurture individuals to care for and serve society. In this regard, the task of promoting Vietnamese culture and traditions is necessary, but no less important than the task of establishing a sense of civic responsibility to build a modern society that is distinctly Vietnamese. The future educational system of Vietnam shall aim to nurture individuals who have a respect for democracy and will live for themselves and others in a modern, peaceful society.
2.5 – RELIGION
Throughout many centuries, religion has played a significant role in human life. At an individual level, religion has contributed to encouraging personal virtues through service of humanity. At the national level, religion has contributed to reducing social evils and other negative aspects of society, while helping to reinforce a common set of values in society and to reduce suffering for those who are less fortunate.
Religious rights must be honored and guaranteed by law consistent with universal norms. Religious belief is entirely the choice of each individual, including the choice not to follow any particular faith. Every religion shall have equal use of public facilities and equal treatment before the law.
Viet Tan believes that laws must guarantee independence between the state and religion. The state shall not interfere in internal matters or determine the activities of any religion. Similarly, no religion shall pressure or control affairs of state.
2.6 – NATIONAL COMMUNITY
The National Community of Vietnam includes every ethnic group within the territory of Vietnam as well as people of Vietnamese descent living around the world.
For a long period in the nation’s history, the factors of geographical distance, differences in political views, lack of information flow as well as the consequences of foreign exploitation have created deep divisions among segments of Vietnam’s national community.
In order to harness the power of the entire people to develop the nation, Viet Tam believes that these divisions must be reduced and bridged over by a fair and just government that is inclusive of all groups in its development policies and exercise of laws. In addition, Vietnam’s education and popular media can help promote appreciation of the cultural traditions of each ethnic group, which taken together produce the rich and unique culture of the Vietnamese people.
Vietnam has a special distinction of being a nation in which a great part of its people has been dispersed widely around the globe, leading to the formation of an overseas Vietnamese community. In the future, with skills and ideas absorbed from around the world, with the ability to lobby governments, businesses, and public opinion in the nations in which they reside, and with an aspiration to modernize their homeland, the overseas Vietnamese community along with their fellow countrymen will contribute to the process of modernizing Vietnam. In return, the government of the newly reformed Vietnam shall have the responsibility of aiding and protecting all Vietnamese people outside of Vietnam’s borders when necessary.
In short, Viet Tan believes that the relationships among ethnic groups in Vietnam, as well as the relationship between Vietnamese inside and outside of Vietnam, must be built on the spirit of Harmony and Unity. This in fact defines the Spirit of National Unity and is the foundation for long-term successful reform of the nation.
2.7 – FOREIGN RELATIONS
It is the policy of Viet Tan that a modernized Vietnam should establish relations with every nation in the world based on the ideals of freedom, humanity, respect for national sovereignty as well as common interests—while ensuring the independence and territorial integrity of Vietnam.
It is the policy of Viet Tan to shape foreign policies according to our nation’s needs and culture. This differs from the opposite approach of using foreign support and foreign ideologies to rule the Vietnamese people, or even worse, of using the people to achieve foreign ambitions.
To develop the country in this era of globalization, Vietnam will seek to form partnerships with nations in the region and specifically with multilateral organizations, based on the aforementioned principles. Vietnam will expand exchanges with the world in as many avenues as possible to receive the brightest ideas for advancing our economy, health care, arts, and technology base. In return, Vietnam will honor and uphold universal values, especially the values of humanism, and will strive to make worthy contributions for the common good of our region and humanity.
Viet Tan espouses a good will foreign policy and resolving all differences through open dialogue and peaceful means.