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New Left Review I/65, January-February 1971

Gavan McCormack

The Student Left in Japan

The Japanese student movement has won world-wide publicity in recent years for its militancy. Repeated images have been conveyed of helmeted, stave-wielding students doing massive and heroic battle with the police, of their holding out against helicopter-borne assaults on their university strongholds, or of their hi-jacking aircraft at swordpoint. The media coverage of such incidents, however sensational, vague and sporadic, seems to have left a deep impact. Yet there has been relatively little serious information or discussion on the Japanese student Left in the other advanced capitalist countries. In this article, I will try to set out my impressions of the direction and present state of the movement, based on my recent experience in Tokyo University (May 1969–August 1970), on readings of the regular press and revolutionary journals in Japan, and those few writings which are available in Western Europe or North America. [1] Currently, the main sources for European or American readers are the following: Bernard Béraud, La Gauche Révolutionnaire au Japon, Seuil, Paris, 1970; S. Dowsey (ed), Zengakuren: Japan’s Revolutionary Students, Ishi Press, Berkeley, 1970; S. Bellieni, Zengakuren-Zenkyoto, Feltrinelli, Milan 1969; Jurgen Seifert, Zengakuren, Trikont Verlag, Munich 1969; Plain Rapper, Palo-Alto, October-November 1969; Red Mole, London, March 17th, 1970. Readers interested in further study of the problem may consult copies of Anpo, the only English-language publication of the Japanese New Left (6 dollars a year to Anpo, Ishii Building, 6–44 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo); the Bulletin of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (4 dollars a year to 1737 Cambridge St, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138,usa); and the Bulletin of the Association for Radical East Asian Studies (22 Chepstow Crescent, London, W. 11). It should not be thought, of course, that the student movement is the only form of militant socialist struggle in Japan today. It is much to be hoped that some complementary study of the Japanese workers’ movement will become available in English in the near future.

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Gavan McCormack, ‘The Student Left in Japan’, NLR I/65: £3

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