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Left Archive: Ireland and the Socialist Countries, taken from a speech by Sean Garland in 1986, Workers’ Party August 9, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Workers' Party.
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This document, Ireland and the Socialist Countries, taken from a speech by Sean Garland in 1986, presents an uncompromising picture of Workers’ Party support for the Soviet bloc. It argues that:

Ireland does not exist and as we well know, cannot exist in isolation from the struggle of the two socio-economic systems, Capitalism and Socialism, in the world today. Irealnd falls within the field of gravitation of these systems with each one having its own specific influence. Up to very recently and in most areas of Irish society still, it has been the conservative, reactionary forces that have directed and aligned Ireland on the side of capitalism.

From there the text suggests that post-war foreign policy in the west was shaped to ‘bleed the Soviet economy dry, to force the Soviet Union to devote valuable and scarce resources to defence’. It argues that the Soviet Union and ‘socialist’ countries were sincere in peace and references proposals by them for disarmament.

But it argues that ‘there can be no neutrals’ in a conflict between Capitalism and Socialism. And it explicitly identifies with ‘National Liberation Struggles’ and posits that without Soviet influence and assistance many would have failed.

Under the heading ‘The Central Question’ it proposes that…

… it is clear that when we talk about Ireland and the socialist countries and our attitude to them we are in fact talking about a good deal more. We are talking about our attitude to the entire revolutionary scene in the world. For us there can be no middle ground in the struggle to abolish capitalism and achieve socialism. It is, and I repeat, essential for us who are living under capitalism that we look beyond what the media in our society report about socialism and the socialist countries.

And goes further, while diverting into an attack on ‘the Trotsky tradition’, and argues for a complete identification with the Socialist Countries.

As a summation of the WP point of view at this time it is useful, however it is striking how relatively late in the day it is. Consider that in the Soviet Union the first measures implemented under Perestroika and Glasnost were coming to the fore. Consider too that the WP although clearly sympathetic to Soviet style Marxism still remained somewhat distinct from it. And it is worth noting that within a few short months disarmament talks would, largely, succeed.

Comments»

1. Jim Monaghan - August 10, 2010

At least this was the official line. I remember McGiolla praising Dubchek when the wall fell. A bit late in the day.
I found CP people esp. in the unions were far more sympa when it came to democracy in the easterrn bloc. Like all converts the WP were worse thyanm the official franchise.Reading this tripe people should see how some feel it is rank hyprocrisy when the Garland case is dressed up as the worst example of McCarthyism.Wouiold Garland have ever signed a petition on behalf of Dubchek?

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2. Garibaldy - August 10, 2010

I thought this was a fairly sensible analysis of the realities of power politics and the options open to progressives when dealing with as vicious and ruthless an enemy as imperialism. And in all honesty, I fail to see how it affects the justice or otherwise of Seán’s case against extradition.

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Mark P - August 10, 2010

Yes, of course you think that. You’re a Stalinist.

And no Garland would not have signed a petition in favour of any of the victims of Stalinism, which in turn does not effect the justice of his case against extradition.

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3. WorldbyStorm - August 10, 2010

I think that at the membership level there were a variety of views about the USSR and the relationship of the party to it. Certainly there was considerable sympathy towards the USSR, but that wasn’t unlimited sympathy. And if we look at the Archive just a year or two later we can see that WP publications were carrying pieces that were certainly embracing change inside the USSR, now one could be cynical and say ‘well, they would, wouldn’t they?’ but I don’t think that that was insincere.

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Mark P - August 10, 2010

“Well they would, wouldn’t they?” is a pretty accurate way of describing the change. The shit being pumped out by Moscow changed, so the shit being pumped out by the local sewage plant changed.

And let’s be clear, the WP are still churning out annual congratulation to the God Emperor of North Korea on the anniversary of his taking the throne. That should tell you how sincere and deeply rooted all the Perestroika stuff was – they churned it out when that was what the Stalinist regimes were talking about, they moved back away from it when most of those regimes collapsed.

I realise, of course, that much of your concern on this issue WbS is to point out that most rank and file members of the Workers Party, back when it had a not inconsiderable rank and file, weren’t primarily attracted to the WP by its Stalinism and some of them were more critical of the USSR etc in private conversation. That’s fair enough, but it doesn’t change what the overall approach of the WP was and is – a reprehensible sucking up to Stalinist dictatorships.

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WorldbyStorm - August 10, 2010

Given that you yourself have argued that the WP then was a hybrid between a revolutionary party and (IIRC) a sort of left social democratic party I think we can safely assume that it wasn’t a classic Stalinist party.

Terming Glasnost/Perestroika to be ‘shit’ is a value judgement. I think they represented at least some attempt to shift the pre-existing structures onto a better, frankly more socialist, foundation. That the WP was willing to engage with that I think is to its credit.

None of which is to disagree that there were strongly ‘orthodox’ currents and strands within the party, but to see them as characterising the party above and beyond all else seems to me to be somewhat far from the truth.

As regards the support for North Korea, I’ve stated many times that I consider that to be something I would disagree with. But I think the position in the 1980s and in some areas today was different, and certainly wouldn’t be something as simple as ‘sucking up’.

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Mark P - August 10, 2010

I think that describing the chatter of the Soviet bureaucracy as “shit”, whether in its high Stalinist or decline and fall phases, is perfectly reasonable. More to the point, groups like the Communist Parties and the WP would and did pump out the shit regardless of its content. If the Moscow line changed, their line changed. Independent thought had little or nothing to do with it. I don’t think that there’s anything particularly admirable about the WP “embracing” the latest turn coming out of Moscow – they’d have embraced it regardless of what it was.

The fawning on the North Korean God Emperor is not some recent abberation. It is of a piece with the WP’s official fawning on the Stalinist regimes throughout its history. The difference isn’t that the WP has got crazier or more unpleasantly Stalinist, it’s that there are fewer Stalinist regimes for it to spread its love amongst. If North Korea was to start talking Glasnost and Perestroika tomorrow, the WP would welcome it. If on the other hand, it stays as it is now, the WP will be fine with that too. Such is the nature of Stalinism – in its out of power form, it is almost always permeated by a deep, almost masochistic, fawning on those Stalinist regimes which actually do exercise power, or at least some subset of those regimes.

I think, by the way, that you are garbling my remarks about the WP and social democracy. The point I was making was that most Moscow-line Stalinist Parties (of which the WP was a not particularly unusual example in this regard) tended to veer heavily towards social democracy in their domestic appeal while simultaneously holding to their fetishes for “discipline” and their habit of sucking up to the bureaucracies in power. The difference between Eurocommunists and what you call above the “orthodox” in Western European CPs was mostly in the degree to which their social democratic reformism was openly embraced.

Of course the Eurocommunists generally made very bad social democratic reformists. For most of them it served more as an exit route from Stalinism en route to neoliberalism than a permanent home. They left almost nothing behind them, institutionally or ideologically.

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WorldbyStorm - August 10, 2010

Well, obviously I disagree about characterising it as ‘shit’. At the end of the day if the best we can do in discussing the structures of socialist tinged/infused/whatever term you seek to choose to describe these regimes is that reductionist we’re not talking seriously about their nature, their evolution, their decline or their ultimate failure or indeed any of the other matters that you’re quick to raise but equally quick to dismiss.

I come at this as someone on the left who while acknowledging some achievements considers the Soviet experiment to have been largely a failure – not least because it ultimately collapsed and not simply as a result of external pressure. But to understand that, what it represents, etc goes way beyond quick fire verbal formulations that frankly add nothing and only serve to antagonise a useful engagement on these topics.

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4. Garibaldy - August 10, 2010

Yes, big support for perestroika and glasnost. And rightly so. And I agree, genuinely so.

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5. Garibaldy - August 10, 2010

I would say right on cue Mark, but you’re a little late as I was expecting this yesterday. I did, however, win a bet that you would trot out that nonsensical line about the God Emperor again.

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Budapestkick - August 10, 2010

There’s nothing non-sensical about it. The Workers Party, who can be admired in some respects, does maintain fraternal relations with one of the most reprehensible dictatorships in the world. Whether that’s sucking up or something less disgusting doesn’t change that fact and frankly I’m surprised to see it dismissed so casually.

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Mark P - August 10, 2010

Why would you be surprised?

Garibaldy is an activist in a Stalinist party. He genuinely doesn’t understand the problem with his organisation sucking up to Stalinist dictatorships, except in so far as it may create public relations difficulties. Therefore, his main response to the issue being mentioned is to downplay it and seek to weasel out of serious discussion of it. That doesn’t indicate that he has any problems with his party fellating Kim Jong-il, just that he recognises that the general public may not appreciate the flavour.

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Garibaldy - August 10, 2010

I’m perfectly happy to engage in serious discussion of the issue and have done so here and elsewhere previously. But when I read about birthday greetings being sent to god emperors or the fellating of people, I don’t recognise it as having any relation to the reality of the WP’s attitude to the Korean pensinsula. It is quite literally nonsense, not to mention peurile.

Briefly, my own position is this. The Korean peninsula is on the front line of the struggle against imperialism. The US keeps something like 10% of its nuclear arsenal in and around the peninsula. It tried to hamper food relief efforts by attaching political conditions to them in the 1990s, contributing to mass starvation. I have no problem with opposing the efforts of imperialism in the Korean peninsula. I also believe in a peaceful, united, and socialist Korea. So I support the efforts of those seeking to bring that about.

I also have no problem saying that the media coverage we get of Korea is so biased and filled with lies that I regard the overwhelming majority of it as utterly worthless.

I also find it strange how people who are happy to support Cuba’s efforts against imperialism adopt a completely different attitude given the much harsher approach taken in relation to Korea.

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WorldbyStorm - August 10, 2010

I disagree with Garibaldy on this issue, I think that media reporting couldn’t possibly occlude the nature of the NK regime.

But I’m certainly not dismissing it casually and haven’t done so in the past.

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Mark P - August 10, 2010

Garibadly,

You don’t recognise the talk of “God Emperors” when it comes to North Korea? A state with an absolute and hereditary dictatorship? Where the deceased father of the current monarch is the legal head of a state? Where the state news agency regularly reports on mysterious weather events caused by the leader’s movements?

Really? You don’t recognise any of that? Let me suggest that you know very well what is being referenced and are being entirely disingenuous.

Similarly, you quote one of the WP’s fawning resolutions, sending greetings to the Kim Jong-il dictatorship and someone else quoted another one. Both are vile expressions of solidarity with an incredibly vile regime and “salute” the ruling party’s “struggle for socialism”. As you are well aware, that’s what the “fellating” remark was a reference to. Do you recognise it now?

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Mark P - August 10, 2010

Sorry about the tardiness, Garibaldy, but I wanted to see what vile stupidities this topic would provoke in you while left to your own devices. It was a sort of experiment. Unfortunately Jim contaminated the sample by exposing it prematurely to light.

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Budapestkick - August 10, 2010

You’re ignoring two things. The first is that Cuba, while very far from perfect, is considerably less authoritarian and brutal than North Korea, though the correct position to take on Cuba, as on North Korea, is to oppose both imperialism and the dictatorship and support a political revolution for a democratic socialist state.

‘I also believe in a peaceful, united, and socialist Korea. So I support the efforts of those seeking to bring that about. ‘
I fail to see any connection between support for Kim and those goals.

Also, the imperialism argument is bogus. It is possible to oppose imperialism in the peninsula and not support the NK regime in the same way that the anti-war movement opposed American imperialism in Iraq without supporting Hussein or the Ba’ath party.

Again, you’re using Mark’s somewhat impassioned language to avoid the issue, which is support for the the Jute monarchy, as exemplified by the WP Ard Fheis:

‘This Ard Fheis salutes the continuing struggle of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Korean people for national independence, sovereignty and socialism. The Ard Fheis condemns the continuing campaign of aggression against the DPRK, congratulates the DPRK on the 76th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army which has defended the Korean people against Japanese and US imperialism and supports the call of the DPRK for the reunification of the country and peace on the Korean peninsula. ‘

Even the fact that you claim the DPRK are struggling for socialism really raises my hackles.

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6. Bartley - August 10, 2010

Garibaldy,

So the US contributed to the mass starvation in North Korea, did it?

Same way as the Portuguese soccer team contributed to the North Korean players and coach being hauled before a farcical show trial for betraying the workers ideological struggle?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/30/north-korea-footballers-public-mauling

Bad, bad, Cristiano Ronaldo! If he hadnt scored that funny goal, the Dear Leader wouldnt have been forced to send the soccer coach for a dose of re-education through hard labour.

And if all those past capitalist regimes hadnt invented currency devaluation, why the revolutionary vanguard probably wouldnt have thought of wiping out the meagre savings of a nation with the stroke of a pen.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/north-koreans-dare-to-protest-as-devaluation-wipes-out-savings-1833156.html

All worthless media-invented lies, no doubt. The soccer team were in fact met off the plane with hugs and flowers, while the Won devaluation only hurt bourgeois profiteering.

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DublinDilettante - August 10, 2010

Bartley, I’m not on Garibaldy’s side with regard to the DPRK, but even you couldn’t have picked a worse example to contest his argument than that Guardian article about the football team. Not only does it consist entirely (and literally, in this case) of Chinese whispers and partisan editorialising, but from my modest knowledge of goings-on in North Korean football, I would be 99% confident that it’s all utter bullshit.

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Doloras LaPicho - August 11, 2010

Not that I doubt that the DPRK football team will have gotten some static on their way home, but Jesus wept, “Radio Free Asia” is NOT a reliable source.

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7. Jim Monaghan - August 10, 2010

I am a somewhat orthodox Trotskyist (Workers states and all that) but can I indulge in a bit of heresy. Given a choice of living in South Korea instead of North Korea, give me the South any time.And I would guess that most members of WP then and now would probably have got into trouble in North Korea as the habit of thinking for themselves had not been totally irradicated.A county where the dead father of the current dictator is the legal head of state. While it is correct to oppose war and Imperialism using the awfulness of North Korea for its global interests I think a bit of rationalism is called for.No wonder that during the Hitler/Stalin pact the Russians began to make polite noise about the Nazis.
While it is not the same I while opposing NATO in Afghanistan see no need to become a fan of the Taliban.
The enemny of mine enemny is not necessarily my friend.
Most people here would describe themselves as Marxists. This should mean an ability to think and not just parrot the party line. It is supposed to be rationalism not religion.
I appreciate that someone as obviously stupid as say De Rossa probably believed in the Potemkin villages he was shown on his junkets to North Korea but Garibaldi, you are someone with a bit of sense.

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Garibaldy - August 10, 2010

Jim,

Thanks for damning me with faint praise 😉

I would like to think I’ve thought about this situation for myself, and come to the conclusions I’ve outlined above. Not least because the Koreans have a track record of supporting people elsewhere. And not least because in all the axis fo evil kerfuffle, it is too often ignored that they have been seeking a peace treaty and nuclear-free peninsula, with the weapons programme being a response to continued aggression from elsewhere.

As for the media, and the way the DPRK is discussed. Here is the opinion of WHO on its medical care, compared to that offered by Amnesty.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-10665964

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andy newman - August 27, 2010

“Given a choice of living in South Korea instead of North Korea, give me the South any time.”

Any time?

Remember that prior to 1987, South Korea was also a harsh military dictatorship where socialists like ourselves would have ben in danger of imprisonment, torture, etc.

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8. Garibaldy - August 10, 2010

Budapestkick,

We’ll have to agree to disagree about what the WPK hopes to achieve.

Here is the text from this year’s Ard Fheis, as part of a subsection on Asia in the international section.

“The most important centre of imperialist military activity in Asia remains the Korean peninsula, despite the war in Afghanistan. A large proportion of the US nuclear arsenal and US conventional forces are based in and around Korea. The US military and the forces of the government based in Seoul continue to adopt an aggressive and provocative stance towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Nevertheless, the desire of the DPRK to bring about a guaranteed peace on the peninsula and the election of President Obama has breathed new life into the multi-party talks. The talks have the potential to secure a peaceful and non-nuclear Korean peninsula, but their success depends upon an end to the imperialist aggression displayed against the DPRK. The US government must sign a treaty of non-aggression, and must provide the civilian nuclear reactors agreed under previous deals. The Workers’ Party salutes the determination and resilience of the people of the DPRK to preserve and improve their socialist system. The Workers’ Party extends solidarity to the Workers’ Party of Korea and the people of the DPRK in their struggle to build a peaceful, re-unified, sovereign, prosperous and socialist Korea.”

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Mark P - August 10, 2010

The neocons and the Workers Party are perhaps the only people on Earth who think that Kim Jong-il and the WPK are trying to “build a socialist Korea”. We are talking here about a bureaucratic dictatorship, headed by a hereditary monarchy, presiding over a police state.

It is typical of Garibaldy when it comes to the Stalinist states to try to elide the differences between opposing imperalist invasion of a place like North Korea and sucking up to the North Korean dictatorship. It is perfectly possible, indeed it is actually mandatory if you a socialist, to oppose an invasion of North Korea without giving any support whatsoever to the KJ-i dictatorship. Just as it was perfectly possible to oppose the invastions of Iraq and Afghanistan without expressing solidarity with the heroic struggle of Saddam or the Taliban.

Nobody here is criticising the Workers Party for opposing a Western military invastion of the remaining Stalinist dictatorships. We are criticising them for sucking up to those dictatorships, for portraying them as allies in the struggle for socialism. It’s stomach churning shit, particularly when you consider the long history of Communist Parties around the world sucking up to the Soviet Bloc.

The document which started this discussion is an expression of foul, even monstrous, Stalinism. The Workers Party still takes the same vile approach today, although they don’t even have the cretinous real-politic excuses Garland originally advanced. It isn’t as if North Korea is going to be in a position to respond positively to begging letters from the WP any time soon.

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9. WorldbyStorm - August 10, 2010

BTW, I should add that to my point above on the #3 thread that I don’t find the attacks on Trotskyists in the document helpful either.

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10. Jim Monaghan - August 10, 2010

I am sorry Garabaldi. Kim, son and deceased father, are/were dangerous lunatics. This does not make me want to sing the praises of Bomber Obama, but is still a fact.What they have done to their own people is a disgrace and is not totally the responsibility of the USA. Look at Vietnam and China, both are not exactly the flavour of the mont with the USA but the condition of their people is much, much better.Cuba, in spite of the blockade is much better.
The first responsibility of any regime is to feed its people. Elsewhere Dublin Opinion criticises the Free State gov. for allowing some of our people to starve. While it and its successors could/did blame Imperialism, they, also, had some responsibility.
Any statistics I have read show that the general condition of people in North Korea is much worse than in the South.
I am reminded of those who condemend the Ballymun flats as a disgrace who when they crossed toi the east praised even worse.
I am sceptical that the USA while bogged down in Iraq, Afghanisatn and with garrisons scattered across the world, allies who want to pull out everywhere, conscription impossible is looking for a new combat zone. The USA is over extended. Maybe if the tea party continues its rise, we will see trouble ahead in more places, but not just yet.

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11. neilcaff - August 10, 2010

Agree with Jim here re the US being overextended.

What ever else might be said about the DPRK regime and society the army is no push over. The US took a hell of a beating even in the initial stages of the invasion of Korea, before the Chinese intervention, when it was at the zenith of it’s political and military power. In it’s era of decline the chances of a land invasion by US soldiers is close to zero.

More importantly under no circumstances would China ever tolerate aggresive military action by the US of any sort against North Korea. The US has no serious intention of bringing about regime change or the restoration of capitalism in North Korea through military means. As far as the US bourgeois is concerned that battle is finished. The inheritors of Stalin did that job for them in the land of October without a shot being fired.

The conflict in Korea since the collapse of Stalinism has served two purposes for the US. Firstly as a convenient excuse to station thousands of troops and weapons in South Korea and Japan and secondly as a proxy conflict with China. However this is not some sort of ideological struggle between Capitalism and Socialism or even primarily a conflict between an imperialist capitalist state and a degenerated workers state whose out come will determine whether a planned economy will continue in China or not. Instead this is a conflict between a declining global super power and a newly assertive China whose development towards the full restoration of capitalism is matched by it’s increasing ambitions to be the dominant power in the region.

Naturally socialists oppose great power rivalry as well as small countries, what ever the nature of their regimes, being used as pawns in such a conflict. The cruel blockade of North Korea, which has little impact on the bloated elite but is devastating to ordinary North Koreans should end. US troops should be withdrawn from South Korea. This will only come about from pressure from working people in Korea and internationally. Indeed we had an glimpse of this during the Presidencies of Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Moo-hyun. Both of these figures were elected on the back of widespread workers struggles and embodied a rejection of traditional pro-American big business policies by Korean people, although they were both to prove a disappointment in terms of bringing about radical change. Nevertheless they did pursue a more open policy towards North Korea in the form of the “Sunshine Policy”. In order to force US imperialism out of the Korean peninsula it would take a world wide campaign of solidarity with the Korean people’s to do so. One massive stumbling block in the way of that process is the existence of the execrable regime of Kim Jong-il and the Workers Party of Korea. The continuing fact of the dictatorship was one of the main reasons the Sunshine Policy became discredited and the hard right in South Korea re-gained power.

In that sense the regime of Kim Jong-il and the Workers Party bureaucracy is one of the firmest guarantees that the US will be able to maintain its presence on the Korean peninsula and get away with its cruel blockade.

Any intelligent campaign of solidarity with the people of Korea must have as it’s starting point total opposition to US imperialism, Chinese interference AND the dictatorship of the Korean Workers Party.

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12. Colm B - August 10, 2010

At its core this is a really straightforward issue: a regime which has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of its citizens through famine, which maintains one of the most rigid authoritarian regimes in the worlds history, which exploits the labour of workers/peasants in the most brutal way, which is so rigidly hierarchical that it makes post-stalin USSR look like a particpatory democracy, which is ruled at a whim by a priceling who inherited his throne from his father, which distorts the history of the regime so that it bears little relationship to what really happened etc. etc. is deemed to be ‘socialist’. If you think that this is socialism then the word has two entirely different meanings: if a word can mean workers control and workers comletely without control, if the word can mean total democracy and total autocracy then we are just not talking about the same thing, in fact we have nothing in common, we are on opposite sides of the fence.
So its not about an esoteric discussion about a far-away place: its about what we mean by socialism. For all the profound disagreements I would have with Mark P and Trotskyists or the left-reformist politics of many CL contributors I see us as being on the same side in the struggle between working people and their enemies, even if we probably see our mutual positions as mistaken. But if you see NK as socialist you are on the side of those who visoiusly oppress and exploit workers. And I say this as someone who for a brief period during my membership of the WP, strongly advocatd and indeed belived in this preposterous anti-worker position. I know this might sound a bit extreme but Ive had the dubious benefit of briefly visiting the ‘workers paradise’ of NK and there are few places on earth where the prospect of socialism is more distant, where the position of the working class is more wretched.

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13. WorldbyStorm - August 10, 2010

There are many problems with NK for anyone who believes themselves to be Marxists. Not least, I see reported, the fact that they’ve deleted all mention to Communism or M-L from their Constitution.

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neilcaff - August 10, 2010

Yes I believe the guiding ideology is now “Kim Il-Sung Thought” based on the ideas of juche (“self-reliance”, which is a sick joke given NK exists on Chinese hand outs and the elite enjoy the finest of western luxeries) and songun (“military first”, no joke what so ever)

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Doloras LaPicho - August 11, 2010

I have read that the works of Marx and Lenin are now actually banned literature in the DPRK.

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neilcaff - August 11, 2010

I’d be very surprised if that was the case. Recent visitors to Pyongyang report you can still see giant edifices of Marx, Engels and Lenin alongside the Holy Family.

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Doloras LaPicho - August 12, 2010

Wikipedia entry on Juche says “the writings of classical Marxism are generally forbidden for lay readers in North Korea”, but that might not be any more reliable than Radio Free Asia.

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WorldbyStorm - August 12, 2010

That’s a fair point, although the overall thrust of the regime is fairly clear to see.

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14. yourcousin - August 11, 2010

I was wondering why this piece hadn’t taken off. One of the things I find off putting about the WP is its insistence upon ideological purity at home (in regards to the North) and it’s extemely cynical real politik when dealing in international affairs abroad. The veneer of social revolution aside I have yet to be convinced that the back room dealings with the USSR and NK didn’t play a role in how the WP leadership dealt with elements of the cold war.

I find it extemely disturbing to hear the “us and them” rhetoric. I am extremely anti-capitalist, but would never in a million years consider myself to a socialist, let alone a Marxist. I rejected Bush’s us and them post 9/11 and the same dichotomy (albeit 20+ years later) should be rejected within this piece. We all know that there are multiple examples of anti-revolutionary/anti-national liberation struggle actions by the USSR and assorted allies.

I also think that very few folks who post on here would like to live under any of those systems. That’s not meant to be a love it or leave it argument, but rather a point about moving away from the purely hypotheitcal/ideological point about whether we would like ourselves or our loved ones to live under any of the said regimes. Having easily half of my family live under Soviet rule I can safely say that it was no picnic. And as a side it hasn’t been a picnic since “liberation” by “free markets and free elections” either.

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WorldbyStorm - August 11, 2010

I think that’s a core thing. Would we, us, here, live under that system. I doubt any of us would, however far to the left or centre we pitch ourselves. And then the corollary of that is if we wouldn’t why on earth would we want others to?

I don’t mean that in a glib, ‘ignore the history’ way, but if one thinks about it it is pretty fundamental.

I know a Romanian who has a similar outlook to that of your family.

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fergal - August 11, 2010

WbS,I think you’ve touched on a really important political issue which is essentially wishing for yourself what you would wish other people to have.It links in to Jim’s comments on certain people glorifying tower blocks abroad and criticising local examples.For some people on the Left council housing,public healthcare,transport that calls itself public,state schools are always for other people and rarely if ever for them.
The failures of Eastern Europe have sullied socialism and continue to do so.

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WorldbyStorm - August 11, 2010

That’s a real problem. The disconnect between say the British Labour Party and their constituents was enormous. And yet, for all their imperfection what of this…

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7133943.ece

Another issue is what precisely is going on in Marxist Leninism when we wind up having family concerns kicking into action?

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Garibaldy - August 11, 2010

Good thing no-one is advocating mimicking the former socialist states then.

I spent part of last night watching a documentary about Stalingrad, and then another one about the Battle of Kursk. (Scary to think that the damage done to Stalingrad doesn’t match that done to Pongyang during the Korean War.) There are many things achieved by the former socialist states that we should be grateful for and admire.

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WorldbyStorm - August 11, 2010

No dispute there. There were solid achievements. Also some clear lessons that will assist in the next round of building socialism.

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yourcousin - August 12, 2010

G,
Forget mimicking, supporting an empire that did what the USSR did and NK continue to do is a crime in and of itself. This is not the critical support, but saying it is “us” or “them”. That is what is interesting about this document is that multiple decades after the mistakes were made there is still unwavering, vocal, bi-lateral world view. This for me is quite damning as many good folks/unions/campaigns suffered from red baiting here in the states. So to hear someone proclaim the same argument from the other side, is even more disgusting.

Forget Stalingrad, forget Kursk. Remember the Warsaw ghetto, remember the partition of Poland. Remember the Russian rape of Eastern Europe during their “liberation”. To quote a great line about being grateful, “what’s this ‘we’ shit, kemosabe?”. From a historical, personal, philosophical poin of view I find little to admire or be grateful about in terms of Hitler or Stalin. It is only a shame that Eastern Europe and Russia had to pay for the delusions of two maniacs.

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Garibaldy - August 12, 2010

Another way of looking at it might be that the mistakes happened decades ago, and didn’t reflect the reality of the situation in the Soviet Union or eastern Europe any more. As for the world view. The reality at the time was that there were two hostile poles. One was the pole of imperialism. One of the pole of trying to build socialism, for all its faults. More often than not, one had to choose one side or the other, particularly when faced with fascism, or movements not that far away from it.

I certainly won’t ever be convinced that the negative aspects of the USSR’s actions during the era of WWII outweigh the positives.

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yourcousin - August 12, 2010

G,
The reality at the time as it is today is that we live in a multi-lateral world where those who tell you it is only black or white and only us or them are selling you a load of bullshit. That concept is designed solely to keep people form digging deeper and looking beyond a veneer. Seriously, please explain how the Russians occupying Eastern Europe through force of arms against the wishes of the populace is not Imperialism?

The point is G that the likes of the WP and the USSR never actually admitted that the things they did wrong were a mistake, let alone wrong in a moral sense. The things that happened were wrong, not in a tactical/strategic sense, but very much in a ethical/moral sense. It goes beyond local or isolated acts which can be contributed to context or a “few bad apples”. That is the point. You cite a Soviet soldier’s sacrifice in Stalingrad as exemplary and yet fail to see how sending the comrade next to him to the Gulag for ten years for privately criticizing Stalin as less worthy of moral judgement. How about the mulitude of Russian soldiers machine gunned by their side, or sent as suicide waves? Is this part of the glorious cause for humanity as well? I do not mean to belittle those sacrifices but do you think that those who undertook those tasks were all fanatics? Those were thinking, feeling, human beings who were murdered by their own government.

I mean we can come back to the whole Hitler built highways argument. If taken out of an ethical context one could easily dismiss the concentration camps and death camps (two different if overlapping entities) by pointing to the “achievements” of facism. It is not only the ideological repercussions (spelling) of facism which revolt me, but it’s human consequences.

The golden rule has stood as a universal rule because it strikes a very basic cord. I would like to think that in the new world that we all are attempting to build (in our own ways) is a reflection of the kind of world we ourselves want to live in. I know this may come across as simplistic, but what can I say? I’ve never been able to feed my family on ideology and so haven’t bothered.

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yourcousin - August 14, 2010

You know G, at some point in the future I’ll return to Ireland. I’ll most likely email before hand and see if you want to grab a pint. No doubt the perpetual debate which we engage in will come up and then there will not be the option to simply ignore it. You may say the same thing but sometime, somewhere, I’ll get an answer from you yet.

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Garibaldy - August 14, 2010

Definitely let me know if you’re coming. Wasn’t ignoring you. Things slip down the list of comments and get missed. I’m perfectly happy to admit that the USSR, and indeed the WP, made mistakes, or did things that were wrong. Although we might disagree on exactly what those were to some extent anyway. I think the sending to the gulag was wrong, or but that it does not outweigh the positives of the soldiers who fought against Nazism, plus the other achievements.

As for the suicide waves, or the machinegunning of those who retreated. Nasty and brutal. But the result of desperate times, and not typical of the regime. And it may well have been necessary to defeat the nazis during the most desperate times.

It’s the human consequences of socialism that interest me too. And I don’t think that the negative human consequences of the struggle to build socialism in the USSR and eastern Europe outweighed the positives, and certainly not to such an extent that the whole thing should have been rejected.

And I do return to the point that no-one wants to recreate the regimes that existed there, and especially not the extreme measures that were taken during the various wars. And even if they wanted to, the circumstances that led to them do not exist in modern conditions. But I’m also aware that very often, those faced by the Soviets would have done worse to them had they not taken all the necessary steps to defeat them. I feel the same about the Terror in the French Revolution. I don’t think these things were or are inherent in revolutionary politics. The extent of counter-revolutionary activity from domestic and foreign sources seems to me to be a key determinant. Over on Splintered, I mentioned a book called The Furies by Arno Meyer, about violence in the Russian and French Revolutions. I would pretty much adopt his attitude.

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15. Jim Monaghan - August 11, 2010

Remember all the stuff about a higher form of democracy.Even on a relatively benign level, imagine all out leaders selected in advance by the ICTU, a guided democracy.
Or worse Harris, Smullen and O’Hagan, presenting the slate for the politburo which in turn would select the National Peoples Assembly to be approved by acclamation, of course.
Those of you who were purged by the WP and or left with disagreements should ponder your lucky escape.
An American Trotskyist debating a former General Secretary of the CPUSA, pointed at him and said “there but for an accident of geography, sits a dead man”. This was in references to the 1952 purges which saw most of the leaderships of the Eastern European CPs purged and in many cases executed.
Remember the 3 Irish in the Gulag, Breslin, Macken and Verschoyle-Gould.

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WorldbyStorm - August 11, 2010

You’d wonder if that dynamic fuelled a hyper loyalty to the USSR then and afterwards? A sort of seeking to prove they were ‘redder than red’, so to speak.

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16. Paschal - August 11, 2010

I find some of the comments in this thread quite frankly depressing. Yes the situation within North Korea is bad and the living conditions of its population poor but we cannot disconnect this from the realities of Koreas history and the current extent of alienation that North Korea is subjected to. The preoccupation of those that still label themselves Trotskyists with kicking the last vestiges of any form of socialism in the teeth is remarkable given the history of the left since the fall out from the calapse of socialism in Eastern Europe. The effect of this was to push all remnants of the left , from social democrats to communists to trade unions, to the right or to irrelevance in the repostioning that followed. And yes, that included the Trotskyists parties. Incidentally, in terms of cults of personality and ultra leftist parties, isnt this the pot calling the kettle black? Lets face it, very few of us would like to live in societies where revolutions have taken place. Thats why they had revolutions in the first place. and if they lose their way along the course of time the least that can be expected is a modicum of support from those that consider themselves progressive. If alternatives exist in any countries then of course support them, but blanket critisism only aids those whom would prefer, in the case of North Korea, a larger militarised zone on the border with China.

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WorldbyStorm - August 12, 2010

But is that anywhere near the likely outcome? China is no poster child for ML.

I’ll certainly give critical support in various contexts to various regimes, but I have limits.

One could also add that one doesn’t have to be a Trotskyist or a social democrat to find it difficult to give anything close to support to NK.

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17. Jim Monaghan - August 12, 2010

“I find some of the comments in this thread quite frankly depressing.”
One I am sure the population of North Korea find it even more depressing.Could I suggest that some people when they find reality depressing, decide to ignore it in favour of living in an alternative reality or in irreality.
“Always look on the bright side of life”.
A mirror image in fact of our native rulers, who tell us that things are getting better. Oh, Does anyone remember Berties infamous remark.
My answer is”the truth will out”

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18. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung - August 12, 2010

[…] The Workers Party (WP): Ireland and the Socialist Countries […]

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19. Logan - August 14, 2010

If you want to learn about life in North Korea, I would recommend a book called “Nothing to Envy – Real Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick.

It is available in DCC public library, and it really shows how messed up the system is there.

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20. The fascination with the Irish "loony left" - Page 8 - August 3, 2012

[…] Korea! – Indymedia Ireland And here's a piece on the Worker's Party support for the former USSR: Left Archive: Ireland and the Socialist Countries, taken from a speech by Sean Garland in 1986, Work… Yes, that venerable Irish leftist Sean Garland. We here will have a party when he croaks. And […]

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Ed - August 3, 2012

Ah, good to see the politics.ie loons are still dipping into this site to rip off its content. A brief glance through the frothing madness of that thread is enough to explain why there’s no traffic in the opposite direction.

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