HO CHI MINH CITY: Forty years after it won the war, the Communist Party still rules Vietnam with an iron fist. But with crony capitalism, corruption and inequality now rife, many claim its victory was a hollow one.
From a shattered society plagued by poverty and food shortages, to a middle-income country and World Trade Organization member, Vietnam’s authoritarian socialist regime has overseen huge change since Saigon fell to communist troops four decades ago.
On Thursday, Communist Party rulers will gather for a military parade in Ho Chi Minh City — formerly Saigon — to commemorate the day their tanks rolled into city, prompting the surrender of the US-backed South and reunification of the country.
The war left millions of Vietnamese dead as well as 58,000 American servicemen sent to stanch the advance of the communists.
But critics say the victorious Communist Party is now ideologically bankrupt, with the state abandoning the social equality dreams of its founding president Ho Chi Minh and enforcing tight controls on an increasingly critical public.
“This is not a communist country,” says Le Cong Dinh, a lawyer and government critic, who remains under house arrest after a 2010 conviction on subversion charges.
“They came to power by adopting the socialism, communism of Marx and Lenin — that’s why they try to continue the ideology. But what we see on the streets of Vietnam is capitalism, not communism,” he told AFP in a rare interview at his closely monitored Ho Chi Minh City apartment.