A chance for the Japanese people to vote for the peace they crave

John Manning looks at the crucial foreign policy issue affecting Sunday’s Japanese election

I n capitalist "democracy", each country has its own way of organizing elections so that they can be "democratic" and yet leave nothing to the chance of knocking the rulers out of power. In Japan, though there is a limit within which elections must be held, the government can pick the date most favourable to it and call the election with very little notice.

The election for the upper house of parliament was announced June 24th and the voting will be on July 11th.

The underlying issue in next Sunday's "blitz election"  in Japan is the 50-year attempt of  the occupying US military to turn Japan back into the feudal-capitalist war-fighting nation it was under the emperor, with the idea that it could be kept as a US flunky and used as an attacking force to conquer the world.  This drive has reached a climax under the Bush administration which has succeeded, under various pretexts, in getting Japanese troops into a  war zone under US command, and against the will of the powerful peace forces of the Japanese people.  All this has been done in creeping, disguised violations of the peace Constitution, adopted by the Japanese people after the total defeat of the Japanese empire forces in a war in which three million Japanese died while killing over ten million people of other countries, mainly in Asia.

  I n the second world war , which ended with Japan's occupation, the US came in late from a then-impregnable position of isolation and lost (only!) some 400,000 killed. This which was enough to make the people of the United States so allergic to sending sons to be killed that they forced the ending of the second of the wars engaged in by the US military since "our" triumphant participation in WW II. There thus emerged what has been called "the Vietnam syndrome", an active dislike of war.

  T he draft was ended, and our military took care for a time to select only defenceless targets - Grenada and Panama being archetypes. But the elder Bush triumphantly declared that the syndrome had ended with his war on Iraq.

However, the people of the US have no enthusiasm for war and have to be tricked into military service on false grounds. They will receive education and advancement, and they won't get killed.  Nevertheless, the sad and maybe fatal fact remains that, lulled to sleep by a media faithful to the lords of the dollar, the American have for the most part not objected to what our government does to other peoples and, with rare exceptions, have said not a word against our government’s campaign to destroy the hopes of the people of Japan for a peaceful future. This has left the peace forces of Japan, led by a humane and democratic communist party, working in the real spirit of Marx for a united human family, to fight alone against the militarists.  

This fight comes to one of its most crucial battles this Sunday, July 11th.  If the JCP, the Japanese Communist Party, can win even a small but definite increase in votes and representation, it will give heart to the 80 percent of Japanese people who polls show do not want troops abroad, or war..

  If not, the fight to save the Constitution and stop the return to war as a future will enter its most dangerous stage.

  Below, we reproduce the editorial from the JCP daily Akahata, as well as a call from a group of prominent Japanese intellectuals, resolving to fight against any attempt to alter a peace constitution under pressure from the militarists.

Who is calling for meaningful reform plans? -- Akahata editorial, June 25

The House of Councillors election was officially announced on June 24 and party leaders kicked off their campaigns with a speech in Tokyo, Osaka, and other major cities. Who is offering the people plans to reform Japanese politics?

Turning defiant or seeking reform

In this election, the biggest issue concerning citizens' living conditions is pension reform as Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo pointed out. However, the JCP is the only party to show the people how to establish a reliable pension system.

Liberal Democratic Party President Koizumi Jun'ichiro stopped short of mentioning the pension cut law which was bulldozed through the Diet. He stated, "A change of government will not change the basic line. What is needed is to build a strong pension system by balancing premium payments and benefits," and called for a "discussion" among the LDP, the Komei Party, and the Democratic Party of Japan based on their three-party agreement. Komei President Kanzaki Takenori said that his party "led the Diet discussions paving the way for a stable pension system." Although DPJ President Okada Katsuya called for the new pension law to be revoked on the grounds that 70 percent of citizens have expressed opposition to it, he failed to propose any alternative plans, only stressing the need to "create a sustainable pension system."

Calling on a referendum on the LDP-Komei ruling coalition, JCP Chair Shii pointed out that both the government's and the DPJ's pension "reform" plans propose an increase in the people's burdens and a decrease in benefits. The only difference between the two is that the DPJ insists that the consumption tax rate should be increased instead of increasing pension premiums, he added. A reliable pension system, Shii stressed, needs solutions to two major issues: low benefit rates and the hollowing out of the national pension system. He also explained JCP proposals for a pension system reform, including a program to guarantee everyone a minimum pension to defend their constitutional right to live as well as reviewing national expenditures and preferential taxation for large corporations to build up pension funds.

Referring to the issues of the Self-Defence Forces participation in the multinational force in Iraq, a step that involves the use of force that the Constitution prohibits, LDP President Koizumi tried to justify it in complete disregard of the supreme law, saying that it is "international cooperation" endorsed by a "unanimous UN resolution". Komei Party President Kanzaki also said, "Nothing will be different" from the present SDF activities. Although DPJ President Okada said that it is "the matter that touches on the fundamentals of the Constitution" and called for "a withdrawal of the SDF" from Iraq, the DPJ policy statement says that the SDF can take part in a multinational force provided the United Nations adopts a resolution to that effect. Thus, the DPJ policy is one of destroying the fundamentals of the Constitution. The DPJ leader has not explained party ability.

JCP Chair Shii stated that the SDF participation in the multinational force is not permissible in light of the Constitution and the view the government has held so far, and criticized Prime Minister Koizumi for being indifferent to the possibility that Japan becomes an accomplice in U.S. savagery. Shii pointed out that in the process of "building an Iraq in which the Iraqi people are sovereign," the presence of the U.S. forces that have invaded Iraq, and slaughtered and tortured Iraqis will be the problem, and called for "measures to be taken toward the withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq without delay."

JCP proudly calls for change

Prime Minister Koizumi shouts the slogan "no growth without reform" and DPJ Leader Okada just says, "Stop Koizumi" but stops short of stating what the DPJ offers.

The JCP is the only party to criticize the government and present solutions to any issues concerning the pension system, consumption tax, Iraq, and the Constitution. It is also the JCP that boldly appeals to the people about the path of reform in order to correct the distortions of politics that creates misgovernment. A major JCP advance can truly change politics.

  9 public figures call for Article 9 defence 

Deeply concerned about the current moves, mainly of the Liberal Democratic Party, toward adversely revising the Constitution , nine Japanese writers, scholars, and critics formed the "Article 9 Committee" to help increase popular movements to defend the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (for the "Article 9 Committee" appeal, see separate item).

The nine public figures, including Japan P.E.N. Club President Inoue Hisashi, Nobel Prize writer Oe Kenzaburo, writer Oda Makoto, and critic Kato Shuichi, called a press conference held in Tokyo on June 10.

Kato said, "Many groups, large and small, are carrying out various activities concerning Article 9, but there are few horizontal ties. So we want to build a network with them."

Oe said, "I hope the Article 9 Committee will be a gathering place for people wishing to defend Article 9."

Oda said, "It has been proven that military forces cannot eliminate terrorism. Now is the time Article 9 of the Constitution comes into play."

Statement of the Article 9 Committee

The following is a translation by Japan Press Service of the Article 9 Committee's published on June 10 in Tokyo. (For related story, see separate item):

The Japanese Constitution is facing a major threat.

In World War II, weapons of mass destruction, including atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, left more than 50 million people dead. The world's citizens learned from this war that the use of force must not be an option to settle international disputes.

Accepting the great responsibility for its war of aggression, Japan established a Constitution with Article 9 providing that Japan renounces war and will not maintain war potential, and resolved to realize the desire for peace of the people of the world.

However, today, more than a half century after the enactment of the Constitution, moves attempting to "revise" the Constitution, in particular Article 9, are growing stronger than ever. The moves have the intended aim to turn Japan into a "war-fighting nation" in submission to the wishes of the United States. It is to this end that constitutional restrictions have been virtually removed through the overseas dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces as well as approval of the right of collective self-defense and the use of force. The Three Non-Nuclear Principles, the arms export ban, and other important measures are in peril of abolition. There are also moves to revise the Fundamental Law of Education with the aim of educating children as workers serving a "war-fighting nation". All this is intended to break away from the constitutional principle that all disputes must be settled by nonviolent means and to pave the way for a military-first country. We must not allow this change to transpire.

The U.S. attack on Iraq and the ensuing quagmire of occupation shows more clearly every day how impractical it is to try to resolve disputes by military force. First of all, the use of force only destroys the lives and well-being of the country's or region's people. No military intervention carried out since 1990 by the great powers in regional conflicts has been effective in resolving them. This is why there is an increasing effort in Southeast Asia and Europe to set up regional frameworks for resolving international disputes through diplomacy and negotiations.

At a time when the major issue facing us is the course the world should follow in the 21st century based on the lessons from the previous century, the importance of Article 9 as the foundation of the nation's diplomacy is clearer than ever. It is presumptuous to tout SDF dispatches as "international contributions" when they are not welcomed in the other country.

The need now is for Japan to stand firmly for Article 9 of the Constitution, develop friendship and cooperation with the peoples of Asia and the rest of the world, and change away from a foreign policy that gives the military alliance with the United States priority in order that Japan will become more independent in actually taking part in the making of world history. With Article 9, Japan can carry out a peaceful diplomacy and economic, cultural, scientific, and technical cooperation by respecting the other's position.

In order to join hands with citizens around the world wishing for peace, we want to let Article 9 stand out in the tumultuous world. The task is for every Japanese citizen to personally and willingly choose the Constitution and its Article 9 as their own way of life and practice it every day. This is the responsibility of the sovereign people for the country's future. Moving toward a peaceful Japan and world in the future, we call on everyone to unite to defend the Constitution and begin now to make every effort to stop the attempt to "revise the Constitution".(end)

(From the Japan Press web page, www.japan-press.co.jp.)