by Richard Bos
Democratic Korea has made great strides in the construction of socialism and much work has been done in the field of ideology - the result of which has been Juche.
THE JUCHE IDEA starts with the assertion that: "Human beings are the masters of everything and control everything" and that collectivism alone makes it possible to stimulate the creativity of all individuals and to properly combine both collective and individual demands for independence, and thus fully meet them.
It recognises that we are neither purely spiritual beings nor simple biological beings. We are social beings who live and act in social relationships. The difference between all other biological beings and humans is our consciousness and the desire for independence and creativity that comes with it.
Both Marxism-Leninism and the Juche philosophies consider that their purpose is not only to interpret, but also to contribute to the practical transformation of the world in the interest of the working masses. Kim Il Sung argued that Marxist philosophy was a huge advance over previous reactionary philosophies, which saw people as either purely biological or spiritual beings. It defined humankind as the sum of material, economic and social conditions and relations.
This was a truly revolutionary advance on everything that came before. He argued that even Marxism had its limitations, which are exploited by revisionists due to the over-emphasis in developing socialism on materialist and economic levers rather than the motive force of the masses.
It had been thought that people would be transformed by economic and material conditions and neglected the importance of the ideological transformation of the masses. The Juche idea recognises that the movement towards the development of a socialist society is not just a natural historical process, which develops and changes due to economic and material factors. It is also necessary to strengthen the independence, creativity and consciousness of the masses as a motive force through their ideological remoulding.
The prime task in a socialist society is the transformation from individualism, a product of capitalist society which isolates and divides the people, to collectivism, which will release expression and creativity to its fullest potential. This is not just through the organisation of production, but as a way of thinking and life.
Kim Jong Il wrote: "Although socialism is an inevitable stage of historical development and socialist society is the most progressive one, which conforms to mans independent nature, socialism will never be realised spontaneously.
In order to realise socialism, we must prepare the revolutionary forces capable of doing this and evolve a correct method of struggle. Unless the revolutionary forces and the method of struggle are prepared, the desire for independence of the popular masses who aspire after socialism will remain a mere wish".
Objective conditions certainly have an essential role in the revolutionary struggle, but the decisive factor is the ideological strengthening of the class. That becomes even more important after the overthrow of the ruling class and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and building socialism.
The recognition that humans really are the masters of everything and control everything that we are masters of our own destiny means that when the development of socialism is based on the will of the masses it can succeed even when material objective conditions are against it.
Our environment does not decide our fate; we do. And that is what makes human beings different from all other creatures.
Reactionary philosophies do not regard human beings as precious in our own right, but as a means of production and possessors of labour power, which can be bought or sold. They assert that money and material things alone can manipulate the development of society and economy. Marx and Engels made a start in looking at the social relations between people.
The Juche idea developed the thinking that as well as a physical life; people also have a socio-political integrity, which defines our lives as social beings. Physical life is valuable as it lays the base upon which we can build our socio-political integrity and the more stable and sound that physical base the more securely we can develop our independence, creativity and consciousness.
It is our basic need as social beings to value our socio-political integrity more than our physical lives. If our only demand were to satisfy our physical needs then we would have no honour or integrity. No matter how affluent we would be, our lives would be no different from any other animal. That would be a distortion of what it is to be a human being and run counter to our basic needs.
Kim Jong Il put this very eloquently: "Independence is the life and soul of man. Man, an independent social being, desires to live independently, free from any subordination or shackles. The fact that man lives independently means that he lives as the master of the world and of his own destiny, maintaining his position and exercising his rights as such.
"Only when man lives as a social being, exercising his right to independence and implementing his demand for independence, can he be said to enjoy a dignified life, maintaining socio-political integrity. If he loses his independence and is subordinated socially, he is as good as dead socially and politically, even though he is alive. Mans desire to live independently is realised, first of a1l, through an independent political life.
"When man is subordinated socially and politically, he cannot lead any kind of independent life. As socio-political integrity is mans most precious life, a noble life for him is to maintain and exalt socio-political integrity. Man receives socio-political integrity from the social collective. The social collective is the parent body of mans socio-political integrity. Therefore, the worth of mans life depends on how he is connected with the social collective.
"Mans life becomes noble when he is loved and trusted by the social collective; it is worthless when he is forsaken by it. Man enjoys the love and trust of the social collective when he considers the interests of the social collective to be dearer than those of individuals and when he faithfully serves the social collective.
"In the final analysis, the greatest value and worth of mans life is to lead an independent and creative life, enjoying the love and trust of the social collective, while at the same time combining his own destiny with that of the social collective and serving it heart and soul. This is the way for man to enhance his socio-political integrity and lead a worthy human life as a social being.
"Today, the bourgeois reactionaries and renegades of socialism regard the exploitation and domination of man by man as something normal and consider man, as a base being who only pursues his own material desires. This clearly demonstrates the reactionary nature of the bourgeois viewpoint and attitude towards the essence and worth of mans life.
"True human life, which enables everyone to enhance their most precious socio-political integrity and fully meet the demands of their physical life, can only be realised admirably in a socialist society based on collectivism. In this society, people are free from all manner of exploitation and oppression, domination and subordination and can lead an independent and creative life in social, political and all other areas".
The Juche idea also looks at the definition of the term "the masses", which Kim Jong Il defines as "a united social community which centres on working people, due to their common demand for independence and creative activity".
In a capitalist society this would include workers and peasants as well as working intellectuals and other class elements and strata who champion the struggle for independence. It is not only a class concept, but also one of ideas.
Anyone who serves the people and takes part in the revolutionary struggle can be a member of the masses whatever their original background and status. That includes people who are not necessarily socialists or communists, but share much common ground and oppose reaction. The Party should not just regard these people as temporary allies but as everlasting companions that it is leading towards communism and revolution.
To quote Kim Jong Il again: "The popular masses desire for independence is the criterion for judging the correctness of lines and policies. The only way to avoid subjectivism and tortuous events in the revolution and construction is to mix with the masses and listen to what they want.
"The masses are teachers of everything. The masses desire for independence, when integrated into a system, will become ideas, lines and policies. When formulating its lines and policies, the working-class party must always go among the masses and listen to their desires. In doing their work, officials must also begin by listening to the masses desires".
The priority of the Party in a socialist society is political work and ideological transformation it is only by this means that the role of the masses can be elevated and strengthened by releasing their creativity initiative and revolutionary zeal united with the Party and leader. Great efforts should be put into training people as powerful beings who can develop their creative ability along with their independent consciousness. It is by this means that material needs of the people can be met.
Love and trust constitute the essence of politics in socialist society love and trust of the masses by the Party and leader, and love and trust of the Party and leader by the masses. The masses are no longer the objects of politics, but its masters; the complete opposite of bourgeois politics, which exists only to preserve itself and the system of exploitation.
The Party is more than a weapon in the class struggle. It should also be built as a motherly Party and all Party members should be educated in the spirit of love and service of the people, thinking of the people before themselves. The Party member should endure hardship before others, be ready to take on difficult tasks and always give credit to others first.
To look in greater depth at the question of ideological education...the very clear lesson of the collapse of socialism in many countries is that the corruption of socialism begins with ideological corruption, and that a breakdown on the ideological front results in crumbling of all socialisms fronts and ends in the total ruin of the Party and socialism.
If it secures ideology, socialism will triumph; if it loses ideology, socialism will go to ruin. Missing out on ideological work when building socialism amounts to overlooking the key to socialism. This mistake will inevitably result in its corruption and collapse. This is a truth experienced by everyone here at this school.
Ideology is the only and the most powerful weapon of the working class Party. The working class Party can only fulfil its mission and duty as the leading political organisation, which sets he pace for the masses independence, when it holds fast to ideology as the main factor and does ideological work before all other work.
Capitalism, as an exploiting system, which replaced the feudal system of subordination to the lord with subordination to capital, grew up within the framework of feudal society. But socialism, a new system, radically different from all the exploiting systems before it, cannot grow up within the framework of capitalist society. Socialist ideology emerges as a reflection of the class demand of the exploited working masses who fight against domination by capital.
The socialist system is born of the struggle of the popular masses who are awakened to socialist ideology. It is consolidated and developed under the guidance of socialist ideology and leadership of its Party. Socialist society is essentially characterised by the fact that it develops based on the strength of its ideology, by the conscious activities of people. Its consolidation, development and destiny depend on how ideological work is done and how people are prepared ideologically.
The Party needs to constantly develop its ideology and emphasis based on current conditions. If socialist ideology takes the path of revisionist degeneration or dogmatic stagnation due to incorrect ideological and theoretical work of the working class Party, it will encounter twists and turns, and end in failure.
When they fight with a high level of ideological consciousness and in close unity, the masses can display strength and wisdom and transform nature and society immensely. An incomparable advantage and the indestructible strength of socialism lies in its full development and use of the great strength and wisdom of the popular masses, the makers of history. This is precisely the advantage and strength of socialist ideology, which are ensured by ideological work.
Parties in some countries building socialism in the past, emphasised economic construction alone and took a dogmatic approach to socialist theory instead of paying due attention to educating the masses. They made economic construction itself stagnate and, in the long run, pulled the socialist system down to the extent that they went the lengths of reviving capitalism.
Opportunists and renegades abandoned ideological work in socialist society, and encouraged people to be egotistic and selfish. They spread bourgeois ideology, which regards money as omnipotent among people, by adopting the capitalist method of using financial incentives.
How we use our knowledge and how high a creative ability we can display depends on what kind of ideology we have. Only someone with the idea of serving the popular masses can devote their knowledge, skills, wisdom and talent to work for the masses. Ideological consciousness and socio-political integrity, which reflect peoples inherent desires as the masters of the world, as transformers of the world, is consciousness of independence.
Consciousness of independence is the consciousness of being the master of ones own destiny; it is the desire to shape ones own destiny. Only when a person has consciousness of independence can they transform the world positively and shape their own destiny as well.
Socialist ideology represents the highest stage in the development of consciousness of independence. It reflects societys desires for independence and collectivism. As such, it is the most powerful ideological weapon for transforming nature and society and for shaping the destiny of humankind.
It also serves as the ideological basis of solid social unity and cohesion. Ideological work for equipping the masses with socialist ideology is the key to releasing the advantages of socialism, increasing its strength and accelerating the revolution and construction.
Socialist economic relations are the economic, material basis of socialist ideology. Socialist economic relations, whose major component is socialist ownership, provide the masses with material conditions for them to acquire and consolidate socialist ideology.
Therefore, the consolidation and development of socialist economic relations have a major effect on equipping the people with socialist ideology. The socio-economic basis for the emergence of outmoded ideas disappears with the establishment of the socialist system.
But hangovers from the past will remain as hotbeds of reaction that can grow without ideological vigilance. Bourgeois and all other outmoded, reactionary ideas are based on individualism. Exploitative societies were all based on individualism and the people in these societies were tainted with individualism for thousands of years. Individualism is an obstinate, conservative idea, which is deeply rooted in peoples consciousness, customs and lives. Even in a socialist society, individualism and other outmoded ideas persist to a great deal and, when even small chances present themselves, these ideas will sprout again and spread.
The work of eradicating outmoded ideas from peoples minds and equipping them with the new, socialist ideology is an ideological revolution to radically change their ideological lives. That work is essential both inside and outside the Party organisation.
In the past, quite a few parties took a mechanical approach to the historical materialist proposition that the material and economic conditions in society determine social consciousness, and that social consciousness changes with changes in material and economic conditions. They believed that when peoples material and cultural standards became higher under the socialist system and the promotion of socialist construction, their ideological consciousness would be transformed accordingly.
Therefore, they did not pay great attention to ideological work. Believing that peoples ideological consciousness will spontaneously change along socialist lines after they see socialism working, is a totally wrong concept. It is contrary to the essence of socialism and the socialistic transformation of ideology. By nature, human consciousness reflects objective reality, but how they absorb this depends on the person, on their preparedness.
They see, hear, feel and absorb as much as they can understand. What ideology they acquire and how this ideology changes and develops depends on their preparedness, activities and the ideological influence they receive.
It is clear that socialist ideology cannot develop smoothly of its own accord, even though the socialist system has been established and the material and economic conditions have been created.
If ideological work is not carried out, peoples revolutionary enthusiasm may gradually cool down. The tendency to want to live in comfort may grow among them, since they are free from any worries in socialist society and continue to lead stable lives.
Then they cannot devote themselves to the struggle for socialism and, worse still, they maybe duped by imperialists and reactionary propaganda into harbouring illusions about capitalism. This is testified by the collapse of socialism several countries that abandoned ideological work and opened their door to the ideological and cultural infiltration of imperialism.
Ideological education and ideological struggle are the most powerful methods of transforming people by educating them in socialist ideology.
Experience shows that, if ideological work is conducted vigorously to equip people with socialist ideology in socialist society, people from all walks of life can be transformed along socialist lines.
The cause of socialism is a historic cause to be carried out over several generations and cannot be expected to be complete until the last vestiges of the old ways are gone. The basic task of ideological work in socialist society is to colour the whole of society with socialist ideology.
In any society, the ruling class tries to bring about the unchallenged predominance of its own ideology. In capitalist society, where the society is split into classes and peoples interests conflict, one ideology cannot hold undivided sway and it is inevitable that different ideas exist. The imperialists and their mouthpieces claim the existence of these ideas is a source of pride for the free world.
But progressive ideas can never develop freely in capitalist society, where the means of propaganda and education such as the mass media are in the hands of monopoly capitalists and reactionary rulers. The reactionary bourgeois ruling class tolerates progressive ideas to some extent, to make capitalist society seem democratic. But when they are considered the slightest threat to its ruling system, it mercilessly suppresses them.
Outwardly, different thoughts appear to be tolerated in capitalist society, but all kinds of thoughts throughout it are, without exception, none other than various forms and expressions of bourgeois ideology.
Only in socialist society, where exploitation, oppression and class antagonisms have been eliminated, can all members of society be equipped with a single ideology, because of their common purpose, aspirations and interests. Only then can a single ideology prevail. Socialist ideology develops the masses into independent people, who are conscious of their independence and creative ability, while reactionary bourgeois ideas reduce them to servants who obey the domination of capital, to ideological and mental cripples.
Socialism is the future of humankind, and the communist movement is a movement of the working class to create a new, independent world. The communist movement will develop and emerge victorious through the conscious struggle of the masses. The world communist movement will inevitably triumph thanks to the struggle of the masses who are conscious and armed with socialist ideology.
first published in August 2003