by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
It seems unlikely – as it defies 73 years of ongoing aggression, warfare, the near-warfare of constant tap dancing on the border, starvation-creating sanctions, false promises, broken promises, racist caricaturing, hysterical knee-jerk anti-socialism, and more besides – but what if Washington finally allows North Korea to reintegrate into the multinational world?
North Korea has been so politically oppressed from without that they are less integrated into global affairs, regional affairs, and even local & national affairs (their country was forcibly divided, after all) than any nation. They are even less integrated than the other few nations which have sustained modern (and thus socialist-inspired) popular revolutions, such as Cuba, Iran, Eritrea, mighty China and their fighting Vietnamese comrades.
We are told that we don’t really know anything about North Korea! We are also told to believe nothing from Pyongyang, and that the “Hermit Kingdom” is the most inscrutable of all those very-inscrutable East Asians. But I reported from Seoul and the DMZ border in 2013 and learned some interesting things (5 of them are here).
If I had to give the two most important ideas, they would be: no People have lived with more meddling exterior menaces since the year 1945 -North Koreans are bordered by and/or threatened by the US, South Korea, Russia, China and Japan); and the second point would be that the reunification of an $8 trillion mineral-rich, well-educated (darn those socialist countries with their not-for-profit education programs) North Korea with South Korea would almost IMMEDIATELY create the world’s 5th-largest economy, trailing only the US, China, Japan and Germany. I hold these truths to be self-evident, and move on to the point of this article….
Let’s conjecture that Korea is still not allowed to reunite but that North Korea is allowed a global reinstatement on the level of China and Vietnam, leapfrogging poor Cuba and lonely Iran (but who is lonely when they have God?): How would that affect socialism on a global-historical scale?
What do I mean by that? I mean: socialism is a historical-political movement which covers 200 years, which is nearly as faith-based as Islam or Christendom, and which is nearly as economically influential as the era of industrialisation (an era which has lasted 250 years because many colonized countries have never even finished the First Industrial Revolution) and reinstatement for North Korea means a North Korean victory…and a victory for North Korea HAS TO impact the “narrative of socialism”, no?
Right now the narrative since 1992 is that “History is over”, per Francis Fukuyama, and capitalism has defeated socialism until the end of time…except that Fukuyama himself just backtracked on that with a recent interview: “At this juncture, it seems to me that certain things Karl Marx said are turning out to be true.” Ah, really Frank? By “juncture” you mean roughly 1848, right?
It’s 2018 and we’re talking North Korean reintegration, old F.F. is having doubts and Donald Trump is in the White House – what is the world coming to?!
Trump, God bless his Nobel Peace Prize-deserving soul (hey, Obama re-set the bar, right?) seems willing to do what the smartphone-loving world demands: end the Cold War on North Korea…in order to start exploiting the Jongju superdeposit, the world’s largest rare earth metals cache, and which may contain double the world’s known rare earth element resources. Money talks with capitalists, not ideology/morality/history….
So what does it mean for socialism if North Korea is allowed to allow people in?
Here’s what I’m picturing: Much like Iran, foreigners come visit and realize: this place is far more modern and put together than often ignorantly assumed. After all, North Korea seems to have the ideological cohesion of Cuba combined with a high-tech skillset & wealth volume closer to Iran (Cuba’s “wealth volume” is limited by population size, containing only sugar and nickel, and by being an island (blockade-busting is thus harder)). With reinstatement the world will slowly realize and accept that North Korea is indeed a socialist success – just like China and Vietnam. Unlike Iran, there is no Islamophobia for the Christian-Atheist West to use as a deflection.
Reinstatement means Asians run socialism like Westerners run capitalism
A North Korean victory means we are talking about the four biggest socialist success stories, certainly from an economic standpoint, being from Asia.
Concurrently, European socialism is not even close to being revived: it’s hard to shock back into life someone who has drunk hemlock (events of 1989-1991) and also asked to be shot (the Eurozone & European Union). Asia turns to its left, sees Iran, mumbles (but not disapprovingly), stands on its tiptoes and shakes its head while discussing “revisionism” and “the lack of a Cultural Revolution”.
Here is the fundamental question at the heart of this article: The West writes the history of socialism because they are the “victors” and history is written by the victors.
The West is the “victor” in every way possible, of course – one can never question that. They are the “victors” in what “socialism” is, means and should be…which is paradoxical, because they have undoubtedly always been the “victors” in capitalism-imperialism and are the current victors in neo-imperialism.
Western paradoxes are there only to be ignored, so I’ll continue: They are also the “victors” in which rights are “human” and which are not; they are the “victors” in what is “freedom” and what is not; they are the “victors” in which economics are successful and which are not. All of these are absolutely without a defensible factual foundation – especially the more-mathematical last one – but I contend that the West believes, and much of the rest of the world is also persuaded, that the West are the “victors” in achieving the greatest amount of “socialist victory”. (For the record, I do not believe nor am persuaded by any of these claims.)
Again, socialism is a movement which is so long and so enduring that it forces us to extend our viewpoint: If North Korea is added to the list of socialist victories…what does and what should the world do?
Save a few Latin American countries, only one of which is stable (Cuba); save a few African countries, only two of which are stable (Algeria, Eritrea); it must be admitted that Asian socialism is currently victorious in the “global-regional competition”.
Therefore, I insist an integration of North Korea allows me to declare the “end of history”: Asian socialism is the only acceptable model, and all must follow Asia henceforth.
LOL, but such a declaration is not “socialism” at all because socialism (like Islam) cannot be forced: it would then cease to be democratic, and socialism is the most class- and citizen-inclusive sociopolitical model ever created in human history. This type of a declaration can only be made by capitalists, who impose by force the ideas of one person (or of an oligarchical few).
Obviously, the actual ramifications of a North Korean success on the “narrative of socialism” is multi-faceted, complicated and boring to many, but the ramifications are real, impactful, undeniable and unavoidable.
What do Western socialists ‘learn’ from a North Korean success?
Is the West capable of learning from a North Korean success?
Past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour, so my answer is “no”: The West will make it a point to remain the “victors” (in their view) and thus learn nothing from North Korea’s success, just as they have learned nothing from the successes of China, Iran, Cuba, etc.
The West will try to co-opt North Korean success by the same lie – that North Korea is an anti-democratic mullah-ocracy…no wait, a one-family dictatorship like Cuba – that works better.
They will deny the existence of North Korea’s undeniably socialist rules, laws, history and martyrs. They will also deny the words and experiences of actual North Koreans because the Western “victors” can and should speak for everyone: The Western tongue is the “one, true” tongue.
Above all they will assert – on the Western left and the Western right – that North Korea never was socialist at all, or that it could possibly be “socialist” now. Sadly, Western socialists often do the work of the imperialist-capitalists for them; they, paradoxically are “socialists” despite espousing the exact same (nonsensical, uninformed, self-referencing, self-centered, self-interested) views on North Korea in 2018 as right-wingers.
But for the true socialists living in the Western countries – and I am talking about perhaps as many as 14 people – a North Korean success should be applauded loudly. After all – no other socialist nation has endured more to win sovereignty, freedom and their own form of socialism. Of course, this public applauding will make us even more socially-isolated in Western society to the point where we will have even greater trouble finding that elusive 15th comrade….
It’s undeniable, at least to me, that socialism can be divided into 3 distinct eras: West European dominance (Marx, Paris Commune), East European/Slavic dominance (USSR, Eastern Bloc) and Asian dominance (China, Vietnam, Iran…North Korea?). A North Korean integration means that we are STILL living in this mostly-unappreciated 3rd historical era of Asian dominance in socialist thought and practice. Reinstatement also implies that the long-awaited “Latin American dominance era”, to be led by Cuba, remains unmaterialized (due to the continued domination of the “Monroe Doctrine era”).
Of course, most Western leftists don’t want to hear any analysis which relegates the West to 2nd fiddle, as they are still the “victors”…and they are: in living in a tired, nostalgic, decidedly un-revolutionary fashion.
Trump has certainly said and done crazy things but the re-integration of North Korea follows as much capitalist logic as the re-integration of China (consumer demand, loans/bond buying, formerly low- but now mid-cost labor (providing mid-cost labor is the function Eastern Europe currently serves for the German neo-imperialism of the Eurozone)) and Vietnam (low-cost labor):
Without access to North Korea’s rare earth metals China will have perhaps as great a chokepoint on the modern global economy as any OPEC nation save Arabia (which I refuse to call “Saudi”, as only Western governments believe/want the house of Saud to be synonymous with the People of Arabia). Furthermore, due to their educational advancements, North Korea can obviously serve the same function for South Korea as East Germany did for West Germany upon their reunification: cheap but smart labor.
(Iran might have oil instead of rare earth metals, but how can they serve this capitalist labor function when they are (due to imperialist throttling) the most populous, most advanced economy in the Middle East? Even if a counter-revolution happened in Iran, who would make them their mid-cost labor hub – Russia, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt? None of those will work. This is why toppling Iran (combined with their anti-imperialist & anti-Zionist stances) is Washington’s continued project, in contrast to this floated reinstatement of North Korea. The US, being capitalist, runs on lobbies and money – somebody is obviously greasing the policy wheels (exercising their “free speech”) in favor of Pyongyang, and to hell with Korean War veterans groups or anyone else.
But that last is a bold statement – North Korean reinstatement…seriously? Sounds great – Koreans are certainly all for that, and they deserve Korean socialism…or at least to be #5 instead of pawns in a four-way game.
What does “socialism do” if North Korea becomes a success story – acknowledge it or ignore it? It seems like the answer depends on what part of the world you live in, but that is certainly a response which is “bad socialism”.
Socialism’s recent past and its present remains centered in the East, but socialism’s future remains open to anyone with common sense, a disposition for equality, and the courage to speak out.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.