President Kim Il Sung draws up the 10-point program of the ARF
5. The Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland
Thanks to the new division, which consolidated and enhanced the main units of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, we had the opportunity to make, in greater breadth and depth, the anti-Japanese national united front movement and the requisite organizational and ideological preparations for the founding of the Party. The new division served as a powerful driving force, supporting militarily and politically, attempts by the Korean communists to expand the armed struggle deep into the homeland and bring together patriotic forces from all walks of life; it opened up broad opportunities to bring about a turning-point in the united front movement, which we had continued indefatigably ever since the Kalun meeting.
Since the Nanhutou meeting, our united front movement concentrated on activities to organize a nationwide united front. The establishment of a permanent united front organization and unification of wide sections of the anti-Japanese patriotic forces constituted urgent tasks, which brooked no further delay, in the light of our revolutionary progress and domestic and international requirements. Ever since the early years of our activity we had maintained that the surest way to our independence and sovereignty involved a mass resistance campaign based on great national unity, and that great national unity was the key to achieving independence solely by our own efforts. The united front constituted, together with the establishment of Juche, one of the most important ideals we had adhered to, since the early days of the anti-Japanese revolutionary struggle.
On the basis of the ideal of great national unity and a united front, we had made tireless efforts to achieve the coalition with various nationalist forces and anti-Japanese patriotic forces; we also intensively developed our joint struggle with wide sections of the Chinese anti-Japanese forces and communists, as we were fighting in China. The remarkable successes and experiences we had achieved during this struggle marked a valuable foundation for the large-scale development of the united front movement. We created a postulate for continuing the united front movement on a nationwide scale on the basis of these successes and experiences and also made every possible effort to train as quickly as possible the nucleus and form our own forces, who would be able to take charge in future.
Attempts to rally together all the forces of the nation were also made before the 1930s.
In Korea’s modern history, the unity of the nation, transcending ideas and doctrines, began to be debated for the first time after the mid-1920s. In those days, our national liberation struggle was marked by two forces representing nationalism and communism. The greater the tyranny and expropriation of the Japanese imperialists, the greater the far-sighted leaders of the national liberation movement felt the need for the solidarity of patriotic forces and great national unity. Proceeding from this necessity, the communists of the early days sought to engineer a coalition with the nationalists, while the nationalists attempted to cooperate with the communist camp.
Thanks to the joint efforts of the leaders of both camps, who were equally interested in national liberation and the restoration of national sovereignty, the Singan Association, the first united front organization in our country’s history, was founded in Seoul in February 1927. The expectations and trust of the popular masses in this organization were so great that the patriotic figures and historians of those days called the Singan Association the single national party. The masses, demoralized by the antagonism and opposition of the two forces of communism and nationalism, shouted with joy at the formation of the Singan Association.
It was a great happy event, meeting the desire of the popular masses and the demands of the time, when the champions of the communist and nationalist movements, who had been estranged from one another owing to a difference of ideas and doctrines, realized, albeit belatedly, the need for unity and solidarity and established a united front organization.
The Singan Association, which could be termed the first creation of the national cooperative front in our country, was patriotic and anti-Japanese in its goals and aims.
Following the realization of the common front of the two great forces, which could be said to represent the nation, the Singan Association became after its inauguration a nationwide single organization, representing all the people. The purport of the inauguration of this organization is mirrored in the name of the Singan Association itself, provided by its sponsors in the meaning of “Komok Singan”. “Komok Singan” implies that a new trunk grows from an old tree. As the name indicates, the Singan Association aspired to the general assembly of national forces on a new basis.
The movement of the Singan Association, which was sponsored, promoted and managed by such progressive patriots as Ri Sang Jae, Hong Myong Hui and Ho Hon, who enjoyed a high reputation among the popular masses, was innovative and revolutionary in terms of the content of its programme. It aimed to accelerate the political and economic revival of the nation, consolidate national unity and deny all forms of opportunism; the professional composition of its members was also diverse and wide-ranging. The Singan Association was joined by more than 37,000 people from all sorts of profession, such as workers, peasants, hotel managers, photographers, journalists, traders, doctors, company employees, teachers, scriveners, stock-farmers, printing workers, fishermen, transport workers, weavers, tailors, students, lawyers, writers, bank clerks and religious workers.
The Singan Association ended its existence in May 1931, despite its excellent goals and aims to unite all the nation’s efforts through the collaboration of the right and left groups.
Various rumours have circulated about the reasons behind the dissolution of the Singan Association. The champions of the communist movement blamed its collapse on the nationalists, while the nationalists attempted to shift the responsibility to the communists. At one time some historians attempted to negate the patriotic character of the Singan Association and its significance for the nation’s history, trying to seek the main cause of the dissolution of this organization in the dissension and reformist tendencies of the people at the top.
I cannot accept such a nihilistic view. It is good to analyze the cause of its dissolution scientifically and learn a lesson from it, but one should not shift responsibility onto others. We should not deny the Singan Association or belittle its significance to the nation’s history, because there were some reformists in the upper strata of this organization.
The dissolution of the Singan Association was above all caused by divisive attempts by the Japanese imperialists, who feared a merger of the anti-Japanese resistance forces of the Korean nation. The imperialists drove a wedge between them and bribed the reformist upper strata. The Singan Association also collapsed, owing to lack of a pivotal leading force, which could have frustrated the sabotage and destructive operations of the enemy and skilfully managed and led this association.
On learning a severe lesson from the disintegration of the Singan Association, we raised the problem of the anti-Japanese national united front as an important policy, displaying firm resolve and determination to seize the initiative and unify the patriotic national forces, and made tireless efforts to join all the forces of the nation, under the banner of the cause of anti-Japanese national salvation. During this process, we trained a nucleus capable of leading this movement on their own initiative and also accumulated useful experience.
The Nanhutou meeting constituted a new historic turning-point in the united front movement of our country, as it had adopted decisions on the inauguration of a national united front.
It was a time when a popular front movement also came to the fore on the international scene to check imperialist aggression and confronted fascism.
Greatly stimulated by the seizure of power by the Nazis in Germany, the French working class keenly felt the need to form an anti-fascist united front, aware of the increasing threat of fascism in their own country. In response to the passionate wishes of the masses for unity, the Socialist Party accepted the proposals of the French Communist Party and signed an agreement for concerted action against war and fascism in July 1934. The trade unions, formerly divided by the two parties, also merged. This wave led to the creation of the “popular front for labour, freedom and peace”. The trend required an expansion and development of this front right up to unity with the middle class. The participation of the Radical Socialist Party, a petty-bourgeois party, in the coalition of Socialist and Communist Parties at the end of June 1935 led to the creation of the so-called “popular assembly”. A grand demonstration of the popular front was held in Paris on July 14, involving hundreds of thousands of people. Maurice Thorez, Leon Blum and Edouard Daladier, the leaders of the three parties, stood in the vanguard of the demonstration shoulder to shoulder. In January 1936, the popular front programme based on the unity of progressive groups, who had stood up in the anti-war, anti-fascist struggle centring around the three parties, was formally announced, and the popular front won a landslide victory in the general elections of the Chamber of Deputies, held in April and May of the same year. Consequently, the Sarraut Cabinet resigned en masse and the popular front Cabinet, headed by Leon Blum was born. In actual fact, the popular front government tried to overcome the crisis by increasing the purchasing power of the masses, but failed to do so; although it supported the Spanish popular front government, it could not offer active assistance, as it pursued a so-called non-interventionist policy. In the end, the popular front also disintegrated. However, it checked the establishment of an overt fascist regime in France and served as a useful experience in the international communist movement and the anti-fascist struggle.
Influenced by the development of the popular front movement in France, the Comintern set the formation of a popular front as an important goal for communists all over the world.
The international communist movement consequently set itself the immediate task of acting as the advocate of peace and democracy and opponent of war and fascism, rather than instigator of a world revolution aimed at immediately overthrowing capitalism. This could be considered a new political line in the international communist movement. Although many political parties at the Second International refused the Comintern’s proposal for a united front, the popular movement in France, Spain and Latin America made considerable progress.
The appearance of the Azana Popular Front Government in Spain in February 1936 is a typical example.
The Spanish popular front was placed in a difficult position, confronted as it was by the revolt of Franco and the military intervention of Germany and Italy.
The so-called non-interventionist policy, promoted by the United States, Britain and France, proved fatal to the Spanish popular front. The unfair non-interventionist policy which advocated strict neutrality and an embargo on weapons’ exports and imports, in the end merely helped the rebel army. The Soviet Union also adopted a non-interventionist stance at first. However, when it became clear that such a stance was unfavourable to the popular front government, it changed its attitude and dispatched planes, tanks and the like to the government. The difficulties experienced by the Spanish popular front aroused the sympathy of the intellectuals and working masses in many countries. Numerous volunteers rushed to Spain from various countries. Consequently Spain became the international field of hostilities between the fascist and progressive forces supporting the popular front. The hostilities were reminiscent of a small-scale world war. This was exactly the situation of the international anti-fascist movement at the time when we founded the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland in Donggang. We were also greatly encouraged by the heroic resistance war efforts of the Ethiopian patriots, who rose up against the Italian aggressors.
The Comintern quickly grasped the rapidly changing world situation and set as an immediate strategic task the unification of the working class and other toiling people of various countries behind the anti-war, anti-fascist struggle to prevent war, defend peace, oppose fascism and maintain democracy. It thereby fulfilled the role befitting of its duty as the leading organ of the world revolution. It can also be said that this constituted the basis of the historic exploits of the Comintern, regarding the anti-fascist popular front movement.
Fascism was not a new enemy for us. The object of our revolution and its character did not change because international fascism had reared its head. Prior to the Comintern’s advance of the line of anti-fascist popular front movement, we put forward our own line of the anti-Japanese national united front and vigorously advanced our revolution on the basis of this line, The foundation work of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland as a nationwide united front body began after the Nanhutou meeting. Until then I had on the whole been trying on my own to mature my meditation as regards the foundation of this association. Now and then Kim San Ho, Choe Hyon, Pak Yong Sun and some others provided the necessary advice, but generally they adopted an attitude of “Do as you please. Comrade Commander”. I once met an elderly scholar in a mountainous village in the neighbourhood of Yushuichuan in the Dun-hua area. He became a good adviser and match I could discuss matters with.
In that village there were two houses of Koreans. I was staying at one of them. At that time a small unit operating in the Helong area came to see us. On seeing me, they reported that they had brought a strange man with them. They said that they had met him in a remote village in Helong and that he had followed, insisting on a meeting with General Kim Il Sung, on learning that the small unit was coming to the Headquarters. Feeling that they should not bring an unidentified individual to the Headquarters, the members of the small unit repeatedly advised him to return home.
However, the man merely replied, “You go yourselves, I’ll go myself. Don’t worry about me. Let’s not interfere in each other’s affairs,” He then calmly followed the small unit at a certain distance.
This individual, who attracted my curiosity before I had even met him, behaved strangely at our first meeting. Some comrades from the small unit introduced me to him as the Commander. However, the strange guest did not listen and requested that he be introduced to the real General Kim Il Sung, taking into consideration his age and earnestness. I received him, chopping firewood for the master of the house; apparently my clothes did not satisfy him. He scrutinized me for some time, asserting that General Kim could not be so young and that a general could not chop firewood and wear rough clothes like a farmhand.
Once when we were bivouacking in the neighbourhood of Guandi, north Manchuria, my trousers burnt because the new orderly standing guard at the campfire dozed off. In actual fact, my padded clothes inevitably appeared poor quality, as they were old and also were patched up.
He was a strange fellow. His goatee resembled Ho Chi Minh’s. Although he was no more than forty-four or forty-five, he looked older than fifty.
He said that he had heard many rumours about me and had come to see the kind of man I was, as there were too many rumours about me. When I told him, “Much ado about nothing,” he shook his head and said that he could guess my pains merely from my clothes.
Despite the great age difference, we somehow immediately found a common language and mind. His introduction was very strange and daring. He said:
“I’m an opportunist who has not accomplished anything in life. I have only wavered, currying favour with different parties.”
I have met thousands and tens of thousands of people in all my life: I now saw for the first time a man, who unhesitatingly introduced himself as an opportunist.
Only an infinitely conscientious man is infinitely honest. Honesty is the mirror of our conscience, which is as pure as white snow; it resembles a beacon which cannot be concealed. He immediately fascinated me with the few words he had uttered owing to their frankness, which amazed us all. I could see his moral height in the unaffected manner he used to personally belittle himself.
We could not stay any longer in that village, as we had to go to Mihunzhen shortly. I consequently decided to part with him as soon as I had conversed sufficiently to ensure that he did not leave upset.
However, when we started on our way, he indicated his intention to follow us rather than return home. He said that after meeting General Kim, he did not feel like parting so soon and requested that he be allowed to follow us for some hours at least and exchange conversation with us. For some reason I also did not feel like parting from him. So we started on our way, taking him with us.
I did not find the march tiresome, as I talked to him all the time. I was so engrossed in our talk that at times I continued on the march oblivious to my men’s need to rest as they pleased.
In these cases Kim San Ho approached us and hinted that we should take a rest.
This individual was Ri Tong Baek, the old man “tobacco pipe”, recorded in the history of our Party as sponsor of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland. “Tobacco pipe” was Ri Tong Back’s nickname.
In my opinion, many people know that Tanchon of South Hamgyong Province is the home of Ri Tong Hui, a chamryong (field grade officer—Tr.) at the close of the Ri dynasty, a famous leader of the Righteous Volunteers’ Army and an advocate of the communist movement. Few people, however, know that it is the native town of Ri Tong Baek.
During our talk on the march, we discovered that Ri Tong Hui had exerted a considerable influence on Ri Tong Baek, who studied the Chinese classics. We learned that Ri Tong Hui had persuaded the old man “tobacco pipe” to join the independence movement. He belonged to the War Fund-Raising Association, located in the Changbai area.
As the topic of our conversation concerned the War Fund-Raising Association and Kang Jin Gon, it became more animated. Ri Tong Baek knew about Kang Jin Gon as well as I. He said that he had frequented Badaogou and Linjiang and had on each visit there maintained close contacts with Kang Jin Gon. He worked in the association as correspondence director.
However, when the great “clean-up” in the year of Kyongsin (1920— Tr.) reached Changbai, the awe-inspiring War Fund-Raising Association rapidly dispersed. A disappointed Ri Tong Baek went to Russia in search of Ri Tong Hui.
He met Ri Tong Hui in Chita and soon joined the Koryo Communist Party. The erstwhile independence fighter rapidly became a champion of the communist movement. Consequently he was soon involved in factional strife.
As Ri Tong Baek mentioned the Koryo Communist Party, I asked him whether he knew Pyon Tae U; I recalled that I had once seen the so-called membership card of this party in my Wujiazi days. He replied that Pyon Tae U and he had been intimate friends since their early years.
When I told him that I had once seen the membership card of the Koryo Communist Party from Pyon Tae U in Wujiazi, Ri Tong Baek asked me whether I had also seen the potato stamp certificate of one delegation. When I said that this was news to me, he recounted the following story.
In November 1922 a conference of the Shanghai and Irkutsk groups was due to be held in Verkhne-Udinsk, in the east central part of Russia. Believing that they would only be able to control the party after the merger if they enjoyed a majority at the conference, each group waged a fierce undercover struggle to increase the number of its own delegates.
The Irkutsk group issued a lot of false delegate certificates, even forging a potato stamp and sent sham delegates to the conference. The Shanghai group also engaged in similar fraudulent practices. In the end the conference disintegrated into chaos owing to the wrangling. Disillusioned, Pyon Tae U went to Linjiang, intending to return to the nationalist movement, while Ri Tong Baek was dispatched by Ri Tong Hui to Hunchun.
The old man “tobacco pipe” had been teaching in Hunchun before his journey to Seoul in spring 1925. He attended an inaugural meeting of the Communist Party of Korea under a pseudonym, and also participated in the June Tenth Independence Movement, held in the following year.
Ri Tong Baek’s stay in Seoul, the rendezvous of the factions, led to his involuntary involvement in the whirlwind of new factional strife. He spent busy, boisterous days playing the role of two or three individuals, dragged into the Tuesday group first and then plunging into the M-L group.
The despicable undercover struggle of various groups to seize control of the party involved disgraceful behaviours: a member of the central committee was put in a sack and clubbed; his head was knocked with a wooden pillow; sometimes such a deplorable tragicomedy was also staged to inform the police of opponents so that they were arrested and detained. If he had stayed on in Seoul, he would not have known when and where he would have been secretly handcuffed or had his head clubbed. Consequently Ri Tong Baek returned to Jiandao.
Ri Tong Baek was like a wrecked ship without a sail, helm or oar; he had been running in confusion depending on the wind and the waves, spat at factional strife and steadfastly remained on land. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Longjing, rejecting both the movement of the Independence Army and the communist movement.
However, the anti-Japanese movement of the 1930s, flaring up in Jiandao, stimulated Ri Tong Baek to become involved in the storm once more. Drawn to a confused party belonging to the Tuesday group, Ri Tong Baek worked as secretary of district No. 3 of the Helong County for some time; after a narrow escape from death during the great “cleanup” in Jiandao he went to a remote place in Helong with his family, determined to turn his back on the world for ever. He said that he had led a quiet life there for the past several years, teaching at a private village school.
“So, what else am I if not an opportunist? I am an out-and-out opportunist, involved in all the factions excluding the Seoul-Shanghai group.”
Ri Tong Baek put the tobacco in his pipe bowl as if he was ending his topsy-turvy past. He was a heavy smoker. Sometimes he put his pipe into his mouth even when he was riding on horseback and would be rebuked by young orderlies. Instead of taking offence, he muttered as if in excuse, “Oh, I’m so forgetful. Smoking on the march may even invite far-off running dogs.” He put his pipe in the pouch of his extra coat. He never rolled tobacco on paper. He only smoked a pipe. This led to his nickname—“tobacco pipe”.
“Thank you for your frankness. But I don’t regard you as an opportunist. You have merely peeped here and there in order to seek out the right path to be followed by the Korean society. Participation in various groups in the search for truth does not mark you out as an opportunist.”
Ri Tong Baek was greatly surprised by my reply.
“You mean I am not an opportunist to have been involved in so many factions?”
“No—this much is clear from the fact that after living the life of a recluse in the remote mountain area of Helong for several years, you disregarded your decision and made a long journey to see us, although you are no longer that young. Can this really be regarded as the realization of an opportunist’s original intention?”
“Now that you have seen into the bottom of my heart so thoroughly, I’ll gladly agree. I also left home owing to my insistent ambition to find, prior to my death and at all costs, the ‘treasure’ I have not found for many years.”
“I am extremely delighted to meet someone who is seeking truth with a righteous intention. I think that there used to be many investigators of truth like yourself and champions of righteous movements in our country; however, some have been arrested and imprisoned, some have turned renegade and others have suffered various losses so that they are very rare nowadays. It is very fortunate that you are still alive.”
My highly interesting talk with the “tobacco pipe” continued until we reached Mihunzhen.
During that time I became attached to Ri Tong Baek.
Ri Tong Baek also grew close to us. One saying goes: “Meet in haste, part in haste.” It was not easy to say goodbye. However, we could not allow an elderly man to go any further along the long and dangerous march, which was likely to involve continuous battles with the enemy.
Before leaving Mihunzhen, I advised Ri Tong Baek again to go back home. Instead of replying, he rummaged the inside of his coat before taking out a sheet of paper folded into four and handed it to me. It was an application for his enrollment written in a mixture of Korean and Chinese, Even the sudden rising of the sun in the west could not have surprised us as much as that time.
“How on earth can you follow us at your age?”
“Don’t worry about that. Under the command of Ulji Mun Dok19 and Ri Sun Sin,20 there were a number of soldiers who were one and a half times older than me. So you have no reason to reject my request because of my age.”
“Who’ll take care of your wife and children, who no doubt impatiently await you in the backwoods of Helong?”
“According to one saying. You feel sorry if you cannot go into scheduled exile. Furthermore, you are now telling me to go back home, when I have already left it owing to my desire to devote myself to the great cause of national salvation. General, you have embarked on the liberation struggle for the country: no one else could take care of your ailing mother and your younger brothers, could they?”
Whatever I said, I could not persuade the “tobacco pipe”. I yielded. To commemorate his enlistment, I gave him the pistol I had treasured for two years.
When we had decided to enlist him, Ri Tong Baek excitedly explained what had made him decide to remain by our side instead of going back home.
“Do you know what held me by your side. General? “In actual fact, first of all your ennobling cause. Secondly your patched trousers and the cry of all those suffering from fever in Mihunzhen.... I thought a lot when I saw you visit without a moment’s hesitation the isolated feverish victims and take care of them. It is not as easy as it seems to take care of one’s subordinates and shoulder responsibility for their destiny, regardless of one’s own danger. I have met all the eminent bigwigs, but they pale m comparison with you.
“On the whole I decided to remain here, because I have discovered the true master of the Korean revolution, the genuine master and leader who shoulders all the responsibility for Korea’s destiny. You General keep clear of armchair arguments and empty theories and talks. For this merit alone, you managed to persuade a rural scholar like me.”
“Is your decision motivated by a third reason?”
“Why not! Of course. Your creative and practical way of thinking and your firm belief in the victory of the revolution.”
One day, during a break on the march, “tobacco pipe” and I exchanged our views on the national united front. He expressed his opinion that, although France, Spain and China could form a popular front by merging political parties and organizations thanks to parties like the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the Nationalist Party as well as labour movement organizations, our country could not do the same, because we had virtually no political parties or lawful organizations.
I gave him two snowballs and told him to roll them into one; I myself rolled a small snowball on the snow and made it as large as the snowball he had merged.
I said: “Well now, look. You made one ball by merging two political parties; I have made one larger than yours by rolling a small ball. Will you claim even now that the organization of a united front is only possible when there are political parties?”
Gazing fixedly at the snowball in my hand, as if he were looking into a magic glass, Ri Tong Baek muttered to himself:
“Really that is a profound principle. However, a snowball is a snowball and a political party is a political party, isn’t it?”
“To our great surprise, however, many natural phenomena we have experienced conform to social phenomena, as far as principles are concerned.”
I told him in detail about the united front policy we had consistently adhered to since our days in Jilin and about the experience accumulated by new generation young communists in rallying anti-Japanese patriotic forces from all areas of society. I said:
“A united front is not only formed by merging political parties and organizations. If the theory of political parties and organizations becomes absolute, it resembles dogma. We can easily form a united front, if we are backed by the masses and leadership nucleus. I believed in this case that we should rally people, be they ten or a hundred, using the identity of their purposes and aspirations as the criterion. With this aim in mind, we have been promoting the united front movement for a long time now.”
Beating his nape, Ri Tong Baek said, “Dogma really is a problem,” and laughed loudly.
After explaining why he remained by our side, “tobacco pipe” added:
“By your side. General, I have found a task to dedicate the concluding years of my life to. In the final analysis, I have discovered the worth of my existence. It can be said that one is happy when one feels useful in this world. Now I am such a happy man.”
“What kind of task have you found to make you feel happy?” “My task resembles the one performed by Louis David who followed Napoleon. I am going to transfer to my diary what David transferred to his pictures. Not the historic achievements of Napoleon’s army, but rather those of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army.”
Ri Tong Baek kept his diary every day as he had planned. There was not a single day when he did not keep his diary, although there were occasions when he skipped his meals once or twice or sometimes for several days. Until his very last moments, he carried out his mission as narrator of the history of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. After his enlistment, he worked at the secretariat of the Headquarters and later on as the chief editor of the Monthly Samil, an organ of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland, and was also in charge of the printing office. He had collected so many documents and photographs that whenever the secretariat moved somewhere, several combatants had to be assigned, in order to move ten knapsacks containing documents, as well as mimeographing implements.
One day Kim Ju Hyon advised him to arrange the packages in order, so that they could be halved, but was severely reproached by him.
“Well, do you think these documents are like those of the ‘Minsaengdan’? Although you are a commander, you do not enjoy a sweeping judgement. These packages constitute a treasure, which cannot be exchanged even for the lives of ten or one hundred people like me. Although you are a regimental commander by rank, you are tantamount to a private before these packages. Do you know how the national treasure is formed?”
From then on, the commanders obediently attached a transport party; they did not dare say anything superfluous, no matter how many packages “tobacco pipe” held.
If the many documents, diaries and photos he had recorded, collected and kept had not been lost, they would indeed now be eternal national treasures just as “tobacco pipe” had asserted.
On one occasion Ri Tong Baek accidentally fired his gun. As Napoleon was frequently on his lips, a bodyguard nicknamed him once “old worshiper of Napoleon”. At that time Ri Tong Baek was holding in his hand a pistol, which he had just finished disassembling and assembling and cleaning.
“You stupid fool. This pistol will tell you whom I worship. You listen.” With these words Ri Tong Baek held up his pistol with a fully loaded magazine and pulled the trigger towards the empty air.
Owing to that accidental shot, commotion followed at the Laomudingzi bivouac and soldiers rushed out. The other commanders strongly demanded that he should be given a warning and not be allowed to carry a weapon with him for one month. I proposed that he be pardoned just this once, but military discipline was rigorous. The pistol was taken back by Kim San Ho.
The arrival of the wonderful old man “tobacco pipe” at our unit was another stroke of fortune for me. I always had kind friends. It was as if a noble man had descended from the sky and helped us.
When we resolved the problems with over 100 suspects of the “Minsaengdan”, organized a new division and improved the living conditions of the Maanshan Children’s Corps members, I concentrated all my efforts on the preparatory work for the foundation of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland. Although this was an arduous task, all sorts of troubles were resolved smoothly just as we had intended; consequently, we made brisk headway.
As well as Kim San Ho, Ri Tong Baek became an irreplaceably honest and prudent assistant. As soon as he was enlisted, we elected him a member of the preparatory committee for the foundation of the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland. In this preparatory committee, Kim San Ho and Ri Tong Baek played the key roles. Kim San Ho chiefly worked outside the unit, as he was in charge of liaison with external organizations; Ri Tong Baek headed the preparatory work within the unit.
Ri Tong Baek also greatly helped me work out the Programme, Rules and Inaugural Declaration of the ARE At that time I discussed every item with him and advised him to write the draft. However, he declined my proposal, saying that his literary style was old and that he was not confident of his ability to write down my intentions correctly. Consequently I made the draft and he added something, thereby perfecting the inaugural documents one by one.
Our greatest differences emerged over the first item of the programme. The first item defined, in a few words, the ideal, fighting goal and character of the ARF as a political organization. Consequently the debate was very heated.
When I proposed to put down, in accordance with my meditations, as the content of the first item, the overthrow of the colonial rule of the piratical Japanese imperialists via the general mobilization of the 20 million-strong Korean nation and the establishment of a genuinely popular government, Ri Tong Baek shook his head and became engrossed in thought before saying “No”.
He added: “It is a pity that there is not a single phrase about the building of a society for the proletariat. If the first item of the programme does not reflect communism at all, will the numerous proponents of communism like it? The words ‘a genuinely popular government’ are vague in class character and somehow reek of nationalism.”
Later on, when I met Pak Tal21 for the first time and talked to him in the secret camp of Mt. Paektu, he replied in a similar manner as Ri Tong Baek on the first item of the Programme of the ARE This was a time when pseudo-Marxist views were widespread in our country.
Almost all the so-called communists asserted emphatically that communists would only free the working class and all mankind from exploitation and oppression, when they had got rid of a narrow national ideal and strictly adhered to the class principle and the internationalist stance, as if communism ran counter to the national ideal.
Many proponents of communism insisted on this fact, because they accepted very simply the proposition “The proletariat has no fatherland”, made by Marx in The Communist Manifesto.
Marx and Engels lived in a historic period, when the possibility of a socialist revolution in one country had not fully matured. They predicted that a socialist revolution would occur simultaneously in a number of countries, where capitalism was highly developed. In conditions where the bourgeoisie of every country, who were to be overthrown by the working class, posed as defenders of national interests, the revolutionary cause of the proletariat throughout the world might have been spoiled, if the proletariat of all countries had been deceived by the honeyed words of “nationalism” or “patriotism” advocated by the bourgeois class of their own country. For the proletariat of every country, their homeland under bourgeois rule can never be their fatherland; therefore, the proletariat had to back unfailingly internationalism and socialism in the choice between chauvinism and internationalism and nationalism and socialism. Proceeding from this point of view, the classics of Marxism warned the working class against so-called patriotic illusions and instructed them to discard at all times the nationalist bias between patriotism and socialism and defend socialism. Analyzing the causes behind the failure of the Paris Commune, Marx asserted that the participants of the Commune had not attacked Versailles, the den of reactionaries, as they thought mistakenly that the launch of a civil war would constitute an anti-patriotic act, when the foreign enemy, the Prussian army, was encircling Paris. Lenin branded it a treachery to the socialist cause that, following the outbreak of the World War I, the revisionists of the Second International abandoned the revolutionary principle of the working class and sided with the bourgeoisie of their own country, under the slogan of “defence of the fatherland”.
To help, under the pretext of “defence of the fatherland”, the bourgeoisie obtain colonies, who madly display a readiness to increase their own wealth at the cost of their whole nation, constitutes a betrayal of one’s own nation and, at the same time, of socialism. Therefore, if the proletariat of an imperialist country are loyal to the socialist cause, they should not hold up the sign of “defence of the fatherland” but instead should hoist the banner of “opposing war” and launch a campaign to boycott war.
However, the situation is completely different in colonial and dependent countries. For the communists of these countries, raising the banner of national liberation and patriotism is tantamount to opposing the bourgeoisie in the suzerain states; by doing so, they make an, equal contribution to the national and class revolution, as well as to the international revolutionary cause.
Pseudo-communists and would-be Marxists made a theoretical and practical mistake: failing to understand this plain truth, they regarded patriotism and nationalism as the enemy of communism and rejected them unconditionally, absolutizing the proposition “The proletariat has no fatherland”.
In the new historical situation in which the socialist revolution takes place with the nation-state as a unit, there can be said to be no major difference between genuine nationalism and genuine communism in colonies. The former lays a little more stress on the national character, the latter on the class character. Their patriotic stands should be regarded as the same in that they both champion the nation’s interests against foreign forces.
My invariable belief is that a true communist is a true patriot and that a true nationalist, too, is a true patriot.
Therefore, we consistently attached great importance to cooperation with true, patriotic nationalists and devoted all our efforts to strengthening our alliance with them.
We had to devote a considerable amount of time and energy to make people understand that the Korean communists had a national right to fight for the liberation of their country and convince them that it did not run counter to proletarian internationalism. Moreover, our own thorough patriotism and practical struggle for national liberation demonstrated to the whole nation that communists were patriots, who truly loved their country and fellow people; in the end we came to proudly be in the vanguard of the national liberation struggle.
The inauguration of the ARF will be the fruitful result of this protracted self-sacrificing struggle we waged.
Therefore, we should openly use the name “The Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland”, and also make clear in the first item of its programme that we intend to liberate the country thanks to the efforts of all the members of our nation and establish a genuinely popular government like the one, which was set up at one time in the guerrilla base in east Manchuria.
Ri Tong Baek, who had been listening to me attentively, slapped his knee and shouted in joy; “That’s right! I have been a blind fool. Now I can get rid of my deformity following my discussion with you, General. I fully agree with you.”
We agreed on all the other items of the programme.
In the Ten-Point Programme of the ARF we established that a resolution to the power problem constituted the primary task of the Korean nation, and also put forward various political tasks, such as the provision of the people with democratic freedom and rights, the democratic development of society and protection of the national rights of overseas compatriots.
This programme also set the task of building a revolutionary army and elucidated the economic tasks to be solved at the stage of the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal democratic revolution, such as unindemnified confiscation of land from the Japanese imperialists and treacherous pro-Japanese landlords, expropriation of all enterprises, railways, banks, vessels, farms, irrigation facilities owned by the Japanese state and Japanese individuals and all the properties of the treacherous pro-Japanese elements, support for the poor, the natural development of national industry, agriculture and commerce and the construction of a national economy.
The natural development of national industry, agriculture and commerce and the construction of a national economy were based on our consistent line and policy to rally national capitalists in the anti-Japanese united front by strictly distinguishing between national capital and comprador capital and encouraging patriotic national capitalists and actively defending and supporting them. This marked the difference between pseudo-communists, who asserted that all capitalists, including even anti-Japanese national capitalists, should be tarred with the same brush, and genuine communists who regarded all national capitalists as the motive force of the revolution. These capitalists, though branded as bourgeoisie, were patriotic in their aspirations and anti-Japanese in practice.
The Ten-Point Programme of the ARF also set social and cultural tasks as well as other ones concerning external activities.
I anticipated some friction on the religionists or national capitalists and patriotic landowners. However, Ri Tong Baek, who came to share the same world outlook as me through the argument on the first item of the programme, surprisingly shared my view straight away. On the contrary, such people as Kim San Ho and O Paek Ryong were narrow-minded on this question.
While I was making drafts of the programme, rules and inaugural declaration, the others were preparing letters and propaganda materials in the name of the preparatory committee for the inauguration of the association. Indeed, that spring we were so busy that we worked every minute and second.
The programme, rules and inaugural declaration were submitted for final discussion of the preparatory committee in the house of Ho Rak Yo, head of Manjiang village.
“Tobacco pipe” deplored that in the past the factionalists, who had been engaged in the so-called communist movement, had been engrossed only in a scramble for power with bloodshot eyes, despite the fact that they could not put together a good programme, but was extremely delighted that we now had a new beacon-light, which would light up more brightly the path ahead of the Korean revolution, which had been gloomy.
After finishing all the preparations at the end of April, we decided to hold the inaugural meeting in the forests of Donggang and moved there. Almost all the delegates who had received letters of invitation gathered there in one way or another; however, Ri Tong Gwang and Jon Kwang (O Song Ryun) from south Manchuria, who had even sent us reply letters, saying that they would take part in the meeting without fail, for some reason did not come until the meeting was over. As delegates from the homeland, a delegate of Chondoists and a peasant delegate came from Pyoktong backed by Kang Je Ha’s organization, and one teachers’ delegate and one workers’ delegate came from the Party organization of the Onsong area.
The historic inaugural meeting of the ARF was held on May 1. Although the flowers were not yet in full bloom, the whole mountain was in the thick of spring.
As the meeting lay ahead, the hearts of all the delegates throbbed with strong emotion and excitement.
The Donggang meeting lasted for 15 days.
First Ri Tong Baek read out messages of congratulations sent to the meeting, and then I delivered the report.
In my report I referred to the need to rally the entire nation as one political force under the banner of national liberation and establish in the border area a new base which the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army could rely on, in order to conduct the anti-Japanese national united front movement dynamically and further expand and develop the anti-Japanese armed struggle by advancing into the border area and the homeland. Subsequently this report was published in book form under the title, Let Us Further Expand and Develop the Anti-Japanese National United Front Movement and Take the Korean Revolution as a Whole to a New Upsurge.
I also submitted the Ten-Point Programme of the ARF and its Inaugural Declaration to the meeting for consideration.
In the ten-point programme we defined the character and task of the Korean revolution, as well as its strategic and tactical principles, on the basis of a correct analysis of the revolutionary situation in the 1930s, the socio-economic conditions of our country and mutual relations between different classes, and also elucidated the prospects of the Korean revolution, taking into strict consideration the interests of the workers, peasants and other working masses, as well as the common interests of the patriotic people of all walks of life.
The participants of the meeting expressed full support and approval for the programme and expressed their joy that they could now advance confidently for the victory of the Korean revolution with a clear fighting goal; they also firmly resolved to work hard to implement the tasks set forth in the programme.
The discussion about the Inaugural Declaration of the ARF also stirred the hearts of the delegates.
The paragraphs of the inaugural declaration gripped their hearts from the start. In particular, the participants of the meeting were greatly taken by the part of the declaration, which expressed confidence that Korea’s independence would succeed if the whole nation—20 million people— were rallied into one, each contributing his or her all; money, provisions, skill and wisdom; and took part in the anti-Japanese national liberation front. They were taken by the earnest appeal to everyone to fight, encompassed in the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland.
After the adoption of the Inaugural Declaration of the ARF, we discussed the name it should be published under.
All the participants in the meeting suggested that it should be published in my name. They said that this problem admitted no room for debate and that, as a matter of course, the declaration should be published in my name, as I had been the first to propose the establishment of the ARF and had been in charge of the work of the preparatory committee for its formation and also as I had worked out its programme and inaugural declaration.
However, I held a different opinion. The ARF had to assume a national form in order to rally all the anti-Japanese forces of the entire Korean people. Consequently I thought it correct to use as sponsor a well-known elderly patriot, who had taken an active part m the Korean independence movement since the Righteous Volunteers’ Army movement and the March First Movement.
I thought that our existence was not generally known to wide sections of the people at home, because until then the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army had mainly fought with the Manchurian area as the scene of operations. Following the establishment of new secret bases in Mt. Paektu and the expansion of the armed struggle deep into the homeland, my name became widely known to the people at home. I think that probably one of the issues of the Maeil Sinbo (Daily News—Tr.) for September 1936 was the first newspaper at home to report on the movement and the struggle of our main unit. At the time this newspaper noted artfully:
A unit consisting of 150-160 soldiers has advanced to Changbai County, and “the head of the unit is said to be Kim Il Sung”. Using this as a start, home publications frequently published our activities.
I said to the delegates at the meeting straightforwardly: All of you insist that the inaugural declaration should be published in the name of a certain man, because he was the first to initiate the inauguration of the association, was in charge of the preparatory committee for its inauguration and also worked out its programme and rules. There is no real point in offering prominence to one man, to me, only taking this fact into consideration. It will be much more effective to appeal to the people to join the ARF, by using the names of people who are known to all our 20 million compatriots. It will be sufficient if you regard me as a son of our people and suppose that I have suffered greatly for the masses. Then I appealed to them to make as co-sponsors of the inaugural declaration elderly and well-reputed patriots, referring to the need to give up small matters in view of the great cause, and proposed the publication of the inaugural declaration with Ri Tong Baek and Ryo Un Hyong as co-sponsors.
Ri Tong Baek was the first to oppose my proposal. He said that such things as age and former reputations were irrelevant and that there was only one leader, representing the entire nation and guiding the great cause of national liberation: General Kim known at home and abroad. Therefore, he added, a man like him could not be sponsor, despite this stark fact, and persisted that, as a matter of course. General Kim should be both president of the ARF and its sponsor. Taking my suggestion into consideration, he proposed that Ryo Un Hyong be made co-sponsor along with me.
After heated discussion I agreed to become one of the sponsors on condition that the alias Kim Tong Myong was used. When he obtained my concession, Ri Tong Baek also consented to be sponsor.
Thus, the names of three people—Kim Tong Myong, Ri Tong Baek and Ryo Un Hyong—were put down as co-sponsors in the Inaugural Declaration of the ARF published on May 5.
Ri Tong Baek supplied me with the alias of Kim Tong Myong. When I said that I would agree to become sponsor, only on condition that an alias be used, he could not insist on his own suggestion any more and became engrossed in his thoughts for some time, before adding that it would be a good idea to keep Kim as it was as the surname of my alias and name me Tong Myong, Tong meaning the east and Myong implying brightness.
He said that if the name “Kim Tong Myong” was used for me, it would constitute a significant name in various aspects, in the sense of representing the nation. Everyone expressed their approval with warm applause. Thus, the alias “Kim Tong Myong”, like the name “Kim Il Sung”, was provided by other people.
The declaration of the ARF published by us was subsequently sent to various places at home and abroad. In some places it was reprinted and made public, with the names of the sponsors replaced by those of influential figures and famous people in their own area. We allowed them free rein depending on their own situation. The ARF itself was called the East Manchurian Koreans’ Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland in east Manchuria and in south Manchuria it was named the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland of the Koreans Residing in Manchuria. For this reason the names of such people as O Song Ryun, Om Su Myong, Ri Sang Jun (Ri Tong Gwang) and An Kwang Hun appear in some declarations of the ARF discovered by the Party History Institute.
In accordance with the unanimous will of the participants, I took office as president of the ARF at its inaugural meeting.
This is how a standing anti-Japanese national united front body, the first of its kind in the history of the anti-Japanese national liberation struggle in our country, came to be born.
The founding of the ARF as the first anti-Japanese national united front body in our country, constituted a milestone, strengthening the mass foundation of the revolution. Following the founding of the ARF, the anti-Japanese national united front movement developed rapidly in a more organized and systematic way on a nationwide scale, closely combined with the anti-Japanese armed struggle; it was able to dynamically organize and mobilize all the anti-Japanese forces to the struggle for national liberation.
Unification of all the efforts of the nation for the liberation front marked the supreme task we had set ourselves since we started out on our struggle. We had spent many years to ensure that we achieved this aim.
The foundation of the ARF represented the fruit of the active efforts of our young communists, who had tirelessly trained our revolutionary forces. It marked a historic moment, when our people again solemnly declared their will to fight more dauntlessly against the Japanese imperialists with their own efforts: it also marked a turning-point in taking the general Korean revolution, with the anti-Japanese armed struggle as the keystone, to a new upsurge.
The foundation of the ARF enjoyed active backing at home and abroad, as it met the requirements of the development of the Korean revolution itself and the currents of the time. In various parts of the homeland and abroad loud voices were raised in its support. The units of the Independence Army responded first.
Immediately after the proclamation of the foundation of the ARF, Yun Il Pha, chief of staff of the government of the Korean Revolutionary Army, sent us a letter congratulating us on the foundation of the association and expressing his hope that he would be able to maintain close ties with us on the anti-Japanese front in future. Moreover, Pak, a nationalist fighter who was active in Shanghai, made a long journey to Manchuria and met the south Manchurian delegates of the ARF. He had exercised a considerable influence on nationalist fighters as a patriot who had been engaged in the independence movement for many years in China proper such as in Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin. Pak promised to carry out extensive work for the ARF, embracing the homeland and abroad; he also discussed ways of forming the “Revolutionary Army for Independence” as nationwide armed forces.
As Ri Tong Baek wrote in his article entitled “Mr. X, a leader of the Chondoist religion, personally visits the delegate of our restoration association” in the first issue of the Monthly Samil, Pak In Jin, who was a patriarch of the Chondoist religion, also visited the secret camp in Mt. Paektu to see us on learning the happy news of the foundation of the ARF. He promised to persuade the one million members of the Chondogyo Youth Party to join the Association for the Restoration of the Fatherland.
Ri Chang Son, Ri Je Sun, Pak Tal and many others came to see us successively and made an active contribution to the expansion of the organizations of the ARF.
It will probably be difficult to contain even in several thick volumes the history of the development of the ARF, which expanded in a short space of time, into a nationwide organization, embracing hundreds of thousands of members.
The birth of the ARF at the northern foot of Mt. Paektu in May 1936 constituted a historic event, which ensured a new turning-point in the development of the Korean revolution and heralded the dawn of national liberation. Thus, the new brighter era of the Korean revolution began to dawn at the foot of Mt. Paektu.