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Official Gazette

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Local administrations in Vietnam during anti-US war of resistance for national salvation (1954-1975)

Updated: 15:47’ - 22/03/2011

Pham Diem      
State and Law Research Institute

 

Following the victory of the anti-French colonialist war of resistance with the signing of the Geneva Agreements, northern Vietnam was completely liberated while the South fell under the US’s yoke. The entire Vietnamese nation again had to enter into a new war of resistance against the US imperialists, aiming to liberate the South and reunify the country. In such a particular historical context, the State of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam had to consolidate and perfect the system of local administrations in the North while having to organize the struggle against the US and their Vietnamese stooges in order to step by step build up and expand the system of local revolutionary administration in the South.

I. Organization and operation of the local administrations in North Vietnam

As from July 1954, the new circumstance where North Vietnam shifted from war time to peace time ushered in a period of consolidating and perfecting the local administration system. Right after the restoration of peace in the North, the State of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam promulgated numerous legal documents on organization of the local administration. In September 1954, the Administrative-Resistance Committees set up in localities during the anti-French war were renamed the Administrative Committees. The July 20, 1957 Decree prescribed the procedures for election of People’s Councils and Administrative Committees at all levels. The June 10, 1958 Circular aimed to consolidate the local administrations. With the abolition of the inter-zones set up during the anti-French war, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam then had three local administrative levels:

- The administrative level attached to the central government, including 2 autonomous ethnic minority regions (the Viet Bac (northern Vietnam) Autonomous Region and the Tay Bac (northwest) Autonomous Region), two cities (Hanoi and Haiphong), 30 provinces (Cao Bang, Lang Son, Bac Can, Thai Nguyen, Tuyen Quang, Ha Giang, Son La, Lai Chau, Nghia Lo, Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, Hai Ninh, Vinh Phuc, Lao Cai, Phu Tho, Yen Bai, Hung Yen, Hai Duong, Kien An, Thai Binh, Son Tay, Hoa Binh, Ha Dong, Ha Nam, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh) and 2 special zones (Hong Quang and Vinh Linh).

- Districts, provincial capitals and towns.

- Communes and district towns.

The second nouveaute in the organization of the local administration as compared with the previous period of anti-French war was that the People’s Councils and the Administrative Committees were organized at all levels.

The third nouveaute was that the People’s Councils at all levels, which were elected for a prescribed term, operated regularly according to their functions. The numbers of People’s Council members and Administrative Committee members increased. During peace time, the role, functions and powers of the local administrations at all levels were enhanced, especially in the domain of socio-economic management, and the relationship between the administration and the people was strengthened.
During the first years after the restoration of peace, the local administrations focussed on the take-over and the maintenance of order and security in newly liberated zones, the post-war economic rehabilitation, stability and improvement of people’s living conditions and on the struggle for the implementation of Geneva Agreements by the adversary.

In 1959, the National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam adopted a new Constitution, opening up a new period of development of the State apparatus in general and the local administration in particular. The new model of local administration was determined on the basis of inheriting the past experiences in the organization and operation of the administration at all levels and the substantial changes to suit the two strategic tasks, namely building the North and fighting for the liberation of the South for national reunification. According to Article 78 of the 1959 Constitution, the administrative units in Vietnam were prescribed as follows:

The country is divided into provinces, autonomous regions and centrally-run cities.

The provinces are divided into districts, provincial capitals and towns.

Districts are divided into communes and district towns.

So, under the 1959 Constitution there were 3 local administrative levels as compared to 4 under Vietnam’s first Constitution of 1946 which prescribed that the People’s Councils existed only at the provincial and commune levels while under the 1959 Constitution the People’s Councils existed alongside the Administrative Committees at all levels, with their respective roles, functions and powers being prescribed fully and more clearly than before.

The People’s Councils were the State power organs in localities, which were elected by local people and answerable to the people. So, while the 1946 Constitution failed to clearly affirm the People’s Councils as the State power organs in localities, the 1959 Constitution clearly and fully defined two basic features of the People’s Councils: being the power organs and the people-elected bodies and prescribed more comprehensively and more concretely their functions and powers, particularly in the domains of social and economic management in localities, which included:

- To ensure the respect for and observance of State laws in their respective localities; to draw up plans on economic and cultural development as well as public interests in the localities; to consider, approve and ratify the local budget estimates and settlement, maintain order and security in the localities, to protect public properties, citizens’ interests, and ensure equalities among nationalities.

- Based on the State laws and resolutions of the superior, to issue resolutions on the implementation thereof in the localities.

- To elect the Administrative Committees and to be entitled to remove from office members of the Administrative Committees, to elect and dismiss chief judges of the local people’s courts.

- To amend or abrogate improper decisions of the Administrative Committees of the same level, improper resolutions of the immediate subordinate People’s Councils as well as improper decisions of the immediate subordinate Administrative Committees.

- To dissolve the immediate subordinate People’s Councils when the latter cause serious damage to the people’s interests.

The functions and powers of the Administrative Committees were also provided more specifically and more comprehensively in the 1959 Constitution with two basic features as the executive bodies of the local People’s Councils and the State administrative bodies in localities. Organizationally, an Administrative Committee was structured to have a president, one or several vice-presidents, one secretary and members. The Administrative Committees had the following powers:

- To manage the administrative work in their respective localities, to abide by the resolutions of the People’s Councils of the same level and the resolutions as well as orders of the superior Administrative Committees.

- To issue decisions and directives under the provisions of law and inspect the implementation thereof.

- To direct the activities of branches under their respective management and the subordinate Administrative Committees; to amend or abrogate improper decisions of branches under their respective manage-ment or of the subordinate Administrative Committees; to suspend the implemen-tation of improper resolutions of the immediate subordinate People’s Councils and propose the superior People’s Councils to amend or annul those resolutions.

The provisions on organization of the local administrations in the 1959 Constitution were later concretized in the 1962 Law on Organization of the People’s Councils and the Administrative Committees, which reaffirmed the principles already prescribed in the Constitution for the organization of the local administrations. Under this Law, the term of office of the Administrative Committee corresponded to the term of office of the People’s Council of the same level, that was 3 years for the provincial and autonomous region levels and 2 years for other levels. Particularly, the Law stipulated that the Administrative Committee members had to be members of the People’s Councils, and provided the specific number of members for the Administrative Committee of each level as follows:

- Between 5 and 7 members for the Administrative Committee of a commune or district town, or possibly between 5 and 9 members for mountainous communes where live people of various ethnic groups.

- Between 7 and 9 members for the Administrative Committee of a district, provincial capital or town, or between 7 and 11 for the Administrative Committee of a mountainous district where live people of various ethnic groups.
- Between 9 and 15 members for the Administrative Committee of a province or centrally-run city; and 9 and 17 members for the Administrative Committee of an autonomous region.

The relationships between the People’s Councils and the Administrative Committees as well as between the Administrative Committees and their professional agencies were prescribed by this Law as follows:

- The Administrative Committees are responsible for and report on their activities to the People’s Councils of their respective levels and to the immediate superior State bodies. The People’s Councils are entitled to amend or annul improper decisions of the Administrative Committees of the same level. The superior Administrative Committees are entitled to suspend the implementation of improper resolutions of their immediate subordinate People’s Councils and propose the People’s Councils of their respective levels to amend or annul those resolutions.

- The superior Administrative Committees are entitled to amend or abrogate improper decisions of the subordinate Administrative Committees. The Administrative Committees at all  levels shall set up or dissolve their respective professional bodies which are subject to the direction of the Administrative Committees of the same level, and also to the professional direction of the superior professional bodies in the same branches.

- The Government Council and the immediate superior Administrative Committees may suspend the work of the Administrative Committee members who commit mistakes. The Administrative Committees whose members commit mistakes shall put such mistakes before the People’s Councils of the same level for judgment.

The Law also specified the working regulations of the Administrative Committees, which operated on the principle of collective leadership and personal charge. Each member of the Administrative Committee had to bear joint responsibility for the work of the whole Administrative Committee and personal responsibility for his/her own work.

It also defined in detail the tasks and powers of the Administrative Committees of each level, particularly in the domains of economy, finance, capital construction, development of agricultural production, etc.

From August 1964, the US imperialists expanded their aggressive war throughout the country by conducting fierce air wars of destruction against North Vietnam. By then, the local administration system had been substantially consolidated and improved. Yet, under the circumstance of fierce and prolonged wars, the State apparatus in general and the local administration of all levels in particular had to shift their organi-zation and operation to suit the war-time conditions.

On April 1st, 1967, the National Assembly Standing Committee adopted the Ordinance on the election and organization of the People’s Councils and the Administrative Committees at all levels during the wartime. Under this Ordinance, the Government Council might base itself on the specific situation to adjust the timing for the People’s Council election and announce the results thereof. The postponement of sessions of People’s Councils had to be permitted by the superior Administrative Committee. Due to heavier management work load during the wartime, the number of members of an Administrative Committee, as prescribed by the Ordinance, was higher than before. And as the People’s Councils could hardly hold their regular meetings due to fierce war conditions, the powers of the local administrations were concentrated into the Administrative Committees.

During the wars, the provincial-level administration occupied an increasingly important position and was determined as a comprehensive economic management level, a planning unit, a budget and logistic unit. As a result, a series of provinces were merged into bigger ones. For instance, Bac Ninh and Bac Giang were consolidated into Ha Bac province; Bac Can and Thai Nguyen into Bac Thai; Nam Dinh and Ha Nam into Nam Ha; Ha Dong and Son Tay into Ha Tay; Cao Bang and Lang Son into Cao Lang; Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang into Ha Tuyen; Yen Bai, Lao Cai and Nghia Lo into Hoang Lien Son; Nghe An and Ha Tinh into Nghe Tinh. The district level became the principal economic management level in the domains of agriculture, handicraft and cottage industry. The commune level was the grassroots administration, mainly managing forms of collective economy, namely cooperatives, acting as a bridge linking the State with the people. By the end of 1969, there had been 26 provinces (against 34 in the past), 49 districts and 322 communes.

Throughout the anti-US war of resistance, the local administrations at all level were organized and operating on the principle of high centralism and flexibility. They promoted to the utmost the effectiveness and efficiency of their operation, having organized combats, firmly maintained social order and security, ensured the minimum living conditions for local people and mobilized to the utmost the material and human resources for the resistance war of the entire Vietnamese nation. During this period, the local administrations at all levels performed the function of socio-economic construction and also the function of struggling against the US imperialists for national salvation.

II. Struggle for the establishment and expansion of the system of local revolutionary administration in South Vietnam

In South Vietnam, right from 1959 and 1960, the movement of struggle against the US imperialists and the puppet administration was resurrected and developed strongly. By then, many people’s uprisings broke out in various localities, having led to the abolition of the adversary administration and the establishment of the revolutionary administration. This struggle movement was referred to as the “Dong Khoi” (concerted uprisings) high tide, which spread throughout South Vietnam and liberated many vast rural areas. In the liberated localities, the people held conferences of deputies, electing the People’s Self-Management Committees to replace the disintegrated enemy administrations therein. This was indeed a unique form of local revolutionary administration, which brought about interests to the masses, created conditions for people to rehearse the construction and consolidation of their administration, organized the local people to maintain order and security and fight to protect the villages and hamlets, and cared for the people’s life. It was the first form of revolutionary administration in South Vietnam during the anti-US war of resistance for national salvation, the inheritance and development of the experiences of the local National Liberation Committees during the August 1945 Revolution period. By the end of 1960, the People’s Self-Management Committees had been set up in 1,383 out of the total number of 2,627 communes throughout South Vietnam.

The victory of strategic significance of the Dong Khoi movement shook to the root the Ngo Dinh Diem administration – lackeys of the US imperialists in South Vietnam, and at the same time created conditions for the emergence of the South Vietnam National Liberation Front in December 1960, a broad and well- formed political organization of the South Vietnam people in the anti-US war of resistance. It was organized from the central to local level. At the end of 1961, the National Liberation Front Committees were set up in Middle Central Vietnam, southern Central Vietnam, Eastern South Vietnam, Western South Vietnam as well as in 38 out of the total 41 provinces. The National Liberation Committees of district and commune levels were also set up in many localities. So, the local National Liberation Front Committees had four levels: regional, provincial/municipal, district and commune. 

The local National Liberation Front Committees were appointed by mass organizations through consultations or directly elected by people in the liberated communes. Particularly in localities where the revolutionary administrations were not yet set up, the local Front Committees also functioned as the revolutionary administrations, as clearly stated in a then revolutionary document: “Our aim is to topple the adversary administration and build up the revolutionary administration. Yet, in the immediate future in mountainous regions and a number of delta areas, where the enemy administration disintegrate, the local Front Committees shall also perform the tasks of maintaining order and security, guiding the local people to unite together, to step up production, to study and improve their living conditions... These are the seeds of the future revolutionary administration.”

So, in localities where the revolutionary administrations were not available, the local Front Committees not only performed their inherent function of uniting all patriotic forces but also temporarily undertook the function of the local revolutionary administration. This was indeed the inheritance and development of the experiences of Viet Minh Front during the August 1945 Revolution period, and the unique feature in the history of the local administrations in Vietnam.

From 1965, after their failure in the special warfare strategy, the US imperialists massively introduced their expeditionary troops into South Vietnam and implemented the “limited war” strategy. The US and puppet troops stepped up their raids against the liberated zones. In face of such a situation, the People’s Self-Management Committees were renamed the Liberation Committees with a view to further bringing to the fore the revolutionary administration’s primary tasks of fighting the imperialists and liberating the nation. So, the Liberation Committees constituted a higher form of the local revolutionary administration.

Following the Spring 1968 general offensive and uprisings of the South Vietnam people and army, defeating the US’s “limited war” strategy, the local People’s Revolutionary Committees were set up in various localities in replacement of the Liberation Committees. By June 1969, the provincial/municipal People’s Revolutionary Committees had been set up in 34 out of the total 44 provinces and 4 out of the total 6 cities as well as in many rural and urban districts and 1,300 out of the total 1,600 communes throughout South Vietnam. The People’s Revolutionary Committees, which existed from the provincial to commune level, were elected by mass organizations, congresses of people’s representatives or directly by local people. This was a new form of development of the system of the local revolutionary administrations in South Vietnam.

After the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam was set up in June 1969, the system of the local revolutionary administrations was substantially consolidated, which existed at four levels: regional, provincial/municipal, district and commune/ward. Particularly, the local levels were characterized by the existence of both the People’s Revolutionary Committees and the People’s Revolutionary Councils which were elected through universal suffrage, then appointed the People’s Revolutionary Committees. In localities where war conditions did not permit the universal suffrage, the congresses of people’s representatives were organized to designate the People’s Revolutionary Committees. By 1971, the People’s Revolutionary Committees had been established in 4 zones, 44 provinces, 6 cities, 182 districts and more than 1,500 communes. In September 1974, the Provisional Revolutionary Government promulgated a decree defining in detail the organizational structure, tasks and powers of the local revolutionary administrations. It clearly stated: The People’s Revolutionary Councils are the State power organs in localities while the People’s Revolutionary Committees are the executive bodies of the State power organs in localities, and at the same time the State administrative agencies in localities.

In Spring 1975, South Vietnam was completely liberated. The system of the revolutionary administration at all levels was established throughout South Vietnam, having ushered in a period in which the entire reunified Vietnam has enjoyed peace.

In short, the establishment and expansion of the system of the local revolutionary administrations in South Vietnam during the anti-US war of resistance demonstrated the flexibility and diversity in determining forms of the revolutionary administration, the broad unity among patriotic forces within the organizational structure of the administration. It can be said that this was an exceptionally special period in the history of the local administration in Vietnam.-

 

VNL_KH1 

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