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Japan’s Election Results Usher in War . . . and a Glimmer of Hope?

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The LDP’s resounding victory in Sunday’s upper house election was not all bad news, contrary to the drearily predictable results that give the PM a firmer mandate to re-shape Japan to its largely imagined pre-war “glory”. Left wing parties and candidates made surprising gains that will serve as a more effective bulwark against a proposed amendment to the war-renouncing clause in the constitution, the construction of a new US military base in Okinawa, and of course, the adherence to failed American fiscal policy known domestically as “Abenomics”.    In one encouraging set back for the American led war party headed by Shinzo Abe, his state minister of Okinawan Affairs was unseated by an anti-base rival, delivering a decisive victory to the coalition of citizen activists whose anger over the recent murder of an Okinawan woman by a civilian base worker galvanized the forces necessary to oust the unpopular minister.

The Democratic Party’s thorough trouncing at the polls proved that a growing segment of the Japanese population no longer place their trust in an “opposition” party that traditionally gave their tacit support to the right wing ruling party in exchange for political favors. Voters now tilt emphatically right or left, squeezing out the squishy center that has defined the post-war electorate’s stance on issues ranging from defense to daycare.

The tendency to place oneself unthinkingly in the ‘center’ of the political spectrum where Japan’s one time prosperous, hopeful citizens positioned themselves has given way to despair for the future, and the belief that the nation’s super-power “protector” is in an irreversible free fall that will necessitate a constitutional amendment to expand Japan’s defense capabilities into international waters and airspace.  There is a sense of being vulnerable to the market and military-based “predations” of its closest super-power neighbor in the East that is being fueled in no small part by xenophobic policy makers acting on the behest of their silent American partners.  (One always fears the worst from former colonial subjects in sub-conscious acknowledgment of the historical wrongs perpetrated against them.)

Left wing parties have been given a renewed platform in the nation’s growing unease with nuclear power, which in turn has spawned a raised awareness of the underlying political and economic issues that brought the nation to its knees when a double disaster became a triple threat that continues to thwart all attempts at containing it.  Melting nuclear reactors, it turns out, have a way of diminishing public enthusiasm for politics and business as usual.

Even a successful bid for the 2020 Olympic Games can’t remove the stench of failure surrounding the government’s attempts to revive the economy, and the equally corrosive effects of its “free market” reforms on all those non-members of ‘Nippon Kaigi’, the feudal think tank/country club where non-seismic movers and shakers shape public policy outside of government to better reflect the objectives of a crouching and hidden war criminal class.

The mood here since March 11th has remained somber and cautiously pessimistic. The population can no longer be relied on to spend and consume their way out of this malaise, despite the government’s best efforts to scold pensioners for hanging on to their savings, and urging the more stubborn ones to die faster.

Growing discontentment with the status quo has largely been exploited by fringe right wing groups who are able to reach out to marginalized, angry young men via the internet. Well-funded and tech savvy, these organizations give unemployed and socially isolated gaming warriors a renewed sense of purpose to rise up against the Chinese “threat”, which somehow includes a mostly Japanese born Korean ethnic group whose “privileges” are loudly denounced at hate speech rallies around the country. Left wing parties and organizations have been slow to embrace technology, relying on old, no longer applicable methods of reaching out to a younger generation of voters and activists, which has largely contributed to their obsolescence among a demographic glued permanently to their i-phones.

Circumstances, however, in the form of a high rate of exchange that adversely affect exports, and the reckless money printing schemes meant to artificially deflate the yen, have intervened to partially derail public support for Abe’s “three arrow” economic plan. His failing fiscal policies now permanently stamped with his own name, along with his administration’s overreaching response to its critics have yielded promising signs of growing public mistrust of dynastic career politicians acting in the interests of their feudal forebears.

The recently passed “Security Law” that designates information that might undermine government and corporate efforts to sidestep the law and the constitution as “state secrets”, has mobilized a robust youth movement to counter this encroaching fascism. It’s hard to say if these mostly middle-class university student who formed SEALDS (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy) will maintain their activist impulses in the wake of Emperor Abe’s most recent mandate-affirming coronation. It will take a fearless and sustained effort to endure the raised to ’11’ volume blasting from the right wing unarmored tank brigade, particularly now as it has gained steam from yesterday’s electorally foregone conclusion.

Sunday’s election was a milestone for 18 and 19 year old voters who took advantage of a change in the law that would allow them to vote for the first time. It’s not clear whether they were inspired to cast their historic ballots by the pervasive forces of ‘netto uyo’ – the aforementioned online right wing troll brigades, or whether they were encouraged by SEALD’s clear oppositional stance to ruling party overreach into the lives of citizens with a security bill that was drafted by the United States.

As things stand with Dishonest Abe’s decisive victory, it would seem a one time “defeated” nation is poised to more nobly defeat itself at the urging of its ‘former’ occupier – who incidentally, created the ruling LDP in its own democracy-crushing, red-bashing image.  “Overcoming Japan’s wartime defeat” is a pretty strange objective coming from a guy whose grandfather collaborated with GHQ to further entrench his pre-war position of power.  One nation’s defeat was to become a win-win for the architects of that particular failure.

Japan can either cede its sovereignty further to a basketcase benefactor in the name of “nationalism”, or it can make the choice to wean itself from a childish dependency on the bully enforcers of feudalism at home, and imposed neoliberalism from abroad.  Last Sunday’s small but significant win for the Communist Party and their affiliated candidates offers a beacon of hope in the gloomy, uncertain days ahead.

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Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo.

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