History of Doro-Chiba and Japanese Labor Movement

by NAKANO Hiroshi
Ex-President of Doro-Chiba,
National Railways Motive Power Union of Chiba

Chapter 2:

Struggle against Rationalization Ensuring Rail Safety and Struggle against Jet Fuel Transportation to the Narita Airport

I. Features of the Times 1970’s

In this chapter, I would like to tell you about our major struggles in a decade after I became the general secretary of the District Chiba of the Doro in 1970’s. One is the struggle against the rationalization ensuring rail safety. The struggle against the Funabashi railway accident is a typical example. The other major struggle is the Sanrizuka struggle - the labor-farmer solidarity struggle against the jet fuel transportation to the Sanrizuka (Narita) Airport.

1. Lost authority of the US - a super power with decreasing political, economical and military influence

Nixon Shock

How were the times 1970’s? In 1972 so-called “Nixon Shock ” broke out. The US president Richard Nixon declared to suspend the convertibility of US dollar into gold. Formerly dollar as the key currency was exchanged into a certain corresponding quantity of gold, in other words, dollar alone was the convertible currency. Now, however, by the Nixon Declaration dollar has become an inconvertible currency. It means that all money in the world in the world has turned into mere pieces of papers. This is an alarming situation for the world capitalist economy.

This development resulted in bringing forth the First Summit Talks in 1975. In its initial stages the Summit was attended by 6 countries and thus named G6. What then caused the birth of the Summit Talks? All currencies of the world have been rendered to mere papers and the credit was the only power that could assure the money circulation. It is indeed curious enough that a paper entitled by a printed letters of ten thousand yen on it can buy some commodities. Without credit it does not work. Originally the Summit Talks were called upon to discuss exclusively over such economic problems and were supposed to be a meeting point where top leaders of the world gather to decide policies to stabilize world economic development so that dollar as well as yen and mark obtain credit for circulation. The Summit thus placed as an annual meeting of the so-called developed countries.

Fall of Vietnam and China-USSR Confrontation

The very year 1975 was marked by the US defeat in the Vietnam War, “Fall of Vietnam ”. Intense resistance headed by the South Vietnam National Liberation Front and vigorous anti-Vietnam war movement in the US, and Japan as well as Europe caused the defeat of US imperialism in a war for the first time in the history.

In the midst of the Vietnam War, while US imperialism was committing massacre of the Vietnamese people and on the other hand the Vietnamese people were fighting back against the US brutality in a great hardship, the USSR and China escalated their conflict. After the victory of the Vietnamese people this dispute developed into the China-Vietnam war and exercised a very negative influence over the workers’ struggles all over the world.

All through 1970’s, it has become evident that the US, the world-leading super power, has lost its authority politically, economically and militarily.

2. Suspension and bankruptcy of the high economic growth: downfall into a protracted recession

In Japan, TANAKA Kakuei came to power as the prime minister in 1972 through creating a boom by means of “a Plan for Remodeling the Japanese Archipelago ”. The Lockheed scandal and land speculation boom followed it. As a result in 1976 the Fukuda government replaced Tanaka.

It is important to note from the economic viewpoint that the floating exchange system was introduced for yen currency in 1973, forced by the suspension of the convertibility of dollar into gold. Formerly yen had been under fixed exchange rate system with the stable ratio: one dollar corresponded to 360 yen. After that the ratio changed and one dollar corresponded to 264 yen and now down to about 120 yen. From that time we are announced everyday the change of the exchange rate of currencies on the TV.

In 1974 the first “Oil Shock ” broke out, putting all at once an end to the high economic growth. Thus the Japanese economy plunged into a protracted recession. We have since been in a continued process of depression with several phases of fluctuation. After a lot of measures have been taken for many years to sustain development in vain, we are now facing with a situation in which no remedy can be found for the recovery of Japanese economy any further. This may be a correct recognition of the present situation.

In the economic crisis of 1974 to 75 the Japanese economy registered for the first time in the post-war development a minus growth: it was keeping the growth rate of two-digit during the high growth period, but suddenly it fell down to under zero. As the counter-recession policies, the following measures were taken: the issuance of huge sum of deficit-covering government bonds, the propping-up of economic growth by the fiscal stimulus, and the torrent-like export drive to US. These policies resulted in harsh economic frictions between Japan and the US.

3. Upsurge and setback of the class struggle

I should like to describe the development of the class struggle in this period. First of all I will tell you about the struggle for wage increases. The rate of the wage increase in 1973, for example, was 20.1%, in figures 15,159 yen in average; in the following year 1974 it was 32.9% and 28,981yen respectively. At that time, there was a sharp rise in the land price caused by the “Japanese Archipelago Remodeling" boom. It brought about a fierce inflation. Then the Kokuro (Japan National Railway Workers’ Union = NRU) was fighting the last phase of the annual Spring Labor Offensive through waging 48 hours’ or 72 hours’ strikes then.

In the Struggle of 1970s on AMPO (Japan-US Security Treaty) and Okinawa, violent street battles were organized by the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee and the All Students Joint Struggle Committee, accompanied by the campus struggles, in the mainland of Japan. Simultaneously in Okinawa, vigorous strikes were waged by the All US Bases Workers Union from around 1970, culminating in the Koza city riot in 1970. While intense struggle broke out in Okinawa against the deceitful reversion of Okinawa to Japan, rank and file workers of the governmental and public sectors emerged as an energetic force to promote the struggle. Among them the major force were the national railway workers who were fighting the struggle against the rationalization that would eliminate 50,000 workplaces in the JNR.

The state power feared that all those struggles might have joined together into a powerful force. What would happen when the violent street struggles, the national railway workers’ struggle and the postal workers’ struggle as well as the struggles in Okinawa unite multiply their fighting energy? This fear drove the state power into the fierce repression on each movement.

The Productivity Movement of the National Railways (Marusei) was started in 1969, with a political aim of coping with such a development of the class struggle. In these changed circumstances, among those who had been pretending to be the left wing, some instantly converted to the right. Its typical example is the Kakumaru.

The Spring Labor Offensive in 1973 was fought for the wage increase of 20.1%, a relatively high rate. Consequently it became a bitter strife. In March the passengers’ riot broke out in Ageo station of Takasaki line. Train traffic had been stopped by the work-to-rule. Passengers got off the train and some of them angry at the situation began throwing stones to the train in the above-mentioned station. In April similar incidents happened in the whole area of Tokyo. The union leaders of the Doro, the Kakumaru were scared of this development and abandoned once for all the work-to-rule. Since then it is the District Chiba alone that has been practicing work-to-rule.

Summing up, we might conclude that the Mindo (League for Labor Democratization) styled-labor movement has finally come to an end by the strike to regain the right to strike and its defeat in 1975. The Mindo is finished.

II. A History of the JNR after World War II

1. Class nature of the JNR

The National Railway in Japan was born in the historical process from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, a process of successive wars, namely the Japan-China War in 1894-1895 and the Japan-Russia War in 1904-1905. The aim of its foundation was to centralize all natural resources through developing nationwide railway network in order to provide Japan, a small country without rich resources, with a power to cope with Russia, a major neighboring country. Thus the Japan National Railway was the complete product of the imperialistic nature.

The National Railway grew through the Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras (covering 1867-1912, 1912-1926 and 1926-1989, respectively) absorbing private railways everywhere in Japan one after another. In those days the ownership of railways was regarded as a status symbol. In Chiba, for example, there were several private railway companies run by relatively rich people. People in Narita used Sanrizuka Railway to go to see cherry blossoms in Sanrizuka. Its terminal being the site of the second Sanrizuka Park in which we met very often for Sanrizuka struggle. There was also a railway line from Togane to Kujukuri, famous for its sardines. Still now we have Kujukuri Railway-Bus Line. Thus everywhere in Japan there were numerous railways, of which the state bought up according to its necessity. Nationwide railway network was set up in this way, enabling concentration of various natural resources, human power and others from Hokkaido to Kyushu to Tokyo and other economic and political centers. This was an indispensable requisite for waging war. It made up the pre-history of National Railway.

As is illustrated above, railway occupied a monopolistic position in the transportation branch. Airplanes and cars had then no significant weight. Only ships constituted a counterforce to railway. The National Railway grew up, bringing a huge amount of profit to the gigantic monopoly capitals of the coal and iron industries, while squeezing money from workers in a form of fare and imposing terrible speed-ups and severe exploitation on national railway workers. The official achievement of the National Railway was an accurate operation with an exact timetable unparalleled in the world.

In 1987 the Japan National Railways Corporation (JNR) with such a long history was divided and privatized. From the present viewpoint of the Emergency Legislation, we become aware that this policy was a product of peacetime imperialism though it aimed at disbanding national railway’s labor movement. Under the Emergency Legislation the Japan Railways (JR) are “designated public organs ”. In their present organizational form the JRs are incapable of nation-wide military transportation from Hokkaido to Kyushu. To put it differently, the policy of dividing and privatizing the National Railways that had such an implication, demonstrates how it was imperative for the Japanese state power at that time to liquidate labor movement of the national railway workers, in order to disband the Sohyo and to crush the Socialist Party.

2. Japan National Railways reorganized as a public corporation (1949)

Let’s see the development of the Japan National Railways after World War II. In 1949 the National Railway was converted from a state-owned railway into the Japan National Railways Corporation (JNR), a public corporation. JNR, founded upon a self-support accounting system, underwent various organizational changes. Their main aim was breaking down the labor militancy of the Kokuro (National Railway Workers Union), a sole labor union at that time comprising all the JNR employees, and played a principal role in Japanese labor movement after World War II.

The changes had two essential features: as a labor union of a public corporation, Kokuro’s membership was limited to the employees, and no administrative and managerial staff were unionized. So personnel ranked above assistant-supervisor on the floor were excluded from the labor union.

At the same time, such exclusive union membership as a public corporation worked as a tool for a certain political purpose. Those executive members of the union who were fired by the “Red Purge ” were deprived of their union membership. Actually, taking this opportunity, union officials of the Mindo purged activists who belonged to the Japan Communist Party and their sympathizers as well as the Kakudo (Innovative League) members from the union, saying “You are no more qualified as the union officials since you stopped to be the JNR employees ”. Meanwhile the JNR management continued firing the employees and many union members including the heads of Central Executive Committee of the Kokuro belonging to the Mindo group were dismissed because of their union activities. This time, they were told by the JNR management that they got no status to attend collective bargaining because they were no more JNR employees. The position of the union officers was reversed to defensive. Thus difficulties emerged not only for the National Railways Workers Union but also for the Postal Workers Union: they had to decide whether their discharged union members were qualified for union officers, such as the president of the union or not. The case was brought to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the collective bargaining was suspended for a long period. All these problems occurred from the nature of the public corporation. The central issue was to deprive public corporation workers of right to strike.

3. The first and second long-term plans, namely fiscal reconstruction plan of JNR

The JNR played a tremendous role beyond imagination in the post-war reconstruction of Japanese imperialism, which had been reduced to ruins as a result of the war. The first long-term plan of the JNR started in 1957 and was followed by several long-term plans afterwards: in its early stages emphasis was laid on the renewal of aging railroad facilities and the conversion from steam locomotives to electric or diesel locomotives.

Before the New Tokaido Line (super express) started business in 1964, the JNR had been registering surplus with a few exception of single year’s deficit. All the construction cost of the New Tokaido Line was charged to the JNR. Because of the large-scale construction of the New Tokaido Line, depreciation was not an easy task. Let’s suppose that the endurance of the New Tokaido Line is 30 years; then you have to write down the allowance of 1/30 of the whole amount each year to prepare a fund for the renewal of the equipment after 30 years. This is called the depreciation. The construction of the New Tokaido Line brought about a need for an immense amount of depreciation cost. As a result the financial balance of the JNR turned to red figures.

In 1969 cumulative debt of the JNR amounted to 413.7 billion yen. To meet the situation, a ten year plan for the JNR fiscal reconstruction was set forth. The reconstruction plan had three axes: namely the long-distance inter-city transportation with the Super Express as its main carrier, the urban commuter transportation of big cities, and the large-quantity freight transportation. As a result the local and minor lines are abolished one after another. In a word, so-called scrap-and-build was systematically and violently carried out.

The general profit-and-loss account of the JNR in 1964 was 30 billion yen in a net loss base, the deficit for the first time after the opening of the New Tokaido Line with the depreciation cost amounting to 109.7 billion yen. So the above-mentioned loss was more precisely “the deficit after depreciation ”, not the loss in an exact definition. Without depreciation, the JNR would have gained the profit of about 70 billion yen.

In 1969, the depreciation cost amounted to 131.6 billion yen and in 1971, 201 billion yen. The net loss in 1971 was 234.2 billion yen, that is, a deficit before depreciation. So from 1971 financial account of the JNR turned into the net deficit.

To put it in other words, the JNR maintained a balanced-budget-financing till 1971 in spite of its immense amount of equipments, an immense number of employees and an immense quantity of transportation. More over the JNR was regarded as the most favorable tool of hunting for vested interest of politicians of the ruling parties. Anyway, in this stage the cumulative debt already amounted to several hundred billion yen as a book account.

Meanwhile, a scrap and build was carried out drastically. Various businesses of the JNR were scrapped, such as the Shime coalmine in Kyushu and the clothing factories. Through the conversion from steam locomotives to electric and diesel, the assistant engineers turned to the redundant workers. From 1967 to 69, a severe struggle was fought against the abolishment of assistant engineers.

4 Rationalization - reduction of 200,000 personnel in course of the Division and Privatization of the JNR

Let us have a look at the changes of the numbers of the JNR employees in the past decades: it was 615,000 in 1947, a period immediately after the end of World War II. It was a huge number, including all the personnel who, after the war, had returned to Japan from their jobs in the Manchuria (North China) Railways and the Korean Railways, both being constructed during the time of the occupation and colonization by Japanese imperialism.

In 1950 the number of the JNR employees was already reduced to 473,500 - a rapid decrease within only five years. It was the result of the discharge of about 100,000 personnel through the implementation of the Law on Fixed Number of Employees. Though the number of the JNR employees continued to decrease after that, there were still over 400,000 employees in 1980. But when the drive for the division and privatization of the JNR got into full swing in 1981, annual number of personnel reduction reached tens of thousand: the number of the reduced employees was 22,600 in 1982, 28,000 in 1983, 38,000 in 1984, 31,000 in 1985, 42,500 in 1986 and finally 24,000 in 1987 when the division and privatization of the JNR actually took place and the Japan Railways (JR) started its business. About twenty thousand employees in all were discharged during the period from 1980 to 1987.

Against the background of such a mass dismissal in the course of the railway rationalization, the national railway workers have been forced to fight a bitter struggle against this fierce offensive.

Now the workers of the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), the postal workers, the Tokyo Traffic workers and workers everywhere are facing with all-out violent capitalist offensives, such as rationalization, restructuring, discharge, wage cut and others. To fight back against these attacks it is urgent to build up theories and policies of struggles. Those theories and policies are to be born through studying the history of respective industrial branches. I strongly recommend you to provide materials for your own struggle in your workplace. You can easily obtain necessary materials in this concern in your union offices. When you make serious analysis of the situation and organize study group on the subjects with enough preparation, you would be respected and be listened to: they will admire you, saying, “He knows everything!"

III. Historical Lessons from the Struggle against Rationalization Ensuring Rail Safety

1. Its prehistory

I should like to draw your attention to the history of the national railway workers’ struggle against the rationalization that was carried out by the JNR. The rationalization in the JNR was launched as the conversion from steam locomotives to electric-diesel locomotives. When one speaks about the capitalist rationalization, one should distinguish its two sides: one is on the objective side, such as modernization of means of production; the other is on the subjective side, as is executed through intensification of labor, such as speed-ups while the means of production remain unchanged. Actually, however, the rationalization is carried out simultaneously on both sides. The JNR management began the rationalization first on the objective side: the electrification of the railways. It was of course closely related with the subjective side. Together with the electrification, reduction of the crew was enforced. As Marx analyzed in the Communist Manifesto, as means of production makes progress, the relations of production and social relations are forced to change. Thus the whole personal relationships inevitably undergo fundamental changes.

Formerly a steam locomotive was run by two workers: an engineer and an assistant-engineer. They naturally come to be in good terms with each other, though sometimes it does not happen. Anyway personal relationships develop in various fields. Look at the electric locomotive today. One engineer drives it; he is obliged to be on duty all alone. The conversion from steam locomotives to diesel or electric locomotives, that is, the modernization of the means of production has inevitably exercised a considerable influence on the national railway workers’ movement.

Today, for example, you only need to put your ticket in the collector’s box and you pass the barrier in the station. In former times, for example in Chiba station, when a ticket collector stood on duty at the barrier, we used to say, “Today the ticket collector is union member of the Kokuro. So he might let us pass free through the ticket barrier ”, or “Unfortunately the fellow at the ticket barrier is no union member of the Kokuro. We have no chance today ” etc. Once it happened that some union members of Tokyo Traffic Workers Union and Keisei Dentetsu Railway Union were captured at the ticket barrier, trying to pass free through it, by a ticket collector not belonging to the NRU but to the Tetsuro (Railway Employees Union), its rivaling union. They were charged a fine three times higher than fare. This case was brought to the investigation of the Zenkoun (the General Federation of Transport Workers Unions). In those days, all transport workers enjoyed free ride all over Japan. So for the JNR workers the private railways were free; for the private railways workers the JNR were free.

2. Mikawashima Railway Accident and 12th National Convention of Doro in Aomori

The harmful effect of the craft-unionism

Meanwhile in 1959, the Kiro (Locomotive Workers Union, founded in 1951) changed its name into the Doro (Motive Power Union). It reflected the pressing necessity to outgrow former style of the union in order to fight against the modernization of the locomotive engine and the fierce drive of rationalization. Under these circumstances two fatal railway accidents in Mikawashima and Tsurumi had grave implications. A fierce confrontation broke out within the labor union on the policy to tackle with these situations. A group emerging with the position that no rail safety is secured without fighting for it prevailed in the Doro and later grew up into the leading power in the union, bringing radicalization of the Doro.

The Doro was essentially a craft union and was composed mostly of drivers. They enjoyed a sort of predominance. Let’s take an example of the colleague NAKAE Masao (ex-city council member of Funabashi). He held his position as a chief secretary of the union head office from 1977 to 1978. His professional career was a personnel in the inspection and reparation branch of the Chiba Engine Depot. His job was formerly called technician. Before his case, technicians were not entitled to be candidate for the three key officials of the union. He was the first to be a union secretary general as a non-engineer.

Following examples further illustrate how craft-unionism or craftsmanship dominated in the national railways. When a railway accident occurs, it is said, “The driver at the wheel is responsible for the accident “, “It is quite natural for that lazy fellow to cause such an accident ” etc. Against this general background, two drivers and assistant-engineers were prosecuted for Mikawashima accident; the case was brought to the court under the accusation of involuntary homicide and obstruction of traffic etc. Both the attorneys of the JNR management and of the labor union, the Doro, were supposed to work together to defend the accused.

Refusal of attending the Accident Prevention Committee

The situation being such, the attorneys tend to asked for leniency in the court. Under these circumstances it was hardly possible in the court to insist that the accident had happened as an inevitable result of the enforced rationalization that was carried out in total negligence of the safety measures which locomotive engineers repeatedly demanded from the JNR management. In presence of the attorneys hired by the management, such critical argument was abandoned.

At that moment the National Convention of the Doro was held in Aomori, in the north Japan, and the delegates discussed over the Mikawashima accident. Formerly, in such cases, an Accident Prevention Committee used to be set up to find out settlement through the cooperation between the labor union and the management. Now, however, on the National Convention of the Doro it was decided to refuse attendance to the Accident Prevention Committee since it had become evident that the railway accidents would not be eliminated through labor-management negotiations. The congress came out with a conclusion that the union should formulate its demands to prevent accidents and put them on the collective bargaining. While the Kokuro still remained in the Accident Prevention Committee, the Doro walked out of the committee, leaving a tightened relationship with the JNR.

3. The Struggle against the rationalization - dismissal of 50,000 workers

Succeeding these struggles, we fought militantly against the rationalization that had dismissed 50,000 workers abolishing the jobs of the assistant-engineers from 1967 on.

4. The Struggle to crush the Productivity Movement - 1969-1973

Deficit of the JNR and 1970’s Struggle

The struggle against the rationalization bringing dismissal of 50,000 workers ended in defeat. In 1969 the management began a new offensive, the Productivity Movement to intensify its control and pressure on workers. In the same year Isozaki took up his position as the president of the JNR. He was the head of the Personnel Division of the JNR headquarters at the time of the enforcement of the Law on Fixed Number of Employees (1949-1950). At that time (in 1949) the first president of the reorganized JNR as a public corporation, Shimoyama, was found dead on the railway of the Joban Line. He had been put under a tremendous pressure; his duty was to carry out discharge of 100,000 railway workers. Fabricated stories went round about his alleged assassination by the unionists of the Kokuro and the members of the Communist Party. Isozaki then sat in the office of the JNR under Shimoyama as the chief of the Personnel Division of the Personnel Bureau, corresponding personnel manager of a private company. Later he looked back at that time, saying arrogantly, “I am stained with the blood of the dismissed 100,000 JNR employees ”. It was Isozaki who stayed in his position as the president of the JNR from 1969 till 1973. During this period, a severe battle was fought over the Productivity Movement.

At that time, the cumulative debt of the JNR amounted to 413.2 billion yen. The Audit Committee of the JNR issued an alarm in its report that the JNR was on the brink of bankruptcy. Thus the deficit problem of the JNR had reached a level of the whole social system, a national problem that would affect the state system itself.

What motivated the Productivity Movement? It may be found in the following factors: the top priority was no doubt to carry out the Ten Years’ Plan of the JNR Reconstruction, a rationalization plan, taking 165,000 workplaces away; in order to achieve this, it was imperative to break up labor unions like the Kokuro and the Doro; and further, the management and the state power feared that the 1970’s Struggle on Ampo and Okinawa issues might come together with the national railway workers’ movement.

The first victory over the Productivity Movement

The first labor victory after World War II was achieved in the struggle against the Productivity Movement. At that moment, the labor movement in major private enterprises had already been thoroughly defeated and the most labor unions had taken a right-turn. To follow the examples in the private enterprises, the JNR management asked the Japan Productive Center for advice to carry through the Productivity Movement. The class battle thus prepared by the management was, however, ended in our victory.

What brought us victory? Above all, the struggle of young workers did. Those young workers who have participated in the demonstration all the time during the struggle on AMPO and Okinawa issues as the members of the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee. Those young workers emerged on the forefront of the struggle against the Productivity Movement.

In the beginning of the struggle, both of the Kokuro and the Doro were badly shaken by the management offensive. The Kokuro held a National Convention in Aomori and the then union president, NAKAGAWA made an excellent speech: “Now we should rather rise up for the struggle than sit for death"— a pathetic speech in a certain sense. The Kokuro was then threatened by growing numbers of the disaffiliation. The Tetsuro rapidly increased its influence at the cost of the Kokuro and soon grew into an organization with 100,000 union members.

The battle was fought everyday at every moment. Fierce confrontations usually come about when the union calls for strike. Strike was forbidden by the law for us national railway workers. So every participant of strike got administratively punished for committing an illegal act. It is quite natural for unionists to be scared of the punishment and to prefer to escape from it. The agents of the Productivity Movement took this opportunity to intervene for union busting.

Strike of the Chiba Engine Depot of May 18, 1971

I was, at that time, the head of the union local of the Chiba Engine Depot, which was famous as “the number one locomotive depot in Asia ”. We were in an extraordinarily severe situation. Let us take an example of waging a strike. In case we planed a railway strike for two hours, it was enough for the management to run the trains if they have 10 drivers belonging to the group of the Productivity Movement in place of the striking engineers. Thus the strike comes to nothing with no train stopping. But we cannot escape administrative punishment since it was a strike after all, whether it is effective or ineffective. The union members were saying, “We are bored with ineffective strikes like that. We are ready to go on a 24 hours’ effective strike if the union once call for strike ”. At the time of the strike on May 18, 1971, all designated union locals to go on a strike sent back the instructions of the strike except the Chiba Engine Depot Local. Thus the Local Chiba remained alone to stage the strike as the largest stronghold of the union. Among union members of this Local, however, there were a lot of voices saying, “No more insignificant strikes! Send the strike instruction back to the union office ”. Having faced the situation I discussed overnight with those opposing union members and finally succeeded in persuading them to get into the strike. Thus strike was finally carried out, but after all no train stopped by the strike. In spite of this, the Doro District Chiba maintained its organizational unity through waging this strike in spite of a lot of difficulties.

The management recollects later that it could not crush the union local of the Chiba Engine Depot of the District Chiba by any means. If we had not carried through the strike, we would have been disorientated. We were right in staging the strike. At that moment I got confidence in the union members that they would no doubt follow me under any trying circumstances. One-tenth or two-tenth of the entire union members might sometimes drop out. I have come to the firm conviction that Eight-tenth of them, however, would come together with us whenever the union leadership holds its steadfast position.

As you know, I left the position of the union president in 2001. On that occasion, my colleagues, thirty senior peoples belonging to the same generation, who fought together with me, gave a party to appreciate our shared struggles. I was much moved. At the party everybody distinctly recollected the above-mentioned struggle of 1971. As I have told you, in organizing the strike I declared a firm determination that I would rather resign the union post and abandon the job of railway than send back strike instruction. The union members were persuaded into waging a strike, saying, “If you are so firmly determined, we go on a strike ”. Even now, the old union members of seventies sum up the struggle: “If we had not waged a strike then, the Doro-Chiba would not exist now ”. We went into the strike knowing very well that it would not stop train operation and that it would only bring us administrative punishment. The sole purpose of the strike was to maintain the unity in struggles to overcome difficulties. Many years after the struggle I deeply realize the utmost importance of the labor unity.

Persistent denunciation against the agents of the Productivity Movement

Once we had overcome the grave situation, we changed. We acted on completely offensive. In the union local of the Chiba locomotive depot, we went through a rigorous process to get the ex-union members who became the agents of the Productivity Movement back to the union. They were all personnel close to the job of supervisor. We demanded them to present self-criticism before several hundred union members. All of them had to confess that they had allowed themselves to be flattered and invited by the JNR management and had become the agent of the Productivity Movement. After our severe denunciation they apologized for giving damage to the union and begged us for pardon. I sometimes intervened in the process when I felt the denunciation was too much. But the union members refused my intervention and demanded further proceeding, saying that self-criticism was not enough to satisfy them. Thus all those ex-union members who had acted for the Productivity Movement returned to the union. So intense was the shared experience of joy and hardships of the struggle that they could not stop the denunciation of the Productivity Movement agents halfway. It was really a severe event.

This expressly demonstrated the power relations that had been achieved through the strenuous struggle to organize the May 18 strike in 1971. The uprising of the young railway workers largely contributed to this attainment. It was remarkable in this period that the young workers emerged in the forefront of the labor movement of the public sector. Consequently the Council of Public Corporation and National Enterprises Workers’ Unions (Korokyo) * began to play a central role in the Japanese labor movement. It had a deep significance.

* 3 public corporations and 5 industrial civil services, represented by the National Railway Workers Union (Kokuro), the Locomotive Engineers Union (Doro), the Postal Workers Union (Zentei) and Telecommunication Workers Union (Zendentsu) and so on.

Productivity Movement changed the structure of workshop control

As you all know the Productivity Movement was finally defeated by the labor unions. As a result a paradoxical situation was brought about. The Productivity Movement was originally aimed to bust the unions. The District Chiba of the Doro, being at that time the union following rather the labor-management cooperative line, was not a direct target of the busing of the unions aimed at by the Productivity Movement. Of course the Productivity Movement attacked my local and its youth section, but it was an exceptional case. Elsewhere in District Chiba, the conventional practice in personnel allocation of the management was to nominate the career union officers to leading staffs close to job of supervisors and then to assistant stationmasters. The Productivity Movement overthrew this practice. A general feeling prevailed against this personnel convention, which allowed the union officers to be promoted to the assistant stationmasters.

As a result, those who were regarded formerly by the management as a harmless and favorable person to be allocated in union office, ceased to become a union officer. For example, in my workplace, the strongest union fortress, we faced the situation, in which there was no candidate for the election of the union officers. Under these forced circumstances, I, having been a young fellow at that time, was called upon to become a local union officer.

As you see, there were a lot of old structures of workshop control and union control especially in the JNR. The Productivity Movement destroyed all of these remnants. The conventional authorities fell down to the ground. Nobody trusts in someone who dare not complain to the supervisors. Taking advantage of this situation, our generation all at once held hegemony of the union organizations in many locals. It is no exaggeration that the Productivity Movement enabled me to become a general secretary in ten years. Without the Productivity Movement it would have taken more time for me to be in the today’s position. The traditional union structure was directly hit by the Productivity Movement. It was quite paradoxical.

What I want to stress is that there is certainly a weak point or contradictory elements in enemies’ offensive even if it might seem flawless. It is crucial not to overlook all sorts of such facts.

5. The Struggle on the Funabashi railway accident on March 28, 1972

The Funabashi railway accident happened just in the midst of the struggle against the Productivity Movement. It took place at 7 o’clock in the morning of 28th of March, 1972 - in the morning at the peak of rush hour times. An up train collided with a train stopping at Funabashi railway station (of the Sobu line) and caused several hundred passengers to be injured. The driver, colleague TAKAISHI Masahiro, was arrested on the spot. The union was confronted with the situation how to tackle the accident.

JNR under the 10 year’s Reconstruction Plan

At that time the 10-year’s Reconstruction Plan of the JNR was under way and all workplaces were severely hit by the drastic scrap-and-build, negligence of the safety measures in operation and intensified labor. We looked upon this accident as an inevitable outcome of the present situation surrounding the workplace and began to investigate closely how it came to happen.

The primary cause of the accident was evidently a power failure in signal. The Sobu line is normally provided with an auxiliary power supply. But this was lacking at the time of the accident. Moreover, there was an instruction on emergency that the drivers were requested to ignore the alarm of the Automatic Train Stopper (ATS) and to drive the train slowly, discharging the ATS device. The interval of the trains was only two and half minutes. A big delay was inevitable if the driver stopped the train according to the alarm of the ATS. The emergency instruction was to meet the tight train schedule. Upon considering all these circumstances, the responsibility for the accident should be attributed evidently to the JNR management, not to the driver. The Tsudanuma union local, to which colleague Takaishi belonged, was a newly born organization and composed exclusively of members of the youth section of the union. I was at that time the head of the local of the Chiba locomotive depot. I got a feeling that it would make a big struggle. I immediately demanded the union head office of the Doro to give us an official recognition to organize the struggle on this issue.


Inner-union debate over the policy of the struggle

Within the union (the Doro) there broke out a heated discussion over the struggle on the accident. We were told that struggles on railway accidents had no validity as labor movement. A railway accident, when looked upon as an isolated incident, is ordinarily regarded as an outcome of the mistakes of an engineers. The management usually orders drivers to run the trains ignoring the regulations on operating. Once an accident takes place, however, the management blames the drivers for neglecting the regulations. The JR management today behaves just like the JNR management did at that time. Under these specific circumstances the engineer surely did not observe the regulations of operating trains. The signal was not red; the power was out. The engineer should have stopped the train. Why then did he run? Discussion goes on like this.

The Doro used to have a drivers’ section and a rescue system for the engineers who caused an accident. The judicial costs were born by the drivers all over Japan and various rescue devices were provided in case of an accident. Conventionally it was believed that the engineers who caused an accident would be offered several rescue measures and that was everything that the union could do for them.

Under such situation, the District Chiba alone insisted that it was not a case of rescuing drivers but the struggle against rationalization - the struggle against rationalization ensuring rail safety. Confronting rigorous rationalization offensive I was thinking myself that it was not enough only to repeat the slogan of “absolute opposition to the rationalization ” and that an actual way of fighting back against the rationalization offensive was urgently required. While I was occupied with the thought of anti-rationalization struggle, the Funabashi accident happened. It gave me a hint; I became convinced that it would go. The struggle on Funabashi accident should make a largest labor struggle by every means.

How the struggle actually developed

The Funabashi accident took place on March 28 just in the midst of the labor spring offensive. In 1972 the Productivity Movement was going on rampage all through Japan. In a tense situation, ISOZAKI, the president of the JNR had to apologize for unfair labor activities. In spite of this the Productivity Movement still continued. Under these circumstances, the then head of the Organizing Bureau of the Doro, colleague Nakae, issued a directive to combine the proposed struggle on the Funabashi accident with the struggle against the Productivity Movement. It was a response to our demand from Chiba to fight for rail safety, taking opportunity of the Funabashi accident. Just at that time a unified strike was scheduled on April 27 by the Korokyo (Council of Public Corporation and National Enterprises Workers’ Unions). For 25 days from April 3rd to the planned strike day, union orders were incessantly issued nationwide to organize the struggle on this line. The District Chiba stood on the forefront of this struggle.

The Kakumaru, who occupied the leading position of the Doro, boasted later about the 25 days’ struggle that shook the whole Japanese peninsula as if it were organized by the Doro. In fact, however, it was a struggle effected under the pressure of the District Chiba that demanded a powerful struggle. Through the 25 days’ struggle the problem of the Funabashi accident was brought forward as a central labor issue of the Doro.

On September 20 colleague Takaishi, a driver, was prosecuted. We rose up for the protest struggle again for 25 days. This time the head office of the Doro dared not move. The District Chiba alone fought an officially recognized struggle. Just at that moment, a bourgeois press, the Yomiuri Shinbun, published a remark of the head of the Chiba Railway Control Bureau, which said, “The strike would be participated by only some 50 anti-war elements together with their followers at most hundred in number. It is quite negligible ”. This remark provoked anger among us. “When you dare say so far, we are prepared to fight it out ”. The enemy said something he should not have. The highest number of trains was stopped after the opening of the Chiba Railway Control Bureau. As for the trial of colleague Takaishi, the court gave an undue judgment on him in the first instance. The management, on its part, gave up suspension of his job on criminal charge in front of our struggle.

Struggle surrounding the Chiba District Court

While the trials continued for months, we issued mobilization orders every time to observe the court. The Funabashi struggle made an exceptional case in witnessing almost two times larger numbers of observers’ turnout than the directive demanded. For example, when I gave a certain local an order to make 10 union members to attend the trial, then 15 or 20 workers came up to the court. It was amazing. On the closing day of the trial, as head of union local, I called upon the union members to surround the Chiba District Court building. Actually a huge number of union members came out for the struggle. They confronted with the riot troops of the Chiba prefecture police who were allocated to guard the court building.

We demonstrated on the street till the Chiba railway station, while the riot police commander was shouting, “Mr. Nakano, the head of the union local! I request you to bring your union demonstrators in order!" A near-by police detective asked me whether the participants were all train drivers. Upon my affirmative answer, he continued saying, “I wonder how trains can be in operation today with so many engineers gathering here out of workplace ” I simply said, “No wonder ”. Many of the union members here were going to workplace late in the afternoon, and several of them had already finished their duty in the morning. There are naturally evening shifts and night shifts. Excepting those who sat behind the wheel at that moment, almost all the drivers were there on the street. I warned the police, saying, “If you lay a finger on our drivers, no trains will run! ” He was scared and stepped back. We waged a very militant snake-dance demonstration to the Chiba station and nobody was arrested. When any of the demonstrating engineers was arrested, it would have no doubt given a serious damage to train operation. This was evident for everybody there. The turnout of the union members for the struggle was so overwhelming.

The first powerful struggle on the railway accident in national

railway workers’ struggle

The District Chiba itself had never tackled with accident issue before, though the union members were essentially composed of drivers. When an accident happens, the labor union is supposed to accept responsibilities. We dared to organize the struggle on the railway accident as an issue of the labor union. We staged strikes and work-to-rule and naturally got punished for that. Struggle in defiance of management’s punishment on the accident issues established unshaken confidence of the drivers in the union. They came to the conviction that the labor union that carries out the struggle to the end should certainly be their own organization.

A later episode tells us this. When the District Chiba left the Doro and became an independent union, the union members of Sakura and Choshi locals were in the severest situation in relation with the union central dominated by the Kakumaru. Faced with the alternative of the union affiliation, a senior unionist of the Choshi local spoke out in a union meeting, saying, “I go with District Chiba. The labor union that fights the Funabashi struggle is a genuine labor union. What after all has the Doro National Executive done on the Funabashi issue? Stop kidding! ” This resolute statement worked effectively on the discussion and resulted in bringing half of the local members to the Doro-Chiba. When I knew this, I once again realized the considerable significance of fighting a struggle for workers; I became aware that the consciousness of the unionists undergoes drastic change through fighting.

Struggle for improving railroad tracks

At that time, the conditions of the railroad tracks were terribly deteriorated. The management carried on the rationalization (a labor-saving innovation) in the repairing branch, and successively introduced new model high-speed trains beyond the capacities of railroad tracks. As a result, the railroad tracks got severely damaged. The issue was brought to the discussion of drivers section of the union. Then the lessons of the Funabashi struggle offered an effective suggestion: when railroad tracks are not in good condition you should better slow down the train. We began thus the slow-down struggle, the struggle of regulating maximal speed. Actually, however, when the slow-down is carried out too far, it might cause tremendous delay of train and bring forth extremely sharp conflicts. Upon this consideration, we chose a tactic of limiting the maximum of the delay up to 2000 or 3000 minutes at most a day in the whole Chiba area. It means only 5 minutes’ delay for each train. We repeated this type of slow-down struggle every day, step by step. It practically obliged the management to modify the existing train schedule. For example, suppose in the current diagram, the train should run from Chiba to Tsudanuma in 20 minutes. Then we demand the management to adopt a revised train schedule with 25 minutes instead of the present 20 minutes. This is literally a “diagram revision ” struggle.

Previously we had been opposing quarterly revision of the train diagram by the management, calling it “worsening of the diagram" because every revision of the train schedule always brought us deterioration of the working conditions. This is why we put the word “revision ” in quotation marks. Anyway it was the first time for us to use the word revision, for it meant now the actual amelioration of our working conditions.

We produced a rather challenging formulation: “Let us get back our previous working conditions taken away by the rationalization! From defensive to offensive against the rationalization ensuring rail safety ”. The District Chiba gained the best working condition in the Japanese railways through the struggle under the above-mentioned slogan. Formerly we suffered under low-ranking working conditions in Chiba because the labor union was weak. Now we jumped up to the top-ranking position through our own effort.

The Kakumaru in District Tokyo of the Doro became jealous of us. Little later after this struggle, a rationalization plan was proposed by the JNR management to cut the numbers of he drivers down in Tokyo. Upon this proposal the Kakumaru of the Doro in District Tokyo demanded the management, saying, “We shall accept the plan if the working conditions that have been attained by the District Chiba be applied to us ”. Chiba with the Sobu line and Tokyo with Yamanote and Keihin-Tohoku lines all belong to the same Tokyo urban transport zone of the JNR. The proposed rationalization plan concerned all the drivers of this zone regardless of Chiba and Tokyo. The Kakumaru, considering these circumstances, wanted to gain the high level of the working conditions that were the result of the struggle of the District Chiba of Doro. The management of the Chiba Railway Control Bureau of the JNR was much puzzled at this news.

How to fight against “divide-and-rule ” of the management

Another problem concerns the Kokuro. The Kokuro has an electric train’s conference composed of workers engaged in train driving. Its equivalent for the workers in the track section is called the Facilities’ Conference. The Electric Train’s Conference composed mainly of drivers has naturally been demanding the improvement of the railway tracks and requires the Facilities’ Conference, saying, “It is your task to provide us with good railway tracks on which we can safely drive trains in prescribed high speed ”. For the part of the Facilities’ Conference, however, it was impossible to meet the requirement of the drivers, for there were not enough personnel as a result of rationalization. There came inevitable conflict between drivers and workers in the track section within the union organization of the Kokuro. At that time, the Facilities’ Conference, under the influence of the “Socialist Association ”, used to complain, saying, “District Chiba of Doro has far better understanding on the issue than the Kokuro. The District Chiba of Doro never lays blame on the section of railway track “ The stand of the District Chiba on this issue is: Bad conditions of the railway tracks are the result of the rationalization. We continue the slow-down till the good condition is brought to the railway tracks. We dare not drive the train to worsen the railway tracks. Thus we have achieved to legalize the slow-down struggle. That has made the Facilities’ Conference of Kokuro to make the previous comment. The conference made a contribution of 100,000 yen toward us.

The management’s rationalization offensive does not come altogether on every branch of the JNR at once. It hits now on one branch and the next on another. In this way, the attentions of the workers are diverted: when a certain workplace is under the rationalization offensive, the workers of the other workshops would remain indifferent. Even within the same labor union, it becomes impossible to fight together in a united action for a common cause. There is somebody that says, “Those fellows in that workshop are usually idling. It is their fault that they face now restructuring ”. It is then no longer a labor union. Not to quote a big word, “One for all, and all for one ”, it seems to me absolutely necessary to fight with all union members in unity. But even in the heyday of the Kokuro such unreasonable union practice took place. I became aware of the fundamental importance of our daily activities, of our daily studies and of our usual struggles.

6. Establishment of the policy for the struggle against the rationalization ensuring rail safety

Previous limit of the struggle against the rationalization was overcome; a new perspective of the struggle was opened up through examining the lessons of the lost struggle against the rationalization which dismissed 50,000 assistant engine drivers

To sum up, the Funabashi struggle has succeeded in establishing a guiding line of the struggle against rationalization ensuring rail safety and has laid a solid foundation for the further struggle, giving the District Chiba a prestigious position in the national railway workers’ movement all over Japan. We have definitely overcome the limit of the previous struggle of the national railway workers against the rationalization; we have achieved a higher level through examining the lessons of the lost struggle against the rationalization that dismissed assistant engine drivers.

The struggle against the rationalization ensuring rail safety has been formed through putting into practice the strategic issue of “safety ” which constituted the weakest point of the JNR management

The weakest point of the JNR management, its Achilles’ heel, is the safety issue. “Safety is the absolute priority for the transportation business ” runs the first clause of the Safety Platform of the JNR. It is, therefore, impossible for the management to ignore rail safety. I am convinced that the key for the victory lies in forming a guiding line of the struggle against the rationalization ensuring rail safety through strategically stressing on the safety issue.

It is evident for us that there is no safety without struggle. For the management, however, strict observance of rail safety does not produce any profit. To make up this, the reduction of the equipment and personnel would inevitably be carried out. The rationalization would start, without exception, from the maintenance section. We severely examined the case in actual relations and combined the struggle against the rationalization with the struggle for rail safety, therefore, to secure safe driving of trains. This is because we have succeeded in these struggles.

IV. Struggle to Regain the Right to Strike

1. Deprivation of the right to strike

The struggle to regain the right to strike has constituted a central issue for the post-war labor movement. In the period immediately after World War II a powerful labor offensive took place for the decent wages. Its culmination was an aborted general strike on February 1st 1947. General McArthur, the then commander in chief of the US Occupation Forces in Japan, sent an official letter in April 1948 to the Japanese government, ordering the suppression of the labor offensive. The latter issued a directive (“Governmental Directive No.201 ”) to implement this order. KATO Kanju, a socialist Labor Minister of the Ashida cabinet, the coalition government, carried it out. The Directive No.201 has deprived the fundamental labor rights from governmental and public service employees. In December of the same year the National Public Service Law was revised in the reactionary direction in accordance with the order of the US Occupation Forces.

Simultaneously a wide-range reorganization of the national enterprises took place and they were changed into the Public Corporations. The state-owned national railway was transformed into the National Railways Public Corporation. Together with the Public Corporation of Cigarette Manufacturing Monopoly, the National Railways Public Corporation constituted essential two bodies of public corporations. Other public services, such as the Postal and Telegraph services, Forestry, Mint bureau, Paper money printing house and Alcohol industry formed the industrial branch. Soon later the Telegraph service was separated from the Postal service and became the Public Corporation of Telegraph and Telephone. Those public service bodies are called “three public corporations and five industrial civil services ”. Corresponding to these structural changes, “the Public Corporations, etc. Labor Relations Law ” was legislated. Thus governmental and public service employees were definitely deprived of the right to strike by law and in practice. In spite of the constitutional guarantee of the three fundamental labor rights, the labor movement of the public sectors was put under the juridical regulation that forbids the right to strike. This was an aftermath of the political development from the issue of the “Governmental Directive No.201 ”.

From that time on, for the workers of governmental and public service sectors, such as the national railways, the postal services and others, the labor unions were under growing pressure of the disciplinary measures, such as the dismissal in the case of strikes. It was, therefore, always regarded as an urgent necessity to regain the right to strike for the labor movement of the governmental and public service employees.

2. Objective conditions for regaining the right to strike got ripe.

1970’s had come, and it was widely admitted that the objective conditions for regaining the right to strike got ripe.

What then brought about this situation? One of the factors of this development was the upsurge of the struggle against AMPO (Japan-US Security Treaty) and on Okinawa issue in 1970. Another factor was the victory of the struggle against the Productivity Movement. Among these factors the most important one was no doubt a mass emergence of the young workers in the railways as well as in other industrial branches. The new generation of the national railway workers’ movement was ready to go on a strike in defiance of the management’s punishment. The great struggle of 1970 has produced such militant young workers in a large scale. I personally have a firm conviction that this was the major factor of bringing forth a new situation.

The workers on the workshop get wage cut of one degree down by seasonal salary increase when they are given a warning for participating in a strike. At that time the wage was very cheap. One-degree salary increase meant about 500 yen up, that is a yearly 2000 yen up. Young workers did not care the punishment of wage cut, saying, “500 yen wage down makes me nothing! ” We often organized, for example, the struggles of putting up the union posters on the side of trains. Formerly, everybody feared that one might be dismissed if one is caught in such activities as injuring the company’s properties, that is, trains. That was the general feeling when I began the union activities. But soon we could overcome this feeling through putting the posters repeatedly together with the fellow unionists. We were gradually accustomed to figure out that the utmost punishment would be the pay cut in case of the union chief of the concerned local even when we fought work-to-rule.

Let’s take an example. When one train makes delay in schedule as a result of work-to-rule, all following trains get inevitably delayed in operation. In these circumstances of general delay of train, it was impossible for the management to find out which train has started the work-to-rule. We call him who first starts to delay the train “the chief of the formation ”, like an aviation show a chief issues a directive in formatting airplane in the sky. Thus the management cannot obtain any proof to identify the “chief of formation ”, or a driver to be punished.

The work-to-rule on the railways exercised thus a powerful impact on the labor movement all over Japan. The government had to admit that the powerful development of the labor movement ranging from the spring offensive of 1972 to that of 1973 surpassed the struggle in the immediately post-war period.

Under those circumstances the president of the JNR with the top managers of “three public corporations and five industrial civil services ” made a proposition that the right to strike should better be recovered to their employees putting some limit. It was in such circumstances that the unions concerned staged an eight days’ strike from November 26, 1975.

3. Eight days’ strike to regain the right to strike

The leadership of the Sohyo at that time may have intended to stage strike for two or three days and then to negotiate with the management and the government for a compromise. The leaders responsible for the strike were the general secretaries of the following major unions: Tomizuka of the Kokuro; Yamagishi of the Zendentsu (Telecommunication Employees’ Union) who later became the president of the Rengo; and Hosaka of the Postal Workers’ Union. The government at that moment was led by Miki of Liberal Democratic Party supported by the Tanaka faction of the Party. The union leaders seemingly acted upon their supposition that the both sides shared a common view on the issue. But the tremendous outcome of the strike decidedly betrayed their optimistic expectation. In the course of the critical development, the government and the LDP hardened their position. It is quite natural when one seriously considers the real character of the issue: the demand of the unions to regain the right to strike - it actually means the abolition of “the Public Corporations, etc. Labor Relations Law ”, which forbids the right to strike for the concerned employees. In a law-abiding-country the abolition of law requires decision of the Diet. Therefore, the struggle to regain the right to strike by means of waging a strike is, therefore, a very “revolutionary ” struggle in its class character because it aims at abolishing a law through a direct labor action.

The problem had a contradictory nature: it was a reformist (social-democratic) leadership that was in a position to steer this “revolutionary ” struggle. But these leaders had naturally no serious recognition of the “revolutionary ” character of the struggle; they regarded it as a mere tool to find a moderate settlement between the two parties. It was widely believed among the concerned people that the agreement had already been reached on the issue among all of the concerned parties: unions, the managements of the “three public corporations and five industrial civil services ”, the Ministry of Labor and the LDP executives. In fact the matter was not so simple.

When we have closely examined the surrounding situation, we found that a plot was under way, at that period, to bring on a right wing unification of the labor movement among the labor unions of private enterprises, a plot to be materialized later in establishing the Rengo (1989). Under these circumstances the government could never have given back the right to strike to the labor unions of the public sectors only to encourage the workers concerned. The government and the LDP attacked the strike for the right to strike as “an open defiance of the parliamentary democracy ”. That was true. The Miki administration was at last obliged to declare that it (the strike for the right to strike) was an inadmissible deed in a law-abiding state and that there could be no compromise with the labor demand. The Federation of Public Corporations and Governmental Enterprise Workers’ Union, challenged by the government and the management in the midst of the struggle, had no choice than to proceed its way. Thus the strike continued for eight days with no result. It all ended in “a magnificent zero ”.

The JNR management, now on offensive, filed a suit against the Kokuro and the Doro, demanding the compensation amounting to 20.2 billion yen for the damages allegedly caused by the strike. The suit entailed grave consequences upon the whole process of the Division and Privatization of the JNR: the Doro was exempted of the compensation for its cooperation in the division and privatization. The whole sum of demand of 20.2 billion yen was consequently shifted to the Kokuro. Later at the end of 1994, KAMEI Shizuka, transport minister of the coalition administration under socialist Prime Minister, Murayama, withdrew the suit against the Kokuro, to which the issue had long been a heavy burden, His aim was apparently to induce the Kokuro to accept the Division and Privatization of the JNR.

4. Generalization and lessons of the strike to regain the right to strike

For the future of the struggle, we must accurately evaluate the whole process and problems of the strike for the right to strike. In my opinion this struggle was the last abortive attempt of the labor movement under the social-democratic leadership. It was quite significant that a numerous workers belonging to the Council of Public Corporation and National Enterprises Workers’ Unions (Korokyo) rose up to the strike for eight days. Problem lies, however, in the leadership that could not properly and effectively organize this powerful energy.

The then chair of the Tokyo local of the Doro, MATSUZAKI Akira, confessed later in a TV program of the NHK, “Judging from the result of the strike for the right to strike, I came to realize that the class-orientated labor movement or the labor movement of the class confrontation was finished ”. It is true that eight days’ strike could not seriously shake up the Japanese society and failed to offer a substantial blow to the capitalist production of Japan. Matsuzaki as one of the leaders of the Kakumaru revealed his weak point in drawing above-mentioned defeatist conclusion. He cannot focus the issue upon the problem of the leadership.

It was only the workers of the Korokyo that went on the strike though the strike was publicized as the general traffic strike. None of the unions of the private railways participated in it. No union of teamsters, none of the Federation of Transport Workers’ Union waged strikes. Neither the NITTSU (Nihon Express Company) nor the Amalgamated Unions of Transport branch joined in the action. A large amount of transport workers on land were left outside the struggle. Even among the All Japan Federation of Transport Workers’ Union, the Kokuro was the only participant of the strike. The other unions stood aside. As a result of these developments, freight transportation were not at all affected by the strike because the essential freight was born by trucks and ships, not by trains, contrary to the propagated damage compensation. Only exception occurred in the case of the orange producers in Ehime prefecture where the cargo transport are depended exclusively on the JNR freight service.

It was necessary for the advance of the struggle for the right to strike to organize a powerful second wave strike, including not only the Korokyo but also the Federation of Private Railway Unions and the Federation of Transport Workers’ Union. Thus the whole Japanese society would be alarmed and a way for the recovery of the right to strike would be opened up. On the contrary, Matsuzaki and the Kakumaru desperately gave up further struggle, saying, “It is all over ”.

We must not overlook that the then leadership of the Sohyo only tried to exploit the social impacts given by the vigorous upsurge of the workers’ struggle, represented by the explosive development of the AMPO-Okinawa struggle, the victory of the struggle against the Productive Improvement Campaign and the strenuous development of the spring labor offensive. After the strike of 1975, the Sohyo ceased to organize any significant struggle. Though there were a few strikes in the annual spring labor offensive (with the inevitable management’s punishment), the spring labor offensive as a whole lost its momentum year by year and the number of strikes rapidly decreased. It was only the District Chiba of Doro that had continued the strikes among the unions of the public sectors. The defeat of the strike for the right to strike ended in accelerating the drive for right-wing unification of the labor movements. It led to build up an unfavorable class power relationship, which paved the way for the Division and Privatization of the JNR. With this point of view, we should correctly understand the true nature of the whole development of the strike for the right to strike.

As for our own struggle in Chiba, the strike went on also for eight days. I myself was in a leading position of the strike. During the striking days, we had nothing but to organize the meetings for study, as the management dared not take repressive measures to the strikers. We passed time, playing softball or something like that. Sankei Shinbun, a very conservative and reactionary paper, vehemently attacked us: “The Doro District Chiba is enjoying softball during the train stoppage! ” Just at that moment, Matsuzaki was playing golf together with the union leaders of the Kokuro. It was exposed by a weekly magazine. Anyway no train ran; no repressive measures by the management; no activity in the workshop. All the union members were staying together in the workplace, sharing three meals every night and day. We enjoyed such life, wondering what we could reach in such a way. The result came as we had anticipated.

We might say that the management and the state power admitted the strike to continue for eight days without any intervention on the condition that the struggle was under the control of the labor bureaucrats like Tomizuka and Yamagishi. Just suppose, if I, Nakano, led the strike, the situation would have been quite different: the police would have intervened with massive riot troop mobilization in the workplace. If I had been in a leading position in organizing the strike as a whole, I would have deliberately developed various tactics to carry out powerful and effective strikes and never have aborted the struggle. We must seriously consider the issue as the problem of the leadership.

V. Struggle to Stop Jet Fuel Transport to Narita Airport

The District Chiba waged a strike against the construction of the Sanrizuka (Narita) Airport under the banner of “Labor-Farmer Solidarity ”. We have gained a reputation through this struggle. I’ll tell you our cause and stand of this struggle.

1. How the Narita struggle started

Narita Airport construction plan and the SP the CP

First of all, we must refer to the prehistory of the Sanrizuka struggle.

In 1966, the then SATO government decided at the Cabinet Meeting to construct an international airport in Sanrizuka. It was a beginning of the issue. Prior to this decision there had been various candidates for the construction site, such as Yachimata, Tomisato, Kasumigaura, etc. The decision on Yachimata, Tomisato was withdrawn by the flat refusal of farmers there. The government finally decided upon Sanrizuka, considering that there was an imperial pasture, state-owned land at the disposal of the government for the airport construction. With this, the rest of the land to be purchased from the farmers in Sanrizuka would be reduced to minimum. Upon the announcement of the governmental decision, the farmers founded the Sanrizuka-Shibayama United Opposition League against the Airport Construction with TOMURA Issaku as the President and KITAHARA Koji as the Director General.

At the initial stage, the Sohyo and the Chiba Prefectural Federation of Labor Unions together with the Socialist Party and the Communist Party decided support for the opposing farmers. They promised to gather to fight back the governmental scheme in Sanrizuka. The JCP and the JSP set up the headquarters in the field. A broad battle formation was thus established. The District Chiba joined in the struggle as one of the supporting unions.

It was a time when the upheaval of the class struggle just began: the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee was set up in 1965; the Haneda struggle was fought to prevent the then Prime Minister Sato’s visit to Vietnam in 1967 and the situation was heading toward a great upsurge of the AMPO-Okinawa struggle in 1970.

Under these circumstances, the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee of Chiba, of which I was the chairperson, quickly acted on the Sanrizuka issue and held a protest rally on the spot in November 1967. For us it was quite natural as inhabitants in the same locality, Chiba prefecture. The rally took place immediately after the Haneda struggle. There broke out a stormy discussion on participation of the Zengakuren (under the influence of the New Left tendencies) who fought the Haneda struggle. The JCP bitterly opposed to it. The members of the JCP in the Opposition League (there were several at that time) obstinately demanded Mr. Tomura almost everyday at the door not to admit Trotskyites, that is, the Zengakuren in the struggle. They even put their stickers on pillars in the farm road with the words, “Trotskyites, out!"

Anti-war groups and the Zengakuren stood at the forefront of the supporters

Being the union officer and the chair of the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee of Chiba at that time, I visited Sanrizuka as the representative of the youth section of the Doro. Under the leadership of the Youth Brigade of the Opposition League, three principles of supporting and cooperating with the Sanrizuka farmers were worked out. It was confirmed that the League accepts every organization as long as it stood under the control of the League. Following these principles, the Zengakuren joined in the rally sponsored by the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee of Chiba on November 3, 1967.

The political situation was tense in Sanrizuka. Against the decision of the Opposition League, the person concerned of the movement against the airport construction, a political party, namely the Communist Party, was still raising an unreasonable opposition to the participation of the Zengakuren. The Opposition League categorically rejected the CP’s objection and a bitter split arose between the Opposition League and the CP.

Soon after that, the land surveying for the airport construction began. During a protest sit-in on the planned construction site, carried out in arm-in-arm joint action, Mr. Tomura, the president of the League, fiercely denounced the JCP that stood aside the sit-in and only chanted protest songs, opposing direct actions to prevent the surveying. From that time on, the Communist Party gradually withdrew from the Sanrizuka struggle.

All through these developments, fighting solidarity and cooperation was established between the Opposition League and the so-called New Left forces, represented by the workers and the students of the Anti-war Labor Youth Committee and the Zengakuren who had been fighting the AMPO-Okinawa struggle and now joining in the Sanrizuka struggle. Thirty years after that, the only remaining political supporters of the Sanrizuka struggle are those who belong to this force. This was the initial stage of the Sanrizuka struggle.

In September 1971 a violent struggle was fought against the second enforcement of the land expropriation in Sanrizuka (execution by proxy). Molotov cocktails exploded everywhere at every moment in the battlefield of Sanrizuka. It was quite natural that the struggle developed into such a fierce battle, for the farmers were going to be expropriated of their land by force. They had every reason for resisting this by means of all possible measures. People’s resistance against the state power has validity at every moment of the history and everywhere in the world. Japanese farmers are said to be much milder in the resistance compared with the French counterparts. The French farmers prevented the trains carrying the wine from Italy to France through blockade by tractors. It could hardly happen in Japan. In Europe, however, it is a daily event. The Sanrizuka struggle with its vigorous battles has perhaps made an exception in the Japanese farmers’ movement. In the meantime, the Sohyo, the Prefectural Federation of Labor Unions and the Socialist Party dropped off one after another from the Sanrizuka struggle. The District Chiba, however, stayed on the battlefield together with the Opposition League as long as the struggle continued. We regarded it unreasonable to leave selfishly, once solidarity in the struggle was pledged.

2. Fuel transportation posed a problem

Achilles’ heel of the opening plan of the Narita Airport

It was vaguely expected then that the opening of the Narita (Sanrizuka) airport might be in 1973 or 1974. As an inland airport, it had a difficult problem of access: there was no railway line to reach there. A New Bullet Express Line from Narita to Tokyo, called Narita Shinkansen, was once planned, but soon abandoned. Existing railway lines of the JNR were to take over the transport. As for the car transport, the East-Kanto Express Motorway was none the easier.

The most difficult problem was the fuel transportation: how to carry the jet fuel for airplanes from Chiba harbor to Narita. It required pipelining for a long distance. To obtain sites for the pipeline construction, conflicts would inevitably occur with the inhabitants in the concerned areas. Citizen’s movement might start; the inhabitants might bring suit on the issue. The Airport Public Corporation was trying to persuade the population in the locality, saying, “It is very dangerous to transport fuel by tank lorries or by JNR trains. Fuel transportation by means of pipeline is a safer way. We ask you of the locality to give a consent to the pipelining ”.

The Fukuda government came on the scene

In December 1976 FUKUDA Takeo took office as the Prime Minister. It was a hard time after the collapse of the Tanaka government and its successor Miki, in the aftermath of the “oil shock ” (an energy crisis) of 1973 with mounting political as well as economical difficulties. In the New Years’ Address, the Prime Minister Fukuda came out with two slogans: “Stabilization of the labor-management relations’ and “Opening of the Narita airport within the year ”. With the opening of the airport coming closer, the fuel transportation became an urgent problem. It seemed, however, impossible to complete the pipelining before the opening of the airport in presence of the strong opposition movement of the inhabitants. As a solution, a plan was worked out to carry the fuel from the harbors of Chiba and Kashima to the Narita airport by the JNR line.

This plan made us confront the issue as our own problem instead of supporting farmers’ struggle as before. The freight of the JNR in the Chiba prefecture was performed exclusively by the drivers belonging to the Doro District Chiba. So we could not evade responsibility for the issue. The situation forced us to make a decision how to tackle with the fuel transport problem.

3. Policy of the District Chiba

From 94th Central Committee of the Doro of 1976 to 33rd National

Convention of the Doro of 1977

The District Chiba decided to fight it out. To carry out the decision the District Chiba as an organization of the Doro needed the recognition by the union national leadership. In the central committee meeting of the Doro on December 16, 1976, I proposed as one of the central committee members, an extraordinary resolution concerning the fuel transportation. The resolution was passed unanimously.

I was much anxious about the reaction of the Kakumaru, who dominated the union headquarters of the Doro. The Kakumaru had already been expelled from the Sanrizuka struggle because the Kakumaru had made all sort of attempt to hinder vigorous development of the Sanrizuka struggle, scattering nails on road to stop traffic to Sanrizuka or making nuisance in restaurants (eating without pay) etc. Upon complaint of many supporters of the struggle, the Opposition League decided to exclude the Kakumaru. The Kakumaru had, however, an influential position in the Doro. I was afraid that the Kakumaru could make invasion into Sanrizuka through the struggle to stop the fuel transportation when the Doro adopted the policy to organize this crucial struggle for Sanrizuka. On the other hand, the official union decision was indispensable for us to fight the struggle with a massive union mobilization. In spite of my wavering position, the resolution proposed by the District Chiba was unanimously adopted in the central committee meeting and officially confirmed on the National Convention in Minakami 1977.

Taking into account all these developments, the government and the Airport Public Corporation finally took a decision upon the opening of the Narita airport on March 30, 1978. Once the decision was made, it became urgent for them to fuel the tanks of the airport enough for the opening. The JNR management proposed, in December 1977, to begin fuel transportation by the JNR trains.

Four points to fight the Sanrizuka Jet Fuel Struggle

We needed now as a labor union logic to tackle with the problem of refusing the fuel transport to the airport. The District Chiba established four points to develop the struggle: (1) the District Chiba, as a consistent supporter of the struggle, reconfirms its position against the construction of the Narita Airport; (2) the District Chiba, as a labor union, maintains the standpoint of labor-farmer unity in solidarity with the farmers in Sanrizuka; (3) no transportation of dangerous materials in order to secure rail safety; (4) no increase of labor intensity and no union busting. I explained to the union members in a workshop meeting: “The labor unions fight not only for money. We must sometimes fight not only for the pay, must not we? ” The answer of the unionists was a unanimous “Yes ”. I got then confidence in the success of the struggle. Still now I believe this sort of reasoning is very important in union activities.

In the course of this struggle there were few disagreements within the District Chiba. As for the Kakumaru, which was, at that time, expanding its influence over the leadership of the Doro, we were all prepared to fight off its destructive intervention in the struggle. The rivalry with the Kakumaru also gave impetus to the struggle. There are various elements that drive workers to fight. All these circumstances provided a broad basis for the unionists of the District Chiba to rise up.

4. The District Chiba’s struggle to stop jet fuel transport (1)

From December 3 to 5, 1977

It was a hard struggle. In fighting the struggle against the transport of the jet fuel, we had to confront the most urgent problem raised by the Fukuda administration. The struggle started on December 3. In three beginning days we fought work-to-rule at the utmost level. Actually the District Chiba alone fought it; all the other locals of the Doro stayed silent and inactive. The union office of the Doro issued a very ambiguous order: only to demand for the unionists to confirm rail safety or something alike. I as the general secretary of the District Chiba made a maximal interpretation of the union order and practiced it to the full extent. As a result, 322 trains were stopped in three days, putting the metropolitan traffic into a total chaos.

After three days’ intense struggle, we fought on struggle after struggle for almost hundred days till the opening of the airport on March 30. The struggle went on, for example, like this way - three days’ work-to-rule and return to normal work, and again three days’ work-to-rule and normal work and so on, accompanied by the occasional rallies. We kept raising a loud voice of stopping the opening of the airport.

We had to be prepared for the counter-offensive of the enemy forces. Within the Doro, Kakumaru-dominated union headquarters would attempt everything to prevent the struggle, including scabbing and watering down. The unionists of the District Chiba were required to keep up the fighting spirit and strengthen unity to face the situation. In fact we put all of our energy into the struggle during these hundred days.

The Struggle against the crowded counteroffensive

As was anticipated, the crowded counteroffensive came over us. The justice minister was at that time SETOUCHI Mituo, a hawk in the LDP. He issued a statement, after three initial days of struggle, that a criminal punishment should be applied to the work-to-rule. The Metropolitan Police Department would naturally take an action to implement this ministerial policy. I was ready for the police raid in our union office in Chiba and arrest(s) of the chair and/or the chief of secretary.

Moreover, the Asahi Shinbun, a bourgeois press, published an editorial that criticized our work-to-rule as the deviation from the normal labor movement. We went to the Asahi Shinbun office to protest the editorial and were received by the head of the editorial board. We vehemently argued against the editorial and demanded to reveal the name of its writer. But we had got no answer then. It was later known that the writer was one of the editors in charge of the labor unions and was acquainted with Tomizuka of the Kokuro and Matsuzaki of the Doro.

Abortive repression of the Metropolitan Police

During the whole week following the struggle the Metropolitan Police Department summoned the JNR persons in charge of the train operation, such as of the urban train or the local train departments and of the operation center. The MPD wanted to identify who had initiated the work-to-rule. In work-to-rule, there is necessarily a train engineer that starts the slow-down. Summoned persons of the JNR answered that they actually did not know. The MPD suspected those who were summoned to have concealed the names of the responsible engineers in order to keep friendly terms with the union. For the MPD it seemed not difficult for the JNR management to find out the fact by the help of the train operating computers. It was reported that their questioning continued from morning till night.

The JNR persons came to our union office after the questioning by the MPD and complained to us, “Listen to me! I had a terrible experience in the MPD office. They questioned me all through the day. But I had only to answer that I knew nothing. Actually I did not know ”. I believed their words. Among the JNR persons, there were some who were sympathized with me. Perhaps they did not speak everything to the police, but their knowledge on the struggle was in fact very limited. Compared with the case in the local lines, it is far more difficult for the urban train operation center to have control over the trains in motion even by means of computers. In the local lines every motion of the running trains is indicated by the red lamps on the control board. But in case of the urban trains that run every 2 minutes, there is no such control device. The train schedule is too dense for that. So the train operation in the urban commuter lines depends entirely upon skill and ability of the engineers who run the trains by the help of the signals.

To examine closely the delay of trains, the management has to gather all concerned data about each train at several important stations, such as Tsudanuma, Funabashi and Kinshicho in case of the Sobu line, as to the time of arrival and departure. For this activity of “time keeping ” the JNR personnel are dispatched to the essential stations. When the dispatched personnel are not acquainted with the actual train operation, for example someone from the personnel or the labor departments, they would be totally confused by the trains coming in and out at only two minutes’ interval.

Anyway, through this investigation into the delayed trains it was found out that the driver who caused the delay was a unionist of the Kokuro, that was not engaged in the struggle to stop the fuel transport and no reason for the working-to-rule. The whole investigation thus lost its validity. Later the management punished several unionists, among whom, however, a very few members were the driving crew. There was absolutely no eyewitness account whatsoever on who initiated the work-to-rule. The MPD tried in vain to find out who did it, summoning the persons concerned. So I was not arrested and our union office was not raided by police.

The setting-up of the Coordinating Committee to support the Struggle against the Jet Fuel Transport

A work-to-rule causes inevitably traffic chaos and makes passengers angry. It is only natural for anyone who got delayed in train to be furious especially in case of jammed commuter trains. So the District Chiba became inevitably the target of the passengers’ anger.

Just at that time, the Coordinating Committee to support the Struggle against the Jet Fuel Transport of the Doro was set up. Among the sponsors were ASADA Mitsuteru, the professor of Rissho University and KITAHARA Koji, the general secretary of the Opposition League. The Coordinating Committee everyday organized solidarity campaign in the railway stations alongside the Chuo and Sobu lines. When the trains arrived at stations, supporters came to the drivers’ seats to demonstrate solidarity with them and encouraged them, sometimes with chocolates. It served as the defense from the angry passengers who were often workers’ commuters.

What impressed me most was a visit of the girl students of the Zengakuren. One day some unionist called me out, saying, “There are students of the Zengakuren to support us. You are asked to address to them ”. What I saw was a group of some fifty or sixty girl students in front of us, coming here after visiting Tsudanuma station. I asked them if they had got any trouble with the angry passengers and if they were beaten by them. They definitely answered no. I had been afraid that commuters got impatient, being prevented from going back home as usual by the delayed trains and some of them would get angry also against the solidarity campaign of the supporters of the work-to-rule. The girl students explained to me that what happened was quite contrary to my anxiety and that they gathered during their street campaign donation of one million yen for the support of our struggle. Then I realized what really happened. Not a halfway work-to-rule but a thoroughgoing work-to-rule like we did can truly impress people.

Aided by these solidarity actions we could prevent the police repression beforehand. Considering the mistakes on the part of the enemy, above-mentioned was my general conclusion and lessons of the struggle.

Hostile activities of the Kakumaru of the Doro

The most serious problem was that the Kakumaru watered down our work-to-rule through the Doro headquarters.

At that time, drivers were not enough in the JNR of Chiba. We gained the amelioration of the working conditions to fill insufficient number of the driving crew. Under these circumstances, every change of the train diagram did not result in reducing personnel. The rationalization in Chiba produced not downsizing but on the contrary increased the number of the personnel. At that time, the reduction of the working hours was at issue in the JNR, but the Chiba Railway Control Bureau alone postponed it. Just at that moment, the fuel transport problem emerged, which demanded to increase the number of train engineers. Then one can justly argue that the priority should be put on the reduction of the working hours rather than the fuel transport issue.

Actually in the Sakura Engine Depot, there was no diesel locomotive to transport fuel. It must be supplied from somewhere. Unused DD51 locomotive or something like that should be brought in here. A fuel transporting freight car is very heavy and needs a high-powered locomotive like DD51. The transfer of the locomotive, “shifting ” in terms of the JNR, was absolutely necessary.

Under these circumstances, lacking necessary drivers and locomotives, the Doro could have stopped the jet fuel transport through the principled struggle against it. The management brought in locomotives from everywhere (for example from far away Okayama) to Chiba and the national executive of the Doro admitted it. Also the locomotive drivers were transferred from Akita, Shizuoka and so on. Most of them belonged to the Kokuro. They were promised to have a right to choose their place of future duty after working in Chiba.

Betrayal of union leaderships of the Kokuro and the Doro

Moreover, the union leadership of the Kokuro and the Doro shamelessly negotiated with the management over the conditions of the transfer of their unionists to Chiba for the fuel transport at the sacrifice of the struggle of the District Chiba. For example, they demanded service-area allowance for the transferred engineers. Formerly Narita was classified as no-qualified service-area without allowance. Now Narita became entitled to be three-degree service-area with allowance through the shabby agreement between those union leaderships and the management. They also negotiated over the trifle matters, such as providing employees with color TV etc. in selling out the struggle of the District Chiba.

Our struggle was full of danger, “caught between the devil and the deep sea ”. I visited everyday the Doro headquarters in Meguro, Tokyo to obtain organizational directives indispensable to carry out the struggle as union. I had to argue heatedly with the Kakumaru officers who had dominated the headquarters of the Doro. It was a formidable task. Through all of our effort the jet fuel struggle came out as a great success and developed further into the strike of March 1981.

5.The District Chiba’s struggle to stop the jet fuel transport (2)

The change of the tactics from refusal to prevention of the fuel


The struggle to stop the jet fuel transport, however, could not go on in this way. The management, in place of the drivers of the District Chiba, put on the driver’s seat the assistant stationmasters with experience of driver, nominating them “an assistant stationmaster and driver ”. No engineers belonging to the District Chiba ran the train. “An assistant stationmasters and drivers ” ran all the trains. Over this issue, there was a provisional agreement between the JNR management and the Doro leadership. It could not last long anyway. We perceived everything. It was apparent that drivers of the District Chiba would finally be forced to run the train.

Considering all these circumstances, we decided on a policy change “from refusing the transport to preventing the transport ” on an Extraordinary Convention of the District Chiba of the Doro on April 6, 1978 to break the deadlock. Our reasoning was as follows: It is a change from refusing fuel transport to prevent it with the steering wheel in our own hands. In other words, it is a right way for the labor movement to prevent the fuel transport with strikes. With “assistant stationmasters and drivers ” sitting on the driver’s seat and our workplace thus being violated by the supervisors, the labor movement is inevitably get corrupted and degenerated when workers stand aside, saying we are not committed and we have nothing to do with it. We declared to fight the struggle, getting back hegemony over the railway into our own hands. In our Convention all major mass medias were present. It was widely reputed that the District Chiba was going to make a drastic change of the tactics on the jet fuel transport struggle. The convention was televised.

During the debate on the Congress, the union chief of Narita local took words: “Colleague Nakano, a smart fellow! You are trying to cheat us using unfamiliar words (implying “hegemony ”). That is all what I want to say ”. He meant to oppose the change of the tactics that I proposed through stressing on “hegemony over the railway ”. He insisted on keeping the previous line of the struggle. The discussion finally settled down on the congress, but the argument with the Narita local continued for half a year.

"Farmers with land as their weapon and the Doro District Chiba with railroad as their weapon"

The surrounding situation of the jet fuel transport struggle was very complicated and difficult to tackle with: the District Chiba was a district organization of the Doro. The Doro was under the influence of the Kakumaru and hostile to the District Chiba. The Kakumaru was trying to find every opportunity to destroy the District Chiba. In the power relation like that we were obliged to employ a tightrope-walking tactics to fight the jet fuel transport struggle, that was an important political struggle. We were thus coping with enormous difficulties.

Just at that time, as an inevitable outcome of a difficult situation, a discord emerged also in the Opposition League. A group within the Youth Brigade, which later split off from the League, was reported to have criticized the policy of the District Chiba in several occasions, “The District Chiba has been boasting a lot and now is transporting the jet fuel after all. Don’t talk nonsense! A guerrilla attack could easily crush the fuel transportation once for all ”. We had them come up to our union office in Chiba and hold a talk between the executive unionists of the District Chiba and the members of the group, such as Aikawa (now the mayor of Shibayama), Ishige, Yanagawa, Shima and so on. After a stormy discussion, we made them present a letter of self-criticism over their words.

In fact, it was only a halfway solution. They really did not understand what workers’ struggle essentially implied and the argument inevitably became conflicting. In a striking contrast to those people, Mr. Tomura, the president of the Opposition League who was still alive at that moment, impressed me with his moving speech in a rally. He summarized the essence of the labor-farmer solidarity in a brief sentence: “The District Chiba fights with railroad as its weapon, while the Opposition League fights with land as its weapon. It makes labor-farmer solidarity ”. He was indeed a thoughtful person. His speech brought about a general accord among the audience.

6. The Jet Fuel Transport Struggle opened up a perspective for the 1980’s struggle

The District Chiba drew lessons from the struggle against the jet fuel transport in various implications. Succeeding this struggle, we staged strikes and stopped fuel transport trains at every occasion like annual spring labor offensive. The culmination was reached in the struggle in March 1981. At that moment, the promised three years’ limit of the fuel transportation by the JNR trains had already been expired. Three years have passed since the provisionary opening of the Narita airport in May 1978. The JNR management proposed to us to extend the time limit of the fuel transport under the pretext of the delayed pipeline construction. We got angry at the unreasonable proposal of the management and went into strikes for a whole week. Our struggle started from a strike by designated workers to a 24 hours’ strike, stopping trains of all lines. Four of the union executive officers of the District Chiba got punishment of dismissal by the “Public Corporations, etc. Labor Relations Law ”.

The struggle against the jet fuel transport since 1977 has definitely crushed the initial attempts of the Fukuda administration to open the Narita airport in 1971 and to stabilize the labor-management relations. Moreover it succeeded in pushing back through a violent confrontation the right-wing drive to transform the Japanese labor movement as a whole into something like the Rengo of today, a drive after the defeat of the strike for the right to strike in 1975.

The struggle against the jet fuel transport played also an important role in coping with a certain scheme of splitting the Opposition League in Sanrizuka. After the provisional opening of the Narita airport in 1978, it became still more urgent for the government to get rid of the Opposition League in order to complete the airport construction. Repeated attempts to draw the Opposition League out to sit at a negotiating table were completely repelled and the moves were suspended for a certain period. Finally in 1983 it came to a decisive split of the League. For all that we succeeded in deterring the plans of the government and the Airport Public Corporation for five or ten years.

It is often said that the struggle against the Productivity Movement forced the suspension of the establishment of the Rengo for ten years. It may also be admitted that various struggles of the District Chiba, especially the jet fuel struggle, effectively delayed the offensive of the Division and Privatization of the JNR. This struggle enabled the District Chiba to carry through the split from the Doro and to become an independent union in 1979.

Summing up and generalizing the lessons of our struggle in 1970’s, we come to the following conclusion: In facing a serious setback of the labor movement under the leadership of the Sohyo since the defeat of the strike for the right to strike, the District Chiba has definitely emerged as a forerunner of the new power in challenging the adverse situation and successfully laid a foundation for the struggle in 1980’s.

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