Sen Katayama

Socialism in Japan

A Letter to Hyndman

Source: Justice, November 21, 1908, No. 11, p. 6 (932 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Re-proof read: Andy Carloff, 2010
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The following letter shows that the hopes which some of us had that Japan would learn from Europe not to allow capitalism free play at the cost of the well-being of the people, have not been realised. In Japan, as elsewhere, capitalist rascality and capitalist tyranny hold full sway. Japanese Socialists have our sincerest good wishes. May they come triumphantly out of this period of mean persecution.


The Socialist movement in Japan has been just passing through the first stage of power. Socialism has won its victory in the sphere of thought of the people and it is, consequently, the more feared by capitalists and their representative government. We have no vote or other means of showing our numerical strength, but we are sure of a considerable number of Socialists throughout the country.

“People at large now concede that Socialism as a principle is good, but they say that Socialists and their tactics are not good and ostracise us and hate us very much. Our Government especially and the police authorities treat us Socialists like animals and interfere with us at every step.

“It is almost impossible to get bread for a Socialist. Two of our young comrades some time ago went to the country to follow their business. The police so interfered with them that they were unable to do any business and returned. Again, a few days ago one of them went to a provincial town to sell books, but was arrested simply to prevent him doing any business. Now this treatment is entirely illegal and violates personal freedom guaranteed by the constitution and law, but just now for Socialists in Japan there is no protection of constitution and law. A few weeks ago a comrade wrote a book in prison, and, intending to publish it, sent it to a publisher; when the book was ready for binding and the copies were at the binder’s, the police went to the binder and confiscated them all without any process of law! The book was buried from darkness to the darkness. The said comrade has no place to go to lodge complaint of all this, for the police or Crown solicitor will not move in the case, and the Administrative Court will not take cognisance of the case. Thus we are ousted by cruel police hands.

“My ‘Socialist News’ is not suppressed yet. But, alas the police interfered with the printers, intimidating them and calling on them every day and night to make a hundred troubles, simply to tire them out, and to induce them to refuse to print our paper. In this manner we were unable to publish for three months. We wrote our MSS. [abbreviation for “manuscripts”—Proofreader] three times, but each time we were unable to get the paper out in shape. And now we cannot get the English columns printed anywhere, so that we cannot inform the world what we the Japanese Socialists, are doing.

“There are some 20 or more Socialists in prison serving their terms, and those who are professed Socialists are always dogged everywhere we go by detectives. This dogging by the detectives will cause a great deal of inconvenience, and in some cases it renders it utterly impossible to do business.

“This harsh and cruel oppression and persecution began with a marked severity since the change of Ministry. The present Militarist Ministry is determined to crush the Socialist movement, and is trying to put down every organ of the Socialists, Already four or five papers have been suppressed. A few days ago the Government ordered us not to print and publish a translation of Professor Ely’s book, ‘Socialism and Social Reform.’ This will give you an idea how our Government is foolishly trying to suppress Socialism. But the work of Socialists will spread and grow faster than ever.

“Our industry is at a lowest ebb. Wages are reduced and there are many hundreds of thousands of unemployed throughout the country. Several thousand sailors and officers are out of work, and strikes are often occurring. Workers are treated like slaves since there is no law to protect them. But they are looking towards Socialism, as their hope in the future. Our Government employees number about two hundred thousand, they are treated like dogs and now their wages are cut down to the extent on the average of 15 per cent. But the necessaries of life are all rising in price. Japan has higher prices for food-stuffs than any other country. Tokio Electric Railroad conductors, working twelve hours a day, get money enough to buy only one pound (1 lb.) of good beef or quarter (4 pints) of milk! The salt monopoly causes us to buy salt at 30 See or 15 cents (7½ d.)[This is an old abbrev. for a british penny—Proofreader] a pound. Japan is just now the most heavily taxed country in the world. This is the very cause of the spread of Socialism. We hope to get a printing machine with types, that will cost us £40 in all. If we get the amount we shall be able to print our paper regularly, unless we get entangled with lè se majesté [French phrase for Offense against the Majesty or monarch—Proofreader] crime, or our machine confiscated.

“Just now, the city and the whole country are excited over the American men-of-war, and some 50 prominent business men who are here. It is quite a contrast. Japs in the United States of America are being persecuted, and Japs at home are entertaining the Americans!

“We hope that American workers will live up to the standard of Socialism and join in putting down accursed militarism!”—Yours truly,