No. 747
Memorandum by the Acting Director of the Office of Northeast Asian Affairs (McClurkin) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson)



  • Communist Influence in Japanese Trade Union Movement.

When Ambassador Allison was here in February he mentioned to you a memorandum prepared for him by the Embassy staff on Communist Influence in the Japanese Trade Union Movement. A summary of this memorandum follows:

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While there is a good deal of evidence to show extensive Communist influence and manipulation of the Japanese trade union movements, reaction against this infiltration is developing both within and outside the trade unions. This, rather than Communist ascendancy, has been the outstanding development during the last year in the Japanese trade union movement.

It became increasingly clear during 1953 that the pro-Communist positions taken by Sohyo1 during the year—repeated attacks against the United States in Marxist terms, invention of the “peace force” theory (USSR and Communist China proclaimed as world’s leading proponents of peace), denunciation of United States as aggressor in Korea, evidencing a desire for closer relationship with Communist Chinese Federation of Labor, calling for huge wage increases without regard to ability of Japanese economy to meet such increases, criticism of ICFTU and several abortive efforts to organize an Asian Trade Union Congress in opposition to ICFTU—represented chiefly the thinking of a minority sector of Communist cells, holding key posts and working adroitly in a number of major unions, and of Takano,2 Secretary-General of Sohyo. They did not represent the positions of the Minroren3 unions (Textile Workers, Seamen and two smaller unions), the one and a half million workers who belong to independent unions, nor the majority of Sohyo leaders, who by the end of the year began to revolt against Takano and his pro-Communist leadership and to make plans to oust him as Secretary-General of Sohyo by mid-1954.

This curious state of affairs has evolved because of the infancy of the Japanese trade union movement, which is influenced by the primitive Marxist concepts which dominated it before the war; the reluctance of anti-Communist union leaders to expel Communists from their unions on the grounds that “democracy” tolerates all opinions; the natural reaction of the Japanese against 7 years occupation which Takano and the Communists made the most of; fear of union leaders who disagreed with Takano’s radical policies to speak out publicly and willingness on their part to capitalize on the anti-American tide which was running strong during the first half of 1953; immobilization of the Left Socialist Party, which is predominantly neutralist, by fear of losing Sohyo’s potent political support if it forced a break.

Sohyo’s convention last July marked the high point of Communist and Takano’s strength since 1949 and the beginning of the reaction against these. Despite the subsiding since then of anti-Americanism, [Page 1619] making it less dangerous for union leaders to take a balanced view of United States-Japan relations, Takano has persisted in keeping to a pro-Communist course. The result has been the secession of the Minroren unions and increasing estrangement from the Left Socialist union leaders in Sohyo, previously Takano’s chief support. In late 1953, Minroren gathered its forces to organize an anti-Communist federation of labor (called Zenro)4 in opposition to Sohyo.

Developments outside trade union ranks are also restricting both Communist influence in the unions and the unions’ ability to influence Japanese opinion. Among the most important of these outside forces are the growing cohesion of conservative forces; increasing assurance and more effective techniques of employers in dealing with labor demands and union “struggle tactics”; changing attitude on the part of the press; and a developing attitude that labor activity in the first year and a half after the end of the occupation was one of that period’s excesses that demands correction.

The new power relationship evolving in Japanese society, assisted by the requirements of an austerity program, can be expected to result in a diminution of labor as well as Communist influence.

  1. General Council of Trade Unions.
  2. Minoru Takano.
  3. Democratic Labor League.
  4. National Council of Japanese Labor Unions.