Speech by Shii Kazuo, Japanese Communist Party Chair
At Public Assembly Marking 87th Anniversary of the Japanese Communist Party
September 9, 2009, Tokyo
(Part Two & final)
Let me move on to issues regarding our future.
The DPJ-led government will take office after the election of a prime minister at the Special Session of the Diet to be convened on September 16. Under the new government, the JCP will strive to further advance Japanese politics by acting as an opposition party constructively engaging with the government. That was what we promised during the election campaign.
-- We will work under the new government in state of transition (to push ahead with agenda contributing to social progress
Let me first expound on the meaning of our declaration that we will be an opposition party constructively engaging with the new government.
The DPJ took power through a campaign calling for "an end to the LDP-Komei coalition government" and "an end to the outdated structure." Under this circumstance, the policies as well as the basic line of the DPJ take on a transient character.
Judging from its present policies as well as its basic line, there are no signs at present that the DPJ is breaking away from the two political ills: politics in the interests of the financial circles and in defense of the military alliance with the United States. It is also acting in conflict with public interests on several issues. Yet the DPJ has put forward some policies that reflect the needs of the public. We are witnessing the birth of a kind of government with a transient character.
I want to stress that this can be seen in the historical context as a new phase in Japanese politics reached by people's demand and movements and by the struggle of the JCP in the face of the decline and collapse of the LDP rule. In furthering this emerging political development, the key is, again, people's demands and movements as well as the struggle of the JCP!
In the face of this new stage of political development in Japan, we have made clear our position of contributing to social progress by describing the JCP as an "opposition party of constructive engagement."
What does the opposition party of constructive engagement intend to do? We are promising to address the following two tasks:
One is to advance actual politics in order to realize the needs of the public. Under the government led by the DPJ, we will make concrete policy proposals. We will cooperate with the government in implementing policies that are in the public interest, but will oppose any policies that are not and make efforts to change them.
Regarding our position that we will cooperate with the government in implementing policies that are in the interests of the public, there are a number of issues which we have consistently advocated.
There are a number of issues that have important bearings on people's livelihoods. They include the fundamental revision of the Worker Dispatch Law; the abolition of the health insurance system discriminating against the elderly aged 75 and older; the elimination of the system of requiring disabled persons to pay excessively high costs under the Services and Supports for Persons with Disabilities Act; restoration of additional welfare benefits for single-mother households that are on welfare assistance; making high school education tuition-fee; introduction of a student scholarship system that does not require repayment; and raising the statutory minimum wage to at least 1,000 yen.
The DPJ "Manifesto" contains demands which we can support. The JCP is ready to cooperate with the new government on these issues. We will propose amendments to the DPJ's policy proposals wherever it is necessary to request their implementation in a better form.
I want to emphasize that the JCP and the popular movements have been pushing for these issues to be treated as actual political agenda items and that the party should make efforts in cooperation with the public to fulfill these tasks.
For example, in dealing with the issue of the Worker Dispatch Law, the JCP was the only party to oppose the major adverse revision of the law in 1999 to remove restrictions on the use of temporary workers. We have been calling for the reregulation of the labor laws. It was the struggle of workers and the general public that pushed the DPJ to propose revising the labor laws to reverse the deregulation, typically implemented by the Worker Dispatch Law, and strengthen regulation. Business leaders are already resisting the proposal for revising the Workers Dispatch Law by stating, "We feel incongruous about it." I call for the struggle of workers and people to be further increased to win a fundamental revision of the Worker Dispatch Law.
There are many issues that ought to be included in DPJ policies because they reflect urgent demands of the public that have serious bearings on people's livelihoods. We would like to call for a nationwide movement to be launched to press the new government to carry out such demands.
For instance, the JCP has proposed establishing a national system to enable the elderly and children to receive free medical treatment. This proposal has received broad support. But this is not on the DPJ policy agenda. Reduction of fees to be paid by patients for medical services they receive is a national demand supported by the health care community, including the Japan Medical Association. I want to call on you to exercise the power of people's solidarity to press the government to implement this urgent demand.
As regards our position of opposing any policies that are not in the public interest, during the election campaign we severely criticized the DPJ "Manifesto" for including several adverse policies, including the call for talks with the United States aimed at concluding a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) that would devastate Japan's agriculture, in particular rice, a cut in the number of House of Representatives proportional representation seats that would bar the voices of the majority of the public from being heard by the Diet, a consumption tax increase, and revision of Article 9 of the Constitution. These policies will threaten people's livelihoods, democracy, and world peace. We have promised to fight to prevent these moves from developing. In this regard, I want you to keep in mind that these adverse policies were not put forward based on people's demands but on the initiative of the financial circles.
For example, the DPJ is calling for reducing the number of the House of Representatives proportional representation seats by 80. It first included this proposal in its election manifesto in the 2003 House of Representatives general election, in which there was an extensive campaign to force voters to choose a governing party, a campaign manipulated by the financial circles. That was in response to the proposal of the Japanese Association of Corporate Executives for "reform to establish a single-seat constituency system."
In dealing with the adverse policy proposals which we cannot overlook, we must take on the financial circles. This is why we are emphasizing that the need now is to increase a full-fledged people's struggle to defeat these plans. In this struggle, the Japanese Communist Party is called upon to play a role of "mediator in the public interest". We are fully aware of this task.
In our effort to influence DPJ-led government policies, we will take issue with the DPJ proposal for the nation's expressways to be made toll-free and for child allowances to be initiated. As these are major public concerns, I believe that they should be brought to a national discussion to make clear to everyone the issues involved.
For example, on the proposal for the expressways to be made toll-free, we will scrutinize this based on facts and reason to find whether it is an appropriate prioritization of the use of tax money and whether it will have an adverse environmental impact. We are demanding that priority should be given to improving welfare services rather than making expressways toll-free.
As for the child allowances program, the problem is not just that it is proposed in tandem with the abolition of dependant and spouse deductions of taxable income. Fundamentally, it conflicts with the democratic principle of taxation: no tax on the cost of living. We agree with the idea of expanding in an appropriate way benefits in support of child rearing. However, we disagree with the proposal for implementing it while forcing ordinary people to pay more in taxes. We will discuss the issue publicly and put forward policies for comprehensive support for child care, which will include improvement in work environments that will allow parents to continue to work wile bringing up children and the fundamental increase in the number of licensed child care centers that will help to reduce the number of children on waiting lists to make use of child care centers.
A great majority of the public is concerned about the question of fiscal resources that would secure the implementation of policies to be implemented by the DPJ-led government. During the election campaign, we said to voters that the key to resolving the issue of fiscal resources is whether the government will no longer exclude the military budget and tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy from budget cuts. Looking back on the election campaign, the media several times reported the JCP position on this issue favorably as a reasoned demand. On the BS 11 program on the evening of August 6 when I explained the JCP's view regarding how to secure revenues, Suzuki Tetsuo, the newsroom director of the TV station, said, "That indeed features the JCP position and is very clear to us."
On TV Asahi's Hodo (News) Station program on August 20 evening, the anchor, Furutachi Ichiro, kindly explained the JCP position calling for ending excessive tax breaks for large corporations and cutting the military budget. Saying, "This position is precisely what the JCP is about," Furutachi asked me several questions regarding specific measure which the JCP is proposing.
Friends, let us be confident in the fact that the JCP's proposal for securing ways and means to improve the public welfare convincing enough to capture the hearts of the public. Let us explain clearly to the public that we can secure fiscal revenues even without resorting to a consumption tax increase and can then further develop the nationwide movement to block a consumption tax increase.
The other task of the JCP as an opposition party of constructive engagement is to correct distortions in Japanese politics and establish the principle that "people are the protagonists." The DPJ-led government is called upon to address two issues regarding Japan's political direction.
One issue concerns whether or not Japan can abandon its policies centred on the interests of business circles.
At the debate by six party leaders at the Japan National Press Club on the eve of the official start of the House of the Representatives general election campaign, I asked DPJ President Hatoyama, "Does the DPJ have the willingness to break with politics directed by the business circles?" I said to him that any efforts to defend people's livelihoods will have to face up to negative policies led by business circles that have led to the collapse of the labor market, cutbacks in welfare services, and the plan to raise the consumption tax rate. Hatoyama just said, "People in the business sector are not homogenous."
At the same time, some contradictions have emerged between the DPJ and business circles. Business circles have already put up strong resistance to the proposal for the Worker Dispatch Law to be revised. In its "Manifesto," the DPJ clearly called for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 as Japan's mid-term goal. Based on this promise, Hatoyama said he will declare this mid-term reduction target as Japan's new goal at the U.N. Summit on Climate Change to be held after taking office as Prime Minister. I welcome this announcement.
On this issue, Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) leaders have expressed their concern. They have been saying, "The public will be forced to pay the enormous cost." They are afraid that it "would be disastrous if Japan internationally promises this goal." And now, in response to Mr. Hatoyama's statement, he has met criticism from some business leaders, who are saying, "From the viewpoint of the business sector, setting a target for a 25 percent reduction is absurd. It obviously goes against the national interest."
The implementation of the target will require a struggle against the fierce resistance from the business circles.
In the course of the implementation of each policy it promised, the question is whether the new government can break with the policy of primarily serving the business circles.
Under these circumstances, we will firmly stand for the JCP program stating that Japan must move away from policies serving the interest of the business circles and large corporations and establish an "economy governed by rules." I want to express our resolve to seek an alternative policy that will benefit the public and try to achieve it together.
The other thing we should consider in connection with our task as the opposition party of constructive engagement concerns Japan's relationship with the United States.
Today, major changes are taking place in the world and are influencing the United States. Under these circumstances, we promise to make a great deal of effort to contribute to peace in the world and Japan. Based on the Program of the JCP, which takes into account the various interests of the U.S., we will help promote positive changes while strongly criticising any aspects that remain unchanged that are associated with U.S. hegemony.
The JCP's actions regarding the issue of nuclear weapons have been devoted to encouraging the positive changes that have taken place in the United States. Welcoming U.S. President Obama's speech in Prague in April, in which he stated that he will " seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," I wrote him a letter requesting that the United States take the initiative for starting international negotiations aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons. We received a positive response from the U.S. government. This exchange of letters has made us realise that significant changes are underway in the United States.
The task of the global movement for the abolition of nuclear weapons is to increase the call and the movement calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons as much as possible toward the NPT Review Conference due to open on May 3, 2010. The JCP will do its best to broaden public support in Japan, the only atomic-bombed country, to eliminate nuclear weapons, and will continue to make an effort to place the elimination of nuclear weapons as one of the main agenda items in opposition party diplomacy.
In this regard, I want to report to you that I will participate in the 5th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, from September 24-26. Kazakhstan was a republic of the former Soviet Union and at the time, Semipalatinsk, in the eastern part of the country was used as a nuclear test-site and this inflicted severe suffering on the people caused by radiation. From this painful experience, soon after its independence, Kazakhstan closed the nuclear test sites and renounced nuclear weapons. At the conference to be held in that country, I will talk with other state representatives about cooperation for peace in Asia and in the world, including the issue of abolishing nuclear weapons. The world is changing rapidly. Let us continue to fight in Japan as well as throughout the world for a "world without nuclear weapons."
The DPJ-led government is called upon to clarify how it will deal with the United States. The DPJ "Manifesto" states that it will "build a close and equal Japan-U.S. relationship" and this position will be judged in the light of several specific issues.
Regarding the issue of nuclear weapons, the question will be what the DPJ-led government will do vis-?-vis the Japan-U.S. secret agreement and the need for a "nuclear umbrella" argument.
This secret agreement allows U.S. military vessels or aircraft carrying nuclear weapons to enter Japanese territory without prior consultation with the Japanese government. It became a major point of contention during the election campaign. I have here photocopies concerning the secret agreement, which the JCP had discovered in the U.S. They are official documents that have been made available to the public by the U.S. government. Showing these copies on a TV debate program, I said to Prime Minister Aso that he should make public the secret agreement and abrogate it. However, Mr. Aso only said, "There is no secret agreement. " But I said, "Despite your denial, it is a fact that I have it here in my hand." Though he still kept saying "no," this was complete nonsense.
Responding to my question, DPJ President Hatoyama made the following remarks about his party's position on the agreement.
He replied, "The existence (of the secret nuclear agreement) is highly probable. We will conduct an investigation into the facts in the United States and will explain to the public our findings at an appropriate time. We will also persuade U.S. President Obama to promise that the U.S. will not bring nuclear weapons into Japan.
This is an important statement. I will urge him to act as he promised. We are ready to cooperate with the DPJ by providing them with the relevant documents that we have.
At the same time, DPJ President Hatoyama in the debate stated, "I have no intention to demand that Japan break away from the 'nuclear umbrella' policy immediately." The 'Nuclear umbrella' is a concept of defending the country's security by using another country's threat of possible nuclear attack against aggression. This is based on the idea that is "security provided by threat." This logic is also based on the premise that nuclear weapons can be used in a crisis situation, since we cannot use nuclear weapons as a threat without denying their use. Japan is a country that, by experience, should know better than any other country how inhumane nuclear weapons are. Therefore, it is obviously wrong that Japan sticks to nuclear weapons as a means of threat based on the threat of use of nuclear weapons. The logic of "nuclear deterrence" and "nuclear umbrella" is the biggest cause of nuclear proliferation because countries that are threatened by nuclear weapons states try to acquire them based on the same logic.
During the era of U.S.-Soviet confrontation, quite a few countries in the world depended on the so called "nuclear umbrella." After the dissolution and contraction of military alliances, the number of countries protected by a "nuclear umbrella" has been reduced to only a few among 192 U.N. member states. I have to state clearly that it is a move against the elimination of nuclear weapons for Japan, the A-bombed county, to ask not to "fold" the "umbrella" while most of the countries in the world are asking to have it folded because it is dangerous.
I want to stress that Japan should disclose the secret agreement, break away from the "nuclear umbrella" policy, and become a non-nuclear Japan in both name and reality. I must stress that only this will enable Japan, the A-bombed country, to lead the global movement to eliminate nuclear weapons.
The new government will also be tested in regard to the issue of U.S. military bases in Japan. On a debate program with other party leaders on a commercial TV station, DPJ President Hatoyama made a comment about the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa, stating, "To relocate the base outside of Okinawa or outside Japan is best." So I called on Mr. Hatoyama to implement the unconditional withdrawal of Japan from the 1996 SACO (Japan-U.S. Special Action Committee on Okinawa) agreement, which agrees to relocate U.S. military bases within Okinawa Prefecture. However, I couldn't receive a clear response from him. If Mr. Hatoyama supports the relocation of the base outside Okinawa or Japan, I suggest that it is necessary to revise and abrogate the SACO agreement.
In addition, the new government needs to deal with the question about dispatching Self Defence Forces abroad. With regard to the SDF mission for supporting the war in Afghanistan led by the U.S., DPJ President Hatoyama said, "The SDF mission in the Indian Ocean will not be extended after January next year." This public promise will also be questioned later. The JCP, on the other hand, strongly calls for an immediate pullout of the SDF and a complete end to Japan's military engagement in Afghanistan.
The DPJ's position on foreign relations, which states, "The Japan-U.S. alliance" is "the foundation of Japan's foreign policy," is the root cause of these series of contradictions and problems. Is it possible for this DPJ position and its pledge of an "equal Japan-U.S. relationship" to go together? I believe that the two positions are completely inconsistent.
The position of the JCP Program is clear. It promises to struggle to form a consensus for the abrogation of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, leading to the building of a peaceful environment in Asia and the world through a peace diplomacy based on Article 9 of the Constitution. On this basis, we can build a new Japan that will contribute to peace in Asia and the world. Concerning the Japan U.S. relationship, this stance guarantees bilateral friendship and cooperation on an equal footing and helps establish a Japan-U.S relationship which can contribute to the benefit of the world.
Friends, under the new political circumstances, only the JCP can take up the following two missions: the mission to actually move Japanese politics forward by encouraging the new government to serve the public interest, and the mission to correct Japan's political distortions.
Whether or not we can achieve political progress after the fall of the LDP-Komei coalition government and help to brighten Japan's future depends on our continued struggle. We express our determination as an "opposition party of constructive engagement" to address any new challenges, and to start new explorations and missions under the new circumstances.
Following the end of the LDP-Komei coalition government that the Japanese people have achieved, a new and exciting history has begun in which people can foster further progressive changes in politics. The time has come when the JCP can play its full role as a pioneer in creating history.
Friends, firmly based on the result of the general election and fostering the move towards a new Japan together with the people, let us achieve our major goal to establish a democratic coalition government early on in the 21st century, in which the people will be the key players.
In this assembly, we tried to together think about the future of Japan by confirming our historical stage of achievement. I acutely feel that our Party Program, which provides us with a firm compass that shows the possible direction of Japan, ensures that we can confirm the exact position on which we stand and shows the direction we should take in defiance of any upheaval in the situation.
At the same time, the grassroots efforts by more than 400,000 party members and more than 22,000 party branches throughout the country are firmly united by the Program of the JCP, and are exerting increasing power. Shortly before the official start of the election campaign, a journalist said to me: "The Japanese Communist Party is the only party that can recognize the needs of suffering people. No other party can do that."
He is right, indeed.
Many temporary workers have been thrown out in the street after being laid off. Many single-mothers are working hard by having two or three jobs in order to rear their children. In mountain villages, old residents find it very difficult to continue farming the land which they inherited from their ancestors. Many young people are saddened to see their friends quit school because of excessively high tuition fees. At a time when so many people are suffering and calling out for assistance, the JCP has grassroots activists who are working to reduce their hardships everywhere throughout the country. This is our biggest pride.
In conclusion, I would like to call on all those who have supported the JCP to join the party. Join the JCP and you will find it worthwhile to move into the future of hope with the JCP. This is what I acutely feel now, and I am sure that many other party members, the older, more experienced and young alike, will share this sentiment. I call on you to join us in the movement for progressive social change.
Friends, people united in struggle are the driving force behind the making of history. This is the 87th year since the founding of the JCP. Let us build an even larger JCP, the party which has been striving as a pioneer in history, stronger and more influential than ever.
Long live the 87th anniversary of the Japanese Communist Party. Thank you.
- Akahata, September 11, 2009