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Imprisoned Japanese Red Army Founder Shigenobu Holds Out Hope for Revolution

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 writes: The imprisoned founder of the Japanese Red Army admits her efforts to bring revolution to Japan in the 1970s and ’80s ended in failure but she remains optimistic that public protest can check government moves to alter the pacifist Constitution.

“I think Japanese people are even more apathetic about politics now than in the past … and I do think the actions of myself and others have contributed to that,” Fusako Shigenobu told The Japan Times in a letter from Hachioji Medical Prison, where she is currently incarcerated for her role as leader of a notorious militant Marxist group that carried out terrorist attacks at home and abroad.

“Our hopes were not fulfilled and it came to an ugly end,” she said. “If you consider what the people who fought against war and for peace were able to achieve in the past, maybe today’s anti-war peace movement doesn’t have the potential to be as strong as it was then. But as the people speaking out against nuclear power showed, there is still a strong groundswell. If anti-nuclear protesters and anti-war protesters can join forces, they can change the future. I am hopeful.”

The Japanese Red Army, with Shigenobu as its head, grew out of Japan’s radical student movement of the 1960s to become one of the world’s most feared guerrilla groups, with a stated goal of overthrowing the Japanese government and monarchy and bringing about world revolution.

 

Police crouch against a wall at the French Embassy in The Hague where hostages were held by Japanese Red Army guerillas in September 1974. | KYODO

Police crouch against a wall at the French Embassy in The Hague where hostages were held by Japanese Red Army guerillas in September 1974. | KYODO

People who had been taken hostage in the Japanese Red Army’s attack on the French Embassy in The Hague walk out of the embassy with their hands up after they were freed in September 1974. | AP / VIA KYODO

People who had been taken hostage in the Japanese Red Army’s attack on the French Embassy in The Hague walk out of the embassy with their hands up after they were freed in September 1974. | AP / VIA KYODO

Working in tandem with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the group carried out a string of deadly attacks around the world, including the 1972 machine gun and grenade attack at Israel’s Lod Airport that killed 26 people and wounded 80.

Shigenobu, now 71, spent almost 30 years on the run in the Middle East until she was arrested in Osaka in November 2000. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison on March 8, 2006, for orchestrating a 1974 attack on the French Embassy in The Hague. She received a final verdict from the Supreme Court in 2010.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan Times]

The Japanese Red Army’s violent actions, which included plane hijackings and attacks on embassies, horrified the watching world. Shigenobu remains committed to the goal of world revolution despite disbanding the group in 2001, but she concedes that she misjudged the Japanese public’s tolerance for violence.

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People seeking admission tickets for the first day of hearings in the trial of Fusako Shigenobu gather at the Tokyo District Court on April 23, 2001. | KYODO

“At the time, the Palestine Liberation Organization was leading an armed struggle to liberate the whole of Palestine,” she said. “There was a steady stream of volunteers from the refugee camps to become guerrilla fighters. On the other hand, in Japan I couldn’t help but think that our fight was one that didn’t involve the people. When there is a need for armed struggle, people come forward to fight. That wasn’t like the ideology-driven battle fought in the minds of Japanese people.

“The Japanese Red Army’s tactics were naive and had some faults. Our tactics weren’t in line with the actualities of Japanese society, and you could say that we had a string of failures. People who weren’t targets of the armed struggle got dragged into it because of our weakness.”

 

The National Police Agency distributed in 1997 a poster with a picture of Fusako Shigenobu (top left) and other Japanese Red Army members who were on a wanted list. | KYODO

The National Police Agency distributed in 1997 a poster with a picture of Fusako Shigenobu (top left) and other Japanese Red Army members who were on a wanted list. | KYODO

The Japanese Red Army movement grew out of the tumultuous radical student scene of the 1960s, when violent protests were commonplace and opposition to the Japanese establishment and its relationship with the United States was strong.

[Read the full text here, at The Japan Times]

After several failed efforts to foment a revolution at home, Shigenobu decided a more international outlook was needed and traveled to the Middle East to form the group in alliance with the PFLP to fight for the Palestinian cause.

Fusako Shigenobu poses for a photo at her home in Beirut in 1981. | HANASHI NO TOKUSHU / VIA KYODO

Fusako Shigenobu poses for a photo at her home in Beirut in 1981. | HANASHI NO TOKUSHU / VIA KYODO

“A sense of justice is nurtured within the history and culture of each particular place, and there is no one single way of achieving it,” she said. “We reflected on the battles that had been fought in Japan up to that point and sought a different mode of fighting in the 1970s. As for how that seems to me now, I don’t believe there is any need for a modern-day equivalent of the Japanese Red Army in Japan … (read more)

via The Japan Times

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