From Socialist Voice, December 2006

Nuclear weapons not the way forward

During October the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea tested a nuclear device. This unleashed a tirade of condemnation from western governments and from Russia and China. The United States went further and imposed economic sanctions.
    While it is very regrettable that yet another country has developed nuclear weapons, it was almost inevitable, given the state of international relations and the threats being made almost daily by the United States against any government that it believes is a threat to its strategy of global hegemony.
    To attempt to understand what has pushed the North Koreans to develop such weapons we need to understand something of the country’s history and its experience of what the United States, Japan and other imperialist powers perpetrated against its people. To attempt to understand is not to condone.
    The DPRK is a product of a complicated struggle for national liberation against both Japanese and US occupation, followed by a peasant revolt, with the participation of a small working class. The United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Turkey, under the guise of the United Nations, destroyed hundreds of towns in saturation bombing and killed tens of thousands of Koreans. When the war ended, Korea was partitioned by the western powers along the 38th parallel.
    The “cult of personality” was a product of both the cult of Stalin and of Mao. Kim Il-Sung, who was an outstanding military and political leader, defeating first the Japanese and then the Americans and British, was given a very specific role as a counterweight to the pressure the Koreans came under both before and after the Sino-Soviet split in the early 1960s.
    Kim developed the “Juche [self-reliance] Idea” to create a space for the Korean revolution in very pressured conditions. On the one hand he had to deal with China and the Soviet Union to the north, while in south Korea for nearly three decades there was a military dictatorship which was a puppet of the United States, where tens of thousands of US troops were (and still are) stationed, as well as hundreds of nuclear weapons aimed at the north as well as at China and the Soviet Union.
    Kim gave tremendous leadership during the war against the Japanese occupation and that of the United States. In an underdeveloped country the power of strong personalities can play both a positive and a negative role. In our own experience we had de Valera and Carson, who left legacies Nuclear weapons not the way forwardthat still affect us today. In eastern societies especially the role of powerful individuals is central in their cultural development, as for example the Dalai Lama, and the “royal family” in Japan—both appointed by God, no less. In addition there is a need to consider the influence of Confucianism.
    Marxism is a philosophy centred on the working class. The cult of personality and of abnormal natural events marking the coming to power of an individual has nothing to do with Marxism but rather with religious superstition. Many “Third World” revolutions were influenced by Marxism and inspired by the Soviet Union; but the basis for building a revolutionary working-class party was not always there, with this role falling to the peasants. Peasants and working people have different views of the world, and this can affect the outcome of any struggle.
    It is up to the Korean people, north and south, to decide their own destiny and the future of all the Korean people. The course of human development over the last seventy years is but a drop in the ocean of human history.
    Social revolutions and the building of a new society are the products of conscious human action. The real world is complex. Social change does not develop in neat straight lines, with no twist or turns. To believe that some “pure” social revolution will emerge—good against evil, workers against bosses; play it by the book and no-one will get hurt—is to idealise social revolution.
    The spread of nuclear weapons is a grave danger to the very existence of human life on this planet. The Soviet Union provided a nuclear deterrent to the United States, and the strategy of “mutually assured destruction” ensured that the United States was kept in check. Since the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the United States as the only superpower, many countries that took comfort and protection from the fact that the Soviet Union kept the balance of terror, including India and North Korea, have found themselves with little or no option but to pursue the nuclear option.
    What is required is an international conference to bring all the nations of the world together to begin to destroy all nuclear weapons.

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