Friday, October 13, 2006

CNN Video shows contrast between China and North Korea

The link provided will take you to the CNN headline that the North Korean air samples contain no radioactivity, calling into question whether North Korea actually tested a nuclear bomb.

What interested me more than the story itself, however, was a video link at the bottom left of the story entitled, "River Town Divides China and North Korea in many ways."

Clicking that link will bring up a video report from CNN about the river that separates China from North Korea, and the contrasts between the Chinese city on one side and the North Korean town on the other. It's not only an interesting glimpse into the stark differences between the two countries, but also a fascinating study in the way two countries whose underlying ideologies are, at least in theory, based very roughly on the writings of the same man, can have such widely divergent models of social and economic development.

China, on the one hand, has largely abandoned most of Marx's teachings, and keeps only the authoritarianism and centralization of political control that it inherited from the Soviets and Mao, while embracing a kind of fervent reverence for super-capitalist economic development at all costs. North Korea has taken the communist idea of "dictatorship of the proletariat" to the extreme, creating a cult of personality around its leadership of which Stalin would be envious, and by completely rejecting capitalist development and insisting on a rigid policy of "self-reliance," it has driven its people into misery and starvation.

Were Marx alive today and had the chance to visit the Chinese city and look across at North Korea, I don't think he would be pleased with either side. In neither country is the "working class" truly in charge of the "means of production." In neither country has the class war "ended." In neither country is there any movement towards the abolition of state control or the establishment of a truly cooperative civil society and a rationally planned socialist economy.

Of course, this goes into the larger issue that no country, ever, in the history of the world, has managed to follow the Marxian model to socialism, and, eventually, communism, without succumbing to some form of authoritarianism and stagnating there. This doesn't mean that the Marxian model will never work, but it has led to the majority of the world discrediting Marx. I myself believe the jury's still out on Marx and his theories. We're still a capitalist world, and at the moment it looks like that could be the case for a very long time. Marx's theories can only truly be applied if and when capitalism collapses on a worldwide basis. So long as capitalism exists somewhere, no country can truly establish an autonomous, truly socialist, alternative model.