Saturday, 22 August 2015

Echoes Down The Centuries



By Dermot Hudson

PRESIDENT Kim Il Sung’s life spanned most of the 20th century and he led the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for nearly 50 years. He was giant of the international communist movement and also an international statesman of great renown. During his life he met Stalin. Mao Zedong, Ché Guevara, Tito, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Sukarno as well as western politicians including former US president Jimmy Carter.

Che and Kim Il Sung
This well written and lively book provides a fascinating set of memories of these meetings. They take on an additional significance in the year of the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule and the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
This short book is not only informative about the life of  great leader President Kim Il Sung but also is full of information about the international policy of the Workers’ Party of Korea, which provides some valuable insights into the WPK’s relationship with the international communist movement and the other socialist countries.
As is known to many, the Workers’ Party of Korea, led by Kim Il Sung, not only maintained a policy of independence but consistently upheld the unity of the international communist movement. Even when the differences in the socialist camp reached an extreme point near to open armed conflict Kim Il Sung made sure that the DPRK maintained relations with both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, meeting various Soviet leaders including Yuri Andropov as well as Mao Zedong and Zhou En Lai of People’s China.
with Mao Zedong
In 1975 Kim Il Sung met Mao Zedong for the last time as Mao died a year later. During the meeting Mao told the Korean communist leader that he hoped that Kim Il Sung would lead the international communist movement and world revolution after he passed away.
Although the DPRK maintained good relations with the USSR it maintained a position of independence and opposed the revisionist stance of the Soviet Union after 1956. This brought the DPRK into conflict with the revisionist Khruschov leadership as the DPRK was, as the book says, a strongly anti-imperialist, counter-revisionist nation with a staunch spirit of independence. The Soviet revisionists put all kinds of pressure on the DPRK and there were one or two open attacks on Democratic Korea in the Soviet media (though these were rare compared to those on China and Albania).
 One form of pressure was trying to push the DPRK into joining the Council For Mutual Economic Assistance, CMEA or Comecon as it was known in the west. The DPRK, believing in building an independent national economy under the banner of Juché and self-reliance, resisted this. Khrushchov not only urged the DPRK to join CMEA but even mobilised the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia to make the DPRK join CMEA. When this failed the Soviet leadership sent Yuri Andropov, who later became the leader of the USSR, to meet Kim Il Sung.
Syrian leader Hafez Al Assad in the DPRK
 Andropov used clever arguments for joining CMEA. President Kim Il Sung rebuttuted them all one by one. He also pointed out that a Soviet journalist had slandered the DPRK’s slogan of building an independent national economy and that this was bad manners. Andropov was forced to concede that it was and apologised.
 President Kim Il Sung put matters in the simplest form saying self-reliance means standing on your own feet. What’s wrong with our self-reliant stand?  Of course President Kim Il Sung was proved right by history.
Under the leadership of the Soviet revisionists the CMEA countries sank into stagnation and in the end the USSR collapsed and the CMEA countries were no more. It was a very wise decision of the DPRK not to join CMEA!
President Kim Il Sung met the great Latin American and Cuban revolutionary Major Ernesto Ché Guevara on the 2nd December 1960. He told Ché that the DPRK and Cuba were comrades in the same trench and that he could ask for anything. Ché was very impressed with the internationalism of President Kim Il Sung. He was to write later that the DPRK was the socialist country he most admired. The profound and lofty internationalism of President Kim Il Sung greatly inspired Ché who dedicated himself to liberating Latin America from imperialist oppression and died a heroic death in Bolivia. Later on President Kim Il Sung wrote a work on the occasion of the 1st anniversary of Ché’s death and the DPRK has a kindergarten named after Ché.
...and Marshal Tito
President Kim Il Sung was also the friend of Chilean Socialist leader Salvador Allende, whom he met in 1969. The following year Allende won the Chilean presidential election.
 Kim Il Sung later met a delegation from Allende’s Popular Unity coalition on the 23 February 1972 just 18 months before the Chilean coup. The book recounts how President Kim Il Sung advised the head of the Chilean delegation that the question of taking control of the army and police needed to be dealt with. Sadly, this advice was not heeded and on the 11th September 1973 General Pinochet mounted a fascist coup on behalf of the US and murdered Allende.
Finally one anecdote that caught my eye was the one about Madagascan President Didier Ratsirika asking about how to solve unemployment. President Kim Il Sung replied that the DPRK had wiped unemployment out by about 1946.
All in all a very good book that provides a lively account of the DPRK’s diplomatic relations and work to further the international communist and world revolutionary movement.

It is available online on the Naenara website or can be ordered through the Korean Friendship Association.

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