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George Stern

On the War Fronts

(7 June 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 23, 7 June 1941, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It is to be feared that we’ve all been sadly misjudging Imperial Japan. Somehow in recent years we have gotten the impression that the rulers of the Island Empire are willing to go to any violent lengths in order to acquire market, raw materials and profits.

Maybe it was the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 that gave rise to this notion. Or perhaps it was the twice-repeated devastation of Shanghai. Or was it the bestial massacres and rapine which accompanied the Japanese occupation of Nanking in 1937?

And somehow the scourge of Japanese war planes over Chinese cities or Japanese armies careering through the peaceful Chinese countryside, seizing, burning, destroying, or the impression that the capitalist morals of Japan are just about the same, say, as Nazi Germany’s, Britain, the United States, or even Italy.

And just to show how deeply this mistaken impression has ingrained itself, we have very definitely had the feeling that the Japanese seizure of Indochina and its extended reach toward the Dutch East Indies have been motivated by the simple and unbeautiful desire to appropriate for Japan the French and Dutch “right” to sweat and exploit the native peoples of Southeast Asia.

But it’s never too late to make amends for a mistake. We’ve had the Japanese all wrong all this time. And it’s high time we said go quite publicly. And we might as well tell also how our eyes were opened.

“Good Commercial Morals, and Shady Transaction Prevention Week,” opened our eyes. The Japanese government is holding it this week. Nothing more. Nothing less. Far from being the rapacious and brutal freebooters we have been imagining them to be, the Japanese rulers are actually mild and honest men who wouldn’t ever dream of doing his neighbor out of a yen, a dollar, a franc, or a guilder. Why else would they sponsor a Good Commercial Morals And Shady Transaction Prevention Week? Doesn’t this show that we actually have to do with sound, sober, honest, unacquisitive people?

Let’s not be wedded to our grudges. Why they’ve even got banners up in Japanese theatres and public places which say: “No soul looking up to the Rising Sun Flag will besmear itself with dishonor doing shady business.” And others say: “Let the gracefulness of Japan be reflected in her commercial morals.” And the police even conducted a band of some 1,500 of these misunderstood Japanese businessmen to the Meijii Shrine, where they pledged themselves “to liquidate their conventional (?) tradesmen’s spirit and serve the country.”

Now when people will do and say such things, who’s going to cavil over matters like invasions, air bombings, mass murders, wholesale seizures and wholesale destruction? And that’s what we’ve been doing. We’re sorry as anything. Honest we are.

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Last updated: 3 November 2015