The Political Bureau elected during the Sixth National Party Congress in December 1986 consisted of thirteen full members and one alternate member. Five were new, one was appointed in June 1985, and the remainder were carried over from the previous Political Bureau, elected at the Fifth National Party Congress in 1982. The Political Bureau elected in 1982 numbered thirteen full and two alternate members. Between 1982 and 1986, one member died, three were voluntarily retired, three were removed, and one was promoted from alternate to full membership. Top party leadership during this period was therefore restricted to twenty- one individuals. The inner circle of party leadership, however, extended to a secondary, but nevertheless critical, tier of leadership represented by members of the Secretariat of the Central Committee who were not simultaneously members of the Political Bureau. In 1986 there were nine..
(Members listed in decreasing order of political importance.)
Nguyen Van Linh, elected Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP, Viet Nam Cong San Dang) general secretary in 1986, had been a rising political star since the end of the Second Indochina War. Born in the North in 1915, he had spent most of his political career in the South and much of that time underground in Saigon, where he worked closely with Le Duan in 1956. In 1960, because of his underground role in the South, he was elected secretly to the VCP's Central Committee. At war's end in 1975, Linh was appointed party secretary for Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) for a brief period, only to be replaced by Vo Van Kiet at the Fourth National Party Congress in 1976. In 1976 he was elected for the first time to the Political Bureau and ranked twelfth. He was dropped from the Political Bureau in 1982, however, apparently for his opposition to the rapid socialization of the South after the 1975 victory. He was renamed party secretary for Ho Chi Minh City in December 1981, where the success of his reformist economic policies gained the attention of the political bureau. Linh's reappointment in 1985, when he was ranked sixteenth, may have resulted from the intercession of then-party general secretary Le Duan and had the effect of strengthening the reform contingent of the VCP's leadership. Following Le Duan's death in July 1986, he was returned to the Secretariat where he ranked immediately behind Duan's heir apparent, Truong Chinh. Before assuming the party's top position in December 1986, Linh advocated an end to discrimination against intellectuals who had served the former regime in South Vietnam and better treatment for Vietnam's Roman Catholics and the Chinese minority. He publicly thanked representatives of the Chinese community for their contribution to Vietnam.
Pham Hung, formerly ranked fourth in the Political Bureau, was promoted to the second-ranked position in December 1986. In June 1987, he was named to succeed Pham Van Dong as premier. Hung had been minister of interior from 1980 to 1986, and a vice premier since 1958. He began his career fighting the French in the South and directed the political campaign in the South during the Second Indochina War as head of the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN) and the Political Bureau's chief representative in South Vietnam from 1967 to 1975. His deputy during this period was Nguyen Van Linh. He was the first native South Vietnamese to attain senior party and government rank and was considered a hard-liner not because he was an ideologue but because he believed communist orthodoxy promoted better security. Although Hung was associated with the implementation of unpopular economic policies on money, prices, and wages, his career apparently suffered no lasting damage. He was born in 1912 and died on March 10, 1988, after having held the post of premier for only nine months.
Vo Chi Cong, who was ranked seventh in the 1982 Political Bureau and was promoted to third in 1986, was appointed to the largely ceremonial post of president in place of Truong Chinh in June 1987. His previous experience had been mainly in the field in Central Vietnam, and during the Second Indochina War he was a formal communist representative on the Hanoi-sponsored National Liberation Front central committee. From 1976 to 1980 Vo Chi Cong held the government posts of vice premier, minister of agriculture, and minister of fisheries, but reportedly he was fired from each post for administrative incompetence. A strong advocate of liberalization in agriculture, he was counted as being among Nguyen Van Linh's reform advocates on the Political Bureau and was an advocate for openness in the party. Cong was born in 1912.
Do Muoi, ranked eleventh on the Political Bureau in 1982 and fourth in 1986, directed the party's failed effort to socialize southern industry and commerce rapidly. Nevertheless, in 1986 he was identified with the reform program and subsequently was named to the Secretariat of the Central Committee as a resident economic expert. In 1984 he was called upon to explain the party's Sixth Plenum resolution on reforming industrial management, and he has since spoken on behalf of agricultural reform. Following the death of Pham Hung in March 1988, he was named to replace Hung as premier. He was born in 1920 and established his career in Haiphong..
Vo Van Kiet, vice premier and chairman of the State Planning Commission in 1986, moved from the tenth to the fifth position on the Political Bureau. During the Second Indochina War, he worked with the Hanoi-controlled People's Revolutionary Party in the South; after the war, he became Ho Chi Minh City party secretary. In this capacity, Kiet initiated liberalized local trade and commerce policies that became the models for later national economic reforms. His rise in the party was comparatively rapid. Until the Fourth National Party Congress in 1976, when he appeared as an alternate member on the Political Bureau and as a member of the Central Committee, he had not been listed on any list of senior party officials. In company with Nguyen Van Linh, however, Kiet was initially elected to the Central Committee in 1960. Because of their sensitive positions in the South at the time, their Central Committee memberships were not revealed until after the war in 1976. He was an advocate of pragmatic economic reform, such as decentralized planning, loosened central controls, and socialization of the South without production disruption. The youngest Political Bureau member in 1986, he was born in 1922.
Le Duc Anh, formerly ranked twelfth on the Political Bureau and promoted to sixth in 1986, was appointed Minister of National Defense in early 1987. He was almost totally unknown until given full Political Bureau status in 1982. During the Second Indochina War, he worked closely with Vo Van Kiet and was deputy commander of the Ho Chi Minh City campaign; afterwards, he was appointed commanding general and political commissar of the military region bordering Cambodia. He commanded the Vietnamese task force that invaded Cambodia in 1978.
Nguyen Duc Tam, previously ranked thirteenth on the Political Bureau, was promoted in 1986 to seventh despite his position as head of the Organization Department of the Central Committee, which was the target of heavy criticism at the Sixth National Party Congress. His department was blamed for an unprecedented decline in the quality of party cadres. A protege of Le Duc Tho, whom he replaced as head of the Organization Department, he built his career in his native Quang Ninh Province.
Nguyen Co Thach, promoted from alternate to full Political Bureau membership in 1986, was Vietnam's Minister of foreign affairs and ranked eighth on the Bureau. Immediately following the Sixth National Party Congress, he was promoted to vice premier (deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers). Thach had been a career diplomat serving in diplomatic posts until his election to the Political Bureau as an alternate member in 1982, marking the first time that an official from a diplomatic background had entered the top party leadership. A protege of Le Duc Tho, Thach was apparently a political moderate, although his support of Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia demonstrated his alignment with official policy. Once a specialist on American affairs (he participated in the Paris negotiations to end the Second Indochina War with then-United States national security adviser Henry Kissinger), Thach became increasingly associated with Soviet and East European affairs and traveled to Moscow in 1978 with other top Vietnamese officials to sign the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. He was the first Political Bureau member after Ho Chi Minh to speak English, having learned it while serving in India in the late 1950s. According to one Western author, Thach's greatest value to the leadership may have been his ability to interpret the views of the English-speaking world. He was born in 1920.
Dong Sy Nguyen, promoted from alternate to full Political Bureau membership in 1986, was a cadre of surprising resilience. His election to the Political Bureau in 1982 was a surprise to most outsiders. Previously, Nguyen had been known as a middle-ranking communist and an unspectacular member of the Quartermasters and Engineers Corps of the armed forces. He was removed as minister of communications and transportation in June 1986 because of his alleged involvement with widespread corruption in that ministry.
Tran Xuan Bach, a relatively unknown official newly elevated to the Political Bureau in 1986, formerly headed the secret Vietnamese organization code-named "B-68," which supervised the administration of Cambodia. Bach was in Phnom Penh in 1979 as the personal secretary of Le Duc Tho, the Political Bureau member in charge of Cambodia at that time. In the early 1960s he led the Vietnam Fatherland Front, and from 1977 to 1982 he chaired the Central Committee cabinet. In 1982 he was elected a full member of the Central Committee and secretary of the Secretariat of the Central Committee. Following the Sixth National Party Congress in December 1986, he ranked third on the Secretariat and tenth on the Political Bureau.
Nguyen Thanh Binh, newly elected to the Political Bureau, was elected secretary of the Hanoi municipal party committee in 1986. Before that he had been a Central Committee secretary. A strong advocate for the party's agricultural reforms and for the gradual rather than rapid socialization of southern agriculture, Binh was a strong critic of the party's failure to revise agricultural policies.
Doan Khue, a new member of the Political Bureau in 1986, was first elected to the Central Committee in 1976, but was virtually unknown except for his military background. He was former commander and political officer of Military Region V (central Vietnam) of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), and in 1987 was appointed PAVN chief of staff.
Mai Chi Tho, the lowest ranking of the new full Political Bureau members, was appointed minister of interior in early 1987. He was a former Ho Chi Minh City deputy secretary and mayor and was believed to have overall responsibility for security in southern Vietnam. Having been a past subordinate of Nguyen Van Linh and Vo Van Kiet, Tho was a strong supporter of economic reform and increased openness in the party. He was born in 1916 and is a brother of Le Duc Tho..
Dao Duy Tung, named as an alternate member of the Political Bureau in 1986 and a full member in 1988, was criticized, nevertheless, in the political report of the Sixth National Party Congress for his leadership of the Propaganda and Training Department. During his tenure, the department was faulted for failing to meet the party's goals in carrying out propaganda and training work. First appointed deputy chief of the Propaganda and Training Department in 1974, he was promoted to chief in 1982. In 1976 he was elected an alternate member of the Central Committee, and he attained full membership in 1982. He was named editor-in-chief of Tap Chi Cong San (Communist Review) in 1977 and director of the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) in 1982. In 1986 he ranked fourth on the Secretariat of the Central Committee.
Truong Chinh retired at age 79 as the incumbent VCP general secretary, having held the position for some five months following the death of Le Duan. Previously Chinh had ranked second on the Political Bureau and was chairman of the Council of State and of the National Defense Council, as well as chief of state. He stepped down as president in June 1987 and was succeeded by Vo Chi Cong. A founding member of the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP), Chinh was viewed by party colleagues as a theoretician and as the leader of the party ideologues. He initially opposed economic and liberal agricultural reforms and was firm in seeking to maintain Vietnam's "special relationship" with Laos and Cambodia. He suffered a brief eclipse from 1956 to 58 for his leading role in the failed agrarian reform program in the North, but he retained a strong following among party cadres. A firm believer in such Maoist theories as relying on poor and landless peasants to carry out revolution, he was the leader of a pro-Chinese element in the party hierarchy in the early 1970s. But after 1979 Chinh strongly condemned the Chinese, rejected the idea of emphasizing the role of the peasantry and ignoring the role of the working class, and supported Hanoi's alliance with Moscow as essential. As early as 1985 he publicly endorsed reform, but by 1986, nevertheless, he appeared out of step with the direction the party was beginning to take. He died September 30, 1988.
Pham Van Dong, the only one of the three retirees known to be ill when he stepped down, resigned from his number-two Political Bureau position, but retained his prime ministership until June 1987, when he was replaced by Pham Hung. Like Chinh, Dong was a founding member of the ICP, but he was a political moderate and probably the most popular of his generation of leaders. He was born in 1906..
Le Duc Tho was ranked fourth on the Political Bureau when he retired, but his rank belied his true power. Tho was a protege of Le Duan and before Duan's death was arguably the most influential Political Bureau member and possibly the party chief's preferred successor. As an adviser to the Central Committee after his retirement, his influence probably remained considerable. Tho was also a founding member of the ICP; he apparently was at Pac Bo for the formation of the Viet Minh in 1940 and with Ho Chi Minh when the provisional government was established in Hanoi in August 1945. Like many of his generation of communists, he spent much of his early adulthood in prison. In 1950 Tho was sent south by the party, and in 1951 he helped establish the VCP's Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN), where he assisted Le Duan. Later, he played the role of trouble- shooter for Duan, representing the party secretary in the South during the final offensive in 1975, on the Cambodian border when fighting erupted there in 1978, and on the Chinese border immediately before and after the Chinese invasion in 1979. Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia was apparently Tho's responsibility after 1978, and he headed Commission Sixty-Eight, the VCP special commission handling Cambodian affairs. In 1982 he emerged as a supporter of economic reform. His birth date is variously given as 1911 or 1912.
Van Tien Dung was one of the most prominent casualties of the Sixth National Party Congress in 1986. He was minister of national defense and ranked sixth on the Political Bureau before being dropped for his or his family's involvement in corruption scandals. He was, nevertheless, permitted to retain his seat on the Central Committee. PAVN had earlier given Dung a vote of no-confidence when it failed to elect him as one of the seventy-two delegates chosen for the Sixth Party Congress. Considered a government lame duck following the loss of his Political Bureau seat, he lost his defense post to his protege, Le Duc Anh, shortly afterward. Dung had commanded the forces that won Hanoi's final victory over the Saigon government in 1975 and is credited with the "blooming lotus" technique of warfare, which was used to take Saigon and was used again in Cambodia four years later. The technique calls for troops first to assault the heart of a city in order to seize the enemy command center and then to proceed to occupy suburban areas at leisure. He was a formidable conservative, vocal in stressing the need for a strong defense, and an adamant supporter of the continued Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia. He was born in 1917.
To Huu, fired as vice chairman of the Council of Ministers in June 1986, was reported to be responsible for a currency change in September 1985 that led to disastrous inflation. He had ranked ninth on the Political Bureau before his removal and had held more truly significant party and government positions than virtually any other senior Political Bureau member. As a protege of Truong Chinh, Huu was a leader among the ideologues and an opponent of economic reforms. He had been in charge of party propaganda when tapped to be vice premier and, in the early 1980s, was a leading candidate to succeed Premier Pham Van Dong. Huu was born in 1920.
Chu Huy Man ranked eighth when removed from the Political Bureau and the Central Committee. Prior to the Sixth National Party Congress, he had headed the army's political department and reportedly was severely criticized by PAVN for his autocratic leadership style. Like Van Tien Dung, he was not initially elected to represent PAVN at the Sixth Party Congress. Man was a protege of former Minister of National Defense Vo Nguyen Giap and one of the most important battlefield commanders during the Second Indochina War, most notably in the Central Highlands. He was born in 1920.
Le Duan, until his death in July 1986, was VCP general secretary; he had been elevated to the post following the 1969 death of Ho Chi Minh, who had groomed Duan as his successor beginning in the late 1950s. Under Duan's leadership, the war in the South was successfully concluded, the country was reunified, Cambodia was invaded and occupied, relations with China were severed, and dependence upon the Soviet Union for economic and military aid increased dramatically. After initially supporting overly ambitious policies that worsened Vietnam's economic condition, he encouraged gradual political change coupled with moderate economic reforms. These included financial incentives for peasants and workers, some decentralization in planning, and a broadening of economic relations with the rest of the world. Le Duc Tho, Nguyen Van Linh, Pham Hung, and Vo Van Kiet were close colleagues. During his career, Duan was considered to be colorless, more an organizer than a diplomat. He never held a government position. In the spring of 1985, a year before his death, he was described in a series of articles in the party newspaper, Nhan Dan (People's Daily), as the architect of the 1975 victory in the South and as the dominant figure in Vietnamese communist history next to Ho Chi Minh. He was born in 1908.
Membership on the Secretariat of the Central Committee stood at thirteen in 1986. The four highest ranking members--Nguyen Van Linh, Nguyen Duc Tam, Tran Xuan Bach, and Dao Duy Tung--held concurrent positions on the Political Bureau and are described above. The remaining nine are listed below in order of decreasing political importance.
Tran Kien, also known as Nguyen Tuan Tai, was formerly secretary of party chapters in Haiphong, Gia Lai Kon Tum, Dac Lac Province, and Nghia Binh Province. He was first appointed secretary of the Secretariat of the Central Committee and chairman of the Central Control Commission in 1982 and reappointed in 1986. He was minister of forestry from 1979 to 1981.
Le Phuoc Tho was elected an alternate member of the Central Committee in 1976 and a full member in 1982. He was appointed a member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee in 1986. At the Fifth National Party Congress in 1982, he was selected to address the congress on the subject of agriculture, and in 1987, he was listed in Soviet sources as head of the party's agriculture department.
Nguyen Quyet, a lieutenant general in PAVN in 1986, was appointed to full membership on the Central Committee at the Fourth National Party Congress in 1976 and reappointed in 1982 and 1986. In December 1986, at the Sixth National Party Congress, he was appointed to the Secretariat of the Central Committee. Previously he had been commander of the Capital Military Region, Hanoi, and commander of Military Region III. In 1986 he was a member of the Central Military Party Committee and deputy head of the General Political Department. He replaced Chu Huy Man as director of the General Political Department in February 1987.
Dam Quang Trung, an ethnic Tay, was a major general and commander of Military Region I (the Sino-Vietnamese border region) at the time of the Chinese invasion in 1979. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1981. In 1976 he was elected to the Central Committee, and in 1982, while still commander of Military Region I, became a member of the Central Military Party Committee. He was a member of the National Assembly from 1976 to 1981 and in 1981 was appointed to the Council of State.
Vu Oanh was elected an alternate to the Central Committee at the Fourth National Party Congress in 1976. He was elevated to full membership in 1982 and assumed the directorship of the VCP's Agriculture Department, a position he continued to hold in 1987. He was elected to the Secretariat at the Sixth National Party Congress in December 1986.
Nguyen Khanh, elected as an alternate to the Central Committee in 1982, gained full membership and a seat on the Secretariat in 1986. Appointed chief of the Central Committee cabinet (replacing Tran Xuan Bach) and director of the General Affairs and Administration departments of the Central Committee in 1982, he assumed similar duties in the government when appointed general secretary and a vice chairman of the Council of Ministers in February 1987.
Tran Quyet, when appointed to the Secretariat at the Sixth National Party Congress in December 1986, had been a full member of the Central Committee since 1976. As a vice minister of Public Security from the mid-1960s and vice minister of Interior from 1975, he specialized in security matters. A northerner, he was sent to Ho Chi Minh City in 1976 to establish the Ministry of Interior's Permanent Office for South Vietnam as a measure to more firmly impose North Vietnamese control. Between 1975 and 1980, he was commander and political officer of the Ministry of Interior's People's Public Security Force and held the rank of lieutenant general.
Tran Quoc Huong, also known as Tran Nach Ban and Muoi Huong, was elected to full membership on the Central Committee in 1982, under the name Tran Nach Ban. A southerner, he was formerly a standing member of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee and head of its Organization Department. In 1983, under the name Tran Quoc Huong, he was appointed deputy secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee, and in 1986 was named to the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the VCP. His government positions have included vice chairmanship of the State Inspection Commission, to which he was appointed in 1985, and chairmanship of the Vietnam Tourism General Department, which he assumed in 1986.
Pham The Duyet, previously a coal mine director in Quang Ninh Province and vice chairman and general secretary of the Vietnamese Confederation of Trade Unions, was elected a Central Committee alternate member at the Fifth National Party Congress in 1982. At the time of his election to full Central Committee membership at the Sixth National Party Congress in 1986 and his succeeding appointment to the Secretariat of the Central Committee, he was also acting chairman of the Confederation. In 1987 he was promoted to chairman..