Who Remembers Korea?

1953, the year in which the Korean war ended, now seems a very long time ago. Really only five years, but in the present system military violence is so common that three years of slaughter in Korea are almost forgotten. It is a frightening fact that capitalism has brought about so much blood-letting in the last five years in various parts of the world that to start discussing the Korean war in any detail is like raking over the dead past, and few would be interested.


But the events surrounding Korea and the East-West propaganda at the time aptly typify wars in general (including the small ones since Korea). A film “The U.N. in Korea” was shown at Head Office on January 12th and a Party speaker used this to illustrate the S.P.G.B. answer to war. Looking back is cold comfort for those who pin their faith in U.N.O. as a means of maintaining world peace. Korea is the blood-soaked ground where U.N.O. was in fact at war.


Liberation Propaganda


It is certainly worthwhile for workers all over the world to ask themselves when threatened with being “occupied” — does it matter whether or not we are “liberated”? Here a grim lesson is to be learned from Korea. In 1945, after about 40 years, the Koreans were “liberated” from the Japanese. The film showed that the workers under the Japanese ruling class were expected to work. They were in fact working before the Japanese went there and have done nothing but work for their own bosses since. It is a great shame that Japanese workers in common with the rest thought it in their interest to don their bosses’ uniforms and go plundering for them, because, of course, workers in both occupied and occupying countries always have to work for their masters. The struggle for existence in terms of wages and conditions is fought with the enemy at home, not with fellow-workers elsewhere who are in the same position. The working-class, it must be emphasised and driven home, do not own any country anywhere. The land, the factories, the mines, the raw material, do not belong to the worker, but to State or private owners. In fact, it is because they own nothing of the country that they have to sell the one thing that is theirs—the energy in their bodies for wages. What then does liberation really mean? Korea once again shows that one ruling class replaces the other and exploitation of the workers continues. It is the need for markets, trade outlets, mineral wealth and strategic points that sets the capitalist groups of the world at one another’s throats commercially and they in turn set the workers at one another’s throats militarily.


More Jargon


Both major capitalist powers in Korea. America in the South, and Russia in the North, tried hard to pass their butchery off as a campaign for ideals. One capitalist mouthpiece, the then foreign secretary of Egypt, called the war “peace action” because U.N.O. was involved. But despite charge and counter-charge, lie and counter-lie, the strategic importance and mineral wealth of Korea could not be disguised. The Chinese rulers also were not slow to see their geographic position, and “aggression ” is an excellent cry to influence workers who do not understand their class position, but think nationally.




The film showed how vast quantities of various materials, industrial plant and buildings were destroyed to prevent their capture. The population were in chronic need of food and all other essentials, but in every war this folly is “normal.”


It must not be forgotten that in 1950, when the Korean war started, the Labour Government was in power here. Those who think changing Tories for Labourites makes any difference must have very short memories.


All wars produce their heroes. A hero is one who though afraid of the boss at work endangers his life to a point which even amazes the boss when fighting other workers. General McArthur, like most good generals, never suffered a scratch, but the film did not mention him as U.N. Commander Perhaps it is embarrassing for those in U.N.O. who try to pass as peace-lovers to recall how McArthur wanted to use A-bombs and, after bombing Manchuria, to extend the war into China.Is War Worth It?
In preparing notes for the meeting, the speaker found back numbers of the Socialist Standard most helpful. It was pointed out at the meeting that while the so-called communists and the other major political parties supported the blood-letting on one side or the other, the S.P.G.B., with its traditional world working-class approach, opposed it. We said of Korea what we had said of 1914-18 and 1939-45 that there is nothing involved worth the shedding of a drop of working-class blood, that workers’ interests lie together, not being at each other’s throats and, having no quarrel with workers anywhere, we extend the hand of Socialist fraternity to all workers and continue working for Socialism. It does not matter who is the ruler, home-grown or foreign, it is against rulers as a class world wide that workers should organise and politically not militarily, to prefer one gang to another is pointless.

Quoting from The Times (28/7/53) the Socialist Standard showed that 3,000 people died for every mile of territory won, not enough to bury the dead. In all, an estimated five million were killed. After being “liberated” there were two-and-three-quarter million refugees and four million destitute in Korea. Having helped to bring about this horrible plight. U.N.O. started a Relief Fund. But the various voluntary donations to aid the stricken population were paltry compared with the nine thousand million dollars spent in three years on ammunition. With the passing of time the political capital to be gained from posing as the champions of freedom in Korea died down. By the time Hungary came along with its promise of political advantage to Western Governments organising charity to the “freedom” fighters, the victims of capitalism in Korea were relying on adverts, in newspapers to collect funds.


What of Socialism?


While the mineral wealth of the world, along with the other means of life are in the hands of the capitalist class, places like Korea with its geographic importance and its mineral wealth of copper, coal, iron, bauxite, and tungsten, etc., will remain the objects of plunder for any gang of rulers who get the chance. The alternative to these continuous thieves’ quarrels is obvious. It is to make all the natural and industrial assets of the world the common property of all mankind, to finish with buying, selling, profits and wages, and start producing for free distribution on the basis of people’s needs. This alternative can only be made operative by the workers first understanding the need for it and then organising for it. To bring these necessary conditions about will take a lot of work, but looking at Korea and looking at capitalism today, the need could hardly be more pressing.


Harry Baldwin