by George Cockburn
In Defence of Songun by Dermot Hudson (Lulu Press, 2015)
THE IDEAS of Juche and Songun are two of the major developments of Marxist thinking that have emerged from the Korean revolution, and added to the theoretical armoury of the world socialist and communist movements.
In particular Juché and Songun have offered a valuable path for many small, developing countries to emulate. They are a valued contribution to the struggles for national independence and socialism in our times, and have attracted followers around the world.
Virtually nothing has been written in the West on the subject of Songun and what little has been written has been from a hostile position to the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Korean revolution. Moreover, while the Juché and Songun ideas are the twin pillars of defending the DPR Korea's cherished independence and sovereignty, fewer people in the West are aware of the Songun policy than about the Juché idea.
For these reasons Dermot Hudson's new book, In Defence of Songun, is a valuable and timely contribution to the available material in the English language on this topic, particularly for the many people around the world engaged in studying the ideological aspects of the Korean revolution.
The founding of the Songun policy (also known as the Army First policy) began on 25th August 1960 when Kim Jong Il, then Chair of the National Defence Commission, inspected the Seoul Ryu Kyong Su 105 Guards Tank Division of the Korean People’s Army.
Hudson describes Songun as: “The main socialist mode of politics, as it is the mode of politics that gives top priority to military affairs and defends the country, the revolution and socialism with the People’s Army as the core and the main force, and dynamically pushes ahead with overall socialist construction.”
The book looks at specific aspects of the Songun policy, including its relation to revisionist theories, economic classes, and to world politics – and emphasises that the Army First policy in no way implies a form of military dictatorship: “Of course this does not mean that the army takes over society nor that Songun politics advocates a military government nor is a deviation from the socialist idea as some reactionaries and opportunists have tried to suggest.
“Military government is the one in which the reactionary ruling class militarise all fields of the state and social life and subordinate them to the building up of the military strength for aggressive war,” adding: “This is done on behalf of the monopoly capitalist ruling class.”
Hudson also stresses the role of the Korean People's Army (KPA) under the Songun policy as one of serving the Korean people and the economy, not only in war but also in peacetime, actively contributing to economic construction.
“In the DPRK”, he says, “the People’s Army undertakes at the highest level the construction of monumental edifices, power stations, factories, cultural and welfare facilities and housing across the country.
“In 2015 alone, numerous projects including historic sites associated with the Fatherland Liberation War Museum, the Sinchon Museum, the Automation Institute of the Kim Chaek University of Technology, the Satellite Control Centre of the National Aerospace Development Administration, the Wonsan Orphanage, the Pyongyang Rest Home and the new Pyongyang International Airport terminal have been newly built or refurbished thanks to the devoted efforts of the People’s Army.”
An example of how the KPA serves the masses was when flash floods struck the area around the city of Rajin near the Russian and Chinese border last August, in which according to the International Red Cross 40 people lost their lives and more than 11,000 people were left homeless.
Units of the KPA were on the spot within 24 hours, and within three to four weeks new housing, roads and bridges had been built or repaired.
Perhaps the residents of towns hit by devastating floods in northern England last year, who have had to wait weeks and months for insurance and “emergency” Government pay-outs and for local councils to repair local infrastructure, might be envious of such a rapid and effective response!
In these ways Songun has contributed to the remarkable achievements of the DPR Korea in maintaining strong and technologically advanced defence forces, under constant threat of war from US imperialism, while still managing rapidly to develop the economy, embark on dozens of construction projects from housing to tourist resorts, and greatly improve the standards of life and culture for its people year by year.
In recent times the 2003 invasion of Iraq has become symbolic of the lies and aggression of US imperialism that have caused so much death and suffering around the world. As Hudson writes: “The US imperialists have recorded in their bloody history more than 200 wars against small and developing countries since 1945. After the Cold War some people thought that their ambitions of aggression would be weak. But the reality was contrary to them.”
Shortly after George W Bush declared “mission accomplished” in that war, Kim Jong Il wrote: “The bloody lesson of the war in Iraq for the world is that only when a country has physical deterrent forces and massive military deterrent forces that are capable of overwhelmingly defeating any attack by state-of-the-art weapons, can it prevent war and defend its independence and national security.”
This was a lesson to all small, developing countries that to disarm in the face of imperialism meant to lay their country open to attack, and was confirmed yet again with horrific consequences by the regime change in Libya after Muammar Gaddafi agreed to cancel the development of nuclear weapons.
Dermot Hudson's book looks in detail at all these aspects of the Songun idea, and is recommended to all readers of the New Worker as a new and useful resource in studying and understanding contributions of the Korean revolution and its leaders.