Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo gave a speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on March 3. The following translation of the speech is based on the text published in the March 5 issue of Akahata.Thank you for inviting me to speak before members of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.I sometimes give interviews to foreign media. One frequently asked question is why the JCP membership is increasing, and why the JCP is full of vigor.We know that will not be easy to emerge victorious in the upcoming House of Representatives general election, and if we are to win, we need to make major progress by leap instead of continuing with the same way of engaging in activities. It is true that the JCP is getting more vigorous. The JCP membership has been increasing for each of the last 16 months in a row, and more than 16,000 people have joined the JCP. Today, I will reflect on this question from four angles.
Economic reform that aims for an 'economy governed by rules'
The first is that the direction of economic reform set out in the JCP Program addresses the actual situation in Japan and the public's needs.
Public support for JCP's call for a breakaway from 'capitalism without rules' is increasing
You will find Japanese capitalism extraordinary when compared with that in western Europe, particularly in the sense that it is not governed by rules. In other words, there are few rules and regulations to defend people's livelihoods and basic rights. Corporations are trying to maximize their profits without any social control. The JCP is calling for an end to "capitalism without rules" and the establishment of an economy that has regulations to defend people's well-being and rights as main part of economic reform by taking into account European precedents. At a time when the gap between rich and poor is alarmingly widening, our policy is getting wide public support.
With workers being unable to work with dignity, JCP is in solidarity with them
Many workers are being deprived of the right to work with dignity. This presents the cruelest form of behavior under "capitalism without rules."
In Japan, the number of workers whose annual income is less than two million yen has increased to over 10 million in a short period of time. This is a consequence of the deregulations of labor laws, which rapidly increased the number of contingent workers such as temporary workers, fixed-term contract workers, temporary workers disguised as independent contractors, and part-time workers.
Most of these people on contingent jobs are working as disposable workers, who are forced to endure extremely exploitative and unstable working conditions as well as having to face various forms of discrimination against them. I am indignant to know that temporary workers are being forced to work in extremely inhumane working conditions at major Japanese corporations such as Toyota and Canon.
They work as hard as full-time employees do, but are paid less than half of what full-time employees are paid. They do not get any bonuses or pay raises. Since they have to renew their contract every few months, they are always afraid of the possible termination of their contracts. Forced to live in dormitories arranged by staffing agencies, they have no right to privacy. It is just like the revival of slave labor with a modern-day form of cruelty. This is exactly how Japanese temporary workers are treated.
Contingent workers' working conditions, in which they are treated as disposable objects, has been prevalent since autumn of last year, when the global economic crisis drove employers to begin to terminate the employment of temporary workers and fixed-term contract workers, causing the collapse of the job market. Tens of thousands of workers became homeless after becoming jobless.The JCP has exposed how temporary workers are treated as "disposable labor". Opposing large corporations' unjustified termination of employment of temporary workers, the JCP has advocated the rights of contingent workers and demanded that large corporations give them full-time positions so that the rule of equal treatment between full-time workers and contingent workers will be established as in Europe. The series of JCP representatives' questionings in the Diet drew a considerable response, including encouragement, from more people than expected.
It is very encouraging that workers themselves are beginning to rise to struggle against these abuses of contingent workers. Contingent workers at more than 120 firms have set up their own unions or joined existing unions to struggle against the destruction of employment.
The temporary workers' relief center that was temporarily set up in Tokyo was an expression of humane solidarity with the unemployed. Such initiatives are spreading throughout the country. These efforts are significant and full of hope for the future, as they take the initiative in moving away from the present state of Japanese society. In solidarity with these movements, the JCP is determined to do its utmost to abolish the use and abuse of "disposable" labor in Japan and establish rules to secure decent work.
Radical shift from cutbacks to expansion and improvement so that low-income earners will not be excluded from social servicesIt is also serious that the already inadequate social services have been scaled back year after year.
Japan's expenditure on social security benefits is 19.1 percent of its GDP, which is much smaller than major European countries, including Britain's 22 percent, Germany's 27.1 percent, and France's 29.4 percent. In addition, the Japanese government has slashed 220 billion yen each year from a natural increase in spending on social services. Low-income earners who are in need of public assistance the most are excluded from social services in every field.
The number of households that are in arrears with their payment of the National Health Insurance tax has reached 4,530,000, or 20.9 percent of the total number of households. Due to the arrears in payments, 7.3 percent of households had their regular insurance cards invalidated. Many people without a National Health Insurance card died because they were unable to see a doctor promptly.
Of all employed, only 22 percent can receive unemployment insurance benefits. This is because many companies neglect to pay their share of contributions to the unemployment insurance program for contingent workers even though they are working full time, leaving 10 million workers without unemployment insurance coverage.
Let us look at the public welfare assistance program, which is the safety net of last resort. In Europe, those who actually live on welfare assistance account for 70-80 percent of all those who are eligible to receive it. In Japan, the percentage is only 10-20 percent. One of the factors behind this is that many local governments refuse to accept applications for welfare assistance. In Kitakyushu City, there have been cases for three consecutive years of people starving to death because of the rejection or suspension of welfare assistance.
On this issue, too, social opposition has begun. The movement has collected more than 10 million signatures calling for the abolition of the discriminatory health insurance system for the elderly aged 75 and older. It has succeeded in forcing local governments to refrain from invalidating health insurance cards for children up to junior high school students and for sick people. The movement has also succeeded in urging the national government to make sure that local governments can make a prompt decision to provide welfare assistance to even those who do not have a permanent address. In solidarity with grassroots movements, the JCP also struggles to stop the cutbacks in social security programs and to instead drastically shift to a welfare-supportive policy.
Path to overcome economic crisis and promote healthier economy
We work to shift away from "capitalism without rules" to establish an "economy governed by rules", but we are not arguing that the role of large corporations should be denied or that they should be regarded as our enemy. We are calling for large corporations to bear their share of social burden and fulfill their social responsibility according to their ability to pay.
This path is in line with the law of social development. It will lead Japan to get over the present economic crisis and to encourage the healthier development of the Japanese economy. In the longer run, it will help large corporations prosper in a sound manner. It is no coincidence that not only workers but also quite a number of employers began sharing this viewpoint.
In foreign policy, we have been consistent in opposing hegemony in defense of sovereign independence
The second point is our party's foreign policy. The JCP opposed two major hegemonic powers: that of the United States and of the former Soviet Union. This has been a major source of our vitality.
Opposition to Soviet hegemony is what the present JCP is about
When the Soviet power of hegemony collapsed 18 years ago, the JCP in a statement said it welcomed the end of a historical colossal evil that based itself on a great-power hegemonic ambition. In this statement, the JCP showed an outlook that the Soviet's collapse would pave the way for social progress in Japan and the rest of the world.
The JCP could issue such a statement in the face of the historic event because it had experienced 30 years of struggle against Soviet hegemony, which was a life-or-death struggle in defense of our sovereign independence as a political party representing the public interest.
In its attempt to put the Japanese people's movement under its control, the Soviet Union twice launched interference in the internal affairs of Japan.
In the 1950s, the JCP faced severe outside interference, which led to a party split. In the course of the effort to overcome this ordeal, the JCP established its policy of sovereign independence in order to decide on matters without foreign interference.
In the 1960s, the Soviet Union used all its state power to overthrow the JCP leadership that called for sovereign independence and to force the JCP to degenerate into a party subservient to the Soviet party. We managed to successfully defeat the Soviet attack.
The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 and it attacked Afghanistan in 1979. In both cases, the JCP had no time to lose in criticizing the Soviet actions as outrages that had nothing in common with socialism.
The JCP waged these struggles for its own survival. Without these struggles, the JCP would not have been able to continue to exist. I want to express my deep thanks and respect to all the JCP predecessors who waged these struggles.
Failure of U.S. hegemony and a new international order free of hegemony
The course of events since the collapse of the Soviet Union 18 years ago has produced more good than we expected.
The collapse of the Soviet Union did not ensure that the United States will dominate the world. On the contrary, many countries of the world got free of the spell of being caught up in the rivalry between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, paving the way for new developments with new vitality.
The world now began to look to and criticize the lone hegemony of the United States, which is on the verge of a major economic failure and is heading for its loss of global control. The failure of the U.S. Iraq War and the global economic crisis that originated in the United States are the funeral bell ringing to mark the end of the era of U.S. domination of the world.
At the same time, a new significant trend is growing calling for a new world order without any force of hegemony.
Networks of regional communities for peace, which presuppose no outside enemy, are taking the place of military alliances and are continuing to grow in influence.
For example, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), initially signed by five members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has expanded to embrace 25 countries incorporating 57 percent of the world's population. At last, the U.S. has officially decided to join the regional group. Last December, all 33 countries of the Americas, except the U.S. and Canada, held a meeting in Brazil for a Latin American and Caribbean summit and agreed to create a new regional organization in February 2010. This is indeed a welcome development.
We are now expecting the advent of a new era in which the 192 U.N. member countries will be the real key players with equal rights in world politics.
True friendship can be created based on equality and without domination and subordination
In the world today, Japan faces the question if it should continue to stick to its alliance with the United States and subservience to the U.S.
The JCP Program calls for the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty to be abrogated and for the creation of a genuinely independent and peaceful Japan guided by Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. I am convinced that this is the way for Japan to create a bright future in line with the current for peace in the present-day world.
We are not anti-U.S. advocates. We criticize U.S. policies regarding the security alliance and U.S. military bases in Japan. At the same time, we have deep respect for the great U.S. history as described by Marx in his letter sent on the reelection of President Lincoln. Marx said, "[This is]the very spot where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century."
We believe that true friendship is possible only when it develops on an equal footing and free of domination or subordination, and our aim is to have the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty replaced by a Japan-U.S. friendship treaty.
Organization ? create safety net for people's living conditions at grassroots level
The third point is our grassroots organizations. The JCP has about 400,000 members, 22,000 branches, and 3,000 local assembly members. No other political parties have such extensive grassroots organizations. What we are proud of is that our grassroots organizations carry out day-to-day activities to defend people's interests in communities and workplaces, by holding consultations on day-to-day living and labor issues.
"If you get in trouble, go to the JCP." This catchphrase is widely recognized in Japanese society today. Amid the current economic crisis, many people approach our party for advice. One said, "When I went to a local municipal office to seek support in solving the difficulties I am facing, I was told to go to the JCP." Another person said, "When I went to a police station to ask how to solve my multiple debts, I was told to go and ask the JCP."
The Asahi Shimbun carried a report entitled, "The JCP is there, ready to help those who were laid off." It described our activities as "the modern-day temple for the people to rush into." The South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh wrote, "As Japanese society's safety net is dismantled under the promotion of the neo-liberal policy of structural reform, the nationwide organizational network established by the JCP fulfills the role as the safety net for the weak in society." It is good for us to receive such positive attention, but at the same time, we recognize our responsibility is increasing to respond to and support those who are suffering from hardships.
Our dream-Prospects for the future society beyond capitalism
Now I move to the last point.
Fourthly, as the name of our party, the Japanese Communist Party, suggests, we endeavor to work for socialism/communism, a society that will be built by overcoming capitalism.
'Has capitalism reached its limits?' and Marx attracting public attention
Since last year, mass media have posed a question: "Has capitalism reached its limits?" They have often asked for our response to the question. In interviews, frequently asked questions were, "How would Marx have thought about the present economic crisis?" and "Could you tell us what Marx's Capital says about it?" Up until then, I had never been asked to comment on Capital on any TV program. It is a very difficult question to answer, so I quoted one well-known passage from Capital.
"After me, the flood is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society."
"After me, the flood", in other words, "What happens afterward is of no concern to me."
Capitalists would not hesitate to pursue profits at the cost of workers' health or lives. If capitalists compete with each other indefinitely for profits, human society would be destroyed from its foundation. In order to stop the "flood", "compulsion from society" is essential. This is what Marx clearly states in Capital. It also applies to what we face today.
Capitalists do not hesitate to seek to maximize their profits at any cost. We can see the principle of capitalist behavior and its disruptive effect in many examples that include the use of temporary workers, which is a modern form of slave labor, global poverty and famine, rampant financial speculations, the current global economic crisis, and the destruction of the global environment.
Speak about the views on future society represented by our party name
In order to solve all these problems, we in Japan are calling for democratic change first within the framework of capitalism. Economically, we are advocating an economy governed by rules. In the international community, too, it will be necessary to try to solve those problems "under compulsion from society" even under the present regime.
At the same time, even if we make our utmost efforts, it is hard to solve problems fundamentally within the framework of capitalism. In that process we will be able to expect that the time will be ripe for advancing to socialism/communism by overcoming and celebrating the downfall of capitalism throughout the world in the 21st century.
As part of the effort to win in the upcoming House of Representatives general election, we will publicly explain the meaning of the name of the Japanese Communist Party to the public in relation to the prospect for a future society. Thank you very much for your attention.
- Akahata, March 5, 2009