The powerful wave of struggles at the end of 1996 announced the bursting onto the scene of international class struggle of the Asian proletariat. The process of globalization has produced an enormous increase in the number and strength of this proletariat — globalization, which today scathingly reveals its function: to appropriate all the resources produced by human labor to augment the profits of corporations and of the big imperialist states that rule the world.
The immense sacrifices that the Asian — and in particular the Korean — proletariat have undergone in recent decades to launch their countries on the way to a promising modernization collide with the insatiable appetite for exploitation of the entire world imperialist system. First there were the labor laws of 1996, to give the Korean economy an injection of competitiveness; and then the Asian crisis, artfully steered by the West against the currencies and economies of South-East Asia, which permitted the Western cheabols to plunder the oriental ones.
To resist this bleeding white, a significant part of the Korean working class in 1996-97 unleashed a series of struggles that demonstrated its degree of determination, as militants and militarily, its great ability to create a labor organization, and its need and determination to organize politically.
In the course of the crisis of 1997 it, perhaps, showed undue confidence in the international institutions, thinking it was possible to negotiate, with the IMF, a way out of the crisis that would not overtly penalize its own living and working conditions while, at the same time, being acceptable to world finance. This hope has now been revealed to the Korean proletariat for what it is: an illusion. But, to definitively free itself of such illusions, the Korean and Asian proletariat has to be able to meet another force on the world scene that supports its will to resist this plundering of its labor and of its life to the hilt. This force can be none other than the international proletariat, and, first of all, the proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries. It is this proletariat that, up to now, has failed to answer the ringing call from South-East Asia to join forces in a battle of the workers of the entire world against imperialist and capitalist exploitation. It is this proletariat that is still suffering from the worst of illusions — the illusion that it is possible to maintain decent living conditions by passively or actively following the policies that its own states and its own bourgeoisie adopt to impose their economic, social and political order on the entire world.
The Korean proletariat has not abandoned its battle station. It continues its resistance also against the new US-American, Japanese and European bosses of Korean companies and supports the process of reunification of the two Koreas, realizing that a true struggle against the bosses of the world also means fighting against their policies of the Balkanization and political and military domination of Asia.
Yes, the Korean proletariat does run the risk of being swallowed up by a national-bourgeois movement led by the local bourgeoisie, forced to come to terms with the new war of conquest that Western imperialism openly declares against the proletariat.
But, once again, only the action of the Western proletariat can show their Asian counterparts the way to class autonomy; that is, to the separation of its own interests from those of the local bourgeoisie. And it can do so in only one way: the Western proletariat must begin by separating its own class interests from those of its own bourgeoisie, giving rise to an intransigent struggle against the financial, military and ideological policies of exploitation and oppression of the entire world pursued by that bourgeoisie.
The wave of the proletarian revolt against the effects of globalization is now on the rise in Asia, and from Asia is surging towards the center of world capitalism. The range and importance of this process is immense. The separation and distance between the Asian and the European and American proletariat will be bridged once and for all, provided that the Western proletariat begins to feel and to understand, once and for all, that the struggle of the Asian proletariat is its own struggle.