Bread & Roses: Workers of the World! Unite and Stay Home!

SNA (Tokyo) — May Day came into this world on May 1, 1886, with a general strike to win “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what you will.” Three days later, workers gathered in Haymarket Square, Chicago, and clashed with cops sent in to shut them down. At least four civilians and seven officers died. Four workers were later sentenced to death for conspiracy to riot, despite not a shred of evidence. May Day spread beyond the borders of the United States to Europe and elsewhere. Today, we see the eight-hour workday as a social norm, albeit observed more in the breech. But workers shed blood and tears to bequeath this right to us. We should devote one day a year to recognizing those heroes’ achievement and sacrifice.

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Bread & Roses: Worker Rights in the Age of Coronavirus

SNA (Tokyo) — Last Friday, the Covid-19 global pandemic passed the horrifying milestone of one million infections and 50,000 fatalities worldwide. There have, as of this writing, been 4,592 confirmed cases and 106 deaths in Japan. Graphs of new cases and deaths trace the left half of steep parabolas as the world’s nations fail to flatten the curve. The global catastrophe and its grim toll traps workers between the closing jaws of infection risk and dire economic straits. As US commentator Krystal Ball noted, “the working class has been shoved into the front lines of this crisis.”

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Bread & Roses: Warm Meals to Tackle Poverty in Japan

SNA (Tokyo) — When did poverty become normal? Conventional wisdom had it that poverty didn’t exist in Japan; that the miracle recovery during the country’s rapid growth period had given birth to a middle class of 100 million people.

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中曽根氏、宿敵の「労働組合」との仁義なき戦い

中曽根康弘元首相が2019年11月29日、101歳で亡くなった。1971年生まれの筆者にとって、中曽根氏は良くも悪くも鮮明に記憶に残る総理大臣の一人である。日本の戦後の総理大臣は概して「調整役」的存在に徹し、カリスマ性が求められてこなかったなか、中曽根氏はもしかしたら、初めてカリスマを志向した総理大臣だったかもしれない。“ロン・ヤス関係”と呼ばれた、アメリカのレーガン元大統領との“日米蜜月関係”の構築は、日本の「対米従属化」をいっそう加速させたといえるかもしれない。だが、当時中学生~高校生の子どもだった筆者の目には、初めて日本の首相が、アメリカと“対等に”そして“フレンドリーに”交渉する姿を見た気がした。それは単純に、彼の身長が178センチとこれまでの総理大臣の中では群を抜いて高く、アメリカ大統領と並んだときに引けをとらなかったという視覚的な印象もあるだろう。

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Bread and Roses: How Nakasone Crushed Japan’s Labor Movement

SNA (Tokyo) — Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone died this past November 29. During his tenure as prime minister from 1982 to 1987, he had deepened Japan’s subordination to the US hegemon through his Ron-Yasu Bromance with President Ronald Reagan. But to one middle and high schooler in the 1980s, he seemed to be the first prime minister to hold his own in friendly talks with the United States, almost as an equal.

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