North Korea: The British Left struggles to cope

This article appeared in Solidarity.  Please feel free to add your comments there.

Socialist Worker last week reported on the escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula – but in topsy-turvy world of the fast-decaying SWP, it denounced “imperialist war-mongering against North Korea” which “threatened to bring the region to the brink of nuclear war.”

Allow me to make one or two small corrections.

First, it is not “the region” alone which faces the risk of nuclear war. North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missiles have a reported range of 6,000 km. That puts Alaska, the northern bits of Australia, the entire Pacific ocean, all of China, most of Russia and the Indian sub-continent all within range.

Second (and how shall I put this delicately?), comrades, the North Korean regime, peace-loving though I am certain you believe it to be, is not entirely innocent here. Perhaps in some tiny way, it might be responsible for at least some of the tensions.

Of course I don’t expect the SWP to take my word for this. So let’s call upon Fidel Castro to back me up.

According to the Morning Star, the former Cuban dictator urged “North Korea to restrain itself for the good of mankind.” Castro also reportedly said that a war could affect “more than 70 per cent” of the world’s population and said the current flare-up was the “one of the gravest risks of nuclear war,” since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis – a subject on which he is considered something of an authority. (He did allow the Soviet Union to place ballistic missiles with nuclear weapons on Cuban soil.)

The Stalinists at the Morning Star may be slightly more clued in than the ex-Trotskyists at Socialist Worker (there is something ironic in that) but they’re not entirely living on the same planet as the rest of us either.

In their one editorial so far on the subject, the only criticism they make of North Korea is that “the Kim dynasty in Pyongyang recently rewrote the Marxist maxim that the working class plays the leading role in the construction of socialism to ascribe this role to the armed forces”.

That’s an odd sentence in so many ways, not least of which is the assumption that the totalitarian rulers of North Korea know or care about who plays “the leading role” in the construction of socialism, a project which they are not remotely interested in. Whatever it is that they are building with the help of hundreds of thousands of slave labourers, it is most certainly not socialism.

It’s not surprising that the Morning Star has mixed feelings about North Korea – after all, it inherits the Stalinist legacy of full support for any country, no matter how dictatorial and ruthless, so long as it confronts “imperialism”.

Why Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, continues to bankroll this awful newspaper is beyond belief. But it may perhaps have something to do with the fact that the union’s chief of staff has been a leading figure in the British CP for some time and a decade ago publicly expressed his full support for the North Korean regime, saying “Our Party has already made its basic position of solidarity with Peoples Korea clear.”

Socialist Worker and the Morning Star are struggling with the Korean crisis, but for socialists it is actually not very complicated.

It could be summed up in just six words – “no to war, no to dictatorship”.

No to war – meaning that North Korea must cease its threats and return to negotiations based on UN resolutions.

And no to dictatorship – meaning, down with the Kim regime, and for a united, democratic and socialist Korea.