New facts have emerged regarding the clandestine activities of Sanzo Nosaka, a controversial Japanese Communist Party leader who was expelled by his party in 1992 and died seven years ago aged 101.
New evidence unearthed in Russia is expected to give historians a fresh perspective on Nosaka’s underground life in the United States after he sneaked into the country in 1934 as an agent for Comintern — the international communist organization headed by Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin.
According to three coded letters Nosaka sent from New York to his Comintern handlers in Moscow in 1934 and now preserved at Russia’s National Archives, Nosaka did more than produce antiwar propaganda during his four-year stay in the U.S., as is generally believed by Japanese historians.
He was apparently deeply involved in intelligence work against Japan.
The letters show that Nosaka tried to disseminate information to communists in Japan who, at the time, were being hounded and repressed by Japanese military authorities.
The letters, decoded and translated into German, were made available exclusively to Russian researchers in the early 1990s.
Tomiya Watanabe, a researcher at the Tokyo-based Social Movement Research Center, says he obtained hand-written copies of the letters from a Russian researcher. The original letters are currently unavailable.
Nosaka, a founding member of the JCP, secretly left Japan for the Soviet Union in 1931 after illness released him from jail, where he had spent two years as a dissident activist.
Nosaka worked at the Comintern headquarters until 1940, when he went to China to work with Chinese Communists based in Yannan, northern China. He returned to Japan in 1946 and went on to serve in both houses of the Diet.
In his later years, Nosaka became JCP chairman and then honorary chairman. In September 1992, however, he was removed from the honorary chairmanship after revelations that he had betrayed a colleague before World War II, who was later executed.
He was expelled from the JCP in December 1992 with the rationale that his prewar actions ran counter to the interests of the party. He died in November 1993.
The 1934 letters show Nosaka appealing to Comintern’s International Liaison Department for both financial assistance and support staff.
The first message reports on his safe arrival in San Francisco and states that he will have to build contacts with Japan “from the ground up,” as there was no framework to do so.
The second and fourth messages ask that certain Japanese individuals — referred to by their Comintern code names — be sent to the U.S. The third message is missing.
Watanabe says the messages show that Nosaka was planning to build a large-scale network on the West Coast by setting up “sailors’ clubs” in Los Angeles, Seattle and other cities.
His last message speaks of his plans to send Americans and Japanese to Japan for the purpose of establishing a Yokohama store to serve as a communist front.
“These men are all workers and trustworthy. I would like you to send funds for the store,” the letter says.
Watanabe says that while it is unclear to what extent the plan was realized, no Japanese communists were sent to the U.S. by Moscow.
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