“The most heinous act against humanity”: new imperial sanctions on the DPRK

Five ports in China and Russia which would be monitored/”inspected” by the US as part of the recently-passed sanctions. Map was created in Google Earth.

On the heels of Trump’s aggressive posture toward the DPRK, threatening them with military action (and with diplomatic isolation) if they don’t remove their nuclear weapons, which are their main form of self-defense against the imperial beast, the US House of Representatives in a 419-1 vote passed new round of new sanctions against the DPRK, with only GOP Representative Thomas Massie voting against it, and 10 others not voting. As to date, Mr. Massie has not explained his reasons for voting against this legislation, which is currently being considered by the Senate’s Committee of Foreign Relations. Regardless, this legislation is a direct attack upon the DPRK, trying to coax it to surrender to US imperialists. This article aims to show how that is the case.

DPRK and Russia respond to the law with strong criticism

Yesterday, the Supreme People’s Assembly, the duly-elected unicameral parliament of the DPRK, sent a letter of protest to the US House, condemning the new sanctions. As PressTV describes it, showing that the Iranians undoubtedly feel similar about the legislation, the law targets the DPRK’s “exports and shipping industry” with the new sanctions banning “ships owned or hired by North Korea from operating in US waters or docking at US ports,” prohibiting “products originating from North Korea…from entering the United States,” and requiring Trump to report to the Congress within 90 of the legislation on whether the DPRK “has retreated on its activities or should be reinstated on the government’s list of “state sponsors of terror”” which, if put in place, would “trigger even more sanctions.” The KCNA, in an article titled “DPRK SPA Foreign Affairs Committee’s Letter of Protest to U.S. House of Representatives” reprinted the message of the SPA’s Foreign Affairs Committee on the subject:

The SPA Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK avails itself of this opportunity to strongly condemn and resolutely reject the “North Korea Interdiction & Modernization of Sanctions Act” (H.R. 1644) that the U.S. House of Representatives passed on May 4, 2017, and extends this letter of protest. The passage of the above legislation amounts to the most heinous act against humanity that not only infringes upon the sacred sovereignty of the DPRK as well as its people’s rights to existence but also arbitrarily violates universal principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries which run through the United Nations Charter and international laws. That the U.S. House of Representatives passed the above legislation speaks volumes about the ignorance of U.S. politicians who know nothing about the root cause of the long-standing hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. and the essence of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula; it is yet another product of hostile policy towards the DPRK. The hostile policy and acts of the United States of America targeting the DPRK – including but not limited to the abovementioned legislation – run counter to the efforts aimed at ensuring peace and security on the Korean peninsula; it will only further handicap the USA in its attempt to resolve the nuclear issue. If what the U.S. House of Representatives really wants is peace and security on the Korean peninsula and resolution of the nuclear issue, it would do well to delve into more relevant issues such as the establishment of lasting peace regime on the Korean peninsula, enactment of laws aimed at putting an end to the hostile relations between the DPRK and the USA, etc. There’s no denying that the DPRK is fully capable of safeguarding its sovereignty along with its rights to existence and development. The consequences will be dire if the U.S. House of Representatives, obsessed with inherent sense of disapproval towards the DPRK, misjudges the DPRK’s determination and capabilities and continues to meddle in other’s internal affairs and bring pressure to bear on another country by invoking its domestic laws. The U.S. House of Representatives should think twice. As the U.S. House of Representatives enacts more and more of these reckless hostile laws, the DPRK’s efforts to strengthen nuclear deterrents will gather greater pace, beyond anyone’s imagination. The DPRK will keep a watchful eye on the next moves of the USA and continue to take legitimate actions for self-defense to counter the hostile policy of the USA towards the DPRK. The SPA Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK takes this opportunity to reiterate its position that the U.S. House of Representatives must have [a] correct understanding of the essence of the current situation and make rational moves as regards the issue of the Korean peninsula.

The arguments that the law infringes on DPRK sovereignty, violates “principles of sovereign equality and non-interference” and tries to deny “the DPRK is fully capable of safeguarding its sovereignty along with its rights to existence and development,” among others in the above quote are completely valid. Similarly, within Russia, the reactions to the law have been broadly negative and rightfully so. Konstantin Kosachev, head of the upper house Committee for International Relations within the Russian Duma, argues that realization of this bill “includes a proposed force scenario in which the US Navy would conduct compulsory inspections of all ships. Such a scenario is simply unthinkable because it means a declaration of war.” In another translation of the same quote, Mr. Kosachev is more reserved, hoping that the bill is not implemented because it if it is, it “envisions a scenario of power with forced inspections of all vessels by US warships” which he argues is “beyond comprehension, because it means a declaration of war.” Other high-ranking Russian officials felt the same way. Frants Klintsevich, the deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense and Security, was more specific, saying what was important was “the list of nations where US congressmen want to have special control over sea ports” which he notes includes ports within  Russia, China, Iran and Syria, showing that “the United States is again trying to expand its jurisdiction all over the globe.” He added that doing this is almost telling “Russia, China, Iran and Syria that these nations are suspects in crime, which is nonsense, according to international law.” Finally there was Andrey Krasov, the other deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense and Security, saying that “the US administration will receive a symmetrical adequate response to any unfriendly steps toward Russia and our allies. In any case, no US ship will enter our waters.”

The law itself

Looking at the text of the law, it is clear that concerns of the DPRK and Russian governments are well founded. The section 104 of the law that talks about imperialist monitoring shows this to be the case:

(a) REPORT REQUIRED.—

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this section, and annually thereafter for 5 years, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report—

A) identifying the operators of foreign sea ports and airports that have knowingly—

‘‘(i) failed to implement or enforce regulations to inspect ships, aircraft, cargo, or conveyances in transit to or from North Korea, as required by applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions;

‘‘(ii) facilitated the transfer, trans-shipment, or conveyance of significant types or quantities of cargo, vessels, or aircraft owned or controlled by persons designated under applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions; or

‘‘(iii) facilitated any of the activities described in section 104(a)

“(b) SPECIFIC FINDINGS.—

Each report required under subsection (a) shall include specific findings with respect to the following ports and airports:

‘‘(1) The ports of Dandong, Dalian, and any other port in the People’s Republic of China that the President deems appropriate.

‘‘(2) The ports of Abadan, Bandar-e-Abbas, Chabahar, Bandar-e-Khomeini, Bushehr Port, Asaluyeh Port, Kish, Kharg Island, Bandar-e-Lenge, and Khorramshahr, and Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, in the Islamic Republic of Iran

‘‘(3) The ports of Nakhodka, Vanino, and Vladivostok, in the Russian Federation.

‘‘(4) The ports of Latakia, Banias, and Tartous, and Damascus International Airport, in the Syrian Arab Republic.

‘‘(c) ENHANCED SECURITY TARGETING REQUIREMENTS.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Secretary of Homeland Security may, using the Automated Targeting System operated by the National Targeting Center of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, require enhanced screening procedures to determine whether physical inspections are warranted of any cargo bound for or landed in the United States that—

‘‘(A) has been transported through a sea port or airport the operator of which has been identified by the President in accordance with subsection (a)(1) as having repeatedly failed to comply with applicable United Nations Security Council resolutions;

‘(2) EXCEPTION FOR FOOD, MEDICINE, AND HUMANITARIAN SHIPMENTS

—Paragraph (1) shall not apply to any vessel, aircraft, or conveyance that has entered the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea, or landed in any of the sea ports or airports of North Korea, exclusively for the purposes described in section 208(b)(3)(B), or to import food, medicine, or supplies into North Korea to meet the humanitarian needs of the North Korean people.

‘(d) SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE

—A vessel, aircraft, or conveyance used to facilitate any of the activities described in section 104(a) under the jurisdiction of the United States may be seized and forfeited under [certain laws]

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.

Ports within Iran and Syria that will be subject to imperial monitoring and inspection. Map was created with Google Earth, with titles of countries added in a photo editing software.

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 socialist, centrally-planned economy. An excerpt from this section shows this is the case, saying that President shall designate, except under certain circumstances [1], any person who he determines “knowingly, directly or indirectly”  imported, exported, or re-exported the following to the DPRK:

  • “any goods, services, or technology” which could be used for “weapons of mass destruction [WMD] or delivery systems”
  • luxury goods
  • “a significant amount of precious metal, graphite, raw or semi-finished metals or aluminum, steel, coal, or software” which can be used in “industrial processes directly related to weapons of mass destruction” or for the Workers Party of Korea (WPK), the Korean armed forces, “internal security, or intelligence activities, or the operation and maintenance of political prison camps”
  • “any arms or related materiel”

This isn’t all. Also, any person engages in the following can be sanctioned as well:

  • provides training or other services for such “WMDs”
  • engages in “significant financial transactions” relating to the creation or use of such “WMDs”
  • facilitates or engages in DPRK “censorship”
  • responsible for purported “serious human rights abuses” by the government
  • money laundering to support the government
  • “the counterfeiting of goods or currency” by the government
  • “bulk cash smuggling” by the government
  • narcotics trafficking that supports the government
  • “significant activities undermining cybersecurity through the use of computer networks or systems against foreign persons, governments, or other entities” on behalf of the government

Considering that the country’s industries focus on military products, building of machines, mining of coal, iron ore, and numerous other “precious metals,” along with food processing and tourism, while importing “metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments)…and fishery products” if the CIA World Factbook is to be given any credibility on this matter [2], these sanctions are not “targeted” but are rather meant to strike a dagger in the DPRK’s economy. Furthermore, these sanctions strike at the “socialist motherland” as a whole by attempting to stop any measures of self-defense (restricting arms transfers, cyber-defense, necessary censorship), or further development (stopping importation of purported “luxury goods”). This is followed by with the common slurs against the DPRK, including its purported “serious human rights abuses,” and other “new” ones including money laundering, counterfeit “goods or currency,” “cash smuggling” and narcotics trafficking by (or supporting) the DPRK’s duly elected government.

The use of narcotics as a slur against governments declared “communist” by imperial elites is nothing new. In his book, Strength of the Wolf, Douglas Valentine writes that while there were Chinese gangs in Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s, with the profits from opium allowing Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist government/KMT (Kuomintang of China) to survive, working directly with the drug traffickers, the New York Times alleged that Arnold Rothenstein used some of his drug money to finance “communist-sponsored strikes” in New York City’s garment district, the first time in US history that “politicians and policemen were linked with Bolsheviks and drug traffickers.” [3] That’s not all. He added that Chiang’s government, which came to power violently in 1927, which depended on drug smuggling profits, had created an “opium monopoly”/syndicate and paid for individuals to serve as part of their Communist suppression unit, such as Du Yue-sheng. [4] Adding to this, Henry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962, was unwilling to acknowledge this reality. As it was evident that the Chinese Communists were engaged in “anti-narcotics activities,” not the Nationalists, Mr. Anslinger dismissed this, continuing to seek evidence that “would link the Communist Chinese to drug rings in Japan, Korea, and China” although no such evidence existed, with later anti-China propaganda asserting that all of the “illicit dope” that reached Japan came from Communist China or People’s Republic of China (PRC) while the US backed the Nationalists. [5] Anslinger made these claims even though he knew they weren’t true as part of a smear campaign against the PRC as the CIA and other entities worked with the KMT in their drug smuggling operations.

Getting back to the law, other provisions show the sanctions are even more extensive section 105, prohibits DPRK vessels (or vessels of any of the DPRK’s allies, like Russia, China, Syria, or any country not complying with sanctions on the DRPK) from entering or operating in “the navigable waters of the United States” and section 106 requires a report on the “coordination” between Iran and the DPRK. Adding to this, section 107 puts in place a report delineating if UN Security Council Resolutions are being followed by other countries, section 108 denies financial messaging services to the DPRK, and sections 201 and 202 put sanctions on the DPRK for “human rights violations.” If that isn’t enough, section 203 rewards informants who allow them to implement murderous sanctions, section 204 declares the DPRK as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” and section 103 broadens an arms embargo on the country. Finally, section 102 limits financial interactions with the DPRK, section 101 modifies and expands sanctions on the Korean populace of the DPRK. [6]

The illegality of anti-Korean sanctions

Recently, in a post criticizing Trump’s imperialist act of aggression against Syria, Stephen Gowans wrote that some say that military strike was illegal because it did not have UN Security Council approval and it “represented an unauthorized act of war,” only unilaterally ordered by the White House. However, he says that such discussion of illegality is “academic” because the United States has “amassed a sizable record of crimes in Syria…[including the] intrusion of US military personnel on Syrian soil” which is an act of war. Hence, he concludes that since the US is “at liberty to violate international law with impunity” as an imperial monster, with “no higher authority capable of enforcing international law through the threat of a force” greater than the Pentagon, and that, as a result, expecting the US to “yield to international law is naïve and therefore any discussion of whether this or that act of the United States violates international law is a discussion of no consequence.” While I agree that holding the US accountable for violating international law is near impossible, I do think it is important to highlight if acts are illegal or not, as it shows the corrupted nature of the murderous empire. So, that’s where I disagree with Gowans.

This horrible law violates many international agreements, showing that the law, in and of itself, is illegal. While the legal status of blockades is murky, there is no doubt that this law violates the Kellogg-Briand Pact which basically bans war “as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another,” the UN Charter which requires all member states to refrain from the threat or use of force against other member states while preserving state sovereignty, even as it has not acceded to the 1952 International Convention for the unification of certain rules relating to Arrest of Sea-going Ships or the 1999 replacement, both of which Syria is a party to. Even more, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the DPRK has seemingly withdrawn, prohibits “any propaganda for war” which this law has engaged in, even if you take into account the typical imperial reservations by the US Congress. Inspection and monitoring required by this act would undoubtedly violate the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation which prohibits individuals from unlawfully and intentionally seizing and taking control of “a ship by force or threat thereof or any other form of intimidation; or…[destroying] a ship or [causing] damage to a ship or to its cargo which is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship.” Since the DPRK, Iran, Russia, Syria, and China, all of which acceded to the previous convention, just like the United States, are serious about defending themselves from outside threats, there is no doubt they will defend themselves, meaning that US actions to take commercial vessels will become an act of war since those ships cannot, by any means, be considered warships.

There are many more treaties I could consider here in this section, but I do not wish to do that at this time. [7] There is no doubt that the use of force against a state would be illegal as any act of war or forceful action has to be approved by the UN Security Council but also violates the US Constitution which requires that war can only be declared by Congress, with this law basically giving that power to the President, once again. I know that citing the US Constitution may seem like a bourgeois approach, but it is only used here to show that the law is illegal in many forms. Hence, it isn’t worth going through every single international law since the US will likely never be held to account for it.

A conclusion

With all of these approaches, it is evident that the DPRK was right to say the law is “the most heinous act against humanity” and the Russians to call it “simply unthinkable” as it will lead to a declaration of war with further ban on US ships entering sovereign Russian waters. After all, as the murderous empire, the US has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which has been ratified by the Russians and Chinese while the DRPK and Iran have signed the agreement, with the Syrians neither signing or ratifying it. Hence, the US may feel it has the “right” to enter the sovereign waters of Russia, China, Syria, and Iran so they can suffocate the DPRK’s socialist government, making in “bow” in submission.

The DPRK is stuck in a difficult situation. Recently, the DPRK has foiled an attempted joint CIA-South Korean IS (Intelligence Service) attempt to assassinate Kim Jong Un. The Ministry of State Security of the DPRK said on May 5 that both forces “hatched a vicious plot to hurt the supreme leadership of the DPRK…[using] biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance,” handing the perpetrator, part of a terrorist group that was within the country, $20,000 to commit the act. [8] This shows that the DPRK’s efforts at self-defense on its islands, with its power stations, and continuing to build their form of socialism based on the masses, connected with the idea of Juche while standing up to the US imperialists with “deterrence for self-defence.” These ideals are, in a sense, echoed by the 25% of Russians who believe that nuclear weapons can be a “deterrent for the most aggressive forces in the world” with the “fear of mutually assured destruction encourages peaceful conflict resolution” and honored even by the Zimbabwean state paper, The Herald. If this isn’t enough, just like Syria, to an extent, the DPRK, is surrounded by enemies (Japan, South Korea, and the ever-present United States). However, they are buoyed by the anti-THAAD protests in South Korea even as the South Korean government (not the one that was recently elected) has liked the US missile “shield” program in the past, even as there are daily protests against it “by villagers in Seongju and Gimcheon.” But the DPRK should rest assured even though the US and S. Korean forces still need to properly understand the will of DPRK that Cuba and Syria have pledged their solidarity with them. Even though this solidarity will not, by itself, stop the Pentagon from leading 300,000 troops in a rehearsal for military invasion and “decapitation” of the regime, assisted by, of course, the South Korean government, but it is an important part of an anti-imperialist alliance against US (and Western) imperialist actions which aim to undermine “unfriendly” governments, even if they differ in ideology.

Recently, Trump, the purveyor of “gunboat diplomacy,” says he is willing to talk with Kim Jong Un. However, this requires that the DPRK has to surrender to US imperialism, a sentiment reinforced by a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Anthony Ruggiero, who declared that Trump should only meet with Kim Jong Un if the DPRK surrenders its nuclear weapons, close its supposed “prison camps,” and not “threatening” the US, saying it should bow before US, which is equally unacceptable. It is worth pointing out that many of those living in the US have internalized anti-communist and imperial values. For one, 68% of the US feels it “is important that the U.S. be No. 1 in the world militarily,” 86% of the populace has unfavorable views of the DPRK, with “Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq” also in the same category. With this chauvinism of US populace, it should come as no surprise that 65% of the US are concerned about the DPRK with nuclear weapons, with 78%, in Pew’s results, having an “unfavorable view” of the country.

Despite the recent spat between the state media of the DPRK and Chinese media over the justified nuclear and missile program of the DPRK, it seems evident that the “strong bond between the two countries” will stay in place. [9] Hence, this “expected” victory for the US imperialists will not happen as the imperial threats continue from the “World’s Worst Human Rights Abuser.” After all, the US hopes they will remove the DPRK’s “nuclear deterrence for self-defence” is not going to happen. With the socialist power of the DPRK pushed along by the WPK, even under current conditions, this can resist the hardline positions of the US State Department, with Mark Toner showing that he is one of the many faces of imperialism by saying that “our conviction that we need to apply greater pressure on North Korea to get it to comply to international concerns. There are a number of options…isolation, diplomatic isolation being another one.”

Adding to this, it is troubling that China agreed to “suspend all coal imports from North Korea until the end of this year” in order to curry favor of the US, to appease it. After all, as some recently pointed out, if China brought the DPRK economy to its knees, US imperialism would win. With the WPK having the determination to not “yield to the war threats being hurled right now by the criminal agents of U.S. imperialism” with every right to self-defense, including against the “biggest nuclear weapons state in the world,” the United States, will China hold its ground? Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition National Coordinator, addressed this in an April 18 post in Liberation News, a PSL publication, writing that China has the message from Trump that it must either break from the DPRK or “apply immense pressure on it to suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile tests” or else Trump will engage in an “another round of unilateral military action on China’s border.” Mr. Becker goes on to say that Trump has borrowed “a page from the Ronald Reagan playbook” with his military action against muting “his ruling class critics,” with the Chinese leadership stunned, thinking that “unless the DPRK backs down from further expected weapons tests” there will be war. He adds that in the past the DPRK has offered to suspend its nuclear tests if the US cancels it “massive, annual military exercises that simulate the destruction of the North” but the Obama and Trump Administrations have rejected this, even as the DPRK mainly seeks a “peace treaty with the United States to formally end the Korean War that began nearly 70 years ago.” He further writes that if there is military action and the DPRK responds, this could “lead to another and possibly greater catastrophe” with the Chinese media insisting that “the DPRK not proceed with its expected missile tests,” sharply demanding that it cancel its upcoming weapons tests, and a Global Times editorial announcing that “China is ready to cut off oil exports to North Korea whose economy has stabilized in recent years.” The end of the article is worth repeating and relevant, even now, almost a month after the piece was written:

Today, the danger of igniting regional and global confrontation is real. China and Russia are backpedaling, hoping that their prudence, or possible appeasement, will deter or deflect the danger. Their position is understandable given the level of risk. But appeasement, as we know from history, poses its own risks in the face of bullying and aggression. Appeasing the bully, the aggressor, invites more not less aggression.

 

Mr. Becker makes a valid point. Any concessions to the US imperialists should be strongly criticized and not accepted, even if those concessions are by Russia and China, both of which are capitalist in their own ways, perhaps Russia more than China. As the CIA creates the Korea Mission Center to “purposefully integrate and direct CIA efforts against the serious threats to the United States and its allies emanating from North Korea,” and watch the country like a persistent hawk, complains about the DPRK going to the Belt and Road Forum, the “existential threat” of the DPRK (in the strange mind of CIA chief Mike Pompeo) is being closely scrutinized, like always, by the imperialists. [10] With accusations abound by the DPRK throughout the bourgeois media, the socialist nation can only use its own wit and existing alliances in case of an imperial attack. If war under unpredictable Trump occurs, we should stand beside the DPRK in solidarity even if the war is popular within the United States, any Western country, and especially within those countries in the global periphery.

Notes

[1] If he grants a humanitarian waiver, there are activities relating to “identifying or recovering the remains” of past POWs taken during the Great Fatherland Liberation War (“Korean War”) from 1950-1953, complying with the agreement on the UN headquarters or Convention on Consular Relations, or allowing “financial services” by a non-DPRK foreign financial entity as part of a waiver.

[2] The CIA World Factbook lists the following as the country’s industries: “military products; machine building, electric power, chemicals; mining (coal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), metallurgy; textiles, food processing; tourism.” It also says the country exports “minerals, metallurgical products, manufactures (including armaments), textiles, agricultural and fishery products” while importing “petroleum, coking coal, machinery and equipment, textiles, grain” with their biggest trade partner (76.4% from China, 5.5% from the Republic of the Congo).

[3] Douglas Valentine, The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs (New York: Verso Books, 2004), 8, 10-11.

[4] Ibid, 12-14, 17, 37-38, 47.

[5] Ibid, 68-70, 72, 77-78, 102, 133, 195, 235, 273, 309, 392.

[6] There are numerous other miscellaneous provisions manifested in sections 1-3, 301-304.

[7] See Wikipedia pages “list of treaties,” “list of international declarations,” “law of war” and the ICRC’s “Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries” page along with the Wikipedia category “Treaties adopted by United Nations General Assembly resolutions.” While Wikipedia is never source that should be cited in general, these links are a good starting point, which is why they are included here.

[8] KCNA, “DPRK Warns U.S., S. Korean Intelligence Agencies of Merciless Punishment: Ministry of State Security,” May 5, 2017; KCNA, “Statement of DPRK Central Public Prosecutors Office,” May 12, 2017; KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Gives Briefing on Situation,” May 11, 2017; North Korea wants South’s spy chief extradited over alleged Kim plot,” CNN, May 12, 2017.

[9] A DPRK (North Korean) view on the current situation as noted in a BBC interview. On May 3, 2017, KCNA released an article titled “Commentary on DPRK-China Relations” which was reprinted in Rodong Sinmun under the title “Reckless Remarks Undermining DPRK-China Relations Should Be Stopped,” by Kim Chol, a Vice Minister in the Korean Army, the same person who the bourgeois media claimed falsely was executed by mortal bombardment even though Foreign Policy said it was pure speculation. His article says the following:

The People’s Daily and the Global Times, widely known as media speaking for the official stand of the Chinese party and government, have recently carried commentaries asserting that the DPRK’s access to nukes poses a threat to the national interests of China. They shifted the blame for the deteriorated relations between the DPRK and China onto the DPRK and raised lame excuses for the base acts of dancing to the tune of the U.S. Those commentaries claimed that the DPRK poses a threat to “the security in the northeastern region of China” by conducting nuclear tests less than 100 km away from its border with China. They even talked rubbish that the DPRK strains the situation in Northeast Asia and “offers the U.S. excuses for deploying more strategic assets” in the region. Not content with such paradox, the commentaries asserted that to remain averse to the DPRK’s access to nukes is to preserve interests common to the U.S. and China, calling for slapping harsher sanctions against the DPRK in order to avert a war which would bring danger to China. The newspapers, even claiming China holds the initiative in handling the DPRK-China relations, made no scruple of letting out a string of provocative remarks urging the DPRK to choose one among such options if it doesn’t want military confrontation with China–“whether to face protracted isolation or to preserve national security by making a U-turn” and whether to break Sino-DPRK friendship or to dismantle its nukes. This is just a wanton violation of the independent and legitimate rights, dignity and supreme interests of the DPRK and, furthermore, constitutes an undisguised threat to an honest-minded neighboring country which has a long history and tradition of friendship. China is hyping up “damage caused by the DPRK’s nuclear tests” in its three northeastern provinces. This only reveals the ulterior purpose sought by it, being displeased with the DPRK’s rapid development of nukes. As far as “violation of national interests” oft-repeated by politicians and media persons of China is concerned, it is just the issue that the DPRK should rather talk much about. It is just the DPRK whose strategic interests have been repeatedly violated due to insincerity and betrayal on the part of its partner, not China at all. Some theorists of China are spouting a load of nonsense that the DPRK’s access to nukes strains the situation in Northeast Asia and offers the U.S. an excuse for beefing up its strategic assets in the region. But the U.S. had activated its strategy for dominating Asia-Pacific long before the DPRK had access to nukes, and its primary target is just China. China should acknowledge in an honest manner that the DPRK has just contributed to protecting peace and security of China, foiling the U.S. scheme for aggression by waging a hard fight in the frontline of the showdown with the U.S. for more than seven decades, and thank the DPRK for it. Some ignorant politicians and media persons of China daringly assert that the traditional relations of the DPRK-China friendship were in line with the interests of each county in the past. They are advised to clearly understand the essence of history before opening their mouth. Their call for not only slapping stricter sanctions but also not ruling out a military intervention if the DPRK refuses to abandon its nuclear program is no more than an extremely ego-driven theory based on big-power chauvinism that not only the strategic interests but also the dignity and vital rights of the DPRK should be sacrificed for the interests of China. One must clearly understand that the DPRK’s line of access to nukes for the existence and development of the country can neither be changed nor shaken and that the DPRK will never beg for the maintenance of friendship with China, risking its nuclear program which is as precious as its own life, no matter how valuable the friendship is. The DPRK, which has already become one of the most powerful nuclear weapons state, does not feel the need to think over how many options it has now. China should no longer try to test the limits of the DPRK’s patience but make proper strategic option, facing up to the situation. China had better ponder over the grave consequences to be entailed by its reckless act of chopping down the pillar of the DPRK-China relations.

A Global Times piece DIRECTLY responds, saying that the above piece is just a “stronger disgruntling” but not mentioning China’s support for UN sanctions “against North Korea” or Pyongyang’s next step, with the editorial board claiming that the editorial is “nothing more than a hyper-aggressive piece completely filled with nationalistic passion” and claims that the DPRK does not understand “Beijing’s deep concern for the potential risks posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear tests to people living in northeastern China.” Adding to this is evidence that the Mr. Chol was onto something when he said that “the People’s Daily and the Global Times…have recently carried commentaries asserting that the DPRK’s access to nukes poses a threat to the national interests of China.” The Global Times carried many commentaries to this effect in recent days: “Is China-North Korea friendship treaty outdated?” (May 3), “China, US share goal of halting North Korean nuclear tests” (May 2), “Is breakthrough likely on NK nuke issue?” (May 1), and “Pyongyang’s failed missile test adds to Korean Peninsula tensions” (April 29). The People’s Daily has done the same thing, running similar pieces: “Responsible actions needed to ensure peace of Korean Peninsula: People’s Daily” (May 2), “Commentary: the Korean Peninsula is not the Middle East” (April 28), “US, DPRK must hold talks before it’s too late” (April 18), and “Can Korean Peninsula go from geopolitical flashpoint to stable place of peace?” (Feb. 17). Also see this article in Sina English: “China calls for end to provocations on NK issue.”

[10] Joseph Hincks, “CIA Sets Up a Mission Center to Address North Korea Threat,” The CIA has just set up a unit to deal with North Korea,” CNN,  May 11, 2017; Ben Blanchard and John Ruwitch, “Exclusive: U.S. complains to China about North Korea’s attendance at Silk Road summit,” Reuters, May 12, 2017; Matthew Pennington, “North Korea poses ‘existential’ threat, U.S. intel chief warns,” Associated Press, May 11, 2017.

Elections in the “socialist motherland”: 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

Recently, with the whole controversy over the death of Kim Jong Un’s brother and the stance of the “independent socialist state” of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), as its constitution describes it, in criticizing China for there seeming to be appeasement, by banning coal imports into the country, of the imperialist desire (especially Trump’s arrogance) of the United States to weaken the DPRK. [1] This “socialist motherland,” as one document calls it, is not only threatened by forces within “South Korea” (the Republic of Korea), programs like THAAD, provocations from the Trump 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 US 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. I could debate in this article if the DPRK is engaging in “revisionism,” with a fluid definition in this post-Cold War environment in the present, but that is, frankly, for another day.

In 1945, in the aftermath of deadly World War II, the Korean Peninsula, which had been controlled by the Japanese imperialists, was roughly divided between the Soviet occupied zone and US zone. In the Soviet zone in the North, unlike in 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 1946, 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, it was in 1948, Juche 37, that 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, they was also, arguably, a multiparty system in the DPRK [7]:

chart1

Before going further, it is best to describe the powers of the SPA in the DPRK. 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” but also 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] Unlike the United States, which has terms of 2 (US House of Representatives) and 6 (US Senate) years for federal legislators, the term of office of SPA members is four years, unless there are unavoidable circumstances leading to a prolonged term. [10]

This is only scratching the surface. The SPA’s most important and exclusive power is “legislative power” which includes adopting, amending, and supplementing he Constitution, just like when the first DPRK Constitution was adopted in the first legislative session with a nationwide debate “on the draft constitution” (not like the US where the Constitution is a bourgeois classist document which was drawn up by the “founding fathers” in secrecy and illegality), along with a 31-person committee organized by the SPA to deliberate over the draft, with people’s opinions taken into account. [11] Later on, with these powers, the DPRK’s constitution was revised due to the changing times, with the SPA’s term of office extended to 4 years from 3 years, 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] While the US still can’t even get universal healthcare, of a single-payer variety, instead getting a corporate-friendly mess (“Obamacare”) which makes the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies smile with glee, 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.” [13] If that doesn’t sound democratic, I don’t know what is.

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] If that’s not enough, members on SPA committees and the head of the Administration Council (the Premier) are elected and accountable to the SPA. It is also worth pointing out that 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   areelected among deputies according to the size of leadership, debate about draft laws and budget plans before deliberation by the whole body, but cannot “initiate legislative activities nor adopt decisions of any legal validity independently.” [16] These committees 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.”)

I could go on, but I think you probably get the point. [17]

Now, back to the context of the 1948 election. One book, by Anne Louise Strong doesa 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 nation was stopped on June 25, 1950 (Juche 49). As Vince Sherman noted, 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 even bourgeois journalist David Halberstam acknowledged, not only were Southern Koreans angry about US presence and the US units were in horrid condition, but the people of the DPRK and Chinese communists knew what they were fighting for, unlike the US 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.”

Continuing to summarize what the KFA said, on July 27, 1953 (Juche 42), the US 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 addressed the idea of Juche, saying in short and replying to the beginning of the Khrushchev era (this is even before the traitorous “secret speech”):

“…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 the partition of the Korean Peninsula was “the 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 overfulfil the Five-Year Plan ahead of schedule!” [19] I could get into more about the socialist economy of the DPRK and how it is a model for democratic and participatory economic planning, but that’s for another day.

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. 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 of the 3rd SPA, respectively, in October 1962, eight days before the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis. By this point, as Stephen Gowans noted, the country “grew at a faster pace than the south from the 1940’s to the mid-60s” and Che Guevera was so impressed after visiting Pyongyang in 1965 that he “declared north Korea to be a model to which Cuba should aspire.” The SPA, increased in size from 215 members to 383 members, with WPK kept its majority, showing that it was supported by the populace more than any of the other parties by far [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]

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, n 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. [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. 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, among many other speeches.

Fast forward to 1971. That year, the DPRK was often featured in the publication of The Black Panther, the newspaper of the Black socialist 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 expediate their “omplete 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 belief aligns completely with Kim Il Sung, who has condemned such 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 US 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 birthdaybu 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 US 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 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 US 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

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. I could give more details, but this tells a bit of what the DPRK stands for in this new version of the Constitution.

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 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

During this SPA session, not only was a speech given to call for the strengthening of the people’s 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 in order to push forward the socialist nation. [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” which helped the government achieve its goals set forward in its constitution and commitments to the Korean people. 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, 24,827 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, the DPRK opened relations with the new leftist government in Nicaragua, and China began to try to get the DPRK to implement its capitalist reformism which looked good for the West. [44]

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

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 revolutionary state of Iran to fight in the war against Western-backed Republic of Iraq. [49]

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 ridiculious 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 annouced 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 saw as an admission that the self-reliant posture of the country was not working. [52]

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 socialist Cuban government, and Soviet support later on. [54]

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 reality:

chart-1986

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” 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 yet again, for local elections. As a result, 29,535 Koreans were elected to local and provincial people’s assemblies. [58] If these results aren’t democratic and a show of democracy, then I don’t know what is.

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. 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] Apart from a speech about bringing the “advantages of socialism in our country into full play,”in a country which then has 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 of China, Japan, and the USSR, the DPRK was going into trouble. [61] This wasn’t their fault whatsoever. With the full-throttled embrace of Western capitalism and fanatical revisionism, the Soviet Union ceased giving aid to the DPRK, leading to a faltering economy, like in many states across the world which benefited from good-natured Soviet aid, but the DPRK stuck to their beliefs despite claims they were “opening up” to the West. [62] More specifically, the Soviet aid going away 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 even as the socialist state 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]

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 needing Soviet aid, it faltered with the final demise of the Soviet Union on December 26, even as China took the place of the Soviet Union as the country’s main trading partner, and it 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]

The same year, Kim Il Sung, who would sadly die on July 8, 1994 and Kim Jong-Il taking his place after that point, addressed theopening 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 resonsibilities 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 resect, 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 homogenous 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 US 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, fro 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, showing that the DPRK was “an invincible socialist government and increasing the potentials of Korean socialism.” [67] More specifically, with signs like “long live the revolutionary government of workers and peasants founded by the great leader comrade Kim Il Sung and led by the respected comrade Kim Jong Il” and “let all of us participate in the election of deputies to the Supreme People’s Assembly to build up the revolutionary government” outside the polling booths, Koreans voted for “…officials, servicemen, workers, farmers and working intellectuals, who have devotedly worked for the good of the country and people,” and even “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:

spa-1998

During session, Kim Jong-il is re-elected as chairman of National Defense Commission and DPRK socialist constitution, which became the Kim Il-Sung Constitution, 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 socialist 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, Freedom House scowled even with 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, with details not exactly clear. [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 that the socialist state clearly believes in international solidarity:

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 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 US 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. It is also worth noting that the same year there were local elections where 26,650 “officials, workers, peasants and intellectuals” were elected to municipal, city, and county people’s assemblies, and that apart from the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan being elected to the SPA, nearly half of the legislature’s members were replaced! [79] The following chart shows this to be the case:

spa2003

 

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,” 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 whatever they considered these reforms, they were barely anything.

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 elcted to provincal, 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] 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]

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, showed that democracy still shines in the DPRK:

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 revisions to the DPRK’s constitution, by removing the the word “communism” from the constitution, replacing it with the term “Songun” or socialism, while giving National Defense Commission (NDC) more governmental power. [85] 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. There was also a revision of the DPRK’s criminal law, that year, which establishes the necessary rules for maintaining the “state and the 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, predictably, 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.

313485878069d710f30e6a706700e2fe
AP Photo. Original caption w/o 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,” 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. Very selfish and Eurocentric of him to think that way, no doubt.

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] More specifically, while some speculated on economic reforms related to this and other statements later on that year, the constitution, the Kim Il-sung–Kim Jong-il Constitution to be exact, in the  preamble. [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,  told another story. He said the following to comrades in Pyongyang and the Korean people at-large:

“…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 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 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 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 socialist state as part of a plan proposed by Kim Jong Un to construct a “world power of 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 in developing socialist revolution. [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 socialism. [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 US was in! In a moment of cognitive dissodence, 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 thatthe 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 civilized socialis nation was accompanied by a mass rally. As I noted in my post two months ago, in which I noted the Trump 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 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 Trump 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 socialist 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 socialist nation, that fact that am still learning, working on applying Marxist theory to these types of articles, and the lack of information in many respects when it coms to elections. 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. If any of the links to Wikipedia pages bothered you, that’s just too bad because they are a good source for starter information, in some cases, especially if yours truly edits a page on the free encyclopedia, like this one on the Down-With-Imperialism Union.

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.

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.”

[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.

[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.

The immigrant proletariat, the Muslim ban, and the capitalist class

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written on February 1, 2017 so it is outdated in some respects, but broadly still valid. This is reposted from Dissident Voice.

The Trump administration has dug in its heels, declaring that the 90-day (for now) Muslim ban on refugees, from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia), enshrined in a January 27th executive order, is just “extreme vetting” and that the media is engaging in “false reporting.” In contrast, hundreds of diplomats have criticized the travel ban, top Democrats have criticized the ban while Republicans like Paul Ryan have said it necessary to protect the “homeland.” Also Jewish groups, over six thousand academics, varying UN agencies, and pro-refugee groups have criticized Trump’s action, along with protests in airports across the country, while immigrants have suffered with more crackdowns to come.

Numerous companies and CEOs have put out critical statements about Trump’s order. This included the top executives of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Box, GE, Lyft, Uber (later on), Koch Industries, TripAdvisor, SpaceX/Tesla Motors, JPMorganCase, and Goldman Sachs, most of whom pledged to help their own employees directly affected. [1] Others that spoke out on the ban included the head of the Internet Association, an industry trade group for the Internet industry, with some investors, like Chris Sacca, sending thousands of dollars to the ACLU, just like Lyft, Tim Cook of Apple declaring that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do” and Twitter mirroring this by saying “Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.” [2] Some exploited the misery of the order by trying to help their bottom line: Airbnb said that it would “provide free housing to detainees and travelers” affected and Starbucks is planning to hire 10,000 refugees “over five years in the 75 countries where it does business,” starting with those people who “have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.” [3] What seems clear is that the actions of Trump may have crossed a “red line” as Hunter Walk, a partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Homebrew VC, told the Washington Post, indicating possible anti-Trump action by Silicon Valley in the future, as more companies realize it is a “bigger risk to their investors and bottom line to stay quiet than it is to protest Trump’s ban on refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, betting vocal opposition to the executive order scores them a moral and fiscal victory.” [4]

Such statements mean that the one group that remains constant in opposition to the racist executive order is a sect of the capitalist class. While the recent lawsuits filed in Darweesh v. Trump, Aziz v. Trump, Doe v. Trump, Sarsour v. Trump, San Francisco v. Trump, Louhghalam et al v. Trump, have mainly made constitutional arguments against the racist immigration ban, one suit revealed more about the interests of the capitalist class, especially those in the tech industry. This lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General of the State of Washington, Bob Ferguson, and joined by Expedia and Amazon, among other companies, declared the following, showing how this industry depends on immigrants:

Immigration is an important economic driver in Washington. Many workers in Washington’s technology industry are immigrants, and many of those immigrant workers are from Muslim-majority countries. Immigrant and refugee-owned businesses employ 140,000 people in Washington. Many companies in Washington are dependent on foreign workers to operate and grow their businesses. The technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program through which highly skilled workers like software engineers are permitted to work in the United States. Washington ranks ninth in the U.S. by number of applications for high-tech visas. Microsoft, a corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is the State’s top employer of high-tech—or H-1B visa holders and employs nearly 5,000 people through the program. Other Washington-based companies, including Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders. The market for highly skilled workers and leaders in the technology industry is extremely competitive. Changes to U.S. immigration policy that restrict the flow of people may inhibit these companies’ ability to adequately staff their research and development efforts and recruit talent from overseas. If recruiting efforts are less successful, these companies’ abilities to develop and deliver successful products and services may be adversely affected Microsoft’s U.S. workforce is heavily dependent on immigrants and guest workers. At least 76 employees at Microsoft are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen and hold U.S. temporary work visas. There may be other employees with permanent-resident status or green cards. These employees may be banned from re-entering the U.S. if they travel overseas or to the company’s offices in Vancouver, British Columbia. Seattle-based company Amazon also employs workers from every corner of the world. Amazon’s employees, dependents of employees, and candidates for employment with Amazon have been impacted by the Executive Order that is the subject of this Complaint. Amazon has advised such employees currently in the United States to refrain from travel outside the United States. Bellevue-based company Expedia operates a domestic and foreign travel business. At the time of this filing, Expedia has approximately 1,000 customers with existing flight reservations in or out of the United. States who hold passports from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen. The Executive Order will restrict business, increase business costs, and impact current employees and customers.

Such a section comprises six paragraphs of Washington State’s argument against the immigration order, a section that the lawsuit depends on to be successful. Immigrants are clearly vital to the tech industry. Of the 250,000 Muslims living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are mostly of Arab or South Asian descent, many of them work at “companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.” [5] These immigrants are seen as “essential” to the growth of Silicon Valley, with 37 percent of workers in the area being foreign-born, with immigrants creating “some of America’s biggest tech companies,” like Yahoo, Apple, or Google, and allowing them to survive (and “boom”), since they rely on “talent from abroad to fill positions and to meet their global ambitions.” [6] After all, the “superstars of the high-tech industry are all immigrants” as one article points out.

Since immigrants account for a “significant part of the workforce in the tech industry,” the industry has advocated for looser laws to “increase the flow of skilled immigrants into the U.S.” and is heavily reliant on the H-1B visa program. The program, which started in 2000 with bipartisan support, “allows software engineers and other skilled workers to work in the U.S.,” resulting in their active role in the political arena to push for looser immigration restrictions. [7] Hence, Silicon Valley is afraid of the upcoming immigration restrictions during the Trump administration. This is especially the case since Trump has reportedly drafted an executive order to overhaul the H-1B visa program, which companies depend on so they can “hire tens of thousands of employees each year,” the “talent” they need to thrive, with their support of Trump basically non-existent in the recent presidential campaign. [8]

By the mid-1990s, those who live in the Valley divided “along racial and economic lines” with older and wealthier whites “concentrated in the west Valley,” Latinos have fanned across the floor of the valley, with many of the immigrants poor, bringing with them “crowding and new welfare burdens,” a division that angers many Latinos. [9] In recent years, the immigrant community which undergirds Silicon Valley has been in trouble. [10] With immigrant youth comprising a major portion of “both the population and the workforce in the Silicon Valley,” the Valley had “deep disparities when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants,” with such youth facing barriers in accessing education, concentrated in low-wage jobs, and serving as a diverse and “core part of the Silicon Valley community.” Immigrants from the Asian continent, whether Chinese, Filipino, or otherwise, form, as of April 2015, the “largest racial block in Santa Clara County, exceeding the proportion of non-Hispanic white residents for the first time.”

Despite such dependence on immigrants, the tech industry does not treat these employees fairly or justly. One academic report in 2012 says that the stated reasons of the tech industry (lack of study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), rapid technological change, and needing to hire best and brightest workers for “innovations” to occur) cannot be confirmed upon close inspection, leaving cheap labor as “the remaining explanatory factor.” The report goes on to say that legal loopholes allow for foreign workers to be unpaid drastically compared to American-born workers, with many of the workers coming from India, China, and the Philippines, along with other Asian immigrants, comprising from 50-80% of the workforce of top technology companies, with the tech industry claiming a “labor shortage” and lack of talent, although this cannot be supported by existing data. Interestingly, even the conservative media scoffs at the claims of the tech industry, with arch-conservative National Review declaring that work permits “are basically de facto green cards and give the foreign national complete flexibility in the job market” and that the visa program will hurt the middle class (not sure if that’s true) while the similarly aligned FrontPage Magazine questioned the shortage of “high-skilled American labor,” saying that the visa program provides “a supply of lower-wage guest workers.” [11] Of course, they oppose the claims for anti-immigrant reasons and don’t really care about the well-being of immigrant workers in the United States.

Mistreatment of immigrants in Silicon Valley is nothing new. There is no doubt that high-skilled immigrant workers “are being exploited by employers,” with the H1-B visa program benefiting the corporate bottom line, especially providing protection against unions and labor strikes, but hurting the workers. The program itself gives employers great power over workers, allowing them to “hire and fire workers…grant legal immigration status…[or] deport the worker” if they don’t do what they like. In 2014 Wired magazine reported on a study showing that major tech companies (ex: Cisco, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Google) have pocketed wages and benefits from workers, especially among new Indian immigrants to the Valley, leading to an “ecosystem of fear” in the area among the workforce. The tech companies collectively withheld at least $29.7 million from such workers, forcing them to pay fees they shouldn’t have to pay, creating a form of indentured servitude, as some called it, where there exists an “underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit,” making “business and profit by having cheap labor” as one worker put it. [12] This shows that the tech companies are, in their own way, engaging in a form of organized crime against the immigrant proletariat. Such crimes are only part of their business model which includes top Silicon Valley CEOs conspiring in wage-fixing to drive down the wages of 100,000 engineers, ultimately involving one million employees in all.

With the exploitation of the immigrant proletariat, mainly those that are “high-skilled,” by the tech industry, this explains the harsh opposition from Silicon Valley to Trump’s executive order. Without the visa program, the industry would likely collapse or at least be weakened. As for other industries, immigrants are employed in jobs across the US economy, even as they face similar constraints to the native-born poor along with restrictions related to their citizenship status, especially in cities like New York. As a result, it can be said that immigrants ultimately benefit the US economy, even those that are undocumented, and are not a drag on the “native-born” section of the working class, making the country a better place for all, as even free-marketeers and libertarians would admit. [13] This is important to point out with nativists getting a new lease on life under the Trump administration.

As we stand now, the authoritarianism of the Obama administration has increased under Trump’s nightmarish state in regards to immigrants, Muslims killed by drone bombing, and violence supported by the murderous empire across the world, among much more. While we should undoubtedly be critical of bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives who claim to have the “answers” and solution to fighting Trump, rejecting their pleas to move the capitalist Democratic Party “more left” to fight the “bad Republicans,” there is no reason to sit idly by. We must get involved in pushing for revolutionary politics by at minimum engaging in actions that show solidarity with the immigrant proletariat, whether documented or undocumented, in the United States. In the end, perhaps we should heed what Homer Simpson declared about immigrants all those years ago:

Most of here were born in America. We take this country for granted. Not immigrants like Apu [who immigrated from India and on a green card], while the rest of are drinking ourselves stupid, they’re driving the cabs that get us home safely. They’re writing the operas that entertain us everyday. They’re training out tigers and kicking our extra points. These people are the glue that holds together the gears of our society. [14]

 

Notes

[1] Nathan Bomey, “Elon Musk to seek CEO consensus on changes to Trump immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Fredreka Schouten, “Koch network slams Trump immigrant ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017. As Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) tried to “seek a consensus” among fellow business CEOs who were affected with the order and trying to work with Trump, Uber changed course from crossing a picket line and profiting from the misery, to condemning Trump’s action as impacting “many innocent people” and the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, declaring “I’ve…never shied away…from fighting for what’s right,” even as they continue their horrid practices with exploitation of their workforce.

[2] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[3] Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017

[4] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017; John Ribeiro, “US tech industry says immigration order affects their operations,” CIO, Jan. 29, 2017; Anthony Cuthbertson, “How Silicon Valley Is Fighting Back Against Trump’s Immigration Ban,” Newsweek, Jan. 30, 2017;

Eric Newcomer, “Silicon Valley Finds Its Voice as Immigration Ban Fuels Outrage,” Bloomberg Technology, Jan. 30, 2017; PCMag staff, “Here’s What Silicon Valley Is Saying About Trump’s Immigration Ban,” PC magazine, Jan. 29, 2017; Matt Richtel, “Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 2009. On the subject of US-Mexico migration some companies have tried to get on the game as well: an Israeli company said they will help build the “great wall” on the US-Mexico border.

[5] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017.

[6] John Blackstone, “Tech industry, fueled by immigrants, protesting Trump’s travel ban,” CBS News, Jan. 31, 2017; Kerry Flynn, “Immigrants have built America’s tech industry,” Mashable, Jan. 31, 2017; Carmel Lobello, “The tech industry’s case for immigration reform,” The Week, June 2, 2013; Sarah McBride, “One quarter of U.S. tech start-ups founded by an immigrant: study,” Reuters, Oct. 2, 2012. Even a Forbes contributor, David Shaywitz,” said that immigrants are an “inextricable part of the valley’s cultural fabric and a vital element of its innovative potential.”

[7] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017; Katie Benner, “Obama, Immigration and Silicon Valley,” BloombergView, Jan. 22, 2015; Gregory Ferenstein, “No Exceptions For Tech Industry: High Skilled Visas Now Tied To Comprehensive Reform,” TechCrunch, Dec. 1, 2012; Stephen Moore, “Immigration Reform Means More High-Tech Jobs,” CATO Institute, Sept. 24, 1998; Jessica Leber, “Silicon Valley Fights for Immigrant Talent,” MIT Technology Review, July 26, 2013; Amit Paka, “How Legal Immigration Failed Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, Sept. 7, 2015.

[8] Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai, “Trump’s Next Immigration Move to Hit Closer to Home for Tech,” Bloomberg News, Jan. 30, 2017; Gretel Kauffman, “How Trump’s immigration stances could affect the tech industry,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 20, 2016; David Z. Morris, “Tech Industry Could be “First to Suffer” From Trump’s Immigration Stances,” Fortune, Nov 19, 2016; Salvador Rodriguez, “Why Tech Companies Need Immigrants to Function,” Inc, Jan. 30, 2017; Paresh Dave and Tracey Lien, “Trump’s shocking victory could squeeze Silicon Valley on immigration and trade,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016; David Jones, “Silicon Valley Up in Arms Over Proposed H-1B Overhaul,” E-Commerce Times, Jan. 31, 2017; Marisa Kendall, “Trump poised to overhaul H-1B visas relied on by Silicon Valley tech,” Mercury News, Jan. 31, 2017; Hansi Lo Wang, “In Silicon Valley, Immigrants Toast Their Way To The Top,” NPR News, Apr. 19, 2014; Marie-Astrid Langer, “Silicon Valley Wants High-Skilled Immigration on Campaign Agenda,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.

[9] Andrew Murr, “Immigrants In The Valley,” Newsweek, Dec. 25, 1994.

[10] Some immigrants are doing well however. Even by 1998, one study found that “Chinese and Indian immigrants were running a quarter of the high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley, collectively accounting for more than $16.8 billion in sales and over 58,000 jobs.”

[11] Ian Smith, “Obama Games the Visa System to Lower Wages and Please the Tech Industry,” National Review, September 30, 2015; Arnold Ahlert, “The Tech Industry’s Immigration Lies,” FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2014.

[12] The report shows that most of those who are the “well educated, highly skilled and specialized foreign workers” accepted under the H1-B Visa program are from China, India, the Philippines, and South Korea, with thousands of other petitions accepted from the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, France, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela, Colombia, Italy, Russia, and Spain, among other countries.

[13] H.A. Goodman, “Illegal immigrants benefit the U.S. economy,” The Hill, Apr. 23, 2014; Rowena Lindsay, “How immigration helps the US economy: Report,” Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 24, 2016; Ted Hesson, “Why American Cities Are Fighting to Attract Immigrants,” The Atlantic, Jul. 21, 2015; Daniel Griswold, “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World,” Insight (CATO Institute publication), Feb. 18, 2002; Rohit Arora, “Three Reasons Why Immigrants Help the U.S. Economy,” Inc, Feb. 24, 2015; Timothy Kaine, “The Economic Effect Of Immigration,” Hoover Institution, Feb. 17, 2015; Sean Hackbarth, “Immigrants are Good for the Economy,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dec. 5, 2014; A. Barton Hinkle, “Immigration Is Good for the U.S. Economy,” Reason, Jul. 21, 2014; Minyoung Park, “The vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US are here working: BAML,” Yahoo! News, Jul. 21, 2016.

[14] This speech is made by Homer near the end of the Simpsons episode, Much Apu About Nothing (Season 7, episode 23, May 1996) when Homer has the realization that the measure that would deport immigrants from Springfield, proposition 24, proposed by the loyal mayor, Joe Quimby, to distract from the “bear tax” to pay for the worthless “Bear Patrol” is wrong. Regardless, the measure passes anyway, with 95% approval, and Homer declares that democracy “doesn’t work” while all of the immigrants have gained citizenship (after passing the citizenship test), except for Groundskeeper Willie, who goes on a ship back to Scotland.

Gun control in capitalist America

This quote from this YouTube video, which is an excerpt of the documentary titled "The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975."
This quote is an excerpt of a documentary titled “The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975.” The bombing referred to here is the infamous act of white supremacist terrorism in 1963.

With the beginning of the “Trump era,” the calls for gun control have been partially (but not fully) muted. This article will go beyond the critical history of gun control and armed resistance by discussing my justification for rejecting gun control and, instead, an embrace of armed self-defense and armed resistance, terms which I will explore later in this post.

The battle between gun control, gun rights, and armed resistance

Gun control and armed resistance, with the latter used to defend against acts of oppression, have been often at odds. When the White European settlers came to the Western Hemisphere, indigenous peoples “offered heroic resistance” but they were ultimately suppressed because “Europeans possessed a huge superiority in weapons.” [1] At the same time, armed resistance has been an effective form of self-defense. During the Reconstruction period, Black militias were formed to defend the Black population against racist Whites, sometimes even unifying with poor whites to achieve this goal. [2] Examples of such self-defense later on includes Robert F. Williams and his gun club, called the Black Armed Guard, as noted in a previous post, meaning that “becoming a threat to the capitalist order and defending the gains of the workers movement and democratic rights through force if necessary” is important. The long history of racial domination in the United States (1510-2017), with “systematic transportation of African slaves to the New World” beginning on January 22, 1510, shows that the right and ability to own guns is an essential tool to “stand up to white terrorists and overt racist ideologues.” [3] This has been flaunted by the fact that, as also noted in the previous post of this series, some of the first gun control laws were aimed at Blacks, which is why many view the debate over such control with caution, and the fact that the KKK was first a “gun-control organization,” and that policies like “stop and frisk” were driven by gun control desires, feeding an “exploding prison population.” [4] Such history allows gun rights supporters on the “Right” to claim that gun control has racist roots, even though some liberals say that this claim does not negate the possibility of adopting any gun regulations in the present. [5]

The history of guns and gun rights have become politicized. Some claim that the assertion that gun control is racist and that the civil rights movement succeeded because blacks “were willing to take up arms against their oppressors” came from libertarian and “obscure right-wing” websites. [6] Some of these people have also used the example of gun control laws enacted after the Civil War and that Martin Luther King, Jr. was “blocked by segregationists when he tried to get his concealed carry permit” to argue against current gun control efforts, criticizing “Obama or his gun-grabbing cohorts,” saying that gun control is racially motivated. [7] This claim reportedly was tied with the claim that “slavery might not have lasted so long in America if black people had been granted the right to bear arms at the outset of their arrival in the new world.” [8] To digress a bit here, not only is the claim that armed enslaved Blacks could have resisted their bondage with guns ahistorical (because why would the white overlords give enslaved Blacks guns at all? wouldn’t that undermine their whole system of control?) but it implies that enslaved Blacks did not resist their chains of human bondage. Any analysis of history shows this to be completely false. Yet again, gun rights supporters will do anything they can to promote the use of guns. Saying that, the liberal arguments for gun control are at times so deluded as to be a joke.

Ladd Everitt, the former communications director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), a gun reform organization, is one of theses people. In his article on Waging Nonviolence, one of those progressive publications, he scoffs at the idea of gun control being racist, asking “if gun control laws had targeted blacks for disarmament, how would they have been able to successfully engage in armed resistance against White terrorists during Reconstruction and the civil rights movement?” [9] This ignorant argument doesn’t even make sense, because it disregards the fact that enslaved Blacks gained guns during the Civil War and due to evasion of gun control laws, allowing them to engage in armed resistance. Apart from Everitt’s silly argument, he then claims that calling gun control racist doesn’t make sense because “for most of our 234 years, the entire U.S. legal system has been arrayed against blacks” and that history is “replete with examples of African-American communities being severely punished and repressed after they did take up arms against white terrorists.” [10] Now, he is correct that the entire US legal system has been arrayed against Blacks and that some Black communities did suffer backlash from armed resistance, but he dismisses the obvious reality that such resistance allowed Blacks to survive through years upon years of bondage, discrimination, and bigotry.

As the years have gone by, the “political forms of the left-right axis” have begun to change. In 1976, cities like DC led the way in gun control, with the majority black city council banning “residents from owning or carrying handguns (excluding guards, police, and those with already registered handguns).” [11] By 1989, the NAACP voted to support gun control measures, and four years later, during “the peak of gun homicides among African-Americans,” 74% supported gun control.” [12] Still, a number of groups have historically engaged in armed self-defense, including the Deacons for Defense and Justice, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the Brown Berets (which has a modern version formed in 1993) the Young Lords, the Young Patriots, and the still-existing American Indian Movement. Currently there is the Fruit of Islam, Muslim Girls Training, the Red Guard Party (Maoists in Texas), Brothas Against Racist Cops, Redneck Revolt, Black Guns Matter, the John Brown Gun Club/John Brown Militia, the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, and the Indigenous People’s Liberation Front, among many others, showing that “marginalized communities and their supporters [can use]…firearms for self-defense and the defense of others against hate crimes, protection against the police, and as a means of challenging oppression from across the political spectrum.” [13]

There have been a number of current developments when it comes to gun rights. In 2008, the Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, held that the Second Amendment “guarantees an individual’s right to possess a gun” rejecting the existing D.C. law that  someone could own a shotgun but could not use in self-defense apparently, but Antonin Scalia had a whole set of exceptions to this declaration of gun rights including allowing “laws banning guns in sensitive places…laws prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing guns, [and] laws requiring commercial gun dealers to be licensed.” [14] This decision was also one of the first fortes into “gay rights activism for the Second Amendment rights of sexual minorities and of all other Americans.” [15]

In 2010, the Supreme Court hit another nail in the coffin of gun control in the United States. In a 5-4 decision in McDonald v. Chicago, the longstanding ban in Chicago of handguns was overturned, with the declaration that the Second Amendment applies to states. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, noted Black Americans who used guns throughout US history, noting that “Reconstruction-era efforts designed to grant equal citizenship to black Americans were equally as much about gun rights as they were about civil rights.” [16] The amicus brief for the Pink Pistols group declared “Recognition Of An Individual Right To Keep And Bear Arms Is Literally A Matter Of Life Or Death For Members Of The LGBT Community,” which was cited by Justice Scalia, contending that gun rights are “especially important for women and members of other groups that may be especially vulnerable to violent crime.” [17] Scalia further argued that even the Fourteenth Amendment contemplated guns rights because it was based on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which is not likely referring to the law itself, since it NEVER mentions the words “gun” or “arms,” but rather to the fact that “advocates of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 cited the disarmament of freed blacks as a reason the law was necessary” as the arch-conservative National Review claims. While these claims may seem erroneous, a number of books seem to back up this assessment as a correct one. [18] There is no doubt that gun rights were on the minds of Radical Republicans in Congress since the State of Mississippi had enacted a law in November 1865, part of the “Black Code” in the state, saying

“…it shall be the duty of every civil and military officer to arrest any freedman, free negro, or mulatto found with any such arms or ammunition, and cause him or her to be committed for trial in default of bail…That if any white person shall sell, lend, or give to any freedman, free negro, or mulatto any fire-arms, dirk or bowie-knife, or ammunition, or any spirituous or intoxicating liquors, such person or persons so offending, upon conviction thereof in the county court of his or her county, shall be fined not exceeding fifty dollars, and may be imprisoned.”

Furthermore, the Second Freedman’s Bill the following month declared in Section 7 that

“…whenever in any State or district in which the ordinary course of judicial proceedings has been interrupted by the rebellion, and wherein, in consequence of any State or local law, ordinance, police or other regulation, custom, or prejudice, any of the civil rights or immunities belonging to white persons, including the right to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property, and to have full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and estate, including the constitutional right of bearing arms, are refused or denied to negroes, mulattoes, freedmen, refugees, or any other persons, on account of race, color, or any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, or wherein they or any of them are subjected to any other or different punishment, pains, or penalties, for the commission of any act or offence, than are prescribed for white persons committing like acts or offences, it shall be the duty of the President of the United States, through the Commissioner, to extend military protection and jurisdiction over all cases affecting such persons so discriminated against.”

White racist attacks on Southern Blacks and efforts to take guns away from them by the KKK and other terrorist groups likely influenced the provision in the 1868 Mississippi Constitution saying “All persons shall have a right to keep and bear arms for their defense.”

Back to the McDonald case, Clarence Thomas had a concurring opinion which was evidently different than Alito’s. He noted how “blacks were disarmed by state legislatures and denied protection from white mobs” and after this, and the decision itself, articles appeared in numerous conservative publications saying that gun control was racist. [19]

Fast forward to 2013. That year, the Washington Post came out with an article about Black gun clubs in Maryland such as the Metro Gun Club, Big Foot Hunt Club, and elsewhere. The members of the club who were interviewed said that they loved “their guns and recalled growing up in black farming communities where every family had guns for hunting — and protection” noting that such love for guns “spanned generations in their families.” [20] Members had a variety of opinions, with some believing that  “guns should be in the hands of decent, honest people” but that assault rifles should be “restricted to military and law-enforcement personnel,” some saying that guns could protect women  from rapists, others saying there are new challenges being in favor of guns “in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December and talk of tighter gun control laws,” and one long-time gun owner saying “I’m torn. I don’t want guns to shoot people, but I don’t want you to take away my guns either.”

As the years past, more began to question peaceful protest and thought that violence could be the answer. One writer put it in 2014 that “weeks of peaceful protests and outright riots in Missouri have accomplished nothing” and said that people should act to “preserve their own life” from an out-of-control police state, and then posing the question “is it time to start resisting police with violence?” [21] This question is nothing new, as resistance to police has taken a more combative tone in the past, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, during the main thrust of the Black Power movement.

In 2015, the tension between gun control and gun rights continued. That year, 60 percent of Black Americans believed firmly in gun control, while White Americans believed the opposite. However, the racist history of gun control is present for some in the Black community, with the right to bear arms seen as civil rights issue, support for gun control in this community decreasing in the last 20 years, and support for gun ownership by black Americans has grown, especially since the massacre at the Charleston Emanuel AME Church when gun control was pushed as a solution by President Obama. [22] Taking this into account, it worth remembering that “gun control and race…are inextricably linked.” The idea of gun ownership as a form of civil rights may result in some balking from liberal gun control supporters. One point they can dispute is the idea that guns are used in self-defense. From first glance, it may seem that firearms are not used in self-defense, with gun rights supporters countering that “in most cases shots are never fired, because simply displaying a weapon can deter a criminal.” [23] The idea of guns being used for self-defense is supported by many Americans, even if evidence may not be as clear, especially when it comes to armed civilians ending acts of mass killing, with date from places such as the Violence Policy Center. However, it is worth noting that even the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, cited by gun control advocates, says that “firearms are used far more often to intimidate than in self-defense.” [24] While they say that this isn’t a use of self-defense, this is actually the idea entirely. It is worth quoting this Center in full:

“We found that firearms are used far more often to frighten and intimidate than they are used in self-defense…We found that guns in the home are used more often to frighten intimates than to thwart crime; other weapons are far more commonly used against intruders than are guns…We found that these young people were far more likely to be threatened with a gun than to use a gun in self-defense, and most of the reported self-defense gun uses were hostile interactions between armed adolescents…Compared to other protective actions, the National Crime Victimization Surveys provide little evidence that self-defense gun use is uniquely beneficial in reducing the likelihood of injury or property loss.” [25]

You could say that this disproves the idea of armed self-defense, but actually I would say that in a sense, it actually proves the idea by saying that guns can frighten and intimidate. And isn’t that part of self-defense?

In 2015, the Pink Pistols filed an amicus brief in the case of Fyock v. Sunnyvale. They argues against a ban on standard magazines for common defensive arms, such as popular handguns from Smith & Wesson, Ruger, Springfield or Glocks, making clear the idea of a “relationship between gay rights and gun rights.” [26] That same year, there was a powerful argument against gun control. The writer said that the idea to do something after a tragedy is nothing new, but new gun laws have consequences for Black people. He argued that any new criminal laws should be “carefully considered” saying that  gun laws, like many criminal laws have “contributed to sky-high rates of incarceration for minorities,” citing the story of Marissa Alexander, and saying that “strict gun laws with harsh penalties aimed at punishing violent criminals can also ensnare law-abiding people who make mistakes.” [27] He goes on to say that gun control, historically has “been directly or indirectly tied to race,” citing bills such as the Gun Control Act in 1968 and the Mulford Act in 1967, noting that these laws, among others in the years to come, “opened the floodgate to further federalization of criminal laws and the “tough on crime” mindset that dominated late 20th century American politics.” He ends by saying that while “every gun death is a tragedy,” with loss of life being horrendous, gun laws, even if well-intentioned, disproportionately burden the black community, arguing that “as calls grow for more gun laws, let’s not compound a tragedy by continuing the same mistakes of the past.”

From 2015 to the present, Black Lives Matter fits into this equation. They didn’t focus on gun control as a priority possibly because of the “racist history of gun control” and the fact that such gun laws are “are more likely to be used against African-Americans than whites.” [28]

There have been a number of developments in the fight between gun rights and gun control. The NRA, which declared that women with guns can stop abusers and rapists, called for armed guards in schools after Sandy Hook), was mum when unarmed Blacks (incl. Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, and Tamir Rice) were killed, even when a black man with a concealed permit, Philando Castile, was killed. [29] They weren’t the only game in town. In Dallas, Texas, a Black man named Mark Hughes was marching with an AR-15 rifle across his chest in a solidarity rally to protest the deaths of Castile and Sterling, shooting began and he was referred as the “suspect” in the shooting on Dallas police officers by Micah Xavier Johnson, leading Black gun owners to feel, rightly, that “they’re discriminated against for exercising their constitutional right to bear arms.” [30] Clearly, the NRA is “a bunch of old white guys, and honestly, I don’t think they have the tools and minorities in the organization to address these types of issues” as Michael Cargill, the owner of Central Texas Gun Works, put it, even as he said that they were “afraid to make the wrong statement,” which just seems like a convenient excuse. [31]

In the Black community in the United States, there have been strong calls for Black gun ownership and establishment of a Black nation within the US. [32] As General Babu Omowale, national minister of defense for the New Black Panther Party and co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club argued, “we [Black Americans] are a defenseless people and surrounded by a hostile society here in America…Blacks and African people need to be armed, We look at our history in this country…Being surrounded by white supremacy like we are, we are in the most volatile position of any race in the world.” [33] Such feelings means that as Victoria Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War, a book on Newton Knight, a white Mississippi farmer, soldier and Union sympathizer who united with Confederate deserters and escaped slaves to secede from the Confederacy, puts it, “we’re at a critical juncture of history in terms of race relations, reminiscent of the post-Civil War era” with independence and separatism viewed as the only recourse. Christian Davenport, author of How Social Movements Die: Repression and Demobilization of the Republic of New Africa, adds that “it is fairly easily for African-Americans to form a Black nation within the United States” including organizations like the Nation of Islam occupying “decent size areas in American cities.” [34] Apart from this, other groups have been formed. In February 2015, Philip Smith started a group, the National African American Gun Association (NAAG), for “law-abiding, license-carrying gun owners who happen to be African-American” which had grown to over 11,000 members in all 50 states, a sign of more interest by Black Americans in gun ownership, especially from Black women. [35] This has also manifested itself on protests by armed members of the New Black Panther Party (with questionable beliefs) and the Huey P. Newton gun club against the anti-Muslim hate group named the Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR), with the horrid group declaring that, in typical fashion, “we cannot stand by while all these different anti-American, Arab radical Islamists team up with Nation of Islam/Black Panthers and White anti-American anarchist groups, joining together in the goal of destroying our country and killing innocent people to gain dominance through fear! We will be going in full gear for self defense only. This is a full gear situation.” [36]

Since Trump’s election, there have been a rise in memberships in gun clubs and gun ownership because they are worried about their safety, especially threatened by white racists, bigots, and neo-Nazis emboldened by the Trumpster. This includes more members in the Liberal Gun Club, which will be described later, Black Guns Matter, and the NAAG among “non-traditional” people such as self-described liberals, non-binary folks, Black Americans, and Latino Americans. [37] This included people, like Yolanda Scott, who said “I’m not the type of person who is afraid of my own shadow. I’m going to protect myself, whatever that means.”

In 2016, there were a number of other developments. After the shooting at the Orlando LGBTQ nightclub, Democrats in the US Senate pushed forward a “gun control” measure to demonize Muslims by pushing to exclude those in on “watchlist” that the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center maintains. [38] Bursting to the forefront was the Pink Pistols, a decentralized “LGBT self-defense” group founded in 2000, headed by a disabled woman in Philadelphia named Gwendolyn Patton, with 45 chapters nationwide and 1,500 to 25,000 members, declaring “armed queers don’t get bashed.” [39] The group also files court cases on their behalf. They describe themselves as people dedicated “to the legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community…We change the public perception of the sexual minorities, such that those who have in the past perceived them as safe targets” and sometimes work with the NRA on certain cases, but not always. [40] At the present, there is another gun group, called the Liberal Gun Club. This group aims to “provide a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legislation, firearms safety, and shooting sports.” [41] They also describe themselves as an “education and outreach non-profit” Beyond this, they declare they provide a place for gun owners who do not agree with “right-wing rhetoric surrounding firearm ownership” a voice. [42] With a range of opinions, the long-time contributors and annual meeting attendees (not all members), who they call “elders,” believe in stronger mental healthcare, addressing homeless and unemployment, along with poverty, enforcement of existing laws instead of new laws such as the Assault Weapons Ban, uniformity in permits for guns if they are the law of the land, licenses for carrying a concealed weapon. [43]

There are a number of aspects worth keeping in mind. For one, at the present, as Democrats push forward gun control measures, including a number of Black politicians, White politicians oppose the measures, along with the NRA, which wants gun use to be deregulated without a doubt, and “conservative entertainment complex.” [44] Perhaps those who call for Communist Gun Clubs to “learn basic skills of using weapons and armed self-defense, could become a basis for future workers militias that will fight all forms of reactionaries,” recognizing that the principle of self-defense is universal, that views of guns are racialized, and that “opposition movements [to bigots] cannot function without simultaneously building communities.” [45] Once we realize that, we should not reject those in the heartland of the United States who may oppose fracking but also strongly believe in their right to have firearms, with “liberals” possibly a section of the citizenry which is “less well informed than it believes it is, more driven by emotion and prejudice than it realizes,” leading it to harboring “dangerous biases,” as shown in the recent presidential election. [46]

Where we stand now

With the beginning of Trump’s presidency, a grueling four years (or horrifyingly eight) is ahead. While there are some who say that gun control laws are classist, some say that gun control efforts are not racist, others who demand the removal of all gun laws, there is no need to delve in such areas [47] There is no doubt that there are people in the United States who feel that guns make them safe, whether they are part of the largely White NRA or not. [48] As it stands now in the US, gun laws will contribute to the white supremacist order. [49] More specifically, such laws are related to the fact that class rule in all states and in the US at large, reply on “bodies of armed men,” such as police, prisons, a standing army, and other “instruments of coercion” to maintain order, manifesting itself in the Klan disarming Blacks, the “stop and frisk” laws in New York City, and creating “ore reasons for police to suspect people of crimes,” bringing with it more justifications for a militarized police force. [50] Already, over 7 million Americans are subject to a form of correctional control, with gun control efforts as a major factor, coupled with Supreme Court decisions that authorized exceptions to the Fourth Amendment since policing guns, with unequal and unfair enforcement, can said to be like policing drugs.

While practical measures, such as increasing funding for mental health programs should occur, we have to turn to “mutual help and self-defense” to strengthen the solidarity between all of those never meant to survive under the unjust system of capitalism. [51] Additionally, a “reasonable gun control regime” is not possible in the US currently, with the need for racial justice ignored, even as some claim that “permissive gun laws [in the US] are a manifestation of racism,” and claiming that gun control are anti-racist measures, which doesn’t even make sense. [52] Some who are in favor of gun control have proposed all sorts of “technological fixes.” This includes support of (1) “smart guns” that can only be fired by “authorized users” and connected to cell phones perhaps; (2)”gunfire detectors” or make a school a “fortress” with lockable doors and a computer terminal at a local police department allowing police to control the school; (3) using robots to detect those who “don’t belong” in an effort and ultimately having “lethal robots” to kill suspected shooters. [53] In all, each of these ideas is horrible and should not even be considered as a “solution” as they would increase police power and reinforce the problems with the (in)justice system. Others are vehemently opposed to guns, like one person who was incensed with “gun ads” on TV, the rhetoric of the NRA, and romanticizing gun efforts. [54] One piece specifically, mocking those on the “Left” who “active oppose gun control,” says that it doesn’t make sense that people need “guns to wage an eventual revolution and liberate themselves from the shackles of the state and corporate America,” saying that such “leftist dreams” would not occur because of a “toxic gun culture….with a lethal cocktail of supercharged masculinity, racism, and provincialism” and that “disarming the Right” would do more, even saying that “guns hardly keep away the police or help communities fight back against the cops” and implying that such laws are “against patriarchy and other forms of oppression.” [55] While the piece may have some good points, it misses the bigger picture. Gun control laws are not the the “only ways to reduce gun violence and save lives” and such laws don’t help protect marginalized communities, arguably disarming them at most, or weakening their protection at minimum. [56]

As the Trumpster continues to sit in office with his cronies and state violence increases across the country by police, immigration enforcers, and bigots, we should listen to Lorenzo Raymond. He said that in this “historical moment,” hate crimes and racist terror is growing and the “Left” needs to recognize the right of “necessary self-defense against oppressive force.” Raymond goes on to say that there is a growing “black gun movement” in the US based on past history, remembers that there has been a “virgorous Black gun culture” in the South when the Black freedom movement was working to overturn segregation, and that gun control for most of the establishment isn’t about peace but has to do with “an orderly and centralized capitalist empire.” He adds that while guns kill 33,000 a year, alcohol (80,000 a year) and prescription drugs (120,000 a year) kill more, with more lobbying by these interests than the NRA since as the New York Times put it once, guns are a small business in the US at large. He goes on to say that gun control won’t bring us to a humane society, noting that Australia has such control and their society isn’t humane, while saying that the “open-carry state of Vermont” has elected imperialist “progressive” Bernie Sanders, and citing the “autonomist Kurds of Northern Syria,” who are not as radical as he portrays them but are actually serving the interests of imperialism in helping to split up the Syrian Arab Republic, as examples. Raymond has more. He says that “unilateral disarmament of the American Left” is new, with Eugene Debs calling for guns after the Ludlow Massacre to protect from Rockefeller’s assassins (and goons), armed miners in Harlan Country in the 193os, and armed protection by urban labor unions. He ends by saying that armed resistance by the Right-wing is likely in the coming year, such as by right-wing militias and white terrorists, that there is a need to recognize the right to bear arms like conservatives, joining groups like the Liberal Gun Club and Phoenix John Brown Gun Club, since it is the only hope of making the country safer, defending from bigots and others by any means necessary, even as the “right-wing’s fetishization of brute force” should be refuted most definitely.

While Raymond is right, he is only putting forward part of the puzzle. A month ago, in an article where I attempted to predict the likely agenda of Trump’s administration, I declared at the following:

“…Considering that US society is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise bigoted, it is criminal and irresponsible to fight for gun control. Anyone who is a person of color, whether female, transgender, bisexual, homosexual, intersex, or is otherwise considered a “minority” in current society, should have the right to defend themselves with arms as necessary. That right is already claimed by white, straight men, so why can’t others in society arm themselves to fight off bigots? You can’t fight a revolution with flowers and sayings, but political power, as Mao Zedong put it, “grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Gun control, if decided as necessary, should happen after a socialist revolution, not before it.”

Now, in saying this, I am simply saying that any “minority” should have the right to self-defense by arms as necessary. Also, in saying that revolution can’t be fought with “flowers and sayings” but that political power grows out of a gun barrel, I was trying to say that there should be a diversity of tactics. When I pointed out that gun control should happen after a socialist revolution, not before, I was arguing out that such self-defense cannot occur as effectively with gun control measures in place. Also, I was trying to say that the focus on gun control should be removed from the equation, with other approaches instead, which are more effective.

Guns have been seen as necessary by those advocating for socialist revolution. Karl Marx, in his 1850 Address to the Communist League, declared that

“…it is necessary to organize and arm the proletariat. The arming of the whole proletariat with rifles, guns, and ammunition must be carried out at once; we must prevent the revival of the old bourgeois militia, which has always been directed against the workers. Where the latter measure cannot be carried out, the workers must try to organize themselves into an independent guard, with their own chiefs and general staff…under no pretext must they give up their arms and equipment, and any attempt at disarmament must be forcibly resisted.” [57]

Marx was not the only one to make such a declaration. Vladimir Lenin, one of the leaders of the Great October Socialist Revolution, supported “special bodies of armed men” as part of a socialist revolution and believed that armed people can make communism a possibility. [58]

He even went as far as saying, in earlier years that workers should be immediately armed and said something that should make liberals tremble:

“…only an armed people can be a real stronghold of national freedom. And the sooner the proletariat succeeds in arming itself, and the longer it maintain its position of striker and revolutionary, the sooner the soldiers will at last begun to understand what they are doing, they will go over to the side of the people against the monsters, against the tyrants, against the murderers of defenceless workers and of their wives and children” [59]

There is no doubt that guns can be a tool to allow socialist revolution to succeed. Why should the “Left” focus on limiting such a tool? Sure, guns can be used for malevolent ends and have often been used in such a way as gun violence on the streets of cities across the US, in the slums and ghettos of the oppressed, demonstrates. However, they can also be used to allow socialist revolution to succeed in countries such as China (1949), Russia (1917), Cuba (1959), and the DPRK (1948-1950), among many more.

Finding the way forward requires looking at the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. I am aware that the document in its entirety is classist and bourgeois in character. However, I think it is worth reprinting here:

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Apart from the fact that this Amendment reads like an unfinished sentence, one can still have an interpretation. I think it is fair to say that the amendment says that militia units in states should be well-regulated for the purposes of securing the State from “undesirables” (whoever the elites and society think they are) but also declares that “the people” which means the whole population of the US, over 324 million people, have the right to “keep and bear Arms,” a right which shouldn’t be infringed.

Now, while the Second Amendment is mainly said to be about gun rights, I would argue that is too narrow. The word “arm,” which has been associated with weapons since its origin in Indo-European languages is defined by “any instrument used in fighting” or a “weapon,” with a weapon defined as either an organ used for defense or an “instrument of any kind used to injure or kill, as in fighting or hunting” as noted by Webster’s New World College Dictionary and numerous thesauruses. This means that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” applies to ALL weapons, not just guns. Hence, people, as noted by Akinyele Omowale Umoja in We Will Shoot Back, on pages 7 and 8, have the right to defend themselves with “fists, feet, stones, bricks, blades, and gasoline firebombs,” along with guns of course.

Keeping this in mind, it worth defining a number of terms. Umoja, in We Will Shoot Back, on page 7, defines armed resistance was the “individual and collective use of force for protection, protest, or other goals of insurgent political action and in defense of human rights,” while also including armed struggle, armed vigilance, guerilla warfare, spontaneous rebellion, retaliatory violence, and armed self-defense. He also defines armed defense, on the same page, as the “protection of life, persons, and property from aggressive assault through the application of force necessary to thwart or neutralize attack.” Adding to this, Black’s Law Dictionary (Third Pocket Edition), defines force (which they break down into eight types), on page 294, as “power, violence, or pressure directed against a person or thing,” meaning that one does not have to kill or maim someone to apply force. These definitions are suitable for describing tactics used in the current political climate of the United States.

As we watch the Trump Administration from our TVs, computer screens, phones, or read it in the papers, we must recognize the need for resistance and act on such feelings. Still, we cannot be roped into the bourgeois milquetoast resistance by the Democratic Party and their lackeys and instead engage in solidarity, at minimum, with those under attack by the capitalist system within the US and across the world as a whole. It is not worth “waiting” for revolution. Rather, it is best to act in the present against the threats that face this planet and its people, even when one should do so without illusion, whatever form that takes offline or online.

Notes

[1] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 6.

[2] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[3] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[4] Ibid; Joe Catron, “Gun control and bigotry,” Worker’s World, June 24, 2016; accessed January 17, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[5] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. The latter piece Ends up advocating for gun control.

[6] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). He goes on to talk about Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Colfax Massacre, and numerous other instances to disprove the gun control is racist idea.

[7] Newsmax, “Top Firearms Group: Gun Control Has Roots in Racism,” February 25, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[8] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[9] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Logan Marie Glitterbomb, “Combating Hate: A Radical Leftist Guide to Gun Control,” Augusta Free Press, January 11, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017. Reposted from the website of the Center for a Stateless Society which states that this article is only “Part 1.” They also note the Sylvia Rivera Gun Club for Self-Defense as an example but this group could not be found despite internet searchings. It is possible the group exists but may be a small group with little publicity or its name has changed from the past.

[14] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[15] David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[16] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV).

[17] David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, Vol. 1 (ed. Gregg Lee Carter, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012), 9; John Massaro, No Guarantee of a Gun: How and Why the Second Amendment Means Exactly What It Says (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2009), 652; Markus Dirk Dubber, Victims in the War on Crime: The Use and Abuse of Victims’ Rights (New York: New York University Press, 2002), 93; Deborah Homsher, Women and Guns: Politics and the Culture of Firearms in America: Politics of Firearms in America (Expanded Edition, New York: Routledge, 2015), 292; Christopher B. Strain, Pure Fire: Self-defense as Activism in the Civil Rights Era (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005), 19, 197; Charles E. Cobb, Jr., This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (New York: Basic Books, 2014), 45; Philip Wolny, Gun Rights: Interpreting the Constitution (New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2015), 26.

[19] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[20] , “Black gun clubs and the right to bear arms,” Washington Post, February 19, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[21] Rob Los Ricos, “The US police state is out of control – is armed self-defense a necessary option?,” rob’s revolting, November 15, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Justin King, “When Should We Start Forcibly Resisting Police Tyranny?,” September 19, 2014, TheAntiMedia; accessed January 16, 2017.

[22] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Gun control’s racist reality: The liberal argument against giving police more power,” Salon, June 24, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[23] The Week Staff, “The truth about guns and self-defense,” November 1, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[24] Michael McLaughlin, “Using Guns In Self-Defense Is Rare, Study Finds,” Huffington Post,  June 17, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[25] Harvard Injury Control Research Center, “Gun Threats and Self-Defense Gun Use,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[26] David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[27] Jonathan Banks, “Gun Control Will Not Save America from Racism,” Vice, June 22, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. I know its horrid Vice, but so what.

[28] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[29] Claire Landsbaum, “NRA Ad Claims ‘Real Women’s Empowerment’ Is Owning a Gun,” New York Magazine, July 13, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Max Plenke, “When Black Men Are Shot and Killed, the NRA Is Silent,” Mic, July 7, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[30] Tessa Stuart, “Black Gun Owners Speak Out About Facing a Racist Double Standard,” Rolling Stone, July 14, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Korri Atkinson, “Black Gun Owners in Texas Decry Racial Bias,” Texas Tribune, July 9, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[31] Hannah Allam, “For black gun owners, bearing arms is a civil rights issue,” McClatchy DC, July 15, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Korri Atkinson, “Black Gun Owners in Texas Decry Racial Bias,” Texas Tribune, July 9, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[32] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Hannah Allam, “For black gun owners, bearing arms is a civil rights issue,” McClatchy DC, July 15, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[36] RT (Russia Today), “New Black Panthers in armed showdown with anti-Muslim militia in Texas,” April 6, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[37] Charmaine Lomabao, “Liberal Gun Club Experiences Increasing Membership Since Trump Victory,” Newsline, December 27, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Shantella Y. Sherman, “Black Gun Purchases Reportedly Skyrocket Since Trump Election,” Afro, January 4, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017; The Grio, “Gun sales to blacks, minorities surge after Trump win,” Aol News, November 28, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; , “Firearm sales rise among minorities,” WBCD (NBC Affiliate), December 28, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Ben Popken, “Trump’s Victory Has Fearful Minorities Buying Up Guns,” NBC News, November 27, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Teryn Payne, “Gun Sales Among Blacks See Increase,” Ebony magazine, November 29, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. Reprinted from Jet magazine; Brian Wheeler, “Why US liberals are now buying guns too,” BBC News, December 20, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Joe Schoenmann, “Fearing Trump Supporters, Now Liberals Are Buying Guns,” KNPR, January 10, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017; Teresa Walsh, “Now it’s the liberals who are arming up,” McClatchy DC, December 23, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Brandon Ellington Patterson, “African American Gun Ownership Is Up, and So Is Wariness,” Mother Jones, July 12, 2016; Brandon Ellington Patterson, “African American Gun Ownership Is Up, and So Is Wariness,” Mother Jones, July 12, 2016.

[38] Minnie Bruce Pratt, “Gun control or self-defense?,” Worker’s World, June 22, 2016; accessed January 17, 2017; Joe Catron, “Gun control and bigotry,” Worker’s World, June 24, 2016; accessed January 17, 2017.

[39] John Burnett, “LGBT Self-Defense Site ‘Pink Pistols’ Gains Followers After Orlando Massacre,” NPR, June 23, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Julia Ioffe, “The Group that Wants to Arm Gay America,” Politico, June 13, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; David Kopel, “The history of LGBT gun-rights litigation,” Washington Post, June 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[40] Pink Pistols, “About the Pink Pistols,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[41] The Liberal Gun Club, “Who We Are,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[42] The Liberal Gun Club, “What We Do,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[43] The Liberal Gun Club, “Talking Points Regarding Regulation,” accessed January 16, 2017.

[44] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[45] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Nicholas Johnson, “Negroes and the Gun: The early NAACP championed armed self-defense,” Washington Post, January 30, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[46] Barbara Nimiri Aziz, “Profile of a Progressive Gun Enthusiast,” CounterPunch, Accessed January 16, 2017.

[47] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[48] Ehab Zahriyeh, “For some blacks, gun control raises echoes of segregated past,” Al Jazeera America, September 1, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017.

[49] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[50] Gun control’s racist reality: The liberal argument against giving police more power,” Salon, June 24, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Minnie Bruce Pratt, “Gun control or self-defense?,” Worker’s World, June 22, 2016; accessed January 17, 2017.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Gun control’s racist reality: The liberal argument against giving police more power,” Salon, June 24, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Gary Gutting, “Guns and Racism,” The New York Times, December 28, 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[53] William Brennan, “Bulletproofing,” The Atlantic, January/February 2017.

[54] Bruce Mastron, “My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns,” CounterPunch, January 16, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017; Ken Levy, “If You Don’t Support Gun Control, Then You Don’t Support the Police,” CounterPunch, July 16, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[55] Andrew Culp and Darwin BondGraham, “Left Gun Nuts,” CounterPunch, May 29, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[56] Logan Marie Glitterbomb, “Combating Hate: A Radical Leftist Guide to Gun Control,” Augusta Free Press, January 11, 2017; accessed January 16, 2017. Reposted from the website of the Center for a Stateless Society which states that this article is only “Part 1.”

[57] Karl Marx, “Address to the Communist League,” The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 67.

[58] V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution” (1918), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 572, 591.

[59] V.I. Lenin, “The revolution in 1905: The beginning of the revolution in 1905” (January 25, 1905), The Marxist Reader: The Most Significant and Enduring Works of Marxism (Illustrated, New York: Avenel Books, 1982), 508-509.

Gun control and armed resistance: a critical history

Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja's We Will Shoot Back (p. 197)
Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s 2013 Black resistance history, We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement (p. 197)

The days in the United States may seem dark indeed but with Trump in power and the authoritarianism will increase from its current murderous norm. This means that any pretense for nonviolent respectfulness as a “solution” on its own should be abandoned. Last month, I promised to write about this subject and now I am delivering on that promise, with views which are different from those I expressed in the past. [1] To be clear, I’m no “gun nut” or “gun enthusiast,” a label that liberals and progressives throw around, and do not subscribe to the views of the NRA (National Rifle Association) or any of its supporters. This article is the beginning of a two part series, with this article recounting the history of gun control laws, which is interconnected with the story of armed self-defense and armed resistance. In order to construct this history, those of liberal, conservative, and radical viewpoints are used together.

A critical history of gun control, armed self-defense and armed resistance

For much of US history, gun laws have been interlinked with racism and racial politics, at minimum. The first targets of gun control measures were enslaved Blacks, with the fear of “Black rebellion and…fear of weapons in Black hands,” aiming to prevent the possession of weapons by Black people in America. [2] Specifically, the first gun control measure was in colonial Virginia in 1664, with similar measures passing in 1712 and in 1831 after Nat Turner’s rebellion. [3] From here, it is worth jumping forward to the traditional founders, often called the “Founding Fathers” in our hero-centric culture. When the Second Amendment was proposed as part of the bourgeois freedoms (“The Bill of Rights”), demanded by Anti-Federalists, later the first Republicans, which mainly included dispossessed farmers and slaveowners, it was not racially equal. Those who wrote and ratified it, had numerous laws on the books which were racially exclusive, banning enslaved Blacks (and even free Blacks) from having guns, in fear of revolt across the thirteen states of the new country. [4] Some have even argued that the amendment itself was not meant to protect individual’s right to bear arms but to prevent the federal government “from usurping control of state militias and undermining their slave patrol duties” and was used by the author of the amendment, James Madison, as part of his “1789 campaign to win election to the House of Representatives” and gain support for the “Bill of Rights” on the whole. [5]

After the new rights were put in place, there were some gun laws were so intrusive that they would be emphatically rejected by the NRA and others if laws of a similar character were proposed today. One such law, in 1792, on the federal level, mandated that “every eligible man…purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia” with guns inspected and put on public rolls. [6] Some may take this to mean that such laws were not racist after all. However, such a law was likely to prevent rebellions by farmers and dispossessed revolutionary war veterans, like those in Western Pennsylvania, in 1786 and from 1791-1794, over economic inequality, taxes (of numerous types), foreclosure, debt enforced by the courts, and other forms of resentment. [7] Hence, such gun laws were a form of social control aimed at Whites. Laws that were racist continued into the 19th century, with Blacks allowed to possess arms in Virginia in the early 1800s but “had to obtain permission from local officials” which was unlikely. [8] Another form of social control aimed at White gun owners were concealed carry laws in the 1820s where purportedly “violence-prone men” were limited in using their weapons, an example cited by gun control advocates as “the first modern gun control laws” with the aim of “reducing criminal violence among whites.” [9] Such an explanation is historically inaccurate because the first gun laws were in the 17th century, as noted in the previous paragraph. Additionally, the first bans on concealed weapons were in the Southern states of Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, seen then limiting a practice of criminals. Then, by the mid-1900s, most US states had concealed carry laws rather than banning guns completely within their state borders, implying that they these laws were a form of social control.

For enslaved Blacks, guns were an important and vital tool (one of many tools) of resistance against their chains of human bondage. They were used to protect against violent White supremacists, police, and terrorist vigilantes. Without guns, they were defenseless and could not win their freedom or initiate an armed rebellion, rejected by most as a “losing strategy” since enslaved Blacks were a “minority in a predominantly white country.” [10] Still, they were at least “313 slave actions, or alleged revolts by groups of ten or more slave[s]” from 1526, 16 years after the first 50 enslaved Blacks are transported to the North America (on January 22, 1510) and start of the African slave trade in the Americas, until 1860, compared to thousands in other parts of the Americas (not within the United States). After one such rebellion, in 1831, by Nat Turner, which was recently Hollywoodified in Birth of a Nation, planters repressed abolitionists and actions of rebellious Blacks as guns were controlled even more tightly. [11] Such restrictions were not a surprise. Brutal slaveowner Thomas Jefferson, one of the “Founders,” worried to John Adams, in an 1821 letter, that enslaved Blacks, once free, would have the right to bear arms and that they might “seek and gain political influence and power,” leading to possible revolt. [12]

Some advocates of gun control have said that it is “sad” to admit that “our gun rights history…is stained with racism,” which commenced when Blacks, free and enslaved, were banned from owning firearms, with the means of enforcing this being “slave patrols” where armed White men went around to “ensure that blacks were not wandering or gathering where they were not permitted, engaging in suspicious activity or acquiring forbidden weapons” with such functions in some areas “taken over by state militias.” [13] I’m not sure why it is sad to admit this. It is better to recognize it as a part of US history which is glossed so easily that heart-throbbing gun rights advocates have taken up the cause of spreading this information instead of progressives, which is a damn shame. Anyway, Blacks being prohibited from owning guns was even ruled as legal by North Carolina and Georgia Supreme Courts in the 1840s! [14] At the same time, during the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) case, denying Blacks, like Dred Scott, an enslaved Black man whose story is not fully known, whether enslaved or free, standing (or humanity) in court, declaring the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, and saying that enslaved Blacks in U.S. territories cannot be freed by an act of Congress, guns was part of the reason cited by racist and bigoted Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of the Supreme Court, for this decision. [15]

Gun control was clearly aimed at Blacks (enslaved and free) and Whites (to an extent) as a form of social control before the Civil War. Some resisted this imposition, including Harriet Tubman, who was a “conductor” of the underground railroad, carrying a firearm (debate it if was a pistol or rifle) to fend off “possible attacks from slavecatchers” and rescuing more than 300 people from slavery with her gun by her side. [16] Frederick Douglass, one of the major leaders of the abolitionist movement, declared that a good revolver was critical for Blacks to stay free, specifically commenting that gaining freedom in the South would require “the ballot-box, the jury-box and the cartridge-box.” [17] Before the Civil War, some Black female fugitive slaves fired back at slavecatchers, while others engaged in armed self-defense or armed resistance, even as Blacks in the South were not allowed to possess guns, with such guns used in these struggles taken from those in the hands of White folks. [18] With the onset of the Civil War, Blacks gained guns, legally, for the first time, with Black soldiers as a decisive force during the war. [19] 

But, the victory for the Union, and ultimately for Black peoples in the American South mainly, would not last. Many southern Blacks predicted that they would need their weapons to “defend themselves against racist whites unhappy with the Confederacy’s defeat,” a prediction proven true when “recalcitrant white racists committed to the reestablishment of white supremacy determined to take those guns away from blacks” and reassert control. [20] It was then that “Black Codes” were passed to reestablish White power across the South, with measures banning Blacks from owning liquor and guns, with some laws cloaked in “neutral, non-racial terms,” which was enforced by groups of White men who “began terrorizing black communities.” [21] These vigilante enforcers took different names in every locale, but mainly came to be known by the name of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), along with many others, with intimidation campaigns which disarmed Blacks and served as gun control organs arguably. [22] Newly freed Blacks were not passive or fell into their “assigned” state of subservience, but actively resisted such intimidation and White terrorism, forming Union Leagues with Black militia attachments and Black rifle clubs, even as there was no attempt to disarm such White racist vigilantes, leading to some communities unable to resist racist assaults as they were left “vulnerable and disarmed.” [23]

Such gun control efforts in the Reconstruction period have been used by guns rights supporters on the right-wing, in the present, to advance the argument that “gun control is racist.” This argument seemingly assumes that gun control began during the Reconstruction period. While gun control supporters are right that this is incorrect, some argue laughably that laws before the Civil War were “enacted to provide for the public’s safety, not to discriminate against any particular minority, and were enforced uniformly against all state residents” which whitewashes the actual history to make it sound nice, happy, and glad, denying that laws were racist and/or a form of social control. [24] Still, such people cannot deny that there were “discriminatory gun control laws at this time—and other times—in our history that specifically targeted blacks.” It is more accurate to say, like Detroit Black man Rick Ector, that “gun control has racist roots” even if you disagree with his assertion that denying people “the opportunity to own a gun and to protect themselves…is the epitome of racism.” [25]

In the following years of the Reconstruction, the ability of Black Americans to own guns was under attack. The Supreme Court eviscerated the true meaning of the 14th Amendment, in United States v. Cruikshank  and The Slaughter-House Cases, among others, which allowed racism to be further greenlighted in the South, with groups, like the KKK, engaging in forcible disarmament of free Blacks and imposing White supremacy through “rape and murder of countless ordinary blacks” as they gained (and held) power throughout the American South. [26] Once again, this did not happen without resistance. In 1892, in pamphlet entitled “Southern Horrors,” Ida B. Wells, a Black female crusader against lynching, declared that mob violence was only ameliorated when “blacks exercised manly self-defense” because “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home.” [27] Specifically, the resistance to White terror after the rise of the KKK and legal violence of Southern government led to what became the modern civil rights movement starting in the early 20th century. [28]

The NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois were at the forefront of such a movement. In 1906, after the Atlanta “race riot,” DuBois patrolled his home with a shotgun. His aggressive statements following this event and his purchase of a gun were not just a one-time event. [29] In fact, as the editor of the NAACP’s magazine, still printed today, called The Crisis, DuBois championed “armed self-defense,” casting it as a duty, a viewpoint also held by NAACP leaders Walter White and Louis Wright, among others. During the 1919 “race riot” in Chicago, DuBois urged robust self-defense through the use of “bricks and clubs and guns” even as he cautioned against “blind and lawless offense against all white folk” and in 1921 he invoked self-defense as he urged Blacks to migrate into the North. Organizationally, the NAACP cut its teeth defending those Black Americans who engaged in armed self-defense, with major litigation. This included defense of a Black sharecropper, named Pink Franklin, who shot the planter “who laid claim to him under a peonage contract” in 1910, and was freed by 1919. Another case was that of Ossian Sweet, a man who feared White “mobbers” and being called a coward when going into his home in 1925. So he carried “a sack full of guns and ammunition” and a mob gathered. By the end of the encounter, one white man was killed by “Negro gunfire” and the NAACP hired “Clarence Darrow to defend the Sweets” while they used the “case to fuel a fundraising juggernaut.” Some instances didn’t go as well, such as Sgt. Edgar Caldwell, a WWI veteran, who shot (and killed) a trolley driver who stomped on him “after throwing him from the whites-only section.” Caldwell only survived two years on death row “before he was executed” despite the NAACP raising money for his defense. Finally, it is worth noting that DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Marcus Garvey came together in thought (likely not in reality), as they found “basic agreement” on the idea of armed self-defense by Black Americans.

Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home
Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home

Beyond the NAACP, Black Americans were fending for themselves. Up until the 1950s (and beyond), Black women defended themselves from harassment and physical assault by White men with pistols or “handy” rifles. [30] As Jim Crow and Jane Crow intensified in the wake of the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision which legalized “separate but equal” racial segregation in the American South, states enacted “gun registration and handgun permit laws” with such laws passed in Mississippi (1906), Georgia (1913), and North Carolina (1917), along with others following in Missouri (1919) and Arkansas (1923). [31]

At this point, gun control laws expanded beyond social control of White folks and anti-Black racism to other marginalized social groups. Such laws included the infamous Sullivan Act, which was put in place to “keep the immigrant populations from carrying pistols” and served as what some call the “the forefather of today’s modern “may issue” gun permit laws” for concealed carry. [32] Some guns rights advocates claim that California’s roots of its gun control legislation is “tied to white anxiety over Mexican-Americans and Chinese-Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.” [33] While more research would be needed to see if this claim is accurate, there is one reality that is clear: discriminatory gun laws in the Northern United States were passed from the 1910s until the 1930s. These laws, which came about as a result of immigration of “unsavory types”, were thoroughly embedded with racism and directly promoted and crafted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). [34] Specifically as a response to urban gun violence and crime often pegged on immigrants, especially those from Italy and Eastern Europe, the president of the NRA, Harvard-educated lawyer Karl Frederick, helped draft “model legislation to restrict concealed carry of firearms in public.” These laws, such as the Uniform Firearms Act in Pennsylvania in the 1920s, allowed police to determine who was “suitable” to carry a gun, with “racial minorities and disfavored immigrants…usually deemed unsuitable.” [35] Later on, in 1934, when Congress was considering restrictions on “”gangster guns” like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns,” the NRA endorsed the law, showing that it was not the “aggressive lobbying arm for gun manufacturers” that it is today. [36]

During the 1930s, some of those in the working class directly engaged in armed self-defense. The Communist Party (CP) mobilized mass support with “the Scottsboro defense campaign, the miners’ strike of 1931, the unemployed movement, and the underground and armed self-defense organization of thousands of sharecroppers under conditions of the most vicious repression,” helping to prepare the working class for “the enormous battles of the late 1930s.” [37] Such sharecroppers came together in the Sharecropper’s Union, starting in Alabama in 1932, which expanded its membership to “about 12,000 poor farmers and farm laborers,” who were mostly Black, with some White workers, “in five Black Belt states of the Deep South.” [38] With the CP’s members among the leadership, this union organized rural poor to resist plantation owners and ally with urban working class folks. Since the conditions in the South made “elementary demands” have “revolutionary significance,” the sharecroppers organized their struggle as one with arms, engaging in “revolutionary armed self-defense” to meet what they saw, accurately, as “counterrevolutionary terror” with pitched armed battles in Tallapoosa County, Alabama (Camp Hill in 1931 and Reeltown in 1932) and Lowndes County, Alabama, in 1935. [39]

As the years went by, armed self-defense was undoubtedly still used but no new gun control legislation was passed, with new laws not reappearing until the 1960s. One person who threatened armed self-defense was Paul L. Robeson. In 1946, he challenged the refusal by President Harry S. Truman to sponsor anti-lynching legislation by telling him that if the federal government would not protect Blacks, they would “exercise their right of armed self-defense.”[40] This threat was not based in thin air but in the reality and likely actions of Black Americans. Robeson later attended a world peace conference in Paris in 1949, saying that Black Americans should not fight “against the Soviet Union on behalf of their own oppressors” and as a result, the bourgeois media and US government “launched an attack of unprecedented ferocity against Robeson that lasted for nine years.”

By the 1950s, the tradition of armed self-defense continued. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the up and coming leaders in the civil rights movement, took measures to protect himself, making his home an “arsenal.” [41] He applied for a concealed carry permit, under a law that the NRA had promoted thirty years earlier, in 1956, after his home was bombed, but the application was rejected. Still, his house was protected by armed guards for sometime before he fully endorsed the methods and practice of nonviolence. However, he was not the first one.

In 1954, those in the NAACP chapter, mostly “upper-class Blacks,” in Monroe, North Carolina, fled due to attacks by the Klan, leaving Robert F. Williams and Dr. Albert E. Perry as the only two members. [42] With Williams (henceforth referred to as Robert) and Perry at the helm, the Monroe NAACP branch gained a new life and character. Soon enough the organization consisted of veterans in the leadership, housewives and “fed up” working-class people from the local area. [43] In 1958 and 1959, Robert, a WWII veteran, led the chapter, apart from civil rights activism, to defend two “black children below the age of ten were sentenced for sexual molestation because a white girl kissed them,” in what was called the “Kissing Case.” They were pardoned due to popular pressure, resulting in the Klan engaging in vigilante action by burning crosses in front of their houses.

However, the equation changed in May 1959. A Monroe court acquitted a “white man for the attempted rape of a black woman,” leading Robert to declare on the steps of the courthouse that “this demonstration today shows that the Negro in the South cannot expect justice in the courts. He must convict his attackers on the spot. He must meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching.” [44] He later clarified his statement by saying that he was only saying that if the US Constitution could not be “enforced in this social jungle called Dixie,” then Blacks need to “defend themselves even if it is necessary to resort to violence,” explaining that

“that there is no law here, there is no need to take the white attackers to the courts because they will go free and that the federal government is not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed, and it is time for Negro men to stand up and be men and if it is necessary for us to die we must be willing to die. If it is necessary for us to kill we must be willing to kill.” [45]

Of course, this resulted in his suspension as president of the NAACP branch, leading his wife, Mabel, to be elected president in his place. [46]

Other than the civil rights activism, the NAACP chapter had another role. In 1957, Robert, along with his wife Mabel, and others in the community, organized a rifle club to defend themselves from attacks by the KKK, with the base of the club coming from the NAACP branch that Robert led. While Black men dominated the new club, some Black women were members, and the club’s actions were broadly a success. [47] Robert, and the actions of the club, became a “classic example” of armed self-defense and “militant community action,” meaning that he and his chapter were controversial, with disputes with Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, just like Malcolm X years later. [48] The club, which was associated with the NRA likely because they thought those in the club were White, hilariously enough, the club used guns to defend Freedom Riders and the local community. [49] Anger from moderate bourgeois civil rights organizations like the mainstay of the NAACP and continuing horrid conditions in the South led Robert and others to question the usefulness of nonviolence, showing that the “meaning of civil rights activism was not set in stone but constantly contested and reconstructed.” [50] Robert later formed a unique ideology “from elements of black nationalism, Marxism, and radical republicanism.” [51]

Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.
Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.

Throughout the late 1950s, armed self-defense was advocated by numerous peoples of the Black community, organized mainly in “small and scattered groups” until the early 1960s. [52] Most of those who took up arms were Black men, who dominated the “organized and formal” armed self-defense in the South. However, some women took up arms to defend their families and later nonviolent civil rights activists. [53] Ultimately, Blacks in the South saw their struggle as one to stay alive, and then to fight for the right to vote, among other political rights, meaning that they were not about  revenge as White slaveowners like Jefferson had guessed. [54]

While it is valid to say that nonviolent direct action defeated racial segregation, American apartheid more accurately, in the South, it is also worth acknowledging that field organizers, nonviolent in their stance, in the Deep South, were “often protected by armed farmers and workers.” [55] It is also worth remembering that a “civil rights victory” was not inevitable, but that the role of armed Blacks helped this occur. In 1964, Robert P. ‘Bob’ Moses, director of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)’s Mississippi project, declared that “it’s not contradictory for a farmer to say he’s nonviolent and also pledge to shoot a marauder’s head off.” [56] Like Moses, many advocates for Black civil rights and for desegregation appreciated the importance of guns in the South, especially by Black veterans and informally organized community groups. Such groups and individuals helped protect racial justice advocates, seeing the protection as a necessity, with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), SNCC, and Martin Luther King (MLK) refusing to publicly criticize the use of armed self-defense. [57] This made it clear that, the saying that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” was true in the south, for the “southern freedom movement.” [58]

The tradition of armed self-defense in the US South was connected with the civil rights movement, with many believing in nonviolent resistance, with gunfire and the threat of gunfire helping nonviolence, which some veterans of the movement describe as “aggressive confrontations,” serving as an effective tactic for change. [59] While this was the reality, and this resistance did end “mental paralysis” which made Blacks unable to break free of “white supremacy” fully, nonviolence was not a way of life for many in the southern Black community with households having guns and armed supporters protecting field organizers. [60] Conflict between fears of bigoted (and racist) Whites and needs of Blacks to defend themselves arose again later in the 1960s, leading to more radical Black activists who believed in varying forms of Black liberation and Black nationalism, and splitting from the arguably bourgeois civil rights movement. [61] Many Blacks, not just Black activists, apart from Malcolm X, were undertaking the slogan of armed self-defense as a way to protect themselves from violent repression of Blacks by racist Whites. [62]

Robert, Mabel, and the other members of the Williams family suffered from his strong stance against nonviolent respectfulness and in favor of armed self-defense. In August 1961, Mabel held off police who were coming to arrest Robert for a “so-called kidnapping of a white couple,” when he was actually trying to free the white couple from an angry mob. [63] Eventually, each one of them fled to Cuba after he was pegged with “kidnapping” changes. In the process, Robert rejected the idea of Black nationalism, along with Marxism, thinking that it “putting class before race,” at least as he saw it. These beliefs, while readers may disagree with them, are not a surprise for him since the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), which had supposed “rigid Marxism,” was engaging in destalinization and embracing Khrushchev’s revisionism, as opposed to anti-revisionism. As a result, Robert made a lasting friendship with the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist group, but also produced a newspaper named The Crusader and broadcast a radio show for Southern Blacks called Radio Free Dixie. [64] While he said that the Cuban government was limiting his work, it is more likely this was the work of the CPUSA, which had, at the time, removed themselves from actively supporting the struggle of suffering Blacks. As a result, in 1965, after arguing in favor of radical internationalism, he moved to the People’s Republic of China, where he stayed in exile. He later returned to the United States in 1969, and was pardoned of his “crimes” in 1975. Still, to many, his actions (which were not his own of course) still represented “the tactical power of armed self-defense as a tool against reactionaries of all stripes” and the power of Black nationalism. [65]

Through the 1960s, while Williams was in political exile (1961-1969), Blacks in the United States were not giving up the use of the gun to protect themselves and/or assert their rights as human beings. In 1964, while SNCC respected the desire of the Black masses to engage in armed self-defense, James Foreman admitted that “I dare say that 85 per cent of all Negroes do not adhere to non-violence. They are allowing the non-violent movement to go ahead because it is working.” [66] The same year, the Progressive Labor Movement, a radical communist group formed two years earlier which had been expelled from the CPUSA for pro-China sentiments, declared that

Black people, if they are to be free, must develop political power outside of the present power apparatus through armed self-defense, political councils, the creation of an economic base, seizing land and factories and finally, uniting with all workers struggling for revolution.” [67]

At the same time, a former preacher for the socially conservative, but Black nationalist, Nation of Islam (NOI), Malcolm X, who has been mentioned earlier, became even more spoken out. In 1964, Malcolm argued for Black rifle clubs, which the White commercial press were “hysterical” over, and for armed self-defense against White reactionaries, even telling Lew Rockwell, the head of the Nazis, that if MLK or anyone in his demonstration were harmed, then the Nazis would face “maximum physical retaliation.” [68] This belief was centered around the idea that nonviolence in and of itself was a lie that would hurt more Blacks, meaning that people should be armed and able to defend themselves rather than giving up their rights. [69] Malcolm directly embodied this in an iconic image in Ebony magazine, in 1964, with unknown origins, showing him with a M-L carbine, standing at the window, watching for those who were out to kill him.

Iconic Ebony picture, in 1964, of Malcolm x with gun
Ebony picture of Malcolm X with a gun

Sadly, Malcolm was gunned down by NOI members, on February 21, 1965, with twenty-one bullets riddling his body, likely with the help of the NYPD, CIA, and FBI, all who would have an interest in seeing him dead and “neutralized.”

Apart from Malcolm, there was one group that engaged in armed self-defense to protect civil rights activists. It was called the Deacons for Defense and Justice. This group defended civil rights workers against attacks from the KKK and other White supremacists, with a masculinist appeal and awareness of their place in history. [70] The group expanded across the Deep South, including into Louisiana’s Natchez area, with Black women not being actively involved (since they were actively excluded) but they did participate on an “individual and informal basis,” with women defending their homes “with armed force,” and others participating with men in target practice in auxiliaries called Deaconesses. [71] Specifically, there were at least six women associated with the Deacons, showing that armed self-defense wasn’t only a male phenomena.

Some gun control advocates claim that the Deacons do not support the idea that the “armed resistance won the civil rights movement,” which no one is arguing, saying that the Deacons were a “little-known group that had no discernible impact on the national civil rights movement.” [72] The argument, which rests on the fact that the group didn’t form until the summer of 1964, ends up citing certain “respectable” historians and uses huge MLK quotes. Ultimately, the Deacons, who were roughly active from 1964 to 1968, helped the national civil rights movement by allowing it to have victories in the Deep South, showing that fighting against segregation and racial injustice was a worthy cause. While one can argue that the results of the movement did not challenge the White power struggle on a national level, laws such as the Civil Rights Act in 1965 or Voting Rights Act in 1964 would have not been possible without the work of the Deacons. Without the Deacons protecting civil rights workers, it would have been harder to push for such laws since there would have been fewer victories against Southern racial apartheid, regardless of how much they accomplished in retrospect.

By 1965, Blacks were becoming more impatient than ever at the pace of the civil rights movement, and nonviolent respectfulness, which did not fundamentally challenge the White power structure nationwide. That year, in Watts, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, these emotions came out. The Progressive Labor Party (PLP), called the Progressive Labor Movement in earlier years, declared that this action was unorganized and faced tremendous odds, but that for a brief time of two days the people “liberated their own community and kept out the police.” [73] Still, they lamented that such resistance is too weak to meet the enemy at hand, meaning that there needed to be self-defense organizations to help them organize to defend themselves, along with independent political organizations to fight for their demands and lead them forward. Not everyone held this opinion of course. MLK argued that the Watts uprising was no model to be praised, but did recognize that such “riots” were the “language of the unheard.” The same year as Watts, there was a battle waged in “Bloody Lowndes” County, Alabama, which ended in 1966 with defeat, even as the efforts of a southern grassroots Black Power movement was gaining more strength, with visions of such Black freedom not yet realized. [74] It is worth mentioning here that there was armed self-defense in the North as well, during the 1960s and before, but this writer has not read about this in detail so they such instances have not been included in this article.

In October 1966, a new group came into the political scene: the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), formed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. This organization began in Oakland, California around the “basic need for armed self-defense” and creating an “all-round program of self-defense” with demands for basic, human needs, a minimum program “designed to unfold into the maximum program of socialist revolution.” [75] The Panthers, influenced by Robert and Malcolm’s efforts, used guns as self-protection by openly carrying them in public and displaying them for everyone, especially the local police to see. The regular practice of “policing the police” in patrols happened after an incident in February 1967 when Newton, Seale, and several others, armed with guns, were stopped by police, with Newton refusing to let the police see a gun, with the police, after a huge crowd gathered, not challenging him and backing off. [76] Newton and Seale were frustrated with civil rights movement’s failed promise, leading to more violence and oppression by the police, pushing the belief that the gun would be a way to gain liberation. As for recruits who were within the BPP, they were taught about socialism and Black nationalism, in classes organized by other Panthers, and learned how to “clean, handle, and shoot guns.” [77]

Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967
Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967

One event of the Panthers electrified the nation and brought gun control back into the picture. In 1967, in an effort to stop the Panthers from brandishing guns in “an effort to police the police” and prevent police brutality, a measure was proposed to reduce their self-defense efforts. [78] In May of that year, a number of Panthers, with loaded weapons, went to the state legislature in Sacramento (in a “gun-in”) to oppose this form of racial repression, in an act which some say was the “birth” of the modern debate over gun rights, but this is inaccurate as such armed self-defense efforts had surfaced for years and years before. [79] On May 2, a day when eighth grade students were gathering to lunch with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, thirty young Black Panthers, with the 24 men holding guns and six women only accompanying them as comrades, took to the steps of the state capitol building carrying “revolvers, shotguns, and pistols.” [80] On those steps, Seale, reading a statement written by Newton (part of which is here), declared the following, connecting domestic and international struggles, a true statement of “intersectionality”:

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general and the Black people in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature, which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the Black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black people. At the same time that the American government is waging a racist war of genocide in Vietnam, the concentration camps in which Japanese Americans were interned during World War II are being renovated and expanded. Since America has historically reserved the most barbaric treatment for nonwhite people, we are forced to conclude that these concentration camps are being prepared for Black people, who are determined to gain their freedom by any means necessary. The enslavement of Black people from the very beginning of this country, the genocide practiced on the American Indians and the confining of the survivors to reservations, the savage lynching of thousands of Black men and women, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and now the cowardly massacre in Vietnam, all testify to the fact that towards people of color the racist power structure of America has but one policy: repression, genocide, terror and the big stick. Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated and everything else to get the racist power structure in America to right the wrongs which have historically been answered by more repression, deceit, and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in  Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalates the repression of Black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods and increased patrols have become familiar sights in Black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of Black people for relief from this increasing terror. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense believes that the time has come for Black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late. The pending Mulford Act brings the hour of doom one step nearer. A people who have suffered so much for so long at the hands of a racist society, must draw the line somewhere. We believe that the Black communities of America must rise up as one man to halt the progression of a trend that leads inevitably to their total destruction.” [81]

While this act, and the subsequent marching inside the assembly chambers, gave the Panthers a nationwide reputation, a fear of Black people with guns led to new gun restrictions. [82] Specifically in response to this incident, Republican assemblymember Don Mulford, pushed forward the Mulford Act stronger than before, pledging to make the bill tougher. Then-Governor Reagan declared that there was “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons” and said that guns were a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will,” imposing no “hardship on the honest citizen” (referring to good-natured White people) signing the bill into law only a few months later. [83] Of course, the NRA supported this law and other gun control in the 1960s.

The following year, in 1968, the US Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Gun Control Act of 1968, with both laying the foundations for the existing carceral state. The latter law, which banned felons from buying guns, expanded gun dealer licensing, and prohibited import of cheap “poorly made guns that were frequently used for crime by urban youth,” making it clear that the law wasn’t about controlling guns but “was about controlling blacks.” [84] Yet again, the NRA supported the law, praising it in their American Rifleman publication, along with a federal report in 1968 following suit blaming urban unrest, to an extent, on “easy availability of guns,” and arguing for firearm controls. Some claim that the passing of these laws meant that “attitudes toward gun rights shifted” for a temporary time “in favor of more racially neutral gun control policies” but this denies the idea that gun control laws are a form of social control yet again. [85]

In the meantime, the Black liberation movement was gaining strength. In 1968, the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was formed, lasting until 1971, embodying the ideas of economic independence, Black empowerment, and self-determination by “creating a Black nation within a nation,” calling for a homeland in “the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — subjugated land in which people of African descent were enslaved,” states that are part of what is commonly called the “Black Belt.” [86] As part of RNA practices, they had a “cadre of young black men armed with rifles,” willing to engage in armed self-defense, with armed women serving as security for the RNA’s Land Celebration Day in 1971, with a picture from that day opening this article.

A handbill for the RNA
A handbill for the RNA

As for the BPP, there was also a change. As the male bravado of the Panthers was tamped down, Black female writers changed the game, along with illustrations by Emory Douglas, especially, in The Black Panther newspaper, showing “poor black women resisting authority in everyday life.” [87] Such women carried guns and were framed as equals with men, not those who were subservient. In later years however, the FBI engaged in infiltration and psychological warfare against the Panthers (among many other radical left groups) as part of COINTELPRO, even as they started the free breakfast program in January 1969 and were hated by FBI head J. Edgar Hoover with a passion. Organizational disputes between SNCC, the BPP, and other organizations led to divisiveness, even as newspaper circulation of The Black Panther reached 250,000 in 1970, with Eldridge Cleaver kicked out of the party in March 1970, leading to the creation of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). After this point, the remaining parts of the party leadership were torn apart, with Cleaver, Seale, and Newton going their separate ways, and the party collapsing in 1982.

Back in the late 1960s, support for gun control was across the board. In the 1968 presidential election, Bobby Kennedy, before his assassination, supported gun control of “private citizens” but not cops of course, and George McGovern also supported gun control, which some said would be “a major step in disarming the people.” [88] The following year, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence or National Violence Commission for short, declared in the introduction to their final report that “violence in United States has risen to alarmingly high levels…[which is] dangerous to our society…it is jeopardizing some of our most precious institutions, among them schools and universities…it is corroding the central political processes of our democratic society.” [89] Specific measures they recommend, to bring violence “under control” and “better control,” are is creation of “central offices of criminal justice” and private citizen organizations “as counterparts” (possibly the idea of police unions) and most importantly, “the adoption of a national firearms policy that will limit the general availability of handguns.” [90] In later pages, the commission said that there needs to be a push for “responsible participation” by young people in America “in decision-making” as a possible “substitute for the violence that born in frustration,” along with admitting that “without the deterrent capability essential for security against external attack, internal freedom and security would not be possible,” implying that a huge military with a Soviet boogeyman is needed to keep US citizens “in line.” [91] They also argue that all Americans have to recognize “the basic causes of violence in our society and what must be done to achieve liberty and justice for all” and that strong measures must be taken to end the “rising tide of individual and group violence.” [92]

The commission was not alone in these remarks. Wacked out general Ramsey Clark, who has the imperialistic idea of “progress” across the continent, by saying it created conditions making crime “common,” declared that “revolutionary crime and illegal conduct intended to alter institutions impose rioting, mob violence, unlawful confrontation, arson and trespass on a weary society.” [93] Adding to this, he said that one of the elements of a “violent environment” which “violent crime” springs from is the “prevalence of guns,” implying that he supports gun control. [94] Others said however, in 1970, that violence was an “ambiguous term” and that “order,” like violence, is “politically defined” and argued that national commissions in 1919, 1943, and 1968 do not mention (or consider) the connection of war (in this case in Vietnam) and domestic violence, an important fact to consider. [95]

On the far right, there was a new development. The gun control efforts in the 1960s, which aimed to disarm “urban and black radicals” led to backlash. Hardline NRA supporters took over the leadership of the NRA, changing it from fighting for sport shooting into a group engaging in “aggressive political lobbying to defeat gun control” and leading to the modern gun-rights movement today. [96] People like Maxwell Rich, of the old NRA, were pushed out of the way, with a man named Harlon Carter, leading his allied rank-and-file members to engage in a coup to take over the leadership in May 1977. [97] He and his loyal followers transformed the NRA, for the worse, into a pro-gun powerhouse and juggernaut where mistrust of law enforcement was one of the main beliefs. At the same time, as the GOP and NRA rejected gun control, Blacks, faced by increased violence in US cities and the crack cocaine epidemic, driven in part by the CIA’s activities, embraced it. [98]

As for the Left, support for armed self-defense and armed resistance was continued by certain sections and groups. Some argued that the “question of armed struggle” was a matter of expediency determined by political crisis in the country, potential of support from the masses at-large, and need of the people to engage in armed self-defense. [99] A few years later in April 1972, the “Revolutionary Union” group declared that “…even in an organized mass way, armed self-defense is incapable of completing the revolutionary task, and in time will even become less useful for defense,” saying that ultimately the only “real defense” of the populace is to “destroy the enemy…[through] offensive action and an organized military force.” [100] One such ideology that included armed self-defense were the ideas of Maoism, which also defended extra-legal tactics and preparation for military struggle, contrasting from the cautious perspectives of “Old Left”groups, the former which was embraced by those such as the BPP. [101] In the Chican@ community, called the Mexican-American community today, armed resistance was used. The Chican@ nationalist organization, the Brown Berets, composed of “lumpen” and working-class elements, proposed the Chicano Moratorium (1969-1971 at least) to raise awareness about the Vietnam War as a “civil rights issue,” also advocated for armed self-defense and armed struggle, as part of their anti-capitalist viewpoint, as necessary tools for liberation. [102]

Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known
Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known

While some argued against armed resistance, saying it was illegal and coercive, numerous groups still supported it. [103] In 1974, Ethel Shepton of the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), in Boston, argued against racial segregation, fighting for community control of schools in Black neighborhoods, along with armed self-defense against racist reactionaries, the right of “Black children to go to any school,” and the demand that the government “break up the fascist gangs.” [104] As years passed, gun control was cited as part of a “fascist offensive” to win allies of the proletariat to the “side of capitalism” while Robert, in 1977, declared that Mao Zedong was a “invigorator of rebellion and revolutionary thought,” saluting the victories of China, not surprisingly. [105] The same year, one group argued that they actively supported the right of White and Black working-class peoples, specifically those who were Black, to “defend themselves with arms against attack and lynching” with organization of armed self-defense in Black communities as “an important aspect of our leadership in the oppressed Nation.” [106]

During the later 1970s, one slogan began to be used more than ever: “Death to the Klan” as the KKK expanded throughout the US in groups like the “Invisible Empire.” In 1979, the left-wing Communist Workers’ Party (CWP), an offshoot of the PLP, a communist group, pushed forward “militant, anti-racist opposition to the Klan” by organizing within existing textile unions and against racism in the community as a whole, with positive results. [107] Of course, the Klan would not stand for this, doing what they could to stop the activism. As the CWP became more militant and organized a march on November 3, 1979, to counter the racist KKK, the Klan responded in force, with local Neo-Nazis, accompanied by FBI and police informants, arriving at the protest, taking “sidearms and rifles out of the trunk,” opening fire on participants, killing five in all, and likely wounding of many others, in what some called the “Greensboro Massacre.” [108] In the aftermath of this, the community was confused but also horrified, with the police nowhere to be on the scene and the leadership of the CWP being heavily criticized by established politicians and other radicals even as the lesson from the experience led to “better methods of anti-Klan organizing.”

The CWP was not the only group organizing against the Klan. In Northern Mississippi, the United League organized the masses, engaging in armed self-defense and taking precautions against Klan threats, along with similar anti-Klan and anti-Neo Nazi protests across the country. [109] As for the CWP, the more restrictions were put on them but this didn’t stop them. In January 1980, charges against nine people who transported weapons to the funeral march for the five killed during the Greensboro Massacre was dismissed, which some called a “victory for the Communist Workers Party and the masses in the struggle for right to armed self-defense” even as all confiscated weapons were ordered destroyed. [110] This victory allowed the CWP to continue to rally the people for nonviolent demonstrations even as they fought for the right of the masses to engage in armed self-defense, going against politicians like Ted Kennedy who supported gun control laws. [111] In 1981, one publication noted that the Klan was dedicated to engaging in “armed suppression of the workers’ movement and all progressive political movements” meaning that such reactionary terror cannot be stopped by being unarmed, but that “common sense tells us that armed self-defense is the only protection that the masses have against the reactionaries’ terror,” which liberals reject, claiming that “the masses are not prepared to accept the necessity of armed self-defense.” [112] In the same year, other measures were afoot. After the attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan in March, the news media pushed for gun control, as part of “”anti-crime” hysteria” which some say was a way to justify more authoritarianism, a bigger police apparatus, and turning the U.S. “into one big convict camp for forced labor, a chain gang working for the profits of the monopolies.” [113]

Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC
Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC

Despite criticisms of groups like the CWP, the chant of “Death to the Klan” became a national rallying cry. This was especially the case when the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC), originally emerging out of struggle by Puerto Rican and Black prisoners in New York, published a newsletter titled called Death to the Klan. [114] The organization was deeply rooted in the Black liberation struggle and Arab liberation struggles in Asia. [114] One lesson that was clear, it seemed, from the rhetoric of the CWP and its predecessors, along with grassroots organizing in Dallas, Texas, was a clear need for “synthesis between community defense and mass organizing” with self-defense as an imperative for people of color. By the mid-1980s, JBAKC had trouble articulating a “mass self-defense strategy” as they tried to get rid of racist graffiti, but were beat back by a racist skinhead gang in 1985 who were armed with shields and weapons. [115] As a result, some anti-racist skinheads organized armed self-defense and openly organized against those spreading hate and violence, including creation of a self-defense strategy with confrontations with racist often ending peacefully, without bullets being fired except in a few occasions. [116]

Undoubtedly armed self-defense continued as a practice by some individuals. One example of this was during the “Rodney King riots” in Los Angeles, in 1992, Korean shopkeepers had armed themselves, with Black “rioters” and Koreans portrayed negatively by the media, which diverted attention away from “a long tradition of racial violence,” with tensions among people of color “woven into U.S. history for the past 500 years.” [117] There is more on the history of armed self-defense, gun control, and armed resistance after 1992 but this was often engaged in by White individuals with not as much emphasis on actions by people of color.

Conclusion

In the original version of this article I was aiming to write about the history of armed resistance and gun control as the first section, followed by my views on the subject as the second section, reinforced by what I had said above. However, with over 117 footnotes and thousands upon thousands of words (over 8,600 not including footnotes), and with such a rich history, it seemed best to split this article into a two-part series. Even with this, there is no doubt that I did not cover all the history on this subject, so no one needs to get on my case about that in any way whatsoever. It is worth saying that anyone, on either side of the debate over guns in US society should recognize the clear history in this article to inform their viewpoint so they don’t laugh off the other side as ignorant fools while ignoring the reality which is right in front of their noses. As always, I look forward to your comments on this important subject.

Notes

[1] Other tweets of mine on the subject include: criticizing CodePink for implicitly rejecting armed self-defense, saying that calling for nonviolence at the upcoming women’s march doesn’t make sense, that liberals don’t care about safety of people of color because if they did they would call for armed self-defense, that armed self-defense shouldn’t be led by men, that these anti-fascists have the right idea, Korryn Gaines in Baltimore County has a right to armed self-defense, talking about armed self-defense in the Black community, challenging Hands Up United to endorse armed self-defense, asking if Muslims should arm themselves for self-defense, and so on.

[2] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[3] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[4] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[5] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[6] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[7] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” Soviet History, Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 11, 13.

[8] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[11] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” p. 17.

[12] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[13] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[14] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[15] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[16] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[17] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017, Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[19] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 21; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[20] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[21] Candice Lanier, “MLK’s Arsenal & The Racist Roots of Gun Control in the U.S.,” RedState, January 17, 2013; January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[22] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[23] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 22-24. The rhetoric in favor of such armed self-defense was often masculinist in nature.

[24] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). He goes on to talk about Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Colfax Massacre, and numerous other instances to disprove the gun control is racist idea.

[25] Ehab Zahriyeh, “For some blacks, gun control raises echoes of segregated past,” Al Jazeera America, September 1, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[26] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[27] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[28] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[29] Nicholas Johnson, “Negroes and the Gun: The early NAACP championed armed self-defense,” Washington Post, January 30, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017. This whole paragraph comes from a summary of this source.

[30] Noted in old issues of the NAACP’s The Crisis.

[31] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017.

[32] Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[33] Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017.

[34] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[35] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[36] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Also see the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 which was also reportedly drafted by the NRA.

[37] Paul Elitzik, “The CPUSA and Black Workers in the 1950s,” Class Struggle, No. 9, Spring 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[38] Carl Davidson, Chapter 7: Revolutionary Upsurge, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[39] Ibid.

[40] “Glossary of People: Ro,” see the entry for “Robeson, Paul Leroy (1898-1976),” Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[41] Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. There are a number of articles also worth reading on the subject: “Nonviolent Philosophy and Self Defense” (Library of Congress), “The Important Role of Armed Resistance in the Black Civil Rights Movement” (AlterNet), and “Gun Control and the Disarming of the Black Community,” (The Root).

[42] Carl Davidson, Chapter 10: The Civil Rights Movement, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[43] Noted by examining the members and history of the Black Armed Guard in Monroe, North Carolina.

[44] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Sylvia Shin Huey Chong, The Oriental Obscene: Violence and Racial Fantasies in the Vietnam Era (London: Duke University Press, 2012), 315].

[45] PBS, “Independent Lens: Negroes with guns: Rob Williams and Black Power,” accessed January 17, 2017.

[46] This reality should surprise no one and it shows that both Mable and Robert were involved in the struggle for black freedom.

[47] Seems evident from the fact that attacks in the region were reduced.

[48] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[49] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[50] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[51] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[52] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[53] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control. The conclusion that women were arming themselves is not in and of itself out of the question.

[54] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Jim Dann and Hari Dillion, CHAPTER 3: RETREAT FROM THE BLACK LIBERATION MOVEMENT, part of “The Five Retreats: A History of the Failure of the Progressive Labor Party,” 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; “Bob Moses also said that“I don’t know if anyone in Mississippi preached to local Negroes that they shouldn’t defend themselves.””

[58] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[61] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[62] “Hail the Formation of the Black Revolutionary Party,” The Black Revolutionary, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[63]  Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016. Also noted in a publication of the Freedom Archives, Robert and Mabel Williams Resource Guide which is cited in another article of this series.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[66] Jake Rosen, “War on SNCC: Turning Point for Freedom Fighters,” Progressive Labor, Vol. III. No. 2 February 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[67] Progressive Labor Movement, “Statement of Principles and Strategic Concepts,” Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, no date [1964], Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[68] Pili Michael L. Humphrey, Chairman of the Afro-American Commission Central Committee of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), “Commentary: Revolution and Black Liberation in the 1980’s,” Unity, Vol. 3, No. 9, April 25-May 8, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Progressive Labor Editorial Comment: Malcolm X and Black Nationalism,” Progressive Labor Vol. III, No. 5, May 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[69] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[70] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. This masculinist appeal is also noted in Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back and Estes’s I Am A Man.

[71] Noted most prominently by Lance Hill in his 2006 book about the Deacons for Defense but is also noted elsewhere.

[72] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[73] “A statement from the National Committee of the Progressive Labor Party: Army Occupies Strategic Hamlet of Watts,” Challenge, Vol. II, No. 6 August 24, 1965, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[74] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[75] Venceremos, “Against Revisionism: In Defense of the Black Panther Party, 1966-1970,” September 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[76] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[79] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Revolutionary Communist League (Marxist-Leninist-Mao Tse Tung Thought), “History of the Congress of Afrikan People,” Unity and Struggle, Vol. V, No. 6, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[80] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[81] Huey Newton, “In Defense of Self-Defense: Executive Mandate Number One,” The Black Panther, 2 June 1967.

[82] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[83] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[84] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[85] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[86] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[87] There have been numerous articles about Emory Douglas in publications across the web, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

[88] Cleveland Draft Resistance Union, “Johnson Quits,” 1968, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; “National Elections and the Revolutionary Movement: George McGovern – Friend or Foe?,” Pamoja Venceremos, Volume 2, Issue 14, July 21-August 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017. McGovern is also criticized for his continued support of Israeli Zionism and US imperialism.

[89] National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, “Introduction to the Final Report of the Commission,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 2. Other documents submitted to the commission of note “crimes of violence” and “mass media and violence.”

[90] Ibid, 3.

[91] Ibid, 4-5, 8.

[92] Ibid, 11-12.

[93] Ramsey Clark, “Selections from Crime In America,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 13-14, 18.

[94] Clark, 21; Edward C. Banfield, “How Many, and Who Should Be At Liberty?,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 31. Clark also said that “mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, widespread property crime…police brutality and criminal syndicates” are also factors. He also argued that there is “a political element in every large scale riot.”

[95] Jerome H. Skolnick, “Selections from the Politics of Protest,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 47-48, 63-64.

[96] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[97] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[98] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[99] Carl Davidson, “Whither the Weatherman,” Guardian, December 26, 1970, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[100] “The Franklin group: The Military Strategy for the United States: Protracted Urban War (A Draft),” Red Papers 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[101] Max Elbaum, “Maoism in the United States,” Encyclopedia of the American Left, Second Edition, 1998, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[102] The League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist), “Chapter 3: The struggle of the Chicano people,” part of “The Struggle for Chicano Liberation,” Forward, No, 2, August 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chicano Liberation and Proletarian Revolution,” Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 2, January 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017. The Brown Berets were also joined by the Black Berets.

[103] Ernest Van Den Haag, “Political Violence,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 72, 74.

[104] “Commentary on the Greensboro shooting: The Klan: henchmen of imperialism,” Unity, Vol. 2, No. 23, November 16-29, 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[105] “Robert Williams Speaks in Chicago: ‘Chairman Mao Was Our Brother’ Says Black Liberation Fighter,” The Call, Vol. 6, No. 36, September 19, 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Committee for Scientific Socialism (M-L), “Two Lines on Revolutionary Practice: Science Versus Spontaneity,” Forward! no. 1, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[106] Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee, “RESOLUTION ON THE BLACK NATIONAL QUESTION,” part of “Documents of the First Congress of the MLOC – Resolutions,” Class Against Class, No. 10, January 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[107] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[108] Ibid.

[109] “500 attend busing forum in N.Y.,” The Guardian, December 25, 1974, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[110] “Turn the Country Upside Down to Avenge the CWP 5!: Victory for Right to Armed Self-Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 2, January 21, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chattanooga! 9 Pigs Fall to People’s Armed Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 28, August 4-10, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[111] Cynthia Lai, “The Role of Practice in the Marxist Theory of Knowledge,” The 80’s, Vol. II, No 1, January-February 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; ““C”PML Works with Cops in Feb 2nd Demo: Calling for “Peaceful Transition to Socialism,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 6, February 23, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Miami Conference: U.S. People Demand New Leadership For The 80’s,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 21, June 16, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[112] Mark Evans, “For a Revolutionary Struggle Against Fascism,” Workers Herald, Vol. 1, No. 3, January 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[113] “On the Attempted Assassination of Reagan by a Nazi: The Chickens Come Home to Roost,” The Workers’ Advocate, Vol. 11, No. 5, April 20, 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[114] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[115] Ibid.

[116] Ibid. Organized anti-racist gangs included the Red and Anarchist SkinHeads (RASH) and the SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARPs), along with the non-skinhead CHD (Coalition for Human Dignity) group.

[117] Newsweek Staff, “They Armed in Self-Defense,” May 17, 1992; accessed January 16, 2017.

David Swanson, the USSR, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact

screenshot_2017-01-06-01-59-55-1
A screenshot from a 1949 animated Soviet propaganda film by Victor Gromov, titled “Mr. Wolf,” focusing on a pacifist capitalist, like Andrew Carnegie perhaps, who, fed up with the horrible nature of war, moves to an “island of peace.” But when he finds oil, he gets greedy, dropping his belief in pacifism, demands control of it, reveals his secret stash of arms, and seizes control of the oil with the help of (presumably) the US Navy. The message of greedy capitalists and duplicitous pacifists is very clear while some are flummoxed.

As Trump promises to increase military spending, including 350 more ships for the Navy (likely costing over $126 billion dollars), strengthening the murderous US empire, which builds off the brashly imperialist foreign policy of the Obama administration, it is important to recall our history. This article will first outline the narrative by David Swanson, a former press secretary for bourgeois Democratic “peace” politician, Dennis Kucinich, during his presidential candidacy, and peace activist, on the history of how the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 came into fruition, summarizing his book to the best of my ability, there will be a counterpoint to his history, and finally it will end with my conclusion on where to go from here.

David Swanson’s narrative of what happened

David Swanson’s book is a good place to start. While he is not radical, and arguably a bourgeois pacifist, he does help tell this story. As he tells it, the peace movement in the 1920s, depending on new female voters, united around the idea of war outlawry, previously split by the League of Nations, seen as a glorious and noble cause. [1] This movement was strengthened by outrage at the horrible effects of WWI, despite the manipulation of emotions, by Woodrow Wilson’s “propaganda machinery,” in the form of the Committee of Public Information, to influence Americans to support war. [2] Such manipulation was preceded by Wilson winning election in 1916, with slogans like “he kept us out of the war,” but turning around and involving the US in WWI in April 1917. Many in the US, disillusioned with promises of war, distrusted European peace efforts, as the US membership in the League of Nations and World Court did not materialize, along with other failed negotiations in the 1920s, the peace movement grew. [3] Leading intellectuals, robber-barons, like Andrew Carnegie who founded the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and politicians, like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, promoted peace. At the same time, “peace societies” were created in the US, along with a litany of other pro-peace organizations, such as the American Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, some of which spread  “a barrage of peace propaganda.” [4]

There are number of individuals who specifically pushed for “war outlawry” or the abolishment of war. Swanson cites 22 individuals. [5] One of these individuals was Salmon Oliver Levinson, a Yale graduate and Chicago lawyer who led the American Committee for the Outlawry of War, which tried to make war illegal and recognized as an institution. [6] Others, such as Kirby Page and temperance activist Carrie Chapman Catt, also pushed for war outlawry, allied with other forces, like the Progressive Party which represented interests of farmers, petty urban bourgeoisie, and trade unions, collapsing after the 1924 election, along with public opinion in favor of prohibiting war. [7] Pro-peace clubs and organizations sprung up by the hundreds, with thousands of members, eliminating the divides in the past between more wealthy organizations, like the Carnegie Endowment and the American Foundation for Peace, and more radical ones pushing for disarmament and opposing militarism. [8] The former profited from war with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonds from the U.S. Steel Corporation. However, it is worth pointing out that Outlawrists, tapping into widespread skepticism of collective defense agreements, “favored the rule of the written word” to prevent war, creating a world court which had international jurisdiction, but were muddled when they didn’t always consider the distinction between “aggressive” and “defensive war.” [9] Beyond this, such a push for outlawing war was an effort to change people’s conceptions of what they consider “morally acceptable,” hoping that society could be organized for peace, but not always taking into account that some engage in statements of desire about ending war and peaceful resolution rather than the reality. [10]

From then on, there was a push for Western diplomats to negotiate what became the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Illegal diplomacy by pro-peace US citizens, led to debate among French, German, and British diplomats about being involved in the treaty, boosted by supportive writings in The New Republic, New York Times, and Foreign Affairs, along with sympathetic congressmembers like socially conservative William Borah and Republican Robert LaFollette, among others. [11] Aristide Briand, a long-time prime minister, advocate of “personal diplomacy,” and breaker of a railroaders strike, made the first move, with a Minnesota Republican, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, no active advocate of peace, forced into action even as he cursed pacifists privately. [12] Obviously in an effort to reinforce US imperialism, Kellogg was willing to threaten war to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in the Americas, derided by the new Soviet government, but was pushed into action by a strong peace movement, negotiating a treaty with the French secretly, making it multilateral even though Briand did not want this to happen originally. [13] Some of the French showed their true colors, like Paul Claudel, who said that outlawing war was sentimental and would please “cranks,” Bolsheviks and socialists, proposing a joint declaration of principles but Kellogg stuck by his demand for a treaty, later coming over to public negotiations of the treaty as the US and British allowed their respective imperialisms to fall under the idea of “self-defense” and not be covered by the treaty. [14] The Kellogg-Briand Pact, also called the Pact of Paris, was signed in Paris in 1928, picketed by feminists saying that an equal rights treaty should be proposed and anti-imperialists who said that US imperialism would continue, and survived the US Senate (votes in favor 85-1), despite broad questioning of its effectiveness, then entering the canons of international law in July 1929. [15]

Swanson continues by saying that the pact’s ideas were influential. He says that it inspired the UN’s principles in 1945 and International Criminal Court, claiming the pact was the “first U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union’s existence.” [16] He also says that Henry Stimson tried to stop the USSR and nationalist China from supposedly going to the “brink of war.” He doesn’t note that this was part of a “Sino-Soviet conflict over the Manchurian railway line,” which was settled with a protocol that “affirmed the original status of the railroad as a joint enterprise” and Soviet victory. At the time, Persia (Iran) defended the USSR rhetorically when it took defensive measures against nationalist China in the 1929 spat. [17] Swanson also points out Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, and Germany invading Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 and the Soviets on Sept. 17, 1939 as violations of the pact. Not surprisingly, Swanson does not say that this intervention was in accordance with the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact since the Soviets felt that the Polish could no longer defend themselves because of the collapse of their state after a Nazi attack, and the Soviets were welcomed by the Polish people as “true liberators.” Swanson goes on to say that the treaty was not ordinary, but meant to outlaw war, with the reality that the US quickly violated the pact, with peace structures not stopping the coming war. Some supported Outlawry at the time (Stimson) but opposed it later, and others, such as, a Wall Street lawyer named William Chanler, a friend of Stimson, used it as a basis for criminal trials of the Germans and Japanese for war crimes at Nuremberg and the UN Charter as a whole. [18] Eventually, Kellogg was given a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the treaty even as he didn’t stop advocating for US imperial aggression.

Before ending the section on Swanson’s narrative, it worth noting how taken in he is about this story. He thinks war outlawry be revived and that we should have a “Kellogg-Briand Day” on August 27 every year, celebrating a “step toward peace” but war’s abolishment or end. [19] He goes on to say that his book, dispelling the well-kept secret that war is illegal, continues the campaign for outlawry, which includes pushing countries to comply with the pact, and says that a public referendum on war is an intriguing idea. [20] At the end of his book, he outlines numerous proposals for reducing the US war machine, [21] and says that his self-published book, where he had complete editorial control, is meant to help people learn about the Kellogg-Briand Pact and study peace activism that got us to Outlawry. [22]

What Swanson missed

Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film "Mr. Wolf."
Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf.”

In his happy good lucky story of the road to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, Swanson glosses over a number of details, almost portraying the US imperialists as “peacemakers” in the process. As the Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued, the US tried to use the Paris Peace Conference, from 1919-1920, to marginalize the USSR, Harding’s administration, favoring monopolies, used the Washington Conference of 1921-1922 to force the UK to agree to equality between US and UK battle fleets, Coolidge’s administration was unfriendly to the USSR, and US warships helped bomb Nanking in 1927. [23] Additionally, Swanson’s book barely ever mentions the Soviets, usually only referring to them in passing except for one time when he notes that a delegate from the USSR,  Maxim Maimovich Litvinov, proposed to the League of Nations’s commission on disarmament in Nov. 1927 that there be the “immediate and total abolition of all armies, navies, and air forces; the sinking of all warships; the scrapping of all war material; and the demolition of all arms factories” but Western governments rejected this, and the French even voted to expand their navy. [24] He never expands on other Soviet policies in favor of peace but has a very Western-centered approach, likely written with his audience of liberals and progressives in mind who scowl at the Soviet Union.

There is another aspect of the process that Swanson barely talks about, if he even alludes to it: the interests of Western capitalist states who engaged in the pact. Kellogg himself wanted to desperately avoid the treaty, which was, as some writers put it, “the product of Realpolitik and cynical political calculations,” with the French seeing the pact as a possibility for a “defensive alliance aimed at Germany” while in the US, many believed that “the solution to the scourge of war lay in the universal renunciation of its practice.” [25] More specifically, while Briand’s offer for negotiations on a treaty to end war “thrilled pacifist-minded Americans,” it also served “France’s strategic needs,” a way to sideline the US “should France go to war” but Kellogg understood “what Briand was trying to accomplish and wanted nothing to do with the offer” and did not like Briand’s “bid to energize U.S. peace groups and thereby box in the Coolidge administration.” Beyond this, Kellogg agreed to talk with the French, engaging in a multilateral treaty outlawing war rather than a bilateral treaty, which supposedly “rendered it largely ineffective, more a toy handcuff than an iron manacle” and Briand was hardly in a position to argue against it. Paris served as “the site for the historic meeting to renounce war” and US Senators had few illusions about the treaty, knowing “it was the international equivalent of an air kiss,” voting the same day “to fund the construction of fifteen new warships.”

The US State Department admits this much in their write-up about the pact. They argue that the pact had “little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II” but also note the movement that pushed for the peace pact. France was facing, they note, “continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses,” but the US was less eager to enter into a bilateral peace pact, worrying that it “could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened” so they suggested that it be multilateral, which aligned with war outlawry being “immensely popular in international public opinion.” The State Department history also says that the pact’s language “established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact,” resulting in many nations signing it, and the U.S. Senate ratifying the agreement after making “reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.” The pact was first tested, argues this history, during the Mukden Incident which led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, but the fact of a “worldwide depression and a limited desire to go to war to preserve China” led to no action from the League of Nations or the US. Later threats to the agreement “from fellow signatories Germany, Austria and Italy” made it clear there “was no way to enforce the pact or sanction those who broke it” with many ways around the terms, the pact not helping prevent WWII but very idealistic in the view of the State Department history.

In missing this aspect of the pact, Swanson, of course, did not mention the imperial nature of the pact itself. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued that the pact was originally used by the US and other imperialist powers as a “means of isolating the USSR” but that under “the pressure of public opinion they were forced to invite the USSR to subscribe to the pact.” [26] The Soviets adhered to the pact on August 29, 1928, details of which will be discussed later in this article. Such an action led to anger from Trotskyists who saw themselves as righteous in their “revolutionary” feelings, even though Leon Trotsky supported a continuation of the NEP, opposed measures to ensure the security of the Soviet state from opportunists and foreign enemies, and pushed the idea of “permanent revolution” while rejecting the more practical idea of “socialism in one country” proposed by Joseph Stalin, as noted in a previous post on this blog. The Trotskyists claimed that the signing of this pact marked a departure from a “revolutionary path,” strengthened “bourgeois illusions,” struck at Lenin’s work, and that Western powers are not interested in peace but wanted to check the “successful robber activities of the Nipponese competitor,” Japan. [27] While most of these statements take an unrealistic counter-revolutionary viewpoint, the last statement about Western powers is one the Soviets would actually agree with.

The Soviet government had a good reason for signing the pact regardless of what the counter-revolutionary Trotskyists said. While they would have, a few years before, possibly sneered at the effort as “bourgeois sentimentalism,” the USSR wanted to join the world community even as the initial invitations for the pact excluded the Soviets, leaving them to believe there was the tacit formation of an anti-Soviet bloc, but the French invited the Soviets to be signatories and they did so, with their affirmation of the pact showing a “Soviet desire for peace.” [28] Signing the pact was also a continuation of previous Soviet policy. Beyond what Swanson briefly mentioned, in the 1927 and 1928 disarmament conferences, Litvinov offered wide-sweeping proposals for disarmament, which was popular among the public, even when the USSR adhered to the pact, one newspaper, the Inprecor, argued that Britain, France, and capitalist satellites like Poland, were continuing preparation for war on the USSR. [29]

However, not everyone in the Soviet government wanted to ratify the pact. The People’s Commissar of the Soviet Union (1924-1930) Georgy Chicherin, opposed ratification, while Nikolai Bukharin (who supported NEP’s continuation and wanted socialism at a “snail’s pace”) and Litvinov supported it, arguing that it would allow Western powers to interfere in Soviet foreign affairs, the same reason he opposed the Soviets joining League of Nations. [30] His supporters pointed to British & French reservations about the pact, arguing that it would have no effect.

Despite this argument, the Soviets signed the pact, but mad they were not invited to signing ceremony [31], taking the position that “all international wars must be prohibited, in particular, wars with the aim of suppressing movements of national liberation,” along with prohibition of “intervention, blockade, military occupation of foreign territory, foreign ports” along with “severance of diplomatic relations” since this “contributes to…an atmosphere that favors the occurrence of war.” [32] The Soviet government as a whole took the position that signing the pact showed they were consistent advocates of peace, and believed that only a “universal and complete disarmament plan” could prevent armed conflicts, while admitting the pact would be a dead letter unless growth of arms was limited. Some, such as Evgeny A. Korovin, argued that the pact was a “serious blow to the system of the Anglo-French capitalist bloc” and that it weakened the League of Nations. [33] The Soviets also declared that the pact did not go far enough renouncing war by “failing to cover all methods of aggression,” saying that the fact that the pact didn’t have provisions for disarmament showed the “insincerity of bourgeois pacifism.” [34] Looking at articles 1 and 2 of the pact itself [35] shows their criticism to be valid, as it is very loosely worded, only condemning recourse to war internationally and renouncing it as form of national policy:

ARTICLE I: “The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”

ARTICLE II: “The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”

Additionally, the pact, unlike Soviet treaties of nonaggression which renounced war “completely, totally, and without qualification,” seemed to exclude warlike action and the right of self-defense from the pact’s operation, meaning that it, arguably, watered down and truncated the “concept of nonaggression.” [36] Later on, the Soviets would argue that a declared war or any “de facto military actions initiated by any state” should be considered a breach of the pact. [37]

More importantly, the pact inadvertently gave Soviet foreign policy a boost. As a result of the pact, the Soviets proposed their own security policy, inviting neighbors to bring the pact into force by themselves, with what was called the “Litvinov Protocol,” named after the Soviet diplomat, signed by the USSR, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, later joined by Lithuania, Turkey, Persia, and Free City of Danzig, with Finland not as a signatory. [38] This showed that the USSR was a champion of the principles in the pact and an “active proponent of the idea of curbing the freedom of states to indulge in waging war in order to promote their interests.” This pact, signed in February 1929, represented the “spirit of the Pact of Paris,” while it renounced the use of force and recourse to warlike measures, and while it provided little security for the neighbors of the USSR, its intention was more important than its application. [39] Part of the text of the agreement is reprinted below:

“…[the following governments] being desirous of promoting the maintenance of peace between their respective countries and for this purpose of putting into force without delay, between the peoples of those countries, the Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928, have decided to achieve this purpose by means of the present Protocol…

Article I. The Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928…shall come into force between the Contracting Parties after the ratification of the said Treaty of Paris of 1928 by the competent legislative bodies of the respective Contracting Parties.
Article II. The entry into force in virtue of the present Protocol, of the Treaty of Paris of 1928 in reciprocal relations between the Parties to the present Protocol shall be valid independently of the entry into force of the Treaty of Paris of 1928…
Article IV. In order to give effect to Article I of the present Protocol, each of the High Contracting Parties, after ratification by its legislative bodies of the Treaty of Paris of 1928, shall immediately notify the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and all the other Parties to the present Protocol, through the diplomatic channel.”

This agreement, also called the Moscow Protocol or more formally the “Protocol for the Immediate Entry into Force of the Treaty of Paris of August 27, 1928, Regarding Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy,” was immediately effective unlike the prolonged Kellogg-Briand Pact, with the Soviet negotiated agreement entering into force many months before the latter pact, and helping to improve Soviet relations with Poland. [40] The Soviet pact also disapproved the views of Western capitalists that “Red Russia would [not] keep a pledge to disarm.” [41]

Later on, in 1933, the USSR concluded a convention on the definition of aggression with Afghanistan, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Persia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey, and the next day a similar convention with Czechoslovakia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. [42] This agreement defined aggression as a “declaration of war, invasion, assault, naval blockade and support of armed bands” along with outlining false excuses and justifications for such aggression by capitalist states. [43] Over the years to come, as even noted by this anti-communist but partially fair account of Soviet foreign policy, the Soviets recognized the danger posed by the Nazis, trying to “restrain German militarism by building coalitions hostile to fascism,” adopting a policy of “cooperation with socialists and liberals against fascism, thus reversing its line of the early 1930s,” with the county joining the League of Nations in 1934, and Litvinov advocating “disarmament and collective security against fascist aggression.” Beyond this, the Soviets also, in 1935, made alliances with France and Czechoslovakia, and “from 1936 to 1939 it gave assistance to antifascists in the Spanish Civil War,” leading to Germany and Japan signing the “Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936” but the West did not want to “counter German provocative behavior,” and after France and Britain appeased “Hitler’s demands for Czechoslovak territory at Munich in 1938,” Stalin then abandoned his “efforts to forge a collective security agreement with the West” apparently.

After this, Stalin came to an “understanding with Germany,”replacing Litvinov with his confidante, Viacheslav Molotov as commissar of foreign affairs, with the Nazis and Soviets engaging in “intensive negotiations,” leading to the Nonaggression Pact of August 23, 1939, which “pledged absolute neutrality in the event one of the parties should become involved in war, while a secret protocol [that] partitioned Poland,” and soon thereafter the WWII began. Despite this, one cannot blame the Soviets for war, since felt they could not trust the Western powers to fight the Nazis by allying with them, and they did not want destruction of their country like happened during WWI. In later years, the Soviets pushed the UN for a new definition on aggression which encompassed viewpoints from across the Third World in 1953 and 1956. [44] After that point, when Khrushchev unfairly and traitorously denounced Stalin in his “secret speech” and cozied up more to the Western capitalists, revisionism took hold in the country, only to be uprooted by 1964, seemingly, when Leonid Brezhnev took power. All of these aspects will be covered in later articles about Soviet history.

The fact that Swanson did not address the Soviet perspective on the pact at all is not much of a surprise. While he is good-intentioned in writing about this subject and his book is a worthy history, he also is a bourgeois pacifist who does not talk about the role of capitalism, class relations, or imperialist struggle in bringing this agreement to fruition. I don’t wish to talk about that history in regards to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, as that would require a good amount of additional research on the subject. As a result, this article is just meant to criticize Swanson and bring a new perspective to light on this subject, leading to future discussion.

Concluding thoughts

Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film "Mr. Wolf" I'm using in this article.
Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf” I’m using in this article.

Some may say that it isn’t even worth reading the works of a bourgeois pacifist like David Swanson and that I’m giving him free press. While I can see where such a viewpoint is coming from, I also think it is unfair. It is worth reading other points of view in order to improve your own. There is no doubt that Swanson spent time and resources on writing his history, but his ideological viewpoint distorted his history so he did not, as a result, recognize the full reality. What I mean by this is that he is writing from a white, privileged, and Western perspective geared toward audiences in the United States. You could even add in that his perspective does not mention perspectives by women, not even white women, since only a smattering of the war outlawrists he cites are women. Additionally, where is a mention of race in this book? Doesn’t the Kellogg-Briand Pact effect people of color across the world? Also, a more robust analysis of European imperialisms and US imperialism would have improved the narrative to be more critical of established power structures. This agreement led to a sort of “capitalist peace” you could say.

The current Kellogg-Briand Pact, coupled with Articles 1 and 51 of the UN Charter, is a good tool to restrain the murderous empire. However, one must be wary of the demands of bourgeois pacifism in this regard, as such pacifism does not recognize the possibility of revolutionary wars for liberation and often says that people should not have the right to armed self-defense, instead just engaging in peaceful measures. This should be rejected wholesale. If Palestinians have the right to fire back rockets in response to never-ending Israeli bombing then blacks in the United States have the right to defend themselves with arms against bigots trying to harm them. To be realistic, there will only be peace once socialist revolutions sweep the world and remove the virus of capitalism because militarism is deeply tied to such a horrid economic system. Sure, we can support the idea of outlawing war. However, we should not think that it, even if connected with an international court and other instruments of international law, will bring justice in a way that prevents capitalist exploitation. This is especially the fact if such a push does not include a demand for strong enforcement mechanisms, something that the Kellogg-Briand Pact lacks, not even allowing for sanctions, as much as they can be destructive and an instrument of imperialist aggression, of countries that violate its provisions. [45]

Notes

[1] David Swanson, When the World Outlawed War (Charlottesville, VA, 2011), p. 6, 11-12.

[2] Swanson, 11-15, 19-20. Such propaganda stayed in people’s minds before Wilson saw public opinion as “something to use, rather than avoid,” Swanson argues.

[3] Ibid, 16-17.

[4] Ibid, 17-18. The organization that paid for this was one group called the National Council for Prevention of War.

[5] War Outlawrists that Swanson cites: John Dewey, Robert Farrell, Thomas Hall Shastid, Sherwood Eddy, Robert Farrell, Murray Butler, James Thomson Shotwell, Andrew Carnegie, Salmon Oliver Levinson, John Chalmers Vinson, John E. Stoner, Kirby Page, Charles Clayton Morrison, Arthur Capper of Kansas, William Borah, Warren G. Harding, John Haynes Holmes, Raymond Robins, Frances Keller, Calvin Coolidge, James Brown Scott, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

[6] Swanson, 24-27, 30-33.

[7] Ibid, 27-28, 60-69, 111-114; LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 38.

[8] Ibid, 20-23, 73-74.

[9] Ibid, 34-37, 41-42. The idea of such enforcement was a court of law, with enforcement of rulings relying on good faith of nations, not military action, an economic blockade or sanctions, with the court as a form of “dispute resolution.”

[10] Ibid, 37-40, 43-47.

[11] Ibid, 49-59, 75-82, 90-91, 100-106.

[12] Ibid, 5, 71-72, 84-85, 92-99.

[13] Ibid, 85-89, 107-110.

[14] Ibid, p. 111-123.

[15] Swanson, 6, 125, 131-134, 136-142.

[16] Ibid, 144-146; Kellogg said that the pact did not mean the US recognized the USSR, but the Soviets hoped the pact would be a way to gain rapprochement (American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, Vol. 1 (ed. Robert L. Beisner and Kurt W. Hanson, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003), 851.

[17] Also see “The Sino-Soviet Border Conflict, 1969: U.S. Reactions and Diplomatic Maneuvers” published on the National Security Archive’s website in 2001.

[18] Swanson, 6, 146-155. As Chen Tiqiang argues, “Article 1 of the Anti-War Pact of Paris concluded on August 27, 1928, stipulates that the signatory countries to the pact “renounce…recourse to war as an instrument of national policy.” The Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East; pronounced on November 12, 1948, pointed out that a war in violation of the Paris pact is illegal by international law and that “those who plan and wage such a war with its inevitable and terrible consequences are committing a crime in doing so.” Thus, it is clear that wars of aggression had already been prohibited by international law before Japan launched its war of aggression. The Japanese Government, therefore, had launched its war of aggression against China wittingly and deliberately with full knowledge of its legal significance” (Chen Tiqiang, “Conclusions Confirmed by History,” Beijing Review, Aug. 30, 1982, vol. 25, no. 35, p. 27). Another writer notes that “in the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris), the States Parties solemnly declared “that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.” The Pact did not, however, specify criminal liability either for States or for individuals in the event of a violation of the Pact; whether the norm set forth in the Pact reflected a general rule of international law or one binding solely upon those States that had ratified the Pact was uncertain. As such, after the outbreak of World War II, many believed that no “international agreement criminalising wars of aggression was in force in 1939, and therefore, on the basis of the nullum crimen sine lege principle, the Allies were not legally entitled to prosecute the top Nazi leaders for aggression” but at the San Francisco conference in April 1945 they asserted that the original intent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact requires trying Nazis and Japanese fascists as war criminals (Sean D. Murphy, “The Crime of Aggression at the ICC,” Public Law and Legal Theory Paper No. 2012-50, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-50, 2012, p. 3-4). It is worth noting that WWII commenced even with the pact in place, but that the pact influenced Japan’s pacifist constitution.

[19] Swanson, 6-8.

[20] Ibid, 5, 9-10, 49, 163-165.

[21] Other peaceful proposals include simple disarmament, disentangling ourselves from alliances that cause us to go to war like NATO, pressure those in power, enacting numerous strategies and create a holiday for the pact on August 27, that war is good for nothing (p. 165-167, 169). His ideas, outlined in p. 166 to 167 include: (1) cutting half of a trillion dollars out of the national security budget, half into tax cuts for everyone, half into useful social spending; (2) bring the National Guard back home and de-federalize it; (3) ban redeployment of personnel suffering from PTSD; (4) ban no-bid military contracts; (5) restore constitutional war powers to Congress; (6) have a public referendum before any war; (7) close foreign bases; (8) ban weapons from space; (9) ban extralegal prisons; (10) ban “kangaroo courts” outside the US justice system; (11) restore habeas corpus; (12) ban use of mercenaries; (13) limit military spending; (14) ban secret operations, agencies, and budgets; (15) ban drone strikes; (16) forbid transfer of student info. to military recruiters without permission; (17) comply with Kellogg-Briand Pact; (18) reform or replace the UN; (19) join the ICC and make it independent of the UN; (20) disarm.

[22] Swanson, 157-162, 170-171.

[23] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 35, p. 37-39.

[24] Swanson, 106.

[25] James M. Lindsay, “TWE Remembers: The Kellogg-Briand Pact,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 27, 2011.

[26] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 39.

[27] Max Shachtman, “War, Kellogg Pact and the Soviet Union,” March 1929, The Militant, Vol. II No. 5, 1 March 1929, pp. 1 & 4; Jack Weber, “March of Events,” July 13 1935, New Militant, Vol. I No. 29, 13 July 1935, p. 3; Sam Gordon, New Developments in Far East: Western Imperialists Register Protests as Japs Hold on to Booty, February 1932, The Militant, Vol. V No. 6 (Whole No. 102), 6 February 1932, p. 1.

[28] Alastair Kocho-Williams, Russia’s International Relations in the Twentieth Century (New York: Routledge, 2013), 52; Akira Iriye, The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: The Globalizing of America, 1913-1945, Vol. 3 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 84-85, 106.  Some say that the USSR remained “somewhat isolated diplomatically” by the West at least, but this is only one opinion on the matter. It is also worth noting that the provisions of the Kellogg-Briand Pact also applied to Soviet relations with Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania (Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 250-251).

[29] J.L. Black, Canada in the Soviet Mirror: Ideology and Perception in Soviet Foreign Affairs, 1917-1991 (Canada: Carleton University Press, 1998), 66. The Comintern didn’t take Litvinov’s moves them seriously and got ready in case of invasion.

[30] Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 259.

[31] On August 5, 1928, Chicherin argued that “the exclusion of the Soviet government from these negotiations leads us…to the assumption that among the real objectives of the initiators of this pact there obviously was and is an endeavor to make of this pact a weapon for isolating and fighting the Soviet Union. The negotiations regarding the conclusion of the Kellogg Pact was obviously an integral part of the policy of encircling the Soviet Union, which at present occupies the central point of the international relations of the whole world” (Xenia Joukoff Eudin and Harold Henry Fisher, Soviet Russia and the West, 1920-1927: A Documentary Survey (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1957), 352).

[32] Triska and Slusser, 259.

[33] Triska and Slusser, 260.

[34] Triska and Slusser, 262. On the subject of the Litvinov Protocol also see Rudolf Bernhardt, Use of Force · War and Neutrality Peace Treaties (N-Z) (New York: North Holland Publishing Company, 1982), 36.

[35] Documents about it here on the Avalon Project’s website.

[36] Triska and Slusser, 258.

[37] International Law and International Security: Military and Political Dimensions (ed. Paul B. Stephan and Boris Mikhaĭlovich Klimenko, London: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991), 9, 296.

[38] George Ginsburgs, Moscow’s Road to Nuremberg: The Soviet Background to the Trial (London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996), 4.

[39] Richard C. Hall, Consumed by War: European Conflict in the 20th Century (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 97; Miron Rezun, The Soviet Union and the Iran: Soviet Policy in Iran from the Beginnings of the Pahlavi Dynasty until the Soviet Invasion of 1941 (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1981), 148, 154, 247; Marcel Mitrasca, Moldova: A Romanian Province Under Russian Rule : Diplomatic History from the archives of the Great Powers (New York: Algora Publishing, 2002), 8, 124, 330, 372, 377.

[40] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885; David A. Kaplow, “Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact: Proposing a Treaty for the Renunciation of Nuclear Wars as an Instrument of National Policy,” Georgetown University Law Center, p. 139; “When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics” ebook, “Diplomatic Isolation and the Beginnings of Stalinism” chapter, UC Press.

[41] Time Magazine, “RUSSIA: Litvinov’s Protocol,”KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[42] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[43] Triska and Slusser, 262-263.

[44] Ibid.

[45] The lack of such provisions in the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not a surprise because Western capitalist states would have never stood for strong enforcement, rejecting it in an effort to defend their own empires.

Spreading the goodness of Soviet History

Students from Patrice Lumumba Friendship University pick presents for the New Year in the State Department Store (GUM), 1962 (via a recent series on Sputnik)

My last post on here focused on early Soviet history, from 1917 until 1933, as I continue to do research on Soviet history from 1933 to 1945 for the next part of the series.

However, this is something I want all of the readers out there to know about: a new forum about Soviet History! Its only for those on Reddit, but everyone can view and see it. I’ll openly admit that I’m the mod on the subreddit, intlnews, posting most of the links and content. Moving on from that, its worth noting that I’m still new at the moding (after being kicked out as a moderator of /r/fullstalinism), but I did add a whole faq wiki for the forum to answer some easy questions. I know Reddit has its horrid side, with grotesque parts and such, but there are certain parts of Reddit where there can be good and productive discussion.

Before anyone is up and arms about the content on there, I’ll say that this is my first time as a mod of a subreddit on my own, so its still a work in progress. I was thinking of maybe creating a bot to autopost content, but I don’t know how to do that yet. Other than asking for your suggestions in spreading its content far and wide, more than beyond a few measly subreddits, I just thought I’d share this new development.

I’m aware of the revisionist measures taken after 1956 and Khrushchev’s horrid “secret speech” and the subsequent Sino-Soviet split, along with the understandable and justified anti-revisionism, with more seeing China (or Albania) as centers of socialism in the world than the USSR. So, I’m not trying to glorify that period or any other period, just trying to spread more understanding about Soviet History. There is a radical history subreddit too, but it is mostly crap, so maybe in the future there will be other subreddits for the histories of other radical countries. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m researching a bit for my next article about Trump and his cabinet picks, trying to get it ready and out there before Trump is inaugurated.