Taketo Yamabe

REPORT FROM TOKYO: Will Nosaka Be Rehabilitated?

Japanese CP in Quandary as Cominform Blast
Seeks to Impose Suicidal Line-Toeing Course


Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 8, 20 February 1950, p. 4.


TOKYO – The first issue of the official Cominform organ, For a Lasting Peace, for a People’s Democracy, for the year 1950 published an article entitled The Situation in the Japanese Communist Party. In this article the writer, who signs himself “The Observer,” took violent issue with the theories of Sanzo Nosaka, Japanese CP leader.

The CP, stunned by this action, was plunged into very serious confusion. At first it branded as “enemy propaganda” the January 6 United Press cable from Bucharest which reported the fact; it went so far as to assert that to believe such a story would be tantamount to believing that Stalin had died twenty times over, or that Mao Tse-tung had suffered ten defeats.

However, a cable from Moscow on the following day reported that Pravda had run the same article and endorsed the Cominform’s attacks. The CP was more confused than ever.

In addition, the same day’s press carried some remarks by Isao Nakanishi, CP member of the House of Councilors, in which he supported the Cominform position and attacked the bureaucratism of the CP’s leadership. All the papers carried this matter for several days, discussing it with enthusiasm in editorials and feature articles. The Information Section of the Russian embassy also printed and distributed the contents of the Pravda article.

In the light of their scoffing at the original report, the Stalinists’ faces were red. Here is the text of their effort to extricate themselves on this point: “As should be plain to anyone who reads with an open mind the joint statement published on January 8 ... we did not deny that the Cominform organ carried an article on the situation in Japan. We merely made our position clear on the distortion of its contents by the foreign cablegram and on the provocative fashion in which the subject was treated.”

The CP bureaucracy, fearing an intra-party rift, first expelled Nakanishi on the 10th for breach of discipline, and then went further and expelled his entire unit, eighteen persons in all. The Central Committee was scheduled to meet a week later, and since it was obvious that it would never do to leave the problem hanging in mid-air in that fashion, the Politburo published a rather long declaration, entitled Our Attitude, on the 12th. The January 13 issue of Akahata (Red Flag), in which this declaration appeared, published the full text of the Cominform attack on Nosaka for the first time.

This declaration was the first policy statement of the Japanese CP on this question, professing to bow to the international authority of the Cominform on the one hand, while strongly apologizing for and supporting Nosaka on the other. Finally, a Peking cable dated the 17th stated that the Peking organ of the Chinese Communist Party, the Jen Min Jih Pao (People’s Daily), contained in one of its editorials a violent criticism of the inconclusive character of the JCP’s declaration.

This constituted an almost fatal blow to the CP bureaucracy, which convened the Enlarged Central Committee two days later. The 18th plenum of the Enlarged Central Committee, attended by two hundred members from all over the country, was held from the 18th to the 21st. Needless to say, the “discussions” were conducted in an atmosphere of studied secrecy, to which no news reporters, Japanese or foreign, were admitted, and its end product was a declaration of self-criticism on Nosaka’s part and a simple resolution pledging loyalty to the international proletariat.

Effect on Cold War

This affair constituted a crisis of the greatest magnitude for the CP, but its implications for the USSR’s Far Eastern policy and the American occupation policy are also tremendous. Let me point out a few examples of what I mean.

There have been two elements in the CP’s tactics and strategy from the outset. One is the vehemently anti-American, violent-revolution position of Secretary General Tokuda, whose motto is “national independence.” The other is the moderate, peaceful-revolution position of Nosaka, who invented the slogan “the beloved Communist Party” immediately upon his return to Japan. These two represent the aspirations of two layers of the population that support the CP, each of which has attractive power for its own special layer.

The first layer consists of young workers in their twenties and thirties, many of whom were recruited into Tojo’s Kamikaze Corps during the war, and whose mentality is still one of militant nationalism, nothing but the “Kamikaze spirit” with a thin coat of revolutionary veneer. The second consists of petty-bourgeois elements such as the inflation-ridden middle classes and intelligentsia.

The Cominform attacked the Nosaka position in the following language:

“Nosaka says that Japan has all of the conditions necessary for a peaceful transition to socialism even under military occupation ... and that [the CP] is capable of taking power by democratic means via parliamentary institutions ... That this Nosaka theory has absolutely nothing in common with Marx-Leninism is obvious. In essence, his theory is anti-democratic and anti-socialist.”

Lost Mass Following

The Cominform, demanding of the CP that it reject Nosaka’s theories, points out that “the Japanese economy is completely in the hands of American monopoly capital and is aiding and abetting the aggressive schemes of American imperialism,” and demands further that Japan “sever its ties with imperialism and proceed along the road to democracy and socialism.”

In the first place, the mere fact that it was attacked by the Cominform was in itself a great shock to the Japanese CP. It is not surprising that they were dumbfounded by it. International solidarity, the authority of the Kremlin, the prestige of the Russian and Chinese Communist Parties – these have been assets to the Japanese CP’s propaganda. Fof the JCP, basing itself as it does upon an ihternational authority, there could be no greater loss of face than to be criticized by that very authority.

In the second place, whatever popular support the CP has in Japan is due to the Nosaka line. The last two years of adherence to Tokuda’s tactics of violence have cost the CP most of its mass following. The CP leadership in the National Congress of Industrial Organizations (Sambetsu) shrank from one-half to one-third in the space of a year and alienated the working masses. The CP now, thanks to Nosaka, has managed to hold on to a tiny portion of the intelligentsia. “CP minus Nosaka equals zero” is no exaggeration.

For Home Consumption

With Nosaka under heavy attack, the CP is in a quandary. That is: for the CP, relying as it does on an international authority, to oppose that very authority means to cut the ground out from under its own feet, to throw away its own authority, and is therefore impossible.

The January 12 declaration of the Politburo gives accurate expression to the CP’s distress. The first half of that declaration pays homage to the international authority and recognizes the errors in Nosaka’s theories. However, this difficulty is easily overcome in practice, for, the document goes on to state in no uncertain terms, “Our party has now corrected the faults [contained in these theories] and is developing along correct lines.”

The second half of the document lashes back at the Cominform in rather harsh terms, stating that it was “extremely regrettable” that the article had criticized the Japanese party and its leaders without taking sufficient account of the Japanese situation, and concluding, “Comrade Nosaka, as the most courageous of popular patriotic figures, has won the confidence of the masses.”

Most of the foreign press regards this declaration as an attack by the Japanese CP on the Cominform and a rejection of its criticisms, and concludes from this a possibility of the Titoization of the Japanese Communist Party movement. But this is a mistake. This declaration was made to prevent disturbances within party ranks, and was meant primarily for home consumption. For the CP, relying for its continued existence on the Nosaka position and on Nosaka’s personal popularity, it was simply impossible to acquiesce fully in the Cominform’s attack. Something had to be done to keep Nosaka alive politically.

Furthermore, as a party which constantly asserts its freedom from the domination of a foreign power, the JCP was obliged to make some show of backbone. The language of the declaration, which at first glance seems so bold, is based upon these reasons and is by no means evidence of resistance to the international authority.

Chinese CP Lines Up

The CP quelled any disturbance within its own ranks by means of this declaration, and took up its reply to the Cominform separately. The meeting of the Enlarged Central Committee which began on the 18th was the object of concentrated attention in and out of the party, since it was felt that here the party’s official stand would be formulated.

But just before that the Jen Min Jih Pao, Peking organ of the Chinese Communist Party, had attacked the JCP’s declaration and thrown the party leadership into even further consternation. The Jih Pao, giving full support to the Cominform position, stated flatly that “the views and attitude of the Political Bureau of the Japanese Communist Party [as expressed in the declaration] are obviously incorrect and inexpedient,” adding, “We hope that at the coming meeting of the Enlarged Central Committee this attitude will be changed and the appropriate steps taken to correct Nosaka’s errors.”

For the JCP, the Chinese CP’s hope was clearly a command. The Chinese Party, like the Cominform, was “hoping” that “the Japanese people wage a determined revolutionary struggle against the American imperialists and Japanese reactionary forces.” We here in Japan had the impression that the JCP’s attitude had been determined for it by external forces even before the Central Committee met.

On January 20, when the meeting of the Enlarged Central Committee had been adjourned, a Resolution on the Cominform’s Criticisms was disclosed to the multitude of Japanese and foreign journalists who had been besieging CP headquarters.

The resolution, a simple statement scarcely one-tenth the size of the original declaration, was an introduction to Nosaka’s complete capitulation – self-criticism,” in CP parlance – in the following terms: “Those theories of mine which were pointed up by the Cominform were in basic error.” The party also recognized these errors as such, concluding, “In the future we shall do our utmost to avoid the repetition of such errors and to be worthy of the expectations of the international proletariat.”

Saving Face

The JCP capitulated unreservedly to the international authority. However, it was not possible to punish Nosaka, as was expected in certain quarters. Ito of the Politburo, at the time of the resolution, reiterated the party’s attitude “on Comrade Nosaka.” Said Ito:

“Comrade Nosaka, in full accord with the spirit of the Enlarged Central Committee’s resolution, is fighting for the independence, freedom, and peace of Japan. We here fully appreciate Comrade Nosaka’s determination and sincerity, and, mindful of the respect due to him for his more than twenty years of vigorous activity, we have profound hope and faith in the leading role to be played by Comrade Nosaka in the active struggles of the future.”

At the present time, to lose Nosaka would be tantamount to losing the CP. The anxiety of the CP’s leadership is clearly seen in its going out of its way to make such a declaration in order to preserve Nosaka’s political existence. But to the Japanese, to whom “face” is so important and whose thinking has been conditioned by the medieval warrior-code, Nosaka has been clearly snubbed, and has become a “living corpse.”

The attitude taken by the JCP in this affair was governed throughout by considerations of how to prevent disturbances within the ranks and maintain whatever strength the party still has. Nakanishi’s expulsion was based on the same considerations.

It was Nakanishi’s theories, in fact, which were in accord with the Cominform’s demands. Last September Nakanishi proposed a document in which he took a position even more extreme than Tokuda’s. When he was expelled, he said, “If we had gone out on a general strike in last year’s labor fight, we could have broken the back of reaction.”

Is It Titoism?

However, since every such attempt on the CP’s part had ended in failure, and since it was felt that loss of working-class support had been due to that very fact, Nakanishi’s proposals were not adopted; on the contrary, he was ordered to moderate his views. But since Nakanishi is an intellectual who returned from Shanghai only since the war and has little support within the party, there could be no possibility of a split ensuing on his expulsion.

There was a considerable number of persons who, when they saw the CP’s original declaration, read into it the beginnings of Titoism. But this was the interpretation only of those who failed to understand the true significance of the declaration; of Titoism there is not the slightest possibility.

In the first place, the Communist Party of Japan, unlike that of Yugoslavia or China, has not enough mass strength to defy the Kremlin. It rather bases its continued anti-American existence solely on the Kremlin’s prestige.

In the second place, Titoism is a phenomenon possible only where a Communist Party has taken power. Until it takes power, the Kremlin’s prestige is a mighty prop for any Communist Party, apart from which the party cannot exist. For the JCP, the day of its desertion from Moscow is the day of its own doom. How much more must this be true, then, under American occupation, where “patriotism” and “nationalism” are synonyms for anti-American and pro-Sovietism!

If by some chance the Chinese Communist Party should become Titoized, the possibility that the Japanese Communist Party would follow suit is very great; at such a time a split within the ranks or the Titoization of the JCP would become a genuine problem. It is for this reason that some persons interpret the Cominform’s warning to the JCP as an indirect admonition against the possible Titoization of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese party, in its “hopes” for the JCP, has given a clear reply to that question. Regardless of what it does or does not want, the Titoization of China is an important problem, the solution do which rests with the future.

The attention of the Kremlin has clearly shifted to Asia. Its principal rival, in Asia no less than in Europe, is America. Japan is one of the principal battlegrounds on which the two powers are clashing. The Kremlin, through its attack on the Nosaka position. is demanding an intensification of the JCP’s anti-American activities.

The Tokuda approach is the one which satisfies the Kremlin’s demands, but it is at the same time the approach that has cost the CP its popular following in Japan. Tokuda leans toward the Kremlin, Nosaka toward the Japanese people. If it cuts itself off from the Kremlin, the JCP cannot exist; but, at the same time, if it abandons the Nosaka position, it cannot hold on to its popular following in Japan. Even Tokuda himself is fully aware of this.

The JCP is unable to resolve this dilemma. That the Kremlin is satisfied with this attitude is unthinkable, and the Japanese Communist Party must in all likelihood steel itself for another reprimand.

(Translated by Leo del Monte)