First published in Dissent (Melbourne), Spring 1968
IN APRIL of this year the Americans opened a hospital for service casualties from Vietnam at one of their military establishments, which happened to be situated in Oji, a densely populated inner suburb of Tokyo. The purpose of the hospital perturbed many local residents, some of whom feared a whole range of possible consequences, including the introduction of cholera, the noise of helicopters bringing in patients, the prospect of school children at several schools in the vicinity being affected by the sight of maimed war victims, and the danger that an influx of footloose GIs would encourage the re-emergence of local prostitution.
A number of protests were made, at local and national level, shortly after the plan became known, but the issue did not attract much attention until organised groups of students converged on the building with the intention of forcing an entry, coming into direct and violent conflict with the police as a result.
The violence used by the students, who wielded baulks of timber and pieces of steel against the police, seems to have distressed local residents almost as much as the prospect of having to put up with the hospital (which, as one local put it, 'brings the blood of Vietnam into our midst'), especially as the demonstrations had caused not inconsiderable damage, and some students had burst into private houses with their shoes on.
The local reaction, therefore, was to redouble efforts to organise independent local opposition to the hospital (the support of Tokyo's radical Governor, Minobe, was assured), and to try to make sure that the students did not get another chance to create havoc. Paradoxically, the student violence had served to increase local awareness and participation, but at the expense of their own alienation from it.
The students involved were members of the Sampa Zengakuren ('Sampa' means 'Three faction'; 'Zengakuren' is an abbreviation for 'National Federation of Students' Self-Government Associations'). This is the most anarchistic and violent of the many strands of the Zengakuren at the present time. The Sampa roundly condemns the Japan Communist Party (JCP) for its stuffiness and bureaucracy, and attacks most Communist countries on the same grounds. In recent months it has been at the van of the following strug-