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Vietnamese Land Reform: Chinese or Soviet?

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  • Vietnamese Land Reform: Chinese or Soviet?

    Collectivization under the guise if “Land Reform” was a major goal of all communist revolutions, and Vietnam was no different. The question was: Would they follow a model of their own? Or adapt one of their two major patrons? To take the example of North Korea, as soon as the war ended they opted to follow the Soviet model, to the point of enacting a land reform law modeled on the Soviet Land Reform law, according to Dr. Andrei Lankov, writing in the Korea Times. But what of Vietnam?

    The Vietnamese party had certainly looked at land reform. In the 1930s no less a team than Truong Chinh and Vo Nguyen Giap had coauthored a study of rural conditions, published in 1937-38 under the title “Van De Dan Cay”, the Peasant Question, which described five aspects of rural society that needed to be addressed; these were the system of landholding, taxation, and indebtedness common to the Red River Delta, as well as a peasant mentality that was indoctrinated to accept exploitation and value private property with an irrational respect. While it placed emphasis on the peasantry, it was more an application of Marxist analysis to the rural conditions in northern Vietnam than any borrowing from Mao Zhedong.

    Nevertheless, when it came to actually implementing land reform, the Chinese were intimately involved. After the war ended in 1954, the DRVN received large amounts of aid from China and the Soviet Union. This included food, consumer goods, military and industrial equipment, and money. But the greatest foreign presence in North Vietnamese domestic affairs was Chinese supervision of the land reform program. This was not an exercise of forced unwanted influence but rather the provision of expertise eagerly sought and gladly accepted by the Vietnamese communist leadership. Communist success in China at that time was an object of admiration and emulation by the Vietnamese.

    The Chinese hand in Vietnamese land reform went back to the arrival of Chinese allies on the border in early 1950. Land reform became a priority, and the Land Reform and Party Consolidation Section of the Chinese Political Advisory Group to Vietnam assisted in organizing a program of “purification” to prepare for land reform by re-educating Vietnamese party members through campaigns of criticism and self-criticism. In a document submitted to Vietnamese leaders, dated September 3, 1952, Luo Guibo outlined a plan for land reform in liberated territories and asserted that it was time to begin. Shortly after that, Ho Chi Minh went to Beijing, and by October 1952 was in Moscow with a land reform plan ostensibly written with the assistance of Liu Shaoqi, second after Mao Zhedong in the Chinese party hierarchy. Ho Chi Minh presented the plan to Stalin and solicited his approval.

    This can all be found in far more detail in K.W. Taylor’s, “A History of the Vietnamese,” pp. 566-567. Here it underscores two important points: First, Vietnam’s communist revolution in the 1950s was following similar paths blazed by the Soviet and Chinese revolutions, to include the classification of their own citizens into suspect groups targeted for elimination. And second, however ‘nationalist’ they were, from all appearances and intelligence; they were still operating as members of the so-called Communist Bloc. Hindsight may be 20/20, but its focus can shift radically over time. I fail to see how any of the US leaders in the 1950s and early 60’s could have seen North Vietnam any differently than they did. Post 1975 is a different story, and that will have to wait for another time.
    dit: Lirelou

    Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá gì!

  • #2
    Good post. Very informative. Anxious to hear of post-75 land reform plans.

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    • #3
      GRA, I've been remiss in getting back to you. The below papers can be pulled up on the internet. Note that copyrights have been reserved in the second paper. My excerpt is simply to give you an idea of its content:

      Moral Economy and the Upper Peasant:
      The Dynamics of Land Privatization in
      the Mekong Delta

      TIMOTHY GORMAN, Journal of Agrarian Change, Vol. 14 No. 4, October 2014, pp. 501–521.

      Over the summer and autumn of 1988, the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam was rocked by protest and social conflict. In the face of post-socialist reforms that called for the privatization of agricultural land tenure, relatively affluent farmers mobilized to demand the restitution of lands that had been taken from them and redistributed to others after Vietnam’s reunification in 1975. Across the region, these protestors engaged in land occupations, petition drives and open demonstrations at local government offices, eventually culminating in two marches on Ho Chi Minh City. In the end, this political mobilization by the Mekong Delta’s upper stratum of emergent capitalist farmers succeeded in achieving a special settlement of the land question, applicable only to that region, which allowed for the restitution of holdings to their former owners, and in turn prompted the dispossession and displacement of thousands of rural poor.

      Accounts of the micro-level, ‘everyday’ politics of agricultural production and land allocation in northern Vietnam are relatively plentiful, with perhaps the most notable contribution being Benedict Kerkvliet’s (2005) masterful account of peasant resistance to collective agriculture in the Red River Delta. Peasant resistance, for Kerkvliet, is rooted in deeply held sentiments’ on the part of the northern peasantry, who preferred family farming and individual ownership to the collectives, and who expressed these preferences through uncoordinated and often covert acts of sabotage, theft and foot-dragging, eventually bringing down the collective system as whole. In a similar vein, those authors who have analysed the local politics of decollectivization in northern Vietnam, such as Scott (2003), Sikor (2004) and Luong (2010), have frequently described how peasants mobilized around notions of distributive equity to affect the allocation of land to individual households. Hy Van Luong (2010, 194), for example, recounts that a plan to allow better-off households in his Red River Delta study village to bid on more productive land was abandoned ‘under pressure’ from local farmers, who demanded ‘more equality’ in the allocation process, while Sikor (2004, 182) describes how villagers in a north-western village pressured cadres to enact an egalitarian redistribution
      more in keeping with their communitarian principles and traditional institutions.

      And, equally important in understanding Land Reform:

      Alex – Thai D. Vo’s “Nguyễn Thị Năm and the Land Reform in North Vietnam, 1953” published by: Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Vol. 10, Issue 1, pps. 1-62, ISSN 1559-372X, , electronic 1559-3738.
      © 2015 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

      On Monday, September 8, 2014, the Vietnam National Museum of History in Hà Nội launched an exhibit entitled “Land Reform ” [cải cách ruộng đất], opening up for the first time this politically sensitive historical subject for public viewing and discussion. The opening ceremony … in front of the museum’s entrance. …included speeches from representatives of the government, the Party, and the museum, along with the performance of patriotic songs and dances. Inside the museum were displayed … pictures and documents with images of wealthy landowners, impoverished peasants and depictions of life before and after the land reform. This exhibit accentuated the land reform’s supposed success in redistributing land and improving the lives of poor peasants. According to the museum’s director, the exhibit was crafted to focus on the benefits of the reform and not on the suffering that it caused.

      The attendance was overwhelming and media coverage was extensive, especially on the Internet. Some observers applauded the decision to stage the exhibit; however, many questioned its narrow focus on the land reform program’s success and the exclusion of its shortcomings. Discussion of the subject spilled beyond the official narrative, with many people (from) inside Vietnamas well as Vietnamese abroad beginning to talk more openly about the program’s violence and injustices. Consequently, … just five days after its grand opening, the exhibit was closed indefinitely. The closing down of the exhibit suggests that the land reform remains a sensitive subject that cannot be discussed openly in Vietnam today.

      This essay addresses three issues. First, it proposes that the timing, formation, and implementation of the land reform program were shaped by diplomatic and military relations between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), the Soviet Union, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) during the early 1950s. China, its land reform model and its advisers were especially important in helping the DRV to develop its own land reform program. Second, even though the Chinese presence and model were important and, at times, overwhelming, they were not unwelcome. Rather, they were keenly sought after and willingly accepted. Hồ Chí Minh and the DRV’s leaders were deeply involved in the development and implementation of the program; as such they were fully aware of, and arguably responsible for, its many “errors” and injustices, including the punishment of people on trumped up charges. Third, the DRV’s purposes in carrying out mass mobilization and land reform were to eliminate rural elites, consolidate political power in the countryside, and gain the popular support needed for war against France. Hồ Chí Minh and his lieutenants were more than willing to sacrifice the wealthy landowning class – a process that began with the public persecution and execution of Nguyễn Thị Năm, a person known to be a loyal supporter of the resistance movement. Nguyễn Thị Năm’s trial and execution gave the decision-makers at the top and local cadres the template to push land reform forward and consequently to reap what are still incalculable consequences.
      Last edited by lirelou; 02 Oct 16, 12:13.
      dit: Lirelou

      Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá gì!

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