Obituary: Professor Narihiko Ito (1931 – 2017) Founder and (honorable) Chairman of the International Rosa Luxemburg Society

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Professor Narihiko Ito (1931 – 2017)

Founder and (honorable) Chairman of the International Rosa Luxemburg Society

On 29 November 2017 at the age of 86 Professor Narihiko Ito, the Japanese Rosa Luxemburg and peace researcher, passed away.

Narihiko Ito was born in 1931 in the old imperial capital of Kamakura which was his residence most of his life time. Till his retirement as Emeritus Professor in 2002, he taught as a distinguished professor in the faculty of Social Sciences at the Chuô University in Tokyo. In between he acted as Visiting Professor in places among which particularly notable is the University of Osnabrück (Germany). Since his young days his social, political and scientific engagement has been concentrated on peace and conflict research. Among his numerous international activities what needs to be stressed in this context is that in 2002-2004 he acted as the Co-Chairman of the International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan (IC-TA) and in 2004-2005 of the International Criminal Tribunal for Iraq (ICTI).

Among the researchers he obtained international reputation particularly through his sustained activities over three and half decades as the chairman of the International Rosa Luxemburg Society, which was founded in Zürich in 1980 on his initiative. Since then the Society has held many scientific conferences with large international participation in different cities of the world (Beijing, Berlin [2x], Bochum [Germany], Chicago, Guangzhou [China], Hamburg, Moscow, Paris [2x], Seoul, Tampere [Finland], Tokyo [2x], Warsaw, Zürich [2x]) and has, besides, published a series of conference volumes. In the years of the “Cold War” his special concern was to see to it that Rosa Luxemburg researchers from the East and the West could meet and come to an understanding. Further, as a Member of the Advisory Body and as a representative of Japanese social scientists Narihiko Ito has, for many decades, collaborated with the International Conference of Labor and Social History – ITH — in its annual conferences held in Linz.

The list of his publications in Japanese, German and English is long. To name, for example : in Japanese : “Light towards overcoming of Darkness — For Relations between Japan and Korea in the 21st century” (2000); “A History of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution” (2001, Korean translation 2005, German translation 2006); “Peace and Justice in Palestine !” (2002); in German : ‘Rosa Luxemburg “I embrace you, I so much long for you ”. Letters from Prison 1915-1918’ (Bonn 1980, 1984, 1996); “Japan and peaceful reunification of Korea” (Osnabrück, 2002); “The Peace Article of the Japanese Constitution — for a World without War and Militarism” (Münster 2006); with Annelies Laschitza & Ottokar Luban (eds.) “Rosa Luxemburg. Economic and historic-political aspects of her Work” (Berlin 2010); German/English: “Guide to the Thought of Rosa Luxemburg” (Tokyo 2007). In 2011 he was conferred the “Literati Network Award for Excellence 2011” for his essay “Is the national question an aporia for humanity? How to read Rosa Luxemburg’s ‘The national question and autonomy’”, in: Research in Political Economy, 2011/vol. 26.

The major accomplishment of his life has been the struggle for the retention of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which forbids the right to wage war, the working of which the conservative Japanese regime has always tried to strike at. Among other activities he has been involved in intensive activities concerning an understanding with Korea after the end of Japanese colonial rule. On the occasion of the centenary of Japan’s annexation of Korea Narihiko Ito organized a big Congress in Tokyo in 2010 in which more than 1000 persons participated. No such comparable event has taken place in the two Koreas. A decade long friendship tied him in 2009 with the deceased South Korean President Kim Dae-Jong, the initiator of “sunshine politics”. As member of the Steering Committee of the Annual China-Japan Civil meet for Peace in Asia as well as a Rosa Luxemburg researcher since 1986 he has been tied up with the Chinese colleagues towards building up important contacts for reconciliation with China, which was once occupied by Japan.

The other meaningful achievement of his life has been his self-funded work on Rosa Luxemburg and the constant, intensive inspiration that he has provided to international Rosa Luxemburg research through the scholarly network, the International Rosa Luxemburg Society, which he has guided. Thus, he initiated even the last international Rosa Luxemburg conferences in Moscow (2011), Paris (2013) and Seoul (2015) and in 2014 brought out a volume in Japanese comprising the presentations made in these conferences. Despite his impaired health, particularly his eye sight, as its honored chairman his wide contacts with the International Rosa Luxemburg Society continue. Because of this inspiration a wide range of essays, monographs, editions, conference volumes over Rosa Luxemburg has appeared in different parts of the world over the last few years : in Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, Great Britain, India, South Korea, USA (see: site “Weitere Ankündigungen”).

Most importantly, supplementary volumes of the hitherto unknown works of Rosa Luxemburg are being published under the editorship of Annelies Laschitza and Eckhard Müller (2 volumes, each 900 pages) and Holger Politt is engaged in editing the translations of the Polish works as well. For international Rosa Luxemburg research what is of great importance is the English language project of “The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg” in which two volumes, under the chief editorship of Peter Hudis, have appeared (see: site “Weitere Ankündigungen”) and there is also the Chinese project of bringing out an edition of the complete works. In France too, after publication of three volumes a complete edition of Luxemburg’s works is being worked upon (see: site “Français).

Professor Narihiko Ito has contributed as a prominent motive builder that Rosa Luxemburg’s ideas have not only stayed alive but the circulation of her ideas is being experienced internationally too very widely. His colleagues and friends all over the world will keep his legacy and continue his work.

Prepared by György Széll and Ottokar Luban – Translation into English: Sobhanlal Datta Gupta


About rosaluxemburgblog

I was awarded a PhD in History by Swansea University for a thesis on Rosa Luxemburg (2016). I am currently co-editing the fourth volume of 'The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg' and am a member of the Advisory Board of the International Rosa Luxemburg Society.
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