Yesterday's Guardian(UK, 4.28) published following interesting article about recent developments in the Japanese "Communist" Party(日本共産党):
Disgruntled Japanese turn to resurgent communists
Web-savvy Japanese Communist party's message of welfare and jobs lures young voters away from sleazed-mired political mainstream
Faced with an economy in steep decline, rising unemployment and an uncertain future, a growing number of Japanese are shunning the conservative consensus and turning instead to a new brand of cuddly communism.
While the leaders of Japan's two main political parties battle poor opinion poll ratings and accusations of sleaze, the Japanese Communist party (JCP) has seen its fortunes transformed after years of being dismissed as an irrelevant hangover from the cold war.
In the last 16 months membership has soared to more than 410,000 as the revamped party courts younger voters from the working poor. Of the 14,000 people to have joined since the end of 2007, about a quarter are aged under 30, the party says. That contrasts with the ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP), whose membership has plummeted from 5 million at its peak to about a million today.
By dispensing with ideological rhetoric and focusing on welfare and jobs, the JCP has struck a chord with students, the unemployed and the estimated 10 million Japanese earning less than 2m yen (about £14,000) a year.
Yasuhisa Wakabayashi is typical of the new Japanese communist. The 23-year-old Yokohama factory worker joined the party in January. "Unlike the mainstream parties, the communists aren't interested in seeking donations from major corporations," he said. "They talk about education and welfare and the problems of ordinary people. And they are honest."
The JCP is making its presence felt on the internet. Among its clips is a rousing tirade by the party's affable leader, Kazuo Ishii, against the exploitation of contract workers, which has been viewed more than 100,000 times on YouTube.
The circulation of its official newspaper Akahata (the Red Flag) has risen for eight straight months to 1.6m, although it is still a long way short of its 1980 peak of 3.5m.
The JCP also owes some of its success to a novel published in 1929. Kanikosen (The Crab Ship), a Marxist-inspired account of rebellion, sold over half a million copies last year after it became required reading on restless university campuses.
Despite its resurgence, few believe the party will play a pivotal role in national politics. It has just nine seats in the 480-seat lower house, and is hampered by an electoral system that penalises minor parties.
JCP officials insist they will play no part in a coalition, not even if it means turfing the LDP out of office for only the second time in 54 years. "We would co-operate on individual policies but we wouldn't be part of a coalition," said Kimitoshi Morihara of the party's international bureau. "There is no difference between the LDP and Minshuto [the main opposition party] on the economy, defence or any of the big issues of the day. But we are different."
The JCP is barely recognisable from the party of 30 years ago. Now, dialectic materialism has been replaced by a commitment to "democratic change within the current framework of capitalism".
"The JCP of today is very different," said Go Ito, a professor of politics at Meiji University in Tokyo. "The modern party is pragmatic, which is why it has managed to tap into the dissatisfaction being felt right across Japanese society."