by Andy Brooks
KIM IL SUNG was an outstanding communist leader and thinker who will always be remembered by working people all over the world. His name will forever be remembered as the founder of the modern Korean communist movement that began amongst the patriotic youth of Korea when he was a student in the 1920s.
From student leader Kim Il Sung became the guerrilla leader; the “Young General” who took up the gun to drive the Japanese colonialists out of the country. When Kim Il Sung gathered a small band of heroes to form the first guerrilla units to take on the might of the Japanese Army no one could have imagined that this would become the People’s Army that brought the American imperialists to their knees begging for an armistice in 1953.
But above all Kim Il Sung was the communist leader who built the Korean communist movement from the grass-roots in the 1920s to the Workers’ Party of Korea that was founded in 1945 and leads the Korean people from victory to victory in the 21st century.
The great leader of the Korean people was one of the giants of communism – the man who led the people in a war of liberation from Japanese occupation and then in 1950 defended that victory against invasion by the United States and its allies in 1950, who had been using the fledgling United Nations as a puppet. He then went on to lead his country in building its own, independent socialism, steering a careful path during the period of Sino-Soviet ideological conflict and managing to remain on good terms with both parties.
And after the demise of the Soviet Union and the loss of the eastern European socialist countries, an enormous setback for communism globally, when parties were becoming demoralised and failing around the world, Kim Il Sung stopped the rot by summoning a global conference of communist and workers’ parties in Pyongyang in 1992.
Comrade Kim Il Sung led the Korean masses to victory against the brutal Japanese colonialists in 1945. He took up the gun again to defend their freedom when US imperialism and its lackeys invaded the north in 1950. The Americans were fought to a standstill and forced to sign a humiliating armistice in 1953. Though the American terror bombers had left north Korea in ruins, the masses rallied round the call of the Workers’ Party of Korea to rebuild their shattered country and lead the drive for a modern, independent socialist republic in the free part of the Korean peninsula.
In the north the WPK led the drive to build a new life for all the working people of the DPRK. In American-occupied south Korea the WPK led the popular forces in their struggle against US imperialism and their local lackeys and pawns.
The Workers’ Party of Korea was founded on 10th October 1945 but the struggle began in those dark days of 1910 when the Japanese army marched into Korea, deposed the feudal ruler and the peninsula became a colony of Japan.
There was always resistance but it was drowned in blood. But the 1917 Great October Russian Revolution had a enormous impact on the Korean people, inspiring a new uprising in 1919. The Japanese occupation forces responded with predictable fury, driving the patriotic forces underground. And while the workers and peasants looked to the Soviet Union for help and inspiration, the bourgeois nationalists hoped that the other Pacific power, the United States, would come to their aid.
Lenin observed in 1920: “Take the two imperialist countries, Japan and America. They want to fight and will fight for world supremacy, for the right to loot. Japan will fight so as to continue to plunder Korea, which she is doing with unprecedented brutality, combining all the latest technical inventions with purely Asiatic tortures. We recently received a Korean newspaper which gives an account of what the Japanese are doing. Here we find all the methods of Czarism and all the latest technical perfections combined with a purely Asiatic system of torture and unparalleled brutality. But the Americans would like to grab this Korean titbit.”.
Korean patriotic groups tried to keep up the unequal struggle against the might of the Japanese Empire. The bourgeois nationalists meanwhile fled to China and set up a phantom “provisional government”. They hoped for aid from American imperialism and their “premier” Syngman Rhee begged Washington and the Nationalist Chinese Government for protection.But Syngman Rhee’s begging bowl approach and his embezzlement of “independence funds”, raised from overseas Koreans in Hawaii, made him an object of ridicule and contempt at home. And he received little concrete help from the Americans though they appreciated that he might be useful to them at a later date.
At that time the communist movement in Korea was small and bitterly divided into warring sects. Groups sent emissaries abroad to try and get recognition from the Communist International (Comintern). All claimed to be the authentic voice of Korean communism while furiously denouncing their rivals. All attempts to set up a united communist party quickly collapsed.
But a new generation of communists was emerging from the patriotic youth and students of the country who wanted to drive the Japanese out and build a new tomorrow for the Korean people. Kim Il Sung was one of them.
Kim Il Sung saw the hopelessness of the sectarians, flunkeyists, dogmatists and factionalists who called themselves communists in the 1920s. So he decided to form a communist movement from the youth and the grass-roots of the villages and factories.
When Kim Il Sung formed the Down with Imperialism Union at the age of 14 in 1926 no one, least of all the Japanese imperialists, could have dreamt that within 20 years Korea would be free. This was a movement that captured the imagination of all Korea’s progressive youth, which soon grew into the bigger Anti-Imperialist Youth League. From this organisation came many of the pioneers of the underground Young Communist League of Korea, directing student strikes and joining in the campaign to boycott Japanese goods.
The divisions amongst the existing Korean communists had left them isolated from the masses. Kim Il Sung strongly denounced their acts, of trying to rely on outside forces and striving for the recognition of others, as a disgrace to the Korean nation.
He stressed that a revolutionary movement was not something to carry on with the approval of others but a work to be done out of one’s own conviction. Problems should be solved by oneself, he said, and only when the struggle was waged well would others recognise it.
In words relevant today Kim Il Sung said: “Factionalism is a product of bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideologies, particularly of self-heroising, fame-seeking and careerism. It has nothing in common with the revolutionary ideas of the working class”.
Rank and file communist cells spread throughout Korea. In the north and amongst the Korean national minority in the Chinese province of Manchuria, also under Japanese occupation, a new guerrilla army was being formed. It soon began to deal telling blows against the Japanese army. In the liberated areas new cadres were trained and mass organisations set up. In the towns and villages under the heel of the Japanese, a broad and united front was growing stronger under the leadership of the communists.
A large working class, over two million by 1939, had grown, partly due to Japan’s exploitative industrialisation of Korea. Workers rallied to the national call, setting up underground committees, disrupting production in the arms plants and carrying out acts of sabotage in the factories, on the railways and at the airports. “Rice riots” erupted in the cities while in the countryside peasants refused to supply the Japanese army. By 1945 the Korean guerrillas had driven the Japanese out of parts of northern Korea.
The Japanese Empire, an ally of Nazi Germany, entered the Second World War in 1941. Its legions had over-run vast tracts of Asia in campaigns noted for their brutality and terror. Now it was facing defeat on all fronts.
In August 1945, the Soviet Union, at the request of its war-time allies, the United States and Britain, declared war against Imperial Japan. Together with the forces of the Mongolian People’s Republic, the Red Army swept down into Manchuria and northern Korea. Within days Japanese resistance collapsed and Korea was free. Or so it seemed.
Under agreement with the United States Korea was divided into two zones. Soviet forces occupied the north above the 38th parallel and the United States moved into the south. The USSR, Britain and the United States had agreed at Potsdam that this would only be a temporary measure to supervise the end of Japanese control and prepare the way for democratic elections and an independent Korea.
In December 1945 the Soviet Union took the lead in calling for an early withdrawal of all occupation forces to allow the Koreans to determine their future for themselves. But this was not to be.
Syngman Rhee’s hour had come. Recalled from Washington the US authorities started to build a reactionary centre around him to act on their behalf in the south.
In the north the Red Army was helping in reconstruction. Japanese plants, mines, power stations and railways were handed over to the people. Popular committees thrived with the assistance of the Soviet Headquarters while Moscow despatched food, transport and money to the fledgling administration. Democratic reforms, nationalisation of industries and land reform giving land to the peasants soon followed.
Giant strides were being made in the north. Unemployment, hunger and slave labour were the lot of the working people in the south while the US Army HQ ruled in the same way as the Japanese, grooming the traitor Syngman Rhee as their lackey.
By 1948 the situation was ready for the elections for a Supreme People’s Assembly. In the north elections took place normally but the south the US military ordered separate rigged elections for their puppet. But secret votes elected southern deputies, who with their northern compatriots proclaimed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The new assembly called on both occupying powers to evacuate Korea. The Soviet Union immediately agreed and by the end of 1948 all Soviet forces had been withdrawn. The United States is still in the south today.
In June 1950 the US imperialists launched an invasion of the north. The Americans and their puppets used everything at their disposal, including germ and chemical warfare, terror bombing and massacre in their bid to destroy the Korean revolution. But under the leadership of Kim Il Sung the people stood firm and resolutely rebuffed the Americans, who had roped in hertheir Nato allies, including Britain, into hertheir insane adventure.
The Soviet Union, People’s China and the other socialist countries rallied to Korea’s aid. People’s China in particular sent a million volunteers to fight side-by-side with the Korean People’s Army in defiance of US threats to use nuclear weapons and dealt devastating blows to the United States and its satellites. In 1953 the United States bowed to the reality of military failure and world public opinion and sued for an armistice.
As usual the Americans promised speedy talks on the withdrawal of their forces and the reunification of Korea. But to this day US forces still occupy the south and the country is still divided. Syngman Rhee was forced to flee south Korea during the student-led uprising in April 1960. His own finance minister admitted that Rhee had embezzled $20 million in government funds and the Americans found new stooges to take Rhee’s place and divided the country with a concrete wall that runs from sea to sea.
In the decades that followed Kim Il Sung worked tirelessly for the peaceful reunification of Korea while creatively applying Marxism-Leninism to the concrete problems of Korean society emerging from feudalism and colonial slavery in the 20th century. Kim Il Sung’s philosophical works, based on the revolutionary experience of the Korean communist movement and generations of struggle, steered the WPK as it marched forward to build a new way of life for the Korean people.
When the Korean War ended the WPK led the campaign for reconstruction. Industry was restored and expanded. Illiteracy was conquered, unemployment abolished and a comprehensive educational system established. The people began to enjoy free housing and medical treatment. By 1970 north Korea had become a socialist industrialised republic, an achievement that has made it a powerful beacon for socialism in Asia.
Unlike British communist leaders in the past, and indeed many others in Europe and beyond, Kim Il Sung stressed that Marxism-Leninism goes far beyond simple economic formulas and the Soviet “model”.
Kim Il Sung not only grasped Marxism-Leninism but he applied it to the concrete conditions of the Korean people. He knew that once the masses realised their own strength they would become unstoppable. He knew that serving the people was the be-all and end-all for the Korean communists and for the Workers’ Party of Korea that he launched in 1945. He developed Korean style socialism into the Juché idea – which elevates the philosophical principles of Marxism-Leninism as well as its economic theories – and focuses on the development of each individual worker, who can only be truly free as part of the collective will of the masses.
Kim Il Sung knew that material prosperity and ideological strength were of equal importance to the people. He called this the twin towers. Though both couldn’t advance simultaneously, when progress in one was made the other had to be advanced to catch up. This was pointed out by Stalin in the 1930s when he told Soviet shock workers, the Stakhanovites, that working people had benefited concretely from the revolution. All previous revolutions had failed but:
“Our proletarian revolution is the only revolution in the world which had the opportunity of showing the people not only the political results but also material results” he declared.
“It is a good thing, of course, to drive out the capitalists, to drive out the landlords, to drive out the Czarist henchmen, to seize power and achieve freedom. That is very good. But unfortunately, freedom alone is not enough, by far. If there is a shortage of bread, a shortage of butter and fats, a shortage of textiles, and if housing conditions are bad, freedom will not carry you very far. It is very difficult, comrades, to live on freedom alone. In order to live well and joyously, the benefits of political freedom must be supplemented by material benefits”. Stalin said.
But Stalin’s revisionist successors abandoned the ideological tower and failed to even maintain the material benefits for the Soviet masses.
Kim Il Sung was the first to develop the formula now known as “one nation/ two systems” for the peaceful reunification of Korea, based on the withdrawal of all foreign troops and the establishment of an independent, neutral, peaceful and non-aligned Democratic Confederal Republic of Koryo.
The return of Hong Kong and Macau to People’s China in 1997 proved that it can work and it remains the only realistic model for the return of the breakaway province of Taiwan to China and the end of the partition of Korea.
Kim Il Sung was born in a world of oppression and exploitation. He lived and fought to end that rotten system and he lived to see the construction of a modern socialist system in the north of Korea. But he wasn’t just a Korean communist. He was a great internationalist.
The leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea championed the struggle for colonial freedom, non-alignment and Third World co-operation. He pioneered the call for south-south co-operation which is now bearing fruit today in the Shanghai Cooperation Council that includes China, Russia and three former Soviet republics of Central Asia and in the increasing co-operation between the oil-rich countries of Venezuela and Iran with Cuba and other countries confronting imperialism.
Kim Il Sung sent technical and military assistance to the African and Arab peoples struggling for independence and he constantly strove to strengthen the world communist movement.
Kim Il Sung, the great leader of the Korean revolution, died in 1994 but his work lives on in the Workers’ Party of Korea. His successor, Kim Jong Il told the Korean people and the world that they could “expect no change from him” and with Kim Jong Il at the helm, the Workers’ Party of Korea has won great victories in recent years. Natural disasters have been overcome. Diplomatic isolation has been broken and the intrigues of US imperialism have been exposed.
The DPRK stood up to American threats over the so-called “nuclear issue” forcing the imperialists to the negotiating table in Beijing and encouraging the national bourgeois of south Korea to stand up for their own interests. Kim Jong Il has held two summits with the south Korean leadership – the second, only last week, paves the way to easing the tension on the Korean peninsula based on dialogue and co-operation.
The Korean revolution is an inspiration to all communists and freedom-fighters throughout the world. The Korean people, determined to preserve their independence and socialist system, have closed ranks around the Workers’ Party of Korea and the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the face of new threats from American imperialism.
The achievements of Democratic Korea today are based on the sacrifices of generations of Koreans in the past and the tireless work of the leadership of the Workers Party of Korea that follows in the footsteps of the great revolutionary leader Kim Il Sung.
We have no doubt that the Korean masses, who are building socialism in the north and struggling for freedom and re-unification in the south, will be victorious in the struggles to come.
And we are confident that with Kim Jong Il and the Workers’ Party of Korea at the helm the Korean people will achieve the end of partition and the re-unification of the Korean peninsula.