Raising awareness and addressing correctly the practice of democracy - rule of law and social discipline nexus in Vietnam today (Part 1)

Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Communist Review
Wednesday, September 14, 2022 07:57

Communist Review - Practicing democracy and strengthening the rule of law, ensuring social discipline is the tenth nexus added in the Document of the 13th Party Congress, forming a system of ten major nexus, demonstrating the law of Doi Moi, integration and development in Vietnam. The current urgent requirement is to study theory, make an empirical assessment, and propose solutions to maintain balance in the relationship between practicing democracy, strengthening the rule of law, and ensuring social discipline in Vietnam in the time ahead.

Politburo Member, National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue, and delegates attending an expert seminar on some contents to improve the legal system and law enforcement by 2030 towards 2045 _Photo: VNA

In order to realize the basic goals and directions of the transition period to socialism in Vietnam, the 11th National Congress pointed out: “Particular attention must be paid to grasping and building the right balance in major relationships between renovation, stability, and development; between economic and political reforms; between the market economy and socialist orientation; between the development of productive forces and the building and gradual improvement of socialist production relations; between economic growth and cultural development, social progress and justice; between building socialism and defending the socialist Fatherland; between independence, self-reliance, and international integration; between the leadership of the Party, the management of the State, and the people's mastery” (1).

The 12th Party Congress transformed the relationship “between the market economy and socialist orientation” into the relationship “between obeying market rules and ensuring socialist orientation” (2). Furthermore, it supplemented the ninth major relationship which is the one “between the State and the market”. After that, this relationship was developed into the relationship “between the State, the market and society” by the Resolution of the 5th Plenum of the 12th Central Committee on “Improving the institution of a socialist-oriented market economy”(3).

To implement national development strategies until 2030, with a vision to 2045, the 13th Party Congress emphasized: “We need to master and maintain a balance in major relationships...; and especially, there is a newly added relationship between practicing democracy and strengthening the rule of law, ensuring social discipline. This major relationship reflects the dialectical laws and the core theory of CPV’s reform policy. It needs to be further supplemented, improved, and developed to adapt to reality. It requires us a good awareness through a holistic understanding and effective implementation. It is essential to avoid extreme, one-sided viewpoints”(4).

Basic theoretical framework on the relationship between democracy - the rule of law and social discipline

As a matter of course, democracy, the practice of democracy, legislation, and social discipline cannot exist or promote their values ​​and roles if they are separate or opposed to each other. Democracy, law, rule of law, and social discipline need an overall operating mechanism to ensure sustainable implementation everywhere, everywhen, and in all areas of social life.

First of all, democracy and law, the practice of democracy and rule of law, and social discipline have a dialectical relationship. They are interlinked and mutually reinforcing processes. 

Democracy is the goal, condition, and motivation for legal improvement, meeting the requirements of building a rule of law state. Law represents an instrument to practice democracy. The law not only has the task of recognizing and defining the legal aspects of democracy but also needs to be implemented democratically in legal life, from law-making to law-enforcement, from legal regulations to legal consciousness and legal culture. This is the best way to enhance the role and social value of law in modern life.

Law is an agent and tool of democracy, but it remains relative independence from democracy. The law does not give rise to democracy as democracy results from the long-term struggle of the working people, the cognitive process, and the inevitability of social progress. Not only being influenced by economic and non-economic factors, but the law also depends on the current level of democracy or other democracies. Democracy, in turn, depends on objective economic, political, social, and cultural conditions.

The law, with its advantages and disadvantages, has an impact on democracy. The law can promote and support democracy and vice versa, can inhibit democracy in many forms. A legal regulation that is not clear, transparent, or improper will lead to the decline of democracy. A wrong administrative or judicial decision also affects the practice of democracy. That is not to mention the unclear recognition by law of the mechanism and forms to practice democracy to define, whether it is a direct or representative democracy.

Along with the development of society, democracy and law are increasingly being perfected. People not only have democratic aspirations but also need to feel the existence of democracy, the practice of democracy, and law enforcement. President Ho Chi Minh once reaffirmed: The State needs to educate the people to “know how to enjoy democratic rights, know how to use their democratic rights, dare to speak, dare to do”(5) within the legal framework.

The essence of the Doi Moi in Vietnam is building a socialist democracy. Accordingly, democracy is both the goal and the driving force of the renovation and building of a socialist rule of law state. Democracy is the basic method and management principle of the State and society, in which all citizens are respected and equal in engaging at every level of government to solve national issues. Our Party has affirmed that democracy associated with social justice must be practiced in all political, economic, cultural, and social fields. “Democracy goes hand in hand with discipline and must be institutionalized by law and guaranteed by law... Rights and duties go hand in hand”(6). Democracy cannot be exercised without the rule of law. Democracy is the driving force, goal, and premise to improve the law.

All new legal concepts and regulations result directly or indirectly from democracy. When citizens’ voices are heard, the quality and effectiveness of legal normative documents in Vietnam are further improved. Democracy is also reflected in legal research. Many political-legal conceptions have been changed more objectively on the principle of traditional inheritance and ensuring socialist orientation.

Studies on democracy and the implementation of democracy take place in parallel with the amendment and supplementation of legal provisions. From the aspiration for democracy, from the perception of democracy at the macro level in policy-making to the actual feeling in the practice of democracy among the whole community and each individual, democracy moves a step forward and becomes closely linked to people's daily lives.

Over time, the law is evolving and developing constantly. From being perceived and used only as a pure instrument of State governance, the law is now exercised as a tool of each individual. Law is no longer strange to every individual in modern society because all aspects of their lives are regulated by law and democracy has become a reality when they have the right to be informed, debate, engage, control, and supervise the government of the country, exercise and enjoy democracy.

Democratization in all spheres of social life needs to be recognized and guaranteed by law. Without legal provisions on the freedom of individual creativity and on the protection of that right, democratic rights will be violated or abused. Talking about democracy is talking about freedom and responsibility, freedom and inevitability. To be truly mean to realize freedom, democracy and law must reflect the basic rights and aspirations of the people. Democracy, as President Ho Chi Minh affirmed, includes rights, benefits, obligations, and responsibilities. With such connotations, it is obvious that democracy must be concretized by legal regulations. Violation of democratic rights signifies also a legal violation by abusing the legal vacuum or the right to promulgate legal documents. This act is considered a violation of democracy too.

The law creates a reasonable framework to put bounds on the exercise of democracy. While perfecting the legal regulations on democracy, it is also necessary to pay attention to the enforcement of the law to make real the regulations on democracy. Law implementation is therefore of particular importance in the practice of democracy. From the perspective of law - the making process, democracy is practiced at all stages, from law formulation and promulgation to law enforcement in various forms, both in legal consciousness and legal culture.

Democracy is one of the characteristics of the law in the rule of law state, one of the basic factors to “identify” the rule of law state and the development level of society because comprehensively, rule of law state is a type of high-level social organization. The struggle to protect the achievements of democracy is also the struggle for the recognition and exercise of democracy enforced by the rule of law. In general, in the beginning, democracy mainly manifested in political life, later it spread to other fields such as economy, culture - society, ideology, and spirit. Like many other socio-political phenomena, democracy also has an extremely complicated life.

As the agent and instrument of democracy, the law cannot be stipulated generally but must be concretized. Law must clearly and transparently stipulate the rights and duties of individuals and organizations in democratizing social and individual activities. It is needful to adopt reasonable provisions on freedom and responsibility, prohibited and permitted acts in order to gradually implement the principles of law in the rule of law state: “to do everything that is not prohibited by law” and “only do what is allowed by law”. The long-standing reality of the so-called “prohibited by law” is still inadequate, even vacant, thereby creating different interpretations in thinking and action.

The principle that “society must be ruled by law and ethical rules” and all acts of individuals and organizations must be allowed by law and is not contrary to social ethics is correct and necessary. Broadly, that principle is also present in the legal systems of different countries. That means that the legal and social ethical corridor will constitute a bound ensuring that all individuals and organizations respect the rules, can exercise democracy, and do not violate democracy.

Democracy does not only need to be expressed in the law formulation and promulgation, in legal regulations. There will be a failed democracy or democracy will be violated if the laws on democracy are not enforced or implemented improperly. Thus, law application and law implementation in social life, first of all, by state agencies is an instrument to ensure and measure democracy and also a criterion to identify democracy in our country today. Vietnam had the Regulation on Democracy at the grassroots level, and the Ordinance on the exercise of democracy in communes, wards, and townships. That regulation needs to be implemented democratically.

Democracy must be manifested in legal consciousness and legal culture; this comes from democratization in the ideological and spiritual field; It is concretized in sharing legal information, legal education, and public opinion surveys on the needs and legal awareness of different types of populations, etc. For a long time, “law consciousness” is always limited to obedience to the law. We do not pay much attention to various and complex manifestations of legal consciousness and legal culture. Even for citizens, scientists, leaders, managers, and lawmakers, if they do not exercise democracy, they cannot improve the law, obey the law and promote democracy.

Freedom means being aware of inevitability and following set rules. Democracy is the right of people to participate in the government of the State and society. Therefore, to accomplish its crucial role of being an agent and instrument of democracy practice, the law must reflect the will and aspirations of the people. The limit of democracy and freedom must be determined by the legitimate rights and interests of citizens and society, and therefore, we should follow the principle of “Treating others as you would like others to treat you”(7).

The cause of national reform, the development of a socialist-oriented market economy, international integration, and democratization have made a strong impact on all aspects of legal life. Balancing individual interests with social benefits, motivating material interests, protecting legitimate enjoyment, self-discipline at work, law obedience of citizens... are qualities, moral values ​​, and legal principles in Vietnam today. Law is not only an instrument of governance but also a tool to orient the behavior of each individual in modern society and protect him from violations committed by individuals and organizations.

Democracy and law play a critical role in the theoretical system as well as in the daily life of mankind. In these diverse spaces, democracy and law have experienced ups and downs throughout the historical timeline. Democracy is not only associated with the bourgeois regime, but it passes development levels from low to high, through each value ladder. It results from the process of social development.

Socialist democracy is the democracy of the working people, which is manifested in political, economic, cultural, and social life and formed and developed by all true cultural values ​​of humanity. Democratizing and promoting the practice of democracy is a global trend. As society develops, people's material, intellectual and spiritual lives become more and more diversified, and the democratization and practice of democracy are strongly promoted.

Appearing as a historical necessity along with the state, the law from the very beginning had in nature two elements of dialectical unity: class and society. Democracy results from the revolutionary struggle of the working class, reflecting the human aspiration for freedom and equality. Law is born from the need to protect the interests of the ruling class and the social governance of a state.

Democracy plays a pivotal role in implementing the law and promoting the role and value of law in life. Democracy and the exercise of democracy enable the strengthening of the rule of law which is the basic condition for ensuring democratic practice and social discipline. Democracy nurtures the necessary competencies and qualities of citizens living in a democratic society. Accordingly, each citizen must master and familiarize themselves with the requirements of democratic culture, live and work democratically, and fight to protect democratic rights.

Like democracy, the law is continuously evolving among other social phenomena. Strengthening the rule of law and ruling society by law is a constitutional principle in Vietnam. Legislation is one of the complex issues in terms of theory, perception, and practice. In the context of developing a socialist-oriented market economy, building a socialist rule of law state, and integrating into the world, strengthening the rule of law is of particular importance. The urgency is clearly shown, but what is strengthening the rule of law and how to do it? In situations of the incomplete legal system and state apparatus as well as limited intellectual level and socio-economic conditions of Vietnam today, due consideration should be given to studying the feasibility and effectiveness of solutions to strengthen legislation in all fields of social activities.

Strengthening the legislation must aim at ensuring fundamental principles: the supremacy of the Constitution and laws, equality before the law; protection of human and democratic rights of citizens; respect of legal provisions; drastic fight against any legal violations, and abuse of power in state governance. In some situations, these principles are classified in more detail, but generally, they fall within the scope of these above basic principles. Only when these principles are respected, there will be genuine legislation.

Legislation is not just a specific act but a vivid process, a state of compliance with the law that is universally applicable to all individuals and organizations. Legislation is the method of social governance of a state, which is reflected in a legal system that derives from the will, interests, and trends of social development and strict and harmonized law enforcement.

Thus, it can be seen that there is an interlinked and dependent relationship between promoting the practice of democracy and strengthening the rule of law and ensuring social discipline that constitutes a democratic system. These factors interact with each other and need to be recognized from theoretical thinking, and need to be proven by the reality of social life during the process of building a socialist democracy. Democracy, first of all, should be practiced widely within the Party as President Ho Chi Minh once instructed in his Will. This is the first attempt with the political determination of the leading and ruling Party to build a true democracy, develop and perfect democracy, build democratic institutions, raise awareness and capacity to practice democracy in the Party, and promote democracy in the State and the political system, as well as in the whole society, and focus on the realization of democracy and citizens' right to mastery.

Practicing democracy in association with strengthening the rule of law and ensuring social discipline creates a driving force for promoting renovation and building socialism in Vietnam as democracy as well as the rule of law state are indispensable features of Vietnamese socialism and also the goal of renovation, especially political reform and political system reform in Vietnam.

Secondly, theoretical overviews of the relationship between exercising democracy and strengthening the rule of law, ensuring social discipline show the law of renovation, socialism, and the path to socialism in Vietnam.

In the first place, in terms of the relationship between the goal and the conditions and tools to achieve the goal, the goal, in this case, is to implement and practice democracy. Strengthening the rule of law and ensuring social discipline are conditions and tools to implement and practice democracy. In the goal of implementing and practicing democracy to build a socialist democracy and improve the Socialist rule of law State of Vietnam, the role of citizens as the master of power is crucial. The Party platform in the period of renovation and integration emphasized that: the Socialist society in Vietnam is a society owned by the people.

The relationship between practicing democracy and strengthening the rule of law and ensuring social discipline exists objectively and inevitably in the process of developing and building democracy and the rule of law state as well as in law-making and enforcement. In this relationship, the democracy-law nexus reveals the most prominent and inclusive. Strengthening the rule of law and ensuring discipline also comes from the requirement to concretize law to apply and protect democracy in society, especially in the organization and operation of the Government.

The basic way to ensure the people’s right to mastery is through the State and elected bodies. Legislation and discipline constitute an instrument of law enforcement so that the Government can manage society effectively for the benefit of citizens. That is the vitality, the reality of democracy, the guiding values ​​of development, and the perspective to become a reality. But to turn this perspective into reality, it is essential to combine necessary conditions and tools to make achievable goals set by individuals and organizations, and communities.

As a condition and instrument, legislation and discipline ensure the democratic institution in which the State is of the people, by the people, and for the people and the people can enjoy the benefits, exercise fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, protected by the Constitution and law, and at the same time, they must perform their duties and obligations towards the State and society. Discipline is set up and obeyed by everyone. This means citizens once having the right to mastery must perform their duties. This viewpoint of President Ho Chi Minh shows that rights and obligations, benefits, and responsibilities are interlinked. That is the essence of democracy. Accordingly, the law must be formulated into legislation and legalized to rule people's consciousness and behavior under legal standards.

In the second place, the relationship between promoting democratic practice and strengthening the rule of law, and ensuring social discipline is not only shown in the relationship between the goal and the conditions and instrument to achieve the goal but also reflected in the relationship between goals and renovation and development.

Doi Moi in Vietnam started from the process of democratization as a political and spiritual driving force to enhance renovation, integration, and national growth over the past 35 years. 

Practicing democracy, strengthening the rule of law, and ensuring social discipline is directly related to politics and the political system, in which the Party shows its leading and ruling role to lead the whole society and political system to move forward to socialism. The Vietnamese State is a socialist rule of law state, the mainstay of the political system that performs the role and function of management so that the people can exercise their right to supervise and control state powers. The Fatherland Front and socio-political organizations are institutions that exercise the social power of the people. Those are actors involved in the political system in Vietnam. Accomplishing their role and responsibilities (the Party - the State - the Fatherland Front and socio-political organizations) is the best way to practice democracy, especially in the political field, to serve the people, rely on the people, and promote the people's right to mastery. At the grassroots level, the implementation of the Regulation on Democracy at the grassroots level and the Ordinance on the exercise of democracy in communes, wards, and townships should ensure the principles by which people have the right to be informed, to participate in the government of the country, to practice, control and enjoy. This is a combination of democratic practices from organizations to individuals to ensure the direct participation of citizens in political life. The efficiency of this combination is promoted by democracy - solidarity - consensus for development.

During the process of renovation and development, it is important to not only prioritize stability and growth, consolidation, and protection of the political regime of the people and by the people but also give due consideration to economic development which allows for improving the material and spiritual life of the people. In addition, it is necessary to minimize unemployment, create stable jobs, eliminate hunger and reduce poverty, and create conditions for people's livelihood, especially for people in extremely difficult areas. It is needful to ensure social welfare so that people can have the opportunity to develop during the Doi Moi.

Implementing socio-economic strategies corresponding to economic and political democratization means practicing democracy in economy and politics, creating the foundation to promote democratic practice in other fields of social life such as culture, morality, and lifestyle, and building a democratic, fair and equal social environment for human development.

Building a strong rule of law state with effective leadership requires strengthening the rule of law, and tightening social discipline. Each progress achieved in administrative reform, and judicial reform, including awareness education, raising the sense of law respect and discipline for the whole people, upholding responsibility, conduct and discipline in civil service, fighting against bureaucracy, wastefulness, corruption, encouraging thrift practices is considered as every step of democratic practice of the State and society.

Therefore, the practice of democracy - rule of law and social discipline nexus is, in a direct way, a political relationship that needs to be properly understood in theory and effectively resolved during the process of running the Party, government, Fatherland Front, and mass organizations of the political system. On a broader scale in the economic, social, and cultural sector, practicing democracy, strengthening the rule of law, and ensuring social discipline all affect the process of renovation and development of Vietnam, ranging from renovation of thinking and economy (development of the market economy), political and political system reform to build democracy and socialist rule of law state to the renovation of the leadership of the Party, State and political system. More specifically, in order to comprehensively and synchronously renovate, develop rapidly and sustainably, integrate into the world, and modernize the country, it is necessary to focus on reforming institutions, not only the market economy institution but also the development institution. This is the new perception of the Party at the 13th National Congress on development thinking. To build development institutions, it is essential to restructure the institutional organizations of the political system to make them more compact and effective. Moreover, special attention must be paid to human resources, especially high-quality human resources at the strategic level; it is required to allocate resources in a reasonable and balanced way locally and nationwide. That is to create development dynamics as breakthroughs of renovation - an attempt to handle current bottlenecks for national growth: institutional bottlenecks which are first of all the market economic institution and socio-economic infrastructure (including technical and technological infrastructure) and human resources.

To realize set goals, it is necessary to reform mechanisms and policies in general as well as in each field. Law, legislation, and discipline have become increasingly important in building a development institution, removing obstacles, and preventing potential risks, ensuring security for renovation (so that renovation cannot go astray from the socialist orientation); at the same time, it is crucial to create favorable conditions for the implementation and practice of democracy (handling bureaucracy, wastefulness, and corruption), to well implement the principle of democratic centralism and prevent its metamorphosis: centralization of bureaucracy and liberal anarchy.

In summary, the relationship between practicing democracy, strengthening the rule of law, and ensuring social discipline is one of the laws of renovation and development, of building socialism, and defending the Fatherland in Vietnam.

(To be continued)


(1) Documents of the 11th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p. 72

(2) Documents of the 12th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, p. 80

(3) Documents of the Fifth Conference of the 12th  Central Committee, Office of the Party Central Committee, Hanoi, 2017, p. 28, 124

(4) Documents of the 13th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, vol. I, p. 39

(5) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.15, p. 293

(6) Platform for national construction in the transitional period to socialism in “Documents of the Party Congress in the Doi Moi period, Part I (VI, VII, VIII, IX National Congress), National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2019, p. 439

(7) Dao Tri Uc: Our state and law in the cause of renovation, Publishing House of Social Sciences, Hanoi, 1997, p. 358

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 986 (March 2022)