Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Japanese workers resist repression as economy slides into recession

By Gene Clancy
Published May 31, 2011 11:28 AM

As the Japanese economy reels from the combined effects of the recent tsunami and human-made nuclear disaster, Japanese workers are facing increased repression as they attempt to fight back against the economic effects of the calamity and expose the nuclear industry for the danger it poses.

On May 20 more than 50 people who were peacefully protesting were forcibly arrested and dragged out of the Tokyo High Court Building. This was an attempt to intimidate a movement of Japanese workers who have protested the unsafe use of nuclear power and the economic policies of the Japanese government and business class.

This latest incident is only the most recent in a campaign of intimidation which began shortly after a March 20 demonstration of more than 1,500 people in Tokyo. They were protesting the government’s handling of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the general use of nuclear power in Japan.

In April, in the Suginami Ward in Tokyo, an incumbent City Council member who has been campaigning for re-election on an anti-nuclear-plant platform and his supporters were subjected to arbitrary arrests and harassment, despite the lack of any material evidence against them. Police also raided two offices of his election campaign and seized lists of supporters in order to intimidate them. (International Labor Solidarity Committee of Doro Chiba, the National Railway Workers Union of Chiba, April 9)

The workers of Japan also face a deepening economic crisis. The worldwide downturn had already weakened the Japanese economy. Now, following the tsunami and nuclear disasters, the economy has plunged back into recession.

Kaoru Yosano, minister for economic and fiscal policy, said earlier that the March 11 disaster had been the main reason for the fall in output and insisted that growth would soon return. “The Japanese economy has a great deal of resiliency,” Yosano said. (Financial Times, May 19)

However, the extent of the first-quarter fall — equivalent to a 3.7 percent decline on an annualized basis — underscores the scale of the disruption caused by the natural disaster and resulting nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Not only in the disaster areas but also in whole regions of East Japan, workers face massive dismissals and unemployment. The earthquake and tsunami have hit and immobilized thousands of workplaces in Tohoku and Kanto areas. Many factories have had to stop operation all over Japan for lack of parts. This happened because major auto manufacturers and electric machinery corporations rely on outsourcing and their production depends on subcontractors or sub-subcontractors for parts.

When these subcontractors are located in the disaster area, as many are, needed parts don’t show up. Many workers with only irregular employment have been thrown out of daily work without any financial support.

“The number of possible jobless people is beyond assessment. No rescue measure has been offered or planned for those jobless workers. Japan is going to be a huge unemployment peninsula as a result of the earthquake.” (ILSC of Doro Chiba, April 9)

The May 19 Financial Times of London confirmed the economic impact of the human-made Japanese nuclear disaster: “Japan’s devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster pushed the economy much further into recession than expected, raising doubts about the prospects for the world’s third-largest economy. According to preliminary data released on Thursday [May 19], gross domestic product fell 0.9 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the previous three months. That was nearly twice the decline forecast by economists. ... Japan’s economy has now contracted for two quarters in a row, meeting the most widely used definition of a recession.”

Frederic Neumann, economist at HSBC Global Research, put it succinctly in a May 19 report: “The ground is slipping.”

Japanese workers have been forced to fight back on two fronts. The first is to recover from the effects of a devastating natural disaster and the accompanying nuclear crisis caused by poor planning and disregard for safety on the part of the Japanese capitalists. Second, they are battling the attempts of the Japanese government and big business to force the workers to pay for the physical and economic damage which were mainly caused by the capitalists.

The Japanese workers’ struggle is our struggle. They need and deserve the support of poor, working and oppressed people around the world.
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