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Digital Archive International History Declassified

June 09, 1969

SOVIET EMBASSY IN NORTH KOREA, 'CONCERNING CHANGES IN THE VIEWS OF THE KOREAN LEADERSHIP ON QUESTIONS OF THE UNITY OF THE SOCIALIST CAMP AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNIST MOVEMENT'

This document was made possible with support from the Kyungnam University, Institute for Korean Studies, Ohio State University

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    The report states that the DPRK is influenced less by Beijing and has started to contact European socialist countries more. It describes how DPRK is advocating for “absolute independence” as well.
    "Soviet Embassy in North Korea, 'Concerning Changes in the Views of the Korean Leadership on Questions of the Unity of the Socialist Camp and the International Communist Movement'," June 09, 1969, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, RGANI, fond 5, opis 61, delo 462, listy 79-94. Obtained by Sergey Radchenko and translated by Gary Goldberg. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/134242
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Copy Nº 2

[CPSU CC stamp: 19373

12 June 1969

Korea]

SOVIET EMBASSY IN THE DPRK

9 Junes 1969

165

CONCERNING CHANGES IN THE VIEWS OF THE KOREAN LEADERSHIP ON QUESTIONS OF THE UNITY OF THE SOCIALIST CAMP AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNIST MOVEMENT

(Memo)

The foreign policy orientation of the Worker’s Party of Korea has repeatedly undergone substantial changes in the last decade. The inconsistency and tactical maneuvering of the Korean leadership, associated chiefly with the adventurist line of Mao Zedong, has in the final account led the KWP to “independent and self-sufficient”, but essentially centrist, positions in the international Communist movement.

The nationalist tendencies, the cult of the leader, the constant pressure and threats from China, all these factors refracted through the prism of the problem of the reunification of the country have exerted and will exert a negative influence on the ideological approaches and political steps of the KWP leadership with respect to the socialist camp and the international Communist movement.

Nevertheless, in the last two or three years a certain turn of the KWP and DPRK has been observed in the direction of the Soviet Union and the socialist community, in the direction of the Marxist-Leninist majority of Communist Parties, and the patient and consistent policy of the CPSU CC with respect to the Worker’s Party of Korea during the period after the October (1964) CC Plenum of our Party has played a very important role in this.

[There is a stamp at the end of the first page but party off the page stating that “the material is informative and the CPSU CC Department has been familiarized with [it]...” There is also a reference to the archives and some illegible handwritten signatures].

I.

Before the outbreak of differences of principle between the majority of the Communist Parties and the Mao Zedong clique the KWP acted in the international arena as an active contingent of the world Communist movement and took practical steps to expand contacts and ties with fraternal countries and Parties.

A Korean delegation headed by Kim Il Sung took part in the Conference of representatives of Communist and Worker’s Parties in 1957. The KWP delegation took part in a meeting between representatives of the Communist Parties of the socialist countries in Bucharest in June 1960. The KWP sent its delegation headed by Kim Il, Deputy Chairman of the Party CC, to the Moscow Conference of Communist Parties in 1960.

The December KWP CC Plenum in 1960 noted that the documents of the 1960 Conference “completely coincide with the views and position to which the KWP has and continues to unswervingly hold with respect to the fundamental problems of the contemporary international situation and the international Communist movement”. The decisions of the 4th KWP congress held in September 1961 demonstrated the agreement of the Korean leadership with the line of the Communist movement adopted at the Moscow Conference. The Declaration and Statement were characterized at this congress as “guidance for action”, and as “policy documents in the activity of each Party”.

Close friendly relations have continually developed between the DPRK and other socialist countries through both government and Party channels. Soviet-Korean relations have the character of a sincere friendship, and they are constructed on principles of complete trust, international aid, and support of the fraternal Korean people by the Soviet Union. In July 1961 a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Aid was concluded between the USSR and the DPRK which consolidated the friendly nature of relations between the two countries. Soon after this the DPRK concluded a similar treaty with China.

II.

An open linkage between the KWP leadership and the Peking leaders occurred after the publication in China of the notorious collection, “Long Live Leninism!” in April 1960, which began the public attacks by the Chinese on the coordinated line of the international Communist movement.

Why during that period did the KWP leadership not proclaim “independence from anyone whatsoever”, as it did in August 1966, but switched to Peking’s position completely and utterly? This sharp turn of the Korean leaders had several causes.

The KWP leadership was dissatisfied with the decisions of the 20th CPSU congress in exposing and condemning the cult of personality. Kim Il Sung, as the permanent head of the Party and state, perceived in these decisions a certain threat to his own position. The Korean press evaluated it as CPSU interference in the internal affairs of other countries, as “an attempt to overthrow the leadership of fraternal Parties” (“Rodong Sinmun, 19 April 1964). Naturally, such an approach brought the KWP leadership closer to the Peking leaders.

The problem of the reunification of Korea was and remains “task number one” for the KWP leadership and in particular for Kim Il Sung, [who is] now promoted by Korean propaganda to the role of leader of the entire Korean nation. Having proclaimed a policy of the peaceful reunification of the country the Korean leaders, however, have not excluded the possibility of solving this problem by armed force. The principles of peaceful coexistence and economic competition between socialism and capitalism, to which the Soviet government has consistently adhered, do not receive recognition in the DPRK. It is completely understandable that at that time the seeds of the arch-revolutionary inflammatory propaganda of the Chinese found fertile soil in the DPRK.

Several negative factors in Soviet-Korean relations between 1959 and 1962 also pushed the Korean leaders to closer relations with China. The Korean comrades were extremely dissatisfied that the timeframe of the official visit to the DPRK by the head of the Soviet government had been repeatedly postponed. The dissatisfaction with the requests of the DPRK government for aid free of charge to strengthen the country’s defense capacity, the recall of the Korean Ambassador from Moscow at the insistence of the Soviet side, and a number of other things are included in such factors.

By the end of 1962 in its policy the Korean leadership had completely closed ranks with the Peking leaders and begun open polemics on the most important problems of modern times with the CPSU and the other fraternal Parties. The Koreans gradually switched to the loud tone of Chinese propaganda. However, it ought to be noted that they mentioned the CPSU and the Soviet Union very rarely in the open press, limiting themselves to the term “modern revisionists”.

Between 1958 and 1964 their own articles were published in the DPRK press with an exposition and support of a pro-Chinese line on the main questions of modern times and the international situation along with reprints of slanderous Chinese articles. This position found the most prominent reflection in the article, “Zashchitim sotsialisticheskiy lager’ [We Will Defend the Socialist Camp]”, published in October 1963 after Liu Shaoqi’s visit to the DPRK.

Like the Chinese, the Korean leaders have strenuously stressed in words the role of the socialist camp and the international Communist movement in the development of a peaceful revolutionary process, have called for the socialist countries and Communist Parties to rally together, and have affirmed their fidelity to the principles presented in the documents of the 1957 and 1960 Moscow Conferences. In fact, the KWP leadership, following in the wake of the divisive policy of Mao Zedong, endured the ideological differences in intergovernmental relations with the Soviet Union and the other fraternal countries, and entered into contact with so-called genuinely Marxist-Leninist groups which were oriented toward Peking. The KWP leadership demagogically and unscrupulously declared that “the question of who is on what side is not important, but the defense of the unity of the socialist camp, and the defense of our common interests [is]” (Rodong Sinmun, 30 January 1968).

The expansion of the comprehensive cooperation between the DPRK and China during this period entailed a gradual curtailing of political, economic, and cultural ties with the Soviet Union and the socialist countries of Europe. The cooperation of the fraternal countries based on an international socialist division of labor was criticized by the Korean leadership as “turning each socialist country into an economic appendage of one or two countries” (Rodong Sinmun, 28 October 1968), and Comecon was called “plundering”.

Initially, in April 1964 the KWP leadership essentially expressed agreement through the Party press with the proposal of the CPSU and the other fraternal Parties to convene another International Conference to overcome the difficulties in the Communist movement, but declared that such a Conference might be held only “on the basis of sufficient preparation”, and also “cautioned” against turning the Conference into “a tool to remove a particular Party” from the Communist movement [or] into “a tool of division” (Rodong Sinmun, 19 April 1964).

However soon, in August of that same year, the leaders of the KWP categorically opposed holding a new Conference, publishing a sharp article under the heading, “Don’t permit a Conference of Parties of various countries which would lead to division” (Rodong Sinmun, 31 August 1968).

III.

A notable turnabout in the development of Soviet-Korean relations came after the October (1964) CPSU CC Plenum and a number of important steps by the CPSU CC to normalize and improve relations with the KWP, which in turn influenced the KWP position on questions of the international Communist movement and its foreign policy orientation.

Informal meetings and comprehensive conversations between L. I. Brezhnev and Kim Il Sung in Vladivostok and Moscow in 1966 and discussions at the government level in 1965-1966 in the course of which questions of economic and military cooperation important to the DPRK were solved had special importance.

The KWP leadership gradually began to move from a one-sided orientation to China to an expansion of economic and other cooperation with the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries. The foreign policy of the KWP and its position in the socialist camp and the international Communist movement began to be determined by the influence of Peking to an increasingly lesser degree. [Translator’s note: the end of the paragraph was highlighted in the left margin].

The character and tone of public statements of the KWP leaders and Korean propaganda changed. The position in the socialist camp and the Communist movement was not presented any more as “threatening” [or] “fraught with the danger of a split” because of the intrigues of “contemporary revisionists”, although revisionism was characterized as before as “the main danger in the international Communist movement” (Rodong Sinmun, 11 October 1965). It was not the admission of “revisionist mistakes” and the cessation of “[interference] in the affairs of other Parties and countries” that was offered as the main condition for uniting the fraternal countries and Parties, but the adoption of joint practical steps in the fight against imperialism and against the American aggression in Vietnam.

Since this time the KWP, without emphasizing attention on existing differences, began to make numerous appeals to strengthen the unity of the international Communist movement, although its practical steps in this direction came down to a reduction, and then a cessation, of cooperation with divisive pro-Peking groups and some expansion of bilateral ties with fraternal countries.

When withdrawing from subordination to Peking the KWP leadership naturally did not want to spoil relations with them, fearing a rupture of military alliance and economic ties and direct subversive acts by the Chinese. On the other hand, there remained a certain ideological closeness between the KWP leadership and the Peking leaders in the approach to a number of important problems of modern times. [Translator’s note: the previous sentence was highlighted in the left margin]. These factors, which continue in force now, have forced the Korean comrades to resort to tactical maneuvering. However, the fact of another sharp change of KWP policy was striking and demanded an explanation for it to the Party masses who had come to believe in the infallibility of the Party line, and to the Communist movement.

In August 1966 the KWP published a big article, “In Defense of Self-sufficiency”. The main points of the article were affirmed in Kim Il Sung’s report at the October KWP Conference of the same year. The “absolute independence” of KWP policy and the slogan of a simultaneous fight against right and “left” opportunism, and against revisionism and dogmatism were proclaimed in these documents as a political credo of the Party. Kim Il Sung noted, contemporary revisionism “is decreasing”, although “it still presents a great danger to the Communist movement”. Since this time the KWP has also opposed “left” opportunism, dogmatism, great-power chauvinism, meaning the political policy of Peking, along with criticism of revisionism.

While declaring its independence “from anyone whatsoever” the KWP leadership has pursued a dual goal: on the one hand, to show the Party masses and fraternal Parties its disassociation from the policy of Peking, which has discredited itself, but on the other, to assure the Chinese that the KWP’s retreat from Chinese policy does not mean its ideological convergence with the majority of the Communist Parties, including the CPSU, which oppose the Peking group. “Just because some Party has ties with other Parties one cannot think without foundation that it blindly supports the line and policy of the latter and follows them. To regard others suspiciously is a characteristic feature of great-power chauvinism and factionalism…We do not want to stand on that side” (from Kim Il Sung’s report at the KWP Conference, October 1966). This is essentially the centrist tactic of the KWP, explained by the influence of Peking maintained on it, which continues to occur to the present time.

IV.

Whereas during the period of linkage with the Peking leaders the KWP openly opposed holding the next Conference of Communist and Worker’s Parties, characterizing it in advance as “divisive”, after the CPSU CC October Plenum it stopped criticism of the efforts of the fraternal Parties directed at the unification of the Communist movement. It did not oppose the Consultative Meeting of the Representatives of 19 Communist Parties held in Moscow in March 1965, in spite of the strong pressure of the Chinese. After this Korean-Chinese inter-Party ties were actually suspended by the Chinese.

During unofficial visits to the Soviet Union in 1966 Kim Il Sung not longer opposed the very idea of convening a new, broad Conference, but declared that, in the opinion of the KWP, conditions were still not ripe for holding it. He then explained such a position by a fear that the Peking leaders might convene a conference of pro-Chinese Parties and groups as a counterbalance to the Conference, which would be a formalization of the split in the Communist movement. At the same time he let it be known that the KWP would not participate in this pro-Chinese conference.

The KWP refused to take part in the Budapest consultative meeting of representatives of Communist and worker’s Parties.

In a conversation with CPSU CC Secretary B. N. Ponomarev on 9 February 1968 Kim Il Sung declared that the KWP “cannot take part in a Conference in which there will not be representatives of all the Parties of the socialist countries”, for this would cause an aggravation of relations with the Chinese. In his words, the participation of the KWP in the Consultative Meeting would show the whole work, including South Korea, that China is not an ally of the DPRK [Translator’s note: the previous sentence was highlighted in the left margin].

Kim Il Sung expressed himself quite definitely and openly about the importance of the upcoming Conference in conversations with the leaders of other Parties. In particular, on 16 April 1968 he told SED CC Politburo member Hager that “the Conference will not have any importance if the Parties which are directly fighting imperialism do not take part in it” (this means the KWP, the PTV [Worker’s Party of Vietnam], and the CP of Cuba). [Translator’s note: the previous sentence was highlighted in the left margin].

The statements of Kim Il Sung and other Korean leaders in the recent period demonstrate that the KWP CC Politburo has repeatedly discussed the question of the participation or non-participation of KWP representatives in the Moscow Conference of Communist and Worker’s Parties which opened on 5 June 1969. It is completely obvious that the KWP leadership could not fail to take into consideration the position of the CPSU and our opinion about the desirability of KWP participation in this Conference. As a result of the great work done by the CPSU CC with the KWP leadership the position of the Korean comrades on the question of convening the International Conference has none the less changed somewhat. They no longer say that their non-participation is tied to the fact that not all fraternal Parties of the socialist countries are present at it. In addition, they note that this Conference will have great importance in the development of the international Communist movement. However, the fact remains: the Korean Worker’s Party is not a participant of the new International Conference of Communist Parties. [Translator’s note: the previous two sentences were highlighted in the left margin].

As the Korean leaders declare, and this can be believed, the main reason for the KWP’s refusal to take part in the International Conference of Communist Parties is their fear of being subjected to even cruder attacks from China. It can be supposed that on the eve of this Conference Peking put strong pressure on the KWP leadership like that which occurred before the Moscow Consultative Meeting in March 1965. Fearing new direct subversive acts and intimidation from the Chinese, the KWP leaders were convinced at that same time that their non-participation in the Conference would not provoke any changes in the relations with the Soviet Union and the other fraternal countries. [Translator’s note: the previous sentence was highlighted in the left margin].

It is also without doubt that it was “difficult” for the Korean leaders and Kim Il Sung personally to favorably decide the question of KWP participation in the Conference for the reason that not at all long ago they were completely against convening it and had been carefully preparing their entire Party in this direction. [Translator’s note: the previous sentence was highlighted in the left margin]. They could not completely abandon [their] previous position on this question or on the whole avoid the heavy burden of the previous errors about the problems of contemporary world development, fearing a decline of their authority. [Translator’s note: a question mark was placed in the left margin next to the second half of this paragraph].

All these circumstances have also evidently influenced the final decision of the KWP not to send its delegation to the international forum of Communists in 1969.

V.

Even during the period of close relations with the Chinese in published documents and public statements the Korean comrades did not belittle the role and importance of the socialist camp, stressing only that it could fully play its role only when it was united. “The socialist camp is the basis of the world revolution, the great revolutionary force of our epoch”, it said in a pro-Chinese article, “We Will Defend the Socialist Camp”. [Translator’s note: the previous sentence was highlighted in the left margin].

It is natural that the KWP was interested in the unity of the camp of socialism and the international Communist movement. The differences in the socialist camp with the presence of such a perfidious and vengeful neighbor as present-day China and with the complexity of national problems caused by the division of country can hardly suit the Korean comrades.  

The KWP criticized the Chinese position on this question after the separation from Peking. “It is necessary to fight against such actions as non-recognition of the existence of the socialist camp and a striving to split it”, declared Kim Il Sung at the KWP Conference. [“]The socialist camp and the international Communist movement are decisive factors determining the development of the modern history of humanity. These are the most powerful revolutionary forces of our time opposing imperialism and all reactionary forces”.

Some new positive aspects have appeared in the recent period in the slogans and guidelines of the KWP relating to cooperation with the socialist countries and the slogan “revival on the basis of our own forces” has been somewhat muted; out of spite the importance of the world socialist market was stressed to the Chinese. The KWP leadership, although without mentioning this in the press, has supported the common measures of the five fraternal countries to defend the achievements of socialism in the CSSR. Kim Il Sung spoke most completely about the role of the socialist camp and the importance of its unity in his speech on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the DPRK in September 1968, “The socialist camp is the invincible revolutionary base the international working class for the final victory of socialism and communism, it is a reliable stronghold for the victory of the oppressed peoples and all progressive peoples of the world, a powerful bulwark of peace in the entire world”.

The Korean leadership is also undertaking certain practical steps directed at an expansion of trade and economic, scientific and technical, and cultural cooperation with the Soviet Union and other fraternal countries.

At the same time the current approach of the KWP toward the questions of the unity of the socialist community, like toward the international Communist movement, has a number of specific features and peculiarities.

The KWP leadership proceeds from an overblown idea of the independence of each socialist country and Communist Party in propaganda and practical activity. Striving to ward off possible criticism from themselves, the Korean comrades declare, “Being internationalists, we decisively reject isolationism and nationalism” (from the report of Kim Il Sung at the KWP Conference). In fact, the principle of independence and self-sufficiency, which does not provoke any objection in itself, takes on an absolute value in Korean propaganda and in practice is a manifestation of isolationist and nationalist tendencies in the policy and practical activity of the KWP, and [is] a depreciation of the role of proletarian internationalism. “The principle of self-sufficiency is the key to the solution of all the complex questions with which the Communist movement and socialist camp are faced”. (TsTAK bulletin, 31 March 1969). [Translator’s note: the previous paragraph was highlighted in the left margin with a single vertical line and the last sentence was highlighted with two vertical lines].

Losing touch with a correct, Marxist-Leninist approach to the problem of combining national and international interests, the Korean comrades perceive proletarian internationalism as essentially a mechanical combination of the efforts of individual fraternal countries and Parties in the solution of the national and domestic tasks of revolution and development. Their steps in the international arena are primarily and mainly determined by national considerations, a quite narrow understanding and approach to the large problems of contemporary global development. [Translator’s note: the previous paragraph was highlighted in the left margin by two vertical lines, and the portion underlined above by an additional vertical line. ].

The KWP leadership displays clearly insufficient activity in expanding contacts with the CPSU and the other fraternal Parties, avoids supporting, and keeps silent about the efforts of other Parties to unify the Communist movement and the joint steps of the socialist countries in the international arena. The theme of internationalism is almost absent in the educational work among the population of the KWP, especially among young people. In a word, the Korean comrades prefer to remain apart from the practical struggle of the fraternal counties and Parties to strengthen the international unity of the socialist camp and Communist movement.

Recently the Korean comrades have been striving to replace the entire set of goals and tasks of the socialist community and Communist movement in the development of the world revolutionary process and the fight against international imperialism with a single task of creating “a united anti-imperialist front”, but the attitude toward American imperialism is called a  “criterion”, a “touchstone distinguishing a revolutionary position from an opportunistic [one]”, and “the socialist countries should overcome any deviations observed in the anti-American struggle” (from the political platform of the DPRK government, December 1967). [Translator’s note: the last quote was highlighted in the left margin with a two vertical lines].

A policy of essentially differentiating the socialist camp into “large countries”, nourishing illusions and exhibiting passivity with respect to imperialism, and “small revolutionary countries” which directly confront imperialist aggression and strike the main blow against imperialism is discernible in KWP propaganda. The Korean comrades primarily regard themselves, Vietnam, and Cuba as among the latter. The idea of the special role of small countries in the anti-imperialist struggle promoted by the Korean leadership, calculating on an increase of the authority of the DPRK and its taking a leading place among the countries of the “third world”, contradicts the Marxist-Leninist position about the growing role of the world socialist system as the chief anti-imperialist revolutionary force of modern times. [Translator’s note: the previous paragraph was highlighted in the left margin with two vertical lines and the first half with an additional two lines].

x x x

At the present time relations between the DPRK and the socialist camp seem like the relations of intensified cooperation with the majority of the socialist countries and Communist Parties opposing Mao Zedong’s China with the lack of any ties with China except reduced economic [ties]. The embittered and vindictive policy of Peking with respect to the KWP and the DPRK, which irritates the Korean comrades, is at fault in the “one-sided” character of this cooperation. If, however, in the future the Chinese leaders, while remaining in [their] previous divisive anti-Soviet divisive positions, make their policy more flexible, then it is not excluded that their influence on Korea might again increase and, by virtue of a certain ideological closeness to Peking, the KWP leadership might again find a common language with the Chinese in the approach to individual problems of global development or to particular international events of the future, which will naturally not meet the interests of the common cause of the socialist camp and the Communist movement. [Translator’s note: the underlined portion was highlighted in the left margin with two vertical lines and an exclamation point!]

It seems that the Korean comrades will limit themselves to the development of bilateral relations and ties with the socialist countries and fraternal Communist Parties until there is complete unity in the socialist camp and the Communist movement, that is, until China comes down from the positions of anti-Sovietism and divisiveness. They are ready to go quite far here, including in relations with the Soviet Union; let the Chinese consider it its main enemy. Necessity forces the Korean comrades to this – a fear of stagnation economically, technically, and militarily, ending up in isolation and deprived of support in the international arena. [Translator’s note: the underlined portion was highlighted in the left margin with two vertical lines].

However, in the near term the KWP and DPRK will hardly take part in multilateral measures and organizations of a political and even economic nature within the framework of the socialist camp and Communist movement, inasmuch as Mao Zedong’s group would take this as a final shift of the KWP to the positions of the majority of socialist countries and Communist Parties which are opposed to it.

At the same time and in the matter of the development of bilateral relations with the socialist countries the Korean comrades, as before, will exhibit increased caution, especially in the area of Party and political ties, fearing that these ties will exert an ideological influence on the KWP and Korean people in an unfavorable direction for them. [Translator’s note: the underlined portion was highlighted in the left margin with two vertical lines].

In such a situation it is completely obvious that, in spite of the influence of China which is preserved, a growing positive influence on the KWP and DPRK will be exerted by the consistent and restrained policy of the CPSU and the Soviet government, which grants the DPRK aid in economic and defense development, and cultural cooperation, and our support to the DPRK on the question of the peaceful reunification of the country, and in the increase of its authority in the international arena. [Translator’s note: the portion describing Soviet aid was highlighted in the left margin with two vertical lines].

FIRST SECRETARY OF THE SOVIET

EMBASSY IN THE DPRK

[signature] (Yu. Fadeyev)

ATTACHE OF THE SOVIET

EMBASSY IN THE DPRK

[signature] (P. Yakovlev)

Six copies printed – gp

1 – to Cde. V. V. Kuznetsov

2 – to Cde. K. V. Rusakov

3 – to Cde. V. I. Likhachev

4 – to the UPVM

5 – to the Directorate of General Problems

6 – to file

9 June 1969 Nº 340

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