In Memoriam: Narihiko Ito (1931-2017)

From the January-February 2018 issue of News & Letters

We honor the life of Narihiko Ito (1931-2017) and mourn his death on Nov. 29. Ito was one of the world’s foremost scholars on Rosa Luxemburg and wrote profoundly on her life and thought. He founded the International Rosa Luxemburg Society and chaired it for almost four decades. Looking back to its founding, he wrote that after the USSR invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, he saw the need for a Rosa Luxemburg Association (RLA) because “I thought we had to create a principle of the new Socialism by studying Rosa Luxemburg’s works and theory” (“A Japanese Marxist’s View: Luxemburg, Dunayevskaya and 21st Century Socialism,” May-June 2010 N&L, see page 5).

DEVOTED TO STRUGGLE AND THOUGHT

Ito was a lifelong anti-war activist and theoretician, writing often in defense of Article 9 of the Japanese

                     Rosa Luxemburg

Constitution, which formally outlaws war by the Japanese state and the maintenance of armed forces with war potential.

He sought Japan’s reconciliation with Korea and China, both of which had been brutally occupied by Japan before and during World War II. He served as Co-Chairman of the non-state International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan and International Criminal Tribunal for Iraq.

As a professor in social sciences at Chuô University in Tokyo, visiting professor in various universities, activist and scholar, Ito published numerous articles and books in Japanese, German and English, including, among others, “Rosa Luxemburg. Economic and Historic-Political Aspects of Her Work” and “The Peace Article of the Japanese Constitution—for a World without War and Militarism.”

For News & Letters Ito wrote “Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg Are Revolutionaries for Our Time” (Jan.-Feb. 1992, p. 6), “Luxemburg Rooted in Women’s Liberation” (Dec. 1992, p. 5), “A Japanese Marxist’s View: Luxemburg, Dunayevskaya and 21st Century Socialism,” May-June 2010 N&L, see p. 5), and “Fukushima’s ‘Man-Made Disaster’” (July-Aug. 2011, see p. 4).

ITO’S FRIENDSHIP WITH DUNAYEVSKAYA

In the memorial issue of N&L to Raya Dunayevskaya (July 25, 1987, in the “On the International Impact of Marxist-Humanism” section, see p. 9), he recounted how she had written to him in early 1980 as soon as she heard of the RLA’s founding, and sent him a draft chapter from the book she was writing, Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution. Then:

“In April 1980, I had a one-hour program on Rosa Luxemburg on Japanese TV. I introduced the Japanese public to Raya’s study. That was the beginning of our friendship.”

Writing on the centenary of her birth (“A Japanese Marxist’s view: Luxemburg, Dunayevskaya and 21st Century Socialism”), he added:

“When she sent me her new book Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution in 1982, I was deeply impressed. I wanted to talk with her directly and sent her an invitation to the Third International RLA Conference in Paris in May 1983.”

When the book’s second edition was published, he studied it all over again and wrote:“For the first time, she placed Rosa Luxemburg’s life directly into the history of the women’s liberation movement, and connected her thought to today’s women’s movement.

“She also shed new light on Rosa Luxemburg’s relationship with the ‘Black Dimension’ and with the liberation movement of the Third World.“

She found new meaning in Marx’s last writings….She also placed Marx into the history of the women’s liberation movement as a radical thinker on the Man/Woman relationship for the creation of a new human society. Moreover, what is important is that she took up the totality of Marx’s works after the Paris Commune, together with the 1872-75 French edition of Capital and the Critique of the Gotha Program (1875), and showed how revolutionary he was right up until his death” (“Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg Are Revolutionaries for Our Time” p. 6).

To Ito it was no mere academic question but always a question of not only the present but the future liberation of humanity:

“Dunayevskaya insisted [in 1941] that capitalism, the state and military violence are one unit which is fundamentally different from socialism which will be composed without capitalism, the state and military violence. By re-reading her works…can we see what kind of society should be created in the 21st Century?” (“A Japanese Marxist’s view: Luxemburg, Dunayevskaya and 21st Century Socialism”)

Let us honor Ito by tackling that question in both theory and life.

—Franklin Dmitryev

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