Grigory N. Voytinsky
Source: The Communist Review, December 1922, Vol. 3, No. 8.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
THE main background of the political life of modern Japan is provided by the struggle between the landed aristocracy and the youthful energetic bourgeoisie. On this background can be traced all the other forms of political struggle in the country: the Labour movement, the tenant farmers’ movement, the conflict of political parties in parliament, and the struggle between the two military cliques of Satsun and Tsiotsi.
One can form a clear picture of the struggle between the landed aristocracy and the bourgeoisie by studying the parliamentary election campaigns of last year and this year. In their campaigns each side endeavoured to secure a parliamentary majority—the one to retain the existing political ré gime favourable for the feudal landowners, and the other to destroy this régime and to remove old and obsolete forms from the political system of the country.
These obsolete political forms retard the efforts of the industrial bourgeoisie, who grew up with particular rapidity during the world war, to create a political and administrative State apparatus to serve its vital interests and needs.
The demands put forward by the liberal bourgeoisie through its party, Kensekai, are directed mainly against the political power of the agrarians and militarists. The heated struggles, which are waged around each of these demands, give witness to the fact that the national bourgeoisie has reached a stage in its development when the forms of political power now existing in Japan can no longer serve its interest; it must therefore destroy them.
On the other hand, the feudal aristocracy, working almost continually in alliance with the powerful militarist clique, still represents a strong social and political force. For that reason, the struggle between the feudal aristocracy and the bourgeoisie must bear a revolutionary character.
We will examine the demands which the Japanese bourgeoisie inscribed on its banners in the recent election campaign, and which were calculated to bring over to its side the masses of the workers in its struggle against the feudal landowners.
One of the principal demands recently put forward by the national bourgeoisie is for a reduction of the army. The economic motive underlying this is the incredibly large sum now expended on the army. No less than 58 per cent. of the State Budget is appropriated for military needs, and this represents that part of surplus value which should have been used for expanding industry. The Japanese bourgeoisie began to feel the weight of the military burden most particularly after the conclusion of the world war and after the majority of privileges they had secured in the East as commercial agents for the belligerent European countries had disappeared.
The demand for the reduction of the army, of course, has its political side, which aims at the reduction of the political power of the agrarians and the militarists. From this demand there follow other demands of secondary importance for which the bourgeoisie fight with no less energy. One of these is the plea for the extension of the railway system and its adaptation to industrial and commercial functions, instead of the military purposes which the railways up till now were mainly calculated to serve. The desire of the bourgeoisie for peace, which has lately found its expression in the demand for the evacuation of the Japanese troops from Siberia, and of non-intervention in the conflicts between the Tuchuns in China, can be explained by the same desire to reduce expenditure upon the army. Reference should be made here to the tendency which has arisen among the progressive bourgeoisie in Japan for the peaceful economic conquest of the markets of China and Siberia. Of course, this is only one of the factors influencing the Japanese bourgeoisie in its imperialistic strivings.
Another demand put forward by the bourgeoisie is that of the extensions of education in the country. This is resisted by the governing clique, mainly on the ground of the expenditure which it would entail. But the bourgeoisie is compelled to insist upon it, not merely in order to cut off a part of the budget of the existing government, not even in order to win the sympathies of the mass of the Japanese workers, but exclusively as a means of solving the vital problem of improving the quality of the products of national industry.
The fact is that the Japanese bourgeoisie cannot now put forward the demands it put forward when it entered the market during the world war at a time when it had no competitors. Even in China, the Germans, English and Americans are able successfully to compete with Japan in spite of its favourable geographic position. One of the means by which the Japanese bourgeoisie hope to improve their industry is to train a skilled, technical staff by raising the general level of education of the workers. For this purpose, it is, of course, necessary to have schools all over the country, and to remove the obstacles between the elementary and the higher schools which exist in Japan as relics of the old caste system.
During the election campaign to the 45th Session of Parliament, at the end of last January, the Japanese bourgeoisie widely popularised all the above mentioned demands in their Press throughout the whole country. In this campaign it sought the support mainly of tenant farmers, the intelligenzia, and also of the workers. In order to attract these classes and groups of the population the bourgeois liberal Kansakai, Kakumento and Kakoshinskla parties for a period of six months carried on an intense agitation for the extension of the franchise.
After the reforms of 1908, which established a 10 yen property qualification for the franchise, there were 1,582,676 electors in the country, out of a population of 49 millions. In 1920, however, after an intense campaign carried on by the bourgeoisie for the extension of the franchise, during which huge demonstrations took place all over the country, accompanied in places by conflicts with the police, the Hara Government was compelled to introduce electoral reforms, dissolve parliament and appoint new elections on the basis of the new electoral law. The new law reduced the property qualification from 10 yen to 3, and thus increased the number of electors to 3,085,628. But the liberal bourgeoisie were deceived by this reform, for it caused an increase of votes among the well-to-do class of peasants who are under the influence of the agrarians and their political party, the Sei-u-Kai. The newly-elected parliament, therefore, merely served as an instrument in the hands of the Japanese agrarians and militarists.
After this defeat the bourgeoisie entered on a fresh franchise campaign with even greater energy. They had been taught that they must seek allies mainly among the intelligenzia, the landless tenant farmers, and the urban proletariat. Indeed, in 1921, the Left Wing of the liberal bourgeoisie, the Kokuminto, succeeded in establishing considerable connections with the tenant farmers, the petty officials and artisans, and at the opening of the 45th Session of Parliament in February, 1921, it presented a petition in the name of half a million of the working population of the country for an extension of the franchise. On the day of opening Parliament, 10,000 peasants came into Tokyo for the purpose of presenting the petition to the Government. The liberal bourgeoisie further succeeded in drawing into this struggle a section of the workers who had become convinced of the futility of an economic struggle while political power was in the hands of their class enemy. A great factor in attracting the workers to the political struggle was the strike which took place in Koba at the end of 1921. The workers of Japan are gradually beginning to understand the necessity for taking part in the political struggle of the present moment, to democratise the country, to abolish the relics of feudalism, and to secure universal suffrage.
The struggle for universal suffrage during the elections to the 45th Session of Parliament bore a much more acute character than that of 1920-21. The bourgeoisie strengthened its position by securing the support of the minor officials of the government service, the intelligenzia and the tenant farmers. The Christian Socialist, Kahava, who had resigned from the U-Ai-Kai, the Federation of Labour, travelled into the heart of the country and visited the most remote villages in connection, with the election campaign. In the beginning of January, a number of societies and individuals organised mass meetings, demonstrations, got up petitions, etc., under the auspices of the opposition parties in favour of universal suffrage.
The Universal Suffrage Bill proposed by the bourgeoisie clearly indicates that they intend to take this weapon of political power, out of the :hands of their opponents. The following are the points of the Bill:—
(1) All male persons over the age of 25 have the right to elect and be elected; (2) all property qualifications existing hitherto to be removed; (3) directors of companies under the protection or under the management of the government are deprived of the right to be elected; (4) canvassing is prohibited; (5) all election propaganda on the day of the election is prohibited; (6) the opening of places of amusement by candidates, is prohibited; (7) breaches of points. (4), (5) and (6) are to be punishable by fines not exceeding 200 yen; (8) election meetings may be held without having to go through the formality of applying for permission; (9) public schools must be placed at the disposal of candidates for the holding of election meetings.
The fight for this Bill between, the government and the opposition took place in the red-hot atmosphere of mass excitement and demonstrations outside the windows of Parliament. On February 23, the Bill was thrown out by a vote of 243 against 147. This aroused a storm of indignation among the masses of the workers. In spite of the precautionary measures taken by the police, and the numerous arrests, which made demonstrations impossible, huge crowds gathered in various parts of the town to discuss the event of the day. In the Shiba Park members of the Opposition addressed a huge meeting of 5,000 people. The intervention of the police led to disturbances, and only the appeals of the deputies succeeded in inducing the crowd to disperse. After this, mass arrests were made which included Opposition members of Parliament.
In spite of the defeat of the Franchise Bill by the majority party, the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the agrarians has not abated in the slightest degree. The demands of the bourgeoisie have become more numerous, and its methods are more determined. In spite of the fact that the masses had lost all confidence in the opposition bourgeoisie parties, owing to their cowardice and vacillations, nevertheless, the struggle for the democratisation of the country will continue to be strongly supported by the toiling masses, particularly of the urban proletariat, which will impose its stamp upon the bourgeois demands, extend their scope, and use the democratic liberties secured against those who are at present inspiring them—the national bourgeoisie.
In order to understand why the present struggle between the Japanese bourgeoisie and the feudal agrarians assumed its present form and why this struggle will create the conditions favourable for the organisation of the forces of the growing proletariat, it is necessary to make several references to history, which will show that right up to the end of the war the bourgeoisie were in the leading strings of the feudals and the militarists, who thus represented a united front against the rising proletariat, and who for that reason was unable to organise its forces for the class struggle.
Until the revolution of 1868 political power in Japan was entirely in the hands of the Shogun, the representative of the military caste, and formally recognised as the commander-in-chief of the troops responsible only to the Mikado. As a matter of fact, the Shogun was completely independent of the Mikado, and, moreover, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries there were frequent cases when the Shogun exiled the Mikado to distant parts of the kingdom as a punishment for disobedience, and placed the young son of the Mikado on the throne in his stead.
The rule of the Shogun expressed the most perfect form of feudalism and the most powerful of the Daimio—the feudal princes. The Mikado was revered as a divine being; he was called Son of the Heaven, but he had no influence on either internal, foreign policy, or even on the State apparatus.
From the end of the twelfth century until the restoration, the country was divided into principalities, each under the rule of a Daimio. At that time there existed an absolutely independent force in the country in the shape of the Samurai, who at first served the Daimio as mercenaries to defend their lands, and later were converted into a military aristocracy composed of several grades. Sometimes the Samurai united to defend, not the lands of one or other Daimio, but the country as a whole against invasions of alien peoples, as was the case against the Chinese, Koreans, and even the Mongols in the ’70’s of the thirteenth century.
The Samurai were eventually compelled to, introduce a “subdivision of labour” in their work; the land defence of the country was entrusted to the clan of Tsiosu and the naval defence to Saksuma. These two clans subsequently played a great rôle in the period of the restoration in 1868, and secured enormous influence after the restoration.
The revolution of 1868 was undoubtedly the result of the development of mercantile capital in Japan, which, being hampered by the divided character of the country, strove to sweep away all feudal obstacles. The subjective factors of the revolution were the clans hostile to the Shogun, the Mikado and his Court, who all the time strove to secure power, and the intelligenzia which had arisen out of the Samurai and expressed the tendencies of the time. They stood for contact with the outside world and for internal reforms. The dissatisfaction with the Shogun and the struggle against him took the form of various clan revolts. It would naturally follow that the factors which played the main rôle in the preparation of the revolution, and which actually overthrew the Shogun, would play a great part in the political life of the country after the revolution.
It is clear why the ideological expression of the strivings of the bourgeoisie took the form of the idea of Imperial restoration. In the person of the Mikado, both the rising bourgeoisie and the clans hostile to the Shogun saw the possibility of centralising the administration of the country and preventing power falling into the hands of the Daimio. The merchant capitalists of those days, not having sufficiently established themselves in the economy of the country, could not, of course, become the bearers of political power. On the other hand, the military aristocracy as a caste, bound neither to trade nor industry, nor to the land, could merely serve as a factor influencing the State, as an organ executing its desires, but could not create the State apparatus.
Thus, as a result of the revolution of 1868, political supremacy actually remained in the hands of the agrarian aristocracy; although as an outcome of the centralisation of the country and the administrative reforms, the mercantile bourgeoisie obtained wide possibilities of devoloping their productive powers. At the same time, the Tsiosu and Saksuma classes, which were active in the period of the Restoration, began to exercise considerable influence upon the internal and foreign politics of the country.
The whole of the period between the revolution of 1868 and up to the outbreak of the world war, from the political point of view, should be regarded as a period of alliance among the feudal agrarians, the military aristocracy and the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie. If any friction did exist among them, it was expressed merely in the form of influence brought to bear in the Court of the Mikado, or upon his Cabinet; never did it take the form of a struggle of classes. The bourgeoisie was in complete agreement with the foreign policy of the feudal militarist government, which in the ’90’s of the nineteenth century strove to extend its territory at the expense of neighbouring States. At the outbreak of the Japano-Chinese war in 1894, the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie supported the striving of the agrarians to seize the territory of China and Korea, and for the acquisition of Formosa, the stepping-stone to Korea; and the indemnities which came as a result of that war served as an impetus to the further development of capitalism in Japan and as strengthening the ties between the commercial bourgeoisie and the Government.
The armed intervention of Czarist Russia, Germany and France, who feared that Japan would seize China and Korea, upon which they themselves had calculated, compelled the Japanese militarists, by the Shiman Treaty, to retreat to the islands. This served as a reason for a more close alliance between the Japanese Government of agrarians and militarists, with the national bourgeoisie, as the former protected the latter by extending its industrial basis, by expanding the war industry, by granting it monopolies in various branches of industry, and by the introduction of protective tariffs.
At the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese war, the Japanese bourgeoisie wholeheartedly supported its government. The result of the war, which ended in a victory for Japanese militarism, gave the bourgeoisie considerable territory in Korea and Southern Manchuria which contained enormous natural wealth and served as the starting-point for the intensive development of capitalism in Japan. By protective tariffs and the nationalisation and extension of the railway system, the Japanese Government greatly facilitated the expansion of capitalist industry and thus tied the bourgeoisie to its chariot.
With the development of capitalist production, there also developed an industrial proletariat which, from the very beginning, found itself in the clutches of a twofold enemy—the feudal agrarians and the bourgeoisie. Whereas in Western European countries, at the moment of the rise of the proletariat, the antagonism between, the bourgeoisie and the landed aristocracy gave it the possibility, to some extent, of organising its forces, the unity of the bourgeoisie and the agrarians in Japan prevented the Japanese proletariat from doing so. Nevertheless, in spite of considerable difficulties, Japanese Labour organised and found its expression in the Socialist movement. Both were cruelly and treacherously suppressed by Japanese militarism in 1911.
The world war of 1914 marked a turning point in the history of the development of Japanese capitalism and the conclusion of it marked' the end of the alliance between the agrarians and militarists an the one hand, and the bourgeoisie on the other. The incredible growth of the economic power of the Japanese bourgeoisie :during the war caused it to be a great political factor. On the other hand, its political power did not correspond to its economic power owing to the political system of the country, which still bore a strong feudal character.
The enormous demand of the belligerent powers for war material caused an unparalleled expansion of the metallurgical and textile industries of Japan. The demand for food enabled the commercial bourgeoisie to act as agents between Asia and the countries of Europe. The need of the belligerent imperialists for means of transport, which was rendered still more acute by the submarine war, facilitated the development of the Japanese ship building industry. All this enabled Japanese industry to grow to a hitherto unparalleled degree. Existing branches of industry expanded and new industries arose. Between 1914 and 1918 the number of industrial companies increased from 5,266 to 8,221. In 1914 the capital of the companies then existing was 944,145,000 yen; in 1918 this had increased to 2,019,407,000. The tonnage of Japanese steamers in 1915 was 1,604,900; in 1918 it was 2,310,959 tons. These figures show to what extent the Japanese bourgeoisie had grown and consolidated itself during the period of the war. The agrarian militarist government, which had facilitated this growth, found at the end of the war that its protege had become a mighty factor in the country and no longer desired to be held in its leading strings. The Japanese bourgeoisie realised its strength and began to demand, not merely protection at the hands of the governing clique, but the adaptation of the whole of the State apparatus to its needs. Since the end of the war, which also brought an end to the privileges of the bourgeoisie, and since the financial and industrial crises that followed it, the struggle between the bourgeoisie on the one band, and the agrarians and militarists on the other, is unfolding more and more, and has assumed the acute forms we mentioned at the beginning of this article.
The character of the economic crisis and the political struggle between the bourgeoisie and the governing class, which is connected with the former, as effect is to cause, renders it possible for the Japanese toilers and particularly the urban proletariat to develop its struggle and gather its forces.
The 1st of May demonstration of the Japanese workers this year serves as an illustration of the growth of the labour and revolutionary movement. For the first time, the demands, “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” and “Recognition of Soviet Russia,” were inscribed on the banners of the demonstrators. In addition, the workers put forward demands for an eight-hour day, a minimum wage, and threateningly warned capital that “we will improve our condition by our own efforts and not wait for the magnanimity of the government.”
For the first time, tens of thousands of organised workers took part in demonstrations in Tokyo, Osaka, Koba, and other towns. Only two years ago the Japanese workers celebrated May Day, not on May 1st, but, as in Britain, on the first Sunday in May. This year, they celebrated it on May 1st, and not only did the workers in private industries take part in it, but also those employed in Government enterprises.
The number of women who took part in this year’s demonstration was very considerable. Women’s labour in Japan is very important. In the textile industry, which developed most during the war, women’s labour comprises the greater part of the labour employed. It should be observed that last year only 10 per cent. of the workers, men and women, were organised in this industry (of 700,000, about 70,000 were organised). This year the May Day demonstration brought the mass of the rank and file of the workers into the streets of the principal industrial towns of the country.
If we bear in mind that this took place in a feudal militarist country, where meetings of all kinds are prohibited, where it is difficult for a dozen or so Socialists to meet in one place, where long before May 1st precautionary measures were taken by the police to prevent it, it will be clear that demonstrations of tens of thousands of workers and working women is a fact of extreme importance in the present period of ferment and acute class antagonism in Japan.
No less characteristic of this period of financial and economic crises is the strike movement and the methods adopted by the organised workers of Japan in their struggle.
The following phases of the movement are worth pointing out The reconciliation movement expressing itself in the formation of societies for promoting harmony between capital and labour; sabotage; direct action; mass strikes, including political demands; and, finally, the last great wave of opinion affecting nearly 300,000 organised and a large number of unorganised workers in favour of organising a single federation of labour unions capable of expressing the will of the Japanese proletariat in its struggle against capital.
Each one of these phases may be indicated as an interesting fact in the life of the young labour movement.
We will not hark back to the period of the ’90’s of the last century, when a network of small labour organisations was spread over the industrial towns of Japan as the result of the intensified development of the country after the Japano-Chinese war in 1894. Neither shall we enter into the details of the Socialist organisation which arose as a result of the growth of the labour movement and which at first expressed itself in the formation of the Socialist Society in 1900, and in the Socialist Party in 1906. The Socialist Society conducted propaganda among the workers and also an anti-militarist agitation during 1903-4, prior to the Russo-Japanese war. The Socialist Party continued the work of the Socialist Society mainly in propaganda among the workers by concentrating attention upon all the important social and political facts in the country. As is known, this movement was suppressed in 1911, when twenty-four men were condemned to death (of whom twelve were executed). Even after this, individual Socialists continued their work mainly in the Trade Union and strike movements. A new period of agitation began when the world war commenced.
From the end of 1914, when the results of the development of the war industry and commerce began to affect the workers by increasing their wages and securing them constant work, the idea of the co-operation of classes entered the heads of the workers. At that time, the tendency began for the bourgeoisie to take the labour movement under its protection and make it subordinate to its own interest. The notorious Society for the Promotion of Harmony between Labour and Capital was organised in the most flourishing moments of Japanese trade and industry; but this period of prosperity did not last long. The encouragement given by the Government to all forms of exports, including that of agricultural produce, particularly of the main article of consumption—rice, caused tremendous speculation in the country and an incredible rise of prices of articles of consumption. This, as is known, caused the rice riots in 1918, which were spontaneous mass movements of the workers and served as the starting point of labour demonstrations in various towns of the country throughout the last few years.
During 1918-20 the labour movement expanded, embraced elements which hitherto had remained outside of it, and drew them into the class struggle. A number of new labour organisations were formed. What had most influence during that time was the Federation of Labour, the U-Ai-Kai, which was organised in 1912, and which had an affiliated membership of 200,000, consisting mainly of metal and textile workers, miners, printers and a small organisation of seamen. The most radical of the organisations belonging to the U-Ai-Kai was the Radosha, consisting mainly of the Miners’ Union and engineers. Prior to 1918, the U-Ai-Kai was powerfully influenced by the idea of harmony between capital and labour, but after the rice riots, when the masses rapidly became revolutionary, undoubtedly as a result of the influence of the Russian revolution, the Left Wing began to acquire the dominant position, and the spirit of the class struggle began to pervade the organisation.
From this period the Japanese began for the first time to apply the method of mass sabotage. On September 18th, 1919, 20,000 workers in certain factories, after the employers had refused to grant the demands put to them, decided to sabotage. In the first place, they decided to reduce the driving power of the factory from 800 to 400 horse power, which made it impossible to start all the machinery. All the workers turned up at work every morning, but not one of them started work. This lasted ten days. Other forms of sabotage have also been known. The tramway workers, on one occasion, did not dally over their work or waste time, but worked with such great zeal that they rushed the cars down the road and refused to stop at the regular stopping places.
However, these methods could not produce the required results. The financial crisis in 1920 caused many factories to close down and unemployment was increased all over the country. After the staffs of many factories had been reduced they were re-started, but in those places where the eight-hour day had been gained, a twelve, and even fourteen-hour day, was introduced.
Meanwhile, the prices of necessities continued to increase. In 1920 the price of rice was 360 per cent. above pre-war prices, the price of sugar 500 per cent., tea 130 per cent., and textiles 400 per cent. A great wave of strikes spread over the country. According to the returns of the Ministry for Home Affairs, in 1920 there were 185 strikes affecting 170,000 workers. The chief demands put forward during these strikes were for increased wages and the eight-hour day, but demands were also put forward for the recognition of the trade unions. This period is characteristic also for the fact that the workers began to take a part in the political struggle, and the U-Ai-Kai included in its programme the demand for universal suffrage. During the election campaign for the 45th Session of Parliament, when the struggle between the agrarians and the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie assumed an acute form, the workers supported the progressive action of the bourgeoisie who stood for the democratisation of the country and peace with neighbouring States. But the cowardly and irresolute bourgeoisie repelled the young labour movement in its efforts to co-operate in the struggle against absolutism. This flung it to the other extreme, and hostility to the political struggle in general gave rise to the demand for direct action. While the workers were disgusted with politics, the growing economic crisis enabled the capitalists to drive their offensive still further forward and to withdraw the concessions they made when their pockets were overflowing with the profits plundered during the war. Another wave of strikes spread over the country, during which the demands put forward assumed more and more the spirit of the class struggle. The famous strike at Koba in the Autumn can be taken as characteristic of the temper of the Japanese workers at that time. The main demands put forward were the recognition of the Trade Unions and the Factory Committees, the eight-hour day, increased wages and social insurance. It should be observed that in these strikes the Syndicalists played an important role, and the fact that the workers did not secure half of what might have been secured if these strikes had been ably conducted by real labour revolutionary class organisation should be attributed to the opportunist leaders.
The beginning of this year was marked by a number of strikes and demonstrations against the Government. Of these, the largest and most important was the strike in the Government enterprises.
As a consequence of the Washington Agreement to reduce naval armaments, many workers employed in the naval construction works and arsenals stood in danger of being thrown out of work. This compelled them to make hasty preparations and to defend themselves against the threatening danger. From February of this year even the most privileged workers employed in the naval arsenals and shipyards began to see the necessity of organising and closing up their ranks.
Anticipating the forthcoming dismissals, the workers in the Government works, in March of this year, organised a number of demonstrations of protest and put forward demands for the maintenance of the workers dismissed out of the funds obtained from the reductions of expenditure on armaments and threatening “resolute measures against the Government” in the event of this being refused. The dismissals of the workers, however, took place. According to the Times, 33,000 workers were dismissed in Kurre. The Ministry for War and Marine were also arranging to dismiss 13,000 workers, and a further 30,000 were dismissed from the Yavato and Hokaido works. During these dismissals, the Government also dismissed the members of the Central Committee of the Osaki Arsenal Workers’ Union, which immediately caused a strike. The Government dispatched troops to the place and declared the arsenal in a state of war. At the same time, a strike broke out in the Yokohama Shipyards as a protest against the forthcoming dismissals, during which a number of conflicts took place between the workers and the police.
All these facts, and a number of others, which it is not possible to quote here, served as lessons to the Japanese workers and compelled them to organise their forces and stand up, against the Government and the attacking capitalist class, as a united class organisation.
Indeed, from that moment we observe a strong tendency among the workers towards federation. A number of small labour unions joined together (according to official Government returns there are at the present moment 800 labour unions with a membership of 260,000). In March of this year, a Federation of Transport Workers was formed, in Osaki, of several local unions. In April, one large Metal Workers’ Union was formed in Canto, North-East Japan, from a number of small unions with a membership of 10,000. At the end of April, 19 unions in Osaki formed a federation and affiliated to the Rodo-Kumai-Domikai, which formed the Left Wing of the U-Ai-Kai. This federation included enginedrivers, dyers, boat builders, printers and woodworkers. This striving towards unification found its main expression in the formation of the General Federation of Labour of Japan, which in May of this year had an approximate membership of 300,000. The Federation was originally formed two years ago, but in 1921, the U-Ai-Kai broke off from it because of the radical character of several small unions affiliated. This year, however, the U-Ai-Kai, as a consequence of the pressure from its more revolutionary members, was compelled once again to come to an understanding with the Left Wing. At the same time, the old reformist leaders, Suzuki and Kahara, who had recently began to incline more and more towards the farmers’ movement, which is acquiring considerable able importance in the country, began to lose influence upon the labour movement.
In summarising the labour movement of Japan during recent times, it is impossible to avoid referring to the hostility of the majority of the labour organisations to political action. It should be observed that, until recently, the syndicalists exercised the main influence over the workers and principally upon the more revolutionary workers, precisely because of their hostility to the political struggle. This is explained by the immutability of the bureaucratic government clique which preserves its feudal and caste hold upon the country, thus preventing the toiling masses from securing the most elementary rights of participation an the political life of the country; the cowardice displayed by the bourgeoisie in the struggle for the democratisation of the country, and its treacherous conduct towards the workers; the venality of the politicians and the futility of parliamentary chatter, and also the training which the masses had received at the hands of the non-political opportunist trade union leaders, who restrained the workers from taking part in the political struggle for fear of placing the unions at the mercy of the governing clique.
Nevertheless, the workers at every possible opportunity spontaneously expressed their attitude to the existing political system of the country. Now, in the ever-growing struggle between the bourgeoisie and the agrarians, the labour masses are beginning to understand more and more the necessity for taking part in the political struggle for the immediate conquest of such political rights as will enable them to consolidate their power in the State, and thus be in a position to, make use of the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the agrarians in the interests of Labour.
Such a tendency undoubtedly already exists among the masses of the workers. Nevertheless, the young Communist Party of Japan is still faced with the great work of drawing the broad masses into the struggle for the democratisation of the country and the establishment of conditions favourable for the rallying and consolidation of the forces of labour for the forthcoming decisive battles with the bourgeoisie.
The moment for the final breach and the open struggle among the agrarians, the bureaucrats and the militarists on the one hand, and the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie on the other, is surely approaching.
Disintegration has taken place in the ranks of the feudal agrarian group, the Sai-U-Kai, the purely bourgeois elements which hitherto belonged to this party are now leaving it, and this is hastening its collapse.
An opposition has arisen within the militarist party, composed of intellectuals and, officers, which expresses the tendency towards adaption to the new epoch in Japan. This is evidenced by such publications as the Yorutzu and the Kokumin, which up till now have been the organs of the militarists, but which now, in dealing with foreign and home politics, are speaking the same language as the opposition parties, Kensekai and Kokumentu. These militarist publications not only advocate the cessation of intervention in the Russian Far East, but also in China. They are also hostile to the new cabinet of Admiral Kato, which took the place of the cabinet of Takahashi, and declare that power should be transferred to the latter.
The very fact of the formation of the Kato Cabinet, which the Sai-U-Kai does not yet dare openly to control, proves that in the struggle among the Japanese bourgeoisie and the agrarians and the bureaucrats the initiative has passed into the hands of the former, and the fact that the bourgeoisie is not satisfied with the new cabinet shows that it intends to continue its offensive.
The growth of the farmers’ movement, which acquired particular prominence in the early part of this year (there were 1,600 conflicts between tenant farmers and landowners), is in reality a movement directed against the agrarians, and therefore strengthens the position of the bourgeoisie and broadens the social basis in the country for the reception of its ideas.
The labour movement in Japan during recent times is more and more assuming an organised character and under the pressure of the capitalist offensive is growing.
The striving of the labour organisations towards centralisation expressed in the formation of the General Federation of Labour in May of this year, in spite of the opposition of the opportunist leaders of the U-Ai-Kai, proves that the masses of Japan have recognised the necessity to rally and organise its forces. The abandonment of the syndicalist groups by the advanced revolutionary workers and their entry into the ranks of the young Communist Party of Japan is indicative of the recognition by the labour vanguard of the urgency of forming its political mass party.
The advanced elements of the revolutionary workers of Japan are beginning to understand that only by having a proletarian political party which can rally under its banner the broad masses of the workers, and at the same time put forward watchwords which will call forth the response of the tenant farmers and agricultural labourers, and show to the oppressed tribes of the Japanese population that only an emancipated working class can free themonly in this way can the Japanese proletariat acquire the upper hand in the present struggle against absolutism and the relics of feudalism, and be able to make use of the victory over the old order in the interests of the working class.