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Labor Action, 26 August 1946


William Brad

The Mushroom Growth of Socialist Sentiment in Japan

In the Land of the Emperor Hirohito
and Emperor Douglas


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 34, 26 August 1946, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


“If a general election were held tomorrow it might produce a Socialist Japan ... It is increasingly evident that discontent is growing and a vast number of Japanese, who do not want to see a revival of totalitarianism either from the right or the left are finding an answer in Socialism.”

These are some of the conclusions reported by the New York Times of a popular poll conducted by the Tokyo newspaper Asahi. The facts themselves prove that even these conclusions are in some respects conservative. The poll shows that the Social Democratic Party, which won 93 seats in the elections last April, now has the support of 40 per cent of the general population, the bulk of it from the working class of the large cities. In the April balloting the Social Democrats received only 18 per cent of the total votes cast.

The Stalinists, who received 3.2 per cent of the votes in April do not show any appreciable rise in popularity. This is a fact in spite of an intensive propaganda barrage during the past three months which they have been able to produce through their temporary control of several of Tokyo’s largest dailies. In addition the Communists have received substantial aid of all kinds from the over-sized Russian mission to the Allied Council in Tokyo. A mission which, incidentally, operates free of charge to the Russian government by simply drawing all its expenses out of “future reparations.”

The Yoshida Regime

The present government, headed by Shigeru Yoshida, is in general disrepute. The Asahi poll indicates 67 per cent “either opposed or cool” toward it. And no wonder. This government is a political cocktail of all the old reactionary and conservative elements, united under the benign protection of the court of the Emperor. And Hirohito, in turn, continues to rule by the tolerant dispensation and blessing of General MacArthur.

The “Liberal” and “Progressive” parties are the names of the parliamentary groups supporting the Yoshida government in the Diet (congress). But these are merely the “MacArthur era” labels for the same parties that operated throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s and who paved the way for Tojo’s military dictatorship and the war. Moreover, it is today understood, as then, that these parties are the direct tools of the Zaibatsu, the four capitalist ruling families of Japan. They were and are corrupt tools of the Mitsui and Mitsubishi. Today they are not even good for this purpose because they aim primarily to please MacArthur, to become his quislings in the government and thus to salvage the futures of the big monopolists.

The first lesson of the Asahi poll is that the masses have already seen through the phony labels of “Progressive” and “Liberal.” Sixty-seven per cent turned against the government of these parties because it is not their government. What they next have to recognize is that this government was forced upon them and exists only through the support of MacArthur.

Yoshida and his regime have been incapable of producing any program for the present crisis of this war-ruined land. One figure will illustrate its failure sufficiently: The total of all production is estimated at eleven per cent of the pre-war level; which is a two per cent increase since April. A brilliant accomplishment indeed! Two million Japanese are completely destitute. Hundreds of thousands sleep nightly in railroad stations or in the open street, while construction of new homes has hardly begun.

To the pressing problem of inflation Yoshida replies with some fancy financial manipulation of recalling the old yen and issuing a new, revalued yen. These magicians’ tricks caused great hardships. For days there was no money at all available for even the most essential purchases. And only a few months later the inflation has overtaken the worst figures of the old yen and is more rampant than ever.

Capitalist Bankruptcy

These failures to solve the pressing problems of food, housing, employment and inflation are reflected in Asahi’s poll. But these failures are not only the incapacities of the Yoshida regime. They represent the inability of the entire ruling class to organize a national program. Yoshida is the front for the Zaibatsu, the Privy Councillors who represent the landlord-feudal elements, and the solid fascist-minded core around the throne and the hated bureaucracy. Not one of these elements can formulate a solution to the national crisis. Their sole desire, and that has been the core of Yoshida’s program, is to preserve themselves. They hope, jointly with the Americans, to continue to rule over their 72 million subjects.

The basic fact of Japanese national life today is this inability of the Japanese ruling class to re-establish an independent capitalist state. It seeks only submission. The ruling class is driven to this for many reasons, the chief one being that Japanese capitalist cannot survive as a vital force, in fact cannot perform the most elementary function of an industrial society, that is to produce, without an empire. The fatal flaws of the economy, the shortages of capital, raw materials and efficient skills were at least partially compensated by empire. That was the drive to war. Today, stripped bare, this capitalism is revealed as the spindly-legged parasitic monstrosity it indeed is!

The second lesson of the Asahi poll is that the Japanese working class no longer has any faith in capitalism’s ability to survive as an independent force, capable of re-establishing an independent state or of organizing production and economy. This August 14, one year after V-J Day, despite all the assistance of MacArthur, Japanese capitalism and its ruling classes are in open disrepute. In this sense, one basic aim of American occupation has already failed.

The working class is daily a more thoroughly organized force, though it is still in its early stages. One year after the end of the war there are over two million organized trade unionists in over 4,000 unions. Most of these unions are as yet local and independent. The rapid mushroom-growth of workers’ organizations has for the moment outstripped the available organizing ability with which to unify the movement. Also the Social- Democratic party has been hesitant and has failed to develop such a unifying program. The tactics developed by these young organizations have been most advanced and efficacious. Most famous by now is that of workers occupation of the factory, ousting the management and organizing production through democratically elected committees. This strike strategy has proven extremely effective and has been fairly widely used and understood. After the settlement of one of these strikes, the reinstated manager reluctantly admitted “the workers had done some things better on their own than when management was around.”

Toward Workers’ Rule

The meaning of workers’ control and operation of factories has been understood. And the lessons have been drawn. For the working class is the only class that has begun to develop a program, to indicate a solution. And this is the third meaning of the Asahi poll: The demand for nationalization of industry and banks is more and more popular and today is supported by probably a majority of the working class. The workers alone have given vigorous, militant leadership, have displayed the creative energy and consciousness of faith in their future.

These struggles have only just begun. The working class has yet to become a cohesive national force; it has yet to produce a party which will boldly articulate and organize the struggle. It has yet to break from the deceptive, cautious, kow-towing leadership of the Social-Democrats. Above all, it has yet to begin the struggle against MacArthur and American military domination.

The indications are evident of increasing awareness that MacArthur and his army are not liberators but props under a hated and collapsing regime of failure. It is not yet widely understood, nor related to the failure of the Japanese ruling class. Perhaps a joke will better illustrate the molecular process of formation of conscious ideas than do statistics. There is a joke current in Tokyo that “all that has happened (since V-J Day) is that the Japanese now have two emperors instead of one, Emporer Douglas and Emperor Hirohito.

American workers can best celebrate V-J Day by assisting their fellow Japanese workers in demanding the recall of all American troops. Bring the troops back home. Put an end to the American military dictatorship. Let the Japanese develop their own rule. Let the growing socialist movement take control and establish a true democracy.

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