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Rethinking poverty and peasant in Vietnam after revolution and war Nguyen-Marshall, Van 1994

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RETHINKING POVERTY AND PEASANT IN VIETNAM AFTER REVOLUTION AND WAR by VAN NGUYEN-MARSHALL B.Sc, Dalhousie University, 1988 B.A., Hon., Dalhousie University, 1991 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of History) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA May 1994 <£) Van Nguyen-Marshall, 1994 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of HlSfQ^y The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date /V//?/ 17J DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT A discussion of ru r a l poverty necessarily involves two slippery concepts: that of the peasant and that of poverty. The early 1970s marked the beginning of renewed interest among Western scholars i n uncovering the nature of the peasantry. Their effo r t s focused on how to define the peasants as well as how to evaluate t h e i r behaviour. Today the debate between the "moral economist" and the "rational peasant" schools remains controversial. And as for poverty i t s e l f , there i s no agreement among sociologists as to what i s poverty and why poverty exists i n almost a l l societies throughout time. This M.A. thesis w i l l examine the pl i g h t of Vietnamese i n t e l l e c t u a l s i n post-revolutionary (1954) Vietnam i n t h e i r attempt to solve r u r a l poverty. Similar to Western sociologists, Vietnamese thinkers are i n a quandary about the problem of poverty. The d e f i n i t i o n and solutions are not conclusive, and they change with the p o l i t i c a l climate. For the Vietnamese, however, the re-assessment of r u r a l poverty presents a graver consequence: the re-defining of the nature of the peasantry. It i s no longer satisfactory to view the peasants as the embodiment of communalistic tra d i t i o n s ; the Vietnamese thinkers are conceding that perhaps there was never any innate q u a l i t i e s about the peasants that made them more incl i n e d toward c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n rather than private ownership. In eff e c t , the re-evaluation of the nature of the peasantry i s a challenge to the raison d'être of the Vietnamese S o c i a l i s t program and ultimately, the S o c i a l i s t Revolution i t s e l f . TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract i i Table of Contents i i i L i s t of Tables i v Acknowledgement v INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER 1 POVERTY, PEASANT AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT The Concept of Poverty 6 What i s a Peasant? 12 The Poverty Issue i n "Underdevelopment" 23 CHAPTER 2 BEFORE THE REVOLUTION The Tu-Luc Van-Doan Writers 39 Thanh Nqhi 47 The Communist Analysis 61 CHAPTER 3 IN THE AFTERMATH OF REVOLUTION AND WAR 70 C o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n and i t s Failure 71 Nonq Thon Viet-Nam Tronq Lich Su 78 More Uncertainties i n the 1980s 93 Poverty and Inequality i n the 1990s 102 CONCLUSION 124 BIBLIOGRAPHY 129 LIST OF TABLES: Table I S t r a t i f i c a t i o n i n three northern Vietnamese provinces 115 ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I would l i k e to thank Professors Terry McGee and B i l l Wray for agreeing to s i t on my thesis defence committee. Their contribution i s greatly appreciated. Professor Dianne Newell has been a major source of support and encouragement throughout my MA program. Her attention and f a i t h i n me have made a difference i n my experience at UBC. And for this I am extremely grateful. This thesis would not have seen the l i g h t of day had i t not been for my supervisor. Professor Alexander Woodside who was kind enough to take me, the greenhorn that I was i n Asian history, under his guidance. I would l i k e to thank him for his wisdom, patience and generosity. Lastly, I would l i k e to thank Richard Nguyen-Marshall, whose unconditional love and support have sustained me both on the home front and i n my studies. Richard's enthusiasm and interest i n my work (not to mention the many times he had proof read and edited my writings) have made the thesis-writing process less lonely and less arduous. No one could ask for more from a spouse. IMXRODUCTION A discussion of r u r a l poverty necessarily involves two slippery concepts: that of the peasant and that of poverty. The early 1970s marked the beginning of renewed interest among Western scholars i n uncovering the nature of the Southeast Asian peasantry. Their e f f o r t s focused on how to define peasants as well as how to evaluate t h e i r behaviour. Today the debate between the "moral economist" school and the "rational peasant" school remains controversial.^ And as for poverty i t s e l f , there i s no agreement among sociologists as to what i s poverty and why poverty exists i n almost a l l societies throughout time. The word poverty conjures up a variety of divergent images: famine i n African countries, street children i n Rio de Janeiro, homeless beggars i n c i t i e s around the world, the slums of the American i n n e r - c i t i e s , the Indians on North American reserves, as well as images of single mothers on welfare and the elderly on pensions. Not surprisingly, there i s a lack of consensus among s o c i a l researchers on a d e f i n i t i o n for t h i s elusive concept. I t i s even more d i f f i c u l t for historians who t r y to study the nature and 1 James Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant; Rebellion and Subsistence i n Southeast Asia (New Haven, Conn-: Yale U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1976); Samuel Popkin, The Rational Peasant; The P o l i t i c a l Economy of Rural Society i n Vietnam (Berkeley; U n i v e r s i t y of C a l i f o r n i a Press, 1979); Journal of Asian Studies, v o l 42(4) 1983, contains a symposium on the moral versus r a t i o n a l economic approaches. causes of poverty i n past societies, since many of the concepts used to measure poverty (such as the "poverty line") were developed at the turn of the century.^ This thesis w i l l examine the challenge of Vietnamese i n t e l l e c t u a l s i n post-revolutionary Vietnam i n the i r attençt to solve r u r a l poverty. Their struggle involves not only untangling the elusive concept of poverty, but also re-assessing the nature of the peasantry. Similar to Western sociologists, Vietnamese thinkers are i n a quandary about the problem of poverty. The definiti o n s and solutions are not conclusive, and they change with the p o l i t i c a l climate. For the Vietnamese, however, the re-assessment of ru r a l poverty presents a graver consequence: the re-defining of the nature of the peasantry. In the 1990s as Vietnam's economy undergoes a major re-orientation away from the orthodox s o c i a l i s t path, i t i s no longer satisfactory to view the peasants as the embodiment of communalistic traditions; the Vietnamese thinkers are conceding that perhaps there were never any innate q u a l i t i e s about the peasants that made them more i n c l i n e d toward c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n rather than private ownership. In eff e c t , the re-evaluation of the nature of the peasantry i s a challenge to the raison d'etre of the Vietnamese S o c i a l i s t program and ultimately, the S o c i a l i s t Revolution i t s e l f . Gertrude Himmelfarb, Poverty and Compassion (New York: A l f r e d A. Knopf, 1991), p. 104. The thesis i s divided into three parts. The f i r s t section w i l l explore the various meanings of the concepts poverty and peasant. It w i l l become clear that these two terms have contested definitions and explanations. In this section some explanations for Third World underdevelopment w i l l also be b r i e f l y examined. The second part w i l l focus on selective Vietnamese writings about r u r a l poverty i n the period between the 1940s and the early 1970s. The mid-1930s to the mid-1940s saw an emerging s e n s i b i l i t y among Vietnamese i n t e l l e c t u a l s toward the countryside and i t s inhabitants. During t h i s period Vietnamese f i c t i o n flourished, with a great deal of the writings focusing on the l i v e s and the poverty of Vietnamese peasants. I w i l l present a small sample of the works of the Self-Reliance Literary Group (Tu Luc Van Doan). Through t h e i r l i t e r a t u r e members of this group such as Nhat Linh, Khai Hung and Thach Lam showed a deep concern for the peasants who suffered i n j u s t i c e and poverty under French colonialism. In addition, this section w i l l examine the writings of the reform-minded, French-educated i n t e l l e c t u a l s i n the journal Thanh Nqhi. Published during the Second World War (1939 to 1945) this journal broke ground i n i t s attempts to analyze poverty and to suggest concrete p r a c t i c a l solutions for the problem. In contrast to the theorizing of non-communist thinkers, communists' explanations for poverty during t h i s period emphasized i m p e r i a l i s t i c and c a p i t a l i s t i c exploitation of the peasants. Consequently, the communists' remedies for r u r a l poverty centred upon land reform, which subsequently led to a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n . The t h i r d section of the thesis w i l l focus on writings of the l a t e 1970s to 1990s. By the late 1970s i t had become evident that Vietnamese a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n was not achieving success, for Vietnam's countryside was s t i l l underdeveloped and poor. This section w i l l discuss the reasons for the f a i l u r e s of the a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n p o l i c i e s as well as the challenges such f a i l u r e s meant for the Vietnamese communists' theories about poverty and the peasantry. A focus w i l l be on the writings of Vietnamese historians i n the book, Nona Thon Viet Nam Trong Lich Su, (Vietnamese Vil l a g e s i n History). This book, published i n 1977, was the Vietnamese communists' l a s t major scholarly attempt to bolster t h e i r c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n - o r i e n t e d theories about the nature of the peasantry, of the peasant economy, and of poverty. The r e l a t i v e relaxation on censorship which accompanied Vietnam's major "renovation" i n the 1980s and 1990s has led to a profusion of new discussion about r u r a l poverty i n contemporary Vietnam. The move away from a centrally planned command economy has allowed i n t e l l e c t u a l s to contemplate a more varied slate of causes and remedies for poverty. Thus the a r t i c l e s found i n the academic journals i n the 1980s and 1990s move r a d i c a l l y away from the thinking of Nona Thon Viet Nam i n the late 1970s. Indeed, i n t h e i r admission that the e a r l i e r p o l i c i e s of c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n were incorrect, the Vietnamese thinkers are now reverting to explanations and solutions for poverty that had been advocated by e a r l i e r moderate l i b e r a l thinkers, such as those of the journal Thanh Nqhi i n the 1940s. I t seems that Vietnamese thinking about poverty, peasantry and economic development has come f u l l c i r c l e . I. POVERTY, PEASANT AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT The Concept of Poverty The d e f i n i t i o n and explanations of poverty have perplexed sociologists of many countries throughout history. In the 1960s i n the wake of Michael Harrington's The Other America—which publicized the problem of poverty i n the affluent American s o c i e t y — t h e r e was a resurgence of interest i n poverty research among North American s o c i a l s c i e n t i s t s . The great amount of research was undertaken to id e n t i f y , measure, and fight poverty. The prevalence of the soci o l o g i c a l writing also prodded the American and the Canadian governments to wage t h e i r respective "war on poverty". As of 1994, however, poverty has yet to be defeated, and indeed i t may be escalating. The poverty discussion had, i n fact, begun much e a r l i e r than the 1960s. The i n t e l l e c t u a l historian Gertrude Himmelfarb's two large volumes regarding the notion of poverty i n the early i n d u s t r i a l and la t e Victorian England, reveal how much had been theorized, written, and debated on the concept of poverty i n the nineteenth century. Himmelfarb observed that there was no linear development of the concept of poverty from regressive to progressive attitudes toward the poor. Instead, the h i s t o r i c a l changes i n the conception o s c i l l a t e d l i k e a pendulum between "punitive, repressive p o l i c i e s and generous, melioratory ones."^ Himmelfarb also noted that i n "tracing the history of the idea of poverty.. .one i s s t a r t l e d to f i n d how rapidly i t changes".'* Surveys of more recent sociological works also show that the concept of poverty i s s t i l l very tentative. According to the Chinese sociologists, Qiu Zeqi and L i Ningjing, there i s no consensus among scholars as to the d e f i n i t i o n of poverty.^ The dominance of one view over another greatly depends upon the s p e c i f i c time and society that i s being described. Coupled with these different d e f i n i t i o n s are dif f e r e n t theories for the causes of poverty. Consider American writing on r u r a l poverty as an example. Explanations for American r u r a l poverty went through three phases i n the l a s t 70 years.^ In the 1920s and 1930s r u r a l poverty i n America was believed to be caused by the undeveloped economic and p o l i t i c a l structure. This i s referred to as the "regionalist" theory. Proponents of t h i s school believed that the economic structure of the American South (where r u r a l poverty was and s t i l l i s a problem), was the res u l t of i t s backward structure. The solution, therefore, was "economic restructuring". In the 1960s, a second phase and a ^ Gertrude Himmelfarb, The Idea of Poverty, England i n the E a r l y I n d u s t r i a l Age (New York: A l f r e d A. Knopf, 1983), p. 6. 4 I b i d . , p. 12. ^ Qiu Zeqi and L i Ningjing, "Zhongguo Xiangcun Pingkun Xianshi J i e s h i Zhi Changshi" [The Attempts to Explain the R e a l i t y of Poverty i n China's Countryside], Shehui Xue Yaniiu F S o c i o l o g i c a l Research], B e i j i n g , (5) 1992, p. 91. ^ A l i c e O'Connor, "Modernization and the Rural Poor: Some Lessons from History", i n Cynthia Duncan, ed.. Rural Poverty i n America (New York: Auburn House, 1992), pp.215-233. new theory emerged which began to l i n k culture with poverty. The "culture of poverty" theory i s often associated with anthropologist Oscar Lewis whose research on poor Mexican families i n 1959 f i r s t popularized t h i s concept.'^ This theory associates poverty with backward, pre-modern, t r a d i t i o n a l i s t cultures. According to Eleanor Leacock, an American anthropologist, the "culture of poverty" assumes that an autonomous subculture e x i s t s among the poor, one which i s self-perpetuating and s e l f - d e f e a t i n g . This subculture, i t i s argued, involves a sense of resignation or f a t a l i s m and an i n a b i l i t y to put o f f the s a t i s f a c t i o n of immediate desires i n order t o plan f o r the future.^ This l i n e of reasoning focuses on aspects of a group's culture that do not resemble the culture of the "industrious" middle class and categorizes these c u l t u r a l practices as negative. In the t h i r d phase, i n the 1970s, American r u r a l poverty was examined not as something peculiarly national but i n l i g h t of theories for world poverty. The idea of a "vicious c i r c l e " became prominent during this time. I t was thought that a society was poor because i t lacked c a p i t a l ; and because i t lacked c a p i t a l i t lacked education, s o c i a l welfare, t e c h n o l o g y — a l l of which i n turn made i t d i f f i c u l t to acciamulate c a p i t a l . Therefore, according to t h i s explanation, the causes and consequences of poverty were inter-changeable.^ ^ Kenneth Deavers and Robert Hoppe, "Overview of the Rural Poor i n the 1980s", i n Cynthia Duncan, ed.. Rural Poverty i n America, p. 7. ^ Eleanor Leacock, ed.. The Culture of Poverty (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971), p. 11. 5 John Galbraith, The Nature of Mass Poverty (Cambridge: Harvard U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1970). I t appears that the d e f i n i t i o n of poverty and the explanation for the problem change with the changing s o c i a l values and times. Thus, depending on the s o c i o - p o l i t i c a l climate, certain theories w i l l take precedence over others. In addition to the changing d e f i n i t i o n of poverty through time, poverty i s thought by some to be different for developed and undeveloped s o c i e t i e s . D. Whyte stated that poverty i s "phenomenologically" d i f f e r e n t i n a modern in d u s t r i a l i z e d society than i n a pre-industrial or non-i n d u s t r i a l society.10 Poverty of the non-industrialized countries tends to affect the masses, as opposed to affecting just pockets of under-privileged people as i t does i n i n d u s t r i a l i z e d countries. In addition, i n the developing countries one i s usually talking about "absolute" poverty. Sociologists often describe the present poverty i n the developed country as "relative deprivation" because most poor people experience poverty i n r e l a t i o n to others i n society or to an expected minimum standard of l i v i n g . Absolute poverty, on the other hand, i s an objective condition. In terms of poverty i n contemporary ru r a l Vietnam, we are talking about absolute poverty. The Vietnamese researcher, Nguyen Sinh, made the d e f i n i t i o n more e x p l i c i t ; he c l a s s i f i e d the poor of 1992 as those who go hungry for three to f i v e months a year.^^ Donald Whyte, " S o c i o l o g i c a l Aspects of poverty: A Conceptual Analysis", i n W. E. Mann, ed.. Poverty and s o c i a l P o l i c y i n Canada (Toronto: the Copp Clark Publishing Co., 1970), p. 3. H Nguyen Sinh, "Su phan hoa giau ngheo o nong thon hien nay", (The Present D i s p a r i t y Between the Rich and Poor i n the Countryside) Tap Chi Cong San. 9, 1992, p. 49. Nguyen Sinh's d e f i n i t i o n of the poor f i t s into what sociologists c a l l the "subsistence-level" approach to poverty. Proponents of this approach define poverty as the deprivation of the basic materials needed for l i f e . The subsistence-level approach i s associated with the l a t e -nineteenth century s o c i a l researcher Seebohm Rowntree who surveyed the working people's l i v i n g conditions i n the c i t y of York, England. 12 According to Himmelfarb, i t was Rowntree who f i r s t popularized the term "poverty l i n e " which i s s t i l l used today to measure poverty. The subsistence-level approach has been c r i t i c i z e d by poverty researchers such as Peter Townsend for i t s vagueness and arbitrariness with regard to what should be considered "adequate n u t r i t i o n a l requirements",and by the Chinese sociologists Qiu Zeqi and L i Ningjing for treating people l i k e animals and looking only at t h e i r b i o l o g i c a l needs. Amartya Sen, however, made an important point i n defence of the subsistence-level approach. Sen reminded us that malnutrition i s s t i l l central to the concept of poverty, especially when one i s looking at the t h i r d world: "while i t can hardly be denied that malnutrition captures only one aspect of our idea of poverty, i t i s an important aspect, and •'•2 Himmelfarb, Poverty and Passion, pp. 169-178. Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), pp. 12-13. '^^  Qiu Zeqi and L i Ningjing, "Zhongguo Xiangcun Pingkun Xianshi J i e s h i Zhi Changshi", p 97. one that i s p a r t i c u l a r l y important for many developing countries ". For our discussion about poverty i n r u r a l Vietnam, the use of the subsistence-level approach i s more appropriate than other approaches such as the inequality approach. The inequality approach, advocated by S. M i l l e r and P. Roby, focuses not on poverty but on the gap between the r i c h and poor.i^ While i t i s true that with the recent economic changes there has been a growing dis p a r i t y between the r i c h and poor i n Vietnam, poverty existed even before the emergence of extreme inequality. Again, I w i l l quote Sen who argued that the inequality approach does not deal adequately with poverty i t s e l f : "inequality i s fundamentally a di f f e r e n t issue from poverty ...Inequality and poverty are not, of course, unrelated. But neither concept subsumes the other, "i'^ In some situations, inequality may partly explain poverty, but not a l l poverty i s caused by inequality, and not a l l inequality results i n poverty. In Vietnam factors such as overpopulation, land scarcity, foreign domination, war, natural calamities, and government mismanagement a l l , at d i f f e r e n t times and to di f f e r e n t extents, played some role i n contributing to r u r a l poverty. Sen, Poverty and Famines, p. 14. 16 I b i d . 17 I b i d . , pp. 14-15. What i s a Peasant? In 1973, i n an a r t i c l e e n t i t l e d , "A Note on the Defi n i t i o n of Peasants", Sidney Mintz, quoting Teodor Shanin, stated that i t i s "amusing, i f not grotesque" that scholars do not have an agreement on whether or not the peasant exists. 1^  I t i s not surprising that scholars are i n this predicament with t h i s term "peasant". In most of the non-western world, a large portion of the population i s said to belong to t h i s category "peasant". Thus scholars trying to define and describe a peasant are, i n e f f e c t , trying to categorize a great number of the world's people under one term. Nevertheless, within the academic discourse this i s a legitimate category, and scholars not only define peasants, but also attempt to explain t h e i r nature and actions. According to some s p e c i a l i s t s on peasants (in partic u l a r , Teodor Shanin and E r i c Wolf), the " c r i t i c a l diagnostic feature of peasant status" i s t h e i r position as "underdogs" within the s o c i e t y . T h e common characteristics of a peasantry are: "cash-oriented a g r i c u l t u r a l production, structural subordination to the state and other external forces, small-community settlement, emd a f a m i l i a l basis for economic a c t i v i t y . " 2 ° These descriptions correspond closely to James Scott's view of the peasants. Mintz, Sidney, "A Note on the D e f i n i t i o n of Peasantries", The Journal of Peasant Studies, v o l 1(1), 1973, pp 91-106. 19 Ibid., p. 93. 20 I b i d . , p. 102. James Scott's name i s intimately associated with the term "moral economy", a phrase coined by E.P. Thompson but developed by Scott.21 Other s p e c i a l i s t s on peasant society such as E r i c Wolf and Barrington Moore have also espoused thi s l i n e of thinking i n explaining the peasants' world view, but i t i s Scott who formulated the moral economy theory, and i t i s his name that fronts the dispute against the li k e s of Samuel Popkin, the contender for the "political-economist" theory. 22 Scott maintained that precolonial v i l l a g e l i f e was a closed corporate world i n which complex s o c i a l arrangements functioned to protect and preserve i t s i n t e g r i t y . These s o c i a l relationships ensured the survival of the majority of i t s members as well as preserved the structure and culture of the society. Living within such s o c i a l arrangements, peasants developed a certain "notion of economic justice" and "de f i n i t i o n of exploitation" that Scott c a l l s t h e i r "moral economy".23 An important element of the peasants' moral economy i s a "subsistence ethic". Scott argued that since living-conditions were precarious for many peasants, th e i r f i r s t and greatest concern was day-to-day su r v i v a l . Peasants' choices, therefore, tended to r e f l e c t this need for the security to subsist. Peasants, for instance, would 21 Charles Keyes, "Peasant Strategies i n Asian S o c i e t i e s : Moral and Rational Economic Approaches — A Symposium Introduction", Journal of Asian Studies, v o l 42 (4), 1983, p. 754. 22 Samuel Popkin, The Rational Peasant. 23 Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant, p. 3. choose a more r e l i a b l e crop s t r a i n over a profitable but risky one because i n l i v i n g near the edge of destitution, peasants would opt for " s a f e t y - f i r s t " . For the peasants, the right to subsist had become a standard, the minimum guarantee they expected from t h e i r society. Scott maintained that when this right was infringed upon, when t h e i r s o c i a l arrangements and r i t u a l s no longer ensured t h e i r s u r v i v a l , peasants would become angry, and rebellions would become imminent. In Scott's theory the v i l l a g e plays an important role i n providing peasants with guarantees for a minimum l e v e l of subsistence. In the t r a d i t i o n a l ( i e . precolonial) v i l l a g e there was a "conservative egalitarianism" that insured that everyone had a place and a means to subsist, but not that everyone should have equal wealth.2* This egalitarianism was enforced by t r a d i t i o n , v i l l a g e rules and public opinion. Thus Scott's theory suggests that the "ethics of subsistence and r e c i p r o c i t y govern the development of v i l l a g e welfare and social-insurance i n s t i t u t i o n s as well as rebellion."25 In reaction to Scott's explanation for peasant behaviour, Samuel Popkin's theory of the "rational peasant" portrays the peasants as i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c , r a t i o n a l people who aim to maximize t h e i r own personal benefits and not those of the v i l l a g e . Popkin argued that what he meant by i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c i s not necessarily selfishness; peasants ^* I b i d . , p. 40. 25 David Feeny, "Peasant Strategies i n Asian S o c i e t i e s " , Journal of Asian Studies, v o l 42 (4) 1983, p. 769. might very well care for the vi l l a g e ' s welfare, but th e i r prime concern lay with the well-being of th e i r own family.26 Therefore, even though i t might have made sense to participate i n village-based welfare arrangements, a peasant family might choose not to participate because of the uncertainties of such schemes resulting from the problem of "free-riders" and untrustworthy leadership: whenever there i s coordinated action to produce c o l l e c t i v e goods, i n d i v i d u a l s may c a l c u l a t e they are better o f f not con t r i b u t i n g . As long as they cannot be excluded from the good, there i s the p o t e n t i a l f o r free r i d e r s , i n d i v i d u a l s who do not contribute to the pr o v i s i o n of goods because they believe they w i l l receive the gain or s e c u r i t y even i f they do not participate.2 Thus i n Popkin's " p o l i t i c a l economy" theory of peasant behaviour, the peasant i s a rational economic maximizer, who i s guided by "investment l o g i c " and w i l l only participate i n c o l l e c t i v e a c t i v i t i e s that are secure and guarantee some concrete benefits to that particular i n d i v i d u a l . At the heart of the "moral economy" versus "rational peasant" debate i s , as David Feeny put i t , the basic issue of "individual versus c o l l e c t i v e r a t i o n a l i t y and what motivates the individual's behaviour."28 This basic issue of communalism versus individualism had been addressed by George Foster i n an a r t i c l e written about a decade before Scott's and Popkin's debate erupted. Foster wrote: "People who see themselves i n 'threatened' circumstances...react normally i n 26 Popkin, The Rational Peasant, p. 31. 27 Ibid., pp. 24-25. 28 Ibid., p. 779. one of two ways; maximum cooperation and sometimes communism, burying individual differences and placing sanctions against individualism; or extreme individualism."29 According to Foster, peasants always chose the second alternative: individualism. George Foster explained this peculiar disposition of peasants toward individualism with his theory, the "image of limited good".30 According to Foster, peasants perceived t h e i r environment as a place i n which good things were limited. As a consequence of t h i s b e l i e f that there i s limited good, peasants believed that any amount of happiness or wealth they received was gained at the expense of other people i n the community. This world view translated into t h e i r suspicious nature, t h e i r d i s t r u s t of c o l l e c t i v e a c t i v i t i e s , t h e i r tendency to gossip, and t h e i r i n a b i l i t y to accumulate wealth. Consequently, th i s "mentality of mutual di s t r u s t " of the peasants insured that c o l l e c t i v e actions among peasants were d i f f i c u l t to organize. There are many inconsistencies i n Foster's theory of peasant world view. One problem concerns Foster's explanation of why peasants were poor. Foster argued that as a consequence of the b e l i e f i n the "limited good", there were public sanctions against an individual's accumulation of wealth, and thus peasants who did come into riches f e l t the 29 I b i d . . p. 310. 20 George Foster, "Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good", Jack Potter, May Diaz and George Foster, eds.. Peasant Society (Bostons L i t t l e , Brown and Co., 1967), pp 300-323. pressure to neutralize this by throwing expensive feasts. This ensured that the status quo was maintained. Certainly, t h i s r e d i s t r i b u t i o n of wealth had played an important role i n Vietnamese v i l l a g e s as way to reinforce v i l l a g e hierarchy and customs. Nevertheless, community sanction i n the form of "gossip, slander, backbiting, [and] character assassination, "31 would not have had much impact on people's behaviour i f they were not dependent on t h e i r community. In other words, i f peasants were as i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c as Foster claimed, and i f they l i v e d with a greater degree of independence from t h e i r society than urbanités, then why would communal sanctions have affected them anymore than people i n urban, i n d u s t r i a l societies? Individualism (along with t h r i f t and hard work) has always been a t r a i t used to explain the prosperity i n Western s o c i e t i e s . And yet, among peasants, individualism was a t r a i t that Foster claimed have stunted economic development because i t made peasants d i s t r u s t f u l of community welfare and c a p i t a l accumulation.32 Although there are many holes i n Foster's universal explanation of the nature of the peasants, his image of the peasant i s presented here because i t i s a recurring image found i n Vietnamese theorists' works. In Vietnamese 31 I b i d . , p.314. 32 Foster suggested that peasants' " l i m i t e d good" world view also explains the popularity of l o t t e r i e s i n underdeveloped countries. According to Foster, peasants resort to l o t t e r i e s because getting r i c h through luck does not threaten the status quo as much as when an i n d i v i d u a l becomes r i c h through t h e i r own e f f o r t s . I t would be i n t e r e s t i n g to see how Foster would account f o r the enormous amount of money Canadians spend on nation a l and p r o v i n c i a l l o t t e r i e s . Perhaps Canadians are a l l peasants. communist and non-communist thinking the peasants are perceived as an " i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c , suspicious, envious, and uncooperative"33 class of people who r e s i s t and hinder community development and progress. Another image of the peasant, however, exists side-by-side with t h i s i n d i v i d u a l i s t characterization. The peasant as victim image (as depicted by Wolf and Shanin) also features very prominently i n the thinking about peasants i n both communist and non-communist Vietnamese writings. This contradictory view of the peasants as both aggressive i n d i v i d u a l i s t s and passive victims, i s not confined to Vietnam, as Charles Hayford's work on ru r a l China shows. Hayford noted that since the mid-1930s, when Chinese peasants were being mobilized to fight the Japanese, the Chinese i n t e l l e c t u a l s ' opinion about the peasantry changed: "the vast countryside became a resource, and the v i l l a g e no longer China's shame, but China's hope."^4 According to Hayford, the peasant moved frcOTi being despised i n l i t e r a t u r e during the New Culture Movement (1917-1923) to being p i t i e d as "victim of soluble oppression" i n the l i t e r a t u r e of the 1930s. 35 Of p a r t i c u l a r interest to this discussion i s , of course, the Marxist view of the peasants. I t i s well known that Marxist theory had predicted the disappearance of the 33 I b i d . , p. 296. 34 Charles Hayford, To the People; James Yen and V i l l a g e China. Columbia U n i v e r s i t y Press, New York, 1990, p. 111. 35 I b i d . . p. 113. peasantry as a productive class. Although i t i s debatable how Karl Marx himself f e l t toward the potential of Russian communes i n the days before the emancipation of the serfs, the widely read works of Marx and Engels advanced the b e l i e f that the peasantry must necessarily be destroyed i n the h i s t o r i c a l progress.^6 Opposite to th i s view were the populist b e l i e f s of such Russian i n t e l l e c t u a l s as Alexander Herzen, M. A. Bakunin, and A.V. Chayanov who saw the Russian communes as an "embryo of 'complete s o c i a l i s t i c s e l f -government ' ". 37 Those champions of peasants argued that not only were village-based organizations more humane than capitalist-based ones, but that the peasant family unit provided a strong economic structure. Chayanov, for example, believed that because peasant families would exploit themselves i n order to maintain t h e i r present status, peasant farms were (or could have been) more competitive than large-scale c a p i t a l i s t ones.38 In a recent a r t i c l e on Chinese peasantry Myron Cohen revived the populists' appraisal of the peasant household. Refuting the image of the "backward" peasant, Cohen focused Robert Bideleux made an argument that i n Marx's l a t e r w r i t i n g he was more o p t i m i s t i c about the fate and p o t e n t i a l of v i l l a g e communes than i n the e a r l i e r works. Robert Bideleux, Communism and Development (London: Methuen and Co., 1985), ch. 1; Leonard Schapiro also suggested that Marx was more ambivalent toward the Russian communes than Engels. Leonard Schapiro, "Marxism i n Russia", E l l e n Dahrendorf, ed., Russian Studies (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), pp.131-155. 37 Bideleux, Communism and Development, p. 31. 38 D. Thorner, "Chayanov's Concept of Peasant Economy", i n A. v. Chayanov, The Theory of Peasant Economy (Homewood, 111.: R. D. Irwin, 1966), p. x v i i i . on a positive aspect of the Chinese peasantry that has contributed to China's modernization: the peasant family.^9 Unlike Chayanov's victimized peasant family that exploited i t s e l f i n order to survive, the Chinese peasant family, according to Cohen, i s comparable to a business enterprise that has, since the late imperial period, been a f l e x i b l e economic unit, straddling both a g r i c u l t u r a l and commercial sectors. D i v e r s i f i c a t i o n has always been a part of a family's survival strategy, and thus " i t was common for shops and firms to be run by families who also owned farms and had some of the i r members working them, "^ o The deployment of family members i n dif f e r e n t economic sectors also meant that often not a l l members were working and l i v i n g i n the same area; a peasant family, for example, might have members working i n the c i t i e s as well as working on the land. Cohen ad r o i t l y pointed t h i s out i n order to challenge the v a l i d i t y of the "peasant" category. Cohen explained that the Chinese term for peasant, nongmin, did not appear i n Chinese dictionaries u n t i l the recent d e c a d e s . T h e adoption of the term "peasant", along with terms such as "feudal", "custom" and "superstition" to describe the t r a d i t i o n a l Chinese society, was part of the Chinese i n t e l l e c t u a l s ' process of cu l t u r a l invention i n the twentieth century. According to Cohen, Marxist and non-39 Myron Cohen, " C u l t u r a l and P o l i t i c a l Inventions i n Modern China: The Case of the Chinese 'Peasant'", Daedalus, v o l 122 (2), Spring 1993. 40 I b i d . , p. 164. 41 Ibid., p. 155. Marxist i n t e l l e c t u a l s needed to create a dichotomy between the "old" and "modern" societies so as to j u s t i f y t h e i r desire for revolution. Thus, Cohen objected to other scholars' persistent use of the term "peasant" as a way to describe the Chinese countryside; "There were always many peasants who were not farmers; the fact that this i s increasingly true does not yet appear to have altered perception of the countryside. The challenge Cohen poses for scholars of peasant studies are many. F i r s t of a l l , with regard to the Chinese Communist Revolution, Cohen's a r t i c l e suggests that there was no " e v i l o l d society" from which to rescue the Chinese population, since the "old society" was part of the cu l t u r a l invention of the Chinese i n t e l l e c t u a l s . On a more general l e v e l , the a r t i c l e suggests that peasants did not exist as an i d e n t i f i a b l e group of people, who could be categorized under one heading. Consequently, not only was there no "old society" to revolutionize i n absolute terms, but there were also few stereotypical peasants to li b e r a t e . For Vietnamese ru r a l experts, the controversy does not revolve so much around "peasant" per se. The key term i n the discussion about the countryside i s " v i l l a g e " . Like peasant, the term v i l l a g e i n Vietnamese history conjures up a singular image; a closed, communally-oriented society protected by a thick bamboo wall.*^ Recent works of Vietnamese scholars, however, emphasize the complexities and differences among Vietnamese v i l l a g e s , especially the large differences between Northern and Southern v i l l a g e s . As the notion "peasant" has been challenged, so has the singular image of the Vietnamese v i l l a g e been under f i r e . At issue are the d i f f e r e n t origins of v i l l a g e s , the nature of landownership systems, and the d i v e r s i t y i n organization and structure of v i l l a g e s . These issues w i l l be discussed l a t e r . The point to be made here i s that v i l l a g e study i s c r i t i c a l i n Vietnam, for the j u s t i f i c a t i o n of the Vietnamese S o c i a l i s t Revolution hinges upon the d e f i n i t i o n of the nature of the Vietnamese v i l l a g e . In a recent a r t i c l e surveying the achievements of Vietnamese r u r a l historians, the author, Phan Dai Doan (a well-established state expert on the v i l l a g e s i n the S o c i a l i s t Republic of Vietnam) showed that although much has been done i n the f i e l d , much i s s t i l l not yet understood. Phan Dai Doan wrote: v i l l a g e research i s e s s e n t i a l l y the study of the Vietnamese society before capi t a l i s m ; i t i s the search f o r understanding of the s o c i e t y the 'night before' our s o c i a l i s t r e v o l u t i o n . I t i s , therefore, a task of great p r a c t i c a l importance that urgently demands the research e f f o r t s of his t o r i a n s ^ * In addition, the author added that the b i t t e r (gay gat) experience of the 1970s has made the research into the 43 This stereotype i s based on Northern v i l l a g e s . Southern v i l l a g e s have been found t o be more lo o s e l y structured and organized. 44 Phan Dai Doan, "May Van De Ve Lang Xa-Viet-Nam" Nqhien Cuu L i c h Su. 1&2, 1987, p. 8. v i l l a g e even more urgent. I t appears that the b i t t e r experience to which the author was re f e r r i n g was the f a i l u r e of c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n to transform the v i l l a g e s as expected, and the emergence of family-based economy (or small producer). According to Phan Dai Doan, since Vietnam did not go through a proper bourgeois revolution, much of the v i l l a g e ' s feudal heritage i s re-emerging and affecting the present. Therefore, he f e l t that i t was extremely important to pursue more research into the nature of Vietnamese v i l l a g e s , s i n c e — h e warned the readers with the paradox—"the past i s s t i l l the present". The Poverty Issue i n "Underdevelopment" Connected to the discussion of poverty i s the debate about development and underdevelopment. The term "underdevelopment" (or less developed countries—LDC) i s often used to refer to the state of a country's economy, society and p o l i t i c s . The standards for judging a country's developed or underdeveloped status are set by the western democracies; indeed, the standards are the western democracies. The characteristics of developed societies supposedly are i n d u s t r i a l i z a t i o n , modernization, economic growth, s o c i a l mobility and p o l i t i c a l s t a b i l i t y . Poverty i s assumed to be part and parcel of the LDCs plethora of problems. This section w i l l examine some Western explanations for underdevelopment i n Asia, and i n particular, Vietnam. F i r s t , however, a br i e f look at how the concept of "development" has evolved. H. W. Arndt i n his book. Economic Development; The History of an Idea, stated that the term "development" has come to mean everything good: "everyman's road to Utopia".^6 Arndt•s book traces the changing trend of the concept of economic development. It was only aft e r World War Two that the notion of economic development became thought of as a uniform global process.^7 Like the concept of poverty, the idea of development underwent many changes. According to Arndt, at the beginning of the 1950s development was believed to be synonymous with economic growth. Development p o l i c i e s , therefore, focused on the LDC's lack of c a p i t a l , and economists concentrated on stimulating economic growth. In the 1960s the interpretation of economic development was widened to include human potential. Incidentally, this coincided with the popularization of the "culture of poverty" theory especially among American anthropologists and sociologists at that time. The emphasis, therefore, was directed toward educating, and providing technical assistance and t r a i n i n g for the populations of the LDC.^s i n the 1970s, however, the developed countries and t h e i r i n s t i t u t i o n s (such 4^ H. W. Arndt, Economic Development; The History of an Idea (Chicago; U n i v e r s i t y of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 1. 47 Ibid . 48 I b i d . , pp 60-72. as the World Bank) began to stress the problem of poverty as something that persisted even though there was economic growth. In other words, the Western economists were discovering that even though a country's gross national product (GNP) might be growing, poverty s t i l l remained a problem. Consequently, various organizations such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) began focusing on "income d i s t r i b u t i o n " , and "inequality" and the organization launched programs aimed at providing the minimum requirements for people. The ILO's d e f i n i t i o n of basic needs went beyond that of the subsistence-level approach, including not only such things as food, clothing and shelter, but also humane treatment, freedom and p o l i t i c a l p a r t i c i p a t i o n . Thus the concept of development has become more comprehensive, en t a i l i n g s o c i a l justice, p o l i t i c a l freedom as well as economic growth. According to Gunnar Myrdal (the economist whose mammoth work on world poverty w i l l be discussed i n more d e t a i l further on), i n the post-World War II period. Western economists only became interested i n issues of underdevelopment because i t was p o l i t i c a l l y and economically pr o f i t a b l e to do so.49 i n the era of Cold War r i v a l r y , decolonization, and increasing demand for new markets. Western economists and p o l i t i c i a n s began to pay attention to the poverty of the LDC. Before World War I I , during the 4^ Gunnar Myrdal, The Challenge of World Poverty. A World Anti-Poverty Program i n Outline (New York: Pantheon Books, 1970), pp. 6-7. period of colonialism, for obvious reasons, few Western economists studied the underdevelopment of the colonies. Those who did usually blamed the climate and geography as causes of poverty. It was accepted that people were poor because they belonged to a "backward region"; I t was taken as established by experience that the peoples i n the backward regions were so constituted that they reacted d i f f e r e n t l y from Europeans: they normally d i d not respond p o s i t i v e l y to opportunities f o r improving t h e i r incomes and l e v e l s of l i v i n g . Their tendency toward idleness and i n e f f i c i e n c y and t h e i r reluctance to seek wage employment were seen as expressions of t h e i r wantlessness, very l i m i t e d economic horizons, survival-mindedness, s e l f -s u f f i c i e n c y , carefree d i s p o s i t i o n , and preference for a l e i s u r e l y life.5° Such explanations for colonial poverty absolved the colo n i a l powers from any blame. During the period of French colonization of Indochina two prominent European scholars, the French economist Charles Robequain and the Belgian geographer Pierre Gourou pioneered the examination of Indochinese underdevelopment. To Charles Robequain, the cause the of miserable l o t of Vietnamese peasants was quite simply overpopulation. Writing i n 1939, Robequain ascribed to the Malthusian notion of poverty. The early nineteenth-century philosopher Thomas Malthus' formulation of poverty was of course based on the be l i e f that the pressure of the population outweighs the power of the earth's resources: "'Population, when unchecked, increases i n a geometrical r a t i o . Subsistence increases only i n an arithmetical r a t i o ' " . ^ i Holding a pessimistic view that a human being's drive for food and sex i s a basic law of nature, Malthus argued against extending r e l i e f to the poor because such a practice could cause more poverty. According to Malthus, what was needed was moral re s t r a i n t i n society. Similarly, Robequain saw the need for r e s t r a i n t i n the b i r t h rate of the "natives" of Indochina. Robequain attributed the high increase i n population to the French colonists who decreased Indochina's mortality rate with "a raised standard of l i v i n g , the establishment of laws and order and above a l l , the curbing of epidemics by mass v a c c i n a t i o n " T h u s , by improving the l i v i n g standard, the colonists had actually contributed to the increase i n poverty. This created a dilemma for the French colonists; "This i s a d i f f i c u l t problem to solve and one of the white man's greatest burdens. W i l l he not be worn out i n his double attempt to increase the native's l i f e span and feed him better?".53 Robequain, therefore, suggested the Malthusian solution: "It may be that b i r t h control i s the only solution".54 To be f a i r , Robequain was highly sympathetic to the p l i g h t of the poor "natives" under French domination. He was ^ l As quoted by Himmelfarb, The Idea of Poverty, p. 105. 52 Charles Robequain, The Economic Development of French Indochina, trans- by I. Ward (London: Oxford U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1944), p.47. 53 I b i d . . p. 345. 54 I b i d . c e r t a i n l y aware that since the French had colonized Indochina, the problem of peasant indebtedness had increased. This indebtedness forced many peasants to s e l l t h e i r land to r i c h landlords.55 Thus, the French had "unwittingly" increased the "so-called 'proletariat' class i n Indo-China" by encouraging the p o l i c i e s of high interest rates and land speculation.56 i n other words, French col o n i a l a c t i v i t i e s had led to an increase of those who were landless or did not have enough land for subsistence. However, despite t h i s admission, Robequain continued to emphasize overpopulation as the main cause of not only poverty, but also of the deterioration of v i l l a g e s o c i a l welfare. According to Robequain, "surplus" population growth saturated the v i l l a g e ' s a b i l i t y to care for and to d i s t r i b u t e communal land to the poor.57 Thus i n Robequain's analysis, poverty i n Indochina could be solved without challenging French Imperialism, without challenging the social-economic structure, and without any r e d i s t r i b u t i o n of land or wealth. To Robequain, the solution lay i n French technology and education: "Following the introduction of Western techniques which on the whole were be n e f i c i a l even though they seemed brutal at times, the next step i s to i n s t i l a new s p i r i t i n the native, to interest him i n improved and more productive methods of work".58 55 I b i d . , p. 83. 56 Ibid., p. 85. 57 I b i d . . p. 82. 58 Ibid., p. 347. Although most of Robequain's data on overpopulation came from the research of his contemporary Pierre Gourou, Gourou himself was less assertive about the connection between overpopulation and poverty. Although Gourou's geographical study of the Tonkin Delta showed that the Red River Delta was overpopulated. Gourou stated that there was no hard evidence to maintain that the Delta could not produce enough food for i t s population: Does the Tonkin Delta bear more inhabitants than i t can feed?...We cannot give any conclusive answer t o t h i s question because we have no d e f i n i t i v e f i g u r e on the quantity of food products that the Delta supplies. Rice-production figures are not f u l l y known; as we have seen, i t can be i n great excess of the o f f i c i a l estimates.59 Nevertheless, Gourou inferred that overpopulation decreased the standard of l i v i n g for the Vietnamese peasant. Comparing the s o i l f e r t i l i t y and population density of Europe and the Tonkin Delta, Gourou surmised that the high population density i n North Vietnam must lead to poor l i v i n g conditions. However, according to Gourou, overpopulation was not the only cause of r u r a l poverty. Gourou stated that improved technology, i n d u s t r i a l development and migration would only s l i g h t l y decrease the pressure on the land. Prohibiting land accumulation would be more e f f e c t i v e : A l l i n a l l , the enterprise which would be most useful f o r the peasant would be an a r r e s t a t i o n [ s i c ] of the development of large landholding, and even a suppression of the large landholding P i e r r e Gourou, The Peasants of the Tonkin Delta, v o l 2, trans, by Richard M i l l e r (New Haven: Human Relations Area F i l e s , Inc.,1955), p. 658. that already e x i s t s , i f need be by agrarian laws, i n order to avoid by a rent system the furth e r reduction of the small income the a g r i c u l t u r a l worker wrests from a narrow s t r i p of land.6° Thus unlike Robequain who advocated the need to regulate b i r t h rates. Gourou saw the need to control land concentration and landlord exploitation of peasants. There i s l i t t l e doubt that French colonial p o l i c i e s adversely affected the l i v i n g conditions of Vietnamese peasants.61 According to Pham Cao Duong's book Vietnamese Peasants Under French Domination, which was f i r s t published i n Vietnamese i n Saigon i n 1967, the peasants under French colonialism were much worse o f f than before. Relying on surveys and data collected by French economists, geographers and demographers (especially those of Paul Bernard, Pierre Gourou, Yves Henry and G. Kherian), Pham Cao Duong argued that French colonialism not only produced an increasing number of landless peasants, but i t also increased the burden of demands on peasants' income.^2 According to Pham Cao Duong, the precolonial v i l l a g e communal land system insured that poor peasants had land to t i l l and that land would not be accumulated i n the hands of the e l i t e : 60 I b i d . . p. 664. 61 L i s a Drummond's (UBC graduate student) paper on the immiseration of the Red River Delta peasants during French c o l o n i a l period concludes that "the s i t u a t i o n of the r u r a l peasant i n Tonkin had i n f a c t d eteriorated s i g n i f i c a n t l y under the French c o l o n i a l administration, through the progressive lessening of the peasants' co n t r o l of the means of s u r v i v a l , p r i m a r i l y the r i c e harvest.", "Rural Immiseration i n C o l o n i a l Tonkin", unpublished paper, p.40. 62 Pham Cao Duong, Vietnamese Peasants Under French Domination. 1861-1945 (Lanham, MDs U n i v e r s i t y Press of America, 1985). ...thanks to the cong dien and the cong tho [communal r i c e f i e l d s ] the t i l l i n g masses could have access to ownership of property. Even the cung diniJ ("misérables" or p r o l e t a r i a n s ) could receive a r i c e f i e l d to c u l t i v a t e . . . ; t h i s enabled them to pay taxes and so f u l f i l l t h e i r duties to t h e i r v i l l a g e . As a res u l t of such a land system, which was maintained by the precolonial central state as a way to minimize challenges from powerful e l i t e s , there was "r e l a t i v e equilibrium" i n the t r a d i t i o n a l Vietnamese v i l l a g e . The "proletarianization" of peasants along with the burden of d i r e c t and i n d i r e c t taxes under French colonialism led to peasant indebtedness and poverty. Using data collected on family income and food consumption, Duong showed that the income of Vietnamese coolies and poor and medium peasant were barely s u f f i c i e n t to cover expenses and rents. In addition, Duong also maintains that average annual r i c e consumption for Vietnamese peasants decreased from 226 kilograms i n 1900 to 182 kilograms i n 1937.64 interestingly, Duong suggested that the consequences of poverty were high b i r t h and death rates. Duong's opinion corresponds with that of G. Kherian, who stated: "Mass poverty must be considered as the o r i g i n of the high b i r t h rate."^^ Note that t h i s i s the reversal of the relationship between overpopulation and poverty that was suggested by Charles Robequain. In contrast o-^  I b i d . , p. 25. 64 Duong used data c o l l e c t e d by Y. Henry and de Visme which estimated that the optimal l e v e l of r i c e r a t i o n was 337 kilograms. I b i d . , p. 125. 65 G. Kherian as c i t e d by Duong, i b i d . . pp. 146-147. to Kherian and Pham Cao Duong, Robequain argued that high b i r t h rate caused poverty. Neither Duong nor Kherian, however, provided any explanations for why poverty would cause a high b i r t h rate. I t may be useful at this point to bring i n the argument of Benjamin White who employed the theory of "demand for labor" to explain Java's high population d e n s i t y . w h i t e suggested that the p a r t i c u l a r i t i e s of Dutch colonialism and wet-rice c u l t i v a t i o n i n Indonesia created a need for peasant labor which was f u l f i l l e d by an increase i n b i r t h s . Like Pham Cao Duong, White argued that Western colonialism did not improve the l i v e s of the peasants; Dutch intervention i n Indonesia, i n fact, provoked the Java war of 1825-1830, which was made a l l the more bloody by Dutch technologically advanced weapons.67 According to White, what had caused the r i s e i n b i r t h rate was that peasant families needed the extra labor capacity to replace those members who had been forced into sugar c u l t i v a t i o n for the Dutch. Although the anthropologist C l i f f o r d Geertz refuted this argument by showing that sugar c u l t i v a t i o n was seasonal and that the Javanese re-organized c u l t i v a t i o n so that both export and subsistence farming could be achieved^s, white, nevertheless, made an important contribution i n challenging 66 Benjamin White, "Demand f o r Labor and Population Growth i n C o l o n i a l Java", Human Ecology, v o l 1(3), 1973, pp. 217-236. 67 I b i d . , pp. 221-222. 68 C l i f f o r d Geertz, "Comments on Benjamin White's 'Demands f o r Labor and Population Growth i n C o l o n i a l Java", Human Ecology, v o l 1(3), 1973, pp. 237-239. the conventional assumption that Western "techniques" decreased the mortality rate i n the colonies. White argued that precolonial Javanese society had practised different methods of b i r t h control including i n f a n t i c i d e , but did not use them i n the nineteenth century because i t was ben e f i c i a l for peasant families to have many children who could help with the labor-intensive wet-rice c u l t i v a t i o n . Thus, on the individual l e v e l , high b i r t h rate was a strategy for coping with oppressive co l o n i a l p o l i c i e s and dwindling resources. In White's analysis i t was not so much the European c o l o n i a l i s t s ' science and technology but rather the colonials' pauperization of the co l o n i a l societies that led to high b i r t h rates and overpopulation. A more dire c t attack on European col o n i a l p o l i c i e s was waged by Martin Murray i n his highly sophisticated and theoretical work. The Development of Capitalism i n Colonial Indochina. Using the theory of dependency, f i r s t employed i n 1957 by B r a z i l i a n economist Celso Furtado to explain the poverty of Latin America^^, Murray showed that economic development i n Indochina was hindered by the intervention of French colonialism. Murray argued that the process of primitive accumulation of ca p i t a l leading to c a p i t a l i s t development was impeded because Indochina was integrated into the c a p i t a l i s t market economy as a peripheral appendage of the colonist metropolis. Arndt, Economic Development; The History of an Idea, p. 120. As a colony, Indochina's surplus-value had to be transferred to France, either " i n d i r e c t l y through unequal exchange, or di r e c t through the repatriation of a large share of the p r o f i t s earned locally".^o This diversion of c a p i t a l to the metropolis l e f t l i t t l e for development i n Indochina. Furthermore, Indochina's class structure and the "form of production and exchange" were not transformed completely into the c a p i t a l i s t mode. The resulting "hybrid form of production and exchange" contained c a p i t a l i s t elements (such as private property, wage labour) as well as elements of the precolonial, "natural" economy (such as landlord-tenant production r e l a t i o n s ) . These conditions, along with the fact that wage-workers were never completely separated from the material of production ( i e . they were "temporary proletarians" who would usually return to th e i r land), made the process of primitive accumulation of ca p i t a l incomplete. Thus, Indochina was not able to achieve c a p i t a l i s t development and escape dependency. In Murray's analysis, poverty, or more accurately, underdevelopment of Indochina was caused by the h i s t o r i c a l position of Indochina's incorporation into the c a p i t a l i s t world economy as well as the exploitive nature of colonialism. The problem at thi s point i s how do we explain the present underdevelopment and poverty i n Vietnam? It has been almost four decades since the French c o l o n i a l i s t s were Martin Murray, The Development of Capitalism i n C o l o n i a l Indochina (Berkeley: U n i v e r s i t y of C a l i f o r n i a Press, 1980), p. 163. defeated; how much of Murray's theory can be used to explain the persistent problem of poverty? In contrast to Pham Cao Duong and Murray's emphasis on the adverse ef f e c t of colonialism, Gunnar Myrdal approached the world poverty problem by focusing on the LDCs "non-economic" factors such as attitudes, i n s t i t u t i o n s , and the low levels of l i v i n g . Key to Myrdal's analysis of the causes of world poverty i s the concept of a "soft state". Soft states were those that had a weak system of law and order, no mechanism of securing the obedience of public o f f i c i a l s and e l i t e s , and a high l e v e l of c o r r u p t i o n . I n v a r i a b l y soft states were also underdeveloped ones because the governments of these countries were unable to enforce any of the p o l i c i e s for modernization and reform. Myrdal explained that i n the precolonial days, the South Asian societies were s e l f -s u f f i c i e n t , operating on networks of obligations i n which the "obligation usually f e l l most heavily on the poorer strata of the population" while the e l i t e were indulgent and inefficient.72 During colonialism these networks were destroyed while no new structure was constructed. Thus, at the time of Myrdal's writing, the LDC s t i l l lacked the so c i a l d i s c i p l i n e and organization needed for development. 73 Another major barrier to Third World development, according to Myrdal, was the anti-development attitude of the 71 Gunnar Myrdal, The Challenge of World Poverty, p.208, 72 Ibid., p. 211. 73 For Myrdal development i s the broad concept developed i n the 1970s that includes s o c i a l j u s t i c e , p o l i t i c a l freedom and economic growth. people which was reinforced by the i n s t i t u t i o n s . The Third World i n s t i t u t i o n s (along with Third World "soft state") i n turn encouraged the anti-development attitude of the people. Interesting to t h i s present discussion i s Myrdal's characterization of the poor people of South Asia. According to Myrdal, most South Asians, being poor, were malnourished to the point of being apathetic, i n a r t i c u l a t e , unproductive, and unorganized: "The poorer strata i n the v i l l a g e s , i n whose interest the [land] reforms were propagated and sometimes l e g i s l a t e d , were mostly apathetic. They were not organized to perceive t h e i r common interests and s t i l l less to fight for them."^* AS a result of t h i s indifference among the masses toward anti-poverty measures and improvement, and the i n a b i l i t y of the South Asian governments to implement any s i g n i f i c a n t changes, Myrdal advocated that reform be forced upon the South Asians by the West. Myrdal c r i t i c i z e d the developed nations' "abhorrence of using compulsion and th e i r determination to work only through the positive means of persuasion and incentives" i n t h e i r attempts to help the Third World.75 According to Myrdal, "there i s l i t t l e hope i n South Asia for rapid development without greater s o c i a l d i s c i p l i n e , which w i l l not appear without l e g i s l a t i o n and regulations enforced by compulsion."76 Myrdal, The Challenge of World Poverty, p. 103. Ibid., p. 215. 76 Ibid., p. 216. While Myrdal showed great awareness of the rationalizations the West has been using i n order to exploit the Third World and evade i t s r e s p o n s i b i l i t y , the solution he posed shows complete f a i t h i n the a b i l i t y of the West to rescue the Third World. I f , as Myrdal suggested. Western economists had been opportunistic i n t h e i r analyses of Third World poverty since the days of European imperialism, then why did he believe that forceful Western intervention i n the LDCs would reverse (and not exacerbate) the exploitive and opportunistic trend that had existed between the developed and undeveloped countries? Although Challenge of World Poverty was published i n 1970, the tone of the book and the stereotypes of the peoples of the underdeveloped countries employed i n the work would make us believe i t was written during the days of Charles Robequain and Pierre Gourou.^7 i n Myrdal's work the Third World peasants were neither Scott's moral economists nor Popkin's rat i o n a l economic maximizers. They were too hungry and weak to be aware of t h e i r oppression, and i n any case, too i n a r t i c u l a t e and unorganized to do anything about i t . The notion that poverty somehow makes the peasant a l i e n , beyond understanding—that somehow poverty leads to degeneration and demoralization i n such a way that poor peasants no longer have the same wants and expectations as '' For a more informed c r i t i q u e of Myrdal's work written by an authority see C l i f f o r d Geertz, "Myrdal"s Mythology, 'Modernism' and the Th i r d World", Encounter, v o l 33(1), July 1969. the rest of society—has recurred i n a number of theories we have examined thus far about peasants, poverty and underdevelopment. Whether they be v i l l a g e underdogs, cautious communalists, rational economic maximizers, suspicious i n d i v i d u a l i s t s , feudal t r a d i t i o n a l i s t s , or unorganized, malnourished victims, peasants remain, i n the i n t e l l e c t u a l s ' perception, an entity of t h e i r own, on the fringe of society. Not surprisingly, i n Vietnam these divergent images of peasants and t h e i r poverty also recur i n political-economic theories. The role of peasants i n Vietnamese history, however, has given the Vietnamese peasant another image—the potent image of the peasants as the force of history, and as the moral s p i r i t behind the Vietnamese resistance wars, rebellions and revolutions. And i t i s to these d i f f e r e n t portrayals of peasants and poverty i n Vietnamese writing that we now turn. I I . BEFORE THE REVOLUTION In t h i s section we w i l l examine selective Vietnamese works written several decades before the Communist Revolution succeeded i n the North. The f i r s t group of works comes from the Tu-Luc Van-Doan (Self-Reliance Literary Group) whose members produced some of Vietnam's fin e s t pre-World War Two f i c t i o n . The second group of writers resemble the Tu-Luc group i n t h e i r l i b e r a l and moderate outlooks; they were the writers of the journal, Thanh Nqhi (Clear View), perhaps the most important journal of s o c i a l and economic c r i t i c i s m i n Vietnam between 1939 and 1945. In contrast to these two groups of writers, the Vietnamese communists advocated more ra d i c a l solutions for peasant poverty. Despite the communists' d i f f e r e n t analysis of poverty, however, some of th e i r perceptions of, and prejudices against the peasants were similar to those of the moderate-liberal writers. The Tu-Luc Van-Doan W r i t e r s In the 1930s the Tu-Luc Van-Doan was formed. Led by popular f i c t i o n writers such as Nhat Linh and Khai Hung, this group sought to reform the Vietnamese language. The group aimed to make Vietnamese more concise by adopting French syntax and abandoning the t r a d i t i o n of using Chinese l i t e r a r y a l l u s i o n s . 1 The Tu-Luc Van-Doan wanted to refoinn not only the Vietnamese language, but also what appeared to them as the backward customs and traditions of r u r a l Vietnam. The Tu-Luc writers, for instance, were highly c r i t i c a l of Vietnamese superstitious b e l i e f s , practices of divination, arranged marriages, and the individual's submission to the ancestry and family. They were p a r t i c u l a r l y concerned about the i n f e r i o r role to which women were relegated i n the Confucian scheme of things. Professor Hue-Tam Ho Tai i n her work on Vietnamese radic a l s , noted that i n Nhat Linh's (one of the founders of the Tu-Luc group) stories "making revolution seems to have been an expiatory device rather than a systematic e f f o r t to create a new order. " 2 According to Tai, some of the Tu-Luc group's stories r e f l e c t the shame and g u i l t of the children of the wealthy, who had become aware of the misery of the vast majority of the people. The Vietnamese youth's sense of g u i l t , as depicted i n the stories of the Tu-Luc group, resembles that of the the young Russian i n t e l l e c t u a l s i n the la t e eighteenth century. The young Russians' emerging s o c i a l awareness and p o l i t i c a l education led to the Narodnik movement (Going to the People) i n which thousands of youth •'• Maurice Durand and Nguyen Tran Huan, an Introduction to Vietnamese L i t e r a t u r e . trans, from French by D. M. Hawke (New York: Columbia Un i v e r s i t y Press, 1985), p. 119. 2 Hue-Tam Ho T a i , Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1992), p. 250. went to l i v e and work among the peasants. Leonard Schapiro wrote of the narodniki: This f a i t h of the narodniki was i n part i n s p i r e d by the long t r a d i t i o n of r e v o l t which existed among the peasants; and i n part by a b e l i e f that the Russian peasant was a s o c i a l i s t by i n s t i n c t . Mingled with t h i s f a i t h was a passionate sense of g u i l t on the part of the i n t e l l e c t u a l narodniki because t h e i r own comparatively p r i v i l e g e d p o s i t i o n i n socie t y had only been i n h e r i t e d at the p r i c e of the s u f f e r i n g of the peasants, and the debt had to be repaid.^ Although some Vietnamese i n t e l l e c t u a l s did f e e l the duty to return to the countryside, no comparable "Going to the People" movement developed i n Vietnam. In fact, the opposite happened for the majority of youth—Vietnamese youth f l e d from the countryside i n what Alexander Woodside termed, "going out to the provincial c a p i t a l movement"."* The l i t e r a t u r e of the Tu-Luc group, however, attempted to bridge th i s distance between the urban i n t e l l e c t u a l s and the r u r a l masses. By depicting l i f e i n the countryside with a l l i t s backwardness, the authors wanted to help the urban population understand and appreciate the peasants. Rural reform movements i n China during the same period were inspirations for the Vietnamese writers. In the early twenties Chinese reformer James Y. C. Yen "went to the people" with his Mass Education Promotion Society with the hope of u p l i f t i n g the peasants with l i t e r a c y , hygiene and ^ Leonard Schapiro, "The Role of the Jews i n the Russian Revolutionary Movement" i n E l l e n Dahrendorf, ed., Russian Studies (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), p.269. 4 A. Woodside, Community and Revolution i n Modern Vietnam (Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n , 1976), p. 127. modern habits.^ The Tu-Luc writers were very well aware of Yen's reform work among the v i l l a g e s . Yen's Dingxian county experiment i n North China, i n fact, inspired the one Tu-Luc writer, Hoang Dao, to hope for the same to happen i n Vietnam. Hoang Dao wrote i n the late 1930s; I began t o think i n a dream-like way about our own country...The people of our country are just l i k e the people of China, degenerating by degrees. The words of t h i s Chinese youth can be words capable of arousing us, we must begin to carry out s o c i a l enterprises.^ Unfortunately, Hoang Dao's dream was never realized. Woodside explained that "the gap between knowledge of such reform movements i n China and the r e a l enactment of 'social enterprises' i n t h i s Chinese image i n Vietnam was never crossed."^ Although i t i s evident that the Tu-Luc writers were sympathetic toward the peasants, t h e i r writings display traces of disdain for the peasants' ignorance, backwardness and superstitious b e l i e f s . In an a r t i c l e commemorating Thach Lam, a prominent Tu-Luc writer, the writer of the a r t i c l e , i n an attempt to convey how much Thach Lam loved the poor people, wrote; "Thach lam looked down (cui nhin xuong) at the wretched and poor l i v e s i n order to describe them with compassion—"(my emphasis)8 The idea of "looking down" conveys not only the i n t e l l e c t u a l s ' feeling of superiority I b i d . , p. 146. Hoang Dao as c i t e d by A. Woodside, I b i d . I b i d . Nguyen Tuong-Lan, "Thach Lam", Thanh Nqhi. J u l y 1942, p. 15. vis-a-vis the peasants, but t h e i r perception of the peasants as a separate, unknowable group of people—the "other". In the preface of Phi Van's book, Dong Que (Countryside), the publisher stated that Phi Van's description of country l i f e i n i t s fullness and colourfulness, made readers appreciate, love and tolerate the peasants.^ Again the assumption i s that the readers could not have had any i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with the peasantry, which made up about eighty percent of the population. In Nhat Linh's book, Xom Cau Moi (the New Bridge Neighbourhood) he compared the poor families who settled around the New Bridge to d r i f t i n g duckweed (jbeo giat) that had clung to the bridge: "These ' d r i f t i n g duckweed' l i v e s gather i n the small neighbourhood l i k e the d r i f t i n g duckweed that come — and c l i n g onto the foot of the bridge, then i t w i l l f l o a t away, following the water current to an unknown destination."10 It was these " d r i f t i n g duckweed" l i v e s that the Tu-Luc authors and various other social-conscious writers attempted to fathom. Most of the ru-Luc writings about the poor are d e s c r i p t i v e — t h e writers wanted only to show readers what i t i s l i k e to be poor. Thach Lam's c o l l e c t i o n of short stories, Gio Dau Mua (The F i r s t Wind of the Season), for instance, contains several stories describing the l i v e s of the poor.^i ^ Publisher's note i n Phi Van, Dona Que. 5th p r i n t i n g (n.p.: Lua-Thieng, n.d.). Nhat Linh, Xom Cau Moi, v o l . 1, (Lancaster, PA: Xuan Thu, n.d.) [ F i r s t published i n various Vietnamese l i t e r a r y journals i n 1949-1957], in s i d e cover page. 11 Thach Lam, Gio Dau Mua (n.p.: Doi Nay, ca. 1937). "Nha Me Le" (the Family of Mrs. Le) describes the struggle of a mother and her eleven children. We are given a v i v i d description of t h e i r l i v e s , but are not t o l d how they have sunk to such deprivation. Thach Lam's "Hunger" provides a gripping description of what i t i s l i k e to be starving. The protagonist's wife i s driven by poverty to prostitution, while he, i n spite of his anger for his wife's action, goes on a feeding binge on the food she was able to buy. In his blinding hunger, the protagonist abandons his principles and dignity. In Nhat Linh's story, "Dau Duong Xo Cho" (In the Streets and Market Corners), poverty i s linked with the sordidness and demoralization of the peasants. 12 The narrator of the story l i v e s with his s i s t e r who s e l l s opium. The narrator describes the desperation of the poor i n his neighbourhood, i n p a r t i c u l a r his beautiful neighbour whose husband i s an opium addict. Most of the money he earns p u l l i n g a rickshaw goes to feed his addiction. One time when they were short on money and her attempt to borrow from the narrator was refused, the neighbour stole a rooster to s e l l . The rooster happened to belong to the narrator and the neighbour, i n her g u i l t , s p i l l e d the opium she had just bought. The r e s u l t was that her husband beat her. The narrator states that the moral of t h i s experience was: "If people are to be virtuous, then something has to be done to get them out of poverty and 12 Nhat Linh, "Dau Duong Xo Cho", i n Nhat Linh and Khai Hung, Anh Phai song (Darling, you must l i v e ) , (n.p.: Doi Nay, ca. 1932), pp. 109-116. misery. A poor society can always e a s i l y become a shameful society. "^ ^ Another of Nhat Linh's stories, "Nuoc Chay Doi Dong" (Water Flows i n Twin Streams) deals with the perception of poverty. 14 The narrator of the story i s the young son of an o f f i c i a l who met the daughter of a ferry owner one evening when he was crossing a r i v e r . The narrator f e l t sorry for this a t t r a c t i v e young g i r l who was fated to continue the l i f e of poverty. Ten years l a t e r the narrator meets up with the g i r l again on the ferry. Both now have families of the i r own. The narrator realizes that this woman for whom he f e l t p i t y , i s actually content with her l o t i n l i f e . He guesses that she probably i s not aware of her poverty and does not question her fate. The narrator's r e a l i z a t i o n here i s similar to the "judgement value" theory on poverty. This theory, advanced by Mollie Orshansky, suggests that "poverty, l i k e beauty, l i e s i n the eye of the beholder".^^ The implication of thi s theory i s that poverty i s a subjective judgement—that poverty i s not something concrete, but an experience subject to interpretation. I t i s probably safe to say that t h i s i s a theory that only people who are not themselves poor can espouse. 13 I b i d . . p. 116. 14 Nhat Linh, "Nuoc Chay Doi Dong", i n Nhat Linh and Khai Hung, Anh Phai Song, pp. 117-125. 15 Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 17; Qiu Zeqi and L i Ningjing, "Zhongguo Xiangcun Pingkun Xianshi J i e s h i Zhi Changshi" (The Attempts to Explain the R e a l i t y of Poverty i n China's Countryside), Shehui Xue Yaniiu ( S o c i o l o g i c a l Research), B e i j i n g , (5) 1992, p.92. In the second half of Ngo Vinh Long's book. Before the Revolution, he presents his own English translations of some famous Vietnamese works written during the c o l o n i a l period on the poverty of the Vietncimese peasant. Long translated two short chapters from Phi Van's famous novel Dan Que, the t h i r d novel i n a series of four on the p e a s a n t r y . i n these two chapters Phi Van revealed the oppression that landlords and o f f i c i a l s had i n f l i c t e d upon the common peasants i n the v i l l a g e s . With t h e i r power and connections, the landlords and o f f i c i a l s could indulge i n bribery, corruption, molesting the female tenants and bullying the men. In a similar fashion. Long's translation of part of Ngo Tat To's famous 1939 novel. Tat Den (When the Light's Put Out) shows how much the peasants suffered under the unreasonable tax laws of the French c o l o n i a l i s t s and the corruption of the Vietnamese e l i t e . T h e protagonist of the story i s reduced to s e l l i n g her beloved daughter and dogs i n order to pay the fines for her husband. Her husband was thrown i n prison e a r l i e r that day for not being able to pay his taxes. After suffering the pains of s e l l i n g her own daughter to the r i c h landlord, and enduring the humiliation i n the encounter with the landlord and o f f i c i a l s , the protagonist finds that the landlord has cheated her and that ^° From 1943 to 1949 Phi Van published Dong Que (The Countryside), Tinh Que (Love of the Countryside), Dan Que (The Peasants), and Co Gai Que (The Country G i r l ) . Ngo Vinh Long, Before the Revolution (Cambridge: MIT press, 1973), pp.146-159. 17 I b i d . , pp. 162-175. the uncompassionate tax o f f i c i a l demands that she pay taxes for her dead brother. The few stories b r i e f l y discussed here show that the Tu-Luc writers were highly concerned with the problem of r u r a l poverty. I t appears that the writers made a direct l i n k between poverty and moral and s o c i a l degeneration. In t h e i r view poverty acted as a barrier to the modernization of the r u r a l area. Although the novels and short stories of the Tu-Luc group were greatly i n f l u e n t i a l i n r a i s i n g awareness of the sit u a t i o n i n the countryside, the stories only describe poverty—they o f f e r no concrete explanations or remedies for the problem. Thanh Nqhi During the early 1940s the journal Thanh Nqhi set a new standard for discussions of Vietnamese s o c i a l problems i n the Vietnamese language, by a new generation of Vietnamese lawyers, economists, educators and historians trained i n Paris and Hanoi. The editor of Thanh Nqhi, Vu Dinh Hoe, along with the contributors regarded the journal as a way to educate and enlighten the Vietnamese masses with Western, "modern" ideas and k n o w l e d g e . T h e journal offered a forum for discussing economic and l e g a l i s t i c issues, as well as providing writings on p o l i t i c a l and economic theories, 1^ Maurice Durand and Nguyen Tran Huan, An Introduction to Vietnamese L i t e r a t u r e , p. 128. debates on women's roles, and information about health and n u t r i t i o n . The journal also had a strong focus on poverty and the s o c i a l and economic problems i n the Vietnamese v i l l a g e s . Thanh Nqhi represented the f i r s t serious attempt by the non-communist Vietnamese i n t e l l e c t u a l s to analyze and suggest remedies for r u r a l poverty. In the analyses of the writers for Thanh Nqhi, rural poverty was caused by a variety of factors: corruption, a low l e v e l of education among the peasants, backward v i l l a g e customs and habits, and exploitive lending p o l i c i e s . As these i n t e l l e c t u a l s were moderate reformers, t h e i r analyses and solutions for v i l l a g e poverty did not reach below the superstructure of culture, i n s t i t u t i o n s and p o l i c i e s . In other words, t h e i r analyses did not d i r e c t l y challenge French colonialism of Indochina or the socio-economic structure. Moreover, Thanh Nqhi i n t e l l e c t u a l s did not c a l l for radi c a l r e d i s t r i b u t i o n of wealth or land as way to eradicate poverty. Instead, many of the Thanh Nqhi writers focused on educating and modernizing peasant thinking and habits. These writers believed that the v i l l a g e s could prosper i f v i l l a g e r s adopted a more rati o n a l and e f f i c i e n t v i l l a g e - l e v e l tax system that could be used to fund community projects, and i f they formed mutual aid groups that could actually raise the l e v e l of income. The Thanh Nqhi a r t i c l e s on r u r a l poverty can be divided into three types. The f i r s t type of a r t i c l e s about v i l l a g e poverty are ones that describe r u r a l poverty i n an attempt to raise awareness among the urban dwellers. In t h i s sense, these Thanh Nqhi a r t i c l e s resemble the Tu-Luc novels and short stories i n t h e i r descriptions of poverty. One suspects, however, that the Thanh Nqhi writers took th e i r writings on poverty to be more serious, sober, and s c i e n t i f i c than those of the novelists, and consequently, they believed t h e i r work to be more useful i n solving the problem than the novelists' romantic depictions. An example of Thanh Nqhi's portrayal of r u r a l poverty was found i n the May and June 1942 issues which contained a two-part a r t i c l e describing the lack of sanitation i n the r u r a l a r e a s . T h e author. Vu Van Can, bemoaned the fact that the v i l l a g e s did not have sewage systems and that the v i l l a g e r s were ignorant about health issues. The a r t i c l e c a l l e d for extensive education and v i l l a g e organization around th i s problem. Later that year there was a two-part series examining the n u t r i t i o n a l intake of the Vietnamese people. The author took pains to explain what the various n u t r i t i o n a l elements (such as vitamins and proteins) required by the body were, and how much was the recommended intake. Not surprisingly, the author's study showed that an average Vietnamese person's diet was low i n proteins and fat as well 1^ Vu Van Can, "Ve-sinh o thon que", (Sanitation i n the Rural Hamlets) Thanh Nqhi, May 16, 1942, no. 13, pp. 6-7; second part i n June 16, 1942, no. 15, pp. 19-20, 30. 20 Nguyen Dinh Hao, "Luoc khao ve each an uong cua nguoi Viet-Nam" (Research i n t o the Eating Habits of the Vietnamese People), Thanh Nqhi, Nov 16, 1942, no. 25, pp 15-16; second part i n Dec 1, 1942, no. 26, pp 14-15. as having a low c a l o r i e count. He estimated that an average Vietnamese person ate only 1,880 calories a day, much below the 2,415 calories recommended by the French Governor General i n 1927.21 Another example of this genre i s Le Huy Van's a r t i c l e assessing the expenditure and income of one peasant family.22 Le Huy Van concluded that this extended family of parents, four sons and t h e i r wives and children, had just enough to survive. The family's main occupation, r i c e c u l t i v a t i o n , could not support the family adequately. The contribution from the women's a c t i v i t i e s such as r a i s i n g s i l k worms, helped make ends meet. Thus Le Huy Van emphasized the importance of secondary trades such as handicraft, and the growing of marketable crops such as beans, i n boosting peasant families' income. Citing H. Yves and P. Gourou, Van stated that r i c e c u l t i v a t i o n provided the peasants with work for only 136 days out of the year, thus peasants should resort to handicraft as a way to increase t h e i r incomes. Another of Van's observations was that t h i s peasant family managed better because they l i v e d and worked as a c o l l e c t i v e unit. Had they functioned as nuclear families, t h e i r l e v e l of l i v i n g would be much lower. Thus Van concluded: "We can say that t h i s c o l l e c t i v e system i s suitable to our society, and i t must not be abandoned."23 21 I b i d . . p. 15. 22 Le Huy Van, "So c h i thu mot g i a dinh lam ruong" (The Expenditure and Income of One Peasant Family), Thanh Nqhi, Dec. 1941, no. 7, pp. 14-17. 23 I b i d . , p. 17. Nghiem Xuan Yem's 1943 a r t i c l e , "Poverty i n the Rural Hamlets" was also an attempt to raise consciousness about the state of the r u r a l inhabitants. In his a r t i c l e Nghiem Xuan Yem was addressing youth who were planning to return to the v i l l a g e out of deeply-felt duty that they must connect with the peasants (similar to the Russian Narodniki and the Chinese r u r a l reformers). The author warned the youth that they would be shocked by the extent of the peasants' poverty. He stated that when the youth had actually l i v e d i n the v i l l a g e among the people then they would r e a l i z e that the poverty that had been described i n the novels i s only a poetic scenario of poverty, a pi c t u r e of peaceful poverty that makes the youth, t i r e d of fame and wealth,...yearn to be that poor. But the poverty that we w i l l note i n those hamlets, i s a p i e r c i n g poverty, a scene of c r u e l and ty r a n n i c a l poverty."^^ Yem provided some examples of the "piercing poverty" found i n the countryside. The f i r s t "tragic" (tan bi kich) scene the youth would witness was that of a peasant woman, her son, her daughter-in-law, and daughter hitched to a plow driven by her husband. Under the weight of the plow, the row of human beings, acting i n place of a buffalo, would use bamboo sticks to help maintain balance. According to Yem, the most these peasants could wish for was to buy an eighth of a buffalo ("half of a buffalo's foot") with t h e i r neighbours, which Nghiem Xuan Yem, "Canh ngheo o thon que" (Poverty i n the Rural Hamlets), Thanh Nqhi. Oct 1943, no. 47, p. 3. would mean that they would have the use of a buffalo one out of every eight days.25 Dramatic displays of misery were accompanied by descriptions of how d i f f i c u l t i t was for the majority of the peasants to make ends meet. Yem described how one particular tenant family, despite t h e i r hard work and f r u g a l i t y , could not make enough to eat. Although t h i s family cultivated nine mau (32.4 sq km) of r i c e , after paying the land and buffalo rent and temporary helpers the family was l e f t with only enough for two meals a day for f i v e months. For the rest of the year the family members worked as labourers when they could f i n d employment. Yem was convinced that upon witnessing the r e a l i t y of the peasants' poverty, youth would forget t h e i r own personal problems and would be concerned with only the questions: "Why are the peasants poor? How can t h i s poverty be solved?" It should be noted that Nghiem Xuan Yem depicted the peasants as an unknown, al i e n group of people. He assumed that the urban youth would be at a loss when they entered the v i l l a g e because they were not familiar with the r u r a l l i f e s t y l e , language, and customs. More importantly, Yem believed that the youth would not be able to relate to the peasants' poor and miserable l i v e s , and thus he stated: "perhaps the f i r s t task that us youth must do...is to understand the poverty of the peasants".26 According to Yem, 25 Ibid., p. 3. 26 Ibid., p. 2. poverty was the barrier that prevented the urban youth from being able to relate to the peasants. The reason for this i s that poverty caused the demoralization of the peasants, a connection that was also made by Tu Luc writer Nhat Linh. Yem contended that Vietnamese peasants were "stupid, feeble, lazy, dependent, weak and si c k l y , d i r t y and addicted to gambling" because they were poor. Furthermore, "when [people] are poor i n food and clothing then [they] are also poor i n l i f e s p i r i t , fighting s p i r i t , competitiveness and so c i a l and national s p i r i t . " 2 7 i t appears from Yem's writing on poverty that poverty produced a certain negative culture among the ru r a l inhabitants that inhibited them from escaping th e i r predicament. It i s interesting to note that Yem's explanation bears resemblance to (but predates) the American anthropologist Oscar Lewis' "culture of poverty" theory of the l ate 1950s and 1960s. Another focus of the Thanh Nqhi a r t i c l e s was on the causes of poverty. An example i s the September 1941 a r t i c l e of Vu Dinh Hoe i n which he cajoled the educated youth to return to the v i l l a g e s i n order to save the v i l l a g e s from further dilapidation.28 Describing the situation i n the v i l l a g e s . Hoe stated that the vi l l a g e s had stagnated, experiencing no changes for the l a s t s i x t y to seventy years. In e f f e c t , Hoe believed that the vi l l a g e s were "uncivilized" 27 Ibid., p. 24. 28 Vu Dinh Hoe, "Anh em thanh-nien! Nay den lue t a ve lam vi e c lang" (Youth! I t i s Time We Return and Take Up V i l l a g e Work), Thanh Nqhi, Sept 1941, pp. 2-5, 29. having no amenities such as sanitation. Hoe denied that this backwardness of the countryside was caused by a simple lack of funds: [Is t h i s condition] caused by the poverty of the peasants? Is i t because the v i l l a g e c o f f e r has no money to b u i l d roads, d i g wells, e s t a b l i s h schools...The v i l l a g e o f f i c i a l s would say t h i s . But they do not t e l l us that the v i l l a g e c o f f e r i s empty because of the large holes i n t h e i r own pockets!29 Hoe encouraged the youth to return to the v i l l a g e s and participate i n the administrative process. He believed that an uncorrupt v i l l a g e administration that would l i f t the peasants from t h e i r backwardness would bring the v i l l a g e s into step with the modernizing c i t i e s . Although Hoe showed concern for the well-being of the peasants, he had no f a i t h i n them. He was highly c r i t i c a l of the law (1925-1941) that allowed the peasants to vote for the v i l l a g e administration. He stated that the decision to give peasants the vote was l i k e allowing children to play with a sharp knife. To Hoe the peasants were l i k e children who needed to be educated by the enlightened i n t e l l e c t u a l s and protected from the corruption of the v i l l a g e notables. In another issue published i n May 1942, Vu Dinh Hoe once again showed how the peasants were being exploited, this time by money l e n d e r s . H o e pointed out that i n the developed countries borrowing money i s a way of enlarging one's c a p i t a l i n order to do business or to improve one's production. In 29 I b i d . , p. 2. 30 Vu Dinh Hoe, "Van de d i vay d o i v o i dan que" (The Issue of Borrowing Money f o r the Peasants). Thanh Nqhi, May 1942, No. 12, pp. 13-15. contrast, Vietnamese peasants borrowed i n order to survive. Unlike the people of the developed countries, Vietnamese peasants l i v e d day-to-day with just enough to eat. Peasants had to borrow i n times of emergency or when they needed money to tid e them over u n t i l harvest. Loans were usually given at very high interest because peasants had v i r t u a l l y nothing on which to guarantee t h e i r loans. Usually they pledged th e i r next harvest's crop. According to Hoe, of the three d i f f e r e n t types of lenders (the Indian, the Chinese and the Vietnamese landowners), the Vietnamese landowners were the most dangerous. Unlike the others, the Vietnamese lenders coveted the peasants' land and thus when the peasants could not pay the i r debts, the lenders would turn the peasants from th e i r land, pauperizing the peasants further. In addition to th i s , the Vietnamese lenders were regarded as v i l l a g e b u l l i e s , who believed they owned the indebted peasants. During f e s t i v a l s the peasants owing money had to come bearing g i f t s to pay respect to the lender. Hoe maintained that t h i s exploitative practice was a major l i m i t a t i o n for economic development i n the countryside. In addition to v i l l a g e administrative corruption and exploitative lending practices, land scarcity and primitive methods of production were also c i t e d as causes for peasant poverty. In one a r t i c l e of the December 1941 issue of Thanh Nqhi, Pham Gia Kinh noted that the production l e v e l of Indochina was much lower than other countries. According to Kinh, the Japanese farmer could produce 2.8 times more per acre than the Indochinese peasant; while the I t a l i a n could produce 4 times more.3^ To solve t h i s problem Kinh did not advocate mechanization of the a g r i c u l t u r a l process because i t was neither f i n a n c i a l l y feasible nor suitable for the farming practices i n Indochina. What Kinh did suggest was for the government to provide better i r r i g a t i o n systems, educate peasants i n agronomy, encourage the planting of i n d u s t r i a l crops, and create incentives for peasants to migrate into the sparsely-populated highlands. Dinh Gia Trinh (December 1941) also believed that encouraging peasants to move into the mountains would a l l e v i a t e many of the hardships of the r u r a l area.32 Trinh denied that overpopulation i n i t s e l f was a problem for Indochina. What was problematic was that a large portion of the population was concentrated i n the Red River Delta. Trinh disagreed with the economists who advocated co n t r o l l i n g the b i r t h rate as a way to r e l i e v e the pressure on the land. Trinh stated that the population of Indochina was not too great i f we compared t o t a l population with the t o t a l amount of land. According to Trinh, there was an abundance of raw material and natural resources that could be exploited to provide employment and improve the l i v e s of the peasants. 31 Pham Gia Kinh, "Nong Nghiep Dong Duong hien t a i an tuong l a i " (The Present and Future Situations of Indochina's A g r i c u l t u r e ) , Thanh Nqhi. Dec 1941, no. 7, pp. 12-13, 36. 32 Dinh Gia Trinh, "Dan so va cac giai-cap xa hoi o Dong-Duong" (Population and S o c i a l Classes i n Indochina), Thanh Nqhi. Dec 1941, no. 7, pp 18-20. Trinh's insistence that con t r o l l i n g the b i r t h rate i s not e f f e c t i v e i n solving r u r a l poverty i s the opposite of what the French economist Charles Robequain claimed, as we have seen. Evidently, Robequain's work caught the attention of Vietnamese i n t e l l e c t u a l s . A review of his book appeared i n Thanh Nqhi i n 1941. It i s interesting to note that the reviewer of Robequain's book de-emphasized Robequain's stress on c o n t r o l l i n g the b i r t h rate while emphasizing his c a l l for more investment i n the economy and education.33 i n fact. Dieu Anh, the reviewer, stated emphatically that Robequain did not believe that con t r o l l i n g the b i r t h rate would a l l e v i a t e poverty.34 Praising the book for i t s s c i e n t i f i c approach and lack of prejudiced views. Dieu Anh wrote that Robequain maintained that increasing c a p i t a l accumulation, development, immigration and education would be the key to improving peasants' l i v e s . The t h i r d type of a r t i c l e s on r u r a l poverty provided suggestions to remedy poverty and improve the l i v e s of peasants. Many of the suggestions concerned the formation of cooperatives and mutual-aid associations. Duy Tam wrote two a r t i c l e s regarding the advantages of consumer cooperatives. 35 Living i n the early years of the Second World War, Duy Tam 33 Dieu Anh, "Doc quyen: 'Su t i e n hoa kinh te cua xu Dong-Phap' cua Robequain", (Reading Robequain's The Economic Development of French Indochina), Thanh Nqhi. Dec 1941, no. 7, pp. 21-22. 34 I b i d . , p. 22, 35 Duy Tam, "Muon tranh su sinh hoat dat do, mot phuong phap: t i e u thu hop tac xa" (The Only Way to Avoid High-Cost L i v i n g : Consumers' Cooperatives), Thanh Nqhi. June 1941, pp. 2-3, 32; second part i n July 1941, pp. 11-12. proposed the setting up of cooperatives as a way to deal with war-time d i f f i c u l t i e s . Duy Tam, however, stated that there were people who believed cooperatives could be an important part of the peace-time economy.Duy Tam's vi s i o n of cooperatives, however, was limited to consumers' cooperatives that would help people avoid i n f l a t i o n . Using examples of successful cooperatives i n Manchester, England and i n France during the F i r s t World War, Duy Tam encouraged Vietnamese people to pool money together and buy t h e i r goods d i r e c t l y from manufactures and producers to s e l l to the cooperatives' members at market prices. This would remove the middleman and give consumers more "buying power".37 Along the same l i n e as Duy Tam's proposal. Le Huy Ruat's a r t i c l e encouraged the formation of a new type of mutual-aid group that would have solely one aim: to help poor people avoid high-interest loans.38 Le Huy Ruat's a r t i c l e i s of interest, for he examined a l l the t r a d i t i o n a l mutual-aid groups of the v i l l a g e s (neighbourhood groups, clans, l i t e r a r y groups, etc.) and assessed them as being i n e f f e c t "eating clubs" (hoi an uong) rather than self-help groups that have communal benefits. 36 I b i d . , July 1941, p. 11 37 I b i d . . June 1941, p. 3. 38 Le Huy Ruat, "Nhung 'hoi tuong-tro' o thon que" (Mutual-Aid Associations i n the Countryside), Thanh Nqhi. A p r i l 1942, no. 11, pp. 16-19. According to Ruat, a small neighbourhood mutual-aid group spent on average 300 piasters per year on feasts.^? i n 1941 (a year before this particular a r t i c l e was written) 350 piasters would feed a family of fourteen for an entire year.4° It appeared to the author that helping one another was a secondary function of these mutual-groups.Moreover, whenever a wealthy group had an annual surplus, the members would usually want the money divided up among them, as opposed to using the money to construct something be n e f i c i a l to a l l . Thus the author applauded the government's request for the formation of a new group: a "Nghia xuong"42 or "charitable" mutual-aid group. This group would store a certain amount of r i c e for low-interest loans to poor peasants who might need to borrow i n order to make ends meet or to pay t h e i r taxes. In this way the author believed the fate of poor peasants could be helped. It appears that Ruat's perception of peasant behaviour anticipated those of George Foster and Samuel Popkin. According to Ruat, the peasants' world views are narrow—they were only concerned with th e i r family's interests and not -'^  According to Ruat, 150 p i a s t e r s were spent on four large feasts f o r 160 people, and the r e s t of the money took care of 20 small ceremonies. Ruat d i d not i n d i c a t e how many people p a r t i c i p a t e d at each of these 20 ceremonies. I b i d . . p. 17. 40 Le Huy Van, "So c h i thu mot gia-dinh lam ruong" (The Expenditure and Income of one Peasant Family), p. 15. 41 I b i d . , p. 17. 42 I t i s unclear why Le Huy Ruat used the expression "nghia xuonq". According to Professor Woodside, "nghia truonq" means c h a r i t a b l e granaries, along the l i n e of the t r a d i t i o n a l Chinese welfare i n s t i t u t i o n . My own parents who remember the 1940s w e l l , have never heard of the expression "nghia xuong". those of the v i l l a g e ' s . The organization of mutual-help groups could bring great benefits to the community as a whole and could help the poor peasants, yet because of the peasants' narrow s e l f - i n t e r e s t and suspicion of each other, the mutual-help groups functioned only as "eating clubs". Similar to the Tu-Luc writers, the contributors to Thanh Nqhi showed a heightened awareness of and concern for rural poverty. The Thanh Nqhi i n t e l l e c t u a l s , however, were systematic i n t h e i r analyses of poverty and they went beyond the mere description of r u r a l poverty. In t h e i r admiration for Western r a t i o n a l i t y and science, the Thanh Nqhi writers attempted to be objective and methodical i n t h e i r examination of v i l l a g e poverty. Their explanations for the causes of poverty were administrative corruption, peasants' lack of education, lack of government regulations against usury, and Vietnam's primitive l e v e l of agriculture. Consequently, these explanations c a l l e d for technological development, administrative reforms, and modernization of r u r a l t r a d i t i o n s . Unlike the communists' proposals (which we w i l l examine i n the next section) the Thanh Nqhi solutions for poverty did not d i r e c t l y challenge French imperialism nor did they c a l l for s o c i a l revolution and wealth r e d i s t r i b u t i o n . As moderate as these Thanh Nqhi remedies for poverty were, they had l i t t l e chance of being i n s t i t u t e d . Similar to the Tu-Luc writers, Thanh Nqhi i n t e l l e c t u a l s were unable to do much about v i l l a g e poverty. Most of Thanh Nqhi's publications were produced during World War II, under both Japanese and French control of Indochina. In war time under the yoke of two co l o n i a l powers, Vietnamese i n t e l l e c t u a l s had l i t t l e power i n bringing about reforms for the countryside. It was, nevertheless, s i g n i f i c a n t that v i l l a g e poverty was being discussed for the f i r s t time i n a systematic and serious manner, i n a major urban Vietnamese language pe r i o d i c a l . The Communist A n a l y s i s Of the Vietnamese i n t e l l e c t u a l s who were concerned about peasant poverty, only the communists were eventually able to achieve power and put into practice some of th e i r theories about how to solve poverty. Unlike the Tu-Luc novelists and Thanh Nqhi journalists, the Vietnamese communists had a d e f i n i t e agenda; they sought to destroy imperialism and capitalism i n order to rescue the peasants from oppression and poverty. According to Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP), the misery of the r u r a l population was brought about by the exploitation of the French c o l o n i a l i s t s . In Ho's analysis, i t was not overpopulation that caused the peasant landlessness and poverty, but the theft of land by the French and Vietnamese landlords. Ho explained i n 1924: During the French conquest, m i l i t a r y operations drove the peasants away from t h e i r v i l l a g e s . When they returned they found t h e i r lands occupied by c o l o n i s t s who had followed i n the wake of the occupying troops and who had shared among themselves the land that the native peasants had c u l t i v a t e d f o r generations. Thus, our peasants were turned i n t o s e r f s forced to c u l t i v a t e t h e i r own lands f o r foreign masters.'*3 It was through t h i s process. Ho claimed, that the peasants, who made up ninety percent of the population, had only t h i r t y percent of the arable land, and i t was precisely this lack of land that made the peasants "work hard a l l the year round and suffer poverty a l l th e i r lives".^4 Thus the ICP advocated land reform to eradicate poverty among peasants. To a large extent, i t was t h i s promise that won the Viet Minh peasant support i n the resistance war against the French. In 1937 Truong Chinh, the Vietnamese communist theoretician and the Party's secretary-general from 1941-1956, and Vo Nguyen Giap, then a middle-school history teacher and l a t e r the commander-in-chief of Vietnam's People's Army, and the mastermind behind the victory against the French at Dien Bien Phu, co-authored a book e n t i t l e d . The Peasant Q u e s t i o n . T h e s e two highly-educated members of the Indochinese Communist Party wrote the book for the urban readers; they wanted to a l e r t the c i t i e s about the situation i n the countryside. This work had a great influence i n shaping the future p o l i c i e s of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VPC). In short, t h i s book explained peasant poverty as a ^3 Ho Chi Minh, Selected Writings (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1977), pp. 30-31. 44 I b i d . , p. 164. 45 Andrew vickerman. The Fate of the Peasantry (New Haven: Yale U n i v e r s i t y Southeast Asian Studies, 1986), p. 45. 46 Truong Chinh and Vo Nguyen Giap, The Peasant Question (1937-1938), trans, by C h r i s t i n e Pelzer White (Ithaca, NY: C o r n e l l U n i v e r s i t y , 1974). r e s u l t of the double yoke of colonial and feudal oppression, and that the remedy for r u r a l poverty i s to give peasants land to t i l l . Truong Chinh and Giap examined the different ways i n which the peasants were exploited, such as the unregulated rent system, usury, heavy taxes, and government monopolies of s a l t and alcohol. Most injurious of a l l , they thought, was the accumulation of land by the French and Vietnamese e l i t e s . The re s u l t i n g e f f e c t of this exploitation was poverty. According to t h e i r estimation, every year the poor ag r i c u l t u r a l laborer would go hungry for seven to eight months, while some middle peasants would go hungry for three to four months.47 With respect to the s o c i a l and c u l t u r a l aspects, the r u r a l population was deprived of education, sanitation, and good leadership. Truong Chinh and Giap believed that the backwardness of the peasantry was a serious problem that must be addressed. According to the authors, the peasants had the "mentality of private ownership"; i n other words, these people were prone to individualism and bourgeois tendencies.48 They were suspicious of c o l l e c t i v e work, and had no s o c i a l consciousness. According to Truong Chinh and Giap, the peasants would only participate i n communal a c t i v i t i e s i f they could benefit d i r e c t l y : I b i d . . p. 32. Ibid., p. 21. T r a d i t i o n a l peasant organizations, such as p i g -r a i s i n g groups, house-building conraion fund s o c i e t i e s , lending s o c i e t i e s , and organizations f o r funeral and wedding expenses, etc., are a l l characterized by i n d i v i d u a l p r o f i t f o r each member of the group. None have a s o c i a l nature, i e . , a common advantage for the e n t i r e group or for s ociety, i n which the i n d i v i d u a l a l s o gains.49 The early communist depiction of the peasants, therefore, resembles that of George Foster and Samuel Popkin i n the l a t e r post-war Western debate on the nature of the peasant. The peasants were understood as i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c petty bourgeoisie; moreover, the peasants were also believed to be limited by f e u d a l i s t i c , backward thinking which led them to accept re a d i l y the feudal hierarchical structure i n which they were the servants to the landlords and notables of the v i l l a g e . In the 1930s there was no mention of a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n i n the communists' analysis of poverty. It appears that "land to the t i l l e r " was the only a g r i c u l t u r a l reform advocated. There was l i t t l e written against private ownership of land. On the contrary, the Vietnamese vil l a g e ' s communal land system was c r i t i c i z e d by Truong Chinh and Giap. Writing about Vietnam's communal land system—a system i n which each v i l l a g e had a certain amount of communal land which was distributed among the v i l l a g e r s every three or six years—the authors noted how this system of communal ownership of land was often abused and misused by the v i l l a g e e l i t e s . Truong Chinh and Giap wrote: 49 Ibid. There are many people, e s p e c i a l l y foreigners, who are very en t h u s i a s t i c about the communal land system. They think that communal land p a r t i a l l y guarantees the l i v e l i h o o d of the peasants. However, i n r e a l i t y each peasant receives only very l i t t l e communal land...50 I t appears that t h i s abuse of communal land occurred even i n the precolonial period. Under French colonialism, however, land became increasingly concentrated i n the hands of the elite.51 Thus Giap and Truong Chinh saw nothing virtuous about the Vietnamese v i l l a g e structure. The communal land system which Pham Cao Duong described as a way to maintain "relative equilibrium", and which James Scott argued was a means to insure "conservative egalitarianism", was viewed by these prominent communist theorists i n the 1930s as a feudalist vestige with no s o c i a l i s t i c character. Despite this negative assessment of the peasantry and i t s t r a d i t i o n , the authors recognized that the peasants could be an "invincible force" i f and when they became conscious and organized.52 This recognition of the peasants' potential, however, was not given much attention i n the early days of the ICP. According to A. Woodside, before the 1940s Ho Chi Minh had rarely publicly alluded to the revolutionary potential of the Vietnamese peasants or to i t s h i s t o r i c a l t r a d i t i o n of resistance: What was p a r t i c u l a r l y remarkable, both i n t h i s and other writings of the time, was Ho's avoidance of any mention of t r a d i t i o n a l Chinese and Vietnamese peasant uprisings, his avoidance of any discussions of h i s t o r i c a l t r a d i t i o n s of 50 I b i d . I b i d . I b i d . , p. 83. , p. 67. , p. 22. 51 peasant activism i n East A s i a . The Vietnamese communist movement's development of i t s remarkable populist h i s t o r i c a l v i s i o n , brimming with the feats of c e n t u r i e s - o l d mass movements, di d not r e a l l y begin u n t i l a f t e r 1940.^3 I t was only after 1940 that communist propaganda began emphasizing the peasants' "latent q u a l i t i e s of courage and resourcefulness" and attributing to them an important role i n the communist revolution.^4 According to David Marr, i n 1944 the ICP began re-interpreting certain peasant traditions as positive; peasant folk songs and poems were used by the communists i n t e l l e c t u a l s "to demonstrate that Vietnamese peasants had an e s s e n t i a l l y optimistic, struggle-oriented, p a t r i o t i c character regardless of time or place."^^ Despite the communists' wartime discovery of the peasants' revolutionary potential, they continued to remain suspicious of the i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c quality of the peasantry. Hence, i n 1955, one year after the communists established f u l l de jure control over North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh c a l l e d for the promotion of mutual aid teams as precursors to the establishment of cooperatives. Ho deemed th i s necessary because the Vietnamese peasants, i n his estimation, were i n d i v i d u a l i s t s when i t came to production: "In order greatly to increase production, we have to work c o l l e c t i v e l y . But our peasants are accustomed to individual work, each 53 Woodside, Community and Revolution i n Modern Vietnam, p. 170. 54 I b i d . , pp. 220-221. 55 David Marr, Vietnamese T r a d i t i o n on T r i a l 1920-1945 (Berkeley: U n i v e r s i t y of C a l i f o r n i a Press, 1981), p. 282. household working separately. They have not the habit of c o l l e c t i v e and organized work.''^ ^ This ambivalent attitude toward the peasants remains, even to th i s day, an element i n Vietnamese communist thinking. On the one hand, Vietnamese communists perceive themselves as Marxists who embrace modernity, s c i e n t i f i c and technological development and the virtues of the militant working class, rather than the old-fashioned ethics of the villages.57 on the other hand, about eighty percent of Vietnam i s made up of the peasants, and the subsequent wars against the French and l a t e r against the Americans r e l i e d heavily upon the support of the peasants. Thus i n 1960 Ho Chi Minh wrote: Guided by Marxist-Leninist theory, we have r e a l i z e d that i n a backward agrarian country such as V i e t Nam, the national question i s at bottom the peasant question, that the national r e v o l u t i o n i s , b a s i c a l l y , a peasant revo l u t i o n c a r r i e d out under the leadership of the working c l a s s and the people's power i s e s s e n t i a l l y worker-peasant power, [my emphasis]58 I t thus appears that one way around this thorny issue was for the communist theorists to emphasize the "worker-peasant a l l i a n c e " . Le Duan, the Secretary-General of the Vietnamese Workers' Party i n the l a t e r stages of the Second Indochina War, emphasized the importance of such an al l i a n c e , since the Vietnamese working class was young and "hardly Ho Chi Minh, Selected Works, v o l IV (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962), p. 81. 57 C h r i s t i n e White, introduction, Truong Chinh and Giap, The Peasant Question, p. i x . 58 Ho Chi Minh, Selected Writing, p. 242. developed" while the peasants, though lacking i n p o l i t i c a l consciousness, were a powerful f o r c e . A c c o r d i n g to Le Duan, the peasants were a revolutionary force only under the guidance of the working class: "By following the lead of the working class, the peasants develop t h e i r great revolutionary potential to the utmost. The worker-peasant alliance i s the basic condition insuring victory for the revolution.[Le Duan ' s emphasis ] "^ o This attempt to use the notion of "worker-peasant a l l i a n c e " to smooth over the contradictory status of the peasantry i n the Vietnamese communist revolution, however, did not resolve the issue for a l l communist i n t e l l e c t u a l s . Tran Huy Lieu, for example, returned to this issue i n 1969 i n an a r t i c l e about patriotism versus ethnic chauvinism (dan toe hep hoi).61 Tran Huy Lieu, the Director of the Ministry of Propaganda i n 1945 and a major communist theoretician thereafter, asked i n 1969 whether or not there was a difference between the wartime patriotism exhibited by the Vietnamese people and ethnic chauvinism. To Lieu, patriotism, unlike chauvinism, did not e n t a i l racism; patriotism did not contradict the goals of international proletarian revolution while ethnic chauvinism did.62 Lieu 59 Le Duan, The Vietnamese Revolution; Fundamental Problems and E s s e n t i a l Tasks (New York: International Publishers, 1971), pp. 15-16. 60 I b i d . , p. 16. 61 Tran Huy Lieu, "Phan b i e t chu nghia yeu nuoc v o i chu nghia dan toe hep hoi" (The Difference between P a t r i o t i s m and Ethnic Chauvinism), Nqhien Cuu L i c h Su. no 121, A p r i l 1969, pp. 1-2, 40. 62 I b i d . . p. 1. suggested that Vietnam's long history of being invaded by foreigners had led i t s people to develop a strong sense of ethnic i d e n t i t y that included, beside love for the country, xenophobic, revengeful and shallow sentiments. Lieu argued that only under the working class's revolution did patriotism emerge i n i t s true form within Vietnamese society. The implication of Tran Huy Lieu's argument i s that the Vietnamese peasants' revolutionary potential was based upon narrow, s e l f i s h , and chauvinistic thinking. The immense force of the peasants was rooted i n archaic chauvinism that was i r r e c o n c i l a b l e with modern s o c i a l i s t revolutions. The image of the peasantry as depicted by Tran Huy Lieu i n 1969, then was one that resembled Truong Chinh's and Giap's 1937 portrayal: the peasants were backward, i n d i v i d u a l i s t and feudal i n t h e i r nature. Other communist theorists' attempts to endow the peasants with revolutionary potential by emphasizing t h e i r history of foreign resistance were challenged by t h i s a r t i c l e . Because i f p r i o r to the emergence of a m i l i t a n t working class, the peasants' resistance was a manifestation of t h e i r ethnic racism, and i f the Vietnamese revolution was based on t h i s peasant force, then the basis for the revolution was seriously flawed. In short, the a r t i c l e challenged the Vietnamese communists' f a i t h i n the revolutionary nature of the peasants. I I I . IN THE AFTERMATH OF REVOLUTION AND WAR The remainder of t h i s thesis w i l l examine the emergence of some new conceptualizations about the peasantry among the Vietnamese communist theoreticians. The communist i n t e l l e c t u a l s ' need to re-assess t h e i r theories about peasants arose from the Vietnamese communist state's f a i l u r e to solve the problem of r u r a l poverty during the f i r s t three decades of i t s existence. Those f a i l u r e s could be linked, at least i n part, to doctrinaire over-simplifications of peasant l i f e by e l i t e theoreticians, such as described i n the previous chapter. In 1986 the Vietnamese government announced a program of ccanprehensive "renovation" of the economy. This new direction, c a l l e d Doi Moi, coincided with the Soviet Union's own launching of Perestroika. Few Vietnam experts would deny that the events i n the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China had great impact on the types of reforms pursued by Vietnam and how these reforms were received by the country's p o l i t i c i a n s , i n t e l l e c t u a l s and m i l i t a r y brass.i Although the international situation provided the backdrop and examples for Doi Moi, Vietnam's own internal turmoil provided the impetus and motivation for such reforms. As the E d i t o r - i n -1 William Turley and Mark Selden, eds.. Reinventing Vietnamese Socialism (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993), passim. Chief of Vietnam's main economic journal, Nqhien Cuu Kinh Te, Chu Van Lam remarked, "the abandonment of the old economic model and the construction of a new one was a process that arose from our own search, spontaneous i n i t s origins and r e a l i z a t i o n , and paid for by ourselves. Doi Moi i n agriculture was simply a natural h i s t o r i c a l development."2 Indeed, the origins for Doi Moi, or more precisely, the need for renovation, stemmed from the Vietnamese Communist Party's (VCP) f a i l u r e i n econcanic development, especially i n the r u r a l sector i n the period between 1954 and 1986. This section w i l l look at the problems with Vietnam's a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n attempts and how t h i s road toward s o c i a l i s t construction did not solve the problem of r u r a l poverty. The second half of t h i s section w i l l examine how renovation i s reconciled with the VCP's Marxist-Leninist ideology. Chu Van Lam's statement that Doi Moi was a "natural h i s t o r i c a l develofMiient" hints at how the ccanmunist i n t e l l e c t u a l s attempt to weave reform into t h e i r own adapted version of Marxist-Leninism. C o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n and i t s F a i l u r e During the resistance war against France between 1946 and 1954, the Communist Party advocated land reform as a means to help poor peasants. Land reform gave poor peasants land to t i l l as well as freed them from t h e i r debt and rent ^ Chu Van Lam, "Doi Moi i n Vietnamese A g r i c u l t u r e " , i n William Turley and Mark Selden, eds.. Reinventing Vietnamese Socialism, p. 162. payments. Although these p o l i c i e s delivered a marked increase i n a g r i c u l t u r a l production, they also led the communist leaders to fear the re-emergence of class and household d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n among the people.3 This fear was connected to the communists' prewar perception of the peasants as i n d i v i d u a l i s t s , petty bourgeoisie, and the b e l i e f that peasants, l e f t on the i r own, would become small producers and would not develop along s o c i a l i s t l i n e s . Consequently, land reform was abandoned and ag r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n began i n 1958. Another important motive behind the switch to c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n was agr i c u l t u r a l development. The Vietnamese communists believed that c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n would both modernize and s o c i a l i z e the r u r a l economy. According to Christine White, for the Vietnamese communists socialism equalled i n d u s t r i a l i z a t i o n and i n d u s t r i a l i z a t i o n equalled large-scale production, and thus, "the larger the productive unit, the more s o c i a l i s t i t i s " . * Andrew Vickerman i n his book. The Fate of the Peasantry, gave the following as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam's (DRV) rationale for c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n : "that c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n was more productive than private agriculture; that they [cooperatives] would prevent d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n , leading to c a p i t a l i s t 3 I b i d . . p.151. 4 C h r i s t i n e White, "Recent Debates i n Vietnamese Development P o l i c y " , i n Gordon White, Robin Murray, and C h r i s t i n e White, eds.. Revolutionary S o c i a l i s t Development i n the Third World (Sussex: wheatsheaf Books Ltd., 1983), p. 244. agriculture; and, that they would secure central State control over ag r i c u l t u r a l production and surplus".^ Underlying these rationales was the assumption (held also by the Soviet Union and China) that agriculture would finance i n d u s t r i a l development. In other words, the communist leadership believed that c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n would help i n d u s t r i a l i z e Vietnam and would solve Vietnam's poverty and underdevelopment. According to Vickerman, the DRV pursued economic development under th i s assiamption, even though there was no evidence from the Soviet Union or Chinese experiences to suggest that a g r i c u l t u r a l output made any si g n i f i c a n t contribution to the ca p i t a l investment i n industries. As i t turned out, c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n also did not make state procurement of the ag r i c u l t u r a l surplus an easy task. Alexander Woodside c i t e d an example of the procurement problem the state faced: vinh Phu peasants decided to y i e l d only small parts of t h e i r sugarcane harvest to the sta t e . They a r t f u l l y concealed the f a c t that they were growing more sugarcane than they were a c t u a l l y d e l i v e r i n g to tax c o l l e c t o r s by b o i l i n g i t and making wine from i t , which they could then drink themselves or s e l l f o r better p r i c e s on the black market.6 This type of resistance, which James Scott c a l l e d "everyday forms of peasant resistance", involved "the prosaic but constant struggle between the peasantry and those who seek to 5 Andrew Vickerman, The Fate of the Peasantiry (New Haven: Yale U n i v e r s i t y Southeast Asian Studies, 1986), p. 157. 6 Alexander Woodside, "Peasants and the State i n the Aftermath of the Vietnamese Revolution", Peasant Studies, v o l 16 (4), Summer 1989, p. 284. extract labor, food, taxes, rents, and interest from them", using such t a c t i c s as "foot dragging, dissimulation, false compliance, p i l f e r i n g , feigned ignorance, slander, arson, sabotage, and so forth".'^ In both North and South Vietnam peasants resisted the communist state's procurement of farm produce by mixing t h e i r r i c e with sand and husks, wasting r i c e i n d i s t i l l i n g of alcohol and i n feed for pigs and ducks, and by refusing to work hard.^ Christine White maintained, however, that the early years of the c o l l e c t i v e s were not as brutal as the experience had been i n the Soviet Union. For one thing, unlike the Soviet Union, the industries did not drain resources from the c o l l e c t i v e s . Vietnam's i n i t i a l i n d u s t r i a l i z a t i o n was supported by Chinese and Russian aid.^ In addition, the c o l l e c t i v e s provided an important organization structure during wartime. White, i n fact, argued that the co l l e c t i v e s were c r u c i a l to North Vietnam's war e f f o r t : "They [the c o l l e c t i v e s ] provided the i n s t i t u t i o n a l network for maximum lo c a l l e v e l economic s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y along with decentralization of p o l i t i c a l decision-mciking and i n i t i a t i v e which are c r u c i a l ingredients for the success of a people's war."10 After 1975, however, not very much can be said i n ^ James Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant (New Haven: Yale U n i v e r s i t y Press, 1976), p. 29. 8 Vo Nhan T r i , Vietnam's Economic P o l i c y Since 1975 (Pasir Panjang, Singapore: I n s t i t u t e of Southeast Asian Studies, 1990), pp. 80-81. 9 White, "Recent Debates i n Vietnamese Development P o l i c y " , p. 241. 10 I b i d . , p. 251; This view i s shared by Mark Selden who wrote: "In my view c o l l e c t i v e a g r i c u l t u r e was one i n s t i t u t i o n a l f a c t o r that prevented the co l l a p s e of the Vietnamese r u r a l economy and assured subsistence f o r defence of the c o l l e c t i v e s , as peasant resistance and low economic gains became s t r i k i n g l y obvious. Adam Fforde maintained that although the communist leaders were aware of the peasants' d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n , they continued to pursue t h i s l i n e of development and even began c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n i n the newly conquered South Vietnam aft e r 1975. Fforde suggested that i n losing sight of the goals of socialism, the leaders had become fixated by the means. In other words, they had become more concerned with how orthodox the cooperatives were, as opposed to how e f f i c i e n t and productive they were. Thus orthodox cooperatives, no matter how unproductive and i n e f f i c i e n t , could not be c r i t i c i z e d . Clearly the Party's e f f o r t s at a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n did not benefit the peasants for i f they did, "peasants would hardly have spent so much energy trying to avoid implementing central d i r e c t i v e s " . In the i n i t i a l phases of the c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n movement, the communists leaders continued praising peasants' communalistic and p a t r i o t i c q u a l i t i e s , as they had done i n the 1940s. In speeches and writings peasants' w i l l i n g p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n t h i s c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n e f f o r t was assumed women, children, and the elderly in time of war." "Agrarian Development strategies in China and Vietnam", in Turley and Selden, eds.. Reinventing Vietnamese Socialism, p.225. 11 Adam Fforde, The Agrarian Question i n North Vietnam 1974-1979 (lirmonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1989), p. 189. because of the previous demonstration of t h e i r loyalty to defend the country- Ho Chi Minh wrote i n 1960: simply by re-organizing, and improving technique and management, we can already get a higher p r o d u c t i v i t y than the i n d i v i d u a l farmers. Our peasants are aware of t h i s . They have, besides, revolutionary t r a d i t i o n s and great confidence i n the Party, and are ready to respond t o i t s c a l l . That i s why they are e n t h u s i a s t i c a l l y j o i n i n g the work-exchange teams and the a g r i c u l t u r a l co-operatives and taking the s o c i a l i s t path.^^ In r e a l i t y , however, the Vietnamese communists s t i l l had l i t t l e f a i t h i n the peasants. They continued to hold the view espoused by Truong Chinh and Vo Nguyen Giap i n 1937 that peasants were narrow-minded and suspicious of collectivism. In the o f f i c i a l writings, however, peasants' communalistic and p a t r i o t i c heritage continued to be emphasized. Myron Cohen has suggested that the Chinese communists had invented the oppressed, backward peasant i n order to j u s t i f y the need for destroying the old and bringing i n a new o r d e r . i n a similar way, the Vietnamese communists invented t h e i r own sort of peasant. In contrast to the Chinese invention, the Vietnamese peasant was supposed to be fervently p a t r i o t i c , a l t r u i s t i c and communalistic. It was believed the peasants were t h i s way during the Indochina Wars and would be this way throughout the s o c i a l i s t constiruction of Vietnam. Only by mythologizing Vietnamese peasants as courageous, p a t r i o t i c heroes could the Vietnamese ccaranunists j u s t i f y why they had Ho Chi Minh, Selected Writings (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1977), p. 240. 13 Myron Cohen, "C u l t u r a l and P o l i t i c a l Inventions i n Modern China; the Case of the Chinese 'peasant'", Daedalus, Spring 1933, v o l 122(2), pp. 151-170. veered away from c l a s s i c Marxism and had attempted to b u i l d socialism on the backs of allegedly conservative, f e u d a l i s t i c peasants. By 1977 half of South Vietnam's peasants were organized into a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v e s . During t h i s time, however, there were many problems i n the agriculture sector. In 1978 and 1979 there were drastic reductions i n the delivery of staples to the central government. By 1979 many co l l e c t i v e s had begun to disintegrate while much of the North was l i v i n g "on the edge of famine"i4. NO doubt Vietnam's external problems (war with China, invasion of Cambodia, US trade embargo) at the t i m e — a mere four years af t e r a decade of war against the United States—had adversely affected Vietnam's economy. 15 TO what extent Vietnam's ru r a l c r i s i s was caused by either external troubles or internal mismanagement i s not the focus of t h i s discussion. What i s relevant here i s the fact that by the late 1970s peasants were no longer w i l l i n g to s a c r i f i c e and endure poverty as they had done during the war. Forced by the subsistence and surplus-extraction c r i s e s , the government i n 1981 issued the Instruction 100 CT/TU which allowed the c o l l e c t i v e s to contract output quotas to individual families. The families were able to keep the surplus to consume or s e l l . i ^ This reversion to family 14 A. Woodside, "Nationalism and Poverty i n the Breakdown of Sino-Vietnamese Relations", P a c i f i c A f f a i r s . 11(1979), p.396. 15 A. Woodside i n f a c t argued that poverty was one of the reasons behind the dispute between Vietnam and China. I b i d . 16 David Wurfel, "Doi Moi i n Comparative Perspective", i n Turley and Selden, eds.. Reinventing Vietnamese Socialism, p.24. production went against the Party's push for s o c i a l i s t large-scale production, but because Vietnamese agriculture was i n a c r i s i s , and the practice brought an increase i n production, th i s p o licy d i r e c t i o n was pursued.i'^ Nona Thon Vietnam Tronq L i c h Su During the disruption i n the Vietnamese countryside, there was pandemonium among rural s p e c i a l i s t s i n t h e i r bid to assess the implications of thi s retreat to family production with regard to t h e i r theories about the Vietnamese peasantry. The resurging debate about the nature of the Vietnamese peasants and v i l l a g e i n the late 1970s was intimately t i e d to the problem of poverty, since the discussion was i n i t i a t e d by the f a i l u r e of the communists' c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n p o l i c i e s to solve r u r a l poverty. As I have already mentioned e a r l i e r (p. 22), the prominent government anthropologist, Phan Dai Doan, believed that the "b i t t e r " experience of the c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n made i t imperative for Vietnamese theoreticians to come up with new explanations about the countryside, for the old stereotype could no longer explain peasants' resistance against the state's c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n . In t h i s urgency, two conferences were held i n the mid-1970s to discuss the nature of the Vietnamese v i l l a g e . The conferences produced two volumes e n t i t l e d , Nonq Thon Vietnam Tronq Lich Su (vol 1 & 2) (The Vietnamese Villages i n History). Phan Dai Doan praised these two volumes as outstanding i n comparison to v i r t u a l l y a l l the work done before them: "Overall, the authors of the two volumes i n the mid-1970s have gained a new fresh perspective that w i l l help many people understand deeply the Vietnamese t r a d i t i o n a l society i n the process of building and defending our country."^^ The f i r s t volume of essays especially, published i n 1977, was an attempt to re-formulate the o f f i c i a l portrayal of the peasantry so that the image would correspond to the new economic changes. In other words, these debates were not academic, but highly p o l i t i c a l i n nature, for they were attempts either to j u s t i f y or repudiate the prevailing Party l i n e about peasant, poverty and economic development. The f i r s t a r t i c l e of thi s volume was an introductory piece written by Van Tao, the former Editor-in-Chief of Nqhien Cuu Lich Su ( H i s t o r i c a l Study Review). In thi s a r t i c l e Van Tao emphasized how important i t i s to understand the peasants.19 He argued that the Vietnamese working class was closely related to the peasants. Having come from the v i l l a g e s , the workers s t i l l carried many t r a i t s , b e l i e f s and habits of the peasants. Contrasting how the working class was created between the West and Vietnam, Van Tao suggested 18 Phan Dai Doan, "May van de ve lang xa Viet-Nam" (Some Problems of v i l l a g e Vietnam), Nqhien Cuu L i c h Su. 1(232-233) January-February 1987, p. 7. 1^ Van Tao, "May suy nghi buoc dau ve g i a i cap cong nhan va lang xa V i e t Nam." (A Few Preliminary Thoughts About the Working Class and the Vietnamese V i l l a g e ) , Vien Su Hoc (The I n s t i t u t e of H i s t o r y ) , Nong Thon Vietnam Trong L i c h Su (Hanoi: Nha Xuat Ban Khoa Hoc Xa Hoi, 1977), pp. 17-45. that the Vietnamese working class was created by French c o l o n i a l i s t s ' exploitation of peasants. French colonialism on the one hand, deprived the peasants of much of t h e i r land while on the other, did not expand i n d u s t r i a l or commercial development. The destitute peasants found themselves both without enough land and without secure, well-paying employment. Thus what was created was a class of r u r a l semi-proletarians. This i s the same class that Martin Murray referred to as " p a r t i a l peasants" or "temporary proletarians".20 According to Murray, the European employers did not take the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of "reproducing the working cl a s s " . The wages were so extremely low that the worker could not support a family. Usually the male member of the family would go to work i n the mine or factory, earn a sum of money and then return to the v i l l a g e where his family continued to farm. According to Van Tao, the negative aspect of the close connection between workers and peasants was twofold. On the economic side the workers did not become specialized; they did not acquire s p e c i f i c s k i l l s or technology.21 On the s o c i a l side, the workers continued to harbour the allegedly narrow-minded and regional thinking of small producers and did not develop a proper working-class consciousness. Van Martin Murray, The Development of Capitalism i n C o l o n i a l Indochina (Berkeley: U n i v e r s i t y of C a l i f o r n i a Press, 1980), p. 214. 21 Van Tao, "May suy nghi buoc dau ve g i a i cap cong nhan va lang xa V i e t Nam" (A Few Preliminary Thoughts About the Working Class and the Vietnamese V i l l a g e ) , p. 26. Tao did, however, also see a positive aspect; he believed that the peasants' love for t h e i r v i l l a g e and country, and th e i r c o l l e c t i v e t r a d i t i o n , could be transformed into a p a t r i o t i c and revolutionary s p i r i t among the workers. Note that Van Tao's emphasis i s on the influence of the v i l l a g e on the working class, and not vice versa. In the early 1960s when Ho Chi Minh and Le Duan had spoken of a worker-peasant a l l i a n c e , they had perceived the workers influencing and modernizing the peasants rather than the peasant culture and mentality being reproduced i n the workers. So there had been an important s h i f t i n viewpoint i n the span of time from 1960s to the 1970s. The fact that v i l l a g e traditions had survived the communist revolution and continued to influence urban as well as r u r a l l i f e , posed a challenge to the r u r a l s p e c i a l i s t s i n t h e i r attempt to re-assess the nature of poverty and the peasantry. For how can the communists hope to eradicate poverty when th e i r programs for s o c i a l i s t development had been predicated on u n r e a l i s t i c and inconsistent stereotypes of peasants? Although certain v i l l a g e traditions were celebrated because they had helped i n both wars against the French and Americans, overal l Van Tao f e l t that they were outweighed by the negative aspects and on the whole, were hindering s o c i a l i s t development. The t r a d i t i o n of ident i f y i n g oneself and one's loyalty with the family and native v i l l a g e was useful i n the war of resistance, but now t h i s practice had hindered the development of c o l l e c t i v e attitudes and l o y a l t i e s toward the nation. In 1977 Van Tao also c i t e d the peasants' "egalitarianism" as a negative aspect, because i n s o c i a l i s t c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n the rule was supposed to be to "do according to one's a b i l i t y and receive according to one's a b i l i t y " (lam theo nang lue huong theo kha nang).^^ In effe c t , fighting foreign encroachment and building a s o c i a l i s t nation required very d i f f e r e n t attitudes and customs. Thus Van Tao concluded that i n order to prepare the v i l l a g e for s o c i a l i s t development, new traditions must be created i n the v i l l a g e . Among these new traditions were the s p i r i t of c o l l e c t i v e ownership and enthusiasm for socialism. These were to be regarded as a new morality to replace that of family and v i l l a g e loyalty. In addition. Van Tao emphasized the need for "planning and order" i n agr i c u l t u r a l development.23 According to Van Tao t h i s economic planning would defend Vietnamese agriculture from the production of small producers who were incoherent and unsystematic i n th e i r production. It i s clear from t h i s a r t i c l e that for Van Tao, Vietnam's a g r i c u l t u r a l economy i n 1977 was i n serious trouble, and that r u r a l poverty was s t i l l a grave problem. Moreover, the peasants appear backward, uncooperative, and obviously not cut out for the task of s o c i a l i s t development. Nevertheless, Van Tao, l i k e many of the writers of thi s book, Nonq Thon Vietnam, s t i l l maintained i n 1977 the importance of 22 I b i d . , pp. 39-40. 23 I b i d . , p. 41. large-scale s o c i a l i s t development that included central planning and c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n . The debate over land-ownership patterns i n the pre-colo n i a l period remained important i n the discussion about c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n and peasant t r a d i t i o n s . In Nong Thon Vietnam s i x a r t i c l e s were devoted to t h i s landownership issue. A l l six writers admitted that much was not known about the pattern of landownership i n the e a r l i e r periods of Vietnamese history. The reason why such Vietnamese scholars were concerned about the nature of land ownership i n the v i l l a g e was that land ownership was believed to r e f l e c t the very nature of the v i l l a g e and peasants. In an a r t i c l e published i n the June 1981 issue of the top Hanoi h i s t o r i c a l journal, Nqhien Cuu Lich Su, Nguyen Khac Dam made clear the underlying assumptions about the relationship between land and people. The author stated that the positive and negative aspects of the Vietnamese peasant could be traced to the existence of both privately and communally owned r i c e fields.24 The positive q u a l i t i e s of a peasant, according to Nguyen Khac Dam, were: the s p i r i t of patriotism, cooperation, independence, and democracy; while the negative qu a l i t i e s were: revengefulness, factionalism, narrow-mindedness, and backwardness. While the author did not specify which land-owning system was responsible for which Nguyen Khac Dam, "Ve van de ruong cong va ruong tu trong l i c h su Viet-Nam" (The Issue of Communal and P r i v a t e Rice F i e l d s i n Vietnamese History) Nqhien Cuu L i c h Su, (199) June-July 1981, p.21. set of q u a l i t i e s , i t i s safe to guess that he believed the communal land system gave r i s e to the positive aspects of the Vietnamese peasant, while the private land system was responsible for the negative aspects. Of the six a r t i c l e s i n the c r u c i a l 1977 Nonq Thon Viet Nam debate on land ownership, we w i l l examine three, those of Nguyen Dong Chi, of Truong Huu Quynh, and Le Kim Ngan. According to Nguyen Dong Chi the e a r l i e s t information about types of land ownership i n Vietnam dated back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. 25 chi's main argument was that although private landownership was becoming a strong tendency throughout history, many v i l l a g e s were able to r e s i s t t h i s tendency. According to Chi, from 1871 onward communal r i c e f i e l d s became the object of greed for the wealthy and powerful. In 1871 the Tu Duc imperial court considered s e l l i n g o f f the communal f i e l d s i n order to raise money for m i l i t a r y supplies to fight the French invaders. Under French colonialism communal r i c e f i e l d s came under dire c t attack.26 Despite t h i s , however, the v i l l a g e s were s t i l l able to protect the i n s t i t u t i o n of common r i c e f i e l d s . Nguyen Dong Chi attributed the v i l l a g e s ' a b i l i t y to protect communal r i c e f i e l d s to the peasants' conservatism and traditionalism.2? 25 Nguyen Dong Chi, "Vai nhan xet nho ve so huu ruong dat cua lang xa o V i e t Nam truoc Cach manh" (Some Observations about Ownership of Rice F i e l d s i n Vietnamese V i l l a g e s Before the Revolution), Nonq Thon V i e t -Nam. pp. 47. 26 I b i d . 27 I b i d . . p. 48. The writer also pointed out that both private and ccanmunal ownership of land co-existed, but that the notion of private ownership was limited by the power of the monarchy and the v i l l a g e . In times of trouble the Vietnamese king and v i l l a g e could confiscate individual peasants' land for the sake of the country or v i l l a g e . Nguyen Dong Chi also gave examples of when a v i l l a g e suffered a loss and a l l v i l l a g e r s were asked to give up a portion of t h e i r land to help the v i l l a g e re-build. This implied that the system of private land that had existed i n t r a d i t i o n a l Vietnamese v i l l a g e s was not the same i n nature as the modern c a p i t a l i s t system of private landownership. Nguyen Dong Chi showed that the system of communal landownership—the creating of communal r i c e f i e l d s and the parceling out of these fields—^was based on feudal, hierarchical traditions as well as e g a l i t a r i a n concerns.28 One method of increasing communal r i c e f i e l d s was through a t r a d i t i o n of "iniong hau" (posterity r i c e f i e l d s ) . Wealthy and high-ranking v i l l a g e r s would donate a plot of land to the v i l l a g e i n order to insure that proper ceremonies would be performed i n t h e i r honour after t h e i r death. This practice of "mua hau" (buying posterity) was limited to people who could afford to give away land, and also people of prestige The contradictions that existed within village traditions and structure have also been examined by University of Toronto professor, Hy Van Luong in his work on the village revolutionary mobilization. "Agrarian Unrest From An Anthropological Perspective: The Case of Vietnam", Comparative P o l i t i c s , vol. 17 (2), Jan 1985, pp. 153-174. and rank. Thus while t h i s practice provided land for the v i l l a g e , i t was also a symbol of status and honour for the donors. In the process of parceling out land, rank and status also had a great r o l e . The best land was given to the high-ranking v i l l a g e r s and o f f i c i a l s . The ordinary peasant received less i n terms of quantity and quality than the e l i t e s of the v i l l a g e . This again shows that communal ownership of r i c e f i e l d s served to equalize wealth within the v i l l a g e to a certain degree, but i t also served to reinforce the hierarchical structure of the v i l l a g e . Consequently, although the existence of the ccanmunal land system had helped provide a minimum l e v e l of subsistence for poor peasants, i t was also a f e u d a l i s t i c tool used i n maintaining e l i t e domination within the v i l l a g e . Perhaps Nguyen Dong Chi was suggesting a p a r a l l e l between the double-edge sword ef f e c t of communal lands of the past and that of the present; although a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n provided a protective net, i t was also a tool for the central state to control the peasants. In the a r t i c l e written by Truong Huu Quynh, a s p e c i a l i s t i n Vietnamese Medieval landowning systems, the communal and private land ownership had a more complicated and convoluted development than was claimed by other writers.29 At the beginning of his a r t i c l e Truong Huu Quynh emphasized the Truong Huu Quynh, "Ve nhung guan he so huu trong bo phan ruong dat cong o lang xa V i e t Nam co truyen", (Ovmership of Communal Rice F i e l d s i n T r a d i t i o n a l Vietnamese v i l l a g e s ) , Nonq Thon Viet-Nam. pp. 65-77. d i v e r s i t y i n v i l l a g e structure and systems of landownership. The stress on d i v e r s i t y was by i t s e l f d e s t a b i l i z i n g , given the Hanoi government's previous reliance upon one stereotypical conception of the peasantry. His f i r s t point was that not a l l v i l l a g e s had the same o r i g i n . Of the 20,000 v i l l a g e s that existed i n Vietnam at the end of the eighteenth century, scane were created i n ancient times, while others were established i n the recent centuries and or were created by the modern state. The various origins naturally gave r i s e to many di f f e r e n t patterns of landownership. Truong Huu Quynh noted that there was always more than one type of landownership system i n the v i l l a g e s at any given time. According to Truong Huu Quynh, there were two different types of communal r i c e f i e l d s : Those which were owned by the central state and those owned by the v i l l a g e s . The tension between the v i l l a g e and the state over the control of v i l l a g e common r i c e f i e l d s came about i n the fi f t e e n t h century as the premodern state became more centralized and p o w e r f u l . s i n c e taxes and duties were owed not to the v i l l a g e , but to the state, Truong Huu Quynh suggested that i n ef f e c t the state had become the landlord of v i l l a g e land. The state's encroachment on v i l l a g e land became more intense as the central government became stronger. In 1430 (during the l a t e r Le dynasty) for example, the "guan dien" was promulgated by the central state to r e s t r i c t the ways i n I b i d . , p. 72. which v i l l a g e r i c e f i e l d s were divided. The "guan dien" (equal f i e l d system) provided uniform rules for giving out v i l l a g e r i c e f i e l d s . Before t h i s , d i f f e r e n t v i l l a g e s had different rules i n the parcelling out of v i l l a g e land. The state also demanded that the barren f i e l d s of one v i l l a g e must be given to another i f there was a shortage of f i e l d s i n the neighbouring v i l l a g e . This law violated the v i l l a g e ' s t r a d i t i o n of "ruong xa nao, dan xa ay huong" (the v i l l a g e ' s f i e l d s w i l l be used only by i t s own members).3i Furthermore, the central state's interference i n the v i l l a g e land system created a group of corrupt o f f i c i a l s who used the land the state gave them to become r i c h and further cheat and bully the v i l l a g e r s . Thus i n some instances, v i l l a g e communal f i e l d s became de facto private holdings for the corrupt o f f i c i a l s ; the growth of the premodern state contributed i n t h i s way to r u r a l poverty. In conclusion, Truong Huu Quynh emphasized that even though the system of communal r i c e f i e l d s was maintained i n the v i l l a g e s , the nature of this system had been perverted so that i t became a tool for the feudalists to increase t h e i r own wealth and t i e the peasants to the r u r a l area. It held back any escape from poverty while at the same time hindering a g r i c u l t u r a l development. 32 Contrary to the argument of Truong Huu Quynh, Le Kim Ngan maintained that the disintegration of the system of 31 I b i d . , p. 74. 32 I b i d . , p. 77. common v i l l a g e r i c e f i e l d s was not caused by the actions of the central state.^3 Le Kim Ngan argued that i t was the transformation of the economy from a peasant economy to a commodity-based economy that brought about the change i n the landownership system. According Ngan, i n the f i r s t half of the nineteenth century there was a great change i n the socio-economic situation with the emergence of a d i v i s i o n of class, a d i v i s i o n of labour i n agriculture, and family handicraft industry. With the development of a commodity economy, the middle class and the r i c h wanted more money to spend on commodities and thus there were more incentives to steal communal land. These changes affected the various v i l l a g e s i n d i f f e r e n t ways, depending on the socio-economic organization of the individual v i l l a g e s . One important aspect of Ngan's essay i s the author's argxament that t h i s movement toward private landownership was a step toward progress, modernity and c a p i t a l i s t development. As well, t h i s was a movement toward greater poverty for many and greater ruthlessness of the "haves" against the "have nots".34 Quoting Lenin, the author emphasized that the emergence of privately-owned land and small producers were signs of capitalism. The t r a d i t i o n a l system of communal r i c e f i e l d s , i n contrast, was a backward economy that "had no h i s t o r i c a l r ole", but only one purpose, "that was to maintain 33 Le Kim Ngan, "Mot so van de che do so huu lang xa nua dau the ky XIX" (Some Issues i n V i l l a g e Land Ownership System of the F i r s t Half of the Nineteenth Century), Nong Thon Viet-Nam. pp. 78-96. 34 I b i d . . p. 84. an economy that served the entire feudal officialdom" . ^ s For th i s reason, the Nguyen kings put great e f f o r t into restoring and maintaining the common r i c e f i e l d system. Le Kim Ngan condemned t h e i r attempt to do so as a backward move that had hindered the development of "independent producers". ^5 The implication of Le Kim Ngan's a r t i c l e i s that peasants were (and possibly s t i l l are) natural small producers who acted r a t i o n a l l y i n order to optimize t h e i r returns. The Vietnamese peasants and the development of a modern economy were held back, i n his view, by the action of the feudal state; but there were implied reservations here as well about the actions of the c o l l e c t i v i z i n g modern state. For h i s t o r i c a l writing i n Hanoi i s almost always p o l i t i c a l discourse about the present as well. In Truong Huu Quynh's a r t i c l e , communal land had long l o s t i t s communalistic q u a l i t i e s because of the central state's control; while Nguyen Dong Chi showed that communal land was used to reinforce v i l l a g e hierarchy. From these a r t i c l e s , i t i s apparent that the communal aspects of t r a d i t i o n a l v i l l a g e s were hollow, either because communal f i e l d s were de facto private land or else they were tools used by the feudal state and e l i t e to assert t h e i r power. This pessimistic characterization of t r a d i t i o n a l v i l l a g e communalism i n the mid-1970s reflected the b i t t e r experience of the Communist era. Vietnamese peasants had resisted the 35 I b i d . , p. 85. 36 I b i d . , p. 87. state's s o c i a l i s t i c c o l l e c t i v i z i n g gospel and were (and are) attempting to operate as small producers. It was s t i l l assumed, i n 1977, that t h i s was bad. In a discussion about the nature of v i l l a g e communalism, p o l i t i c a l l y conscious scholars could not leave out the vi l l a g e s ' a b i l i t y to remain independent and fight foreign invasions. In Nong Thon Viet Nam there were four a r t i c l e s (by Le Van Lan, Pham Van Cuong, Pham Dai Doan, and Nguyen Huu Hop) dealing with the v i l l a g e s ' role i n amed struggles and resistance wars.^? These four a r t i c l e s followed the convention dictated by the Party i n t h e i r unreserved praises for the v i l l a g e s ' strength, independence and cohesion. Yet upon closer scrutiny, we see that the sources of v i l l a g e strength, as depicted i n the a r t i c l e s , were r e g i o n a l i s t i c sentiments, kinship t i e s , and peasant submissiveness to v i l l a g e leaders, rather than a nationally orchestrated communalism by e l i t e figures i n the c a p i t a l c i t y . For the modern Vietneimese communists as of 1977, these things s t i l l reeked of oppressive feudal relations and tra d i t i o n s . Moreover, as the introductory a r t i c l e by Van Tao pointed out, the q u a l i t i e s needed for fighting foreign aggressions 37 The four articles are: Le Van Lan, "Ve vai tro cua lang xa trong su nghiep dau tranh vu trang giu nuoc o Viet Nam thoi xua" (The Role of the Village in the Task of Armed Struggles to Defend the Country in Vietnam's Ancient Period), pp. 232-258; Pham Van Cuong, "Lang xa trong cuoc khang chien chong xam luoc Nguyen Mong" (Villages in the Resistance Struggle Against the Mongolian invasion), pp. 259-274; Pham Van Doan, "Mot so lang chien dau trong khang chien chong Minh dau the ky XV" (Villages Fighting in the Resistance War Against the Ming Forces in the Fifteenth Century), pp. 275-290; Nguyen Huu Hop, "Moi quan he giua khoi nghia Tay Son voi lang xa" (The Relationship Between the Tay Son National Revolt and the Villages), Nong Thon Viet-Nam, pp. 291-302. and for building socialism were not the same. The traditions of v i l l a g e s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y , loyalty, and cohesion were, i n fact, negative q u a l i t i e s i n s o c i a l i s t development, even i f they were positive i n fighting foreign aggression. This was similar to the point of view of Tran Huy Lieu, whose a r t i c l e on the difference between patriotism and ethnic chauvinism was discussed e a r l i e r . In Lieu's assessment, the v i l l a g e ' s a b i l i t y to defend i t s e l f did not stem from p a t r i o t i c sentiments, but rather from l o c a l i s t i c xenophobia. The handful of a r t i c l e s we have examined from Nonq Thon Viet-Nam make i t clear that t h i s work was an attempt by the scholars to re-assess the theories concerning the Vietnamese countryside, against the background of the f a i l u r e of farm c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n p o l i c i e s which had been imposed on the v i l l a g e s from above. Although the a r t i c l e s celebrated the v i l l a g e s ' long-standing traditions of patriotism, collectivism, independence, egalitarianism and strength, there was much ambivalence i n them about what these q u a l i t i e s actually meant for the building of socialism, and thus for the eradication of poverty. It i s obvious that by 1977 the scholars were increasingly unsure about the history of landownership i n the v i l l a g e s and even more uncertain about what the h i s t o r i c a l existence of communal and private land said about the nature of the peasants. Did the long-standing existence of communal f i e l d s mean that the peasants were somehow innately communal i n nature? Or did communal f i e l d s represent the vestiges of a feudalism that had escaped destruction because Vietnam did not go through a c a p i t a l i s t phase of development? This debate i s reminiscent of the one between the Marxist and the Russian populists of nearly a century ago on the nature of the Russian peasant communes. It i s clear that by 1977 when the age-old problem of lack of food—the subsistence problem—came to a head i n Vietnam's countryside, stereotyped views of Vietnamese peasant behaviour had come under unprecedented questioning i n Hanoi. More U n c e r t a i n t i e s i n the 1980s In 1980 an interesting a r t i c l e appeared i n Nqhien Cuu Kinh Te (Economic Research Journal) i n which the author, Nguyen Tran Trong, argued that Ho Chi Minh had envisioned c o l l e c t i v e s as a way to "enrich the people and strengthen the country". Writing t h i s i n 1980, a period when the advocates of the Stalinist-Maoist road of development were losing ground, Trong was i n fact i n d i r e c t l y c r i t i c i z i n g the management of c o l l e c t i v e s , since they did not make the peasants r i c h or strengthen the country. Quoting "Uncle Ho", Trong reminded the readers that improving the l i v e s of the people was the highest goal of the revolution. Therefore, the author continued, "whatever a c t i v i t y that lowers the income of the c o l l e c t i v e s , that causes d i f f i c u l t i e s for the peasants, even i f these a c t i v i t i e s increase the income of the cooperative and the state, these [ a c t i v i t i e s ] would be wrong."38 Trong went further to assert that the principles Ho f e l t were important for c o l l e c t i v e organizations were volunteer membership, benefits for a l l members, and democratic management. The precepts Trong believed Ho advocated for c o l l e c t i v e organizations were gradual progression, sincere (not nominal) action, and small-scale organizations. The actual process of r u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n i n Vietnam had been quite opposite to Ho's precepts and p r i n c i p l e s . Indeed, the process was forced, rapid, large-scale, and undemocratic, and most of a l l , i t did not make the peasants r i c h . Whether the author meant t h i s a r t i c l e to be a c r i t i c i s m of the c o l l e c t i v e e f f o r t and an endorsement of the changes promulgated during the sixth plenum (1979), or as an affirmation that c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n was s t i l l the correct path toward socialism or that the new changes were more orthodox, i s d i f f i c u l t to t e l l . Whatever his intentions, the a r t i c l e has c l e v e r l y summed up many of the problems of the c o l l e c t i v e s , and the discrepancy between c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n and the end of poverty. Thus i n the 1980s amid the disintegration of c o l l e c t i v e s and a movement returning to family production, r u r a l s p e c i a l i s t s continued to theorize about the nature of the Vietnamese peasant. In 1981 Truong Huu Quynh (the Medieval ^° Nguyen Tran Trong, "Bac Ho v o i hop tac hoa nong nghiep" (Uncle Ho and A g r i c u l t u r a l C o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n ) , Nqhien Cuu Kinh Te. 3(115), June 1980, p. 11. s p e c i a l i s t whose contribution to Nong Thon Viet Nam we have already examined) e x p l i c i t l y admitted that there had been a chronic lack of understanding about the nature of the peasantry. Commenting on the fact that over the l a s t twenty-f i v e years (1954-1979) there had been more than one hundred and f i f t y dissertations published i n Communist Vietnam on peasant movements or peasant p o l i t i c s during the precolonial era, Quynh made the devastating admission that there were many essential issues about peasants not c l e a r l y understood. Quynh began his a r t i c l e with a subtle reminder to readers that h i s t o r i c a l discussions i n Vietnam were not merely academic; Quynh stated that i n the struggle against c a p i t a l i s t h i s t o r i c a l interpretations of Vietnam's heroic past, "history had become a tool for an ideological war."^^ One important gap i n Vietnamese knowledge about the peasantry, according to Quynh, was the issue of landownership. Quynh asserted that there was l i t t l e evidence for historians to r e a l l y knew what types of land systems existed i n the precolonial period. Stating that "history never developed i n a straight l i n e " , he ruled out the notion that the development of the landownership system had progressed l i n e a r l y , as Marxists l i k e to think, moving into different stages characterized by d i f f e r e n t production Truong Huu Quynh, "Hal muoi lam nam nghien cuu van de ruong dat va phong trao nong dan trong l i c h su che do phong kien nuoc ta", (Twenty-five Years of Study on the Problem of Rice Fields and the Peasant Movement in the Feudal History of Vietnam), Nqhien Cuu Lich Su. 4(199), 1981, p. 2. relationships such as lord-serf and landlord-tenant relationship. A large part of the reason for Quynh not to accept such an evolution of land-ownership system was that historians had no evidence to ascertain when private ownership of land actually emerged: According to the c a l c u l a t i o n of Le Kim Ngan, [at the beginning of the 19th century] communal land accounted f o r only seventeen percent of the t o t a l c u l t i v a b l e land of the e n t i r e country, thus we see c l e a r l y that p r i v a t e ownership of land had become the trend before the 19th century.4° Quynh's claims were, therefore, quite the opposite of what Vietnamese Marxist historians had conventionally b e l i e v e d — that private ownership of land emerged with the encroachment of French colonialism. Quynh asserted that "during the ten centuries of independence [from Chinese colonialism], i n the Vietnamese society the system of state-ownership had always existed i n p a r a l l e l with private-ownership of land and public communal land."4i Historians did not know how these systems interacted or how varying p o l i t i c a l currents influenced how the state regarded these di f f e r e n t types of ownership. In short, the history of landownership was very complicated and could not be used as a basis for constructing stereotypes about peasants or for formulating anti-poverty p o l i c i e s i n the twentieth century. Moreover, the lack of understanding of the land system also jeopardized the Vietnamese Communists' conventional 40 I b i d . , p. 6. 41 I b i d . . p. 5. interpretation of peasant movements. Quynh noted i n 1981 that recently some scholars had questioned whether certain peasant rebellions could be categorized as n a t i o n a l i s t revolts or mere r i o t s involving robbery and p i l l a g e . According to Quynh, i n order to answer th i s we would have to examine the extent to which the issue of land was a part of the r e b e l l i o n . And a l l t h i s , of course, required a thorough and clear understanding of the landownership system. Thus, the uncertainties with regard to the nature of communal and private land put into question not only the communalistic nature of peasants, but also the p a t r i o t i c nature of t h e i r uprisings. The state orthodoxy of the S o c i a l i s t Republic of Vietnam, at the time he wrote, s t i l l depended heavily upon unquestioned assumptions about such things. In t h i s a r t i c l e Truong Huu Quynh came short of denouncing Marx. Quynh argued that the existence of both private and communal r i c e f i e l d s i n t r a d i t i o n a l Vietnamese vi l l a g e s made Vietnam's v i l l a g e s unique, unlike those v i l l a g e s of Europe and India to which Marx often referred when he theorized about peasant societies.^2 This denial of s i m i l a r i t y was subversive, for i t implied that Marxist analysis was irrelevant i n r u r a l Vietnam. The implication of Quynh's claim i s that Vietnamese v i l l a g e s , unlike those i n India, were not bases for "oriental despotism" and enslavement of peasants' economic potential. Consequently, the Vietnamese communists were wrong i n th e i r attempt to destroy peasant family-based production and impose centralized a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v e s . Accordingly, they would have done better by using peasant family units rather than c o l l e c t i v e s as the basis for r u r a l development and for solving r u r a l poverty. The uncertainties about the h i s t o r i c a l nature of the peasants, indeed, paralleled attacks on contemporary Vietnam's a g r i c u l t u r a l p o l i c i e s . In 1988, two years aft e r Vietnam's o f f i c i a l adoption of Doi Moi, Dinh Thu Cue assessed what went wrong with the c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n movement. In Dinh Thu Cue's explanation, blame for the f a i l u r e i n c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n lay i n both the Party's i r r a t i o n a l a g r i c u l t u r a l p o l i c i e s and the emergence of oppressive l o c a l leaders, the "new v i l l a g e b u l l i e s " who appropriated or wasted the people's wealth. As we have seen (p. 55) v i l l a g e b u l l i e s had been an alleged feature of precommunist v i l l a g e s for Thanh Nqhi writers i n the 1940s. According to Cue the re-emergence of such a class of oppressors resulted from the low-level of culture among the peasants. Cue noted that although there had been s i g n i f i c a n t progress i n the peasants' world view, "nevertheless, the t r a d i t i o n a l way of l i v i n g i s s t i l l deeply ingrained i n th e i r psychology, habits, customs, thinking and activity".43 According to Cue, these t r a d i t i o n a l *3 Dinh Thu Cue, "Nong dan va nong thon Viet-Nam hien nay; nhung van de can quan tam" (Present-day Vietnamese Peasants and V i l l a g e s : Problems That Need At t e n t i o n ) , Tap Chi Cong San. 5, 1988, p. 44. ways—one of which was the acceptance of v i l l a g e leaders' and o f f i c i a l s ' a u t h o r i t i e s — h a d given r i s e to the powers of the "new v i l l a g e b u l l i e s " . Although i t might have been the peasants' f e u d a l i s t i c b e l i e f s which gave r i s e to the class of v i l l a g e b u l l i e s , i t was the new p o l i t i c a l structure created by the Party which deterred the peasants from r e s i s t i n g the oppressors. In comparison to those i n pre-revolutionary v i l l a g e s , the new v i l l a g e b u l l i e s were beyond the v i l l a g e ' s censorship, beyond the v i l l a g e ' s censure of checks and balances. Professor Woodside explained that: The t r a d i t i o n a l ' b u l l i e s ' or 'strongmen' accompanied the communal s o l i d a r i t y psychology of Vietnamese v i l l a g e s , or at l e a s t d i d not permanently erode i t . Their power was at l e a s t created by i n s i d e - t h e - v i l l a g e h i s t o r i c processes which seemed an authentic part of the community...The people whom Cue c a l l s the 'new strongmen' have power which i s f a r more e x t e r n a l l y created...Even more c r u c i a l , the 'new strongmen' also defend t h e i r power...by c r i t e r i a and sanctions external to the v i l l a g e which imply extracommunal forms of coercion to an unprecedented degree."** What thi s had led to, Dinh Thu Cue charged i n 1988, was an erosion of v i l l a g e community as well as apathy and resignation on the part of the peasants: "In the past the peasants were able to unite to fight v i l l a g e b u l l i e s , but now many people consider th i s an inconvenience, and do not dare to r e s i s t because they fear being accused of r e s i s t i n g the Alexander Woodside, "Peasants and the State i n the Aftermath of the Vietnamese Revolution", Peasant Studies, v o l . 16 (4) Summer 1989, p. 296. Party and government ". Thus the peasants no longer regarded the building of the v i l l a g e as t h e i r c o l l e c t i v e r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . Instead, they now retreated inwardly, looking out only for th e i r own family members. Implicit i n Dinh Thu Cue's analysis i s that t h i s erosion of v i l l a g e community, and the peasants' apathy and private interests, were obstacles i n (and indeed, results of) the Party's e f f o r t to transform the r u r a l economy into a large-scale s o c i a l i s t c o l l e c t i v e production. Her enthusiasm for the a b i l i t y of the peasants to develop a " s p i r i t of c o l l e c t i v e mastership" and to fight poverty, had waned considerably since 1976. For i n an a r t i c l e written during that e a r l i e r time, the same Dinh Thu Cue maintained that the peasants' s p i r i t of c o l l e c t i v e mastership had been formed and developed: "One important firm achievement of the three revolutions i n the r u r a l area has been: the formation and development of the peasants' s p i r i t of c o l l e c t i v e mastership".46 This " s p i r i t of c o l l e c t i v e mastership" was the acceptance that the interests of the cooperative and the cooperators are one and the same; consequently, this acceptance would allegedly lead peasants to assume the roles as masters of t h e i r c o l l e c t i v e s . Cue had believed i n 1976 45 Dinh Thu Cue, "Nong dan va nong thon Viet-Nam hien nay; nhung van de can quan tam" (Present-day Vietnamese peasants and v i l l a g e s : problems that need a t t e n t i o n ) , p. 45. 46 Dinh Thu Cue, "Buoc dau tim hieu ve qua t r i n h thanh va phat t r i e n tu tuong lam chu tap the cua nguoi nong dan Viet-Nam" (The Early Study of Processes of Formation and Development of the Vietnamese Peasant's S p i r i t of C o l l e c t i v e Mastership), Nqhien Cuu L i c h Su, 2(167) March-April 1976, p. 42. that only when the majority of peasants came to accept th i s c o l l e c t i v e mastership that s o c i a l i s t large-scale production would ar r i v e . Twelve years l a t e r . Cue conceded that many f e u d a l i s t i c , i n d i v i d u a l i s t i c , backward t r a i t s s t i l l remained strong among the peasantry, and had i n fact been amplified by c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n . Therefore, the f a i l u r e of c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n to improve the l i v i n g standard of the peasants had grave implications. For sensitive r u r a l s p e c i a l i s t s such as Dinh Thu Cue, the f a i l u r e meant a re-assessment of how far the peasants had moved from t h e i r f e u d a l i s t i c roots. The peasants' unwillingness to s a c r i f i c e for the good of the c o l l e c t i v e s dampened Cue's hope that they would develop the " s p i r i t of c o l l e c t i v e mastership". For Truong Huu Quynh, the f a i l u r e of the c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n movement confirmed his suspicion that private land ownership was just as much a part of the peasants' t r a d i t i o n as communal ownership, despite what the state orthodoxy presumed. Esse n t i a l l y , therefore, the i n a b i l i t y of the Vietnamese Coiranunist government to eradicate poverty with t h e i r S t a l i n i s t model of forced rapid c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n and i n d u s t r i a l i z a t i o n had challenged the Vietnamese communists' entire concept of the nature of the peasantry. Poverty and i n e q u a l i t y i n the 1990s In the early 1990s, i n the aftershock of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Vietnamese Communist Party was i n a panic to assure i t s dominance and extinguish any opponents' hope that the Party would follow the Soviet Union's demise. In 1990 the General-Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Nguyen Van Linh, reassured the public that the collapse of European coiranunism was caused not only by errors of the various European communist leaders, but also by the "violations against Marxist-Leninist principles and the imperialist forces' sabotage a c t i v i t i e s " . ^ 7 This signaled the intention of the VCP not to detour any more than necessary from i t s task of s o c i a l i s t i c construction. But the road to socialism was l e f t uncharted. In the Vietnamese communists' point of view, the e a r l i e r attempts i n Europe had proven to be unsuccessful, thus the burden f e l l upon them (and on the Chinese) to map out the way. As of the early 1990s, the VCP affirmed i t s commitment to s o c i a l i s t i c development through " s t a t e - i n i t i a t e d capitalism."^s Among the many changes entailed by the VCP's "state-i n i t i a t e d capitalism" are the de c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n of agriculture, and the elimination of price control, government subsidies and monopoly.^9 Such drastic changes ushered i n a David Wurfel, "Doi Moi i n Comparative Perspective", i n Turley and Selden, eds.. Reinventing Vietnamese Socialism, p.39. 48 William Turley, "Introduction", i n Turley and Selden, eds.. Reinventing Vietnamese Socialism, pp. 8-9. host of new social-economic issues, the most hotly debated are those of poverty and inequality. The new orientation toward a market economy has allowed daring entrepreneurs to get r i c h , and thus there has emerged a problem of inequality which, according to o f f i c i a l Party l i n e , had not been a problem i n the pre-reform days. Furthermore, the new l i b e r a l i z a t i o n of the media has allowed scholars to focus on the country's poverty problem and to suggest some very r a d i c a l explanations for i t s existence. In short, the collapse of the state orthodoxy's stereotyped assumptions about the peasantry has allowed a re b i r t h of the multifaceted discourse about r u r a l poverty which the Thanh Nqhi writers had begun i n the 1940s. Recently the problems of poverty and inequality were discussed with a new frankness i n Vietnam's leading academic and p o l i t i c a l journals. The communists' main journal. Tap Chi Conq San, i n September 1992 published an a r t i c l e revealing the shamefully large number of poor people i n r u r a l Vietnam. According to the author, Nguyen Sinh, the census of 1990 indicated that 55.06 percent of the r u r a l population were considered poor. Of t h i s group of poor peasants, 9.44 percent were considered destitute and starving.5° Although Sinh did not provide any measure for the income of the poor, another writer Quyet Thang suggested that the poor were Nguyen Sinh, "Su phan hoa giau ngheo o nong thon hien nay" (The Present D i s p a r i t y Between the Rich and Poor i n the Countryside), Tap Chi Conq San. 9, 1992, p. 48. generally those unemployed for three or more months, with an annual income l e v e l of under 500 thousand piasters (about 48 US dollars).51 Thang showed that at the beginning of 1992 there were 105,000 (30 percent) households i n Vinh Phu province alone who lacked food, and of these, 32,000 were starving. As early as 1988, the question of how to solve poverty i n a non-ideological way became a concern of Dao The Tuan, the Director of the Agricultural and Technological Sciences Institute. He began one of his discussions with the question, which was also the t i t l e of an important a r t i c l e , "Is the Red River Delta capable of producing enough to eat?"52 His answer was a resounding: yes. Similar to the opinions of the Thanh Nqhi writers of the 1940s, Dao The Tuan dismissed the factor of overpopulation as the cause of poverty i n the Red River Delta. Using examples of populous and yet also booming economic centres such as Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Zhejiang, Dao The Tuan argued that a high population density could be an advantage. Tuan also argued that the other conventional reasons for explaining poverty (adverse climate, lack of capital) did not adequately explain the situation of the Red River Delta, for both of these factors could be solved i f policy makers were 51 Quyet Thang, "'Xoa d o i , giam ngheo' o vinh phu dang o trong tam tay" ('Eliminate Hunger, Reduce Poverty' i s Within Reach i n vinh Phu), Nhan Dan. Jan 8, 1993. 52 Dao The Tuan, "Dong bang Song Hong co the san xuat du an duoc khong?", ( i s the Red River Delta Capable of Producing Enough to Eat?), Nhan Dan. October 21, 1988. imaginative and organized. With regard to lack of c a p i t a l , for example, Tuan urged that the focus not be completely on foreign money which usually was invested i n water resources, chemical f e r t i l i z e r and insecticides. These types of investments have limited advantages because after a period, more investment i s needed without increasing productivity. Instead, attention should be on mobilizing c a p i t a l investment from the people to be used i n more e f f e c t i v e ways. One of the most important goals for the development of the Red River Delta, according to Tuan, was not high production (as proponents of the "Green Revolution" had advocated i n the past), but stable production. Tuan wrote: "The goal of the a g r i c u l t u r a l system i s not only to achieve high productivity, but the rate of development and the s t a b i l i t y also have great economic effects..."^^ Tuan's solution for the Red River Delta was a strategy he c a l l e d , "Systems Effects" (hieu ung he thong), which perceived various a g r i c u l t u r a l sectors as a h o l i s t i c system. Developmental plans should consider the interaction of the components such as production of food crop, export crop, animals, and secondary agri c u l t u r a l goods. Thus, improvement to one component w i l l increase productivity i n the other. In order for t h i s system to work, the management and communication systems must be improved. Tuan perceived the a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v e s ' managers as ones who would organize and coordinate the different sectors and establish the infrastructure i n which peasants could produce, s e l l and buy needed merchandise. In Tuan's system, individual households would be the main players. It should be up to them to decide what role to play i n the development of the a g r i c u l t u r a l system. The state, i n the meantime, should provide structure and f a c i l i t i e s , and should allow individual households the freedom to pursue th e i r own a c t i v i t i e s . Thus Tuan believed that with some imagination, r u r a l researchers could f i n d remedies for the problems of the country's most infamous poverty-ridden area. The solutions Tuan proposed were sensible i n that they would not endanger the environment nor put Vietnam at the mercy of foreign aid. In addition, they emphasized the importance of the family units while relegating the state to a minor role as f a c i l i t a t o r and coordinator i n Vietnam's r u r a l economic development. In 1993, f i v e years after Tuan wrote his proposal for solving the Red River Delta's poverty, Dao The Tuan's own investigation showed that the shortage of food was s t i l l the major problem i n Vinh Phu (a province i n the Red River Delta) and that t h i r t y percent of the peasant households were poor.^^ In t h i s a r t i c l e Tuan suggested that the problem was that peasants were not familiar with the market economy. With the Dao The Tuan, " G i a i quyet nhung kho khan hien nay cua nong dan nhu the nao?" (How to Solve the Present D i f f i c u l t i e s of the Peasants?), Nhan Dan. January 12, 1993. d e c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n process v i r t u a l l y completed, many peasants were without any guidance or protection, and without any experience i n producing i n a market economy. Tuan suggested that research be done to find out what the peasants were capable of doing and allow them to pursue these tasks, and for the tasks they were unable to perform, help organize them so that they may progress. Here interestingly enough i s another portrayal of the peasants: honest hardworking without any innate c a p i t a l i s t i n s t i n c t . Gone from this a r t i c l e i s the image of peasants as i n d i v i d u a l i s t economic maximizers who must be guided by the working class into socialism. In fact, Tuan suggested that peasants should resort to a form of cooperative trades association to provide support for each other. For example, potato producers' associations would help each other by s t a b i l i z i n g the price of potatoes, and avoid flooding the market, as well as helping each other with l o g i s t i c s such as getting t h e i r goods to market. Furthermore, peasants could help each other by forming credit cooperatives or by pooling t h e i r assets i n order to get a loan. Tuan's suggestion i n 1993 that peasants form a sort of mutual aid associations bears strong s i m i l a r i t i e s to suggestions made by Thanh Nqhi writers, Duy Tam and Le Huy Ruat, who proposed i n the 1940s that consumer cooperatives and mutual aid associations would help peasants escape poverty. It i s also interesting to note that during the early land reform period i n the DRV, similar types of credi t and producers association had operated along with the mutual aid teams (MATS). These associations, however, were perceived by the DRV leadership to be tr a n s i t i o n a l organizations that would help ease peasants into c o l l e c t i v i z e d farms. The MATS, therefore, were soon disbanded and peasants were forced to jo i n collectives.^s Although Dao The Tuan believed that the new market economy had caused d i f f i c u l t i e s for the peasants, he denied that the reforms themselves caused poverty. In his view, poverty had been a factor within Vinh Phu even before the reforms. In fact, Tuan stated that "through natural development there was already a number of poor people."^6 i t i s unclear what Tuan meant by "natural development". Perhaps Tuan was suggesting that poverty i s a natural element i n human society, not caused by class oppression or exploitation. If thi s interpretation of Tuan's writing i s true, then does i t imply that poverty i s part and parcel of a society's development and thus i t w i l l never be eradicated? A s i m i l a r point of view about the natural existence of poverty i s found i n an 1991 a r t i c l e of Bui Ngoc Trinh.^7 Bui Ngoc Trinh's a r t i c l e alarmed the reader about the low educational, c u l t u r a l and health levels of the r u r a l population. Trinh urged the government to deal with the problem decisively, rather than continuing to view the r u r a l 55 vickerman. The Fate of the Peasantry, ch. 4. 56 Dao The Tuan, " G i a i quyet nhung kho khan hien nay cua nong dan nhu the nao?" (How to Solve the Present D i f f i c u l t i e s of the Peasants?). 57 Bui Ngoc Trinh, "Nguoi ngheo o nong thon va chuong t r i n h quoc chong d o i ngheo" (Poor People i n the Countryside and National Anti-poverty Programs), Tap Chi Cong San. 11, 1991. poor i n contradictory terms. According to Trinh, the r u r a l poor had been regarded by the communist leadership, on the one hand, as the moving force for revolution yet on the other hand, as a burden on society. Although these c o n f l i c t i n g views of the r u r a l poor had been imbedded i n s o c i a l p o l i c i e s , Trinh denied that poverty was caused by incorrect p o l i c i e s of the Party: "It i s correct that because we were impatient, subjective and poor managers, that the movement to c o l l e c t i v i z e was not able to produce wanted re s u l t s . However, that movement absolutely did not create more numbers of r u r a l poor than before."^^ On the contrary, Trinh asserted, poverty had been deeply rooted i n the history of Vietnam, from the days when Vietnam was f i r s t established: "During the period of Chinese domination [111 BC to 967 AD] i n the entire country there were a few dozens o f f i c i a l s and generals who actually had enough to eat and wear."59 Trinh also pointed to the geographic and climatic factors as causes of the present poverty. She stated that the poor "on the large part l i v e i n areas where land and climatic conditions are not favourable". ^ ° These explanations for the cause of poverty c l e a r l y break with the Marxist argxoment (and also that of Martin Murray) that f e u d a l i s t i c and c a p i t a l i s t i c class relations caused dependence, underdevelopment and impoverishment. 58 I b i d . , p. 24. 59 I b i d . 60 I b i d . , p. 25. Trinh's (as well as Tuan's) insistence that poverty was a natural phenomenon i s a far cry from the points of view of the historians writing i n 1977, whose work i n the volume, Nonq Thon Viet Nam Tronq Lich Su. we have already examined. Implicit i n the discussions i n t h i s volume of essays about landownership systems and v i l l a g e resistance capability, was the unquestionable assumption that v i l l a g e poverty was caused by some form of oppression, be that of the central state, the v i l l a g e e l i t e , or the imperialist invaders. Even the subversive Truong Huu Quynh, who i n 1981 went so far as to suggest that Vietnamese v i l l a g e s did not f i t into Marx's model of pre-modern, o r i e n t a l peasant societies, did not hint at the p o s s i b i l i t y that poverty could be a natural part of peasant l i f e . As for fighting poverty, Bui Ngoc Trinh suggested that the government provide an infrastructure for development and investment i n agriculture, help the r u r a l c u l t i v a t o r s with tax r e l i e f and tax breaks, and help them market t h e i r produce. Trinh*s perception of the role of the state i n economic development resembles that of the l i b e r a l academics of Thanh Nqhi, who on the whole accepted the existence of poverty as natural, but s t i l l believed that the state could help a l l e v i a t e some of the miseries and help prevent more people from becoming poor. In the assessment of Nguyen Sinh, the vast majority of the poor were unskilled workers who lacked c a p i t a l and labour capacity. No longer under the protection of the c o l l e c t i v e s . these people have been l e f t to l i v e i n poverty. According to Nguyen Sinh, other reasons for poverty, especially among ethnic minorities of the highlands, were poor land and bad climate. According to Sinh, only a small minority of the poor were poor because of th e i r own laziness and wantonness. Like Bui Ngoc Trinh, Sinh c a l l e d for some f o m of national strategy to help the poor. Sinh, however, also saw the need to "resolve the land issue" which involved the recognition that land i s a ccanmodity. Sinh made the bold statement that, "land i s not a 'god given' thing, but i s a type of m e r c h a n d i s e " A c c o r d i n g to Sinh, giving land monetary value as such, would provide a system for land transfer and rental , and a method to protect the value of land. I t also would allow for the "agglomeration and concentration of land" which would make people r i c h . Implicit i n his suggestion was that land be made a private coiranodity that could be sold and rented according to market value. The underlying purpose of making land privately-owned i s to "make the peasants f e e l assured about the government's land policy, and to overcome the situation i n which land i s exploited with l i t t l e intention of reforming the land, and increasing i t s f e r t i l i t y " . ^ 2 These solutions suggested that a reversal to the pre-revolutionary production relations (where there was private Nguyen Sinh, "Su phan hoa giau ngheo o nong thon hien nay" (The Present D i s p a r i t y Between the Rich and Poor i n the Countryside), Tap Chi Conq San. 9, 1992, p. 50. 62 I b i d . ownership of land and of the means of production) would help solve the poverty problem. Here again, comparison with past explanations shows how f u l l c i r c l e theories about poverty had evolved. As we saw i n chapter one, Pierre Gourou and Pham Cao Duong pointed to the accumulation of land and proletarianization of peasants by French c o l o n i a l practices as the main causes of Vietnam's poverty and underdevelopment. Ho Chi Minh, no less, had spoke fervently against how the French and th e i r Vietnamese lackeys stole land from the peasants, thus pauperizing them. In 1992, however, Nguyen Sinh was suggesting that the i n a b i l i t y to accumulate land i n Vietnam caused economic i n s t a b i l i t y and stagnation. The landownership issue remains extremely controversial among Vietnamese s o c i a l researchers and policy makers. Proponents of land p r i v a t i z a t i o n advance the argument made by Nguyen Sinh. Others who oppose such a move argue that private ownership of land would lead to land fragmentation, "land wars" and worsening r u r a l differentiation.^3 According to Ngo Vinh Long, the opposition to p r i v a t i z a t i o n of land came mainly from the Northern and Central provinces where co l l e c t i v e s had been the strongest and from people such as families of veterans who benefitted from the guarantees of the c o l l e c t i v e s . 64 As of July 1993 the VCP s t i l l maintained that "land belongs to the people" and i s under state 63 Ngo vinh Long, "Reform and Rural Development: Impact on Class, Se c t o r a l , and Regional I n e q u a l i t i e s " , i n Turley and Selden, eds.. Reinventing Vietnamese Socialism, pp.191-192. 64 I b i d . . p. 193. management. The Vietnamese government, however, guarantee those who presently have land the long-term rights to the use of that land, and the right to transfer, exchange, i n h e r i t , rent and mortgage t h e i r land-use r i g h t s . Another issue being discussed by Vietnamese s o c i a l s c i e n t i s t s i s the newly emerging s o c i a l inequality. Understandably many writers blame the "new system" for causing t h i s inequality. One author stated i n a 1993 Nhan Dan a r t i c l e : In the l a s t few years, i n the process to achieve a new system [co che], the d i s p a r i t y between the r i c h and poor has become g l a r i n g . There are those average households who have become r i c h or have f a l l e n i n t o poverty; there are fa m i l i e s who were poor i n one month, and who became r i c h i n the next."^^ Pham Van Phu's a r t i c l e i n 1991 was a p a r t i c u l a r l y important voice i n the debate because i t was part of an unprecedented Vietnamese ethnographic exploration of poverty such as would not have been possible i n the more ideological era before 1986. The a r t i c l e was based on extensive surveying, and shows how the recent reforms had created s o c i a l s t r a t i f i c a t i o n i n the northern r u r a l sector. In Pham Van Phu's point of view, however, d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n did not resul t exclusively from the p o l i c i e s of Doi Moi. Even during the heyday of c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n there was inequality. According to Phu, c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n destroyed private °^ E d i t o r i a l , "Dinh huong xa hoi chu nghia trong phat t r i e n kinh te-xa hoi nong thon" ( S o c i a l i s t O rientation i n A g r i c u l t u r a l Economic and S o c i a l Development), Tap Chi Cong San, 8, 1993, p. 4. 66 Quyet Thang, "'Xoa d o i , giam ngheo' o vinh phu dang o trong tam tay" ('Eliminate Hunger, Reduce Poverty' i s Within Reach i n vinh Phu). ownership and class d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n . It did not, however, destroy d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n based on people's labour capacity and s k i l l s . 6 7 Thus within one par t i c u l a r c o l l e c t i v e sixty percent of the people harvested 300 kilograms of r i c e per person per year, while a minority harvested 200 kilograms and a tiny percent (1.5) harvested 400 kilograms. In addition to these three groups, there was also a class of cadres and managers who did not participate i n the actual labour and yet whose l i v e s were better o f f than the rest.68 With the introduction of Doi Moi p o l i c i e s , however, th i s d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n became more prominent. Factors responsible for s o c i a l d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n now included c a p i t a l accumulation, labour capacity, business acumen, technological s k i l l s and l e v e l of d i v e r s i f i c a t i o n . According to Pham Van Phu's research, households that remained exclusively within the crop c u l t i v a t i o n sector tended to be poor, while households that ventured into handicraft, s k i l l e d trades, and business tended to prosper. Phu's findings are similar to those of the Thanh Nqhi writer. Le Huy Van whose 1941 survey of one peasant family's income had shown that income from r i c e c u l t i v a t i o n alone was not enough to support the family. Thus similar to the liberal-reformist Thanh Nqhi °' Pham Van Phu, "Phan tang xa hoi trong cong dong nguoi V i e t o nong thon mien Bac hien nay" ( S o c i a l D i f f e r e n t i a t i o n i n Vietnamese C o l l e c t i v e s i n the Northern Countryside Today) Tap Chi Dan Toe Hoc (Journal of Ethnology), 2(70) 1991, p.29. 68 I b i d . i n t e l l e c t u a l , Pham Van Phu was advocating d i v e r s i f i c a t i o n as a way to enrich the peasants. The table below sums up the six d i f f e r e n t classes Phu found i n the three northern provinces of Thai Binh, Ha Bac, and Ha Nam Ninh^^: TABLE I S t r a t i f i c a t i o n i n Three Vietnamese v i l l a g e s c l a s s % population ** annual average income per person (piaster) 1. The anall owners 4.1 600,000 2. The well-to-do 18 300,000 3. Those with enough to eat 55 200,000 4. Those without enough to eat 16 ?(data not provided) 5. The poor and miserable 8 7,000 6. The managers .5 ?(data not provided) ** The percentages Pham Van Phu provided add up to 101.6 In general, the people of group one were contractors, factory owners, money lenders, and traders. Those i n groups two and three participated d i r e c t l y i n production and t h e i r a c t i v i t i e s were d i v e r s i f i e d among the different sectors: agriculture, handicraft, trade and business. The poor peasants of groups four and f i v e lacked experience, c a p i t a l or/and labour. The eight percent i n the category of poor and miserable generally went hungry for three to f i v e months out of a year. The poor of groups four and f i v e spent eighty-f i v e percent of the income on l i v i n g expenses, leaving only °^ The s p e c i f i c v i l l a g e s Pham Van Phu studied were Dong Duong and Nguyen Xa i n Thai Binh, Tam Son and Dinh Bang i n Ha Bac, and Nam Giang and Hai Van i n Ha Nam Ninh. The data summarized i n the t a b l e can be found i n pages 33-34, I b i d . f i f t e e n percent to be used i n production. In contrast, the f i r s t and second groups had at t h e i r disposal, f i f t y percent of t h e i r income. Thus Pham Van Phu demonstrated that the r i c h were getting richer while the poor were getting poorer, because the r i c h could continually improve and increase t h e i r productions and businesses. The l a s t category (group number six) included those who worked as managers i n the p o l i t i c a l and economic l i f e of the v i l l a g e s . The people i n this group were very mobile, continually moving up to j o i n the groups of small owners and the well-to-do. I r o n i c a l l y , many people of the poorest twenty-four percent surveyed by Pham Van Phu suffered the same dilemmas as t h e i r poor brethren did i n the pre-revolutionary days. Many poor peasants of the 1990s, for example, must rent out t h e i r labour capacity ( i e . work for other people). In Pham Van Phu's data for four v i l l a g e s , Hai Van v i l l a g e had the highest percentage (68.4%) of households whose members worked for sOTieone else for wages. In addition, poor peasants of the 1990s also found themselves trapped i n a vicious cycle of having to borrow money at high interest rates (12-20%) to make ends meet and then spending a good portion of t h e i r incomes from the next harvest to repay the l o a n s . A s we have already seen, usury Data f o r Tam Son (Hai Bac Province) was 35%; Dong Duong (Thai Binh Province) was 25%; Dinh Bang (Ha Bac) was 35.3%. These percentages represented wage employment i n a l l sectors of the economy. Ib i d . , table 5, p. 33. 71 I b i d . , pp. 33-34. had been a grave problem for peasants during the period of French colonialism. Writers we have examined i n the previous chapters, such as Charles Robequain, Pierre Gourou, Pham Cao Duong, the Tu-Luc novelists, the Thanh Nqhi writers, as well as the communist theorists, Truong Chinh and Vo Nguyen Giap, a l l had c i t e d the problem of usury as a factor i n the pauperization of peasants. The consensus among the pre-revolution writers was that the French c o l o n i a l i s t s were much to blame for not regulating lending practices better and for allowing such exploitation of poor peasants to take place. In the 1990s there i s no longer the French c o l o n i a l i s t s to blame. As disheartening as the emerging inequality i s for many researchers, i t seems that they accept i t as a part of the economic developmental path Vietnam has taken. In fact, Pham Van Phu stated that the government should encourage such s o c i a l s t r a t i f i c a t i o n i n order that the t r i c k l e e f f e c t w i l l eventually improve the l i v e s of the majority of the people who have just enough to eat or who are poor. Although Pham Van Phu conceded that inequality i s a necessary e v i l , he did not believe that s o c i a l d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n equalled exploitation. Phu suggested that the government take an active role i n deterring the exploitation of the poor by regulating interest rates, setting up a cred i t system to enable the poor to get cre d i t , and creating some system of labour codes so that peasants w i l l not be exploited by th e i r employers. Thus very similar to the Thanh Nqhi writers of the 1940s, the r u r a l s p e c i a l i s t s of the 1990s, readily accepting that inequality i s a "natural" aspect of economic development, are urging the government to regulate t h i s s o c i a l cleavage so that the poor w i l l not become too poor. It i s c l e a r that i n the l a s t few years the problem of poverty has received i t s share of public debate and r a d i c a l solutions. Many of the rad i c a l solutions endorsed by the Party e l i t e i n the 1990s, however, show a s t r i k i n g resemblance to those suggested by Thanh Nqhi bourgeois i n t e l l e c t u a l s of the 1940s. In August 1993 i n the VCP's main journal. Tap Chi Cong San, a Party o f f i c i a l , Nguyen Thi Hang,'^ 2 outlined her recommended strategies for Vietnam's anti-poverty war, which i s o f f i c i a l l y termed "Eliminate Hunger and Reduce Poverty" (Xoa Doi Giam Ngheo).''3 On the whole, Nguyen Thi Hang's anti-poverty recommendations r e f l e c t the trend i n contemporary Vietnamese poverty research i n that there i s an i m p l i c i t acceptance that poverty i s a natural phenomenon, not caused by class exploitation. Like the Thanh Nqhi writers of the 1940s, Hang's suggestions are moderate involving such measures as protective p o l i c i e s against usury, technological and s k i l l t raining for the poor, and i n s t i t u t i o n s providing credit and low-interest loans to poor Nguyen T h i Hang i s the Party's Central Committee Commissioner and the Undersecretary f o r the Labour-Disabled Veteran-Social M i n i s t r y . 73 Nguyen T h i Hang, "Nhung g i a i phap v i mo xoa d o i giam ngheo" (The Solutions f o r E l i m i n a t i n g Hunger and Reducing Poverty), Tap Chi Cong San. 8, 1993, pp. 7-9. peasants. Gone from Vietnamese communists' remedies for poverty i n 1993 are r a d i c a l land and wealth redistributions. Of interest to t h i s present discussion i s Hang's focus on the land issue. Her f i r s t recommendation i s that the government should provide land for poor peasants and guarantee them long-term rights to i t s use. Hang stated that unlike i n other developing countries, the majority of Vietnamese peasants have land to c u l t i v a t e . There were, however, about two to f i v e percent of the peasants who did not have land and who must work for others.'^^ According to Hang, there were also about twenty to forty percent of the peasants who l o s t portions of t h e i r land because they were unable to pay t h e i r debts or f u l f i l l t h e i r production contracts with the cooperatives. These peasants who did not have land or who l o s t some of t h e i r land (or more precisely, t h e i r rights to land use) usually f e l l into destitution. She recommended that the government help provide land to the poor so that they would have a chance to escape poverty. However, th i s should be done i n a way that accumulation of land by the successful and productive peasants would not be discouraged or hindered. Hang wrote: "At present many households s k i l l f u l i n t h e i r work want more f i e l d s to carry on business. This i s a healthy matter, worthy of encouragement. "'^^ Connected to t h i s lack of land issue i s her recommendation for encouraging peasant migration into the I b i d . , p. 7. I b i d . sparsely-populated highlands as a way to fight poverty.^6 Hang suggested that the government encourage the poor who were without land or with very l i t t l e land to migrate into the highlands. Clearly t h i s i s the same recommendation Western and Vietnamese researchers, whom we have discussed i n chapters one and two, had suggested i n the 1930s and 1940s. The geographer Pierre Gourou along with Thanh Nqhi writer, Pham Gia Kinh, for example, both made references to migration as a possible solution for reducing poverty i n the populous Red River Delta. Unlike Nguyen Thi Hang, however, they also pointed out the problems with such a policy, mainly that peasants were attached to t h e i r ancestral land and did not want l i v e i n the strange highlands which were infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes. ^7 Another example of how Vietnamese communists' remedies for poverty resemble those suggested i n pre-revolution period i s Nguyen Thi Hang's focus on high b i r t h rates among the poor. Hang did not go as far as Charles Robequain i n his Malthusian suggestion that high b i r t h rate caused poverty, but she did t r y to make a connection between poverty and population. Hang wrote that a trend existed: "where there i s a great number of poor people, there i s a high b i r t h 76 I b i d . , p. 10. 77 P i e r r e Gourou, The Peasants of the Tonkin Delta, v o l . 1, trans, by Richard M i l l e r , (New Haven; Human Relations Area F i l e s , 1955), p. 238; Pham Gia Kinh, "Nong-nghiep Dong Duong hien t a i va tuong l a i " (The Present and Future Situations of Indochina's A g r i c u l t u r e ) , Thanh Nqhi, December 1941, no. 7, p. 15. rate."'^s Hang believed that for the poor having many children was an extra burden. The state, therefore, should educate the poor i n the problem of overpopulation and teach them about d i f f e r e n t methods of b i r t h control and family planning. There i s an assumption on Hang's part that the poor did not already know about controlling t h e i r f e r t i l i t y and family siz e , and that they did not plan to have a large family. As we have seen i n chapter one, Benjamin White's work on Javanese peasants suggested that i n some cases, having many children was a strategy for the poor, because i t provided extra labour. Perhaps we should therefore question the extent to which Hang i s t r u l y i n touch with such intimacies of the peasants' l i v e s . One important recommendation of Nguyen Thi Hang, which had not been touched upon by the other poverty researchers discussed i n t h i s thesis, i s for the government to focus some of i t s anti-poverty p o l i c i e s exclusively on women. According to Hang, twenty percent of the households i n Vietnam were headed by women, and many of these households were poor. Hang noted that i n general women suffered more hardship and discrimination than men, thus their poverty was more "bi t t e r " (g^y >. Hang•s recognition that the impact of poverty dif f e r e n t i a t e s along gender l i n e adds another aspect to the Vietnamese communists' new multidimensional concept of poverty. ^8 Nguyen T h i Hang, "Nhung g i a i phap v i mo xoa d o i giam ngheo", (Solutions f o r E l i m i n a t i n g Hunger and Reducing Poverty), p. 9. The strategies outlined by Nguyen Thi Hang, a Party o f f i c i a l , show how much has changed i n communist thinking about poverty and economic development i n the l a s t decade. The new theories on poverty now show a strong continuity with the discussion that began among Western and Vietnamese s o c i a l s c i e n t i s t s i n the 1930s and 1940s. The f a i l u r e of the VCP's ag r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n p o l i c i e s to eradicate poverty required that s o c i a l s c i e n t i s t s f i n d new ways to explain poverty, just as the f a i l u r e required new strategies for economic development, and consequently, new perceptions of the peasantry. Vietnamese communist theorists are now pointing to climatic, environmental, i n s t i t u t i o n a l , c u l t u r a l , and regional factors as well as aspects of gender, race and age i n explaining poverty. Some are suggesting that poverty i s a natural aspect of human socie t i e s . Dao The Tuan, for example, asserted that poverty has been a feature of Vietnamese ru r a l society long before the reform period of 1985 ushered i n the issue of inequality. Others went further l i k e Bui Ngoc Trinh who stated that poverty has always been an aspect of Vietnam since time immemorial. The researchers' emphasis on the continuities of the poverty problem i s an attempt to make the disruption resulting from the renovation p o l i c i e s more palatable. The e l i t e ' s new gospel—poverty i s a h i s t o r i c a l given since time immemorial—alleviates some of the blame for the persistence of poverty from the Party's former ag r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n p o l i c i e s , as well as makes the emerging inequality caused by the present Doi Moi p o l i c i e s more acceptable. Seen i n th i s l i g h t , the movement away from c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n and toward a market economy and private business becomes less l i k e a break from the VCP's previous p o l i c i e s , but rather l i k e a new phase i n the Party's developmental plan. Similar to poverty and inequality, the policy of " s t a t e - i n i t i a t e d capitalism" i s depicted as a "natural development" i n Vietnam's continuing trek toward socialism. CONCLUSION In an a r t i c l e c r i t i c i z i n g the VCP's agrarian reforms, the prominent historian Van Tao; who had spent decades defending such reforms, now i n 1993 argued that the main error the Party made was to use the peasants as the guiding s p i r i t for the S o c i a l i s t Revolution.-'^ According to Van Tao, the bourgeois revolution did not have a chance to develop to i t s f u l l e s t i n Vietnam, thus the r u r a l population did not have time to modernize. Despite th i s shortcoming i n the peasant class, the Party s t i l l wrongly upheld the peasant rather than the working class as the revolutionary model. For example, within the power structure of the c o l l e c t i v e s , the Party had held i n the 1950s that two-thirds of the positions must be occupied by poor peasants, and one-third by middle peasants.^° In other words, the Party had g l o r i f i e d the p o l i t i c a l purity of the poor peasants. The f a i l u r e of the Party's c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n p o l i c i e s , therefore, showed that the reliance on the backward, uneducated peasants i n the construction of a modern, i n d u s t r i a l s o c i a l i s t i c society was disastrous and that poverty was not p o l i t i c a l l y virtuous after a l l . Van Tao, "Cai each ruong dat—Thang qua va s a l lam" (Agrarian Reform—Results and E r r o r s ) , Nqhien Cuu L i c h Su. 2(267) III-IV, 1993, pp. 1-10. 80 I b i d . . p. 8. This c r i t i c i s m struck at the heart of the Vietnamese S o c i a l i s t Revolution. Van Tao was not simply challenging the d i r e c t i o n of the revolution, but the underlying foundation of Vietnam's Socialism. For i f the Vietnamese peasants were not ready to forge revolution, then the revolution was pre-mature. Moreover, the revolution did not have a mandate—if the peasants were s t i l l p o l i t i c a l l y and s o c i a l l y immature, on what basis, then, did the VCP wage a s o c i a l i s t revolution? It i s apparent that the persistent problem of poverty i n Vietnamese r u r a l areas had created a c r i s i s i n the ideological foundation of Vietnamese communism. F i r s t of a l l , i t put i n question the communist thinkers' analyses and solutions for poverty. Secondly, since the Vietnamese communists' anti-poverty p o l i c i e s (which were at the heart of the revolution) were intimately connected with t h e i r theory about the nature of the peasantry, the communists' understanding of the peasants was consequently challenged. With the nature of the peasants challenged, the entire foundation of the revolution becomes very shaky, as Van Tao's a r t i c l e shows. This thesis has shown that poverty theories among Vietnamese thinkers have come f u l l c i r c l e . In the mid-1930s and the 1940s non-communist Vietnamese novelists and academics had f i r s t opened the discussion about r u r a l poverty. The Tu-Luc Van-Doan writers provided heart-wrenching descriptions of the miseries of Vietnam's r u r a l population. Their concerns about r u r a l poverty were those of romantic i d e a l i s t s who saw the existence of absolute poverty as an i n j u s t i c e , and yet, t h e i r work did not provide any analyses or remedies for the problem. The Thanh Nqhi a r t i c l e s of the 1940s, i n contrast, provided the f i r s t systematic, non-communist, analyses of r u r a l poverty. On the whole, the Thanh Nqhi writers accepted that poverty and inequality existed as natural part of s o c i a l development, but they also believed that government and the enlightened e l i t e could (and should) a l l e v i a t e some of the miseries of the poor. The remedies suggested by the Thanh Nqhi writers centered around government regulations to curb exploitations and reduce destitution, but not to eradicate inequality or r e l a t i v e deprivation. In contrast to the l i b e r a l moderate views of the Thanh Nqhi i n t e l l e c t u a l s , the Vietnamese communists i n the late 1930s and the 1940s believed that poverty was an unnatural phenomenon caused by exploitations i n f e u d a l i s t i c and c a p i t a l i s t i c class relations. Once these exploitative relationships were destroyed, poverty would be eradicated. After the communists' successful revolution i n North Vietnam i n 1954, they enthusiastically pursued a g r i c u l t u r a l c o l l e c t i v i z a t i o n as a means to develop Vietnam's economy as well as erasing poverty and class d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n . Since over three decades of s o c i a l i s t large-scale development did not r i d Vietnam's countryside of poverty, the new dialogue i n the 1990s about r u r a l poverty bears many resemblances to that of the Thanh Nqhi writers of the 1940s. As the thesis showed, the new approach to explaining poverty i s to suggest that poverty i s "natural", existing since the time Vietnam was founded. Environmental, demographic and climatic factors now play an important part i n Vietnamese communist explanations of poverty. As well, the importance of educating poor peasants (either about the workings of capitalism or about technological and s c i e n t i f i c developments) now feature prominently i n the s o c i a l researchers' remedies for r u r a l poverty. The government's role i s no longer perceived as the director of the economy, eradicating poverty and i n j u s t i c e . Instead, i t i s seen by the Vietnamese i n t e l l e c t u a l s i n the 1990s as a f a c i l i t a t o r whose job i s to ease some of the miseries caused by abject poverty and inequality. 1986 represented a turning point for Vietnamese s o c i a l i s t development. The drastic reorientation toward a market economy not only represented a new direction i n economic development, but new conceptualizations about the h i s t o r i c a l causes of poverty and the h i s t o r i c a l role of the Vietnamese peasants. The re-assessment of economic development, poverty and peasants, inevitably challenges the raison d'etre of the Vietnamese S o c i a l i s t Revolution. The recent collapse of European communism, however, has given Vietnamese communist leaders an opportunity to claim that they are s a i l i n g uncharted water toward a unique form of Vietnamese socialism. How Vietnamese socialism i s to be defined i s beyond the scope of this thesis. Regardless of what Vietnamese socialism i s envisioned to be, the resulting s o c i a l and environmental problems l e f t i n i t s wake resemble very much those found i n the non-socialist developed and developing countries. Those problems are poverty, inequity, unemployment, environmental degradation, corruption and various forms of drug abuses. The fact that poverty and disparity exist and are becoming more prominent i n such places as the United States—the archetype of the "developed" West—leaves l i t t l e hope that Vietnam w i l l one day eradicate poverty. With the Utopian s o c i a l i s t dreams abandoned, the Vietnamese policy makers are now focusing on pragmatic solutions for reducing poverty. The extent to which such pragmatic anti-poverty measures w i l l be successful i s i n part dependent upon the policy makers' accurate estimation of the peasants' productive potentials and aptitudes. 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