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Paul Schapiro

Life in MacArthur’s Japan Today

(28 February 1949)

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 9, 28 February 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

by Mark Gayn
William Sloane Association, 1948, 517 pp., $4.

Mark Gayn is a liberal journalist with considerable Far Eastern experience who was assigned to Japan as a correspondent in the autumn of 1945. He came with a feeling of exhilaration, for he thought he was to be the spectator of great events. The United States had proclaimed that it was going to democratize Japan, and from army headquarters in Tokyo issued a steady stream of directives avowedly designed to do just that.

Altho Gayn was bubbling with optimism and excitement at the thought of the U.S. Army reshaping Japan, as a conscientious reporter he was not content merely to accept headquarters hand-outs but traveled widely through the country, talking to leading personalities and ordinary people of all layers of society. He soon found that the reforms were merely surface changes which enabled the old ruling Japanese gang to remain in power while mouthing democratic phrases.

Japan Diary is, the day-by-day record, slightly revised for publication, which Gayn kept of his observations during his year’s stay and of his progressive disillusionment. In his concluding postscript he warns that by supporting reaction in Japan, Korea and China, the United States has laid the train for popular explosions. “Force and repression are not the answers to unrest. The answer is an enlightened social reform.”

Gayn’s forlorn appeal for the fulfillment of MacArthur’s grandiloquent promises reveals the liberal’s infinite capacity for self-delusion. His own story of the occupation shows the impossibility of “an enlightened social reform” without an overturn of the social structure which Wall Street and the State Department diplomats and military brass hats who serve it cannot allow. One of the more intelligent of these brass hats, the Chief of the Industrial and Financial Division of MacArthur’s headquarters, a member of “a well-known American industrial family, whose interest he represented in Japan before the war,” went to the heart of the matter on one occasion.

“Destroy the zaibatsu [the handful of monopolist families in Japan],” he told Gayn, “and you must have chaos for the next ten years, or have a socialist economy. Wipe out the zaibatsu banks, and the entire banking structure goes to pot. Smash the zaibatsu, and there’ll be no field for our investment in Japan. You know yourself that the businessmen in headquarters in Tokyo want to see old Japan restored. The military people also feel that most of their headaches can be prevented by keeping the zaibatsu intact ... And something else. Let’s not kid ourselves. We need a strong Japan, for one of these days we’ll have to face Russia, and we’ll need an ally. Japan is it.”

And indeed the zaibatsu had nothing to fear from the occupation forces, with their heavy sprinkling of Big Business representatives whom Gayn saw quite openly buying into the zaibatsu and cementing partnerships with them. The cabinet members of the Japanese government through which MacArthur was supposedly reförming Japan were, Gayn found, thoroughly bound up with the zaibatsu. Even the finance minister who was supervising the breaking up of the zaibatsu was a zaibatsu head. And any laws he might draft had to be approved by the emperor, who had immense investments in zaibatsu companies. It is not strange that the anti-zaibatsu laws left the zaibatsu controlling most of Japan’s economy.

Similarly, the land-reform laws left the landlords in control of the countryside. “The government,” sharecroppers told Gayn, “is always in league with the landlord. What we want is not more Japanese land laws, but an order from General MacArthur. The landlords would obey that.” The old governmental apparatus was retained more or less intact. The Thought Control Police had been abolished, but most of its leading members found their way into important (governmental posts. The chief of the Labor Division of the Ministry of Welfare was a man who had crushed labor unions as a member of the Thought Control Police. When Gayn asked another former member of the Thought Control Police, now chief of the Fourth Section of the Investigation Bureau in the Home Ministry, if he were not afraid of being purged, he replied, “I don’t think so. After all, my section has been set up at the request of your army.”

It was this government which MacArthur propped up in 1946 when it was tottering under the impact of the demonstrations of 250,000 people in Tokyo. Of these “Give Us Rice” demonstrations, MacArthur said in a warning to the Japanese people: “They constitute a menace not only to orderly government but to the basic purposes and security of the Occupation itself.”

Conditions in Korea, which Gayn visited for a period, were even worse. There a great revolutionary uprising, involving hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, was being crushed. In the police reports at army headquarters Gayn found the Story of the revolution. It began September, 1946, in the city of Taegu with a succession of strikes by the railroad, phone, metal, textile and electric workers, each of which was suppressed by the Korean police. It was next taken up by the students, who poured into the streets to demonstrate. Fighting broke out in which one-third of the 150,000 inhabitants took part.

From Taegu the flames of the revolution spread to the country at large. Sharecroppers and poor farmers attacked the homes of landlords and the police stations. But the revolution was stamped out by the U.S. Army with the aid of the Korean police and reactionary strong-arm organizations, which it formed into posses, supplied with arms and transported to trouble areas.

In the Korean counter-revolutionary regime the Japanese trained police force was not only retained (“Many men are born policemen,” the American chief of the Police Division told Gayn. “We felt that if they did a good job for the Japanese, they would do a good job for us”); it was strengthened by incorporating into it members of the reactionary hooligan bands which had helped the Americans. This police force used the most horrible methods of physical torture on the prisoners rounded up in the mass arrests, from beating with metal rods to such, refinements as placing burning wooden slivers under finger-nails.

When an American junior officer assigned to guard a police station protested to his commanding officer at what he saw, he was told that he had orders not to interfere in Korean “administrative detail.” The American Military Government not only countenanced this police brutality; it subsidized a Korean “School for Leaders,” which, its Korean founder told Gayn, was modelled on Chiang Kai-shek’s New Life Movement and taught selected young men from the reactionary bands how to break strikes and the history of the Hitler Youth Movement.

This was the Japan and the Korea which Gayn saw in 1946. The stories of new uprisings in Korea and of new restrictions on labor by MacArthur which have appeared since then show that the American Military Government, faced by increasing popular discontent, is continuing to tighten the screws of reaction.

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