Land of The Rising Left

By John Manning From Spectre 5, Winter 1998

Pulling over 8 million, the Japanese Communists doubled their vote and representation in the July 12th election of deputies for Japan’s upper house of the Diet (the country’s parlia­ment), the House of Councilors. Their attack on the “upside down”, (all for the wealthy, none for the people), policies of the long-ruling Liberal Democrats sparked a people’s rebellion that brought down the Hashimoto government. It propelled the new Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which previously had joined with the JCP in a demand for dissolving the Diet and new general elections, into a close second place, with the JCP third: in vote totals, LDP 25%, DPJ 21%, JCP 14%.

The entire Japanese press termed the election a repudiation of LDP policies and, as one paper (Mainichi) said, its “misgovernment”. In Washington, the Clinton administration hastily cancelled the meeting between President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto set for July 21 and the White House victory dinner the day after. The Washington Post said no one in Washington or Tokyo had raised the possibility that Hashimoto would not sweep the elections. Due to its continuing majority in the House of Representatives, the LDP was still able to name Kaizo Obuchi as the new prime minister. However, the DPJ and the Liberal Party have joined the JCP in a pledge to demand new elections, and four other opposition parties cooperated with them in electing DPJ leader, Naoto Kan, as House of Councilors nominee for P.M. Of this, JCP chairman Fuwa said, “The results will have a great im­pact. This will be a powerful basis for starting a joint struggle by the opposition parties to get the House of Representatives dissolved for a general election”. Mainstream surveys have been indicating that some 60% of the population support this demand.


In the 17-day campaign period before the election the JCP’s over-300,000 members in 26,000 branches leafleted and visited “almost every household, well over 40 million.” However the change in Japan is not due to ef­fort in this election alone, but is the product of long years of campaigning on clear policies. In one of the rare objective glimpses in the Western press of the situation in Japan, the Finan­cial Times, (July 8, 1997), in reporting the JCP’s doubling of its vote in the Tokyo Metro­politan election last year, said, “Japanese vot­ers, tired of the corruption and confusion of mainstream politics, are turning to the one par­ty with a consistent set of principles and a clean image, the Japanese Communist Party.” The FT reassured its readers, however, that the only reason the JCP had not been corrupted was that it “has never held real power.

 One thing which has led to rapid and remarkable developments is the fight against the presence of US military bases, as well as the broader issue of being tied to the U.S. war chariot. China, which has been at odds with the JCP ever since the Cultural Revolution  and which has supported the U.S. occupation and “Security Treaty”, did not participate in the JCP’s 21st Congress in September, 1997, but sent its TV crew and filmed the whole event. Concluding the Congress, which adopted the objec­tive, “a Democratic Coali­tion Government in the early 21st Century” the JCP stated that, as a party intending to participate in government, it would give more attention to foreign affairs, especially re­lations with Asia.

At the New Year 1998 meeting, Fuwa said changes had been noticed in China indicating a review of the split, and that the party would follow them up. Contacts were made and, June 8-10, a high-level JCP delegation met in Peking with the CPC, and full “normalization” of relations was achieved.

At the biggest meeting of the election campaign. July 6. of 32,000 at the big Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. Fuwa laid the case before the Japanese people. New “Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Cooperation” were nothing but an agreement for Japan to cooperate when the U.S. forces take war action from bases in Japan, he argued. Though Clinton in Peking says he agrees there is one China, the letter of the agreement. as well as past actions and present statements by the U.S. military and Japanese authorities state that Taiwan is in­cluded in “areas surrounding Japan”. Bound by an agreement to go to war whenever the U.S. decides. Fuwa concluded, “I must clear­ly say the Liberal Democratic Party has lost its capacity to be responsible for foreign rela­tions with Asia.”


The history which is the basis for the trust in­creasing numbers of Japanese people have in the party began 75 years ago.

The JCP was founded in 1922 in the world wave of socialist organizing following the Oc­tober Revolution. It was illegal for 13 years since it demanded an end to the emperor system, distribution of the big feudal estates to the peasants, trade union rights for workers, and withdrawal of Japanese troops from Korea and all Japanese imperial colonies and foreign countries.

Many of its early members lost their lives during the 15 years war, which the JCP was the only party to oppose, and its longtime leader, Kenji Miyamoto, who retired last year, survived torture and tuberculosis during 12 years in prison. With the defeat of Japanese militarism and early application of the Potsdam agreement, the JCP expanded rapidly, being the only party which had not dissolved itself in support of the war. It was influential in the formation of Japan’s “Peace Constitution”, which pledges no more war, and people’s sovereignty, though the occupying U.S. saw to it that the em­peror was retained. This period ended with the Korean war and Gen­eral MacArthur’s purging of elected JCP representatives from the Diet (Parliament) in 1950. Both Mao and Stalin urged that the JCP, which had a strong popular and parlia­mentary base, take to the mountains as guerillas, China style. The then-leaders dissolved the cen­tral committee, split and almost finished the party, which took over 5 years to rebuild, which it did however on the basis of open, democratic, mass and parliamentary struggle.

By the 8th Congress, in 1970, a basic programme was adopted which continues to this day, amended and added to at subsequent con­gresses. In presenting it, Miyamoto noted that, contrary to Marx’s ex­pectations, there had been no socialist revolu­tions in industrialized capitalist countries, and that they must seek the path to elimination of exploitation “with the least sacrifice to the people”. They decided on the strategic objective of a democratic revolution, the advance to social­ism to come later as a revolution of the major­ity when the people were ready for that ad­vance. There would be a plurality of parties as long as there were different opinions and, if defeated in election, they would accept the results and work to explain their position better. A “Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy” was published and remains today as the basic outlook, somewhat amended and updated by the developments of the Soviet collapse.

There have been many blows and setbacks on the road. Mao set the Red Brigades on them when they refused to condemn the USSR equally with the U.S. when they sought united support for Vietnam. Khr­uschev attacked them when they refused to drop the demand that nuclear weapons be outlawed and support the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the U.S.. They said it would lead to an arms race and stuck to their demand for no more Hi­roshimas. For this they were “shunned” and came under heavy pressure from the Soviet bloc. The peddling of Kremlin papers by Yeltsin re­vealed that all Soviet leaders up to the collapse recruited and financed agents within the JCP to try to bring it under Soviet control.

They sharply criticized the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan as anti-socialist. holding solidly for the principle of non-interven­tion in the in­ternal affairs of other coun­tries and par­ties. In re­sponse to the pressure which imposed the Jaruzelski regime in Po­land, the JCP held that. if people turn against you, you had better ana­lyse yourself and see what you did wrong. The resultant hostility of both communist blocs, coupled with the natural disinclination of the media in the capitalist world to publicise socialist advances, seems to be the rea­son why the party’s success is so little known about.


There have been setbacks, but with each set­back the JCP has been able to resume progress more strongly than before. In 1980 the Socialist Party renounced its long­standing working agreement with the JCP and joined in the anti-communist attacks which char­acterised the 1980s, a bad decade in gen­eral for working people. The inde­pendent trade union movement was hugely weakened, and the great majority of workers were moved into a company union federation, Rengo. This difficult period ended with the Soviet collapse, which the JCP had largely foreseen.

 By then the party had lost members, but remained clear where the problems were and was thus able to hold its own at a time when all was confusion, successfully fighting off the “socialism has failed” teaching, making clear that the democratic socialism for which the party stood had nothing to do with the authoritarian system which had failed in Russia. For the JCP, real and liberating socialism had yet to be tried.

The result was that, in the 1993 general election, the party was able to hold on to 15 out of 16 seats. From then on it has been steady progress, greatly ac­celerated af­ter the September 1997, 21st Congress. Other sup­posedly op­position par­ties which had clustered around the LDP, hoping to gain entry to government, have begun a serious rethink.


The importance of these events for socialists outside Japan should not be underestimated. The Japanese Communist Party has found a way to involve the mass of working people in the struggle to defend and advance their own rights. It bases its practical relationship with the people of Japan on consultation, self-criticism, and feedback. As Miyamoto put it, in­voking Marx, (Aka­hata Festival, 1992), “150 years ago the founders of scientific socialism had confidence that there would be a progressive change in human beings and they noted that this would happen only in a practical movement, through which people would ac­quire the ability to renew society... I dare to say that it is not historically too early for us to be recognized as the most developed human party in this respect.”

John Manning is a U.S. trade unionist, now retired, with a background in the auto, air­craft and tunnel mining industries. He was U.S. staff member of the World Federation of Trade Unions, based in Prague, from 1977 to 1991. After fifty years as a member of the Communist Party of the USA, he has now been expelled. He lives in active retirement in South Bohemia with his Czech Communist wife, Jarmila. This article is the fruit of a long-standing interest in the Japanese Comunist Party.

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