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Japan: Communist Party gets boost from Nico Nico Douga

It is a long time since the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) had any luck in Japanese politics. According to an article at J-CAST [ja], however, there are signs that this may be changing — with help from no other than Japan's popular video sharing site, Nico Nico Douga.


JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii in the National Diet (snapshot from Nico Nico Douga)

The article reports that a video of a Diet session debate recorded on February 8th, which made its way onto video sharing services shortly thereafter, was a hit on both Nico Nico Douga [ja] and YouTube [ja] (for instructions on how to register for Nico Nico Douga, see this post at Tokyotronic). The video, which registered nearly 12,000 comments at Nico Nico Douga, and over 50,000 hits at YouTube, also appears to have had an impact offline, with inquiries from young people in their 20s and 30s way up, and subscriptions to Akahata (“Red Flag”, newspaper of the JCP) on the rise among younger readers as well.

On the surface of it, a 51 minute long speech by the chairman of the JCP would not seem like a huge attention grabber. But the topics that Kazuo Shii, chairman of the JCP, talked about on February 8th are more important than ever among people in their 20s and 30s: the temp worker industry, and fears about growing wage disparities and an unstable work environment.

Akiko Yamashita (山下明子) described the situation in her blog on March 26th:

きっかけは、派遣労働者の問題を取り上げた衆議院予算委員会での志位委員長の質問。YOU TUBEやニコニコ動画でも取り上げられて、ふだん共産党に関心を持ちそうにない層からも「CGJ」(志位、グッド・ジョブ=よくやった)などの書き込みで激励や賛同が寄せられるなどの大きな反響がかえってきたことが、赤旗しんぶんだけでなく、毎日新聞でも紹介されていました。

The starting point for the whole thing were questions by Chairman Shii about the problems of Japan's temp workers, taken up during the meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee. [Footage of the speech] was picked up on YouTube and Nico Nico Douga, attracting encouragement and approval with comments of “CGJ” [meaning “Shii, Good Job”] from a group of people who would not normally have any interest in the Japan Communist Party. This was written about not only in Akahata Shimbun [Red Flag, Newspaper of the JCP], but also in Mainichi Shimbun [a mainstream paper].

teruyastar explains the attraction of the speech:

共産党の志井書記長が、データをあれこれ用意してたたみかけるように
総理を追い詰めていくわけw
なんか、圧倒的な裁判みてるようで、それもニコニココメント付きだから
これが意外に50分軽く見れちゃってさw

Chairman Shii of the Japan Communist Party came prepared and cornered the Prime Minister,
pressing for answers to his questions.
It was like a trial by fire, and since it's on Nico Nico Douga there were also comments [with the images],
so actually it was surprisingly interesting to watch, and the 50 minutes went by fast.

これってすごくない?

That's amazing though, isn't it?

What was so amazing was that Nico Nico Douga had made politics interesting for its users. teruyastar comments:

ここで「天気予報でさえ面白くするニコニコ動画」ですよ。

“This is “Nico Nico Douga, [the web service] that can make even weather forecasts interesting.”

Not everyone was quite as upbeat about the newfound interest among young people in the JCP. Responding to the latest news, one blogger expressed skepticism:

一部の意見はわからんでもないが、国家の衰退が進めばそんなことを言ってられないほど国がめちゃくちゃになるんだが。

It's not that I don't understand some of the views, but if this nation continues its current decline, then the country will end up in such a mess that you will just not be able to say these kinds of things.

根本的に市場主義が熟成して、技術もある日本人にはわかりづらいことなのかもしれない。だが、共産主義だけは支持できない。何があってもその一部であっても自分は支持できない。共産主義が成立する仕組みを学べば、どうなるかはもう答えは出てる。

Living in a country where market economics has fundamentally matured, and where there is no lack of technology, [communism] may be a difficult thing for a Japanese person to understand. But communism is still the last thing I will ever support. Doesn't matter what the situation, I will not support even one part of it. If you learn a bit about the mechanism by which communism is realized, then you can already see how things would turn out.

ただ一つだけわかるのは、日本は奴隷に近い状態になってる点。派遣などピンハネしてる連中がリッチな生活を送れることが本当の正しい道だとは思えない。ただ競争社会の中で、仕方のない面もあるが、今は労働者保護があまりに薄すぎる。明日からの漁師のストではないが、行動するのは良いことだと思う。

However there is one point where we understand each other, and that is about the fact that Japan is turning into something close to a slave. The path by which some guys manage to live a rich lifestyle through kickbacks from the temp industry can hardly be called righteous. In a competitive world, there are some things that you can't do anything about, but worker protection these days is much too weak. The fishermen's strike that starts tomorrow [is something else], but I do think that taking actions is a good thing.

antonin delves into the history of the JCP, observing that communism calls for a revolution establishing a country of the workers, and noting that:

ただ、現在の日本共産党にそういう革命を起こすだけの力があるのかというと、明らかにそれはない。もちろん「闘争」好きなメンバーは今も活動的な日常を送っているので、独特の危ない臭いは漂う。けれども、社会に適合できなくて平日の昼間からテレビで国会中継などを見ていると、あらゆる議員の中で志位さんの言っていることが一番まともに見えるのは確かなのだ。

However, it is also clear, if you think about it, that the Japanese Communist Party of today does not have the capacity to bring about this kind of revolution. Naturally there are some members who like conflict, who even now are active on a daily basis, and there is a peculiar aura of danger about them. But even so, for people who can't conform to society and stick around at home on weekdays from noon watching the live broadcast of Diet sessions on TV,there is little question that among all the members of the Diet, it is [Chairman] Shii that lays things out the most squarely.

人気のあった小泉さんなどは、6時のニュースヘッドラインでは非常に面白いことを言うのだけれども、それはほんの数秒の表現の魔術師だからであって、十分に時間をかけた国会討論では共産党の示すデータに対して貧弱な議論しかできなかった。

Popular [politicians] like Koizumi say extremely interesting things on the 6 o'clock news headlines, but that's just like the magician making a presentation for just a few seconds. It's a pretty weak argument compared to the data that the Japanese Communist takes plenty of time presenting in Diet debates.

Finally, riotejo suggests that it is not the idea of communism at all that is the attraction of the JCP among young people:

共産主義思想に共鳴する、ということではないのかもしれない。
ただ、今の社会に対して、若者が抗っていることの意思表示だ。
日本共産党や志位委員長に対する、インターネットを中心としての若者の支持は、ある種、もっともな現象であり、同じ世代の者として、こういったムーブメントが起こることが、例えジョークまじりのものであったとしても、この日本では、むしろ、遅すぎるように感じるのだ。

It might not actually be that the idea of communism is resonating [with young people].
What this is, however, is a gesture of the antagonism of young people toward today's society.
The support of young people, centered on the Internet, for the Japan Communist Party and for Chairman Kazuo Shii, is to a certain degree a natural phenomenon. As a person from the same generation though, I have the feeling that this sort of movement, even as a bit of a joke, came rather too late in today's Japan.

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