Southall’s Saklatvala Hall was the scene for a lively and spirited public meeting organised by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) in solidarity with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Saturday 12 June 2010.
The meeting welcomed the participation, for the first time since 1966, of the DPRK in the football World Cup, which had opened the previous day in South Africa, and also dealt with the new provocations and threats of war being made against the socialist country in the wake of the 26 March sinking of the south Korean warship, the Cheonan, most likely as a result of United States or south Korean ‘friendly fire’.
The meeting began with a showing of ‘Game of their Lives’, an excellent documentary film about the DPRK’s participation in the 1966 World Cup and especially about the friendships forged between the players and the working class people of Middlesborough and Liverpool, where they played their games.
Speakers at the meeting, which was chaired by Comrade Harpal Brar, were Comrades Ella Rule and Keith Bennett of the CPGB-ML, Comrade Michael Chant of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and the guest of honour, Comrade Jang Song Chol of the embassy of the DPRK.
Comrade Keith pointed out that, in this World Cup, “there is just one team representing a nation where sport does not serve the interests of big business, but rather those of the working class; one country where football, and all sports, are at the service of people’s enjoyment, education and health; where there is opportunity and access for all; and where sport is used to promote international friendship and peace, rather than jingoism and chauvinism.”
He contrasted this with the attempts being made to, “conflate England’s participation in the World Cup with British imperialism’s filthy war in Afghanistan”, for example in Prime Minister Cameron’s visit to the country two days previously, where, according to the Evening Standard, in a film of British soldiers, to be sent to the England players in South Africa, one squaddie boasted: “Just like you, we have to hit the target under pressure.”
“For British imperialism,” Comrade Keith continued, “scoring goals is all about massacring the people of oppressed nations so that their resources can continue to be pillaged; so that their oppressive rule can be maintained both at home and abroad. With the predatory war in Afghanistan becoming ever more unpopular among the working class, not least among those communities who have traditionally provided much of the cannon fodder for British imperialism’s bloody adventures, what better way to try and shore up support than by seeking to conflate the natural affinity that people feel for their country’s team with the completely indefensible wars it is waging around the globe.”
Concluding his remarks, Comrade Keith said that, “for too long there has been too little solidarity with the just struggle of the Korean people in this country”. Recalling the words of James Connolly, on the eve of Dublin’s Easter Rising of 1916, that, “the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour. They cannot be dissevered,” he continued:
“Likewise, the cause of Korea, is the cause of the working class, the cause of anti-imperialism, the cause of the anti-war movement. They, too, cannot be dissevered. That is the message we should take from this meeting: An anti-war movement that stands in solidarity with Korea will be a movement worthy of its name. A working class committed to defending Korea will be a working class increasingly able to assume its historic mission of becoming the ruling class.”
Comrade Ella Rule, in her speech, went into great detail on the sinking of the Cheonan, decisively demonstrating that, whilst the exact cause of this tragic incident remains to be determined, absolutely no credible evidence had been produced to link it to the DPRK, which also had nothing to gain from such an action, but rather a great deal to lose, whereas numerous independent articles and studies had raised a large number of questions, which the United States and south Korea, in their zeal to pin the blame on the DPRK for political reasons, had conspicuously failed to answer.
Comrade Ella noted that the purpose of putting pressure on the DPRK, over an incident for which it bore no responsibility, was to find a pretext to ratchet up sanctions, imposing further suffering on the people and constraining the country’s economic development. Moreover, US imperialism has a strategic need to constantly keep tensions high on the Korean peninsula as, without such a high degree of tension, they would find it difficult to hang on in south Korea, whose occupation is a crucial link in their strategy of being able to confront China and Russia.
Further, the reactionary regime in south Korea had also hoped to use the incident to push up their vote in local elections, held at the beginning of June. However, the outcome had been quite contrary to their expectations – the ruling party had been trounced in the elections, with significant gains being scored by those political forces standing for reconciliation with north Korea, against war and for democracy.
Concluding her remarks, Comrade Ella noted: “A number of ‘smoking guns’ lead unfailingly to the conclusion that it is the DPRK which must be believed in this debacle. These include the original response of the US and south Korean authorities, denying that it could have been the DPRK behind the sinking; the delay in publicising the supposed discovery of markings on some torpedo case allegedly found at the scene; the unexplained existence of a third buoy at the salvage site, and the special attention paid to it that was denied to the remains at the other two buoys; the failure to mention the Foal Eagle naval exercises of the United States and south Korea that were taking place in the region at the time; and the failure to invite relatively disinterested parties such as China or Russia to participate in or monitor the investigations.
“The other point is that it makes no sense that the DPRK would torpedo this ship and then deny having done so. What would be the point? If it had decided to torpedo the ship in protest, for example, at the provocative nature of the Foal Eagle military exercises, then it would have said so. If, on the other hand, it was anxious to avoid further sanctions, then it would not have decided to torpedo the ship – as indeed it did not.
“One has only to ask the question cui bono ? (who benefits?) to realise that the DPRK will certainly not have torpedoed the Cheonan. On the contrary, it is US imperialism and its south Korean puppets who certainly do benefit from concealing their responsibility for the accident, and who moreover have a consistent policy of seeking to raise tensions on the Korean peninsula, contrary to the DPRK’s consistent policy of seeking to broker peaceful reunification and cooperation with the south.
“The anti-war movement in Britain should give its full solidarity to the DPRK and demand that the United States and south Korea cease all their provocations and threats against the country.” (For a detailed treatment of this subject, see “Hands off Korea, The sinking of the Cheonan”, Proletarian, No 36, June 2010)
In his warmly-received message of solidarity, Comrade Michael Chant of RCPB(ML) not only expressed his party’s fulsome solidarity with the DPRK and the Korean people, but also the strong view of his party that its relations with the CPGB-ML were not merely fraternal, but those of actual comrades-in-arms in the struggle against imperialism and for socialism and communism.
Following the speeches, the meeting unanimously passed a resolution on the Cheonan incident, which reads in full:
“This meeting expresses its full solidarity with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the face of the campaign of lies and slanders being waged against it in the wake of the sinking of the south Korean vessel, the Cheonan. These lies and slanders are being used to justify enhanced sanctions and further aggressive military exercises. These, in turn, are aimed at isolating the DPRK, imposing suffering on its people, and considerably increase the danger of a new Korean War, something that would be a disaster, not only for the Korean people but the whole world. The attempt to blame the DPRK for the sinking of the Cheonan is itself a despicable provocation as not a shred of real evidence has been produced. What really remains to be established is whether this was a tragic accident caused by incompetence and disregard for human life or a more sinister ‘false flag’ operation cooked up by the US imperialists and their south Korean servants. If the United States and south Korea have nothing to hide, they should admit the investigation team assembled by the National Defence Commission of the DPRK, present all their supposed evidence to it and grant it all necessary and reasonable access. They should also admit impartial investigators from China, Russia and from non-aligned and neutral counties on the same terms.
“This meeting denounces the British government for having once again slavishly echoed the lies and slanders of the US imperialists and south Korean reactionaries and for preposterously demanding that the DPRK, an innocent party, be punished. Sixty years ago, a Labour government sent national servicemen to wage war against the Korean people, costing some 1,000 of them their lives. Ten years after Britain at last established diplomatic relations with the DPRK, it is high time that a page was turned to a new era of friendship and cooperation with the Korean people on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and non-interference in internal affairs.
“This meeting expresses its full support for all the measures taken by the DPRK in self-defence and says:
“HANDS OFF KOREA!”
A further resolution, also adopted unanimously, marked the tenth anniversary, on 15 June, of the conclusion of an agreement between the top leaders of north and south Korea, to promote peace, cooperation, reconciliation and reunification among the Korean people, at the time of late President Kim Dae Jung’s visit to the socialist north.
This resolution noted:
“Following the signing of the Joint Declaration, a new vista of hope began to emerge on the Korean peninsula: long divided families held emotional reunions, cultural exchanges were held, extensive economic cooperation combining the respective strengths of each side was developed, and the two sides joined hands in the international sporting arena. While all this was welcomed by the Korean people and their friends, it gravely concerned imperialism and other reactionary forces. Having manoeuvred to bring Lee Myung Bak to power, representing the most pro-imperialist section of the south Korean big bourgeoisie, the first step taken by his regime was to put into reverse the ‘sunshine diplomacy’ pursued by his two predecessors. The 15 June Joint Declaration and all the subsequent agreements that built on it have been unilaterally and arbitrarily nullified. As a result, cooperation has reverted to confrontation and military tensions are once again growing on the Korean peninsula, dashing the hopes of the Korean people for peace and reunification. The entire Korean people bitterly condemn Lee Myung Bak for his treachery, as was again demonstrated in the decisive defeat handed by the south Korean people to the reactionary forces at the recent local elections.
“This meeting expresses its resolute solidarity with the Korean people, north and south, in their struggle for reconciliation, cooperation, and independent and peaceful reunification; and for a return to the letter and spirit of the June 15 Joint Declaration.”
Following the conclusion of the formal part of the meeting, all comrades and friends carried on with lively informal discussions as to how best to take forward solidarity work with the heroic Korean people over a Korean buffet, curry and drinks.