THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT HELPING PEOPLE FIND WAYS TO OPPOSE WAR AND INJUSTICE BUT WHO ARE AFRAID OF CERTAIN GROUPS OR WHO DON’T KNOW WHICH GROUPS ARE RELIABLE.
A recent English commentary on ZNET by an organizer of the Stockholm Social Forum asks some important questions which can be applied to any similar attempt to organize anywhere. Or, from the perspective of people who WANT to get involved but don’t know how to, it can help us to find ways of helping people become more empowered and not controlled by any group which tries to dominate. (Yes, it seems that the actions of some groups actually serve to DISSUADE people from becoming more politically active!)
What are YOUR thoughts about the state of activism in your area? For example, if you are a student, do you hesitate to work with “more political” students because their rhetoric or actions seem “too radical” or “too narrowly focused”.
On my campus, that seems to be the case, with one group, World Action, apparantly composed of non-students (or students from another school). Although they do not say it directly, they seem to be aligned with one of several groups called Zengakuren, this one being affiliated with Chukaku-ha. If I were a student, I would be wary of them too, given their history of violence. On the other hand, the much more moderate Minsei, affiliated with the Japanese Communist Party does not seem to be active at all since the World Action people have come. But I have heard some students say they even hesitate to join actions even sponsored by this group because of pressure to become a member of the JCP. I know people in Minsei, and I like a lot of what they do, but I can understand why someone might choose not to join them even if they share a lot of similar beliefs.
Now I know there are a lot of factions and groups. And I know that the word “radical” in Japan has a more negative image than in New York, where I am from. When I use the word “radical” I am thinking of war or tax resistance, non-violent civil disobedience, or confronting war, violence, homelessness, globalization, racism, sexism and environmental destruction by creating alternative communities based on a different set of values.
In Japan being “radical” often seems to mean something like macho adventurism, and I understand why some of my students are scared of groups like World Action. (Or am I wrong about this group? Are they making an effort to disassociate themselves from helmets, bandanas and sunglasses?) Other groups are, as I wrote, fairly moderate (in the sense that they are not adventurist and looking for confrontations). But still they can be very dogmatic and closed, or pressure you to become subordinate to the group. I think I can understand why people would hesitate joining either group mentioned above, for example.
And so my question to you is what alternatives do you know of, that you can recommend, to people who neither want to become a part of a group with a history of violence or even to a more moderate group like Minsei? Building on that, are there opportunities for people to maintain their independenece and still choose to work with others who may have different views, philosophies and approaches, but in a way that can help students to become more activist?
Of course, if you have suggestions that apply to anyone–not just students–please feel free to post a response to this message. I have a feeling there are a lot of people who want to speak out but who are scared to, or don’t know how to.