Sen Katayama

The Kato Government and its Policy
towards Soviet Russia

(24 October 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 91, 24 October 1922, pp. 694–695.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive

In order to explain the present Kato Government, it is necessary to give the Japanese financial and industrial aspect under which the previous Takahashi government struggled to keep its head up. Many things caused the fall of the Takahashi government Takahashi only became Premier because of the assassination of Premier Hara, the real head of the government and long-standing leader of the majority party, Seiukai. Hara’s government, subsequently Takahashi’s was a party government and commanded the absolute majority of the Lower House. Hara’s cabinet was formed on September 29, 1918, – the memorable year of great uprisings in the shape of rice riots.

The policy of the Takahashi government was always expansion in every field. It sought to keep up industrial, commercial and export trade along the lines pursued by Japan during the war. Its national finance policy was to keep the prices of commodities high, thus artificially stimulating industry. The export of gold is still prohibited.

Takahashi’s government found itself in a financial and industrial deadlock. For the last 2 years export trade was steadily falling off, unemployment increasing and industry shrinking. As export trade fell, import trade proportionally increased, so that industry received a hard blow.

The Takahashi government kept up the expansion policy in armament and, moreover, kept a big army in Siberia and along the border territories of Korea, Manchuria, and even in the mainland of China. As the government expenditures increased, industry went down. The only way open was to increase taxation and with the funds thus raised to meet the increasing expenditures. But, under the circumstances, to do this was absolutely impossible.

At that time the Washington Conference was called, and as a result, Japan began to reduce her navy, and thereby gained a short breathing spell. But, after all, this navy reduction will not save the country. Japan must either face financial bankruptcy or adopt a stringent retrenchment policy.

The people became tired of the Takahashi ministry. It had concealed many acts of mischief, and, as I said before, found itself financially entangled. But the Takahashi ministry commanded the absolute majority in the Lower House, and tried to push its own bad policy in spite of all.

Takahashi wanted 3 of his ministers to resign, to enable him to reorganize his cabinet and to continue his Premiership. But the 3 ministers he tried to induce to resign were stubborn and insisted on the resignation of the whole cabinet This was the cause of the failure of Takahashi’s ministry.

Takahashi resigned on June 6, 1922.

The next, present government was formed by Admiral Kato, who has been Secretary of the Navy since 1915. He assumed this post under the Okuma government and kept it during Terauchi’s, Hara’s, and Takahashi’s ministries. He was called upon to form a new cabinet and to assume the premiership because of bis success at the Washington Conference, but chiefly because, due to the Siberian invasion by the Japanese army, the army clique became rather unpopular. Kato represents the great capitalist interests of Japan and is supported by the capitalists of the country. He formed a cabinet in three days after he was called to take the premiership.

Individually, the members of Kato’s ministry are able and progressive men. The majority of them come from the Upper House of the national legislature, and they are no belonging to parties in the Upper House. But they have no backing among the people; they represent the monied class in the Upper House.

Of course, the Seiukfi, which is the present majority party of the Lower House, will tacitly support the Kato government, because the Seiukai rather selfishly gave the government to Kato instead of constitutionally giving it to the opposition party, the Kenseikai. The Kenseikai is the minority party in the Lower House, but Seiukai claims in principle to be the first party government. Premier Takahashi advised the Mikado to call in Admiral Kato instead of Viscount Kato, the head of Kenseikai. This act made the Seiukai unpopular, and Kato was attacked together with Genro who had helped him to become Premier.

Quite a strong movement has been organized by the opposition party, against Kato’s government, but Kato’s government is supported by the moneyed class. As Kato has been the Minister of Navy, his ministry represents the Navy clique, – the Satsuma group. As soon as he entered the government the stock exchange experienced a boom.

The main reason why Kato’s ministry came into power is the fact it had a tacit agreement with the Seiukai, with winch it must compromise in order to conduct its national policy.

In order to escape Takahashi’s fate, and to meet the present situation there is only one way out for Kato’s ministry, and that is the reduction of national expenditures. There policies were proposed which, if adopted, would save Kato’s ministry and the country.

  1. Extensive reduction of armaments and immediate evacuation of Siberia and other parts of Asia, – Manchuria and China. The readjustment of administration so as to cut down the national budget.
  2. To raise the embargo on gold.
  3. Declaration of the government of its intention not to borrow any more money for government expenses.

If Kato’s government is able to do these 3 things, it may continue to exist in spite of the opposition parties. The next point on the agenda is the evacuation of Siberia. To be sure, the Army clique does not like the idea, but the last parliament did not make any appropriation for the extension of the Siberian, invasion, and besides, sentiment is against continued occupation. The cry for immediate evacuation of Siberia and China is raised not only by the people at large, but more especially by the workers. A strong demand comes from the capitalist class, especially those connected with commerce and industry in the Far East.

Whether the present government will be able to accomplish this is rather doubtful. One thing is certain however; it will favor the capitalist class and work for capitalist interests at the expense of the workers.

Evacuation of Siberia was urged by all classes except the army clique, but for the time being, the army clique is powerless before the demands of big capital and the people. So now, the evacuation, so many times pledged, promised, and announced, but never executed, will be finally carried out. The government announced however, that it will retain a small force in northern Sakhalin, but this act is opposed by the people also.

The government strove to make a big issue of the Nikolaievsk episode, but the Japanese public knew that the Japanese army authorities were the ones responsible for the Nikolaievsk affair.

Furthermore, Japan wants to negotiate, not only with the Far Eastern Republic, but also with Soviet Russia, because, in the first place, Japan must cut down her national expenses, and secondly she wants trade with Soviet Russia. The commercial interests of Japan which carried on a lively trade with Russians before and during the war, and whose activities were interrupted on account of the Siberian invasion by Japan, are all clamoring for resumption of trading relations with Soviet Russia.

As to the inner policy of the Kato ministry:

The reactionary character of the Kato government is revealed by its refusal to introduce the universal suffrage bill.

Its main support within the country, the Seiukai Party, is also losing favor. In the recent city election in Tokio, the Seukai only won 23 out of 88 members for the city council; the other 55 were elected from the Kensekai and Kiekaminkai. With the failing influence of the Seiukai, the present government will not live very long.

Last updated on 2 December 2020