Ganbatte: Sixty Year Struggle of a Kibei Worker (1906)

GanGanbatte: Sixty Year Struggle of a Kibei Worker (1906)

Author: Karl G. Yoneda

Paperback: Out of Print.

ISBN-10: 0-934052-07-7

Product Details: 244 pgs, 6 x 9 in, with photos

Categories: Activism; Autobiography/Biography/Memoir; Asian American; Civil Rights; History; Immigration/Migration; Internment; Japanese; Labor, Business & Economy; Narratives; U.S.-Asia Relations; War and Peace Issues




Karl Yoneda's Ganbatte was the first autobiography published by the Center Press and chronicles the author's life from arriving at Angel Island in 1926, becoming a part of labor organizing, life after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to his participation in the Community Party.



"This autobiography documents his lifelong, tenacious struggle for political, economic, social justice and for racial equality as a Communist trade-unionist, longshoreman, anti-fascist fighter, writer, and Japanese American. Simultaneously, it documents in part, the story of his wife, Elaine, and others who engaged in the same struggle.


Born of Japanese immigrant parents in 1906, Karl was one of the first American-born Japanese on the continental United States. His parents hailed from Hiroshima Prefecture. He passed the first seven years of his life in Glendale, California where his parents eked out a living in agriculture. In 1913, he was taken to Japan and spent thirteen formative years there. After World War I, he attended high school in the city of Hiroshima.


Attracted by progressive ideas, he avidly read the writing of noted socialists and anarchists and participated in pro-labor activities. In 1926, he returned to his native in order to avoid being conscripted by the Japanese military.
A broad historical perspective is essential to understand the man. Karl's life is interwoven with the history of Japanese Americans, the American labor movement, and Japan his family history is a part of the early years of Japanese labor emigration. [...]


Besides Japanese-American history and the American labor movement, Karl's life is tied closely to Japan. Throughout the thirties, Karl engaged in numerous anti-militarist and anti-fascist activities with regard to Japan. As an underground worker, he helped to print, edit, and distribute thousands of anti-fascist leaflets and pamphlets destined for Japan. He participated in countless political rallies and demonstrations against Japan's military actions in China and joined boycotts of Japan-made goods in protest. From 1933 to 1936 Karl edited the Rodo Shimbun, official organ of the Japanese section of the American Communist Party, in which he wrote frequent editorials against Japanese militarism. The Japanese government not only banned the sale and distribution of the Rodo Shimbun in Japan, but kept surveillance of Karl's activities through its consular staff.


Even under the ordeal which befell Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, Karl never wavered in his anti fascism. The American Communist Party, ostensibly fearful of harboring fifth communists, suspended all Japanese members and their spouses. Neither this suspension nor the subsequent mass imprisonment of Japanese-Americans dampened his anti-fascist ardor. He tried to enlist for military service immediately after Pearl Harbor, but was rejected. He went as an early volunteer to Manzanar, one of the ten concentration camps into which 110,000 Japanese-Americans were herded without due process. In Karl’s mind the global struggle against fascism had the highest priority. Everything else was secondary, so that he chose to cooperate with his own government, even though it stripped him of his rights. He was among the first Nisei to volunteer for Military Intelligence Service and served in the China-Burma-India Theatre. Here Karl presents his account of his activities during this period which still generates considerable controversy today.


Karl continued his struggle all through the postwar years. As a trade unionist, he was active in the ILWU until his retirement in 1972. As a member of the American Communist Party, he survived the McCarthy era and still is active in Party affairs. As a Japanese-American, he has been involved in many community issues. Currently, he is seeking along with many of his fellow Japanese-Americans, redress and reparations from the American government for the unjust wartime imprisonment. As a writer-historian, he has authored two books in Japanese and lectured widely on college campuses and elsewhere, educating people about the history of Asian labor in the United States and transmitting to Asian-American youth their heritage derived from their own forebears who helped build this nation. Reporting on American politics and society, he has been a regular contributor since 1959 to the Sunday edition of the Akahata, official newspaper of the Community Party of Japan. Ever alert to the possibility of the resurgence of prewar militarism, he still follows Japanese politics with keen interest. In sum, Karl has been, and continues to be, steadfast in his struggles."

(From the “Introduction” by Yuji Ichioka)


Table of Contents


Preface Russell Leong
Acknowledgements Karl Yoneda
Introduction Yuji Ichioka
Part One: Struggle Begins

  • Angel Island
  • Joining the Community Party
  • Struggles During Early Depression Years
  • I Become Rodo Shimbun Editor
  • Organizing Alaska Cannery Workers

Part Two: World War II and “Evacuation”

  • Pearl Harbor
  • Manzanar Volunteer
  • Volunteer for US Military Intelligence Service

Part Three: Post World War II

  • New Conflicts
  • Visiting My Mother in Hiroshima
  • Author First Book — Give First Lecture
  • Politics, Japanese American-Style
  • ILWU and Its Conventions
  • Communist Party, USA
  • Sixty-Years of Struggle




"Karl Yoneda and his wife are the sort of unfragmentable human beings from whom gods and demigods must have been fabricated in ancient times. Perhaps they come close to being heroes of the modern world as we are likely to get in this post-industrial era. But no such claims will be found in the autobiography. On the contrary, as Yuji Ichioka reports in his introduction, Karl Yoneda "self-effacingly describes himself as 'an ordinary working stiff' [...]


Karl took the lead in organizing restaurant workers, Japanese printers, agricultural laborers, workers in the Alaska canneries. He edited Rodo Shimbun, Japanese language organ of the American Community Party [...]


Yoneda's writings on Japanese American labor history have been published and widely read in Japan, but this is the first book-length work of his to appear in English. It will prove a valuable source for scholars of labor history, and of radicalism and Japanese American history. The grass roots detail of organizational activity is what is generally lost in transmission, and this Yoneda provides in rich abundance."

- Alexander Saxton, History Department, UCLA


Related Center Press Publications

Amerasia Journal 13:2 Japanese Americans in the 1930s and 1940s (1986-7).
Amerasia Journal 19:1 Japanese American Internment: Fiftieth Anniversary Commemorative Issue (1993).
Herzig-Yoshinaga, Aiko & Lee, Marjorie (2011). Speaking Out for Personal Justice: Site Summaries of Testimonies and Witnesses Registry from the U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation & Internment of Civilians Hearings (CWRIC), 1981.
Higa, Karin (Ed.) (1992). The View from Within: The Japanese American Art from the Internment Camp, 1942 – 1945.
Ichioka, Yuji et al. (1974). A Buried Past: An Annotated Bibliography of the Japanese American Research Project Collection
Ichioka, Yuji & Aizuma, Eiichiro (1999). A Buried Past II: A Sequel to the Annotated Bibliography of the Japanese American Research Project Collection, 1973-1998 (1999).
Kochiyama, Yuri (2004). Passing It On: A Memoir.
Sakata, Yasuo (1992). Fading Footsteps of the Issei: An Annotated Checklist of the Manuscript Holdings of the Japanese American Research Project Collection.
Scharlin, Craig & Villanueva, Lilia (1992). Philip Vera Cruz: A Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement