Kim Jong Il - Contributions to the struggle for socialism
By brother Eric Struch
The more a people’s leader is slandered, ridiculed and belittled by the racist capitalist press in this country, the more important it is to look beyond the propaganda to find out why the ruling class considers this leader and what he/she represents such a threat.
Media in the U.S., privately owned—like everything else—by our obscenely wealthy rulers, have presented a profoundly distorted picture of the socialist northern part of Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Il. Racism and personal attacks are the norm and the most outrageous lies are promoted as fact.
The truth is that Kim Jong Il, who is chairperson of the National Defense Commission, general secretary of the Korean Workers Party (WPK) and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), has had a prominent leadership role in the DPRK since the late 1970s.
Juche, the Korean philosophy of self-reliance, was originated by Kim Il Sung—founder of the WPK and the great leader of Korea’s revolution against colonialism and capitalism. Kim Jong Il has continued in the Juche tradition and added to it the policy of Songun, which puts the People’s Army at the center of Korean society. This is what allowed the DPRK to maintain its socialist system, defend the nation and pull through an extremely difficult period during the mid to late 1990s.
That period began with the counterrevolutionary overthrow of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe in 1989 and in the Soviet Union in 1991. This fell as a heavy blow on the DPRK, since nearly all its trade was with the socialist community of nations.
On July 8, 1994, the Korean people suffered the profound loss of Kim Il Sung. After a period of national mourning and before Kim Jong Il was even able to take the reins of power, Korea was hit by devastating record floods in 1995 and 1996 and then suffered years of drought, starting in 1997. This was absolutely catastrophic in a country where only 18 percent of the land is arable.
U.S. imperialism under Bill Clinton attempted to take advantage of the suffering of the Korean people during this difficult period by ratcheting up the military pressure of its more than 30,000 occupying troops in the south and threatening the DPRK with nuclear destruction.
In response, Kim Jong Il strengthened the military capability of the KPA and developed Songun to strengthen the nation ideologically. Rodong Sinmun, in its January 1999 New Year’s editorial, defined Songun as an ideology “in which the People’s Army serves as the main force of revolution and in which the unity of the army and the people helps to safeguard as well as build socialism.” The army not only defended the country against attack—a real threat for Korea, which has been mercilessly invaded in the past by both Japan and the U.S.—but worked alongside civilians on many development projects to repair the damage caused by the floods and drought. The U.S.-backed government in South Korea has outlawed Web sites that promote Songun.
In addition to Songun, the three other mainstays of Kim Jong Il’s politics have been an intransigent opposition to bureaucratic privilege, the development of Juche and moving the struggle for national reunification forward.
Kim Jong Il became known in the late 1960s for his opposition to the use of material incentives to increase production. His belief, which he shared with Ernesto “Che” Guevara, was that this broke down socialist solidarity among workers. In the early 1970s, after being elected to the Central Committee of the WPK, he was responsible for legislation mandating that higher-level bureaucrats spend 20 days a month at regular working-class jobs alongside other workers.
Songun politics rest on the foundation of the Juche idea. The three principles of Juche are independence in politics (chaju), self-sustenance in the economy (charip) and self-defense in national defense (chawi).
Kim Jong Il is responsible for the formulation of the Three Charters for National Reunification—independence, peaceful reunification and national unity. He has made concrete proposals to the South Korean government for a unified democratic federal republic. All this led to the historic breakthrough of the June 2000 inter-Korean summit meeting. The result of the summit was a milestone in the long struggle for reunification: the adoption of the June 15th Joint Declaration. The DPRK saw this as “freeing north-south relations from the long-standing concept of confrontation and turning them into one of reconciliation and cooperation.” It was followed in 2007 by the October 4th Declaration, which reaffirmed the goals of the June 2000 agreement.
Last fall, however, the election of ultrarightist Lee Myung Bak in the U.S.-occupied south was a major setback to the momentum established by the two previous joint declarations. One of the main goals of the DPRK today is to move reunification forward.
Kim Jong Il’s birthday is on Feb. 16. Considering that he has led the KPA and the WPK through the country’s darkest days in the 1990s and preserved socialism, is it any wonder that it will be celebrated all over Korea?