Workers Vanguard No. 1118
22 September 2017
Monday, October 02, 2017
A View From The Left-All U.S. Forces/Bases Out of South Korea! Down With U.S. Provocations Against North Korea!
All U.S. Forces/Bases Out of South Korea!
Down With U.S. Provocations Against North Korea!
SEPTEMBER 19—The U.S. may “have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”—this is how Donald Trump put it today in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly. The threats against North Korea by the U.S. capitalist rulers on a near-daily basis are a reminder that they are prepared to risk nuclear war—and that neither the imperialists nor their capitalist order is rational. Trump rants as though North Korea were a dangerous threat to the U.S., the mightiest military power on earth with its vast nuclear arsenal.
North Korea, a country of 25 million people, is not a capitalist power, but a bureaucratically deformed workers state. In their drive to destroy this workers state, the U.S. imperialists have been ratcheting up their provocations. In March, the Pentagon began the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield system in South Korea—a system that had been prepared under the Obama administration—and just two weeks ago installed additional rocket launchers. Since the Korean War, the U.S. has maintained a large troop presence—today numbering more than 28,000—in South Korea, as well as 50,000 more in Japan. In recent months, the U.S. has repeatedly conducted military exercises with its Japanese imperialist allies and its South Korean quislings. These war provocations include simulated invasions of North Korea, the destruction of its nuclear weapons sites and assassination of its leaders.
In response to the Pyongyang government’s test of a hydrogen bomb on September 3, the U.S. turned to its United Nations tool to step up efforts to strangle North Korea economically and force it into submission by reversing the modest economic growth the country has experienced over the last several years. On September 11, the UN voted the harshest measures to date, including a ban on North Korea’s textile exports, a halt to further hiring of North Korean workers abroad (a source of foreign currency) and a cap on the country’s imports of oil.
The U.S. agreed to water down its original sanctions proposal in order to secure the agreement of China (and of Putin’s capitalist Russia) in the Security Council. Like North Korea, China is a bureaucratically deformed workers state, and is North Korea’s only ally. The People’s Republic of China, the largest and most powerful of the remaining countries where capitalist rule has been overthrown, is in fact the ultimate target of U.S. aggression in the region. Yet China’s Stalinist rulers have bowed to imperialist pressure, treacherously leaning on Pyongyang to halt its development of nuclear weapons and supporting UN sanctions against North Korea, even if Beijing holds back from fully implementing them. Such concessions to the imperialists are detrimental to the defense of China itself.
In recent years, China has been the target of repeated U.S. provocations in the South China Sea, and the THAAD system is designed to intercept Chinese missiles. Trump’s threat to impose sanctions on any country trading with North Korea is aimed at intensifying pressure on China, Pyongyang’s largest trading partner.
Ever since the overthrow of capitalist rule in those countries, the U.S. imperialists under both Democrats and Republicans have pursued their goal of counterrevolutionary destruction of North Korea and overturning the 1949 Chinese Revolution. This campaign included the 1950-53 Korean War, carried out under the auspices of the UN, during which the U.S. considered using nuclear weapons and was deterred only by the Soviet Union’s own nuclear arsenal.
As Marxists, our opposition to U.S. imperialism’s threats against North Korea and China is based above all on the class line: Despite being saddled with nationalist, Stalinist bureaucracies, North Korea and China are workers states based on the overturn and expropriation of capitalist rule. It is vital for the international proletariat, not least in the U.S., to stand for the unconditional military defense of these countries against imperialist attack and capitalist counterrevolution, including by demanding that all U.S. forces get out of South Korea and Japan and by calling for an end to all sanctions against North Korea. Such defense is integral to the cause of world socialist revolution.
Defense of these workers states must also include supporting their ability to have nuclear weapons and effective delivery systems. Four days after the UN voted for sanctions, North Korea defiantly launched an intermediate-range missile that passed over the Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the Pacific Ocean. In northern Japan, the government sounded sirens and sent text messages instructing the population to go to bomb shelters, whipping up fears of nuclear annihilation that will be used to bolster Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive for intensified rearmament of imperialist Japan. In fact, North Korea’s nuclear program is defensive and aimed at deterring imperialist attack.
For Revolutionary Reunification of Korea!
Popular media often portrays the current stand-off between the U.S. and North Korea as the result of two crazed leaders threatening to plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust. Donald Trump is undoubtedly volatile and unpredictable, not least when tweeting. However, the policy he is pursuing with North Korea is in line with that of previous administrations and is aimed at destroying this workers state. Indeed, Obama himself had threatened to attack the North, including with nukes, and several times sent B-2 bombers over the Korean Peninsula.
As for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his regime, there is much that is bizarre and unsavory about his dynastic, mythologized, bureaucratic rule. But there is nothing crazy about his government’s drive for nukes. It is a rational and essential policy of defense against the U.S., which openly threatens a nuclear “first strike” against its perceived enemies. If not for such a deterrent, the U.S. would have already bombarded North Korea, as it has so many countries in the Near East and elsewhere. As a statement by the North Korean government last year underlined: “The Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and the Gaddafi regime in Libya could not escape the fate of destruction” after giving up their weapons programs and “yielding to the pressure of the U.S. and the West keen on their regime changes.”
The horrors of the Korean War are still seared into the memory of the North Korean population generations later. Following the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula was divided between the North, where capitalist/landlord rule was overthrown by guerrilla forces acting under the protection of the Soviet Army, and a brutal capitalist regime in the South, backed by the U.S. When North Korean army troops advanced below the 38th parallel in June 1950, they were welcomed as liberators by the masses of workers and peasants. The North’s advance represented an opportunity for social revolution in the South. In response, the U.S. and other capitalist powers invaded North Korea, devastated the entire peninsula and flattened Pyongyang. The imperialists slaughtered some four million people, including a million Chinese soldiers, whose entry into the war was decisive in turning back the U.S.-led invaders. The war ended in a stalemate, and the U.S. refuses to sign a peace treaty to this day.
The overthrow of capitalist rule in China and North Korea is a historic gain for the international working class. At the same time, both these workers states have been ruled from their inception by nationalist, Stalinist bureaucratic castes that exclude the working class from political power. The Stalinists preach the dogma of building “socialism in one country”—the myth that a classless society of abundance can be constructed in a single country amid scarcity. This perspective is an obstacle to the defense of these social revolutions and is counterposed to the struggle for international socialist revolution.
As Trotskyists, we fight for the revolutionary reunification of Korea—through socialist revolution in the South and political revolution in the North. Key to our defense of the workers states is the fight for workers political revolutions to oust the Stalinist misrulers and replace them with governments based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.
Down With U.S. Imperialism!
In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in was elected earlier this year on the back of millions-strong protests against the corrupt regime of Park Geun-hye, who combined sweeping attacks on the unions with intense hostility toward North Korea. During his election campaign, Moon promised dialogue with the North, which won him the support of many in the South who do not wish to become the target of retaliation by North Korea. But as president, Moon has made clear his subservience to the U.S., which calls the shots in Seoul. Indeed, the U.S. would have operational control of the South Korean military in the event of war.
Moon outraged many of his supporters by expediting the installation of additional THAAD rocket launchers, sited in a village south of Seoul, where the residents were deeply opposed. When some 400 protesters tried to physically block the delivery, 8,000 cops were mobilized to protect the U.S. military vehicles carrying the rocket launchers. Following Pyongyang’s missile launch over Japan, Moon threatened the North, declaring, “We have the power to destroy North Korea and make it unable to recover.” The “we” here is clearly the U.S. aided by their lapdogs in the South.
Whether they are pursuing negotiations with the North or military threats, or both, the goal of the imperialists and South Korean capitalists toward North Korea is to force it to submit. Some liberal voices in the U.S. are calling for negotiations leading to “a deal in which Pyongyang would freeze its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for some American concessions,” as a New York Times editorial (6 September) put it. The aim behind such calls is to render the North’s nuclear deterrent ineffective by curtailing its capacity for missile delivery, thus leaving the country open to attack.
Joining this imperialist chorus are the South Korean cothinkers of the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP), whose publication Workers’ Solidarity—while “opposing Trump’s drive to war”—made clear: “North Korea’s nuclear weapon programmes cannot be supported” (socialistworker.co.uk, 15 September). Throughout its history this tendency has refused to defend the workers states against imperialism. It was founded in Britain by Tony Cliff, who broke with the Trotskyist movement in 1950 after his refusal to defend North Korea, China and the Soviet Union against U.S. and British imperialism during the Korean War. The Cliffites’ “third camp” position that there is no side to take between the imperialists and Stalinist-ruled countries like the former USSR, North Korea and China has always put them on the side of the imperialists.
South Korea has a powerful proletariat, concentrated in strategic industrial sectors like steel and auto. It has waged tremendous battles, including in the 1970s and ’80s, which gave rise to independent unions that are now grouped in the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). KCTU-affiliated unions continue to lead labor struggle and face brutal repression by the Seoul regime. But the federation’s leadership has a record of advocating support for bourgeois parties and candidates, including Moon. The South Korean Cliffites lamented the fact that “the majority of reformist forces pinned hopes on the Moon government” (socialistworker.co.uk, 15 September). But Workers’ Solidarity neglected to mention that the reformists who pinned their hopes on Moon’s (failed) 2012 election campaign included their own selves.
The South Korean working class can further its own class interests only through complete independence from all wings of the capitalist class. Many of those protesting THAAD and other war moves by Washington and Seoul are doing so from a pacifist standpoint. What is necessary is to forge a Leninist-Trotskyist party in Korea that can imbue the proletariat with the understanding that it must defend the workers state in the North as part of the struggle to overthrow capitalist rule in the South.
The U.S. troops stationed in South Korea represent a dagger aimed not only at North Korea but also at the combative proletariat in the South. It is in the essential interest of the multiracial American proletariat to oppose U.S. imperialism and its military provocations and demand: U.S. hands off the world. The U.S. imperialists paint North Korea as a danger to the American populace. In fact, it is U.S. imperialism that is threatening to plunge the world into Armageddon. The same capitalist ruling class currently threatening to turn the Korean Peninsula into irradiated rubble is also destroying the livelihood of millions of working people at home. What is needed is a struggle for proletarian socialist revolution in the U.S. itself. The Spartacist League is dedicated to building the party that can lead such a struggle—the U.S. section of a reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.