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Fourth International, September-October 1947


International Executive Committee of the Fourth International

Open Letter to Workers and Peasants of Japan


From Fourth International, September-October 1947, Vol.8 No.8, pp.242-245.
Translated by Margaret Stewart from the French text in Quatrième Internationale, July-August 1947.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


The International Executive Committee together with more than 30 different national sections in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas who are affiliated with the Fourth International, World Party of the Socialist Revolution, have been following with the greatest attention, sympathy and enthusiasm the great social and political awakening of the Japanese masses since the end of the war. It has been encouraging to see how swiftly the Japanese workers, so long regarded by the rulers in other countries as blind serfs of Emperor Hirohito and his military clique, have been able to build strong trade unions and other labor organizations, from the hour when their masters’ apparatus of oppression collapsed in the course of the war. There has been a bond of solidarity between us and your country’s people in their struggle against growing inflation, against soaring costs of living, against extortionate profits of the new Zaibatsu; and for decent wages, for control over food distribution, for workers’ control of production. Involved here are the very same problems that have confronted. the mass of the, people in all countries following the gory holocaust inflicted upon them by their capitalist overlords ever since World War II began.

Your great strike wave last year, which culminated in the threat of a General Strilce last February—averted only by the threats of super-lord MacArthur to employ his military machine to smash it—has aroused the admiration and sympathy of the workers throughout the world.

The Fourth International—the World Party founded by Leon Trotsky, who had, shoulder to shoulder with Lenin, led the Russian workers to victory in 1917. and who was shamefully assassinated by order of the usurper Stalin—sends you its fraternal greetings and assures you of its complete solidarity with your courageous struggle for bread, freedom and social emancipation.

Only the Trotskyists Predicted the Downfall of the Imperialists and the Birth of the Japanese Revolution

At a time when the aggressions of Japanese imperialism, commencing with Manchuria in 1931, were held by the public opinion of the whole world to denote the strength of the ruling class, Leon Trotsky was the first to point out the weakness inherent in the Mikado’s regime. As early as 1932-33, he wrote:

Japan’s military intervention in Manchuria is …. by no means an expression of the strength of the present Japanese state. On the contrary, the act was dictated by its increasing weakness. ….

The comparative elements in the strength of armies spring from no mysterious properties of “race.” They spring from combinations of vital social and political factors.

And after analyzing these factors Trotsky goes on to conclude:

Imperial Japan is headed toward the abyss: Japan is economically weaker than either Russia or America ... Japanese industry is incapable of assuring an army of several millions of arms and military supplies for war of several years. The Japanese financial system cannot support the burden of military armaments even in time of peace. The Japanese soldier, on the whole, isn’t good enough for the new technology and the new tactics of modern war.

At a time when the bourgeoisie throughout the world together with all its lackeys were denouncing the Japanese people as dupes and blind instruments in the Emperor’s hands, the great revolutionist wrote:

The Japanese people are strongly hostile to the government. The disunited nation could not be united by the aims of conquest. Hundreds of thousands of real or possible revolutionists would flow into the army with mobilization. Korea, Manchuria and China would reveal in action their bitter hatred of the Japanese yoke. War would pave the way for revolution.

The Fourth International adopted, at its Founding Conference in 1938, theses expressing an identical political line:

Such military victories as the Japanese army is able to win ... have only an episodic importance. The first serious reverses, which are inevitable if the war is protracted, will become the starting point of social and political explosions in Japan, and in the territories of Manchuria, Korea and Formosa ... Japanese imperialism will go down to defeat in the coming world war if its career is not brought to a speedier end by the proletarian revolution.

We have therefore observed with satisfaction the magnificent social upheaval during recent years, as a confirmation of our revolutionary prognosis.

Economic Situation in Japan Today

Japanese imperialism collapsed and suffered defeat in World War II because its economy could not match that of America the greatest capitalist productive machine the world has ever known. Only a genuine liberationist movement, offering the exploited and downtrodden masses of Asia full freedom of action and leading to the socialist reorganization of economy on the Asiatic mainland in an alliance with the revolution of the industrial proletariat of Europe and America, could have stopped Wall Street and its allies. Yet the Mikado and his military clique sought merely to exploit the just revolt of the Chinese, Indian and Filipino masses for the benefit of Zaibatsu profits. By their brutal repressions in the “great Asiatic co-prosperity sphere,” they succeeded only in arousing a deep hatred of Japan among the natives under their rule. By their alliance with Hitlerian fascism they alienated the workers of the Occident. The Mikado’s wars brought the Japanese people nothing more than a greater toll of human lives, increased misery and famine. Today MacArthur rules over Japan in the name of the world’s richest ruling class. However, the living conditions of Japanese workers and peasants remain among the worst, and in most cases are lower than before.

In addition to their former burdens, the Japanese people are today obliged to shoulder the load of Yankee occupation. Half of the governmental expenditures are devoured by payments for the American army of occupation, stationed on the islands. The greater part of Japanese industrial capacity, according to Washington’s own specifications, has been allocated to reparations by the Pauley Commission. Despite the known fact that Japan has retained virtually all of her industry intact and that her industrial capacity holds the fifth place in the list of nations, her economic life is, so to speak, stagnant. Japan’s industrial output stands, according to American estimates, at about 30% of 1930-31 levels, which in turn were only about 8.5% of wartime production. The Zaibatsu, whose property rights MacArthur protects and whom the war has made richer than ever, are afraid to invest their capital in enterprises earmarked for reparations, as well as in industries scheduled to be nationalized, or those where workers’ control may place restrictions on their profits. Trade is thus paralyzed, goods are scarcer than ever, and rising prices are leading to runaway inflation. Wages are less commensurate than ever with the most elementary needs of life.

Like everywhere else, famine, misery and anarchy of production in Japan, result in the first instance from the preservation of the rotting capitalist system, which produces not for the benefit of the largest number but for the profits of a handful.

But the perpetuation of capitalism in Japan is actually made possible solely owing to the occupation of Japanese islands by Wall Street’s military machine. Failing the intervention of MacArthur and his troops, the Japanese masses would have long ago swept away the Zaibatsu together with their ancient military clique. MacArthur dismantled Japan’s old military machine and propped up the Zaibatsu for reasons that inhere in Washington’s own aims. By dismantling Japan’s war machine, Japanese capitalism has been disarmed and thereby eliminated as a threat to Yankee imperialism. The retention of the Zaibatsu and the big trusts is completely in line with the policy of defending tenaciously and unyieldingly the private ownership of the means of production, pursued by Washington throughout the world with the aim of safeguarding the ill-gotten wealth of America’s Sixty Families. Wall Street fears lest a breach in the “sacred” right to exploit the masses in any part of our globe unleash a storm that would ultimately put an end to its rule in its own country. This whole operation has been arranged by the American super-lords under the political pretext of introducing “democracy “ into the ancient feudal-capitalist kingdom of the Mikado.

What does this “Japanese Democracy—Made in the USA” amount to?

Political Situation in Japan Today

As everybody knows, the new Japanese Constitution, adopted by the Diet and promulgated by the Yoshida Cabinet, was in all its essential features directly inspired by MacArthur, in the name of the Supreme Command, Allied Powers (SCAP). The American military authorities merely accorded to the Yoshida Cabinet authorization to present this Constitution in their own name. It is supposed to abolish the old feudal system and replace it by democracy on the American model. In reality, the Constitution, dictated by MacArthur, attempts, as do all of MacArthur’s decrees from the start of the occupation, to strike only at the least important survivals of everything feudal and reactionary, for the purpose of quelling the masses.

Article One of the Constitution sanctifies as the “symbol of the state and of the unity of the people”—the Emperor, in whose name the military clique unloaded all its crimes upon the Japanese peoples. Article Two sanctifies the Hirohito dynasty, and so on. These democrats and republicans did not even find it necessary to permit the Japanese people to express themselves on the question of the Republic. The Constitution then goes on to establish an American parliamentary system with its “checks and balances” among a Higher Chamber, a Lower Chamber and a Supreme Court. This system was instituted 160 years ago by the American plutocracy to obstruct “democratically” the will of the people and to foil direct expression or actions by the broad masses.

After according the “freedom of assembly, association, speech, press, etc.,“ and guaranteeing the “right of the workers to organize unions and bargain collectively,” the Constitution then goes on to specify that “the people must avoid abusing these liberties and must always hold themselves responsible for utilizing them in the public interest.” What this phrase means has already been illustrated by MacArthur’s prohibition of the general strike in February. To strike, it appears, is “to abuse” the right of collective bargaining. As regards the “public interest,“ it is for MacArthur and those who succeed him to pass judgment on that.

Fraudulent as it is, the “democracy” introduced by the American occupation authorities does permit the Japanese workers and peasants to exercise rights they never possessed under the Mikado’s regime before the war. For the first time they are able, freely to all appearances, to organize trade unions, cooperatives, political bodies, and so on. And they have done so on a large scale. The Americans seek to ascribe these rights to their own beneficent justice. The brutal and smug assassins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki naturally wish to paint themselves up as benefactors of the Japanese people. But there are creatures in all countries, including most certainly Japan, who proclaim themselves to be bound to the masses and who label themselves “socialists” and who propagate these illusions in the service of American imperialism. They, along with their patrons, must be unmasked.

What is the Goal of “Democracy” the Americans Uphold?

What is the real aim of the Wall Street directors in introducing their “democracy” in Japan?

They say that their aim is to build “a democratic Japan” which will in the future “serve as a fortress against any form of government we dislike.” This means that they wish by these methods to win the acquiescence or at least the neutrality of the Japanese people for their plans for a Third World War. They hope to convert Japan into an arsenal and a military base for a war they are preparing against the Soviet Union. They are not at all sure of making an ally of the Japanese people and for this reason they have included in the Constitution a clause “renouncing war” and dissolving all the armed forces. But they hope to be able to win the confidence of the Japanese people sufficiently to enable them to convert Japan into a battleground between them and the USSR.

Their intention is to manipulate the institution of the Mikado against the people whenever the latter take their “democratic rights” too seriously, just as they have manipulated the rights of the people in order to strip this institution of any real powers.

Their intention is to install themselves as arbiters in the social struggle between the Zaibatsu and the workers, exploiting the growth of trade unions in order to subject the native capitalists to their own economic domination, while at the same time backing Japanese capitalism to the hilt whenever action by the masses may threaten the profit system.

Under the complex parliamentary and electoral system they have written into the Japanese Constitution, they aim, in Wall Street’s interests, to manipulate one political party against another, by parceling out administrative posts which carry with them some relative privileges. They hope in this way to obtain a stable state bureaucracy which will serve as a base of support for American capitalism.

By permitting the development of trade unions, while simultaneously foiling the free expression of working class mass movements, they aim to promote the development of a trade union bureaucracy analogous to the existing ones in the U.S. and in Western European countries, a bureaucracy which will, in order to preserve its meager privileges, serve them as agents and lieutenants within the working class.

In brief, the American super-lords aim, by means of this “democracy,” to strangle the workers and peasants, to preserve capitalism, to insure their economic and military domination over Japan and to integrate the country into their strategic plans for preparing World War III. They hope to realize this in life through “democracy” because they are aware of the present revolutionary moods of the masses and hope in this way to circumvent the Japanese revolution, which they know they cannot avert by armed force alone.

At the outset MacArthur boldly announced that he would purge industry of all the Zaibatsu who had aided Japan’s “war machine.” But he quickly saw that this was impossible of achievement without destroying the entire Japanese capitalist system to which American capitalism is tied by hundreds of threads. The purge of the Zaibatsu has come to a halt. But Japan’s capitalist system remains more disorganized and chaotic than ever.

“The situation is such,” it is stated in a recent American report, “that only a program of complete economic control over all levels of production and distribution could bring about a minimum of economic stability. Unless such control is established immediately ... Japan will find herself face to face with a long period of economic disorders, famine and political ferment.”

The Socialists in the Government

The recent strike wave has tended to emphasize this danger in the eyes of the American imperialists; so has the widespread agitation against the Yoshida Cabinet, particularly against Ichibachi, the “Minister of Inflation.” MacArthur’s order outlawing the February 1 general strike obliged the workers to temporarily seek for a way out on the political field, within the framework of Constitution “Made in the USA.” In the April Diet elections the Socialist Party increased its deputies from 99 to 140. The Socialist Tetsu-Katayama, was, as representative of the largest party in the Diet, entrusted with the formation of a new cabinet to succeed Yoshida’s, so hated by the masses.

The workers voted for Katayama and the Socialist Party because they hoped thereby to find a way out of their misery, hunger and insecurity. The occupation authorities, on the contrary, hoped to profit from the participation of the Socialists in the Cabinet in order to realize their own plans. In the foregoing American report, we find the following:

It is not impossible for it (the Socialist Party) to make great headway, if in the course of the next few weeks it acquires the necessary authority to present the economic problems to the people in a proper light.

That is to say, in accordance with the plan for economic control desired by American imperialism.

In what sense will the new cabinet under Socialist leadership establish economic control? Will it be in the sense demanded by the workers, that is, under their control? By nationalizing the Zaibatsu plants without compensation? By organizing production to serve the needs of the workers and peasants?

Or will it be in the sense desired by American imperialism? By collaborating in the government with the political agents of the Zaibatsu, the liberal and progressive parties? By preventing workers’ control? By carrying out nationalizations which will lavishly compensate the Zaibatsu and leave the management in their hands?

These are the problems on which you, workers and peasants of Japan, will have to pass judgment in the months to come. Once the Socialist Party of Japan, following the example of Socialists in other countries, forms a cabinet together with agents of the capitalist class, you may be sure it will not defend your interests but those of your enemies, the Zaibatsu and the American imperialists.

The Role of the Communist Party

While the Socialist party gained 41 seats, the Communist Party remained more or less stagnant, retaining its four seats in the Diet. It is understandable why you, workers and peasants of Japan, have refused to place trust in this party. In the initial days following the collapse of the Japanese military machine, the broad masses tended to follow the Communist Party because in their minds it represented the ideas brought to fruition in the Russian revolution of 1917. The CP leaders, set free after 15 years of imprisonment, preached Communist ideas and directed their demonstrations toward the overthrow of the Mikado, which brought them into clashes with the occupation troops. But presently the Stalinist agent Sanzo Nosaka returned from abroad and put a stop to all this. He preached in favor of retaining the Emperor as an “institution,” in favor of Cooperating with the military authorities, and in favor of class peace. A while later, thousands of Japanese returned from Korea and Manchuria, and told of how these countries had been oppressed and pillaged by the troops of Russia’s communist” regime.

It is understandable that you have no confidence in a party which identifies itself with all this. But it is necessary to understand that neither Stalin in Russia nor Nosaka in Japan represent the revolution of 1917. On the contrary, these people are traitors to the revolution, traitors to genuine communism to which they offer only lip-service. But it would be false to turn away from these traitors only in order to follow the agents of American imperialism. A new communist party, a new party representing the ideas of the Russian revolution of 1917 must be built.

The Fourth International and Its Message to the Japanese Workers

Such a party already exists on a world scale. It is the Fourth International, founded in 1938 by Leon Trotsky, the great leader of the Russian revolution. The Fourth International was founded in the course of the struggle against the perfidious and corrupt Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia and for the rebirth of the ideas of Lenin and of the 1917 revolution. The Fourth International stands for the overthrow of Stalin’s regime by the workers in Russia and favors the preservation and extension on a world scale of nationalized industry brought about by the abolition of capitalism in 1917. The Fourth International demands in Japan, as everywhere else, the withdrawal of occupation troops and the right of the people to determine their own destinies. It demands a peace without annexations or reparations.

After the occupation troops have withdrawn, the Fourth International demands free elections to a Constituent Assembly where the people themselves can determine without coercion what sort of state and what sort of Constitution they really desire. It stands without reservations for a free republic. It demands the right of the people to recall their representatives who fail to carry out their mandate.

In the struggle against inflation and the high cost of living, the Fourth International fights for the following: For a sliding scale of wages adjusted to the high cost of living! For control of production by democratically elected factory committees! For price control and control of food distributions, clothing and housing by the trade unions and by democratically elected committees of housewives and poor peasants!

In order to realize these aims the Fourth International fights everywhere for the establishment of workers’ and peasants’ governments, without capitalist ministers. Only such a government will rely upon mass actions of the workers in their demands for decent wages and working conditions. It will support the peasants in their demands for tax reductions, cheap credit and the division of large estates among those who till them.

The Fourth International aims at the complete abolition of capitalism, of capitalist anarchy and devastation in all countries. It aims at the rational reorganization of each country’s economic life through the collectivization of the primary means of production and the application of socialist planning in industry—for the nationalization of all enterprises without compensation; for planned production with the participation of workers in the plan through their elected committees.

As against the capitalist war plans, as against the partition of the world between Anglo-American imperialists and the Stalinist bureaucracy of Soviet Russia, the Fourth International struggles for the free association of all peoples of the world in the Socialist United States of Asia, Europe and America—for a socialist world which will utilize all technical progress not for war, bringing misery to the many and enrichment to a few, but for a life of peace and plenty for all.

Form the Japanese Section of the Fourth International!

In more than thirty countries throughout the world, in America as well as Europe, in Asia as well as Africa, sections of the Fourth International, parties, popularly known as Trotskyist, are already in existence, fighting for this general program, applying and concretizing it in the light of the particular situation in each given country. In the United States, whose generals today rule over Japan, the Trotskyist are organized in the Socialist Workers Party. They struggle against their Wall Street oppressors and in favor of this program. They are in the forefront of the struggle for the withdrawal of occupation troops from Japan and for the right of the entire people of Nippon to decide their own fate. In nearby Asia the Bolshevik-Leninists of India, the Bolshevik-Leninist group of Indo-China and the International Communist League of China are among the sections waging the struggle for the program of the Fourth International.

Workers, peasants, students, intellectuals of Japan! All of you who truly desire to be socialists but who are deceived by the class-collaboration of the Socialist Party of Tetsu Katayama; all of you who genuinely desire to be Communists, but are deceived by the traitorous policy of Sanzo Nosaka and his master Stalin—unite and form the Japanese section of the Fourth International. Establish contact with the Trotskyist of China, India, Indo-China, America! Ask them to discuss the program and documents of the Fourth International! Build the International Communist Party of Japan!

Long live tlw workers’ and peasants’ revolution of Japan!

Down with American and Allied occupation of Japan!

Down with all the thievish plans of the Big Four!

For a peace without annexations or reparations!

For a free workers’ and peasants’ Republic of Japan!

For a Socialist Japan in the Socialist United States of Asia!

For a World Federation of Soviet Socialist States!

International Executive Committee of the Fourth International
(World Party of the Socialist Revolution)

May 1947

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