Gavin Walker is associate professor of history at McGill University. He is the author of The Sublime Perversion of Capital (Duke, 2016), editor of The End of Area (Duke, 2019, with Naoki Sakai), Marx, Asia, and the History of the Present (a special issue of positions: politics), and editor and translator of Kojin Karatani’s Marx: Towards the Centre of Possibility (Verso, 2020). His new edited collection, The Red Years: Theory, Politics, and Aesthetics in the Japanese ’68 is now out from Verso.
From the ’60s New Left to the persistence of a mass-membership Communist Party today, Marxism has had a huge impact on Japanese politics and culture. Japanese Marxism is a highly creative tradition that deserves to be better known and understood outside Japan.
Historians often neglect Japan’s New Left protest movement in the late 1960s, but it was one of the largest in any country. Radical student activists brought the university system to a halt — and changed the future of Japanese politics.
The writer Yukio Mishima, who took his own life fifty years ago today, remains one of modern Japan’s most important cultural figures. Mishima’s eccentric and contradictory political stances have also gained him a devoted following on the international far right.
The growing youth movement against Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is disrupting Japan’s conservative status quo.