The Festival is Over - Japan Resistance Report 2008

Japan can be described as a decaying high-tech quasi-corporatist island state, hostile to many of its neighbouring countries. Several Japanese companies which benefited from slave labour in WW2, Mitsubishi etc, still operate. Japan is re-arming itself militarily and has never firmly broke with its fascist & imperialist past, the state attempts to enforce a high level of social control but even so, there does remain tumultuous outbreaks of anarchy that no-one can predict occurring, moments of incredible beauty, like Osaka in 13-21 June 2008, when an incident of police brutality sparked fierce rioting in Kamagasaki, a working class district.
The government is very repressive against the social movements in no small part to the serious revolutionary disturbances of the 60’s & 70’s onwards, with some underground autonomous groups still existing in hiding today. Japan is not the stable, comfortable place that the media tries to portray, and there are many people living a very precarious life of poverty and exclusion.
Not only in violent response to repression was there was a stark difference between the 6 day riot in Osaka and the anti-G8 events which took place almost simultaneously in Hokkaido, northern most island of the Japanese archipelago.

Fight G8!

In Hokkaido a tiny number of anti-globalisation activists, socialists, pacifists, environmentalists, NGOS, and of course, anarchists, were systematically suppressed in Sapporo from the onset of the entire organised counter-events. They were violently prevented on the most minor terms from having a peaceful street demo with a sound-system truck, the driver absurdly wrestled out by a posse of cops in a characteristic move of attacking vulnerable demos where the cops feel they can be aggressive and have the sanction of the media to do so. The sound-demo in Tokyo was the usual suppressed event, despite the evident rage of some of the people against the police restrictions. Anti-globalisation academics flew in and flew out again, presentations and counter-conferences were organised, promoting this or that new book or hip social theory in venues where you usually had to pay to enter. The spectacle was maintained, commodities were sold, careers were trod.
The media build-up to the G8 was extremely questionable, with mainstream media meeting the German anti-G8 ‘Dissent’ delegation in the months before the events at the air-port like movie-stars. Unfortunately the ‘Dissent’ delegation participated with the mainstream media, something we completely disagree with, viewing it as counter-productive and antagonistic to our hostility to the agenda of the corporations and government. The media was customarily both hysterically curious and dismissive, with the accompanying usual alerts to hold the image in the mind of terrorists like the Japanese Red Army, Aum or Al-Qaeda.
The base population simply got on with their lives. In Osaka when a day-worker was discovered beaten and tortured by the inner-city police during the G8 clampdown period, the whole area lit up with unmediated anti-police, anti-system rage, it didn’t matter so much that there was also a secondary G8 ministers meeting happening at the time in the city, we guess people were pretty angry. In addition the squatted parks around the city act as semiautonomous areas of free space, with information and material distribution,
so the news spread fast. There is a closeness to the people who have known each other in a collective fight for some time and they know the lay of the city to their advantage. Kamagasaki is a fighting working class neighbourhood, they do not need to be convinced by a street-party to dance. The anti-G8 events were characterised by a strong focus on structure, on the logistics of organising an ‘event’. The actions borrowed the structure of past anti-G8 action; in particular organisers in Japan used their experience of the G8 in Germany the previous year.
We don’t doubt the sincerity of the people who spent so much time and effort in organising the resistance against the G8, but for us this structure was applied superficially. There was not much analysis of how and why people wanted to act against the summit, or what the aims of action were. There seemed to be a lack of preparation for an attack from the cops and lack of de-centralised actions outside the central sounddemo( s), which seemed to come from lack of initiatives and conflictual attitude of solidarity on the part of the Japanese groups and also internationals not sufficiently understanding the operating environment. The international anti-G8 infotour for the G8 was extensive, across many countries and continents, why was the mobilisation so weak? Did it rely too much on a dependency for ‘outside’ numbers and pose a logistical complexity beyond the capabilities of the organising initiative?
In contrast to the more spontaneously created, structureless rioting in Osaka, the G8 action involved hierarchical organising. While on the surface borrowing the structure of previous anti- G8 events, the idea of leadership was very present in the organisation. The only way out is to completely denounce their methods and their ambition, what exists of it. Space seems significant in this, the lack of autonomous spaces in Japan affected the mentality of organisation; without the actual physical space to situation oneself in, it’s difficult to practice and build nonhierarchical collective organising for a mass of people. Although lacking in much action, the anti-G8 events did create some discussion around the methods of organisation. The challenge of a small, politically diverse, international group, trying to react against the G8 created an environment where there was no alternative but to engage as a group, and discuss political tactics.
In Hokkaido anti-G8 camp, internationals were separated from the decision making process and told that any action that was not approved by the organisers would result in certain arrest, job loss and prison (for the central organisers), therefore the usual putting pressure on everyone to toe the line. Also the inappropriate plan to march 20 Km in the countryside where there would be little chance to have any effect on the actual proceedings of the G8 is irritating to say the least.
The lack of opportunity for discussion around the tactics chosen by the central activist clique was dis-empowering and shows the weakness in the adoption of structure without adequately thinking about content. Without a collective confrontational position to capitalism on our own terms , our ‘resistance’ appears to amount to nothing but words, a gesture, a trend, then back to our routines.
Unfortunately, as well as this superficial structure, the NoG8 action was without a sense of spontaneity, raw feeling, passion, anger, or catalyst for action, as was seen in Osaka. Combined with massive amounts of self-repression, and the reality of a huge police presence, the result was an event lacking in direction or power.

“Coming nowhere near to the goal of ’shutting down the summit’, the protests were largely characterized by complacent marches in the shadow of $280 million dollars spent on security and 21,000 police goons lined up against a mere 1,000 or so protesters. From the beginning, the organizers formally negotiated with the police and paid the price: the marches passed nowhere near the meeting site and instead were forced into routes through the countryside at obscene distances, epitomized by a 22km daytime march through mountains and forest roads that only 100 people attended after the vast majority of participants denounced it and refused to attend. Despite the ‘good behavior’ of the organizers, four activists were nevertheless arrested for pathetically arbitrary reasons, such as having three people at a time on the sound system float (only two were allowed). Media coverage was mostly absent, even in ‘independent media’ despite the presence of hundreds of cameras. It is safe to say that the protests were not noticed at all, and even on their own limited terms were failures. Will there be people brave enough to admit this?” anonymous rebel/datacide This is not so much just a critique of some of our Japanese comrades as a critique of the Pavlovian activist mindset whereby a generic response is rolled out regardless of the specifics of people and place. What success the G8 protests achieved was found in bringing together new interactions between Japanese anti-capitalists and internationals.
What happened – or didn’t happen – in Japan is no surprise. An international call out was produced because that is what was expected: that is the model – unreflected, insupportable (in terms of infrastructure) and inappropriate. The fact that Japan is, as a political, social and subcultural entity, so extremely different from those places where these summits have been held and attacked before simply threw the poverty of the ritual into sharp relief.
So, for us the anti-G8 protests were characterised by massive self-surveillance and self-repression, and difficulty in breaking out of a sense of isolation and individualization. The ‘activist’ response to the G8 was dis-empowering in contrast to the necessary, spontaneous chaotic rioting in Osaka which was grounded in a reality of social conflict against the conditions of a repressive daily life.

The G8 action and the Osaka riots highlighted a stark divide between people pushed to a point of necessary action, and the ‘activist scene’, where there is a feeling of having too much to lose to take action. Comparably, this situation in Japan is suggestive of where the organised ‘activist scene’ in United Kingdom is at from an outsiders perspective: revolving around structured events, without either a depth of analysis, spontaneity or position of conflict, leading to an inactive ‘scene’ and decaying ‘sub-culture’, without clear targets and ways to fight them.
Anarchists and other uncontrollables in Osaka felt it was pointless going to Hokkaido, the struggle is in their city, most certainly away from the concentrated forces of the enemy in a rural area. This is where only those who readily control mass access to transport and personnel can win the engagement due to the environment. They felt that also there was an undiscovered element of ‘white supremacy’ in the assumption that imported Anglo-Atlantic models will be the best ones for the Japanese situation, and that ‘activist’ methods can be a symbolic theater that is not based on collective action in the face of a repressive system, but is a reaction to a temporary media event of authority. Also maybe only more financially solvent North American and European activists have a possibility to enter and this was not automatically available to closer comrades in East Asia. This effects not only the amount of people who come but also maybe the readiness for conflict, due to the heavy sentences given out by the Japanese state, which are a different reality, it is not a joke. Japanese prisons are notoriously harsh but they are nothing compared to the realities of life in many prisons of the majority world. When you add together the possibility of not clearing immigration because of problems with visas, money, if you are an international, and then heavy jail time for very minor actions, you have to think very clearly about the situation you find yourself in. If we face this much repression for centralized ‘legal’ ‘pacifist’ public actions, we have to seriously think about the social terrain we find ourselves in and how best to act.
In Japan, the problem is one of visibility, of having a visible anti-capitalist/anarchist infrastructure, as the resources available to the anti-capitalist movement are small, there are few infoshops, collective housing projects, squats etc. The state uses media, secret police, surveillance, manipulation, judicial harassment and imprisonment in a thorough manner, anyone who is identified as a threat will find themselves constantly on minor charges, house searches, this amounts to personal harassment, stalking, it is intended to be injurious to the mentality and so on, to hold people into keeping respectful of the seemingly allencompassing power of the government. So, the G8 in Japan was difficult to react against. Obviously G8 summits are organised in a way that anyway tries to remove the possibility of sparks of conflict or catalyst, such as holding them in remote rural locations. The ‘countryside’ in the industrialised world is always a ‘theme park’ or an ‘unforgiving advantage’ to those with superior technology, logistics and control of movement.
Despite it’s problems, Osaka benefits from having a long-running class struggle based practically on resisting the conditions of daylabour. The revolt against capitalism is already a potential in the tens of thousands of exploited who find themselves rolled over in this economy. It consists in recognizing that the currency crisis is a result of the search for capitalist value in the American markets since the fall of the Soviet Union, and not a result of the particular failures of bank policy in any one country. That’s where new allies, new struggles and new praxis emerge from. The antiglobalization movement has been stone-cold dead for years. The G8 protests were so far distanced from actual on-the-ground praxis in Japan that it is difficult to think of them apart from something like an anime convention.

The revolt against the industrialised world will not come from the countryside now the majority of the world lives in cities, it comes from within the contradictions and excluded zones of the mega-metropolis’ themselves, the most critical place to stop the economy, and seize control of the streets.

Kamagasaki has been rebelling since the 1960s, but only rarely have there been effective interventions there that have had the potential to get bigger (most notably the new left interventions of the 70s, but even that was really problematic). We have to find a way to overcome the limitations of riots, to destroy not only the police station but the economy, to push for a social war and the end of capitalism. To push a situation of disparate anger into a position of class strength and selforganisation. Repeatedly going to places of conflict where the possibilities are defined by the agenda of the state we see as a dangerous mistake, the ‘difficult’ condition of modern warfare is ‘urban’ precisely because this is the arena where our everyday lives are made. Where the commodities are produced and sent forth, where the utilities are run, where the octopus of cables multiples and spreads, where the schools, hospitals, bureaucratic and financial houses are run.
This is what is at stake. For a future without capital & coercion. Some anarchists always in exile.

Osaka comrade given prison term for riot

Greetings with indomitable soul
19th Nov 2008, comrade Y-San received an unjust sentence of 2 years and 2 months despite our struggle for his rescue. He has already been in custody in Osaka prison, not knowing when and where he will be sent. He says he wants to get out and come back even if it is only one day earlier. We will continue to visit him with articles, keep a place for him to come back and prepare ourselves for revenge.

(ABC Osaka/Free Workers Union)