On 25 July 2009, the Friends of Korea organised a celebration meeting and social to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the victory of the Korean people in their just war of resistance, known as the Fatherland Liberation War, against US imperialism, which, with the support of its allies, including Britain, had attacked the infant Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 25 June 1950, with a view not only to reimposing imperialist hegemony over the whole of the Korean peninsula but also overturning the newly victorious Chinese revolution and halting the forward march of communism in Asia.
This event, held in Saklatvala Hall, in Southall, west London, mainly consisted of a barbecue and informal social. However, before the social got underway, participants saw a Korean documentary film which depicted the horrendous destruction visited on the small nation of Korea by the imperialist aggressors, and the way the Korean people had rebuilt the northern part of their country on socialist lines. This was followed by a series of short speeches to provide the political context for the day.
Comrade Harpal Brar, Chairman of Friends of Korea and of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML) said that this was a meeting to appreciate the sacrifices that the Korean people had made in their struggle for their national liberation and subsequently on the road to socialism. The war between 1950-53 had been a horrendous one, which had inflicted terrible punishment on the Korean people “for no other reason than their desire to be free of colonialism and imperialism and their desire to have a system of their choice not influenced by others”.
The Korean people had achieved victory but it had come at the cost of tremendous pain “and we must share that pain with the Korean people”, the pain of “mothers losing babies, sisters losing brothers, wives losing husbands and husbands losing wives”. It had been such a cruel war, Comrade Harpal continued – there were parts of the country where 25 per cent of the population had been killed in just a few weeks by means of massacres, burning people alive, and indiscriminate aerial bombing and strafing.
This message that US imperialism had given to the Korean people was the same message that in later years they were to give to the peoples of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well, indirectly, as Palestine. The Americans had reduced the Korean capital, Pyongyang, to rubble and boasted that they would leave the Korean people living in the stone age, unable to rebuild their country even in 100 years.
It is a tribute to the Korean people that they built a beautiful capital city within ten years of that brutal destruction. Even a bourgeois journalist had described Pyongyang as a “revolutionary Hollywood”, “a true description of this beautiful city”, just as the Vietnamese people’s leader Comrade Ho Chi Minh had said during his people’s war of resistance that the US aggressors could destroy cities like Hanoi and Haiphong, but that when they were defeated, the Vietnamese people would rebuild them “ten times more beautiful”.
However, Comrade Harpal continued, “what cannot be revived is the lives lost. That is the price oppressed people everywhere have to pay for their liberation. Liberation does not come automatically. It’s not like ripe fruit that, owing to the law of gravity, falls automatically to the ground. No matter how rotten the old system is, it doesn’t fall down unless it’s pushed, and in pushing it, there’s a heavy price to pay.”
Comrade Harpal went on to explain that, in the imperialist countries, for the last 60 years, we have generally lived lives of relative ease and comfort. “Most of our violence is exported. Pain only comes when the bodies of dead soldiers arrive at RAF Lyneham, when church bells toll and coffins are paraded through the streets. And the British people feel the pain. But they have to understand the families who are feeling the pain in Afghanistan on a far greater scale…and one way of celebrating the victory of the Korean people is to actually say to our ruling class that you must stop interfering in the internal affairs of the DPRK, Afghanistan and Iraq and these peoples should have the right to determine their own futures.”
Furthermore, “no struggle is victorious without leadership and the Korean people have had wonderful leadership, not only in the person of Comrade Kim Il Sung and Comrade Kim Jong Il, but also the wonderful leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea. This is precisely what every country should do – build an organisation and a leadership that can lead the struggle. Again, working people do not come to power without leadership, it needs a party”, and this is what the CPGB-ML, and other comrades in the working class movement in this country, are working towards.
Finally, Comrade Harpal said, “no country and no person can live without friends. Friends are very important – their sympathy, their solidarity and their material support. In their epic struggle, the Korean people enjoyed the sympathy and political support of the progressive people of the entire world. And just as US imperialism had gathered the support of several other imperialist powers, and satellite countries, to invade and attack the DPRK, likewise the people of the DPRK had the fraternal and solid support of the people of China and the Soviet Union and that is something that made such a difference that US imperialism was forced to suffer its first ever defeat on the battlefield in its history.”
The meeting was proud to welcome Comrade Jack Shapiro, the 93-year-old veteran communist, whose late brother, Comrade Michael Shapiro, having moved to China in 1949 to take up a leading post in the Xinhua News Agency following a request of the Communist Party of China to the Communist Party of Great Britain, went to Korea in 1950 alongside the Chinese People’s Volunteers. Introducing Comrade Jack, Comrade Keith Bennett, who chaired the proceedings, said that Michael Shapiro had acted in the finest traditions of the British working class, but that this had not endeared him to our ruling class, who had refused to renew his passport.
Comrade Jack told the meeting that his brother had gone to Korea, following a request from the Chinese Communist Party, as English speakers were needed following the capture of the Gloucester regiment. “What Michael found was that most of these young lads had no idea where they were. They had no clue as to the kind of country they’d come to or why they’d come. Most were very keen to write home to their parents, but most of them were illiterate in terms of being able to write a letter. So Michael set up a system to help them write home. He also helped them set up an English language newspaper in the prisoner-of-war camp and, most amazingly, formed a cricket team, probably the first time cricket had been played on the Korean peninsula.”
Having come to Korea in 1951, Michael spent over a year there. He returned to Korea in 1953, to help organise the repatriation home of the POWs from the Gloucester regiment. Speaking of his brother, Comrade Jack said: “His experiences in Korea left an indelible mark and he always talked about the Korean people and the affection he felt for them.”
Noting that in south Korea, the people are still struggling to drive out the US occupiers and their nuclear weapons, and to overthrow the puppet regime, Comrade Jack concluded by reaffirming his “absolute certainty” that Korea would one day be reunified “and the people of the world will see what the Korean people can achieve”.
Guest of honour, Comrade Jang Song Chol
The guest of honour at the meeting was Comrade Jang Song Chol, representing the London embassy of the DPRK.
Thanking all present for their solidarity, he said: “We won the Korean war against imperialism when it was boasting of its global supremacy. We not only defended our young republic but also defended socialism. After the war, the US scorned us and said we could not rise again even in 100 years as they had reduced everything to ashes on the Korean peninsula.” However, not only had the Korean people risen from the ashes, they had carried out socialist revolution and socialist construction, despite all internal and external challenges. In April and May of this year, Comrade Jang continued, “we even managed to successfully launch a satellite and then carried out a nuclear test, for the second time in a decade. This can only show the world that the road we have chosen is righteous and just and what we have done over the last six decades shows that we Korean people will go along the road we have chosen until the victory of socialism and the reunification of the country.”
Brief contributions were also made by Comrade Michael Chant of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and Comrade Dermot Hudson of the Juche Idea Study Group. The formal proceedings were closed with the adoption of a letter of solidarity to the General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Comrade Kim Jong Il.