John Liang

Which Road for Japan?

(Spring 1959)

From International Socialist Review, Vol.20 No.2, Spring 1959, pp.60-61.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Japan Between East and West
by Hugh Borton, William J. Jorden, Paul F. Langer, Jerome B. Cohen, Donald Keene, C. Martin Wilbur. With a foreword by Ernest A. Gross.
Published for the Council on Foreign Relations by Harper and Brothers. New York 1957, 327 pp. $4.75.

“In what other non-Communist country could a book on dialectics move to the second place on the best-seller list (fiction and non-fiction combined)?”

“And where outside the Soviet bloc could a translation of Political Economy, a dry-as-dust textbook issued by the USSR Academy of Sciences, sell close to a million copies within a single year?”

The questions refer to postwar Japan, most literate nation in all Asia. They are presented rhetorically and with emphasis by Paul F. Langer, whose essay on “Communism in Independent Japan” is one of the six that comprise this volume.

Langer teaches at the University of Southern California. He doesn’t like the radical bent of the Japanese people. Like the other contributors to the volume under review, he sees Japan in the narrow focus of American imperialist interests, as a potential ally in the cold war (and later, if need be, a hot war) against China and the Soviet Union.

The book is about Japan’s problems and the dilemmas they present, especially now, when Japan, as a capitalist nation, must live cheek by jowl with Communist China. The problems, of course, are not new, though they are accentuated in new conditions. Fundamentally they are the same that drove the Empire to its disastrous military adventure in World War II. These problems, in all their urgency, remain unsolved.

Japan now has a population of over 90 million, increasing by about 3 million a year. This mass of humanity is crowded into an area of 142,000 square miles – as compared, for example, with California’s 158,000 square miles and a population of about 12 million. Poor in natural resources, Japan cannot provide but a fraction of the raw materials needed for its superb industries. These must be imported. Nor can the country grow, even with the most advanced scientific methods, sufficient food for its people.

Needing both food and industrial raw materials, Japan naturally inclines toward trade with its close neighbor, China. What is more logical than the exchange of Japanese machinery, which China needs, for China’s surplus rice and edible oils, coal and iron ore?

But here cold war politics enter. Japan is a capitalist nation allied with the United States. This means that Japan’s economic needs take second place to Washington policies and the need of Japan’s bourgeois rulers to stay on top. The Tokyo government is thus in a perpetual squeeze between the demands of the Japanese people and the policies of Japan’s ruling clique.

If you read this book clear through, you’ll get much of this contradiction, with a not uninteresting narrative of postwar developments in Japan. Our essayists, however, nowhere give even a hint that the solution of Japan’s problems lies in a rejection of the imperialist alliance. Nowhere does their thinking transcend the status quo. We have here a remarkable paradox: While Japan’s national interest demands close economic, political and cultural ties with China, Tokyo rejects China in favor of American imperialism – even though discriminatory US tariffs bar dollar-earning Japanese products which Japan must export to finance food and raw material imports!

The Japanese people, by their avid interest in Marxism and Soviet politics, show a much more lively appreciation of the nature of Japan’s problems than do the learned contributors to this volume. They feel keenly that their country’s future lies with a communist China rather than with a capitalist United States. Indeed, what more promising future could there be for Japan than the union of its magnificent industrial structure with the fast-developing economy of China? Together, these two nations could lift eastern Asia and the whole world to new heights. But for that a Japanese revolution – the overthrow of the bourgeoisie – is needed.

This admittedly is a prospect not at all pleasing to the authors of this volume. Theirs is the point of view of American imperialism – a point of view indicated by the names on the roster of the Council of Foreign Relations. Here we find such disinterested observers of the Japan scene as John J. McCloy, a top US diplomat, as chairman of the board, and directors that include: Allen W. Dulles, cloak-and-dagger manager of the Central Intelligence Agency; Lewis W. Douglas, former US ambassador in London; Myron C. Taylor, former head of the US Steel Corporation and envoy to the Vatican. Writing the Foreword is another ex-US diplomat, Ernest A. Gross.

Can any of these representatives of American imperialism possibly speak for, or give guidance to, the 90 million inhabitants of Dai Nippon?


Last updated on 30.3.2005