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Interview: Dr. Patricia Steinhoff 5

Students Battle It Out

Dr. Patricia Steinhoff is Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. This is the fifth and final installment of our interview with Dr. Steinhoff about the Japanese New Left in the 1960s and 1970s.


If we look at where the Weathermen and Red Armies developed from their respective student movements, there are some very clear differences. The Weathermen made a point not to kill anyone after they ended up blowing themselves up, but the Red Army in Japan continued with bombings and other violent actions, no?

Actually, after the Lod incident, Shigenobu said, we aren’t going to kill anybody, and they did not kill anybody else in all their subsequent attacks. She was also deeply distressed because her best friend had already been killed in the United Red Army purge, before the Lod Airport attack. That was the only time the Red Army in Japan killed anybody.

I did a paper with Gilda Zwerman, an American sociologist who studies the “post-New Left” in the U.S. The U.S. also had groups that went underground and were involved throughout the 1970s. Part of it is that it’s not as visible in the United States, because it wasn’t centralized and it wasn’t national. It’s very easy to say, somebody did something stupid over in one place, but not to see it as a part of the same larger movement. We did a paper with Donatella della Porta who has studied the same types of movements in the same time period in Italy and Germany. And we first put all our cases, which included all the radical groups, including the Weathermen, including the Black Panthers, and the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army), Puerto Rican Nationalists from the U.S., the Red Brigades in Italy, and the Red Army Faction in Germany and a couple of other Italian factions. We put all our cases together and we tried to figure out what the processes were. The three of us wrote one paper about going underground and the process of who went and that sort of thing.

Zwerman and I did another one where we talked about other types of things that happened in the ’70s and the ’80s, so there are interesting parallels and when you put a lot of groups together, you can see a lot of common patterns, but there are differences because of the structural differences in the countries and the way the groups were organized. I wouldn’t want to say across the board that the U.S. was milder, but some things were different.

One of the reasons that the Japanese groups did what they did is because guns are so hard to find in Japan, whereas in the U.S., that’s not an issue. Going underground and having a guerilla army with guns — you weren’t about to overthrow the U.S. government that way. There are differences in thinking about what you can do and why. The Black Panthers were walking around the streets with guns quite deliberately in the 1960s.

Is there a palpable legacy of the student movement and the Japanese Red Army in particular? Did they accomplish any of their goals or was it just a total wash?

First of all, the movement marked a generation. And because of that, those people have gone on to do different things. It isn’t that they got certain things out of the movement and carried them directly, but rather that they had these experiences. The movement failed, and they had to figure out what went wrong. And in that process, which is a very built-in, very Japanese thing, you always have to analyze what happened and figure out what went wrong. Basically they tried to change course in an organized way. And I think it’s out of that, that this very different style of contemporary social movements in Japan has come about. I am writing about this now, as Japan’s “invisible civil society,” which came out of the New Left but reflects their thoughtful analysis of what went wrong with it.

Part of it is that they see that these big organizations, this top-down stuff doesn’t work. As students, they had a loose lefty kind of approach. They were not traditional uptight Japanese. But they were still Japanese, and they were in this structure that had a lot of the vertical stuff. So there’s a mix. When they decided that part of the problem is this big top-down organization, then they were freer to go in different directions and avoid large organizations by using networking to link together lots of small groups. And culturally, they were doing all these interesting things at the same time that people were protesting in the streets in the 1960s, there was music, literature, drama, all kind of art coming out of it in a kind of cultural renaissance. So it was a creative period that had its impact in many ways.

In terms of the Red Army itself… well, they helped immensely in making the Japanese justice system more severe than it was before, which certainly wasn’t what they intended. To a certain extent, the fact that these people in the early 1970s went to North Korea and went to work with the Palestinians, and that 35 years later they are still connected to those issues, and those issues are still on the front pages, in a sense you can say that their going there and staying there — at least as far as Japan was concerned — kept an awareness of what was going on in those two places that might have not been there otherwise. It would not have been as salient within Japan if they didn’t have a bunch of people in the Middle East who did stuff once in a while.

Or a bunch of people in North Korea that you could forget about until all of a sudden, it turns out that they had done all this other wild stuff. So in that sense, there’s an indirect awareness factor that they have something to do with.

I don’t think it was a wash. But clearly, a lot of lives were wrecked. I don’t just mean people who were killed or injured by their actions. But their own lives were deflected and pretty much wrecked. The guys that went to North Korea: half of them are dead, the remaining ones… Good God! That’s not what should have happened with their lives.

The Middle East people are pretty much going to spend the rest of their lives in jail. They did have a freedom of movement, because they were there in the Middle East and they were elusive, but still, there was a lot of stuff they couldn’t do because they were on wanted lists. And you know, their lives to a certain extent have been wrecked by it. So, it’s not a happy story.

Dr. Steinhoff will be releasing two works on the Japanese Red Army in the near future: Deadly Ideology: Violence and Commitment in the Japanese Red Army and an English translation of Takazawa Kōji’s Destiny: The Secret Operations of the Yodo-go Exiles 『宿命―「よど号」亡命者たちの秘密工作』.

W. David MARX
September 14, 2007

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

32 Responses

  1. Adamu Says:

    Perhaps this is irrelevant to her expertise and the the ultra-radical left itself, but I was sort of expecting to hear about what legacy on modern Japanese society of not just the people involved in the leftist protests but also the structures and organizations (like – are the college co-ops of today and the saakuru clubs direct descendants of zengakuren?). Perhaps thats a story for another time but I also wonder if in general the failure of the left helped push people into the arms of the system and away from any real liberalism since there was so little alternative.

  2. W. David MARX Says:

    Some of the problem is that we ran out of time and had to conclude the interview with this question.

    But you are right, questions remain:

    1) Why did the New Left’s ideas completely fizzle out by the mid-70s instead of being absorbed into the system (like some hippie ideology)?

    2) Why is non-Marxist, non-radical “liberalism” not a serious political force in Japan, or at least, organized into a political force despite a widespread agreement with its ideology (at least in the spheres of environmentalism, peace, and progressive taxation, etc.)?

    For (1), you could say that students were so defeated that they had to enter the workforce, do a tenkō into “Japanese” conservative goals, and completely abandon their idealism in order to survive.

    I would offer the idea of Kotani Satoshi that all these radical Marxisms could not be “blended” into the statist-capitalist systems. They could not be compromised with the consumerist/capitalist system like the Romantic grass-roots democracy of the American Left. The Japanese New Left demanded complete overhaul and a move away from the American sphere, neither of which were going to happen. Also, even if more radical members of these organizations did go into companies, as just junior company men, they weren’t going to be able to change anything. They would have to be entrepreneurs to really be able to implement the ideas into their work culture, and Japan is not exactly a hotbed of entrepreneurialism.

    For (2), I think Chalmers Johnson is on to something though when he says that the U.S. presence is so large that it splits the argument into “conservative” pro-U.S. vs. “socialist” anti-U.S. Being just “for liberal ideals” is too close to American ideology to be clear opposition rhetoric to the LDP. (Although there are some anti-U.S. LDP members, I think it’s fair to say that they didn’t try too hard to get out of the security umbrella, especially in the frame of Ampo.)

  3. tomojiro Says:

    About (1), I think it is wrong to say that it “fizzle out”, in fact it was absorbed into the system, especially into the educational system, to some extent even the to burocracy.

    Ootake Hideo’s book “Shin-sayoku no isan (legacy of the new-left)” is an interesting discussion about the impact of the new left to the Japanese intellectuals which lasts to this day.

    Another Historian, Hara Takeshi has written a book called “Takiyama commune, 1974” which describes his own experiences as an elementary school child in a school in which teachers and PTA was deeply influenced by new-left and leftist ideologies. After reading it, I was shocked to find out that his experience resonates with mine.

    I always sought that the group orientated “Han-kyoiku (班教育) reflected Japanese group orientated traditional social values (the group accusations and sometimes to be forced to “self criticize” your self because of some “inappropriate” act was a night mare.Especially for me, who was a “kikoku Shijo” and did not know how to act properly as a normal Japanese kid).It was a refreshing shock to know that it was a direct copy of the Soviet Union’s education theory, and that many young teachers and parents who supported this education were new-left supporters.


    About number (2)., although I agree with Chalmers Johnson, I think the meaning of the “liberal” differs in Anglo American context and in Franco-german (or continental Europe context). Traditionally, I think in Japan the word “liberal” was rather used in the Continental Europe sence (social equality), rather than the Anglo-american sence (social liberty and economic freedom).

  4. W. David MARX Says:

    Your comments suggest that a lot of the “influence” has been in forms of social organization rather than “ideology” or goal-orientations. This seems to back up old characterizations of Japan vs. other places (orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy, or what have you).

    The thing about 班教育 is pretty fascinating. Thank you for mentioning it.

    Traditionally, I think in Japan the word “liberal” was rather used in the Continental Europe sence (social equality), rather than the Anglo-american sence (social liberty and economic freedom)

    That makes sense to a certain degree, but I would say that the JCP’s core issues these days feel very “liberal” to me in an Anglo-American sense. Too bad the party is forever marked with the name “Communist,” because their platform of lower consumption taxes, environment, and anti-war are popular.

  5. M-Bone Says:

    I think that non-radical liberalism is not a serious “independent” political force in Japan because most successful politicians have incorporated elements of it into their platforms – restrictions on military spending, UN centrism for issues relating to the use of force in most cases, health care and welfare (which are at least “decent” by international comparison), spreading the wealth in the countryside, fixing the environment(from 1970, Japan went from being one of the most polluted countries in the world to a pretty decent, well forested place, and on the LDP watch to boot),foreign aid, etc. are all mainstream “liberal” ideas (at least as they exist in Canada, USA, New Zealand, etc.) and have all been co-opted by the LDP and others at various times for various purposes – sometimes for the good of all and sometimes definitely not.

    Also, I think that the ideas of the Anpo generation and the “new left” have been massively influential in popular culture, which may have helped to forge that “widespread agreement” with the philosophy of liberalism that you mention. Cases in point — Miyazaki movies, Iwanami Junior Shinsho, Tezuka Osamu’s later work (much of Black Jack), TBS news reports, etc.

    Anyway, big ups on this content. Of course, the answers of someone like Steinhoff are going to be great, but its the questions that really say something about the future of Neojaponisme.

  6. W. David MARX Says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    Would you say that a Miyazaki movie has a “left” ideology or a “New Left” ideology? The thing that strikes me about the New Left (outside of maybe Beheiren) is that they are so radical that the JCP almost look like “part of the establishment.” So why would the popular culture you mentioned not be drawing from a broader, older anti-war left ideology but from the New Left in particular? Is there a Leninist revolutionary Marxism in any of it?

  7. anonymous Says:

    Excellent series of interviews, David.

    Truly impressive.

  8. Kim Jong-il Hater Says:

    I’ve noticed that later on in the protests, like around the time they were protesting Narita, students started wearing jumpsuits (mainly the guys in the blue helmets), what’s up with that?

  9. nv Says:

    Well, KJ-I Hater, I can’t really speak to the Japanese context with any specificity, but in many New Left groups, especially on the European continent, the helmets and jumpsuits were intended to intimidate the police, giving the signal that the young people had come prepared to fight.

    For example, former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer was famously filmed beating a police officer with a baseball bat, wearing leather and a motorcycle helmet.

    Anyways, I’d say this website launch has been a success so far. Keep up the good work!

  10. W. David MARX Says:

    I hope you all enjoy Dr. Steinhoff Interview Parts 6 through 15.

  11. Aceface Says:

    “Would you say that a Miyazaki movie has a “left” ideology or a “New Left” ideology?”

    Miyazaki’s leftism is basically the mixture of Euro Communism especially the one in Italy and 18th century Fourier’s Utopian socialism.You won’t see so much Bolshevism nor Japanese new leftism there.

    I’ve been kicking walls for not joining the debate,and Tomojiro and M-Bone had already said what I wanted to say.

    “So why would the popular culture you mentioned not be drawing from a broader, older anti-war left ideology but from the New Left in particular? ”

    Japanese old left or old liberalism is the product of academic elitism in the pre-war German style highschools.
    And these institution was not exactly open for the masses so are the student movements.
    Being the member of the party(JCP)and work for them was also the job for the chosen few,for you could find yourself in the serious consequence.

    While in the post-war,things had changed,there are no such cultural aristocracy in the society due to American style educational reform that allows middle class youth could all go to college.Thanks to the freedom and democracy,the risk of joining the leftist movement have greatly reduced.
    Naturally the ideas got popularized and intellectually watered down.The interest in the issue had also multiplied.And that made it easier for pop culture to import ideas from the thought of the new left,for some of them are less dogmatic than the old school leftism.

    There are also some generational element are involved in this too,for 60’s were the times of the sub-culture denying existing authority of the high culture.

    “Why did the New Left’s ideas completely fizzle out by the mid-70s instead of being absorbed into the system (like some hippie ideology)?”

    There is a man by the name of Tsurumi Shunsuke鶴見俊輔,a philosopher. He went to Harvard before the war and when Pearl Harbor broke out he was in American prison for the charge of anarchist and sent back to Japan in the last ship.After the war he started a magazine思想の科学 and became editor in chief of the magazine from 1946 to 96,introduced pragmatism he learned at Harvard,He was also one of the intellectual leader of Beheiren in the 60’s and 70’s.
    His thought is basically non-radical,no-marxist liberalism and it is the closest to American liberal among the post-war Japanese ideas.

    Anyway,there was an occasion when he was asked by an American Japanologist Ronald Morse,”What do you think is the reason that your project of establishing intellectual liberalism in Japanese philosophical landscape which could bring political alternative had failed?”.

    Tsurumi answered while he is not sure whether his idea had left any recongnizable legacy to post-war thought or not,he quoted the criticism from his friend Maruyama Masao,who was also the contributor of the magazine, had said to Tsurumi in one of the discussion.That “free-for-all-ism in both method and practice had spoiled your ideas”.

  12. W. David MARX Says:

    “Being the member of the party(JCP)and work for them was also the job for the chosen few,for you could find yourself in the serious consequence.”

    You mean the pre-war Japan Communist Party, right?

    “Naturally the ideas got popularized and intellectually watered down.”

    There may have been some “watering down,” but also must have been more “radicalism” and more splintering. I am guessing that there was more revolutionary Marxism in the post-war than the pre-war.

    “He was also one of the intellectual leader of Beheiren in the 60’s and 70’s.”

    Beheiren strikes me as the closest thing in the Japanese student movement to the tone of the SDS.

    “.That “free-for-all-ism in both method and practice had spoiled your ideas”.”

    Can you explain this a bit more?

  13. Aceface Says:

    Well this was done in a pretty long discussion(対談)between Maruyama and Tsurumi.While Maruyama is the king of kings in the Japanese academe(professor of Todai’s faculty of law),Tsurumi quit university(Doshinsya)in the 60’s and spend his time for Beheiren and other civic movements and editing books and magazine.So these two are sort of assymetrical to each other.

    Maruyama wanted to make the magazine somewhat enlightening,but in a more orthodox academic style.He was worried about post-war mass society can turn into the threat to democracy quite easily,because he had experienced “The lock up” and so called”group negotiation”by the Todai students in 68.
    “Lock up” is basically the radical students seal the professors’ office and not letting them use it during school strike and sometimes vandalize what’s inside of the office.”Group negotiation”is taking professors to the hall filled with radical students and constantly ask them demand for hours until they can’t stand with their own two feet.
    Anyway Maruyama thought somekind of order and authority is necessary for the sustainability of civic freedom and academic training is crucial for the advance of ideas.

    Now Tsurumi had tendency of criticizing Japanese society from dissident view,he had criticized those who are in the ivory tower for living in the world of jargons and making intellectual gap with ordinary people even wider.His writing is always in the plain words and often choose pop culture as subject of cultural criticism so that his works can approach wider readership. and he tried to recruit ordinary people as the contributor for”Science of the idea” along with famous Todai professors.

    In the end of “the science of ideas”,it was soaked with pieces on pop culture and watered down ideas by not-so sophiscated writers,the magazine had lost it’s edge of criticizing the social situation of late 80’s.Which were influx of consumerism and popular post- modernism and principleless value relativism.And in such situation Tsurumi’s method was basically powerless to start any new movement of ideas.And the word of Maruyama came out in this context.

  14. M-Bone Says:

    I’d say that Miyazaki’s leftism is typical of the Anpo generation. It was some of the other works that I mentioned that I’d associate with the “new left” (however, you can’t really go that hard on the new old division – the JCP did declare ARMED struggle and go underground in the early 50s). Tezuka associated Israel with the Nazis and has drawn Astro Boy destroying American B-52s over North Vietnam – two images straight out of the realm of new left cultural capital. I also think that in pop non-fiction of recent years, the romantic victim images of the downtrodden (Iraqis) coupled with violent anti-Americanism, has raised its head again.

    As for my earlier point about the LDP adopting many liberal ideas, I think that Abe’s fall is an interesting case study. Japanese voters won’t kick your ass just for being an idea conservative as long as you have liberal policies across the board (or present yourself that way, like Koizumi did) but they WILL make you eat the curb if you make those liberal policies take a backseat and build a platform around slight right ideas and nationalist waffle.

  15. Matthew Black Says:

    Hi David-

    Really impressed with what you’ve done with the new site.

    In response to your question about why the student movement as a whole didn’t win, have you read the series of books put out by 絓秀美about the student movement? There is one called 革命的な、あまりに革命的なand there was a film/media project called ‘Left Alone.’ Suga’s argument is that the student movement actually won on the level of cultural influence. He makes some provocative gestures-he includes Nishibe Susumu as one of the student movement’s victories, which is actually true to some extent.

    Which leads me to your second question about liberalism in Japan.

    I think it’s important to understand that there was a big gulf between people like Maruyama and the student radicals. The radicals attacked liberals like him as 市民主義者,or worse (which is some sense justified: he wrote defenses of the Co-Prosperity Sphere during the war). People who were closely associated with the Zengakuren, in contrast, tended to be more like Yoshimoto Takaaki. Now, ironically, Yoshimoto would be seen almost as a kind of neo-conservative. You had the same kind of tendency in the United States, by the way: Irving Kristol started as a Trotskyist (he was in the Shachtmanite Tendency) and became a figure of the hard right. In some ways he might have hated Stalinism and the CP more than he hated the status quo. So to understand what happened with the student movement you can’t look at it as a left wing-right wing thing.

    PS-there is a new-new left in Japan right now, as you might know: it is picking up steam. Check out the journal VOL on the Ibunsha website if you are curious. 雨宮かりんand the 新社会党are interesting too. These kinds of people would be very happy to hear about what you are doing.

  16. W. David MARX Says:

    Maybe it’s even a mistake to equate the “New Left” with “liberalism.”

    Yoshimoto Takaaki

    Funny part in his Wikipedia biography about being criticized for wearing Comme des Garçons in an anan interview. At least he’s got pretty good taste for a semi-Neo-Con.

  17. Matthew Black Says:

    Pardon the hideous english translation of the Yoshimoto page, by the way: it’s my doing.

    Incidentally, you mentioned the Beheiren-SDS connection, which is a really interesting point. I was going through some old Beiheiren materials the other day and they had an interview with one of the SDS leaders (he would have been one of the people in Chicago-I can’t remember the name off the top of my head) and they were very interested in what was going on in the US, but my suspicion (and Dr.Steinhoff would know for sure) is that Beheiren was an exception in that way, and that in general the student movement would have been more interested in what was going on in Continental Europe and China at the time.

    Also, the Japanese student movement was seen as being very much in the forefront of the worldwide student movement and that the US student movement was trailing. You will find a lot of french materials, for example, talking about how millitant the Japanese are.

    It’s particularly interesting because the situation in Japan now is so disarticulated from Europe. I’d gander there was a lot of government repression, and I’d really like to hear more from Dr.Steinhoff on this point-it’s very hard to find materials on the government reaction and the extent of supression of the student movement. We know that nothing like what happened in Italy happened in Japan. But we don’t really know why.

  18. Matthew Black Says:

    PS-‘Beiheiren’, now that I read that back, is a pretty funny typo.

  19. tomojiro Says:

    “We know that nothing like what happened in Italy happened in Japan. But we don’t really know why.”

    The same could be said for Germany. I don’t think that the Japanese government was “especially” repressive.

    There must be other reasons why New Leftist movements lost quickly attraction and effect in Japan.

    One reason would be of course that the general public was disappointed after incidents like Asama sanso or Yodo-go, and particularly after the never ending violent feuds between the new –leftist groups (内ゲバ) began it would be also very hard for interested students or citizens to sympathize or participate in their organizations and their causes.

    The Red Army choose to reside in Palestine to cause terrorism from there, other new leftist groups choose to remain in Japan and to kill each other for the slightest difference among them.

    There were still moments during the 70ies in which they could show their influences such as fights about the Narita airport construction or the privatization of the Kokutetsu, but I think that it was rather their own failure (自滅) which caused their decline.

  20. W. David MARX Says:

    I am sorry I didn’t have much time in this interview to touch on “内ゲバ” because it is something very mysterious to me, and yet, key for understanding the Japanese New Left. As grotesque as the URA lynchings were, the idea of legitimate violence against fellow students with ideological differences was built into the movement. (Dr. Steinhoff mentions that they developed the helmet/stick uniform to battle each other before even thinking of using it to battle the cops.)

    There is something very obviously illiberal (and creepy) about 内ゲバ, and I can understand why it made less and less sense to the general public within an increasingly prosperous and free society.

  21. Matt Says:

    First of all, congratulations on the new site. And colour me surprised. Of all the issues that passed through Neomarxisme, the one on the Japanese Left some time back was the one that interested me most, just because i wanted to know what the hell happened to it.

    To find that was the issue you decided to start this site with was more than a little surprising. Nice work.

    Like the other commenters above, i felt the only thing it lacked was a bit more on the current left political landscape. I read an article a while back on Mizuho Fukushima (Japan’s first female PM in a better world), Shaminto & younger female policitians in the party. The most interesting part of the article was that the younger party members want to break Shaminto’s traditional ties with the socialists & become a modern Green party closer to European, Australian models – something that would be fantastic to see & long overdue in Japan. Disappointingly it seems that Fukushima-san is against the idea, perhaps fearing the party would move to far from its social justice ideals.

    Any chance of seeing a follow-up piece on the current political left landscape at all and how it connects the dots to its roots exposed here ?

  22. Matthew Black Says:

    Tomojiro wrote:

    The same could be said for Germany. I don’t think that the Japanese government was “especially” repressive.

    There must be other reasons why New Leftist movements lost quickly attraction and effect in Japan.

    Let me just quickly clear up what I said. My point was that there is, now, relatively little violent protest in Japan when this continues to occur in most of western europe-look at the G8 summit in Germany, for example. Likewise, the years of lead in Italy, which followed 60’s agitation, happened in the context of very strong support for the communists in the Parlimentary system. It is simply not true that violent protest, in itself, suffices to alienate the public or publics.

    Also, state repression is not a simple thing, an issue of harsh/light. It could be, for example, that the techniques used by the Japanese police and PSIA were just more effective at producing long-term control. But basically, I think you have to consider large structural reasons, a number of which could be considered-the fact that the Japanese economy weathered the mid-70’s much better than most european countries, or the reversion of Okinawa, which (if you don’t live in Okinawa) could be mistaken as a kind of resolution of the contradictions between Japan and the US.

  23. Aceface Says:

    “there was a big gulf between people like Maruyama and the student radicals. The radicals attacked liberals like him as 市民主義者,or worse (which is some sense justified: he wrote defenses of the Co-Prosperity Sphere during the war). ”

    Never heard of it.Aren’t you mistaken with the other Yoshimoto related debate with Hanada Kiyoteru?
    As far as I concern there is no such writings from Maruyama that I know of.

    And I’m very reluctant to justify the Todai students treatment on Maruyama and other professors at campus in those years.
    Like you said Matthew,the Japanese radicals had only slight interests to the American students but they sure had tons to the red guards.

    “I’d gander there was a lot of government repression,”

    There is a critic named Tsubouchi Yuzo坪内祐三and he writes review of bunko paperbacks in Shukan Bunshun magazine everyweek.When he reviewed 死へのイデオロギー,he was writing something equivalent of “Steinhoff seemed surprised by comparison to the siege in Columbia University,that in Tokyo University,the authority had let student kept the Yasuda lecture hall occupied for almost six months.according to her that wouid never be happening in the U.S.”

    A few years ago,I had interviewed a freelance primatologist who lives not a hundred meters away from the red gate of Todai.His name is Shima Taizo島泰三and he is working to protect the endangered species of lemur called Aye-Ayes in Madagascal.

    I later discovered Shima was actually the aerial commander of Hongo campus at the time and he wrote a memoir of his experience

    Some of the commenter here seemed impressed with the diversity of the design of the sects’ helmets.But that always reminds me of those fragile ecosystems in the jungles of Madagascal or islands of Galapagos.There you can see all kinds of interesting species of lemurs and finches evolve in different size and shape because there were no predators.
    Same goes to the radical sects.If only they were not segregated from the law in isolated campus protected by the school authority….

    You can still see some of the ex-radicals thriving at Todai campus and a few Aye-Ayes at Ueno Zoo thanks to Dr.Shima.But I highly doubt I would ever see neither of them outside of their domains.

    “and there was a film/media project called ‘Left Alone.’ Suga’s argument is that the student movement actually won on the level of cultural influence. He makes some provocative gestures-he includes Nishibe Susumu as one of the student movement’s victories, which is actually true to some extent”

    Now these are definitely some bad jokes spoken here.

    “Left Alone” director Izuchi Kisyuu井土紀州 is from Hosei University.Don’t know him personally,but I’ve seen him time to time as movie projector operator.When he was student there 15 years ago,he was organizing cine club at the student hall,which is also known as the den of Chukaku-ha,and I went there occasionary for such like Samuel Fuller marathon,or Ogawa Shinsuke festivals.To get to the installed theater inside of the building of student hall,I had to walk by lots of sign board of Chukaku-ha propagandas,like “DOWN WITH LDP!” or “CRASH THE AMERICAN IMPERIALISM!”and so on.

    Last year I was reading papers and found there was a tiny article saying “23 student radicals arrested in the Hosei campus”.
    The charge was the installation of the sign boards.Couldn’t know what it means first,because those signboards were ubiquitous in campus back in my days and now it’s worth busting activists.I was also shocked that Hosei let the cops in.

    Perhaps the professors protecting students from the law in the name of the independence of the academism is now a bygone virtue.But this idea of draconianism at campus has been suggested by the neo-con such like Nishibe(of whom was a high ranking activist of Bund along with his buddy ex-Stanford economic prof Aoki Masahiko)from time to time and that undeniably had more or less affects on the attitude.

    If both Suga and Izuchi actually think that the movement had left certain level of cultural influence as legacy and it’s highest achievement is nobody but Nishibe Susumu,then Suga should better come out from the nostalgic selfsatisfaction and smell the coffee and Izuchi should stop pretending that he knows something about the era by praising a guy like Suga or they would really be left out all by themselves.

    I’ve got a lot say about rediculous Yoshimoto=Neo Con demagoguery,but it’s getting late.Gotta go to bed.

  24. W. David MARX Says:

    By the way, I saw the first half of Left Alone a while back and it’s real boring/shoddily-made.

  25. Matthew Black Says:

    Sorry for the late response, but Aceface, I should clarify what I meant.

    Saying that Maruyama actively defended the coprosperity sphere, per se, is an overstatement. My bad. But Maruyama did write criticisms of 近代 in the late 30’s which were complicit with wartime ideology and which are quite different from the work he is famous for. The very early essay (1936) mentioned in Oguma Eiji’s 民主と愛国,「政治学における国家概念」is the example I was thinking of. Of course, you’d find very few people actively writing clear criticism of the government in 1936.

    Yoshimoto absolutely, absolutely, did attack Maruyama. See the essay 状況とはなにか.He also supported the Zengakuren in 1960 against the CP. He wasn’t uncritical of them, and he got more and more critical of them as time went on, but I think it is widely known that he was both a very strong critic of the concept of postwar democracy and an advocate of the New Left.

    Finally, there was a reason I hedged my judgment about Yoshimoto now as a neo-conservative, because there are real neo-cons out there. But he was a new left figure who drifted off to the right.

    I don’t have much to say on Suga one way or the other, but I do think he was trying to be a provocateur.

  26. Michael Arnold Says:

    Very interesting interview!

    My interest in the postwar Japanese left and radical (?) politics in the 50s-70s is mostly through Japanese film history & theory and the changing ways the ‘movements’ (and movement) were represented over the years. It’s interesting that Adachi’s “Terrorist” and Izuchi’s “Left Alone” are mentioned here. I think “Terrorist” succeeded in a lot of ways I didn’t expect it to (especially after 30 years!).

    However “Left Alone” was a waste of time. I only saw part one, but I couldn’t understand why it was made into a film. I should have just read the book instead. In Izuchi’s defense (?) though, 百年の絶唱 is supposed to be excellent, and I’ve heard a lot of praise for his new film ラザロー.

    Wakamatsu Koji’s new movie is complete too, and it should be screening in Japan next year. It’s all about the Japanese Red Army and Asama Sanso.

    Does anyone here have an opinion on Tsuchiya’s “New God”?

  27. Aceface Says:

    “But Maruyama did write criticisms of 近代 in the late 30’s which were complicit with wartime ideology and which are quite different from the work he is famous for. The very early essay (1936) mentioned in Oguma Eiji’s 民主と愛国,「政治学における国家概念」is the example I was thinking of.”

    Back in the 30’s, modernity in real politics meant three things,Communism and Imperialism and new born fascism of which was slightly difficult to foresee it’s political consequence.And criticizing modernity had reflected somewhat of the intellectual zeitgeist.(and it is even so today in the non west)So I wouldn’t include Maruyama’s discourse was played along the line of the authority at the time.

    There is a small industry among Japanese intellectuals of “poking Maruyama”that has been on going for the last four decades.It is depressing to find out everything written about Maruyama today is not as interesting as something written by Maruyama in the past.Anyway,I think Oguma should think again that most of the Maruyama’s thought of the era was conducted in the most darkest period of the Japanese intellectuals.

    I still don’t buy Yoshimoto is in the”right”.Yoshimot bushing has been on going from the days of the student revolutions,especially those who wanted be as radicsl as you can be.The recent condemnation was in the 90’s when Ozawa Ichiro had broke up with LDP and Yoshimoto had voiced the support for Ozawa,who at the time was seen as not a reformer,but Abe Shinzo 1997 by the left wing camp.Karatani Koujin and Asada Akira had called him as “fascist” and “1930 style nationalist”.Anyway they had a fuss with Yoshimoto over some other things.

  28. Hyth, Sweden Says:

    I have two questions, but first I must say that this was a masterpice article.

    1. The helmets that is mentioned, is there any article about them anywhere, where they came from, how widely used they where etc? The picture of diffrent helmets in the article, any chance one can get an translation of which organisation that used which?

    2. Where there any anarchist groups or marxist but non-leninist groups in the movment like the french situationits or the italian operaisimio or other autonomus groups? If so does any of the helmets in the picture belong to them and is there any autonomus groups or movement in Japan today?

  29. W. David MARX Says:

    1. This little side bar tried to sum up the difference between the organizations and you can see their helmets in the article by searching for the appropriate Japanese.

    2. That link of the helmets shows a solid black “Anarchist” helmet, so there must have been some presence. Things were pretty solidly Marxist though – if not Leninist, then Maoist. I have not heard of a serious presence of non-Marxist, avant garde protest groups. Or even the pop culture crossover seen in the Weathermen naming themselves after a Bob Dylan lyric.

  30. Crip Says:

    Marx said:
    “I hope you all enjoy Dr. Steinhoff Interview Parts 6 through 15.”

    Fantastic series so far. Thank you. Any word on when we can expect the rest?

  31. W. David MARX Says:

    Pretty sure I was being sarcastic.

  32. kutmasta Says:

    You can see the different Helmets for each groups.