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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. 48, 26 November 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Japan in Manchuria

Manchuria is twice the size of Japan proper but it has one-half the population. In resources it resembles closely Canada with its wide prairies, suitable for the growing of wheat and other grains. Only one-half the arable land of Manchuria is under cultivation and yet Manchuria is already the great food granary of the East. Its cattle, timber, minerals are vastly important to Japan’s economy. For this reason 77 p.c. of the total Japanese capital invested in China, is invested in Manchuria. The South Manchuria Railway and its allied concerns absorb 54 p.c. of the Manchurian investment. Its control of the economic life of Manchuria is undisputed.

In any conflict between Japan and any other power—the U.S. or Soviet Russia—Manchuria and its control would prove vital to Japanese defense. But it is also the base for further Japanese aggression. Once her power in Manchuria is consolidated, she would then penetrate into Inner and Outer Mongolia, and into the Far Eastern regions of the U.S.S.R. With utmost care, the Japanese generals are preparing for the conflict they see as inevitable with Soviet Russia. They have utilized the present crisis, when America and England are occupied with their internal woes, and when the Soviet Union is completely absorbed in its Five Year Plan, to take the first preparatory steps. Not an unimportant part was played in their decision by the growing Chinese immigration to Manchuria. In his 1927 document Premier Tanaka stated:

“The number of Chinese grows so rapidly in South Manchuria that our political and economic interests sustain losses. We are compelled in the circumstances to lake aggressive measures in North Manchuria in order to safeguard our prosperity in the future. But if the Chinese-Eastern Railway, belonging to Soviet Russia, develops in this district, then our new continental policy will receive a blow which will inevitably bring about conflict with Soviet Russia in the near future—The Chinese-Eastern Railway will become ours and we shall seize Kirin just as we seized Dairen. It seems that the inevitability of crossing swords with Russia in the fields of Mongolia in order to gain possession of the wealth of North Manchuria is part of our program of national development.”

Strategic Railways

Japan’s feverish activities in Manchuria center about the building of three important railways, important strategically and economically. These railways are designed to permit quick concentration of troops in Manchuria as well as effective mobility in warfare. The plans for these roads were made years before the actual invasion of Manchuria. They are designed to undermine economically the Chinese-Eastern railway and to facilitate the immigration of Koreans into Manchuria. How these Koreans are to be used as tools is made abundantly clear by Tanaka:

“If the Koreans come to this district we must offer them financial support through our trust societies and other financial organizations. These organizations must have property rights, and the Koreans will be limited to the right to work upon the land. Formally, however, the Koreans must have property rights ... Thus we shall, unnoticed, gain the control of the best rice plantations which our immigrants, i.e., the Japanese, must receive. They will have to displace the Koreans, who in their turn, will seek new lands which, in the future, will also come into the hands of our people.”

What of the Chinese Revolution?

The Japanese can succeed in their blood and iron policy aside from the jealous intervention of the other imperialists, only when the Chinese revolution fails utterly, that is, if the Chinese workers fail to take the power in the near future, leading the peasantry in revolt. The repercussion of such a revolution on the Japanese workers and peasants would, under present conditions, be instantaneous and profound. This problem will require our attention in a later article.

Japan and the U.S.

In its policy of imperialist expansion Japan has come into direct conflict time and again with all the other imperialist powers. But particularly is this the case with respect to the U.S. since the Russo-Jap War. Today the question of war between these two imperialist states is openly discussed in the press of the entire world. The problem of imperialist war is frequently posed by Communists in such a manner as to posit a race between the outbreak of this U.S.-Jap war and war against the Soviet Union. The Stalinist method of approaching the problem of defending the Soviet Union, taking into account this imperialist rivalry (properly so!) has led however to such incorrect an dangerous expedients as that of having the U.S. Communist party demonstrate before the Japanese consulates with the demand for expulsion of the Japanese representatives. Such a method of approach is best calculated to mislead the working class.

The population of Japan, static for the two hundred years preceding the Restoration, has doubled during the last sixty-five years. The birth rate of Japan is so extremely high that despite the high death rate there is an annual increase of population of 750,000. Of this number less than 10 percent have been annually absorbed into industry, leaving the remainder to find a place ultimately in an agricultural economy already overburdened under the present system and unable to provide food for the people of Japan. The Japanese government has been forced to approve, tacitly, of measures for birth control and to encourage emigration. Those who emigrate, particularly to Brazil and other South American countries are given 300 yen, providing they agree to renounce their citizenship and not to return to Japan. But these measures have not helped. Nor has there been much of a movement to colonize Manchuria where the climate is too rigorous and the food too different from that to which the Jap is accustomed. The Japs prefer warmer lands where rice is readily grown. Hence their great interest in the 7,000 islands making up the Archipelago of which the Philippines form a part, sparsely populated compared to Japan itself. The Japanese government has designs also on the thousands of islands (five times the area of Japan) in the East Indian Archipelago.

The Philippines

These islands, seized by the United States at the same time that China was being threatened with partition among the European power’s in 1898, form the first obstacle to Japan’s “place in the sun”. The islands contain iron ores but no coal, these ores now forming one source of supply for Japan. The United States is interested in exploiting the Philippines for the production of rubber, so as to break the irritating monopoly of the British and Dutch. Furthermore, the Philippines form the outpost for U.S. imperialism in the Far East.

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