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Japanese Communist Party [JCP] / Nihon Kyosanto

The Japanese Communist Party still exists in name, but ideology for all intents and purposes has disappeared from the mainstream Japanese political landscape. By the mid-1960s the critical issue was whether the party can achieve a united front with the more powerful forces of the Japanese Socialist left and thus exert pressures to shape future political issues and tactics. The Japanese Communist Party [JCP] is the largest Communist Party in the industrialized world, with over 400,000 members organized into 24,000 local branch organizations in this country of 127 million people. There are JCP branches in 98 percent of Japan's cities, towns and municipalities. The Japanese Communist Party was first organized in 1922, in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution,it is the only party that opposed Japanese military aggression during the rule of the Japanese Emperor up through the end of World War II.

The JCP, known for its incorruptible elected officials and its refusal to take government funding, remained part of the international, Moscow-controlled communist movement until the early 1960s. Although the party won a large percentage of the popular vote in Diet elections in 1949, it became extremely unpopular after 1950, when Moscow ordered it to cease being a "lovable party" and to engage in armed struggle. It was forced to go underground, and in the election it lost all its seats in the Diet. A self-reliant party line, stressing independence from both Moscow and Beijing, evolved during the 1960s.

Japan after surrender posed both opportunities and problems t o the JCP. On one hand it enjoyed -- along with other parties -- a freedom from police harassment unheard of before the war. In addition, the Occupation gave birth to a burgeoning labor movement in which Communist slogans could be expected to have considerable appeal. On the other hand, grass-roots anti-Communism in Japan had been nourished by war-time propaganda, by JCP demands for the deposition of the Emperor, and by Russia's eleventh-hour entry on the Allied side in the war. Any doubt as to where the p arty's loyalty lay was quickly dispelled when the JCP defended Russia's territorial acguisitions from Japan.

In the late 1940s the party found itself in competition with the Occupation -- whose land reform program undercut JCP prospects in the countryside -- and the rapidly-growing Socialist party, which was as Marxist as the JCP without any of the latter's foreign associations, Nonetheless the party enjoyed some success in organizing labor union affiliates and in infiltrating those of the Socialists. In the Lower Houee elections of 1949, the party gained 10 percent of the popular vote.

Although the JCP's fortunes began to wane in the last half of 1949, the most damaging blow came from abroad. In January 1950, the Cominform journal rebuked the JCP for its "gradualist" policies, which were then out of line with the revolutionary tactics of other Asian Communist parties. In May 1960, just before the Korean war began, the party decided that the "main blow" must be directed at the Occupation, The Cominform criticism, reflected in this decision, launched the JCP on two disastrous years of hit-and-run terrorism which cost the party almost all of its popular support, without achieving the presumed goal of disrupting the UN war effort in Korea. Instances of Communist violence prompted General MacArthur to purge the party leadership from public office in June 1950, and from that time until mid-1955 the party in effect was underground.

In 1960, it interrupted a long series of domestic failures by participating in a broad leftist front which achieved the overthrow of the Kishi government and the cancellation of President Eisenhower's visit to Japan, Subsequently, it took advantage of the Sino-Soviet dispute to assert a degree of independence of Moscow, while reasserting its own brand of militant anti-Americanism. Under pressure from middle-level, China-trained cadres the party has took an increasingly pro-Peiping stance in the Sino-Soviet dispute. In keeping with the policy decided at the Eighth Party Congress in July 1961 and restated at the Ninth Congress in November 1964 -- that it should become a mass party rather than an exclusive revolutionary party -- the JCP was pursuing amoderate line with little public mention of armed revolution or violence. In this regard, it was following a policy that was much more in keeping with the Soviet line on so-called "peaceful transition" to power than the Chinese line on armed struggle and domestic violence.

Zenaakiaren (All-Japan Student Government Union) was formed under the order of General McArthur, SCAP, in September, 1948. Though initially intended to function as a medium to promote the democratization of education, it became one of the most militant anti-American organizations in Japan in the 1960s. Zengakuren had an illustrious history of public dissent and revolt. During the first five years of Zengakuren history, the Japan Communist Party (JCP) managed to exercise control over Zengakuren activities. When the Party. shifted its strategy to carrying out proletarian revolution though lawful means in the early 1950's, dissension developed among Zengakuren members. They openly criticized the JCP-endorsed Cominform in January 1950. The 1952 May Day incident, which took place at the Imperial Plaza in Tokyo, was the first major and violent instance of Zengakuran revolt, though even prior to this date the group had been quite active. Zenga.kuren members armed themselves with Molotov coctails, burned public and private vehicles owned by US Security personnel, and fought a vicious battle with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. The issue over which they revolted was that of militarism and imperialism. Zengakuren identified itself as a "detached" force of the JCP at this time.

The JCP openly denounced Zengakuren in July, 1955, however. The Stalin criticism at the twentieth assembly of the U.S.S.R. Communist Party in February 1956, the Hungarian incident during October of the same year, the Sino-Si viet rift beginning from 1958, and factional dispute within international Communism thereafter all had their effects on Zengakuren. The eleventh assembly of the organization was held at JCP headquarters in Yoyogi, Tokyo, on June 1, 1958. There, militant Zengakuren students demanded the resignation of the JCP central committee and assulted its members. This date marked the split between the Yoyogi Zengakuren and the anti-Yoyogi Zengakuren, which were pro- and anti-JCP, respectively. The Zengakuren schism centered around the issue of the means by which proletarian revolution is to be carried out. The anti-Yoyogi faction advocated violence; the Yoyogi faction emphasized lawful means.

Of the dozen or so Communist parties which backed or leaned toward the Chinese party in the Sino-Soviet dispute, the Japanese Communist party was of special interest. It was the only such party operating in a major developed country; the positions it took were unusually costly to it in its national environment; and, despite its leanings, it thought of itself as a potential mediator in the Sino-Soviet dispute. By by 1966, in less than two years, the Japanese Communist Party had moved from a position of strong support of the Chinese in the Sino-Soviet dispute to a new assertion of its independence from both the Chinese and the Soviets as the result of a bitter quarrel with the Chinese which reached the point where there was apparently no longer any direct conununication between the two parties.

In the political field, despite determined efforts of antique-Marxist opposition to build image of US as hateful capitalist-imperialist monster, during the 1960s popular respect for US political institutions, infatuation with many aspects of American mass culture, genuine respect for American intellectual attainments, and visible attractions of the American way of life, kept America a strongly positive symbol. Renovationist parties, most intellectuals, and many labor leaders were hostile to main lines of U.S. foreign policy, but association with United States, manifestations of United States regard for Japan and its leaders, were valued assets usable by Japanese conservative politicians, counterbalanced only in part by requirement that politicans periodically demonstrate the right degree of "independence," and avoid image of slavishness or servility.

The party's chairman, Miyamoto Kenji, a tough veteran of prewar struggles and wartime prisons, promoted the "parliamentary road" of nonviolent, electoral politics. Thereafter, the fortunes of the Japan Communist Party gradually revived. Representation in the lower house reached a high point of thirtynine in the 1979 election but declined to between twenty-six and twenty-nine seats in the 1980s and to fifteen in the July 1993 election. The party's program promoted unarmed neutrality, the severing of security ties with the United States, defense of the postwar constitution, and socialism. It also voiced concern for welfare and quality of life issues.

In the 1990s, both organizationally and financially, the party was stronger than its opposition rivals and even the LDP. Revenues from its publishing enterprises, especially the popular newspaper Akahata (Red Flag), which had the eighth largest circulation in the country, provided adequate support for its activities. As a result, the Japan Communist Party was the party least mired in money politics. This fact earned it the reluctant respect of voters. But suspicions about its ultimate intentions remain strong. It is excluded from opposition party negotiations on coalitions.

Japanese Communist Party Chairperson Kazuo Shii said 10 July 2016 fielding unified opposition candidates for all 32 single-seat electoral districts was successful. He saw the new initiative of election cooperation by 4 opposition parties as a great success, and that he hoped to develop it further. Shii said he wants to work to expand this kind of campaign cooperation, drawing on lessons from this election, to get even better results in the next Lower House election.

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Page last modified: 10-07-2016 19:40:35 ZULU