Resolution of the JCP 23rd Congress (Draft)
Part Five: Devote Struggles to Get Rules Established to Defend Living Conditions
(15) With the failing economic policies by LDP politics reaching an impasse, the Japanese people’s living conditions are in a state of crisis which is deeper than any in the past. Look at the 30 months of the Koizumi Cabinet. It has used the "structural reform" policy as a pretext for forcing the people to pay more and encouraged corporations to do more to restructure themselves. During this period, many small- and medium-sized companies have been forced to go bust, and the living conditions of all walks of life have been further devastated. A Cabinet Office survey on people’s lives shows that an all time high of 67 percent of the respondents said they are distressed or anxious about their daily lives.
The question now is how the JCP should act to put an end to these problems. The 3rd Plenum of the JCP Central Committee (22nd Congress) in October 2001 stressed the importance of the JCP’s activist role in organizing struggles as well as the need to propose policies in the arena of national politics. The plenum decision stated: "The government and large corporations are not hesitant in carrying out anything without regard for the costs the people may have to pay. This is exactly what we must do away with for the sake of future Japanese society; it is also one of the major issues facing our society in the 21st century." With this, the 3rd CC Plenum called for a major struggle to effect a fundamental change in Japanese society incorporating a long perspective.
Following this decision, the JCP began to increase its efforts to strengthen its cooperation with popular movements in various fields.
- Opposition to lawless corporate restructuring has developed in many places of work throughout the country. Under the slogan, "Rules for the workplace", the struggle is increasing against unjust dismissals and transfers to subsidiary companies. The struggle to eliminate forced overtime work has been successful in forcing the government to take concrete actions against such labor practices. As a result, more than 15 billion yen has been reimbursed during the last two and half years in back pay for unpaid overtime work, marking a significant step forward. A struggle has also developed among young people, who recently started a signature campaign called "jobs for the youth".
- Arbitrary plant closings by large corporations and the busting up of credit unions and credit associations have been resisted by the JCP, trade unions, democratic organizations, and local governments in a joint struggle for the defense of regional economies and finances. These struggles have forced some companies to withdraw their plant closing plans and promise job security.
On the issue of social services, the Medical Association, the Dental Association, the Pharmacists Association, and the Nurses Association took part in the broadest ever national movement against the outrageous government move to increase insured patients’ share of medical costs to 30 percent from the 20 percent. The joint campaign has collected more than 30 million signatures and is continuing to call for patients’ share of burden to be reduced.
This is only a small first step. At the same time, however, it indicates that the Japanese people have accumulated enormous energy to rise in a broad-based struggle. It also shows that if we use this energy to develop the struggle, we will be able to produce results that will help defend living conditions against the government’s policies of destroying people’s livelihoods.
(16) Increasingly varied demands are being expressed for riding out the crisis of life by workers, working citizens, farmers, fishers, small- and medium-sized business operators, intellectuals, cultural professionals, women, youth, students, and elderly people. Demands related to livelihood have features common to all regions, urban or rural. It is necessary to develop a great struggle in many ways.
To help develop the immediate struggle against LDP government policies which destroy people’s living conditions, the JCP calls for national efforts on the following three points:
Struggle to stop lawless corporate restructuring to win the creation of stable jobs – The employment situation is more critical than ever due to large corporations vying for cost-cutting restructuring encouraged by the government. In addition to the rise in the unemployment rate to a postwar high, personal income is falling. Large corporations are competing with each other for replacing full-time jobs with unstable contingent jobs, including part-time, temporary, and contract jobs. Workers are forced to work extraordinarily long hours, and this is a cause of karoshi (death from overwork), and the illegal practice of forcing workers to work overtime without pay is prevalent. Young people’s difficulties in finding jobs is a particularly serious social problem. It calls for a struggle to be developed to oppose lawless corporate restructuring, eliminate forced overtime work without pay, put an end to long work hours, and enable workers to use their paid holidays fully, increase stable jobs, and establish just rules for employment and labor practices. We demand that the government increase financial assistance to small- and medium-sized businesses which employ 70 percent of the nation’s wage workers.
Struggle to stop adverse revisions of social services and demand major budget allocations – The budget cuts which have been carried out almost every year for social services attack the people in the form of increases in burdens and decrease in benefits. The social security system is intended to secure people’s livelihoods, but it is now a major source of uncertainty that people have about their present and future situation. We will fight to block the major adverse revision of the pension system planned for the next fiscal year (starting April 1st 2004), stop the endless increase in medical costs, and demand that people’s burdens be reduced and that problems of the nursing care insurance system be solved. The JCP will concentrate on efforts to develop the struggle to stop further adverse changes in social services and instead give budgetary priorities to social services. The JCP in this struggle will show the public how stable resources for social services can be ensured through a reform of appropriations.
The national struggle to block a major consumption tax rate increase plan – The government is acting in unison with business circles in beginning to call for the consumption tax rate to be increased to more than 10 percent. The Japan Business Federation proposes increasing it to 16 percent, and the Japanese Association of Corporate Executives says the rate should be 19 percent by FY 2020. The government Tax Commission in its mid-term report advised the consumption tax rate to be increased to more than 10 percent from the present five percent. Some cabinet members have spoken in favor of legislative measures to be taken in FY 2006 to pave the way for the consumption tax rate increase. This is how reckless moves are beginning toward a major increase in the consumption tax rate. A 10-percent consumption tax rate will mean taking an additional 25-trillion yen from the public. If the rate is 16 percent, an additional 40 trillion yen will be taken away. The danger is that if the people don’t voice their objection, the tax rate increase will be accepted as a fait accompli.
The consumption tax is the worst form of taxation with its regressive character burdening low-income people most. A further tax rate increase will increase the regressive character and further widen the gap between rich and poor. It will also ruin working people’s lives and Japanese society alike.
The consumption tax has a particularly destructive effect on small- and medium-sized businesses who are obliged to pay the tax on their own because it is difficult for them to include the consumption tax in sales prices. Its increase will force traders, who are already hit hard by the prolonged economic recession, to go bust or face more hardships.
Another point to make is that the consumption tax is an obstacle to economic recovery. This is evident in what happened following the additional 9 trillion yen burden imposed on the people in 1997, which included a consumption tax increase. At the time, the Japanese economy, which had just begun to return to a recovery track, though feebly, again touched bottom. How absurd it is to propose a tax increase plan at a time when the people and the economy are worn down by the prolonged economic recession.
The advocates of the consumption tax increase say the measure is necessary to secure funds for social services. This is an untenable argument. Tax revenue since the consumption tax was introduced has reached 136 trillion yen. During the same period, revenue from three corporate taxes fell by 131 trillion yen. This shows the consequence of repeated corporate tax cuts in tandem with the introduction of the consumption tax and other tax increases. This means that the consumption tax has been swallowed by funds for corporate tax cuts for large corporations. In fact, the business circles are calling for a big increase in the consumption tax rate in combination with further corporate tax cuts. Clearly, the consumption tax rate increase is not aimed at securing funds for social services; it is intended to further reduce large corporations' tax burdens.
The JCP has been demanding that the notorious consumption tax be abolished. At a time when the substantial increase in the consumption tax rate, which will destroy people's living conditions and the nation's economy, is about to be railroaded through, our immediate task is increase common actions by a wide-range of people on the single issue agreed upon: opposition to a consumption tax rate increase. The JCP calls on all people to participate in this movement.
(17) Japan's food and agriculture are in a state of crisis with the food self-sufficiency rate continuing to decline. Many family farmers are facing the danger of having to abandon farming. Destruction of the nation's agriculture is threatening the integrity of the nation's land and endangering the environment and local economies. More and more people are concerned about food safety being threatened by residual pesticides contained in imported products and the outbreaks of BSE. The urgent task is for the government to place importance on agriculture as the nation's key industry, reconstruct it, and raise self-sufficiency in food according to concrete plans.
At the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference held in Cancun, Mexico, in September, NGOs and many developing countries expressed opposition to the call of large exporters, including the Unites States, for further expansion of agricultural trade that benefits multinational companies most. This is how contradictions are sharpening on this issue. At a time when a world food shortage is a matter of deep concern, one important task of international solidarity is to work to review the across-the-board trade liberalization that targets all agricultural products, exclude the staples in maintaining self-sufficiency in food like rice in Japan from trade liberalization, and establish the principle of "food sovereignty" for every country.
Taking total dependence on foreign farm products for granted, the Koizumi Cabinet has disclaimed state responsibilities for maintaining stable food prices and supply-demand relations. In the "Outline of Reform of Rice Policy," it imposes the already failed policy of only regarding large-scale farmers (more than ten hectares in Hokkaido and more than four in the rest of Japan) and corporate businesses as farmers, forcing an overwhelming majority of family farmers to give up farming. If nothing is done to check this, Japan's agriculture will collapse.
Now is the time to fundamentally change the present food, agriculture, forestry, and fishery policy to one of curbing expansion of food imports. It is also necessary to further develop the struggle to establish an agricultural policy that will fundamentally secure agricultural prices and farmers' incomes, support family farmers, and protect food safety. We will do our best to develop it as a national movement for the survival of all Japanese people whether they live in rural areas or in cities.
(18) Japan is referred to as a country under "capitalism without rules". This state of affairs is a product of LDP politics and Japanese monopoly capitalism's reactionary domination. At the same time, we need to recognize that it is connected with the fact that social struggles are often too weak to repel unjust attacks on workers and the people in general.
In western European countries, conservative governments over the 1980s and the 1990s preached propaganda about deregulation being a panacea in order to destroy the work rules established thanks to workers' struggles. This adverse current was opposed by workers waging powerful struggles in France, Germany, and Britain, including general strikes by several million workers.
This struggle not only achieved wage increases and improvements in working conditions in individual companies but protected and even improved work rules, including regulation of dismissals. The EU has established the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Laws have been enacted to require firms to fulfill their responsibilities in many areas, including employment and the environment. Measures have been taken to encourage companies to voluntarily abide by the rules through disclosure of information. Thus, in Europe, the rules for defending people's lives and work conditions have been established through struggles to socially repel lawless attacks. It should be noted that these rules to some degree serve to stabilize and strengthen European economies.
The Japanese people have similar experiences in achieving historic rules to defend their living conditions. In the 1960s and 1970s, the people's struggle led to the establishment of important rules that are effective today. In the 1970s, massive arbitrary worker dismissals taking advantage of the oil crisis were strongly opposed by workers throughout Japan. In the late 1970s, judicial precedents called the "Four Requirements for Dismissals for Downsizing" were established as basic rights of workers based on court rulings. The citizens anti-pollution movement, which had been developing since the late 1960s, made significant progress through four major pollution lawsuits, resulting in the convening of a special Diet session in 1970 devoted to the issue of pollution. As a result, the Environmental Pollution Control Basic Law, which had failed to bind corporations, was revised. This marked an important step in strengthening rules for environmental protection. Workers also carried out a long struggle against workplace discrimination against workers based on ideology, and all the lawsuits filed against such discrimination involving Tokyo Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co., and Kansai Electric Power Co. were victorious for workers, contributing to the establishment of rules to prohibit such discrimination. The struggle against wage discrimination against women also made important progress.
However, following the 1980 "Socialist Party-Komei Party Agreement" and in the midst of the second major reactionary offensive since the end of World War II, the Japanese labor movement conspicuously began to take a rightward course. Labor-capital collaborationism prevailed to suppress workers' demands and rights. We need to look at the hard fact that the power of labor to develop social struggles to defend the lives and rights of working people has since been weakened dramatically.
We are striving to realize the immediate keen demands of the people and achieve a united front for establishing a democratic coalition government. This requires us to increase efforts to overcome this weakness and establish a society capable of striking back at lawless attacks. We must develop a huge struggle to "establish rules in defense of living conditions".
(19) In this effort, it is very important for the JCP to play the pioneering role in organizing the struggle. The major task is for the JCP to make the cause of the struggle known to the public, achieve gains however small, make efforts to strengthen the mass movements and their organizations, and build cooperation among people of a broad political spectrum. JCP branches at places of work, communities, and schools as well as among the youth need to play their respective roles as reliable partners in the people's struggle.
Particularly, the JCP has an important duty to help make clear the great cause of the struggle and exert its energies to the development of JCP policies and theories. For example, the struggle against lawless corporate restructuring is not only important for the defense of workers' lives and rights. The corporate competition for larger profits through restructuring is holding down personal incomes, causing a "fallacy of composition", which is a cause of the prolonged economic slowdown in Japan. Corporations are trying to cut costs by offering more unstable jobs, but ironically, this strategy is contributing to a fall in corporate productivity. The ongoing destruction of the employment system is weakening the very foundation of the social security system and gutting medical services and the pension system. Under these circumstances, the struggle in opposition to lawless corporate restructuring is an important national task that accords with the great cause of achieving a sustainable economic and social development in Japan.
At a time when people are increasingly threatened and the attacks are directed at depriving the public of the energy to fight back, the JCP has an important role to play in explaining the national significance of each struggle to the public. In fulfilling this task, the newspaper Akahata's existence and role is very important in relation to the present state of Japanese mass media.
(20) The JCP will make every effort to develop a democratic people's movement aiming for forming a majority in every sector. Above all, the trade union movement is called upon to overcome labor-capital collaboration.
With large corporations aggressively seeking both "corporate restructuring and wage cuts", the so-called theory of the pie, the traditional theory of postwar labor-capital collabortionism, has failed. The theory was that workers' better livelihoods depend on their cooperation in the effort to enhance corporate productivity. The emerging situation calls for the trade union movement to reexamine itself in the light of its original cause. Under this strategy, large corporations are trying to force the unions to abandon their fundamental task to "defend livelihoods and rights, and improve working conditions." They also plan to transform the unions into organizations that would merely help corporations gain larger profits and increase productivity. This scheme, tantamount to driving unions into committing suicide, is intensifying contradictions with a large number of workers. Against these trends, efforts are beginning to be made to restore the trade union movement's essential role. Objective conditions exist for restoring a strong union movement.
Under these circumstances, the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), as the national center representing the working-class interests, is expected to play an active role in achieving people's as well as workers' demands. It is very important, through union struggles, to expand labor unions among unorganized workers and workers with unstable jobs and to seek cooperation in struggles based on agreements beyond differences of national affiliation.
JCP branches in the workplace have a role to play as strongholds of the struggle to defend workers' benefits and organize struggles, irrespective of unions' stances in corporations and unions' establishment, organized or unorganized. Their positions, which have resisted corporate offensives for more than 20 years, are great treasures. The JCP will use all its energy through its activities to maintain firm ties with workers, strengthen their positions, and implement a systematic handing over of progressive movements to future generations.
The JCP will try to make progress in the united front movement by linking it to people's struggles in every sector. The united front movement is basically aimed at expanding cooperation with a wide range of non-party people. The JCP will do its utmost to develop the National Forum for Unity for Peace and Progressive Change from local communities and places of work. (To be continued)
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