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Aiming to Form
a New Workers Party

From the 1960 Communist League (Bund)
to the Socialist Workers Party

(From 'Storm Petrel' No.783 July 23, 2000)


The Background of the Formation of the Bund and its Historical Achievements

In December 1958, the Communist League (Bund) was created which advocated gthe political rallying of the revolutionary left.h Here, for the first time, an open struggle emerged with the aim of creating a new revolutionary workers party to take the place of the Stalinist Communist Party. This was an important historical event that marked the beginning of a new era in the history of the socialist movement in Japan.

Three years earlier, in July 1955, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) put an end to its internal divisions at its 6th Party Congress, thereby regaining organizational unity. However, the subsequent actions of the central leadership formed through unity of the former gmainstreamh and ginternationalh factions completely betrayed the expectations of faithful party members who were aiming for the revolutionary revival of the JCP.

Khrushchevfs criticism of Stalin at the 20th congress of CPSU held in 1956, and the subsequent uprisings of people in Poland and Hungary against the rule of the Stalinist CP which made use of the opportunity the criticism afforded, applied pressure on the Japanese Stalinists to reflect seriously on the foundation of their own thought, theories, organization, and movement. But Kenji Miyamoto and other JCP leaders did not earnestly consider their own responsibility. -- Quite the contrary. Instead, they slandered the Hungarian uprising as an imperialist plot, while praising the crushing of the uprising with Soviet tanks as a gmanifestation of proletarian internationalism.h

The JCP leadership also minimalized the significance of the criticism of Stalin by viewing it as simply a case of a gcult of personalityh or gpaternalistic leadership,h saying that this whole matter had been resolved at the 6th Party Congress. On top of this, the leadership sought to reinforce its own internal bureaucratic control by offering up the excuse that a lack of discipline within the Hungarian CP had been one of the causes of the imperialistsf counter-revolutionary intervention.

Moreover, the draft party program presented in September 1957, which was nothing but a revised version of the 1951 program, advocated the typically Stalinistic nationalistic program of gnational democratic revolutionh on the basis of the dogma of gJapanese subordination to the United Statesh and a gtwo-staged theory of revolution.h was only the adjusted program in 1951 and was such a one of "national democratic revolution" on the basis of the dogma of "Japanese subordination to United States" theory and a gtwo staged theory of revolution.h

In this situation, a dispute within the party suddenly emerged over the Stalin criticism, the Hungarian uprising, and the new party line. Criticizing the central leadership on the one hand was the gStructural Reformists,h and on the other hand, from a completely different vantage point, party members who belonged to the student cell at Tokyo University. The student members were inspired by the January 1958 article by Kazutoshi Yamaguchi that appeared in the organ of the Tokyo University cell, Marxism and Leninism, and these members renamed the Antiwar Student Alliance the Socialist Student Alliance (Shagakudou) in May, and went on to win over leadership of Zengakuren (All-Japan Federation of Studentsf Self-Governing Associations) from the central leadership of the JCP at the 11th Zengakuren Congress.

At the meeting of the JCP fraction of the Zengakuren congress, which was held at JCP headquarters the day after the congress, a resolution of no-confidence in the JCP Central Committee was passed with a demand to censure the leadership at the upcoming 7th Party Congress (this is the so-called gJune 1st Incidenth). Faced with this revolt, Miyamoto disgracefully responded with a large-scale purge of party members. At this point, student members of the JCP escalated their open factional struggles and formed a new organization.

The first issue of the bulletin Puroretaria Tsushin (Proletarian Bulletin) appeared in September, announcing that the task facing communists was gto make a tenacious effort to realize a revolutionary vanguard party.h In December of the same year the Communist League (Bund) was formed amidst a backdrop of an uplift in the popular movement, as seen in the movements against the Teacher Efficiency-rating Law (Kinpyou) and the revision of the Police Duties Performance Law (Keishokuhou, which Zengakuren played a role in.

The leading article of the inaugural January 1959 issue of Communismm the Bundfs theoretical journal, was entitled gA Whole World to Win: Burning Tasks of the Proletariath and this can be called the organizationfs founding manifesto, which proudly called for a grallying to the revolutionary vanguard with the ability to successfully lead a socialist revolution.h

gWhat conclusions can be drawn from an examination of the present-day of 1959? It is the ripening of the crisis of global capitalism, the ripening of the objective preconditions for the way out of this crisis through the victory of the world proletarian revolution and communism. But despite the existence of these objective conditions, the present-day is also the historical crisis of mankind caused by a crisis in the leadership of the proletariat that is blocking the victory of the international communist movement.

gThere is only one path for overcoming this crisis of leadership. That is, to liberate the proletariat from every illusion it holds towards the leadership of the officially recognized communist movement, to create an independent revolutionary leftwing on the basis of the revival of truly revolutionary Marxism, and rally the revolutionary workers around this point.h

The historical significance of the Bund centers on the fact that this organization openly called for a liberation from the spell cast by Stalinism, which had dominated the working class movement in Japan and throughout the world, and called for ga new revolutionary party to take the place of the Communist and Socialist parties.h

Soon after the formation of the Bund, the new organization was faced with the struggle against the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty (AMPO), which it viewed as ga class struggle of the workers against the first step taken by [Japanese] monopoly capital to become an independent imperialist power.h Practically speaking, by leading this struggle the Bund was able to thoroughly denounce the JCPfs ugly nationalistic and reactionary nature, and smash the gmyth of the vanguardh that had surrounded the JCP for many so many years. There is really no way to overemphasize this historical achievement of the Bund.

Collapse of the Bund and the Subsequent New Left Movement

However, this magnificent revolutionary dream of the Bund was destined to collapse with the end of the AMPO struggle. Immediately following the AMPO struggle, from the summer to autumn of 1960, the Bund became a hotbed of confusion and division regarding how to sum up this struggle, falling into organizational splits and then suddenly suffering an organizational collapse.

The petit-bourgeois radical essence of the Bundfs theory and practice, which had been concealed in the midst of the AMPO struggle, became apparent when this struggle ended, but none of the subsequent factions were able to overcome this limitation in a Marxist manner and open up new prospects.

This inability to indicate a clear and firm direction was seen not just in the case of the ultra-radical Puroretaria Tsutatsu (Proletarian Message) group, which ascribed the failure of the AMPO struggle to the opportunism of the Bund leadership that evaded such militant tactics as breaking into the Diet building in the final stages of the struggle, and the Senki (Battle Flag) group, which engaged in a liquidationist total rejection of the Bund by subordinating itself to a criticism of petty-bourgeois radicalism based on the idealistic theories of gsubjectivityh of Kuroda Kanfichifs Revolutionary Communist League, but also in the case of the Puroretaria Tsushin (Proletarian Bulletin) group, which had called for a review of the AMPO struggle from the standpoint of maintaining the traditions of the Bund.

The insufficient awareness among Bund members of the need to create an organization and movement based on the firm revolutionary theory of Marxism is apparent from the following passage from the founding manifesto, gA Whole World to Winh -- although it may be somewhat harsh to demand this of the organization considering that it charged into the AMPO struggle immediately after being formed.

gWe are opposed to those chattering bourgeois groups that seek to create something on the sole basis of debating ideas, theory and programs, and who call for a program to be in place prior to action, and instead say that the program for the emancipation of the proletariat can only emerge in the midst the trial by fire of praxis involving a response to the tasks of the class struggle that emerge every day. We respond to such groups that the struggle is not ensured on the basis of a gstrategic definition,h but rather on the basis of the relations between classes.h

There is no question that the view expressed above does blast the weak points of Kuroda Kanfichifs group and the Structural Reformists. However, on the whole this view goes too far. In general it can be said to be true that gthe program for the emancipation of the proletariat can only emerge in the midst of the trial by fire of praxis.h However, the term gpraxish they use refers simply to the democratic and pacifistic struggles of the time, such as the struggle against the Teacher Efficiency-rating Law and AMPO, not the historical revolutionary praxis of the proletariat in the broad sense. The degree to which the revolutionary theory of Marxism was disdained at the time is clear from reading the valuable testimony of Shima Shigeo, the chief secretary of the Bund, who writes in his memoirs that everything that could be made use of was incorporated, not just Trotskyism, but also existentialism and pragmatism.

The lack of theory and conceptual mishmash of the Bund is characterized by the theory of state monopoly capitalism presented by Himeoka Reiji, which is considered one of the organizationfs programmatic documents, which is nothing more than a rehashing of the gthree-stagedh methodology of Uno Kozo, a classic example of vulgar economics.

On top of this, there was the Bundfs theory of the student movement as an gallied forceh or gvanguardh of the class struggles of the working class. This is a typical petty-bourgeois radical gtheory,h and was a tenet firmly held by the subsequent new left movement, which held that the struggles of the students could lift the revolutionary struggles of the working class by providing a gshock.h

It was thus clear from the beginning that even though the Bund was somehow able to find its way in the midst of the AMPO struggle, once this struggle came to an end there was no prospect of a future direction. The collapse of BUND was a necessary result of deadlock and failure of such petit bourgeois radicalism.

Following the collapse of the Bund, the entire Senki group and part of the Puroretaria Tsushin group saw their salvation in the Revolutionary Communist League to which they flocked, and this organization experienced a temporary surge, but in 1963 the RCL split into the so-called Chukaku (core) faction, which centered on the former Bund members and advocated a vulgar activist-centered line, and the Kakumaru (revolutionary Marxist) faction, which was based on its own peculiar sectarianism that called for the construction of a revolutionary party on the basis of grevolutionary self-transformationh and gsubject formationh under the empty slogan of ganti-imperialism / anti-Stalinism.h

A gnew lefth movement developed in Japan that included the Liberation Faction of the Socialist Youth League (Revolutionary Workers Association), created in the early 1960s under the banner of Rosa Luxembourgfs ideas, which called for an emphasis on the spontaneous actions of the working class, the reconstructed Bund formed in 1966, which gathered together various Bundist tendencies, as well as the Trotskyist Fourth International Group.

This new left movement, which also allied itself with the movement of the All-Campus Joint Struggle Committee (kyoutou undo) and the Antiwar Youth Committee, engaged in a variety of struggles ? including the Japan/Korea Accord struggle, protests against the Vietnam war, campus activities, the 1970 AMPO struggle, the Okinawa struggle, and the Sanrizuka struggle ? all the while undergoing a dizzying array of sectarian splits and unifications. Ultimately, however, this movement represented nothing more than gplaying at revolutionh with the aim of being even more radical than the radical political struggles of the Bund circa 1960.

This movement also basically failed to take one step beyond the pacifistic, nationalistic and democratic political level of the Socialist and Communist parties (or go beyond the trade-unionism and economism of the labor union movement). At best, this new left movement merely had the significance of gpunishingh or supplementing, from the gleft,h the opportunism of the Socialist and Communist parties, which had become deeply mired in bourgeois corruption.

By the mid-seventies, this empty radicalism was exhausted ? after culminating in such events as the shoot-out between the police and the cartoonish Rengo Sekigun (United Red Army) group at the Asama Sanso mountain lodge, and the savage three-way in-fighting (uchi-geba) and terrorism waged between the two RCL factions and Liberation Faction of the Socialist Youth League, and more recently, the wretched subordination of the Fourth International and the Senki group of the reconstructed Bund to the point of tailing after the civic movement. These developments provide the definitive exposure of the sterility and bankruptcy of the new left movement.

Lenin already declared at the outset of the revolutionary movement in Russia that gwithout revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement,h and continued to emphasize this throughout his life, and the bankruptcy of the Bund, its epigone tendencies and the new left movement, not to mention the SP and JCP, is the result of their disdain for Marxist revolutionary theory. This is a valuable lesson that we can draw from looking back on hundred-year history of the socialist movement in Japan.

From Zenkokushaken and the MWL to the formation of the SWP

Even with irresponsibility and inconsistency of the former heroes of the Bund and their facile defection to the new left movement or return to the confines of the university and bourgeois society, dependent on their class position, there still remained a minority that inherited the ideals of the Bund while seeking to overcome its petty-bourgeois radicalism and form a workers party on the basis of Marxism.

This was the group of Hayashi Hiroyoshi and others that gathered together the members the Communist Flag group that originated from the Puroretaria Tsushin group mentioned above. On the basis of the standpoint of there being gno revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory,h they organized a revolutionary circle called Zenkokushaken (Nationwide Social Science Study Group) in December 1963, while keeping their distance from the empty and superficial ranting of the new left movement. The organization aimed to create a revolutionary party truly based on the theory of Marxism, and the members set about steadfastly carrying the theoretical, organizational, and practical preparations to achieve this. Along with presenting theoretical achievements in the theoretical journal Study of Scientific Communism, Zenkokushaken also launched the newspaper Hibana (Spark) in 1966, which was named called after Leninfs Iskra newspaper and also distributed handbills and leaflets to attract the attention of class-conscious workers and worker groups.

The members of Zenkokushaken revived the revolutionary theory of Marx and Lenin, which had been distorted, altered, and discarded by Stalinism, and on this basis they carried out an analysis of the reality and class struggles of Japan and the entire world, while elucidating the objective and subjective conditions for the realization of a socialist revolution in Japan.

One theoretical achievement of this period was the clarification of the error of gtwo-staged theory of revolutionh and gunited-front tacticsh on the basis of examining the history of international socialist movement and labor movement since the time of the 1848 revolution. But even more important was the unraveling of one of the ggreat mysteries of the 20th centuryh ? the question of the nature of the socio-economic systems in the Soviet Union and China which were generally called gsocialism.h The conclusion was reached that these systems are in fact nothing but a type of capitalism (=state capitalism), with Stalinism as the ideological superstructure of these systems. This provided us with the key to correctly grasp, for the first time, the current stage of world history and the world system.

The outcome of nearly ten years of collective study culminated in the formation of the Marxist Workers League (MWL) in 1972. This marked the first time in the history of the socialist movement in Japan for a revolutionary political organization of workers to be created with a program that was truly based on Marxist revolutionary theory and a scientific analysis of reality.

Under the slogan of gOppose Right and Left Opportunism!h (i.e., not only the opportunism of the SP and JCP on the right, but also the leftwing opportunism of the radical groups), the MWL sought to protect the interests of the working class, in factories, workplaces and local communities, as well as in the mass movement of workers starting with the labor union movement, carrying out a tenacious struggle of agitation, education and organization centering on the party publications as a weapon.

In addition, starting in 1974 the MWL put up candidates for the House of Councilors election and subsequently participated in the House of Councilors election in 1977, as well as the both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors election in 1980. The MWL thoroughly exposed the nature of capital and the politics of opportunists through a concrete analysis, while consistently making public revolutionary, socialist appeals. Needless to say, struggling to make use of parliamentary elections to promote the class awareness and organization of workers is one important part of the revolutionary political struggles of the workers party under a bourgeois democratic state.

In 1984, the MWL was reorganized to form the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) that aimed for the creation of a workers party with even closer ties to working people. Also under the SWP, we pushed forward principled struggles among the working masses centering on our regular party publications, while continuing to participate actively in local and national elections, receiving, for example, 150,000 combined votes from the the House of Councilors elections in 1986 and 1989.

The SWP remains a quite small organization today. Still, if we consider the disappearance of the SP, the boundless bourgeois corruption of the JCP, and the decline of the new left movement, it should be clear who is standing on the true road constructed through the strenuous efforts of many working class pioneers over the one-hundred year history of the Japanese socialist movement.

Next year marks 100-year anniversary of the formation of the first socialist party in Japan (the Social Democratic Party), which was immediately outlawed. Let's start moving forward by renewing our determination to make a confident leap forward in the new century as the true successors of the efforts of our socialist forbearers.

( Written by Masaru Machida, Translated by Yoshi )