Michel Chossudovsky on Vietnam (was Re: 5th columnist)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Wed Apr 5 22:35:18 PDT 2000

Michael Perelman wrote:

>Ah, so the devastation of the U.S. military is more severe that that of
>the IMF.
>Brad De Long wrote:
>> Pay more attention when you read, please.
>> I don't deny (though I wouldn't like to overstate) that U.S.
>> development aid policy has helped Indonesia's economy (though not its
>> polity) over the past two generations.
>> And because it has helped, it *is* the case that Vietnam today--not
>> Indonesia--is Nike's dream production locations: extremely low wages,
>> productive employees, and vicious labor gang bosses...
>> Brad DeLong

Michel Chossudovsky (another of Ken Hanly's favorite Canadians) writes in _The Globalization of Poverty: Impacts of IMF and World Bank Reforms_ (London: Zed Books, 1997):

***** Vietnam never received war reparation payments, yet Hanoi was compelled as a condition of the "normalization" of economic relations and the lifting of the US embargo in February 1994 to "foot the bill" of the multilateral debts incurred by the US-backed Saigon regime....The reimbursement of arrears of US$140 million (owed by Saigon) to the IMF was also demanded as a condition for the resumption of credit....By fully recognising the legitimacy of these debts, Hanoi...in effect accepted to repay loans which had been utilized to support the US war effort. Ironically, these negotiations were undertaken with the participation of a former minister of finance (and acting prime minister) in the military government of General Duong Vanh Minh which had been installed by the US military mission in 1963 in the aftermath of the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem and his younger brother. Dr Nguyen Xian Oanh (a prominent economist who also happened to be a former staff member of the IMF) occupied the position of economic advisor to Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet. (Oanh had worked closely with Kiet since the early 1980s when the latter was Communist Party Secretary in Ho Chi Minh City.) (150-1) *****

Even after Vietnam defeated America, the Cambodian civil war (fuelled by Washington's support for Pol Pot's forces after 1979) as well as China's invasion on the northern border thwarted the reconstruction of Vietnamese economy. With the economic & political turmoils & eventual disintegration of the Soviet bloc (which was Vietnam's main trading partner), Vietnam further plunged into disarray (Chossudovsky 148). Unlike Cuba, Vietnam never had a breathing space to get anything like socialist civilian economy really off the ground with the help of the USSR.

Then, the adoption in 1986 of _Doi moi_ [Renovation], economic reforms launched under the guidance of the Bretton Woods institutions: "more than 5,000 out of 12,300 state-owned enterprises...had by 1994 been closed down or steered into bankruptcy" (Chossudovsky 151). Millions of workers must have been fired by now. Encouragement to switch to export crop production led to "severe food shortages": "Famine was not limited to the food-deficit areas. It was affecting all major regions, including the urban areas and the 'food-surplus economy' of the Mekong Delta. In the latter region, 25.3 per cent of the adult population had a daily energy intake below 1,800 calories" (Chossudovsky 160). The Land Law passed in 1993 allows farmland to be sold and mortgaged: "The consequence has been the re-emergence of...usury and land tenancy" (Chossudovsky 164). Educational gains made under socialism (e.g., the literacy rate reached 90% before _Doi moi_) have been under attack: "The reforms have deliberately and consciously destroyed the educational system by massively compressing the educational budget, depressing teachers' salaries and 'commercializing' secondary, vocational and higher education through the exaction of tuition fees" (Chossudovsky 165). The once impressive health system has collapsed, and infectious diseases have made a massive comeback.

The Vietnamese CP's embrace of neoliberalism & the world market has been a disaster. Countries like Vietnam can never hope to prosper economically under capitalism. Socialism in one country doesn't bring abundance to peasants and workers on the periphery either, but the experiences of Cuba, Kerala, etc. suggest that under a given level of productive forces, socialism is better for the masses than capitalism with regard to food supply, health, education, etc. Vietnam must reverse its political course & search for a socialist alternative, but 15 years of _Doi moi_ have already created the economic conditions that would make such a change difficult (even if any social forces arise in the future to struggle for socialism):

***** The reforms promoted the "economic Balkanization" of the regions each of which is separately integrated into the world market: the deregulation of the transport industry led to skyrocketing freight prices. State transport companies were also driven into bankruptcy with a large share of the transport industry taken over by joint-venture capital.

Moreover, with the freeze on budget transfers from the central to the provincial and municipal governments recommended by the World Bank, provincial and local authorities became increasingly "free" to establish their own investment and trading relations with foreign companies to the detriment of internal trade. The provinces were negotiating numerous investment and trade agreements including the granting of land to foreign investors as well as concessions which allowed foreign capital (in a completely unregulated environment) to plunder Vietnam's forest resources. (Chossudovsky 154) *****


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list