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International Socialism, Autumn 1960


Kan-ichi Kuroda



From International Socialism (1st series), No.2, Autumn 1960, pp.27-31.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Kan-ichi Kuroda was born on 20 October 1927. He was one, of the founders of the Japanese Revolutionary Communist League (discussed in the article) in 1957 and has written a number of works on marxist philosophy and economics despite the handicaps imposed by semi-blindness. His published works include: Hegel and Marx (460 pp, 1952), Economics and Dialectics (260 pp, 1956), An Inquiry into Ideological Stands (200 pp, 1956), The Foundations of a Critique of Stalinism (150 pp, 1956), Peace and Revolution in the Modern World (200 pp, 1959).

For over eighteen months and particularly in the period between April and June 1960 thousands of demonstrators repeatedly marched on the Japanese Diet with the aim of preventing the ratification of the new Japanese – United States Security Treaty. The protests were organized by the People’s Council against the ratification of the Security Treaty, which is an alliance of various ‘left-wing’ organizations. This organization includes the Socialist Party, Sohyo, the 3,597,000 strong General Council of Japanese Trade Unions – a body under the influence of the Socialist Party, the Stalinist Communist Party, Zengakuren (the National Federation of Students’ Self-Government Associations), and other ‘left-wing’ bodies.

After the Treaty was passed by the Lower House at midnight on May 19, the mass movement grew considerably. The Socialists boycotted this session and even some of the members of the ruling class parties were not present to cast their votes. Thousands of marchers have since then taken part in night and day demonstrations and parades around the Diet to demand the scrapping of the new Treaty, the immediate resignation of the Kishi Cabinet and dissolution of the Diet. The last demand was of particular importance because the new Treaty would be automatically ratified by the Diet 30 days after being passed by the Lower House. Strikes, rallies and demonstrations were organized again and again in Tokyo and other parts of the country to strengthen this protest movement. On June 4, 15 and 22, responding to a strike call from Sohyo, the transport workers walked off their jobs. As a result more than a million commuters in the Tokyo area were stranded. The Sohyo-affiliated National Railway Workers’ Union, the Locomen’s Union and the Tokyo Metropolitan Transport Workers’ Union, as well as many other workers’ unions in both public and private enterprises participated in these strikes and rallies. All told some five million workers were involved.

Even if limited to one hour these were the first political strikes by the Japanese working class in the post-war period. The strikes were intended to be on a bigger scale than before and some confusion was caused during the morning rush-hour. Every attempt was made by the anti-Government forces to impress on White House Secretary James Hagerty the mass opposition to the projected visit of President Dwight Eisenhower. Demonstrations were organized and direct appeals made by representatives of the various strata of the Japanese population. This resort to appeals was the contribution of the Japanese Communist Party to the struggle against American Imperialism. The main forces however concentrated their activities against the Diet building and Premier Kishi’s official residence. The demonstrators carried placards with slogans reading: ‘Against the new Security Treaty’, ‘Kishi retire!’, ‘Dissolve the Diet’, ‘Go home U2’, ‘We don’t like Ike’ and so on.

On the eve of June 3 bloody battles erupted between stone-throwing radical students and charging club-swinging police. A bloody clash took place on June 15 when students led by Zengakuren clashed with the police. One student was killed and more than 700 were injured and had to receive hospital treatment. Many others were injured, amongst them not only students but about 100 professors and assistant professors from Tokyo University and newspaper, radio, television reporters and cameramen.

The effect of this riot shocked Washington and caused them to change abruptly their plans for Eisenhower’s visit to Japan. Despite this decision no change took place in the determination of the Kishi Cabinet to ratify the Treaty. On June 16 the Government issued a statement claiming that the Zengakuren students’ actions of June 15 had been instigated by Communists. The Government claimed that this was in line with the aims of International Communism to destroy the social order. As a matter of fact, the leadership of Zengakuren consists not of Stalinists but of anti-Stalinist marxists.

All the leading newspapers wrote critical editorials of these methods of violent protest by Zengakuren. It is a fact however that only the preparedness of the unarmed students to engage in bloody battle against the phalanx of blue-uniformed armed police outside the Diet gained the suspension of Eisenhower’s visit to Japan.

The mass movement reached its great climax on June 18. Outside the Diet great waves of demonstrators, totalling over a third of a million, besieged the building. However they could not prevent the automatic approval of the Pact. The new Japanese-US Security Treaty became effective on June 23. The great struggle of the Japanese people led by the Peoples’ Council had been unable to secure the resignation of the Kishi Cabinet or the dissolution of the Diet. The struggle for the time being had been defeated.

Main Lessons

Such a mass movement of protest had never been experienced in Japan before. Why was it that this movement, with its mighty demonstrations and its use of the political strike was defeated?

The explanation for this defeat is to be found in the absence of a real revolutionary advance guard armed with revolutionary marxism. This lack of a revolutionary advance guard was revealed in the development of the anti-Pact movement. All the official left-wing leaders demonstrated their bankruptcy in the course of the struggle. The leaders of the Socialist Party and of the Communist Party constantly strove to maintain the revolutionary struggles of the people within the framework of parliamentarianism and bourgeois democracy. The leaders diverted the attempts of the people to wage a revolutionary struggle into the channels of pacifism and so-called neutralism. Only the left-wing leadership of the Zengakuren criticized the non-revolutionary policies of the People’s Council. Zengakuren organized independent class action, breaking up the impotent framework of the ‘united movement’ organized by the People’s Council and took the initiative in encouraging vigorous and violent mass action. Zengakuren’s actions took the form of invading the grounds: of the Diet on November 27 last year. Zengakuren organized the struggle at Haneda airport aimed at stopping Kishi’s visit to America where he was going to sign the new Security Treaty. The snake-dance demonstrations which took place at the Diet and at Kishi’s official residence on April 26, May 20, May 26 and June 11, 15 and 22 were also inspired by Zengakuren.

Such activity by Zengakuren was bitterly criticized and denounced by the official leaders. The Japanese Communist Party, the self-styled ‘vanguard’ was particularly hostile to the activities of the Zengakuren. Again and again they denounced the ‘provocations’ of the Trotskyists. This attitude of the Stalinists to independent class action demonstrated most clearly the true nature of their bureaucratic degeneration. Both the Socialist Party and the Sohyo bosses in the People’s Council attacked the violent actions inspired by Zengakuren. These organizations abandoned their earlier policies in which they had mobilized their members for demonstrations against the Diet. Instead they turned to orderly rallies (the ‘funeral’ type of demonstration!).

The official leaders of the ‘left-wing’ quite clearly betrayed the desires and demands of the people. Their policies weakened and prevented the full development of the great revolutionary energy of the people from being directed against the Security Pact. Although they had called three one-hour political strikes, these leaders still restricted the peoples struggles to such demands as ‘The Defence of Democracy’, ‘The Defence of Parliamentary Government’, ‘The maintenance of peace and neutralism’ and ‘the Independence of Japan’. The slogans which came from the Peoples’ Council bear the unmistakable stamp of Khrushchev’s new line, a concoction of social democracy and soft-spoken Stalinism. The essence of this neo-Stalinist line flows from the strategy of peaceful co-existence, which in turn flows inevitably from Stalin’s theory of socialism in one country. This same theory leads to the encouragement of parliamentary illusions and the parliamentary road outlined by Khruschev at the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party.

The Peoples’ Council against the Revision of the Security Treaty is under the organizational hegemony of the Social Democrats (Socialist Party and Sohyo) but is ideologically influenced by the Stalinists. Against this background the leadership and the rank and file of the Zengakuren are demarcating themselves from Stalinism both theoretically and organizationally and are embracing revolutionary Marxism. Because of this the Zengakuren was able to lead the struggle outside the reformist framework imposed on the movement by the Peoples’ Council. As a consequence the students’ movement assisted in the education of the working class.

Degenerated Movement

The activities of the Zengakuren during the anti-Pact struggle brought out the absence of a revolutionary leadership in the workers’ movement. Some unexpected developments took place. The leadership of Zengakuren performed the function of both a political organization and of a vanguard within the movement. Zengakuren gave a form and expression to the middle class radicalism, ultra-leftism and even Blanquist tendencies of the youth. This meant that their isolated street demonstrations were cut off from the struggles of the working class at the point of production.

Under the leadership of the People’s Council the movement against the revision of the Security Pact degenerated into a petty bourgeois, pacifist and constitutional movement. ‘Progressive’ intellectuals and middle class men of learning had moved over to support of the anti-Pact movement. Their actions were motivated by the decision of the Government and of the Liberal-Democratic Party to unilaterally ram ratification of the new Treaty through the Lower House. The Government’s action opened the way for them to intensify anti-Kishi sentiment in the country. From then on the mass movement rapidly expanded. But it was precisely at that stage that the people of Japan were defeated. Following the defeat of May 19, the anti-Pact movement passed its climax. It became essentially a middle class-led movement in defence of parliamentary democracy. The ‘progressives’, because of their Stalinist training failed to understand that the ‘crisis of parliamentarianism’ is nothing but the crisis of bourgeois dictatorship. As Marx said, parliamentarianism is the ‘illusory community’ realising the latter. All the ‘progressive’ intellectuals, Stalinist or Socialist, conveniently forget that

‘All the struggles within the State, the struggles between democracy, the aristocracy and the monarchy, the struggles about the franchise, etc, etc, are nothing but the illusory forms under which the real struggles of the different classes against one another take place’ (Marx, The German Ideology).

According to the reasoning of these people the objective is not the seizure of power by the working class but the defence of parliamentary democracy. They fail to show the masses that the only way to defend democracy is to abolish parliamentarianism and replace it with proletarian democracy as explained by Lenin. Real proletarian democracy is ignored and replaced by old, classical ‘democracy in general’ à la Khruschev. Therefore, despite the fact that it had mobilized thousands of demonstrators, the movement was hamstrung by the policies it advocated. This grouping of ‘left-wing’ organizations could never organize the proletariat into a real united fighting movement.

The slogan of ‘Unity’ was advanced by the Communist Party leaders in order to stifle all opposition and criticism both inside and outside their party. Throughout the struggle they worked to dampen down the independent demands of the people and to maintain them at a common denominator acceptable to the petty-bourgeoisie. Only the National Committee of the Revolutionary Communist League of Japan exposed this in a theoretical manner and only the activities of the Zengakuren demonstrated in a practical way the anti-Leninist politics of the popular-front type movement of the People’s Council. This resulted in a campaign of slander and vilification being directed by all the official leaderships against the revolutionary students. The Japanese Communist Party leaders were particularly prominent in this campaign. Their betrayal of the struggle of the Japanese people is very similar to the betrayals perpetrated by the French Stalinists in the movement against de Gaulle.

All of the anti-Kishi elements throughout Japan were mobilized by the anti-Pact movement. The petty-bourgeois, pacifist and parliamentarian wing, which was under the influence of neo-Stalinism and of the cult of ‘democracy’, decided it was necessary to hold new elections in order to normalize the situation. On the other hand the Japanese Communist Party because of its allegiance to Moscow and Peking placed the main emphasis on securing support for a policy of ‘neutralism’, ‘peace’ and ‘nationalism’. Here they were able to take advantage of the desire of the average Japanese worker to avoid a position whereby Japan became permanently isolated and estranged from China, whatever the political nature of the Chinese government. The Stalinists treated the campaign against the Treaty and against the Eisenhower visit as part of the over-all struggle against American Imperialism. The assault on Hagerty’s motor car on June 10 was a diversion by the Stalinists of the anti-Kishi struggle. Their aim was to win the Japanese state for the anti-American imperialist struggle orientated around the demand for Japanese independence. The objective of the Stalinist strategy is the democratic revolution not the proletarian revolution as a part of world revolution.

This is all part and parcel of Mao-Tse-Tung’s Course which he developed during the Sino-Japanese War, a policy which also found support in the anti-working class declaration that Japan risks a terrible fate should she continue to provide bases for American forces. Of course the Stalinists would protest against the Security Treaty and warn the Japanese government against permitting American air bases on its territory. This military blackmail is the logical outcome of the ‘peaceful co-existence’ strategy of the Stalinist bureaucracy and has nothing in common with proletarian internationalism.

The leadership of the Zengakuren and a section of the Revolutionary Communist League criticized both theoretically and practically this nationalist policy of the Japanese Communist Party. In practice the attempts of the Stalinists to organize a nationalistic movement failed. The above developments took place because of the absence of a real revolutionary vanguard.

Zengakuren and Trotskyism

The main group of the Zengakuren leadership now adheres to revolutionary marxism and has freed itself from the influence of the neo-Stalinists. The right-wing of the Zengakuren movement is influenced by the Japanese Communist Party but the leadership of Zengakuren is in the hands of the revolutionary students who have broken from Stalinism. What are the reasons for this situation in the Japanese students’ movement? Following the denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress and the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution, an anti-Stalinist movement grew up inside the Japanese Communist Party. At first the oppositionists led by a few Trotskyists and other anti-Stalinist marxists, attempted to organize an ideological struggle inside the Communist Party. The magazines IVth International and Tankya (Research) were used to combat Stalinist ideology. As a result the students’ movement was strongly influenced by the theoretical ideas put forward by the Japanese Revolutionary Communist League. This led to the establishment of the Japanese Socialist Students’ League, an organization which was opposed to the official Communist Party line but still left-Stalinist in its outlook. This group left the Japanese Students’ League against War on May 25, 1958. At the same time an internal dispute broke out inside the Revolutionary Communist League concerning the strategy of the French section of the IVth International in the anti-de Gaulle campaign. The IVth International maintained a traditionalist position of unconditional defence of the Workers’ State whilst calling for the political revolution against the bureaucracy. Our own group inside the Revolutionary Communist League counterposed to the slogan of the defence of the USSR, the need to oppose both imperialism and Stalinism. The ones who supported the idea of defending the Soviet Union were defeated in this theoretical discussion and consequently split from the League.

On December 10, 1958, the leadership of Zengakuren leaning towards Trotskyism formed a new political organization entitled the Communist League which was independent of the Revolutionary Communist League. The fundamental standpoint of the Communist League was that of the Tankya grouping in the Revolutionary Communist League. A further split then took place in the Revolutionary Communist League: the so-called one-hundred-per-cent Trotskyist left This grouping also stood for the unconditional defence of the USSR, a slogan which is inseparably bound both with the theory of the present character of the USSR and the strategy of the world revolution. From August 1959 the League was divided in two – the Japanese Revolutionary Communist League (National Committee) and the Japanese Revolutionary Communist League (West Group).

The anti-Stalinist front in Japan is now divided as follows:

  1. Japanese Committee of the IVth International which was the first group to break from the League. This tendency combines both sectarianism and opportunism and supports the tactic of complete entry into the Socialist Party. These ‘social-democratized Trotskyists’ are supporters of M. Pablo who is the General Secretary of the IVth International.
  2. The Japanese Revolutionary Communist League (West Group). This group of one-hundred-per-cent Trotskyists is a more or less economist and pragmatist group and supports the Trotskyists grouped around James Cannon.
  3. Japanese Revolutionary Communist League (National Committee). This group bases itself upon the slogan of ‘anti-imperialism; anti-Stalinism’ and aims at the re-unification of the IVth International whilst not neglecting the possibility of establishing a new anti-Stalinist revolutionary marxist international. The National Committee group works to build a fighting revolutionary workers organization in Japan. Its organizational tactics are based on the philosophy of anti-Stalinism and on an understanding of dialectical materialism. This group has paid careful attention to the real traditions and theory of the young Marx and has contributed to the development of Japanese materialism since the Second World War.
  4. The Communist League. This is a students’ organization and comprises a large part of the Zengakuren leadership. They have discarded to a considerable extent their previous left-Stalinist tactics. Despite their ‘anti-imperialist, anti-Stalinist’ slogans, they are primitivists, sometimes tending to Blanquism and advocates of a new International. The Zengakuren itself is the students’ mass organization and is considerably influenced by the forementioned revolutionary groups.

If the Revolutionary Communist League succeeds in building a mass organization with strong roots amongst both students and workers and free from the reformist ideologies of Stalinism and Social Democracy the effects will be beneficial not only for the Japanese workers but also for the international proletariat.

The Struggle for the Left-Wing in the Workers’ Front

The degeneration of the official leadership of Stalinism and Social Democracy is a decisive historical fact. During the struggle against the Japanese-US Security Pact the anti-Stalinist marxists have grown but are still not strong. These young organizations armed with revolutionary marxism have the possibility of becoming the new Communist Party. Their main task is to construct a strong revolutionary marxist group in the Workers’ Front. The experiences that thousands of workers gained in the anti-pact movement and the dissipation of their energies into the channels of petty-bourgeois pacifism (because of the role played by Stalinists and Social Democrats alike) must be analysed. In the Communist Party, in the Socialist Party and in Sohyo the revolutionary Communists must struggle against Stalinist and Social Democratic ideas. The revolutionary Communists must work to raise the political consciousness of the working class and to guide their revolutionary struggles against the fake leaderships of these organizations.

Social Democratic economism, parliamentarianism, pacifism, nationalism and the theory of peaceful co-existence must be opposed. Only by this consistent activity in the workers’ front will it be possible to create the revolutionary organization, build the new Communist Party, and go forward to the successful proletarian revolution.

In the fight to build a real vanguard capable of mobilizing and leading the working peoples, the Revolutionary Communists must separate themselves from all anti-proletarian ideologies such as Stalinism (including both its Khruschev and Mao-Tse-Tung varieties) and Social Democracy. The struggle for the new proletarian party can only be successful provided the reasons are understood that led to the defeat of the mass movement against the Security Treaty. The self-emancipation of the Japanese people can only begin from that point. In contradistinction to the ‘dogmatic, degenerated Trotskyists’ in the leadership of the IVth International, the Revolutionary Communists who are the real inheritors of the traditions of Leninism and of Trotskyism are the only ones who can provide a theoretical and practical guidance to the working class movement.

The Revolutionary Communists have been able to make progress with their ideas amongst the intellectuals who were formerly under the decisive influence of the Stalinists. They were given this opportunity because of the official leaders’ opposition to the violent struggles conducted by Zengakuren. A few of the pro-Stalinist ‘progressive’ intellectuals as a result of these experiences have become aware of the real role of Stalinism. To increase this disaffection amongst Stalinist intellectuals, the revolutionary anti-Stalinists set up. in June 1960, the Anti-Stalinist Federation. The Federation is a united front of the revolutionary left and includes Leninists, Trotskyists, Anarchists and some members of the Revolutionary Communist League (National Committee) and of the Communist League. The aim of this organization is to develop revolutionary theory. Together with the Revolutionary Communist League (National Committee) and the Communist League this organization will play an important role in the revolutionary movement in Japan. ‘Anti-imperialism; anti-Stalinism’ this is the only way for the emancipation of the working class all over the world. Workers of all countries, unite!

(June 15, 1960)

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