Our union, the Doro-Chiba (National Railways Motive Power Union of Chiba) was originally affiliated to the Doro (National Railways Motive Power Union) as its District Chiba until 1979. We then broke away from the Doro’s national leadership (the reasons I’ll tell you later on) and established the Doro-Chiba as an independent union. Since then we have been fighting our own struggle.
Today. I’d like to tell you some 40 years history of the Doro-Chiba. During this period I have assumed responsible positions in the union: chief of the Youth Section, chief of the District Chiba, Secretary General and then the President of the Doro-Chiba. Based on my own experiences, I will describe development of our struggle and draw several practical lessons from it. I hope it will help you in setting out your struggle at the forefront of labor movement.
Speaking about the development of struggle and its lessons, you should take into consideration general developments of current political and economic situation both at home and abroad at each stage and that your struggle itself also constitutes a part of the important factors of history. So I’ll mention necessarily now and then the surrounding situation. First, let’s take a glance at features of the present situation, the real position of our movement and the tasks as well as prospects in the middle of the year 2003.
In regard to the world situation, the event of September 11, 2001 formed no doubt a crucial turning point of history. It was guerrilla warfare, targeting at the economic-military center of the US imperialism, as an outburst of long accumulated anger and hatred of Arab-Muslim people against US dominance in the Mid East. September 11 has brought about a radical change in the international class struggle.
Since then the US has stepped into fresh wars under the pretext of “Eradication of Terrorism”: the aggressive war on Afghanistan since autumn 2001 and the Iraq war since spring 2003. Each of these two wars is now sticking in the quagmire. But the US is strengthening war drive further, namely a war on North Korea and a war on Iran. Bush Doctrine with preemptive strike theory based on US unilateralism is a new military strategy of the US, now being developed in full-scale as terrifying world war scheme. Bush Doctrine insists: “US doesn’t hesitate to make even a nuclear war, if it’s to her interest”. It is no exaggeration to say, “Bush Doctrine is now being practiced as an already launched World War III”. Meanwhile, in close link with this move of US imperialism, the Sharon administration of Israel has been escalating brutal slaughter of Palestinian people.
The war policy of the Bush administration to establish stable and exclusive domination over the Mid East with its oil resources has been far from succeeding. On the contrary, it is now on the brink of the collapse everywhere, and that drives Bush administration to follow even more dangerous war policy: the US has now fallen in a vicious cycle. Anger of people in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in Palestine against US imperialism and its allies has been flaming up irresistibly. Day by day, US imperialism is being inevitably drawn into intensifying revolts, now spreading in the entire region of the Mid East. It again produces fresh revolts of Muslim people not only in the Mid East but also everywhere in the world.
But it is not only the Muslim people that have been rising up against the US war policy: on February 15, 2003, on the eve of the war on Iraq, a huge wave of anti-war demonstrations swept the whole world. It was the opening of unprecedented anti-war struggle that diametrically confronts the world war policy of Bush. After the epoch-making September 11, revolts of workers and broad layers of people as well as the oppressed people are vigorously spreading in a worldwide scale on a new stage of history.
There are two underlying factors that motivate these worldwide revolts: first, the US war policy as was mentioned above; second, a grave crisis of the capitalist world economy headed by the US. Capitalism, that is imperialism, deep in crisis, has now become unable to feed workers and people any more. US in the 1990s was enjoying a short-lived economic bubble through concentrating wealth of the whole world in the US economy under the guise of “Globalization of the economy”, while it drastically produced a widening disparity of the rich and the poor everywhere in the world. Since the beginning of the 21st Century, however, a number of problems have emerged; collapse of the IT bubble, critical plunge of dollar and stock market crash, disclosure of account-rigging by business enterprises, twin deficits and so on. Economic crisis of the US imperialism, the world’s most powerful capitalism, is actually heading for a collapse.
The bursting of the bubble economy had serious impact upon the whole society in the US. It is far more serious than that in Japan. Compared with us Japanese, saving rate of the US people is generally low. It is reported that most of the US people have stocks and buy everything on credit. They buy on credit not only houses and such but also consumer goods. Their huge consumption is based on their huge debt. Once the bubble economy bursts, what will happen? As we have experienced in Japan, national central as well as local government finance will deteriorate. But in the US, things are more serious. It will come to pass that individual household will be hit directly, for they live excessively on credit. On the other hand, it is not to be overlooked that this huge US consumption has contributed to help the world trade and economy avoid a catastrophe. We are now facing impending breakdown of the fundamental structure of the world economy as a whole.
Under the critical economic circumstances, in which capitalism cannot feed workers any more, a new counteroffensive of labor movement has been launched in the US as well as in Europe since the time of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations in 1980’s. It is to fight back fierce repression on labor movement. In the US, John Sweeney was elected to the President of the AFL-CIO, national federation of the US labor unions in 1995. He is from the SEIU. Its equivalent in Japan may be the Zenkoku-Ippan (National Union of General Workers). Also the militant labor movement on the West Coast of the US deserves serious attention. As I tell you later, the Doro-Chiba has been establishing a friendly relationship with this movement. Militant and class-oriented tendencies of new labor movement is playing a central part in the struggle against Iraqi war in the US as well as in Europe. War and unemployment have evidently given impetus to the rapid upsurge of international class struggle on a new stage.
We are confronting a serious situation at home: the Koizumi administration passed three Emergency Bills in the Diet by an overwhelming majority with the help of the Democratic Party in June 2003. Though the Emergency Laws are reported as “laws to prepare for Japan’s emergency”, they are in fact war legislation, together with “Law on a Situation in the Areas Surrounding Japan” legislated in 1999, with a definite aim of carrying out a war on the Korean Peninsula, so to speak the Second Korean War. Japanese ruling class has long regarded legislation of the emergency laws as vital necessity, but strong opposition by workers and masses has so far prevented it to come into existence. This time the laws were too easily enacted. How did it happen? The major factor was evidently the strong impact of September 11. The war program of the Bush administration is focused on Asia especially on the North Korea, typical in its propaganda such as the danger of the “axis of evil”, has given an impetus to the Koizumi administration. Another factor is a fierce storm of chauvinist campaign against the North Korea by Japan’s mass media on the so-called “abduction issue” since the Koizumi’s visit to the North Korea in September 2002. It apparently boosted the favorable opinion for the Emergency Laws.
The Rengo (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), a major labor national federation, has played the worst role in it: It has supported the Democratic Party, the largest opposition party, in approving the Emergency Laws presented by the Koizumi cabinet so that the Laws passed the parliament in an extraordinary “national unity”; at the same time, the Rengo has been desperately suppressing labor opposition against the Emergency Laws, such as the movement headed by “the 20 organizations rallying around transport workers’ unions of land, sea, air and harbor” that intends to create a movement across the existing national labor centers. A statement of the Rengo issued in May 2002 to acknowledge the necessity of the Emergency Laws has revealed its true character as ”Labor Association of Patriots” of today, a labor mobilization center of aggressive war drive.
The Rengo thus demonstrates, however, not its strength but rather its inner crisis. The present betrayal will inevitably aggravate Rengo’s crisis even further. The latest session of the Diet, namely the 156th ordinary session, approved the Emergency Legislations as a step forward for revision of the Constitution and paved a way for a new Korean war. Moreover, in this session following bills were simultaneously submitted: the Conspiracy Bill for the “public security” and the revised Labor Standards Law to give capital free hand in dismissing workers. Aggressive wars, political repression and intensified exploitation always come together.
Such developments in the latest Diet session reflect policy of Japanese bourgeoisie, proclaimed in a report of Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation, Chair: Okuda), For a Japan full of vitality and magnetism, so-called Okuda-vision”. The Okuda-vision hammers out: a total dismantling of worker-protecting labor legislations and social security systems; raising of consumption tax up to 16%; construction of “East Asia Free Economic Sphere”, that is, a new “ Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere” and conversion of labor unions “from demanding unions to business- and state-oriented unions.”
Since the publication of a project report in 1995, titled “Management in Japanese style” in the New Age by the Nikkeiren (Japan Federation of Employers’ Association), capital has been enforcing its attempt to destroy “Three Sacred Treasures” of traditional Japanese labor-management relations, namely lifetime employment, seniority-oriented wage system and in-company union. As the management’s offensive is now going into full swing, the Rengo is more and more severely faced with a crisis of self-disintegration and hollowing out of its existence as a result of its capitulating policy of willingly cooperating with capital. Okuda, well realizing the crisis of the Rengo, attempts to integrate it further into a national mobilization to wage aggressive wars actually.
It is high time for us to revive a class-oriented labor movement, a labor movement that surpasses the historical limits of the labor movement led by the Sohyo (General Counsel of Trade Unions of Japan) under the “1955 system” (a political and social system that existed since 1955 to the first half of 1990’s). We are witnessing heralds of a new movement: the struggle of “the 20 organizations rallying around transport workers’ unions of land, sea, air and harbor”; the joint struggle of three labor unions, that is, the Kan-Nama (Solidarity Union of Japan Construction and Transport Workers, Kansai Area Branch), the Minato-Godo (Metal and Machinery Workers’ Union in Osaka), and the Doro-Chiba.
Moreover, a new development of the struggle of dismissed 1047 national railway workers is increasing in importance. Above all stimulated by the new upsurge of labor movements in a worldwide scale, conditions are becoming ripe for a counter-offensive of working class also in Japan.
We have to pay attention to the upcoming General Election in autumn, 2003. The election is going to take place in a political situation, in which the three Emergency Laws have come into existence on June 6 and that with the help of the Democratic Party, an opposition party that accepted the proposal of the ruling party with only a slight amendment to the bills. As a result, almost 90% voted for the three Emergency Laws in the Diet, in other words, a de fact national partnership has been established with almost all major parliamentary parties participating in it. Consequently thereafter the law to dispatch Japanese Self Defense Forces to Iraqi battlefield passed most easily the Diet. It is against this background that an interrupted process of historical disintegration of “the 1955 system” has been put in motion once again. The latest attempt in the middle of 1990’s had failed to completely breaking up “the 1955 system” owing to several circumstances. This time, under the newly established war legislation, a sweeping transformation of the postwar political system of Japan embodied in “the 1955 system” is going to take place.
Let’s see what the merger of the Democratic Party (DP) and the Liberal Party (LP) means. As you know the Rengo backs up this move. But are the DP and the LP actually parties based on workers and labor unions? No, definitely not. They are in essentials bourgeois parties. These two bourgeois parties, currently parliamentary opposition parties, formed a united counter-balancing power to the three ruling bourgeois parties (the Liberal Democratic Party, the Buddhist KOMEI-Party and the Conservative Party). Faced with a crisis of diminishing and organizational difficulties inside their own parties, the DP and the LP suddenly dared a dangerous game for survival, a game of merger. The LP is originally far righter party than the LDP. It is a right-wing party. Nevertheless the LP has joined up with the DP, a larger party. In a word, the LP has been absorbed or incorporated in the DP. If the LP hadn’t dared it, it wouldn’t survive the General Election.
Another issue is an attempt of the ruling class to destroy the SDP (Social Democratic Party) in this occasion. This party is a successor of the Socialist Party that was for long years one of the pillars of “the 1955 system”. The ruling class wants to clean out the slightest socialist color from these minor remnants of the SP once for all. Look at the case of TSUJIMOTO Kiyomi, a former member of the House of the Representatives, who was arrested for corruption. This is an extraordinary case: her arrest took place after she had attended police questioning several times and had given back the money, admitting herself to be guilty. It was a carefully prepared practice with a political intention: their aim is, in my view, to transform Japanese political structure into such a US type two-party system of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. In the US the AFL-CIO and many labor unions support the Democratic Party. I suppose the ruling class in Japan is thinking of endorsing a unified Democratic Party with Rengo’s support.
In a political turn of 1993, YAMAGISHI, the then president of the Rengo apparently played an important behind-the-scenes role in helping establish the Hosokawa administration as well as in setting up the NFP (New Frontier Party, predecessor of the LP). In quitting the ruling LDP to establish a new party, OZAWA Ichiro (Chair of LP) could rely upon two big organizations for support: the Rengo (with about 8 million members) and the Soka-Gakkai, a Buddhist organization, providing the KOMEI-Party with its mass base (with about 10 million members), which constituted a major part of the NFP to be founded. Backed by this organizational power, Ozawa left the LDP without anxiety. Now the Komei-Party/Soka-Gakkai stands on the side of the ruling LDP. The political picture is quite different today from 1993. I am convinced, however, that another large-scale realignment and reorganization of political structure and political parties are likely to happen, this time including the LDP itself. Impending General Election could provably provoke an explosive evolution.
It is very important to observe what the Rengo is going to do now. In this regard, I’d like to draw your attention on a report of the Committee for Management and Labor Policy issued by the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations in December 2002, which was followed by the “Okuda-vision” in January this year. The latter says: “Today union members are no longer willing to take part in its activities.” Labor movement is now being threatened with a collapse from within.
Meanwhile the Rengo has set up in March 2002 the “Rengo Assessment Commission”. NAKABOU Kohei (former President of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations) is one of the commission members. On June 26, 2003, the commission submitted an interim report to the Central Committee of the Rengo that says: “If labor movement remains as it is today, it will lose its significance as a social institution more and more. Labor movement confronts now imminent danger of total collapse from its foundation”. This is the Rengo of today.
As capitals’ offensive intensifies to dismantle lifetime employment, existing Japanese labor unions have been losing their underlying conditions of existence, namely “The Three Sacred Treasures” (lifetime employment, seniority system and in-company union) and facing a deadlock. This is the core of things. Loyalty of the workers to their company and loyalty of the workers to their union as in-company union have a lot in common. All these don’t function any longer. Since the spring labor offensive of 2002, capital intensified its attempt to abolish lifetime employment. In the meantime, the membership of the Rengo has fallen below 7 millions. Though the membership seems still large in number, most unionists no longer follow union’s order to attend union’s rallies and activities. Financially the Rengo is exempt from difficulty owing to check off of dues, but the union organization is abandoned from rank and file workers. The Japan Federation of Economic Organizations has pointed it out to the Rengo.
It is remarkable that in the coming election of the Rengo’s officers, against the current President SASAMORI (from the Confederation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker’s Unions of Japan), TAKAGI from Zensen-Domei (Japanese Federation of Textile, Garment, Chemical, Mercantile, Food and Allied Industries Workers’ Unions) is about to run. It is the first time for the Rengo to decide the President by ballot. It may be regarded as Rengo’s desperate effort to survive.
We have since long insisted, “The Rengo will decisively be undermined by abolition of lifetime employment”. It is now becoming a reality. Against this background, the DP and the LP are moving on to a merger. In the depth of Japanese politics, a significant development is now taking place, which could bring about a large-scale political realignment and reorganization. In spite of general expectation of Koizumi’s reelection to President of the LDP, nobody knows in fact what will really happen.
While the Koizumi administration is going ahead with aggressive security and defense policy, Japanese economy is undergoing serious crisis and the state financial situation is alarmingly deteriorating. From autumn to winter these problems will become explosive all at once. We have to take it into consideration that this economic and financial crisis, an issue at home could be at any time transferred intentionally by the government to an issue abroad, an issue of dispatching of the SDF to Iraq.
Another important development in this autumn is the revision of the Program of JCP (Japan Communist Party) in the party convention scheduled in November. HUWA, the party chair, seems to me the key person in revising the Program, not SHII, the party president. HUWA is the only remaining top leader who experienced the postwar development of the JCP with its commitment in labor movement, a process including three major frame-ups, disbanding of the Sanbetsu-Kaigi (All Japan Council of Industrial Workers), outlawing of the JCP, founding of the Sohyo (General Council of Trade Unions of Japan) and finally outbreak of the Korean War. He looks back this historical period with fear and is presumably determined to avoid crackdown in an impending war, a Second Korean War, in other words, not to repeat the history. For this reason he intends a revision of the party program in a right wing direction and declares his will to participate in the government.
The major interest of the JCP now is to develop its parliamentary activities and to increase parliamentary seats. This is an underlying motivation of present revision of the party program. For this purpose, all other things are completely discarded from it: the issues of mass movements including labor movement are thrown out of the program. Renege of the JCP goes beyond recognition of the Emperor system and the Self-Defense Forces. All sorts of commitment in workers’ struggles are completely abandoned. That’s why the word “the working class’ is only one time to be seen in the New Program. At the very moment when the capitalism is facing an aggravating crisis day by day, the JCP intends furthermore to promote its reformist policy. Therefore, in the labor union policy the JCP demands the unions under the leadership of the Zenroren (National Confederation of Trade Unions) to take a stand to advocate capitalism and to accept every capitalist measure, such as restructuring and downsizing.
So it is quite natural that rebellions are openly taking place against such a direction among unions, especially those unions whose membership is mainly composed of “blue-collar” workers. Now many of them are participating the rallies sponsored by “the 20 organizations rallying around transport workers’ unions of land, sea, air and harbor”. Those labor unions are looked upon as dissidents to the JCP’s leadership. Meanwhile two essential unions of the JCP-led Zenroren, namely Zenkyo (All Japan Teachers and Staffs Union) and Jichiroren (Japan Federation of Prefectural and Municipal Workers’ Unions) are now targets of major union busting: reactionary revision of the Fundamental Law of Education and of the Public Service Personnel System confront them, although they are not yet acting as dissidents. The Zenroren thus stands on the very edge of a crisis from within and from outside.
On the other hand the press says, “Reformist Policy of Japan Communist Party is unsatisfactory”, “If the JCP seriously develops its reformist policy, why doesn’t it change the name?” In fact the Communist Party in Italy has already changed its name. But the JCP dares not. As long as the JCP remains halfway in its right-shift, the ruling forces would not recognize the JCP as establishment party.
For us it will be of vital importance to gain 1.5 million workers under the influence of the Zenroren to our side and to have them participated in the November Workers Rally and building up a nation-wide network of fighting labor unions. We of the Doro-Chiba have already succeeded in getting contacts with some of them. They are all serious union activists and have certain abilities. In short, they are the people that have backed up the JCP in working place and in community up to now. It is necessary for us to work upon them more vigorously as ever.
While a serious political development is taking place both at home and abroad, we have recently experienced a significant event: KAWASAKI Masahiro, an executive committee member of the Doro-Chiba has visited the US. During his stay there from 9 to 15 July, he has successfully developed a friendly relationship with US trade union militants.
Most National railway workers, especially locomotive and electric train engineers, usually don’t know much of the world outside and are used to keeping to themselves. They are not very fond of going out. In fact, it was only by urgent necessity that we began 20 years ago visiting working places and communities outside Chiba for support, when more than 40 workers of the Doro-Chiba were dismissed for waging strikes to stop jet fuel transportation to the Narita Airport and also to oppose to the Division and Privatization of the Japan National Railways (JNR). So for us, it was far beyond our imagination to go abroad. A visit to the US needed a fantastic determination.
Colleague Kawasaki’s visit took place as a result of an invitation from LaborFest. LaborFest is supported by unions including International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, the strongest local of the ILWU, which covers the west coast. It is also a member of the San Francisco Labor Council with 70 thousand members. This council is one of the most progressive in the US in opposition to the war and privatization. The ILWU and its Local 10 were also actively engaged in another initiative: The Campaign Against Taft-Hartley, Repression and Privatization. It was set up in December 2002 after the invoking of the Taft-Hartley Act in November and the lockout. We received a letter from them, telling us, “In July we are going to hold the 10th anniversary of LaborFest. Please join us in this occasion and give us a presentation”.
What happened after that to bring us together was as follows: in October 2002 the Doro-Chiba participated for the first time in the ”Solidarity Festival for the Struggle of Fired 1047 JNR Workers”. Mr. Steve Zeltzer from San Francisco, a central figure of the above-mentioned LaborFest was present. There, colleague TANAKA Yasuhiro, the President of Doro-Chiba got an opportunity to exchange words with him. Then email correspondence has begun between the both sides through colleague YAMAMOTO, chief secretary of the “Doro-Chiba Supporting Committee”. We have since been sending overseas reports on our struggle in English to him.
It must be difficult, I suppose, for the US comrades to understand the real situation in Japan accurately. But through correspondence they have gradually came to realize what the Kokuro (National Railway Workers’ union) is now doing, the kind of struggles Kokuro Tosodan (a fighting group of dismissed workers of the Kokuro) is fighting, and what roll the Doro-Chiba is playing in the national railway struggle. With such knowledge about the Japanese railway workers1 struggle and various labor unions, they invited the Doro-Chiba to the US among others. One of the key reasons they invited us was the 72 hours strike of the Doro-Chiba on March 27,only a week after the outbreak of the Iraqi War. This direct labor action against the war was important to unionists in the US and was similar to action taken by ILWU Local 10 against the war.
In San Francisco, colleague Kawasaki met a shower of various questions, he told me. The workers there have already seen the video of ”the Kokuro Winter Story” and wondered why 200 national railway workers had committee suicide at the time of Division and Privatization of the Japan National Railways (JNR) and also why the Kokuro Tosodan and the National Executive of the Kokuro are divided in view and policy and are opposed to each other within the same union organization. They could not imagine how a labor union, whose task is to fight back management’s dismissal, stays away from the struggle. So they demanded colleague Kawasaki explanations on these things. This obviously required a lot of information.
There he experienced an interesting incident: YOMONO, a central executive committee member of the JR-Soren (Japan Confederation of Railway workers1 Union/JRU), was on a visit in San Francisco, shortly before colleague Kawasaki’s arrival, asking support for the arrest of their 7 members in the incident of Urawa Electric Car Depot (in charge of lynching union dissidents). Colleague Kawasaki was asked if he knew YOMONO and he answered, “Yomono’s union, the JR-Soren, is a company union”. He explained further that this union, in collusion with the JR management, has habitually bullied a lot of workers on the floor into retirement and that it has been approving and promoting the Division and Privatization of the JNR. They instantly understood all, saying, ”All right, we1ve got the picture now”.
Before hearing this clarification by colleague Kawasaki, Mr. Zeltzer had been wondering how to make a judgment on what Yomono insisted, for in the Urawa incident seven workers were actually arrested at a stroke and were detained for a certain period. Seemingly it looked like the case of arrested 8 Kokuro workers and it was difficult for him to decide where to stand on this matter. He and all those present there now clearly understood a decisive difference between the Doro-Chiba and the JR-Soren by the explanation of colleague Kawasaki. It illustrates that the stance on the issue of privatization serves as a litmus test for a labor movement.
Through one year’s internet correspondence, US comrades seem to have finally realized there was, in Japan, a labor union that fought against the Division and Privatization of the JNR and that was provably the Doro-Chiba. To obtain more exact information, US comrades in San Francisco asked colleague Kawasaki to make a first hand report at the convention of San Francisco Labor Council. Upon hearing his report, the San Francisco Labor Council delegates adopted a solidarity resolution with the Doro-Chiba and a resolution to support the struggle of “Fired 1047 JNR Workers” and to denounce the arrest of Kokuro 8. It was far beyond our expectation that our colleagues were enthusiastically received in the US.
The resolutions were adopted in a standing ovation with a shout of ”Solidarity”. Colleague Kawasaki told us that he was almost thrilled and deeply impressed as well.
Last year’s struggle of the ILWU Local 10 was essentially a confrontation over the labor contract that was concluded in 1934. The contract had been won against the following background. In 1929 the US stock market crashed in Wall Street and the Great Depression set in. All these developments were to induce World War II. Roosevelt took over the US presidency and launched the New Deal. The Great Depression drastically brought about dismissals, restructuring, wage cut and other disasters upon workers. Workers in San Francisco rallying around the ILWU rose up for a general strike to hit back capital’s offensive; the National Guard was mobilized and two longshoremen were shot to death in a violent clash. But the fighting workers didn’t flinch. They established a workers’ community like a San Francisco general strike committee and finally won a labor contract and union control over the hiring hall. This contract of 1934 is still living today. This is hard to understand in Japan. The core of this contract consists of the clause that the companies, the capital can only employ workers exclusively through the labor union. This contract has been in place since the formation of the union. Capital has long attempted to cancel this contract but diehard resistance of the union has blocked this.
The Bush administration launched in 2002 an all-out attack of union busting on the strongholds of labor. At that moment, Bush did not invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to suppress a strike. It may be necessary here to explain a little about the Taft-Hartley Act: it is an US law to repress solidarity and strike action of workers. This law vests the Federal Government with the power to suspend a strike of labor unions for 80 days. Owing to this law, many workers in the US for all purposes have been deprived of the right to strike particularly in key transportation industries.
Consequently, they are obliged to fight work-to-rule like us in Japan under the Public Corporations and National Enterprises Labor Relations Law. In case of the struggle of the ILWU as a closed shop, a complete work-to-rule has an equal effect as a strike, for employment is practiced exclusively through the labor union. Considering these circumstances, US workers have worked out various forms of work-to-rule with elaborate tactics: step-by-step struggle, tenacious as well as elastic struggle etc. We often come upon in photos workers with a placard, “We don’t repeat the PATCO’s fate” in US demonstrations. PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) suffered massive state power repression with arrests and imprisonment, the instant it went on strike against aggravated working conditions. The union had in fact long supported the Reagan administration politically. With this defeat in memory, US workers demonstrate their thoughts on their placard, “When you want to get rid of us, we won’t be beaten so easily. We are diehard”.
Faced with a vigorous struggle of the ILWU workers, the management dared to lock out the all the US West Coast ports, bringing them to a halt. San Francisco faces the Pacific Ocean and Oakland is a neighboring city on the west side. By the lockout action, the San Francisco Bay was completely closed up to freighters from all over the world. Finally the Federal Government intervened by means of invoking the Taft-Hartley Act in this labor-management dispute, which developed into lock out.
Finally a new agreement was reached at by labor-management negotiation.
According to the ILWU, the labor contract of 1934 has basically been maintained owing to the struggle. The agreement includes a concession: the union recognizes management’s right to hire workers in new type business branches, that is, computer related businesses. Alternate workplaces are to be secured for the workers of old type business branch to be replaced by computers. Nevertheless, controversial discussions are going on, it is reported, on the newly concluded agreement among union members. Anyway, this is how the ILWU is fighting.
US workers are now confronted with another serious repression: legislation of the Patriot Act 1 and II. You know of course Patriot missile, an interceptor missile. It is another problem. The proposed Patriot Act II is a repressive law and which is in the process of being presented to the US Congress. Patriot Act I was enacted immediately after the September 11, 2001. Applying this Act, the US has detained, deported and terrorized thousands of “illegal immigrants” of various nationalities, especially Muslims and Arab peoples. Exact number has not been revealed in the US Congress as of yet.
Patriot Act II would be, once it is legislated, an extraordinary awful law. It would enable the state power to deprive all members of those organizations that are regarded as “terrorist related groups” of fundamental civil rights in enforcing, for example, expropriation of properties, expatriation, suspension of pension, etc. The San Francisco Labor Council put its energy on fighting against the legislation of the Patriot Act II. It was also, I hear, the central issue of LaborFest 2003 in San Francisco. In this way, US workers are now bravely struggling against union busting of the Bush administration from day to day.
In April 2003, 700 anti-war activists including many unionists set up a picket line in Oakland harbor to stop transportation of war materials to Iraq. Police forces intervened and issued an order to break up. Then suddenly they began shooting wooden and rubber bullets in a volley on picketing workers and their supporters. Many picketers and ILWU longshoremen waiting to go to work were injured.
This was the first time since 1934 that longshoremen were shot at on the docks. In defiance of such repressive measures the ILWU began to begin opposing Bush’s propaganda. “Who is against the anti-terrorist war is also a terrorist himself”.
Privatization is another vital issue in the US. The US has carried on privatization to a new level. In Japan nobody talks about ”privatization of the Police” or “privatization of the Defense Agency” and etc. But in the US, privatization of the Pentagon and the White House are seriously planned. The total number of the federal employees is approximately 1.8 million, of which hundreds of thousands work only in the Pentagon and face privatization. In addition, the government wants to privatize 850,000 out of the federal employee work force. As you might know, many US prisons have already been privatized. Their ideas are beyond our imagination. Especially Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who is closely related to Neo-conservatism and is an ideologue of supposed efficiency through privatization.
Now 250,000 US forces are occupying Iraq. Among them there is a large number of civilian mercenaries. War today is a war of computers. If you push the button, Tomahawk missiles or something like that will blast off. It will take a lot of time and money to build up soldiers into computer operators.
Instead civil workers with computer technique are dispatched to Iraq by employment agencies. They are in fact civil temporary workers in military uniform. This is what the US forces really are in the current Iraqi War.
At the time of the Gulf War there were 500,000 US military forces in the region. Now the total number is 250,000 of which the ground forces are estimated to be 150 thousands, as a large number of military personnel are on board like aircraft careers. In the ground forces, civilians are perhaps between 50,000 to 100,000. They are operating electronic appliances. It is reputed that they are worrying about what will happen if they escape from the battlefield in face of enemy attack. They wonder if they are tried by a court martial for going AWOL. They are also anxious to know: if they are taken prisoner, will the Geneva Convention be applied to them as civilians?
Here is another important thing I want to point out concerning the US forces in Iraq. Half of the entire US occupation forces are soldiers without US citizenship. As conscription has been suspended in the US since the end of the Vietnam War, US forces depend mainly on volunteers. They are, for example, poor people or people of color. Their essential motivation of going into military service is to gain US citizenship, not to mention decent wages. This is the USA today.
The ILWU was founded as an independent union, organizing West Coast longshore workers in 1937 as a result of separation from the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA). During the period before and after the Great Depression of 1929 huge numbers of workers were fired and drastic wage cuts were enforced. In San Francisco workers fought back fiercely and obtained the current labor contract. Some of you might have seen a film “On The Waterfront” of Marlon Brando. The ILA in those days was partly influenced by Mafia with its nests built in some union organizations.
Workers on the West Coast, angry at the situation, started struggle against the Mafia influence in the union. They fought out the struggle till they achieved founding of the ILWU, a struggle in our words, struggle for separation and independence.
With these experiences in common with us, fellow workers of the ILWU quickly understood our history, a history of struggle for separation and independence from the Doro dominated by an anti-labor group Kakumaru, a history of a struggle to succeed militant tradition of the former Doro. They told colleague Kawasaki that they share a significant history of militant struggle with us.
Struggle for union democratization occupies a central position in the current US labor movement especially for rank and file unionists. As you know, the term struggle for democratization is employed in Japan mainly by the right wing unionists: originally, the Mindo (League for Democratization), a dominant social-democratic faction in former Sohyo, has come from the Anti-Communist League for Democratization of Industrial Labor in the post-war period. Therefore, we don’t use the word “democratization” in Japan. But in the US the situation is quite different: struggle for democratization of labor union has been led by the left wing, the ILWU Local 10 for instance.
What then is the struggle for “democratization of unions” in the US labor movement? It is, in a word, a struggle of rank and file workers against union bureaucrats, against corrupt union officers. Since the current union executives stand apart from what workers on the workshop are feeling and demanding, it is imperative for rank and file to have a say in union activities.
As a labor union that has been fighting such struggles, it was quite natural and inevitable as well to find in the Doro-Chiba their brother/sister union because the Doro-Chiba was recognized to be the only union that fought against the Division and Privatization of the JNR, and to be the union that conducted a 72 hour strike immediately after the outbreak of the Iraqi War. The ILWU and its Local 10 appreciated our struggle right away.
Our fellow workers of the ILWU are strongly opposed to the Iraqi War, carrying a clear-cut and radical slogan: “Against The War At Home & The War Abroad”. It is the main slogan of Anti-War Action Committee of Local 10. In our words, it means “class war inward and war of aggression outward”.
The ILWU knows also very well that the most militant labor movement in the world is that of South Korea. With this recognition in mind, they vigorously insist that aggressive wars could never be stopped unless workers in the US, Japan, Britain, France, Germany and etc. make an utmost effort to build up international solidarity. They advocate thus internationalism. The Iraqi War has triggered the rise of a movement that we call “a New Trend of Fighting Labor Movement” all over the world.
Vigorous developments of labor movement are remarkable especially in those countries that are deeply engaged in Iraqi War, such as the US and Britain.
Of course repression on labor movements is very severe there. But the US and British comrades are energetically carrying on their fights. They formed a core of the unprecedented upsurge of worldwide demonstrations with 20 million participants against the war on Iraq in February 2002. Meanwhile recent struggles of the Doro-Chiba were world-widely reported through Internet as a top issue of the Labor Net and have internationally aroused much more interest than at home. If you run a search for the Doro-Chiba in the Internet, you’ll find our strike reported also at Turkish sites for example.
Thus a serious struggle has begun for us to establish genuine international solidarity. Though a labor union of only 500 members, we have won confidence of US workers among other unions in Japan. We must undertake responsibilities for that. There are also energetic move for international joint action by our fellow union, the Kan-Nama (Solidarity Union of Japan Construction and Transport Workers/Kansai area branch) with the KCTU (Korean Confederation of Trade Unions).
Judging from these developments, one of the major pillars of the November Workers Rally this year will undoubtedly be “International Solidarity”. It has become extremely important now for all of us to continue and develop struggle, encouraging internationally each other.
Now let me come back to the class struggle in Japan. As I have told you the political situation is now undergoing a large-scale change: national partnership has been strengthened day by day. It is not to be overlooked that the state power is fiercely attempting to criminalize labor movement and every mass movement alike.
Since the second half of the 1990’s, the government has been stepping up a series of reactionary legislations: Law against Organized Crime, Wiretapping Law, Network of Basic Resident Register, Law to Protection of Individual Information and etc. All these legislations are aimed at eradicating every kind of workers’ and people’s resistance, which would inevitably erupt in an acute situation with a large-scale unemployment and impending war; whole nation surveillance system is going to be established.
With the legislation of three Emergency Laws, the government will certainly reinforce a drive for national mobilization. Among the measures of political repression the most dangerous move is to enact the Conspiracy Law.
When we talk about labor movement under emergency legislation, the major issue will probably be a struggle against political repression. We have to recall what happened in the 156th ordinary session of the Diet: reactionary revision of the Labor Standards Law to give a right of dismissal to the capital; alteration of the Workers’ Dispatch Law; dismantling of the social security system. Attack on workers’ right has been expanded further. In accordance with taking away workers’ rights, political repression will inevitably be strengthened. Everywhere in the world, similar developments are under way. For example, the Patriot Act II in the US and the Conspiracy Law in Japan.
What is the Conspiracy Law? It is the legislation motivated by the ratification of the “International Treaty to Preventing Organized Crimes” in the Diet and the necessitated adjustment of domestic laws. The core of the adjustment lies in introducing a new clause that stipulates: “One is to be punished only for counseling commission of criminal activity (conspiracy) without actually being committed in it”. It will be applied to more than 500 articles of the Criminal Law that provide penalty of more than 4 years imprisonment for criminal activity. Legislation of the Conspiracy Law would overturn the basic principles of the postwar- and modern criminal law. It is indeed a class war at home, carried on under the name of “anti-terrorist war” along with Bush’s escalation of world war since September 11 2001.
In December 2002 seven Kokuro unionists and one of their supporters were arrested for alleged violence on the occasion of the union convention of the Kokuro (in May). In fact, they had only handed out flyers and tried to discuss with delegates of the convention. There is apparently no reason why their acts constitute crime offenses. Nevertheless they have been detained for 10 months (case of Kokuro 8). Similar political repressions have been taking place successively, namely on Minato-Godo, on Zenkin-Motoyama (Metal and Machinery Workers Union of Motoyama), on the Buraku Liberation League National Federation Neyagawa branch, and on the Student Council of the Kyushu University.
These crackdowns reveal aggressive stance of the imperialist state power not to allow the slightest development of mass movements under the emergency legislation. In the present situation, I am convinced, struggle against political repression is becoming more and more vital for labor movement in Japan as well as in the US.
Another crucial issue is of course national railway struggle, which is still going on. The fact is the Division and Privatization of the Japan National Railways (JNR) hasn’t been completed yet after sixteen years’ time. As you all know, the original aim of the Division and Privatization of the JNR was to break down national railway workers’ movement to the ground. In spite of this, the Kokuro still exists with its some 40,000 members, although its National Executive have never waged a serious struggle against this attempt.
In October 1986, on the eve of the start of the Japan Railway Companies (JR), new companies to replace the JNR, Extraordinary Convention of the Kokuro held in Shuzenji of Shizuoka prefecture voted down a proposition of the National Executive Committee to admit the Division and Privatization of JNR. Since then national railway workers have been continuing their struggle: the struggle of the workers transferred to the JNR Settlement Corporation; the struggle of dismissed 1047 workers. Of course, the Doro-Chiba is alive and militant.
Thus our class enemy is still unable to settle the problem.
I’d like to point out one more important factor: in carrying out the Division and Privatization of the JNR, the management as well as the state power deadly needed a help of the Doro-Kakumaru. This remains for capital, the ruling class as a negative legacy to be relieved of some day.
Nevertheless the JR East Company, which occupies a key position in JR Companies, still maintains critical relations with the Kakumaru, while other JR companies in the Middle and West Japan have since long broken off with them.
The arrest of Kokuro 8 is a historically extraordinary case of police labor collaboration of the Metropolitan Police Department and the National Executive of the Kokuro together with its Tokyo district office in an attempt of crashing militant national railway workers rallying around the Kokuro Kyoto (Joint Struggle Committee of National Railway Workers); this crackdown intends to prevent development of the struggle led by this committee against the Four Party Agreement that demands the Kokuro to disband the Kokuro Tosodan. This unprecedented repression is an ultimate measure taken by the state power to eliminate the Kokuro and national railway workers’ movement as an obstacle to the completion of the Division and Privatization of the JNR.
Simultaneously the JR management and the state power have recently been taking measures to do away with the Kakumaru group that is still influential in the JR East Union: at the outset of the JR, the Kakumaru had been awarded a privileged position in a JR-Soren (JRU), a new born union of the JR for its contribution to the Division and Privatization of the JNR as its aggressive agent.
Now fierce offensives of the management and the state power confront us.
From our viewpoint, however, what is happening before our eyes announces that an opportunity has arrived: we are witnessing a terrible confusions and drastic changes coming over the Kokuro as well as the JR-Soren from in- and outside. The time has come for a stormy process of major realignment of national railway workers’ movement since the Division and Privatization of the JNR.
What should we do to win a victory then? Firstly, as an urgent task, we must seriously make the struggle against the arrest of Kokuro 8 a central issue of the whole working class; secondly, at the same time, we must struggle for an initiative in the national railway workers’ movement as a whole. I1m firmly convinced that success of the November Workers Rally of this year depends, to a significant degree, on the consequence of this one and double task.
In the present situation, it has become urgent to examine thoroughly the fundamental thought and inherent character of the Kokuro determined by the “1955 system”. Problems with the Kokuro has recently been dramatically exposed: not only the National Executive of the Kokuro but also its militant dissidents rallying around the Tosodan, who are opposing the Four Party Agreement, proved themselves unable to fight effectively against current offensive of the JR management and the state power. We must realize that we are now in a new stage of development: it is urgent for us to criticize their weakness squarely and gain them on our side.
As the Tosodan is a group of fired workers with a lot of difficulties to maintain their existence, hasty and rude demand on them should naturally be avoided. Nevertheless, we must suggest that the dissidents rallying around the Tosodan should now make a determined stand to take over the leadership of the Kokuro, replacing the existing Kokuro Executive that have failed in their anti-labor attempt to enforce the Four Party Agreement upon the Tosodan workers and rank and file of the Kokuro. “You are totally responsible for all that. You must go now. We’ll take charge of the Kokuro from now on”, so should be a declaration of the Kokuro dissidents.
Unfortunately the reality is currently not so. The leadership of the Kokuro who advocates the Four Party Agreement and the dissident group who are opposed to it, in fact, share a position of reconciliation, a line of seeking political settlement. Their stance derives from the union line to “demand an overall settlement through a package-deal” adopted by the extraordinary convention of the Kokuro in 1989. This political line meant in practice: the Kokuro has organized no significant struggle since the start of the Division and Privatization of the JNR except for its Shuzenji convention.
The greatest weak point of the Kokuro is that it has never taken stand to fight against the JR management for more than ten years, while demanding withdrawal of dismissal of 1047 workers. During this period severe rationalization and restructuring have been going on in the workshops of the JR East and other JR companies. The Kokuro National Executive, however, have completely abandoned struggle against this offensive and consequently have decreased its organizational influence. In my belief, it is necessary to build up a movement to change power relationships in the JR if you really want to achieve withdrawal of 1047 workers’ dismissal and their return to the JR workplace. The stance of the Tosodan and the Kokuro dissidents is, in this regard, almost identical with that of the Kokuro Executive. Recent development has revealed that the opposition of the Tosodan and dissidents to the Four Party Agreement is not fundamental but only conditional. In other words, they only regard the Agreement is too severe to accept. As long as they remain in this position, their struggle is destined to face insurmountable difficulty.
As a result the struggle of the Tosodan is directed mainly to a legal action against the unjust dismissal committed by the Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency (JRTT), a succeeding company of the JNR. The aim of this lawsuit is originally to demand cancellation of their dismissal from the JNR Settlement Corporation on April 1990. But what they are really looking for is to reach conciliation with the JR management in the course of the lawsuit. Some of them even say openly, “If we obtain a concession in the pension issue, that’ll be enough”. What is then the difference from expected conditions of settlement offered by the Four Party Agreement? The offer was said to be: “a settlement money of 800 thousand yen and re-employment by the JR of a part of dismissed workers (presumably only some dozens out of 1047 workers).
Though the Four Party Agreement had manifestly exposed its bankruptcy, those who have been advocating the Four Party Agreement, namely the Kokuro Executive, are now making a headlong dash for breaking up the Kokuro itself as labor union. Thus the Kokuro is now evidently in a process of disintegrating itself. In this regard, coming convention of the Kokuro in September 2003 will be a landmark convention. It depends on this convention whether the Kokuro can revive or die. In the worst case, it could be an end of the Kokuro.
As an urgent issue I strongly recommend reconstructive revival of the Kokuro in my term. I mean by this: the present situation requires militant national railway workers to stick together with the banner of militant Kokuro regardless of the number, be it five thousands or ten thousand. Important is a firm determination to fight to the end.
Recently we of Doro-Chiba have launched aggressive approaches to young workers newly employed in the JR East and JR Freight. We notice a significant change in their behavior and consciousness. This change is not simply because they have become disgusted at the row between the Matsuzaki faction and the Shimada faction within the JR East Union, the key union of the JR-Soren; young workers’ interest lies in drastically changing situation at home and abroad. As to the inner union row between the Matsuzaki faction and the Shimada faction, it is a quarrel over perquisites in the JR East Union and the company. Matsuzaki must be most provably complaining, “I don’t allow such a guy as Shimada to take away the fruits of my blood and sweat. I am still the boss”.
Young JR workers haven’t got informed of the real truth of this row. Neither are they informed of current rationalization nor aggravated state of systems in regard to their workplace. When we, Doro-Chiba, published information papers on railway workshop, not only our union members but also interested workers of other unions used to come to us for them. Today it happens more often than ever. No doubt the consciousness of the newly employed workers is considerably changing.
Newly employed workers of the JR East automatically affiliate the JR-Soren.
The JR-Soren makes no effort to educate and train them as unionists. Consequently they know nothing about strike, for example. Notwithstanding they have become aware that the situations at home and abroad are drastically changing: the Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) has recently proclaimed a new aggressive line; the present government and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have been violently driving war policy.
Besides the situation is rapidly developing in various fields of our society. Their parents, brothers and sisters and relatives are all involved in such developments. They are beginning to think in earnest, ”What will happen to us all when the things go on like this?” Against this background, we are required to discuss with them on more serious and closer terms than ever. Of course breaking away with the JR East Union and joining the Doro-Chiba means not simply a choice between two unions but rather a choice of a certain political tendency, which makes them confront how to live as a worker. Our discussion must answer this. Anyway I see before us fresh possibilities for such a discussion. The Doro-Chiba has launched its full-scale efforts to get them as our members, organizing reading circles with them.
In other words, the newly employed young workers wouldn’t come to the Doro-Chiba unless they undergo a certain change of their consciousness, a rising awareness as working class. Formerly they often chatted with us on drinking and complained: “I am quite bored with both of the union and the management lecturing us all the time”. Recently our relationships are going a little bit further. They now respond to our approaches more actively and positively.
Our experience tells us that the best opportunity has come to expand our influence through gaining discontented members of the JR-Soren to our side. Despite favorable development of current situations, the Kokuro faces a crisis of self-demolition. Therefore it is quite reasonable the Kokuro has no appeal for young workers of the JR-Soren.
For the November Workers’ Rally in Tokyo we are expecting guests from the US. Our fellow US workers have already written us they are coming to Japan. It would be a pity if the rally site (Hibiya Open-air Music Hall) is poorly attended. Let’s welcome our comrades from San Francisco, the most powerful stronghold of US labor movement, with the meeting hall full of people. Perhaps workers of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) are also coming over. Now the Korean Railway Union is struggling against division and privatization. They are waging a strike to prevent the related legislation. Their struggle is expected to develop with ingenious tactics. During its strike action, the Korean Subway Union voted for affiliation to the KCTU, breaking off from the traditional national labor center. Those labor unions are possibly going to participate in our November Workers’ Rally.
We know some people are warning, “You had better keep away from the Doro-Chiba. It is a radical union”. Let them talk what they want. ILWU Local 10 is a radical union in the US. The most radical labor union in the US and its counterpart in Japan have jointed together. Besides the KCTU will perhaps join us. Thus the November Workers’ Rally this year will be really an international rally.
It is necessary for us to strengthen a united power of unions rallying around the Doro-Chiba with its widespread and deep-rooted influence. No workers will come to us if we are powerless. Policy and theory are of course indispensable for labor movement, but that is not all. Just imagine, when you come together with the Doro-Chiba and what you get is only state power repression, would you come again? Then few unions are willing to come. It is important to get advantage in joining hands with the Doro-Chiba. Now we have gained international reputation but we need more advantage. Massive mobilization is a power. November Workers’ Rally is a challenge for it.
Though we have long been holding up a banner of “International Solidarity”, real content of our internationalism has been until recently very poor. Internationalism remained for us written words on paper without any actual implication. But now we have got a rich image. The Doro-Chiba has taken the initiative in practicing internationalism. Let’s inform Japanese workers about how workers are fighting all over the world, how workers of other countries are suffering under capital’s offensive and the state power repression of the same class character. Let’s fight together with the workers all over the world, exchanging information and lessons of struggles each other and encouraging each other. The key word of the working class is “International Solidarity” under present situation starting from September 11, 2001 and developing to March 20, 2002. I strongly appeal to you all to join in the November Workers’’Rally with all your power.