Monday, August 17, 2015

Eclipse Rising's 'The People's History of Japan' mini-series: a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of Japan's colonial aggression and WWII: (2) Jiichiro Matsumoto (1887-1966)

In April 1955, Jiichiro Matsumoto (1887-1966), a leader of Buraku liberation movement, a politician, and a proponent of “Suihei-undo (Horizontal movement, i.e., Buraku liberation movement) of the world,” participated in Bandung Conference in Indonesia, where leaders from thirty newly post-colonial states, along with observers from national liberation movements throughout the colonial world, gathered. The photo is a reminder of the central role played by this Buraku liberation leader in the Third World Internationalism in the 1950s, which brought together Third-World radical grassroots activists and political leaders from all over the world.

According to AAPA (Asian American Political Alliance) Newspaper (vol. 1, no.4, 1969), “the Bandung Conference was one of the major impetus in the development of the Third World consciousness among the nations of Asia, Latin America and Africa.” The AAPA Newspaper went on to quote from Chou Enlai’s speech at the conference. He maintained, despite their ancient civilizations and contributions to the world,

 “ever since modern times, most of the countries of Asia and Africa in varying degrees have been subjected to colonial plunder and oppression, and have been thus forced to remain in a stagnant state of poverty and backwardness … we Asian and African countries, which are more or less under similar circumstances, should be the first to cooperate with one another in a friendly manner and put peaceful coexistence into practice. The discord and estrangement created among the Asian and African countries by colonial rule in the past should no longer be there. We Asian and African countries should respect one another and eliminate any suspicion and fear which may exist between us.”

Matsumoto was a friend to Chou Enlai and a regular participant of many international conferences. Matsumoto’s principle of  fukashin fukahishin (Do not invade, Do not allow getting invaded) was reflected in the Ten Principles for Peace declared at the Bandung Conference. 

In 1952, prior to Bandung Conference, Matsumoto had also played a leadership role in founding the Asian Ethnic Friendship Association. The Association originated in a deep regret of Japan’s invasion of Asian countries. The founding statement of the Association maintained: “If Japan desires to become a truly independent and democratic country and to contribute to world peace, Japan must establish friendly relationships with all ethnic groups in Asia.” The statement continued: “Asian people, who reside in Japan, would take the central role in this Association. The Association would promote mutual understanding and friendship among all Asian ethnic groups, based on the principle of fushin fukashin, equality, and mutual support.” According to Kazuaki Honda at the library of the Human Rights Research Center, the Association reached out to Koreans, Chinese, Indians, Mongols, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Thai, and Indonesians, who were residing in Japan, to become co-founders of the Association. (It would be interesting to find out how leaders of each group responded to the invitation.)

Matsumoto was also befriended by American civil rights activist and renowned performance artist Josephine Baker. In an interview, Matsumoto recalled his encounter with Baker:

“When Ms Josephine Baker visited Japan, I had an opportunity to meet with her and witnessed her suffering as a member of an oppressed race, which was engraved into her brown skin. I deeply empathized with her determination to devote herself, even to the last drop of her blood, to eliminating unjust discriminations from the world. [It was because of my encounter with Baker] I started to participate in [the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism]. Baker’s suffering and determination reminded me of my own lived experience of suffering as an oppressed person in Japan, my determination to end discrimination, and my struggles over thirty years. That is why I was delighted to promise her to work with her.”

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