Japanese Communist Party

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Japanese Communist Party
President Kazuo Shii
Secretary-General Yoshiki Yamashita
Representatives leader Keiji Kokuta
Councillors leader Yoshiki Yamashita
Founded July 15, 1922 (July 15, 1922)
Headquarters 4-26-7 Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-8586, Japan
Membership  (2014) 320,000 [1]
Ideology Communism
Scientific socialism[2]
Political position Left-wing
International affiliation Comintern (1922 – 1943)
Colours Red
21 / 475
11 / 242
Prefectural assembly members [4]
136 / 2,725
Municipal assembly members [4]
2,661 / 32,070
Party flag
Flag of JCP.svg
Politics of Japan
Political parties
Japanese Communist Party Headquarters

The Japanese Communist Party (JCP, Japanese: 日本共産党, Nihon Kyōsan-tō) is a communist political party in Japan and is one of the largest non-governing communist parties in the world.

The JCP advocates the establishment of a society based on socialism, democracy, peace, and opposition to militarism. It proposes to achieve its objectives by working within a democratic framework in order to achieve its goals, while struggling against what it describes as "imperialism and its subordinate ally, monopoly capital." The party does not advocate violent revolution; it proposes a "democratic revolution" to achieve "democratic change in politics and the economy", and "the complete restoration of Japan's national sovereignty", which it sees as infringed by Japan's security alliance with the United States although it firmly defends Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

Following the most recent general election, held on December 14, 2014, the party holds 21 seats in the House of Representatives and following the most recent councillors election, held on July 21, 2013, the party holds 11 seats in the House of Councillors.[5] In the 2015 local elections the JCP became Japan's largest opposition party.[4]


The JCP is one of the largest non-ruling communist parties in the world, with approximately 320,000 members belonging to 22,000 branches. In the wake of the Sino-Soviet split, the party began to distance itself from the Socialist Bloc, especially from the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the JCP released a press statement titled, "We welcome the end of a party which embodied the historical evil of great-power chauvinism and hegemonism" (Japanese: "大国主義・覇権主義の歴史的巨悪の党の終焉を歓迎する"), while at the same time criticizing Eastern European countries for abandoning socialism, describing it as a "reversal of history".[6]

Consequently, the party has not suffered an internal crisis as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, nor has it considered disbanding or changing its name or fundamental objectives, as many other Communist parties have done. It polled 11.3% of the vote in 2000, 8.2% in 2003, 7.3% in 2005, and 7.0% in the August 2009 election. In recent years its support has exploded; as of the 2014 General Election it won 21 seats, up from eight in the previous general election. The JCP took 7,040,130 votes (13.3%) in the constituency section and 6,062,962 (11.37%) in the party lists. This continues a new wave of support that was also evident in the 2013 Tokyo metropolitan election where the party doubled its representation. Fighting on a platform directly opposed to neo-liberalism, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, militarist attempts to rewrite the constitution, US military bases on Japanese soil and nuclear power, the JCP tapped into a minority current that seeks an alternative to Japan’s rightward direction.[7]


As of 1 January, 2014 the JCP has approximately 320,000 members. Following the party's advancement in the 2013 Tokyo prefectural election there has been an upswing in people joining the party, with over 1,000 people joining in each of the final three months of 2013.[1] Approximately 20% of new members during this period were aged 20–40, showing a higher ratio of young people joining the party than in the past.[1]


Imperial Japan[edit]

Takiji Kobayashi prominent author of proletarian literature. (Pre-war Showa era)

The Japanese Communist Party was founded on July 15, 1922 after several failed attempts to establish the party in Japan. Yamakawa Hitoshi, Tokuda Kyuichi, Sakai Toshihiko, Katayama Sen were among the founders of the JCP. The JCP was branded illegal in Japan, and remained illegal until the end of World War II.[8] According to Andrew Roth, the JCP did not permit recruiting outside of Japan proper.[9]

The Comintern was crucial to the very emergence of the JCP in the early 1920s. According to R. Swearingen and P. Langer, the party's formation was "a direct result of the Comintern's success in selecting, radicalising, and reorienting a portion of the Japanese "social movement". Nosaka Sanzo claimed that the JCP and the Comintern had never been on close terms. However, Sandra Wilson states that the JCP and the Comintern were closely connected from the party's founding until its virtual destruction in 1932-33. According to Wilson, Comintern money provided the overwhelming majority of JCP funds. According to Wilson "Funds kept arriving until perhaps mid-1931, when the Comintern's representative in Shanghai, Noulens, was arrested and contact between the JCP and the Comintern was temporarily lost.". After Noulen's arrest the party relied on money from sympathisers.[10]

According to Robert A. Scalapino, the party drew most of its leaders and many of its rank and file members from the ranks of students and mature intellectuals. Writers, artists, journalists, and academicians composed a significant portion of the party elite. However, Scalapino went on to say that the the Communist movement did not attract, or at least it did not hold, the top Japanese intelligentsia. As the JCP came under the tighter control of the Comintern and diverged from the trends of its own society, the academic Marxists withdrew. According to Scalapino, this left the more militant activist types in control, most of whom were young and inexperienced and often recent returnees from Soviet training. Formal membership in the JCP never reached 1,000 in the prewar era.[11]

The party was disbanded in 1924 due to intense political repression, but was reestablished in 1925 following the Comintern's insistence to reestablish the party.[12] After 1928, the government tightened its surveillance and its repression, with spies now in almost every branch of the Communist Party operations. Following mass arrests on April 16, 1929, the Communist Party of Japan had been wiped out. The party had to be restored by completely inexperienced and newly recruited youth. According to Scalapino "The succeeding period has been called the era of the armed Communist Party, a period of extreme leftism.".[13]

The 1932 Thesis was published in the spring of 1932. It was a successor of the 1931 Draft Thesis, which was rejected by the Comintern. According to Scalapino, Nosaka played some role in its preparation. The 1932 Thesis was to stand as the basic document for the JCP until 1946. The 1931 Draft, according to the 1932 Thesis, had placed insufficient emphasis on the role of the Emperor system as the dominant political force in Japan and also on the necessity for a thoroughgoing agrarian revolution. Throughout the new document, the language of militance predominated.[14] Tessa Morris Suzuki highlights that "The 1932 Thesis stated that while the ultimate objective was the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat, the way forward must first be cleared by a bourgeois revolution that would abolish the institution of emperor and redistribute the wealth of the land-owning class."[15]

The tactics of the JCP changed with the election campaign of February 1930. The party's central committee approved the formation of "Red self-defence bodies" to oppose "white terror". According to Elise K. Tipton "In Tokyo these squads of armed men went into the streets to distribute handbills and hang posters calling for "armed strikes, arson and the destruction of factories". They also tried to incite and intimidate workers and to clash openly with the police." In late February the Osaka police caught several party leaders after a gun battle. Violent incidents multiplied, culminating in the party's call for a worker uprising and an armed march on the Diet on May Day. In October 1932, police arrested party members involved in the Omori bank robbery. Tokkō officers, outfitted with bulletproof equipment, arrested party leaders at Atami that same month.[16]

In addition to being subjected to government repression, the party was plagued with internal factionalism. According to Scalapino "At no point in its prewar history was the Japanese Communist Party ever a tightly knit, monolithic organization dominated by one man."[17]

According to Wilson, and Hilary Conroy, the JCP opposed the Japanese invasion of Manchuria that took place on September 1931, known as the "Manchurian Incident", whilst there was large support in Japan for the invasion.[18] [19] According to Louise Young, the Manchurian Incident inspired the Communist party to new heights of anti-military political activism. In 1931, between September 18 and October 31, the JCP and its affiliated organizations conducted 262 anti-war actions, mostly leaflet distributions. The JCP also, for a short time, made vigorous efforts to organize within the army, distributing a monthly magazine entitled "The Soldier's Friend." Army Ministry statistics recorded that anti-military actions rose yearly from 1,055 in 1929 to a peak of 2,437 in 1932. In October 1932, the government carried out mass arrests of some 12,622 suspected Communists, the largest crackdown since the round up on March 15, 1928. Anti-war actions dropped off to 1,694 in 1933 and 597 in 1934. The workers were rejecting the anti-imperialist appeals of the JCP for the Japanist message of labor leaders. Young highlights that "This support of workers for the Manchurian Incident, more than government repression, accounted for the increasing marginality of the Communist party and the hasty abandonment of the non-Communist left's antiwar stance."[20]

In late 1933, Central committee members Oizumi Kenzo and Obata Tatsuo were tortured by their colleagues in the Communist Party during investigation of suspicions that they were police spies. Obata died as a result of the torture. Oizumi escaped, and turned himself in to the police. During his subsequent trial, it was revealed that he had worked for the Tokkō. The press called the incident the "Red Lynching".[21]

In the summer of 1933, two leading Japanese Communists, Sano Manabu and Nabeyama Sadachika, denounced the Communist movement from their prison cells. According to Scalapino "The Sano-Nabeyama recantations, which were widely publicized, rested essentially on the charge that the international Communist movement was merely a vehicle for Russian national interests, and that the Japanese Communist Party had never been allowed to exercise any independence of judgment or freedom of action."[22] Both Sano, and Nabeyama denounced the Comintern and the JCP. Sano and Nabeyama were immediately expelled from the JCP. A large number of other Communists followed their lead and "recanted" from 1933 onwards.[23] Amongst those who followed Sano and Nabeyama in defecting from Communism included Mitamura Shiro, Tanka Seigen, and Kazama Jokichi.[24]

Following the arrest of Hakamada Satomi, a member of the Central Committee of the JCP, in March 1935, small pockets of Communists activity continued, but there was virtually no contact with the Comintern and no central direction of the party.[25] According to Scalapino, "With Hakamada's arrest in early 1935, party activities practically ceased on an organized basis. Japanese Communism, from this point until 1946, consisted mainly of secret thoughts nurtured in the minds of a few "true believers," most of whom were in prison.". [26]

Post-war Period[edit]

JCP members From left, Tokuda Kyuichi, Nosaka Sanzo, and Yoshio Shiga. (ca. 1945-1946)
Kenji Miyamoto, held the party's leadership position from 1958 to 1982. (ca. 1978)

According to Eiji Takemae, the GHQ was initially willing to regard the JCP as a potential ally in combating the militarists and the "Old Guard".[27] However, the relationship between the Japanese Communist Party, and the Occupation became strained with the beginning of the Cold War, the Reverse course and the following Red Purge in Japan.[28]

The party was legalised during the U.S. occupation of Japan in 1945, and since then has been a legal political party able to contest elections. In 1949, the party made unprecedented gains. It won 10 percent of the vote and sent 35 representatives to the Diet. But early in 1950, the Soviet Union sharply criticized the JCP's parliamentary strategy. Stalin insisted that the JCP pursue more militant, even violent, actions. SCAP seized this occasion to engineer the Red Purge, which forced the party leaders underground. Then, after the Korean War broke out, the party staged some acts of terrorism or sabotage. This resulted in a loss of popular confidence. Through the end of the decade, it never won more than 3 percent of the votes or two seats in the Diet. Even so, its strong support among many intellectuals gave it a relatively greater importance than these numbers suggest.[citation needed]

The party did not take sides during the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s. In the mid 1960s, the U.S. State Department estimated the party membership to be approximately 120,000 (0.2% of the working age population).[29]

Lam Peng Er argued in Pacific Affairs in 1996 that "the JCP's viability is crucial to the health of Japanese democracy." This, he says, is because:

It is the only established party in parliament that has not been coopted by the conservative parties. It performs the watchdog role against the ruling parties without fear or favor. More importantly, the JCP often offers the only opposition candidate in prefectural governorship, city mayoral and other local elections. Despite the ostensible differences between the non-Communist parties at the national level, they often support a joint candidate for governor or mayor so that all parties are assured of being part of the ruling coalition. If the JCP did not offer a candidate, there would be a walkover and Japanese voters would be offered a fait accompli without an electoral avenue of protest. Promoting women candidates in elections to win women's votes is another characteristic of the party. More women are elected under the Communist label than other political parties in Japan.[30]

In 2008, foreign media recorded an increase in support for the party due to the effect of the global financial crisis on Japanese workers.[31][32] However they failed to increase seats in the Japanese general election, 2009. However the projected decline of the party has been halted, with the JCP becoming the third largest party in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly[33][34] and making gains in the House of Councillors, moving from 6 to 11 seats. They surged forward in the 2014 elections the JCP took 7,040,130 votes (13.3%) in the constituency section and 6,062,962 (11.37%) in the party lists.


One of the JCP's main objectives is terminating the Japan–U.S. military alliance and the dismantling of all U.S. military bases in Japan. It wants to make Japan a non-aligned and neutral country, in accordance with its principles of self-determination and national sovereignty. (In Japan there are about 130 U.S. military bases and other related facilities, Okinawa having the largest U.S. military base in Asia).

With regards to Japan's own military forces, the JCP's current policy is that it is not principally opposed to its existence (in 2000, it decided that it will agree to its use should Japan ever be attacked), but that it will seek to abolish it in the long term, international situation permitting.

The JCP also opposes possession of nuclear weapons by any country or the concept of military blocs, and opposes any attempt to revise Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, which says that "never again …... [Japan] be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government". Regarding the resolution of disputes, it argues that priority must be given to peaceful means through negotiations, not to military solutions. The JCP says that Japan must adhere to the U.N. Charter.

The JCP adheres to the idea that Japan as an Asian country must stop putting emphasis on diplomacy centering on relations with the United States and the G8 Summit, and put Asian diplomacy at the center of its foreign relations. It supports Japan establishing an "independent foreign policy in the interests of the Japanese people," and rejects "uncritically following any foreign power".

The JCP advocates that Japan issue further apologies for its actions during World War II and has condemned prime-ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine.[35] In the 1930s, while the JCP was still illegal, it was the only political party to actively oppose Japan's war with China and World War II. Despite this, however, the JCP supports the territorial claims by Japan in the Kuril and Senkaku Islands and Liancourt Rocks disputes. Furthermore, the JCP has condemned North Korea's nuclear-weapons testing, calling for effective sanctions but opposing the prospect of a military response.[36]

The JCP has traditionally been opposed to the existence of the Imperial House since the pre-war days. From 2004,[6] it has acknowledged the Emperor as Japan's head of state as long as he remains a figurehead. JCP has stated that if the party comes to power, it will not ask the Emperor to abdicate; it is also against Japan's use of its national flag and national anthem which it sees as a relic of Japan's militarist past.

The JCP also strives to change the nation's economic policy of what it sees as serving the interests of large corporations and banks to one of "defending the interests of the people," and to establish "democratic rules" that will check the activities of large corporations and "protect the lives and basic rights of the people."

Regarding the issue of the international economy, the JCP has advocated establishing a new international democratic economic order on the basis of respect for the economic sovereignty of each country and strongly opposes the participation to the TPP. The JCP sees the United States, transnational corporations and international financial capital as pushing globalization, which, it says, is seriously affecting the global economy, including the monetary and financial problems, as well as North-South and environmental problems. The JCP advocates "democratic regulation of activities by transnational corporations and international financial capital on an international scale."

The JCP stance on international terrorism is that only by "encircling the forces of terror through strong international solidarity with the United Nations at the center" can terrorism be eliminated. It argues that waging war as a response to terrorism "produces a rift and contradictions in international solidarity, which instead expands the breeding ground of terrorism."

The JCP supports the legalization of civil unions for same-sex couples.[37]

Affiliated organisations[edit]

Notable members[edit]

Kazuo Shii, Chair of the Central Committee (2000- )




Popular support and electoral results[edit]

House of Representatives (Lower House)[edit]

Note: Prior to 1996 the entire House of Representatives was elected via proportional lists, and after 1996 the majority of members of the House of Representatives (currently 295 of 475) are elected via local single-member FPTP districts, not the regional PR blocks (which elect the other 180 seats.) Voters have one vote in their FPTP district, and one in their PR block. Thus the votes and vote percentages in the table below are the JCP's overall vote totals from before 1993, and just the proportional lists after 1996.

House of Representatives
Election year # of votes  % of vote Total seats ±
1946 2,135,757 3.8
6 / 464
1947 1,002,883 3.7
4 / 466
1949 2,984,780 9.8
35 / 466
1952 896,765 2.5
0 / 466
1953 655,990 1.9
1 / 466
1955 733,121 2.0
2 / 467
1958 1,012,035 2.5
1 / 467
1960 1,156,723 2.9
3 / 467
1963 1,646,477 4.0
5 / 467
1967 2,190,564 4.8
5 / 486
1969 3,199,032 6.8
14 / 486
1972 5,496,827 10.5
38 / 491
1976 5,878,192 10.4
17 / 511
1979 5,625,527 10.4
39 / 511
1980 5,803,613 9.8
29 / 511
1983 5,302,485 9.3
26 / 511
1986 5,313,246 8.8
26 / 512
1990 5,226,987 8.0
16 / 512
1993 4,834,587 7.7
15 / 511
1996 7,268,743 13.1
26 / 500
2000 6,719,016 11.2
20 / 480
2003 4,586,172 7.8
9 / 480
2005 4,919,187 7.3
9 / 480
2009 4,943,886 7.0
9 / 480
2012 3,689,159 6.2
8 / 480
2014 6,062,962 11.4
21 / 475

House of Councillors (Upper House)[edit]

Note: The majority of members of the House of Councillors (currently 146 of 242) is elected in the prefectural SNTV districts, not in the national PR district (until 1980: national SNTV district). Members of the House of Councillors are elected to staggered six year terms. Every three years half the house is up for election. The seats totals show below are the JCP's overall post-election seat totals, not just their seats elected in that particular year.

Election year National district votes Total
# of votes  % of votes Seats ±
1947 610,948 2.9
4 / 250
1950 1,333,872 4.8
4 / 260
1953 293,877 1.1
2 / 260
1956 599,254 2.1
2 / 254
1959 551,916 1.9
3 / 254
1962 1,123,947 3.1
4 / 254
1965 1,652,364 4.4
6 / 254
1968 2,146,879 5.0
7 / 251
1971 3,219,307 8.1
10 / 251
1974 4,931,650 9.4
19 / 260
16 / 252
12 / 252
14 / 252
1986 5,430,838 9.5
16 / 252
14 / 252
11 / 252
14 / 252
23 / 252
2001 4,329,210 7.9
20 / 247
2004 4,363,107 7.8
9 / 242
2007 4,407,937 7.5
7 / 242
2010 3,563,556 6.1
6 / 242
2013 5,154,055 9.7
11 / 242

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Japanese Communist Party seeing sharp increase in new, young members (in English)". Mainichi Shimbun. 7 January 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Japan Working Paper No. 67: The Japanese Communist Party and Its Transformations (in English)". Japan Policy Research Institute. May 2000. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Japan's persistent pacifism (in English)". East Asia Forum. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c [1] The Economist
  5. ^ "List of Members of the House of Councillors". www.sangiin.go.jp. 2013-08-01. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  6. ^ a b The Daily Yomiuri JCP struggling to become relevant July 16 2012 Retrieved on July 12, 2012
  7. ^ http://www.communist-party.org.uk/international/analysis-a-briefings/1889-kenny-coyle-japanese-communists-surpass-10-per-cent-vote.html
  8. ^ Communism in History and Theory: Asia, Africa, and the Americas By Donald F. Busky Page 48-49
  9. ^ Roth, Andrew (1945). Dilemma in Japan. Little, Brown. pp. 168–192. 
  10. ^ Tim Rees, Andrew Thorpe (1998). International Communism and the Communist International, 1919-43. Manchester University Press. pp. 285–309. 
  11. ^ Robert A. Scalapino (1967). The Japanese Communist movement, 1920-1966. University of California Press. pp. 40–48. 
  12. ^ Communism in History and Theory: Asia, Africa, and the Americas By Donald F. Busky Page 48-49
  13. ^ Robert A. Scalapino (1967). The Japanese Communist movement, 1920-1966. University of California Press. pp. 40–48. 
  14. ^ Robert A. Scalapino (1967). The Japanese Communist movement, 1920-1966. University of California Press. pp. 40–48. 
  15. ^ Tessa Morris Suzuki (Sep 23, 2005). History of Japanese Economic Thought. Routledge. p. 70. 
  16. ^ Elise K. Tipton (1990). The Japanese Police State: Tokko in Interwar Japan. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 132–133. 
  17. ^ Robert A. Scalapino (1967). The Japanese Communist movement, 1920-1966. University of California Press. pp. 40–48. 
  18. ^ Tim Rees, Andrew Thorpe (1998). International Communism and the Communist International, 1919-43. Manchester University Press. pp. 285–309. 
  19. ^ Hilary Conroy (Jan 1, 1983). Japan Examined: Perspectives on Modern Japanese History. University of Hawaii Press. p. 247. 
  20. ^ Louise Young (1999). Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism. University of California Press. pp. 166–167. 
  21. ^ Elise K. Tipton (1990). The Japanese Police State: Tokko in Interwar Japan. University of Hawaii Press. p. 27. 
  22. ^ Robert A. Scalapino (1967). The Japanese Communist movement, 1920-1966. University of California Press. pp. 40–48. 
  23. ^ Tim Rees, Andrew Thorpe (1998). International Communism and the Communist International, 1919-43. Manchester University Press. pp. 285–309. 
  24. ^ Robert A. Scalapino (1967). The Japanese Communist movement, 1920-1966. University of California Press. pp. 40–48. 
  25. ^ Tim Rees, Andrew Thorpe (1998). International Communism and the Communist International, 1919-43. Manchester University Press. pp. 285–309. 
  26. ^ Robert A. Scalapino (1967). The Japanese Communist movement, 1920-1966. University of California Press. pp. 40–48. 
  27. ^ Takemae, Eiji (2003). Allied Occupation of Japan. A&C Black. p. 240. 
  28. ^ "Japan’s Red Purge: Lessons from a Saga of Suppression of Free Speech and Thought". The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. 
  29. ^ Benjamin, Roger W.; Kautsky, John H.. Communism and Economic Development, in The American Political Science Review, Vol. 62, No. 1. (Mar., 1968), pp. 122.
  30. ^ Er, Lam Peng. The Japanese Communist Party: Organization and Resilience in the Midst of Adversity - in Pacific Affairs, Vol. 69, No. 3. (Autumn, 1996), pp. 362-363.
  31. ^ Japan's young turn to Communist Party as they decide capitalism has let them down - Daily Telegraph October 18, 2008
  32. ^ "Communism on rise in recession-hit Japan", BBC, May 4, 2009
  33. ^ http://www.jcp.or.jp/english/jps_2013/20130516_09i.html
  34. ^ http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/07/22/japan-communists-celebrate-a-little-victory/?mod=WSJBlog&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
  35. ^ "JCP Chair Shii comments on Abe's shrine visit". Japanese Communist Party. 26 December 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  36. ^ "Shii comments on DPRK nuclear test". Japanese Communist Party. 16 February 2013. 2 April 2014.
  37. ^ Inada, Miho; Dvorak, Phred. "Same-Sex Marriage in Japan: A Long Way Away?". The Wall Street Journal. September 20, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2014.

External links[edit]