Industrial Economy and Human Rights Problems
- Present Conditions of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises of Buraku and Tasks through Investigations into the Actual Conditions

Mitsuru Tanaka
Professor of Industrial Economics
Faculty of Economics at Kansai University, Osaka, Japan

(Continued from Buraku Liberation News No.122)


In the above chapters, I have referred to recent research and discussed the actual conditions of the industrial economy of Buraku, especially from the viewpoint of small and medium sized enterprises (hereinafter SMEs). I have done so because I understand that making people aware of the real conditions of Buraku and promoting genuine understanding of the Buraku issue is the first step towards achieving a complete solution to the Buraku problem and the liberation of Buraku, for which the Japanese Government and people are responsible.

In order for the state to enact the "Fundamental Law for Buraku Liberation", which aims at achieving the complete liberation of Buraku, or the "restoration of unreasonably deprived human rights of Buraku people" 34, we must work towards giving people a clear understanding of the real situation and actual conditions of Buraku. It is clear that the problem surrounding Buraku industries has become more serious in the midst of ongoing dynamic changes in the environment inside and outside Japan.

1) Past Measures taken for Buraku Industries

The nature of Buraku industry is such that "it exists in Buraku, and is determined by the relationship between capitalists and labourers within a Buraku context."35 Thus, any measures to improve Buraku industries should not be considered simply as part of the conventional measures for SMEs in general. In other words, measures for protection and development of Buraku industries should be designed within a comprehensive programme for Buraku liberation. These measures should facilitate the realisation of economic aspects of the fundamental rights of Buraku people that they have long been deprived of.

The Japanese economic environment is currently undergoing drastic change. This is causing anxiety among Buraku people by taking industries and jobs away from them. In other words, the economic and social instability is substantially reinforcing existing discrimination as well as encouraging conceptual discrimination. This is causing the emergence of a reproductive structure in discrimination.

For instance, although the meatpacking industry is an industry that is growing in demand, it has been suffering from decline and destitution caused not only by severe competition and discriminatory campaigns, but also by liberalisation of trade. Similarly, liberalisation in trade of leather products is imminent. Along with the termination of employment measures, factories, such as cardboard factories, that were introduced into Buraku communities for job creation have been compelled to close due to the structural recession of the cardboard industry.

How should we solve these serious problems? Here, it is important to maintain focus on the "elimination of discrimination" and the "complete liberation of Buraku" in devising and promoting new measures to solve the problems.

Proposals for specific programs to save and promote Buraku industries were raised in Section 3 (Measures regarding industries and jobs) of Part 3 (Concrete ideas of Dowa measures) of the Cabinet Dowa Policy Council's proposals. Step by step, different systems have been introduced, including "consultation on management of small and medium sized enterprises" and "modernisation of facilities and promotion of work cooperative."*36 "Dowa" measures officially specify the continuation of Dowa projects that began under the fixed-duration legislation, but the measures have lost their original spirit and goals of working towards finding a complete solution to the Buraku problem. It therefore has to be said that Dowa measures have retrenched and retreated. *37

These are serious phenomena that relate to the structural contradiction of contemporary capitalism and state policies that intensify such contradictions. In addition, under current circumstances where the idea that economic efficiency comes first is prevalent and permeating, the basic attitude that places Buraku industries within the perspective of "the dual structural problem" is no longer valid. In reality, however, the dual and differential structure has undoubtedly grown in industrial society. This is also true for "Dowa" measures and policies for Buraku industries, as they have been changing their nature from "special industries" to "regional industries", finally being incorporated into general policies. Today, the world has already entered into the law of the jungle under the name of "mega competition." The weak are being victimised and weeded out naturally or even intentionally.

2) Changes in SME Policies and the Buraku Industrial Economy

- Problems in the New "Small and Medium Sized Enterprise Basic Law"-

The 21st century is said to be the century of "harmony" and "co-existence" or "symbiosis" in which people respect human rights of others. Nevertheless, industrial economic society is categorising people into "the strong" or "winners" and "the weak" or "losers," encouraging them to be the former in order to win the game. The new "Small and Medium Sized Enterprise Basic Law (SME Basic Law)", taking over from the former law, was introduced in order to put this theory into practice. Although the Government states that the law has just been "amended", the new law is actually worse as it promotes "the law of the jungle". It works especially adversely with regard to the Buraku industrial economy and Buraku enterprises.

As was pointed out earlier, solutions to the problems of "dual structure" and "differentials" laid in the Japanese economy have been an essential and noble proposition as well as an ultimate goal for the "former law," or "Proposals for the Dowa Measures." Has the problem of dual structure been resolved? Did the introduction of the "new law" mean that the "former law" had done its job to correct the differentials? The answer is "no". The dual structure and differentials have not been corrected. As discussed above, polarisation has been advancing in the structure of industrial economic society, dividing it into the "bright side" and the "dark side," while expanding the differentials.

Facing such a tendency, the Diet session had a heated discussion on the enactment of the "new law." After all, the new "SME Basic Law" passed by the Diet is based on the principles that encourage and nurture only stronger SMEs.

I have repeatedly pointed out that the "reproductive structure of discrimination" has been constructed in the course of the development of the Japanese capitalistic economy since the Meiji era. That structure is now being reinforced. In the midst of current circumstances where the dark side of the law that neglects fundamental rights is becoming apparent, it will be a challenge for the Buraku industrial economy and Buraku enterprises to take advantage of the new "SME Basic Law" and to modify problematic aspects within it.

3) The Future of Buraku Industrial Measures

In discussing Buraku industries in relation to the problems of SMEs, it should be reiterated that the survival and prosperity of SMEs truly depends on their own untiring efforts in harmony with drastic policies implemented by the state and local governments.*38 Problems that Buraku industries face should be viewed in the context of the industrial and economic structure of Japan, especially in the modern capitalistic structure, and from that viewpoint they should be solved with correct decisions. The problems cannot simply be solved with financial assistance. The solution requires, amongst other things, education and training in the fields of business management and skill development since human resources hold the key to successful business operation. Needless to say, Japan's economic society is a competitive economic society that rests on capitalism.

Dowa measures, which had been carried out for 33 years, were terminated on March 31, 2002. It should be a moment for a new step forward rather than a termination of Dowa measures.*39

It must be underlined that Buraku industries have been excluded from competition and have been driven into a very disadvantageous position by the "reproductive structure of discrimination" that was shaped during the course of the progress of capitalism in Japan, but that they are now very important for new business development, such as in the fields of total fashion and biotechnology, in the 21st century. It is well explained by the fact that more companies from both inside and outside the country and Buraku are participating into these business fields. Therefore, regardless of the kinds of measures that are to be taken for these industries, they should not be simply protective.

In the first place, SMEs in general are placed in an unequal and disadvantageous position in comparison with monopolies and large enterprises. It is therefore necessary for the government to create measures to provide SMEs with education and strength so that effective and reasonable competition will be realised in economic society. Aggressive and comprehensive measures will naturally be more important for Buraku industries in the path towards the "elimination of discrimination" and complete liberation of Buraku.

To reach the ultimate goal of "total liberation of Buraku," it is essential to have a government that will govern the country under a genuine democracy on the basis of full national consensus and that will fulfil state responsibilities. For the people who constitute such a basis, it is also essential to understand Buraku liberation as a national challenge as well as a challenge for every person.

In short, by improving and reinforcing the past Dowa projects, such as those carried out under the "Law on Special Measures for Dowa Projects", substantial and universal foundations should be constructed as soon as possible, and more practical measures should be developed using them as a base. The problem cannot be solved with just a five-year-extension of the law, "regional improvement" measures, or general measures. It should be reinforced bit by bit while seeking feedback from the measures already implemented. Only in this way state responsibilities can be fulfilled and the national challenge tackled. Indeed, this is the reason why an immediate enactment of the "Fundamental Law for Buraku Liberation" has long been awaited.

As the problem ultimately constitutes a problem of human rights, we should understand that it does not simply remain as a socio-economic problem of Japan, but that it needs to be seen in a global perspective. In other words, for the genuine internationalisation of the Japanese economic society, Japan should actively commit itself to human rights issues both inside and outside the country, such as the problem of migrant workers' rights, to fulfil its obligations as an industrialised country. For this, the state as well as people in Japan should begin with the tasks of the elimination of Buraku discrimination and the restoration of humanity.

In other words, if we are to ultimately aim at establishing a socially reasonable division of labour between SMEs and Large Enterprises (LEs) then we need to overcome the legitimatised and unreasonable exploitation of Buraku industries and their work force that have placed them at the bottom of the hierarchy of industrial structure. In order for SMEs to become a "vital majority" in a real sense, the old system that places SMEs at the bottom of the hierarchy should be changed, and a new system that will generate centripetal and cyclic effects and relationships should be constructed by placing SMEs in the centre. The time for this has now come. For this end, it will be important for SMEs to focus more of their efforts on business management and for the administration to implement measures to support them while creating a new role for them as a catalyst to give both sides constructive advice from an international viewpoint. *40 (END)

Keywords of Development for SMEs

1. Flexibility

2. Creativity

3. Demonstration of Entrepreneurial Daring

4. Accumulation of Special technology and Skills

5. Integrated Management of Operators and Employees

6. Construction of Equal and "Socially Reasonable Division of Labour" between SMEs and LEs and "Network"


34) Ueda Takumi, 1974, Buraku no Kaiho to Ningen no Hukken (Buraku Liberation and Peoples' Regaining Power), Meijitosho

35) Ueda Kazuo, 1972, "Buraku Sangyo no Mondaiten to Kadai (Problems and Challenges of Buraku Industries)" in Kaiho Riron no Sozo (Creation of the Theory for Liberation) Vol. 6, edited by the Buraku Liberation League Headquarters, p.399

36) Prime Minister's Office, Dowa Taisaku no Genjo (Reality of Measures for Dowa), 1973

37) Tanaka Mitsuru, 2001, Nihon no Keizai Kozo to Buraku Sangyo - Kakushinteki Chushokigyo eno Hatten Kadai (Japanese Economic Structure and Buraku Industry - Pressing Problems for Development of Innovative Small Business - enlarged edition)

38) Tanaka Mitsuru, 1983, "Sabisukeizaika to Chushokigyo Seisaku (Service Economy and Small Business Policy)" in Tatsumi Nobuharu and Yamamoto Junichi eds., Chushokigyo Seisaku o Minaosu - Nihon Keizai Hyakunen no Kei (Re-evaluation of Small Business Policy - Future Prospects of Japanese Economy), Yuhikaku, p.73

39) Editorial of Asahi Shimbun (newspaper), April 1, 2002

40) Tanaka Mitsuru, 1999, Small Business in the Japanese Economy - The Position, the Role, the Present Conditions of Small Business and Future Directions - Notes and Materials", Kansai University Press, pp.34-37