Workers Vanguard No. 1136
29 June 2018
Democrats in Hawkish Frenzy After Trump-Kim Summit
Defend North Korea Against U.S. Imperialism!
For Revolutionary Reunification of Korea!
Donald Trump exited his June 12 Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un boasting of a “great moment in the history of the world.” The president who last year threatened to unleash “fire and fury” and “totally destroy” North Korea because of its development of nuclear weapons now parades as a man of peace. Trump and Kim signed a declaration pledging to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The statement lacked any details, and the mercurial Trump could change tack at a moment’s notice. But make no mistake: what the U.S. rulers demand is nothing less than total disarmament by North Korea, a bureaucratically deformed workers state.
The U.S. and other imperialist powers are determined to restore capitalist rule and untrammeled exploitation to North Korea and the other workers states—China, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba. The overturn and expropriation of capitalism in these countries represent historic gains for the world working class, despite their rule by Stalinist bureaucratic castes that exclude the working class from political power. We Trotskyists stand for the unconditional military defense of the deformed workers states against imperialism and capitalist counterrevolution. This defensism is the prerequisite to our fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the bureaucracies and install regimes based on workers and peasants councils.
North Korea’s nuclear program is a rational, essential policy of self-defense against American imperialism. The U.S. is the only country that has ever used atomic weapons, incinerating 200,000 Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Today it openly threatens a nuclear “first strike” against countries on its enemies list. Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, gave the game away several weeks before the summit when he said the U.S. wanted North Korea to accept the “Libya model.”
Pyongyang knows what this means and has repeatedly invoked the “Libya model” in defense of its nuclear policy. In 2003, Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi renounced that country’s nuclear arms program and welcomed imperialist inspectors in exchange for an end to economic sanctions. Predictably, Washington failed to hold up its end of the deal, and then in 2011 the U.S. and its NATO allies pummeled the country with airstrikes. Qaddafi was overthrown and murdered by local imperialist-sponsored forces, and Libya plunged into bloody chaos.
The U.S. repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons during the 1950-53 Korean War as part of the drive to “roll back Communism” in Asia but was hindered by the Soviet Union’s development of its own nuclear armaments. The horrors of that war are still seared into the memory of the Korean people, North and South. The Korean Peninsula had been divided at the 38th parallel after the defeat of Japan, Korea’s former colonial overlord, in World War II. In the North, capitalist/landlord rule was overthrown by guerrilla forces acting under the protection of the Soviet Army. In the South, U.S. occupation forces installed a brutal capitalist regime centered on former collaborators with the Japanese.
When North Korean troops advanced south in June 1950, they were welcomed by the workers and peasants as liberators, opening up the prospect of social revolution on the rest of the peninsula. The U.S. and other capitalist powers responded by invading Korea. The peninsula was devastated, with 18 of North Korea’s 22 largest cities mostly or totally obliterated, including the capital, Pyongyang, which was flattened. The imperialists slaughtered some four million people, including a million Chinese soldiers whose entry into the war was decisive in turning back the invaders. The war ended in a stalemate. To this day, the U.S. has refused to sign a peace treaty while maintaining a blockade of North Korea in an attempt to economically strangle the workers state. United Nations sanctions imposed at Washington’s behest remain in place.
It is unclear how much the Kim regime is willing to concede to the U.S. Under both Kim Jong Un and his predecessor and father, Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang has at times discussed abandoning its nuclear efforts in exchange for economic assistance from the U.S. Any deal with Washington isn’t worth the paper it’s signed on, as shown most recently by Trump’s scuttling of the nuclear accord with Iran. Abandonment of North Korea’s nuclear deterrent, as the U.S. insists, would be a criminal betrayal of the Korean working people, and the Kim regime’s own suicide note. In the face of Washington’s global nuclear hegemony, the possession of nuclear weapons and a delivery system is a necessary means of deterrence against imperialist attack.
While Trump has suspended U.S.-South Korean war games directed against North Korea, joint military exercises with Japan and other countries will continue apace. Some 28,000 American troops remain garrisoned in the South—and another 50,000 in Japan—as a permanent military threat to North Korea and China. The U.S. military presence in South Korea is also a dagger aimed at that country’s historically combative proletariat. All U.S. troops out! Down with the U.S./Japan imperialist axis against North Korea! End all sanctions now!
Democrats Beat War Drums
Kim Jong Un’s bureaucratic rule is plenty bizarre. But for weird and deadly dangerous, look no further than Washington. It might be that Donald Trump was driven to hold the summit by visions of golf courses along the North Korean coast dancing in his head. But now, absurdly, he has the mantle of peacenik. His enablers in that regard have been the leaders of the Democratic Party, joined by the liberal capitalist media, who are now the chief warmongers against North Korea.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi denounced Trump for handing Kim “concessions in exchange for vague promises.” Calling the summit a “photo op,” Elizabeth Warren railed that North Korea remains “a threat to the security of the United States, our allies and the world.” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow went off the deep end. Calling Trump’s pledge to stop the war games “an absolute jackpot for the North Korean dictator,” she alluded darkly (as always) to the hidden hand of Russia’s Vladimir Putin pulling Trump’s strings. What next? Did the World Cup contrive to ensure that the U.S. wouldn’t qualify? By comparison, the wildly eccentric Dennis Rodman seems a font of human understanding for just wanting the North Koreans to get a break.
The Democrats’ bellicosity is nothing new. Every major U.S. war in the 20th century was initiated and mainly carried out by Democratic Party administrations—both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam. The Democrats’ posture as friends of working people makes them better able to sell imperialist war to the population, usually in the guise of promoting “democracy” and “human rights.” It was Democratic president Harry Truman who ordered the atom bombing of Japan and began the Korean War. More recently, Bill Clinton was preparing to bomb North Korea into submission in 1994 had he not obtained a promise from Pyongyang to cease attempts to reprocess plutonium from fuel rods. Barack Obama also threatened to attack North Korea, escalated sanctions and authorized a cyber- and electronic-warfare program to disrupt the North’s missile tests.
While North Korea is painted as the immediate target, Washington’s central strategic goal in the region is the overturn of the 1949 Chinese Revolution. Thanks to its impressive economic development, China has become a major economic and diplomatic force, providing something of a counterweight to American imperialism. The U.S. is engaged in a series of aggressive military provocations against Beijing in the South China Sea. The installation of the THAAD missile shield system in South Korea last year was also aimed against China, as its tracking radar can degrade the viability of Beijing’s nuclear deterrent.
The Democrats have pushed an even more aggressive anti-China policy than Trump. When the White House announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico, citing “national security,” Democratic spokesmen went apoplectic, protesting that China should be the target. Bernie Sanders, imperialist “socialist” and darling of the reformist left, called the tariffs against U.S. allies “an absolute disaster” and demanded the imposition of “stiff penalties on countries like China” (as well as Russia and other countries). Trump has done just that, implementing tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods only days after the Singapore talks, with more promised to come.
Stalinism Undermines the Workers States
Trump’s overtures to Kim may have been intended in part to marginalize China, North Korea’s reluctant ally. But his trade war has prodded Beijing to ease up on its own pressure against Pyongyang. For years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime has backed UN sanctions against North Korea and joined the calls for it to abandon its nuclear program. China’s recent enforcement of sanctions in particular has undermined the already beleaguered North Korean economy. At the same time, China, North Korea’s main trade partner since the destruction of the Soviet Union, has maintained a certain level of trade, fearing the chaos that a collapse of the Kim regime would bring. Recent meetings between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un indicate that China is preparing to resume a higher level of trade. For its part, Pyongyang appears to be veering toward “market reforms” along Chinese lines.
Beijing’s collaboration with Washington against North Korea is a grotesque example of the Stalinist policy of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. The CCP bureaucrats’ treachery directly harms the defense of China itself. Counterrevolution in North Korea would bring U.S. forces to the Chinese border—a threat the Chinese bureaucracy is well aware of.
From Beijing and Pyongyang to Havana, “peaceful coexistence” is inherent to the Stalinist dogma of building “socialism in one country.” That program means pursuing narrow nationalist interests and opposing the fight for world workers revolution—including in the advanced capitalist countries—which is the only road to building a socialist society of material abundance. The Kim regime advances a program for “peaceful reunification” of Korea, which does not challenge capitalist rule in the South. In 2000, when the liberal South Korean regime of Kim Dae-jung undertook an earlier “sunshine policy” of engaging the North, Pyongyang responded by reiterating its call for “a reunified federal state based on the conception of one nation, one state, two systems and two governments” (see “All U.S. Troops Out of Korea Now!”, WV No. 738, 30 June 2000).
The truth is that there is a class line dividing North Korea from the capitalist South, drawn with the blood of millions of Koreans. There is no way Korea can be united without either the victory of capitalist counterrevolution in the North or the smashing of capitalism in the South. Capitalist reunification would be a catastrophic defeat for working people in the North and for the proletariat in the South, and internationally. Our program is for the revolutionary reunification of Korea, through socialist revolution in the South and workers political revolution in the North. If China and North Korea had governments based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism, they would forge communist unity against imperialism, including through regional economic planning and support to struggles by working people and the oppressed abroad.
Many South Koreans feel solidarity with the North, based on nationalist sentiments fed by a century of bitter experience under Japanese and then U.S. imperial overlords. Such sentiments have surged under President Moon Jae-in, who is riding a wave of popularity for having prepared the groundwork for the Singapore summit. By all reports, the mass of the population welcomed the event as a harbinger of peace and, more immediately, an opportunity to resume visits among family members divided by the Korean War. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions hailed the summit as opening “an era of peace that is not reversible.”
As under Kim Dae-jung, Moon’s policy of engagement is also seen by a wing of the South Korean bourgeoisie as an opportunity to undermine North Korea through penetration by the chaebol conglomerates that brutally exploit South Korean workers. The nationalism promoted by the North Korean Stalinists—reflecting their inability to appeal to the proletariat in the South on a class basis—and much of the reformist left in South Korea serves to tie the working class there to its own exploiters.
The South Korean group Workers Solidarity, linked to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Britain, capitulates to its capitalist rulers and their imperialist patrons by refusing to even recognize, much less defend, the overturn of capitalist rule in the North or any of the other workers states. In a June 7 article, Workers Solidarity denounces “imperialist competition between the U.S. and China.” SWP founder Tony Cliff and his supporters broke from the Trotskyist Fourth International in 1950 when they refused to defend the Soviet Union, China and North Korea in the Korean War. Steeped in Cold War anti-Communism, they went on to support any and all reactionary forces arrayed against the Soviet Union in the name of “anti-Stalinism” and “democracy,” cheering the counterrevolution that finally destroyed the USSR.
Some other reformist leftists, like the U.S. Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), oppose imperialist economic and military threats against North Korea but give political support to the North Korean Stalinists, whose rule undermines defense of the workers state. The PSL has recently sponsored events focused on the call for “Korean unity.” The audience at a “One Korea” teach-in organized by the PSL’s ANSWER coalition in Los Angeles on April 28 broke into applause when a photo of the North and South Korean leaders shaking hands was displayed. Addressing appeals for Korean reunification, a Spartacist League speaker intervened to raise the call for “socialist reunification, which means a workers revolution in the South and a political revolution in the North by the working class.”
In the U.S., the pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucracy champions the interests of American imperialism, preferring, in the main, the Democratic Party in power. For its part, the reformist left tails the Democrats’ “resistance” to Trump. We warn that the “choice” between the two capitalist parties amounts to which gang of bandits will oversee the exploitation of the working class, the repression of blacks, Latinos and immigrants, and the prosecution of U.S. imperialism’s wars abroad.
Our goal is to forge a multiracial revolutionary workers party that can direct anger and frustration among working people and oppressed minorities toward sweeping away capitalist rule. An American workers government would expropriate the capitalist owners of industry and the banks and use the wealth produced by labor for the benefit of the many instead of the profits of a few, helping as well to redress the imperialists’ plunder of Korea and the rest of the planet. Only socialist revolution can put an end to the depredations of U.S. imperialism and the threat of nuclear annihilation.