A Quick Historical and Contextual Overview of “JRA/PFLP: Declaration of World War by Masao Adachi” (1971)

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The Proletarian Revolution Action Committee of Toronto and the Revolutionary Student Movement would like to thank everyone for coming out to the event tonight!!!

To put the film in context, we would like to provide a  brief historical overview of the political situation in which this film was made, the relationship between the Japanese Red Army and the infamous United Red Army, our own political position regarding some of these politics, especially the nature of armed struggle, and its implications of it on the larger communist movement.

This film was made 3 years after the second Ampo struggle by noted filmmakers Masao Adachi and Wakamatsu Koji, both sympathizers of the Japanese Left and the Communist League (Red Army Faction). The second Ampo struggle, like the first Amp struggle of 1960, was against the US-Japan Security Treaty which among others things included the right for American military bases to exist in Japan. The Communist League (Red Army Faction) itself was a split from the Communist League, or the Bund, in July 1969. The Bund itself was originally formed in 1958 by a group of Zengakuren members and leaders that split from the Japanese Communist Party in light of Khruschev’s Secret Speech and the JCP’s policies towards a number of political questions. Zengakuren stands for Zen Nihon Gakusei Jichikai Sō Rengō or in English the All-Japan Federation of Student Self-Government Associations, and is an umbrella group for numerous student groups in different universities. Although it must be noted that by the 1960′s several competing Zengakuren’s existed, each controlled by a different socialist/communist group. The Bund quickly came to adopt Trotskyism like much of the anti-JCP Left. The Bund was centrally involved in the first Ampo struggle in 1960 and collapsed shortly thereafter (1961) into numerous small sects due to the failure of that Ampo struggle. The different Bundists sects reorganized themselves into Communist League – Unity Faction in July 1965 in the midst of the ever deepening university struggles, the war in Vietnam and in preparation for the Ampo Struggles. The Bund again was a major force in the street battles, coordinated direct actions and university occupations across the country and was regularly pitted in violent street battles with the police.

Indeed, the unified Bund’s student organization soon emerged as one of the largest student groups on Japanese campuses. However, by 1969 tensions had arisen within the Bund’s central committee regarding the direction that the struggle should take thereafter. The Bund itself was largely concentrated in the Tokyo and the Kansai area around Osaka and Kyoto. The Kansai group argued, much like the Weather Underground, that the time had come to start a revolution in Japan using an urban political-military strategy. The Tokyo group opposed such a plan and deemed it adventurist and premature. In September 1969 at a public meeting organized by the Kansai faction called “The Great Red Army Political Meeting”, the Kansai faction announced the formal formation of the Communist League – Red Army Faction (RAF), and announced the following slogans, “Escalate the Present Struggle into Armed Revolution”, “Simultaneous Worldwide Revolution” and “Create a World Party, a World Red Army and a World Revolutionary Front”. Amongst the attendees were Shigenobu Fusako, future leader of the Japanese Red Army in the Middle East, and Tsuneo Mori, future leader of the Japanese Red Army in Japan. On September 22nd the RAF started attacks against police boxes in Osaka with molotov cocktails, and started a series of revolutionary expropriations and continued until 1971. Due to the success of these actions the RAF quickly came under pressure from police surveillance and saw the mass arrests of their underground and aboveground members. On November 5th the police in an early morning raid on a mountain lodge at the Daibosatsu Pass in Yamananashi Prefecture, surprised and arrested 53 members of the Red Army that were there on a program of ‘special training”. Chairman Shiomi was also arrested, thus resulting in the near collapse of the organization. These mass arrests resulted in two key developments: 1) the rise of Tsuneo Mori to the Chairmanship of the party; and 2) the remaining fragments of the organization came to theorize that it may be too difficult for an urban guerrilla army to get the necessary training in Japan itself, and results in a group of JRA members hijacking Japan Airlines Flight 351 on March 1970 which is re-directed to North Korea i.e. the JRA in North Korea, Shigenobu’s departure in 1971 to Beirut to receive training from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine i.e. the JRA in the Middle East at the behest of Chairman Mori, and the Mori group in Japan which would later merge with the Japanese Communist Party (Revolutionary Left Faction) to form the URA. Apparently Chairman Mori was less keen on establishing worldwide bases and continued to believe that domestic guerrilla training was possible.

Mori and the few comrades that remained in Japan continued to have a fair amount of cash and safe houses that had been acquired through donations and continuous revolutionary appropriations, but did not have easy access to firearms. Thus, they got in touch with another small far-left group that was committed to a form of Maoism and urban guerrilla warfare, the Japanese Communist Party (Revolutionary Left Faction), which was under the leadership of Nagata Hiroko, who like Mori, had been recently catapulted into the Chairmanship of her organization due to her organizing skills and the recent arrest of the former Chairman of the organization during a raid on a police station. The Japanese Communist Party (Revolutionary Left Wing) or Nihon Kyōsantō Kukumei Saha was a split from another Maoist group, the Japanese Communist Party (Left Faction). The  Japanese Communist Party (Revolutionary Left Faction), although having a number of firearms due to successful expropriations, lacked funds and safe houses. Thus, the marriage between the two organizations was one of convenience. The two organizations soon began to begin conducting joint trainings and finally result in the merger of the two organizations to form the United Red Army which is so well-known in the world for the torture and killings of 14 of its own members, and is the subject of a recent Wakamatsu film called “United Red Army”. This film wonderfully demonstrates the brutality and the odd theoretical developments that the new organization develops including: 1) Mori’s peculiar development of the theory of “communization”, which had been mentioned in earlier RAF writings, by merging self-criticism (jikohihan) and sōkatsu or collective critical examination of the problems that an organization faces; 2) the introduction of violence into the process of communization, and; 3) death by defeatism. It must be noted that whilst the PRAC and RSM believe that criticism/self-criticism and some process of becoming proletarian and revolutionary communists is healthy for organizations and the Left as a whole that we reject Mori’s theories, and indeed, note that Mori had little knowledge of Maoism, despite the fact that his organization had merged with a Maoist one. We must remember that this was an unprincipled merger based not on ideological and political considerations but simply on military questions, although it did result in the JRA in Japan and the Middle East shedding some its earlier Trotskyism in favor of a “transition world theory”. Furthermore, it is also interesting to note that in the early months of the joint training the discussions within the URA were lively and active and slowly became strangled through the authoritarian and bureaucratic tendencies of the leadership of Mori and Nagata, especially through the consistent practice of commandism, and the minutes soon become transcripts of speeches by the leadership. WThe PRAC and RSM oppose all forms of commandism, and argue that we must all recognize that commandism is rife in the Left at large.

Shigenobu, leader of the JRA, was completely unconnected from incidents that occur during the joint training, and left Japan for Beirut in early 1971, prior to the merger of the two organizations, although as you will see the film does recognize the JCP(Revolutionary Left Faction) as brothers in the struggle. She is soon joined by Tsuyoshi Okudaira, who would be in charge of the attack on the Lod Airport in 1972. Also, in 1971 two avant-garde filmmakers, Adachi and Wakamatsu, both JRA sympathizers in Japan join her on returning from a film festival Europe decided to make a film about the JRA-PFLP relationship, the film we are screening today. Adachi himself will remain in Lebanon for the next 28 years as a JRA member and was charged in 2001 for passport violations that resulted in a 4-year sentence, which was suspended to 18 months. He has recently made a film about Okudaira and the attack on the Lod Airport. The resulting film “Red Army – PFLP: Declaration of World War”, also translated as “Manifesto for World Revolution”, which makes more sense in the context of the slogans that were agreed upon in 1969, was shown in late 1971 in Japan to increase recruitment for the JRA in the Middle East. A member of the PFLP also spoke at the screening and made a passionate appeal for solidarity with the Palestinian cause. The JRA was thus able to recruit members from the Partisan groups and the legal front that had not joined the Central Army in the mountains. In 1972 after hearing about the lynchings and the Asamo-Sansō Incident, Shigenobu came under increasing pressure from the PFLP who were disturbed by the events. Shigenobu and Okudaira thus penned, “My Love, My Revolution” (which unfortunately has never been translated into English) as a response to the events and irrevocably broke from the URA. Furthermore, the attack on the Lod Airport was conducted on behalf of the PFLP to demonstrate their solidarity with the Palestinian cause and to further distance themselves from the horrific events in Japan. Indeed, it became clear, the JRA in the Middle East was now simply the JRA and had nothing to do with the URA. The JRA becomes increasingly dependent on the PFLP for infrastructure and funding because their links with the movement in Japan had been broken, although they do continue to receive some funding and support from JRA members in Europe who had been forced to leave Japan due to increasing police repression. The Japanese Left experienced increasing levels of police surveillance and crackdowns as the Japanese government repressed the Left due to its consistent embarrassment at the actions of the JRA internationally and their incapacity to catch them. By the 1980′s the JRA and the PFLP part ways because of tensions that arise due to the PFLP’s increasing narrow focus on the Palestinian struggle alone and nationalism, rather than the worldwide revolution that Shigenobu and other members of the JRA had been fighting for. It has been suggested by some that the JRA, like other urban guerrilla groups turned to Muammar Ghaddafi for funding in the 1980’s, and that Shigenobu’s arrest in Osaka, Japan in 2000 may have been evidence that she was trying to re-establish a domestic Japanese network to continue the struggle. Shigenobu formally disbanded the JRA in 2001 and in recent years there have been a number of arrests of other JRA members, although several remain in hiding.   The PRAC and the RSM understand the JRA’s and PFLP’s particular application and understanding of armed struggle, and stand in complete solidarity with the desires of the Palestinian people for a free unified secular Palestine, but do not believe that history has borne out the correctness of their strategies or line. In fact, the PFLP itself has distanced itself from these strategies and theories, and the JRA has completely collapsed because of the evident failures of said strategy. The strategy isolated the JRA from the Japanese people, from whom they had become completely disconnected and unwittingly aided in the suppression of the revolutionary movement within Japan. These are serious errors that were made and cannot be repeated. We would like to make it clear that we also do not believe that there needs to be a world party, a slogan repeated in the film that you will see today, but rather call for the formation of a new International of a new type. Furthermore, we believe that “simultaneous world revolution” and calls for a “world Red Army” are completely idealistic slogans, which demonstrate the JRA’s continuing idealism although it had made some major strides in changing its ideology away from the narrow idealism of a form of Trotskyism that denigrated the important contributions of Ho Chi Minh and Mao. Any and all revolutions must be built on the peculiar national composition of a given country and the contradictions within it, whilst recognizing that those national contradictions are influenced by contradictions that are developed at an international level.

Furthermore, the PRAC and the RSM firmly believe that it is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism that is the basis for any future revolutionary struggle in this country and around the world, although we also recognize that we must emerge from the narrow dogmatism of the past and develop new political strategies and theories that are appropriate to building revolutionary struggles in a given country. Furthermore, the PRAC and RSM stand in solidarity with the RCP(Canada) who recognize, unlike other groups in the Canadian Far Left that may have delusions about the possibility of some non-violent revolution against capitalism or some confrontation of spontaneously armed masses against the well-trained armed thugs of capitalism like the police and army, that protracted armed struggle and armed propaganda will be likely necessary stages in the revolutionary struggle at some future stage. However, these forms of struggle must emerge in direct relation to the mass struggles of the working class itself, and cannot be simply willed from international base areas around the world.

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