North Korea next target?

One other component of Bush's so-called 'axis of evil', North Korea, is also firmly in the sights of the US. The Stalinist monarchy of Kim Jong Il fears that once Bush has disposed of Iraq it will be next on the hit-list. Recently, in response to US bellicosity Pyongyang announced it was restarting its nuclear programme - ostensibly for civilian use, but with an obvious military potential - and withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Coupled with its earlier admissions that it had restarted its civilian (in reality dual-use) nuclear programme, citing the non-delivery of pledges of power generation aid promised by the US as part of a deal to avert a similar, threatening crisis between North Korea and the US in 1994 under Clinton, this has considerably escalated the historically deep and dangerous tensions between North Korea and the US. An escalating war of words has ensued, with US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld calling North Korea a "terrorist state", while the regime has itself threatened that it will not simply sit back and allow the United States to build up its capacity to attack it: it has threatened American forces on the Korean peninsula with a pre-emptive strike of its own to stymie that option. This is a credible threat: not only is it reckoned North Korea may well already have at least two nuclear bombs (it certainly has enough plutonium to produce such weapons, as well as the possibility of producing more from enriched uranium if its reactivated nuclear power programme works properly), but this is also how the 1950-53 Korean War began: with a pre-emptive North Korean attack on hostile, American-trained and manned military forces in South Korea. North Korea is simply a remnant of the old Soviet bloc - a bureaucratic caricature of 'socialism in one country' in the model of something like Ceausescu's Romania. It has somewhat anomalously stayed standing (mainly due to its geographical location), while similar states have either collapsed and adopted some recognisably 'normal' form of capitalism (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic), descended into impoverished bureaucratic anarcho-gangsterism (most of the territory of Russia and the other former Soviet republics and the poorer and more marginal areas of eastern Europe), or, paradoxically, in China and to some extent Vietnam, successfully begun to undertake the transformation towards large-scale capital accumulation under the political rule of a so-called 'Communist Party'. Along with Cuba, North Korea is the only still existing Stalinist regime that still boasts of its 'socialist' credentials. Unlike Cuba, however, it has no charismatic leaders or real reservoir of legitimacy resulting from an historic popular struggle for national liberation - rather it has the quality of the most bizarre elements of the Stalinist ice age. Kim Jong Il inherited his position as 'Dear Leader' from his father, 'Great Leader' Kim Il Sung, the hack who ruled North Korea virtually since the Japanese surrendered the northern half of the country to victorious Soviet troops at the end of World War II. So North Korea is a freak. Its regime is obviously doomed, particularly in the context of the 1989-91 collapse of the USSR and its satellites. Its old-style Stalinist attempts to build a self-sufficient national 'socialist' economy have simply led to near or actual starvation for large sections of its population. For it to simply implode, however, is not a prospect that would be exactly welcomed by the relatively prosperous, newly 'democratised' capitalist regime in South Korea. After all, when one remembers the economic and political problems caused for the German bourgeoisie by the absorption of East Germany in the aftermath of 1989, it is also worth noting that, Asian tiger though it may be, the resources of South Korea for coping with similar problems are massively less than those of Germany. A conflict between North Korea and the US could therefore be extremely dangerous and unpredictable for the entire region. The US policy of seeking confrontation with Pyongyang also has an irrational aspect to it: the arguably myopic determination of the Bush administration to confront 'rogue' regimes seems particularly strange in this case, given that the only political appeal North Korea is capable of generating is on the basis of a fairly insipid 'left' form of Korean nationalism amongst some mainly student elements in the south - fragile, because the much more economically dynamic southern state is increasingly the repository of Korean national sentiment, something that is likely to grow more as the north's death agony proceeds. North Korean 'socialism' inspires no-one: only tiny, marginalised currents of 'orthodox' Trotskyism continue to see in it any gains for the working class whatsoever as a so-called 'deformed workers' state'. It appears, however, that the Bush regime is determined to assert US world hegemony in any way it can, including confrontation with those states that refuse to submit to its domination. Despite the odium of the North Korean regime, its monstrous, Stalinist nature and its remaining propaganda value to the world bourgeoisie as a horrible example of what 'socialism' will supposedly be like, the working class must oppose Bush's evident plans somewhere down the line for a more decisive confrontation with Kim Jong Il's regime. Stop US aggression - against Iraq, North Korea or any other state. Kit Robinson