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A View on War and Violence from Post–Postwar Japan: Interview with Toshimaru Ogura

Awa, Okinawa, on October 22, 2022. Actions to stop the trucks for the construction of the military base by passing in front of them. These actions are being carried out every day. Photographed by Keiko Nakamori

Please say a few words about your activities over time in Japan!

I was born in 1951 and had been teaching Marx’s economics and critique of modern capitalism at a local Japanese university for over 30 years. Therefore, I am sometimes considered an “economic scientist.” Those who have read my book “Acid Capitalism,” which refers to punks and Situationists, and know that I have been involved in activities related to art activism, will have another perspective on me. I translated Antonio Negri’s Politics of Subversion. I also translated Home Sweet Home, which deals with Banksy and Bristol street culture. I believe there are few readers who share a common interest in both.

I have very little experience living in an English-speaking country. I studied Marxist feminism at the New School of Social Research in New York for only six months in the 1980s. That experience helped to liberate me from the spell of orthodox Marxism, and my encounters with Karl Polanyi, anthropology, and the anti-nuclear power movement have been important as well.

Since the 1990s, I have also been involved in the movement for communication rights on the Internet, inspired by the Zapatista Internet-based global movement. I am a Linux user with an emphasis on open source and free software, and I have an account on mastodon. My current interests include, first, critiquing the Japanese emperor system and nationalism in the context of the global far right, second, the theoretical challenge of extending the Marxist concept of exploitation, and third, challenging the Internet communication space that exploits seniors for profit and national interests. I believe that the issues of war and violence are deeply intertwined with all of these.

This year I am involved in a movement organizing against the G7 meeting to be held in Hiroshima. LeftEast readers may find it interesting that I am translating the autobiography of the Bulgarian anarchist Aleksander M. Nakov, The Dossier of Subject No. 1218 from English at the moment. You can read select things in English on my blog, Ne Plu Capitalismo

You have been translating LeftEast articles for your blog since you first translated our statement on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago. What prompted you to do this?

LeftEast has a lot of interesting discussions of left-wing ideas and movements in the former socialist bloc that can be read in English. I think that Eastern Europe is in a position to develop a critique of the failures of both 20th century socialism and the neoliberalism of Western capitalism.  I feel that the experience of Eastern European societies is important for me to think radically and critically about modernity and nationalism in Japan. Japan has an excessive self-identification with the Western industrialized world, yet at the same time, Japanese nationalism has always been constructed with an awareness of its differences from Western modernity. Japan has sought to acquire a secular governing structure by endorsing Western values and the basic framework of capitalism. Yet simultaneously, the fiction of Japan’s uniqueness has been constructed in the course of modernization since the 19th century. Prewar Japan cleverly appropriated the Marxist framework of Asian liberation from Western imperialism. In other words, Japan (or Japanese intellectuals) justified the Japanese imperialist invasion of Asia as the liberation of Asia from the West. Due to this Japanese historical experience, today’s perspective of anti-globalization and overcoming Western modernity is not a stance unique to leftists alone. The same point of view is taken by the far right, which seeks to find solutions in a return to traditionalism and esotericism. This is why I think it is essential to reject nationalism and refuse traditionalism, especially family values and gender discrimination.

Japan has both grassroots and state-led traditions of post-World War II pacifism. Can you tell us more about these and about Article 9 of the 1947 Constitution, which states that the Japanese state renounces the right of belligerency?

Let’s start with Article 9 of the Constitution. The text of Article 9 is as follows:

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

Article 9 renounces not only ” war as a sovereign right of the nation” but also “the threat or use of force.”  Read plainly, the nation-state cannot possess an army. The state also cannot possess force that could be considered a threat. Since the right of belligerency is also denied, the nation-state is also not permitted to use force for self-defense. However, the Japanese government interprets Article 9 to mean that the use of force for self-defense and the possession of military force are not prohibited. This is also the majority opinion of Japanese constitutional scholars. I do not understand how this interpretation can be derived.

This current interpretation of Article 9 differs from the interpretation at the time of the Constitution’s enactment. At the time of the Constitution’s enactment, the government clearly stated that Japan could not possess any war potential. However, during the Cold War, the government created the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and asserted that Article 9 permitted the retention of military force for self-defense.

The Constitution went into effect on May 3, 1947 and has not been amended since its enactment. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been in power for most of the postwar period has consistently advocated to abolish Article 9’s renunciation of war and to achieve rearmament. However, for the more than half a century since the end of World War II, the majority of Japanese public opinion has been against any constitutional revision to allow for rearmament. As a result, the LDP has been unable to even bring a constitutional amendment to the Diet and has instead used devious means to achieve rearmament. 

The LDP has reinterpreted Article 9 to justify the Self-Defense Forces by declaring the possession of military force for self-defense to be constitutional. As a result, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces have now grown to become one of the world’s leading armed forces. In addition to this, and very importantly, more than 100 U.S. bases in Japan continue to exist outside the framework of the Constitution’s renunciation of war, enjoying de facto extraterritorial privileges and receiving enormous financial support from the Japanese government. Although the peace and leftist movements in Japan have retreated from the unambiguous support for unarmed pacifism to the acceptance of the use of force limited to exclusive defense, opposition to U.S. military bases and the expansion of the Self Defense Forces continues to be an important issue in their struggles.

Some argue that retaining Article 9 will prevent Japan from becoming militarized and protect peace, but you claim that this idea is flawed. Please explain.

Even though the Constitution clearly renounces war, Japan has not become a country that truly embodies the renunciation of war. The reason for this is that Japan has not seriously dealt with its responsibility for past wars of aggression.

Japan was a colonialist aggressor. However, the greatest common denominator informing the desire for peace after the war was the experience of war damage, such as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the tragedy of Japanese soldiers symbolized by the ‘death for honor’ (Gyokusai) of the Japanese army in the defeated war in the invaded territories, and the tragic experience of Japanese frontier immigrants in the colonies. Therefore, arguments critical of Japan’s responsibility for the war have rarely had enough influence to affect politics. Emperor Hirohito, the supreme leader of the war, was never publicly held responsible for the war and was never tried as a war criminal. Hirohito reigned as the symbol of the nation after the war, and war criminals have been at the center of postwar politics. Pacifism, which is a deterrent to aggression and militarism in one’s own country, must be based on one’s own responsibility for the perpetration of war and invasion. This has been a critical weakness of Japan’s postwar peace movements.

With the above background in mind, I would like to discuss three points connected to the limitations of Article 9. The first is that Japan has the death penalty. Both the government and public opinion are overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty. The death penalty is an unreasonable legal system that allows the state to achieve justice through murder. Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of the death penalty: It is acceptable for the state to achieve “justice” through violence and retribution. How can a nation that cannot correct its own citizens and seeks to maintain order by retaliating and exterminating them be seen as renouncing war?

Why, then, do armies exist even in countries that have abolished the death penalty? It is because the target of the killing is “others.” Who, then are the “others” whom it is acceptable to kill? They are not others for me, but rather for the nation. I am against the idea that it is permissible to kill someone if they are the “other.” There is an irreconcilable contradiction between the universal concept of human rights of modern Western nations and the “others” that modern nations create.

The second issue is that Japan’s gender gap index is extremely wide. According to the statistics of the World Economic Forum, Japan ranks 116th, an extraordinarily low ranking when we take into account the relationship with economic development. In Japan, neither same-sex marriage nor LGBTQ+ rights are legally recognized. We have a family registration system, a public system centered on the family that is unique in the world. Although the Constitution explicitly states respect for a person as an individual, in reality, there is a strong sense and institutionalization of patriarchy centered on men that transcends the individual.

Third, Japan accepts very few refugees: in 2021, only 74 people were granted refugee status out of 2,413 applicants. These numbers are nothing short of extraordinary. Also, out of a population of 140 million, the number of foreigners residing in Japan is about 2.8 million, far fewer than in Western European countries. Japan lacks cultural diversity and is prone to exclusionary attitudes toward others. This situation can easily lead to a romanticized inclination toward one’s own culture and traditions, which in turn leads to a culture that beautifies and glorifies war. This is easier to understand if one recalls the Romanticism of 19th century Europe.

Now, then, we must ask, as a lesson of history, whether modern nation-states have been able to establish international relations without war. Where is the possibility of peace in a world system in which there are nearly 200 nations around the world, in which these nations compete with each other for supremacy, with constitutions as the supreme law, and in a world dominated by a patriarchal dialectic of violence and paternalism? Realists affirm this reality and affirm the solution by force. As I mentioned above, there is no rationality in this solution. Therefore, I am left to dream of a world that has not yet to be realized. I see no choice but to choose a kind of idealism. To specify the renunciation of war in the Constitution is to self-criticize the fatally violent character of such a nation-state. And in building relations with others–that is, diplomacy–Japan needs to have a diplomatic paradigm that is completely different from negotiations backed by force. This is a radical position that encompasses the self-denial of the nation-state. By taking such a position, the left’s key task will be to seek the possibility of liberation without the means of violence.

The most important condition for preventing militarism in Japan is that the Japanese people not cooperate with the state; if Article 9 is to have any meaning, it must be that the people cannot become a subject of war power and not cooperate in any activities that support war. This would depend on how the Japanese people can detach themselves from their national identity based on the pseudo-ethnicity of “Japanese.”

Russia’s war in Ukraine raises questions on the meaning of pacifism. We assume that Russian aggression influenced the politics of pacifism in Japan, too.  What has changed? How do you interpret the situation?

I’ve arranged my answers to this question around 4 points below.

First, the Japanese government’s goal of changing the clause in Article 9 of the Constitution that renounces war has begun to look more realistic, and insistence on pacifism has begun to recede. The revision of the Constitution regarding Article 9 is beginning to become a reality right now. The biggest catalyst for this is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The lesson that the contemporary peace movement in Japan has received from the Russian invasion and the armed resistance in Ukraine does not support thorough renunciation of war. Rather, it supports the idea of the necessity of self-defense from an aggressor. This is why, the current point of conflict with the government over changes to the Constitution regards the pros and cons of first-strike or possession of enemy base attack capability.In my view, this represents a defeat for radical pacifism.

In the immediate postwar period, the peace movement was dominated by the idea of complete demilitarization and neutrality. The laws passed in postwar Japan were meant to disarm an Imperialist state. In today’s peace movement, however, the dominant position is the denial of the use of force for the purpose of invasion, which, however, goes together with the affirmation of the use of force for self-defense (ie: a defense-only policy). Furthermore, the major peace movements have changed their attitude to oppose the revision of Article 9, on the grounds that the exclusive defense of the nation does not deviate from the purpose of the article.

From my point of view, it is impossible to win a war in the military domain through the use of force limited to self-defense. If fighting continues and is prolonged, it becomes impossible to distinguish between self-defense and offensive action. The means of attack used to minimize casualties among one’s own forces will often depend on the use of mass weapons such as air strikes, missile attacks, and drone strikes. Beyond that, the use of nuclear weapons is anyone’s guess.

Criticism of Russia’s armed invasion is widespread and shared within the peace movement, but I think there is disagreement about Ukranian armed resistance and military support by the West, including NATO. There are those among us who approve of armed self-defense against invasion and those who do not. In contrast, the Kishida administration supports military assistance by NATO and the G7, and public opinion in Japan reflects a similar attitude. This means that the position of absolute pacifism, which also denies the use of force for self-defense, is in a vulnerable state. The media in Japan makes absurd reports day to day about the likelihood that China, Russia, and North Korea will invade. The fear of an invasion  is nurtured through comparisons of Japan with Ukraine. Similar feelings of insecurity can be seen in South Korea. As psychological division and hostility are being fostered among the people of the region, Japanese people don’t have in mind that Japan could be a first-strike aggressor like Russia. They forget that Japan’s past wars–the First Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895), the Russo-Japanese War, and the Asia-Pacific War–were started by Japanese preemptive strikes or plots.

I am often asked the question, “If Japan is unreasonably invaded by another country, are you not willing to fight to defend Japan?” I think, “Please do not involve me in disputes between nations” and “It’s not my business.” I want to separate my existence from the interests of the nation as much as possible. To do this, I have to fight against the psychology that acts to push me into the identity of Japanese and make me converge with the identity of the nation.

This brings me to my second point: it is important to realize that the “national interest” and the interest of the people do not coincide.

We are forced to grasp the problem of war at the national level. Or we tend to see war as a simplistic framework of Russia (represented by Putin) and Ukraine (represented by Zelensky). But I believe that we should draw a clear distinction between the subject matter of armed conflict enacted by the state, and the subject matter of the people who live within any state. War is a catastrophe caused by the state for the state’s own sake. What is at stake here for the people is the relationship between “I” as a subject and the nation to which I am considered to belong. If my self-identification with the state is strong, “I” may feel that I should risk my life to undertake the state’s war. But what actually happens in conflict zones around the world is that the overwhelming majority of people do not choose force or violence, but frantically seek another option. They may hide secretly underground and pray that the fighting will end, or they may attempt to evacuate the combat zone, hoping for the slightest chance. Even at the cost of their own lives, they leave, not to kill the “enemy,” but to find a place with the slightest chance of not killing anyone. I believe that the reliance on mercenaries in both Russia and Ukraine is a sign that many people do not wish to pursue the means of war.

In both countries, the regime’s obsession is with “territory” and I doubt if there is any real concern for the people living there. If the people who live there were truly important to the regime, then it would not have chosen violence that sacrifices their people’s lives. War is nothing more than a struggle for the survival of a state power willing to sacrifice people’s lives. But at the same time, war cannot be carried out without the construction of unitary identities.  War between “nation-states” must construct a nationalism that suppresses people’s diverse identities and converges them into the nation’s will. Both Ukraine and Russia are reconstructively reproducing nationalism through this war. Japan also constructed nationalism through civil wars and several wars in the early modern era. Postwar nationalism is not the same as prewar nationalism, but it is still the same nationalism. I wonder if the regime in Kiev would be willing to accept a Russian-speaking population in the east of Ukraine that supported the previous administration. Do the Russian occupiers intend to treat the residents of the eastern part of Ukraine who support the regime in Kiev as equal residents? The war does not offer better possibilities for Roma, non-European ethnic groups, LGBTQ+ people, and those who have been discriminated against at the margins of society.

When a situation of war becomes a reality, “peace” seems to be a very ineffective argument. It is easy to imagine the futility of advocating “peace” in a situation of combat. But does this powerlessness mean that violence against violence is the only option? At this point, we are forced to return to the fundamental question of whether violence can be a means of resolution in the sense that is not inevitable.

Third, I want to point out that it is impossible for Japan to really renounce war unless it is willing to accept refugees. The greatest embodiments of the renunciation of war are the refugees fleeing from war and those who are in war zones who do not take up arms yet risk their lives trying to lead their daily lives. In the legal system, these are the people who fight in court to refuse military service or who desert from the military. These people should actually be the majority in wartime. While those who choose this way to live are a nuisance to the state, I recognize in them the possibility of peace that the global nation-state system of governance has failed to realize. To their country of origin, they are traitors who have abandoned their country in its crisis, and to the country where they arrive as refugees, they are strangers. People who live against their national identity are a nuisance to both countries.

Refugees are a part of war, and we need to find a more positive meaning for their existence in terms of the above. They are people who choose not to resolve the present situation by killing each other. They make the decision to leave a place in order to choose not to fight. They will leave the land in which they have lived and move to a strange land. Despite the uncertainty of whether they will even be accepted there, they choose a rubber boat that may capsize and get lost rather than risk their lives in a fight. Instead of defending their territory against invaders, they risk that they may die while killing no one else. It is in their way of life that the idea of renunciation of war is embodied. Compared with the lives of such objectors, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is nothing more than a pie in the sky. Pacifism is not about clinging to a phrase that has lost its effectiveness.

From the perspective of war refugees, Japan is a nation which has turned its back on pacifism. Japan has hardly accepted any refugees. The unfriendly policy of the Japanese government toward refugees suggests that in the case of war, the duty of the Japanese people is to fight for their nation; it is outrageous for them to attempt to flee.

The Japanese government sometimes speaks of a “peaceful nation,” but this is nothing but deception. While leftist pacifists are critical of the Japanese government for not accepting these immigrants and refugees, I have not heard them explicitly point out and criticize these Japanese policies as being hostile to pacifism.

Finally, I want to point to the principle that the more powerful person is not necessarily the one who embodies justice. This is my position as well. If force is justice, then the violence of the male perpetrator in domestic violence, embodies justice. There is no logical causal relationship between force and justice.

Men and women likely have different options and priorities in dealing with the violence we experience on a daily basis. In Japan, where many women who are victims of domestic violence are actually more skilled than men in the daily use of lethal tools – knives and blades in the kitchen. Anyone can see that it is possible to solve the problem by killing the perpetrator of domestic violence. But very few people actually choose to do so. Many victims choose other ways to fight.

Activists who support victims of domestic violence do not claim that killing the perpetrator is the solution. Instead of responding to violence with violence, they might provide shelter for the victim, take defensive measures to prevent the perpetrator from coming into contact with her, and use legal means. At the same time, they may seek ways to rehabilitate the perpetrator. These activists would also look at the social context that triggers domestic violence. In the patriarchal family system and the sexism brought about by the capitalist market economy, there is a social structure that reproduces an irrational desire to enforce domination using violence. The problem cannot be solved by retaliation or revenge by violence.

The goal of liberation from the structures that bring about violence cannot be achieved by means of violence. The challenge to change the attitudes and values of people, especially men, is essential. It is necessary to put these familiar topics of violence in the context of the violence of war.

This relationship between violence and justice is not a difficult philosophical or political science discussion. It can be understood in the context of our daily practice of liberation. In the case of wars between nations, however, this everyday wisdom is completely forgotten. Even between nations, as with domestic violence, there is nothing causal between justice and violence.

Riot police remove activists from a sit-in at the gate of the US
military base construction site in Henoko, Okinawa, Japan, October 22, 2022. The placard reads “NO to the new Henoko base!” Photographed by Keiko Nakamori

How is the peace movement in Japan related to the history of Japanese and U.S. nation-building and imperialism?

Opposition to the Japan-U.S. alliance has been at the heart of the peace, or anti-war, movement in Japan. The movement against this alliance has a long history of more than half a century, symbolized by the anti-Japan-U.S. Security Treaty struggle and the movement against the Vietnam war in the 1960s.

Today’s peace movement is led by movements in local communities where U.S. military bases are located. Among them, the anti-U.S. military base movement in Okinawa occupies a noteworthy position in terms of scale and persistence. In Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost archipelago, a new U.S. military base is currently being built on reclaimed land in the sea at Henoko, Nago City. Sit-in protests against construction vehicles continue every day at the site where soil is being mined for reclamation. Under the pretext of the Chinese threat, new construction of bases for the Self-Defense Forces has also begun. In Okinawa, there is a large opposition movement against the Japanese military bases too. Through various actions over a period of several years, the movement against bases has performed a never-ending protest.

The history of Okinawa right up to this day is significant in the context of Japan’s war activities and the deceptive appearance of peace after WW II. During World War II, Okinawa’s residents were repeatedly massacred not only by enemy U.S. forces but also by supposed allies of the Japanese military. After Japan’s defeat, Okinawa was handed over to the U.S. in exchange for Japan’s independence and remained under U.S. military rule until 1972. In the movement to return Okinawa to Japan, the Okinawan people hoped that the renunciation of war under Article 9 of the Constitution would lead to the abolition of U.S. military bases. However, the Japanese government has instead tolerated the U.S. military bases, and consistently ignored the voices of the people opposing them. On the other hand, crimes (especially sex crimes) by U.S. soldiers, and plane crashes and environmental pollution related to U.S. military presence have been significant. Drawing on the war and postwar experiences of the Okinawan people with military bases, a clear declaration was made at a people’s forum held in Okinawa in 2001 that acknowledged that Japan’s own military would not protect Japan’s own people, and thus, that national security and people’s security are incompatible. Okinawa is still a region with a huge number of U.S. military bases, but the people there have consistently continued their non-violent disobedience struggle for the abolition of the bases. My current stance is based on this perspective of people’s security in Okinawa, as well as my experience in the anti-Vietnam war movement when I was young.

I’d like to connect this back to the way in which Japanese identity has been constructed and reproduced. The general perception of the peace movement and the left in Japan is that prewar Japanese imperialism ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945, and the postwar constitution is evaluated positively as a significant break with prewar and wartime imperialism. From this perspective, defending the current Constitution is a basic position in the peace movement. My view, however, is slightly different. From prewar to postwar and up to the present, Japan has consistently been a capitalist nation. There has been no change in the basic ruling structure of this nation as capitalist. In particular, it is consistent as a nationalism. Everywhere, national identity is artificially constructed through policies that seek to integrate the people into the ideology of the state through repeated wars and crises. In prewar Japan, too, Japanese identity was constructed through repeated wars. Postwar Japan is resurgent as an actor of economic imperialism in a postcolonial world. The foundation of postwar Japan’s mentality is the inherited racism against the Global South formed in the prewar period. Herein lies a very specific “Japanese” identity structure. At the heart of this identity is a special mass psychological ideology — what might be called the Emperor ideology. This psychology is at the core of Japan’s governing structure, which excludes immigrants and refugees and is intolerant of cultural diversity The Emperor is no longer a god, as he was before the war. Nor does he retain the right to command the military. However, the Constitution clearly stipulates the Emperor’s function as a symbol of national unity, that is, as an ideological apparatus. In this sense, I take the position of emphasizing the continuity of postwar Japan with the prewar period.

In an essay on your blog, you assert the people’s right to violence and then dismiss it and assert the people’s right to peace. Can you explain your argument to us?

I had mentioned Frantz Fanon’s theory of violence in an email exchange with LeftEast. Later, in preparing a draft of this interview, I wrote about Fanon in another blog piece for Japanese readers, which duplicates parts of this interview

There are two issues I’d like to address here. The first is the association of violence with masculinity. The second, and related, issue is to point out the more complex picture of violence that emerges when we read chapters 1 and 5 of Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth together.

My basic view on the relationship between violence and social change is as follows. We cannot deny the significance of the use of violence as a means of liberation in the pre-history (in the sense that Marx meant it) and history of humanity. I believe, however, that armed liberation should not become an essential means of liberation in the future. The privileged status given to violence today is based on implicit values that make the mature adult male the ideal model for society. It is a value that holds that powerful men are superior in justice to women, the elderly, and children. The weapons and equipment of war embody these values and define the organizational principles of the military. Since gender is a social concept, even if women participate as soldiers, they are forced to self-identify with masculinity, as both masculine and phallocentric.

In prewar Japan, women supported this model from the side. They were obliged to inspire their husbands and sons to fight on the battlefield, to make sense of their deaths, to be the labor force in the logistics in the home front, and to give birth to the next generation that will be loyal to the state. These phallocentric and patriarchal structures that we have inherited in the postwar period are intolerant of sexual minorities and deny reproductive rights. When one relies on violence to counter such violent domination, the subject of liberation must also accept this model of power, a vicious cycle. We must consciously break the irrational link between justice and violence.

Therefore, as we strive to develop the means of liberation we must aim to abandon the mature adult male as the ideal model of society. And, inevitably, it must be nonviolent. Nonviolence here means not simply no violence against man and nature, but also the denial of violence embodied in masculinity.

Chapter 5, “Colonial War and Mental Disorders,” of Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth must be read as a counterpart to Chapter 1, “Violence.”  The former is highly regarded in the field of colonial psychiatry as a critique of racist psychiatry. It was the struggle for colonial liberation that made this point possible. In this chapter 5 he states the following.

“The criminality of the Algerian, his impulsiveness, the savagery of his murders are not, therefore, the consequence of how his nervous system is organized or specific character traits, but the direct result of the colonial situation. The fact that the Algerian patriots discussed this issue, that they were not afraid to challenge the beliefs inculcated in them by colonialism, that they understood each was a screen for the other and in reality they were committing suicide by pitting themselves against their neighbor, was to have an immense impact on the revolutionary consciousness.”

According to Fanon “the colonized subject fights in order to put an end to domination. But he must also ensure that all the untruths planted within him by the oppressor are eliminated.”

What I find important about Chapter 5 is the detailed description of the specific cases on which these abstract discussions are premised. War causes severe damage: the War of Liberation was no exception. This is also true with regard to what we now call posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A War of Liberation itself may produce psychological trauma, while it cannot overcome it. So I think there is a huge gulf that needs to be filled between Fanon’s clinical cases and his general writings. I think Fanon was aware of this, but unfortunately, he passed away in 1961. Algeria gained independence the next year, in 1962. He never experienced the postwar period.

The major countries that have waged wars in the 20th century have developed their trauma agenda as the construction of a soldier’s personality to be capable of withstanding brutal warfare, mobilizing psychiatry for this purpose.  I do not think that the side representing liberation war has been able to pose an alternative. Fanon leaves the recovery of those who have been psychologically damaged by the war to the liberated society. At the same time, however, he writes suggestively about the problem of violence: ” In the countries of the Maghreb already liberated, however, this was true during the liberation struggles and remains so to an even greater degree during independence.”

There is a lack of consistency between chapter 5 and the well-cited chapter 1, which discusses achieving liberation by means of violence. In particular, there is a certain gulf between Fanon as a psychiatrist discussing individual clinical cases in Chapter 5 and Fanon as a fighter in a liberation war who tries to summarize these cases and place them in the context of the entire colonial liberation movement.

I have learned a lot from the work of Judith Herman, who has identified the issue of PTSD in war as being connected to PTSD in domestic violence. The literature on war and PTSD has convinced me that PTSD should not be viewed as an unavoidable sacrifice for the sake of liberation. This is also an important reason for my choice not to take up arms.

Toshimaru Ogura taught modern capitalism and Marxian economics at the University of Toyama for 30 years and is now retired. At the same time, he has served on the editorial board of independent left-wing magazines such as Kritiku and Impaction. He has also been involved in the Internet activism and anti-surveillance movements, and is currently a board member of JCA-NET and a founder of the Executive Committee of the Citizens’ Rally to Question the G7 Hiroshima Summit. His books include “Zetsubou no yutopia” [Utopia of Despair], “Teikou no shutai to sono shisou” [Subjects of Resistance and Their Ideas], along with other books including those mentioned in this interview. He is currently writing a series of articles, “Imi to sakushu [Meaning and Exploitation],” on the Seikyusha website (all in Japanese).