Collected Writings of J.A.A. Stockwin: The Politics and Political Environment of Japan

By J. A. A. Stockwin | Go to book overview

First published in Asian Survey, Vol. VI, No. 4, April 1966 (Institute of International Studies, University of California.)


8

The Japanese Socialist Party under New Leadership

IN MAY 1965 Sasaki Kōzō, 1 widely regarded as a pro-Chinese extremist, was elected Chairman of the Japanese Socialist Party (JSP), at present the backbone of opposition to Japan's conservative Government. 2 He was re-elected for a further term at the party's Annual Convention in January 1966. This can be interpreted as a setback to moderating-and modernizing-influences predominant in the party for about five years. It may also be held to indicate a triumph for Peking. The analysis contained in this article will expose the weaknesses-while extracting the grain of truth-inherent in this view.

First, the background to recent events must be sketched in. 3 The JSP was founded in 1945, but by 1948 had gained sufficient votes to lead a government for a few months in coalition with two non-socialist parties. At the same time, serious weaknesses appeared: first, electoral strength was not matched by local organization; socialism, largely proscribed before the Occupation, was a tree with shallow roots. Second, the party in 1945 was little more than a coalition of weak factions dating from the 1920's. These ranged from democratic socialists to near-Communists. The JSP split four times between 1948 and 1951, because of ideological and personal dissension. Third, the Socialist-led coalition Government could accomplish nothing, and discredited the Socialist Party in the eyes of the electorate. Within the party it lowered the stock of democratic-socialists who had advocated and led the coalition. Perhaps more serious, it disillusioned many party members about parliamentary government.

In October 1951 the party split into a Left Socialist Party (LSP) and a Right Socialist Party (RSP), which existed until their reunification in 1955. The issue was foreign policy: the Left opposed and the Right supported in part the Allied peace settlement with Japan. The LSP subsequently developed a foreign policy of unarmed neutralism and opposed the American presence in Japan, while the RSP committed itself wholeheartedly neither to the American presence nor to neutralism. When the two parties reunited in 1955 the Left had already overtaken the Right electorally, and this was reflected in their agreed platform which adopted neutralism in all but name. Further, the main trade union

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