Introduction: Here is an article written on my search for the PFDJ mind set after spending years contemplating on the ideologies followed to rule the juntas. I was always wondering what type of ideology is the current ruling tyranny in Asmara follows in his guidance. In 2008, I remember one student asking to the political instructors of Cadre school in Nakfa this same question.
Mr. Ahferom Tewelde, the school director, responded by saying, “the political ideology followed by PFDJ is SOCIAL JUSTICE.” At a level of ideology or as a political motive, it is included I a number PFDJ documents. For example, in the charter adopted by the third congress of 1994, PFDJ’s vision is clearly tells Social Justice as a means to economic developments and social democracy. It states that the vision of PFDJ is to have equitable distribution of wealth, services and opportunities, and special attention to be paid to the most disadvantaged sections of society. Additionally, the Eritrean constitution ratified in 1997, in chapter 1 Article 1 (1), it is clearly stated Eritrea is a sovereign and independent State founded on the principles of democracy, social justice and the rule of law. And Article 8 (1) of the Economic and Social Development states the State shall strive to create opportunities to ensure the fulfillment of citizens’ rights to social justice and economic development and to fulfill their material and spiritual needs.
You may wonder whether this is an ideology or a principle that they follow. As PFDJ’s claim, it is an ideology, an ideology that drives all policies and norms of the front as well as a tool in societal call for the nation building process. This principle may look safe as we refer modern literatures on human rights. For example, at UN level, social justice is considered as a universal approach towards human rights advocacy. And this top cover resemblance has misled many dissidents in tackling the inner core of the front. As a result, many Diaspora based opposition groups duplicate the same mission in their political programs.
This being my curiosity for search of the ideology, it has been almost a decade since my first awareness. Based on many surrounding activities, whether they are economical, political or social issues, I spent years to look into this ideology if it the one that is really in implementation or not according to its premise. Though distorted in its application and meaning to the ordinary people, the masses, the ideology has landed his footsteps in almost all spheres of Eritrean life. For my search, I came to be encountered by many terminologies. If you are curious about this subject matter, you can just give some of your golden time by sitting in front of ERI-TV (the mouth piece of the regime in Asmara). Then, you can easily trace on how the word “Social Justice” is used in Information Medias and community based works and organizations.
Social Justice and Juche Ideology
To start my historical tracing, in a new and organized form, since 2002, just after the round-up and detention of G-151, the word, SOCIAL JUSTICE, in Tigrigna translated as, “Mahberawi Fithi” became a mouth piece of daily news and political propaganda.
I was not aware in detail what it means before, but from mid 2008 on-wards, I started to give a special focus on how the term is coined in the daily lives of the Eritrean Society. Sadly, the majority, including me, consider the term as safe as it sounds. The reason is, the social norm of our society was such a kind where sharing, social campaign and mutual help are such a long standing character of the society. As a result, when the ruling regime use it, it is not easy to pick-point as a political ideology.
In the ground, just as the way the daily administration is running, the society was tired of the “Kupons” and “Dukan Hidri, as well as “Tumur Mahres – collective farming” In addition, terminologies like community health center, community recreation center, community kinder garden, community courts, community hospitals, campaigns, etc, were and are still now common words to hear.
Such terminologies which became part our daily life, inside and abroad conquered Eritrean daily activities. The worst is, those who fight for democracy to prevail in the country are using them unconsciously in performing for their organization campaigns. I am saying this, because, in many political parties and civil organizations, “Social Justice” is one of the major objectives. And this is creating similarity at least on the surface as well as information diffusion.
Here is then my interest to dig out what a social ideology is and how it is implemented. Months before, I had posted a document which tries to speak about social justice. But, my understanding was so shallow that today I came to understand neither of the existing ideologies was followed by PFDJ. The reason is “Social Justice and the way PFDJ regime is trying to us has a different approach.
Then, what we will be next?
Having this question in my mind, I continued a search to the political life of North Korea. I did this because; it has been now almost a decade to compare Eritrea and North Korea in a number of issues. Having this as a driving motive, I went to their political philosophy and I came to know, what they have is different. Every North Korean citizen is feed with a typical ideology that they proudly claim that it is theirs; a political ideology that I never heard of, “JUCHE IDEOLOGY”.
Have you ever heard about JUCHE IDEOLOGY?
If your response is “NO” and probably “NO” for most, is not a surprise my fellow people, and the answer simply lies on the nature of North Korea. North Korea is next to closed hell, an isolated country where very little is known to outsiders even to the North Koreans themselves. Anyway…, after getting in touch with JUCHE Ideology, I read a number of articles to have an in-depth understanding of this ideologies power and its significance on the social transformation of the Korean people. After such a long quest of the “Juche Ideology,” I came to understand similarities between the political systems. Under this consciousness, I came to realize that the terms used by DIA were not his.
To mention some, “Self-Reliance”, “Nation first”, “All for national sovereignty”, “National Security”, “Technically minded youths”, “Politics of our own nature and based on our experience”, “One man centered leadership cultivation”, “One idea” etc… The list is infinite. The only non-existent list is “Constitution” But, yet, I found that NK has a constitution based on the ideology they developed. Then, what is going on in Eritrea?
Question after question will throw me of course into the jungle, where I can only find the address of PFDJ ruling elites. No ideology, no constitution and no definite political line. And of course, it is easy to trace back and make a conclusion for what PFDJ has. Yes, they have a rule that I call “Rule of the Jungle.”
To enrich my quest, I wrote a series of 8 volumes based on the ideology followed by North Korea, called “Juche Ideology” and my reflections in each phrase that I thought is more relevant with that of PFDJ way of handling their journey based on my own analysis by reviewing critically, what Juche ideology and Social Justice is.
Did I say what the self-claimed ideology followed by PFDJ is Social Justice? Just to remind you and to catch-up and being tuned, if you are following even more reluctantly, what I am trying to make my point clear is obvious, just have your own quest as you move-on. Yes, as I said, PFDJ has the so-called “Social Justice” as their core motive for their objective mission and programs targeted towards the Eritrean people.
To enrich my analysis, I base my reflections on a paper written by Grace Lee published in Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, volume 3, Spring 2003, titled by, “The political philosophy of Juche.” I did this, because I found the paper has exhausted all the main themes of JUCHE ideology and can easily help us to float in the ideological discourse.
The Political Philosophy of Juche
The political philosophy known as Juche became the official autarkic (A policy of national self-sufficiency and nonreliance on imports or economic aid) state ideology of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1972. Although foreign scholars often describe Juche as “self-reliance,” the true meaning of the term is much more nuanced. Kim Il Sung explained:
Establishing Juche means, in a nutshell, being the master of revolution and reconstruction in one’s own country. This means holding fast to an independent position, rejecting dependence on others, using one’s own brains, believing in one’s own strength, displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance, and thus solving one’s own problems for oneself on one’s own responsibility under all circumstances.
The DPRK claims that Juche is Kim Il Sung’s creative application of Marxist-Leninist principles to the modern political realities in North Korea. Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong IL have successfully wielded the Juche idea as a political shibboleth to evoke a fiercely nationalistic drive for North Korean independence and to justify policies of self-reliance and self-denial in the face of famine and economic stagnation in North Korea. Kim Il Sung envisioned three specific applications of Juche philosophy: political and ideological independence, especially from the Soviet Union and China; economic self-reliance and self-sufficiency; and a viable national defense system.
The governing principles of Juche were clearly expressed by Kim Il Sung in a speech entitled “Let Us Defend the Revolutionary Spirit of Independence, Self-Reliance, and Self-defense More Thoroughly in All Fields of State Activities,” which he delivered to the Supreme People’s Assembly on December 16, 1967. In it, he declared that:
” …the Government of the Republic will implement with all consistency the line of independence, self-sustenance, and self-defense to consolidate the political independence of the country (Chaju), build up more solidly the foundations of an independent national economy capable of insuring the complete unification, independence, and prosperity of our nation (Charip) and increasing the country’s defense capabilities, so as to safeguard the security of the fatherland reliably by our own force (Chawi), by splendidly embodying our Party’s idea of Juche in all fields.”
My Reflections on this basic introduction
From the first part, we came to learn that “Juche” as an ideology came into the surface in 1972. I said, “to the surface” because this is just an official use of the term as an ideology. We will see in detail on its historical developments just let’s have patience.
And second, the term is referred by foreign scholars as “Self-Reliance.” Did you get the point? I am highlighting this because; my focus is to co-relate it on how the PFDJ regime is using the word self-reliance. As quoted from Kim Il Sung explanation, we can compartmentalize the statement into a number of segments for visualization. Here it follows;
Establishing Juche means, in a nutshell,
1. … “Being the master of revolution”
2. … “Being the master of reconstruction” in [one’s own country].
3. … “This means holding fast to an independent position”,
4. … “This means that, rejecting dependence on others,
5. … “Using one’s own brains”,
6. … “Believing in one’s own strength”,
7. … “Displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance”,
8. … and “thus solving one’s own problems for oneself on one’s own responsibility
9. … UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.”
What a number of points are coming into flash? I could have left you here, because no additional points will be mentioned outside this. Did you come to read some points which we have been bombarded for the last 10 years? I am saying 10 years, just to emphasis on the years in which the dictatorship was officially came into air. For acceptable reasons, I have left the years before as they are.
Another point that we learned from the first part is, Kim Il Sung as initiator and credit holder and his son Kim Jong IL as a successful wielder of the Juche idea. Jong IL formulated this idea as a political shibboleth to evoke a fiercely nationalistic drive for North Korean independence. He almost converted it as a religious cult. What can he not do if he has to prove the dynasty of his power? And worse, he did this to justify policies of self-reliance and self-denial any external aid even during worst times his own people.
Thanks to our people that we have a strong belief, a belief that has long and strong foundation that sustained almost 2000 years. Both Moslems and Christians. It is impossible to dig this foundation to destroy the existing one and wield it as a political shibboleth. But, PFDJ got a fertile land in formulating his policies according to “Self-reliance approach.” Even this has lots of draw-backs and bold rejection by the major policy makers. But, as the ideology beliefs on one man-rule, those who confronted to such policies became victims. Please check the number of prisoners, more than 10,000! What a shocking phenomenon is this? Just to build the one man system, putting these number in under-ground detention centers.
Are you surprised? Don’t please. Just stay in touch and continue reading.
Juche ideology has three major components. Just three major components, as a specific guidance for its application:
a. Political and ideological independence, especially from the Soviet Union and China
b. Economic self-reliance and self-sufficiency; and
c. A viable national defense system.
Now everything is clear like morning sunshine of Massawa. Those who visited or lived in Massawa, you know what it looks, if not, I wish you to have visit soon. If you read Soviet Union, sure, communism, the Marxism-Leninism, cold war, as a powerful union will come in the front. And not less than this, though not of the same scale, with the word, China, Mao will come. Mao and China are two faces of the same coin. “Maoism,” hard to describe it as an ideology, but because of his powerful figure in the communist China makes him to have such credit. Then what is coming into your mind.
Escaping from these two ideologically powerful countries is hard. Especially by considering the geographical location of North Korea and the hunger they had in disseminating their ideology. In addition to this, NK was totally inspired by such movements to make herself free from the Japanese oppression. How is then possible to be politically and ideologically free? If they can win on this regard, of course the other will be easy. Anyway, they had to device and also became the winners in introducing their own kind of ideology, the Juche ideology, with its own components as it is noted.
The question again remains on the economic side. Despite some important mineral resources, such as coal and iron, North Korea did not have sound economic bases. Every decision taken then will lament the situation. Whatever it demanded them sticked to their political ideology and as we can today North Korea is the most secretive nation in the world.
What relevance does it has to the Eritrean dimension? Can we read that such decisions were taken in the new millennium? Did they follow the same course of history or Eritrean case is also a new paradigm of the new millennium? Keeping such critical questioning, let’s march.
As noted above the key components are
1. Domestic and Foreign Independence (Chaju)
2. Economic Independence (Charip)
3. Military Independence (Chawi)
Nothing is here knew from the points outlined before. Just to be more targetful, the names are clearly elaborated and discussed as it is extracted from the reference paper.
Chaju: Domestic and Foreign Independence
The principle of political independence is one of the central tenets of Juche ideology. With respect to international relations, the principles of Juche stress complete equality and mutual respect among nations. Furthermore, Juche ideology asserts that every state has the right of self-determination in order to secure the happiness and prosperity of its people as it best sees fit. These political tenets – equal sovereignty and non-intervention – would satisfy the fierce desire for respect and security of a small and weak nation-state such as North Korea.
In practice, this political stance has caused North Korea to truly become a hermit kingdom because of the huge stigma Juche places upon cooperation with outside powers. According to Juche as interpreted by the DPRK, yielding to foreign pressure or tolerating foreign intervention would make it impossible to maintain chaju, or the defense of national independence and sovereignty. This in turn would threaten the nation’s ability to defend the interests of the people, since political independence is seen as being absolutely critical for economic self- sustenance and military self-defense. Kim Jong IL predicted that dependence on foreign powers would lead to the failure of the socialist revolution in Korea.
Among countries that he considered socialist peers, such as China, the USSR, Cuba and several African countries, Kim Il Sung urged cooperation and stressed the need for mutual support and limited dependence. However, while acknowledging that it was important to learn from the examples of other socialist countries, Kim Il Sung was highly sensitive to the problems of flunkeyism towards Moscow and Beijing and the inevitable Marxist-Leninist dogmatism that he abhorred during his guerrilla days. In constructing the socialist revolution in North Korea, he warned that the North Koreans must “…resolutely repudiate the tendency to swallow things of others undigested or imitate them mechanically.”
Furthermore, he claimed that his regime’s “success” was credited to the independent manner in which all problems were solved, conforming Marxist-Leninist principles to the specific conditions of North Korea without altering their fundamental substance.
Domestically, Kim asserted that it was imperative to build internal political forces to ensure chaju. The pivotal factor in the success of achieving chaju would be the extent to which the people rallied around the party and the leader Kim Il Sung, and later Kim Jong Il himself. This insistence on internal unity of support, stemming perhaps from the elder Kim’s disgust with internal factionalism before the Korean War, conveniently helped to justify his consolidation of personal power.
Charip: Economic Independence
An independent and self-sufficient national economy is necessary both in order to secure political integrity and to achieve national prosperity. Charip – economic independence – is seen as the material basis for chaju, or political independence. Kim Il Sung feared that economic dependence on foreign aid would render the state a political satellite of other countries. He believed that it would be impossible to successfully build a socialist republic without the material and technical foundations that would come from an independent national economy. This economy would consist of a powerful base of heavy industry with the machine-building industry at its core, which would equip light industry, agriculture, transport, and all other branches of the economy.
According to Kim Jong IL,
“Building an independent national economy means building an economy which is free from dependence on others and which stands on its own feet, an economy which serves one’s own people and develops on the strength of the resources of one’s own country and by the efforts of one’s people.”
Independent food production was seen as being of particular significance because successful farming would provide the people with stabilized living conditions and means to independently support themselves. Just as important to the survival and independence of the national economy was the establishment of reliable and independent sources of raw materials and fuel. Extensive modernization of the economy and training for technically-minded cadres were considered indispensable for the construction of an independent national economy as well.
Kim Il Sung was careful to maintain that building an independent national economy on Juche principles of self-reliance was not synonymous with building an isolated economy. Looking at the size of American aid to South Korea, which equaled its fledgling economy’s gross domestic product during the immediate post-war years, Kim Il Sung recognized that North Korea would not be able to survive without significant aid from its communist sponsors. Thus, he encouraged close economic and technical cooperation between socialist countries and newly-emerging nations as an aid in economic development and ideological unity.
Non-intervention! What does this exactly mean to PFDJ system of politic? When they diffuse their political propaganda, they use the term called, “National Sovereignty and we are the master of our politics. Let’s see how Juche ideology states this:
“Juche ideology asserts that every state has the right of self-determination in order to secure the happiness and prosperity of its people as it best sees fit. These political tenets – equal sovereignty and non-intervention – would satisfy the fierce desire for respect and security of a small and weak nation-state such as North Korea.”
There are two points mentioned here; “Equal sovereignty and non-intervention.”As a matter of fact, EPLF formed a strategic mutual friendship with TPLF throughout the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Though it can be seen as the right political game, the TPLF had their own objective when they started the revolution. But, EPLF intervened in this objective which forced them to change from self-determination into abolition of the oppressor in Ethiopia. This intervention had resulted many tensions between the two revolutionaries in the early 1980’s.
Worse to this, the political complexity of the horn of Africa was and is one of the most complex developments to draw a scientific analysis because of such interventions. EPLF and now PFDJ had intervened and is still intervening in almost all conflicts in the east and sub-Saharan African countries. The Somali case, the Chad case, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djoubiti, Yemen,Congo, etc.
I mentioned these countries because I heard a firsthand testimony from Yemane Gebreab, the head of political affairs of PFDJ in 2008, while he was teaching us in the cadre school of Nakfa. I never imagined before such direct and very far reached interventions was involved by this ruling regime. He brought this because he was explaining the political developments in the horn of Africa and the way they see it.
From his words, Yemane spent one month in Chad to see and analyze how the Darfur case was running and what possible means can be done to intervene in the conflict resolution. Wow, how interesting! Yemane, the political leader, spending one month in Chad. This is just from his own words.
The Darfur rebels were having direct contact with the PFDJ ruling elites to get help. But, an unofficial visit, and creating chaos in the region! How bad is this?
I remember those days with high conflicts in Chad, and tensions between Sudan and the Chadian government. Can you draw easily a link from such interventions?
And worse, Abdela Jabir, the ex-organizational affairs of PFDJ was representing Eritrea in the peace talks of Abuja between Darfur rebels and the Sudan’s government. Only Eritrea opposed the agreement reached on that time. This was just a concurrent lectures delivered to us by those ruling elites of the PFDJ. One participating in the ground, in intermingling the issues and another sitting on the table saying, “NO to agreement!” What a satanic mission is this. Why don’t the Darfur and the Sudan’s people solve their case themselves, if you are rejecting any intervention on your own case? And how far you are going to intervene?
See, the information media was talking day and night on the conflict in Chad, Darfur and Sudan at large. Yemane was there personally for one month in Chad and Abdela Jabir on the table, the diplomatic media to decide the future fate of other people.
Can you draw the line? The mass-media raising the issue, direct involvement and then sitting table to decide on behave of the others. Simple!
This is how the tyranny regime in Asmara works in his policy of non-intervention… And worse, Eritrea is considered as member of neutral countries, “shara zeybilen hagerat” How can this be?
Many examples can be listed: Eritrean intervention in Somalia by saying a historical friendship, Eritrean intervention in Sudan (Sudan and South Sudan now, in intervention that lead the division of grand Sudan, Sudanese central government and eastern Sudan intervention- the Asmara peace talks, Sudan and Chad, Sudan and Darfur case), Ethiopia (The list is many, may be I will leave you to search by your own, but just to give you a recent example, the Demhit case), which I personally saw their camp in Tessenai, in Wedi-Leges’s farm land), in Assab, the Afar opposing Ethiopia, May-7 the list is endless.
I can conclude that, if the media is bringing any conflict news, then, there is intervention. I can justify my conclusion in a number of ways, but please do your own search also. Information can be just searched and sure you will have it.
In this regard then, the PFDJ has failed to follow the concept of “Social Justice” in which they claim that they follow it. But rather, they have a Maoist mentality in this regard. “Killing your enemy by his own weapon and to do this trying all your best to make it happen!”
But unlike going to others, the PFDJ remained closed in himself and this made him one of the most secretive tyranny in the world. The Juche ideology is further analyzed as:
According to Juche as interpreted by the DPRK, yielding to foreign pressure or tolerating foreign intervention would make it impossible to maintain chaju, or the defense of national independence and sovereignty. This in turn would threaten the nation’s ability to defend the interests of the people, since political independence is seen as being absolutely critical for economic self- sustenance and military self-defense.
This is what is exactly happening domestically inside PFDJ political line. Closing everything by imaginary, illusionary or false proportions of threats. The cold-war psychology a self created imaginary enemy. Is it a left-out of the old Soviet-Union strategy? Or just a carbon copy of North Korean way of handling their own case.
Regarding the economic independence, (as it is called Charip), Juche says:
An independent and self-sufficient national economy is necessary both in order to secure political integrity and to achieve national prosperity.
And it continues,
Kim Il Sung feared that economic dependence on foreign aid would render the state a political satellite of other countries.
What a coincidence is. When NGO’s were expelled from Eritrea, the reason given was exactly what Kim Il Sung said it 20 or more years before. Is PFDJ acting as a puppet? We were told and still are being preached in a way so that our mind will consider those international organizations are only a means of surveillance. How much is the innocence to this approach?
I am not in favor of foreign aid, but, when I fail to help myself, it is not a crime someone to come and help me. The notion NGO-by itself stands for non-governmental organizations, but they do governmental jobs. They help the people or country in need in different ways. And no one can deny such great contributions in the world history and even in the Eritrean war to independence;
let’s come and look how the government ministries were so dependent on NGO’s and international funds. The so called governmental ministries which were highly dependent on such funds and helps of NGOs’ are Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry of education. The rest were just working at a very small scale. And it is hard to trace the damage caused when funds that comes from international organizations. But since the ministries such as ministry of Health were so dependent on these funds, their existence became into question. Worse is, all the structures were formed in such a way that they were direct beneficiaries of NGO’s. I can say, it was just like a blood for their proper functioning. And more, the heart was with the NGO’s.
See now, those NGO’s own the heart and have the blood with them. If these two are removed then, how can you replace them. You might install an artificial heart and this where the PFDJ came-in after 2004. You know the consequence. Just I remember my many friends remained idle after many projects were cancelled because of their direct funds from these groups. Guerrilla is really a guerrilla. I remember these days they rushed to Asmara from Sahel. Leaving all the infrastructures behind and never going back.
In a normal life, there is always away out from the life that you were living. You can’t just escape, and if you escape, the consequence will not be easy and that is what we have for the last 10 years.
The Juche continues as: Independent food production was seen as being of particular significance because successful farming would provide the people with stabilized living conditions and means to independently support themselves.
Food security! As an agricultural expert, I have seen the hollow preaches and the way this policy was implemented. I taught for six years in the only existing agricultural college in Eritrea, Agricultural college of Hamelmalo. I believe that students which graduate from this were capable enough at least to run the transitional food security projects. But in the ground, it is so hollow. Imagine, in Sub-Zoba Keren, branch office of the ministry of Agriculture, 90 staffs members were stranded in just three rooms, each room not greater than 4 by 5 m, 20 m2. No labs, no computer, no clear project. They have to come, sign and leave. All of them, except the head officer, have a 12+, I said plus, because recently many graduates are coming with basic technical skills from Sawa and hagaz technical schools. The head officer is just bTemekro diyom ziblwo.
I just mentioned this, but everywhere, it is the same. Then how can you secure food? When the cabale intellectuals have no place even to sit and think.
I will discuss in detail on the agricultural policies and the way it is implemented, but, I said, it is just a hollow.
… To be continued