Approaches to Japan’s security: The anti-militarist idea group

The anti-militarist idea group (hereafter, the anti-militarist group) argued that both the alliance with the US and the SDF should be immediately abolished because they violate Article 9 of the Constitution. By interpreting the Constitution rigidly and literally, the group argued that Japan did not have the right to possess its military. The group also argued that the Security Treaty with the US was not acceptable since it implicitly admitted Japan’s right to collective self-defence. In this view, the treaty could potentially draw Japan into any new war initiated by the US. The JSP argued that Japan should secure its national security by declaring itself a neutral state. Armament was not necessary since other states would not invade Japan if the country became a neutral state. Although such an argument was naive in ignoring reality, its supporters believed that taking an absolute pacifist course would be viable. The group's interpretation of the Constitution and the ensuing argument contrasted with that of the ‘normal state’ group.

Japan's domestic politics thus revolved around ideational confrontations between the anti-militarist and the ‘normal state’ idea group.16

Parties constituting the anti-militarist group

During the Cold War, the JSP enthusiastically advocated the anti-militarist idea. The JSP’s principle announced in 1945 clearly stated that it would oppose any idea or behaviour associated with militarism. However, while the JSP promoted the anti-militarist idea, the party was not monolithic. Two groups co-existed within the party in the early post-war period. One was its right wing, which was amenable to the alliance with the US and the SDF; the other was its left wing, which adamantly opposed both. When a socialist Tetsu Katayama government (1947-1948) was in power, the right wing even advocated US protection of Japan.17

However, when the JSP again issued the Three Peace Principles in December 1949, a confrontation occurred between the right and left wings of the party. The 1949 Principles advocated three points: the conclusion of peace treaties with all states, including the Soviet Union, neutrality, and opposition to military bases. The next set of Four Peace Principles announced in January 1951 added ‘opposition to re-armament’ to the Three Peace Principles. This announcement again stirred debate between the right and the left wings within the party. Besides, the party was further divided over the conclusion of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which normalised relations with Western countries only. Eventually, the controversy resulted in a temporary split in the party from 1951 to 1955. During the period of this split, the left wing successfully expanded its influence, surpassing the right wing in the 1952 and 1953 elections. In 1955, the left wing took the lead and reunified the party.

The increase in the left’s influence was attributable to the comprehensive support provided by the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan (Sohyo). With support from the US, Sohyo was launched as an anti-communist union in 1950, embracing about half of all workers in Japan. However, contrary to US intentions, Sohyo changed its nature in 1951 by supporting the left wing of the JSP.1S Advocating the Four Principles (neutrality, non-rearmament, opposition to US military bases, and conclusion of a peace treaty with all parties), Sohyo significantly helped the JSP through financial and electoral support, contributing to the JSP’s expansion.

In addition, the Council on Peace (Heiwa mondai kondankai) led by intellectuals such as Masao Maruyama and Ikutaro Shimizu19 helped spread the anti-militarist idea. Taking a pacifist stance, the Council regarded war as an absolute evil and therefore as unacceptable. It advocated Japan’s neutrality, non-aggression, opposition to military bases, and the conclusion of peace treaties with all states concerned.20 The left-wing intellectuals and leftish media such as Sekai [The World] thus played a role as promoters of the anti-militarist idea.21 Coincidentally, the outbreak of the Cold War in Asia assisted these idea promoters in disseminating their views. Further, to the public, the establishment of the SDF in 1954 and the inauguration of Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama, who was a pre-war elite and

Key concepts 37 was once expelled by the US authority, suggested a return to the pre-war period. Taking a slightly different stance from the previous government, Hatoyama advocated the revision of the Constitution and Japan’s rearmament. His emphasis on rearmament reminded the Japanese of a return to the pre-war period, if he did not intend to.22 As a result, a movement to protect the Constitution gained momentum among the public, helping the left to increase its influence.23

However, due to Japan’s rapid economic recovery and growth, the living standards of most Japanese people greatly improved. In the period from 1965 to 1973, nominal wages increased about 3.9 times, while real wages increased about 1.9 times. At the same time, the number of activities such as strikes conducted by labour unions declined.24 Most Japanese people came to feel satisfied with their everyday life, believing that they belonged to the middle class, not the working class. The slogan ichioku so churyu [All Japanese people belong to the middle class] aptly described these perceptions. Accordingly, the JSP, which supported the class struggle and saw itself as representative of the working class, began to lose its attractiveness. Moreover, given Japan’s mature democracy, the possibility of returning to a militarist mode appeared remote. In response, the JSP slightly shifted its stance to a more pragmatic one by accepting the SDF as ‘unconstitutional but extant’ in 1984.25 Despite this slight adjustment, the JSP’s popularity gradually declined.

National debates taking place during the 1991 Gulf War further undermined the validity of the JSP’s argument. More importantly, a severe blow for the JSP was that the leader of the party, Tomiichi Murayama, conceded that the SDF and the alliance with the US were constitutional, thus abandoning a long-standing party tenet. As prime minister of a coalition government, no choice remained for Murayama but to also accept the SDF and the alliance with the US. Due to this sea change, the JSP dissolved in 1996 and restarted as the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDP). The SDP continues to hold up the banner of protecting Japan’s Constitution, particularly its war-renouncing Article 9. However, many former members of the JSP joined the Democratic Party, not the SDP, a successor to the JSP. In the 1996 election held soon after its formation, the SDP ended up gaining only 15 seats, losing 55 of the seats previously held by its predecessor, the JSP. The anti-militarist group had lost its earlier influence on domestic politics.

In addition to this turnaround by Murayama, electoral reform contributed to the change in the political landscape. The 1994 introduction of an electoral system of single-seat constituencies with a combination of proportional representation worked against the JSP/SDP, whose influence was in any case already on the decline. Under the previous multiple-seat constituency system, the JSP was able to secure seats, winning the second or third seat. In contrast, under the new' electoral system, the JSP/SDP struggled to win seats because the LDP as well as the new' parties established by former LDP members took seats. The single-seat allocation made competition stiffer for the SDP. The ideational balance was favourable to the ‘normal state’ group even before the electoral reform. However, the reform further tipped the balance between the two opposing groups, giving the ‘normal state’ group more leverage.

The Japanese Communist Party along with the JSP has opposed the SDF and the alliance with the US. The Japanese Communist Party was established in 1922 and w'on legal status in 1945. The party was a staunch opponent of the SDF and the alliance with the US, arguing that these should be abolished immediately even though the party did not deny Japan the right of self-defence and its armament. However, its influence in domestic politics remained limited, if not negligible, because the party’s initial goal was to overturn the government through revolution by peaceful means. Due to this radical goal, the party’s share of seats in the House of Representatives long remained around five per cent. Since the JSP and the Communist Party shared a similar—if not identical—view of Japan’s security policy, cooperation continued between these parties until when the JSP became more pragmatic in the 1980s.

Komeito once belonged to the anti-militarist group because the party opposed the alliance with the US and the SDF. Komeito maintained relatively stable support, with its representation in the House of Representatives accounting for around ten per cent of total seats in the Diet. However, Komeito shifted its security stance in 1981 by accepting the SDF and the alliance with the US as constitutional. Thus, while Komeito belonged to the anti-militarist group up to 1981, it shifted to the ‘normal state’ group afterwards.

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