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July 2, 2018
RE: The North Korea-US summit
by Mark Williams, Detroit Workers’ Voice
Despite the ferocious stands previously taken by US imperialist Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, we have entered a period when these two nuclear monsters have put aside some of their accusations and there is noticeably less tension between them. Indeed, sometimes it is enough to make one sick to see how such gruesome elitist characters seem to adore each other so. How long their cooperation will last is an open question though. But it is better than imminent war threats.
The efforts to lessen tensions has come in part from South Korea which has long had this “sunshine policy” with North Korea. It’s pushed the US on this, encouraged the June 12 “peace talks”, even taking the ridiculous step of nominating Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize, playing on his well-known ego, before it was sure the talks were going to be held. A few right-wing parties have also ruled in the South with a more hostile policy toward the North. But the present government of Moon Jae-In upholds the long-time policy of lessening tensions. Thus, the Moon Jae-In’s government pushed Trump against Trump’s own policy.
On June 12, the much heralded summit between imperialist warmonger Trump and North Korean state-capitalist ruler Kim Jong-un took place. Trump, master of the Big Lie, declared that never again would there be a need to worry about peace and harmony between the two countries. Not quite. It was better there was a peaceful summit than a war, of course. But the June 12 declaration was an empty document with Trump and Kim largely making colossal promises and providing no means to fulfill them. Allegedly, this will be hammered out in future meetings. We will see.
Yet it would be foolish to deny that there could be more outright hostility between two dangerous nuclear countries like US imperialism and North Korean state-capitalism. The period of outright brinksmanship was not long ago, of threats and calls for war. Just recall the era of Trump’s “fire and fury” against North Korea, of insults to Kim, and Trump’s famous UN speech where he proclaimed: “The US has great strength and patience. If it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” That was only about a year ago. North Korea replied with indiscriminate firing of long-range unarmed missiles showing its ability to threaten US ally Japan, Guam, and even parts of the US mainland. Months of back-and-forth virulent exchanges occurred. The US stepped up economic sanctions (along with those from China and South Korea) to try to make the North Koreans submit to the will of the American capitalists.
Following the approach toward war there was the time of supposed peace and understanding, a new period that began a few months ago, of letting bygones be bygones and starting anew, one step at a time. Trump moderated his tone. He agreed he was worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize! Meetings of high officials began with lots of public hoopla. There were warm handshakes between CIA director Pompeo and Kim in Pyongyang, and former top North Korean spy Kim Yon Choi with Trump at the White House. Warm and touching displays between these criminals! It all set the scene for June 12, though there were serious attempts to cancel the meeting from both sides.
The June 12 summit was more evidence that Trump is a fraud. It also shows that Kim Jong-un is not prone to sacrificing any of the North Korean nuclear arsenal despite high-flown declarations. Trump is a fraud not only in that he pretends that he has discovered some great new path to peace with the North. It’s also that he continues to hold the sword of the US imperialist military machine over the head of all who might get in the way or disagree. Likewise, it’s more evidence that Kim Jong-un is a liar of the first order when he says he is for “denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula. He will talk and discuss all kinds of peaceful things as long as his basic nuclear force is safe. Trump and Kim hailed this meaningless settlement to the skies, each reinforcing the other’s praise. But perhaps Kim said it best when he uttered the phrase “science fiction” to describe the meeting!
Trump used to tell bombastic stories about crushing North Korea. But now Trump sends this message to the North Korean people with effusive praise for their horrific dictator Kim via the Voice of America: “I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them. He wants to do right by them and we got along really well.” How disgusting can you get! Trump advises the enslaved masses to be in love with their slave master, to understand he “only wants to do right by them.” What a furor would have been raise by Trump had this been said by any Democratic imperialist or liberal! Bolton or any Republican, the other war-firsters in the administration, Fox News, etc. would have lost their minds! How dare you talk to some political leader from the “axis of evil” they would shriek! It’s only bombs they understand! There would be an unrelenting hysterical attack! Indeed, that’s exactly what happened when Obama said he’d be willing to talk to Kim. But Trump does it – it’s just fine!
It’s revealing that those who shriek loudest in this case include many Democrats. They accuse Trump of being soft on North Korea, and specifically of talking to Kim Jong-un with no apparent concessions from the North. In short, they are taking up a position to the right of Trump in order to attack him. This is the height of opportunism so characteristic of the imperialist parties, Republican and Democratic alike. Trump is the “left” peacemaker and the Democrats are the “right” hardliners!
Unable to really go beyond what other Presidents had done, Trump nonetheless declared himself the savior, here to undo the mess created by them. Eventually, however, it dawned on him that North Korea was glued to its nuclear arsenal for the foreseeable future and that this was going to be a long process, many meetings, just getting to know each other, etc., and he dropped the use of the term “maximum power”, a term associated with an all-out attack solution. In fact, after the June 12 summit he said he would stop US-South Korean war games because they were “a provocation” to North Korea! Now that was new! Eyebrows were raised by politicians of both capitalist parties. On the other hand, US economic sanctions against North Korea are continuing. This is a means to squeeze North Korea. The US hopes China and South Korea will continue sanctions as well. Trump has made it clear that if negotiations don’t go the way that serve the interests of US imperialism, then he will go back to the policy of trying to strangle North Korea and threaten war.
That conception of “denuclearization” is not new. In 1994 the Clinton administration hoped this type of “denuclearization” agreement with North Korea would postpone the development of nuclear weapons there. It did for a while despite violations of the agreement by both sides, largely the US. Still that agreement led to several years of shutting down certain nuclear facilities and aimed at stopping the creation of nuclear bombs. The administration also considered an alternative policy of a direct air strike against the nuclear facilities in North Korea. They but backed off, fearing the tens of thousands of casualties that would come from a war should the North attack the South in retaliation, even though the North would be quickly wiped out, they assumed. Republican advocates of the war policy in Congress condemned Clinton’s policy and helped undermine the US agreement. That aside, the next Presidents sought to freeze weapons and over the years have their enemy disarm altogether. This did not prevent North Korea from developing its nuclear arsenal despite similar pledges to denuclearize today. The June 12 summit naturally makes no reference to this.
When North Korea speaks of denuclearization it doesn’t mean getting rid of its nuclear forces promptly. It means that over time it will consider certain limits if it gets a series of concessions providing for its safety from the US and South Korean military. Along with this concept there might be included general plans for its capitalist economic development. Traditionally North Korea has demanded the removal of US troops from South Korea but they have dropped that at present. Trump has voiced the possibility of removing them, but so far this has not been made part of any concrete peace plan. North Korea’s rulers have spent decades building up their nuclear arsenal. They pretended to be for peace during all this time. Kim lords over a massive military of one million bled from the toil of 21 million impoverished workers and peasants. They drive their workers to the ground to accomplish this feat. No wonder Trump loves this man! Although the incomes are much higher, the same pattern exists in the US, the imperialist world aggressor!
A couple things are clear from all this. North Korea’s nuclear power remains a burden on its own people and hovers over all the masses it can reach. US imperialism as always remains the most dangerous and vicious nuclear power in the world. Thus, if there is any effort to disarm North Korea in any serious way at present, it will not be carried out in a peaceful way. There will be sanctions, starvations, and the threat of military means remains.
US imperialism will continue to build up its gargantuan force of military might. Trump has announced he is building an entire new branch of the overblown military, the “Space Force”! The US still has 28,000 soldiers in South Korea and is ready to strike at will. The smaller dictator, Kim Jong-un will, as negotiations drag on, has more time to quietly beef up his nuclear arsenal. At least that is the pattern of the past. The swagger from Kim when he sees his missiles fly over Japan or Guam is not about protecting socialism, but endangering his own people and other ordinary people in Asia and elsewhere. What nerve to call June 12 a “peace talk”!
No one should forget that this is a meeting of two social systems of the same basic type. Both are fundamentally opposed to the interests of the working people. Both are capitalist and share the fundamental traits of that system, but have evolved in different ways. The US seized the South with its military occupation after World War II, then tried and failed to take the whole country in the Korean War. It continued to try to undermine the North in every possible way including sanctions and military threats, and by stationing tens of thousands of its own troops in the South and beefing up the South Korean military. That was a bit of its activity as it carried out wars across the world, toppled popular regimes or any regime it disagreed with, grew unheard of military budgets with giant amounts of nukes, and so on. Feeding the giant military budget required an assault on social programs that served the masses. This is a bit of the history of the US imperialist system.
It is just as important to consider that present day North Korea has nothing at all to do with the well-being of the masses, with real communism based on the theory of Marxism-Leninism. From 1910-1945 the Korean people suffered under the colonial rule of Japan, but World War II liberated Korea from Japanese imperialism. The country was divided up at the 38th parallel with the Soviet Union occupying the North and the US dominating the South. The Korean people, however, longed for unity of the entire country. During the Korean War from 1950-53, US imperialism laid waste to the whole of Korea, and at the end had control of the South. It killed or wounded well over a million Korean people and leveled factories and farms. It did not even recognize this as an official war. No, Democratic President Truman pawned this off before the UN as a “police action”. The US still doesn’t officially recognize an end to the war, treating their savage atrocity as a plaything to be negotiated on in various summits over the years.
North Korea was able to achieve its liberation from US imperialism. But it was then facing its own economic and political difficulties. The North Korean party (Korean Workers’ Party) took measures which rapidly decayed into an extreme form of rule. There was adoption of more and more capitalist economic methods by the state. Today, North Korea has evolved into a state-capitalist country, a country where the state sector has itself been based on capitalist methods and where private capitalism is rapidly asserting itself. It is a country of dynastic rule where the present leader simply decrees the next leader from among its own children, father to son. Democratic procedures are absent, concentration camps are commonplace, police harassment is everywhere, and arbitrary rules and regulations dominate. Well, according to normal rules, the basic entity where popular opinion is to be registered is the Party Congress. That’s where the direct representatives of the people have their say. Let’s pretend so. But it was 36 years between the last two Party Congresses, the last in 2016. They are supposed to take place every four years.
Underneath the dictatorial rule, state and private capital is blossoming. The wretched state-capitalism that has gripped North Korea has not alleviated it of its overall poverty. But there are class differentiations between the very poor, the workers and peasants, who earn 1/7 the wages of Chinese workers, and the comparatively well-off party officials and bureaucrats, not to mention the very well-off higher public and private elite. There is supposed to be planning, but it is routinely bypassed as the state job wages are inadequate for survival, so the masses seek jobs and income outside the official plans. By one estimate, some 40% of the population engages in private enterprise. The workers have no say over planning, so all this is of little surprise. There are no unions, even state-controlled unions. Meanwhile state enterprises have been consolidating themselves to gain control over resources in much the same way that private monopolies do. They challenge state control over distribution of goods.
With the functioning of the state sector of the economy failing, the party is more and more turning to private capitalism. It has allowed special zones for foreign enterprises to operate and some North Korean businesses as well. In his 2018 New Year’s Speech, Kim Jong-un announced that there should be priority given to building fancy condos to attract tourists. The project is under way, 150 buildings, some 12 stories high. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is hailing it and offering to build the energy grid and infrastructure for it, and promises the private American tourists as well. (Pompeo knows it’s not for the toilers!) Of course, the North Korea workers are the cheap labor constructing this, 24 hours a day. Nothing is too good for them in the “workers’ paradise”!
Workers and all progressive people in the US should show solidarity with the workers and peasants of North Korea by opposing each and every imperialist threat of Trump. We must oppose all US warmongering, sanctions, and the stationing of bases in South Korea and stand for an end to all real and formal hostilities with the North. We must work to expose the hypocritical nature of Trump and the “peace talks”.
At the same time, we must denounce Kim Jong-un and the North Korean rulers and support its workers and peasants so that they can begin rallying themselves against the regimes’ atrocities and the toll of the war buildup, to restrict the regime from firing missiles, and to achieve other demands in the interest of the masses. We hope one day to see a class struggle develop that will eventually overturn the tyrants and establish a true socialist order.
If there is to be a serious struggle for peace this will only come about by stepping up the class struggle in the US and in North Korea. <>
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Posted on July 15, 2018
Some typos have been corrected.