Comrade Do Muoi as I know him

Through work and the occasions when I met him, I was fortunate to know him as a bright example, both in his work and also in his daily routine, wrote former Hanoi Party Secretary, Pham Quang Nghi, on former General Secretary Do Muoi.

Former General Secretary Do Muoi visits a farm in Bac Giang province. (Photo: VNA)
Former General Secretary Do Muoi visits a farm in Bac Giang province. (Photo: VNA)

It is rare for someone to live for more than 100 years like comrade Do Muoi. It is even rarer when such a man has made significant contributions to the country and its people, set an example of diligence, thrift, integrity and fairness, and won the respect of Party members and the people, both during his career and when he departed this life.

Devoting more than 80 years to the revolutionary cause, comrade Do Muoi was jailed by the French colonialists at Hoa Loa Prison and entrusted to hold many important Party and State posts, every one of which he was completely dedicated to.

Comrade Do Muoi was at the helm when the country was undergoing tremendous difficulties, notably the fall of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the Doi Moi reform process, which abolished the central command economy that was deeply ingrained in the minds of millions of people.

The real stories of how he led the Party and people to overcome those days might seem quite alien when retold today.

During those days, the fall of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe sowed confusion and shook the confidence in the country’s way forward. A big question was raised: Without the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc to lean on, can Vietnam withstand and continue on the socialist path?

With a renewed mind-set and political sensitivity, as the captain of the Vietnamese revolutionary ship, comrade Do Muoi gave an answer not by lengthy, abstract and incomprehensible preaches but prompt and creative policies in politics, economics and external relations, which lifted the country out of danger to continue going forward.

Reforming to go forward and going forward requires reforming. Such a practicality, as I understand, is a both revolutionary and scientific solution of the Party that comrade Do Muoi was brave enough to embrace in order to steer the revolutionary ship out of the fierce storm.

In order to unify perception and action within the Party, many classes on new theoretical issues were conducted after the 7th Party Congress with a crop of carefully chosen lecturers, however, most students only preferred listening to General Secretary Do Muoi, whose lectures were not only profound but also animated and practical.

During his years as General Secretary, the world witnessed Vietnam’s significant watershed on the diplomatic front, from an isolated country, Vietnam normalised its relations with China in 1991, with the United States in 1995 and joined the ASEAN in the same year.

In memory of comrade Do Muoi, I want to recall a few stories that many might consider trivial. As everyone witnessed, when receiving international or domestic guests, working with central leaders or local leaders, he was always associated with simplicity. Once he was asked “Why do you always wear the Zhongshan suit?” He answered truthfully, “I often have a sore throat so I wear this suit to keep my neck warm and so as not to have to put on a tie.” And then to avoid further why-questions, he turned to the suits made domestically from popular materials. Those with an opportunity to visit his house at 11 Pham Dinh Ho Street, where he had lived for decades, could see his simplicity even more clearly as any precious or expensive items were barely present.

Comrade Do Muoi not only set an example on but also called on everyone to practise thrift. As General Secretary, that he asked the Central Committee members to drink green tea only, and not bottled water, was a true story. It is also true that he disapproved of building a new Party headquarters.

One time when he attended an anniversary ceremony, he refused to have a flower pinned on his chest, explaining that a flower costs a small amount of money but thousands or millions of such flowers are a waste of money. Following his example, I directed my subordinates to put an end to the practice of pinning flowers on the chest of delegates. Later as Minister of Culture and Information, I also succeeded in scrapping the practice of giving gift bags at national anniversary ceremonies.

Many officials were able to learn the habit of reading books every day from comrade Do Muoi. Quite a lot of those who visited him felt awkward when they saw him holding a newly published book and asked “Have you read this book yet?”.

Comrade Do Muoi is no more but he has left many good memories of his dedication to the country and people. The country and people of Vietnam will always remember him and accord him deep respect.