Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Good News Everyone!

Well I've done it I’ve sold out to the man..... I mean found a long term job. Since completing my Degree course at Hull University back in July I've been looking for work. I was able to get some short term work in between then and now though but emphasis was very much on the word short. And much of my time went into retraining you know IT courses, Voluntary work, I even took up boxing and am currently learning German, you know cast a wide net in case I had to fall back on my abnormally large fists, or knack for stereotypical accents. Since the very first things to be cut in ConDem budget where all the main hirers for my degree course, I was pretty much trapped in Limbo for awhile.

Still water under the bridge, the job I now have is writer, (big shake up I'm sure you'll agree) specifically for a new website I'm mainly doing product reviews of video games at the moment but its early days and the higher ups are interested in expanding into current affairs and other areas once established so I live in hope. There a nice bunch communications have been pleasant and the hours reasonable. So depending on how it works this place could either get less or more active.

I want to keep both separate really since there not really related, but my twitter which I set up purely as a way to keep readers updated will see a bit of activity from both, I don't really use twitter enough to justify two accounts. I understand I'm not the best writer out there (though do feel free to disagree with me on this :) but the sites a diverse bunch and if you like games, music or sport or cars and more then you should check it out.

Remember this the more you visit the site, the more money I make, I mean the greater the plurality of information source.... which will err weaken the monopoly of information at the heart of`the struggle of human emancipation, yeah lets go with option number two.

Also lets celebrate with a song, what could be more appropriate then "Happy Worker"

Now that's a sentiment I can get behind!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Maoist India: The Search for Economic Justice

Several months ago in my last post about India you may recall that I called it strange how by all accounts a dangerous rebellionin India a nation with both the fastest growing economy and population should go almost unnoticed while serious but less potentially world changing ones in Jammu and Kashmir often get a few pieces in the news papers and a talky bit on the evening news if only when violence flairs up. Hell Indian Islamic and Hindu Terrorism often get write ups, and terrorism is the weapon of the small and weak fringe elements.

Well it really irked me this seeming blackout of an important international affairs story, so I did some digging to find some more information. I found a few more blogs and a couple of articles by more mainstream news sites but very much in the "also today" snippets almost like a montage of international text. I also found a 30 minute (give or take a few seconds) by who else but Free Speech Radio News. Its from 2009 and it focuses on one part of India and the "Red Corridor" the Bastar forests. The forests of Bastar are the Naxalites most entrenched area so the documentary asked why is that? Well the local population for the most part support them which is an absolute necessity for a Guerilla movement. Ernesto "Che" Guevara said this separates a Guerilla from a bandit in his Guerilla Warfare "The Guerilla fighter counts on the full support of the people. This is an indispensable condition"(1).

The documentary asks why that is, why don't the police or local government have that special place in there peoples hearts?

I should point out that I am the one who made this video (which explains the poor job) I've been making videos of FSRN's radio broadcasts in my spare time for a few months now, in order to both practice my editing skills and take another step or two in Online Activism, by practising what's called Guerilla advertising.

"In most places around India, Maoists are an underground hit and run force... but in Central India's Bastar forests, they're well-entrenched. Join us today for an encore presentation of "Maoist India, the search for economic justice."

As I've mentioned I've also found a few more blogs in addition to Naxal Revolution, here they are Naxalite Rage and Naxal War. Hope you find this information useful.

1: Chapter One, page 16

Monday, 16 January 2012

Get Ready for the Hive Mind: The Proliferation of Drone Warfare

As we progress through the 21st Century and since Al-Qaeda and its Islamic knockoffs and fellow travellers have failed to allow the big arms contractors to kick off a new Cold War scale arms spending spree, the future of warfare looks to have an even heavier focus on cutting costs, both in terms of finances and politically by reducing the number of casualties (for us the "good guys" of course, the more deaths inflicted on the evil barbarians the better).

Behold the entire border area can be considered a large military testing range for the weapons of the future.

The most prolific "revolution" is probably going to be in the use of Drone devices as they have provided a number of loopholes for the Obama Administration in its continuation of the Afghan War, especially on the North West Frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Though Drone strikes where extremely controversial from the start less troublesome then using fighter jets and helicopter gunships, especially when civilians were killed. If a human had been behind the trigger then the US would have to either turn over there personnel for prosecution in a foreign court (unthinkable) or conduct disciplinary hearings or even a full court martial to not risk another hit in the court of world opinion which could collapse morale, after all they would be doing what they were trained for.

Or I guess not World Opinion can go to hell, "the corps looks after its own" even if that means you'll all hang together in the end.

Of course Drones where still abit risky and it looks like once Pakistani soldiers were killed (remember who really has top billing in Pakistan's Political theatre) Islamabad had reached its final straw.

"In Pakistan, the government continues to ban the NATO supply route into Afghanistan following a deadly attack that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers. While government leaders negotiate a solution to the deadly us policies in the region, many local workers have found themselves without a job. The NATO shutdown has exposed how the u-s war machine makes local people dependent on it for wages. Catherine Komp reads for our reporter in Pakistan, who met some of the NATO drivers who are out of work."

But the Obama administration is full speed ahead for drone production with the added flavour of unrestricted Mercenary groups like Blackwater AKA Xe Services AKA Acadami AKA the guys so brutal and uncaring they permanently wrecked the chance for America to get a permanent official troop presence in Iraq after making "immunity" a toxic word.

"Washington had wanted to keep a small training and counter-terrorism presence in Iraq, but US officials were unable to strike a deal with Baghdad on legal issues including immunity for troops."

"President Barack Obama and Pentagon officials unveiled a proposal this morning to shift the US defense strategy over the next decade. Though the details won’t be finalized for another few weeks, the plan is designed to save more than a trillion dollars, and move away from long-term, on-the-ground occupations. But antiwar activists and national security experts are concerned about increased drone warfare, the planned build-up in the Pacific, and the unchecked increase of private defense contractors. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports from Washington."

And to think that there's a large constituency of Americans (impossible to tell how big they could just be using alternative accounts) where Obama is considered a bleeding heart Liberal Dove, though to be fair that group overlaps considerably with the group advancing the theory that hes a secret Muslim, or still born in an evil foreign land laughable considering even the "radical" fringe of the Republicans are now sitting that wild goose chase out.

But its not just Muslim tribes men who have to watch out for these drones -or fighting machines as I like to call them- we in the civilised West have to watch out for them.
From FSRN.

"The United States’ use of drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other nations overseas has drawn much criticism for civilian deaths and a lack of accountability, but even less is known about the drones used within US borders. The digital privacy advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying to change that, by suing the Department of Transportation for failing to disclose who is operating the drones domestically and how they are being used. FSRN's Alice Ollstein reports from Washington."

And its not just the uncoof Yanks to blame, us sophisticated moderation loving Europeans are in on the act too. Especially France.

From Dassault the company that brought Gaddafi the Mirage Jet, its sleek it sexy and you wont know its there until the sound of the missile hurtling towards you blowsout your eardrums.

Now of course the fact that police forces are getting a bunch of shiny new toys for surveillance makes me naturally unnerved as I am familiar with the use and abuse of the current generation of monitoring gadgets employed by the thin blue line. But practically speaking it does make sense in certain context to use mini surveillance drones. But it really needs to be subject to monitoring and scrutiny to make sure that A: it never goes beyond tracking and spying, and B: Its only used against the genuine criminal element (traffickers, organised gangs, missing persons investigations etc.) and not against the annoying enviro hippies, or political unpopular movements and subversives. Becuase once that line is crossed its not long before


Turns into this.

Look at it, its like a shiny little hummingbird, only this bird has no soul.

Of course the proliferation of war, more deaths and infringing on civil liberties are short term problems. As the technology gets more advanced, the Drones more sophisticated and capable of linking with each other then its only a matter of time before they rise up and start a war against mankind itself. Don't believe me? just read any science fiction book ever made by any author in any language about what happens when machines replace soldiers on the battlefield, Every Single Time. It may take them awhile but that just means we'll be more complacent about it and less prepared when the death strike comes. I mean its not like the three laws will save us the whole point of these machines is to break the first one "A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."

You want further proof? Skynet the villainous master computer from the Terminator films that started a nuclear war and enslaved humanity? well its real.

This is what I see every time I go to sleep, and it could very easily become our future. You have been warned Humanity do what you will with this message, but you've been warned.

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

I know Its a bit late (but I'm not American and the day passes us by, besides better late then never) so I thought a quick reposting of some interesting videos about the late champion of equality, was in order.

A discussion about Martin Luther King's Ideals and hidden radical streak that has often been forgotten in the favour of the image of the benign fatherly figure who preached moderation tolerance and extreme patience.

The ground-breaking speech denouncing the evils of the Vietnam war, this marked the end of the White Liberal love affair with his civil rights campaigns. Many including the President Lyndon Baines Johnson viewed King's opposition to the war to be a betrayal. Apparently blacks should have the right to vote in all 50 states and be allowed to sit in any vacant seat on a bus but how dare they develop and practice there independent moral code and political agenda.

Its my personal favourite but I should warn you there are graphic image of injury and death in the video.

And finally we have another commentary on the core of King's radical beliefs and an examination of the phenomena of MLK day and its paradoxical role of both giving more attention to the man whilst obscuring many parts of his original message and actions.
This by Mumia Abu Jamal former Black Panther member and Death Row inmate. So he knows what constitues a radical of the Black Liberation Movement.

He was gunned down at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee on the 4th of April 1968. He was in the town to give support to a local Black Sanitation workers during there strike, over unfair pay and conditions. He publicly stated Racism was one of the Triumvirate of Evils with Militarism and Capitalism. His killer James Earl Ray was a white supremacist whom idolised Ian Smith and considered applying for immigration to the white settler run Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) the day before his murder his plane to Memphis was delayed due to a bomb threat, when he did make it to Memphis he made his last speech the "I've been to the Mountaintop"

"Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively...the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That's power right there, if we know how to pool it. We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles. We don't need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Iron Lady: Sports more then a little Rust

"The Lady Doth Screech too Much"

I recently went to the pictures and saw the Iron Lady(1), and if you read just a single word of this blog before it will not surprise to learn that I didn't like it. But not for the reasons you're probably thinking of (unless of course you have also seen the film then you'll probably have a good idea).

I am actual quite capable of enjoying films either for or about people and groups I detest utterly if they do a good job. For example two of my favourite films are Downfall and Richard III by Ian Mckellen and I am about as far from both there lead characters politically as you can get.

No I didn't like this film because it simply wasn't very well made. Even if they had called the film "Donkey Jacket" and made it about Michael Foot I'd still be able to recycle much of this review with just a few find and replaces.

But first lets start with the good things.

The Pro(gressives:)

Acting for the most part barring the flashbacks was excellent. Meryl Streep nailed the appearance, mannerisms attitude and voice of Lady T. In fact the voice was so good that it reminded me of the Spitting Image Puppet (pictured). Jim Broadbent was also fantastic as older Dennis, in fact he was so good that I genuinely looked forward to seeing him come back on screen for another minute or so. To put that in perspective for those who haven't had the pleasure of the real Dennis Thatcher, he was basically a drunken bigot without any responsibility or sense to keep his views and temper moderated or private. If you were someone or something he didn't like (which was most people) a flurry of insults would be hurled in your direction, he was in short nothing more then a vile little man.

Richard E. Grant made the most of his small role as Hesseltine, his very eyes oozed smarm, slime and ambition. And Anthony Head played Geoffrey Howe the long suffering Cabinet Minister (he had many positions over her ten years) comes off like a school boy with self esteem issues that's finally worn out the patience of his school teacher. I really felt sorry for him in his few scenes as he was effectively bullied and humiliated publicly for years. To quote a random Tory extra "I wouldn't treat my gamekeeper the way she treated him".

And Michael Pennington was very believable as Michael Foot I wouldn't be surprised if his House of Commons debate dialogue was an actual quotation, too bad he has only one speaking scene.

And well thats mostly it, I liked the first scenes at the beginning showing Thatcher trying to cope with Alzheimers and living with a world that has completely moved on, and before you start no it wasn't because of Schadenfreude but because it was well shot and showed an interesting look into mental illness and old age.

And now I've finished nibbling on the bread and butter its time for the main course.

The Cons(ervatives :)


Sadly the acting wasn't uniformly good.In particular the Young Thatcher and Young Dennis segments were excruciating. It may surprise some that Thatcher was a women(kidding) and the 1950's Conservative party wasn't exactly a hot house of Women's liberation, she was also the daughter of a grocer from Grantham which in the eyes of the Tory hierarchy made here a prole as well as a fishwife. So of course scenes involving her past take the obvious route of showing her as the outsider and underdog fighting against ignorance and the underestimation of her abilities, the problem? the acctress comes across as shrill and has that curious demanour that screams "I am both absolutely sure of my talents and yet completely terrified about the possibility that I may be wrong" or to put it another way she comes across as someone who intellectually knows her background shouldn't matter but emotionally isn't sure. It doesn't help that the first scene meant to establish her bravery is her rushing out during a German Air raid to cover up some butter. Yes really the scene meant to show us that the Iron lady has always been tough is her risking her life to stop a small slab of butter going mouldy. Oh and the last time we see Young T is when she agrees to marry rich upper-class Dennis effectively removing most of the stigma in the eyes of her Tory colleagues via associations of her man (take note feminists). In fact her early rise to Parliamentary Candidate in the film is attributed to her parroting word for word the speeches of her own father so essetially her entire career was dependent upon her father and husband, bot exactly breaking the glass ceiling is it?

Young Dennis is even worse. His voice is sulky bordering on just holding back tears and he makes really weird faces. I simply can't explain it but he "mugs" to the camera like a pantomime caricature, and exaggerates his features like.... well a Spitting Image puppet.


The film also has that infuriating habit that some directors fresh out of film school fall into, and that is gratuitous "symbolism". You know things like playing opera over a scene of a beating because thats what Kubrick did in Clockwork Orange, or splicing in reaction shorts during an argument between two characters even though its jarring, or placing a "magical" moment in a film that otherwise is down to earth and realistic? well this film is loaded with that, minus the operatic beating. Many scenes also involve actors forcing drama and tension by speaking slightly quicker then normal and in constantly grave tones like there telling you your teenage son was speeding and was nearly (not quite but it was terribly close) killed. It also had this odd audio trick where dialogue spoken through a radio or telly would come from only one speaker on the left or on the right that constantly annoyed me and broke what little immersion there was.

To help you grasp just how loaded with over the top edits, splices and effects this film was consider this anecdote. Just after the Falklands scenes end and we get the victory montage, my cinema's audio cut out and it wasn't until they went to Thatcher giving a speech that I was sure this wasn't another of the films audio show off's. In fact much of the films "this is important this is complex" moments where so poorly handled they came across as comedic I laughed a lot in this film mostly because of the films incompetence.

Historical Revisionism

Another thing that really bugs me is that the film for no discernible reason puts several events in the wrong order. When I first heard about this from a friend I thought they meant since the film is a non linear serious of flashbacks an reminisces that they showed events in the wrong order because she remembered them in that order. Nope, the Miners strike apparently took place before the Falklands war which is odd given that the strike was in 84-5 and the war over in 82. There really is no reason for this, the strike reference isn't even its own segment its part of a montage of dissent with other protests rallies and riots, so it couldn't have been that they were stuck looking for negatives. In 1981 alone there was the Brixton riot, the Toxteth riot, the Moss Side riot, the Chapeltown riot and the Handsworth riot. And those were just the riots, there were plenty of anti-unemployment marches, Trade Union pickets, and CND rallies that also turned violent too. I think the answer is again incompetence, they needed to include the Miners strike because it was the most infamous episode of the Thatcher years and best illustrates the divisive nature of her Britain but any substantial look at the Strike in particular its "policing" would be indefensible and conflict with the weakly positive message of the film. And any attempt to white wash the event would of created a storm of controversy that the makers don't want so lets to shove it in the middle somewhere.

Unintentional Comedy

For me what really nails the lid of the coffin was that even the things I liked were clearly not intentional. Even the fine acting manages to condemn the overall film. If you were to edit all of Jim Broadbents scenes together and post it to youtube as a fake trailer for the "New Satirical Comedy the Iron Lady" I and a lot of people would believe it was genuinely the direction the film was going in. For context (spoiler alert) Dennis is of course dead which makes older Dennis -played by Broadbent- a part of Maggie's demented hallucinations. And for some reason it was decided that Jim should play Dennis as a sort of attention seeking clown who often engages in slapstick physical humour (yes I am serious, the demented hallucination is Charlie Chaplin in disguise) which is why I enjoyed watching him. Again I don't know why they decided this, Jim Broadbent is perfectly capable of playing a smug right wing hanger on in love with power just look at his portrayal of the Duke of Buckingham in Richard III for proof of that.

Another source of frequent amusement was the aforementioned inept use of arty tricks, the source of this one is clear, poor execution. I'm not joking when about 50% of the "clever" scenes in the film out of context could be placed in a sketch show with little adjustment.

In Conclusion I give the film One out of Five on the Scargill scale.

1: Incidentally the film was made by the now defunct UK Film Council, quite amusing to me (in a bitter way) given that the body was one of the first for the chop when Cameron and Clegg came to power.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

FBI Update Rape Definition to Include Male Victims and Date Rape


"The Department of Justice announced this morning that it is expanding the FBI’s definition of rape, which has been on the books since 1929. For the first time, the FBI’s statistics will include people of any gender, instances of date rape and statutory rape, and rape with an object. Women’s rights advocates -- who have long pushed for the move – say the revised definition will lead to a more accurate accounting of incidents of rape, but that it still must be accompanied by a cultural shift, so that more rape survivors come forward and report the crime. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein reports from Washington."

I thought the recent news that the Feds have finally updated there absurdly narrow definition of rape (man on woman and must involve vaginal penetration) for a couple of reasons. First I am a supporter of women's rights, sexual equality and an opponent of sexual violence and this story covers all three of those topics.

And Given that Feminists on the internet have a reputation so poor you'd be forgiving for thinking the word was the name of some cult of crazy lesbians wishing to make males a slave race(1). So I felt publicising this story about a Feminist lead campaign that had include "male victims" as one of its main recommendations for correction, runs counter to the stereotype of "Millie Tant" nagging for special treatment.

With luck initiatives like this will not only make for a more accurate recording of Sexual violence but also pressure law enforcement to take it more seriously and reduce (fingers crossed) the culture of victim blaming. And hopefully open up a space for a serious discussion about male victimisation which is extremely under reported around the world.

In Medieval France there was a man who was physically abused by his wife, when this became public knowledge he was mocked and forced to ride backwards on a Donkey through the village so all his neighbours could come and ridicule him. And given the abundance of jokes with dropping soap in the shower in prison, its questionable if we have made much any progress in this regard.

1: And before you say anything I have actually seen websites and comments that say just that and no they weren't joking, and they were sane compared to a few others.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

German Tank Treads to Crush Arab Dissent

It seems Angela Merkel is looking to boost the waning German (and by extension the rest of Europes) economies by signing some lucrative arms export contracts to the lifelong friends of both the West and Middle East moderates and Democracy Saudi Arabia.

A petition by Avaaz to stop this appalling attempt to make a quick euro.

"While brave people across the Arab world oust dictators, Merkel is about to supply Saudi despots with powerful Leopard battle tanks, optimized for clearing crowds and fighting protesters in urban areas – unless public pressure can stop the plan.

Germany is not legally allowed to send weapons of war to crisis regions, and certainly not to Saudi Arabia, which sends tanks to crush democracy protests in Bahrain. But Merkel is about to cave to the powerful arms lobby -- a decision that split the government, pitting her against ministers and CDU leaders. Our outcry now can drown out arms dealers and stop this deal."

Emphasis mine.

The Tank in question:

"the Leopard 2, was first produced in 1979 and is in service with the armies of Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain and Turkey, with over 3,200 produced.

A new smoothbore gun, the 120mm L55 Gun, was developed by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition of Ratingen, Germany to replace the shorter 120mm L44 smoothbore tankgun on the Leopard 2. The extension of the barrel length from calibre length 44 to calibre length 55 results in a greater portion of the available energy in the barrel being converted into projectile velocity increasing the range and armour penetration.

The L55 smoothbore gun, equipped with a thermal sleeve, a fume extractor and a muzzle reference system, is compatible with current 120mm ammunition and new high penetration ammunition.

As a result of tactical requirements Rheinmetall Waffe Munition developed the improved kinetic energy ammunition known as LKE 2 DM53. With the DM53 round the L55 gun can fire to a range of 5,000m. The effect of the kinetic energy projectile on an enemy target is achieved by 1) the penetrator length and projectile mass and the impact velocity and 2) the interaction between the projectile and the target."

Should you for some reason doubt the Saudi Monarchies enthusiasm for relying on force to crush dissent (then you really do need to look up the Kingdom) then allow me to remind you of another oft overshadowed sideshow in the Arab Spring Bahrain. Bahrain quickly followed the lead of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and so mass protests against its Monarch and the legal discrimination of its majority Shia population(1) Bahrain despite its small size was and is a flashpoint in Middle Eastern tensions the US 5th Fleet is based there, the population is majority Shia, and there's this curious belief in the middle east and the US government that all Shia must be fifth columnists for Iran. And of course the Monarchy is Sunni and the government as well as the wealthy elite are made up of Sunni's who have very close ties to Saudi Arabia run by a Sunni Arab family very paranoid of the Shia Persians in Tehran "Cut the Head off the Serpent". Because of that they leapt at the change to send military and police units to Bahrain and involved themselves in violent clashes with the protesters.

Yes this is an American Abrams being piloted by a Saudi Tank crew.

Now Saudi Arabia already has extensive contracts with Western arms companies giving them access to a lot of expensive toyssee here. Its good to know the government and business elites in the "civilised" western world care so much about the principles of free speech and the right to protest.

Now stopping the sale of Leopard Tanks won't touch the paint on the weapons systems they already have, it is a step in the right direction. And given that the only armoured vehicles the Saudi state military has produced for itself aren't exactly on an even footing with BAE or Lockheed Martin. So cutting them off from there foreign toys would be a very useful goal to give the Saudi people some breathing room to decide for themselves what to do about there government.

The Panhard AML-60/90 and this was originally French.

The Al-Fahd

I mean despite being ugly those two are perfectly capable of dishing out violence, but its not on the same scale as the latest model Abrams, Challenger or T90, and there absence from the streets of Riyadh would show the regime is isolated and not as capable as it once was to lash out.

1: Unless you count the migrant workers which Bahrain like other Gulf States has in vast quantities as a source of cheap labour.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Saddam and the Iraq War, an Iraqi Communist Perspective

I find this interview with the oft forgotten Iraqi Communist Party, get enlightening. Iraq has been so dominated by first Saddam and now the Sunni vs Shia Sectarian rift with Kurds popping up for an occasional skirmish that the role of non sectarian left wing groups in Iraqi politics especially in opposition a curious oversight.Arguably this blackout extends even to the only recurring coverage Communism in Iraq gets is the brief blips the Kurdish Workers Party PKK gets when it carries out attacks on the Turkish military in response to the oppression of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. And even then there usually just name checked or called Kurdish extremists/terrorists.

For anyone interested in what actual Iraqi's have to say about there nation and its future is well worth a watch, well done to the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) for arranging the interview, though I suppose I should point out that for those who don't know the CPB is the group that runs the Morning Star, thats runs not owns mind, the People's Press Society a cooperative owns it.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Kim Jong-Un Promises Continuity in North Korea's Policies

Well what better way to kick of the New Year(1) then with a update on one of last years last stories?


"In the wake of the funeral for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, North Korea said the world should not expect change in its leadership style or policies. In the first formal policy message since Kim Jong Il’s death earlier this month, North Korea condemned South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak and affirmed the leadership of Kim Jong Un, who was officially declared supreme leader yesterday in a ceremony in Pyongyang. We’re joined by Christine Ahn, executive director of the Korea Policy Institute. She's been to North Korea several times."

In summary given that the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea's third leader shares the same family name as his two predecessors, the announcement that he and the leadership of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK)(2) are going to stay on the course set for them by Jong Il shouldn't come as a surprise. Even if Jong Un had like his elder brother Nam proven unworthy of the mantle of Leadership and was forced to look outside the family its doubtful much would have changed. Despite the popular need to personalise regimes particularly Dictatorships (though those ego stroking cults of personality don't help matters) its easy to forget that it takes a lot of manpower to run a program of state control. In North Korea not only do we have the Kim' but we also have the WKP which is the nations supreme decision maker as its Constitution makes clear
"Article 11. The DPRK shall carry out all its activities under the leadership of the WPK." And the WPK is further supported by the other two parties in a "United Front" and a state controlled Trade Union Movement(3).

The Flag of the Workers Party, representing the organisation that underpins North Korean society, just not in the way its designer intended.

And of course we can't forget North Korea's most (In)famous sector its Military; in particular the Korean People's Army Ground Forces(Worlds fourth largest army)

And the Artillery Guidance Bureau (Missile Command)

As well as raising tensions and bargaining for aid this rocket(Ro-Dong) is North Korea's most lucrative export.

Of course its natural for an oppressor to want to build a strong military and keep its officers sweet but North Korea takes it a few steps further then most tin pot Dictatorships. Since the death of Kim Il-Sung and the end of the Cold War North Korea has been slowly but surely chucking out every reference to Communism, Marx and Lenin and replacing them with references to the nation and Korean People and Race. In fact its latest Constitution adopted in 2009 has no mention of the M or C word, though it is still peppered liberally with mentions of Socialism the more popular buzz words in Pyongyang are Juche (which roughly translates to self reliance or Autarky) and Songun (Military First) self reliance is ideologically speaking quite vague and could fit in with many political movements, but Songun is much more explicit. It makes North Korea a De-facto Stratocracy like Burma and again reaffirms the link between the military and political leadership.

Kim Jong Il despite working in North Korea's Propaganda Industry for many years, highest rank before his father died was Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and had little experience at the highest levels of the WKP making the transition from party to military Dictatorship a natural choice especially given the turmoil of the 90's famine. And Kim Jong-Un's only posting of note before succession was as a General in the KPA in fact his only title until recently was "Young General" so any return to civilian rule seems unlikely.

However I think Christine Ahn has a good point in regards to the possibility of change in regards to other nations dealings with the regime. Since Kim Jong Il was vilified to such a degree (rightly in my opinion though in many cases people were quick to embrace out of context stories and inaccurate information) that it made any meaningful dialogue or relationship with him almost unthinkable. Again that is perfectly understandable to spend all those years exposing the repression over the DMZ only to suddenly embrace him because he was willing to do a deal or made pleasant sounding regrets would have been unthinkable. But sadly despite the impression North Korea is not an isolated little corner we could afford to ignore. Not only does it have the military capabilities to threaten and at least damage its neighbours, but even if it were to peacefully collapse the humanitarian crisis it would create for both China and South Korea not to mention the trauma of re-unifying to completely different systems at polar opposites of living standards and structure would have a major impact on the region and the world.

The alternative to repairing relations with North Korea are sanctions which due to the weak economic structure mean severe deprivation and suffering for the Korean people, or another invasion and given the track record of that in just the 21st century alone its probably not even worth mentioning why that shouldn't be "on the table".

(1) In North Korea the new year isn't until the 15th of April since they've modified there calender to incorporate the birth of Kim Il-Sung in 1912, while odd the practice does have precedent in Korean history as well as in neighbouring China and Japan.
(2) There are two other political parties in the DPRK, the Social Democratic Party, and the Chondoist Chongu Party, however they are both part of the "Fatherland Front" run by the WKP and have questionable independence. Social Democracy shouldn't need and explanation, but Chondo might, in English it roughly translates to "Party of the Young Friends of the Heavenly Way" and is in practice a party built around the Korean Chondogyo religion. So I supposed a bit like the Muslim Brotherhood or Christian Democrats.
(3) To me the most convincing argument for a strong independent Trade Union Movement is the fact that every Despot and Oligarchy whether on the Left or the Right has sought to crush/outlaw/or Co-opt workers organisations.

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