On Saturday 25 July, some 100 people packed Saklatvala Hall in Southall, west London, for the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML)’s annual anti-imperialist summer barbecue and political rally, marking in particular the anniversaries of the start of the Cuban revolution with the storming of the Moncada Barracks and the victory of the Korean people in the Fatherland Liberation War against US imperialism and its satellites, both of which occurred in July 1953.
Joining party members, supporters and friends from around the country for a delicious barbecue, curry, drink, and inspired speeches were Comrade Hyon Hak Bong, Ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, along with the
whole of his diplomatic staff, Comrade Jorge Luís Garcia, Political Counsellor of the Cuban embassy, and Comrade Helena Menéndez, Press Counsellor of the Venezuelan embassy. Greetings were also received from the Chinese and Angolan embassies.
The formal part of the afternoon was chaired by Party Chairman Comrade Harpal Brar. Introducing Comrade Hyon as the first speaker, Comrade Brar noted that this year was also the 70th anniversary of victory in the world anti-fascist war, in which the main role had been played by the Soviet Union and in which the Chinese and Korean peoples had shouldered the main burden in the East.
Contribution of Korean ambassador
The DPRK ambassador had come straight to the meeting from the airport, having just spent three weeks back home in Pyongyang. Whilst there, he had participated in the meeting of all the DPRK’s ambassadors with the country’s leader Comrade Kim Jong Un. Relating this to the meeting, he stressed that Comrade Kim Jong Un visits every corner of the country, meeting people from all walks of life, including the army, children, the elderly, scientists and so on. His motto, like that of his predecessors in the leadership, was that everything must serve the people. Contrary to hostile external reports, the country was developing and people’s standard of living was improving.
Explaining why the DPRK could not accept the loaded US offer of “dialogue”, that was predicated on his country giving up its independent nuclear deterrent, Comrade Hyon said that the people of the DPRK are a peace-loving people, but they had been forced to develop nuclear weapons owing to the hostile policies of US imperialism and to defend their sovereignty. The origins of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula go back to the 1950s, when the United States threatened their use during the war of 1950-53. Subsequently, the US had introduced thousands of nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula and their use had been threatened by successive presidents, with the DPRK featuring prominently on the US nuclear ‘first strike’ list. Whilst US nukes were for aggression, the DPRK’s were for defence, the ambassador explained. Consequently, they cannot be put on the negotiating table so long as the US threat remains. In this situation, the DPRK’s policy was to develop its economy and its military capabilities simultaneously.
Ambassador Hyon also delivered a strong message of support from the Korean people to the Cuban people, saying that the US imperialist leopard cannot change its spots – diplomatic relations had been established between Cuba and the USA, but the blockade continued. He also thanked the CPGB-ML warmly for its solidarity with the DPRK.
Contribution from Cuba
Speaking next, Comrade Garcia from Cuba noted how imperialism uses the mass media to spread lies about both his country and the DPRK. Nevertheless, both countries were going forward.
Briefing the meeting on the significant developments affecting the Cuban revolution since his speech to the party’s function the previous year, he thanked the CPGB-ML for its support for the five Cuban heroes who had finally returned home last year after 16 years in US jails.
Socialist Cuba had been negotiating with the Obama administration since last year – the 11th US administration that had tried to undermine the Cuban revolution. Finally, Cuba and the United States have re-established diplomatic relations. Now, some mass media say that there is nothing left to do. They are wrong – the opening of the Cuban embassy represents only the first stage. The second stage of full normalisation is more complex. There cannot be said to be full normalisation so long as the blockade continues to exist. Therefore, at its forthcoming session, Cuba will present its resolution against the blockade to the United Nations General Assembly for the 23rd time.
Besides continuing the fight for the lifting of the blockade, Cuba will also continue to struggle for the return of the Guantanamo naval base as well as the cessation of hostile radio broadcasts and attempts at internal destabilisation. The struggle is not over and solidarity is still needed.
Contribution from Venezuela
Comrade Garcia was followed by Comrade Menendez from Venezuela. She said her country’s revolution was going through hard times and needed support in its struggle both against US imperialism as well as the ‘enemy within’, the economic elites who are linked to imperialism.
Venezuela is currently the target of economic warfare – most of the goods produced by the private sector are hidden away, leading to serious shortages. This undeclared warfare is somewhat different from the open attacks of the past, such as the 2002 coup against President Chavez. Then it was obvious to the people who the enemy was, but now that enemy tries to present scarcity as being the fault of the government. This is similar to the tactics that were used against the government of President Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973.
It is in the face of this acute struggle against destabilisation, which also includes the infiltration of paramilitary forces from Colombia as well as from within, alongside the fall in oil prices that undermines not only Venezuela but also other oil producing countries around the world, and the US Executive Order declaring Venezuela to be a threat to the national security of the United States, and thereby potentially opening the way to a full blockade or outright intervention, that parliamentary elections will take place on 6th December.
Comrade Menendez declared: “As always, things are difficult in revolution. But we will overcome.” The revolution has the support of the majority of the people as well as throughout Latin America. One of the main legacies of Comrade Hugo Chavez is the many regional bodies committed to defend Latin American independence.
However, there is a long history of US aggression in Latin America, particularly against left wing and progressive governments that seek the people’s wellbeing. It is in this context that Venezuela is calling for international solidarity.
As with his response to the Korean and Cuban comrades, Comrade Brar expressed the CPGB-ML’s full support for Venezuela’s struggle for independence and socialism.
The final speech was given by CPGB-ML Central Committee member Keith Bennett on behalf of the party. We reproduce his speech below. It has been slightly edited for publication:
Our party is active all the year round, with a varied programme that responds to the needs and demands, the twists and turns, of the class struggle, nationally and internationally. However, this anti-imperialist summer barbecue, celebrating in particular the victory of the Korean people and their allies in the Fatherland Liberation War and the start of the Cuban revolution with the storming of the Moncada Barracks, is one of the three key events that our party observes on an annual basis, the others being May Day and the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
The importance of internationalism
The common thread joining these three events is internationalism, something that is intrinsic to our work. Right back to the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels pointed out that one of the few things that distinguishes the communists from the other parties in the working class movement is that, through every stage through which the proletarian movement must pass, the communists always and everywhere represent the interests of the working class as a whole, independent of all nationality.
This was the basis for the rallying call with which they concluded the Manifesto, “Workers of all countries, unite!” In the era of imperialism, Lenin further developed this, raising the slogan, “Workers of all countries, oppressed peoples and nations, unite!”
For our party, this means supporting the struggles for national liberation and of all the oppressed nations and peoples against imperialism and supporting all those countries and peoples engaged in the struggle to build socialism, both in terms of the historic achievements gained in that regard and in terms of standing resolutely alongside those countries that keep the red banner of socialism flying today.
And, viewed both from the standpoint of the anti-imperialist national liberation struggle and from the standpoint of supporting and defending the building of socialism, the two small countries in the western and eastern hemispheres respectively, Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have a special importance and a special place.
Both countries have fought tirelessly and heroically over decades, indeed centuries, for their independence and sovereignty and for the right to develop in their own way. And both countries have withstood every challenge, all manner of pressure and threats, to stick to the socialist road at home and to advance the socialist cause internationally, particularly since the revisionist collapse in 1989-91 in the Soviet Union, central and eastern Europe, which may be said to have truly propelled them to the advance guard of the international proletariat, a place where they have acquitted themselves with honour.
Our celebrations of the start of the Cuban revolution with the attack on the Moncada Barracks and of the Korean people’s victory in the Fatherland Liberation War take place in this context, namely an appreciation of their significance not just to the Cuban and Korean peoples, but as defining moments in the global struggle against imperialism and for socialism and communism.
The Fatherland Liberation War
The Fatherland Liberation War was a war not only to defend the newly born DPRK but also the newly born People’s Republic of China (PRC) as well as the USSR. Alongside every type of atrocity, including saturation bombing destroying every town and city in the country, the bombing of dams and dykes to destroy crops and farmland, the use of napalm on an industrial scale, and even bacteriological and germ warfare, all of which claimed the lives of millions of Koreans, the US planned to use atomic weapons in Korea on more than one occasion. Indeed, US General Douglas MacArthur proposed the massive use of atomic weaponry not only against the DPRK, but also against the major cities of the PRC and the USSR. And the key Soviet port city of Vladivostok was actually subject to US conventional bombing during the war.
The Fatherland Liberation War was not only the war of the Korean people. It brought the two systems, socialism and imperialism, head to head. US imperialism pulled in 15 of its satellite and allied countries to wage war in Korea, not least Britain, initially under a Labour government. And, just as Comrade Kim Il Sung had sent large numbers of troops to render great help to the Chinese communists in the decisive battles for the liberation of north east China prior to the founding of the PRC, and just as the revolutionaries of both countries had fought together against the Japanese aggressors in the 1930s and 1940s, so many hundreds of thousands of Chinese People’s Volunteers fought and died alongside their Korean comrades under the slogan of “Resist America, Aid Korea, Defend the Motherland and Safeguard our homes”.
Soviet pilots, under conditions of great secrecy, fought heroically in the skies above Korea. And the communists, democratic and peace-loving people of every country campaigned against the imperialist war and in support of the Korean people.
The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), too, played an honourable part in this great international united front and today, in particular, we honour and remember Comrade Michael Shapiro (former communist councillor in Stepney and brother of our own late Honorary President Comrade Jack Shapiro), who spent the war years in Korea with the Xinhua News Agency and who was vilified and deprived of his British citizenship as a result.
Comrade Kim Il Sung rightly summed up that the victory of the Korean people over the allied forces of imperialism, led by US imperialism, marked a turning point in the anti-imperialist struggle. It defended the socialist camp and it greatly encouraged the anti-imperialist struggle throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Successes of the Cuban revolution
One such echo could be found in Cuba. Although the attack on the Moncada Barracks failed in the immediate sense, some six years later the Cuban revolution triumphed and socialism became a reality in the western hemisphere for the first time.
Comrade Kim Il Sung was an ardent supporter of Cuban socialism and a true comrade-in-arms of Comrade Fidel, particularly at every crucial moment, such as during the 1962 Caribbean Missile Crisis.
In a 1968 article, written for the first anniversary of the martyrdom of the internationalist revolutionary Che Guevara, Kim Il Sung wrote that the existence of socialist Cuba was the greatest support to the Latin American revolution as a whole and that the extension of the revolution in Latin America, with the creation of new liberated countries, was the most significant factor in defending the Cuban revolution.
The unfolding of events in Latin America, and particularly in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, fully confirms what Comrade Kim Il Sung wrote, and today we honour what would have been, on 28 July, the 61st birthday of Comrade Hugo Chavez, whom Fidel rightly lauded as the greatest friend the Cuban people ever had, as well as the 36th anniversary of the victory of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua which took place on 19 July.
Particularly this week, we warmly congratulate our Cuban comrades on the opening of their embassy in Washington DC. This is a triumph for the revolution. After more than 50 years of every type of imperialist threat, pressure, blockade, sanctions, armed aggression, be it at the Bay of Pigs or aerial raids on Havana, after many hundreds of assassination attempts against Comrade Fidel, the flag of socialist Cuba now flies in the US capital. Socialist Cuba has achieved this victory without abandoning its principles or its friends, at home or abroad.
Mention of the Five Cuban Heroes, the anti-terrorist fighters imprisoned in US jails for long years from 1998, can illustrate this point. One of them recently remarked that, throughout their ordeal, one thing that sustained them was the knowledge that the Cuban revolution does not leave its soldiers behind. And the concrete steps towards the resumption of bilateral diplomatic relations between Cuba and the USA may be said to have begun with the return home of the last of these fighters.
Subsequent to their return home, their first overseas visit was to Venezuela, and then to Africa, where they visited South Africa, Namibia and finally Angola, where, like tens of thousands of their compatriots, several of them had previously performed internationalist missions. They were then in Managua for the recent anniversary celebrations of the Sandinista revolution and then travelled to El Salvador, where the FMLN liberation movement is now in government.
This anti-imperialist world tour of the Five Cuban Heroes serves to underline and remind us not only of Cuba’s revolutionary history but also of its ongoing fidelity to anti-imperialism and proletarian internationalism. It reminds us in particular that the role of Cuba has been absolutely central to the advance of the revolution not only in Latin America, but also in Africa, particularly to the liberation of southern Africa and to the destruction of the hated and odious apartheid regime. Like the Battles of Stalingrad and Kursk in the Soviet Union, like the Long March in China, and like Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola, and the united struggle of Angolan, Cuban, Namibian, South African and Soviet comrades, which smashed the myth of white supremacy and invincibility and presaged the end of apartheid, will always stand as one of the key, heroic and legendary turning points in humanity’s struggle against imperialism and fascist barbarism.
Victory over Japanese colonialism
Internationalism is also at the heart of another key anniversary we observe today. On August 15th, the Korean people will celebrate the 70 th anniversary of their national liberation from Japanese colonialism.
Japan finally colonised Korea in 1910 and attempted to completely wipe out the country as a separate and distinct nation in terms of language, culture and even personal and family names. Korean patriots tried in every way to find an effective way to resist, but it was only when Comrade Kim Il Sung initiated and waged the anti-Japanese armed guerrilla struggle, aiming at not only national liberation, but also the liberation of the working class and the poor farmers, under the socialist banner, that the Korean people found a correct road of liberation, a road along which they marched together with the communists and peoples of China and the USSR.
The struggle against Japanese imperialism was an integral part of World War II and was fought on many fronts. The Chinese people fought the Japanese aggressors from the time they seized the three provinces of north east China in 1931 and particularly from when Japan launched an all-out war of aggression in 1937. As former Chinese President Hu Jintao remarked, in observing the 60th anniversary of victory 10 years ago, in the struggle against fascism, the war began in the east and lasted there for the longest time. In 14 years of conflict, China sustained some 35 million casualties, dead and wounded.
At the crucial moment, the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan and Korea was liberated through the joint struggle and sacrifice of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army and the Soviet Red Army.
National liberation meant that the Korean people could begin building a new life, but the entry of US troops to the south of the country in September 1945 and the onset of the Cold War triggered the partition of the single Korean nation, a tragedy that continues to this day.
In the north of the country, alongside land reform, the nationalisation of major industries, the enactment of equality between the sexes, the provision of education and health care, and other democratic measures, Comrade Kim Il Sung led the work to establish a genuine communist party, with the battle-hardened and tempered anti-Japanese revolutionary fighters as its backbone. As a result, the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) was successfully founded on October 10 th 1945.
It is thanks to the guidance of the WPK and the leadership of its successive leaders, Comrades Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un that the people of the DPRK, over the last 70 years, have been able to meet any challenge and to score victories – in the Fatherland Liberation War, whose victory we celebrate today, in post-war rehabilitation and the building of an industrialised socialist society in record time, in resisting armed attack, nuclear threats, sanctions, blockades, the treachery of modern revisionism and the meddling of big powers, as well as successive natural disasters, right up to the present time.
A key lesson we have to draw from the Korean revolution therefore, as with the revolution in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba and elsewhere, is that the triumph and consolidation of the state power of the working class and its allies requires the leadership of a working class political party.
I conclude with that final reflection and once again express our profound thanks to the distinguished representatives from the embassies of the DPRK, Cuba and Venezuela for their presence and their solidarity. Our thanks also go to the representative from the Chinese embassy, who unfortunately could not be with us this time due to annual leave, but who writes that he is “sorry for missing this fabulous event and [I] wish it every success” and to the Angolan embassy for its good wishes. Above all, I express our solidarity, admiration and thanks for all that our Korean, Cuban, Venezuelan and other comrades have done and are doing to further our common cause and assure them of our firm and unwavering support and solidarity at all times.
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