Japan Moves Toward War
Against the Soviet Union

(January 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 4, 29 January 1934, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Caught in the toils of insoluble and ever-sharpening contradictions, the capitalist world is hurtling along the path to war with growingly accelerated speed. This is clear for all to see. It is no longer a matter of years, but of weeks – at the outside, months. The bourgeois press recognizes the imminence of the coming clash.

“The world is closer to war today than it has been in a long time. In the Far East as well as in Austria the witches’ broth of international conflict is brewing.” Thus wrote the New York Evening Post on January 22. Press dispatches from day to day emphasize that at any moment the match may be applied to the powder, barrel. All Europe is a vast magazine of explosive material. Fascism threatens to engulf the entire continent. But the main focal center of imperialist conflict, the point at which the touch-off is most likely to be given, continues to be the Far East. In preparation for their contemplated onslaught on the Soviet Union the Japanese imperialists are endeavoring to cultivate more amicable relations with the United States. On January 24, Foreign Minister Hirota announced in the Diet that he was taking steps to discuss with the United States Government “a friendly solution of problems likely to arise within the next two years.” In the ensuing debate on Hirota’s speech, the Fascist politician, Seigo Nanako, bluntly inquired whether the foreign minister has courage enough to answer recent criticisms of Japan by foreign statesmen. The reference was obviously to the recent speech by Stanley K. Hornbeck, chief of the Far Eastern Division of the U.S. Department of State. The Japanese foreign minister promptly rebuked the Fascist spokesman, advising him to use “calmer language” when discussing foreign affairs and to avoid the term “Oriental Monroe Doctrine”, which, he said, “was liable to be misunderstood abroad.”

The outstanding news item last week concerning the development of the threatening war situation in the Far East was the resignation of General Sadao Araki from the position of Japanese war minister. This move has been construed by some as an indication that Japanese imperialism has switched its course onto the paths of peace, abandoning for the time being its plans for an attack on the Soviet Union. Official circles in Washington, quoted by the New York Times on January 25, are credited with the view that “Japan is ready to change not only her recently belligerent tone but her possibly belligerent intentions.” Officials of the War Department, discounting the fears of Moscow conveyed by Ambassador Bullitt, “do not believe that Japan now wishes war with Russia.”

Without taking this facile belief at its face value – for the American imperialists would like to see their Japanese rivals break their teeth at the Soviet frontier – we can note that it. reduces the problem of war In the Far East to the simple dimensions of subjectivity, the “wishes” of the Japanese imperialists. We have to bear in mind, however, that the wishes of the Japanese imperialists are conditioned by the entire objective situation, and first and foremost by Japan’s internal situation. It is precisely this situation which is driving Japan relentlessly along the road to war.

However, there is nothing about the resignation of General Araki which gives ground for believing that Japan’s imperialist designs on Soviet territory have been even temporarily abandoned. Capitalist press dispatches on the subject, although confusing, would seem to point to the opposite conclusion. Thus a Tokyo message to the New York Times on January 23, on the subject of Araki’s resignation, declared that “public opinion is slowly swinging away from the extreme Right and the Army’s prestige is waning.”

Assuming this to be the case, the conclusion should be drawn that the Army would deliberately seek to revive its prestige along the road of war. The real motive behind the change of war ministers is, however, given in the same message, when it is pointed out that “high political circles outside the army liked General Araki personally, but his exuberant eloquence, which was taken abroad far more seriously than here, had become embarrassing.” The Tokyo newspaper, Kokumin, illumined the question further in a character sketch of General Senjuro Hayashi, who has succeeded General Araki at the war ministry:

“Hayashi is a soldier in the full sense of the word. He belongs neither to the Araki (reactionary) nor the Ugaki (liberalist) factions, but is strictly neutral ... He is a man of silence, but is capable of swift action, in contrast with Araki, who is a great talker ... The government expects that Hayashi will talk less and will not interfere in domestic polities, but if a clash comes he will be a harder man than Araki.”

General Hayashi is known to the public only by his decisions at the start of the Manchurian fighting in the fall of 1931, when without awaiting orders from higher up, he marched his troops from Korea to support the Japanese forces in Manchuria. The need for having the war ministry headed by a man capable of rapid decisions, especially in time of war, needs no demonstrating.

Thus the resignation of Araki and the character of the man appointed to succeed him would appear to indicate not a peace move but a war move. An Associated Press dispatch from Tokyo on January 22 declared in this connection:

“Although General Araki, especially abroad, was regarded as a leader and spokesman of the aggressive military Nationalist movement, strongest force in Japanese politics in the last two years, his retirement is not expected to weaken the military’s domination of imperial policy.

“General Hayashi is a militarist of the same stamp and, if anything, a stronger Nationalist than General Araki.”

War propaganda in Japan, which for the past two years has gone on openly and uninterruptedly, with the Soviet Union plainly spoken of as the enemy, meanwhile supplements the war moves being made behind the scenes, notably the reorganization of the army in Manchuria. It includes the building of a “case” on which Japan will go to war. The Japanese foreign office protests against Soviet leaders’ “violent and provocative words against Japan and Soviet newspapers’ accusations that Japan is intending to invade Russian territory” (N.Y. Times, January 22) Soviet exposures of Japanese interventionist plans and protests against Japanese provocations are made to appear as “Soviet provocations.” To “prove” that Japan’s intentions are entirely pacific, the Tokyo police, on January 21, arrested nine Japanese reactionaries who were demonstrating before the Soviet Embassy after a mass meeting of the jungo Kenkokukai Society, at which a resolution was adopted demanding that the Soviet Union withdraw troops from the Manchukuo border.

A war by Japan on the Soviet Union will set not only the Far East but the whole world ablaze. The British imperialists are alive to all the possibilities, including the Japanese threat to their Pacific possessions, and, among other preparations, they are speeding the completion of their naval and air base at Singapore, where at the present time the admirals of the British, Australian and New Zealand navies are conferring on “problems of common defense in the Ear East.” The London Daily Herald declares that Singapore is beginning to rival Gibraltar as a fortress. “The whole colony today is an armed camp and its defenses await only the rapid completion of the naval base to become almost impregnable.” The tiny islands in the Straits of

Malacca nearby are nests of hidden artillery, the Daily Herald says. On one of them, Palaubrani, “three of the greatest pieces of ordnance in the world, capable of outranging the biggest naval guns afloat,” are said to lie hidden beneath the tufted palm trees.

“It is significant,” the Daily Herald adds pointedly, “that no Japanese are permitted to pass the gates of the Singapore naval base, although other nationals are permitted to make a limited inspection of the work going on within.”

United States imperialism is in no way behind its rivals in preparations for war. The huge naval construction program alone speaks eloquently on this score. At the same time, propaganda for war is being sedulously broadcasted among the unemployed and starving millions of this country. The following, as a fair sample, appeared in the New York Daily News of January 15:

“The only medicine available to us, to prolong our decline instead of to bring it on faster, is to build plenty of fighting ships and load them with trained fighting men, for the emergency which is in the making ...

“If we do not make ready for the issue which is being forced on us, consciously or unconsciously, by, Japan, we can expect the Decline of the West to become a sudden fall over a cliff – and to become complete a long time before Dr. Spengler’s year 2000 A.D.”

It should be borne in mind that this yellow tabloid, which boasts the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world, is read by thousands of workers all over America. The Daily News is taken to task by the New York Evening Post for this and other equally blatant pieces of jingoism, because, if you please, “Jingoism strengthens the pacifists more than anything they could do themselves. Jingoism, therefore, makes sane preparedness all the more difficult to achieve at the same time that it increases the war danger.” (N.Y. Evening Post, Jan. 22) Thus, the aims of both papers are seen to be identical. They are both for “preparedness” and only differ as to methods for preparing the mass mind.

It is only to be expected that the ruling class and its spokesmen should do all in their power to prepare for the coming world slaughter. On the Communist movement rests the duty to combat all the activities of the imperialist warmongers. But what are we to say of Soviet representatives who are consciously lending themselves to the sowing of illusions in the minds of the workers? Since last November the Stalinists in Moscow have been disseminating the patent falsehood that the U.S. Government is opposed to war. Stalin himself has said so and has gone out of his way to laud Roosevelt as “by all appearances a decided and courageous leader” (interview with Walter Duranty). Litvinov echoes his master. L.M. Kaganovich, addressing a recent conference of the Communist Party of the province and city of Moscow, said “it was the policy of the Soviet Union, which wanted only peace, to cooperate with the nations opposed to war. On this account he particularly welcomed the re-establishment of relations with the United States.” (N.Y. Times, January 23)

But while Roosevelt is hailed in Moscow as a dove of peace, Browder and company in America never tire of denouncing him as a war-maker in the columns of the Daily Worker and elsewhere. Every move of the Roosevelt administration is characterized as a war move, its budget as a war budget.

Thus speak the contradictory and opportunist voices of Stalinism, sowing confusion where the utmost clarity is needed, preparing fresh tragedies for the proletariat.

The Stalinized Soviet government and Comintern have ceased to be the authentic voices of the international revolutionary Communist movement. “Litvinov in Europe today makes Russian – not Communist – politics”, wrote the London correspondent of the New York Times on January 6 (N.Y. Times, January 21) in reporting the Soviet government’s offer to join Poland in guaranteeing the independence of the three Baltic States against possible German aggression. At least the bourgeoisie sees clearly.

The Stalinists are negotiating to include the Soviet Union in the almost-moribund League of Nations. Having destroyed the Comintern as the revolutionary weapon of the world proletariat they are obliged to rely more and more on combinations with capitalist powers, and have fallen into the mire of secret diplomacy from which Russian politics were dragged by the Bolshevik revolution. The Geneva correspondence of the New York Times reveals that these negotiations have been going on “discreetly” for at least a year and that they are being kept “a very close secret” (N.Y. Times, January 21).

Thus important diplomatic moves are being kept hidden from the Soviet workers and the workers abroad. Why is the Soviet government able to reintroduce the old, disastrous methods of secret diplomacy? Because, as the Times’ Geneva correspondent points out, “Joseph Stalin has no Senate to meet.” There could be no more perfect illustration of the fact that the Soviet bureaucracy, with Stalin at its head, has destroyed the party of Lenin, lifted itself away from its proletarian base and now regards itself accountable for its actions to no one. Joseph Stalin has no senate to meet!

After paying the dubious tribute to, Litvinov that he “appreciates the League’s possibilities better than any other Russian,” the correspondent concludes his report with the statement: “It seems already fair to guess that Moscow is more likely to change for the sake of the Covenant than the Covenant for the sake of Moscow.” This should prepare us for further capitulations to imperialism, capitulations as shameful as the Litvinov-Roosevelt pact.

More and more imperative grows the necessity for a new Communist International and new Communist parties. Of the old there remain but empty husks, devoid of ideological life, politically discredited. New instruments of the revolutionary working class struggle must be forged without delay to meet the immense tasks looming ahead, to combat imperialist war and Fascist counter-revolution and organize the triumph of the proletarian revolution.

Last updated on 13 May 2016