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Vietnam Vanquishes the Virus

May 31, 2020

The heroic people that whipped the U.S. warmakers has made quick work of Covid-19

By John Riddell: The Globe and Mail, Canada’s premier big-business newspaper, conceded on May 27 that, in terms of limiting the spread of Covid-19, Vietnam has been 800 times more successful than Canada.

On May 30, 2020, Vietnam reported only 327 confirmed cases of Covid-19 – about three cases per million inhabitants – compared to Canada’s ratio of more than 2,390 cases per million.

Spectators cheer with small Vietnamese flags at National Football Cup match in Hung Yen province on May 25, 2020.

On that day, “Vietnam reported its first new case since April 16,” reported the Globe’s Eric Reguly.(1) He quoted a journalist in Ho Chi Minh City: “Football matches are back. Things are back to normal here.”

At time of writing, Vietnam has yet to experience its first death from the Covid-19 virus. Canada’s toll to date: 6,373.

Secrets of Success

What made the difference in Vietnam?

Vietnam launched its public health effort very early, on January 3, 2020, a full four weeks before the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency. Initially short of testing capacity, Vietnam relied on social distancing, an economic shutdown, intensive contact tracing and quarantining: ancient techniques that require effective popular education, community support, and intensive labour.

Morning Rush Hour in Hanoi, May 25, 2020.

In Canada, the outcome has been starkly different. The number of active cases rose geometrically and has since fallen, but not sufficiently to end the crisis and lockdown. Canada continues to suffer about 1,000 new cases daily. In Vietnam, the number of cases was quickly contained and then trended rapidly down to zero.

Vietnam’s Historic Triumph

Vietnam’s success is all the more surprising given that the country’s society and economy were shattered by the genocidal assault of the U.S. military from the early 1960s until U.S. withdrawal in 1975.

As this war was escalating, Curtis LeMay, head of the U.S. air force during the war, famously declared that the U.S. intentions in Vietnam was to “bomb them back to the stone age,” by taking out factories, harbors, and bridges “until we have destroyed every work of man in North Vietnam.”

U.S. bombers dumped 7.7 million tons of explosive on this small country – more than three time the tonnage dropped by all participants in the Second World War, and far more than that in terms of heightened pound-for-pound destructiveness.

In all, about three million Vietnamese citizens were killed in this war. If the U.S. failed to achieve LeMay’s horrific goal, it was not for want of trying.

But the Vietnamese revolution prevailed, forcing the U.S. to quit the country in 1973 and accept the end of the war and country’s reunification in 1975.

Vietnam’s ultimate victory was achieved not through military superiority – far from it! – but through moral and political strength. Vietnam was able to rally massive support around the world and especially in the U.S. population including among soldiers.

We Can Learn from Vietnam

Washington refused to contribute a penny toward rebuilding the country it had devastated so mercilessly. Nonetheless, reconstruction was swift, and the country has prospered. Vietnam has built a strong public health system, raising life expectancy to levels very close to that of the United States.

The Covid-19 epidemic now gives us new cause to reflect on the balance sheet of the U.S. war in Vietnam.

Only a few decades later, it is the United States government that, irresolute and divided, has been unable to master the virus, while Vietnam has been strikingly successful. Compared with the U.S., Vietnamese society seems more resilient, knowledgeable, effective, and confident.

This is the time to learn from the Vietnamese and other peoples, like those of Cuba and China, that have had outstanding success in mastering the Covid-19 challenge.

Note

According to Worldometer.com, Vietnam experienced 60 new cases of Covid-19 since April 16.

Related Discussion of the Covid-19 Pandemic on This Website

2 Comments
  1. Bernhard permalink

    The difference lies in the fact that Vietnam (like China and Cuba) is a (bureaucratically) deformed workers state. By its handling of COVID-19 it has demonstrated the superiority of a collectivized economy over capitalist anarchy.

    • Bernhard, I think you hit the nail on the head. I think the Covid-19 experience provides a confirmation through experience that the working-class character of these states, while bureaucraticly deformed and weakened, has not been lost. The decisive factor here is not the collectivized economic per se but the capacity of the working-class in their masses to work together with the governing authorities to bring the situation under control.

      In this sense, I see a parallel with the situation in the Soviet Union at the moment of the Hitlerite invasion in 1941. There is evidence of a momentary hesitation in some sectors. But then the working masses joined forces with the repressive Stalinist apparatus in an all out struggle to preserve their society. They thereby confirmed in action that their working-class state, although degenerated, had not been overturned.

      I discuss this in my article “Reassessing Leon Trotsky’s biography of Stalin” on this blog.

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