Bears & Crashes

JC Helary helary at
Wed Apr 5 05:13:55 PDT 2000

Le Tue, Apr 04, 2000 a 04:06:04PM -0400, Doug Henwood a ecrit:
> American triumphalism. I don't notice a great political upsurge in
> Japan after 10 years of stagnation, a possible fate for the U.S.
> should the bubble burst. We've had an upsurge in radical political
> activity in the U.S. over the last several years along with - and
> maybe because of - the boom.
> Doug

Although I am not really an insider, having been here only for the last 3 years, I clearly don't see why Japanese would start radical political activity when everything in their recent (let's say last 100 years) history says it's bad for health.

Activists at the beginning of the century (right after Japan 'opened' itself to the west and imported cool stuff like socialism and communism) started to be assassinated or jailed right from the 10's, when the military was in power, only those who were already in jail survived till the end of the war. From 45 to 50 Mac Arthur was nice enough to let everybody play politics until he realized that he could use Japan for better things : a platform to bomb the rest of Asia. From that moment on the Red Purges (something that can be compared to Mc Carthy's era but meaner) wiped out anybody that was even only slightly pinkish (...) Not to mention all the war criminals that the CIA put back in power. Then comes the 70 when the police had obviously not enough sticks and had to get support from the extreme right to eradicate (once again) anything left of their conservative mentors.

When I talk to people who were student at this time and only took part in the struggle from far behing the barricades, they tell me they are _still_ scared. They are about 50 now, parents of people like me or younger.

Why would they teach their kids who are now in age to vote that political activism is good ?

Japan looks like a developped democracy from far away, but it was a military dictatorship for about 250 years, with guys the 'samurai' pals who had the right to kill you for just about any reason. Nowadays there are no unions here because the company has the right to send you anywhere they want across the country if you start to get along too well with you coworkers. Every year in April, with sometimes as few as a week notice people are moved. Some lucky guy can stay at the same desk for 3 years, most don't. Public officials (who don't have the right to strike by the way) the same. If they are hired by a prefectural administration the limits are the borders of the prefecture, if they work for the central gvt, no limits. The only lucky guys are teachers in universities, 'intelectuals', who are conveniently locked in their uni for long long long years, until they start to forget what the real world looks like, and then they start to talk to themselves and have no chance to be heard by the commoner who struggle every year to get enough money to pay for the new appartment (about 5 months rent at once) the new uniforms for the kids and all the rest, alone because of course his wife has no chance to find a regular and well paid job, unless they separate...

Besides that, labor law is beautifully written but with nobody to enforce it, not enough labor law inspectors and nothing like courts that can easily and quickly settle disputes on contract issues (like we have in France, where most low level conflicts are settled by special courts in less than 2 weeks).

Plus you know what ? They really all have the feeling that the Company is doing them a _big_ favor, because after all, there is a big economic crisis and if anybody complains, easy, they're fired.

Anybody on the list who's got a 2 weeks free time is welcome to come here and use me as interpret to check out what the NYT, FT of WSJ will never tell you.


JC Helary

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list