Saturday, October 07, 2006

The left and nuclear North Korea

We all know what happens to countries the US suspects of possessing weapons of mass destruction, whether they actually have WMDs or not. So Washington’s reaction to the news that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – as endorsed by Southall Respect – is to conduct nuclear weapons tests is pretty predictable.

The New York Times reports a speech by Christopher R. Hill, George Bush’s assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs:

‘"We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea, we are not going to accept it," he said.

‘Mr. Hill did not suggest what the American response would be and gave no hint of an economic or military response. But he said of North Korea: "It can have a future or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both."’

The phraseology of the statement is deliberately ambiguous, but is at least open to the reading that the North Korea will be destroyed if deemed necessary, perhaps by a nuclear first strike.

Of course, the CIA in 2003 made public its assessment that North Korea has already ‘produced one or two simple fission-type nuclear weapons and has validated the designs without conducting yield-producing nuclear tests’. So even if North Korea actually tests that its kit works, nothing fundamental will have changed.

It’s possible, too, that North Korea does not have nuclear weapons. The CIA has its own motives for talking such threats up, and Pyongyang has its own motives for bluffing. No-one outside North Korea knows for sure.

Socialists should start from a clear position of opposition to any state possessing nuclear weapons. That much of the left – and not just the Stalinist left – has not historically done so is much to its discredit.

And any sane person, irrespective of their place on the political spectrum, will be horrified at the thought of Team Kim Jong-Il getting its mitts on this kind of hardware.

It is true that the US deliberately demonises his regime by pejoratively labeling it as rogue state. But let’s just say that, in this case, the US is probably not far wrong.

Yet I don’t doubt that some particularly deranged Trot sect somewhere will justify the North Korean ‘workers’ bomb’ on the grounds that post-capitalist property relationships prevail in that country. Oh, and they are anti-imperialists, too. What’s not to like?

Let’s think this one through. Japan – which would be within range of North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, if only they worked properly – would certainly respond to North Korean nuclear weapons by building nuclear weapons of its own. That will exacerbate tensions with China, further destabilising the region.

The menu of choices on offer is made up entirely of dishes not to the taste of the democratic left. But the rapid reunification of Korea – yes, on the basis of capitalism – may well be about the least worst of them.

There is nothing remotely historically progressive about North Korea. It doesn't allow the working class the smallest democratic freedoms. It certainly doesn't demonstrate the superiority of the planned economy over the free market. In other words, it has no justification from any rational Marxist standpoint.

This is one deformed workers’ state the workers of the world - not to mention the workers of North Korea itself - would be better off without.


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