An explosive journalistic report claims Japanese Communists played a key role in fueling hostility against the anti-Communist religious group.
by Massimo Introvigne
On July 8, 2022, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated by a man who claimed he wanted to punish the politician for his cooperation with an organization connected with the Unification Church (now called Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, FFWPU, although the media still use the old name “Unification Church”). The assassin’s mother had been a Unification Church member for decades. She went bankrupt in 2002, according to the son because of the excessive donations she had made to the religious group.
Clearly, Abe and the Unification Church were the victims in a crime whose perpetrator hated the movement founded by the late Reverend Moon, and had interacted on social media with its anti-cult opponents. However, in an extraordinary reversal of both truth and fairness, the Unification Church was presented as somewhat responsible for the crime. A twisted argument was used, that if the assassin’s mother had not donated huge sums to the Unification Church, her son would not have had a grudge against Abe and would not have killed him. A national campaign followed, where the assassin was almost forgotten and media and governmental campaigns targeted the Unification Church, culminating in an official investigation that may result in a legal action by the government aimed at legally dissolving the religious organization.
After the Abe assassination, these campaigns started almost overnight. It did not take a conspiracy theorist to suspect they had been prepared long before, waiting for the right opportunity to launch them.
Now, a journalist called Masumi Fukuda is publishing a series of articles in “Hanada,” of which two are already available, which shed some light on the issue. “Hanada” is a conservative magazine, but not an extremist one. In fact, a few months before being killed, Abe himself had used an interview he gave to “Hanada” to make his political views known after he had left office.
Before coming to Fukuda’s articles, non-Japanese readers should be told something that may come as a surprise to many of them. Japan has one of the strongest Communist Party in democratic countries. It maintains more than 250,000 members. At elections, it went up and down, achieving its best results in 1949, with 35 House of Representatives seats; 1972, with 38; and 1979, with 39. In 1951, following instructions from Stalin, it adopted the “1951 Platform,” which called for violent actions and resulted in attacks against the police and the creation of armed guerrilla units in the mountains. The strong reaction by the Japanese institutions persuaded the Party to repudiate in 1955 the “1951 Platform,” and promise to pursue Communism through non-violent means. Understandably, however, many Japanese have not forgotten the Red violence of the early 1950s.
Until 1996, Japan also had a Socialist Party of Japan, which was more moderate than the Communist Party but included a leftist faction that openly promoted Marxism and cooperation with the Communists. The two Socialist factions split and merged again repeatedly.
Two important issues in the history of Japanese Communism and Socialism were the race for governor of Kyoto in 1978 and the Levchenko affair that started the following year. Kyoto was a left-wing stronghold, where a leftist governor had served for 28 years, and the gubernatorial elections of 1978 were highly contested. In the end, the victory by the candidate designated by the Liberal Democratic Party was a major setback for the Japanese Communists. The International Federation for Victory Over Communism (IFVOC), an organization created by Unification Church’s founder Reverend Moon in 1968, mobilized thousands of volunteers who played an important role in the Kyoto elections. This was acknowledged by the Communist leader Kenji Miyamoto and by the official Party daily “Shimbun Akahata” (Red Flag Newspaper), which on June 8, 1978, called Party members to fight a “holy battle to defeat the IFVOC.”
In 1979, Soviet KGB agent and top spy in Japan Stanislav Levchenko defected to the U.S. He testified that prominent Japanese politicians, connected with both the Communist and the Socialist Party of Japan, were paid Soviet agents. Although Levchenko’s revelations were later confirmed by documents discovered in Russian archives after the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1983 the Socialist Party answered by denouncing a conspiracy organized by the IFVOC and the American CIA. The IFVOC sued the Socialist Party. The case was later settled with the Socialist Party paying two million yen to the IFVOC as a settlement fee.
The Levchenko affair generated considerable emotion in Japan, and sustained the campaign for an Espionage Prevention Bill, popularly known as the Anti-Spy Law. The IFVOC was a major force supporting the Anti-Spy Law. Already before the Levchenko affair started, IFVOC had launched in 1978 its “National Campaign for Collecting 30 Million Signature to Enact the Espionage Law.” In 1979, IFVOC joined the National Council for Promoting the Enactment of the Espionage Law Conference.
In 1985, the Liberal Democrat Party submitted the Espionage Prevention Bill to the Diet. It generated a furious opposition by the left-wing parties and by many Japanese media, which were both leaning to the left and concerned the bill would limit the freedom of the press. In the end, the law was not passed, and subsequent attempts also failed, although in 2013 a State Secrecy Law proposed by the government then led by Abe was approved by the Diet. The 2013 law addressed some of (but not all) the concerns IFVOC and those who supported the Anti-Spy Law had raised.
From the 1970s, IFVOC was a thorn on the side of the Japanese left. Enter Fukuda’s investigation, which connects the leftist irritation against IFVOC with the campaigns again “spiritual sales” (i.e., sales of objects allegedly bringing good luck or spiritual benefits for prices much higher than their material values) by Unification Church members, later extended to donations to the same Church, which were defined, strangely enough, as “spiritual sales that do not involve goods.”
In 1981, the Social Cultural and Legal Center was established under the auspices of the Socialist Party of Japan. Fukuda documents its close cooperation with associations of lawyers established by the Communist Party and even pro-North-Korea lobbies. In 1986, the Social Cultural and Legal Center rallied different organizations against the Anti-Spy Law. On January 31, 1987, the official Center’s newsletter, “Center News,” published an article by attorney Hiroshi Yamaguchi attacking the “spiritual sales” and claiming that “the money earned from such sales goes to fund the Unification Church and the IFVOC’s efforts to enact the National Secret Law [i.e., the Anti-Spy Law]… Now, the members of the Social Cultural and Legal Center who have been working on the issue of spiritual sales have decided to join together to form the ‘Liaison Committee for the Defense of Spiritual Sales Damage Relief’ (tentative name), and we would like to take this opportunity to call for the participation of all our members.”
Yamaguchi was the lawyer who had represented, quite unsuccessfully, the Socialist Party in the lawsuit IFVOC had filed for defamation in connection with the Levchenko case. His important article, unearthed by Fukuda, was published in 1987 on January 31. Two weeks later, on February 13, Yamaguchi, together with fellow lawyers Kazuo Ito and Yasushi Higashizawa, held at the Judicial Press Club a press conference announcing the foundation of the Lawyers’ Network for Relief of Damages Caused by Spiritual Sales, the predecessor of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales that is the driving force behind the current anti-Unification-Church campaign. Attorney Higashizawa was also a member of the Social Cultural and Legal Center. He had previously represented left-wing extremists accused of violent acts and pro-North-Korea lobbyists.
On March 19, 1987, Yamaguchi told mainline media that the lawyers’ group “only wanted to help victims”—although some of the attorneys admitted that in the beginning there were very few victims who had contacted them, and they needed to be “discovered.” However, on the previous February 20, Yamaguchi had told the Socialist Party’s newspaper “Shakai Shimpo” that the ultimate aim of the lawyers’ associations was to persuade “the Ministry of Education to revoke the registration as a religious corporation” of the Unification Church. What is happening in 2022 was already in the mind of Yamaguchi in 1987.
As Bitter Winter has previously explained, much of the propaganda about “spiritual sales” is false. And the sales of goods by members of the Unification Church, “spiritual” or otherwise, as Fukuda emphasizes, never supported IFVOC. On the other hand, an illegal practice, kidnapping and deprogramming Unification Church members, might have supported the lawyers’ network, as deprogrammed ex-members then filed lawsuits against their former Church and were represented by the same lawyers.
What is interesting in Fukuda’s series is that she provides the missing links. She does not claim (nor do I, obviously) that all those who oppose the Unification Church in Japan are Communist or Socialist. Anti-cultism has more than one root.
However, what she proves is that the anti-Unification-Church network of lawyers was founded within a Socialist organization with Communist ties, and was established with the stated attempt of combating IFVOC and its anti-Communist activities by destroying its parent organization, the Unification Church, using the argument of spiritual sales. IFVOC and the Unification Church should be destroyed, Yamaguchi and his Social Cultural and Legal Center associates explained, because their anti-Communist campaigns were being successful and greatly damaged their preferred political parties.
Perhaps, we do not even need Fukuda to come to this conclusion. On November 6, 2022, on the “Sunday Mainichi,” Communist Party Chairperson Kazuo Shii discussed with journalist Soichiro Tahara the Unification Church/FFWPU issue.
When Tahara said that, “From the Communist Party’s point of view, this is the final war against the Unification Church,” Chairman Shii replied: “It was a long struggle. The first time they took a stand against the Communists was in the 1978 Kyoto’s gubernatorial election to choose the successor to Torazo Ninagawa, who had served seven terms as the innovative governor of Kyoto Prefecture for 28 years.” He then added, “This time, we will go all the way until we get it right.”
Do those who parrot the statements of the anti-Unification-Church lawyers, including some Western journalists, understand whose “final war” they are joining?