Ideas in Conflict: The Campus Protest Culture in the 20th Century Japan

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Ryoko KOSUGI , Tohoku University, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan
Yasunori FUKUOKA , Saitama University, Japan
In the late 1960s, from North America to Europe and from Latin America to Asia, many countries witnessed a wave of student protests. Since those movements showed distinct features from place to place and shared similar backgrounds such as the Cold War politics and common issues such as antiwar and academic freedom, they provide a good field to examine the critical question haunting recent social movement studies: whether and how culture matters in the emergence and process of social movements (See Johnston et al., 2009; Polletta, 2008).

    Against this background, this presentation examines a campus protest at the University of Tokyo, Japan, from 1968 to 1969, using data from in-depth interviews with the participants to show how the students’ ideas shaped their perception and interpretation of the situations in the course of the struggle and influenced their choice of strategy and tactics.

    This presentation focuses on a group of students called “NON SEKUTO RAJIKARU” (non-sect radicals). The protestors were not monolithic but divided into three groups in conflict: Democratic Youth League of Japan (DYLJ) under the guidance of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), the New Left sects which were seeking a new form of Marxism politics as an alternative to JCP, and the non-sect radicals without any affiliation to DYLJ or the New Left. On one hand, the non-sect radicals and the DYLJ and New Left students were equally marked by Japan’s campus culture dating back to the 1910s: the strong tradition of Marxism as a guiding ideology of social movements and self-cultivation. On the other hand, the non-sect radicals developed principles against the basic lines of DYLJ and the New Left factions, including centralized and hierarchical organizations and strict Marxism orthodoxy. Thus, they created decentralized and horizontal organizations and based their choice on their firsthand observations instead of ideology.