Korean and Cuban struggles celebrated

The Friends of Korea organised an enthusiastic meeting and social at Saklatvala Hall in Southall, west London, on Saturday 26 July to jointly celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Korean people’s victory in their war of resistance against US imperialism and of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, which heralded the start of the Cuban revolution. Around 40 people attended.

The meeting was chaired by Comrade Harpal Brar, Chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and of Friends of Korea, and the guest of honour was Comrade Jang Song Chol, Third Secretary of the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Greetings were received from the DPRK Ambassador, Comrade Ja Song Nam, who was detained on urgent business. The other speakers were Comrade Michael Chant, from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (RCPB-ML) and Secretary of the Friends of Korea, and Comrades Keith Bennett and Dermot Hudson. Comrade Andy Brooks of the New Communist Party made an appeal for funds. The formal part of the meeting was closed with the adoption of a message of greetings to the leader of the DPRK, Comrade Kim Jong Il.

Proceedings then continued with an excellent programme of British, Korean and international revolutionary music arranged and performed by the RCPB-ML comrades.

Comrades and friends then enjoyed an excellent barbecue prepared by the CPGB-ML and a friendly and militant social continued for several hours.

Lalkar is pleased to publish edited highlights of the speeches below.

Harpal Brar

The victory of the Korean people in the Fatherland Liberation War was very significant because it was the first victory of the progressive forces in Asia against US imperialism. The US never before waged war it didn’t win.  They had to sign an armistice in the end, having been fought to a standstill with the help of the people of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.  It was a victory which is not only remembered by the Koreans but is also remembered by their opponents – who of course do not recall it with a great deal of happiness.  They destroyed North Korea, and in fact the whole of Korea so badly that the American generals used to boast that Pyongyang could not be rebuilt for another 100 years.  Their idea of a ‘civilising mission’ was to reduce everything in Korea back to the Stone Age, as they put it. It is to the great credit of the Korean people that within a matter of just about 10 years they built Pyongyang into a beautiful city which even a bourgeois journalist described as a revolutionary Hollywood.  Everyone who has been there will be able to bear witness to the beautiful monuments, parks, libraries, people’s palaces, hospitals – everything for the benefit of the people.  It is that victory in that war that we are today celebrating.

Likewise the Cubans started their revolution and were successful.  These two small countries stand defiant against US imperialism. Cuba is a mere 90 miles away from Miami, has been blockaded for nearly 4 decades and nevertheless manages to survive.  And it has managed to survive not only earlier – with the help of the Soviet Union – but also since the Soviet Union collapsed.  Cuba has close relations with the People’s Republic of China and now, as a result of the space that is provided (a) by US imperialism’s preoccupation in the Middle East, the wars against the Iraqi and Afghan people and (b) of course the rise of China, the Latin American people have greater facility today to be able to carve out for themselves a future which is independent of imperialist domination.  So Cuba and North Korea both stand defiant and we are very pleased to mark their victories against imperialism.

Of course the Korean victory was achieved at a time when the socialist countries sang from the same hymn sheet.  They could coordinate their activities.  The Soviet Union could supply materiel – fighter planes – and the Chinese people’s volunteers could come in literally hundreds of thousands to the aid of the Korean people. The Korean people were mobilised and all that coordination contributed to the defeat of imperialism.  The lesson for us is that we must seek to achieve the maximum possible unity among the progressive forces, i.e., the proletarian revolutionary forces and the forces of national liberation.

Jang Song Chol

You have been close comrades when the Korean people were going through difficult days.  A friend in need is a friend indeed!  Our friendship and comradeship will be everlasting.

Michael Chant

27 July is the anniversary of the victory of the Korean people in the Fatherland Liberation War, an ignominious defeat for US imperialism.

The US imperialists and their allies committed untold crimes in the three years of the Korean War. The DPRK was literally razed to the ground. On Pyongyang alone, 428,748 bombs were dropped by the US — one per resident. The US also used massive quantities of chemical and biological weapons against the Korean people and carried out numerous military massacres of civilians in its attempt to terrorise the entire Korean people into submission to the US diktat.

But despite the loss of over four million mostly civilian lives, the heroic struggle of the Korean people showed the world that the US imperialists’ military might is no match for a people united in the just cause of national and social liberation.

The refusal of the US to date to sign a peace treaty with the DPRK to replace the Armistice Agreement shows that the US has not abandoned its aim of launching another war on the Korean peninsula for self-serving geopolitical aims. The US is still attempting to realise its domination of the region, through its occupation of the Korean peninsula with over 30,000 troops as well as its military bases. In breach of the 1953 armistice agreement, the US concluded a mutual defence treaty with south Korea, signed on 1 October 1953, indefinite in duration and granting free military bases to the US in south Korea. Even when in 1958 the Chinese troops withdrew from north Korea, instead of reciprocating, the US strengthened its military power in south Korea by bringing in tactical nuclear weapons in clear violation of the armistice agreement.

The US attaches great importance to the Asia-Pacific region in its strategy for domination of the world. The criminal role of the US imperialists in Korea, from 1945 to the present, has been exposed for the whole world to see and the resolute struggle of the Korean people stands as an example for all the peoples of the world fighting against imperialist domination.

Dermot Hudson

The attack on the Moncada barracks was the start of the Cuban revolution, which would traverse a hard road of seven years before its ultimate victory in 1959. The victory in the Fatherland Liberation War defended the independence and freedom of the DPRK and its people’s democratic system as well as the entire socialist camp.  Both events were integral parts of the world revolutionary process and part of the world anti-imperialist struggle.

Cuba was deeply inspired by the example of the Korean revolution and its armed struggle. Fidel was greatly inspired by the robust independence of the Korean revolution, which moved him to say, “the influence of the Korean revolution upon the peoples in Latin America and in other regions is beyond estimate”.

One of the first Cuban leaders to visit the DPRK was Che Guevara in December 1960. Che praised the DPRK as the socialist country he liked best. Che’s death in Bolivia was a big loss not only to the Cuban people but also the world revolutionary people and the Korean people. Comrade Kim Il Sung wrote: “The revolutionary activities of Che Guevara made a tremendous contribution to further consolidating the triumph of the Cuban revolution and stepping up the advancement of the Latin American revolution as a whole…The triumph of the Cuban revolution is the first victory of the socialist revolution in Latin America and a continuation of the Great October revolution in Latin America…

“Che Guevara is not with us now. But the blood he shed will never be wasted. His name and the everlasting revolutionary exploits he performed will go down in the history of the liberation struggle of mankind and his lofty revolutionary spirit will be immortal. There will appear thousands, tens of thousands of Che Guevaras on the scene of decisive battle.”

Keith Bennett

Comrades and Friends, today is a revolutionary weekend. It is a weekend to celebrate. 55 years ago tomorrow, the peoples of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China, both newly born, forced US imperialism, then at the height of its power, to sign an armistice agreement. The whole Korean peninsula lay in ruins. Millions had been killed. But US imperialism for the first time in its history was forced to cease fire without having achieved its objectives. And as Malcolm X put it, whenever Uncle Sam is held to a truce by rice eaters, that’s a victory.

US imperialism began its vile war of aggression confident of its ability to overturn not only the Korean revolution, but the Chinese revolution, too. It failed in both those objectives then. It has continued to fail in those objectives until today. It will continue to fail in the future, too. As Comrade Mao Zedong aptly described the behaviour of reactionaries – Make trouble, fail; make trouble again, fail again; and so on to their doom.

55 years ago today, and with the difference in time let us agree that these events in fact happened on the same day, a small group of revolutionaries led by Comrade Fidel Castro stormed the Moncada Barracks, sounding the bugle for the armed struggle for the liberation of Cuba.

Since the Cuban people finally won their liberation at the end of that decade, Korea and Cuba have united closely as the outposts of socialism, helping and supporting each other in both good and bad times and so giving a shining example of proletarian internationalism to the whole world.

In learning from that example, we, in the Friends of Korea, today celebrate both the Korean and the Cuban revolutions, for the inspiration they give, the very concrete support they provide to the liberation of oppressed, exploited and downtrodden people in every part of the world, including here in the imperialist heartlands. We rejoice as friends of Cuba and Korea. But more importantly we are here as comrades, bound by the same ideology, part of the same international movement, and conducting our work first and foremost because the British proletariat will never liberate itself, will never escape from the conditions of life whereby the workers of Glasgow East can return a Labour member to parliament for more than six decades and be rewarded with an official unemployment rate of 25% and a male life expectancy of 68, lower than in besieged Gaza, unless and until they make common cause with each and every people and movement battling imperialism and with each and every people building socialism and people’s democracy in the face of imperialist hostility. This is the revolutionary truth taught again and again by Lenin and Stalin, by Mao Zedong and Kim Il Sung, by Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara. Ultimately, being a friend of Korea or Cuba has to mean fighting for this line within the working class, irrespective of whether or not it is easy or fashionable at the present time.

Perhaps this is an appropriate moment to remember a few comrades by name – and in so doing to remember all our comrades and revolutionary forerunners – who did not hesitate to take just such a stance, no matter what the difficulties.

Comrade Jack Gaster, who passed away not long ago, who undertook the difficult and dangerous journey to Korea in the midst of war, together with other members of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, to bring back the truth, a truth incidentally long disparaged by the imperialists but recently reconfirmed by fresh academic studies, of US imperialism’s bacteriological warfare against defenceless people in Korea and north east China.

Dr Joseph Needham, one of the most brilliant scholars of the 20th century, who undertook the same mission for the World Federation of Scientific Workers; and Comrade Monica Felton of the Communist Party of Great Britain, who travelled with the Women’s International Democratic Federation.

Comrade Michael Shapiro, the dear brother of our own beloved comrade Jack, who, with Comrade Alan Winnington, proudly entered Korea wearing the uniform of the Chinese People’s Volunteers.

Comrade George Blake, still, I am very pleased to say, safely living in Moscow despite the one time threats by that unlamented dog Boris Yeltsin to return him to Wormwood Scrubs. The British Military Attaché in Seoul, no less, his work was of great value to Soviet intelligence and hence to the Korean and Chinese people as well.

As Comrade Kim Jong Il titled his article – Respecting the forerunners of the revolution is the noble moral obligation of revolutionaries. And the Korean people do not forget their friends. Some of those I have just mentioned are the inspiration for characters in the Korean multi-part feature film, Unsung Heroes.

Let us also take a moment to remember and honour with all our hearts Comrades Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Communist Party members, murdered in the electric chair in Sing Sing prison, on 19 June 1953, by a vengeful US government in the grip of neo-fascist McCarthyism and reeling from the triple blow of the Soviet acquisition of atomic weapons, the victory of the Chinese revolution and their defeats on the Korean battlefield. As the judge at their trial put it:

I consider your crime worse than murder…I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country.”

As documents released just in the last month have reconfirmed, Ethel, in particular, against whom the state had not a scrap of evidence, could have saved her own life at any time by opening her mouth and incriminating others. She said nothing, even though she knew that Michael, 10 in 1953, and Robert, 6, he would have been 4 or 3 when his parents were taken away, would lose both their parents in a most terrible way. Raised by comrades, their adoptive father wrote the anti-lynching anthem, Strange Fruit, made famous by the jazz singer Billie Holliday, today, not only Michael and Robert, but their children, too, are active comrades in the struggle, upholding socialism and the memory of their parents, fighting against the US government’s racist and anti-working class use of the death penalty and actively supporting socialist Cuba.

Comrades, in the spring of 1967, Che Guevara sent his famous Message to the Tricontinental from the jungles of Bolivia. Surveying the world since the defeat of Japan in August 1945, he wrote, in answer to those who preached unprincipled peace and accommodation with imperialism:

It is not the purpose of these notes to detail the different conflicts of a local character that have been occurring since the surrender of Japan, neither do we intend to recount the numerous and increasing instances of civilian strife which have taken place during these years of apparent peace. It will be enough just to name, as an example against undue optimism, the wars of Korea and Vietnam.

“In the first one, after years of savage warfare, the northern part of the country was submerged in the most terrible devastation known in the annals of modern warfare: riddled with bombs; without factories, schools, or hospitals; with absolutely no shelter for housing ten million inhabitants.

“Under the discredited flag of the United Nations, dozens of countries under the military leadership of the United States participated in this war with the massive intervention of US soldiers and the use, as cannon fodder, of the south Korean population that was enrolled. On the other side, the army and the people of Korea and the volunteers from the People’s Republic of China were furnished with supplies and advice by the Soviet military apparatus.

“The US tested all sorts of weapons of destruction, excluding the thermonuclear type, but including, on a limited scale, bacteriological and chemical warfare.”

Towards the end of his message, he wrote:

“And let us develop a true proletarian internationalism; with international proletarian armies, the flag under which we fight would be the sacred cause of redeeming humanity. To die under the flag of Vietnam, of Venezuela, of Guatemala, of Laos, of Guinea, of Colombia, of Bolivia, of Brazil — to name only a few scenes of today’s armed struggle — would be equally glorious and desirable for an American, an Asian, an African, and even a European.”

As the communist folk singer and songwriter Ewan McColl put it in one of his songs: “A hero’s hero is Che Guevara”.

Small wonder, therefore, that the following year, after Che’s message to the Tricontinental and his subsequent death,  the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung wrote as follows:

“Che Guevara followed the path of sacred battle to bring freedom and liberation to the people, holding aloft the banner of the anti-imperialist, anti-US struggle from early youth, and devoted his whole life to the revolutionary cause of the oppressed. …

“Che Guevara was an indefatigable revolutionary in battle and a true internationalist champion completely free of narrow nationalist sentiments. His whole life was a fine example of the steadfast revolutionary fighter and true internationalist.”

What is also significant is that today Che Guevara’s memory is cherished not only in the DPRK but also by the progressive and revolutionary people in south Korea.

Comrade Keith concluded by reciting two poems written by south Korean revolutionary poets honouring Che and the revolution, but which space does not permit us to include.

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