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Labor Action, 17 February 1947


Jack Brad

Japan: How MacArthur Broke Labor’s General Strike


From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 7, 17 February 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


General MacArthur has directly intervened to break the Japanese general strike. Three hours before the strike was due to begin the chief leaders of the national unions involved – the governmental employees union, communications union and railroad union – were called to American occupation headquarters. There they were treated as common criminals, screamed at and ordered about. They were held incommunicado during this time. They were not even allowed to consult together. Each leader was treated to the same procedure in isolation and not released or even permitted to speak to his colleagues until he had signed an order revoking the strike call. The doors were kept locked between rooms. General Marqual, MacArthur’s chief assistant, conducted the fascist-like proceedings. MacArthur himself was directly involved.

MacArthur and his aides have had long anti-labor experience against American veterans asking for a bonus in 1931 and in the Philippine Islands. He is now introducing these methods into the Japanese labor movement, with the full support of the U.S. government in the name of teaching democracy.

On the same day that MacArthur terrorized the union leaders into calling off the strike, his quisling premier, Yoshida, reorganized the cabinet with a further shift to the right. Negotiations with the Socialists were dropped. Finance Minister Ishibaski, who together with Yoshida is the symbol of reaction in the cabinet, was not only retained but was given in addition the post of head of Economic Stabilization, the key economic post in the country. The new cabinet has self-styled itself as a government of “defense” against labor. There can be on doubt but that these moves were carried through under MacArthur’s supervision. It is part of his attack on the labor movement from the government basis.

The Background

The Yoshida government owes its origins and existence to MacArthur. From the beginning the labor movement opposed it. As far back as May Day, 1946, the working class of Japan was demanding an end to the Liberal-Progressive coalition of Zaibatsu, bureaucrats and Imperial Court sycophants. Since then there have been hundreds of demonstrations demanding an end of the government of reaction and inaction – demonstrations ranging from a few hundred up to three and five hundred thousand and extending to all the major industrial cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama and Kyoto.

The organized working class has grown from a few hundred thousand early last year, when MacArthur perpetrated the first elections which established a reactionary majority in the parliament, to about five millions in two major federations. The workers have been forced into extra-parliamentary actions from the inception of their mass organized strength since at the very moment of acquiring this strength MacArthur has fixed about their throats the parliamentary noose of the reactionary majority.

That is why the present government has been unable to take a single serious effort for reconstruction. It has been thoroughly occupied with fighting the growing power of the working class. Several months ago this government was revealed to have only 18 per cent of popular support while the Socialists had a majority. That is why the workers have been forced to use the strike as a means of demanding the downfall of the minority Yoshida government and to demand new elections. It is MacArthur and his quislings who forced the workers into extra-parliamentary activity by making a mockery of the parliament. An end to the Yoshida government and new elections are a primary demand of the entire labor movement and of this general strike.

Labor’s Demands

The unions were demanding a 200 per cent increase in pay. They proved thoroughly even to the government labor board, that such an increase was the minimum essential for food alone. The inflation has passed bounds of control on many items. Clothing is so scarce that stripping of persons by bands of black market hoodlums has become commonplace – so much so that Tokyo police admit an inability to cope with this. A pair of second hand shoes sell for 1,500 yen at the huge black markets that operate along all the main thoroughfares. The present monthly wage for a fairly skilled worker is about 2,000 yen. The price of cigarettes has gone up 1,000 per cent. General food prices about 750 per cent. Wages have gone up about 130 per cent. These figures symbolize the misery which forces the Japanese workers to strike.

The labor movement of Japan is now faced with the obstacle of MacArthur and the American occupation. In spite of the petty-fogging of the Social Democratic leadership and the confusions sown by the Stalinist Communist Party, the workers must begin a struggle against the occupation. This is the sine qua non without which all other steps fall short of success.

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