The Juche idea, the central concept of Korean socialist ideology, was formulated by Kim Il Sung, the historic leader of the Korean Revolution. Kim presented its initial formulation at the Meeting of Leading Personnel of the Young Communist League and the Anti-Imperialist Youth League, held in Kalun in June 1930. Kim developed the idea in the context of the practical experience of struggle during the next fifty years. The formulation of the idea was updated in a manifesto written by Kim Jong Il, “On the Juche Idea: Treatise Sent to the National Seminar on the Juche Idea Held to Mark the 70th Birthday of the Great Leader Comrade Kim Il Sung, March 31, 1982.” In my last commentary, I reviewed this historic document.
In “On the Juche idea,” Kim maintains that central to the revolutionary movement is the consciousness of the people. Above all, the peoples must have “consciousness of independence,” that is, awareness of the human capacity to transform nature and to overcome social oppression, for the masses of people to be the masters of their destiny on the basis of their own initiative. Revolutionary movements begin with the awaking of the people to the idea that they possess independence as a condition of inherent to their humanity.
Once a people’s revolution takes political power, Kim maintains, it must establish and maintain independence in ideology, politics, economy, and defense.
(1) Ideological independence
The party and the people must know the country well, so that they can carry out a revolution suited to the specific conditions of the country. The policy of the party guides the theory and practice of the revolution, and the people must understand the party’s policies and guidelines. Successfully carrying out the revolution and socialist construction, in accordance with the specific conditions of the country, is the basic mission of the party and the people. (Kim 1982, Pp. 35-37)
The nation must have a strong sense of national dignity and revolutionary pride. National pride is especially important for small countries. “The peoples of small countries who have long suffered oppression by foreign forces need so much the more the sense of national dignity and revolutionary pride. In the small countries where nihilism and flunkeyism towards big powers are nationally deep-rooted as a result of the imperialist policy of assimilating colonies and obliterating their national culture, they must give special attention to the struggle to increase the sense of national dignity and revolutionary pride.” (Pp. 37-38)
Establishing ideological independence requires the development of national culture. “We must build a culture that is national in form and revolutionary and socialistic in content.” The revolution must prevent imperialist cultural penetration and reject the tendency to return to the past. It must develop the fine traditions in the heritage of national culture and adopt progressive elements of foreign culture. (P. 38)
There can be no servility to the big powers. The worshipping of big powers and developed countries “means looking down upon one’s own country and nation and despising them.” There can be no flunkeyism toward U.S. imperialism, as is evident in South Korea. Opposition to worshipping the USA among the South Korean people is necessary for the independent unification of the country. (Pp. 39-40)
(2) Independence in Politics
There can be no independence without independence in politics, which means upholding national independence and sovereignty of the people, defending their interests. “The revolution is a struggle to win political independence before anything else.” (Pp. 40-41)
A people’s government is necessary for political independence. The working class and the masses of the people must become masters of state power. They must hold state power in their hands. (P. 41)
The revolution must build internal political forces, including the party and the worker-peasant alliance, with the working class as the core. The revolution must forge the unity and solidarity of the entire population, rallying the people around the party and the leader. It must unify the party and the people into a single political force. (P. 41)
The revolution must formulate policies and implement them. It cannot not yield to foreign pressure or tolerate foreign intervention. It must “exercise complete sovereignty and equality in foreign relations.” (P. 42)
The Korean Revolution embraces the principle of the equal sovereignty of nations.
“Sovereignty is an inviolable right of all parties, all countries, and all peoples. There are big and small parties, big and small countries, and economically developed and underdeveloped peoples in the world, but all parties, all countries and peoples are equal and independent. No one should encroach upon the sovereignty of others and no one should tolerate encroachment on one’s sovereignty.” (P. 42)
International cooperation cannot be imposed by the powerful nations. There cannot be true internationalism without the independence and equality of nations. “As a matter of principle, internationalist solidarity must be based on freedom of choice and equality.” (Pp. 42-43)
The Worker’s Party of Korea advocates the development of relations with socialist countries and the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, on a basis of anti-imperialism, mutual respect and noninterference.
“Our Party is adhering to the policy of strengthening the solidarity of the socialist countries and the international communist movement on the basis of opposing imperialism and giving support to national liberation movements in colonies and the international working-class movement, continuing advance to socialism and communism, and observing the principles of noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit. Our country is also adhering to the policy of joining forces with non-aligned countries, the newly-emerging nations, on the principles of respect for territorial integrity and state power, nonaggression, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and of cooperating with all countries which are friendly toward us.” (P. 43)
(3) Self-Sufficiency in the Economy
Economic self-sufficiency is necessary for the consolidation of national independence. The nation must “build an independent national economy,” which means building a national economy that is “free from dependence” and that “stands on its own feet,” an economy that “serves one’s own people and develops on the strength of the resources of one’s own country and by the efforts of one’s own people.” It is a question of implementation of the “the principle of self-reliance in economic construction,” relying on one’s own strength, and relying upon one’s own people and resources and technology. (Pp. 43-45)
In the development of an independent national economy, preference should be given to heavy industry as the primary pillar of the economy, while at the same time developing light industry and agriculture. Heavy industry guarantees economic and technical independence and accelerates the development of light industry and agriculture. The food needs of the nation should be supplied through its own successful farming. (45-46)
An independent national economy requires technical independence. The technological revolution has established the possibility for the liberation of the working masses from backbreaking labor, and it contributes to economic and defense development. The nation must raise the cultural and technical levels of the working masses, training its own technical personnel. (Pp. 46-47)
Moreover, “it is necessary to establish reliable and independent sources of raw materials and fuel.” The economy must rely on domestic raw materials and fuels from the outset. (P. 47)
An independent national economy “makes it possible to develop the productive forces quickly by utilizing the nation’s natural resources in a rational and integrated way, improve the people’s living standard continuously, strengthen the material and technical foundations of socialism, and increase the nation’s political, economic, and military power.” (P. 44).
Economic self-sufficiency ensures the exercise of sovereignty in international affairs and strengthens the anti-imperialist, independent, and socialist forces. Countries dominated and plundered in the past must build an independent national economy in order to repel the new colonialist policies of imperialists. (P. 44)
An independent national economy develops on the basis of cooperation and mutually beneficial relations with other nations. “Building an independent national economy on the principle of self-reliance does not mean building an economy in isolation. An independent economy is opposed to foreign economic domination and subjugation; but it does not rule out international economic cooperation.” The DPRK is oriented especially to cooperation with socialist and non-aligned countries. (P. 47)
(4) Self-Reliance in Defense
Self-reliance in defense “is a fundamental principle of an independent sovereign state.” Self-reliant defense means defending the nation by one’s own efforts, people, and defense capability. A nation may receive aid from friendly countries, but it cannot depend on others to defend one’s own country. The imperialist countries offer arms as bait, but the newly independent countries ought to develop their own defense industries, manufacturing what arms they can. (Pp. 49-50, 52)
Self-reliant defense is indispensable for independence. “A state without self-reliant armed forces capable of defending the country from the enemies at home and abroad when imperialism exists cannot, in fact, be called a completely independent sovereign state. . . . Self-reliant defence is a military guarantee for a nation’s political independence and economic self-sufficiency.” (P. 49)
Because imperialism is a constant cause of war, the nation must always be fully prepared for a war of defense against an imperialist war of aggression. (P.49)
The armed forces, including soldiers and commanding officers, must be formed by the sons and daughters of the working people, the workers, peasants, and other working people; in order to ensure the unity between the army and the people and between superiors and subordinates, becoming “a truly self-reliant people’s army which safeguards national independence and revolutionary achievements and serves the people.” (P. 50)
In addition to its function in national self-defense, the Army provides a structure for the development of the political and ideological consciousness of the people. “The whole of the army must be turned into a cadre army.” A modernized people’s army “blends its political-ideological superiority with modern technology” to become “a really unconquerable revolutionary army.” (P. 50)
The political-ideological consciousness of the people’s armed forces is the key to its strength.
“The decisive factor for victory in war does not consist in weapons or techniques, but in the high political enthusiasm and revolutionary devotion of the army and the popular masses who are conscious of the justice of their cause. A noble revolutionary spirit to fight for the freedom and liberation of the people, boundless loyalty to the party and the leader . . . . –these are the [components of the] politico-ideological superiority peculiar to a people’s army, a revolutionary army. As the history of revolutionary wars shows, a revolutionary army which is in firm politico-ideological readiness, though armed with inferior weapons, can fight and defeat an enemy equipped with the latest arms. Indeed, politico-ideological superiority is the essential merit of revolutionary armed forces and the source of their invincibility.” (51)
Reflections on North Korea’s nuclear arms
During the November 21 Webinar on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, sponsored by the International Manifesto Group, three of the panelists (Xiangyu Zhong, Kiyul Chung and Sara Flounders) maintained that Korea’s nuclear weapons have deterred an imperialist attack on Korea. Is this a reasonable argument?
In addressing this question, I would like to formulate a distinction between the period of U.S. imperialist maturity, 1945 to 1980, in which a democratic façade was maintained; and the period of U.S. imperialist decadence, 1980 to the present, in which the USA, in economic decline, moves toward the establishment of a U.S. global dictatorship, using weak pretexts for aggressive imperialist actions. In its period of maturity, U.S. imperialism was constrained by its own legitimating ideology; in the period of decadence, it could only be constrained by anti-imperialist resistance and military preparedness.
Even in its period of maturity, U.S. imperialism launched wars against Korea and Vietnam and proxy wars against Guatemala and Cuba, and it supported a coup d’état in Chile. These actions were undertaken against governments that had refused to comply with the established rules of the neocolonial world order; and they were justified with a democratic reframing of the political reality, in accordance with the democratic façade of the period. In its period of decadence, the USA waged a proxy war against Nicaragua, due to its noncompliance with the neocolonialist rules of the international order. The USA has undertaken long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a proxy war in Syria, in pursuit of its imperialist interests in the region. It militarily attacked and brought down the government of Libya, castigated for noncompliance. And the USA has undertaken unconventional wars against Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, targeted for noncompliance.
Taking this history of imperialist aggression into account, and also recognizing that in its period of decadence the USA is no longer constrained by the need to maintain a democratic façade, it is reasonable to conclude that the Korean nuclear arsenal has been a factor in deterring a U.S. invasion of Korea, along with other factors, such as the strength of the Korean and Chinese armed forces as well as the enormous capacity for resistance that the peoples of the targeted nations have demonstrated.
However, having recognized the functionality of the Korean nuclear arsenal as a weapon of anti-imperialist resistance and in preserving a level of peace in the context of a conflictive situation, we also should recognize that it is a strategy that has its defects. It pertains to the military strategy of mutually assured destruction (MAD), which has two fundamental limitations.
First, MAD is enormously costly, to the nations involved and to the world. It is not only a question of developing a capacity for nuclear weapons. It is a question of continually developing and maintaining a capacity to deter the continually developing nuclear arms technology of the imperialist powers.
Secondly, although MAD so far has deterred any military attack, there is no guarantee that it will always do so. Any conflictual situation could get out of control and lead to nuclear confrontation and holocaust. Even an accident could provoke catastrophe. Such is the stuff of literature in the nuclear age.
There is a much better road, that of mutually beneficial trade (MBT) among nations. Nations have little incentive to launch military attacks against nations with which they have a beneficial trading relation. MBT is the foundation for security and peace.
MBT is not an idealist dream. MBT has been advocated by the PDRK, which has developed it in practice among friendly nations; indeed, MTB is integral to the Juche idea. Moreover, MBT is the foundation of Chinese foreign policy and China’s rapidly expanding commercial relations with the majority of nations of the world. In addition, MBT has been the persistent and fundamental proposal of the Non-Aligned Movement since its founding in 1961. Today, the Non-Aligned Movement has 120 member states, representing the great majority of humanity. And in Latin America, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua have been trying to implement MBT in practice, even in the context of the unconventional war that imperialism wages against them.
If we in the Left of the North were to study the revolutions of the peoples of the world, we would see that their strategy was the taking of power in the name of the people, not speaking truth to power. And in the taking of power, they saw as fundamental the education and the raising of the political consciousness of the people. To this end, they formed alternative political parties, redefining their role and converting them into vanguard political parties that educated the people through study and active political participation.
With these lessons in mind, we need to forge an anti-imperialist movement that goes beyond the anti-imperialist impulse, an impulse that in and of itself easily falls into the post-modern cynicism of the age. We need to forge a movement that seeks to take power, through constitutional electoral processes, on the basis of a vision of an alternative world, already envisioned by the peoples of the world, of mutually beneficial trade among nations.
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