Jan. 21  2019
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Present Significance of the 5.18 Gwangju Revolution

18th May is the 22nd anniversary of the Gwangju Peoples

Source  :  Policy & Information Center for International Solidarity

Marx expressed the historical event of the 1848 June revolution that ended in tragic massacre, with somewhat paradoxical words: 밨evolution is dead! Long live the revolution!. It was a parody of a saying in France that calls for the infinity of absolutism by expressing condolences for a dead king, at the same time expressing loyalty at the crowning of a new one. However, this wit from Marx was not simply a play with words. It was through this revolutionary failure that anonymous proletariat militants attained the eternity and universality of revolution. The words of Marx were the most solemn condolence that could be given to the militants who died away in June, and are a clear reflection of his dialectical perspective of history.

Today, facing the 22nd anniversary of the Gwangju People뭩 Revolution, we once again vow to the anonymous militants. 밎wangju is dead! Long live the revolution!

The Second Death of Gwangju

Early dawn of 27th May 1980, when the gunshots of the bloody massacre at the Jeonlanamdo Regional Office died down, Gwangju Revolution also died. For a decade afterwards, the Gwangju Revolution was forced out of peoples memories by humiliatingly being called the 멒wangju Riots, and thus the movement to manifest the truths about Gwangju came to be homogenous with the attempts to overthrow the military fascist dictatorship and attain democracy. Then on, Gwangju Revolution went through the ambiguous name of 멒wangju Movement for Democracy and then finally refound its name as 멒wangju Peoples Resistance or 멒wangju Revolution. In 1997, it was even promoted as a day of national commemoration. However, on the very day that Gwangju was promoted as a national commemoration day and those who led the massacre, Chun Doo-Hwan and Roh Tae-Woo [former presidents and military dictators of Korea] stood in court, Gwangju underwent its humiliating second death.

The second death of Gwangju... It came as a result of the liberalist Kim Dae-Jung뭩 decadence to neo-liberalism. Kim Dae-Jung won over the regime by selling off the spirit of the Gwangju Revolution. As soon as Kim Dae-Jung came into power, he pardoned the two slaughterers Chun Doo-Hwa and Roh Tae-Woo, and the revolutionary spirit of Gwangju was degraded to neo-liberal restructuring -policies that merely undermine the livelihood of the people and democracy. But perhaps this humiliation of Gwangju was a foreseen tragedy of it as an incomplete revolution.

Decadent liberalism and the betrayed revolution of May

During the twenty years following the year 1980 when the Gwangju Revolution took place, South Korea and the rest of the world went through a transitional era to neo-liberalism to counteract the general crisis of capitalism. Crisis of the regime appeared in the form of conflicts within the ruling class and resistance of the people against it 뻯he Bu-Ma Resistance [militant student and civilian protests in Busan and Masan area 16th to 20th October 1979], the 10.26 incident [the assassination of Park Jung-Hee on 26th October, 1979] and the 12.12 coup d뭙tat [coup d뭙tat by Chun Doo-Hwan on 12th December, 1979]- during the latter part of 1970뭩 and manifested its true nature when the Park Jeong-Hee regime proclaimed its neo-conservative policy reform program 뻯he 밎eneral Measures for Economic Stability. This signified the commence of the final burst of crisis of the 몁eo-colonial state monopoly capitalism, based on a subordinated export-oriented industrial development scheme, and also exposed the preliminary stage of the transition into neo-liberal policy reforms that struck Korea during the economic crisis and the IMF SAP뭩 during the 1990뭩. Looking back in this perspective, the Kim Dae-Jung regime, which implemented neo-liberal policy reforms after the economic crisis, is in fact fundamentally continuing the legacy of Park Jung-Hee뭩 regime. It is a regime that continues the work left unfinished by Chun Doo-Hwan. The only thing that differs between the neo-liberal policy reforms and the neo-conservative policies promoted throughout Park뭩 and Chun뭩 rule, is that president Kim is also taking into consideration the socio-political conditions for the reform policies to be realized. The Kim Dae-Jung government is promoting policies that primarily sacrifice the peoples for the costs of the economic crisis 뻡ust as the former dictatorships had done. To top this off, the government introduced 몁eo-liberal statism as the political conditions on which to realize the reform program more effectively and completely. It is not a coincidence that the emerging industrial economies of Latin America that had experienced long years of military governance under neo-colonial developmentalist rule of US imperialism 뻡ust as Korea had- entered into an era of neo-liberal reforms with its politics based on a 멶emocratically-elected government during the 1980뭩 and 90뭩. These governments on, one hand, argued that they are political alternatives to the failed revolutions of military dictatorships, while going along the path of foreseen betrayal by joining hands with the rulers of the former dictatorship regimes.

Once again, to Gwangju Peoples Revolution!

Thus we must reconstruct anew our memories of Gwangju. History is not merely a storage place for lessons from the past, but is a great source of live energy that irradiates political powers to be practiced in present reality. The May Revolution of Gwangju was an uprising of the people to overthrow the military dictatorship, and a revolution to attain peoples democracy, and it was mercilessly trampled upon. Although Gwangju Revolution died, those who remain have been able to revive it through the recognizing the essence of US imperialism, and continuing the ideological and organizational activities by self-reflecting upon the tragic failure of Gwangju.

The historical and political power of Gwangju Revolution that we have upheld until now through blood and tears, cannot be left to be disgraced by those liberalists who are selling off the price of blood of the nameless militants of Gwangju whose souls lie in silence at Mangwon Cemetary. The Kim Dae-Jung government came into power, boasting a history of having led the movement for democracy and fossilizing the significance of the Gwangju Revolution, and has destroyed the lives of millions of people through its neo-liberal restructuring and flexibility of labour, strengthened control over the people, and undermined human rights and democracy by maintaining the National Security Act, attempting to enact the Terrorism Prevention Act and attacking our freedom of assembly.

The 멠rotest Rally and Cultural Festivities in Legacy with the Revolutionary Spirit of 5.18 to be held on occasion of the 22nd anniversary of the Revolution, will be an arena of struggle to call for the resignation of the Kim Dae-Jung government 뻕 government that has perverted Gwangju, destroyed democracy, devastated the livelihood of the people and has been decorated with corruption- as well as being an opportunity to share the agendas for social transformation under the legacy of revolutionary spirit of the people who fought as the civilian militia in 1980. To defend 뱎eople뭩 democracy and 뱇ivelihood rights of the people against the attacks of capitalist wars, neo-liberal globalisation and unstable labour, the commemoration of the 5.18 Revolution should not be a 몆eace ceremony but a stern determination to fight and continue the revolutionary spirit.

Only can peoples and workers who have embodied the emancipation of the working class as their objective and demand become revolutionary. Otherwise, it comes to nothing. This is the lesson the anonymous militants of Gwangju left us. Gwangju Revolution must live on! Long live May Revolution of Gwangju!

Photos from 1980 Gwangju People뭩 Revolution

2002 / -0 / 5-
<Related Site>
 Remembering the Kwangju Uprising, by George Katsiaficas
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