Obama’s visit to Japan: Necessity to break away from imposed reference point of the ruling elite

Tokyo protest against visit of President Obama to Japan, April 23, 2014. Signs oppose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s direction for Japan and U.S. demand to relocate its Futenma military base in Okinawa to ecologically sensitive Henoko Bay.

Special report by TML correspondent in Japan

U.S. President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Abe met in Tokyo April 23-25, 2014 to consolidate the aggressive U.S./Japan military alliance. The U.S. President has been applying pressure for the Japanese military to participate directly in U.S.-led wars of aggression wherever they occur and to accept yet more U.S. weapons of mass destruction on its territory. Obama was in Japan to formalize the demand that no longer was it acceptable for Japanese military and industrial power to act only as a rearguard for the U.S. Empire and its predatory wars.

In preparation for a more aggressive militarist stance, the U.S. has given the Japanese ruling elite a green light to pursue territorial disputes with China, south Korea and Russia, and directly threaten the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Japanese ruling elite has used the territorial disputes and threats against the DPRK to generate a pro-war hysteria in their mass media and politics generally. The recent visits of Prime Minister Abe, his ministers and 150 other members of the National Diet (bicameral legislature) to the Yasukuni Shrine, where the ashes of many of Japan’s class A and other war criminals are found, is indicative of the current pro-war frenzy of Japan’s ruling elite.

The U.S./Japan military alliance dating from 1960 replaced the declaration of unconditional surrender to the U.S. armed forces that followed the defeat and complete collapse of the Japanese Military Empire in August 1945. The U.S. military occupation of Japan by 1947 introduced a Westminster/U.S. system of political governance dominated by mostly state-organized and financed political parties. The U.S. occupying force also wrote and demanded the adoption of a new constitution.

Demonstration against U.S. bases in Okinawa, April 19, 2014. The extensive U.S. military presence there is a remnant of the U.S. military occupation of Japan.

The U.S. imposed system of governance and constitution, and the U.S./Japan military alliance are to date considered legitimate expressions of the legal will of Japan governing the internal relations of the people and their international affairs.

Especially after the U.S. predatory war against Korea (1950-53), a majority of the Japanese monopolies and ruling elite has seen the imposed constitution and system of governance, and the capitulation to and eventual military alliance with U.S. imperialism as their reference point. They have imposed this reference point on all political parties and individuals without exception on pain of expulsion from the polity and severe punishment including civil death.

The Japanese ruling elite today consist mostly of descendants of the same monopoly capitalists and their political representatives that dominated economic and political affairs prior to and during WWII. Exceptions are found in those political and professional elements who have found a niche in the post-war U.S. imposed arrangements either as prominent members of civil society or leaders of political parties. The ruling elite embraced the U.S. military occupation and forms of governance after WWII so as to keep the working class in check, rebuild their private empires and avoid being held to account for their war crimes abroad and against the Japanese people.

The U.S. military, as part of its murderous campaign to contain communism and extend its empire, launched the genocidal anti-Korean war in 1950. The Japanese ruling elite used the U.S. anti-Korean war of aggression as an opportunity to re-establish its economic and political power. To conquer Korea and destroy the DPRK and Korean people’s aspiration for independence and sovereign development, the U.S. military became the advanced guard and spear in the war. The Japanese industrial and agricultural means of production became the rearguard supplying essential material support for the anti-Korean war of aggression. The war revived the moribund Japanese ruling elite from their WWII defeat and convinced them that their survival for the time being at least was found within the U.S. Empire and its campaign to contain communism, suppress the international working class and directly confront any country that was opting for independent development outside the U.S. imperialist system of states.

Japan’s renewed militarism, in particular the visits of Prime Minister Abe to the Yasukuni Shrine that honours Japanese war criminals, has been met with ongoing protests across Asia beyond. From top to bottom, left to right: Taipei, Taiwan, August 15, 2013; Hong Kong, China, December 13, 2013, 76th anniversary of Nanjing Massacre by Japanese imperialists; Seoul, Korea, December 27, 2013; demonstration by Chinese residents of U.S. in Chicago, January 28, 2014; residents of Tokyo file a complaint against Prime Minister Abe for his visits to the shrine, April 21, 2014.

The Japanese ruling elite greatly benefited from the successive U.S. murderous wars and subversive campaigns in Asia, including importantly the war against Vietnam. Profiting from U.S. wars and the U.S. market consolidated the view that their continued existence was for the moment found within the U.S./Japan military alliance and the reference point for politics must be the U.S. imposed forms of governance and constitution.

To sustain their political power, the Japanese ruling elite have consistently mobilized the state’s immense material and subjective resources and mass media to undermine and disarm the Japanese working class and middle strata and cut off the head of any opposition that dared to question the established reference point. Of particular importance was the use of agents within the working class movement to generate ideological and political confusion and block the development of independent working class politics, thinking and outlook and a modern reference point. Every effort has been made to stop the working class from escaping the imposed reference point consisting of the U.S. system of governance and constitution, and the U.S./Japan military alliance. The working class has been channelled into waging its opposition struggles to defend its rights and secure its future within the reference point of the ruling elite.

A central task facing the working class everywhere is to develop its own reference point in the battle of the new against the old, to struggle for modern definitions, new forms of governance and constitution in harmony with the social and economic conditions. In Japan, an important fight is to establish an anti-war government that abrogates the U.S. military alliance, removes from its territory the tens of thousands of U.S. troops and their weapons of mass destruction, and forms relations of mutual benefit and development with all its neighbours in East Asia. The reference point for the Japanese working class desperate to come into being is the struggle between the old and the new and for modern definitions based on the concrete material and subjective conditions and contradictions. The independent politics of the working class are necessary for the working class to negate its negation as a reserve of Japanese and U.S. imperialism.

The pressure to view all aspects of politics from the reference point of the ruling elite is enormous. For example, on the issue of fighting for an anti-war government that rids the country of the U.S./Japan military alliance and removes the U.S. armed forces from Japan, the issue is often limited to defending Article 9 of the U.S. imposed constitution, which is referred to as the peace article. This reduces the anti-war movement to calling for policy objectives that are quickly dismissed, especially under exceptional circumstances and emergencies involving provocations where Japanese are portrayed as victims such as the alleged DPRK kidnappings and China’s insistence on territorial sovereignty over a series of small islands that are far from Japan.

March and mass rally of 5,000 people opposes attempts by Japanese ruling elite to eliminate Article 9 of Japanese Constitution, Tokyo, April 8, 2014.

In political affairs, the working class has been encouraged to limit the use of its resources and strength of numbers to win seats in the various legislative social forms. In every electoral campaign a great effort is made to seduce the working class into placing its hopes, security, rights and future under the banner of policy objectives of political parties both of the left and right. The struggle for people’s empowerment within new social forms of governance consistent with the modern conditions has mostly been consigned to intellectual debates over policy objectives rather than practical politics and struggle to bring the people’s empowerment into being. The necessity to deprive the ruling elite of its power to deprive the people of their rights is casually dismissed in favour of what is often called pragmatic politics.

The Obama visit, as part of the U.S. imperialist Asia pivot, was to demand that the ruling elite of Japan must today not only mobilize the people and armed forces as a rearguard to defend and expand the U.S. Empire but as an active member of the advanced guard directly taking part in U.S.-led military adventures against the world’s peoples wherever those battles are being fought. Any debate within the U.S. ruling elite over this decision is whether this change may pose a challenge to their own power. Encouraging the Japanese ruling elite to become an active participant in wars abroad, opens the possibility that Japanese imperialism will want more than what the U.S. is willing to share, and will strike out on its own as an aggressive competitor in a renewed quest to establish its own Military Empire.

The international working class reaches out to all its contingents and encourages them to establish their own reference points for their political, theoretical and social affairs and struggles to defend the  of all and open a path forward to the complete emancipation of the working class. Breaking away from the imposed reference point of the ruling elite is an important step in negating the false consciousness of the working class, a necessary step in organizing its independent politics and waging consistent and successful class struggle on all fronts.

Protests against Obama’s visit to Asia in the Philippines (top) and Malaysia (bottom).

(Photos: Xinha, Japan Press Weekly)



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