The DPRK(or ‘North Korea’ as known in the west), and the Republic of Korea(known as South Korea) exist as two separate countries, but the Korean people meet all of the characteristic features of a single nation as defined by Joseph Stalin in his scientific Marxist theory ‘The National Question; “a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.” Understanding that Korea is not two separate nations is essential when taking a more in-depth look at actions of the DPRK in the appropriate context.
Many people in the west recite anti-north Korea catechism; that the DPRK is a garrison state and the greatest threat to international peace – they do however admit that what they know about the country, apart from the nonsense dished up by the media, is fuzzy. But this has always been the case. In 1949, American journalist ‘Anna Louise Strong’ wrote that “there is little public knowledge about the country and most of the headlines distort rather than reveal the facts.” Kim Jong-il is regularly described as insane and hell-bent on the destruction of the US, although, no-one can back this up with any evidence. Are we expected to take the word of bankers, Investors and Imperialists alike? Some context is required..
Japan colonised Korea in 1910, and for the next 35 years Korea became a source of obscene levels of profit for Japanese industrialists and financiers, at the expense of much Korean bloodshed. Countless Koreans were forcibly shipped off to Japan as forced labourers or as sexual slaves known in Japan as “comfort women”. But Japan couldn’t plunder the peninsula alone, they done so with the help of wealthy Korean landowners and industrialists, who, found favour with the Japanese imperialists and coincidentally they would later find favour with the United States’ occupation government, a great deal of the landowners and industrialists inherited key positions in the South Korean regime, which was headed by the American appointed right-wing nationalist and western educated Syngman Rhee.
Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea came to an end in 1945, when it was driven out by the Korean resistance, one of the principal figures was the DPRK founder, Kim Il-sung. The entry of the Soviet Union into the Pacific war led to Japans eventual surrender contrary to the narrative peddled by the west, a phrase I’m sure you are greatly familiar with – ‘The bomb put an end to the second world war’ – not so. A great deal of Japanese troops simply weren’t stationed in the cities that the US had mercilessly bombed in the years leading to Japanese surrender. It’s worth noting that virtually no city was exempt of bombing raids. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were brutally slaughtered, and yet still the Japanese govt would not surrender. It was only with the mounting pressure of a Soviet invasion of Japanese mainland that would force Japan to reconsider their options, the Soviets had killed or captured some 700’000 Japanese soldiers in their liberation of Manchuria. If this comes as a surprise to the reader, there are many articles available with a basic search, and well worth looking into..
After Tokyo’s surrender, the US tried to assert control over Japan’s former colonial possessions, including Korea. Kim il-sung’s guerrilla movement was an independent force inspired by a desire to reclaim the Korean peninsula for Koreans, and was controlled by neither the Soviets nor the Chinese. The Korean guerrilla’s did retreat into Soviet territory in order to escape counter-insurgency units though received very little aid from the Soviet Union. Unlike the US in the South; which had imposed a military government and even repressed the People’s Committees, the Soviet Union took a fairly hands-off approach to the northern part of the Korean Peninsula even allowing a coalition of nationalist and communist resistance fighters to run their own show in the face of US imperialism.
The DPRK was proclaimed amidst the ‘Korean War’(’45-’53) on September 9, 1948, three weeks after the un-democratic ‘Republic’ of Korea was founded in the south. Unlike the Soviet Union; which had to go through a painstaking period of industrialisation in order to develop their economy; the Korean ‘People’s Committees’ expropriated the Japanese built factories, railways, public utilities and natural resource industries and run them for the benefit of all citizens, from the first day. In October 1948, the guerrilla’s liberated the town of Yosu, which sparked rebellions in other towns throughout the peninsula. A pro-guerrilla newspaper at the time had called for radical land redistribution and the removal of Japanese collaborators from official government positions, this was achieved.
Meanwhile, in the Southern region of Korea, the ‘National Security Law’ was used in order to round up hundreds of thousands of Koreans believed to have been sympathetic to the DPRK. It’s estimated that between 100-200’000 Koreans were massacred from 1945-1953. The following are massacres that include the killing of suspected communist sympathisers, unarmed civilians and many children under the age of 10 – ‘The Bodo league massacre’, ‘December massacre’, ‘Goyang Geumjeong cave massacre’ and the ‘Namyangju massacre’. The communist movement in Korea was always stronger in the south from the time of its foundation in Seoul in 1925. Although it has been banned since 1949 because of its popular mass support. The Americans couldn’t possibly allow the spread of Socialism in the South as this is their launch-point for potential future missile strikes against the DPRK and China.
Aside from the war years, the DPRK’s economy grew at a faster pace than that of the south(1940’s to the mid-60s). Che Guevara was highly impressed during his visit to Pyongyang in 1965, and he even declared the DPRK to be a model to which Cuba should aspire. By 1980, Pyongyang was one of the most efficient cities in Asia, Washington’s imposed pro-capitalist regime in the south looked on in disbelief. Seoul was teeming with homeless and bursting with sweatshops, and whilst in the North consumer goods were scarce, they were able to provide – “compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular; ‘radical change’ in the position of women; genuinely free housing, free health care, and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries…” By the way, that happens to be a quote from a CIA report on the DPRK, you can imagine this was written rather grudgingly.
Socialism in the DPRK
Trotskyite factions have never led the masses in revolution precisely because they understand socialism and revolution in ultra-leftist utopian terms. Trots don’t believe that the DPRK is a socialist country, why? Because the Workers Party of Korea doesn’t measure up to their abstract, and dogmatic, catechism of Marx that uses his call for communists to ‘win the battle for democracy’. The Trotskyite armchair revolutionaries complain that socialism is a society in which workers control the means of production, but their idealism clouds them from recognising that a revolutionary society such as the DPRK, has already achieved that end. Funnily enough the Trotskyite ‘International Socialist Organisation’ or ISO for short, regard the DPRK’s achievements as “remarkable”. What more then do the ultra-leftists wish to see in the face of US and South Korean Imperialist, economic sanctions?
The DPRK continues to face great problems in socialist construction, but most of these problems stem from unfavourable external conditions and imperialist aggression. Marxist-Leninists must study the short-comings of the DPRK, but we must also praise the outstanding gains accomplished by the Korean revolution. Before 1945, it was inconceivable for the uneducated peasantry to become leading officials or officers in the army. But in the DPRK such careers became normal. Inter-class marriages became common, and educational access was opened up for all sections of society. With regards to the important question of land reform – the Workers Party underwent a steady process of converting private land ownership into co-operative organisations. In 1953, only 1.2% of peasant households were organised as co-operatives. By August 1958, 100% of peasant households were converted into co-operatives. Ultra-left-communists, Trotskyites, and raging anti-communists claim that collectivisation caused great famines, however, collectivisation in the DPRK did not result in any famine or mass starvation. In-fact, at no point did the agricultural output decrease; contrary to such an audacious claim, the process of collectivisation was actually accompanied by a steady increase in production. A leading economist in the late 70’s ‘Ellen Brun’, cited statistics on food production, showing a sharp increase from about 2.9 million tons in 1956 to 3.8 million tons in 1960.
Drawing from the Marxist-Leninist ‘mass line’ – which is the organising method that involves the masses in the process of economic development and socialist construction – the Workers Party implemented the Daean work system in December 1961. In the DPRK, workers have full input and supremacy in production and interact dialectically with the state to plan and carry out collectivist production on behalf of the whole Korean people. However, Korean Juche socialism – the DPRK’s self-reliance ideology adopted during the ‘Sino-Soviet Split’ – suffered a major setback in 1991 with the revisionist dismantling of the Soviet Union and most of the socialist bloc, which disrupted trade relations. Resilient as ever, the DPRK survived despite facing famine due to economic sanctions, and blocked access to international trade by Western imperialist powers. Much to the frustration of the US and its imperialist allies in the region – who believed the North Korean ‘experiment’ would be finished for by 2002 – the DPRK stabilised and remains committed to genuine workers democracy that serves as an example for Communists and Socialists world-wide, even if those Ultra-leftists don’t wish to hear it.
On the question of the DPRK’s Nuclear defence system, I pose a rhetorical question to the reader: Have the United States ever launched an invasion of a state that yields Nuclear weapons? We can only laugh at the hypocrisy of the US, who arrogantly sit on a stock-pile of weapons, and assert that the DPRK have no right to defend themselves against an aggressor no better than the Japanese Imperialists who colonised Korea in 1910. Consistent interference by the US and Japan will not bring peace, unity or stability to the people of Korea. It is the task of the Korean people, both north and south, to solve their differences and to unite if they desire to do so. This can be achieved only with the removal of all foreign forces and nuclear weapons from the south. The Korean people, need the support and solidarity of all progressives to put an end the partition and control by the United States and its running dogs and to allow Koreans to decide for themselves the future direction of their country. The DPRK is one of the last remaining countries where workers genuinely control society collectively as a class. As one of the few socialist countries to have survived the dismantling of the USSR, Marxist-Leninists must study and learn from the resilience of the Korean people.