Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No. 10. May 22, 1974

Labour youth soft on Japanese capital

page 6

Labour youth soft on Japanese capital

One particularly interesting example of apologism for the capitalist order which I happened upon recently was a seminar discussion run by a group called the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY).

This IUSY is an international organisation of the youth groups of various social-democratic and socialist parties around the world, and is represented in New Zealand by the youth groups of the Labour Party. The topic for the particular discussion to which I refer was "Japanese Economic Expansion in the Pacific".

The first speaker was a Mr Loo Choon Yong of Singapore, who started off with a reasonably fair description of the pattern of economic relations between Japan and the countries of South East Asia and the Pacific. He told his audience of the importation by Japan of raw materials, while Japan exports were mainly of manufactured capital goods — a typical pattern of trading relationships between colonies and their metropolis, although this Social-Democrat, of course, would not think of describing the relationship in this way. Loo Choon Yong proceeded to regurgitate volumes of figures on the precise nature of Japanese investment in the area, how it was increasing and so on. 35% of all Japanese foreign investment is directed to S E Asia; originally it was in the mining industries (to provide raw materials the Japanese needed for their industry) but now, as a result of tariff barriers, there is increased diversification into manufacturing.

We were also told about the foreign aid that the Japanese provide. In 1972, 62% of Japanese official development aid went to S E Asia, but this was hardly a gift to the countries concerned. In fact, the use of the word "aid" is very misleading, because what in fact this aid consists of is export supply credit—the recipient governments are obliged to pay the money back to the Japanese, and the money lent must be spent on Japanese goods. This hardly allows for the countries of S E Asia to assert their independence from the Japanese neo-colonist economic dominance. And what is more, the aid is directed to specific purposes in the complementary economies — building railways to make the supplies of mineral ores for the Japanese cheaper, or constructing oil pipelines so that the Japanese can get their oil at less cost. The aid is directed in such a way as to assist the Japanese to better exploit the people and natural resources of these S E Asian countries. But Loo Choon Yong did not ask for an end to Japanese exploitation of S E Asia, but only that it be done in a slightly less crude manner: he wanted more united aid, and more technological assistance.

In continuation of his theme that the Japanese should be rather less crude in their approach to S E Asia, Mr Loo went on to outline a programme for reforming the behaviour of the Japanese businessman. Criticism had been levelled at Japanese businessmen because they cut themselves off from local communities, ignored local customs, and could not communicate with the local people. The same ideas were expressed by Mr Tanaka, the Japanese Prime Minister, after he had been subjected to massive riots in Djakarta. But the point is that, regardless of how Japanese businessment behave towards the local communities, the exploitation of these people continues in the same way. The colonial dominance in the international economic relations continues.

One of the current problems in S E Asia that Loo observed was that there was very little improvement in the standard of living taking place. The solution to this problem, as he saw it, was to encourage increased foreign investment, especially in a country's export industries. The poor man was apparently unaware that the concentrated expansion of the export industries of an underdeveloped country usually makes it worse off than before, rather than better off, because of the fall in price of the country's export commodity as a result of the increased supply of it. Loo has also advocated the development by host countries of an effective "countervailing power". The practical possibility of this when a country's economy is tied to the Japanese would appear to be virtually nil. But Loo Choon Yong finally displayed his concern for the continued exploitation of the people of S E Asia when he assured his audience that the Japanese had a bright future in the area (if they chose their business executives more carefully).

An Indonesian student savagely attacked by police while demonstrating against Japanese imperialism earlier this year.

An Indonesian student savagely attacked by police while demonstrating against Japanese imperialism earlier this year.

The person invited to comment on Loo's paper was Tony Haas, who insisted that the important thing to emphasise in respect of economic relations with Japan was the "mutuality of interest (with vigilance)". The precise meaning of this term is unclear, but it might mean that the ruling classes in the Japanese neo-colonies in S E Asia and the Pacific have the same interest in the exploitation of the working classes of these countries as do the Japanese multinational corporations. The other important arguments that Tony Haas emphasised was that the people such as New Zealanders who called for more control over the Japanese must not be too strident — it might deter Japanese investment. Moreover, if the Japanese were thwarted in their attempts to freely exploit the peoples of the region, they might once again turn to military methods, as they did in the 1930s and 1940s.

The point I want to make in respect of all this is that the options offered by Loo Choon Yong and Tony Haas for the development of S E Asia are no real solutions at all. For as long as the Japanese have investments in the region, it is in their interests to keep these countries poor, so that they are more readily exploitable. It is of no use to apply the formal propositions of the economic theory of international trade to situations in which there is a colonial dominance relationship — where the countries participating are grossly unequal. The real solution to the development problems of S E Asia does not lie in a slight alteration of the form and shape of Japanese investment The solution lies in allowing these countries to develop in such a way that the technology is relevant to their own experience. The countries of S E Asia must concentrate on producing the goods which they themselves need, and they must produce them according to a production process which is not beyond their understanding, and for which they are able to provide their own raw materials. Only in such a way can a country become independent and self reliant. Loo Choon Yong argued that foreign investment introduced the people of S E Asia to technology, but as Mao Tse-Tung pointed out:

"There are two different attitudes towards learning from others. One is the dogmatic attitude of transplanting everything, whether or not it is suited to our conditions. This is no good. The other attitude is to use our heads and learn those things which suit our conditions, that is, to absorb whatever experience is useful to us. That is the attitude we should adopt."

But perhaps the best indication of where the speakers lacked appreciation was in the question of Loo Choon Yong as to what would happen if there was a left-wing government elected in Japan. He did not attempt to answer the question. My answer to the question is that nothing would happen: one cannot divorce a government from the economic base underlying it.

by David Tripe