The Friends of Korea organised a meeting on Saturday 11 April in Saklatvala Hall, Southall, west London, to celebrate the 97th birthday of the Korean revolutionary leader, Comrade Kim Il Sung. It was an important opportunity to reaffirm solidarity with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at a time of renewed imperialist belligerence and to remember and learn from the life of one of history’s greatest ever Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries.
The proceedings began with a documentary film of the celebrations of Comrade Kim Il Sung’s 80th birthday in 1992. It vividly depicted the huge respect that Kim Il Sung enjoyed not just from the Korean people but also from revolutionary and progressive people all over the world, with the presence at the celebrations of hundreds of foreign delegations, including the heads of state of China, Laos, Cambodia and various African countries.
The main speakers were Comrade Ella Rule, Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPBG-ML) and Comrade Keith Bennett.
Comrade Ella spoke on Kim Il Sung’s ideas on the management of the socialist economy and Comrade Keith about the Korean leader’s contribution to the global cause of anti-imperialism.
Comrade Kim Il Sung’s management of the socialist economy
Situating her remarks in the context of the present capitalist crisis of over-production, Comrade Ella noted that, “this is a topic of primordial importance at this moment in the history of humanity. As we sit here, the whole edifice of capitalism is crumbling almost audibly all around us. Everyone can see that the internal contradictions of the capitalist system are tearing it apart, causing untold disruption to the essential human activity of production and distribution of the necessities of life… Workers are losing their jobs and livelihoods in their millions and peasants are finding it impossible to sell their produce at prices that give them enough to live on. In other words, another Great Depression is upon us, likely to be deeper and to last longer than the one suffered in the 1930s…
“Marx explained 150 years ago how this process works, and the evidence is now absolutely irrefutable that Marx was right. The unavoidable conclusion is that capitalism must go!”
However, “following the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union and the east European people’s democracies, the argument put forward by the bourgeois media is that, awful though capitalism is, there is no viable alternative.”
In this context, Comrade Ella outlined the continued relevance and topicality of Kim Il Sung’s teachings on the socialist economy. Referring to his stress on the primacy of political work in guiding the socialist economy, she quoted the Korean leader as follows:
“‘The producer masses are true masters of production, and they know about production better than anyone else. Therefore, the most important guarantee for the development of production and success in productive activities is to raise the ideological level of the Party members and other working people and arouse them to voluntary enthusiasm by means of efficient political work among them. The decisive superiority of socialism over capitalism consists in giving priority to political work in all activities so as to encourage the broad masses to participate willingly in carrying out the revolutionary tasks, displaying their knowledge and talents to the full. This is the requirement emanating from the essence of the socialist economic system.’”
Comrade Ella continued: “Kim Il Sung in his writings demonstrated how old slavish thinking was an obstacle to efficiency in production. For, example he referred to the fact that in exploitative societies work is considered an imposition and freedom is equated with idleness:
“‘Some comrades think that in a communist society everybody will live idly because everyone will be well-off, but this is a completely wrong idea. True, in a communist society people will be prosperous in a way we can hardly imagine now, but even then there will be no one who eats the bread of idleness. That we will all come to enjoy a life of abundance in a communist society does not mean that we will be able to live without working, but that when everyone works, the workday will be shorter and work will become easier and, furthermore, joyful, thanks to technological progress. To hasten the building of such a good society, we should now work even harder’.
“In particular, Comrade Kim Il Sung addressed himself to the way… old attitudes damaged the effective management of a socialist economy…
“If these old ideas are rife among managers and workers, it is not hard to imagine how difficult it is in practice to organise socialist production. After investigating management practices at the Taean Electrical Machinery Plant, Comrade Kim Il Sung concluded that the plant had ‘done a great deal of work and contributed greatly to the nation’s economic development’ and yet there were shortcomings that needed to be corrected:
“‘The main reason for these defects boils down to the irrational industrial management structure and guidance system.
“‘The present system of industrial management does not come up to the principle of the higher helping the lower in a responsible way; under this system the main function of the higher authorities is to give orders and urge people to obey, imposing all burdens upon the lower echelons and easily shifting all their responsibilities upon the shoulders of their subordinates. Thus the officials at the higher echelons are supposed to receive more wages than their subordinates while working less and shirking responsibilities, while officials in lower units receive less money while doing more work and shouldering more responsibilities. People at the lower level, not the higher level, are always liable to punishment in case of failure of production…
“‘In a nutshell, the current system of industrial management retains much of the remnants of capitalist elements. Without reorganising this system, it would be impossible to guide and manage socialist industry properly nor develop production speedily.’” (‘On improving the guidance and management of industry to fit the new circumstances, 16 December 1961)
“Because in the old society managers typically held their subordinates in contempt, it never occurred to them that there was any need to consult with workers. Such an approach in a socialist society, however, is disastrous. ‘If you want to have a thorough knowledge of your work, you must maintain contact with the masses and listen to what they say. If you talk with the workteam leaders, meet those who work properly and ask their views, and talk with still more people, thus always endeavouring to listen to the voices of the masses, you will get fully informed of who works properly and what difficulties the masses have. You lose touch with the real state of affairs, because, when attending a meeting, for example, you do not bother to listen to what others say and just hold forth all the time; and you take no heed of your people’s views, just force your own opinion on them.
“‘Things cannot go well with the management board because it works in such a subjective manner without consulting the masses.’
“Comrade Kim Il Sung also pointed out that, to correct shortcomings, it was necessary to foster an environment where everybody was free to point them out, with a view to their being corrected. ‘We must not be afraid of our defects. One can reveal shortcomings in work. A man who does not work would have neither success nor make mistakes. But those who work, particularly those who work a great deal, will achieve many successes and reveal defects in working. It would be inconceivable that one could be free from any faults and shortcomings particularly in doing such a difficult and complicated work as the guidance and management of a socialist industry.
“‘The point is whether or not one always tries to find out one’s defects and correct them before it is too late. Just as a man washes his face every morning to keep it clean, officials must always find out shortcomings in the management of factories or in all other work and correct them promptly. You must find out shortcomings in your daily work, review your monthly work to discover your defects, and repeat the same procedure with your quarterly and yearly work. Only by doing this will you be able to find out all your defects, both major and minor ones, and correct them promptly…
“‘It is in the nature of things that no progress can be made free from any shortcomings. Shortcomings will appear in the course of advance, and these are corrected through criticism and thus progress is made.’
“To help people to absorb quickly the new ways of thinking that would promote more effective production, Comrade Kim Il Sung sought ways to use their own experience to drive home the lessons. Many leading comrades, for instance, had fought in the guerrilla army against the Japanese. For an army to succeed in battle, there must be careful and effective management of human and other resources:
“‘The plan drawn up by the State Planning Commission can be likened to a strategic plan for the army, the plan worked out by the ministry to an operational plan and the factory plan to a combat plan…
“‘Before forming a combat plan, the regimental or battalion commanders … always go to the battlefield and investigate the terrain conditions and the location of enemy forces. They consult with the artillery and engineering commanders about the number and kinds of guns that are needed to forestall enemy fire coming from the top of the mountain, as well as about the amount of explosive and methods that are required to remove the barbed-wire entanglements and obstacles at the foot of the hill. After closely checking all the specific conditions in this way, they make a detailed combat plan…
“‘The battle may develop unexpectedly from time to time, so the chief of staff must closely watch the developments of the battle and opportunely cope with each change…
“‘This is also applicable to industrial guidance. At the ministry now they coop themselves up in the office, mechanically subdividing the national production quotas, before sending them down. On receiving them from the ministry, the management bureau allots them in the like manner and dispatches them to the factories; and the management of the factories, for their part, mechanically portion out the quotas to the workshops. No realistic plan can be drawn up in this way.’
“Success in socialist production depends on the working class, whether producers, managers or planners, discarding the attitudes of the old society and developing attitudes appropriate to the new conditions – never an easy task. However, in formulating the Juche idea, Comrade Kim Il Sung summed up in a few easily-remembered words the new attitudes suitable for the working class, as the ruling class, that would enable them best to promote the interests of society:
“‘Establishing Juche means … having the attitude of master of the revolution and construction in one’s own country. It means maintaining an independent stand of rejecting dependence on others and using one’s own brains, believing in one’s own strength and displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and so solving one’s own problems for oneself on one’s own responsibility under all circumstances.’
“For countries too, as opposed to individuals, the Juche idea ‘means adhering to the creative stand of opposing dogmatism and applying the universal principles of Marxism-Leninism and the experiences of other countries to suit the historical conditions and national peculiarities of one’s own country’. In other words, in the same way that individuals need to get rid of all remnants of a slavish mentality, so do countries that have previously been oppressed. They too should develop the habit of solving their own problems for themselves – which does not of course preclude seeking the advice and opinion of others where their experience might be helpful.” *
Comrade Kim Il Sung’s decades of active anti-imperialism
In his remarks, Comrade Keith summarised Comrade Kim Il Sung’s seven decades of active anti-imperialism, which he first learned from his father, Kim Hyong Jik, and which he began to actively apply as a teenager in north-east China in the 1920s. Comrade Keith spoke about the active solidarity between the Korean, Chinese and Soviet revolutionaries and continued:
“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.”
He continued: “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.”*
Guest of honour: Comrade Jang Song Chol, from the DPRK Embassy
Following the main presentations, the meeting gave a warm welcome to guest of honour, Comrade Jang Song Chol from the embassy of the DPRK. Comrade Jang conveyed the greetings of his ambassador, Comrade Ja Song Nam, who had wished to be present, but who had to attend to urgent business, as the DPRK was about to launch an experimental communications satellite. Comrade Jang delivered a brief but extremely heart-warming speech, in which he described how meaningful and moving it was for him to be able to be present among true comrades whilst living away from the socialist homeland in an often hostile imperialist environment.
Brief messages were also presented to the meeting by Comrades Chris Coleman and Michael Chant of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (RCPBML) and by Comrade Dermot Hudson.
The meeting, which was chaired by Comrade Harpal Brar, Chairman of the CPGB(ML) and of Friends of Korea, unanimously adopted a letter of greetings to the Korean leader, Comrade Kim Jong Il.
Following the formal proceedings, celebrations continued with drinks, an excellent dinner and informal discussions among comrades, the whole festive atmosphere befitting the birthday of a truly great revolutionary leader.