US Aggression against North Korea: The CWI's "Socialist" Pacifism

Hippie Day-Dreaming is an Impotent Tool in the Struggle against Imperialist War! Authentic Socialists say: Defend North Korea! Defeat US Imperialism!


A Commentary by Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 12.09.2017,




The aggression of US imperialism against North Korea is one of the most important issues of the current world situation. US President Trump, as saber-rattling as he is stupid, has repeatedly threatened to attack North Korea so that it will be "met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."


The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) has repeatedly explained that the only legitimate position of socialists on this issue can be to defend the small country on the Korean peninsula and to call for the defeat of the US warmongers. (See the links to the related documents below.) Such a support for the North Korean people – which must not be confused with political support for the Stalinist-bureaucratic dictatorship of Kim Jong Un – has to take various forms. Starting from the obvious necessary military struggle against the American aggressors in case of a war, such tactics include mass demonstrations and strikes in the US, South Korea and around the world (in particular against industries and transportation relevant for the US war machinery), blockades of the US's THAAD missile system close to Seoul (a number of local protests have already taken place), etc.


Unfortunately, many groups calling themselves "socialists" reject such a set of revolutionary and anti-imperialist tactics. A shameful example of this is the "Committee for a Workers’ International" (CWI). Instead of a Marxist line, it propagates a program of "socialist" pacifism. This can be effectively demonstrated in an extensive article which this organization recently published. (1)


Given the fact that this is the CWI's first article on North Korea since 2013, that it has been authored by a member of the CWI's International Secretariat, and given its considerable length (more than 3,000 words), we can take this article as a comprehensive and authoritative statement of the CWI's position on this crucial flash point in the world.




Class Character of Russia and China?




In fact, the CWI article is an excellent illustration of centrism, i.e., a pseudo-revolutionary line which in fact adapts to reformist opportunism. While it lists a number of facts and quotes, the CWI author fails to express a clear position of the crucial issues involved. While the article refers repeatedly to the role Russia and China play in the tug of war on the Korean peninsula, it fails to mention even once the class character of these two Great Powers! Are these imperialist states? Are they semi-colonies or something else? The CWI doesn’t even attempt to answer this question!


It doesn’t require much explanation to understand why this is a crucial issue, given the involvement of several imperialist powers in the North Korea conflict. (For an elaboration on the RCIT's analysis of the imperialist character of China and Russia see the links below.) It is an important task for a Marxist organization to enlighten the vanguard of the working class and the oppressed and to give it an orientation in the complex convulsions of the global struggle between states and classes. However, despite the length of the article, the CWI author keeps the readers entirely in the dark about such matters.




Which Side Are You On?




Worse still, the CWI fails to state which side the Korean, American and international working class should be on in this conflict! The author swaggers in paragraph after paragraph about how bad US imperialism and the regime of Kim Jong Un are, and how peaceful the world could be under socialism. All this is fine – in fact it is pretty obvious for anyone considering themself progressive! But what does this mean for today?! In fact, the CWI persistently refuses to say which side it takes: does it take the side of the victim of imperialist aggression and call for the defeat of the imperialist predator, or does it take a neutral position in this conflict? Not a single word in the entire article indicates which side socialists should support in this conflict! It doesn't even call for the removal of the sanctions which the imperialist Great Powers have imposed on North Korea! This is not anti-imperialism but rather adaption to social-imperialism!


All this is no oversight, but rather is consistent with the long-time tradition of the CWI. As we have shown in our book The Great Robbery of the South and other documents, the CWI explicitly refuses to take the side of oppressed peoples faced with imperialist aggression. (2) The British attack on Argentina in the Malvinas War in 1982, the US war against in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, and the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan since 2001 are just a few examples of this centrist cowardice.




The Marxist Classics




The Marxist classics of the 20th century – first and foremost Lenin and Trotsky – have made unmistakably clear that the international workers' movement must not take a neutral position in a conflict between an imperialist and an oppressed people. Let us give just a few quotes to demonstrate the Marxist case for anti-imperialism:


 National wars waged by colonies and semi-colonies in the imperialist era are not only probable but inevitable. About 1,000 million people, or over half of the world’s population, live in the colonies and semi-colonies (China, Turkey, Persia). The national liberation movements there are either already very strong, or are growing and maturing. Every war is the continuation of politics by other means. The continuation of national liberation politics in the colonies will inevitably take the form of national wars against imperialism.” (3)


In their famous pamphlet Socialism and War, Lenin and Zinoviev state that it is the utmost duty of all Socialists to take the side of the oppressed in such wars:


By a ‘defensive” war socialists have always understood a ‘just” war in this particular sense (Wilhelm Liebknecht once expressed himself precisely in this way). It is only in this sense that socialists have always regarded wars ‘for the defence of the fatherland”, or ‘defensive” wars, as legitimate, progressive and just. For example, if tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Russia, and so on, these would be ‘just”, and ‘defensive” wars, irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slaveholding and predatory ‘Great” Powers.“ (4)


It was in this same spirit that the Communist International in 1920 called the active support of the national liberation struggle as a duty of every revolutionary in the imperialist states:


A particularly explicit and clear attitude on the question of the colonies and the oppressed peoples is necessary for the parties in those countries where the bourgeoisie possess colonies and oppress other nations. Every party which wishes to join the Communist International is obliged to expose the tricks and dodges of 'its' imperialists in the colonies, to support every colonial liberation movement not merely in words but in deeds, to demand the expulsion of their own imperialists from these colonies, to inculcate among the workers of their country a genuinely fraternal attitude to the working people of the colonies and the oppressed nations, and to carry on systematic agitation among the troops of their country against any oppression of the colonial peoples.” (5)


In a speech at the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in 1922, Trotsky stated: „Every colonial movement, which weakens the capitalist rule in the metropolises, is progressive, because it makes the revolutionary tasks of the proletariat easier to achieve.“ (6)


Faced with the lack of support for liberation struggles of the oppressed people by the centrists, Trotsky emphasized this principle of revolutionary anti-imperialism:


"The struggle against war and its social source, capitalism, presupposes direct, active, unequivocal support to the oppressed colonial peoples in their struggles and wars against imperialism. A ‘neutral’ position is tantamount to support of imperialism." (7)








Preaching socialism without naming the necessary tactics in the class struggle today – among which the defense of the oppressed people against imperialism is one of the most central issues – is an impotent tool in the struggle against imperialist war. It is worthless day-dreaming of petty-bourgeois hippies, unworthy of fighters of the proletarian liberation struggle. This is like musing about an excellent food without knowing which steps are necessary in the process of cooking! Such people won't be able to feed themselves and will die full of nice dreams but hungry.


The working class and oppressed need a revolutionary organization which knows where to stand and how to act today in order to reach freedom tomorrow! Such an organization has no use for "socialist" pacifists who fail to fight against imperialism and who preach "socialist" dreams just to avoid revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle.


Clearly such a program of anti-imperialism must be combined with the struggle for the replacement of the Stalinist-bureaucratic dictatorship of Kim Jong Un with an authentic socialist government. Our perspective is the revolutionary unification of the Korean peninsula and the creation of a Korean Workers’ and Peasant Republic.


The RCIT calls authentic socialists to rally around the slogan: Defend North Korea! Defeat US Imperialism! The struggle for building a Revolutionary World Party is inextricably linked with the anti-imperialist program for the liberation of the oppressed people from the yoke of the Great Powers!






(1) Niall Mulholland: North Korea: Nuclear stand-off - dangerous escalation of Washington and Pyongyang conflict, CWI, 09 September 2017,


(2) Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-exploitation of the Semi-colonial World by Monopoly Capital; Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT, Vienna 2013, chapter 13,; Michael Pröbsting: The CWI’s “Socialist” Zionism and the Palestinian Liberation Struggle. A Reply from the RCIT, 15.9.2014,


(3) V.I. Lenin: The Junius Pamphlet (1916); in: LCW 22, p. 310


(4) V.I. Lenin/G. Zinoviev: Socialism and War (1915); in: LCW 21, pp. 300-301


(5) Communist International: Conditions of Admission to the Communist International, approved by the Second Comintern Congress (1920); in: The Communist International 1919-1943. Documents. Selected and edited by Jane Degras, Volume I 1919-1922, p. 170


(6) Leo Trotzki: Auszug aus einer Rede zur französischen Frage auf dem IV. Weltkongreß der Kommunistischen Internationale (1922); reprinted in: Jakob Moneta: Die Kolonialpolitik der französischen KP, Hannover 1968, p. 22 (our translation)


(7) Resolution on the Antiwar Congress of the London Bureau (1936), in: Documents of the Fourth International, Pathfinder Press, New York 1973, p. 99




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See also our past statements on the imperialist aggression against North Korea:


RCIT: North Korea: Stop the American Warmongers! Defend North Korea against the Madman of US Imperialism! Down with the imperialist sanctions against North Korea! No political support for the Stalinist Kim Regime! 11 August 2017,


RCIT: US Sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea are an Economic Declaration of War, 30 July 2017,


RCIT: North Korea: Stop the War Mongering of US Imperialism! 4 April 2017,


RCIT: New Imperialist Threats in East Asia: Hands off North Korea! 12.3.2013,


RCIT: No War against North Korea! Call for Protests on the Day when a War starts! 6.4.2013,




For our analysis of the Trump Administration and the crisis of US imperialism, we refer readers to various documents:


RCIT: World Perspectives 2017: The Struggle against the Reactionary Offensive in the Era of Trumpism. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, 18 December 2016,


Michael Pröbsting: The Meaning, Consequences and Lessons of Trump‘s Victory. On the Lessons of the US Presidential Election Outcome and the Perspectives for the Domestic and International Class Struggle, 24.November 2016,




For our analysis of the emergence of South Korea as a small imperialist power, we refer readers to the following document:


Michael Pröbsting: Capitalist Development in South Korea and Taiwan (1997),




For our analysis of China as an emerging imperialist country we refer readers to various documents:


Michael Pröbsting: China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power, in: Revolutionary Communism (English-language Journal of the RCIT) No. 4,;


Michael Pröbsting: Russia and China as Great Imperialist Powers. A Summary of the RCIT’s Analysis, 28 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 22,;


Michael Pröbsting: The China Question and the Marxist Theory of Imperialism. Again on China as an imperialist Power. Reply to a Polemic from CSR (Venezuela) and PCO (Argentina), December 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 32,




For our analysis of Russia as an emerging imperialist country we refer readers to various documents:


Michael Pröbsting: Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism and the Rise of Russia as a Great Power. On the Understanding and Misunderstanding of Today’s Inter-Imperialist Rivalry in the Light of Lenin’s Theory of Imperialism. Another Reply to Our Critics Who Deny Russia’s Imperialist Character, August 2014,


Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 21,


Michael Pröbsting: Russia and China as Great Imperialist Powers. A Summary of the RCIT’s Analysis, 28 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 22,


Michael Pröbsting: The Uprising in East Ukraine and Russian Imperialism. An Analysis of Recent Developments in the Ukrainian Civil War and their Consequences for Revolutionary Tactics, 22.October 2014,