Between June 16 and June 21, the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC) hosted a representative from the ANSWER Coalition, Curry Malott, to speak at rallies and serve as the keynote speaker at public forums in southwestern Japan. The June 2017 AWC speaking tour was part of a larger campaign for international people’s solidarity against U.S.-Japanese imperialism.
The ANSWER Coalition thanks the AWC-Japan for extending this invitation, and for your continued solidarity in the struggle against U.S. and Japanese imperialism.
Please see below for a detailed report on an exciting series of rallies and forums:
- “Anti-Nuke Struggle” Rally in Kyoto – June 16
- Rally Against U.S.-Japanese Imperialism in Kyoto – June 19
- Kyoto Forum - June 17
- Fukuyama Forum - June 18
- Nagoya Forum - June 20
- Kobe Forum - June 21
Also: Read detailed articles about Japan's Conspiracy bill and recent Free Trade Agreements (links below).
Kansai Electric and Prime Minister Abe put profit before people: “Anti-Nuke Struggle” Rally in Kyoto – June 16
The first activity of the speaking tour was an anti-nuke rally in Kyoto on June 16.
The “anti-nuke struggle” has been central to the people’s movement in Japan since the United States unleashed the unimaginable horrors of nuclear warfare on Japan, first on the residents of Hiroshima-City August 6, 1945, and then on the people of Nagasaki. The anti-nuclear movement gained a new sense of urgency in 2011 as a result of the accident at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Station.
Since 2011 the anti-nuke struggle has staged a protest every Friday around the office building of the Kansai Electric Power Company in downtown Kyoto. As a result of the growing outrage, by March of 2012 Kansai Electric had shutdown the last of its 11 remaining Nuclear power stations north of Osaka and Kyoto.
In 2015 the anti-nuclear movement, challenging the Abe government’s move to begin reopening all nuclear power stations, one by one, successfully filed a temporary injunction to halt the restart of the Takahama No. 3 and 4 reactors. However, the Osaka High Court reversed the decision of the Otsu Distract Court and the reactors have since been restarted. Four aging reactors are back in operation and two more are slated for reactivation as early as the fall. The anti-nuclear struggle will surely continue to intensify.
On June 16, the ANSWER Coalition joined more than 100 demonstrators in Kyoto in their chants against the corporate greed fueling the reopening of power stations despite the extremely high risk they continue to pose to the environment, and human health and safety.
Activists challenged the corporate propaganda that blames the Fukushima meltdown on a tsunami, ignoring the reports from independent investigators who have argued that the cause was an earthquake. Protestors therefore challenge the basic premise of the Nuclear Regulation Authority — that it is possible to create a “safe” nuclear power station.
Since Japan is an active earthquake zone, protestors spoke of how none of its nuclear power stations are safe, a conclusion the Kansai Electric Power Company refuses to consider. South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has vowed to completely phase out nuclear power, noting the inherent danger and disregard for health and safety its production implies.
ANSWER representative Curry Malott spoke to the crowd stressing the importance of international solidarity in the movement against nuclear power as a very important and serious example of capitalism’s drive to accumulate more and more profits regardless of the deadly dangers. Many protestors seemed to embrace the conclusion that for the environment and people to survive, capitalism must end.
Applying this anti-capitalist, environmentalist thinking to an international context, the anti-nuke struggle in Japan has an international orientation. The Asian Wide Campaign-Japan, for example, has demanded that all nuclear power plants be shut down in Japan, Asian and worldwide. AWC-Japan has consistently fought for a nuclear-free world in solidarity with the victims of nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. The AWC also opposes exporting nuclear power plants as part of Japan’s export economy.
Kyoto Forum – June 17
The first public forum in the speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism and military alliance was held on June 17 at the Higashiyama Citizen Center, a union office in Kyoto. The event was sponsored by AWC Kyoto. After opening remarks from AWC-Kyoto, a number of allied organizations offered a few brief reports.
The Kyoto Coalition against the US X-band Radar Base
It was reported the Coalition hosted guests from Seongju and Gimcheon, South Korea, for an assembly on June 3. The South Korean guests were activist struggling against the deployment by the United States and South Korea of the THAAD so-called missile defense system in South Korea.
On June 4, The Kyoto Coalition against the US X-band Radar Base had a demonstration in Kyotango, Kyoto, with the South Korean guests opposing the X-band Radar Base. In closing it was pointed out that because the U.S.-Japan-South Korea military alliance so closely connects those governments to each other, activists also need international solidarity.
The Coalition Paving the Way to Shut Down the Nuclear Power Plants in Wakasa, Fukui Prefecture
On May 17, Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama No. 4 reactor was restarted just over 14 months after it was forced to shut down, and No. 3 reactor was restarted in June. If the reactors meltdown again, over 5 million people could become refugees and the source of water for 14.5 million people could be polluted. The coalition then vowed to keep struggling until all the nuclear power plants are shut down.
AWC Youth stressed the need to share the hardships young people face in society with sincerity and establish a careful relationship with them to prepare for the time when many youth decide to stand up.
Executive Committee of Anti-War Labor’s Gathering in Iwakuni
It was reported that the carrier-based aircrafts will be transferred from Atsugi to Iwakuni base sometime this year. The Iwakuni base, it was noted, is the biggest US Air force base in the Far East. This autumn, the anti-war activists will have an assembly in Iwakuni to oppose to the Iwakuni base.
Fukuyama Forum – June 18
The second forum, which took place on June 18, was held at another union office, Honjo Community Center, in Fukuyama, the second-largest city in Hiroshima Prefecture. The meeting opened with a few announcements, including statements on the deteriorating conditions of workers in Japan.
For example, in 2015, the primary labor law regulating the employment of part-time workers, the Worker Dispatch Act, was revised in the employers benefit. The length of time an employer can maintain an employee’s status as “temporary” is now unlimited.
As a result, the number of dispatch workers in Japan is growing. Around 40 percent of Japan’s workforce is temporary with high rates of extreme exploitation and other forms of abuse, including sexual harassment.
One outcome of this trend is that the number of families on public welfare assistance more than doubled in the last 20 years. More than 16 percent of children in Japan are living in poverty.
The birth rate has also been declining for decades, leading the traditionally chauvinistic and racist state to encourage immigration; that is, this demand for immigration has been driven by the capitalist desire for low-skill, super exploitable labor. In other words, Japan’s capitalist class has sought to increase profit margins by increasing the number of day laborers.
Rally Against U.S.-Japanese Imperialism in Kyoto – June 19
On June 19 the Asia-Wide Campaign hosted their monthly rally and march in front of Kyoto’s City Hall. The ongoing demonstration is part of a larger campaign against U.S.-Japanese imperialism. A crowd of more than 300 came out to rally and then march through the heart of downtown Kyoto’s tourist shopping district, passing by high-end retail super stores such as Louis Vuitton. The activists successfully attracted the attention of dozens of tourists, temporarily halting their shopping to snap photos and take footage of the anti-imperialist chants and anti-war banners, including large, vertically erected AWC signs.
A primary focus of the rally was to denounce the Abe government’s efforts to rewrite Japan’s Constitution, undermining Article 9 and enabling the Japanese Defense Forces to become a ready for war army, which it began in 1992 against Cambodia and then continued by sending military ships to the Gulf region to refuel U.S. warplanes.
Strong condemnation was also expressed toward the U.S., Japanese, and South Korean government’s recent coordinated nuclear bomb-dropping drill right off of North Korea’s shores. Demonstrators expressed outrage that the UN Security Council would not consider this an act of provocation, but rather impose further sanctions on the DPRK (North Korea) for their testing of an intermediate-range missile as a response to being threatened with nuclear annihilation.
The rally also took aim at the Abe government’s aggressive move to begin construction of the Henoko base in Okinawa, which is a central component of the Japanese-U.S. military alliance and preparedness for a new war in Korea and escalations in Syria and elsewhere.
Activism in Okinawa has been intense. AWC-Japan activists reported that in 2012, 100,000 people came out to protest against the U.S. military’s use of the Osprey aircraft. Osprey are prone to accidents and because U.S. military bases are so close to residential areas, they put civilians at serious risk. In 2015, 35,000 protests came out against the Henoko base construction. In June of 2016, 65,000 people joined the protests against all U.S. military bases, focusing their protest on the sexual assaults committed by U.S. servicemen. The activists, carrying the slogan “No More Patience,” demanded that the U.S.-Japanese Security Treaty not just be revised but revoked.
The Security Treaty, signed in 1951 and revised in 1960, gives the United States access to Japan’s air and land space for military purposes in exchange for “protection.” The activists called for all U.S. servicemembers out of Japan and for the closure of all U.S. military bases. In a national economy marked by neoliberal economic reforms and austerity measures resulting in deteriorating conditions for workers in Japan, especially the large number of immigrant day laborers who not only suffer low wages, but racism and abuse, it is outrageous that Japanese tax payers cover 70 percent of the cost of maintaining U.S. bases.
Student activists, aware that their own shrinking opportunities are directly connected to the U.S.-Japanese military alliance, were also represented at the rally. Inspired by the Fight for $15 movement in the United States, Japanese students in Tokyo launched a campaign called Aequitas with branches in Kyoto and Nagoya.
Clearly understood as a new offensive against all of these people’s movements in Japan, the rally also opposed the Abe government’s hastily deliberated Conspiracy bill, which offers a vague definition of terrorism. The Abe government argues this Conspiracy Bill is a necessary safeguard against next years’ Tokyo Olympics. Activists, however, argue the bill will result in attacks on freedom of expression and intensified surveillance measures. Those at the rally believe that the Conspiracy bill will be used to charge peaceful protestors, blocking the construction of military bases, for example, as terrorists.
Read a detailed article by Curry Malott on the Conspiracy bill published by Liberation News:
Japan’s Conspiracy bill signals new threats to the anti-U.S. base movement
Before the march, ANSWER representative Curry Malott addressed the protestors offering the following statement:
It is an honor to be here in Kyoto with you today struggling against U.S.-Japanese imperialism and military alliance.
We oppose the U.S.-Japanese military alliance. We therefore oppose Trump and Abe taking up the unfinished task of transforming the Japanese Self-Defense Forces into a ready for war army to be deployed, along with U.S. forces, anywhere in the world.
We also reject the racist propaganda against North Korea that is used to justify the U.S.-Japanese military alliance.
Opposing the U.S.-Japanese military alliance also means that we stand in solidarity with the anti-U.S. base movement in Okinawa and throughout Japan.
We also stand in solidarity with the people of Japan opposing the Conspiracy Bill passed by the Abe government that will surely be used against the peoples’ movements in Japan, especially the anti-base movement.
We stand with the people of Japan who are outraged and disgusted by the crimes U.S. soldiers commit against women and young girls near U.S. bases with near impunity.
We therefore stand with the victims of U.S. soldiers’ sexual assaults and demand that they be brought to justice, and that all U.S. soldiers in Japan, the Asian Pacific, and beyond be sent home.
We also oppose U.S. military bases in Japan for the environmental devastation they have created and for the debilitating noise pollution they mercilessly subject the people living around the bases to.
Finally, we oppose U.S. military bases in Japan because they have allowed the United States to launch its imperialist wars of aggression on Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Opposing the U.S.-Japanese military alliance therefore goes hand-in-hand with opposing the presence of U.S. military bases in Japan.
Bring down the Trump regime! Bring down the Abe regime! Build people’s solidarity!
Nagoya Forum – June 20
The Nagoya Forum was sponsored by the Network of No War, Tokai People’s Center, Sasajima Day Labor Union and Tokai Action for Centenary of Japan's Annexation of Korea. The forum was held at E-Able Nagoya on June 20.
Before the forum, ANSWER representative Curry Malott visited the office of the Sasashima Day Labor Union and spoke with day laborers, including Filipino immigrants, preparing a meal for homeless people in Nagoya-city. Immigrants from the Philippines and Indonesia, among other countries, experience racism and super exploitation, often as day laborers in the construction industry.
Immigrant workers spoke of hard times being homeless and collecting recyclable cans before learning of and joining the Sasashima Day Labor Union. Many day laborers in fact are homeless, so Sasashima’s connection to the homeless population is very close.
With the U.S. military occupying 20 percent of Okinawa, including much of the island’s arable land, many Okinawans have been forced out of economic necessity to migrate to the so-called Japanese mainland. Because of anti-indigenous racism, many Okinawans also are forced out of necessity to work as temporary, unskilled day laborers.
Kobe Forum – June 21
The final forum took place on June 21. AWC-Japan hosted ANSWER representative Curry Malott and the president of AWC-Korea, Young Koo Heo, as keynote speakers in Kobe at the Kobe Workers’ Hall. From June 22-24, Heo continued the speaking tour in northeastern Japan.
Heo’s report focused on the situation in South Korea and the Candlelight movement, which was the movement that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, and, ultimately, the election of Moon Jae-in.
The movement was driven first by anger against the Park government’s political repression, signaled by the banning of the left-wing Unified Progressive Party in 2014. Anger toward the government for shutting down the people’s political avenues for improving their lives was greatly intensified by a corruption scandal. The scandal exposed an unofficial advisor of Park’s, Choi Soon-sil, for successfully extorting tens of millions of dollars of public and corporate money.
Large numbers of super exploited part-time workers are part of South Korea’s work force. Recent Free Trade Agreements have also reduced international trade and job availability. The deregulation of FTAs has increased capital’s revenue, but it has led to greater impoverishment of workers in South Korea.
Read a detailed article by Curry Malott on recent Free Trade Agreements published by Liberation News:
Free trade agreements and military deregulation in Japan
Outlawing the peoples’ voice combined with the looting of public coffers, situated in the context of worsening economic conditions for workers, pushed the people into the streets to oppose Park.
Within this context of poverty and outrage, Lee stressed the significance of how rapidly the Candlelight movement grew, and in a relatively short amount of time toppled a president. For example, on October 29, 2016, 30,000 people came out to protest against Park. By November 26, that number had grown to 110,000 people protesting the Park government. The demonstrations then quickly rose to 2 million and then 16 million people. In just a few months, by March 10, 2017, the Constitutional Court unanimously upheld parliament’s December vote to impeach.
Given the climate of political repression under Park, Lee stressed the significance of the people holding 20 Candlelight assemblies without any violent activity of the police to crush it. Because of this struggle of direct democracy, people in South Korea are realizing the power they already have.
Lee noted that Moon Jae-in, reflecting the people’s desire, is focusing on creating new jobs. Lee reported that Moon is also looking into reforming the wage differences between regular and irregular workers. Due to the low wages, South Korea also has the longest workday in the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), and unusually high rates of poverty among youth and the elderly.
However, due to many factors, such as the power of the South Korean capitalist class and because of the U.S. government’s control over the South Korean military, Lee noted that the leader of the Candlelight movement could not become the new president.
Offering a wider framework, Lee noted that many previous South Korean presidents promised to reform the unfair military relationship between the U.S. and South Korea, but never moved beyond the realm of promises.
Lee discussed how 100 anti-THAAD protestors were recently met by more than 8,000 police on April 26 to repress and remove them, and move forward with the deployment of a system opposed by the people on that area and nationwide. Moon Jae-in’s election is a clear mandate from the people to stop the deployment of THAAD, but it is yet to be seen whether he will do that or simply slow it’s progress forward with an environmental impact study.
While the election of Moon Jae-in was a major victory of the peoples’ movements, Lee stressed the ongoing need to oppose U.S.-Japanese imperialism, and the U.S.-Japanese-South Korean military alliance.
Despite the repression, the Japanese and South Korean people kept struggling in solidarity in many fields. The speech was concluded by noting that the activists should proceed with their joint struggle.