Saturday 16 February 2008 was the 66th birthday of the Korean revolutionary leader Comrade Kim Jong Il. As part of its ongoing work to build solidarity with socialist Korea’s struggle against US imperialism and its allies and to build friendship with the Korean people, the Friends of Korea organised a meeting, film show and social that day in Saklatvala Hall in Southall, west London.
Speaking from the Chair, Comrade Zane Carpenter, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist), said that the meeting was being held to recognise Comrade Kim Jong Il’s outstanding work “on behalf of the downtrodden of the world through the strengthening of the DPRK and standing up to the threats and machinations of the imperialist bandits”.
Comrade Zane pointed out that, whilst the British working class shared common interests with their Korean brothers and sisters, many of them, as well as organisations that purport to speak in their name, had failed so far to grasp this common interest because of the grip that social democracy, the political expression and representative of imperialism within the working-class movement, maintains over the proletariat in this country.
Giving the main speech on behalf of Friends of Korea, Comrade Keith Bennett explained the context in which the celebration meeting was organised:
“This is not simply the celebration of the birthday of an individual. It is a symbol of the unity of the Korean people around the Workers’ Party of Korea and its leadership in the acute confrontation with US imperialism and other reactionary forces, as well as in the struggle to build and consolidate socialism in the northern part of Korea and to reunify the whole of Korea independently and without outside interference.
“It is, of course, hard to imagine the masses of people in this country turning out in the streets to celebrate the birthday of Gordon Brown or David Cameron. In fact, the very idea sounds more than a little absurd. This in itself shows a key difference between capitalist and socialist societies. Capitalism, with its nakedly opportunist and craven politicians, mired in corruption and sleaze, rightly attracting the cynical contempt of the working people; and socialism, with its leaders with no interests separate from those of the working class, dedicated to serving the people, and in turn enjoying their love and trust.
“This essential and vital difference between the socialist and capitalist systems is itself a key reason why all of us, united in the Friends of Korea, attach such importance to our friendship and solidarity with the Korean people and with the DPRK, to disseminating correct information, and countering lies and distortions, amongst the British working class and in the anti-war, peace and other progressive movements. It is also why we are pleased to join our Korean brothers and sisters in celebrating the life and leadership of Comrade Kim Jong Il, one of the greatest revolutionaries in the contemporary world.”
Comrade Keith went on to give a detailed presentation on the present stage of the nuclear negotiations between the United States and the DPRK in the six party talks format and also spoke about the significance of this September’s 60th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK. (See Proletarian, February/March 2008 for background on both these issues.)
Speaking next, the guest of honour, Comrade Jong In Song from the DPRK Embassy, explained the resilience of socialism in the DPRK, contrasting it to the way in which socialism had collapsed in the former Soviet Union and the east European countries due to the party leaderships in those countries departing from the principles of Marxism Leninism.
Comrade Jong reminded the meeting that February 2008 also marks the 160th anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels:
“The publication of the Communist Manifesto represented the historic turning point in the development of the socialist revolution … [it] amply declared that the collapse of capitalism and the victory of socialism were inevitable and successfully developed utopian socialism into scientific socialism. Thanks to the Communist Manifesto, Lenin successfully led the October Socialist Revolution in Russia, and socialism spread to many countries and regions.”
However, Comrade Jong continued, in the late twentieth century, traitors to socialism led to its frustration in a number of countries, leading the imperialists to hurriedly proclaim the supposed “end of socialism”.
Just at this point, Comrade Jong explained, Comrade Kim Jong Il published a series of important works, which “analysed the basic reason and lessons from the frustration of socialism in some countries, the inevitability of the victory of socialism, and the way for the resurrection of the socialist movement”. “Socialism will continue to be victorious,” Comrade Jong declared to loud applause.
Following Comrade Jong’s excellent speech, there was a lively discussion, and solidarity messages were presented by Comrade Ella Rule from the CPGB-ML, Comrade Chris Coleman from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Comrade Andy Brooks from the New Communist Party, Comrade John McLeod from the Socialist Labour Party, and Comrade Dermot Hudson from the Juche Idea Study Group.
The meeting adopted a letter of greetings to Comrade Kim Jong Il and in solidarity with the Korean people.
Besides the speeches, a Korean documentary film was shown on the Korean People’s Army’s capture of the US spy ship Pueblo, 40 years ago. Mrs Sekhon sang a revolutionary song by the Punjabi poet Lakha Singh Johar, written at the time of the 1950-53 Korean War and expressing internationalist anti-imperialist solidarity. Comrade Michael Chant performed piano arrangements of British and Korean revolutionary music, culminating in all rising for the DPRK’s national anthem and the Internationale.
Following the meeting and cultural programme, informal discussions continued for several hours over an excellent Indian dinner and drinks.