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EDITORIAL | Japanese Communist Party Reveals Authoritarian Streak

The Japanese Communist Party betrayed its dictatorial tendencies when it expelled an official who called for reforms. Who would want to see them in power?



Japanese Communist Party
Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii holds a press conference in the Diet on the afternoon of February 9 (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) expelled party member Nobuyuki Matsutake on February 6, sending ripples through Japan's political arena.

Matsutake served as director of the security and diplomacy division at the party headquarters. He had written a book entitled Shin Nihon Kyosanto Sengen ("New Japan Communist Party Manifesto," published by Bunshun Shinsho). In it, he called for various reforms, including the introduction of leadership elections. 

Expulsion is the most severe form of punishment set by the party. Chairman Kazuo Shii of the JCP stated that Matsutake was not expelled for his objections to party decisions. So why was he expelled?

Japanese Communist Party
Former Communist Party member Nobuyuki Matsutakeis is at the Japan National Press Club in Uchisaiwaicho, Tokyo, on February 6. (© Kyodo)

Party Power Trumps Free Speech

Shii accused Matsutake of "suddenly attacking the fundamental positions of the [Japan Communist] Party's constitution and platform from the outside, without ever raising his objections through official procedures based on the party's constitution."

Then he justified Matsutake's expulsion by citing a Supreme Court precedent on freedom of association, which is enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of Japan. The precedent says parties can restrict the rights of members to maintain the order of the organization.

Apparently, the JCP regards this power as more important than freedom of "speech, press and all other forms of expression," which are also enshrined in Article 21 of Japan's Constitution

Democratic centralism is the organizational principle of the Japanese Communist Party. Above all, that means the decisions made at the higher organs of the party are the absolute authority. 

Therefore, ordinary party members must obey the party's decisions. Leadership elections would be out of the question.

Japanese Communist Party
Book cover of New Japan Communist Party Manifesto (Published by Bunshun Shinsho)

A Bizarre Tirade

Evidence of this is Shii's almost bizarre tirade at a press conference where he was railing against editorials by the Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun. The former was titled "Suppressing Contrary Opinions Repels the Public," and the latter "Japanese Communist Party's Ouster of Dissident a Denial of Freedom of Speech." They were published on February 8 and 10, respectively. 

After making the charming mistake of referring to The Asahi Shimbun as The Sankei Shimbun, Shii lambasted the editorial by Asahi as "grossly ignorant" for calling the JCP an "authoritarian organization that does not tolerate dissent." 

Inexplicably, he then claimed that "if the major media outlets keep bashing political parties about their 'undemocratic' operations, freedom of association will be jeopardized."

Japanese Communist Party
Japanese Communist Party Headquarters (©Sankei Shimbun)

'Freedom' Under Communist Party Rule

If anything, Shii's reaction revealed the exclusive nature of JCP. It does not tolerate dissent, not even from non-members. 

Shii has stated that the party will "fully defend freedom of speech, press, and expression." But if JCP ever comes to power, we can expect freedom of speech only to the extent that the party will allow.

After all, freedom of expression is stipulated in Article 35 of the Constitution of China. But the country is ruled by the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Still Banding Together?

Another important point to note is that Matsutake had called for a shift to a more realistic security policy. By expelling him, JCP has further hardened its stance that the Japan-United States Security Treaty should be abolished.

Despite what has been revealed, will opposition parties such as the Constitutional Democratic Party still choose to band together with JCP? Even if they do, such a decision would be protected under freedom of association. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun