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Japan: Its Rise from Feudalism ...

Jack Weber

Its Rise from Feudalism to Capitalist Imperialism
and the Development of the Proletariat

(November 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 46, 12 November 1932, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Continued from last issue)

The absolute and continuous control of governmental power by the military oligarchy, and the geographic position occupied by Japan in the backward East, have permitted unhampered sway to the policy of Japanese imperialism. This policy presents an intense singleness of purpose throughout the era of capitalist economy. The latent conflict between capitalists and feudal landed aristocracy (that might have “disturbed” Japan) for ultimate supremacy, long since liquidated in the more advanced capitalist countries in favor of industrialism, has not yet reached the point of open conflict, although the economic bases for this conflict are already present (high land rent and dear food as against the capitalist need of cheap labor). Hence the ruling classes act in complete harmony in foreign policy; government, banks, industrialists, business men give their fullest cooperation in the process of expansion and penetration, “peaceful” or militant.

The Tanaka Document

The ultimate aims and the methods of the expansionist policy are given singularly candid if not laudable expression in the notorious Tanaka document. These aims, like those of the other imperialist powers, are based on the need for markets, for sources of raw material, and on military considerations of defense and offense. For military purposes Japan is completely dependent on keeping the road to China open as she depends on China for foodstuffs, oil, coal, iron and steel. Modern warfare is fought in the factories at home, a fact emphasized by the statistics of the last years of the campaign on the Western Front when one ton of ammunition was spent for every German destroyed or permanently disabled. Japanese militarism feels lost without a firm base in China. Furthermore Japan exports 30 p.c. of her entire production of manufactured goods, six times the percentage exported by the U.S. Says Tanaka:

“When we remember that the Chinese are our only purchasers, we must fear that day when China unites and her industry begins to flourish – We must from now onwards pursue our own military ends and seize the heart of Manchuria and Mongolia by divers ways, in order to be able on the one hand to destroy the military, political and economical development of China ——–.”

The Formula of Conquest

The Japanese rulers learned more quickly than anything else from the West the cunning methods of imperialism. A generation after the forcing of extraterritoriality on Japan by the Powers, she in turn, even while protesting against this same extra-territoriality at home, forced Korea to grant extra-territoriality to the Jap. The Japs protest violently against the closing of the door to Jap immigration by the U.S. in 1924, but Japan has consistently shut out the Chinese from free entry to Japan for exactly the same reason avowed by U.S. capitalism, protection of the standard of living. But above all Japan learned the formula of imperialist expansion in backward regions. In 1875 France “recognized’’ the independence of Annam from China. Following this in the same year Japan granted Korea “recognition”. In both cases China refused to grant such recognition but she was coerced into acceptance of the faits accomplis in 1885 when Annam became a “protectorate” and Korea became “neutral” due to Russian opposition to Japan. In 1903 Baron Komura, Minister for Foreign Affairs, warned Czarist Russia in a secret note: “The unconditional and permanent occupation of Manchuria by Russia would create a state of things prejudicial to the security and interests of Japan ... if Russia were established on the flank of Korea, it would be a constant menace to the separate existence of that empire, or at least would make Russia the dominant power in Korea. Korea is an important outpost in Japan’s line of defense.” In the Russo-Japanese War that followed this warning, Japan established complete hegemony over the Sea of Japan, making it an inland sea, impregnable from attack by sea.

The military oligarchy has learned at home how to control government through a puppet emperor and this same method has become the formula of Japanese imperialism. In Korea the Crown Prince of Korea became the puppet with actual powers in the hands of an “adviser”, or governor-general. Complete control of finance, foreign affairs, concessions and foreign commerce was taken over by the Japs. Diplomatic matters were transferred completely to Tokyo, pressure being successfully applied to cause the withdrawal from Seoul of the various ministers, the first to go being that of the U.S. In 1910 Korea was finally annexed formally to Japan. Precisely the same formula is now being applied to Manchuria.

Japan and China

Japan’s aggressions in China followed a plan based on recognition that China cannot be subdued and forced into colonial status simply by military conquest. The plan had the twofold aim of securing control of China’s trade outlets and of gradually seizing the strategic cities and the railroads for final military conquest. Japan everywhere placed herself between the ports seized by the Europeans and the ocean, so as to “starve” these ports ... In 1915 Japan presented the infamous 21 demands to China, great emphasis being placed in these demands on control of railroads. Among the secret clauses of the 21 demands, meant to place China in the early position of Korea, were that the Chinese government should employ “influential Jap advisers” in political, financial and military affairs; that Japanese hospitals, temples and schools in China should be granted the right to own land (no foreigner is allowed to own land in Japan except through a Japanese corporation); that the police departments of various cities be “jointly” administered with Japs; that China must purchase 50 p.c. of her munitions from a Japanese arsenal to be established in China; that Japan be given first right to make all loans. In 1918 Premier Terauchi proposed that China issue gold notes on the strength of gold held in Japan. The Japanese aim in all her relations with China is clear: to make China her colony, to hinder Chinese development until she does fall into the hands of Japanese militarism.

Meantime Japan encroaches on the material resources she requires in China, particularly the coal and iron mines. By a loan made in 1899 to the Hanyang Iron Works, Japan obtained payment in ore from Tayeh on the Yangtze and coal from Pinghsiang. This arrangement, involving practically the entire output of these mines, has been a constant source of conflict due to Japan’s use of it to hinder the growth of the Hanyeh Ping Co. In January 1928 the Japs prevented the Nationalists from seizing this company. Again in 1929 Hupeh Province was forced to relinquish this company, one of the largest iron and steel companies in China.

Japan has over one and one quarter billion dollars invested in Chinese railroads, warehouses, banks, spinning and weaving plants, mining companies. This investment is used for imperialist purposes, but it is at the same time the effort of Japanese capitalists to utilize the cheaper Chinese labor, the nearness to raw materials, the closeness to the market, and the avoidance of Chinese tariffs.

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Last updated: 13 November 2014