July 3, 2007
Thank you very much for the invitation. My topic is: “What is the JCP? How will it fight the House of Councilors election?"
Today, Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma was forced to resign after facing severe criticism for his remarks that “it could not be helped that an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki."
While the resignation was inevitable, Prime Minister Abe must be held responsible for appointing Mr. Kyuma as defense minister even though he believes that the use of nuclear weapons can be permissible depending on the situation, and for consistently defending him despite the offending remarks.
First of all, let me introduce the JCP.
TIME Magazine recently ran a story about the JCP in its electronic edition. The title was “Communism Is Alive and Well and Living in Japan," a welcome article for us. A researcher was quoted as saying, “The JCP is probably the most successful non-ruling communist party in Asia, if not the world." The article depicts the JCP fairly accurately.
First, the TIME article said, “The (JCP) success has its roots in the party's long history in Japan," and in particular mentioned that “it stood up to the rise of Japanese militarists in the run-up to World War II" and that the JCP maintained “consistent independence from Moscow." The JCP never stopped opposing the war of aggression even at the risk of its members' lives. It firmly stood for sovereign independence in opposition to Soviet hegemony that led to the aggression against Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. The JCP's experiences in these struggles continue to be an important source of its vitality.
Secondly, the TIME Magazine article looks at the JCP's grassroots power. It quotes a political commentator as saying, “The JCP is the only political party in Japan that has a strong grassroots organization." About 400,000 JCP members are working at 24,000 branches. Akahata has a readership of about 1.6 million. With its more than 3,100 local assembly members, the JCP is in first place in party strength in local politics. We are bigger than the Liberal Democratic Party. The number of JCP branches, 24,000, is equal to the number of the nation's post offices, primary schools or childcare centers. We are proud of these huge grassroots networks that make it possible for the JCP to work strenuously in the interest of the people.
Thirdly, the TIME Magazine article points to the JCP's lack of corruption. It states, “Communist politicians have repeatedly uncovered damaging financial scandals in government. They are too far removed from power to be enmeshed in Tokyo's endemic corruption." The JCP is the only political party that refuses to accept the government subsidy as well as donations from companies or any other organizations. This position underlies our principled stance that enables us to severely criticize injustice and corruption.
Fourthly, the TIME Magazine article refers to the JCP's position among Japanese political parties. It says, “The largest parties in Japanese politics lack a clear and cohesive identity,(…) with few discernible political differences," and that “the JCP often functions as the only genuine opposition to politics-as-usual in Tokyo." This is exactly what the article saw as a source of the JCP's vitality.
Given the fact that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan have “few discernible political differences" over economic policy that endorses neo-liberalism and in attitude toward the issue of the Constitution, the JCP, “the only real opposition" and “the only reliable opposition party" calling for fundamental change in LDP politics, has an increasingly important role to play.
I'll move on to the JCP's basic stance in the upcoming House of Councilors election.
While calling for the problem of the “missing pension records" to be resolved, the JCP focuses on political issues representing public wishes: “End Poverty and Defend Article 9 of the Constitution". We are asking the people to vote for the JCP, the “only reliable opposition party" that can achieve these objectives.
The problem of “missing pension records" is a major election issue, and the main question involved is something that should be dealt with candidly. Severe public criticism is directed at the too sloppy pension administration and the government's administrative and management ability.
The JCP has dealt with this problem in a way that takes into account the essence of the issue.
The JCP has said that the successive governments and Health, Labor and Welfare Ministers must be held responsible for the present serious situation and that the need now is for opposition parties and ruling parties to cooperate to resolve the problem and defend the public interests instead of hiding behind party politics. The JCP has proposed concrete measures to be taken to resolve the problem on the government's responsibility based on two principles: “Not a single victim must be left behind" and “The problem must be solved without delay."
The task now is to send out pension contribution payment records to about 100 million pension account holders. This will enable those have received their records to request the Social Insurance Agency to correct data if necessary. Those who received incorrect data can ask for correction. This will also help speed up the resolution of the problem of pension records that are unaccounted for.
Recognizing that the JCP proposal is reasonable, the LDP secretary general and the Health, Labor and Welfare Minister promised to implement it. It is important that we have helped advance national policy though it's a small step forward.
However, the timing of its implementation is another important issue. The government has said it will do this in the next fiscal year starting in April 2008. That's too late. We demand that the government implement it immediately.
The biggest political issue on the agenda is to end poverty. For several years, the widening economic disparities have been a major social issue in Japan. The problem involved is the growing poverty rate.
Japan is the world's second largest economy, but you can hear the word “refugee" everywhere you turn.
“Medical refugees" are growing in number. They are excluded from public medical services because their National Health Insurance cards have been invalidated after their failure to pay the National Health Insurance premiums which are too high for them. An increasing number of elderly people are barred from public nursing services after their wheel chairs and beds for nursing care were taken away from them or after they were unable to pay costs for nursing homes. They are called “nursing-care refugees." There are also “Internet-cafe refugees" who cannot afford to pay housing rents even though they are working hard every day. This is another very serious social problem.
Under the slogan “End Poverty", the JCP is calling for three changes:
First, we are demanding that the residential tax increase be revoked and that there be no consumption tax increase. We will stop the regressive tax system that forces working people to pay more and gives large corporations generous tax breaks.
Second, in social services, we will work to have the state increase its responsibility for costs for the National Health Insurance premiums, the nursing care insurance premiums, child medical services, welfare services for the handicapped, and public assistance to low-income households and mother-child households.
Third, in the area of employment, we call for an end to lawlessness in the workplace, such as unpaid overtime work and the use of temporary workers disguised as contract workers. We also demand an end to discrimination against temps and part-time workers, and call for the minimum wage to be raised to at least 1,000 yen an hour.
In addressing these issues, it is necessary to move away from the extraordinary large corporation-first economic policy. Only the JCP is determined to provide the policies to fight poverty and provide the public with essential lifelines.
The Constitution is another major campaign issue.
Some people are underestimating the issue of the Constitution on the grounds that Prime Minister Abe is facing enough difficulties caused by the pension fiasco and other issues. But the LDP's 155-point Manifesto clearly states at the outset, “We will initiate a parliamentary process of constitutional revision in three years, and put it to a national referendum." We cannot ignore the danger of this move.
Article 9 is a major target of constitutional revision. Prime Minister Abe has a program for turning Japan into a country that will fight wars side by side with the United States by deleting Article 9 from the Constitution.
To make the matter worse, the advocates of constitutional revision is led by the pro-Yasukuni Shrine forces, who glorify the past Japanese war of aggression as a “war for liberating Asia," and as war for self-existence and self-defense.
Since he began his career as a politician, Prime Minister Abe's rightist position has stood out among the pro-Yasukuni Shrine forces. After he became prime minister, although he made some adjustments to his views because he was bound by his position as the prime minister, his real intention remains unchanged, as clear from the remarks he made in March this year on the “comfort women" to the effect that women had not been taken to brothels to have sex with Japanese soldiers.
On June 26, U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution demanding a formal apology from the Japanese government over the “comfort women" issue. On this issue, in 1993, thenChief Cabinet Secretary Kono Yohei issued a statement acknowledging that there was coercion and involvement of the Japanese army. The government has explained that this is its official position. But the Kono statement has repeatedly been trampled on by the words and deeds of Prime Minister Abe himself as well as by those of pro-Yasukuni forces in such a way as the advertisement they published in the Washington Post justifying their position.
I call on the Japanese prime minister to acknowledge the historical fact and offer a formal apology in response to the criticism from the international community on this issue.
The forces that refuse to make a soul-searching examination of the past war, those who are unable to state clearly whether the war was legitimate or not, are insisting on constitutional revision, the aim being to enable Japan to wage war abroad. How dangerous their move is!
In the upcoming election, only an advance of the JCP, which has maintained a pacifist position throughout its 85-year history will provide the most reliable opposition to stop the rampage of Prime Minister Abe's pro-Yasukuni cabinet toward adversely revising the Constitution.
Thank you for your attention.
Q: Do you see a possibility that the ruling coalition will lose its majority in the House of Councilors as the result of the upcoming election?
Shii: It is not easy to predict the outcome of the election. But one thing is certain: the Abe Cabinet is in a serious political crisis. Look at the issues of the pension fiasco, tax increases on working people, “comfort women", and the series of scandals and gaffes involving cabinet ministers. Mr. Abe's ability to run the government is being questioned. The LDP's support base without doubt is in a state of uncertainty.
It is also true that the Democratic Party of Japan remains incapable of putting up a stanceof opposing the Abe Cabinet's policies. For example, the DPJ is unable to put up opposition to increasing taxes on the working people. The DPJ Manifesto mentions nothing about the Constitution because the DPJ position is no different from the LDP's concerning constitutional revision. Like the LDP, the DPJ also has many pro-Yasukuni politicians within it. In the opinion ad published by the pro-Yasukuni group in the Washington Post, 13 DPJ Dietmembers are listed along with LDP Dietmembers.
Fed up with the LDP, many Japanese voters are seriously searching for a political alternative. The TIME Magazine article that I mentioned earlier points out that “increasingly sophisticated Japanese voters seek a meaningful political choice." We will make every effort to convince the voters who are “seeking a meaningful political choice" that the surest way to bring about a change in politics is to help win a JCP advance in this election as the real opposition to the Prime Minister Abe's LDP-Komei coalition government.
Q: If the JCP is to wield greater power in real politics, will you ever consider participating in a coalition government that might be established as a result of the election?
Shii: There can be no chance for the JCP to join a government or cooperate with it after the upcoming House of Councilors election. Clearly, the JCP's cooperation with the LDP is impossible. There is no condition to cooperate with the DPJ on government, either. The JCP election policies are focused on the “End poverty and defend Article 9" agenda. Whatever the outcome of the election, we will continue to play our role as the “only reliable opposition party".
However, we do not intend to remain an opposition party forever. We are striving to establish a Democratic Coalition Government in the early part of the 21st century. This will be a government that will end Japan's abnormal subordination to the United States, end the aberration policy of primarily serving the interests of major corporations, and establish a Democratic Coalition Government based on the principle that “people are sovereign." But it is a little bit early to set this goal as our immediate objective at present. We believe that playing our role as the only reliable opposition party will be certain to pave the way to becoming a “reliable ruling party."
Q: Why can't the JCP increase its seats in the elections even though it is the “only reliable opposition party" that has great grassroots power in Japanese society?
Shii: Throughout the history of parliamentary elections we have experienced many ups and downs.
In the 1970s, the JCP achieved its first major advance since the adoption of the prototype of the present JCP Program. At the time we obtained about 6 million votes in the parliamentary election. However, in the subsequent fierce anti-communist attacks, we suffered setbacks.
We attained another peak in the late 1990s by receiving about 8 million votes. This JCP advance triggered an even fiercer anti-communist campaign. In order to banish the JCP from the nation's political landscape, a campaign began calling for a “two-party" system. It is a new anti-communist strategy to force the public to choose between the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan, thus shutting out the JCP from the political arena. In recent several parliamentary elections, the JCP was forced to retreat. But in the 2005 House of Representatives general election, we recovered our vote-getting strength by obtaining about 5 million votes.
The JCP is a party firmly determined to change the course of Japanese society. This is why it is inevitable that any JCP advance will ignite attacks. There can be no even road for the JCP to make advances.
The JCP received about 6 million votes in the 1970s, and a record 8 million in the 1990s. Our next target should be 10 million. We have set the target number of votes we should obtain in the coming House of Councilors election at 6.5 million. We are determined to fulfill this goal so that it will be a new step forward toward another peak.
Q: If Japan abrogates the Security Treaty with the United States, what will happen to Japan's security? What will be the role of Article 9 of the Constitution?
Shii: Military alliances on the whole are in the process of disbandment or weakening and ending throughout the world.
For example, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was disbanded. The Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) is gone. The Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) also became a thing of the past. The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) is dysfunctional. ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.) became dysfunctional after the withdrawal of New Zealand. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is increasing its membership in East Europe, but it was divided over the Iraq war. France, Germany, Belgium, Canada and other major countries opposed the Iraq war, and the NATO could not take concerted actions. In the present-day world, the Japan-U.S. military alliance stands out in its strengthened function as a military alliance.
Let me talk about the security policy after the abrogation of the Japan-U.S. military alliance. Japan should contribute to forming a regional community of nations for peace, and work as a member to secure peace and stability.
In Southeast Asia, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) is creating a broad current for regional peace with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as the driving force. The TAC includes China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Japan, the Republic of Korea and other countries. This is developing as a community of nations covering a broad geographical area for peace calling for resolutions to conflicts through peaceful and diplomatic means based on the U.N. Charter. Similar communities of nations for peace have been created in other regions, including the African Union (AU) in Africa and the Union of South American Nations in Latin America.
Throughout the world, a major change is underway to replace military alliances with communities of nations for peace.
In this respect, Northeast Asia lags behind other regions, but I am hopeful about its future. A success of the ongoing six-party talks will possibly pave the way for creating a community of nations for peace in Northeast Asia.
Military alliances need hypothetical outside enemies, but this is an outmoded concept. A community of nations for peace won't need to seek enemies outside. A community of nations for peace needs no country that plays a leadership role. Japan should become a member of a regional community for peace and seek to maintain security by diplomatic means. I think Japan should envisage such a future. Article 9 would best guide the county to help create such a community of nations
Needless to say, we do not want Japan to become hostile to the United States. I am not anti-U.S. The JCP calls for the conclusion of a Japan-U.S. Friendship Treaty to replace the present military alliance. I think this has something in common with the spirit of the American Revolution for independence. Thomas Paine in his “Common Sense" severely criticized the very idea of a military alliance as a way to drag America into an unnecessary war. This is a very impressive and farsighted statement.
Q: Tojo Hideki's daughter, Tojo Yuko, declared her candidacy in the upcoming House of Councilors election. Just two hours ago, she spoke here. Do you think she is a patriot?
Shii: She is not to blame for being Tojo Hideki's daughter, of course. But she maintains the ideology of pro-Yasukuni forces.
I think a true patriot is a person who can face up to errors committed by the country in the past. Germany achieved this through nationwide discussions. I believe the German people can be proud of this achievement.
Japan lags behind in this effort. We cannot change or erase past history, but we can face up to the historical facts. Real courage means facing up to past errors and squarely acknowledging them. I believe people's love of Japan, our own country, will naturally be born by undergoing such experiences of self-reflection.
- Akahata, July 5, 2007