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Ron Radosh: When the New Left Shilled for North Korea

Ron Radosh is a PJ Media columnist and Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute.

...When North Korea was still being led by its original founder, Kim Il-Sung, the visitors from the United States to the horrendous Communist regime were not the likes of Dennis Rodman. Today, the founder’s grandson has inherited the mantle of leadership, thereby carrying on the dynasty that rules in the name of Marxism-Leninism, as modified by the founder’s philosophy of juche, or self-reliance, autonomy and independence.

How far the North Korean Communists have fallen. Back in the day of the old fellow-travelers’ tours to the various communist paradises, the regimes had their praises sung by the likes of the African-American baritone Paul Robeson, who regularly went to the USSR and told the world how great Comrade Stalin was and how the Soviet Union had the only real democracy on earth . At least Robeson was an All-American football quarterback, Phi Beta Kappa, and the most well-known black American actor and singer in the 1930s and 40s, who got a law degree as well at Columbia University. That a man so intelligent could function as a dupe for Stalin was far more worrisome than seeing Rodman do the same today. No one would call Rodman intelligent. He is both a useful idiot as well as a real one; Robeson only filled the first category.

So let us turn to the reign of the founder of the hermit kingdom, Kim Il-Sung, who one thinks would never have welcomed Dennis Rodman to his lair. That Rodman is welcome there today is the result of Kim wanting a good education for his children and grandchildren, with the result that the current ruler learned to love basketball and Rodman while a student in one of the most elite schools in Switzerland. When a Red ruler sends his kids for a good education out of the homeland, one never knows what might be the result.

We now know, thanks to the enterprising scholarship of a young M.A. student at the College of Brockport, Benjamin R. Young, about the hitherto unknown ties of the American New Left with Kim Il Sung’s North Korea, which it seems these major New Left activists hoped to replace both the Soviet Union and Communist China as the model for socialism in their own day and age. Now, Young’s findings and documents are online for all to see at the website of The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and its division The Cold War International History Project....

I was not unaware of the fascination of the New Left with North Korea. Those of you who have read my memoir Commies, A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left, might recall a few pages on the left-wing journalist Robert Scheer, who now edits his own webzine, Truthdig.com. In the summer of 1970, on a trip to San Francisco, I went to see Scheer, who was then living in the Red Family Commune, and working at its kindergarten, The Blue Fairlyand. During the visit, I taped Scheer for a weekly radio program that my friend Louis Menashe and  I had on New York’s WBAI, the flagship station of the leftist and counter-culture Pacifica radio network. I wanted to talk to him about the state of the Left, the nature of the radical movement, and his work in journalism. All Scheer agreed to talk about, however, was his recent visit to North Korea, and his view of its leader, Kim-Il Sung. For two hours, Scheer regaled me about the nature of the paradise North Korea had created under the great Kim, and how juche was the ideology necessary for the building of socialism.  He had successfully one-upped his other American comrades, who were still touting Fidel Castro and Cuba as the homeland for revolution....

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