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People's Korea, Juche and the struggle against revisionism

For those who may not be familiar with it, the Juche Idea (literally translated as “the spirit of self-reliance”) was put forward as the guiding idea of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) starting in the mid-1950s. It teaches that “the people are the masters of everything and decide everything,” and that the Korean people are the masters of Korea’s revolution. It is a creative application of Marxism-Leninism to the particular situation of divided Korea — the north, constructing socialism, and the south, occupied and dominated by the U.S.

Kim Il Sung, leader of the Korean Revolution and founder of the Workers’ Party, outlined the three fundamental principles of Juche in his 1965 speech “On Socialist Construction and the South Korean Revolution in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”:

1. “independence in politics” (chaju)

2. “self-sustenance in the economy” (charip)

3. “self-defense in national defense” (chawi)

I think there were two major factors in the development of Juche ideology.

The first was the project of national liberation of Korea (Chosun), a people under siege and occupation for centuries, even before the arrival of Western colonial powers on the scene. I have written elsewhere about this aspect of the Korean Revolution.

The second factor was the tragic Sino-Soviet split that divided the socialist camp and ultimately gave imperialism a wedge to turn comrade against comrade. North Korea was literally, geographically, stuck in the middle of this struggle between the (truly) revisionist leadership of the USSR and the Maoists in China. The DPRK had to navigate very carefully, preserving its trade and security relations with its neighbors while also promoting revolutionary socialism. Juche was the ideological means to do this.

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