Joshua Stanton: Red-Baiter?
Robert Koehler of the The Marmot's Hole has posted a short blog entry siding with Joshua Stanton of One Free Korea against Christine Ahn, who accuses Stanton of 'red-baiting' her in having called her a "North Korean apologist" several years ago.
The accusation comes in an article favorable to Ahn published in the East Bay Express, one of the papers that I used to read for free back in my Berkeley days and now discover that I can read for free online . . . not that I'm much inclined to.
And just to ensure that you get both sides of this story, you can read Joshua's so-called 'red-baiting' of Ahn from several years ago as well as his recent response.
The East Bay Express article isn't just about Ahn, but also about several left-leaning activists pushing for peace and negotiations with North Korea, including Professor Elaine Kim, coordinator of UC Berkeley's Asian American Studies Department, who tells us:
Many Americans also may be unaware that North Korea's economy was doing quite well during the 1960s and 1970s, even surpassing that of its southern neighbor. But a reduction in trade with the Soviet Union, and the impact of the American embargo and sanctions, helped freeze North Korea's development. "The reason they don't have energy for all their infrastructure is . . . the US and its allies who embargo them don't allow them to trade with anybody the US trades with," said Kim. As a result, for example, there are streetlights, but no electricity in them. Many North Koreans are extremely slight and seemingly malnourished. "This is a crime," she noted. "Talk about human rights -- this is a crime against humanity that was allowed to happen. And they're trying to say that it's because Kim Jong Il is a dictator and wants to keep everybody enthralled, that's why it's like that?" she asked, incredulously. "Hello! Let's have some reality here."Professor Kim may be well-intentioned, and I'm no expert on North Korea, but even I can see manifest flaws in her argument just from my having kept up with the news in the daily papers for the past 30 years. The North's economy in the 60s and 70s was being subsidized by the Soviet Union, so it looked as though it were "doing quite well" when it in fact was decaying like all communist economies modeled on the Soviet one. Moreover, it was already clearly declining in the 80s despite continued Soviet subsidies. Finally, when the Soviet subsidies stopped after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 90s, the North Korean economy didn't just 'freeze' in its development, it immediately went into a very steep decline and effectively collapsed despite the North Korean state's coercive power for mobilizing the workforce. This collapse is not because "the US and its allies . . . don't allow . . . [the North] to trade with anybody the US trades with," a statement that is obviously incorrect, for North Korea has extensive trade with China, one of America's biggest trading partners. As for the lack of electricity to the North's city streetlights, a bit more of it might be available for city lighting if the electrical grid weren't constructed primarily to serve the ruling elite, whose mansions receive much of the available power. And as for malnourishment, this is due to North Korea's state-run agricultural sector, a Soviet-model system that just doesn't work and that has fundamentally collapsed. The North could feed itself if it allowed a free market in agriculture, but the ruling elite isn't willing to relinquish any control for fear of losing complete control. And yes, it is "because Kim Jong Il is a dictator and wants to keep everybody enthralled." Let's do "have some reality here."
Joshua Stanton may be brusque in his statements about North Korea, but he offers an honest reality check.