Archive for the ‘Korean War’ Category

The following piece is an extract from a longer article by Phil Hearse that appeared in International Viewpoint, an online Marxist publication, last Thursday (August 10).

For the people of North Korea, warnings from their leadership about the United States seem all too real. During the Korean war (1950-53) the whole of the North was bombed flat and according to some estimates a third of its population died.

Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden explains that although much of the propaganda of today’s North Korean regime is preposterous and idiotic, the hatred of America is often genuine and based on memories of the Korean war:

“The hate, though, is not all manufactured. It is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets.

“The story dates to the early 1950s, when the U.S. Air Force, in response to the North Korean invasion that started the Korean War, bombed and napalmed cities, towns and villages across the North. It was mostly easy pickings for the Air Force, whose B-29s faced little or no opposition on many missions.

“The bombing was long, leisurely and (more…)

South Korean workers' protest. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean workers’ protest. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

by Workers Fight

With its 52 million inhabitants crowded into a territory about 40% the size of Britain, on the eastern coast of China facing Japan, South Korea is portrayed as a capitalist “success story” in every respect, both economically and politically.

Economically, the western media point to the fact that although South Korea was a late-comer to the industrial scene – since it only joined the OECD industrialised countries’ club in 1996 – its industrial production per head is now among the world’s highest. Its two main car manufacturers, Hyundai and Kia, are household names across the world. Its largest electronics conglomerate, Samsung, is Apple’s main rival on the world market of mobile phones and the world’s largest producer of semi-conductors. The world’s most gigantic ships are built in its shipyards – owned by companies like Hyundai, Samsung or Daewoo. Of course, those who hail the South Korean “model” fail to mention how this economic development was achieved, especially the exorbitant price the South Korean working class had to pay – and is still paying – for it!

Politically, South Korea is celebrated by the same media as a ‘democracy’, which is supposed to stand in stark contrast to North Korea’s opaque dictatorship. But what does not get mentioned is that if it had not been for the working class uprising of the late 1980s, South Korea would still be living under the yoke of the long lineage of military dictators brought into power by the western imperialist armies, back in 1946. Likewise, little is ever said about the very narrow limits of South Korea’s so-called “democracy” nor about how its repressive state machinery imposes the iron rule of a handful of very large conglomerates on the working class.

So what does this capitalist ‘success story’ really mean for the South Korean working class in general and for its activists? These are the questions that (more…)

In recent weeks we haven’t had a lot of new material on the site.  We’ve been highlighting articles on important topics because we have a lot of new readers who won’t have seen this material – for instance, with a few days to go and with a fall-off around Xmas Day, this month is our best month ever in terms of the number of hits on articles.  Our readership is close to three times what it was during 2011, when we started.  Anyway, this post is highlighting material we’ve run on the first and second world wars, the Korean War and Afghanistan.

The Korean War: what really happened?

The secret history of World War 2 in New Zealand

World War 2: the real story

The Pacific war, racism and Hiroshima

Second World War: the battle of the books

Unpatriotic history of World War 2

Labour’s introduction of peacetime conscription and the fight against it

Stevan Eldred-Grigg’s The Great Wrong War: NZ society and WW1

Gallipoli invasion: a dirty and bloody business

Field Punishment No. 1 reviewed: a reminder that the war’s not over

Empty Garden: Wellington’s national war memorial park

Afghanistan: no, it’s not the good war

Many well-intentioned people still see the United Nations as some kind of alternative to imperialism. Below we’re reprinting an article that first appeared in issue #2 of MidEast Solidarity (Autumn 2002), the Middle East bulletin of revolution magazine. The anti-imperialist arguments were contributed by Scott Hamilton of the Auckland-based Anti-Imperialist Coalition and Philip Ferguson of the Christchurch-based Middle East Information and Solidarity Collective.

The UN provided cover for the overthrow of the progressive regime in the Congo, led by Patrice Lumumba

Isn’t the United Nations a neutral body representing the international community? Can’t it work in an unbiased way?

The United Nations was established by the winning powers in World War 2. They redivided the world between them, with little concern for anyone else. The UN was created to give legitimacy to this new world order.

One of the first major activities of the UN was to create the state of Israel, thereby dispossessing the Palestinians. Shortly after this, the UN intervened mainly in Korea to back up the dictatorship in the South and preserve imperialist interests.

In the Congo in the early 1960s, the United Nations used its ‘neutral’ cover to play an important part in the overthrow of the radical regime of Patrice Lumumba. This resulted in years of dictatorship and the continued plunder of the wealth of the Congo by western interests.

Today, the United Nations is responsible for the (more…)

Tom O’Lincoln, The Neighbour from Hell: two centuries of Australian imperialism, Melbourne, Interventions, 2014.  Reviewed by Philip Ferguson

unnamedTom O’Lincoln is a veteran activist in the ‘international socialist’ tendency in Australia and currently a leading figure in Socialist Alternative, the largest revolutionary-left organisation across the ditch.  We also happen to be friends.  One of his key contributions to revolutionary politics has been the exposure of nationalist myths in Australia, and this book is a further offering in that direction.

Whereas much of the wider left in Australia promotes the idea that the country is a lap-dog of the United States, this book argues convincingly that the country is imperialist and its ruling class ruthlessly pursue their own class interests abroad, rather than simply following diktats from Washington.  Tom describes the way in which Canberra manoeuvres to maximise its leveraging power in a sea of bigger and more powerful imperialist sharks as “a sort of boutique imperialism”.  This is a great term, one which, if anything, is even more relevant to New Zealand imperialism.

It is crucial for leftists to be clear on the imperialist nature of both countries.  As Tom notes, “otherwise we misunderstand (more…)

We are running a series of discussions around similarities between National and Labour.  Starting with foreign policy, is there a distinct difference? Is Labour more progressive than National?


NZ troops in the ‘Malaysian Emergency’; the first Labour government (1935-49) sent NZ troops to Malaya in 1948 to help crush a left-wing insurgency and the second Labour government (1957-60) kept them there

by Daphna Whitmore

Prime Minister John Key has shown he is hesitant about committing to military involvement in the US-led bombing campaign against ISIS. He has said he “would be reluctant to extend New Zealand’s involvement beyond providing humanitarian help.”

While he “won’t rule out sending New Zealand’s elite SAS personnel to assist US efforts to counter Islamic State (Isis) militants in Iraq or even Syria,” he says “that would be done reluctantly as a last resort, if at all” (NZ Herald).

Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff isn’t ruling out supporting the intervention, but like Key he’d rather not get drawn into a ground war and says: “I don’t see us having boots on the ground but I do see us having diplomatic and humanitarian support through the United Nations, most particularly if we’re a member of the security council next month.”

Labour’s foreign policy has never been significantly to the left of National’s, as we examined in The Truth About Labour:

“Decade after decade Labour remained consistently (more…)

indexby Philip Ferguson*


Reviewing the Second World War, we could say with hindsight that it was not only a war between the Allied and Axis powers, but also between the United States and Europe – in particular the old colonial powers of Britain and France – for the position of world hegemon, and between the US and Japan for dominance in the western Pacific and Asia.  In the course of the war Britain was virtually bankrupted, through its purchases and loans from the United States.  At the war’s end, Britain and France had little choice but to open up their colonies to the United States.  With much of Europe in ruin and Japan crushed, the US reigned supreme over the postwar world order and the dollar ruled the world economy.

The Cold War helped give the United States political hegemony to match its economic power.  ‘The West’, which did not really exist before this, and whose components had spent hundreds of years fighting each other for mastery of Europe and then the world, became cohered behind Washington in the common purpose of containing ‘the East’, ie communism.

The end of the Cold War, following the implosion of the Soviet bloc, has unfrozen the international relations fixed in the aftermath of World War II.  At the same time, many of the main Western economies have been (more…)