The term "communism" was first coined and defined by the French philosopher and writer Victor d'Hupay in his “ Projet de communauté philosophe” (Project for a Philosophical Community) book. In his book, he defined this lifestyle as a "commune" and advises to "share all economic and material products between inhabitants of the commune, so that all may benefit from everybody's work". In 1848, Marx and Engels offered a new definition of communism and popularized the term in their famous pamphlet “The Communist Manifesto” which later was recognized as one of the world's most influential political documents.
Czechoslovakia and Vietnam were both under Communist rule for a long time. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia existed between 1921 and 1992 in Czechoslovakia. Communism in Vietnam has played a key role in the politics of Vietnam since 1930 and is still its current system in the government. Both Vietnamese and Czechoslovakian people face similar living conditions due to this political system.
Here are three facts that you would experience under Communism.
Lack of Convenience: Live like a True Minimalist
Displaying wealth and distinguishing yourself from others in any way could cause you a lot of trouble both in Czechoslovakia and Vietnam. Under the communist system, everyone has a certain consumer allowance, limited to the number of family members in a household. Thereby, luxury goods such as fancy cars or electronic devices are not a guarantee and very difficult to obtain, being caught having obtained such luxuries on the black market could result in severe repercussions.
Censorship: Control of Expression
Censorship in former Czechoslovakia had been highly active until 17 November 1989. The media was the voice of the Communist Regime and “Television, for example, was imbued with official optimism as tractors and factories often appeared on the screen. Editorials were riddled with clichés, and platitudes abounded.” (Private Prague Guide) Today, the Czech Republic is ranked as 13th most free country in the World Press Freedom Index in 2014 (Wikipedia). Unfortunately, Vietnam ranked that year on place 174 of 180 countries listed but dropped to 175 in 2018 (Radio Free Asia).
Alcoholism: A Numb Mind Doesn’t Criticize
In 1987 the official Czechoslovak press conveyed the impression that the country had few social problems. Drinking has always been part of Czech and Slovak life and it has become a serious problem since the 1948 communist coup. Many people drank because there was nothing else to do and it became an easy way to escape the dreariness that pervaded Czechoslovakian life. By 1987 drinking during the workday and drunkenness on the job were reportedly common and even tolerated. (Country Data). Vietnamese people drink their domestic rice wine and draught beer. There, alcohol consumption has risen dramatically in recent years with approximately “35% prevalence of problematic drinking among males surveyed” in 2013. (Ncbi ) Alcoholism can lead to many systemic problems such as domestic violence, underage drinking, and especially drunk driving and alcohol poisoning. In Vietnam “drunk driving still kills over 4,000 people in Vietnam every year. And it’s been reported that around 40% of traffic accidents are alcohol related.” (Vietcetera)
Overall, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Vietnam faced similar living conditions under communism. However, as modern democratic countries today, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are on the road to success. In contrast, Vietnam needs a lot of improvement to catch up to the rest of the world. Thanks to democracy some of the above-mentioned struggles no longer persist in Europe and are a part of Eastern Europe’s past. Now, it is our task to teach this is a part of our history to our children to prevent future generations from making the same mistakes.
For more information about the Czech’s culture and history, you can come to the Czech Center Museum Houston and take to our tour.