Happy New Year! I want to offer my New Year greetings to all those who are watching this assembly via communications satellite.
The year 2003 is a crucial year for the Japanese Communist Party with the simultaneous local elections approaching. We also need to be prepared for a possible dissolution of the House of Representatives and a general election.
Are conditions in place for the JCP to be victorious in the coming elections? The key to working out the answer is a deep understanding of the present international situation and the Japanese political situation at the beginning of the new year.
If you just say that in the present-day situation some aspects are good and others bad, so we need to make efforts to overcome the bad points, you do not see the essence of the situation. This won't help to exert your real power.
In my speech in the 2002 JCP New Year Meeting, I stated that in a cataclysm it is important to clearly distinguish the mainstream from currents against history.
Looking back on the past year, we can clearly say that the mainstream of history is growing bigger and stronger, although there are twists and turns due to the political strife with the forces resisting social progress.
This sheds light to the JCP standing for and promoting the mainstream of history and increasingly playing a more valuable role than ever.
This is an important point in understanding the situation. With this as conviction, we should reach out to people and let them know the JCP's real role on a national scale so that we can develop a path toward a JCP victory.
A look at what has taken place in the world in 2002 shows that a major change is taking place.
Remember that the year 2002 began as the U.S. forces were overpowering in the retaliatory war against Afghanistan, leading to the collapse of the Taliban rule and a military triumph for the U.S. forces. U.S. President George W. Bush's ominous statement that the year 2002 would be a year of war weighed heavily upon the world. It appeared that the world was covered with U.S. hegemony backed by the world's strongest military might.
We firmly opposed the retaliatory war. At the time, very few countries voiced clear opposition to the war.
Puffed up with the triumph, the U.S. acts of asserting hegemony were in escalation from the beginning of the year. In January last year, the U.S. president made an "axis of evil" statement and issued the "nuclear posture review" report. In last year's "Defense Report" in August and the "National Security Strategy" report in September, the United States declared to the world a preemptive strike strategy, including the use of nuclear weapons, against Iraq, and prepared to go to war.
However, there arose a strong current calling for a new peaceful world order. Huge mass rallies took place in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere against attacks on Iraq. Antiwar actions on such a large scale at the international level even before a war breaks out were without precedent. This significantly influenced national governments' opinions and helped to curb at least the reckless U.S. plan to make preemptive strikes in disregard of the United Nations. This led to a new phase in which U.N. Security Treaty Council resolution 1441 was unanimously adopted, creating a possibility for the issue to be peacefully solved within the United Nations framework.
The JCP has made efforts to develop discussion and cooperation with other governments with the aim of helping to increase the international trend toward peace.
In August 2002, JCP Central Committee Chair Fuwa Tetsuzo visited China. JCP delegations toured the Middle East in October and South Asia in December. These activities were successful in bringing about agreement with all governments we discussed with concerning opposition to a war against Iraq.
Most of these countries at the time of the retaliatory war against Afghanistan gave support and assistance to the United States, although unwillingly.
Pakistan, which I visited in late December, was used by the U.S. forces as their forward base for the war against Afghanistan. India also allowed the U.S. forces to use its base for attacking Afghanistan.
These countries, including Middle East countries, which are generally considered "pro-U.S.," agreed with us without reservation in voicing opposition to a U.S. attack on Iraq.
Many countries are calling for the prevention of a unilateral use of force and for a peaceful solution within the U.N. framework. The trend calling for a peaceful world order is increasing. The outrageous U.S. hegemony is being isolated from the international community.
The events of the past year show that history is moving forward deep in the process.
The present-day world trend reminds us how absurd the Koizumi Cabinet's position is. The Japanese government has made no progress in dealing with international affairs. They have no global perspective.
How shameful it is for the Koizumi Cabinet to consider a U.S. war as an established fact, and focus its attention on how to deal with the war or cooperate with it.
At a time when many countries in Asia and the rest of the world are seeking to seize the possibility of a peaceful solution of the issue, the Koizumi Cabinet deployed an Aegis destroyer to the Indian Ocean to support U.S. military activities. This is a reckless action that encourages the United States to start a war.
In addition, the Koizumi Cabinet reportedly is planning to enact new legislation to support the U.S. forces in the event of a war and on a post-war settlement.
This step taken by Japan's government has attracted criticism from all over the world. South Asian government officials asked us, "Why did the Japanese government send an Aegis destroyer at this time?"
This represents Japan's shameful submission to the United States.
The danger that the United States will start a war against Iraq is real. We cannot tell for sure what's going to happen next.
Of course, we are not saying that a war is unavoidable. The JCP will not stop working to achieve a peaceful solution to the problem.
There is no knowing what will happen next, but we are sure that the increasing movement of the world's people and countries toward peace will help the world make progress in the 21st century. At the same time, the value of the JCP working to help promote the international current for peace will bear fruit in the future.
Let's reach out to people and talk more about the role the JCP is playing in the effort to open a new page of history. Let us resolve to take a lead in the Japanese people's struggle for peace.
The past year also saw major and deep changes taking place in domestic politics.
A year ago, Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro appeared to be at the height of popularity, referred to as a "Koizumi whirlwind."
At that time, Koizumi's politics was hailed by mass media as an attempt to fundamentally change from an undemocratic LDP politics and bring about political reform. The fact of the matter is that the Koizumi government was failing in many ways, but public support rates for the Koizumi Cabinet in opinion polls remained high.
During the past year, the situation has drastically changed. First of all, Koizumi politics already reached an impasse in its economic policy, as it failed to act in defense of the living conditions of the people. All major policies put forward by this cabinet in the past year have gone bankrupt.
The cabinet put emphasis on restricting the amount of government bond issuance to under 30 trillion yen. However, this policy was used to cut expenditure for social services that are directly linked to day-to-day living conditions instead of reducing the huge amount of wasteful public works projects.
As a result, Japan's economic recession got deeper and tax revenues fell. This constituted a vicious circle. The national tax revenue in the government draft budget for FY 2003 (Apr. 2003-Mar. 2004) is 5 trillion yen less than the current fiscal year budget. It will raise the amount of government bond issuance to a new high of 36 trillion yen, while throwing away the government policy of limiting the amount of government bond issuance to 30 trillion yen.
The Koizumi Cabinet gave an accelerated "disposal of bad loans" policy top priority in its "economic structural reform." It promised to complete the disposal of bad loans in two or three years. And it is now nearly two years since his cabinet started. Has the disposal of bad loans finished? No, not at all. On the contrary, the amount of bad loans is increasing instead of decreasing. So long as the government continues this policy, difficulty increases for small- and medium-sized companies and Japan's economy will undergo a vicious circle of further economic recession and increased bad loans.
The government told the people to endure pains so that there will be a promising future. But this policy has failed and the last resort for the cabinet is to recklessly urge the people to further bear intolerable burdens.
The government is forcing the people to pay an extra 4-trillion yen this year and next through combined cuts in social services and tax increases. By further accelerating the disposal of bad loans, Japan's financial system and smaller businesses will be destroyed. In brazen attacks, the government is forcing the public to endure more hardships.
Many Japanese people temporarily believed in Koizumi's catch phrase that "after pains, a bright future," but they have now fully realized that there is no future in this policy line.
Japan's narrow-minded politics serving the immediate interests of business circles is encouraging them into taking an even more reckless course. For example, the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) on January 1 published a proposal for Japan leading up to 2025, entitled, "Toward a Japan full of activities and attractions." It calls for increasing the consumption tax rate by one percent each year from FY 2004 to an eventual 16 percent, while drastically cutting corporate taxes in exchange for corporate donations to politicians who are in favor of these proposals. In no sense can we accept such a dangerous "new year gift."
The use of money to distort politics was precisely what came under public criticism. If Prime Minister Koizumi is to "reform" Japan, he must give top priority to ending such dirty politics. Contrary to this, what is planned now is to increase the consumption tax rate using corporate donations as leverage. How can we allow such an attempt to take place?
Notwithstanding such adverse currents, there has been a drastic change in people's political awareness. Readers' columns of Japan's major newspapers at year end and in the new year were full of public indignation at unwise politics which simply shifts burdens onto the people. Some of them are titled, "Snowballed taxes on the poor leave snowballed debts"; "Increased taxes still used for wasteful dam and roads?"; "Cuts in pension payments, why?"; "Tax increases without regard for the public interest."
These voices reveal that the public can "no longer endure their living conditions to be cut," a sense that they are driven into a corner. Many Japanese people are now aware of the true color of "Koizumi politics."
Since just after the inauguration of the Koizumi Cabinet, the Japanese Communist Party has stood firmly against the "Koizumi whirlwind" by exposing a false campaign to depict old-fashioned politics as if it were a reform.
The JCP published a four-point proposal to safeguard the public living conditions from the economic crisis, stressing that this is the only alternative to "Koizumi misgovernment."
In local governments, the JCP has put forward policies that will stop destructive government attacks and help improve local welfare and living conditions.
More and more people began to learn the true value of the JCP and appreciate it as "a party with an undaunted stance," and "a steady policy line." The pioneering role of the JCP is making a sharp contrast with the shabby failure of "Koizumi politics."
Friends, let's tell the value of the JCP to the public and let's appear as the "organizer of struggles to defend daily livings."
Major changes have taken place in political parties in the past year.
Prime Minister Koizumi used to keep saying, "I will tear down the Liberal Democratic Party," but what he has "torn down" is the LDP's traditional vote base. Former Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro said, "Koizumi is calling for destroying the LDP, but half of the LDP support base has already crumbled."
Destruction of LDP's power bases has been notable in the past year as shown by two incidents late in the year.
One was that presidents of four medical-related organizations, including the Japan Medical Association, jointly held an action in Tokyo opposing the increase of workers' and elder people's burdens for medical expenses.
The other was that the National Association of Towns & Villages and the National Association of Chairs of Town and Village Assemblies announced that they will jointly hold a rally in February calling for the establishment of self-government for the nation's towns and villages. This rally, held in protest against the government forcing towns and villages to merge and discarding small municipalities, will be attended by mayors and assembly chairs of 2,542 towns and villages throughout Japan.
Those organizations, which have been the LDP's reliable supporters in past elections, are now openly rebelling against the LDP because they feel their future is not secured by the LDP.
The LDP can no longer force them to support it in its traditional ways of offering concessions and benefits. If those organizations seriously consider the situation confronting Japan's medical care and local self-government, they will realize that LDP politics has no future.
More and more people have run out of patience with the LDP. It is helpful to us that their demands are matching the policies of the Japanese Communist Party.
Are there political parties (other than the JCP) which are responsive to the demands of those people?
The Komei Party has played a role in helping the LDP' regain its ground that lost by mobilizing the religious organization, Soka Gakkai(Komei's parent organization). Being anti-JCP is the main raison-d'etre of Komei's existence. It is more than clear that such a party is not qualified or able to deal with the demands of broad sections of people who are looking for new politics and constructive policies.
The foundation of the new "New Conservative Party" late last year was a typical example of corrupt parties and politicians that only care for self-preservation and obtaining government subsidies for political parties. Many citizens disrespect such rash and frivolous lawmakers who are running around based on their or their party's interests without any political strategies to speak of.
The present situation of political parties is creating new possibilities for the JCP to widely cooperate with nonpartisan people, and conservative people. We are seeking to explore Japan's new course by openly engaging with those people.
As the only party which has the ability and qualification to build a new type of politics with citizens, the JCP's value is increasing.
Looking back on the past year and looking ahead to the new year, we see the mainstream of history is facing an adverse current both in Japan and the rest of the world. But it is energetically growing stronger in the depths. The role of the Japanese Communist Party is standing out in every field. History is moving forward with steady steps.
In the political battle we will wage this year, achieving a JCP advance is a difficult task. However, if all JCP members and supporters are convinced of the valuable JCP role that stands for the mainstream of history, and if they work to make this JCP role known to all people, a path to victory will definitely open to us. Let's work for it with this conviction.
Unfortunately. however, it will be too late for us if we begin to make this effort immediately before the election campaign period. Examining the results of the midterm elections, this was the watershed dividing victory and defeat.
In the Fifth Central Committee Plenum, I emphasized the need for a "proactive approach." To demonstrate the JCP's pioneering spirit in political battle is essential for victory. It is also vital to organize grassroots movements, engage in dialogue with many citizens, get support from them, promote activities in supporters' associations, and expand the party strength. In earlier stages, we should follow through with such coordinated activities to ensure that our candidates are elected. I sometimes hear, "Enthusiasm for victory didn't emerge until the election campaign started," or "Real power appeared only in the last three days of the campaign." In such an atmosphere, we cannot be successful in the coming elections. At the earliest possible time, we should complete every needed preparation for victory and then launch further activities for JCP advance.This will decide the outcome of election. I want all of you to take the initiative from this moment of the new year.
A prominent political critic sent us the following letter of his impressions after reading the Fifth Plenum Report and his expectation of the JCP:
"The Fifth Plenum, taking into account the new developments relating to political parties, pointed out the JCP role from four angles, as a political party that truly deserves to be called a political party. I totally agree with what the Plenum brings up. The existence of the JCP, I think, will add to the importance in the coming political situation in the light of the state of affairs of other parties, including the establishment of a new conservative party and the troubled Democratic Party. It is certainly true that many people, including citizens without party affiliation, are becoming to realize the importance of the existence and role of the JCP. It will be challenging for you to find a way to embrace these citizens into the JCP in the coming simultaneous elections and general election. Of course, differences may persist in the JCP platform between you and the people, but activities and struggles with all your strength are the only way to win over those people to the side of the JCP. In this sense, the year 2003 will be a crucial year for your party: whether you can make a major advance or not."
"Activities and struggles with all our strength are the only way," that's what we should do, I think. The Japanese Communist Party has significant assets in this respect. The JCP has "grassroots power" throughout the nation in party branches and supporters' organizations, and we also have our own media, the newspaper Akahata. Here is our true worth as a "political party truly deserving to be called a political party." Let's fully display this power from the beginning of this new year to ensure achieving victory in the coming political battle.
Let me conclude my new year speech by asking all of you to work for this goal together. Thank you.
(Translation by Japan Press Service)