The Importance of International Solidarity: DPRK and the Black Panther Party

Cover of The Black Panther with President Kim Il Sung and Eldrigde Cleaver.

Eldridge Cleaver passed away on May 1, 1998, and was born on the August 31, 1935 – 88 years ago. Eldridge Cleaver was one of the original leaders of the Black Panther Party (BPP). The BPP was a revolutionary party that formed broad alliances with other oppressed peoples all over the world, as well within the United States. The BPP gained mass support among the African-American community in the U.S. When African-American in the U.S. was treated as second class citizens, didn’t enjoy equal rights as whites, but still had to go to the war in Vietnam to fight and die for the U.S.-imperialists, the BPP offered a revolutionary alternative, and stood up against imperialism and a path towards independence for the oppressed peoples in the U.S. In 1969, Eldridge Cleaver and other BPP members traveled to the DPRK despite the U.S. travel ban for its citizens to travel to the DPRK. Cleaver and his wife Kathleen, gave birth to their daughter Joju Younghi on July 31, 1970. She was given a Korean name as a sign of friendship with the Korean people and President Kim Il Sung. Also in 1969, the BPP began reprinting excerpts from President Kim Il Sung’s writings. As many others who was been to the DPRK, Eldridge Cleaver concluded with admiration “the DPRK’s stable, crime-free society which provided guaranteed food, employment, and housing for all, and which had no economic or social inequalities”. This is where the Panthers found the Juche idea as the scientific guidance needed for the liberation of the African-Americans.

In September, 1969, Cleaver participated in the “International Conference on Tasks of Journalists of the Whole World in their Fight against U.S. Imperialist Aggression.” In 1970, Cleaver also held his famous speech at the Pyongyang City mass rally held on the occasion of the “Day of Struggle for the Withdrawal of the U.S. Imperialist Aggression Army Away From South Korea”.

It might be partially true that the friendship between the DPRK and the Panthers flourished due to their struggle against their common enemy. The United States have since its foundation built its economy on black slaves, and after the official abolition of slavery resorted to lynching of black people and as we see on a near daily basis, the ethnic cleansing carried out by the U.S. racist police force. Prior to current days, the U.S. government used the terrorist organisation Ku Klux Klan, to maintain their rule of white supremacy. The Korean people also suffered on a massive scale when the U.S. imperialists invaded Korea on June 25, 1950, killing about 30% of DPRK’s population, until the U.S. imperialists were forced to the sign the armistice agreement on July 27, 1953 as they realized that they couldn’t beat the Korean people. With history in mind, the DPRK and the BPP knew very well what the U.S. imperialists were capable of. As for all oppressed peoples in modern history, socialism have become the natural weapon to fight oppression. For the BPP it became natural to apply the Juche idea in their struggle for independence and socialism.

bpp harlem
News Item on Juche in official newspaper of the BPP, The Black Panther

With Cleaver as the driving force of this alliance, the BPP depicted the DPRK as a Third World model of modernity and autonomy as well as a “socialist paradise”, that the U.S. should aspire to become after the revolution. In 1969 when Cleaver first travelled to the DPRK for the “International Conference on Tasks of Journalists of the Whole World in their Fight against U.S. Imperialist Aggression”, the BPP also laid the foundation for BPP as revolutionary diplomats representing the “black colony” in the U.S. The fact that the BPP established a diplomatic mission and formed friendship with the Leadership of the DPRK. This challenged the exclusive control of the U.S. state’s authority to conduct foreign affairs. Back in the U.S. the Panthers had already set up successful welfare programs in its areas such as the Free Breakfast for School Children, free health clinics, legal clinics, policing and much more, while also setting up a revolutionary foreign policy. While the U.S. government has never diplomatically recognized the DPRK, the Panthers regarded and openly spoke of the DPRK as the legitimate Korean government and denounced South Korea as a “Yankee Colony.”

On June 15, 1969, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover declared, “the Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to internal security of the country”; and pledged that 1969 would be the last year of the Party’s existence. The Panthers officially ceased to exist in 1982. In 1969, they had over 10,000 members, and the FBI did all it could to discredit the Panthers, its leadership, as well as individual members. Still today many Panthers are locked up in prison for crimes they haven’t committed. Considering that south Korea is a puppet regime of the U.S. it’s not strange how they have treated opposition in line with U.S. fascist policies. South Korea have hundreds of political prisoners who have violated the so called “National Security Law”. The U.S. claim to be a a champion of democracy and freedom of speech, but is in reality no better than Saudi Arabia. Even though the BPP does no longer exist and got brutally crushed by the U.S. imperialists, it did teach a valid lesson. That even in the heart of world imperialism, you can wage a revolutionary struggle. The Juche idea was without doubt of significant inspiration to the Panthers.

As Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver wrote several letters to his friend President Kim Il Sung, whom he was holding in high esteem. On the 23rd anniversary of the foundation of the DPRK, while Cleaver was in exile in the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, he wrote a letter of friendship and solidarity addressed to the Great Leader President Kim Il Sung, the Workers’ Party of Korea and the Korean people.


September 9, 1971

Comrade Kim Il Sung
Premier of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The twenty-third anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a proud day for the heroic Korean people and a tribute to their wise and powerful leadership under the Korean Worker’s Party. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has demonstrated to the world the great power of the people organised and mobilised around the Marxist-Leninist ideology and guided by unswerving revolutionary leadership.

The miraculous strides that the Korean revolution has made in building a powerful nation with its economy, culture, politics and social system firmly in the hands of the Korean people and dedicated to serving their needs provides a brilliant inspiration to those people still fighting for national independence and democratic freedoms. The success of the Juche principle applied by the Korean revolution is an encouragement to fighting peoples around the world.

The long dark yesterdays that the Korean people struggled against the vicious Japanese fascists to win their independence have borne fruit today in the wonderful life available to the people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The heroic battle waged against the beastly U.S. Imperialist aggressors was a historic triumph, not only for the Korean people, but for all the victims of these murderous dogs. Despite all attempts to destroy and subvert the efforts of the Korean people to build a powerful and independent socialist society and advance the international revolutionary movement, under the leadership of the Korean Worker’s Party and the protection of the Korean People’s Army, the Korean revolution has continued to register success upon success. Today, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a powerful and beautiful nation, expressing for the world to see the superiority of the socialist system of social development.

The intransigent position, in ideology, in politics, and in practice, that the Korean people have taken in relation to their brothers and sisters in the southern half still suffering under the yoke of U.S. Neo-colonialism and being prostituted to serve the aggressive designs of the U.S. Fascist ruling clique will certainly yield positive results in the struggle to unify the country and bring the entire Korean people into active participation in the Korean revolution.

We proudly salute you on the twenty-third anniversary of the founding of the Republic and we wish the Korean people greater and greater successes in the advancement of national construction, the unification of the fatherland, and the international revolutionary movement.


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