Japan: ‘The government is taking advantage of Russia’s invasion to push militarism’

October 8, 2023
Japan protests
Protesting the Australia-Japan joint air drill (Top). Protest in Okinawa against the release of nuclear contaminated wastewater (Bottom left). Protesting outside the US Embassy against the US-Japan-South Korea summit. Photos: jrcl.org

Amid rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific, Japan’s government is ramping up defence spending in an attempt to transform the nation into a military power. Akira Kato, from the Japan Revolutionary Communist League (Revolutionary Marxist Faction), discusses the background to these moves and tensions with Green Left’s Federico Fuentes.

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Japan has recently strengthened military ties with the United States, Australia and South Korea, as well as announced a record boost to military spending. What is behind these moves?

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the ruling neo-fascist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a golden chance to do away with Japan’s “renunciation of war”, specified in Article 9 of the Constitution. Kishida has said time and again: “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow.”

Taking advantage of this opportunity, they are rushing to convert Japan into a big military power with genuine war-capable systems and armaments. The rulers of Japan — a US vassal state bound by the chains of the Security Treaty — have found a way to survive as an imperialist power by contributing to the US-led multilateral military alliance against China and Russia — an Asian version of NATO.

Kishida wants systems for pre-emptive attacks against China and North Korea and is promoting a tremendous military buildup, with a total 43 trillion yen defence budget over five years. We will not allow him to reinforce armaments nor revise the Constitution.

As to Japanese-Australian joint air drills recently conducted in Japan, students from Zengakuren [the All-Japan Federation of Students’ Self-Government Associations] organised a protest against them at the front gate of the Komatsu Air Base, the venue for the drills.

What is behind US military strategy in the region? Conversely, how do you view China’s actions?

The US is fretting that it is being overtaken by China in all respects — economic, military, political and technological. They fear US hegemony might be replaced by China’s hegemony if measures are not taken.

This declining imperialism is, however, incapable of curbing the challenger’s rise through its own efforts. It is hell-bent on mobilising its allies to build up a military encircling net to contain China.

US President Joe Biden loudly proclaims, “No to any attempt to change the status quo by force”. But it is US imperialism that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, drowning the people there in seas of blood. Biden pretends not to notice those crimes and, in the name of “freedom and democracy”, is frantically building up the US’ military presence in an effort to contain China. We will never allow Biden to do this.

At the same time, we denounce the Chinese government for repeatedly carrying out intimidatory actions by sending its naval and air forces to areas surrounding Taiwan, to the South and the East China Seas, and to the Senkaku [Diaoyu] Islands.

These are unreserved and shameless expansionist attempts to absorb Taiwan and seize the concerned islands. They are bureaucratic threats to working people in Taiwan, Southeast Asia and Japan.

Following Deng Xiao-ping’s instruction to “Use capitalism fearlessly”, China rose to become the world’s second economic power through driving workers and peasant workers to work harder for low wages. China is now challenging US imperialism with a view to becoming the new ruler of the world.

While China puts up billboards that say “socialism”, it is in fact a bureaucratic autocracy, in which the bureaucracy of a neo-Stalinist party, the Communist Party of China, rules over working people.

The disparity between rich and poor in China is widening to such an extent that it surpasses that of imperialist countries. The toiling masses are groaning in dire poverty. The Uighur people and those of Hong Kong are suffering bloody repression.

We should never tolerate the neo-Stalinist bureaucracy of China perpetrating such crimes against the working class and toiling masses.

How have US-China tensions impacted politics and struggles in Japan?

The Kishida government is propagandising about the “threats” of China and North Korea. The leaders of the opposition movements have been totally taken in by the government.

They no longer oppose strengthening the US-Japan military alliance or the national armed forces, the Self-Defense Forces. For us, it is an urgent task to radically upend this degeneration of opposition movements.

The leadership of Rengo [the Japanese Trade Union Confederation], which is the largest national centre of trade unions in Japan and is under the control of labour aristocrats, supports the Kishida-led military build-up and revision of the Constitution.

The JRCL (RMF), together with militant workers and students, are in the vanguard of struggles being waged in many regions of Japan against military bases, including against the construction of a new US Marine base in Okinawa.

The Rengo leadership is frantically trying to hold back these struggles, saying that military bases are needed to defend the country from China. While condemning such degenerate leaders, we promote anti-military alliance and anti-war struggles.

What is your organisation’s stance towards the conflict in Ukraine and tensions over Taiwan?

Russian ruler Vladimir Putin launched this aggression with the aim of exterminating the state of Ukraine and its nation altogether, and incorporating it into the Russian Federation. We strongly denounce it as a world-historic crime.

Here in Japan, we are promoting a mass anti-war struggle to crush Putin’s war. Ukrainian people are continuing to battle to beat back the invading Russian army. We fight in solidarity with Ukrainian people.

Some Western leftists shout: “Stop supplying weapons!” But those who are suffering from the aggression and bleeding for the resistance are working class people, just like us.

Those leftists should listen to the voices of Ukrainians who are saying: “The Ukrainian people want to fight but they don’t have the necessary weapons to destroy Russian artillery and planes, so it is a matter of life and death that the Ukrainian people get the weapons they need.”

These words are from an appeal issued by militant left youths in Ukraine. To tell those Ukrainians to fight with only Molotov cocktails and antiquated guns in life-risking battles means to tell them to be killed!

The absolute criterion for our class-based judgement vis-a-vis Putin’s war must be the defence and protection of the real interests of the oppressed working class.

As for Taiwan, here too we base ourselves on a working-class standpoint. The Chinese government is accelerating its moves to “absorb” Taiwan, with an ambition to replace US imperialism as the hegemonic power.

Its moves are also aimed at securing a military stronghold from which Chinese forces can advance into the West Pacific.

The Chinese government is intensifying its military intimidation of Taiwanese people who do not accept “absorption”. We strongly condemn this.

[A longer version of this interview can be read at links.org.au.]

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