People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 21

May 27, 2012

Kim Il Sung’s Birth Centenary Observations Begin


Suneet Chopra


KIM Il Sung (April 15, 1912 to July 8, 1994), whose hundredth birth anniversary was recently celebrated, was one of the many inspiring figures the twentieth century brought forward as icons not only of their own people but also of their times and of mankind in general. The period of his childhood and youth was one that saw two most destructive world wars that were unleashed by plundering empires competing with one another in barbarism and greed. If Hitler was responsible for the genocide of millions, the USA dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in the name of fighting fascism, and then continued its waves of terror in country after country to suppress the national liberation movements the world over, killing millions. But then, it was also a period which saw a major European empire, that of Russia, collapse under its own dead weight and being replaced by the world’s first worker-peasant state. The latter stood for an end to exploitation, to the plunder of weak nationalities at the hands of the strong, and came out openly for the right of nationalities to liberate themselves or come together of their own free will in a union of equals, as was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that replaced the Czarist empire, the veritable “prison house of nationalities,” in 1917.




Under the guidance of V I Lenin, the USSR not only established a remarkable union of nationalities on the basis of complete equality but also came out as a powerful voice against oppressive colonial rule and for national liberation. This, however, did not happen on its own. If the Bolshevik party was able to build the first socialist state in history, it was only by building up a party of the advance guard of the working class that could mobilise the working peasantry to overthrow the ruling classes and set up the dictatorship of the proletariat. As a reflection of the need of ending the capitalist system and establishing a worldwide alternative to it, the birth of the Soviet state inspired a wide range of leaders who led remarkable revolutions immediately after World War II. These included Mao Zedong in China, Kim Il Sung in Korea and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.


The inspiration could not result only from establishing a socialist state. Its development was carried forward by J V Stalin who galvanised the strength of the Soviet working people of the USSR to defeat the most pernicious attack on socialism by the fascist powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. The capitalist powers of the West played a wait and watch game, delaying even the opening of a second front in the hope that Hitler would crush Russia and socialism together. All over the world, however, millions of workers and peasants laid down their lives for defending the world against fascism until Hitler committed suicide and the red flag was unfurled over the Reichstag building in Berlin. Mussolini was hung by the masses in Italy and Tojo was hung by those who themselves had slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocents in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So the end of fascism did not end imperialism or oppression. That task remains to be completed.


Imperialism, which had hoped to destroy both fascism and socialism in one go by pitting Germany against the Soviet Union, failed to do so as the USSR not only survived but even extended its influence over a wide-ranging socialist camp from the German Democratic Republic to China, Korea and even to Cuba by 1960. This led imperialism to make common cause even with fascist forces in a number of countries like Portugal, Spain and Latin American dictatorships to South Africa, Israel and South Korea, to try and crush the people’s uprisings.


It is true that the Soviet Union was dismantled a few decades later but imperialism failed to protect the racist regimes of Rhodesia, South West Africa and South Africa or to keep the Pehlavi Empire alive in Iran or hold on to the rest of the African continent in its stranglehold, reflecting the superiority of the broad socialist model in different material conditions that popular movements and working class parties evolved when they seized power from the lackeys of imperialism. This struggle still continues, with imperialism resorting to no less brutality in different parts of the world.




It is in this perspective that we view as relevant the successes of Kim Il Sung, the Workers Party of Korea that he founded and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that has survived every effort at subverting it over the last 63 years, while the US dominated south has seen a series of corrupt and discredited regimes amid bouts of military rule.


Kim Il Sung’s was a single-minded struggle for the objective of liberating Korea from both Japanese colonial rule and later US imperialist aggression, which he understood could be successfully achieved only by pursuing a relentless path of socialist transformation, building up a powerful consciousness of self-reliance and armed might to resist the physical attacks of imperialism whose disastrous results are visible today all the way from Libya to Afghanistan. From this viewpoint, his cherished desire to unite the Korean people peacefully by ensuring the evacuation of nearly 50,000 US troops on Korean soil, which are preventing reunification with armed force and nuclear weapons, is an important agenda that we have inherited from his time. This keeps his vision alive and relevant even today. Indeed, it is only from the perspective of facing this divisive and predatory challenge of US imperialism that we can understand Kim Il Sung’s endeavour to build up a mass people’s army and the latter’s success confirms its soundness and importance. This army is not a mercenary body but a genuine mass force of the people, as distinct from the armies that defend the interests of the capitalist class.


His achievements are no less relevant. With his single-minded spirit he sidelined the faction-ridden politics of both left sectarianism and right revisionism in the Korean Communist Party from 1925 to 1928, when the Comintern withdrew its recognition from it. He also ensured that Korean comrades in Manchuria would work with the Communist Party of China while maintaining their perspective of a Korean revolution intact through evolving Korean organisations in keeping with the needs of the time. This is something that is even more necessary today.


He achieved this by developing organisations like the Down with Imperialism Union, the Anti-Imperialist Youth League, the Young Communist League, and by forming the Society for Rallying Comrades on July 3, 1930, which actually served the purpose of a Korean party in exile. But at the same time it was clear to him that without an organised mass armed force guided by the party, neither the task of the anti-Japanese resistance could be successfully completed nor the liberation of Korea achieved. So on July 6, 1930, the founding of the Korean Revolutionary Army took place.


Even so, its legitimacy was established only by integrating its activities with those of the National Salvation Army of the Chinese nationalists after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, which was a very difficult task given the distrust between them and the communists at the time. The greatest quality that he exhibited in this period was that while he was convinced of the universal relevance of a Marxist-Leninist outlook, he was equally aware of the need to implement its principles with an independent and deep-rooted assessment of concrete conditions.


So the Revolutionary Army became the Anti-Japanese People’s Guerrilla Army in 1932, leading to the formation of a people’s revolutionary government in one area. This represented workers, peasants, soldiers, youth, students, intellectuals, anti-Japanese capitalists and even religious believers. But it pursued policies like distributing land free to peasants, an eight hour workday, free education and free medical care. Yet, meeting the imperialist capacity to attack the guerrilla forces required a broader and more organised force. So the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army developed in 1934 as the Chinese-Korean North East People’s Revolutionary Army or the Anti-Japanese Allied Army.




His account of an encounter with an old communist, Pyon Dae U, reflects how necessary it was to learn from the people and rise above ready-made slogans of successful revolutions and derive one’s strategy from one’s own concrete experience.


Kim Il Sung notes: “In the course of my conversations with him over several days I found him to be no ordinary man. At first I wondered if he was a Trotskyite, but I learned that, tired of factional strife, he was just warning us young people, warning us against the blind worship of everything, against talking only about other countries, about Russia and Stalin, and against copying everything from Russia. In short, he was telling us to live in the Korean spirit.”


Indeed, it is this stress on an independent understanding of concrete conditions in developing the perspective of a revolutionary party that led the Workers Party of Korea to recognise the CPI(M) as a fraternal party before either the Soviet or the Chinese party had done so. The relevance of such a position is evident from the situation the communist parties are confronted with in the world today.


What strikes one, however, was his deep conviction about the necessity of building socialist institutions with the capacity of defending them against the persistent and savage attack of imperialism, reactionary forces in league with them, and fighting both dogmatism and revisionism within the working class movement that inevitably weakened it against its enemy. It was this capacity that allowed him to harness the help both of the Chinese and Soviet parties and armies to back his thrust to free Korea from US imperialist occupation after the surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945 This could not have been accomplished without the capacity of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army to attack Japanese outposts on the Chinese border, being airdropped with the help of the Red Army to areas close to Pyongyang and other cities, and to launch an all out attack on August 9, 1945.


The organisational and political determination of the Korean liberation forces led by Kim Il Sung allowed the Korean Revolution to stake their claim in the form of the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea, which ensured democratic elections to provincial, city and county people’s committees by November 3, 1946. A Congress of the Provincial, City and County Representatives met at Pyongyang on February 17, 1947, attended by 1159 representatives, and it elected Kim Il Sung as its chairman. Then a joint conference of the political parties and public organisations of North and South Korea was held in April 1948, denouncing the US plan to split Korea by holding separate elections. The US promptly imposed military rule on the south and egged on a pro-US clique to hold “elections’’ on May 10, setting up a puppet regime in the south.




At this crucial moment, Kim Il Sung took the initiative to call a consultative meeting of leading figures and political parties of North and South Korea on June 29, calling out for North-South elections to be held, on August 25, 1948.  These elections were held openly and freely in the north and underground in the south to the Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea which was held between September 2 to 10, which adopted the constitution and acclaimed Kim Il Sung as its head of state. On September 9 a unified central government of the Korean people was organised and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was founded as a fully independent, sovereign state elected by its people’s representatives.


On October 10, the Worker’s Party of Korea was founded. Today, major political parties and entities represented in the Supreme People’s Assembly are the Worker’s Party of Korea, the Korean Social Democratic Party, the Chondoist Chongu Party, the General Federation of the Trade Unions of Korea, the Union of Agricultural Workers of Korea, the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, the Democratic Women’s Union of Korea, the Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea, the General Federation of the Unions of Art and Literature of Korea, the Journalists Union of Korea, the General Federation of Science and Technology of Korea, the Christian Federation of Korea, the Catholic Association of Korea, the Buddhist Federation of Korea, and the Red Cross Society of Korea. The DPRK has diplomatic relations with over 150 countries, is the member of 210 governmental and non-governmental organisations, and became a member of the United Nations on September 17, 1991, after the collapse of the USSR. The significance of this event cannot be ignored as a major achievement of Kim Il Sung for the stability of the state he had brought into being on a socialist basis.


This was not achieved easily. The USA, with a cohort of 19 countries, invaded Korea on June 25, 1950. Kim Il Sung led the resistance with remarkable determination, with the support of both the People’s Republic of China and the USSR, ensuring the first defeat of the USA in recent history, on July 27, 1953, with a record of eliminating or putting our of action over four hundred thousand enemy combatants --- no mean feat in the annals of anti-imperialist struggle.


The USA imagined that, having only 18 per cent agricultural land in the north, the DPRK would easily collapse; but the end of the war saw Kim Il Sung transform the creative basis of the socialist DPRK from a country relying on subsistence agriculture and plunder of its resources by foreigners to a country based on heavy industry and modern technology for the benefit of the people. The people too naturally responded in high gear with the Chollima movement of reconstruction, which enthused the masses. Though the latter were ruined by a US-engineered war whose destruction and brutality put medieval torturers to shame, the Korean masses broke all bounds of growth by 1958.


Not only have the relations of production transformed over time, with the people becoming masters of their destiny with control over all resources, both under state and cooperative institutions. All natural resources, major factories, enterprises, ports and harbours, banks, transport and communication facilities are state-owned. Collective property belongs to the working people participating in the cooperative economy, especially in agriculture. But the base was built by making heavy industry the mainstay of progress with a stress on electricity, nuclear energy, mining, metallurgy, machine building, chemicals and building materials. Homes and a compulsory 11-year system of free education are provided by the state, as is free medical care. This is no small achievement given the constant embargoes by the USA, broken agreements and false propaganda. This not only enjoins on us the need to stand up in solidarity with the DPRK in defeating the machinations of imperialism and also to defend all socialist measures and progress undertaken by it. This can be achieved in a proper way only when we understand the imperialist pressure the DPRK had withstood successfully so far under the wise and exemplary leadership of a man like Kim Il Sung, and ensure our fraternal solidarity with those who are carrying forward his mission --- the Workers Party of Korea and the People’s Revolutionary Army.