Asian Security Practice: Material and Ideational Influences

By Muthiah Alagappa | Go to book overview

10
Vietnam The Changing Models of Legitimation

THAVEEPORN VASAVAKUL

DURING the 1980s, communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union experienced a crisis of legitimacy in the eyes of certain sectors of the public as well as a crisis of political leadership that culminated in the collapse of communism as a state ideology. During the same period, despite the political and ideological debacles in the socialist bloc and chronic economic difficulties at home, socialist Vietnam witnessed comparatively small-scale political challenges at both leadership and public levels. Furthermore, compared with its Southeast Asian neighbors, Vietnam did not undergo the political upheavals experienced in Thailand ( 1973, 1976, and 1992), the Philippines ( 1972 and 1986), and Burma ( 1962 and 1988). Vietnam's sustained stability suggests that the Vietnamese leadership and the socialist regime have always enjoyed a certain degree of legitimacy. This chapter explores the models of political legitimation in socialist Vietnam, focusing on the period from the August uprising of 1945 to the 1989-91 crisis in the socialist bloc and the Seventh National Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party in 1991.

The literature in English on post- 1945 Vietnam rarely discusses the legitimacy of the socialist regime. This is not surprising, however, given the Cold War context in which Vietnam scholarship developed. Scholars who disapproved of American involvement in Vietnam accorded legitimacy to the Hanoi government, while those who supported American intervention and sympathized with the anticommunist Saigon government questioned the legitimacy of the Hanoi government on the grounds of its communist ideology.

There are exceptions, however. A number of scholars have emphasized

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