Sen Katayama

Report on the Eastern Question


(December 1942)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 116, 22 December 1922, pp. 990–991.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive

Comrades, I stand here to present the Japanese case and also the case of the Far East. Japan occupies a very important place as to the coming Socialist revolution. Japan is the only country which is really economically and politically independent in the Far East. Japan is important in the revolutionary movement of the world because in the near future the workers of Japan may rise against the capitalists. This is the reason why I want your serious attention. We all know, and I do not need to tell you that we must protect the Russian Revolution. Soviet Russia is menaced by Japanese Imperialism, and for this reason alone the Fourth Congress and the Communists of the world should pay more attention to this subject than they have. During the Congress Japan is represented here in order to make progress in the social revolution of the world. This is the reason, comrades, I want to read what I presented in my report on Japan and Japanese conditions. I want to give you a few facts. They are facts which give you some idea of what Japan is:




Wealth estimated at

87,000,000,000 yen

Products, 1917

  8,372,000,000 yen

Products, 1918

  5,608,000,000 yen

Japan is the most industrial country in the Far East and I will read now the figures:






Government Employees




Factory employing 10 or more

















Railway Workers





Agrarian Workers





Grammar School Teachers





Altogether there are


These are wage workers, exploited in some cases very much. The work-day in the spinning factory consists of 11 and 12 hours and there are also night shifts, women and young girls work these hours in the factory. Besides this there are 160,000 families of poor peasantry and combined tenantry.

Among these workers some industrial proletarians are organised: in 1920 there were 838 unions with a membership of 269,000 and in 1921 – 671 unions with a membership of 264,000 and 229 tenant unions with a membership of 24,000. There has, of course, been an increase since that time. The Landowners’ Union which with the exception of 225, is really a peasant proprietors’ union, has a membership of 1,422,000. There are also mutual aid associations. In 1920 there were 685 with a membership of 2,000,000, These unions aided 3,169,000 persons with money amounting to 1,551,000 yens.

Comrades, these are bare facts based upon a government report. Of course as to the labour unions, the government has tried to minimise their number; we have more. The Japanese workers are oppressed and exploited by the militarist government. They are suppressed whenever they start a liberal movement, but they are awakening. The Japanese workers have had to learn European technique and how to conduct European industry. It took somewhere between 40 and 50 years, and they have learned all the technique during this short time. I well remember when I was thirteen or fourteen years of age, there were no factories worth while mentioning, there were only 25 miles of railroads in the whole of Japan and we had not even heard of coal or kerosine. We only used the candle for lighting purposes. We had no machines in Japan except the water wheel and the hand spinning wheel.

But today we have 6,000 miles of railroads, 4,000,000 tons of steamships. And I am ashamed to tell you that we have 700,000, tons of warships. So in forty or fifty years the Japanese have learned how to build steamships, and locomotives, how to build complicated machines, and the workers are finding themselves more and more oppressed. They have also been compelled to learn the art of warfare. Japan went to war in 1894 with China, in 1904 with Russia. They sacrificed themselves and became cannon fodder, but they found out that they were only fighting for the capitalists of Japan. This is a great revelation to the Japanese workers. They have learned not only this complicated modern industrial technique, but also they have organised a labour movement. Our labour unions are very weak yet, but I tell you in Japan there is no Henderson, no Gompers. They do not care about the union fund, the union property, they are fighting for the revolutionising of Japan. They are demanding, besides the increase of wages, the shortening of hours, the control of the industry, determined to carry on their fight for a new society. Our union leaders understand the capitalist conditions and are showing the workers that the capitalist system cannot remedy the unemployment problem, and that it will never be remedied until the destruction of capitalism.

Comrades our workers are far behind in the matter of a labour movement, but I tell you we have no traditional obstructions, or reactionary labour aristocracy, therefore the Japanese workers are progressing faster than those of other countries. Most of the unions have been started recently, that is a few years ago. But one union had been organised about eleven years ago. I wish to show you how the Japanese labour movement has been making progress. The Yual Kai (Japanese Federation of Labour) was started eleven years ago for the purpose of educating workers. It was founded by a university graduate, who claimed the friendship of the prefect of police in Tokio. And although this movement was started as an educational movement at that time it caused great surprise. Suzuki was allowed to make a labour movement – being the personal friend of the Chief of the detective bureau, and he was very proud of it. The police even helped him distribute the organ of the Japanese Federation of Labour. But the workers were not satisfied with a merely educational organization, and within a short time it had grown very rapidly. Tens of thousands of workers came together under the Japanese Federation of Labour. Then it formed industrial unions, and these industrial unions gradually became strong and radical in spite of the bourgeois founder. First, it became socialistic, and last October they held a meeting and decidedly became Bolshevik. It has 120,000 workers and 63 affiliated different unions. At their annual meeting held last October, they decided among other things that they must make ready for a general strike for 24 hours on May Day. They voted for the immediate recognition of Soviet Russia, and they voted for the abolition of the labour bureau of the League of Nations. They voted to make propaganda for more radical textbooks. For in Japan as in America the schools are supplied with textbooks which poison the minds of the children in favour of the imperialist and capitalist classes. We must make propaganda for the elimination of militarism, and Jingoism.

This shows that in ten years this union which was formed under the protection of the police, has become a strong and revolutionary union, the Left wing of which has sent a delegate to affiliate with the Red Trade Union International. This is a fact, which shows how the Japanese labour movement has been making progress. Comrades, I have firm faith in the Japanese Labour movement. The Japanese workers have learnt industrial technique, they have learnt how to conduct model industry in a generation or a generation and a half which took the European workers more than a century to learn. Since the Japanese industry has been built up in such a short time by the workers, I contend that the Japanese workers will learn how to conduct the revolutionary struggle not only for Japan itself but for the entire Far East.

It is a fact that already Japanese workers and Korean workers, especially the independent revolutionaries of Korea, are cooperating in the work of revolutionising the Far East. I know the Japanese workers are somewhat despised as cheap labourers abroad, I know that that is a factor in North America, Canada, and Australia, but comrades, I tell you that the Japanese revolutionary workers, in fact, the entire membership of the Trade Unions do not complain about the anti-Japanese movement of North America or Australia. They have more important work to do than to complain of the anti-Japanese movement in those countries. The Japanese workers are fighting and protesting against the exclusion of the Chinese labourer, and the Japanese unions are fighting the capitalists who cruelly exploit Korean labour. The Korean labour organizations in Japan are affiliated with the Japanese Federation of Labour. They are looking forward to the complete emancipation of the working class under the influence of the Russian Revolution. Therefore, I want to assure my comrades from those countries in which there is an anti-Japanese movement that the Japanese workers, the advanced revolutionary workers, the fighting unions are not troubling about these anti-Japanese movements. They will look to you to create a united front against the imperialism and the capitalism of the whole world. I am glad to say the Japanese workers have already started to work for the united front in the Far East. Under the auspices of Soviet Russia and the Comintern we had a Far Eastern Conference last February and March, and we established a united front. The starting point was that the Japanese, Chinese and Korean Communists were to create a United Front against Japanese Imperialism. Comrades from the West, I want to say at this point, that though you may in your countries think little of the Japanese workers, you will agree to attempt to crush Japanese imperialism. Will you not? We are organized under this banner to fight against Japanese imperialism in the Far East.

I want to say a word now about the women's movement, because it has been somewhat neglected at this Fourth Congress. Japanese women workers are very much exploited. They are prisoners in the companies' dormitories and they work twelve hours, both in day shifts and night shifts. Formerly Japanese women were prohibited from attending political meetings and forming political associations. But these restriction have now been abolished. Japanese women are being educated in the highest educational institutions in the country, and they are utilizing their education for the improvement of their position. They are not only taking part in the political life of the nation but many have already joined trade unions. There are several thousand women members in the Japanese Federation of Labour. When a strike occurs the women are very active. They assist the strikers in many ways. They even hold public meetings and make speeches which are so interesting and imposing that even the capitalist papers sometimes report. Thus the Japanese women workers are at last awakening. Girls have been receiving the same education as boys in Grammar schools.

Now, comrades, as to the Far East, Korea has been awakened nationally. Their independence movement has been growing stronger, and although it was not known recently they are now organizing for the final work. They found out that in order to carry on a successful fight for Korean independence they had to cooperate with the workers of Japan.

Japanese imperialism has become very unpopular amongst the Japanese workers, but is still very strong. I will give you an instance. Formerly, when a Japanese mother wanted to frighten her child she would say that she would put him in prison, but to-day she threatens that she will make a soldier of him. The imperialists are preparing for the next war. Therefore, we in conjunction with the Chinese Delegation propose that this Fourth Congress of the Communist International should pass a resolution against the occupation by Japan of Northern Sakhalin, and encourage the Japanese revolutionary workers to fight against imperialism, and to prepare for the coming revolution in Japan.

Last updated on 3 December 2020