Australasian Spartacist No. 212

Autumn 2011


Down With Imperialist Provocations! Defend North Korea and China!

In a calculated provocation directed against both North Korea and China, in late November last year the U.S. dispatched the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington along with other warships for a joint exercise with its South Korean junior partners in the Yellow Sea. This brazen display of imperialist military force came less than a week after a South Korean naval exercise prompted an exchange of artillery fire in nearby waters off North Korea’s coast. North Korea’s shelling of the garrison island of Yeonpyeong resulted in the deaths of four South Koreans, including two civilians. U.S. president Barack Obama responded by openly threatening North Korea, declaring its regime to be “a serious and ongoing threat that has to be dealt with.” Adding to this imperialist sabre-rattling Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Kevin Rudd, railed that North Korea has a history of “being exceptionally provocative towards the South” and “represents not just a threat to stability on the Korean Peninsula but more widely across East Asia, and that includes Australia” (Lateline, 23 November 2010).

It is in the vital interest of the proletariat internationally to defend North Korea, a bureaucratically deformed workers state, against U.S. and Australian imperialism and the South Korean capitalist rulers. It is the imperialists and their lackeys who are an ongoing, deadly threat to Asia’s working people. U.S. imperialism carried out the atomic incineration of 200,000 people in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. U.S. imperialism and its allies, including Australia, went on to slaughter some three million Koreans in the 1950-53 Korean War and another three million Vietnamese in the 1960s and ’70s in failed efforts to crush social revolutions. Among the crimes of Japanese imperialism was its brutal 40-year colonial occupation of Korea, which ended with Japan’s defeat in World War II. In the aftermath of the war, the northern part of the Korean peninsula was liberated from capitalist rule through a social revolution carried out under the protection of Soviet troops.

In addition to its military provocations, the U.S. is demanding that the UN tighten economic sanctions, attempting to starve North Korea into submission. For its part, the Japanese government strengthened its coast guard monitoring in the Sea of Japan and increased the number of spy flights in the area. Treacherously adding their voices to the war cries against North Korea were Japan’s Social Democratic and Communist parties, whose parliamentary deputies voted for a resolution calling to “strengthen collaboration with South Korea and the U.S.” and to consider further sanctions against Pyongyang. In South Korea, where right-wing legislators demanded aggressive action against the North, including air strikes, the government dumped its defence minister and the military issued new, less restrictive guidelines on how to “respond” to North Korea.

The U.S. and South Korean naval exercises carried out in late November involved 20 South Korean and U.S. warships just 125 kilometres south of the disputed maritime border between the two Koreas. The U.S. is increasingly trying to pressure Beijing to “rein in” North Korea, which is heavily dependent on its economic as well as diplomatic ties with the Chinese deformed workers state. In the trove of U.S. diplomatic cables just released by WikiLeaks is a stern message from 2007 demanding that China “take action” to stop North Korea from shipping missile parts to Iran through Beijing.

The Yeonpyeong incident took place only days after the Obama administration raised a renewed hue and cry over North Korea’s nuclear capacity. Stanford University scientist Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the U.S. nuclear lab at Los Alamos, had reported that North Korean officials had shown him a light-water reactor construction site at the Yongbyon nuclear complex. While Hecker noted that the facility was “much more suitable for making electricity than for bombs,” he also opined that a companion ultramodern uranium enrichment facility designed to support civilian electrical generation had the ability to provide fuel for dozens of nuclear bombs. North Korea manifestly needs both electricity and nuclear weapons, the latter to deter imperialist military attack. Indeed, the fact that Pyongyang has demonstrated such capacity has served to stay the hands of the U.S. and its South Korean client state.

The November U.S.-South Korean exercises followed similar military manoeuvres that began in July, ostensibly in response to the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan near Baengnyeong Island in March. A U.S.-South Korean report claimed that the warship had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo, which Pyongyang denied. China and Russia refused to go along with the story. As our comrades in the U.S. noted at the time “the ‘official’ story stinks.” But that “even if the North Korean navy did sink the Cheonan, it would have been an act of defense against repeated provocations by the U.S. and South Korea” (“Defend North Korea Against U.S. Imperialism!” Workers Vanguard No. 960, 4 June 2010). Our comrades explained, “As Marxists, our attitude regarding this affair is determined not by claims of who was responsible for the sinking, the cause of which is shrouded in mystery, but by class considerations: Despite being saddled with a nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy, North Korea is a workers state based on the overthrow of capitalist rule.”

The U.S. launched the Korean War (under the UN flag) not only to smash social revolution on the peninsula but also to overthrow the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state that issued out of the 1949 Revolution. The entry of a million Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops turned the tide against the imperialist forces, leading to a stalemate at the 38th parallel, which divides North from South Korea. A peace treaty was never signed, and the South refused to sign the armistice agreement between the U.S. and North Korea. Both Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong islands lie in disputed waters demarcated by a line unilaterally drawn by the U.S. which the North has never recognised. Since the Korean War, the U.S. has maintained a massive military presence in the South, today numbering 28,500 troops, while subjecting North Korea to decades of military encirclement and embargo.

For their part, the Australian capitalist rulers have aggressively enforced imperialist neocolonial rule in the region by dispatching troops to East Timor and the Solomon Islands. For the U.S. and Australian rulers, enforcing capitalist “stability” in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific also serves their strategic encirclement of China. U.S. embassy cables obtained by WikiLeaks recently revealed that in 2009 the federal Labor government secretly hosted teams of elite U.S. military personnel who were supporting operations of new ballistic missile defence satellites linked to a U.S. missile defence shield. Cables also revealed the deep commitment of Australian imperialism to the reactionary U.S./Australia alliance and that former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd advised the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to be prepared to use force against China. U.S. military and spy bases in Australia, which once primarily targeted the Soviet Union, now monitor China, North Korea, Laos and Vietnam with the object of reversing social revolutions that overturned capitalism in those countries. We say: Down with the counterrevolutionary U.S./Australia alliance! U.S. bases out of Australia now! All U.S. troops and bases out of South Korea! Australian troops, cops get out of East Timor and the Solomons! Not one person, not one cent for the Australian imperialist military!

Despite the rule of a nepotistic and bizarre Stalinist regime, North Korea’s planned economy significantly outperformed the South until the mid 1970s, creating a modern industrial infrastructure. At the same time, being divided from the South by a “demilitarised zone” packed with more weaponry per square metre than any place on earth has severely distorted the North’s economy. The situation became desperate in the aftermath of the 1991-92 counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, which had provided the bulk of military and technological aid to North Korea. In 1992, China’s nationalist Stalinist regime cut off shipments of cheap oil to the North in order to obtain diplomatic and economic relations with South Korea. In 1995, North Korea was hit by a horrific famine, stemming from floods and droughts, from which it has still not recovered.

As Trotskyists, we stand for the unconditional military defence of the deformed workers states—North Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba—against imperialism and internal capitalist counterrevolution. At the same time, we fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies, whose policies are encapsulated in the dogma of “building socialism in one country.” Opposing the fight for international proletarian revolution, the privileged bureaucracies instead pursue a futile quest for “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism, undermining the defence of those states against the class enemy.

In 2006 and again in 2009, China criminally voted for sanctions against North Korea in the UN Security Council following missile tests by Pyongyang. Likewise, Beijing has repeatedly brokered “six-party talks”—involving the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas—aimed at disarming North Korea. Beijing’s craven appeasement of imperialism not only imperils North Korea but dangerously undermines the defence of China itself.

As for the North Korean Stalinists, they have long called for “peaceful reunification” with the South—a recipe for reunification on a capitalist basis. An article titled “WikiLeaks Row: China Wants Korean Reunification, Officials Confirm” in the London Guardian (30 November 2010) cites Chinese officials in Europe who say that Beijing also favours the “independent and peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula in the long term.” The program of capitalist reunification is a betrayal not only of the North Korean workers state but also of the historically militant and combative South Korean proletariat. Indeed beginning 15 November last year Hyundai workers on temporary contracts carried out a month-long plant occupation in Ulsan, which spread to plants in Chunju and Asan. During the strike a number of workers were kidnapped, beaten and turned over to police. The brutal and deeply repressive South Korean capitalist government issued arrest warrants for 16 strike leaders from the Ulsan plant and five strike leaders from the Jeonju plant.

Many South Koreans feel a sense of solidarity with the North based on strong nationalist sentiments fed by a century of Japanese and American imperialist overlordship. But Korea is divided along class lines. Korean nationalism, promoted by both the North Korean Stalinist regime and the South Korean reformist left, serves to tie the South Korean proletariat to its own capitalist ruling class. What is needed is the forging of a Leninist-Trotskyist party based on proletarian internationalism to lead the struggle for the revolutionary reunification of Korea—for socialist revolution in the South and workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucrats in the North. Linked to the fight for proletarian political revolution in China, this struggle must ultimately extend to the victory of proletarian rule in the imperialist heartlands of Japan, Australia and the U.S.

Adapted from Workers Vanguard No. 970, 3 December 2010