Defend North Korea’s Right to Nuclear Weapons!

U.S. Hands Off North Korea!

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No 809, 12 September 2003.

In recent weeks, the U.S. imperialists have been escalating their threats and provocations against North Korea. The “multilateral” talks recently held in Beijing are nothing but a diplomatic front for disarming North Korea. North Korean vessels have already been interdicted and sequestered on the high seas over the past year by Japan, Spain, Australia and Taiwan. Later this month, the U.S. will lead joint naval exercises in the Coral Sea as the first coordinated action of a “Proliferation Security Initiative” that threatens a full-scale naval blockade of North Korea, which would be an act of war.

The Spartacist League/U.S., section of the International Communist League, stands for the unconditional military defense of North Korea against imperialism, including its right to develop and possess nuclear weapons—the more the better.

Just over 50 years ago, in July of 1953, the U.S. signed the truce with North Korea that froze the division of the peninsula into two societies that differed in fundamental ways. After a particularly vicious, 40-year-long Japanese colonial occupation fronted by Korean collaborators, gigantic social upheavals swept the Korean peninsula following World War II. In the North, where the uprisings were abetted by the presence of the armed forces of the USSR, industry was expropriated and the land-owning rentiers who dominated the peasantry were smashed as a class. In the absence of the working class contending for power under the leadership of a revolutionary Trotskyist party, the insurgent masses came to be led by the peasant-guerrilla forces of Kim Il Sung, who had fought against the Japanese during the war and contributed tens of thousands of fighters to aid Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Chinese Revolution that triumphed in 1949.

In 1950, the U.S., which already had troops in the south of the peninsula, launched a war under the aegis of the United Nations against Kim Il Sung’s Northern army after it had entered the South in conjunction with the social uprisings there, intending to reunify the country. During the 1950-53 Korean War, the American imperialists slaughtered some three and a half million Koreans, charring the country with oceans of napalm and reducing the peninsula to rubble.

After the armistice—a peace treaty has never been signed—the South was ruled by the former capitalist collaborators with the Japanese occupation under a series of outright dictatorships that extended into the 1980s. These regimes were propped up by tens of thousands of U.S. troops, a presence that remains in place to this day. These troops have been repeatedly used to back up the suppression of working-class militancy and social uprisings in the South and are a signal of U.S. imperialism’s intent to reverse its defeat in the North. All U.S. troops and bases out of South Korea!

From 1950 until now, North Korea has faced unremitting hostile intentions and actions by U.S. imperialism, in part because its very existence is a reminder of Washington’s military failure in its drive to “roll back communism,” i.e., to achieve the historic “mission” of overthrowing the gains of the October Revolution in Russia. Those gains, although deformed by bureaucratic caste rule, had spread throughout Soviet-occupied areas of East Europe after World War II; and in Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam and Cuba, peasant-based social revolutions led to the creation of deformed workers states. The Korean peninsula has always been seen by the U.S. as a highway on which to launch a military attack to overthrow the 1949 Chinese Revolution, as witnessed by General Douglas MacArthur’s oft-expressed wish during the Korean War to attack Chinese Manchuria.

Our unconditional military defense of the North Korean deformed workers state, ruled through primogeniture by Kim Il Sung’s son, Kim Jong Il, at the head of the Stalinist bureaucracy, is, at base, a defense of the overturn and expropriation of capitalism. As part of the defense of these historic gains, we fight for workers political revolution to overthrow the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies whose opposition to international socialist revolution and futile attempts to appease imperialism undermine the gains of these revolutions. To abandon defense of the workers states is to abandon the historic purpose of proletarian revolution. That purpose and, thus, the unconditional military defense of the remaining deformed workers states in China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea form the cornerstone of the program of the ICL, as they must for any who stand for world socialist revolution.

It is to be noted that several pseudo-socialist organizations, in this country most prominently the International Socialist Organization, base their origins on a refusal to defend North Korea and China against U.S. imperialism during the Korean War—i.e., these groups are, in their origins, based on a betrayal of proletarian revolution. In contrast, our forebears of the then-Trotskyist U.S. Socialist Workers Party forthrightly called for the defense of North Korea and China against their “own” ruling class during the Korean War.

Bush and Democrats on Warpath

To justify its threats against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the U.S. has invoked Pyongyang’s stated intent to develop, produce and, most recently, test nuclear weapons. This justification is a smoke screen. From the git-go, North Korea was included by Bush as a main component of the “axis of evil” supposedly threatening the planet, while North Korea, China and Cuba are among the seven countries targeted for a potential nuclear first strike as outlined in the Pentagon’s “Nuclear Posture Review.”

The Bush administration’s drive against North Korea is a continuation of the Cold War policies instituted by Democratic president Harry Truman, whose administration considered nuking the North during the Korean War. That consideration was set aside in recognition of the capacity of the Soviet Union to respond in kind. With the destruction of the USSR, Bush is quite capable of revisiting that decision. It is notable that almost every current aspiring Democratic presidential candidate has accused Bush of neglecting the “North Korea threat.” In February, liberal California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a darling of reformist antiwar leftists like Workers World Party, demanded of Secretary of State Colin Powell: “What will it take for the Administration to focus as much attention on North Korea, which has demonstrated its nuclear and missile capabilities, as it is focusing on Iraq?”

In fact, Bush has been no slacker. As frankly stated by John R. Bolton, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, in testimony before Congress this summer, the goal of the Bush administration’s naval “interdiction” and “seizure” provocations is to develop “new means to disrupt the proliferation trade at sea, in the air, and on land” (New York Times, 18 August). More concisely, the destruction of the North Korean deformed workers state is the goal of these efforts.

Bolton is a super hawk, provided by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a neoconservative think tank, to justify America über alles policies. Currently this ghoul is on a short leash as the Bush administration’s most recent pretense is to be open to negotiations with Pyongyang, e.g., at the Beijing talks. The world-conquering aspirations of U.S. imperialism are in part currently mitigated by the fact that its ground forces are bogged down in the bloody occupation of Iraq.

The New York Times (3 September) reported an interview with Bolton last year in which he was asked to account for seeming U.S. policy inconsistencies in dealing with North Korea. Bolton “strode over to a bookshelf, pulled off a volume and slapped it on the table. It was called ‘The End of North Korea,’ by an American Enterprise Institute colleague. ‘That,’ he said, ‘is our policy’.” The bible of U.S. imperialism as translated by the AEI intellectual lackeys has several books—The End of the USSR, The End of China, The End of Cuba, etc.

In pursuit of their own imperialist aims, Korea’s former Japanese overlords have also been on an offensive to bring North Korea to its knees and to pursue their regional military ambitions. Seizing on North Korean missile and nuclear capacity as a pretext, Tokyo has allocated $1.2 billion to begin building a “missile defense system” that would threaten both the North Korean and Chinese deformed workers states, while a number of leading government figures openly talk of acquiring a nuclear arsenal. The Japanese coast guard is joining the U.S. and Australia in the upcoming “Pacific Protector” exercises in the Coral Sea. Days before the Beijing talks, Japanese authorities at the port of Niigata-Nishi seized the North Korean ferry Mangyongbong-92, which ethnic Koreans heavily rely on. In Japan, the anti-North Korea offensive has taken the form of a chauvinist frenzy against ethnic Koreans and their schools and organizations, including over 300 bombing and other attacks and threats. This chauvinist hysteria was particularly whipped up following recent revelations of bizarre and indefensible abductions of Japanese nationals by the Pyongyang regime in the 1970s and ’80s. As our comrades of the Spartacist Group Japan have repeatedly stressed, defense of North Korea and of the Korean minority in Japan go hand in hand.

Beijing Stalinists’ Treachery

North Korea’s current plight—malnutrition, the absence of access to critical resources and the decay of its industry—is the direct product of the 1991-92 capitalist counterrevolution, led by Boris Yeltsin and Bush Sr., in the USSR, which had been the North’s main economic partner. For a quarter century after the Korean War, the North prospered in contrast to the imperialist-dominated South. In fact, as the London Guardian (11 March) reports, “During the 1970s North Korea was the 20th-richest country in the world.”

The North Korean bureaucracy’s current policy—to use the threat of nuclear armaments to demand U.S. assistance and a peace treaty “guaranteeing” that the American imperialists foreswear any hostile intervention—is simply militant-sounding begging. If codified, such a deal would be substantially less valuable than a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge. Such a deal would entail the return of international “nuclear inspectors” to North Korea, whose only purpose would be to ensure that the country is incapable of defending itself against an American attack—just as the UN inspectors did in Iraq.

As we wrote in “Defend North Korea!” (WV No. 784, 12 July 2002), “The international working class must defend the right of the deformed workers states to have nuclear weapons to defend themselves against the imperialist war criminals. Had the Soviet Union not possessed a nuclear arsenal capable of deterring U.S. imperialism, there would have been no Cuban Revolution, no Vietnamese Revolution, and China and Korea would be irradiated rubble.” A big reason that the U.S. felt it could just roll over Iraq was that that small capitalist country did not have any nuclear weapons, which are about the only real measure of sovereignty in today’s world.

The only guarantee for the survival and extension of the gains of social revolution lies in the victory of proletarian revolution in the advanced industrial societies and ultimately on a worldwide scale. It is this perspective that is opposed by the respective nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies that rule the workers states, as this perspective threatens their parasitic caste rule. Thus, these castes seek deals with the imperialists to assure their continued existence; that is, they seek “socialist paradises” within an imperialist heaven.

Witness the People’s Republic of China. Until recently, the ruling caste in Beijing has usually recognized that U.S. imperialism’s bellicosity toward North Korea was a threat to its own continued existence. Nearly a million People’s Liberation Army soldiers played a decisive role in the defeat of the U.S. in the Korean War, which China entered when it correctly perceived that it was itself threatened. But for Mao’s regime—as for all Stalinist bureaucracies—international solidarity was always subordinate to its own narrow nationalist interests. The ruling Stalinist bureaucracies justify such nationalist policies by falsely claiming that they are building “socialism” in their own respective countries.

By the late 1960s, for example, the differences between the Moscow and Beijing bureaucracies had escalated to the point of military clashes along the border. The relative weakness of China had earlier led the Beijing bureaucracy to strike a more militant posture vis-à-vis U.S. imperialism than Moscow. However, by the early 1970s Beijing had struck an alliance with U.S. imperialism in opposition to what it was then casting as its main enemy, the purportedly “social imperialist” USSR.

Over the past 25 years, the Beijing bureaucracy’s conciliation of imperialism has gone hand in hand with the policy of capitalist “market reforms” within China itself. This has led to increasing penetration of China by the overseas Chinese bourgeoisie and foreign imperialists. This development has simultaneously undermined the statified sectors of the economy and increasingly drawn layers of the bureaucracy, in hand with outright capitalist elements on the mainland, into the nexus of imperialist economic obligations.

No small factor in Beijing’s treacherous offer to broker the disarmament of North Korea is the growing trade between mainland China and the South Korean capital. In March, China, which provides North Korea with upwards of half its imported grain and enough fuel oil to provide one-third of its energy needs, cut off fuel oil supplies for three days in response to a North Korean missile test. Beijing’s willingness to betray its North Korean counterparts is a danger to the Chinese deformed workers state itself, which remains the main strategic target of U.S. imperialist ambitions. The Chinese government has itself felt obliged to condemn Washington’s bellicosity toward North Korea.

As Leon Trotsky pointed out in his brilliant analysis of the degeneration of the Bolshevik Revolution, The Revolution Betrayed (1937), the Stalinist caste is the main internal obstacle to defending the gains of social revolution, necessitating the overthrow of the bureaucracy by proletarian political revolution. In China, workers in the hundreds of thousands, as well as masses of impoverished peasants thrown off the land by the dismantling of collectivized agriculture, have protested the erosion of the gains of the 1949 Revolution. The regime’s policies are simultaneously creating an epicenter for capitalist restoration and preparing the ground for an enormous explosion of proletarian outrage. The urgent task facing the Chinese working class is to forge a Leninist-Trotskyist party to lead such social explosions toward a proletarian political revolution.

Successful political revolution in China—establishing the rule of workers and peasants soviets committed to defending and extending the collectivized economy—would offer the North Korean workers a way out of imperialist encirclement and isolation. Conversely, a counterrevolutionary overturn in North Korea would not only mean even greater poverty and immiseration in that country but would be a dagger aimed at the gains of the Chinese Revolution, putting the forces of capitalist restoration on the border of China’s heartland of nationalized industry.

The prospect for socialism on the Korean peninsula lies with linking the North Korean proletariat with the working class of the South. These workers are currently involved in widespread class battles against the economic depredations stemming from the 1997-98 financial crisis, which are all the more intensified since, with the destruction of the USSR, South Korea has lost its favored status as a U.S. asset on the front lines of the Cold War. When South Korea’s rulers pleaded for assistance from Washington and Tokyo in 1997, they had the door slammed in their faces. Indeed, the door to the imperialists’ elite club was slammed shut by the 1890s and not since reopened.

The Pyongyang bureaucracy has long promoted “peaceful” reunification with the capitalist South, seeking to unite with nationalist forces in South Korea unhappy with American overlordship. For their part, sections of the chaebol conglomerates that dominate South Korean capitalism are looking to reunify Korea on the basis of capitalist wage slavery, as exemplified by Seoul’s “Sunshine Policy” toward the North. Korean nationalism, promoted by both the North Korean bureaucracy and the South Korean left, serves to tie the powerful South Korean proletariat to its own ruling class. We fight for the revolutionary reunification of Korea, through socialist revolution in the South and workers political revolution in the North.

The defense of social revolutions in China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba requires the forging of an international Trotskyist party that recognizes and intransigently fights to defend and extend the existing gains against imperialist or domestically-inspired capitalist counterrevolution. This defense is inseparable from the fight for socialist revolutions in the advanced industrial societies, importantly for Asia in the industrial powerhouse of Japan, and in the U.S. belly of the imperialist beast. The ICL directs all its resources and efforts to forging the international proletarian vanguard party needed to carry out this task.

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