TOKYO — About 42,000 workers and citizens from all over the country rallied here Oct. 28 in opposition to an “anti-terrorism special measures” bill, the proposed revision of Japan’s constitution to permit military operations abroad, and tax hikes on consumer goods.

Ban’nai Mitsuo, president of the National Confederation of Trade Unions, greeted the crowd and called on the participants to intensify and coordinate their struggles against these measures on the grassroots level, saying that by doing so they can change the national political scene. The labor federation was a key organizer of the rally.

Shii Kazuo, chairperson of the Japanese Communist Party, also spoke at the event. He said that public indignation is growing over several issues, including the weakening of health care services for the elderly.

Shii said that to satisfy the public’s demands, the entire policy framework of the Liberal Democratic Party — the conservative party that dominated Japanese politics from 1955 until this year — has to be dismantled. He criticized the country’s ruling circles and government for using the cost of social programs as a pretext to raise taxes on consumer goods.

As an alternative source of revenue, Shii called for ending the excessive tax breaks currently benefiting corporations and the wealthy, and making deep cuts in military spending.

Regarding the new “anti-terrorism special measures” bill under discussion in Japan’s Diet, or parliament, Shii said the policy of warlike retaliation against alleged perpetrators of terrorism has obviously failed to eradicate terrorism.

Shii also called for the withdrawal of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force operations in the Indian Ocean, saying its presence there violates Article 9 of the country’s constitution. [Editor’s note: On Nov. 1, Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba issued a command to withdraw the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF), which has been undertaking the refueling mission for U.S.-led military operations in and around Afghanistan, from the Indian Ocean.]

Yuasa Makoto, secretary general of the nonprofit organization MOYA (Independent Life Support Center), said that more than 50 persons starve to death every year in Japan. He criticized the Welfare Ministry for considering measures that would reduce benefits to those who need them, saying it was abdicating its responsibility to the public by doing so.

Japan Press Service