A Movement of the People vs. Elite Panic

After March 11, the movement has been growing rapidly. This movement is an amalgam of many elements; those against nuclear power; those demanding to keep exposure limits below 1 mSv/ year for children; those networks supporting evacuation from danger zones; those autonomous movements that measure radiation contaminations, etc. This movement consists of innumerable voices and actions ; movement of movements. Like the web, it has no “head,” no center. In this sense, the political rally held at Aruta-mae-hiroba (plaza), Shinjuku, Tokyo, on June 11 was a symbolic event. In this place, at least 10,000 people were said to have gathered, brought together from information distributed on twitter or Facebook alone.

There was little mass media reportage of this event,  mainly because the movement is too rapid, appearing too suddenly and transforming itself too quickly. This new movement is like Deleuze’s swift serpent, not the ‘naïve mole’ of the old left, This is is one factor that feeds what Rebecca Solnit calls, “elite panic.” Watching the reactions of some conservative politicians in the wake of June 11 demonstrations all over the country, it is clear that this serpent-like movement produces a sense of confusion and fear among the ruling class.

Ishihara Nobuteru, chief secretary of LDP, is one clear example. On the one hand, he called the anti-nuclear movements “mass hysteria.” On the other hand, he explained them through conspiracy theory, claiming that their mobilization was made by a few sectionalist groups. (It is curious that “mass hysteria” can coexist with systemic conspiracy, no?) Another example is his own father, Ishihara Shintaro, governor of Tokyo, a notorious racist and nationalist from way back. He remarked at a press conference that Japan needs a military junta (gunji-seiken) to protect itself and to survive as a “state.” These reactions are symptoms of “elite panic.” The effect is to create a panic-like reaction that can override people’s desire for autonomy and independence from state power.

Until now, we have understood “politics” as our ability to replace prime ministers and change parliamentary power balance. But in the face of the “current crisis which is inspiring a (new) movement of people, what politicians and their clients fear most is that our old idea of “politics” will be replaced by a politics of real democracy, of the people.