People Who Transcend Catastrophe: Connecting the Radiation-Measuring Movement to People’s Movements around the World


Interview with Manuel Yang (Interviewer: Yoshihiko Ikegami)
Recorded on September 10, 2011 at Kunitachi

The Radiation-Measuring Movement is a Class Struggle

—Manuel Yang, you’ve been active as a scholar of radical Atlantic and Pacific history and as a fellow traveler of the Midnight Notes Collective, a Marxist theory-activist group that emerged out of the American people’s movement against the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. The pamphlet that Midnight Notes produced on the occasion of the 2008 financial crisis has been translated into Japanese (Promissory Notes).

You’ve been staying in Japan for three and a half months from the beginning of June, participated in anti-nuclear demos, and gone around the country. First of all, what impressions did you have during your stay in this period in Japan?

Yang: Actually, I also stayed in Japan from last November until the end of January this year. I went back to the U.S., the Arab Revolution occurred in the Middle East, and then 3.11 happened in Japan. When I watched the news video of the disaster, I was shocked at first, and I wanted to meet my Japanese friends again and check out the current situation with my own eyes and that’s why I came again to Japan.

It’s impossible to summarize simply the impressions I’ve had of Japan over the last three months, but I was surprised initially at the restored scenes of everyday life because, at the level of images, all the videos of the disaster were so intense that they made your mind numb. When I actually talked to my Japanese acquaintances and friends, I gradually came to understand that everybody lived at a completely different level of crisis consciousness. There were those who lived with an intense sense of crisis and others who returned to everyday life before the disaster. I acutely felt such “faults” of consciousness among people.

I also started to see that something has definitely gone mad even in places that on the surface didn’t look like they were in a destructive condition like Fukushima, including within the social environment and human relationships.

—What you just said about the emerging divided condition, even those of us who are inside can’t really tell if this is due to the huge nuclear accident, a rarity even in human history, or whether it’s a unique feature of Japanese society.

Yang: As an outsider looking at this accident and Japanese society, I can’t help but think about the coincidence of the nuclear accident occurring right after the Arab Revolution. The Arab Revolution took place in Egypt, that is, at a place that was considered the object of so-called “Orientalism”, where Eurocentric imagination labeled as historically stagnant. And in Japan, which is within the Orient, the nuclear plant, the technological pinnacle of that Eurocentric modern economic system, is in the process of collapsing. The subjectivity of popular revolt has come into being unpredictably from such places. This nuclear accident may be a sign of collapse for “consumer society” produced by the “economic animal”, that stereotype of high economic growth which repainted the classical Orientalism of the Japanese traditional stereotype, such as the aesthetics of wabi-sabi.

The nuclear plant itself is an abnormal apparatus – it is an energy source for producing surplus value, that is, nuclear power plant supplies and concentrates the energy for everyday subsistence and means of production and, in this capitalist society, it functions as an apparatus for imposing work on human beings. Cracks have appeared in this apparatus, a sense of crisis is exposed everywhere. The word “expose” can refer to both radiation exposure and revealing/showing through; nuclear exposure has exposed the fundamental labor and its intense exploitation and terror which make possible the system.

—Looking at foreign news and websites, I often come across opinion that says “why don’t the Japanese make greater fuss even after such a huge accident?” I think acts of escape and demonstration are a response of “making a fuss”, but there is something else that doesn’t stand out from the outside and that’s the “measuring movement” that measures radiation and tries to maintain safety for living. One aspect of this movement is an attempt to first protect the children, and there are many people, not just women but also men, who are measuring radiation. The idea is, since no one is telling us what’s going on around us, let’s do it ourselves. I consider this to be a new “people’s movement” but I think it’s a movement that’s really hard to see from the outside. What do you think of such a movement?

Yang: If we were to put the act of “measuring” in the context of Midnight Notes, this has significance as a movement to take back for ourselves the reproduction of labor-power because labor-power is the matrix that creates all commodity-forms in capitalism. Although capitalist quantification, Taylorist measurement was set up as a standard to squeeze out as much labor as possible, people’s “measuring movement” is doing the very opposite, measuring the radiation spewed out by nuclear capital, making visible the exploitation that is “exposure” – it is a class struggle that tries to protect labor-power and its reproduction. Such terms are not used consciously but, because the act of protecting children, protecting health and food, which are the basis of life, are related directly to the reproduction of labor-power, it’s not wrong to recognize this as a kind of labor movement, a class struggle.

Attachment to Living and the Critique of the Nuclear Power Establishment

—Among those who are an active part of the measurement movement, people who call for the continuation of the nuclear plants are probably less than 1/10th of the whole. Thus, this movement certainly has an aspect of class struggle that tries to overcome the “nuclear power establishment” from below. Of course, this was not so much intended as it took such a path inevitably. I think class struggle in such a form has happened for the first time in Japan, but during Chernobyl the Soviet government prohibited the individual use of Geiger counter. This means that “measuring” is something quite terrifying for the state, or rather scientific awakening of individuals are quite threatening for the state.

Yang: This might be somewhat disconnected, but Ingmar Bergman depicted human beings in a Godless world in his 1962 film Winter Light. A Swedish pastor loses his faith and one of his parishioners is scared of the nuclear threat and becomes depressed. This is also the case with The Seventh Seal, which revolves around the medieval figure of “Death”, but what lies in the background of his movies of the 1950-60s, in which people hypersensitive to such catastrophes appear, is the nuclear threat. This is not only limited to Bergman but also applies to Godzilla (here, with nuclear testing as trigger, Godzilla destroys the city as a revenge of the commons from Oodo Island) which was released in 1954. From contemporary perspective, what’s striking about these images from the 1950s-60s, which overlap with the introduction of nuclear plants, is that the nuclear threat is represented as “something unspeakable”, that is, “something sublime”, something that cannot be fought.

During the 1980s Midnight Notes problematized this powerless position. For example, in an apocalyptic situation in which oil energy dries up and there are overpopulation and environmental destruction, what should human beings do? By just posing the question this way leads precisely to the logic of neoliberalism, which tells you to put up with living in austerity and lowering living standards, which is actually what happened. Midnight Notes’ George Caffentzis criticized this apocalyptic conception, which nullifies social struggles, as a viewpoint that was divorced from popular movements and that followed capitalist strategy. The popular movement’s scientific self-study and the measurement movement liberate us from such an apocalyptic curse. Apocalyptic thought has culturally positive aspects, such as making visible the fundamental crisis of the world or preserving the possibility of absolute world revolution as a utopian imagination in a period of defeat, but, at the same time, it also tends to negate social movements and human agency.

—In Japan many novels of Kenzaburo Oe’s are conceived along this line. Abroad, Tarkovsky’s films also show such tendency considerably. In fact, there must’ve been not a few people who felt that the “world has come to an end” when they saw the images of the Fukushima nuclear plant accident, especially the images of the nuclear facility exploding. However, immediately afterwards, the reaction that people showed and that came to the forefront was one of tremendous desire to live, and it was a very unexpected reaction. Radiation is invisible, has no smell or taste. What must we do then? Let’s study radiation. What is sievert? What are alpha and gamma rays? What are the differences between plutonium, cesium, and strontium? Unlike the literary and cinematic imagination, when nuclear accident actually happened, human beings did not become helplessly despondent in the face of catastrophe. Quite the contrary, they became aggressive and a surprising number of people started to spontaneously study about radiation.

Yang: Although Kenzaburo Oe titled one of his novels Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness, it’s possible to say that in a certain sense everybody already knows how to outgrow and survive. At the site of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake people who were previously shy suddenly manifested their leadership and, by summoning something like an incredible power in a state of emergency, a temporary autonomous community was formed. This also connects to Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell – during disasters human beings create from below communities that never existed before. Although various elements are involved here because there’s also violence at the same time, we must register amazement at the fact that relationships of mutual aid happen without any plan. That, in short, such things can happen without the ideology of security. Many people say that security cannot be preserved without the state but that is not true. I also felt this the other day when I participated in the Awa Dance in Tokushima. In a place where there was virtually no police and people were dancing madly, there was no fighting and a spontaneous order was kept. This can also happen in times of disaster.

—Kenzaburo Oe wrote immediately on the occasion of the Fukushima accident: Remember the victims of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bikini, Chernobyl. Although I was impressed by the immediate recollection and connection of these specific names, which I thought was befitting a Nobel laureate in literature, there is also a question of why it’s only “victims”. Another thing that I remember is Hayao Miyazaki’s reaction immediately after the disaster and, although he is enough of an anti-nuclear person to come out to the demos, when bottled water was selling out right after the earthquake, he criticized the act of so-called “stocking up” by saying, “old people shouldn’t drink, it’s shameless.” In short, among writers who depicted, up until now, a sense of the world’s end in a nuclear war, there was a certain inability to capture how the people’s attachment “to live” connected to the critique of the nuclear power establishment.

Yang: Regarding people’s life and the nuclear power establishment, we need to think about the extent to which nuclear plants have functioned for capitalist accumulation and destroyed rural life in Japan. Nuclear plants were built in the name of doing such things as increasing jobs and redeveloping through their construction in an impoverished area, but this smashes existing customs and social relationships in the area. In short, it smashes the commons. So we can view the making of nuclear plants as an enclosure, a form of primary accumulation. And to say “no” to that is to reject primary accumulation that brings about death, in short it’s an expression of will that says, “I don’t want to die, I want to live!” What mothers with children are trying to do is not to stop nuclear plants in order to introduce new alternative energy or change a model of development but can be interpreted more directly. They are opposed to the basic capitalist thesis of “I become bigger and expand my power by robbing your land, labor-power, and time, by murdering you this way”. In a world after 3.11, which exposed the inner aspects of our everyday life that had been sacrificed continuously for capitalist accumulation, the object of sacrifice of course should not be old people but rather corporations whose distinguishing character is its antidemocratic structure, the state-industrial complex that made nuclear plants possible. Democratizing these forms of power is impossible so there is no other method but for people to remove them with their own power. Whether this is stated consciously or not, we need to decipher such attitudes that are there subconsciously.

—Demos are actions that are relatively easy to see because they put up slogans but, in the case of the measurement movement, because it started from an impulse to let’s just measure and get to know what’s going on around us, the participants aren’t conscious of doing anything special. But they are challenging something. And you call this a challenge to capitalism.

Yang: As it says at the beginning of Volume One of Marx’s Capital, capitalism is supported by labor-power, and nuclear plants exist at a foundational site where labor-power is produced. Of course, even if the measurement movement has subconscious anti-capitalist elements, they have not yet manifested this tangibly. But a little of this is starting to be seen. I don’t know whether what the popular movement has made visible will be fought as an act of abolishing state/capital, but, rather than making use of such impulses for the next capitalist development in the form of alternative energy, it’s important to extract and cultivate the seeds of a new society.


Thinking About the Worldwide Legacy of the Anti-Nuclear Movement

—Several things became visible from the process so far. One is the question of how to grasp the legacy of the antinuclear movement that antecedes 3.11, the movement opposed to hydrogen-bomb-testing that begins with Hiroshima/Nagasaki and the antinuclear-power movement that emerges around the 1970s. In short, this is the question of how to assess the “global” continuity of the movement.

The reason I raise this question is because Midnight Notes produced an ambivalent text by the title of “Strange Victory” in 1979. Midnight Notes said this was a “strange” victory because the nuclear plants didn’t stop being ordered as a result of the antinuclear-power movement but they were terminated due to the rising cost of nuclear plants. That is to say, nuclear plants didn’t stop as a result of popular movement. How should we think about this?

It’s possible to think about it this way. That the reason for the increased cost of nuclear plants was because the worldwide movement against hydrogen-bomb testing from the 1950s and the global resistance of nuclear workers and residents around nuclear facilities against health hazards had a cumulative effect that raised the cost of nuclear plants.

Yang: When “Strange Victory” was published in 1979, there was also the particular epochal nature of the 1970s. It was a period when the crisis of global capitalism was detected and, as a method of expressing this, the question arose as to how to assess the antinuclear movement.

The thesis of “Strange Victory” is that the student and antiwar movement in the city shifted to a movement in the country, the rural area, the environmental and antinuclear movements that effectuated the decline of U.S. nuclear plants, but the reason why this was a “strange victory” was because the antinuclear movement didn’t have much of a relationship with other working-class layers and, unless it was strengthened, this temporary, Pyrrhic victory would be recuperated immediately by capital and transformed into a defeat. The participants in the antinuclear movement at the time were mostly white youths who moved their place of activity to the rural area and didn’t take into consideration the problem of energy and gas prices for blacks, slum dwellers, and truck drivers who had to work in the city. To put it simply, the struggles and riots against the inflation of oil price that oppressed the life of urban workers were not connected to the antinuclear movement, which also revolved around energy resource, and, as long as there was no such connection, this would produce a class division.

This division was related to the desolation of U.S. cities through gentrification. In “Strange Victory” there’s a powerful awareness of the problem concerning how to analyze and expand the class struggle that was the origin of neoliberal economic policies. Urban struggle, prisoners’ struggle, indigenous struggle – how to connect them and fight against capital?

—There is also a spatial as well as a chronological problem. Opposition to hydrogen-bomb testing and oppositional movement led by residents around nuclear facilities existed not only within the United States but also in Europe and Japan. Due to such global resistance the ICRP’s (International Commission on Radiological Protection) average rate of acceptable radiation exposure has been lowered and the cost of nuclear plants had been raised inevitably. We also didn’t know such facts until recently and of course I don’t think Midnight Notes is invalid because it lacks such analytical perspective. But, as such facts come to light, can’t we say that an opportunity has arrived to connect a global movement through chronological and spatial expansion?

Yang: During the first half of the 1970s in the U.S. there were the dollar shock and the oil shock, which produced urban decay and riots. Such a situation gave a vivid sense of the terminal stage of capitalism and Midnight Notes’ awareness of the problem was not framed in terms of the New Social Movement – that is, as an individuated movement such as the environmental movement and the woman’s movement – but advanced their analysis, its axis being the struggles directly connected to capitalist global crisis. After the oil shock Japan entered into high economic growth but this was a period when the U.S. was rushing in the opposite direction. At the same time – this is what Takeshi Haraguchi told me – there were also riots in Kamagasaki in the first half of the 1970s and these riots were qualitatively different from those that occurred in the 1960s, also in Kamagasaki. Many people emerged in the riots of the 1970s, such as Terashima Tamao and others, who tried to create a new culture. So, even in many places we can’t even see, Japan and the United States are connected in a sense at the level of the class struggle, and I have now started working with Haraguchi and other fellow scholars, mostly in Osaka, to collectively study the question of how to understand this and related issues in terms of global capitalist structure.

—That is to say, how do we understand global capitalist structure and the worldwide labor movement and people’s movements, right? This time you also went to Okinawa and Korea – what did you feel when you went to those places?

Yang: This was the first time I went to Korea and members of the scholar commune Suyu-Nomo, such as Hajime Imamasa and Yi Jingyong, guided me. The most memorable was the demo in support of a Pusan waterfront worker, which I participated on the day before my departure. Kim Jinsook, a waterfront worker, had confined herself in protest, and many people from all over the country gathered together to undertake an overnight demo in a huge number that was rare by recent Korean standards. Despite the heavy rain, an amazing number of people, old and young, men and women, marched through the streets. The Fourth International and Trotskyists, who are famous for their internal splits, are most unified in Korea and were out on the streets. There is a lot of discrimination against the handicapped in Korea and people in wheelchairs were militantly on the frontline of the demo. Suyu-Nomo had established a study group with such handicapped people, reading Deleuze, Foucualt, and Marx. I really felt a powerful heat emanating from their culture of demonstration, a culture that was different, in both intellectual and practical sense, from that of Japan or the United States.

And I also felt something similar in Okinawa. Chiyo Wakabayashi and Kozue Uehara gave me a guide of Henoko, Takae, and Ie Island, and what I felt there was not only the heat of the movement but the firm transmission of the movement’s memory. On Ie Island an old woman who is still active in the movement spoke passionately about the “crisis of war”; in Takae, Kosuzu Abe explained to us the situation of the U.S. military helipad; and in Naha, at Space Yui, which is sponsored by Suzuyo Kori, I understood intimately how U.S. military strategic training and the violence of American soldiers are even now threatening and putting the daily life of residents in danger. I also found it memorable that, with the U.S. military bases right in front of them and through solidarity with anti-U.S.-base movement in places like Puerto Rico and Diego Garcia, Okinawa formed a different crisis consciousness from that of “mainland” Japan.

Because the Pusan demo took place right after the Aug. 6 anti-nuclear demo in Japan, one thing I wondered about was whether it would be possible to link up the movements in Korea, Okinawa, and Japan. Whether it would be possible to create a culture of insurrection, at first even just in East Asia, by connecting from below movements against the neoliberal system that is dependent on the U.S. military.


East Asia and America, and People’s History

—I think the movement in Okinawa can be looked at from various angels but one thing that is apparent is that the problem of survival and life themselves lies at its basis. So the struggles in Okinawa may be flamboyant at certain times but most of them are quite down-to-earth. They are a community-based movement and, in such movements, an important issue is how to not get burned out. It’s not finished after a temporary surge and there’s a strong dimension of a movement in which you participate with your family across generations so that you don’t get burned out. This nuclear accident and the accompanying radioactive contamination are also about the crisis of survival and life so it’s interesting that such developments as the measurement movement, despite its down-to-earth nature, are starting to emerge. This is something I’m witnessing for the first time. Korea was originally a Third World country and has now developed a lot but the shape of their movement is still taking place near the realm of subsistence.

Yang: Speaking somewhat reductively, the power of the United States (capital) exists at the basis of what is generating the movements in East Asia. The bases in Okinawa as well as the Japanese nuclear plants were established during the Cold War as an extension of U.S. capital, in order to get hold of its borders, and one reason the U.S. bases are set up all over the world is to protect oil, that is, the source of energy supply. Oil capital and the military overlap here. In Korea, just as in Okinawa, the U.S. military poses a constant threat. Moreover, the U.S. soldiers go into the military because they have no money to go to college and they are dispatched to Korea and Okinawa. They know nothing about the history of these places and many of them happen to be Hispanics or blacks from layers of the poor, that is, they are workers and soldiers of the American empire. The composition of divisions within the working class thus appears grotesquely in the vicinity of U.S. military bases that are dispersed in Okinawa and throughout the world.

If we trace it back to its origin, the problem of radiation in Japan today lies with the United States, which dropped nuclear bombs on Japan and supplied it with nuclear power technology, and that’s also the origin of the Cold War. So to think today about connecting the Korean labor movement, Okinawan anti-base movement, and Japanese radiation measurement movement means to reconsider and subvert the negative legacy of the Cold War that still maintains a distorted reality – perhaps we can connect them from such a perspective.

—That is an interesting argument, for even regarding the current problem of nuclear plants, it’s rare for people to directly mention the proper name “America” even as they dimly feel the connection. They have reached the point of doubting the deception of “Atom for Peace” but they haven’t reached the point of connecting the movements around the world through the name of America, starting with those in Okinawa and Korea, and the current antinuclear movement in Japan. As you noted, the point about U.S. soldiers in Okinawa being also from the American lower class is very important.

So here I want to shift to talking about America; in Japan there’s an aspect we seem to understand but don’t understand and that is the basis on which the American Left speaks out, the reality they are registering. Can you talk a little about this point?

Yang: There are diverse types of people on the U.S. Left. For example, in the 1980s there were movements in which Christians tried to stop the massacres taking place in Latin America, movements that continue to this day. But, as for whether they emphasize labor issues, that’s not necessarily the case. If there’s a common recognition within the U.S. Left or liberals, it’s the issues of race and gender, a tendency that is especially strong after the 1970s and 80s.

The Midwestern city, where the auto industry had gone into decline and where I have lived for the past twelve years, has many Catholics and is a union town with strong connection to the Democratic Party. The labor unions are not so much leftwing as they are nationalist, posting signs at the gate that say, don’t bring in Japanese cars into our plant or else you won’t know what might happen to them. So, if you tried to undertake an anti-imperialist or anti-government movement inside the plant, you’ll bullied in all kinds of ways. Typically, people who are progressive or leftwing are comparatively affluent middle-class people in Berkeley or on the East Coast, and they express antiwar and antiracist views, where the ideology repressing labor and class issues often operate. U.S. blue-collar workers also have a consciousness of themselves as middle class and, after the 1950s, the majority of them have defined themselves as such. This year’s movement in Wisconsin and the American Midwest to protect the right to unionize was a symptom that finally emerged to indicate perhaps that this notion has started to crack. But the United States has everything from the Tea Party to Christian fundamentalists so there are diverse antagonisms there. It’s a very complicated situation because Christian fundamentalism has spread among the U.S. poor and working class, from blacks to Hispanics.

—C.L.R. James is famous as a postcolonial thinker in Japan but in the United States he’s often viewed as a founder of community-based DIY, that is, a thinker of autonomous self-organization movement. The Japanese look at the U.S. with a relativist perspective but many people don’t think about solidarity with movements in the U.S. Through the Vietnam War or reading Howard Zinn’s books, they tend to one-dimensionally look at American imperialism as an enemy (or an ally).

Yang: There are movements whose existence surprises you even if you live in the States. Five, six years ago after the eclipse of the anti-globalization movement, local anarchists organized workshops at the Bowling Green State University and asked me to talk about Marxism and anarchism. The young people of the Midwest I met there were from the area, the “post-Seattle generation”, and were involved in diverse kinds of activities in their respective community, from organic gardening to the anti-freeway-development movement to taking care of the homeless. I had no idea such movements existed and was really impressed. As Chomsky said, the opposition movement against the massacres in Latin America due to U.S. government intervention emerged in various places in the 1980s but each of the movement groups often did not know that the other existed. Even in the United States they don’t know each other’s existence and haven’t been able to have an exchange. As to how to break through that, for now I can’t think of anything except through a series of personal encounters.

—To the extent that you’re close to everyday life, it might be easier to have nothing to do with what’s outside. That’s not a bad thing in a singular sense. But, if that’s all you have, you’ll definitely get stuck eventually. Leaving aside whether it’s actually possible, there comes a time when you have to look outside with a will to solidarity.

Yang: Even people who were involved in the U.S. antinuclear movement before 3.11 probably didn’t know that Japan had nuclear plants. You can see domestic nuclear plants but it’s hard to extend your vision abroad. But, after such a thing has happened in Japan, I think the U.S. antinuclear movement will try to connect and form solidarity with the Japanese movement.

—In the Middle Eastern Revolution that took place this year I think you can cite its spectacular nature as one of its characteristics. There was a debate between Slavoj Zizek and Hamid Dabashi about the Middle Eastern Revolution but, putting aside who was right, I think the gist of what Dabashi was arguing was, look at the inconspicuous activities in the Middle East. That there’s about a hundred year’s history of people’s movements that led to the Arab Revolution. That the spectacular may be over but it’ll most likely continue. A flamboyant revolution doesn’t occur suddenly and, once it happens, it’s not finished immediately in a few months. Because most people only look at the spectacle, what’s important is how to make visible the apparently inconspicuous movements and incorporate them into one’s own thought-process.  

Yang: I think that’s actually something you can even do by yourself. For example, it must be possible for you to be able to go to Egypt now, listen to people’s stories, and, in the form of oral history, reportage, or ethnography, make a record of them.

Howard Zinn’s close friend Staughton Lynd lives near Toledo, where I’ve lived until recently. He has been active for many years as a labor and prisoners’ lawyer. As an anti-Vietnam-War activist, he was run out of academia and moved to Youngstown, a Midwestern industrial area that even Springsteen had made into a song. While involved in the labor movement and aiding prisoners, he and his wife Alice have transcribed superbly the voices of Palestinians, labor activists, those who shouldered the history of nonviolence in the U.S., and have inconspicuously piled up this work over the years. Collecting such materials is possible without that much money as long as you have endurance, a notebook, and a few acquaintances. Such a form of documentation is one method of “history from below”. No matter how much time passes there’s a possibility that such a history will be excavated again.

C.L.R. James and E.P. Thompson taught us that “history from below” can be created at any time. During the 1930s, a period when fascism was on the rise, James described the history of Haiti from below. The opportunity came in the way of the anti-imperialist movement against England and Europe in which he was involved. He went to Paris to collect various sources and extracted the narrative of how Africans in the 1790s brought about the first successful slave revolution in world history. 

As he worked in labor education in rural England, on basis of local sources and even using literature as a source, Thompson published The Making of the English Working Class in 1963. In terms of time-span, two hundred years had already passed but, despite that, he dug that up, recomposed it, and put it into shape.

Howard Zinn was also influenced by Thompson and wrote a people’s history of the United States. So, no matter how many defeats had been accumulated, nothing ever disappears, whether it’s the labor movement, the Haitian Revolution, or the origin of the English working class. It’s important to remember that the gene of memory remains in our lives and that it’s possible to excavate it. The Arab Revolution is, like the Japanese movement, expanding as a work-in-progress, and I believe sincerely that, out of this global motion whose direction is unpredictable, we must work together in making and writing history.

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ヤン 実は昨年の一一月から今年の一月末の間にも日本に滞在して、そこで生まれた交流が今回の来日に繋がりました。アメリカに帰国し、中東でアラブ革命が起こり、日本では三・一一が起こった。災害をニュース映像で見て、当初大きなショックを受け、また日本の友人と再会し、現状をこの目で確かめたいという気持ちで、再来日したわけです。




ヤン  部外者として今回の事故と日本社会を見ると、この原発事故が丁度アラブ革命の後に起きたことの偶然性をどうしても考えてしまいます。アラブ革命はエジプト、つまり西欧中心主義的想像力が歴史的に停滞していると決めつけた所謂「オリエンタリズム」の対象とされた場所から起こりました。そしてオリエントの内にある日本では、その西欧中心主義的近代経済システムの技術的頂点である原発が崩壊しつつある。そういう場所から予想外に民衆蜂起の主体性が立ち現れてきた。この原発事故は、日本の伝統的ステレオタイプである「わび・さび」のような古典的オリエンタリズムを塗り替えた高度経済成長的ステレオタイプであるエコノミックアニマルが作った「消費社会」の崩壊の兆しかもしれません。



ヤン 「計測する」ということを、アメリカで関わってきたミッドナイト・ノーツの文脈に引きつければ、労働力は資本主義社会においては商品形態のすべてを創出するマトリクスのようなものとしてあるので、それは自分たちのもとに労働力の再生産を奪い返す運動という意義がある。資本の計量主義、テイラー主義的計測は労働をできるだけ搾り取る目安として設定されたが、民衆の「計測運動」は全くその反対をやっている、それは核資本のまき散らす放射能を測り、「被曝」という搾取を可視化し、労働力とその再生を守ろうとする階級闘争です。意識的にこういった言葉は使われていないが、子供を守り、生活の基盤である健康や食べ物を守るという行為は、すべて労働力の再生産に直接繋がるので、この運動を一種の労働運動、階級闘争として認識しても間違いないでしょう。




ヤン 少し話がズレるかもしれませんが、イングマール・ベルイマンの一九六二年の映画『冬の光』は神不在の世界にいる人間を描いています。スウェーデンの一牧師が信仰喪失になり、彼の教会に通う一人の男性も核の脅威に怯えて鬱状態になる。ベルイマンがそれ以前に作った『第七の封印』という中世期の「死神」をモチーフにした映画もそうですが、こうしたカタストロフィを過敏に感じ取る人物が彼の映画に出てくるのは五〇~六〇年代における核の脅威が背景にある。そしてそれはベルイマンに限らず、例えば一九五四年に上映された『ゴジラ』(そこでは核実験を引き金に大戸島のコモンズの逆襲としてゴジラが都会を破壊する)もそう。現在の視点から原発導入の時期と重なる五〇年代や六〇年代に撮られたイメージを振り返って顕著なのは、核の脅威が「語ることのできないもの」、つまり「崇高なもの」、闘うことのできないものとして表象されていることです。


——日本では大江健三郎にそういう小説が多いですね。海外で言えばほかにタルコフスキーの映画なんかにもその傾向が強い。実際、福島の原発事故、特にあの核施設が爆発した映像を見たときは「この世が終わった」と感じた人も少なくなかったでしょう。ところが、その直後から人々がどういう反応をしたかというと、みんなものすごく生きる意欲を見せ、それが前面に出てくるという予想外の反応が起きた。放射能は目に見えないし、匂わないし、味もしない。では、どうするか? 放射能についての勉強しよう、と。シーベルトとは? アルファ線・ベータ線・ガンマ線とは? プルトニウムとセシウムとストロンチウムの違いとは?……。文学や映画の想像力とは違い、いざ核事故が起こってみると人間はカタストロフィに意気消沈しなかった。逆にアグレッシブになって、驚くほど多くの人間が自発的に放射能について学びました。

ヤン 『われらの狂気を生き延びる道を教えよ』という大江健三郎の小説がありますが、ある意味では誰もが生き延びる道を既に知っているのだと言えなくもない。一九九五年の阪神・淡路大震災の現場では、それまで引っ込み思案だった人間に突然指導力が現れたり、火事場の馬鹿力のようなものを発揮して自律的な共同体が一時的にできたりもしたそうです。これはレベッカ・ソルニットの『災害ユートピア』にも通じる――災害時に人間はこれまでなかったようなコミュニティを下から創り出す力の現れです。同時に暴力も生じるので、そこにはいろんな要素がありますが、相互扶助的な関係が計画なしで起こることのすごさは感受しなければならない。つまり治安のイデオロギーなしでこういうことが起こるのだと。多くの人は国家がないと治安が保てないと言いますが、そんなことはない。このことは先日徳島の阿波踊りに参加したときにも感じた。警察がほとんどいない所で、みんなが踊り狂っているのに、喧嘩は起こらなかったし、自発的秩序が保たれていた。こういうことが災害時にも起こりうるわけです。


ヤン 民衆の生と原子力体制について言えば、原発がこれまでの日本社会において、どれだけ資本蓄積の役割を果たし、そして地方の生活を潰してきたのかも考えなければなりません。貧困地域に原発を設置することで仕事を増やすとか、再開発するとか、そのような名目のもとで原発は建てられてきましたが、それはそこに現存していたしきたりや社会関係などを潰していく。つまり、コモンズを潰す。だから原発を造ることはエンクロジャー、本源的蓄積の一形態として見てよい。そして、それを「いらない」と言うのは、死をもたらす本源的蓄積を拒否する、ようするに「死にたくない、生きたい」の意思表示です。子供を持つお母さんたちがやっているのは、原発を止めて代替エネルギーを導入しようとか開発モデルを変えようとか、そういうことではなく、もっと率直に解釈していい。彼女たちは資本主義の基本的なテーゼ、「お前の土地、労働力、時間を奪い、このようにお前を殺すことによっておれは大きくなり、もっと勢力を伸ばすのだ」という資本のテーゼに反対している。資本蓄積の生け贄にされ続けたわたしたちの日毎の生活の内面を暴いた三・一一以後の世界でサクリファイスの対象にされるべきなのは老人ではもちろんなく、むしろ反民主的な構造を特質とする株式会社、原発を可能にした国家産業複合体です。これらの権力形態を民主化するのは不可能なので、民衆がそれを自力で取り除く以外に方法はない。それが意識的に言われていようがそうでなかろうが、このような姿勢がそのなかに潜在的にあるのを読み解く必要があります。


ヤン マルクスの『資本論』の第一巻の冒頭にあるように、資本主義を支えているのは労働力、その労働力を生む根幹的な位置に原発は存在しています。もちろん、計測運動は潜在的には反資本主義的な要素があるとしても、顕在的にはまだそこまで行ってない。しかしそれは少し見えてきました。大衆運動によって可視化されたものが国家・資本廃絶の行動として闘われるかどうかは分からないが、その衝動を代替エネルギーのような次の資本の発展に役立てるのではなく、新しい社会の種子として紡ぎ出し育んでいくのが大切です。






ヤン 「奇妙な勝利」が七九年に発表されたときには七〇年代特有の時代性もありました。当時は世界中で資本主義の危機が察知された時代で、それを表現する一つの方法として、反原発・反核運動をどう評価するべきか、という問題があった。



ヤン 七〇年代のアメリカでは、前半期にドルショックや石油ショックなどがあり、都市の荒廃や暴動などが生じていました。こうした状況は資本主義の末期状態を強く感じさせ、ミッドナイト・ノーツの問題意識は、新社会運動的な枠組みではなく――つまり、環境運動や女性運動のような個別的な運動ではなく――資本の世界的な危機と直結する闘争を軸に分析を進めました。日本は石油ショックのあとに高度経済成長に入りますが、アメリカでは反対の方向に走っている時期。とはいえ――これは原口剛さんに聞いた話ですが――日本でも七〇年代の前半に釜ケ崎で暴動が起こっており、その暴動は六〇年代の同じ釜ケ崎での暴動と質的に違うものだった。七〇年代の暴動は新しい文化を創り出そうとする人、寺島珠雄などをはじめとした人がたくさん出てくる。だからある意味、いろいろと見えないところで日本もアメリカも階級闘争の次元で繋がっていて、それを世界的な資本の構造から見るとどうなるのか、このような事柄を一緒に考えていくために、原口さんを始め、主に大阪の研究仲間の方たちと共同研究を立ち上げました。


ヤン 韓国に行ったのは初めてで、現地の研究共同体「スユノモ」のイママサ・ハジメさんやイ・ジンギョンさんらに案内してもらいました。一番印象的だったのは、滞在最終日の前日に釜山での港湾労働者を支援するデモ。港湾労働者キム・ジンソクさんが籠城し、彼女を支援するために韓国でも最近では珍しいほどの人数が国中から集まって徹夜デモをした。大雨にもかかわらず、道端では老若男女問わずものすごい人数の行進。分裂が激しいので有名な第四インターやトロツキストも、韓国ではもっとも統一的な組織として路上にいた。韓国では身体障害者への差別が激しいですが、車椅子に乗った人が戦闘的にデモの前衛を張っていた。こういった身体障害者と共に学習をするグループをスユノモの人たちは作り、ドゥルーズ、フーコー、マルクスを一緒に読んでいる。知的な意味でも行動的な意味でも日本やアメリカとは違った文化、デモの文化の熱さを肌で感じました。






ヤン やや短絡的な言い方をすると、東アジアにおける運動を引き起こしているものの基底には、ことごとく米国(資本)というパワーが存在します。沖縄の基地も日本の原発もアメリカの資本の延長線、そして境界線を確保するために冷戦時代に作られたものだし、また米軍基地が世界各地に設置されている一因は、石油、つまりエネルギー供給源を守るため。石油資本と軍隊がここで重なります。韓国においても沖縄と同じように米軍の脅威がずっとある。さらに言えば、米兵たちも、大学に行くお金がないために軍隊に入り、韓国や沖縄に派遣された人たちです。彼らはその土地の歴史もなにも知らない、また彼ら自身がメキシコ系だったり黒人だったりの貧困層だったりして、つまりアメリカ帝国の労働者であり兵士なわけです。労働階級分断の構図がこうやって沖縄や世界中に散布している米軍基地周辺で露骨に現れている。




ヤン アメリカ左派にも多種多様なタイプの人がいます。例えばキリスト教関係者がラテンアメリカで起こっていた虐殺などを止めようとする運動が八〇年代にあったし、今もそうした運動は続いている。しかし、彼らが労働問題を重要視しているかというとそうでもない。アメリカの左派やリベラルの共通認識みたいなものがあるとしたら、それは人種やジェンダーの問題、特に七〇年代から八〇年代以降そういう傾向が強いですね。



ヤン アメリカ国内に住んでいてもこんな運動があったのかとびっくりすることもあります。五、六年前に反グローバリゼーション運動のうねりが高まったあと、ボーリング・グリーン州立大学で、地域のアナキストたちがワークショップを企画し、私にマルキシズムとアナキズムについて話してくれ、という依頼があった。そこで出会った中西部の若者は地元出身で「シアトル以後」の世代、それぞれが自分たちのコミュニティで様々な活動――有機栽培、高速道路開発の反対運動、ホームレスの世話――をしたりしていた。こんな運動があったとはつゆ知らず、本当に感心しました。チョムスキーも言っているように、米国政府の介入によるラテンアメリカでの虐殺に対する反対運動が八〇年代に多くの地域で起こっていましたが、それぞれの運動体がお互い同士を知らないことがよくあった。アメリカの中でさえ存在をお互い知らず、交流もできていない。それをどういうふうに打破するのかといえば、個人との出会いの連鎖を通す以外に今のところ思いつかないですね。


ヤン 3.11前にアメリカの反原発運動に関わっていた人たちでさえ、おそらく日本に原発があったことすら知らない人が多くいたのではないでしょうか。国内の原発は見えてもなかなか海外にまで視野が広がらない。しかし今回、日本でこういうことが起きた以上、おそらくアメリカの反原発運動も日本の運動と繋がろう、連帯しようとするでしょう。


ヤン 実はそれは一人でもできることだと思います。たとえば今エジプトに赴いて人々に話を聞き、オーラル・ヒストリーやルポや民族誌の形をとって、何か記録を取ってみたりすることができるはずです。

私が最近まで住んでいたトレドの近くにハワード・ジンの盟友ストットン・リンド(Staughton Lynd)がいます。彼は長年、労働者や囚人の弁護士として活躍してきた。ベトナム反戦運動の活動家だった彼は、学術的な場所から追いやられ、中西部の工場地帯であり、スプリングスティーンも歌にしているヤングスタウンに引っ越します。妻のアリスと一緒に労働運動に関わり、囚人を支援しながら、非常に卓越な聴き取りをパレスチナ人や、労働運動家、アメリカの非暴力運動の歴史を担う人物に行い、地味に仕事を長年にも渡って積み上げている。そういった素材を集めたりするのは、資金があまりなくても、根気とノートと何人かの知人がいればできることです。こういう形で記録を取るのは「下からの歴史」の一つの方法。このような歴史はどれだけ時間が流れても、またどこかで発掘される可能性があります。




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4 thoughts on “People Who Transcend Catastrophe: Connecting the Radiation-Measuring Movement to People’s Movements around the World”

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