Workers Vanguard No. 879

27 October 2006


Bush, Democrats Whip Up Nuclear Hysteria

Defend North Korea! Down With UN Sanctions!

“The U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK to conduct a nuclear a corresponding measure for defense.” North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued this stark statement four days before the country conducted its first nuclear test. Less than a week after the test, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted on October 14 to impose sanctions against North Korea—an act of war, as the North Koreans rightly noted.

Fifty-six years ago, the forces of what became the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea entered the south of Korea with the purpose of liberating that area from the collaborators with the Japanese imperialist occupation—the former colonial masters of Korea—who remained in place under the auspices of the post-World War II U.S. military forces in the region. In the process of attempting to reunify Korea, the Northern-based army unleashed a powerful social revolution in the South and came within a hairsbreadth of driving the U.S. imperialist army off the peninsula. In just over two years, the U.S. military, which led the assault on Korea under the aegis of the UN, sustained nearly as many losses as it did during the ten-plus years of the Vietnam War. In the process, the U.S. slaughtered over three million Koreans, incinerating and suffocating many villagers with oceans of napalm.

As Trotskyists, we stand for the unconditional military defense of the North Korean deformed workers state, and thus welcome the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea as a necessary deterrent against imperialism. Our defense of North Korea—ruled through primogeniture by Kim Il Sung’s son, Kim Jong Il, at the head of the Stalinist bureaucracy—is a defense of the overturn and expropriation of capitalism. To abandon defense of the workers states is to abandon the cause of international proletarian revolution. That cause and, thus, the unconditional military defense of the remaining deformed workers states of China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea, form the cornerstone of the International Communist League’s program.

The Korean War has never ended, not just technically because the U.S. refused to sign a peace treaty, but in reality. Far from being the product of the steroid-enhanced “axis of evil” delusions of the Bush administration, U.S. imperialism’s sole policy toward the Stalinist-led North has always been to destroy it on the road to overturning the 1949 Chinese Revolution. Today, it is the Democrats who posture as “tough” on North Korea, attacking the Bush administration from the right.

The Korean War was initiated by Democratic president Harry Truman and continued by his Republican successor, Dwight Eisenhower, while General Douglas MacArthur promoted the notion of nuking China. There is little question that the possibility of a nuclear riposte by the USSR gave pause to the Dr. Strangeloves, while the entry of a million-plus “volunteers” of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, after China itself was militarily threatened by the U.S., allowed North Korea to survive. To this day, the U.S. maintains nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea, including a naval base and three air bases. 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!

The day before the statement was issued by North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill warned, “We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea. [It] can have a future, or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both.” The anti-nuclear pretensions of the U.S. are the purest hogwash designed to erase the memory of the incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. It is the U.S., in its 2002 “Nuclear Posture Review,” that has targeted China and North Korea, among several other countries, for a potential nuclear first strike. Meanwhile, on several occasions South Korea has covertly sought to develop the technology necessary for nuclear weaponry. Japan, which has more than 40 tons of plutonium, is a screw’s turn away from developing nuclear weapons. And then, of course, there is Israel’s large nuclear arsenal.

Nevertheless, North Korea’s nuclear test has been characterized by most bourgeois commentators as the product of a bizarre, deranged and rogue dictatorship. There is much peculiar about the dynastic, mythologized bureaucratic rule of the Kims in general and specifically about the proclivities of “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong Il. But North Korea’s decision to conduct the test is not only rational; it is an essential first step to developing nuclear weaponry to deter imperialist attack. It is no accident that North Korea’s only partial respite from the unrelenting pressure of U.S. imperialism was during the period when it was economically and militarily in alliance with the USSR. Indeed, had it not been for the Soviet nuclear arsenal, it is likely that much of China, Vietnam as well as North Korea would be irradiated rubble.

Down With Imperialist Nuclear Blackmail!

In the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian border conflict, during which the USSR refused to support China in the service of the Soviet quest for “peaceful coexistence” with U.S. imperialism, we hailed China’s first nuclear explosion in October 1964 as an elementary act of defense in the context of the Soviet betrayal. As we then stated: “The main point is that every increase in the ability of the Chinese to hold the U.S. at bay militarily is an increase in time to prepare the proletarian revolution—above all in America—the only final safeguard to all gains thus far made by the international working class” (Spartacist No. 3, January-February 1965).

For revolutionary Marxists, it is axiomatic that for socialist revolution to survive, it must in relatively short order achieve world dominance by the proletarian seizure of power in the most advanced strongholds of imperialism. The bureaucratic castes that rule in the deformed workers states have no such perspective. They derive their relative economic privilege and social power from their parasitic relationship to the workers states and, thus, fear most of all a reawakening of any proletarian militancy that would threaten to replace their dominance. Thus, while occasionally forced to defend the revolutions over which they hold political sway from imperialism’s attacks, these Stalinist bureaucrats seek to maintain a futile policy of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism as part of their nationalist dogma of building “socialism in one country” (or even half a country in North Korea).

During the U.S.-mobilized Cold War that followed World War II and targeted the Soviet Union for nuclear attack, the USSR offered important military and material support to the newly formed Chinese deformed workers state, similarly targeted during the Korean War. With the easing of the Cold War, the Stalinists in the Soviet Union were willing to trade off that support for rapprochement with the U.S. imperialists. Similarly during the Vietnam War, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seized the “opportunity” to throw in its lot with the American imperialists in opposition to a fictional Soviet “social imperialism.” As the U.S. sought the overturn of the military, industrial powerhouse that resulted from the 1917 October Revolution, the CCP’s efforts were much appreciated by the U.S. and assisted in preparing the way for counterrevolution in the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92, a world historic defeat for the international proletariat.

In the case of North Korea, China criminally voted for sanctions against North Korea in the UN Security Council, having earlier condemned the nuclear test in an October 8 joint statement with the newly elected right-wing Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe. And all along, Beijing has been working to pressure the Pyongyang regime into the “six party talks” whose aim is to disarm North Korea. For its part, North Korea is pushing for “bilateral” talks with the U.S.

What has been the net result of China’s shameless toadying? To be sure, the imperialists now accord China the stature of a major, if aberrant, operator on the world stage. And there is the imbibing of heady beverages at sumptuous banquets accompanied, no doubt, by numerous opportunities to enrich oneself for favors accorded to the imperialist investors. But since the overturn of the degenerated workers state in the USSR, the U.S. has redeployed to Asia forces it once used to contain the Soviet “threat,” and these forces endanger not just Pyongyang but centrally Beijing. At the same time, the U.S. has been strengthening its ties with Japanese imperialism, targeting China under the guise of “defending” capitalist Taiwan. For its part, Japan has sought to prettify its vicious occupation of China and Korea during the first half of the 20th century until its defeat in World War II, while currently using North Korea as an excuse to overturn the restrictions on its military contained in the postwar constitution.

Beijing’s craven appeasement of the imperialist drive against North Korea is particularly dangerous to China’s own defense. Capitalist counterrevolution in China would be a devastating defeat for the international proletariat, turning the world’s most populous country into one giant sweatshop directly for the imperialist exploiters, or perhaps some other eventuality not now envisioned. What is urgently posed is the struggle for proletarian political revolution in China to oust the ruling Stalinist bureaucrats in Beijing and replace them with a regime based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism. A workers political revolution in China would be a spur for a similar uprising in North Korea while igniting socialist revolution in South Korea, providing the basis for the revolutionary reunification of the Korean peninsula. It would arouse the powerful Japanese proletariat in opposition to its capitalist rulers and set the stage for a worldwide proletarian offensive against imperialist rule.

For International Socialist Revolution!

In the U.S., the Democrats have seized upon North Korea’s nuclear test to portray themselves as the hard wiseguys who know how to defend America against the real rogue states like North Korea and Iran. Former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn summed up the lessons of the North’s nuclear test as follows: “What it tells you is that we started at the wrong end of the ‘axis of evil.’ We started with the least dangerous of the countries, Iraq, and we knew it at the time. And now we have to deal with that” (New York Times, 10 October). And Senate minority leader Harry Reid put it even more sharply: “Distracted by Iraq and paralyzed by internal divisions, the Bush administration has for several years been in a state of denial about the growing challenge of North Korea, and has too often tried to downplay the issue or change the subject.... The first step toward ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program must be to ensure that this alleged first nuclear test is also the last” (Agence France-Presse, 9 October).

One thing is clear: if the Democrats regain control of the Senate and/or House in the upcoming elections, it will be in large part because voters are dismayed by the seemingly endless occupation of Iraq. But the Democrats are, in fact, imperialist warriors par excellence. Virtually every major U.S. imperialist action in the 20th century was carried out by Democratic presidents—because U.S. rulers are aware that the Democrats’ posture as “friends” of working people makes them better able to sell U.S. imperialism’s wars to the population. Indeed, Bill Clinton was preparing to bomb North Korea into submission in 1994 had he not obtained a promise from Kim Jong Il to cease attempts to reprocess plutonium from fuel rods. What the Democrats are offering is a superior “war on terror,” one that would have as today’s prime target North Korea as an opening shot against the 1949 Chinese Revolution.

The predatory aspirations of the U.S. are so apparent that even some of those sham socialists who eschew the defense of the deformed workers states under the preposterous fiction that these are capitalist societies feign sympathy for North Korea’s plight. Thus, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) described the current conflict as a “Bush-initiated U.S. confrontation” and “the latest example of more than a half-century of military pressure from the U.S. and its client state, South Korea, beginning with a war between the Koreas from 1950 to 1953” (Socialist Worker online, 13 October).

It takes no small amount of chutzpah for the ISO, whose progenitors were baptized during the Korean War when they capitulated to British and U.S. imperialism and refused to defend the Korean social revolution from imperialist attack, to offer such concern. Now they sigh that no sane person wants a war in Korea as they promote a “real disarmament” that starts “with the driving force of militarization of foreign policy in Asia—the United States government.”

Here the ISO betrays their abjectly reformist faith that a good and harmless imperialism can be created. A vote for this or that version of imperialist policy will have zero impact on the aspirations of America’s rulers, who seek nothing less than world domination. An end to war and devastation requires the overthrow by the proletariat of the imperialist world order, and that task cannot be accomplished without the forging of a revolutionary Trotskyist international party committed to that end. It is to that purpose that the ICL devotes all its resources.