The first Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1946 is still in valid.

*W.Minh Tuan.

Nearly 75 years ago, on November 9, 1946, the first National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam met at the Hanoi Opera House and approved the first Constitution, the Constitution 1946.

One year before that, in November 1945, right after the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed on September 2, 1945, the Constitution Project was drafted by the Government and was made to create the draft of Constitution 1946.

On March 2, 1946, at the first session, the 1st National Assembly elected a Constitution Drafting Committee consisting of 11 people, who are famous Vietnamese intellectuals, such as Dr. Tran Duy Hung, Professor Ton Quang Phiet, Do Duc Duc, poet Cu Huy Can, writer Nguyen Dinh Thi, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thuc Vien, principal of Thang Long girls’ school, now Hai Ba Trung school,,.

The Constitution Drafting Committee has the task of basing itself on the Government’s Constitutional Project, gathering opinions of the people, and referring to the Constitutions of Asian and European countries, to develop a new Constitution for the best solution for the young democratic republic of Vietnam, which is just dreaming for freedom and democracy.

On November 9, 1946, the 1st National Assembly meeting at the Hanoi Opera House approved the 1946 Constitution, with almost absolute votes, 240/242 delegates attended the meeting.

However, that was the time when Việt Nam country was about to enter the national day of resistance against France colony, on December 19, 1946, so the National Assembly voted not to promulgate the 1946 Constitution, but assigned the Standing Committee of the National Assembly to coordinate with the Government, based on the principles of the 1946 Constitution to regulate the implementation of the Constitution in specific circumstances in the situation of the country’s resistance.

During the 9 years of long-term resistance war, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam relied on the 1946 Constitution to issue many decrees to govern the country, establish ministries, departments and branches, and issue regulations on the operation of the country’s ministries, departments, branches, appointing army general positions for General Vo Nguyen Giap and other generals,,,.

By 1959, Vietnam was preparing for a long war against the US and reunified the country, so the 1959 Constitution replaced the 1946 Constitution.

This is -a new constitution-really an unnecessary haste, but we also have to sympathize with the situation of Vietnam at that time, 1959. At that time, the country was divided into two regions, and the Americans has been intervened in Vietnam situation.

The war to unify the country, and to resist American intervention was only possible with the help of the Soviet Union, China, and the entire Socialist faction at that time. Therefore, a Constitution that is too democratic and liberal like the 1946 Constitution would probably be afraid of the support of countries in the Socialist camp at that time, especially the Soviet Union and China. So that’s why the fledgling State of Vietnam in 1959 had to change the wonderfully liberal-democratic 1946 Constitution with a new, less liberal, less democratic, more conservative Constitution.

In 1980, after the war ended, General Secretary Le Duan was so happy about the glory of his victory that he built himself a false and silly doctrine of “collective mastery ownership”, about “District-level fortress”, from which Mr. Le Duan directed the making of the 1980 Constitution to serve the construction of Socialism, building “collective mastery ownership”, building “District-level fortress” .

By 1992, Le Duan died, “renovation-Doi Moi” began, the State of Vietnam and the Communist Party felt that the 1980 Constitution was too rigid, too dogmatic, and unsuitable for the Doi Moi process, so the Party and State allowed the construction of The 1992 Constitution to build a socialist-oriented market mechanism to match the Doi Moi process.

At that time, no one had thought and dared to talk about retrieving the 1946 Constitution which full of democracy and freedom, not inferior to the constitutions of Japan, USA, France, Germany, Canada,,,at all.

Thus, up to now, Vietnam, due to the chaotic war situation in the country, so in less than 40 years, Vietnam has had 4 Constitutions, but the first one, 1946, is the most valuable.

The 1946 Constitution was written very briefly, with only 70 articles, compared with 112 articles of the 1960 Constitution, 147 articles of the 1980 Constitution, and 147 articles of the 1992 Constitution.

The 1946 Constitution did not talk about socialism or communism, but only about building an independent, democratic, republican and free Vietnam.

In essence, the 1946 Constitution of Vietnam is not much different from the democratic Constitutions of Japan, the US, France,,,.

The fundamental difference is that Vietnam’s 1946 Constitution only stipulates a single house National Assembly, without a Senate or a House of Representatives like other liberal democracies.

Later legislators and researchers will comment on whether the National Assembly with 1 house of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam is good or bad.

But at least one good thing is that the 1-house National Assembly will not have a quarrel between the Senate and the House of Representatives, it not only ensures the high concentration of power of the National Assembly and the Government, but also ensures parliamentary democracy.

It can be said that there is no socialist country, both old and new, that dares to make a democratic and liberal Constitution like the 1946 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

Only regret that after the National Assembly term 1 passed this 1946 Constitution, on November 9, 1946, more than 1 month later, on December 19, 1946, the Franco-Vietnamese war broke out, so the 1946 Constitution was not fully implemented, only  had been performed in certain situations.

But it can be said that the victory over Dien Bien Phu in 1954 was the greatest achievement of the 1946 Constitution.

Without the 1946 Constitution, there could be no victory over the French at the battle of Dien Bien Phu.

It is the spirit of democracy and freedom in the 1946 Constitution that gave the Vietnamese people unparalleled strength, uniting the entire people around the Vietnamese Labor Party to make the Dien Bien Phu victory.

Article 10 of the 1946 Constitution stipulates very briefly, clearly, and firmly the rights of citizens:

“Vietnamese citizens have the right to:

-Freedom of speech

-Free publishing

-Freedom of organization and meeting

-Freedom of religion

– Freedom to reside, move in the country and go abroad”.

Compared with the current 1992 Constitution, the Vietnamese people also have the same rights as the 1946 Constitution stipulates, but is often added the sentence “according to the law”, so in reality those rights are bound by the law, making the law above the Constitution, not the Constitution above the law.

For more example, the right to freedom of residence.

Currently, Vietnam has initially implemented the market mechanism, the commodity market and the capital market have been freed. But with the current kho khau-Residence registration policy, despite many improvements, the labor market is still not really free, because workers have not been free to move and reside. Therefore, the economy is still bound by many constraints.

Thus, in terms of residence freedom alone, the 1946 Constitution is more scientific than the current 1992 Constitution. And we should also remember that, in the 4,000-year history of Việt Nam country, our ancestors were free to reside, not bound as they are today. Hanoi 36 streets are also thanks to the freedom of residence, people in the locality flock to Hanoi to settle down, creating trade wards-36 pho phuong- in Hanoi.

Article 12 of the 1946 Constitution stipulates very clearly:

“Private property rights of Vietnamese citizens are guaranteed”.

Such regulation will reassure private investors, greatly limiting the wrongful inspection, examination, arrest, confiscation, and imprisonment.

Regulations on private property rights like this, how can there be a public ownership regime, “no one can cry in common father”.

Article 15 provides:

“Compulsory elementary school and no tuition fees. Poor students get help from the Government. Private schools are free to open and must teach according to the State curriculum.”

Article 20 stipulates that “The people have the right to remove their elected representatives,,,,”.

Article 30 stipulates that “Parliament is open to the public, the public is allowed to enter and listen to the meeting of Parliament”.

This is as progressive as the Constitution of democratic countries. In Japan, people want to attend the session of the Parliament, just fill out the declaration form, register in advance, are arranged to attend the meeting.

In the first sessions of the 1st National Assembly in 1946, the public was allowed to attend the meeting and monitor how the elected MPs met, discussed, and spoke.

Since 1946, Vietnamese people are no longer allowed to attend National Assembly meetings.

It is also difficult for Vietnamese people to meet their elected National Assembly deputies.

Article 55 stipulates that “Ministers who are not trusted by the Parliament must resign”.

Thus, not only a few Ministers have to resign, but all Governments must also resign, if they lose trust with the people.

Article 70, the last one, stipulates the amendment of the Constitution, “Changes that have been approved by the Parliament must be submitted to the whole people for ratification”.

All subsequent amendments and making of the new Constitution of Vietnam after that have violated this Article 70, because it is not presented to the whole people for a rebuttal, but only for the people’s opinions in a formal and democratic manner.

According to the current National Assembly’s assessment, regarding the meaning of the first Constitution in 1946, then:

“The 1946 Constitution is the first Constitution of our country, a democratic Constitution, as advanced as any other in the world. It is an exemplary Constitution in many ways.”

A democratic and progressive Constitution is the first condition for all development of a country.

Try to imagine it.

If in 1946, the French respected the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and did not wage war, then the 1946 Constitution would have been widely and smoothly implemented, and Vietnam would not have to do make new erroneous Constitutions of 1959, 1980, and 1992.

And the French would not have to suffer a defeat at the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

Then if the Americans understood that Vietnam has had a very good Constitution, that if this 1946 Constitution were to implemented, then there would be no communism in Vietnam, and there would be no need to wage war to destroy communism in Vietnam, and the Americans would will not have to be defeated in 1975.

And it is very possible that today, as Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore said when visiting Vietnam, the number one position in Asia should be Vietnam, not Japan.

But it’s not too late yet.

If one day, Vietnam renews itself under the leadership of the brave party and takes back the 1946 Constitution, replacing the current Constitution, the a new Việt Nam will develop with new strength, new face, new happiness.

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