The critique is that classical Marxism-Leninism treats humanity as object, not as subject. That is, there is in humanity an interior principle from which the social movement ultimately derives; this principle, described as “independence” or “Chajusong” is socially-created, and while conditioned by material forces, is not wholly reducible to them. Thus man is the subject of history, in that history is created – originated – by the masses; Marxism-Leninism fails to recognize this, and instead treats human progress solely as the result or “object” of external economic and social forces. In other words, Marxism-Leninism mistakes the conditions of the thing for the thing itself.

The creators of Marxism set as their main task overcoming the idealistic and metaphysical view of social history which served to justify the reactionary exploiting system and applying the materialistic and dialectical principles to the field of social history; they clarified that society, like nature, exists objectively and it changes and develops according according to the general law governing the material world. They however failed to elucidate the essential differences between the movement of nature and social movement and the law inherent in the socio-historical movement. The new era implies that the most important requirement for making the view of social history of the working class perfect, is to clarify the law peculiar to the social-historical movement whose motive force is the working masses. This historic task was fulfilled with credit by the Juche philosophy.

The Juche philosophy, by applying to social history the philosophical principle that man is the master of everything and decides everything, gave a fresh light to the principle that the masses are the motive force of history, and the socio-historical movement is an independent, creative, and conscious movement of the masses.

– Kim Jong-Il, On Some Problems of the Ideological Foundation of Socialism, 1990

Though the Juche Idea does not replace Marxism-Leninism, it is nevertheless distinct:

In explaining and propagating the Juche philosophy we do not need to convince people that the Juche philosophy is a new development of Marxist materialist dialectics. It is true that our Party has not taken a dogmatic approach to Marxist materialistic dialectics but analyzed it from the point of view of Juche and has given new explanations to a number of problems. However, some development of materialism and dialectics dose not constitute the basic content of the Juche philosophy.

The Juche philosophy is an original philosophy which has been evolved in systematized with its own principles. The historic contribution made by the Juche philosophy to the development of philosophical thoughts lies not in its advancement of Marxist materialistic dialectics, but in its clarification of new philosophical principles centered on man.

Kim Jong-Il, “The Juche Idea is an Original Revolutionary Philosophy,” 1996

The necessity of “going beyond” Marxism-Leninism does not arise because the conclusions of Marxism-Leninism regarding dialectical and historical materialism are somehow erroneous. Rather, the necessity arises because “pure” Marxism-Leninism, though able to analyze contradictions and successfully foment revolution, is unequal to the task of actually building a communist society; “we do not see it as a perfect communist revolutionary theory of the working class.” (“On Some Problems of the Ideological Foundation of Socialism.”) Juche sits on Marxism-Leninism as on a foundation or base; or perhaps better, it sublates Marxism-Leninism in a new synthesis, in which idealism and materialism no longer contradict each other.

Man is neither a purely spiritual being nor a simple biological being. Man is a social being who lives and acts in social relationships. The fact that man is a social being is the major quality which distinguishes him from other biological beings.

Kim Jong-Il, “Socialism is a Science,” 1992

Failure to recognize that the masses are the subject rather than the object of history, says Kim, ultimately leads to the restoration of capital:

Because he is independent, creative and conscious, man is the most precious and powerful being. Man is the only master and remaker of the world. Nothing in the world is more precious or powerful than man.

However, bourgeois reactionaries do not regard man as the most precious being, but as a means for material production and an insignificant being who possesses only labour power, which is bought and sold as a commodity. They also consider him a powerless being dominated by money, not as a powerful being who shapes his destiny through his own efforts. The betrayers of socialism are restoring capitalism and eliminating all the popular policies established by socialism. They regard unemployment and poverty as means for pressurizing people, in order to force them to compete, and in order to increase labour intensity. They grovel at the feet of imperialists, expecting “aid” and “cooperation” from Western capitalist countries, instead of believing in the strength of their people. All this is due to their reactionary bourgeois view of man.

– Ibid

How can I nominate you to lead the Korean Friendship Association? If you aren’t involved with them , you should be.


Thanks, am flattered! In absolute fairness though, the people in charge have a much more thorough knowledge of Juche than I do. I’m just a student, those people are scholars.

I didn’t know that your username was that accurate

Thanks for this explanation.

Can I ask some questions? I can perhaps see a difference in emphasis, but this not far off what I would have thought MLs would have accepted. But there may be some confusions in my thinking, here.

I don’t have quotes to hand. But I thought that one of the motivating factors of Marxists was to overcome alienation. To do so, Marxists would try to implement socialism/communism and re-join human objectivity and subjectivity—which are separated under capitalism. Does Juche instead argue that we instead need to combat alienation by focusing on human subjectivity (rather than it’s synthesis with objectivity)?

I also thought a central principle was that humans make history. This could mean two things. The first is the one that you described (which I think I agree with), that humans are the subject. Can humans be the subject and the object?

The second needs the context of ‘the history of all hitherto society is the history of class struggle’. Similar to Fukuyama’s idea, but in a Marxist sense, this could be read as: when there are no longer any classes, there will be no more history. I’ve always struggled with that notion. Is this where it’s necessary to say: we only reach that conclusion by treating humans as object; and we can reach a better conclusion by treating humans as subject?

In David Harvey’s companion to Capital volume I he gets ahead of the common argument that Marx completely rejects the idea (in favour of materialism). Harvey emphasises something Marx writes, about bees and architects. Although the be creates something impressive and beautiful, the bee must be distinguished from the architect, who does something similar. The architect, unlike the bee, begins with an idea, imagining first what they want to draw and then build.

In this framing, does Marx suggest that idealism and materialism are contradictory? I thought it was just that the material world comes first. The architect may have an idea, but this is limited by the material world. Or does Juche aim to make idealism equal to materialism. That seems like quite a departure from Marxism-Leninism, too much of a departure to say that Juche uses ML as a base. What am I misunderstanding here?

It seems like a part of Juche is a critique of the USSR. Maybe the issue is that Juche criticises what ML became towards the middle and end of the USSR, rather than what ML looks like in the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin (and Stalin? I’m unsure what Juxche says about Stalin)? Am I on the right lines?


These are good points. (Sorry for the delay in replying – was busy all day yesterday).

Does Juche instead argue that we instead need to combat alienation by focusing on human subjectivity (rather than it’s synthesis with objectivity)?

Juche holds, essentially, that only under communism can human subjectivity fully understand itself as subjective. Subjectivity is a social phenomena, reflecting in its relative “human-ness” the current state of the forces of the production; and it is at all times articulated by ideology. In pre-socialist societies, ideology largely explains and justifies the relations of production, while in socialist societies, it begins to drive development itself. It does so not as being exempt from natural and economic laws, but as understanding itself as distinct from them; the object, in other words, is no longer interior as well as exterior (the capitalist conception of exploitation as resulting from “human nature,” etc). So there is in Juche no real synthesis of the subject with the object, rather a delineating of their respective roles and relationship with one another. Because ideology plays such a driving role, there must be along with the revolution in the forces of production a cultural and ideological revolution – the latter understood not as a one-time voluntaristic event, but as a continuing process.

Is this where it’s necessary to say: we only reach that conclusion by treating humans as object; and we can reach a better conclusion by treating humans as subject?

There is a dialectical process going on here. Subjectivity, being socially-created, is a social phenomena; but since there is no universal human being (sorry Plato), it only exists determinately at the level of individuals. Thus we have an opposition, resolved in the synthesis which is communism (and its primitive stage, socialism): for in communist society, individual subjectivity is aligned with the subjectivity of the collective. (One can also think of this as medieval philosophers’ idea of the “common good,” but understood dialectically).

And this is where I think your gut feel is right. The forces of production will continue to advance after class disappears, and humanity’s ability to manipulate external nature will increase. Thus, there will be no “end of history:” in many ways history will accelerate, because the human beings who make it will have been unleashed.

In this framing, does Marx suggest that idealism and materialism are contradictory? I thought it was just that the material world comes first. The architect may have an idea, but this is limited by the material world. Or does Juche aim to make idealism equal to materialism. That seems like quite a departure from Marxism-Leninism, too much of a departure to say that Juche uses ML as a base. What am I misunderstanding here?

So the answer is a bit complicated. A lot of stuff in Juche regarding relation of idealism and materialism is implicitly present in Marx and Engel’s writings, particularly *The German Ideology" and the “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts” of 1844. But emphasis is placed much more on object than on subject, and on determination, as when Engels writes that dialectics is “destined to do for history what Darwin’s theory has done for biology” (introduction to the Communist Manifesto). Furthermore, Marxism is not to be understood simply as a philosophy expounded by one man, or as a set of ideas in a book, but as a concrete movement of history. That movement is the historical experience of Marxism-Leninism, and it has historically and of necessity emphasized the object, as productive forces, much more than the subject. Intellectually, Juche develops certain insights already present in Marx into a complete system, and in this way it is a genuinely original “branch” of Marxism; concretely, it instantiates these ideas into a new kind of socialist society, and the union of thought and praxis together form a new and original entity, distinct from Marxism but not contradictory to it. This is what Kim Il-Sung probably had in mind when he said that “to understand Juche, one must understand the entire life of our people.”

No bother at all on the short delay (as you can see, I’m not always the fastest at replying, myself)!

I appreciate the answer. My mind is quite blown at the moment, as your comments have challenged my understanding of Marxism—but coherently. It fits neatly and yet changes everything. I can see how Juche branches off Marxism-Leninism but in such a dialectal way that it remains Marxist.

This reminds me of issues in orthodox conceptions of objectivity and subjectivity. I kind of had all that philosophy well worked out before reading Marx, etc. I wasn’t necessarily right, but I had an answer. Then reading Marx disrupted what I had once accepted but I never really went back to re-work the objectivity/subjectivity problem from a Marxist perspective. I’m thinking that Juche could provide a good starting point for resolving that issue.

I’m going to have to investigate further 🙂 I’m glad you’ve explained all this to me. Thanks.


Glad I could help! On the topic of the philosophy of objectivity/subjectivity, some of the best advice I ever got as a communist was to read a whole lot of philosophy (sounds like you’ve already done this) before tackling Marx, because it helps you see the thing in context, and avoid applying Marxian insights dogmatically. I think ultimately, the Marxist tradition rediscovers and more precisely articulates a kind of core human-ness that was lost with onset of modernity in the west. I like Juche because it seems, out of all the schools of Marxism, to address this most explicitly. (I think for religious communists too – I’m one – it also provides space for the human experience of the transcendent, which is so important for many societies historically).

That’s good advice. I’d add that it’s also worth going back to the philosophy that Marx engages with after reading Marx.

There’s lots of philosophy I’ve yet to read, but you’re right, that’s where I started. Eventually this took me to Habermas (who I enjoyed at the time but didn’t realise was supposed to be a Marxist – I mean, he’s not, but he pretends to be, which makes it strange that readers won’t necessarily see this in his writing) and other twentieth century anti-communists. They all made sense but something was missing. I then came to Isaiah Berlin, who seemed to provide the missing piece, but not quite. His book on Marx took to me Marx and made me realise that although Berlin is oh-so-close for emphasising something like the law of contradiction, he doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head because he tries to liberalise DiaMat.

As soon as I read Marx directly, it was clear that Marxists represent the highest form of philosophy, following threads from the the Ancient Greeks (and earlier, considering their plagiarism of even more ancient Africans). To that end, I now think human thought can only progress if it begins with Marx/ists. Unfortunately, we’ve had 150 years of going in the opposite direction. That’s a lot of wasted brainpower.

Marxism should have been the foundation of all fields for over a century, each coming up with novel insights (maybe even surpassing Marxism with something significantly different) but instead we’re still at the point (in the West, at least) where almost every other branch of knowledge needs to be (for want of a better phrase) dialectically materialised. Juche sounds like a promising lead in that direction. (I’ve also heard good things about China now insisting that Marxism is taught throughout higher education, at least.)

I think the way to conceive of juche as a critique is to conceive of it as exposing a missing element, not as contradicting MLism

This is real dialectical study going on rn

If it is, it should goes like that: “They died. Bad of them.”

Smh Lenin is there in Red Square just waiting for Juche necromancy and nobody’s answering his call 😒🤦‍♂️

I think Juche is just ML adapted to the DPRK’s culture and economic isolation, do no, not as far as I’m aware


From my understanding, what is referred to as “Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism” in English/translated texts more accurately represents Marxism-Leninism with Korean charscteristics regarding the DPRK’s political economy, whereas Juche represents moreso the (dpr)Korean worldview on a sociocultural level. The Juche idea is the cultural revolution to Marxism-Leninism’s economic and political revolution.

Probably not. Juche says that it supersedes Marxism-Leninism although it’s vague about that.

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