Japanese communism growing


This Japanese video is the trailer of the film Kanikosen.

By John Chan:

Signs of political radicalisation in Japan, despite its confused direction

24 November 2008

There are signs of a growing radicalisation among young people in Japan provoked by their own worsening prospects and the deepening gulf between rich and poor, amid the worst global economic crisis since the 1930s.

The resurgence of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and the growing interest in the “proletarian” novel Kanikosen (or Crab-Canning Ship) are two indications of a deeply felt, if still confused, hostility to capitalism and the current state of Japanese society.

The British-based Telegraph last month pointed to a significant rise in the JCP’s membership from a low point of just 375,000 in 2000 to 415,000. Since September 2007, the party has been swelling at a rate of 1,000 new members a month, particularly youth in their 20s and 30s.

Although the JCP has just nine seats in the 480-seat House of Representatives and seven in the 242-seat upper house, it is the largest opposition party at the local level with 3,089 members in various local governments. It is also the second largest party in terms of fundraising—bringing in 57.7 billion yen in 2007 behind 68.2 billion yen by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

The JCP attributed its increased membership to a renewed interest among young people in the novel Kanikosen, first published in 1929, about the brutal exploitation of workers on a crab processing ship. The turning point of the story comes when some crew members are lost at sea and rescued by a Soviet vessel. They meet a Chinese communist who teaches them to stand up for the proletariat in Japan. Initially suspicious of “communism”, the workers return to their ship, form a union and revolt against their bosses.

The novel highlights the class tensions in Imperial Japan, when the militarist regime stamped out any industrial action or protests. In the story, the strike on board the ship is brutally put down. The book was banned in the 1930s and 1940s as part of the ruthless suppression of the socialist movement. The author Takiji Kobayashi joined the Communist Party in 1931, which was then illegal, and was tortured to death by Japanese police two years later at the age of just 29.

The novel was published after the end of World War II, but its annual sales never exceeded 5,000. So far this year, more than half a million have been sold. A manga comic version has sold another 200,000 copies. Kyudo Takahashi, a 31-year-old writer, told the Telegraph that young people see their social conditions mirrored in the novel. “They cannot become happy and they cannot find the solution to their poverty, however hard they work. Young people who are forced to work for very low wages today may have a feeling that they are in a similar position to the crew of Kanikosen,” he said.

Media commentators, academics and officials have expressed some nervousness at the growing interest in the novel and its obvious relation to the plight of many young people. An editorial by the Asahi Shimbun in July commented: “Non-regular workers who can’t afford to rent an apartment now sleep nights in Internet cafes. The ranks of ‘freeters’—temporary workers forced to move from job to job—in their 30s and 40s are growing… Many Japanese workers today don’t feel their jobs are rewarding and are unhappy about their low income and insecure employment status.”

Japan was once known for its system of life-long employment which provided secure jobs to a large portion of the workforce. Over the past two decades, however, casual and part-time work has mushroomed.

See also here. And here. And here.

There is also a Kanikosen film: here.

5 thoughts on “Japanese communism growing

  1. Sacked Japan air force head defends WWII actions

    Tuesday 02nd December, 05:15 AM JST

    TOKYO —

    A Japanese general who was fired as head of the air force for suggesting Japan deserves credit, not blame, for its World War II actions stood by his claim Monday.

    Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Toshio Tamogami was dismissed a month ago for writing an essay that said Asia benefited from imperial Japan’s activities before and during the war.

    Tamogami defended that position Monday, saying Japan has been unjustly subjected to what he called “the history of the victor.”

    He said he decided to write the essay because he believes Japan has been wrongly blamed for being an aggressor in World War II, and that it cannot have a healthy relationship with its neighbors or assume a more active role on the global stage until that view of history is corrected.

    “I have to say that Japan was not alone in being an aggressor,” he told a news conference. “If you look at what the major world powers were doing at the time, I think Japan was gentler.”

    In dismissing Tamogami on Oct 31, Japan’s defense minister said the general’s views were incompatible with Japan’s official policies.

    The publication of the essay, titled “Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?” generated front-page headlines and debate in parliament over whether military leaders are out of step with Japan’s postwar pacifist constitution.

    Japan is often criticized by China and South Korea for not being contrite about its past and for trying to whitewash its often brutal militarist march into Asia.

    But Tamogami said Japan must stand up to such criticism and should be proud of its history. In particular, he said Japan deserves praise for building universities in Taiwan and Korea during the colonial period and for allowing colonial subjects to study at its military academies.

    Japan renounced its right to wage war in its 1947 U.S.-drafted constitution, and Tokyo has repeatedly expressed remorse to its neighbors for its colonial rule and wartime aggression. But Japan has struggled to convince Asian critics of its sincerity because of a strong nationalist presence in its government.

    Last year, a group of nationalist lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party angered China by saying the generally accepted death toll in the “Rape of Nanking” massacre was grossly inflated.

    Copyright 2008/9 Associated Press.

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