December 14, 2004


Cracks in North Korean 'Stalinism' (Andrei Lankov, 12/07/04, Asia Times)

Clearly North Korea is still run by a repressive regime that treats its population with remarkable brutality. But many major peculiarities of Stalinism are now disappearing from North Korea.

Its centrally planned economy is in great disarray. Its Leninist party has nearly ceased to operate, with military and "normal" state bureaucracy assuming many of its functions. Private enterprise is tolerated and even cautiously encouraged. And of course, its old system of political control is visibly crumbling. Reports from visitors, defectors and foreign visitors leave no doubt that North Korea is still very repressive and restrictive. But it is also clear that it is much less repressive and restrictive than it was 15 years ago, let alone in its worst times of terror and brainwashing in the 1970s.

Analysis of these increasingly numerous reports creates a remarkable picture of a slowly disintegrating system of "thought control", once the world's most effective. Its slow-motion demise is probably not a result of deliberate decisions, but rather a product of the growing impotence of the government and its inability to find enough resources - from economic to human resources - to maintain its old structures or control. After all, efficient supervision costs money, and Pyongyang is desperately short of money.

As a former citizen of a communist country, the Soviet Union, this analyst can confirm that Western radio propaganda broadcasts greatly contributed to the demise of the communist camp. But it seems that these days in North Korea most subversive information is spread largely in visual, video, not audio channels. [...]

The more affluent, better-educated and younger segments of the population are more eager to fall under the spell of this "imperialist pollution" - much like the former Soviet Union, where in the 1970s and early 1980s the scions of the party bosses were avid watchers of James Bond movies and proud consumers of Levi Strauss' blue jeans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 14, 2004 5:29 AM

This may be as appropriate a place as any to say an idea that I had today while vegging on my Panasonic Shiatsu Recliner:

It seems that people can be divided into three groups:
(a) mind, (b) heart, (c) fist.

A stable government arises when 2 of the 3 form a coalition. It cannot occur when all 3 try to govern, because the third will destroy the tenuous equilibrium of the other two.

G.W. Bush is a strong coalition of (b) heart and (c) fist.

Europe has become a government of only (a) mind (having lost anything relating to (b) heart and (c) fist) -- this implies their impending fall -- or the takeover of a coalition of (b) heart and (c) fist.

North Korea perhaps began as a coalition of (a) mind and (c) fist, as all atheist endeavors do, but it has become simply (c) fist -- meaning that it will fall.

It seems that combining (a) mind and (b) heart results in a pacifist liberalism or isolationism that works well within a homogeneous culture, but cannot withstand external stress.

Posted by: Randall Voth at December 14, 2004 8:12 AM

"The mediator between the brains and the hands must be the heart." --Metropolis, 1927.

Posted by: PapayaSF at December 14, 2004 2:06 PM

Really, the point is that the heart cannot mediate between the mind and the fist.

Take, for example, the issue of abortion. A doctor obviously knows he is killing a living human (mind+fist). The woman may not (heart+fist). If either heart or mind were to enter the other's picture, it would destroy the coalition with fist and make either work to prevent abortion.

We can agree on a goal, say the pacification of Iraq, but Orrin will argue that unleashing Shiite Islam is a good thing, and Harry will argue that we have another Inquisition.

Posted by: Randall Voth at December 14, 2004 7:49 PM
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