The Juche Idea in the Light of Marxism-Leninism

By Gary Howell

1. CONTEXT

In 1992, the DPRK revised its constitution to exclude any reference to Marxism-Leninism, having previously described the Juche Idea as a development of Marxism-Leninism. Also in that year, the so-called “Pyongyang Declaration” was signed by a number of parties claiming to be Marxist-Leninist.

These events need to be seen, as many comrades have explained, in the context of the Workers’ Party of Korea trying to exert a leadership role over the various “Communist” parties and National Democratic movements throughout the world, following the complete degeneration of the Khruschevite revisionist bloc into capitalist restoration and the revisionist betrayal of Socialist Albania by the traitor Ramiz Alia, et al.

In this context should also be seen the WPK’s desire to foist the two Kim’s Juche Idea onto the international “Communist” movement, under the pretext that Marxism-Leninism had shown its “limitations and ideo-theoretical immaturities”. So, what exactly is this Juche Idea, which the WPK claims – not in so many words mind! – the International Proletariat is in need of to explain present day conditions, now that Marxism-Leninism has shown its “limitations”?

2. THE JUCHE IDEA

Kim Jong Il claimed, in his essay “The Juche Philosophy is an Original Revolutionary Philosophy” that the Juche Idea is no mere development of Marxism-Leninism, but an entirely new revolutionary philosophy:

“We must give a clear understanding of the Juche Philosophy as a new revolutionary philosophy, not as a mere development of the preceding philosophy.”

And…

“…some development of materialism and dialectics does not constitute the basic content of the Juche philosophy.”

And…

“The Juche philosophy is an original philosophy which is fundamentally different from the preceding philosophy in its tasks and principles.”

So, to sum up the differences between Marxism-Leninism and the Juche Idea, in their tasks and principles, and answers to the basic question of philosophy, according to Kim Jong Il:

FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION of MARXISM-LENINISM:
” The relationship between material and consciousness, between being and thinking.”

FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION of the JUCHE IDEA:
“The relationship between the world and man, and man’s position and role in the world.”

This leads to the PHILOSOPHICAL PRINCIPLE of JUCHE:
“Man is the master of everything and decides everything.”

So, the MAJOR TASK OF MARXISM-LENINISM:
“The clarification of the essence of the material world and the general law of its motion.”

Whereas

The MAJOR TASK of the JUCHE IDEA:
“The clarification of man’s essential characteristics and the law of the social movement, man’s movement.”

But, what exactly are the differences between Marxism-Leninism and the Juche Idea according to Kim Jong Il? Well, the answer is, when you read what he says, rather banal:

In a nutshell, he doesn’t deny that the universal laws and categories of Dialectical Materialism operate in nature and society (and, by definition, thought as well). He also does not deny that the laws of social development operate in society, thus:

“Of course, society, too, changes and develops in accordance with a certain law, not by man’s own will… Some of the laws of society governs every society in general irrespective of social systems, and some of them governs a particular society.”

But, Marxism-Leninism, according to Kim Jong Il, mechanically applies Dialectical Materialism to society –

“The major limitation of the materialistic conception of history is that it failed to correctly expound the peculiar law of the social movement and explained the principles of the social movement mainly on the basis of the common character of the motion of nature and the social movement in that both of them are the motion of material.

“Marxist materialistic conception of history broke down society into social being and social consciousness and attached determining significance to the social being; it also broke down the social structure into productive force and production relations, foundation and superstructure, and attached decisive significance to material production and economic relations. This means an unaltered application of the principle of materialistic dialectics to society, the principle that the world is of material and changes and develops in accordance with the general law of the motion of material. The world, viewed by the founders of Marxism when applying the general law governing the material world to social history, is an integrity of not only nature but also man and society in that they are material beings. If you consider man as a part of the world, a material integrity, not as a social being with independence, creativity and consciousness, and apply the general law of the movement of material world to social history, you cannot avoid seeing the social-historical movement as a process of the history of nature.”

The above quotation of Kim Jong Il should serve as a monument to the incoherence and self-contradictory nature that is the essence of the Juche Idea.

Kim Jong Il starts off by asserting that an Apple is not an Apple but an Orange, and then proceeds to demonstrate beyond doubt that all the features of the Orange – texture, feel, look, taste, etc., are those of the Apple – but still asserts that the Apple is an Orange!

The “principle that the world is of material and changes and develops in accordance with the general law of material” IS “society, too, changes and develops in accordance with a certain law, not by man’s own will.”

“Material” means “Objectively”, i.e., independently of man’s will, outside of man’s consciousness, but it seems Kim Jong Il’s mind operates according to a different logic than the rest of humanity, one where 1+1 really does equal 3 and where one really can square circles on a daily basis. But, in the real world, his assertions are patent nonsense. It should be apparent now that the features I have outlined so far are those that have an identity with all brands of revisionism, from Bernstein’s brand onwards, namely that “new conditions” necessitate the “creative development” of Marxism-Leninism, which, in reality means divesting it of its revolutionary essence, the difference, in the WRP’s case being that Marxism-Leninism’s “limitations and ideo-theoretical immaturities” necessitate its wholesale replacement with the two Kims’ scatter-brained petit bourgeois farrago of distortions of Marxism-Leninism – aka, the Juche Idea. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to Marxist-Leninists who are well aware of the feudalistic personality cult that surrounds the two Kims, the anti-Marxist leadership theories that have been perpetrated in the DPRK, where, it is said, over 30 000 monuments to the “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung, have been erected.

To assert that because the universal laws and categories of Dialectical Materialism apply to society, as they apply to nature and to thought, that therefore, Marxism views man as an animal in nature, is sheer lunacy, that even Kim Jong Il himself contradicts, further on in his essay. He is just thrashing about, trying to find holes in Marxist-Leninist philosophy that are just not there, so he resorts to ‘straw man arguments’ against Dialectical and Historical materialism, in order to try and justify their replacement with the decidedly dodgy Juche Idea.

Here is another of Kim Jong Il’s ‘straw man arguments’:

“The Marxist philosophy defined the essence of man as an ensemble of social relations, but it failed to correctly expound the characteristics of man as a social being. The preceding theory explained the principle of the social movement mainly on the basis of the general law of the development of the material world, because it failed to clarify the essential qualities of social man. For the first time the Juche philosophy gave a perfect elucidation of the unique qualities of man as a social being.”

Further on…

“The origin of man’s essential qualities must be sought not in the development of his features common with those of other material beings (animals – G) but in the characteristics unique to him.”

As regards the concept of “social being”, it should not be understood as Marxist-Leninists understand the term:

“Regarding man’s essential qualities, it is important to have a correct understanding of the social being. The founders of Marxism, while raising the question of man’s essence in social relationship, used the phrase social being as a concept meaning the material conditions and economic relations of social life which exist objectively and are reflected in social consciousness. Since they regarded man as a component of productive forces, as the ensemble of social relations, the phrase social being they used implied man as well. However, they did not use it as one having the particular meaning that defines man’s essential qualities. Systematizing the Juche Philosophy, we used the term social being as one having the particular meaning that defines man’s essential qualities. In the theory of the Juche philosophy man is the only social being in the world.”

Further…

“The Juche Philosophy is a new philosophy which has its own system and content, so its categories must not be understood in the conventional meaning.”

So, according to the Juche Idea, “Man is a social being with independence, creativity and consciousness.”

The sheer banality of this definition will be obvious to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Marxist-Leninist philosophy. It is the marxist-leninist definition of man’s essential qualities which is the adequate explanation, not the vacuous distortion that is the Juche definition.(1)

The Juche definition of man’s essential characteristics rips man out of time ands space – in other words, it is an abstraction. Marxism-Leninism, never abstracts man from the world. In Marxism-Leninism’s characterization, man is always concrete man. Man exists exclusively in a concrete time and place, in a definite social-economic formation, in definite relationships with other people, e.g., class, family, nation, peer group, work collective and so on.

So, in effect, the Juche Idea’s definition of man’s essential qualities is meaningless and worthless in the scientific reflection of the objective law-governed world and man’s position and role in it.

DEFINITION OF THE NATION

“The following happened when Kim Jong Il was a student at Kim Il Sung University, One autumn day in 1960, during a lecture on Korean history, there was an argument on whether or not Koreans overseas could be considered a part of the Korean nation, since the Marxist-Leninist classics said that only when the foregoing conditions – common language, territory, economic life and psychology manifested in culture – were met could the people constitute a nation.

‘ In those days, scholars who dogmatically accepted the existing theories held that the Korean nation had been formed either in the 18th century when Korea was in the initial stage of capitalist development or in the period of Japanese imperialist colonial rule or even after liberation on August 15, 1945. Kim Jong Il criticized their dogmatic view based on the Marxist-Leninist Classics and said that the basic indexes of a nation are homogeneity of bloodline, a common language and a common territory; in particular, that bloodline and language are the most important in defining a nation, and that a nation is a solid group of people who are united with homogeneity of bloodline, language and territory.

‘He went on to say that Korean nation has long lived in one territory, inheriting the same bloodline and speaking the same language, and it is a nation with a history of 5,000 years and with a splendid culture, and that expatriates, too, belong to Korean nation. A nation is a cohesive group of people that was formed historically and the largest unit of social life. A nation is not formed or broken up easily by a change in the social system. The formation of a nation conditions the appearance of social classes and strata. Even in a classless society the nation still exists. If one’s bloodline and language are same, one belongs to one and the same nation, even though one’s ideology, ideals and territory are different. This is his outlook on the nation.

‘Our nation is a homogeneous nation descended from Tangun that has inherited only one bloodline for 5,000 years. Such a phenomenon is rare in the world. Homogeneity of bloodline is the most important characteristic of a nation. If we regard a common economic life as the main mark of a nation as held by previous theories, our fellow countrymen who live under the different economic systems of north and south Korea should be divided into a “bourgeois nation” and a “socialist nation”, and several million Korean expatriates could not be regarded as part of our nation. Viewed from this angle, Kim Jong Il is the benefactor who has identified all the people in the north and south and the several million expatriates as belonging to one and the same nation. Language is another important factor defining a nation. Of the several factors defining a nation, territory and culture may be altered, but the homogeneity of bloodline and a common language cannot be changed. Since the people of north and south Korea have inherited the same bloodline and speak the same language, even though they have lived in different territories and under different economic conditions for more than 50 years since the country’s division, they have a feeling of affinity and friendship. A common territory is not the same as the territory ruled by State power.

‘The territorial definition of a nation means the land where fellow countrymen of the same bloodline and speaking one language have lived their lives from generation to generation. The territory of a national community might be occupied by foreign forces, but it cannot be lost; even a subject nation cannot abandon the land where their forefathers have lived.

‘The main territory of Koreans is the land of 3,000 ri (One ri is 400 metres) where they have lived for 5,000 years. (5,000-ri means the total length of Korea’s territory.) This land remained our nation’s home in the 41-year period of Japanese colonial rule and cannot be land owned by Americans because they have occupied the southern part of our country for half a century. It is our nation’s living space and nest today and will be forever in the future as in the past.

‘A common culture needs to be viewed by taking bloodline and language as the common features. This is because the character, mentality and consciousness of a nation are unthinkable apart from communities based on blood and language.

‘As seen above, Kim Jong Il’s definition of a nation based on one’s blood and language is correct and scientific. Kim Jong Il gave a wise answer to the question of our nation’s formation. Criticizing the dogmatic view which fixed the time of the formation of our nation to the development of capitalism, he said: “Our people is a homogeneous nation who have inherited one bloodline, language and culture in one territory from olden times, and it is a wise nation with 5,000 years of history, a brilliant culture and splendid traditions.” The question of a nation’s founding is a basic one for the theory of the nation and is the starting point to systematize a nation’s history.

‘The Korean nation was not formed in modern society in the course of capitalist development. Our compatriots long lived in one territory having one blood, language and culture, and in the course of history they became a single nation. The beginnings of the nation’s formation can be seen in clan society. With the emergence of the state, the clan became a special group settling in a certain region. In due course, this developed into a nation. This is a brief summary of his view on the formation of our nation. His Juche-oriented view of the features of our nation and of its formation presents a compass for people who were in the past obsessed with flunkyism and dogmatism to use their own brains and think independently about national questions.”

(Full Embodiment of National Independence – from Guiding Light General Kim Jong Il, Foreign languages Publishing House, Pyongyang, DPRK, 1997)

Kim Jong Il’s definition of the Nation here is not a million miles removed from the Nazis’ mystical views on “blood and soil” (blut unt boden). There is no such thing as a pure “race” or a pure “ethnic group”. We are, in the words of the scientists, “energetic mongrels”. The idea that the definition of a nation can be thought of in terms of “bloodline” is just laughable and merely reflects the pseudo scientific character of the “Juche Idea”. Kim Jong Il’s ideas on the nation are eclectic and metaphysical. They certainly do not reflect the dialectical nature of the objective law governed world. What, in Kim Jong Il’s mind would Britain, France and Germany represent then, with their multi ethnic, multi-cultural states, let alone the USA and Canada and Australia?

There are not many countries that would fit Kim Jong Il’s definition of a nation, if we accepted his thesis.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion I assert that it is Marxism-Leninism that enables man to scientifically comprehend the world in all its aspects and properties, in dialectical unity and development. Comrade Enver Hoxha, in his book “Reflections on China” summed up Kim Il Sung as a ‘vacillating revisionist megalomaniac’. His definition of Kim Il Sung hits the nail on the head not only as regards Kim Il Sung and his offspring, but the “theory” of Juche as well, which perfectly reflects in ideas, the psychology so effectively laid bare in Comrade Enver’s polemic.

I hope that this article will serve as an additional component of the Marxist-Leninist polemic against the Juche Idea, to be read with comrade Norberto Steinmayr’s article and our departed Comrade Bill Bland’s articles against the Juche Idea.

Comrades need to be aware that in these days of continuing ideological confusion, the defense of Marxism-Leninism against all brands of petit-bourgeois distortions of our science must be taken up and all their schemes to foist their subjective, eclectic, metaphysical and hence, idealist “theories” on the international revolutionary working class movement must be soundly defeated.

That the total degeneration of the Soviet revisionist bloc countries should have been the catalyst to the elevating of the Juche Idea to the level of a completely brand new scientific socialism, replacing Marxism-Leninism in its entirety came as no surprise to those Marxist-Leninists such as Bill Bland who were well acquainted with how revisionism rears its ugly head, every time the social conditions provide for its appearance. Now that we know about the Juche Idea in detail, in part due to the wonders of the internet, Kim Il Sung’s petit bourgeois pseudo scientific nonsense can be exposed and expelled…let the struggle begin!

Sources for this article:

Kim Jong Il:” The Juche Philosophy is an Original Revolutionary Philosophy” (1996).

Kim Jong Il:”Full Embodiment of National Independence”

Enver Hoxha: “Reflections On China” Vol. II, p.143

(1) Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”: “Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human essence. But the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.” And further on; “Feuerbach, consequently, does not see that the ‘religious sentiment’ is itself a social product, and that the abstract individual whom he analyses belongs in reality to a particular form of society.” (Karl Marx, Selected Works, Progress Publishers, p.14)

2 responses to “The Juche Idea in the Light of Marxism-Leninism

  1. Pingback: Towards a concrete analysis of the DPRK | Anti-Imperialism.com

  2. Pingback: Towards a Concrete Analysis of the DPRK | Toilers' Struggle

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