|A Short History
of the Creation of the SWP
The Socialist Workers Party was formed in May 1984. The reason for the creation of a new workersf party was the complete degeneration of the Socialist and Communist parties, which had claimed to represent the working class. Of course, these parties were not true socialist parties to begin with, but over the years their corruption deepened, and the workers abandoned them. These pseudo-workersf parties have thrown away the ideals of socialism?ideals that have been held by workers throughout the world?and transformed themselves into completely bourgeois, reformist parties. The SWP had been fighting to build a mass party, which can develop the class struggles of the workers for the revolutionary overthrow of the rule of monopoly capital.
Although the SWP was only formed in 1984, we existed as a political tendency for more than twenty years prior to this time. Here we would like to provide a brief overview of the origins of our party.
The history of our struggles dates back to the Nationwide Social Science Study Group [zenkoku-shaken], formed in December 1963. At the time, the radical student and worker movement against the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treat (AMPO), led by the Communist League, had collapsed. Soon after 1960, the Communist League split into a number of factions. Zenkoku-shaken emerged from this process.
In the early and mid 1950s, the Japanese Communist Party based itself on the mistaken dogma that Japan was an American dependency, and the JCP stubbornly held the view that the coming revolution in Japan would be a revolution of national independence to realize democracy. The activities of this Stalinist party displayed various shades of opportunism.
In the wake of the Polish and Hungarian anti-Stalinist rebellions of 1956, the student members of the JCP began to doubt the standpoint of Stalinism, and called into question the idea that the Soviet Union was a socialist society. As a result, these students left the Communist Party, and in 1958 formed the Communist League. This new organization was at the forefront of the 1960 anti-AMPO movement.
The Communist League clearly recognized that the coming revolution in Japan would be a revolution to realize socialism since the rule of monopoly capital already had been established in Japan at the time, and Japan had become politically independent of the United States after the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty. Accordingly, the revision of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty in 1960 did not mean that Japan would become more dependent on the United States, as the JCP claimed. Rather, this revision meant that Japan, as an independent state, had formed an imperialistic alliance with the United States.
Despite such correct analysis, the Communist League had many limitations, and the organization was marked by radicalism. Communist League activists believed that if the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty were crushed, a revolution could break out immediately. When the movement against the treaty failed, and the security treaty was finally approved, the Communist League could not escape disintegration, and the organization split into a number of factions.
Our study group, zenkoku-shaken, emerged from the dissolved Communist League, and rallied its most proletarian factions. Zenkoku-shaken originated from the so-called Battle Flag Faction [senki-ha] that emerged from the former Communist League in the course of factional struggles of 1960-1. At the time, the Communist League was criticized for its Blanquism, and our starting point was also the positive assimilation of this criticism. We realized that it is necessary to sublate petty-bourgeois radicalism in order to form a true proletarian organization that is able to organize revolutionary proletarian struggles.
Unfortunately, many genuine radicals who had been leaders of the Communist League, bowed to the superficial criticism of Blanquism then being offered by the Japanese Revolutionary Communist League (JRCL), and ended up joining this organization. We rejected their facile conversion, and chose a completely different path because we recognized the superficiality of the JRCLfs criticism, and that this organization itself had not overcome radicalism.
It is impossible to organize a revolutionary political party, without truly sublating radicalism and obtaining a scientific understanding of the present-day world and the ideology of the proletariat. Moreover, it is totally meaningless to call a group a political party in name only, without being connected to advanced elements of the proletariat. For this reason, we did not immediately organize a political party, and instead created the zenkoku-shaken as a study group intended to prepare for the creation of a real workers party.
The rules of zenkoku-shaken were very simple, and there were only five articles. Article two stipulated the aim of the organization:
Members should maintain the principles of Marxism-Leninism, and make an effort to apply these principles to the class struggle. The task of the moment is to prepare theoretically and practically to organize a mass communist party of the working class.
We also published the first issue of issue of our theoretical journal: Scientific Communism [kagakuteki ky?sanshugi], which clarified our ideological standpoint. We stated that our aim was not to gimmediately organize the communist movement,h but to prepare theoretically and practically for that purpose. We put particular emphasis on the need for theoretical study.
In this way we formed a study circle. However, this was not an ordinary circle, but rather a revolutionary circle of Marxists. Due to our small numbers, our main activity was necessarily theoretical work, but we also worked hard to reach the workers (e.g. our participation in demonstrations and May Day leaflets), and tried to develop young activists. From May 1, 1966, we began to publish a biweekly newspaper, hibana [The Spark].
Our main theoretical activity during this early period focused on criticizing both Stalinism and the two ideological pillars of the gNew Lefth movement in Japan: Unoist [Uno Kozo] economics, and the subjectivistic philosophy of Kuroda Kanfichi [leader of the JRCL]. More specifically, our studies of the time included: a history of the postwar labor movement in Japan and criticism of the economism and trade-unionism of the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan and JCPfs trade-union tactics; an overview and criticism of Stalinist and Trotskyist united-front tactics and the historical experiences of popular front governments; a criticism of illusions concerning the Minobe reformist administration in Tokyo and the reformist line of the Socialist and Communist parties who had supported it; an analysis of national-liberation movements; research on the Soviet Union; criticism of the imperialism of Japanese monopoly capital which was developing rapidly; a criticism of the JCPfs line of national independence and democratic revolution; etc. Thus, our theoretical activities covered almost every important problem related to the strategy and tactics of the proletariat in the revolutionary socialist movement. These studies were published in our newspaper, theoretical journal, as well as in a number of books.
The activities of zenkoku-shaken thus made steady progress. At the same time, however, our organization did not grow as easily as we had hoped. We have described this period of the mid 1960s in the following way:
We lived in an age where the first radical movement of 1958-1960, organized by the Communist League, had collapsed. This had resulted in deep despair and hopelessness among the young intellectuals and students who had been leading the revolutionary struggles in those days. Our activities were restricted to propaganda by means of our newspaper and other publications, and to our small-scale study groups. Objectively and subjectively, we were in a situation where we had no choice but to patiently put one small stone after another. Often one person joined our group just as another person was leaving.
However, our relative isolation eventually ended. With the rise of the second radical movement around 1970?centering on opposition to the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the movement for the return of Okinawa?proletarian elements from the movement began to join zenkoku-shaken one after another. At the time, we clearly pointed out the limitations of this second major radical movement, while at the same time appreciating its revolutionary aspects. We stated that we should not lead such a radical petty bourgeois movement.
In May 1969, we held the Third Congress of the zenkoku-shaken, and stressed the necessity of the struggle for the revolutionary workers party in the following way: gOur task is to lead the revolutionary struggle of proletariat, and for that purpose, we have to build a strong revolutionary party that joins hands with proletariat.h At this time, we felt that the conditions for turning zenkoku-shaken into a political organization were ripe. This Third Congress was the starting point for the creation of a new organization. At the meeting we evaluated the postwar world system and the character of Japanese capitalism. We also described the nature of the Socialist and Communist parties and the New Left, and made our practical tasks clear.
Finally on May 23, 1971, the editorial committee of zenkoku-shaken adopted the resolution that gwe should hold the Fourth Congress the following summer in order to form a political organization, and that we should make every possible preparation for this meeting.h In this way, Fourth Congress held in Tokyo on July 22-23, 1971 become the founding congress of marur?d? [Marxist Workers League]. After two days of long and serious discussions at the meeting, we adopted a socialist platform founded on Marxism and party rules based on the principle of democratic centralism. The creation of this revolutionary political organization meant that eight long years of theoretical and organizational activities within zenkoku-shaken had finally borne fruit.
It is no exaggeration to say that the program of MWL adopted at the congress was the only program in Japan aiming for socialist revolution that consistently applied Marxism to both the present-day reality of Japan and the path of the revolutionary movement in Japan.
First of all, our program theoretically defined the historical character of capitalism, and the necessity of socialism and its significance. The program defined the character of Japanese revolution as: ga proletarian socialist revolution to overthrow monopoly capital since its rule had been established along with the political system of bourgeois democracy.h The MWL program also clarified gthe age of imperialism and the character of the Russian Revolution,h and elucidated the characteristics of the world system at the present stage, and the historical conditions of its formation, provided an overview of the socialist movement in Japan and throughout the world, and outlined the basic strategy and tasks of the Marxist Workers League. Our newspaper, hibana, summarized the MWL program:
The particular significance of our program is the following: We have successfully elucidated the characteristic of the postwar world, carried out a materialistic and Marxist analysis of the Soviet bloc for the first time in history, clarified the contradictions of this society [state capitalism], offered a revolutionary criticism of the strategy of the gunited fronth and gpopular fronth that has been the strategy of the international communist movement since the death of Lenin, and we revived the revolutionary strategy of Marxism-Leninism.
The program of a proletarian party gives workers a clear understanding of the present-day world and the revolutionary movement, and outlines the basic tasks of the socialist movement. This is the basis for the workers to join the movement. The importance of such Marxist programs cannot be overemphasized. The party rules, at the same time, were based consistently on the principles of democratic centralism, which is the concise expression of the revolutionary organizing principle of Marxism. These organizational principles have been confirmed throughout the history of the socialist movement.
July 1972 thus marked an important turning point in the history of the revolutionary movement in Japan. Of course, despite the great significance of the creation of a revolutionary program, this alone did not prove that its content was truly suitable for a revolutionary party of the proletariat. In fact, however, the meaning of our program has been confirmed at every step of the development of the MWL, and we have consistently defended the class principles of the proletariat and fought in the revolutionary political struggle.
Over a period of roughly twelve years, MWL candidates participated in Diet elections six times, and we received passionate support from workers throughout the country. We also fought at the forefront of the workers movement, and struggled hard to unite the labor movement with the socialist movement. In 1984 we made another big step forward when we formed the Socialist Workers Party, with a new program that fundamentally inherited the program of the MWL.
Like the MWL, the SWP fights at the head of the workers in the labor unions and consistently holds fast to Marxism and the socialist standpoint. The party has run ten candidates in the Diet elections in 1986 and in 1989 respectively, carrying out large-scale socialistic propaganda, and succeeded in obtaining more than 150,000 votes.
Despite these successes, the SWP remains a small party. The reason for this, above all, is the development of capitalism in the postwar period, and the fact that Japan has become an economic power in the world, enjoying relative prosperity. However, since the collapse of the gbubbleh economy in 1990, the Japanese capitalist economy has stagnate for more than a decade, with no end in sight. Other capitalist countries in the world, like Japan, are also facing unprecedented difficulties, and the bourgeoisie is attempting to place the entire economic burden on the backs of the workers. For these reasons, we are convinced that the age of a monumental working- class struggle to overthrow capital and realize socialism is close at hand. Our theoretical and organizational preparations have been made with this goal in sight.
(Translated by Roy West)