The world’s colonized and exploited people can free themselves by following the example of Juche
A revolution against capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism can only succeed when it properly equips itself to overcome these forces. The revolution’s members must correctly assess the strengths and capabilities of their enemies, then give themselves the tools they’ll need for survival and victory. The tools I’ll be recommending throughout this essay are necessary for countering the forces which the exploiting classes currently possess.
These forces consist of the unsurpassed military apparatus of the United States, the additional military power of Washington’s closest allies, the increasingly militarized police forces of the world’s capitalist states, the instruments of censorship within the core imperialist countries, and the propaganda and surveillance network of the U.S./NATO empire. They also consist of the paramilitaries of fascist governments and private corporations, the economic leverage that’s wielded by the global capitalist class, and the economic sanctions that the U.S. is imposing on all of the globe’s anti-imperialist countries.
The American empire may be in decline, but these things continue to be very relevant threats to oppressed and exploited people, and the nations that stand against global capitalism continue to have to defend themselves from imperialist aggression. Right now Washington is sending navy ships to Venezuela, and Brazil and Colombia have joined the U.S. in increasing their military presences throughout Latin America. The U.S. regime change machine has also started on a new plan for a coup in Venezuela, one that involves getting the IMF to withhold Covid-19 aid from Venezuela’s people until the country’s socialist leadership agrees to step down.
Such is one example of how the global capitalist class can use economic warfare, political meddling, and military force to advance their interests, both around the globe and within the imperial core. All impoverished, proletarian, and colonized people are under siege from the imperialists. So to defeat them, we’ll need to take example from the nation that’s retained its self-determination and socialist development despite enduring genocide, nuclear threats, and brutal sactions: the DPRK.
The DPRK has waged its resistance to the imperialists through a playbook called Juche. In the following sections I’ll explain how Juche has saved the northern half of Korea from capitalist and imperial control, and how all socialist and anti-colonial revolutionaries can apply Juche to their own struggles.
Juche and Songun: committing to sufficient military strength in the face of imperialist threats
Socialist Korea’s governmental structure is based upon Songun, the doctrine that first prioritizes the military. As a result, the DPRK’s defenses are too great for even the modern United States to want to invade it. In addition to the country’s nuclear defenses, it has a system where citizens volunteer to become armed and trained, making the country into a socialist fortress where “Working with hammer and sickle in one hand and rifle in the other” is a popular saying.
The country’s people have been so willing to embrace Songun because within living memory, their society has experienced the most extreme imperialist violence imaginable; around a fourth of the DPRK’s people were killed by the U.S. during the Korean War, which Washington provoked by having its puppet dictator in the south threaten to invade the north. These events motivated the survivors of the genocide to follow the defensive military guidance that would soon be provided to them through Songun.
After the country’s first leader Kim Il Sung formulated the Juche ideology, it was necessary for his son Kim Jong Il to make Songun into an interpretation of Juche’s teachings, because Songun provided the outline the country needed for maintaining its military strength amid a new paradigm of imperialist aggression. The DPRK has been under constant nuclear threat since the Korean War, and the U.S. has used the capitalist southern half of Korea as a hosting place for military bases, war games, and nuclear missiles. Yet Washington has never dared attack the DPRK again, because Songun has oriented its people around taking the steps needed for ensuring their own survival.
As Kim Jong Un said about Songun in his 2013 lecture on the doctrine:
Its most important requirement is that the army should be developed into the army of the Party and the leader, into an invincible revolutionary army capable of defeating any enemy however formidable, by attaching importance to military affairs and directing primary efforts to building up the army. If the masses are to carve out their destiny and accomplish the cause of socialism amid a sharp confrontation with the imperialists and the constant threat of war, they must, before anything else, firmly hold up and strengthen the arms of the revolution. It is a serious lesson taught by the history of the world socialist movement that when the arms of the revolution are weak or waver, they can defend neither the destiny of the masses nor socialism.
But the need for a strong armed defense against imperialism isn’t the only reason why Songun is necessary for the country’s socialist development. As expert on Korean socialism Shane Lawrence Pick has told me, the DPRK’s prioritization of the army under the Songun doctrine is also important for materially helping the country’s people:
I feel it’s very important to highlight the aspect of Songun that is to make the revolutionary army, the party and the people one. This means not only must the military be ready to defend the people at anytime, but they also must be ready to serve the people at anytime. Including helping with harvests, building projects or disaster recovery such as with the recent typhoon damage. The idea is that in a socialist society where everybody has been transformed into working masses the army becomes the driving force of revolution as it is most highly organized, conscious. and motivated revolutionary organization in socialist society.
Songun’s reasoning has been vindicated again and again throughout the history of socialist resistance to imperialism. In 1961, when the U.S. worked with an armed group of anti-communist Cuban exiles to try to invade Cuba, Castro’s forces successfully defended his new revolution. To avoid the possibility that the U.S. would try to invade socialist Cuba again, Castro called upon the Soviet Union to use their nuclear missiles as a deterrent.
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, which scared the imperialists into not recolonizing Cuba, was the result of Cubs’s revolutionaries applying the same logic behind Songun: that the revolution must be defended by all means necessary. Cuba and the DPRK’s stories have been echoed by communist Vietnam’s defeat of the 1965 invasion from Washington, and by Venezuela’s current show of strong military force amid the growing imperialist threats against it.
Songun’s idea that socialist revolutions must be prepared for war in order to survive hasn’t just been reflected by these stories of military resistance from revolutions that are already in power. It’s been reflected by the history of how revolutionary groups have overcome state repression and taken control of their governments. The Bolsheviks needed to fight off the regrouped anti-communist forces which immediately tried to slaughter the revolutionaries in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian revolution. To create a socialist Cuba, Che Guevara and other revolutionary militants had to fight off the forces of the capitalist dictator Batista. Now India’s Maoists are having to band together in guerrilla warfare in order to take territory away from the country’s fascist government.
There are self-described socialists who say that arming and training socialist organizations isn’t necessary. But they only say this because they have an ideological agenda which opposes the fundamental goal of socialist revolution, which is to overthrow the capitalist state and replace it with a proletarian-run democracy. The “democratic socialists” in the Bernie Sanders strain, as well as the Marxist figures who believe reforming the system will achieve the goals of socialism, aren’t going to support the idea of countering capitalist power through military means. Many of those in these strains, particularly the “democratic socialists,” even support imperialist warfare against nations like the DPRK and Palestine.
What these strains advocate for is not socialist revolution, but a modification of capitalist and imperialist exploitation. Juche and Songun sweep away their deceptive claims about how socialist revolution can happen without a military aspect.
While we organize towards revolution, we need to apply the lesson that the people of the DPRK have learned: the capitalists and the imperialists will use any amount of violence necessary to crush you, so you must be ready to defend yourself. As Vladimir Lenin wrote:
The dictatorship of the proletariat means a persistent struggle- bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative- against the forces and traditions of the old society. The force of habit in millions and tens of millions is a most formidable force. Without a party of iron that has been tempered in the struggle, a party enjoying the confidence of all honest people in the class in question, a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, such a struggle cannot be waged successfully.
Juche and Marxism-Leninism: committing to a scientific approach towards building socialism
Why does the DPRK put so much of its resources towards militarily defending the continued existence of its state apparatus? What are the country’s people getting out of the “military first” governing approach which is Songun? Unlike the United States, which invests great amounts of resources in its military for the purpose of defending and expanding the interests of the capitalist class, the DPRK’s military exists to fortify a socialist system which advances the interests of the masses.
The DPRK’s constitution states that all citizens have a right to healthcare, food, employment, housing, education, and leisure. Guided by Juche, the governing Workers Party of Korea has fulfilled these goals as best is possible under the DPRK’s material circumstances. All while doing away with taxes, the country has provided a free healthcare system that the World Health Organization describes as “the envy of the developing world,” completely eliminated homelessness, provided every citizen with food for free, given all working citizens paid leave and government-supplied accomodation at health resorts, and achieved a nearly 100 percent literacy rate.
By all of these measures of living standards, the conditions of DPRK citizens are far superior to those of Americans. The people-oriented nature of the Juche system as opposed to the capitalist system is also reflected in that the DPRK’s workplaces are organized around the Taean model, which places the highest managerial authority in the hands of elected party committees. All political candidates are chosen in mass meetings, and they’re put in power through elections that take place every five years and that are monitored for reliability by foreign observers.
Through this electoral system, the proletariat acts as the country’s supreme guiding force, with Kim Jong Un being merely a military commander who has no authority over the state. Consider this along with the fact that the country’s constitution protects freedom of speech, assembly, and demonstration, and it’s evident that Juche has created the maximum amount of prosperity and personal liberty that’s possible within a country which is under constant siege from imperialism.
As one Juche-oriented Facebook page has assessed: “Take full responsibility for and protect people’s future and spare nothing for the promotion of their welfare — this is the political doctrine and principle of the DPRK Government.”
The country’s conditions could be better, but only if capitalism and imperialism were removed from the picture. For now, the circumstances make many imperfections persist. Even after the famine of the 1990s has been moved past, numerous factors exist which constrain the country’s people, and which can’t be alleviated by any actions from the government. U.S. sanctions on the country limit its people’s access to farming equipment, screws and nails, medical equipment, and water purifiers. This blockage of resources has put hundreds of thousands of Korean children into malnutrition, and humanitarian aid to this vulnerable part of the population is also restricted by the embargo.
Yet along with the implementation of Songun, which mainly rose to prominence after the DPRK lost its ally the USSR, the DPRK has navigated its more economically isolated post-Soviet situation by adapting to the current economic paradigm. The country has incorporated open air markets (not to be confused with capitalist markets), and this has brought tens of billions of dollars into its economy annually. Like is the case for China’s pro-market reforms, this move is based upon the scientific approach towards building socialism. Though unlike is the case for China’s post-Mao economic system, the DPRK’s current economic system is not the result of reforms, as the DPRK’s economy is already fully in the hands of the people and therefore doesn’t need to develop further. The country has already reached full socialism.
This has been achieved by using the state as an avenue for developing past capitalism, as opposed to the utopian socialist route of trying to immediately abolish the state. As Kim Jong Il wrote in Socialism is a Science:
Although socialism is an inevitable stage of historical development and socialist society is the most progressive one which conforms with man’s independent nature, socialism will never be realized spontaneously. In order to realize socialism, we must prepare the revolutionary forces capable of doing this and evolve a correct method of struggle. Unless the revolutionary forces and the method of struggle are prepared, the desire for independence of the popular masses who aspire after socialism will remain a mere wish.
For this reason, Juche doesn’t place utopian ideals above pragmatism, anymore than it asks the DPRK’s people to view the society they live in as perfect. It calls for the people to bring society towards socialism and then communism by scientifically assessing their circumstances, and by taking the actions that will further the goal of revolution. Whether these actions consist of working to ensure a strong military, or creating a workers state, or adapting to the world’s economic conditions, they’re going to be correct as long as the revolutionary party succeeds in scientifically assessing the conditions present.
This is how scientific socialism, or Marxism-Leninism, is worked towards under the Juche model. A delegate for the Korean Friendship Association explains here why this shows Juche and Marxism-Leninism are one and the same:
The Juche idea is a new and original philosophical idea that clarifies the man-centered philosophical principle. But it does not mean that the Juche idea has nothing common with Marxism-Leninism or the former denies the latter. The basic principles of Marxism-Leninism are the truth. The Juche idea has a close connection with Marxism-Leninism with commonness in its mission and class ideal. In other words, the Juche idea inherits the mission and class principle of Marxism-Leninism. The Juche idea approves the truthfulness of Marxism-Leninism and regards it as its presupposition.
Juche and human-centeredness: committing to the ideal of improving humanity’s circumstances
Kim Jong Il wrote in Socialism is a Science that “bourgeois reactionaries do not regard man as the most precious being, but as a means for material production and an insignificant being who possesses only labour power, which is bought and sold as a commodity. They also consider him a powerless being dominated by money, not as a powerful being who shapes his destiny through his own efforts.”
His statement explains the way that capitalism views human beings: as commodities that should be exploited, and that supposedly have a “human nature” which predisposes them towards selfishness. But Juche deconstructs this dark and cynical view of humanity, and calls for treating the masses as a noble force that’s capable of driving the socialist revolution forward. As Kim Jong Il also wrote, “The Juche idea raised the fundamental question of philosophy by regarding man as the main factor, and elucidated the philosophical principle that man is the master of everything and decides everything.”
This belief underlies the three principles of Juche, as outlined in Kim Jong Il’s On the Juche Idea:
-The independent stance, which in the Juche ideology means independence in politics, self-sufficiency in economy, and self-reliance in defense.
-The creative method, which means that all problems that arise in the revolution are to be solved by the creativity of the masses and therefore by a scientific approach towards socialism.
-The precedence of ideological consciousness over all other work, meaning that those who wish to carry out revolution must make sure they’ve been sufficiently educated in revolutionary theory and political knowledge.
When you view human beings not as inherently greedy and cruel, but as a socially cooperative species that can be guided towards moving past exploitative systems, it becomes apparent that all of these revolutionary principles can be adopted by the masses of any country. Human nature doesn’t predispose societies to uphold unjust systems with class hierarchy, so these systems can be defeated by appealing to people’s desire for mutual cooperation. Kim Jong Il articulated this optimistic view of humanity by saying that “Considering man in social relations the Juche idea cast a new light on his essential features. It expounded that man is a social being with independence, creativity and consciousness, and thus gave a perfect philosophical elucidation of man.”
If humanity has the power to move beyond being controlled by money, socialist revolutionaries will always have the potential to defeat capitalism and the evils it creates. This vindicates the efforts of all the world’s socialist and anti-colonial revolutionaries, no matter how great their obstacles are.
In the realm of geopolitical conflict, the socialists will keep taking advantage of their increasingly favorable circumstances. Venezuela almost certainly won’t be lost to a coup, because the Chavistas have control over the military and their military is prepared for an invasion. The DPRK, along with the other small Marxist-Leninist states Cuba and Laos, will no doubt survive any future capitalist sabotage due to their strength in defense and their economic success. And China will overcome Washington’s hybrid warfare against it, all while continuing to take economic and military leverage away from the collapsing U.S. empire. So largely by acting in line with Juche’s ideals of military strength and economic pragmatism, these socialist nations will come out on top against the imperialists.
In the realm of revolutionary struggle within capitalist countries, socialists and anti-colonialists must proceed by applying Juche’s lessons to their organizing and mobilizing efforts. We need to work towards building a revolutionary party and overthrowing the bourgeois state while prioritizing our knowledge of communist theory. And while pursuing all of the practical tools that our circumstances make it necessary for us to acquire-whether those tools are weapons training, a civil disobedience action plan, or a community aid network.
By working along the lines of the DPRK, and by extension along the lines of the other surviving socialist states, we’ll put ourselves in a position to defeat capitalist power in the coming years of U.S. imperial collapse and global economic meltdown. A vast revolutionary crisis is upon us. And the DPRK and Juche show us a way to steer it towards unprecedented worldwide victories for socialism.
It’s for this reason that in 2018, Doctor of History Aleksey Maslov said the following about how history will view the main upholder of Juche Kim Jong Un, and about the future that Juche has worldwide:
Kim Jong-un has an idea. It is a good history. Moon Jae-in [President of the Republic of Korea ― Rossa Primavera News Agency] lacks any idea. He has an idea of standard economic development; he is not a revolutionary. However, the world needs revolutionaries. Mark my word, someday people will name their children Kim Jong-un or Jong-un. He will become an icon, like Che Guevara.
Revolutionaries like Kim and Guevara have shown us how to conduct ourselves in our struggles. Let’s work to make more of humanity share in the benefits from their project.
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