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12144Re: DSP prettifies the feudal monarchy of North Korea

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  • bobgould987
    Dec 28, 2004
      By Bob Gould

      The discussion on North Korea opens the big Pandora's Box of Stalinism
      and whether it still exists.

      I start by noting that Chris Kerris adopts a generally rational and
      careful tone in his latest response to me, although the last paragraph
      about shit and pedophiles seems a trifle bizarre, but that's an
      aesthetic question, not a major political one, and it seems it's
      possible to have a serious argument with Kerris, with a bit of cut and
      thrust on both sides, without verbal abuse.

      Chris Kerris still broadly defends the view that the North didn't
      start the Korean War because there had been previous clashes on the
      border. However, he more or less caves in to my view when he says, in
      a rather involved way, "was it a tactical error to try to reunify the
      nation in such a way? I would say history would answer in the
      affirmative on that, although it's a rather pointless discussion".

      The point is that the opening of parts of the Soviet archives confirms
      that North Korea consulted Moscow and was given the go-ahead to launch
      a conventional military invasion deep into South Korea. In any real
      military sense, the North started the Korean War.

      To say that it would have broken out anyway because both sides were
      itching to get at each other is beside the point because it's so
      speculative. It's not speculative that launching a major invasion when
      the Soviet Union was boycotting the UN Security Council was an
      enormous misestimation of the relationship of military and political
      forces, and was bound to get the military response it did from US
      imperialism and its allies.

      In the short term, the carnage and destruction of the war stemmed
      directly from the North Korean invasion.

      Chris Kerris's further extension of this argument -- that the
      degeneration of the North Korean state was a direct result of the war
      -- isn't entirely true. Kim Il Sung had already eliminated many of his
      opponents in the Korean Workers Party before the war began. The war
      sped up the process of Stalinisation, but did not cause it.

      These are not questions of whether the North Koreans or imperialism
      had the better case. They are questions of military and political
      strategy from the point of view of the Korean workers and peasants.

      The military invasion from the North substantially damaged the
      interests of the Korean masses.

      In addition, who began the military conflict is a question of
      normative history, political judgement and analysis. It doesn't
      educate anyone in the new generation to try to perpetuate a leftist
      conspiracy theory that the South started the war. Mystification of
      that sort doesn't educate anyone in socialism.

      The second issue that has emerged is the current class character of
      the North Korean state. What got me going on this question was the
      jarring note struck in my mind by Iggy Kim's rather forced phrase
      about defending the so-called North Korean deformed workers state.

      I hadn't seen the old, but accurate and important Trotskyist
      formulation, deformed workers state, used in DSP-speak for many a long
      year. Columbo forensic detective that I am, I set out to try to
      understand what this reflected.

      Maybe North Korea is the only deformed workers state left in the
      world. Possibly, in Iggy Kim's view, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba are
      undeformed workers states, but I'll leave that question aside for the

      This odd note led me to seriously consider my own view of the North
      Korean regime. For me, for it to be a deformed workers state it would
      need to have preserved some of the gains of the socialist revolution,
      and I couldn't think of any significant gains that had been preserved
      in North Korea.

      All observers agree that industry has collapsed, that the regime is a
      military tyranny and that it's doubtful that the Korean Workers Party
      still exists in any meaningful sense. All observers who go there who
      aren't Stalinists describe a collapsing economy, an extremely
      authoritarian social atmosphere, the omnipresence of the army and the
      mad, weird, all-pervasive cult of the leader.

      That kind of social set-up, in my view, can't reasonably be called a
      workers' state, deformed or otherwise. The only analogy that I could
      think of was the collectivist empire of the Incas, run by the imperial
      family, a kind of "oriental despotism", to use Kurt Wittfogel's term.

      North Korea certainly isn't any sort of workers state, and there's no
      evidence that it's a capitalist state, either.

      A hereditary monarchy and a relapse into feudalism (of the Inca sort)
      seems to me the only description that makes any sense.

      For some years Humphrey McQueen has been describing North Korea as a
      hereditary monarchy, although I haven't heard him develop any view
      about the class character of this hereditary monarchy, so I'm not
      alone in at least one part of my view: that North Korea is an
      hereditary monarchy.

      Finally, Chris Kerris chides me for introducing the question of
      Stalinism, and there's a relative rush of others to support that view:
      the Stalinist on Indymedia who attacked me (whose attack has just been
      posted on the Green Left list by Nobby Tobby), Alan Bradley, the
      serial slanderer Michael Berrell, and now the rather pontifical Dave

      At least Chris Kerris still appears to adhere to one aspect of the
      deformed workers state notion, when he asserts that there's no
      evidence that the DSP has relinquished the concept of political
      revolution against Stalinist regimes.

      On the hand Bradley, to use his own phrase, takes off his DSP hat and
      says he's not too keen on political revolution these days because it's
      dangerous and may lead to capitalist restoration.

      The eclectic and opinionated Berrell, the sweeping political pundit
      from nowhere much, comes out in full Stalinist plumage, asserting that
      he supported the Berlin Wall and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,
      and repeats the slander that I'm like Hitchens because I supported the
      overthrow of the Stalinist regimes in eastern Europe. Well, I'm not
      Robinson Crusoe on that point. So, to their credit did the DSP and the
      ISO, and even Berrell's SEP/WSWS.

      Support for working-class revolts against Stalinism is a deep-rooted
      part of my view of the world. Revolutionary socialists supported the
      uprising of the East German workers against Stalinism in 1953, they
      supported the Hungarian uprising in 1956, and that was a decisive
      moment in my own political life because it shook me free of Stalinism.

      Revolutionary socialists also supported the uprising of the
      Czechoslovak workers in 1968, and opposed the suppression of that
      uprising by the USSR's tanks and troops. They supported the uprising
      of Solidarnosc in Poland in 1981, they supported the Chinese students
      against the tanks in Tien an Mien Square.

      Supporting the uprisings of the oppressed masses in Stalinist
      countries against their bureaucratic oppressors is integral to the
      whole world outlook of revolutionary socialists, in my view.

      The rather incoherent Riley takes matters even further. In his world
      view, not all the Communist parties were Stalinist in the 1930s and
      there are no Stalinists in Australia now. He says poor old Peter
      Symon's party isn't Stalinist. Like hell it's not. From time to time
      the Peter Symon Communist Party of Australia still publishes paeans of
      praise for Stalin and defence of the Moscow Trials.

      It's hard to imagine what Stalinism would be if defence of the Moscow
      Trials isn't Stalinism.

      This hullaballoo about Stalinism raises very serious questions facing
      revolutionary socialists. In any meaningful sense, the feudal monarchy
      in North Korea is also a thoroughly Stalinist political set-up, and
      the disappearance there of any significant vestige of socialism, and
      particularly of workers' power, clearly brings that regime into
      conflict with the masses of North Korea.

      It's a bankrupt Stalinist regime, which in due course will go the same
      way as Albania and Rumania. The fact that it uses (increasingly
      infrequently) rhetoric about socialism is beside the point.

      Was Pol Pot's Kampuchea a deformed workers state? Was Mengistu's
      Dergue regime in Ethiopia a deformed workers state? Were the 10 or so
      states in sub-Sarharan Africa, the elites of which proclaimed
      Marxism-Leninism and one-party states in the 1970s, also deformed
      workers states? Even more importantly, should socialists side with the
      corrupt dictatorships of those regimes against their own masses?

      In my view, socialists should stand beside the masses in these places
      in the democratic demands that they tend to raise.

      Two good current examples of this kind of problem are Zimbabwe and
      Hong Kong. This particular revolutionary socialist sides unequivocally
      with democratic opposition in Zimbabwe (including the ISO group there)
      against Mugabe. Similarly in Hong Kong, I support unreservedly the
      democratic opposition (including socialists such as the hairy bloke
      with the Che T-shirt who just won a parliamentary seat), in their
      struggle for democratic demands such as full extension of the
      franchise. I take this position even if the people who may be elected
      under an extended franchise are not socialists.

      Obviously, working out the bounds of questions such as these is not
      easy, or simple, for revolutionary socialists in current conditions,
      but it's necessary to support the self-activity of the masses in such
      current circumstance.

      Finally, I emphatically oppose supporting a group such as Sendero
      Luminoso in Peru taking exclusive power, on the same grounds that Hugo
      Blanco does: they would exterminate all political opposition. I also
      oppose supporting exclusive power for Jose Maria Sison and the
      Communist Party of the Philippines, because there is strong evidence
      that they also would exterminate all their opponents.

      I would describe Sendero Luminoso and Sison's group as thoroughgoing

      If Dave Riley is in any serious doubt as to whether Stalinism still
      exists, he should consult Sonny Melencio and Reihana Mohideen, who
      have just published on the web evidence that the Sison group had an
      apparent assassination list with Sonny's name on it. In recent weeks
      the Sison group has assassinated several supporters of Sonny's

      If Riley has doubts about the continuing existence of Stalinism he
      needn't look further than the Philippines, which aren't all that far
      from Australia.
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