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Red-Baiting in 2016

By Nobuaki Masaki

SNA (Tokyo) — A recent attempt by the Liberal Democratic Party to brand the Japan Communist Party (JCP) as violent has sparked a new debate on the political history of Japan.

In response to a question by ex-Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Takako Suzuki, the daughter of Muneo Suzuki, the Japanese government issued a statement on March 22 reiterating the fact that the National Police Agency still considers the JCP to uphold the “principle of violent revolution.” The statement also claimed that the JCP is still subject to investigation under the Anti-Subversive Activities Law.

JCP HQ 1This issue has a long history. During the Allied occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952, the previously-outlawed JCP was legalized due to the abolition of the Peace Preservation Law of 1925. Under the legislation, the party was recognized as being guilty of “altering the kokutai” (the national essence of the country), and was violently suppressed until the end of the war.

The JCP became prominent in the late 1940s, winning 35 seats in the House of Representatives election held in January 1949. However, anti-communist sentiments were rising among the US occupiers due to the division of Korea, and following the People’s Square Incident, a clash between a crowd of protesters supporting the JCP and the occupation forces in the Outer Garden of the Imperial Palace (called the People’s Square by the protesters) in May 1950, General Douglas MacArthur sent a letter ordering then-Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida to purge JCP officials from public office in June 1950, the month in which the Korean War started. This is commonly referred to as the “Red Purge.”

By this time, the JCP had split up into several factions. The mainstream faction led by Chairman Kyuichi Tokuda went into exile in the People’s Republic of China and organized violent operations in Japan. In the May Day Incident in 1952, protesters comprised of Zengakuren (National Federation of Students’ Self-Government Associations), which was affiliated with the JCP, and other leftwing organizations broke into the so-called People’s Square and started a riot. According to contemporary reports, around two hundred protesters and more than seven hundred police officers suffered injuries in the confrontation. The Anti-Subversive Activities Law was enacted in July 1952 in response to this incident.

Akahata, the official newspaper of the JCP, admits in a March 24, 2016, that the Tokuda faction “brought to Japan a foreign-charged course of armed struggle.” However, the article also claims that the party has never taken on the “policy of violent revolution” because the violence was committed “by one side of the party when it was split up, and this was clearly criticized and repudiated in the 7th Party Convention held in 1958 when the party was reunited.”

A Blogos article written on April 3 responded to this, claiming that it is “strange” to make the argument that the party is not subject to investigation, because it is clear in the Akahata article that “the side that carried out the armed struggle also joined” the rest of the party when it was reunited.

Akahata alludes to the fact that the party has not committed any violence since it was reunited in 1958. Although radical organizations like the Japanese Red Army, which carried out numerous acts of terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s, are feared by the public, these organizations are in no way affiliated with the JCP.

On the other hand, there is suspicion that Takako Suzuki and the Liberal Democratic Party are playing on the public’s fear of communism simply for the purpose of gaining leverage in upcoming elections.

In the YouTube series Tokyo on Fire by Langley Esquire, Michael Cucek, an adjunct professor at Waseda University, asserts that this is all related to the Hokkaido District 5 election to be held on April 24. Cucek suggests that by bringing up this subject, Takako Suzuki and the Liberal Democratic Party are trying to brand more mainstream opposition parties, such as The Democratic Party (which has agreed to cooperate with the JCP in the Hokkaido elections), as being implicated in political violence.

Suzuki’s father, Muneo Suzuki, is a politician who was elected eight times to the House of Representatives from Hokkaido’s proportional block before he was imprisoned for corruption in 2010. Takako Suzuki, who recently brought up the issue of the JCP allegedly being a violent group, supports the candidate backed by the ruling coalition in Hokkaido District 5.

Suzuki also questioned the government on “Secret funds given to the JCP by the Soviet Union,” but the government has refused to respond on this issue. It is ironic that Takako Suzuki accused the JCP of receiving illegitimate political funds when her own father was convicted for the same issue and was subsequently imprisoned.

In sum, it would appear that the recent effort to link the JCP with violence that it has not been associated with since the 1950s is mainly a cynical political ploy by the government and its allies. However, it is also true that the JCP has not been entirely forthcoming about its past activities in the mid-20th century.

Nobuaki Masaki is a contributing writer to the Shingetsu News Agency.

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