Communist Party of Vietnam

Communist Party of Vietnam
Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam

Nguyễn Phú Trọng, General Secretary

Founded 3 February 1930 (1930-02-03)
Headquarters Ba Đình district, Hà Nội
Newspaper Nhân Dân
Youth wing Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union
Membership  (2011) 3,600,000
Ideology Communism,
Ho Chi Minh Thought,
Doi Moi
Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper
Politics of Vietnam
Political parties

The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) (Vietnamese: Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam), formally established in 1930, is the governing party of the nation of Vietnam. It is today the only legal political party in that country. Describing itself as Marxist-Leninist, the CPV is the directing component of a broader group of organizations known as the Vietnamese Fatherland Front. In Vietnam, it is commonly referred to as "Đảng" (the Party) or "Đảng ta" (our Party).

The CPV is formally directed by a National Congress held every five years. In practical terms the organization is lead by a 160 member Central Committee, which selects a Political Bureau (Politburo) headed by a General Secretary. The current General Secretary of the CPV is Nguyễn Phú Trọng.


Organizational history

The forerunner, Thanh Nien

Today's Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) traces its origins back to 1925. It was in the spring of that year that a young man born Nguyen Sinh Cung — then using the pseudonym Nguyễn Ái Quốc (Nguyen the Patriot) but best known today by a later party-name, Ho Chi Minh (Ho the Enlightened One) — established a Communist political organization called the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth Association (Vietnamese: Việt Nam Thanh Niên Kách Mệnh Hội — commonly: "Thanh Niên").[1]

Thanh Nien was an organization which sought to make use of patriotism in an effort to bring the colonial occupation of the country by France to an end.[2] The group sought political and social objectives — both national independence and the redistribution of land to working peasants.[2]

The establishment of Thanh Nien was preceded by the arrival of Communist International functionary Ho Chi Minh in Canton, China from Moscow in December 1924.[3] Ho was ostensibly sent to China to work as a secretary and interpreter to Mikhail Borodin,[4] but he actually set to work almost immediately attempting to transform the existing Vietnamese patriotic movement towards revolutionary ends. Ho managed to convert a small group of emigré intellectuals called Tam Tam Xa (Heart-to-Heart Association) to revolutionary socialism, and Thanh Nien was born.[4]

The headquarters of the Thanh Nien organization in Canton was made the directing center for the underground revolutionary movement in Vietnam.[5] All important decisions regarding the strategy and tactics of the fledgling Vietnamese anti-colonial revolutionary movement during this interval were made in Canton.[6]

Thanh Nien was designed to prepare the ground for an armed struggle against the French colonial occupation.[7] Three phases were envisioned by Ho Chi Minh and his compatriots.[7] In the first phase, an external center was to be established as a training center, source of unified political propaganda, and headquarters for strategic decision-making and the maintenance of organizational and ideological discipline.[7] Secret revolutionary grouplets called "cells" were to be trained in Canton and returned to Vietnam proper to conduct activity.[8]

In the second phase, activity would move into a "semi-secret" phase, in which Thanh Nien cadres would initiate political and economic activities, including strike action, boycotts, and protests, which might include conscious acts of political violence as a means of mobilizing the masses.[8] This would be a third phase, one of insurrection, in which the unified organization would attempt to rise up and overthrow the established political regime by force of arms, establishing a new centralized revolutionary government.[8]

Thanh Nien was conceived of as a relatively open mass organization, with the most trusted members part of a directing center called the Communist Youth Corps (CYC).[4] At the time of the Thanh Nien's dissolution in 1929, the CYC is believed to have consisted of just 24 members.[9] In addition to Thanh Nien, this small inner circle also directed two other mass organizations, Nong Hoi ("Peasants' Association") and Cong Hoi ("Workers' Association").[10]

The CYC and Thanh Nien published pamphlets and newspapers, including a guidebook of revolutionary theory and practical techniques called The Road to Revolution, as well as four newspapers — Thanh Nien ("Youth") from June 1925 to May 1930; Bao cong nong ("Worker-Peasant") from December 1926 to early 1928; Linh kach menh ("Revolutionary Soldier") from early 1927 to early 1928; and Viet Nam tien phong ("Vanguard of Vietnam") in 1927.[5]

Factional split of 1929

French Indochina included the administrative regions of Tonkin in the North, Annam along the Central coast, and Cochinchina in the South.

In 1928 the headquarters of the Thanh Nien organization in Canton were forced underground by forces of the Chinese Nationalists, the Kuomintang (KMT).[11] The center which issued directions to the cells inside Vietnam had to be moved repeatedly to avoid repression — first to Wu-Chou and then to Hong Kong.[12] Making matters worse, top leader Ho Chi Minh departed from Canton in May 1927 and was incommunicado with the Vietnamese movement.[12] The lack of contacts with a unified headquarters proved the start of an organizational split, with radicals in the movement beginning to take instructions from the Comintern via the Communist Party of France and others following a different path.[11]

In September 1928 the radical Bac Ky Regional Committee of Thanh Nien held a conference at which it affirmed the Comintern's new Third Period analysis, positing a new revolutionary upsurge around the world.[13] Noting the growth of the organization among intellectuals in urban centers, the conference determined to send its largely petty bourgeois membership into the countryside and to urban factories in an attempt to bring communist ideas to the poor peasantry and the numerically tiny working class.[14] In a letter to the Comintern, the Thanh Nien itself estimated that approximately 90 percent of its membership consisted of intellectuals; a full-scale offensive to win mass support was desired.[15]

The Central Committee of Thanh Nien called a National Congress of the organization, slated to begin on May Day of 1929.[16] This gathering, held 1-9 May 1929 and attended by 17 delegates from each of the three main administrative districts of Vietnam, plus Hong Kong and Siam, would prove the occasion for a split between those who placed primary emphasis on the so-called "national question" (independence from colonialism) and those who sought a more radical movement placing emphasis on social revolution.[17] Ho Chi Minh was not in attendance, still missing from the scene.[17] The conclave was chaired by Nguyen Cong Vien, making use of the pseudonym Lam Duc Thu, who summarily ruled the question of formation of a proper Communist party out of order, prompting a walkout of three members of the northern delegation, leaving only an informer working on behalf of the French secret police at the session as the representative of Tonkin.[17]

The radical Northern delegates who walked out of the Congress were sharply critical of those who refused to split, charging the remaining Thanh Nien leaders were "false revolutionaries" and "petit-bourgeois intellectuals" who were attempting to build bridges with the "anti-revolutionary and anti-worker" Kuomintang.[18] On 17 June 1929 more than 20 delegates from cells throughout the Tonkin region held a conference in Hanoi, where they declared the dissolution of Thanh Nien and the establishment of a new organization called the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP).[19]

The new Northern party published pamphlets detailing its organizational rules based upon the Comintern's "Model Statutes for a Communist Party" as well as the International program approved by the Sixth World Congress of the Comintern in 1928.[19] Three new periodicals were also launched — the newspaper Co do ("Red Flag"), the theoretical journal Bua liem ("Hammer and Sickle"), and the trade union publication Cong hoi do ("Red Trade Union").[19]

The other faction of Thanh Nien, based in the central and southern administrative districts of the country, were to rename themselves the Communist Party of Annam in the fall of 1929.[19] The two organizations spent the rest of 1929 engaged in polemics against one another in an attempt to gain a position of hegemony over the radical Vietnamese liberation movement.[20]

Adding to the complexity of the factional situation, a third Vietnamese Communist Party emerged around this time, a group unconnected with Thanh Nien called the League of Indochinese Communists (Vietnamese: Đông Dương Cộng sản Liên Đoàn).[20] This group had its roots in another national liberation group which had existed in parallel to Thanh Nien, with the two groups seeing themselves as rivals.[20]

The party unification of 1930

The two warring offspring of Thanh Nien joined with individual members of a third Marxist group founded by Phan Boi Chau at a "Unification Conference" held in Hong Kong from 3-7 February 1930.[21] Ho Chi Minh, back in direct activity in the Vietnamese movement, was responsible for brokering the peace between the warring factions as well as writing the initial manifesto and statement of tactics of the group.[21] The new party was named the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV).

The Hong Kong conference (held in Kowloon City) elected a nine-member Provisional Central Committee consisting of 3 members from Tonkin in the North, 2 from the central region of Annam, 2 from the southern district Cochinchina, and 2 from the emigré Vietnamese community in China.[22] The latter group had previously been organized within the South Seas Communist Party.[22]

The Comintern was sharply critical of the way in which the organization was unified, decrying the Vietnamese's party's failure to eliminate so-called "heterogeneous elements" from the organization.[23] The organization's declared emphasis upon national liberation under the slogan "An Independent Viet Nam" was criticized as a manifestation of nationalism, while the party's emphasis of its place in the international communist movement was deemed insufficient.[24] A new conference was demanded, remembered to history as the "First Plenum of the Central Committee."[25] The session was held in Hong Kong in October 1930 and renamed the organization the Indochinese Communist Party (Vietnamese: Đông Dương Cộng sản Đảng) (ICP) to mark the Comintern's imposed changes.

At the time it formally came into being, the ICP could claim to be a vanguard of only a microscopically small working class — a mere 221,000 people in a country of 17 million.[26] Even of this minority, the lives of many was far removed from the workplaces of modern industry, with fully one-third of these employed in various capacities on rubber plantations and the like.[26] The working class in the North was semi-peasant in nature, leaving work in the mines and factories for the Tết festival that marked the start of the new year, often not returning.[27] Working conditions were poor and labor turnover high.[27]

During its first five years of existence the ICP attained a membership of about 1500, plus a large additional contingent of sympathizers.[28] Despite the group's small size, it exerted an influence in a turbulent Vietnamese social climate. Back-to-back bad harvests in 1929 and 1930 combined with an onerous burden of debt served to radicalize many peasants.[28] In the industrial city of Vinh May Day demonstrations were organized by ICP activists, which gained critical mass when the families of the semi-peasant workers joined the demonstrations as a means of venting their dissatisfaction with the economic circumstances which faced them.[28]

As three May Day marches grew into mass rallies, French colonial authorities moved in the squelch what they perceived to be dangerous peasant revolts.[28] Government forces fired upon the assembled crowd, killing dozens of participants and inflaming the population.[28] In response local councils sprung up in various villages in an effort to govern themselves locally as the revolt spread.[28] The inevitable attempt at repression by colonial authorities began in the fall, with some 1300 people eventually killed by the French and many times more imprisoned or deported as government authority was reasserted.[28] While the ICP was effectively wiped out in the region, popular memory lived on.[28]

The Popular Front period (1935-1939)

The First National Party Congress was held in secret in Macau in 1935. At the same time, a Comintern congress in Moscow adopted a policy towards a popular front against fascism and directed Communist movements around the world to collaborate with anti-fascist forces regardless of their orientation towards socialism. This required the ICP to regard all nationalist parties in Indochina as potential allies.

World War II

Võ Nguyên Giáp (left) and Hồ Chí Minh in Hà Nội, October 1945.

The Second World War drastically weakened the grasp of France on its colonial possession of Indochina.[29] The fall of France to Nazi Germany in May 1940 and the subsequent collaboration of the Vichy France with the Axis powers of Germany and Japan served to delegitimize French claims to ownership.[29] Preoccupation with the European war made colonial governance from France impossible and the country was occupied by the forces of imperial Japan.

Upon the eruption of war, the Indochinese Communist Party instructed its members to take to the rural regions of the country and to go into hiding as an underground organization.[29] Despite this preventative measure, more than 2,000 members of the party were rounded up and arrested, including many key leaders.[29] Party activists were particularly hard hit in the southern region of Cochinchina, where the previously strong organization was wiped out by arrests and killings.[30]

Following the elimination of the old leadership by the authorities, a new party leadership emerged, which included Truong Chinh, Pham Van Dong, and Vo Nguyen Giap — individuals who together with Ho Chi Minh would provide a unified leadership over the ensuing four decades.[31]

Party leader Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam in February 1941 and established a military organization known as the League for the Independence of Vietnam (Vietnamese: Việt Nam Ðộc Lập Ðồng Minh Hội, commonly "Viet Minh").[29] The Viet Minh originally downplayed their social objectives, painting themselves as patriotic organization battling for national independence in order to garner maximum public support against the Japanese military occupation.[30] As the most uncompromising fighting force against the occupation, the Viet Minh gained popular recognition and legitimacy in an environment that would develop into a political vacuum.[32]

Ho Chi Minh's personal fate was not an easy one. With his organization underarmed and its bases isolated, Ho traveled to China in August 1942 in an effort to win Allied military aid.[32] Ho was arrested by the Nationalist Chinese government and subjected to 14 months of brutal imprisonment, followed by another year of restricted movement.[32] Ho was unable to return to Vietnam until September 1944.[32] The Communist Party and its Viet Minh offshoot managed to survive and prosper without him.[32]

Despite its position as the core of the Viet Minh organization, the Indochinese Communist Party remained a very small organization through the war years, with an estimated membership of between 2,000 and 3,000 in 1944.[32]

1945 dissolution and reformation

The Indochinese Communist Party was formally dissolved in 1945 in order to hide its Communist affiliation and its activities were folded into the Marxism Research Association and the Viet Minh, which had been founded four years earlier as a common front for national liberation.

The Party was re-founded as the Workers Party of Vietnam (Đảng lao động Việt Nam) at the Second National Party Congress in Tuyen Quang in 1951. The Congress was held on territory in north Vietnam controlled by the Viet Minh during the First Indochina War. The Third National Congress, held in Hanoi in 1960, formalized the tasks of constructing socialism in what was by then North Vietnam, or the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and committed the party to carrying out the revolution of liberation in the South. At the Fourth National Party Congress, held in 1976, the Workers Party of North Vietnam was merged with the People's Revolutionary Party of South Vietnam to form the Communist Party of Vietnam.


The Communist Party of Vietnam has adopted Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh Thought as the ideological basis of the party and the Revolution. Though formally Marxist-Leninist, the Communist Party of Vietnam has moved towards market reforms in the economy (see also Đổi Mới, the Renewal launched by the Sixth Congress in 1986) and has permitted a growing mid-level private sector. However, the party retains a monopoly on power.


National Congresses

The Communist Party of Vietnam is organized according to the Leninist principle of Democratic centralism.

The supreme party organ is the National Congress, which has been held every five years since 1976. Due to war footing during the time of wars against France and the United States, the first four congresses were not fixed according to a common time schedule. Since the Foundation Conference, 10 national CPV congresses have been held:

National Congress Date Location Number of
Number of total
Party's members
Notable events
1st Congress 27 – 31 March 1935 Macau (China) 13 600 Secret meeting as "Indochinese Communist Party". (This party was dissolved in 1945.)
2nd Congress 11 – 19 February 1951 Tuyên Quang 158 (53 alternates) 766,349 Party reestablished as Workers Party of Vietnam.
3rd Congress 5 – 12 September 1960 Hà Nội 525 (51 alternates) 500,000 Resolved to continue building socialism in North Vietnam and carrying on the unification struggle in South Vietnam.
4th Congress 14 – 20 December 1976 Hà Nội 1008 1,550,000 The first congress held after the unification. The Workers Party (North Vietnam) was merged with the People's Revolutionary Party (South Vietnam) to form the "Communist Party of Viet Nam".
5th Congress 27 – 31/ 3/1982 Hà Nội 1033 1,727,000
6th Congress 15 – 18 December 1986 Hà Nội 1129 ~1,900,000 Promoted the Đổi Mới (Renovation) policy.
7th Congress 24 – 27 June 1991 Hà Nội 1176 2,155,022
8th Congress 28 – 1 July 1996 Hà Nội 1198 2,130,000
9th Congress 19 – 22 April 2001 Hà Nội 1168 2,479,719
10th Congress 18 – 25 April 2006 Hà Nội 1176 ~3,100,000 Party members, for the first time, were officially allowed to involve in capitalist economic activities.
11th Congress 12 – 19 January 2011 Hà Nội 1377 ~3,600,000

The National Congress elects the Central Committee, consisting of 160 full members and 21 candidates. The Central Committee usually meets twice a year.


The Politburo, currently consisting of fourteen members, determines government policy, while the Secretariat, currently consisting of eight members, oversees day-to-day policy implementation. The Party's Central Military Commission, which is composed of select Politburo members and additional military leaders, determines military policy.

Despite efforts to discourage the overlapping of party membership with state positions, the practice continues. Currently, four Politburo members hold high positions in the government.

The current Politburo was selected in January 2011 and includes:[33]

  1. Trương Tấn Sang, Standing Secretary of the Party Central Committee's Secretariat (State President since July 2011, Chairman of Security and Defense Council)
  2. Sr. Lt Gen. Phùng Quang Thanh, Minister of Defence, Vice Secretary of Party's Central Military Commission
  3. Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, Prime Minister
  4. Nguyễn Sinh Hùng, Deputy Prime Minister (Chairman of the National Assembly since July 2011)
  5. General Lê Hồng Anh, Minister of Public Security
  6. Lê Thanh Hải, Party Secretary for Ho Chi Minh City
  7. Tô Huy Rứa, chairman, chief of the Central Information and Education Committee
  8. Nguyễn Phú Trọng, Chairman of the National Assembly, named as Secretary-General of the Communist Party, Secretary of Party's Central Military Commission
  9. Phạm Quang Nghị, Party Secretary for Ha Noi
  10. Trần Đại Quang, Lieutenant-general, Deputy Minister of Public Security
  11. Tòng Thị Phóng, Deputy Chairwoman of the National Assembly
  12. Ngô Văn Dụ, chairman, CPV Inspectorate Commission
  13. Đinh Thế Huynh, Editor-in-Chief of the Nhan Dan Newspaper
  14. Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Chairman of the Government Office


The current Secretariat, since February 2011, consists of:

  1. Nguyễn Phú Trọng, General Secretary
  2. Trương Tấn Sang, Standing Member of the Secretariat
  3. General Lê Hồng Anh, charge of home affairs
  4. Tô Huy Rứa, chairman, chief of the Central Information and Education Committee (Chief of the Central Communist Party Committee Office, since February 2011)
  5. Ngô Văn Dụ, chairman, CPV Inspectorate Commission,
  6. Đinh Thế Huynh, Editor-in-Chief of the Nhan Dan Newspaper (Chief of the Party’s Committee for Propaganda and Education, since February 2011)
  7. Ngô Xuân Lịch, General Department of Politics of the Vietnam People’s Army
  8. Trương Hoà Bình, President of the People’s Supreme Court
  9. Hà Thị Khiết, Chief of the Central Committee for Public Relations
  10. Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân, Minister of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (Deputy Chairwoman of the National Assembly, since July 2011)

General Secretaries

The activities of Politburo and Secretariat are directed by the General Secretary, called "First Secretary" from 1960 to 1976. The General Secretary is considered the Party's leader, though between 1951 and 1969, the position of President of the Central Committee, held by Ho Chi Minh, was considered supreme.

Name Term start Term end
Trần Phú 1930 1931
Lê Hồng Phong 1935 1936
Hà Huy Tập 1936 1938
Nguyễn Văn Cừ 1938 1940
Trường Chinh 1941 1 Nov 1956
Hồ Chí Minh 1 Nov 1956 Sep 1960
Lê Duẩn Sep 1960 10 Jul 1986
Trường Chinh 14 Jul 1986 19 Dec 1986
Nguyễn Văn Linh 18 Dec 1986 27 Jun 1991
Đỗ Mười 27 Jun 1991 29 Dec 1997
Lê Khả Phiêu 29 Dec 1997 22 Apr 2001
Nông Đức Mạnh 22 Apr 2001 – 2011
Nguyễn Phú Trọng 2011 Incumbent


  1. ^ Huynh Kim Khánh, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982; pp. 63-64.
  2. ^ a b Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 64.
  3. ^ Canton is known today as Guangzhou. Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 66.
  4. ^ a b c Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 66.
  5. ^ a b Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 67.
  6. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pp. 67-68.
  7. ^ a b c Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 70.
  8. ^ a b c Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 71.
  9. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pp. 78-79.
  10. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 79.
  11. ^ a b Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 76.
  12. ^ a b Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 114.
  13. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 109.
  14. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pp. 110-111.
  15. ^ Letter from "Vietnamese Communists" to the Comintern, received 20 October 1929; first cited in Vu Tho, Qua trinh thanh lap dang vo san, pg. 18, cited again in Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 111.
  16. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 116.
  17. ^ a b c Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pp. 116-118.
  18. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 119.
  19. ^ a b c d Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 120.
  20. ^ a b c Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 122.
  21. ^ a b Gabriel Kolko, The Anatomy of War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience. New York: Pantheon, 1985; pg. 27.
  22. ^ a b "Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Movement,"
  23. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 127.
  24. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 128.
  25. ^ Kháhn, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945, pg. 126.
  26. ^ a b Kolko, The Anatomy of War, pg. 16.
  27. ^ a b Kolko, The Anatomy of War, pg. 17.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h Kolko, The Anatomy of War, pg. 28.
  29. ^ a b c d e Kolko, The Anatomy of War, pg. 30.
  30. ^ a b Kolko, The Anatomy of War, pg. 31.
  31. ^ Kolko, The Anatomy of War, pp. 30-31.
  32. ^ a b c d e f Kolko, The Anatomy of War, pg. 32.
  33. ^ "Nguyen Phu Trong elected Party General Secretary", Nhan Dan Online, 19 January 2011.
    "Ông Nguyễn Phú Trọng đắc cử Tổng Bí thư",, 20 January 2011. Includes pictures of the entire leadership.

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