I.S. on Korea: “Third Camp” Social-Pacifism

[First published in Workers Vanguard #125, 17 September 1976]

The bloody clash last month at Panmunjom between North Korean border guards and U.S. imperialist “peace-keeping” occupation forces provoked images of the 1950-53 Korean War and called forth a post-Vietnam “not again” reaction from many bourgeois liberals.

Always sensitive to the shifting moods of the left-liberal political milieu, Workers’ Power, the phony “mass press” of the social-democratic International Socialists (I.S.), resorted to the most shameless pacifism as a cover for its refusal to draw the class line in Korea. In its article entitled “The Deadly Game in Korea” (Workers’ Power, 30 August 1976), the I.S. bemoans the Panmunjom border clash and the many other “incidents” as “games of ‘chicken'” played by U.S. imperialism and so-called “Stalinist imperialism”:

“This time. there were some soldiers killed. It will happen again … Those in the so-called ‘demilitarized zone’ know they are dead ducks if the shooting war explodes again …. They [the Korean people] were slaughtered by the millions [during the Korean War of 1950-53] …. “

Here the I.S. rivals the liberal pacifism of the People’s Party of Dr. Spock or the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, wringing its hands in horror over the fate of the soldiers (U .S. imperialist troops included) “if the shooting war explodes again.” With this claptrap the I.S. seeks to obscure the class issues posed in any Korean conflict, “forgetting” even to call for a social revolution in South Korea!

While the I.S. does demand the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea, these inveterate social democrats fail to indicate on which side they stand in the clashes which threaten “a shooting war.” As a political tendency the I.S. is characterized by its refusal to defend the bureaucratically deformed/degenerated workers states from imperialist attack, rationalizing this objective capitUlation to U.S. imperialism with its “theory” of “Stalinist imperialism.” Thus, at the time of the Korean War, the “Third Camp” tendency led by Max Shachtman (which later spawned the I.S.) called for the defeat of both sides, but nevertheless asserted that Stalinism was more reactionary than “democratic” U.S. imperialism. Declared the Shachtmanites:

“The so-called Northern government is not a government of the Korean people and in no way represents its interests…   the victory of its arms would mean nothing but the extension of the slave power of Stalinism over the whole territory of Korea, and therefore a disastrous blow to the people of Korea and the cause of democracy and socialism everywhere.”

New International, July-August 1950

Adapting to the present climate of “detente” the I.S. “puts popularity in command” and often tones down its “Third Camp” Stalinophobia in order to tail “Third World” nationalists in vogue. (Aping the cheerleaders of the MPLA the I.S. “forgot” to condemn the “imperialist invasion” of Angola by the “imperialist” USSR and Cuba.)

Unlike the I.S., revolutionary Marxists unconditionally defend the revolutionary gains represented by the collectivized property relations in North Korea (and the other degenerated/deformed workers states), while calling for a social revolution in South Korea and a political revolution in North Korea to smash the Stalinist bureaucracy and establish soviet democracy. While today indulging in blubbering pacifism, the I.S. upholds a political line which has already taken one generation of “Third Camp socialists” into the bosom of State Department socialism as drummer boys for Wall Street.