How prewar writer Kobayashi Takiji lived is contemporary question -- Akahata editorial, February 9

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the death (February 20) and the 100th anniversary of the birth (October 13) of Kobayashi Takiji, writer and Japanese Communist Party member.

An assembly to commemorate the anniversaries will be held on February 20 in Tokyo by an organizing committee which includes Umehara Takeshi (philosopher), Kinoshita Junji (dramatist), Shii Kazuo (JCP chair), and Nakamura Minoru (poet). Similar events are planned in many other places, including Hokkaido and Akita. An exhibition on Kobayashi Takiji, which took place in Tokorozawa City in Saitama Prefecture for three days in January attracted 2,000 visitors.

His life matters to us

Kobayashi Takiji was tortured to death 70 years ago at age 29. His literary achievements and his life are not gone from many people's memories. In fact, many people are expressing interest in him. How can it be so?

Kobayashi Takiji was known for his works "March 15th, 1928" and "Crab canning boat," when he was murdered on the day he was arrested by the Special High Police (Tokko), political police assigned mainly to suppress the JCP. The Public Order Maintenance Law was raging at the time. The JCP joined together with many progressive people to struggle against the despotic rule of the absolute Tenno (Emperor) system and its war of aggression.

As a JCP member, Kobayashi Takiji did not back away from persecution or suppression. He described the struggle in such excellent works as "Living a party life."

Although he was forced into very difficult clandestine party activities, Kobayashi Takiji energetically studied scientific socialism and tried to use his scientific view to analyze the social contradictions, discover their causes, and seek ways to solve the problems. He continued to make efforts to put all these things into literary works.

After his death, "Living a party life" was published in the monthly "Chuo Koron" magazine under the title "Era of Change." The novel describes JCP members engaging in party activity at a factory producing gas masks, when Japan's war of aggression against China was enlarging. The novel depicts the imposition of harsh labor on the factory workers and the plan for a massive dismissal of temporary employees. JCP members carried out a struggle at the risk of their lives in evading a close watch, and the novel goes on to a climax when they distributed handbills in public. Their experience is not only ageless but is even impressive to many today.

At the time, Hirotsu Kazuo (literary critic and writer) commented on the novel in a column published in Yomiuri Shimbun, stating, "The novel made me straighten up myself." He also said, "The emotional impact Kobayashi's death had on many people can be taken as proof that he did not die for nothing."

At the news of Kobayashi's death, Shiga Naoya, one of Japan's leading writers, wrote in his diary: "It crossed my mind that their wishes will come true."

Police announced that Kobayashi died of a heart attack. Sekki (Red Flag), the JCP's illegal organ paper, was the only paper to report that he had been tortured to death. People knew that the police announcement was a lie. Many people in Japan and abroad, including Romain Rolland and Lu Xun, expressed their protest at the murder and mourned his death.

Kobayashi's indomitable life and works, as well as the struggle of the JCP he had taken part in as its member, contributed to strengthening the power to end the despotic rule and foil the war of aggression. The fundamental change of political system following the war's end to establish a state with people's sovereignty confirmed what Hirotsu and Shiga stated.

Today, we are confronted with the question of war or peace, as the United States steps up preparations for war on Iraq and Japan's Koizumi Cabinet is following the United States submissively, giving rise to international opinion in favor of peace.

A visitor to the "Exhibition on Kobayashi Takiji" held at Tokorozawa left a note stating, "We must not forget that Japan once had such a dark period. It is always important to live seriously and face up to social problems."

Suggestive way of life

Kobayashi's life and struggle are very suggestive for us in dealing with the present questions. We hope that as many people as possible will take part in the commemorative meetings to be held in Tokyo and many other places and read Kobayashi's works to discuss what he wished for. (end)

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