Editorial from The Irish Political Review May 2017:
North Korea is the last of the Cold War states—that is, the last of the states left behind by Britain’s Second World War: that is, the war on Germany that Britain declared in 1939, expanded into a World War by use of its Navy when defeated in battle in 1940, and then left to others to fight.
The war that began as a war on Germany by Britain and France was changed into a war by Russia and the United States against Germany, and against each other when they had defeated Germany.
The American war on Russia could not be fought head-on. The American war on Japan was, in its concluding phase, a war of mass annihilation waged on the Japanese civilian population with nuclear weapons. It was unable to practice that mode of warfare against Russia, as many eminent lovers of freedom desired, because Russia quickly became capable of making its own nuclear weapons. The world was therefore stabilised in 1948 in the form it took when the American and Russian Armies met in their wars against Germany and Japan in the Summer of 1945.
The line where the two Armies met in their wars against Germany and Japan became the Cease-fire lines in the war that American did not dare to launch on Russia. One part of that line ran through Korea. That is why there were two German states for 45 years and why there are still two Korean states.
The Cold War ended when the Soviet regime in Russia turned against itself in the Gorbachov era and rejected the principles on which it was based. The states east of the 1945 Ceasefire line, which were maintained by Soviet power, then crumbled and the Western system took over in them. Yugoslavia did not crumble because it was Communist under its own power, and not as a Soviet dependency. It was destroyed by the fostering of extreme nationalism within it by the EU and NATO.
It was expected that North Korea would crumble as East Germany had crumbled. It was depicted as a barren territory, incompetently governed, in which a lunatic minority kept itself in power by means of Stalinist terror, and that it would collapse when all around it changed. But it hasn’t collapsed. And now America is threatening to destroy it because it has developed nuclear weapons—but is fearful of attacking it for the same reason.
We have no inside knowledge of North Korea. Maybe the Irish Labour Party has. It was run for a generation by the Official IRA which had/has North Korean connections.
But, as to “Stalinist terror” being the means by which the North Korean regime sustains itself: that terror was operated by the masses rather than against them. It was a medium of mass cultural and economic development. That fact is now being half-acknowledged by academic ‘social science’ in which the term “mass dictatorship” has been noticeable in recent years.
The notion that the masses were passive victims of a system of terror operated against them by a small minority with guns, and that they were frightened by that masterful handful of terrorists into doing the remarkable things that they did in the Soviet Union, is too childish to pass muster, now that the Western Cold War mobilisation of a kindergarten mentality for an Apocalypse no longer has a point.
The World War that Britain brought about, but failed to direct towards any settlement that was in accordance with its origins, brought about a division of the world into two fundamentalist systems. The fundamentalism of the West was absolute, unconditional. Its watchword at the critical moment, in 1963 was Better dead than Red. It was apparently willing to launch nuclear war if Russia placed nuclear weapons close to its borders—as it had done to Russian borders.
Its view was that life would not be worth living unless its own way of life prevailed. And this view was entirely in accordance with the value system by which he United States had established itself over three centuries. That value system was frankly asserted by Jefferson over two centuries ago. It was re-asserted bluntly by Obama in his testament. The USA is the only indispensable nation.
The brief moment when a mere businessman won the White House on a policy of abrogating the Manifest Destiny, and seemed intent on letting the world be, has passed.
The existence of North Korea is being called into question on the ground that it has been developing the means of defending itself and is therefore dangerous. Voltaire’s satirical remark is now the simple truth: “This animal is dangerous. When attacked it defends itself”.
In 1963 China, with its superabundant population, wanted to put the USA to the test and discover if it really would prefer to be dead than make a deal with the Reds. Chinese civilisation was there before Europe was thought of, and would still be there when the nuclear dust settled. But it was Russia that was calling the shots in 1963.
If the Manifest Destiny requires war on North Korea, it will be a war with China. And that war will have nothing to do with the inescapable conflict of fundamentally antagonistic world systems brought about by the World War. It will just be a working out of the New England colonisation—whose victims have never been counted.
North Korea is generally referred to as a Stalinist hold-out whose survival defies reason. One book about it is called The Impossible State.
It is not Stalinist: that ideology was a working out of Leninism. Leninism had no belief-content for the masses. It was a means of handling the masses in a process of capitalist modernisation without a capitalist class. It did not, in the first instance, represent a Russian working class. It created a working class, and involved it in its own further creation after a start was made.
But its distinctive culture was social analysis—and objective analysis, which may be satisfying in struggle within capitalist society, loses much of its effectiveness as culture when there is no longer a capitalist class to be struggled against. It appears that Stalin saw this and discreetly allowed considerable freedom to the Orthodox Church.
In North Korea there seems to have been an effective combination of elements of the Stalin system with Confucianism and local Korean traditions, under a general commitment to comprehensive self-sufficiency.
There also seems to have been an extensive development of an internal market which is disconnected from the world market. An arrangement of this kind was envisaged in the early 19th century by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the philosopher of both human rights and German nationalism, in The Closed Commercial State.
Life as a consumer within the world market is the only life worth living—that is not only an American conviction. It has been played back from America to Europe. It was not a conviction of the EU in its origins but it became so under British tuition. The EU is now having serious problems as a consequence—If the impending European elections go strongly in the nationalist direction, it might be that it will not seem necessary to reduce North Korea to chaos. But that seems unlikely.