Vietnam Table of Contents
The VCP controls PAVN through an organizational and motivational mechanism that can monitor, guide, influence, and if necessary coerce. Its interest in the process is to ensure ideological purity and to improve military efficiency. Party cadres and members who are part of PAVN are charged with imparting to the ranks the proper ideological spirit and are responsible for ensuring good individual military performance. At their command is a set of impressive institutional instruments that promote loyalty and dedication to the party and work against deviationism, personalism (selfishness), and other negative phenomena. Essentially the effort is one of indoctrination, which can be divided into three specific functions.
The first of these functions is "information-liaison group" work and consists of discussion group meetings or lectures by political officers, who shore up existing beliefs and behavioral patterns and explain new party lines. The second is the kiem thao (self-criticism) session, which has no counterpart in noncommunist armies. Kiem thao requires "criticism and self-criticism from below to expose and eliminate shortcomings in work and to fight against a show of complacent well-being." Rooted in group dynamics, it is aimed at harnessing peer pressure. Thematic material in indoctrination sessions tends to focus on whatever is of major concern to the leadership at the moment (in 1987 it was the China threat). The kiem thao weekly session usually lasts about two hours and requires the individual to be constructively critical of himself, his peers, and his superiors. As such it gives the leadership insights into PAVN morale and provides a means of signaling present or potential problems. It also acts as a release valve, a means of reducing pressure, in circumstances for which no other remedy is available.
The third is the "emulation movement," a party control mechanism used in PAVN and in Vietnamese society at large. It was borrowed from the Soviet Union and China and also has no counterpart in noncommunist systems. The "emulation movement" campaigns incite people to imitate standards established by the party. Most are short-run mobilization efforts, although some are semipermanent, having been in existence for a decade or more. Each is designed to serve a specific purpose. In PAVN the campaigns seek to heighten vigilance against spies and counterrevolutionaries, reduce logistic expenditures, improve weapon and vehicle maintenance, or increase the individual soldier's sense of international solidarity. The "emulation movement" in PAVN is viewed as "an essential means of advancing the Revolution," which in practice means increasing unit solidarity, increasing the sense of discipline in the individual soldier, and improving military-civilian relations. The institution that runs these campaigns is a vast enterprise that requires the services of thousands of cadres who expend millions of man-hours in labor.
All of these control devices are supervised by the PAVN political officer, the figure who breathes life into the abstraction of the party. The political officer has no exact counterpart in noncommunist armies; some of his functions may be performed by the chaplain, the troop information and education officer or the special services officer in the armed forces of other nations, but his role in some respects is far more tangibly authoritative and significant. His duties are many and varied but chiefly involve political indoctrination, personal-problem solving, and maintenance of his unit's morale. He mobilizes the emotions and will through intensive moralistic exhortation, and he personalizes the impersonal party by representing the distant Political Bureau to the individual soldier. He is a figure of consequence who over the years has acquired a mystique of legendary proportions.
Within PAVN, party control of a different type is exercised through control of party membership. Party membership can be granted, denied, suspended, or removed permanently. The success or failure of a soldier's career is almost always determined by his having gained or failed to gain party membership. Weeding out of party members in PAVN takes place annually and averages about 1 percent of the total PAVN party membership, although in some units it can run as high as 6 percent. At the same time, intensive recruitment drives are held to induce soldiers to join the party. Prior to 1987, party members constituted 5 percent of PAVN; in 1987 the figure was between 10 and 20 percent.
Data as of December 1987
Vietnam Table of Contents