File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 20

Date: Thu, 2 Oct 1997 22:45:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: M-I: Japan's Communists redefined

>From *The Nikkei Weekly* September 29th:

Leadership change clears way for gentler communist image

Resigning Chairman Seen As Dogmatic,
Imprisoned Over '30s Killing, Despite Denial

The Japanese Communist Party looks ahead to updating its policies and
polishing its image now that central committee chairman Kenji Miyamoto has
stepped down after 39 years of party leadership.

Miyamoto, 88, moved to honorary chairman following the party's 75th
anniversary convention in Shizuoka which ended Sept. 26.  A prewar
Communist, he became secretary-general in 1958 and was later elevated to

The pragmatic policy line pushed by Tetsuzo Fuwa, chairman of the presidium,
who was confirmed in his post at the convention, and other officials looks
certain to gain momentum, with Miyamoto's departure.  The new policy, which
does not insist on the dictatorship of the proletariat and allows capitalism
for the moment, has evolved from Miyamoto's policy calling for a peaceful
revolution through parliamentary democracy.

Electoral victories

But as long as Miyamoto stayed on top, it was difficult for the party to
eliminate its negative "dogmatic" image.  His resignation, regarded as a
turning point for Japan's communists, is likelier to make it easier for the
JCP to fashion a "new" communist party.

The JCP scored important victories in the lower house elections last
October, increasing its seats from 11 to 26, and in elections for Tokyo
assemblymen in July.  The party also ranked second to the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party in public approval ratings in a Nihon Keizai Shimbun's
opinion poll in September.  With the New Frontier Party and other opposition
parties losing support and unable to shed LDP lookalike images, the JCP has
won support of politically unaffiliated voters.

The Communists have also helped themselves with the introduction of young
blood to party leadership, which has been carried out at Miyamoto's
initiative.  Kazuo Shii, another convention holdover, was appointed head of
the secretariat at the 1990 party convention when he was only 35.  Miyamoto
congratulated himself on the "successful changing of the old guard".

Paradoxically, the old leader appeared to cling to leadership as he adopted
an increasingly flexible approach and promoted young party members.  The JCP
has recently hinted it might cooperate with conservatives in the future but
conservative politicians have refused any dealings with Miyamoto.

Miyamoto has consistently denied involvement in the 1930s lynching of a
communist colleague suspected of being a police spy.  He was imprisoned for
12 years because of the murder.

As a result, the party has had to make strenuous efforts to get rid of the
"violent" image painted by anticommunists.  With Miyamoto finally
relinquishing leadership, the party will be able to unload some of its past
misconduct baggage.  This presumably will assist the party in its stated aim
of forging a "democratic coalition government sometime early in the 21st

The party will now have fewer constraints in pursuing a new policy line
while continuing debates on how many of its old party principles to retain.

Presidium President Fuwa has unveiled a target of winning more than 100
seats in the lower house and several dozen seats in the upper house as a
step toward taking power early next century.

To this end, the party reiterated its intention to do its best to win the
support of everyone, including conservatives, and those with no political
affiliations.  Fuwa dismissed as useless speculation by the LDP and other
politicians that the JCP might convert to a social democratic party.

Party membership has increased some 10,000 since the last party convention
in 1994 to around 370,000.

Louis Godena      

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