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:


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.


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:


“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:


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.


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.


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:


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.


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:


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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