Sunday, December 9, 2012

In Principled Opposition To Gangnam Style

The South Korean rapper, PSY, has released a viral video entitled Gangnam Style. It's been viewed by nearly a billion people worldwide. If you're one of the remaining five billion who hasn't seen it yet, follow the link. It's catchy and very well done. Plus it's a good dance tune.

Gangnam is a neighborhood in Seoul roughly equivalent to our Beverly Hills. It's where the movie stars and the rich people live--home to the 1%. Gangnam Style aspires to a life of affluence, ease, and sex with beautiful women--a dream which apparently much of the world shares.

But not, it seems, our comrades in the Trotskyist movement. All of the grouplets I follow have no use for Gangnam Style, but instead offer "critical support" to the Democratic People's Republic Of Korea (DPRK), aka North Korea. Critical support is a uniquely Trotskyist term of art, and refers to countries that have done the hard work of socialist revolution, but have subsequently degenerated under Stalinist mis-leadership. Trotskyist parties compliment such societies on their hard work, and mostly as an afterthought criticize the Stalinist deviation from pure socialism. In this view, the DPRK represents a step forward for human progress--quite unlike the lewd, crude and bourgeois Gangnam Style.

Socialist Action reported on Kim Jong-Il's death with this lede:
The death of Kim Jong Il, on Dec. 17, caught the attention and imagination of the capitalist media hucksters. His death, which wasn’t reported for two whole days, was in many ways symbolic of his life. It was a life that, through the lens of the Western media, was obscured by secrecy and unflattering portrayals. This distorting lens is designed to sell American workers on U.S. intervention in Korea.  
Hmm--Kim Jong-Il's evil reputation is principally an artifact of the American media? This hypothesis is just silly.

Half way through the article we finally encounter the "critical" part of critical support. "There is no denying the fact that North Korea is indeed a brutal Stalinist dictatorship that represses its own people and puts the interest of the ruling bureaucracy and its armed forces above all else. Nevertheless, it is not the job of the United States to police the Korean peninsula."

If Socialist Action merely excuses the DPRK, The Militant goes whole hog. Their 2009 Convention drafted an official statement, which opens: 

September 4, 2009
Kim Jong Il
General Secretary
Workers’ Party of Korea
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Dear Comrade Kim Jong Il,
The Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists send revolutionary greetings on the 61st anniversary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.... We salute the DPRK’s recent initiatives on cross-border transport, family reunions, and other matters."
The letter concludes

The Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists congratulate you on this 61st anniversary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We welcome the DPRK’s latest initiatives to advance peace and national unity in Korea. And we stand together with our brothers and sisters in Korea and worldwide in demanding: End the sanctions against the Korean people! Stop the piracy against the DPRK’s ships and cargo, under United Nations or any other auspices. U.S. troops, “anti-ballistic missile” ships, and weapons—conventional and nuclear—out of Korea and the Pacific!
Korea is one!
Steve Clark
Steve Clark is a long-time leader of the SWP whom I knew quite well from my time in Chicago.

I am reminded of this by an article in this month's Commentary (Jay Lefkowitz, Escaping from the North Korean Stalemate, December, 2012, p. 39). The article describes the miserable life of a certain Shin In-Geun, born and raised in a Democratic People's Republic prison camp, who witnessed the executions of his mother (hanging) and brother (firing squad), before himself being tortured over burning charcoal until he passed out. This, apparently, is Pyongyang Style, and represents progress toward our socialist future. Uniquely, Steve Clark and his Trotskyist comrades prefer this proletarian, consciousness-raising experience to the socially and morally degenerate ideas of Rapper PSY. The technical term that Trotskyists use is "human progress." They're welcome to it.

PSY doesn't have completely clean hands. He participated anti-American protests in the past, ungrateful for our country's sacrifices on his behalf. He's had the decency to subsequently apologize. Whatever mistakes Truman and MacArthur may have made sixty years ago, the USA was surely on the side of angels.

Trotskyists are fools (or worse). PSY may be ungrateful, but he is an entertainer and one needn't take his political views too seriously. As for me, I'm a fan of Gangnam Style.

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