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Robert F. Kennedy Challenges Japanese Leftist to Visit U.S.

Feb. 9, 1962 - Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy faced the startled chief of Japan’s massive left-wing labor union today and challenged him to visit the U.S. and find out for himself whether it was really an “imperialist” land of “monopoly capital.” “Come and see,” urged Mr. Kennedy, waving a finger at the labor leader. “Give us a fair shake!” Across the table sat Akira Iwai, 39-year-old secretary general of Sohyo, a national union of 4 million members. Sohyo, affiliated with the strongly Marxist Socialist party of Japan, is one of the nation’s most powerful political forces. Mr. Kennedy asked Mr. Iwai if he “really believed” the Socialists when they labeled the U.S. imperialist. “Yes,” said Mr. Iwai. “How about Tibet and Hungary?” demanded Mr. Kennedy. “Do you consider the Soviet Union imperialist?” “Well, some mistakes were made,” began Mr. Iwai. “But are they imperialists?” Mr. Kennedy demanded. “We don’t use that term,” said Mr. Iwai. “Ah,” said Mr. Kennedy. “Only for us, not for them. The Soviet Union puts walls around its people to keep them in the workers’ paradise and marches into Hungary, and you don’t call them imperialist. I’m confused.”

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