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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion At Victoria University College, Wellington, N. Z. Vol. 24, No. 4. 1961

Communism And Japanese Students — Zengakuren—the Japanese Students' Union

Communism And Japanese Students

Zengakuren—the Japanese Students' Union

The nature of the post-war student movement in Japan is entirely different from that of the pre-war days. The student movement was originally initiated by idealistic activities of a few leaders and fostered under the influence of Western humanitarianism, democracy, and socialism. These students read avidly, and their favourite writers were almost invariably Tolstoi and Turgenev, who showed great social interest under the Czarist regime in Russia.

The post-war student movement is fundamentally different. First of all, it is essentially a movement led not by a few leaders, but by a movement of autonomous student associations, which all students are urged to join. In this respect they are very similar to the construction of our N.Z.U.S.A.

The members of this association pay their membership fee with their tuition—Just as we are charged £8/5/- at enrolling time; and the executive selected by the members are supposed to direct activities according to the decision reached by the member-students.

Thus Zengakuren can be seen in many respect basically like our own Students' Association. However, before examining the more detailed relations between executive and students, we must first become aware of one vital fact. Zengakuren is not united. In fact, it is severely split into two groups that political commentators have named "main current" and "anti-main current."

It is not easy to see just what always causes this split. But broadly speaking, the anti-main current is down and out Communist, and is led by Moscow-trained students.

Anti-main current is (a) violently anti-American, (b) violently opposed to the main current group, (c) modestly favourably disposed to U.S.S.R., (d) fanatically in favour of Communism in Japan.

The main current faction on the other hand denounces both international imperialism and international Communism. It has been known to tilt at the Communist Party in Japan. But it is nevertheless itself a form of weird "neutral-Communist" party (if such could exist). They would like to see Japan a Communist country tied to neither East nor West.

The Complicated and Exotic Network of Hates and Dislikes that have thus been Illustrated Within the Framework of one Organisation can only Stagger the Average New Zealander. However, with this in our Minds, we can now see how a Large Number of Students can Brawl in Front of the Japanese Diet, and yet can all be Brawling for Different Reasons.

In one seething mob there can be several species of Communists, some anti-Americans, and some neutralists, etc.

Add a few police with tear gas and batons who are, rightly so, anti the whole mob, plus the usual smattering of students in for a "good time"—and the situation before your eyes, involving thousands upon thousands of people, becomes a bewildering jungle, a nightmare.

However, the original question—what do the average students think of Zengakuren which, although split internally, is elected by unified elections—must remain most important to us. Firstly, it must be noted that at least one-third if not more of the students cast no poll at all. Although we can only assume, It may be safe to say that this one-third in some way shows a complete dissociation with Zengakuren. It is not like the Japanese students I know not to vote out of sheer laziness or out of indifference. It is safe to assume that this one-third of the student population prefers to have no association at all with Zengakuren. As regards those that do vote, figures may illustrate better. (See Table I.)

It would thus seem apparent that all students do not fully support the activities of their student association leaders, just as we discovered last article that all union members do not support their extremist leaders at national election time.

It would appear that In Japan, just as in New Zealand. the Person who Stands For Exec. Election is not Always the Self-Sacrificing Hero of the Community. Instead, he is often the extremist, the man with an axe to grind, the man with an inflated ego that needs bolstering.

I am not launching an attack on our exec., but it must be agreed that too often the man taking public office has not the moderate nature of his voters.

Yet why did a crowd of 330,000 gather outside the Diet buildings recently? Table III may help to show.

Thus the Communistic Zengakuren did Largely Organize the Riots, in Conjunction with Sohyo, the Trade Union—of all this there can be no Doubt.

However, the question we must ask is: "Did all those students join in that demonstration solely on the strength of an order issued by Zengakuren's fanatical leaders?"

Undoubtedly, the answer is "No. Many demonstrated for reasons of their own."

[Next issue: The Riots and the Assassination — just who did attend—what they really attended for.]

Table 1 Students' Opinions on Zengakuren Activities
University Too radical Proper Too luke-warm Recommending more versatile activities In different No answer
Tokyo Teachers' College 53 8 1 34 3
Nagoya University 62 10 2 29 3
Kobe University 59 4 1 24 10
Kyushu University 56.9 11.2 0.1 26.1 3.1 2.8

Note: Figures indicate percentage.

This table proves that the voting students in general have come to assume a very critical attitude towards Zengakuren's leadership.

It must also be noted that the number of those who consider Zengakuren's activities too radical has been on a steady increase in 1960, as witnessed by an inquiry carried out recently at Kyushu University. (See Table II.)

Table II Increased Number of Students in Disfavour of Zengakuren'S Political Activities (Inquiries made at Kyushu University)
1958 % 1959 % 1960 %
Too radical 50.2 40.6 56.9
Proper 33.0 36.0 11.2
Table III Problems Voted for Objective of Student Movement
University Defence of peace & democracy Solution of inter-university problems Realization of socialism Indifferent No answer
Toky Teachers' College 45 33 8
Nagoya University 61 29 8 8.1 8.3
Kobe University 50 38 4 7
Kyushu University 53.7 31.6 9.7 1.9 1.9
Tokyo Women's Christian University 64 25 2 9

Note: Figures indicate percentage.