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South Korean socialists debate Middle East and global crisis

Stop_Islamophobia_SKoreaMarxism Report by Workers Solidarity (South Korea)

Events in the Middle East were at the heart of discussions at the Marxism 2015 event in South Korea. Mamoon, the Chief vice-president of the Migrants Trade Union (MTU) gave a speech at opening rally asking for solidarity against Islamophobia in Korea which is on the rise after the emergence of ‘Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’ (ISIS).

Islam does not allow terrorism. Islam is not terrorism. Newspapers should have freedom of expression, but such freedom should not be abused in order to harass many people.”

On the first day of the event, about one hundred people attended the workshop titled ‘ISIS and the counter-revolution in Middle East – an Marxist account.’ It showed that many Koreans wanted to know about the current situation in the Middle East.

Marxism 2015 was held between February 6 and 8th at Korea University, Seoul. Marxism is the largest forum in South Korea discussing Marxist ideas and is hosted by revolutionary socialist organization, Workers’ Solidarity.
The opening rally took place at an auditorium filled with solidarity banners from Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Migrants’ Trade Union (MTU), Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU), Solidarity for LGBT Human Rights of Korea and also with photos of workers’ struggles across the world.

Joseph Choonara, a member of Central Committee of Socialist Workers Party in UK, spoke at the opening rally analyzing current world economic crisis.

[In UK,] the level of wage has fallen at the fastest rate since 1920s. In this world’s fifth richest country, more than a million of people cannot find enough food and rely on food bank. Diseases such as turberculosis and malaria have re-emerged in Greece. More than half of the youth are unemployed and the suicide rate increased by 45%. The US seem to be in relatively better situation. However, such recovery is due to small increase in spending and more supply of credit rather than increased investment.

There is the shadow of economic crisis everywhere. Such crises are an aspect of the systemic crisis of capitalism. The fundamental problem for the system is that the rate of profit is too low.  The problem for socialists is that the capitalism will not perish away automatically. For every crisis, capitalism continuously restructures and revives itself and destroys our lives.

In capitalism only working class can create the new world by fighting against the rulers. But the ultimate victory for the working class is not guaranteed and that is why we need socialist organization which can learn from the history of the struggle.”

In total, eight hundred people registered for this year’s Marxism. More organised workers came to Marxism 2015 compared to the last year. The public sector workers, whom the current Park Geun-hye government is preparing a harsh attack against, made very impressive presence. Many trade unionists from KTU, Korean Government Employees’ Union (KGEU), Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU), Korean Construction Workers’ Union (KCWU) and Korean Metal Workers’ Union also came to Marxism.


Students from total 43 universities across the country registered at the forum as well. Teenager participants were also represented and they too actively participated in the floor debate at various workshops. It shows that Marxism provided a genuine opportunity where anti-capitalist youth can meet struggling workers.

Workers’ Solidarity, the host organization of the forum, made an appeal to youth and student participants to take part in the upcoming workers’ struggle.

The participants shared the stories and issues of the workers struggling at various workplaces and tried to find a connection with one’s own experience. Some of the speakers were trade unionists, migrant worker and LGBT. They defied the ruling class’ attempt to divide the working class and gave powerful speech why we should unite across nationality and sexuality.

A total of 205 left organizations gave financial support for this year’s Marxism. This includes the KCTU, Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers’ Unions, KGEU, KTU, Korean University Workers’ Union, Korean Irregular Professors’ Union, KCWU and MTU. In total, more than160 trade unions supported Marxism. Many trade unions where the struggle is taking place also gave support.

At the closing rally it was emphasized that the debates and discussions should be combined with the upcoming struggle. Kim In-sik, a member of Steering Committee of Workers’ Solidarity, spoke at the closing rally.

This year’s Marxism took place at a good moment: the left has won the leadership in the KCTU elections and the approval rate of Park Geun-hye has plunged. However, Park Geun-hye is trying to attack the organized working class for that very reason. She is saying she will attack the workers of all sections, all at once. By doing so, she wants to regain ruling class’ trust.

Trade union movement should show Park Geun-hye that such attack will only make her government weaker. For that purpose, we should reply to the call for general strike in April issued by Han Sang-gyun leadership of KCTU. We should all support the struggle by KTU and KGEU in defending public worker’s pension.

Also, the rulers of the world and Park Geun-hye government want to divide the working class with racism. Let’s stop their attempt by mobilizing for International Day of Action against Racism on March 21st.”