In celebration of the centenary of Comrade Kim Il Sung’s birth
At a CPGB-ML day school Ambassador Hyon Hak-bong spoke of the current situation, participants studied the writings of Kim Il Sung and rebutted media lies against the DPRK
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great leader of the Korean revolution, Comrade Kim Il Sung, the CPGB-ML held a one-day party school on Sunday 8 April to study some of Comrade Kim Il Sung’s writings and enable new party members to learn more about the Korean revolution and building of socialism.
The meeting was honoured by the presence of the DPRK’s ambassador to London, Comrade Hyon Hak-bong, who spoke of the current situation in his country’s struggle against the provocations and aggression of western imperialism and answered members’ questions. He was accompanied by Third Secretary, Comrade Mun Myong-sin. The main speech on the subject of Comrade Kim Il Sung’s writing was given by Comrade Ella Rule, and is reproduced below. In the afternoon, comrades worked on responding to the lies and distortions that are routinely repeated in the media, including much of the so-called ‘left-wing’ press, in order to demonise the DPRK.
Reminding ourselves of Comrade Kim Il Sung’s profound teachings on the Juche idea and the importance of Marxist-Leninist theory
Speech of Ella Rule
On 28 December, 1955, Comrade Kim Il Sung gave a most important speech to Party Propaganda and Agitation Workers entitled ‘On eliminating dogmatism and formalism and establishing Juche in ideological work’. With all his many works, including this one, Comrade Kim Il Sung ensured that although he has died, he lives forever as a teacher and guide of our revolutionary youth, helping them to avoid the pitfalls placed in their path by opportunists of every shade. Regrettably these days people in this country do not sufficiently have recourse to his writings and allow themselves to be lured into false representations of what he stood for produced by opportunists who present their wares as the very last word in revolutionary theory, replacing Marxism-Leninism and Comrade Kim Il Sung’s concept of the Juche idea, with their own brand of baseless quack recipe for promoting the interests of the world revolution.
At the time of this speech, in 1955, Comrade Stalin had been dead for over two years, revisionism was beginning to secure its base in the Soviet Union, and the beginnings of the split in the international communist movement were beginning to emerge. In these circumstances, Comrade Kim Il Sung realised that the Korean people were going to be subjected to massive pressure to depart from the revolutionary path, and that this pressure would be applied by people calling themselves Marxists and who had the apparent authority of a great and glorious communist party behind them which nobody would want to oppose. It is in this context that emphasis began to be given in the DPRK to the concept of Juche.
Comrade Kim Il Sung could not but turn his mind to the question of the revisionism that had split the international communist movement in the 1960s.
“If the revisionists do not want to make a revolution, they are welcome to go their own way alone. But the danger lies in the fact that they are even opposed to other people making a revolution and go to the length of imposing revisionism upon others.
“In doing so, they call the revolutionary Marxist-Leninists who refuse to follow their revisionist line ‘dogmatists’, ‘nationalists’, or ‘Stalinists’, rejecting them and trying to isolate them from the socialist camp. This is the modern revisionists’ most absurd act and presents a serious danger to us” (see ‘On improving and strengthening organisational and ideological work of the party’, 8 March 1962).
It was in these conditions that he brought to the fore the Juche idea as a means of stressing Korea’s right to take its own revolutionary path rather than to follow instructions issued by powerful foreign parties. He gave thought to the rationale given for the introduction of the so-called market socialism, namely, that without the discipline of the market, people were not inclined to work hard, with the result that the building of socialism was retarded. Comrade Kim Il Sung had witnessed this phenomenon in Korea also, especially among people who were given positions of responsibility and trust. However, he never followed the road to ‘market socialism’. Comrade Stalin had warned shortly before he died that such measures far from improving productivity would end up impeding progress, as, among other things, it would expose socialist society to the same phenomenon of alienation of the masses that is characteristic of capitalist societies. In fact, it could be said that unwillingness to work hard in a socialist society is a leftover from capitalist society of the workers’ alienation as they resentfully toiled to make others rich and longed for idleness. Even in socialist society it may take decades before the whole working class becomes really at one with the idea that all their labour directly produces a better life for themselves, their children and grandchildren. The cure for alienation, however, cannot be to make work more alienating by the reintroduction of bourgeois norms of profitability as the regulator of production, at the expense of the democratically evolved state plan. The cure for alienation must be sought in the tireless efforts of the cultural workers, who must find ways of popularising the new ways of thinking appropriate to the proletariat in power.
Applying Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of each specific country
Slightly earlier Comrade Kim Il Sung had raised the question:
“What is Juche in our Party’s ideological work? What are we doing? We are not engaged in any other country’s revolution, but precisely in the Korean revolution. This, the Korean revolution, constitutes Juche in the ideological work of our Party. Therefore, all ideological work must be subordinated to the interests of the Korean revolution. When we study the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the history of the Chinese revolution, or the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism, it is all for the purpose of correctly carrying out our own revolution”.
Well, we can all think of people who, in their admiration for the Korean revolution, completely forget that they are doing so for the purpose of carrying out the British revolution. This can lead to tragic errors, for instance in failing to see that the patriotism of a socialist country, and/or the nationalism of an oppressed country struggling against foreign domination by imperialism, are quite different in nature to the patriotism and nationalism that is expressed in an imperialist country where they cannot but be used as tools for mobilising the masses behind the brigandage of the country’s imperialist ruling class. Such comrades are reminiscent of the fool in the Indian village story who was impressed and amazed by the solution that some village lads had found to handling a steel JCB that had got red hot lying in the sun. These young men simply tied a sling around the JCB attached to a long rope and they lowered the JCB down the village well where it cooled down rapidly in the cool water. The next day the fool’s unfortunate grandmother developed a temperature and the fool tried to apply the same remedy. The grandmother died. This is the type of foolishness that can be found from time to time in this country among people who claim to admire the Juche idea. Yet in advocating the Juche Idea, Comrade Kim Il Sung was trying to help inexperienced comrades from making just such errors. He rightly warned that where “Juche has not been firmly established in ideological work”, it “leads to dogmatic and formalistic errors and does much harm to our revolutionary cause”.
Kim Il Sung went on to say: “To make revolution in Korea we must know Korean history and geography and know the customs of the Korean people. Only then is it possible to educate our people in a way that suits them and to inspire in them an ardent love for their native place and their motherland.” Comrade Kim Il Sung was here encouraging the proletarian patriotism and anti-imperialist nationalism of the Korean people, and would have been quite bemused by the idea that anybody could take his words as an encouragement for the proletariat of imperialist countries to follow their imperialist masters in their contempt for oppressed peoples and hostility to workers of foreign origin. Anybody who followed Comrade Kim Il Sung’s advice and made a proper study – or even a cursory study in this case – of conditions in Britain, and who seriously sought to advance the interests of proletarian revolution, would take note of the concrete conditions pertaining in this country and would unflinchingly apply Marxism-Leninism to those conditions, not the conditions prevailing in Korea or anywhere else for that matter.
Ways in which concrete conditions for the British and Korean revolutions differ
Of special importance is to study the history of the British revolution, which cannot but reveal a sorry tale of class betrayal by social-democracy whose still prevailing influence must be excised from the British working-class movement if the latter are going to be able to fight even in their economic interests, let alone their political interests. The correct policies for British communists to adopt in such a situation are a million miles away from what would be appropriate in an oppressed country. In Korea in 1945 the Communist Party and the Social-Democratic Party were merged to form the Workers’ Party of Korea. Surely it can readily be seen what a disaster it would be for correct policies for the British revolution to be applied in Korea, or for correct policies for the Korean revolution to be applied in the UK today!
On the subject of working-class history, a study of British working-class history cannot but give rise to understanding the legacy in the minds of the masses of the British bourgeois revolution that overthrew feudalism some 4 centuries ago – notwithstanding the odd remaining relic such as the royal family that has been thoroughly refashioned to serve bourgeois interests. The old feudal society was one where everybody knew their place, and the feudal exploiters were greatly respected and revered as leaders even though the basis of their leadership was only their social position as exploiters as a result of which very few actually deserved the respect which they demanded. In mobilising against the feudal order, the bourgeoisie largely destroyed the very concept of obeisance and respect for leaders among the exploited classes whom they mobilised in their anti-feudal struggle. Even leaders worth respecting from then on could expect no obeisance. With the Korean people, however, things are different. The Korean people have not had four centuries in which to lose habits of showing respect to those they consider to be leaders. In these circumstances it is only right that rather than spending any time showing respect for feudal rabble, they should be encouraged to show that respect for those who, as a result of their dedication and scientific understanding are the most effective in leading the pursuit of the cause of the liberation of mankind. If, however, you expected the British proletariat to show similar respect for even the greatest political leader, you could only cause that leader to be disrespected by the British proletariat. It is of course true that there are people among the British proletariat who idolise the monarchy and/or film stars and/or footballers. This type of idolisation, however, cannot be taken seriously, does not take itself seriously, and has nothing to do with leadership. It would certainly not be accorded to anybody seeking to lead a revolutionary movement.
Are we opposed to the British proletariat having an ardent love for their native place and their motherland? When asking that question, it should be remembered that Britain has never been colonised by a foreign power which presented itself as a superior civilisation and encouraged its victims to share with their exploiters contempt for their own country and people and admiration for everything foreign. Clearly anybody who fell for this would be quite useless as an anti-imperialist or as a builder of socialism. Yet after so many years of Japanese oppression, there must have been many Koreans who had lost their self-confidence and pride in what they were, and of course it was imperative that this should be restored. Can this be said of the British proletariat? Is it necessary to restore the self-confidence of the British proletariat to enable it to make a revolution? It goes without saying that this would be a totally absurd proposition, irrelevant to our revolution. The British proletariat by and large considers itself to be the best in the world, and in fact, it is arguable that if the British proletariat is to make a revolution, it is desirable to moderate this overconfidence in favour of instilling greater respect for foreign proletarians, lest an excess of British pride be hijacked by imperialist jingoism.
Juche is the opposite of flunkeyism
Kim Il Sung found that such was the lack of confidence and pride in their own potential and achievements among Koreans that they were somewhat inclined to worship everything foreign. Even when what was admired and worshipped were the achievements of the mighty Soviet Union, which was at least a socialist system worth admiring, passive admiration does no good to anybody. What is the good of admiring a good writer if doing so does not inspire efforts in the admirers to write better themselves? What is the good of admiring brilliant football, if that brilliance doesn’t inspire young people to improve their own games? As it was Kim Il Sung lamented:
“One day this summer when I dropped in at a local democratic publicity hall, I saw diagrams of the Soviet Union’s Five-Year Plan shown there, but not a single diagram illustrating the Three-Year Plan of our country. Moreover, there were pictures of huge factories in foreign countries, but there was not a single one of the factories we were rehabilitating or building. They do not even put up any diagrams and pictures of our economic construction, let alone study the history of our country.
“I noticed in a primary school that all the portraits hanging on the walls were of foreigners such as Mayakovsky, Pushkin, etc., and there were none of Koreans. If children are educated in this way, how can they be expected to have national pride?
“Here is a ridiculous example. Even in attaching a table of contents to a booklet, foreign ways are aped and it is put in the back. We should learn, as a matter of course, from the good experience of socialist construction, but what on earth is the need of putting the table of contents in the back of a booklet in foreign style? This does not suit the taste of Koreans. As a matter of course, we should put it in the front of a book, shouldn’t we?
“In compiling schoolbooks, too, materials are not taken from our literary works but from foreign ones. All this is due to the lack of Juche.”
Comrade Kim Il Sung is not saying that there should be no pictures of respected foreign personages or foreign factories, and no foreign material in textbooks. What he is saying is that it is very important to get the balance right. The best pride is the pride felt in what a person or a community achieves by their own efforts, and even when those efforts have been assisted by the influence of others, this must never take away from the fact that these achievements belong to those who have worked to produce them. Every child in acquiring competence is taught by its parents and by its school, but if in later life they become great composers, football players, politicians, artists or intellectuals, it is the child who gets the credit – and this is how things should be, because it is he or she who has put in the effort and done the work. The reward of the parent or school is the legitimate pride they have in what the child has achieved. Our socialist countries do not need so much need us to admire their undoubted achievements as to build socialism in our countries with the help of what we have learnt from them insofar as it is applicable to our conditions. It is then that they too will be able to enjoy real pride in what we achieve.
This is why Comrade Kim Il Sung thought it proper to reproach comrades who “… tried to copy mechanically from the Soviet Union in all their work. This was also because they had no intention to study our realities and lacked the true Marxist-Leninist spirit of educating the people in our own merits and in the traditions of our revolution. Many comrades swallow Marxism-Leninism whole, instead of digesting and assimilating it. It is therefore self-evident that they are unable to display revolutionary initiative.”
The dangers of such an approach were graphically demonstrated by the case of Pak Yong Bin who, “on returning from the Soviet Union, said that since the Soviet Union was following the line of easing international tension, we should also drop our slogan against U.S. imperialism. Such an assertion has nothing to do with revolutionary vigilance. The U.S. imperialists scorched our land, slaughtered our innocent people en masse, and are still occupying the southern half of our country. They are our sworn enemy, aren’t they?” At this stage, Comrade Kim Il Sung was careful to say that the Soviet Union was working in its own way to ease international tensions, but this did not preclude the Korean people from fighting their own corner in accordance with the conditions in which they found themselves.
Comrade Kim Il Sung was also insistent that the national pride of a people fighting for or building socialism absolutely did not preclude, but in fact demanded, a spirit of unswerving internationalism:
“Marxism-Leninism is not a dogma, it is a guide to action and a creative theory. So, Marxism-Leninism can display its indestructible vitality only when it is applied creatively to suit the specific conditions of each country. The same applies to the experience of the fraternal parties. It will prove valuable to us only when we make a study of it, grasp its essence and properly apply it to our realities. Instead, if we just gulp it down and spoil our work, it will not only harm our work but also lead to discrediting the valuable experience of the fraternal parties”.
Internationalism and patriotism
“In connection with the problem of establishing Juche I think it necessary to touch on internationalism and patriotism.
“Internationalism and patriotism are inseparably linked with each other. You must know that the love of Korean Communists for their country does not go against the internationalism of the working class but conforms fully with it. To love Korea is just as good as to love the Soviet Union and the socialist camp and, likewise, to love the Soviet Union and the socialist camp means precisely loving Korea. They constitute a complete whole. For the great cause of the working class has no frontiers and our revolutionary cause is a part of the international revolutionary cause of the working class throughout the world. The one supreme goal of the working class of all countries is to build a communist society. The difference, if any, lies only in the fact that certain countries do this earlier and others later.
“It would be wrong to advocate patriotism alone and neglect internationalist solidarity. For the victory of the Korean revolution and for the great cause of the international working class, we should strengthen solidarity with the Soviet people, our liberator and helper, and with the peoples of all the socialist countries. This is our sacred internationalist duty. The Soviet people, on their part, are doing all they can to consolidate solidarity not only with the countries of the socialist camp but also with the working class of the whole world both for communist construction in their country and for the victory of world revolution.
“Thus, patriotism and internationalism are inseparable. He who does not love his own country cannot be loyal to internationalism, and he who is unfaithful to internationalism cannot be faithful to his own country and people. A true patriot is precisely an internationalist and vice versa.”
The importance of revolutionary theory
Comrade Kim Il Sung would have, I think, been absolutely delighted to know that in celebration of his 100th birthday young communists had gathered together here to learn Marxism-Leninism from one of his works. In this same article he wrote:
“In order to make our Party members indomitable fighters who are always optimistic about the future of the revolution, it is necessary to intensify their Marxist-Leninist education. Without a clear understanding of the laws of social development and the inevitability of the triumph of socialism and communism, one can neither have faith in victory nor have the high-toned spirit and combativeness to withstand any difficulty.”
As an example of a difficulty that could arise in the course of a revolutionary struggle, which only a high level of Marxist-Leninist understanding could avert, Comrade Kim Il Sung gave the example of the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact. People relying on Korea’s liberation being brought about by the defeat of Japanese imperialism at the hands of western imperialism were downhearted and discouraged when they heard of the Hitler-Stalin pact because they thought that this made it more difficult for Japanese imperialism to be defeated. Comrade Kim Il Sung, however, was able to follow Stalin’s dialectical thinking, impart this understanding to Korean communists and thus maintain the morale and determination of the Korean people to continue to fight with all their might against Japanese imperialism and for their liberation.
Learning from the masses
Comrade Kim Il Sung also gave excellent advice with regard to a malady that sadly affects many well meaning comrades. Knowing that revolution cannot happen unless the masses follow the leadership of the communist party, and having learnt Comrade Mao’s excellent advice to the effect that one should ‘learn from the masses’, they sometimes forget that their prime function as communists is to bring to the masses a correct understanding of the forces operating in society, the causes of their misfortunes (e.g., poverty and war), the understanding of their power both to destroy that which is old and putrid and of the need to replace capitalism with socialism. In bringing truth to the masses, the communists have to combat prejudice not only born of ignorance but also born of the active campaigns of propaganda and lies which cannot but strongly influence the opinions of the masses – so it is no easy task. It is one which according to Leninism is best accomplished by communists aiming first primarily at advanced workers, i.e., workers who have already begun actively to oppose capitalist injustices, enrolling them in the party, advancing their political education to the maximum, and through them reaching out at more backward elements. In an imperialist country, where the masses have for decades enjoyed a relatively high standard of living as a result of the bourgeoisie sparing a small part of the superprofits it extracts from the oppressed countries being diverted into buying off class struggle, where the concept of ‘socialism’ has been hijacked to mean merely to secure a better life under capitalism, and where the treachery of social-democracy as a result gives ‘socialism’ a bad name, the task of winning the masses for socialism is extremely hard. With a correct Marxist-Leninist understanding of the problem, communists can maintain their morale and determination to continue the fight until ultimate victory. But without such understanding, militants can lose heart and find all kinds of excuses to succumb to all and any of the prejudices fostered among the masses by the ruling class. In Europe, for example, the masses are all too easily persuaded that it is foreign immigrants who are responsible for unemployment and the declining standards of public services. Communists must fight relentlessly against such counterproductive prejudices.
Kim Il Sung said: “A determined struggle must be fought to arm every Party member firmly with our Party’s ideology and eliminate all remnants of bourgeois ideology persisting in the minds of Party members and working people. The Party spirit of our members should be tempered thoroughly, until their shortcomings and ideological maladies are completely remedied.”
And he made clear that: “Listening to the voices of the masses and championing their interests is an entirely different matter from basing one’s work on misleading opinions current in the streets.”
Yes, it is essential to listen to the voice of the masses. It is essential to champion their concerns and to defend their interests. But we do not defend their interests by nurturing erroneous prejudices spread by bourgeois propaganda. We defend their interests only by challenging those prejudices and helping the masses overcome them – starting with ensuring that these prejudices are eliminated in the minds of party members.
Building unity by fighting opportunism
Similarly misunderstood can be the question of unity. If the bourgeoisie is to be overthrown it is of course essential that the working class should be united behind a united party, in order to be able to fight the enemy as one. Since unity is so essential there are people whose understanding of Marxism is weak and superficial who consider that one should not fight against those within the working-class movement who are trying to mislead the working class. To take a recent example, in the anti-war movement in this country, which is regrettably under the effective control of the imperialist Labour Party, imperialist agents are using the cover of being ‘against war’ to propagate vicious lies and slanders against those governments which are the targets of imperialist aggression, such as the Gaddafi government in Libya and now the Assad government in Syria. There are those who believe that in the interests of the ‘unity’ of the anti-war movement, such elements should not be confronted but should be left to carry on at will with whatever they want to do. The only possible result of that could be to drag anti-imperialist elements into unity with imperialism! Comrade Kim Il Sung was quite clear on this question:
“The enemy always plots to make people distrust one another and set them at odds with each other to disintegrate our ranks from within. You must learn to discern clearly and to combat such plots and slanders by the counter-revolutionaries. Party members should be educated in such a way that they can distinguish spies, waverers, nepotists, parochialists and factionalists.” It is those who undermine the fundamental aims of an organisation who are guilty of destroying unity, not those who struggle against this being done.
“Such a struggle can be conducted properly only when the cadres and all the members of the Party are on a high level. Without attaining a high level of Marxist-Leninist knowledge, Party members cannot properly carry out such a difficult duty. In order to enable them to fight skilfully against the counter-revolutionaries, it is necessary to intensify their Marxist-Leninist education and, at the same time, to acquaint them extensively with the experience of the fight against the counter-revolutionaries.”
Distortion of the Juche idea
In recent times, the concept of Juche has been broadened as a means of focusing on the subjective factor in the revolutionary movement and the building of socialism. There are some over-enthusiastic elements who try to claim that it is only through the Juche idea that the importance of the subjective factor in making revolution and building socialism has been for the first time discovered, which is sometimes taken so far as to say that, with its emphasis on the subjective factor, the Juche idea has replaced Marxism-Leninism which has become old hat, even if it was very good in its time. People who make such claims may mean well, but by trying to divorce the Juche idea from Marxism-Leninism, they are unfortunately diminishing it not enhancing it. After centuries of division of society into classes, where the masses of the people were deprived of mastery of their destiny and of independence, it does not come particularly naturally to the masses to act, as they must in a socialist society, as the ruling class. They can no longer blame their exploiters for their troubles and wait for others to put things right. They are now free to deal with their problems themselves and have the responsibility to do so. They cannot, either, operate like members of exploiter ruling classes issuing orders that minions will obey, but must find and implement solutions themselves in consultation with others of their class, cooperatively.
These are valuable practical issues on which to focus while a former exploited class gets used to the idea of being the ruling class and acting as a ruling class. But, as with any Marxist proposition, care must be taken not to allow the principle to be distorted to serve anti-Marxist purposes, e.g., introducing idealist notions that ideas are primary while the material world is secondary. Such a conception if generally accepted would be bound to lead to unpleasant surprises: the truth always wins in the end, and the truth is the material reality of which our ideas are the more or less accurate reflection. Success greets those whose ideas correctly reflect reality, and failure is the fate of those who get things wrong. If ideas were primary and were capable of bending reality to human desires, one would never have to worry about getting things right. As things stand, however, the human condition enables humanity to master nature only to the extent that humanity correctly understands nature and how it works.
It is on the basis of the Marxist-Leninist guidance emanating from Comrade Kim Il Sung and those who have succeeded him, as popularised in Korea as the Juche idea, that it has been possible for a tiny country such as Korea to maintain the morale and fighting spirit of the masses of the DPRK in the exhausting struggle against the vicious western imperialist bully that far outstrips it in wealth and resources and yet cannot defeat this little David. Only this explains how a people who have considerable hardship over the last 20 years remain fiercely loyal to their socialist fatherland; how it was possible that they flocked to the streets as one to mourn the recent death of Cde Kim Jong Il in spite of the hard times they had been suffering.
Our internationalist duty is to give the heroic people of Korea our unwavering support. Let us learn from them the revolutionary virtues that they display in such abundance, let us apply the lessons of the Korean revolution in a creative and appropriate way to the British revolution. To advance the cause of the revolution in our country is absolutely the best way of supporting the cause of revolution and the building of socialism in Korea.