In his work “Better Fewer, But Better” published on March 2, 1923, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin raised the matter of combining a Party institution with a Government institution. He asked “How can a Party institution be amalgamated with a Soviet institution?” and “Is not this flexible amalgamation of a Soviet institution with a Party institution a source of great strength in our politics?”
Lenin required serious research in order to reorganise the leadership institutions in a way that was fewer but better. He stated that “… only by thoroughly purging our government machine, by reducing it to the utmost everything that is not absolutely essential in it, shall we be certain of being able to keep going.”
The aforementioned guidelines by Lenin are significant to the science of leadership, management and organisation.
In fact, in Russia and the former Soviet Union, the highest leaders of the Party also held the highest positions of the State. Lenin was the supreme leader of the Party and concurrently Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1924.
During the 1924-1953 period, Joseph Stalin was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and concurrently Chairman of the Council of Ministers. During the years 1953 to 1991, the CPSU General Secretaries all held the posts of Chairman of the Council of Ministers or Chairman of the Supreme Soviet.
After 1991, the countries that remained steadfast on the socialist path have all deployed an organisational model that combines the Party and State leadership positions.
In China, the General Secretary of the Communist Party is also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. In Cuba, the First Secretary of the Party Central Committee also serves as the President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers. In Laos, the General Secretary is also the President and the Secretary of a province is also its Governor.
In other countries, the leader of a ruling Party directly holds the state apparatus. The Secretary-General of the ruling Party in Singapore is naturally the country’s Prime Minister. The President of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan heads the country’s cabinet. The President of the Cambodian People’s Party is concurrently the Prime Minister.
Many countries in Europe and other regions of the world also share a similar organisational structure. The amalgamation of the ruling Party post with the State post is clearly common around the world, which both strengthens the position of the ruling Party and enhances the management responsibility of the State.
In Vietnam, with the victory of the August Revolution (in 1945), the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was born. President Ho Chi Minh, the supreme leader of the Party and Chairman of the Party Central Committee from February 1951, was also President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam until his passing on September 2, 1969.
During the Doi Moi (renovation) period, the Party and State incessantly built the Party and the State and refined the political system. With the building of the socialist-oriented market, the law-governed socialist State of the people, by the people and for the people, and with increasingly deeper integration, the matter of combining the posts of General Secretary and President have been put forward several times but the necessary conditions were inadequate.
Now the conditions on the role and responsibility of the ruling Party and the construction and operation of a law-governed socialist State are mature, and with the consensus within the Party, especially the Party Central Committee and the highest leaders of the Party and State, the combination of the top Party and State positions can be afforded.
First, that the General Secretary is also the President will enhance the Party’s leadership over the State and properly implements Article 4 of the 2013 Constitution. Since 1945, the Communist Party has been the ruling Party, leading the State. Such a leadership role has been affirmed in practice and is closely connected with the development and victory of the Vietnamese revolution and the development of the State. Article 4 of the Constitutions of 1980, 1992 and 2013 all affirm that the Communist Party of Vietnam is the force leading the State and society. The Party’s leadership role is enshrined in the Constitution.
One of the characteristics of the Vietnamese socialist model is building a law-governed socialist State led by the Communist Party. That leadership is a principle and has been continually solidified and strengthened in line with the Party platform and the Constitution promulgated by the State. The Party leads the State, decides on domestic and external issues, as well as the structural organisation of the State apparatus; inspects and supervises the State’s operations; leads the process in which the State realises the platform and guidelines of the Party, and mobilises and organises the people to take part in State building and management.
Second, that the General Secretary is also the President will enhance the position of the State leader in exercising the duties and rights enshrined in the Constitution. The President is the head of State, representing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in domestic and external affairs.
Provisions in Articles 86 to 93 of the 2013 Constitution on the role, duty and rights of the President will be implemented better when the President is also the General Secretary, directly implementing the Party’s leadership, and thoroughly grasping the platform, guidelines and viewpoints of the Party.
The person who holds both the posts of General Secretary and President is required to have the necessary quality, qualifications, capacity and reputation in order to successfully assume the two roles of Party leadership and State power exercise. This affirms and increases the responsibility of the leader and requires the refinement of the organisational apparatus of the Party and State at all levels, as well as the political system that was outlined in the Resolution of the 12th Central Committee’s 6th Plenum and is currently being implemented.
Third, attention should be paid to refining the mechanisms and methods to inspect, supervise and control power so as to guarantee the utmost efficiency of the leadership and management. Some have expressed concern regarding power control when one person holds the top positions of the Party and State.
In most countries, there are regulations on and bodies in charge of controlling power in order to prevent the abuse of power. In Vietnam, the Resolution of the 12th Central Committee’s 4th Plenum also puts an emphasis on control of power. It must come from the platform, charter and regulations of the Party, including those on the responsibility to set examples of officials, Party members, especially Politburo members, the Secretariat and the Central Committee.
Power is controlled by the Constitution and laws, inspection and supervisory bodies, all officials, Party members and the people. Control is also exercised within the state apparatus, the legislative, the executive and the judicial bodies. This will prevent the corruption of power. The most important aspect is that the entire Party, State apparatus, political system and people are able to choose a competent, virtuous, responsible and esteemed leader who is truly devoted to the country and people.