4. Caught in the Middle: Local Cadres in Hai Duong Province

From: Beyond Hanoi

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90 Pham Quang Minh© 2004 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore 4 Caught in the Middle: Local Cadres in Hai Duong Province Pham Quang Minh Introduction Since the Vietnamese communists carried out the August Revolution of 1945, they have attempted to establish an administrative system from central government through provinces and districts to villages, to gain a firm foothold across the whole country.1 Such a multi-level structure was particularly important for the construction of socialism and to strengthen the support of the rural population in the wars against France and the United States. This chapter examines the role of Communist Party government local cadres in Hai Duong province in the Red River delta over three broad periods of Vietnam’s recent history: land reform in the 1950s; collectivization from the late 1950s–80s; and decollectivization (from the 1980s) onwards. The term “local cadres” refers to officials within the commune, including members of the People’s Councils (Hoi Dong Nhan Dan), the People’s Committees (Uy Ban Nhan Dan), party cells (chi bo), agrarian cooperatives (hop tac xa nong nghiep), mass organizations (to chuc quan chung) and heads of villages (truong thon). Reproduced from Beyond Hanoi: Local Government in Vietnam, edited by Benedict J Tria Kerkvliet and David G Marr (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2004). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at Caught in the Middle 91© 2004 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore The central questions of this study are: how has the Vietnamese Communist Party leadership dealt with problems regarding local cadres in Hai Duong; how well have local cadres fulfilled their duties; and what have relations between commune cadres and residents been like? I argue that there is a big gap between central and local government in the realization of party policy on local cadres. Unlike officials at higher levels, local cadres in Hai Duong have to carry out central government policies while also representing their communities. Having to fulfill these two functions at the same time, cadres are often in conflict with local people. “Classism” — Local Cadres during the Land Reform of the 1950s The land reform campaign of the 1950s was the first attempt by the Communist Party to establish local government in the Hai Duong countryside.2 The initial step towards land reform was to create a local government compatible with the party’s objectives. To do so the party leadership launched a “cadre rectification” campaign (chinh huan can bo), in 1952. Le Van Luong, chief of the party’s organizational affairs and responsible for the campaign, said that its aim was to clarify which cadres did not understand party policies.3 As the campaign proceeded, party leaders emphasized people’s class backgrounds. In that regard the party issued in March 1953 “The regulation on classification of the agrarian population”.4 It also issued a number of decrees on agrarian policy in order to punish people who had acted against the party’s line.5 Classification was not based on economic factors primarily but more on political background. The party divided not only landlords, but everyone else into groups, with the aim of weakening those hostile to it. The slogan “Rely on poor peasants and agricultural labourers, unite closely with middle farmers and ally with rich farmers, and gradually and differentially abolish the regime of feudal exploitation”, expressed the major thrust of the land reform campaign.6 The reconstruction of local government also encompassed a number of wide-ranging measures to put an end to organizations that had been involved in the war against France. Many cadres and other people in those groups were under some suspicion because of their class backgrounds or previous political activities. The communist government replaced suspicious cadres and created a new administrative system for implementing party decisions. 92 Pham Quang Minh© 2004 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore Like the Vietnamese traditional state, the Communist Party officially recognized the role and position of the xa (commune) in the political system of the 1950s: Xa is the basis of our state. Xa is the lowest administrative unit. The power of xa is the basic power and foundation of the whole system of democratic people’s power … Xa is the place where the masses, which mostly consists of farmers, directly takes part in the work...


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Subject Headings

  • Local government -- Vietnam.
  • Vietnam -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Decentralization in government -- Vietnam.
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