Sunday, May 20, 2007

Why the Left in Japan Can Never Win

It is said that many of Japan's best Marxist thinkers are economists. More surprisingly, "nearly half of the faculty of Japan's economics and business departments were Marxist economists after the war," according to Furihata Setsuo (Jing Zhao, "Review of Furihata Setsuo, Nihon Keizai no Kozo to Bunseki," H-Japan, H-Net Reviews, December 1998). It is no wonder, then, that, for all their subservience to Washington, Japan's power elite have been among the least neoliberal of all power elites of the North, and, economically, they have been well to the left of most social democratic parties in Europe outside Scandinavia in the recent decades after the end of post-WW 2 boom. They rejected Marxism ideologically but their economic thought absorbed the influence of Marxism.

Moreover, they are conservative in the true sense of the word, unlike the so-called conservatives in the USA and the UK. Even as parliamentary communists, as well as social democrats, worldwide, with the exception of Cuba and Venezuela, rejected Marxism and many of them even abandoned Keynesianism to boot, Japan's right-wing power elite cherished the conservation of the status quo, so such neoliberal policies as they have adopted have been far less radical than the kind that most leftists, when in power, put into practice, in the South as well as the North.*

That is why Japan's Right have presided over the world's longest-standing de facto one-party state, and all significant policy struggles take place within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, not between parties.** The Left in Japan are essentially irrelevant. While the Left's social policy (toward women, zainichi, immigrants, etc.) is marginally better than the Right's, their economic policy today is hardly distinguishable from the LDP's policy a couple of decades ago, and such distinctions as can be found are merely negative: opposition to privatization, labor law reform, higher consumption taxes, etc. When the difference is not merely negative, it puts the Left to the right of the LDP in zeal for protectionism: e.g., "Since 1995, the Japanese Communist Party (the JCP) politicians dominated the testimony advocating for Japan's adoption of safeguards.45 In 1996, the JCP's party effort was at its peak testifying at eleven occasions requesting the government's adoption of safeguards. The JCP's strong interests in GATT/WTO-legal instruments are surprising given its long-standing position against GATT/WTO" (Megumi Naoi, "Shopping for Protection: The Politics of Choosing Trade Instruments in a Partially-Legalized World," Conference on Japan and the World, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 9-10 March 2007).

Combine that with the Left's astonishing position: "Defend all the provisions of the Constitution, including the preamble, and in particular strive to have provisions of peace and democracy fully implemented" (Program of the Japanese Communist Party, the JCP 23rd Congress, 17 January 2004). What kind of Left defends Japan's constitution in its entirety (including Article 29, which says that "The right to own or to hold property is inviolable"), arguing that the constitution that the people of Japan had no part in writing, imposed as it was by the occupation authorities from above, is an expression of "the principle that sovereign power resides in the people" (Program of the Japanese Communist Party, the JCP 23rd Congress, 17 January 2004)? Such a Left can never win, nor do they deserve to win.

* If Japan is like Turkey in ideology and foreign policy, it is like Iran in economic statism.
** Japan is like Iran in this respect as well, except Iran, having a far more rebellious and politicized working class than Japan as well as the history of Jacobinism, is as democratic as any nation can be under class society whereas Japan isn't democratic in the least.

Datsuo Nyua

BBC reports ("Japan Schools to Teach Patriotism," 18 May 2007):
Japan's lower house of parliament has approved a new law requiring schools to teach children to be patriotic.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition voted for the law, which cites "loving our country" as a goal of Japanese pupils' compulsory education.

Opposition members of parliament protested against the bill, warning that it could spread nationalism.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

On Monday, Japan's upper house of parliament passed a bill setting out steps for holding a referendum on revising the country's pacifist constitution, which has not been changed since 1947.

Drawn up by the US occupation authorities after WWII, it bans military force in settling international disputes and prohibits maintaining a military for warfare.
The Left in Japan can never defeat the Right in power by letting the Right argue, and arguing themselves, that the Right represent patriotism and nationalism, that they are opposed to the Right because they are opposed to patriotism and nationalism, and that they support the Constitution drawn up by the US occupation authorities. The post-war Right in Japan have never been patriotic and nationalistic in any meaningful sense of the words -- the post-war Right in Japan have only been subservient to Washington, and such "patriotism and nationalism" as they display means nothing but chauvinism toward their fellow Asians. Why let the Right pass themselves off as patriots and nationalists?

The problem of post-war politics in Japan is that all major political parties and currents, on the Left, the Right, and the Center, are pro-Washington. Their ideology, and more damagingly the structure of feeling, is Datsua Nyuo, Out of Asia, Into the West.* The Left in Japan should have rejected the Constitution a long time ago and called for a constituent assembly to draw up a new one, on the simple ground that the people of Japan had no part in writing it, and in that context argued for Datsuo Nyua, a new foreign policy of independence from the West and equality and friendship with Asia, especially China, Korea, Russia, and the Middle East.

In education, the Left in Japan should argue for giving students choice in learning a range of foreign languages, abolishing the long-standing policy of English-only foreign-language education in public schools.

* In this Japan is very much like Turkey, where the mainstream political discourse has the Turks reject the Arabs, the Kurds, the Iranians, and others in the region and seek to join America and Europe. In Japan, the earliest proponent of this anti-Asian ideology is said to be Fukuzawa Yukichi, who wrote Datsua Ron, On Leaving Asia:

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lumpen Militariat in Post-Ideological Conflict in Africa

In March 1973, Ali A. Mazrui published an article titled "The Lumpen Proletariat and the Lumpen Militariat: African Soldiers as a New Political Class" (Political Studies 21.1: 1–12). The term Mazrui used, "lumpen militariat," to describe a class of semi-organized and semi-literate soldiers who, kept out of the circle of clientelism, increasingly begin to demand a share of power and influence, is clearly more useful today than in the 1970s.

One of the phenomena discussed in "The New Face of Warfare" by Fatin Abbas (The Nation 28 May 2007), as well as the books reviewed by it (Jimmie Briggs's Innocents Lost, P.W. Singer's Children at War, and Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier), is the problem of the lumpen militariat in a post-ideological conflict -- war as the end in itself rather than a means to achieve an ideological end (such as establishing a republican or socialist state), fought by soldiers with no ideological commitment, their only motive being to stay alive and eat enough in the midst of dire poverty and hunger -- who recruit children as young as five:
It is in Africa, considered to be the epicenter of the child soldier phenomenon. . . . In the 1991-2001 civil war between Sierra Leone's government and the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), as many as 80 percent of all fighters were between the ages of 7 and 14. In the two waves of civil war that engulfed Liberia between 1989 and 2003, up to 70 percent of government and rebel combatants were children. In the recent war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), ignited in 1996 by Laurent Kabila's revolt against Mobutu's regime, roughly half the fighters (between 30,000 and 50,000) were child soldiers. (Abbas)
Unfortunately, the review as well as the books reviewed confuses this predominantly African phenomenon, arising out of the ruin of failed states and in turn ruining failing states in the only continent that has seen absolute as well as relative declines in living standards in recent decades, with a very different phenomenon of young men and women, only slightly under 18, joining such ideological armies as FARC.

What's the difference? An ideological conflict can result in a state that is better than the ancient regime before the conflict; a post-ideological conflict, often endless, never does -- if it ends and results in a state at all, it merely establishes the dictatorship of the militariat (no longer quite lumpen as they acquire state power), very often a new ethnocracy to boot.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Social Liberal Origin of "Islamofascism"

Pat Morrison writes in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:
"[John C.] Hagee [founder and pastor of the 18,000-member non-denominational evangelical Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas] coined the term 'Islamofascist' at CUFI's [Christians United for Israel's] founding conference, [the Rev. Donald] Wagner noted, 'and within a week [President] Bush was using it, then [former Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld'" ("The Dangerous Potent Elixir of Christian Zionism," April 2007)
But Hagee didn't coin the term "Islamofascist." Stefan Durand traces the term back to historian Malise Ruthven's 1990 article in The Independent, and so does William Safire. (CUFI wasn't founded until February 2006.) In the article Ruthven put it this way:
Nevertheless there is what might be called a political problem affecting the Muslim world. In contrast to the heirs of some other non-Western traditions, including Hinduism, Shintoism and Buddhism, Islamic societies seem to have found it particularly hard to institutionalise divergences politically: authoritarian government, not to say Islamo-fascism, is the rule rather than the exception from Morocco to Pakistan.
Whether or not they think it's a good idea to resort to the term "Islamofascism," I bet that a majority of social liberals in the North take the same view of Islam that Ruthven spells out above. It is common among them to see Islam as more inimical to pluralism in particular or modernity in general, and more conducive to authoritarian government, than other religions, much the same way that they thought, and probably still think, that communism was more conducive to authoritarian government than other political ideologies. On that ideological premise of Islam as totalitarianism, social liberals do not differ from Christian Zionists, who merely put an apocalyptic Christian spin on it. As socialists and communists of the North have largely become social liberals, I expect an increasing number of them to follow this premise to its logical conclusion. There is thus no significant ideological brake inside the North on the so-called War on Terror.

Archives — Novembre 2006
Un cadre idéologique pour la « troisième guerre mondiale »
Fascisme, islam et grossiers amalgames
par Stefan Durand

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La paternité du néologisme « islamo-fascisme » a été revendiquée dans l'hebdomadaire néoconservateur The Weekly Standard par le journaliste Stephen Schwartz (1), qui collabore par ailleurs à un site Internet très controversé, FrontPage magazine, de David Horowitz.

Toutefois, n'ayant utilisé le terme pour la première fois qu'en 2001, ce n'est donc pas Schwartz qui a inventé l'expression, mais l'historien Malise Ruthven en 1990, dans le quotidien britannique The Independent (2).

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(1) Cf. son article du 17 août 2006, « What is "islamofascism" ? ».

(2) 8 septembre 1990 : « L'autoritarisme gouvernemental, pour ne pas dire l'islamo-fascisme, est la règle plutôt que l'exception du Maroc au Pakistan. »
Language: Islamofascism, anyone?
William Safire The New York Times
Published: October 1, 2006

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The first use I can find is in The Independent of Sept. 8, 1990: "Authoritarian government, not to say 'Islamo-fascism,'" wrote Malise Ruthven, "is the rule rather than the exception from Morocco to Pakistan."