Akira Kato, Japan Revolutionary Communist League (Revolutionary Marxist Faction): ‘The government is taking advantage of Russia’s invasion to convert Japan into a big military power’

Against the Japanese-Australian air drills Komatsu Air Base, August 23

Amid rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific, Japan’s government is ramping up defence spending in an attempt to transform the nation into a military power. Akira Kato, from the Japan Revolutionary Communist League (Revolutionary Marxist Faction), discusses the background to these moves and addresses the issues of Ukraine and Taiwan, in this interview with Federico Fuentes for LINKS International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

Japan has further strengthened military ties with the United States, Australia and South Korea, as well as announced a record boost to military spending. What do you see as the Japanese government’s motivations?

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the ruling neo-fascist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a golden chance to do away with Japan’s “renunciation of war”, specified in Article 9 of the Constitution. Kishida has said time and again: “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow.”

Taking advantage of this opportunity, they are rushing to convert Japan into a big military power with genuine war-capable systems and armaments. The rulers of Japan — a US vassal state bound by the chains of the Security Treaty — have found a way to survive as an imperialist power by contributing to the US-led formation of a multilateral military alliance against China and Russia — an Asian version of NATO.

Kishida wants systems for pre-emptive attacks against China and North Korea and is promoting a tremendous military buildup, with a total 43 trillion yen defence budget over five years. We will not allow him to reinforce armaments nor revise the Constitution.

As to Japanese-Australian joint air drills recently conducted in Japan, students from Zengakuren [the All-Japan Federation of Students’ Self-Government Associations] organised an angry protest against them at the front gate of the Komatsu Air Base, the venue for the drills.

Growing tensions between the US and China in the region are of great concern. What is behind US military strategy in the region? Conversely, how do you view China’s actions towards the US and its neighbours in the region?

The US is fretting that it is being overtaken by China in all respects — economic, military, political and technological. They fear US hegemony might be replaced by China’s hegemony if measures are not taken. This declining imperialism is, however, incapable of curbing the challenger’s rise through its own efforts. It is hell-bent on mobilising its allies to build up a military encircling net to contain China.

US President Joe Biden loudly proclaims, “No to any attempt to change the status quo by force”. But it is US imperialism that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, drowning the people there in seas of blood. Biden pretends not to notice those crimes and, in the name of being a guardian of “freedom and democracy”, is frantically building up the US’ military presence in an effort to contain China. We will never allow Biden to do this.

At the same time, we denounce the Chinese government for repeatedly carrying out intimidatory actions by sending its naval and air forces to areas surrounding Taiwan, to the South and the East China Seas, and to the Senkaku [Diaoyu] Islands. These are unreserved and shameless expansionist attempts to absorb Taiwan and seize the concerned islands. They are bureaucratic threats to working people in Taiwan, Southeast Asia and Japan.

Following Deng Xiao-ping’s instruction to “Use capitalism fearlessly”, China rose to become the world’s second economic power through driving workers and peasant workers to work harder for low wages. China is now challenging US imperialism with a view to becoming the new ruler of the world.

While China puts up billboards that say “socialism”, it is in fact a bureaucratic autocracy, in which the bureaucracy of a neo-Stalinist party, the Communist Party of China, rules over working people. Its ideology is Chino-centric nationalism and nothing else. The Chinese neo-Stalinist bureaucracy is an enemy of the world's working people.

The disparity between rich and poor in China is widening to such an extent that it surpasses that of imperialist countries. The toiling masses are groaning in dire poverty. The Uighur people and those of Hong Kong are suffering bloody repression. We should never tolerate the neo-Stalinist bureaucracy of China perpetrating such crimes against the working class and toiling masses.

How have US-China tensions impacted politics and struggles in Japan?

The Kishida government is propagandising about the “threats” of China and North Korea. The leaders of the opposition movements have been totally taken in by the government. They no longer oppose strengthening the US-Japan military alliance or the national armed forces, the Self-Defense Forces. For us, it is an urgent task to radically upend this degeneration of opposition movements.

The leadership of Rengo [the Japanese Trade Union Confederation], which is the largest national centre of trade unions in Japan and is under the control of labour aristocrats, supports the Kishida-led military build-up and revision of the Constitution.

We, the JRCL (RMF), together with militant workers and students, are in the vanguard of struggles being waged in many regions of Japan against military bases, including against the construction of a new US Marine base in Okinawa. The Rengo leadership is now frantically trying to hold back these struggles, saying that military bases are needed to defend the country from China. While condemning such degenerate leaders, we promote anti-military alliance and anti-war struggles.

Much like Ukraine is the key flashpoint in the US-Russia conflict, Taiwan appears to be a key flashpoint in US-China tensions. What is your organisation's stance towards the conflict in Ukraine and tensions over Taiwan? Do you see any possibilities for building bridges with such struggles, taking into consideration that local movements might seek support (even military aid) from different imperialist countries?

Russian ruler Vladimir Putin launched this aggression with the aim of exterminating the state of Ukraine and its nation altogether, and incorporating it into the Russian Federation. We strongly denounce it as a world-historic crime.

Here in Japan, we are promoting a mass anti-war struggle to crush Putin’s war. Ukrainian people are continuing to battle to beat back the invading Russian army. We definitely fight in solidarity with Ukrainian people.

Some self-styled Western leftists shout: “Stop supplying weapons!” or “It’s nonsense to fight for the defence of national borders!” But those who are suffering from the aggression and bleeding for the resistance are working class people, just like us. Leftists who do not stand by oppressed working people cannot be leftists!

Those self-styled leftists should listen to the voices of Ukrainians who are saying: “The Ukrainian people want to fight but they don’t have the necessary weapons to destroy Russian artillery and planes, so it is a matter of life and death that the Ukrainian people get the weapons they need.”

These words are from an appeal issued by militant left youths in Ukraine. To tell those Ukrainians to fight with only Molotov cocktails and antiquated guns in life-risking battles means to tell them to be killed! The absolute criterion for our class-based judgement vis-a-vis Putin’s war must be the defence and protection of the real interests of the oppressed working class.

As for Taiwan, here too we base ourselves on a working class standpoint. The Chinese government is accelerating its moves to “absorb” Taiwan, with an ambition to replace US imperialism as the hegemonic power. Its moves are also aimed at securing a military stronghold from which Chinese forces can advance into the West Pacific. The Chinese government is intensifying its military intimidation of Taiwanese people who do not accept “absorption”. We strongly condemn this.

Have there been significant debates within the movement as to how to respond to US-China tensions or over solidarity with struggles such as those of Ukraine and Taiwan? Is it possible for the left to advance a position of non-alignment with blocs (neutrality) without abandoning solidarity?

While developing anti-war struggles, we have been thoroughly criticising self-styled leftists and liberal intellectuals for effectively defending Putin by saying “both Ukraine and Russia are to blame” or “NATO is responsible”. We are also contending with those who call for an “immediate ceasefire”.

For Ukrainians, an immediate ceasefire means accepting Russia’s occupation of their land. But, in these occupied areas, Russian troops continue torturing and murdering Ukrainian residents, raping women, and kidnapping tens of thousands of children to forcibly adopt them as Russians. Men are conscripted to kill their Ukrainian fathers and brothers.

Self-styled leftists or liberals who call for an immediate ceasefire do not have an iota of indignation or hatred towards Putin the invader. Some veterans of the Japanese Communist Party even say “Russia is fighting for the denazification of Ukraine.” That is just parroting Putin.

What these self-styled leftists have in common is a feeling that the rulers of Russia, which was formerly the Soviet Union and belongs to the East, are preferable to those of Western imperialism. Fundamentally, this is rooted in their abandonment of confrontation with Stalinism.

As to non-alignment with blocs or neutrality, we do not take such a position. This is because no problem can be solved unless we radically overturn today’s world, where the US, China, Russia and other powers compete with each other by forming blocs.

We must fight to overthrow the very powers that thrust the world’s working people into a crisis of war — this includes the US, European and Japanese imperialist states, as well as the neo-Stalinist state of China and the Federal Security Service (FSB)-helmed authoritarian state of Russia. We should fight for the overthrow of those rulers on the basis of the international unity of the working class as the ruled class.

What kind of peace initiatives could the left in the region promote? Do you envisage any possibilities of promoting a common security policy that both fosters a more peaceful and cooperative region while prioritising the needs of small nations over larger powers?

We do not place expectations on existing states to adopt “peace policies”, be they small nations or larger powers. This is a mistake. Karl Marx brilliantly clarified that the state is an “illusory form of communality”. He argued that the ruling class sets up a state in order to make its own class interests valid and applicable as those of the whole society.

In fact, whether in the East or in the West, many states are strengthening their fascistic, authoritarian rule to safeguard ruling class interests. Relying on existing states to adopt “peace policies” to us means getting caught up in the “logic of realpolitik”.

The case of the Japanese Communist Party is the worst example of this. This party has been immersed in posing “realistic alternatives capable of being adopted by the existing government”, going as far as to set out a policy of using the Self-Defense Forces and the US-Japan Security Treaty in the event of “emergency”.

We, the working class — divided and ruled by states — must rise in anti-war struggles based on proletarian internationalism and smash the war policies of our governments through our united power. That is what the JRCL (RMF) is fighting for amid the crisis of war.

Would you like to add anything else?

I would like to say a few last words.

Those who control state power in Russia, which is conducting the aggression in Ukraine, are FSB bureaucrats who in the past were part of the bureaucracy of the KGB [Committee for State Security] and other security organs in the Stalinist Soviet Union.

Amid the chaotic situation that prevailed in “ruinous Russia” after the collapse of the Soviet Union, these “Siloviks” seized power and imposed an authoritarian system on the basis of the FSB. They usurped a colossal amount of state property and lined their pockets! The aggression in Ukraine is nothing more than an attempt to realise their anti-working class desire to recover the whole territory of the former Soviet Union.

Notwithstanding that, there are some leftists who do not feel any proletarian anger or hatred towards those descendants of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Stalinism is tormenting the working class of Russia, of Ukraine and of the world, even to this day.

The historical nodal point that led to this dark 21st century lies in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. As another name for poverty and oppression, the self-styled socialist USSR had been the target of working people’s hatred both inside and outside the country.

It was Mikhail Gorbachev and other Kremlin bureaucrats who, with their own hands, dissolved the Stalinist USSR in the name of “de-Stalinisation”. After distorting revolutionary Russia, which initiated the “age of revolution” in 1917, the Stalinist bureaucrats ultimately did away with it. Those who have abandoned confrontation with the grave crimes of Stalinism have exposed their rottenness in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

We, the JRCL (RMF), see the self-destruction of the Soviet Union as a “grand reversal in world history”. We are determined to fight to “re-reverse” this humiliating situation for the world proletariat and to open the road to the “second century of the proletarian revolution”.

There is no way to escape the crisis of thermonuclear warfare or environmental destruction other than a proletarian world revolution. Our strategy for realising this revolution is “anti-imperialism, anti-Stalinism”.