The 1955 System

Monday, September 06 2004 @ 01:53 PM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto




We could not make legible the busy diagram shown here due to technical and other reasons. But never mind, you don't have to try hard making out these party names to visualize the Japan's political landscape since the early-1990s. It doesn't really matter which party merged with which party, how a party split up into how many parties, which lawmaker party-hopped from which to which, etc.

And now the media have been spreading out an illusion that a two-party system like the one in the U.S. or the U.K. is now on the horizon with the DPJ (minshu-to) ostensibly extending its power. But as our friend Shintaro Ishihara always maintains, the DPJ is dominated by the remnants from a former intraparty faction of the LDP (jimin-to) that was headed by former prime minister Kakuei Tanaka (1972-1974).

And yet the fact remains that these frequent mergers, splitups, party-hopping, renaming, emergence of an imaginary two-party system, etc. are all taking place within the same old framework of the 1955 System.

If you ask what the 1955 System is, the following are some of our quick answers:
- Its architect is Nobusuke Kishi, a class-A war criminal known for his eerie toothy grin.
- Its birth coincided with the birth of the LDP as a result of the merger between the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party.
- Under the System, every politician is supposed to act as a pork-barrel operator.
- These pork-barrel operators also act as "political sandmen" who sprinkle a sound sleep coupled with money. A huge amount of taxpayers' money is being pumped into their constituencies and favorite industries, civil engineering and construction companies, in particular.
- The major role to be played by the Big 4 media enterprises is also to sprinkle a sound sleep all over the nation by subtly instilling into people the myth of homogeneity and untainted bloodlines streaming down the imperial family tree for more than two millenniums. In this context the imperial system is an integral part of the 1955 System.

If you are interested in studying it more in detail, we recommend Ian Buruma's small but great book titled, "Inventing Japan - 1853~1964". The author puts it in the right context to convince his readers that despite the small disruption brought about by the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the transition from the prewar kokutai, or national polity, to the 1955 System was extremely smooth thanks to these gentlemen such as Nobusuke Kishi.

We won't see a change until we emancipate ourselves from this suffocating System. But unfortunately, it's always an external power, be it the Commodore Perry's black ships, be it the A-bombs, that has brought about changes to this island nation. So our future perspective is not really promising as long as we rely on extrapolation from history.

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