Empire of Madness: Caligula in Pyongyang

lpNorth Korea is Stalin’s ultimate dream come true. It is a most dangerous actor in world politics and a despicable tyranny where reason and moderation are treated as mortal enemies. Blind obedience is mandatory and so is infinite subservience to the Supreme Leader, the administrator of truth, memory, and universal poverty. It is the most hermetic regime in the world, an armed-to-the-teeth totalitarian despotism whose possession of  nuclear weapons  gives nightmares to all those who know how the Kim dynasty and its sycophants operate. It is, in fact, as the recent bloody purges made clearer than ever, a huge concentration camp run by a lunatic commander.

The mysterious, baby-faced monster Kim Jong-un has unleashed a Stalin-style onslaught on his own acolytes. It is like a re-enactment of the Soviet Great Purge when Stalin got rid of the whole Bolshevik Old Guard. It is not an exaggeration to predict more bloodshed to follow. No doubt the North Korean nomenklatura is now frightened and  humiliated. No one is safe in this universe of paranoid delusions and rampant suspicions.

The propaganda machine indulges in hysterical harangues against the alleged traitors, despicable vermin, “repugnant human scum,” “nauseating reptiles” and other surreal zoological metaphors. Until recently the regime’s number two, lionized as a wise advisor to the satrap, Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, was killed after having been swamped into an ocean of  morbid accusations. Is this the abysmal end or the frightening beginning of young Kim’s absolute rule?

As Nicholas Eberstadt has pointed out, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather and father avoided dealing mortal blows to the members of the highest communist aristocracy. They practiced a dynastic communism that blended nationalist mysticism with ferocious Stalinism. The Juche doctrine means the right of the communist Lidero Maximo to act as arbitrarily and erratically as he wishes. Initially, the enigmatic “Dear Leader,” a latter-day Caligula with a Swiss high-school background and the face of a hieratic, opaque deity, seemed to be just a puppet manipulated by his ostensibly omnipotent aunt and uncle. He has finally escaped their suffocating grip, or at least this seems to be his conviction. He acts ruthlessly and in perfect cold blood. Will he continue the carnage or will he be himself liquidated by an equally brutal backlash from those whom he wants to eliminate? Will this grotesque farce culminate in a settling of accounts that could somehow restore a minimal rationality in this empire of madness? What card will China play?

When Kim Jong-un was ritualistically anointed his father’s successor two years ago, and the world media were disseminating those mind-boggling images with teenagers hitting their heads and old ladies screaming as loud as possible their desperation, I predicted that the struggle for power would exacerbate to the point of assassinations and show trials. What is at stake is absolute power within an absolutist regime, a red monarchy if ever one was. For the time being, the “beloved aunt” and estranged wife of the executed “traitor,” has managed to survive. It is not sure at all that the vindictive Kim Jong-un will spare her. The logic of  unbound Stalinism is an ever-growing, endless purge. Still, it is hard to know whether in the dark corridors of the North Korean pyramid of power some of the alleged loyalists are not sharpening their daggers. This is not Hamlet in Pyongyang, but rather Richard III or Caligula.

I have written a lot on national Stalinism and dynastic communism in Romania, North Korea, and Cuba. There are striking similarities between Nicolae Ceausescu’s and Kim Il-sung’s experiments. In 1986 I published in the journal “Orbis” a study titled “Byzantine Rites, Stalinist Follies: The Twilight of  Dynastic Socialism in Romania.”  I explored the wedding between unbound Stalinism and nationalist delirium, the mixing of autarchic narcissism and ideological paranoia, the relations between party elite, secret police and army within a decrepit dictatorship.  I am tempted to write now an article titled  “Confucian Rites, Stalinist Follies: The Twilight of  Dynastic Communism in North Korea.” Ideological dictatorships, also known as ideocracies or logocracies, cultivate miracle, myth, and mystery (a point made by historian Fritz Stern).

In the case of North Korea, the miracle and the myth are totally exhausted. The mystery remains and this is most alarming.

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  • shane

    the talk in china on the net is the beloved aunt helped the mad ruler off the uncle and husband because of his gambling habit in beijing, giving cheap deals to chicoms, and penchant for chinese prostitutes, now of course anything is possible. meanwhile, back at the ranch, o and kerry are figuring out how to give away the farm in east asia.

    • Texas Patriot

      Shane: “meanwhile, back at the ranch, o and kerry are figuring out how to give away the farm in east asia.”

      There is no American “farm” in Asia. The net result of our post-WWII policy in Asia has been to create competitive juggernauts that are whipping the socks off their American counterparts, destroying the American economy, and impoverishing American citizens.

  • blert

    We’re all outsiders… but the vibe is that the liquidation of his Uncle was actually mandated by his AUNT.

    If you look at the actual charges/ agitprop against uncel Jang… they look like they were written by his estranged WIFE — the AUNT.

    Jang was having a grand old time with young action. This was alluded to in all of the agitprop — which, to my lights, is larded with shrew-logic. Go back an re-read the blurbs with love triangles in mind — knowing that Aunt and Uncle haven’t been in the same bed in — forever.

    The old dictator valued Jang — who was obviously a perfect flunky to send off to Beijing.

    His Aunt pointed out that the Chinese, with Jang’s able assistence could EASILY un-turf Un. And, of course, Jang was Mr. Money Bags inre Beijing. Without a doubt, he was in a possition to skim graft for his own crew; graft that could never be spotted on North Korean books. This is the source of Un’s complaint about the ‘special’ pricing that Red China was getting on iron ore and whatnot.

    The fallen crumbs must have been big enough to feed more than a few PLA generals, too; particularly intelligence officers. They’d be in a position to give Jang back-channel intel on Un & Co.

  • oneteedoffpatriot

    Obama is so jealous.

    • CowboyUp

      Yep, and so is hillary.

      • Drakken

        Since Hillary absolutely hates the military, the military won’t have forgotten what she used to do to them when she was in the White House.

  • SoCalMike

    You might want to rethink the title of that article since Confucius was
    Chinese. blert’s comments make a lot of sense.

  • tanstaafl

    There is no substitute for self-governance.

  • poetcomic1

    Aunt’s missing today. Uh, oh. Soon the Glorious Leader will be singing ‘Ronery’.

  • UCSPanther

    North Korea: Paranoid, xenophobic, unhinged and wildly unpredictable.

  • UncleSam

    Caligula is a very good comparison. Many of the seemingly cray acts of Caligula were made to completely humiliate others. Though that kind of lens he is not so crazy. This sure fits Kim Jung-un, death by dogs, obliteration by a mortar round, death by a flame thrower.

    There are many similarities to the Nazis. One of the very overlook ones is how they destroyed education, schools were tools for indoctrination, regular eduction was dropped, The new generation was very dumbed down. The Nazis lost a lot of the best minds as they fled the country or were killed. There is little useful education in North Korea and all the old intellectual capitol is long gone.

    It is well known they are locked in the past and are not developing. This also includes there military. Speaking of military there is a revolution under way, its the robotic drone one and very few understand how big of a game changer this is going to be. Its going to be like a battleship vs an aircraft carrier the latter making the previous obsolete. In the future most of the weapons systems the North Koreans have are going to be made even more useless and obsolete than they are now. Still they can cause a lot of problems.

    The one low cost thing that can end the North Korean system in its current form is information. If information were to flow unchecked things would change.

  • UCSPanther

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