Let me begin the history of the Doro-Chiba with its pre-history. When I say pre-history, I mean a period from 1963 to 1973. It concerns my personal development: in 1963 I assumed the position of chief of the Youth Section of District Chiba of the Doro, and in 1973 I became Chief Secretary of the District as a full-time officer. To put it another way, through the struggle for a decade, young workers of the District Chiba rallying around me succeeded in taking union leadership.
In 1973, the leadership of the District Chiba of the Doro was in the hands of corrupt union bureaucrats. When I ran for the election of Union Secretary, they had no effective candidate against me. About ninety percent of the delegates of the congress supported me, making Nakano faction. When I announced my candidacy, there was no candidate list for leading positions of union officers, namely, Chair, Vice-chair and Chief Secretary. While the union congress was rapidly closing to the end, the union executives were still occupied with personnel matters. Finally, we were told to get out of the hired meeting hall and were obliged to continue the convention in the open-air. In the ad-hoc meeting place in the open air, I was finally elected as a Chief Secretary only after a prolonged procedure.
First of all I would like to tell you how we of the youth section fought a struggle for those ten years till 1973.
Before going into the pre-history of the Doro-Chiba, let’s have a look at the general conditions of the class struggle at that period.
The first theme is the labor movement under the “1955 system”. What is then the “1955 system”? The year 1955 is a demarcation in the post-war history of Japan. It was an eventful year.
The Liberal Democratic Party, the present governing party, was born in 1955 as a result of unification of conservative forces, namely the Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, the National Coalition Party, etc.
The Japan Socialist Party was also newly born in this year. Formerly, the socialist forces as opposition parties were divided into the left wing and the right wing; the cause of the split was a dispute within the former Socialist Party in 1952 over the Japan-US Security Treaty and the San Francisco Treaty (the Peace Treaty to put an end to World War II).
IWAI Akira from the Kokuro moved in as Director General of the Sohyo and established a new leadership together with OHTA Kaoru as Vice-Chair (later on as Chair), replacing TAKANO Minoru who reined the Sohyo as Director General and brought about a “Takano era”.
Mr. Takano, coming from the National Metal Workers Union, had a powerful influence over the Sohyo with a lot of activists of the Takano faction in several unions mainly of private sectors. He put forward the slogan of “struggle comprising the whole community” and directed many struggles, such as Nikko Muroran (a steel work in Hokkaido) strike, under. But he encountered criticism for having been “too political”. At that time, all three - Takano, Ohta and Iwai - belonged to the Socialist Party and formed the Comrades' Association of Workers, a left-wing faction within Mindo. Later on Takano became member of the Communist Party. After all, in the year of 1955, Takano was defeated and Ohta & Iwai regime was established as a new leadership of the Sohyo.
In place of Takano’s “struggle comprising the whole community”, “struggle according to each industry” was introduced. To embody this new line, the Spring Labor Offensive began in 1955 as coordinated struggle of 8 industrial unions. Ohta led this struggle. It seems to me important to realize the class nature of the Spring Labor Offensive thus brought into being.
In the same year, 1955, the Japan Communist Party held its 6th party conference. The conference decided upon a conversion to “peaceful revolution line” from an armed struggle line, which had been practiced as “Molotov cocktail struggle” for a couple of months in the post-war period. The JCP declared: “We have given up violence for ever. We swear to be loved by all from now”. Thus summing up, the JCP liquidated its ten years' history after World War II, laying all the blame on the ancient regime of party leadership represented by late Tokuda
It was also in 1955 that the Japan Productivity Center, headquarters of Japanese capitalism, was set up. It gave rise to “Productivity Movement” in all industrial branches. The campaign was carried out with the reasoning: “When productivity is raised and companies get more profit through workers' efforts, workers will be happy”. The logic of the Japan Productivity Center was applied later to the Productivity Movement of the JNR.
All these events happened in 1955.
Immediately after the defeat of Japanese imperialism in World War II, workers vigorously rose up for struggle, developing into an aborted general strike in February 1, 1947. This period is called “the postwar revolutionary era”. The US occupation forces and reviving Japanese capitalists took a fierce counter-offensive. The culmination of their attack was so-called “Red Purge”. The attack was mass discharge of national and public employees by means of the Law on Fixed Number of Employees. Hundred thousand JNR workers lost their job.
An overall capitalist offensive raged over every industrial branch to extend mass discharge. Three major frame-ups all concerning national railways, namely, Shimoyama, Mitaka, Matsukawa, took place with the aim of destroying national railway workers' movement. Under these circumstances the Sanbetsu-Kaigi (Congress of Industrial Unions of Japan), a national federation of labor unions in the postwar period, was compelled to disband. In stead, the Sohyo (All Japan Federation of Labor Unions) was established (in 1950). The US occupation forces and Japanese capitals sponsored this new national labor center. Within a year from its establishment, however, the Sohyo, who was supposed to be a conciliatory labor organization, became militant, as expressed in a phrase: “a change from a hen to a duck”. At the same time, the Japan Communist Party was outlawed and Korean War broke out.
With all these antagonistic development of class struggle, the year 1955 opened up a new era for Japanese ruling class to reconstruct capitalist system that had been on the brink of a total collapse as a result of World War. So-called high economic growth thus began. I grew up in the postwar times. I entered high school exactly in 1955. At that time, young workers that graduated junior high school were called “golden boys and girls”. A huge number of “golden boys and girls' were brought to Tokyo from the country towns and villages and were placed in low-paid jobs in various fields of overall industry. When we look back upon historical and social conditions in which high economic growth set foot, it is absolutely necessary to realize that 10 years' bitter fight and defeat of the working class in the postwar class struggle preceded it.
I do not mean that the labor movement at that period ended in a complete defeat. Various struggles continued.
The axis of the “1955 system” was the Liberal Democratic Party with the Japan Productivity Center and the Socialist Party as well as the Sohyo made it up as counter-axis. This regime in fact recognized so-called “class-oriented labor movement” under the leadership of the Sohyo as its precondition.
All I experienced from my union activities in my youth under the leadership of Sohyo was “class-oriented labor movement”. It makes no difference if it is Doro, Kokuro, Jichiro (All Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers' Union), Zendentsu (Japan Telecommunication Workers' Union) or Zentei (Japan Postal Workers' Union). Marxism was commonly learned in every union’s study course. The “1955 system” accepted all these union practices.
Under the “1955 system”, many labor unions continued their activities. But the labor unions of the governmental and public sectors suffered a terrible destructive blow, especially of the Kokuro and the Zentei. Only in 1960’s they recovered militancy. Meanwhile, labor unions of private industrial sectors maintained enough fighting potentials.
An opening of the first Congress Against Atomic and Hydrogen made another feature of the year 1955. It was an important occasion for the anti-war movement in Japan. The movement to prohibit A & H bombs started in 1954 by the residents of the Suginami Ward of Tokyo, who began signature-collecting campaign in protest against radioation exposure of Japanese fishermen by US nuclear weapons tests.
Another important issue was the Sunagawa struggle. The farmers of Sunagawa in Tachikawa city, a neighboring town of Tokyo, opposed fiercely to expropriation of their farm land for an expansion of the US Tachikawa air base. There were two major confrontations with riot police: the first battle was in 1955 and the second in1956. They are called “bloody battles of Sunagawa”. Demonstrators in support of the Sunagawa farmers, mainly students of the Zengakuren (All Japan Federation of Student Autonomous Bodies) and workers of militant labor unions, all gathered there and violently crushed against police intervention. During the heated struggle, the Tokyo District Court ruled the land expropriation in Sunagawa for US military use and the Japan-US Security Treaty itself as unconstitutional (the famous DATE judgment).
The Zendentsu fought the Chiyoda-maru struggle at that period. During the Korean War (1950-1953), three union head officers of the Zendentsu were discharged for refusal of laying cables in the Japan Sea. All three were Communist Party members. This triggered Chiyoda-maru struggle that ended in gaining victory in trial. As a result, the JCP rapidly expanded its influence over the central committee of the Zendentsu, winning finally 40% of the central committee members to the party.
Nikkyoso (Japan Teachers' Union), one of the major pillars of the postwar Japanese labor movement, fought a struggle against introduction of performance evaluation system to teachers' performances from 1956 to 1959 all over Japan. The Nikkyoso carried a slogan: “Never send students to the battle field again!” The struggle started from Ehime prefecture and was fought there desperately. As a counter measure, the governmental repression almost completely destroyed the District Ehime of the Nikkyoso. “Performance evaluation” means to control performances of teachers in the classroom. Such workplace control is now quite common and rampant everywhere. The introduction of performance evaluation system into classroom was its forerunner. Its aim was to suppress “peace education” practiced by teachers of the Nikkyoso. They refuse to hoist the national flags and to sing national anthem in ceremonial occasions in order to demonstrate their will for peace. For the government the “peace education” of the Nikkyoso was incompatible with its policy of waging war.
Niigata Struggle broke out in 1957. National railway workers rose up for struggle to oppose to unjust disciplinary measures inflicted for the spring labor offensive. The District Niigata of the Kokuro (in Niigata Railway Administrative Bureau of the JNR) was under the control of the Kakudo (League of Comrades for Innovation) faction. At that moment, the Kokuro was divided in three major political factions: the Communist Party, the Kakudo and the Mindo (League for Democratization, members and supporters of the Socialist Party). The Kakudo was formed as a critical group against the two conflicting factions.
Later in 1960 after the AMPO Struggle, the Kakudo was taken over by the JCP. Now the Kakudo is identified with the JCP. In former times, however, the Kakudo was an independent from the JCP, comprising about 2000 activists nationwide, who shared a common stand to develop serious and militant union activities. Thus the Kakudo constituted a significant “school”, that is, faction in the Kokuro. The District Niigata fought under Kakudo’s leadership a tough struggle against management’s disciplinary measures. The struggle continued for several months causing many trains to stop. Finally the officers of the union headquarters of the Kokuro intervened to put an end to struggle.
The Kokuro had been almost demolished organizationally in 1950’s through mass discharge of 100.000 workers by the Law on Fixed Number of Employees and also through the expulsion of a lot of union activists in the name of “red purge”. The Niigata struggle significantly demonstrated a revival of militant forces in national railway workers' movement only several years after the major setback. Though ended in defeat, the Niigata struggle evidently heralded a new era to come in 1960’s for national railway workers' movement, materialized in a great struggle opposing the Productivity Movement of the JNR which brought back national railway workers in the center of Japanese labor movement. In fact, there were a lot of young workers that got inspired by the Niigata Struggle and became devoted to labor movement.
The Japan Federation of Steel Workers' Unions (Tekkororen) today is regarded as a typical conciliatory union, but in former days it was a little different. In 1957, the management of steel industry flatly responded to the wage demand of the labor unions with “non-increase in salary”. At that period, the labor-management negotiation of the steel industry occupied a dominant position in determining wage-raising standard for all industries. Steel industry boasted, saying, “The iron makes the state”. Upon this answer, the Tekkororen organized a unified strike for 11 times, comprising all unions of essential steel corporations, such major enterprises as Yawata Steel, Kawasaki Steel Corporation, NKK Corporation, Kobe Steel, Sumitomo Metal Industries, etc. and also medium and minor companies. Nevertheless the steel management did not yielded at all and the labor unions were obliged to give up wage demands. After that, the Tekkororen was drawn into labor-management collaboration under the leadership of MIYATA, a notorious labor fixer.
There was also the Oji Seishi (Oji Paper Company) Struggle. I later learned that the Oji Seishi was the largest landowners in Japan; the second was the JNR. The Oji Seishi as a paper manufacturer owned a vast area of forestland to obtain timbers for paper production. Of course, it ran many paper factories adjoining the forestland. A violent dispute broke out over mass discharge. Paper manufacturing workers fought back against the police intervention and finally won the struggle.
After the end of the struggle, the management set up a company union (the so-called “second union”), which soon gathered members of a majority. The management dared to do so as a means of busting the labor union (“the first union”). It was declared that sons and daughters of “the first union” would never be employed by the company. Just the same policy was adopted by the JNR after the Division and Privatization of the JNR. The children of the Doro-Chiba unionists have never been employed in the JR unless their parents leave the union. In the Kokuro, the case may be the same. At the time of the Oji Struggle, paper-manufacturing factories were located near the forestland. Almost all the inhabitants and their family members living in the concerned area used to be employed by the Oji Seishi. Faced with the discriminative employment policy of the management, the workers were scared: “It is not bearable that not only I but also my children are going to be excluded in employment”. Thus the labor union of the Oji Seishi won the struggle, but the union itself was destroyed in an instant. We have learned later much from this bitter experience.
The Oji Struggle motivated the government to present the Policemen’s Duty Performance Law. The law attempted to empower the police to practice questioning and checking-up at any occasion. It provoked a stormy opposition with a broad mass mobilization. A lot of workers stood up to say no to the revival of the pre-war police. The rise and success of the Policemen’s Duty Performance Law (Keishokuho) Struggle was succeeded to the great upsurge of the AMPO Struggle in 1960’s.
The major struggles in 1959 and 60 were the AMPO Struggle on the one hand, and the Miike Struggle of the coalminers in Kyushu. The Miike Struggle was bitterly fought for 2 years. As a single confrontation between a labor union and a company, it surpassed all previous struggles in its intensity.
Labor movement in the private industrial branch whose workers had kept fighting against management even after the establishment of the “1955 system”, transformed itself into labor-management cooperation system all through the period of 1960’s. The defeat of the Miike struggle caused a grave damage to the leaders of the labor unions of the major private industrial enterprises.
In this period, serious difficulties deep-rooted in today’s society violently came up not only in Japan but also everywhere in the whole world, An incident of a primary importance broke out in 1956 in Hungary, where the Stalinist regime exposed its inherent contradictions; the USSR sent tanks to repress brutally revolting workers in Hungary. Though it was generally called `riot in Hungary”, we regarded it as “Hungarian revolution”. A question should be properly answered: why did the Soviet Union, a workers' state, dare to fire upon workers. This incident gave a tremendous shock to Marxists, socialists and communists of the whole world.
An official answer of the Communist Parties of the world headed by the USSR was: “The Soviet Union has every reason to suppress the workers in Hungary who rose for a counter-revolutionary cause”. This gave a rise to a fresh doubt: “Is it true? It is evident that those who stood up were workers. Is it really a “communism” that assaults workers like the USSR did?”
In Japan the workers' revolt in Hungary gave birth to the so-called New Left Movement. It started from a fundamental question on the validity of the Marxism and the Leninism propagandized by the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, and finally reached a conclusion: “The Marxism and the Leninism propagandized by the SP and the JCP are false. It is urgent to revive and restore genuine Marxism and Leninism. We have to set up a new workers' party instead of the SP and the CP”. This was the common will that activists in labor movement and student movement had deep in mind during five-years' hard struggle under the “1955 system”.
In such circumstances of political development in the world I got job in the JNR. At that time, the situation of the JNR in Chiba was unfortunately far from such a political ferment and was very severe for us. Notwithstanding, I could sense a general atmosphere. Class struggle develops, I am convinced, like that way. At that time, I was not fully aware of the real nature of the development. But when I looked back later upon that period I came to realize what the general conditions and surroundings, in which we were endeavoring to find our way, really were.
Labor unions of the private industrial branch were successively absorbed in a labor-management cooperation system after the defeat of the Miike Struggle. The Shin-Kokuro (new Kokuro) was born in 1960 just at the time of the AMPO and Miike Struggles as a result of a split in the Kokuro. Its center was in Osaka. Founding of the Shin-Kokuro was a public formation of the right wing faction, that is, endorsement grouping of labor-management cooperation, originating in the Anti-Communist League for Democratization, within the Kokuro. This split organization later became Tetsuro and formed the JR-Soren (JRU) together with the Kakumaru of Doro and finally expelled from it by Kakumaru.
Prior to this split, a split took place in the District Niigata of the Kokuro during the Niigata struggle in 1957, giving birth to the Niigata District Labor Union of the JNR, comprising the majority of the membership of the existing District Niigata of the Kokuro. The mainstream faction of the Kokuro, at that moment (namely, the Mindo faction), brought about the split to weaken the dominant influence of the Kakudo over the District Niigata. This split organization in Niigata joined the Osaka-based Shin-Kokuro at its foundation. Another split organization in Sendai completed the new organization, thus forming a triangle base for the new collaborationist movement, later under the name of the Tetsuro.
At the beginning of 1960, there was another political move in Osaka, or the Osaka-Sohyo. In Osaka, the union branch of the Sohyo used to call itself “Osaka-Sohyo”, demonstrating its relative independence from the national headquarters in Tokyo. Seven thousand affiliated union members of the “Osaka-Sohyo” suddenly left the union to form a right wing force. The Anti-Communist League for Democratization within the Kokuro was the main promoter of the split.
The split in Osaka took place just at the peak of the AMPO and Miike Struggles, especially for the latter struggle in the eve of a decisive battle around the coalmine. It was an intentional plot to give damage to the mounting struggle of the workers. Almost simultaneously the Democratic Socialist Party was set up as a result of the split of the SP. The president of the new party was NISHIO Suehiro of Osaka.
Following a process of the splits of labor unions and the Socialist Party from 1959 to 60, the Domei (Japan Confederation of labor) was founded in 1964. The Zenro-Kaigi (Congress of All Japan Trade Unions) played an axial roll in it. It was originally born in 1954 with the All Japan Seamen’s Union, Zensen-Domei (Japanese Federation of Textile, Garment, etc. Industries Unions) and other two unions as its components through their criticism to the Sohyo. Other two organizations that joined in setting up the Domei were: a right-wing remnant grouping of the ancient Sodomei (Japan Confederation of Trade Unions); the Zenkanko (All Public Employees Unions), a right-wing group split from the Kankoro (Governmental and Public Workers' Unions) in 1960, including the Shin-Kokuro and the Zenyusei (split from the Zentei).
In the same year, 1964, International Metalworkers' Federation, Japan Council (IMF-JC) started. IMF-JC comprises all unions that organize metal workers belonging to the Sohyo and the Domei as well as independent unions of metal industry. It is quite abnormal enough from the viewpoint of the Sohyo to cooperate with the unions belonging to the Domei, a federation of collaborationist unions. Nevertheless, the Sohyo admitted this when it was set up in 1964. If the Sohyo had seriously opposed to this and forbidden the unions concerned to join it, the IMF-JC would not have come into being. Labor unions headed by the Japan Federation of Steel Workers' Unions belonging to the Sohyo, formed a “Japan Conference group”. The Sohyo leadership was obliged to accept this.
Late Mr. IWAI Akira, the then Secretary General of the Sohyo, when I had an opportunity to talk with him, gave me no definite answer to my question about the reason why the Sohyo dare not crush the splitting attempt of setting up the JC, which would be a step for the Rengo. After all the fact was the Sohyo recognized the founding of the IMF-JC.
The year 1960 opened up a new era of recovering militancy for the labor movement of the governmental and public sectors headed by national railway workers' movement, which had suffered 10 years' setback through governmental repression by the Law on Fixed Number of Employees and the “red purge” and had been on the way forward. The Kokuro and the Doro staged strike on June 4, 1960, making a famous climax of the AMPO struggle [The Doro, whose former name was the Kiro (Locomotive Engineers' Union), had changed its name into the Doro (Motive Power Union) in 1959]. The June 4 strike was a political strike opposed to the Japan-US Treaty. A huge number of strike supporters, workers and students occupied in Shinagawa, Tabata etc. They occupied all areas of station buildings, railroads and barn of Ogu, the fortress of the Doro. Especially in the Shinagawa station, downtown terminal of Tokyo, a massive sit-in was carried out with overwhelming participants in support of the railway strike.
The Doro was radicalized through the June 4 strike. In 1961 the union decided to set up a youth section. A heavy railway accident happened in May 1962 in Mikawashima on the Joban line, causing 155 passengers dead. At that time, I was working as an assistant train driver on a steam locomotive. The accident terribly shook me. The following was the outline of the accident: a train collided with a derailed freight train; the passengers got off the train and were walking on the railroad; then there came another train and ran over the passengers. It was really a terrible accident.
The crew of the freight train belonged to the Tabata Engine Depot and was the union members of the Doro. The road to Mikawashima from Tabata is an uphill and curved one; normally, locomotive drivers sitting on the left side of the train depend upon assistant engine drivers working on the right side to confirm the traffic signal on the right. Here on the spot of the accident, the assistant engine driver is usually occupied in supplying the boiler with coal, because the locomotive needs to be fueled extra to gain power to run uphill. Since long before the accident, the union meeting of train crew of Local Tabata of the Doro had been demanding the management to improve the condition in regard to the signals on the spot. Actually when the accident happened, the assistant engine driver had no time to give a look at the signal, being occupied in fueling.
In the early morning time, the train can usually run without looking at the signal because the signal is usually green at that time of the day. But on the particular day of the accident, the situation was totally different from the normal case. Various incidents happened to occur one after another and triggered the accident. The terrible blow of the accident motivated the Doro to develop a concept of rail safety.
On December 13, 1963 we organized a struggle against rationalization and for rail safety. The struggle developed magnificently. It was a struggle to oppose to a unification and abolishment plan (scrap-and-build) of Ogu and Tabata Engine Depots. I was just elected as head of the youth section of the District Chiba. I went to support the struggle, but could not join the strikers in the engine barn, for the police surrounded it with massive mobilization of a riot troop of 3000 men. So we tried the way through the railroad and met brutal police attack with baton charge.
This struggle forced the management to adopt the Automatic Train Stopper (ATS).
At the spring labor offensive in 1964, the Council of Public Corporation and National Enterprises Workers' Unions (Korokyo) for the first time called on the unions to go on a unified strike on April 17 for a wage demand. I remember joining in mobilization of the union for support of strike in Shinagawa Engine Depot. One of the remarkable characteristics was that the Korokyo called the union action openly as strike.
Formerly the unions avoided employing the word “strike”, because the Public Corporations, etc. Labor Relations Law (PCLRS or Koroho) forbids strike. Before the Law was legislated, national railway workers and workers in other public sectors naturally had right to strike, for example in the case of the aborted general strike of February 1, 1947. During the governmental offensive to materialize the Law on Fixed Number of Employees, strike was forbidden by law. Since that time struggles have been fought in a form of work-to-rule.
Let us take an example of a struggle for the annual leave. We organized struggle demanding the annual leave for a certain part of workforce. When the union decides a struggle of “annual leave for 50 % workforce”, we order a half of the workers to leave the floor for a holiday neglecting the management direction. We even dared to organize “annual leave for 100% workforce”.
Another example of our tactic was the workplace meeting within our working hours. We start a union meeting in the workplace before our working hours begin, and continue it into our working hours. As a result, train service is inevitably interrupted. We do not call it strike but a “workplace meeting running over for one hour into the working hours”. The union often issued a directive of “workplace meeting running over for 29 minutes into working hours' Even in case of the strike of June 4, 1960, the instruction paper of the union never wrote “a strike”, which would give the cause of juridical punishment, such as dismissal under the Public Corporations, etc. Labor Relations Law.
As it was the historical background, I got a refreshing impression when I found the word “strike” for the first time on the union’s poster ordering a unified strike of the Korokyo in 1964. It signified that national railway workers' movement gained enough power to declare openly to go on strike without fearing punishment of the management.
The Japan Communist Party issued a statement on April 8 in 1964, immediately before the planned strike, saying, “The strike is a plot of the government and the capital. We are categorically opposed to the strike”. It was named “April 8 statement”. For the JCP it seemed perhaps unreasonable to wage strike, as the governmental and capitalist offensive was very severe against the Kankoro. The repression by means of the Law on Fixed Number of Employees gave indeed a terrible blow to the JCP. It took really a lot of time for the JCP to recover from the damage. The April 8 statement reflected after all CP’s feeling of being possibly victimized when the strike was carried out.
Once the JCP leadership issued the anti-strike statement, workers belonging to the JCP began scabbing, in accordance with the party line, in every workplace of the Korokyo and passed resolutions against the strike in the name of union locals of the Kokuro, Zendentsu, Zentei etc. where they had influence. A large number of the JCP sympathizers in the Zendentsu born as a result of the above-mentioned Chiyoda-maru struggle were all expelled from the union office for scabbing. Those unionists who supported the JCP members in the Chiyoda-maru struggle, all withdrew their support for the JCP. Thus political influence of the JCP over the Zendentsu was wiped away.
In the Zentei party members of the JCP were all purged. It was quite natural for scabs.
The case was a little different in the Kokuro, of which HOSOI Soichi, head of the Kakudo (a CP-led faction), occupied an important position of the executive committee. Hosoi made a self-criticism on scabbing in the national convention of the Kokuro and was allowed to remain in the union. Different from other unions belonging to the Korokyo, the Kakudo as JCP faction still remain in the Kokuro being exempt from purge.
This was a famous incident that revealed the true nature of the leading policy of the JCP in regard to labor movement: when mass movement gains momentum, the JCP intervenes to prevent it. Activists within the JCP inevitably face an alternative to oppose to the party leadership and to surrender in the end or to leave the party when they seriously seek to practice union activities.
After all, the planned strike failed. OHTA Kaoru, Chair of the Sohyo, and IKEDA Hayato, Prime Minister at that time, met on the eve of the strike and reached an agreement to stop the planned strike. The agreement was made under the condition that the wage of the Korokyo workers would be determined on the basis of the wage of the private industrial branches. This principle has been established as a rule since then to be a guideline of the spring labor offensive. We, of course, raised an objection on the ground that there was no reason for us, the Korokyo workers, to bear with the low wage when the workers of the private sectors are less paid. At that times, as Japanese economy was experiencing high growth, standardization on the wage of the private industries seemed, however, to be plausible. Before the agreement was reached, the workers of the JNR, post office and municipal office were the three worst paid employees. Teachers were also low-paid workers. Governmental and public employees got all far less wages than workers of private sectors in 1960’s.
The Ikeda administration carried a political line: “generosity and patience”. In 1960 the AMPO Struggle was fiercely fought with a tremendous popular mobilization. At the same time, the Miike Struggle was carried on so violently that there might be fatalities if the battles round the coalmine should have taken place. The Ikeda administration replaced the hard line of its predecessor Kishi with a seemingly mild line (as above-mentioned “generosity and patience”) and promoted its policy of “doubling the household income” by virtue of the economic high growth. Its politics culminated in getting the strike of the Korokyo suspended through a summit talk between the chair of the Sohyo and the Prime Minister, that is, a negotiation between the bosses of labor and capital.
At that moment, we denounced this as betrayal of our cause of labor movement. Looking back on it from now, we realize that labor unions formerly had such a power. How was it possible for the head of the Sohyo with utmost 4.5 million members to have a face-to-face meeting with the Prime Minister? Labor unions were so powerful. “The army in former times, the Sohyo today” was said at that time. In fact, before and during the previous war the Japanese army and navy were did whatever they wanted to. So is the Sohyo - the saying meant it.
It was somewhat an exaggerated expression, but I think that labor unions should be as powerful as that. Of course the leadership of the Sohyo was social-democratic and its stand was very limited with a lot of betrayals and deviating activities, but as a national body of labor unions, its organizational power was strong enough to confront the head of the state. Capital has fear of such potential of workers and labor unions. We should rather draw lessons from the aborted strike in this way than to simply criticize the betrayal of the Sohyo.
One more thing to add: the year 1964 was marked by the Tokyo Olympic Games as well as opening of the Tokaido Shinkansen, bullet express train. Also in the same year, the Tomei Expressway and the Metropolitan Expressway were constructed; the Housing Corporation began constructing collective apartment complex. Thus the economic high growth was set in full motion.
What were the features of the period when our younger generation of labor movement began working began working?
One of the features was the economic high growth. Japanese capitalism, once ruined in the last war, entered a phase of economic high growth under the “1955 system”.
An important feature next to this was the revival of the labor movement of the governmental and public sectors headed by the Kokuro after a long period of immobility (mockingly called “a sleeping elephant”) to occupy a central position in Japanese labor world, while the unions of private industrial sectors were almost absorbed in the existing system and became obedient to capital.
Another significant feature was the rising political power of the New Left Movement. Before the AMPO Struggle of 1960 started, expelled dissidents of the Japan Communist Party, mainly belonging to the students' cells, set up Communist League (Bund). There was also Revolutionary Communist League (Kakkyodo=Chukaku), founded by the impact of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. Though the RCL was established earlier than the CL, the latter had a larger mass basis than the former; the CL led the Zengakuren during the AMPO Struggle.
When I was engaged in the union activity as a young worker, there was a mounting aspiration for the revival of Marxism and Leninism that had once lost their charm. A movement to build up a genuine workers' party instead of existing parties, such as the Socialist Party and the Communist Party, was spreading a refreshing light over us. I felt a thrill of pride when I realized that I was going to play a part of this historical task as a worker.
What were the major issues of the struggle for national railway workers in these ten years?
Struggle against rationalization was one of the most important problems. Rationalization in the JNR had already started before this ten years' period. The first workplace to be rationalized was Shime coalmine in Kyushu. At that time the JNR possessed a waterpower plant in Shinano-Gawa, a thermal power plant in Kawasaki and also coal mines. Steel locomotives were provided with the homemade coal of the JNR. Workers of those coal mines also belonged to the Kokuro. As far as I know, the rationalization of the Shime coalmine was the first case. “It does not pay” - was the reason given to the closing of the mine.
Working clothes and uniforms of the JNR workers were all fabricated at home: numerous women workers were employed in clothing factories of the JNR. Those factories were also abolished later. All sort of rationalizations in various business branches of the JNR were carried out in the course of modernization of transport power, that is, replacement of steam locomotives with electric-diesel locomotives as main driving engines.
The Locomotive Workers Union changed its name to the Motive Power Union (Doro) in 1959 in accordance with this development. Locomotives are essentially steam locomotives. The modernization of the driving engine brought in electric cars and diesel cars. Cars in place of steam locomotives. So the new name was needed for the union.
In 1964 the New Tokaido Line was brought into operation. An enormous investment for the new line drove the JNR into red figure for the first time in the following year. This was a deficit after the depreciation, not a deficit in its proper sense. Meanwhile rationalization began in full scale, provoking struggles against it.
. To make the situation more intense, two grave railway accidents occurred successively: in Mikawashima in 1962 and in Tsurumi in 1963. These accidents evoked a grave anxiety among railway unionists. They stood up to keep rail safety. This is called Rail safety Struggle later on. This gave a powerful impact on the youth section of the Doro at that time.
In the meantime, struggle was launched against dismissal of 50,000 employees as anti-rationalization struggle. After the so-called long-term plan of the JNR went into bankruptcy, a new 5 years' project was worked out with a plan of dismissing 50,000 employees. It was focused upon the abolition of assistant engine drivers. As for a steam locomotive, two workers, an engineer and his assistant, operated it. This personnel system was carried over to electric cars and diesel cars. The management thought of eliminating jobs of assistant engine drivers.
At that time, assistant engine drivers occupied about 30% of the membership of the Doro. Abolishing jobs of assistants would inevitably give rise to a fierce struggle. Almost all the assistant engine drivers were young workers belonging to the youth section of the union. High school graduates were usually promoted to the job of an assistant engine driver at the age of around 20 after two years' duty in the JNR. The struggle against the abolition of assistant engine drivers ended after all in defeat, starting in 1967 and culminating in the largest strike in the history of national railway workers in 1969.
Another important issue is anti-war struggle.
The Japanese government concluded in 1965 Japan-Korea Treaty only with the government of the southern part of divided Korea. At the same time, the Vietnam War got intensified.
In such circumstances, the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee was founded in this year. Both of the youth sections, of the Socialist Party and of the Sohyo, together with the Socialist Youth League cooperated in establishing the committee. The Socialist Youth League had been set up as a counterpart to the Democratic Youth League under the influence of the Communist Party, after the AMPO struggle in 1960. Local organizations of the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee (AWLYC) were set up one after another everywhere in Japan. The youth section of the District Chiba of the Doro played a central roll in organizing the AWLYC in Chiba. With the AWLYC as an organizationally efficient tool, we began developing struggles against the call of US nuclear submarines to Japanese harbors (Yokosuka struggle), against Japan-South Korea Treaty and the anti-Vietnam war struggle.
On October 8, 1967 YAMAZAKI Hiroaki, a student of the Kyoto university, was killed by police in the Haneda struggle to prevent the departure of the then Prime Minister Sato for South Vietnam. At the news of his death struggle against the Vietnam War flared up. The Sohyo staged a strike on October 21. The day was named the “International Anti-war Day” commemorating the militant struggle. Thereafter, October 21 has been established as an Anti-war Day in Japan. Thus the struggle against the Vietnam War experienced an enormous upsurge.
In those days, Okinawa was still under the control of the US administration, and so was not bound to the Japan-US Security Treaty. Making use of such a juridical status of Okinawa, the US carried on the Vietnam War. Okinawa was its strategic stronghold. Thus Japan played a roll of offering the US logistics as well as staging points. There bodies of the dead GI’s brought from the battlefield of Vietnam were cleaned there. It was said that this job was paid 10,000 yen a day. Repairing works of broken tanks were also practiced in Japan. Later, the struggles protesting to bring in US tanks from Vietnam burst out in Sagamihara city. Sagamihara is in the vicinity of Tokyo and it has the US base of logistics. All this illustrates how Japan was engaged in the Vietnam War.
In Okinawa, a forefront base of the US forces, there grew the clamor for putting an end to the US military control. The movement demanding “out of US military administration and get back to Japan” spread all over the Okinawa island in the latter half of 1960’s, rallying around the Conference “Return to the fatherland”. This movement, combined with the anti-Vietnam war struggle became a driving force of a great upsurge of the struggle toward 1970.
In 1966, a struggle began against the construction of Narita airport in Sanrizuka. Struggles of students on campus became vigorous around 1968. The students of the Tokyo University and of the Nihon University headed the struggle.
Thus started the 1970’s the AMPO-Okinawa Struggle. The then Prime Minister Sato concluded an agreement with the US government. The agreement was to return Okinawa to Japan in 1972. Adverse opinions prevailed: the agreed return of Okinawa was a fraud, because under the Japanese administration the US military bases would continue to exist in Okinawa as they were before. This point was fiercely argued during the 1970’s struggle.
At that time, streets of Tokyo were covered with demonstrations almost every day: demonstrations organized by the Sohyo, the Socialist Party and its supporters; demonstrations through independent mobilization by the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee; and rallies and demonstrations of various political groups. Day after day, unions mobilized a large amount of unionists to the struggle. We not only staged demonstrations in Chiba but also participated in rallies and demonstrations in Tokyo. We came back so late at night from Tokyo to Chiba that we couldn’t get on the last train of the local service, and we often had to sleep in our own working place. And the next day, we once again repeated the same activities. It was a great fun for us young workers to fight physical confrontation with the riot police on the street. Participants increased day by day. Having a fun in the struggle is very important. It makes no pleasure when there is no lively street action. The Communist Party always makes quiet demonstration like a funeral procession.
Next to the anti-war struggle, the struggle against Productivity Movement occupies a very important position. It was named “Marusei struggle” for abbreviation. Similar campaign of the management of Post Office was organized to attack against the workers of the Zentei (Postal Workers' Union).
The Productivity Movement was planned by the JNR management for the fear of the explosive development of the national railway workers struggle through convergence with anti-war movement. There was a background to such fear. The struggle of the national railway workers grew militancy and combat spirit within the young workers as driving force. The state power and the management alike had a sense of crisis. In Chiba, though the District Chiba of the Doro as a whole was not so militant, its youth section was fighting a very militant struggle. The press wrote, “Anti-war fringe of the District Chiba with 500 members”.
The Productivity Movement was officially launched by ISOZAKI who assumed a position of the president of the JNR in 1969. In Chiba, however, the management started it already in 1968 when colleague TAKIGUCHI got disciplinary discharge for three framed-up cases.
A fierce rift broke out within the District Chiba between the emerging force - members of the youth section - and the conservative force. How to tackle the issue? The views were severely divided over the following problem: to regard the government’s punishment of colleague Takiguchi as repressive measures on labor movement and union activists; or to consider regard it as an issue inappropriate for union activity.
The reason given for the punishment was simple: drinking on duty. It is a fact that he drank a glass of beer while driving a train. It was, however, quite common and normal for engineers, in former times, to get a shot before starting from the engine barn. In the New Year, engine drivers were served by bosses of the engine barn with Sake, Japanese wine, to celebrate the New Year before sitting on the driving seat. While the trains are running all day long, it was admitted for the engine drivers to drink a little bit of beer at his meal in the working hour. By the way, what happened actually in the case of colleague Takiguchi? He, on duty as an assistant engineer, drank only a glass of beer, while the engineer drank a two third of the bottle of beer! The engineer who was more responsible for the operation of the train got punishment less severe and the assistant engineer who was less responsible got punishment severer. We argued that it was unreasonable.
Another allegation was an “altered medical certificate”. Colleague Takiguchi absented himself for cold and stayed at home. He went to a doctor for a medical certificate the next day; (usually union activists take annual paid leaves for their union activity to full extent. When they are obliged to be absent because of illness, they have to present the reason of absence to the management). When colleague Takiguchi presented the certificate, the management pointed out that the date of the issue of the certificate was not that of his absence, but of the next day. So he forwarded the date of the issue. And this was called the “altered medical certificate”. It gave the management a good reason to discharge him under the name of a “disciplinary dismissal”.
The District Chiba was challenged to clarify the stand of a labor union on this vital issue, discharge of a worker for an unjustified reason. This divided the whole union organization, including the youth section. “Defend colleague Takiguchi!” was a slogan put forward mainly by the youth section, but was also supported by several senior members of the union who argued, “The youth section has a right position. The Takiguchi issue is apparently aimed to purge union activists. When the union admits this, there will be no one who dares to continue to be active in the union. Arguments broke out in every union meeting and assemblies of the District Chiba.
When the case is judged as an unjust punishment, the dismissed worker is paid from the union through the application of the relief clause of victims of repression of the union rules. We couldn’t hold a one-vote majority and the District Chiba convention voted down the application of the said clause. In spite of the defeat, it demonstrated the growing power of the new force in the union. A “Committee to Defend Takiguchi” was set up to support the living of colleague Takiguchi by the fee of 100 yen for each member. Colleague Takiguchi finally won the trial in 1970.
We had to confront a serious rift within the Doro, namely confrontation with Kakumaru. It was argued in those days: the rift within the Doro was a factional conflict between the Kakumaru and Chukaku. It developed into the labor movement and that labor union should avoid such factional confrontation. The fact was, however, there were actual causes in the union that made the conflict inevitable.
The first point of the disagreement was the issue of colleague Takiguchi’s discharge. Colleague Takiguchi was one of the leading activists of the youth section of the union. The youth section was fighting in the forefront of the struggle against the concentrated repression of the management. There was such a background to the dismissal of colleague Takiguchi. The Kakumaru of the Doro criticized the District Chiba, “You are to blame for committing such activities that provoked repression”. It means Kakumaru approved the dismissal by the management. Actually, instead of protesting against the management that fired a union activist, Kakumaru began assaulting on the union members of the District Chiba rallying round the “Committee to Defend Takiguchi” and fighting for withdrawal of the unjust dismissal. The Kakumaru’s behavior was definitely impermissible. An uncompromising confrontation was an inevitable outcome.
For the state power and the management, it was imperative to crush reviving national railway workers' struggle in closer commitment in various political struggles. The struggle of the national railway workers was believed to have been almost destroyed by the repression of the state power and the management by means of the Law on Fixed Number of Employees and the attack of the “red purge” twenty years ago. The Productivity Movement was launched to face this development within an aim of eliminating the struggle of the national railway workers once for all.
When we look back upon the dismissal issue, we must of course take it serious to behave cautiously in duty as a matter of the class struggle. But those kinds of problems should be resolved within the union to overcome carelessness or weakness of the individual unionists. It is one thing. Another thing is: we must unite together in our struggle against the management when we confront the enemy’s offensive. This is the most fundamental principle of the labor movement.
Such was the initial stage of the severe struggle against the Kakumaru of the Doro. It caused later the separation of the District Chiba from the headquarters of the Doro and independence from it. At this moment I had a strong feeling that Kakumaru’s deeds were not pardonable. When we were fighting with all of our power against dismissal of our colleague, how was it possible for the fellow workers of the youth section in the same union to assault upon the fighting unionists? With every excuse it was an inadmissible act.
A similar problem with the Kakumaru occurred later again in the struggle against Funabashi accident, a rail safety struggle. Kakumaru refused to promote signature-collecting campaign for the dismissed train driver, colleague Takaishi. The Doro National Executive under the Kakumaru’s influence gathered none. The row between the District Chiba and the Kakumaru within the Doro thus started.
In the annual spring labor offensive in 1969, Doro Local of Chiba Diesel Car Depot, to which I belonged, went into strike under the direction of the union as the first wave of the struggle. To suppress the strike, the riot police surrounded the Diesel Car Depot and the railway police and the supervisors of the whole Kanto area were all there to intervene in the struggle. All the unionists of the Local shut themselves up in the Diesel Depot to defend the strike till the end.
A pressman of the Mainichi paper, who was on the scene in spite of a heavy rain, wrote an article titled “true faces of the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee disclosed! “, in which he described the struggle as the “strike in barricade”, making the strike famous nation wide. The striking workers had no intention of barricading themselves, but only they were obliged to defend themselves in their own workplace resisting against the management’s order to leave the spot.
In January of the same year, there was a battle between the students occupying the Yasuda Auditorium of the Tokyo University and the riot police. Workers watched the TV and applauded, crying, “Crush the Tokyo University!” A crowd of people gathered in front of the TV set. No comparison with soccer fans of today. It was quite a natural development for the railway workers who witnessed the campus occupation by students to set up the barricade around their workplace. The management intended to destroy violently the struggle in the Diesel Car Depot of District Chiba of the Doro, a bastion of the anti-war workers. The attack was decisively fought back.
The JNR management intended to break up the Kokuro and the Doro from within. In order to achieve this goal, it carried out the Productivity Movement through recruiting and bringing up candidates for the agents of the campaign among the members of these unions. The candidates were lodged for a couple of days or sometimes for a week for a thoroughgoing training. Training was practiced in a way just like in a cult. The management put them in a darkroom. They sat around candlelight in a group of five to ten. Then discussion began, criticizing the candidates of their “former wrong deeds' and continued till they burst into tears, confessing their faults. It was a kind of brainwashing.
After being trained like this way, they were sent back to their workplaces as agents of the campaign to form groups of the Productivity Movement within the Kokuro and the Doro organizations. As a result, formerly inactive union members appeared to the union meetings and began criticizing against the unions. When they succeeded in gaining a certain numbers of their supporters, they all quit the Kokuro and the Doro to join a collaborationist union, namely the Tetsuro.
Formerly, the Tetsuro had the membership of forty or fifty thousand, while the Doro had fifty thousand and the Kokuro, three hundred thousand. Through the Productivity Movement, however, the Tetsuro grew to the union with hundred thousand members at the cost of the Doro and the Kokuro.
At that time, Chiba Diesel Car Depot was called one of the “three outlaws”. Other two were Tamachi Electric Car Depot in Tokyo and Mukomachi Driving Center in Kyoto. The JNR management was resolved to crush labor movement of “these three terrible Depots' by every means. All supervisors in Chiba Diesel Car Depot, including the chief and the assistant chief of the Depot, were replaced because their being in friendly terms with the union leader Nakano of Chiba Diesel Car Depot and were not obedient to management orders. In place of them, career managerial staffs were brought from Tokyo to Chiba to launch the Productivity Movement.
It was really a hard struggle. Being the chief of the union local, I was engaged every day in the activity in the workplace and stayed away from home. I was always told from the new supervisors to leave the workplace after the duty was over.
Finally in 1973 we won the struggle against the Productivity Movement through enduring great hardships. In 1972 Isozaki, the then president of the JNR was obliged to make a self-criticism; unfair labor practices were disclosed. In those days, the management was not yet so shameless. Speeches of the chief executives in Shizuoka and Mito were recorded on a tape; they were commanding supervisors to crush the Kokuro and the Doro. These tapes were presented to the Public Corporation and Government Enterprise Labor Relations Commission and their unfair labor practices were proved. The self-criticism was the outcome of our persistent struggle.
Today the situation is totally different. The JR management openly defies the relief orders of Local Labor Relations Commissions on unfair labor practices, saying arrogantly, “Labor Relations Commissions are not trustworthy. Former leftists occupy the commissions. They are rubbish”. Matsuda, president of the JR east-Japan, declares, “Orders of Labor Relations Commissions have no importance at all. We have Local Relations Commissions and the Public Corporation and Government Enterprise Labor Relations Commission. We have also three stages of trials. Let us fight out”. But the JNR management in those days was still naive. The JNR executive apologized for unfair labor practices in the course of parliamentary interrogation.
Thus we won the severe battle over the Productivity Movement. And I believe that the movement of the national railway workers is the only branch, in which the attempt of the managements of improving productivity was crushed.
The problem was that the Kokuro and the Doro were too much delighted at the victory to seriously examine the whole process and outcome of the victorious struggle in a right way. The JNR management as well as the state power critically and thoroughly analyzed the defeat and drew lessons from this. It leads to the Division and Privatization of the JNR.
At the outset, it was not easy for the Kokuro and the Doro to say no to the management’s campaign for raising profit by means of productivity improvement as the labor unions organized within the JNR as an enterprise. Almost all leading labor unions of major private industries were rendered powerless through management campaign for productivity improvement. But in the JNR, the situation was different: managerial decisions were made not from the viewpoint of raising productivity but through arbitrary intervention of the Diet men of the Liberal Democratic Party. They demand, “Lay railroad here” or “Electrify this line” “Make this double-tracked”, and so on. Every one in the workplace knows it very well and does not believe in effective productivity improvement. Though the JNR management violently attempted to increase the membership of the Tetsuro at the cost of the Kokuro and the Doro, it failed.
To carry out the Division and Privatization of the JNR, the management was determined to destroy not only the Kokuro and the Doro but also the Tetsuro this time, drawing lessons from the previous defeat. Management’s new policy is to eliminate all existing labor unions and to establish a new union at its disposal. Thus the JR-Soren and the JR-Rengo were born.
Evolution of various economic as well as political systems of the Japanese society are said to be delayed for ten years because of the defeat of the JNR in carrying out the Productivity Movement. The struggle against the Productivity Movement no doubt forced also a postponement for ten years of an attempt of breaking up the Sohyo and reorganizing the labor movement as a whole into a system of labor-management cooperation like the Rengo of today, an attempt of promoting a right turn and taming of labor movement.
From that time on a group rapidly extended its influence in the JNR management, a group to promote the “normalization of labor-management relations”. This group of the management made it their labor policy to frequently and repeatedly invite union officers of the Kokuro as well as the Doro to parties, golfing, etc. and get them addicted. The JNR management minutely and critically examined the whole experience of the defeated campaign: how to handle mass medias, how to tackle issues of unfair labor practices in labor relations commission, etc. On the other hand, the management suddenly turned extremely humble and amiable in front of union officers and activists and invites them in every occasion to dinner etc. It was widely known that the JNR was an exceptionally frequent customer in the amusement area of Ginza, which was then suffering from hard business times by the so-called “oil shock”
It was the youth section that fought every kind of struggle in the forefront of the union in Chiba. As the leaderships of the unions of the Doro as well as of the Kokuro in Chiba were in the hands of the labor-management collaborationists, the JNR management focused the Productivity Movement upon the workplaces where the youth section was active, such as Local Shin-Koiwa and the Chiba Diesel Car Depot.
Thus the youth section was obliged to stand face to face with the management’s offensive. It amazingly strengthened the youth section. Young activists of the youth section learned much and got precious lessons in the struggle.
To sum up in a word, 10 years' struggle was a process of radically transforming the District Chiba of the Doro into a militant labor union. It may be regarded as a struggle of winning the union power of the District Chiba into the hands of the activists rallying round the youth section. We were fully conscious of its political implication and aim.
District Chiba of the Doro at that time was a typically right wing Mindo (Social-democratic) labor-management cooperation union. The tendency of the right wing was traditionally influential in national railway workers' movement in Chiba. For example, in August of 1949, in the aftermath of the management’s and the state power offensive by means of the Law on Fixed Number of Employees and the Red Purge, the Kokuro held a central committee meeting in Narita city of Chiba and excluded all dismissed activists from the union through irregular procedure. The then head of the executive committee of the Kokuro and responsible officers for that decision was KATO Etsuo from District Chiba, assistant stationmaster of Ryogoku station. The other rightwing political figure from Chiba was KATAOKA Fumisige, social democrat and later Diet member of the Democratic Party. In Chiba, both of the Kokuro and the Doro were politically under the rightwing influence.
It was quite natural for such a labor union to have no authority in the workplace. Supervisors, heads of workshops and their assistants walking round arrogantly and head of the union local took humiliating attitude in front of them. The latter called the formers by Mr.
It was quite reasonable for such a labor union that no serious independent and competent workers thought of becoming union officer. The most influential persons were already incorporated into the managerial system as supervisors or chiefs or assistant-chiefs of the workshops. Union officers were regarded as a lower rank and behaved in a humble way.
When some one serves a position of the head of the local for a year, then he is promoted to a trainer or an assistant-chief of the workplace. Thus the position of the labor union was regarded as a gateway to the higher rank in the management. There was scarcely a difference between what the supervisor says and the union officer says. No unionists had confidence in their union. The union did nothing for what occurs in workplace. No complaint was heeded. Naturally such unions were bitterly discredited.
There remained apprenticeship of a feudalistic character in the workshop, especially in engine depots. In those days when locomotive engine occupied a central position, it was very hard for newcomers of the JNR to learn the work. They were usually assigned to a job of engine service and thrown into an engine room of locomotive still hot immediately after being turned off, to clean tubes full of coal. It was really a hard job. They were so completely stained with dust and soot while working that even their parents living in the same locality who brought lunch box to their sons could not identify them. The management and the union shared the view that it was quite natural for newcomers to be assigned to a hard job like this and treated very badly.
There was another difficulty with the union in Chiba. In 1950’s, many young communist workers had been dismissed one by one during the struggle against the Law on Fixed Number of Employees and the Red Purge. Consequently senior unionists who had experienced a bitter outcome of the defeated struggle had a deep-seated fear of getting punished. It is inevitable for the workers employed in the governmental and public sectors to be punished (reprimand, wage reduction, etc) under the Koroho (Public Corporations, etc. Labor Relations Law) when they were actively committed in union activities. Strong fear of punishment was still hanging over the heads of the senior unionists. In 1963, a year after the Mikawashima accident, I called out the young union members to stand up for a struggle. The JNR management punished us all. Though it was only reprimand, one of the punished unionists began crying, “I am finally going to be dismissed!” So intensely and incorrigibly remained the fear of punishment among unionists in Chiba.
“Custom reconciles us to everything” - the only way to overcome such fear is to consistently face to punishments until they become immune to us. It takes a lot of time to be accustomed to punishment and to say, “Punishment is nothing to me”. It was in fact not until we came to power in the union that the fear of punishment disappeared and we became convinced that the wage reduction was quite insignificant. It all illustrates how terribly we had been scared of being punished by the management.
Therefore, when the directive of a strike was issued, I had to endeavor much to persuade and encourage the unionists in order to dress ranks of the strike without leaving anyone out. When I was 29 years old, I worked as a head of a local and always stayed away from home at the time of a strike, preparing for the struggle in the workplace. It was quite a trying struggle.
We had to confront another problem. It was the strong allergy of the unionists to the delay of trains. Perhaps it may be a sort of artisan spirit. Many struggles in the workplace were inevitably accompanied with delaying trains. In those cases, I was in fact obliged to make several concessions to the senior unionists who demonstrated strong allergy to the delay of trains. When we examine the plan of struggle, it is easy for us professionals to see what will happened to train operation, for example, a total train-stoppage of one or two hour’s delay. On finding the possible outcome of the struggle, the veterans on railway react intensely against it. In case of the Automatic Train Stopper (ATS) struggle, it required much effort to bring unionists to practice it. We ordered to stop the train according to the rule on duty when the ATS starts ringing. It will inevitably make delay of train operation. Later we fought work-to-rule, running the train at a speed two times slower or taking a time two times longer between Tokyo and Nakano. The union members of the Local Tsudanuma carried out this work-to-rule quite at ease. It was a result of a longtime endeavor.
All these were natural development, for labor movement is practiced essentially by those workers who are firmly convinced that their duty is to run the train safe and in time. All the more it was necessary to confront this allergy in a severe way. “You are talking nonsense. You are on the side of the management” — this is not a right way of argument. We should explain to them what the labor movement is and persuade them the significance of the struggle to delay the train.
Following is three essential slogans of the youth section: (1) union reform; (2) crush feudalism, (3) serious and disciplined union activities.
I am going to talk about our workshop struggle. First, a struggle of “big scoop”. Locomotives consume about 5 tons of coal for a course, which is thrown into a kettle with a scoop by a single hand. It is a very tiresome work. With a bigger scoop it is of course easier, reducing the actions to a half or one third. The management, however, intervened, saying, “Don’t use bigger scoop. Use smaller ones as a rule”. The youth section of the union initiated defiance of the management’s instruction: “Don’t talk rubbish! We can no longer continue putting 5 ton’s coal with small scoops.” Assistant engineers used big scoops on duty, for they were not watched by supervisors when operating trains. On arriving at stations, they pretended to have used small scoops in front of supervisors.
To carry the matter further, we proposed to use big scoops openly and make it a struggle against the management. Then some of the senior union officers still with feudalistic thinking, opposed to this and commented, “You are not skilled enough to do it with small scoops”. We argued against them, “Your discussion is out-of-date. It makes no sense at all.” Against all difficulties we finally carried out the struggle. Most important thing was the struggle got enthusiastic support from assistant engine drivers and unionists of the youth section.
For workshop struggle, it is crucial to get support from workers in workplace. Otherwise nobody would be encouraged to stand up for struggle.
At the last stage of collective negotiation with the management, we demonstrated how the job was actually carried out in a workplace: throwing coal into the kettle of a locomotive, we persuaded them with a little sophisticated reasoning, “When we use a big scoop, it is sufficient to open the cover of the kettle only one time to supply the locomotive with a certain amount of coal, while by a small scoop the cover needs to be opened three times to the same purpose and it results in letting heated air out oftener. Thus with a big scoop we can improve thermal efficiency”. The management gave in.
You may have noticed a curtain behind the driving seat of a train engineer. It is called a shading curtain, which is normally closed in the nighttime to shut out the inside lighting of the train. With lighting from behind the driving seat, it is difficult for the engineer to keep a clear sight on the course of the train. In the daytime, when the curtain is opened, passengers can observe from behind the train driver. Supervisors often practiced “inspection of job behavior from behind” stealing watch on the engineer. To prevent this we organized a struggle of closing shading curtains also in the daytime. You don’t, of course, like to work being watched from behind, all of you. One day, we suddenly proposed to the union members, “Let’s close the curtains all day”. And we made it our struggle. Unionists applauded it. In a certain sense, it might conflict with the working rule and its violation could be punished. But there was no management’s punishment. We have been practicing it successfully up to now.
Another example of workshop struggle is a movement to stop calling supervisors by “Mr. “. It is quite natural to address the president of the union “president”, but not “Mr. president”. President is a position. Likewise in the JNR workshop it would be quite normal to address the chief of the depot simply “head”. Actually, however, union officers used to address the chief of the depot “Mr. chief” during collective negotiation. I found it very unreasonable. At that time I was 24 years old. For a youngster like me, drivers with 20 or 30 years' career were inaccessible person. A chief of the depot was far higher-ranked person. We called him “Chief!” instead of “Mr. chief”. We organized a movement to stop calling “Mr. “
It was not an easy struggle, but won the heart of the unionists of the youth section. They were mostly assistant engineers and lower-ranked in workplace. Those young workers stood in forefront of the dispute with the management, saying, “Come on, chief! “, while senior engineers were addressing them, “Mr. chief” or “Mr. assistant chief” etc. It gave damages to their authority in workshop.
Next example is the struggle around ceremonial occasions. Contrary to the previous practice, we began to take charge of all family ceremonies, setting ceremonial halls and arranging all necessary things, decisively independent of management. In case of wedding ceremony, we had a lot of difficulties. During the struggle against the Productivity Movement, we never invited person from the management. Only people attending the ceremony were union officers and colleagues of union. The parents of the marrying unionist began wondering, “Why are there no person of the JNR to come to make a congratulatory speech in the wedding of our son? What happened? “ The parents of the bride also became uneasy, saying, “Is there anything wrong with the bridegroom whose boss does not appear in his ceremony?” It is possible only for highly class-conscious unionists to carry through a wedding ceremony without inviting bosses. With all difficulties we successfully accomplished the struggle around ceremonial occasions.
Formerly bosses and supervisors were present at all occasions of entertainment, such as parties, recreations, tours, etc. They behaved everywhere arrogantly, taking the best seat at the party. There was naturally a general feeling that it was quite unpleasant to be with them even in leisure time like in working time. We proposed to have our own leisure time without them. Not without hesitation, this proposition was after all accepted overwhelmingly. It was quite natural. No workers like to drink wine in presence of haughty bosses. In our drinking occasions, we say as a rule bad things about the management, bosses and supervisors.
In New Year’s Day it was the custom for the train engineers' workplace to visit the Narita Temple to pray for safety in train operation. There was a special ceremony of lighting holy fire. Unionists and bosses went there together. We raised a contestation, saying, “Why should we pray for safety together with you, management person? Safety is not attained in this way. If the labor union were not seriously engaged in fighting for it, there would be no safety at all. We shall no longer visit the temple together with you”. With this reasoning we abolished this custom as I came to the position of the union local.
Thus disassociating ourselves from the management in every field of the union activities, we developed our own movement by ourselves. No recreation with the management. For example, the management finances baseball matches and thus bribes baseball lovers to its side. Various attempts were made by means of inviting unionists to occasions of recreation and hobby to bring up agents of the Productivity Movement. During the struggle against this, we shut out all kinds of management’s intervention in union activities. This policy has been maintained up to now.
The situation in today’s JR is terrible. Chiba Company of the JR and the Chiba Branch of the JR East sponsor baseball matches together. The Doro-Chiba does not of course participate in it. They refuse, however, the Tessanro and the Kokuro. It is quite curious.
After having gained experiences of these workshop struggles, we began to fight work-to-rule. No directive of strike is issued, but workers on the shop know very well what work-to-rule actually means. It is a struggle to bring forth effective delay of trains through taking advantage of weak points of the laws, rules, regulations and system in regard to train operation. The District Chiba has developed various tactics of work-to-rule as a most advanced District in the Doro. There is a tactic called zigzag operation in inspection and repair department: on the occasion of an alternate inspection of motor cars, we let all parts of machines dismantled and leave the workshop at about 4:30. Motorcars cannot move without necessary parts. Couplers of motorcars are very heavy. With parts dismantled there is nothing to do.
As you know, there are hoods to connect the carriages of the train. A hood is attached to the head of the carriage or at its end, not to both positions. We intentionally attach hoods to wrong position and pretend to be a mistake. To make up this ill fitting, it needs about one hour’s work of carrying heavy hoods to a right position. It makes certainly a substantial delay. We thought of all sorts of tactics possible, including such a trick.
Once actively engaged in the struggle and fully motivated, workers think up numerous ideas. I don’t need to worry about searching for new tactics. They know the things best. Thus the District Chiba stood on the top class in fighting work-to-rule in the whole Doro. NAKAE Masao, the then chief of organizing bureau of the Doro and later member of Funabashi municipal assembly, vigorously adopted various tactics of work-to-rule developed by the District Chiba and applied them to struggles all over Japan.
Another essential axis of union activities is to study. At that time in question, the Socialist Party was very influential in labor movement. The Communist Party had also a not negligible power. Both of the political parties organize their own “study groups' (reading circles). There was even a Labor University run by the Kyokai (Association of Socialists) faction of the SP. But we had none. It is necessary to learn many lessons from their experiences, but not their theory.
Now we are organizing “study groups' with textbooks, like Wage labor and capital or Manifesto of the Communist Party. I am talking in front of you as a lecturer in the workers' school. To tell you the truth, important thing is not to listen to what the lecturer talk but to do it yourself. You should organize in your workshop a study group by yourself. At the outset, it doesn’t go well. The participants soon get tired and begin sleeping. Nobody listens to you.
But, I call your attention. When you undertake a task of a tutor of a study group, you are obliged to study even if you don’t like studying or reading books. You will be at a loss in front of audience, if you can’t find what and how to speak. You will prepare before the meeting, reading, for example, several pages of Manifesto of the Communist Party. You make effort to explain what you really don’t understand enough. As a result the audience soon get tired and asleep. It is quite natural for workers. You will develop yourself, however, gradually through repeating something like that.
It is extremely difficult to finish a textbook in a reading circle. I have a lot of experience of organizing study groups, say, several hundred times. All through these efforts, it was only several times that I read through The Communist Manifesto. Two thirds of the whole text is the utmost achievement. Anyway I strongly recommend you to organize study group yourself in your workshop. When you get interested in a certain text, you should bring it to your workplace to organize a reading circle. Here lies the central point. It is encouraging to find out workers like that. First trial will inevitably be failed. There is no worker who is ready to study. Notwithstanding one can’t avoid studying in order to seriously organize and build up workers. Anyway do it yourself. That is the point of the matter. However poor your tutoring is, when you make your best in preparing for the study group and in appealing to make yourself understood, the audience, the fellow workers never fail to see your seriousness and intention.
Let me point out an example. Marx employs a word, “alienated labor”, that is, workers are alienated in the capitalist society. I could not explain, at the age of twenty-four or twenty-five, what the “alienated labor” means. So I talked to a fellow worker, “Your work is boring, isn’t it?” And I got an answer, “Yes, quite boring”. “That is an alienated labor”. You understand?” was my response, and he said yes. The following day I found him wearing a working clothes with a writing on it, “Crush an alienated labor!” I remember it clearly.
For us workers, it is crucial to understand the actual situation. Alienated labor is boring. That’s enough. Genuine labor is surely not boring. It is an expression of the life power of the worker. Labor is the driving force to bring progress in the society. It should not be alienated. It should give a pleasure to one who works. Why is it not attractive? Because all the result of our work, that is product, is carried away by capital, in other words, we are exploited by capital; our work gives us no pleasure.
Let me emphasize once again that the essence of the matter is to organize your own study group all by yourself. Don’t be afraid of failure. When one fails five times, one will be better.
I have one more thing to add. We mobilized unionists to anti-war struggle every day and night. In fighting against war, there is no room for opportunism. Anti-war struggle remarkably develops class-consciousness of workers and strengthens their decisive stand against the state power. It effectively works upon workers. When you come face-to-face confrontation with police in the street demonstration, you have no other choice than to oppose resolutely against war. There is no middle position. This is extremely important.
In summing up 10 years' struggle, I'd like to point out several significant problems.
First of all, workshop struggle is essentially a battle for the hegemony over the workshop. It is a struggle for labor union to gain the control over the workshop, and consequently a severe factional struggle, in other words, a violent political strife between two antagonistic forces. Factional struggle is not just the conflicts between the Socialist Party and the Communist Party or between the Kakumaru and the Chukaku and something like that. Factional struggle in its fundamental form is a struggle between labor and capital. Capital and management are spreading day and night their thought, ideology and principle in the whole society. It gives rise to all sorts of thinking, especially opportunism among workers. To fight against those ideological offensive is a primary factional struggle. Upon recognition of the significance of the factional struggle, it was crucial for the District Chiba to fight against the pro-JCP tendency and the Kakumaru. Without fighting this battle, we could not carry on workshop struggle any further.
The very core of workshop struggle is anger against capital, in case of national railway workers' struggle, the JNR management. It is absolutely impossible for workers who have no indignation against capital to fight workshop struggle. Another basis of workshop struggle is resentment against the corrupt union bureaucrats that are responsible for the miserable situation of labor movement today.
Another driving force of workshop struggle is a sense of purpose to take power of the union: “Well, you'll see some day we gain power of the union.” Without strong motivation, you can’t carry on severe workshop struggle. If we don’t keep union power in our hands, how could we build up a militant labor union? It is clear that nobody else does anything for us in our place. Without a sense of purpose workshop struggle is impossible.
In carrying out workshop struggle, support of workers in the workplace necessarily increases and authority of leading activists grows. Without purpose-conscious day-by-day effort of developing workshop struggle, union power remains far from our hands. Gaining union power means winning an overwhelming support of the unionists. Without mass support, power would not be attained. This is the logic of the workshop struggle.
Once you achieve this viewpoint, you have a plenty of theme for the workshop struggle. Before I came to a leading position of the union, nobody thought of organizing a struggle on the issue of “big scoop”. Neither of curtain issue. I felt strong indignation against the management, against the humiliating situation of workers. I thought that workers should be proud of themselves. Accordingly I can’t forgive the union officers who were satisfied with these miserable conditions. All this made me think out tactical ideas one after another. Around me everybody addressed bosses “Mr. chief “ “Mr. so and so” and accepted it normal. I found it unreasonable for workers who should not be humiliated. Then came the idea of stopping this old custom.
If some one asks me how to organize workshop struggle, my answer is: “Think it out yourself. I won’t reveal my secret. You find it by yourself”. It depends upon specific conditions of various industrial sections, of each workplace how to develop workshop struggle. For example, “big scoop struggle” in the hospital would be quite unthinkable. Important thing is to examine the matter thoroughly and find out adequate tactic and thus to establish an active, creative and independent stand yourself.
All movement starts from a minority, or to say more exactly, from an individual. It is no wonder. I have never heard of a movement initiated by a majority. You start a movement by yourself. The movement goes on step by step with rowing number. You naturally make failures in the beginning. Just imagine! Aren’t you all in the workshop originally strangers each other? You can’t easily expect to be listened to by your colleagues. To win the confidence of your fellow workers, you must make more efforts than others to make yourself understood. Without efforts, you don’t succeed.
Therefore, I'd like to emphasize, don’t be afraid of failure. Only after repeated failures, you can and must look into the cause of your failures. “Every failure is a stepping-stone to success”. That is true indeed. I had myself a lot of failures. While you don’t have power in the union, it is admitted to produce failures often. Your failure in a leading position of the union might have consequences, but you need not worry about it. You'll not be so badly damaged. Any way, don’t dread failure. Everything begins from one person. Right things basically start from minority. Majority’s righteousness never existed. I ask you to understand all these implications and to be prepared for possible development.
This is the fundamental principle. The “big scoop” struggle gained overwhelming support of fellow workers in spite of an outsider’s critical comment. The “curtain struggle” did, too. For workers of the same workplace, it is not difficult to realize what is meant by a proposed tactic. Together with them, I worked as an assistant engineer throwing coal into the kettle every day, and later, operating motive car as a driver day by day. Through these experiences on the floor, I realize without difficulty what the fellow workers have in mind. It is a problem of sense - to find out what attracts them most as tactic of workshop struggle.
There are numerous themes for workshop struggle. To put it in other words, we are fundamentally opposed to everything the management and capital do. There could be nothing good about them, for they are only thinking about how to exploit workers to the limit. It doesn’t mean, however, that everything could directly be subject of workshop struggles. You should pick out suitable subjects that you believe will go well. That is a key point. It is impossible and unnecessary as well to tackle all workshop problems. Our energy and capacity are surely limited. It suffices sometimes only to mention the matter occasionally in flyers. You will find your one subject out of ten that has an utmost importance for you. You should target on it.
Besides, I recommend you to find out enemy’s weak point. For us drivers, the weakest point of the management here is a safety issue. Safety in operating trains should be the priority in this workplace. For the management, however, it is indeed their weak point. The enemy, the management very often enforces its policy that neglects safety issues. We took advantage of this and organized a struggle against rationalization, a struggle for rail safety. No body can deny the importance of assuring the safety. Here lies the weak point of the enemy.
Every enterprise has its official code of business. For example, in medical business, proper treatment of patients is the priority. If a hospital ever neglects it, it goes after all bankruptcy. Post offices have also their own business rules. But, when an enterprise feverishly drives its policy to increase efficiency, the official principle of business is much likely to be put aside. Thus the enemy reveals its weak point. That is the point for you to look at with all your attention. If you lack a strong motivation, nothing happens. “We are underpaid and are treated very badly in an inhuman condition. No kidding. I'll show them some day what we really are”. When you realize what the matters really are, you'll find a lot of subjects to fight.
Labor unions are generally not militant. You are perhaps not in a position to issue union directive for struggles. In spite of all these unfavorable conditions, you can organize a workshop struggle even without a union order, if you succeed in bringing your fellow workers on the floor into readiness for fight.
Everything depends upon whether activists of the union are really willing to rise up for struggles. If you are seriously thinking day and night about how to organize a struggle, you never fail to discover subjects to fight. Don’t ask me something like this: “Colleague Nakano, please tell me how to fight the workshop struggle”. Stop talking nonsense! There is no magic cure-all that brings miracle to you.
I consider it most important to build up a group of devoted and class-conscious union activists. To be devoted means to sacrifice all one’s private time for union activities. For a married worker, it is needed to put priority to union activities before his family life. That is the implication of devotion to union activities.
Then how should we build up devoted and class-conscious union activists? We can’t achieve it in an instant. Workers develop themselves in the course of time. There are naturally various activists in the labor union. Some are definitely devoted to the movement. Some others are partly determined to a full engagement. Many people are hesitating before the decision. There are, of course, activists that find no other way of life than to continue the union activities. Number of those activists decides the power relations in the workshop.
Let me add one more important thing: when you have no policy as the leadership of the union, you are not qualified for taking power of the union. In carrying on workshop struggles, for example in a railway workplace, we become acquainted with the structure and function of trains. Provided with this knowledge, we practice workshop struggle. Though I was a driver, I knew also things about the inspection and reparation section very well. To work out policy for workshop struggles, I carefully studied job regulations on inspection and reparation. At that time I was always thinking of taking advantage of the job regulations to organize a struggle. We master how to fight in this way.
You know the diagram of the JNR. It indicates all train operations into the details on a table with a few centimeters' precision. According to the timetable given by the diagram, drivers run the trains. It requires much time to attain an ability to write up a complete diagram. Ten years are not enough. An expert understands everything ring at a glance on the diagram. Long years' workshop struggle help develop such ability. Likewise it fosters an ability to find out how to unite unionists and to understand what enemy’s offensive means.
At the age of 33, I became a chief secretary of the District Chiba of the Doro. The biggest difficulty at that moment was a financial problem. Even workshop struggle doesn’t teach us how to tackle with financial problems. As a chief secretary, I came to a position to put money of the union at my disposal and had to finance the union organization. Once a woman secretary member in charge of finance refused my direction on the ground that it collides with the rule of the union. I was terribly shocked at this. Since then I have studied union rules exhaustively on finance and examined the records of the union finance for a year. Then she stopped criticizing me.
When you are in a leading position of the union, you are supposed to tackle with everything. For example, when you attend a collective negotiation with the management, you are required to find out what lies behind the proposition of the management. It is only a part of your task. You have to be engaged in educational, organizing and financial activities. Moreover, there are general affairs of the union office, developing relations with other friendly organizations and so on, in a word, everything. It is absolutely impossible for an activist to assume responsibility for all of this when he or she comes to the position of a chief secretary without enough preparation.
As for me, I had no serious difficulty except financial problems, for I had trained myself in various fields for 10 years until I was 33 years old. In regard to managerial union activities, such as writing down directives to union organizations or proposition papers to the management, you have only to follow previous examples.
The essential thing is to examine accurately what consequences would be brought about on the workshops by the management’s offensive. Workshop struggles teach us how workers on floor react to a certain occasion and what issue makes them unite.
Workshop struggle offers you a battlefield to build up yourself into a future union leader. Without experiences of workshop struggle, you can’t accomplish the task of leadership, such as a chief secretary, a vice chair, a chair etc. The instant you are in a leading position of the union, you are requested to show what you are going to do. It reveals what you can do. “He doesn’t deserve the name of ‘radical‘ ” would be the comment upon you if you don’t develop serious labor union practice. Any way, you are called “radical”. So you should do as a “radical” does. You must get reputation: “That fellow is a ‘radical'. But that ‘radical' is very serious!”. Through daily practice of workshop struggle, you inevitably attain enough ability.