Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 9. 1961
Politics and Japanese Students
Politics and Japanese Students
A young democracy in Japan has bred a vicious form of militant trade unionism. This militant marxist leadership is reflected also in the organisation of Zengakuren, the Students Association, yet both the rank-and-file worker and the average student show themselves to be not necessarily in full support of the activities of their radical leaders. This lack of support can be proved statistically, but to a foreigner this statistical proof seems valueless when compared with the massive rioting mobs of red-flag-waving students. In New Zealand we can only go by the newspaper reports and press photos that we saw. These on-the-spot reports, presented starkly before us with no background information, only lead us up the garden path—the very garden path the Communist organisers wanted the West to be led up.
Ignoring the basic rights or wrongs of the U.S. — Japan Security Treaty, Prime Minister Kishi was, beyond doubt, pushing the ratificaton of it through the Diet in a most disorderly and undemocratic manner. Kishi blamed the shambles on to the Communist International, and there is little doubt that this organisation did bring pressure to bear to stop the treaty going through. The Soviet Union in an obvious endeavour to enforce the removal of U.S. military bases from Japan, made the most of the case of an American U2 aircraft shot down over Soviet territory. In a memorandum to the Japanese Government, the Soviet threatened that a ratification of a treaty allowing American bases on Japanese soil would result only in an I.C.B.M.—Moscow-Tokyo Nonstop! Communist China (who commands a great deal of attention in the Japanese papers) also launched an attack, theirs being against Kishi personally. Morally and materially boosted, Sohyo and the Social-Democratic Party organised the National Council for Joint Struggle against the Security Treaty. The Communist Party sat at the table of the Council as an "advisor."
The Truth About the Demonstrations
The Kishi Government wished to report, to President Eisenhower on his arrival in Japan, the successful completion of the ratification—a touching thought. As the Treaty had not made satisfactory progress, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, upon the motion of the Liberal-Democratic Party members, was intending to announce an extension of the session, so as to complete the examination of it. The Social-Democratic Party, using methods this writer has already commented on, formed a sit-down picket in the door-way of the Speaker's room, thus physically preventing him from going to the House to carry out his function. Speaker Ichiro Kiyose then had to call for the police who removed the sitters, one by one, thus allowing him access to the House. There, with only the Liberal-Democratic members present, he used the excuse that examination of the Treaty Bill was as yet incomplete, and thus got a 50-day extension—then 20 minutes later, at midnight, still with only one party present, approved the passage of the selfsame bill. The day—May 19, Ike's estimated arrival date June 19. And Kishi was well aware that, by Japanese law, a Treaty Is considered "approved" 30 days aftei the Lower House has read it, in spite of what the Upper House may say. No doubt Kishi was annoyed by the Socialists' behaviour, but annoyance was no excuse for the shameless way the Bill was passed. On May 19-20, the public remembered all of the Kishi Government's bad mistakes, and grew angrier at this one. Anti-Kishi-ism grew rife, and it was only unfortunate that it was tied up with an international question. While large numbers of the crowds were muttering "Down with Kishi," the Sohyo and Zengakuren leaders yelled "Down with America." Trained leaders appeared from nowhere, organised students into snake-dancing arm-linked lines, controlled by whistles—the excuse being so as not to disturb the general public. All were told to bring their various flags representing various groups. What New Zealanders, and many western newspaper correspondents don't realise however, is that in Japan A Red Flag is the Traditional Symbol of any Action Group. Red flags on explosives trucks in New Zealand don't indicate Communist sympathy any more than Japanese student's red flags do!
It can be safely said that of the participants in the recent demonstrations, a large majority were anti-Kishi, with a comparatively small number representing anti-Security Treaty elements and a yet smaller portion consisting of Communists. Anti-Kishi did not mean Anti-American, although anti-Americanism was dominant in the anti-Security Treaty group and among the Communists.
The following two incidents, reported in a magazine edited by a Japanese friend of the present writer, serve adequately to illustrate the peculiar nature of the so-called anti-Americanism in Japan: "When the Presidential Press Secretary and his party were getting out of their beseiged car to catch the helicopter rushed to the scene for their rescue, one of the students who was beating the car stepped by accident on the foot of one of the Americans. He promptly drew back with an apology "I am sorry" and then went back to beating the car. The other was a scene witnessed in one of the swanky tea-shops in busy Ginza Street. It was on a day when mass demonstrations were in full swing. Two American soldiers from Korea, enjoying a furlough in Tokyo, were seated at a table. A group of students recognisable at a glance as members of Zengakuren, entered the tea-shop and took a table next to that of the Americans, much to the embarrassment of the latter, as they had been informed that Zengakuren members followed the same tradition as the historically famous Kamikaze Suicide Squad of the last war. The students, seeing the Americans greatly perturbed and discomforted, decided among themselves that it was because the Americans knew but little Japanese. So, one of the students got up, and came to the American's table offering politely, 'May I help you?'"
Also it is a fact that the demonstrations before the American Embassy were very quiet and orderly, and it was only in front of the Diet that trucks were burned, and fighting took place.
Democracy in Danger
To the shrewd observer, however, the real danger all these riots point to, is not the Socialist threat, but the Right wing one, for amidst this mass activities of the Left-wing, the Right-wing members saw a long-awaited-for opportunity to make their reemergence by resorting to their notorious tactics of terrorism.
On June 17 Socialist leader Kawakami was stabbed and wounded within the Diet compound. Prime Minister Kishi was assaulted on July 14, and on October 12 Inejiro Asanuma was stabbed to death by a fanatical Right-wing youth.
The events described in these three articles all seem to bear out one important fact: that democracy is still quite immature in Japan. Following the defeat in the last war, Japan was initiated in the practice of democracy under the tutelage of the Allied Occupation Forces, and the new democratic constitution was enforced. Notwithstanding, what the Japanese have learned, so far, are but the basic principles of democracy, and not the rules and conditions by which this newly-acquired ideology can be fostered and made to function. The Japanese community today has not yet learned such vital prerequisites for fostering democracy as you find in Lippmann's "Public Philosophy" or Barker's "Traditions of Civility."