SCIENCE COUNCIL UNDER COMMUNISTS’ INFLUENCE SINCE BIRTH
What kind of organization is the Science Council of Japan (SCJ)? Tracing its 71-year history reveals the close relationship it once had with the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the US occupation forces which ruled Japan 1945-52, and its lasting ties with the Japan Communist Party (JCP).
On October 23, the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a privately financed think tank I head in Tokyo, invited Hideaki Karaki, a prominent emeritus professor of agronomy at Tokyo University, to hear what he had to say about the SCJ. He joined it the oganization in 2000 and served as its deputy president 2008-11.
According to Karaki, in June 1946, GHQ’s Science and Technology Department urged Professor Seiji Kaya of Tokyo University and his colleagues to set up a committee to explore a new structure for scientific research in Japan. Five months later, GHQ formally instructed that the new structure be introduced at an early stage, explained Karaki, noting:
“In addition to banning nuclear research in Japan, GHQ ordered that the cyclotron particle accelerators at Osaka University, Kyoto University, and the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (IPCR, popularly called RIKEN) be destroyed. Even in the US, GHQ was criticized for this harsh policy.”
The US National Academy of Sciences was among the organizations reportedly upset by GHQ’s actions, insisting that the US Occupation forces find someone who would distinguish between equipment used for civilian science and equipment used for military purposes. GHQ subsequently enlisted the help of prominent physicist Harry C. Kelly. Kelly arrived in Japan in January 1946, and under his direction, the SCJ was inaugurated in 1949.
Even with Kelly involved, the SCJ was influenced greatly by “New Dealers” within GHQ—many of them members of the American Communist Party―and the new organization pursued a drastic policy agenda unheard of anywhere else in the world.
Karaki further explained:
“Among a host of drastic ideas those within GHQ proposed, a ‘supreme scientists conference’ was to be formed with the authority to formulate all policies concerning the nation’s scientific and educational programs, allocate budgets for all scientific research, and order the government to execute them, with the SCJ entitled to supervise their execution after winning the approval of the Diet. Also, members of the ‘supreme conference’ were to be elected directly by Japanese scientists themselves.”
In a nutshell, the proposal was that Japanese scientists would absolutely control the structure and organization of scientific research in the country. But at the time many scientists regarded America as an imperialist nation and had an aversion to its “capitalistic invasion” of Japan.
Strong Backing of American and Japanese Communists
The SCJ was inaugurated in January 1949, with a total of 210 founding members having been elected the month before. Citing A Comprehensive History of Japan’s Science and Technology Volume I: Occupation Period (1945-52)(Gakuyo Shobo, Tokyo; 1995), Karaki gave a brief description of what happened then.
A total of 944 candidates, including 61 who were JCP members, vied for 210 memberships. Twenty-six of them were elected. Also elected were 40 scientists sympathetic to the JCP.
The exact number of the left-leaning Democratic Scientists Association (DSA) members elected then could not immediately be determined in the absence of detailed records, but the SCJ’s founding members are believed to have included a leftwing force comprising at least 66 scientists who were either JCP members or sympathizers—more than 30% the total membership. This group of left-wing scientists, undoubtedly among the brightest and most articulate in Japan right after the war, got the backing of the American communists who wielded absolute power within GHQ. One can easily imagine what enormous influence the SCJ must have exerted. Against such a backdrop, the newly-founded council declared in 1950 that it would “absolutely refuse to engage in any scientific research for the purpose of war.”
Meanwhile, the government launched a study in 1955 aimed at utilizing nuclear power as a new energy source. Strongly objecting to the move, then SCJ president Kaya and Tadao Yanaihara, who headed the Japan Association of National Universities (JANU), pressured the government to attach a side agreement to the Law for Establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission, stipulating: “Costs required for future research into nuclear power utilization should not be included in those for overall scientific research to be conducted at universities across Japan.” Kaya and Yanaihara thus significantly narrowed the way to full-fledged nuclear energy research in Japan.
To this day, the SCJ bans Japanese scientists from all studies related to national defense and security, but the fact remains that, in doing so, the council itself is challenging academic freedom.
To counter the SCJ, the government created the Atomic Energy Commission and the Science and Technology Agency simultaneously, placing the former under the latter’s jurisdiction.
“The government created the Agency in order to regain control of academic administration from the SCJ which was under the strong influence of liberal scientists in this country,” Karaki asserted.
The entire role the SCJ had played as the command tower for Japanese science and technology was thus transferred to the Science and Technology Agency, along with its authority to provide research grants to scientists. Then in 1959, the government formed the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, taking over the SCJ’s responsibility to deliberate on its central agenda items. In 1967, the Education Ministry established the Council for Science and Technology to take charge of all of the SCJ’s academic deliberations, not just on science and technology but also on other matters as regards humanities and social sciences. In the 1980s, each ministry and agency started creating its own ad-hoc councils, leaving the SCJ without anything to do in terms of advising the government.
Reflecting on his years of involvement with the SCJ, Karaki noted that, between 1969 and 1977, the council attempted to assess its own performance in an effort to improve its functions where necessary. But the bottom line was that it chose a path to an all-out confrontation with the government instead.
In 1982, a reform plan for the SCJ was proposed by Taro Nakayama, Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office, but the council flatly rejected it. A period of fierce confrontation followed, with both the government and the SCJ holding advisory panels of experts one after another to counter each other’s moves. Due to limited space, I will not touch on the detail of what happened during this period, but viewed in terms of our broader society, one can only conclude that the SCJ has long stopped thinking in terms of contributing to the people and the state and is instead promoting activities solely for its own good.
Unpardonable Negligence by Ruling Party
The administrative reform project the government undertook starting in the 1990s also affected the SCJ, prompting it to issue a reform plan in 2005. Among the statements made in the plan:
•Scientists with expert knowledge about matters related to society as a whole will convene to make proposals to the government ‘from a comprehensive and broad-minded perspective’; and,
•Learning from its counterparts in Europe and America how science academies are run, the SCJ will investigate a more appropriate form of its functions within 10 years, i.e., by 2015.
When Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga refused earlier this month to nominate six scientists the SCJ recommended as new members, he said that he wanted to “take a more comprehensive and broad-minded view’ (in approving new members).” The council complained that they didn’t understand what Suga meant by this, but isn’t that the expression they used in the first place in discussing the need for their reform?
The SCJ, which at one time appeared ready to somewhat reflect on its behavior, again put the brakes on its reform when the left-leaning Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration was formed in 2009. The three years under the DPJ administration was a happy time for the SCJ, as the administration was extremely indulgent with the council, allowing it to go its own way without even having to advise the government from time to time.
And when 2015—the year for the SCJ’s supposed reshaping—came, a panel of experts under the Liberal-Democratic Party administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe surprisingly agreed to keep the status quo for the council. Despite criticism heard then that members or affiliates of the JCP made up a majority of the panelists, making the occasion appear as though it had been arranged by the council to suit itself, the LDP is still to blame for this development.
The DPJ administration left behind a deplorable legacy—the ineffective Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a SCJ with lax discipline. But it is a fact that the LDP has failed to take any timely action to reform either entity, despite having a good chance to do so.
The SCJ claims Suga has impeded the academic freedom of the six scientists by turning down their nomination, but Karaki calls that an outrageous misconception, stressing that academic freedom refers to freedom of study, research, publication, and education, and that, because the SCJ is not a research institution, it doesn’t conduct research or provide education. What little publication it does involves internal study items only. Academic freedom has absolutely nothing to do with the SCJ. As matters stand now, I think it best for the government to privatize the council, which has long outlived its usefulness.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 924 in the November 5, 2020 issue of The Weekly Shincho)