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