Proletarian internationalism and the Korean revolution

On Sunday 25 October 2009, elaborate and high-level ceremonies took place in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to mark the 59th anniversary of the entry into the Korean war of the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV).

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on this as follows:

The Korean people pay respect to the fallen fighters of the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) and the Chinese people calling back with deep emotion the heroic fighting spirit and brilliant feats performed by the volunteers.

Rodong Sinmun [Workers’ Daily, the central organ of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK)] Sunday says this in a signed article dedicated to the significant 59th anniversary of the entry of the CPV into the Korean front.

The Chinese party and government sent their excellent sons and daughters to the Korean front when the Korean people were undergoing grim hardship due to the provocation of the Korean war by the imperialist aggression forces early in the 1950s, thus positively helping the Korean army and people, the article notes, and goes on:

“The mass heroism and self-sacrificing spirit displayed by the brave soldiers of the CPV during the last Fatherland Liberation War was the expression of warm support and encouragement of the Chinese people to the Korean people and they clearly showed the noble fraternal mission of the CPV and genuine cooperative spirit of the two peoples.

“Blood shed by the CPV penetrated into the mountains and fields of Korea…

The Korean people will as ever make positive efforts to further consolidate the bilateral friendship. The immortal feats performed by the fallen fighters of the CPV in the great Fatherland Liberation War waged by the Korean people will be handed down to posterity along with the history of the DPRK-China friendship.” (‘Anniversary of CPV’s Entry into Korean Front Observed’, KCNA, 25 October)

The anniversary of the CPV’s entry into the Korean war acquired special significance this year as it has also been celebrated as the Year of DPRK-China Friendship, being the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and hence the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the PRC and the DPRK, which had been founded the previous year.

Immediately after October 1st anniversary celebrations, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao headed to the DPRK on a fraternal visit. On 5 October, the Xinhua News Agency reported as follows:

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday visited a cemetery for martyrs of the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV), in Hoechang County of South Phyongan province, during his visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The cemetery, located some 100 km east of Pyongyang, is the largest in the DPRK among dozens for the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army soldiers who died in the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea more than 50 years ago.

Accompanied by senior DPRK officials, Premier Wen laid a wreath before the bronze statue of a CPV soldier and visited the tombs of CPV martyrs. He said the people of the motherland have never forgotten the CPV martyrs and will always cherish their memory.

The construction of the 90,000-square meter cemetery, where 134 martyrs of the Chinese People’s Volunteers are buried, including Mao Anying, son of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, was completed in 1957. The next year, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited the cemetery during his visit to the DPRK.

Some 2.4 million soldiers of the Chinese People’s Volunteers were sent to the DPRK in the early 1950s to join the Korean People’s Army in fighting the U.S. aggressors.” (Premier Wen visits Chinese martyrs’ cemetery in DPRK, Xinhua, 5 October)

The participation of the CPV in the Korean war, which, as we have seen above, still means a great deal to the people of both countries, occurred against a deep historical background, in which the blood ties of proletarian internationalism had already been well established between the communists and peoples not only of Korea and China, but of the Soviet Union, too.

The Korean people’s great leader, Comrade Kim Il Sung began his revolutionary activities as a teenager in Jilin, north east China. Among his closest early comrades were young Chinese revolutionaries, a number of whom willingly sacrificed their lives to protect Kim Song Ju, as Comrade Kim Il Sung was then called. To this day, their children, grandchildren and other family members are still cherished as the dearest friends of the Korean people.

When the Soviet Union was threatened with attack, Comrade Kim Il Sung put forward the slogan, “Let us defend the Soviet Union with arms!” After the Korean and Chinese revolutionaries and patriots had formed an anti-Japanese joint army, that, in turn, combined with the Soviet Red Army, to form the International Allied Forces (IAF) in July 1942, even though the Soviet Union had entered into a non-aggression pact with Japan, for its own defence and to prevent the danger of having to fight on two fronts simultaneously.

Here is how Comrade Kim Il Sung recalled those days in his memoirs, With the Century:

An important aspect of our struggle during this period is the fact that we organised the IAF in the Soviet Union with our Chinese and Soviet comrades-in-arms in the summer of 1942 and engaged in political and military preparations in every possible way in order ultimately to annihilate the Japanese imperialists.

“The fact that the KPRA [Korean People’s Revolutionary Army] formed the IAF with the armed forces of the Soviet Union and China and waged a joint struggle with them can be viewed as a new stage in the development of the Korean revolution…

“With the organisation of the IAF, a great change took place in our armed struggle. It can be said that, with the formation of the allied forces as a turning point, we switched from the stage of our joint struggle with the Chinese people to the stage of extensive joint struggle, which meant an alliance of the armed forces of Korea, China and the Soviet Union, the stage of a new common front joining the mainstream of the worldwide anti-imperialist, anti-fascist struggle…

“As a result of the organisation of the allied forces, the military and political situations in the Far East region changed in favour of the world revolution.

“First of all, the Soviet Union benefited greatly from this. The Soviet Union secured military and political forces capable of coping with the aggressive moves of Japan on its own initiative…

“The existence of the IAF also created favourable conditions and circumstances for the Korean and Chinese revolutions.

“Because it was to act in concert with the Soviet Far Eastern Forces, the KPRA was able to have, within the framework of regular armed forces, the ability as well as the equipment to carry out the most up-to-date operations needed for liberating the country…

“Even when the Soviet Union badly needed the strength of another single regiment or a single battalion because of the extremely difficult situation at the front, it never touched the allied forces, but helped them so that they could make full preparations for the showdown against the Japanese imperialists.

“Soviet military personnel frequently told us about how much Stalin valued the officers and men of the KPRA and the NAJAA [North East Anti-Japanese Allied Army – of Chinese and Korean revolution-aries]. They told that Stalin had said that all the soldiers of these armies were valuable people who would make a major contribution to liberating their own motherlands and building a new country, and that, therefore, they should take care of these soldiers lest there should be a single loss.”

This tripartite solidarity was to continue during the Korean war, too. Although the intervention of some two-and-a-half million CPV fighters made a decisive contribution, these forces would have been decimated by the US aggressors if they had no air cover. This neither the infant DPRK, nor the infant PRC, was in a position to provide. Rather, this vital contribution was made by the Soviet Union.

In autumn 1950, the Soviet air force moved planes to north east China and, under conditions of great secrecy, they flew combat missions in the skies of Korea. The Soviet air force commander in Korea, GA Lobov, personally shot down 14 American planes and the Soviets, in turn, also suffered heavy losses. At one point in the war the Americans bombed Vladivostock.

Lobov commanded some 70,000 Red Army servicemen in the Korean war. Their key tasks were to defend bridges, dams and airfields and to keep open supply roads from China. The communist side lost some 1,000 planes in the war against some 3,500 aerial losses on the imperialist side.

One should further bear in mind that, in directly militarily confronting the US forces, the Soviet Union was running the risk of all-out war. That this was no idle threat may be gleaned from this 27 January 1952 diary entry of US President Truman:

It seems to me that the proper approach now would be an ultimatum with a 10-day expiration limit (to) Moscow… This means all out war… Moscow, St .Petersburg [sic], Mukden [Shenyang], Vladivostock, Peking, Shanghai, Port Arthur [Lushun], Dairen [Dalian], Odessa, Stalingrad and every manufacturing plant in China and the Soviet Union will be eliminated. This is the final chance for the Soviet Government to decide whether it desires to survive or not.

This inspiring history of proletarian internationalism is something that deserves to be lauded and celebrated at every possible opportunity by every communist, every anti-imperialist, and certainly every friend of Korea.

As ever, Comrade Kim Il Sung put matters well when, speaking at the celebrations of his 80th birthday on 15 April 1992, he said:

Present here now are many of my old comrades in arms, comrades and friends from many countries who can advance hand in hand with us for a common cause. This is a source of great support and encouragement for our people.

Since the early years of our revolutionary activities we have been establishing unbreakable comradely ties with fraternal peoples and have been fighting shoulder to shoulder with one another against our common enemy. We have never forgotten our fraternal peoples and internationalist revolutionary comrades who assisted us in our revolution at the cost of their blood.

The destiny of our nation is closely linked with that of the world’s people. Our people will remain loyal not only to their own cause but also to the common cause of the people of the world; they will oppose national egoism and fulfil their internationalist  obligations.

Yet despite all this, there are tiny, unrepresentative but noisy groups of alienated individuals who choose to ignore, slight and ridicule this history of proletarian internationalism, so often and so vividly recalled by Comrade Kim Il Sung, replacing it with the crudest sycophancy and the most vulgar falsification and traducing of history. A typical example is the recent document entitled “Defend the DPR Korea!”, produced by the so-called “UK Korean Friendship Association”. With a complete disregard for the above facts the author of this tract maliciously asserts:

Secondly the DPRK learnt through experience to rely on itself. During the anti Japanese armed struggle the Anti Japanese Peoples Guerilla Army was organised by the great leader comrade Kim Il Sung had neither state nor rear to support it and captured weapons from the Japanese. Also during  the Fatherland Liberation war in the 1950 not enough weapons were supplied to the DPRK by its allies.” [Editor’s Note: The above quote is reproduced exactly as printed. The spelling, grammar and punctuation are clearly as illiterate and incontinent as the politics and the regard for facts.]

Two-and-a-half million Chinese volunteers and 70,000 Soviet military personnel are, at one stroke, reduced to “not enough weapons”. The whole existence of the International Allied Forces is simply airbrushed out of history.

What possible purpose does such a travesty, such a slander, such baseless, infamous and perfidious lies serve? It certainly does not serve the Korean people or the working class. Such “friendship” (which can only possibly serve to alienate the Korean people from those real friends who can actually do something concrete by way of friendship) is of a type that the Korean people could well do without. It serves only to remind us of the famous words of Comrade Kim Il Sung: “If a man takes to flunkeyism, he becomes an idiot.”