From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 50, 15 December 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
On the island kingdom of Dai Nippon (Japan) live 90,000,000 people of the Japanese race. Most of them are farmers, living in small country-side villages and eking out a meager living from tiny units of land. Many are workers, working in the shops and factories of the large cities and industrial centers of Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Nagasaki, Moji, etc.
For years, millions of the Japanese people have been forced by their government to spend their lives in the armies. These armies since 1935 have been conducting vast campaigns in the distant lands of Manchuria, North China, South China, Hainan Island, French Indo-China, etc. There are at least 2,000,000 men at present in the Japanese military forces. Many of them haven’t been home in 5 or 6 years; many more never came home except as ashes wrapped up in a small, neat urn. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands more involved in the air and naval work conducted by the Japanese military machine.
Japanese man-power has been so badly drained by the endless years of war sacrifice demanded by Japan’s war-mad militarists that today a majority of the Japanese working class consists of women and children. In the thousands, of small, handicraft factories scattered all over the country, in the huge cotton and textile factories of Osaka, in the shipyards of Yokohama and Kobe, in the steel and munitions’ factories of Tokyo women and children by the hundreds of thousands toil endless hours. They are not permitted to organize unions. The despotic and totalitarian government of Japan long ago outlawed workers’ organizations of all types and forms. Employers are permitted – by government sanction – to fix any hours, wages, sanitary conditions, etc. that suits their interests.
For 5 years the living standards of the Japanese people have steadily gone downward. There are shortages of everything needed to keep alive: food (all food is rationed – even the main staples of the Japanese diet, rice and fish); clothing and textiles, shoes, furniture, sake and other drinks etc. Commodity prices have approximately doubled since the 1935 period. As a result of all the hardships which the Japanese have had to bear because of the military adventures forced upon them by the ruling class of the country, the people today live a miserable and colorless life. The average Japanese working man and woman is bound to the factory from sun-up to sun-down, after which he returns to his one-story, wooden home, eats his small plate of fish, boiled rice and vegetables and then retires to prepare himself for the next day’s sacrifice for the Japanese boss.
Just as in the United States only a small handful of bankers and Wall Street imperialists stands to gain by the war, so in Japan a similar clique of bankers, financiers and capitalists will be the only gainers.
For the 90,000,000 Japanese people the war will mean only further sacrifices induced by the blockade which the Allied imperialist powers will attempt to install around the island Kingdom; longer working hours; the horrors of bombing raids over their flimsy wooden fire-trap cities; more shiploads of urns containing the ashes of sons killed in far-off lands.
But the few members of Japan’s “Two Families” – the Mitsui and Minseito families which control the overwhelming bulk of Japan’s heavy industry, shipping and banking -- stand to benefit in the same sense that America’s “Sixty Families” – the DuPonts, Fords, Morgans, Rockefellers etc. – stand to benefit by this imperialist war. Out of the sacrifices of the people these Japanese super-industrialists and bankers will coin greater profits and greater wealth.
For these Nipponese imperialists already have subjugated the people of Korea, the Chinese of Manchuria and the northern provinces of China, the Indo-Chinese, the people of Formosa.
In every territory they occupy, these militarists and imperialists turn the area into a hell of colonial exploitation. They set out to outstrip the cruel and barbarous means employed, for example, by the British in their conquests of India. There is no imperialist crime which has not been utilized by the Japanese bandits. Then, after they have destroyed all organized resistance, they systematically rob the territory of its raw materials (coal and iron in Manchuria, tea and rice in Formosa, rubber and tin in Indo-China, silk and cotton and rice in China etc.); organize a monopoly control over the territory’s trade and commerce; try to “Japanize” the local population; organize slave-labor gangs of women and men alike; rob the peasantry of its produce etc. Every criminal act carried out by the Nazis in occupied Europe has been emulated a thousand-fold by the, Japanese in occupied China.
Now these same imperialists, making use,of their military bureaucrats and officials, have plunged an unwilling Japan into the greatest adventure and the most disastrous war of its history. This time they seek even greater stakes; control and maintenance of their already-conquered territories; control of the Pacific Ocean shipping lanes; new lands and territories to exploit and colonize. To carry out this task they have installed in Japan a military dictatorship of the most rigid kind – the same sort of military dictatorship that Roosevelt will install in America if the American working class does not insist upon the maintenance of democratic liberties during the war. But these Japanese imperialists have, at the same moment, set into motion those forces that will bring their own destruction. The Japanese workers, sailors and soldiers! The impoverished farmers and peasantry of the country! Lied to and deceived for many years by their rulers, they will insist upon a day of reckoning when the meaning of the present war has become clearer, when they see that – like the American workers and farmers – this is war for imperialist plunder and boss profits.
Last updated: 24.2.2013