JCP local assembly members attend exchange meeting

The Japanese Communist Party held a national meeting of JCP local assembly members on August 29 and 30 in Saitama City near Tokyo. Its aim was to learn from each other's experiences to help strengthen the coming major elections: the 2003 simultaneous local election and a possible House of Representatives general election.

The JCP now has 4,400 local assembly members, up 400 from 1998 when the previous local assembly members' meeting was held. They represent the JCP in 2300 prefectural, city, town, and village assemblies that account for 70 percent of all Japanese municipalities.

In the keynote report to the gathering, JCP Executive Committee Chair Shii Kazuo expressed hope that the meeting will help members to understand the characteristics of the changing situation, to achieve JCP advances in the simultaneous local elections next April, and to improve the level of activities by JCP assembly members groups.

Shii pointed out that the Liberal Democratic Party's pork-barrel national politics and submission to the United States will no longer fit in the 21st century.

Noting that there is an emerging current in local politics in which residents are the key players in defending local self-government against any attempt to turn municipalities into profit-first bodies, Shii stressed the need to make this current the current of the 21st century.

Shii added that in both national and local politics Soka Gakkai and the Komei Party are taking the lead in playing reactionary roles, and that the JCP should address these maneuvers openly and squarely.

Exciting to be JCP assembly members

In the discussion 153 members spoke in the plenary and group meetings.

An assembly member of Yuzawa City in Akita Prefecture, where a JCP member was elected as mayor last April, reported that the JCP, somewhat puzzled by a sudden shift from being an opposition party to the ruling party, began to implement what it promised to the residents.

"How exciting it is to be an assembly member," said Masami Murayama, a seven-term member of Kasuga City Assembly in Fukuoka Prefecture. He spoke about the JCP city assembly members group's success in overturning the city's plan to end free medical care for the elderly and other essential services.

The city was insisting that it cannot afford to continue those services because of the snowballing debt. But the JCP in the assembly argued that the debt, which was twice as large as the city's annual budget, can be reduced to zero if large development projects and other wasteful expenditures are canceled. As a result, the proposal for ending the free medical care for the elderly was canceled.

Also in Tottori prefecture led by a governor backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, a budget cut by 14.2 billion yen (117 million yen) was achieved through canceling the construction of a dam and other wasteful public works projects, thanks to JCP assembly members' efforts.

Shii's concluding remarks

In the concluding remarks, Shii stressed that the discussion showed the importance of understanding the profound changes taking place in local politics as well as the international and domestic situation and what the JCP's role is. Referring to several recent developments in Nagano and other prefectures, he said that the contradictions of Liberal Democratic Party politics are so deep that in both large cities and rural cities broad cooperation even with political conservatives is possible.

Shii also stressed the significance of the JCP's women members of local assemblies. The number of JCP female members is 1,316, which is larger than the total of all other parties. "Only in a society in which women are truly respected will men be respected as well," Shii added. (end)