Sakisaka, Itsuro

Sakisaka, Itsuro
   Born in Fukuoka prefecture, Japan, the son of a company employee, Itsuro Sakisaka attended the Economics Department of Tokyo Imperial University graduating in 1921, but staying on as a teaching assistant. In order to study German he read the works of Karl Marx. In 1922 he went to study in Germany and was able to amass a substantial collection of books on Marxism. After his return to Japan, he was hired as an assistant professor at Kyushu Imperial University rising to full professor in 1926. He contributed to the journal Labor-Farmer, but because of increasing police repression of the far left and pressure from inside his own university, Sakisaka was forced to resign his professorship in 1928. He then moved to Tokyo where he began a translation of the collected works of Marx and Friedrich Engels. In 1937 he was arrested as part of the First Peoples Front incident and briefly imprisoned, and even after his release his speaking and writing activity was prohibited so he lived as a farmer until the end of the Pacific War in 1945. After the war, he was restored to his post in Kyushu University.
   In 1951 he joined with Hiroshi Yamakawa in the formation of the Shakaishugi Kyokai, which became the theoretical center of the left wing of the Japanese Socialist Party. With Kaoru Oita and Akira Iwai he criticized the reunification of the Socialist Party in 1955 after it had split into two separate parties in 1952. Upon Yamakawa’s death in 1958, he became the key figure in the Kyokai. In addition to his university teaching and speaking activities, he gave lectures for socialist and labor activists in his home and held study groups to educate workers at locations throughout Japan. The intensity of and intellectual forment created by the infamous Miike Miner’s Strike of 1960 in Fukuoka where he worked, lived, and was most active can be largely attributed to the educational activities of Sakisaka. When the Japanese Socialist Party tried to transform itself into a more competitive political party in the early 1960s, however, Sakisaka attacked the reformers as “revisionists.” Kyokai activists joined with the faction of Kozo Sasaki to defeat the movement toward change, and at the same time, increased Sakisaka’s influence in the party. In 1967, the Shakaishugi Kyokai split into the Oita faction and Sakisaka faction but most delegates to the JSP party conferences remained Sakisaka supporters so his influence was undiminished.
   The JSP, however, began a period of slow electoral decline in the late 1960s. By the 1970s, younger party activists were dissatisfied with the grip of the old left-wing leadership of the party, and Oita joined with reformer Saburo Eda to oppose Sakisaka’s influence in the party. When Eda was verbally abused by Kyokai members at the 1977 JSP party conference, it became one of the causes of Eda’s split to form his own party the following year. As other intellectuals became more interested in European-style social democracy, Sakisaka continued to be firmly to the left to the extent that he was elected a member of the Soviet Institute for MarxismLeninism. After his death in 1985, his papers and extensive collection of books in Japanese and German were donated to the Ohara Institute at Hosei University in Tokyo.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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