[Editorial Note] The article was published on April 24, 2017 when was before Moon Jae-in regime appeared after people in the Candlelight Vigils impeached Park Geun-hye.
The article reveals how the socialist analyzes the situations in S. Korea at that time and provides the tasks that socialists in S. Korea should take.
1. The rapid downfall of the reactionary political forces.
Park Geun-hye and the ‘pro-Park(친박)’ reactionaries who opposed the popular will expressed in the Candlelight Vigils to the end, completely collapsed. Park Geun-hye is now being detained and awaiting trial and the pro-Park might never get back on their feet. The ‘non-Park(비박)’ reactionaries supported Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and created “Bareunparty”, but are behind even the “Liberty Korea Party”(which is a pro-Park party) in approval rating. In total, the entire reactionary political forces collapsed rapidly, making people feel as if living in a different world. According to the survey by polling agency, RealMeter on April 10 to 12, Moon Jae-in’s approval rating was 44.8%, Ahn Cheol-soo’s 36.5%, Hong Joon-pyo’s 8.1%, Sim Sang-jung’s 2.8%, Yoo Seung-min’s 1.7%. The approval rating of reactionary forces was less than 10% combined. The Kyunghyang Shinmun‘s article on April 15, “Giving up the election? The torn conservative forces” well summed up the plight of the reactionary forces at present.
About 49.6% of conservative-inclined voters supported Ahn Cheol-soo… So did 28.5% of the supporters of the Liberty Korea Party.
22.7 %, it is the percentage of votes, when Hong Joon-pyo, the Liberty Korea Party candidate holds a one-on-one match with Moon Jae-in, the Democratic Party candidate. It is the result from April 2, Realmeter regular polling survey (April 10 to 12 survey / responses came from mixing mobile telephone interviews and mobile and landling telephone answering). It is almost same with a proportion of the Taegeukgi forces who opposed the impeachment of Park Geun-hye at the time of impeachment and consisted of 20% percent of voters. However, it is unlikely that Hong Joon-pyo and Moon Jae-in will have a one-on-one match. For Ahn, who is rather progressive than conservative, has a higher approval rating than Hong. It is a severe situation to the conservative camp unlike the last presidential election. In addition to Hong, there are self-appointed conservative candidates, who are Yoo Seung-min, the Bareunparty candidate, Cho Won-jin, the Saenuri Party candidate, and Nam Jae-joon, the Unified Korea Party candidate, four in total.
Still, the split of conservatives may not have been so serious if Hong was gaining a firm lead within conservative voters. Based on the survey by Realmeter mentioned above, Hong is not the most favored candidate by conservative voters. Only 23.2 percent of the respondents who said they were conservative in the Realmeter survey, supported Hong. On the other hand, it was Ahn who received the most support of 49.6 percent. Of the respondents who identified themselves as supporters of the Liberty Korea Party, 28.5 percent said they supported Ahn, not Hong.
The number of the Conservatives who support Yoo Seung-min, the Bareunparty candidate is relatively small. In the case of the Taegeukgi ‘pro-Park’ forces, comes out even the voice saying, “Yoo Seung-min is neither a conservative candidate nor a object for a single candidacy“.
The reactionary political forces rapidly collapsed because the Park Geun-hye regime was so anachronistic and reactionary. Park Geun-hye regime was so obsolete to the extent that even the ruling class thought that the recreation of the likes of the Park Geun-hye regime would jeopardize the order of domination. Thus even the ruling class abandoned Park Geun-hye. But Park Geun-hye and the pro-Park themselves prompted a rapid downfall of the reactionary political forces by holding out powers to the end in the situation completely isolated from the ruling class as well as the people. In this sense, Lee Hoi-chang rightly said to The Dong-A Ilbo, “Park must have apologized to the people. If the former Saenuri Party leadership went to the Cheong Wa Dae and spoke straightly, the conservatives would not have collapsed like now”
While the reactionaries will struggle to prolong their political life, their downfall is so irreversible as to be called a historic downfall. They will find it difficult to take control of the situation for the time being and will either end up continual regrouping or find political forces to trust their bodies.
2. Competition between the liberal political forces
As the reactionary political forces rapidly collapsed and the initiative of the situation was passed on to the liberal political forces, competition between the liberal political forces intensified. In the days leading up to the presidential election, fierce competition for taking power is taking place between the major liberal political parties, the Democratic Party and the People’s Party. What is noteworthy in this competition is that, as their possibility of taking power disappears, the reactionary political forces, argue for a “strategic choice” in favor of the People’s Party which is relatively more right among the liberal political parties, and People’s Party is seeking implicitly (though officially denying it) the alliance of liberal-reactionary.
A representative reactionary ideologue, Cho Gab-je said, “Ahn, a presidential candidate has changed himself a lot after the last year general election. The conservative forces must acknowledge that Ahn has changed.” He said, “If the worst is Moon Jae-in, the lesser evil is Ahn Chul-soo.” Thus he is arguing that the reactionary forces should support Ahn Chul-soo. On the other hand, Ahn Cheol-soo is presenting policies that suit to the reactionary forces’ taste every day, opposing even the demand of the Candlelight Vigils, ‘liquidation of the accumulated evils’, and promoting “cooperation and unification” as a banner of the era. Struggles for the initiative in the ruling class are developing, which take the form of a confrontation between liberals and liberal-reactionary alliance.
3. The time when the problems of the capitalist system come to the fore is arriving.
The political structure of so-called democratic versus anti-democratic forces has become a thing of the past (one, of course, should not construe it as denying that struggles for expanding democracy are still important. The demand for the expansion of democracy, as one of the demands at the Candlelight Vigil, must be thoroughly realized). Thus, the time when the problems of the capitalist system come to the fore is arriving. While being very important in realities, they were compelled to place to the back in the past.
In the course of the Candlelight Vigils, we already confirmed that the enormous power of the Candlelight Vigils were caused by the problems created by the capitalist system (for more information, see my article dated December 7 of last year, “What should socialists do in the present situation?” and an article dated February 15 of this year, “It’s time to expand people’s demands”). The sufferings of living caused by the problems of the capitalist system had already created the anger of people, which formed the enormous power of the Candlelight Vigils.
In the course of the Candlelight Vigils, the people already knew intuitionally that the resignation of Park alone could not be the solution of the sufferings of living, and that somethings beyond Park Geun-hye’s resignation were necessary. Therefore, the people were expecting changes in their painful life now that they impeached Park Geun-hye, and they have a will to fight for them. As the structure of the democratic vs. anti-democratic forces becomes a thing of the past because of the rapid downfall of the reactionary political forces, the expectation of the people and the will to struggle for it will become stronger and stronger.
A fierce struggle will take place among the political forces and the classes over how to solve the living problems which have been going from bad to worse, after the presidential election. In the run-up to the presidential election, liberal political forces, who are considered to have the highest possibility of getting power, are presenting a rosy blueprint to the people, boasting that they can solve such problems as youth unemployment, job creation, low birth rate, and polarizations if they take power. These problems, however, can’t be solved by some policies. These are not simple policy issues, but the problems caused by the capitalist system. For this reason, the liberal political forces, as well as the reactionary political forces, are not able to address these problems, as did the capitalist governments of the past 20 years (for details, see “Problems that the ruling class has promised to solve for 20 years but failed to solve—youth unemployment, low birth rate, aging, irregular works, housing”). Can their successor solve what Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun could not solve?
This will be exposed shortly after taking power. Then the people will be disappointed as expectations aren’t met and find a new way to solve the problems.
4. From now on Korean society should form the structure in which liberalism and socialism oppose, compete with each other.
The Candlelight Vigils, as a historical event, gave a stimulus and a shock immensely to Korean society, which has been in stagnation for a long time. Of course, with the Candlelight vigils, struggles over what the future of our society should direct to must take place among the political forces and the class. Defining what the Candlelight Vigils have rejected is closely related to setting a future development direction of our society. It is because a future alternative will be set following what it has rejected. In this regard, it is worth noting the JoongAng Ilbo‘s claim that reflects the position of the capitalist class, as an essential example. Lee Ha-kyung, an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo, said in a column on November 22 last year, relatively earlier in the Candlelight Vigils, “Candlelight Citizens want the dissolution of the ancient regime”, “Now popular sentiments are calling for a framework of a new era to replace the ancient regime altogether, are calling for the abolition of the ‘Park Chung-hee paradigm’, which produced the failed president ‘Park Geun-hye’.” The card news-style article of November 23 in the same newspaper made a clearer claim. To quote this, it was as follows: “the ‘Park Chung-hee paradigm’ is dead”; “a true aspiration of Korean society is the abolition of the ‘Park Jeong-hee paradigm'”; “the ‘Park Chung-hee paradigm’ which has supported Korean society until now is a legacy of the authoritarian system and the Korean ancient regime”; “popular sentiments of the Candle is calling for the abolition of the ‘Park Chung-hee paradigm'”, “It is time to present a new paradigm for ‘after Park Geun-hye’.”
The JoongAng Ilbo defined what the Vigils should reject in this way. Then it argued that if the people abolished the ‘Park Chung-hee paradigm,’ the problems raised in the Candlelight Vigils were supposed to be solved basically. After that, society would develop anew. By setting the problems raised in the Candlelight Vigils very narrowly, it, which is a newspaper that speaks for the interests of the capitalists, presented as an alternative such a reform plan as to revise some of Korean society without touching the basic structure of it and touted it. Furthermore, the JoongAng Ilbo opposed to the ‘liquidation of the accumulated evils,’ by borrowing a mouth of the political scientist, Choi Jang-jib(Choi Jang-jib said a ridiculous claim that “liquidation of the accumulated evils is against democracy.”). He argues that rational progressives and rational conservatives(he extolls ‘non-Park’ who supported impeachment) should cooperate. The JoongAng Ilbo‘s definition comprises a preliminary work to set the alternative after Candlelight to the level of ‘rational’ capitalism.
Unlike the JoongAng Ilbo‘s definition, we should define that what the Candlelight Vigils rejected were not merely the ‘Park Chung-hee paradigm’ but also ‘the capitalist system that created the Hell Chosun.’ By defining in this way, we naturally make “the problem is capitalism,” “the ruling class has already lost the abilities to solve the basic living problems of the people,” and “socialism is the answer” a new paradigm, the themes of the era and the subjects of public discussion. And this new paradigm and themes are not subjective thoughts, but most appropriate to the realities of S. Korea. It is because in the Candlelight Vigils the people already rejected the realities of ‘Hell Chosun’ which caused the sufferings of living and claimed that the new society should come.
5. What the socialists and progressive forces should do to achieve this
The above argument may sound unrealistic if you don’t understand the current rapidly changing tide of the situation. However, the situation is changing rapidly to the extent that the reactionary political forces, which had conducted very badly as ruling forces just over a year ago, fell short of securing a 10 percent approval rating. The current order is not static, nor should the disadvantageous position of the socialist forces be sustained. What matters is the direction of the era before and after significant historical events such as Candlelight Vigils. Those who set the right direction will rapidly grow, and those who set the wrong direction will rapidly fall to the contrary. Then let’s look at what the socialists and progressive forces have to do to realize the tasks mentioned above.
First, let’s look at the subjective conditions that hinder the realization of the tasks mentioned above. In the rapidly changing situation, the pseudo-progressive forces of the Justice Party type will function as those forces opposing their realization. They will play a role in helping liberal political forces as liberal-following forces by joining a coalition government led by the liberal forces or actively cooperating outside the liberal government.
Next, what makes things complicated is the forces that remain passive in practice due to the lagging conception of the situation and in effect, follow the liberal forces. These forces do not clarify their opposition to capitalism and their pursuit of socialism at a time when the capitalist system itself has become a problem. It leads them to cooperate with the liberal political forces as a result, contrary to their subjective intentions. They will end up repeating the same kind of error as one of ‘old Bolsheviks,’ who stayed in the old scheme even after the February revolution and supported the bourgeois provisional government, though the present task had already changed to a socialist one in the Russian revolution. Those are all who fail to establish an identity of opposing capitalism and pursuing socialism even after the Candlelight Vigils, though claiming themselves as progressives
Therefore, the first thing that the socialists and progressive forces should do is to express the tasks created by the Candlelight Vigils clearly and to realign the subjects by making them the topics of public discussion. The pseudo-progressive forces of Justice Party type, who are already sure to join the liberal forces, should be separated from the working people by revealing their true nature. On the other hand, unlike them, with the progressive forces, which are still lagging in conceiving the situations should we fiercely develop comradely ideological struggles to shift their posture.
These are the most basic tasks. Based on these basic tasks, we must strengthen our socialist capacities to build a socialist party. And what’s at stake here is to train sound socialists. Only when we train socialists who can adequately understand the core of socialism and apply it to practice, we can build a real socialist party. To train socialists, we must faithfully implement socialist propaganda and propagation first. The Candlelight Vigils have given a stimulus and a shock immensely to society. A new wave of consciousness awakening is expected to arise throughout society, and thus, the number of newcomers who want to participate in the socialist movements is expected to increase. To train them as capable socialists, socialists should launch a massive socialist studying movement.
Before finishing the article, I will add some supplemental content to prevent unnecessary misunderstandings. Emphases of the article are that the Candlelight situation had made the structure of the democratic vs. anti-democratic forces a thing of the past and, the time came when now we should place socialist tasks in the fore and act according to it, because the basic power of the Candlelight Vigils actually came from an explosion of capitalist contradictions. And it also emphasized that the activities that don’t recognize and practice them correctly lead to follow the liberal political forces, irrespective of their intention and get to be trapped in the scheme of the Joongang Ilbo, that is, the scheme of capitalists.
However, one should not misinterpret the emphases as saying that struggles for the eradicating of the reactionary forces and the expansion of democracy are not important tasks. As mentioned earlier in the article, the reactionary political forces, despite their rapid decline, are seeking to revive themselves through the ‘choice of lesser evil’ tactics and still have many bases on everywhere in society. Therefore, there is no probability that they will follow the trend of the era obediently. It is a very important task to ‘liquidate the accumulated evils’ which is a shared demand in the Candlelight Vigils. It will also be possible to form the structure of liberalism versus socialism, only when we ‘liquidate the accumulated evils.’ If we don’t achieve the ‘liquidation of the accumulated evils,’ then it would be likely for a structure of liberalism versus liberal-reactionary alliance to be continued. it is what the ruling class desires. Korean society is in the historical transition period. At this time, democratic tasks and socialist tasks should be addressed at the same time. The socialists and progressive forces should combine these two tasks well. The reason I emphasized the latter in the article was to emphasize that now the latter is more important than the former.
Besides, this article does not deal with the problems of the organization that carries the present socialist struggles and the relations between this organization and the construction of the socialist party. I think that these should be actively discussed and publicized by socialists hereafter.