Protests in Vietnam (guest post)

Guest Post by Sally Mju

About the current protest in Vietnam. I support and I do not support!

This article is analyzed from the perspective of Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg.

The “99 years” rally is taking place all across Vietnam. It is a protest in the immediate sense against the lack of consultation in the legislative proposal to rezone land and provide open leases for companies that relocate to new Special Economic Zones. There have been three short strike actions and larger protests, sometimes violent, in several cities. As part of the context we must acknowledge the protests and strikes entail a rise in nationalism, which perhaps is provoked by opportunists who would challenge the authoritarian state. This raises issues of positive and negative importance for the country.

After considering the situation, visiting the strikes, and reviewing a series of articles, I identify and question the single and most serious aspect of the problem: Why did the state move forward plans to lease land through the 99-year special zone without consulting the people?

This “99-year” event has prompted uproar and indignation across the country in large part because it involves China. From every layer of the society people who had knowledge about the legislation raised criticisms: lawyers, doctors, farmers and workers protested against the government. But the criticisms were amplified not only because the Vietnamese people would want to have a say in decisions about how they live, but also because opportunists were able to access a long-standing hatred of China and the criticisms had suggested that benefits to Chinese businesses are at the expense of the people.

“1000 years of Chinese invasion, 100 years of the French”

Nationalism has long existed in parallel with the development of the country.

Nationalism is often utlilised within the government to support economic and political expansion in its various enterprises. But there is also the form of nationalism arising among the oppressed class in the face of authoritarian tendencies that prevail within the ruling party state.

Rosa Luxemburg argues for the analysis and development of Marxism including criticism of all forms of nationalism. Rosa’s arrival in the Marxist revolution supported the class struggle of peoples oppressed by the bourgeoisie all over the world. Rosa’s principle is “workers of the world unite!”. According to Rosa, nationalism is a form of bourgeois thought that must be opposed by proletarian ideology and socialist aims. Almost all forms of nationalism have developed and are deeply rooted in the proletariat in cases that span the whole world. In some instances, this involves ‘patriotism’. Some opportunist socialists opposed her revolutionary standpoint and Lenin developed his views on nationalism quite differently, distinguishing between nationalism among the oppressor nations which should be opposed by the revolutionaries and the nationalism of the oppressed nations, that revolutionaries should support. Lenin argued that revolutionary nationalism was needed to counteract imperialism and oppose the rule of the empires of the world.

Lenin’s view easily led to one-sided bias toward the right and this cannot be reconciled with the current class struggle in Vietnam as Vietnam is no longer oppressed under colonialism, notwithstanding that it is now under an authoritarian state that contracts with the capitalist system. Whether all things should be attributed to class struggle on a national level is a wider question for discussion elsewhere.

But what is the purpose of the current protests? Their purpose as I see it at first was one that I am very supportive of, especially in the way they bravely stand against the government’s lack of transparency. However, opportunists fostering patriotism and nationalism intervened and the protesters had not yet reached a level that could connect with the workers organised against the bourgeoisie, thus to that extent it remained an independent action by the peasantry to retain control of their land and we can surely understand. We would expect that in any case where peasant lands were sold to a wealthy official in Hanoi, without any compensation to the peasants using that land, then the same sort of protest would arise. But because of the nationalist antipathy against China in Vietnam, something that probably unites almost all Vietnamese, national feeling becomes an element of the case here. Those who fight the sale of land will “use” this element to inflame passions and gain support. This nationalist tendency should be opposed, even as the underlying action and its aims I would support. Looking in two directions at once is a very difficult policy to operate.

The opportunists saw a flicker of anger and they thought they could steer the people to where they wanted. They crept to the front and provoked the government. From the moment the opportunists entered, the protest was no longer a protest but a commandeered attack vehicle for those who want to destabilise the present government. If this was the purpose of the protest, it would not change the substantive original cause, but lead only to sabotage and a dysfunctionality that will slowly subside. An objective phenomenon, without actual support in the class, it will fade without resolution like the 2014 Binh Duong strike in South Vietnam’s industrial parks.

To disentangle these issues we need to distinguish between three categories: demonstrations, sabotage and marches.

A march is a kind of celebration of something that is beneficial to oneself or to society, like that in 2015 with the LGBT parade in the pedestrian street of District 1, Ho Chi Minh City;

Protest strikes and demonstrations are the action of a group of people supporting a political or economic cause;

Sabotage is militant action, used especially for escalating political advantage, and it can be either armed interference aimed at overthrow of the government or part of a development of the widening struggle of the revolutionary class that Rosa Luxemburg calls the Mass Strike.

Right now, surprisingly with no attention from the wider press and public in Vietnam, including the opportunists, there are 300 workers in Nghe An on strike over a two-hour extension of their hours with no wage increase. While there may be less people involved, the issues a more clear-cut, their base is sound, and they have a cause.

Would this small economic demand escalate into nationalism or generalise into a political struggle based upon nation or class? The opportunists do not move into this strike, they do not see it as a place for sabotage that would access the national and patriotic elements they manipulate. Yet it is this kind of economic struggle that holds promise for a better Vietnam, even though it is not escalated into a political stage and is not, yet, directed to the Mass Strike strategy.

Only on the basis of the economic struggle of the working class would be possible to widen the struggle, build the Mass Strike and establish a new government, a new institution, or anything else, because that would by necessity have to build on the strength of the truly revolutionary class. Anti-government opportunism, and every country has such examples, rarely is revolutionary where the upper class people of the country also go in for sabotage, such as the United States with President Donald Trump for example. But without the revolutionary workers these opportunist actions only introduce chaos, it does not change anything substantial. Looking to France, workers ‘protests at the Amazon plant have boosted wages and added workers’ welfare, albeit to a modest extent, with little change in their living conditions, but on their own strength.

Luxemburg argued that previous analyses of the Mass Strike had tended to separate economic and political struggles and in 1905, she said, the strike could initially start with what appear to be small economic demands but could rapidly generalise to become and challenge on a broader political level. This would only happen if led by the mass working class, it cannot happen if led by the opportunists because they have no actual political demand beyond opportunist sabotage. Sabotage here is not a political struggle that can feed back into weaker sections of the working class who would in turn strike over their economic grievance. Opportunist sabotage has no mass base and so will fade away.

The low profile of the left in Vietnam means the right-wing cause of economic inequality has become a pressing nationalist problem. The SEZ Special Economic Zones are no advantage for the nation because with less regulation and constraints upon capital, they often cause more worker exploitation. No workers movement can support them. They certainly attract capitalists from all over, not just China, but the jobs they bring are compromised and the workers have identified this drawback. At the present time, nationalists and opportunists have tried to take this moment and turn it into a protest against China and in effect bring the country back to a time when Vietnam was subject to colonial exploitation at the hands of the imperialists.

Vietnam has no left-wing opposition to offer other economic development policies.

The key to solving this problem is not the issue of nationalism but the problem of class struggle. Think about the needs of the movement, if the working classes of all nationalities around the world oppose the bourgeoisie?

Sally Mju.

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Destruction of weavers

Their bones will, Marx says, end up bleached on the plains of Bihar. Here Ranajit Guha in 1956 examines how colonial policy and corporation demands destroy livelihoods and skills fore generations to come. Some of the language may seem dated or unfamiliar I guess… but:

‘The Regulation on weavers,

framed by the Board of Trade in 1786, went further than this. But here also the proposed measure of improvement was administered strictly according to the commercial requirements of the Company. The Regulation provided for a number of legal safeguards favourable to the Companys weavers, but these represented no more than what was barely needed to ensure the regular and timely execution of contracts for investment. While the parochial labour of the textile producers of Bengal, thanks to the Company’s transactions, was being converted into an element of world economy, nothing was done to introduce a corresponding measure of improvement either in the technique or in the relations of production. The demands of a higher economic order were thus superimposed on a backward industrial organization without preparing the latter in any sense for such a function. There was nothing either in the nature of the East India Company or in Bengali society at the time which could satisfy the historical requirements of the situation. The result was that the Company, failing as it did to effect the release of the productive forces of native industry from feudal fetters, adopted the more facile solution of quarantine by isolating a part of the productive system from its original habitat and straitjiacketing it by the artificial organization of the English

factories. Thus, even before the indigenous industry of Bcngal had begun to wilt under the blasts that blew from Manchester in the first half of the nineteenth century, it was undermined at its very base due to the utter incompatibility between its mode of production and the nature of the market it was intended to serve’ (Guha 2009: 81-2).

From: The Small Voice of History: Collected Essays. Ranikhet can’t.: Permanent Black.

Jabs up to date? – better be, legacies of global beneficence and payback owed by anti-vaxxers.

This from Amiya Kumar Bagchi (2005: 86):

‘Inoculation against smallpox, a major killer in Europe up to the middle of the nineteenth century, was a practice imported from Ottoman Turkey. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu described the procedure for inoculation in England in a 1717 letter (Poner 1995). Inoculation was thereafter widely introduced in many parts of northern and western Europe and, as Jennerian vaccination, became part of the public health system by the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. This practice substantially reduced infant mortality, especially in the Scandinavian countries’

Assembling the early 1990s again in Melbourne

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 22.05.06

There was a time when the Clever Country was the buzzword – in a time of buzzwords – the multifunction polis and the Precincts model were then fairly obvious code for back-door privatisation, and higher ed was slipping companies into campus ‘Science Parks’ to benefit from the free tax-payer-funded “synergies” that would ‘incubate” start-ups for commercialisation whoopee.

Well, this latest plan from the my alma mater, the University of Melbourne, has the merit of replacing a hospital (my sister and nephew born there) and offers a prime front door site for Uni.Melb Inc. Privatisation is such a dated word these days that it passes by in a blink… Further below I will offer as contrast an old essay on university-commercial research complicity, questioning the premise of these new premises for learning. Learning – is that what universities are still for, or research, or are the caveat’s obsolete and dated, very early 1990s, and we are in the realm of future business? Well, there is an old critique to be made nevertheless (someone said to me today that the key to moving forward is how criticism is handled – push back with exo-punitive denial, or quietly get on an fix-up your practice. I know Uni.Melb has a long history of not being able to handle criticism. In terms of institutional memory it will seem far far and long ago when the then Vice Chancellor Pennington, in the days when a vice-chancellor was basically a jumped-up after-dinner speaker and raconteur of limited means, who just happened to be friends with the Liberal machine… but anyway, Pennington had said the sign of a troubled department was disagreement within, and for the politics department then that was as laughable as it seems. Nowadays not so much, and vice-chancellors are armed against criticism so any dissent means its time to shoot the messenger, with intent).

But by and by – having just been reading Seuss to the kid, I have to stop rhyming so as to get through this bit… Let’s list some absurds in the precint proposal:

“Planning … innovation” – it goes without saying this is a proxy for nothing.

“The University of Melbourne and its [unnamed] partners” – were the partners not invited to the press conference, or did they refuse to stump up their cut for the reslease? Maybe they are secret or sect-like or shy. It anyway leaves me with a big question why. [away, Sneed, away]

“one step closer” – no need to worry about how long this white elephant will take, we are all the more closer to the rhetoric of the early 1990s. The Precinct model for Melbourne was Jeff Kennet vintage at least – have we just been Jeffed again? Ahh those were the days.

“The new precinct will host researchers, companies, government bodies” – as we saw, privatisation. Companies can access the tax-funded thrills of the library and the University Club, though I suspect Jimmy Watson’s might do OK, if anyone still does lunch without whimpering.

“community members from different backgrounds” – obligatory diversity statement up front. Always welcome. Will it mean a whole department of such, or still here and there brochure-freindly photo-inclusiveness? Don’t tell me class is a bigger factor than the racist demographic of University as usual. It continues.

“innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges” – how would it be if someone suggested exclusion of corporate interests from research agendas? A fresh impetus for critical multicaulturalism, radical barefoot legal theory, Co-research inquiries, activist-in-residence programme, counter-mapping and Marxism 101-999? You know its needed. get in.

“vision… precinct… innovation…” – the circular rhetoric of recycled prose.

““Innovation emerges from vibrant and collaborative environments where people are encouraged to share skills and ideas as they work and socialise together,” Professor McCluskey said” – oh my, this is word for word straight out of the original brochure documents for setting up the multifunction polis, the work of Kenichi Ohmae, the Aust Govt Collaborative Centres definition of a science park – a pleasing environment adjacent to a a university (they do not mean Princess Park). the idea that boffins will leave their labs and sit having lunch under trees chatting until Eureka! Gold is panned from Sovereign alley/Elgin Hill. No need to go to Ballarat, the new rush starts here, well, heavily recycled, but wow. McCluskey does not stray far from the brief. “vision… precinct… innovate…”  (raconteur speaker as I said, with crib notes).

“buildings arranged around a central and publicly-accessible open space” – panoptic 101. never before in Carlton have so many been sold out for so little.

“Fab lab… Superfloor… hackathons… ” – and bean bags I bet. The Graduate School already had them in 1990 too, hat tip TT.

The upsides: Childcare, student accommodation… and Spotless as facilities partner (the partners get named at the end). We should be overjoyed and confident that it is Spotless. Recall, they were recently taken over by Downer EDI, so a check on their spotless industrial relations and court records, mining deaths, dubious pressures to settle strikes, and well, lets not think the Uni of Melbourne is going through some sort of subtle shift into touch love to redeem by association. Clever dialectic that would be.

An innovation precinct only works if, bottom line, there is a big profit player that makes the lead. An old book but informative, have a look at Peter Hall and Manuel Castells “Technopoles of the World” Check out Complicity below (after the Uni.Melb press release (sorry, journalism article) and if you are really keen, come back later and read up on Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Curry Puff, a similar plan under PM Mahathir (who, well frankly, maybe those were the good old days…).

 

Alumni Magazine 20 April 2018

The University of Melbourne and its partners are one step closer to developing Australia’s leading innovation precinct, receiving planning approval from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

The University of Melbourne purchased the former Royal Women’s Hospital site in 2012 and announced in 2017 a partnership with a consortium led by Lendlease to redevelop it. Early works commenced in November 2017 and construction is expected to commence in mid-2018 for completion in 2020.

The new precinct will host researchers, companies, government bodies and community members from different backgrounds and disciplines who will work together to develop innovative solutions to society’s biggest challenges.

University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Jim McCluskey said by enhancing research and education, the precinct will support the vision of Melbourne as a ‘Knowledge City’ and play an important role within the Melbourne Innovation Districts.

“Innovation emerges from vibrant and collaborative environments where people are encouraged to share skills and ideas as they work and socialise together,” Professor McCluskey said.

The precinct will be ideally located adjacent to the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus, which hosts some of the world’s top researchers, and within close proximity to the Melbourne CBD. It will have the tools, platforms and services to create an ecosystem where start-ups emerge and cutting-edge products and services are developed.

Mark Menhinnitt, Lendlease Urban Regeneration Managing Director, said the development will regenerate the former Royal Women’s Hospital site into an open, light and modern precinct, delivering a bold new architectural statement.

“This purpose-built facility will set a new benchmark in education and industry collaboration that meets the highest standards of design and sustainability, while also honouring the site’s heritage and history,” he said.

The 74,000 sqm precinct will feature a series of connecting buildings arranged around a central and publicly-accessible open space. In addition to co-working and commercial office space, the precinct will feature a Fab Lab, student accommodation and a ‘Superfloor’ dedicated to collaboration and fostering the exchange of ideas.

Dr Julie Wells, University of Melbourne’s Vice-Principal (Policy and Projects), said that the precinct will be a place for the local community to live, work and exchange ideas through a vast program of events such as hackathons, workshops, exhibitions and social events.

It will also include shops, cafes, public spaces, accommodation for graduate students and visiting academics, a childcare centre and Science Gallery Melbourne, which will deliver cutting-edge exhibitions, events and experiences.

The consortium delivering the innovation precinct in partnership with the University of Melbourne comprises Lendlease as developer, builder, co-investor and investment manager of the commercial space; GIC as major co-investor of the commercial space; Spotless as the facilities manager; and Urbanest as investor and manager of the student accommodation.

 

So, 18 years ago,the early 90’s already seemed old.

‘Complicity’ essay for Assembly catalogue 2000

Click on the pages to enlarge and read.

 

and:

The https://hutnyk.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/semifeudal-cybercolonialism-technocratic-dreamtime-in-malaysia/

Semifeudal Cybercolonialism: Technocratic Dreamtime in Malaysia

Thanks Kaloy Cunanan for recovering this from ascii-land.

An article on the multi-function polis in Malaysia, from 1999

Hutnyk 1999 Semifeudal Cybercolonialism Technocratic Dreamtime in Malaysia

appeared in Bosma, Josephine et al (eds) 1999 Readme! ASCII Culture And The Revenge Of Knowledge, New York: Autonomedia.

A longer unpublished version is Semi-Feudal Cyber-Colonial.