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Henry Judd

The Country Where You Are Jailed
for “Danger Thoughts”

(December 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 51, 22 December 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Japan is a country completely lacking in the most elementary democratic and civil liberties.

In the last century Japan emerged from its Middle Ages and took – as its first “democratic” step – the restoration to full authority of the Emperor Meijii. Since that time the ruling imperialists of Japan have found it to their convenience to build up the myth and popular fairy-tale that the emperor represents – no, IS – God, and that all must obey him with blind obedience. The Emperor – Hirohito – is the symbol around which the Japanese rulers have attempted to build up public support for their adventures of conquest and expansion.

In such an atmosphere it is hardly likely that many of those democratic liberties which the workers have won for themselves in the capitalist democracies – such as the United States – could flourish.

Instead, by combining the traditional religion of the people – Buddhism; by playing up a special section of that religion which never existed at the time of its origin – Bushido, or the code of the warrior; by inculcating the doctrine of Emperor worship and ancestral worship among the masses; the Japanese imperialists have attempted to teach the people that oligarchy, autarchy, blind obedience, totalitarianism, sacrifice, etc., are the best virtues.

The masses are taught that hard work, long hours, patience (no matter how bad the conditions), no complaints, etc., was the mark of a real member of the Japanese race. The imperialists never stopped promising that when half of Asia was conquered and the people of these areas subjected to the rule of the superior “Japanese” race – then they would receive rewards and blessings and Japan would become the Land of Cherry Blossoms. But all this was a lie – years of war in China and Manchuria passed and the people as a whole became poorer and poorer.

Reality Is Different

Instead, the reality of Japan is far different.

There is no such thing as free speech or free press. There are no labor or socialist publications – even those from foreign countries are not permitted entry.

Even the legal rights of Japanese citizens are doubtful. A Japanese woman has no recourse or standing under the law; not even the right to vote or the right to get a divorce. As for the workers, they may be arrested at any time by the special secret police and held without trial or charge. Under the notorious “Thought Laws” Japanese may be arrested on the grounds of harboring “dangerous” thoughts – for thinking! (Even Hitler’s Germany never went that far.) The policeman’s word is all that is required to convict them before one of the special “Think” courts, and then they are placed in one of the dungeons that are a part of the numerous feudal castles in Tokyo. They never emerge from them.

Japanese labor has not the right to organize into free trade unions. That right was abolished by government decree during the war in China. The last Japanese trade union – the sailors’ union – was dissolved in 1940. Workers are organized into government unions which have no contracts but act simply as government propaganda associations. Workers cannot negotiate or complain to their bosses. They are supposed to look upon the boss as a paternal friend of the family!

Naturally, under these conditions factory laws mean nothing, as is proved by the enormous number of children and women who toil in Japan’s cotton, textile and manufacturing plants ...

Political Structure

The political structure of the country is entirely totalitarian. The two old capitalist democratic parties went out of existence last year at the “request” of the Emperor. What actually exists now is a military dictatorship of the Army and Navy, doing the dirty work of Japan’s leading industrialists and bankers.

Despite all this, the Japanese workers have consistently tried to break out of this fascist-like hold and tried to organize genuine democratic and even radical movements. For a period they had trade unions which achieved an enormous strength and popularity. There was formerly a Communist Party organization, created by and after the Russian Revolution; there were various socialist and left-wing political organizations. Anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist ideas are not unknown to the Japanese people!

This is why the Workers Party denies the idea now being spread about that “democracy” can be brought to Japan at the point of American bayonets and guns. This is no more true than Hitler’s claim that he brought “a new order” to those countries he occupied. The Japanese people know what their rulers brought to the territories they conquered (China, Manchuria, etc.). They brought not “democracy” but slavery and destruction; subjugation of a foreign people. The guns of the American imperialists cannot bring liberation to the Japanese people, but only conquest and military rule from abroad. The REAL job of overthrowing the Japanese militarists and imperialists must be done by the Japanese workers and farmers themselves if true democracy – workers’ and farmers’ democracy – is to come about in Japan.

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