Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lenin Understood What Is To Be Done

He was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov
and raised in the town of Simbirsk, Russia.
His father was an educator
and Vladimir Ilyich became a diligent student.

At that time, Russia was
an extremely repressive place to live.  
Peasants, who were treated miserably,
needed a passport just to travel in the land of their birth.

People could be arrested
merely for attending meetings to discuss politics.
Jews were restricted to living in certain areas
and experienced the horrors of pogroms.

Under these conditions many people
developed a hatred for the monarch known as the Czar.
Vladimir Ilyich’s brother Alexander
understood that hatred.

He attempted to assassinate the Czar,
in an effort that would have benefited no one, but failed.
His life would have been spared,
if he cooperated with the authorities,

But he refused,
and Alexander Ulyanov
who dedicated his life to the liberation of his people
was executed.

Vladimir Ilyich learned several lessons
from the example of his brother. 
He learned not be afraid to
stand alone defending a point of view.

He also learned that only a realistic
program for action would have a chance of success,
and for the rest of his life he would dedicate
himself to bringing about this realistic program for action.

However, being a political activist in Czarist Russia
was not an easy task.
Vladimir Illyich needed to change his name
and became Lenin.

He was arrested for participating in a discussion group,
sent to prison, and exiled to Siberia.
This experience and many others led Lenin
to advocate for a new kind of political organization.

He wrote, What is to be done?
where he argued that Russia needed
a national organization with a newspaper,
and a national leadership that would coordinate activities.

Many were repulsed by this approach
arguing that Russia was already
a tightly controlled society
that needed to be freed from oppression.
However, workers understood how unions
were organized by a leadership
where everyone had a say,
but when decisions were reached, all worked to achieve common goals.

Lenin also argued that a national leadership
would help workers develop a class consciousness
where they would begin to understand
how their interests were completely opposed to capitalism.

While Lenin understood that
economic demands were necessary,
he also understood that economic concessions
were the easiest thing for the capitalists to part with.

The Bolshevik party also made political demands
supporting the rights of peasants,
opposing censorship,
and defending the right of workers to demonstrate.

In the year 1905 a revolution erupted in Russia.
The workers were not properly organized,
and the Czar drowned
the uprising in blood.

During this revolution a workers organization
called the Soviets was organized.
The Soviets were confederations of workers
designed to politically defend workers in any way necessary.

Lenin learned many things from this revolution
and wrote his pamphlet,
Two Tactics of Social Democracy
in the Democratic Revolution.

Lenin argued that the bourgeoisie
which controls most corporations
will not advance a democratic course
when a revolution erupts.
On the other hand,
workers have a distinct interest in breaking
from the past and advancing
along genuinely democratic lines.

Lenin also understood how Czarist Russia
was a prison-house of many nations,
which experienced profound discrimination,
so the Czar and the affluent could remain in power.

So Lenin wrote another pamphlet called
The Right of Nations to Self-Determination
where he argued that the Bolsheviks
needed to be the staunchest opponents of oppression.

But Lenin didn’t just write pamphlets.
While he was forced to live outside Russia
he did everything in his power to organize
the Bolsheviks and publish their newspaper.

He then attempted to explain why
the first world war was unfolding
in his pamphlet, Imperialism,
the Highest State of Capitalism.

He showed how the so called
free enterprise system
evolved into a system where
monopolies controlled industrial production.

Cartels controlled the
distribution of commodities.
Finance capital controlled
the economies of nations with loans.

This state of affairs led several
nations to go to war with one another
in order to decide which one
would control the world.

While the capitalists advocated war.
Lenin advocated support for workers and farmers
in underdeveloped nations, and immigrant workers
who seek employment where they can find it.  

The first world war cost the lives
of millions in Russia,
and the economy of that nation
was destroyed.

Revolution erupted and
a provisional government took power.
After several months,
Lenin was able to return to his homeland.

But the Provisional Government
made no real change in the lives of the people,
and continued the war
which was tearing the nation apart.

Lenin argued that the war
needed to be ended immediately
and advanced the demand
Peace, Bread, and Land.

Lenin also showed how capitalists
were reaping huge profits from the war,
and the task was not just to argue for socialism,
but to expose the plunder of the state.

Someone who didn’t like Lenin said
“A man who talks this
kind of stupidity is not dangerous.”
Working people in Russia were learning that Lenin in no way was stupid.

The Provisional Government responded
by charging Lenin with treason
and ordered his arrest
for advocating and end to the holocaust.

But the workers and farmers also
wanted peace, bread, and land,
so another revolution erupted
and the Bolsheviks took power.

On the day of the Revolution
Lenin was still in hiding disguised
as a woman wearing a wig.
After the revolution they said he could take the wig off.

That was a long day,
but in the end Lenin had one more thing to do.
He wrote a proclamation giving land
to the peasants whose families worked that land for centuries. 

Lenin understood that when the Bolsheviks
adopted this proclamation
there would be no force on earth
which would remove them from power.

He then wrote, The State and Revolution
where Lenin showed how the state
was created by the capitalist system
and used as an instrument of repression against workers.

When workers take power the state will continue to exist,
but now the state will be used to repress the old order
just as the American revolutionary government
repressed British interests after that revolution.

Czarist Russia became the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics
where each republic had its own government
working in union with all others.

At this time, Germany demanded a huge area
of the Soviet Union
and most of the Bolsheviks were unwilling
to grant this concession.

Lenin understood than a continuation of the war
could only mean disaster,
and said he would resign from the government
if the war was not ended.

Once the Bolsheviks delivered on the demands
Peace and land, they then had to deliver the bread.
Here there was another problem.
The Soviet economy was in shambles.

Russia had experienced a world war,
two revolutions, a civil war would erupt,
and fourteen nations would invade
the Soviet Union.

The entire infrastructure of the economy was destroyed.
In this vast agricultural nation
the people experienced hunger
and the Bolsheviks did everything the could to give the people food.

Some factory owners refused to pay workers their Christmas bonus.
The Bolsheviks declared that if they
did not come up with one-million rubles in twenty-four hours,
they would be sent to mine coal.  The owners came up with the money. 

During this period Lenin was shot by an assassin
and survived but was debilitated.
Yakov M. Sverdlov was the secretary to the party,
but died as a result of an epidemic that killed millions throughout the world.

Joseph Stalin replaced Sverdlov
and placed his personal advancement
before the revolution
and the needs of workers and farmers.

Many people of the middle classes
lost their possessions in the course of the revolution.
Stalin gave these people economic incentives
if they joined the Communist Party and did what they were told.

After everything the Soviet Union had been through,
the people were not able to overcome
this last challenge
and Stalin managed to betray the Revolution.

Even though Lenin was debilitated,
he managed to criticize
Stalin’s political course.
Only death prevented him from continuing the struggle.

But a transformation had taken place
in the Soviet Union.
The large enterprises had been confiscated
by the state.

Corporate interests no longer had power.
This change meant that
many aspects of poverty could be eliminated,
but capitalists would never cease in their attempts to regain that property. 

The Soviet Union lost 27 million human beings
defending itself against fascist Germany,
which was the most powerful military nation
of its times.

But the Stalinist regime eventually collapsed
and many capitalist corporations emerged,
but most enterprises continued to be controlled
by the government.

Today the world is on the eve of another capitalist crisis.
The ideas of Lenin have never been more relevant.
Workers and farmers all over the world
can learn many invaluable lessons by studying the life of Lenin.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Historical Background to Jackie Robinson’s Story

The other evening I viewed the new film about Jackie Robinson’s life titled, 42 directed by Brian Helgeland and starring Chadwick Boseman in the title roleThe film is one of the few Hollywood productions that I would recommend.  Even with all of the film’s limitations, we see a realistic depiction of the obstacles Jackie Robinson needed to overcome just to play major league baseball.

I believe that the Jackie Robinson story becomes even more compelling when we take a look at many of the events that led to the integration of major league baseball.  We can begin with the fact that Jackie Robinson was not the first Black baseball player to play in the major leagues.

19th century baseball and Reconstruction

Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother Welday were among dozens of Black baseball players who competed in the major league that was known as the American Association in the 1870’s and 1880’s.  So, the immediate question is: Why were Black baseball players allowed to play in the 19th century, but then excluded from the major league game until 1947?

We can begin to answer this question with an excerpt from President Abraham Lincoln’s speech after the Civil War battle at Gettysburg.  Lincoln argued that the thousands of soldiers in the Union Army who died in that battle did not “die in vain.”

As a result of the Civil War, the U.S. government passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.  The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery.  The Fourteenth Amendment gave full citizenship rights to everyone born in the United States.  The Fifteenth Amendment gave full voting rights to all citizens.

The Fourteenth Amendment also declared that people who participated in or gave support to those who were engaged in insurrection would not have the right to hold political office in the United States.  This section of the Amendment prevented everyone who supported the Confederacy during the Civil War from holding political office.

This meant that the four million former slaves who lived in the former Confederate states now had the right to vote and to hold political office.  The governments in the South after the Civil War were called the Reconstruction Governments. 

Those governments were the most democratic in the history of the United States and allowed many former slaves to learn how to read and write.  During slavery the law clearly prohibited slaves from learning to read.

Then, in 1877 the Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes made a deal where federal troops were withdrawn from the former Confederate states.  This deal took place at a time when terrorist organizations that would become the Ku Klux Klan were organizing to militarily defeat the Reconstruction governments.  After a number of years the Ku Klux Klan managed to take political control and used the Democratic Party as their front organization.

Moses and Welday Walker played baseball in the American Association because of the fact that the Reconstruction Governments existed and opposed racial discrimination.

When we read about this history, we oftentimes see how the Jim Crow Laws that denied Black people citizenship rights, had their beginnings with the Supreme Court decision of Plessey vs. Ferguson.  However, as we have seen, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution gave everyone born in the United States full citizenship rights. 

The facts are that the Supreme Court isn’t supposed to have the right to reverse the Constitution.  However, that is exactly what they did and the federal government did nothing to correct the Supreme Court’s error.  The reason for this inaction had to do with the fact that both political parties in this country gave full support to the segregationist policies of Jim Crow.

As result of these policies the government allowed for thousands of Black people to be lynched by racist mobs.  All of those lynchings were acts of murder and murder is supposed to be against the law in the United States. 

Since Black people were supposed to have full rights in this country, the federal government had an obligation to prosecute the people who murdered thousands of Black citizens.  When federal government officials refused to prosecute these murderers, they became accomplices to thousands of these murderers. 

The rise of the C.I.O.

During the depression of the 1930’s the capitalist economy of the United States fell apart.  Unemployment reached about 30%, banks closed their doors, and employers routinely cut wages.  The union movement at this time was very weak.  Unions had participated in about sixty years of strike action since 1877, and most of these strikes ended in defeat.

Then, in 1934 things began to change.  Three strikes managed to win broad solidarity and win union recognition.  These strikes sparked the rise of the Congress of Industrial Organizations and millions of workers became union members.  This unionization drive was cut short by the U.S. entry into the Second World War.     

The Militant Newspaper was one of the few papers that followed the struggle against racial discrimination during the Second World War.  The articles that documented these struggles are contained in the Pathfinder book Fighting Racism in World War II by C.L.R. James and others.

Jackie Robinson engaged in one of these acts of defiance when he was a lieutenant in the army stationed in Fort Hood, Texas in 1943.  Robinson refused to sit in the back of a bus and the authorities arrested him.  He was placed on trial in a military court and sat in chains as his trial proceeded.

In 1941 there was a strike organized by the United Auto Workers against the Ford Motor Company.  Henry Ford had pioneered the assembly line, but this innovation was useless without workers who would do the job.  Ford found it difficult to recruit workers who would do the arduous, dangerous, and monotonous work his assembly line required.  For this reason, Ford hired thousands of Black workers to toil in his plants.

At the time, Ford was the largest automotive producer.  In order for the UAW to become a national union it had to prove to Black workers that it would support their interests.  The UAW did this, won the Ford workers into its ranks, and their 1941 strike won union recognition.      

After the war, the United States government wanted the armed forces to remain in Asia in order to confront the new revolutionary government in China.  The soldiers in the military had other ideas and organized a movement to “Bring the Troops Home.”  This movement succeeded in forcing the government to abandon their militaristic plans in Asia for a while.

After the war, workers found that employers eliminated millions of jobs due to a decrease in armaments production.  The capitalists in this country had reaped enormous profits during the war, and also because the government attempted to enforce a no strike policy.

Facing this reality, millions of working people mobilized and carried out the largest strike wave in the history of this country.  All of the basic industries were shut down, and unions forced employers to grant major concessions. 

This strike wave took place at the same time as the labor movement in Europe advanced.  There were also colonial revolutions unfolding in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Algeria.    

Jackie Robinson

I believe it is useful to consider that all the above events took place before Jackie Robinson played baseball in the major leagues.  In the film 42 various characters mentioned that the times were changing in the United States.  The above events begin to explain why they were changing.

Certainly, in 1947 Jim Crow segregation continued to be the law of the land.  However, Chris Lamb in his book Blackout – The Untold Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training, gave some interesting information as to the racial climate in this country during those years.  According to a survey Lamb cited, 75% of the baseball fans interviewed at that time supported the idea of Blacks competing in the major leagues.  Lamb also sighted another survey showing how the majority of major league baseball players also supported the integration of the game.

According to Lamb, the way Jackie Robinson was portrayed in his first minor league game in the film 42 was distorted.  The film portrays Robinson as being booed by the majority of the fans.  Certainly Robinson expected those boos, especially since the game was being played in Daytona Beach, Florida.

However, when Robinson came up to bat the sellout crowd at the stadium responded in near silence.  Black spectators and a minority of the white fans broke this silence.  Robinson remembered the chants of some of those fans.  “Come on black boy!  You can make the grade”,  and “They’re giving you a chance—now come on and do something about it.” 

While today we would not speak in this language, these comments were in no way meant to be hostile to Robinson.  To the contrary, they spoke to the fact that these fans believed he had the potential to compete against any players in baseball.

Clearly there was an enormous amount of hatred hurled at Robinson during his career.  The problem was that while most of the fans supported the integration of baseball, few took on the racists who made life difficult for Robinson.

There was a scene in the film 42 where we saw the kind of action that did make a difference.  A Philadelphia manager repeatedly called Robinson the n-word while he was at bat.  One of his teammates came out of the dugout and face-to-face threatened this manager.  The manager showed everyone the coward that he was, and ended his racist tirade.  Had more people made this kind of stand, Jackie Robinson would have had an easier time in baseball.

The government’s refusal to act

We might consider that Robinson, as well as all Black people were supposed to have full constitutional rights according to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  Therefore, the “gentleman’s agreement” that barred Black people from the major leagues was always illegal. 

In the film 42 we see a police officer ordering Jackie Robinson to leave a game because his presence violated the Jim Crow laws.  The action of this officer was one of the thousands of violations of federal laws that the federal government refused to enforce.   

Branch Rickey

The one flaw to the film 42 was the portrayal of Branch Rickey who was the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Rickey made the then unconventional decision to break the “gentleman’s agreement” and hire a Black player to compete in the major leagues. 

However, in the film 42 Rickey gave one of his reasons for breaking the color line in baseball.  He stated that he was a “business man.”  In fact Rickey was about 66 years old when Robinson played his first major league game.  Before that, Rickey had gone along with the “gentleman’s agreement.”

Rickey reportedly paid players for the Dodgers less than any other owner in his day.  Jackie Robinson was a world-class player who became the Rookie of the Year in his first year in baseball.  Robinson also became Most Valuable Player.  During Robinson’s tenure with the Dodgers, they were always one of the top teams and in one year they won the World Series. 

In many of Robinson’s games fans packed the stadium to see the first Black player in the major leagues compete.  Understanding all of this, we can see why Rickey made an excellent business decision by recruiting Jackie Robinson.  In other words, Rickey had entirely different motivations from Robinson for breaking the color line.

Towards the end of the film 42, the character of Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford, gave another legitimate reason for why he recruited Robinson.  He said that when he saw Robinson in the major leagues, for the first time, he could be genuinely proud of the game.


Jackie Robinson wasn’t the best player in the Negro Leagues or the major leagues.  Yet, today is April 15, and on every April 15 every player in the major leagues wears Robinson’s number 42.  Clearly these players are honoring the contribution Robinson made on and off the field.  As was said in the film, Jackie Robinson helped to make baseball a game people can be proud of.

Today there continues to be systematic discrimination with respect to employment, housing, education, health care, and in the so-called justice system.  However, the discrimination Jackie Robinson endured was significantly worse than the discrimination we see today.  Yet, Robinson was one of many who defied the discrimination of those times and made a real contribution towards the struggle to achieve human dignity.

For these reasons he clearly deserves the honor and respect that people give his memory today.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Sixty-year war against the Korean people

Recently Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had this to say about Korean war games that 10,000 U.S. soldiers have participated in.  “We have security issues here that we have to protect.”  A basic question that might be asked to Hagel is: Who’s security are you talking about?

Today in the United States about one out of every six people do not have enough food to eat.  So, how are Korean war-games aiding in the security of the 50 million people in this country who would like nothing more than a decent meal?

How are these war games protecting the security of the Korean people, or the 28,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in southern Korea?  How are the U.S. submarines armed with hundreds of nuclear weapons that now surround Korea aiding to the security of anyone?   

In order to begin to understand the issues in the current conflict in Korea we need to take a brief look at history.
The history of Korea

Foreign powers have attempted to dominate Korea ever since the late 1500’s.  Korean independence movements struggled against invasions from Japan, China, and the United States.  In 1895 Japan forced China to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki that gave Japan political control of Taiwan and China gave up all claims to Korea. 

In the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902 Britain and the United States recognized Japanese hegemony in Korea in exchange for Japanese recognition of British and US interests in China.  In 1905 in the Taft-Katsura Memorandum the US recognized Japan’s interests in Korea in exchange for Japanese recognition of the US colonies in Hawaii and the Philippines.  The defeat of Russia by the Japanese in 1905 and the repression of Korean independence forces allowed Japan to take political control of Korea in 1910.   

Resistance to these invasions by foreign powers has been a part of the Korean identity.  After the United States Asiatic Squadron attacked Korea in 1871 the Korean King Taewon placed stone markers in several locations that read: “Western barbarians invade our land.  If we do not fight, we must then appease them.  To urge appeasement is to betray the nation.”

The Tonghak religion became popular in Korea and in many ways was similar to the Taiping movement in China.  The Tonghak called for and end to foreign intervention, including the expulsion of all foreigners; better treatment for peasants including equitable distribution of farmland, fair taxes, and cancellation of existing debts; and administrative reforms including the firing of corrupt officials.

The Japanese occupation

The Japanese occupation of Korea was similar to its occupation of China.  The occupation forces instituted horrendous repression while provoking a sustained resistance.  Political prisoners in Korea increased from 6,200 in 1910 to 140,000 in 1918.  The Japanese took control of 40 percent of Korean farmland and made life for the peasantry increasingly difficult.  The Korean industrial labor force increased from 385,000 workers in 1932 to 1.3 million workers in 1943. 

The Korean Communist Party was first organized in 1921 and by the 1930’s began to gain support in the worker, peasant, and student movements.  In 1923 strikes organized by women rubber workers led to the formation of the Korean Labor federation.  While wages declined by 50 percent from 1927-1935, the average number of working hours per day increased from twelve to sixteen.  These conditions led to a strike wave in 1929-1930 that coincided with the 1927 revolutionary movement in China.

One aspect of Japanese rule was the forcible recruitment of “comfort women” who were virtual sex slaves.  Many of these Korean women opposed Japanese occupation and were forced to have sex with as many as 30 to 40 men per day.

During the war against the Japanese, the Korean Communist Party organized the resistance movement in Korea and also fought against the Japanese in China.  After the war a new Korean government came to power and attempted to form a broad coalition.  However, this government only lasted a few days.  The United States government continued its imperialist drive in Asia and invaded southern Korea, placing Syngman Rhee in power.

The United States replaces Japan in Korea

Rhee had received several degrees in the United States, including a PhD from Princeton University.  He became President of Southern Korea largely because he was the most recognizable figure to the U.S. occupation forces.  Rhee’s hostility to the communist forces was similar to Chiang Kai-shek’s point of view in China. 

Because there was widespread support for a united Korea with a government that would prioritize the interests of the Korean people, there was significant opposition to Rhee’s policies.  In 1946 there were several uprisings of workers and farmers throughout southern Korea that opposed the austerity policies of the Rhee government. 

Rhee, with the aid of the US armed forces responded to this political climate by carrying out several massacres in an attempt to destroy any opposition to his rule.  He also made several provocative raids against the communist dominated North Korea.  Ultimately, he argued that the United States needed to use its atomic bomb to subdue China.

The North Korean government demanded elections to determine which government would rule all Korea.  Rhee declined this offer but staged his own rigged elections.*  Faced with a determined effort to prevent the formation of a united Korea and several military provocations from the south, the North Korean government responded to these provocations with a military effort to unite the nation on June 25, 1950.

Because there was little support for the repressive rule of Syngman Rhee in the south, the armies from the north had little problem in taking control of most of the nation in a very short period of time.  Only the city of Pusan in the south was able to hold out because of sustained US military support.

What the United States could not achieve on the battlefield, they attempted to achieve in the U.S. dominated United Nations.  The Truman Administration was more confident in the support they had in the United Nations than in the US Congress.  In fact, while the UN voted to send troops to invade Korea, the US congress never voted to declare the Korean conflict a war. 

The U.S. prevented the KPR (Korean People’s Republic) from addressing the U.N. and explain why they were taking military action to reunify their country.  The U.S. didn’t allow any discussion of the fact that the conflict in Korea was a civil war that did not affect other nations.*  The U.S. introduced resolutions calling for a UN sponsored army to invade Korea and to prevent the formation of the Korean People’s Republic.

We might consider that when the United States had its Civil War, Washington opposed any foreign involvement by Britain that would have supported the confederate forces.  This was just one more argument that was never presented in the discussion by the United Nations to invade Korea.

At this time the Peoples Republic of China was not recognized by the United Nations and therefore the largest nation in the world had no say in this so-called debate.  The government of the Soviet Union was supposed to be allied with the Korean communists and had the power to veto this proposal.  The Soviet Union failed to take this step and thereby aided in the UN invasion of Korea.

The argument of the United States was that the conflict in Korea was not a battle between different forces in Korea, but an example of Soviet expansionism.  In fact, while the Soviet Union gave military aid to the north, Joseph Stalin opposed the attempts by the KPR to unify the Korea.

The United Nations forces invaded Korea in the port city of Inchon on September 15, 1950 with 260 ships.  Faced with this tremendous military onslaught, the KPR forces retreated to the north.

At this point the new government in China that had recently taken power in the 1949 revolution became concerned.  They knew that the United States had consistently advanced imperialist policies with respect to China since the Opium Wars of the 1840’s.  They also understood that the Japanese had invaded China through Korea.  Chinese and Korean forces had already fought together against Japanese occupation.  Faced with this history, the Chinese government made it clear to the Truman Administration that if the US invaded North Korea, China would oppose that invasion.

However, General MacArthur and the Truman Administration felt that the US forces were invincible and that they had an opportunity weaken the Chinese revolutionary government.  The U.S. forces drove through northern Korea with very little opposition all the way to the Yaloo River which borders China.  Then, in late November the U.S. dominated forces were attacked by hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Korean troops.  The United States army proceeded to abandon an entire battalion of soldiers and make the longest military retreat in U.S. history.    

General Douglass MacArthur asked for authorization to use twenty-six atomic weapons to be used on cities that included Beijing and Vladivostok.  Faced with the defeat of US forces in the field, President Truman fired General MacArthur.  President Truman was ultimately fired by the US electorate and replaced by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

While the U.S. did not use atomic weapons, much of North Korea was destroyed due to bombing raids.  The naval bombardment of the northern city of Wonsan lasted for 861 days ending one minute before the cease fire on July 27, 1953. 

According to Jon Halliday and Bruce Cumings in their book, Korea, The Unknown War the following is the human death toll of the Korean War.  “More than 4 million people died, including some 2 million North Korean civilians, 500,000 North Korean soldiers, 1 million Chinese soldiers, 1 million South Korean civilians, 10,000 South Korean soldiers and 95,000 UN soldiers, of whom 54,000 were Americans. 

To place these figures in perspective, North Korea lost more then 20 percent of its prewar population.  That is a higher percentage than either the Soviet Union or Poland lost during the Second World War.  Japan suffered a total of 2 million civilian and military deaths during the Second World War, but that represented only 3 percent of its population.”   

After the Korean War the Soviet Union gave a significant amount of aid to the KPR.  In fact, for several years North Korea was significantly more developed than South Korea.  Because of this development the United States began to make significant investments in the south.  Many of the capitalists who emerged in the south were collaborators with the Japanese occupation forces.  These were the reasons why South Korea became the only underdeveloped nation in the world that became industrialized due to US economic aid.  However, working conditions in South Korea continue to be horrendous. 

Soviet investments in North Korea tapered off due to conflicts between the KPR and the Soviet Union.  One object of contention was the KPR’s stance that opposed the “peaceful coexistence” policies of the Soviet Union.  The KPR Premier Kim Il Sung argued that these policies had little meaning for Vietnam, China, and Korea and were in reality racist.  Another point of disagreement was the Soviet government’s growing hostility to China.  The KPR refused to criticize the nation that helped Korea defend itself against a US led invasion.

One of the arguments of the United States for going to war in Korea was that the KPR was just a satellite of the Soviet Union.  The real history of Korea indicates that the KPR played a clearly independent role of both the Soviet Union and China.  However, the south Korean government has rarely if ever broken from the foreign policy objectives of the United States.

The United States government has never signed a peace treaty with the North Korean government.  U.S. hostilities against that nation have continued for over half of a century.  

James P. Cannon’s letter to President Truman

When we look at this history we can understand why the late James P. Cannon, who was a leader of the Socialist Workers Party, wrote a letter to President Truman and the Congress in 1950 at the beginning of the Korean War.  Cannon served eighteen months in prison for the Socialist Workers Party’s opposition to the U.S. participation in the Second World War.  The following are excerpts from those letters:

“The Korean people have a mortal hatred of the Wall Street ‘liberator’.  They despise unto death the bestial, corrupt, U.S.-sponsored dictatorship that made South Korea a prison camp of misery, torture, and exploitation.”

“The right in this struggle is all on the side of the Korean people.  Like the colonial peoples everywhere in Asia, they want no part of U.S. or even U.N. ‘liberation’.  They want the American troops to get out of Korea.  They want freedom from all foreign domination.  They want to decide their own fate.”

This is the perspective that continues to be relevant today.  The cause of the problems on the Korean peninsula have always been imperialist domination by foreign powers.  Working people and farmers have nothing to gain from U.S. forces stationed in Korea or in the more than 800 U.S. military bases all over the world.

When I was active in the movement against Washington’s war in Vietnam, we had one simple demand.  That was for immediate, unconditional, and total withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Southeast Asia.  That demand was simplified with the words, Out Now!  When Washington as well as the press beat the war drums to escalate the hostilities against Korea, we need to have a clear answer.  That is to bring all the U.S. troops in and around Korea home now.