Analyzing the State of the Union and Responses: A Critical Response

What Lenin told comrades at Sverdlov University, the “first higher school in the USSR for training party cadres and workers in the soviets,” on July 11, 1919 about the U$ when talking about the state as an entity.

This is an expanded version of what I wrote on /r/fullstalinism last night, to which no one responded, which is part of the reason I am posting it here. Any errors in that post have been corrected here.

Table of contents

 

 

 

 

Focusing on substantive policy

Let’s start with the State of the Union itself by the orange menace. The whole first part is tooting his own horn of “accomplishments,” a sorta call for bipartisanship, and clear jingoistic claptrap to “choose greatness” for the U$, along with pointing out how he favored the capitalist class (with his tax cuts, removal of estate tax, etc). He also applauded, like Obama, that the U$ is “number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world” and U$ global hegemony. Of course, he also sneered at “foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations,” basically saying investigations of him are tantamount to war. He again tooted his own horn on past “criminal justice reform,” told the story of a guest he invited, called for bipartisan unification against undocumented immigrants by saying it is a “moral issue” while making his typical legal/illegal distinction with undoubted dog whistles, saying he is fighting the “political class”…by being racist? After a long racist rant against immigrants, coupled with praising racist anti-immigrant structures like ICE, he called for a wall on the U$-Mexico border, touted “economic progress,” and had Democrats join in the jingoism by chanting “USA! USA! USA!”…which is somehow supposed to be “resistance.” He then pivoted to his trade war with China, aimed at punishing them, continuing inter-imperialist confrontation with China, followed by talking about his new NAFTA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the USMCA) replacing NAFTA, and pushing Congress to legalize trade war (“I am also asking you to pass…[a law] so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the exact same product that they sell to us”). After that, he talked about infrastructure, lowering cost of prescription drugs and healthcare costs, efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, and fight against childhood cancer, although these were broad pronouncements without a plan outlined. After giving another story, he advocated for “School Choice for Americans’ children” (clearly a pro-charter school bill), included a proposal for “nationwide paid family leave” in his budget, an effort to ban late-term abortions (currying to evangelicals), and efforts to expand the U$ military…and strengthen NATO.

It is no surprise what followed this was defending the U$ withdrawing from “a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capability,” which allows the U$ to build more nuclear missiles…starting a new arms race with Russia! He then brought up minor successes in the detente with the DPRK, saying that there would have been “a major war with North Korea” if he had been elected (a possibility due to Democrat warmongering), that the work “remains to be done” will begin when he and Kim Jong Un “meet again on February 27th and 28th in Vietnam.” What followed this? Further recognition of the illegitimate president of Venezuela Juan Guaidó, declaring that the U$ condemns “the brutality of the Maduro regime” and it’s policies. This endorsement, again, of the coup attempt in Venezuela, was followed by his sneering at what he claimed were “new calls to adopt socialism in our country” (not true), again asserting jingoism, and declaring that “America will never be a socialist country” even though there is no prospect of this at all.

After this he embraced the relocating of the U$ embassy in Jerusalem, further supporting Zionist claims. And while he said that “great nations do not fight endless wars,” praising past “efforts” to fight Daesh, he only focused on ending one war…which is not in the Mideast…in Afghanistan. After vowing continued “anti-terror” action (despite the fact there are indications that the U$ may be collaborating with Daesh to “approach the strategic bordering regions with Iran” and that “the US is planning long-term presence in al-Tanf region [of Syria] to maintain security of terrorists”), he sneered at “the radical regime in Iran,” and praised his withdrawal from the Iran deal supported by moderate U$ imperialists, while also claiming that the Iranian government is anti-Semitic and incorrectly saying the religious reactionaries (Principalists) are in control of Iran, as it is more the pro-Western reformists represented by Rouhani. He then transitioned to condemning anti-Semitism, talking about the horrible shooting in Pittsburgh (not recalling the shooter was a supporter of him), praised a Holocaust survivor wgich was followed by telling another story. He then ended with another jingoist call, calling for great unification of everyone together.

This brings us to the the Democratic response by Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams. She also harps on jingoism, declaring that those in the U$ “live in a nation where opportunity is possible,” saying she loves “our country and its promise of opportunity for all” and that “together, we are coming for America, for a better America.” While she rightly condemned the shutdown engineered by the orange menace, she does not seem to understand its significance of the problem with the Democratic position. This is clear as she too makes a call for bipartisanship, working to realise American dreams, condemning what she calls the “timid” administration response to gun violence (not accurate as it was more pro-gun than “timid”) and appealing to those who want to be in the petty bourgeoisie (“middle class”). Apart from focusing on economic issues within the U$, saying we “owe more to the millions of everyday folks who keep our economy running,” she also says that “Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders” which is a racist position. Furthermore, she appeals to jingoism with talk of the U$ as a “great nation” (sounds like the campaign slogan of the orange menace), has typical liberal points of taking “action on climate change…defend[ing] individual liberties with fair-minded judges…[and] the bedrock guarantee of our right to vote.” While you can say this is positive, the fact it is a jingoist position as she claims the U$ has “free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders – not where politicians pick their voters” which establishes U$ “moral leadership around the globe” (how does the murderous empire have any moral standing at all?).

Her response goes onto whitewash struggles of U$ history (“America has stumbled time and again on its quest towards justice and equality; but with each generation, we have revisited our fundamental truths, and where we falter, we make amends”), makes a bland anti-racist statement about holding “everyone from the very highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds,” and even says that the orange menace should “tell the truth…respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America” (why would you ever trust him to do that?). She then says that “with a renewed commitment to social and economic justice, we will create a stronger America, together” which sounds like class collaboration, which is never good and helps the bourgeoisie. She again goes with a jingoist call that “America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies: foreign and domestic” and ends the speech just like the orange menace, saying that “may God bless the United States of America.”

Some might think that the response of social democrat Bernie Sanders would be better, in that he says (rightly) that the orange menace lied. But, he acts like the proletariat and petty bourgeoisie are in the same economic boat…when they aren’t. He does rightly talk about income inequality or even distortions caused by trade wars, along with the infrastructure plan posed by the orange menace, even the anti-immigrant rhetoric, or reproductive rights, he ends up praising the orange menace at one point: “Tonight, Donald Trump correctly talked about the need to address the opioid crisis.” He grumbles that the orange menace did not mention climate change and a number of other topics including the Russophobic charge of “Russian cyberwarfare” (buying into the faulty Russiagate narrative, proving Democrats are the new McCarthyites and adding to a recent sentiment by Richard Burr (a Democrat): “Based on the evidence to date…we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia”), the war in Yemen, and then throws a bunch of poll numbers. Not sure what those percentages are supposed to do other than overwhelm us with unnecessary information, but it is followed by a need to fight the “billionaire class” (what he should say is the capitalist class) by…building up the petty bourgeoisie…how the hell would that work?

Further comments

The responses by Abrams and Sanders should be no surprise. As the managing editor of Black Agenda Report recently put it about a house bill aimed to cripple the Green Party (in his opinion), he wrote that “Democrats are a capitalist party, they are a government party, and this is how they govern.” What he is writing about is only part of the bill (Title V), but it still important to highlight. It also should be no shock that neither Sanders nor Abrams even mentioned Venezuela in their responses. A similar perspective was given by the executive editor of Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford, who wrote that “for the entirety of the 21st century the Lords of Capital have offered nothing but deepening austerity and endless war to the “home” populace of the imperial countries,” adding that despite what the orange menace said, “there are no organizations of socialists even remotely positioned to threaten the rule of the Lords of Capital in the U.S.” He further said, rightly, that “This is what passes for “socialism” in the U.S., and although such programs are not designed to overthrow the rule of capital,” saying that the orange menace he calls a “billionaire arch racist…littered his remarks with vague references to repairing “crumbling infrastructure,” lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and a promise to sign a bill for nationwide paid parental leave after childbirth,” saying this all “just hot air for the occasion.” He also noted that while the orange menace bragged about huge military spending, “Democratic leadership is just as wedded to war and austerity as Trump and his Republicans…the Democrats are running on a “we are not Trump” platform, the same as Hillary Clinton did the last time around,” claiming that Bernie “slammed into Trump’s fantasy world like a growling gray bulldozer” even though this is an utter joke. He ended by saying that “much of the phony left has found common cause with Trump in the crime” of supporting the coup in Venezuela (only citing Ro Khanna, Ilhan Omar and Tulsi Gabbard as condemning the coup), adding that “it is possible that AOC will grow an internationalist consciousness, without which one is no socialist. But it’s way too late for 77 year-old Bernie Sanders…The real resistance can only be nurtured outside the Party. Bernie Sanders’ job…is to explode the Democrats by running on a platform that supermajorities of people support – and to be publicly crucified for it.”

We then get to the resident revisionist of Black Agenda Report, Danny Haiphong, wrote in a recent article, “the so-called Democratic Party “resistance” to Trump has largely been silent on the issue of Venezuela. Self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have declined to comment on whether the Trump Administration is in fact waging a coup against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro” while also noting that “just days before Washington set the attempted coup into motion, the Democratic-controlled House voted for the NATO Support Act…[including] Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and the rest of the “progressive” Democrats voted “yes” to NATO.” He praised “Tulsi Gabbard, Bernie Sanders, and Ilhan Omar” as voicing “any kind of opposition to the Trump Administration’s coup against Venezuela from the Democratic wing of the ruling class. None of them have mounted a challenge to the power of NATO over U.S. imperial policy.” His article ended by saying that “Democrats have moved so far to the right that its so-called “resistance” to Trump has done little except provide vital assistance to the empire. Even the most progressive-sounding of the Democratic Party brass has sworn its allegiance to NATO and the endless aggression that the U.S. imperial state wages around the world.” Haiphong generally makes good points, but not when it comes to Sanders opposition to the coup. This is proven by his statement on January 24 on Venezuela which endorses the reasons for the coup but not the coup itself, which is utterly disgusting:

The Maduro government in Venezuela has been waging a violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society, violated the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly and was re-elected last year in an election that many observers said was fraudulent. Further, the economy is a disaster and millions are migrating. “The United States should support the rule of law, fair elections and self-determination for the Venezuelan people. We must condemn the use of violence against unarmed protesters and the suppression of dissent. However, we must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups – as we have in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. The United States has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries; we must not go down that road again.

You can grumble about Boots Riley all you want, when he said that Maduro did “fucked up shit” (I’ve been planning a follow-up to this set of tweets on there) without explaining what he meant (he says he will do so when the coup attempt is over), but that is nothing in comparison to Bernie’s literally imperialist statement. “Shock therapy” as it is called, may be on the agenda if Guido takes power, if Ben Norton’s article on the subject has any validity or whether Rosneft (a Russian oil company) is right that turmoil in Venezuela is “only temporary.” Haiphong was right that “black, working and poor people can expect no relief from Democrats, who will continue to divert the nation’s resources to foreign wars and coups.”

You can praise Omar, noted earlier, who said that “a US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue,” Ro Khanna for saying that “the US should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, polarized conflict. Let us support Uruguay, Mexico, & the Vatican’s efforts for a negotiated settlement & end sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse,” or Tulsi Gabbard for tweeting that “the United States needs to stay out of Venezuela. Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders–so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.” You can say, sure, these are noble sentiments. But saying the Venezuelan people should “determine their future” still opens the door to U$ imperial subversion, which might not be a coup or what happened during the Iran-Contra scandal, but is terrible regardless. No doubt it is better than what Occasio-Cortez, who has branded herself as “AOC,” declared to Chris Matthews of MSNBC: “What we need to realize is happening is this is an issue of authoritarian regime versus democracy. In order for him to try to dissuade or throw people off the scent of the trail, he has to really make and confuse the public. And I think that that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.” [1] Did she miss (or ignore) the recent evidence revealed by the Venezuelan government which “showed evidence of the plan of attempted coup d’état carried out by the rightwing against constitutional President Nicolás Maduro, with the participation of the governments of the United States and Colombia”? What AOC says clearly amounts to an imperialist endorsement of the coup, going even further than Bernie, showing that the neo-progressives in Congress will be the saviors of nobody anywhere. [2]

Then there is the budget of the orange menace. Vox, an annoying liberal website which brings no value to the world, summarized the budget in a recent article titled “Trump’s 2019 budget: what he cuts, how much he cuts, and why it matters.”  What did they show? That, based on an analysis from a “centrist, pro-balanced budget group,” that there will be “$1.75 trillion in new spending and tax cuts, $3.7 trillion in deficit reduction that’s overwhelmingly the result of spending cuts, $800 billion in reduced spending on wars and disaster recovery, and $300 billion in savings due to lower interest payments on less debt.” More specifically, there will be a cut of over 40% to non-military spending, including cuts to the EPA (33.7%), State Department, Head Start, supposed “law enforcement” by the FBI and DOJ, NIH (National Institutes of Health), and NSF (National Science Foundation). There will also be subsequent sizeable cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers (22.2%), the Labor Department (21.4%), Medicare (7.1% cut by 2028 due to “reforms”), “Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies by 2028” (22.5%), SNAP/Food Stamps (27.4%), Section 8 Housing assistance (20.1%), transportation spending (28.6%) while boosting defense spending by $777 billion over the next ten years. If that isn’t enough of a giveaway to the bourgeoisie, the individual and estate tax provisions of the GOP’s tax bill last year will be made permanent, while there will be $199 billion allocated “over 10 years for a new infrastructure program meant to generate $1 trillion through private partnership spending.” This budget would also screw students by eliminating “loan forgiveness for students who go into public service” and “subsidized Stafford loans” while establishing a “new, unified income-based repayment plan for student loans” under which those borrowing would need to “pay 12.5 percent of their discretionary income every month and have their balance forgiven after 15 years (for undergraduate debt) or 30 years (for graduate school debt),” which supposedly saves billions, but does this really help students at all?

Additionally, is it any mistake that the orange menace called one of the country’s “greatest strides” being “abolition of civil rights”? [3] I would say not.

With that, I end this post and look forward to your comments.


Notes

[1] Her statement to ABC News (“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez welcomes Trump’s ‘socialism’ jab, says he’s ‘scared'”) didn’t make it better, when she added that she thought the orange menace condemning socialism was “great. I think he’s scared I thought it was fabulous because it shows that we’ve gotten under his skin. He sees that everything is closing in on him. He knows that he’s losing the battle of public opinion when it comes to the substantive proposals that we’re advancing to the public. And frankly he has no substantive proposals to counter, he has no vision for this country. Everything is about what he doesn’t want, everything is about the bogeyman.” The same can be said of what she told another MSNBC host (as noted by a Salon article titled “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Trump for slamming socialism in State of the Union address”), Rachel Maddow, another Russophobe: that “I think that the president was unprepared. I don’t think that he did his homework. We’ve seen State of the Union addresses delivered by many presidents, Democrat and Republican. They almost always have substantive policies that are offered. I agree with Sen. Klobuchar there that there was no plan. There was no plan to address our opioid crisis, there was no plan to address the cost of health care, there was no plan to increase wages. I had to ask myself: ‘Is this a campaign stop or is this a State of the Union?'” There is some validity there, but to say that the orange menace was unprepared plays into the idea he is bumbling, which is an utter lie.

[2] This should be no surprise because as a February 4th article in Politico (“‘There Is Going to Be a War Within the Party. We Are Going to Lean Into It.’”) noted, those who work for AOC (which the article says is part of “the closest thing to a new celebrity Congress has had in years”) believe that “radical conservatives in the Democratic Party” are holding them (and the Democrats) back, and that “There is going to be a war within the party. We are going to lean into it” as the head of a group called the Justice Democrats that AOC is part of, the same group that once were a bunch of Berniecrats. The article says that this group wants to overturn the whole Congress, legislatively, with a whole bunch of people like AOC, with one person calling her rise “a Cinderella story, a bartender who goes against the machine and wins,” with the Justice Democrats among the “various groups that emerged in big numbers out of the 2016 election, including Democratic Socialists of America, Indivisible, Brand New Congress, Swing Left and the Sunrise Movement, just to name a few.” The power of AOC is not as strong as it would seem, as Pelosi said thatthe Green New Deal (a green capitalist plan) will be “one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” (as noted in a CNN article titled “Nancy Pelosi just threw some serious shade at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal'”). She also said, in the Politico interview (“‘Too hot to handle’: Pelosi predicts GOP won’t trigger another shutdown”) which CNN linked to, that another shutdown by the GOP would be “too hot to handle,” adding that the speech of the orange menace is “theatrics, this is not government. We just take this in stride” (not realizing her own theatrics like leading people to say USA! USA! USA! as was acknowledged by a recent article in Business Insider titled “The most powerful moment at the State of the Union was a win for Democrats that Trump had no control over”) also defending King Russophobe Adam Schiff, saying that “we honor the institution in which we serve, the Congress of the United States. I hope he would honor it, too.” By the end of the article she says that she prays for the orange menace “all the time. And I say to him, ‘Mr. President I would never ask you to do anything that is not in your interest,’” which is pretty disgusting. I would say it is justified to criticize CNN for featuring “former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in a [upcoming] town hall” despite his low support at the present.

[3] William Cummings and John Fritze, “President Trump’s gaffe touts ‘abolition of civil rights’ at National Prayer Breakfast,” USA Today, Feb 7, 2019.

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Systemic Dolackian Disorder: U$ imperialism and the Kurdish dilemma

One of the newest developments in what has happened in recent days

Two days ago, on January 4th, an article by Pete Dolack, who describes himself as an “activist, writer, poet and photographer,” but likely leans toward anarchism, was published (if you want to read such garbage) in CounterPunch, a reprint of a post on his own personal blog, Systemic Disorder, on January 1st. There’s no need to rehash what I noted on Twitter, where I interacted with a number of fellow users, beginning my criticism of his argument and giving me the thought of writing this post. Without further adieu, the article begins, structured with quoting directly from the article and responding to it.

Dolack’s comment #1:

Lost in the discussions of Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement of the withdrawal of United States troops from Rojava is the possible fate of the democratic and cooperative experiment of the Syrian Kurds. Threatened with annihilation at the hands of Turkish invaders, should we simply wipe our hands and think nothing of an interesting experiment in socialism being crushed on the orders of a far right de facto dictator?

My response: I don’t think the fate of the Kurds was “lost” in discussions about the “withdrawal” from Syria. As I noted in my article on the subject late last month, “it is clear now that the proposed U$ withdrawal from Syria is a cover for further Turkish involvement in Syria, with the Turks now becoming the mercenaries of empire” while noting an article in November 2018 reporting that “the Emirati and Saudi military forces arrived in Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria (“Rojava”), were stationed with U$ forces, supporting their “tasks with huge military enforcements as well as heavy and light weapons,” while also meeting with Kurdish officials.” Adding to this, I question the assessment that the announcement was “abrupt” as that implies there was no strategy behind it. I am not sure, personally, if the orange menace does any strategizing of his own, but it is clear that his advisors do, so I think this was part of a planned effort to make other countries, like the Saudis, Emiratis, and Turks, do the dirty work of the U$ imperialists. It is not unprecedented. I also question how “socialist,” “democratic,” or “cooperative” the Kurds are, but since Dolack mentions that later in the article, I will address that later on.

Dolack’s comment #2:

Most of the commentary I have seen from U.S. Leftists simply declares “we never support U.S. troops” and that’s the end of it; thus in this conception President Trump for once did something right. But is this issue really so simple? I will argue here that support of Rojava, and dismay at the abrupt withdrawal of troops on the direct demand of Turkish President and de facto dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is not at all a matter of “support” of a U.S. military presence.

My response: Some may be openly saying that the orange menace did something right, I don’t doubt that. But, of the commentaries I’ve read, in Black Agenda Report (also see here) and anti-imperialism.org, there seems to be a strategy to push the orange menace to do more, similar to the strategy to push for more U$ concessions  to the DPRK in the delicate detente between the two countries still hanging in place. I will concede, that sure the issue is not simple. But, one could support these Kurds and not support U$ military presence, it is altogether possible. However, supporters of “Rojava,” like Dolack, seem to not understand this at all. I would also say, as an additional comment, that Dolack’s statement that Erdogan is a “de facto dictator” is too moderate, as he is rather an autocrat and representative of the Turkish bourgeoisie, which has been trying to cultivate better relations with the Russian bourgeoisie.

Dolack’s comment #3:

The world of course is accustomed to the U.S. government using financial and military means to destroy nascent socialist societies around the world. But the bizarre and unprecedented case — even if accidental — of an alternative society partly reliant on a U.S. military presence seems to have confused much of the U.S. Left. Or is it simply a matter of indifference to a socialist experiment that puts the liberation of women at the center? Or is it because the dominant political inspiration comes more from anarchism than orthodox Marxism?

My response: Sure, the world recognizes such power of the U$ government. I would add, as is evidenced in the writings of the late William Blum in Rogue State, that the societies do not have to be “socialist” for military and financial means to be used against them. I will also grant that there has been confusion on the Left, but I would say it is more on the issue of opposing U$ imperialism, not the fact that a so-called “alternative society” is “partly reliant” (much more than partly) on U$ military presence. There is, clearly, no problem with putting “liberation of women at the center,” but it is wrong to say that it is a socialist experiment, not because the “dominant political inspiration” is more anarchist in origin than Marxist. Rather, it is clear in the society itself and the alliances they had made, as I noted in my article in late December:

…these Kurds (part of “Rojava”) thought that the U$ would champion their cause, failing to understand that the U$ establishment acts “purely in its own interests”…those who criticize these Kurds in “Rojava,” like the YPG,  SDF, and PYD, for their alliance with U$ imperialists are not stooges of Erdogan…there are questions about how “revolutionary” or “progressive” these vaulted Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are since the SDF said they wanted “to be part of America,” possibly clearing the way for Turkey’s occupation. The Emergency Committee for “Rojava” goes even further in their pro-imperialist orientation, calling the withdrawal of U$ troops a  “betrayal” and calling for military, economic, and political assistance, thinking that the U$ imperialists are somehow humanitarian saviors…those in “Rojava” are no Marxists, as they do not hold…that the world is restless and that the “death of the capitalistic method of production” means, simply, “resolution of society into simpler forms…a new and better order of things,” since the current society is “morally bankrupt”

I went onto add that even if we grant that their social contract seems democratic, with varied rights, many of which seem bourgeois in nature (i.e. freedom of speech, equality in gender, worship, assembly,  political participation, seek political asylum), it also flat-out endorses private property, declaring that “everyone has the right to the use and enjoyment of his private property” because there is “no one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law.” I went onto add that while the economy of “Rojava” seems social democratic, it does not include “a proposal for a planned economy” or prohibit “extractive processes, management, licensing and other contractual agreements related to such [natural] resources” by corporate entities. More on this will be talked about later.

Dolack’s comment #4:

Let’s think about World War II for a moment. Was supporting the war against Hitler and Mussolini’s fascist régimes simply a matter of “supporting” U.S. troops? The victory over fascism likely could not have been won without the herculean effort of the Soviet Union once it overcame the initial bungling of Josef Stalin and the second-rate commanders he had put in charge of the Red Army after purging most of the best generals. To say that the Soviet Union won World War II is no way is meant to denigrate or downplay the huge sacrifices borne by the Western allies. That Western effort was supported by communists and most other Leftists. The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) were staunch supporters of the U.S. war effort — party members well understood what was at stake.

My response: First of all, there were tensions in the CPUSA. In March 1944, William Z. Foster and Sam Darcy were part of those who opposed the direction of the CPUSA pushed by Earl Browder with a changed name to the Communist Political Association (CPA), supported by  a majority of those gathered at the time, with Foster keeping his criticism within the central committee of the party, but Darcy conducting “broader agitation” including “circulating a letter to party members” and apparently writing on the issue for the “bourgeois press” which led to his expulsion from the party by Foster! Later that year, in May 1944, Earl Browder’s proposal was taken up by Foster, and the CPUSA voted to adjourn itself. The following year, in April 1945, an article which appeared to show “intimate familiarity of details with the American party’s internal political situation that (correctly) indicated to careful American readers a Moscow source of origin of the document,” led to an uproar in the CPA . The publication of this article prompted an uproar in the CPA, “as factional fighting was unleashed between those favoring a return to the previous “party” form of organization (lead by William Z. Foster) and those in favor of continuing the “new course” initiated by Browder.” What followed was Browder, in June, defending the “wartime policies” advocated by him as head of the CPUSA, which included “the need to establish a Second Front in Europe…support[ing] the Roosevelt administration against an alliance of Republican and conservative anti-Administration forces who were empowered in the rightward-tilting Congressional elections of 1942” and guiding the labor movement “to compliant support of the Roosevelt administration in matters of its personnel or policies,” rejecting the charges that he was revisionist. I could go on, noting further speeches by Browder (including those in 1946 defending himself after he was expelled). The reason I mention this is that the CPUSA was internally compromised and revisionist, meaning this should not be used as a valid comparison to what is happening now in regards to those Kurds in “Rojava.” There was a worldwide war occurring, and, sure, CPUSA members, like many leftists “were staunch supporters of the U.S. war effort” as they knew “what was at stake” but also they may too have been swept up by the euphoria and nationalism for war itself. Yes, Dolack is right that”the victory over fascism likely could not have been won without the herculean effort of the Soviet Union” but it shows his true intent that it the Soviets “overcame the initial bungling of Josef Stalin and the second-rate commanders he had put in charge of the Red Army after purging most of the best generals,” a clear anti-communist charge which could as easily be found in any of the books by Robert Conquest. Even worse is his sentence that declaring that he is not denigrating or downplaying “the huge sacrifices borne by the Western allies” when saying that “the Soviet Union won World War II” which is a cop-out which actually ends up downplaying the effort of the Soviets. If the Soviets had sat out the war, then the Western allies would have never been able to defeat the Nazis. Perhaps if they had joined the Soviets years later to defeat the Nazis when they were weaker, the Holocaust could have been avoided, but instead they wanted to twiddle their thumbs as people died and keep their cash flowing into the Nazi coffers (especially in the case of the British bourgeoisie), while holding a strong anti-Soviet position.

Dolack’s comment #5:

In contrast, the main U.S. Trotskyist party, the Socialist Workers Party, dismissed the war as an inter-imperialist dispute. That may have been so, but was that the moment to make a fetish of pacifism or of an unwillingness to be involved in any way in a capitalist fight? We need only think of what would have happened had Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo triumphed in the war to answer that question. Backing the war effort was the only rational choice any Leftist not blinded by rigid ideology could have made. It is no contradiction to point out the CPUSA took the correct approach even for someone, like myself, who is generally strongly critical of the party.

My response: Of course the Trotskyists would hold that position, without siding with the Soviets against the Nazis if they truly believed what they said. But, they did not, and as always, the Trotskyists end up supporting the global bourgeoisie. We don’t need to “think what would have happened” as that has already in bourgeois media and engaging in such speculation will get us nowhere. So the CPUSA were not “blinded by rigid ideology” but the Trotskyists were? That doesn’t make sense. It is perhaps better to say neither was “blinded” by their beliefs as that almost makes them out to be mindless zombies rather than human beings. Rather it is better to criticize the approach of the Trotskyists rather than engage in such word games as Dolack does. He can say that the CPUSA “took the correct approach” but from what I have previously mentioned about the organization being internally compromised and led by a clear revisionist, Earl Browder, who allied the party with the Democrats and tried to get the proletariat to follow along (without question) the direction of policies of the Roosevelt Administration, it seems clear they could have charted another strategy. Perhaps they could have backed the Soviet effort, rather than the U$ war machine, against fascism.

Dolack’s comment #6:

Shouldn’t we listen to the Kurds? To bring us back to the present controversy, we might ask: What do the Kurds want? The Syrian Kurds, surrounded by hostile forces waiting for the opportunity to crush their socialist experiment, made a realpolitik decision in accepting the presence of U.S. troops, and a limited number of French and British troops. The dominant party in Syrian Kurdistan, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is strongly affiliated with the leading party of Turkey’s Kurds, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK has been locked in a decades-long struggle with successive Turkish governments.

My response: Dolack’s point about the struggle with Turkish governments by the PKK is accurate. But, there is a major problem with his reasoning: there is no one group representing the Kurds. Paul Davis, a former spook (for U$ Army Intelligence) wrote about this in a prominent Kurdish publication, Kurdistan 24, which Dolack somehow missed even though it was written many months ago in late November. He noted, summarizing a recent panel discussion perhaps in a European country, that there is debate about whom speaks “for the Kurds,” with scholar Ismail Beşikçi, saying that while “50 million Kurds live within the confines of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria,” arguing that the “world has not seen fit to recognize a Kurdish state” because while “Palestinians present a united front while the Kurds remain divided.” While the topic of lacking Kurdish unity “was only briefly addressed,” Davis added that it is incumbent on the Kurds to find someone who will “speak for them” with two names standing out: imprisoned Abdullah Öcalan (whom “most countries consider…a terrorist”) and Masoud Barzan, the latter of whom “has the international recognition and standing to present the Kurdish desires to the world.” He ended his article by saying that “before the Kurds can begin to decide who will lead Kurdistan, there must be a Kurdistan. Once a nation becomes a reality, the citizens can start to play politics…There must be a Kurdish awakening and a single voice – be it Barzani or another – to deny the world the option of ignoring the Kurds.”

As such, how we say with certainty what “the Kurds” want? What Kurds are we talking about? Those in Syria, Iraq, Iran, or Turkey? Are they part of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie? The latter comes from an insightful comment by commieposting on Twitter: “what these people [like Dolack] all do is attempt to hide and obscure the fact that the kurdish nation is divided like any other – divided as proletarians and bourgeoisie.”

That brings us back to Dolack. When he says that the  Syrian Kurds are “surrounded by hostile forces waiting for the opportunity to crush their socialist experiment” this assumes that the governments of Iraq, Turkey, and Syria are all hostile, when only one of those (Turkey) is actively hostile. While other maps are helpful, like the one from liveuamap, the one from the Carter Center clearly shows that the Syrian government is in no position, even if they  wanted to, to be hostile to the Kurds. Additionally, this means that the Kurds collectively did not make the “realpolitik decision in accepting the presence of U.S. troops, and a limited number of French and British troops” but rather that was the move of the Kurdish leaders, led by, as he admits, “the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is strongly affiliated with the leading party of Turkey’s Kurds, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).” Interestingly, he does not recognize the contradiction: how progressive is “Rojava” (composed of the Jazira, Euphrates, and Afrin regions) if the levers of power are in control by the PYD with no voting in Arab-majority areas in the region in 2017, even as one New York Times reporter dumbly, in 2015, declared that there was “no hierarchy” in Rojava, a clear lie born from their fantastical imagination.

Dolack’s comment #7:

The preceding sentence is something of a euphemism. It would be more accurate to say that the Turkish government has waged an unrelenting war against the Kurdish people. Ankara has long denied the existence of the Kurdish people, banning their language, publications, holidays and cultural expressions, and pursuing a relentless campaign of forced resettlement intended to dilute their numbers in southeast Turkey. Uprisings have been met with arrests, torture, bombings, military assaults, the razing of villages and declarations of martial law. Hundreds of thousands have been arrested, tortured, forcibly displaced or killed. Turkish governments, including that of President Erdoğan, do not distinguish between “Kurd” and “terrorist.” The PKK’s leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has been held in solitary confinement since his abduction in Kenya in 1999, an abduction assisted by the U.S. Successive U.S. governments have capitulated to Turkey by falsely labeling the PKK a “terrorist” organization and have actively assisted in the suppression of Turkish Kurds. Can it really be possible that Syrian Kurds are somehow unaware of all this? Obviously not.

My response: There is no doubt that the Turks have engaged in a long-standing effort of suppression of  the Kurds. However, Dolack is downplaying the U$ role here. For one, there may be a connection of the Kurds to what was happening in Iran, as was briefly mentioned in an article I wrote back in May 2016, noting that the U$ and these Kurds have a “close relationship” which manifests itself in military strikes, adding that one could speculate the the U$ government was covertly working with “Kurdish [drug] traffickers to destabilize Iran.” [1] One article I linked to, on Narconon, speculated on Kurdish involvement, noting “Iran lies directly in the path of the world’s largest flow of heroin…Ethnic Kurds populate much of the Iran-Turkey border areas and are thought to be heavily involved in the movement of drugs across this border. They then control some of these shipments all the way to Europe.”

There is more than this. Back in 2016, an article in Vox of all places predicted the end of the alliance between the forces of “Rojava” and the U$, saying that their interests will diverge, adding that “the United States has had a longstanding relationship with Iraq’s quasi-autonomous Kurdish minority, who benefited from the American-led no-fly zone over Iraq after the 1990s Gulf War and from Saddam Hussein’s downfall in 2003” and that while the alliance has “worked well” it was an “alliance of convenience” as the U$ wants to, in his distorted view “defeat” Daesh while the Kurds in Iraq and Syria are “mostly focused on protecting their own populations and territory.” [2] The article goes onto say that “the status of the Kurds in post-Saddam Iraq has never totally been settled” since they  demanded “a significant degree of autonomy after his fall, including their own regional government and military” but they also, in June 2014, seized oil-rich Kirkuk, which a  number of Iraqis seeing this as “an unconstitutional power grab.” It also states that since 2012, when “Rojava has essentially functioned as an independent” they have been  natural allies of the U$ as they “fight ISIS, oppose Assad, and aren’t mixed up with jihadists” but they also cause tension with Turkey, who is worried “that Syrian Kurds would inspire Kurdish nationalism in Turkey” leading Turkey to be “deeply hostile to any independent or autonomous Rojava.” Even so, this article declares that the Kurds in Syria don’t “share America’s goals or vision for the region. Kurdistan is not America East” although some recent comments by Kurdish groups like YPG indicate they see it, in a sense, that way. The article ends by saying that “the Kurds are political actors with their own interests and concerns, which they will pursue even if Washington doesn’t like it,” but this again ignores the past history between the Kurds and the U$.

Stephen Zunes, of all people, a person who downplays the role of foreign money, specifically from the U$, and has tried to smear the former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, among other horrible positions, provides some of this history. He defines the Kurds wildly as a nation of over 30 million people “divided among six countries, primarily in what is now northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey and with smaller numbers in northeastern Syria, northwestern Iran and the Caucuses. They are the world’s largest nation without a state of their own.” [3] He notes how their “struggle for self-determination has been hampered by…rivalry between competing nationalist groups, some of which have been used as pawns by regional powers[and] the United States.” He  further notes that while at the 1919 Versailles Conference ,Woodrow Wilson,  a liberal imperialist “unsuccessfully pushed for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan,” that policy since then has been terrible. For instance, he recalls how in the mid-1970s, in conjunction with the autocratic Shah, the U$ goaded Kurds in Iraq to launch an “armed uprising” against the Iraqi government “with the promise of continued military support” but then the U$ abandoned them as “part of an agreement with the Baghdad regime for a territorial compromise favorable to Iran regarding the Shatt al-Arab waterway” resulting in the Iraqi Army  marching into Kurdish areas, slaughtering thousands, with Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State, dismissing any humanitarian consequences, by coldly declaring that “covert action should not be confused with missionary work.” In the 1980s, Iraqi Kurds rose up against the Iraqi government (then led by Saddam Hussein) again, led by the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which was, at  the time supported by the U$ through agricultural, economic, and military support,  with the U$ looking the other way as many of these funds “were laundered by purchasing military equipment despite widespread knowledge that it was being deployed as part of Baghdad’s genocidal war against the Kurds.” This went to such an extreme that in March 1988 after the Iraqis attacked Kurdish town of Halabja, killing thousands, the U$ leaked phony intelligence in order to claim that Iran “was actually responsible.” [4] This incident in 1988 was not isolated, with clear proof other other attacks by Iraq in 1986 and 1987, and even an effort by Senator Clairborn Bell to put pressure on the Iraqi government but this was killed by the Reagan Administration, which wanted to “continue its military and economic support of Saddam Hussein’s regime.”  Later on, the U$ conquest of Iraq shamelessly used “suffering of the Kurdish people under Saddam’s rule…as an excuse” for bloody imperial intervention.

After the destruction of much of the air force of Iraq in 1991 by the Gulf War, there was “strict enforcement of a “no-fly zone” covering most Kurdish-populated areas in northern Iraq,” meaning that Iraq no longer “had the capacity to engage in such large-scale repression,” in Zunes’ opinion, which kinda ends up supporting imperialist intervention. Anyway, as a result, as the Shiites rebelled in Southern Iraq later that year, the Kurds made major advances, seizing a number of towns, reversed “by a brutal counter-attack by Iraqi government forces.” And while George H.W. Bush told the people of Iraq to rise up against Saddam, U$ forces “did nothing to support the post-war rebellion and stood by while thousands of Iraqi Kurds, Shiites, and others were slaughtered” and furthered the injury by excluding “Iraqi helicopter gunships from the ban on Iraqi military air traffic…[which proved] decisive in crushing the rebellions.” Some suspect,he wrote this happened because “the Bush administration feared a victory by Iraqi Kurds might encourage the ongoing Kurdish uprising in Turkey, a NATO ally,” which blocked more than “100,000 Kurds from entering their country, thereby trapping them in snowy mountains in violation of their obligations under international humanitarian law to allow the fleeing civilians sanctuary.” As such, U$ forces ” operating out of its bases in Turkey and with the assistance of a dozen other countries, began air dropping emergency supplies, soon followed by the deployment of thousands of troops into northern Iraq to provide additional aid and to construct resettlement camps” which continued into 1996. Soon enough the U$, Great Britain and France, “unilaterally banned the Iraqi government from deploying any of its aircraft in northern Iraq above the 36th parallel with the stated goal of enforcing UN Security Council resolution 688” putting in place a no-fly-zone of “dubious legality” which at first received “widespread bipartisan support in Washington and even among human rights advocates as an appropriate means of preventing a renewal of the Iraqi government’s savage repression of the Kurdish people.” However, this zone itself did not “protect the Iraqi Kurdish populations from potential assaults by Iraqi forces, which…had pulled back and were focused on post-war reconstruction and protecting the regime in Baghdad” and seeing this zone evolve into “an excuse for continuing a low-level war against Iraq, France soon dropped out of the enforcement efforts.” Then in August 1996, using the ” factional fighting broke out between the PUK and the KDP in Iraqi Kurdistan” as an excuse, President Bill Clinton “ordered a series of major bombing raids and missile attacks against Iraq” which garnered widespread bipartisan support even though “most of the U.S. strikes took place in the central and southern part of Iraq–hundreds of miles from the Iraqi advance.”

From this, the “mission creep” began as U$ forces “patrolling the no-fly zone gradually escalated its rules of engagement” originally justifying use of force “challenge Iraqi encroachments into the proscribed airspace,” then to include “assaults on anti-aircraft batteries that fired at allied aircraft enforcing the zone” or when”anti-aircraft batteries locked “their radar toward allied aircraft, even without firing.” This meant that by the end of the decade President Clinton was “ordering attacks on additional radar installations and other military targets within the no-fly zone, even when they were unrelated to an alleged Iraqi threat against a particular U.S. aircraft.” As such, when  Bush II came to power, targeting was further expanded, with “the U.S. attacking radar and command-and-control installations well beyond the no-fly zones” and by 2002, “U.S. air strikes against Iraq were taking place almost daily.” This all meant that “rather than an expression of humanitarian concern for Iraq’s Kurdish population, the no-fly zones became instruments to legitimize U.S. attacks against Iraq” and they ended up, during their 12 years of operation (1991-2003) to kill “far more Kurds” than the Iraqi government! The U$ support for these Kurds was clearly further insincere because of the “strong U.S. support for the Turkish government in its repression of its own Kurdish population” (which could happen again), with the U$  remaining silent during the 1990s “regarding the Turkish government’s repression,”  selling the Turks billions of dollars in armaments  in the 1980s and 1990s as “the Turkish military carried out widespread attacks against civilian populations.” These attacks were so extensive that “over 3,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed and over two million Kurds became refugees” with 3/4 of the weapons of U$ origin. The U$ government even defended “periodic incursions into the safe haven by thousands of Turkish troops as well as air strikes by the Turkish military inside Iraqi territory.” And to go back to Ocolan, which Dolack seems to revere, the U$ government first “successfully pressured Syria to expel PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan” in 1998 and then in February 1999, the U$ (likely CIA) “assisted Turkish intelligence agents in locating Ocalan in Kenya, where he was kidnapped, brought to Turkey and initially sentenced to death, though this was later commuted to life in prison”! With that, why would any Kurd trust the U$? Clearly, this indicates  to me that something else is going on, that the Kurdish bourgeoisie are clearly out for themselves and act like they have “forgotten” their history.

Zones ends his article by noting that the “PKK resumed its armed struggle in 2004,” that  Kurds in Northern Iraq “formally gained unprecedented rights as a result of the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003” and have “evolved into a de facto independent state” while also noting that “government corruption is widespread in Iraqi Kurdistan and opposition activists are routinely beaten, tortured, and killed,” even though it is a place that at the time of his writing (2007), hosted “thousands of American troops, diplomats and businesspeople.” He also noted  how the U$ backed an “Iranian Kurdish group known as PEJAK, which has launched frequent cross-border raids into Iran, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Iranians.” He ended the article in calling for “greater American leadership” in telling the Kurds in Northern Iraq to “crack down on PKK military activities inside their territory,” the U$  severing their “ties to the PEJAK,” telling the Turks to “honor Iraqi sovereignty and cease their attacks against suspected PKK targets inside Iraqi territory,” along with a number of other policies. [5]

But that isn’t the whole story, apart from Western treachery. One writer even said that “every human disaster can be counted as a political step forward in the Kurds’ pursuit of their historical entitlement to statehood,” adding that “whenever possible they expand the territory they control – taking over oil and gas reserves in adjacent areas – and assert greater authority over their own heartlands,” while also noting that while “in theory they are fighting to create a unitary state in all of Kurdistan, a territory whose borders are undefined but that in some Kurds’ imaginings stretches all the way from deep inside Iran to the shores of the Mediterranean.”This same person added that “across their four main ‘host’ countries, though, the Kurds are internally divided over strategy” with some seeking a “seek a single Kurdish nation-state; others prefer autonomy within the state they inhabit; others would be content with recognition of their rights as a minority in a truly democratic state,” with many seeming to “internalised the post-Ottoman borders, embracing their separate identities as Iraqi, Syrian, Turkish or Iranian Kurds,”  meaning that they “can’t make significant headway in their pursuit of greater freedom without the aid of an external power” with aid that has “whether from the US, Iran or the Soviet Union and Russia…always been part of a strategy in which the Kurds are merely instrumental.” [6] This, still, is only part of the story.

A search on the website of the U$ Department Office of the Historian, which has previous diplomatic documents ranging throughout U$ history online, does not paint a pretty picture. One of the earliest mentions of Kurds is in 1866, with one document recording that the mountain region of Syria is “inhabited by Kurd and Turcoman tribes” with another in 1885 condemning the “outrage perpetrated by the Kurd, Moussa Bey, upon the American citizens, Messrs. Knapp and Reynolds.” The next mention of value, apart from those condemning any “further outrage by the Kurd tribe they will be hanged” (1905) and “Kurd accomplices” who “await attack” (1906), is the rough description of “Kurdistan” in 1904:

The home of the Kurds or “Kurdistan” is an indefinite geographical expression, but may be roughly understood as beginning at Mount Ararat on the north and stretching south to where the mountains fade away into the plains of Mesopotamia above Bagdad, say, 300 miles; the width of the region may be measured by the distance between Lake Urumia in Persia and Lake Van in Turkey—something like 100 miles; the area of this region is as large as the State of South Carolina. It disregards imperial boundaries, as its inhabitants disregard imperial laws and orders; it extends into Persia or Turkey according to the pleasure and habits and wanderings of these wild people. Notwithstanding the strict laws that require passports to enter Turkey or Persia, the Kurd relies with confidence and success upon his rifle and scimitar rather than upon paper and seals and visas, and so crosses indifferently into either territory to commit crimes, or to escape the consequences of his crimes. This is the Kurd, the creature we have to deal with in this case.

This is a crude understanding of the Kurdish people, and likely a bit racist (calling them “the creature”), but the pictured size of “Kurdistan” which disregards borders, with the people themselves crossing borders without problems still rings true.

Then, after a mention of the “Kurd and Turkish population of Armenia…massacring Armenians with the connivance and often assistance of Ottoman authorities,” seeming to implicate them in the Armenian genocide, we can fast forward many years. In 1945 and 1946, U$ diplomats worried about Soviet support of “Kurd agitation” which would weaken U$ allies (Iran and Turkey), putting them under threat. The British shared this concern as well, with one diplomatic document saying that the “British Chargé d’Affaires [was] also concerned with free movement Barzanis and Soviet Kurd political agents from USSR to Iraq through Iranian Kurdistan.”

With that, we move onto 1962. One diplomatic cable in 1962 noted that a Kurdish officer made a “strong plea for US support of revolution movement” saying that most Communists have been removed from the KDP, cooperate with “conservative Arab Iraqi elements and bring Iraq back into Baghdad Pact” if the U$ wishes,and give the U$”full information on internal political or military developments in Kurdistan or Arab Iraq.” Noting the viewpoint of Mulla Mustafa (also known as Mustafa Barzani), he said that the Shah of Iran would like Kurdistan as an “autonomous republic” while adding that they maintain “regular contact with the UAR” and the Soviets in Baghdad whom they  are not willing to burn bridges with “unless they have assurances USG will support their movement.” The cable went onto say that “Israel has offered assistance to Kurds in Europe but this refused…because they fear Israel might purposely reveal information and “movement” would be harmed throughout Arab countries,” and noting that Barzani  would rather “cooperate with West rather than with USSR” who he did not trust. As such, the Kurds were hoping for a change in U$ policy, which was that “Kurdish problem in Iraq [is] an internal matter which should be resolved internally” while they also “believe the future well-being of Kurds in Iraq, as well as those in Iran and Turkey, is inseparably tied to the well-being of the countries in which they reside.” One year later, a paper noted JFK’s  desire to do all they can to “help Iraq and thus consolidate its break with the Soviets,” which would, by  extension, possibly imply assistance to the Kurds.

Then we go to 1966. A diplomatic message said that rather than giving a “congratulatory message” to the Iraqis “on thwarting of coup” that should rather, among other aspects, give “congratulations on GOI [government  of Iraq] political program for Kurds and on gaining Kurdish acceptance, and…hope that settlement will be implemented promptly, consistently and in good faith by both GOI and Kurds.” They also  speculated the coup attempt may have been related to the “June 29 announcement of Kurdish settlement.”

By the 1970s, there would be a lot of action in efforts to assist Kurds, specifically those in Iraq. One of these was to, in 1972 or 1973, provide $3 million dollars to “assist Mulla Mustafa Barzani and the Iraqi Kurds in their resistance against the Bathi Iraqi regime” along with “roughly $2 million in supplies…to be delivered via CIA channels.” In 1972, the Shah of Iran said he was “afraid the Soviets would establish a coalition of the Kurds, the Baathists, and the Communists,” suggesting to Henry Kissinger  that “Turkey needs strengthening…[and that] Iran can help with the Kurds.” According to the  memoirs of Kissinger (Years of Renewal, pp. 582–3), during this same conversation, President Nixon agreed that “without American support, the existing Kurdish uprising against the Baghdad Government would collapse” and that U$ participation “was needed to maintain the morale of such key allies as Iran and Jordan” even though “no record of this conversation was found.” Other cables noted millions in contributions to the “Kurdish cause” while also saying in 1973 that “the Kurds, who make up about 30 percent of the Iraqi population…are in a chronic state of revolt.” They also added that these Kurds “are part of the some 5–6 million Kurds located in contiguous areas of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey” with thee ultimate goal of “an independent Kurdish state, but the Iraqi Kurds will settle, for the moment at least, for autonomy within a unified Iraqi state as long as they also share in the central government.” The following year, the U$ government said it opposed an “autonomous” Kurdish government, saying it “escalate the situation well beyond our covert capabilities to contribute meaningfully”and that disclosure of U$ involvement would send a signal to the Soviets, “affect U.S.-Turkish relations,” and would be viewed a certain way by Arabs. They also declared that such a state “could be considered tantamount to aggression against Iraq,”  while noting that the Shah sees benefit, like the U$, “in a stalemate situation in Iraq in which the Ba’ath government is intrinsically weakened by Kurdish refusal to relinquish its semi-autonomy.” They concluded that they hoped to signal to Barzani, by giving “more funds and supplies.” that the U$ is “till sympathetic and friendly to his predicament and prepared to continue to help on a scale which can be kept covert, but that we cannot play a prime role in the new ballgame.”

Then we get to 1975. That year there was talk about approaching the Iranians to “determine how Iran intends to handle its future relationship with the Kurds” since, as it was argued, the “the Iranian and the U.S. Governments will face [a problem] in the U.S. and elsewhere if there is a massacre and Barzani charges that he has been let down.” They further argued that “the plight of the Kurds could arouse deep humanitarian concern”while it could also “create an impossible situation if we were to be working at cross purposes with Iran.” It was that year that U$-backed Iranians withdrew their “support of the Iraqi Kurds” leading the rebellion by these Kurds, which had started a year before, to collapse, with “hundreds of thousands…[fleeing] the country to refugee camps, mainly in Iran.”

One more cable is worth mentioning. It is in 1978. It says that while Communists and Kurds are represented in the Iraqi government it is “essentially cosmetic” as the opposition, “be it Communist, Kurd, rival Baathist, or military—seems to be in disarray, unable to mount an effective challenge to Saddam or alter the present governmental or political structure.” There are a number of other results as well, for those who are interested in pursuing this search further.

Many years later, in 1998, representatives of the KDP and PUK met in Washington, D.C. to sign an accord (the Washington Agreement) to resolve their issues, which has not been fully implemented, with ongoing negotiations and discussions. By 2002, the Kurds were warning that Saddam would  respond to U$ attack by “by deploying weapons of mass destruction as he has done in the past” while also saying that overthrow of Saddam ” would serve justice for the man who has harmed them for decades,” both of which fed into the drive for a full-out war. [7] A few years later, Najmaldin Karim, the  former president and founder of the Washington Kurdish Institute (WKI), complained that imperial planners of the Iraq Study Group were ignoring “Kurdistan,” noting that even Turkey and Russia have set up consulates in this region of Iraq. How did he promote the region? He said it  had “a peaceful, thriving economy” and that”Iraqi Kurds are massively pro-American”  adding that the Kurds are “America’s closest allies in Iraq,” claiming that the U$is embarrassed of its previous betrayals of the Kurds. He went further to endorse the “proposal promoted by Senator Joe Biden and…Leslie Gelb” which would balkanize the country into a Shia, Sunni, and Kurd region. How does he not see a problem with this?

This brings us to an open question: who is the WKI? We know that they are people who promote those who advocate for the “Kurdish cause” including those who want continued U$ intervention in Syria, to create “a safe haven,” critical of the “autocratic Turkish nation-state,” and those who are part of the Kurdish government in northern Iraq (KRG) who boast about their connections in Washington, D.C., and to the “Kurdistani diaspora,” including to the bourgeoisie in the energy sector (specifically oil & gas). They also, helpfully list all the “Kurdish parties,”or at least the ones they point in that category. This organization, which was founded in 1996, defines itself, basically as the one-stop-shop for “Kurd-related issues,” and has been promoted by the KRG. They have such a connection that Karim became the Governor of Kirkuk (from 2011-2017)!  Sourcewatch tells a little more. While their page for the organization doesn’t show anything in particular, there are clear connections of former and current individuals of WKI to the NGO world, AIPAC, the U$ government (like the CIA and State Department), American Enterprise Institute, anti-Soviet causes, and outright advocacy for the overthrow of Saddam, in line with imperial interests.  Clearly, these people have an agenda which meshes with the murderous empire, making one skeptical of existing efforts for Kurdish nationalism without question.

Dolack’s comment #8:

Surrounded and blockaded by Turkey, an oppressive Syrian government, Islamic State terrorists and a corrupt Iraqi Kurdistan government in alliance with Turkey, the Syrian Kurds of Rojava have made a series of realpolitik choices, one of which is to accept a U.S. military presence in the territory to prevent Turkey from invading. That in the wake of the announced U.S. withdrawal Rojava authorities have asked the Syrian army to move into position to provide a new buffer against Turkey — despite the fact the Assad father and son régimes have been relentlessly repressive against them — is another difficult decision made by a people who are surrounded by enemies.

My response: This is getting into pro-imperialist territory fast, declaring that the Syrian government is “oppressive” and acting like they are all surrounded by enemies, the same thing that the Zionists say all the time as they cry for U$ assistance. There is a major question if “U.S. military presence in the territory [would]…prevent Turkey from invading” as I will discuss below, in response to another one of Dolack’s comments. But to say that negotiating with the Syrian army is hard because of repression by the Syrians, also moves into pro-imperialist territory, as the Syrians don’t want a Turkish invasion either, evidenced by the recent agreement between the Syrian government and the YPG. More on on the Syrian government role will be addressed later in this piece.

Dolack is  basically making the same argument as Noam Chomsky, that a “small US troop contingent in the Kurdish region serves as a deterrent to a likely Turkish invasion, extending their criminal assault against Kurds in Turkey itself and the regions of Syria they have already occupied,” even though this is clearly an imperialist position, as much as embattled French President Emanuel Macron telling Vladimir Putin that the Kurds must be protected at all costs. Cries from those like Dolack along with dedicated imperialists have led the orange menace to say that Syrian Kurds (the ones the U$ supports) will be protected by the U$, while also claiming that some Kurds sell oil to Iran, but apparently not those in Syria. His comments were echoed by Pompeo who said that the orange menace stressed “the importance of ensuring that the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds” as U$ forces are re-deployed from Syria to Iraq. After all, as his trip across the Mideast will declare load and clear that “the United States is not leaving the Middle East,” continuing efforts of imperial stabilization.

Dolack’s comment #9:

To ignore what the Kurdish people, in attempting to build a socialist, egalitarian society, have to say are acts of Western chauvinism. It is hardly reasonable to see the Syrian Kurds as “naïve” or “puppets” of the U.S. as if they are incapable of understanding their own experiences. And Turkey’s invasion of Rojava’s Afrin district, which was disconnected from the rest of Rojava, resulting in massive ethnic cleansing, should make clear the dangers of further Turkish invasions.

This is where Dolack, as I said on Twitter yesterday, basically said that opposing U$ troops in Syria is racist as is apparently ignores what “the Kurdish people” are “attempting  to build.” So, should we ignore the fact that the Kurds in Rojava are  not even politically united or that the PKK recently attacked a Turkish military base, raising the question if they are trying to goad the Turks into attacking? There is no doubt that the Turks want to engage in a form of ethnic cleansing and wipe out these Kurdish people, or at least incapacitate them, likely with U$ assistance. These Kurds, specifically their leaders, are active participants and clearly aware of their role, even while they do not remember (or have conditioned themselves to forget) the clear U$ history of betraying the Kurdish people in the past. The U$ imperialists see them as puppets which they can discard when they are “down with them,” even though they are still human beings who are not playthings, who have every right to determine their own way forward…

Dolack’s comment #10:

The Kurdistan National Congress, an alliance of Kurdish parties, civil society organizations and exile groups, issued a communiqué that said, as its first point, “The coalition forces must not leave North and East Syria/Rojava.” The news site Rudaw reports that Islamic State has gone on the offensive since President Trump acquiesced to President Erdoğan’s demand, and quotes a spokesperson for the Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces as saying that “More than four million are exposed to the danger of massive displacement, escaping from possible genocide,” noting the example of Turkey’s brutal invasion of Afrin.

My response: That announcement by the Kurdistan National Congress is no surprise, as they are sticking with their previous policy of wanting U$ support, which is actually an ahistorical decision. It also does not surprise me that, if the reports he noted are true, that “Islamic State has gone on the offensive since President Trump acquiesced to President Erdoğan’s demand” since Daesh (another name for the “Islamic State”) is supported either directly or indirectly by the United States itself! At the same time, as I said in my article in late December, the story that the orange menace acquiesced to Erdogan is too simplistic, that there is something more going on, some sort of planning by the advisors of the orange menace. I also do not doubt that there would be “danger of massive displacement.” However, the way the SDF frames this, as does Dolack, almost sets the stage for a “humanitarian” intervention in Northeast Syria to “protect the Kurds” which all should oppose.

Then  Dolack quotes from “someone on the ground” in “Rojava” itself, which he does not link to, but I will. It has been reprinted many places and was written by a self-declared anarchist. Although he admits that he is “not formally integrated into any of the groups here” and is basically just an observer, Dolack gives him this magical legitimacy. He does make valid points that the decision by the orange menace to “withdraw” from Syria is not antiwar or anti-imperialist, as it “will not bring the conflict in Syria to an end,” and even  is right it does give “Erdoğan the go-ahead to invade Rojava and carry out ethnic cleansing against the people who have done much of the fighting and dying to halt the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS)” while the orange menace “aims to leave Israel the most ostensibly liberal and democratic project in the entire Middle East,” all of which “will come at a tremendous cost.” But then he says that it doesn’t matter “where US troops are stationed [because] two thousand US soldiers at issue are a drop in the bucket in terms of the number of armed fighters in Syria today. They have not been on the frontlines” saying that “what matters is that Trump’s announcement is a message to Erdoğan indicating that there will be no consequences if the Turkish state invades Rojava.” He rightly criticizes Medea Benjamin, while declaring “it makes no sense to blame people here in Rojava for depending on the United States when…anyone like her has done anything to offer them any sort of alternative,” and then his  article  goes on.

It here that we must recall the role of the SDF, YPG, and its associates in destroying Raqqa, dooming the civilians that lived inside. The city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of Daesh, was declared “liberated” by these forces in October of last year, much of which was destroyed, with these forces turning their eye to “Deir ez-Zor, an oil-rich region in Syria,” engendering further conflict while the result for children, and undoubtedly others, will be the ensuing psychological damage of bombs and beheadings for years to come. The city was, as one Russian general put it, repeating the fate of Dresden in  1945, which “was erased in the British-American bombarding,” even as then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson embraced  this bloody “liberation.” SDF, in conjunction with the U$-backed coalition, made the city a living hell, with great civilian harm, from actions of the coalition due to a”reliance on air and artillery strikes ahead of more cautious ground advances” while “the largest weapons wielded by the SDF were 120mm mortars.” [8] This manifested itself in the fact that bombs, missiles and artillery shells, which were “fired from afar and usually targeted based on intelligence from local proxy ground forces…rained almost continuously into Raqqa.” Even worse, the civilian reception centers set up by the SDF on the outskirts of the city, where civilian “survivors were able to speak freely about their harrowing experiences” was a sham as there was “little or no official record kept of their testimonies about the toll of fighting and bombing inside the city”! That wasn’t all: the SDF and U$-backed coalition gave conflicting messages to Raqqa’s civilians, sometimes telling them to leave, other times telling them to stay, with the question of how “the SDF was able to differentiate populations in the city.” As such, there were obvious concerns the “Coalition and its SDF allies are not taking enough care to protect civilians.” As one report in New Eastern Outlook added, thanks to “massive US air strikes in support of their ground allies, the Kurds, the United Nation estimates that 80 percent of Raqqa is uninhabitable now, raising a crucial question of who was the city won for and who will be placed there after Daesh has been forced to flee and re-locate?” The article further asked how the destroyed city will “return to local governance and leadership and that the city’s residents now have a chance to control their own future,” given that the city “has nothing, neither standing buildings nor residents, that the local authorities will be managing or governing,” and that there is “nothing for them to return to.” It was further noted that the predominantly Sunni Arabs distrusted their so-called “liberators,” while  they doubt “if international aid would ever reach them to facilitate such large scale rehabilitation” which is justified because the YPG abandoned the city of Kobani after their victory in 2015, meaning that “the city was completely destroyed and remains in tatters even after two years.” This is something that Dolack will, of course, not mention at all, because  it makes clear that the YPG, SDF, the U$-backed coalition, and their associates have blood on their hands, specifically the blood of civilians, obviously meaning that war crimes have been committed without question.

Dolack’s comment #11:

None of this means we should forget for a moment the role of the United States in destroying attempts to build socialism, or mere attempts to challenge U.S. hegemony even where capitalist relations are not seriously threatened. Certainly there is no prospect of a U.S. government supporting socialism in Rojava; experiments in building societies considerably less radical than that of Rojava have been mercilessly crushed by the U.S. using every means at its disposal. That the project of Rojava, for now, has been helped by the presence of U.S. troops is an unintentional byproduct of the unsuccessful U.S. effort to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. At the same time of the expected pullout from Rojava, U.S. troops will remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they are unambiguously occupiers.

This is a backward way of justifying U$ presence, saying it is bad elsewhere (Iraq and Afghanistan) but good in Syria? That is a twisted perspective. Is it right then that the SDF raced to seize oil-rich parts of Syria, including the “Al-Omar oil field in eastern Syria” or that U$ continues to deliver arms and ammunition to the SDF? Is it also right that the U$ army has “set up a sum of fourteen military bases for its ground troops in different parts of Iraq, including the Iraqi Kurdistan region”? Because Dolack sounds like he is saying this is right. Perhaps Dolack forgets that Rojava would not be possible if it was not for the West, as I have noted in the past. They came about thanks to the turmoil caused by the unrest in Syria, with many efforts at imperial destabilization of the county under way.

Dolack’s comment #12:

Even if the analysis is overly mechanical, cheering the withdrawal of troops is understandable, given the imperialist history of U.S. aggression. Less understandable is support for the bloodthirsty Assad regime. “The enemy of what I oppose is a friend” is a reductionist, and often futile, way of thinking. The Ba’ath regime of Hafez and Bashar Assad have a long history of murderous rampages against Syrians. The United Nations Human Rights Council reports “patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.” Amnesty International reports that “As many as 13,000 prisoners from Saydnaya Military Prison were extrajudicially executed in night-time mass hangings between 2011 and 2015. The victims were overwhelmingly civilians perceived to oppose the government and were executed after being held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance.”

My response: When you see the words “Assad brutality in the service of neoliberalism” beginning this section of Dolack’s  article, you know it is going to be a crapshoot. Clearly, Dolack is working to justify  his argument that “Rojava” is completely surrounded by enemies. He does admit that “cheering the withdrawal of troops is understandable, given the imperialist history of U.S. aggression” which is a valid point, but he is also trying to sneer at the left. He then declares “support for the bloodthirsty Assad regime” is not understandable, declaring that “the Ba’ath regime of Hafez and Bashar Assad have a long history of murderous rampages against Syrians.” As a person who is openly willing to be more critical of the Syrian government as it clearly represents the Syrian bourgeoisie and is, at best, progressive, I was interested to see what sources he used: the UN Human Rights Council report and Amnesty International. Clearly, he is forgetting the behind the mask of human rights organizations, they “are promoting the war agenda of western and regional governments. Some are worse than others.”As for this specific report, it turns out it was totally fabricated with the U$ government basically trying to say that Assad is Hitler. What about the UN Human Rights Report? Well, you have to be skeptical when this report, from 2011, when it was based on “interviews with 223 victims and witnesses, but observers were not allowed access to the country,” which American Thinker endorsed with little comment. It makes, as such, no sense that this report is given even a shred of credibility.

Dolack’s comment #13:

Enforced monoculture agriculture was imposed on the Kurdish regions of Syria by the Ba’ath régime, with no economic development allowed. These areas were intentionally kept undeveloped under a policy of “Arabization” against Kurds and the other minority groups of the areas now comprising Rojava. Kurds were routinely forcibly removed from their farm lands and other properties, with Arabs settled in their place. Nor should the Assad family rule be seen in as any way as progressive. Neoliberal policies and increasingly anti-labor policies have been imposed. The spark that ignited the civil war was the drought that struck Syria beginning in 2006, a disaster deepened by poor water management and corruption.

My response: While I could say, yes, this whole section has a degree of credibility, I am skeptical because Dolack cites no sources whatsoever for this information. I would agree that “neoliberal policies and increasingly anti-labor policies have been imposed,” sure, but at the same time, the relationship between the Western and Syrian bourgeoisie has definitely broken since 2011. I am not sure Gowans is right when he says the U$ has been scheming against Syria since the 1960s, but there sure was some hostility before 2011, with the relationship obviously tenuous at times. Now, I have also heard the theory that “the spark that ignited the civil war was the drought that struck Syria beginning in 2006, a disaster deepened by poor water management and corruption” but that almost would be too easy of an explanation. Additionally, this conception acts like this is a civil war when it is really an attack on the Syrian government by the U$, devolving into a proxy war of sorts between varied forces.

Dolack’s comment #14:

Political scientists Raymond Hinnebusch and Tina Zinti, in the introduction to Syria from Reform to Revolt, Volume 1: Political Economy and International Relations, provide a concise summary of Assad neoliberalism. (The following two paragraphs are summarized from their introduction.)

Hafez al-Assad became dictator, eliminating Ba’athist rivals, in 1970. He “constructed a presidential system above party and army” staffed with relatives, close associates and others from his Alawite minority, according to professors Hinnebusch and Zinti. “[T]he party turned from an ideological movement into institutionalized clientalism” with corruption that undermined development. In turn, Alawite domination bred resentment on the part of the Sunni majority, and a network of secret police and elite military units, allowed to be above the law, kept the regime secure. Over the course of the 1990s, widespread privatization drastically shrank the state sector, which earned Assad the support of Syria’s bourgeoisie.

Upon Assad’s death in 2000, his son Bashar was installed as president. Bashar al-Assad sought to continue opening Syria’s economy to foreign capital. In order to accomplish that, he needed to sideline his father’s old guard and consolidate his power. He did, but by doing so he weakened the régime and its connections to its base. He also altered the régime’s social base, basing his rule on technocrats and businessmen who supported his economic reforms and concomitant disciplining of the working class. Syria’s public sector was run down, social services reduced, an already weak labor law further weakened and taxation became regressive, enabling new private banks and businesses to reap big incomes.

My response: While I am glad that Dolack, for once, this is clearly an “Assad is a dictator” type of book. One of the endorsements of the book on the Syracuse University Press website comes from David W. Lesch, who wrote a book titled Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad. Uh-oh. Additionally, on the Amazon website, the book is described as providing “insightful snapshots of Bashar al-Asad’s decade of authoritarian upgrading provide an indispensable resource for understanding the current crisis and its disastrous consequence.” Yikes! So we already know this is getting bad when Hafez al-Assad is described by Dolack as a “dictator” who eliminates “Ba’athist rivals” with no mention of his participation in the 1963 or 1966 coups, which allowed him to rise up the government structure, and alluded to the 1970 coup, also called the “Corrective Movement.” If we took Dolack’s summary at face value, then Assad constructed a presidential system based on patronage, which led to resentment from the majority Sunnis and a  “network of secret police and elite military units…kept the regime secure.”Additionally, we would conclude that over the 1990s, “widespread privatization drastically shrank the state sector, which earned Assad the support of Syria’s bourgeoisie.” Just taking from sources cited on the Wikipedia page of Hafez al-Assad, all of which is negative, we learn that the state was nationalistic, militaristic, secular and apparently “socialist” (not really), focusing on “domestic prosperity and economic independence,” despite accused horrors. [9] So, perhaps he is right about privatization efforts which increased the power of the Syrian bourgeoisie, but it is wrong to paint Syria as some ghoulish place commanded by an all-powerful monster. As such, I have to say his words “are acts of Western chauvinism,” just like he accused the “Left” of doing to his “beloved” Kurds.

Dolack’s comment #15:

Upon Assad’s death in 2000, his son Bashar was installed as president. Bashar al-Assad sought to continue opening Syria’s economy to foreign capital. In order to accomplish that, he needed to sideline his father’s old guard and consolidate his power. He did, but by doing so he weakened the régime and its connections to its base. He also altered the régime’s social base, basing his rule on technocrats and businessmen who supported his economic reforms and concomitant disciplining of the working class. Syria’s public sector was run down, social services reduced, an already weak labor law further weakened and taxation became regressive, enabling new private banks and businesses to reap big incomes.

My response: Again, there is the perception as Bashar al-Assad as a ghoul, being “installed as President” (the CIA can do that not a small country like Syria), sidelining “his father’s old guard and consolidate his power,” which weakened the base of his “regime,” which was now based on “technocrats and businessmen who supported his economic reforms and concomitant disciplining of the working class.” What was this all for? Well, if we take him at face value, then Bashar al-Assad “continue[d] opening Syria’s economy to foreign capital,” ran down the public sector of Syria, reduced social services, weakened the labor laws, made taxation regressive, while also enabling “new private banks and businesses to reap big incomes.” To take from a liberal paper, they echoed the same thing, saying that Assad’s “Syria would be modern and technocratic, a new model for the Middle East,” saying he wants approval from the “West, from educated Damascenes, from the artists and the intellectual class,” quoting an unnamed Syrian intellectual,while also noting that when he came into power, he “allowed private ownership of banks. The government even granted a license to the country’s first independent newspaper” until this bourgeois openness was ended. [10] The same article also said that early on, “syria had been an unofficial partner of the United States, even covertly torturing suspected militants” but after 2003, the “Bush administration began hinting that Syria could be the next candidate for regime change,” while adding that “Assad took pleasure in toying with the West” and that he spent his first time in office refining the economy policy, “privatizing the old state-run industries without actually creating any new competition. It was gangster capitalism cloaked in neoliberal free-market rhetoric.” There are other parts of the article which are questionable on their merit, which I will not mention here. One commentary in the horrid Guardian said in 2008 that there was openness by the Syrian government toward certain Western  countries, like France (the former colonizers of Syria), the ongoing problem of the Muslim Brotherhood violently opposing the government, and a continuing “seesawing relationship with the US,” even quoting him as saying “when our interests have matched, the Americans have been good to us. When the interests have differed, they wanted us to mould ourselves to them, which we refused.” [11] Whose interests is he talking about? That of the Syrian bourgeoisie. Additionally, other articles noted that he had promised “a China-style economic liberalization whose very success would mitigate the need for political reform” while some “analysts” grumbled that because of the country’s turmoil there is no chance it “could be democratic,”not recognizing the role of the West in creating such a situation! [12]

Dolack’s comment #16:

[The Assad family is] Not exactly friends of the working class, and a strong contrast to the system of “democratic confederalism” as the Rojava economic and political system is known.

My response: While I’ll agree, sure, they represent the Syrian bourgeoisie, it is wrong to point out how they currently stand diametrically opposed to U$ imperialism at  this current time? I don’t see”Rojava” as any better. In fact, I’d argue it is worse as it allows imperialists an “in” into the country itself, which is dangerous for all living in the region, as it will undoubtedly lead to further violence. I have written about this in the past, saying that Syria is socially democratic, but I am currently going through my articles as an exercise in self-criticism. Once that article specifically is looked over, I will link it here.

Dolack’s comment #17:

Clandestine organizing had been conducted among Syrian Kurds since a 2004 massacre of Kurds by the Assad régime; much of this organizing was done by women because they could move more openly then men under the close watch of the régime. Kurds were supportive of the rebels when the civil war began, but withdrew from cooperation as the opposition became increasingly Islamized and unresponsive to Kurd demands for cultural recognition. Meanwhile, as the uprising began, Kurdish self-protection militias were formed in secret with clandestine stocks of weapons. The drive for freedom from Assad’s terror began on the night of July 18, 2012, when the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) took control of the roads leading into Kobani and, inside the city, people began to take over government buildings.

My response: You know that Dolack is working extra hard to justify “Rojava” when this section of his article begins with the title “Building political democracy through communes” which makes me think of the criticism of Marx and Engels of those who advocated for communes  in the 19th century, the first people who called themselves socialist. For him, sure that is great that “clandestine organizing had been conducted among Syrian Kurds” since 2004, mainly by women rather than men. Count me skeptical that there was a “2004 massacre of Kurds by the Assad régime” based on the previous information he has presented. To say that “Kurds were supportive of the rebels when the civil war began,” is troublesome, because these “rebels” ended up, unlike these Kurds, being literal pawns, but it makes sense they broke from these individuals. Also, what is “Islamized”? I don’t think that is even an actual word, making me think he is clearly being Islamophobic here  and not accurate to what happened. Furthermore, saying that “Kurdish self-protection militias” were secretly forming and had “clandestine stocks of weapons” brings up a whole number of questions, including: where did these weapons come from? Then, in a part that sounds like it could have been written in the New York Times, he says  that these Kurds began their “drive for freedom from Assad’s terror…on the night of July 18, 2012” when a YPG unit “took control of the roads leading into Kobani and, inside the city, people began to take over government buildings.” Based on what I noted about Kobani later, that they eventually abandoned the city after “liberating” it in 2015, I wonder if this fantastical story is completely  true. Did the people of Kobani want to be “liberated” in this manner? We know that Kurds from Northern Iraq came to fight alongside the YPG in 2015, which was allowed by the  Turks  and U$ but the Syrians denounced, during the siege of Kobani, and that the siege ended with “liberation” after 112 days of fighting. The siege itself damaged infrastructure and destroyed much of the town of Kobani, 70% of which had been destroyed! [13] Even one favorable article in The Atlantic in October 2016 stated that since the siege ended, “reconstruction has barely begun to compensate for the havoc wrought on the city by both ISIS artillery and coalition airstrikes…Herculean efforts have cleared the streets, but water and power have yet to be restored. Although commerce is trickling back to life…more than half of the residential structures still standing are little more than blown out concrete shells. Yet the spirit of the people endures: Some now use defused ISIS rounds as ashtrays and flower pots.” A terrible sight indeed!

Dolack’s comment #18:

What the Syrian Kurds have created in the territory known as Rojava is a political system based on neighborhood communes and an economic system based on cooperatives. (“Rojava” is the Kurdish word for “west,” denoting that the Syrian portion of their traditional lands is “West Kurdistan.”) The inspiration for their system is Murray Bookchin’s concept of a federation of independent communities known as “libertarian municipalism” or “communalism.” But democratic confederalism is a syncretic philosophy, influenced by theorists such as Immanuel Wallerstein, Benedict Anderson and Antonio Gramsci in addition to Mr. Bookchin but rooted in Kurdish history and culture.

My response: The way is framed is obviously a method for which we are supposed to cheer. Saying that their system is based on “Murray Bookchin’s concept of a federation of independent communities known as “libertarian municipalism” or “communalism”” is an indication to me that something rotten is going on. Bookchin was a dedicated anti-communist, who disliked Marxism, and thought that the best place to change “the structure of society” is at the municipal level, being a clear anarchist. To take from an article which is favorable to him in ROAR magazine, it states that Bookchin felt that capitalism’s fatal law was not exploitation of the proletariat, but “in its conflict with the natural environment,” while also advocating his idea of “libertarian municipalism” as the “key to making anarchism politically and socially relevant again,” with these ideas influencing Öcalan. Of course Bookchin was flattered, telling Ocalan in 2004: “My hope is that the Kurdish people will one day be able to establish a free, rational society that will allow their brilliance once again to flourish. They are fortunate indeed to have a leader of Mr. Öcalan’s talents to guide them,” basically endorsing the effort.

At the same time, it is a bit laughable to say that the philosophy of “Rojava,” if you can call it that, is “influenced by theorists such as Immanuel Wallerstein, Benedict Anderson and Antonio Gramsci in addition to Mr. Bookchin but rooted in Kurdish history and culture.” I say that because Wallerstein was a committed Marxist, who developed the world-systems theory (dividing of the world into the core, periphery, and semi-periphery) and Gramsci, as  I remember, defended the Soviet state as socialist. As for Benedict Anderson, this is the bourgeois scholar wrote his book, Imagined Communities, and may have mentioned capitalism in his works, but clearly is not a Marxist.  So,  with this, Dolack does not know what he is talking about, when it comes to this topic.

Dolack’s comment #19:

Political organization in Rojava consists of two parallel structures. The older and more established is the system of communes and councils, which are direct-participation bodies. The other structure, resembling a traditional government, is the Democratic-Autonomous Administration, which is more of a representative body, although one that includes seats for all parties and multiple social organizations.

My response: If we accept this at face value, it seems like a system which would engender  too much conflict. Would it not be better to have one structure rather than two? More than anything, it would seem that this would lead to utter confusion. As such, there is clearly hierarchy despite what that starry-eyed New York Times reporter thought in 2015. Additionally, this obscures the fact that “Rojava” has a proletariat and a bourgeoisie.

Dolack’s comment #20:

The commune is the basic unit of self-government, the base of the council system. A commune comprises the households of a few streets within a city or village, usually 30 to 400 households. Above the commune level are community people’s councils comprising a city neighborhood or a village. The next level up are the district councils, consisting of a city and surrounding villages. The top of the four levels is the People’s Council of West Kurdistan, which elects an executive body on which about three dozen people sit. The top level theoretically coordinates decisions for all of Rojava.

My response: Sure, we can praise  this approach, saying it pure democracy and that the People’s Council of West Kurdistan, “which elects an executive body on which about three dozen people sit…theoretically coordinates decisions for all of Rojava” but this ignores underlying problems in “Rojava.” For one, in the push for “equal political representation of all ethno-religious components” like Christians, Arabs, and Kurds, it resembles “sectarian quotas adopted in Lebanon and Iraq,” with questions arising how terms like “peoples and communities” are defined. As such, as argued by someone who is partial to “Rojava,” instance on such boundaries “betrays the libertarian transnational aspirations” and leads to a further contradiction from the “authority bestowed upon tribal leaders”! [14]

Dolack’s comment #21:

Integrated within the four-level council system are seven commissions — defense, economics, politics, civil society, free society, justice and ideology — and a women’s council. These committees and women’s councils exist at all four levels. In turn commissions at local levels coordinate their work with commissions in adjacent areas. There is also an additional commission, health, responsible for coordinating access to health care (regardless of ability to pay) and maintaining hospitals, in which medical professionals fully participate. Except for the women’s councils, all bodies have male and female co-leaders.

My response: I see how this system would seem attractive,  democratic, and progressive, including that “except for the women’s councils, all bodies have male and female co-leaders.” However, the PKK deals with dissent harshly, going against anyone who criticizes their beloved Ocalan. Additionally, while the PKK has renounced “demands for an independent Kurdistan,” it would be wrong to “ignore the ongoing military expansion of the territories controlled by the Kurds, whose outcome means the de facto fragmentation of Syria along new borders.” At the same time, as noted elsewhere in this piece, the charter of “Rojava” officially enshrines private property along with “a provision that safeguards the privileges of landowners, while encouraging them to invest in agricultural projects sponsored by the Rojava authorities” which hilariously runs counter to Bookchin’s views “on how libertarian municipalism is expected to replace private property.” [15] So much for their “philosophy”!

Dolack’s comment #22:

At least 40 percent of the attendees must be women in order for a commune decision to be binding. That quota reflects that women’s liberation is central to the Rojava project on the basis that the oppression of women at the hands of men has to be completely eliminated for any egalitarian society to be born. Manifestations of sexism, including male violence against women, have not magically disappeared. These may now be socially unacceptable, and more likely to be kept behind closed doors, but the system of women’s councils attached to the communes, and councils at higher levels, and the self-organization of women, has at a minimum put an end to the isolation that enabled the toleration of sexist behavior and allowed other social problems to fester.

My response: I can see why one would cheer this quota of women which must be present “in order for a commune decision to be binding” and you could say that “women’s liberation is central to the Rojava project.” However, the fact is that he has to admit that “manifestations of sexism, including male violence against women, have not magically disappeared” but that is now only “socially unacceptable, and more likely to be kept behind closed doors,” with women in this positions “at a minimum put an end to the isolation that enabled the toleration of sexist behavior and allowed other social problems to fester.” That seems utterly weak and pathetic. How is this really progress? It seems like one step forward and one step back at the same time.

Dolack’s comment #23:

A system of women’s houses provides spaces for women to discuss their issues. These centers also offer courses on computers, language, sewing, first aid, culture and art, as well as providing assistance against social sexism. As with peace committees that seek to find a solution rather than mete out punishments in adjudicating conflicts, the first approach when dealing with violence or other issues of sexism is to effect a change in behavior. One manifestation of putting these beliefs into action is the creation of women’s militias, which have played leading roles in battlefield victories over Islamic State.

My response: We can all clap and say this is feminist and all, even progressive by fining solutions to problems “rather than mete out punishments in adjudicating conflicts” and that “creating women’s militias” is affecting a change in behavior. This is easily countered by Andrea Glioti’s in-depth piece, which is a bit partial to “Rojava” where he notes that “militarisation of women and society at large is an alarming trend enforced through conscription and sanctioned by the social prestige enjoyed by the fighters’ families”! [16] He also says that women become worthy of respect “as long as they turn into men of arms and sacrifice themselves on the battlefield” and that while “some would defend this militarised system of values with the current need to defend Rojava…even minors…[are] forcibly enlisted to ensure the survival of a social utopia”! He further adds that European leftist solidarity groups, “cherry-picked the so-called Rojava revolution”and how they portrayed it in their media.

Dolack’s comment #24:

The basis of Rojava’s economy are cooperatives. The long-term goal is to establish an economy based on human need, environmentalism and equality, distinctly different from capitalism. Such an economy can hardly be established overnight, so although assistance is provided to cooperatives, which are rapidly increasing in number, private capital and markets still exist. Nor has any attempt to expropriate large private landholdings been attempted or contemplated.

My response: Despite the fact that this section of the article is titled “Building a cooperative economy based on human need” he interestingly begins to point out the limitations of “Rojava” which paradoxically begins to put into question if there is “socialism” or if this entity constitutes a “socialist experiment,” democratic and cooperative experiment and is “socialist, egalitarian” as he declared earlier in the article. If we are saying that the economy’s basis is “cooperatives” and that it has a long-term goal which is “an economy based on human need, environmentalism and equality” then why is the economy undeveloped enough to only have “assistance is provided to cooperatives” while “private capital and markets still exist.” Furthermore, why has there been no attempt to “expropriate large private landholdings”? What kind of socialists are they? The answer is they are clearly not socialist or radical, but are only seen that way.

Dolack’s comment #25:

Given the intentional under-development of the region under the Assad family régime, the resulting lack of industry and the civil-war inability to import machinery or much else, and the necessity of becoming as food self-sufficient as possible due to the blockade, Rojava’s cooperatives are primarily in the agricultural sector. There is also the necessity of reducing unemployment, and the organization of communes is seen as the speediest route to that social goal as well.

My response: On this count, I will not go with his claim that there was “intentional under-development of the region under the Assad family régime,” as he has not provided any sources to support that. Perhaps, there is a point that there is a “lack of industry and the civil-war inability to import machinery or much else,” and sure, it makes sense that in an effort to become “food self-sufficient” that the cooperatives of “Rojava” are “primarily in the agricultural sector.” And sure, reducing unemployment and “organization of communes” can be seem as important. However, this again obscures the fact that there is division in this society between the bourgeoisie, who are divided among their varied parties, and the proletariat, the masses within “Rojava.” The fact that class is not incorporated into his analysis, corrupts the whole article itself, making it like glass changing temperatures too fast: it develops cracks.

Dolack’s comment #26:

The practitioners of democratic confederalism say they reject both capitalism and the Soviet model of state ownership. They say they represent a third way, embodied in the idea that self-management in the workplace goes with self-management in politics and administration. Since their liberation from the highly repressive Assad régime, Rojava agriculture has become far more diversified, and price controls were imposed.

My response:  You can say it is good that they reject capitalism, but it is dangerous that they reject the “Soviet model of state ownership,” as such a model could actually help them. Instead, they declare they want “self-management in the workplace goes with self-management in politics and administration” which seems like a situation which is bound for conflict and division which makes unification hard to come by. Once again, he has to just imperialist rhetoric to talk about “liberation from the highly repressive Assad régime.” Even, taking his words at face value again, the agriculture of “Rojava” has diversified and price controls have been imposed, these are utter reforms, something that could be expected of a social democratic government in Europe, not a socialist government, to be completely frank.

Dolack’s comment #27:

Cooperative enterprises are not intended to be competitive against one another. Cooperatives are required to be connected to the council system; independence is not allowed. Cooperatives work through the economics commissions to meet social need and in many cases their leadership is elected by the communes. The intention is to form cooperatives in all sectors of the economy. But basic necessities such as water, land and energy are intended to be fully socialized, with some arguing that these should be made available free of charge. Because the economy will retain some capitalist elements for some time, safeguards are seen as necessary to ensure that cooperatives don’t become too large and begin to behave like private enterprises.

My response: You can say that they are not intended to be competitive, but they will still participate in the global capitalist system anyway. And sure, there can be an intention to “form cooperatives in all sectors of the economy.” However, if basic necessities are not yet “fully socialized,” or “made available free of charge” which only “some” want, this again raises the question as to how “radical” this whole project is. Most laughable of all is the fact “the economy will retain some capitalist elements for some time,” leading to safeguards “to ensure that cooperatives don’t become too large and begin to behave like private enterprises.” Again, like most of these comments about Rojava’s social structure, I am taking this at face value, and saying that if this is the case, it sounds like something a social-democrat-imperialist like Bernie Sanders would want rather than a real socialist.

Dolack’s comment #28:

We need not indulge in hagiography. There are, naturally, problems and contradictions. Private ownership of the means of production is enshrined in documents espousing socialism and equality, and large private landholdings, with attendant social relations, will be untouched. It is hardly reasonable to expect that a brand new economy can be established overnight, much less in a region forced to divert resources to military defense. Nonetheless, capitalists expect as much profit as can be squeezed out of their operations, an expectation decidedly at odds with goals of “equality and environmental sustainability.” In essence, what is being created is a mixed economy, and the history of mixed economies is fraught with difficulties. Another issue is that Rojava’s authorities, connected with the dominant Democratic Union Party (PYD), can be heavy-handed, including the closing of the offices of the opposition Kurdish National Council on questionable legal grounds.

My response: I found this section very interesting. Dolack is admitting that “Rojava” enshrines “private ownership of the means of production…in documents espousing socialism and equality” and that “large private landholdings, with attendant social relations, will be untouched”! Golly, even the Soviets during the New Economic Policy (NEP) wouldn’t have allowed that. Sure, he makes a good point that “it is hardly reasonable to expect that a brand new economy can be established overnight,” but they have had since 2012 to tinker with the economy of the region, if they wished (although they are blatantly violating the sovereignty of Syria), yet, they still do not have a socialist economy. He even says that what is being created “is a mixed economy, and the history of mixed economies is fraught with difficulties” and that “Rojava’s authorities…can be heavy-handed, including the closing of the offices of the opposition Kurdish National Council on questionable legal grounds”! So, how are they democratic or socialist again? I just don’t understand how they are socialist or democratic when this is going on. Dolack wouldn’t recognize that  as  he is not a Marxist and as such, any analysis of class goes by the wayside as he tries to hammer his point that “Rojava” is good and you should smile.

Dolack’s comment #29:

Nonetheless, what is being created in northern Syria is a remarkable experiment in economic and political democracy — not only Kurds but other minority groups and Arabs consciously working toward socialism. Why shouldn’t this be supported? The authors of the book Revolution in Rojava, supporters of the project and one of whom fought in the women’s militia, argue that the idea that Rojava’s acceptance of Western aid is a “betrayal” is “naïve,” drawing parallels with Republican Spain of the 1930s. Describing Rojava as an “anti-fascist project,” they note that the capitalist West turned its back on the Spanish Revolution, allowing fascism to triumph.

My response: If this is an experiment, then it has to be a “test or trial of something,” being a process or action undertaken to “discover something not yet known or to demonstrate something known,” to use the definition from the fourth edition of the Webster’s New World College  Dictionary. It can also be any “action or  process designed to find out whether something is effective, workable, valid, etc.” If it is remarkable, then it must be unusual or extraordinary, meaning it must be something that is not usual or common, rare, not very usual, or “exceptional” to use definitions of all three words from the same dictionary. If this is all true, and it is “a remarkable experiment in economic and political democracy” then why is it promoted in the main capitalist media like the New York Times (see “The Kurds’ Democratic Experiment”), Financial Times (see Power to the people: a Syrian experiment in democracy”.), Yahoo (see “Syrian Kurds give women equal rights, snubbing jihadists”), Foreign Affairs (see “The Rojava Model”), The Atlantic (see “What the Syrian Kurds Have Wrought. The radical, unlikely, democratic experiment in northern Syria”), The Guardian (see “Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?”), Slate (see “Regaining hope in Rojava” and “American Leftists Need to Pay More Attention to Rojava”), U$ government-owned media like Voice of America (see “Writings of Obscure American Leftist Drive Kurdish Forces in Syria”), and two-bit publications  like Dissent (see “The Revolution in Rojava”), OpenDemocracy (“The Rojava revolution”), and Unicorn Riot (see “Building Autonomy through Ecology in Rojava”)? Due to such promotion, it makes sense to be skeptical of his claims. To then compare “Rojava” to those fighting Spanish fascism is an utter joke, as that means that if they are “anti-fascist” then who are  the fascists? The Turks? The Syrians? The Iraqis? The Iranians? Daesh? Using a term like fascist further muddies the waters.

Dolack’s comment #30:

In the forward to the same book, David Graeber, careful to differentiate the targets of his critique from those who oppose the global dominance of North American militarism, argues…It does seem quite reasonable to hope for a socialist experiment to avoid being destroyed by Islamic State fascism, Turkish ultra-nationalism or Syrian absolutism rather than clinging to dogmatism.

My response: When I see the name David Graeber, a red alert siren goes off in my head, as I know he is the one has sneered at Syria’s government, and has been called by those on Twitter, for his horribleness, “Anarchy Dad.” And, of course, I am blocked by him. Before getting to this quote, I’d like to talk about the quote of Graeber’s that Dolack uses. In this quote Graeber sneers at those who have the “feeling that foiling imperial designs — or avoiding any appearance of even appearing to be on the ‘same side’ as an imperialist in any context — should always take priority over anything else,” showing that he, fundamentally, does not understand international solidarity. Also, it is an evident straw man he constructed on his own, allowing him to declare that this attitude, he manufactured only in his head, “only makes sense if you’ve secretly decided that real revolutions are impossible,” saying that “a genuine popular revolution” is occurring in “Rojava” which should be “success could be a beacon and example to the world.” Graeber sneer continues at “a bunch of white intellectuals” who don’t want to “sully the purity of their reputations by suggesting that US imperial forces already conducting airstrikes in the region might wish to direct their attention to the fascists’ tanks” because they don’t take the position he wants. What “world” is he talking about? The  capitalist world? Because they will accept these Kurds with open arms if they serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. The phrasing of this makes me even more wary.

Now onto Dolack’s comment. He claims that Graeber is “careful to differentiate the targets of his critique from those who oppose the global dominance of North American militarism,” although I would say he is sloppy and nasty, not careful! Clearly, Dolack does not know what the world careful means, something which I do not need to define. Of course, in the last sentence, Dolack is optimistic in hoping that “Rojava,” which he still claims is a “socialist experiment,” may be able to “avoid being destroyed by Islamic State fascism, Turkish ultra-nationalism or Syrian absolutism rather than clinging to dogmatism.” This jumble of words shows his utter confusion. Sure, Daesh is terrible, but it could be a step too far to call them fascist. I would just call them religious reactionaries at the very least. As for the Turks, I would call them neo-Ottoman marauders. As for the Syrians, I would call them a progressive force that is nationalist, with a bourgeoisie which is currently taking an anti-imperialist position.


Notes

[1] Tim Arango,”Sinjar Victory Bolsters Kurds, but Could Further Alienate U.S. From Iraq,” New York  Times, Nov 13, 2015; Morgan L. Kaplan, “Why the U.S. backed the Kurds,” Washington Post, September 9, 2014.

[2] Zach Beauchamp, “America’s Kurdish problem: today’s allies against ISIS are tomorrow’s headache,” Vox, Apr 8, 2016.

[3] Stephen Zunes, “The United States and the Kurds,” Common Dreams, Oct 26, 2007.

[4] As an article in Foreign Policy noted, “by 1988, U.S. intelligence was flowing freely to Hussein’s military. That March, Iraq launched a nerve gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja in northern Iraq.” I mentioned this on Twitter, asking “So much for the U$ as “allies” of the Kurds. Did the SDF, PYD, and others not remember this?” That is still a valid question.

[5] Yet, the U$ criticized MEK for “helping Saddam brutally put down a Kurdish rebellion in the early 1990s, and of launching numerous attacks inside Iran.”

[6] Joost Hiltermann, “They were expendable,” London Review of Books, Nov 17, 2016. Reviewing Gibson’s book, summarized here. Also see William Safire’s “Mr. Ford’s Secret Sellout,” New York Times, Feb 5, 1976. Also see this analyzing U$ foreign policy and the Kurds from the 1950s to 1970s.

[7] Scott Peterson, “Kurds say Iraq’s attacks serve as a warning,” Christian Science Monitor, May 13, 2002;  Najmaldin Karim, “A 1991 Kurdish Betrayal Redux?,” Washington Post (opinion), Dec 2, 2006.

[8] Samuel Oakford, “They’re Still Pulling Bodies Out of ISIS’ Capital,” The Daily Beast, Mar 12, 2018.

[9] Halla Dayab, “All in the family: Building the Assad dynasty in Syria,” Al Arabiya English, Nov 28,2014; Anthony Shadid, “In Assad’s Syria, There Is No Imagination,”  PBS, Nov 8, 2011.

[10]  Annia Ciezadlo, “Bashar Al Assad: An Intimate Profile of a Mass Murderer,”The New Republic,Dec 19, 2013.

[11] Peter Beaumount, “No longer the pariah President,” The Guardian, Nov 15, 2008

[12] Anthony Shadid, “In Assad’s Syria, There Is No Imagination,”  PBS, Nov 8, 2011; Aron Lund, “Syria’s Phony Election: False Numbers and Real Victory,”Carnegie Middle EastCenter, Jun 9, 2014.

[13] Patrick Cockburn, “Isis in Kobani: US resupplies Kurdish fighters by plane – then Turkey allows reinforcements through its border,” The Independent, Oct 20, 2014; “Syrian Kurds ‘drive Islamic State out of Kobane’,” BBC News, Jan 26, 2015; Liz Sly, “Syrian regime denounces Turkey for allowing foreign fighters to enter Kobane,” Washington Post,  Oct 30, 2014; Nick Palton Walsh, “Syrian town tries to rise from ashes after ISIS defeat,” CNN, May 5,  2015; Si Sheppard, “What the Syrian Kurds Have Wrought,” The Atlantic, Oct 25, 2016.

[14] Andrea Glioti, “Rojava: A libertarian myth under scrutiny,” Al Jazeera, Aug 5, 2016.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

Dream on!: Bernie’s imperialist monster…in 2022

Samples from recent tweets that show Bernie’s imperialist positions, which are not easy to find. They include human rights imperialism (Oct 24 tweet in upper right), implying that U$ alliance with Saudis will continue (Oct 25 tweet), talks about the “sacrifices” of imperialist footsoldiers (Nov 11 tweet), war criminal George H.W. Bush is “honorable” (Dec 1 tweet), implying that imperialist WWI was an “honorable” war (Nov 11 tweet), condemning “acts of violence” and “appeals to violence,” a common progressive position of weakness (Oct 24 tweet), and declaring that the orange menace “admires” all “authoritarian[s]” he meets, which is in and of itself an imperialist position (Oct 18 tweet)
In 2016, in the second post on this blog, I mentioned how Black bourgeois figure, Ta Nehisi Coates criticized Bernie for not supporting reparations and he continued to smear socialism. Later that year, I drew up a speech where Bernie spoke to a group named “Capitalists for Bernie,” perhaps making him too honest! I also mentioned him briefly in a post about the Saudi-U$ imperial interrelationship. Finally,  in 2017, I described him as an imperialist worth despising. The proposed speech and 2017 article are used for many of the sources in this article, but I also added new sources as well, some from the ideas posted on the Twitter hashtag #SandersTheImperialist, from Bernie’s Twitter feed, and links from the “political  positions of Bernie Sanders” wikipedia page, as well, for further resources. This post is based on the idea that Bernie won the 2020 elections (very unlikely) and was inaugurated U$ president in January 2021. It does not fully show what Bernie’s murderous empire would be like, but tries to focus on the dark side of Bernie, not the side usually promoted by his boosters. Perhaps another scenario will be posted n 2019. Here it goes!

Welcome to SandersTV. I’m your host, Linda Kruneig. Today, January 31, 2022, we will be recalling the accomplishments of our leader riding the white steed of justice, the immutable Bernie Sanders, the non-Marxist president of these great United States  (and not a socialist), where the red, white and blue shine like the reflection of ruby diamond.

Last year, there were many wonderful accomplishments.

Public college is tuition-free and openly accessible, paid for by seized Russian assets (not the financial transaction tax as had been proposed before) after Robert Mueller gave the result we all wanted, when it comes to Russia, and the rascal was pushed out of office. [1] While the student loan debt continues, people can refinance their loans, universities can keep their costs down, which is great for …

[teleprompter explodes. Static]

[a technician tells her:] Ma’am, we have lost the broadcast! We can’t control it anymore!

Why can’t hackers deal with their own problems! I’m so glad that Bernie hit the Ecuadorian Embassy in London with a drone missile, killing the pesky Assange. Wikileaks needed to be dealt with since they were…

[Mic cuts out. Feed changes color, a video begins playing, from an unknown source]

SandersTV viewers, this broadcast has been hijacked by the Anti-Capitalist Liberation Unit (ACLU). We are here to tell you the truth about President Bernie Sanders, a person who has sold out this country to the capitalist class. Derivatives are going wild, causing huge economic fluctuations, Africa continues to be a market for exploitation by U$ capitalists, and the “fair trade” initiatives proposed by the current U$ government are really protectionist claptrap. [2]

Ms. Kruneig talks about “accomplishments” in education. She does not want you to remember how the chipping away of public education continues in the U$, expanding the Race to the Top Program (RTTT) and “reforming” No Child Left Behind to allow for more ranking of schools on spurious factors. [3] She also doesn’t want to remind us to how this administration has given more rights to corporations when it comes to control over content. We remember how Bernie never objected to the Mickey Mouse Protection Act or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and will never forgive him for that. [4]

There is more than this, that those Berniecrats will never tell you, because it would turn the populace against them. Apart from lobbing insults at the late Hugo Chavez, calling him a “dead communist dictator” and voting to open up the Gulf of Mexico to more oil drilling with the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement. The gun industry has been cheering since January 2021 with lax gun laws and further protections of gun manufacturers, even with changed positions over the years. [5] Those capitalists must be smiling with glee, knowing what issues he is focusing on. In tandem with that, Bernie has brought back Loretta Lynch as Attorney General, who has kept in place harsh anti-drug laws and has strongly opposed marijuana legalization efforts, breaking up marijuana dispensaries, despite past statements by Bernie supporting decriminalization and legalization. [6] This has also been part of an effort to convert private prisons to public prisons, keeping in place mass incarceration within the U$ and the racist criminal “justice” system, in part thanks to a law he voted for in 1994. Sure, cash bail and mandatory minimums have been ended, but  the federal parole system has been reinstated, further institutionalizing the prison system in this country. We remember that Bernie once said that white people don’t know what its like to  be in poor communities, experience police brutality, even as he called for reforms, which have manifested themselves today in body cameras which keep in place the necessary status quo since cops than turn them on and off.

Even worse of all, uranium has been shipped to poor communities, like with Sierra Blanca in the 1990s, a clear case of environmental racism, with his wife as a Commissioner on the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission. [7] There was a victory in closing the Guantanamo Bay Prison (Gitmo) but they have just been moved to a maximum security prison in Utah, where no one will say  a word. The current U$ government seems to believe that it must do “everything we can to protect our democracy and work with allies to do the same,” even though there is no democracy in the U$ and hasn’t been since 1776.

Worst of all, Bernie has continued on the Zionist trajectory of the U$ government. We know that he believes in a  modified form of Zionism, Labor Zionism to be exact, and also that he would never turn his back on AIPAC, supporting further treaties with the murderous Zionist state. [8] The never-ending “peace process” for an unattainable “two-state solution” will go on as Palestinians are killed and the U$ gives the green light, while the Zionists will be allowed to illegally occupy the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. He also strongly opposes the BDS movement, despite the fact he opposed an anti-BDS bill in Congress years ago. This is no surprise for a president who engages in “selective and effective” drone strikes or has supported Arab monarchies (like the Saudis, which Bernie once called “despotic“) fighting as U$ proxies “against” Daesh, which came about thanks to the U$, in the place of U$ troops, for the attainment of imperial goals. [9] They are even supported by U$ airstrikes! The thousands upon thousands of private mercenaries remain across the Mideast, doing the bidding of the murderous empire. The “good” Kurds continue to be armed to serve as imperial pawns, the “Iran deal” was restored with the threat of possible sanctions kept in place to supposedly stop a nuclear weapon, there has been an “honorable” withdrawal from Afghanistan which has kept in place private mercenaries, and the security/intelligence apparatus has been expanded! [10] As such, mass surveillance is still the name of the game, coupled with the claim of making the U$ military “strong.”

The Sanders administration has not positively treated Cuba’s government, supporting so-called “democratic” opposition, with more money to USAID and NED to cause even more destabilization, leading to a government like that of Batista to take power again! We stand in solidarity with the noble Cubans resisting this assault. There has even been efforts to extradite black liberationist Assata Shakur and destabilize the government of Syria, wanting to oust the duly-elected leader, Bashar Al-Assad, with support of the Syrian “rebels” who are often religious reactionaries who will turn the country into a living hell, although he does not want a “broad war.” While we have our criticisms of the government there, we also oppose all U$ meddling across the world. The same applies to our opposition to U$ destabilization in Venezuela (also see here, here, and here), where the government is still holding on, bit by bit, and the DPRK, where sanctions remain in place, as does U$ meddling to undermine the government, opening up new markets for the bourgeoisie! Let us also not forget Bernie’s words that “when I talk about Democratic socialist, I’m not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden,” a clear imperialist position. Even with our criticism of the Chinese revisionists, we do not support U$ meddling there, where the current administration has engaged in, going back on the word of Bernie to avoid a cold war with China, with the promotion of protectionism, working to beat them at their own game, calling out their reportedly “unfair” trade policies,” and voting for the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2000, which gave millions of dollars to support Tibetan anti-communist resistance, support NED initiatives to foster democracy in China, and for more intelligence on their dealings. [11]

Lest us remember that Bernie in 2000 voted against normal trade with China, voted for, in a number of different roll calls, throughout the year, a law which gave millions upon millions of dollars to support destabilization in China, voting for in one roll call then another, a law that provided millions more to continue to destabilize the country. Additionally, Bernie, in 2005, voted in one roll call after another, for a law to fund Tibetan anti-communist development and resistance, voted in 2007 twice, at one time and then another, for a bill that similarly destabilized China, and in 2009 again voted to fund Tibetan anti-communist resistance as part of a  a consolidated bill showed. The same year he also did not object to a law that gave millions to distribute propaganda concerning the environment, governance, transparency, and corruption within Chinese borders!

If that isn’t bad enough, let us remember how Bernie has opposed reparations for Black folks in the U$ and that as Bruce Dixon said rightly many years ago, Bernie’s ideas, stop “at the water’s edge, as he endorses apartheid in Israel, the Pentagon budget and the global empire of hundreds US bases and vast military industries that eat half the nation’s wealth annually,” making Bernie no friend of the poor anywhere outside the U$ (or inside it). So much for a person (Bernie) who once said he was “kind of conservative on getting involved in all kinds of wars abroad” and admitted he is “not a pacifist but…always understood war is the last recourse,” understanding the cost of war.

The F-35 program continues in Vermont, while the petty bourgeoisie (small business) have been supported, including for-profit cooperatives, and guest worker programs have been stopped in order to “assist” U$ workers, dooming migrants, a racist move, wanting closed rather than open borders. [12] Sure, there are no “dumb” wars, but imperialism continues with no closures of U$ bases anywhere in the world. Bernie not surprisingly seems Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin as “authoritarian,” even though neither are because of different government structures in each country, again an imperialist position.

You can talk about Bernie’s socially democratic positions all day but that does not change the fact that he is an imperialist.

End of transmission.

[show restarts]

Thank god, my show is back! Anyway, I think that is all the time we have today. Join us next time when we cover how the U$ is criticizing the Saudis for their actions in Yemen,  and how to get a signed book by Bernie himself. To all, good night.


Notes

[1] This draws from “Sanders: Make College Tuition Free,” May 19, 2015; “Sanders: Make Public Higher Ed Tuition-Free, Reform Loans, Protect Pell Grants,” Apr 13, 2015; “Sen. Bernie Sanders on The O’Reilly Factor,” Mar. 14, 2014.

[2] See his votes to deregulate derivatives in October and December 2000. He also voted for an extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which offers “incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.”Also see criticisms of AGOA from U.S. News & World Report, Public Citizen, and CEPR. By “fair trade” I am referring to his votes against a “free trade” agreement with South Korea, and the Export-Import Bank.

[3] See Bernie’s votes for No Child Left Behind’s first iteration back in 2001, then later changing his mind. Also see “Fair Funding for Schools,”Jun 3, 2012; “Vermont Wins Education Grant,” Dec 20, 2013; “Obama’s Race To The Top Drives Nationwide Wave of School Closings, Teacher Firings,” Jan 10, 2013.

[4] See the votes on the Mickey Mouse Protection Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

[5] See “Congress Passes New Legal Shield for Gun Industry,” a 2005 New York Times article about a law Bernie voted for, called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. He also voted against the Brady Act, made a statement I made about difference between guns in Vermont and shootings in Chicago which was a “dog whistle” that parroted points from the NRA. He even told Playboy that background checks won’t solve the problems we have with guns in America and believed that protecting gun manufacturers is as right as protecting those who make hammers. Also see “Bernie’s Big Break With the Left on Guns.”

[6] Bernie supported the confirmation of Loretta Lynch for an Attorney General, whom made some harsh statements opposing marijuana legalization and so on, while Bernie has also said that people who do hard drugs should be punished to the full extent of the law.

[7] See “The Texas-Vermont-Maine Nuclear Dump: Bringing Environmental Racism Home,” “Texans defend Sierra Blanca community against nuclear waste disposal, 1996-1998,” “Sanders to Sierra Blanca: Drop Dead!,” “Don’t Trust Bernie Sanders,” ““What About Sierra Blanca, Bernie?” From Radioactive Waste on the Rio Grande to Reparations,” “Sanders & Sierra Blanca Legislation,” “What You Should Know About Bernie Sanders And A Controversial Proposal To Bring Toxic Waste To Sierra Blanca.”

[8] He supported Israel in a resolution in summer 2014 and didn’t object to the United States-Israel Partnership Act of 2014. Also see articles in Forward, CNN, HuffPo, Mondoweiss, and a tweet  on the subject.

[9] Please see “democratic socialism in the United States,” a statement on the war power resolution, calling for a Saudi demand for U$ ground troops offensive, calling for Arab nations to “step up the fight against [the] Islamic state,” a statement on Iraq and Syria, a statement on Iraq, a HuffPo article, and a YouTube video. All these positions were taken even though he symbolically voted against the Iraq War in 2002. Not only did Bernie vote in favor of “peacekeeping operations” in Kosovo and in favor of missile strikes against Yugoslavia, but he said on the House floor that “I have supported the NATO bombings of military targets” in Bosnia, even though he lost some supporters by endorsing the destruction of Yugoslavia in a 78 day bombing campaign which drenched Serbia in depleted uranium. The  war would be important in setting a precedent for the wonderful humanitarian imperialists, as used in the Libyan war of 2011 due to the creation of a humanitarian pretext for intervention in Bosnia, that it was just part of a  way to create favorable conditions for corporate profit-making. As such, such humanitarian imperialism, is basically about maintaining its imperial dominance, with the humanitarian guise part of a broader propaganda offensive, with a similar approach used in the Libyan war. Bernie also voted for the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, which was about supporting anti-Saddam Iraqis, and signed by Bill Clinton into law. This law was used by Senator Sam Brownback to advocate for bringing capitalism to Iran and to argue for the Iraq War in 2003, even by George W. Bush himself that year, with the preamble to the 2002 bill for the Iraq war’s authorization, citing the law! Additionally, May 1993, Bernie voted for the use of US troops in Somalia, in 1999 justified the brutal US bombing in Bosnia, voting to use US ground troops in 1995, and quoted a member of the German Green Party, Joschka Fischer, in favor of the campaign, arguing that “[this bombing] means standing up against genocide…If we accept Milosevic as a winner, it would be the end of the Europe I believe in” and after someone said he “sold out” he declared “what do you do to a butcher who has lined up people and shot them?” and then said “I don’t know what to do, but I’ll tell you what I am doing, what I am trying to do,” later adding he was “on the phone…with the White House” to help negotiate a settlement. Sanders also voted to confirm Harold Koh as Legal Advisor for the US State Department, a Reagan lawyer who infamously declared that drone killing was legal, a position that Koh took after confirmation but Sanders never expressed an objection to.

[10] Not only did Sanders vote in favor of the imperial Afghan war in 2001 but in 2011 he said that we couldn’t withdraw all of our troops immediately and that U$ soldiers were are doing a tremendous job under very difficult circumstances. He also voted to expand the intelligence apparatus, in a law that created the position of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center, and many other anti-terror institutions, defended the Department of Homeland Security when it was at its weakest from those who wanted to deny it funding and voted to give it funding. He also told  Yahoo! News said that surveillance of “potential terrorists” is ok.

[11] The voting record on bills of interest, noted in Table A-2 on the site of the State Department, shows Bernie’s record.

[12] See “Bernie Sanders criticizes open borders at Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,” “Bernie Sanders H1B skeptic,” Bernie Sanders calls immigrants “silly, tribal and economically illiterate,”  and Bernie’s comments on “open borders.”

“Confused and capricious”: U$ imperialists re-calibrate destabilization of Syria?

As I said on Twitter, this map shows the Syrian government (“Assad regime”) holding “onto much of Syria except for the Kurds in the east, Syrian rebels (“opposition”) in the North along with “Turkish and revel [sic] forces” (referring to the “Free” Syrian Army) and scattered Daesh (“Islamic State”) remnants.” There are other maps, I’ve seen, like one shown by BBC News, but they show the same thing. This map probably simplifies events in Syria a bit too much, tying into existing imperial propaganda it does give one a general idea of what is happening.
This article was reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some changes have been made, but they are only in light of recent events. In light of some comments on Twitter, some (like @commieposting) have criticized how I describe the Kurds in this post, saying I should name the specific Kurdish groups which the U$ backed, previously. That is a valid point, and as such, I have updated the post to specifically name those groups.

For days now, the bourgeois media has been buzzing about possible withdrawal of all U$ troops from Syria, which are said to number 2,000 people, due to the official dictate from the orange menace on December 19th, as noted by Amber B. on this very blog in a recent post. The orange menace’s dictate came in his free-wielding Twitter declarations that Daesh was “defeated” in Syria (with the U$ “victorious”), that he made a concession to stay in Syria while claiming that the U$ is doing the work of Russia, Iran, Syria & others” who are the “local enemy” of Daesh (who are “not happy about the U.S. leaving”), while stating the U$ should not be the “the Policeman of the Middle East,” all of which appeals to his dedicated base of rabid nationalists even if much of this is filled with lies by omission and mis-truths. This was clear from White nationalist Stephen Miller (one of the advisors to the orange menace), declaring to CNN hosts, “are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation, spilling American blood to fight the enemies of all those countries? ISIS has been defeated…if ISIS wants to retrench and regrow and reorganize, it’s going to be up to those countries to defeat their enemy” while others said U$ national interest is served by redeployment of troops from Syria elsewhere. [1] More worrisome were the tweets from the Chief Spokesperson of the Pentagon, Dana W. White, who declared that the U$ military campaign, officially said to be against Daesh but really meant to destabilize Syria, “is not over” and that “we have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from #Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign…We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates,” leaving the door open to further imperialist meddling. With this, the question remains: are U$ imperialists re-calibrating their methods for destabilizing Syria? Regardless of the answer to that question, what do these new developments mean for the world at-large, especially the people of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the panoply of other Middle Eastern countries, many of which have a U$ presence?

As Amber B. put it in the aforementioned post, the dictate by the orange menace “caused an uproar among legislators and the brass,” who were apparently caught off-guard by this announcement. Not only were neo-cons in Washington, like Eli Lake, Lindsay Graham (who wants to somehow change the mind of the orange menace), Max Boot, and Marco Rubio, pushing for further U$ involvement, but so were so-called “experts,” ravenous liberals like Killary, Medhi Hasan, Victoria Nuland (of Ukraine overthrow fame), Chris Coons, and Bob Menendez, libertarians like “ironic” Justin Raimondo or Maj. Danny Sjursen, who declared that “Assad is undoubtedly a monster,” and varied other politicians, all of whom are utter imperialists. Apart from the editors of the National Review declaring that U$ intervention in Syria should continue because the U$ has gained “valuable territorial leverage” and there is “work left to be done” in order to continue destabilization of Syria, even as they admit that Russia’s intervention in Syria has “been an unmitigated success,” Brian Kilmeade of Fox News angrily attacked the action by the orange menace. [2] At the same time, warmongers like Carl Bildt complained about their voices being overruled/ignored, Ian Bremmer cried like a wolf struck with an arrow, howling in pain, saying that “Assad has won…Obama’s gone, Assad is still there. It is embarrassing to admit that Assad has won,” then continuing with his typical imperialist rhetoric. Even NGOs like Refugees International and Mercy Corps seemed to support continued U$ imperial presence in Syria.

Not surprisingly, there has been a number of ill-informed takes by “good, decent liberals“: that the withdrawal is a “corrupt Russian plot” (despite the fact that another meeting between the orange menace and Putin likely will not happen), that “mass murderers” are emboldened, that the withdrawal is a “give-away to Russia in Syria” or part of an “alliance with Putin,” somehow shows that Trump is a “puppet” of Russia, that there is no clear plan or that the orange menace cares about his supposed investments in Russia and Turkey. While the last one could have some credence, the orange menace is not only out for himself, but represents the face of U$ imperialism, so, these reasons are reductive and are Russophobic approaches to what is happening in the world, tying into media narratives that promote this perspective. [3] You will never see liberals making the valid point Marx made to the International Workingman’s Association in London, that “…no new colonies, no emigration, no opening of markets, no free trade,” or any “improvement of machinery…appliance of science to production…[or] contrivances of communication,” will do away with the miseries of the working class (which he called the “industrious masses”). The point about imperialism, which is implied in this statement is what I refer to here, is that it will not do away with the working class’s troubles. The reason liberals or progressives will not make this point is that they float underdeveloped theories like “intersectionality” which does not pose class as a central component of oppression, leading to a distorted view of the world. In the process of criticizing such theories, one can avoid the petty-bourgeois sloppiness Lenin criticized in 1918, when criticizing left-communists, adding that is important for Marxists to “give a coherent and complete exposition of the principles underlying one’s views and tactics,” a process which is championed and done on a regular basis on sites such as this one.

This undoubtedly raises the question of whether this dictate “will survive the row it has unleashed.” The question of whether this dictate will survive is also questioned by the fact that varied administration officials have declared in the past year that U$ troops will remain in Syria (specifically to counter Iran), even as Rand Paul and Mike Lee support the decision by the orange menace, as does Ron Paul, who praised the decision, telling the orange menace not to “buckle” under pressure. [4] As Amber B. put it, this decision serves “as further evidence for a profoundly confused and capricious imperialist mandate.” But that does not mean we should buy into the idea that the U$ imperialists are bumbling fools like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, as left-journalist of Pierre Omidyar’s plaything (The Intercept) Jeremy Scahill declared at one time. It is worth noting that even oft-writing revisionist Stephen Gowans, the person who thinks that Syria is a “non-Marxist” socialist state, declared that the “announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the drawdown of US occupation forces in Afghanistan…more likely reflect the adoption of new means of achieving longstanding US foreign policy goals” with a policy “based on shifting the burden of maintaining the US empire increasingly to allies and private soldiers bankrolled by oil monarchies,” a clearly valid point.

As such, to recall what Amber B. said, we should remember Lenin, recognizing that “in the absence of an anti-war movement, we must build the conditions for turning imperialist war into revolutionary civil war.” This refers directly, to what Lenin wrote in 1915: that a “revolutionary struggle against the war” is empty and meaningless unless it means “revolutionary action against one’s own government even in wartime.” What does this mean? Lenin explains this means not only desiring the defeat of one’s government, but “facilitating such a defeat,” with the conversion of an imperialist war into a civil war developing out of “a number of diverse phenomena, aspects, features, characteristics and consequences of the imperialist war.” Ultimately that would allow the “proletariat to take advantage of the difficulties experienced by its government and its bourgeoisie in order to overthrow them,” but that cannot happen “without desiring the defeat of one’s own government and without contributing to that defeat.” Currently, it would be absurd to say the U$ or any Western country is on the verge of revolution, as many seem to be caught in the thick imperialist and capitalist fog of deception.

Having said all of this, it is worth noting some positive developments: that the major U$ operation in Syria (officially against Daesh) planned before the announced withdrawal will be canceled, that the U$ is planning to close the “Al-Tanf base near the Syrian border with Jordan,” and that John Bolton’s decision to expand the U$ goals in Syria to force Iranian forces to “eventually withdraw” was a failure, another defeat for the hardened imperialist. [5] Even so, the Pentagon is reportedly negotiating to “keep U.S. air power in the fight over Syria.” This means, as should be evident, imperialism, like capitalism, is very adaptable, with increasing “coordination between the monopoly capital and the state within core nations,” with monopoly capitalism involving exporting capital in order to “seek additional surplus value,” and the key feature of such imperialism involving “exporting class struggle and civil war to the peripheral regions.” The latter is the case not only in Syria, but manifests itself in the ongoing deadly armed conflicts in Mexico (drug war since 2006), Iraq (since at least 2003), Afghanistan (since 1978), and Yemen (since 2011). It also includes the smaller ongoing armed conflicts across much of eastern, central, and northern Africa, the Mideast, central Asia, East Asia, along with others scattered in parts of Europe and Latin America.

More possible than not, this call for a withdrawal is part of a re-orientation of U$ policy with Turkey tasked with balkanization of Syria, even as the Chinese revisionists don’t see this as a big deal. This handing of the baton to Turkey is evidenced by the fact that on Tuesday, the U$ State Department approved a sale of a $3.5 billion Patriot missile system, including 140 missiles and related equipment, to Turkey which recently decided not to pursue buying S-400 missiles  from Russia. [6] Additionally, on December 4th, two top State Department officials met with the Turks, where they discussed “promotion of stability and security in Syria.” Some, like cordeliers on Twitter, have further argued that that this withdrawal will “provide useful cover for a NATO proxy war managed by Turkey,” while headchoppers of Daesh are rolled into “rebel” militias, and a transition to a new phase of U$ proxy wars in the Mideast. It is even possible that the Zionists will have a role in this new strategy as Netanyahu pledged, in response to the decision of the orange menace, that “we will safeguard the security of Israel and protect ourselves from this arena” and that AIPAC declared that Iran and Hezbollah be “prevented from exploiting this development to further destabilize the region and threaten our allies,” with steps by the U$ to “counter the mounting aggression of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah.”

There is also an open question of whether Russia will be part of the partition of Syria considering they are one of the three “self-appointed guarantors of the Syrian peace process,” apart from Turkey and Iran, with Russia recently further downscaling its military presence by cutting military flights within Syria from more than hundred per day to fewer than four every week! [7] All three are part of a committee “due to write a new constitution for the country,” which could pave the “pave the way for UN-supervised elections and a possible peace process that would encourage millions of refugees to return to their homeland.” While this could have some positive results, it doesn’t seem right for these countries to re-write a constitution which should be solely written and drafted by the Syrian people! Even so, the Syrian government seems willing to accept the process, which agreed with the Syrian opposition on members which represent “civil society.” Considering the principle established by Marx that “existence and thereby the collisions…between these classes are in turn conditioned by the degree of development of their economic position, by the mode of their production and of their exchange determined by it,” it raises the question: who will these civil society members represent?

There was also a theory posed by a recent AP article: that the orange menace decided to withdrawal from Syria based on a telephone call with Erdogan on December 14th. [8] This supposes that everyone of the orange menace’s advisers agreed with Erdogan’s assessment of Daesh, then the orange menace magically agreed to pull out troops. Taking this at face value, Moon of Alabama says that the orange menace did not not “capitulate” to Erdogan but “was finally given a chance” to withdrawal and “grabbed the opportunity”which Erdogan was not ready for, with other articles acting like the orange menace achieved his objective of withdrawal he has wanted since he was inaugurated. [9] They say that Erdogan was caught off guard because while Turkey has planned to “occupy a 10 mile deep strip along the Syrian-Turkish border,” 50,000 to 100,000 troops would be needed to occupy “all of east Syria northward of the Euphrates” which would be opposed by armed Kurds (those within “Rojava”) and a hostile Arab population. While this is convincing, considering Turkey recently said they would delay their military offensive into Syria’s territory, I have a sense something more is going on. This is because it is clear now that the proposed U$ withdrawal from Syria is a cover for further Turkish involvement in Syria, with the Turks now becoming the mercenaries of empire, which some are annoyed with. On November 22, Middle East Monitor reported that the Emirati and Saudi military forces arrived in Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria (“Rojava”), were stationed with U$ forces, supporting their “tasks with huge military enforcements as well as heavy and light weapons,”while also meeting with Kurdish officials. This brings us, logically, to the Kurdish question in Syria.

We know that generally, these Kurds (part of “Rojava”) thought that the U$ would champion their cause, failing to understand that the U$ establishment acts “purely in its own interests.” Amber B., in the aforementioned article linked at the beginning of this piece put it well: that while there is some truth in the fact that U$ withdrawal is “an effective abandonment of the progressive Kurdish forces,” the Kurdish people can only resolve their problems on their own, and as such,  we should condemn those, like Debbie Bookchin (daughter of noted anarchist Murray Bookchin), a branch of the Democratic “Socialists”of America (actually social democrats), self-declared anarchist Noam Chomsky who advocates for U$ presence to “deter an attack on the Kurdish areas,” and the NYC Socialist Rifle Association, to name a few, who have “substituted genuine internationalism for mindless propaganda work for competing imperialist powers.” As such, those who criticize these Kurds in “Rojava,” like the YPG,  SDF, and PYD, for their alliance with U$ imperialists are not stooges of Erdogan as some have dumbly claimed. This is due to the fact there are questions about how “revolutionary” or “progressive” these vaulted Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are since the SDF said they wanted “to be part of America,” possibly clearing the way for Turkey’s occupation. The Emergency Committee for “Rojava” goes even further in their pro-imperialist orientation, calling the withdrawal of U$ troops a  “betrayal” and calling for military, economic, and political assistance, thinking that the U$ imperialists are somehow humanitarian saviors! Of course, those in “Rojava” are no Marxists, as they do not hold, as Eleanor Marx (Karl and Jenny Marx’s daughter) and Edward Aveling that the world is restless and that the “death of the capitalistic method of production” means, simply, “resolution of society into simpler forms…a new and better order of things,” since the current society is “morally bankrupt.”

Maybe they even hold the latter about society, with social contract seeming democratic with federalist system including legislative, executive, and judicial branches, professed equality in “persons and communities,” a right to live in a healthy environment and express certain rights (“ethnic, cultural, linguistic and gender”), freedom of speech except that which can be restricted, with a policy of interference and admitting their integral nature to Syria, which met some  “fundamental requirements of Western international backers opposing the Syrian regime,” as Chatham House declared in 2016. While there are some other rights given, like equality in gender, worship, assembly,  political participation, seek political asylum, it also endorses private property: “everyone has the right to the use and enjoyment of his private property” because there is “no one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law.” While the economy of “Rojava” seems social democratic in “directed at providing general welfare and in particular granting funding to science and technology,” aimed at “guaranteeing the daily needs of people and to ensure a dignified life,” with monopoly prohibited, along with “labor rights and sustainable development…guaranteed,” but does not including a proposal for a planned economy. This is coupled with no prohibition of “extractive processes, management, licensing and other contractual agreements related to such [natural] resources” by corporate entities. As such, it raises the question how progressive “Rojava” (composed of three regions: Jazira, Euphrates, and Afrin) is, after all, since the levers of power seems to be in control by the PYD (also noted by a Reuters article in 2017 which noted that there was no voting in Arab-majority areas in the region) even though the New York Times declared, in 2015, there was apparently no hierarchy.

Articles in bourgeois media have added that France, Germany, and the UK still are openly siding with these Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD), recently engaged in bloody (and horrible) battles, who control “roughly one quarter of Syria,” an area which is “rich in farmland, oil and water” (which BBC News admitted allowed the U$ to “indirectly” control “half of Syria’s strategic resources – including many oil fields and dams, and much of its most fertile agricultural land”), a possibly strong “bargaining chip” in negotiations with  the Syrian government. [10] They also note that some Kurdish leaders are admitting that “relying on the Americans is always a failed experience, at the very least for Kurds,” and others saying, without recognizing the fact the West has allowed “Rojava” (which has only existed since January 2014) to exist, “the whole world is taking the view that the Kurdish cause can be bought and sold.” This all feeds into sob stories, like those fed to people like Richard Engels of NBC News, that U$ troops in Syria (officially special forces) are “distraught, upset, morally disturbed by having to tell their kurdish allies in Syria that…their promises of defense won’t be kept,” acting like we should feel sorry for imperialists.

When it comes to the Kurds, especially YPG/SDF/PYD, it is worthwhile to recall a number of posts I made on the subject. Most of the posts I have written on the Kurds in the past year have focused on the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the defeat of their ill-thought referendum, while also highlighting how the creation of an ethno-state called “Kurdistan,” spanning northern Iraq and eastern Syria, along with parts of Turkey and Iran, would “assist Zionist expansionism, Saudi expansionism, and Western imperialism in dividing up the region,” while also not beneficial for anyone in the Mideast. In the last article linked when I said that the Kurds were an ethnicity, not a nation, I was countering the notions that such an ethno-state was workable, even as I am not sure I agree with my conclusions at the time that Kurds should just work within existing political systems in Syria and Iraq. So, in some ways, my views are changing, but I still remain a critic of the current trend toward Kurdish nationalism, while recognizing what others say about self-determination. At the present, the question of creating a state named “Kurdistan” is mute as the Kurds are effectively divided into two parts: those in “Rojava” (eastern Syria) like YPG/SDF/PYD, and those in Northern Iraq under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) which exists as a semi-autonomous area within Iraq. It also worth noting that the Syrian Communist Party recently denounced the “occupation of the US and Turkey,” along with an “emphasis on solidarity with the resistance of Afrin to the Turkish occupation. They also, last month, at a meeting of communist and workers parties in Greece, that

…fundamental contradictions of global imperialism, identified by Leninism, increasingly rage [including]…contradiction between work and capital, whose catastrophic effects are evident not only in the capitalist states of the parties…The situation of a large number of hard-working people in capitalist centers and in many ways falls short of what they had been in the first half of the twentieth century…The contradiction between imperialist capitalist centers and capitalist states [is clear]…The most blatant examples of such a policy of…imperialist aggression are found in the case of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, all of which have been subjected to direct military or imperialist aggression or through the agents of imperialism with the open support of the imperialist countries…The contradiction between the imperialist centers, that is, the contradiction between the financial monopolies and the governments they represent in order to distribute the riches of the total imperialist plunder of the world…All the progressives in the world are aware of the disastrous consequences of a comprehensive and destructive war as they work against the threat of multiple forms of war…To remove the danger of war, imperialism must be dropped…The changes in the international arena also indicate an increase in the role of national liberation movements as a component of the global revolutionary process. National resistances, which are objectively part of the national liberation movements, regardless of the ideology prevailing in this or that faction, have dealt a serious blow to the expansionist tendency of imperialism and its agents…This is what Syria is doing in its courageous response to the ferocious attack by the Atlantic imperialism and its agents and the continuing aggression of Zionist Israel…Syrian communists engaged in the major battle to defend their homeland, along with other national forces…At present, our party believes that the most important goal facing our people is to liberate its territory under the yoke of imperialist occupation, as well as to strenuously oppose the projects that are embroiled in imperialist circles and aimed at dividing Syria…The Syrian Communist Party is characterized by linking the economic and social struggle with the general political struggle. Our Syrian Communist Party is fighting for a complete break with liberal economic trends in defense of national production and the interests of the struggling masses…The circumstances of the imperialist onslaught and the intensification of the contradictions of imperialism require the intensification of the global communist and labor movement and the strengthening of coordination between their factions in order to effectively confront imperialism and then overthrow it. These circumstances also indicate the need to form a united global front between the revolutionary labor movement and national liberation movements.

There is also a revisionist counterpart as well, but recent statements of it are hard to find.

For the purposes of this post, I refer back to the articles I wrote last year on the topic, apart from one where I countered deluded reddit critics or other scattered mentions in varied other articles I wrote in 2016 and 2017. While opposing Turkish invasion of Syria, I argued that Turks and certain Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are assisting U$ imperialist objectives, adding that “Rojava” itself is an illegal entity, questioned when self-determination can be used (an argument I am not sure I completely agree with now), and that there are by Western standards, two types of Kurds: the “good” ones that ally with the West (YPG/SDF/PYD) and the “bad” ones that ally with the Syrian government. I also added that “the Syrian government (and people) will continue to be in a precarious situation until the end of the conflict and withdrawal of Western imperialism from the region. The best we can do is pledge solidarity with those fighting the mercenaries of imperial conquest, not only Daesh but the “rebel” forces and “good” Kurds [YPG/SDF/PYD], and all of those standing against global capitalism, even with our respective critiques,” which is still a valid position. Once again, while dated, I would say my two-part series on “Rojava” for Dissident Voice, while without its problems, still is relatively sound in pointing out that such a nation is an illegal entity and how Western imperialism has made its existence possible, making both articles still relevant.

There is no doubt that the Turkish government is strongly anti-Kurd to the point of being genocidal, despite the fact that those who run “Rojava” declared that “we have always wanted to develop a relationship of friendship and neighborliness with Turkey,” but that does not mean U$ presence will save them. Besides, the Syrian government still welcomes the Kurds despite their (specifically the YPG/SDF/PYD) past alliance with the U$ and other Western countries, so I could easily envision a Syrian-Kurdish alliance against the encroaching Turks. One recent article poignantly added that “up to now the Kurds had been prepared to rely on any foreign country, including Israel, to provide them with independence, rather than remaining loyal to Syria,” but saying at at the same time that “the Syrian Army will definitely collaborate with the Kurds to quash ISIS…between two fires on each side of the Euphrates,” adding that “the Kurds are weaker than ever and may well have lost the privileged position they had under US protection,”confirming that when faced with U$ interests, “all partnerships and alliances are dispensable.” Some imperialists, and deluded leftists, will easily, as the Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are killed by Turkish bombs (which are supplied by the U$), declare “remember the Kurds!” just like imperialists cried about “remember the Maine!” after the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine before the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Texans after the surrender of the Alamo (“remember the Alamo!”) or U$ soldiers, recalling how British cavalry at the 1778 battle in Camden had attacked surrendering U$ soldiers during the Revolutionary War, cried  “remember Buford!” as they shot down surrendering Redcoats in later battles.

To take from the same Moon of Alabama article I mentioned earlier, while the Turkish army could engage in a large occupation of northeast Syria, it would “cost a lot of casualties and financial resources,” with those writers arguing they would only invade if Russia and Syria “fail to get the Kurds under control.” The same article, which makes the mistake of calling the Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) “anarcho-Marxist,” does note that Kurdish leaders of “Rojava” are currently making the same demands Damascus previously rejected before Turkey destroyed Afrin, while also saying that the paltry sum of British and French forces numbering in the thousands, along with those contributed by other members of the coalition of African, European, Middle Eastern, and American countries reportedly “fighting Daesh,” will likely not stay in Syria without U$ support. However, other articles posited that “a continued presence of allied troops working with local Syrians might compel the U.S. to contribute air” which is a distinct possibility. [11]

On a related note, there has been another development: the departure of Jim Mattis (effective February 28, January 1, 2019), the head of the Pentagon, who advocated for a more “muscular U.S. role in the Mideast,” who wanted continued U$ presence in Syria and Afghanistan, to be replaced by Patrick Shaheen, who favored the space force proposed by the orange menace and has ties to the arms trade between Turkey and the U$, rather than other candidates for the job. [12] For similar reasons, Brett McGerk, the special presidential envoy on the anti-Daesh coalition, recently quit (resignation effective at the end of the year), reportedly writing in an email to his staff that the orange menace’s decision was a “shock” which left “our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered…I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity.” One imperial correspondent, Jonathan Marcus of BBC News, who called Mattis “much respected,” feared an “unplanned” withdrawal from Syria, and talked about a changing world with rising China (fitting with the new “Africa strategy” unveiled by John Bolton) and “resurgent” Russia, growled that “President Trump seems to be charting his own erratic course through an ocean of reefs, rocks and monsters without any strategic map to guide him.” Interestingly, the same article had a map that showed strong Syrian government control up to the Euphrates, coupled with strong Kurdish control (YPG/SDF/PYD) in eastern part (east of the Euphrates), Syrian rebels and “Jihadist forces” near border with Turkey, as is Turkish military and Turkish-backed rebels, Syrian rebels in the South, and some scattered Daesh pockets, which made his argument a joke. It also should be no surprise that liberal imperialists literally defended Mattis, an “ingrained imperialist” who changed the Pentagon’s mission, was fired by Obama for being too hawkish toward Iran, and opposes the withdrawal of half of the U$ troop presence from Afghanistan (a moderate measure), just as they held worthless rallies to “defend” Robert Mueller earlier this year.

Of course, liberals were baffled by Mattis’s resignation, calling him either a coward, feeling sad about a “loss” of imperial prestige, or pathetically claiming that Putin “applauded” when U$ said they were leaving Syria (despite the fact that he cast doubt on the planned withdrawal). If what is said by the bourgeois media is true, it almost seems that Mattis, a high-ranking officer, used his resignation (which he wrote in September, as the story goes) almost as a form of blackmail to prevent the orange menace from calling for a withdrawal from Syria. If so, that is a frightening use of military power over civilian power, which should be undoubtedly criticized.

Even saying all this, it will be a quandary that Mattis is the one whom will approve the plan for the withdrawal of U$ troops, and once that happens “U.S. troops will begin leaving Syria with the expectation that they will all be out 30 days later.” [13] As such, the U$ troops would be no longer assisting a “Kurdish-led force that now numbers more than 50,000 and is about 40 percent Arab,” with reportedly only 20% through the U$-led “training process.” The Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD), in this case, are those directly at the front-lines as only four U$ soldiers have been killed, by official counts, since the beginning of the U$ deployment in Syria itself!

This connects to the fear, held by the varied sectors of the bourgeoisie, represented in varied pundits, politicians, and analysts, at minimum, that “Syrian territory occupied by US forces will be returned to the control of Syrian government forces,” even though they claim that areas occupied by the U$ will fall into the hands of terrorists. The withdrawal, the same article posited, saying it will take place in 60-100 days, would more than anything “benefit Syria and Syrians most of all,” allowing Iran to get a benefit, and Russia since it reduces the possibility of conflict with the U$. Iraq will benefit from not having “to commit so many forces to watching the US,” and the “likelihood of an extended Turkish occupation of Afrin and Idlib” may be reduced too, while the Zionists will lose out (after protests over worsening conditions in the proper part of the Zionist state), regretting “loss of access to US airports to use over Syrian occupied territory.” However, the Russian government is skeptical of U$ withdrawal from Syria, which is justified considering that the U$ will “conduct air strikes” in Syria “until the full pullout of troops from its territory,” since the U$ will “conduct air and artillery strikes” in support of their forces! This is a justified skepticism because the U$ could easily get pulled right back into Syria itself, meaning that all options are open. After all, there was talk early this year about Daesh thriving in U$-occupied areas of Syria and the Pentagon planting high numbers of supposed fighters of Daesh.

This brings us to U$ presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Amber B. noted in the aforementioned article at the beginning of this post, nothing is being “done about the u.$. occupation of Iraq,” meaning that this withdrawal could “become just a redeployment, whether by special forces or mercenaries,” even as a “withdrawal from Syrian territory would represent a contraction of the amerikan frontlines, and most definitely serve to weaken their interests overall, but we should not mistake it for “peace” in any sense.” It was further noted that peace “is only something that can truly be won through the elimination of imperialism overall.” What is said is an accurate determination. This is because earlier this month Pompeo spoke with Adil Abd al-Madhi, Iraq’s Prime Minister, about “recent territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria,” claimed that the U$ will respect Iraq’s sovereignty, that that “the Coalition will continue to work closely with Iraqi Security Forces to defeat ISIS remnants.” As for Afghanistan, as mentioned earlier in this article, there is talk of a withdrawal of half of the U$ troops from that country. While this is a positive development, the U$ imperialists want to “conclude the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to Afghanistan and the United States,” meaning their respective bourgeoisie, specifically the U$ bourgeoisie. It is a laughable argument to say that the moderate withdrawal is somehow connected to Putin, as those like Rachel Maddow, a prominent liberal imperialist, have posited, as the U$ imperialists are extremely hostile to the Russians currently, as evidenced by continued sanctions and sending of arms to Ukraine, and there is no way that Putin or any other high-ranking Russian official would have any ounce of influence over the murderous U$ empire. But, there is another element. While it would be a great victory, you could say, if all the U$ troops are withdrawn, over 49,000 wicked mercenaries remain in U$ “areas of responsibility” within the Mideast, more than half of which are currently in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

With that there are some concluding thoughts. To again mention Amber B.’s post, it was argued that the withdrawal from Syria “represents another great slippage in imperialist footing, and we should exploit this to the best of our ability,” adding that “withdrawal from Syria should become a domino effect in our propaganda, and we should demand the further withdrawal of amerikan forces from surrounding countries, and ultimately every outpost of u.$. imperialism.” It was further noted that a struggle lies ahead within the U$ imperialist state, “as its decrepit factions squabble with one another, and we should use this moment of confusion to our advantage,” adding that “our propaganda should not endorse any imperialist faction over another, but underscore the necessity in struggling against them all.” As such, the article concludes, “we should not resign ourselves only to calls for peace, but augment them with the call to fight imperialism.” This is a justified approach, as siding with one imperialist faction would lead to ruin. With that, a piece of Lenin, in 1902, is relevant at this point, saying that liberalism must be analyzed with the “class point of view,” with interests of the autocracy only coinciding with some of the bourgeoisie, leading to some liberal opposition to autocracy, which protects the bourgeoisie from socialism, adding that while “Communists support every revolutionary movement against the existing system,” this does not “imply support for the liberal opposition.” He further added that it was the duty of revolutionaries to “explain to the proletariat every liberal and democratic protest, to widen and support it, with the active participation of the workers,” not acquiescing leadership of such social improvement efforts to liberals. This can be applied to different efforts by the masses to fight imperialism in all its manifestations, regardless of social movements.

In the process of fighting the imperialist beast, one must recall what Engels and Marx rejected in 1879: “people who openly claim that the workers are too ignorant to emancipate themselves but must first be emancipated from the top down, by the philanthropic big and petty bourgeois.” What this means, in practice, is that the working class in the U$, let’s say, is not ignorant and needs our enlightened assistance like we are coming from the upper spirals of an ivory tower. Rather, to recall from that same article, “educated elements” from the bourgeoisie can join the proletariat, but in doing so, they cannot push out or dominate the proletariat in the process of working with them, rather having to “assimilate [to] the proletariat viewpoint,” which is worth remembering. While obviously it is incorrect to say that the working class will not understand political struggle, we can recall, easily, what Lenin wrote in 1899: that certain workers are “backward” in their thinking, even as they will still understand the struggle, and that it is important to recognize the educated or “developed” workers in the class struggle as a whole. In the case of fighting imperialism, this means countering those among the proletariat who hold viewpoints that are pro-imperialist, bringing them into position standing against the U$ war machine in all its imperial manifestations.

The path forward to fight imperialism is up to the masses, supported by those which work  to increase their consciousness, bringing them to a revolutionary posture. Smash the capitalist system! A socialist world is possible! Down with the bourgeoisie!

Notes

[1] Caroline Kelly, “Stephen Miller defends Trump’s Syria withdrawal: ‘Are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation spilling American blood?’,” CNN, Dec 21, 2018

[2] National Review Editors, “Stay in Syria,” Dec. 19, 2018; “‘Fox & Friends’ co-host calls out Trump on Syria: ‘Nobody thinks ISIS is defeated’,” The Hill, Dec. 20, 2018; Deirdre Shesgreen, “Trump’s troop withdrawal caps failed US policy in Syria, experts say,” USA Today, Dec. 20, 2018; “Coons: U.S. should not abandon Kurds, leave Syria,” Dover Post, Dec 20, 2018; Eli Lake, “Trump Courts Catastrophe in Syria,” Bloomberg, Dec. 19, 2018; “”Assad has won,” Ian Bremmer says, as Trump recalls troops from Syria,” CBS News, Dec 20, 2018; Gregory Hellman and Connor O’Brien,  “Pulling out of Syria: A primer,” Politico, Dec 20, 2018; Victoria Nuland, “Syria will come back to haunt us,” Washington Post, Dec 20, 2018; David Brown, Gregory Hellman, and Burgess Everett, “Republicans rip Trump’s surprise Syria withdrawal in meeting with Pence,” Politico, Dec. 19, 2018; “Graham plans resolution urging Trump to change mind on Syria,” The Hill, Dec 20, 2018.

[3] Joel Gehrke, “Russia blesses US troop withdrawal from Syria,” Washington Examiner, Dec. 19, 2018; “Trump Defends Syria Troop Pullout,” Newsmax, Dec. 20, 2018; John Hudson, Paul Sonme, and Anton Troianovski, “Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria marks a win for Putin,” Washington Post,  Dec 20, 2018.

[4] “Shocking Syria withdrawal plan is pure Trump,” CNN Wire, Dec 19, 2018; Matthew Lee and Robert Burns, “US to withdraw all American troops in Syria, official says,” AP,  Dec 19, 2018; Democrat-Gazette staff, “U.S. to withdraw troops from Syria, Trump announces,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Dec. 20, 2018.

[5] Andrew Desiderio, “Trump’s Abrupt Syria Withdrawal Thwarted ‘Major’ Operation Targeting ISIS, Sen. Bob Corker Says,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 21, 2018; Spencer Ackerman and Kimberly Dozier, “Bolton’s Hawkish Syria Plan Backfired, Pushing Trump to Get Out,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 21, 2018; “US will close base in Syria that Russia complained about,” The Hill, Dec 20, 2018. While there is no organized anti-war movement in the U$, there are peace organizations growing in strength. One of those in the Black Alliance for Peace which takes a strong anti-imperialist position, mentioning genocide of indigenous people, “brutal super-exploitation of enslaved African labor” which was used “to amass imperialist wealth,” allowing the U$ to elevate itself “to a world power after the second imperialist war in 1945,” adding that with the recent moves by the orange menace “the ruling-class propagandists” at the major media outlets “have sounded the alarm of pending doom for the empire,” saying that their group doesn’t “praise a U.S. president for ending the illegal subversion, invasion and occupation of a sovereign state that should have never been allowed in the first place by the theoretical representatives of the people who now sit in the U.S. Congress,” leaving the question open if full and rapid withdrawal of U$  forces from Syria will happen. Rather, they demand “demand a full withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria, including the mercenary components referred to as “contractors,” want an end to the “war in Afghanistan with a complete and total withdrawal of U.S. forces,” denounce those who think that “permanent war is both rational and inevitable,” while concluding that “the final resolution of the U.S.-led war in Syria must be determined by Syrians themselves. All foreign forces must recognize and respect the sovereignty of the Syrian people and their legal representatives,” calling for “U.S. out of Syria! U.S. out of Africa! Shut down AFRICOM and all NATO bases! Reallocate the people’s resources from funding war to realizing the human rights of all people, not just the 1 percent!” Veterans for Peace, an older peace organization, takes a straight anti-interventionist position, saying they are pleased by the announcement of withdrawal from Syria, adding that the U$ “armed and trained Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda aligned forces, who are seeking to destroy the secular, multi-religious Syrian state and establish a harsh fundamentalist order of their own,” bombed the “city of Raqqa, Syria, similar to its bombardment of Mosul, Iraq,” adding that a “continued U.S. presence in Syria would only prolong a policy that has been disastrous for all the peoples of the region.” They also hoped for a total withdrawal of U$ troops from Syria, a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and said that “it is time to turn a page in history and to build a new world based on human rights, equality and mutual respect for all. We must build momentum toward real and lasting peace. Nothing less than the survival of human civilization is at stake.” Similarly is the position by the World Peace Council.

[6] Nick Wadhams, Tony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Trump’s Syria Pullout Fuels Confusion With Kurds Left in Lurch,” Bloomberg, Dec 19, 2018; Matthew Lee and Robert Burns, “US to withdraw all American troops in Syria, official says,” AP, Dec 19, 2018.

[7] Patrick Wintour, “Russia, Turkey and Iran reach agreement on Syria committee,” The Guardian, Dec 18, 2018; “Russia slashes Syria military flights,” AFP, Dec 11, 2018; Edith M.  Lederer, “UN envoy: More work needed on Syria constitutional committee,” AP, Dec. 20, 2018. This connects to article I read boldly declaring that the proposed U$ withdrawal is occurring because “the Syrian Arab Army, which now has Russian anti-aircraft equipment, the best in the world,” meaning “they have no choice but to leave before humiliation.” However, I think this could be too simplistic as it casts the Russians as the saviors.

[8] Matthew Lee and Susannah George, “Trump call with Turkish leader led to US pullout from Syria,” AP, Dec. 21, 2018.

[9] Steve Holland and Jonathan Landay, “In Syria retreat, Trump rebuffs top advisers and blindsides U.S. commanders,” Reuters, Dec. 19, 2018.

[10] Guney Yildiz,”US withdrawal from Syria leaves Kurds backed into a corner,” BBC News, Dec 20, 2018; Gregory Hellman and Connor O’Brien, “Pulling out of Syria: A primer,” Politico, Dec 20, 2018; Layal Abou Rahal, “US pullout leaves Syria Kurds exposed,” AFP, Dec. 20, 2018; Tom Perry and Ellen Francis, “Syria’s Kurds reel from U.S. move, Assad seen planning next step,”Reuters, Dec. 20, 2018; “Syria: World reacts to Trump’s decision to pull US troops out,” Al Jazeera, Dec 20, 2018; Sune Engel Rasmussen and David Gauthier-Villars, “Key U.S. Partner in Syria Thrown Into Disarray,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 20, 2018; “Syria Kurds say to keep up anti-IS fight unless Turkey attacks,” AFP, Dec. 20, 2018; “Key U.S. ally in Syria rejects Trump claim that ISIS has been defeated,” AP, Dec 20, 2018; Ali Younes, Trevor Aaronson, and Murtaza Hussein, “Syria battle against ISIL far from over, despite US pull-out plan,”Al Jazeera, Dec 20, 2018; Hollie. McKay, “Syrian Kurds allied with US shocked, scared by news of troop withdrawal,” Fox News, Dec 20, 2018.

[11] Robert Burns and Loita Baldor, “Pentagon scrambles on Syria exit amid withdrawal outrage,” AP, Dec 20, 2018.

[12] Paul D. Shinkman, “The Mattis-Trump Partnership Collapses Under Its Own Weight,” U.S. News & World Report, Dec 20, 2018; Shaun Tandon and Thomas Watkins, “US defense chief quits as Trump pulls from Syria, Afghanistan,” AFP, Dec 21, 2018; Nick Wadhams, Tony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Trump’s Syria Pullout Fuels Confusion With Kurds Left in Lurch,” Bloomberg, Dec 19, 2018; Victoria Bekiempis, “Brett McGurk, the Man Who Built Coalition to Fight ISIS, Quits Over Presidents ISIS Strategy,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 22, 2018; Jonathan Marcus, “After Mattis, Trump’s foreign policy worries allies,” BBC News, Dec. 21, 2018. On a related note, one Twitter user, @RedKahina, reminded users of how Matt Blumenthal, Ben Norton, and Rania Khalek once propaganda for a partition of Syria by Turkey, a NATO ally.

[13] Luis Martinez and Elizabeth McLaughlin, “What you need to know about US military involvement in Syria as Trump orders withdrawal,” ABC News, Dec 20, 2018.

The “Great White Hope” and the spread of U$ capitalist hegemony

As I continue to learn more about the world around me, becoming more a fire-breathing Marxist, by reading more Marxist theory and applying it to the world as it exists, I’ve been watching a number of new (and old) films, and listening to music, specifically the whole playlist of the Black rhythmical genius, Gil Scott-Heron, which I updated last year on my faltering YouTube channel. While I will write about control of information by social media outlets in this post, I will explain how films made by Hollyweird push forward a certain ideology, which fits with their evident collaboration with the CIA and the Pentagon, another form of their propaganda hoisted onto the masses. As fellow Marxist thinker Michael Parenti rightly put it in his book, Dirty Truths, “the mass media are class media,” although there is more at play than just that, in a time when “human rights” are distorted in the name of imperialism. In this post there are spoilers, but I doubt most readers people will watch these movies, apart from Sorry to Bother You. In order to fully address this topic, I have divided this article into seven sections:

And then we get to the first section of this article, which gives one a basis in Marxist theory, allowing for entrance into this topic at an informed position.

Hollyweird and cultural hegemony

Hollyweird, as conservatives and Gil Scott-Heron prominently call it, and its profit model fits right into Antonio Gramsci‘s conception of cultural hegemony. He argued that “organic” intellectuals organize relationships to benefit the dominant class (either the bourgeoisie or proletariat), trouncing the “traditional” intellectuals who hold a “long-time monopoly on religious ideology, bonded to schools, education, morality, and other societal values.” For both the bourgeoisie and proletariat, they choose specialized individuals who organize relationships to benefit their class, specifically consisting of “organic” and “traditional” intellectuals, with the former type often being nationalistic. Both types of intellectuals operate in what Gramsci called the two levels of society, also called the superstructure: civil society and political society, with the dominant group (either the bourgeoisie or proletariat) exercising hegemony over society and/or through the state, with their deputies, the intellectuals, trying to garner “spontaneous” consent given by the masses to the general direction the dominant group has “imposed on social life.” In my previous article on cultural hegemony, I argued that the producers of The Simpsons constituted organic intellectuals, as they are not those who “serve as organizers of “masses of men,” “confidence” in their business, consumers in their product, and so on.” This is because the latter group would constitute the so-called “captains of industry” or the  capitalists themselves, allowing PR people to serve as such organizers and gain “confidence” in their business (and brand). Rather, organic intellectuals enforce the hegemony of those above them, with a particular division of labor while the bourgeoisie dominates, subjugating and “liquidating” antagonistic views, with these intellectuals possibly coming from private associations. At the same time, the organic intellectuals of the proletariat can come from political parties or other institutions of a proletarian nature. Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, Kim Il Sung, Thomas Sankara, and many others, would be examples of such organic intellectuals in the annals of human history who have been on the side of the proletariat. However, there are likely no “traditional” intellectuals among the proletariat, as they mainly serve as clergy and other religious figures. As it stands today in our capitalist world, those who exercise the dominant ideology through social institutions, such as banks, universities, TV stations, newspapers, film studios, police departments, courts, prisons, legislatures, and private associations, to name a few, are the bourgeoisie, working to “socialize people to consent” to their dominance. This is done in order to ensure that the masses accept the “beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values and moral norms” of capitalism itself, keeping the bourgeoisie in power, in control.

You may ask, how does this relate to Hollyweird? Well, with producers in Hollyweird, whether in film, TV, or some other form of media, constituting “organic” intellectuals, they are cementing relationships which benefit the bourgeoisie and enforce capitalist hegemony. However, while Elon Musk can be called a visionary and a “thought leader,” he is just a capitalist out for the bottom line, not an “organic” intellectual. Those who are intellectuals, in this case, are the deputies of the bourgeoisie, not the bourgeoisie itself.

The “Great White Hope”: Looking at Back to the Future and Forrest Gump

Some recent films I have watched directly enforce this hegemony. The first one I will cover is the cult classic, Back to the Future, a 1985 sci-fi film directed by Robert Zemeckis, a Chicago-born White male who came to be known as a person who was “well attuned to the nuances of framing and camera movement…fluent and innovative in the visual language of the movies” or what IMDB calls a “whiz kid with special effects.” [1] However, Zemeckis would not be the “organic” intellectual, but rather the movie’s producer, Steven Spielberg would serve this role, although Zemeckis would later end up in this role as he was also a producer during his career, along with being a writer and editor at other points. The movie’s plot is simple: Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) is a White male 17-year-old who doesn’t care about high school, with the strict school administrator, Mr. Strickland (played by James Tolkan), hating his guts. He accidentally gets sent thirty years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his friend, “mad scientist” Doc. Emmett Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd), a White guy who kinda looks like Bernie Sanders. The movie is racist almost from the start: the uranium Doc. Brown bought for his time machine is from “Libyan terrorists” whom he paints as a bunch of goofs, but shoot him down in front of Marty, in a mall. Later, when Marty travels back to 1985, after succeeding in his time traveling mission, the Libyans crash their minivan into a shack, which lights up in flames, killing both “Libyan terrorists.” This is talked about by the late Jack Shaheen (of Lebanese descent) in his wonderful book, Reel Bad Arabs, which was later turned into a short film. While I don’t remember exactly what he wrote in his entry for the movie, as I don’t have the book in front of me, I do remember him talking about this main racist element in the movie.  The dumb thing about this early onset racism in the movie as there is nothing which necessitates the “terrorists” be Libyan. They could have been angry, White men, just as easily! But, the producers and writers decided they should be Libyan, possibly because they were painted as “terrorists of the week” by the media,but also shows their inherent racism within their thinking.

This is compounded by the setting of the movie itself: a literal White person’s fantasy. There is only one prominent Black person in the whole film, Goldie Wilson, played by Donald Fullilove. [2] Everyone else is White, literally. When Marty goes back to 1955, it is worse: Goldie, who was the town’s mayor in 1985, is a janitor in a restaurant, ordered around by an angry White boss. Every other character is White. Basically, this means that Goldie is a token individual, made to make you think the town is diverse, when it is not at all, and is presumably in the Midwest. Not surprisingly, the audience is obviously supposed to sympathize with Marty, a sort of “down and out” individual who is middle-class, who is portrayed as “cool”  for riding a skateboard (and fashioning one in 1955), and playing an electric guitar. The rest of the movie goes on with Marty  bringing his parents back together and the “bad” White guy, Biff (played by Thomas F. Wilson) becoming a literal servant to Marty’s parents, who are much better off, in changed 1985. Women in the film are basically second fiddles to the men, either trying to woo them (or fall in love with). Lorraine, Marty’s mother (played by Lea Thompson) tries to do this when flirting with Marty after he messes with the timeline of his parent’s first meeting. Other women are apparently interested in “bad boys” like Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer (played by Claudia Wells), in 1985, or are just in the background. Basically, the film is a White male fantasy, plain and simple, almost nostalgic of the 1950s and arguably sexist in how it plays out, as women don’t seem to have any strong will, just succumbing to men. Is there any surprise that Ronald Reagan Raygun (as Gil Scott-Heron calls it), loved the movie, especially after the joke referring to him by Doc. Brown, and incorporated a nonsensical line from the movie into his 1986 State of the Union Address? I have a fondness for time travel, and that part of the movie is interesting, which may be part of the reason I like Futurama, the time-traveling episodes of The Simpsons, and other shows. Still, this does not distract from this movie’s message: a nostalgia for a repressive time, the 1950s, as a part of a White male adventure of absurdist proportions. After watching a series of videos on YouTube, along with the parodies of Back to the Future by Family Guy and American Dad, I see no reason to watch the other two movies in the series, which plan to be even dumber, and be, like this one, over-hyped. As Black hip-hop group Public Enemy says in their 1988 hit song, Don’t Believe the Hype, although they are talking about lies about Black people in the media.

Now, onto Forrest Gump, a 1994 film which was also directed by Zemeckis, but produced by Wendy Finerman (a White Jewish woman), Steve Tisch (a White  Jewish man), and Steve Starkey (a White man who often produces Zemeckis’s movies). Like Back to the Future, this is also “Great White Hope,” meaning that it is a White male fantasy. The movie follows one major character, Forrest Gump (played  by Tom Hanks), a middle-class White boy born in Louisiana, who tested below the IQ level, only getting into a public school after pleading by his mother (played by Sally Field). There is undoubted racism flowing through parts of the movie, like the fact that Forrest was named after Gen. Bedford Forrest, one of the founders of the KKK. As for Forrest, he ends up going to college on a football scholarship at University of Alabama, then enlists in the Army in 1963, fighting in Vietnam before he is wounded and goes back home. Despite the previously mentioned bout of racism, Forrest does, while in the Army, become friends with Bubba Blue (played by Mykelti Williamson), a Black man who can apparently talk about nothing but shrimp, and dying in Vietnam. Forrest later forms a shrimping company with his former commander from Vietnam, Lt. Dan Taylor (played by Gary Sinese). On the one hand, the movie has the positive of criticizing the horrible IQ test, saying that it is not bad to be weird, and points to the physical horrors U$ soldiers who fought in Vietnam had to endure once home (evidenced by Lt. Dan, who is crippled and in a wheelchair). However, apart from the absurd putting of Forrest Gump into archival footage to make it seem like he was there, which takes up a number of scenes in the movie where he meets with at varied Presidents (such as Kennedy and Nixon), talk show hosts, and others. This is compounded by the ridiculous idea that Elvis got his moves from Forrest or that Forrest unintentionally revealed the Watergate scandal. Apart from this, there are a number of other problems.

For one, the movie has what I’ll call a Male Savior Complex. What I mean is that Forrest works to “save” Jenny Curran (played by Robin Wright), with Jenny seeming to be wild and out of control, having a rough life, while Forrest does well, going from being a football star (in college) to an Army Brat, then a ping-pong player, and the head of a shrimping business. Basically, Forrest goes from being middle-class to becoming a millionaire (after investing in Apple Computer), meaning that he is a capitalist by the end of the movie, who is also a “good” philanthropist. While Jenny resists him for much of the movie, leading her own life, she eventually gives up and marries him, perhaps symbolic of the “self-made” man (Forrest) triumphing over the “excesses” of the 1960s (Jenny). Clearly this shows that the film is sexist, falling into line with patriarchal and traditionalist values. Forrest basically preys on Jenny for much of the movie, trying to get her to “love him,” and that apparently works by the end, a disgusting turn of events. The film tries to get you to sympathize with former creep and rule follower Forrest, a White straight man who is strongly traditionalist in his action (and thinking), after Jenny dies, perhaps because she was “conquered” (as opposed to the dynamic in the Oliver Goldsmith’s play, She Stoops to Conquer), leaving Forrest and his son remaining.

There are a number of other problematic elements. While the movie shows the horror of the Vietnam war in that it is bloody and brutal, it does not seem to take an antiwar position like Apocalypse NowThin Red Line, Catch-22, Full Metal Jacket (in a unique way), Gallipoli (antiwar to an extent), and Platoon, to give a few examples. Also Forrest is completely obedient of all orders while in the Army, which Lt. Dan himself makes fun of after the war is over, and seems to genuinely love the U$ capitalist system, never taking any efforts to resist it whatsoever. There are other elements of the movie which I have not mentioned here, but the general idea put forward is that anyone can make it in the U$, even though this idea is utterly false since class mobility doesn’t really exist within the U$. As I said earlier, this a Great White Hope. What I mean is that it does not offer a diverse world as one that is held up as a positive. For a movie that is famous for phrases like “Run, Forrest Run!” and “Life is like a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’ll get,” it is important to recognize its clear reactionary streak. This should be obvious to anyone as apart from the racism in certain parts, strong sexism, and nationalism, the peace movement is made fun of as an utter joke where people don’t know what they are saying. When Forrest speaks in front of them in a rally, he is still treated like a good symbol even though he is wearing his uniform with a Medal of Honor. This even turns Jenny, then a peacenik, on, for some reason, which doesn’t make much sense. Even worse is the scene about the Black Panther Party (BPP), which are treated as a bunch of male chauvinists who condone men hitting women to “discipline” them. There was undoubted problems with sexism within the BPP, but they did work to counter this, and stand against abuse of women, so the scene of him encountering a bunch of angry Black nationalists is an utter joke without question. That’s all I can remember for now. But, the movie is pretty terrible for all the reasons I have explained. As such, Forrest Gump undoubtedly spreads the capitalist ideology, yet more evidence of cultural hegemony.

Such sexism in the Forrest Gump and Back to the Future is not unique. Just take songs by the Beach Boys as one example. Sure, you could say some of them have good beats, but many are about a male urge for a new (or maintained) romantic relationship with girls like as exemplified in their songs “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Good Vibrations,” “Barbara Ann,” “Kokomo,” “I get around,” “God Only Knows,” and “Surfer Girls.” Also, the idea of a monogamous marriage is reinforced in some of those songs. In this, you could say the sexism is integrated into the songs in that it is all about male urge for something which, if woman don’t reciprocate as they are “supposed to” (by societal standards), it will lead to male anger, although that is not expressed in their songs. You could say this male urge is also sprinkled throughout early songs of The Beatles as well, while their later songs were more diverse in topics.

An antidote?: From Sorry to Bother You to Black Panther

This brings us to Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, a film which really blew me away in its wonderfulness. The film is strongly anti-capitalist, directly talking about exploitation of the proletariat, racism, sexism, and the like. The main character, Cassius “Cash” Green (played by Lakeith Stanfield), is a black man living in present-day Oakland who is renting a room with his uncle, and living with his girlfriend Detroit (played by Tessa Thompson), who works as a sign-twirler. In order to live there, Cash gets a job as a telemarketer for RegalView, where he learns to cultivate his “white voice,” which brings in the money, catapulting him to “power caller.” In the meantime, his fellow comrades (like Salvador “Sal” played by Jermaine Fowler, and varied others) who also work at the company, are trying to organize themselves against their horrible work situation. In almost an act of betrayal, Cash goes to a higher level, where Worry Free, a company which uses literal slave labor, is the main client. He is still a telemarketer, but he is selling capitalists (and governments) the use of WorryFree’s slave labor and weapons, with Langston (played by Danny Glover), a black man with one eyepiece, looking a bit like the monopoly man, as his mentor of sorts. While Cash rises to this level, the workers are striking in front of the building every day, with police having to literally club them out-of-the-way so Cash and other “power callers” can get to work. Undoubtedly, this causes strain and Cash and Detroit’s relationship, leading Detroit to stand up for herself and leave him. This is unlike Back to the Future or Forrest Gump, which are sexist for reasons I have previously explained, a positive to say the least. Detroit does end up going out with the union organizer, Squeeze (played by Steven Yeun) and while she and Cash do come back together, the fact that she drew a line in the sand, standing up for herself in such a manner, is undoubtedly feminist, bucking the general trend of Hollyweird. It is no coincidence that Detroit is most radical throughout, as part of The Left Eye, a group graffiting WorryFree’s posters. This is despite some complaining that the film does not pass the Bechtel Test, when a “feminist piece of media must…have at least two women in it, who…talk to each other, about…something other than a man.” Even through this film does not pass this test, it does not mean it cannot still be a strong and powerful, worthy of praise, despite this shortcoming.

As the film goes into its last stretch, when Cash goes to a party hosted by Steve Lift, the CEO of WorryFree, the capitalist plan is revealed: to turn workers into half horse, half people hybrids (called “equisapiens”) which will be more obedient, by having them snort something that looks like cocaine but is not cocaine. Cash is chosen to as what Lift calls a deceptive “Martin Luther King” of these hybrids who will keep them in line. More likely, Cash would mirror the role of Curtis, a White man, in Joon-ho Bong’s Snowpiercer, who leads the people in a rebellion on the train which turns out to be a ruling class mechanism of population control. That movie is touted as anti-capitalist by some, and while class is a major factor of the movie, it falls short just like Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, which features a story of capitalists who live in a bubble outside Earth while the masses suffer on the decaying Earth below. Back to the film. Cash is disgusted by Lift’s creation of these beings, but Lift says it just standard capitalist practice. After he leaves his phone behind at Lift’s McMansion, which records equisapiens being abused by Lift, he shares this video on reality show and other networks…but it just ends up with WorryFree’s stock rising! With all seeming to be lost, the union of workers makes one last stand in front of RegalView, with Cash calling on the equisapiens to help as the police beat up the protesters, with these beings freeing Cash and his comrades Squeeze and Sal. With this victory, it seems that everything has returned to normal, with the capitalists suffering this defeat, but Cash turns into a equisapien. He, in the credits, leads a group of equisapiens to Lift’s McMansion, telling him the phrase of “sorry to bother you” used in his telemarketing, attacking Lift to get revenge for the horribleness he has brought upon the world.

In this way, Sorry to Bother You is optimistic about fighting capitalism, having no White savior models or anything like that. As such, the film’s producers, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Kelly Williams, Jonathan Duffy, Charles D. King, George Rush, and Forrest Whitaker, can be said to be organic intellectuals. While they are not serving as deputies who are pushing capitalist ideology on the masses, they are not necessarily from the proletariat either. The movie, which has garnered $17.5 million as of October 11th, has made a profit of about 547%, as the budget for production was only about $3.2 million! Hence, as such, it is still a capitalist product which was distributed by capitalist Larry Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures domestically. Comcast’s Universal Pictures (due to the fact the Universal’s direct owner, NBCUniversal is owned by Comcast) and a Universal Pictures’ subsidiary Focus Features distributed it internationally. Still, the film clearly bucks the overall capitalist ideology, going beyond a criticism just of the orange menace, but of the system as a whole, even talking about the idea of false consciousness throughout. One could say the same of a film like Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast, which lost money. As a summary, in that film, the main character, Allie Fox (played by Harrison Ford) criticizes consumerism and believes a nuclear war is imminent, brings his family to Belize, where they try to create a utopian civilization based around an ice machine he builds, but this is later destroyed and his family is basically left destitute, traveling on a boat through the jungle. There is much more than that, but this is still a good summary starting point. Additionally, a film like V for Vendetta, critical to an extent of the current capitalist system, was distributed by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of WarnerMedia, which has been owned by AT&T since earlier this year.

A discussion of Sorry to Bother You connects to two other films this year which prominently feature Black characters: Black Panther and Blackkklansman. The first film has been broadly seen by Black people as a positive and praised as being “progressive.” If we count up the amount of money needed to produce the film ($200 million) plus that which it cost to market it ($150 million), especially in the U$ but also in “certain western Euro markets like Italy, Spain, Germany, and over in Japan,” the film made a total 384% profit, considering that it grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide. Now, this film, has been praised as having “a story that has far more going for it than branding” with “groovy women and Afrofuturist flourishes,” “the first film in the Marvel cinematic universe to center on a superhero of color,” a movie with “a proud Afrocentric twist, featuring a nearly all-black cast” and celebrates “Black Power…in such a mainstream fashion,” and has a broader message. [3] Others call it an “epic that somehow manages to simultaneously be a comic-book blockbuster, a pulsating espionage thriller and an Afro-futurist family saga,” that the film draws “on elements from African history and tribal culture, as well as contemporary and forward-looking flourishes,” and a “rousing Afrofuturistic adventure” which “blow[s] you away with thunderous effects and also tackle ethnic and gender issues, crush racial stereotypes, celebrate women and condemn Trump-era notions of exclusionism.” Beyond that, Time claimed the movie had “revolutionary power,” Carvell Wallace called it a “defining moment” for Blacks in the U$ while reactionary leftist Shaun King called it an important “cultural moment,” historians said it taps into 500 years of Black history, while it got other praise as a “cultural touchstone,” is “revolutionary” somehow, with viewing parties for the film supported by celebrities here, there and everywhere as noted in The Root, The Guardian, and EW.

Not surprisingly, the hype about this film is totally wrong. There have already been questions about if the film is Islamophobic, with others saying Black resistance is liberalized to comfort White people and that the film is plainly counter-revolutionary. These perspectives are not wrong. The film not only adheres to “at least some dubious Hollywood conventions,” as stated by the New York Times, but it is “still a superhero movie,” as stated by Variety, a movie which “never veers beyond the most conventional contours of modern-day movie action,” as admitted by the Washington Post. Should it be any surprise that the film centers on a “militaristic monarchy” called Wakanda, which people claim is “fair and democratic,” which is a faulty statement without question. Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report put it well: the movie focuses a “black royal family” and doesn’t show “real people the power they have over the real world.” Christopher Lebron adds to this, writing that the movie

…depends on a shocking devaluation of black American men…N’Jobu…soon understands that his people have the power to help all black people, and he plots to develop weapons using vibranium to even the odds for black Americans…[but] T’Chaka, however, insists N’Jobu has betrayed the people of Wakanda. He has no intention of helping any black people anywhere; for him and most Wakandans, it is Wakanda First…[not having] a vision of global black solidarity…[and using] Wakanda’s privilege to emancipate all black people…[the] contest between T’Challa and Killmonger that can only be read one way: in a world marked by racism, a man of African nobility must fight his own blood relative whose goal is the global liberation of blacks…A white man who trades in secrets and deception [the CIA man] is given a better turn than a black man whose father was murdered by his own family and who is left by family and nation to languish in poverty. That’s racist…Perhaps Killmonger’s main dream to free black people everywhere decisively earns him the fate of death…Black Panther is a movie about black empowerment in which the only redeemed blacks are African nobles…Black Panther is not the movie we deserve.

Abdul Alkalimat adds to this in his review, writing that the film is a “replay of the conflict of the 1960s between cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism, the US organization of Karenga and the Panthers of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale” with the king of Wakanda, cultural nationalist, being friends with the CIA, while the revolutionary is a “sort of gangster living a Fanonian fantasy that violence will change the world. He too is the son of a member of the royal family.” He adds that the film is a “commercial hodgepodge of references to other popular films,” ranging from James Bond, Star Wars, the Hobbit, Fast and Furious, and Stargate, concluding by saying that “a movie like this has the bait to pull us in like fish about to be hooked by the system…This film is dangerous and we must be vigilant against culture used to control and oppress.” Paul Street can have the final word here. He argues that the movie is “stealth ruling-class propaganda,” as part of the manufacture of consent by Hollyweird and the broad entertainment media  in the U$, because for one, Wakanda is “run by smart, warm, attractive, and benevolent Black royals” but is not a democracy but a hereditary monarchy which is “wedded to absolutism, aristocracy, and tribalism,” with everyday people being “backdrops at best.” He further adds that while “Wakanda could have used its great power to help Black Africa and the Black diaspora abroad,” they decided to keep “the country hidden behind its cloaking devices, keeping the wonders of a vibranium-enriched life…for itself.” The article goes onto say that  since Killmonger (T’Chaka’s cousin) is from Oakland, the script writers undoubtedly knew about the Black Panthers, a person who wants to “turn Wakanda into an open revolutionary agent of Black liberation by all means necessary” and export revolution (Street says like Che Guevara and Trotsky, but Trotsky never did this), but that he has “become every bit as evil as – the amoral equivalent of – the racist oppressors he hates.” This means that there are “no warm, attractive, and inspiring advocates of Black pan-African revolution…only the cold and repellent Killmonger,” meaning that this movie is another “Hollywood update of white America’s longstanding distinction between the good Black and the bad Black” with good Black pursuing “moderate ends in dignified and polite ways” and the bad Black “angry, violent, and undignified,” wanting to “wage war on the white oppressors.” In the case of he movie, T’Challa is equivalent to “Booker T. Washington, Sidney Poitier, Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, Eric Holder, and…Barack Obama” while Killmonger is equivalent to “Toussaint Louverture, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Bigger Thomas, Malcolm X, Jeremiah Wright, Huey Newton, and the nightly urban crime reports all wrapped up together.” Not surprisingly is that T’Challa gets the “kindly white veteran CIA agent named Everett K. Ross,” which means the movie falsely portrays the CIA as a “friend of an independent and strong African state,” with the movie (despite some exceptions), absurdly portrays the “white senior CIA agent as a friend of an independently developing and autonomous Black African state.” The movie ends with saying global capitalism is good with the “CIA agent smiling as he watches his friend T’Challa tell the United Nations that Wakanda is joining the international community,” and then a teaser “after the full credits, when we see a forgotten white Marvel superhero…emerge from a Wakandan hut.” His article ends by asking: “Did you expect something different and more radical from Hollywood? Why?” He is right to ask this.

The movie also has another purpose: to connect with other superhero movies, getting people hooked another one of Marvel’s Hollywoodized comics. That was the goal of a movies like Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Ironman, X-Men, and Hulk, and many others. [4] Once everyone is introduced in their own specific movies, then they can make movies where all of them fight together against a “common” enemy. Yet another product which is spread to the masses which reinforces capitalist ideology.

Spike Lee, “respectable” Black politics, and capitalist ideology

With this, it is worth talking about Blackkklansman. A good starting point is Boots Riley’s well-thought criticism of the movie, engaging in what he calls a “political critique of the content of and timing of the film,” even though Spike Lee hugely influenced him and he holds the latter “in highest respect as a filmmaker.” He even says that having a story not being true is not necessarily a problem it is “being pushed as a true story and…its untrue elements that make a cop a hero against racism” with false parts trying “to make a cop the protagonist in the fight against racist oppression.” He goes on to write that the

…real Ron Stallworth infiltrated a Black radical organization for 3 years….where he did what all papers from the FBI’s…COINTELPRO…[working to] sabotage a Black radical organization whose intent had to do with at the very least fighting racist oppression…Ron Stallworth was part of COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO’s objectives were to destroy radical organizations, especially Black radical organizations…when White Supremacist organizations were infiltrated by the FBI and the cops, it was not to disrupt them…It was to use them to threaten and/or physically attack radical organizations…There was no bombing that Stallworth or the police thwarted…That was made up for the movie to make the police seem like heroes. There was no cop that got recorded and/or arrested due to saying things at a bar while drunk about how he’s ok with shooting Black folks…This was put in the movie to make Ron and the rest of the police look like they were interested in fighting racism, like they don’t all protect whatever racist and abusive cops are in there. This is a scene where the whole police force…work together with the fictional Black radical love interest to set the one racist cop up. Never happened…His partner that did the physical infiltration of the Klan was not Jewish and did not look Jewish to other people…If you really went up to Kwame Ture and asked him what we should do right now—as Ron Stallworth does in the film—he would have said what he usually said: “Study!!!” But, it made the Black radical group look more dangerous to have Ture say something that sounded like he was calling for armed insurrection…Ron Stallworth looks like a hero, and so does his partner and the police force…Everything else is simply unverifiable stuff that ex-cop Ron Stallworth wrote in his memoir…the radical girlfriend says that she’s not down with him being a cop, then Stallworth…says that he’s for the liberation of his people at the same time as being a cop. All the fake stuff we just showed him go through argues his point for him. And then they hear something, and go, guns drawn, to investigate. They go down the hall together with the signature Spike Lee dolly…Cops and the movement against racist oppression united. This is the penultimate shot before the film goes to news footage of current White Supremacist attacks…for Spike to come out with a movie where story points are fabricated in order to make Black cop and his counterparts look like allies in the fight against racism is really disappointing…Spike Lee’s, Chiraq, plays into that myth [of black-on-black violence], and how that myth is used against movements for social justice…By now, many folks now know that Spike Lee was paid over $200k to help in an ad campaign that was ‘I aimed at improving relations with minority communities. Whether it actually is or not, BlacKkKlansman feels like an extension of that ad campaign.

After reading this review, I think Boots Riley got it completely right. I did watch the movie myself and thought it was relatively good, but I think his criticism is completely valid. It really did positively portray the cops as “good” for fighting racial justice, specifically as those fighting White supremacists which was stopped by the “bad” police captain who made him destroy all the records. Stallworth is painted as the “hero” who revealed this story, keeping the records of the action. This is despite the fact that he literally participated in White supremacist meetings (via his White colleague) and did nothing to actually break up the group. Even if we accept the movie gospel, he stopped a bombing, but the group continued on. Additionally, while a few White supremacists were killed when the bomb went off in front of their car, they obviously recovered from this, with no effort to break-up the group. The connection to current events, with live-TV images of what happened in Charlottesville, the orange menace, and others, was obviously meant to relate it to the present. The cops were portrayed as positive and “revolutionary” which is an utter joke which doesn’t recognize the role of the cops. Does Spike Lee forget the nature of the cops in his other movie, Do the Right Thing, the nature of Black revolutionaries in Malcolm X, another movie he made? It seems he has, instead making absurdist movies like Blackkklansman and Chiraq, the latter which is like a Shakespearean play with militaristic themes and supposed feminism which reduces men to literally being only about sex, which is just not true as it doesn’t recognize the power they actually hold in society as a whole. The only positive of Blackkklansman is it does not have a white savior element which is shown in Free State of Jones (symbolized by a poor White farmer named  Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey) and Selma (symbolized by LBJ), Lincoln (symbolized by Lincoln), and a “respectable” Black man like Cecil Gaines (played by Forrest Whitaker) in The Butler. [4] The last of those films is one of the worst, including a scene where the Cecil’s son, Louis, becomes a Black Panther and he angrily denounces the BPP as being horrible. Sadly, Cecil’s other son, Charlie, dies in Vietnam, and Louis leaves the BPP after they become “violent.” Of course, Cecil, who worked in the White House as a butler from 1957 to the 1980s (from Eisenhower to Reagan), it is not until the end of his time there that he advocates for advancement and equal pay for the Black staff. He only resigns when Reagan doesn’t support sanctions against apartheid South Africa, not anytime before then, later joining an anti-apartheid protest, and of course, celebrating Obama’s victory in 2008. What else would you expect from someone as much into Black respectability politics, growing up as a “house negro” in his early life on a White plantation in Macon, Georgia, in the 1920s and 1930s, as him? His son, Louis, by contrast, is the one who joined the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) where he  engages in a sit-in at a segregated diner, goes on a freedom ride  in Birmingham, participates in the Birmingham Children’s Crusade in 1963, participates in the voting rights movement in Selma in 1965, and runs for a seat in Congress. This is while Cecil just stands by.

There a few other films I’d like to mention here, apart from 12 Years A Slave which is an interesting story to say the least. Spike Lee’s Blackklansman does not focus on race and class which abundantly clear in Fences (based off August Wilson’s novel), police brutality inherent in Fruitvale Station (even with its problems), and about anti-racist activism on campus in Dear White People (in the first season of the show and the movie of the same name). The last media is one of the most interesting, as it slaps racism right in the face, with much discussion about identity either through:

  • the Black rabble-rouser (symbolized by Samantha “Sam” White, played by Logan Browning)
  • the Black gay man who becomes a journalist of sorts (symbolized  by Lionel Higgins, played by DeRon Horton)
  • the respectable Black man who becomes student president (symbolized by Troy Fairbanks, played by Brandon B. Bell)
  • the White anti-“PC” student (symbolized by Kurt Fletcher, played by Kyle Gallner)
  • the White male “ally” [only in the TV show](symbolized by Gabe Mitchell, playedby John Patrick Amedori)
  • the resentful Black woman who wants to be “respected” (symbolized  by Collandrea “Coco” Conners, played by Antoinette Robertson)

And all the rest. I only say the first season and movie as those are the only ones I have watched presently. There are undoubtedly elements lacking, but the situation of a mostly White university which portrays itself as “diverse” is something which can be universally  recognized by many in U$ universities as a whole, so it has power in that way.

To sum up this section, Spike Lee is clearly, as it currently stands, serving his role within the framework of cultural hegemony that Gramsci outlines, perhaps serving as an organic intellectual, or even if not, as a conduit for spreading capitalist ideology to the masses which will weaken any efforts to make the world a better place, especially those who skew to more radical and revolutionary solutions, which are sorely needed.

Some comments on Paths of Glory, varied films, and animated sitcoms

The final film I will talk about in-depth here is Paths of Glory, a film where Kirk  Douglas plays a French general (and former lawyer) who defends three soldiers from “cowardice in the face of the enemy,” in an effort to save their (and fellow soldiers) lives from a fruitless charge across no-man’s land to their deaths. While the film is undoubtedly antiwar in that it shows the horror of war, the absurdness of a trial against these three individuals which is meant to just protect the commanders, and their eventual death by firing squad to restore “order.” The latter makes the film pessimistic as the war (in this case WWI) continues on, with the soldiers portrayed as sexist beasts (at the end of the film) toward a captured German woman, who are entranced by her when she begins to sing. At  the same time, it makes a point that following orders  is not always good, as those who didn’t follow orders and stayed in their trenches are saved from slaughter. The commander who ordered the charge to take “Ant Hill” which killed half of Douglas’s soldiers is sacked, but the person who sacked him  does not understand Douglas’s anger, offering him the sacked commander’s job. It is a film very different from other antiwar films, so it is unique in that way. It is unlikely a film like this would be made today.

There were some other movies I have watched recently like The Bullet Train, Woman Walks Ahead, The Syrian Bride, and Chappaquiddick. But, I can’t really say much on most of those. I will say that Woman Walks Ahead is a bit of a white savior story which obviously distorts history (once you look into the actual story). It makes one of the main characters, a white woman named Catherine Weldon, played by Jessica Chastain, out to be a goof when she was actually an advocate  for indigenous peoples. It also devalues all those who are said to be part of the Lakota people, rather than calling it the racist name of “Sioux” which was pinned  on them by the French, except for Sitting Bull (played by Michael Greyeyes), which could be said to be an unfortunate oversight, but it also yet another way to erase indigenous people and their fight against U$ imperialist killers, with Sam Rockwell, the stuckup colonel, Silas Grove, getting a prominent part. This, undoubtedly supports the dominant capitalist hegemony, with the producer and director, along with anyone below them, and the movie studio itself, complicit in this without a doubt.

Finally there are animated sitcoms, like South Park, created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and The Simpsons, which was created by Matt Groening. As I have argued on this blog in the past, the latter animated sitcom has gone way downhill, so much so that it is a zombie form of its original self. The former show has done so as well, or perhaps it was always bad. I recently watched two recent episodes in the show’s 22nd Season (“The Problem with Poo” and “A Boy and a Priest”), to see if anything had changed. Of course, it hadn’t. The latter show involved a literal piece of shit (called “Mr. Hanky”) being pushed out of the town of South Park for his discriminatory sayings, then moving to Springfield, with a hashtag at the end of the show saying “#cancelthesimpsons.” Most commentaries I read on this seemed to take it as a joke, because Parker and Stone support “artistic” freedom or the bourgeois conception of “free speech” which mocks efforts to be “politically correct” or PC. As I understand it, efforts to be “PC” are meant to help disenfranchised and disempowered groups, but they are led by liberals, whom do not recognize the overall context of what they are doing. As such, the efforts are mainly rhetorical, not about changing structures of power and oppression, which is the main problem with “PC” efforts, as they currently stand, which can easily be integrated into the capitalist system.

Back to South Park. I personally feel that the call to “#cancelthesimpsons” is clear trolling because in the other episode I noted there (which happens to be the episode played the week before), a message flashes on-screen at the end of the episode saying “#cancelsouthpark,” which is apparently part of a sort of marketing campaign by Comedy Central and by the show itself. As such, the message in the first episode I talk about here cannot be taken as a serious effort to cancel The Simpsons. Rather, it is an act of camaraderie between shows that now both see themselves as anti-“PC,” although in very different ways, which is becoming the name of the game for a number of people in the same position and strongly trumpeted by those on the “right.”

Closing remarks

The cultural hegemony of capitalist ideology continues to permeate through our society, whether you watch animated sitcoms like Futurama, The Simpsons, or American Dad, watch a movie in a theater, or see an ad on a bus. [5] It cannot be escaped as much as we may see ourselves as “immune,” but it becomes part of our mind, as we recognize the corporate brands which populate the landscape and then begin to accept the state of the world as it stands today. There must be efforts to fight back against such an ideology, something  which doesn’t require uniting with the “right” as some have proposed. Rather it involves countering capitalist ideology wherever it stands, working to build a better and more fair world which is free from profit and decadence, without falling into the traps of those who  emphasize electoral contests like the DSA, Socialist Alternative, and the Berniecrats, putting those who do this on the road to revolution, standing with the proletariat across the world, regardless of what country they currently reside.


Notes

[1] David Kehr, “FILM; ‘Cast Away’ Director Defies Categorizing,” New York Times,Dec  17, 2000.

[2] According to IMDB’s listing, Henry David Waters, Jr., who played Martin Berry, seemed to be the only other actor of color in the whole movie.

[3] Manohla Dargis, “Review: ‘Black Panther’ Shakes Up the Marvel Universe,” New York Times, Feb 6, 2018; Peter Deburge, “Film Review: ‘Black Panther’,” Variety, Feb 6, 2018; Joe Morgenstern, “‘Black Panther’ Review: An Epic to Pounce On,” Wall Street Journal, Feb 12, 2018; Jimi Famurewa, “Black Panther Review,” EMPIRE, Feb 6, 2018; Ann Hornaday, “‘Black Panther’ is exhilarating, groundbreaking and more than worth the wait,” Washington Post, Feb 9, 2018; Peter Travers, “‘Black Panther’ Review: Marvel’s History-Making Superhero Movie’s a Masterpiece,” Rolling Stone, Feb 6, 2018.

[4] Free State of Jones, however, has its positives in that it follows the struggle for Black rights across a historical timeline from during the Civil War until afterwards into the Reconstruction, which few movies I’ve seen before have done. Despite the White savior element, this did introduce me to the real story, as noted by the Smithsonian:

…in Jones County, Mississippi…Newton Knight, a poor white farmer…led an extraordinary rebellion during the Civil War…[leading a] company of like-minded white men in southeast Mississippi…overthr[owing]…the Confederate authorities in Jones County and raised the United States flag over the county courthouse in Ellisville. The county was known as the Free State of Jones…After the Civil War, Knight took up with his grandfather’s former slave Rachel; they had five children together. Knight also fathered nine children with his white wife, Serena, and the two families lived in different houses on the same 160-acre farm. After he and Serena separated—they never divorced—Newt Knight caused a scandal that still reverberates by entering a common-law marriage with Rachel and proudly claiming their mixed-race children…The Knight Negroes, as these children were known, were shunned by whites and blacks alike. Unable to find marriage partners in the community, they started marrying their white cousins instead, with Newt’s encouragement. (Newt’s son Mat, for instance, married one of Rachel’s daughters by another man, and Newt’s daughter Molly married one of Rachel’s sons by another man.) An interracial community began to form near the small town of Soso, and continued to marry within itself…There was some very modest cotton production in the area, and a small slaveholding elite that included Newt Knight’s grandfather, but Jones County had fewer slaves than any other county in Mississippi, only 12 percent of its population. This, more than anything, explains its widespread disloyalty to the Confederacy, but there was also a surly, clannish independent spirit, and in Newt Knight, an extraordinarily steadfast and skillful leader…[Knight’s] views were not unusual in Jones County. Newt’s right-hand man, Jasper Collins, came from a big family of staunch Mississippi Unionists. He later named his son Ulysses Sherman Collins, after his two favorite Yankee generals, Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman…Although he was against secession, Knight voluntarily enlisted in the Confederate Army once the war began. We can only speculate about his reasons. He kept no diary and gave only one interview near the end of his life, to a New Orleans journalist named Meigs Frost. Knight said he’d enlisted with a group of local men to avoid being conscripted and then split up into different companies. But the leading scholar of the Knight-led rebellion, Victoria Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones, points out that Knight had enlisted, under no threat of conscription, a few months after the war began, in July 1861. She thinks he relished being a soldier…In October 1862, after the Confederate defeat at Corinth, Knight and many other Piney Woods men deserted from the Seventh Battalion of Mississippi Infantry. It wasn’t just the starvation rations, arrogant harebrained leadership and appalling carnage…Returning home, they found their wives struggling to keep up the farms and feed the children…In early 1863, Knight was captured for desertion and possibly tortured. Some scholars think he was pressed back into service for the Siege of Vicksburg, but there’s no solid evidence that he was there…On the night of October 5, Major McLemore was staying at his friend Amos Deason’s mansion in Ellisville, when someone—almost certainly Newt Knight—burst in and shot him to death. Soon afterward, there was a mass meeting of deserters from four Piney Woods counties. They organized themselves into a company called the Jones County Scouts and unanimously elected Knight as their captain. They vowed to resist capture, defy tax collectors, defend each other’s homes and farms, and do what they could to aid the Union…In March 1864, Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk informed Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, that Jones County was in “open rebellion” and that guerrilla fighters were “proclaiming themselves ‘Southern Yankees.’” They had crippled the tax collection system, seized and redistributed Confederate supplies, and killed and driven out Confederate officials and loyalists, not just in Jones County but all over southeast Mississippi…That spring was the high-water mark of the rebellion against the Rebels. Polk ordered two battle-hardened regiments into southeast Mississippi, under the command of Piney Woods native Col. Robert Lowry. With hanging ropes and packs of vicious, manhunting dogs, they subdued the surrounding counties and then moved into the Free State of Jones. Several of the Knight company were mangled by the dogs, and at least ten were hanged, but Lowry couldn’t catch Knight or the core group. They were deep in the swamps, being supplied with food and information by local sympathizers and slaves, most notably Rachel…After Lowry left, proclaiming victory, Knight and his men emerged from their hide-outs, and once again, began threatening Confederate officials and agents, burning bridges and destroying railroads to thwart the Rebel Army, and raiding food supplies intended for the troops. They fought their last skirmish at Sal’s Battery, also spelled Sallsbattery, on January 10, 1865, fighting off a combined force of cavalry and infantry. Three months later, the Confederacy fell…The third act of the film takes place in Mississippi after the Civil War. There was a phase during early Reconstruction when blacks could vote, and black officials were elected for the first time. Then former Confederates violently took back control of the state and implemented a kind of second slavery for African-Americans. Once again disenfranchised, and terrorized by the Klan, they were exploited through sharecropping and legally segregated…Ross thinks Knight’s character and beliefs are most clearly revealed by his actions after the war. He was hired by the Reconstruction government to free black children from white masters who were refusing to emancipate them…In 1876, Knight deeded 160 acres of land to Rachel, making her one of very few African-American landowners in Mississippi at that time…In the film, Marsh and Blaylock appear briefly in a courthouse scene. For the two of them, the Knight family saga has continued into the 20th century and beyond. Their cousin Davis Knight, who looked white and claimed to be white, was tried for the crime of miscegenation in 1948, after marrying a white woman. The trial was a study in Mississippian absurdity, paradox, contradiction and racial obsessiveness. A white man was convicted of being black; the conviction was overturned; he became legally white again.

[5] This could be expanded with idea from, as some would say by Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman’s Manufacturing Consent, but probably more powerfully through Michael Parenti’s Profit Pathology and Other Indecencies, The Culture Struggle, Inventing Reality: The Politics of the News Media, and  Make-Believe Media: The Politics of Entertainment. I haven’t read any of those books yet, just Parenti’s God and His Demons, Superpatriotism, Democracy for the Few, and the Assassination of Julius Caesar. Parenti’s other books are: The Sword and the Dollar: Imperialism, Revolution, and the Arms Race, Land of Idols: Political Mythology in America, Against Empire, Dirty Truths, Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, America Besieged, History as Mystery, To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia, The Terrorism Trap: September 11 and Beyond, Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader, The Face of Imperialism, and Waiting for Yesterday: Pages from a Street Kid’s Life, along with varied articles.

“One thing today, another tomorrow”: the Julia Salazar Story

The following was reprinted from Dissident Voice. It is the second of the two-part article on the so-called “socialist” Julia Carmel Salazar. A version of this article before its editing by Dissident Voice will be published on the Internet Archive in a 15-page version and a 41-page version, the longest one, both of which should be processed at a later point. I have changed the link to part 1 to apply to the reprinted version on this blog, instead of the one in Dissident Voice. A Berniecrat who  is often critical of social democrats, although he is imperialistic, quoted a recent Intercept reporter finding that the rent strike happened in 2014 but not in Harlem even though Salazar claimed it was still part of Harlem. Still, it said 2013 elsewhere, so there are still problems with her personal narrative here.

In Part 2, I build upon what I talked about in Part 1, when I analyzed the candidacy of Julia Salazar, called Salazar in this article, what a “socialist” running on the “Democrat line” meant. In this article I focus on her life, not by telling it in minute detail but briefly looking at her background and pointing out inconsistencies. As Josh Varlin of the Trotskyist WSWS (World Socialist WebSite) even remarked very recently, “Salazar’s misrepresentation of her past is, however, politically significant” because “Salazar’s political evolution is far from run-of-the-mill” since she was “extremely active in right-wing politics until just before her entry into pseudo-left politics.”

On April 18, Salazar began her campaign for the New York State Senate, specifically for District 18 in North Brooklyn, announcing it at Bushwick’s Maria Hernandez Park, and recently winning the Democratic primary by a large margin, beating Martin Dilan, who was funded to the hilt by the real estate body. With this, she is virtually guaranteed a win in November because there is no Republican or Independent running against her. She defines herself on one of her twitter handles as a member of the New York City Democratic “Socialists” of America (DSA) chapter and UAW (their National Writers Union), with some supporters calling her a “community organizer.” Since then, some have raised questions about her identity and her “personal narrative,” as she has presented it in her campaign even though she has strongly declared she was not campaigning on identity. [1] She is like other millennials who fibbed parts of her past as Eve Fairbanks wrote in a recent BuzzFeed article.

The questions about Salazar begin with her origins. It is clear that she was born in Miami in December 1990, evidenced by the fact that her parents had paid for a second mortgage three years earlier. It is also clear that she grew up in a family which was politically conservative, with a Colombian-born father, Luis, a cargo pilot, and her New Jersey-born mother of Italian descent, Christine, a flight attendant. However, she could not get her story straight about her family: sometimes she called them secular, while other times she called them Catholic or partially Jewish. Nonetheless, it seems evident that at least part of her family was Catholic as she had admitted to a DSA podcast that she was baptized Catholic, growing up in South Florida.

The first part of her origin story is that she was a “proud” Columbia immigrant, as her campaign website and her Our Revolution bio once described her. This part of her story quickly ended, as she fell back to the claim that she was a “proud daughter of an immigrant father” or “a Colombian-American from an immigrant family.” [2] But this is definitely stretching the reality, as her father was a U$ citizen before she was born, putting into question that she immigrated to the U$ with her family “when she was very little,” and that her family moved to the U$ when she was a baby.

She already had admitted to the New York Times the deception behind calling herself an immigrant, saying: “I’m not an immigrant myself. Rather, I have always felt a deep connection to my father’s immigrant experience because of the time I spent without family in Colombia at such a young age. We were back and forth, literally, constantly. My earliest memories are of Colombia.” Salazar’s mother, born in 1957, does recall varied visits to Colombia, even stating that “the Colombian culture was a huge part of our family” while her slightly older brother, Alex, who is currently a mango farmer in Florida, confirmed “a pair of trips to Colombia” during “their childhood for short visits,” but said that “we weren’t an immigrant family. It was never something even considered.” With her father being Colombian-born, this would mean that she would be effectively half-Colombian, but considering that her mother was White, this proves false her assertion in 2017, before she became a candidate, that “my own immediate family are people of color who immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia, and most of my family still lives there.”

This is even the case as she has said that she looks “practically identical” to her father and less like her white mother, but is sometimes “white-passing or perceived of as white by some.” While she may be right that “immigrant stories are rarely straightforward or unidirectional” and that she has “family in both countries, and I feel a part of both,” while she may be “referring to going there more than we went anywhere else” and she “embraced the Colombian culture,” according to her mother, this doesn’t account for her inconsistencies and distortions.  As such, her claims that she “never misrepresented my history, and attempts to construct a narrative where I was dishonest about my birthplace to reporters…are malicious and false” are faulty. This is not totally unprecedented: those who are second-generation (children of an immigrant or immigrants), see themselves as attached to the culture of their parent or parents’ birthplace, even if they aren’t born there.

Connected to her claimed immigrant identity was her claim that she was working-class. She had said that her mother “really struggled to support me and my brother financially as a single mother” and that  both of her parents “came from a working class background.” It is clear that she was largely raised by her mother, supporting her contention on that count. However, her brother, Alex, has said that their family was “middle class, or upper middle class” when living in Jupiter, a “small beach town” north of West Palm Beach, which Salazar has countered by saying that Alex’s memory on this subject was faulty. In contrast, Salazar’s mother said that while she and her children lived in a nice house, she sometimes financially struggled, especially after divorcing with her husband (when Salazar was six years old in 1996), with Luis, saying:

If I could make it look easy for my kids, I did. I thought that economic hardship was not a burden that kids that were going through a divorce needed to experience.

Beyond this, it is clear that Christine raised both Salazar and Alex, getting only a portion of her husband’s money “through alimony and child support,” growing up in a large house but at times “had to push hard to make ends meet.” Without even using the story in the Daily Mail, a horrid right-wing tabloid, which also seems to raise questions about her claims of a working-class background but just depends on her brother as a source, there are some indications that she is fibbing her story.

She admits that at times her parents collectively earned $100,000 in a year, although she has said this wasn’t always the case, with her brother saying, rightly, that you would have to “have a pretty wide definition of working class,” saying that they lived “a comfortable life.” Even if we accepted that she grew up working class,  her mother did not have a college degree for only two years after divorcing her husband, graduating with a degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. Furthermore, let’s say we accept the contention of Salazar’s mother that Salazar is from the “you work your ass off class,” and that “she really wants to help others. The people of Brooklyn…if she gets elected, she will be their advocate,” it seems evident that she was more likely middle-class than working-class, especially since her mother was working-class but her father was solidly middle-class.

Additionally, she had a trust of $600,000, which some like Zionist Yair Rosenberg, have taken to indicate that Salazar was a trust-fund kid, because, when her father died in 2009 he left a “house and considerable retirement savings.” While she and her campaign have said that a relative manages the account and she has received nothing from the trust fund, it is hard to believe she has not been given at least something.

Apart from her claimed immigrant and working-class identity was her claim of Jewish ancestry. She has said that “my father was of Sephardic Jewish heritage,” that she had “some Jewish family,” and “a Sephardi surname.” But, even her mother, who is supportive of her daughter’s campaign, has said that neither her family nor her divorced husband’s family were Jewish, claimed to say that the latter family had a “Sephardic background” which Salazar had been curious about, adding that this is “where her interest stems from.” This interest reportedly began in 2009, when she was age 18, after graduating high school, when her father died of prostate cancer, with a funeral in a Catholic church in Ormond Beach, Florida, when she claims she began “exploring her Jewishness,” telling the New York Times that she was spurred to “search for meaning in my father’s death,” saying that “a lot of mysteries I wanted to solve,” focusing on her family history (on her father’s side), with claimed roots in the Sephardic (also Sephardi or Sephardim) “community expelled from medieval Spain” which converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition, with most of them settling in the Ottoman Empire and others immigrating to parts of Europe and the Americas. But her claim to Jewish ancestry is questionable.

A Colombian genealogist, Maria Emilia Naranjo Ramos, looked into the family history of Salazar, determining that her ancestors included a central banker, business people, and civic leaders, while being recognized throughout the “generations by their commitment and generosity towards their community,” serving as Catholic elites, which Salazar called “pretty cool.” [3] Furthermore, they have been “Catholic in their tradition and for many generations,” with no evidence, as of yet that they are “possibly Sephardic.”

As the Spectator, which is very critical of Salazar, has said, Salazar’s family “may well have descended from conversos, Sephardic Jews who retained some connection or awareness of their origins after forced conversion.” Salazar threw this all away by stating that “this genealogy does not make me Jewish,” putting into question if she was exploring “her Jewishness” or her “Jewish roots” after her father’s death or not. As such, her claim to Jewish ancestry is still a tall tale, as the only person who could have told her about it was her father, with her mother saying that: “she’s the one who sought out her family history…I believe that was a discussion that Julia had with him about the family history in Iberia. But he would always say that he was born and raised in Colombia but his family was Iberian.”

This connects to another part of her identity: her claim to the Jewish faith. She has told her fellow activists of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) that she was “a Jew of color…a Colombian American and…Jewish.” [4]

With this, her Jewish beliefs would fall within the category of the JFREJ’s description of “mixed-race Jews whose ancestors include many kinds of non-European peoples, and both white people and People of Color who have chosen (or whose parents, grandparents or ancestors have chosen) to become Jews through conversion,” with her declaring to be within the latter group. Some have focused on her tattoos with disdain, declaring she is “not” Jewish, stating that Leviticus 19:28 (with varied translations) says you cannot make gashes in your flesh “for the dead” or any “marks” on yourself. However, as Rabbi Evan Moffic wrote in HuffPost, in Judaism “there is no blanket prohibition on tattoos” and as a Jewish Reform website plainly states, “after the Holocaust, many in the Jewish community became even more opposed to tattoos…[but] in recent years, tattoos have become more common in the Jewish community…the Jewish community might still be divided over tattoos…we don’t exclude people in our communities from that care simply because of markings on the skin.”

As such, having a tattoo does not automatically exclude you from being Jewish. Whether she read a lot, reading the bible and apologetics and Torah, she had admitted that she didn’t have a “bat mitzvah, or a confirmation, or any of that sort of thing.” It would not be until 2012 or 2013 when she claimed to undergo a conversion to Judaism, with some saying she was a conservative Christian before then even though she talked about events at Hillel. Not only is the length of her Reform beit dein conversion  in question, with some courses saying it was two months and others saying five months, but she has no record of it and the person named Daniel Crane was not “an ordained rabbi, and therefore could not yet lead conversions while Salazar was a student,” putting her conversion into question.

In the end, as one recent article in New York magazine noted, she chose to “identify and live as a Jew in 21st-century New York City amid a rising population of adults with fractional Jewish ancestry,” finding a Jewish community in college, which is true despite the fact it is an open question, despite what her classmates said in the Forward, whether she converted at all! Benjamin “Ben” Norton, Salazar’s friend, may be right that “whether or not she converted late in life is irrelevant” and that “the people challenging her blood purity and tracking her family history are bigots.” Even so, this does not include well-intentioned criticism, which this article falls into or the genealogist who looked at her family history, at minimum.

Fast forward to August 2009. She began attending Columbia University, after she had reportedly worked in the service industry for years, specifically at a grocery store, as a housecleaner, and as a barista, drinking “very hot coffee” on her short breaks.” She was also a registered Republican with conservative views, graduating Jupiter High School at the top of her class, but did not vote in the presidential election in 2008. Moving to New York City, Salazar would attend an Ivy League school, “an institution with an immense amount of wealth” as she would later describe it, where she would study history, psychology, and have a concentration in Jewish studies. Reportedly while in college she would work as “a nanny and house cleaner,” supporting herself through school, working for “30 hours a week…on the Upper West Side, using the income to pay rent and other expenses not covered by her scholarship” and financial aid, giving her “class consciousness.”

Her “political evolution” would be slow. During her campaign she would claim she was a “community organizer” in New York City for “nearly a decade” or have a “decade of experience as a local community organizer has brought her from the streets of Bushwick to the halls of Albany.” [5]

This raises a red flag of concern since it would mean, at most, she would have to be politically active since 2007 or 2008. If it was not exactly a decade, this would still be a problem as her right-wing phase of her life lasted until 2015 at least, evidenced by the fact that in 2010 she registered with the Independence Party of New York, supposedly mistakenly thinking she was an unaffiliated voter even though it is possible this wasn’t a mistake considering that the party is center-right and “populist, and began going to Hillel the same year, even going to Jewish services with friends. The following year, when she began to reside continuously in New York, she would be arrested on “allegations of fraudulently attempting to access the bank account of Kai Hernandez, a family friend and then-wife of baseball star Keith Hernandez,” a bizarre case which would drag on for four years, ending in 2017 with a settlement in Salazar’s favor, settling for $20,000 since the person she was suing was dying of cancer. More importantly, in 2011, she would begin to dip her toe into politics by starting a “Columbia United for Israel” chapter at Columbia that year which never became an official group because she wasn’t deeply invested in it and Columbia didn’t allow it, never moving beyond a relatively inactive Facebook group.

The following year, in 2012, she would become the President of a group fighting against reproductive rights on Columbia’s campus: Columbia Right to Life (CRL), possibly beginning to be sent emails from them in 2011. Specifically the group would fight to ensure that “a fund for abortion services would not be paid for by Columbia students,” and she would lead the Support for Pregnant Students Initiative, serving as the “public voice” of the group on campus, and be angry at the Columbia Spectator for “manipulating” the words of CRL members, showing their “bias.”  She would even, later that year, write in the Spectator an op-ed where she declared that “it is unacceptable for the University to provide support for students to have abortions while simultaneously failing to provide resources to accommodate those who keep their baby…With Columbia’s influence, we have the opportunity to help pregnant women, and thus live up to the progressive values of social justice, autonomy, and women’s health that we proclaim.”

There was understandable backlash, as her fellow students told her about abortion, changing her views after “honest conversation[s],” regretting the views she took then. Even so, despite her claim that the group didn’t have a significant impact, the fact is that she was positively described by Public Discourse the following year, when she ended her involvement, and the group seemed to somewhat achieve its goals.

In 2012, she was part of a Christian Zionist organization: Christians United for Israel (CUFI). She appeared on Glenn Beck’s show, The Blaze, and was in San Antonio for a summit of CUFI. Before she spoke, she smiled in disbelief at reported “anti-Israel” lyrics by a Palestinian rap group (singing in Arabic) and shook her head, shaking her head again in a similar manner when the other guest talked about Palestinian “hate speech” being an issue for Christians. About 4 minutes into the video, the segment in which Beck interviews her begins. She goes on a pro-Zionist screed, stating that “anti-Israeli” professors were in the “Middle Eastern, Asian Languages and Culture…using the classroom as their podium to spread lies about the state of Israel, to de-legitimize the state of Israel, and to spread propaganda to Columbia students” and declaring that CUFI’s goals were to “educate the community about the truth about Israel…Palestinian Authority….Hamas…[and] Ahmadinejad.”

She would later add on a DSA podcast that the “Glenn Beck appearance was concurrent with me first learning about what CUFI was,” and saying the interview was in January 2012 when “CUFI sponsored me to go to San Antonio for their conference,” with her being told an hour beforehand and she spoke on the show. In August of the same year, she met with IDF soldiers “patrolling the Israel-Lebanon border,” in a trip organized by CUFI, which reportedly did not establish a chapter at Columbia. On this trip her views of the murderous Zionist apartheid state, often called “Israel,” were reportedly changed, when she visited the West Bank and met with Palestinians there, even reportedly keeping in touch with a Palestinian in the U$ who had “grown up in West Bank and lived through the second intifada.” It is also worth noting that sometime during her time on campus she was part of a humanitarian imperialist organization: Amnesty International, claiming it did not mesh with “very hawkish views on foreign policy, social issues or on poverty,” which has some truth to it, but ignores the long-standing connection of Amnesty with the murderous empire.

It was the year following, in January, that she reportedly engaged in a rent strike. As she tells the story, after “shivering through a winter without heat,” she organized a rent strike among fellow tenants at her apartment building (reportedly in Harlem), run by a “notoriously abusive landlord” who neglected tenants, calling for the landlord to “make repairs and turn on the heat in the winter” and they won some concessions in a housing court, as a result. As such, the management company raised rents through the roof, leading Salazar to be displaced and say she began to think about systemically changing such problem. There have been some questions of whether the strike happened again which is complicated because the address where she lived may not be publicly available.

We do know that the same year, she would make a brief visit to Florida, and from then to 2017, considerable “documentary evidence, including tax and payroll records…reflect earnings in New York and are directed to her at residential addresses in New York, and including her residential leases, bank and health insurance records, rent and mover’s bills, and travel records.” Her testimony in the Dilan v. Salazar case was corroborated by a roommate who had lived with her “in various apartments in New York since September 2013 and that Salazar was never away for more than one or two weeks.” This is complicated by the fact that she told her friend Katie Helper in Teen Vogue that she organized the strike in early 2014 even though Gothamist clearly indicates it happened in 2013. Which is an open question whether the strike happened at all!

In the spring and fall semesters of 2013, her Zionist views would be reinforced. In the spring semester, she would help found the J Street U chapter at Columbia, clearly supporting the two-state solution and organizing meetings for the group, including opposing the idea of “Apartheid Week” regarding the Zionist state. [6]

In that same semester, she would also be fine with inviting liberal Zionists to campus, seemed to favor those from Peace Now and Haaretz and asked in one message: “is anyone else a little disturbed by the similarity between Palestinians referring to this as “Nakba” and its mockery (intentional or not) of the Jewish use of the word “Shoah” (both literally meaning “catastrophe”)? I find it to be a little too close for comfort.” By the fall semester, she would be the co-president of the chapter and a WZO (World Zionist Organization) campus fellow, who was, politically, a liberal Zionist who seemed to want a coordinated response to address SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) actions.

Near the end of that semester, she would meet David Keyes, now Netanyahu’s spokesperson to foreign media, then a “human rights activist,” a second time at a coffee shop, and, by her recollection, be physically assaulted by him in his apartment. Years later, in 2016, she would have a Facebook post about the incident, deleting it after the Times of Israel picked up on the story.  Regardless of Salazar’s other inconsistencies and distortions, it is wrong to think that she is lying on this topic either by engaging in victim-blaming or other efforts as a prominent Wall Street Journal reporter, Shayndi Rice, shared a similar story, and ten more women have come forward with similar stories.

The following year, in February 2014, she would write her second-op-ed in the Columbia Spectator, which described her as “a Columbia College senior majoring in Middle Eastern history and Jewish studies. She is a co-chair of J Street CU and a member of Columbia/Barnard Hillel.” This goes against what she told a DSA podcast: that she led the chapter “until the very beginning of 2014, January of 2014, which was when I disengaged for the group essentially over the question of BDS and support for BDS,” raising the question of when she left the group. In her op-ed, she would lend her support to the corrupted two-state solution, saying that “there is a growing constituency of us who refuse to tolerate the injustice of the status quo…Advocating for pragmatic solutions to these issues is imperative because they are an essential part of any two-state agreement. Through practicality, we can turn our frustration into strategic activism. We can lead our community to promote a just solution to the conflict, before peace escapes us.” This shows that she hadn’t abandoned her Zionism by then, and as the Gotham Gazette put it, she would join “the Israel/Palestine activism scene as a member of J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace.”

Around the same time she also became involved with IfNotNow, a group that “wants American-Jewish institutions to become more aware of Israel’s occupation of territory Palestinians consider their homeland, while protesting the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict,” which she would criticize herself the following year. She also would write her first article for Mondoweiss, about being denied entry into the Zionist state and saying she “was raised with the delusion that Israel was a safe haven for me, perhaps even the only safe place for Jews” which Vox says implies she was raised as a Jewish child although she was not. By April 2014, she would be part of a debate on Columbia University about the “academic boycott of Israel.”

In May 2014, Salazar would leave Columbia University but would not graduate. This has led to some controversy because she said under oath in the Dilan v. Salazar that she graduated and her website seemed to imply this was the case, even seeming to imply graduation when she donated to the university in later years and on her academia.edu account, which shows her interests, with the same being the case for her Scribd or Quora accounts. As such, Citizens Union and the Brooklyn Young Democrats withdrew their endorsement of her as a candidate. As she tells the story, after college she went to Jacobin reading groups, with the first meeting about the Global South, and began reading Karl Marx, even though she has also said that she began reading Marx while in college. So, this is disputed.

The same goes for her identification as a socialist, telling a DSA podcast at one point that she was a socialist in 2013 and at another time that in 2014 she first identified as socialist. The following year, she would write another article for Mondoweiss, noting her presence in If Not Now, a group of U$ Jews organizing in Brooklyn and “seeking to protest Jewish communal organizations’ complicity in the violence” in Gaza by Zionist armies and opposing the “brutal” occupation of Palestine,” but also had strong criticism of the organization and of J Street, later partying with those like Max Blumenthal, Anya Parampil, Rania Khalek, Michael “Mike” Prysner, Nathaniel Wallace, and Jan Ritch-Frel and Michael Prysner, where they all watched the Democratic presidential debate. The latter basically rather shows her left-leaning views at the time, with the same applying to her friendship with Ben Norton, who is not as radical as one might think at the time.

By 2016, the year she would attend the Big Eddy Film Festival in Narrowsburg, New York, she would be in Nashua, New Hampshire “with her union, the United Automobile Workers,” which she is said to have organized for “during a contract dispute at Barnard College, on Election Day.” She said that it was also a get-out-the-vote campaign, adding that “collectively, we all felt certain that Hillary Clinton would win. When the results came in, it was really, really devastating…My heart hasn’t stopped racing since that moment, basically.” She later told the Gazette that “the Trump Administration has motivated more people, myself included, to shift our focus to trying to effect change as much as we possibly can at the city and state level, where we have more control, where we can effect change in a practical sense and also do harm reduction in response to federal policies across the board.”

The same year she began working with the JFREJ “on anti-police brutality initiatives,” after seeing them at Black Lives Matter protests. [7] She would also write her third article for Mondoweiss, talking about a Black Lives Matter platform which called the Zionist state an apartheid entity oppressing Palestinians and the response by Jewish organizations to it, and would become “rank-and-file DSA member” in the summer.

The year after that, 2017, she would serve as the senior editor of a blog called Unruly: A Jews of Color, Sephardi & Mizrahi Caucus Blog and would be a full-time staff organizer in the JFREJ, while being a member of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) and an active DSA member. In January of the same year, she attended the Women’s March in NYC, leading a “contingent of progressive Jewish marchers,” seeing the march as “as an opportunity to build our community’s unified resistance against Trump’s oppressive policy proposals” and saying that despite clumsy messaging, it was “a good-faith effort to do something here that will mark an historic defiance against the hate and discrimination that Trump represents.” She would not cancel, as revealed in the Dilan v. Salazar case, her Florida voting registration until July 2017, and then become a registered voter in New York.

Then, in 2018, this year, she would write an article in Jacobin about the NYPD’s police brutality, then started supporting and volunteering for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign. She would be convinced by some of her friends in the NYC-DSA, like Michael “Mike” Kinnucan (her deputy campaign manager), Nick Rizzo, and Bianca Cunningham, and maybe that assistant editor of Jacobin, Alex Press, who moved into the area in 2017. She would finalize her decision by March and begin running in April, with a kickoff the following month. Of these individuals, Rizzo was a major factor, described in April 2016 by Bedford & Bowery as a politician who “shares some concerns with the Brooklyn hipster constituency…and like many liberal-minded people of our generation, he also cares a great deal about issues of equality…and is frustrated with…the establishment.” He would call himself a “Bernie supporter” who barely saw “any possibility of Trump winning,” adding, worryingly, that: “…it’s actually better for all of us to have a functioning two-party system…Competition is essential for a democracy” and that he would vote for Hillary Clinton if she was the Democratic nominee and saying he was in favor of tipping. Since then, his views on Twitter, such as thinking that “Millennials” and Generation Z will bring “the change”, being dedicated Democrat and nationalist who seems to like assessments by Trotsky, shows that what he said in 2016 still matters.

Whether we believe Salazar or not, support or oppose her, her personal narrative, which was muddled by her inconsistencies and distortions, matters as she is a figure in the public eye, not only putting doubt on her ability to carry through for Brooklynites (as a “new hope”) in Albany but in the DSA itself. It is hard to see if she will be “an advocate for the underdog,” as her mother describes her. In the end, while thinking people should be critical of progressive icons like Salazar, any tendency to ally with reactionaries or promote their narratives to engage in such criticism undercuts any efforts to create a better world.


Notes

[1] If you would like the links to the tweets I am referring to, please email me.

[2] She explained this change to Stephen Miller of Fox News by saying that she does not “personally manage” her campaign website, blaming a staffer and lack of coordination on her “first-time team,” admitting to being “unknowingly unclear on this,” adding that her busy campaign was also to blame. How can you expect a well-organized and coordinated campaign if you are blaming your staff?

[3] This is where New York magazine gets into weird territory: they declare that because Salazar’s ancestors were elites in Colombia who had a role in public life, that this “legacy of financial well-being and achievement carried over from Colombia to Salazar’s early family life in Florida, where she was born” because…Salazar’s brother said so! This is pretty weak, since it is no guarantee that just because your ancestors are wealthy you will also be wealthy.

[4] The quote “lower my expectations” which is used in this article comes from this video. I did my best to transcribe the video:

I hope I am not alienating anyone but I am also not into vartora [?]. I’m not equipped to do that either. But, I am a Jew of color. Many people aren’t familiar with this term but I’m a Colombian-American and I’m also Jewish. And Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and the movement that many of us are in has empowered me to say that proudly. Growing up I was told to lower my expectations by society. I immigrated to this country with my family when I was very little. In Colombia, my mom raised me as a single mother, she didn’t have a college degree. We really struggled. I started working in a grocery store when I was 14, I worked in the service industry from high school, and as a domestic worker in college. And it was that experience that while early on, you know [cuts off].”

[5] The full quote from her page is: “as a member of the Bushwick community, she has been a tireless advocate for her neighbors and fellow tenants. Julia’s decade of experience as a local community organizer has brought her from the streets of Bushwick to the halls of Albany. She has protested, picketed, lobbied, and organized to achieve a more just New York. From working with her neighbors to fight for their legal right to safe housing to demanding criminal justice reforms at the city and state levels, Julia has been at the forefront of campaigns for social justice in New York.”

[6] WZO, which was founded in 1897, wants to “serve as the umbrella organization for the Zionist movement” and be a “symbol and a founding institution of Zionist political thought and action.” It also pumps millions into new illegal settlements in the West Bank. In an article she co-wrote with Max Blumenthal, she would describe J Street, talking about “liberal pro-Israel students” in the organization, adding that “J Street U [is] the campus arm of the liberal pro-Israel organization, J Street.” J Street has directly attacked BDS and it also “rejects the return of Palestinians to lands and homes.”

[7] For the discussion of whether JFREJ is a Zionist organization, please email me. She may have also worked with CodePink as there is a page for a “Julia Carmel.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Significance of Julia Salazar running as a “Socialist” Democrat

The following was reprinted from Dissident Voice. It is the first of the two-part article on the so-called “socialist” Julia Carmel Salazar. A version of this article before its editing by Dissident Voice has been published on the Internet Archive.

On September 13, Julia Carmel Salazar won the Democratic primary against Martin Dilan, becoming the State Senate candidate for North Brooklyn’s District 18 (shaped like a praying mantis). Apart from the many dark times in her life, especially her right-wing period between 2008 and 2014, covered in Part 2 of this article, there are many other factors revolving around her role as a “socialist” of the NYC-DSA running in a Democratic primary. This article aims to talk about those factors and the significance of her candidacy, with her almost-assured victory in November, beyond Ben Beckett’s hot takes in Jacobin that her victory on September 13 “felt good” and that she was “attacked” in her supposed effort to build a “policy base that a new voter self-identity can be anchored in.”

With some media outlets calling her a “Latina democratic socialist” (Gothamist), “young and Latina, poised and progressive, and a democratic socialist” (New York Times), or a “Jewish Latina democratic socialist candidate” heading a “burgeoning progressive Jewish revolution” (Jewish Telegraph Agency) who sits among the “young progressive women” Michelle Goldberg recently wrote about in the New York Times, there are undoubtedly many articles about her positions. These media outlets see her as more than a “jumped-up nobody running for a state senate seat in Brooklyn,” allowing her campaign to become a runaway national story. She is described as a “socialist” (or as some call it “suddenly socialist”) and a DSA member, calling herself “an advocate, a tenant, a feminist, a democratic socialist, a union member.” [1]

She stands for universal rent control, tech-utopism, ending vacancy decontrol, abolishing ICE, single-payer healthcare usually described as Medicare For All, ending cash bail, fixing the subway system (and mass transit), ending “policies aimed at eliminating mass incarceration,” money for affordable housing, free tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools, and immigrant rights, while favoring reproductive rights and unions. These are socially democratic positions which aren’t necessarily “socialist.” She also endorsed the call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), which held by NYC-DSA, while criticizing the two-state solution. [2]

This position on Palestine is part of the reason for the negative articles in the Daily Mail, Forward, and the Tablet, most prominently, and was likely pushed by Zionist agents and perhaps the real estate industry, connected with her gender, as I have pointed on Twitter as a person who is critical of Salazar. Some, like Ryan Grim of the Intercept, Pierre Omidyar’s plaything, have said that after Salazar’s victory, “Big winners tonight appear to be: Tablet, Page Six and the Daily Mail, who get to keep writing about @SalazarSenate18 for the foreseeable future.” That has validity except it misses the significance of her candidacy.

As Salazar said at one point:

My vision is for a more caring society in which nobody is denied what they need to thrive based on income, on property, on capital. This is not what is going to happen the day I’m elected to the state Senate — that would be cool though. I’m realistic, but without that vision, this is pretty much a futile exercise.

This “cool” factor, where she says she would be “fine” if her victory led to “the end of capitalism” (which it obviously won’t), plays into the fact that her campaign headquarters in Bushwick sits near a “hipster” shop, with scores of volunteers (many of whom are DSA members) canvassing in “friendly political territory,” and receiving a huge amount of campaign donations after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another “socialist” running in the Democratic Party, endorsed her, while Radix Media printed her posters. As The Intercept even admitted: “Salazar’s road to Albany might be made easier by the same counterintuitive factor that helped propel Ocasio-Cortez to victory: gentrification,” with this being the case because “white transplants…tend to support Bernie Sanders-type universal programs.”

This reality was evident from The New Yorker’s photos of a victory party for Salazar on September 13 in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which included a smattering of people of color, but more white men and women than anything else. The New Yorker addressed this directly in their article, writing that “the crowd [there] whose arrival often heralds gentrification—the young bearded types at the party—had worked on the campaign…The hipsters who come to the neighborhood for the “right reasons,” as [Tasha] Van Auken [Salazar’s campaign manager] put it, are actually working to keep older residents safely in their homes.” At the same time a BuzzFeed article noted that the supporters of Salazar, “certainly the young, mostly white, recent college graduates who flooded her victory party…didn’t recognize, at least subconsciously, that this kind of thing is just way more common than we’d like to admit,” meaning they were more like Salazar than they would admit off the bat.

This connects to what her former opponent, Dilan, called her: a gentrifier who recently moved into the area even though she opposes gentrification and she has lived in the same apartment in Bushwick for years. As one strident critic of Salazar put it recently, the campaign’s winning strategy was to target a gentrifying district, then use the “DSA as footsoldiers to turn out the white voters.” This effort, which reportedly included knocking on 100,000 doors, was a success in getting her elected, allowing her to integrate even more people into the faltering Democratic Party, which would make the head of the party smile even as they grumble about her viewpoints.

It is evident that Salazar is trying to portray herself as “hip,” with some saying that she “transformed, seemingly overnight, from an extreme right-wing Republican Right-To-Life Zionist zealot to a trendy BernieCrat. She needs to offer a plausible account of how this happened.” This is evident from the fact that she may be vegan (or perhaps vegetarian), tweeted a quote from Howard Zinn, is blocked on Twitter by Rosanne Barr, she has been called a “tattoo-wearing socialist” for her tattoo of a “large black and white rose” near her left shoulder and another of plane on her right arm which The Nation calls “a memento of her father, whose death when she was 18 “shaped [her] life,”” the look of her campaign headquarters, being interviewed by those of Chapo Trap House (a “leftist” podcast which almost verges on being anti-communist), and her long hair. It is also expressed through her “hot takes” on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, legalizing marijuana, misogyny, libertarians, Tucker Carlson of Fox News, and protest chants. With this, it is no surprise that the UAW has called her a “UAW sibling.” Also her reported “faith in humanity based on…the observation and the belief that as humans we don’t just operate selfishly, you know, that we can actually be in solidarity with one another, and not just with our people,” as she noted in a DSA podcast, it is part of this portrayal as well.

She also has garnered an unusual constituency for a politician which is “emerging as a force in electoral politics…because of the growing political threat against their industry”: prostitutes, whom many outlets like to call “sex workers” claiming that they are just like other workers, by supporting the decriminalization of prostitution and attending “sex worker advocacy meetings.” The Intercept even did a whole article on the subject, declaring that she is “shaping her policy by consulting the sex work community, is one of the first candidates to definitively support those workers, including by proposing concrete steps toward decriminalization. In that article, she told the reporter that “sex workers are workers and they deserve to be treated with dignity, including protections and decent working conditions, rather than the abuse and criminalization that they currently face. I’m dedicated to defending workers’ rights, reforming our criminal justice system and ending exploitation, and we know that criminalization puts everyone in sex work at risk rather than protecting them.” As a result, she stands against those feminists who are rightly critical of prostitution and rather with the so-called “sex worker lobby” which is probably the lobby for the sex industry.

This would be the case because those glad with Salazar’s position include Melissa Gira Grant (who doesn’t “acknowledge the issue of masculine social dominance” on her book on “sex work”) and the Red Umbrella Project (part of a group that is a front for pimps). Grant was so glad with Salazar’s position that she wrote an article in The Appeal, a project of Tides Advocacy (formerly the Advocacy Fund), which is an affiliate of the Tides Foundation, a major funder of bourgeois environmental groups, like 350.org, with Warren Buffet’s NoVo Foundation as one of the biggest funders of Tides. In her article, Grant declared, not surprisingly, that Salazar’s campaign has “provided a platform for sex workers to do some of that educational work [on prostitution], while offering a template for how the decriminalization fight could play out in other cities and states,” adding, in a joyful manner, that “her support for sex workers’ rights is unusual for a person running for office.”

As Matthew Maavak has written, “a civilization where women and children are sexually commoditized is one in terminal decline,” a thought which is connected to what Tanner Stenning has written: “if we’re to proceed in defending sex workers, let’s start by acknowledging at least this much: likeliest the vast majority would not choose sex work were the circumstances different.” This is further informed by what has been written in Feminist Current: that “prostitution endlessly erects the very patriarchal divisions between women that it allegedly destroys…As long as prostitution exists women and men will never be free from patriarchy,” that “under the narrative of “sex work” there can be no vulnerable person,” and that “pro-sex trade voices are…ubiquitous” to such an extent that the New York Times has done articles on the subject. The same publication also talked about the gentrification of prostitution, murders of prostitutes in New Zealand where prostitution has been decriminalized, certain people discounting rape of prostitutes, and trying to de-platform Chris Hedges for taking a strong anti-prostitution stand in his Truthdig columns.

While prostitutes have flocked to Salazar’s campaign, Trotskyists have endorsed her, with Socialist Alternative declaring that her campaign’s door knocking “is seen by many workers and youth as an important vehicle to fight back,” but adding that “many DSA members want to build mass movements outside the electoral arena…a broader struggle to transform the party,” while adding that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” Still, they support Salazar, saying her efforts are positive and are “generating support for many important issues that won’t be won without struggle…A Salazar victory will be a…clear indication of the growing momentum for socialist ideas.” Not so sure about that.

Additionally, the Brooklyn branch of the ISO (International Socialist Organization), a Trotskyist organization, also issued their support for Salazar, declaring their full support of her from “a nightmarish series of attacks…[a] steady and vicious smear campaign drummed up by both liberal and right-wing media outlets” and urging those “progressive allies who continue to dissect Salazar’s background…to [not] equivocate, but to stand firmly on the side of solidarity, so that one of our own does not pay such a high price for standing up for all of us.” Apparently standing on the side of solidarity means to mimic her followers by not questioning her. Even Niles Niemuth of the Trotskyist Socialist Equality Party, a candidate in Michigan, was quoted in the party’s website, the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) as saying that:

The DSA, which is a faction of the Democratic Party, not an independent party, promotes the fiction that the interests of workers can be secured without a frontal attack on the domination and wealth of the corporate and financial elite. It advances the lie that workers can win their rights through the instrument of the Democratic Party—a right wing, pro-capitalist party.

On that point he may be right although Trotskyists have a distorted worldview which benefits the global bourgeoisie. Salazar may  use words like capitalism and capital, while calling herself a socialist and declaring that her campaign was something “revolutionary,” but she also has a progressive feel, with her website saying: “Julia is the leader we need to make New York City a safer, more just, more welcoming place for everyone” and saying that the “abolition of private property” is not “realistic.” While she seemed to differentiate “democratic socialism” and “progressivism,” in an interview for Jacobin, saying the former means “to have a vision of a world where everyone is taken care of….a society in which people are valued over profit, in which everyone has access to the things they need not just for basic survival but to thrive” and that the latter might “advocate for forcing landlords to do necessary repairs on buildings,” her talk on the campaign trail, saying she speaks for the Latinx community, drawing strength from “the long history of Jewish social justice and Latinx social justice organizing” wants to make New York a “progressive beacon” or that she wants a “true blue New York,” that she is part of a “movement” winning over the “machine,” tells a different story.

It is doubtful that her ideas will “bring us closer to a truly socialist economic system,” as she claimed her campaign was part of, since, as In These Times writes, “democratic socialism itself has always been a heterodox term, encompassing everyone from ideological Trotskyists to New Deal Democrats.” They also note that “DSA isn’t keen to enforce a strict definition of “democratic socialism,”” possibly meaning everything from “taking public goods like healthcare off the private market…to worker-ownership of the means of production.” The DSA, with a chapter in NYC, also doesn’t want to play as a “spoiler in general elections” but would rather endorse “the most progressive candidates from other parties in primaries, while also running their own, further-to-the-left candidates in local Democratic races that are safely progressive.” Salazar can warn of ideas “becoming diluted when they leave the Left and enter the mainstream, province of politicians and political expediency,”  and even admit that “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.”

Still, she says that “it would be great if we could all avoid the Democratic Party line…but if I were to try to do that in this district, I highly doubt people would notice much less vote for a third-party candidate in the general election.” Yet wanting to be part of a “progressive wave,” being a person supposedly with “class politics and a materialist analysis,” will not get her the “socialist movement” that she claims she is part of. This is because she cannot be for a Bernie-style “political revolution” while being a “fiery progressive” who is still socialist and is building a “movement.” Talking in Bernie-like language will just end up with her followers, after her victory, being swallowed into the Democratic Party. This is evident by the fact that there is a fundraiser for her on Act Blue, which calls Salazar “a dedicated community leader running in the Democratic primary for New York State Senate…committed to running a campaign by and for the people, sustained by grassroots donations from supporters like you,” a Democratic PAC which is independent of the Democratic Party and is part of “blue” Democratic brand. This is even the case if the words were written by her campaign, as they also publicized their efforts as “all grassroots.” It is also doubtful that while her victory will make her supporters gleeful, it will not be a “victory for workers” as she declared in her victory speech on the night of September 13.

The numerous individuals and groups who have endorsed her seem to question how grassroots her campaign was, especially considering the number of out-of-state donors (35% of her donor base). Her website lists Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Councilman Jumaane Williams, Councilman Antonio Reynoso, Working Families, New York Communities for Change, DSA, CWA, CODEPINK, Make the Road Action, Citizen Acton of New York, New York State Immigrant Action Fund, Carlina Rivera campaign, OUR Revolution, NYC DSA, NYC Kids PAC, New King Democrats, Brooklyn Progressive Action Network, New York Progressive Action Network, New York Professional Nurses Union, The Jewish Vote, Amplify Her, Streets PAC, Grassroots Action New York, Women of Color for Progress, UAW, and The People for Bernie as endorsing her campaign. Even, the Zionist Tablet has written that “Salazar’s election [victory] would be a breakthrough for the city’s Jewish left: proof that their institutions can become a pathway to formal political power, that anti-Zionist Jews can win high-profile elections, and that big things are possible when communities grow ravenous for some kind of change.”

She has also been supported by those from the ACLU, progressive “socialist” Lee J. Carter, Insurrection magazine (which she once published for in an article about virtual reality), NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of socially-democratic Jacobin, progressive” Democrats like Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout, along with the typical support from Berniecrats and DSA people, Democratic honchos, uptight White liberals in suits and “socialists” like Benjamin Norton. Most worrisome is that Linda Sarsour is an active supporter of her (and Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign as well) campaign. Sarsour is a Berniecrat once recognized as a “champion of change” by Obama’s admin, along with also smearing Syria’s government, calling for that government’s overthrow and saying it is oppressing Syrians. Sarsour also defended head-chopping Saudis (even if she doesn’t “support” them), acts like she critical of the Zionist state but made sure there were no BDS or anti-Zionist signs at the Women’s March in DC, and supports the Zionist state’s existence, making it clear she is not really what she claims to be. [3]

With all the distortions of Salazar’s personal message caused by her inconsistency, some progressives who would be prone to support her ideas have decided to not do so, like Dave Weigel. The Salazar campaign’s “voter protection teams” won’t protect them from this form of defection, with the same applying to their get-out-the-vote efforts, with the former organized perhaps because of expected voter suppression in the district which happened on September 13.

Before her victory, one article in Vox stated that “if she wins, it’ll be more evidence that socialists in general and the DSA in particular are forces to be reckoned within the Democratic Party. If she loses — well, then the DSA will be the socialists who couldn’t even win an election in Bushwick.” Her campaign positions were clear in a smoothly-made campaign ad (the production and creation which may have violated FEC regulations) by Means Production, an entertainment company, which is less than three minutes long. It includes a Reaganesque refrain that it is “morning again in Brooklyn” (repeated three times in the video) while the video itself, worryingly, declares her campaign will deliver “moral clarity” (or “common sense” as it is put elsewhere) but not “radical ideas.” Salazar herself also only gives unnamed “corporations” & the “real estate body” as the problem without even uttering the word capitalism in the video itself!

Wanting a “more caring society” does not make you socialist either, not because of some non-existent “purity test” but rather that any progressive could say the same exact thing. As one person in Left Voice asked:

Why couldn’t someone like Julia Salazar run as a socialist, putting the hundreds of DSA members who are canvassing into dialogue with those who are disillusioned with the two-party system? Why can’t the anti-establishment feeling be put in the service of joining a movement against the parties that have sold out the working class and oppressed them again and again? She may not win the election, but the DSA will have spread socialist ideas and about working class independence from capitalists. And besides, it’s not unheard of for an independent socialist to win an election.

Not sure why she didn’t go that route. Doesn’t seem right, as it would be better to build structures independent of the Democratic Party instead. Some may have a point that the DSA is currently being opportunist by allowing her in their ranks or claiming she is spouting a form of Zionism like Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, but there is more happening than that.

On a connected note, it is worth discussing the NYC-DSA. It is a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a group declaring on its homepage that “working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few” but then just fights for “reforms that empower working people,” including decreasing the “influence of money in politics…empower[ing] ordinary people in workplaces and the economy [and] restructur[ing]…gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable,” followed by a broad “commitment to democracy.”  This may sound nice, but their “free, democratic and humane society” includes a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms” which sounds horrifying because the latter element means such a society would have capitalist elements!

On another page they declare that “the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few which changes in government and economic structures,” adding that they do not want “all-powerful government bureaucracy” and claiming that “worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives” would allow social ownership, while also favoring “as much decentralization as possible.” So, they aren’t bringing on the Soviet Union, even though they favor central-planning, which they also just call “democratic planning” which would include, you guessed it, “market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.”

The group then goes into the land of anti-communism, declaring that “socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states,” even saying that they “applaud the democratic revolutions that have transformed the former Communist bloc,” despite the fact the countries are now worse off, and claiming they are also against “ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism.” Even worse, they favor government regulation, tax incentives, and unions to “control” corporations, while favoring a “combination of social, economic, and moral incentives will motivate people to work,” and using social democratic efforts in Sweden, Canada, France, the U$,and Nicaragua, as “examples” going forward! After they say that the DSA “must work towards reforms that can withstand the power of multinationals and global banks, and we must fight for a world order that is not controlled by bankers and bosses,” they support fighting within the Democratic Party, writing: “…many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing…The process and structure of American elections seriously hurts third party efforts…We hope that at some point in the future, in coalition with our allies, an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats.” What a disgusting set of words!

Finally, there is the page about their history, written by Joseph M. Schwartz (active in the DSA since the beginning), proclaiming that they “made an ethical contribution to the broader American Left by being one of the few radical organizations born out of a merger rather than a split.” It also says that they “helped popularize the vision of an ecumenical, multi-tendency socialist organization, an ethos that enabled it to recently incorporate many thousands of new members, mostly out of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign,” even welcoming those who “believe in the possibility of independent electoral work inside or outside the Democratic Party ballot line.” This history shows that in 1972 their predecessor, with Michael Harrington (who believed that the Left could take over the Democratic Party) as a major figure, supported those in the ““new politics” left-liberals in the McGovern wing of the Democrats,” while in the later 1970s they supported a progressive “Democratic Agenda,” building progressive Democratic coalitions in the 1980s, founding the DSA in 1982.

The history then complained that “the collapse of communism in 1989 proved less of an immediate boon to democratic socialists than many of us had hoped. Those who had suffered in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union did not embrace socialism with a human face, but rushed headlong into the embrace of a mythic, free market capitalism.” They thought they would benefit from that? Jeez, they do not understand capitalism or the problem with the Soviet Union’s dissolution, which can be grasped even by those critical of the country, especially after 1956 when it entered its revisionist period.

The history continues on, saying that the group then called for a single-payer healthcare system in the early 1990s to counter the Clinton health plan, opposed Clinton’s welfare reform, opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars early on, called for a “truly progressive tax system” in the early 2000s, joining the Occupy movement from day one, supporting Black Lives Matter, “and fighting against mass incarceration and for equitable urban public education” in more recent years. As an obvious tie into the Democratic Party, the history recalled “DSA’s decision in late 2014 to make its number one priority the movement to support Bernie Sanders running for president. DSA took the position that for maximum exposure and effectiveness, Sanders should not only run, but should run in the Democratic primaries,” even as they admitted that “Bernie’s New Deal or social democratic program did not fulfill the socialist aim of establishing worker and social ownership of the economy” but it apparently seemed “sufficiently radical and inspiring.”

And now they boast that they are “the largest socialist organization in the United States since the Communist Party before its implosion in 1956 after the [false and traitorous] Khrushchev revelations about Stalin” and then declare that “we also are committed to working in coalition with forces that oppose both right-wing rule and the dominant national corporate wing of the Democrats. We want to continue Sanders’ “political revolution” by broadening out that political trend to include a stronger base within the labor movement and, most importantly, among progressive organizations rooted in communities of color. If we take up those challenges, DSA may be able to sustain the most important socialist presence in U.S. politics since the Debsian Socialist era of 1900 to 1920.”

Once again, this positioning makes them the perfect sheepdogs for the Democratic Party, clearly as social democrats not as socialists which they call themselves, while they could very easily be using that same energy on building independent structures! Then, again, this is unlikely to happen as no Marxist theory is even mentioned on any of these pages at all, showing superficiality of their ideas. [4]

With this, we get back to NYC-DSA. It is currently an entirely member funded group that is run by more than 3,500 members, saying on its homepage that they are “socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships,” adding that they want to “work together to develop a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for achieving a transition to democratic socialism in America,” calling for people to help them build a better world. Another page on their website declares their further aims:

a society free of all oppression with a democratically-run, ecologically-sustainable economy…Our goal is a socialist world….A transformation on this scale will require socialist parties and powerful social movements. The goal of NYC-DSA is to move us closer to achieving this transformation…Campaigns for reforms that would improve working-class and oppressed people’s lives are key to our ability to organize this base…ultimately it will take a political revolution and massive social transformations to make the lasting changes we are fighting for…Socialists have learned through decades of fighting for reforms that the capitalist system serves the interests of the ruling class. It is designed to meet their needs and insulate their power from threats from below. Our strategy therefore is different from the liberal one. We work to organize millions of people into democratically-led movements that take militant action against bosses and politicians…We believe that the fundamental transformations we are seeking are in the broad interests of all working-class and oppressed people, and our work is focused on organizing among this base…We must pressure Democrats to obstruct Trump’s agenda. Mass demonstrations against Trump’s actions will also be a regular feature of the next few years…The prospects for winning reforms in the interest of working-class and oppressed people at the city-level would seem to be more promising…the city Democratic Party is divided into three factions, undermining its ability to pass progressive reforms…Because the mayoral and other citywide elections this year appear to be uncompetitive and none of the candidates present a strong progressive vision for the city, we should not take a position on these races. This frees us up to focus our electoral work on a few key City Council races. In general, after full discussion, we will support the most viable progressive candidate who will use their office as a ‘bully pulpit’ to help build social movements in NYC. We will especially look to find candidates willing to run as democratic socialists…It is critical that all of this work is done with an eye towards building an electoral apparatus — which includes fundraising, canvassing, research, and volunteers — independent of the Democratic Party and corporate money….As NYC-DSA we also call on the National Convention of DSA to vote to disaffiliate from the Socialist International (SI). The SI is not helping to build an international socialist movement — its member parties work around the world to roll back welfare states and impose austerity.

While this is a bit better than the DSA, it still falls into using the “Democratic Party line,” as Salazar called it. To recall what Salazar herself said, quoted earlier in this article: “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.” We then can recall what Jimmy Dore, a progressive comedian who recently declared that “if they play the national anthem at work & make you stand and salute, that’s not patriotism, that’s fascism. That’s what they do in North Korea” (which you could call liberal fascism) and who doesn’t like corporatists but voted for Obama twice (which is a conundrum), said about the Democrats (as he does often). He argued that they caused the repeal of Glass-Steagall, crash of the economy, banks to get bigger, cops to crack heads at Occupy protests, not stop unions from being taken away from teachers in Wisconsin, joined with the current U$ president and McConnell to fast-track lifetime appointments of judges, worked with GOP to deregulate Wall Street again and have the biggest Pentagon budget in U$ history (717 billion dollars), take fossil fuel money, and have a new DNC rule that to run as a candidate in the Democratic Party, head of DNC gets to decide whether the candidate is sufficiently loyal to the party.

He also said that Democrats have been in decline for decades, that superdelegates are still there but just don’t vote for the President in the first-round, that many people associate with Democrats because they are an “inferior good” and that there is “no way they will allow progressives to take over the party.” But ultimately Jimmy Dore and his guests stuck with the Democrats, while one admitted that progressive victories could be sapping energy that could be used to create a new political party, but another said” right now that is not an option,” echoing what Salazar said. It is this defeatist attitude which is part of the problem.

Ultimately there is one major problem with Salazar’s candidacy, as is the case with Ocasio-Cortez.  It sucks grassroots energy into electoral politics like a vacuum cleaner bringing in loads of dust. [5] The same could even be said of Kshama Sawant in Seattle, running as part of the Trotskyist Socialist Alternative grouping.

Specifically in the case of Salazar, Ocasio-Cortez, and many others, their energy would be sucked into the Democratic Party. Even Socialist Alternative, which endorsed Salazar, admitted this, declaring that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” This seems to be embodied within the Party of Communists – USA (PCUSA), which declares that “the Republican and Democratic Parties represent and work for the basic interests of capital, the large stock-holders of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler…The PCUSA proposes a realistic policy that is neither sectarian nor set in stone nor just latches on to the Democratic Machine.”

As such, it is clear that DSA does not fulfill this goal. Rather, they are sending more people to their spiritual deaths, not through spending “more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift” as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it in 1967, as they will be swallowed into the Democratic machine just like that Futurama episode where a beast takes in people’s life essence, expanding its ego to absurdist proportions. Some can try to be “super” progressive within the Democratic Party, but eventually those people will crack sooner or later like Ocasio-Cortez did when she could not explain what the “occupation of Palestine” meant, later declaring that “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I’m a proponent of the two state solution. For me, this is not a referendum on the state of Israel.”

No matter what happens to Salazar ultimately, whether she wins in November or not, her candidacy serves an ultimate purpose to the corporatist leadership of the Democratic Party: it keeps the party alive and breathing, allowing it to support rampant imperialism, the actions of the current U$ administration, and continue to shaft the proletariat, among reinforcing efforts to enact their capitalist ideology. As such, while one could, without much thought, praise Salazar for her reformist ideas, there should be a more determined effort to create structures and institutions which exist outside the two-party system, allowing for a focus on more productive endeavors than just participating in elections.


Notes

[1] Salazar defines socialism as about “fighting to build a society in which everybody can live in dignity and have the resources to live as equitably as possible [and to have] the resources that we need not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It’s about empowering workers as far as my own theory of change…empowering the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our society.” She then told Teen Vogue that “being a democratic socialist means fighting to build a society in which everyone is cared for and has the resources that we need to not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It means that everybody will truly have autonomy and control over their own destinies. I think that part of the vision of fighting for a society in which everyone is able to thrive and has control of their own destiny means acknowledging gender inequality and patriarchy in our society. It requires working to dismantle patriarchy and to counteract gender inequality and fight for a society in which women and gender nonconforming people are no longer oppressed systemically.”

While that is nice, it doesn’t really sound “socialist” to me. The fourth edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it on page 1360 as “any of the various theories or systems of ownership and operation of the means of production by society or the community sharing the work and products” and as “the stage in society, in Marxist doctrine, coming between the capitalist stage and the communist age, in which private ownership of the means of production and distribution have been eliminated.” The first definition is the one I’d like to focus on, rather than the second one as the U$ is still strongly in a capitalist society despite the goofs that say it is “post-capitalist.” Nothing about building a fairer society, which Salazar says she is for, is about moving toward society or the community owning the means of production. Cuba and the DPRK, arguably, rather than the revisionist triad (Laos, Vietnam, and China), fall within the second stage, but how much they do this is obviously up for debate.

[2] When interviewed on a DSA podcast, Salazar seemed to differentiate the societies of the U$ and the Zionist state, saying that “I think that both American and Israeli society are in crisis as a result of hyper-militarization of our societies, and our law enforcement, our government institutions that are ostensibly supposed to protect us. The effects are obviously felt vastly disproportionately by one part of population. And obviously in the US, it’s disproportionately affecting Black Americans and people of color, but most obviously Black Americans, and we know it’s rooted in a hideous legacy of slavery. Whereas in Israel and Palestine, it’s rooted in a history of inequality that’s been there since the establishment of the state. I see it as a product of having a hyper-militarized police force in a society that has been and often still is taught a pretty racist narrative.” While that has validity, the history of inequality has been there since the founding of the U$. This is a statement which is ignorant without question, not realizing the parallels between the two countries and the racist, sexist, and classist [I probably shouldn’t have used that word] history of the U$ since its founding, as a state, in 1783 and as an independent entity in 1776.

[3] See more of Sarsour’s tweets on “Syria,” “Israel,” “Zionist,” “Palestine,” “apartheid,” “Saudi Arabia,” with tweets on the Saudis acting like she is critical when she has defended them in the past.

[4] Some have argued that the DSA wants socialism but that “trying to transform the imperialist core through electoral means reflects a lack of theoretical understanding of what building socialism necessarily entails,” adding that the “lack of emphasis on decolonizing (which necessitates the complete destruction of the settler colonial state) shows little practical understanding of what socialism would look like once that building process kicks off.” That opinion has validity, although it still doesn’t seem that they want socialism, but rather want a form of social democracy instead!

[5] One Princeton historian, Matt Karp, who is friends with Salazar, wrote that “if there was anything individually notable about Julia’s run for office, it was the idea that an ordinary person could pick up the mantle to run for state senate, not based on a claim of spectacular virtue, but a commitment to represent the needs and values of the people in her district. Now we see what happens when an ordinary person — bound to the ordinary extraordinary complexities of a life lived outside the confines of a resume — challenges the power of a political elite.” While that has its validity, it also poses her as some progressive shining star on a hill, something she is definitely not, and ignores the real problem with her candidacy is not her personal story or her ideas, but what it means for the political landscape and the faltering Democratic Party, with the same applying to other progressives who run on the Democratic Party line to try and push the party “to the Left,” a task which is an utter waste of time.

“With confidence in sure victory”: Kim Jong-Un and the DPRK in 2018

Photograph of Kim Jong Un Making His New Year Address​​, via dprktoday.com.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.  I wrote this when I was much more influenced by revisionism than I am now. If I wrote this article today I would probably try to be more critical. Still, I think at the minimum this post was a wholesome assessment.

As you may know, Kim Jong-Un (called Kim in the rest of this article), the duly-elected chief of state of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) gave a New Year’s address for Juche 107 (2018), on January 1, as he does every year. The bourgeois media, at least in the murderous empire, extracted only a certain elements from the speech, even though a rough translated version of the whole speech was available as of January 1st, only relying on a partial translation by the Associated Press. While PressTV, an Iranian state media outlet, and the RT, the Russian state outlet that liberals scream about, seemed to just take from Western media accounts, the bourgeois media was inherently imperialist in their “analysis” of the speech, as even the headlines show:

Dear America: Don’t fall for Pyongyang’s predictable, poisonous ploy (The Hill)

Kim Jong-un Goes Dapper, Updating His Style Along With His Arsenal (New York Times)

Kim Jong-un warns US in New Year’s Day speech, says he has ‘nuclear button’ on his desk (International Business Times UK)

North Korea’s Overture Raises Hopes, but Huge Obstacles Loom (New York Times)

Will nuclear North Korea survive 2018? (Chicago Tribune)

The first analysis I could find, of the Kim’s speech, came from NK News. Not surprisingly, like many of the “watchers” of the DPRK, it was inherently imperialist. While noting that “Kim Jong Un’s New Year speech was broadcast on Korea Central television” and that the “New Year’s speech is an important ideological event in North Korea,” noting that it was “uncharacteristically focused on foreign policy” and that Kim Jong Un revived the tradition of a New  Years speech in 2013, it made silly comments:

…Kim Jong Un wore a different colored suit and tie compared to previous years, though there is nothing to suggest this was for any reason beyond stylistic preference.Secondly, his remarks were interrupted several times by nine second periods of applause [which they claimed was “generated”]…Kim Jong Un’s voice was noticeably raspier than unusual.

Who cares about this? This does not bode well for their supposed “analysis” as it shows they are anti-communist jerks. Furthermore, they claimed that “Kim Jong Un offered zero consequential policy suggestions towards outside leaders” and that Pyongyang can “in some ways afford to simply ignore the U.S. and get on with other matters,” acting like this speech stood on its own and wasn’t in a broader context. Again, this is pathetic reasoning. They further claimed that there is “always room” for a war with the DPRK (no there isn’t!), that “Kim Jong Un continues to make due lip service to the state ideology” (not that he is a dedicated leader), that  “the New Year speech has an atmosphere of confidence surrounding it” and claiming that “the speech was actually recorded before the conference” (which is again acting like the people are brainwashed which is ridiculous). Hence, NK News should be ridiculed and generally not trusted for news or “analysis” on the DPRK.

With all of this, I decided to write my own analysis of the speech using media of the DPRK, working to put Kim’s speech, summarized by KCNA on January 1 for the Korean masses, into context. KCNA and Rodong Sinmun printed official English translations of the speech. In this article, the transcript of the speech, which was printed in Rodong Sinmun one day after KCNA published it is used in this article since KCNA is not always easy to link to online for ways they set up the website. [1] If Rodong Sinumn doesn’t work, here is a PDF of the speech uploaded to this blog and on exploredprk.com.

 

Table of contents for this article

 

The “difficulties and trials” of 2017

Right from the beginning of the speech, he addresses the difficult year of Juche 106 or 2017 for the DPRK. He says that the country is “the road of achieving national prosperity, gaining great strength and wisdom” (despite continued capitalist concessions and embrace of revisionism time and again) among a “great people” whom he calls “dauntless” even in the face of “manifold difficulties and trials” (murderous imperial sanctions) and that his heart swells “with the pride in waging the revolution shoulder to shoulder with a great people.” He adds that he extends “sincere thanks and New Year greetings to all the people and service personnel who won miraculous victories to be noteworthy in the national history of 5 000 years” while supporting the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) with “mind and purpose,” which buttressed its “determination on the road of arduous yet glorious struggle.”

What happened in 2017 is worth noting in the history books. Kim argues that 2017, was for DPRK, “a year of heroic struggle and great victory,” which served as a “milestone in the history of building a powerful [so-called] socialist country with the spirit of self-reliance and self-development as the dynamic force.” What is specifically being referring to is the fact that the murderous empire “and its vassal forces” tried to stifle and isolate the DPRK, with the revolution facing “the harshest-ever challenges” with the WPK trusting the people of the country who defended the Party, “turning adversity and misfortune to good account and achieving brilliant successes on all the fronts where a powerful [so-called] socialist country is being built.” Basically, the DPRK persevered despite the attempts by imperialists to strangle it. More importantly, the country showed its “immutable faith and will to follow to the end the road of Juche-oriented [so-called] socialism” with people firmly united behind the party and the DPRK for one reason:

…the accomplishment of the great, historic cause of perfecting the national nuclear forces…in the past one year we conducted several rounds of its [the nuclear weapon’s] test launch, aimed at implementing the programme, safely and transparently, thus proving before the eyes of the world its definite success. By also conducting tests of various means of nuclear delivery and super-intense thermonuclear weapon, we attained our general orientation and strategic goal with success, and our Republic has at last come to possess a powerful and reliable war deterrent, which no force and nothing can reverse. Our country’s nuclear forces are capable of thwarting and countering any nuclear threats from the United States, and they constitute a powerful deterrent that prevents it from starting an adventurous war. In no way would the United States dare to ignite a war against me and our country. The whole of its mainland is within the range of our nuclear strike and the nuclear button is on my office desk all the time; the United States needs to be clearly aware that this is not merely a threat but a reality.

Basically, the DPRK has a nuclear deterrent. This is meant to prevent the country from invasion by the murderous empire and its demented leader, the orange menace. There is a reason this is fundamentally important. As Deirdre Griswold writes in Worker’s World, a neo-Trotskyist publication, asks a rhetorical question, after saying that if China and Russia vetoed the resolution for sanctions on the DPRK they would have “risked incurring the wrath of the imperialists”: “But doesn’t going along with such a resolution incur even greater risk of emboldening the most aggressive forces among the imperialist policy makers, who want unchallenged domination over the world and see both China and to a lesser degree Russia as rivals?”

After all, not only is the policy of the murderous empire to destroy the government of the DPRK, turning it into a neo-colony of the U$, but no administration of the empire has been willing to sit down with representatives of the DPRK and negotiate an end to the state of war that has existed since 1950,” meaning that an  “official state of war already exists.” I’ve already criticized the stance of revisionist China and capitalist Russia, both of which are social-imperialists in the past, saying that

…since neither of these countries are socialist, they easily cut deals with Western capitalists to help their respective bourgeoisie. This is part of the reason why Russia and China have not stood behind the DPRK’s acts of self-defense against aggression by the murderous empire and its allies. Instead, if to “buy time” from the orange menace and/or to prevent nuclear contamination of their citizenry (in the case of China), they have held a moderating tone, supporting peaceful negotiation, condemning the DPRK’s actions, and supporting murderous sanctions, like the others on the UN Security Council. Where has the solidarity gone?…With the “zigzag approach” to the DPRK by the orange menace, Russia and China would benefit the world by defending the DPRK…but they have not done so, instead proposing the idea of a “freeze for freeze” which the US has rejected…As Gregory Elich recently put it, “unless China and Russia can find a way to oppose U.S. designs without becoming targets themselves, the North Korean people will stand alone and bear the burden of Trump’s malice”…Luckily, some have taken stands in favor of the DPRK that Russia and China have not.

The fact remains that Russia and China have voted with the murderous empire on sanctions against the DPRK, in keeping with their social-imperialist policy.

Photo of Kim Jong Un with Participants in 8th Conference of Munitions Industry, via Rodong Sinmun on Dec 13, 2017.

Kim continued his speech by saying that the nuclear deterrent is the wish of “great leaders who devoted their lives to building the strongest national defence capability for reliably safeguarding our country’s sovereignty” referring to his father Kim Jong-Il, and his grandfather, the first leader of the DPRK, Kim Il-Sung. The result of this deterrent is that the DPRK, in his words, has created “a mighty sword for defending peace,” important since the Korean people have had to “tighten their belts for long years.” Additionally, he argues that such a deterrent proves the accuracy, from his viewpoint, of the “Party’s line of simultaneously conducting economic construction and building up our nuclear forces and its idea of prioritizing science,” also called the byungjin parallel development strategy. [2] He adds that the achievements in 2017 open up “bright prospects for the building of a prosperous country and inspired our service personnel and people with confidence in sure victory.” He praises, as anyone should, the “heroic Korean people who, despite the difficult living conditions caused by life-threatening sanctions and blockade, have firmly trusted” the Party’s byungjin policy, and the “defence scientists and workers in the munitions industry ” who engaged in devoted efforts to create such a deterrent. Still, the further capitalist concessions do not help the masses.

He notes the economic progress of the DPRK. He argues that there has been “notable headway in carrying out the five-year strategy for national economic development” specifically in establishing the “Juche orientation in the metallurgical industry, an oxygen-blast furnace of our own style was built at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex,” a place that will maintain “regular production of pig iron by relying on anthracite.” He adds that “prospects were opened up for consolidating the independent foundations of the chemical industry and attaining the five-year strategy’s goal for the output of chemical products.” This is perhaps why the working class or proletariat of the DPRK, seemed to be encouraged by Kim’s speech. Jon Kwang Jun, the department director of the Ministry of Electric Power Industry,was quoted as saying that the address served as a “militant banner that all the servicepersons and civilians should hold aloft this year marking the 70th anniversary of the DPRK,” adding that the country will “strive to increase the power production, further consolidating the achievements made in the field of electric power last year” and will work on “developing new power sources, put power generation at the existing medium and small-sized power stations on a normal footing” while waging a “vigorous struggle against the practices of wasting electric power.” Kim Hwang Ho, the department director of the Ministry of Metallurgical Industry was quoted as saying that “workers in the field of metallurgical industry are in high spirits” he said this is the case because “many metallurgical industrial establishments have made great achievements in putting their production processes on a Juche and modern basis with the spirit of self-reliance and self-development” and that in the coming year this will continue with a boost in the “production of iron and steel.”

Apart from those reactions, consider that in October of last year, a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the WPK visited the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex, learning about the “construction of oxygen heat blast furnace” and walking around the construction side, even having a “consultative meeting” to underline the need for the finishing of the construction of “an oxygen heat blast furnace and installing a large oxygen separator in its final stage” and setting other issues in iron production in the country. So this was project was seen as important to the leadership of the DPRK. The same can be said about the “scientists, technicians, teachers, graduate students and the three-revolution team” at varying universities and complexes, with the latter attending national and scientific presentations held in August, with lectures on the “the theoretical basis of technological process of oxygen heat blast furnace and the trend of development of the carbon one chemistry and gasification industry.” Adding to this, there was another consultative meeting between Premier Pak Pong Ju, “workers, technicians and officials in the building of oxygen heat blast furnace” in June, and the Supreme People’s Assembly, the unicameral legislative body of the DPRK, argued that “the completion of projects for the production of Juche iron should be pushed forward as a key task at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex” along with metal factories taking “measures for the supply of raw materials, fuel and power and introduce advanced technology,” cutting the cost of production as much as possible to “attain the goal of iron and steel production.” Below is a photograph of workers at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex in an article in Rodong Sinmun titled “DPRK Premier Inspects Steel Plants“:

Before going forward, it is worth noting that the creation of this blast heat oxygen furnace is a great accomplishment. Such furnaces, also called basic oxygen furnaces, are the “dominant steelmaking technology” in the world, with the method of steelmaking a way by which “both molten pig iron and steel scrap are converted into steel with the oxidizing action of oxygen blown into the melt under a basic slag.” Basically the furnace has a high output for pig iron, so it is relatively efficient. This is evident by the fact that so-called “Heats” of steel,” which range from “30 to 360 tons, can be produced in 30 to 45 minutes.” Now, I’m not sure about the emissions caused by this, but just looking at it on an economic standpoint, this is something to celebrate even while taking into account the capitalist concessions that have been made by the government, which leans toward revisionism without question.

Kim goes on in his speech to talk about how “light-industry factories” in the “textile, footwear, knitwear and foodstuff” sectors have made efforts to modernize their technology and equipment, raising the question if a consumer class is building in the country. In the process, they have, in his words, “provided a guarantee for making the range of consumer goods varied and improving their quality.” This was acknowledged by Rodong Sinmun back in November, when the publication argues that workers and officials in the “light industrial sector should bring about radical upswing in production under the banner of self-reliance” and that such an upswing, possible through “increased production and innovations,” it not only “directly linked to the improvement of people’s standard of living” but is vital in “revitalizing the country’s overall economy.”  Additionally, the editorial at the time added  that when light industrial factories are in full operation, “people’s needs for material and cultural life with enough consumer goods and living necessities” can be successfully met.

The speech also says the same about the “machine-building industry,” arguing that it “creditably attained the Party’s goal for the production of new-type tractors and trucks.” As a result, it sped up “the Juche orientation and modernization of the national economy and the comprehensive mechanization of the rural economy.” If the presentations in the “field of machine-building industry” which was held on August 24 of last year “at the Taean Heavy Machine Complex,” bringing together “scientists, technicians, teachers, researchers” evidences anything, it is that there has been “scientific and technological achievements made in developing machine industry at a rapid pace and stepping up the modernization of machine factories.” At that conference, there has been talk about “solving scientific and technological problems arising in ensuring the production of quality machines and equipment of new types and improving their performance.”

Then there’s the agricultural sector. Kim argues that this sector actively introduced “scientific farming methods,” increased the ranks of “high-yield farms and workteams,” along with reaping “an unusually rich fruit harvest in spite of unfavourable climatic conditions.” As they say, you reap what you sow. The DPRK has only recently, last month, had a ceremony which displayed the “new-type tractors and trucks” such as Chollima-804 tractors, Sungri trucks and Chungsong-122 tractors, in  Kim Il Sung Square, showing the “precious fruition of the spirit of self-reliance and self-development” with these vehicles welcomed along the streets by the citizenry. If you don’t believe me, just see the most striking picture, almost beautiful, from the article itself:

Could you ever imagine something like that in the murderous empire? Or even awards given to “officials, innovators, scientists and researchers who have worked feats in fruit growing” last year? Agriculture is important to the DPRK, as it should be to any country working to be independent from imperialist domination, a demonstration of the “might of great army-people unity and the potential of the [so-called] socialist independent economy” as Kim put it elsewhere in the speech.

Kim went on to talk about the building of the “magnificent Ryomyong Street and the large-scale livestock farming base” in Sepho, the “first stage of the forest restoration campaign.” He also said that “new model units emerged one after another” with a large number of “factories and enterprises fulfilled their quotas of the yearly national economic plan ahead of schedule.” Lest us forget that Ryomyong Street, honored in their ice sculpture festival, is the place that was built in the “standard of modern architectural street” and only in a “matter of nine months” with honorary titles given to 28 people and medals to 43,119 people who worked on the project! One article, back in April of last year, includes varied photos of the project  when “educators and researchers of Kim Il Sung University” and others who had been “evacuated began moving into new flats in Ryomyong Street” on April 17:

Kim also talked about scientific and cultural successes. He noted how scientists and technicians in the country solved problems that arose in “the building of a powerful [so-called] socialist country” while they also “completed research projects in the cutting-edge field, thereby giving stimulus to economic development and the improvement of the people’s living standards.” At the 33rd Sci-Tech Festival of Kim Il Sung University,  which opened on December 19 of last year, there were ten panels on varying topics such as “basic science, elements and devices, electronics and automation, agriculture and bio-engineering and medicine.” Specifically there was “presentation and exhibition of sci-tech successes” along with a “exhibition contest among different units and exchange of new technologies,” with 310 “scientific research achievements” presented at the festival.

The same month, there were consultative meetings between DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju, the “workers, technicians and officials” at the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex, the February 8 Vinalon Complex, and the Ryongsong Machine Complex, which focused on bringing forward the “production of Juche fertilizer, vinalon and custom-built equipment,” along with more “scrupulously organizing business and enterprise management and pushing forward the work for putting production processes on a Juche and modern basis.” Additionally, emphasized was the “need to deepen scientific researches for establishing C1 chemical industry.” As a reminder, the C1 Chemical industry is an industry centered around C1 chemistry (starting back in May of last year at least), which is “based on synthesis gas, methane and carbon dioxide” and offers many “many routes to industrial chemicals.” It is also worth putting here another photograph, this one of the Amnokgang Tire Factory, helping to fulfill the WPK goal for 2017 for producing more tires, with Kim himself visiting the factory last month:

There were, as Kim noted, cultural influences well. These included the further improvement of the “[so-called] socialist education system” in the DPRK, upgrading of the “educational environment” and bettering of “medical service conditions.” In terms of the educational system, apart from the remodeling of “Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism Study Hall in Samjiyon County…as…the base for education in the Party’s monolithic ideology,” there was “an exhibition of educational scientific achievements” on Nov. 25-26 of last year with many textbooks and references featured, and the Third National Conference of Social Scientists at the “April 25 House of Culture”  in mid-November, discussing the ways to “make a fresh turn in the development of the social sciences” in the building of the progressive nation. Additionally, in 2017, a museum was built at the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School measuring 3,500 square meters in floor space, displaying historic “relics and data on the activities of the peerlessly great persons who made an immortal history of education for the children of revolutionary martyrs with noble revolutionary sense of obligation and outlook on posterity.” It includes, specifically, the photos of “the great persons and art works on their images, the historic relics and data at the museum [that] are the most valuable treasure of the nation and precious revolutionary asset of Juche Korea.” I could go on with educational achievements, with programs such as agro-meterology popular, but I think what has been mentioned so far is sufficient.

Connected with educational achievement were the “artistic performance activities” created specifically to “infuse the whole country with revolutionary optimism and the militant spirit.” Just this year there has already been performances in celebration of the new year, with songs about “Korean-style socialism” (even though it is not, when analyzed rightly, socialist) and others which told about 2017, described as the “year of great victory and miracles that jolted the world with mightiness of Korea and its irresistible strength.” There has been been a celebration of schoolchildren  who extended greetings to Kim “in reflection of the best wishes of all the people and schoolchildren in the country.” Before that, in 2017 there has been:

  • “A congratulatory performance of the State Merited Chorus and the Moranbong Band…[with] epic and impressive depiction of the glorious path covered by the WPK”- Dec 29
  • “…colorful art performances at theatres in Pyongyang and provinces on Dec. 24 to mark the 26th anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il’s assumption of the supreme commandership of the Korean People’s Army…Circus and magic performances were given at the Pyongyang Circus Theater and the jugglery theatre of the National Acrobatic Troupe.”- Dec 24
  • “…an art performance in Hoeryong City of North Hamgyong Province…to celebrate the centenary of birth of the anti-Japanese war heroine Kim Jong Suk”- Dec 22 
  • “…a performance at the Thaesong Co-op Farm in Kangso District, Nampho City on Dec. 21 to celebrate the 26th anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il’s assumption of supreme commandership of the Korean People’s Army (KPA)…The performers sang high praises of the exploits of leader Kim Jong Il who defended Korean-style [so-called] socialism under the banner of Songun and laid an eternal foundation for the final victory of the Juche revolution.”- Dec 21
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe gave a joint music and dance performance in Sariwon City, North Hwanghae Province from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6…At the turn of each number, audience mounted the stage to present bouquets to the performers while giving loud applauses to them”- report on Dec. 8
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe gave their premiere at the North Hwanghae Provincial Art Theatre on Nov. 30…The performance evoked lively response among the audience.”- Nov 30
  • “A revolutionary drama “A Letter from a Daughter” was staged in Sinuiju City, North Phyongan Province from Nov. 24 to 27. The drama deals with the matters of enlightening the popular masses and awakening them to consciousness and proves the truth of life that knowledge is power through jokes and laughs.”- Nov 29 report
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe gave their premiere in Nampho City. The performance was given to full house at the Nampho City Art Theater on Nov. 16…The performers made an artistic depiction of the exploits of the WPK which has successfully steered the revolution and construction, regarding it as its very principle to definitely prioritize the people and depend on their strength.”- Nov 16
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe gave their music and dance performance in Anju Theatre of South Phyongan Province on Nov. 2…The performers well represented the greatness of the WPK with profound artistic depiction…At the end of the performance the audience presented bouquets to the performers and congratulated them with warm applauses.”- Nov 4  
  • “The State Merited Chorus, the Moranbong Band and the Wangjaesan Art Troupe of the DPRK gave their music and dance performances in Kanggye City, Jagang Province from October 18 to 29…The performers sang loudly of the faith and will of the people in Jagang Province to remain faithful to respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and go along the road of the revolution to the last under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea…The audience expressed their excitement after enjoying the performances.”- Oct 31 report

And much more in the realm of performances.

“An art performance in Hoeryong City of North Hamgyong Province…to celebrate the centenary of birth of the anti-Japanese war heroine Kim Jong Suk.” Kim Jong Suk was the mother of Kim Il-Sung, the first leader of the DPRK

In his final summation of 2017, Kim noted that “our sportspeople won victories in different international competitions.” He is referring to, as a recent article in Rodong Sinmun pointed out, “produced champions in various events, including weightlifting, Taekwon-Do, marathon and diving” along with female footballers taking “the first place at the 2017 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship for the third time and had three consecutive wins at the EAFF E-1 Football Championship.” As such, the article said it was “the determination and will of all sports officials, players and coaches to produce more excellent results in international games in 2018.” When the footballers came back to the DPRK in late December, “after winning the title of the 2017 EAFF E-1 Football Championship” in which they defeated “the teams of China, south Korea and Japan” they were greeted at “Pyongyang International Airport” with such sportspeople and their families warmly congratulating “the players and coaches with garlands and flowers.”

Kim said that all of these successes in 2017 are possible because of the “triumph of the Juche-oriented revolutionary line” of the WPK, and a “precious fruition of the heroic struggle” by the populace, even in the face of “the sanctions-and-blockade moves the United States and its vassal forces perpetrated more viciously.” Hence he said that within this, relies the source of the Korean peoples’ “dignity and their great pride and self-confidence.” He then, again, extended “warm thanks” to the service personnel and populace who “victoriously advanced the cause of building a powerful [so-called] socialist country, always sharing the destiny with the Party and braving all difficulties and trials on the eventful days of last year.” If service people means those in the KPA (Korean People’s Army), then this is a large number. In August, over 3.4 million people, many of whom were “party members, working youths, university students and senior middle schoolers” eagerly volunteered to “join or rejoin” the KPA, to turn out in “the sacred struggle of justice with their surging hatred against the U.S. imperialists” along with female employees at the Pyongyang Kim Jong Suk Textile Mill, students at universities, youth and students, even those at orphans’ secondary schools, vowing to “go to the military posts for defending the country.” The defense of the country and of this form of progressivism is strong in the DPRK without a doubt. There should be no question of that.

“Hopes and expectations” for 2018

Fireworks over Pyongyang on January 1st.

In the opening lines of his speech, Kim addresses “fellow countrymen and brave service personnel of the People’s Army” (showing the growing power of the military in existing society) and “compatriots.” He goes on to recall “the proud achievements” the DPRK performed in 2017 “through our diligent and worthwhile labour and sincere efforts and by the sweat of our brow,” and that, in speaking on behalf of the populace, “we are all seeing in the new year 2018 with fresh hopes and expectations.” He goes on to continue with pleasantries, wishing families across the DPRK “good health, happiness, success and prosperity” and wishing that the “beautiful dreams of all our people, including the hopes of our children in the new year, would come true.” He also, greets the “compatriots in the south and abroad who are fighting for the reunification of the country” and to the “progressive peoples and other friends across the world who opposed war of aggression and gave firm solidarity to our cause of justice.” Such “progressive peoples” include those groups and comrades from one side of the world to the other standing by the DPRK in 2017 (and 2018).

What are the hopes and expectations Kim sees for 2018? The rest of the speech sheds a light on what Kim sees for the new year.

After noting that 2018 will mark the “70th anniversary” of the founding of the DPRK, he said that the coming year will be marked by further establishing “a strategic state recognized by the world” as the Korean people who see the “status of their [so-called] socialist country” with dignity, following the “greatest patriotic legacy of the great Comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” as he put it. In order for this to happen, he argued that the DPRK needs to continue to “make constant innovations and continued progress” through the “tradition of heroic struggle and collective innovation.” This would build off the “historic victory in the building of the DPRK’s nuclear forces as a springboard for fresh progress” with a ” revolutionary general offensive.” For Kim, this means an “all-people general offensive” by working people, officials, and Party members, to “frustrate the challenges of the hostile forces who are making last-ditch efforts and raise the overall strength of our Republic to a new stage of development” with newfound “[so-called] socialist construction” in the year to come.

More specifically this includes “reenergizing the overall economic front” by continuing the “five-year strategy for national economic development” which started in 2015, and enhancing the “the independence and Juche character of the national economy” which does not bode well only in the sense that this will mean further revisionism and capitalist concessions. This would be done by improving the standard of living of the populace, which was “required by the revolutionary counterstrategy put forward by the Second Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the Party.” Various article say the the strategy was to push for a “bold and strenuous offensive and advance the [so-called] socialist cause of Juche without an inch of deflection” and bring “about a new upsurge in the building of a powerful [so-called] socialist nation.” It also seems to call for further developing “friendly and cooperative relations with foreign parties in the common struggle for opposing imperialism and defending [so-called] socialism,” continuing the “strict monolithic leadership system of the Party” in order to “consolidate the single-minded unity of the revolutionary ranks.”

However, the African Committee for Friendship and Solidarity with the Korean People (ACFSKP) noted the specific strategy put forward. [3] As such, it is worth taking a look at a summary of this strategy in a document issued by the ACFSKP on October 9, 2017, as asserted by Kim himself. He said that there needs to be a “perfect independent economic structure of the country” with solid foundations, a strengthened country in order to “decisively frustrate the reckless nuclear war provocation and sinister sanctions” and have “single-minded unity” of the Party and state in order to make “the revolutionary climate of devotedly serving the people prevail throughout the Party.” He also called for “thoroughly implementing the Party’s line of simultaneously developing the two fronts” or the byungjin policy, as was mentioned earlier in this article, having a “fresh upswing in the building of a [so-called] socialist economic power” with new science and technology, enhance the “militant function” of the Party, and moving forward with the revolutionary cause of Juche, as he put it. In the past year this has already been fulfilled in part with the test-fire of an ICBM called Hwasong-14 in July, with another later that month, guidance that Kim gave to “nuclear weaponization,” for one, launching of another missile in February. Secondly, the People’s Army was bolstered, while he called for further ideological work when speaking to the WPK’s 8th Conference of Ideological Workers, and working to make sure the population in versed science and technology through

First, a universal 12-year compulsory education is now in force in the country…Second, a well-regulated study-while-you-work system is established. The system consists of distance education given by regular institutions of tertiary education and factory, farm and fishermen’s colleges in various parts of the country…Third, social educational establishments are well furnished. All organs including factories and farms have sci-tech
learning spaces, and Mirae digital libraries are set up in every province, city and county, so that everyone can learn the latest knowledge of science and technology to their heart’s content…The greatest guarantee for ensuring that all the people are well-versed in science and technology in the DPRK is the policy of prioritizing science and technology enforced by the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the national leader.

Back to Kim’s speech.  He embodies the strategy he laid out last year by saying that efforts on consolidating the “independence and Juche character of the national economy” and improve “the people’s standard of living” through the following:

  1. maintenance and reinforcement of electric power industry with new “self-supporting power generation bases…new power sources,” increased thermal power generation, make electric power more efficient and self-sufficient
  2. improve the metallurgical industry through iron- and steel-making technologies, increase capacity of iron production, raise the quality of metallic materials, ensure the “preferential, planned and timely supply of electricity,” and other needs for the metallurgical industry
  3. step up the “establishment of the C1 chemical industry” for the chemical industry while pushing forward projects “for catalyst production base and phosphatic fertilizer factory” while perfecting the “sodium carbonate production line”
  4. Modernizing the Kumsong Tractor Factory, Sungni Motor Complex and other factories to allow the machine-building industry to “develop and produce world-level machinery” for the DPRK
  5. improving the effectiveness of rail transportation, and coal and mineral production
  6. the rail transport sector making the best use of “existing transport capacity” by making existing (and new) “transport organization and control” more rational, scientific, and maintain discipline and order on railways in order to “ensure an accident-free, on-schedule rail traffic”
  7. light-industry factories transforming their “equipment and production lines into labour- and electricity-saving ones” while supplying and producing “more diversified and quality consumer goods” with raw materials and other goods from inside the country, with sub-divisions in the country developing “the local economy in a characteristic way by relying on their own raw material resources”
  8. Have an upswing in the agricultural and fishing industry by introducing “seeds of superior strains, high-yield farming methods” and have “high-performance farm machines” in order to have scientific and technological farming to fulfill existing production, boost production of “livestock products, fruits, greenhouse vegetables and mushrooms” and enhance “ship building and repair capacities” along with other scientific endeavors
  9. service personnel and people joining in efforts to “complete the construction of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area in the shortest period of time” while pushing ahead with construction projects such as the “renovation of Samjiyon County…construction of the Tanchon Power Station and the second-stage waterway project of South Hwanghae Province”
  10. managing and properly protecting forests created in the restoration campaign, coupled with improved “technical conditions” on roads, “river improvement on a regular basis,” and work to protect the environment of the DPRK “in a scientific and responsible manner.”
  11. the scientific research sector  solving the “scientific and technological problems” arising in establishing “Juche-oriented production lines,” production of materials domestically, and “perfecting the structure of the self-supporting economy”
  12. enduring that every economic sector and unit makes a “contribution to achieving production growth” with the “dissemination of science and technology and waging a brisk technological innovation drive.

The country is proud already of its achievements in the areas of electric power, “metallurgical and chemical industries” with the releasing of stamps last year calling on the acceleration of “the victorious advance of [so-called] socialism with the great spirit of self-reliance and self-development as the dynamic force.” What Kim is calling for has been emphasized by Rodong Sinmun in the past, calling, in January 2016, for the “electric-power, coal-mining and metallurgical industries…rail transport sector…crop farming, animal husbandry and fishing sectors and light industry and construction sectors” to dramatically advance. What he is saying also seems to say that the DPRK  is working to becoming more and more self-sufficient so sanctions, approved by the Chinese and Russians along with Western imperialists despite the occasional objections by the Russians, are not as effective. This also makes a joke of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) declaring that socialism “failed” in the DPRK (which may have some validity in the sense that there are capitalist concessions and revisionism, but is also a bit disingenuous), which the PLP considers a “fascist” state propped up by revisionist (and social-imperialist) China, a “puppet” monarchy as they call it elsewhere. There is no doubt that such a viewpoint is divorced from the reality of the country. It is not, as they claim, a “state capitalist regime” and Kim is not an “unpredictable” politician, and neither is Vladimir Putin. Kim is a statesman who cares about the workers of Korea, along with a new consumer class, and was democratically put into his current position which has been noted on this blog in the past.

Furthermore, the economy of the DPRK is progressive, even if it doesn’t line up with the high standards of the PLP, which easily meshes its Orientalist propaganda of the bourgeois media, or as they call it the “bosses’ media.” Not only has the country worked to make its chemical industry more independent, but there have been varying “scientific and technological achievements made in developing and using natural energy” which are being developed by the scientific community in the country. Through all of this, the orange menace and Western imperialism has been thoroughly resisted. What else can you ask for? On a critical note, the DPRK has made capitalist “concessions” to revisionist China with certain special development zones, all of which hurt the proletariat even more.

Photograph of a rally on September 23 of last year, where varying national institutions met at the People’s Palace of Culture, calling for “final victory through all-out charge in showdown with the U.S.”

Beyond this, in the past year, there have been directed efforts by scientists and technicians into the latest scientific field, “including information technology and nano technology” with great success. This has been coupled with success in “breeding high-yield varieties of crops,” developing new “botanical agrochemicals,” developing new methods for treating cancer and other “nervous diseases.”

After outlining areas of improvement for the DPRK in the new year, Kim argued that every sector and unit of the economy should use ” their own technical forces and economic potential to the maximum” in order to increase production. This would be connected with giving science and technology precedence in order to “make innovations in economic planning and guidance,” helping make the economy more self-sufficient. This goal could be achieved, he argued, by having a “realistic operational plan to carry out the national economic plan for this year” to be implemented “responsibly and persistently.” Such measures would be taken “by the state to ensure that the [so-called] socialist system” which has “responsible business operation” is proven in enterprises, cooperatives, and factories.

Following this is, as he argued, a need for a comprehensive development of the country’s culture. This includes strengthening ranks of teachers, improving methods and content of education, apply “the people-oriented character in public health service” and boost the production “of medical equipment and appliances and different kinds of medicines.” Kim is already realizing this for this year by visiting a newly-remodeled teachers college, founded in 1968, arguing that “education is a patriotic work of lasting significance” and adding that teachers “should dedicate their ardent patriotism and pure conscience to the educational work” without a doubt.

He also argued that the culture of the DPRK could be improved through brisk “mass-based sporting activities,” creating new sporting tactics and techniques, producing “artistic and literary masterpieces” showing the struggle of the populace, and “beautiful and sublime features proper to human beings” in order to effectively “crush the bourgeois reactionary culture by dint of our revolutionary [so-called] socialist art and literature.” Already dotting the country are “monumental structures associated with the exploits of young people” such as the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station, Youth Hero Motorway, and Northern Railways. With the new year starting, sportspersons in the DPRK said they were determined to win, expanding on victories in the area of sports last year, with hopes for “more excellent results in international games in 2018.”

Finally, in terms of culture, Kim said that “moral discipline throughout society” should be strengthened, as to ensure that “[so-called] socialist way of life” is established with the elimination of “all kinds of non-socialist practices.” This would, as he argued, ensure that the people  “lead a revolutionary and cultured life.” This seems to imply that imperialists are trying to poison the minds of the Korean people with capitalistic propaganda. This would not be a surprise in the slightest. Consider a recent article in Explore DPRK telling the difference between the social system of the murderous empire and the DPRK:

Good rearing of a child is very important for a family because it is related with the future of the family, and equally important is for a nation to bring up youths because it affects its destiny…while the young people in capitalist countries are pushed to the extremities of the society to become victims of the social evils, those in [so-called] socialist Korea are held as treasures and pride of the nation enjoying a superb prestige. The typical example is the case of builders of the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station. The young people there waged an indomitable struggle determined to fulfill the order of the respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in the severe cold of -30℃…a change is to be made to the concept, knowing and witnessing the wonderful realities of Korea where the youth problem was successfully solved and the country is pushed forward by the vigor of the youth. Korea renowned as a youth power, it shows a clear-cut difference between [so-called] socialism and capitalism the international community is realizing acutely through the solution of the youth problem.

In order to ensure this is all possible, of course, there would need to be, as Kim argued, further consolidation of the “self-reliant defence capability” of the DPRK by perfecting the “regular revolutionary armed force” with intensive combat training, and other methods. As for the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces, he said that such forces should “detect and frustrate the schemes by undesirable and hostile elements in time” while the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and Young Red Guards should enhance their “combat capability” through intensive political and combat training.

Furthermore, he added, the country will continue to push forward the byungjin policy, following the policy set forward last year that the country’s military industries will work to “develop and manufacture powerful strategic weapons and military hardware of our style,” perfect their style of construction, and defend what he describes as the Korean revolution. While this is happening, he said that nuclear weapons research sector and rocket industry in the DPRK should “mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles” since the country should be “ready for immediate nuclear counterattack to cope with the enemy’s manoeuvres for a nuclear war” in any instance. Some commentaries took pause at this aspect of the speech, but those individuals do not recognize the power of the nuclear deterrent in defending the DPRK.

While military defenses against imperialists must be strengthened, Kim said that “political and ideological might” is even more important, as it helps maintain the progressive country, connected with the rallying the party more stringently on an “organizational and ideological basis” with the establishment of “a thoroughgoing revolutionary climate within the Party” in order to enhance the “fighting efficiency” of the Party and its “leadership role in the overall revolution and construction.” From here, he laid out considerations for ideology in the new year:

All Party organizations should never tolerate all shades of heterogeneous ideas and double standards of discipline that run counter to the Party’s ideology…The whole Party should launch an intense struggle to establish a revolutionary climate within the Party with the main emphasis put on rooting out the abuse of Party authority, bureaucratism and other outdated methods and style of work…Party organizations should intensify Party guidance to ensure that the work of their respective sectors and units is always conducted in conformity with the ideas and intentions of the Party and the requirements of its policies…We should rally all the service personnel and people firmly behind the Party ideologically and volitionally so that they…fight with devotion for the victory of the [so-called] socialist cause. Party and working people’s organizations and government organs should orient and subordinate all their undertakings to strengthening the single-hearted unity….Party and working people’s organizations should ensure that all the working people cherish patriotism in their hearts and bring about collective innovations one after another in the great campaign to create the Mallima speed with the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and science and technology as the dynamic force.

With such imperialist assault on the DPRK, it seems wise to increase and strengthen party discipline. That will allow the country to function even through the dark days of the orange menace, even worse than the days of the Black face of the murderous empire, Obama himself. After all, the Human Rights Foundation just last year, smuggled USB-sticks “through towns on China’s border with North Korea and sold in the flourishing black market for goods and information,” continuing their balloon “drops of pamphlets, TV shows, books and movies over a course of several years” with such “soft power illusions of American normality, freedom and prosperity are confidence tricks” but also a threat to the progressive state. Such improvement of ideology was stressed late last year when Kim gave a speech to the 5th Conference of WPK Cell Chairpersons, summarized by Rodong Sinmun, noting that he called for the WPK to “strengthen the Party cells is a main link in the chain efforts for consolidating the mass foundation of the Party” with an emphasis on the work make “all party members of the cells to be steadfast revolutionaries,” along with strengthen “self-criticism and criticism among the party members” in order to counter “unsound practices.” He also said that when culture and art in the DPRK “prevails over the corrupt bourgeois reactionary culture” the populace should not “harbor illusions about the enemies’ culture” instead working to “prevent ideological and cultural poisoning by the imperialists.”

Photo of “Inter-Korean high-level talks..at the “house of peace” in the south side portion of Panmunjom” on January 9th, as noted in a Rodong Sinmun article.

It is then, in the speech, that Kim talked about re-starting re-unification talks with the DPRK. He noted that Korean people worked to “hasten national reunification in keeping with the aspirations and demands of the nation” and added that even with the “fascist rule and confrontation with fellow countrymen” nothing changed in relations with “south Korea” (Republic of Korea or ROK) which such authorities siding the the murderous empire, bringing “bilateral relations to a fix that can be hardly resolved.” As such, he called for improving relations with ROK in order to “improve the frozen inter-Korean relations and glorify this meaningful year as an eventful one noteworthy in the history of the nation” not only by easing the military tension on the Korean peninsula, desisting in anything that “might aggravate the situation” with both North and South engaging in efforts to reduce tensions. Kim further added that “south Korean authorities” should discontinue “all the nuclear war drills they stage with outside forces” and should refrain “from any acts of bringing in nuclear armaments and aggressive forces from the United States.” Adding to this, he said that a climate which is favorable “for national reconciliation and reunification should be established.” As such, such relations is important for all Koreans, with necessary “bilateral contact, travel, cooperation and exchange on a broad scale to remove mutual misunderstanding and distrust” between North and South, with Kim saying that they “open our doors to anyone from south Korea, including the ruling party and opposition parties, organizations and individual personages of all backgrounds, for dialogue, contact and travel” (a  wide-opening which is a bit worrisome as capitalists are included), adding that “the authorities of the north and the south should raise the banner of national independence” with such inter-Korean relations not disturbed by imperialist, adding that the DPRK is “willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures” and saying that he extends “warm New Year greetings once again to all Korean compatriots at home and abroad.”

It is this, which drew the most praise from foreign leaders for his speech. [4] There have been, as all those who have been following news know, talks between the DPRK and the ROK, high-level talks which change the dynamics of the situation on the Korean Peninsula for the better. With such talks at the Peace House in the truce village of Panmunjom, those in the DPRK have been wary of the efforts by the “south Korean authorities” to curry favor with the murderous empire, calling for the latter authorities stopping joint military drills with the murderous empire, and saying that inter-Korean talks are an internal matter with which should not be interfered by the murderous empire. More recent articles also said that the orange menace’s bluff of having a “bigger” nuclear button is seen “by the DPRK as just a spasm of a lunatic frightened by the might of Juche Korea and a bark of a rabid dog” with the menace showing the “desperate mental state of a loser who failed to check the vigorous advance of the army and people of the DPRK.” Furthermore, such threats by the orange menace “are designed to send a warning to any country that poses a challenge to American global hegemony” with the social-imperialist Chinese leadership, for example “clearly concerned at the danger of war…but also reluctant to provoke a crisis in North Korea that could be used to install a pro-US regime in Pyongyang.”

Kim ended his speech by saying that the “international situation” in the DPRK was proof that the WPK and state were correct in “confronting the imperialist forces of aggression who are attempting to wreck global peace and security.” I wrote about that exactly on this blog last year in noting about the murderous sanctions hoisted on the country, for example. He also noted how the DPRK is a “responsible, peace-loving nuclear power” which will not use nuclear weapons if “hostile forces of aggression violate its sovereignty and interests” and neither will it “threaten any other country or region by means of nuclear weapons” but will rather “resolutely respond to acts of wrecking peace and security on the Korean peninsula” as part of efforts to “just and peaceful new world.” As he wrapped up, Kim said that “2018 will be recorded as another year of victory for our people” a year that the cause of the DPRK “is ever-victorious,” that the government of the country and WPK will not cease to “struggle and advance until achieving the final victory of the revolutionary cause of Juche.” In his last words, of the speech that day, he said that “let us all march forward dynamically towards fresh victory of the revolution by displaying the unyielding mettle of heroic Korea under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Beyond Kim’s New Year’s speech: challenges and struggles for the year ahead

Comes from KCNA article on January 1 titled “New Year Address Encouraging Working People.” This shows Korean people watching Kim Jong Un’s speech if I’m not mistaken.

From here, it is worth going beyond the speech and talking about what is in store for the DPRK in the year to come. Already this year there are plans afoot for the DPRK to overcome “new international sanctions…by developing its agricultural sector in 2018” along with sectors of the economy launching an “increased production drive at the beginning of the New Year” such as the Pyongyang Thermal Power Complex, Pukchang Thermal Power Complex, Chollima Steel Complex, Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex, Tokchon Area Coal-mining Complex, and Sangwon Cement Complex, among others, all increasing production and becoming more efficient as the year goes on, as noted jubilantly by Pyongyang Times on January 3rd of this year. Undoubtedly the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Site Souvenir Factory in the DPRK, a light industrial factory which “produces different shapes and colors of zippers and melamine resin goods and souvenirs,” will continue to produce quality consumer goods (again indicating a consumer class) and increase its efficiency in this year. The same can be said about the “material and technical foundation of the railways this year” which improved last year with “3 times more concrete sleepers” and a yearly plan for changing rails, which is connected with introducing “the computer-controlled interlocking system into railway stations along the Hyesan-Samjiyon broad-gauge railway,” and having an “ultrasonic detector…to ensure the promptness and safety of railway transportation.”

In terms of negotiations between the DPRK and the ROK, supported by countries such as Russia, there has been a plan to jointly train athletes for the upcoming Olympic games in Seoul, and a push by the ROK to have regular talks with the DPRK. Since the latter has been dedicated to re-unification of the Korean Peninsula, “a consistent policy of the DPRK since 1972, based on the two Koreas achieving reunification without outside interference and a bicameral system,” they would eagerly support such an initiative. Such a dedication to re-unification was also expressed on January 1st when the Central Committee of the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front (AINDF) wrote Kim, talking about the achievements in the past year saying they “strikingly manifested the validity of the DPRK’s idea and line on independent reunification and their justice and vitality.”

The dedication of the DPRK to re-unification is clear.  The Panmunjom communication channel between the north and south” was re-opened on January 3rd of this year “to ensure smooth discussion with the south side of the issues related to the delegation dispatch and holding of talks.” Of course, conservatives in ROK are angry about athletes of both Koreas marching together at the Olympics under a united flag, with negotiations about the DPRK’s participation going on at the present. [5] This is absurd since “the people of the DPRK want nothing more than peace” as one analyst recently put it. Recently, the ROK met with the murderous empire to counter the “threat” of the DPRK. Such meetings are followed by bourgeois media declaring that the DPRK will have a military parade on the eve of the Olympics, trying to break apart the current talks, with the “scream of terror of a loser” (the murderous empire) whose policies have strengthened the alliance between revisionist China and capitalist Russia, both of which are social-imperialist without question, with some bourgeois analysts advocating for a change in policy to exploit the DPRK so that it moves away from revisionist China, turning it into an advantage for empire, reshaping “Northeast Asia to preserve American hegemony there.” [6] Of course, this is something that no one in their right mind would want. As resident revisionist Roland Boer of Stalin’s Moustache wrote recently, not only do the recent negotiations “signal that President Moon Jae-in actually has some spine” while Kim Jong-un had a “carefully worded and sober new year’s proposal for talks,” adding that “USA is abandoning Asia, so they [Asian countries] will forge on ahead without it.”

Even Tulsi Gabbard, a war veteran and “progressive” who wants an improved U$-relationship with Indian fascist President Narenda Modi, criticized the view broadly held in bourgeois politics about the DPRK, saying that the murderous empire should have talked with the former without preconditions, instead of pushing for regime change. She met with Bashar Al-Assad and his wife Asma last year (a total of 2 and half hours), along with other elements of Syrian society, when she traveled with a board member of AACCESS-Ohio, a community-based non-profit “working torwards meeting the [Arab Americans’] community’s economic, social, and cultural needs.” Such support for talks is also help by a Reuters columnist, John Glaser, who pointed out “diplomatic options are readily available” since Americans involved in “low-level discussions with North Korea have repeatedly said Pyongyang is willing to negotiate” and the South China Morning Post, which endorsed the chance for “dialogue between the two Koreas” even as they continued to ring their hands about the DPRK’s “threats.” [7] Interestingly, even the orange menace agreed to “suspend joint military drills with South Korea during next month’s Winter Olympics” which was, of course, interpreted by bourgeois media, which treats the DPRK as an “exotic place” like Reuters’ recent portal of “news” about the country, as “going soft” on the DPRK, an anti-communist trope used to advocate for more military spending.

In the coming year, the question remains if social-imperialist China and Russia will “prevent this catastrophe” by voting against sanctions. If they continue their appeasement of the murderous empire there is no doubt there will be continued improvements for disabled people in the country, for which last year “3 600 historical terms, sign words and descriptive vocabularies” were reviewed, boosted production at the Pyongyang Children’s Foodstuff Factory, increased quality of foodstuff produced by the Unha Taesong Foodstuff Factory, efforts to improve the life of women in the country, and efforts to speed up scientific and technological development, which progressed with leaps and bounds last year. Perhaps the intranet of the DPRK will also be improved, as it seems relatively advanced as even the bourgeois analysts of 38 North seem to accept. Even the Orientalist “NK News” noted that the country is domestically producing curved-screen LCD TVs” in Pyongyang’s  Potonggang factory, along with “TVs, laptops, and desktop computers,” although they cited “experts” like Choi Kyung-cheol (previously employed by the fascist ROK government), and Martyn Williams (who obviously holds typical Western bias against the DPRK even endorsing the humanitarian imperialists of HRW), to act like the Koreans are lying, with the associations of the authors seeming to making their analysis obviously something that shouldn’t be trusted. The same can be said about Reuters’ site about Wonson (a tourist area in the DPRK) or their “report” on the  “adoration” of Kim by the Korean people. Again, this, along with stories about “a barter economy” and “informal markets” in the country, or that Kim loosened “the rules on private trade,” by relying on defectors (and anti-DPRK websites like “Daily NK”) for information about the country, which are notoriously wrong time and time again, putting claims in the article into question. [8] What is the reality is that the DPRK is rightly rejecting the meeting (as did the Chinese) led by the murderous empire in Vancouver of 20 countries (ROK, Canada, U$, Australia, Belgium, Columbia, Denmark, France, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, and the UK)  while both Koreas will have a united hockey team in the upcoming Olympics. The latter is positive news, as are the economic achievements of the DPRK last year, even as it if filled with capitalist lingo (which is disturbing):

…the Korean people have made proud achievements in the building of an economic giant…Despite vicious sanctions of the US imperialists and their followers the officials and workers in different units of the national economy fully displayed the might of self-development and made a great success in putting the production processes on a Juche-oriented and modern basis…The officials and workers of the Samchon Catfish Farm [photograph in article] have completed a huge modernization project of its compound covering tens of thousand square metres in a short span of time…Cutting-edge technology has been introduced and the intelligent, IT-based and digitized computer integrated manufacturing system [has been] established in conformity with the demand of the era of knowledge-based economy…various efficacious feed additives have been developed and a swelling feed production process built…The Ryuwon Footwear Factory [photograph in article] has been wonderfully rebuilt into a model unit and standard factory in the field of footwear industry, making a great contribution to the development of light industry of the country…The factory has manufactured and installed modern equipment including shoemaking line by itself…The Sungni Motor Complex [photograph in article] has carried out with success the new-type lorry production task given by the WPK…The Amnokgang Tyre Factory has also played a big role in putting the large vehicle production…The officials and workers of the factory have built a new large tyre [British variation of tire] production process depending on domestic equipment, not on imported one, in a short period and successfully made new-type large tyres

What if there is a war? This would be an utter calamity, going beyond the U$’S mission to the UN calling the DPRK “North Korea” in their Orientalist fashion and demonization of the DPRK, which rarely recognizes that “the US had nuclear weapons in South Korea from the late 1950’s until 1991″! One article in Global Research Centre said that the only consequence of a war by the murderous empire would be the death of “South Korean-based compatriots as “collateral damage”,” saying that if one accepted that the “the US would quickly emerge as militarily victorious in this conflict…almost all of North Korea’s territory could be rendered inhospitable” with “Seoul and even Tokyo..wiped out if Pyongyang is successful in nuking them in its final moments,” with all of this restoring “the US to its immediate post-World War II “glorious” position in recapturing the majority of the global economy.” However, this is faulty reasoning. Bourgeois media has predicted that one million would die if the war doesn’t become nuclear, with a 4-6 month conflict estimated by the Pentagon itself, and over $1 trillion in “property damage,” a huge economic cost, along with “weeks, if not months, to sort out the logistics” for supposed battlefield success in the DPRK. [9] This is heightened by, as a recent article pointed out, that fact that those in the murderous empire have “nuclear-phobia” as they thought a “meteor…from the sky between Ohio and Michigan with a great bang, brightening the sky” on January 16 was “a nuclear bomb flown from north Korea” with the same being the case for the false “ballistic missile threat” in Hawaii on January 13.

Such a war would also be physically devastating to those living across the Korean Peninsula. There is no guarantee that the murderous empire would be successful, in fact they could lose militarily, just like they did in Vietnam (although Chomsky has a valid point about victory of the empire there), with the ” worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes” as “Mad Dog” Mattis admitted last year. Even with all of this, the late Fidel Castro put it best in April 2013:

…the gravity of…the situation created in the Korean Peninsula, within a geographic area containing close to five billion of the seven billion persons currently inhabiting the planet. This is about one of the most serious dangers of nuclear war…In 1950, a war was unleashed there [the Korean Peninsula] which cost millions of lives. It came barely five years after two atomic bombs were exploded over the defenseless cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki…General Douglas MacArthur wanted to utilize atomic weapons against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Not even Harry Truman allowed that. It has been affirmed that the People’s Republic of China lost one million valiant soldiers in order to prevent the installation of an enemy army on that country’s border with its homeland. For its part, the Soviet army provided weapons, air support, technological and economic aid…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…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…The duty of avoiding war is also his [Obama’s but now the orange menace’s] and that of the people of the United States.

There is no doubt, as a recent article pointed out, “the world will not be saved by bourgeois creativity” but will rather be “saved by communism and socialism, which can effectively organize even the most meager of material conditions into something that can provide for whole countries and the whole world” since “bourgeois creativity cannot solve the problems of bourgeois distribution.” The DPRK, in some ways, is a manifestation of this. One can see this perhaps in state-owned media outlets of Rodong Sinmun, KCNA, DPRK Today, and the related Explore DPRK, although there are continual capitalist concessions and revisionism. As the “youth vanguard and women’s union officials and members” met recently to “vow to carry through the tasks set forth by respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in his New Year Address,” showing that the population of the DPRK is one that understands the necessity of maintaining the progressive state. I end with the best photograph I could find, in the New Year, which humanizes the Korean people apart from rallies for unity or meetings in Pyongyang and elsewhere, showing the hard-working dedication of the Korean people to building their progressive state:

Workers at the Chollima Steel Complex​ on January 3rd.

Notes

[1] For the KNCA version, see “Kim Jong Un Makes New Year Address” published on Jan 1, 2018, with the transcript of his speech.

[2] Globalsecurity.org, which takes an undeniably anti-communist tone, notes that this strategy was adopted in March 2013, “during a plenary session of the Party Central Committee (PCC)” meaning that there would be: a deepened development of the policy of “economic and national defense capability” worked on by his predecessors; a guideline for the construction of the nation where the populace can “enjoy the wealth and splendor of [so-called] socialism” through a stronger “defensive capacity and focusing on economic construction”; advancing the construction of “a [so-called] socialist strong and prosperous nation and Korean unification”; recognizing the belief and will of the WPK to accomplish the “revolutionary cause of Juche through a path of self-reliance, military-first, and [so-called] socialism”; a guideline to “maximize the efficiency of economic development and strengthen national defense” depending on the state of affairs; a way to promote “economic construction and raise living standards of the people while strengthening national defense capabilities” without increasing the military budget, and a guideline to “solving energy problems” based on an “independent nuclear energy industry” while nuclear weapons capabilities are strengthened. In sum, it is the “simultaneous development of its economy and nuclear weapons program” which is connected with its “military-first approach to domestic and foreign affairs” called songun.

[3] In November, this organization re-posted the summary of the Second Plenum of Seventh WPK Central Committee by KCNA with this strategy. The earlier version is used in this article.

[4] In contrast to this, the bourgeois analysts of 38 North sneered, saying that the speech is mainly aimed at the people of the country, with their “doubts are in place regarding the sincerity of these offers” saying it would “naive not to expect side conditions that are potentially unacceptable to South Korea and/or the United States during negotiations over North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics.” However, they admitted that “South Korea has already agreed to meet the North Korean side in Panmunjom next week; the progress of this dialogue will be crucial.” The same tone was taken in another 38 North commentary which asserted that the opening of the “inter-Korean communication channel…is very serious” making it clear that “Kim Jong Un is all in, fully and personally committed to following through on the proposal to the South in his New Year’s address.” Yet another article from the same outlet claimed that “Kim went surprisingly easy on the United States” and adding that “there also seems to be an effort to continue economic policy innovations Kim has implemented since coming to power.”

[5] Stephanie Nebehay, “North Korea Olympic officials in Switzerland ahead of IOC talks,” Reuters, Jan 18, 2018.

[6] Josh Smith, “North Korea may hold military parade on eve of Olympics, analysts say,” Reuters, Jan 19, 2018.

[7] John Glaser, “Commentary: There’s still time for diplomacy in Korea,” Reuters, Jan 4, 2018; , “Trump agrees to halt U.S.-South Korea drills during Pyeongchang Winter Olympics,” NBC News, Jan 4, 2018; By John Haltiwanger, “Is Trump Going Soft on North Korea? President Says No Military Drills With South Korea During Winter Olympics,” Newsweek, Jan 4, 2018.

[8] James Pearson and Seung-Woo Yeom, “Fake meat and free markets ease North Koreans’ hunger,” Reuters, Nov 3, 2017; Stephanie Nebehay, “North Korea rejects sanctions talk, ready for ‘successful’ Olympics: diplomat,” Reuters, Jan 17, 2018; Hyonhee Shin, and Christine Kim, “Koreas to form unified ice hockey team, march together in Olympics,” Reuters, Jan 17, 2018; Reuters Staff, “China says Canada meeting on North Korea showed ‘Cold War’ mentality,” Reuters, Jan 17, 2018; Reuters Staff, “North Korea says IOC is considering South Korea’s proposal for united women’s hockey team: Yonhap,” Reuters, Jan 12, 2018.

[9] Bill Bowell, “What War With North Korea Looks Like,” Newsweek, Apr 25, 2017; Brad Lennon, “Why it could take months for the US to get ready for war with North Korea,” CNN, Aug 10, 2017; Sofia Lotto Persio, “Will the U.S. Go to War With North Korea? Expert Estimates 50/50 Chance of Conflict in 2018,” Newsweek, Nov 9, 2017; Robin Wright, “What Would War with North Korea Look Like?,” The New Yorker, Sept 6, 2017; Barry R. Posen, “The Price of War With North Korea,” New York Times (opinion), Dec 6, 2017; Kathryn Watson, “War with North Korea would be “catastrophic,” Defense Secretary Mattis says,” CBS News, May 28, 2017; Julian Ryall, “How war with North Korea could start and what it would look like,” The Telegraph, Nov 29, 2017.

“Something which most other developing countries would envy”: The DPRK’s healthcare system

Medical workers brainstorm at the South Hamgyong Provincial People’s Hospital. Courtesy of The Pyongyang Times.

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

Since June 19, the bourgeois media has been brimming with reports of the death of 22-year-old White college student from Cincinnati, Ohio, Otto Frederick Warmbier. While the family was happy to hear that their son was released from the DPRK, they were the ones that fueled the media firestorm. Warmbier’s father claimed that the DPRK had “murdered” their son, who had died in a coma possibly from an infection or blood clot, leading to anger in subsequent days from unhinged orange menace and “reserved” Tillerson, leading to a new “wedge” between the U$ and the DPRK. [1] As some media reported, the DPRK may have released him in hopes of making a deal with the orange menace. Of course, the orange menace, the fascist in a suit, didn’t want to make a deal, only knowing his supposed (and hyped) “negotiation” tactics from his days as a ruthless real estate magnate and his overrated “Celebrity Apprentice” show on NBC. As the days went on, bourgeois media, in another rash of imperial propaganda, cited varied “experts” who said they were “baffled” with the DPRK’s behavior, with John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Mike Turner following suit, and anti-DPRK columnists coming out of the ground like moles, claiming that the DPRK “murdered” Warmbier, even though he seems to have sought regime change in the country. [2] Even the Republic of Korea (ROK), often called “South Korea,” joined in the criticism. Furthermore, any future tours to the DPRK by Young Pioneer Tours have ended, with a possible ban of U$ tourism to the country floated. The former should be no big loss because the company seems very Orientalist while the latter is just meant to reinforce the empire’s perceptions on the U$ populace. [3]

On Otto Warmbier

The murderous empire won’t rest, from its proposed hideous sanctions to condemning the DPRK’s government as brutal and “oppressive.” Tillerson said that much in his remarks on June 19 on Warmbier: “we hold North Korea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment, and demand the release of three other Americans who have been illegally detained.” Later in this article, I’ll get the subject of whether his imprisonment is “unjust” which I do not think it is. There are three U$ citizens imprisoned in the DPRK. One of them, a businessperson named Kim Dong Chul admitted to CNN that he spied on behalf of “South Korean conservative elements” in 2015, saying that they “asked me to help destroy the (North Korean) system and spread propaganda against the government,” starting his spy work in April 2013, including bribing residents who would gather “important materials,” which he smuggled south or into revisionist China. [4] The other two were an academic named Kim Sang-duk or Tony Kim who committed “hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country” which was not related to his teaching, and Kim Hak-song, “a man who was doing business in relation to the operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.” As for Warmbier, a student of Virginia University, he was encouraged to rip down a patriotic banner in a restricted area of the hotel by a member of Friendship United Methodist Church, a secretive university organization, and even the CIA, which some scowled at as only an “accusation.” Truthfully, on January 26, DPRK’s government arrested him for perpetrating a hostile act against the country “after entering it under the guise of tourist for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.” [5] He further admitted this about less than months later. He told, to the Supreme Court of the DPRK, the nature of his crime and asked for forgiveness (across the bourgeois media are video clips of him crying):

On December 29, 2015, I entered the DPRK as a tourist. On January 1, 2016, I committed severe crimes against the DPRK. The task was given to me by the Friendship United Methodist Church. At the encouragement of the Z Society and the connivance of the United States Administration, I came to commit this task. The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people.This was a very foolish aim…Sharon Webb…deaconess in the Friendship United Methodist Church…said that communist nations rally around political slogans. She asked me to take an important political slogan from North Korea to be hung in her church as a “trophy”. She continued to say that by taking this slogan, we would harm the unity and motivation of the North Korean people and show this country an insult from the West…She offered me a used car worth $10,000 if I was successful. And she said if I was detained and not returned, her church would pay $200,000 to my mother in a way of charitable donations. Since my family is suffering from very severe financial difficulties, I started to consider this as my only golden opportunity to earn money…He said my plan of action would certainly help the Z Society’s goal of spreading “freedom” and eliminating “tyranny”. He said if I was successful, he promised me that he would help me become a member in the Z Society. [6]

The same day, the state media of the DPRK reported that those attending the trial were citizens from “different walks of life” and after his “written indictment confirming his crimes was submitted” the “court sentenced him to fifteen years of hard labor” for violating article 60 of the DPRK’s criminal code. After looking at varied sources (here, here, and here) one English translation of the criminal code, [7] stated the following about article 60, which concerns terrorism:

A person who kills, abducts or injures cadres or people with anti-state purposes shall be punished by reform through labour for more than five years. In cases where the person commits a grave offence, he or she shall be punished by life-term reform through labour or the death penalty, and confiscation of property.

In this case, it was a “grave offence.”

Fast forward to the aftermath of Warmbier’s death. The U$ doctors have belayed propaganda claims, saying that Warmbier was NOT tortured or abused (as his family falsely claims), but that “beyond minor skin blemishes consistent with medical care they found no evidence of fractures or trauma to his body” with the DPRK sending medical records back with him! [8] If they really had tortured him, which they didn’t, they wouldn’t even send any records. Another article says that there is no evidence Warmbier was injured with the MRI scan showing brain damage and that “the medical team at Cincinnati got some medical records from the North Koreans and they said the records show Warmbier has been in this condition since April of last year” but that there is no evidence “of broken bones or other physical abuse, and scans of his head and neck looked normal, except for the damage to his brain.” [9]

Of course, the DPRK released him “according to a humanitarian judgment of the DPRK’s Central Court” on June 13, 2017. [10] In days that followed, with the propaganda about his condition, the DPRK showed they were in the right. The Foreign Ministry said that the U$ administration is engaging in an ” anti-DPRK smear campaign by abusing the humanitarian measure taken by the DPRK” and said that “Warmbier is clearly a criminal sentenced to reform through labor in accordance with the DPRK law” and that he confessed on February 29, 2016 “in tears that he had committed hostile act against the DPRK,” with the US making “every frantic effort to disparage the prestige of the dignified DPRK and stifle it while imposing heinous sanctions.” [11] They also noted that U$ doctors argued that Warmbier was provided with medical treatment in the DPRK, with his death a mystery, questioning why the Obama administration never “made an official request for the release of Warmbier on humanitarian basis.” This is worth noting since they “had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state” but provided him necessary medical care anyway. [12]

With Warmbier’s family interestingly declining an autopsy of their son, which will allow rumors to continue, those at least partially (or more fully) sympathetic to the DPRK have not been united. One site, called “Young DRPK watchers” has two opinions on this subject. [13] One says that “Otto Warmbier’s situation arose from neglect and medical incompetence, [rather] than abuse” with American prisoners not “physically harmed at all and are also fed well” and that the DPRK’s medical system is divided into levels for the privileged and everyone else (internalizing imperial propaganda by saying this), concluding that Warmbier “may have fell into the coma as a consequence of an unknown medical condition” with neglect by the DPRK. The other, by the same author, admitting that Warmbier is a victim but is also “an inflated symbol of American privilege.” Both of these opinions are better than that in the bourgeois, they fall into the category of concessions which Vngiapaganda warned about in a post almost a year ago. The same is the case in an article on Stop Imperialism on Warmbier’s death. It accepts the possibility that the DPRK murdered him, which is giving in too much to the bourgeois media narrative. All in all, these opinions are better than the seething Chinese netizens which seem be in up in arms about the DPRK, showing the effects of Chinese social-imperialism with the country’s capitalist system.

DRPK’s healthcare and medical system

Korean doctor in Pyongyang talking about new medical system in 2013.

With the death of Warmbier, the bourgeois media, capitalists, and their lackeys, along with those not adequately informed by the subject (the U$ public in general) is acting like the DPRK has a medical system that resembles people conducting voodoo (or their perception of people doing this) to “cure people” or wish them “ill.” I’m specifically thinking of those curses conducted by voodoo practitioner, Minerva, in the Hollyweird box office “bomb” titled Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, based on the book of the same name. It seemed to be the best example of this mentality which could come to mind, with people acting like the DPRK are in the “dark ages” of medicine and have some archaic medical system.

The propaganda about the DPRK’s health system is nothing new. The Daily NK (an anti-DPRK outlet), the Los Angeles Times, BBC News, The Week, The Telegraph, NY Daily News have declared that the DPRK doesn’t care about healthcare and has a shotty (or “horrifying”) system, which some even thought was on the “brink of collapse.” [14] Much of this imperial propaganda, only some of the publications named above, with some within medical journals as well, was fed by an Amnesty report in 2010 titled “North Korea: The crumbling state of health care in North Korea.” As the report admitted, they conducted interviews “with North Koreans who have settled abroad” since the DPRK (rightly) has not let these humanitarian imperialists into their country, making the report pure propaganda. [15] Luckily, some on the international level know the report is BS. As the bourgeois media reported, the World Health Organization said that Amnesty’s report was based on a small sample of people of those who left the country, with WHO spokesperson Paul Garwood saying “all the facts are from people who aren’t in the country. There’s no science in the research,” not mentioning recent improvements to healthcare in the country, even as he made the concession that Amnesty’s accounts could be “credible” (they aren’t by definition) while saying that Amnesty is not “taking into account some of the things that are happening today” in the DPRK. [16]

Numerous anti-DPRK accounts even admit the advantages of the DPRK’s system. In words criticizing the medical system in the country, one student doctor, had to “grudgingly” admit that the country has well-trained dentists and has a stress on exercise, among other aspects. [17] Even the Library of Congress in their broadly “anti-communist” report on the DPRK, written in 2008, had to admit this. It said that medical care is provided free of charge, that physical exercise is a major focus, and that there are nationwide medical check ups, especially at routine places like schools, factories, offices, and farms. Furthermore, they added that people receive a lifetime health card, the government has been aggressive attacking of diseases that cause epidemics (they say with spraying of DDT and other chemicals), and a high number of physicians and hospitals per capita, one of the highest in the world. [18] They add that more than 75% in the medical profession are women, with most hospitals as general hospitals, many clustered around Pyongyang, and no smoking in hospitals. Even with the supposed drawbacks, like shortages in medicines (because of sanctions), claims of variation in medical care, and economic problems weakened medical system [19], among others, the pages note that there has been a dramatic improvement in life longevity in the country ravaged by famine caused by Western imperial sanctions. Perhaps such “criticisms” shouldn’t be a surprise since most of chapter, which this information is within in, based on declassified CIA report. Even so, it is impressive that the CIA is even admitting the success of the DPRK. These are perhaps positives of progressive nature of the DPRK although the country has accepted too much revisionism for anyone’s liking.

Commie Dad’s writing on this topic, within an article in which he claims that DPRK has a  centrally-planned economy (partially questionable due to acceptance of revisionism), is worth noting. He notes how UN sanctions prevented a pharmaceutical company “from importing the chemicals it needed for a healthcare project in the DPRK countryside” and that the DPRK “still guarantees universal healthcare to its people,” which the U$ hasn’t done, a fact even acknowledged by anti-DPRK author Barbara Demick and a CIA report which acknowledges DPRK’s achievements in “free health care, and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine.” [20] He adds that the remarkable public healthcare system of the DPRK, providing ” unconditional universal coverage for citizens”continues to perform well, citing the words of Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s Director-General, calling the country’s healthcare system “something which most other developing countries would envy,” pointing out that the “DPRK has no lack of doctors and nurses,” further praising their system for its “very elaborate health infrastructure, starting from the central to the provincial to the district level.” This quote about envy is used in the title of this article, which also notes the country’s comprehensive healthcare, saying that authorities recognize malnutrition is a problem but it is less of an issue than in the past, and the quality of their healthcare system. [21] Of course, the reactionaries are seething at this pronouncement. A Heritage Foundation fellow claimed WHO was “defend[ing] the North Korean government,” citing the horrid Amnesty report and U$ State Department, along with varied bourgeois media, while American Thinker was shocked at her “praise” of what they called a “totalitarian and rogue nuclear-armed police state.” [22] The only country that falls into that category is the U$ (and its client states in the Mideast, along with Western European capitalist states), not the DPRK. These reactionaries would find friends in the U$ State Department, which warns U$ citizens to not go into DPRK hospitals…because then they will learn that the system is excellent? [23]

While, in the murderous empire, the GOP fights to pass a healthcare bill that would “increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million” by 2026 and the Dems fight to keep their insurance-friendly “Obamacare,” the DPRK already has universal healthcare. As I noted in my previous post about the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) and democracy within the DPRK, this unicameral legislative body has enacted laws putting in place “perfect and universal free medical care.” [24] The DPRK not only provides rights and duties of citizens, but they have the right to “right to education and free medical care and freedom of scientific, literary and artistic pursuits” along with equal rights for men and women. Furthermore, in January 1947, the DPRK enforced “free medical care for workers, office workers and their dependents” with universal free medical care enforced since January 1953, and complete  “universal free medical care” since February 1960, meaning that the state totally bears “the expenses of medical checkups and treatment, bed and board in hospitals, medicines, and even travel costs to and from sanatoria.” This commitment is manifested not only by the type of care the citizens receive but through the establishment of Pyongyang Medical University, the top medical school in the country which was founded in 1948 “when the Department of Medical Science at Kim Il Sung University became an independent university.” [26]

The achievements of this Korean healthcare system are widely acknowledged. While one Cornell medical student (who talked with “the chair of Pyongyang Medical College’s Department of Neurosurgery for 90 minutes”) grumbled that the free medical system comes with “many costs of personal freedom” (his Western bourgeois concept of freedom) with government permission required, and physicians not more highly paid than others, if we are to believe him on that aspect, did admit the following:

“[The medical students] smiled and very proudly told me that the government sends students to college for free – and that is consistent with the medical system, that it’s also free. Even intensive surgeries do not cost a penny…Everything I saw was very unique. Exploring the city [Pyongyang] was unreal. All buildings were beautiful and big – often with posters of the two great leaders in front, which gave off a little eerie feeling. American media give the idea that North Korea is constantly brewing with missiles, focusing on the unreasonable rulers…but the everyday life of North Koreans, at least in the capital, nearly mirrors ours. It was an incredible privilege to meet North Koreans and hear their sentiments, to physically see the land – and in that I realized that they were my fellow people, that we speak the same language, love our families and are all humans. Understanding is the first key to any peace and compromise.”

The WHO notes that the country has a life expectancy of 67 years, or over 70 years if you are relying on the CIA World Factbook, which is impressive. Other data shows that while 3.7% of population drinks, mostly among men over 15 and not women, 78.9% abstain from drinking, with recorded alcohol consumption is steady over time, not increasing since the 1960s significantly. [27] Furthermore, while tobacco usage is strong among males, with almost half of males, smoking, smoke-free legislation affecting hospitals, non-university educational facilities, and public transit. There is also strong tobacco cessation support, partial funding of tobacco cessation, warning on tobacco packages, no tobacco vending machines.

An event takes place at the People’s Palace of Culture on World No Tobacco Day. Photograph is courtesy of the Pyongyang Times.

This is manifested by the fact that late last month, at the People’s Palace of Culture, the country honored World No Tobacco Day. During that day, as the Pyongyang Times reported, officials of the country’s Public Health Ministry, resident diplomatic missions, and international health organizations, talked about how tobacco is a threat to development. The Vice-Director of the Public Health Ministry, Choe Suk Hyon, was quoted as saying that they made achievements in tobacco control the previous year, saying the following:

“What is important in tobacco control is to conduct large scale educational campaigns to publicize the negative impact of smoking on the health and socio-economic life. And we should strengthen scientific research on smoking cessation products which help quit smoking.”

Others, like the representative of the WHO to the DPRK, praised the Korean females in the country for being at the “vanguard of no-smoking campaign” but still wanted them to help their “fathers, husbands, boyfriends and sons to quit smoking if they are smokers” and noted that there is a “newly-revised tobacco control law of the DPRK” with no-smoking “information activities were conducted at the central and provincial hygienic information halls and medical institutions across the country.” While the U$ has developed strong anti-smoking measures as well, there is still a formidable tobacco industry in the U$, something the DPRK doesn’t have.

Apart from strong tobacco control, low alcohol consumption, and general healthcare in the country, there are a number of other accomplishments. For one, infant mortality declined from 1990s to present (same with people with tuberculosis), there has been a relatively steady amount in people with HIV/ AIDS (the country is likely an “AIDS free zone” by now), and immunization for DTP3 among children under 1 almost 100%. Furthermore, maternal death rate has also dramatically declined, less stunting of children than on the past, strong antenatal care, 100% of births attended by skilled health personnel, and broad measles immunization. If that isn’t enough, there almost complete treatment for tuberculosis, obesity is not a major cause for death (like in the U$) but rather it is raised blood pressure among those in their twenties, and much of the population is using improved water and sanitation, to name a few. [28] Other WHO reports show that the population receives Vitamin A supplements to counter some deficiencies, and that the under five mortality rate has been dropping rapidly.

In one medical article apart from the others, there is some praise of the DPRK. In an article that is broadly against the country, the medical researchers must admit that “the burden of mortality due to communicable diseases and malnutrition in North Korea is relatively low in terms of both quantity, expressed in the death rate, and quality,” that tuberculosis’s “mortality rates have declined continuously in the past 15 years.” In one article of a “country study” of the DPRK, it is noted that back in 1938-40 life expectancy was only 38 years old, while it was “70.9 years for males and 77.3 years for females” by 1986, with infant mortality declining, a ” substantial increase in the number of hospitals and clinics, hospital beds, physicians, and other health-care personnel since the 1950s,” growing from 285 in 1955 to 2,401 in 1986, with specialized hospitals, “including those devoted to treating tuberculosis, hepatitis, and mental illness, are generally found in large cities,” and preventive medicine a major focus. Adding to this, a public health law was passed in April 1980 saying that the “state regards it as a main duty in its activity to take measures to prevent the people from being afflicted by disease and directs efforts first and foremost to prophylaxis in public health work” while medical examinations are “required twice a year, and complete records are kept at local hospitals” with a high value afforded on “traditional herbal medicine” and physical education an important part of public health with people “encouraged to take part in recreational sports activities such as running, gymnastics, volleyball, ice skating, and traditional Korean games” along with “group gymnastic exercises.”

There are further aspects worth noting. For one, even with the “development of informal health-care practices” in the country since the 1990s, this sector has actually contributed to the formal healthcare system. In 2007, the DPRK spent 3.02% of its GDP on health expenditures. In 2013, the DPRK spent 38.8% of their budget that year on “health, education, sport, music, art and culture” with an increase of 2.2% for healthcare spending.It is also worth noting that even the World Food Programme must admit that most households aren’t food insecure (see page 33 of this PDF), belaying claims of “famine” in the country.

Recent developments

Kim Jong Un inspects dental care supplies factory. Photograph is courtesy of the Pyongyang Times.

There have been numerous developments of the DPRK’s healthcare system in recent years. In 2010, with the help of WHO, the country launched a “medical video conference network Tuesday aimed at giving smaller, rural hospitals access to specialists in the capital Pyongyang.” [29] Three years later, the DPRK developed a “clinical medicine information service system” which contained “details on 12,000 pharmaceuticals and 154,000 kinds of medicines from more than 50 countries” as Voice of Korea, a state media outlet, noted.

There are other aspects worth noting. While the DPRK has requested medical aid from the UN (since they are under harsh sanctions), they have still made strides. [30] Last year, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology noted that it was testing a 3D printer for use in medical settings, with likely some progress made. This month The Pyongyang Times reported that a two-storey new people’s hospital opened in Tongsinhung-ri with “over  10 rooms for special treatment and sophisticated homemade medical and experimental apparatuses” and is part of “the telemedicine system whereby it is connected to such central hospitals…[and] linked online to provincial, city and county hospitals.” [31] It was also noted that using this system, the “latest medical science and technology are disseminated and training courses are given by medical workers at central hospitals,” with increased abilities, with telemedicine,”in raising their abilities as well as in treating patients.” Less than a week ago, Kim Jung Un, the chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the DPRK State Affairs Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, inspected the newly built Dental Care Supplies Factory, which has a floor space of 12,720 square metres, with the factory able to “turn out annually tens of millions of tubes of toothpaste, mouthwash and a variety of dental care supplies.” [32] In that visit he noted that “the Party [WPK] and government are taking full responsibility for the people’s lives and health and that such socialist healthcare is one and only in the world,” adding that factories like this are “needed to ensure the people lead a worthwhile life enjoying themselves the benefits of socialist healthcare,” even though such healthcare is progressive but not socialist.

Like Cuba, which sends doctors abroad, the DPRK also sends doctors abroad for humanitarian reasons. Even those with anti-DPRK beliefs have to admit this. In July of last year, the DPRK’s ambassador, Jang Myong Ho, visited the al-Assad University Hospital in Damascus, affirming the country’s readiness to support and aid Syria’s health sector, hailing the medical services provided by the hospital, saying that Syrian government had a “just health policy and commitment to provide free treatment to all citizens despite the difficult economic conditions under the current crisis.” He also added that this anniversary of 50 years diplomatic and friendly bilateral relations between the DPRK and Syria is “historical and exemplary,” noting that these relations have been “developed and enhanced” over the years.

With all of this, it is no surprise that proposed sanctions would target the healthcare system of the DPRK and their economy. As I noted in my post on these sanctions,

[while] these sanctions show that the imperial monitoring of “the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea” shall not apply to those vessels or planes which “import food, medicine, or supplies into North Korea,” the fact that there would be monitoring by the US Navy (and Air Force?) is undoubtedly an act of war…Section 104(a), part of an anti-DPRK sanctions law which went into effect last year, mentioned in the above quote as part of the imperial monitoring, shows these efforts are aimed at the DPRK’s economy

Concluding words

At the Korean Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disability. Courtesy of Imgur, assembled in an album and posted on /r/communism by yours truly.

The healthcare system of the DPRK should be celebrated, not something to ridicule. While the bourgeois media focus on the country’s “problems” there is no doubt that they don’t want people to know of these successes. With the ROK having one of the “world’s highest suicide rates, having overtaken that of Japan” and the leading “cause of death is cancer, followed by cerebrovascular and heart disease” even with their “universal health insurance system that is compulsory and covers employees and their relatives (National Health Insurance, NHI),” there are high doctor consulting fees, and “long waiting lines for treatment and high costs.” The DPRK doesn’t have those issues and doesn’t work with the U$ to streamline their system. There are many other resources I could have consulted to finish up this article. [33] As good comrades, we should stand in solidarity with the DPRK against the clear imperialist aggressors. Anyone who doesn’t do so is not only not a real comrade, but they also are not a communist in name or action.

The life within the DPRK and the country’s policies are not what the West says it is. The country has stood by those fighting for national liberation, has a developed democracy of sorts, and has celebrated the International Day of Persons With Disabilities in 2015, and in years afterward (and before). The country has worked with the UNDP to increase its food security and food production.

Some say that the country became “revisionist” after 1972, which is a valid viewpoint, which will be addressed in another post. Reading a number of books, or looking at other resources can help. [34] If a war with the DPRK occurs, started by the unhinged fascist, the orange menace, who can be easily swayed, we should be prepared to support it even if all many of those in our host country (especially if you live in the West) support the war with a fervor. Not standing by the DPRK and against war would show the weakness of “the Left” and prove the capitalists had “won,” something that none of us want.


Notes

[1] Samuel Smith, “22-Y-O American Otto Warmbier Dies After Spending 17 Months in North Korean Prison,” Christian Post, June 19, 2017; Stacey Leasca, “Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the American student’s capture and release in North Korea,” Mic.com, June 19, 2017; Shreesha Gosh, “Donald Trump Says Otto Warmbier Death Caused By North Korea’s ‘Brutal Regime’,” International Business Times, June 20, 2017; Josh Lederman and Matthew Pennington, “Efforts of one U.S. official bring Otto Warmbier home,” AP, June 18, 2017; David Choi, “‘No words were spoken’ — Otto Warmbier’s roommate in North Korea describes the day Warmbier was arrested,” Business Insider, June 19, 2017; Andy Sharp, “Student’s Death Puts Trump Back to Square One on North Korea,” Bloomberg News, June 20, 2017; Maggie Fox, “What Killed Otto Warmbier? Maybe an Infection or Blood Clot,” NBC News, June 20, 2017; Patrick Grafton Green, “Who is Otto Warmbier? Why did North Korea imprison him? How did he die? All we know on late American student,” Evening Standard, June 20, 2017; Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detention,” Washington Post, June 19, 2017; Choe Sang-Hun, “Otto Warmbier’s Death a New Wedge Between U.S. and North Korea,” New York Times, June 20, 2017. Months of diplomacy for this release seemed to fade into the background.

[2] Fuster Kung, “Death of American detained in North Korea baffles experts,” AP, June 20, 2017, reprinted in the Washington Post; CNN Wire, “John McCain: North Korea ‘murdered’ former detainee Otto Warmbier,” NBC 4, June 20, 2017; Fred Haitt, “Remind me again why we ignore the thousands languishing in North Korea’s concentration camps?,” National Post, June 19, 2017, reprinted from the Washington Post; Christian Caryl, “The North Koreans treated Otto Warmbier like one of their own,” Washington Post, June 19, 2017; Gordon D. Chang, “State-Sanctioned Murder: North Korea Killed Otto Warmbier,” The Daily Beast, June 19, 2017; Danika Fears, “North Korea kills American student,” New York Post, June 19, 2017; Cortney O’Brien, “Rubio Minces No Words: Warmbier Was ‘Murdered’,” TownHall, June 19, 2017; Patrick Maguire, “Otto Warmbier’s death reminds us of North Korea’s brutality,” New Statesman,  June 2017; Jonathan Cheng, “North Korea Claims Otto Warmbier Sought Regime Change,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2017; Jack Torry and Jessica Wehrman, “Otto Warmbier’s death after release from North Korean detention brings sympathy, anger,” Dayton Daily News, June 19, 2017; CBS News, “S. Korean leader says N. Korea bears “heavy responsibility” for Otto Warmbier’s death,” June 23, 2017.

[3] Bill Chappell, “Tour Company Used By Otto Warmbier Will Stop Taking Americans To North Korea,” NPR News, June 20, 2017; Andreas Litmer, “Warmbier death: Will people still travel to North Korea?,” BBC News, June 20, 2017; Charlie Chappell, “Otto Warmbier’s Death May Spell the End of American Tourism to North Korea. Sadly, That’s About It,” Time.com, June 22, 2017; Neil Connor, “Otto Warmbier’s travel agency stops taking American tourists to North Korea after ‘risk became too high’,” The Telegraph, June 20, 2017; Adly Choi, “Inside the Sketchy Travel Company That Took Otto Warmbier to North Korea,” Nextshark, June 23, 2017. The father of Warmbier did make an honest perception of the horridness of this company even though it has anti-DPRK diatribes within it: “This Chinese company has slick ads on the internet, claiming no American ever gets detained…They lure Americans. And that’s what happened to my son. He was trying to leave the country and he was taken hostage. They advertise it as the safest tour ever. But they provide fodder for the North Koreans. They took him hostage. And the outcome is self-evident.”

[4] Tim Schwarz, Will Ripley, and James Griffiths, “Exclusive: North Korea reveals alleged U.S. prisoner to CNN in Pyongyang,” CNN, Jan. 11, 2016; Taehoon Lee, “North Korea detains fourth US citizen,” CNN, May 8, 2017; BBC News, “North Korean university names detained US citizen,” Apr. 24, 2017; Tom Cleary, “Tony Kim aka Kim Sang-Duk: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy.com, May 1, 2017; Anna Fifield, “North Korea detains American at airport,” Washington Post, Apr. 23, 2017; KCNA, “Relevant Institution of DPRK Detains American Citizen Jin Xue Song,” May 7, 2017; James Pearson, “North Korea detains third U.S. citizen,” Reuters, Apr. 23, 2017. On May 7th, KCNA said “a relevant institution of the DPRK detained American citizen Jin Xue Song [Kim Hak-song] on May 6 under a law of the DPRK on suspicion of his hostile acts against it. He had worked for operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. A relevant institution is now conducting detailed investigation into his crime.” Currently there are FOUR detained foreign nationals in DPRK, if Wikipedia is right.

[5] Kathy L. Gilbert, “North Korea releases comatose Otto Warmbier,” United Methodist News Service, June 15, 2017; Pyongyang Times, “American Arrested for His Hostile Act against DPRK,” Jan. 23, 2016.

[6] Pyongyang Times, “American Arrestee Interviewed,” Pyongyang Times, March 1, 2016; Pyongyang Times, “American Student Sentenced to 15 Years of Hard Labor in DPRK,” Pyongyang Times, Mar. 16, 2016.

[7] This English translation is very close to another I found from WIPO records.

[8] Jason Hanna, Joshua Berlinger, and Emanuella Grinberg, “Doctors: Ex-North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier has severe brain injury,” CNN, June 16, 2017.

[9] Maggie Fox, “Otto Warmbier Has Extensive Brain Damage, Doctors Say,” NBC News, June 16, 2017.

[10] “American citizen released,” Pyongyang Times, June 16, 2017.

[11] KCNA, “DPRK FM Spokesman Accuses U.S. of Slandering Humanitarian Measure,” June 23, 2017.

[12] KCNA, “DPRK bashing by the US and s. Korea prompts firestorm of protest,” Pyongyang Times, June 25, 2017.

[13] Jonathan Allen, “Otto Warmbier’s family declines autopsy for US student released by North Korea,” The Sydney Morning Herald, June 21, 2017; Young DPRK Watchers, “An objective assessment of Warmbier’s fate: Challenging U.S mythologies,” June 20, 2017; Young DPRK Watchers, “Otto Warmbier as a symbol of American Privilege,” June 18, 2017.

[14] Daily NK, “The dire reality of “universal health care” in North Korea,” June 2, 2015; Barbara Demick, “North Korea’s healthcare is a horror, report says,” Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2010; Caroline Gluck, “N Korea healthcare ‘near collapse’,” BBC News, Nov. 20, 2001; The Week Staff, “North Korea’s ‘horrifying’ health care system,” The Week, July 19, 2010; The Telegraph, “North Korea’s health system ‘on its knees’,” July 15, 2010; Laura Oneale, “North Korea’s Health Dilemma,” June 22, 2013; Freekorea.us, “A guerrilla health care system for North Korea’s poor,” Sept. 28, 2015; Radio Free Asia, “North Korean Health Care ‘Fails’,” July 20, 2010; Sean Alfano, “North Korea’s health care horror, doctors sometimes perform amputations without anesthesia: report,” NY Daily News, July 15, 2010.

[15] I’m not even going to link this horrible report, just the title page if those who are skeptical want to “prove” that I’m right, which would be utterly obnoxious. If you want to read hideous, disgusting, orientalist propaganda and fill your mind with lies, go right ahead, but you’ll be no comrade of him.

[16] BBC News, “Aid agencies row over North Korea health care system,” July 16, 2010.

[17] Josiah Cha, “‘Every patient had malnutrition’ – on a medical mission in North Korea,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2015. I think this is the same medical mission.

[18] See pages 126, 127, 128, 129, 130.

[19] As CNN (“Red Cross: North Korea medical system near collapse,” Nov. 6, 1997) and hateful “North Korea watchers” (Liberty in North Korea, “SONGBUN | Social Class in a Socialist Paradise,” June 25, 2012) admit, if you read between the lines, capitalism almost caused the DPRK’s healthcare system to collapse in the 1990s. Even so, the country has been suffering from a bout of revisionism without a doubt since thee 1970s at least.

[20] The report also acknowledges the achievement in “compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular; ‘radical change’ in the position of women; [and] genuinely free housing.”

[21] Jonathan Lynn, “North Korea has plenty of doctors: WHO,” Reuters, Apr. 30, 2010.

[22] Brett Schaefer, “United Nations Defends North Korean Health Care System,” The Daily Signal, July 22, 2010; Sierra Rayne, “WHO’s Delusions on North Korea’s Health Care System,” American Thinker, July 24, 2013.

[23] In their travel guidelines for the DPRK, it almost sounds Orientalist, implying that US hospitals are wonderful, shining, and happy compared to those in the DPRK: “Medical facilities in the DPRK lack resources and electricity. Medical personnel have inadequate or outdated skills. Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures, but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available. Avoid surgery. If you have an accident outside Pyongyang, transport back to the capital can be lengthy and without medical assistance.”

[25] They have also “adopted the Constitution’s principles by passing Socialist Labour Law, Land Law, Law on Public Health, Law on the Nursing and Upbringing of Children, Law on Environmental Protection, the Criminal Law, the Civil Law, the Family Law, laws for the “total elimination of tax in kind and taxation which is the remnant of the outdated society” with no tax system no longer in the DPRK, and a law enacting “universal free education and the 11-year compulsory education.””

[26] The ROK claims that chemical weapons were developed here, but it undoubtedly a total lie.

[27] 95% of those who drink, drink spirits. There is also strong alcohol consumption by males, more than among females.

[28] This information also says that strokes are the leading cause of death, with probability of dying highest among men over 70, low in all other categories. It also says that people under age 5 mostly die of prematurity and other causes, that over 60% of population in urban areas, and that life expectancy varies depending on age. It is also worth noting that 16.3% of parliament is composed of women.

[29] Sangwoon Won, “North Korea launches medical videoconference network with help of WHO,” Associated Press, 2010. Reprinted on http://www.wellness.com/.

[30] Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea requests medical aid from U.N. agencies,” UPI, July 6, 2015. There are also claims they were trying to learn from China about AIDs.

[31] Han Ryo Gyong, “Rural hospital benefits from telemedicine,” Pyongyang Times, June 24, 2017.

[32] Pyongyang Times, “Kim Jong Un inspects dental care supplies factory,” June 20, 2017; Rodong Sinmun, “Kim Jong Un Inspects New Dental Sanitary Goods Factory,” June 20, 2017.

[33] See data here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here (likely on archive.org), and this book.

[34] See here for the following books: “Revolution and Socialist Construction in Korea: Selected Writings of Kim Il Sung“; “Modern Korea: The Socialist North, Revolutionary Perspectives in the South, and Unification“; “The Historical Experience of the Agrarian Reform in Our Country“; “North Korean Journey: The Revolution Against Colonialism“; “Modern History of Korea.” Bruce Cummings is no help here. Neither is this article. As for “Jaka Parker” I haven’t watched any videos to have a viewpoint one way or the other.

Elections in the “Juche” state: democracy in the DPRK

Dancing party of women's union officials
“A dancing party of women’s union officials and members took place at the plaza of the Arch of Triumph on Feb. 16, the 75th birth anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il.”- Rodong Sinmun on February 20

This post was analyzed for mistakes and other content in January 2019, as part of an effort to engage in self-criticism. Some changes have been made.

Recently, with the whole controversy over the death of Kim Jong Un’s brother and the stance of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) criticizing revisionist China whom seems to engaging in  appeasement, by banning coal imports into the country, of the imperialist desire (especially the orange menace’s arrogance) of the U$ to weaken the DPRK. [1] The DPRK is not only threatened by forces within “South Korea” (the Republic of Korea), programs like THAAD, provocations from the orange menace’s administration, leading to defense of the country with nuclear weapons (rightly so) but it has been attacked by the “human rights” organizations in the West, along with the corporate media in wild accusations. I’m specifically talking about Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The latter claims that citizens in the country “suffer violations of most aspects of their human rights”  and the former saying that under the leadership of Kim Jong-Un the country “remains among the world’s most repressive countries” with a “dynasty.” [2] This echoes the CIA World Factbook and U$ State Department which call the DPRK an “an authoritarian state” and “communist state” (saying it in a negative way), showing that “human rights” NGOs and parts of the establishment serve the same fundamental imperialist interests. [3] All of these bourgeois criticisms, like the bourgeois liberals/progressives on /r/socialism, implies that the DPRK is not democratic. A look at their elections, especially that of the SPA, shows this to be wrong.

Historical introduction

In 1945, in the aftermath of deadly World War II, the Korean Peninsula, which had been occupied by the Japanese imperialists (since 1910), was roughly divided between the Soviet occupied zone and U$ zone. In the Soviet zone in the North, different from the South where a brutal fascist puppet government was installed, socialism was advanced. As the South Korean Party for Re-Unification put it in February 1971: “after World War II, the US imperialists entered South Korea as invaders and aggressors, not liberators. This is the reason for the division of our country.” [4] In 1945, the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) was created. Kim Il Sung, later the leader of the DPRK, described this process very simply, noting that people’s committees controlled the country before the establishment of a government formally, proving it wasn’t a “dictatorship”:

The foundation of the Workers’ Party representing and defending the interests of the labouring masses of Korea through the merger of the Communist Party and the New Democratic Party is the greatest event in the political life of our people at the present time…In south Korea, however, the activities of those people who are sincerely striving for the merger of the Parties, are obstructed…the reactionary forces has come all out to frustrate the merger of the democratic political parties of the working people…unity and cohesion of the democratic forces throughout Korea is the prerequisite to the building of a new, genuinely democratic Korea…One year has already passed since Korea was liberated from the colonial rule of Japanese imperialism…In the past year we have laid a solid foundation for developing Korea along truly democratic lines and building a People’s Republic by carrying out the great democratic reforms. Our people who took power into their own hands…The composition of the people’s committee membership now active in north Korea is as follows : Workers [are] 5.7% [.] Peasants [are] 71.8%[.] Office employees [are] 15.8% [.] Handicraftsmen [are] 2.1% [.] Tradesmen [are] 4.6% [.] The people’s committees…strive to guard the interests of the people…In carrying out its policies, the people’s committee relies on the firm unity and the democratic united front of all the political parties and social organizations…Already in March this year, the agrarian reform was carried out in the rural areas of north Korea, bringing about a radical change in production relations. The agrarian reform dealt a decisive blow to the landlord class…Last August the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea proclaimed the law on the nationalization of industrial, transport and communications facilities and banks which had been owned by the Japanese imperialists, pro-Japanese elements and traitors to the nation…In June this year, the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea promulgated the Labour Law freeing factory and office workers from harsh, colonial-type exploitation and introducing the eight-hour working day and a social insurance system. And a law was passed to guarantee the women social rights equal to those of the men for the first time in the history of our country…Over 8,000 adult schools were opened last year to eliminate illiteracy…The people’s committees have done a great deal of work to improve the material and cultural life of the masses of the people and to ensure their political rights…The enforcement of the Law of Nationalization of Industries has wiped out the foundation of Japanese imperialist colonial rule and deprived the traitors to the nation…Meanwhile, the people’s committees protect the property of the national capitalists and encourage the business activities of individual entrepreneurs and traders…The workers have won all rights and possibilities to take part in the state political life…The establishment of the Workers’ Party through the merger of the two parties is of tremendous historical significance in expanding and strengthening the democratic forces and promoting democratic construction in our country. A party is the advanced detachment of a class defending its interests and fighting for the realization of its demands and aspirations…Our Party, however, is not the one and only Party existing in our country…Our Party gives active support to the democratic demands of the Chongu Party, and closely co-operates with it in order to advance together in step with it…our Party has waged and is waging a common struggle in unity with all the democratic political parties. We must maintain closer ties with members of the Chongu Party and the Democratic Party…We must by all means bring the lines and strategic and tactical policies of the Party home to all its membership and arm the entire Party with the scientific Marxist-Leninist theory and throughgoing revolutionary ideas…The persecution of the working class [in South Korea], in particular, has reached extremes. See the massacre in Kwangju…In this grave situation, the primary task of our nation and the entire working people is to unite and unite…We call for such unity of the toiling masses as can meet the democratic demands of the workers, peasants and working intellectuals…The independence and sovereignty of Korea on democratic lines can be achieved at an early date only if the labouring masses are united as one and all the democratic forces are knit together…Victory belongs to the Korean people who aspire to unity, national independence and democracy. Let us all march forward confidently to victory!

Two years later, on August 25, 1948, the DPRK, which had undertaken a 70-day debate nationwide on the draft constitution starting in February of the same year, elected its first deputes to the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), its unicameral legislature. [5] In that election, 572 deputies, representing “workers, peasants, deskworkers, intellectuals, businessmen, merchants and religious people,” were elected, and the First SPA met between September 2 and 10, with the constitution adopted during this time, a government formed, and the founding of the DPRK proclaimed on September 9, resulting in the Korean people celebrating it annually as “their national day.” [6] In this new legislature, the 1st SPA, Kim Il Sung was elected as the Premier and head of the DPRK. To be more specific, in 1948, Juche 37, 99.97% of Koreans in the north took part, and 77.52% of those in the south, took part in the elections. The results, as displayed in the chart below, shows that while the political parties were part of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland electoral coalition, there was also a multiparty system which had developed within the DPRK [7]:

chart1

It was at that time that the DPRK could be considered socialist without a doubt. However, in later years the country would drift into the areas of revisionism, creating problems for the proletariat as a whole and forming a bourgeoisie of sorts, raising the question of how socialist the country was, as it seemed more progressive than socialist.

Quick overview of powers of the SPA

Before going further, it is best to describe the powers of the SPA. As was noted in a session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1991, this legislature is defined by the DPRK’s constitution (Articles 73-84) as the “highest organ of State power” and is a representative organ which is formed “through an election conducted of the free will of the entire Korean people” and composed of deputies who are selected by “secret ballot on the principle of universal, equal and direct suffrage,” with the same principle applied to election of deputies “to local power organs such as provincial, city and county People’s Assemblies.” [8] As for the voters, every citizen, regardless of “sex, race, occupation, duration of residence, property status, education, party affiliation, political inclination and religious belief,” can vote as long as they are over 17, with the only ones who can’t including those decided by court verdict and “insane persons,” meaning that all citizens have the right to elect deputies. With only one registration and one ballot cast per voter, in elections that are announced 60 days before for the SPA and 30 days before for the “provincial, city and county People’s Assemblies,” voters cast a ballot directly for a candidate for the deputy position, which is reflected in the totals. [9] The term of office of SPA members is five years, unless there are unavoidable circumstances leading to a prolonged term. [10]

The SPA’s most important and exclusive power is “legislative power” which includes adopting, amending, and supplementing the Constitution. Take the adoption of the first DPRK Constitution during the first legislative session, with a nationwide debate “on the draft constitution,” with a 31-person committee organized by the SPA to deliberate over the draft, as people’s opinions are taken into account. [11] Later on, the DPRK’s constitution was revised due to the changing times, with the SPA’s term of office extended, the minimum age level of voters was lowered to 17 and more deputies were allocated for the population with new electoral principles. With these changes, the SPA has adopted the Constitution’s principles by passing Socialist Labour Law, Land Law, Law on Public Health, Law on the Nursing and Upbringing of Children, Law on Environmental Protection, the Criminal Law, the Civil Law, the Family Law, laws for the “total elimination of tax in kind and taxation which is the remnant of the outdated society” with no tax system no longer in the DPRK, and a law enacting “universal free education and the 11-year compulsory education.” [12] The SPA has enacted laws putting in place “perfect and universal free medical care.” In every instance, in laws like this and every law, the SPA follows steps of “deliberation, adoption and proclamation,” with laws submitted by numerous entities (DPRK President, the Central People’s Committee (CPC), the Standing Committee of the SPA, the Administration Council, and all SPA deputies), and approved by a “show of hands,” showing the democratic nature of the state. [13]

The SPA also has the authority to form central institutions of the state, electing the President of the DPRK (the people who HRW falsely says are part of a “dynasty”), who then picks a number of other individuals. [14] Members on SPA committees and the head of the Administration Council (the Premier) are elected and accountable to the SPA. The SPA holds regular sessions to “discuss and solve problems” once or twice a year and extraordinary sessions when needed, with quorum of “more than a half the total number of deputies to meet” and laws adopted having immediate legal effect. [15] SPA Committees, whose members are elected among deputies according to the size of leadership, debate about draft laws and budget plans before deliberation by the whole body. [16] However, they cannot “initiate legislative activities nor adopt decisions of any legal validity independently.” These committees [17] include the following:

  • Credentials Committee (credentials members in the SPA)
  • the Bills Committee (“deliberates on the bills, amendments to constitution and laws submitted to the SPA and reports its results to the SPA and its Standing Committee.”)
  • the Budget Committees (“deliberates upon whether or not the settlement account and compilation of the State budget submitted for deliberation to the SPA conforms with the needs of People and reports its results to the SPA, and examines the budget balance and adopts measures for rectifying shortcomings revealed by the relevant executive bodies.”)
  • the Foreign Affairs Committee (“discusses the issues arising in foreign affairs, draws up and makes public the documents specifying the stands of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the Committee, notifies them to the Foreign Affairs Committees of parliaments of other countries, Inter-Parliamentary Groups and individual MPs concerned and exchanges delegations with various countries the
    world over.”)
  • the Reunification Policies Committee (“recommends the measures to be taken by the Supreme People’s Assembly in connection with the national reunification question to the Supreme People’s Assembly or the Standing Committee of the SPA, and considers the issues of the north-south co-operation, exchange and travel and other matters related to the country’s reunification”)
  • Standing Committee (“When the SPA is not in session, the work with the Committees of the Supreme People’s Assembly is undertaken by the Standing Committee of the SPA. The Standing Committee works as a permanent body of the SPA in our country…the Standing Committee functions as its permanent organ between sessions…[It is] composed of Chairman, Vice-Chairmen, a secretary general and 15 members including the representatives of political parties and social organizations.”)

Resuming the historical overview: going through SPA elections

Now, back to the 1948 election. One book, by Anne Louise Strong, does a good job at telling the state of the DPRK in 1949. Summarizing the history compiled by the Korean Friendship Association (KFA), the “peaceful construction” of the new socialist (at the time) nation was stopped on June 25, 1950 (Juche 49). As revisionist Vince Sherman even says, the moves of DPRK soldiers into South Korea “was actually an attempt to re-unite a nation partitioned by a foreign imperialist power,” despite what Trotskyists over at the ISO declare. While the Korean People’s Army (KPA) had formed into a regular army but the economic state of the country was fragile, but they still were victorious against “arrogant US imperialists” who claimed the US was invincible.  As bourgeois journalist David Halberstam acknowledged, not only were Southern Koreans angry about U$ presence and the U$ units were in horrid condition, but the people of the DPRK and Chinese communists knew what they were fighting for, unlike the U$ soldiers, who had no idea what they were fighting for [18]:

“They [the Chinese Communists and DPRK troops] were absolutely sure of whom they were fighting and why. They were fighting white foreigners, imperialists, and capitalists, the children of Wall Street, and of course their puppet allies in the South. The Americans were not so sure, despite periodic lectures on the evils of Communism, whom they were fighting, or for that matter why they were fighting them. They might be soldiers stationed in Japan, but they’d no expectation of going to war, especially in a place called Korea.”

Summarizing what the KFA said, on July 27, 1953 (Juche 42), the U$ imperialists knelt before the people of Korea, signing the Armistice Agreement, with arguably a victory for the Korean people, with many losses for the United States, with losses that were reportedly “2.3 fold the size of losses suffered by the US in the 4-year-long Pacific War in the period of the Second World War.” In December 1955, Kim Il Sung first publicly addressed the idea of Juche, one year before Khrushchev’s traitorous “secret speech,” which at the time was not revisionist, although it would take on such characteristics later:

…The principal shortcomings in ideological work are the failure to delve deeply into all matters and the lack of Juche. It may not be proper to say Juche is lacking, but, in fact, it has not yet been firmly established. This is a serious matter. We must thoroughly rectify this shortcoming. Unless this problem is solved, we cannot hope for good results in ideological work… This, the Korean revolution, constitutes Juche in the ideological work of our Party. Therefore, all ideological work must be subordinated to the interests of the Korean revolution…By saying that the ideological work of our Party lacks in Juche, I do not mean, of course, that we have not made the revolution or that our revolutionary work was undertaken by passers-by. Nonetheless, Juche has not been firmly established in ideological work, which leads to dogmatic and formalistic errors and does much harm to our revolutionary cause. To make revolution in Korea we must know Korean history and geography and know the customs of the Korean people. Only then is it possible to educate our people in a way that suits them and to inspire in them an ardent love for their native place and their motherland…As far back as the autumn of 1945, that is, immediately after liberation, we emphasized the need to study the history of our nation’s struggle and to inherit its fine traditions…Today, ten years after liberation, we have all the conditions for collecting materials on our literary legacy and turning it to full use. Nevertheless, the propaganda workers remain wholly indifferent to this…One day this summer when I dropped in at a local democratic publicity hall, I saw diagrams of the Soviet Union’s Five-Year Plan shown there, but not a single diagram illustrating the Three-Year Plan of our country…In compelling schoolbooks, too, materials are not taken from our literary works but from foreign ones. All this is due to the lack of Juche. The lack of Juche in propaganda work has done much harm to Party work…If we had not organized the People’s Army with old revolutionary cadres as its core, what would have been the outcome of the last war? It would have been impossible for us to defeat the enemy and win a great victory under such difficult conditions…Our 20-Point Platform is the development of the Programme of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland. As you all know, the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland existed before our country was liberated…It is utterly ridiculous to think that our people’s struggle against the U.S. imperialists conflicts with the efforts of the Soviet people to ease international conflicts with the efforts of the Soviet people to ease international tension…Hearing us say that it is necessary to establish Juche, some comrades might take it simply and form a wrong idea that we need not learn from foreign countries. That would be quite wrong. We must learn from the good experiences of socialist countries…It is important in our work to grasp revolutionary truth, Marxist-Leninist truth, and apply it correctly to the actual conditions of our country…we should not mechanically copy forms and methods of the Soviet Union, but should learn from its experience in struggle and Marxist-Leninist truth…Marxism-Leninism is not a dogma, it is a guide to action and a creative theory…In connection with the problem of establishing Juche I think it necessary to touch on internationalism and patriotism…Before liberation, the mere words that in the Soviet Union the working class held power and was building socialism made us yearn boundlessly for the Soviet Union where we had never been…In order to make our Party members indomitable fighters who are always optimistic about the future of the revolution, it is necessary to intensify their Marxist-Leninist education…In order to meet this great revolutionary event, the Party spirit of the Party members should be steeled; they should be educated to have a correct mass viewpoint and to have faith in victory and optimism regarding the future of the revolution.

Beyond this, in the post-war period, the country needed to rebuild itself from much destruction, led in the effort by President Kim Il Sung. As Socialist Voice, in an opinion critical of the DPRK, notes in Marxist-Leninism Today, the partition of the Korean Peninsula was a “product of the Cold War, which in Korea turned into a very hot war of savage proportions. Hundreds of thousands died on both sides.” This piece also notes  that the DPRK “developed and rebuilt itself after the devastation inflicted on it by the war.” With the Korean people having to “tighten their belts but they built factories, enterprises, towns and rural villages,” there was a “Three-Year Plan for the Postwar Rehabilitation and Development of the National Economy” just like in Poland, which was a success, followed by a Five-Year Plan from 1957 to 1960, with Sung saying “Let us produce more, practise economy, and overfill the Five-Year Plan ahead of schedule!” [19] One could say that the DPRK had not become revisionist at this point, although that was to come in the future, sadly for the proletariat.

All of this makes it clear why the second session of the SPA was not until 1957. The DPRK was in no shape to have an election in the middle of defending itself from imperialist attack during the Great Fatherland Liberation War. In this election, the Workers Party of Korea gained seats, while other parties lost seats, showing that it was applauded by the people. The pie chart below shows the distribution of the SPA after the election in August 1957, the 2nd SPA respectively, with only 75 of the 527 members of the first session re-elected, with only 215 members comprising the body [20]:

chart2

Courtesy of 38North, an NGO I'm pretty sure is anti-DPRK.
Courtesy of 38North, an NGO is strongly anti-DPRK. Their caption: “From left to right: WPK propaganda posters for local people’s assembly elections held on August 27, 1957 (both local and national ); November 25, 1967; July 29, 2007; July 24, 2011; and July 19, 2015.”

Fast forward five years and 2 months to the next legislative election, the 3rd SPA, respectively, in October 1962, which was eight days before the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis! By this point, as revisionist Stephen Gowans noted, the country “grew at a faster pace than the south from the 1940’s to the mid-60s” and Che Guevara was so impressed after visiting Pyongyang in 1965 that he “declared north Korea to be a model to which Cuba should aspire.” Again, this makes clear that the DPRK was not, at the time revisionist, although it would be later on. The SPA, increased in size from 215 members to 383 members, with WPK keeping its majority, showing that it was supported by the populace more than any of the other parties by a long shot [21]:

spa-distribution

Also during this session there were a number of developments, including the introduction of the single-ballot vote and representation changed to 1 delegate every 30,000 people rather than the previous electoral distribution. [22] These were positive democratic developments which advanced the country forward.

The following year there were local elections, for provincial people’s assemblies. In these elections, like many past and since, and Kim Il Sung was re-elected as the DPRK’s president. [23] During the elections a total of 14,303 deputies for city, county, and district positions in people’s assemblies were elected, as were 70,250 in towns, neighborhoods, villages, and workers’ districts, for people’s assemblies, and 2,517 provincial people’s assembly deputies. [24]

Five years and one month after 1962 election, in September 1967, the elections for the the 4th SPA were held. Apart from the local elections held that year where over 300 women, out of the 3,305 delegates, were elected [25], the SPA, added new members, increasing from 383 members to 457. This development meant that not only were the amount of delegates keeping pace with the population, but there was full participation, with the deputies elected for a term of five years. [26] During this session, a number of changes were made, including revising the DPRK’s constitution and allowing the President of the country to be elected, another good development. [27] The distribution of the SPA was as the pie chart below displays colorfully, showing that the WPK gained even more support of the populace while the People’s Republic Party and other organizations lost their seats as people voted in WPK deputies instead:

distribution-1967

That same year, Kim Jong Il gave a “Talk to the Officials of the Central Committee of the League of Socialist Working Youth of Korea.” Within this speech he argued that “young people [in Korea] are honourable activists in the vanguard of socialist construction”and that there is a “great programme for the building of socialist rural communities” beginning in the country, showing that he still believed in the strength of socialism. He also said that “the youth should take the lead in carrying out the rural technical revolution,” that ” appearance of our modern socialist farming villages is altering and the peasants’ standard of living” and that a “youth shock-force movement is an excellent school for revolutionizing young people, by tempering them through labour and organizational life,” echoing what Kim Il Sung said. He also gave a speech in 1969 about cinema in the DPRK and a speech the following year to scriptwriters.

Fast forward to 1971. That year, the DPRK was often featured in the publication of The Black Panther, the newspaper of the Black left-wing party based in Oakland, the Black Panther Party. One article reprinted a speech by a Korean comrade, Pak Ung Gil, arguing that the Korean people, in the DPRK especially, are fighting to expedite their “complete victory of socialism and the cause of national unification at the forefront of the anti-imperialism, anti-U.S. imperialist struggle in direct confrontation with U.S. imperialism” and that they extend “militant solidarity to the Black Panther Party and the Negroes in the United States,” with a promise of encouragement for their struggle and active support. [28] This aligns completely with Kim Il Sung, who condemned suppression of the Black Panthers, declaring years earlier that “where there is oppression, there is always resistance. It is inevitable that the oppressed peoples should fight for their emancipation.” [29]

Later that year, the DPRK was caught in an international dispute. A KPA pilot was engaging in tests with his airplane but he had to land because of problems with his fuel tank, if I remember correctly, and the U$ and “South Korea” (Republic of Korea or ROK) refused to give him up. [30] Later that year, Kim Il Sung received praise from multiple sources. For one, the South Korean Party for Re-Unification, argued in February 1971 that he had  taught them “the importance of combining violent struggles with non-violent struggle, illegal struggle with legal struggle.”  [31] The Black Panther Party’s Central Committee followed the next month by commemorating Kim Il Sung’s birthday and confirming the “militant solidarity between our Party and the struggling oppressed people of the U.S. and the heroic Korean people,” noting the “the unnatural division of a whole people that U.S. imperialists have perpetrated” in Korea, and pledging to intensify in their “own struggle, here inside the U.S., against U.S. imperialism, fascism and racism.” [32]

The same year, Kim Il Sung explained to a delegation of Iraqi journalists the most important experience of the “fighting people of Korea.” He started by saying that while Korea “was a colonial, semi-feudal society in the past” and had to fight off U$ imperialists, that they have, currently, “an advanced socialist system, under which all people work and live a happy life helping each other” with victories and achievements due to the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and the people themselves, with dedication to the idea of Juche (not then taken on revisionist characteristics) or “expressing such a creative and independent principle and position adhered to by our Party in conducting revolutionary struggle and constructive work.” He went on to say that the Party had maintained its independence, is working on “building an independent national economy,” dedication to self-defense of the country from “aggressors and enemies,” the innovation in the “Chollima movement” which embodies the mass line of socialist construction, and the task of driving the “U.S. imperialist aggressors out of south Korea, accomplish the national liberation revolution and realize the reunification of the country.” In response to a question about the successes of the Iraqi people, who had recently engaged in a coup on July 17, 1968, led by Saddam Hussein (who would not hold presidential or other power until the late 1970s) and Salah Omar al-Ali, among others of the Socialist Ba’ath Party, Sung replied by saying that the Iraqi people had attained “national independence through their protracted arduous struggle against the domination of foreign imperialism,” that “antagonism and discord between nations…are advantageous only to the imperialists and simply detrimental to the people” with a “peaceful, democratic solution of the Kurd national problem,” that the government of Iraq stands “firm in the ranks of struggle against imperialism and colonialism.” Sung was also asked about U$ imperial aggression in Southeast Asia. In response to that, he argued that “the expansion of the aggressive war by the U.S. imperialists in Indo-China places them in an ever more difficult position and hastens the defeat of the aggressors,” by arguing that people of Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia (not referring to Khmer Rouge) have united to fight “against the U.S. imperialist aggressors…[with] the whole land of Indo-China has become a graveyard for the aggressors” and that the Korean people will assist those fighting against U.S. imperialism in Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos. His last two questions were about the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party in Iraq and the Arab people. On the first question, he said that “the Korean and Iraqi peoples are close comrades-in-arms fighting against the common enemy…part of the great unity of the Asian and African peoples against imperialism and colonialism.” To the second question he declared that

“the Arab people are vigorously fighting in arms against U.S. imperialism and the Israeli aggressors…The armed struggle of the Arab people against U.S. imperialism and the Israeli aggressors is a just struggle to defend national independence and dignity, restore the occupied Arab territories and accomplish the cause of liberation of the Palestinian people…The Korean people will continue to resolutely support the valiant struggle of the Palestinian people for liberating their fatherland and the struggle of the entire Arab people against Zionism and imperialist aggression and will always remain a close comrade-in-arms of the Arab people in the struggle against the common enemy…I sincerely wish the Arab people greater successes in their just struggle against U.S. imperialism and the Israeli aggressors.”

With this struggle evident, the following year there was a bout of elections, five years and one month after the 1967 election, showing the DPRK’s democracy shine once more. This election for the 5th SPA may have showed a change. Apart from the supposed detente, and the local elections for People’s Assemblies with 3,185 provincial people’s assembly deputies, and 24,784 city, county and district people’s assembly deputies elected, the 1972 elections for the SPA showed change. [33] During the session, a proposal was crafted with eight provisions about the reunification of Korean Peninsula. [34] Despite searching across the internet, I was only able to find the breakdown of the assembly of 541 Deputies, then serving for 4 years, with citizens over the age of 17 voting, with all of these legislators proposed by the Workers’ Party of Korea, not “chosen” as some would claim. In fact, about 21% of the assembly comprised of female delegates. In December of that year, the composition of the new SPA, in terms of class, as the delegates are in every electoral contest, was broken down as follows:

composition

As such, the proletariat still held the sway in the SPA, which was undoubtedly positive.

The same year, a new Constitution was adopted by the DPRK, describing the county as a “self-reliant socialist state…an independent socialist State…a revolutionary State” guided by the Juche idea, with authority ultimately derived from “workers, peasants, working intellectuals and all other working people” with power exercised through “the organs of State power at all levels, from the county People’s Assembly to the Supreme People’s Assembly” which are elected by the working class “on the principle of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.” If that’s not enough, the Constitution also dedicates the state to defending and protecting “the interests of the workers, peasants, working intellectuals and all other working people,” that “independence, peace and friendship are the basic ideals of the foreign policy” of the DPRK, and that the country “relies on the socialist production relations and on the foundation of an independent national economy.” The Constitution goes on to describe other aspects of the DPRK. Means of production in the country “are owned by the State and social, cooperative organizations,” the state’s property belongs to the people, private property is defined as “property owned and consumed by individual citizen,” working days are eight hours long, the minimum working age is 16 years, state shall direct the socialist economy, there is a “people’s nationwide defence system” to defend against imperialists, equal rights for men and women, and socialist culture will flourish. One could say such acceptance of property was the beginning of the dive into revisionism, but still the overall aspects of the state which benefited the populace remained, with socialism as one could call it, still existing in the DPRK in 1972.

More was noted about this constitution in a 1992 meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. There, the DPRK’s representative noted that the new Socialist Constitution of the DPRK was adopted on December 27, 1972, in the first session of the 5th SPA, and that the country had gone beyond its “socialist transformation of economic management” and establishment of a socialist system, by 1958, with “total eradication of exploitation of man by man, the social and class relations,” with a socialist working people. [35] He went on to say that the 1972 draft of the socialist constitution was put to debate two times in plenary meetings of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Social Democratic Party and the Chondoist Chongu Party and at the Central Committee of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, and then it was submitted to the SPA, adopted finally (and unanimously) by the deputies on December 27, 1972. [36] As a result, Korean people celebrate this day as Socialist Constitution Day every passing year.

It is also worth noting the economic activity in the DPRK in 1972 as shown as an aside to an anti-DPRK article. [37] While the article is horrible, the map is worth reposting:

economic-activity

Fast forward to 1975. The scant information available notes that 23,833 city, county and district people’s assembly deputies were elected in February of that year. [38] Nothing else is known. However, it is worth pointing out that Kim Jong Il advocated for continuation of “Juche art,” in May 1975. What he says is an interesting insight into efforts to create socialist culture within the borders of the DPRK, perhaps putting in question if the country was on a revisionist road, and expand their revolutionary spirit worldwide:

“Our Juche art is now winning fame throughout the world. All countries regard the visit of a Korean art troupe as good fortune…Through art diplomacy we are widely propagating the Juche idea of the great leader to the whole world and proudly gaining honour for our nation…We should produce more, excellent works of art and train larger numbers of talented artists…We should bring about a radical change in the creation of dance by creating more, diverse themes, and discovering more dance rhythms and actions…We need not only lyric songs, but also many militant songs. We are making a revolution, and we should inspire the people to the revolutionary struggle by means of songs…Socialist art is art which is national in form and socialist in content. We must embody a revolutionary and socialist content in artistic forms which are liked by Koreans and are congenial to their tastes…Creators should explore the reality in order to write works. Without exploring the pulsating reality, they cannot produce works that are suited to the feelings of the workers and farmers…Our works of art and literature should not only reflect the reality vividly in content but also be based on life and be close to life in their form…Not anyone can easily become an extraordinary artist. In order to become a remarkable singer, dancer or musician, it is necessary to possess artistic talent and to receive systematic artistic guidance…Therefore, schools in the arts sector should not neglect professional education while stressing political and ideological education. These schools are bases for training professional creators of revolutionary arts…Teachers are revolutionaries who educate the younger generation to become the precious revolutionaries of the motherland…All art troupes and officials in the field of art should bring about a fresh upsurge in the creation of art.”

Two years later there were elections across held across the DPRK once again. In the local elections, 3,244 deputies were elected in the provinces and 24,268 in the ordinary city district, urban district, and counties. [39] The national elections, in November, for the 6th SPA, was a rousing success. While the delineation of party affiliations, of the 579 deputies, cannot be found, a breakdown of the members who part of certain sects of the working class in society is worth mentioning, with the legislature also comprising of about 21% women. [40] It is tabulated in the chart below:

chart-1977

With the proletariat not having as much sway over the SPA, except if united with the farmers, showed a changing social structure in the DPRK and the opening of the doors to revisionism, to the chagrin of the masses.

During this SPA session, not only was a speech given to call for the strengthening of the government of the DPRK and Kim H Sung re-elected as the DPRK’s president but another seven-year economic plan, starting in 1978, was gladly adopted. [41] Also, a law was passed mandating that all land was “made property of the state and co-operatives, with no rights for sale or purchase.” This could be said to be an action of revisionism, but it could also be seen in the converse. Still, the socialism in the DPRK may have been slipping a bit in 1978. The session for the DPRK was reportedly had five sessions, each lasting about five days, if the people at Peterson Institute for International Economics can be believed at all. [42] In later years, as an article by a bourgeois scholar noted, a “Law on the Nursing and Upbringing of Children was passed, in 1976, when there were “60,000 nurseries and kindergartens” across the country. Additionally, a Socialist Labor Law, which stipulated that “women with three or more children under 13 years of age receive 8 hours’ pay for 6 hours’ work,” passing in 1978. Both measures were passed by the SPA members who had been duly elected in 1977.

Two years later, in March 1979, in an election with full participation, 24,247 deputies were elected, representing the city, urban, and county districts. [43] The same year, the autocrat in the ROK, “South” Korea, Park Chung-hee, was assassinated, resulting in a change in the DPRK’s policy. As such, the DPRK opened relations with the new leftist government in Nicaragua, and revisionist China began to try to get the DPRK to implement its economic measures which opened itself to the global capitalist system. [44] Having relations with China is no surprise, but it may have led to increased revisionism in the country, sadly.

In March 1981, there were again local elections in the DPRK. Exactly, 24,191 deputies were elected for the county, urban, and city districts, along with 3,705 in the provinces and municipalities. [45] The same year, the DPRK proposed a plan to re-unify the Korean Peninsula but the ROK rejected it outright and it acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [46]

In February 1982, Koreans went back to the polls to vote for legislators for the 7th SPA. While party breakdown is not available, of the 617 deputies elected, for four year terms, 20% of whom were women, the working class was well-represented, with other professions lumping together those who are not considered workers or peasants, seemingly including farmers, and office employees for example. The chart below visualizes this reality:

chart-1982

The workers and peasants (which we can say are the same as farmers), did not have control of even half of the SPA, which is worrisome. If we knew what consisted of “other professions” then an even better assessment could have been made. Still, revisionism was clearly strengthening in the DPRK.

During the session there was a push for expedited self-reliance (Juche) and another attempt for peaceful reunification of the fatherland by securing a peace guarantee, with not much else known. [47] However, it is evident that there were fantastic celebrations with Kim Il Sung turning 70 years old, new economic policies announced, and the death of Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, that year, reportedly “opened the door to a warmer Soviet-DPRK relationship.” [48] Additionally, the DPRK extended its international solidarity to the state of Iran to fight in the war against Western-backed Republic of Iraq. [49] All of these actions showed that the DPRK was abandoning its anti-revisionist stance more and more, bringing in the Soviet social-imperialists to help them, sadly.

The following year, there were again elections, with full participation by the populace. 24,562 Koreans were elected as deputies who represented cities, urban areas, and counties. [50] Apart from the ridiculous speculation as to if the DPRK was going to “invade South Korea” that year, or accusations it engaged in terrorism in Myanmar, the second session of the 7th SPA met with Yang Hyong Sop elected as Chairman of the SPA and Rim Chun Chu as Vice-President. [51] The following year, the DPRK’s government announced a joint-venture law where there could be capital investment from foreign nations in the country,and possibly farmers to have private plots, which some bourgeois analysts saw as an “admission” that the self-reliant posture of the country was not working. [52] This law was the ultimate capitulation to revisionism and showed that the country was partially adopting the model of the Chinese revisionists which benefited a new bourgeoisie developing in the country, hurting the Korean proletariat, and benefiting the Chinese capitalists. As such, these were clearly sad developments to say the least.

The following year, 1985, there were local elections once again, with full participation of the populace. 28,793 Koreans were elected as deputies who represented provinces, urban areas, counties, and cities. [53] From that year until 1988, the DPRK pushed to have Olympic games on the Korean Peninsula, with enthusiastic backing of the Cuban government, and Soviet support later on. [54] This is definitely important, but it also means that the government and country was becoming more and more revisionist.

In November 1986, 4 years and 8 months after the previous election, ballots for the members of the 8th SPA were cast by the populace. While the sources say that the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland  won the 655 seats in the SPA, with amounts of seats changing with population growth or decrease, there were undoubtedly full participation. [55] Even with this electoral notation, there are no sources which note the breakdown of the deputies by party, but there are indications of the distribution of professions across the DPRK’s assembly. The following chart indicates this:

chart-1986

Once again with the peasants and proletariat not even constituting half of the SPA, one can wonder how socialist the country was at this point.

During this session, as sources note, a second seven-year plan was adopted, the first from 1978-1984, with President Kim Il-Sung pointing to the successes of the first plan and calling for “further modernization with a view to achieving a self-reliant socialist national economy.” A speech calling for “the complete victory of socialism” (despite questions about how socialist the country really was) was given to the public, likely by Kim Il Sung, and the country’s first nuclear reactor began operating that year. [56] Also, Sung gave a speech to a joint meeting of Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Central People’s Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in June 1986, saying, on the subject of the non-aligned movement, that

“…The non-aligned movement, which was inaugurated with a membership of 25 newly-independent countries 25 years ago, has now developed into a very extensive movement with more than 100 newly-emergent member nations and into an organized political force. It has a great influence on revolutionary change in the world and on international political life….The noble mission which was undertaken by the non-aligned movement at the time of its inauguration was and always has been to destroy imperialism and colonialism, end domination and subjugation in whatever form, oppose aggression and intervention, preserve peace and security, exercise national sovereignty, and achieve the freedom of social and economic development…Today the international situation is very complex and tense. The main trend of our time is as ever along the road of independence and sovereignty, peace and progress, but there is also an adverse current of domination and subjugation, war and destruction…Aggression and plunder are inherent aspects of imperialism, and imperialism thrives on them. Imperialism is the product of aggression and plunder, and it has grown fat on ceaseless aggression and plunder…As monopoly capital grows, so its tentacles of aggression and plunder are extended overseas. This is an inevitable outcome and a law of the development of capitalism. There is no limit to the wild ambition and greed of imperialism…Today the imperialists are employing mainly neocolonialism to invade, dominate and plunder other countries…The tendency of the rich countries to grow richer, and the poor countries to grow poorer, is more pronounced on a world scale…The imperialists are directing the spearhead of their aggression at the non-aligned countries and other newly-emergent nations…the imperialists frequently use as shock forces the Israeli Zionists, the South African racists and other stooges which they have trained and tamed…Imperialism is the common enemy of the peoples of the non-aligned nations and the progressive people throughout the world…The people can only oppose and defeat the allied imperialist force by a united effort…The anti-imperialist struggle must not be suspended or weakened even for a little while…The struggle for global independence is a decisive showdown between the anti-imperialist independent forces and the forces of imperialist domination…To dominate the world by force, wielding nuclear weapons, is the world strategy which the imperialists have persisted in since the Second World War. The danger from this strategy is growing as the days go by…The dark cloud of a nuclear war hangs heavily over all the continents, and it threatens the very existence of our planet…The world has the constant fear that a nuclear war can be triggered by the smallest incident…The non-aligned movement is an anti-war peace force, and the policy of non-alignment is a just, peace-loving policy….it must fight to stop the arms race and to effect the complete abolition of all armaments, and of nuclear weapons in particular…The non-aligned countries must give priority to the abolition of nuclear weapons and fight to prevent their production and stockpiling and abolish them completely once and for all…Outer space must only be used for peaceful purposes, not as a new theatre of the arms race…In order to abolish nuclear weapons and prevent a nuclear war, we must create nuclear-free, peace zones in many regions of the world and extend them all the time…we must fight against the imperialist policy of military blocs and of increasing military bases…we must develop a powerful anti-war, anti-nuclear, peace movement…The non-aligned countries must strengthen solidarity with the anti-war, anti-nuclear, peace movement…It is an important task of the struggle against imperialism and for independence that colonialism and racism be eliminated and the cause of national liberation be accomplished…the South African racists and Israeli Zionists overtly pursue the racist and expansionist policy of aggression…The South African racist regime pursues the vicious policy of apartheid, of racial discrimination, and the policy of brutal repression…In order to realize their ambition to establish a “Great Zionist Empire” in the Middle East, the Israeli Zionists have occupied Arab lands…without putting an end to the policy of apartheid in South Africa it would be impossible to accomplish the cause of national liberation…we must foil the expansionist, aggressive schemes of the Israeli Zionists. Zionism is a form of racism and colonialism…The just cause of the Palestinian and other Arab people for the restoration of land lost to them…we must strengthen solidarity with those people who are fighting for independence, sovereignty and to build a new society…South-South cooperation is a noble way for the developing countries to strengthen their economic independence and achieve complete economic freedom through close economic and technical cooperation…Today the international economic situation is changing to the disadvantage of developing countries…The running of joint venture hospitals will also be an effective means of cooperation in the sphere of public health…One of the important tasks confronting the non-aligned and developing countries today is to do away with the old international economic order and to establish a new fair one based on the principles of independence, equality and mutual benefit…To strengthen and develop the non-aligned movement steadily is an important guarantee for the accomplishment of the cause of independence in opposition to imperialism. The non-aligned movement is a powerful independent force of our times which is opposed to imperialism…The Government of the DPRK will in the future, too, remain loyal to the principles and ideal of the non-aligned movement and will make every effort to strengthen and develop this movement.”

The following year, in November 1987, there were again elections in the DPRK. That year, 26,539 people were elected as local deputies, representing numerous parts of Korean society. [57] Two years after that, the Korean people cast their ballots for local elections. As such, 29,535 Koreans were elected to local and provincial people’s assemblies. [58]

In April 1990, three years and six months after the previous election for the SPA, Koreans cast their ballots again. The electoral alliance, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland, won a sweeping victory out of the 687 total seats in the 9th SPA. [59] Over 20% of the deputies elected were women, 37% were manual workers, over 10% were farmers, and about 53% were office workers or in the military. This raises a question, yet again, about the supposed socialism of the country and indicates that revisionism was becoming even stronger than ever. The below chart shows the distribution in the national legislature of the political parties within this electoral alliance, which shows that the DPRK has a multiparty system once again:

spa-1990

In this ninth session, which started six months earlier than “usual,” 37% of whom were workers of factories and enterprises, 10.4% who were cooperative farmers, and the rest “shared by officials or parties,” there was revision of the DPRK’s constitution, and Kim Jong-il elected as chairman of the National Defense Commission. [60] The DPRK, which then had a population of over 21 million with a Gross National Product of $20 billion, more than half of the population working outside agriculture, and had trading partners such as social-imperialist China, social-imperialist USSR, and capitalist Japan, was going entering into a troubled period. [61] This wasn’t wholly their fault. With the full-throttled embrace of capitalism and fanatical revisionism by the Soviet social-imperialists, they ceased giving aid to the DPRK, leading to a faltering economy, like in many states across the world which benefited from Soviet aid. [62] Even so, the DPRK stuck to their beliefs. The Soviet aid going disappearing hurt the DPRK badly because they were dependent on the Soviets for “the supply of large amounts of crude petroleum and coking coal,” leading to problems in the country. The DPRK dealt with this in later years by “opening a limited area to foreign capital and securing a supply of crude petroleum and coking coal from China” and trying to build nuclear power plants. [63] More capitalist concessions like this one strengthened the bourgeoisie of sorts in the country, along with the bourgeoisie of other countries, and hurt the proletariat.

The following year, in November 1991, Koreans again had a chance to vote for those on the local level. With full participation of the populace, 26,074 people were elected to local and provincial assemblies. [64] With the DPRK’s economy lacking aid from the Soviet social-imperialists, it faltered with the final demise of the Soviet Union on December 26, even as the Chinese social-imperialists took the place of the Soviets as the country’s main trading partner. Soon, the DPRK became a member of the United Nations in September of the same year reluctantly as it argued in previous years that separate membership of the DPRK and ROK “would amount to international ratification of the 46-year partition of the Korean Peninsula.” [65] This action was the action of a desperate government, one which had accepted revisionism and sided with the Soviet social-imperialists, not one that was “isolated” from the world.

The same year, Kim Il Sung, who would die on July 8, 1994 and Kim Jong-Il taking his place after that point, addressed the opening ceremony of the 85th Inter-parliamentary Conference on April 29. He said that

“The national assembly of each country, as its highest legislative body, has a mission and responsibility to realise democratic government. Democracy must be not only the basic ideal of state administration for championing people’s right to independence, but also a common ideal of world politics for ensuring equality and cooperation among countries. the foreign policy of a state is the extension of its domestic policy. Therefore, making individual countries democratic is closely connected with the undertaking to make the international community democratic. The members of national assemblies who are working with devotion for the development of democratic government in their own countries should also contribute actively to making world politics democratic, and thus fulfill their responsibilities and role as statesmen of the present age…Today, humanity finds itself at a turning point in historical progress. The old age of domination and subjugation that lasted for thousands of years has come to an end, and a new age is being ushered in, the new age when all countries and all nations shape their destiny independently. Mankind is now faced with the common task of strengthening the historical current and building a free and peaceful new world. In order to build the new world aspired to by mankind, it is necessary to abolish the unequal old international order in all fields of politics, the economy and culture and establish an equitable new international order…No privilege and no arbitrariness should be tolerated in international relations; friendship and cooperation among countries must be fully developed on the principles of mutual respect, non-interference in the affairs of other countries, equality and mutual benefit…Disarmament and the abolition of nuclear weapons and other types of weapons of mass destruction is the most pressing task in ensuring peace…The Korean people, who are constantly under the threat of nuclear weapons, have proposed the abolition of nuclear weapons as a vital matter relating to the destiny of the nation. We strongly assert that the Korean peninsula should be made a nuclear-free, peace zone. We strongly support the peace movement of the peoples of many countries for disarmament and for the creation of nuclear-free, peace zones…The unity of the people throughout the world and cooperation among them are the guarantee for the victory of their common cause of creating a new world…The political philosophy of our state is the Juche idea which requires that all consideration should be centred on man and that everything should be made to serve him. By fighting in single-hearted unity under the banner of the Juche idea our people have been able to build, even under the most difficult conditions and circumstances, man-centred socialism in which the people are the genuine masters of the society and everything in society serves them…Reunifying Korea is the vital requirement of our nation; it is an important question in international politics. The Korean people are a homogeneous nation that has lived on the same territory generation after generation, a nation celebrated for its long history and fine cultural traditions…The desire of our nation for reunification has already become fused to surmount the barrier of division, and their belief that Korea is one has become unshakable…I hope that your stay in our country will be pleasant and useful and I wish you success in your honourable work.”

Two years later, in November, thousands of Koreans were elected to local government bodies. Specifically, 2,520 Koreans were elected to provincial and local people’s assemblies this year. [66] That year, on page 19 of an October 1997 US Census report, which was strongly anti-DPRK, the information by the DRPK Central Bureau of Statistics, was released for U$ policymakers, not the general populace of the United States of course. This census, regardless of the claims by jingoistic neoconservative economists like Nicholas Eberstadt, showed that 20.5 million people were living the DPRK, with roughly 9.6 million who were male and approximately 10.8 million who were female. Additionally, a broad majority of the population was under age 59, with about 8.4 million under the age of 59. The below map, from page 38 of the US Census report previously cited shows population densities in the DPRK in 1993, proving that the pictures of the Korean Peninsula at night which are used to say that the country is “primitive” and “uncivilized” is clearly imperialist propaganda:

population-in-1993

In July 1998, eight years and 3 months after the 1990 election, Koreans expressed themselves at the ballot box once again. With full participation in the elections for the 10th SPA, General Secretary Kim Jong Il elected as a deputy, even as the country was not as “socialist” as it portrayed itself in signs and propaganda. [67] Koreans voted for “…officials, servicemen, workers, farmers and working intellectuals,” with there also being “mobile ballot boxes available to those electors who were not able to go to the polls due to old ages and diseases,” with celebrations of the day of voting. [68] Even the hard-nosed bourgeois scholars in the West had to admit that in this election, Koreans elected “443 new members, including 107 active duty military members.” [69] In the election, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland had a wonderful and sweeping victory once again, showing that they have support of the masses. [70] The below chart shows how this victory played out in the distribution of the 687 deputies, 138 of whom are women, 215 who are manual workers, and 64 who were farmers, not to mention those of other professions, raising question of how representative of the populace the SPA was:

spa-1998

During session, Kim Jong-il was re-elected as chairman of National Defense Commission and DPRK’s constitution, which became the Kim Il-Sung Constitution, was revised. [71] The new constitution gave more authority to the National Defense Commission, abolished the post of President, and asserted a continuing strong direction of the state. After this, Kim Jong-il removed 16 of the country’s “23 main economic bureaucrats,” approved plans for “economic reforms that were finally implemented in July 2002” and the SPA passed legislation on “special economic zones, copyrights, arbitration, foreign direct investment, and foreign trade.” Still, even with such further capitalist concessions to the foreign and domestic bourgeoisie while hurting th proleetariat, Freedom House scowled about the change in the constitution, renamed the “Kim Il-sung Constitution,” declaring with anger that “private property ownership is banned.” [73]

In March of the following year, there were elections on the local government level. The result of them was that the Korean people chosen, with their ballots, 29,442 workers, farmers, intellectuals, and military staff, who became deputies of local people’s assemblies, all of whom had four year terms. [74] The same year, not only did ROK ships sink a KPA (Korean People’s Army) torpedo beat, but the DPRK declared a new demilitarized zone and thousands of workers in Seoul protested “government plans to privatize state-run power, gas, financial firms” while the DPRK seemed to “open” its economy to foreign investment, a further capitalist concession, strengthening the domestic and foreign bourgeoisie. [75] In more positive news, records showed that about 765,000 Koreans were attending kindergarten, over 1.5 million were in primary school, and over 2.1 million in secondary school, along with 37,000 kindergarten teachers, 69,000 primary school teachers, and 113,000 secondary school teachers. [76] College is also open to all, but they are still fighting for increased gender equity in their high education system, which still had too many male professors.

Also, apart from the uptick in its economy, even acknowledged by the CIA, the DPRK was accused of sending Iran missile parts that year. The actual record, charted below, shows the following arms sent by the DPRK over the years [77], showing some level of solidarity but also at times also raises questions about their foreign policy:

countries-dprk-has-given-arms
Countries that the DPRK has given arms over the years. Also, they have given arms to Hamas and Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza as an act of solidarity with Palestinian armed struggle.
dprkarms1
The 4000 9M14 Malyutka anti-tank missiles given to Iran during the Iran-Iraq War are not included on the chart, as it would unbalance it and make it harder to read.

dprkarms2

Fast forward to 2003. In the elections that year, in August, there was full participation by the Korean populace in electing the 11th SPA, with 687 deputies elected, with the government seeing this as an expression of trust and support in them (it was that exactly) and “a manifestation of our army and people’s steadfast will to consolidate the people’s power as firm as a rock and accomplish the revolutionary cause of Juche under the guidance of the Workers’ Party of Korea.” [78] During the voting, not only where mobile ballot boxes again provided for “those who were not able to go to the polls due to illness or old age” but most polling booths had posters and national flags, the former saying, for example “Let’s participate in the voting for deputies to the People’s Assembly and give our support to them!” While Westerners still said the elections weren’t fair, there is no doubt that women made up 20% of the membership of the SPA, and laws were passed to protect people with disabilities, “ensuring equal access for persons with disabilities to public services” as the U$ State Department even had to admit. Later on in the 11th SPA, Kim Jong Il was re-elected as Chairman of the DPRK’s National Defense Commission. The same year, there were local elections with 26,650 “officials, workers, peasants and intellectuals” elected to municipal, city, and county people’s assemblies. Apart from the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, nearly half of the legislature’s members were replaced! [79] The following chart shows this to be the case:

spa2003

Even with this reality in the SPA, one can say with confidence that revisionism was stronger than ever in the DPRK.

Apart from a predictable Pew Poll that year which said that “more than three-in-four (77%) Americans see the current government in North Korea as a great or moderate danger to Asia,” showing that Orientalist views are strong inside the murderous empire, the DPRK made a bold move. They withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, and later calls for denuclearization of Korean peninsula. [80] On January 10, the government of the DPRK released a statement explaining their withdrawal:

“A dangerous situation where our national sovereignty and our State’s security are being seriously violated is prevailing on the Korean peninsula due to the U.S. vicious hostile policy towards the DPRK. The United States instigated the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to adopt another resolution against the DPRK…Under its manipulation, the IAEA in those resolutions termed the DPRK ‘criminal’ and demanded it scrap what the U.S. called a ‘nuclear program’…the IAEA still remains a servant and a spokesman for the U.S. and the NPT is being used as a tool for implementing the U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK aimed to disarm it and destroy its system by force…It is none other than the U.S. which wrecks peace and security on the Korean peninsula and drives the situation there to an extremely dangerous phase. After the appearance of the Bush administration, the United States listed the DPRK as part of an ‘axis of evil’, adopting it as a national policy to oppose its system, and singled out it as a target of pre-emptive nuclear attack, openly declaring a nuclear war…it [the US] also answered the DPRK’s sincere proposal for the conclusion of the DPRK-U.S. non-aggression treaty and its patient efforts for negotiation with such threats as ‘blockade’ and ‘military punishment…It was due to such nuclear war moves of the U.S. against the DPRK and the partiality of the IAEA that the DPRK was compelled to declare its withdrawal from the NPT in March 1993…[as of now] the DPRK government declares an automatic and immediate effectuation of its withdrawal from the NPT…it declares that the DPRK withdrawing from the NPT is totally free from the binding force of the Safeguards Accord with the IAEA….The withdrawal from the NPT is a legitimate self-defensive measure taken against the U.S. moves to stifle the DPRK…Though we pull out of the NPT, we have no intention to produce nuclear weapons and our nuclear activities at this stage will be confined only to peaceful purposes such as the production of electricity.”

Jump ahead to 2006. That year, the elite Council of Foreign Relations claimed that the DPRK’s government had begun to “introduce aspects of capitalism into the economy.” While they made this conclusion, they also admitted that these reforms were barely anything. Even so, they were another capitalist concession, which benefited the domestic bourgeoisie, the foreign bourgeoisie (mostly from China), and hurt the proletariat.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH
A picture of the ballot box in the DPRK in August 2007.

The following year, the Korean people again expressed their democratic desires at the ballot box. Specifically, 27,390 “officials, workers, farmers and intellectuals” were elected to provincial, city, and county people’s assemblies. [81]

Two years later, in March 2009, Koreans voted for candidates for the 12th SPA, with posters reminding the populace of the importance of voting, how it is a civic duty. While some in the bourgeois Western media, apart from mocking the election as “anti-democratic,” predicted it would be part of a “wider shake-up of the country’s leadership” and speculated why the election had been delayed from 2008 to this year, saying it could have been because of the ill-health of Kim Jong-il, few of them recognized that 324, of the 687 deputies in the legislature, were replaced. [82] In the election, which had, basically, full participation of the populace, deputies were elected for five-year terms, including Kim Jong-Il, but not his son Kim Jong-Un,  and the country rightly rejecting any push for “economic liberalisation” in the country, rolling back “moderate economic reforms instituted in 2002.” [83] This was a positive action, but the existing revisionism was still left in place, benefiting the existing bourgeoisie in the country.

Apart from this, and claims of disruptions in the elections, by anti-DPRK media, possibly indicating machinations of Western imperialists, numerous “technocrats and financial experts” were elected, 107 women were elected, Mr. Choe Thae Bok was elected as a speaker of the assembly, and Kim Jong-il as the Chairman of the National Defense Commission. [84] Again, this raised the question about socioeconomic classes within the country itself, with the possibility of a growing middle class at this point.

The distribution of the 12th SPA, of which 107 deputies were women, 116 deputies were soldiers, 75 deputies were workers, and 69 deputies were farmers, showing that the military was gaining even more strength in the country than before:

spa2009

In the foregoing session of the SPA, apart from Kim Jong-Un given high state-level positions, even referred to within the country by mid-2009 as “Brilliant Comrade” reportedly, there were further revisions to the DPRK’s constitution. The word “communism” was removed from the constitution, replaced with “Songun” or “socialism,” while giving National Defense Commission (NDC) more power. [85] This was yet another capitalist concession and manifestation of revisionism itself in the DPRK! The new constitution, the Shogun Constitution, also asserts protections of human rights, says that the DPRK will wage “three revolutions — ideological, technological, and cultural — to achieve the fatherland’s reunification,” protect the “democratic national rights of Korean compatriots overseas,” enhance the “ideological consciousness and the technological and cultural standards of farmers, manage the economy “scientifically and rationally on the basis of the collective strength,” encourage “joint ventures and business collaboration between the organs, enterprises, and organizations…[and] the establishment and operation of various forms of enterprises in special economic zones,” among many other aspects. Again, such capitalist concessions are worrisome, showing the fact the country was beginning to manifest revisionism like never seen before! There was also a revision of the DPRK’s criminal law, that year, which establishes the necessary rules for maintaining the “state and the [so-called] socialist system” of the country with a stress on “social education” (Article 2), forgiving past criminal history if someone works to re-unify the Korean Peninsula (Article 4), medical help for those who commit offenses and are “mentally unbalanced” before they are charged (Article 13), offenses committed in self-defense to protect the DPRK and its “socialist” system will not be punished (Article 15), death penalty cannot be imposed on those under age 18 or on pregnant women” (Article 29), convicted criminals may have their “penalty cancelled under a special or general pardon” (Article 53), and much more.

The same year, it was evident that “export-oriented subsectors such as mining and metals” showed the greatest economic activity, as noted by a research institute which made bourgeois conclusions. There was also a meeting between DPRK and Chinese delegations later in 2009 to continue their strong bilateral relations, and more stable food prices as even bourgeois sources had to admit. The warm relations between the DPRK and Chinese social-imperialists was understandable but also led to further revisionist distortion in the country itself.

313485878069d710f30e6a706700e2fe
AP Photo. Original caption from an article in bourgeois media without political determinations: “Voters walk in and out at the entrance of a polling station in Pyongyang during local assembly elections in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sunday, July 24, 2011.”

Two years later, in July 2011, there were local elections with fanfare. Songs reverberated across the country and flags fluttered over polling stations which were crowded with voters. [86] Some candidates, such as an engineer named Jim Song Un, pledged to “live up to the expectations of the people who voted for me and become a true servant of the people,” and said that he would help build “an economically powerful nation.” [87] Additionally, in these elections, Kim Jong Un was elected as one of the 28,116 deputies who took their seats in local assemblies, which meet various times a year to approve budgets, endorse leaders of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and a myriad of other duties. [88] Later that year, Kim Jong-un, was formally named as the supreme commander of DPRK’s military. [89]

The same year, two analyses of the DPRK’s economics were put forward. Once was by investopedia which noted that the country’s economy was hit hard with the demise of the Soviet Union, with a fall in total production, but that thee was a recovery after 1999, continuing to 2005, a downturn in 2006, then positive growth since 2011. [90] Of course, this is by their capitalistic economics, so their measurements could be skewed. Neoconservative, and jingoist, economist Nicholas Eberstadt, of the American Enterprise Institute complained most of all. [91] While agreeing with the “severe economic shock” the country faced after the demise of the Soviet Union, he claimed widely that the country had gone into a “catastrophic decline,” had a “mass famine,” complained that the country is in “principle a planned Soviet-type economy” (although it clearly was not) about the “military burden” put on the economy, the country’s “unrelenting war against its own consumers.” If that wasn’t enough, he claimed that the economy was “dysfunctional,” said that effort of the country to “open” and “Reform” have “ultimately ended in failure” and that the economy of the country will “remain the black hole in the Northeast Asian economy.” Clearly, Eberstadt is just another tool of Western imperialism, bashing those countries who have economic systems different from the West, saying that they are just not right in his eyes. Even so, there is no doubt that that revisionist distortions continued to grow as each year passed.

In 2012, there were a number of other developments. For one, Kim Jong-Il was named as “eternal chairman” of the National Defense Commission, along with being elected as the First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the Central Military Commission, there were a number of “approved amendments to the country’s constitution” as Xinhua noted. When he was elected, at the fourth conference of the party in its history, as First Secretary of the WPK, fellow party members vowed to follow the ideas of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un’s leadership to develop their country, while they demonstrated “the revolutionary will of the people to accomplish the songun (military-first) revolutionary cause under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.” Broadly, “section 2 of Chapter 6 and Articles 91, 95 and 100-105, 107, 109, 116, 147 and 156 of the Constitution in line with the institution of the new post of first chairman of the NDC” (National Defense Commission) were revised. [92] While some speculated on economic reforms, the constitution did not fulfill their wishes. [93] In the most recent iteration of the Constitution (revised again in 2013 and 2016), still called the “Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il Constitution,” it mentions that Kim Il Sung helped make the country a “nuclear state” and “unchallengable military power” in the preamble, with no other mention of it in the rest of the constitution whatsoever.

On April 12, 2012, Kim Jong Un gave a rousing speech in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, which some thought was a call for the beginning of “China-style economic reform” in the DPRK, as part of “decisive transformation” he was calling for. [94] A rough transcription of the speech, noted that part of this was true, but there was also nationalism intertwined into his brand of Korean revisionism:

“…Today, we proceed with a grand military parade to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung…[and] let the whole world know about the splendor of the [so-called] socialist powerful state…I express my respect to the anti-Japanese revolutionary patriotic martyrs and the people’s army patriotic martyrs, who sacrificed their invaluable lives for the fatherland’s independence and the people’s liberation…I express gratitude to foreign friends, who are extending their positive support to the just cause of our people…the very appearance of our nation a century ago was a small and weak, pitiful colonial nation that had to endure flunkeyism and national ruin as its fate…Great Comrade Kim Il Sung early on elucidated the philosophical principle that the gun barrel is the life of the nation and also victory of the revolution, and founded the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army…[our country has] the status of a world-class militarily powerful state through the ever-victorious military-first politics…Military technological supremacy is not a monopoly of imperialists any more…Comrades, today we are standing at the watershed of history, when a new chuch’e century begins….At the historic fourth Party Representatives Conference and the fifth session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly that took place a few days ago, great Comrade Kim Jong Il was held in high esteem…This is an indication of the steadfast will of our party, army, and people to inherit and complete to the end the chuch’e revolutionary cause…The farsighted strategy of our revolution and ultimate victory lie here in directly proceeding along the path of independence, the path of military-first, and the path of socialism unfolded by the great Comrade Kim Il Sung and Comrade Kim Jong Il…It is our party’s resolute determination to let our people who are the best in the world — our people who have overcome all obstacles and ordeals to uphold the party faithfully — not tighten their belts again and enjoy the wealth and prosperity of [so-called] socialism as much as they like…We will have to embark on the comprehensive construction of an economically powerful state by kindling more fiercely, the flames of the industrial revolution of the new century and the flames of South Hamgyong Province…Our cause is just and the might of Korea that is united with truth is infinite…I will be a comrade-in-arms who always shares life and death and destiny with comrades on the road of the sacred military-first revolution and will fulfill my responsibility for the fatherland and revolution by upholding Comrade Kim Jong Il’s behest…Move forward toward the final victory.”

1st-session-of-13th-supreme-peoples-assembly-of-dprk
Members of the 13th SPA assembly at their first session. The YouTube description says that “Deputy Kim Yong Nam made a speech on the election of the first chairman of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK. He courteously proposed to the SPA the proposal of the Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea on electing Kim Jong Un as first chairman of the NDC of the DPRK…The proposal was fully supported and approved by all deputies and participants. The session solemnly declared that Kim Jong Un was elected first chairman of the NDC of the DPRK…The session elected the president of the Presidium of the SPA of the DPRK and its vice-presidents, honorary vice-presidents, secretary general and members.” And that’s even a broad summary.

In March 2014, the Korean people went to the polls, to elect those who were serve in the 13th SPA assembly, with the next elections in 2019. While the elections were declared a  “formality” by the Western media, they again distort the reality. [95] In fact, with full participation of the populace, of the 687 deputies elected, 112 of them were women, about 55 percent of serving parliamentarians “were reportedly renewed,” the ambassador to revisionist China, Ji Jae Ryong, and Kim Jong Un joined the SPA as deputies. [96] The below chart shows the distribution of deputies in the 13th SPA:

spa2014

During the 13th SPA, Mr. Choe Thoe Bak was re-elected as speaker/chairman of the assembly, Mr. Pak Pong Ju was elected as the Premier of the Cabinet and Kim Jong Un was re-confirmed as First Chairman of the National Defence Commission, along with other appointments by Kim Jong Un. [97] In later sessions, there was also, continuing implementation of compulsory education in the DPRK by improving educational conditions in the  state as part of a plan proposed by Kim Jong Un to construct a “world power of [so-called] socialist education in the 21st century,” a report on the previous years budget which pushed forward “the economic construction [of the DPRK] and the building of nuclear force,” and reinforcing the role of the Workers’ Party of Korea. [98] Apart from Kim Jong Un’s speech before the SPA, he was absent because of ill health even as he continued to push forward what he believed was “socialism” but was actually concentrated revisionism. [99]

Voters dance near the voting station in Tonghungsan district, Hamhung, South Hamgyong province, on July 19, 2015.
Voters dance near the voting station in Tonghungsan district, Hamhung, South Hamgyong province, on July 19, 2015.

The following year, local elections in July, had almost full participation, as everyone over age 17 is allowed to vote, with 28,452 deputies elected. [100] Most interesting is one video interviewing two female voters and one male voter, while showing the voting in action, something that is often not seen. Hilariously that year was not the trip of a parliamentarian to Russia, but the reaction to a map by the Washington Post. The map, by the Electoral Integrity Project described the DPRK and Cuba “as having moderate quality elections,” the same category that the U$ was in! In a moment of cognitive dissidence, the Post noted in an edit at the bottom of the article this needs to be “interpreted” and that it “does not mean that these countries are electoral or liberal democracies. The indicators measure expert perceptions of the quality of an election based on multiple criteria derived from international standards.” [101]

The next year, 2016, there are a number of developments worth noting. In the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim Jong Un made a speech, apart from the formalities, said that the DPRK will continue down the line of “Byungjin,” the parallel  “development of nuclear weapons and national economy as long as the nuclear threat posed by imperialists continues,” and declared that the county is a nuclear weapons state, but will still “strive for world denuclearization and faithfully fulfill obligations of nuclear non-proliferation” as much as humanely possible. Later that year, apart from the appearance of Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yon Yong at a session of the 13th SPA, dressed “in a black suit, while holding up her ballot,” he gave a New Years Address. [102] The address in the nation was accompanied by a mass rally. As I noted in my post two months ago, in which I noted the orange menace’s administration’s offensive posture toward the county, I said that Kim Jong Un

“offered warm greetings to the Korean people and “progressive peoples across the world,” saying that in 2016 the DPRK consolidated its self-defense by achieving the status “of a nuclear power, a military giant, in the East which no enemy, however formidable, would dare to provoke…after reviewing the accomplishments of the previous year and challenging the country to more, [he] then said, referring to the DPRK and the Korean people, “we should turn out again in the new year’s march towards a greater victory…we should concentrate our efforts on implementing the five-year strategy for national economic development.” He later declared…that the country’s defense forces should “politically and militarily and maintain full combat readiness to firmly defend the [so-called] socialist system and the people’s lives and property” and said that the DPRK will “continue to build up our self-defence capability…and the capability for preemptive strike as long as the United States and its vassal forces [the South Koreans and Japanese] keep on nuclear threat and blackmail.” In sum, whatever the orange menace does to attack them, the DPRK will be ready in force”

And that’s where we stand now. I could go into more detail on the DPRK’s accurate depiction of racial terror in the United States, the many articles that look at the legal system of the nation, the specifics of the country’s first “five year plan” from 1957-1961, and a page on elections in the country. I could even look into if Bruce Cummings is really the “leftist” who defends the DPRK that right-wingers say he is. But, I really do think I have done enough. Some may complain that I’m using bourgeois sources or that I wasn’t “radical enough” in my analysis. That is utter hogwash and is sectarianism. I am aware that this article is thin in some areas but that is because I only beginning my understanding of the DRPK. I’m actually surprised by the amount of information out there, but someone needed to bring it all together and display it in a user-friendly manner.

I hope that I can make these types of articles on elections the beginning of a series. But considering the length and time it took me to write this article, I’m not sure if that will happen again. We’ll see. Regardless, it is my hope that everyone who read this learned something about the DPRK which counters the relentless propaganda about the country which makes it near impossible to know what is happening in the country other than what they claim is “terror” (which is often just made up) and makes turning to outlets like the Pyongyang Times, KCNA, Rodong Sinmun, and other official government sources essential to recognize the reality of a country which has accepted, I would argue, too much revisionism for my taste.


Notes

[1] Ting Shi, “China’s Spat With Kim Jong Un Shows Difficulties in Stopping Him,” Bloomberg Politics, Feb. 26, 2017; “Kim Jong Nam killing: DPRK blames S. Korea,” The Herald, Feb. 24, 2017; ‘North Korea harshly criticizes main ally China,’ PressTV, Feb. 24, 2017; Deirdre Griswold, “Behind the new lies about Korea,” Worker’s World, March 8, 2017; KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Labels Malaysian Ambassador as Persona Non Grata,” March 6, 2017. The latter article says the following: “The Foreign Ministry of the DPRK notifies that the Malaysian ambassador to the DPRK is labeled as a persona non grata under a relevant article [article 9] of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and demanded that the ambassador leave the DPRK within 48 hours from 10:00 on March 5 (Sunday), 2017.”

[2]”North Korea Overview,” page on Amnesty International site archived on Feb. 26, 2017; “North Korea,” page on Human Rights Watch site archived on Feb. 26, 2017.

[3] Report on “Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of” by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, archived on Feb. 26, 2017; Page on “Korea, North” on the CIA World Factbook, some time in 2016, has not changed from the current page.

[4] South Korean Revolutionary Party for Re-Unification, “On the Re-Unification of the Korean Fatherland,” The Black Panther, May 1, 1971, p. 14.

[5] p. 3 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Extract from the Minutes of the Pyongyang session in April-May 1991, Inter-Parliamentary Union.

[6] p. 3-4 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” By 1991, the DPRK’s representative said “since liberation up to now the election of deputies of the SPA has been held 9 times.” There are claims Stalin edited the first constitution of the DPRK but this cannot be independently confirmed.

[7] Elections in Asia and the Pacific: A Data Handbook: Vol. II: South East Asia, East Asia, and South Pacific, ed. Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz, and Christof Hartmann (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, first publishing), 395-396, 398, 403, 405, 407; Remembering and Forgetting: The Legacy of War and Peace in East Asia, ed. Gerrit W. Gong (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic & International Studies, 1996), 68, 77; Daniel Tudor, Korea: The Impossible Country Tuttle Publishing:2012), 70. Wikipedia lists the following other sources: Par Carter Malkasian (2001) The Korean War, 1950-1953 Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, p13 ISBN 1-57958-364-4; East Gate Book (2003) North Korea Handbook: Yonhap News Agency Seoul, p124 ISBN 0765610043. 1.51% of people voted against this coalition but this was not enough of a percentage to gain any seats in the SPA.

[8] Ibid. Elsewhere the document describes the SPA as “the highest national representative organ of the entire people that is composed of the representatives of workers, farmers, soldiers and intellectuals from all the political parties, social organizations and other sectors of society.”

[9] Ibid, 4-5.

[10] Ibid, 6. The DPRK representative also says that “an election of a new SPA is held by a decision of the Standing Committee of the SPA prior to expiry of the term of office of the current SPA.” While some may cry autocracy, I think what he is saying here is that the Standing Committee helps organize the next (or current) election of the SPA.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid, 8. It also says “thus in the DPRK all children of pre-school age are brought up at the expense of the State and the society and free compulsory education is in enforcement for rising generation until their working ages. University and college students receive scholarship from the State.”

[13] Ibid. It also says “a constitution should be approved by more than two thirds of all deputies, whereas other ordinances and decisions of the SPA should be approved by more than a half of all deputies present at the meeting.”

[14] Ibid, 9. These individuals are chosen on his recommendation: “Vice-Presidents and the First Vice-Chairman, the Vice-Chairmen and Members of the National Defence Commission are elected, the Secretary General and members of the Central People’s Committee, the Secretary General and members of the Standing Committee of the SPA and the President of the Central Court are elected or transferred, and the Public Prosecutor General is appointed or removed.”

[15] Ibid. They also elects its Chairman and Vice-Chairmen who preside over the sessions, and have the power to “appoint committees as its assistant bodies when it decide that they are necessary for the success of its activities.”

[16] Ibid, 9-12.

[17] Ibid, 13. This document also says that the “system of the State organs consists of power organs, administrative organs, and judiciary and procuratorial organs” which includes “central power organs such as the above-mentioned Supreme People’s Assembly, the President of the DPRK and the Central People’s Committee, and local power organs like the People’s Assemblies and People’s Committees of province, city and county. The administrative organs are composed of the Administration Council in the centre and Administration Committees or province, city and county. Judiciary and procuratorial organs are made up of the Central Court and the Central Public Prosecutors Office of the centre and the provincial courts and people’s courts, and public prosecutors offices of province, city and county…The President is the Head of State and represents the State power of the DPRK.The President is elected by and accountable for his work to the Supreme People’s Assembly…The President is accountable for his work to the SPA…The term of office of the President is four years, because he is elected in the SPA, which, in its turn, is elected anew in every four years. The President, as the head of the Central People’s Committee, which is the highest leadership organ of the State power.”

[18] David Halberstam, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korea War (New York: Hyperion, 2007) 54, 63, 67, 138, 144.

[19] North Korea Handbook, ed. Yonhap News Agency Seoul (London: M.E. Sharpe, 2003), 820, 941. The KFA site goes on to say that “the working class of Kangson and all other working people across the country responded to the leader’s call and bravely overcame trials and difficulties which stood in the way of their advance…Industrial production [by 1958] grew at the annual average rate of 36.6 per cent. All this fully showed the heroic stamina and creative talents of the Korean people galloping forward in the speed of Chollima.” I could get into more about the socialist economy of the DPRK (at the time) and how some weirdly see it as a model for democratic and participatory economic planning, but that’s for another day.

[20] North Korea Handbook, 124-126, 820, 941; (bourgeois academic) Andrei Lankov, Crisis in North Korea: The Failure of De-Stalinization, 1956 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 83-184, 240; Elections in Asia and the Pacific: A Data Handbook, 396, 398-399, 404. In previous elections in 1948, 1 delegate was elected per every 50,000 people, whereas in this session the Five-Year Plan was implemented.

[21] Elections in Asia and the Pacific, p. 157, 404.

[22] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Han Young Jing, “What are Local Elections Like in North Korea?,” Daily NK (anti-DPRK publication), May 31, 2006; Andrei Lankov (hates the DPRK), “N Korea elections: An empty show?,” Al Jazeera, March 7, 2014.

[23] American University, Area handbook for Korea, Page 278; Robert A. Scalapino and Chong-Sik Lee, Communism in Korea: The movement (Ilchokak, Jan 1, 1972), 572;   North Korea Handbook, p. 126, 185, 949; Barry Gills (bourgeois academic), Korea versus Korea: A Case of Contested Legitimacy (New York: Routledge, 2005), 214; The Statesman’s Year-Book 1987-88, ed. J. Paxton, xxxviii. Very few of the local elections have good data on Wikipedia.

[24] Compare this with the 1949 elections when 689 provincial people’s assembly deputies, 5,164 city and county people’s assembly deputies elected, 13,354 deputies for township people’s assemblies were elected, and 56,112 deputies for town, neighborhood, village and workers’ district people’s assembly, were elected (North Korea Handbook, p. 126). A few years later in Nov. 1956, 54,279 deputies for town, neighborhood, villages and workers’ district people’s assemblies were elected, along with 1,009 provincial people’s assembly deputies and 9,364 city and county people’s assembly deputies also elected later in the month (North Korea Handbook, p. 126). Then three years later, in 1959, 9,759 city, county and district people’s assembly deputies and 53,882 town, neighborhood, village and workers’ district people’s assembly deputies were elected (North Korea Handbook, p. 126).

[25] Area Handbook for North Korea, 1969, p. 232; North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[26] Robert A. Scalapino and Chong-Sik Lee (bourgeois academics), Communism in Korea: The society, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972, 726, 793-795.

[27] North Korea Handbook, p. 124.

[28] Pak Ung Gil, “We Scathingly Condemn U.S. Imperialism for Brutal Suppression of the U.S. Black Panther Party,” The Black Panther, Jan. 30, 1971, p. 13. Reprinted from The Pyongyang Times.

[29] Ibid, 12.

[30] “Declaration of the Executive Secretariat of OSPAAL (Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America) on the Occasion of the Detention of a Pilot of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the South Korean Puppet Clique,” The Black Panther, Mar. 20, 1971, p. 14; On the same page is a Kim Il Sung poster declaring “If the U.S. imperialists provoke another aggressive war they will get nothing but corpses and death!”

[31] South Korean Revolutionary Party for Re-Unification, “On the Re-Unification of the Korean Fatherland,” The Black Panther, May 1, 1971, p. 15.

[32] Central Committee of the Black Panther Party, “April 15, Birthday Greetings to Comrade Kim Il Sung, Courageous and Beloved Leader of 40 Million Korean People,” The Black Panther, Apr. 17, 1971, p. 11.

[33] The Statesman’s Year-Book 1972-73, ed. J. Paxton, p. 1123; IBP, Inc., Korea North Country Study Guide Vol. 1, p. 47-48; “Polity IV Country Report 2010: North Korea,” Center for Systematic Peace, 2011; CountryWatch Elections: North Korea; North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[34] North Korea Handbook, p. 124.

[35] p. 6 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

[36] p. 7 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

[37] Mitchell Lerner, “Making Sense of the ‘Hermit Kingdom’: North Korea in the Nuclear Age,” vol. 2, issue 3, Dec. 2008, Origins magazine, accessed Feb. 27, 2017.

[38] North Korea Handbook, p. 126; The Statesman’s Year-Book 1976-77, ed. J. Paxton, p. 1109.

[39] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[40] There is a delineation of parties shown on page 405 of Elections in Asia and the Pacific, but 401 deputies could not be identified by party affiliation, so it cannot be used. Still, of the data they have, it shows that the Workers’ Party of Korea with the most seats.

[41] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chapter 1: “Major International Developments in 1977,” Diplomatic Bluebook, 1977.

[42] This was also apparently the year that Marxism-Leninism was replaced in the Constitution by Juche, but this cannot be independently confirmed. If that is correct, it is yet another capitalist concession to the growing bourgeoisie in the country.

[43] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[44] Eric Talmadge, “Senior North Korean leader to attend Nicaragua inauguration,” Associated Press, January 6, 2017; BBC News, “South Korea – Timeline,” February 3, 2017; Junheng Li, “North Korea Offers an Opportunity for China and the U.S.,” Bloomberg View, February 21, 2017.

[45] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[46] The Statesman’s Year-Book 1986-87, ed. J. Paxton (New York: MacMillian Ltd, 1986), p. 770-771; Yves Beigbeder, International Monitoring of Plebiscites, Referenda and National Elections: Self-determination and Transition to Democracy (London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1994), 49.

[47] North Korea Handbook, p. 124.

[48] All of these sources are bourgeois, but used anyhow. Kathryn Benken, Korea Lesson Plan “North Korea: The Dynasty of Communism,” NCTA Oxford 2009, Life Skills Centers of Hamilton County; Nicholas Eberstadt, Chapter 1: “North Korea’s Unification Policy-A Long, Failed Gamble,” The End of North Korea (American Enterprise Press, 1999), reprinted in the New York Times books section; Andrew C. Nahm, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” The Far East and Australasia, 34th Edition (London: Europa Publications, 2002), p.654.

[49] “News Summary; MONDAY, MARCH 8, 1982,” New York Times, accessed March 2, 2017. This summary says that “Iran is receiving military equipment and arms worth millions of dollars from Israel, North Korea, Syria, Libya, the Soviet Union and Western Europe to wage war against Iraq, Western intelligence sources said…Syria accused the United States and Iraq of supplying Moslem fundamentalists with weapons with which to fight the Syrian Government. The Syrian President, Hafez al-Assad…said that Washington supported the Moslem Brotherhood organization in its ”subversive activity” in Syria.”

[50] North Korea Handbook, p. 126; Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Report Submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Volume 1985 (Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office, 1986), 791, 796.

[51] The Far East and Australasia, p. 654.

[52] Ibid.

[53] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[54] Sergey Radchenko, “Sport and Politics on the Korean Peninsula – North Korea and the 1988 Seoul Olympics,” Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, December 12, 2011.

[55] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Elections in Asia and the Pacific, p. 398.

[56] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Cath Senker, North Korea and South Korea (New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2013), 44.

[57] North Korea Handbook, p. 126. The DPRK was accused yet again of terrorism, this time on a Korean Air Lines plane, which is passed around in the Western media, but this cannot, again, be independently confirmed.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Elections in Asia and the Pacific, p. 406.

[60] P. 5 of “The Parliamentary System of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea“; North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Associated Press, “N. Korea Assembly Election Set for April,” February 24, 1990.

[61] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; “Nationalism and Communism in Korea.”

[62] “Nationalism and Communism in Korea“; Victor Cha and Ji-Young Lee, “Politics of North Korea,” Oxford Biographies, August 26, 2013.

[63] “Kim Jong Il’s North Korea -An Arduous March,” Spot Survey, ed. Kazunobu Hayashi and Teruo Komaki, March 1997.

[64] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[65] Nick Knight and Michael Heazle, Understanding Australia’s Neighbours: An Introduction to East and Southeast Asia, Second Edition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 126; Gordon L. Rottman, Korean War Order of Battle: United States, United Nations, and Communist Group, Naval, and Air Forces, 1950-1953 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002), 149; David E. Sanger, “North Korea Reluctantly Seeks U.N. Seat,” New York Times, May 29, 1991; BBC News, “North Korea profile – Timeline,” February 24, 2017; North Korea Handbook, p. 321; PBS, “End of a Superpower,” North Korea- Suspicious Minds, Januarry 2003; Jae-Cheon Lim, Kim Jong-il’s Leadership of North Korea (New York: Routledge, 2009), 17-18, 24, 58, 94-96, 98-99. ROK was admitted as a UN member the same year as the DPRK. Chuch’e idea mentioned in some areas.

[66] North Korea Handbook, p. 126.

[67] KCNA, “Rodong Sinmun on successful election of deputies to SPA,” July 1998; CNN, “North Korean parliament seen set to name Kim president,” August 20, 1998; Times Wire Reports, “Kim Jong Il Election Likely Steppingstone,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1998.

[68] KCNA, “Korean voters participate in SPA election,” July 27, 1998; KCNA, “Kim Jong Il elected to SPA,” July 27, 1998; KCNA, “100 percent vote for candidates,” July 27, 1998.

[69] Bourgeois propaganda sources: Daniel Pinkston, “North Korea’s 11th Supreme People’s Assembly Elections,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, July 1, 2003; Freedom House, “Freedom in the World Report: North Korea,” 1998.

[70] Elections in Asia and the Pacific, p. 406.

[71] North Korea Handbook, p. 124; Times Wire Reports, “Kim Jong Il Election Likely Steppingstone,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1998.

[72] Daniel Pinkston, “North Korea’s 11th Supreme People’s Assembly Elections,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, July 1, 2003.

[73] Bourgeois propaganda source: Freedom House, “Freedom in the World Report: North Korea,” 1998.

[74] Graham Hassall, Cheryl Saunders, Asia-Pacific Constitutional Systems (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 117; North Korea Handbook, p. 126. It was NOT the first year local elections were held in the country as deluded Western media claim, but rather that the timeline between local elections changed from every 2 years to an interval of every 4 years. Some sources noted that the SPA Presidum let citizens know about elections on January 26 and they voted by March 5-6, a pretty quick turnaround (Alexandre Mansourov, “North Korea’s July 19 Local Elections Dispel ROK Allegations of Public Unrest,” 38 North, August 6, 2015).

[75] World Atlas, “South Korea History Timeline,” 2016; accessed March 2, 2017; Sheryl Wudunn, “South Korea Sinks Vessel From North In Disputed Waters,” New York Times, June 15, 1999; Associated Press, “North Korea Opening (Gasp!) a Casino, July 31, 1999; Autoweek, “Yes, even North Korea has its own luxury car brand,” July 13, 2015; Nicholas D. Kristof, “South Korean Vessel Hits Boat From North During Standoff,” New York Times, June 10, 1999; Andrei Lankov, “N Korea: Not so ‘Stalinist’ after all,” Al Jazeera, April 2014.

[76] Daniel Schwekendiek, A Socioeconomic History of North Korea (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2011), 70-74, 81, 83. By 2002, the DPRK would start mobile phone services in the country. I think this book may be slightly anti-DPRK but not as hardline as elsewhere.

[77] Specifically, the DRPK had given the following countries arms: the Democratic Republic of Congo (3 P-4-class torpedo boats/Project 123 (1974) and 10 M-46 towed guns (1975)), Madagascar (4 MiG-17 fight aircraft (flown by DPRK pilots) (1975) and 4 Nampo landing craft (1979)), Libya (10 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1980) and 5 Hwasong-6  tactical ballistic missiles (1999)), Guyana (12 D-30 howitzers (1980) and 6 Type 63 armored personnel carriers (1983), Tanzania (4 Nampo landing craft (1980)), Syria (50 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1981-1984), 10 Type 63 multiple rocket launchers (1982), 12 MAZ-543 artillery trucks (1991-1993), 170 Hwasong-6 tactical ballistic missiles (1991-2000), and 100 Rodong-1 (“Scud Mod-D” as called by NATO) medium-range ballistic missiles (2000-2009), Egypt (145 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1984-1987), Uganda (10 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1987), 14 BTR-152 armored personnel carriers (1987), and 100 Strela-2 surface-to-air missile systems (1987)), UAE (6 MAZ-543 artillery trucks (1989) and 25 R-17 Elbrus missiles (1989), Iran (100 BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers (1982-1987), 150 T-62 medium tanks (1982-1983), 200 Type 63 multiple rocket launchers (1982-1986), 6 MiG-19 jet fighter aircraft (1983), 480 Type 59-1 field guns (1983-1988), 4000 9M14 Malyutka anti-tank missiles (1986-1989), 3 Chaho patrol craft (1987), 20 HY-2 anti-ship missiles (1987-1988), 20 M-1978 artillery pieces (1987-1988), 100 R-17 Elbrus missiles (1987-1988), 100 M-1985 multiple rocket launchers (1988-1998), 170 Hwasong-6 (called by NATO with the name “Scud”) tactical ballistic missiles  (1991-1993), 10 MAZ-543 artillery trucks (1993-1995), 15 Peykaap-Class torpedo boats (2002-2003), 3 Gahjae Class Submersible Attack Craft (2002), 3 Kajami-class Submersible Attack Craft (2002-2003), and 10 Tir-Class Patrol Craft (2002-2004)), Pakistan (2 Rodong surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) (1996-1997)), Viet Nam (100 Igla-1 Portable SAMs (1996-1997) and 25 Hwasong-6 tactical ballistic missiles (1998)), Myanmar (16 Type 59-1 field guns (1999)), Ethiopia (10 Type 63 armoured personnel carriers (2000)), Yemen (100 Hwasong-6 tactical ballistic missiles  (2001-2002)). Also, the DPRK gave Hamas 25 9M111 Fagot missiles (2014) and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza: 25 9M111 Fagot missiles (2014).

[78] KCNA, “Kim Jong II Elected to SPA,” August 4, 2003; KCNA, “Foreigners Visit Polling Stations,” August 4, 2003; KCNA, “Results of SPA election Announced,” August 2003; Ian Jeffries, North Korea: A Guide to Economic and Political Developments, p. 392, 452; Daniel Pinkston, “North Korea’s 11th Supreme People’s Assembly Elections,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, July 1, 2003; Reuters, “North Korea Hails 100 Percent Poll Support for Leader Kim Jong Il,” July 4, 2003.

[79] KCNA, “Election Returns Announced,” August 2003; The People’s Korea, “DPRK Holds Election of Local and National Assemblies,” August 2003.

[80] Korea North Mining Laws and Regulations Handbook, Vol. 1 (USA: International Business Publications, 2011), 40; Double Trouble: Iran and North Korea as Challenges to International Security, ed. Patrick M. Cronin (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008), p. 166.

[81] KCNA, “Results of Election of Deputies to Local Power Bodies Released,” July 2007.

[82] BBC News, “N Korea announces March election,” January 7, 2009; Kev Cho, Heejin Koo, “North Korea Holds Parliamentary Elections Amid Rising Tensions,” Bloomberg, March 7, 2009; Choe Sang-Hun, “Amid a Vote, North Korea Awaits Clues to Its Future,” New York Times, March 8, 2009; AFP, “N Korea’s Kim wins parliamentary seat: official media,” March 9, 2009.

[83] Reuters, “N.Korea vote may point to Kim successor,” March 8, 2009; Sohn Jie-Ae, “Kim secures seat after winning all the votes,” CNN, March 9, 2009; AFP, “North Korea ends registration for upcoming election,” March 5, 2009; ABC News (Australia), “Kim Jong-il’s son not among N Korea election winners,” March 10, 2009; BBC News, “N Korea announces March election,” January 7, 2009.

[84] Lee Sung Jin, “Increasing “Deaths” ahead of SPA Election,” Daily NK, March 9, 2009; Lee Sung Jin, “Defectors Detained in Chinese Prison Cast Proxy Votes,” Daily NK, March 16, 2009; Bona Kim, “Anti-election Graffiti around Pyongang Province,” Daily NK, April 14, 2009.

[85] Chosun Media, “N.Korean Parliament Boosts Kim Jong-il’s Powers,” September 25, 2009; B.R. Meyers, “The Constitution of Kim Jong Il,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2009; Na Jeong-ju, “NK Constitution States Kim Jong-il as Leader,” Korea Times, September 2009.

[86] BBC News, “North Korea elections: What is decided and how?,” July 19, 2015; AP, “North Korea begins local elections amid succession,” July 14, 2011 (early version of article on Asia Correspondent site); “DPRK unveils 2011-7-24 election posters,” North Korean Economic Watch (anti-DPRK site).

[87] Sam Kim, “North Korea holds local elections amid succession,” Associated Press, July 24, 2011.

[88] Agence France-Presse, “North Korean elections draw 99.97% turnout, says state media,” July 19, 2015. Reprinted in The Guardian.

[89] BBC News, “North Korea names Kim Jong-un army commander,” Dec. 31, 2011.

[90] Prableen Bajpai, “How the North Korea Economy Works,” Investopedia, January 30, 2015.

[91] Nicholas Eberstadt, “What is wrong with the North Korean economy,” American Enterprise Institute, July 1, 2011.

[92] Bourgeois source: Stephan Haggard, Luke Herman,  and Jaesung Ryu, “The Supreme People’s Assembly and “Cabinet Responsibility”: An Economic Reform Debate?,” Peterson Institute for International Economics, April 21, 2012; Yonhap News Agency, “(LEAD) N. Korea to convene unusual assembly session Sept. 25,” September 5, 2012.

[93] K.J. Kwon, “North Korea proclaims itself a nuclear state in new constitution,” CNN, May 31, 2012; NTI, “North Korea Updates Nuclear Status in Constitution,” May 30, 2012; Staff Reporter, “North Korea’s New Constitution Proclaims Itself a Nuclear Nation,” International Business Times, May 31, 2012; AFP, “New North Korea constitution proclaims nuclear status,” May 31, 2012.

[94] : Stephan Haggard, Luke Herman,  and Jaesung Ryu, “The Supreme People’s Assembly and “Cabinet Responsibility”: An Economic Reform Debate?,” Peterson Institute for International Economics, April 21, 2012; Bill Powell, “Is Kim Jong Un Preparing to Become North Korea’s Economic Reformer?,” Time, April 19, 2012; Yonhap News, “North Korea, Kim Jong Eun First Discourse ‘No Work’ Regulation,” April 20, 2012.

[95] Al Jazeera, “North Korea to hold parliamentary elections,” January 8, 2014; Alstair Gale, “North Korea’s Fake Election,” Wall Street Journal, Mar. 10, 2014; Rob Williams, “North Korea election: Kim Jong-un faces the vote – but of course there’s only one name on the ballot box,” The Independent, 2014; Choe, Sang-Hun, “North Korea Uses Election To Reshape Parliament,” The New York Times, March 10, 2014; BBC News, “North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in ‘unanimous poll win’,” March 10, 2014; BBC News, “North Koreans vote in rubber-stamp elections,” March 9, 2014; Harriet Alexander, “North Koreans ‘vote’ in elections – singing, dancing and reciting poetry,” The Telegraph, March 9, 2014; Peter Shadbolt, “North Korean election provides clues to reclusive Stalinist state,” CNN, March 7, 2014; Al Jazeera, “No votes cast against Kim Jong-un in poll,” March 10, 2014; Danielle Wiener-Bronner, “Yes, There Are Elections in North Korea and Here’s How They Work,” The Atlantic, March 6, 2014; Emily Rauhala, “North Korea Elections: A Sham Worth Studying,” Time, March 10, 2014; IFES election Guide: North Korea, 2014; Associated Press, “North Korea’s Kim Jong-un elected to assembly without single vote against,” The Guardian, March 10, 2014.

[96] KCNA, “Report of Credentials Committee of Deputies to 13th SPA,” April 9, 2014; Voice of Russia, “Kim Jong-un unanimously elected to North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly,” March 10, 2014.

[97] Michael Madden, “The NDC’s Fall Lineup: Results of the 13th SPA,” 38 North, October 6, 2014; Rodong Sinmun, “1st Session of 13th SPA of DPRK held,” April 10, 2014; KCNA, “Panel Committees of SPA of DPRK Elected,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Director of Supreme Public Prosecutors Office Appointed, President of Supreme Court Elected,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Members of DPRK Cabinet Appointed,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Presidium of Supreme People’s Assembly of DPRK Elected,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “DPRK National Defence Commission Elected at SPA Session,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Elected First Chairman of NDC of DPRK,” April 9, 2014.

[98] KCNA, “Report on Implementation of State Budget for 2013 and State Budget for 2014,” April 9, 2014; KCNA, “Meeting of Political Bureau of C.C., WPK Held under Guidance of Kim Jong Un,” April 8, 2014; bourgeois sources: Institute for Far Eastern Studies, “North Korea Prioritizes Budget Support for the Modernization of Education in the Age of Knowledge-Based Economy,” September 18, 2014; KCNA, “1st Session of 13th SPA of DPRK Held,” April 9, 2014; James Pearson, “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un absent from parliament meet,” Reuters, September 25, 2014.

[99] James Pearson, “North Korean TV acknowledges leader Kim Jong Un’s health problems,” Reuters, September 26, 2014.

[100] Most of these sources are anti-DPRK, but included as they  discuss the election. Yonhap News, “North Korea Reports 99.97% Turnout In Local Elections,” July 20, 2015; Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea steps up propaganda ahead of regional elections,”UPI, July 15, 2015; Alma Milisic, “Foregone result in North Korea’s local elections,” Al Jazeera, July 19, 2015; Alexander Sehmer, “North Korean voters face little choice in local elections,” The Independent, July 2015; Alexandre Mansourov, “North Korea’s July 19 Local Elections Dispel ROK Allegations of Public Unrest,” 38 North, August 6, 2015; “Report on Results of Local Elections in DPRK Released”. Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang, in English. 21 July 2015; Tim Schwarz, “99.97% of North Koreans turn out for local elections,” CNN, July 21, 2015; The Daily Telegraph, “North Korea elections not too close to call,” July 20, 2015. There are also propaganda articles like “North Korean Elections: An Exercise in Futility” by Michelle Bovee, part of the staff of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

[101] Pippa Norris, “The best and worst elections of 2014,” Washington Post, February 16, 2015.

[102]  Elizabeth Shim, “Kim Jong Un’s sister appears at North Korea’s assembly,” UPI, June 30, 2016.