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Carl Davis

Koreans Fight Big Three Trusteeship

(7 January 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 1, 7 January 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The same old imperialist policy! The same old imperialist explanations! That is the nature of the decision on Korea made by the Big Three in Moscow. The foreign ministers of the United States, Russia and Great Britain have agreed upon a trusteeship over the country to last for a period of not more than five years! The trusteeship shall remain in the hands of a joint Russian-American commission.

Why a trusteeship for Korea? Was it a member of Axis coalition? Did it oppose the Allies in the war? No, Korea was an independent nation with a long history of national independence. Korea lost her independence to a more powerful Japan, which overran the country and ruled it in the same way as its national provinces. The Koreans were promised independence by the Allies when the war began. The Allies assisted the powerful independence movement which existed inside and outside the country. A provisional independence committee with headquarters in the United States and China has functioned for many years trying to solicit support from the big powers to win freedom from Japanese imperialism.

The Koreans took seriously the declarations of the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms. They believed with certainty that an Allied victory in the war and a defeat of Japan would mean the automatic freedom and independence of their country. On the morrow of the Japanese defeat a provisional government was erected and everywhere organs of government sprang up. They were of various political coloration. But all of them were symbolized by their adherence to a general program of independence, democratic rights for the population and the election of a permanent republican government.

“Making Them Ready”

The desires of the Koreans, however, clashed immediately with the plans of the United States and Russia. The two Pacific powers divided the country into two zones. The real rulers became the military directors of the American and Russian forces. In the American zone, for example, the representatives of defeated Japanese imperialism continued to patrol and rule the country as before. Only this time they were taking orders from the American, General Hodges.

The Koreans did not understand why the “liberators” refused to permit the liberation of the country. As in all cases of this kind, they were promised their independence as soon as their “house was put in order.” And now they find, months after the defeat of Japan, that foreign troops still occupy the country and that foreign powers are the real rulers of the country.

The decision of the latest Moscow conference that Korea shall be governed under a trusteeship for the next five years, a decision taken without the slightest regard for the opinions and desires of the Koreans, has resulted in a wave of anger, disappointment and active resistance inside the country. The leading city of Seoul has been plastered with posters and proclamations denouncing the Moscow decision. The Korean press called this decision a “lethal blow to the independence hopes of Korea.”

Posters have been put up calling for a general strike against the United States Military Government, the shutting down of schools and for nation-wide demonstrations. Secretary of State Byrnes’ announcement that the trusteeship may not have to be applied and the statement that the military commissions of the two powers would seek to end the division of the country into two zones has had little or no effect on the mounting resentment of the people.

Who Is Korea’s Friend?

Dr. Kim Koo, chairman of the provisional government, addressed a message to Russia, China, Great Britain and the United States, declaring that Korea “opposes the decision” because it “opposes the desires of the peoples of Korea and is against the assurances given repeatedly by your nations in the course of the war.”

Those who are puzzled by this decision must look outside of Korea for its explanation. The decision has nothing whatever to do with the readiness of the Korean peoples for independence. The decision grows out of the imperialist rivalry in the Far East between the United States and Russia as to who shall be the dominant power in Asia. It is related to the present struggle between them in China; it is related to Russian demands for a place in the occupation forces and policies for Japan.

When the newspaper Chosen Immin, a spokesman for the “left,” writes: “We hope that this trusteeship has not been initiated by our good friend the United States; to think that it was initiated by Russia is out of the question,” it merely reveals that it understands nothing about imperialist politics in general nor of Russia in particular.

American imperialist interests in the Far East and, therefore, its politics, differ in no important way from any other imperialism. The difficulty about understanding Russian policy arises from a total misconception that Russia is a socialist nation and therefore cannot possibly pursue an imperialist policy. Yet the truth is that Russia is not socialist and that it does pursue an imperialist policy of its own.

For Korean Independence

The Russia of twenty-five years ago, that is, workers’ Russia of Lenin and Trotsky, was the champion of the oppressed and colonial countries. That Russia fought valiantly on behalf of all the oppressed and granted independence to all the possessions of the imperial Czarist ruling classes. But the Russia of Stalin is carving out a new empire at the expense of the peoples of Eastern Europe and the colonial peoples of Asia. Once that is understood, it is easy to understand Russian policy in China and Korea.

American labor, whose real interests are identified with all peoples fighting for freedom and independence, should rally to the support of the Korean people. U.S. troops have no place in the country. They should be withdrawn and the boys brought back home. It goes without saying that Russian troops should also be withdrawn. We are not merely opposed to U.S. imperialism. We are opposed to all imperialism.

Support the Korean people in their struggle for freedom and independence!

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