China and Neighbourhood

Inter-imperialism and Neo-fascism in Japan

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By Dr. John W. Maerhofer | 01 October2010



The last year has witnessed the rise of a wide-spread racist group that has coordinated attacks on “foreigners” in Japan.  As reported in the New York Times on August 28th, 2010, the group, who are called the “Net Far Right” (Net Kyoku) because they organize mostly through the internet in order to conceal their identity, are “loudly anti-foreign” and direct their attack on Korean and Chinese residents, Christian organizations, and even those who dress in Halloween costumes.  Much like the Tea Party racists whose racist attacks against immigrant labor form the Global South, the “Net” blame foreigners for the financial crisis that has lingered in Japan for over ten years, for the rise in crime and homelessness in Western Japan, and for the decline in Japanese nationalist sentiment, particularly by young Japanese.  The similarity between the Tea Party and the “Net” is clear in another respect: they are both convenient devices used by the ruling class for creating dissonance among workers from various cultural backgrounds who should be united in fighting real enemy, the ruling-class elites.

The inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and China for the control of the world’s resources, including the struggle to dominate the East China Sea, is part of the larger framework for how the “Net” and other racist groups can be utilized by ruling elites to increase nationalist sentiment, particularly as Japan is right in the middle of the US-China dogfight.  While the US is expanding its war machine to Pakistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa, geographical regions that are also welcoming to Chinese capitalist development, the conflict between Japan and China in recent weeks is also revealing of how East Asia remains the central battleground in the US-China rivalry.  Inter-imperialism thrives on racism and nationalism, since its objective is to prevent solidarity among workers from diverse backgrounds.

In order to secure the interests of the capitalist class in the region, which simultaneously work together and against each other for the control over resources, extreme right-wing groups in Japan as well as the manipulation of nationalist sentiment in China will be welcomed.  Since China has succeeded Japan as the world’s second largest economy, the Japanese-US alliance, sanctified by the renewal of the Okinawa military instillation, is seen as an impediment to Chinese domination of the region.  As the New York Times has been reporting since the spring of this year, China has expanded its naval power “from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca” in order to “secure Chinese interests” which include oil from the Middle East and the resource-rich South and East China Seas in which Chinese engineers discovered natural gas reserves off the coast of the disputed Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, which is the main cause of the recent political trouble between Japan and China.

While apologists for the New York Times suggest that the “Net” are distinct from other far right groups, citing that the established right wing (Uyoku) make themselves visible on a regular basis in Tokyo and other major cities around Japan, the “Net” racists are equally sinister and cowardly in their attacks on Korean and Chinese immigrant groups, many of whom have been in Japan since they were brought as slave labor during World War II and have not been granted citizenship.  Like the Tea Party right, including the racist Minute Men Brigade that physically attacks immigrants on the southern US borders, the function of the extreme right in Japan is to generate deeper divisions in the working-class, used ultimately to justify and legitimate ruling-class elites whose interest is in maintaining profit for their own constituents.  New York Times apologists also fail to point out that ultranationalist groups hijacked the expanding working-class and peasant movements in the 1920’s and 30’s, which eventually gave way to the building of Japanese fascism which used racism to legitimize the slaughter of workers in most of East Asia, such as the genocide in Nanking.

Such apologists fail to recognize how deep-rooted ultranationalism and racism has continued to govern the censorship of history books, which discount the genocides committed by Japan in China, Korea, and South East Asia.  Instead, the “revisionist” historians argue that Japanese aggression was a defense against US imperialism and was a “necessary evil” that was done in the name of security.  The grossest example of this is the recent film the Truth about Nanking, directed by the ultranationalist and fascist Satoru Mizushima and backed by the outspoken fascist and racist Mayor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara, which alleges that the Nanking Massacre was created as propaganda that intended to demean the image of Japan in the world.

Finally, the apologists fail to recognize the historical links between racist ultranationalists and ruling-class parties, such as the Liberal Democratic Party which ruled Japan almost consistently form its founding in 1955 to 2009.  Figures like the wartime profiteer Yoshio Kodama, who helped found the LDP, and the right-wing Nihimura Shingo, who has ties to the current ruling Democratic Party of Japan, and fascists like Mayor Ishihara, who has openly called for violence against foreigners in the past, are examples of how the ultra-right and ruling-class parties are linked.

The struggle against ultranationalism by students and teachers in recent years over the censoring of textbooks and the inclusion of the fascist national anthem (Kimigayo) needs to be extended to oppose racist groups like the “Net” and other Uyoku who terrorize immigrant and foreign populations and who are manipulated by ruling-class bosses.  Students at and smaller leftist groups, such as the Workers Communist Party (Roudou Kyousantou) are struggling to fight against the right-wing fascists who historically have become aligned with the Japanese ruling class, as evident in the 1920’s.  The time has come to forget reformists like the Japanese Communist Party and other “soft” communist movements who offer false promises of a peaceful transition to socialism, and build an internationalist movement in Japan and East Asia to smash racism, nationalism, and the illusions of the capitalist class.


John W. Maerhofer received his Ph.D. in English from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has published articles on Aime Cesaire, Ezra Pound, and the Algerian writer Mohammed Dib. He teaches English and Comparative Literature at Queens College in New York City.He also lived and worked in Japan for over four years. He is the author of Rethinking the Vanguard (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009) and is currently working on a book-length work on Modern Japanese Intellectual History.

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