On the past few weeks, there has been an intensification of the negotiations between US imperialism and the Kim Jong-un’s North Korean regime about the sanctions applied against the country due to its nuclear programme.
By POI (Internationalist Workers Party) – Russia.
North Korea has been recently visited by the new head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo. Contacts are taking place between the governments of South and North Korea about a possible summit in Seoul, and a few days ago, Kim Jong-un visited China, a country which plays an important part as an intermediary between imperialism and North Korea. There are even plans for a meeting this semester between Trump and Kim Jong-un, who has just announced the end of ballistic missile testing and the closure of the nuclear test area.
It is still early to speak of a substantial alteration in the relations between Kim Jong-un and Trump over the closure of the North Korean nuclear programme. This alteration may take place or it may not. The governments of Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and even advisers of Trump, off the grid, appear cautious towards the statements from the North Korean dictator, indicating, not unfoundedly, that this might not be a strategy change by Kim, but a tactical maneuver before the negotiations. Only Trump announced on Twitter the “good news”, trying to show some efficiency of his foreign policy given the extremely low popular approval of his government.
The matter is still open, but it is important to understand the underlying forces, which rule the situation in North Korea.
Imperialism presses North Korea for it to close its nuclear programme. The outcry from every government in the world, from the UN and the media about each missile tested by North Korea (as if no other country did the same) and against the North Korean nuclear programme as a whole reek of hypocrisy. US imperialism, the only one on the world so far to utilize nuclear warfare against cities (for which it has never been judged) and which sits on 1367 nuclear missiles, tried to present North Korea as a global threat. Hysterically campaigning against its nuclear programme and implementing sanctions against the country through the United Nations, it was solely defending its monopoly over nuclear weaponry, a structural element of the imperialist world order, with the US as its head.
With the goal of pressuring the regime of Kim Jong-Un, Trump, through the UN, applied harsh sanctions against North Korea, forbidding its exports (coal, minerals, seafood, textiles) and also the importing of oil derivatives, equipment, and transport ships. That is a complete blockade. The pressure over North Korea is essentially an attack against those who are not completely under the control of imperialism about the nuclear question (as is the case of Iran, which by the way utilizes North Korean technology).
Thus, independent of our opinion about Kim Jong-un’s regime, we declare ourselves frontally against the imperialist pressure on North Korea and defend its right (and that of every semi-colonial country) to possess nuclear technology, and including the production and possession of atomic weaponry.
Kim Jong-un’s regime
North Korea, formerly a Soviet-occupied zone after World War II, arose after the defeat of the Japanese occupation of the peninsula, as a worker’s state under the control of the Stalinist bureaucracy, just like Eastern Germany. It became an example of the realization of the Stalinist project of peaceful coexistence with imperialism, the so-called “socialism in one country”, though in this case, it is half a country.
With industrial development and natural resource levels far below those of the USSR, the North Korean bureaucratized worker’s state was even more vulnerable towards imperialism, which pressured it towards even greater bureaucratization. Every feature of Stalinism, such as the deification of leaders, the weight of the bureaucracy, a huge military caste, concentration camps and a chronic economic crisis, were expressed with even more force in North Korea, combined with elements of Asiatic despotism. In North Korea, Stalinism reached its apex: it is a dynasty, with monarchic heritage of power through blood.
From the 80’s on, with the opening for Chinese and South Korean investments and the internal enforcing of market rules, the North Korean regime, as every Stalinist regime, restored capitalism in North Korea. And since it was not toppled by the masses, it is leading a gradual colonization of the country (like China and Cuba did) by foreign capitals, reaching the point of creating true enclaves like the Economic Free Zones, which enrich the ultra-privileged local ruling elite and bring the masses to misery or to the regime’s prisons.
For Kim’s regime, the goal of the nuclear programme was to acquire more political maneuvering room in order to get better conditions on a deal with imperialism, considering the colonization. It was also used to place itself as a “defender against imperialism” before the eyes of its people. It is in this space between imperialism and the population that the regime keeps its power.
When Kim now states that “the transition of the nuclear programme (which has accomplished its role) to the construction of a strong socialist economy and the mobilization of material and human resources of the country to qualitatively raise the people’s standard of living”, he means only the deepening of the colonization of the country following the Chinese/Cuban model. That is the master line of Kim’s regime, whichever way this combines with his nuclear programme.
We have very little information about what happens inside North Korea, but the fact that Kim refers to the need of raising the living standards possibly expresses a preoccupation with the severity of the internal economic crisis and the discontent of the masses with their misery. The regime seeks salvation through imperialist investment. It seeks to exploit the misery of the North Korean workers to attract imperialist capitals, which leave China looking for lower wages, like in Vietnam and Bangladesh. The North Korean regime has long been doing this with “workforce exportation” to Russia and China, for example, to be employed in infrastructure projects, with the lowest wages of the entire world.
As such, even though we defend North Korea’s right to possess nuclear weaponry, as well as the same right for any semi-colonial country under pressure and threats from imperialist powers armed to the teeth, especially the US, we in no way support Kim Jong-un’s regime.
China and Russia
In order to pressure North Korea, US imperialism uses as its intermediaries the governments of Russia and, especially, of China, which possess instruments for direct pressure, playing an essential role in the process of colonizing the country.
Both governments show their utterly servile role, aligning with imperialism on condemning the ballistic tests and nuclear programme, voting on the UN Security Council for the US resolutions and sanctions.
Both countries use their influence over North Korea to support the implementation of the imperialist plans, maneuvering to get to a more privileged position with the US, always submissive to the imperialist system.
South Korea arises as a State from the US occupation zone after the Japanese defeat in World War II. It became a privileged US semi-colony, led by military semi-fascist governments, servile to US imperialism, which used terror methods to harshly repress the many uprisings by the working class and the youth. On the South Korean territory, there are many US military bases, including on the capital Seoul. The South Korean contingent on the Vietnam War was the second largest after that of the US (300.000 soldiers).
South Korea went through industrial development based on heavy foreign capital investment, potentiated by the overexploitation of the South Korean people by the military governments and turned towards exporting. The working hours in South Korea are among the longest in the world. As a result, in the country today there are a series of free economic zones and foreign investment zones, with new ones being planned. The South Korean semi-colonial economy is distinguished by having absolutely no resistance against the global economic crisis, going directly along the rhythm of the world economic conjuncture.
The South Korean state has always tended towards authoritarianism, with unbridled corruption, clan functioning and nepotism inseparable features of its fragile current bourgeois democracy. A symbol of this are the so-called chaebol, huge companies controlled through graft by the state apparatus (Samsung, Hyundai, LG, etc).
Opposite to the semi-colonial economy, overexploitation, dictatorship, corruption and chaebol has always been the South Korean working class and the country’s youth, which have never stopped their struggle against exploitation and for democratic measures.
The South Korean political system has always been characterized by its frailty. In its history, the career of its governments usually ended with their toppling (either by the masses or by military coups), murder or prison under accusations of human rights violations, power abuse, or grave corruption cases (such as with the last ex-president). For a fragile semi-colony, completely under the thumb of the USA, the ideology of the “external threat” represented by North Korea plays the role of “cement” for national union.
The unification of Korea – the crux of the question
After World War II, thanks to the efforts of imperialism and Stalinism, there were built on the world, not one but two “Berlin Walls”: the German one in Europe, and the Korean in Asia.
Because of the struggle of the working class, only one of them, the German one, fell down. The toppling of the Stalinist dictatorship in Eastern Germany and the end of the division of the German working class were an enormous democratic victory, inspiring workers, opening their perspectives to the world and uniting the struggles of the European working class. For exactly that reason the German reunification was desired neither by the Eastern German Stalinist regime nor by the US and British imperialism.
For similar reasons, nobody wants the toppling of the Berlin Wall of Korea (except for the Korean people).
For the North, Kim Jong-un’s dictatorship leans on the Wall: the existence of his regime is incompatible with the unification of Korea.
From the South, the South Korean state also leans on the Wall. If German imperialism with its solid bourgeois democracy and in conditions of economic ascent was capable of “absorbing” Eastern Germany and the democratic revolution, the South Korean state, corrupted, divided between clans, with historical tendencies to authoritarianism, is unlikely to be able to do the same, and even less in the context of a global economic crisis. The toppling of the Wall and the unification of the Korean working class would threaten to turn the South Korean state into ruins. The South Korean state also needs Kim Jong-un’s regime, and the South Korean bourgeoisie prefers the path of colonizing North Korea, keeping the Wall.
From the West, Chinese capitalism also leans on the Wall, enjoying the privileged role it plays in the process of colonization of the neighboring country, receiving from imperialism dividends for the pressure it exerts over Kim Jong-un’s regime (on a smaller scale, Russia does the same). Also, the fall of Kim’s regime with the toppling of the Wall would inevitably bring danger to the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party.
From the East, Japanese imperialism also leans on the Wall: it divides the working class on the neighboring country, Japan plays the role of the second metropolis, after the US.
And finally, sitting atop the Wall, there is US imperialism, the lord of South Korea, possessing there de facto satellite governments and an advanced military base. They also need Kim Jong-un’s regime.
All these forces keep Korea divided and as such are accomplices in the national tragedy of the Korean people. Without unifying their countries, the workers of both Koreas are condemned to extremely hard capitalist exploitation and to being hostage to foreign powers. Toppling the dictatorship of Kim, bringing to an end the corrupted pro-US state of South Korea, ending the division of the people and imperialist rule, reconquering the country for themselves – that is the most important task of the Korean working class. The fall of the Korean Wall would mean for Asia the same as the fall of the Berlin Wall meant for Europe.
“Window of opportunity”
Today, on one hand, the capitalist crisis corrodes the bases of Kim’s regime and of the South Korean state, and on the other hand, Trump destabilizes the region, with his policy of pressuring Kim’s regime elevating the general tension.
The failure of Trump’s policy on the Korean Peninsula would contribute to the general political crisis inside the imperialist citadel.
The possible capitulation of Kim Jong-un is likely to leave marks on the North Korean regime, which for decades has spread propaganda about its nuclear programme amongst the population, and in its place would only have the deepening of colonization to offer. This would increase the tension within the regime. Along with the economic crisis, this also creates an objective “window of opportunity” to solve the matter of the Korean national unification. The development in Korea of the subjective factor, an anti-imperialist revolutionary workers party, to fight consequently for the unification of the country, could play a very important role in this struggle