Are you a communist who has at one point had conversations with other people? If so, then I am sure that you have also experienced someone telling you “I’m sure you would not like communism if you had to live in a communist country”.
Well, as a communist who has recently returned from living briefly in Vietnam and in China, I would like to report- I am more committed to being a communist having spent time in communist countries.
I went abroad to teach, having just finished a degree. I was also hoping to get first hand experience of what life is like in Vietnam and China since so much of the information available in the United States is filtered through propaganda lenses. The propaganda really fell apart as soon as I arrived, and so I hoped to offer some brief reflection on my time in Vietnam and China.
I learned so much during my time abroad. I tried to approach the experience without preconceived notions and see what my experience on the ground would show me. As a communist, I am dedicated to being a dialectical and historical materialist, and seeking to understand the real world conditions around me. As they say in China, I hoped to “see truth from facts” while getting to experience communist governance first hand.
One of the most inspiring things about my time abroad was witnessing what I would term the power of the people. Having grown up in United States during the 1990s and 2000’s , there are very few moments where I can remember people feeling optimistic about the future of the country. Since the financial crash of 2008, it seems most people do not have optimism about their job prospects. Yet in Vietnam there was a palpable energy. People were excited about the development of the country, they were excited at technological developments, and most of all- people seemed optimistic about their future. As I talked with people, I had a sense that while not everyone grasps the ins and outs of socialist theory, that they feel more empowered in their own lives than most Americans.
On a more wide level, it seemed that the government truly was seeking to direct the economy and country for the good of the people, as compared to the United States being directed by the good of corporations. Socialist market economies may be called revisionism by some, but in practice there is difference between a capitalist and socialist market economy. In my experience in the focus is on making food, housing, medical care, and life improving technology available for everyone. The focus of the economy, and of development, was on improving lives and not simply making money. That is why these countries are able to focus on drastically reducing poverty and addressing issues like housing- their focus is on the people first.
That is not to say that there are no contradictions, and that everything is perfect. The Communist Party of China and of Vietnam both understand that there are still issues to work through. Problems are not used for political gain, but rather people seek to constructively approach those problems and move forward for the good of the people. Legal moves are making a difference. Despite the pollution issues of industrialization, huge strides are being made for environmental progress.
On a personal note regarding this, during my time in China, there was a directive issued about cracking down on profit seeking kindergartens. A week after that directive was issued, the school where I was employed faced new scrutiny which exposed that they were not following correct law and that they were lying to their foreign teachers. While it was not enjoyable for me to lose my position, it was great to witness first hand that having money did not mean they could escape the rules.
We must put our theory into action, and that is what these parties are seeking to do. We must approach revolutionary change with a scientific lens, looking at our real world conditions and at what concepts are working. As a communist, I realized that our revolutionary comrades around the world have learned so much, that I can also learn from. We must be willing to listen and learn to our comrades and learn about the complications of building socialism with a communist government in power. They can help guide us on a path forward
Looking at my time, I feel nothing but optimism. Communism has not been defeated, so called “revisionism” has not defeated every successful revolution, but rather communists everywhere remain committed to building a better world. While in Hanoi, I witnessed thousands coming to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum on a daily and weekly basis. In Changsha in China, I witnessed great pride in Mao Zedong. The people remain committed, and it gives me hope that communism will win.
Echo is a Marxist-Leninist educator.