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Figure 14. Organization of the Vietnamese Communist Party, 1987

The Party Congress and the Central Committee

As stipulated in the party Statute, the National Party Congress (or National Congress of Party Delegates) is the party's highest organ. Because of its unwieldy size (the Sixth National Party Congress held in December 1986 was attended by 1,129 delegates), the infrequency with which it meets (once every 5 years or when a special situation arises), and its de facto subordinate position to the party's Central Committee, which it elects, the National Party Congress lacks real power. In theory, the congress establishes party policy, but in actuality it functions as a rubber stamp for the policies of the Political Bureau, the Central Committee's decision-making body. The primary role of the National Party Congress is to provide a forum for reports on party programs since the last congress, to ratify party directives for the future, and to elect a Central Committee. Once these duties are performed, the congress adjourns, leaving the Central Committee, which has a term of five years, to implement the policies of the congress.

The Central Committee--the party organization in which political power is formally vested--meets more frequently than the National Party Congress--at least twice annually in forums called plenums--and is much smaller in size (the Central Committee elected at the Sixth National Party Congress in December 1986 numbered 124 full members and 49 alternate members). Like the National Party Congress, however, it usually acts to confirm rather than establish policy. In reality, the creation of policy is the prerogative of the Political Bureau, which the Central Committee elects and to which it delegates all decision-making authority.

The Political Bureau, composed of the party's highest ranking members, is the party's supreme policy-making body; it possesses unlimited decision- and policy-making powers. At the Sixth National Party Congress, the Central Committee elected thirteen full members and one alternate member to the Political Bureau.

Acting in administrative capacities under the direction of the Political Bureau, are a party Secretariat, a Central Control Commission, and a Central Military Party Committee. The Secretariat is the most important of these three bodies, overseeing the party and day-to-day implementation of policies set by the Political Bureau. In 1986 the Secretariat, headed by the party general secretary, was expanded from ten to thirteen members. Five of the Secretariat's members held concurrent positions on the Political Bureau: Nguyen Van Linh, Nguyen Duc Tam, Tran Xuan Bach, Dao Duy Tung, and Do Muoi. Among its roles are the supervision of Central Committee departments concerned with party organization, propaganda and training, foreign affairs, finance, science and education, and industry and agriculture. In 1986 there existed a seven-member Central Control Commission, appointed by the Central Committee and charged with investigating reports of party irregularities. A Central Military Party Committee with an undisclosed number of members, also appointed by the Central Committee, controlled the party's military affairs. In 1987, party committees throughout the armed forces were under the supervision of the People's Army of Vietnam's ( PAVN--see Glossary) Directorate General for Political Affairs, which, in turn, was responsible to the Central Military Party Committee. These committees maintained close relationships with the local civilian party committees (see fig. 14).

Data as of December 1987