Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lessons from annus horribilis: a voice from Japan pleads good riddance to progressive politics as usual


The year 2016 would probably be referred to as an annus horribilis by now if the future didn’t seem to be holding worse things to come. One half of the American electorate was so alienated from politics that they didn’t vote at all, while a neglected constituency, voting with an ethic of total retaliation against the status quo of the Democrat-Republican establishment, chose an unqualified president who is highly unlikely to solve the problems of his supporters, nor any of the major problems that afflict the United States and the world.
One positive outcome of this terrible year is that the “consensus view” about free trade, common currency, open borders, the EU, identity politics, and the unipolar US world order has finally had its reckoning with reality. More people are waking up to the deep flaws in what has been viewed in recent decades as “progressive” politics. In reality, the pragmatic third way was based on the unsustainable belief in “sustainable” development. It was instead a trail of compromises that destroyed prosperity and social equality, and ended up in the political equivalent of a geomagnetic reversal. Democrats became the war party spouting McCarthy-era paranoia about Russia, while Trump was to the left of the Democrats on free trade and foreign policy.
Many self-styled progressives still don't understand this shift, and they are doubling down on their support for the old system, but doing so now involves regurgitating the ridiculous scapegoating for the decimation of the Democratic party (losses of the federal executive, both chambers of congress, state governorships and state legislatures) and the absurd propaganda that now flows directly from intelligence agencies to The Washington Post and The Guardian and other papers of record.
From now on, more people will recognize that the crises of this age require radical change. Until now, when it has not been an election year, American progressives have always agreed that there is a looming ecological crisis that requires a radical green revolution, but when it comes time to vote in a federal election, they vote for the lesser evil shade of the status quo. Logic dictates that the Green Party, in spite of its imperfections, should have long ago become the most powerful political party in every advanced nation, but the hostility to the Green Party as a spoiler for the Democrats proved that almost no one is serious about preserving the environment. Al Gore spent so much time telling us about the dire urgency of taking action to reduce carbon emissions, but he did not endorse the Green Party. He endorsed Hillary Clinton instead because of course he blames his loss in 2000 on Ralph Nader. He has a thing about third party candidates spoiling the party for the anointed leaders of the mainstream, and so this resentment counted for more than all the hot air he spouted about inconvenient truths during the years he traveled the world warning us about climate change.
Perhaps the pathetic uncommitted version of progressivism will continue to sputter away. Perhaps warmongering and demonizing of other nations will work to deflect the masses from examining the depths of the world’s problems, but there is some hope that the annus horribilis has been drastic enough to shatter illusions for a growing portion of the population.
This trend is not confined to Europe and North America. Japan is a nation that has lived under effective American occupation since 1945, and in recent years there has been growing dissent against the presence of American military bases, especially in Okinawa. Some Western journalists and historians cover this issue, but rarely do Japanese voices from the fringe get translated into other languages to be heard outside of Japan. An author with the pen name “de-nuclearize” (脱原発), tweeting with the handle @battlecom, has written extensively about how Japanese progressives have also failed to make the essential connection to roots of the issues they protest. What follows are twenty-seven selected tweets by @battlecom over the past year.
 
Selected tweets by @battlecom during 2016

Translated by Yuki Natsui (@shibboleft)

A note on tweets in Japanese: Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters yet these English translations of Japanese tweets are much longer than 140 characters. This discrepancy arises from the difference in the two writing systems. One of these tweets, for example, was 114 characters in Japanese, but the translation required 266 characters in English, excluding spaces. The ratio is 1:2.33. A sampling of six tweets showed the average ratio was 1:2.37. So if you want to tweet longer, learn Japanese.

1. People who despise government-patronized scholars of atomic energy must not become “self-styled pacifists” who carry a torch for imperialism when it comes to Syria.
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2. It seems that fourteen US coalition military officers hiding in a bunker in East Aleppo were captured by Syrian Special Forces. This is what the G7’s UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, et al. wanted to avoid at all costs when some time ago it requested an immediate cease-fire in a statement on false account of a ‘genocide’.
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 3. America’s imperialistic regime change operation in Syria has failed. The crime of manipulating ISIS terrorists from the shadows and plunging Syria into turmoil must be charged as a war crime. We must stop uncritically sharing puff pieces that disseminate “war” coverage favorable to America in a slovenly manner. By doing so, we become accomplices.
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4. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen. In order to overthrow the anti-US regime, the United States is attempting to supply weapons and funds to pseudo-democratic forces to raise a rebellion, and if that doesn’t succeed, make false accusations about weapons of mass destruction, bomb the country and assassinate the leader. Japan is supporting this.
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5. Defeating Iran and overthrowing the Assad government of Syria, Iran’s ally, is the earnest wish of the United States and the Saudi monarchy. Backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, with not an ounce of ‘democracy’, is similarly bombing Yemen, a friendly nation of the Syrian government. The same goes for the United States.
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6. Amidst the conflict between the United States and the Syrian government, I am unable to understand those who blindly follow imperialism and talk about Syria’s ‘Assad problem’. It is ultimately Syrians who should decide on matters pertaining to Syria. We cannot permit foreign nations to intervene. To start with, the disturbances of the phony democratic front contrived by the United States should be quelled by having the United States suspend its support.
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7. The United States, which aerially bombed Syrian Arab Army positions during the cease-fire and torpedoed the Syrian cease-fire agreement, must immediately withdraw from Syria. The self-appointed “Free” Syrian Army, a terrorist group that has been militarily supported by the United States, must immediately suspend military activities in Aleppo and surrender. It must put an end to the cruel ‘resistance’ that uses civilians as human shields.
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8. People should have noticed by now. The United States admitted that the weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq and that it was a strategy of the United States to eliminate Hussein. It has already become public knowledge that the strategies used in Syria and Libya were sham strategies to inveigle civilians by arming them. They should stop covering America’s rear end over the Aleppo issue.
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9. To all those so-called “anti-war/pacifists” of Japan: A considerable number of you supported the Iraq war, didn’t you? Where were the weapons of mass destruction? Perhaps you may be forgiven for being deceived by the United States on one occasion. But with regard to Syria, the second time is a farce and not to be tolerated.
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10. We read puff pieces in the US media in which the UN secretary general confessed that there was no basis for his statement of opposition to a Syrian ‘massacre.’ The last tweets of the Syrians are allegedly sent from East Aleppo where there was no internet access. Do you not think that everything is strange? How foolish to go along with this. Shame on you. Those who took part in the bombing of Iraq on the lie of weapons of mass destruction are obliged to repent. More so in the case of Syria.
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11. Are you always deceived by the power of the mass media? Is it not because you are giving assent to the plot of the United States to overthrow a foreign government by force? Each and every time, you follow the puff media campaign and refer to UN principles. It is not the appearance of “peace or opposition to violence,” but rather ‘what kind of people’ are in conflict with ‘what kind of people’ that should be identified.
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12. During the Gulf War, Japan’s opposition parties were criticizing “dictator Saddam.” Such is the actual situation of the anti-war peace movement in Japan. It is to blindly imitate and hold a candle to the imperialist. The left was astonished at such a state. We cannot repeat the same in Syria anymore.
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13. This is the statement of the Syrian Communist Party engaged in struggle with the Assad government: “The Syrian Communist Party asserts that events in Syria are neither a revolution nor a civil war. They are proceeding according to the plan of imperialism. NATO cannot bring a revolution to Syria. We cannot afford internal dissension. Let us stand alongside each other and resist the imperialist forces.”
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14. People in Syria have long argued that the ‘Arab Spring’ is imperialist aggression and are beginning to fight against it. Who were the careless people that became America’s dogs and mercenaries and caused an armed insurrection? The faces of people in the democratic front certainly do not seem to belong to those who are struggling for ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’.
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15. The Communists in Syria who truly struggle for democratic life will never become dogs of NATO and would not engage in terrorism using its funds and weapons. We should carefully investigate who is supporting the terrorists and spreading information about self-proclaimed “anti-war activists” that amuse themselves in criticizing the Assad government.
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16. Cuban internationalists will fight against all imperialist intrigues to dominate developing countries. We absolutely should not allow imperialist intrigues against developing countries. We must continue struggling to do away with neo-colonialism and imperialism.
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17. There is only one reason why I am trying to spread Cuban internationalism. As embodiments of twenty-first century Marxism-Leninism, the attitude, conduct and struggle of the Cubans have truly been assessed by history. It is because I believe that fighting not only against imperialism but also against the inseparable “neo-colonialism” is precisely what will bring about a world socialist revolution.
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18. Lenin anticipated that Western counterrevolution or advanced capitalism would gain total control over the domestic socialist revolution and triumph, and that socialism could not endure in the Soviet Union, but he still chose the path of struggle to the end. It was a tragic resolve. Only one country, Cuba, carried on the legacy of Lenin.
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19. Marxist-Leninists will address the focused issues raised by the situation in the era. If it is different from the New Left who say it is a revolutionary situation all year round, it is also different from the Nihilists who say the revolution is still not coming. This country now faces the full-scale offensive of the Japan Conference aiming to return Japan to its prewar status. We must counteract their attacks by every conceivable means.
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20. In my own reflections on Tokyo’s gubernatorial elections, in order to confront the special political situation in the capital of this Empire, it is necessary to have a principled Marxist-Leninist ideological confrontation against Japanese imperialism itself. A fundamental Marxist-Leninist definition for Japanese imperialism is indispensable there. Especially after the war.
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21. In Lenin’s theory of imperialism, his analysis showed that modern capitalism dominated by the financial oligarchy is at the root of imperialism. Japanese capitalism matured in the form of imperialism economically and politically before the war. Japan’s defeat in the war has not changed the essence of Japanese imperialism. Zaibatsu, financial capital and the military-industrial complex continue without interruption.
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22. Lenin has explained many times over that democracy simply means bourgeois dictatorship if the term “democracy” excludes the class essence. Democracy under capitalism means bourgeois democracy and means bourgeois dictatorship. It involves the same as in the class struggle between the bourgeois and the oppressed classes.
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23. People tamed and brainwashed into thinking marking a ballot is the height of participation in politics mistake capitalism for the best form of democracy. I cannot imagine selecting judges, high-level bureaucrats or enterprise managers through elections. Not only that, Lenin insisted many years ago that we dismiss corrupt candidates at any time. Democracy undergoes its last evolution through socialism.
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24. There are two reasons the Japanese communist movement is in a theoretical confusion. One is bourgeois prejudice against Marxism-Leninism in general. The other is theoretical apologia for Japanese capitalism captured from the Meiji Restoration. There is a lack of understanding about the continuity of feudalism. The fundamental struggle has continued for five hundred years. That is to say, a mistake was made on the Buraku issue.*
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25. The blackest flames are emitted by the masses at the most base level; that is, the Buraku of this country are further below the root of the order that the proletarians are trying to drive out. Only the science of materialism and dialectic law can unravel the underlying mechanisms of discrimination. However, the self-professed ‘communists’ of this country, far from being aware of anything, are oblivious to the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism.
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26. As imperialism attains full maturity today, its excess profits are keeping the working class of the advanced countries in a state of slumber. The theory of imperialism and revolution that Lenin elucidated needs to be further developed. With imperialism having succeeded in devouring enormous wealth from the developing countries, the flames of the revolutions in the developing countries shall not disappear.
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27. The Cold War consigned the Soviet Union to oblivion. However, in a war without ‘indemnities’, the United States naturally exhausted itself. The strategy of the United States to make up for the ‘indemnities’ by fostering regime change in the developing countries of the Soviet sphere is at a standstill due to the turbulence that followed their overthrow. That exhaustion has reached a peak and brought about domestic division and crisis in the United States. The time has come for the flag of Marxism-Leninism to be aggressively pursued.
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* Burakumin is an outcast group at the bottom of the Japanese social order that has historically been the victim of severe discrimination and ostracism. They were (are) composed of those with occupations considered impure or tainted by death (such as executioners, undertakers, workers in slaughterhouses, butchers or tanners), which have severe social stigmas attached to them. Traditionally, the Burakumin lived in their own communities, hamlets or ghettos. Discrimination has been greatly reduced by activism and legislation, but it persists in contemporary Japan, in some regions more than in others.

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