From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Founded in 1948, Zengakuren is a communist/anarchist league of students in Japan. The word Zengakuren (全学連?) is an abridgement of Zen Nihon Gakusei Jichikai Sō Rengō (全日本学生自治会総連合?) which literally means “All-Japan League of Student Self-Government.” Notable for organizing protests and marches, Zengakuren has been involved in Japan’s Anti-Red Purge Movement, the Peace Treaty Movement, and opposition to the Korean War in its first stage.


Demonstrators and police buses outside the Japanese National Diet on Friday September 18, 2015 during the debate in the House of Councillors shortly before the 2015 Japanese military legislation was passed in the early hours of September 19th. A Zengakuren banner is visible in the middle of the image.

Although the association was formally organized on September 18, 1948, political movements among Japanese college students can be traced back to much earlier times.[1] While most writers recognize that the student political movement began hand in hand with the spreading labor movement after the First World War,[2] some writers say that this movement is as old as Japanese higher institutions.

In 1960, the league became divided after activities concerning the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty. Five separate organizations emerged under the name Zengakuren, the most famous being the Sagadaigaku Gakusei Jitikai Ren.

Throughout the 1960s, Zengakuren organizations held protests against the U.S. invasion of Vietnam. In one notable case, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had planned to visit Japan during a 1960 tour of Asia, but so many Zengakuren turned out to protest at the airport that he decided not to land.[3]

The Zengakuren are discussed by French philosopher Roland Barthes in L’empire des Signes (Empire of Signs) in a section entitled ‘The Writing of Violence.’ Barthes explains:

In our [western] mythology, violence is caught up in the same prejudice as literature or art: we can attribute to it no other function than that of expressing a content, an inwardness, a nature, of which it is the primary, savage, asystematic language...[4]

But in contrast, according to Barthes, the violence of the Zengakuren 'is immediately a sign': expressing nothing'.[5] This violence is intransitive, concerned with creating 'a great scenario of signs', and exhausting itself in its immediate expression.[6]

In 2010 and 2011, Zengakuren groups organized massive rallies and peaceful protests in major cities in Japan.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Shimbori, Michiya. Zengakuren: A Japanese Case Study of a Student Political Movement. Printed in: Sociology of Education, Vol. 37, No. 3, Spring, 1964 http://www.jstor.org/pss/2111956
  2. ^ E.g., T. Kikukawa, Gakusei Shakai Undo Shi (The History of Student Social Movements) Tokyo: Chuokoron-sha, 1931
  3. ^ Kurlansky, Mark. 1968: The Year that Rocked the World. New York: Random House, 2004.
  4. ^ Barthes, Roland. L’empire des Signes. (“Empire of Signs”). 1970.
  5. ^ Barthes, Roland. L’empire des Signes. (“Empire of Signs”). 1970.
  6. ^ Barthes, Roland. L’empire des Signes. (“Empire of Signs”). 1970.

External links[edit]