Research and study of ideologies of social and national emancipation and their application to conditions within imperialist society

Commemorating Comrade Kim Il Sung

15 April 2023


This speech was delivered at a meeting to celebrate the 111th anniversary of the birth of the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung and the 45th anniversary of the founding of the International Institute of the Juche Idea (IIJI). The meeting was convened by veteran Juche advocate, Dr Dermot Hudson.


Dear Dermot and Comrades

Congratulations on organizing this important meeting to celebrate the 111th anniversary of the birth of the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung and other important anniversaries, including the 45th anniversary of the founding of the International Institute of the Juche Idea (IIJI) on 9th April 1978 in Tokyo, Japan.

I would like to thank the British Group for the Study of the Juche Idea and KFA UK for inviting me to say a few words. My remarks will focus on the anniversary of the IIJI.

The founding of the IIJI did not, of course, occur in a vacuum, nor did the organization appear from nowhere. It was both the start of a new journey and the culmination of a process. In the two years prior to the founding of the IIJI, large scale international seminars on the Juche Idea had been held:

  • In 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Madagascar. At that time, Madagascar, under the leadership of President Didier Ratsiraka, was one of the African countries seriously attempting to begin the construction of socialism and, to a great extent, it looked to the DPRK for inspiration and guidance.
  • The next year, in 1977, the international seminar was held in Pyongyang itself and it was here that the decision was adopted to found an authoritative international body to study and disseminate the Juche Idea on a worldwide scale.

These seminars in Madagascar and the DPRK attracted delegates from dozens of countries – renowned progressive scholars and intellectuals, representatives of governments and ruling parties of newly independent countries exploring the road to the building of a new society, national liberation movements waging armed struggles for independence as well as revolutionary parties also engaged in armed struggle against dictatorial, pro-imperialist regimes, and many others. Even today, for those who can access them, the proceedings of these seminars make for enlightening and inspiring reading.

Clearly the Juche Idea had attracted the interest and adherence of a very broad range of revolutionary and progressive forces prior to the foundation of the IIJI – indeed making it possible to establish it on this basis.

The first Juche Study Group had been formed in Mali, one of the earliest African countries to pursue a socialist orientation under its first President Modibo Keita. Subsequently, hundreds of such groups were formed on every continent. This interest in the Juche Idea, and its attraction, stemmed, I believe, from a number of factors.

The 1960s were a time of great ferment and revolutionary upheaval throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America and even within the imperialist heartlands themselves. In the Western hemisphere, the heroic Cuban people had embarked on the road of socialism, Che Guevara was martyred in Bolivia and armed struggles for liberation were being waged throughout South and Central America. In Africa, armed struggles against colonialism and racism were developing in Guinea Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and elsewhere, whilst numerous other countries were attracted to socialism. In the Middle East, the Palestinian people had embarked on the road of armed struggle against Zionism. Further east, the peoples of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were engaged in bitter and ultimately successful wars against US imperialism and for national salvation. In the United States, a generation of young people rose in revolt, responding to the lead of the Vietnamese people as well as that provided by the insurrectionary current within the African American movement along with those of the other oppressed nations and nationalities within US borders. In May 1968, the workers and students of France looked to be on the verge of a social revolution. And, in the north of Ireland, the civil rights struggle was developing into a renewed struggle for independence and reunification.

All these struggles, in many respects the “two, three many Vietnams” that Che Guevara had called for, inspired and reinforced each other. At the same time, the international working-class movement was grappling with perhaps its greatest challenge to date. The dispute between the world’s two largest socialist countries, the USSR and the People’s Republic of China had degenerated into open and visceral hostility. This in turn divided communists, liberation movements and others throughout the world and undermined the struggle against imperialism. Other socialist countries came under varying degrees of pressure to line up with this or that side.

It was against this background that interest in the DPRK increasingly developed among newly independent countries, national liberation movements, revolutionary parties, progressive intellectuals and others:

  • In the Fatherland Liberation War of 1950-53, the DPRK had set an example that it was possible for the people of a small country to take on the might of US imperialism and emerge victorious.
  • In the aftermath of the war, the people of the DPRK had set an example that it was possible to build a new society, a just, equitable and socialist society, on the ruins left behind by colonial oppression and imperialist war.
  • In the face of the split in the socialist camp and the international communist movement, the DPRK and the Workers’ Party of Korea had set an example that it was possible to reject both modern revisionism and dogmatism, to maintain independence, stand for unity, and to insist on the primacy of the struggle against US-led imperialism.

It is no exaggeration to say that many revolutionaries came to see the DPRK as a model country of socialism. A country that had developed modern industry and provided free education and health care to all its people. A country that resisted pressure, maintained independence and made its own decisions. A country that pursued an exemplary foreign policy, reaching out to progressive and revolutionary forces worldwide, on the broadest possible basis and without sectarian prejudices or follies, and which rendered sincere, generous and whole-hearted assistance to others, despite its own many pressing needs. Not for nothing had Che Guevara declared that the DPRK was the socialist country he most admired.

All this is systematized and summed up in the Juche Idea and in President Kim Il Sung’s insistence that this is the age of independence, in which the hitherto oppressed, humiliated and down-trodden peoples are destined to become the masters of state and society. Or in the words of the Internationale: “We have been nought we shall be all.”

Over the last 45 years, through numerous twists and turns, and challenges of every kind, the IIJI has remained true to its original aspiration and faithfully discharged its mission. Its international seminars, held, for example in Ecuador and Venezuela, Sri Lanka, Japan, India and the DPRK, Portugal, Austria and Greece, have brought together people from heads of state to ordinary workers.

My own first experience with the IIJI was attending the international seminar in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, in April 1984, nine months after I first visited the DPRK. Typifying the broad range of forces united by the Juche idea, as I have already outlined, as the delegate from Britain, I found myself seated between the representatives of the governments and ruling parties of Benin and Burundi. I still vividly remember the inspiring militancy of the speech by the comrade from South Africa’s ANC, who was then responsible for their radio station in Tanzania. And it was in Lisbon that I first met some lifelong friends, such as the late Dr. Vishwanath from India and Li Gyong Il from the Korean Association of Social Scientists.

The following year, with regional institutes under the IIJI already established in Asia, Africa and Latin America, a European regional society was established at a conference in Paris.  Distinguished French intellectuals were joined by Italian veterans of the 1968 student upsurge, members of mainstream Scandinavian parties to the left of social democracy, the former Justice Minister of Austria, and many others. But what was also notable was the complete lack of representation from the European socialist countries. Few if any of us could have predicted that within the next four to five years those countries would be swept away in a counter-revolutionary onslaught. Of course, there were many reasons for this. But the dogmatic and big power chauvinist disdain for the lessons and achievements of the DPRK, summed up and developed in the Juche Idea, should not go unremarked.

I want to make one final point. As I just mentioned, I have made lifelong friends through my work with and around the IIJI. And none more so than Dr. Vishwanath, who indeed became a family friend, extending to his wife, children, and grandchildren. Vishwanath was a businessman and a rather successful one. His company, Interads, was the largest privately owned advertising agency in India. Yet he adopted the Juche idea as his faith and his way of life. He regarded President Kim Il Sung as his father and the President treated him like a son. Even in ill health and old age, Vishwanath travelled the world to help lead the work of studying and disseminating the Juche Idea. He always encouraged his family members, business associates, colleagues, and friends to study Juche and to love the DPRK. As Dermot has also reminded us, his catch phrase was: “Study the Juche idea. It costs you nothing. It pays in plenty.” Today, his son, Mukesh, in particular, carries on his work.

I mention all this not just because Vishwanath was my friend. In his memoirs, With the Century, President Kim Il Sung writes that our party never regards those people from different classes and strata who join with us in a common struggle as mere temporary fellow travelers, but rather as lifelong companions on the road to socialism and communism.

At a time when unity in the struggle against imperialism and against the threat of war is surely as vital as it has ever been, I would like to leave you with this thought, and thank you again for inviting me.






Writings of Keith Bennett