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Labor Action, 23 January 1950


Jack Brad

Stalin’s China Headache
Linked to Japan CP Rift


From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 4, 23 January 1950, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


On January 5 the Cominform journal denounced Sanzo Nosaka, head of the Japanese Communist Party, as a misleader, an agent of American imperialism, guilty of “bourgeois attitudes.” In this abrupt fashion Moscow suddenly made public long-smoldering differences with the Japanese party.

The reason for the sharpness of the break became apparent in a few days when Nosaka showed it was he who held the upper hand, by expelling from the party its only open and clear pro-Moscow voice, Isao Nakanishi, a secondary national leader and member of the upper house of the Diet.

Nakanishi took up the cudgels for the Cominform in typically absolute terms: “the leadership of the Japanese CP ... has given a fatal blow to the struggles of the working class of this country.” Moscow manipulates its parties so as to assure control through key figures in the leadership, those with organizational control. Its resort to public denunciation probably signifies failure to enforce its dictate in a more subterranean manner.

Significantly, the Cominform journal did not yet denounce or expel the party but only denounced its leader for misleading the party. This may signify that Moscow, while feeling impelled to take such a drastic step, nevertheless felt that there were still forces of redemption which could be activated and strengthened. Time will tell whether this calculation proves correct.

Closer to Mao

Meanwhile, it is Nosaka who has taken the offensive by the expulsion of Nakanisha. Subsequently he issued a statement which, after customary verbal obeisances, rather bluntly rejects Moscow’s charges: “the masses of this country do not accept the conclusion of the [Cominiform] writers that Mr. Nosaka’s theories are undemocratic and un-Japanese.” (N.Y. Times, January 13.)

The whole of Nosaka’s statement is not yet available but the excerpts seen thus far contain such contradictory sentiments that it is possible to assume that it represents a compromise between conflicting tendencies. It is probable that Nakanishi’s expulsion, like the Cominform blast, was the overture to a deeper and continuing struggle.

The Japanese CP has a long history of factional conflict, antagonisms among the leadership, doctrinal differences and cliquishness. During the last year the party has suffered a severe decline and has been affected by several splits. It has lost its initial post-war dynamism and attractiveness as well as much of its influence inside the organized union movement, in which it once had a leading role. These conditions would make for crisis even without Cominform intervention.

What may have brought the situation to a head is the China question. Nosaka has been known as far closer to Mao Tse-tung than to Stalin. He spent the latter part of the war at the former’s capital in Yenan where he developed a program strikingly similar to Mao’s. Functioning as a part of the Chinese party leadership, Nosaka sought to apply Mao’s theories to Japan. He proposed a moderate program of anti-feudalism and anti-Zaibatsu measures along with cooperation with the U.S. occupation and other “democratic elements.” Nosaka, for example, refused to call for abolition of the emperor system but only for its moderation.

Post-War Stalinism

In October 1945 the CP was reconstituted in Japan by a group of leading pre-war figures just released from prison as a result of MacArthur’s amnesty. These men had shown remarkable fortitude for periods of from ten to twenty years in jail. But these years had not precisely broadened their horizons. They tended toward narrow doctrinairism.

Leaders of the reorganized party were Tokuda and Shiga. Each leading personality gathered his own clique of followers into the new party, which announced all-out war on the emperor and a call for a “united front” with the Social-Democracy which smelled suspiciously like the united-front-from-below of the “Third Period.”

On January 10, 1946 Nosaka flew in from Yenan. Like a fresh wind from the outside, he was welcomed as a hero by ail political elements from right to left and immediately set to work revamping the leading cadres around himself.

Nosaka began as an international figure. By contrast with Tokuda and his friends like Nakanishi, who had been jailed as a Russian agent during the war, Nosaka had a cosmopolitan background. He had joined the labor movement in 1912 under Bunjo Suzuki, the Japanese Gompers, and in 1922 was one of the founders of the CP. He is one of the few survivors of that initial leadership. In 1935 he was elected to the Executive of the Communist International. Until 1943 he roamed over Europe and Asia as a Comintern agent in the twilight world of the CP international apparatus. In 1943 he came to Yenan, where he became an agent of the Chinese party, in its Intelligence Department.

Nosaka vs. Tokuda

It has been pointed out that there is a striking parallel between Nosaka’s adventures and those of the Italian Stalinist leader Togliatti. If Nosaka is the Togliatti of the Japanese CP, then Tokuda is its Luigi Longo. Tokuda is the “apparatusman” – controller of the trade unions, of the youth corps (the party’s shock troops), of organization.

It is an open secret that a conflict has raged between the two within the leadership ever since Nosaka’s arrival. On February 12, 1945 Nosaka captured control of the National Committee from Tokuda and announced “the Nosaka line” of moderation toward the emperor and the occupation. Yet this line was only partially effectuated. Many CP activities seemed to contradict it. The outstanding characteristic of CP post-war policy has been opportunism – in a different direction from that of the Social-Democratic Party, but that is because the cold war forced it into a different position. These contradictions are an expression of the continued leadership conflict.

While if is Nakanishi who was expelled from the party, it seems likely that Nosaka was aiming at Tokuda, whose policies are much closer to what the Russians are demanding. This is why Pravda and the Cominform did not excommunicate the Japanese CP but only denounced Nosaka; that is, they issued a call to Tokuda to take up the decisive struggle for control. Nakanishi’s expulsion, then, is Nosaka’s warning to Moscow to call off its dogs.

This reconstruction admittedly has elements of speculation and as such may prove to be wrong in details. Such an element of uncertainty is inevitable in an analysis of an inner-CP situation, in the nature of the Stalinist type of organization. Nevertheless, it is this writer’s opinion that the above is the basic outline of the real picture. To this outline, an essential addition has to be made.

Russia’s Stake

The Russian charges against Nosaka are twofold. First, he is accused of Japanizing Marxism, “the naturalization of Marxism.” Secondly, they attack his insistence on working within the framework of the occupation rather than striking at it head-on, and his view that MacArthur has brought democratic reforms to the country, so that the parliamentary road to power has become possible.

The first charge is very much like what Mao Tse-tung proclaims as his achievement in China. Maoism openly claims to have made a special adaptation of Stalinist dogma to China, on an exceptionalist basis. Tito, by contrast, makes no such special claim but is content to say that he is applying Stalinism rather than adapting it.

The second issue hinges on the Russian aim in Japan. Far deeper antagonisms exist between the U.S. and Russia within the Far Eastern Commission at Tokyo than in the UN. For Russian economic and military needs, the neutralization of Japan (either by elimination or discreditment of the occupation) is a prime objective.

Specifically, the second part of the Russian charge probably refers to the so-called summer offensive – designed as the initial phase of a movement to embarrass and eventually drive out the occupation, to fulfill Russian desires. When the occupation announced a rationalization policy which required mass dismissals of workers in industry and government, the CP threw everything into a vast offensive, utilizing the legitimate issue for avowedly political purposes, the first of which was the overthrow of the reactionary Yoshida government to which MacArthur is fully committed. But the offensive never got much beyond the propaganda stage. There were several serious incidents but the movement never really got under way. Tokuda was in charge of this offensive, yet the party never seemed to gear to it fully. It seems likely, in the light of the present accusations, that Nosaka slowed it down.

Instead of an offensive leading to power, the CP began to lose control of the unions. Democratic Leagues, led by ex-CPers and left Social-Democrats, denounced the CP’s manipulative policies and captured many locals from the party. Tokuda’s base was undermined and his policy discredited. Nosaka’s “native” policy gained in leading circles. Since then the attitude toward the occupation has become less severe, while the Russians on the Far Eastern Commission have sharpened all differences. Very likely the failure of this offensive is the immediate specific spark to this affair.

China the Crux

Russia’s military problem is obviously a geographic one. Economically, Russia’s far eastern provinces could gain tremendously from the supplies of Japanese heavy industry; the reconstruction of Manchuria to a productive level would be greatly eased. Russia might not even be averse to more intimate Sino-Japanese economic relations, provided the lines of control ran through Moscow and were coordinated with its own needs. The greatest danger to Russian domination in China is represented by such serious economic alternatives as Japan represents.

Control of the Japanese party is one of the keys to control of China. The State Department is also aware of this and has begun to foster a cautious liberalization of China trade by Japan.

Where does Nosaka fit into this complicated jigsaw? In recent months he has become the chief protagonist of Japanese economic revival via China trade. He spoke before a meeting of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce urging that the future of Japanese capitalism still lay in China and that to achieve this Japanese capitalists would have to make their peace with the Japanese and Chinese CPs.

In short, Nosaka has been acting as the go-between for the Chinese CP and Japanese industrialists. There is evidence that his efforts have had some success. Nosaka appears to have been acting like a commercial attaché for Mao. Mao’s mission to Moscow is the proper backdrop for the Japanese CP affair.

It is this writer’s opinion that this is the crux of the issue: the great problems raised for the Russian Stalinist empire by its Chinese victory are involved. For the wealth and power of China, Stalin would sacrifice a dozen Japanese Communist Parties. If the struggle in the Japanese CP continues, as it probably will, the party will be reduced to an ineffectual force. The Chinese will then be thrown back on the Russians that much more.

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Last updated on 14 April 2021