Korea: Frontline Between Socialism and Imperialism

(By the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist))

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has entered 2014 determined to continue defending and building socialism, and to continue the anti-imperialist struggle for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula.

These and other themes were highlighted in the New Year address of the country’s leader, Comrade Kim Jong Un, who declared that: “we are seeing in the New Year 2014 filled with confidence in the future and revolutionary self-respect …

“Last year was a proud year, in which the entire party, the whole army and all the people waged an all-out offensive in support of the party’s new line of developing the two fronts simultaneously [of nuclear defence and developing the economy – Ed] and thus achieved brilliant successes in building a thriving socialist country and defending socialism.”

Comrade Kim Jong Un referred to the tense situation that prevailed earlier in 2013, when US and south Korean war exercises simulated an invasion and nuclear attack on the north, and made a bold appeal to the authorities in south Korea and all sections of the Korean nation to once again take the road of national reconciliation, saying:

“To resolve the reunification issue in keeping with the aspirations and desires of our fellow countrymen, we should reject foreign forces and hold fast to the standpoint of ‘By our nation itself’.

“The driving force for national reunification is all the members of the Korean nation in the north, in the south and abroad; only when we remain steadfast in this standpoint can we reunify the country independently in line with our nation’s interests and demands. To go on a tour around foreign countries touting for ‘international cooperation’ in resolving the inter-Korean relations issue, the one related with our nation, is a humiliating treachery of leaving its destiny in the hands of outside forces.” [Here Comrade Kim Jong Un refers to the public statements made by the south Korean president last year in the course of her state visits to a number of countries, including Britain – Ed.] Continue reading

On Juche and Marxism-Leninism: A Question of Scientific Socialism and Revolutionary Praxis (Part 1)

Introduction

When the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989 and the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, the reactionaries and bourgeois ideologues of the world celebrated the “final triumph of capitalism” and the “end of history.” Socialism was deemed a catastrophic failure, and Marxism-Leninism was declared to be outmoded, irrelevant, and a false prophecy. As the Eastern Bloc states seemed to tumble one after another in domino fashion, and as Boris Yeltsin boldly and shamelessly crowned the victory of the counter-revolution on top of a tank in Moscow, many communists found themselves speechlessly dismayed in the midst of such a breathtaking and confounding whirlwind of events. Numerous people who had, just several years before, confidently christened themselves as Marxist-Leninists, fell victim to demoralization, confusion, and capitulation. Riddled with trepidation and burdened with the immense weight of imperialism’s victory in the Cold War, the international communist movement experienced one of the deepest fractures in its history as it witnessed many of its yesterday battle-hardened soldiers become today’s disillusioned social-democrats and traitorous informants.

Some Marxist-Leninists, however, resisted the overwhelming wave of subjectivism and surrender entailed in the demise of the Soviet Union and have made an objective, dialectically-materialist assessment of the experiences of socialism in the 20th century and the global situation today, have committed themselves and their organizations to ideological rectification, and have rejuvenated their capacity and resolve in waging a principled struggle. These communists have reaffirmed the profound reality that not only does scientific socialism as an ideology still exist as long as exploited and oppressed classes do, but actually existing material manifestations of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat still cling to life in several countries. The words of the former leader of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania, Enver Hoxha, ring clear and prescient today:

“Nevertheless, Marxism-Leninism has not disappeared, it is living and flourishing as an ideology and a reality, materialized in the socialist social system constructed according to its teachings. Exemplifying this… [are] the Marxist-Leninist parties, and those millions and millions of workers and peasants who are fighting every day for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, for democracy and national liberation. No force, no torture, no intrigue, no deception can eradicate Marxism-Leninism from the minds and hearts of men” (Enver Hoxha, Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism).

With the guns of imperialism aimed at their heads all the while, five countries nonetheless uphold the banners of socialism and incarnations of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the 21st century. The Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam are the surviving remnants of the socialist bloc which once comprised nearly a billion people of the Earth’s population. These countries, all facing unique and varying problems in their respective paths of socialist construction, are fundamentally united in their struggle to survive and build socialism in a world dominated by history’s most immense and ferocious imperialist superpower, the United States of America. These five countries serve as visible reminders of the fact that the struggle for socialism is unceasing and vibrant despite the serious setbacks resulting from the destruction of the Soviet Union, and that no single counter-revolution can eradicate Marxism-Leninism from the minds and hearts of those struggling for liberation from the rule of capital and imperialism.

Of all of these actually existing socialist countries, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea undeniably deserves special attention. The unlimited and relentless demonization of the socialist north of Korea by the imperialist media and its historians, compounded with a general lack of education among Marxist-Leninists has diverted communists’ attention from one of the most impressive, rich, and unique experiences of socialism in the history of the international communist movement, and above all one carried out in only half of a country. An embarrassing number of Marxist-Leninists are unfamiliar with the merits, successes, and challenges of socialism in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and thus are unconsciously tarnishing the scientific nature of Marxism-Leninism as an ideology of emancipation built on and derived from the lessons of concrete experiences of revolutionary transformation. If we are to be real communists worthy of the name and the rank in the army of the proletarian revolution, we must remain committed to, as Mao and the Chinese communists have said, seeking truth from facts and making practice the sole criterion of truth. Applying this to examining the DPRK, it is an unavoidable sensibility that ignoring the rich and instructive practices of socialism in Korea, and the theoretical advancements and consolidation resulting thereof, represents a harmful departure from this basic axiom of scientific socialism. Continue reading

Towards a Concrete Analysis of the DPRK

(By Zak Drabczyk)

The issue of describing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is one which has concerned all matter of political organizations for quite sometime; a topic which the non-Communist left and wide array of would-be political economists have greatly pursued. Here we hope to investigate the class character of the DPRK with a great deal of empirical objectivity atomized in a comprehensive dialectical analysis. While there is plenty of room for thoughtful criticism and discussion surrounding the many facets that which compose ‘North Korea’, the point of the following is not to make such remarks; discerning the material relationships which compound the class dictatorship of the DPRK deserves a methodology which minimizes the ‘cultural skepticism’ which so often parallels such attempts.

All of history can be summed to a struggle between classes. The history of Korea, in specific the Northern region which was liberated from the Japanese following WWII, is no different. Understanding this history is fundamental to contextualizing the political economy of the DPRK today. Continue reading

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised…Nor Will It Be Brought To You By Russell Brand, Oliver Stone Or Noam Chomsky

(By Stephen Gowans)

Not too many years ago, when protesters were running riot through the streets, disrupting meetings of the WTO, G7, and other international organizations, the Canadian newspaper The National Post served up a flattering and generous portrait of young people who had eschewed the streets as a terrain for political struggle and turned instead to what the newspaper considered the responsible and laudatory path of seeking nomination to run as candidates for the mildly social democratic (but in the newspaper’s view, rabidly leftwing) New Democratic Party. This was a curious turn of events, for the National Post, a newspaper founded by the notoriously rightwing, white-collar criminal, Lord Conrad Black, was as likely in normal times to heap praise on anyone associated with the NDP as George Bush was to sing the praises of Kim Il Sung. But these were not normal times. In retrospect it’s easy to see that the protests, demonstrations, and strikes of the time, would fizzle and die, as the Occupy movement would also fizzle and die years later. Lacking a central organizing idea and concrete vision of where they wanted to go, they were too hobbled by anarchist nonsense to achieve much more than to sell a few more copies of Z Magazine and to create a decent phrase about the 1% making off with all the wealth at the expense of the 99%. But it was clear that the editors of the National Post were worried enough to recommend a path other than the streets to those who burned with the desire for political change. That they should recommend electoral politics was predictable. Young people who plowed their energies into the NDP would soon get bogged down in the harmless, ineffectual, routines of political campaigns, and be kept safely off the streets.

The wealthy are keen on electoral politics—when they go their way, as they often do. Elections in capitalist society can be dominated by money, as can the larger political process. Banks, corporations and major investors lobby politicians, fund political campaigns, bribe legislators with the promise of lucrative post-political jobs, place their representatives in key positions in the state, and shape the ideological environment through their control of the media, creation of think-tanks, hiring of PR firms, and funding of university chairs. Those without wealth can hardly compete, except, in principle, by pooling their resources and hoping to tilt the balance the other way against a formidable foe that controls infinitely more resources. The absence of organization and class consciousness, however, routinely assures this doesn’t happen. Moreover, the electoral arena channels dissent into predictable, controllable paths, keeping it off the streets, where it might become unpredictable and therefore dangerous. Additionally, the sway that corporate, banking and investor groups exercise behind the scenes is masked by the egalitarian spectacle of elections. One person, one vote. What could be more equal?

I was reminded of this after reading the Russell Brand-edited issue of The New Statesman [1], not because it was in any particular way an endorsement of capitalist democracy, but because, like the National Post, it defined legitimate political change within parameters favorable to the established order. Of course, Brand wasn’t advocating electoral politics as the National Post was. On the contrary, he spoke out against voting in an interview with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman, and called for a revolution. But Brand’s New Statesman went further than the National Post. Where the National Post said that those who fight for political change within the established system are admirable, while those who step outside it are not, Brand, as editor, tackled the larger idea of revolution (the only way, he said, he could get interested in politics. ) Mind you, a mass circulation magazine was not about to become a platform to rally the masses to armed insurrection to overthrow the established order. “The revolution,” observed Gil Scott-Heron, “will not be televised.” Nor will it be found in the pages of the New Statesman. Predictably, the outcome of Brand’s editing exercise was the redefining of the entire idea of revolution, or, I should say, the destroying of it altogether, turning it into something vague and difficult to put your finger on, except to say it was good, and true, and safe to bring home to mother. But not at all like what Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Kim Il sung were implicated in. According to the luminaries Brand assembled to hold forth on what revolution means, revolution isn’t the transfer of productive property from one group to another –from, say, private owners to workers, or colonial settlers to those they dispossessed, or even owners who reside outside a country to the people within. Instead, it means many things, but not what you thought it did. [2] Continue reading

The Arduous March of Socialism: The Private Economy in the DPRK

Introduction

On February 10, 2013, Toilers’ Struggle published an original article, Change in North Korea?, which discussed the problems facing socialism in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as presented by none other than their cheerleading proponent, The Economist.  Toilers’ Struggle wrote:

The Economist spoke of petty bourgeois traders and merchants who are increasingly emerging and profiting in the tough times facing the DPRK.  A second economy of corruption, private trading and even production, and smuggling has arisen…The fundamental problem facing the DPRK on the domestic front is resolving the issue of the second economy which, left unchecked, could potentially assume relative proportions of that of the second economy in the USSR, a development which crucially contributed to the Soviet Union’s collapse…The DPRK faces the glaring problem of dealing with the dilemma of the second economy, which is day by day engendering more potential petty bourgeois elements which oppose and undermine the regime’s socialist orientation and workers’ power.  Change may be indeed necessary and, more or less, urgent.”

At the time, Toilers’ Struggle’s knowledge of the extent of the second economy in the DPRK amounted to little more than what was revealed in the article of The Economist, and thus remarks on the matter could not exceed basic acknowledgements and general comments.  Now, however, thanks to the book by Andrei Lankov, The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia, published in April, 2013, considerably more information is available as to the scale of the private economy which has emerged in the DPRK out of the crisis of the Arduous March in the 1990’s.

The Real North Korea has proved to be a valuable read.  Andrei Lankov’s new book is a refreshing alternative to the abundance of worthless slanderous bourgeois tracts on the DPRK, as instead of peddling the same stock slanders and cliches that relentlessly demonize this small Asian country, The Real North Korea, although still fundamentally bourgeois in its outlook, does intricately explore the dynamics of the Korean Revolution, the inner workings of the regime and society in the DPRK, and the challenges and problems of life in North Korea today.  At the bare least, Lankov’s account provides the facts, statistics, and details which are entirely jettisoned in typical bourgeois literature on North Korea.

The central importance of the book, however, is that, in its detailed study of the origin, development, and dynamics of the second economy in the DPRK, The Real North Korea confirms the conviction of Toilers’ Struggle that “the fundamental problem facing the DPRK on the domestic front is resolving the issue of the second economy” and that “the DPRK faces the glaring problem of dealing with the dilemma of the second economy, which is day by day engendering more potential petty bourgeois elements which oppose and undermine the regime’s socialist orientation and workers’ power.”

Andrei Lankov’s The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia, offers a sober and realistic picture of the second economy in the DPRK today, and in turn allows for Marxist-Leninists to consider the repercussions of the second economy on socialism and the challenges and problems which confront the survival of one of the few actually existing socialist countries in the world today.

The Second Economy Arises: the Arduous March and the Crisis of the 1990’s

The second, private economy which currently operates at a considerable scale in the DPRK owes its origin to none other than the Arduous March crisis of the 1990’s. Continue reading

In Defence of the DPRK

(By the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist))

The following post was originally written as a reply to discussion on Facebook. It is reprinted here to aid wider circulation and facilitate discussion on this important topic.

Kim Il Sung indicates the way to national liberation after the Pochonbo Battle

Kim Il Sung indicates the way to national liberation after the Pochonbo Battle

We are all agreed about the need to support the DPRK. The questions that have arisen here seem to be mostly attributable to the prejudices that we find hard to shake given the overwhelming anti-Korea propaganda to which we are all subjected on a daily basis.

While we may have recognised this in theory, it still leads to all sorts of spurious allegations being easily accepted as fact. For example, Comrade L’s allegation that there is “very little development of Marxist education among the masses” or that “the party meets very infrequently”.

I can see no basis in fact for these statements. Quite the contrary, evidence from comrades and friends who have visited the DPRK rather points the opposite way. They have found the people to be exceptionally well educated and informed about local, national and international matters – and Marxism is a central plank of the education system.

Here is a short video clip from the National House of Class Education in Pyongyang, for example.

There is an excellent article about north Korea from 2006 by Stephen Gowans that I would recommend everyone to read if they haven’t already. It gives a really comprehensive framework for thinking about and judging all information regarding the country and its leaders.

Growing up infected with imperialist arrogance it is easy for us to dismiss or ridicule the achievements or difficulties of others, and exceptionally difficult to really appreciate how far they have come and against what odds and at what price. Continue reading