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International Socialist Review, Fall 1964


Eiichi Yamanishi

Peking Curbs Japan Labor

Letter from Japan


From International Socialist Review, Vol.25 No.4, Fall 1964, p.121.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Eiichi Yamanishi is well know in Japan for his excellent translations of the works of Leon Trotsky. He has just completed translating the biography of Trotsky by Isaac Deutscher. The first two volumes of the trilogy have appeared; the third is at the printers.

* * *

TOKYO – Two events have had big consequences here. The first was the betrayal by the Communist party of Japan [CPJ] of the general strike of April 17 that was planned by Sohyo [General Council of Japanese Trade Unions] and backed by the Japanese Socialist party [JSP]. The main action was to have been a half-day general strike of the National Railway workers – and it would have been, as everyone agreed, the biggest strike since the end of the war. In fact, it would have been one of the major struggles among the advanced countries since 1945.

Just one week before the deadline as the preparations were mounting, the CPJ announced that it was opposed to the strike; and it started a furious campaign to stop the action, declaring that the proposed strike would drive a wedge between the labor movement and the broad layers of the population. Instead of a struggle of the workers alone, they advocated a people’s movement against a treaty between Japan and Korea and for national independence. They ordered union members under their influence to immediately withdraw from strike preparations and do their best to disrupt it.

This gave a welcome excuse to the leaders of Sohyo to submit the issues finally to the Arbitration Committee and thus avoid an historic struggle.

The CPJ’s sudden switch just before the big showdown undoubtedly reflects a line determined in Peking which is now vying with Moscow for the favor of the Japanese capitalists, seeking to interest them in the Chinese Market. Peking must have told the leaders of the Communist party of Japan not to irritate the Japanese rulers and capitalists at this moment when so much seems to be at stake. They showed that they will not hesitate to inflict deadly blows to the labor struggles in other countries if it appears to favor their own national interests. The workers of the world should note this.

The leaders of the SP and Sohyo are jubilant over having found a most unexpected excuse for denouncing and expelling Communist activists and members of unions and thus being able to firm up their control. In fighting this anti-communist campaign, it is necessary to patiently explain to Communist activists the international history of Stalinist betrayals of the world labor movement. This has to be done with facts – not abstract theory, but concrete facts.

* * *

The CPJ is now facing a grave crisis due to the Sino-Soviet dispute. Yoshio Shiga, one of the five CP members of parliament, in violation of a party decision, voted for the treaty for partial cessation of nuclear tests. With Nosaka and the late Tokuda, Shiga was part of the former triumvirate that headed the party. He is one of the oldest and most influential leaders of the CP and now heads the pro-Khrushchev minority faction.

In the Literary Association of New Japan, an organization of progressive writers and critics, a revolt has broken out. Discontent has been brewing for some years against Stalinist interference in the Association’s literary activities. On March 27-29 it held its eleventh national conference in Tokyo with more than three hundred participants. The CP tried to dominate the conference, summoning supporters from all over the country. But it ended in complete rout for the party. The latest issue of the Association’s magazine is filled with articles, reports and letters expressing disgust and resentment over the tactics of the small Stalinist minority at the conference.

Mitsuharu Inoue, a young vigorous novelist, said at the conference,

“There is a tendency among us, especially among revolutionary writers of Japan, to avoid criticizing Stalin ... but without this, no new theory of art can be produced.”

But no one, including Inoue, referred to Trotsky. Still, this belated revolt is symptomatic.

Fascist Threat

The other recent event of importance here is the decision of Sokagakkai to put up thirty candidates for the next parliamentary election. This is a fanatic, ultra-chauvinistic sect that has no parliamentary illusions. Sokagakkai has grown with phenomenal speed, especially after the great uproar against revising the Japanese-US Security Treaty. Its rise is one of the consequences of national frustration at losing that great struggle.

Sokagakkai boasts that more than three million families adhere to it. The youth sector, embracing hundreds of thousands of members, many of them students of big universities, are receiving vigorous military training, regimentally organized. This is by far the biggest fascist organization in the world today. It must be closely watched.

Despite the striking growth of postwar industry, the base of Japanese capitalism is quite shallow. Two or three years’ growth of investments always ends in overproduction. Many small businesses are going bankrupt while still showing profit on the books. The breathlessly rapid growth of giant industry, coupled with the way middle classes are ruined by this expansion – this is the hotbed of Sokagakkai, the mushrooming fascist movement.

This presents the Japanese vanguard with two important tasks. The first is a correct attitude towards the two workers states, China and the Soviet Union. Negotiations with these two countries should not be left unchallenged to the capitalists. The Japanese labor movement should speak up. The Japanese workers have full right to present a plan to link Japanese industry with the planned economies of the two workers states, not on a narrow capitalist base but on a wider base transcending these limits such as Trotsky so clearly presented more than thirty years ago.

If Trotsky were alive today, he would surely propose an incisive, imagination-catching economic plan of gigantic scale embracing all the workers states. He would scarcely limit himself to merely weighing the arguments of the leaders of Peking and Moscow.

The second task is to explain clearly and vividly the whole history of the German tragedy in the early 1930s. I saw every phase of the development of that tragedy under the illumination of Trotsky’s analysis.

At the same time it is necessary to explain that if even under the Hitler terror Germany could mobilize such strength as to conquer a whole continent, though only for a time, what might not have been done if that energy had been mobilized by a socialist Germany, a socialist Germany united with Soviet Russia!

But today we have even more reason to appeal to the peoples of both worlds to visualize the far greater potentialities in combination with a huge federation of workers’ countries – thirteen on the Asia-European continent alone! There can be no reason, no convincing reason, for either Peking or Moscow not to press in that direction.

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