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Belmont Club


December 13th, 2013 - 1:27 pm

Scratch any communist country — or communist party — and you will find aristocracy. Nicholas Eberstadt, writing in the Washington Post explains how “Pyongyang Royalty” works.  There is a ruling house in North Korea and indeed one reason why the regime  was stable for so long, Eberstadt argues,  is because its Royals observed an unwritten rule never to execute each other. It is a rule that Emperor Kim Yong-un has just broken.

Elsewhere in the communist world, the highest tiers always enjoyed physical comforts. But the tumultuous, cut-throat nature of communist politics meant that their physical fate, up to and including cause of death, remained perilously contingent. (As the Bo Xilai affair in China underscores, this is still the case under “reform socialism.”) By contrast, North Korea’s “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung laid down a system of dynastic succession that protected not only the revolutionary royals but also those aristocrats closest to them. …

This spectacle of public humiliation — and liquidation — of a royal marks a radical departure from business as usual. The North Korean state has its internal code of honor, and its paramount precept had always been that The Royals Stay Safe. But no longer can a regent and adviser in chief like Jang expect to be pensioned off to some posh inconsequential place once his services are no longer needed. Palace politics have suddenly become life-and-death.

The fact they wouldn’t kill members of the Ruling House made leadership struggles a safer affair thereby opening the door to negotiated outcomes.  That contributed to stability. But the death of Grand Moff Jang Song Thaek  means that North Korean politics has now become a zero sum game. That doesn’t particularly worry Eberstadt who has no affection for the Kims. But he is troubled by the possibility that these wackos will start behaving irrationally internationally. Those wackos have a nuclear bomb that is their primary bargaining chip when extorting money from the United States.

North Korea occupies a high-tension, high-stakes niche in the international system wherein there is precious little margin for error. It is incalculably dangerous to have a decider prone to miscalculations running the show. But in the regime’s next crisis, who is going to counsel the Dear And Respected Leader that his preferred option is a dumb idea? Not Uncle Jang.

But the Kims are not alone. The other notable royal house is the Castro dynasty, whose crown prince Barack Obama met  at the Nelson Mandela funeral, itself a cavalcade of princes. The words of Barbara Tuchman describing the funeral of Edward VII a hundred years ago come almost unbidden to mind.

So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens–four dowager and three regnant–and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.

Update that, subtract the fake sign  language interpreter and that was the Mandela funeral.

Royalty is back, and with it, the madness that has haunted the governance by kings. Adam Cathcart at the Atlantic was struck by the peculiar language in which royal communist discourse is conducted. The KCNA issued one of those stylized, show-trial screeds on the occasion of the execution which described how Jang Song Thaek manifested his guilt and ill-will by “half-heartedly” clapping for Kim Jong-un.

When his cunning move proved futile and the decision that Kim Jong Un was elected vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea at the Third Conference of the WPK in reflection of the unanimous will of all party members, service personnel and people was proclaimed, making all participants break into enthusiastic cheers that shook the conference hall, he behaved so arrogantly and insolently as unwillingly standing up from his seat and half-heartedly clapping, touching off towering resentment of our service personnel and people.

Lèse-majesté is a crime in communist countries because they are absolute monarchies; because contrary to their claims of atheism, hard-core leftism just substitutes a  god on earth for a God on High. Indeed the name given to the PR program of leftist rulers is the “cult of personality”. Personality provides the only glue for a dysfunctional state, which if it cannot attain to legitimacy by achievement, can at any rate obtain it by humbug. What you have instead of patriotism in a progressive regime is loyalty. The reason Soviet audiences clapped so long and loud for Stalin, according to Solzhenitsyn, was the rumor that the first man to stop clapping would be imprisoned.

And hence the peculiar and courtly mode of speech.  Jose Maria Sison, the head of the Philippine Communist party, who lives in Europe under the protection of the Left, has mastered this completely artificial literary form. In  message replete with titles, including the royal ‘we’ and stock phrases, Sison recently made obeisance to young Kim in a style which would make courtiers of the past proud.


To Comrade Kim Jong Un
General Secretary
Korean Workers’ Party
Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Esteemed Comrade Kim Jong Un,

We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, convey our warmest greetings of solidarity to you, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Korean people as we join the celebration of the 100th birth anniversary of the great revolutionary leader President Kim Il Sung on April 15, 2012. This is a highly significant day in Korea’s resplendent 5000-year history and is a strong inspiration to the peoples of the world. …

We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, pay homage to the undying memory of President Kim Il Sung as a great leader and revolutionary fighter for national and social liberation. We are therefore resolved more than ever before to arouse, organize and mobilize the people of the world to fight for national independence, democracy, social justice, development, international solidarity and peace. …

Long live the memory of the great leader Kim Il Sung!
Long live his legacy of revolutionary struggle and victories!
Long live the solidarity of the Korean people and world’s people!

In solidarity,

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle

Daniel Greenfield once called leftism “a terrible product with great marketing”. In Western countries it packaged in pastel colors, accompanied by tambourines, garlanded with flowers, and surrounded by dancing coteries of useful fools. But once you get into the belly of the beast it sounds exactly like Jose Maria Sison and Kim Jong-un.

One person who found this fact out the hard way was Oh Kil-nam, a South Korean who completed his PhD in Marxist economics in Germany. Convinced that North Korea was a worker’s paradise and overflowing with free health care he defected to Pyongyang. The family were imprisoned on arrival. Oh Kil-nam eventually escaped but his family was disappeared into the North Korean camps.

In the words of the Knight of the Quest in Indiana Jones, Oh Kil-nam “chose poorly.” He’s appealed to the UN for help and predictably nothing consequential was forthcoming.

It is the nature of things that many people will choose poorly. In democracies we accept foolishness as the lot of mankind. All Lincoln hoped for was that you couldn’t “fool all of the people all of the time.”

The yearning for kings has not gone away. Recently David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, argues that America is in trouble because of the “demotion of Pennsylvania Avenue”.

Fukuyama ultimately throws up his hands. Things would be better, he observes, if we had a more unified parliamentary system, with more administrative discretion. But we don’t. “So we have a problem. But there is a way out: Make the executive branch more powerful.” Like socialism, the only problem with the president’s programs is they haven’t been tried hard enough.

But better the ordinary chump than the talented tyrant. Perhaps one reason why citizens in democratic societies don’t address each other as “highness” or “excellency” is the realization that none of us is perfect, however much to the contrary the kings pretend to be. And therefore they must make do with dispersed power at 1600 Pennsylvania or elsewhere. It’s the White House, not Olympus.

It is this denial of perfection in men that withholds from us the authority to reset the world to the Year Zero, wherein lies our safety. Beware the Kings who would forget they are also men. The rise of the tame media — individuals afraid to be the first to stop clapping — has had the unfortunate effect of making us forget that.  But let’s not. All men were born to be free and not to perform reverences. Let there be no king but Burger King.

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Top Rated Comments   
Subotai: "And his [silly little Davie Brooks] recommendation today is that the answer to the cluster copulation that is Obamacare is to give ABSOLUTE power to the president to do what he wants and needs."

But! But! But! Barry has that absolute power already.

Illegal waivers to Obamacare. No problem for those who gave freely! Use the IRS to interfer with democratic elections. Done! Promise to investigate his own misuse of the IRS and then ignore his promise. Done & done!

Barry already has absolute power and chanting sheep for a media -- and the DC Institutionals are glad to go along, lest Barry do to them what he did to Chief Justice Roberts.

Soetero plays the Big Man on Campus perfectly. But that act only works on his own campus. Outside, the motor cycle gangs rule the streets, and they could care less about Little Big Man. The Iranians have reportedly walked out of the negotiations about implementing Barry's big success on controlling their nuclear program. Big Man on Campus -- meet Hell's Angels.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Communism is the hermit crab of ruling powers. It borrows the shell of sea snail liberals to hide its soft underbelly.

There is no communism without tyranny and propaganda. It cannot survive a free press.

Owning the media is not merely a necessity, it is an absolute necessity. Ergo, FIRST comes the corruption of the information stream, THEN comes tyranny...not the reverse.

For the hermit crab must cover its underbelly. Guilt-tripped, peer pressured, empty shells...also known as "useful idiots" behind their backs and "compassionate liberals" to their faces form the housings for communist totalitarianism.

Eventually, communism devours its way to the top. Allowed to reach its nadir...even an uncle can be claimed to be a stranger to the king.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The disease is spreading. David Brooks, supposed-and-claimed-conservative-by-New-York-Times'-definition reporter, has turned his attention from Obama's seductively sharp pants creases to national matters. And his recommendation today is that the answer to the cluster copulation that is Obamacare is to give ABSOLUTE power to the president to do what he wants and needs. Which goes along with Tom Friedman's call for the US to adopt the Peoples Republic of China's system of governance by laogai. And Maureen Dowd chiming in approvingly. And calls by professors and members of Congress [all Democrats, of course] for either repealing or simply ignoring the 22nd Amendment are being heard more and more frequently.

Combine this with the coercive and regulatory organs of the State openly acting as part of the political operation of the White House, a voluntarily captive media, and the increasing militarization of all the supposedly civilian departments of the Federal government. I live in a small mountain town, where the Social Security office has armed guards and none of the banks do. We old codgers are a dangerous lot, apparently. There are Social Security Administration SWAT teams. And National Weather Service SWAT teams. I would not be surprised to hear that the National Marine Fisheries Service has several SWAT teams in case the sardines start getting uppity.

The White House is getting right handy with ruling by decree, or actually by press statements that somehow have the force of law over-riding statutes and court decisions. Congress, both wings of the Bipartisan Governing Party, is busily looking the other way and trying to purge those evil Conservatives devoted to that old piece of paper that Oaths are sworn to.

We have not sorted out succession [but I rather doubt that it will include anything as gauche as free and honest elections], so we cannot say that we have royalty. But we sure have an aristocracy/Nomenklatura running things.

And once we find out where all those militarized civilian organizations are aimed, we will find out how much a zero-sum game our politics has become.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (41)
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"It" begins. Wretchard should bring back the old post about person missing from photo (now you see 'em, now you don't) -

Kim Jong-un's Aunt Now Missing From Photo (
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The NORK female is deadlier than the male?

"Did Kim Kyung-hui simply get fed up with his wild ways? She has been dogged by rumours of ill health – some suggested she was an alcoholic – but her influence was undeniable. The execution of Jang, some analysts say, would only have been possible with the blessing of his wife – described in The Atlantic magazine as "just as hard-edged and vindictive as her older brother ever was".

Mr Kim’s pretty young wife, Ri Sol-ju, despite her dainty appearance, is thought to be exerting equally as strong – even ruthless – an influence on the Dear Leader. She was apparently introduced to him by his aunt, and the couple married about three years ago.

But in August, members of a musical troupe of which she was once a member, the Unhasu Orchestra, were wiretapped and heard saying: "In the past, Ri Sol-ju used to play around in the same manner as we did."

The regime – and by extension, Miss Ri – was not amused.

"This is an unpardonable, hideous provocation hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership," said the North Korean state news agency. "Those who commit such a hideous crime will have to pay a very high price."

Miss Ri had to have her reputation intact – and so the nine members of the orchestra were arrested, and executed by machinegun three days later, with their families forced to watch."

And we think Valerie Jarrett is a problem. Barack ought to cut out the selfies with Danish pastries before Michelle gets any ideas.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" It is incalculably dangerous to have a decider prone to miscalculations running the show. But in the regime’s next crisis, who is going to counsel the Dear And Respected Leader that his preferred option is a dumb idea?"
Wretchard...... I am very confused. Are you speaking of Kim or Soetero????
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It appears to me that Iran is going to be to the USA as North Korea is to China. Barry and Kerry have made us a bed as uncomfortable as the one Xi inherited. I hope South Korea is as well prepared as Israel. Can either one really depend on the USA? Somebody please convince me I'm wrong!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dear Leader Kim is no king...

"Well there's a dignity royalty. A majesty that precludes the likelihood of assassination."

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
North Korean roulette: The pin is pulled from a grenade and then it is carefully passed around with everybody trying to keep the spoon down. Those who are not passing the grenade do shots of booze.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wretchard: "Nearly a third of North Korean children under age 5 show signs of stunting, particularly in rural areas where food is scarce ...

The only way that can happen is a "holodomor"-type scenario, where the good Communists round up the food and leave the peasants to starve. Food comes from rural areas! And in normal circumstances, there are advantages in being first in line.

Talking years ago with old Brits who lived through the rationing of WWII and the subsequent decade, there was still resentment that rural folks had eaten better (off the ration card) than city folks.

Communism sucks! But at least it is honest about screwing people. Current liberalism would love to do much worse to the sheeple, just because they could. Only their own incompetence holds back our "leaders".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
---but but but, isn't the heart of the Revolution the ending of dynasty? The ending of the heritability of property & privilege?

One would have to imagine that the murder of the Romanovs was just an inside joke, like the "affordable care act" means "we can afford to act like we care".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

''The family had learnt to be stoical, but their awful fate loomed. In America, the Washington Post published rumours that they had already been executed.''

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

This the Rollout of Obamacare alls overs agains, but worse for the directness of the back in the future lethality --the matter-of-fact clinical ghastliness.

But behold the same panicky furtiveness and same ridiculously inept attempt to hide what had been done, in the name of the state, and thus what should have been treated, or treatable, as an official act deliberately carried out in regular order (including no ambush of the condemned) in the public square, in the full of daylight.

So here is this political religion even at its very birth, at its zenith of innocence, one might say, yet already guilty as hell and free as a bird (in the immortal words of Comrade Bill Ayers), and is this a great country or what?

Well said in Proverbs 28:1 "The wicked flee when none pursue".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Communism is creating a generation of midgets.

"MILLIONS OF NORTH Korean children are not getting the food, medicine or health care they need to develop physically or mentally, leaving an entire generation stunted and malnourished, the United Nations said today.

Nearly a third of North Korean children under age 5 show signs of stunting, particularly in rural areas where food is scarce, and scores are dying from diarrhea due to a lack of access to clean water, sanitation and electricity, the agency said."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In other news, Denis Rodman will coach a basketball game scheduled for Kim's birthday.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
'Ouch' does not convey. Here's another jarring juxtapose --scan the new Nyquist and then look at the sounds and hear the faces of the kids he's eulogizing:
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is said Uncle Jang was cozy with the Chinese and was pushing for Chinese style market reform and was somewhat cozy with the ChiComs. Those who depended on the bribes from the productive didn't want that so Uncle Jang got the knife in part to send a message to the Chinese. Of course this won't stop the economic death spiral that is the Nork economy. One hand is pulled from Dear Leaders behind and another is shoved in place.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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