January 4, 2011
Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo made the speech at the JCP New Year assembly on January 4, calling on all JCP members to make further efforts towards major progress in nationwide local elections.
I’d like to send my heartfelt greetings to all party members on the occasion of our New Year gathering. I’d also like to confirm our determination to achieve victory in the simultaneous local elections to be held three months from now.
Last year was the year when people’s expectation for the Democratic Party of Japan-led government turned into disillusion and then into anger. This does not mean, however, that the public wants a return to the old policies promoted by the former Liberal Democratic Party government. Japanese people are now deepening their sense of disgust toward politics and concern about society. Many of them are also concerned about the rapid deterioration of Japan’s diplomatic and economic status internationally.
Their sense of frustration is leading many to look for a new direction in politics. We have now entered the final stage of the old political framework that lasted for a half century after the end of the war, but have not been able to see the emergence of a new direction in politics. Citizens have started to seriously pursue ways to break through the impasse. Last year, we saw many signs of action that could be developed into a new direction in politics.
Under such circumstances, what kind of activities does the JCP need to engage in to achieve its advance this year? I’d like to propose the following three points as a course of action in regard to our activities.
First is to widely share our perspective of how to break away from the present stagnant conditions.
In order to do so, what we need is to reveal nationwide the root cause of the current stagnant conditions. Why is the DPJ-led government trying to provide 1.5 trillion yen in tax cuts to large corporations while cutting back on social security programs in disregard of its election promise? Why does it want to join in a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that will lead to the destruction of Japanese agriculture, forestry, fisheries, local economies, as well as our land and the environment? Why does it turn its back on Okinawans’ demands by sticking to the planned relocation of the U.S. Futenma Base to Henoko in Okinawa? These are not just examples of a temporary failure of the government due to lack of qualification of cabinet members. They are not because of the “political dependence on bureaucracy” or the “lack of political leadership”. They are because of the old political framework characterized with the abnormal state of subordination to the U.S. government as well as the arbitrary control of business circles and major corporations. It is important for us to reveal the two abnormal characteristics as the root cause of the stagnant conditions before a wide range of citizens.
I’d like to stress the importance of showing our perspective for a future Japan. The JCP made major advances in the early 1970s and again in the late 1990s. At the time, the LDP-led government was deepening its contradiction with demands of citizens, but still had the ability to maintain its governing power. Voters’ major criterion of political parties at the times was their capability to criticize the government’s adverse policies. People then recognized the JCP as being capable of confronting bad politics as an outspoken opposition party and supported us.
The current condition is different from those times. The old political framework has entered its final stage and is about to fall apart. Criticism is not enough for us to gain public support under such a situation. Voters do not support us just because they do not vote for the LDP or the DPJ. We are expected to develop our ability to publicly introduce our perspective of how to break through the stagnant conditions and what kind of society we can create in the future. In another words, people now examine us based on what we can do when we take over the government even though it might not happen anytime soon. What we need now is therefore to carry out activities to respond to such expectation of voters.
The most important lesson we learned from the House of Councilors election last year was to “show our perspective in addition to our criticism”. If we drastically change the root of old policies in diplomacy, economy, and local politics, we will be able to discover a completely different perspective for a future Japan. Let us use our wisdom and power to carry out actions to reveal this perspective. Amid the corruption of the basis of old politics, we need to develop into a party capable of responding to citizens’ demands and showing them a perspective for a new direction in politics. Let us strive to achieve this goal in the New Year!
We have a steady compass showing clearly the course for the nation to take: our new Program. I would like to call on all party members to familiarize themselves with the Program and introduce it to others in their own words. Let us carry out a major activity this year to show the party perspective in order to break away from the present condition of political stagnation!
In December last year, we launched a one-year course on the JCP Program and scientific socialism. Involving more than 20,000 members of the JCP and the Democratic Youth League of Japan at more than 5,000 internet locations nationwide, this is the largest study session we have ever conducted. We were happy to receive many positive reactions from participants, such as, “It is very impressive to be able to study with 20,000 people.” This is our major activity aimed at achieving the party’s mid- and long-term development goals, and I’m determined to exert my utmost effort as one of the lecturers. I’d like to call for your participation and cooperation to achieve a fruitful outcome with this new activity.
Our major drive to hold gatherings to talk about the party Program and discuss a future course for Japan has finally entered the phase of expansion. After the House of Councilors election, we had 4,881 such gatherings with 80,239 participants conducted by 17.5 % of all party branches. Some of the gatherings produced a very positive outcome by encouraging their participants to freely and critically talk about the JCP. In a gathering held at the Yahatanishi ward of Kitakyushu City, it was the first time for most of the participants, including neighborhood association members and company owners, to hear about the JCP’s policies. They asked many questions, such as, “The DPJ betrayed citizens once they took over the government. Will the JCP do the same?”, “What kind of diplomacy will the JCP carry out when it will have power?”, “How will it deal with capitalism, business circles, and large corporations?”, or “Why can the JCP have a consistent position while other parties change their stances all the time?” Many of the participants asked what the JCP can do in concrete terms when it gains power.
The second Central Committee Plenum gave a concrete shape to visions that the Program outlines in such areas as how to break though the economic and financial crisis, how to solve issues of U.S. bases and security, and how to create a world without nuclear weapons. We have published our opinions and proposals concerning a series of diplomatic issues involving the Senkaku Islands, the Chishima Islands, and the Korean Peninsula. We are able to make constructive proposals on any of these issues because of the fundamental soundness and power of the party Program. Let us have confidence in this and introduce the Program widely to the public!
I’d like to convey a timely report from Brazil. Vice Chair Ogata Yasuo is now in Brasilia in order to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the new Brazilian president. It was an invitation to the JCP from the Brazilian government because of the relations we have developed over the years with the Labor Party of Brazil. It is the first time for us to send a representative to a presidential inauguration ceremony with an official invitation from a foreign government. Ogata exchanged greetings with President Dilma Rousseff and offered his congratulations on her election. The new president welcomed him and expressed her appreciation for his attendance. Rousseff is well known as a political activist who was imprisoned and tortured for her beliefs.
There was something Ogata wants me to report at this assembly. He met again in Brasilia Gustavo Carvajal Moreno, representative of the Permanent Conference of Latin-American and Caribbean Political Parties, who participated with us in the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) held in Phnom Penh in December. Moreno told Ogata that the JCP’s proposal on the issue of the Korean Peninsula at the ICAPP was very significant and contributed to the success of the conference because it clearly showed how to approach such an international dispute. At the ICAPP, we strongly condemned North Korea’s military provocation and called for emergency dialogue and negotiations to be held among parties concerned. Our proposal attracted attention from and was welcomed by political parties now striving to create a community for peace in Latin America. Our Program calls for diplomatic and peaceful resolutions to be made in order to prevent international disputes from turning into war. Ogata’s report confirms that this is the true current the world is embracing. The JCP can break through the present stagnant conditions in which Japanese politics and society are mired in discord. Being confident that the JCP can present a better future to the people, we should work harder to increase our movement and hold rallies to make the vital role of our Program known to as many people as possible.
Secondly, we should increase our connection with the people and unite with all their struggles in the cause of working for a better future for all. It is notable that every struggle occurring throughout the country has a great sense of purpose and is questioning the way this county should proceed, along with making efforts to achieve each demand. Let me show you some of the urgent challenges facing us today.
The biggest problem in Japan’s economy is the prolonged decline in wages. This is a commonly accepted argument, irrespective of differences in positions.
Last November, in a forum held by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), an economist from the Fujitsu Research Institute gave a lecture entitled, “Go for a 4% hike in the next spring wage offensive.” In his lecture, the economist said, “Japan is the only country among the world’s developed nations where wages have been decreasing for more than a decade. This has resulted in unfavorable effects on corporate management as well with a downturn in domestic demand and a decrease in workers’ motivation to work hard. While saving about 200 trillion yen in cash, companies are not using this for domestic investment and appropriate distribution,” and he stressed the need to have “sincere discussions between labor and management.” The fact that a person from a major business think-tank called for a wage hike at a union meeting shows that the struggle to achieve an increase in wages has the power to reinvigorate the Japanese economy as a whole. Let us forge a national consensus on the need to increase wages and further develop our movement to achieve a wage hike in solidarity with all workers, regardless of whether they are regular or non-regular workers or government or private company workers!
It is also important to fight against unfair dismissals of non-regular workers and termination of temporary-work contracts. More than 5,000 workers have newly formed unions or joined a workers’ union to stand up to protest layoffs of contingent workers. According to the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), 227 unions are currently fighting in more than 70 lawsuits. In many of these cases, workers are demanding that the company directly hire them as regular full-time employees. Under the present Worker Dispatch Law, companies are acting irresponsibility, so their struggles in court play a pioneering role in the effort to establish decent work rules. Let us increase our efforts to support those court struggles and help work to amend the Worker Dispatch Law for the better, in corporation with workers’ unions and democratic organizations!
Japan Airlines, at the year’s end, fired 165 pilots and flight attendants. This airline company completely ignored the four requirements to go ahead with dismissals established as a judicial precedent. I strongly protest against JAL’s unfair labor practices. A joint struggle body was formed to support the JAL workers’ struggle to seek the withdrawal of the illegal dismissals, arguing that it is an attack on all workers and that it will put passengers’ lives and security at risk. On behalf of the JCP, I express my firm determination to vocally support the JAL workers’ struggle.
The DPJ-led government has abandoned its public promise to improve social security programs which the previous LDP-Komei government had weakened. The DPJ-led government has weakened them even further. It has repeatedly attacked spending for healthcare, nursing-care, pension, welfare for the disabled, and livelihood protection services in order to cut social security expenses, following the same path as the LDP when it was in power. Whether we make the government responsible for social security based on Article 25 of the Constitution or allow the government to abandon the right for its citizens to enjoy the rights they are entitled to is being called into question. It is a basic matter of the direction this country should take.
For example, premiums for the national health insurance are too high. 4,450,000 households are in arrears on payment of premiums and 1,520,000 households are without their regular insurance cards. The Democratic Medical Institutions (Min-Iren) reports that 47 people died over the last year because they did not have the insurance cards and thus could not go to see a doctor in time to prevent their deaths. The DPJ government last year issued a directive to all municipalities to stop using part of their general account budgets for national health insurance expenses and instead to cover shortfalls by increasing the insurance premiums. What is more, the government is planning to implement a prefecture-based national health insurance system in the FY 2018. This plan will inevitably increase the national health insurance premiums and is just a copy of what the former Koizumi cabinet put forward in 2003. The DPJ government has become a successor to the Koizumi’s medical structural reform policy.
As for the health insurance program for the elderly aged 75 and older, the government has decided on a new system that will increase premiums for low income earners while maintaining the program’s discriminatory structure as it is. The new system will also increase medical charges at hospitals by 10% to 20% for the elderly aged between 70 and 74. These are steps that even the LDP could not take although it wanted to. The present government wants to use the new system as a first step toward an implementation of a prefecture-based national health insurance system. Reduce premiums of the national health insurance! Abolish the discriminatory health insurance program for the elderly aged 75 and older! Fulfill the state responsibility based on Article 25 of the Constitution! Let us work together shouting these slogans!
There has been a move to increase the consumption tax rate claiming a need to secure enough resources to fund social programs. If the government really wants to maintain social welfare programs, it should stop giving tax breaks to large corporations and ask them to bear their appropriate share in contributions as well as cut military expenditures. We will continue to engage in the campaign opposing any increase in the consumption tax rate.
A call for the revitalization of Japanese agriculture has spread throughout the country along with a campaign to oppose negotiations on Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) which will remove all tariffs. Last year I participated in meetings organized by the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-Zenchu), the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations (Zengyoren), the National Federation of Forest Owners’ Cooperative Associations (Zenmoriren), and the Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union (Seikyoren). At their united rally held on November 11, it was impressive to see that all the participants were attaching importance on their anti-TPP struggle and questioning the direction this country should take.
In solidarity with the anti-TPP campaign, the JCP will do our best to thwart the government’s attempt to strengthen free trade and abandon fair trade.
Throughout the Okinawa gubernatorial election campaign, the overwhelming majority of Okinwans expressed their opposition to the plan to relocate the U.S. Futenma base within the prefecture and their demand for the full removal of the base. How to project this Okinawan consensus to achieve a national consensus is a new challenge we face this year.
It is a fundamental matter concerning Japan’s future. Groups which promote U.S. military bases in Japan always try to persuade the public by referring to such issues as the Senkaku Islands, the Korean Peninsula, and the Chishima Islands, saying, “The strengthening of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty is necessary. Military bases in Okinawa are essential.” However, do we need war capabilities based on the military alliance in order to find a solution to these issues? What we really need is diplomatic capabilities based on internationally-accepted reasoning. Given the fact that regional communities of peace consisting of countries in Southeast Asia as well as in Latin America look for peaceful solutions to any dispute, I believe that striving for peaceful resolution of disputes is accepted as the most logical step to take by peoples throughout the world in the 21st century. Japan has its war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution but is not eager to promote diplomatic means of settling disputes. It is enthusiastic about turning to military responses. The JCP criticizes the government for embracing such a foolhardy policy.
The JCP presents a vision for a better future in which the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty will no longer exist and Japan-U.S. relations will be based on friendship and equality. The JCP continues to make efforts to establish a peaceful environment in East Asia by actively utilizing the peaceful principle of Article 9 of the Constitution. At the same time, the party keeps on working to turn the Okinawan consensus for a base-free Okinawa into a national consensus.
Many struggles by various people are taking place throughout Japan. All these struggles have a great purpose and are questioning the direction this country should take. Let us make this year a year to overcome the present stagnant conditions and to step ahead towards a better future!
The third is to build a party which is reliable, warmhearted, and strong to attract more people to it. The JCP 2nd CC Plenum called on party members to tackle the “five challenges” in regard to party buildup. Establishing a strong party is a matter of life and death for the party and it is important for the party to become a political party which is able to respond to people’s urgent demands politically and economically. In this regard, we have much experience. Now, I want to talk about the struggles at two JCP branches.
One is regarding the JCP Isuzu Motor branch struggle to stop bonus-cuts. At the 2010 spring wage struggle, an Isuzu Motor union, affiliated with the pro-corporate Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), agreed with the company to cut the amount of employees’ annual bonuses from the amount equivalent to 5-months of salary to 4-months while the amount of supervisors’ annual bonuses was maintained as before. Workers raised a question about and protest against this agreement. Representing workers’ complaints, the JCP Isuzu Motor branch together with another Isuzu workers’ union, affiliated with the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), launched a struggle to stop bonus cuts through publicity activities in front of Isuzu Motor’s factories. The JCP branch stressed that Isuzu projected 11 billion yen in business profits and had no reason to cut employees’ bonuses. As a result, Isuzu decided to pay 0.2 months of bonuses to all full-time workers in addition to the four month bonus.
Second concerns a struggle of a local JCP branch in Toba City, Mie Prefecture, which succeeded in blocking an attempt to increase national health insurance premiums. At the end of October 2010, the local JCP branch found out that the city government was planning to increase the national health insurance premiums by 20,000 yen per resident. The branch made public the city government’s plan by distributing copies of the December edition of a community bulletin published by the JCP Toba City Committee. Because of the JCP’s bulletin, the city office was deluged with protest phone calls from residents. Then, the Toba city mayor suddenly visited the JCP branch office and said that the city decided to retract the plan to increase the national health insurance premiums. The JCP branch received many citizens’ favorable responses.
Now, many people are seeking a new direction in politics. Let’s build a reliable, warmhearted, and strong party which is capable of responding to any situation! Let’s make this year a year in which the JCP achieves a major party buildup!
Regarding the upcoming nationwide local elections, based on lessons from local elections which were held after the 2010 House of Councilors election, I want to call on all party members to make further efforts to achieve a major advance utilizing three basic points.
The first point is that we have to understand that we are in another severe situation. In local elections held between the 2010 Upper House election and the year-end, out of 199 JCP candidates running in elections in one prefectural assembly, 55 city assemblies, and 40 town and village assemblies, 175 candidates were elected. The JCP occupies 8.49% of these local assemblies’ seats, down from 8.51%. The total vote cast for the JCP in these elections decreased by 6.5% from the previous elections level. In 31% of the constituencies in these elections, the JCP received more public support than it received last time. If JCP members maintain the same level of effort as in these elections, we cannot make any progress in the upcoming simultaneous local elections. We have to increase our efforts to obtain more support from the people.
In this regard, we have to win in the severe competition with other political parties. Especially, in large city elections, the media always focuses on the contest between the LDP and the DPJ. The media coverage has long functioned as a means to exclude the JCP from entering as a people’s choice. This move has hindered the JCP from making further progress in elections.
Being ready to engage in a severe battle in the upcoming local elections, we need to strive to win more votes for the JCP than the votes received in the 2010 Upper House election.
The second point is that overall party strength will determine whether or not we can make a major advance in the upcoming local elections. This is the most important lesson from the December 12 Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly election. The key to the victory of the JCP candidate in the close-contested Mito City constituency was that JCP members in the prefecture worked very hard to increase party membership and the numbers of those who pay party dues. During the election campaign, they achieved an increase in the number of party due payers by 70.8% from the 2006 level although the rate of Akahata Sunday edition readers remained at 97% and daily edition readers remained at 97.4% of the 2006 level. In contrast, the Tsukuba City constituency, where the JCP candidate lost, the number of Akahata readers in both Sunday and daily editions decreased by 20% from the 2006 election level.
In the December 26 Nishitokyo City Assembly election, all four JCP candidates were elected while the fixed number of assembly seats was reduced by two. JCP branches in this city not only carried out large-scale publicizing activities but also made a great effort to increase Akahata subscribers. These efforts contributed to the JCP progress in Nishitokyo City. The most important lesson we learned from these elections is that efforts to at least maintain the same number of Akahata readers as in the previous election will lead to a JCP victory.
The third point is that if we do everything we can do, we will be able to achieve a major advance.
During the Ibaraki Prefectural Assembly election, local JCP members in the Chikusei district developed working relations with politically conservative people through participation in various movements, including a movement against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). Because of this, the JCP candidate in this area received a the record number of votes for a JCP candidate, more than tripled the number of votes the JCP had received in the 2010 Upper House election.
It is important for us to recognize that the number of votes cast for the JCP in the 2010 Upper House election is only the starting point. In all local elections held after the Upper House election, the total percentage of votes the JCP received was 161.5% of the votes it had obtained in the Upper House election, while the DPJ received 38.6%, the LDP 97.6%, the Komei Party 93.7%, the Your Party 43.8%, and the SDP 63.9%. In every local election across Japan, there is the possibility that we can obtain two or three times more votes than in the Upper House election and achieve a change in the balance of power among political parties in local assemblies. It all depends on how hard we work.
At any level, whether at the national or local government level, conflicts of interest between the general public and forces maintaining the old-style form of politics occur. While feeling a deep sense of political stagnation, people are eagerly seeking a new direction in politics. Let’s achieve a major advance in the upcoming simultaneous local elections by looking at the situation from a broad perspective and making use of every possibility!