My job today is to say a few words about Comrade Kim Il Sung’s contribution to the cause of anti-imperialism. It is a rich subject spanning some seven decades; a cause with which his entire life was identified.
In a talk with his comrades towards the end of his life, he summed up the situation by saying that he had been fighting all his life for the freedom and liberation of the Korean people and he had also been fighting all his life for the freedom and liberation of the oppressed people all over the world, so one could say that he was a patriot and a communist, a nationalist and an internationalist.
You could also, in fact, say that he was born into it. His father, Kim Hyong Jik, was an outstanding Korean patriot, but he was also, as Kim Il Sung, recalled in the opening pages of his memoirs ‘With the Century’, an early supporter of Dr Sun Yat-Sen, the leader of the democratic revolution in China, and of his Three People’s Principles. Indeed, this is a reminder of the fact that Dr Sun inspired the anti-colonial movement throughout Asia. Kim Hyong Jik was also one of the first Koreans to grasp the significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution, as the first sustained seizure of state power by the working class anywhere in the world.
In the 1920s, as a teenager, like many of his compatriots at the time, Comrade Kim Il Sung moved to north east China, to Jilin province. I visited Jilin last year and it was very striking that many of the provincial party and government officials with whom I spoke there still remain proud of the association that Kim Il Sung had with their province.
In those early days of his revolutionary activities, Kim Il Sung forged relations with Chinese revolutionaries as close as with those of his own Korean comrades and he fought for the victory of both the Korean and Chinese revolutions. Those comradely relations still continue over several generations of family members.
As Japanese imperialism expanded its aggression across Asia, against China in particular, and threatened the USSR, Kim Il Sung put forward the slogan: “Let us defend the Soviet Union with arms!” Together with Chinese revolutionaries, he formed the North East Asian Anti-Japanese Allied Army and this was later expanded into the International Allied Forces, together with the Soviet Red Army.
Following Korea’s liberation in 1945, Kim Il Sung sent thousands of troops to fight for the victory of the Chinese revolution, which triumphed in 1949. As comrades know, the 1950s were marked by the terrible destruction visited on the Korean peninsula by US imperialism in the war of 1950-53 and then by the years of post-war reconstruction and the transition to socialism in the north of the country.
With the advent of the 1960s, Korea again started to play a more active role on the world stage, in a period marked by the victory of the Cuban revolution and increasingly by the Vietnamese people’s heroic war of resistance to US imperialism.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was one of the first countries to recognise the declaration of independence by the provisional government of Algeria, fighting against French colonialism, and to support the initiation of armed struggle by the Palestinian people against the zionist occupation of their homeland.
In 1966, at a party conference, Kim Il Sung proposed that the socialist countries send internationalist volunteers to aid the Vietnamese people in their fight against the US aggressors – just as China and the Soviet Union had previously sent them to the Korean battlefront. Korean pilots did indeed serve with great distinction in Vietnam and many of them sacrificed their lives.
It was Che Guevara who raised the inspiring slogan: “Create two, three, many Vietnams.” And, as the flames of people’s war spread across Africa, Asia and Latin America, from Mozambique, to Cambodia, to Colombia, it was Kim Il Sung’s Korea that consistently stood in the vanguard of the socialist countries, by rendering active and selfless assistance to those struggles in every possible way.
It is worth just noting the sheer breadth of Kim Il Sung’s support for the anti-imperialist struggle. It went way beyond what could reasonably be expected from a small, developing country – still today with a population of just around 23 million – itself divided and constantly under a massive threat from US imperialism.
Be it in Nicaragua or El Salvador, Namibia or Zimbabwe, Korea’s active solidarity played an essential role in the progress of their revolutionary liberation struggle.
No country was too small or too remote from Korea to attract Kim Il Sung’s attention, sympathy, support and genuine affection if it was standing up to imperialism. Such tiny island countries as Grenada and Malta received massive practical support from Korea when they had progressive, anti-imperialist governments.
The DPRK under Kim Il Sung was one of the first countries to express support for the struggle of the Black Panther Party in the United States, to see the significance of this revolutionary movement in the imperialist heartland, and to give their leaders a platform from which to address the world.
Kim Il Sung also appreciated the significance of the Irish revolution. In a speech, he said that the Korean people and the Irish people have a bitter past, when they were oppressed and maltreated under the colonial rule of the imperialists, and further that they were still suffering today because of the policy of occupation pursued by outside forces.
In the 1970s, Korea, under the leadership of Kim Il Sung, perceiving the changes in the international situation, took its place in the Non-Aligned Movement, seeing this body as representing, in effect, a type of anti-imperialist, united front of formerly colonised nations.
Kim Il Sung laid down valuable principles for this movement, encouraging it to stick to the path of anti-imperialism and of unity and cooperation in the building of new societies. Indeed, from this time on, Kim Il Sung became like a kind of elder brother to the leaders of countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, and, without ever being patronising, haughty or bullying, he did his very best to pass on the lessons he had learned and the Korean people’s experience in fighting against imperialism and building a new society.
He took the same attitude and approach when the revisionist regimes in the Soviet Union and eastern and central Europe finally collapsed. He sought to rally the international communist movement at this most difficult time, one fruit of which was the Pyongyang Declaration, ‘Let us defend and advance the cause of socialism’, adopted initially by many of the parties whose delegations participated in the celebrations of his 80th birthday and subsequently by many other parties around the world.
In conclusion, let me say that Kim Il Sung died as he lived – in the trenches fighting against imperialism. He succumbed to a heart attack in the course of a complex struggle against US imperialism over the so-called ‘nuclear issue’.
Several months later, his victory in that struggle was substantiated in the signing of the October 1994 Geneva Accord between the DPRK and the USA. But the USA has never implemented that agreement, or indeed subsequent agreements, in good faith and is still refusing to do so.
Therefore, the same anti-imperialist cause of the Korean people, to which Kim Il Sung dedicated his life, continues to be waged today under the leadership of Comrade Kim Jong Il. And, as the DPRK, under both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, has spared nothing within its power to support the anti-imperialist struggle throughout the world, so it is our invariable duty to stand consistently on their side, not just today, when we are remembering the great exploits of Comrade Kim Il Sung, but all the time.