The Shock Doctrine of Japanese Type – Neoliberalism and the Shadow of America

[Quelle:]  Approximately two and a half months have passed since 3/11. Since then we have been discussing politics and society of the present Japan in view of a series of the unprecedented crises: earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. Meanwhile two demonstrations took place on 4/10 and 5/7, mobilizing more than 15,000 participants, a corresponding upswing of the public opinion against nuclear power forced the most dangerous Hamaoka Nuclear plant into suspension of operation, and the mass literacy concerning nuclear issues has been steadily in improvement. At present the axis of political oppositionality is centered on the nuke issue, which however is defined by the power relations inherent in entire politics and society. In fact Japan’s ruing class is seeking at once to reinforce neoliberal reforms and subordination to the US, as their long-cherished objectives as they have been, by employing the current crises as springboard. The task of the present article is to investigate the strategies of Japan’s ruling class confronting the conjuncture after 3/11, by way of referring back a political process that was initiated in the change of government in 2009.

1. The Shadow of Neoliberalism

The change of Japan’s administration in 2009 had implications similar to those entailed in the birth of the Obama administration in 2008. In the beginning, the Obama administration was expected to apply breaks to the radical neoliberal reforms that had been accelerating from the second Clinton administration to the Bush administration. Therein in the beginning at least aimed at were the policies that more or less considered social fairness, such as the introduction of national health insurance for all. Nonetheless it is common knowledge now that, as it was affected by the rollback from the conservative sector, the administration was gradually submitted to financial capital and took an overall turn to the right, falling short of supporters’ impassioned expectations. The same is true with the situation in Japan: due to the full-hearted neoliberal reforms under the rule of the Liberal Democratic Party during the 2000s, social gap and impoverishment (especially in the country) worsened; the so-called Lehman Shock totally destroyed the social stability, anger against the reforms erupted particularly amongst the regional constituencies; thus came the administration change of 2009. At least in the beginning, the Democratic Party led by the Prime Minister Hatoyama set forth the policies more or less in consideration of social fairness, such as guaranteed income, free education, children’s allowance, foreigners’ right to vote, etc.; and in the sector of national security, it sought to transfer the Futenma US Military Base in Okinawa out of the prefecture or to abroad. But due to the counter-attack of the conservative sector, financial circle and the US, these policies suffered a setback one after another, and disappointed voters came to give up on the Democratic Party. Thus in the early 2010, the Hatoyama administration collapsed, which was followed by the advent of the present Kan administration.

The primary task of the Kan administration was from the beginning to reorient the Democratic Party to side more with neoliberalism and reinforce the submission to the US. Right after the inauguration, the Kan administration set forth increase of sales tax and TPP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement) for establishing a free trade regime in the region. The betrayal deprived the Democratic Party of its major supporting voters, then the party was defeated in subsequent elections. Meanwhile the Liberal Democratic Party with its neo-conservative and neoliberal policies made a big return under two major party system; thus it was expected at the coming nation wide local elections in Aril 2011 that the Democratic Party would suffer heavy losses, the Kan administration would end and a D/LDP coalition government would be born, advancing full-hearted neoliberal reforms. It was in such climate that 3/11 was encountered.

Nobody would deny the fact that the nuclear accident was a man-made disaster. But so too were the earthquake and tsunami. Due to the neoliberal structural reforms having been instigated during the past decade or so, the northeastern area (the Tohoku district) had already been socio-economically suffering: i.e., closures and integrations of hospitals, deterioration of residential services due to the merger of municipalities (cities, towns and villages), cut down of public service personnel, etc. In consequence, job opportunities were lost in the surrounding countryside, many youth had to move out to the cities, and the power to sustain communities was declining. When the disaster struck the area, these circumstances delayed human and material supports for the victims, resulting in making the efforts of the Self-Defense Forces and the police conspicuous. And yet the Democratic government of Naoto Kan steered its policy toward cutting off the stricken areas and the socially weak, seizing the opportunity of the critical juncture.

It was the financial establishment that pioneered this policy orientation. In April 6th, Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyu Kai) made an emergency appeal consisting of the following terms: (1) a large scale fiscal investment for the recovery must be instigated following the line of financial equilibrium; (2) by founding the Tohoku Area Reconstruction House (Tohoku Hukko In), we must plan an independence (read as ‘cut-off’) of the district based upon market mechanism; (3) increase of sales tax and decrease of corporate tax; (4) promotion of TPP; (5) maintenance of nuclear power. The Reconstruction Vision Team of the Democratic Party followed these terms almost completely, and further moved on to corporatization or intensivization of agriculture and fishery, the production sectors with which the stricken areas are known for having been prospered. In terms of fishery, almost all fishing boats were destroyed, and on top of that, the radioactive leaks have been unequivocally damaging marine products. Now the Democratic government is about to adopt a demonic policy that would deliver a fatal blow to the area by introducing market mechanism. Also the introduction of TPP would definitely annihilate the agriculture of Fukushima having been already suffering from radiation. The post 3/11 Japan has created unemployed population exceeding the time of Lehman Shock. The Democratic government has devised no measure for this and let it alone. (It is among those unemployed workers that the workers at the power plants have been recruited, namely, unpredictable number of radiation victims has been created.) In today’s Japan, while concerns of the public opinion are focused on nuclear issues, fulfillments of welfare, social security, medical care and unemployment policy are awaited more than ever. Nonetheless the Democratic Party, the LDP and the financial establishment are seeking to plant new seeds for capitalist accumulation taking this crisis as a good opportunity. It would not be pointless to call this the shock doctrine of Japanese type.

2. The Shadow of America

A powerful oppositional movement is waged by the people of Okinawa Prefecture against the transference of Futenma base to Henoko area. In consideration of this, two senators of the Upper House, Levin and McCain, proposed a plan to merge Futenma Base into Kadena Base. The merger plan or the so-called improvement plan is mainly motivated by financial consideration and would not solve any problem, especially of the danger in takeoff and landing of airplanes at Futenma Base, or rather would make it worse (i.e., by having airplanes, helicopters and the notorious V22 Osprays take off and land on the same runway). But in any case we expect that a political compromise toward this direction will be schemed from now on.

The rescue mission of the US military for the Tohoku disaster, that was called the Operation Tomodachi (Friendship), has helped an improvement of the image of US Military in realignment. In retrospection, the discourse: “we hope for a good fight of the US Forces” was heard even from part of the lefts. In counter to this, the media centered in Okinawa clearly saw the fact that the Operation Tomodachi really served for solidifying the status of US bases in Okinawa, and heralded in criticizing this scheme.

Introducing approximately 680 billion yen and 16 thousand forces, it is undeniable that the operation played a certain role in lifesaving, etc. But the problem lies in the prioritization order of the mission. Which did it prioritize — national security or rescue of the people? The fact is that the total feature of the Operation is yet to be revealed. So what we can do for now is only a guess. Yet we can point out one solid example, that is, the reconstruction of Sendai Airport that had been totally destroyed by tsunami. The US Air Force concentrated all its might on reconstruction of the airport: having Hunvees descend on the ground, leveling runways, forcing difficult landing of transport planes, building an emergency control tower, quickly paving the runways, and transporting supplies of 200 thousand tons.

Concerning this, some of us question as to why it was necessary to restore Sendai Airport so hastefully. The fact was that even the airport was restored, transportation routes to the stricken areas were still out of use. Did the US Forces introduce its potential into the most urgent tasks such as survivors’ search and dropping supplies for the isolated victims? There are two possible reasons why the US hurried up so much to restore the airport: firstly avoiding to have a slightest void in security, and secondly demonstration to East-Asian nations. The primary purpose was to show off US power in an emergency situation. In the realignment of the UF forces in recent years, dispatch for disaster is given a tremendous importance. The real objective of this project is less for rescuing lives than securing raison d’etre of US military presence. Regardless of what the individual soldiers who participated in the rescue of the stricken areas had in their mind, the military operation was in another level instigated according to US national interests. Priority was not lifesaving but national security. Vis-à-vis the nuclear accident, defense of US bases had priority, and active engagement in the accident was motivated by data collection for experimental purposes. The introduction of a crewless reconnaissance plane for observing the reactors and the deployment of Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) that had been theretofore undercover – all of these efforts will be made use of, as a crucial training in expectation of coming nuclear warfare.

In Japan the Operation Tomodachi is received as a pure goodwill of the allied nation. While the Operation was being acted upon, however, the US was attacking Libya, backing the massacre in the state of Bahrain, slaughtering the terrorist mastermind Geronimo with his family by stepping in another sovereign country with its barefoot, and screaming with joy. Perhaps only Japan and Saudi Arabia are the idiot countries who are grateful for such deeds of the US. This is part of the shock doctrine of Japanese type. With the economic and political rise of East Asian states (beginning from China), Japan’s pro-American foreign policy had been facing a major turning point. And then the Operation Tomodachi was instigated, that is, in order to draw Japan back under the US umbrella and make it aware of its role as an advance base of the US in East Asia. It was a shock treatment to reorient Japan, taking advantage of the crisis.

Now two and a half months have passed since 3/11. From here we must advance upon a thorough observation of the political and social entirety. This is why what Caffentzis/Federici said in their “Must We Rebuild Their Anthill?” vividly comes to life.

Nuclear power, therefore, can only be destroyed when social movements come into existence that treat it politically, not only as a destructive form of energy but as a strategy of accumulation and terror– a means of devaluation of our lives– and place it on a continuum with the struggle against the use of the “financial crisis,“ or against the cuts to healthcare and education.

It is this problematic consciousness that is telling of the task we must full-heartedly confront and grapple with.

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