Exit Strategies

The Wax Museum of the Left


North Korea’s media is notorious, but few doubt the veracity of their reports of the death of Kim Jong Il (unless, of course, the Dear Leader is planning some kind of miraculous public resurrection in the future . . . )

There’s little left to say about Kim’s bleak and, from an outsider’s perspective, heart-breaking regime: it was a society that seemed to live up to the cartoonish image in the public’s imagination.

Upon learning of the news, I half expected to read the equivalent of hooting and hollering from America’s “conservative” press—Ding, Dong, the Dictator is Dead! But instead, the mood was subdued. The post-9/11—“Freedom Fries”—“Mission Accomplished!”-era seems to have officially ended. Not a moment too soon. And the thought must cross every American’s mind—even that of the most impassioned flag-waving Herman Cain-backer—that American policy in Korea is some kind of incomprehensible relic. 

The division of North and South represents ongoing hostilities between Cold War spheres that no longer exist. Moreover, the reunification of the two Koreas was, for a half century, delayed indefinitely, not only by the megalomania of the Kim dynasty but by the stultifying inertia of American foreign policy. Since 1941, few of Washington’s war have actually ended, and Yankee has never gone home.

Much as the 38th Parallel was a testament to an unfinished Cold War, Kim’s regime amounted to a macabre wax museum of an older version of the Left—one of martial virtue, rigid, top-down planning, and a monolithic, state-generated national culture.

As Paul Gottfried has described in his book The Strange Death of Marxism, the international Left has moved on since 1953. It is no longer supportive of—or even interested in—Kim’s style of economic control. It has, instead, made its peace with capitalism—and even embraced the free flow of cheap labor across borders and the promotion of non-Whites within the multinational corporations it once labeled “fascist.”

Kim’s brand of xenophobic ultra-nationalism remains an embarrassment to the Left, a reminder of a former life. In turn, America’s self-styled “conservatives,” who define themselves mostly in terms of economic freedom—and like to imagine that their enemies dream of creating dogmatic, Soviet-style societies—are, much like Kim, living in a world of delusion.

It’s been said, Communism attacks the body; Liberalism rots the soul. Quite true. And so much of Eastern Europe, which was impoverished by the Politburo, has been protected from the ravages of Cultural Marxism—multiculturalism, feminism, and the soft totalitarianism that predominates in America and Western Europe. I’ve heard some rightists lament—only half-ironically—“The wrong side won the Cold War!”

Whatever kernel of truth such a sentiment holds, looking at Kim’s North Korea, particularly vis-à-vis its prosperous and productive co-nationals in the South, we should recognize just how inimical to human flourishing Marxian economics truly is.