Struggle Against Division and Privatization of the JNR
Why the JNR was to be divided and privatized? The reason was the stalemate of the growth of the Japanese economy. The high-growth period had already passed away around 1970 with saturation of the domestic market. The Japanese economy, severely hit by the “Nixon Shock” of August 1971, received a further blow - the first Oil Shock of 1973. Facing this tremendous crisis of the Japanese economy, the capitalist class resorted to an extensive public funding and massive restructuring of employment of workers. Finally by rushing into the U.S. market, the Japanese economy survived 1970s.
This caused economic friction between Japan and the United States - “Japan-US imperialist rivalry” - in the last half of 1970s. Crash between the Japanese and the US economies broke out in all industries - beginning with the textile and then automobile, electronics, steel and so on. Japanese enterprises flooded the U.S. market with their low-priced goods, causing operating crisis in all of their U.S counterparts.
At the same time, enormous public funding put the Japanese national treasury in jeopardy. In this period, the amount of the outstanding national bonds reached 96 billion yen. To look back from now, we may say “only” 96 billion. At that time, however, it was often said, “If left uncontrolled, the outstanding national debt will cause a catastrophe”
It was not enough for Japan as a capitalist, imperialist country, only to go on exporting its own goods in the world market. Military force proportionate to her economic power was indispensable. Japan was driven to make a significant review of the existing Japan-U.S. Security policy under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. The Japanese ruling class felt to be confronted with “crisis of the security policy”. The government leaders made a decision to convert Japan into a military power; and the Fukuda administration concluded with the United States “Guideline of Japan-U.S. Security Cooperation of 1978”, so-called the “old Guideline” (in comparison with the “new Guideline” set up later in 1997).
The Iranian Revolution broke out in 1978. The United States had already suffered a severe defeat in Vietnam. The defeat in Vietnam ruined the status of US imperialism, self designated “top cop”. Meanwhile, the US economy fell into crisis, dollar being steeply depreciated. “The US is nothing to be afraid of”, thought people of the whole world and so began the Iranian Revolution. Before the revolution, the Shahdom of Iran was exceptionally pro-US state in the Middle East and the nucleus of US domination of this area. After the fall of Vietnam, the United States lost Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini, a Muslim leader, seized power. The concept of the “Islamic fundamentalism” began to spread around this period. The revolution in a major oil producing country, Iran, inevitably brought about the Second Oil Shock.
Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady”, took office of the British prime minister in that year. The year after, Ronald Reagan took office. In the same year in the South Korea a people’s uprising took place in Kwangju.
In Japan, the administrative and fiscal reform was initiated in face of enormous problems - total stalemate of the high-growth, crisis of national finance and revision of security policy. All of these problems were regarded as decisive for the country’s future. The administrative and fiscal reforms began as an urgent measure to overcome the previous way of politics.
NAKASONE Yasuhiro, who took office of the prime minister in January 1982, declared in his first news conference: “My mission as prime minister is a final settlement of the post-war politics.” From that time on, “final settlement of the post-war politics” has become his catchword. The intention of the Nakasone administration was a fundamental overthrowing of the “post-war politics” under the constitution with the “peace clause” and a overall transformation of Japan into a state capable of waging a war.
On the security issue, he proclaimed soon after his inauguration that “the three straits” should be “blockaded” and Japanese archipelago would be made an “unsinkable aircraft carriers”. Breaking the so-called “1 percent of GNP ceiling” on military spending, he urged military buildup.
Nakasone, a notorious far right emperor-worshiper and ingrained advocate of a constitutional revision, insisted, “First, we clean up a chamber with the administrative reform, and then enshrine there a dignified constitution; that is our political course”. He went to worship at the Yasukuni Shrine in his official capacity of prime minister. In order to restore patriotic education, he gave priority to the educational reform and established the Provisional Council on Educational Reform, publicizing a “change of the public mind-set” and “establishing of identity as Japanese national.”
The Nakasone administration dashed for the start of the second phase construction of the Narita Airport, which had been blocked by the struggle of the farmers of Sanrizuka and their supporters since the interim opening of the airport in 1978.
Finally, Nakasone’s top priority of “final settlement of the post-war politics” was the administrative reform, which was promoted by the “Ad Hoc Commission for Administrative Reform”. He proclaimed, “The Division and Privatization of the National Railways is the major task of the Administrative Reform of the Nakasone Administration, a decisive battle of the administrative reform”.
When the Administrative Reform set off, the major target was the JNR. Why the JNR? Because the fiscal crisis of the national treasury and the financial crisis of the JNR were simultaneously exploding. Thus the JNR triggered a catastrophe. At that moment, the debts of the JNR had already amounted to nearly 20 trillion yen. The JNR fell into red in 1964, the year of inauguration of the New Tokaido Line, a Shinkansen bullet line, and fell into red before the depreciation basis in 1972. In less than a decade, the deficit of the JNR ballooned to such a huge sum. In the meantime, policies like the “Plan to Remodel the Japanese Archipelago” of TANAKA Kakuei [1972-1974 prime minister] were enforced. The construction of the Shinkansen network was the center of these policies. As a matter of course, the finance of the national treasury and that of the JNR declined at the same time. The debts, accumulated through the endless construction of the Shinkansens and express-highways, were shifted onto the JNR.
The debts of the JNR were by and large from the money of the Treasuries Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP). Money from the post office savings or the employees’ pension was deposited to the Ministry of Finance (MoF). The MoF in turn lend it to the public sectors. In short, the JNR obtained a loan from the state. The JNR kept, however, its assets under different forms - Shinkansens, station buildings, bridges, tunnels and so on. Therefore, despite of its standing loan of 10 or 15 trillion yen, no JNR bureaucrats thought, “the JNR is in debt”.
In fact, however, an amount of 10 trillion yen is enormous. At that time, the interest rate was 6 to 8 %. Annual interest of 10 trillion yen was 600 - 800 billion. It is indeed a huge debt. After several years, the JNR’s debt became so tremendous that it paid back 1 to 2 trillion annually. In spite of that the principal of the debt could not be reduced at all.
In these circumstances, the administrative reform targeted primarily the JNR from the very beginning. The JNR was, however, a formidable entity. It claimed to be “another state within the state”. It operated itself at its own discretion, disregarding government’s decision. Formally it was an organization under the supervision of the Railways Administrative Bureau of the Ministry of Transport (MoT). In this sense, the formal position of the JNR was similar to that of private railway companies. Its dimension was only colossal.
However, no JNR personnel, whether management or labor, considered the MoT as the supervising authority. Particularly the JNR bureaucrats were looking down the MoT. For the construction of station buildings, crossings, tunnels, bridges, trains, etc. the MoT has its official standards. But the JNR went on construction, ignoring the policy of the MoT. As a matter of course, 800 tunnels were found not meeting the MoT’s standards
Every locomotive engineer or train driver of the JNR was also independently qualified; he sat for entrance exam for one of the schools owned by the JNR, graduated from it and, after apprenticeship, received a notification of appointment for engineer or driver. In the private railway companies, qualifications of engineers and drivers are state exams. The JNR called its own exams “state exams” and the “qualified” drove trains with passengers.
The JNR had everything in its possession. It had its own hydraulic power plants, thermal power plants; the JR companies still retain them. In the past, it had even coalmines. Also the biggest on-line system in Japan was the JNR’s development. Its “Green Ticket Offices” - computerized booking offices for long distance passengers - constituted the first on-line system in Japan. The JNR took a substantial lead in its railway telephone system; when the Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Public Corporation used operator-assisted long-distance call, the railway telephone built a national automated call system with automatic switchboard. There were all kinds of jobs in the JNR - from first class authorized architects to mat maker. There were its own clothing factories producing uniforms of the employees. The JNR had everything indeed.
Therefore, in the past, the JNR officials used to get good positions after their retirement. For example, SATO Eisaku’s last carrier in the JNR was a chief director of the Osaka Railway Administrative Bureau. He launched out then into politics and finally became a prime minister.
In fact, the JNR was a particular entity within the state of Japan; it used to behave uninhibited, disrespecting the supervising authority. Without a transformation of the JNR, the Administrative Reform would have been impossible. Moreover, totally ignoring consultation with the MoT, the JNR promoted, with the recognition of the Liberal Democratic Party, construction of the railways and electrification program in full swing. Its enormous debts - 10 or 20 trillion yen - increased further. At the year-end of 1985, the long-term debt of the JNR amounted to 24 trillion yen. The Nakasone administration insisted, “No Administrative Reform without the JNR reform “.
The major aim of the JNR division and privatization scheme was to destroy the national railway workers’ movement, which was core force of the post-war labor movement of Japan. Especially, the Kokuro, the JNR’s dominant union was the main target. Extinction of the name “Kokuro” from the Japanese society was its goal.
At the same time, it was a scheme inextricably linked with the “right wing unification of labor movement”, which was later materialized in the establishment of the Rengo. In those days there were four national labor federations. The scheme encompassed all of the four federations. Until then, the industrial unions in private sectors had been incorporated into the labor-capital collaborationist movement. Even the Zenkin (Metal Workers’ Federation) , which had exceptionally resisted against this trend, finally joined this movement in this period. Since they were all organizations led by the labor-capital collaborationists, their unification required screening of member unions. Although the Sohyo demanded “comprehensive unification”, many unions were screened out. The put forward several requirements for affiliation: “Unions influenced by the Communist Party are unacceptable”, “Unions with too many radical elements must be excluded”, “Affiliation to the International Confederation of the Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) is the precondition”.
The movement for a labor movement unification emerged in 1960s. In 1967, President Takaragi of the Postal Workers’ Union published in the Gekkan Rodo Mondai (Monthly Labor Journal) an article proposing an anti-communist unification of the labor organizations. This movement pulled back once the class struggle intensified and gained its ground as the labor movement declined. During the period of explosive struggles, such as the struggle against the Japan-US Security Treaty and the struggle for the regaining of Okinawa, the struggle of the JNR workers against the Productivity Movement, the struggles of the post workers stopping enormous postal matters and so on, the right wing movement for labor unification stepped back.
In September 1980, the Organization to Promote Labor Unification was established. At this time the unification movement that had been carried on until then mainly by right wing unions outside the Sohyo, expanded, for the first time, to the Sohyo-affiliated unions, with Zen-Nittsu (All Japan Transport Workers’ Union) being their core. In December 1981, the Preparatory Organization for Unifying the Labor movement was set up. Several Sohyo unions participated in it. In 1982, the All Japan Council of Trade Unions in the Private Industries was established by the private sector unions. In this process the Division and Privatization of the JNR was prepared.
Later in February 1988, the Sohyo decided to advocate “comprehensive unification” in its extraordinary convention. From the very beginning of the unification movement, the Sohyo reacted very vaguely to it, without actively opposing it; the Sohyo only demanded “comprehensive unification”, that is unification of all unions “without screening”. Finally in 1988, the Sohyo decide to “launch a new united federation in 1989 if the “unification without screening” is accepted”, and put out a five-point demand during this period, Sohyo unions joined the unification movement by and large.
The unification of labor movement ostensibly claimed that united labor strengthens workers’ influence and enhances their social conditions. It has been revealed now to be a lie; after the foundation of the Rengo, social conditions of workers have continuously been deteriorated. The presence of the Rengo is hardly visible now. Decades ago, on the occasion of the spring labor offensive, General Secretary of Sohyo, OTA Kaoru, and its Chair, IWAI Akira, used to be interviewed by press along with the then Chief Cabinet Secretary or the Labor Minister. Today, Rengo’s leaders are totally ignored. Now they visit the headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) or the office of Prime Minister. Recently the President of Rengo, SASAMORI went to the LDP to make a petition; LDP Secretary-General Yamazaki reportedly said, “You vote in favor of the Democratic Party in the election and now ask us LDP to make you favor “. Sasamori replied to it, “Give us a little time. We in Rengo are now critically reviewing our policy of supporting the Democrats”. No worker can expect such a national labor center like the Rengo to answer his or her demand.
The attempt of converting the whole Japanese labor movement to right and the drive for the Division and Privatization of the JNR have been inseparably combined attacks. We must clearly understand it.
The leading promoter of the Division and Privatization of the JNR was the Second Ad Hoc Commission for Administrative Reform (Dai-ni Rincho) founded on March 16, 1981. Its head, DOKO Toshio, the then chair emeritus of the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), was ex-chair of the Keidanren and ex-president of the Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries. He pretended to lead a quite simple life, never drinking in Ginza, Akasaka or Roppongi and eating only cheap and tiny fishes for breakfast. The media misinformed the public on his “incorruptible and austere” personality.
The First Ad Hoc Commission for Administrative Reform (Dai-ichi Rincho) of the Ikeda administration in 1960s was dissolved without doing any job. In contrast, the Dai-ni Rincho was very active and set up four working groups. The fourth working group was to tackle with problem of the three public corporations: the Japan National Railways, the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation and the Japan Tobacco and Salt Corporation. The chair of the Fourth Working Group was KATO Hiroshi, then a professor at the Faculty of Economics of Keio University. He is now the president of the Chiba University of Commerce.
What was the aim of the Dai-ni Rincho? The 1982 platform of the LDP clearly stated, “ the Administrative Reform is a major surgery of the state structure for survival of Japan into 21st century.” KATO Hiroshi said, “if the Administrative Reform is not accomplished, Japan will face again depression and is obliged to remilitarize to launch a new war” and “Without the Administrative Reform, a revolution will break out.” There was a growing sense of crisis within the ruling class, including commentators, intellectuals, ideologues and all those on the side of the establishment.
Among others, NAKASOKE preached, “the Administrative Reform is a revolution of spirit and a project of remodeling the state”, and insisted on carrying out “ spiritual revolution “, in other words, “ every one must lead a life with a “spirit of self-sacrifice for the country” “devotion of ‘self’ to the ‘public’ “. He concluded: “Mere cost reduction isn’t enough.”
Starting in March 1981, Dai-ni Rincho submitted its final report two year later, in March 1983. The final report recommended privatization of the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation and the Japan Tobacco and Salt Corporation with full transfer of their personnel and material assets into new privatized companies. The recommendation on the JNR was quite different. The Fourth Working Group’s recommendation, which determined the framework of the Division and Privatization scheme of the JNR, specified even the numerical strength of the privatized companies: “the JNR must be divided and privatized and personnel of the new private companies should be 215,000 in total.” It meant firing of about 200,000 workers; The JNR had 413,000 employees at the end of the fiscal 1980, when the Second Ad Hoc Commission for Administrative Reform made a start.
Prior to this procedure, the Second Ad Hoc Commission for the Administrative Reform submitted a basic report, which proposed “Eleven Urgent Requirements”. In workplaces, these “requirements” were implemented before official recognition. What were the Eleven Urgent Requirements?
Required are: “Establishment of discipline in workplaces”, “productivity comparable to the private railways companies”, “freeze of new employment”, “outsourcing, reduction of every benefit, deprivation of acquired rights of the employees” - and even such a trifle change is required: “Abolition of free or discount passes for long-time employees, assiduous workers, or their families” for example. These benefits were quite modest ones. Number of passengers on board doesn’t change the operation cost of a train. When you look at “family discount passes”, wives of low salary railmen rarely have opportunity to use it, and still that was going to be abolished. The passes that had been entitled to retirees after their 30 or 40 years work were also to be abolished. From that time onward into 1987 “the full implementation of the Eleven Urgent Requirements” stormed in every JNR workplaces more and more violently.
In February 1982, the LDP established the Subcommittee for Reconstruction of the JNR, so-called Mitsuzuka Committee as a party organ. Chair of the Committee MITSUZUKA was a chief of one of the main factions, successor of FUKUDA and ABE. MITSUZUKA had been in a friendly term with MATSUZAKI Akira of the JR-Soren/Kakumaru but after a while broke up relation with him. The Mitsuzuka Committee was composed of Members of Parliament who were proponents of “the reconstruction of the JNR.” They visited workplaces of the JNR. We in Chiba didn’t admit their visit. But in Kofu, for example, workplaces were utterly trampled by them. In the period of the Productivity Movement and struggle against it, the opposition parties visited workplaces to investigate into unfair labor practices. This time the ruling LDP visited “problematic” workplaces throughout the country and cried out loudly: “ workplaces are filled with union’s posters and stickers.” and so on. Though the workplaces of the Doro-Chiba were then really full of posters and stickers, they dared not come to us.
The showy activities of Mitsuzuka Committee succeeded to a certain degree in arousing a public opinion to the need of the JNR reform. Labor unions were totally incapable to confront management’s practice of the Eleven Urgent Requirements that raged over the workplace for five years till the Division and Privatization of the JNR.
We see here two points. One is the response of the unions concerned and another is the response of the JNR, “another state within the state ”, that was to be divided and privatized.
Almost all of the core members of the JNR bureaucracy were “Defenders of the JNR”. “JNR Reformers” were only a minority. The officials having little hope for their success within the JNR became the “Reformers” and after the success of the Division and Privatization many of them obtained good posts. MATSUDA and KASAI, who became later the Presidents of the JR East Company and the JR Tokai Company respectively, had been marginal officials who, under the former JNR system, might be obliged early retirement. This sort of officials became the “Reformer”, while the mainstream officials of the Tokyo Headquarters were almost all the “System Defenders”.
In June 1983, the Supervisory Committee for the JNR Restructuring was established under the chair of KAMEI Masao, a person deeply committed in the business of the JNR. He was then the president of the Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd, which was and is the sole supplier of electric wires and cables to the JNR as well as the JR. Among the committee members was also SUMIYA Mikio, who later became the central figure of the “Round Table Talk of Sanrizuka”*.
*Round Table Talk of Sanrizuka was a scheme to tempt farmers of Sanrizuka Anti-Airport League into capitulation.
The resistance of the Headquarters of the JNR and its mainstream officials went so far as to refuse the demand of the Supervisory Committee for the JNR Restructuring to provide documents concerning the JNR’s assets and so on.
In these circumstances, June 1985, the JNR President NISUGI was replaced with SUGIURA Takaya, ex-Administrative Vice-Minister of Transport (MoT). This gave impetus to the drive for the division and privatization scheme. Bureaucrats of the Ministry of Transport harbored intense resentment against the JNR. Although the JNR had been the largest organization under the MoT, Sugiura was the first MoT official to become the JNR President. In the past, no Administrative Vice-Minister of Transport became either the president or even a permanent member of the board of directors. The JNR had never accepted in its office officials of MoT, its supervising Ministry. Moreover, the JNR had not follow MoT’s instructions at all. Therefore, the MoT officials had long developed their hatred to the JNR so violently as to wish JNR’s demolition. It was against this background that Sugiura finally assumed the dominant post of the JNR.
In fact, it was the marginal groups, not the mainstreams, of respective institutions that took charge of the Division and Privatization of the JNR. Nakasone as a leader of a minor faction of the Liberal Democratic Party had been excluded from any vested interest in regard to the JNR. In contrast the major factions such as Tanaka’s and Fukuda’s were in a position to get enormous interest from the JNR. The Nakasone faction had never been regarded as a client of the JNR.
Let’s take example in the case on the local level. It would be quite natural that a MoT official, temporary transferred to the department chief of Chiba Railway Control Bureau, be welcome by the JNR officials there. It is, however, not the case. On the contrary, when it is the case with the officials of the JNR head office, they are heartily welcome. Thus, the MoT officials who experienced the life in the JNR offices became “ant-JNR.” These sorts of persons were designated to carry out the Division and Privatization of the JNR.
As for the labor unions, the Doro played a role of shock troops of the Division and Privatization. As you know the Doro is after all a minority union with only drivers. The dominant union in the JNR was the Kokuro comprising national railway workers of various fields of workshops. Nevertheless the Doro became the most active capital’s agent of the capital.
In the Japanese business society, the JNR was, so to say, a “monster.” Therefore, in order to smash down the JNR, it was quite necessary to mobilize marginal groups, bureaucrats and unions, for this task. These groups had enjoyed little benefits from the JNR, had few vested interests in it, had been displeased with it, in a word, they had possessed nothing to loose in the JNR.
Therefore, the Kokuro had underestimated the attack; and figured that the Division and Privatization of the JNR could not be accomplished until the last minute. By the way, Mr. IWAI Akira once told me “I never thought at that time the Division and Privatization of the JNR would be possible “. That was certainly a common view among the Kokuro leadership.
However, in July 1985, immediately after the displacement of the President NISUGI of the JNR by SUGIURA, all of the permanent members of the board of directors who belonged to the Defenders of the JNR were expelled and “Reformers” took over their place. An onslaught started. The state power made it clear whoever the president of the JNR is, it will carry out its policy against every obstacle once it is determined.
The executive of the Kokuro, however, counted on Defenders until the last moment. They even thought of talking with the Tanaka faction of the LDP. The executive of the Kokuro completely failed to realize how desperately Japanese imperialism needed the capital’s Division and Privatization of the JNR and with what aim it was enforcing it.
Before the Division and Privatization of the JNR finally took place in 1987, the “Eleven Urgent Requirements” had been put into practice as drastic restructuring and rationalization in the workshop. The workforce reduction each year amounted to 20 or 30,000. In 1983, the JNR suspended new hiring and for almost a decade it employed actually no worker. The rationalization measures took off more and more jobs and thus “surplus workers” were forcibly created. These “surplus workers” were sent to newly made “Human Resources Usage Centers.” In this way, the JNR management stirred up workers’ anxiety.
At that time, the rationalization focused upon reduction of the freight transport. Today, the Japan Freight Railway Company transports its cargo straight to the destination. But the former JNR’s freight system was operated in a yard style. The JNR lines had many yards partway, and freight trains were brought into a yard in order to be switched and realigned according to the destination of each car. The Musashino Line and the Keiyo Line, now being used mainly by passenger trains, were originally constructed for the freight transport. The Musashino yard, a huge modern facility, constructed for them, was demolished and superseded by the straight direct run system almost immediately after it started operations.
The freight section was the top grosser of the JNR until 1960s. The JNR earned more from the freight than from the passenger. The JNR used to carry more than 30 percent of the total cargo transportation in Japan. In Chiba, in 1960s, the Shinkoiwa Yard was filled with freight trains day and night, and one could not see passenger trains on the Sobu Line from the Shinkoiwa Locomotive Depot. Today, there is rarely a freight train in Shinkoiwa.
The freight section was drastically cut back during the course of the Division and Privatization. The Shinkoiwa, Omiya, Sintsurumi and Musashino Yards, which had fully been operated around the clock, were demolished all together.
A large number of local lines in the rural areas were abolished. Before the Division and Privatization of the JNR, the local lines, especially in Hokkaido, Kyushu and the areas along the Sea of Japan were transformed into the so-called “third sector” companies - joint public-private ventures. During the process of the fully Division and Privatization, all of the 100 km long railroad of the Tenboku Line was brutally peeled off.
The labor unions within the JNR were divided into two camps on their stand to the Division and Privatization of the JNR: the Doro. Tetsuro and Zenshiro were for it; the Kokuro, Zendoro and the Doro-Chiba were all opposed to it. Attacks were focused on those opponent unions. It was the Kakumaru of Doro that worked as an active promoter of this attack.
In June 1984, the JNR management proposed a “Surplus Personnel Adjustment Measures”, comprising a revision of the retirement system, layoff and external assignment. We called this “Tree Pillars of Dismissal.” In October, the management broke off the negotiation with the unions and forced implementation of the proposed measures. “Retirement Recommendation” meant in practice to put pressures on the workers around 55 years old to quit “voluntarily” in return for an extra retirement pay. Also it came to happen very often that workers were “temporarily” transferred to other companies or “temporarily” released from job.
At the same time, the management notified each union that it would not extend the Employment Stabilization Contract unless the union consented to the “Surplus Personnel Adjustment Measures”. The management extended the contract with the Doro, Tetsuro and Zenshiro, but refused to do so with the Kokuro, Zendoro and the Doro-Chiba. Meanwhile, the Kokuro conducted “Three No’s Movement” (“Don’t retire! Don’t be laid off! Don’t accept external transfer!”). The JNR management attacked the Kokuro as “obstructers of the Surplus Personnel Adjustment Measures”
What did the Employment Stabilization Contract imply? The JNR employees had, like the civil service employees today, no employment insurance, because it was taken for granted that they would not be fired. However, Article 29 (4) of the Japan National Railways Act provided for that the employee could be dismissed “in unavoidable operational circumstances such as decline of business quantity.” In order to cancel out this provision, the management used to conclude with each union the Employment Stabilization Contract and extend it automatically each year. Now, this contract was brought on to intimidate the unions: “unless you consent to the Surplus Personnel Adjustment Measures, we don’t extend the Employment Stabilization Contract.”
What a perverted argument! By nature, the extension of the Employment Stabilization Contract and the consent to the Surplus Personnel Adjustment Measures are quite other problems. The attack using irrelevant issue for pretext of non-extension of the Employment Stabilization Contract was an extremely unfair union busting.
Moreover, the “Surplus Personnel Adjustment Measures” stated “unions shall not be coerced into external assignment and layoff.” In case of external assignment and layoff, the will of employees should naturally be respected.
Therefore, the Doro-Chiba made its policy clear in this concern: “Our union doesn’t intervene in management’s recommendation; however, the Doro-Chiba fights against the management if they coerce the employees saying ‘unless you comply with the management’s effort, you may not accepted by the new privatized company.’ “ We have no policy of “Three No’s Movement” or do not say to its members, “don’t accept”, because our members would not accept the transfer etc. We do not need union’s direction for that.
Nevertheless, the refusal of extension of the Employment Stabilization Contract could not automatically enable the JNR to fire the workers. In Chiba, for example, a lot of personnel were needed for busy everyday operation as there are great demands for transport. Therefore, cut off of workforce doesn’t come into the problem. Canceling of the Employment Stabilization Contract was apparently a means to stir up unrest and anxiety among workers, to break up unity of the labor unions and to bend their will. Therefore, it could produce no material result if the unions and workers stood firm. If one closely considers the matter, it would be evident that the refusal of extension of the contract had not in itself effective force. But because the Kokuro executive presented no definite policy, anxiety and confusion spread among the rank and file Kokuro members in workplaces who were confronted Doro’s intimidation: “Without Employment Stabilization Contract, you shall not be employed by the new privatized company.” Kokuro members began to leave their union.
In March 1983, the JNR management recruited employees for the “wide area transfer” in Hokkaido and Kyushu. There many local lines were to be abolished; a massive “surplus” of workforce was expected. The management then proposed transfer of workers of Kyushu and Hokkaido areas to the areas in and around Osaka and Tokyo where a lot of jobs were supposed to be waiting them. It was apparently a plot worked out by the management and the Kakumaru. The Doro members in Hokkaido and Kyushu areas, especially the drivers, accepted the transfer. As a result a large number of drivers moved from Hokkaido to Tokyo, from Kyushu to Osaka. When they were assigned to the train depots, it produced “surplus workforce” there. Consequently, the workers belonging to the Kokuro were crowded out. Thereby numerous Kakumaru activists have come from Hokkaido, Niigata, Morioka and Moji of Kyushu. The Kokuro activists were thus expelled from the drivers’ workplaces. In this way the plot of the management and the Kakumaru was carried out. In an instant, the Kakumaru became the mainstream in the workshops.
From that time on the JNR management opened many in-house stalls, noodle shops, milk stands etc. one after another in the JNR station buildings. Also many Doro-Chiba members were transferred to such stalls.
For example, let’s have a look at the “vending” workplaces in Tokyo. The job of the workers transferred to this workplace is only to provide the vending machines with canned drinks. Regular employees in their fifties with corresponding wages do this “after-school job.” Why should the transferred employees of a parent company be occupied with the job of its affiliated company - adverse relation! All of the workers transferred to the vending workplaces were the union activists of the Kokuro. In order to control the active and militant Kokuro activists, a large number of assistant stationmasters are posted to oversee them. The personnel costs for that “job” mounted very high. These vending workplaces were made immediately after the inauguration of the JR companies in 1987.
The drive for the Division and Privatization of the JNR has brought about disruption of the unions in the JNR into two hostile groups. The group of the unions that refused to accept the division and privatization was heavily attacked. The Kakumaru in the Doro played the most active role in this assault. Nakasone commented at a meeting of the LDP in this time, “some labor unions have begun reviewing their previous position”. Thereby he evidently meant the Doro’s conversion.
MATSUZAKI spoke out his conversion in a decisive and noticeable way at this moment. He gave an interview to the Jiyu Shinpo, a paper of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and another to the Sekai Nippo, a paper of the Federation for the Victory over Communism (a political organization established by Moon Sun Myung of the Unification Church). “We don’t launch any strike”,“I have broken with socialism, Marxism”, “I have left Kakumaru”.
The management attacked against the acquired rights of the workers. One of the major points was the “Blue Trains” issue. The “Blue Trains” were night trains running from Tokyo to the southern region of Kyushu. The Tokyo Locomotive Depot was in charge of the operation of the Blue Trains. The inspection workers accompanying the drivers on board used to be paid the travel benefits. In order to adjust the difference of the incomes owing to the different amount of the travel benefits among the inspection workers, the unions and the management had agreed that each inspection worker should be paid the same amount of the travel benefits irrespective of his travel frequency. The unions and the management as well had long recognized this practice. Nevertheless, this was used as a pretext of attack. A violent campaign of slanders against the “illegal benefits” was opened up. For example, a phone call was made to the home of the inspection worker of the Tokyo Locomotive Depot: “Is your husband on the train today?” “No, he is now sleeping here”, answered the wife who was not aware of the situation. Her word was circulated to the media. The management of the JNR filed a suit demanding the reimbursement of the alleged “illegal benefits.” Upon the suit, the Doro was the first union to give in to the reimbursement.
In these circumstances, the major problem lay in the Kokuro: it did not present any policy to fight back till the end. Shortly before our strike of November 1985, I went to the Headquarters of the Kokuro and explained our position: “The Doro-Chiba is determined to launch a strike. In such a situation, we have no other choice.” The leading members of the Kokuro’s executive behaved then quite arrogantly and pompously: The President Yamazaki, lounging comfortably on a sofa with a cigar in his mouth, answered to me, “ So? Well, don’t worry about us. The Kokuro will do when necessary.” “Do you?” so saying, I, a president of a small union, left the Kokuro’s office. On my way back I said to myself, “My dear fellow, you talk big. OK, you'll see some day” In spite of the President Yamazaki’s words, however, the Kokuro won’t take any action on this issue, as we anticipated.
Eventually in July 1986, the Kokuro decided a policy to make an “audacious compromise” at the National Convention in Chiba. “Audacious compromise” meant the Kokuro’s official consent to the Division and Privatization of the JNR. However, some delegates demanded that “The Kokuro shall have another convention to discuss upon the detailed policy of the compromise that would be worked out by the National Executive Committee”. It was incorporated into the resolutions of the National Convention in Chiba. According to this resolution, an Extraordinary Convention was held in Shuzenji in October 1986.
In the period just before the Shuzenji convention, the demand of the management was far more than the acceptance of their “Three Pillars of Dismissal”. In January 1986, the Tetsuro, Doro and Zenshiro issued the “First Labor Management Joint Statement” with the JNR management. It stated that they promote the rationalization and give up strikes and that they cooperate in the JNR reform. And in July, the above-mentioned three unions and Shinkokuro (a split union of the Kokuro) established the Labor Union Conference for the JNR Reform (Kaikaku Rokyo). Then, in August the Kaikaku Rokyo announced the “Second Labor Management Joint Statement”. It referred to the right to strike in the new companies to be born as a result of the planned Division and Privatization of the JNR and openly pledged the renunciation of the strike though in the private companies the right to strike is legalized. Under these circumstances, the Kokuro was urged to make a concession following the other unions. The management, the capital steps up its offensive further once the labor accepts its unreasonable demand. That is how the class relations develop between the union and the capital, or between the union and the state power.
In the meantime, the bills on the JNR Reform were submitted to the Diet. In July, the LDP won overwhelming 300 seats in the Lower House in the General Election held simultaneously with the Upper House election. At the same time, the JNR management set up more than thousand “Human Resources Usage Centers” throughout Japan. The union activists of the Kokuro and the Doro-Chiba were selectively and forcibly sent into the these installations as a practice of the segregation policy.
The JNR management threatened the Kokuro that it would cancel the Employment Stabilization Contract on the last day of November 1985, as long as the Kokuro continued “the Three No Movement”. The Kokuro then decided to stop “the Three No Movement” in November 1985 just before the Doro-Chiba went into the strike.
The management, however, did not made the Employment Stabilization Contract with Kokuro, insisting that district organizations continued the “Three No Movement” despite the executive’ directive to stop it. In 1986, the JNR management put forward a much more difficult requirement: the conclusion of the “Labor Management Joint Statement”. After all, the Kokuro failed to get the Employment Stabilization Contract concluded.
The Shuzenji Convention was held in those circumstances. Since the delegates of the regular convention remained as they were, the resolution of the National Executive was naturally expected to be adopted unchanged. However, the shop floor workers, especially the activists sent to the Human Resources Usage Centers, angrily stormed at the delegates of the Kyokai faction and the Kakudo faction who supported the “audacious compromise” policy. Those activists gathered in the Shuzenji en masse. The Shuzenji Convention voted down the executive resolution; the officers resigned en bloc; and the new leadership under the president ROPPONGI Satoshi was established. The resigned ex-officers later broke away from the Kokuro, and set up the Tessanro in February 1987. In the district conventions held after the Shuzenji Convention, the district organizations of the Kokuro split one after another.
In the remained Kokuro, a new leadership of the coalition of the Kyokai faction and the Communist party (Kakudo) was formed. This coalition is still continuing. The Kyokai faction members who had then refused the compromise later built so-called “Challenge Group” and now are promoting the “Four Party Agreement.” We'd like to remind them of what they did sixteen years ago.
The Refusal of the “audacious compromise” policy in the Shuzenji Extraordinary Convention has made the Kokuro survive. If the Kokuro had joined the “Labor Management Joint Statement” at that time, the Kokuro would surely have been disappeared when the JNR was transformed into the JR companies. The Doro, Tetsuro and Zenshiro decided in their respective union conventions that they disband themselves in order to create the “one union in one company system” at the time when the JNR would transform into JR companies. They established the Tetsudo-Roren (predecessor of today’s Japan Confederation of Railway Workers' Unions). Therefore, if the Kokuro had accepted the “Labor Management Joint Statement”, the Kokuro would inevitably be disbanded and the entire JNR labor movement would have been completely destroyed as intended by the enemy.
We figured that if the Kokuro should accept the “Labor Management Joint Statement” the Doro-Chiba would be the only opponent of the Division and Privatization. It would be very hard for the Doro-Chiba to stand on our ground all alone. Sensing the critical situation, we went to Shuzenji to encourage the Kokuro.
Meanwhile, the management did everything to shake up and split the Kokuro. For example, they filed a suit against the Kokuro and the Doro for 20.2 billion yen damages allegedly caused by the strike for the right to strike in November 1975. In September 1986, the suit against the Doro was selectively dropped, leaving the Kokuro alone in the trial. The Kokuro was tremendously shocked by these measures.
On February 15, 1987, shortly before the inauguration of the JR companies (April 1), the notifications of the appointment to the JR jobs were issued. In Hokkaido and Kyushu, a large number of the JNR workers were rejected in employment. It is nothing but the “discrimination in hiring”. The discrimination against the Kokuro members who continued to oppose the Division and Privatization until the last moment raged especially in Hokkaido and Kyushu. On the other hand, in Honshu, the fixed personnel strength was not filled, because many workers had left job, being disgusted with the JNR.
You should not figure that the rank and file of the Doro or Tetsuro came off well, while the Kokuro workers were severely attacked. Also the union members of the Doro and Kokuro, especially the elderly workers were forced to leave the JNR. For example, in the Tabata Locomotive Depot, Matsuzaki’s home local, the Doro Kakumaru threatened their unionists in their 50s: “How dare you stay in your job in the JNR? Open a path for the young!” Thus, many Doro members were forced to leave the JNR. The members who refused to leave were harassed; water was poured into their lockers and so alike. In those days, the Doro-Chiba members who drove the train into Tabata found a lot of graffiti on walls of the rest room there: “Kill MATSUZAKI!” Most of those who accepted the transfer to the workplaces of the other public sector were the members of the Doro. For example, recently a NTT employee was arrested on the ground that he handed over the confidential data of the company to the Kakumaru. He was an ex-member of the Doro. Some went to the post offices. Actually a lot of members of Doro left the railways in the course of the development.
In fact, it was not that the Doro unionists were exempt of dismissal. Whether the Doro or Tetsuro, the elderly members among others were screened out in employment. The Kokuro workers have been consistently fighting against the discriminative employment. Regardless of which union they belong to, almost all JNR workers had to meet difficulty in the employment. The Kakumaru members alone, who had control of the Doro, profited from the Division and Privatization. It is evident that only the union bureaucracy took advantage of it.
Finally on April 1, 1987, 7,628 workers were transferred to the Japan National Railways Settlement Corporation. Among them, there were also the workers over 55 years old and not all of them were the Kokuro members. Including them, the Kokuro had, at that time, 44,000 members, the Tessanro 28,000 and the Tetsudo-Roren around 90,000. Until April 1, 1987, the official date of the inauguration of the Division and Privatization, 200,000 workers had left the workplaces in five years. The Dismissed workers in this process were as follows: 28 of the Doro-Chiba who were dismissed under the Public Corporations and National Enterprises Labor Relations Law after the Doro-Chiba’s strike, and 1047 workers who were dismissed “for the purposes of the reorganization”. All of the rest of some 200,000 workers “voluntarily” retired. Because the Japanese employment system is the lifelong employment, the dismissal for no good reason is very difficult. In other words, if the workers were united, there were many ways to fight back.
The government enacted eight laws concerning the JNR Reform. The core of them, the Japan National Railways Reform Law, provides for in Article 23, “the employees of the new companies shall be appointed from among the employees of the Japan National Railways.” That is, the appointment of other workers who were not the employees of the JNR is prohibited. Therefore, if the JNR workers had been united and the Kokuro and the Doro had persistently resisted in a body, the Division and Privatization would not be possible. No worker coming from outside of the JNR can take over the job of the driver. And the law prohibits this. Moreover, the JNR’s employment system was the life long employment, and therefore, every worker is supposed “to stay in job until retirement” as is prescribed by the labor contract that he concludes at the entrance to the JNR. It contradicts the intention of the Division and Privatization.
The core of the point is here: there is a provision of the law that JR employees come from the JNR. While other two public corporations, namely the Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Public Corporation and the Japan Tobacco and Salt Corporation turned into private companies with their entire employees and facilities, the JNR alone screened out workers according to the decision of the Supervisory Committee for the JNR Reconstruction that determined the number of the employees of the new companies. No doubt the enemy forces intended to eradicate the union activists. Contrary to their expectation, however, a certain number of the activists remained in the JR companies in Honshu, because the fixed personnel strength was not filled there. In contrast, in Hokkaido and Kyushu, where redundancy of workforce occurred, a large scale firing took place.
All workers who were appointed by the JR companies filed once the notice of the resignation to the JNR on March 31, 1987, and then hired by the JR companies next day. The wages remained unchanged. The JR management could not go so far as to introduce the wage system equivalent to that of the private company. They cannot do everything. After all, every JNR worker filed the notice of the resignation excepting those who had been sent to the JNR Settlement Corporation that was the successor of the JNR.
The JNR thus started business. But, if the labor unions had fought with a definite policy in unity, the things would have apparently developed quite differently. However violent and extensive the enemy” attack may be, it can never be free from the weakness and the contradictions. When you hit the weakness and the contradictions, you'll have a lot of opportunities for counter-offensive.
I found, on my tour throughout Japan that I made after the Division and Privatization had been forced, that the prefectural councils of labor unions in many prefectures, especially in Hokkaido and Kyushu, were prepared to fight an all-out battle against the Division and Privatization. The prefectural councils of labor unions, comprising both the Kokuro and the Doro as their members, still kept militant potential. I often heard that the Doro’s betrayal had hampered the united action in the prefectural level. Especially in Kyushu and Hokkaido, the prefectural councils were ready to fight against the Division and Privatization of the JNR.
How labor unions behaved toward the division and privatization?
The Sohyo eventually proposed no policy against the Division and Privatization than the 50 million signature-collecting campaign. The Secretary General of the Sohyo Magara, from the Jichiro (All Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers’ Union), talked big, “we launch the greatest struggle since the Miike Struggle.” That was all. Though the signature campaign succeeded in collecting the largest number of signatures ever in the history of the Sohyo, no action was organized. The President of the Kokuro had promised me to do something “when the 50 million signature campaign has completed”, as I had met him in autumn 1985. At the close of the signature campaign in Mach 1986, the number of the signatures amounted to some 35 million. It was really a great success. Also the Doro-Chiba toured throughout Chiba Prefecture in order to collect signatures.
At that time, the Sohyo was already in a great confusion because of the conflict between the promoters and the opponents of the unification of the labor movement. Also in regard to the struggle against the Division and Privatization, the Japan Telecommunications Workers' Union, for example, raised an objection: “The Telephone and Telegraph was privatized. Why do the JNR workers alone oppose the Division and Privatization? We cannot collect such signature. If you oppose the division only, we will cooperate with you.”
Meanwhile, the Doro went on betraying: it accepted the rationalization drive; it worked as tools of the Division and Privatization scheme. Then, some began to say within the Sohyo, “The Kokuro must follow the example of the Doro in some degree.” Thus divided in the policy, the Sohyo could do nothing. In face of a tremendous attack, the Division and Privatization of the JNR, which not only shook the backbone of the Sohyo, but also threatened the very existence of the Sohyo itself, it completely abandoned to fight back except the 50 million-signature campaign.
The Kokuro represented the labor movement under the leadership of the Mindo (social-democratic labor caucus) in “the 1955 System” in its every aspect. When the all-out repression of the state power fell on the Kokuro and its movement, its leadership consisted of the Mindo and the Kakudo (JCP-led faction) had no definite stand to confront the state power. The problem of the leadership is the core of the matter that has determined the whole development till today. As you know the Kokuro leadership of today has accepted the “Four Party Agreement”; it provably fancies that there would be some reliable and unlighted persons in the LDP and the government. The fact is far from it. Once determined to carry out a decisive battle, regardless of all circumstances, the state power by nature plunges into an unreserved attack, gathering all its powers.
It was really a serious situation. The Kokuro executive at that time pleaded in an open way: “It is not reasonable to fight when a storm is raging. We'd better hide ourselves in a trench till the storm is over”.
In the Kokuro all sort of left wing parties and organizations were represented: All of factions of the Socialist Party (the Mindo) including the Kyokai faction, the Japan Communist Party (the Kakudo), new left organizations, the Maoist, and so on. Each of them, with their influence over the districts, locals, sections, branches or the youth sections of the unions, had been fighting in their own ways and the Kokuro as a whole had thus possessed substantial fighting potentials. The drive for the Division and Privatization, however, smashed almost all of them, for those political groups shared the stand of “avoiding the storm in a trench”. They were scared of the all-out attack of the state power.
What did the Doro? In 1981, the Doro adopted a policy to form a united front with the labor unions under the control of the Japan Communist Party (JCP) and held a self-proclaimed “anti-Fascist Rally”. The Doro once invited the then Secretary General of JCP, KANEKO Mitsuhiro who had been from the Kokuro Takasaki Locomotive Section, as guest speaker to the Doro’s meeting. This honeymoon of the Kakumaru of Doro and the JCP lasted only a half-year. After this attempt, MATSUZAKI has come to the determination that the Doro should survive through engaging itself in disrupting the Kokuro.
He began by starting the campaign in January 1982 according to the Doro’s statement, “The Doro’s Opinion on the JNR Issue” that proposed: “Let’s work hard to improve our working efficiency because the low efficiency is said to cause the deficit.” At that time we criticized this policy calling it “Let’s-Work-Hard Campaign.” In the workshops of the JNR, the job demarcation used to be very strict and distinct. For example, there were clear differences in the work assignment between the driving, the inspecting and repairing, and the train marshalling and so on. The Doro was the first union to start a campaign of promoting the multi-assignment; the drivers must take on also the inspection and repair job. The Doro’s paper praised this practice “wonderful”.
In March 1982, four unions - the Kokuro, Doro, Tetsuro and Zenshiro - established the “Joint Struggle Conference on the JNR Reconstruction Issue.” This conference, however, soon went bankrupt in several months because the Doro very often maneuvered behind the scene together with the JNR management.
In February 1983, the Doro issued a document entitled “Our Organizational Tasks in 1983,” which maliciously and systematically attacked the Kokuro. Backed by this argument, the Doro set forth from that time on an organizational campaign to destroy the Kokuro, claiming that it was the necessary measure for the Doro to survive.
To justify this policy, the Kakumaru put forward the theory of the “era of winter” and that of the “death of the Sohyo’s labor movement.” The former meant: “As we are now in the midst of the winter of the Japanese labor movement, we should not fight. It is not proper for the professionals of the labor movement to fight now. Our work isn’t a business of the amateurs”. According to their theory, spring will never come; it will be winter forever. The latter, the theory of “death of the Sohyo’s labor movement” implied: “because the Sohyo’s historical task was over, its survival is meaningless.”
The Kakumaru of the Doro sensed that an excellent opportunity had come to destroy the Kokuro and thus to seize a position of the mainstream of the national railway workers’ movement.
To counter the enemy’s attack, the labor unions have no other way than to trust the fighting potentials of the workers and to rely on the solidarity of the workers. The Kakumaru of the Doro scornfully look down upon the workers. They don’t think the solidarity of the workers has a significant power. They regard the workers as the “ignorant masses”. So they never dreamt of mobilizing the Doro’s unionists to fight back the offensive of the Division and Privatization of the JNR. The Kakumaru of the Doro and the Mindo of the Kokuro share the view that they would be after all beaten down when the state power delivers an all-out attack on them.
In 1957, on the occasion of the Niigata struggle of the national railway workers, the President Aida of the Kokuro District Niigata made a moving speech for support in the national convention of the Sohyo response the Chair Ota of the Sohyo delivered a notorious speech: “The best policy is to run away.” Aida walked out in anger. This has long been a prevailing mind-set of the labor movement of Japan. The Kakumaru makes no exception.
After the replacement of the President of the JNR Nisugi by Sugiura in June 1985, each office of the Railway Administrative Bureau was occupied by the new chief director that was the advocate of the Division and Privatization. The chief of the Chiba Railway Administrative Bureau was taken over by KUSAKI, later executive board member of JR West.
On July 26, the Supervisory Committee for the JNR Restructuring announced its final report, the “Opinions on the JNR Reform,” recommending the division of the JNR into seven companies. The government decided to “respect the opinions to the fullest extent” at the Cabinet meeting.
Since 1982 a drive for the Division and Privatization of the JNR had been feverishly carried out. Anti-labor campaign had been organized against the governmental and public workers for their allowances and benefits that were obtained in an allegedly illegal way. It was reputed in those days: “No news paper appeared without carrying articles on the JNR”.
During three years from 1982 to 1985, the work force of the JNR was downsized: some 120,000 personnel were dismissed. 400,000 JNR employees at the beginning of 1982 were reduced to 280,000 at the end of 1985. From 1983 onward, the JNR froze the recruitment to fill the vacant positions, pushed ahead with the rationalization in full swing, brought forth considerable number of “surplus personnel” and forced the drivers to take upon other duties, for example, to take care of the passengers in stations and so on. Under those circumstances, even the Doro-Chiba dared not adopt a policy to oppose the Division and Privatization of the JNR with strike.
As a union leader, I fully realized that the Division and Privatization of the JNR was an all-out attack through the general mobilization of the enemy forces headed by the government, including whole capitalists, the mass media and so on. Therefore, I had no illusion that the storm might pass over while we kept low profile. I keenly sensed that the attack was aiming at smashing the national railway workers’ movement to the ground.
When we look upon ourselves, the Doro-Chiba at that time with only 1100 members was a very tiny force in the national railway workers' movement. I thought over and over again how we could win a battle against the state power and survive. Further, I wondered what would happen to us even if we fought out the struggle: how we could sustain ourselves organizationally as well as financially in face of the violent political repression. There seemed to be nothing favorable to the unions. Among others, the most terrible event for the labor unions was that the Doro, which for a certain period had an awe-inspiring appellation “Doro the Demon” for its militancy, has converted into a tool of the enemy. In those developments, the Sohyo as a whole began losing its militant potentials.
To tell the truth, for three years after the beginning of the drive for the Division and Privatization the same ideas went back and forth in my mind.
No one in the leadership of the Doro-Chiba was ready to discuss over the issue with me. Our officials and members all entrusted me to think over the issue. After examining the situation and considering over the problem for a long time, I finally arrived at a conclusion in the first half of the year 1985 that “there is no way for the Doro-Chiba but to trust the union members and to strengthen our solidarity through fighting.” “Now that we launch a war, we must fight through and through”. In searching for the conclusion I followed a proverb that “You should return to the principle when you are in difficulty”. I felt like fighting desperately our way in the midst of a death struggle.
Meanwhile, chatting with our members, I got gradually a feeling that our members were after all reliable. I found that they were not quite intimidated; they were rather furious. Certainly the Doro-Chiba’s experience of the struggles had made what they were. In 1979, we fought against the Doro executive and broke away from it. In March 1981, we struck throughout the whole area of Chiba. Soon after that, the offensive of the Division and Privatization started. It made them angry instead of intimidated. I was strongly encouraged by them. I firmly made up my mind to share their fate. They convinced me: “My fellow unionists will no doubt follow me when I lead the struggle at its forefront at the risk of my life”. It led me to the determination to rise up for a decisive battle.
Then a proverb came across my mind: “The Fish rots from the head down.” A leadership is in the best position to get much information and to grasp the general situation, including the moves of the government and the management. Owing to this, the leadership is apt to yield to the pressure. From the previous experience, the leader can figure out more accurately than the rank and file workers what sort of retaliation is waiting after a certain struggle. Thus, the leadership is often the first to be intimidated. Frankly speaking, I had experienced it myself many times; I was often tempted to be pessimistic and to complain. I resisted the temptation and concluded that we could not maintain our unity without fighting a battle.
Why do we fight? What is the labor unity? It is not only the problem of the workplace but also that of the family life. Many families of the Doro-Chiba’s unionists know each other. When the union leadership allows the dismissal of the union members, it would inevitably give the damage to their families and their companionship and bring disunity to the whole union organization. Therefore I made up my mind to avoid such situation. The unity of the labor union implies to me the unity of the whole family members.
There is another important problem: it concerns the drivers. The overwhelming majority of our members are drivers. Day and night they drive the trains, taking charge of the passengers’ lives. For five years from the setting-up of the Second Ad Hoc Commission for Administrative Reform, the drivers were put into an uneasy situation. As the Division and Privatization approached, their anxiety increased. I was afraid that it would become a grave situation if a railway accident should happen. The management was totally engaged in stirring up unrest in the floor to disrupt workers’ unity. Under those circumstances, I thought it necessary to make a condition that would guarantee the drivers to accomplish their duty. I resolved to establish a definite policy to fight it out.
In July, when I first met the new Chief Director KUSAKI of the JNR Chiba Bureau and explained our policy, he said to me “then, you are like a moth flying into the flame.” I rebuked: “Don’t talk like that. Don’t you know the sentiment of 7000 or 8000 workers under the Chiba Railway Administrative Bureau? They are driving the trains all day long in charge of the human lives and they are all the time faced with anxiety. Your essential job as a chief director should not be carrying out the Division and Privatization of the JNR but thinking through how to prevent grave railway accidents. But you have not taken a least measure for rail safety, while calling me “a moth flying into the flame”. As long as you keep your position like that, we have no choice but to fight our own battle till the end.”
The severe offensive of the enemy forced us to choose between giving up and fighting back: an alternative between the way of surrendering to the enemy and becoming its tool like the Kakumaru of Doro for survival and the way to fight for the defense of the union’s unity. The executive of the Kokuro, however, did not realize the severe nature of the enemy’s offensive at all. They cherished an illusion that there could be a third way, that is, neither the way of the total surrender nor the way of the resolute struggle. Therefore, the Kokuro remained inactive and powerless till the end, inevitably falling into misery. .
On May 9-10, 1985, we held the 10th annual convention of the Doro-Chiba. The executive committee declared for the first time the policy to fight against the Division and Privatization scheme with the strikes. Our slogans were: (1) we oppose the Division and Privatization of the JNR; (2) we oppose the rationalization that would make the JNR another Japan Airlines (a Jumbo Jet of Japan Airlines had crashed shortly before the convention); and (4) we smash the unprecedented union basting in the JNR. We decided to launch a strike at the end of November under these slogans.
Why at the end of November? First, the Employment Stabilization Contract was to expire on November 30. By the summer of 1985, it became almost certain that the management would not extend the Employment Stabilization Contract with the three unions - the Doro-Chiba, Kokuro and Zendoro - on November 30. For the first time in the history of the JNR, the management would not enter into the labor contract with the dominant union, the Kokuro, while entering into it with only minority unions. Considering those developments, we planned the strike, demanding the entering into the Employment Stabilization Contract.
Second, in July, the final report of the Supervisory Committee for the JNR Restructuring announced an outline of the Division and Privatization of the JNR in which the total workforce of the new companies, the issue of the greatest concern, was estimated to be around 200,000. In October, the management of the JNR said in its report, the Views on the Personnel in the Years to Come , that workforce on the day of the inauguration of the new companies, April 1, 1987, would be 195,300. It meant that around 100,000 workers would not be able to go to the new companies - firing of one out of three workers.
In the preparation for the annual convention, I thoroughly analyzed the report of the Supervisory Committee for the JNR Restructuring in detail and considered the consequences of the Division and Privatization. Life, livelihood of each and every one of our members was at stake.
In the opening address of the president, I spoke for more than one hour. “Some members might remain in the new companies, some might be screened out. But, it would be “a hell for the fired and another hell for the remaining” Even when you are employed in the privatized companies, you will certainly face a fierce rationalization and an intense speed-up. I can’t tell you what will happen to the wages.” I described the implications of the Division and Privatization on our lives and working conditions in real terms with various concrete examples.
I passionately called for a struggle: “If we do not fight against the mass dismissal of “one out of three workers”, our union’s unity will surely be destroyed. If some of you give in to the management and stay in the job in sacrifice of your fellow workers, the workplace will be divided and suspicion will spread among you. The workshop solidarity will be disrupted. We don’t accept this. Without fighting, we can not defend our solidarity.”
Further I argued with anger against the anti labor campaign on the governmental and public workers (for their allowances and benefits that were allegedly obtained in an illegal way) and the demagogy labeling the JNR’s employees as the “national traitor”. At that time, it was repeatedly propagandized that the enormous deficit of the JNR was the result of the laziness of its workers. I bitterly rebuked it.
At that time, the final deficit of the JNR amounted to 37 trillion yen. The construction expenditures of the Seikan Tunnel, which was planned to be completed by 1987, and the Honshi Bridges were added to the JNR deficit. The huge sum of the deficit had been accumulated since the start of unfettered investment drive of the JNR under the “Plan to Remodel the Japanese Archipelago” of TANAKA Kakuei (in 1973). Thus, the main cause of the deficit was evidently the politics of the LDP. It was widely rumored that the construction of a new Shinkansen Line would secure the politician concerned his seat in the parliament.
For all that, Japan was flooded with the propaganda that the workers and labor unions were responsible for the deficit. The union members, especially those of the Doro-Chiba that are mostly drivers, were furious at it. As you know, the drivers, once in the driver’s seat, are put under the lasting tension. Their shifts are irregular; they operate the trains while other people sleep, or are on public holidays, on New Year’s Day, etc. “Are we really ruining the JNR? Are we lazy on duty? Stop kidding! It’s enough. We can no longer remain silent”, were their voices. So, I strongly insisted on fighting back the propaganda that the labor unions of the national railway and their members were responsible for all of evil”. I further demanded to bring it to the public discussion in order to clarify the real intention and nature of the Division and Privatization of the JNR and to verify who was really responsible for the deficit of the JNR.
I urged then the union members to rise up for the struggle to smash the scheme of the Division and Privatization, “When we, the Doro-Chiba, stand up for fight, the Kokuro will never fail to launch the struggle. Then there will be a huge general strike of the whole national railway workers”. Certainly no one believed that the Doro-Chiba, 1000-strong union, alone could stop this attack by the strike only in Chiba. But I was convinced and insisted that we could no doubt motivate a nation-wide rising of the national railway workers.
Afterwards, however, some members said to me: “President, in spite of your expectation, the Kokuro hasn’t rise up after all.” I responded: “Look at the Shuzenji Convention! The Kokuro defended their banner opposing the Division and Privatization. If the Doro-Chiba had not fought our battle, the Kokuro would have given in to the Labor Management Joint Statement”
“They call us villains. They fire us - one out of three. How could we remain inactive? Strike, strike, and strike! Let’s rise up for a determined struggle. Let’s ask the whole society by means of the workers’ strike who is right.” This address exactly fitted the anger and state of the consciousness of the union members.
The Convention was carried out in an extraordinary enthusiasm. The opening address of the president brought the whole participants rapidly into an unprecedented excitement. The delegates spoke one after another overwhelmingly for strike. “I'm moved by the executive’s resolute decision.” “It’s high time to fight it out!” and so on. The resolution of strike was unanimously passed the convention.
At that moment, I sensed that union members had long been waiting for a call to the battle at the bottom of their heart. While worrying over various problems, they had been expecting the union to propose a policy to fight back. They realized that the union would be finished when it did not fight in such an ultimate situation.
No one spoke against the strike in the convention and in the following local general meetings as well. Since all members knew that scores of members would be fired for the strike, they were seriously concerned about how they support and feed the dismissed fellow members and were anxious if the union could be financially sustainable. I answered: “We don’t have a definite answer now. We shall find a solution through fighting. Our all-out struggle would never fail to get the support of all working people round the country. They will supply us with various ways of livelihood.
Because our members had experienced various struggles until then, they were keenly aware of the serious character of the present all-out attack of the state power. They had a full understanding of the gravity of the decision of the policy in that convention. This made the convention all the more enthusiastic.
The unionists who chaired or spoke in the union convention were later subjected to the disciplinary measures; the state power found their names in the “Daily Doro-Chiba” that reported the union convention. The chair of the convention, the president of the Local Choshi, was dismissed under the Public Corporations and National Enterprises Labor Relations Law. The delegates who spoke in the convention were suspended in job longer than others.
Meanwhile, many JNR workers committed suicide throughout Japan. There was no suicide in the Doro-Chiba. Workers do not kill themselves in a fighting union. The JNR workers who committed suicide had been torn between the management and the fellow workers. The enemy forces warned them that they would not be allowed in the new companies when they don’t disaffiliate from the Kokuro. On the other hand, they were afraid of disrupting the solidarity with their fellow unionists. I think that the essential problem was the leadership’s inability to set up a policy to fight back.
After the convention had decided to launch the strike in late November, we convened local general meetings throughout Chiba within two month. Because the local presidents had to anticipate the dismissal in the case of the strike, it was only natural for any of them to offer his resignation. None of the local presidents, however, stepped down. All except one remained in their post. The exception was the local Narita, which according to the previous plan only replaced the president. All local presidents, remaining in their post, showed their resolution to fight. I once again confirmed my conviction: “We can surely go into the battle and we shall win.”
The rank and file workers found their union leaders standing in the forefront of the decisive battle, united and without drop-offs. It encouraged them all to fight out the strike, for they knew very well that all of the union leaders risked their jobs in the intense situation.
A unanimous resolution in the general convention doesn’t automatically lead to a struggle. The members had their families full of anxiety. We decided to have community meetings with the participation of family members. I asked the union locals to gather their members together with their families. The workers of the local labor councils were also invited. I went to all of the community meetings and spoke to the participants. Many families came up to the meetings - in Chiba, Sakura, Narita, Choshi, Kisarazu, Tateyama, Katsuura, Tsudanuma and Shinkoiwa. About 300 workers and their families took part in the meeting of the smallest locals, Tateyama and Katsuura. When the wives were not able to come, the mothers represented the meetings. An old mother expressed her anxiety about the job of her son-in-law who she had thought to be in “a soundest business, the JNR.” “My daughter is at work today; I'm here instead. I'm looking for your best effort, Mr. President” she greeted me.
I made there the most impressive speech in my life from the bottom of my heart. I went further than the opening address of the union’s convention and demanded all union officers, especially the chiefs of the locals to be prepared to the dismissal. I plainly stated that it was a struggle that would bring about a severe political repression and a considerable number of dismissal. I emphasized that we couldn’t win the battle without such a determination. A certain chief of a local remarked, “You needn’t tell us such a severe story in the presence of our wives. Don’t worry. I've already made up my mind.”
I assured them that we could find a way if we only maintain our unity. “The core of the Division and Privatization scheme is the disruption of the unity of the union. Let’s fight for the defense of our unity! Workers should never betray their fellow workers. When the union stops to fight, it will end in a betrayal”.
While I was speaking, our fellow unionists and their families intensely concentrated their attention on my speech in a complete silence. While the workers who came to support us enthusiastically applauded now and then, the union members as well as their families would not utter a word, and were staring my face without stirring an inch. It was because everyone was risking life, livelihood of his or her entire family. The meetings were all in the utmost seriousness and tension.
After meetings, it happened very often old mothers thanked me at the exit, “Mr. President, you have given me an excellent speech today. I well understand what you mean”. As you know, in the deeper countryside, there were many communities where every neighboring family had a JNR employee. They were naturally associated with each other as family, went out on a pleasure trip together and so on. So, when I told them that workers should not betray fellow workers, I was surely understood by them.
In launching the strike, almost all of our members had been prepared to face dismissal. Without such determination, the struggle would be impossible. Against the background of the mounting anti-labor campaign, especially criminalization propaganda of the national railway workers, it might have seemed almost unimaginable to wage a strike against the Division and Privatization of the JNR. The situation was really terrible. For the national railway workers, however, it was unbearable to be made responsible for the deficit of the JNR, while they were working on the railway day and night. They were totally furious and ready to rise up at any moment. The problem was how to ignite their fighting potentials.
In those circumstances we promptly set up organizational preparations for the battle and dashed into the strike in November.
On November 27, the National Workers’ Rally took place sponsored by the Doro-Chiba. I announced in this rally: “We launch a 24 hours' strike from the first train on November 29.” The strike posts were the Tsudanuma and Chiba Driver’s Depot; the slow trains and the rapid trains of the Sobu line were to be stopped.
On Nov. 27, immediately before the planed date of the strike, however, in the executive committee meeting in the afternoon, we decided to launch the strike at noon on Nov. 28, 12 hours earlier than the schedule. It was to protest the management’s measures to crush the strike. The police deployed 10,000-strong riot squad along the Sobu Line and fenced around the Tsudanuma Train Depot under the pretext of taking a counter-guerrilla measure. The Doro-Kakumaru and the Kokuro executive cooperated with the management’s scab mobilization.
At this day, 3000 strong riot police surrounded the large ground of Tsudanuma Train Depot that operated hundred of trains. It was closely besieged. The Chiba Driver’s Depot, which was not so large as the Tsudanuma because it was the train crews’ workplace, was also surrounded by the riot police. We launched the strike in the tumultuous atmosphere.
The ordinary workers might be intimidated. But the Doro-Chiba workers with their experiences of the Sanrizuka struggle and many other struggles did not shrink away before the police in the heavy riot gears. Our union could carry out the battle because each member was prepared to fight at the risk of his job. Only through such fight we could all survive and maintain our unity.
The riot police blocked the Tsudanuma Train Depot and shut out the unionists from the premises. In the premises, the supervisors and the foremen from all over Japan were mobilized by the management. Those personnel outnumbered our union members. The striking workers, less than 200 in number, were besieged for 24 hours. They stayed there without going back home. In the cold open air of November, they continued their vigil huddling around the fire in the metal barrels. They formed ranks with helmet, demonstrated in the premises zigzagging, repeatedly rushed to the riot police and kicked the shields of the police in protest. The management warned them not to provoke the police. But they fought without any hesitation. The majority of the local Tsudanuma were young unionists in their 20s; they were full of power.
I received incessant telephone calls from the union officers dispatched to the spot of the battle for giving direction to the union members: “Their anger is flaming up. Their fighting spirit is soaring. They are dashing into bitter confrontation with the state power. They are beyond my control. If things develop in this way, the riot police would rush into the depot at any time. Only you, the president, can stop it”. I answered: “Don’t mind. In a severe situation like this, it would be only natural to be scared. On the contrary, they have high spirit and are fighting a serious battle. They are great. They are all risking their jobs. Police can’t easily attack them. You need not worry. We have already won the battle”. The telephone call did not end. It continued till midnight: “I am still at a loss what to do. Tell me how to persuade them”
In such a tense situation, usually quiet person very often turns to clash with the management resolutely. Everybody soon realizes that the situation drives him (or her) to a brave action. It inspires the fellow workers and gathers their respect. The upsurge of the mass struggle brings about many touching scenes like this. This was what happened with us.
The Chiba Driver’s Depot was in the office complex of the JNR Chiba Branch. In and out side of the office complex, the striking workers held rallies and made demonstrations. The riot police surrounded the whole site. Within the Depot there were also the drivers belonging to the Kokuro, whom our members demanded to clarify their stand on our strike: “Surely you won’t be scabs? I guess you are also against the Division and Privatization” Eventually, the president and other officials of Kokuro Chiba Driver’s Depot’s Local resigned under the pressure of the circumstances.
The unionists of the Doro-Chiba were deeply interested in what the Kokuro would do since the half of the drivers of the Sobu Line was the Kokuro members.
The Doro took on the role of the scab without hesitation according to their union’s position as the advocate for the scheme of the Division and Privatization of the JNR. The Kokuro executive too decided to join in scabbing with the following justification: “We are obliged to obey the instruction on duty in these hard times” They were eager to conclude the Employment Stabilization Contract. The Kokuro Executive issued an order to its members to run the train following the revised operation schedule of scab. Formerly the Kokuro used to stop the train when the Doro-Chiba waged strike and the Doro-Chiba used to do the same in case of the Kokuro’s strike.
The unionists of the Kokuro of the Tsudanuma Branch revolted against this decision. The drivers of the Kokuro who had been forced to run the scab train on November 28, the first day of the strike, protested the Kokuro branch officers in anger after the duty: “Why do you force us to scab? The Kokuro should fight together with the striking Doro-Chiba”. Two of the drivers tore off their union badge and walked out of the Kokuro’s branch office and came into the Doro-Chiba’s office to join us on that day. In the Tsudanuma Train Depot, the Kokuro’s office lay next-door to ours.
Thereupon, the Kokuro executive sent an executive committee member into Chiba to settle the matter. But the union members of District Chiba of the Kokuro argued with him over the union’s policy of scabbing and finally at one o'clock at night made him pledge: “We don’t follow the instruction on duty of the management to scab”. The Kokuro executive committee member, pale with fear, went to the management office to announce this. This news made us shout: “We've got it. The whole SOBU line will stop!” The best part of the Kokuro’s unionists responded to the struggle of the Doro-Chiba.
The first wave of the strikes gave a tremendous shock on the whole society. Especially many national railway workers were undoubtedly impressed. Immediately after the strike, a member of the Doro wrote to us: “The Doro-Chiba’s strike is amazing. We'd like to fight with you.” As the strike was the first manifestation of the national railway workers’ opposition against the Division and Privatization of the JNR, it got a lot of the press coverage.
On the other hand, the same day of the Doro-Chiba’s strike saw a guerrilla attack against the Asakusabashi Station in Tokyo, which aroused a heated argument in the whole society. The President Sugita of the JNR issued a statement: “We impose severe disciplinary measures on the strike which incited the guerrilla attack.” Surprisingly, the President Yamazaki of the Kokuro and the President Matsuzaki of the Doro issued a joint statement condemning the strike. At the beginning of December, the Mainichi Newspaper made the front page that read “All Strikers of the Doro-Chiba to be dismissed, leaders and rank and files as well”
All these illustrated how serious was the blow the strike gave to the enemy forces. Until then the management apparently anticipated no difficulty in pushing forward the Division and Privatization plan: The Doro had already become the management’s tool. The Kokuro had suffered many dropouts without fighting. All of a sudden, an unexpected blow was delivered by the Doro-Chiba’s strike. We can easily imagine how they hated us. I thought to myself that we had won.
On January 28, 1986, the JNR management announced unprecedented massive disciplinary measures in retaliation for the strike. The strike hit only the Sobu Line and stopped 243 trains in the first wave. For this, 20 workers were dismissed, 28 suspended in job, 65 got pay cut, 6 warning - in all 120 workers were punished. For comparison, after the eight-day strike for the right to strike in 1975, which stopped 1,500,000 trains, 15 workers of the Kokuro and the Doro were dismissed. You can see how brutal the measures against the Doro-Chiba were.
Many of the executives of the Doro-Chiba had already been dismissed for the struggle against the transportation of the jet fuel. At that time, all of the rest of the executives were dismissed. In the Chiba Driver’s Depot and the Tsudanuma Trains Depot, which were struck in the first wave of the struggle, all presidents, vice-presidents and secretary generals of the locals and almost all of the executives were dismissed. The local Narita did not struck in its home workplace, but its drivers struck when they drove into Tokyo; its chief was dismissed.
Another retaliation was the transfer of the jobs. In January, the management noticed that the jobs for 7000 km drive of the Sobu Line, the slow trains and the rapid trains, and the Abiko Line would be transferred to the three Railway Administrative Bureaus in Tokyo. This plan was going to be materialized by the annual timetable revision of March. The management tried to abolish the jobs in Chiba and bring about “surplus workforce” to be transferred or dismissed. Its aim was to disrupt the union organization of the Doro-Chiba. Our members got angry at this attack.
We immediately launched a counterattack against the job transfer. We stood up to stop the rail track trainings that the management began from February 5 to prepare for the job transfer. For the rail track training, the drivers were sent from Tokyo to Chiba, to the electric train depots of Makuhari and Tsudanuma. We showed them our opposition to the job transfer, placards in our hands in the station building. The platform was filled with dozens of our union members and the management staffs. The management made desperate efforts to defend their drivers from our protest. Some of the drivers sent from Tokyo began to speak out openly that they were disgusted with forced rail track training. Eventually the Kokuro Tamachi Train Depot Local delivered a statement to the Kokuro Tokyo District and the Shinbashi Branch: “The Tamachi Train Depot Local does not accept the job transfer for the destruction of the struggle of the Chiba workers”
The year 1986 saw the strengthened reactionary offensives of the state power and the JNR management. They launched an all-out attack on the national railway workers’ struggle to destroy it completely. A full-scale measure of rationalization was taken to reduce the JNR workers to 200,000 until the deadline of April 1, 1987, the date of the planned start of the new JR companies. We had sensed beforehand a fresh confrontation with the management and the state power in the year 1986 and dared to launch the first wave of the strike of 1985 and the second wave of the strike of 1986.
On February 15, we started 24 hours’ strike - the second wave of our strikes. At that time, we added two new slogans to the previous four slogans of the first wave of the strike: “Withdraw the Unjust Mass Dismissals!” and “No Job Transfer!” We fought strikes in the Chiba Driver’s Depot, Tsudanuma Train Depot and Narita Driver’s Depot. From the tactical point of view, we called on the strike in the “Chiba Station area”. In practice, all the drivers, driving the train to the Chiba station from Tateyama, Katsuura, Choshi etc., which were not included in the striking area, got off the train there to join the strike instead of driving the train back to Tateyama, Katsuura, Choshi etc., because the “Chiba Station area” was included in the striking zone. Thus every train that drove into the Chiba station stopped one after another.
As a result, the Chiba Railways Administration Bureau had to cancel all the train operation under its jurisdiction..
On March 14, disciplinary measures on the second wave of the strike were announced: eight members were dismissed, 31 suspended, 233 pay cuts, 272 in total. All chiefs of the locals that had struck were dismissed.
Further, on March 14, the JNR management filed a suit for 36 million yen damages over the first wave of the strike. They claimed the whole amount of money paid for their countermeasures against the Doro-Chiba’s strike: the travel bills and the night work premiums of the foremen who had been mobilized from Hokkaido and West Japan area, the refunds of the express trains for the passengers, the rental fees of the buses for the substitute transport and so on. The JNR has filed during its lifetime only two damages suits against the unions: 20.2 billion yen damages over the strike for the right to strike in 1975 and 36 million damages over the Doro-Chiba’s first wave of the strike in 1986.
In March 1986, the management put forward the first wide area transfer. It planned to transfer workers of the Doro from Hokkaido and Kyushu to Honshu, and to make the Kokuro and the Doro-Chiba members in Honshu “surplus workforce”. It was called “to fill in new blood in place of old”. Actually there was no transfer of the Doro members to Chiba. Certainly the Doro members were too afraid to come to Chiba, because the executive of the Doro had demonized the Doro-Chiba. When ordered to transfer, all Doro members refused to go to Chiba and preferred Tokyo.
After the two waves of the strike, we repeatedly developed the work-to-rule struggles and the non-cooperation struggles. We focused the problem on the issue of the abolishment of the Narita Driver’s Depot. On the occasion of the timetable revision of March 1986, the Narita Driver’s Depot was transformed into the Narita Branch of the Chiba Driver’s Depot and was finally abolished in November the same year as a result of the timetable revision. From the viewpoint of the transport efficiency, however, this abolition was very ineffective because Narita was the key location of the railway. The true aim of the abolition was to crush the bastion of the Doro-Chiba: all workers of the Narita Driver’s Depot belonged to the Doro-Chiba and they played a central role in the struggle against jet fuel transportation to the Narita Airport. By the abolition of the Narita Driver’s Depot, all those union members were scattered to various workplaces. Against this assault, we strenuously launched the work-to-rule struggles, the non-cooperation struggles and the railway safely struggles.
The dismissal of 28 workers was certainly an unprecedented full-scale assault on a union in the post-war Japanese labor movement. Thus the Doro-Chiba, 1,100 strong union at that time, came to embrace 34 dismissed members altogether, including the prior dismissal.
In face of the fierce attack, it was an urgent task for the unity of the union to rally the dismissed workers around the union and go on fighting together with them at the forefront of our union. We did everything for this purpose.
The dismissed workers had various levels of experience in the union activities; some were not leading activists and some had never undergone any disciplinary measure before the dismissal under the Public Corporations and National Enterprises Labor Relations Law.
Therefore, there was a great difference in the state of mind among the dismissed workers. Some officials and activists were firmly determined for the dismissal with the support of the family; some members got serious difficulties with their families. Any way, each member suffered much. We organized many meetings to talk with the families of the dismissed workers: “We promise you to support your livings. Please believe us and let’s fight it out together with us.” Some families bitterly told me off: “Give me back my husbands’ job! You are to blame for the reckless strike, Mr. President!
Many union members resolutely and patiently persuaded their families: “I have done right things according to my belief as a national railway worker. I've full confidence in my deed. Don’t worry!” And they have since been continuing their union activities more vigorously as ever. In another case, the wife of a dismissed worker reproached her husband: “You obeyed the president of your union and you are fired!” Then the husband answered: “Just listen! You know, I'm well over 40 years old and I have decided myself to fight. As a result I was sacked in my own. Am I wrong? If you don’t understand my cause, you can divorce me” She was persuaded. Then, he and she have been fighting hand in hand. Each of the dismissed workers has undergone the similar experiences and kept on fighting.
After all it was imperative to maintain the livelihood of the 28 dismissed unionists. We started various projects: sales of union goods, foundation of business companies, taking part-time jobs and so on.
Four of the 28 members were the executives of the headquarters of the Doro-Chiba, and all the rest were the executive of the locals. Since the locals could not afford the full-time officials, we gave all of them the posts of Doro-Chiba officials. This brought out a contrast to the Kokuro’s attitude toward its dismissed members (“Tosodan”). The problem was the enormous personnel expenditures. We barely overcame our difficulties, using our entire union assets for the personnel expenditures. The union as an employer of the union officers has had to pay half of the premiums for the health insurance, the employment insurance and the pensions. We paid tens of million yen annually for the social insurances. Our personnel expenditures far exceeded 100 million yen. You can see for example 28 times 5 million yen makes 140 million yen.
I met and talked with each dismissed member individually and asked them to choose their way: to become a full-time official of the Doro-Chiba headquarters and to engage in the sales of union goods, or to work outside the Doro-Chiba. Many chose to work outside and a very few chose the job of the union official. Our members knew very well that the work of the Doro-Chiba officials were very hard; they must write articles and documents, deliver speeches and negotiates with the managements, and so on. They have no limit of the working hours and they are out of the application of the Labor Standard Law.
We determined that the dismissed members who chose to work outside get same pays as the union officials. The entire earnings outside the union are once given over to the union and then the sum corresponding to the wages as of the date of the dismissal are given over to the members by the union. We continued this system for 10 years. Few earned more outside than their wages. All the dismissed unionists were drivers who had no other qualification. Although they took every sort of jobs, including temporary jobs, the wages comparable with those of the JNR could not soon be earned. The whole earnings from the sales of the union goods and the donations to the “100 Million yen Fund Campaign” went to the wages of the dismissed. It was financially the hardest time.
I would like to emphasize that in the Doro-Chiba all the members have been struggling, not just the dismissed members. Of course the dismissed workers fight their own battle. However, the Doro-Chiba’s policy has been that the struggle of the members remaining in the railway workplaces constitutes the main struggle for withdrawal of the dismissal. Excepting the 28 dismissed workers and the 12 workers discriminatively transferred to the JNR Settlement Corporation, almost all of the Doro-Chiba members remained in their jobs on the railways. Even the members who had been subjected to the disciplinary measures for the two waves of the strikes and anticipated their dismissal also remained in the job. The sales of the union goods, for example, have been carried out in such a way that the members in the railway workplaces buy goods of 20,000 yen in summer and 20,000 yen in winter and then request other workers to buy them. They tour around the country and visit other unions to sell the union goods and explaining the JNR struggle; the members in the railway workplaces make such tour more often than the dismissed members.
The dismissed members hold their own meeting once a month and participate in the annual conventions and big rallies. They are still our regular members. Later in 1997, the dismissals of the national railway workers under the Public Corporations and National Enterprises Labor Relations Law were withdrawn. Upon this juridical decision, we gave the dismissed workers the corresponding sums which would be given them as the allowances for the retirement if retired on April 1, 1990. We have decided that the sums for the period after April 1, 1990 should be settled after the victory of the 1047 worker struggle.
At the beginning of the year 1987, it became clear that the current workforces of the three JR companies in Honshu would be far short of the fixed numbers. After investigating the personnel state under the jurisdiction of the Chiba Railways Administrative Bureau, we got an outlook: it would be impossible for the JR management to practice a large-scale dismissal and we can expect that almost all members of our union would be re-employed in the new company though a small part of them could possibly been transferred to the JNR Settlement Corporation.
In December 1986, the management distributed the “Forms for Choices of Assignment (Verification of Intent)”, the due date being the beginning of January. The Doro-Chiba directed the members to write one choice only: the unionists who drove the passenger trains should write one choice for the “JR East Company” and the drivers of the freight trains of the Locals Shinkoiwa, Sakura and Soga should write one choice for the “JR Freight Company.” On February 16, the notices of the employment of the new companies were issued. Excepting the twelve members who were discriminated in the employment, all the rest was employed by the new companies - the JR East or the JR Freight.
As for the Kokuro, many members did not fill in the Forms of Choice. Many others wrote in “No to the division and privatization” to demonstrate their opposition. All of them were automatically sent to the JNR Settlement Corporation. In Chiba, however, many of the Kokuro members wrote “one choice” after the example of the Doro-Chiba.
All the twelve members of the Doro-Chiba, who were sent to the JNR Settlement Corporation, were those workers who had been subjected to the disciplinary measures for the two waves of the strikes. The reason for their discriminatory employment was not given, when the notice of no-appointment was issued on February 16. It was disclosed later, in the course of the struggle in the Labor Relations Commission and in the Court, that the JR management had a guideline that those workers should be excluded in employment “who have been subjected to suspension of six months or two disciplinary measures in last three years.” The management worked out this guideline in order to exclude the Doro-Chiba members from the new companies. As I indicated above, the JR companies was found to have a vacancy and consequently they would be obliged to fill it with the members of the Doro-Chiba who waged strikes. The guideline was intended to avoid this. After all, five members of Local Chiba Driver’s Depot that assumed the major tasks in the two waves of strikes were sent to the Settlement Corporation. Thus we have lost all of the executive committee members on the workplace.
During three years in the JNR Settlement Corporation, the Doro-Chiba members behaved quite freely and vigorously. The circumstances of the Settlement Corporation, which were made to bait and to contain union activists, were turned by them to their own advantage. “We can take drivers licenses using the Settlement Corporation’s money” said they. Even the management could not harass the Doro-Chiba members. Also in the Human Resources Usage Centers, they were not so brutally treated. Therefore, I have heard no serious stories. Because our members held control over the floor, the managerial staffs could not behave arrogantly.
Three of the twelve members reached the retiring age of 60 and retired on March 31, 1990. They declared before the management of the Settlement Corporation that they continue their struggle even after their retirement. The rest of the members were dismissed by the Settlement Corporation for the reorganization on April 1, 1990.
In April 1987, at the start of the JR companies, we had around 800 members. The membership of the Doro-Chiba decreased in number for some degree owing partly to the age-limit retirements and partly to the voluntarily retirements of the younger members who took jobs in the municipal offices or the village offices. For all that, we successfully defended the basic structure of our organization and started a new struggle under the JR System.
As a result, the Chiba area under the jurisdiction of the Chiba Branch Office of the JR East Company became only one branch office area in which the JR-Soren (JRU) does not have a majority. Although some 50 of our members were unfairly transferred to the station stalls and so on, the Doro-Chiba held a majority - about 56 % - among the drivers as of April 1987.
On March 31, the day before the inauguration of the JR Companies, I asked the director of the Chiba Railway Administrative Bureau: “What are you going to do under the new system of the JR companies? If you continue attacking us bitterly as before, we're ready to fight it back. Or will you change your attitude and open collective bargaining with us? “ “We'd like to consult with you” he replied. I asked him further if he had any condition for opening negotiation with us and he proposed: “If possible, we'd like you on duty to wear ties and take off your union emblems.” I issued a directive that each member wear a tie and take off our emblem.
All the members immediately followed the directive from April 1. The management was much surprised at it. Some members grumbled: “We don’t like that “ I said to them: “You are mistaken. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. We put all of our power on waging strike at the necessary moment to defend the interest of all members, not on the issues of necktie or emblem” We understand very well that for the Kokuro members, the fights to wear the Kokuro emblems were sole demonstration of their workplace struggles, while the Kokuro’s executive follow the humiliating policies. For us, however, it was an insignificant detail, since we fight with all our union organization when necessary. Because our members were well aware of it, they followed the directive without exception. The management was surprised at out strong leadership and unity. We were and are able to do such a thing in an instant. It is also our organizational strength.
An ordinary union would be broken up, if 40 out of 1000 members were dismissed. The financial problem would offer the severest difficulty. The Doro-Chiba has confidence in its own struggle and in the support of workers all over Japan. We have been appealing the cause of our struggle and asking financial support to the labor unions nationwide. What we are today owes much to their support.
Meanwhile, Mr. MIYAZIMA Yoshio, a film director, came to the Doro-Chiba and made a film entitled “We Live on Railway.” From Hokkaido to Okinawa, we dispatched our executive committee members and organized a screening campaign of the film. Nearly 20,000 saw the film. The campaign made enormous assets for us.
With the Division and Privatization, the Kihara Line, which runs from Ohara Station to Kazusa-Ueno Station, was turned into the “third sector company” called the “Isumi Railway”. Since all of the drivers of the Kihara line were members of the Doro-Chiba, the drivers were to be “temporary transferred” from the JR East Company to the Isumi Railway. At first, the management told us: “we transfer the employees according to our standards.” We replied, “Stop talking nonsense! If you do this, we'll fight it back. You know, when we say no, the Isumi Railway will not operate.” The management sat for a negotiation and gave in: “We will consult with you and meet your demand”
Izumi Railway is not electrified. To drive its trains, a qualification of electric train driver do not suffice; that of the diesel locomotive driver is required. In the surrounding area, no driver except some Doro-Chiba members has this qualification. So, if the Doro-Chiba refuses, the Isumi Railway does not run. Because the Doro-Chiba local Katsuura used to dispatch applicants to the Kihara Line on the seniority principle, it demanded that the Doro-Chiba should decide which workers to be transferred. Until today, the drivers were transferred to the Isumi Railway according to the rotation decided by the Doro-Chiba.
First, the Doro-Chiba, and the Doro-Chiba alone has fought back the biggest union busting since the end of WW II and has given the enemy forces a considerable blow. It was a struggle to show the pride of workers. The national railway workers movement, where all political tendencies were represented, faced a critical situation: some of them surrendered to the violent union busting without delivering effective resistance; others degenerated into the tool of the enemy. In those circumstances, the Doro-Chiba resolutely demonstrated that there existed a union that could say “no” to the offensive of the state power and the management. I'm convinced that was the most important thing.
Second, the Kokuro has just survived with 44000 members even after the Division and Privatization of the JNR was enforced. The rejection of the political line to conclude the “Labor Management Joint Statement” in its union convention in Shuzenji has laid its foundation. I am very proud of the contribution of the Doro-Chiba in supporting the struggle of the Kokuro to defend the union’s flag. After all, the ultimate intention of the enemy forces to destroy the Kokuro and the national railway workers’ movement has failed. Contrary to their expectation, the Kokuro did not join the Rengo after the disbanding of the Sohyo.
Third, even after the Division and Privatization of the JNR the national railway workers’ struggle has been developing vigorously: the Doro-Chiba survived and the Kokuro as well; the struggle of the 1047 dismissed workers has got momentum. It was the Doro-Chiba’s two waves of strikes that built up the basis of these struggles.
Let’s have a closer look at the present situation of each union to understand the current development. The Doro, Tetsuro and Zenshiro dissolved themselves and established the Tetsudo-Roren. On the other hand, Kokuro has survived and the Zendoro also remains. But in the five years the membership of the Kokuro decreased from over 230,000 in 1982 to 44,000 in 1987. Only one fifth of the members have remained in the Kokuro.
In contrast, only the Doro-Chiba, which fought the fierce battles against the Division and Privatization, receiving many wounds, survived at prominent percentage of the members with its basic structure and unity intact. We have defeated their intention to destroy the national railway workers’ movement at the final defense line. It may seem a local struggle in Chiba, but its militant challenge has left a nationwide impact. The Doro-Chiba is much proud of it.
Fourth, the struggle of the Doro-Chiba has completely revealed the evil deeds of the Kakumaru of Doro. The behavior of the Kakumaru of Doro, who has been a tool of the Division and Privatization of the JNR, was unprecedented in the history of the labor union movement in its extremely hostile stand to the workers. However, if the Doro-Chiba and the Kokuro had been eliminated, the Kakumaru’s evil deeds would have gone unquestioned and unchallenged; their evil deeds would have been accepted to be inevitable. Actually, it was the Doro-Chiba’s struggle that totally disclosed the anti-labor, anti-proletarian nature of the Kakumaru.
Until then, the Kakumaru had been regarded more or less as one of the left wing currents. [Kakumaru is the Japanese abbreviation of “Revolutionary Marxists”(!)] Until the drive for the Division and Privatization started, many people commented upon the violent confrontation between the Kakumaru and the Chukaku, “Both are to blame” or “They are both in the new left camp. Why do they fight each other?”
But the activists of the Kakumaru began violently attacking on the Kokuro and caused 10,000 drop-outs a month from the Kokuro. Moreover, the Kakumaru forced its own union members to accept the long-distance transfer or everything the management wanted. Thus the Kakumaru of the Doro acted for the management in the name of the labor union.
On the other hand, the Doro walked out from the Sohyo Convention of July 1986 and officially decided to disaffiliate from the Sohyo. In this way the Kakumaru took on a task of destroying the national railway workers’ struggle and disintegrating the Sohyo through the Division and Privatization of the JNR for the interest of the Japanese ruling class, represented by the Nakasone administration.
The Kakumaru has been abundantly rewarded for their services to the ruling class; after the Division and Privatization the Kakumaru was bestowed an executive power of the big union, the JR-Soren, the supposedly comprehensive union of the JR. Since 1990, however, the Kakumaru has lost its control over the unions of western Japan. For the management the Kakumaru has thus ceased to be a useful tool for driving the anti-labor policy and has become rather troublesome. Deprived of the management’s support in the JR Tokai, JR West, JR Kyushu and JR Shikoku, the JR-Soren/KAKUMRU has turned to a tiny minority union. And now, within the JR East Union, the largest affiliated organization of the JR-Soren, a serious split within the Kakumaru is developing. The Kakumaru is going to have a hard time.
Today, no political and labor organization is so detested by the working people as the Kakumaru. On the other hand, the state power and the capital have finally abandoned the Kakumaru as their tool. These miserable conditions of the Kakumaru were brought fourth during the struggles over the Division and Privatization.
By contrast, the Doro-Chiba has suffered the dismissal of 40 workers in total for waging strike. Through these struggles and their experiences we've been able to clarify what was right and what was wrong in the labor movement and what the labor union should do. We are much proud of that and consider that very important.
It has become evident now that there is a decided difference of the view on the labor union and the labor movement between those groups, such as the Kakumaru of Doro, the Mindo and the Kakudo of the Kokuro, and us, the Doro-Chiba.
Needless to say, the labor union belongs to its members, not to its officials. The labor union is to fight back all sorts of attacks by the capital and the management in order to defend the class interest of its members through the united struggle.
When capitalism is passing through a prosperous or a stable development, every individual and every political organization can easily declare its leftist stand and pretend to be militant. The Kokuro was its typical example. It claimed to be militant in the period of the economic prosperity, but once the depression came over, the Kokuro was revealed to be powerless in obtaining the economic gain. The labor union should fulfill its duty just when its member workers face difficulties. This has been my conviction, which I have never stopped talking to the union members.
The labor movement under the leadership of the Mindo in the period of the Sohyo reached its peak in the struggle for the right to strike in 1975 and thereafter declined. It was a time when the Japanese economy plunged into the recession and the bitter attacks began against the workers. In this epoch the Doro-Chiba alone carried forward its struggle, including the struggle against the transportation of the jet fuel to the Sanrizuka (Narita) Airport. It has given us a rich experience for further struggle.
Let’s examine what the Kakumaru says about the “class struggle”. According to the Kakumaru’s policy, the most urgent problem is to disrupt and destroy, even by the help of the state power, other political organizations that differ with the Kakumaru in the political line. And they call it “revolutionary”. That is just the opposite to how the Doro-Chiba thinks of the labor union and the workers: the Doro-Chiba is firmly convinced that there is no other way to confront the current situation and open up a new vista than to rely upon the power of the union members.
I have made it my task to tackle the problem how to overcome the labor movement under the leadership of the Mindo (or “the labor movement in Mindo’s style”) since I became the chief of the Doro District Chiba.
My conclusion is that the fundamental principle of the labor union is to put full confidence in the class nature and the fighting potentials of the workers and to fight it out with this confidence. How can we worker live otherwise? It’s no empty words. I not only have said so but also have practiced it.
I talk as a flesh-and-blood person to the fellow unionists and go along with them. Otherwise they do not trust me. If the members of a union feel that their president hides his real intention behind his excellent speech, such union cannot fight. I never flatter the fellow union members. On the contrary I often squarely criticize them if necessary.
All through these periods, I've always been aware of my responsibility as a member of the working class for the development of the labor movement: if we have not effectively fought back the offensive of the enemy forces, the labor movement in Japan would have been driven into a catastrophe and all of the labor rights and labor unity attained after World War II would have been completely dismantled: we should, therefore, gather our power to rise up for the struggle.
In the background of the different views of the Division and Privatization, there were certainly different perceptions of the times.
The Doro Kakumaru fabricated a theory of the “era of winter “ of the class struggle: they claimed that it collided with the interest of the working class to fight in the “era of winter “
The Kokuro insisted that “It is not reasonable to fight when a storm is raging. We'd better hide ourselves in a trench till the storm is over”. The most typical was the Japan Communist Party/Kakudo. They have still been possessed with the bitter memory that they had suffered from the devastating repression during the post war revolutionary period. They gave up the struggle against the Division and Privatization of the JNR in fear of the repression of the state power. They figured that they would be exposed to the “red purge” or outlawing like that of the postwar era.
How then did the Doro-Chiba view the times? I used to tell our fellow unionists: “In a period of stability and prosperity, however vigorously workers fight, the enemy forces would not be daunted a bit. But in a period of crisis, we can shake up the enemy. For us it’s an excellent opportunity. In 1960s or early 1970s, the heyday of the Sohyo, our union with only 1100 members could not have seriously effected the whole Japanese labor movement even if we fought the bitterest struggle. But we live now in a different age. A union with some 1000 members can do a lot of things when it fights in unity”. I still believe it is true.
There are decided differences between the Kakumaru, Kokuro and us: whether to join the camp of the enemies, considering the attack of enemies in crisis as the indication of the “era of winter”, or to hide oneself in a trench, considering that defying it would result in a catastrophe, or to fight back, considering it as an opportunity for working class.
The point was that we had an insight that the bitterest attack of the enemies, the Division and Privatization of the JNR, was at the same time their Achilles heel
It may not have seemed easy to find weakness in the enemy’s attack and to sense a favorable opportunity there, while the anti-labor campaign was raging over the national railway workers, such as the slanders against the alleged “illegal benefits” and labeling as “national traitor” etc. But when you look into the problem behind the issue, you'll find the two different stands on the labor movement: the establishment-supporting labor movement and the class-oriented labor movement.
Almost all of the left-wing organizations have been disclosed to be the conformist (establishment-supporting) left in the course of the confrontation with the Division and Privatization of the JNR. Remarkably the militant movement of the Kokuro was an amalgamated product of the struggles of various left-wing organizations within the Kokuro, but it remained after all the movement within the establishment. Faced with the most reactionary attack of dividing and privatizing the JNR, they either converted to the enemy side or gave up to fight and surrender.
They revealed themselves to be the false Marxists. It has become evident the Japan Communist Party as well as the Kakudo (Progressive Comrades’ League), its labor fraction, didn’t deserve their names. The “Socialism” advocated by the Kyokai-ha (Socialist Association) has also proved to be quite hopeless. They have all abandoned their longtime policy just at the moment when the enemy forces have reached a crisis and the time has been rife for overthrowing the existing system.
Considering these political developments, we may confirm that our Marxist stand has enabled us alone to keep fighting on. It was a decided difference from the conformist labor movement within the establishment. The Doro-Chiba has been engaged, in 1970’s, in those struggles like the struggle against the jet fuel transportation or the struggle for rail safety that have brought us no money but the dismissals. I used to say: “We don’t fight only for money”. We fight demanding the ameliorations of our conditions but not for the reform’s sake. It doesn’t mean, however, that we are not interested in obtaining the material benefits. We fight it not in a reformist but rather revolutionary way. In this way the Doro-Chiba has won the best working conditions in the JNR workshops.
I don’t mean the members of the Doro-Chiba are Marxists, but they are all cheerful and lively in the union activities in spite of the difficult situation. I am often asked why they are so. I think their views for the future makes them vigorous. Every fellow unionist has his (or her) anger and resentment at the unjust treatment they receive daily on the workshops. They have a common conviction deep in mind: “United and full of pride, we are fighting on in an age of a great change. You'll see what will happen”.
The Doro-Chiba is not a national organization. It is a labor union based in Chiba and composed exclusively of the drivers. This tiny organization “dauntlessly” challenged the state power. Therefore, it was not surprising if we had been crushed. But we won’t be destroyed. We have kept fighting on.
I wish you understand us not only from the aspect of our strikes against the Division and Privatization, but also from the aspect of our 16 years’ struggle after the strikes and the dismissals. We have 40 members dismissed in total, including the dismissal under the Public Corporations and National Enterprises Labor Relations Law and the dismissal by the JNR Settlement Corporation. Since then, however, we have been fighting for 16 years. It is what we really are.
We have a lot of remarkable examples of the intense struggle in the post-war labor movement in Japan, such as the struggle of the national railway workers in Niigata, the struggle of the All Automobile Union in Nissan, the struggle in the NNK Corporation Muroran Factory, the Miike coalminers’ struggle and so on. After the struggles, however, those unions were all disrupted.. In contrast, the Doro-Chiba has successfully maintained its organization and launched the new struggle under the JR system. It may be regarded as a “miracle” in the history of the Japanese labor movement after World War II. Today we continue our struggle, sticking to the principle of the labor unions: The primary task of the labor Union is to defend the dismissed workers and to fight for the workers’ interests.
All unions that capitulated to the Division and Privatization of the JNR were disintegrated. The Doro Kakumaru dissolved its own organization, the Doro. Matsuzaki has disbanded the union that his predecessors had built up. He must take the responsibility for the destruction of his inheritance. On the contrary, the Doro-Chiba has inherited a union from our predecessors and has been defending its organization.
“Struggle disrupts Union” was a myth of the postwar labor movement for long. But we have fundamentally overcome this myth through our struggle against the Division and Privatization of the JNR and we are very proud of it.
We are now addressing another historical challenge: organizational expansion of the left-wing labor union. Many attempt to expand right-wing influence over the labor union have often been made in the history of the postwar Japanese labor movement. But no example of the left-wing expansion ever existed. Our expansion policy is to recruit the newly employed young workers of the JR in a large scale through gaining the members from the JR-Soren.
The Kakumaru of Doro issue has certainly motivated the insistent struggle of the Doro-Chiba. Before we broke off from the headquarters of the Doro in 1979, we had been confronted, for a decade, with fierce attack of the Kakumaru on us even by means of terrorism.
Labor union members normally don’t like the confrontation between the political organizations, such as the Kakumaru and the Chukaku and so on. Within the Doro, a dispute took a violent form of political confrontation between the executive of the Doro under the influence of the Kakumaru and the District Chiba of the Doro that did not accept the policy of the National Executive. We have persistently discussed in the workplaces over the political character of the confrontation against the executive of the Doro under the influence of the Kakumaru. The essence of the dispute concerned the principle of the labor unions, the struggle to defend the workers interest and the policy of the labor movement. We have further discussed over how to live and fight as workers and have developed our common views as the Doro-Chiba through the confrontation with the Kakumaru.
The severe struggle for separation from, and independence of the National Executive of the Doro has brought us solid unity and strong loyalty to the union. All the unionists of the Doro-Chiba are well aware that they themselves have built up the union with a membership of 1300 opposing against the fierce attack of the Kakumaru. They are all determined to defend the union for their lives.
The unionists of the Doro-Chiba had already known very well that the executive of the Doro was acting as agent of the JNR management, when the drive for the Division and Privatization of the JNR started and the Doro executive began to be tool of this drive. Therefore, they confirmed their determination not to allow the Kakumaru to prevail. The anger of the members of the Doro-Chiba was consequently directed both at the management and the Kakumaru of Doro.
The labor union and the labor movement fundamentally depend upon every individual workers. But that is not enough. For example, the Doro-Chiba would not be what it is today without me, but I alone can’t do every thing. Only with a group of the activists on the shop floor I have been able to organize many struggles till today.
There are always personalities who are to be the leaders in any workplace. In the Doro-Chiba, those workplace leaders all rallied round the union, the Doro-Chiba. In our experiences, all chiefs of the union locals who had daily contact with the shop floor workers, stood up in the forefront of the struggle, firmly determined for the dismissal. It evidently inspired the rank and file workers.
It is not to be overlooked that the continued daily activity of the union locals made a significant contribution. The Doro-Chiba considers the collection of the union dues as very important struggle. The Doro-Chiba has no check-off system. Every month, the executive committee members of each local collect the dues directly from all the members. The union due of the Doro-Chiba is much higher than that of other unions. All members pay the dues directly from their pocket. It might be said that the half of the locals’ activity is the collecting of the union dues. Through this activity, the executive committee members make contact with all of the local members and listen to their opinions or tell about the union’s policy.
Today, there are very few unions that have locals strong enough to collect dues themselves. I have heard from the official of a union that his union could not fight against the management, fearing that the management would stop the check-off. No wonder. With the financial resources in the capital’s hand, how can a union fight against the management? The Doro-Chiba can freely fight against the management as necessary owing to our solid independent financial system.
During the process of the Division and Privatization, each local of the Doro-Chiba had a capacity to carry out the shop floor struggle. Each local had complete control of the shop floor.
We, the Doro-Chiba, do not think the labor unionism is idling in the workplace. “We fulfill our duty and have our say “-- that is our principle. In this point, we completely differ from the Kyokai faction and others. To do the job good means, of course, to be exploited. But the workers have pride in carrying out their duty. The Doro-Chiba is a sort of technicians’ union, overwhelmingly composed of the engineers and the inspecting and repairing experts. Those who do not work properly have no real anger against the capital.
The Kokuro had developed its struggle, depending on the Workplace Consultation Systems* after the struggle against the Productivity Movement. It put forward plenty of fantastic demands in the workplaces. The Kokuro developed an illusion that the management had been driven into a corner by the Workplace Consultation System, which had in fact no real substance of the workshop struggle based on the rank and file workers.
* In 1968, the Public Corporation and National Enterprise Labor Relations Commission issued an arbitration award on the workplace consultations, leading managers to conclude the separate agreements with the Kokuro and the Doro in April on establishing the Workplace Consultation Systems. The workplace consultation enabled the union locals to negotiate the work rules and conditions directly with the workplace managers.
The Doro-Chiba took the direct action to gain the demand without depending on the Workplace Consultation System. Consequently we completely differ from the Kokuro in the way of the collective bargaining. We do not prolong the bargaining. When our demand is refused, we immediately leave our seat, saying, “Well, we do it on our own.” And we promptly launch the work-to-rule struggle and the like. When the railway track are found in a poor condition as a result of the rationalization, we launch the railway safely struggle, that is, no speed up in driving. So the delay of the trains amounts every day to thousands of minutes. Thus we enforce the management to reshape the timetable or repair the track in order to enable us to drive safely.
The Doro-Chiba and the Kokuro already differed in the way of the struggle before the beginning of the Division and Privatization drive. The difference in the struggle against the Division and Privatization was a result of the difference of the previous way of the struggle: the Doro-Chiba had been carrying out the direct action and had gained several working conditions, always strengthening the unity of the union, while the Kokuro had been depended on the Workplace Consultation System without building up the unity in the workshop.
The Labor union often faces inevitable alternative, for example, in the case of the Division and Privatization of the JNR. Yes or No, there is no middle way. The Kokuro wanted to take a middle position but resulted in a terrible catastrophe, because there was no room for that. If you face an alternative, choose the left in spite of difficulties. There is no other choice for a labor union than to go left, if you seriously want to keep the unity. I was made aware that it was the fundamental principle. Still now I believe so.
I sometimes receive visits of our fellow unionists who suggest me: “We have fought stubbornly enough for more than a decade. Let’s have a rest”. I ask the visitors: “Tell me if there is other ways than to fight stubbornly. Let’s look at what happened to the JR-Soren, the Kokuro, the TESSANRO and the Doro-Chiba. More members of the Kokuro were forced to accept the transfer than our members. Do you want us to dissolve our union and beg the Kakumaru to let us join in their union?” They are persuaded.
There can be no middle way in face of the Division and Privatization of the JNR. The alternative for the Kokuro is to fight under its banner or to dissolve itself. But if the Kokuro remains as it is today, it can’t survive. The same to the Doro-Chiba. So we maintain our policy to continue fighting. When we give up fighting, the struggle against 1047 dismissed workers will collapse.
At the crossroads, choose the left! This is the principle for the unions in all industries. Nevertheless, all of the established leaders in the labor movement choose the right; the workers on the shop floor always suffer from it.
The workers can maintain the unity only by fighting. A worker has not always got class consciousness from the very beginning. The members of the Doro-Chiba also have undergone the significant changes in their consciousness through various struggles. The Doro-Chiba’s unity has been formed during these processes. Only by fighting in unity, the brilliant prospects are opened up.
If there had not been the Doro-Chiba and the Kokuro (even though no more powerful now as before) as well, there would have been no split and decline of the JR-Soren. We should be confident of this.
What has enabled the Doro-Chiba to go on fighting? It was exactly the stance of the union leadership to stand in unity at the forefront of the union’s struggles. When the leadership keeps on fighting thus, 80 % or even more of the union members will surely follow the leadership.
It was a great thing that all the local chiefs remained in their posts and no leading person stepped back after the local conventions had passed the strike resolutions. Since the members were attentively watching the leadership, they trusted the leadership who showed the preparedness for the battle in earnest and they rose up together as one person.
All the local presidents who had remained in their posts at that time were fired. Our fellow members hold deep sympathy with them: “Because they fought out in sacrifice of their jobs, we can now work in the JR.”
The Kokuro is wrong in this regard. The dismissed workers (the Tosodan) are regarded as the “burden” by the Kokuro executive. The dismissed Kokuro unionists complain: “We are unjustly dismissed only because we belong to the Kokuro. We have been faithfully working all the time. It is an unreasonable treatment”. The Kokuro has nothing more to say, for they never go on the strike. With us the Doro-Chiba, the matter is quite different. Our fellow members say: “We fought so severely and we are fired. We'll teach you a lesson someday.” You see here two different human attitudes.
During the process to the Division and Privatization, the Narita Driver’s Depot, a workplace with a long history, was abolished because its drivers were all members of the Doro-Chiba. After the Division and Privatization, the Katsuura Driver’s Depot and the Sakura Locomotive Depot, all of the drivers of both Depots being the Doro-Chiba unionists, were also dismantled. It is reported that the Tsudanuma Drivers’ Depot is going to be abolished. Thus the Doro-Chiba’s strongholds have been demolished one after the other. An average union would have been crushed if only a part of the similar attack comes over. The abolition of the major strongholds of the union could not smash the Doro-Chiba. The Doro-Chiba has proud union members with the experiences of the strikes against the Division and Privatization.
In the meetings of the retired members, for example, our retired unionists talk only about their struggle. “The Doro-Chiba today owes our struggles against the Productivity Movement.” Such are workers. They usually remember only their courageous struggle, but not their timidity. It is an important point. The workers need pride for their struggles.
The struggle of the 1047 dismissed workers is the continuation of the struggle against the Division and Privatization. We are now fighting a protracted struggle-- a long protracted struggle. We never give in. The enemy forces, neither. The battle doesn’t come to an end till any of the opponents surrenders. There can be no room for a compromise, such as the “Four Party Agreement”, if the struggle of the 1047 dismissed workers is fought with the uncompromising stand.
The enemies can do nothing, if the dismissed workers persistently continue their struggle. If the workers furiously shout in front of the Ministry of Transport of the JR East Company about their dismissal day after day, it will be a thorn in their flesh. The rights and legitimacy of the dismissed worker will be clearer and clearer. As the jobless rate rise, the dismissed workers of other industries would surely gather around the struggle of the national railway workers.
The prolongation of the battle means for the enemy forces that their original plan has been stopped half way. As you know, the Sohyo was dissolved and the Rengo has taken it over as the new labor national center; the Socialist Party has vanished and the Social-democratic Party, its successor, is in a very unstable condition. So far, the enemy’s intention seems, for a large part, to be achieved. But the struggle of the national railway workers still exists as is demonstrated by the struggle of the 1047 dismissed workers and it is going to play a central role for the militant revival of the Japanese labor movement as a whole. This is not to be overlooked for the ruling class.
Considering all of these circumstances, we must be aware that every thing depends on how powerful we'll be able to develop our struggle based on the unity of the working class.