U$ imperialists torpedo opportunity for “positive changes” on Korean peninsula

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on May 25, 2018.

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Written on May 24, 2018.

As you’ve probably heard by now, the orange menace, as I call him, wrote a letter to Kim Jong Un, ending the upcoming one-on-one summit with Kim in Singapore. This summit was even supported by a wide swath of the U$ public, even though many have Orientalist mindsets since they don’t trust the DPRK to be genuine. While the orange menace praised treatment of three U$ prisoners in the DPRK as “excellent,” this didn’t keep him from spouting lies in his recent letter to Kim, who welcomed the summit, showing his is more than a strongman but is the top imperialist in the world, leading forward U$ hegemony. Canceling this summit is, without a doubt, the art of the dealbreaker. This article aims to analyze the letter of the orange menace to Kim, line by line.

After his pleasantries in calling Kim by his proper title, the letter took a tone which seemed paternalistic, or at least demeaning:

We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that that meeting was requested by North Korea, but that is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you.

For one, it is important to recognize that the meeting was requested by the DPRK. It is not “totally irrelevant.” It shows that Kim Jong Un and the Korean leadership, led by the Workers’ Party of Korea which “may contain many revisionist tendencies and factions” as recently here by Amber B, are the ones whom are working to keep the U$ in “its place, cowed by the superior determination of the Korean people,” with embarrassed imperialists waiting on them. It also reinforces the role of the DPRK, which has attained a strong position, successfully delinking itself “from the world capitalist economy” and proving itself as a “fully sovereign and independent state,” serving on the “frontline of the struggle against imperialism and a vanguard of all Third World movements with tendencies to delink from the parasitic way the global economy is run” as argued by Abdelraheem Kheirawi of FC Apatride UTD in the pages of this website. There’s no need for those commemorative coins of the Singapore summit, which were minted, anymore!

The letter goes onto say that:

Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have a long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.

This represents a fallacy: that Kim displayed “anger” and “hostility” toward the U$. On the one hand, the letter could be referring to a comment from DPRK vice-minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui responding to U$ Vice-President Mike Pence’s tweet, in which he wrote that “as @POTUS Trump made clear, this will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal.” Son-hui’s comment that Pence is engaging in “ignorant and stupid remarks” which gush “out from the mouth” and that he is a “political dummy” since he is trying to “compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them” is accurate. The same goes for her comment that other high-level politicians in the U$ know “too little” about the DPRK, comparing it to Libya, and that Pence does not recognize “terrible consequences” of what he said, that the U$ will “taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now” as a result. Even with that, the statement is still not from Kim himself. After all, let us not forget that the orange menace threatened Kim with the fate of Gaddafi, saying that the U$ “went in and decimated him…we did the same thing with Iraq. That model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely,” saying there will be “absolute decimation” if a deal isn’t reached! With this, it is no surprise that the first Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK, Kim Kye Gwan, said they were reconsidering the summit, criticizing the comments of U$ National Security Advisor John Bolton, whom they were repulsive toward, saying they will not unilaterally abandon their nuclear weapons. Perhaps he even tanked these talks from the beginning. After all, the White House has declared that the U$ will continue “the maximum pressure campaign that’s been ongoing” against the DPRK if the talks don’t happen. The criticism of Bolton, whom apparently wanted a possible deal with the DPRK to go before the U$ Senate, may have posed a “serious hurdle” for the orange menace, but they were right to criticize Bolton! [1]

Perhaps there is a political calculation at work here. On May 20, the New York Times reported, as summarized by The Hill, that the orange menace asked “aides if he should move forward with the planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un… over fears that he could be politically embarrassed” and that the orange menace he was “surprised and angered by a recent announcement from North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator that North Korea would be unwilling to trade its nuclear weapons for economic aid,” showing he is a political novice. Aides were also quoted, anonymously, as saying they were “concerned about the president’s understanding of North Korea’s nuclear program and what is needed to ensure denuclearization.” Then a couple days later, it was reported that the orange menace publicly questioned if the summit would happen at all! [2]

Getting back to the claim in the letter that Kim stated something toward the U$ with “tremendous anger and open hostility,” Rodong Sinmun lists Kim’s last activity as guiding the 1st Enlarged Meeting of the 7th Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Otherwise, Rodong Sinmun criticizes the U$ interference in Venezuela. The DPRK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pyongyang Times, nor KCNA list any recent statements by Kim about the summit or the U$! In fact, the most recent article of KCNA on Kim notes how he is inspecting Koam-Tapchon Railways which were recently completed in the county. [3] As such, the orange menace is clearly lying on this point, without question. The only article that mentions the summit, implicitly, is an article by Kim Rye Yong in the Pyongyang Times titled “it is needed to see DPRK-US dialogue squarely” in which Yong writes that the DPRK is out ahead:

The international community is supporting the DPRK’s effort to promote détente on the Korean peninsula and build a fine future.

Kim Jong Un, chairman of the DPRK State Affairs Commission, has raised the profile of the DPRK as a world-level strategic state and safeguarded peace and stability on the peninsula and beyond by displaying outstanding wisdom, matchless courage and extraordinary political acumen.

With a strategic determination to put an end to the bitter history of the relationship between the DPRK and the US, he met US State Secretary Pompeo in Pyongyang and took a series of crucial and generous measures to seek peace and stability on the peninsula and in the rest of the world.

Foreign media attribute the current tendency towards dialogue to the DPRK’s great strength and positive efforts.

The courageous decision of Kim Jong Un and the proactive efforts of the Workers’ Party of Korea have brought a peaceful environment to the Korean peninsula, Kazbek Taysaev, secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, said as he addressed a joint seminar of Russian political parties and organizations. The rapid development of the DPRK makes the world community better understand the greatness of the Korean leader and the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, he added.

While north Korea is leading the current situation, the US is following it, Canadian newspaper Toronto Star said. What is noteworthy is that north Korea emerges victorious in the long-standing confrontation and the US and its allies are on the defensive in their approach towards north Korea, it noted, adding that it is not a big country but it is a military power and centre stage.

“Compared to the US boasting of its economic and military capabilities, the DPRK is a small country in terms of territory and population,” Nigeria-based African Regional Committee for Friendship and Solidarity with the Korean People said on a website. “But the DPRK is led by Kim Jong Un endowed with outstanding strategy and courage and has an army and people committed to their cause.”

Such being the case, some are arguing that the thaw on the Korean peninsula is a result of the US’ “hardline diplomacy” and “sustained pressure”. This is of no slight help to the development of the situation on the peninsula. Rather it hurts the atmosphere for the DPRK-US negotiations.

Explicitly, the current situation is not a passive response to any pressure but an active shift effected by the peerless political acumen and strategic decision of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.

To have a proper view on the current peninsula situation is indispensable for promoting global peace and stability.

It is here, we must remember not only the past U$ atrocities, like germ warfare, but recall the new strategic line of the DPRK, which focuses solely on the country’s planned economy, with a number of actions including ending weapons testing, a statement against “first strike” of nuclear weapons (only using them in self-defense) which is consistent with previous policy, and working to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. [4] This means that the DPRK has committed itself to a no-first use commitment, although Ellsberg, in his book, The Doomsday Machine, says on page 333, that any nation making a “threat of first use of a nuclear weapon…is a terrorist nation,” listing the U$, the murderous Zionist apartheid state, Russia, Pakistan, and the DPRK as examples, which seems to be conflating all of these together. In fact, the DPRK would not qualify in this category, with the U$ and Zionists, being the real terrorists without question, especially with recent repression by the Zionists against Palestinians.

The letter then says that:

You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.

Let us not forget that the DPRK has made the initiative in the realm of disarmament, showing they are fully serious and committed, while they do not, rightly, want to accept “universal disarmament.” There have been journalists from the ROK who visited the dismantling of the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site on May 24th, which was destroyed by “impressive” explosions, as one journalist on the scene described it, while he retained his Orientalist mindset. [5] This was something that the orange menace once called “smart.” Beyond that, the Nuclear Weapons Institute of the DPRK recently issued a statement explaining what happened when the Punggye-ri site was dismantled before the eyes of the world:

True to the decision of the Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Nuclear Weapons Institute of the DPRK held a ceremony for completely dismantling the northern nuclear test ground of the DPRK on May 24 Juche 107 (2018), to ensure transparency of the discontinuance of nuclear test.

Dismantling the nuclear test ground was done in such a way as to make all the tunnels of the test ground collapse by explosion and completely close the tunnel entrances, and at the same time, explode some guard facilities and observation posts on the site.

It has been confirmed that there were neither leakage of radioactive materials nor any adverse impact on the surrounding ecological environment.

Complete closure of the area surrounding the nuclear test ground will come on the heels of successive removal of all ground observation facilities, research institutes and structures of guard units, and withdrawal of staff concerned.

It has been confirmed by local and international reporters that two tunnels at the nuclear test ground were ready for use for carrying out very powerful underground nuclear tests at any time.

The dismantling of the nuclear test ground conducted with high-level transparency has clearly attested once again to the proactive and peace-loving efforts of the DPRK government being made for ensuring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and over the world.

The discontinuance of the nuclear test is an important process moving towards global nuclear disarmament, and we will continue to join hands with the world peace-loving people in building a nuclear-free peaceful world, a new independent world where the dream and ideal of humanity are realized.

With this, it is no surprise that the leadership of Russia and China endorsed the meeting between the orange menace and Kim, as did revisionist Laos. In the meantime, DPRK diplomats visited China, undoubtedly to talk about the summit, in part, among other issues. This is despite the fact it seemed unlikely that the DPRK would fare better than Iran, a deal torpedoed by the U$ with the European capitalists barely hanging on, while the Iranians continue to suffer.

Since the negotiations on the meeting, the U$ apparently led some B-52 bombers to change their flight plans to not fly over the Korean Peninsula, but they haven’t given up anything else since the “USS Milius, one of the U.S. Navy’s most advanced guided missile destroyers, arrived in Japan…to reinforce defenses against any ballistic missile attacks by North Korea, or anyone else in East Asia” on May 22nd! Some have even pressured the current U$ administration to “confront the North Korean leader about his country’s aggressive hacking strategy,” a “fact” which is “proven” by the U$ intelligence establishment itself and accepted by the bourgeois media as “real” even though it is clearly fanciful considering that the DPRK only has an intranet, and no internet, making such hacking physically impossible and counterproductive.

It is here I recall what Daniel Ellsberg, the person who famously provided the Pentagon Papers to the bourgeois press, in 1971, showing the lies and deception during the war in Vietnam wrote in his recent book, The Doomsday Machine. Keep in mind that Ellsberg has, like former CIA consultant (and bourgeois scholar) Chalmers Johnson who wrote on the U$ empire in his four-part Blowback series, internalized many anti-communist ideals, believing that Josef Stalin was a “dictator as ruthless as Hitler” with the Soviet Union, in the post-war period, ruled “by a single party more cohesive and competent than the Nazi Party,” occupying half of Europe and having tremendous military strength. [6] Being a nuclear war planner for years, he discovered that between 275 million would be killed by nuclear war with the USSR and China immediately and 325 million over 6 months. He also found, horrifyingly, that basic elements of nuclear war have not changed, with nuclear weapons on “hair-trigger alert,” a continued first-use policy of the U$, and that U$ presidents have used nuclear weapons in many crises as a threat, like a “gun…pointed at someone in a confrontation, whether or not the trigger is pulled.” Ellsberg also says that the “hand” which can launch nuclear weapons has “never been exclusively that of the president, nor even his higher officials,” a policy going back to Eisenhower. This is coupled with false alarms and “catastrophic dangers” concealed from the public, which could result in nuclear war, as shown in the 1964 Hollyweird movie, Fail Safe, where a computer error leads to a nuclear bomb being dropped on Moscow and subsequently one on New York City, killing the President’s wife! He also writes that there was a doomsday machine in the “form of pre-targeted bombers on alert in the Strategic Air Command (SAC)” beginning in 1961, which expanded from there. After talking about his own personal experience as a nuclear war planner, he notes that nuclear warheads arrived in Taiwan and the ROK in 1958, along with in Japan  in the 1960s, a violation of the Japanese Constitution, and the safeguards were circumvented which allowed the U$ Air Force to easily launch nuclear weapons! This was connected to the fact that varied commanders in the Pacific, part of the Commander in Chief of Strategic Arms Command (CINCSAC), could launch nukes on their own authority “without the immediate prior involvement of the president”! At the same time, CINCSAC wanted to, if there was a nuclear war, nuke China even though there was the Sino-Soviet split, so they could gain their glory and be “part” of the “action.” By 1961, there were thousands of pre-planned nuclear targets which put “every city in the Soviet Union and China” in the crosshairs with at least one warhead “allocated for every city of 25,000 people or more in the Soviet Union” alone! Ellsberg writes that he was shown, in spring 1961, calculations of a computer model showing the effects of nuclear war launched by the U$:

…275 million would die in the first hours of our [U$] attacks and 325 million would be dead within six months…[not including] wounded and sick…this was for the Soviet Union and  China alone…another hundred million or so would die in Eastern European satellite countries…many[of the U$ nuclear weapons were aimed at]…air defenses and military  installations near cities…[with] subsequent bombers..dropped megaton weapons on radar stations, antiaircraft installations, and surface-to-air sites…in Eastern Europe [such as Albania]…most warheads in Eastern Europe, as elsewhere, were ground-burst, maximizing fallout. Fallout from our [U$] surface explosions in the Soviet Union, its satellites, and China would decimate the populations in the Sino-Soviet bloc as well as neutral nations bordering these countries…as well as Japan and Pakistan…fallout fatalities inside our Western European NATO allies from U.S. attacks against the Warsaw Pact would dependent on climate and wind conditions.

The total death count, he recalled, from U$ attacks was “in the neighborhood of six hundred million dead,” mostly civilians, generally inflicted in a day or two, the others over a six month period. Ellsberg then described a graphic showing death counts from a nuclear war with the Soviets and Chinese as a “depiction of pure evil.” Still, he admits that the total death count estimated in spring 1961 was a “fantastic underestimate” as it does not include fires caused by nuclear blasts, was was the case in Hiroshima, as John Hersey put it in his book of the same name. Still, in order to make sure that the nuclear missiles remained, a “missile gap” with the Soviets was imagined, lampooned in Dr. Strangelove, after the Soviet Doomsday Machine is activated by a nuclear missile hitting Soviet missile silo, as a “mindshaft gap.” Other parts of the book note how close the U$ and USSR came to war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, with continued nuclear plans to kill millions of people with presidents objecting privately but never publicly which allowed the plans to continue, with a constant goal to decapitate the whole Soviet command system. The latter was at first only a private goal, then became part of the U$’s public anti-Soviet foreign policy. There were also nuclear threats by the U$ throughout the Nixon administration, especially in regards to Vietnam. He ends with some recommendations, saying the U$ and Russian (called “Dead Hand”) doomsday machines must end. For the U$, this involves a no-first-use policy, hearings on war plans, eliminating ICBMs, and giving up hegemony based on premise of nuclear weapons, among other aspects, even as he accepts some use of nuclear weapons to “deter nuclear attack on the United States and its allies”!

With this, there is no reason in the world that the DPRK should ever trust the U$ at face value, especially not in its current imperial posture!

I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only the dialogue that matters.

This seems like a strange statement as they likely have never talked directly, even on the phone to each other, which Kim wanted to do with Obama during his presidency, as Dennis Rodman told the bourgeois media when he returned to the U$ after a trip to the DPRK, but it was rejected at the time. Kim has made varied references to a DPRK-U$ dialogue, the first on April 10 as Japan Times said at the time, but that is not his main concern. Rather he is concerned with improving the living standard of the Korean people, hence the new strategic line. Such dialogue between the U$ and DPRK was not very well developed. What I mean is that just last year, the U$ was utterly hostile in its rhetoric toward the DPRK, while this year, since Kim started his effort for inter-Korean cooperation, rhetoric improved, but there still continued to be a strong hardline, especially with people like Pompeo and Bolton as the advisers of the orange menace!

Some day, I look very much forward to meeting with you.

So the orange menace leaves open the door, but is this an empty promise? I am reminded here of a recent article in MintPress News by Mel Gurtov, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, who wrote that not only is the DPRK “not going to give up its principal bargaining chip and strategic deterrent in advance of receiving incentives” but they have “always demanded are security assurances and an end to “hostile” US policies,” wanting to know that they will not be attacked by the U$, and that they want “a road map to normalization of relations with the US…But…security comes first.” He further added that while “Trump has treated Kim with respect and even exaggerated politeness, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has had two apparently upbeat meetings with Kim,” there have been “ominous signs of trouble” from Bolton, a continued “US-South Korea exercise called Max Thunder” which is a “two-week drill involving B-52 bombers and F-22 Raptor fighter jets.” But he ended by with a recommendation:

…the barrage of criticism leveled exclusively at the North Koreans is unwarranted, and reminiscent of Cold War propaganda. Their views are being dismissed by one and all as typical of their trickery and deceit, when in fact they are well known. Wishful thinking is no substitute for a careful engagement strategy. Next time, the US side should better inform itself of the North Korean perspective and priorities, and listen when an adversary says that trust building requires a long-term process.

Of course, this will not be heeded by many, including giddy liberals who didn’t even want a one-on-one meeting, like former CIA director John Brennan or Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. [7] Robinson, not surprisingly, was confused by the meeting, declaring the country “brutal,” “secretive,” and run by a “dictator” who “oppresses” his people. At the same time, the apologists of the orange menace think that he is “right” and “knows” what he is talking about, even though he doesn’t. The Korean people were optimistic, feeling they are turning a new page of history, but the U$ imperialists, of course, don’t feel this way at all! As Whitney Webb put it recently, “attempts to sabotage the Korea peace talks may also find support from elements within the U.S. government and military…[and] U.S. weapon manufacturers.” With the orange menace pulling out of the summit with Kim, he has allied himself with them, without a doubt!

In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.

While this is positive, the language of the orange menace is overly flowery and is what deluded liberals would undoubtedly call “childish” with phrases like “beautiful gesture” which seems a bit over the top. But, really, the orange menace is trying to appeal to his base, with 30-40% of the U$ populace still giving him support as varied polls in Gallup, Pew Research, and elsewhere indicate. After all, he can use this as a point to rally for re-election, declaring that he, the “great” president, released the prisoners. Also, they were not “hostages” but prisoners. He is in a sense, trying to equate those released to the Iran hostages held for 444 days as the Carter Administration refused to meet reasonable Iranian demands, and pose himself as Reagan, not Carter, of course.

If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.

Kim may write the orange menace, or the message may go through other intermediaries. Of course, the DPRK wants the sanctions to be lifted, a peace treaty, and security guarantees. It is good the orange menace is keeping the door open, but he is still acting like the onus is on the DPRK, rather than the U$ which took a hardline and this drew the Koreans away, not surprisingly, as they remember their history! They will not be fooled or hoodwinked. The U$ is not blameless for the canceling of this summit, but rather holds all the blame and the DPRK, defending its sovereignty and dignity, holds no blame whatsoever.

The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth.

This statement echoes his view that Kim would be able to stay as the head of the DPRK, declaring that “he’d be running his country. His country would be very rich,” without, of course, giving any specifics whatsoever of such “security guarantees.” [8] He also forgets that as Han Park, a “former unofficial US-North Korean negotiator” noted, the DPRK does not “want to be a small South Korea. They want the money, but not through capitalist, private-ownership means whatsoever. They don’t want to be like East Germany.” This is what the orange menace thinks they want, but they don’t want this at all. Still, some say the DPRK looks “remarkably similar to the Southeast Asian nation in 1986, when its Communist neighbor [Vietnam] undertook “Doi Moi” reforms to tiptoe toward capitalism.” [9] This is a worrisome sign, if a path similar to that of Vietnam, which recently rolled over and accepted the CPTPP, a trade agreement which benefits the global bourgeoisie and hurts the proletariat, being pursued, to say the least.

This missed opportunity is truly a sad moment in history.

While at some level it is sad for the Koreans, on another it is a defeat for the orange menace, as it makes the diplomacy of the orange menace look unorganized. It could provide ammunition for the Democratic Party domestically, while it also shows that Kim and the DPRK have the upper hand here, not the imperialists, showing the DPRK are in a strong position, at an advantage.

In the days to come, it is likely that inter-Korean cooperation will continue, while the DPRK will continue its internationalist path of non-isolation by working to connect itself with the world, even if it doesn’t engage in an “opening up” like the revisionists in Laos, Vietnam, or China, which has created a domestic bourgeoisie in each and turned these countries into revisionist havens for Western capitalists. Instead, the DPRK will undoubtedly pursue an independent policy like that of Cuba, standing in solidarity (and supporting) countries under imperialist attack like Venezuela and working to spread the ideals of Juche worldwide with their continued comradely efforts.

Long live the Korean proletariat!

Solidarity with the DPRK against U$ aggression!

Socialism, not capitalist mayhem!

Another world is possible!


Notes:

[1] Julian Borger, “Trump faces North Korea dilemma after Bolton infuriates Pyongyang,” The Guardian, May 17, 2018; “Bolton: Korea Deal Should Go to the Senate for Approval,” Red State, May 13, 2018. Reportedly, the strikes in Syria (another bout of imperial aggression), as noted by Jesse Johnson in an April 15th article in Japan Times, titled “As Kim-Trump summit approaches, Syria strikes evoke memories of Gadhafi’s gruesome fate for North Korea” were meant to “serve as a stark reminder to North Korea of the 2011 U.S.-led intervention in Libya that ended in the gruesome execution of its leader.”

[2] “Trump says meeting with DPRK’s Kim may be delayed,” Xinhua, May 23, 2018.

[3] “Kim Jong Un Inspects Completed Koam-Tapchon Railways,” KCNA, May 25, 2018.

[4] Robert Carlin, “Kim Jong Un’s New Strategic Line,” 38 North, Apr 23, 2018; Ruediger Frank, “The North Korean Parliamentary Session and Budget Report 2018: Cautious Optimism for the Summit Year,” 38 North, Apr 19, 2018; Jin Qianyi, “North Korea halts nuclear program in preparation for economic gains,” Global Times, Apr 15, 2018.

[5] “Trump Thanks North Korea for ‘Smart’ Move to Dismantle Test Site,” Bloomberg, May 12, 2018; “Statement of Nuclear Weapons Institute of DPRK,” KCNA, May 24, 2018;”DPRK receives list of S. Korean journalists to cover nuke test site dismantling,” Xinhua, May 23, 2018; Lin Xin, “Moon visits US amid uncertainty over Trump-Kim summit,” Global Times, May 22, 2018; Barbara Starr and Jeffrey Cohen, “US B-52 bombers changed flight plan after North Korea threatened Trump summit,” CNN, May 18, 2018; Eric Geller and Martin Matishak, “Trump pressed to put hacking on North Korean summit agenda,” Politico, May 19, 2018; “Leaders of South Korea and US discuss Pyongyang over phone,” TASS, May 20, 2018; “N. Korean diplomat arrives in China,” Yonhap News Agency, May 19, 2018; Tim Kelly, “U.S. bolsters Asia ballistic missile defense as Trump-Kim summit nears,” Reuters, May 22, 2018.

[6] Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Broadway, NY:  Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017), pp 2, 6, 11-13, 15, 16, 19, 20, 36-37, 42, 49-50, 53-54, 56, 62, 64, 68, 69, 70, 73, 74, 75, 77, 79, 82, 84, 85, 88-89, 94, 98, 99, 112, 117, 118, 124, 127, 136-137, 138, 139, 140, 142, 148, 153, 169, 185, 192, 203, 205, 211, 213, 215, 218, 265, 271, 299, 301, 305, 311, 312, 313, 334, 340, 342, 345, 349. These are all the pages information was obtained for the discussion of Ellsberg’s book. Also on 350 he talks about the “Soviet empire,” a Reaganite term.

[7] Cody Fenwick, “Ex-CIA Chief John Brennan Reveals How North Korea’s Kim Jong-un ‘Duped Trump’,” AlterNet, May 10, 2018; Eugene Robinson, “Lord save the world,” Washington Post, May 10, 2018; “North Korea: UN gains ‘unprecedented access’ during visit,” BBC News, May 12, 2018.

[8] Ayesha Rascoe, “Trump: Nuclear Deal Would Be Good For North Korea,” NPR, May 17, 2018; Michael Knigge, “North Korea does not want to be like East Germany,” DW, May 16, 2018; “Trump says “Libya model” not to be repeated on DPRK,” Xinhua, May 18, 2018. As noted in a Washington Post article on May 13, titled “Pompeo says U.S. assuring Kim that it does not seek his overthrow,” Pompeo also said that the U$ did not want to overthrow Kim.

[9] Shuli Ren, “Kim Could Make North Korea Samsung’s New Backyard,” Bloomberg News, May 13, 2018.

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“Advancing the cause of socialism”: The DPRK and the Cuban Revolution

Che Guevara in Juche Korea, December 1960, via Fuck Yeah Marxism-Leninism tumblr

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on May 22, 2018.

In 1959 (Juche 48), the Cuban Revolution was victorious and rode to power with the fleeing of the autocratic Batista, a victory for the proletariat. The Republic of  Cuba would soon be formed and have a socialist government, quickly allying with the Soviets, but still working to maintain their independence. Through all of this, Juche Korea, which was, in 1959, 16 years old, began to become an ally of Cuba, learning from its experience.

In 1960 (Juche 49), Che Guevara visited Juche Korea (pictured above), said that the government there was a model for “Fidel Castro’s Cuba to follow” with relations between the two countries established on August 26. [1] Even so, Juche Korea felt that it wanted to “avoid Cuba’s dependency on Soviet weaponry” after seeing Khrushchev retreat from confronting the murderous empire during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as it transitioned toward a “military-first policy.” 56 years later, in 2016 (Juche 106), Pyongyang Times commemorated the establishment of relations in 1960, saying that both countries have supported each other over the  years in “efforts to enhance unity and cohesion between socialist countries, expand the Non-Aligned Movement and safeguard global peace against the imperialists’ moves towards aggression and war.” They also added that “the Korean people regard the Cubans as their old comrades-in-arms and close friends and always extend full support and solidarity to Cuba’s cause of socialism,” further saying that both countries have “long maintained the traditional ties and deepened cooperation with each other” with the signing of protocol “on the economic, scientific and technological cooperation and exchange of commodities for 2016 as part of the efforts to promote bilateral exchange and cooperation in different fields.” As such, Pyongyang Times said that both Cuba and Juche Korea, “will continue to strengthen mutual support and cooperation in a bid to realize their common ideal of socialism, upholding the banner of independence against imperialism.” That should be the ideal of all socialist states.

In 1980 (Juche 69), and again in 2016, the WPK and Communist Party of Cuba held talks to strengthen relations between the two countries, with their close relations “explained by a shared normative solidarity” against the murderous empire, which has occasionally “manifested itself in symbolically significant shipments of arms and manufactured goods.” Cuba had become “one of North Korea’s most consistent international allies.” Fidel visited Juche Korea in 1986 (Juche 75), further looking to cement the ties between the two countries. Even if there was such a disagreement, likely in the 1980s, Kim Il Sung of Juche Korea, “sent us [the Cubans] 100,000 AK-47 rifles and its corresponding ammo without charging a cent,” after the Soviets failed to sent Cuba arms to defend itself from invasion, as Fidel  Castro wrote in 2013 (Juche 102). [2] With such statements, imperialists thought that arms were being “illicitly” sent from Cuba to Juche Korea, trying to weaken the relations between the two countries.

After Raul Castro became the President of Cuba in 2008 (Juche 97), there seemed to be “signs” that the bilateral relationship between Juche Korea and Cuba had strengthened, with claims of a “Cuba-North Korea arms deal” during the Obama years, which was not unfazed by the normalization of U$-Cuban relations which has been somewhat weakened by the orange menace. This has manifested itself in the fact that Cuba has stood in solidarity with JucheKorea,with trading of “sugar and railway equipment” between the two countries beginning in January 2016, along with “Cuba’s intelligence sharing and close cooperation with the DPRK” which some bourgeois analysts detest. Additionally, there are organizations such as the Cuban Committee for Supporting Korea’s Reunification and the Korean Committee for Solidarity with Cuba present in Juche Korea, and quotes in Cuban newspapers backing the latter. [3] This is evident in papers like Rodong Sinmun, which noted in July 2017 that the “delegation of the Prensa Latina News Agency of Cuba led by President Luis Enrique Gonzalez Acosta visited Mangyongdae, the birthplace of President Kim Il Sung….The head of the delegation praised the President as a great revolutionary.”

On November 25th of last year there was a memorial service at Cuba’s embassy in Pyongyang”to mark the first anniversary of the death of Fidel Castro.” [4] To honor this, Kim Jong Un sent a basket of flowers, which were “laid at a portrait of the leader of the Cuban revolution” with the event attended by Kim Sung Du (chairman of the Education Commission and chairman of the Korean Committee for Solidarity with Cuba), WPK officials, those from the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries  the General Bureau for Affairs with Diplomatic Corps, and the Cuban ambassador Jesus De Los Angeles Aise Sotolongo, and his “embassy staff members,” along with other officials of the government of Juche Korea. Additionally, the International Affairs Department of the WPK Central Committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Korean Committee for Solidarity with Cuba, and the  Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces all laid flowers. At the event itself, speakers said  that Fidel was ” a prominent political activist who had established a socialist system for the first time in the Western Hemisphere and devoted his all to the just cause of national prosperity, people’s well-being and independence against imperialism.” The article in KCNA on the subject also noted that last year, Kim Jong Un visited the Cuban embassy, in Pyongyang, “to express his deep condolences” over the death of Fidel (even declaring a “three-day mourning period” to pay tribute to himwhich is the same thing that Fidel did after the death of Kim Jong-Il) and “dispatched a high-level mourners’ delegation to Cuba.” [5] The same article also said the following about the strong ties between the two countries:

They [speakers at thee vent] reaffirmed that the baton of bilateral fraternal ties forged by the preceding leaders of the two countries would invariably be passed on for ever even if time passes and generation changes. The participants recalled the career of Fidel Castro who had performed distinguished services for victoriously advancing the cause of socialism and boosting the bilateral ties.

Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of Juche Korea, meets with President Fidel Castro of Cuba in September 2016. Over a year later, in November 2017, Raul Castro met with “Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ri Yong Ho” and others of Juche Korea in Havana.

The relationship between Cuba and Juche Korea is strong without a doubt. In November of last year, the foreign minister of  Cuba and the counterpart in Juche Korea, “rejected the United States’ “unilateral and arbitrary” demands” as anyone with sense should. [6] These two ministers “strongly rejected the unilateral and arbitrary lists and designations established by the U.S. government which serve as a basis for the implementation of coercive measures which are contrary to international law” while also discussing “the respective efforts carried out in the construction of socialism according to the realities inherent to their respective countries.” This is nothing new. In June 2015, Raúl Castro hosted the WPK’s secretary of international relations, Kang Sok Su, while in September Kim Jong-Un received “Cuban Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel in Pyongyang” to give  an example  of their relations. [7] Such relations are vital since, reportedly, Singapore and Philippines said they would cut trade relations with Juche Korea, showing that they have no backbone and are falling into the hands of imperialists. After all, Cuba, Juche Korea, Iran, and Venezuela are part of the orange menace’s new “axis of evil.” With this, Fidel was right to say in 2013 that

…I had the honor of meeting Kim Il Sung, a historic figure, notably courageous and revolutionary. If war breaks out there, the peoples of both parts of the Peninsula will be terribly sacrificed, without benefit to all or either of them. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was always friendly with Cuba, as Cuba has always been and will continue to be with her. Now that the country has demonstrated its technical and scientific achievements, we remind her of her duties to the countries which have been her great friends, and it would be unjust to forget that such a war would particularly affect more than 70% of the population of the planet. If a conflict of that nature should break out there, the government of Barack Obama in his second mandate would be buried in a deluge of images which would present him as the most sinister character in the history of the United States. The duty of avoiding war is also his and that of the people of the United States.

Now, although bourgeois media like The Guardian claimed that Fidel “gently admonished” Juche Korea, but “used stronger language in addressing Washington,” the above quote shows it is more aimed at the U$ imperialists than anything else. [8] The relationship continues afoot, with Cuban embassy staff members, this year, visiting the “Pyongyang Maternity Hospital on January 5 to mark the 59th anniversary of the victorious Cuban revolution” and Cuban ambassador Jesus De Los Angeles Aise Sotolongo hosting a reception “on January 25 on the occasion of the 59th anniversary of the victorious Cuban revolution,” inviting “DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Ryu Myong Son, deputy department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, So Ho Won, vice-chairman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and relevant officials.” The relations between the two countries will continue to grow, building upon Kim Il-Sung’s 1967 phrase that “it is an internationalist duty for
every revolutionary people to fight to defend the victories of the Cuban Revolution,” the sending of 200 technicians to Cuba in 1964 (and even more in 1969), the “solidarity farms with the Caribbean country,” the sympathy against the economic blockade on Cuba and for the “freedom of the Cuban Five antiterrorists.” [9]


Notes

[1] Samuel Ramini, “The North Korea-Cuba Connection,” The Diplomat, Jun 7, 2016; Benjamin R. Young, “Revolutionary Solidarity: Castro’s cozy relationship with North Korea,” NK News, Nov 18, 2016.

[2] David Iaconangelo,” Fidel Castro Says North Korea Sent Cuba Free Weapons During Cold War,” Latin Times, Aug 14, 2013; Mariano Castillo. Catherine E. Shoichet and Patrick Oppmann, “Cuba: ‘Obsolete’ weapons on ship were going to North Korea for repair,” CNN, Jul 17, 2013; “Cuba admits sending weapons to North Korea,” Al Jazeera, Jul 16, 2013.

[3] Lucy Williamson, “North Korea and Cuba: Allies in isolation,” BBC News, Jul 17, 2013

[4] KCNA, “Memorial service held for Fidel Castro,” Pyongyang Times, Nov 27, 2017.

[5] “N.K. declares 3-day mourning over ex-Cuban leader Castro’s death,” Yonhap News, Nov 28, 2016.

[6] Reuters Staff, “Cuba, North Korea reject ‘unilateral and arbitrary’ U.S. demands,” Reuters, Nov 22, 2017; Linley Sanders, “Cuba Backs North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in War On Trump: Havana Calls For ‘Respect For Peoples’ Sovereignty’,” Newsweek, Nov 23, 2017; Sarah Marsh, “Cuba and North Korea balk at ‘unilateral and arbitrary’ demands from the US,” Business Insider (reprinted from Reuters), Nov 23, 2017.

[7] Mary Anastasia O’Grady, “North Korea’s Cuban Friends,” Wall Street Journal (opinion), Jan 10, 2016; Robert Vallencia, “New Cold War? North Korea Strengthens Ties with Cuba After Threatening Nuclear Attack on U.S.,” Newsweek, Nov 17, 2017; Sarah Marsh, “Castro meets North Korea minister amid hope Cuba can defuse tensions,” Reuters, Nov 24, 2017; Sarah Marsh, “Cuba and North Korea hold anti-US meeting and reject Donald Trump’s ‘arbitrary’ nuclear demands,” The Independent, Nov 23, 2017; , “Trump’s axis of evil: Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea,” McClatchy, Jan 31, 2018.

[8] Associated Press in Havana, “Fidel Castro to North Korea: nuclear war will benefit no one,” The Guardian, Apr 5, 2013.

[9] Fekerfanta (a Spanish-speaking comrade),”Proletarian Nationalism of North Korea,” From Pyongyang to Havana, Aug 8, 2013. Translated webpage. Original webpage in Spanish. The latter two webpages have working videos. Other webpages by this comrade: “In Hostile Earth: North Korea. Jails and Manipulation” Feb 2015 about an anti-DPRK documentary and reality of DPRK (original page),  “Socialist Construction in North Korea” Dec 2014 post (original page), “Sistiaga, manipulation, and North Korea” Oct 2014 post (original page), “The popular democracy of North Korea” May 2014 post (original page), “The “dark night” of North Korea” Feb 2014 post (original post), “Manipulation against North Korea (2013)” Dec 2013 post (original post), “[2013] Socialist construction in North Korea” Nov 2013 post (original post), “Economic blockade against North Korea” Oct 2013 post (original post), “Persection of Christians in North Korea?” Jun 2013 post (original post), “Cities of North Korea III [Sariwon]” Apr 2013 post (original post), “Dismantling lies I: Haircuts in North Korea” Mar 2013 post (original post), “The women in North Korea” Mar 2013 post (original post), “Rural areas in North Korea” Jan 2013 post (original post), “[2012] Socialist construction in North Korea” Dec 2012 post (original post), “Cities of North Korea II [Hamhung]” Nov 2012 post (original post), “Traffic in North Korea” Nov 2012 post (original post), and “Disabled in North Korea” Oct 2012 post (original post). The Twitter of this comrade is active, the YouTube Channel of this comrade is not really that active, and the same can be said about the Facebook page.

Mansudae Overseas Projects spreads the ideals of Juche worldwide

Korean artist examining his work at Mansudae Art Studio. This photograph really shows the workplace well, unlike others. There are other photos of a statue under construction at Mansudae Art Studio and what the outside of the art studio looks like.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on May 18, 2018.

In the heart of Pyongyang, in Jongphyong-dong, Phyongchon District, there is what some have called the “world’s biggest art factory” or likely the “largest art production center in the world.” This is the Mansudae Art Studio, which employs 4,000 people (who  are male and female) 800 of whom are artists, with Mansudae Overseas Development Group launched in  the 1970s (Munsadae Overseas Projects or MOP is part of this group) as a subset of the studio, with this subset doing works for varying foreign countries, especially in Africa, while the studio as a whole does many works inside Juche Korea, honoring the accomplishments of the socialist state. [1] The studio’s Italian liaison and representative of the studio to the “outside world,” Pier Luigi Cecioni, described it as “more of a campus than a factory, more of a studio, the biggest in the world.” More specifically, this art studio, founded on November 17, 1959 (Juche 48), has an area of “over 120,000 square meters, 80,000 of which indoor,” occupying an a 30 acre area, as noted by the firm’s English-language website, with Cecioni facilitating “the studio’s international sales of paintings, prints, and smaller works.” The studio itself is divided into

…13 creative groups, seven manufacturing plants and more than 50 supply departments. The artistic works produced at the Mansudae Art Studio range from oil paintings to bronze sculptures, from Korean Paintings (ink on paper) to ceramics, from woodcuts to embroideries, from jewel paintings (made with precious and semiprecious stones reduced to powder) to charcoal drawings and much more. The Mansudae Art Studio is…a very high-quality art production center. The vast majority of the major artworks of the country have been made by Mansudae Art Studio artists…[most of whom] are graduates of the very demanding Pyongyang University.

Furthermore, artists who work there are members of “state-run studio complexes” with every artist with a “formal ranking,” with the top art institute in the country being “the Pyongyang University of Fine Art with various sections: brush-and-ink, oil, sculpture, ceramics, mural painting and industrial arts.” Young artists who want to go into the university are selected, and “judged sufficiently skilled they will study here,” with a minimum of “five years study,” with a total of “around 150 students a year in the fine art department,” with students, after graduating “are selected by various art studios.” The art looks like “classic Social Realist propaganda,” while abstract painting is prohibited, rightly, “as it is deemed bourgeois and anti-revolutionary,” with a yearbook published every year cataloguing official art production. Artists working at the Mansudae Art Company, whom can be viewed by foreign tourists whom can view “small-scale ceramic sculptures,” work in small studios either with ink or even with oil paint, while other non-artist workers and technicians likely help with woodblocks (a specialty of those in Juche Korea), helping production “at least 4,000 top level original works a year. Employees work a week with eight-hour days and are paid depending on the level of production, with art production, at least in 2011 (Juche 100), taking up 40% of the socialist nation’s budget, showing the importance that is put upon it. The studio produces 80% of the country’s art, with a typical artist producing “30 artworks a year, working four days a week,” with Fridays for community service, and their work critiqued by colleagues. However, as Rodong Sinmun makes clear, there are other art groups, like the Korean Central Fine Art Studio, Pyongyang University of Fine Art and Art Studio of the Ministry of Railways which produce works of significance, such as posters “dealing with the Party’s militant call for conducting a dynamic all-people general offensive to attain the five-year strategic goals with the might of self-reliance and self-development.” After all, just look at the architecture in Juche Korea to show how important art is there.

One oil painter, Ho Jae-song, working for Mansudae, said that “normally artists work from Monday to Friday, but it depends on the individual artists and what they are doing,” with the artists normally visiting “many places to get inspired, pick up information and make studies” with their visit taking “a couple of weeks, even months,” with those who are members of the studio  proud of their work. BBC News even says that “these highly skilled craftsmen, largely anonymous, working for a higher good and not interested in profit inhabit a very different world from artists elsewhere” although they claim, as one would expect from such horrid media, many would not “envy” their work, in their typical propagandistic style. There are claims in bourgeois media that in overseas environments there are “poor working conditions…and the low pay” but this is undeniably slander.

Painters at the Mansudae Art Studio, as noted by Colors Magazine. Two female artists are working on the left, and two male artists on the right.

Of course, bourgeois media  and analysts declare works coming from MOP (and would undoubtedly say the same about the studio as a whole as well) are “propaganda” with a snarl, claiming it runs afoul of UN sanctions, scrutinized by the murderous empire and UN “experts” as bringing in “significant” money for  Juche Korea, with  “large construction operations” led by Mansudae, with contracts drawn with said governments. Whether this is true or not, is unknown, but it shows that imperialists fear the influence of these monuments, some of which are 160 feet tall! Just take the words of a former IMF adviser, Naranhkiri Tith, who declared that Juche Korea is commercializing Angkor Wat (the project there described in the next paragraph), declaring laughably that “I think anything that happens in Cambodia is not normal. That is why Cambodia is called the country of the absurd…North Korea, in my opinion, is another country of the absurd where the government is engaging in smuggling and many other illegal activities to survive.” [2] What the heck does this even mean? The bourgeois media cites clowns like this person all the time, with this being only one example of the Orientalist propaganda spewed by media every day. They definitely won’t mention that in 2013 (Juche 102), a Western named Oliver Laric became “the only individual…to have hired the Mansudae studio to create a private sculptural commission.” The museum in Angkor was the most “ambitious foreign project” for MOP, taking 63 artists, who were flown in Juche Korea, “four months to paint the cyclorama,” with Yit Chandaroat, acting director of museums for Apsara, saying that “Mansudae has great talent and a good reputation in artwork, painting and construction,” which is undoubtedly the case. Even Nicholas Bonner, founder of Koryo Studio in Beijing who has worked with Mansudae for 20 years, said that “I don’t see this museum [in Cambodia] as an attempt to project soft power. Mansudae is a massive studio, and they need to keep working to bring revenue in from inside and outside of the country.” Mansudae’s official overseas gallery, called the Mansudae Art Museum is in “Beijing’s art district 798 Art Zone and has been holding exhibitions since 2009.” The head of this gallery, Zhengtai Ji, argued that “Now more than ever we need avenues like art to create understanding between North Korea and the rest of the world,” which is undeniably the case. Other bourgeois media claims that there is a huge market for artwork from Juche Korea in China. If this is true, which is may because there was a showing of Mansudae artwork in Shenyang in 2015 (Juche 104), it would be a further reason for a studio there.

These Korean workers have constructed monuments across the African continent celebrating “the rise of young, independent African nations” by merging their style of “socialist realism with African nationalism” (some say they have a “Soviet style“) with historical connections between the countries the monuments appear and those which Juche Korea supported national liberation. Currently, 17 African countries have monuments and structures built by these wonderful workers: Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Togo, and Zimbabwe! [3] Asian countries being Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Western European country of Germany. In Cambodia, Mansudae constructed a “multimillion dollar culture and history museum in Angkor Wat” called the Angkor Panorama Museum, which opened in 2016, which will be run jointly by the Cambodians and those from Juche Korea for ten years, then  handed over to Cambodia into its complete control by 2036. As for the African countries, one bourgeois academic, who has an anti-Korea sentiment to his work, even wrote that the monuments “celebrate the rise of young, independent nations” with Mansudae originally having the government of Juche Korea as his client, with the latter company offering “cheap” and “attractive” prices to African governments. He adds that the monument in Namibia (National Heroes Acre) honors the fight against racist South Africans, the monument in Zimbabwe (also called National Heroes Acre) honors the fight against British oppressors, and a monument in Juche Korea (in the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery) commemorates the fight against Japanese colonizers, with the victors “of each of these fights continue to rule the liberated countries and are basing their legitimacy on the independence struggles.” [4] In all, as one bourgeois “watcher” site for Juche Korea noted, “Mansudae Overseas Development Group undertook to build bronze statues, monuments and other works of arts, and fit out buildings and parks in over 70 countries and regions,” claiming it brings in “needed” cash to Juche Korea, not understanding it is done even more for the reasons of international solidarity. This is demonstrated by the statues, listed by the bourgeois Colors magazine, of

  • national heroes in Botswana (2005)
  • Joshua Nkomo in Zimbabwe (2010)
  • Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel (2011)
  • Angola’s first president Agostinho Neto (2012, with production overseen by “Neto’s wife and daughter”)
  • the Tiglachin Monument for the then-Marxist Ethiopian government (1974)
  • the African Renaissance monument in Senegal (2010)
  • The Unknown Soldier representing Namibians who were killed during the independence war (2002)
  • the Monument to Laurent Kabila in the DRC (2002)

The bourgeois media claims that Juche Korea has taken in $160 million (a number first floated by the anti-Korean Daily NK and repeated by bourgeois media) “in the last ten years thanks to the construction of sculptures and other edifices in countries across Africa,” saying it is a lot because of the country’s “per capita income.” [5] Yet, if we take the most recent estimated GDP (PPP) put forward by the CIA Factbook lets say, taking  it for the sake of argument, being $40 billion, this project would be equal to .04% of that value! That means these projects are chump change generally but still enough to make the work worthwhile, not a big “cash cow” or “cash lifeline” as the bourgeois media likes to describe them, in their lying terms, like they do with everything related to Juche Korea. So, what’s the big deal? It has to do with efforts to restrict this socialist state and limit its influence while capitalism continues to maintain its dominance across the world by strangling it. This is evident by the sanctions of the murderous empire levied by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in August 2017 (along with 15 other entities) against the Mansudae organization and in December 2016 the managing director of MOP, Mr. Tong-chol Kim, who was born on August 7, 1968, and a”Chinese subsidiary in Namibia” called Qingdao Construction. [6] That same year, the UN sanctioned Juche Korea, in an investigation led by one “Hugh Griffiths” who seemed to be anti-Korean (i.e. his statement of “they’re doing an awful lot more than producing statues in Africa”) for Mansudae constructing statues, mainly in Africa, showing that the UN was serving the interests of imperialists and being utter racist, not allowing it to make wonderful socialist realism statues celebrating African liberation. Later in 2016 (Juche 106), the UN “blacklisted Mansudae Art Studio, subjecting it to a global asset freeze and travel ban,” further manifesting imperialist efforts to isolate Juche Korea.

Choi Sang Kyun, head of Gallery Pyongyang, poses with a propaganda poster of Juche Korea that he collected. Photo is courtesy of Reuters and reprinted by The Telegraph. The image here is used here under the fair use exception to U.S. Copyright law.

With this, it is worth quoting Cecioni, who notes the value of Mansudae to the world: “I consider it very important to let people know that … North Koreans do not make only bombs but also art and are common people.” [7] Clearly, the imperialists don’t want the world to know this, which is why the studio is on the list of sanctions, with some artists going to the “Chinese border town of Dandong.” Cecioni also adds that those who work at Mansudae find “abstract and conceptual art…amusing” because they “don’t see it as necessary.” He also added that artists there “have an enviable position” because, “unlike a Western artist they don’t have to worry about selling their work” since they “have a salary…are recognized and have privileges” and ultimately “seem to live happily, they feel part of something.” That is definitely not the case in the capitalist West. In exclusive interview with horrid Vice, Cecioni told more about Mansudae, from his perspective,20 noting that in January 2006 (Juche 105) he became “the representative of the Mansudae Art Studio in the West” with one of the provisions of the agreement to “organize exhibitions of Mansudae Art Studio works in the West” and he has “returned to Pyongyang a few times, and Korean artists have come to visit in Italy.” [8] He added that

The vast majority of the best artists in the country are at the Mansudae. Practically all its artists have a university or a fine-arts degree. When a student distinguishes himself or herself at the university he or she is invited to join the Mansudae. Also, if an artist distinguishes himself or herself in another center he or she might be invited to join. It is a great honor to enter the Mansudae…From what I have seen, from about late elementary school through high school, in the afternoon, students may attend on a voluntary basis after-school programs and institutions in which they follow their interests which can be musical, artistic, sport, acting, and similar. My impression is that the training becomes really demanding at the university: North Koreans are very good and serious university students… The Mansudae Art Studio has a perhaps unexpected economic autonomy. The money that comes from our sales goes to the Mansudae Art Studio… The artists do not absolutely have big egos, nor are they humble. In a way, among the people I frequent, they all consider themselves equal, even though they are fully aware, in art, that some are better than others and that they have different positions work-wise. Western contemporary art in general does not interest them. In fact I saw them find it literally funny in the sense that they laughed at seeing some works, not with disdain but with true amusement. They are very much interested in classic art…I would not say that the purpose of all DPRK art is its political message. The socialist realism works represent North Korea in a positive light and, in a broad sense, want to inspire the viewers to have positive and patriotic feelings and celebrate, especially with some large sculptures and large paintings exhibited in public places, the leaders. The subjects are often related to work, a subject not common in the West. One particular form of socialist realism art are the posters. They are hand-painted, not printed, and they have political or social messages. Many are aimed against the US, seen as past aggressors or potential aggressors. Besides social realism, landscape paintings are very popular. Also paintings of flowers and nature in general. There are also many portraits, mainly of workers. But then there are so many kinds of art—sculptures, ceramics, embroidery, various kinds of paintings, woodcutting, calligraphy, and some others—that I cannot generalize.

Apart from this, in 2015 (Juche 104), a south Korean filmmaker Onejoon Che made a documentary named Mansudae Master Class, which attracted interest in Western  art circles, which undeniably has an Orientalist tone to it, since in an interview with him, he calls Juche Korea a “dictatorship” and acts like they exploit Africans. [9] Basically, the country is again treated as a “curiosity” in undeniably racist terms.

Even with all of this, Mansudae was able to show their works, in 2007 (and again in 2014) in London, of all places, showing that the imperialist efforts to isolate the country aren’t working in slightest. The same was the case about Mansudae’s exhibition on Australia in 2009 (Juche 98), which was even covered by AP, with a 5-minute-video. Mansudae is following in the tradition of Korean history, with maps of Korea drawn in the 19th century which were “painted with watercolors” and are “wonderfully detailed [and] hand-drawn” maps, with these artists and loyal comrades with the same vibe with their work.


Notes

[1] Caroline Winter, “Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea’s Colossal Monument Factory,” Bloomberg Businessweek, Jun 6, 2013; Statues and ammunition: North Korea’s Africa connections,” CNN, Dec. 14, 2017; “North Korea’s ‘biggest’ export – giant statues,” BBC News, Feb 16, 2017; Thomas Gordon, “A North Korean art factory is making enormous statues,” Dazed, Aug 6, 2014; Hamish Macdonald, “North Korean embassy hosts art exhibition in London,” The Guardian, Nov 3, 2014; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 26, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 19, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 12, 2017; “Floral Tributes Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 11, 2017; “Floral Tribute to Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Sept 11, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 28, 2017; “Anniversary of Publication of Kim Jong Il’s Work Observed,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 22, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 17, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jul 29, 2017; “Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jul 10, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jun 21, 2017; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 27, 2017; “Floral Tribute to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 17, 2017; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 20, 2017; “22nd Paektusan Prize Sports Contest among Officials of National Institutions Closes,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 18, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 9, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Great Leaders on Lunar New Year’s Day,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 31, 2017; “Pyongyang Ice Sculpture Festival-2017 Opens,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 4, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il on New Year,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 4, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Great Leaders,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 26, 2016; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 20, 2016; “Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 18, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 12, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Sept 12, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 27, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 17, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, July 29, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jun 21, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 27, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 16 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 11 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues, Portraits of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 18, 2016; “Floral Tributes Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 11, 2016; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 2, 2016. In Angola, the studio has constructed the António Agostinho Neto culture center, Cabinda Park, and the Peace Monument along with a basketball stadium and athlete academic center “in the Congo, a government office building, Luba Stadium, and conference halls in Equatorial Guinea.

[2] Patrick Winn, “North Korea propaganda unit builds monuments abroad,” PRI (reprinted from Global Post), Aug 3, 2011; Amy Qin,  “An Art Powerhouse From North Korea,” New York Times, Jan 25, 2016; Guandong Hu, “Mine workers, idyllic landscapes, tigers: North Korean artists have made tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang,” Quartz, Nov 14, 2017; Nicola Smith, “Flourishing North Korean art trade in China under threat from sanctions,” The Telegraph (reprinted in Yahoo! News) Oct 5, 2017; “North Korea’s Mansudae: The propaganda factory,” MSN News, Feb 17, 2016;

[3] Wikipedia, “Mansudae Overseas Projects,” accessed Feb 6, 2018, lists 11 African countries as places with monuments, but also says “as of 2015, Mansudae projects have been built in 17 countries: Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Cambodia, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Germany, Malaysia, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Togo, Zimbabwe”; Derek Henry Flood, “Symbolism merges for Mali and North Korea,” Asia Times, Feb 2, 2013; Statues and ammunition: North Korea’s Africa connections,” CNN, Dec. 14, 2017; “North Korea and the World” project by the East-West Center and the National Committee on North Korea (NCNK); Tycho van der Hoog, “North Korean monuments in southern Africa: Legitimizing party rule through the National Heroes’ Acres in Zimbabwe and Namibia,” Masters Thesis summary (archived here), Leiden University, July 1, 2017, full masters thesis (67 pages), accessed February 5, 2018, archived here; Nicola Smith, “Flourishing North Korean art trade in China under threat from sanctions,” The Telegraph, Oct 5, 2017; John Russell, “North Korean Art Market Growing,” VOA, Oct 10, 2017; Sebastian Strangio, “N Korea’s multimillion-dollar museum in Cambodia,” Al Jazeera, Feb 22, 2016. VOA claims that Juche Korea has “built statues and markers in at least 15 African countries.” In the full masters thesis, van der Hoog claims he didn’t have time (or ability) to do research in Zimbabwe, but did research in Namibia, which had “old black and white photos of SWAPO officials who were visiting Pyongyang before independence,” further noting that “North Korea not only funded and supplied the liberation movements [in Zimbabwe and Namibia, but], high ranking officials also visited the Asian country and North Korean military instructors were active in the exile camps in Africa, where they trained guerrilla soldiers.” This academic specifically describes the memorials in Namibia and Zimbabwe. One site, says that “as of 2015, Mansudae projects have been built in 17 countries: Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Cambodia, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Germany, Malaysia, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Togo, Zimbabwe.”

[4] Other large projects in Namibia built by Mansudae include the “Independence Memorial Museum, the State House and a military museum in Okahandja” while in Zimbabwe, they also built a “grand statue of Joshua Nkomo in Bulawayo,” in Angola they have engaged in “56 construction projects” as one bourgeois scholar points out. It is claimed that Mansudae “has an office in Windhoek” although this relies on the UN report which only took information from 9 African counries, with 43 not submitting “the required National Implementation Reports,” which the bourgeois scholar still thinks gives the report legitimacy! He also claims that “among the African countries that are often mentioned as hosting North Korean laborers are Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Libya and Nigeria.” They also argue that Juche Korea “may form an inspiration for Namibia and Zimbabwe, and other countries.” One article in bourgeois media says that Other North Korean statues, mostly of African revolutionary leaders, were sold to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Benin and Congo” (Kevin Shieff, “North Korea’s surprising, lucrative relationship with Africa,” Washington Post, Jul 10, 2017).

[5] “Mansudae Overseas Development Group Projects,” North Korean Economy Watch, Jun 23, 2010; “Foreign Currency Earning Constructions in Africa,” Daily NK, Jun 21, 2010; “Korea, North,” The World Factbook, CIA, accessed Feb 5, 2018; Kevin Shieff, “North Korea’s surprising, lucrative relationship with Africa,” Washington Post, Jul 10, 2017.

[6] U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Center, “Treasury Targets Chinese and Russian Entities and Individuals Supporting the North Korean Regime,” Aug 22, 2017, accessed Feb 5, 2018, it was later reprinted by the US Embassy in Russia; “Notices,” Federal Register, Vol. 82, No. 164, Friday, Aug 25, 2017; U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Center, “Treasury Sanctions Individuals and Entities Supporting the North Korean Government and its Nuclear and Weapons Proliferation Efforts,” Dec 2, 2016, accessed Feb 5, 2018; John Bat, “Treasury slaps new sanctions on groups allegedly supporting North Korea,” CBS News, Aug 22, 2017; “Notices,” Federal Register Volume 82, Number 164, Friday, Aug 25, 2017; Bill Gertz, “U.S. Sanctions Chinese, Russians for Illicit Trade With North Korea,” Free Beacon, Aug 23, 2017; “Sanctions on North Korea Inc. Hit Kim’s Secretive ‘Office 39’,” Bloomberg News, Aug 10, 2017; Guandong Hu, “Mine workers, idyllic landscapes, tigers: North Korean artists have made tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang,” Quartz, Nov 14, 2017; Sue-Lin Wong, Giselda Vagnoni, Fanny Potkin, “White tiger, dark horse: North Korean art market heats up,” Reuters, Oct 4, 2017; Nicola Smith, “Flourishing North Korean art trade in China under threat from sanctions,” The Telegraph, Oct 5, 2017; Reuters, “North Korea’s art market is on the rise despite UN sanctions,” New York Post, Oct 5, 2017; Liu Zhen, “8 ways North Korea evades UN sanctions,” Business Insider (reprinted from South China Morning Post), Sept 19, 2017; Eric Talmadge, “Statue export ban hits at Pyongyang’s soft power, hard cash,” AP, Dec 27, 2016; Salem Solomon, “Sanctioned and Shunned, North Korea Finds Arms Deals in Africa,” VOA, Mar 22, 2017; U.S. hits Chinese and Russian companies, individuals with sanctions for doing business with North Korea,” Washington Post, Aug 22, 2017; Xi En Lee, “North Korea still has plenty of options as it faces new sanctions and a frosty Beijing,” CNBC, Nov 23, 2017; Steve Allen, “4 Ships Banned from All Ports for Violating NKorea Sanctions,” Newsmax (reprinted from AP), Oct 9, 2017; “Kim Jong Un’s personal ‘slush fund’ known as ‘Office 39’ hit by sanctions,” Washington Post, Aug 10, 2017; “North Koreans ban statue exports” (title is totally inaccurate, the UN banned the exports, not Juche Korea), Sun Gazette, Feb 6, 2018. The latter article said that Mansudae “has generated an estimated 38,000 statues and 170,000 other monuments for domestic use and, according to the website of its overseas representative office, it is divided in 13 creative groups, seven manufacturing plants and has more than 50 supply departments.” One Treasury Dept report claimed that “the Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies has been reported to conduct business in countries including Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Benin, Cambodia, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Senegal, Syria, Togo, and Zimbabwe.”

[7] Sue-Lin Wong, Giselda Vagnoni, Fanny Potkin, “White tiger, dark horse: North Korean art market heats up,” Reuters, Oct 4, 2017; John Russell, “North Korean Art Market Growing,” VOA, Oct 10, 2017; Lawrence Pollard, “North Korea’s biggest export? Giant statues. To African dictators,” PRI (reprinted from BBC News), Feb 17, 2016; David Sim, “Cash-strapped North Korea turns to art to beat sanctions, but all that is about to change,” International Business Times, Oct 4, 2017.

https://leftistcritic.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/mansudae-overseas-projects-spreads-the-ideals-of-juche-worldwide/

Comrades-in-arms: The DRPK and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK, meets with President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela in Sept 2016

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on May 15, 2018.

In 1974, Venezuela and Juche Korea established diplomatic relations, with the latter establishing a diplomatic mission in Caracas. [1] At that time, the country was considered by the Peking Review as consolidating its national independence but still has a developed bourgeoisie. In 1991, Juche Korea started maintaining a trade office in Caracas, “closed for a year in 1999” but later re-opened. For all those Spanish language comrades reading this section, I welcome you and look forward to your comments on this section of the article and any other one.

In the 1980s, a man named Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias (or Hugo Chavez for short), a career military officer who was born to a “working-class family in Sabaneta” would found the “Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement -200 (MBR-200)” to overthrow the current government. He would fail in a coup against the existing Venezuelan government on February 4, 1992, when he was imprisoned. On February 4, 2013, Executive Vice President Nicolás Maduro Moros (called Nicolas Maduro for short) would read a letter by Hugo Chavez on the 21st anniversary of this momentous event:

In commemorating the XXI anniversary of the civic-military rebellion of February 4, 1992, I want to direct this fervently Bolivarian and revolutionary message to the people and the Armed Forces as an indivisible whole. How much I regret being physically absent from the homeland for the first time in this luminous birth date, but this is what this battle that I am giving for full recovery, here in revolutionary Cuba and sister, demands. However, my spirit and my heart are among you in this day of national dignity. There are dates in which the entire flow of history is revealed and marks the course of the new peoples. There are dates that sign and clear, that become a commitment and pointing to a destiny, that has to happen to calibrate the past and see more clearly the libertarian horizon, that was the glorious February 4, 1992. In that memorable day all the struggles of our people were vindicated. On that memorable day our liberators and our liberators returned by all roads; In that memorable day, Bolivar became a reason to be and entered into battle for now and forever…I want to exalt today the role of the Venezuelan woman on February 4th. A Columba Rivas, a Marisol Terán express the large group of women who accompanied the rebellion. They were in the hour of detachment and heroism, with all their fervor homeland, with all their self-denial…From the depths of the hearts of the people, I say with Aquiles Nazoa, that thanks to February 4, each compatriot can, with full certainty, “one day look at the landscape and say this is my city, this is my homeland” Sisters and brothers, today, after 21 years of that civic-military rebellion, of that decision taken with the greatest love for Venezuela, thought of and rethought as the only possible way to have a homeland, we live in a real and truly free country. On February 4 our people saw the dawn of their hope, thanks to the soldier people, they felt again accompanied by patriotic soldiers…I remember that great memorable reflection of that great revolutionary thinker named Walter Benjamin: “The past carries with it a temporal index through which it is remitted to redemption, there is a secret appointment between the generations that were and ours.” We can say that this secret meeting took place on February 4, 1992, and the past and present and the future were remitted to that redemption. February 4 has been fully justified by history, those of us who rebelled against the Punto Fijo agreement have been blessed by a people that today is in the vanguard of the struggle for peace and justice and is a living example for the peoples of the world…We were not wrong, that certainty that encouraged us Bolivarian soldiers is identical to the one that in this time embody millions of compatriots, and walks in every corner of the country making reality what was the feeling of that act of rebellion…February 4 was a day that generated forces that are still expanding. February 4 is not over…We still have a great homeland to liberate and, for that reason, we need to be more and more united as a people…Ever onward to victory!!! Independence and Socialist Homeland !!! We will live and we will win!!!

After two years in prison, he would be more radicalized, founding the Fifth Republic Movement in 1997, which would exist until 2007 when it was replaced by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). He would be elected in 1998 as President of Venezuela. He would be elected, in the years to come, three times to the presidency, holding the presidency until 2013. During this time, he would implement a “political ideology of Bolivarianism” or “socialism of the 21st century,” which some would call “Chavismo” which would place “emphasis on the implementation of reforms in the country” called the Bolivarian Revolution, which, during his time in office, included the “implementation of a new constitution, establish[ment of] “democratic participatory councils”… nationalization of several key industries…increase of public financing for medical services and education, and the significant reduction of poverty.” In his first term, Chavez would introduce a “new constitution that increased the rights of marginalized groups and altered the structure of the Venezuelan government,” in his second term he would introduce “a system of Bolivarian Missions, Communal Councils and cooperatives administered by the workers.” He described his policy as anti-imperialist, and would ally with the Cuban, Bolivian, Ecuadoran, and Nicaraguan governments, playing a pivotal role in the creation of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), the Bank of the South, and TeleSur. This would profoundly change the relations between Juche Korea and Venezuela. A good primer on the early days of the Bolivarian Revolution is an interview with Miguel Rodriquez Torres, who was a “close confidant of Hugo Chavez.” The rallying cry, you could say, became ¡La República Popular Democrática de Corea y Venezuela están en solidaridad contra el imperialismo americano! (The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Venezuela are in solidarity against American imperialism!) [2]

Hugo Chavez holds up a miniature copy of Venezuela’s constitution during a press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 9, 2012. AP Photo.

The 1999 Constitution of Venezuela replacing the old constitution which in Chavez’s words, represented the “interests of the oligarchic sector,” renamed the country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the Constitution from the Republic of Venezuela. It is a document showing the democratic nature of the state itself. The following excerpts show this to be the case:

Article 1: The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is irrevocably free and independent, basing its moral property and values of freedom, equality, justice and international peace on the doctrine of Simón Bolívar, the Liberator. Independence, liberty, sovereignty, immunity, territorial integrity and national self-determination are unrenounceable rights of the Nation.

Article 2: Venezuela constitutes itself as a Democratic and Social State of Law and Justice, which holds as superior values of its legal order and actions those of life, liberty, justice, equality, solidarity, democracy, social responsibility and, in general, the preeminence of human rights, ethics and political pluralism.

Article 5: Sovereignty resides untransferable in the people, who exercise it directly in the manner provided for in this Constitution and in the law, and indirectly, by suffrage, through the organs exercising Public Power. The organs of the State emanate from and are subject to the sovereignty of the people.

Article 12: Mineral and hydrocarbon deposits of any nature that exist within the territory of the nation, beneath the territorial sea bed, within the exclusive economic zone and on the continental sheaf, are the property of the Republic, are of public domain, and therefore inalienable and not transferable. The seacoasts are public domain property.

Article 19: The State shall guarantee to every individual, in accordance with the progressive principle and without discrimination of any kind, not renounceable, indivisible and interdependent enjoyment and exercise of human rights. Respect for and the guaranteeing of these rights is obligatory for the organs of Public Power, in accordance with the Constitution, the human rights treaties signed and ratified by the Republic and any laws developing the same.

Article 21: Al[l] persons are equal before the law, and, consequently…No discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social standing shall be permitted, nor, in general, any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or encroaching upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual…No titles of nobility or hereditary distinctions shall be recognized.

Article 43: The right to life is inviolable. No law shall provide for the death penalty and no authority shall apply the same. The State shall protect the life of persons who are deprived of liberty, serving in the armed forces or civilian services, or otherwise subject to its authority.

Article 53: Everyone has the right to meet publicly or privately, without obtaining permission in advance, for lawful purposes and without weapons. Meetings in public places may be regulated by law.

Article 57: Everyone has the right to express freely his or her thoughts, ideas or opinions orally, in writing or by any other form of expression, and to use for such purpose any means of communication and diffusion, and no censorship shall be established. Anyone making use of this right assumes full responsibility for everything expressed. Anonymity, war propaganda, discriminatory messages or those promoting religious intolerance are not permitted. Censorship restricting the ability of public officials to report on matters for which they are responsible is prohibited.

Article 59: The State guarantees the freedom of cult and religion. All persons have the right to profess their religious faith and cults, and express their beliefs in private or in public, by teaching and other practices, provided such beliefs are not contrary to moral, good customs and public order. The autonomy and independence of religious confessions and churches is likewise guaranteed, subject only to such limitations as may derive from this Constitution and the law. Father and Mother are entitled to have their sons and daughters receive religious education in accordance with their convictions. No one shall invoke religious beliefs or discipline as a means of evading compliance with law or preventing another person from exercising his or her rights.

Article 64: All Venezuelans* who have reached the age of 18 and are not subject to political disablement or civil interdiction are qualified to vote. In state, municipal and parish elections, the right to vote shall be extended to foreign nationals who have reached the age of 18 and have resided in Venezuela for more than ten years, subject to the limitations established in this Constitution and by law, and provided they are not subject to political disablement or civil interdiction.

Article 68: Citizens have the right to demonstrate, peacefully and without weapons, subject only to such requirements as may be established by law. The use of firearms and toxic substances to control peaceful demonstrations is prohibited. The activity of police and security corps in maintaining public order shall be regulated by law.

Article 81: Any person with disability or special needs has the right to the full and autonomous exercise of his or her abilities and to its integration into the family and community. The State, with the solidary participation of families and society, guarantees them respect for their human dignity, equality of opportunity and satisfactory working conditions, and shall promote their training, education and access to employment appropriate to their condition, in accordance with law. It is recognized that deaf persons have the right to express themselves and communicate through the Venezuelan sign language.

Article 82: Every person has the right to adequate, safe and comfortable, hygienic housing, with appropriate essential basic services, including a habitat such as to humanize family, neighborhood and community relations. The progressive meeting of this requirement is the shared responsibility of citizens and the State in all areas. The State shall give priority to families, and shall guarantee them, especially those with meager resources, the possibility of access to social policies and credit for the construction, purchase or enlargement of dwellings.

Article 88: The State guarantees the equality and equitable treatment of men and women in the exercise of the right to work. The state recognizes work at home as an economic activity that creates added value and produces social welfare and wealth. Housewives are entitled to Social Security in accordance with law.

Article 92: All workers have the right to benefits to compensate them for length of service and protect them in the event of dismissal. Salary and benefits are labor obligations due and payable immediately upon accrual. Any delay in payment of the same shall bear interest, which constitutes a debt certain and shall enjoy the same privileges and guarantees as the principal debt.

Article 98: Cultural creation is free. This freedom includes the right to invest in, produce and disseminate the creative, scientific, technical and humanistic work, as well as legal protection of the author’s rights in his works. The State recognizes and protects intellectual property rights in scientific, literary and artistic works, inventions, innovations, trade names, patents, trademarks and slogans, in accordance with the conditions and exceptions established by law and the international treaties executed and ratified by the Republic in this field.

Article 101: The State guarantees the issuance, receiving and circulation of cultural information. The communications media have the duty of assisting in the dissemination of the values of folk traditions and the work of artists, writers, composers, motion-picture directors, scientists and other creators of culture of the country. The television media shall include subtitles and translation into Venezuelan sign language for persons with hearing problems. The terms and modalities of these obligations, shall be established by law.

Article 113: Monopolies shall not be permitted. Any act, activity, conduct or agreement of private individuals which is intended to establish a monopoly or which leads by reason of its actual effects to the existence of a monopoly, regardless of the intentions of the persons involved, and whatever the form it actually takes, is hereby declared contrary to the fundamental principles of this Constitution. Also contrary to such principles is abuse of a position of dominance which a private individual, a group of individuals or a business enterprise or group of enterprises acquires or has acquired in a given market of goods or services, regardless of what factors caused such position of dominance, as well as in the event of a concentration of demand. In all of the cases indicated, the State shall be required to adopt such measures as may be necessary to prevent the harmful and restrictive effects of monopoly, abuse of a position of dominance and a concentration of demand, with the purpose of protecting consumers and producers* and ensuring the existence of genuine competitive conditions in the economy. In the case of the exploitation of natural resources which are the property of the Nation or the providing of services of a public nature, on an exclusive basis or otherwise, the State shall grant concessions for a certain period, in all cases ensuring the existence of adequate consideration or compensation to serve the public interest.

Article 118: The right of workers and the community to develop associations of social and participative nature such as cooperatives, savings funds, mutual funds and other forms of association is recognized. These associations may develop any kind of economic activities in accordance with the law. The law shall recognize the specificity of these organizations, especially those relating the cooperative, the associated work and the generation of collective benefits. The state shall promote and protect these associations destined to improve the popular economic alternative.

Article 120: Exploitation by the State of the natural resources in native habitats shall be carried out without harming the cultural, social and economic integrity of such habitats, and likewise subject to prior information and consultation with the native communities concerned. Profits from such exploitation by the native peoples are subject to the Constitution and the law.

Article 125: Native peoples have the right to participate in politics. The State shall guarantee native representation in the National Assembly and the deliberating organs of federal and local entities with a native population, in accordance with law.

Article 130: Venezuelans have the duty to honor and defend their native land symbols and cultural values and to guard and protect the sovereignty, nationhood, territorial integrity, self-determination and interests of the nation.

Article 186: The National Assembly shall consist of Deputies elected in each of the federal entities by universal, direct, personalized and secret ballot with proportional representation, using a constituency base of 1.1% of the total population of the country. Each federal organ shall also elect three additional deputies. The native peoples of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall elect three deputies in accordance with the provisions established under election law, respecting the traditions and customs thereof. Each deputy shall have an alternate elected by the same process.

Article 274: The organs exercising Citizen Power are charged, in accordance with this Constitution and with the law, with preventing, investigating and punishing actions that undermine public ethics and administrative morals; to see to sound management and legality in the use of public property, and fulfillment and application of the principle of legality in all of the State’s administrative activities, as well as to promote education as a process that helps create citizenship, together with solidarity, freedom, democracy, social responsibility and work.

Article 299: The economic regime of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is based on the principles of social justice, democratization, efficiency, free competition, protection of the environment, productivity and solidarity, with a view to ensuring overall human development and a dignified and useful existence for the community. The State, jointly with private initiative, shall promote the harmonious development of the national economy, to the end of generating sources of employment, a high rate of domestic added value, raising the standard of living of the population and strengthen the economical sovereignty of the country, guaranteeing the reliability of the law; the solid, dynamic, sustainable, continuing and equitable growth of the economy to ensure a just distribution of wealth through participatory democratic strategic planning with open consultation.

Article 304: All waters are property in the Nation’s public domain, essential to life and development. The necessary provisions shall be established by law to guarantee the protection, utilization, and recuperation thereof, respecting the phases of the hydrological cycle and zoning criteria.

Article 316: The taxation system shall seek a fair distribution of public burdens in accordance with the taxpayer’s ability to pay, taking into account the principle of progressive taxation, as well as protection of the national economy and raising the standard of living of the population, the foundation therefore being an efficient system for the collection of taxes.

The constitution is overall socially democratic, but it has many positive elements, some of which are highlighted above.

Fast forward to 2005. Venezuela was lumped in with the other countries as an “enemy.” There was a mission mangers for Iran, Juche Korea, and Cuba-Venezuela to solve “intelligence challenges” of the murderous empire, with Venezuela as an intelligence priority meaning that “massive resources would be spent on espionage, surveillance and special operations both inside and outside Venezuelan territory”! Obviously this was an utter violation of sovereignty, but the empire didn’t care about that, as they flaunt laws all the time without caring if it is legal or not. In September of the same year, Chavez, in an interview, described how much had been spent by the empire on the Iraq War, saying that they appeared to “be preparing for wars against Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela,” quoted as saying “they are preparing to dominate the world,” which was undoubtedly true. The same month, he spoke before the UN General Assembly. He demanded reform of the UN itself, such as expanding the non-permanent and permanent categories of the Security Council, giving access to new countries, increase inclusion in the UN, ending the permanent veto power (which he called an “elite vestige”), strengthening the role of the Secretary General, calling for a “re-foundation” of the UN which should be in a newly created international city in the Global South. He also said that that “neoliberal globalization” and the fact that the world is so interconnected means that there cannot be a “national solution” to many problems, adding that it is “practically and ethically inadmissible to sacrifice the human species by insanely invoking the validity of a socioeconomic model with a galloping destructive capacity” and saying that more than ever a “new international order” (first proposed in December 1974) should be revived. He also spoke against the ideas of “preventive war” and “responsibility to protect,” calling them “very dangerous concepts that delineate imperialism,” and noted that over the past seven years, “the Venezuelan people can exhibit important social and economic achievements,” specifically noting that “nearly 70% of the population…receive…free medical assistance” as on example. He ended by saying that the Venezuelans will fight for “Latin American integration and for the world,” and powerfully declared that “let us not rest our arms, nor rest our souls to save humanity.”

This is from Hugo Chavez’s speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2006.

The following year, 2006, imperialists declared that Venezuela was getting close to Juche Korea. Rumsfeld of the military establishment himself compared “Chavez to Adolf Hitler” while Negroponte accused Venezuela of “being the most serious threat to U.S. interests in Latin America and of seeking closer ties with North Korea and Iran.” Many of these statements were so absurd, its best to laugh out loud at these goofballs. In July, Chavez seemed to hint at some close ties with the Koreans, quoted as saying that “the most virulent, loud, and high-handed critics of North Korea are the same ones that, in view of Israeli aggression against innocent men, women and children, say nothing.” However, Venezuela had its reservations. That year, they condemned the nuclear weapons tests by Juche Korea, with Maduro, then foreign minister, saying that “We condemn all nuclear tests, because of the immense damage to the planet, to life on the planet.” [3] Maduro’s full statement is worth quoting:

“As a matter of principle, Venezuela is against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and condemns these kinds of tests due to the immense damage they cause to the planet. We are against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we are doing a great effort in all international scenarios so that countries that have nuclear weapons start eliminating them progressively, so that we can move towards a world without nuclear weapons. We have enough destructive elements threatening life on this planet, and we do not need the advancement of these policies of nuclear tests no matter who does them. America, the whole continent, should be declared a nuclear weapons free zone. In that sense we condemn all nuclear weapons tests due to the immense damage they cause to life on this planet which is already deteriorated as a result of a developing model based on consumerism, which has led to global warming and to the destruction of life….[Venezuela opposes the nuclear tests] due to principles and due to our humanist policies…[Nuclear tests should be used for] providing electricity to important regions of the global south that do not enjoy this public service, to treat cancer, and for other aspects related to human life, never for the destruction of human kind.”

While this is a broad and noble statement against nuclear destruction, it is unfortunate as it easily meshes with what the imperialists want, which is why the denunciation of the weapons tests was applauded by the U$, not surprisingly. However, later that year, in September, in a speech in which he recommended a book by reactionary leftist Noam Chomsky [4], he took a strong stand against climate catastrophe. He told the UN General Assembly that “…the hegemonic pretension of North American Imperialism puts at risk the very survival of the human species” and proceeded to call Bush II the “devil.” He went onto criticize Bush II’s remarks, noting that the empire works to “try to maintain the current scheme of domination, exploitation and plundering the peoples of the world…impose the democratic model as they conceive it, the false democracy of the elites” and declared that “Mr. Imperialist dictator, that you are going to live the rest of your days with a nightmare,” also criticizing the Zionist oppression of Palestinians. He went onto say that “the peoples of the South, the hit people would say: Yankee Empire go home!” said that the “United Nations System…collapsed, collapsed, does not work” with the General Assembly turned into “a purely deliberative, purely deliberative body without any power to impact the least way the terrible reality that the world lives” and proposed against four ideas to strengthen the UN by giving “giving access to new developed countries and underdeveloped countries, the Third World, as new permanent members….[apply]effective methods of attention and resolution of global conflicts…[end] immediate[ly]…that anti-democratic mechanism of the veto…of the Security Council…[and] strengthen…the powers of the Secretary General of the United Nations.” From here, he went onto say that Venezuela is an “independent voice” which denounces “the persecution and aggressions of hegemonism against the peoples of the Planet,” adding accurately that the “government of the United States has initiated an open aggression” against Venezuela, forcefully making it known that “the Empire is afraid of the truth, of independent voices, accusing us of being extremists. They are the extremists.” Also in his speech, he said that with Venezuela on the Security Council this would bring “the voice not only of Venezuela, [but] the voice of the Third World, the voice of the peoples of the Planet, [and] there we will be defending dignity and truth.” Additionally he said that the “the neoliberal capitalist model that generates misery and poverty,” noted that the empire has “already planned, financed and promoted a coup in Venezuela” (in 2002), saying that the empire “continues to support coup movements in Venezuela and against Venezuela, continues to support terrorism” while noting that the CIA are utter terrorists. He ended by saying that “we are men and women of the South, we are carriers, with these documents, with these ideas, with these criticisms, with these reflections that I close my folder and the book I take it, do not forget that I recommend them a lot, with much humility,” ending on a powerful note.

In 2007, again bourgeois analysts said that Venezuela was allying itself with Juche Korea, along with revisionist China, Cuba, and Iran. Sadly, this year was one of a setback for the Bolivarian Revolution. A constitutional referendum was proposed that have been a “massive overhaul of this country’s constitution,” including ending “central bank autonomy…suspension of due process during a state of emergency, lowering the age to vote to 16 years…empowering new forms of local direct democracy, establishing new forms of property, consolidating rights of sexual minorities, [and] extending social welfare to self employed workers,” reducing the working week to 36 hours from 44 hours, all part of an effort to implement the “aggressive Bolivarian Socialist agenda” or the “start of a new era towards socialism,” and increased presidential powers like indefinite re-election of the president. However, it lost in December of that year by a very slim margin of a “little more than 100,000 votes” or a “tiny majority, of around 1.4%…said no,” possibly because of certain elements of the proposal like increased presidential powers, even among his supporters. [5] Chavez, in a press conference afterwords, said that “this was a photo finish…To those who voted against my proposal, I thank them and congratulate them…I ask all of you to go home, know how to handle your victory…For now, we couldn’t.” Some in the bourgeois media said that “many political observers point to the thousands of university students, who…clogged the streets to protest the reform in the weeks leading up to the vote…Chavez’s traditional support base didn’t show up to vote…[and] poor voters unhappy with the proposed constitutional overhaul said they were more troubled about measures to abolish presidential term limits and facilitate state expropriation of private property than they were enthused by articles that could benefit the poor” but admitted that “Chavez still has many of the poor on his side” and that “the electoral defeat may indeed slow the President down” but it will not stop the momentum moving forward. Still, as one would expect, the White House applauded this move, declaring that “it looks like the people spoke their minds…and I think that bodes well for the country’s future and freedom and liberty,” by U$-backed opposition mayor Leopoldo Lopez, saying that “I am sure that this victory for the Venezuelan people will have a very important impact in the rest of Latin America,” and The Economist which declared that Chavez’s “plan to install what he calls “21st century socialism”…has been badly punctured,” saying that this “setback may also take much of the momentum out of his industrious efforts to form a regional block of allies and client states,” except neither turned out to be the case in the years to come.

Hugo Chavez speaks in solidarity with Evo Morales of Bolivia. Quotes are from a BBC article on Sept 12, 2008 titled “Chavez acts over US-Bolivia row.”

The following year, 2008, was a bit more positive. As the intelligence establishment of the U$ continued to target Venezuela, Chavez removed his “combative vice-president, Jorge Rodriguez” who had been blamed for “the referendum defeat” the previous December,” and changed his tune by promising to “tackle issues like crime and garbage collection that more directly affect his grass roots supporters,” adding that “we are not extremists and we cannot be. We have to look for alliances with the middle classes,” saying that there were no plans to “eliminate private property.” [6] He even, in an act of grace, “declared a pardon that is expected to free from jail hundreds of people who took part in a coup that briefly ousted him from power in 2002”! Still, his strong words and thoughts did not subside. He called on his opponents to read about his political mentors, saying that “to those who consider themselves holier than the Pope, let them read Lenin. They should meet Fidel Castro some day.” In January of the same year, after the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was less than a year old (it has been founded on March 24, 2007) outlined its “Draft Program and Principles,” and would later have ranks in the millions of members. Within this, the party said that it will have a unique form of socialism in Venezuela unlike anything else, not even like Juche Korea and others:

The Party will go to great efforts to educate itself and others in human experiences that have distant antecedents, such as American Indian cosmovision and primitive Christianity and more recent experiences like those that from the 20th century that gave rise to the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba. But the socialism of the 21st century will be the consequence of a creative praxis, the free exercise of the will and desires of the Venezuelan people. It will be “neither imitation nor copy”, to borrow the expression of José Carlos Mariátegui, but rather a “heroic creation”.

Still, this leaves the door open to learning from the Soviet, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Cuban experiences to say the least. In a different way this was reflected by the Wall Street Journal which declared that Chavez is “an ally of the Iranian mullahs, a supporter of North Korea, a close friend of Fidel Castro and a good customer for Vladimir Putin’s weapon factories,” to make him sound like a monster, just as they do with any disliked leader who is in the periphery.

In September of that year, left-leaning commentator, Michael Albert, asked Julio Chavez, Mayor of Carora, that slogans like “Chavez is the people,” “With Chavez anything without Chavez nothing,” “Who is against Chavez is against the people”…sounds a little like North Korea” acting like that is bad and engaging in anti-communist dribble. What Julio Chavez said here is worth quoting:

For us President Chavez has broken many paradigms, has broken with many historical trends…at this point in time Chavez is absolutely necessary, cannot be done without, for our revolutionary process….Chavez was a product of various rebellions. He didn’t come from nowhere. He is not a Messiah….he resembles the people to such an extent, thinks and acts like the people, and says exactly what he thinks – he is what is needed at this moment. So right now, I think that Chavez is absolutely indispensable. I am one of those who is fighting against the current that argues for Chavismo without Chavez. To the extent that Fidel Castro sees that his time has come to an end, it is now Hugo Chavez’s time…Chavez really does embody the personal anguish, the old lack of hope, the new rising hope, and the desires of the people. And that is why we say with him, everything, without him, nothing. At this moment Chavez is the man. He is at the heart of the process unfolding here in Latin America.

In 2009 there was a victory for the Bolivarian Revolution. It could be said to among the “mass socialist revolutions in China, Indo-China,” and Juche Korea which “ousted colonial powers and defeated their collaborators in a period of hyper-inflation and mass unemployment,” as one commentator put it. This victory was a referendum in February, which ended term limits for the President and all elected officials, was considered “free and fair” by election observers from many countries and a showcase of the clear “popular democracy” in Venezuela. [7] As such, the country’s constitution was changed. It was followed by mass celebrations in Caracas and Spanish election observer, favored by the opposition, calling Chavez a “dictator” and was kicked out of the country, just like “Jose Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch executive director for the Americas” in September of the previous year, rightly so! Chavez said that Obama wanted him removed from power: “He’s said I’m an obstacle for progress in Latin America. Therefore it must be removed, this obstacle, right?” While AP was befuddled to what he was referring to, he was clearly referencing an interview Obama did with Univision before his inauguration in January, saying that Chavez “impeded progress in the region…[and] exporting terrorist activities.” Later on that year, Chavez would give Obama a book by the late Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano titled Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina), which he admitted is “still alive and kicking” but said that his “old writing style seems rather stodgy.” Years later, in September 2012, Chavez would sort of “endorse” Obama (which didn’t make Obama a socialist no matter what those conservative goofballs would say) saying that “I hope this doesn’t harm Obama, but if I was from the United States, I’d vote for Obama…Obama is a good guy…I think that if Obama was from Barlovento or some Caracas neighborhood, he’d vote for Chavez…After our triumph and the supposed, probable triumph of President Obama, with the extreme right defeated here and there, I hope we could start a new period of normal relations with the United States,” echoing what he said about him before the 2008 election: that Obama was “an intelligent man.” Still, this doesn’t take away from being anti-imperialist, but shows that he was clearly interesting in normalizing relations, and attempting to build off Obama not calling Venezuela a security threat, just like Cuba did years later. After all, in December 2011, he called Obama an “embarrassment” and clown” who should “focus on governing your country, which you’ve turned into a disaster,” which is an understandable statement after Obama’s aggressive remarks.

Hugo Chavez talks to jerk interviewer on BBC’s HardTalk. Quote comes from a BBC article titled “President Chavez’s socialist world vision.” This photo comes from one part of this interview on YouTube.

In December 2009, Chavez spoke to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, where he again criticized capitalism and imperialism, while also praising Karl Marx:

…What we live on this planet is an imperial dictatorship, and from here we continue to denounce it. Down with the imperial dictatorship! And may the peoples live and democracy and equality on this planet!…There is a group of countries that believe themselves superior to us from the south…a ghost runs through Copenhagen, paraphrasing Karl Marx, the great Karl Marx, a ghost walks through the streets of Copenhagen, and I think that ghost walks in silence in this room, there goes, among us, gets through the corridors, it goes out below, up, that ghost is a frightening ghost almost nobody wants to name it: capitalism is the ghost, almost nobody wants to name it…Let’s not change the climate. Let’s change the system! And consequently we will begin to save the planet. Capitalism, the model of destructive development, is destroying life, threatening to definitively end the human species…The rich are destroying the planet. Could it be that they plan to leave for another when they destroy this one?…The current human activity exceeds the threshold of sustainability, endangering life on the planet, but also in it we are profoundly unequal…the 500 million richest people….seven percent of the world’s population…is responsible…are responsible for fifty percent of the polluting emissions, while the poorest 50 percent are responsible for only seven percent of the polluting emissions…60 percent of the planet’s ecosystems are damaged, 20 percent of the earth’s crust is degraded; we have been impassive witnesses of deforestation, land conversion, desertification, alteration of freshwater systems, overexploitation of marine resources, pollution and loss of biological diversity..Developed countries should establish binding, clear and concrete commitments in the substantial reduction of their emissions and assume obligations of financial and technological assistance to poor countries to face the destructive dangers of climate change…There are some countries that are playing here that there is no document, because they do not want a law, they do not want a rule, because the non-existence of that norm allows them to play their exploitative freedom, their overwhelming freedom…Can a finite earth support an infinite project? The thesis of capitalism, infinite developmentalism is a destructive model, let’s accept it…Stop the aggressions and the wars we ask the peoples of the world to the empires, to those who seek to continue dominating the world and exploiting us. No more imperial military bases, no coups d’etat, let’s build a fairer and more equitable economic and social order, eradicate poverty, stop immediately the high emission levels, stop environmental deterioration and avoid the great catastrophe of climate change, let’s integrate ourselves in the noble objective of being all freer and more supportive…Only possible on the path of socialism, socialism, the other ghost that Karl Marx talked about,…is the course for the salvation of the planet, [and] I do not have the slightest doubt, and capitalism is the path of hell, to the destruction of the world…History calls us to union and struggle. If capitalism resists, we are obliged to fight against capitalism and open the paths of the salvation of the human species..Let’s hear Rosa Luxemburg when she said: Socialism or barbarism

These words should not surprise anyone at all. I say this because Chavez said the following year, 2010, before the National Assembly that he was a revolutionary and is a “Marxist to the same degree as the followers of the ideas of Jesus Christ and the liberator of America, Simon Bolivar…Who can imagine Christ as a capitalist? Christ was more radical than any of us,’” and said that he had begun studying Marx’s Das Kapital (Capital in English) then saying he hadn’t read it completely yet, giving him “the answers to many questions” He also said that “for the love of God, let’s halt this [commercialization of Christmas], let’s put the brakes on this consumerist, capitalist insanity, that leads us to lose our spiritual values.” He also said, in January 2010 that, and I quote, “Marxism is undoubtedly the most advanced theory in the interpretation…[of] the concrete reality of the people,” called Christ a “Marxist,” and said that it is “necessary to take the oxygen from him the bourgeois state,” statements criticized by the bourgeoisie but praised by fellow PSUV members. [8]

With this, we get to 2010. In July, one Venezuelan official said that “an invasion of Venezuela would be almost “simultaneous with an attack on North Korea or Iran” and that Venezuelans need to start organising and mobilising to defend “the sovereignty of our homeland.”” which is not off base at all. Many months later, in November, the Venezuelan government said rightly that the U$ was the aggressor on the Korean Peninsula, which was read aloud by Chavez during a televised meeting of regional vice presidents of the PSUV:

The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has for some time been warning of a political plan that consists of provoking incidents in the zone around the Korean peninsula…as a strategy for the perpetuation of imperialist military hegemony in the region. For peace-loving countries, it is essential to denounce the pre-meditated action of ultra-right sectors of the United States, which through certain institutions of the country such as the Pentagon, the State Department, and the CIA pursue the objective of creating diverse points of instability on the planet, as part of the necessity of maintaining the functioning of a well-oiled military industrial complex…[we urge] the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, and the countries in the area to strengthen their capacity to understand each other, with the aim of preserving peace in the region.

This was a more positive statement toward Juche Korea than previously, which can be said to be progress without question.

2011 and 2012 were not much different. On June 30 of 2011, Chavez said he was “recovering from an operation to remove an abscess tumor with cancer cells.” In September of the same year, Juche Korea joined many other countries, including Venezuela, which refused (translated) to recognize the provisional government in Libya, after the imperialist assault, as reported in the publication (Spanish language) of the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV). [9] In December 2012, Chavez requested a second medical operation, which he received in Cuba after he had traveled there. This is a show of comradely solidarity that he was treated in a Cuban hospital.

Juche Korea Ambassador Jon Yong Jin with Yul Jabour, president of committee of Foreign Policy and deputy of PCV (Venezuelan Communist Party), and Julio Chávez, president of committee of People’s Power and the Media and deputy of PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela), Oct 4, 2013.

Then we get to 2013, a watershed year for relations between Juche Korea and Venezuela. Due to Chavez’s sickness, his inauguration was delayed but he did return “on February 18, 2013…and was admitted directly to the military hospital in Caracas.” Not long after that he sent a letter to the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of South America and Africa (ASA) in Equatorial Guinea, which was read by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Elías Jaua. He described the transatlantic slave trade as the “kidnapping and murder of millions of daughters and sons of mother Africa, in order to feed a system of slave exploitation in their colonies, sowed in Our America warrior and combative African blood, which burned by the fire that produces the desire for freedom.” However, he said that the sowing of feelings of resistance grew, leading to the “beginning of an independence, unionist, anti-imperialist process and restorer in Latin and Caribbean America” and connected this to “the twentieth century, and the libertarian struggles of Africa,” naming Patrice Lumumba and Amilcar Cabral as two liberation leaders in Africa. He went on to say that since “Latin America and the Caribbean, together with Africa share a past of oppression and slavery…we are also united by a present of unrenounceable struggle for the freedom and definitive independence of our nations…we are the same people” and called for ending “neoliberal capitalism of the twentieth century.” Adding to this, he further called for “South – South cooperation” with “strategies and plans of sustainable development towards the south towards our peoples,” noting that some Western powers “project a neocolonial policy that threatens the stability that we have begun to strengthen in our continents,” adding that “the neocolonial strategy has been…to divide the most vulnerable nations of the world, in order to subject them to a slavish relationship of dependency.” With that he strongly opposed the “foreign military intervention in Libya…[and] absolute rejection of all NATO interventionist activity,” ending by saying “Let us march towards our union and definitive independence…Long live the South American and African Union! Long live the ASA! Ever onward to victory! We will live and we will win!” Sadly, at 4:25 PM on March 5, at the age of 58, Chavez, who said he would dedicate his whole life to revolution, died in Caracas. The Bolivarian Revolution was to go on without him, facing trials and tribulations in the days ahead.

In March of the same year, Alejandro Cao de Benós, ambassador of Juche Korea in Chile was interviewed by the Chilean Communist Party (Proletarian Action) PC (AP) which was transcribed by the Popular Tribune, a publication of the PCV, adding important insights on Juche Korea itself. Cao de Benós, of Spanish descent, said that [10]:

I have never been able to tolerate that 80% of humanity lives in absolute poverty while a few enslave the rest, accumulate millions and speculate with the price of wheat or rice…I dedicate[d] myself to fight for socialism when I realize that volunteering or charity is not going to save the people…It is complicated to summarize it in a few words, but it [Juche Korea] is a socialist system where all the means of production and property belong to the people. There are no private companies or speculation. The Government provides completely free housing for each citizen, as well as education and health at no cost…There is a public distribution system that guarantees food and basic resources to all citizens equally and without exception. The union of the people, army and party is complete, there are no factionalisms or place for selfishness, popular conscience and the strong union around our leaders make the DPR of Korea an impregnable fortress…Despite the global crisis, as the DPRK maintains an independent and self-sustaining system, the economy improves at a rate of 10% per year. 100,000 new fully modern homes are being completed and will be delivered this April…The main key [to solve varied social problems] lies in the nationalization, but this can not be carried out if there is no charismatic leader with massive popular support and a military force. By nationalizing the companies the people take control of the resources, in this way the money that was previously taken by the foreign entrepreneurs or holdings is then within the country. Logically this process can not be carried out without a great popular support that must have a visible and unifying head…Our position is always dialogue and mutual respect, but as we always say: The DPR of Korea wants peace, but will not kneel for it. Meaning that the nation is ready for both dialogue and war…I spend a lot of time traveling and every time I come back from Korea I see that the international situation is going to get worse, especially capitalism, moved by the insatiable desire of the big corporations, it collapses..I have seen a great change from the 90s to the current ones. At that time communism was demonized and the weak changed sides quickly…There is a certain ‘taboo’ in communist organizations to have a leader, that translates into an internal weakness that disperses the forces and favors the enemy…The Juche Idea expresses that man is master of his destiny and can use the means at his disposal to modify it. It’s basically Korean-style socialism. Although in its origins it owes Marxism-Leninism, it is an original idea created by the Great Leader Kim Il Sung and that incorporates traditional elements of Korean culture and philosophy…The giant portraits of Marx and Lenin remain in the main square, each day facing the portrait of our President Kim Il Sung. And Iosif Stalin was a good comrade of the Great Leader, to whom he gave an armored car and train…[Juche Korea’s short term goals are to] improve the economy, specifically developing light industry. Once Korea is strong politically and militarily resources are being used to improve the life of the people and modernize the industry.

The same month, Nicolas Maduro, now heading the country after Chavez’s death, said that Venezuela is committed to all efforts to achieve a peaceful solution in the Korean Peninsula, saying that they hope “for peace on the Korean peninsula and…[calling] to diminish the statements and militaristic actions, which could lead to both Nations to a new conflict. In addition, the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela expresses its deep concern for the continuous realization of exercises and military tests, which only contribute to the increase of tensions. The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela reiterates the bonds of friendship with both Nations, and reaffirms its commitment to all efforts that allow to achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict.” [11] Even with this, the next month, after Maduro won elections in April 2013, Kim Yong-nam, chairperson of the SPA Presidium said that the victory in Venezuela of Maduro was “an expression of the deep trust and expectations on his shoulders,” and congratulated the Venezuelan people for a “firm will to maintain the road towards socialism.” Later on that year, at the 18th World Festival of Youth and Students (FMJE), in which there was “discussion around the unity of action of the progressive youth and student movement, in support of the struggles of the peoples in the face of imperialist aggressions” there were delegations from “Zimbabwe…Angola…Vietnam, Nepal and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” to name a few. Also in 2013, the ambassador of Juche Korea to Cuba, Jon Yong Jin, visited Venezuela, meeting with two parliamentarians, one from the PCV, another from the PSUV. At the meeting, Jin said that Juche Korea offered “unrestricted support and solidarity” to Venezuela, saying that their government would not “hesitate to join the struggle against the empire to defend sovereignty and the Bolivarian Revolution.” On an even more powerful note, Jin supported the decision by Maduro to “expel from Venezuelan territory the three diplomatic officials who conspired against the nation,” saying that this was “a measure of an independent country and we support it,” adding that giving priority to military affairs is important, saying that the “driving force” of Juche Korea “is in the popular masses,” noting that the nuclear weapons are for self-defense only and to stop imperial aggression: “the Supreme Commander of the People’s Army, Kim Jong-un, has affirmed that if a single American bullet falls on our territory, we will launch a missile towards the island of Guam and another directed at the White House.” Beyond this, he also said that “unity of the revolutionary force is important in that fight against imperialism.” the PCV deputy thanked Jin for “the support and solidarity offered by the head of the mission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” and added that the “National Assembly has been developing the legal context to deepen relations between the two countries” while the PSUV deputy said that “a friendship group with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is [being] formed” in the National Assembly!

Nicolas Maduro talks to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in March 2014, as quoted above. Conservative sites claimed she was “paid” by Maduro because of supposed “bills” under her chair, but this is so silly, as Venezuela has its own media and would have no need to pay Amanpour, a person who has a clearly bourgeois mindset.

2014, like 2013, was another year of strengthened relations between the two countries. With the “Western” left, as you could call them, saying that “Venezuela would be like…North Korea,” in a negative way, they fail to recognize the connection between the two countries. In June of that year, it was clear that Juche Korea was ready to open an embassy in Venezuela after the Venezuelan government gave its stamp of approval, ending the ambassador to Cuba representing “North Korean interests in Venezuela.” [12] One bourgeois analyst noted rightly that “North Korean presence in the region has gone under the radar up until now” with their admiration for “Hugo Chávez’s 21st Century Socialism,” adding that Jin, at the meeting previously mentioned “took the opportunity to express his support for President Nicolás Maduro,” and noting by January 2014, “Yul Jabour and…Julio Chávez, emphasized the need for study of the Juche doctrine and its application in Venezuela’s territory.” This same analyst noted that while “there are 24 countries in the Americas and the Caribbean that maintain relations with North Korea…only four of them have Embassies” with Venezuela being the fifth country to join this list, as they also worried that “Chavismo could adopt North Korea’s ideological and political features,” although this has not happened, showing how absurd their fears are.

Venezuela’s connection with Juche Korea is understandable. As one analysis in August of 2014 noted correctly, “the attempts of Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Grenada, Nicaragua, Libya and other countries to forge an independent path have been answered with all-out imperialist war” meaning that survive “in such a hostile world, there are only two real choices: capitulate, or unite and fight,” which Chavez choosing, “informed by his rich knowledge of world history, his identification of US-led imperialism as the major obstacle to peace and development, and his own experiences of trying to exercise sovereignty,” to unite and fight, building “Venezuelan socialism in the face of destabilisation and CIA-backed coup attempts.” The Venezuelan communists started that process however, with the founding of a communist youth organization in 1944 in the country. [13] Also in 2014, in August, Juche Korea, along with Venezuela and many others said no to the commercial blockade on Venezuela imposed by the U$ imperialists.

In 2015, the embassy of Juche Korea opened in Venezuela. Sadly, I cannot, currently find any photographs of it, but it undoubtedly there. In February of that year, the Popular Tribune, a publication of the PCV, published an article noting that “only the Democratic Republic of Korea uses atomic deterrence as a factor that has prevented imperialism from taking control of the strategic peninsula of south-west Asia,” saying this in a supportive manner. [14] The following month, in the same publication, it was noted that the executive decision to make Venezuela an “an extraordinary and unusual threat for national security and the foreign policy of the United States” and declare a “state of emergency” was “applied for the first time against Korea,” then followed by by “Yugoslavia…Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq or the tiny island of Granada,” and now was being applied to Venezuela! The same month, there were two more articles noting Juche Korea. The first was from the Bolivarian Front of Scientific Researchers, Innovators and Workers (FREBIN). In their statement to those in the U$, they noted that “Venezuela appears next to China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Russia… Please, give me a break!” and that in “one of the strategic missions, the NSA proposes “providing warning of impending state instability” in countries such as North Korea, Cuba, Nigeria, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Bolivia, Sudan, Kosovo, Venezuela, the “Palestinian Authority “and -attention!- something they call “Latin American Bolivarian developments”.” They added that this means that “Venezuela appears as an unusual and extraordinary threat because it presents an ideology -the Boliviarian one- which rivals and contrasts with the totalitarian influence exerted by the US status quo over the Latin American region in the recent decades.” This is part of the reason the Koreans support the Venezuelans. As one critical article said at the time, “to say “Venezuela” in the same breath as “North Korea” is entirely acceptable to most people, including much of the left,” referring to the fact that many of those on the Left see this as negative rather than seeing the two countries as comrades-in-arms.

In October, the Popular Tribune publication of the PCV published something which was from the embassy of Juche Korea in Venezuela, focusing on the Workers’ Party of Korea, which they called the “Korean Labor Party” (same thing). [15] They defined the Juche idea as meaning that “the masses of the revolution and their construction are the masses of the people and the force that drives them also” and Songun as meaning “prioritizing military affairs and taking the armed forces by force to promote the revolution and its construction,” noting they came about first in June 1930 from Kim Il Sung himself. They added that as the years went on, the WPK became

more powerful as an ideologically pure organization, fully impregnated only by the Juche idea and the Songun, and that even in the face of the vicissitudes of all sorts of history invariably maintains its principle…The first aspect worth mentioning of the Korean Labor Party is iron unity and internal cohesion…Kim Jong Il…made each one of the lines and policies outlined to reflect the aspiration and the demand of the masses to the maximum, and launched slogans such as “All the Party, to get along with the masses!” And “Serve the people!” that all the party cadres will always empathize with the masses and serve them faithfully…Kim Jong Un…who carries out without any deviation the ideology and the cause of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, launched as the slogan of the Party “Everything for the people, all leaning in the popular masses! “, and fully practice the policy of love and appreciation to the people…A party like the [WPK]…is always invincible; This is the truth proven by history. That’s why the [WPK]…will be eternally triumphant.

In 2016, connections between Juche Korea and Venezuela were still strong. That year, according to some sources, exports to Venezuela were “$7.6 million, while Venezuela’s exports to North Korea were minimal,” showing that Koreans were helping Venezuelans build their Bolivarian Revolution. In February of that year, Han Song Guk, Adviser Consul of embassy of Juche Korea commemorated the life of Kim Jong Il, calling him an “unforgettable leader who devoted his whole life to the enrichment and prosperity of the country” who led the country through “terrible difficulties due to the concentrated offensive of imperialism and its allies against socialist Korea…and unprecedented natural calamities” and destined “the valuable fund of the state that was almost total of the country’s wealth…for the introduction of the computerized numerical control technology in the machinery industry.” [16] Guk also said that “his best option to prepare the people for the eternal comfort and self-sufficiency of everything necessary instead of buying in international markets” while socialist Korea moved forward, “overcoming the unprecedented adversities that caused the whole world concerns about its destiny” and Kim Jong Il had a goal to “sacrifice himself for the enrichment and prosperity of the country and the happiness of the people.” This is why, Guk concludes, he will “live eternally in the hearts of Koreans and progressive peoples of the world.” The following month, the PCV’s Political Bureau “expressed its solidarity with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the face of the aggression that is home to US imperialism, South Korea and Japan,” which is what all progressive peoples should do without question. [17]

In May and June 2016, the anger by bourgeois analysts toward Venezuela increased. Miami Herald’s Tim Padgett declared on May 26 that “…history will remember Maduro…for transforming the Western Hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation into the Caribbean Korea.” The following month, a piece in the always critical and wonderful Venezuela Analysis wrote, referring to this piece that “Miami Herald opinion pages host the notion that Venezuela is now “the North Korea of the Caribbean”, a place where “news reports … read like apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy novels”.” The following month, the PCV extended their “condolences to the Chávez Frías family and to the PSUV leadership for the notable death of the Mayor of the Municipality Alberto Arvelo Torrealba,” while Aníbal Chávez also, at the time, “expressed his solidarity with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the face of permanent aggression by of US imperialism and its allies on the Korean peninsula.” [18] This comradely solidarity remained strong with reason. Also that month, the PCV delivered a message of solidarity to the government of Juche Korea, reaffirming the “rights of the people to defend themselves against this aggression” and adding that “the DPRK since its independence has been suffering the aggression of the imperialist power.” This is undeniably true if you know the history of Juche Korea.

In the later months of 2016, the connection of the two countries was evident in the distorted eyes of bourgeois analysts who snarled. As one analysis put it, “Venezuela has become one of those countries…that western audiences have an insatiable interest in, but where credible information can be hard to come across,” which is the same for Juche Korea, which Max Fisher of the Washington Post paraphrased a fellow reporter Isaac Stone Fish as once joking, “as an American journalist you can write almost anything you want about North Korea and people will just accept it. Call it the Stone Fish Theory of North Korea coverage.” This isn’t really a joke, but a reality as anything they want is said about Juche Korea and its kind of disgusting to say the least. In October, Venezuela joined a host of other nations, such as Vietnam, Laos, Angola, Bolivia, and Juche Korea, to name a few, who called for the “end of the Washington sanctions against Cuba.” [19] The following month, one of the biggest newspapers in Venezuela (Ultimas Noticas), undoubtedly favoring the opposition, ran an op-ed by Gloria Cuenca asking “is this government trying to imitate North Korea?,” again trying to stir the pot of deceit. The same month, after Fidel Castro’s death, Nicholas Maduro joined other world leaders in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution, underscoring the importance of Cuba to the Bolivarian Revolution: “without the support of the Cuban Revolution and its example of struggle and immense capacity for solidarity, our path would have been much harder, our young revolution advancing much slower.” Maduro was joined by delegations from many countries paying tribute to Fidel, from “Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Greece, Russia, China, Vietnam, South Africa, Namibia, Algeria, [and] Iran,” and in some sense by those who declared “official state commemorations of Castro’s legacy, including Nicaragua, Bolivia, Algeria, Vietnam, North Korea, [and] Namibia.” Again, Venezuela and Juche Korea were part of the same anti-imperialist front.

Ri Sung Gi, DPRK ambassador, and CBV (Central Bank of Venezuela) officials on Nov 29, 2017, after a discussion by the Movement of Workers and Revolutionary Workers of the Central Bank of Venezuela (Mttrbcv), entitled “The Blockade of the United States of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

In 2017, Juche Korean and Venezuela were still interconnected by their relations. In January, Cho Chol Hui, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs for Juche Korea made a visit to the Venezuelan embassy in revisionist China so he could present “the balance of the newly completed year 2016 and 2017 prospects, offered by the President, Kim Jong Un.” [20] At this meeting, which was held with the Venezuelan ambassador there, Iván Zerpa Guerrero, both of these individuals “ratified the bonds of solidarity and friendship that unite the two Nations,” with Choe saying that their government and the Korean people will support Venezuela with common positions between the two in international forums. Choe also noted his “country’s achievements in economic matters, establishing numerous industrial developments, and cooperative farms, which have generated a bumper increase in the levels of production,” adding that “his country’s Government will propose is to accelerate the victorious advance of socialism” with measures to “promote the industry of construction, light industry, agriculture and fishing.” In terms of foreign policy, the country would “promote peace in the Korea Peninsula, in search of the reunification of that nation” and would continue to denonce political and military pressures “to achieve sanctions against [them, which had] have reached extreme levels, but have failed in order to break the conviction of its people and its leader…and could not prevent the advance of socialist Kore.” He finally added that their government and WPK were committed to a “foreign policy of independence, peace and friendship, expanding and developing the relations of good-neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation…making joint efforts with them to ensure genuine international justice.” In response, Ambassador Iván Zerpa greeted Juche Korea, ratifying “the deepest feelings of friendship and cooperation between the two countries, in the framework [of the] Bolivarian diplomacy of peace, in defense of the sovereignty and independence of countries.”

After January, the two countries continued to build their ties. In February, the government of Juche Korea worked to evaluate a “number of agro-industrial projects to develop the potentials of the State Yaracuy,” with Ri Sung Gil, Ambassador of the former country in Venezuela, meeting with the Legislative Council to explore “investment opportunities and promote sustainable projects in the agricultural area.” [21] Specifically, he was quoted as saying that “we are reviewing agreements in all areas to strengthen the bonds of cooperation and friendship that keep our countries and here in Yaracuy, we see significant potential that we want to develop agribusiness, to boost…corn [fields]…[which is] of great interest for our nation and that unites us in the production area.” After saying that the Koreans supported “the policies pushed by President Nicolas Maduro,” he said that his government supported a dialogue between the government and opposition leaders to “achieve peace and stability political and economic in Venezuela.” He was quoted as saying “the dialogue is correct to stabilize the political situation…North Korea has always maintained the rejection against external interference in the internal affairs of this Latin American country.” In response, one of the members of the Legislative Council, Chairman Henrys Lord Mogollon added that cooperation would expand in the future: “We have planned other meetings, more technical, in that North Korea will assess with greater depth in what areas can get involved to promote viable projects that contribute to the mutual support that we promote both countries…everything [is] geared to agribusiness with products such as corn, sugar cane[,] and orange[s], [all of]…which Yaracuy has great potential.”

In later months, the connection between the two countries was even clearer. After all, both countries have been painted in a bleak manner by the bourgeois media, which engages in “starvation propaganda” which is like “war propaganda” since it is meant “to paint a false but compelling picture to influence the gullible and justify military aggression disguised as humanitarian rescue.” In June, Kim Yong Nam, President of the SPA Presidium, sent a letter to Maduro, the secretary-general (or what some call “President”) of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which has 120 member countries, focusing on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, adding that climate change is a global issue and an urgent task, saying that “U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement…is an extreme expression of egoism and moral inferiority seeking after its own well-being only at the cost of the global interests,” further noting that as “the world[‘s] second largest greenhouse gas emitting state, the United States is more responsible than any other countries for the prevention of the global warming.” Nam added that not only is this a “self-righteous and selfish action” but that the NAM should “duly take concerted measures to resolutely condemn and reject the arrogant and shameless action of the United States which pursues its own interests at the expense of developing countries.” At the end of this message, Nam said that he reaffirms “the stand of the DPRK to strengthen close cooperation with Venezuela and other member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement in upholding the purposes and principles of NAM and enhancing its role.” From June of that year, until 2019, when the next summit of the NAM will be held in Azerbaijan, the member countries of NAM entrusted “Venezuela with the leadership of the body…in order to encourage actions necessary for reinforcing the founding principles of the bloc” with Maduro as the President of this supranational organization.

The same month, Ri Yong Ho, the foreign minister of Juche Korea, sent a “congratulatory message to Samuel Moncada upon his appointment as foreign minister of People’s Power of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” He extended full “support and solidarity to the righteous struggle of the Venezuelan government and people to defend the Bolivarian revolution and accomplish the cause of ex-President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias, vehemently denouncing the U.S. and its vassal forces’ evermore undisguised moves to interfere in the internal affairs of the country,” and wished Moncada “successes in his new job, expressing belief that the two countries will continue to strengthen support and cooperation with each other in the international arena” with stronger relations “in the common struggle for socialism against imperialism.” Also that month, Ri Sung Gil, Ambassador of Juche Korea in Venezuela, highlighted “the heroic history of struggle and combativity of the North Korean people against imperialism” and referred to “the tension that remains in the Korean peninsula in the face of the military provocations of the United States and South Korea,” adding that “the North Korean people are prepared to wage an offensive against the imperialist aggressors.” [22] This contrasted with what Jorge ‘Tuto’ Quiroga, a reactionary President of Bolivia from 2001 to 2002 who is a capitalist propagandist and former consultant of the IMF and World Bank, who declared in the Huffington Post that “Venezuela is at the crossroads: the beginning of the end of this narco-dictatorship or the beginning of a North Korea in the Caribbean.” Elsewhere he declared that the election of Maduro “will install a Soviet state in Venezuela, liquidate democracy, end the Congress, cancel elections and turn Venezuela into a sort of Caribbean ‘North Korea.’” These were and are absurd notions without question and it shows how these bourgeois analysts, like always, don’t really understand what is going on in Venezuela. But what’s new about that? That has been the main perception for years with “enemy” countries.

In the next month, July, again, people were comparing Venezuela to Juche Korea. Quiroga was saying that Venezuela under Maduro was “the next North Korea,” while Jazz Shaw of Hot Air thundered, after citing, other than the one link to another article he wrote, exclusively bourgeois media (NBC, CNN, and Reuters (two times)) that “…Venezuela will likely become a hermit kingdom, much in the style of either Fidel Castro’s Cuba during the early years or North Korea’s present regime.” Again, these bourgeois individuals fear something which hasn’t even happened, showing they are so deluded, its almost a little funny. The month afterwords, August, some admitted that even “the most ardent Maduro supporter is unlikely to use Kim Jong-un as a model.” [23] The same month, Pedro Eusse, representing the PCV’s Political Bureau, said that the party condemns “the aggressive [and] militaristic…action of the right to self-determination of the peoples manifested by the United States, by US and European imperialism, who hold a global monopoly over nuclear weapons,” adding that the “threat to humanity is not Korea, it is not China, it is not even Russia, it is the imperialist world system, while that exists, we are threatened all of us.” As the foreign ministry of Juche Korea added, in a similar manner, “China and Venezuela are…showing strong reaction to the escalating threats of sanctions by the U.S.” Also that month, Ri Yong Ho sent a “congratulatory message to Jorge Alberto Arreaza Montserrat on his appointment as foreign minister of the People’s Power of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,’ extending “full support and solidarity to the just struggle of the government and people of Venezuela to reject the U.S. and its vassal forces’ interference, achieve the country’s peace and political stability and realize the cause of Hugo Chavez Frias. Like Ho had expressed the previous month, he again expressed “the belief that the relations of friendship and cooperation between the governments and peoples of the two countries would grow stronger in the common struggle for independence and socialism against imperialism.”

In the later months of 2017, September, October, November, and December, relations were clearly still strong. The embassy of Juche Korea in Venezuela, on the 69th Anniversary of the founding of Juche Korea, laid a “wreath before the Mausoleum of the Liberator, Simón Bolívar,” with the delegation of the embassy headed by Ri Sung Gil and by Gloria Román Romero, “General Director of the Office of the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for Asia, the Middle East and Oceania,” of the Venezuelan government. During their joint activity together, the “notes of the national anthems of both countries were performed by the Marcial Band of the Military Academy of the Bolivarian National Guard” while residents and friends of the Korean population attended the event.” [24] Such solidarity contrasted the actions of U$ imperialism, in October, against Venezuela barring “banks from buying Venezuelan state bonds,” which had, as Maduro put it, “exacerbated the crisis.” The next month, November, Venezuela raised its voice at the 36th meeting of members to the Organization of the UN in Geneva, for their “right to sovereignty, respect for their right to self-determination and peace against the war media coming from abroad, and the economic blockade by Governments such as the U.S. attempts,” with delegations from 25 other countries which also met there including “Sudan, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Laos, among others,” with revisionist China, Nicaragua, and Cuba all supporting Venezuela. Near the end of November there was a momentous meeting between representations of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) and Juche Korea to exchange “ideas in the defense and construction of socialism”! For one, José Salamat Khan Fernández of the BCV said that “we must learn from the socio-productive experience of North Korea. We as a people can begin a process of training to reindustrialize the country’s economy and depend less and less on other hegemonic countries. We have the human resource, the land and the capital,” at a meeting organized by the Movement of Workers and Revolutionary Workers of the BCV (Mttrbcv) which held a discussion titled “The US Blockade of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” In response, Ri Sung Hil said that “expansionist interests [aim] to appropriate the wealth of strategic countries such as Venezuela and North Korea, which chose socialism as an economic and social model. Imperialism wants to keep at bay the economic and military growth of the progressive countries. Venezuela has its geopolitical importance, raw materials, many natural resources, oil and water; The US is not going to leave Venezuela in peace until it seizes the country’s resources.” A press release released by the BCV gave further context to this meeting:

The Movement of Workers and Revolutionary Workers of the Central Bank of Venezuela (Mttrbcv), organized this Wednesday, November 29, the conversation entitled The Blockade of the United States to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in the Auction Room of the Financial Tower of the Institute. The activity, led by the ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ri Sung Gil, was headed by the director and second vice president of the BCV, José Salamat Khan Fernández; the adviser, Simón Escalona and the vice minister of Industrial Management of the Ministry of Popular Power for Basic, Strategic and Socialist Industries, Orlando Ortegano. After the conversation, Ambassador Ri Sung Gil met with the president of the BCV, Ramón Lobo, with whom he talked about the importance of both nations exchanging their experiences in defense of the construction of socialism. This initiative was carried out in order to highlight the North Korean experience in its process of self-determination and political, economic and social sovereignty, in the face of the military and interventionist threat of hegemonic countries such as the United States…For his part, the North Korean ambassador, Ri Sung Gil, explained that the US government has expansionist interests to appropriate the wealth of strategic countries such as Venezuela and North Korea, which chose socialism as an economic and social model. “Socialism always has its enemies, because it does not defend the interests of the rich and the influential, who are the minority in the world. Imperialism wants to keep at bay the economic and military growth of the progressive countries….Sung Gil recalled that, like Venezuela, his country has been subject to sanctions and economic blocking measures. Nevertheless, despite the strategy to isolate them, they set out to industrialize the nation and in fourteen years they were able to achieve it…The discussion was carried out as an initiative of Mttrbcv to learn more about the North Korean experience. It also aims to unify efforts between Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in the search for strategic alliances that promote the Venezuelan economy, as well as the construction of a socio-productive model based on sovereignty, self-determination, solidarity and cooperation between the villages. Finally, the high representative of the North Korean Government undertook to organize an exhibition with images and videos for the workers of the BCV and in this way to present essential and characteristic aspects of the culture, art and daily life of a society that has been so demonized by the Western media.

This shows that the two countries are coming closer together while the Juche Koreans use statements at the NAM summit in September 2016, in Venezuela, to note that “the heads of states and governments reaffirmed their commitment to defend the interests of developing countries in the issues directly related to world peace and security such as the situation in the Middle East including the question of Palestine by promoting multilateralism especially by strengthening key role of the United Nations.”

Courtesy of this website, the above photo shows Ri Sung Gil (2nd from the left) and three other Venezuelans at a panel discussion in January 2018 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.

The two countries are seen as peas in a pod together, more “rogue states” by U$ imperialism. This was evident by the fact that the Heritage Foundation, in their “Index of Economic Freedom” for 2017, released in early this year, 2018, those in the lowest ranks were “Eritrea, the Republic of Congo, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea,” showing the disdain of the bourgeoisie for these countries. [25] This connects to the fact that U$ imperial policy toward Venezuela is premised on varied misconceptions, one of which is that “Venezuela is a totalitarian dictatorship.” One bourgeois analyst, who hated Maduro, snarled that “while Maduro has certainly done many things to undermine democracy, Venezuela is no North Korea,” which is undeniably accurate. In January, Ri Sung Gil visited the Barquisimeto, the capital of music in Venezuela, a city which is 357 kilometers (about 222 miles) from Caracas, and showed his “extensive knowledge of our culture, especially in the Spanish language.” On this goodwill visit (Spanish language), hosted in a “downtown hotel facing the permanent book fair,” he aimed to embrace “popular movements in the region…pay tribute to the leader, Kim Jong-il” and spoke (translation) to the participants there, adding the following:

…invasions and criminal shelling of [U$] imperialism…are intended to continue…We are prepared to defend until the last inhabitant of the country. We are a sovereign country of East Asia, whose portion of land bounded on the North by China and Russia, to the West with the sea of the Japan, or Yellow Sea, to the East by the Gulf of Korea and on the South by South Korea. [Juche] Korea…[with its] capital, Pyongyang, [a] promising city, where the developments cover the entire nation…has currently advance[d]…based on the architectural contents of the creators of the new nation…our country has important achievements of high levels in: education, primary, secondary, University, technology tip, safety, health, management of waters in all respects accurate to our needs, employment suitable to their fellow citizens, stimuli in the fields of mass screening, especially for nuclear power, where [we are working on]…vital fronts for the collective…[helping] workers and young people…Workers, artisans, farmers, artists, children, women are of special primary interest…we enter into the 21st century with the conviction to uphold the nation, respecting all people who do the same exercise. We now belong to the Atomic club, we can talk about you to you, with its due respect. We are in favour of peace in its maximum expression. Solidarity with peoples in development, we have policies to our principles and purposes, such as the Juche idea, the Juche idea, it is not Marxism-Leninism adapted to Korean reality, but a new ideology, higher to Marxism itself. It is the scientific socialism raised to the exponent.

At the end of his remarks, he gave a “revolutionary and solidarity greeting…to Venezuela” and “Latin American singer-songwriter, Toño Rivero” played a sound which had premiered in the 1980s in Pyongyang. Again, the connection between the two countries was strong without question. This also shows that Juche is descended from Marxism-Leninism and is its own ideology.

In February, some noted that in his State of the Union address, the orange menace had “reinvented its own axis of evil, as a drag brought on by the worst Bushian policy,” putting “Russia, China, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela and Cuba” as part of this “evil” club. This showed, as one remarked, that “there is only one point in the empire that we can endanger: “its values”, with the powerful weapon of our own, a crucible of all the values of humanism, hope and example spread throughout a continent and beyond, and a purpose of justice and justice. freedom for all.” [26] The same month, Diosdado Cabello, first Vice President of PSUV showed that he met with Ri Sung Gil of Juche Korea, saying on twitter that “today together with his Excellency Ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ri Sung Gil, deepening relations of friendship,” he wrote in his Twitter account.” This was corroborated by the foreign ministry of Juche Korea, which said that Kim Jong Il was “awarded a diploma” by the PSUV, which “was conveyed on Feb. 14 to the DPRK ambassador to Venezuela by Felix Jesus Velasquez Castillo, general coordinator of the Federal Political Secretariat of the Party.” The following month, the WPK’s central committee sent a “congratulatory message” to the PSIV’s national leadership “upon the 10th anniversary of its foundation,” saying that they “extended warm congratulations and greetings to the Venezuelan Party leadership and all its members and voiced full support and solidarity to the Party in its effort to defend the country’s sovereignty and socio-political stability under the banner of the Bolivarian Revolution.” They added, in their message that “the ties between the two parties would be strengthened further in the joint struggle for independence, anti-imperialism, and socialism, it wished the Venezuelan Party greater success in its activities.”

In the years to come the Bolivarian Revolution has faced many challenges. There has been increased criticism of TeleSUR English, an offshoot of the 24 hour news channel, TeleSUR, established on June 24, 2005, the 222nd birthday of Simon Bolivar, by Hugo Chavez in service of the “Bolivarian project” which was a collaborative effort of varied governments (Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, and Uruguay, with Bolivia and Ecuador joining later, and Argentina leaving in 2016). The anti-revolutionary trash heap called Jacobin, which claims to be socialist but is actually a bunch of bourgeois posers who kiss up to horrid social democratic imperialists like Bernie Sanders, started this in May 2017, declaring that that TeleSur was right to point out that “large television and media conglomerates [in the region] nearly all had ties to the Right,” but grumbled that socialism was not being “well served” by the channel. [27] To bolster their argument, the writer, Patrick Iber, cited a number of anti-Venezuela bourgeois scholars: Robert Samet (a person who has focused on the U$-backed opposition and grumbles about “restricted” press freedom in Venezuela), Hugo Pérez Hernáiz (who grumbled about “conspiracy theories” of those support the Bolivarian Revolution), and Alejandro Velasco (an annoying progressive who dislikes the country). With this, its no surprise he claims that the channel doesn’t have “editorial independence from the state.” His scholarship is questionable. Even with this, he is cited supportively by Jon Jeter in Mint Press News who tells about the story of “Rita Anaya…a 25-year-old graduate student living in southern California,” his story, the experience of a “young black woman who once worked as an editor at teleSUR…young woman who worked as the social media editor…young man of Mexican ancestry…[and] black woman from Washington, D.C., who had worked for teleSUR.” This adds up to only six people, from an organization which has a staff of up to 200 employees. In this same article, Jeter declares that “TeleSUR English is located in Quito’s toniest neighborhood and resembles an insurance office. [and that] its reporters seldom venture outside, conduct phone interviews, or even discuss news stories at length…They are, for the most part, not reporters at all, but aggregators, rewriting news stories published elsewhere.” He then calls it an “abysmal failure, and represents nothing less than a betrayal of the Bolivarian revolution” and says, almost hilariously, at the end that, “fearing that I would do time in an Ecuadorian jail if I saw Cyril or Pablo, I quit an hour later, and walked off the job.” To support his claims that the news channel is, as he puts it, “by any critical measure — the size of its audience, the impact of its journalism, or its strengthening of democracy — an abysmal failure, and represents nothing less than a betrayal of the Bolivarian revolution” he cites the horrid Jacobin article I noted earlier, a Reuters article in January of this year declaring that “mobs gathered outside some Caracas supermarkets on Saturday after the government ordered shops to slash prices, creating chaos as desperate Venezuelans leapt at the chance to buy cheaper food as the country’s worsening economy causes severe shortages,” which is questionable if it is true at all, and an article by a man named Ariel Sheen. Again, this is basically an attack piece with little basis. Sure, some comments on Glassdoor about the organization are negative with some saying that “HR is rude and unhelpful…[has a] Hard Left Ideology which makes very difficult to make real news…Upper management very controlling…Leftist slant on everything skews the truth sometimes…There is little room for growth, unless you start from the bottom…Poor quality control in all areas…Organisation doesn’t have good long-term vision,” there are also positives as stated on there:

Good Salary and benefits…Important message, great experience, fun team, based in Quito, great pay…Salary goes very far in Ecuador…Meet people from all over the West…Great stepping stone…Opportunity to write numerous kinds of news articles such as briefs, opinion and analysis pieces. I have also interviewed a number of people…The salaries offered by teleSUR English are usually sufficient to live a very good life. Colleagues are from around the world and very talented. Great place to learn, get experience…Good wages in a cheap country…Maybe your best opportunity to break into journalism…Management is pleasant and helpful…Colleagues are diverse, young and interesting

Ariel Sheen, in his article on TeleSur English (began in 2014), starts out by saying that they are “unique in today’s media environment…TeleSur English is avowedly socialist in its political orientation…the non-current event content shared on their social media pages includes quotes and photos from socialists…and a variety of other socialist related content.” [28] Sheen, unlike the other two claims he favors them and is just trying to air “helpful” criticism. He claimed that looking at their digital performance “something more nefarious emerged” and is surprised that when he sent his negative findings there he didn’t hear from them again, not realizing that they may have rejected what he said because it seemed he was attacking the organization from the outside. He then declares that what he “uncovered at TeleSur English what looks to be corruption and gross incompetence, if not sabotage,” saiding that the “bad stats were intentionally produced as the person directing operations was either incompetent or is trying to purposely sabotage TeleSUR English’s operations,” adding that the social media footprint of TeleSur English has “the shape of such mismanagement.” To support these high and minty claims, he claimed that “many of the people which are “Following” these accounts” on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are not real, but admitted he was only estimating how many were “fake,” with Twitter Audit saying the 80% of the followers on twitter were real. This is where his analysis gets a bit shaky, as he seems to not recognize some people may interact with this social media more than others, and declares that the channel is “paying for fake followers” which is an assertion he cannot support, and complains that they didn’t tell him that “the unpublishing of the TeleSUR English Facebook page was an accident on their part,”only hearing of it from internal sources, like his opinion matters more than others!

Clearly, Mr. Sheen is an egotist without question. While he makes good suggestions on interacting with readers and perhaps may have some points about bad social engagement by TeleSUR English, or even that there should be writers’ guidelines, perhaps he should work with them to help them solve these problems rather than grumbling about it! If they need this help, they provide it them rather than complaining it isn’t being done! Worst of all, he cites anti-socialist Frederich Hayek to “take down” the channel, claiming that TeleSUR English (and TeleSUR) is that “the tendency for innovation to be lost in production,” going on to engage in “total conjecture” (in his own words) and received information from an unnamed source on the “insulting, overbearing demeanor” of the head of the organization. He then declares that the organization “replicates an elitest strand of authoritarian socialism” and says that “TeleSur English’s loss of integrity reflects badly on all socialists, thus it needs to be critiqued so that it can be corrected,” ending by saying that “here are a number of immediate steps that TeleSUR could take to ameliorate their misdirection and work towards creating a genuine voice for the construction of a new communications order focused on social, political and economic justice.” This is so laughable because the news channel is still around, churning out new articles every day, so clearly he doesn’t follow or read the publication as I do on a daily basis, and realize the role it plays in serving as an effective counter to horrid bourgeois media. Such pieces do not help move the Bolivarian Revolution forward but actually provide ammunition to capitalist propagandists. Still, TeleSur English deserves to be criticized as it is a bastion for Chinese revisionism in Latin America and is generally not critical of left-leaning governments in Latin America!

Above, activist and Central University of Venezuela Criminology Professor Andres Antillano speaks to Venezuela Analysis and is critical of the security policies of the Venezuelan state and police actions, which he calls “repression,” but still has some positive remarks about the Bolivarian Revolution as a whole.

Relatively recently, the U$ imposed sanctions on the “fledgling Petro” of Venezuela, a so-called cyrptocurrency which is more of a commodity than anything else, which may not help move the country forward, instead helping certain bourgeoisie allied with the government. Still, there is no doubt that the murderous empire continues to wage economic war on the Venezuelan people, which Amnesty International basically ignored by saying they have “no position,” while the country serves a major role in the Caribbean region, with continuing propaganda about migration from Venezuela, including from Gallup itself, which declared that “…,ore than four in 10 residents (41%) in 2017 said they would like to move to another country permanently if they could…a small majority of Venezuelans say they would like to remain in their country.” Upcoming in May will be the country-wide elections, for which digital cards can be used which is problematic, while the country struggles with remnants of its colonial past, like bullfighting, to give an example. There was, relatively recently, a meeting of “more than 800 social leaders, journalists, politicians and activists participating from 95 countries,” in “international solidarity…in Caracas,” including people such as Bolivan President Evo Morales,” and releasing the following declaration:

We, citizens from distinct countries, social movements and organisations, political parties, women, youths, workers, creators and intellectuals, peasants, and religious leaders, gathered here in Caracas on the 5, 6 and 7th March 2018, reaffirm our solidarity and militant support of the Venezuelan people, the Bolivarian Revolution and its popular government, which is headed by Nicolas Maduro Moros. We energetically reject the grave escalation of aggressions against Venezuela’s democracy and sovereignty by the war-like government of Donald Trump, global corporate powers, and the American imperialist military-industrial apparatus, which looks to overthrow the legitimate government of Venezuela, destroy the project of Bolivarian democracy and expropriate the natural resources of the Venezuelan nation. We denounce that this operation against Venezuela forms part of a global strategy of neo-colonialization in Latin America and the Caribbean which seeks to impose a new era of servitude and looting through the resurrection of the shameful Monroe Doctrine, a plan which has already begun in numerous countries across the continent. We reject the threat of Donald Trump of a potential military intervention in Venezuela and we alert that such declarations by him are not mere charlatanism. The military option against the Bolivarian Revolution forms part of the strategic and geopolitical doctrine of the US for the 21st Century. The world must know that a military aggression against Venezuela would provoke a crisis in the region of historic dimensions and uncountable and unpredictable human, economic, and ecological impact. We warn imperialism and their elites lackeys that play this game: the peoples of Latin America, the Caribbean and the world will never allow that Venezuela be touched by the ambitions of the American military boot! If, in their crazy obsession, the hawks of Washington dare attack Venezuela, the homeland of Simon Bolívar, as it was more than 200 years ago, will again be the tomb of an empire. We denounce the blatant pressure of US imperialism on the region’s governments to involve them in political, diplomatic, and even military operations against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. With these actions, they seek to destroy regional integration and bring about the de-facto abolition of the principle of the founding charter of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States which declares the region as a zone of peace. We reject the shameful and historical opposed attitude of governments in the region that have caved in to Washington’s politics through the creation of illegal and spurious organisms such as the so-called Group of Lima. The shameful regional elites who today lead the plundering of their peoples, hand over their sovereignty to the transnational corporations, and increase poverty, inequality and violate human rights, lack any moral and political authority to question Venezuelan democracy. We reject the unilateral and illegal sanctions of the US Government and the European Union against the Venezuelan people, which seek to destroy its economy and break their democratic will. Blockades and sanctions are crimes against humanity carried out by the international capitalist system, and are severely hurting the Venezuelan people by sabotaging their productive, commercial and financial processes, preventing access to food, medicines and essential goods. We reject the perverse U.S. sabotage of the process of dialogue developed in the Dominican Republic and reiterate that only the absolute respect for the sovereignty of Venezuela, non-interference in their internal affairs, sincere dialogue and electoral processes based on Venezuelan legislation can define the path to recover the political coexistence between Venezuelans. In this regards, we welcome the call for presidential, regional legislators and councilorelections for May 20, a result of a political agreement with a sector of the Venezuelan opposition. In these absolutely constitutional and legitimate elections, the Venezuelan people in a transparent and sovereign way will decide the course of their homeland.We alert the peoples of the world to the counterproductive intentions of international governments and organizations that are directly involved in the war against Venezuela to not recognize the results of the elections on May 20, and accelerate attacks after what – no doubt – will be a real democratic expression of the Venezuelan people. We welcome and support the declaration of the presidential summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America ALBA-TCP that categorically rejects the exclusion of Venezuela from the next Summit of the Americas, to be held in the city of Lima, Peru. Similarly, we support all diplomatic and political actions that governments, countries and peoples take to defend plurality and political diversity in the continent and to safeguard the sovereignty and self-determination of peoples. We recognize the heroic resistance of the people of Venezuela when confronted by the ravages of economic aggression, the financial blockade and all the forms of sabotage that Venezuela is suffering from, and support the economic, financial, political and diplomatic strategy that the Bolivarian Government and President Nicolas Maduro are carrying out to overcome the problems and construct the humanist model of Bolivarian socialism. We are committed to continue the battle for the truth, peace and the sovereignty of Venezuela, to expand the ties of friendship, solidarity and revolutionary commitment to the Venezuelan people. The peoples of the world, the consciousness of all those who struggle for the just cause of mankind, accompanies at this time and always the Bolivarian revolution, its leadership and its people. We are convinced that Venezuela will be able to – through dialogue, respect for the Constitution, and the indefatigable democratic will of his people – overcome the problems that besets it, and that the Bolivarian revolution will remain a beacon of hope for the peoples of the world who search for a worthy and just destination for humanity. In commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the physical passing of Commander Hugo Chávez, historical leader of the Venezuelan people, from Caracas we say to the world: Venezuela is not alone, we are all with her!

At the same time, leftist organizations in Venezuela have sided with Nicolas Maduro, saying they will support him in the upcoming elections (which the U$ wants to sabotage), including the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), “a radical grassroots current within the PSUV,” the PCV, which reached a “groundbreaking accord” with the PSUV, to confront the crisis of Venezuelan capitalism in the days ahead, and the Leftist Homeland for All party (PPT) doing the same, with other elements in Venezuela taking steps forward to socialism.

While this is happening, Maduro has called for UN election observers, with Venezuela denouncing opposition plans for violence after the elections, which has five candidates running currently, with the main opposition group kicking out Henri Falcon after he decided to run in the elections they are boycotting. Additionally, Raul Castro of Cuba has said that a defense of Venezuela should be a major goal for ALBA in the days ahead. With human rights imperialists supporting economic aggression, pushed by the imperialists for their own aims, there is also, as Venezuela Analysis put it, a continued backing “of millions of grassroots Chavistas like Javier,” but has also clear that “important swathes of Venezuela’s popular classes have lost faith in the president and his party since mobilizing en masse to reelect Chávez with over eight million votes in 2012” with fallout of reformist policies “measured at the ballot box” and there is an “absence of any autonomous, mass-based political force to the left of the PSUV that could conceivably channel the deep discontent in a revolutionary direction, or which minimally has the power to hold the government to account.” Still, as noted in the same article, “there is little doubt that Maduro will handily win his reelection gambit” as the “opposition remains deeply divided following its devastating back-to-back defeats in regional and local elections” with the “consensus of the Bolivarian left” being that “the primary contradiction is with Western imperialism and the right-wing opposition, which must be opposed at all costs” meaning that those in the “international left have a duty to stand in unconditional solidarity with the Bolivarian government and its people against imperialism” but should also “offer our thoughtful critiques aimed at backing grassroots struggles to rejuvenate and radicalize the revolution.” This is important especially since the U$ State Department bellows that “deepening the rupture of Venezuela’s constitutional and democratic order will not solve the nation’s crises…A free and fair election should include the full participation of all political parties and political leaders,” even as they respect the opposition leaving the election, showing that this again is absurd and empty rhetoric, in keeping with accepted propaganda.

The country, as it stands now, is beset by an opposition boycott, ban from the Summit of the Americas, threats of a military coup by U$ imperialists, and the OAS interfering as they favor U$ imperialism. The Cubans are strongly and undeniably in solidarity, as is Bolivian President Evo Morales, the Communist Party of Chile, with continuing border disputes with Colombia, as Venezuela defends itself and its sovereignty from obvious subversion from the capitalist poles of power in the world. Maduro is the candidate for the PSUV and there has been a proposed peace deal between the opposition and government, which has partially faltered. Maduro was right to send a message of unity and peace to Venezuelans, as he did in February, and the 15th ALBA-TCP (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Trade Treaty of the Peoples) summit, started by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, this month, was right to call for the

strict observance of the Objectives and Principles of the UN Charter and International Law…reiterate the decision to continue constructing a new just and inclusive, multi-centric and plural-polar international order…denounce attempts to revive the Monroe Doctrine…highlight the lack of moral authority of [United]…States to offer lessons regarding democracy and human rights to the regional countries…reiterate our commitment with Latin American and Caribbean unity in the search for its own destiny, independence and sovereignty, without interference that affect our peoples and development…express our disagreement with the announcement of a group of countries in the continent…constituting an interference in the internal affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela…demand respect to the legality to the organization of the Summit of the Americas…demand the right for Venezuela’s participation in the event and we propose to exercise diplomatic and political measures to guarantee our goal…urge the international community to abstain in any type of coercive exercises against the political independence and territorial integrity of Venezuela…reject unilateral coercive measures and sanctions imposed against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that affects the life and development of the noble people of Venezuela and the enjoyment of their rights…reaffirm our firm support to the Constitutional President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro Moros and his Government and democratic process that he leads…recognize the inalienable rights of the Venezuelan people to hold and participate in Presidential and Legislative elections on the national, state and municipal levels in compliance with their norms and internal procedures…support the efforts of the Venezuelan authorities and people to find their own answers to their political and economic challenges…denounce the advances of the political and economic corruption in the region expressed by the growing inequality in the distribution of its resources, social exclusion of the most humble sectors, and the financial influence of a large capital in political campaigns…reaffirm the political commitment in the fight against corruption and compliance to the international commitment in the field…reiterate the international community’s demand for the unconditional lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba, whose extraterritoriality affects all States…highlight the commitment of the Bolivian Government and people in peacefully searching for solutions through International Law…reiterate our support to our brothers in the Caribbean, victims of natural disasters and climate change and we will contribute in an active manner to overcome the damages provoked by recent hurricanes….call on all social and political organizations in the continent to participate in forums and activities of social movements and progressive forces that will be held in 2018…[and] defend the unity of the diversity in Our America.

This leads to my final comments. The U$ State Department, in their Investment Climate report for Venezuela, shows that Nicaragua and Cuba are top investment partners but also that the country is a social democracy, not a socialist state. Describing how the country is a “difficult climate for foreign investors” they note that the “petroleum industry provides roughly 94 percent of export earnings, 40 percent of government revenues, and 11 percent of GDP,” saying that Maduro aimed to increase “state control over the economy” in response to the economic crisis. They add that with this, the Venezuelan government “retains state control of the hydrocarbons sector” but adding that even with “Venezuela’s expropriations in the petroleum sector…since 2009, several international companies have agreed to create joint venture companies with PDVSA to extract crude oil.” They further complain that “Venezuela has a history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors” but talk with glee about the “three existing free trade zones” in the country, while noting that “Venezuela’s financial services sector…[and] Venezuelan credit markets are heavily regulated,” with “strict currency controls” since 2003. With that, they add that “State Owned Enterprises…are dominant in diverse sectors of the Venezuelan economy, including agribusiness, food, hydrocarbons, media, mining, telecommunications, and tourism,” with private firms at a “disadvantage.”

On a related topic, there has been critical assessment of ideas like Latin American dependency theory, and other comments. This brings me to a set of comments on Reddit’s forum, /r/communism. In the first, by yours truly, it is noted that the Venezuelan communists have “concurred with supporting Maduro as part of a unity effort even as they retain their criticisms…which is valid without question.” I also wrote at the time their criticism that “the crisis of the exhausted capitalist dependent and rentier accumulation model of Venezuela” has become worse, leading to a “growing impoverishment in the living and working conditions of the popular and working masses of the city and the countryside,” noting that “progressive-reformist projects that have taken place in Venezuela and other Latin American countries since the beginning of this century” are not directed by “genuinely revolutionary organizations, [meaning that they] lack the necessary class content to go beyond social assistance measures.” It was also noted that they criticized the Petro’s development in Venezuela. In the second, I reprinted a statement from the PCV noting that they support Maduro but with reservations and criticisms, as it justified.

On this note, I conclude this section and believe that in the days and years to come, the relationship between Juche Korea and Venezuela will remain strong, creating an inter-dependent relationship opposing imperialist aggression and pushing for socialist ideals.


Notes

[1] María Gabriela Díaz, “North Korean Embassy in Venezuela Signals Two Peas in a Pod,” PanAM Post, Jun 26, 2014; East-West Center and the National Committee on North Korea (NCNK), “North Korea in the World: North Korea’s External Relations,” accessed Mar 18, 2018.

[2] República Popular Democrática de Corea is “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” in Spanish, and “Corea Del Norte” is “North Korea” in Spanish.

[3] María Gabriela Díaz, “North Korean Embassy in Venezuela Signals Two Peas in a Pod,” PanAM Post, Jun 26, 2014.

[4] One article in BBC on Sept 25, 2006 titled “Chavez boosts Chomsky book sales” noted that “a speech by Mr Chavez cited Chomsky’s 2003 critique of US policy…Chomsky’s book spent the weekend at the top of Amazon.com’s bestseller list. The 77-year-old linguistics professor told the New York Times newspaper last week that he would be “happy to meet” Mr Chavez. He said he is “quite interested” in Mr Chavez’s policies and regards many of his views as “quite constructive”.” Chavez eventually met Chomsky in August 2009, with Chavez saying that “Hegemony or survival; we opt for survival” and calling Chomsky “one of the greatest defenders of peace, one of the greatest pioneers of a better world” with Chomsky responding that “I write about peace and criticize the barriers to peace; that’s easy. What’s harder is to create a better world…and what’s so exciting about at last visiting Venezuela is that I can see how a better world is being created…In the United States the socio-economic system is designed so that the control over the media is in the hands of a minority who own large corporations… and the result is that the financial interests of those groups are always behind the so-called freedom of expression,” and saying in a later interview that “the transformations that Venezuela is making toward the creation of another socio-economic model could have a global impact if these projects are successfully carried out.” The book is titled Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. However, in the Spanish version of Chavez’s speech the title of the book read as Hegemonía o Supervivencia. La estrategia imperialista de Estados Unidos in Spanish, or Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States in English. This means that the title in Spanish may have been slightly different, as the translation of the English title into Spanish gives you the words “Hegemonía o supervivencia: la búsqueda de América para la dominación global.” Still, the content is the same. Chomsky’s book was reviewed by the PSL in 2006, but disliked by certain liberals like Nick Cohen in The Guardian who declared that “Noam Chomsky is the master of looking-glass politics. His writing exemplifies the ability of the Western Left to criticise everything from the West – except itself….his audience is primarily a comfortable Western audience…Chomsky’s account of the brainwashing of the dumb masses provides an excuse for failure,” Samantha Power in the New York Times grumbling that “Noam Chomsky is a global phenomenon…the appetite for Chomsky’s polemics is only increasing…”Hegemony or Survival” is a raging and often meandering assault on United States foreign policy and the elites who shape it…”Survival or Hegemony” is not easy to read. Chomsky’s glib and caustic tone is distracting….This is a thinker far too accustomed to preaching to an uncritical choir…reading Chomsky today is sobering and instructive for two reasons…Chomsky also denounces the dependence of foreign policy elites on special interests…Chomsky is wrong to think that individuals within the American government are not thinking seriously about the costs of alliances with repressive regimes.” It was also followed up by an interview on the topic in Democracy Now back in 2003. It is also on the Internet Archive currently.

[5] Jeffrey Kofman, “Tension, Then Surprise, Chavez Loses Reform Vote,” ABC News, Dec 3, 2007; Jens Erik Gould, “Why Venezuelans Turned on Chavez,” Time, Dec. 3, 2007; “Understanding constitutional reform in Venezuela (a background),” Sandhaanu.com, Nov 13, 2007; “Q&A: Venezuela’s referendum,” BBC News, Nov 30, 2007; “Venezuela lawmakers back reforms,” BBC News, Aug 22, 2007; “Venezuela assembly passes reforms,” BBC News, Nov 2, 2007; “US hails Chavez referendum defeat,” BBC News, Dec 3, 2007; “The wind goes out of the revolution,” The Economist, Dec 6, 2007; Antonio Fabrizio, “Gay rights were part of rejected Venezuelan referendum,” PinkNews, Dec 4, 2007; “Chavez urges reform for Venezuela,” BBC News, Dec 1, 2007.

[6] Frank Jack Daniel, “Venezuela’s Chavez reshuffles cabinet after defeat,” Reuters, Jan 3, 2008.

[7] “Chavez wins chance of fresh term,” BBC News, Feb 16, 2009; Mark Weisbrot, “Venezuela, an imaginary threat,” The Guardian, Feb 18, 2009 (quotes from Univision interview); Reuters Staff, “Chavez to Obama: I’d vote for you, and you for me,” Reuters, Sept 30, 2012; Howard LaFranchi, “Is Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez sincere in endorsing Obama?,” Christian Science Monitor, Oct 2, 2012; “Chavez: Obama meddles in Venezuela term-limit vote,” Sioux City Journal (reprinted from AP), Jan 18, 2009; Tom Phillips, “Hugo Chávez says Obama is ‘a clown and an embarrassment’,” The Guardian, Dec 20, 2011; “Veneconomy: Venezuela Chavez’ Doubly Illegal and Unconstitutional Amendment,” Latin American Herald Tribune, 2009; “U.S. Embassy Head Denies Plotting With Opposition in Venezuela,” Latin American Herald Tribune, 2009; “US welcomes Venezuela’s term vote,” BBC News, Feb 17, 2009; “Venezuela ousts EU politician for insulting Chavez,” CNN, Feb 14, 2009.

[8] Yolanda Valery, “El marxismo según Chávez,” BBC Mundo, 23 enero 2010 (translated into English paragraph by paragraph by Google Translate); “Chávez afirma que es “marxista” pero reconoce que todavía no ha leído “El Capital”,” Noticias 24, 15 enero 2010 (translated into English by http://www.online-translator.com/), “Chavez se declara marxista,” ABC, May 5, 2010 (translated into English by http://www.online-translator.com/), “Chávez se declara marxista en un mensaje ante el Congreso,” Clarin Noticas, Jan 16, 2010 (translated into English by http://www.online-translator.com/).

[9] The translated text is here, and the original Spanish language is here.

[10] The Spanish language transcription in the Popular Tribune is here, and the translated version of the text is here.

[11] The translated text is here and the Spanish language original is here. For the next sentence see: María Gabriela Díaz, “North Korean Embassy in Venezuela Signals Two Peas in a Pod,” PanAM Post, Jun 26, 2014. For the next sentence, after that, the translated text is here and the Spanish language original is here.

[12] JC Finley, “North Korea to open embassy in Venezuela,” UPI, Jun 25, 2014; María Gabriela Díaz, “North Korean Embassy in Venezuela Signals Two Peas in a Pod,” PanAM Post, Jun 26, 2014.

[13] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[14] For the sentence the footnote is on, the Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here. For the next sentence, the translated version is here, and the Spanish language version is here.

[15] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[16] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[17] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[18] The Spanish language versions of these articles are here and here, and the translated versions are here and here.

[19] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[20] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[21] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[22] The Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[23] Oliver Stuekel, “Why Venezuela will not look like Cuba (or North Korea),” Post-Western World, Aug 11, 2017. In the next sentence, the Spanish language version of this article is here, and the translated version is here.

[24] Donna Borak, “Tax reform, North Korea top U.S. agenda at IMF/World Bank meetings,” CNN, Oct 12, 2017; Sabrina Martin, “Venezuela Looks to Save Its Economy By Mimicking Communist Ally North Korea,” PanAm Post, Nov 30, 2017. This paragraph also uses articles from Spanish language sources (here, here, here, and here) which have been translated (here, here, here, and here).

[25] Michael W. Chapman, “Ranked Worst for Economic Freedom: North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Congo, Eritrea, Zimbabwe,” CNSNews.com, Jan 12, 2018. In this paragraph, articles from a Spanish language source, which has been translated, is used.

[26] “Diosdado Cabello met with Ambassador of Korea of the North in Caracas,” El Nacional (translated), Feb 1, 2018; KCNA, “Blessings sent to Venezuelan Party,” Pyongyang Times, Mar 10, 2018; “North Korea supports Venezuela in its anti-imperialist struggle,” khabarkhat News Aggregator Agency, Mar 11 2018. In this paragraph, articles from a Spanish language source, which has been translated, is used.

[27] Patrick Iber, “The South Is Our North,” Jacobin, May 2017.

[28] Ariel Sheen, “TeleSUR English: Surface Level Website Analysis,” Feb 13, 2018.

The non-isolation of Juche Korea

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on May 12, 2018.

In the bourgeois media, sources are abound that Juche Korea is “isolated” from the rest of the world and is a “hermit kingdom.” International Business Times asks that “Why Is North Korea So Isolated?,” The Diplomat declares that the country has “growing isolation” and has “Self-Imposed Isolation” while HuffPost claims that sanctions are “isolating the isolated,” BBC claims to have an “exclusive” on the country’s “cultural isolation,” and  Forbes declares the country has an “isolated regime.” This claim, trumpeted across the media in many more outlets than those just listed, is an utter lie just like the propaganda spread by Time magazine about the “origin” of the nuclear program of Juche Korea in the ashes of the Soviet Union. A report released last year by bourgeois “watchers” noted that even as the country’s “ideology of Juche has emphasized independence in foreign affairs,” this, in reality, hasn’t meant “diplomatic or economic isolation.” [1] In fact, 163 “countries have established formal diplomatic relations with North Korea” even though many of these countries do not “have an ambassador accredited to the DPRK or a diplomatic mission in Pyongyang,” possibly because of the pressure of imperialists through sanctions or some other reason related to those specific countries. However, Juche Korea has “embassies in 47 countries, with several of its ambassadors also accredited to neighboring countries” and has also established “a handful of trade missions or representative offices in countries where it lacks an embassy, as well as diplomatic missions to UN offices in New York, Geneva, and Paris.” That doesn’t sound like an isolated country at all! The 47 countries hosting embassies of Juche Korea are shown in the map below, coming from the report:

On January 9th of this year, the WPK’s Central Committee “sent a congratulatory message to the Central Directive Council of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle to mark its 45th founding anniversary. The message referred to notable achievements and progress the Indonesian party has made over the past 45 years since its foundation for the country’s independent development and prosperity and the promotion of the Indonesian people’s well-being under the ideal of Pancasila.”

Then there are 24 countries which have embassies in Pyongyang are varied, and even include some of the countries in Western Europe, again showing this idea of “isolation” which is spread across the bourgeois media is silly:

Currently relations between Juche Korea and Jordan have been diplomatically severed by the latter party. I was relying on a 2016 study of diplomatic relations to put this map together.

That comes to a total of about 4.3 billion souls (at least) represented by the embassies (and their ambassadors) of the 24 countries, shown on the above map, within Juche Korea!

If we take the bourgeois media at its word (which CommieDad says rightly we should never do), it would seem that more than $100 million of goods was traded with Juche Korea by African countries on an annual basis, along with military training in central Africa, shipping of arms, and pervasive ties to Africa. [2] However, many of the countries quoted by the grey propaganda VOA outlet say that they have no trade or lessened relationships with Juche Korea, underling the whole article! Apparently these accusations were taken seriously enough to warrant investigations by the United Nations, showing it to be, in this case, a tool of the imperialists to disrupt any claimed ties between Juche Korea and the African continent which it forged “since most nations’ struggle for independence in the 1960s.”  The same can be said about the list of 49 countries which purportedly violated sanctions of the UN Security Council, again working as a tool of the imperialists, claimed by a bourgeois think tank (the Institute for Science and International Security), with “violations” ranging from “banned financial transactions and other business activities,” importing “goods and minerals,” helping Juche Korea ship “materials in and out of its country illicitly” and, finally, “arms trading or military training,” the latter which are mostly in Africa. [3] It is hard to know how much of this is even true, but it shows that imperialists are trying to criminalize the business of trade for Juche Korea in order to “isolate” it. But, if even some of these “violations” are true, which is possible since Juche Korea has sent arms to Pakistan, Myanmar, and the UAE in the past, it shows that part of the world is not going along with this, which is an act of resistance in and of itself.

Perhaps some of the countries share the view of President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea who congratulated “Kim Jong-un for his election victory at the recent Workers Party Congress, and pledged increased support for North Korea’s attempts to build a thriving socialist nation.” [4] For the latter country, ties with Juche Korea go back to the 1970s when a former president, Francisco Nguema, welcomed military advisers of Juche Korea, and changed the “the name of his ruling party to the United National Workers Party in 1971” (Juche 60) reportedly to mirror the ruling party of Juche Korea, the WPK (Workers’ Party of Korea). It is known, beyond this, that Cambodia has a “curious friendship” with Juche Korea, as the latter has “few economic interests in Cambodia” but there is still seemingly a persistent “residual affinity”  and growing relationship. [5] This the case while some goofballs think that jailing Khmer Rouge leaders sends a message to Juche Korea  even though the latter is not connected to the Khmer Rouge at all. At the present, Juche Korea also has friendly relations with Bulgaria, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Thailand (dating back to the backing of a communist “insurgency” there during the Cold War), Mongolia (also see here), Myanmar (which resumed diplomatic ties in 2007 after canceling them in 1983 (Juche  72) after imperialists claimed Juche Korea was tied to terrorism), The Gambia, and Hungary, to name a few.

Diplomatic relations by Juche Korea with other nations, 1948-1961. Later Serbia resumed the diplomatic relations of Yugoslavia. Relations with Democratic Republic of Vietnam began in 1950. In later years, in 1982, the president of Guinea named an institute inaugurated in the country the “Kim Il Sung Agricultural Science Institute” showing the power of their support for African liberation.

Such internationalism is nothing new for Juche Korea and is rooted in its early years when it received aid and support from fellow socialist nations. For example, medical staff from the Hungarian People’s Republic, part of the Warsaw Pact, in 1952 (Juche 41) during the Great Fatherland Liberation War, workers helping reconstruct the country after the destruction of the war, and construction of a surgical hospital in 1955 (Juche 44). The same was the case with aid from the German Democratic Republic (GDR), called “East Germany” in the West, which exported “machines, pharmaceuticals, medical instruments and other medical equipment” in 1952, and created a group of 600 workers, a “Bau-Union,” for “the purpose of construction and repair of roads and bridges in North Korea” in 1955. Additionally, Czechoslovakian and Soviet troops were reportedly stationed in Juche Korea in 1951 (Juche 38), Polish motor vehicles from the Zeran plant in Poland were delivered to the country in 1954 (Juche 43), and Polish engineers went to Juche Korea in 1955, agreeing to “serve as building instructors” for a period of three years. Then there is aid from the Soviet Union which supplied “machine guns, rifles, mortars, other small arms…obsolete artillery…trucks…[and] Soviet tanks” in 1954, a military pact with Juche Korea in 1950, Soviet college professors sent to the country in 1950 (Juche 39), and military cooperation in later years, even in the later 1980s, different from the Russia of today.The efforts against the U$ imperialists under the  UN flag during the Great Fatherland Liberation War were bolstered by thousands of pairs of tennis shoes from Communist China, hundreds of thousands of blankets from Hungary, 300,000 sheets from Czechoslovakia, two medical aircraft from Poland, two boxcars of medicine from GDR, and 10,000 horses from Mongolia just in 1951! By 1958 (Juche 47), even General Nathan F. Twining, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, part of the U$ military establishment, had to admit that “the Communist position in North Korea is stronger than ever because they have a better base from whence to operate.”

Diplomatic relations established by Juche Korea, 1963-1967. In 1966 relations with the state of Palestine began, while Mauritania suspended relations from 1977-1980.

By 1966 (Juche 55), the Juche Korea was  trading $445 million in traded goods, raising from previous years (it was only $124 million in 1949) with more exports than imports, and most of the trade with “communist” nations. This was thanks to their independent policy, establishing relations with all sorts of countries across the world. For instance in 1964, the government criticized the actions by imperialists in Vietnam, expressed the hope of “traditional solidarity” with the Soviets, established  diplomatic relations with Mauritania, indirectly said the country should not “conform to Chinese dogma” and established diplomatic relations with Congo! In the 1950s, as the Soviets made moves against trusteeship on the Korean Peninsula, supported by imperialists, Juche Korea proposed  holding “elections in all Korea” while the puppet ROK state wanted elections in each artificial division of the Korean Peninsula, an imperialist-backed viewpoint, as they wanted a “non–Communist, independent and representative government” in Korea. However, by 1972 (Juche 61), the Chinese were openly supporting peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula, with the cause for reunification again pushed by Juche Korea the same year. This position seems to still be held by the Chinese at the present.

Diplomatic relations established by Juche Korea, 1968-1972. Relations with Iraq broken off in Oct 1980. Relations with South Yemen in 1968. Relations with Sri Lanka suspended 1971-1975, later a ship with “more than 100 tractors, pumps, plows, vinyl pipes of more than 50 thousand meters and other agricultural implements” were sent to the country, as noted by a Spanish-speaking comrade named Fekerfanta, aid which was requested by Si Lanka. Relations with Chile broken in Sept 1973, later resumed in 1990 after Pinochet.

By the 1970s, there was concern among imperialists and the puppet Koreans in the south that Juche Korea may get an upper hand. One diplomatic cable in 1974 remarked that “there are several states in Asia and perhaps half a dozen in Western Europe that would be stimulated to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea.” The same year, Park, the puppet president of ROK, declared that “the North Koreans are the most militant, radical Communists of all Communist Party nations in the world” and was concerned that “the general trend in Japan is towards the left. The left-wing press and political circles are pressuring the Japanese Government, and the Japanese Government is making hasty approaches to North Korea. I hope the U.S. will use its influence to discourage these approaches.” Basically, the ROK and imperialists were worried because they felt that this would weaken efforts to “contain” Juche Korea! As a cable in 1975 (Juche 64) remarked, “what happens in Korea affects the balance of power elsewhere and vice versa. Europe is affected by the expansion of Soviet power in Korea.”

Diplomatic relations established by Juche Korea, 1973-1977. Relations with Argentina broken in 1977. Relations with Australia suspended 1975-2000.  Relations with Fiji suspended from 1987-2002. Costa Rica relations broken off at year not known. Myanmar relations suspended 1983-2007. On Feb 2 of this year, Jordan terminated its diplomatic relations with Juche Korea, which it claimed it was doing “in line with the policies of Jordan’s allies” with its major ally being the murderous empire!

Fast forward to June 1985 (Juche 74). A Special National Intelligence Assessment was issued saying that Juche Korea had an “activist foreign policy” aiming to unify Korean peninsula, deny recognition to ROK, gain continuing support of revisionist USSR and revisionist China, and engage in overtures to Seoul and West in hopes of improving image of Juche Korea, solicit “new trade and aid,” even investment. The report estimated that there were 700 military personnel on the African continent, along with military assistance and other aid. Advisers from Juche Korea were in countries were Soviets were supposedly present, and their policy sprung from what had been done in the late 1960s and early 1970s,when liberation fighters, which they called “terrorist groups and extremists” were supported “in Africa, Middle East, and Africa.” The following year, another report was issued by the intelligence community of the murderous empire. It argued that Juche Korea continued to push for reunification, looking to the periphery, which they called the “Third World,” for support, opposed the legitimacy of ROK, and turned toward Moscow, benefiting from Soviet aid. It also added that while the Soviets dislike the government (showing it was not a Soviet colony), Juche Korea disliked the “regime in Afghanistan,” was said to have supported “Prince Sihanouk’s anti-Vietnamese struggle in Cambodia” while the government distanced itself “from Moscow elsewhere in the Third World” in order to be and stay non-aligned in the world.

Diplomatic relations established by Juche Korea 1979-1992. Grenada relations broken Jan 1985, later resumed. Lesotho relations broken Aug 1986, later resumed.

In the later years of the Cold War, the Soviets recognized the ROK, and the Chinese did in 1992 (Juche 81), which was a “major diplomatic blow to North Korea.” After the Cold War ended, international politics shifted, leading “Pyongyang to drop its longstanding opposition to joining the UN jointly with Seoul, with both north and south Korea joining the global body in 1991” along with the “collapse of the Soviet bloc” resulting in cuts in aid to Juche Korea, leading to economic problems in the mid-1990s  and closing “many of its embassies between 1993 and 2001” since the budget was restricted. [6] As a result Juche Korea, in the early 2000s, established diplomatic relations with many European countries, even  with with the European Union in 2001 (Juche 90). As the World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 2017, of U$ State Department showed, arms exports of DPRK were minimal from 2005-2015, but even  they reportedly compromised much of the exports in 2005 and 2010 especially, there has been a decline in arms exports from 2005-2015 while abuses of human life continued within the murderous empire.

Diplomatic relations established by Juche Korea, 1993-2011. Relations with Botswana broken in Feb 2014 [7]. 2001 relations with the EU began. In October of 2017, the UAE downgraded relations with Juche Korea (and stopped issuing visas to nationals from Juche Korea), with “similar moves by Qatar and Kuwait” showing these Gulf autocracies really serve the murderous empire.
In the end, this section proves without a doubt that Juche Korea is not isolated, but is rather internationalist allowing it to be fully committed to national liberation.


Notes

[1] Daniel Wertz, JJ Oh, and Kim Insung, “DPRK Diplomatic Relations,” issue brief, National Committee on North Korea (NCNK), August 2016. A version of this is also on a webpage currently  on their website, but also archived here. NCNK is a NGO, which is part of Mercy Corps (a 501 (c) charity) of those with “significant expertise in and diverse perspectives on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” which aims at “fostering mutual understanding and trust between the governments and peoples of the U.S. and DPRK, facilitating engagement and cooperation, reducing tension, and promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula through education, information-sharing, and relationship-building.” While it is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ploughshares Fund, Henry Luce Foundation, and Pacific Century Institute, Inc, it claims that “donations from individuals are also an integral part of NCNK’s financial base.”As such, it is a bourgeois group (this is evident from looking at its members) but something can be taken from it of course. Its a bit like 38 North. For the horrid Time magazine article, see “How North Korea Built a Nuclear Arsenal on the Ashes of the Soviet Union” in February of this year, which even admits at one point that “whether any of Ukraine’s impoverished scientists have gone to work in North Korea is difficult to prove.” So what was the whole article about then? It was just a work of unmitigated propaganda.

[2] Salem Solomon, “Africa’s Ties to North Korea Extend Beyond Isolated Military Deals,” VOA, Sept 17, 2017; Kevin J. Kelley, “Uganda: UN Probes Tanzania and Uganda Deals With North Korea,” TheEastAfrican, Sept 13, 2017.

[3] Here’s why North Korea’s economy is able to survive sanction after sanction,” Vox, Dec 7, 2017.

[4] Samuel Ramani, “North Korea’s African Allies,” The Diplomat, Jun 4, 2016. Take for example Bolivia, officially called the Plurinational State of Bolivia and headed by Evo Morales, which has harshly criticized the murderous apartheid and Zionist state. While some sources seem to indicate there is an accredited DPRK embassy in Caracas, nothing can be found about the relations between Bolivia and Juche Korea, just information on the former’s elections (see here, here, and here), the Communist Party of Bolivia, the Constitution of Bolivia, Morales’s criticism of the orange menace, a page on the website of the U$ State Department, and a page on labor stats by the ILO.

[5] Sebastian Strangio, “North Korea’s New Friend?,” The Diplomat, Aug 14, 2011; Go Cambodia, “North Korea seeks Cambodia’s help,” 2017; Jack Board,  “The curious case of North Korea in Cambodia,” Channel NewsAsia, Apr 23, 2017; Luke Hunt, “North Korea-Cambodia Relations: The Sound of Silence,” The Diplomat, Mar 2017; Prak Thun Thul, “Jailing of Khmer Rouge leaders ‘sends message to North Korea’: U.N. envoy,” Reuters, Nov 23, 2016; Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea intervenes in Cambodia, U.N. human rights dispute,” UPI, Nov 10, 2016.

[6] Daniel Wertz, JJ Oh, and Kim Insung, “DPRK Diplomatic Relations,” issue brief, National Committee on North Korea (NCNK), August 2016. A version of this is also on a webpage currently  on their website, but also archived here. NCNK is a NGO, which is part of Mercy Corps (a 501 (c) charity) of those with “significant expertise in and diverse perspectives on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” which aims at “fostering mutual understanding and trust between the governments and peoples of the U.S. and DPRK, facilitating engagement and cooperation, reducing tension, and promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula through education, information-sharing, and relationship-building.” While it is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ploughshares Fund, Henry Luce Foundation, and Pacific Century Institute, Inc, it claims that “donations from individuals are also an integral part of NCNK’s financial base.”As such, it is a bourgeois group (this is evident from looking at its members) but something can be taken from it of course. Its a bit like 38 North.

[7] At the present, controversy led Botswana to move from an ally of Juche Korea to cut ties with it completely!

Zombie Simpsons and the cultural hegemony of Hollyweird

From S5E14, “Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacey”

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Apr 13, 2018.

In 1919, Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist who was imprisoned by the Mussolini’s government, for his beliefs, specifically his anti-fascist actions, wrote that “the capitalists have lost pre-eminence: their freedom is limited; their power is annulled. Capitalist concentration has arrived at the greatest development allowed it, realizing the world monopoly of production and exchange. The corresponding concentration of the working masses has given an unheard of power to the revolutionary proletarian class…They are not dead.” This is the case with The Simpsons, an animated sitcom, in its 29th season, with its viewership sharply declining, which still lives on through “memes on social media that serve as still-relevant social commentary.” [1] In order to analyze how this manifests itself in the Simpsons and the tyranny of Hollyweird, a term I thought came from  Chuck D of Public Enemy, but it seems to be used on a lot of conservative websites but I see no issue with re-appropriating it for something which is evidently much more positive, it is only right to turn to the theories of Gramsci. Later on, this article will use Gramsci’s theories to pose a broader analysis of The Simpsons, which can easily be applied to Hollyweird as a whole. Before anyone criticizes my analysis, I would like to add here as a disclaimer that I read through Gramsci’s works, cited in this article, over a few day period and made the analysis from there. Obviously, this is not all the works of Gramsci, but I did my best to provide a summarized analysis. There is undoubtedly some aspects which I did not address, but I did my best to address all the pertinent aspects. I say this before people get on my case about “missing” something or debating over my interpretation of Gramsci. With that, as always, all comments are welcome.

Summarizing Gramsci’s theories on intellectuals and hegemony

The tyranny of Hollyweird (which usually just includes America’s film industry, but can be said, for this article to include the whole media-entertainment complex), should be analyze on a systemic manner, rather than just focusing on a symptom.

Apart from looking at varied scholars, it is best to look at Gramsci’s writings themselves. In December 1916, when arguing that the proletariat should reject ideology from bourgeois newspapers, he added that these proletariat must “always, always, always remember that the bourgeois newspaper…is an instrument of struggle motivated by ideas and interests that are contrary to his. Everything that is published is influenced by one idea: that of serving the dominant class, and which is ineluctably translated into a fact: that of combating the laboring class…the bourgeois newspapers tell even the simplest of facts in a way that favors the bourgeois class and damns the working class and its politics.” This could easily be applied to Hollyweird. The same could be said of his writing in 1921 that the “entire state apparatus: with its police force, its courts, and its newspapers that manipulate public opinion according to the desires of the government and the capitalists” or his writing in 1925 that in order to

take the working class beyond the limits of existing bourgeois democracy…a conscious ‘ideological’ element is necessary. This entails an understanding of the conditions in which the class is fighting, of the social relations in which workers live, of the fundamental tendencies that operate within these social relationships, and of the development of society (driven by the irreconcilable antagonisms at its heart), etcetera.

Due to the format of the Prison Notebooks on the Marxists Internet Archive, for the rest of this section, I use the Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, which derives from the original text itself.

For Gramsci, two types of intellectuals are created by “every social group” (bourgeoisie or proletariat). The first is a group of intellectuals which have homogeneity and awareness of their function in the capitalist system. [2] At the same time, “capitalist entrepreneur[s]” create the “industrial technician, the specialist in political economy, the organisers of a new culture,” and have technical and directive capacity. This is because they serve as organizers of “masses of men,” “confidence” in their business, consumers in their product, and so on. Most, or an elite among these “capitalist entrepreneur[s]” have intellectual capacities, including the complex “organism of services,” up to the state, with the need to creative conditions “most favorable to their class” or choose specialized individuals to organize their relationships, whom include these intellectuals. Such intellectuals are “organic,” with every class, the  bourgeoisie or proletariat, creating alongside itself, elaborating in the course of its development. The other form of intellectuals is one which is “already in existence” and seemed to represent uninterrupted “historical continuity.” These intellectuals are in the ecclesiastics, who held a long-time monopoly on religious ideology, bonded to schools, education, morality, and other societal values, originally tied to the landed aristocracy, gaining their own privileges over time. These intellectuals are “traditional,” posing themselves an “autonomous and independent of the dominant social group,” whether the  bourgeoisie or the proletariat, but this idealism is not true in reality. As Gramsci puts it artfully, “all men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all  men in society have the  function of intellectuals,” with “non-intellectuals” not existing in society, but a stratum of intellectuals being present, either “traditional” or “organic.” He adds that there are “historically specialised categories for the exercise of the intellectual function,” with assimilation and conquest of “traditional” intellectuals quicker and more efficacious the more the group (bourgeoisie and proletariat) elaborating on their own organic intellectuals. For both types of intellectuals, schools are the “instrument” through which they improve their functions, with complexity of their “intellectual measured” by the number of gradation of specialized schools, with the more extensive the “area” covered by education and varied levels of schooling, the more complex “is  the cultural world.” While, as Gramsci notes, there is a wide base provided for  selection of the “top intellectual qualifications,” it creates vast “crises of unemployment for the middle intellectual strata.” The elaboration of the intellectual strata in “concrete reality” does not come from something abstract but in accordance with “concrete traditional historical processes,” with distribution of different types of school over a territory, with varied aspirations within the intellectual strata determine or give form to “branches of intellectual specialization.” After giving an example of development of rural and urban bourgeoisie in Italy, Gramsci adds that

The relation between the intellectuals and the world of production is not as direct as it is with fundamental social groups but is, in varying degrees, “mediated” by the whole fabric of society and by the complex of superstructures, of which the intellectuals are, precisely, the “functionaries”.

It is here that Gramsci begins to outline his thoughts on hegemony. He first notes that the “organic quality” of varied  intellectual strata and their “degree of connection” with a “fundamental social group” (bourgeoisie and proletariat) and says that a gradation of their functions (and of the superstructures) can be determined. For the superstructure, Gramsci notes that there are two levels: one that can be called “civil society,” which includes institutions which are commonly seen as “private” and that of  “political society” or the “State.” These two levels, he writes, correspond to the exercise of hegemony by a dominant group (bourgeoisie or proletariat) over society and to “direct domination” or command exercised through the State. For the dominant group, intellectuals are their deputies, exercising the “subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government” comprising of “spontaneous” consent which is  given by the masses to the “general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group” with such consent historically caused by prestige and confidence which the “dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production.” Secondly, intellectuals exercise their functions through the “apparatus of state coercive power” which enforces discipline on groups which do not consent “actively or passively,” an apparatus which is constituted for the society in  “anticipation of moments of crisis of command and direction when spontaneous consent has failed.” Gramsci closes this chapter by saying his ideas expand the concept of intellectual but is the only way to recognize the reality, adding that the function of “organizing social hegemony and state domination”  gives rise a particular division of labor, with a “hierarchy of qualifications” with intellectual activity needing to be “distinguished in terms of its intrinsic characteristics” with those at the highest level being “creators of the various sciences, philosophy, art, etc.,” and the lowest being administrators and divulges of “pre-existing, traditional, accumulated intellectual wealth.” The chapter ends by saying that in the modern world the category of intellectuals has expanded, with functions justified by the “political necessities of the dominant fundamental group,” with mass formation standardizing individuals psychologically and in terms of “individual qualification.”

Comes from the Selections from the Prison Notebooks, quoted in this article.

In the next chapter, Gramsci expands on whom can be “traditional” intellectuals: they are rural, linked to the “social mass of country people and the town…petite bourgeoisie.” [3] On the other hand, the  urban intellectuals are those who have “grown up along with industry and are linked to its fortunes,” having no autonomous plans, with a job to “articulate the relationship between the entrepreneur and the intellectual mass,” executing production plans of the industrial general staff, which controls varying “stages of work,” while they are very standardized, identified with the “industrial general staff itself.” He adds that every “organic development”of the peasant masses is linked and  depends on movements “among intellectuals.” Specifically, organic intellectuals who come from the “instrumental masses” can influence factory technicians. Gramsci further delineates between “organic” and “traditional” intellectuals. He writes that the political party, for some groups (specifically the proletariat) is a specific way of creating their own organic intellectuals, who directly join the political and philosophical field, while the political party, for all groups, carries out the same function as the State  in political society, welding together intellectuals whom are “organic” (of the dominant group) and “traditional.” Latter political parties carry out this function by fulfilling its  basic function:  of elaborating its “component parts” which are those who have been born and developed as an economic group, turning them into “qualified political intellectuals…leaders and organisers of all activities and functions inherent in the organic development of society.” After explaining how a political party functions with intellectual elements, functioning specifically in relation to the different types of intellectuals, “organic” and “traditional,” the history of traditional intellectuals connected with “slavery in the classical world,”  giving specific examples for how this manifests itself in Italy, England, France, Germany, Russia, he moves onto the U$, specifically relevant for this article, writing that:

…in the case of the United States, [there is] the absence to a considerable degree of traditional intellectuals, and consequently a different equilibrium among intellectuals in general. There has been a massive development…of the whole range of modern superstructures. The necessity of equilibrium is determined…by the need to fuse together in a single national crucible with a unitary culture the different forms of culture imported by immigrants of differing national origins. The lack of vast sedimentation of traditional intellectuals…explains…the existence of only two major parties, which could…be reduced to one only…and…the enormous proliferation of religious sects.

After talking about the influence of “negro intellectuals” on the U$ and how the empire could use Blacks to advance imperial interests, he talks about other examples in Latin America, Japan, and China. It is there that the chapter ends.

Gramsci as cited in Davidson’s Antonio Gramsci: Towards an Intellectual Biography (London: Merlin Press, 1977), p. 77.

In his chapters on education, in which he writes that “every intellectual idea tends to create for itself cultural associations of its own,” specialized schools and bureaucracies, the elements of educational institutions, he does not touch on hegemony or the “intellectual strata.”[4] His chapter on Italian history isn’t much different. He does, however, in one section, specifically focus on intellectuals and hegemony, writing

the supremacy of a social group manifests itself…as “domination” and as “intellectual moral leadership.” A social group dominates antagonistic groups, which it tends to “liquidate”, or subjugate…a social group can…exercise “leadership” before winning governmental power…it subsequently becomes dominant when it exercises power, but even if it holds it firmly in its grasp, it must continue to “lead”  as well. [5]

He later adds that in the experience of many countries, if peasants move through impulses which are  “spontaneous,” the “intellectuals start to waver” and if a “group of intellectuals situates itself on a new basis of concrete pro-peasant policies,” it draws in more important “elements of the masses.” [6] Later on, he  briefly mentions intellectuals. One example is when he talks about the “intellectual stratum” in northern Italy, another is when he writes that to analyze the “socio-political function of intellectuals, it is necessary to recall and examine their psychological attitude toward the fundamental classes [bourgeoisie and proletariat].” [7] He later that a philosophy which “offers to its adherents an intellectual “dignity”” which differs from old ideologies, and an “educative principle” which interests a sect of intellectuals whom are homogeneous and most numerous, are the ways that “hegemony of a directive centre” asserts itself over intellectuals. When talking about a “homogeneous ruling class” in the Italian Piedmont, Gramsci wrote that this ruling class wanted their “interests to dominate…they wanted a new force, independent of every compromise and condition, to become the arbiter of the Nation.” [8] After summarizing principles from Marx’s Preface to The Critique of Political Economy, he criticized the idea of “passive revolution,” specifically citing “Gandhism and Tolstoyism,” endeavoring to discover its roots in Italian history. In writing a further part of his history of Italy, Gramsci notes that

Although it is certain that for the fundamental productive classes (the capitalist bourgeoisie and modern proletariat) the State is only conceivable as the  concrete form of a specific economic world, this does not mean that the relationship of  means to end can be easily determined or takes the form of a simple schema, apparent at first sight. It is true that conquest of power and achievement of a new productive world are  inseparable, and that propaganda for the other, and that in reality it is solely in this coincidence that the unity of the dominant class–at one political and economic–resides. [9]

He adds on the next page that “intellectuals are the social element from which the governing personnel are drawn.” Later on, in the same book, he adds that the while there can be a distinction between an intellectual strata separated from the masses and intellectuals linked “organically to a national-popular mass” in reality one needs to struggle against deceptions, stimulating the formation of “homogeneous, social blocs” which  birth their own intellectuals, commandos, and vanguard. [10] He also briefly mentions reinforcement of the hegemonic positions of a dominant group, but focuses on the hegemony of the State. In another chapter, he writes about a class “that is international in character” (either the bourgeoisie or proletariat) which guides “social strata which are narrowly national…frequently less than national,” referring to intellectuals specifically. [11] In a section about state power, Gramsci makes, what I believe, is his only use of the term “cultural hegemony” in the Prison Notebooks and likely in the rest of his writings. He writes that

…every State is ethical in as much as one of its most important functions is to raise the great mass of population to a particular cultural and moral level, a level…which corresponds to the needs of the productive forces for development [the bourgeoisie], and hence to the interests of the ruling classes.The school as a positive educative function, and the courts as repressive and negative educative function, are the most important State activities in this sense: but, in reality, a multitude of other so-called private  initiatives and activities tend to the same end–initiatives and activities which form the apparatus of the political and cultural hegemony of the ruling classes…only the social group that poses the end of the State and its own end as the target to be achieved can create an ethical state–i.e. one which tends to to put an end to the internal divisions of the ruled, etc., and to create a technically  and morally unitary social organism. [12]

Adding to this, he writes that if states cannot avoid going through a stage of “economic-corporate privimatism,” then the “content of political hegemony of the new social group” will be “predominantly of an economic order,” with reorganization of the existing structure, and a negative cultural policy. Beyond this are his comments that in a society one or more private associations (which are either natural, contractual or voluntary) one or more predominates, constituting a “hegemonic apparatus of one social group over the rest of the population,” with the basis for the State in “the narrow sense of governmental-coercive apparatus.” [13] Gramsci’s next mention of hegemony is related to political parties. He  writes that

The function of hegemony or political leadership exercised by [political] parties can be estimated from the evolution of the internal life of the [political] parties themselves. If the State represents the coercive and punitive force of juridical regulation of a country, the [political] parties–representing the spontaneous adhesion of an elite to such a regulation, considered as a type of collective society to which the entire mass must be educated–must show in their internal life that they have assimilated as principles or moral conduct those rules which in the State are legal obligations. [14]

In his next book, Gramsci writes about the expanding circle of intellectuals. He notes that the intellectual stratum expands, with every leap forward tied to a movement of the masses who raise their level of culture, extending their influence among the stratum, but there are continually gaps “between the mass and the intellectuals.” [15] Later, he specifically focuses on European culture. He writes that it is the “only historically and concretely universal culture…European culture has undergone a process of unification,” with the cultural process personified in intellectuals. [16] On the next page, he specifically, once again, addresses intellectuals in society:

…The intellectual’s error consists in believing that one can know without understanding and even more without feeling and being impassioned…the intellectual can be an intellectual…if distinct and separate from the people-nation…without feeling the elementary passions of the people, understanding them and therefore explaining and justifying them in the particular historical situation and connecting them dialectically to the laws of history and to a superior conception of the world…one cannot make politics-history without this passion, without this sentimental connection between intellectuals and people-nation…if the relationship between the intellectuals and people-nation, between the leaders and led,the rulers and ruled, is provided by an organic cohesion in which the feeling-passion becomes understanding and thence knowledge (not mechanically but in a way that is alive) then and only then is the relationship one of representation.

On a related  note, he writes that the “great systems of traditional philosophy and the religion of the the leaders of the clergy,” which conceives the world as one of intellectuals and high culture, systems “unknown to the multitude” and do not influence them directly, but do so indirectly, with these systems influencing the masses as an “external political force, an element of cohesive force exercised by the ruling classes and…an element of subordination to an external hegemony.” [17] Such efforts negatively influence the masses, limiting their thought, limiting their common sense.

Reading through this book, it is clear that scholars have interpreted Gramsci well to say that the state serves as an “instrument of domination that represents the interests of capital and of the ruling class,” with  domination “achieved in large part by a dominant ideology expressed through social institutions that socialize people to consent to the rule of the dominant group,”while  hegemonic beliefs, “dominant beliefs” fundamentally dampen critical thought, and are thus barriers to revolution.” [18] They point out that he viewed the educational institution as “one of the fundamental elements of cultural hegemony in modern Western society,” with hegemony being a form of control exercised by a dominant class, either the bourgeoisie or proletariat, a class which takes into interest those classes and groups over which it dominates, while it has to “make some sacrifices tangent to its corporate interests,” and maintain its “economic leadership besides ethico-political leadership” with the class “situated at one of the two fundamental poles in the relations of production: owner or non-owner of the means of production.” This entails, these scholars argue, that this class executes a “leadership role on the economic, political, moral, and intellectual levels vis-a-vis other classes in the system, coupled with the sacrificing of some of its corporate interests as a fundamental class precisely to facilitate its vanguard role.” Furthermore, they note that Gramsci is arguing that the dominant class, with its hegemony, “exercises a political, intellectual, and moral role of leadership within a hegemonic system cemented by a common world-view…won in civil society through dynamic ideological struggle.” With this, the concept of “cultural hegemony” is derived: that the “beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values and moral norms of a ruling class…is accepted as the cultural norm” or dominant, with those who own the with capital assets in society, “TV stations, film studios, newspapers” releasing their media product into society, intending to “reinforce the status quo and keep these asset holders in control.” Others defined this concept as centered around the “domination of a society by a group whose domination comes through control of culture…and the implicit ideology contained within that culture” with the worldview of the dominant group becoming the “worldview of the majority; who see its values as natural and universal values which are good for all.” [19] Regardless, it is clear that the concept of “cultural hegemony” is one that is derived from Gramsci, just like the concept of “labor aristocracy is derived from the writings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. That doesn’t mean either of these ideas is incorrect or improper, but rather that their origins should be recognized.

It is with this, we move onto the next section of this article, which uses Gramsci’s theories, applying them to a recent debate over Apu and The Simpsons, which directly connects with the overall tyranny of Hollyweird.

Gramsci, Springfieldian stereotypes, and Hollyweird

This is followed by Marge saying “some things will be dealt with at a later date?” and followed by Lisa saying, sorrowfully, “if at all.” This sets the stage for the following post. The phrasing “don’t have a cow!” on Apu’s signed photograph has said to be a “direct mockery of Hinduism” by some critics.

The concepts posed by Gramsci directly apply to the Zombie Simpsons, a term which I’ll explain later, and Hollyweird as a whole.

Determining who the organic intellectuals are is of utmost importance. Starting with The Simpsons, it seems evident that those at the three White Male producers: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening (creator of the show itself), and Sam Simon, would have fulfill this function, as they have homogeneity and awareness of their function in the capitalist system. In order to make sure that conditions which benefit the dominant class are created, capitalists, the “capitalist entrepreneurs” as Gramsci calls them, choose specialized individuals to organize relationships which benefited their class, in this case which are the organic intellectuals. [20] The organic intellectuals can also, by extension, have specialize certain individuals who can serve their interests. This includes, for one,  the show’ss main cast members, three of whom who were White males (Dan Castellaneta, Hank Azaria, and Henry Shearer) and three of whom were White females (Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Yeardley Smith). Secondly, this includes the 127 individuals who have written or co-written Simpsons episodes since the show was released in 1989, along with other individuals like the composers and animators, to name a few.

These producers, organic intellectuals if you will, are dominated by those whom were higher up. Their domination comes from the executives heading 21st Century Fox (which owns FOX), with the world of production mediated through the whole fabric of society by The Simpsons itself, for their sake, creating a “degree of connection” between the organic intellectuals and the bourgeoisie. In case, the section of the bourgeoisie constitutes the executives of 21st Century Fox (and formerly News Corp), symbolized by Rupert Murdoch, who still has a leading role. Such bourgeoisie used the burgeoning news network, FOX, to exercise their hegemony over society, with intellectuals as their deputies, enforcing such hegemony, working to obtain the “spontaneous” consent given by the masses to the “general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group.” Of course, the organization of such hegemony creates a particular division of labor, with a “hierarchy of qualifications” over intellectual activity, even in the structure of The Simpsons where the producers are those whom you could call organic intellectuals. As Gramsci notes, those with the highest amount of intellectual activities are “creators of the various sciences, philosophy, art, etc.,” being the show’s producers in this case, and the lowest could  be said to be the writers or animators but this may not be going far enough down the totem pole. Furthermore, the organic intellectuals of the Simpsons clearly do not come from the “instrumental masses” (or serve the peasants) and, as such, serve the bourgeoisie, part of an effort which continues to “fuse together in a single national crucible with a unitary culture the different forms of culture imported by immigrants of differing national origins,” to use Gramsci’s words. In such a relationship, the bourgeoisie dominates, specifically “antagonistic groups” which it subjugates and “liquidates.” Is The Simpsons such an antagonistic group? Perhaps to a very limited extent, but it also got FOX even more popularity, so the criticism on the show was approved as it brought in needed revenue. [21]

There is a further aspect to these organic intellectuals. As they serve a sociopolitical function, they are taken in by a philosophy, which in the case of the U$ either “conservative” or “liberal” in nature (mostly in The Simpsons, the liberal one won out), giving its adherents intellectual “dignity,” differing from old ideologies, a interesting a sect of intellectuals whom are homogeneous and most numerous. This is not a surprise, as organic intellectuals, are the element from which governing personnel are drawn. All in all, there are varied “initiatives and activities which form the apparatus of the political and cultural hegemony of the ruling classes” with one of these activities undoubtedly being the hosting of TV shows, in the case of media conglomerates, which reinforce such hegemony, ensuring their dominant beliefs take hold on a wide basis in order to keep themselves in control. Obviously, there are gaps “between the mass and the intellectuals” since the intellectual themselves “can be an intellectual…if distinct and separate from the people-nation…without feeling the elementary passions of the people.”

That brings us to the most recent controversy involving the Simpsons and what we can call Springfieldian stereotypes: the case of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a stereotype of a first-generation Indian immigrant who owns a local convenience store in the town of Springfield. Hari Kondabolu, a comedian of Indian descent, released a documentary on this subject last year, titled “The Problem With Apu.” [22] In the film, Kondabolu grapples with his “lifelong love of The Simpsons,” examining how Apu “gave his bullies ammo for years, while contributing to a broader cultural stereotyping,” exploring a “larger deficit in American pop culture,” specifically one that “there have hardly ever been any South Asian characters on television.” His interviewees, the actors and comics, mostly of Indian descent (i.e. their parents were born in India), echo this sentiment, saying this “problem with Apu” came about due to under-representation of South Asians on television in the U$, some of whom say either kids bullied them by calling them “Apu” or doing the same for their parents. [23] Some, like Indian-born actor Kal Penn,  well known for his acting in the Harold & Kumar stoner comedies, says that they hate Apu so much that he won’t even watch the Simpsons series! Others, like actor Utkarsh Ambudkar let the Simpsons producers, organic bourgeoisie, off the hook, by declaring that their subordinates, writers, didn’t mean to cause psychological and emotional problems, but that Apu was created due to  under-representation of South Asians.

There is more than just under-representation, which many interviewees blame as the problem. [24] As Kondabolu argues himself, Apu represents an “America” where no one who is White isn’t wanted and reflecting how “America viewed” South Asians, which creates a bad impression across society. Add to this W. Kamau Bell‘s comments, that  America went through a time when the Simpsons “owned America,” determined conversation, with Kondabolu adding that the show was “edgy at the time.” The systemic nature is partially acknowledged: the film recalls Azaria’s story that the the producers told him to do a stereotypical voice of an Indian, but then there is the story of a writer of The Simpsons, Mike Reiss. He said that Apu was not intended to be a character, saying that making him Indian was a comedy cliche, adding that White writers laughed at his impression. [25] Regardless, the character was OK’d by the producers, like Matt Groening, the organic intellectuals, showing their role in this process, named by Groening himself. Apu’s last name either derives from the sanskrit word for bullshit (as Kondabolu claims) or is “spoonerism” while the first name is based of the protagonist in the Satyajit Ray trilogy of movies. As critic John Powers describes Ray’s trilogy, it tells the story of a young man (Apu) who becomes a multi-dimensional human being in a modernizing India, and  having Apu of the Simpsons named after him, diminishes the latter. Kondabolu’s most powerful point is that Apu stood in for his parents, participating in cultural erasure by eliminating their stories, while the the claim by Whoopi Goldberg, that Apu is a minstrel voiced by a white guy with brown paint, and Kondabolu’s related claim that Apu is the same as Black racist depictions, may be muddying the waters too much. However, it does seem evident that Azaria based the voice of Apu off Peter Sellers in The Party, an offensive interpretation, and an exchange with an irate Indian convenience store clerk, with the documentary saying that a White person doing a stereotype, such as Apu, is usurping culture and is exploitative. [26] Clearly this is fine with White writers like Dana Gould, who wrote for The Simpsons from 2001 to 2008, saying that  some accents are funny to Whites,giving them culpability, admitting that if The Simpsons was done today, “I’m not sure you could have Apu voiced by Hank [Azaria]” while he claims that for writers of the Simpsons, there is no difference between Apu and Mr. Burns. Once again, there are hints are deeper causes: Indian-born comic Aasif Mandvi says that racism in our culture can become so deep rooted that those who are being made fun of think that a racist joke is funny and that making Apu a horrid stereotype was part of broader cultural values. [27] Clearly, Homer was wrong when he said in the 2nd episode of Season 3 that “cartoons don’t have any deep meaning.”

The implications of the most recent Simpsons episode are evident, connecting the imposition of hegemony by the dominant class, in this case the bourgeoisie. The episode, the 633rd of the show, titled “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” doubled down on the Apu stereotype, “long the sole prominent Indian character on television” even though he was clearly a “racial caricature played by a white man.” [28] In the episode, Marge is creating a book to be more inclusive and feels lost, with Lisa responding Marge’s question by saying that Apu was applauded and inoffensive decades ago, now is deemed “politically incorrect” (a sentiment embraced by show writer Al Jean) adding that “some things will be dealt with at a later date?” and Lisa saying, sorrowfully, “if at all.” This implies that those who criticism the racist caricature deemed “politically incorrect” (with the phrase “politically correct” used by bigots use to give themselves the license to say what they want) and could mean that a future episode will address this more. Not surprisingly, reactionary commentators received the episode well, with Hot Air claiming that the episode “is an apology of sorts, just not the forthright one Kondabolu and his supporters wanted,” that The Simpsons “occupies a more exalted place in American pop culture.” and that “an apology is coming here…but in the plot of some future episode” while Red State said that “the Simpsons are not all that friendly to the right-leaning parts of America…[but has done] something that South Park has already done…draw a line in the sand and declared in one quick segment that…wailing and gnashing of teeth can only have so much of an effect…I’m proud of the folks at The Simpsons,” as part of the “culture war against political correctness.” [29] Perhaps, as some said, the show has “utterly given up on itself…The Simpsons has lost its way…The Simpsons, a show that has been absolutely dreadful since the early 2000s, simply could not be improved upon” with Lisa, the most progressive character of the way, with bourgeois values, but much more left-leaning than any other characters, speaking these lines about Apu, with “years of churning out unfunny episode after unfunny episode seems to have left the writers’ room stubborn and stuck,” with this episode specifically having a  “wandering and weak plot spine.” [30] Others recognized the broader implications, saying that “The Simpsons is, as I stated earlier, an institution…a show that has been permitted to exist for decades following the widely-accepted consensus opinion that its best years are behind it,” with the list of the show’s “extremely white, extremely male list of writers stretch[es] back twenty-nine years.”

The Stereotypes bowling team, The Simpsons.

As such, it should be perfectly evident that the Springfieldian stereotypes are more than just about under-representation, only a symptom of the capitalist system. Rather, they are one of the manifestations of the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, in this case, enforced on the public, which provides their “consent” by passively watching shows such as The Simpsons, accepting the values. [31] This doesn’t take away from the social criticism aired on the show, especially in its earlier years, but it shows the role of the show in the capitalist system, specifically in relation to Gramsci’s theories. The fact that Apu is a stereotype, different from other stereotypes on the show, somehow “worse,” is a point that can  be easily swatted away, as it was by the conservatives at Red State who recently declared that “the show is filled to the brim with stereotypes of all kinds of cultures and sub-cultures, but these were conveniently ignored by those suddenly outraged by Apu after decades of the show being on the air.” [32] This involves making the criticism more wholesome. It is obviously valid to criticize the racist caricature of Apu, since, as one critic notes, “not all demographics are on equal footing in America…The Simpsons is classic Americana…But it does no one any favours to pump life into it long after brain death.” A symptom of the bourgeoisie’s hegemony, exercised by the organic intellectuals of The Simpsons, are the further stereotypes, apart from Apu. One of these is Fat Tony, with the voice over by Joe Mantegna, a negative Italian stereotype manifested as a “violent mobster”whom the show’s writers “never fail to stress the Italian ancestry” and his  “assorted henchmen,” with Fat Tony and his henchmen obviously based on the depiction of mobsters in the three-part Godfather epic, the brainchild of Francis Ford Coppolla. [33]

But, Fat Tony isn’t the only stereotype. Others include Marge the housewife (although there’s a lot to her character), Akira, the Japanese sushi chef, Ling, adopted Chinese child of chainsmokers Patty (a lesbian) and her sister Selma, Bumbleebee Man, Mexican actor/TV personality, Ccoseted and then out gay man Smithers, “redneck” Appalachian Cletus Spuckler and his family, including his wife, Brandine, and their children, Italian chef Luigi, and angry Scotsman Groundskeeper Willie. [34] Of these, four are directly recognized as stereotypes, in the Season 7 episode (pictured above), “Team Homer”: Italian chef Luigi, Angry Scotsman Groundskeeper Willie, “redneck” Appalachian Cletus Spuckler, and sea captain Horatio McCallister. Tellingly, “they were apparently dying to have Apu on their team, but he declined.” Apu is recognized as a stereotype in the show, but not until Season 27 when it is brushed off with the idea that everyone is a stereotype and that people should get over it.

Apart from the stereotypes, there is another symptom, showing how the organic intellectuals enforce the hegemony of the bourgeoisie on society: only one of the Indian  characters portrayed on the show is voiced by a person of Indian descent while the rest are voiced by White people! [35]. Clearly, the show is spreading the perceptions of the White organic intellectuals and their writers onto the populace as a whole. The same is the case for the Black characters in The Simpsons, with the below chart showing that only about 30-35% of the voice actors are Black, with all the others being White! [36]

While noting such stereotypes, it is clear that the problem is deeper than one of just under-representation or even racism: it is about the organic intellectuals of The Simpsons, to use Gramsci’s definition, enforcing the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, making it even  more the dominant ideology. This is further cemented by the patriarchal nature of the show: Homer speaks the most of any character (he has been “always been the most talkative character on the show”), accounting for “21% of the show’s 1.3 million words spoken through season 26,” while “Marge, Bart, and Lisa…combine for another 26%, giving the Simpson family a 47% share of the show’s dialogue” as Todd W. Schneider in “The Simpsons By the Data” points out. [37] He also writes that looking at the “supporting cast, the 14 most prominent characters are all male before we get to the first woman, Mrs. [Edna] Krabappel, and only 5 of the top 50 supporting cast members are women,” with women only accounting for “25% of the dialogue on The Simpsons, including Marge and Lisa, two of the show’s main characters” but if the Simpsons family is removed, then women only account for “less than 10% of the supporting cast’s dialogue.” He adds that “9 of the top 10 writers are male,” reinforced by the fact that The Simpsons is “stocked by Harvard Lampoon alumni and overwhelmingly white and male, [and] is one of the toughest clubs for a comedy writer to break into.” [38]

Some critics say that the show has become effortless, not “tried in years” and “has been on for such a long damn time, well past long enough to lose its own sense of identity.” Taking this into account, it is clear that The Simpsons is becoming less and less able to serve as a medium to spread the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, making their views more and more the “dominant” ideology. In the early 1990s, when it “dominated the pop-culture landscape…[with a] skillful and fearless tendency to jam its thumb in the eye of the American Establishment, by highlighting white male laziness…the crass privileged class… and a whole host of other marks of ignorance,” it was much more effective. But now, it has lost that allure, as it  has become, as one critic write, “the Establishment…becom[ing] lazy and complacent, while also feeling fiercely defensive of one’s legacy,” with the show “still living in the happy past and clinging to its Kwik-E-Mart, not listening while others shout about being in denial.” [39] That doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t spread such hegemony, but that it isn’t as effective as it used to be. This a common trend with many television shows, with “TV ratings for individual shows…broadly declining for over 60 years,” even among shows like Seth McFarlane’s Family Guy or Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Parks, both of which are also animated sitcoms.

This decline in rating has happened as the show has become even more a part and parcel of capitalist mass culture in the U$. This is because the show has changed over time from the “Golden” years (1989-1997), “Silver” years (1997-2001), “Bronze” years (2001-Present) for the worse. As such, The Simpsons has become the “Zombie Simpsons,” without a pulse, with the show becoming “inanimate, barren, cold, listless, mechanical, and weird…hollow and run out of ideas, what you could call stale…There is no reason to watch something which is dead and has no pulse.” [40] Even during the period of the “Golden” years, however, when there were social criticisms, the show only expressed broad liberal values, embracing anti-communism, and throughout the show’s history. As such, it enforced the dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie.

The organic intellectuals of The Simpsons, which in this case are the producers of the show, will continue to release episodes, vapid while “entertaining,” not drawing as much of a crowd as they once did, but still serving the bourgeoisie even though they are doing that as effectively as they did in the past. In the end, one can watch The Simpsons, if they wish, but they should recognize its role in the overall capitalist system, while working to build a another world which is free of capitalism, standing with comrades across the world, building their own revolutionary institutions, as a start.


Notes

[1] David Anthony, “Last night’s Simpsons episode set an all-time ratings low,” A.V. Club,  Apr 28, 2014; Todd W. Schneider, “The Simpsons by the Data,” accessed Apr 10, 2018; “Number of viewers for The Simpsons,” InfoMemory.com, Oct 15, 2013; “Simpsons: Quality and Viewership Decline Trend,” Absent Data, Jun 9, 2017; Joe Otterson, “TV Ratings: ‘Simpsons’ Rises With ‘Treehouse of Horror’,” Variety, Oct 23, 2017; “The Simpsons: Season 27 Ratings,” TV Series Finale, May 23, 2016; “Number of The Simpsons viewers in the United States as of 2017, by season (in millions),” statista, accessed Apr 10, 2018; “US ratings: ‘Simpsons’ returns steady, but with lowest premiere viewership,” The Springfield Shopper, Oct 3, 2017; Niall McCarthy, “30 Years On, ‘The Simpsons’ Isn’t Aging Well [Infographic],” Forbes, Apr 20, 2017.

[2] All information from this footnote onword, unless otherwise noted, derives from Antonio Gramsci, “The Formation of Intellectuals,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 514.

[3] All information from this footnote onword, unless otherwise noted, derives from Antonio Gramsci, “The Different Position of Urban and Rural-Type Intellectuals,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 1425. Later on, on page 270 he adds that  traditional intellectuals are detaching themselves from regressive and conservative groupings.

[4] All information derives from Antonio Gramsci, “The Organisation of Education and Culture” (ends on page 33) and “In Search of the Educational Principle” (ends on page 43) Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 2643.

[5] Antonio Gramsci, “The Problem of Political Leadership in the Formation and  Development of the Nation and Modern State in Italy” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 57-58.

[6] Antonio Gramsci, “The Problem of Political Leadership in the Formation and  Development of the Nation and Modern State in Italy,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), p 74.

[7] Antonio Gramsci, “The City-Countryside Relationship During the Risorgimento and in the National Structure,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 94, 97; Antonio Gramsci, “The Moderates and the Intellectuals,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 103-104.

[8] Antonio Gramsci, “The Function of Piedmont,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), p 105. See pages 106114 of the next section after “The Function of the Piedmont,” titled “The Concept of Passive Revolution.”  Also see the section on pages 118 to 120 titled “The History of Europe Seen As “Passive Revolution.””

[9] Antonio Gramsci, “Material for a Critical Essay on Croce’s Two Histories, Of Italy and Europe,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 116117.

[10] Antonio Gramsci, “Voluntarism and Social Masses,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 204205, 239 (of “The Transition from the War of Manoevre (Frontal Attack) to The War of Position–In the Political Field As Well” section).

[11] Antonio Gramsci, “Politics and Military Science,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), p 241. Also see, for future discussion, pages 214217 on military influence within a country (also on pages 229238) and Bonapartism (also see page 228), or Caesarism on pages 219223. Some of the  other instances, not mentioned in the text above, are when Gramsci mentions hegemony in reference to power of the State (“Politics and Constitutional Law” section)  or conflicts between such power and the power of the Church “Hegemony and Separation of Powers” section).

[12] Antonio Gramsci, “The State,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 258259, 263.

[13] Antonio Gramsci, “Organization of National Societies,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 264265.

[14] Antonio Gramsci, “State and Parties,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), p 267.

[15] Antonio Gramsci, “Some Preliminary Notes of Reference,” Book  III: The Philosophy of Praxis, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 334-335. Later he writes, on page 349, that “culture..unifies in a series of strata.”

[16] Antonio Gramsci,”Hegemony of Western Culture over the whole World Culture,” Some Problems in the Study of Philosophy of Praxis, Book  III: The Philosophy of Praxis , Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers, 11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 416-417, 418 (the section “Passage from Knowing to Understanding and to Feeling and vice versa from Feeling to Understanding and to Knowing”).

[17]  Antonio Gramsci,”Critical Notes on An Attempt At Popular Sociology,” Book  III: The Philosophy of Praxis , Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers, 11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 419420. Also see page 433 on “mass ideology” spewed from the intellectuals, on page 442 about distance between different groups of intellectuals.

[18] Nicka Lisa Cole, “Biography of Antonio Gramsci,” Thought.Co, Apr 12, 2017; Caroline Lee Schwenz, “Hegemony in Gramsci,” Postcolonial Studies @ Emory, accessed Apr 11, 2018; Gene Veith, ““The long march through the institutions”,” Patheos, Apr 18, 2013; Carl Davidson,”Strategy, Hegemony & The ‘Long March’: Gramsci’s Lessons For The Antiwar Movement,” Keep on Keepin’ On, Apr 6, 2006; Kerry Manderbach, “Hegemony, Cultural Hegemony, and The Americanization of Imported Media,” Apr 2012; Teo Ballvé, “Antonio Gramsci: On Hegemony,” May 4, 2011; Valeriano Ramos, Jr., “The Concepts of Ideology, Hegemony, and Organic Intellectuals in Gramsci’s Marxism,” Theoretical Review No. 27, March-April 1982; “Gramsci’s Notion of Cultural Hegemony,” Integral Axis, Oct 14, 2017.

[19] One writer adds that “any counter-hegemonic force will have to overcome the fact that the majority may well assert the values of the status quo as natural values that are good for everyone – even if it’s not in their own interest…Cultural hegemony should be achieved first. Then political power. The hegemony of the dominant group must be fought with a counter-hegemony – to displace their ideology with our own…What we want are a kind of ‘intellectual’ (what Gramsci labels as his organic kind) that concerns itself with actively influencing people and winning people over to the worldview. Leading the charge in the cultural war.” Another writer says that Gramsci divides the superstructure in society into political society (government, military, police, legal system) and civil society (where ideologic content is produced and reproduced…through…media, education system, religion, art, science, the family) with political society dominating “through coercion” and civil society dominating “through consent.”

[20] In this situation there would not be traditional intellectuals, or those whom held a long-time monopoly on religious ideology, bond to schools, education, morality, and other societal values, tied to the landed aristocracy originally, gaining its own privileges over time, with the dominant group aiming too assimilate and conquer the “traditional” intellectuals.

[21] John Ortved, author of The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, as interviewed in Kondabalu’s documentary, says that FOX was desperate for content, Simpsons seems funny and weird, that Simpsons were huge, everywhere, international phenomenon.

[22] He recently  criticized the recent Simpsons episode discussed at the beginning of this article, saying they have reached “peak whiteness,” that the words from Lisa are “sad,” further adding that “The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress” and saying that “The Simpsons always critiqued pop culture, mocked hypocrisy & went after broken institutions. I LEARNED FROM THE BEST.”

[23] Sean O’Neal, “What can you do about Apu? The Simpsons used to know,” AV Club, Apr 9, 2018; Joshua Rivera, “Does The Simpsons Care About Its Racist Caricatures?,” GQ, Apr 9, 2018. Also see the personal narrative titled “What it’s like growing up with a dad like Apu.”  One of the other interviewees, Dr. Vivek Murphy, former Surgeon General, was bullied by a kid who spoke to him with an Indian accent.Kondabolu says that racist impression of Apu led him into comedy, tells his family story, history as a comedian, and that Apu “haunts him,” as he declared “war” on Apu in 2012 when on W. Kamau Bell‘s former show, Totally Biased, saying that Hank Azaria, a White Jewish man born in the Queens borough of New York City, who voices Apu, is a white guy doing an “impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” Even the now disgraced (because his pervy behavior) Aziz Ansari  is interviewed, noting that people insulted his father using the Apu accent, while actor Malulik Pancholy says that if there was an Indian person behind the counter he was afraid that his White friends would do the “Apu thing.”

[24] To take one example, Ambudkar says that while the Simpsons “stereotypes all races” (and peoples) including alcoholics, dead-beat dad, messed up kid, overachieving daughter, Italians, Chinese, and Japanese, the problem for South Asians specifically if that they didn’t have any other representation in such media. In another example, Ansari, who I noted before is basically a perv, asks why a show is called mainstream if it if full of white people.

[25] Kondabolu also interviews Mallika Pao of the Huffington Post, whom Azaria spoke to in 2015 about voicing Apu, saying he had not thought it was racist until he watched Kondabolu’s bit, and hadn’t thought about Apu from a South Asian perspective before that point. Later he interviews his parents, with his mothers saying that she is offended by it, while in a different way than Kondabolu’s generation, with both parents saying they don’t see themselves in Apu (or his family). Kondabolu then goes into more of his backstory in growing up in Queens, like Azaria, near 74th Street, noting that South Asians gather there, but says that if you grow up in U$ you’ll still be called Apu. This connects to his next two interviewees: Shilpa Dave, author of Indian Accents, says that many sequences involving Apu deal with immigration and race, but noted that when something was done in response to a universal norm, it was done in a stereotypical way, and Dr. Vivek Murphy, former Surgeon General, saying that stereotypes last for a while unless people tell their own story.  Later on, Kondabolu adds that there are few choices for the South Asian community, toy are either portrayed as one-dimensional or you let someone else do it, asking “is it better to be clowned or clown yourself?” After some Indian actors and actresses share their experiences, Kondabolu says that while Apu only said “thank you come again” eight times over the Simpsons history, the caricature has haunted Indian children for over a quarter century.

[26] It is here that Sakina Jaffrey defines patanking as being asked to speak in abroad Indian accent, with broad acting, and you do this in front of people. Another of his interviewees, Noureen DeWulf says that there is nothing wrong with an accent but that when an accent is part of a joke about a person, a racist dig, it is problematic.

[27] The documentary then focuses on an episode on Season 27 when Apu’s U$-born nephew, of Indian descent, is voiced by Ambudkar, whom says that the Simpsons asked him to do it, but says that in the end The Simpsons won, with the message to stop complaining, that everyone is stereotyped. Kondabolu  then reads an email from Azaria to him, saying that  the fact that Azaria chooses how he gets to be portrayed is ironic since this is all about misrepresentation of Indians. As the documentary closes, he says it shows that Indians can have exposure in media settings, that undeniable there has been progress  for South Asians over the last decade, that if the Simpsons can’t change then perhaps it should die, saying he will remember Seasons 1-10.

[28] Russell Contreras, “‘Simpsons’ reference to Apu criticism sparks backlash,” AP (reprinted in ABC News), Apr 9, 2018; Sean O’Neal, “What can you do about Apu? The Simpsons used to know,” AV Club, Apr 9, 2018; Joshua Rivera, “Does The Simpsons Care About Its Racist Caricatures?,” GQ, Apr 9, 2018. While Azaria said in January of this year that “the idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu on ‘The Simpsons,’ the voice or any other tropes of the character is distressing,” this belays the reality: that it has already happened.

[29] Shuja Hader, “Defending the Apu stereotype again? Maybe The Simpsons has run its course,” The Guardian, Apr 10, 2018; Allahpundit, “Today’s important controversy: “The Simpsons” thinks criticism of Apu is “politically correct”,” Hot Air, Apr 9, 2018; Brandon Morse, “The Simpsons Not Caving to SJW’s Politically Correct Pressure Is the Line in the Sand Society Needed,” Red State, Apr 4, 2018. The reactionaries have this fake idea of a “social justice warrior” or SJW, a concept which they created to demonize progressives. Their viewpoint was embraced by show writer Al Jean who said on twitter that “Respectfully Hank won an emmy for voicing the character in 1998. Only 20 years ago,” and that “no, I’m just saying Lisa’s statement was factual.”

[30] Shuja Hader, “Defending the Apu stereotype again? Maybe The Simpsons has run its course,” The Guardian, Apr 10, 2018; Carl Kinsella, “The latest Simpsons episode sums up how the show has completely lost its way,” Joe, Apr 9, 2018; Melenie McFarland, ““The Simpsons” just made its Apu problem worse — and proved its creative bankruptcy,” AlterNet (reprinted from Salon), Apr 9, 2018; Yohana Desta, “The Simpsons Still Doesn’t Understand the Problem with Apu,” Vanity Fair, Apr 9, 2018; Michael Cavna, “‘The Simpsons’ responds to criticism that Apu is a stereotype: ‘Don’t have a cow’,” Washington Post, Apr 9, 2018; Steph Harmon, “‘Don’t have a cow’: The Simpsons response to Apu racism row criticised as ‘toothless’,” The Guardian, Apr 9, 2018; Jen Cheney, “The Simpsons’ Apu Response Is What Happens When You’re on the Air for Too Long,” Vulture, Apr 9, 2018; Ryan Parker, “‘Simpsons’ Criticized for Response to Apu Controversy,” The Hollywood Reporter, Apr 9, 2018; Russell Contreras, “‘Simpsons’ reference to Apu criticism sparks backlash,” AP (reprinted in ABC News), Apr 9, 2018; Nicole Drum, “Fans Are Unhappy With How The Simpsons Handled Apu,” Comicbook, Apr 9, 2018; Johnny Lieu,  “People feel let down by ‘The Simpsons’ response to Apu stereotyping,” Mashable, Apr 9, 2018; Dan Snierson, “The Simpsons briefly addresses Apu controversy, causes more controversy,” Entertainment Weekly, Apr 9, 2018; Sean O’Neal, “What can you do about Apu? The Simpsons used to know,” AV Club, Apr 9, 2018; Joshua Rivera, “Does The Simpsons Care About Its Racist Caricatures?,” GQ, Apr 9, 2018; Linda Holmes, “‘The Simpsons’ To ‘The Problem With Apu’: Drop Dead,” NPR, Apr 9, 2018. Others have pointed out that “Apu wasn’t a contested character when the show began, but he is now” (so what), that the show missed the opportunity to acknowledge why “the depiction of Apu and his portrayal by a white man…have been offensive to many members of the South Asian community,” that the show should admit its mistakes, that the portrayal has always been “offensive, it’s just that the people hurt by it didn’t have a voice,” and  that “The Simpsons has not been relevant in years.”Some had deeper criticism, saying that “the suggestion that any change to Apu would rob The Simpsons of its essential spirit” is wrong, adding that the implication of the statement in the episode is “what matters most here is the show’s legacy,” adding that  “The Simpsons has generally earned the benefit of the doubt by being a sharp cultural satire in so many other respects” and that while the show has treated, in their mind, Apu well, becoming a “genuine, multidimensional character with a rich history and inner life.”

[31] In the capitalist system as a whole, “the dominant class” combats the “laboring class,” using facts that favor “the bourgeois class and damn…the working class and its politics,” to build off what Gramsci wrote, specifically talking about bourgeois newspapers. They also, as it is evident,  manipulate “public opinion according to the desires of the government and the capitalists.”

 

[32] Shuja Hader, “Defending the Apu stereotype again? Maybe The Simpsons has run its course,” The Guardian, Apr 10, 2018; Brandon Morse, “The Simpsons Not Caving to SJW’s Politically Correct Pressure Is the Line in the Sand Society Needed,” Red State, Apr 4, 2018.

[33] “Exhibit A: Examples of Media Bias,” Italic Institute of America, accessed Apr 10, 2018; “Shark Tale: The Complete Story,” Italic Institute of America, accessed Apr 10, 2018; “SHARK TALE – Overview, Argument, & Position Summary,” Italic Institute of America, accessed Apr 10, 2018. The Italic Way adds that the “equal opportunity offender” argument for defenders of the show is weakened “by the fact that the show’s writers take obvious pains to avoid heavy handed characterizations of all groups but Italian Americans.” However, the Italic Way seems to not focus enough on the “several African American characters that are featured…a decadent clown, is depicted Jewish…[and] a convenience store owner is depicted as Pakistani” (actually Indian, not Pakistani) claiming that all of these are “unaccompanied by dialogue or mannerisms which evoke the crudely negative…stereotypes as those heaped on Fat Tony and his gang, proving that the writers of the show are not nearly as bold and daring as they’d like us to believe,” saying the show does not get a pass of approval from them even though Tony and his mob are  limited to only certain episodes. This is a bit distorted as Apu is undeniably a racist stereotype, which is negative, but I see what they are saying. The Italic Institute of America added that the first film in the series, and by extension the two others, “criminalized the history of the Italian American immigrant experience and reaffirmed the belief that criminal behavior is an essential aspect of Italian culture,” creating a “billion-dollar spin-off industry which has spread to every conceivable media outlet in America,” further explained in this 6-page article.

[34] There are some funny ones, however (even with some ageism present for the older individuals), like: a businessman in the failing car industry, Herb Powell, Birch Barlow (parody of Rush Limbaugh),  Homer the drunk/dead-beat dad/working-class slob, Barney the drunk, Bart the bad boy; Dottering grandparents, Abraham “Abe” Simpson and Jacqueline Bouvier; 1960s radical, Mona; civil servant state comptroller Atkins who is of Canadian descent; Dottering Democrat Mary Bailey; Geeks/nerds Benjamin, Doug and Gary; Radio hosts Bill and Marty; Corporate lawyer, the Blue-haired lawyer, Booberella, student Wendell Borton (apparently of Mexican descent), local news anchor Kent Brockman, Marge and Homer’s baby, Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper (the dog), Snowball II the cat, Diabetic Dia-Betty, Blinky, male steward/flight attendant Clancy Bouvier, Sunday school teacher Ms. Albright, old man Jasper Beardly, capitalist Mr. Burns, Capital City Goofball, fat white nerd named Comic Book Guy, jailbird Snake, top scientist Professor Frink, Raphael, Superintendent Chalmers, unemployed father Kirk Van Houten, mentally ill cat owner Crazy Cat Lady, nuclear plant employee Charlie, Christian neighbor Ned Flanders, Sideshow Bob, quack doctor Dr. Nick, incompetent attorney Lionel Hutz, actor/salesperson Troy McClure, country singer Laureen Lumpkin, oil millionaire “The Rich Texan,” corrupt police chief Clancy Wiggum  (part Irish), bartender Moe Szyslak, and clueless police officer Eddie.

[35] Neither Apu’s wife, Manjula, Apu’s brother Sanjay (and his daughter), Apu’s mother, Apu’s cousin Navi, are voiced by those of Indian descent but only by White people. Only Jay, Apu’s nephew, is portrayed by a person of Indian descent, and he only has had two appearances in the show, one on which he voiced by a White person, while the children have no speaking parts.

[36] This isn’t a shock, as Hank Azaria voices 200 characters in all, over the show’s history, with other voice actors likely having comparable numbers! Also take the “Cleveland Show” which portended to be a “black” show: half of the main characters, who are all Black, are voiced by White individuals!

[37] As Schneider, if the Simpsons family is excluded from “the results become a bit less predictable, if not exactly surprising” with Mr. Burns speaking “the most words among supporting cast members, followed by Moe, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, and Krusty rounding out the top 5.” Apu, specifically, is listed as speaking 11-12,000 words, even more than Smithers! You could say the same dynamic is at work with Family Guy, which centers around the patriarch, Peter Griffin

[38] Melenie McFarland, ““The Simpsons” just made its Apu problem worse — and proved its creative bankruptcy,” AlterNet (reprinted from Salon), Apr 9, 2018; Carl Kinsella, “The latest Simpsons episode sums up how the show has completely lost its way,” Joe, Apr 9, 2018;  Jen Cheney, “The Simpsons’ Apu Response Is What Happens When You’re on the Air for Too Long,” Vulture, Apr 9, 2018.

[39] In the past, The Simpsons “gracefully and savagely deconstructed the foibles of white America, casting a withering gaze on subjects like gun ownership, right-wing broadcasters, the American school system, police incompetence and both Republicans and Democrats — all the while making charming, absurd and unexpected jokes.”

[40] I recently watched an episode, “Fears of a Clown,” with a storyline about Krusty  redeeming himself. It was emblematic of The Simpsons: it was entertaining but not funny. As Dennis Perkins of AV Club noted (Dennis Perkins, “Bart, Krusty, Marge, and Skinner unsuccessfully vie for our attention in a forgettable Simpsons,” AV Club, Apr 1, 2018), “…a handful of fine seasons can be cobbled together from episodes from the post-classic seasons, and the show is more harshly judged against itself than against any baseline of acceptable sitcom quality…sometimes The Simpsons rolls out an episode that’s so pale an approximation of its best that sticking up for it becomes an exercise in hand-waving and deep, deep sighs…[this episode] is…irrelevant in its hollow echoes of past, actually memorable, episodes. When the book on The Simpsons is finally closed…and the inevitable all-time episode rankings are compiled, “Fears Of A Clown” is one of those installments destined to elicit blank stares, even from die-hard fans. It barely exists…Plotting discipline remains one of latter-day Simpsons’ most dispiriting weaknesses, with the least memorable episodes heaping unrealized A- through C-stories atop each other as if hoping quantity will distract from how little of substance in happening.”

“A calamitous defeat”: Is “Kurdistan” a nation at all?

A map reprinted from an alternative website, which links to an article in Global Research saying that Washington sponsored the idea of a “Great Kurdistan.”

Note:  This article was written in late October 2017, so it is a bit dated. This article is the fourth of a four-part series, which never got published on Dissident Voice.

The previous article focused how Western imperialists have granted support to “Kurdistan” over the years. This article poses the question: is “Kurdistan” is a nation at all? This differs from previous analyses of the “Kurdish national question,” but I pursued my own course of analysis in writing this article and others in this series.

As was argued on /r/communism by one user, “from a Marxist-Leninist perspective they are not a nation, they are an ethnicity. To speak of “self determination” for them can only mean “ethnic self determination”, which is a Nazi belief, not a Marxist one.” This in line with users on the same forum agreeing that Kurds are co-operating with U$ imperialism while, at other times, there seemed to be disagreement on the subject.

It is not worth considering whether the referendum was “constitutional” or not, with the former argued by the KRG. Instead, let us consider the views of PRI’s interviewees on the referendum. Most, as is typical of bourgeois media, voiced support, speaking of the “will” for independence, saying that the Kurds “deserve” independence, that people should fight for “our rights,” and hoped for a stronger government. However, one interviewee said that “they [the KRG] pretend democracy, but they are more like dictators.” This in line with the idea that Kurdistan as Qatar’s Al Jazeera declared, that “Kurdistan” is basically a “kind of dream…buoyed by memories of a glorious past” with one person evening saying that “if countries in the region became more democratic and more welcoming of their Kurdish populations, the cries for an independent Kurdistan would quiet down” and the realization that “the country many dream of may not end up as the hoped-for Kurdish utopia.” This is a concern since the Kurds are described as “the largest ethnic group [in that region] without self-determination” and Westerners are coaxed into helping built “stable, democratic institutions,” for the Kurds. [1]

Let us consider that the Barzani family “governs the Iraqi Kurdistan with an iron fist” and is “historically connected to Israel.” Additionally, let us consider the words of the Qatari-backed and pro-terrorist outlet Middle East Eye, only because they even admit that “Kurdistan” in Northern Iraq is a complete and utter mess:

“…following several years of financial crisis and economic mismanagement, Erbil has racked up $30bn of debt, and the meagre salaries of public sector workers are routinely paid late. But the crunch has not been felt by all – cronyism is rife in the fiefdom, and the Barzani family have used their monopoly on power to amass a fortune while ruling over the ..KRG…Following several years of financial crisis and economic mismanagement, Erbil has racked up $30bn of debt, and the meagre salaries of public sector workers are routinely paid late…cronyism is rife in the fiefdom, and the Barzani family have used their monopoly on power to amass a fortune while ruling over the..KRG…That the upcoming referendum is more about President Barzani and the KRG’s elites ensuring their hold on power undermines the aspirations of some of the world’s most discriminated against people”

The same is the case for the neo-con magazine, Commentary, which says that “…the region was never democratic—the freest and fairest election it had was in 1992—and then the leaders simply massaged the process in order to maintain their hold.” They added that Barzani is “officially limited to two terms by the constitution, but got around the problem by extending his second term extra-legally” meaning that the region is “a dictatorship…[since] two ruling families dominate politics and society…Masud Barzani is a dictator.” Beyond this, there are also reports that “Barzani family members alone took 600 billion dollars from the Kurdish people’s oil income and…[the] Talabani side shared 50 % of that oil money, too, which means they made 600 billion dollars to be divided among Talabani sides.” Then there is the words of the alternative site, Moon of Alabama, which sometimes goes off the rails (but not this time), arguing that the recent referendum was more “to do with the beleaguered situation of the illegitimate regional president Barzani than with a genuine opportunity to achieve independence.” They added that “Arabs, Turks, and Persians see the Kurds as a recalcitrant nomadic mountain tribe and stooge of Israeli interests” and that basically “Kurdish independence…would be the start of another decade of war – either between the Kurdish entities and the nations around them, or within the ever disunited Kurdish tribes themselves.” Finally there are the words of Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian Parliament’s General Director for International Affairs, who said that “Barzani’s call for independence means further strengthening of ISIL and Tel Aviv, a new anarchy in the region and instability.” This is fundamentally the case.

Still, these realities or the data collected by the Rand Corp, an appendage of the imperial war machine, do not answer the question on whether “Kurdistan” is a nation or not. Sarah Abed, in a series of articles in Mint Press News seems to raise doubts as to whether the Kurds are a nation. In her first article on the subject, she writes that

“Kurdistan—Land of the Kurds—exists only in two spheres. One is on maps sold in bazaars wherever the Kurdish language is spoken. The other is on yellow-red-and-green flags Kurds sometimes wave in the countries where they actually reside (according to maps sold everywhere else in the world).Yet in one of those countries, the Kurds have built themselves a state in all but name”

In the second, she argues that Kurds are even more devious, not even having their own culture, stealing it from others, with the same being the case with their land, with “much if not all of the land in Eastern Turkey that the Kurds claim as their own once belonged to the Armenians.” She goes on to say that Kurds assisted in the 1915 genocide of Armenians and of Assyrians, along with dwelling in cities which were only recently established as theirs “as a means of drawing their eyes away from the oil-rich lands in and around the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.” As a result, large migrations of Kurds into the area often displaced “Assyrians who had far greater legal and historical claims to these lands.” Add to this, she argues, that Kurdistan will be defined by where “Kurds happen to dwell at any given point” and were easily used as a “pawn of U.S. interests” while Kurds began, in July 2014, “systematic disarmament of Assyrians and several other ethnic groups so that it could use their weapons in its own struggle” which left these groups at the mercy of Daesh. She argues that this is a “deliberate ploy by the Kurdish leadership to allow foreign forces to violently cleanse these areas of all non-Kurdish residents and then…retake and “liberate their lands.” She later argues that

“…the Kurds would have a vested interest in claiming Arab, Assyrian or Armenian history as their own…they often resort to destroying any relevant history altogether…Kurds claim that their “Kurdistan” is “multicultural and multireligious,” which is disingenuous when you consider that those additional cultures consist of people now dwelling amongst a Kurdish majority in lands the Kurds took by force. These people will be faced with the prospect of casting meaningless votes on Kurdish independence since, even if they all voted “no,” they would nonetheless be outvoted by the Kurdish “yes” majority…Kurdish history in the 20th century is marked by a rising sense of Kurdish nationhood focused on the goal of establishing an independent Kurdistan in accordance with the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920…The state of Kurdistan has simply never existed…The Kurds have a centuries-long history of persecuting minority groups, having committed genocide against them with alarming frequency…It is important to reiterate that there are many Kurds to whom some of the characterizations presented in this analysis cannot and should not be applied. There are Kurds who have assimilated into their current cultural societies and reject the ideals of the separatist Kurds. Their concerns are mostly political in nature and specific to the nations in which they reside. They are not interested in establishing a united Kurdish country…In fact, these Kurds have faced discrimination from the Kurdish community as a result of their unwillingness to support the establishment of a Kurdish state…The Kurds have gained popularity through effectively marketing themselves to Western audiences as revolutionary, feminist, Marxist “freedom fighters”…Up until recently, Kurds with separatist ambitions were seen in a positive light. But their hidden agenda has now been exposed and their true intentions revealed…To support the Kurds’ demands for autonomy, and the establishment of a federation at the expense of others in the region, is illegal, profoundly illogical, and a violation of human rights”

If what Sarah Abed says has any validity then the Kurds cannot claim they are a nation and hence their claim for independence as a “nation” and a “nation-state” is fundamentally flawed. The Syrians recognize the danger of this, even discussing with the Russians and a PKK leader a number of issues: “the future of the YPG, the future of US bases…in the YPG-occupied areas, and a political solution to the Kurdish question in Syria.” Whether the Syrian state does the same as Iraq in creating an autonomous area within their country for the Kurds is possible. However, considering the fact that they have been under imperialist assault since the 1960s, especially more intense since 2013, it is likely that Kurds will be granted additional rights but not an autonomous area, a concept which could be exploited by power-hungry Western imperialists.

This discussion is nothing new. In 1973, the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party in Iraq wrote a political report titled “Revolutionary Iraq 1968-1973.” They noted, in one chapter about the Iraqi revolution, as they called it, talking about the Kurds:

“The Kurdish national movement in Iraq, despite some historical circumstantial errors and reactionary isolationist trends some of which were on openly good terms with imperialism and reactionary circles, is essentially a legitimate national movement so long as it works within the framework of national rights for the Kurdish people within the Republic of Iraq. Autonomous Kurdish rule is realistic and justified…the problem has become very complicated because of foreign interventions, the chauvinistic and dictatorial attitudes of the former reactionary regimes towards the Kurd’s legitimate rights….The Party had to find a solution, theoretical and practical, that would satisfy the national aspirations of our Kurdish masses while protecting the territorial unity of the land and the unity of the national progressive movement without conflicting with the aims of the Arab struggle…the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party often did not behave in the spirit of national unity and sincere alliance with the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party…in spite of all the errors and negative aspects, the peaceful democratic method of the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party in tackling the Kurdish Question has proved to be correct and has yielded significant positive results…After four years of persistent struggle to solve the Kurdish Question peacefully and democratically, the general political, psychological and economic trends of the Kurdish masses are no longer as they used to be before the March announcement. Large sections of our Kurdish people are now finding their lives more secure and peaceful than ever before…The peaceful solution of the Kurdish Question is also another sign of democracy, In addition to its significant aspect in consolidating national unity, political independence and social progress in the country, it has provided the opportunity for the first time to create a democratic climate for our Kurdish people to practice their national rights, political, social and cultural activities on a very large scale.”

This statement does draw into question the story told by the Kurds who want their own nation and fundamentally a new nation-state, showing that the Iraqi government understood, at least at one point, that the Kurds were justified in their push for self-determination. Even Kim Il Sung, in 1971, congratulated the Iraqi people and government on the “successful solution of the Kurd national problem in Iraq,” further saying that “the peaceful, democratic solution of the Kurd national problem is a telling blow to the imperialists and an important measure which makes it possible to strengthen the anti-imperialist people’s front and further intensify the anti-U.S., anti-Israeli struggle in Iraq.”

However, if the Kurds were not a nation, fundamentally and just an ethnicity, then the Iraqi approach at the time would be even more justified. One Marxist writer even pointed out, in 1979, that two important ayatollahs in Iran called Kurdish leaders “agents of Savak, Zionists and corrupt sources,” while Saddam Hussein reportedly was “arming some Kurds to start a revolt within Iran.” Kurds seem to be pawns, now and throughout their history, of Western imperialists. Still, we cannot paint all of them with the same brush. There are Kurds, as I’ve written in the past, who support federalism in Syria, and also support federalism in Iraq. Not all are separatist, wanting to form an “independent” nation.

Whether the Kurds are an “oppressed nationality” is up to the reader. But this writer thinks that is drawn into question considering that certain Kurds have been used for pawns. They gotta serve somebody, and those somebodies are in the West, not in the Mideast. Clearly US imperialism has re-positioned itself to support certain Kurds in Syria, but there is another reality. A new state in the region would be the paradise of capitalists, getting to the level of Cuba before the revolution’s success in 1959. Additionally, they want a nation-state conceived in a bourgeois way, following what Rosa Luxembourg pointed out in 1909, that ““Nation-states” are today the very same tools and forms of class rule of the bourgeoisie as the earlier, non-national states, and like them they are bent on conquest. The nation-states have the same tendencies toward conquest, war, and oppression – in other words, the tendencies to become “not-national.”” Fundamentally, this is a bourgeois concept.

As the Marxist Internet Archive defines it, a nation-state is when a nation combines with a state, with “the state being an instrument of force which is able to dominate the people of a nation, representing the social interests of the dominant class with that nation.” This is not something that should be cheered or supported. Instead, those with sense should support those Kurds who push for the maintenance of federalist systems in their respective countries, Syria or Iraq, oppose the creation of “Kurdistan,” strongly oppose outside interference by the West, and ally with the proletariat in those countries, along with Communist parties in those countries (i.e. Iraqi Communist Party and Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash)) at minimum. [2] This would all be within the right of any ethnicity, but especially those in countries under imperialist attack. While some may argue, rightly, that Syria and Iraq are not socialist states, it is not the job of those in the West to determine how peoples in those countries engage in revolution but it should be up to the people n those respective countries, with those outside offering international solidarity and support if they deem it necessary. In the case of “Kurdistan,” this should not be supported by any thinking comrade, as it will assist Zionist expansionism, Saudi expansionism, and Western imperialism in dividing up the region. This is not beneficial for the well-being of those who live in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, or those living in any other area. In the end, what happens next, whether they see the Kurds as a nation or they don’t, is up to any comrade who reads the articles in this series.


Notes

[1] Aliza Marcus and Andrew Apostolou, “Why It’s Time for a Free Kurdistan,” The Daily Beast, Nov. 25, 2015.

[2] The same would also be the case in Iran except that the country does not have a strong and established Left, so that would need to be built from the ground up. The existing communist party, Tudeh, is in exile and seems to, unfortunately, mesh with the criticisms of the country’s government by Western imperialists. If this turns out to be incorrect, then perhaps Tudeh can be useful as a force that can challenge the existing political system in Iran.

“A calamitous defeat”: The Western imperialists and “Kurdistan”

A map of “Kurdistan” from a pro-Kurdish website, showing how its creation would assist Western imperialism due to its tentacles reaching into Syria, Iraq, and Iran, along with Turkey of course.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Mar 16, 2018.

Continuing from the last article, this article focuses on the support Western imperialists have granted “Kurdistan” over the years.

The Turkish government, predictably anti-Kurdish, is opposed to an independent Kurdistan, along with the U$ officially (under Obama and now under the orange menace), the Iraqi, Iranian, and Syrian governments, all feeling it will threaten regional stability at a time that the Syrian war seems to be coming to a close. [1] The only government that seems to fully support independence is the Zionist state (and reportedly the Saudis), seeming to hint that Ali Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may be onto something when he recently said that “Barzani is a middleman for Zionists [whose goal is] to disintegrate Islamic countries” and called Kurdistan a “second Israel.” Of course, Russophobic imperialist Chuck Schumer supports an independent Kurdistan, as does a political party in the Western puppet state of Kosovo, the chieftain of the Arab al-Jobouri grouping in Kirkuk, the pseudo “nationalistic” PKK, the Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, and Assyrian Party. Additionally, the traitorous Greek government, which surrendered before the altar of the European Troika, Catalonia, and the Swedish government, which serves the Western imperialists with glee, also voiced their support.

Radicals, even on seem to be divided on the question of an “independent Kurdistan.” Perhaps this is because the Iraqi Communist Party endorsed the referendum, saying that they “recognize the right of self-determination for all peoples, small and large, and their right to express their free will, including the formation of a national state” but that the “restructuring of the federal state…cannot be decided unilaterally by a particular party” and hoping that “hostility between the Arab and Kurdish peoples” is not increased, instead pushing for the unity of the country with no alternative to dialogue.” This measured response, as you could call it, does not necessarily take into account all of the factors at play here, as will be discussed in this article. There has been the use of force by the Iraqi government to maintain control of the “Kurdistan” region. [2] As Andre Vletchek, who is revisionist but often well-spoken, said recently,

“…the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq…is clearly a ‘client’ state of the West, of Turkey and to some extent, Israel. It is shamelessly capitalist, taking land from its own people, cheating them, just in order to pump and refine huge quantities of oil. It treats Syrian refugees like animals, forcing them to make anti-Assad statements. It is turning ancient Erbil into some bizarre shopping mall with nothing public in sight. Its military top brass is mainly US/UK-trained and indoctrinated. And it provokes Baghdad, day and night…If Iraqi Kurds were allowed to have their ‘independence’, the impact on the region would be huge and certainly negative. Baghdad should not allow it, even at the cost of an armed confrontation.”

Adding to this, Kirkuk was transformed from “a majority Turkmen community to a Kurdish one starting in 1991” with the marginalization of the Turkmen winning “little sympathy outside” as their “identity and ethnic rights are completely overshadowed by Kurdish separatists and their foreign partners and lackeys.” Furthermore, it is worth noting that “Kirkuk is no more a part of Kurdish Iraq than nearby Mosul is, and Kurdish rights to Kirkuk has never been part of the semi-autonomous understanding between Iraqi Kurds and Baghdad.” Let us also take into account what James Petras said about the Kurds in the 1990s and more recently:

“In the case of Iraq in the 1990’s, Kurds were sponsored, armed, funded and defended by the US and Israel in order to weaken and divide the secular-nationalist Iraqi republic. Kurds, again with US support, have organized regional conflicts in Turkey and more recently in Syria, in order to defeat the independent government of Bashar Assad. Leftist Kurds cynically describe their imperial allies, including the Israelis, as ‘progressive colonialists’. In brief, the Kurds act as surrogates for the US and Israel: They provide mercenaries, access to military bases, listening and spy posts and resources in their newly ‘liberated (and ethnically cleansed) country’, to bolster US imperialism, which ‘their warlord leaders’ have chosen as the dominant ‘partner’. Is their struggle one of national liberation or mercenary puppetry in the service of empire against sovereign nations resisting imperial and Zionist control?…The Kurdish ‘freedom fighters’, followed ethnic warlords who were funded by the US and Israel, and took over town, cities, oil resources and territory to serve as imperial military bases against the sovereign governments of Iraq, Iran and Syria. In this context, the Kurdish warlords and oligarchs are loyal vassals and an integral component of the long-standing US-Israeli policy aimed at dividing and weakening independent allies of Palestine, Yemen and genuine liberation movements…Kurds, Tibetans, fascist Ukrainian nationalists, Uighurs and other so-called freedom fighters turn out to be military Sepoys for aggressive US incursion against independent China, Iran and Russia. Leftist backers of these dubious ‘liberation movements’ tag along behind the empire.”

There is more beyond what he is saying. The general narrative within the bourgeois media is that the West is annoyed by the “Kurdistan” referendum and that Israel (and the Saudis as is talked about very little) is the only ally an “independent” state in that region has. The reality as noted in part 1 and part 2 of this series, and alluded above, is very different. For one, these Kurds aim to exploit ethnic strains and reinforce the “legitimacy of the Kurdish leadership before a drive for outright independence and any negotiations that might involve.” This is despite the fact that the Turkish government seems ready to “impose further sanctions on northern Iraq over the referendum,” the Iraqi government has put in place an “international flights ban on Kurdish airports” and stopped all “foreign currency transfers to the region” while Barzani hangs onto power beyond his second term which was supposed to end in 2013. As their push for independence seems aimed to “capitalize on their contribution to the war on Islamic State,” Western imperialists are smiling in glee. [3]

An “independent” state in “Kurdistan” would open the door to directly attacking Iran even more than in the past. Considering that Iran is mutually obligated to defend Syria, supports forces such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, is militarily supported by revisionist China and Russia, while it is a “crucial link in the North South Transportation Corridor (NTSC)” and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), this could destabilize the region to say the least. Even if a “direct American attack on Iran is even more unthinkable than in the past,” covert action is not “unthinkable.” Recently Mike Pompeo, the newly crowned CIA director declared that the CIA will need to “become a much more vicious agency” in fighting enemies, which will inevitably mean, from his own career, supporting Saudi expansionism, undermining Russia, Syria, Juche Korea, and Iran covertly, along with any other entity (or person) that threatens the murderous empire. This is the face of U$ imperialism, manifested by the arrogance of orange menace himself (who some falsely claimed would be “non-interventionist” based on misreading his campaign rhetoric), which seems even more blatant than Obama. The murderous Zionist state is undoubtedly pleased by the number of Zionists currently in the U$ Administration.

It goes beyond Iran. While publicly oil man and U$ Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declares that “the vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq…We urge calm and an end to vocal recrimination and threats of reciprocal actions,” the underlying reality is different. Western imperialism would benefit from “further instability in the entire Middle East,” as more ethnic tensions between “Arabs, Kurds or Iranians,” caused by this “divisive scheme,” as Hezbollah’s Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called it, will favor “Israel and the US, helping their weapons-manufacturing factories make a fortune.” Even more so, a new state in “Kurdistan” would hurt Syria, which has seemingly been victorious in the war against Western (and Gulf-backed) terrorist forces, a time when the county begins to rebuild, increase production, research, and investment across the economy, as SANA recently described. The West wants the division of “Iraq into Kurdish and Arab regions, launching a first stage in the process of partition and disintegration,” as the Kurds can easily be used, especially by the US, “against regimes it does not like.” Even more so, considering the seemingly “soft” approach of the Russians to the Kurds as has been evidenced in recent years (which is a bit complicated), an independent state in the “Kurdistan” region could create a wedge between Iran, Syria, and Russia at a time that the latter two countries are working to boost “bilateral relations between the two countries in the field of investment,” including having investment “partnerships with the Russian side in the field of exploring oil and gas.” The latter action benefits the Russian bourgeoisie even as it moves Syria even further out of the Western capitalist orbit.

The “powder keg” of an “independent” state in “Kurdistan,” is relished by Western imperialists who see it as a “romance of a free Kurdistan,” which is opposed strongly by Turkmen and Arab groups. Biden even declared, two years ago that dividing Iraq into three “semi-autonomous regions” (Sunni, Shia, and Kurd) “would have worked” if has been done back in 2006, and idea supported by elements within the US intelligence establishment. This declaration was based in an op-ed in the NY Times he had written in 2006 with Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus of the elitist Council on Foreign Relations, declaring that this was a good idea:

“…The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests. We could drive this in place with irresistible sweeteners for the Sunnis to join in…As long as American troops are in Iraq in significant numbers, the insurgents can’t win and we can’t lose…The alternative path out of this terrible trap has five elements. The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection…things are already heading toward partition…a breakup is already under way” [4]

This op-ed had four other elements but are not of importance here except that are part of an imperialistic, genocidal plan that would have caused chaos in the Middle East some still think is a good idea! Its mind-boggling.

A new state in “Kurdistan” would create “important political and economic problems for the neighboring nations of Turkey and Iran, as well as for the Iraqi central government” as Rand Corp declared some time ago. As some declare that the Kurds “deserve to be allowed to try” to create an “independent” state, which be a client of the imperialist powers, U$ representatives came together in a bipartisan effort to support it, saying that it could serve as a beacon to further U.S. interests in the Middle East,” while the U$ likely still has the five military bases in the region that it set up in July of last year. These imperialists don’t seem to worry that “a free Kurdish state…will cause dissolution of a free Iraq” with that millions of people voting in the referendum that lived in disputed areas, throwing into question if the referendum is legal at all or even valid in the slightest. [5] Lest us forget, as the CIA even admits, there were U$ special forces and CIA peoples in “Iraqi Kurdistan in advance of the opening of the Iraq War in 2003,” with a CIA-trained “Kurdish sabotage team [which] infiltrated regime territory to destroy a railway and 90-car train that supplied the Iraqi V Corps,” and that in 1991, the US and its allies imposed “a no-fly zone in the north that allowed Kurds to enjoy self-rule” while the two Kurdish political parties (KDP and PUK) “co-operated with the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.” [6] This makes no surprise that in recent days these Kurds have met with the Brits, the US envoy, the Germans, the Italians, and the Dutch. Michael Springmann, a former US diplomat, is undoubtedly right that the U$ specifically “encourages the Kurds to rebel against the government of Iraq,” with the US and the murderous Zionist state “doing their best for quite some time now to divide Iraq.” Add to this that Netanyahu has been trying to convince the Western imperialists to openly support the Kurds against the Iraqi army, specifically “lobbying” the Germans, the Russians, the French, and the U$, seeing them as “a deeply pro-Western people who deserve support.” [7] But of course this news obscures that the US and UK support an “independent Kurdistan” with a clause “in the US-framed Iraqi constitution granting Kurds a degree of autonomy” while ethnic cleansing of Turkmen people is undoubtedly occurring.

The bourgeois media and their lackeys seem to peddle the idea that “Kurdistan” as it currently exists is a paragon of “good governance” and an “island of relative peace in a war-torn country since the US-led invasion in 2003” or even openly saying that having the region be independent would be “a significant check on both Iranian and Turkish power.” [8] The reality, especially of the former claim, is different. The NY Times admitted this much in their front-page article on “Kurdistan” on October 1:

“With its troubled economy and dearth of democratic institutions…Kurds…may have set back their national aspirations…[the KRG] lacks…rule of law, free and fair elections, civil society and a legislature with real power to challenge a dynastic executive leadership…Barzani…remains in power two years after his term has expired…the government is a Barzani family enterprise…the Kurdish economy is in dire straits [with low oil prices]…for the Kurdish leadership there is no going back” [9]

Add to this the view of a former Saudi official, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud who argued that “the constitution that they put in place after the American invasion allows for communities in Iraq to call for referenda on whether they are Iraqi or not.” Even Vijay Pershad, who admits he is “a little sympathetic to the fact that the Kurds of this region have a very longstanding claim to some kind of national home,” says that there has been “some [vote] rigging, of course,” and that “Mr. Barzani, in a way to consolidate his own personal power has really put the Kurdish question on the wrong plate.” Another supporter of Kurdish “independence,” a Zionist writing in Haaretz, admitted himself that the idea that “Kurdistan” is a “progressive, democratic and prosperous country” is fundamentally an “illusion” since the region is a mess:

“Masoud Barzani’s term as the elected president ended in 2013, his parliament-appointed term expired in 2015, and two years later he is still in power and shows no signs of quitting. Even if he does eventually step down, the Barzani family controls key institutions and jobs in and out of government,..Iraqi Kurdistan’s Parliament was suspended two years ago and since then has met only once – this month, to approve the referendum that was held on Monday…the Kurdish economy…depends on oil…Seventy percent of the Kurdish workforce is employed by the state…in 2014, the economy tanked. Unemployment is probably in the double digits, construction has ground to a halt, and the government has run up debts…Kurdistan has…none of the tools an ordinary government has at its disposal, such as a currency it can devalue or access to international funding…Kurdistan is, in fact, looking more like many of the other “stans”…repressive, corrupt regimes presiding over economies based on oil, gas and crony capitalism” [10]

While the idea of “crony capitalism” is one that is false in that it doesn’t recognize the reality of capitalism (just like the idea of “regulated capitalism” solving the dictatorship of the capitalist class), his observations are valid ones. The Western conception that “Kurdistan” is basically “an island of peace and stability surrounded by sectarian strife and civil wars” is an utter myth with the “Good” Kurds (by Western standards) abandoning “their dream of independence in lieu of establishing Iraq as a federal, democratic republic” in 2005, recognizing that “the United States has no friends in Iraq or Syria except the Kurds,” as one put it. The additional idea as declared by the milquetoast (and bourgeois) “peace” organization, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in 2014, that “the map of the Middle East is on the verge of changing much to the benefit of the Kurds” is more laughable now than ever. Even if Turkey’s ruling party was “ready to accept an independent Kurdish state in what is currently northern Iraq” the same year, doesn’t mean that they will now.

There is one aspect that many are not admitting: the interconnection of the Kurds in Syria and Iraq. In 2013, as chaos spread across Syria thanks to Western and Gulf-backed terrorists, 20,000 Kurds from Syria streamed into “the Kurdish north of Iraq” with Barzani even saying he would “intervene to protect Syrian Kurds in their fight against jihadists.” [11] As a result, it could be said that support for Kurdish “independence” in the Mideast is meant to fracture the region. Already, as noted in my article on the illegal entity of Rojava, Iranians and Syrians opposed this, but also that Kurds in northern Iraq benefit from black gold undoubtedly:

“…ExxonMobil, along with Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, Total SA, and BP, showed interest in Iraqi Kurdistan, with a registered branch office in the region, and signed, in 2011, six production sharing contracts “covering more than 848,000 acres” in the region, with Rex Tillerson, the current US Secretary of State, having a role in, as one article put it, “placing the company’s financial interests above the American goal of creating a stable, cohesive Iraq”…The agreements that ExxonMobil made were strongly opposed by the Iraqi government. Even though ExxonMobil pulled out of half its holdings in 2016, like other companies had years before…it would be no surprise that they want to exploit the oil in Syria”

The Kurds realize this and curry favor with Western capitalists. In 2012 alone they had already engaged 49 illegal foreign oil contracts (Production Sharing Agreements) especially in the Zagros Fold Belt region which is rich in black gold, which forced “Baghdad’s hand in finalising the oil law that has been pending for years” reportedly. Add to this that the Turks have many business ties in the region, with “about 1,300 Turkish companies having business ties with the autonomous region” as do the Russians, with the KRG signing a “20-year-long deal with Russia’s Rosneft to cooperate on the exploration and production of hydrocarbons” with the Russian company Gazprom Neft also “currently engaged in three oil projects in the region.”

With all these business ties and instability, there is one question worth asking and ending with, considering something that most will not even consider, as argued in the last article in this series: are the Kurds a nation, envisioned in “Kurdistan,” at all?


Notes

[1] BBC News, “Iraq Kurdistan independence referendum planned,” Jul 1, 2014; Roy Gutman, “Kurds agree to postpone independence referendum,” The Star, Sept. 5, 2014; RFE/RL, “Iraqi Kurdish Leader Calls For Nonbinding Vote On Independence,” Feb. 3, 2016; Mewan Dolarmi, “PM Barzani: Mosul could be liberated within three months,” Kurdistan24, Oct. 31, 2016; The Iran Project, “Iraqi Kurdistan’s ‘Unilateral’ referendum plan only to cause new problems: Iran,” Jun 10, 2017; Rudaw, “Iraqi delegation under Allawi to visit Erbil about Kurdish referendum plan,” Jun 11, 2017. Khamenei said that “Iran opposes holding talks of a referendum to partition #Iraq and considers those who fuel the idea as opponents of Iraq’s independence.” Even the governments of Australia, Germany, Spain, and the UK are wary of an independent Kurdistan. Also Iraq’s Christians are wary of this move for independence, as is the PLO, the Iraqi Turkmen Front. The referendum was temporarily delayed because the Kurds were willing to work with the Iraqi forces to fight Daesh.

[2] David Zucchino and Margaret Coker, “Iraq Escalates Dispute With Kurds, Threatening Military Action,” New York Times, Sept. 27, 2017; David Zucchino, “Iraq Orders Kurdistan to Surrender Its Airports,” New York Times, Sept. 26, 2017.

[3] Maher Chmaytelli, “Iraqi Kurds face more sanctions after calling elections,” Reuters, Oct 3, 2017.

[4] Joe Biden and Leslie H. Gelb, “Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq,” New York Times, op-ed, May 1, 2006.

[5] Nabih Bulos and Tracy Wilkinson, “Iraqi Kurds vote on creating an independent Kurdistan — but big obstacles stand in the way,” LA Times, Sept 25, 2017; Eli Lake, “The Kurdish People Lost a Revolutionary and a Statesman,” Bloomberg View, Oct. 3, 2017.

[6] BBC, “Who are the Kurds?,” BBC News, Mar 14, 2016.

[7] Dan Williams, “Netanyahu lobbies world powers to stem Iraqi Kurd setbacks,” Reuters, Oct. 20, 2017.

[8] Caroline B. Glick, “The strategic case for Kurdistan,” Jerusalem Post, Aug. 31, 2017.

[9] David Zucchino, “Kurds Vote for Independence Only Adds to Their Obstacles,” NY Times, Oct 1, 2017.

[10] David Rosenberg, “Independent Kurdistan Looks Like a Zimbabwe in the Making,” Haaretz opinion, Sept. 28, 2017.

[11] Martin Chulov, “Syrian Kurds continue to flee to Iraq in their thousands,” The Guardian, Aug. 18, 2013.

“A calamitous defeat”: Lenin’s words on self-determination and Zionist imperialism

Lenin speaking before Russian workers.

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Mar 9, 2018.

Note:  This article was written in late October 2017, so it is a bit dated. This article is the second of a four-part series, which never got published on Dissident Voice. I wrote this before I had defined the Zionist state fully as a murderous Zionist apartheid state, but what I say here is still valid.

Continuing from the previous article of this series, which focused on Stalin’s words about self-determination and supporting national struggles, especially in regards to the “Kurdistan” referendum, comes the words of another revolutionary: Vladimir Lenin.

Lenin’s words on self-determination

Lenin, like Stalin, also strongly supported the right of self-determination, in the waning days of the Russian revolutionary fervor which would eventually blossom into the Great October Socialist Revolution, called the “Russian Revolution” in the West, creating the world’s first socialist state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) by 1922 after many years of a Soviet/Bolshevik government. In 1913 he said that that the expediency of self-determination is something different from the right itself, saying that this right is important in the “fight against the abscess of nationalism in all its forms.” This is different from the broadly “accepted” definition of self-determination in current political discourse, especially in bourgeois politics in the West. [1] Basically, Lenin was saying that nations had the right to secede and form an “independent national state.” While Stalin, seemed to imply that when a state is “tied up with certain imperialist groups, and…cannot escape the great play of forces that is going on outside,” using Yugoslavia as an example, that it should not be supported, saying that the right to self-determination is not an obligation or duty but rather something that a nation may take advantage of or not, Lenin took a clearer stand.

In 1914, Lenin wrote that “the period of the final victory of capitalism over feudalism has been linked up with national movements” and that there is a tendency of every national movement towards “the formation of national states.” He further made the conclusion that “self-determination of nations means the political separation of these nations from alien national bodies, and the formation of an independent national state,” noted that all sorts of states are “entirely dependent, economically, on the power of the imperialist finance capital of the “rich” bourgeois countries” with such countries beginning to “oppress other nations and to enslave colonies.” In the following chapter of this book, The Right of Nations to Self-Determination, he noted that the “categorical requirement of Marxist theory in investigating any social question is that it be examined within definite historical limits” and having an account taken distinguishing the country from others “in the same historical epoch,” taking into account “historical and concrete state conditions.” In the case of “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq, no state currently exists, and is not technically a nation as the whole nation of Kurds would, if we are to accept the claims of bourgeois scholars, cover the borders of varying countries in the region. Historical context and distinguishing it from other nations is important going forward.

Before getting to that point it worth recalling that the bourgeoisie often assumes “leadership at the start of every national movement,” even while the proletariat has different goals, with absurdity coming into the picture with a “demand for a “yes” or “no” reply to the question of secession” as it leads to “subordinating the proletariat to the bourgeoisie’s policy.” In terms of the current referendum, this subordination has undoubtedly happened, as only two choices were afforded them: Hiyat (no) and Evet (Yes). No other choices were floated. This seems to imply, using Lenin’s wording, that the referendum itself was tailored in such a way to benefit the up-and-coming Kurdish bourgeoisie and not the proletariat. No other choices were offered if one views the ballot, in Assyrian, Kurdish, Arabic, and Turkish, itself. Translating the Turkish wording, the question for the referendum is almost a leading question, imposing, almost hard to say “no” to:

Do you want the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, including the Kurdistan Regional Administration and the contested areas?

This makes it no surprise that by a sweeping margin, the Kurds of northern Iraq voted for independence. Due to that, President Masoud Barzani of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) declared that the non-binding referendum was “a normal, legal right of our people,” and is about the “about the destiny of a whole people,” which was originally voted on in 2005 in a non-binding measure, one year after the US and UK-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority ended its governance of Iraq. [2] Barzani also bellowed that anyone who opposes the referendum is against the “the peaceful, democratic right of people to express their own decisions about their destiny” and ultimately “against democracy.”

Lenin goes on to say, that in some cases, the masses “resort to secession only when national oppression and national friction make joint life absolutely intolerable and hinder any and all economic intercourse” meaning that, as a result, “the interests of capitalist development and of the freedom of the class struggle will be best served by secession.” He adds that self-determination of a nation is connected to the “self-determination of the proletariat within a given nation,” fighting for equal rights of nations, and a “close, unbreakable alliance in the class struggle of the proletarians of all nations in a given state…irrespective of any reshaping of the frontiers of the individual states by the bourgeoisie.” He even says that to “brush aside the mass national movements once they have started, and to refuse to support what is progressive in them means, in effect, pandering to nationalistic prejudices,” and that there will predictably be “hopeless confusion on the national question” disseminated by “a group of nationalist philistines” who want to split the proletariat. It is an open question if the whole conception of Kurdish independence is meant to create confusion and split the proletariat in the region. This is not beyond question. There will continue to be “bourgeois strivings for national exclusiveness” without a doubt.

As thoughtful individuals and committed comrades, we should also demand freedom of self-determination for oppressed nations, but also want the “fusion of nations…on a truly democratic, truly internationalist basis.” At the same time, Lenin argued that while the “real eradication of national oppression leads to the fusion of nations,” the freedom to secede is “the best and the only political means against the idiotic system of petty states and national isolation.” In the case of “Kurdistan,” it could be argued that the current federalist system, based in Islamic democracy, is “truly democratic,” a fusion of nations. The constitution itself seems to indicate this reality to an extent:

“[Article 1:] The Republic of Iraq if a single federal, independent and fully sovereign state in which the system of government is republican, representative, parliamentary, and democratic…[Article 3:] Iraq is a country of multiple nationalities, religions, and sects…[Article 4:] The Arabic language and the Kurdish language are the two official languages of Iraq…[Article 5:] The law is sovereign. The people are the source of authority and legitimacy, which they shall exercise in direct, general, secret ballot and through their constitutional institutions…[Article 10:] The holy shrines and religious sites of Iraq are religious and civilizational entities…[Article 13:] This constitution is the preeminent and supreme law in Iraq and shall be binding in all parts of Iraq without exception…[Article 14:] Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, origin, color, religion, sect, belief or opinion, or economic or social status…[Article 18:] Iraqi citizenship is a right for every Iraqi and is the basis of his nationality…[Article 20:] Iraqi citizens…shall have the right to participate in public affairs…[Article 22:] Work is a right for all Iraqis…[Article 109:] The federal authorities shall preserve the unity, integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Iraq and its federal democratic system…[Article 117:] This Constitution, upon coming into force, shall recognize the region of Kurdistan…as a federal region”

However, it is not, by reading through the constitution “truly democratic” or even “truly internationalist,” only a little bit of both, so this isn’t the “fusion of nations” that Lenin was writing about one bit.

In 1916, Lenin wrote about self-determination again in two more pieces. In the first, he noted that part of “victorious socialism” was not only achieving complete democracy and bringing about “the complete equality of nations,” but supporting the “right of oppressed nations to self-determination, i.e., the right to free political secession,” freeing such “enslaved nations” and establishing religions with them “on the basis of a free union.” He further adds that self-determination of nations is feasible with “the domination of finance capital” not possible with simple reforms, with the “fundamental demands of political democracy” actionable under imperialism but only in an “incomplete, in a mutilated form and as a rare exception.” He later adds that “freedom to settle the [national] question of secession by means of a referendum” is not the same with a “demand for secession, for partition, for the formation of small states.” In the case of “Kurdistan,” in Northern Iraq, it falls more under a demand for partition and follows the rhetoric of Lenin on incomplete results of political democracy under imperialism, even though making federation of nations a principle is part of Lenin’s thinking. It is worth remembering that bourgeoisie in oppressed nations always convert the “slogan of national liberation into a means for deceiving the workers” and democratic demands become an “an instrument of the bourgeoisie” for the same goal. In the case of this referendum, it is possible is has become an instrument to deceive the proletariat in this Kurdish region.

In the second piece, Lenin defined annexation. He argued that annexation, which violates a nation’s self-determination, involves the “conception of force…conception of oppression by another nation…and sometimes the concept of violation of the status quo” with the establishment of state frontiers which are “contrary to the will of the population.” After all, it is clear that “that no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.” It is worth this that the Zionists enter the picture.

The Zionists enter the picture

While Lenin and Stalin seem to put support of oppressed people on solid ground, in terms of “Kurdistan” in this instance, Zionist Israel, called the murderous Zionist state in the rest of this article, throws this into question. Undoubtedly, this state and nation, as could call it, has engaged in annexation and national oppression as defined previously by Stalin and Lenin. Most recently reported is that the murderous Zionist state, is planning to annex almost “19 Palestinian settlements and uproot some 125,000 to 150,000 Palestinian people.” This is fundamentally a form of violence. Even Stalin recognized this in 1913, in Marxism and the National Question, 35 years before the illegal creation of the murderous Zionist state, naming Zionism as one of the forms of “crude chauvinism” which swept forward, “threatening to engulf the mass of the workers” with such nationalism only countered with “the tried weapon of internationalism…the unity and indivisibility of the class struggle.” In a footnote, he defined Zionism as a “reactionary nationalist trend of the Jewish bourgeoisie, which had followers along the intellectuals and the more backward sections of the Jewish workers.” He further argued that Zionists aimed to “isolate the Jewish working-class masses from the general struggle of the proletariat.” Some would further argue that the murderous Zionist state is settler-colonialist like the United States and Canada. Regardless, there is no doubt that the murderous Zionist state is “the only country in the world with Judaism as its official state religion” as it abuses its “hold” on Judiasm to demand that all Jews be Zionist although they are under no obligation to hold that position. [3]

The Zionists are strong supporters of an independent “Kurdistan.” With war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu supporting the effort openly, Zionist sympathizer, David Patrikarakos, followed suit, saying gleefully that many in “Kurdistan” see the murderous Zionist state as a model for their “new state,” and that this new state could “check Iran’s growing influence across the Middle East.” He ends his article by declaring that

“an independent or even more autonomous Kurdistan – secular, oil-rich, battle-hardened and pro-Israel – is the perfect ally for Jerusalem in a Middle East…For Israel as a Jewish nation, support for Kurdish independence is a moral imperative; for it as a Middle Eastern state it is a strategic necessity…Israel must hold fast…it must not let the Kurds down.”

Others in the region recognized this reality. MP Mowaffak al-Rubaie of the Shiite National Alliance, In Iraq, argued that the referendum was a step “taken by some racists in Kurdistan will bring instability to the entire region for years to come.”He further added that the Iraqi government “should take decisive, forceful, strong, and practical steps against those who made adventures with the destiny of the people of Kurdistan.” In Iran, Mohsen Rezaei, Secretary of the Expediency Council, added that Kurdish independence is in the “interest of Israel and those who want to expand insecurity in the region,” further adding that countries in the Mideast need to “preserve the territorial integrity of countries and prevent the change of geographical boundaries.”

The ties between the murderous Zionist state and these Kurds is nothing new. While Zionist Daniel Pipes’ think tank, Middle East Forum, declares that the father of Masoud Barzani, Mulla Mustafa Barzani, allied himself “more closely with the United States, Iran, and Israel” by the 1970s, after reportedly getting support from the Soviets, the connection with the murderous Zionist state goes back even farther than that. They date all the way back to 1950-1951, with ties first “facilitated by Iraqi Kurdish Jews, who left Iraq for Israel” but was strengthened when Mossad officers went to northern Iraq so they could aide Barzani. By the 1960s, secret ties grew with Mustafa Barzani leading a war against the Iraqi government as part of a “series of uprisings headed by the Barzani family since the establishment of the modern Iraqi state.” It was during this time that the murderous Zionist state provided “intermittent security assistance and military training to the Kurds” as an “anti-Saddam play” in order to keep Saddam Hussein “distracted as Israel fought two wars against coordinated Arab neighbors.” Recently, Yair Golan, a major general in the IDF who compared the murderous Zionist state to 1930s Nazi Germany, approved of the idea of an “independent Kurdistan” declaring recently to the Zionist and jingoist Washington Institute of Near East Policy that “…looking at Iran in the east, looking at the instability (in) the region, a solid, stable, cohesive Kurdish entity in the midst of this quagmire — it’s not a bad idea,” and recalled, of course, the murderous Zionist State’s “good cooperation with the Kurd people since the early 1960s.” [4] While some say that by the 1970s, the relationship between the Kurds and Zionists “was scaled back” but reports of “Israeli security, medical, and economic aid continue[d] to circulate,” other Zionist applications question this assertion. In a 2013 article in the Zionist rag, Tablet Magazine, it quoted Eliezer Tsafrir, “a former Mossad operative…[who] head[ed] of covert Israeli operations in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1975,” the same year that Saddam fought a “Kurdish rebellion led by Mustafa Barzani.” Tsafrir was quoted approvingly in an article which supported the idea of a Kurdish “dream of independence” because the county could “emerge as an unexpected new ally for Israel in Iran’s backyard.” He declared that

“Under the Barzanis, Jews in Kurdistan did not suffer. On the contrary, they were their friends. Ties with Israel ran deep and began when Mustafa Barzani sent emissaries to Israel through Europe and told us Kurds, like Jews, were ignored by everybody and needed help [including running training camps for Kurdish soldiers]…We decided against it [sending in Centurion tanks] because we thought the Kurds were better off fighting an asymmetrical war…We were in a big hurry to burn papers [before the Iraqis reached the headquarters of the “rebel” Kurds]. I had to get out of there before the Iraqi army turned me into a kebab…I want to be Israel’s first consul general in Erbil”

While his supportive, disgusting Zionist viewpoint is laughable and distorts the reality undoubtedly, what he says makes it clear that the murderous Zionist state sees the Kurds as a reliable ally to achieve their geopolitical aims. Some of the Kurds have clearly reciprocated this. In September 2016, “Kurdish activists” held a memorial service for Shimon Peres, the former prime minister of the murderous Zionist state, who met with Mullah Mustafa Barzani in the Shah’s Iran. The organizer of the event declared that “we want to give a message to Israeli media and foundations, that I am 100% sure we will have independence and relations with Israel. [Peres] previously supported Kurds and was continually defending and supporting our rights. In the 1960s, we had relations with Israel.” As the Zionists also recall, in their own publications, the Kurds reportedly “helped Jewish families…escape to Israel from Kurdistan through the mountains” and Mossad gave assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga “against Baghdad” with the murderous Zionist state keeping “military advisers at the headquarters of Mulla Mustafa Barzani,” training and supplying “Kurdish units with firearms and field and anti-aircraft artillery in until the 80’s.” [5] Simply put, in the 1960s and 1970s, Israel cooperated with the Shah’s Iran to “fight against its Arab enemies – Iraq, Syria and Egypt,” sending Lt. Colonel Tzuri Sagi to “build up a Kurdish army to fight Iraqi troops in northern Iraq,” which became the Peshmerga, with this general responsible for the “Israeli assassination attempts against Saddam Hussein.” The New York Times even admitted this in their front-page article on the topic last month:

“In the modern era, Kurdish Jews departed en masse for Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948, leaving Kurdish civil society so bereft that some recall its leaders still lamenting the Jewish exodus decades later. Ties between the two have only grown warmer and more vital since the 1960s, as Israel and the Kurds…have repeatedly come to each other’s aid. The Kurds have long patterned their lobbying efforts in Washington on those of Israel’s supporters…83-year-old Tzuri Sagi, a retired brigadier general, has more reason than most Israelis to root for Kurdish independence…In the winter of 1966, Mr. Sagi’s commanders sent him on a secret mission, via Israel’s then-ally, Iran, to aid Mullah Mustafa Barzani and his peshmerga rebels in Iraqi Kurdistan [and they won]” [6]

If that wasn’t enough, cooperation matured with meetings “between Israeli and Kurdish officials” including Mustafa Barzani’s visits to the murderous Zionist state in 1968 and in 1973, with Israel appealing repeatedly to the United States for “additional support for the Kurds” while Henry Kissinger was US Secretary of State (1973-1977). Since that time, as the Jerusalem Post casually admits, “reports surface about Israeli special ops training Kurdish forces and Mossad agents using the northern mountainous area to launch operations in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.” All signs point to continuing cooperation between the Kurds and Zionists. As Sarah Abed notes, the Kurds are not only “allied with Syria’s fiercest enemy,” but almost all of the major Kurdish political groups in the region have “longstanding ties to Israel” and have engaged in “major ethnic violence against Arabs, Turkmens and Assyrians” by varied accounts. Not only has the murderous Zionist state given the KRG weapons and training prior to its encounters with Daesh but it has floated the idea of using “Kurds and ethnic minorities to topple the Iranian government.” More directly, while Benjamin Netanyahu’s open support for an independent “Kurdistan” is at “odds with nearly every other major player in the Middle East,” he sees this as a strategic decision: a “breakaway Kurdistan could prove valuable to Israel against Iran, which has oppressed its own Kurdish population” as the New York Times notes. Additionally, flags of the murderous Zionist state can be “routinely be seen at Kurdish rallies in Erbil and across Europe” and some 200,000 Kurdish Jews are clearly allies of such a state as well. [7]

One commentator, Urooba Jamal, wrote in Telesur English about this very issue. While original support of “Kurdistan” was the idea of a “second Israel” in the Mideast which was meant to “undermine the idea of a united pan-Arab socialist state” by solidifying ties “with non-Arab Muslim actors,” it could also apparently give the murderous Zionist state “cover” for its oppression of Palestinians. Additionally, it would also allow the latter state to increase its ties with this new state in “the areas of agriculture, technology, education and sports.” Jonathan Cook gave even more context. He noted that while “many ordinary Palestinians were delighted” by the Kurdish referendum since they, like the Kurds, in his estimation, “Palestinians have found themselves trapped in different territories, oppressed by their overlords,” the Zionists felt differently. They feel that an independent “Kurdistan” would be a “bulwark against Iran transferring its weapons, intelligence and know-how to Shia allies in Syria and Lebanon.” Also, they would gain because “the Kurds sit on plentiful oil…[and] are keen to sell to Israel,” and such an independent state makes the Oden Yinon’s plan proposed years ago come to fruition with the ‘implosion of the Middle East, breaking apart the region’s key states…by fueling sectarian and ethnic discord.” Once again, it worth noting that “Tehran is…the target of efforts by Israel and its allies” and the unraveling of the map of the region originally drawn by the British and French would likely “lead to chaos of the kind that a strong, nuclear-armed Israel, with backing from Washington, could richly exploit,” furthering pushing the “Palestinian cause” from the list of priorities of the international community.

There is further context worth mentioning. For one, in 2006, Massoud Barzani, declared that “It is not a crime to establish ties with Israel. If Baghdad sets up diplomatic ties with Israel, we will have them open a consulate in Erbil” while the PYD was then, at “against relations with the Zionist state” but is not the same way anymore. This raises the question as the libertarian Antiwar.com argues, what will happen after the referendum since “the logistics of a landlocked independent at least somewhat problematic.” This is important to recognize since Iran fears “Israel’s potentially close relations with Kurdistan,” seeing it clearly as a proxy state, aligning with the declarations by the Washington Institute of Near East Policy that “a Kurdish state in northern Iraq would be a win for Turkey, the United States, and Israel, all regional and international rivals of Tehran” with the Iranian government’s “hardliners” seeing a future “alliance between an independent Kurdistan and Israel against the Islamic Republic.” This would also seem to indicate that the US is in support of an “independent” Kurdistan but perhaps covertly rather than openly. With an independent “Kurdistan,” violence by the Zionists will expand. As Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah argued that these Zionists do not have “correct picture” of the war, declaring that such Zionists “will have no secure place in occupied Palestine.” [8] Still, it worth recalling that if “the West continues to prioritize Iraqi and Turkish interests over those of the Kurds,” then Kurdistan will not stay an ally of the West, leaning toward Iran perhaps, even as “a Western-oriented Kurdistan could present a difficult challenge to Iranian ambitions in the region.” In the end, perhaps Erdogan is right one one regard: “this administration (in northern Iraq) has a history with Mossad, they are hand-in-hand together…Only Israel supports you…An independent state is not being founded in northern Iraq…[instead] a continuously bleeding wound is being opened.”


Notes

[1] Self-determination is a word that is thrown around a lot these days. Online dictionaries define this as the “determination by the people of a territorial unit of their own future political status” (Merriam-Webster), “freedom of the people of a given area to determine their own political status” (American Heritage Dictionary), “the right of a nation or people to determine its own form of government without influence from outside” (Collins English Dictionary), and “the determining by the people of the form their government shall have, without reference to the wishes of any other nation, especially by people of a territory or former colony” (Dictionary.com), to name a few. The UN’s Millennium Declaration in 2000 declares that UN member states should support “the right to self-determination of peoples which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation.” Some even say that the concept itself is “confusing,” question if state sovereignty should override a desire for self-determination, with a case involving the USSR on this issue as noted in an article published 11 years ago or in other conflicts. One could also take into account the dissenting views on the case in which the International Court of Justice at the Hague voted in favor of Kosovo. The dissenters varied. Some said that the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo was “unlawful and invalid” and provides an open door for all groups, apart from decolonization efforts, to break apart from states, that the court does not have jurisdiction with a lack of response on the issue from the UN General Assembly. Clearly, there are different “shades of meaning,” as one bourgeois scholar puts it, to the term “self-determination” even as it is widely recognized as a “fundamental principle of international law.” As was declared by the UN General Assembly in December 1960, “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” This idea has involved from the time of Wilsonian imperialism to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which says that “all peoples have the right of self-determination…All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation…The States Parties to the present Covenant…shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right.”

[2] Campbell MacDiarmid, “Masoud Barzani: Why It’s Time for Kurdish Independence,” Foreign Policy, Jun 15, 2017.

[3] The same Pew Research survey notes that funding is skewed toward official religion of Islam in Iraq, that the official state religion of Iraq and Iran is Islam, with Islam only a preferred religion in Turkey. This survey also adds that “In the Islamic Republic of Iran, for instance, all laws and regulations must be based on “Islamic criteria” and the official interpretation of sharia” and that only “three countries – Sudan, Syria and Turkey – favor Islam but do not declare it as the state religion.”

[4] Jonah Mendel, “Israel sees benefits in independent Kurdistan: experts,” AFP, Sept 19, 2017.

[5] United With Israel, “Understanding Kurdistan – The Friends of Israel,” Nov. 27, 2014.

[6] David M. Halbfinger, “Israel Endorsed Kurdish Independence. Saladin Would Have Been Proud,” New York Times, Sept. 22, 2017.

[7] Some reported that the purported movement of “200,000 Israelis of Kurdish origin” to Kurdistan from Israel after independence, with previous motives being the attack of Egypt and Syria, would support the new state. There were some immigration in the past, thanks to the “goodwill” of US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, as well.

[8] Reuters Staff, “Hezbollah says Israel pushing region to war,” Oct 1, 2017. It is also worth recounting a 2003 article in the Jewish Telegraph Agency saying that “the war in Iraq has ended, and the Kurds in the country’s north emerge as one of the war’s great victors, liberating themselves from Saddam Hussein’s oppressive rule and declaring an independent state” with the top leaders of the Kurds “actually Jewish” with possible indications that “the nascent Kurdish country will forge a close alliance with Israel, giving the Jewish state another toehold in the Middle East and access to the oil riches of the Iraqi north.” One Kurdish website also adds that Israel is trying to take advantage of the Kurds by “colonizing Kurdistan,” with the Barzani family taking an “authoritarian” turn, abusing and stealing people’s wealth.

“A calamitous defeat”: Using Stalin to interpret the “Kurdistan” referendum

Some of the past borders of “Kurdistan” posed by bourgeois Kurdish nationalists, as noted in this map reprinted from “The Automatic Earth.”

Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Mar 2, 2018.

Note:  This article was written in late October, 2017, so it is a bit dated, as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) announced on October 24 that they would “freeze the results of referendum conducted in the Iraqi Kurdistan” and Massoud Barzani stepped down on October 29. The abandonment of the referendum is evident because the KRG has clearly accepted the federal constitution of Iraq as the reality, rather than their failed “independence,” saying that the Kurdistan Region “wants to resolve its problems within the framework of the Iraqi constitution” especially after the Supreme Federal Court of Iraq ruled that no province or region of Iraq can secede. Saying all of this, this article, the first of a four-part series, never got published on Dissident Voice, partially because they had a lot of articles coming in and partially because I forgot about it, busy with other tasks. Rather than waiting on them once again, I think it is best to post it here. Enjoy!

In a recent article by Patrick Cockburn, a well-respected journalist for The Independent, he wrote about the Iraqi military’s effort to keep control of their borders and resist efforts for “Kurdish independence.” As Cockburn notes, as Iraqi military forces retook control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province, they faced “little resistance so far from the Peshmerga fighters,” with the dream of real independence slipping away as the Kirkuk oil wealth became under Iraqi control, as he further wrote. Adding to this, “Baghdad’s highly-trained and experienced Counter-Terrorism Force…drove unopposed to the quarter of Kirkuk occupied by…administration buildings” while the streets of the city were deserted, the Peshmerga abandoned their positions, and ethnic Turkmen reportedly celebrated takeover by the Iraqis. All in all, the success and speed of this victory against almost no Kurdish resistance is a “blow to President Masoud Barzani who ignited the present crisis” who held the referendum on “Kurdish independence” on September 25 and is seen as a “disastrous miscalculation” for him. This is because there are fundamentally, as Cockburn points out, “deep divisions between the Kurdish leaders and their parties” with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led for decades by Jalal Talabani, recently deceased. Part of the later group “opposed the independence referendum as a manoeuvre by Mr Barzani to present himself as the great Kurdish nationalist leader” while the US, officially, “strongly opposed the independence referendum” seeing it as divisive, along with regional powers like Iran and Turkey. More simply, the Kurdish leadership was clearly more “divided than expected” while Iraqi armed forces were stronger. At the same time, “Mr Barzani had alienated his traditional allies.”

The Kurdish national dream is over. As Reuters put it, the loss of territory such as Kirkuk is a “severe blow,” leading some to say that the referendum was premature since without control of that region, “independence is problematic, since they would be financially worse off than inside Iraq,” while the New York Times declared that “the Kurds themselves were divided…the Kurds may now have to defer their independence dreams.” Already the Kurdish leadership has proposed to engage in unconditional talks with Baghdad as some sources report.

How can we interpret this development? After all, as James M. Dorsey wrote in September, “if Myanmar’s Rohingya are the 21st century’s rallying cry of the Muslim world, the Kurds could be one of its major fault lines.” Taking that into consideration, it is worth using the words of Joseph Stalin on the principle of self-determination, within an appropriately Marxist context, in order to understand the conundrum of “independent Kurdistan,” and this referendum.

One declaration or the other by bourgeois scholars will not help anyone of sense interpret the dilemma of “Kurdistan.” Josef (or Joseph) Stalin wrote on varying topics to promote communism and advocate for a better world. One of those topics was self-determination and nations. Stalin gave a concrete definition of a nation. [1] In this section I aim to use the writings (and speeches) of Stalin to give a more radical analysis of “Kurdistan” as it currently stands.

One can examine at the Kurds as a prospective “nation.” Bourgeois authorities definite “Kurdistan” as a “geographic region” which is mainly inhabited by the Kurds, with an “extensive plateau and mountain area” across northern Iraq, western Iran, eastern Turkey, parts of northern Syria, and northern Armenia, covering a total of 74,000 square kilometers. Along with that, Jeffrey B. White of the “Defense” Intelligence Agency (DIA) declared that “Kurdistan” was a “political-geographic microclimate,” among others in the world, where there is a “continuous struggle” among the Kurdish population itself “based on tribal and family allegiances” but also an “ethnically based struggle against the Governments of Iraq and Turkey.”

Furthermore, the anti-communist entry in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, written in 1996, adds that “…Kurds staunchly retain a national self-consciousness” and focuses on certain Kurds, the Yezidis, who are “adherents of the syncretistic religion known as Yezidism” but also says that most Kurds are Muslim since Islam “spread among the Kurds in the seventh and eighth centuries.” The entry adds that “the Kurdish nation is justifiably proud of its extremely rich oral literature…many of which have achieved popularity among other peoples.” BBC News, in one of their many online “profiles” to “explain” the world, through their imperialistic lens, to their English-speaking audience, says that 25-25 million Kurds currently live in a “mountainous region straddling the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia,” consisting the “fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East.” [2] The description adds that the Kurds are “indigenous people” of the highlands of the region and Mesopotamian basin, forming a “distinctive community, united trough race, culture and language” but have no “standard dialect,” adhering to a number of “different religions and creeds” although most are Sunni Muslims. Business Insider further claims the Kurds are currently “the largest stateless national group in the world” and says that while “Iraqi Kurdistan” is currently fully autonomous. [3] Additionally, they have expanded territory since Daesh “took over Mosul” with fears fueled in Iraq that “Kurdistan” would declare “itself a fully independent state” even though it currently “runs itself in much the same way an independent nation would.” Finally, one Kurdish site claims that Kurdish history has no “beginnings” because the Kurds are “native inhabitants,” the products of “thousands of years of continuous internal evolution and assimilation” while another claims that some time in the past Kurdistan was a “recognized geographical entity.”

Now, for such a wide region to be a considered a nation, it would need to meet the simple definition proposed by Stalin in his seven-chapter work, Marxism and the National Question, published in 1913. He defined a nation as the following:

“…A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture…a nation, like every historical phenomenon, is subject to the law of change, has its history, its beginning and end…none of the above characteristics taken separately is sufficient to define a nation”

Accepting what the bourgeois scholars say, as noted previously, the Kurdish people would seem to be “historically constituted,” have a language, culture, and territory that was common. However, it is hard to say how “stable” this community was over time, or what its economic life constituted as the years past, using the sources above. Perhaps the Kurds have a “common language,” hold a common territory from people living together in the same place “generation after generation,” but their “internal economic bond,” which ties together the parts of the nation is questionable. Furthermore, continuing to use Stalin’s words, he adds in his book that a nation must be a community of people which is not racial or “tribal” (ethnically comprised) but is rather “historically constituted” and is stable to an extent but not “casual or ephemeral.” It is within question of whether the Kurds are racial or ethnically comprised. While they seem to have a “specific spiritual complexion” or a “common psychological make-up,” which forms a common culture, if the Kurdish people are a community which constitutes a race or ethnicity, then they are not a nation as it currently exists.

However, there is an exception as Stalin outlines. If the bourgeois scholars are right, the Kurds seem to possess a common “national character” but are “economically disunited, inhibit different territories, [and] speak different languages.” Hence, people can have a common territory and common economic life but are not considered a nation because they do not have a common language or “national character.” At the same time, a union of people who think similarly and speak similarly, even if disconnected, can constitute a nation, with a “national character” based on a “common destiny.” The latter seems to apply to the Kurds. As Stalin wrote in 1904, in a piece outlining the view of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, “we want to demolish national barriers…Language is an instrument of development and struggle. Different nations have different languages…it is precisely in anticipation of such possible circumstances that the nationalities are accorded a right which will prompt them to strive to arrange their national affairs in accordance with their own wishes.”

Accepting what the bourgeois scholars said, for the time being, and using Stalin’s characteristics, seems to indicate that the Kurds are a nation. If we accept this as the reality, what action should be taken? Later in Marxism and the National Question, Stalin defines the “right of self-determination,” which is very logical, saying that it means

“…that only the nation itself has the right to determine its destiny, that no one has the right forcibly to interfere in the life of the nation, to destroy its schools and other institutions, to violate its habits and customs, to repress its language, or curtail its rights…the right of the nation itself to determine its own destiny…The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the basis of autonomy. It has the right to enter into federal relations with other nations. It has the right to complete secession. Nations are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights…Nations have a right to arrange their affairs as they please; they have a right to preserve any of their national institutions, whether beneficial or harmful – nobody can…forcibly interfere in the life of a nation.”

Taking this as it may, Stalin adds that regional autonomy, which deals with “a definite population inhabiting a definite territory,” breaks down barriers, unites the population, and makes it possible to utilize a region’s national wealth. Hence, he says that regional autonomy serves as an “essential element” in the solution to the “national question” as is equal rights for all nations, the idea that workers are member of one class, part of a “united army of socialism” and the principle of “international solidarity of the workers.” While the above quote and description by Stalin seems to apply to the Kurds, and ultimately to “Kurdistan,” the reality is a bit more complicated.

Let’s give a little history first before moving into the current referendum. In their description quoted earlier, BBC claims that “after World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres.” The treaty does have a section titled “Kurdistan.” This would seem, at one glance, to be the endorsement by Western imperialists of a Kurdish state:

“A Commission sitting at Constantinople and composed of three members appointed by the British, French and Italian Governments respectively shall draft within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty a scheme of local autonomy for the predominantly Kurdish areas lying east of the Euphrates, south of the southern boundary of Armenia as it may be hereafter determined, and north of the frontier of Turkey with Syria and Mesopotamia…If within one year from the coming into force of the present Treaty the Kurdish peoples…shall address themselves to the Council of the League of Nations in such a manner as to show that a majority of the population of these areas desires independence from Turkey, and if the Council then considers that these peoples are capable of such independence and recommends that it should be granted to them, Turkey hereby agrees to execute such a recommendation, and to renounce all rights and title over these areas…If and when such renunciation takes place…an independent Kurdish State of the Kurds inhabiting that part of Kurdistan [will be created]”

However, these provisions, in articles 62, 63, and 64 of the Treaty of Sevres, basically puts Kurdish “independence” at the mercy of the Western imperialists, going against any idea of self-determination. Even if this “independence” had been accepted, they would have been a vassal state of the global capitalist class, with each bourgeoisie working to get a piece in the “Kurdish” pie. For this to be touted as some official recognition of “Kurdistan” is short-sighted to say the least.

BBC then claims that the “hopes” for a “Kurdish state” were dashed when “the Treaty of Lausanne…made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries.” The fact is, that this treaty does not mention the Kurds at all, not in Article 29 which talks about certain oppressed peoples in Turkey or within the section on nationality within Turkey, only saying later on that: “the Turkish Government undertakes to assure full and complete protection of life and liberty to all inhabitants of Turkey without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion…All the inhabitants of Turkey, without distinction of religion, shall be equal before the law.” However, to say that “over the next 80 years, any move by Kurds to set up an independent state was brutally quashed” as BBC says next is not accurate in the sense that the Kurds did have allies in this effort and were not completely alone. They had allies among the Western capitalists and later among the Zionists, as will be mentioned later in this series.

While Stalin clearly lays out the definition of a nation and the concept of self-determination in Marxism and the National Question, he also says that certain forms of self-determination are not always the right thing for a nation based on certain conditions. This is despite the fact that he does not provide many exceptions to support for self-determination or writes about international solidarity as way to support self-determination, although he does so in other works. Stalin describes how the urban petty bourgeoisie in oppressed nations battle the big bourgeoisie in dominant nations, seeing the market as a place to learn their nationalism, appealing to the masses to rally behind their cause although workers continue to “combat the policy of national oppression in all its forms.” [4] He adds that the fate of a “national movement” in such circumstances is bound up in the fate of such bourgeoisie, saying that as a result national struggle can be reduced and undermined, rendered “as harmless as possible to the proletariat.” Even so, he says that “social democracy,” or what can be broadened to include all of those fighting imperialism and capitalism, do not have to support “every demand of a nation,” especially not the “trampling on the rights of all other nations.” He further adds that autonomy or separation in all circumstances should be “everywhere and always be advantageous for a nation” and the masses who toiling, nations arranged in a way that “will best correspond to the interests of the proletariat.” [5]

For the Kurds, the question remains if their “nation” would correspond with the interests of the proletariat in the region. This question is hard to answer on one hand because the Kurds are not currently asserting the creation of a state that covers Turkey, Syria, and northern Iraq, to name a few regions. Instead, the Kurds in Syria are asserting an illegal state in Rojava, the Kurds in Turkey have given up nationalistic aspirations, and the Kurds in northern Iraq voted for their own state of “Kurdistan”. In order to continue this analysis, let us suppose that the “Kurdistan” by itself, not including the Kurds in other parts of the Mideast is a nation and a state.

The biggest clue of the future trajectory of a possible “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq is the KRG’s 66-page-document titled “Kurdistan Region of Iraq 2020: A Vision for the Future.” This document declares there will be more social services, making liberals smile with glee at the “progressivism,” but it also says that companies should have more ability to exploit the resource riches in oil and natural gas (and even mineral resources) in the region. Interestingly, in citing past “struggles of the past” for “self-determination against hostile neighbors and…a hostile world” it notes how the UN gave sanction to the KRG in 1992, and that helped them overcome the Iraqis.[6] The document then begins to read like what would be said in a corporate boardroom:

“to capitalize on these [development] opportunities [in Kurdistan], young residents of Kurdistan will need to learn languages and information technology skills and become work and service oriented…to make part of their lives…a strong work ethic…[while] the government must relieve regulatory and legal barriers to the private sector”

The Western capitalists would definitely be cheering! While the vision says that the infant mortality and other health problems in Kurdistan can be addressed by having a “package of basic health services to be covered by public financing” but making people “pay for all other services” with and expanding “network of private sector hospitals.” This takes away the idea there will be any progressiveness in this plan at all. The following are the case in this plan:

    • a “social insurance system” but pushing for the creation of private insurance companies, developing the “private” health sector, and putting in place a system that benefits those who exploit people’s health for profit

    • embracing universal education, but supporting public-private partnerships to build schools, coordinate with the “private sector” on education, and limits on “bureaucracy”

    • supporting the development of NGOs, which only benefit imperialistic liberals in the West,

    • having a “flexible labor market” (benefiting employers), pushing for a more skilled workforce, “reforming” pensions and benefits, having unemployment insurance only for those in the non-public sector, and incorporating women more into the capitalist market

    • having efficient infrastructure in order to expand the “private sector,” economic development near airports in “free zones” for capitalistic exploitation, and more mass transit after working with big capitalists

    • having a robust water (and sewage) system, but only supporting alternative energy when it makes sense “financially” and expanding the electricity industry

    • spurring capitalistic investment in communication

    • having “concessions to real estate developers” in certain instances

    • allowing the creation of large farms

    • supporting access to land for petty bourgeoisie

    • pushing for openness to the international capitalist economy

    • creating “special development zones” to attract capitalists

    • completing privatization in the Kurdish economy

    • wanting to be open and transparent, but supporting the idea of bureaucratic “efficiency,” making sure “mobile capital” doesn’t leave the region

    • helping civil servants leave government jobs and enter capitalistic enterprises

Even if there are some positive policies put forward by the KRG which would impress progressives or “benefit” oppressed peoples, they are couched in capitalist logic. There are more aspects of the plan than what is listed above but from the ideas noted above it is clear that the plan itself has an underlying capitalistic basis. This should worry anyone and makes you think: how progressive would an “independent” “Kurdistan” really be? This seems to indicate it would be a capitalistic paradise in more ways than one. This means that “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq would certainly not correspond to the “interests of the proletariat” instead currying the favor of up-and-coming Kurdish bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie of Western capitalist states. This does not make “Kurdistan” a socialist nation by any stretch, which Stalin defined as ones which pushed for elimination of capitalistic, nationalistic, and national oppressive elements, with “a united front with all oppressed and unequal nations in the struggle against the policy of annexation and wars of annexation,” led by the working class and an internationalist party. Instead, “Kurdistan” sounds more like a bourgeois nation in the making, not at the level of France, Britain, Italy, and the US, which Stalin put in this category, which fosters “national distrust, national isolation, national enmity and national conflicts,” with the bourgeoisie and nationalistic parties pushing for territorial expansion, hatred of other nations, a “suppression of national minorities [and a clear]….united front with imperialism.”

In 1917, at the Seventh Conference of the Bolsheviks, Stalin expanded on what he wrote in Marxism and the National Question. He defined the term “national oppression” and said that this conception, as manifested in capitalist states, should be opposed by his fellow comrades:

“National oppression is the system of exploitation and robbery of oppressed peoples, the measures of forcible restriction of the rights of oppressed nationalities, resorted to by imperialist circles…national oppression is maintained not only by the landed aristocracy…[but by] the imperialist groups”

Now, those in northern Iraq’s “Kurdistan” are arguing that they are being oppressed, basically, by the Iraqi state, and by extension the Iranian state, Syrian state, and Turkish state, all of which strongly oppose an independent “Kurdistan.” This is thrown into question considering that none of these states is imperialistic. Each of them has justified reasons for opposing an independent “Kurdistan,” other than the Turkish state. The latter is inherently anti-Kurd, has their own bourgeoisie, and wants to overthrow the duly elected government of the socially democratic state, the Arab Republic of Syria. As for the Iraqi, Syrian, and Iranian states, they rightly see the U.S. and other Western imperialists exploiting the situation to establish a firmer foothold and “balkanize” the region, leading to chaos of the highest order. It does not seem right to say that the states in the region are engaging in “national oppression” against the Kurds, except perhaps the Turks.

As for “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq, it could be said that while the Kurds have the right to self-determination and can secede freely, this does not mean they should “necessarily secede at any given moment,” with the decision on whether or not to secede up to “the party of the proletariat in each particular case.” Furthermore, Stalin is right when he says that imperialism should be the common enemy of all since, after all, imperialists use brutal methods with “enslaved nationalities.” Still, he does say when “particular nations” secede, to decide their “political destiny,” this should be generally supported while recognizing that this right of succession is not an obligation, only done in “accordance with the interests of the proletariat, of the proletarian revolution.” Hence, he argues that the question of whether to secede or not should be determined on a case-by-case basis, with the “the right of secession…not be confused with the expediency of secession in any given circumstances.” Taking this into account, it means that not every nationalist movement or every declaration of self-determination should be supported, especially if the effort is not the result of a “proletarian revolution” or would not favor the working class at large. [7]

There is further context worth considering here. In 1924, in his book, The Foundations of Leninism, Stalin talked about self-determination once again. In Chapter 6 of this book, he wrote specifically about “the national question.” After talking about how Leninism expands the conception of self-determination to become the “right of the oppressed peoples of the dependent countries and colonies to complete secession,” he said that annexations is not a form of self-determination, meaning that this principle can become an instrument for “exposing all imperialist aspirations and chauvinist machinations…an instrument for the political education of the masses in the spirit of internationalism.” He further added that this principle leads to “real and continuous” support to oppressed nations with “in their struggle against imperialism for real equality of nations, for their independent existence as states.” This was foreshadowing the support of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist movements throughout Africa and Asia, against White imperialists, in years to come. [8]


Notes

[1] He also says that every nation has the right of secession or autonomy, with national autonomy’s starting point is the “conception of a nation as a union of individuals without regard to a definite territory,” while self-determination gives a state “complete rights.” Even so, he says that national autonomy is against the “whole course of development of nations,” may be unsuitable in the future, and leads to nationalism.

[2] BBC, “Who are the Kurds?,” BBC News, Mar 14, 2016.

[3] Jeremy Bender, “Here’s The New Kurdish Country That Could Emerge Out Of The Iraq Crisis,” Business Insider, Jun 19, 2014.

[4] Stalin specifically describes how nations are a “historical category” within the “epoch of rising capitalism.” Hence, conditions change on what path is right for a nation, with the “solution of the national question” relating to historical, “economic, political and cultural conditions” of the nation at that’s time. For further analysis, a dialectical approach is necessary, as he notes.

[5] He also argues that the “harmful institutions of nations and against the inexpedient demands of nations” should be combated and agitated against. Specifically, he says that “national oppression” needs to be fought as part of liberation of humankind from the oppressive system of capitalism.

[6] They also cite the 1920 treaty of Sevres as a Kurdish “victory” (it really wasn’t), along with the 1958 Constitution of Iraq which stated, in article 3, that “Arabs and Kurds are considered partners” in Iraq, as another “victory,” an agreement on autonomy in 1970, and Iraq government attacks from 1974 to 1991 as a “dark time.”

[7] This connects with a speech Stalin gave to the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies the following year. He said that the Soviet government supported the “right of all nations of self-determination” and that this principle should be interpreted as a right which applies to the “labouring masses of the given nation” and not a bourgeoisie. He adds that this principle should be a “means in the struggle for socialism and should be subordinated to the principles of socialism.” Once again, this is an important point when it comes to supporting (or not) efforts of self-determination around the world.

[8] He also argued that “…the road to victory of the revolution in the West lies through the revolutionary alliance with the liberation movement of the colonies and dependent countries against imperialism…the necessity for the proletariat of the “dominant” nations to support-resolutely and actively to support-the national liberation movement of the oppressed and dependent peoples [is evident]…the revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement…the national movement of the oppressed countries should be appraised…from the point of view of the actual results…of the struggle against imperialism…Without such a struggle it is inconceivable that the proletariat of the oppressed nations can maintain an independent policy and its class solidarity with the proletariat of the ruling countries in the fight for the overthrow of the common enemy, in the fight for the overthrow of imperialism.”