North Korea: SWP to renounce its own foundation?

April 2, 2013 at 11:35 pm (history, imperialism, Jim D, Marxism, stalinism, strange situations, SWP, trotskyism)

“With the Korean War, passions in The Club became more aroused and after a vote on Birmingham Trades Council in which Cliff’s supporters, including Percy Downey, voted for a neutral, third campist, position they were expelled en masse from The Club. Cliff himself, being a member of the almost non-existent Irish section of the FI, could not be expelled. The final result of these events was the foundation of the Socialist Review Group organised around the magazine of the same name” Wikipedia

“‘The War in Korea’ appeared in the second issue of the group’s duplicated paper, Socialist Review, in January 1951. It should finally nail the lie that the organisation ‘supported the Americans in Korea’. Incidentally, it should be noted that, at the time it appeared, the FI position, as determined by world congress decision, was that North Korea was one of the states about which it had been resolved: ‘The capitalist nature of these countries imposes the necessity of the strictest revolutionary defeatism in war time.’ This fact did not prevent the British section of the FI from giving uncritical support to the Stalinist propaganda machine during the Korean war” – Duncan Hallas, introduction to The Origins of the International Socialists, August 1971.

After sidling into mealy-mouthed defence of Al Qaeda and its allies in Mali (9 February), Socialist Worker of 23 February attempted a sort-of-defence of the North Korean regime.

SW said that North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests have “nothing to do with anti-imperialism or socialism“.

However, it declared the North Korean government not to blame for those tests. All the blame lies with the US and its allies.

SW said that North Korea is “a nuclear bogeyman created by the US“. SW cannot mean to say that North Korea really has no nuclear weapons (i.e. the story that it has them has been manufactured by the US). It cannot mean to say that the North Korean government is controlled by the US, and carrying out nuclear tests only because the US tells it to.

It seems to mean that the US is so aggressive towards North Korea that North Korea somehow has no choice but to stage nuclear tests. “North Korea’s third nuclear test was a direct result of bullying by South Korea, the US and Japan”.

The UN Security Council had increased sanctions against North Korea because of a previous rocket launch. The US and South Korean government had warned of further action.

This allegedly means that: “North Korea’s nuclear weapons and rockets are ‘monsters’ created by US imperialism“.

How? Let’s concede that the US has adopted an aggressive tone towards North Korea. It’s mild stuff compared to what the US has done over the decades in central America. If North Korea has developed nuclear weapons, and the central American countries haven’t, it is a matter of the North Korean government’s choice, not of compulsion.

SW’s argument here seems like their argument that Islamist terrorism, though not exactly what SWP members would want to see in their own front rooms, is an inevitable response to US misdeeds in the Middle East, so inevitable that people like those who bombed the World Trade Centre should not be condemned.

Why then haven’t the peoples of Central America been “forced” into Catholic-fundamentalist terrorism? For that matter, why haven’t workers in the US itself been “forced” into systematic bombing of civilian targets by the exploitation to which US bosses subject them?

SW continues: “The US demonisation of North Korea is part of its strategy to maintain hegemony in East Asia… There is even talk of supporting regime change in North Korea“.

The US State Department declares officially that “outstanding problems includ[e] the North’s attempts to develop a nuclear program and human rights abuses”. Facts about North Korea do not cease to be facts if the US government repeats them.

The SW article nowhere mentions the totalitarian and exploitative regime in North Korea, or its denial of all workers’ rights.

The issue on which the forerunners of the SWP first separated from other (“orthodox”) Trotskyists was that in 1950 they refused to consider the Korean war as simply an attack by the US on innocent North Korea, and insisted that Stalinism was also playing an imperialistic role in Korea.

At that time the Stalinist regime in North Korea (as far as can be guessed) had sizeable popular support. Why rally to the defence of its raddled and corrupt successor in 2013?

Presumably, to now re-write their own history and renounce, once and for all, the “third camp” politics that was their original, defining, characteristic. Professor Callinicos really believes that Tony Cliff got it wrong over the Korean war and James P. Cannon, Ted Grant, Gerry Healy and the ISFI (“orthodox” Trotskyists) got it right.

1 Comment

  1. Babz Badasbab Rahman said,

    “How? Let’s concede that the US has adopted an aggressive tone towards North Korea. It’s mild stuff compared to what the US has done over the decades in central America. If North Korea has developed nuclear weapons, and the central American countries haven’t, it is a matter of the North Korean government’s choice, not of compulsion.”

    That’s not a very good example. Most South (and Central) American countries have only fairly recently become quite independent of Washington and the atrocities committed there were by US trained local paramilitaries and fascist military dictatorships not by American military personnel (this makes your Catholic terrorism point moot). North Korea on the other hand has never been a US client state and/or ally and it has been in one major war with the US + South Korea as well as several skirmishes over the years. Around its periphery it’s surrounded by 3 very powerful enemies (US, South Korea and Japan) and with the collapse of the USSR + the Eastern Stalinist Bloc it has very few allies with only China being one of any note. In 2002 it was branded by the US as one of the trio of Axis of Evils. In 2003 it saw what happened to one of those Axis of Evils. In 2003 it withdrew from NPT.

    Based on the above I think it’s entirely appropriate to assume it was much more likely North Korea try and obtain nuclear weapons than any of the Americas precisely because of US policy. For the record I’m not defending North Korea, we should all hope for a speedy demise of that regime, I just think it’s important to have a debate and present another viewpoint.

    Point well made about Islamist terrorism though it has to be said US misdeeds in the region did lead to blowback. US major ally Saudi Arabia and Zia ruled Pakistan were the two countries in cohort spreading the violent Wahabbi interpretation of Islam decades before 9/11 took place which would indoctrinate millions and culminate in the creation of the Taliban and other Islamist groups including Al Qaeda. It is very likely the billions of dollars in aid the US gave to the Afghan mujahideen during the 80’s ended up going to the most violent Islamist kind.

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