The campaign in Japan for the December 16 election has marked a sharp turn to nationalism and militarism across the political establishment, directed especially against China. The rightward shift in Japanese politics is a warning of the dangers facing the working class as a consequence of the worsening breakdown of global capitalism.
Two issues signal the turn: the dispute with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, and calls for constitutional change to remove or modify Japan’s so-called pacifist clause.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) deliberately inflamed tensions with China by “nationalising” the disputed islands in September. The result has been a dangerous stand-off between Japanese and Chinese maritime vessels, which the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the right-wing Japan Restoration Party (JRP) propose to exacerbate by building permanent structures on the islands.
LDP leader Shinzo Abe, known for his right-wing nationalist views, has focussed on the defence of all of Japan’s claimed territories as the means of pressing for constitutional change to transform the “Self Defence Forces” into a regular military force able to participate in “collective self-defence”. The “pacifist” clause has acted as an impediment to participation in the US-led wars of aggression in the Middle East and thus to the interests of Japanese imperialism.