100. What is SEALDs?

19 October 2016


SEALDs stands for “Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracies.” It is an emergency student movement to defend freedom and democracy in Japan. In order to protect Japan’s post-war liberal democracy, the younger generation in their teens and early twenties at university are cooperating with all the parties who oppose the security bills.

     SEALDs is a network using SNS such as LINE, Twitter and Facebook. Generally, they are utilizing sub-culture capital, such as everyday words or club culture for calls (shouts) or flyers, to oppose the government bills. This style is similar to that of Spain's 15M Movement, Japan's anti-nuclear movement or the campaign against nuclear power, Occupy Wall Street, the Global Justice Movement (cf. issue 99), the Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, and the Arab Spring.

     Originally, they were university students who protested in front of the official residence every Friday. In addition, students who participated in API (Action for Political Issues) at the International Christian University in June, 2013 and “a rally to consider the secret protection law (the main participants are Meiji Gakuin University students)” formed SASPL (Students Against the Secret Protection Law) in December, 2014. This developed into SEALDs in May, 2015. Because students all over Japan participated, SEALDs KANSAI (West area), SEALDs TOHOKU (North east area), and SEALDS RYUKYU (in Okinawa prefecture), etc. developed in various parts of Japan. They are cooperating with the “No War Furueru (戦争したくなくてふるえる)” movement in Sapporo whose voices were raised at the same time.

     SEALDs goes beyond being merely a youth movement, so they pushed nonviolence forward like the “Peace for Vietnam!” movement. It became a “culture = politics” movement and acquired extensive support from the general public, including researchers and domestic or foreign media. Inspired by this movement, groups which opposes the security treaty and is led by high school students, such as Tns-Soul (Teens Stand up to Oppose the War Law), have been organized. When the youth came to raise their voice in politics, the existing frame called “political apathy among the young,” which is spread by the Japanese media, was partially dismantled.

     SEALDs called on all opposition parties who opposed the security bills with propaganda in Shibuya in June, 2015, thus providing an opportunity opposition parties to cooperate on the issue of the so-called “Security Bills in 2015(十五年安保)”. Moreover, after the 189th Diet, they contributed to discussions between the Democratic Party and Japan Innovation Party.

     People who have been inspired by SEALDs have built similar self-organizing groups like OLDs or MIDDLEs, and this has led to the security bills opposition movement spreading to all generations. In addition, they succeeded in mobilizing hundreds of thousands of participants and supporters around andor in front of the Diet and TV screens by using culture mobilization (Foucault methods), which are different from the methods of mobilization of old social movements such as the labor unions, by cooperating with other groups. (Sponsors announced that participants numbered 120 thousand but, according to SEALDs, the true number was 350 thousand.) This appeal of SEALDs became an opportunity for more than 1 million people to raise their voices in opposition to the security bills in 300 places all over Japan on the same day.


Ikuo Gonoi