a trip to North Korea

Bruce Robinson bruce.rob at btinternet.com
Tue Apr 25 09:19:21 PDT 2000

On Monday, April 24, 2000 9:30 PM, Yoshie Furuhashi [SMTP:furuhashi.1 at osu.edu] wrote:
> Bruce Robinson wrote:
> > > >>Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:
> > > >>> >> No, I'd criticize North Korea more freely, *if* I were a
> > > >>> >> Korean, but I'm *not*.
> >
> >Where are these North Koreans freely criticising their country's policy?
> >jail or worse, I think. Unless you believe that even in the midst of
> >famine, everyone is so contented with their lot that they have no reason
> >be critical!
> I'm afraid you're the one who cannot trust the critical intelligence
> of North Koreans. In every former socialist society, there existed
> many dissidents of all sorts -- intellectuals, workers, etc. -- some
> of whom admirable, others mere wannabe patriarchs & capitalists. You
> assume that North Koreans are too slavishly obedient to authority --
> in a good Oriental fashion, I suppose -- to exercise the spirit of
> critical judgment, hence incapable of consenting or refusing to
> consent rationally.

Fairly obviously, I would have thought, that was NOT what I was saying. To spell it out, when repressive force is used against you and any opposition is fragmented and atomised, to imply - as you did Yoshi - that you could express yourself freely in such a state is actually to lend credence to those doing the repressing. Apparent obedience to authority (whatever rebellion is going on in your head) is sometimes the only way to survive. This applies equally to North Korea (Asia), Nazi Germany (Europe) or Stalinist Russia (a bit of both).

The second sentence was, again I thought obviously, supposed to be ironic.

Next time I'll spell it out in lights.

> The image of North Korea as a society of the cult of personality *per
> excellence* -- to the degree *unknown* in other societies, socialist
> or capitalist -- seems to be an Orientalist slander against ordinary
> North Koreans, though it pretends to be a "criticism" of the North
> Korean party elite.
> >...and exploits and oppresses its own working class and peasantry.
> >than hiding behind the argument that Americans have no right to
> >North Korea, perhaps one of the apologists for this 'socialist' state
> >on the hereditary principle can explain what exactly it is in North
> >they are defending.
> You are slow on the uptake, but it is the U.S. military threat which
> gets used by the North Korean party elite to curtail the freedoms --
> for instance, of movement -- of North Koreans. So, to the extent
> that your yucking about North Korea, *by reproducing doxa*, helps the
> U.S. government to *use doxa as pretext* for continued military
> presence in the Korean Peninsula (and elsewhere), you are in effect
> *helping* the North Korean party elite to discipline North Korean
> workers and peasants. Why don't you focus on removing the U.S.
> military threat if your objective is indeed to help North Koreans
> gain more freedoms?

Again, tenuous logic-chopping to make excuses for the policies of the North Korean 'party elite' (an interesting description). I criticise their policies therefore I'm responsible for them! They're not really responsible for repression, they're forced to do it by the USA (and by me!). I'm all in favour of removing the US military presence, but don't think that it's possible to do that while staying silent about the nature of the North Korean regime - just as it wasn't possible to oppose intervention in the Gulf while remaining silent about Saddam. Appearing to condone these regimes simply drives those whom we might otherwise win into the arms of those who can - with a basis the reality of those states but horribly hypocritically - pretend to be concerned with democracy.

I think that you overestimate the importance of 'doxa' as a determinant of US foreign policy, but I'll leave it there for now...


> Yoshie

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list