First published in Problems of Communism, vol. XVI, Jan-Feb 1967 (US Information Agency)
WRITING AS RECENTLY as five years ago, an American scholar of Japan's political institutions dismissed the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) as no more effective than its counterpart in the United States' 1 -that is to say, as an insignificant force in Japanese politics. Today, such a belittling assessment no longer appears possible.
Recent statistics measuring the party's progress are quite impressive, indicating that on several counts it has already overtaken the Japanese Socialist Party (JSP), the major leftist political organization. Although the JSP still remains well ahead in terms of votes, 2 its personal membership has long remained stagnant at around 50,000, while that of the JCP has jumped from about 40,000 in 1960 to a little more than 150,000 in 1965. Between 1962 and 1965, circulation of the Communist daily newspaper Akahata (Red Flag) rose from 120,000 to between 200,000 and 250,000, and of its Sunday edition from 260,000 to over 700,000. The party's officially-declared revenues in 1964 were ¥990 million as against only ¥150 million for the JSP and ¥1,569 million for the governing Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP). 3 This was especially remarkable since it indicated that JCP revenues, in money terms, had multiplied 90 times between 1952 and 1964-a period of only mild inflation. In the past few years, membership of organizations under the JCP's control (notably its Youth League, Minseidō) has also risen rapidly. 4
More importantly, the improvement in the party's fortunes is beginning to be reflected in election balloting, especially in the main cities. In the July 1965 elections to the House of Councillors (the upper house of the bicameral National Diet), the votes cast for Communist candidates in the Tokyo constituency exceeded those cast, respectively, for the Socialists, the Kōmeitō,5 and the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP). 6 A similar pattern was evident in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election held the same month, in which charges of corruption greatly reduced the share of the vote received by the conservative LDP. The JCP on this occasion polled 10.1 percent of the vote, as compared with only 4.3 percent in the previous Assembly election of 1963.