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Against Japanism

Author: Against Japanism

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This podcast seeks to challenge the commonly held assumptions about Japan as harmonious, homogeneous, and traditional by recasting its history as a history of conflict and change, as the history of class struggles, from anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, and intersectional perspectives.
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Against Japanism presents Part 2 of an interview with Dr. Gavin Walker about the history of Marxism in Japan, focusing on the postwar period starting in the late 1940s.  First, we discuss the reason behind the Japanese Communist Party’s re-emergence as a mass party in the immediate postwar period. As mentioned in Part 1, in the 1920s and 30s, the JCP was a member of the Communist International or the Comintern (also known as the Third International) headquartered in the Soviet Union. Throughout its existence, members of the Comintern, who were representatives from communist parties from around the world, debated the meaning of fascism and how communists should respond to this rising far right movement. As capitalism went into a series of crises during this period, they initially adapted a position that capitalism was in its final days and revolution was inevitable, and saw reformist social democracy as the primary enemy of the working class blocking the path to proletarian revolution. This was called the thesis on social fascism, equating social democracy and fascism as two sides of the same coin. However, with the rise of the Nazi Party to power and the subsequent anti-communist repression in Germany, the Comintern shifted its anti-fascist strategy to seeking broad based alliance with non-communist forces. This period of the Comintern’s existence is known as the Popular Front period. While this debate was also taking place in Japan, it was cut short due to the intense state repression culminating in the Com Academy Incident of 1936 and the Popular Front Incident of 1937 (The former was a mass arrest of the Koza-ha Marxists and the latter the Rono-ha despite its renunciation of the Comintern and underground organizing). It was not until the 1945-1947 when the Japanese left experienced a brief moment of relative freedom under the US-led Allied Occupation that the JCP was really able to put the Popular Front policy into practice in the form of “democratic people’s front” (which was however largely rejected by its rival Socialist Party of Japan controlled by right wing social democrats). Seeing the resurgence of militant labour movement in Japan and confronted with the spectre of communism in Asia, the US reversed its previous de-fascisization policy to turn Japan into a bastion of anti-communism. In doing so, they severely restricted civil liberties and workers’ rights on the pretext that social movements and labour unions are a hotbed of communist organizing, while releasing the wartime fascist leaders from prison and restoring them to power. Once again driven underground, the JCP turned to armed struggle in 1951. We discuss how the Chinese Revolution and Maoism influenced the JCP of this period and the Japanese New Left, and how the JCP’s abandonment of armed struggle in 1955 and subsequent turn to reformism shaped the political landscape of the 1960s and 70s. We also discuss how the postwar Japanese left grappled with the questions of nationalism and internationalism. Finally, we conclude our interview by discussing how we can study and write history differently, not to idealize or trivialize the past, but to critique the present in the service of class struggle and revolution. Intro Music: Cielo by Huma-HumaOutro Music: Parabola Divanorium by Paraj Bhatt  
In this two part series, Kota sits down with Gavin Walker to discuss the history of Marxism in Japan.  Instead of simply narrating the facts of this history chronologically, we focus on particular theoretical and political questions that animated the Japanese communist movement before and after the Second World War. We begin our conversation by discussing what the history of Marxism in Japan tells us about “Japan” as represented by the Eurocentric and Orientalist conception of the world, and the importance of the national question, the ways in which Marxists address issues related to nationhood, nationalism, and internationalism.We then zoom in on the debate on Japanese capitalism during the 1930s that divided the Japanese communist movement between the Koza-ha (Lecture Faction) and the Rono-ha (Labour Farmer Faction). This debate was centred around the question of what the Meiji Restoration of 1868 meant for the development of capitalism in Japan, specifically the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and whether capitalism in Japan during the 1930s was sufficiently developed to pave the way for a socialist revolution. On the one hand, the Koza-ha held that the fascistic nature of the Japanese state  was a product of the remnants of feudalism that persisted in the countryside after the Meiji Restoration and held back the development of capitalism in Japan. Thus, they argued for a two stage revolution in which the completion of a bourgeois democratic revolution (including the abolition of the emperor system) precedes the socialist revolution. On the other hand, the Rono-ha argued that capitalism was fully matured by then, and hence what Japan needed was a one stage socialist revolution. We also discuss the theory of Uno Kozo who came out of the Rono-ha tradition, but charted an independent path in the postwar period and made a retrospective contribution to this debate. While both Koza-ha and Rono-ha produced a vast amount of literature about Japanese society, and contributed to the dominance of Marxism among Japanese intellectuals that persisted into the postwar period, both were relatively silent about the role of imperialism and colonialism in the transition from feudalism to capitalism in Japan. We delve into the question of why this was the case and the link between the rapid development of capitalism in Japan, and the colonization of the Ainu homelands and the Ryukyu Kingdom, as well as Korea, Taiwan, South Pacific Islands, and northeastern China.We conclude the first part of this interview by discussing how this debate on Japanese capitalism influenced the strategies and tactics of the Japanese communist movement in the prewar period, as well as the role of arts and culture in popularizing Marxism. Part 2 will cover topics such as the impact of the Chinese Revolution and Maoism on the Japanese left, and the questions of nationalism and internationalism in postwar Japan.Gavin Walker is Associate Professor of History at McGill University. He is the author of The Sublime Perversion of Capital (Duke, 2016) and the forthcoming Marx et la politique du dehors (Lux Éditeur, 2021), the editor of The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics, History (Duke, 2019, with Naoki Sakai), and The Red Years: Theory, Politics, and Aesthetics in the Japanese ’68 (Verso, 2020) as well as editor and translator of Kojin Karatani’s Marx: Towards the Centre of Possibility (Verso, 2020). He is widely published in critical theory, social and political thought, modern intellectual history, and Marxist theory. Among other projects, he is now writing a short book on the national question. Follow this podcast on Twitter & Instagram @againstjapanismpodcastSend your feedback, criticism, & inquiries to againstjapanism@gmail.comIntro Music: Cielo by Huma-HumaOutro Music: Parabola Divanorium by Paraj Bhatt  
This mini-episode features a message from Pat (also known as Pato-chan), a trans woman from the Philippines and a former migrant detainee living in Japan, who is raising funds to support herself during her "provisional release"  (Karihoumen in Japanese) which prohibits her from working and accessing healthcare. Donate here or here.  Sign this petition to defeat the "Immigration Law Revision Bill." CW: Transphobia, racism, death, suicidePat came to Japan in January 2015. Although she became undocumented, Pat continued to live in Japan, working at a bento shop. In July 2019, she was arrested by a police officer who stopped her on the street and detained by the Immigration Services Agency of Japan (also known as the Nyukan) until she was granted provisional release in October 2020. She fears that if she gets deported, she will face more discrimination as a trans person in the Philippines than in Japan.  Her fear is well-founded. The Philippine government under Rodrigo Duterte has yet to pass the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill and continues to crack down on LGBTQ+ activists.  Last September, Duterte pardoned a US Marine Scott Pemberton who was convicted for murdering Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipina in 2014, indicating the Philippine government’s utter disregard for trans rights. During her incarceration, Pat was treated inhumanely by the Nyukan. They kept her in solitary confinement, and denied her access to healthcare and proper dosage of hormone. They also called her derogatory names for trans and queer people. In response, a group of activists in Japan and abroad came together to organize a campaign to demand her release.  However, while this international campaign did prove successful, hundreds of other migrant detainees are still behind bars, deprived of their basic rights and dignity as human beings. At least 16 detainees have been reported to have died since 2007. On March 6, 2021, a 33 year old woman from Sri Lanka died at the hands of the Nyukan. What Pat is experiencing is shared by many other working class migrants who are victimized by the unjust immigration system. Japan is also responsible for creating the very conditions in which people from poorer nations are forced to migrate in search of work or to escape from war, repression, and discrimination. Japan openly supports repressive regimes like Turkey under Erdogan committing genocide against the Kurds, Israel displacing Palestinians from their homeland, and the Duterte regime of the Philippines criminalizing activists and condoning violence against LGBTQ+ people, through its Military Industrial Complex, and through its close collaboration with US imperialism causing wars and proxy-wars globally, Meanwhile, Japanese corporations continue to profit from cheap raw materials and labour power extracted from the Global South, aiding the systematic underdevelopment of these countries for the benefits of itself and other countries of the Global North. So while it's crucially important to campaign against the exploitative, exclusionary, and punitive Japanese immigration system, our criticism needs to be filtered through materialist class analysis and an understanding of the international situation, specifically the world system of capitalist imperialism as the root cause of mass migration and displacement. Special thanks to Pat for sharing her stories!Outro Music: Solidarity Forever by Erin Saoirse Adair
In the second part of an interview with Robert Stolz, we continue our conversation about the affinity between fascism and liberalism, as well as the difference between idealist and materialist philosophies theorized by Tosaka Jun in his book The Japanese Ideology from 1935. According to Tosaka, idealist philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Fredrich Nietzsche, and Nishida Kitaro adapt a metaphysical worldview and see history as characterized by stasis and equilibrium where no change, difference, or rupture is conceivable. On the contrary, materialist philosophers such as Karl Marx, Fredrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, and Tosaka Jun see history dialectically as characterized by change and conflict. For dialectical materialists, this change is driven by class struggles and revolutions, where an outcome of the struggles between antagonistic classes such as the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the peasants and the landlords, and the colonizers and the colonized nations determines the course of history. This dialectical method of analyzing history is called historical materialism. In today's episode, Dr Stolz and I discuss Tosaka's philosophy of time and his particular theorization of dialectical materialism as the philosophy of “here and now” grounded on the principle of "everydayness" which privileges the present as the site of intervention and a potential moment of rupture, as opposed to the idealist philosophy of time grounded on the metaphysics of continuity in which the past determines the present, as well as Tosaka's separation of time into three categories: natural scientific time, psychological time, and historical time.We also discuss how Tosaka theorizes common sense and custom. A we discussed in Part 1, Tosaka was deeply concerned about the ways in which middle class intellectuals were becoming more and more abstract in their thinking, and turning away from social realities into the world of literature, while Japanist and fascist ideas were gaining popularity among the masses. In response, Tosaka turned to journalism and cultural criticism to bridge the widening gap between academia and the masses, and to popularize Marxism to push back against the rising tide of fascism. In this segment of the interview, we return to the topic of the second episode of this podcast about The Ghost of Tsushima and Orientalism in video games with Kazuma Hashimoto and Andrew Kiya, and discuss how the idealized notion of Japaneseness created by Orientalism and Japanism, as the ideologies of Western and Japanese imperialism respectively, have become common sense, that is a deeply ideological notion that appears to be ideologically neutral and self-evidently true. We also discuss how Tosaka theorized the process in which philosophical worldviews such as idealism and materialism become manifested as customs.Finally, we discuss the significance of Tosaka's tragic death in Nagano Prison in 1945, and his unrepentant commitment to materialism and Marxism that may have influenced it. Special thanks to Dr. Robert Stolz who took his time to participate in this interview, as well as to everyone who has listened to this podcast so far. Follow this podcast on Twitter & Instagram @againstjapanismpodcastSend your feedback, criticism, & inquiries to againstjapanism@gmail.comIntro Music  Cielo by Huma-HumaOutro Music:  Parabola Divanorium by Paraj Bhatt  
In this two part series, Kota is joined by Robert Stolz to discuss the anti-fascist philosophy of Tosaka Jun, a Marxist philosopher and cultural critic active during the 1930s. Tosaka is often associated with the Kyoto School, a group of academics who studied together at Kyoto Imperial University, led by his academic advisor Nishida Kitaro, influenced by German idealist philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. Some Kyoto School philosophers such as Nishida himself and Miki Kiyoshi actually traveled to Germany to study under Heidegger (who was a Nazi). However, as the political tendency of Nishida and other Kyoto School philosophers became increasingly (and somewhat predictably) right wing and supportive of Japan's imperialist ambitions in Asia, Tosaka conversely turned to Marxism and adapted the method of dialectical and historical materialism to advocate for class struggle and scientific socialism.In 1932, Tosaka co-founded Society for the Study of Materialism (Yuibutsuron kenkyūkai or Yuiken). While Yuiken was mainly an intellectual organization dedicated to studying Marxism, Tosaka's outspoken stance against fascism, capitalism, and imperialism was heavily censored by the Japanese state. As a result, Yuiken was forced to disband and Tosaka was arrested and imprisoned numerous times throughout the 1930s and 40s, until he tragically died in prison in 1945. In spite of the censorship by the state, Tosaka never gave up and wrote prolifically about a variety of topics such as capitalism, fascism, time, space, science, film, fashion, the emperor system and policing. Dr. Robert Stolz is a historian of modern Japan at the University of Virginia. He is a co-editor of Tosaka Jun: A Critical Reader. He is also the author of Bad Water: Nature, Pollution, and Politics in Japan, 1870 - 1950 from Duke University Press. He recently completed a translation of one of Tosaka's books, The Japanese Ideology: A Critique of Japanism, Fascism, Liberalism, and Ideology in Contemporary Japan. In this book, Tosaka defines Japanism as the Japanese form of fascism that took the form of feudalism. However, unlike the Koza-ha Marxists who argued that fascism in Japan was a product of feudal remnants in the countryside that held back the development of capitalism, Tosaka took the position that Japan in the 1930s was fully capitalist, specifically monopoly capitalist or imperialist, and that this feudalism was merely an ideology re-deployed by the Japanese bourgeoisie to support capitalism and cover up the class antagonisms that were intensifying in Japan at the time. As the subtitle suggests, Tosaka undertakes a critique not only of fascism, but also of liberalism, particularly cultural liberalism which reduces liberalism to a moral attitude and promotes a retreat from social realities into the world of literature and philology, a study of ancient texts. According to Tosaka, as cultural liberals espoused a metaphysical idealist worldview, they became hostile towards historical materialism and Marxism, and hence amenable to Japanism and fascism. Thus, Tosaka argues, liberalism is not only intellectually defenseless against fascism, but reinforces it. While Tosaka himself was defeated in his philosophical combat against fascism, his thought remains relevant to this day for those confronting fascism in Japan and worldwide. Follow this podcast on Twitter & Instagram @againstjapanismpodcast. Send your feedback, criticism, & inquiries to againstjapanism@gmail.comIntro Music  Cielo by Huma-HumaOutro Music:  Parabola Divanorium by Paraj Bhatt 
Kota is joined by Kazuma Hashimoto and Andrew Kiya to discuss the Ghost of Tsushima, its fetishization of the samurai through a misinterpretation of Kurosawa Akira's films, Cyberpunk 2077, how Orientalism and the idealization of Japan in these games (re-packaged and exported abroad through the Japanese state's "Cool Japan" initiative) enable the far right pro-imperialist politics both in ideology and practice. We specifically discuss the recent attempt by the Japanese far right to shut down an art exhibit about comfort women in Aichi Prefecture and the campaign to recall its governor through fraudulent means, as well as the online harassment against Kazuma and Andrew themselves. Finally, we discuss the possibilities and limits of video games as a medium to promote radical politics under capitalism. Follow them on Twitter and Twitch at @JusticeKazzy_ & @wouldhausKazuma's publications:https://www.polygon.com/2020/7/23/21333631/ghost-of-tsushima-kurosawa-films-samurai-japan-abe-politicshttps://www.polygon.com/2021/1/30/22255318/cyberpunk-2077-genre-xenophobia-orientalismAndrew's publications:https://bulletpointsmonthly.com/2020/08/06/spectre-of-fascism-ghost-of-tsushimahttps://unseenjapan.com/aichi-prefecture-japan-governor-recall-fraud/Intro Music  Cielo by Huma-HumaOutro Music:  Parabola Divanorium by Paraj Bhatt
Warm and militant greetings! I'm your host Kota and welcome to the Against Japanism Podcast: Destabilizing Japanese History from the Left! In this introductory episode, I discuss the goals of this podcast and the principles behind it, and preview the upcoming episodes that I have already recorded and will be published here very soon. To sum up, this podcast is a study of Japanese history through the lens of dialectical and historical materialism, a history characterized by conflict and change, as opposed to equilibrium and stasis, as the history of class struggles and struggles between the oppressors and the oppressed. I discuss what this means in relation to Japanism and the question of Japaneseness that I themed this podcast around, as an ideological byproduct of capitalism, imperialism, and fascism, as well as the histories of resistance and revolutionary movements that have proved it wrong: Japan never was and is not a harmonious and homogeneous society like what Japanists in the West and Japan believe it to be (If it ever was, it was an outcome of a conscious effort by the Japanese state to suppress anarchists, communists, and anti-colonial activists, and is continuously reproduced today through campaigns like "Cool Japan" that create an impression that progressive and revolutionary ideas are foreign to Japan).Unlike their idealized image of Japan as traditional and unchanging, Japanese history has gone through significant changes such as the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the colonization of the Ryukyu Islands, the Ainu homelands, and Asia without which the growth and maintenance of capitalism in the mainland Japan would have been impossible, the rise of fascism that criminalized revolutionary politics and dashed the hope of a socialist revolution in Japan in the inter-war period., the U.S-led Allied Occupation that restored the fascists like Kishi Nobusuke to power to turn Japan into a bastion of anti-communism in Asia during the Cold War, and the popular and student-led uprisings in the 1960s that challenged the rise of "democratized" post-war Japan as a partner of the US imperialism.It is still changing today, even though the drivers of this change are still the bourgeoisie against the working class and oppressed masses. The Japanese state's poor handling of the CORVID-19 pandemic and inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees are just a few examples of this. These are dark times, but seeing online content about activism in Japan makes me hopeful. I hope this podcast can contribute to that conversation and I would be very happy if those of you who speak English and engage with activism in Japan found it helpful. If you liked or disliked the episode, please let me know why at againstjapanism@gmail.com.Outro Music: The Internationale (Instrumental) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGqMMpMkKXshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_InternationaleSong and Struggle: The Internationale - People's Worldhttps://www.peoplesworld.org/article/song-and-struggle-the-internationale/The  Internationale (Japanese Version)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyfhs42mdyA
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