“Massive, dangerous and wasteful”: US imperialism repositions itself in Syria

Comes from the official mouth of the national military establishment.

This post was posted on anti-imperialism.org two days before but somehow I didn’t catch that until yesterday, so it was posted here.

You’ve probably heard the recent news that the Trump Administration is ending the CIA program to fund “anti-Assad” “moderate rebels,” who are actually terrorists. [1] The bourgeois media and run-of-the-mill imperialists cried bloody murder. Some say it was a “victory” for Russian president Vladimir Putin, although it was seen, even by crusty analysts, as a failed program. Removing CIA support is a victory for the Syrian people, not for the Russians or Trump and his advisers. In defending this action on Twitter, Donald Trump, in his typical bullish style, attacked the “Amazon Washington Post” and CNN, saying they are pumping out “fake news” about his policy and questioned if the Post is being used to keep “politicians from looking into Amazon’s no-tax monopoly.” He, of course, framed the program as his accomplishment, as the end of “massive, dangerous and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad,” although these “rebels” are, again, terroristic elements. Even with US imperialism ending CIA support for such elements, the murderous empire has not given up the goal of toppling the Syrian government. Rather, it has “repositioned” itself.

In the article announcing the end of the CIA program, the CIA mouthpiece, the Washington Post bellowed that there was a “potential risk” of ending the program. They claimed that ending the program would mean that the US may be unable to stop other countries from “funneling more sophisticated weapons” to “anti-Assad” terrorists. [2] This implies a “loss of control” over world events by the murderous empire, and it is part of the anxiety that comes with US imperialism loosing its footing. Still, the murderous empire is not bumbling like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, as “acclaimed” journalist Jeremy Scahill (a brand) noted in one tweet some time ago, but it just facing more challenges. The removal of this support, which was reportedly a foreign policy move to improve ties with Russia, ended a program which had begun in 2013 under the supposedly “smart” imperialism of the Obama presidency. [3] The program itself, in the minds of anonymous “US officials” quoted, and perhaps within upper echelons of the empire itself, “produced little success.” Reuters denoted that US support will not end. Quoting the magical (and often deceptive) anonymous “US officials,” it was noted that the US military will train, arm, and support certain Syrian terrorists with airstrikes and other actions. [4] It would not be surprising if this is the case. The Syrians recognize that the ending of the CIA program is a start to to “solving the Syrian crisis” but not a “genuine policy shift.” Rather it was an admission by the murderous empire that they have failed as Syrian government minister Ali Haidar pointed out. [5]

As it seems evident, US imperialism has “repositioned” itself in Syria by allying with the “good” Kurds, by Western standards, the ones clustered around the illegitimate regional government in northern Iraq and those related to Rojava. Stephen Gowans points out that not only is the YPG, one of the groups which is associated with Rojava, basically the PKK, but that they would control regions currently occupied by Arabs, a move supported by Israel and the US. However, Turkey does not support it as they detest the Kurds, but also the Syrian government, with their own designs for “regime change” in the country, and the current Syrian government opposes it as a clear violation of their sovereignty and independence. Such a takeover of Arab areas, which could be a prelude to ethnic cleansing, is supported by illegal no-fly-zones by the US over parts of Syria, and the partition of Syria along “ethno-sectarian lines,” favored by Washington and Tel Aviv. Some will say that the YPG, SDF, and other forces associated with Rojava, are somehow revolutionary. For one, if this was the case, why would they have allowed the US to build two military bases within “their territory” by March 2016? [6]

When Black nationalist Robert Mugabe led the liberation struggle of the then-Maoist Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, alongside the more moderate Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu-PF, he did not go the US asking for help to fight the white colonists. When Hugo Chavez and his newfangled movement were gaining traction in Venezuela, they didn’t turn to the European imperialists. There are many other examples that could be given. Allowing an imperialist power to create bases within one’s territory means that one’s anti-imperialism is partially, if not completely, non-existent.

Around the same time that it was revealed that the US had two military bases in Syria, the special presidential envoy to the coalition against Daesh, Brett McGurk, visited Rojava, showing the US-“good” Kurd alliance was in the making. Since then, the murderous empire has increased their support for these Kurds. The same Kurds who tortured two Arab prisoners to demand they tell them

“where are the Daesh fighters,” threatening their life and limb when they didn’t answer “correctly.” Recently, the murderous empire armed these Kurds directly to mount an assault on Daesh’s de facto capital, Raqqa. More than that, over 1,000 US special forces are within Syria, with the US helping Rojava-associated forces, since 2014, take control of territory with their “overwhelming” air power. Furthermore, not only are these Kurds wedded to their alliance with the Western imperialists, who also back, with arms, those in Northern Iraq, but they are liked by Western European, Japanese, and Scandinavian governments, along with some in Central Europe and Eastern Europe as well. This is indicated by their diplomatic outposts all across Europe to spread the “reality” of their supposed “struggle,” with the impression that they are a “real” country. Even the Russian Federation seems to favor them to an extent. Such favoritism, mainly by those in the West, is related to the fact that Rojava is opposed to the Syrian government is a “resources-rich” mine for imperialism even though it is basically an illegal entity. Its existence violates the UN charter, especially article 2, and the Syrian Constitution (at least 5 articles). Some may cry that Rojava and the Kurds need “self-determination” but the entity itself violates Syrian sovereignty and such a claim to self-governance by the “good” Kurds is utterly (and completely) illegitimate.

If arming and providing direct military support to these Kurds is not enough, the US had reportedly provided advice on branding, a feature of modern capitalism in the Western world. Raymond Thomas, General and commander of US Special Operations, said at the Aspen Forum recently that the US told the YPG that they needed to re-brand because of their ties to the PKK, and called the name of SDF a “stroke of brilliance” since “democratic” was within the name. This account was also posted on SoL international, a site run by the Turkish Communist Party. In their summation, it was noted that Thomas said that the YPG and PKK have to “work on their own branding,” acting like they are separate. In response, Erdogan, a murderous leader of Turkey who represents that country’s bourgeoisie, said that “friends” should not deceive each other, implying that the US and Turkey are still “friends.” This is true to an extent, but the US and Turkey are pursuing different methods to overthrow the Syrian government. This is indicated by stories in the Turkish state media, which has an anti-Kurdish flair to it, such as one claiming that a US Army Magazine showed a PYD individual, associated with Rojava, with a patch displaying the face of the PKK’s jailed leader, Ocolan. To put it simply, relations between the murderous empire and ethno-nationalist Turkey are fraught. This is proven not only by Erdogan’s remarks noted above but declarations by the Turkish government that it will not allow a “terrorist state” of Rojava on their borders and claims that hundreds of trucks from the US are aiding the Kurds with a large amount of weapons. The latter article, which lists the exact location of 10 US outposts/bases in Rojava, was also written up by The Daily Beast. [7] This article notes that there is US presence from “one end to the other end” of Rojava, with two bases in northern Syrian and eight outposts, one of which is the communications center for the US-led coalition “fighting” Daesh.

With ten bases, effectively, in northern Syria, US imperialism has easily positioned itself to assist covertly and overtly in the overthrow of the Syrian government. Add to this the illegal US presence in Syria coupled with the bombing of Syria and Iraq which has killed a minimum of 600 people with the actual total likely topping over 7,000 civilians. Take for example a raid in Syria on July 4, by US bombers, which killed nine civilians and damaged civilian housing. Assisting the murderous empire in its “regime change” operation are the Israeli Zionists who frequently bomb inside Syria, directly helping the “anti-Assad” terrorists, accompanied by propaganda from outlets, such as National Geographic, to smear the Syrian government, as represented in their upcoming documentary which is totally fraudulent. If that isn’t enough, there have been direct provocations in Syria by the murderous empire. In June, the US shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet which was carrying out attacks on Daesh, a “blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law.” This was only part of such provocations stemming from the dropping of thousands upon thousands of bombs on Syria, since 2014, thousands of US troops being sent into the region, false stories of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, and other provocations, sometimes with the help of British special forces. Additionally, the UAE, the Turks, Qatar, the Saudis, and numerous others, want a piece of the action, sending “tens of thousands of mercenary and reactionary forces to bring down the Syrian government.

While US imperialism under Trump is “re-positioning” itself by seeking new alliances and harsher policies toward alleged US enemies, the goal in Syria has not changed. As noted earlier, the US wants to overthrow Syria’s duly-elected government, the government a secular, socially democratic state. Gowans explains this simply. He notes that the murderous empire is angry that Bashar Al-Assad hasn’t integrated the Syrian economy into the “US-superintended economy,” while possessing principles of “Arab socialism,” anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism. Such ideas also come with Syria’s support of the Palestinian liberation movement and Hezbollah. Hence, since the 1960s the US had tried to undermine Syria, with the idea since 2003 that the US would eliminate Arab nationalists in the region by invading their countries.

Iran puts a damper on such regime change plans, as does Russia. Already Iran and Russia have developed close relations, like Syria and Russia, with the idea that Iran-Russia contact can prevent Washington’s further intervention in Syria. As Raymond Thomas, quoted earlier, admitted, since Russia has established a “more credible foothold” in Syria, it could, in his summation, use this influence to expel US forces from the country. Whether this would actually happen is not known. As the murderous empire sees it, Iran, Syrian, and Russia are part of an “evil axis” to them. That is why the CIA’s mouthpiece, the Washington Post, declared that the US is threatening Iranian naval vessels in the Persian Gulf whether a “shot across the bow” actually happened or not. [8]

The same goes for the 98-2 vote in the US Senate in favor of increased sanctions on Iran and Russia in mid-June. Only two Senators, with enough political capital, voted against it: “socially democratic” imperialist Bernie Sanders and libertarian-Republican Rand Paul. The sanctions themselves, introduced by Bob Corker, did not pass the House. The legislation not only claims that Iran threatens the US (and allies) in the Mideast, North Africa, and beyond, but it shows US apprehension about Iran’s influence.

In the past month, a new round of sanctions passed both legislative houses, incorporating some of Corker’s legislation on Russia and Iran, but also adding harsh sanctions against the DPRK. On July 25, the House passed the legislation 419-3, with only Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and Jimmy Duncan voting no, all of whom were Republicans. The vote in the Senate two days similar was similar to the one the month before: Sanders and Paul voted against it.

Specifically, the new sanctions are slapped on Iran for its missile program and “human rights abuses” while squeezing the Russian economy and removing authority from the presidency to ease Russian sanctions. The latter is due to the unsubstantiated and feverous phobia over Russia, propagated by the US intelligence establishment, desperate Democrats and complaint Republicans, and much of the bourgeois media. The fact that Trump approves of the sanctions legislation flushes away all possibility he is “pro-Russia” in any way, shape, or form. Furthermore, the fact that Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership declared that the US’s diplomatic mission in Russia has to “reduce its staff by 755 employees” was a justified “aggressive response” that the New York Times, in typical fashion, called something which was seemingly “ripped right from the Cold War playbook.” Russia cannot respond by military force to these sanctions, so this reduction is a way of firing back, sending a message to Washington that the sanctions are not OK. [9]

As it seems evident, the murderous empire wants to weaken Iran (and Russia to an extent) to cause the dominoes (Syrian government, Hezbollah, and Hamas) to fall so that imperial hegemony can reign across the region. [10] The Russians, Syrians, and Iranians aren’t standing for it. With Iran having “Washington’s moves under close surveillance,” they have worked to build military cooperation with Iraq, a major step forward in regional security to counter destabilization by the US and its affiliates.

Such an agreement, which disappoints the US, involves both countries working together to improve border security while providing the military forces of each country with “training, logistical…and military support.” Furthermore, the Iranian Parliament recently allocated $600 million to strengthen the country’s defensive missile program and the IRGC’s Quads force. Even with such measures, the moderate Iranian leadership is trying to create linkages with European capitalists created by the nuclear deal they negotiated with the West. The idea is that Iran should be “self-reliant and self-sufficient” since it has strong bilateral relationships with Russia, China, and a “remarkable number of European countries.” As Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, recently put it, there is an opportunity of strong relations between Iran and Europe, with creation of “indigenous technology using international advanced technology.” The Iranians also likely see such linkages as a way to partially deter some of the effects of sanctions imposed on them. Some capitalists, like the French, have jumped at the bit. Just recently, Total S.A., a French oil giant, signed a 20 year contract with Iran, with an “estimated cost of 2 billion US dollars.” This would result in 30 wells, 2 offshore platforms, and two pipelines as part of the Iranian Petroleum Contract (IPC) they signed with the Iranian government.

Even with Iran’s moves to court Western European capitalists, there are evident challenges. For one, Trump is continuing to push for “regime change” in Iran, dismantle the “Obama-era balance of power” and return to anti-Iran policies of Bush II. This isn’t much of a surprise since his foreign policy team is filled with Iran hawks, those who want to be more aggressive toward the country. Additionally, there are individuals like the chain-smoking, brutish, covert to Islam, whose name is “Mike Roger” when undercover and nicknamed “Ayatollah Mike.” [11] His full name is Michael D’Andrea. He is leading the anti-Iran campaign but previously ran the drone program, is brash, and was involved in the illegal torture program. [12] As one person quoted, in the CIA propaganda-filled New York Times, says, this is a sign of an “aggressive line toward Iran.”

For having a man who is a Muslim (converted because his wife was Muslim) leading a covert effort to undermine (and ultimately topple) a government rooted, bourgeois liberals and progressives will likely scream “intersectionality!” In reality, it is just imperialism with a nice bow on it, but the same tactics as before. Nothing has changed in that way at all.

In a recent article in the Monthly Review, Fred Magdoff noted that when corporations of “leading capitalist states have problems abroad,” they use the international structure they helped shape, also working to create “more favorable conditions at home and abroad to increase their flexibility and ability to make profits with the fewest restraints” evidenced by thirty CEOs of major US corporations visiting “Saudi Arabia with Trump.” He adds that economic elites and corporations use the power “of their home nation to secure advantages globally” with the nation state’s power of a “significant use to capital” with corporations, no matter the historical era, using “whatever leverage is at their disposal…to get their way,” to gain access to “foreign markets and investment opportunities.”

What Magdoff writes has relevance for the geopolitical position and relation of Iran, Syria, Russia, and the United States, to name a few international “actors” at the current time. Each of these countries has their respective bourgeoisie. For Iran and Syria, their national bourgeoisie is revolutionary in character. Specifically for Iran, this bourgeoisie, especially the reformist faction, is trying to entice European capitalists to invest in their country in order to become “self-sufficient” and create their own products. The principalist or “hardline” faction seems to not be fundamentally opposed to the prospect of self-development, as they support investment, but they are wary of Western influence from capitalists of Europe (mostly) since the involvement of Western international capitalist combines had a role in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossedegh in 1953 and were part of the pillaging of their country up until the victory of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The reformist faction, which was reinforced by the recent election in Iran’s populace, seems to be in a current truce with the “hardline” faction, the latter of which wants a “revolutionary economy” as Ayatollah Khomeini puts it, but does not oppose privatization, for example. The Western capitalists are salivating at the opportunity for a new market with US companies likely furious about the new sanctions since this closes markets for them, inadvertently giving the Europeans a head start in this new market, benefiting them and isolating the United States. Iran needs capital for its self-development, but accepting this capital means that Western capitalists will be able to use the “universal whore, the universal pimp of peoples,” money, as Karl Marx once described it, to try and corrupt Iranian society to make it more consumerist, accepting more and more Western values. [13] If that ultimately happens, then the Iranian Revolution will have failed and capitalism will be triumphant in Iran.

Like Iran, Syria has a national bourgeoisie. Stephen Gowans can say that Syria is a socialist state, saying that they follow the confines of “Arab socialism.” While you could argue, like Gowans that that this is correct, more realistically, the state is socially democratic and secular. Hence, they have a national bourgeoisie. But, they are dedicated to progressive principles (anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist for example) and independence from Western influence. As a result, the Syrian leadership courts the Russian capitalists, along with those of other friendly countries like socialist Cuba, so that they can build their economy since they are under attack from reactionary religious terrorists backed by Gulf and Western states. As Karl Marx wrote in 1844,

“…it is precisely the ability of the capitalist to direct his capital elsewhere which either drives the worker into starvation or forces him to submit to the capitalist’s demands” [14]

In the case of Syria, unlike Iran, they do not desire normalization with the West at this time but rather seek to build alliances, to be part of what Ahmad Sa’adat, imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), once called the “international left alliance.” Still, they are affected by competition among capitalists, as this influenced policies of those countries which are attacking them.

As for Russia, it is an interesting case. It is clearly capitalist, but it also has a progressive foreign policy. Partially this policy was forced on it by “isolation” pushed upon it by the US, but also due to its effort of building alliances with those countries under harsh attack by the murderous empire. Still, we cannot forget the Russian oligarchs, who are the Russian bourgeoisie. Even so, they are not like the US in interfering in the affairs of other countries, seeming to follow the principle that sovereignty is the “essence of the state” and that the sovereignty of the leader is based on the people since the “political state is…only a self-determination of the people.” [15] They are, as was noted by the Workers World Party at discussion at the Left Forum earlier this year, wanna be imperialists. Rome, and now the murderous empire, along with competing neo-colonial Western capitalistic states, treats “conquered countries….as private property.” [16] Russia, even if you said that it “conquered” Crimea, which it didn’t since there was a referendum where the people of the peninsula voted to be part of the Russian Federation, is not treating this area or any other area under their influence as their “private property.” Due to US restrictions and that of Russophobic European capitalist states, their markets are limited, so their imperialistic tendencies have not been developed as of yet. If these restrictions were lifted they would become a semi-imperialist state.

The murderous empire has “re-positioned” itself when it comes to Syria, and states associated with it, but as noted in this article, the goals remain the same. This was indicated in a recent speech by Vice President Mike Pence who bemoaned the “grave and growing threat posed by the missile capabilities of dangerous regimes in North Korea and Iran” and noted that Trump called on Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and to cease its support for hostile regimes like North Korea and Iran.” If this sentiment is held by numerous other policymakers in the echelons of the intelligence and military establishments, which it likely is, it means they see Russia as the “puppetmaster,” directing other countries like Iran and Syria. This could not be farther from the truth. Both Iran and Syria have self-interested and justified reasons for their amiable relations with Russia” to counter the aggression of the murderous empire.

As those who care about the world around us, whether we are communists, socialists, or radicals of any flavor, we should recognize what Marx said in September 1843: “nothing prevents us from…taking sides in politics…we simple show the world the way it is struggling and…[push for] the reform of consciousness.” [17] If we can take that to heart, standing in international solidarity with Iran, Syria, and Russia, even though each of these countries has a national bourgeoisie, against the murderous empire, that is a step in the right direction. We should take heed from Marx when he says that revolutions are “not made by shame” and arguing that

“A Ship of Fools can perhaps be allowed to drift before the wind for a good while; but it will drift to its doom precisely because the fools refuse to believe it possible. This doom is the approaching revolution.” [18]

While Marx was talking about Germany in March 1843, this sentiment applies to the present. The capitalists and their lackeys, imperialists of any character, of the murderous empire are the “fools” and they can be usurped by a revolution. In closing, we should believe it possible to engage in such actions to undermine (and ultimately overthrow) the capitalist class wherever, whether in the core, the periphery, and semi-periphery, standing in solidarity, in whatever way we can, with those fighting against the beast of capitalism.

Notes

[1] Anti-Assad is in quotation marks because that is how they are framed, although the Syrian government is much more than just Bashar Al-Assad, who was duly re-elected, like the rest of the government last year.

[2] Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous, “Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow,” Washington Post, July 19, 2017.

[3] BBC News, “Syria war: Trump ‘ends CIA arms programme for rebels’,” July 20, 2017.

[4] John Wolcott, “Trump ends CIA arms support for anti-Assad Syria rebels – US officials,” Reuters, July 19, 2017.

[5] Dahila Nehme, “Syria says US halting aid to rebels is step toward ending war,” Reuters, July 25, 2017.

[6] Reuters, “US builds two air bases in Kurdish-controlled north Syria: Kurdish report,” Mar. 6, 2016.

[7] Roy Gutman, “Turkey Leaks Secret Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria,” The Daily Beast, July 19, 2017.

[8] Andrew deGrandpre, “An Iranian ship refused to heed the Navy’s warning. Then shots were fired,” Washington Post, July 25, 2017.

[9] Neil MacFarquhar, “Putin, Responding to Sanctions, Orders US to Cut Diplomatic Staff by 755,” New York Times, July 30, 2017.

[10] It is clearly not a big “conspiracy” as they might think it is.

[11] Greg Miller, “CIA official who directed hunt for bin Laden is being removed from post,” Washington Post, Mar. 25, 2015.

[12] Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, “Deep Support in Washington for C.I.A.’s Drone Missions,” New York Times, Apr. 25, 2015; Matthew Rosenburg and Adam Goldman, “C.I.A. Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance,” New York Times, June 2, 2017.

[13] Karl Marx, “Money” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 377. On page 295, also within the “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,” Marx describes capital as the power to command labor and products, and stored up labor.

[14] Karl Marx, “Wages of Labor” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 283.

[15] Karl Marx, “Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State” in 1843 within Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 82, 85, 89.

[16] Ibid, 179.

[17] Marx’s letter to Ruge in September 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 208-209.
[18] Marx’s letter to Ruge in March 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 200.

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Naomi Klein “resists” Trump by embracing bourgeois progressive politics

Sampled from her Twitter on August 4, 2017.

Recently, I read Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. It is a relatively quick read, only 273 pages long, much shorter than her This Changes Everything book a few years back. Even so, it has thirteen chapters, a conclusion, a postscript, and an introduction.

In the introduction to the book sets the theme: that Trump is applying “shock politics” to the US, trying to pull off a “domestic shock doctrine” against public institutions and “public interest.” She goes on to describe Trump’s reactionary advisers like Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner while claiming there is a “corporate takeover” in DC (there is actually a long trend of corporate control in America, so it’s not something new), with Trump forming a brand in and of himself. She, of course, stops short of calling Trump fascist, only describing him as anti-“democratic” (relying on the idea of bourgeois democracy) and drawing parallels to policies in Greece, after Hurricane Katrina, in Baghdad after 2003, and in Britain, which resemble “Trumpism.” As she states clearly, her book’s argument is that Trump is a culmination of the “worst trends” of the 20th century that have “used race as a weapon to advance brutal economic policies,” pioneered by Milton Friedman, and other “market fundamentalists.” She also seems optimistic, calling for “change so fundamental that today’s corporate takeover will be relegated to a historical footnote,” although the “change” she later explicates is not even close to being “fundamental,” challenging the Trump superbrand, as she puts it.

After a lackluster introduction with broad vagueness, Klein has a chapter that focuses on Trump the brand, noting that Trump won because of the electoral college, not the popular vote, with his victory as a “shock.” She adds that there is a “surge of authoritarian, xenophobic, far-right politics” in France, India, the Philippines, UK, and Turkey, implying that the morally corrupt socially democratic politics in the West is a “solution.” Also her usage of useless words like “authoritarian” which is often used to shame countries deemed as “communist” or “socialist,” regardless of whether they are or not, means that she is legitimizing this word as speech that’s fine, showing her lack of comprehension in this realm, to say the least. She goes on to talk about Trump’s “cabinet of billionaires and multibillionaires” like it something new (it’s not), and acts like Bernie Sanders was a savior who made Wall Street shake, celebrates “concessions” to Black Lives Matter and the “climate movement” by political elites. She further adds that Trump’s election is part of a backlash against social movements, with a supposed “takeover” benefiting capitalists and removing environmental protections, for example. Apart from this claptrap which shows that she does not have understanding for how the capitalist state functions, and had changed over time, is a part about branding. She writes that starting in the 1980s companies like Nike and Apple, among many others, believes their fortunes were in branding with the concept that an idea or brand surrounding a company can connect with consumers, tying to a “profound human desire to be part of…a circle of belonging.” As a result, the product became (and was part of) the brand, meaning that this brand could be projected into “seemingly unconnected physical commodities.” Hence, products were produced at low price by subcontractors and contractors, with horrid work conditions in sweatshops. As a result, capitalist combines everywhere engaged in a brutal “race to the bottom” with complex supply chains involving contractors. As for Trump, after he had been a real estate developer for years he branded “high-end real estate” which could be a “single global luxury brand,” which was boosted by his show, The Apprentice, gaining revenue from “Trump-branded properties” with leasing his name, pulling in the dollars. When anyone noted horrible conditions his products were created in, the Trump Organization shrugged them off, defending a brand that “stands for wealth” itself, making this part of the reason scandals don’t stick to him: he plays by the “rules of branding” as Klein writes.

Based off a Mr. Robot quote by Angela Moss, but also applying to horrid Trump of course.

The second chapter promises to find ways to pierce “Trump’s brand bubble.” After noting how Trump’s presidency made the Trump “family of brands more valuable,” including those of Ivanka and Melania, she notes that cities and companies pay millions to “lease the Trump brand.” It is at this point she says that Bill and Killary spent decades blurring ethical lines” at the Clinton Foundation even as she basically says that Trump is worse. It is not beyond belief to think this about Bill & Killary Clinton, and Trump have destructive and exploitative brands. But Klein will not consider this possibility, shrugging it off by omission. The chapter is ended by her saying that Trump embodies Reagan (a former actor), briefly says that “the system is corrupt,” noting the rules of Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Obama, and then moving onto Trump’s “personal brand,” claiming that making Trump look “like a puppet” “jams” “The Trump Show.” So using the fake, deceptive, and worthless “Russia connection,” first concocted during the campaign by Killary Clinton’s camp, to call Trump “Putin’s Puppet” weakens his brand? This doesn’t even make sense in the slightest. Additionally, she is sidelining the reality: that Obama set the foundation for Trump. With over 2 million deported, continuing mass incarceration, and drone strikes, among other horrid elements of his “legacy,” the fascism of Trump had a comfortable breeding ground when he was inaugurated on January 21, 2017.

The following chapter is similarly about Trump’s branding. It talks about the structure of a show like The Apprentice, how it applies to “income inequality,” connects to his books, and notes that he brought “reality TV expertise to electoral politics,” which means that the “Trump show is now broadcasting live from the Oval Office.” With that, Trump made promises on the campaign trail (like every politician these days) which he won’t fulfill and edits “reality to fit his narrative.” Klein briefly talks about “progressive messaging” by Justin Trudeau in Canada which dazzled people, and “carefully crafted symbols” by the Obama administration to move the conversation away from discussion about the destruction he caused. Once again, she engages in another oversight. As the Wrong Kind of Green folks have notes, Obama is/was a brand, and so is Trudeau. She seems to forget what she wrote in 2009: that a “superfan culture…brought Obama to power” saying that we are “all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.” Add to this that as even Noam Chomsky pointed out, Obama is a brand, who won the “highest advertising campaign accolade and attracted unprecedented sums of money” as also noted by John Pilger.

“Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products…we are being duped”- Chris Hedges in a May 2009 article

To close out the chapter, she notes that Trump is pushing for more war (which is continuing the warmongering that Obama engages in, expanding upon the foundation left by Bush, Clinton, and predecessors going back years), making it a “spectacle,” just like the Gulf War in 1990 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As Deirdre Griswold remarked recently in Worker’s World, “imperialist diplomacy has the same objective as imperialist war. If negotiations are to take place, either openly or secretly, the DPRK will have to weigh every word very carefully before agreeing to anything with the treacherous and arrogant bunch of marauders who run the U.S. government.”  She ends by saying that Trump’s rise to victory in the election last year was fueled by a “decline of communal institutions and the expansion of corporate brands” in US culture as a whole.

“From its origins in the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution, fossil capital has developed into a monstrous complex generating multiple biospheric crises, including climate change. To head off a catastrophic warming of the atmosphere, it will be necessary to de-fossilize the global economy over the next several decades. The growth of fossil fuel use must stop now, followed by absolute reductions of carbon emissions to near zero levels by sometime later in the twenty-first century. Nothing less is acceptable if we want a livable planet for the majority of humanity and other species. Such a transition has been shown to be, physically speaking, quite feasible…Unfortunately, under mature capitalism things are not done according to human needs, environmental sustainability, or common sense. Both economically and politically, this system is dominated by monopoly-finance capital (MFC) and its state functionaries. Two basic facts must be noted here. First, MFC’s ideology and policy program are both constituted by neoliberalism (deregulation, privatization, and anti-union policies—in short, market fundamentalism—combined with militarism and imperialism). Second, MFC is inextricably tied to the fossil-capital complex. It follows from these two facts that at this point in history, de-fossilizing the economy means overthrowing MFC power and moving toward a worker-community controlled economy, socialism.”- Paul Burkett

The fourth chapter changes focus to the climate. After giving a personal story about her child and the Great Barrier Reef, along with her work for The Guardian, she notes how Rex Tillerson led ExxonMobil through increased drilling as CEO. She, however, also notes that one crisis is not more important than the other but that climate change is a current emergency, with Killary having a “web of corporate entanglements” that needs to be questioned while Trump seems to deny climate change as he supports more fossil fuel extraction. In framing Trump, she makes Trump out as the destructor rather than recognizing he is not doing this from scratch but on a basis formed by Obama’s faux environmentalism with a “Clean Power Plan” and supposedly “stopping” Keystone XL and a pipeline going through Standing Rock, when he was actually just appeasing social movements, engaging in “good-natured” deception. This was able have so much influence that if Obama approved the Keystone XL pipeline, the “letdown from the high expectation levels built on the many protests would be devastating to the morale and energy of the movement.” Additionally, he was able to strongarm Gang Green to be silent on climate change, the same groups that framed his issuing of “production permits were issued to oil and gas corporations for drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, both onshore and offshore” as responsible, especially the Sierra Club, and NRDC, meaning that they were cheering “Obama…eagerly bringing the total destruction of our planet’s climate and ecosystems.” Avoiding this discussion, Klein notes that many across the world are demanding “real action on climate change” (whatever that means), that Trump is pushing through varied cuts to the EPA which she says serves people of color (she seems to forget the arguments by Robert Ballard and others that the EPA has engaged in environmental racism), that prices determine which areas are drilled for fossil fuels, and that people don’t understand what neoliberalism [1] is. She then gives a tepid endorsement of “socialism” (which doesn’t mean anything radical to her), and calls for public sector investments on a large scale, which she says is more than just “tweak[ing] the existing system.” She says this despite the fact that her approaches are clearly just another “tweak” of the capitalist system.

Her next chapter notes how she is a “Berniecrat,” saying that Bernie was “the only candidate…serious about battling income inequality and taking on the banks.” [2] She also says that many establishment Democrats haven’t learned their lesson (only worried about Russian hacking now), that Trump spoke to the “economic panic” some whites faced with the idea that the election was a backlash pushed by some sexism toward Killary, with sexual abuse by “the men who surround Trump.” She says that the many voted for Trump were not among the Black and Latino populations most effected by “neoliberal policies” but were white men are losing their economic security and privilege. This doesn’t explain, however, why white women voted more for Trump than Clinton, but it cold be explains due to male dominated households, and/or that they also felt their privilege as white people was slipping. Klein continues her chapter by purposely framing social services as “entitlements” (why concede this to the right-wing?) in order to argue in favor of them, saying that “the stupid economics of neoliberalism” lost Clinton the election, again ignoring Clinton’s brand by only pointing out “Clinton’s brand of identity politics,” and talking about the “tweak[ing of] the system” to lead people of color, other genders, and sexual orientations to “the top,” with justice “to trickle down to everyone else,” which doesn’t work. G. William Domhoff noted this some time ago, but she seems to not even note his work, yet another oversight on her part. Even so, she remarks that it was “important that a generation of kids grew up seeing Obama in the most powerful office of the world.” I do not understand why, realistically this is important, with Black entertainers and politicians already, as his Black face seems just be an invitation to internalize neoliberal values with a happy face. [3] She also adds that we have to recognize how “forms of oppression intersect” (the idea of intersectionality that no progressives actually follow) as manifested in “racial capitalism” as noted by Cedric Robinson, citing another bourgeois progressive scholar named Michelle Alexander, a prison reformer, and talking about Reagan’s role in stirring up White resentment against people of color, with Trump having a role of this by calling for the return of the death penalty to execute the Central Park Five. The chapter ends by saying that white supremacy and fascism has a good breeding ground because of economic stresses, that Trump’s election should not be watered down to one or two causes since Trump (and associated forces) attack on many fronts.

The chapter after that focuses on varying topics. The first aspect is union leaders who embraced Trump who planned for more energy extraction and his bluff he will negotiate “better” deals, which will actually be “better” for him and “his corporate empire,” the capitalist class, with a “race to the bottom” for such trade deals. Even, reportedly, in a renegotiation of NAFTA will be the incorporation of horrible elements of the TPP. She did note that some union members stood up to Trump in an area he spoke, and that much of the “political battleground has been ceded by liberals to the Right.” After giving her personal experience as involved in social movements, she noted that while the movement was standing to win, the September 2001 attacks led to “shock” with the movement’s participants under attack, with those who remained active engaging in “thin and tactical” demands rather than more expansive ones. Adding to this are the facts that these demands may remove the necessary focus on the right-wing, fueling the “growth of far-right parties around the world,” with a supposed “progressive anti-free trade coalition” which is, as she won’t admit, bourgeois in character and “populist,” including those like socially democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders. In the last part of the chapter, she notes how the “super rich” like Oprah, Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk, can’t save us (despite what Ralph Nader argued), with “elite liberals” looking to a sector of the capitalist class, which she calls the “billionaire class” or the “Davos class.” It is this class which is “horrified by the Trump presidency” even though those in this group share many ideas with Trump as she places hope in “progressives” to speak about the “grotesque levels of inequality,” and that we have to “save ourselves.”

In a recent statement against torture, Sanders accepted imperial precepts, basically saying that the US is “great” and worrying about helping our “enemies.” Hence, his argument against torture is not progressive but is actually an imperialist one.

In the next chapter she again professes her support (or “love”?) of Bernie Sanders. While she says she doesn’t like candidate endorsements, she thought that Bernie “had a shot at beating Hillary Clinton” (no he didn’t), calling him a person with “genuine warmth and without personal malice,” what she claims is a “transformative option on the ballot,” although Bernie is farm from it. To be frank, she is being a cheerleader of Bernie, supporting HIS brand, now channeled through “Our Revolution” groups and his persona as inflated in bourgeois progressive media. Of course she doesn’t say she is supporting the brand, only praising him by saying that he showed that “populist” leftist positions were popular, “understanding” why people of color, women, and other marginalized people didn’t support him, citing Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander as “evidence.” She ends the chapter by saying that Trump won because of the “absence of a progressive alternative” (was Bernie this at all?) and that there needs to be a “radical political and economic change” whatever she means by that. It is interesting that Klein keeps changing the stated reasons why Trump won, as noted in previous paragraphs, making one wonder if she believes all of them are causes or only some of them.

Chapter 8 returns the focus to Trump. After talking about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of the Iraq invasion (Paul Bremmer, Dick Cheney, the Green Zone, and all), she notes that “shock tactics” follow a pattern in which a crisis is fomented (or waited or) with a moment when “extraordinary measures” are declared, some “democratic norms” are suspended, and a “corporate wishlist” is rammed through very quickly. She notes that this happened in Chile, Russia, Detroit, Flint, and many other places since the early 1970s. She notes that most neoliberal policies are unpopular apart from cutting “red tape” in theory and tax cuts (for the “middle class” or lower), which is done fast, with cover for “neoliberal political transformations” because of “radical political transitions” (which really aren’t radical), with crises exploited. Trump, as Klein puts it, embraces “shock doctrine logic” (referring to her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine), with his philosophy of being a winner, extracting from those who suffer like a vampire. The idea of what she calls “disaster capitalism” is embodied in his cabinet in every possibly way, with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a blueprint, the idea of what “we” can expect from Trump apparently. It is in this context she calls Muammar Gaddafi a “despised dictator,” without elaborating. While criticism of Gaddafi is warranted, especially when it comes to his relations with the West, calling him a dictator shows she doesn’t understand international solidarity and has internalized imperialistic logic. As Commie Dad writes,

“Qaddafi was ousted after a set of imperialist-backed rebels launched a racist campaign to topple a revolutionary government in North Africa, which succeeded precisely because of NATO’s assistance. He died beaten, broken, sodomized, tortured, and executed in a muddy sewage pipe without trial…The DPRK did not suffer the same fate as Libya precisely because it did not disarm [which some say opened up to invasion]”

Her next chapter follows a similar format. It starts by focusing on those who profited off Hurricane Katrina, cites Omidyar’s plaything, The Intercept, uncritically, says that having a “state of emergency” after a disaster, like Trump would want, is not unprecedented: the Conservative government of the UK did this after attacks in March 2017 and the French government of social democratic Francois Hollande did this in 2015. She goes on to note Trump’s closeness to Eric Prince of Blackwater and its mercenaries, how Trump’s policies help ISIS (is that purposeful?), and that countries like Syria and the DPRK are targets. Again she doesn’t even try to reject imperialistic propaganda about the two countries, implying that Syria committed chemical attacks (inadvertently playing into propaganda of the White Helmets) and that the DPRK, which she calls “North Korea,” is somehow menacing. She shows this in the rest of the chapter, talking about Exxon, citing a person she even defines as a “right-wing, Ukrainian-born British [oil] businessman,” Alexander Temerko uncritically, calling Vladimir Putin a “strongman” and basically an imperialist. She also doesn’t even try to defend Venezuela, which she only briefly describes as an oil-dependent country. It is much more than that, it is a place that exercises popular democracy, a beacon for those who want a better world as Commie Dad argued, just like Cuban socialism. Even so, Klein does not that antiwar action should be paired with “averting climate chaos,” notes how removing Obama’s tepid economic reforms, specifically Dodd-Frank, will lead to disaster, with varied descriptions of “shocks” and Trump’s reactions, with people in luxury building shelters to protect themselves or “Green Zones” while the rest of the world are unprotected and vulnerable or “Red Zones.” In the last part of the chapter she treats the “Syrian uprising” in 2011 as legitimate (although it wasn’t), talks about where drone strikes have occurred, along with a “dramatic rise in right-wing nationalism anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and straight-up white supremacy,” adding that we have it “in our power to change ourselves,” engage in “shock resistance.”

Her next chapter focuses on the failure of the “shock doctrine” as she calls it. She talks about the Trump administration strategy to “overwhelm their adversaries” with a multipronged attack, how Argentina said no to neoliberalism even though political changes were “far from utopian,” how Spain did the same during the Iraq war, and the fact that “past traumatic events” in US history were broadly misunderstood. From here, she focuses on resistance to Trump from groups across various movements and lauds the Women’s March not critiquing its neoliberal elements as Feminist Current did at the time, especially its pro-prostitution position, with a lot of hype. She further says there is a “spirit of unity” among anti-Trump forces, specifically against his Muslim ban (and in favor of “sanctuary cities” which are not all they claim to be), supporting science (and new activists among students of all types), donors to Planned Parenthood, and other protests across the world against neoliberalism. She floats the thought that many activist relationships made now will be strong enough during a state of emergency (we’ll see about that). It is clear that she seems to laud the “Indivisible Guide” despite the fact it is defensive in nature and basically copies Tea Party tactics, and praises the March for Science despite the fact it was mostly dominated by bourgeois science. Again, her argument clearly lacking in Marxist theory and analysis, showing she is not thinking critically in a holistic manner and is totally embracing bourgeois progressivism.

The chapter following this focuses on resistance to “shock” tactics and how Obama supposedly did good (really?) but abandoned many opportunities as a time for change. She admits that in 2009, “too many of us were waiting for change to be delivered on high” with the “us” undoubtedly including herself. In 2008 she called for Obama to denounce Islamophobia, but also took Obama at his word that he would “purge Washington of the scourge of Friedmanism,” although she said he had “ideological housecleaning of his own to do,” and seemed to support Obama’s idea of a “promise of change” warily. She quickly summarizes US history of destruction, exploitation, and genocide, lauding progressive “public policy,” not remembering that Social Security was crafted by corporate moderates. She seems to recognize that radicals and social movements in the past and that the New Deal was used by Roosevelt to “save capitalism” in order to “prevent full-scale revolution,” with the saving of capitalism almost seeming as a necessity to her. Revolution of the type they had in mind seems foreign to her, even as she recognizes that many programs were used to blunt popular movements. The chapter is ended by talking about the struggle against neoliberalism and how social movements should be about “yes” instead of just “no” (why so reductionist?).

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

Her next to last chapter focuses on Standing Rock. While she completely describes the struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline, a perspective that fully understands indigenous history, connecting with genocidal policies against them is lacking, only briefly mentioned. The chapter is instead just a recounting of the resistance at Standing Rock, relating it to other struggles as she uses racist words like “tribe” instead of group or nation. She ends the chapter by almost casting Obama’s administration as heroes for rejecting the pipeline through Standing Rock, although his administration just declared that “things are on hold at Lake Oahe until the powers that be think it through some more” giving people the “illusion of victory” as Kelly Hayes argued. In contrast she casts Trump as a villain for allowing the pipeline to go through Standing Rock. This is inaccurate as the reality is that Trump AND Obama were villains, each in their own way.

Her last chapter declares that a major “transformative change” needs to happen (which is just empty rhetoric). She cites a story of political discussions in Canada, how Black and Brown people being killed is connected to climate change, how those who “use and abuse” women’s bodies” is connected with the notion that humans can “do the same thing to the earth,” what she calls a “dominance-based logic.” She could have taken this to the next step, calling for an end to speciesism, endorsement of some level of animal rights or such, but she didn’t do so, of course. Klein adds that there needs to be more than modesty, a “people’s shock,” with a “grand economic and political transition” with the description of what went into creating their magical Leap Manifesto. This is the same document that is part of the “marketed and branded opposition to capitalism” with opposition limited to certain forms of capitalism like “Crony capitalism” , “corporate capitalism” and “the excesses of capitalism” which were used by “Avi Lewis for Klein’s NGO campaign, “The Leap Manifesto”” with anti-capitalist expression become “hallowed” out, to say the least. She also says that an “economy built on destruction” should be replaced “with an economy built on love.” So, we should have “loving” capitalism then? How will that be any better? After going on about how the manifesto was made, specifics not worth noting here, she says that people can “save themselves” and remains optimistic about social movements, mainly to county Trump and his policies. She even notes that the “center-left” New Democratic Party in Canada passed a resolution to “endorse the spirit of the Leap Manifesto,” making it clear it is bourgeois and milquetoast, regardless of what Klein says about it.

Screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf”

Finally there is her conclusion. She says that Trump should be a shock at all, with more horror at Trump than shock, seeing his presidency as a “dystopian fiction come to life,” implying that she still doesn’t fully grasp the reality, and saying that Trump is the “logical culmination of the current neoliberal system.” Her solution? Say no and fiercely protect “some space to dream and plan for a better world.” That sounds pretty worthless to me, especially the dreaming part. She also says we should kill out “inner Trump” with which we see “ourselves as brands in the marketplace…as rival products competing for market share,” joining those who “shame and attack those who disagreement with us. She ends by saying that centrist parties aren’t the solution but apparently bourgeois progressives are (they aren’t), that the “spell of neoliberalism has been broken,” pushing for a “plank in a true people’s platform,” and resisting what she claims is a “corporate coup.”

Ending her book is a postscript titled “The Leap Manifesto.” The document calls for respecting inherent rights of indigenous communities, “fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the idea that there should be “energy democracy,” and that indigenous peoples should receive “public support for clean energy projects” as should communities dealing with health impacts from “polluting industrial activity.” This manifesto also calls for building of energy-efficient homes, retrofitting existing housing (starting with the poor), training for workers in carbon-intensive jobs for a “clean energy economy,” renewable-powered high-speed rail, “affordable public transit,” investing in decaying public infrastructure, and moving to a “more localized and ecologically based agricultural system.” Other demands include ending corporate-friendly trade deals, ensuring immigration status, and protection for workers, expanding low-carbon sectors of the economy, having a national childcare program, and universal basic income. The last parts of the manifesto reject austerity as a concept, push for end to fossil fuel subsidies, vow support for any policy based on the “polluter pays” principle, calling for town hall meetings across the country, and moving to a system where all votes county while “corporate money is removed from political campaigns.” While this may be more than those on Canada’s political scene are offering (I hope there is something more radical), it is very constrained. It could be said to be “bold” but it is definitely NOT revolutionary as it is abstracted from social movements, revolutionary struggle or international solidarity.

There are a few words I have to say before closing out this article, Klein makes a good point about Trump as a brand but misses many other points because of her bourgeois progressivism. The major point she misses is obvious: she IS a brand. She is among the “heat vampire” including celebrated bourgeois progressives, like Rebecca Solnit and Chris Hayes, that Tarzie wrote about. As Luke Orsbourne wrote in December 2015, she had an “enormous following…best selling books, and perhaps most glaringly, the megaphone and media attention the Guardian had just given her to write her own piece of acquiescence,” condemning climate change marchers outside COP 21 that year, just like 350.org and others. Others added that her book slogan, for This Changes Everything, was “used to advance capital” which was pushed by the Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and that she is part of a brand called 350.org/1Sky, which used the Obama brand in their anti-KXL campaign logo, allowing there to be a “pro-Obama, pro-Democrat veneer” to their logo, with their campaign reinforcing the illusion that “change” is still in front of us, reinforcing the thirst in society for “lies that enable the populace to continue to ignore reality…[and] disregard our collective role in it.”

The book itself, with the title “No Is Not Enough” on an orange background, with the letters in white except the word Not (in red) with praises from Arundhai Roy, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Michelle Alexander, Cornel West, Bill McKibben, Yanis Varovfakis, Michael Stripe, Keeanga Yamatitta Taylor, Danny Glover, and Eve Ensler. Could there not be a bigger panoply of (mostly) bourgeois progressives, some of whom have their own brands consisting of themselves? [4] Hence, Klein herself is a brand “in the marketplace” as was alluded to earlier in this article, and is part of a bigger brand: Haymarket Books. Sure, they sell book of “radical” and progressive authors, but they engaging in branding, just like Verso Books. As was noted in a recent article,

“Today, brands, ideologies, and even invasions of sovereign states, achieve authenticity through association. Thus, celebrity has become as vital a tool for empire as the NGO itself. Together they are akin to nuclear fusion…Today’s 21st century powerhouse NGOs have proven successfully that hate can be neutralized, and even be turned into adoration, as demonstrated by Avaaz co-founder, MoveOn.org. In a world of make-believe where lies are preferred over truth, charismatic warmongers of the past (Barack Obama) are embraced while vulgar warmongers in the present (Donald Trump) are crucified among the allegedly “unbiased left”. Branding supersedes reality straight across the board”

Furthermore, the organization she is part of, 350.org, is branding to the max, which is interesting considering it is not mentioned AT ALL in this book, apart from the dust jacket. The book itself is a product, a commodity to put in more evident terms. How can Klein not recognize she is a brand? The same goes for Matt Taibbi, Edward Snowden, Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Chris Hedges, to name a few. These members of the “celebrity left,” as some have called it, are not the only brands. Bourgeois progressive media like Truthdig, Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, and the Nation, foundations like the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and non-profits like Public Citizen are all brands. This lack of understanding shows that while Klein is knowledgeable, she is lacking radicalism, and is, for all her rhetoric, fine with regulated capitalism, while she does not engage in international solidarity. Hence, she falls into the category of those who “brand ourselves as moral citizens standing in unity with Indigenous nations” while maintaining capitalism, the same people who are willfully blind “to the Bakken frack oil,” and are not aware of how “Obama’s move into WWF headquarters…could be an acceleration of the implementation of payments for ecosystems services…by the world’s most powerful institutions and states.” This is a book she in which she only mentions Marx in passing and never uses any of his idea or that of Marxists to form her understanding of ANYTHING. In the end, we can read Klein’s claptrap if we want to (I don’t recommend it) but we should always remember she is a brand, a commodity, and a “heat vampire.”

 

Notes

[1] She defines neoliberalism as an “extreme form of capitalism…shorthand for an economic project that vilifies the public sphere and anything that’s not…the workings of the market or the decisions of individual consumers…the primary tools of this project are…privatization…deregulation…cuts to public services…[and] corporate-friendly trade deals.”

[2] She claims that “if the Right specializes in turning backward, the Left specializes in turning inward and firing at each other in a circular hail of blame.” So there aren’t internal conflicts on the Right? This is a very pessimistic view to say the least, even if she is right ultimately.

[3] As Ajamu Baraka wrote in 2015, “…the lack of moral outrage and opposition to the reactionary policies of Barack Obama is changing and will change even more rapidly as the new generation of black activists shift the center of oppositional politics back to the radical black tradition.”

[4] The Michelle Alexander Brand, the Bill McKibben Brand, the Eve Ensler Brand, and the Noam Chomsky Brand for example.

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

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

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

On Otto Warmbier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DRPK’s healthcare and medical system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent developments

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

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

There are other aspects worth noting. While the DPRK has requested medical aid from the UN (since they are under harsh sanctions), they have still made strides. [30] Last year, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology noted that it was testing a 3D printer for use in medical settings, with likely some progress made. This month The Pyongyang Times reported that a two-storey new people’s hospital opened in Tongsinhung-ri with “over  10 rooms for special treatment and sophisticated homemade medical and experimental apparatuses” and is part of “the telemedicine system whereby it is connected to such central hospitals…[and] linked online to provincial, city and county hospitals.” [31] It was also noted that using this system, the “latest medical science and technology are disseminated and training courses are given by medical workers at central hospitals,” with increased abilities, with telemedicine,”in raising their abilities as well as in treating patients.” Less than a week ago, Kim Jung Un, the chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the DPRK State Affairs Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, inspected the newly built Dental Care Supplies Factory, which has a floor space of 12,720 square metres, with the factory able to “turn out annually tens of millions of tubes of toothpaste, mouthwash and a variety of dental care supplies.” [32] In that visit he noted that “the Party [WPK] and government are taking full responsibility for the people’s lives and health and that such socialist healthcare is one and only in the world,” adding that factories like this are “needed to ensure the people lead a worthwhile life enjoying themselves the benefits of socialist healthcare.”

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

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

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

Concluding words

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

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

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

Some say that the country became “revisionist” after 1972. Those issues will be addressed in another post when I look at all countries which are called “revisionist.” Here is not the place for that. Rather, it is better to let people make up their own minds about the DPRK. This can come through reading a number of books, or looking at other resources. [34] If a war with the DPRK occurs, started by the unhinged fascist, Trump, who can be easily swayed, we should be prepared to support it even if all many of those in our host country (especially if you live in the West) support the war with a fervor. Not standing by the DPRK and against war would show the weakness of “the Left” and prove the capitalists had “won,” something that none of us want.

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[19] As CNN (“Red Cross: North Korea medical system near collapse,” Nov. 6, 1997) and hateful “North Korea watchers” (Liberty in North Korea, “SONGBUN | Social Class in a Socialist Paradise,” June 25, 2012) admit, if you read between the lines, capitalism almost caused the DPRK’s healthcare system to collapse in the 1990s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hideous nature of Matt Taibbi: bourgeois trash of the highest order

A photograph of Matt Taibbi. And yes, he did say that as I note later in this article.

I could have written about many topics today such as US special ops troops in the Philippines, the victory of social democrat Jeremy Corbyn in Britain (which some have discussed at length), or the kerfuffle between Qatar and other Gulf autocracies, among a litany of other topics. Instead, I write here today a criticism of Matthew “Matt” C. Taibbi, a bourgeois writer who claims to care about “income inequality” or the effects of capitalism, while ignoring the system itself.

Tarzie’s criticism

Tarzie has written about Taibbi before, who some call a “fake leftist.” While back in 2011 Taibbi was quoted in a supportive manner, when it came to criticizing neoliberal columnist Thomas Friedman, three years later, in 2014, that had changed. He described Taibbi as a Rolling Stone reporter who was “the latest trophy taken in Pierre Omidyar’s conquest of the fashionably leftish” and admitted that Taibbi’s work on Wall Street teaches him “things I don’t already know, in a style that frequently makes me laugh out loud” while the same is not the case for Glenn Greenwald (of course). He added that Taibbi has “crossed picket lines during a Writer’s Guild strike in 2008” to appear on late night TV, thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned, feels that there shouldn’t be a  “Federal ban on anti-LGBQT discrimination” and considers himself a libertarian. Furthermore, Tarzie quotes from Walter Glass, and notes that Taibbi glosses over the effect of the corporate sector on places like Camden, New Jersey, and says that Taibbi is a “rich dude telling tales on the worst-behaved members of his class, while pleading the case for their reformability” and is a perfect “fit for an oligarch, just as he is.” Later that year, Tarzie criticized Taibbi again, saying he would hold a “no-holds-barred discussion” for Greenwald’s book tour.

There are only two other articles, to my knowledge, in which Tarzie criticizes Taibbi. One of them says that Taibbi left First Look by writing a piece earlier that year that “looks unmistakably like a warning and a cry for help” and that “we” missed the signs of this. The final one is written the following year, in February 2015, notes how former First Look writer, Ken Silverstein complained about the latter’s handling of “Racket” which was planned to a “satirical newsmagazine” headed by Taibbi which folded shortly after he left, wasting millions of dollars, which he called “the greatest squandering of money and example of criminal ineptitude in the history of modern journalism.” He goes on to quote Silverstein as saying that Taibbi “is definitely more likable than Glenn” who he says has a troubling role in First Look.

It is there that his criticism of Taibbi ends. From this point, this article will expand and augment what Tarzie had to say with principled criticism.

Taibbi shills for empire

Three days ago, Joe Emersberger wrote an article for Telesur English slamming Taibbi for taking the side of U.S. imperialists by calling duly-elected (but embattled due to internal and external pressures caused by the murderous empire) President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, a “dictator.” The article, reprinted on a pro-Chavista and respected news outlet, Venezuela Analysis. Emersberger notes how Taibbi attacked the Venezuelan government as a “dictatorship” by citing US-funded opposition figures like Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, and Henrique Capriles, the opposition governor of the state of Miranda, who had run against Maduro in the election. Clearly, Taibbi forgets that these individuals are working for the empire, even as he alludes that Borges “has been using his position as head to the National Assembly to try to get economic sanctions implemented against Maduro’s government.” That’s not all.

Emersberger goes on to criticize Taibbi even more harshly. He notes how bourgeois media “has almost unanimously reported from the U.S.-backed opposition’s point of view” evidenced when a “prominent U.S. progressive like Taibbi chimes in from that perspective” (I think he is over-inflating Taibbi’s importance here). Then, he goes into an example about what he would think about direct Russian interference in the US political process. He adds that the government of Venezuela “has been very tolerant of U.S.-backed subversion” and that “protests dominated the coverage and that denunciations of the government…were given ample attention.” Hence, he notes that even Reuters admits that private broadcasters give “equal weight to opposition and government leaders and supporters in broadcasts.” He argues that this does “happen in a dictatorship” even though “serious criticisms can be made about Venezuela’s democracy” which I think it too much of a concession to bourgeois media. He ends by saying that “Taibbi should know better than to trust the establishment media within this imperial club to define who should be labelled a dictator.”

Taibbi’s article is even worse (do not read this unless you really want to) than Emersberger makes it out to be. It is titled “Two Vile Names, One Sweetheart Deal: Goldman Bails Out Maduro” with the subtitle “The Vampire Squid rescues an infamous autocrat.” For a magazine like Rolling Stone which has basically lost most if not all of its credibility from the fake rape story to other problematic stories, it is not a surprise that he wrote this op-ed. His short piece makes it seem that Goldman Sachs AND Venezuela’s government are “amoral and corrupt institutions.” This is utterly false. While he makes a valid point that Goldman Sachs is the “symbol of international predatory capitalism,” he seems to miss the point that Venezuela is bad straits because of the murderous empire. He does call Maduro an “infamous left-wing dictator” but he also calls the government of Venezuela “authoritarian,” citing sources such as the New York Times, Forbes (which Taibbi admitted years earlier was “very bank-friendly“), The Telegraph, New York Post, Miami Herald, Times of London, and so on.

That’s not all. He seems to mock the idea that Venezuela’s problems are part of a US “economic war” and calls the government of that country “Maduro’s regime,” even though he is only one figure in the government. He then goes on to mock Goldman Sachs as well,and almost “legitimize” the protests against Venezuela’s government by saying “More than 50 people have died in protests over the past two months, with many more injured and arrested.” He also claims that Maduro’s action represents the “ultimate in cynicism, and one likely to have dire consequences for a country already on the brink.” He then snarls at this attempt by the Venezuelan government to save itself…

It’s a good thing Karl Marx is dead, because otherwise this metaphysical mind-loop of a news story would make his head explode. Is this a corruption of capitalism, a corruption of socialism, both, or neither? Maduro himself would probably say this transaction is a perfect example of the “savage capitalism” he says he despises.

Again, this should be no surprise coming from a man such as Taibbi who cannot seem to think beyond capitalism in any way, shape, or form. Saying he is glad Marx is dead is anti-communist in the fullest extent, there is no doubt. As a result, he probably has NOT read the Communist Manifesto and hence does not know this part of the manifesto:

…the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In each of these moves they bring to the front, as the leading question in each case, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time…they labor everywhere for the union and agreement of democratic parties of all countries.

In my interpretation, countries such as Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia, the DPRK, Zimbabwe, and Cuba would fall into a “revolutionary movement” which can be expanded to cover revolutionary governments. Hence, it would be a duty of comrades to engage in international solidarity with these states and any others that stand “against the existing social and political order of things” which does NOT include the snivelly “good” Kurds.

Of course, as Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto, the bourgeoisie, represented by Goldman Sachs in this case, as the need of gaining an expanding market for its products and hence must “nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” Hence, countries like Venezuela, that resist US and Western imperialism, are not unaffected by global capitalism, so they end up making agreements like this one with Goldman Sachs for their survival. While some may cringe, rightly so, as the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Taibbi who you (should) love to hate

A skimming of his Rolling Stone contributor’s profile shows him as “pro-Democrat,” favoring the milquetoast “resistance” of Trump in more ways than one, especially by embracing the whole “Russiagate” cloud of nothingness which is a distraction from the other horrible events instigated by the Orange Menace. Furthermore, he seems to think Vladimir Putin is a horrible, nasty person, again, embracing the Russia hysteria, along with giving social democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders accepting him as “genuine.”

But there is more to Taibbi than that. Tarzie referenced this interview of Taibbi by the libertarian Reason back in 2007. Within this, Taibbi shows that he is a horrid libertarian and supportive of the capitalist system, along with not understanding socialism:

…I think Roe v. Wade should be overturned because I believe in the federalist model; I believe that states should be able to make their own drug laws. The more democracy you have, the more people can make decisions for their own communities, the more freedom people have…There’s more on-the-ground energy for Ron Paul than there is for the rest of the candidates combined…It’s [the war machine] not capitalism at all. It’s more like an authoritarian socialism. It’s forcibly extracting money from the customers and distributing the profits to companies that aren’t selected by market choice but government fiat. Critics call it the free market, but it’s not that at all…America is about getting the government off your back, a reprieve from having your life interfered with, and we keep forgetting that.

With this, not only he endorsing the capitalist ideology but he is also embracing the idea of American exceptionalism as some call it. Basically he is not OK with progressive efforts to stand against fast food industries or even moves that increase government control in a way to help people’s lives. Of course such governments are usually not socialist and these measures are reformist, but they are not inherently “evil” or “bad.”

There are further viewpoints of Taibbi which are repugnant. For one, he admires Andrew Breitbart to an extent, apart from accepting the story of Trump-Russia collusion he thinks that the Attorney General would be “better” if there is a “career investigator, career law enforcement official in that job” which denies the fact that such individuals are just part of the capitalist system, moving it forward. This so-called “award-winning journalist” buys into the Sanders deception, describing him as a politician who is “completely honest….really interested in…standing up for regular working people” even though he has not done this just like other bourgeois progressives, praising the DOJ as having “political” and “talented and aggressive lawyers”and called Molly Crabapple Klein Crapple a “great artist” even though she doxxed someone [1] for supporting Russian intervention in Syria (which was done with the approval of the Syrian government unlike US-led coalition efforts). Crapple also supported white nationalist Weev/Andrew Auernheimer as OLAASM has pointed out on varied occasions (see here and here). Hence, this endorsement by Taibbi is disgusting to say the least.

This is only scratching the surface of his beliefs. He also grumbles about the “government interfering in a market process” (why is this bad?). Even more than that, he whitewashes slavery as the driving force of US capitalism:

You know, America used to be—especially the American economy was built upon this brick-and-mortar industrial economy, where we had factories, we built stuff, and we sold it here in America, and we exported it all over the world. That manufacturing economy was the foundation for our wealth and power for a couple of centuries…whereas the old manufacturing economy had the sort of negative effect of spreading around to the entire population

As Edward Baptist writes in The Half Has Not Been Told (scholarship which was started by Eric Williams in his book Capitalism and Slavery), slavery was tied to every aspect of the US economy, with almost a million enslaved laborers moved from the “Upper South” (like Maryland) to “Deep South” (Georgia and Louisiana) in coffles. Furthermore, the industrial workers in the North were making products out of cotton, the same cotton that enslaved laborers had worked all day to pick from fields under the whip of the White slavemaster who whipped them if they disobeyed. Hence, Taibbi is acting like slavery was not part of this, or even mentioning indigenous genocide as a further foundation for settler colonialism in the United States as the “enlightened” empire grew with its tentacles reaching across the continent.

There are other aspects of Taibbi that make one cringe. He seems to accept the “goodness” of corporations in and of themselves, endorses some austerity (“if someone has to tighten a belt or two, let’s start there”), and strangely called Mitt Romney “a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky,” bemoaning the “roots of the radical economic changes” despite the fact that he is using the word radical incorrectly while portraying Romney in a weird way. He is also a person who has said that “private equity firms aren’t necessarily evil by definition” and seems to have a soft spot for “businesses that were America’s original industrial cornerstones” whatever that refers to.  Apart from endorsing the Occupy movement despite its bourgeois nature (as we all know by now), he calls the high-ranking people at Bank of America “not bankers or capitalists, but a class of person that was never supposed to exist in America: royalty.” Again, his lack of class analysis and any semblance of radicalism means that he makes bizarre and worthless statements like that which are of no use to anyone. The same goes for his declaration that “we’ve just got to get the right people in the right jobs” if that will really change anything at all.

Taibbi and the past

To close out this article I’d like to look at a few articles looking at Taibbi’s past. The first is a 2010 Vanity Fair article titled “Lost Exile” focusing on the death of a Russian newspaper of the same name co-edited by Taibbi and Mark Ames (who now works for PandoDaily). The article notes that both of them would “prove the hardest-partying Moscow media celebrities of their time” and end up embodying post-Soviet Russia’s “hedonism.” It also claims that Taibbi was a “born journalist” but a person who speculated about a possible “connection” between “apartment-building bombings and Putin’s ratcheting up of the Chechen War” which is used by anti-Putin individuals to this day. The article goes onto say that Taibbi has earned a “reputation as the premier bullshit detector and absurdist on the campaign trail” among many, with some saying like Hunter Thompson he also hated politicians. Later, in response to the writer of the story asking Taibbi questions, he grew increasing agitated after they called his book crap, throwing his coffee over their face, which is actually a bit hilarious.

Farther back are a set of articles in 2005. One claims he has a “fairly sophisticated knowledge of the inner workings of Congress” while others criticize his article for the New York Press titled “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope” panned by organizations and politicians as “hate speech,” “ugly,” and “disgusting.” Maybe this isn’t a surprise for a person who is an “expatriate-journalist-turned-New-York-writer” who “identified with Russia and its writers Nikolai Gogol, M. Saltikov and Leo Tolstoy” growing up, while “Taibbis popularity” rose that year.

Taking all of this into account, Taibbi no doubt has a developed ego which supports his self-promotion on places like Democracy Now! and other places. In those secluded areas, no one dare questions him. He is part of, as some have put it, the “Celebrity Left” or the professional left, individuals who are in a sense “above” others, in terms of criticism and status. Some, like Charles Davis (“Chuckles”) only aspire to this level, while others like Ta-Nahesi Coates and Snowden are already at this level.

Concluding thoughts

There really isn’t much else I’ll say about Taibbi at this time. Some may say that an article like this is unnecessary. I disagree. I think it is important to criticize public personalities like this. Too often, these people are barely criticized and given a free pass. That is not OK under any circumstances. Everyone, including this writer should and can be criticized, but fairly and justly. Self-criticism is important for radical and revolutionary politics as the Black Panthers realized, as did Mao and students of Maoist thought. Perhaps I’ll write another criticism of Glenn Greenwald next (or even “The Intercept”), or about some international issue. But for now, I think this article will stand. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Notes

[1] The person who this seems to refer to is a woman named Taryn Fivek, a deserving comrade. Tarzie seems to have a beef with her. He first accused her of “smearing for Soros” calling her a “Twitter nuisance, shameless liar and justifiably failed citizen journo” (along with “outright troll”) and wanting to shut down debate on this topic of Soros’s influence on “the Left” in his view. He seems to have forgotten these later tweets (standing by his flawed analysis in another post), showing that Tarzie is having problems of his own with analysis without much of a basis:

Later, on Tarzie’s blog, one user describes Fivek is a “self professed red who I’ve not really known but from time to time posted at the same places…she wrote a book under a pseudonym (Emma Quangel) which was essentially a direct attack on Molly Crabapple. Crabapple responded by doxxing Fivek” and that in the fallout of this, someone said that she should “monetize it, leading to whatever this nebulous cesspits” and told Tarzie, “knock this stupid transparent bullshit off because we really don’t need this right now. You can, you know, actually work a job instead of hustling mentally ill people on the internet. And if you actually can’t see through the bullshit start reading everything here to start.” Tarzie responded by saying that “Fivek doesn’t need Hopkins because she knows better” and what she is doing looks “like a paid performance.” Hence, he is still stuck in the mud of Fivek. For a person who defended Fivek and then turns on her for saying the “wrong” things about Soros is cruel and pathetic. This is where Tarzie is wrong. He may have good analysis in other realms, but on Fivek he is completely and utterly wrong. Hence, I’d rather stand with Fivek than with Tarzie, with some saying she supports white nationalism (or something) although I have seen no evidence to support that claim whatsoever.

“Until imperialism is defeated in the region”: The Kurds and the Syrian Arab Republic

Overlay of oil/gas pipelines with Rojava territory. I created this for one of the articles on Rojava I wrote, posting it on Imgur. I am sharing here since I feel it is relevant to this topic. As I said in my article, this map overlay “shows that oil and natural gas pipelines snake through it [Rojava], including one north from Aleppo, and others going through the heart of the territory in Northeast Syria where there is also a concentration of oil and gas fields.”
Recently, I read an article in Worker’s World by an author called Damien or “D. Angelpoulos,” a man who may be a student at a Michigan University. For reasons not yet known, it was deleted (also see here). Regardless, I feel it is only a fair to address his article after writing a two-part series on Dissident Voice about Rojava. The first part, titled “”A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava” focused on the broad contours of the supposed “state” while the second one, titled the “The Illegal Entity of Rojava and Imperial “Divide and Rule” Tactics” focused on how this entity is illegal and had illegitimate sovereignty under existing law. Each of those pieces will be quoted and summarized below.

Responding to Mr. Angelpoulos’s article

Mr. Angelpoulos has a very different, while informed, perspective than yours truly. He writes that..

For the past six years, the United States, Israel, NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council have waged an unrelenting proxy war against the sovereign, secular state of Syria. The U.S.-funded Free Syrian Army, called “moderate rebels” in the corporate-owned media, fights openly alongside forces backed by U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These forces, really mercenaries or contras, which include the Islamic State, Jabhat Al-Nusra (al-Qaida in Syria), Jaysh al-Islam and others, are largely constituted of foreign fighters.

While this is undoubtedly true, it is more than just the Free Syrian Army or FSA. As I noted in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava and Imperial “Divide and Rule” Tactics,” herein called “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” there is a new “rebel” group in town: the Free Idlib Army or the FIA, a part of the FSA:

…the Free Idlib Army (FIA), [is] a division of the FSA which would theoretically fight “jihadist groups and pro-government forces in [the] northwestern Idlib province” even as it faces likely targeting from such “al-Qaida-linked factions,” even though it has coordinated with them before. The FIA entity, consisting of 30,000 to 35,000 people, is undoubtedly, as one analyst put it, “100 percent an American project,” with weaponry, financial aid, and more, funneled through Müşterek Operasyon Merkezi (MOM), an operations center based in Turkey, operated by the CIA with the supervision of the Turks.

I do not know why Mr. Angelpoulos did not mention this in his article. He almost seems to play the clickbait tab, saying that the “anti-imperialist left” of which he does not define is missing out on “one front in this proxy war” omitting it from their analyses of the situation:

Since last August [2016], the U.S. has been engaged in Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, claiming this is an attempt to “liberate” Raqqa, the proclaimed capital of the Islamic State…The U.S. has aided the Turkish-led operation in an alliance with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

For one, this is confusing way of wording it, since Operation Euphrates Shield is actually a name for the Turkish military invasion of the sovereign Syrian state, not a US-led operation. However, articles from the “Turkish military intervention in Syria” Wikipedia page, only a good starting point on this subject, not a good source in general, indicate that the US has provided air support for Turkish military operations (and in general), but seemed to halt such support in November of last year. Furthermore, there are reports that the operation has “ended” which he also doesn’t say.

The SDF’s largest fighting force is the YPG…The YPG is allied with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), and both are allied with the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). The PKK has been engaged in a decades-long fight for self-determination of the Kurdish region inside Turkish boundaries against the brutally oppressive Turkish state.

This is partially deceptive. Although I admit that I do not know everything about this conflict, I think it is worth pointing out that while the PKK has been involved in a decades-long fight within Turkish in which they have been brutally attacked by the Turkish state, they dropped their demand for an independent Kurdistan when Abdullah Öcalan, the “Wizard-of-Oz” of Rojava, was arrested. Furthermore, lest us forget, as I noted in “”A Liberated Area in the Middle East”?: Western Imperialism in Rojava,” called “A Liberated Area in the Middle East” in the rest of this article, the YPG and SDF were helped by US airpower in their efforts to seize control of about 26,000 sq km of Syria, including a 250 mile “stretch of territory along the Turkish border,” which basically constitutes Rojava.

In a sign of the contradictions inherent in U.S. imperialist policy toward Syria, on April 25 Turkish planes attacked units of the YPG in northern Syria, killing as many as 70 fighters. While U.S. diplomats said they raised concerns with NATO-ally Turkey regarding this strike, nothing concrete was done to stop future Turkish attacks against Kurdish fighters. (Reuters, April 25) This is one example in Washington’s long history of apparently backing one oppressed people and then turning on them.

You could call this an imperialist contradiction. However, but I would also say it fits with the imperial divide-and-rule tactics to break up the Syrian Arab Republic and nearby “hostile” states so they can ruled effectively to benefit Western capitalists. So, in many senses it isn’t as much as a contradiction as you might think, since the Turks AND and these Kurdish fighters are assisting Western imperialist objectives.

Many progressive people see the YPG, which is mostly made up of Kurdish fighters but includes other ethnic minorities as well as Western “foreign volunteers,” as representing the just struggle for Kurdish national liberation. Organized along democratic principles without a vertical chain of command, the forces of the YPG and their movement in northern Syria claim to model their “non-state” on anarchist, eco-socialist principles. The YPJ, the Women’s Protection Units, provide an active leadership role for women in their struggle.

I think that “progressive people” who see the YPG as representing a “just struggle for Kurdish liberation” and as organized “along democratic principles” is typical of the Western and some across the international left. However, as I noted in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” the “state” itself is ILLEGAL. Not only does its creation clearly violate the Syrian Constitution, tearing at the national fabric of unity, but it violates the UN Charter. Hence, it is an illegal entity with illegitimate sovereignty. As I said throughout my series on this topic, Rojava would not exist if it was not for intervention of Western capitalist powers.

The Kurds are a historically oppressed nation of 30 million to 35 million people. They are the world’s largest nation without a state. Most live in the contiguous, underdeveloped, mountainous region spanning four countries and speak their own language. About 14.5 million to 16 million Kurds live in Turkey, 6 million in Iran and 5 million to 6 million in Iraq. The 1.5 million to 2 million Kurds in Syria are the smallest grouping of this nation.

The estimates of how many Kurds there are worldwide vary. The Kurdish Project, a rabidly pro-Kurd website, claims there are 30 million within the ethnic community whereas the Encyclopedia Britannica says it could be as low as 25 million and Cultural Survival says it is 18 million. So, for him to say that they are the world’s largest group of people who is stateless seems questionable if best. This puts his other claims of population figures into question. As I noted in “A Liberated Area in the Middle East,” some have said that there are 4.6 million people within the illegal entity of Rojava. I am aware that the UN Charter talks about self-determination and that the principle, as stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is that all peoples “have the right of self-determination” and the ability to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Some would say that Rojava falls under their requirements, which could be interpreted in an anti-imperialist manner. However, I would argue that just because people have that right, which the good “Kurds” have shown they have exercised, does NOT mean they have to use that right. In this case, the right should be waived and not enforced as that would mean, ultimately, victory for the sneering imperialists. Furthermore, it is worth noting that “self-determination is limited by conditions on territorial integrity” as an anti-Soviet bourgeois scholar even admitted (also see here).

Mr. Angelpoulos goes on to say that

During the Kurdish people’s fight for liberation from Turkey, Washington has supplied arms, logistical and satellite assistance, and political support for the Turkish ruling classes against the PKK, which the U.S. labels as “terrorist.” Yet in Syria, Washington has a cynical, opportunistic alliance with the YPG, using those forces to accomplish its aims of destroying the Syrian state. At times, the Syrian Democratic Forces/YPG have coordinated with the Syrian Arab Army in the fight against IS and other mercenary armies. However, SDF/YPG now operate in coordination with the U.S. military. Despite the SDF/YPG’s progressive principles and organizational structure, the Pentagon’s aim is to have it function as an effective proxy for the U.S. geopolitical goal of dismantling the Syrian state.

There is no doubt that the US has allied with the Turks to suppress the Kurds in the past. I think he is right that the YPG, along with other “good” (by Western standards) Kurds, unlike the “bad” (by Western standards) pro-Syrian government Kurds, as I note in “The Illegal Entity of Rojava” is serving as an US proxy force. However, I think he is giving the SDF and YPG too much credit.

It is not obvious what aggression the U.S. plans next for Syria after its deadly April 6 strike on the Sharyat airfield and the May 18 bombing of a Syrian government convoy. If Washington significantly steps up direct U.S. intervention, it will expect cooperation from the SDF in providing ground forces. The Pentagon has already been able to build two air bases in northeastern Syria in the past few months.

It is a good point that U.S. plans for Syria after the April 6 act of aggression and imperial show of force, are not clear. However, as I see it, that attack was a turning point. It meant that US foreign policy was basically being handed over to the Pentagon carte blanche, without restriction. Instead of colluding with the imperialists like Obama, Trump seems to be willing to let them do whatever they want.

Since last year, the U.S. has been sending special forces troops to northern Syria. As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has stated since the U.S. sent several hundred more ground troops to Syria in the beginning of March, “All foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation … are invaders.” Assad, who is constantly demonized in the U.S. corporate media, is the democratically elected leader of the people of Syria.

On this count, Mr. Angelpoulos is right. As I said in the opening of “A Liberated Area in the Middle East” currently over 17.1 million living in the socially democratic and secular  Syrian Arab Republic which is “ravaged by overt and covert imperialist machinations” the government led by the duly elected National Progressive Front (NPF) with its majority in the Syrian’s People’s Council, the Syria’s parliament, reaffirmed in April 2016 elections by the Syrian people. It is recently that Trump dealt such Syrians “a blow” by directly supporting the “good” Kurds.

The YPG has been bolstered not only by U.S. special forces but also by foreign volunteers including people from the U.S., Canada, Britain and other countries. Among them is Brace Belden, who had a Rolling Stone magazine centerfold feature on his role and inspired an upcoming Hollywood film starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the “punk florist-turned-revolutionary.” Another volunteer is Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-Israeli woman and former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, and the first foreign volunteer in the Women’s Protection Units. These individuals violate Syrian sovereignty and package the  U.S. invasion of Syria as a progressive, “socialist” struggle against Islamic state fascism.

This is undoubtedly true. In “A Liberated Area of the Middle East” I noted how that fact that the YPG were US proxy forces dismayed “two deluded Marxists who thought they were fighting for an “egalitarian utopia”.” If you were going to fight at all in Syria, why not fight on behalf of the Syrian state. To fight on behalf of the YPG and the “good” Kurds is a violent act aimed at the Syrian proletariat and makes those that engage in such acts clear and blatant class traitors. There is no question about this. Such people undoubtedly violate Syrian sovereignty as well, there is no question.

The Rand Corporation think tank has drawn up various “peace plans” throughout the war, detailing the U.S. and its allies’ latest plans for the partition of Syria. The most recent, dated this year, projects large swathes of Kurdish-administered territory extending about halfway to Raqqa in the south and almost to Manbij in the west, as well as a corner encompassing Azaz in northwestern Syria. Buffering these zones are “proposed international administration” zones, code words for NATO occupation and Turkish-controlled areas. Notably, these “Kurdish zones” in northeastern Syria encompass much of the country’s greatest natural wealth, including its largest oil reserves.

I would not be surprised by the fact that Rand would engage in such politicking and call for the break-up of the country. After some searching, I found the report (I think) referenced here, and is one of RAND’s “scenarios” on what could happen:

In Syria, a peace process has resulted in recognized “zones of control” divided among the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the regime, and the opposition…After the zones are announced, a wave of internal displacement further consolidates Kurdish populations in the PYD zone of control; minorities including ‘Alawis, Christians, and Druze in the regime zone of control; and Sunni Arabs in the opposition zone of control. Mixed towns and border areas where the zones abut are the sites of particular ethnosectarian bloodletting. Even in microstates too small to partition, Sunni and Shi‘a self-segregate by neighborhood, with Manama and Kuwait City, particularly, divided between heavily Sunni and heavily Shi‘a neighborhoods…On the one hand, less interaction between sects decreases the daily incidence of conflict. On the other hand, the segregation of communities deepens prejudices, foreshadowing a brewing conflict

Hence, this does not seem to be what they are advocating, but it is a proposal they have under advisement to say the least. Another report actually seems to advocate intervention in the region, showing that the “good” Kurds can (and should stay) allies for the murderous empire:

…Located almost entirely in the north of the country, Syrian Kurds have a longstanding history of opposition to the Assad regime…Syrian Kurds are pressing forward against IS with U.S. military support, and their surging confidence led them to claim an independent state in the northwest…the most effective Kurdish forces engaged with IS…[are more] effective at offensive operations and, ostensibly, more useful for postconflict stability…the extreme violence of the Syrian war has made reconciliation with al-Assad all but impossible…this option seeks to protect Sunni, Kurdish, and other non-Alawi Syrians; create safe spaces for the return of refugees; and establish alternative governance in non-Alawi areas. Military force, including ground forces, may be used to expel GoS military forces from southern Syria and to expel IS from urban area. All military activities will focus on the reduction of the IS threat and the creation of safe zones for Syrian civilians. In the medium term, the United States and the coalition will invest in repatriation and reconstruction activities within these safe zones, focusing on the eventual development of legitimate local and regional governance. These efforts will be leverage to press Russia to negotiate and help remove Bashar al-Assad from power, while retaining Russian and many Iranian equities in Syria…To defeat IS and prevent its return, the United States will have to help mitigate or resolve all the major issues currently destabilizing Iraq. This means that the United States will have to remain heavily engaged in Iraq for many years, perhaps decades, just as it has remained engaged in Korea after the mid-20th century Korean War and in Kosovo more than two decades after U.S.-led coalition intervention there…this plan would…[include] a national program to recognize the bravery of Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurdish militia fighters… the incorporation of Kurdish paramilitary units into the ISF [Iraqi Security Force]…As Iraq stabilizes, it will become far more attractive to regional states as a safe investment for both private and capital wealth funds…the United States could ignore the civil war and focus on the tactical defeat of IS, leveraging Kurdish; Arab; and, if necessary, American and coalition military forces to expel the group from Raqqa and render it incapable of international terror attacks…All efforts should be made to keep the Kurds within a legitimate Syrian state, at least until Syria is fully stabilized…Ideally, Turkey will be a signatory to the Syria agreement and will accept the incorporation of YPG and other groups into the Syrian armed services in exchange for reduced Kurdish independence in the north

Not only does this raise the idea of creating zones for certain ethnicities so they can be easily controlled by the West within Syria, but it would mean, if implemented, a stronger military presence in Iraq (and in Syria undoubtedly), accompanying the overthrow of the duly elected Syrian government with the installation of a “friendly” government. Then after all of that, the US would use the Kurds as imperialist enforcers! Additionally, as a result, the US could easily accept the creation of a Kurdish state by this logic, as the above quote makes clear. This is a terrifying prospect because such a state and these machinations would lead to more chaos and destruction in the Mideast.

If the U.S. aids the SDF to annex northeastern Syria, this will not lead to any meaningful form of Kurdish independence. Rather, it will mean the Kurdish forces will be subordinate to and will collaborate with the U.S., much as the Kurdish regime does inside Iraq. Meanwhile, the U.S. will destroy what remains of Syria and purge any progressive forces in the Kurdish movement.

While I could see this as a possibility, based on the RAND report quoted above, a Kurdish state could be created, but it would be subservient to US imperialism. If what he says occurred, there is no doubt that Syria would be destroyed and any progressives in the Kurdish movement could be purged, although the latter may not matter as long as such progressives are willing to bow to their new masters in Washington. More worrying is the fact that Trump seems to be taking DIRECTLY out of the RAND playbook by sending arms and equipment to the “good” Syrians:

Washington has found an effective partner in the mixed Kurdish and Sunni Arab Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), which is dominated by a Syrian Kurdish faction closely linked to a violent separatist movement in Turkey in conflict with the Turkish state. This force has isolated Raqqa and is poised for an assault on the city, but lacks the weaponry that may be necessary for success. Turkey is strongly opposed to any further extension of Kurdish control within Syria and equally opposed to any American effort to arm the SDF. Washington must therefore choose whether to ignore Turkish objections and arm the SDF, seek direct Turkish army participation in the assault as a substitute, or add some American units to the assault force. Waiting for the Turkish army and its Syrian allies to arrive will require postponing the operation several months, with an uncertain end result. Arming the Kurdish‑dominated SDF and introducing additional American forces into Syria,beyond the special operations troops already there, may be the fastest and surest way of retaking Raqqa and other Islamic State territory…Employing Kurdish led forces to liberate Raqqa requires the United States to convincingly assure Turkey that Kurds will not occupy this region once it has been cleared of the Islamic State. This will in turn require some clear understanding between Washington and the Syrian Kurdish authorities. It also requires the availability of some alternative hold force. Once Raqqa and the surrounding region have been cleared, the United States will need to help that hold force resist attacks from residual Islamic State fighters, other violent extremist groups, and the regime…We suggest Washington should offer to place Raqqa, once liberated, under some form of international administration

Once again, these Kurds would be serving Western imperialism, and Raqqa would be in the hand of gleeful imperialists. There is no doubt about that.

At this point, Washington sees the claims to a separate Kurdish region based out of northern Syria as fitting its goal of dividing Syria. With the Syrian state under siege, the attempt to create a Kurdish “autonomous” zone under U.S. guidance is in direct contradiction to the preservation of Syrian sovereignty in defense against imperialism. The U.S. has made this abundantly clear, saying that it plans to station its forces in Syria even once IS has been eliminated.

He is right about that. Creating a Kurdish region that is “autonomous” would clearly violate Syrian sovereignty. But it also would serve the interests of imperialist destruction. Hence, it could be a precursor to further US presence in the county.

Moreover, all of these events obscure the fact that the Syrian government and Kurdish groups have negotiated greater autonomy for the latter on their own terms before. If there is to be any change in the relationship between the Syrian state and its Kurdish inhabitants, it is clear that this change cannot be imposed by the imperialist powers. The U.S., NATO and their allies should have no say in this history.

In this case, I think he is exaggerating the relations between the “good” Kurds and Syrian government. Such relations seem to include possibly partial recognition, but also have been in question since the Syrian government may see such groups as imperial proxies. They likely prefer the “bad” Kurds better, those groups that want to work with the Syrian government, not against it. I definitely agree with the sentiment that there should be non-interference in Syria, which means no meddling by the US imperialists.

The imperialists in the U.S. and elsewhere have planned a grim end for Syria: the destruction of the sovereign secular state in favor of Balkanized ethnic enclaves in the manner of Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia and any other state that has defied destruction and imperialist plundering since the fall of the Soviet Union. This includes the current aggression against Syria, Venezuela and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I understand his viewpoint here, but I would not say that Iraq, Libya, and Yugoslavia are Balkanized ethnic enclaves. In fact, the US imperialists failed in that endeavor in Iraq, and likely in Libya which is in the midst of the bloody civil war, from what I can tell. However, it is true that this measure did happen in Yugoslavia, a place where the most of the inhabitants of this former system of federalism “seem willing to share their societies with ethnic and religious groups different from their own” with a few exceptions. Hence, in that case, US imperialism did not succeed either. But, undoubtedly this idea is carried over to Venezuela (which Trump wants to “fix,” whatever that means) and the DPRK as well, which is troubling and should be stopped at all costs.

There can be no genuine liberation for any peoples — Arab, Kurdish or otherwise — until imperialism is defeated in the region and the right of self-determination is fully realized and respected. Anti-war and other activists in the U.S. and NATO states must stand in full solidarity with the right of all nations to develop their collective livelihood, culture and economy without interference from imperialists. Hands off Syria! All mercenaries out of Syria! Uphold self-determination!

Again, he is correct. Defeating imperialism in the Middle East is needed for genuine liberation of any people to occur. As I noted in a footnote of “The Illegal Entity of Rojava,” if circumstances were different, with the “good” Kurds asking “for direct support from Russia, China, and the Syrian government, instead going directly to grinning Western imperialists, then I would be inclined to engage in international solidarity with them.” I still stand by that claim. I would add Cuba, Iran, Belarus and Zimbabwe (which is facing its threats of violence against the elected government coming from the US-backed opposition) to the list of nations under attack as well, along with others that could easily be added to the list.

Further comments on the “notion of American empire” (a.k.a. the murderous empire)

“The action of U.S. warplanes bombing a Syrian government military convoy near the town of al-Tanf on May 18 marks a sharp escalation of the U.S. campaign to overthrow the elected Syrian government and to dismember the country. It must be protested by all who oppose U.S. imperialism’s aggression. With bloody irony, the Pentagon claimed it attacked the Syrian government convoy because the Syrian trucks had entered “an established ‘de-confliction zone’.”The convoy had moved within 18 miles of a U.S. military base…The Pentagon set up this base without permission by the Syrian government…The Russian government called the U.S. attack a breach of Syrian sovereignty. The air attack took place as President Donald Trump left the U.S. to visit Saudi Arabia…The U.S. bombing also comes just after an agreement creating “de-escalation” zones in Syria was signed by Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria and non-al-Qaida groups that operate in Syria…The U.S. bombing was clearly designed to torpedo this agreement. Its goal is to re-enforce U.S.-defined “safe zones”…partition Syria and overturn the Bashar al-Assad government.”- Workers World Party, May 22.

While some telling the Kurds what they should focus on, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, head of the DIA, is declaring that “Kurdish independence is on a trajectory where it is probably not if but when. And it will complicate the situation unless there’s an agreement in Baghdad,” showing that the imperialists are accepting the “inevitable.” Furthermore, are the stories about how the US-Turkey relationship could be permanently damaged if the “good” Kurds stay in Raqqa while the US gives the “good” Kurds armored vehicles, arms, “machinery, equipment, supplies” along with, as NPR even admitting, in their pro-military manner: “more American troops to head into Syria – maybe a couple of hundred” who are trainers along with “maintenance people to help with these armored vehicles” which would be there along with “some American troops close to the front lines in Syria, special operations forces like Green Berets and Navy SEALs, helping these local forces.”

Hence, the destruction of Syria will continue full force. I stand by what I said at the end “The illegal entity” about possible next steps for everyone reading the article:

…the next steps forward are up to everyone out there reading this and…the international “left[,]” which needs to get its act together with a strong message of international solidarity with governments (and peoples, but not the “good” Kurds) under attack, not division on countries such as Syria.

Hence, there needs to be a united front. After all, Trump is unpredictable in many ways, which some may say is positive but actually bodes badly in trying to counter US imperialism as it is hard to predict what will happen next. This reality of Trump was noted in a fawning Time magazine cover story. This piece said that Trump is not only tuning out “bad news about himself” but he “comes to office with no well-formed ideology,” which sounds a bit like Obama and the “blank screen.” The article further claims that he has “an evolving understanding of history and government” which is clear from his comments about Andrew Jackson ending the Civil War, and uses “his business acumen to help is more fervent supporters” while he is “extremely confident in his own judgment.” The article also notes that Trump has a social media director, Dan Scavino, formerly the general manager of Trump’s Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, and that his “willingness to fight is unabated and unfiltered.”

Beyond that, the recent visit to Saudi Arabia seems to indicate that the US has its sights set on the Islamic Republic of Iran. As the Parliament Speaker of Iran, Ali Larijani, argued “it was both interesting and unbelievable to hear that the US President clearly announced the volume of cash he had received in order to make the visit” which seems to be true since he was not only there for US imperialism but to benefit his cronies (also see here) a sort of “foreign triumph” as he faces the never-ending “Russia conspiracy” the Democrats are using to push him out of office, to unseat him, to overthrow him. I say this even as I dislike Trump very much and feel he is an utter monster. Still, I don’t believe the claims of a such a conspiracy in the slightest. It is all a smokescreen to me even if questions about his stability in the future. Focusing on such a conspiracy distracts from the damage Trump and his loyal minions are doing to public lands, education, public assistance, and worldwide imperial aggression of course, while supporting increased police brutality at home. As for the journey to Saudi Arabia, it is part of a plan to create an “Arab NATO” which is an idea that threatens the region, which would cause increased instability since the Saudis sponsor many of the Islamic reactionary groups within the region. Clearly, this an anti-Iran move, anger at their measures to mitigate US imperialism.

The looming threat of war against Iran seems to be occurring at the same time the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) seems to be winning on the battlefield, implying that Washington wants to stop such successes. As Al-Jaafari put it, their goal is to combat terrorism, but “state terrorism is being practiced against Syria” with violations of international humanitarian law. I could go on, but the reality is that the Russian and Syrian government forces are the only ones earnestly fighting terrorists. The US and their international coalition which killed 255 civilians last month as the worthless piece of junk, the Syrian Observatory for “Human Rights” (SOHR) which is an imperialist, anti-Syrian government outlet, claimed. The Syrian government is even moving its planes back to the airfield the US bombed in April, showing that the US show of force was worthless and pathetic. At the same time, the Russians seem to be willing to weaken the Syrian state and benefit the “good” Kurds possibly because they have a capitalist class as well and see something positive in the “good” Kurds. This is happening at the same time that the US slaps more sanctions on the Syrian government and by extension the Syrian people as a whole.

The Syrian government (and people) will continue to be in a precarious situation until the end of the conflict and withdrawal of Western imperialism from the region. The best we can do is pledge solidarity with those fighting the mercenaries of imperial conquest, not only Daesh but the “rebel” forces and “good” Kurds, and all of those standing against global capitalism, even with our respective critiques.

“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.

Iran stands on the side of Palestinians

Courtesy of this site
Courtesy of Khamenei’s offical website

While the corporate media in the United States focuses on Trump’s right-wing declarations, they completely ignored a recent conference in the Islamic Republic of Iran in support of the Palestinian struggle against the murderous Zionist state of Israel. While white propaganda outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, right-wing outlets like Breitbart, and pro-Israel media organizations condemned the conference outright. The reality was very different.

The conference in Tehran was the 6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada (Uprising). The conference, promoted in the Iranian Parliament earlier this month, tried to not only counter Israel’s schemes, but to show “Iran’s unyielding back-up for the oppressed Palestinian people and the legitimate Palestinian cause.” Delegations from 80 countries, over hundreds of participants, with estimates of 500700 people, coming from parliaments, such as 20 high-ranking parliamentary groupings, academia, youth and NGOs and resistance forces” were scheduled to attend the conference, organized by Amir-Abdollahian, the secretary general. Among the attendees was Brazilian journalist Pepe Escobar, who said that he was “one of several hundred foreign guests, including a small group of foreign journalists, guests of the Majlis (Parliament) for an annual conference on the Palestine issue.”

This conference was, as Iranian media put it, a move to “express solidarity with the Palestinian people,” and counter the murderous Zionist state of Israel by asserting “the just cause of Palestine.” It comes at a time that there is growing US support for the Zionist state and hostility toward Iran. Assistant Speaker of the Iranian parliament Hossein Amir Abdollahian, while denying that Iran exploits the Palestinian cause, described how the two day conference, lasting from February 21 to 22, included four committees. As decided by detailed discussions of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Iran’s legislative body, the first committee would discuss the role parliaments can play in supporting Palestine, the second would discuss how NGOs and non-profits can support Palestine, the third would be a legal committee examining human rights abuses in Palestine and resisting Israeli settlements, and the fourth is for Palestinian factions.

On February 21, the two-day conference, with the theme of “Everyone Together in Support of Palestine,” opened at the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)’s International Conference Center, a common meeting place for huge conferences in Tehran. It began with a call to Islamic prayer and the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Majlis, Ali Larijani, who was set to preside over the conference proceedings, briefly addressing the conference and mentioning the country’s Constitution. Before moving on, it is worth noting a number of aspects of the current constitution of Iran. Article 152 declares that Iran’s foreign policy is to preserve its independence, territorial integrity, defend the rights of Muslims, non-align with “hegemonist superpowers,” maintain peaceful relations with “non-belligerent States,” and reject all forms of domination. The following articles add that any agreement resulting in “foreign control over the natural resources, economy, army, or culture of the country” will be rejected (Article 153), that Iran rejects “all forms of interference in the internal affairs of other nations” (Article 154), and that Iran may “grant political asylum to those who seek it” unless they are deemed as “traitors and saboteurs” by Iran’s laws (Article 155).

After Larijani’s speech, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, and Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, addressed the conference, paying tribute to the “memorial of martyrs of Palestinian Intifada” when he arrived. In his speech, broadcast live on Iran’s state television, he said that “the issue of Palestine can and should be the pivot of unity for all Islamic countries,” said that the “cancerous tumor” of Israel “has been developing in several phases until it turned into the current disaster,” adding that as long as Palestine’s name and memory are preserved “it will be impossible for the Israeli regime to strengthen its foundations.” He added that Israel’s creation has been a “plot hatched by extra-regional powers,” allowing the “real being” of Palestine to be replaced by a “fake being” of Palestine, then calling for supporting Palestinian resistance no matter what.

Khamenei makes a valid point because the “usurping Zionist entity in Palestine” has been oppressing “the indigenous Palestinians and Arabs” and their homeland for many years since Zionism fundamentally is a “racist, violent, colonial, and illegitimate project. The United Nations General Assembly recognized this in November 1975 when Resolution 3379 was passed. This resolution declared that there was an “unholy alliance between South African racism and Zionism,” that Zionism was a “racist and imperialist ideology,” and that Zionism is, simply, “a form of racism and racial discrimination.” Of course, this resolution was sponsored by UN members ranging from Cuba and Libya to Morocco, and while it was supported by the Soviet Union, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, and others, it was opposed by Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other Western or Western-friendly nations. Sadly, on December 16, 1991, ten days before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the same Assembly voted to rescind Resolution 3379, with one sentence. This was because Israel had demanded Resolution 3379’s removal as a condition for their participation in another one of the worthless peace conferences, in this case the Madrid Peace Conference.

Back to the speech, Khamenei went farther than condemning the Zionist Israel and solidarity with Palestinians. At the beginning, he reminded the audience that February 21 is the “martyrdom anniversary of Malcolm X, an American Muslim leader” and requested for all attendees to “recite Sura Fatiha and Sura Tawhid for the soul of this martyr.” Before going on, this is significant because it means that Khamenei is honoring a Black nationalist leader who challenged the white racial-capitalist order for which he was gunned down for by Nation of Islam (NOI) assassins, possibly with the help of local or national law enforcement. He goes on say that Palestine has a “sorrowful story” because of its oppression, that while there has been “cruel occupation of that region,” with many millions becoming homeless, there has been “courageous resistance” by Palestinians. Adding to this, he noted that Mideastern countries have often supported the Palestinian people but that there have been “existing crises in several Islamic countries” which have undermined support for Palestine. These countries include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and other “friendly” Arab countries, with alliances currently being encouraged under the Trump Administration to “counter” Iran.

Khamenei fingers on the “Zionist regime” as working to undermine such Arab unity in favor of Palestine. As an extension of this, he says that the Zionist Israel should be challenged daily by resisting the idea that the “issue of Palestine” should have a low priority and that despite differences among Islamic countries, “the issue of Palestine can and should be the pivot of unity for all Islamic countries,” making this issue the “first priority of the world of Islam and freedom fighters all over the world,” with the goal of creating harmony and unity to support the Palestinian people in “their truthful and justice-oriented fight.” Khamenei adds that this be seen as politically significant and that there are “signs of the collapse in the Zionist regime” of Israel. He says that the global environment recognizes the hostile, illegal and inhuman activities” of Zionist state, leading to possibly confrontation in the future. He goes on to describe these horrid acts as the brutal suppression of the Palestinian people, occupying Palestinian lands, building illegal settlements, and violating citizens’ basic rights, to name a few aspects. He doesn’t stop there. He argues that currently there may be a “third intifada” in place, in occupied Palestine, with Palestinians fighting on genuinely and that he hopes it will inflict another defeat, while noting that the “compromise strategies” to undermine Israel are flawed.

Khamenei goes on to say that Israel is an “illegitimate entity” which will only exist if “it is founded on the ruins of Palestine’s identity and entity.” He criticizes “compromise tactics” with Zionist Israel as not considering the “current condition of Palestine” or taking into account “the expansionist, oppressive and greedy characteristics of the Zionists” and that a “paradigm of heroic and continuous resistance and holy intifada stands against the compromise paradigm.” He then says that while Palestinian resistance has not achieved “the complete freedom of Palestine,” it has allowed Palestine to be kept alive. Such resistance, as he puts it, has a served as a “major barrier in the way of Zionist projects” whether in the narrow victory in the 1973 war, with burden put upon Hezbollah to help Palestinians fight back after 1982, “the liberation of southern Lebanon and Gaza,” and efforts of all other groups which are “involved in the Palestinian Resistance,” citing the Islamic Jihad (IJ), Hamas, Fatah, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) as examples. He closes by saying that dangers from the presence of Israel shouldn’t be ignored, that the needs of the Palestinian people and its resistance should be met, with no demands of “special expectations,” and that this resistance should cooperate together despite its differences or those who want to “sell it to the enemies of the Palestinian nation in their secret transactions with them.”

Later that day, it was reported that Western moderate Hassan Rouhani would address the closing ceremony of the conference and that a statement would be released at the conference’s end. Apart from Rouhani, Iranian media reported, that the Speaker of the Syrian People’s Assembly Hadiya Abbas, Iranian Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, and Iranian Lawmaker Kazem Jalali, the spokesperson for the conference, would be attending. Photographs of the conference from official media, showed that there delegations from Iran, Bosnia, Syria, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), India, Malaysia, Ghana, Palestinian Authority/State of Palestine, Lebanon, Kenya, Libya, Ecuador, Qatar, Brazil, Algeria, Oman, El Salvador, Uganda, Tanzania, Russia, China, Hezbollah, Hamas, Mauratania, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Since there were individuals from 80 countries, at most, this is only a partial list of the countries who attended.

The same day, Hezbollah’s Secretary Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah praised Iran’s support for Palestine and said that the conference sent a strong message of solidarity to the Palestinian people and that “the most important result and message of this action for the Palestinian nation is that you have not been left alone and that an important and powerful country in the region supports you,” saying that the conference’s timing coincides with recent policy changes in the US, showing the true intent of Zionist Israel. There is another reason that Nasrallah would say this. According to the SIPRI Trade Register, Iran has delivered 560 anti-tank missiles, 100 portable surface-to-air missiles (SAM), 35 mobile rocket launchers (MRL), eight Mohajer drones, five heavy artillery rockets, five anti-ship missiles, and two surface-to-surface missiles (SSM) between 1980 and 2006. While some deluded individuals could call this “terrorism” it can be more accurately called solidarity and assistance of armed Palestinian resistance to the murderous Zionist Israeli state.

In the last day of the conference, there was much activity. Apart from a Palestinian school in Tehran ringing a bell “in support of the Palestinian uprising,” Jacob Francis Mudenda, the current Speaker of Zimbabwe’s National Assembly, condemned Zionist Israel for construction of illegal settlements, praised the role of Iran in the region, and reaffirmed Zimbabwe’s support for Palestine until it turned “into a full-fledged and established country.” Others who spoke in favor of Palestinian solidarity included Hamad Saleh al-Qattane, a Kuwaiti author, and Salah Al-Zawawi, Palestine’s Ambassador to Iran, the latter saying that he appreciated Iran’s efforts and said that “US hostility…towards Muslims is becoming more evident day by day.” Other people who spoke on the sidelines of the conference include the speaker of Lebanon’s Parliament Nabih Berri who suggested that Islamic states shut down their “embassies in Washington if the U.S. decides to relocate its embassy to al-Quds, or Jerusalem in Israel,” the current head of IJ, Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, an Iranian geopolitical analyst named Alexander Azadgan who declared Trump was the first “openly shameless Zionist president” with his blunt and undiplomatic support of Zionist Israel, while praising the BDS movement, and the speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, Salim al-Jabouri who condemned Israel for failing to abide by UN resolutions. Other guests met with President Rouhani on the sidelines of the conference. These individuals were high-level government officials from Arab and Asian countries such as Hadiya Khalaf Abbas, a Syrian parliamentarian, Salim Zanoun, the speaker of the Palestinian National Council, Atef Tarawneh, the Speaker of Jordan’s House of Representatives, Pandikar Amin bin Haji Mulia, speaker of the Malaysia’s lower house of Parliament, and Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament.

Later in the day, Larijani, the speaker of the Majlis, made remarks in side meetings with Parliamentarians. While on the sidelines of the conference he told Ms. Kadaga that the Palestinian nation has legitimate rights to peace and security and told Sardar Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari, the Chairman of the Pakistani National Assembly that “countries in the Persian Gulf region should forge unity and exercise vigilance to thwart plots hatched by the ill-wishers in order to prevent those sowing the seeds of discords among them” and further added that it is not acceptable to have “normalization of relations with the Zionist regime.” In other meetings he said that Palestine is an important issue for the whole world and that the “voice of the oppressed Palestinian nation” has spread worldwide.

President Rouhani gave the closing speech of the conference. He argued that the Palestinian issue has “pricked the international community’s conscience for 70 years,” shown the “ineffectiveness of international organizations,” and said that the Palestinian Intifada is “manifestation of resistance” against Israel along with being a “kind of resistance for survival.” He added that Israel is engaging in “fear-mongering” against Palestinian resistance by Muslim and Arab states. Rouhani specifically was referring to, as it put it, the attempts of Zionist Israel to “normalize its situation” by referring to “certain Arab countries as its allies against the resistance front, instead of describing them as its enemies,” and claiming that most Arab countries are not Zionist enemies but share the “same phobia about resistance.” He declared furthermore that “isn’t it time that neighbors once and for all say ‘No’ to war and fratricide?” He also closed by thanking that “all the distinguished guests, speakers, parliamentary delegations, leaders of movements and resistant currents, scholars, personalities and the political, cultural, media activists, as well as the parties and groups supporting Palestine, ambassadors, foreign diplomats and heads of the regional and international organizations” for attending the conference and saying that “dear Palestine” has suffered from the “mishap of [the] global community and shamefulness of certain Muslim countries.”

After the conference ended, a pro-Palestinian 24-point statement was released. The statement in particular voiced support for rights of the Palestinian nation, the need for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land to end, need for unity among Palestinians, that the international community needs to pressure Israel to end inhumane measures such as “killing and forced expulsion of Palestinians” and that the parliaments of Arab and Muslim countries should ban “any political and economic relations with Israel.” Beyond this, there was also a call for “collective efforts of all Muslim countries to defend legitimate rights of the Palestinian nation,” and that Muslims and freethinking people should support the Palestinian Intifada, among other aspects.

The following day, February 23, the “International Conference for Activists and NGOs Supporting Palestine,” hosted by the Iranian Parliament in Tehran, ended. During this meeting, four committees were created, including a supreme committee which comprised 25 members “including senior Palestinian officials, Palestinian NGOs, non-Palestinian NGOs and fellows from interested countries’ parliaments,” with the idea that NGOs in today’s world could not only be “the voice of Palestinian nation in the world” but ultimately could “bring about serious challenges for the Zionist regime.” The same day, a book, compiling remarks made by Khamenei on Palestine, helping readers undermine the Zionist state of Israel, was released.

In days that come, Iran will continue to oppose, undoubtedly, the Israeli attempts to create alliances with Arab countries, work with such countries, like Lebanon, to oppose the Zionist state, and unconditionally supporting the Palestinian Intifada. In the end, we should still recognize that Iran stands on the side of the Palestinian people and should take something from this recent conference by engaging in critical solidarity with Palestinian resistance to the murderous Zionist state of Israel.

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.

Has The US Corporate Media Become “Adversarial”?

Editor’s note: Originally posted on CounterCurrents on February 18 but I did not find it until yesterday. The aspects in the article were compiled on February 17, I believe, so some of the stories cited are dated, but the ideas of the post are still valid. There actually were mentions of Trump’s use of the term “legendary warriors” in the Washington Post, Washington Times, and Washington Examiner, but only the latter actually interpreted his remarks, saying that he was talking about “U.S. special operation commandos.”

With President Donald Trump’s claims of the “dishonest media” and “fake news” at his recent press conference, and liberals defending the corporate media as a “watchdog,” the reality of the situation is hard to determine. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines adversarial as “of or characterized by opposition, disagreement, hostility” and watchdog as “a person or group that keeps watch to prevent waste, unethical practices.” Using those definitions, I looked at the US corporate media garnering the most praise by liberals currently, apart from any Fox affiliate which is pro-Trump.

I look at CNN’s website, and there are stories about Trump’s recent press conference, ousted National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, Trump issuing a new immigration order, the border wall, a “Russian spy ship” off Connecticut, and the liberal sketch comedy show, SNL. As I look at MSNBC’s website, it isn’t much different. Other than obviously promoting their TV shows, the stories range from Trump’s admission to a wrong claim about the Electoral College, why Kellyanne Conway isn’t booked on Morning Joe, an interview with Rep. Elijah Cummings, and Netanyahu on the two-state solution. Other stories include Chuck Todd declaring that Trump has an “anti-media” stance, an interview with Rep. Seth Moulton saying that Trump is a “serial liar,” a GOP senator defending Trump, Congress removing an Obama gun law, resistance against Trump’s deportations, and Susan Sarandon on Trump. NBC News has a similar feel. There are stories about Mike Flynn, Trump’s Muslim immigration ban, Trump’s EPA pick Scott Pruitt, ICE startling lawmakers, the Congressional Black Caucus, anti-Muslim groups, “the Russians” according to US officials, immigrants in the United States, and Trump’s new labor pick, Alexander Acosta. Additionally, a number of MSNBC stories are reprinted on NBC News’s website.

CBS News and ABC News aren’t any better. CBS News has a story on Trump’s “achievements,” Trump’s lie about Electoral College numbers, Mattis speaking with Russian counterparts, Flynn’s replacement turning down the job, Trump asking a black reporter about the Congressional Black Caucus, and Trump blaming the media for the Flynn firing. Stories also focus on the pro-immigrant protest across the country, “Day Without Immigrants,” Elijah Cummings wanting to meet Trump, Trump overturning a coal mining debris law, Nikki Haley on the two state solution, and the Russian “spy ship.” As for Disney-owned ABC News, the stories are about the same. They focus on Trump’s recent press conference, a new immigration order to be issued by Trump, the “Russian spy ship,” Acosta’s nomination by Trump, rise of hate groups across the country, undocumented immigrants, the “Day Without Immigrants,” Russian spies and the White House, and Trump’s “battle with the press,” Other stories include the vital role of immigrants in the US economy and the House GOP considering an investigation into leaks which discredited Flynn.

The Washington Post and New York Times might be seen as reputable by some but looking at their stories, this is thrown into question. The Post has stories about Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador, Flynn’s replacement turning down the offer, Trump family lifestyle, Trump’s recent news conference, federal immigration raids, EPA nominee Scott Pruitt, House GOP plan to eliminate Obamacare, and possible review of US intelligence agencies discarded. Other stories focus on depleted uranium used by the Pentagon, ICE detention, and many more. The New York Times, often called “The Grey Lady,” now days,  is not any better. Its top stories include Trump’s recent press conference, the 2 state solution, Trump’s new pick for labor secretary, Flynn’s replacement turns down the job, EPA nominee Scott Pruitt, and GOP plan to replace Obamacare. Other articles focus on powers of border agents, claims of a “deep state” in the US, the “Day Without Immigrants,” bookstores resisting Trump, and a number of other subjects.

All in all, none of these stories fulfill the “adversarial” or “watchdog” role the corporate media is claimed to have. Trump thinks that the media is “too tough” on him, which a third of Americans agree with, however, the media’s realm of criticism covers very small area. For one, the corporate media has not challenged Trump on his obfuscation over Afghanistan. Trump recently, in a call with Afghani President Ashraf Ghani, seemed to advocate a continuation of the war, by pledging to continue to implement the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, signed in 2012. The agreement declares that Afghanistan is a “NATO ally” and that US forces will be in the country until 2024 in order to fight “al-Qaeda and its affiliates,” among other aspects. By advocating for the continuation of this agreement, Trump is also supporting, by extension, the Bilateral Security Agreement, signed in 2013. This agreement, in force until 2024, declares that U.S. military operations “to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate in the common fight against terrorism,” allows US forces to control certain facilities and areas within the country, frees US vehicles, vessels, and airplanes from “inspection, regulation, or registration requirements,” exempts US military contractors from certain requirements, and exempts US forces from paying taxes or other charges, to name a few aspects.

There were no stories challenging the Trumpian views of Iran, Cuba, or Venezuela, largely because the media agrees with them, as those countries are seen as “enemies” of the empire. Of course there were no stories on Trump’s endorsement of Special Forces across the world. Earlier this month he called them “legendary warriors” engaged in the “most secret, sensitive and daring missions,” showing that the golden age of the “gray zone,” started under Obama, will continue. There were also no stories, except in progressive media, about the implications of Trump’s pro-cop and anti-Black Lives Matter executive orders.

While it is right to call out Trump’s lies, deceptions, and deceit, the corporate media is largely ignoring many of his policy maneuvers. Instead, it is better to engage in solidarity with countries under attack by US imperialism and resist Trump’s fascist moves, especially when it comes to anti-immigrant and pro-cop measures, but not get caught up in the supposed Trump-Russia “connection.”

Trump’s strategy to fight ISIS: more imperialism?

This comes from a recent article by Whitney in CounterPunch.
This comes from a recent article by Whitney in CounterPunch.

While the bourgeois media is focused on Trump’s racist immigration ban, something has been missed by these complaint media outlets. I’m not talking about the five year lobbying ban (which may not be fully enforced) or the negotiating with Big Pharma to “bring down” drug prices (which just seems like an elaborate nothingness) but rather the long-awaited strategy of Trump to fight ISIS which has “arrived” on our doorstep.

A memorandum, published on January 28, declares a “Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” Apart from the preamble which paints ISIS as a horrid, brutalistic, and barbarian organization, the short memo says that “it is the policy of the United States that ISIS be defeated” (section 1) with the policy coordination, review, guidance, and other aspects of this memo described elsewhere (section 2). The document referenced in section 2 is one issued the same day, a document that reshuffles the organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. It declares that the National Security Advisor and Homeland Security Advisor will determine the agenda of each of these committees, headed by Trump (or Pence in his place), with regular attendees including the Secretaries of Defense, Energy, State, and Treasury, the Attorney General, and US Ambassador to the United Nations, along with allowing, depending on the issue at hand, the Secretary of Commerce, US Trade Representative, and National Intelligence Director Without getting into any more detail, this memo could be said to engage in a major overhaul of the upper echelons of the National Security apparatus in the United States.

The document outlining the anti-ISIS “Plan” goes on, saying that a “new plan to defeat ISIS (the Plan)” will be developed “immediately” with the Secretary of Defense writing a draft. This draft will be, within a month, submitted to Trump, comprising “a comprehensive strategy and plans for the defeat of ISIS…recommended changes to any United States rules of engagement and other United States policy restrictions…public diplomacy, information operations, and cyber strategies to isolate and delegitimize ISIS…identification of new coalition partners in the fight against ISIS…mechanisms to cut off or seize ISIS’s financial support…[and] a detailed strategy to robustly fund the Plan.” The memo ends by saying that the Secretaries of Defense, State, Treasury, and Homeland Security, along with the Director of National Intelligence (DIA), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor, and Homeland Security Advisor, will develop the plan, compiling all the relevant information, and seeking any further information from “any appropriate source,” likely even right-wing and bigoted ones.

The two memos issued on January 28 don’t exactly outline the actions that the Trump Administration to “fight ISIS,” only proposing possible avenues. One way to tell how the policy will unfold in the coming months is to look at who will be developing the plan: Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, DIA Dan Coats, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford. If Mnuchin, Bosser, and Coats are confirmed, working with Tillerson and others, then the policy will involve working with NATO, working with regional US imperial proxy states like Jordan, and continued support for the Saudi bombing in Yemen. Beyond this, the formulated policy would likely include a push for more markets, “ground troops” in countries like Syria, striking at “Islamist terrorism” with Islamophobic policy, and a continued war in Afghanistan. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story.

Recent actions shine a light on how the possible strategy will unfold. Raids by US special forces will continue as part of national policy, along with drone strikes, to fight ISIS and any group deemed as “radical Islamic terrorists,” the new code words for the “enemy” in this era. While some thought that the recent raid in Yemen, which the Trump administration justified even though dozens of civilians were killed, including young children, would result in the government there stopping such strikes, this does not seem to be the case at all. Such raids may even bolster Al-Qaeda, though in saying this one should not be caught in the idea of “blowback” which many bourgeois progressives use as a reason for why the bombing is “bad.” Simply, Trump has revealed himself to be a war criminal, there’s no other way to put it.

As Nick Turse wrote on January 5, on the eve of the Trump Administration, we live in, as a result of the Obama presidency, a “gray zone,” a time when there is a “murky twilight between war and peace,” a time when elite troops were deployed in 138 countries across the world last year, with deployments across the African continent and ringing China, Russia, and Iran. For what we know so far, especially from his recent speech in which he called SOCOM‘s troops “legendary warriors” who engage in “the most secret, sensitive and daring missions in defense of the United States of America” with no enemy standing “a chance against our Special Forces — not even a chance.” Additionally, it seems evident that this horrid reality, coupled with private mercenaries for hire, will continue full force under Trump’s watch.

In terms of seeking “new coalition partners” to fight ISIS, there is a possibility these new partners would include Russia or maybe even Syria, the army of which is advancing in their fight against Western-backed terrorists. However, cooperation with Syria may be too optimistic since “safe zones” still seem to be on the mind of Trump. A Reuters report, on January 29, said that Trump and King Salaman of Saudi Arabia agreed to mutually “agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen,” purportedly for refugees. As anyone with sense knows, this is just a dressed up version of no-fly-zones and expanded US imperialism in the Syrian Arab Republic. In terms of safe zones in Yemen, this implies continued US support for the Saudi aggression in Yemen, which has, already, killed over 11,000 people, and destroyed much of the country, including its vital infrastructure. There is no doubt that that Trump administration will ally with Gulf autocracies such as the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar, along with Yemen of course.

In the same Reuters report, it said that the White House agreed to work with Saudi Arabia to counter “Iran’s destabilizing regional activities” and debating if the Muslim Brotherhood should be deemed a terrorist organization by the US, then subject to sanctions. Clearly, on the issue of Iran, fundamentally little will change from Obama under the Trump administration. Sure, the agreement on Iran’s non-existent nuclear program will go away and Western mega-corporations will lose out on the “new” market in Iran, but the aggressive feelings of the United States toward the Islamic Republic will not go away. This much was indicated when National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in a “muscular” response, declared that recent Iranian actions “underscore…Iran’s destabilizing behavior,” saying that the missile launch violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231, claimed that the Iranians backed the Houthi forces in Yemen, and said that the Obama Administration was “weak and ineffective” in responding to “Tehran’s malign actions” but that the Trump Administration will condemn “such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk,” with this stance meaning that they are “officially putting Iran on notice.”

After the recent immigration ban, under which Trump gave the Saudis a free pass, which will likely harm the US, there have been calls to ban Americans from Iran, which will lead to continued aggression of an imperial nature. This also means that Saudi funding of terrorists in Syria (and across the region) may also get a pass, which would show the continuation of policy from Obama to Trump. Additionally, it seems very evident that war may be in the cards, with Trump directly threatening Iran, and possible war with Iran in the cards.

Other articles recent add to this, noting that more threats and sanctions (also see here) are being used against Iran by the United States (which could inflame the region), with the Trump Administration wanting to contain Iran, with Russia (and China for that matter) standing on the side of Iran in this war of words and actions. Iran is also preparing itself for self-defense if need be with new military equipment and other measures (also see here) while a Trump cabinet pick paid by MKO terrorists, Iran stands against partition of Iraq, and Iranian army commanders seeing the threats as nonsense, as they defy the United States to the best of their ability.

It is worth quoting what Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution said in a recent speech:

“The new U.S. president says Iran should thank Obama! Why?! Should we thank him for creating ISIS, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, or the blatant support for the 2009 sedition in Iran? He was the president who imposed paralyzing sanctions on the Iranian nation; of course, he did not achieve what he desired. No enemy can ever paralyze the Iranian nation…Trump says fear me! No. The Iranian nation…will show others what kind of stance the nation of Iran takes when threatened. We actually thank this new president [Trump]! We thank him, because he made it easier for us to reveal the real face of the United States. What we have been saying, for over thirty years, about political, economic, moral, and social corruption within the U.S. ruling establishment, he came out and exposed during the election campaigns and after the elections. Now, with everything he is doing—handcuffing a child as young as 5 at an airport—he is showing the reality of American human rights. The incident of the February 8, 1979 [referring to the day that the Army Air Force began its allegiance with Imam Khomeini (Homafaran Allegiance) and about the final days of the Iranian revolution] was unexpected for the regime and a blessing from God we were not counting upon. An unexpected provision should be hoped for in anything that the believing front does: it is true that logical and material calculations are necessary, but sometimes we should open up to counting on the supernatural too…if we use wisdom and prudence along with trusting the Satan, the result will be a mirage. In any matter, including diplomacy and the country’s problems it is true that trusting demons and the materialistic power, which oppose your essence, leads to a mirage.”

James Petras, a Marxist who seems to take the side of Trump, even said, in a recent piece, that Trump will continue the murderous reign of the empire. While he praised Trump for his seeming “protectionism” and certain “critiques,” Petras admitted that Trump ignores “the enormous regional economic and military power of Iran” and has proposed to “re-negotiate the recent six-nation agreement with Iran in order to improve the US side of the bargain” possibly to placate Israel, and then said that “Trump will most probably maintain, but not expand, Obama’s military encirclement of China’s maritime boundaries which threaten its vital shipping routes.” Petras, who describes Trump as a “market realist who recognizes that military conquest is costly and…losing economic proposition for the US” who views “Russia as a potential economic partner and military ally” and sees China as a “powerful economic competitor,” said that Trump is a “capitalist-nationalist, a market-imperialist and political realist.” Still, he seems unsure about what will happen next in his administration.

Of course, Petras is not seeing through the smoke of “economic nationalism” of Trump, which is tied with his anti-worker nature and racist imperialism. While there is no doubt that Trump is different than Obama in his actions or behavior, on US imperial foreign policy, to say the least, it is clear that Trump will support the Zionist project in Israel and US imperialism worldwide in his own patented way, even if that includes playing both sides of the “anti-ISIS war.” Hence, all of Trump’s “critiques” of elites are worthless junk not worth paying attention to since he will benefit the capitalist elites, already infusing his advisors with Goldman Sachs, engaging in a “globalism of the 1%” which supports empire and buttressing Islamophobia, making it national policy. Of course, he will also not oppose continued militarization of the country (and world) and expansion of the security apparatus, coupled with mass surveillance. Hence, it is accurate to describe Trump as a president who has “openly exhibited racist, nativist, sexist, arch-authoritarian, police-statist, Islamophobic, pro-torture, and even neo-fascist sentiments and values.”

Where the murderous empire goes next is clear. While countries like the Philippines are plying the double game by claiming to resist the United States but also crack down on communist forces and allow US troops in the country, China is rising more so on the world stage. The latter will hopefully pose as a possible counter to the horrid (and racist) imperialism that will spew out of the Trump administration like left over trash falling out of a garbage truck, policies that leave destruction in their wake.Perhaps Chinese media has a point in saying that “the court,” “the media,” “the public,” “domestic and international politics,” and the “economy” could  keep Trump in check, but they might be believing too much in those elements.

Those who think that Trump will change US policy, be anti-interventionist, or end the slew of wars, are dead wrong. As he declared in a speech just a couple of days ago, he said, following typical dogma, said that the US military is “fighting for our security and freedom,” while also saying that “defense of our nation” is important to him, at least in his mind, that the military will never be “forgotten” by the Trump administration (i.e. it will get more money), and that the US strongly supports NATO. In his speech, he declared that SOCOM and Central Command will be the “very center of out fight against radical Islamic terrorism,” saying that more focus will be placed not only on Central Asia, the Middle East, and Egypt, but across the world. He also declared to the “forces of destruction” by which he means ISIS, Al Qaeda, and “associated forces,” that “America and its allies will defeat you.  We will defeat them,” while saying, as typical militaristic boilerplate, but also showing his loyalty to the war machine, that the “men and women of the United States military provide the strength to bring peace to our troubled, troubled times.”

It seems obvious that the military will expand, with Trump acting as a bully for Western capitalists to gain new markets, using his “twitter diplomacy” and imperial might, along with other “tools” at his disposal. Cuba, the DPRK, and China will remain under imperialist assault. Zimbabwe and Venezuela likely will as well. In the end, one must cast off any illusions about Trump, recognizing his racist and imperialist nature, while rejecting the arguments of bourgeois liberals and progressives who do not challenge the fundamental nature of the murderous empire.