Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assassinated
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died yesterday after being shot while delivering a campaign speech in the city of Nara ahead of Sunday’s upper house elections. Abe, a far-right nationalist closely linked to the ruling class’s remilitarization campaign, was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, serving from 2006 to 2007 and then from 2012 until his resignation in 2020.
Abe, 67, was shot dead around 11:30 a.m. Friday morning near Yamato-Saidaiji station in Nara. According to eyewitnesses and video testimony, an assailant fired two shots at Abe with a homemade shotgun, hitting him in the neck and left collarbone and causing injuries to his heart. Abe then collapsed and was rushed to hospital. He was pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m.
Security personnel arrested Tetsuya Yamagami, a 41-year-old unemployed man, at the scene of the incident. He was then officially arrested. Police say a search of Yamagami’s home uncovered other weapons and homemade explosives. He had previously been employed as a dispatcher at a manufacturing company since the fall of 2020, but reportedly quit in May, saying he felt “tired”.
Government officials said Yamagami also served in the Marine Self-Defense Force – Japan’s navy – for nearly three years until 2005.
The exact motive for the shooting is unclear. Police say the suspect said he was ‘dissatisfied with former Prime Minister Abe and intended to kill him’ as he believed Abe was involved with a ‘specific organisation’. Police said it was a religious organization, although it was not identified. Yamagami also reportedly said, “It’s not a grudge against former Prime Minister Abe’s political beliefs.”
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) reacted to Abe’s killing saying: “This attack is an act of brutality that happened during the election – the very foundation of our democracy – and is absolutely unforgivable”.
The murder takes place against a backdrop of growing social tensions and growing anger towards governments, both in Japan and abroad. Political leaders and the media praised Abe, while painting a picture of Japan as a grieving nation. Although shocked, many were however quick to criticize the former Prime Minister. Speaking to the media in Kyoto, a woman identified only by her surname Otake said: “I think various problems that Japan has now were caused during his administration. I am against Abe.
For two and a half years, the COVID-19 pandemic has raged around the world, causing death, as well as impacting people’s health and ability to work, as governments, including in Tokyo, refuse to take measures to stop the spread of the virus. The war launched by the United States and NATO against Russia in Ukraine and the war campaign against China also inflame these tensions.
Whatever the exact reason for the assassination, the Japanese government will use Abe’s assassination to intensify its attacks on democratic rights, as it steps up its war preparations against China in particular. It plans to double its military spending to make Japan the world’s third largest military spender.
Abe and the Japanese ruling class have long aimed to revise the constitution to give the government emergency powers that could be used to silence political opposition and amend Article 9, known as the pacifist clause. , which strictly prohibits Japan from deploying an army. or deploy it abroad.
Abe’s second term marked a significant shift to the right in the Japanese establishment. Abe was a member of the ultra-nationalist organization Nippon Kaigi, which promotes remilitarization, historical revisionism to cover up the crimes of the Japanese military in the 1930s and 1940s, and the restriction of democratic rights. Many other government figures, including Prime Minister Kishida, also belong to this organization.
Abe has regularly addressed Nippon Kaigi, pledging to pass constitutional changes that would explicitly recognize the legality of Japan’s military, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), in a move that would pave the way for the eventual abolition of Article 9. This would allow Japanese imperialism to assert itself more aggressively overseas in coordination with US war preparations aimed at China.
During his tenure, Abe oversaw a so-called reinterpretation of the constitution in 2014 to allow Japan’s SDF to engage in “collective self-defense” overseas alongside an ally. His government then pushed legislation through the National Diet to formalize the “reinterpretation” the following year, ignoring opposition and mass public protests.
His government pursued a policy of minimizing or falsifying Imperial Japan’s war crimes. As a result, Abe was particularly reviled in China and South Korea. These crimes included the forced recruitment of as many as 200,000 “comfort women,” a euphemism for sex slaves, across Asia who were stationed at military “comfort stations” during World War II. His government also downplayed the significance of the rape of Nanjing, when in 1937–38 Japanese soldiers rampaged for six weeks through Nanjing, killing an estimated 300,000 people.
Abe’s key economic policy that bears his name has made deep inroads into the social position of the working class. Composed of “three arrows”, Abenomics included a mix of limited priming the pump, quantitative easing, corporate restructuring and attacks on working conditions. These policies have helped large corporations to dramatically increase their profits, while wages have stagnated. As a result, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the hardest hit workers were non-regular workers, who had grown significantly to account for 38% of all employees in Japan.
Although Abe resigned as prime minister due to ill health, he remained a lawmaker in the lower house of the National Diet and incredibly influential in the LDP. Abe was succeeded by Yoshihide Suga, who lasted a year as prime minister, followed by Kishida. Abe has not remained silent, but has instead become an even more belligerent antagonist of Beijing, challenging the “One China” policy on Taiwan. In February, Abe called for the introduction of US nuclear weapons into Japan, under the pretext of the threat posed by China and North Korea, sparking an open debate on the issue within the LDP.
Abe leaves behind a legacy of attacks on the working class at home and the sharp rise of militarism and tensions in the Indo-Pacific region that are pushing Japan ever closer to war.