The Violent and the Voiceless in Japanese Politics

By David Wurfel. In Contemporary Japan, Nov. 1960.

THE CONTROVERSIAL PASSAGE OF THE REVISED Japan-U.S. Security Pact, student violence, and postponement of Eisenhower’s visit received top billing in headlines from Tokyo this spring. These events do not signify a strong anti-American movement, or even growing Communist strength in Japan, but they can, and must, be recognized as manifestations of a deeply rooted political crisis. The factors underlying this crisis are not new, but in the past few months new dimensions of their seriousness have been revealed to all. If we understand these factors, we have the basis from which we might better grasp the real meaning of the recent events and the likely trends in Japan’s political future.

The sum of these factors is marked polarization of both political forces and ideologies. The polarization is not, as the Marxists would like to think, simply a result of sharp class divisions, though these divisions do exist. It is primarily a result of differences between urban and rural societies-the first largely attuned to the latest Western cultural developments while the latter is still guided by centuries of tradition, between the younger generation and the old-with experiences so different that they find it nearly impossible to communicate, and between intellectuals-among whom Marxism is a sure sign of a “progressive”-and great numbers of people in all walks of life whose view of Communists has not changed much since a wartime government taught that they were criminals. As can well be imagined, the points at which these divisions reinforce each other the polarization is most intense. In between these extremes are millions of Japanese, in both city and country, who are politically apathetic, or, at best, inarticulately lukewarm.


The gap in ways of thinking between the young urban intellectual and the retired landlord, or senior bureaucrat, is so great that it is often impossible for the most diligent student of Japanese affairs to fathom it. However, the participants themselves are some times more perplexed by their inability to understand each other than is the foreign observer.

The story is told of a certain Canadian professor who was watching students demonstrate in front of the Diet. As one group came zigzaging by under red banners and anti-Kishi slogans, a portly Japanese gentleman of late middle-age who was standing next to him obligingly explained through an interpreter that these were “all Communists.” It so happened, however, that those particular students, moderates by Tokyo standards, were the professor’s own. When he told them later about the portly gentleman’s comment, their first reaction was utter amusement at such an absurd remark. They then hastened to reassure their professor that the man must have been a “reactionary,” since only reactionaries had such views. These well-meaning non-Communist students, instead of attempting to understand popular criticism and modify their behavior to meet it, as their professor advised, dismissed this as an impossible task, cast more than one-third of Japanese public opinion into the purgatory of “reaction,” and marched off to another demonstration the next day.

The ambivalent symbolism of the red flag brings sharply into focus the contrasting views of Communism in Japan. For the rural population and for the older generation in city or country a red flag is generally considered to be a badge of Communism. The group which carries the scarlet banner is so identified simply and unequivocally, with no need for further inquiry. In fact, however, the question is not nearly so simple.

Red flags in post-war Japan have been used by labor unions of all political complections. ICFTU-affiliated Zenro does ideological battle on many occasions with the much larger Sohyo, now showing increasing evidence of Moscow-Peking orientation, but both carry battle flags of the same hue. Nor is the use of the red flag limited to labor organizations. It is carried by student groups as well, and not only Zengakuren. Though some non-Communist labor and student organizations are beginning to understand the value of distinctive identifying marks, many not-so-left students defend their continued use of the red flag as being a symbol of “progressivism” — a word with Marxist connotations but not necessarily Communist ones — which they counterpose to all that is bad in the old order.

The younger, urbanized, better-educated Japanese often remember the Communists as a group which consistently opposed Japan’s disastrous militarism in the 1930’s and ’40’s. The Party is frequently viewed by non-Communist reformers as a necessary ally in the struggle against well-entrenched conservatism. The real character of Communist behavior in East Europe, China or Southeast Asia does not have a substantial impact on the imagery of most intellectuals. They have had little opportunity for contact with persons who have experienced Communist rule.

These subtleties of usage and attitude are understandably lost on the farmer-though American journalists have no right to claim a similar exemption from discretion. The stereotypes of the red flag persist. Unfortunately non-Communist Japanese intellectuals do not adequately appreciate the damage which this persistence is doing to their position. Some observers, however, do note that today there is an ability to criticize Communist ideology and tactics in certain intellectual circles which would have been nearly impossible only five years ago. The Communists’ recent establishment of dominant influence over Gensuikyo, the Japan Council against A- and H-Bombs, has been an eye-opener for many.

To speak of sharp social divisions and gaps between Western- and tradition-oriented segments of society may shatter some people’s conception of Japan as the most modern industrial nation in the Orient. It is that, indeed, but it has achieved this place only as the result of unprecedentedly rapid change, change again accelerated since the war. No nation in modern times has equalled the speed of social, economic, and political progress of Japan in the last fifteen years. Since it is a rule of history that rapid change is accompanied by tension and social conflict, the remarkable thing about Japan is that this tension and conflict has been so limited.


In large part its eruption just at this point can be explained in terms of the vastly differing experiences of the generations who now find themselves in competing roles. The universities for the last two years have been admitting students who have been educated entirely since reform of the school system by the Occupation. (It is in this sense that some commentators, with tongue in or out of cheek, have blamed the student riots on Gen. MacArthur.) They have swelled the ranks of and given new spontaneity to an already deeply dissatisfied younger generation: those in their 30’s who “lost” their youth in the suffering and severe discipline of the war period and blame the older generation for it, and those in their late 20’s who remember the horrors of war as children -they share in blaming older leaders for the tragedy -and then, while they were in high school, saw the country transformed. Now comes the new youth which knows only the greater freedom and weakened authority of the post-war period. Often an abomination to their elders, they practice their brand of “democracy“with a vengeance, frequently equating it, consciously or unconsciously, with absence of regulations and persons to enforce them. Nevertheless, if their energy and political concern could be channeled into peaceful and constructive organizational activity, they would be the hope of democracy’s future in Japan.

The main reason it has not been so channeled is that Japanese youth is suspicious of the national political leadership and thus of governmental institutions themselves. Most top officials today had admimstrative responsibilities, either major or minor, during the war, and are thus among those held to blame for that disaster by the youth. Prime Minister Kishi himself was a top war criminal, the only class A indictee still in government service as late as 1960. No one who forgets this fact could possibly understand contemporary Japanese politics. Kishi probably would not have been popular even if he had distributed ¥1000 notes on the Ginza; and he did not try it. He was a symbol of all that is politically evil in the eyes of the younger generation. Nor was Kishi particularly well equipped to understand his political foes. His previous experience was bureaucratic and he lacked the politician’s ability to evaluate the role of popular attitudes.

This suspicious younger generation is not a great deal more confident in the leadership of the minority parties, which is also “older generation,” than it is in that of the majority. This fact is made most abundantly clear in the behavior of Zengakuren. Zengakuren mainstream leaders do not consider themselves followers of either Socialist or Communist Party direction. Their running ideological battle with the Communists, ever since their expulsion from the Party in late 1958, descended to student charges of Communist thievery-apparently well-founded-and a subsequent street brawl in June of this year. Zengakuren’s “left-wing deviationist” fulminations against the Communist Party have been rewarded by concerted counter attack, which leaves the students undaunted. Socialist Party leadership seems to have no greater influence over Zengakuren’s main stream than the Communists. Liaison with the Socialist Party’s Youth Division is rather good, but whenever Socialist Party notables have attempted to preach moderation, they have been singularly unsuccessful. Zengakuren is fundamentally dissatisfied with the parliamentary process to a greater extent than the most radical Socialist Diet members. Apart from Zengakuren militants, students generally are in support of the Socialists’ ideology, but still distrustful of their leadership.

The failure of the parties of the left to control Zengakuren does not mean that they do not make continuing efforts to influence this self-announced “vanguard of proletarian youth.” These efforts na.turally have some effect on their own party policy and thus contribute to still greater political polarization.


Just as the generational gap can be seen to contribute to the tensions of polarized politics, so also does the chasm between city and countryside. The foundation of Liberal-Democratic strength is in the villages, where voting behavior is largely determined by loyalty to local leaders, not by national or international issues. In the May 1958 elections, the most recent one for the all-powerful House of Representatives, Liberal-Democratic candidates were found to mention foreign policy questions in their official

campaign platforms only one-third as often as Social ists, according to a study by British political scientist I. I. Morris. About 40% of the Liberal-Democratic hopefuls made no mention of foreign policy at all. For most, satisfaction of local interests proved suffi cient for election. It is interesting to note, however, that only 11% __of the 100 conservative candidates studied advocated rearmament for Japan, and slightly more than onefourth bothered to plug for alliance with the West, while over half promised to work for “world peace.” One-fifth pledged support for disarmament, cessation of nuclear tests, and opposition to nuclear weapons.

Thus, even though the Liberal-Democrats won 58% of the popular vote and 61% of the seats in that election, it would be a bit far fetched to call it an endorsement of Kishi’s military alliance with the U.S. At that time negotiations for Security Pact revision had not even been begun. Yet it was on the basis of the May 1958 elections that Kishi claimed a mandate for ratifying the revised pact.

This evidence leads one to ask the fundamental question, to what extent do elections represent public opinion? This has been a perplexing question for students of democratic politics for many years. Many discussions of the subject have hinged on the degree of accuracy with which the distribution of seats in the legislature adhere to the distribution of the popular vote. Because of multimember constituencies, the Japanese situation has not suffered seriously from distortion at this level. Liberal-Democratic seats are now only 3 % more than that party’s popular vote. But for Japan, as for other countries, the equation between public opinion and the election returns is a more difficult one to construct. The equation could certainly never be a simple one, and according to one of the most outstanding students of the subject, M. Duverger, its quantities are, in fact, always unknown. In a relatively homogeneous society such as the U.S. or those of Western Europe this unknown distor,tion is not believed to be a fundamental ailment of the political system; but in Japan it is.

There are, of course, many “public opinions.” There is a different public, i.e. a different grouping of concerned people, for every public question. Obviously too, opinion is divided differently on various questions: opponents on military policy may join to support social security. Elections can never pretend to reflect in the legislature the proper proportions of public opinion on all issues of the day. The legislature is a composite in which some pieces in the national mosaic of attitudes are more correctly mirrored than others. This is a necessary imperfection of representative democracy. The motives of those who demand perfection are suspect.

Nevertheless, in Japan the imperfection is greater than desirable. Though political scientists and sociologists have in recent years disparaged the significance of policy differences in determining voting behavior in the V.S., policy questions would seem to be a much more important factor in the voting decision of most Americans than it is in such a decision for rural Japanese. In addition to socio-economic and psychological factors which, often unbeknown to the individual voter, help decide American elections, in Japan there is still a large percentage of rural voters whose vote is determined, quite consciously, by personal loyalty to some superior in the local hierarchy. Japanese farmers are not uninformed about events in Tokyo; they are newspaper readers and usually own a radio. But the farmer or fisherman does not conceive of government in Tokyo as being “his government.” National policy debates are something he observes, not something in which he participates; they are not related to the electoral decision. Local obligations-occasionally with monetary reinforcement-and interests are decisive. Thus for a sizable proportion of the Japanese electorate-rural residents count for about half the total population-foreign policy issues have not been adequately presented by the candidates, nor would such issues be able to influence voting behavior if they had been.

An electoral majority in Japan cannot be easily equated with public opinion, especially in foreign policy questions. _Ur_ban youth and intellectuals are only too well aware of this fact. It serves as justification for their distrust of the government.

Though its causes are fundamental and long term, this situation is also aggravated by a Socialist Party which emphasizes international questions almost to the exclusion of domestic issues, but is unable to make them intelligible to rural voters. Welfare programs, vote getters in any country, have received less attention from the Socialists than from the conservative Liberal-Democrats. Though the Socialist Party’s left-heavy neutralist position has won intense support from many in urban areas, it has, as we have noted, made little or no impact on the farmers. In fact, Socialist behavior this spring may only have served to further alienate “the people of the countryside.” Socialist spokesmen have done a very poor job of explaining the party position, lapsing frequently into doctrinaire phrases comprehensible only to “the elect.”

Even the neutralist intellectuals without party affiliation, who were willing to give much time and effort to anti-government activity in Tokyo, have not been willing to make an equal investment of energy to try to communicate their views to people outside Tokyo, and partly because they don’t know how. Those few students who actually carried out plans for summer vacation kikyo undo, an attempt to build rice roots support for opposition to the Security Pact, were crowned largely with failure. An unintended dividend, however, for student participants was a valuable education in the opinions and attitudes of farmers.

A crucial question remains unanswered. If foreign policy issues were more adequately communicated to farmers, and if policy views did determine voting behavior, would rural voting patterns be substantially altered? Perhaps not.

Thus the rural-urban gap persists. Intense opposition among organized urban workers and intellectuals is ignored by a government which gets its mandate primarily from rural people who are detached from foreign policy controversies. The government’s disregard for minority opinion leads to frustration, and frustration among those who hold extreme views strongly often leads to violence.

Representative democracy makes no constitutional provision for measuring the intensity of opinion. Yet in a nation with a loosely organized party system, such as the V.S., well-organized minorities with strong views may exercise disproportionate influence in the policy process. The legislator’s first loyalty is to his constituency-and he usually listens to the most articulate elements, not to his party. In the Japanese Diet, on the other hand, largely because of the electoral system, party discipline is relatively strong in comparison with the U.S. and national party organization, centralized. Thus direct popular pressure on an individual legislator is less likely to produce a change in his position, and is consequently less often attempted. Since this approach is unfruitful, if militant minorities in Japan cannot achieve a sense of participation in the democratic policy process by some other means, Japanese democracy is in continuing danger. Fortunately, “sense of participation” may be as effective an antidote to violent frustration as achieving goals.

Unfortunately, two such minorities on the left, Zengakuren and the JCP, and several smaller groups on the right, do not seek true participation; they do not want the democratic process to succeed. Even more serious a threat to the democratic policy process is that elements in both major parties seem willing either to obstruct or circumvent it if it does not serve their ends. Democracy requires that government and opposition agree on means even while they seek different ends. But perhaps there is not so much disagreement on method as the foreign observer might first conclude. The object of agreement may be inappropriate, however.


Decision-making in national politics, a curious blend of Japanese and Western democratic traditions, is also suffering from the polarization of Japanese society, one consequence of rapid social change and uneven progress. The customary method of group decision-making in Japan is sometimes compared to a Quaker business meeting, but is even more similar to the Indonesian mufakat. The group discusses a question until it feels there is a consensus, which may or may not be precisely formulated by the chairman. Differences of opinion, if any, are not stated directly; confrontation is avoided. Lengthy deliberation, which is often exasperatingly vague to a Western observer, finally succeeds in delimiting the area of agreement. Harmony is the supreme virtue, the appearance of unanimity its accepted form, and compromise its corollary.

If all participants are of equal status, the system has great democratic potential. But Japan is a hierarchical society, and in any small group there will be recognized differences. The degree to which one is expected to compromise depends on his status; the opinion of high status persons, after some qualification, usually prevails.

This method of decision-making is still standar in rural communities and, with some variations, is to be found, in fact, in most medium and small organiza tions in urban areas as well. Though perhaps more time-consuming than Western methods, this J apanes one also has distinct advantages and generally work. satisfactorily-if there is already a consensus on basi goals within the group. It is in the context of thi fundamental consensus that compromise is possible status is respected, and the appearance of unanimity is achieved (even though some relatively low statu persons may be privately unhappy with the result).

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Those willing to answer public opinion polls proceeded to put primary blame on Kishi and his party. Though neither a critical press nor the Socialists themselves charged Kishi with any specific violations of Diet rules, there was a widespread feeling that the number of police introduced into the Diet building to carry out Socialist sit-down strikers was excessive and established a dangerous precedent. There was also keen disappointment that Kishi had allowed no floor debate, even though there were still certain objections even from members of the government party and ample time for debate remained.

The cause for shock and condemnation of Kishi can best be explained, however, simply as the reaction to the rapid and unexpected conclusion of a long drama in which the Prime Minister was portrayed as the “villain.” His “villanous” reputation before May 19th was partly of long-standing, as we have noted. In addition it had been built by the press, radio and TV, first of all, on his refusal to dissolve the Diet and his reassertion of the adequacy of the very shaky mandate given him in 1958. Secondly, though he had made a rather unconvincing defense of some aspects of the treaty in televised committee hearings, he flatly refused to allow the Diet to make any reservations to the Treaty’s text, despite the fact that suggestions for such came from Liberal-Demo cratic ranks. He had clearly refused to play the role of compromiser, and thus was blamed for the Diet’s failure to reach a decision harmoniously. It seems clear that Kishi could have substantially reduced the scope of opposition to the Treaty and to his own government, if he had been willing to accept even minor compromises, had handled Socialist questions with more skill and more evident seriousness, and had agreed to floor debate. Under such circumstances public opinion would have been more ready to condemn the anti-democratic nature of some Socialist tactics and more generous in its assessment of the ruling Liberal-Democrats.

Though Kishi was condemned implicitly for failure to maintain Diet harmony, harmony was certainly not the goal of some of the mass organizations which began on May 20th to lead a crescendo of demonstrations against both Mr. Kishi and the Pact. The Zengakuren main stream, possessed of an ideology which is a peculiarly Japanese blend of Trotskyist Marxism, nationalism and anarchism, openly declared their desire for classical proletarian revolution, then carried placards urging “protection of democracy.” The Japan Communist Party and its, satellite, the Zengakuren anti-main stream faction, though much more discreet in proclaiming their ultimate goals, were nonetheless loyal to the principle of class conflict. Sohyo’s motives, more mixed, were certainly not harmony-centered.


The part played by the JCP in these demonstra tions has been the major theme of those journalist and diplomats who have a tendency to escape from the complexities of Japanese politics into the mol” familiar territory of over-simplification. It has thus been misunderstood by many friends of Japan abroad. The Kokumin Kaigi — short title of the National Council for Joint Struggle against the Security Pact, under whose aegis most demonstrations were held — did not count the JCP among its scores of affiliates, mostly “non-political” organizations. JCP representatives, however, sat as “observers” in executive committee meetings, exercising considerably more influence than this title suggests. Though its more extreme proposals were openly rejected by the Council, the Party attempted toward the end of the crisis to identify itself publicly as an ally of Kokumin Kaigi. In addition, there was a well-recognized Party effort after the Hagerty Incident — which was spearheaded by the JCP — to direct demonstrators to the U.S. Embassy to shout anti-American slogans. Unwitting participants in one such “guided” demonstration reported that there was, however, a noticeable feebleness in the crowd’s rendering of “Yankee go home.”

It would probably be a mistake to conclude that the JCP was primarily responsible for the demonstrations at the Diet, even though Chou En-Iai and Dwight D. Eisenhower have both reached this conclusion. The party made the moE3t of a tense and rapidly changing situation, the direction of which they undoubtedly influenced, but could not control. We must remember that the June 15th riot at the Diet, which was apparently the crucial factor in Kishi’s decision to ask the postponement of Ike’s visit, was the work of Zengakuren’s main-stream faction, the group that the JCP had been trying to expell from the Kokumin Kaigi on the amusing charge that it was an “agent of American Imperialism.”

Zengakuren and Sohyo, the two largest Kokumin Kaigi affiliates, did directly organize a majority of the demonstrations. In both organizations Communist Party members play irilportant roles, though, except fqr Zengakuren’s anti-main stream, not dominant ones. But it is quite incorrect to think of the individual demonstrators in such blanket terms as “leftist.”

After May 19th the major issue was no longer the treaty itself, but the method of its enactment. On this basis opposition to Kishi widened. To indicate the diversity of groups which felt impelled to march in the streets it is necessary to take note of the demonstrators organizationally unconnected to Kokumin Kaigi in any way. To name a few, there were Christians in Kyoto, the faculty of Tokyo University, and various neighborhood women’s organizations. Students from several private colleges and universities in Tokyo, including the Christian ones, demonstrated despite the fact that their student associations were entirely unaffiliated with Zengakuren. To believe that any significant number of students marched because they were paid is to be grossly deceived.

Though such tactics touched off lengthy campus arguments, some independent student groups decided to demonstrate on the same day as Zengakuren and even chose to follow the Zengakuren line of march. Because tbey lacked political sophistication, they failed to realize that such a demonstration could be, and often was, .assumed by the public and the press to. be part of the Zengakuren effort. Other unaffiliated moderates were more cautious, selecting times and places for their . demonstrations separate from the, “unified effort,” thus being in a better position to preserve their distinctive identities.

Street demonstrations by Christian groups were unprecedented in Japan and have been the object of severe criticism, mainly by Christians. They were motivated in part by the general anti-war feeling and concern for democracy which generated anti. Kishi action in other circles. But many were also spurred on by a deep sense of guilt because Christians had not protested with sufficient vigor against the rise of the military in the 1930’s. Such persons are determined that Christians will not again lapse into political passivity. Since Christian leaders could be confident that their non-Communist identification was generally recognized, many felt that their public protests would make a unique contribution to a clarification of the situation, by dramatizing to Liberal-Democratic leaders that opposition to the government in the streets was not simply “red” and was therefore a force deserving of respectful consideration. They felt that only the shock of protest from moderate constituencies could move Mr. Kishi to constructive compromise. It is difficult to judge from the events which transpired subsequently whether this purpose was, in fact, served, but the tactic was not without rationale. Those who charged that to demand Mr. Kishi’s resignation would help the Communists and hurt the government party need to consult recent public opinion polls; after Mr. Ikeda’s assumption of office Liberal-Democrats reached a new high in popularity.

We must conclude, then, that the strong leadership exercised by Kokttmin Kaigi and its affiliates in organizing demonstrations against the treaty, and against Kishi and his tactics, did not lure students, intelligentsia and organized labor in directions which they were entirely reluctant to travel. Kokumin Kaigi, which must be admitted as essentially leftist in leadership, acted mainly as a catalytic agent in the midst of much discontent. The willingness of groups of differing ideological persuasion, but advocating some of the same immediate goals, to protest quite independently of the Council is evident of the fact that absence of this particular catalyst could not have exempted Prime Minister Kishi from severe public criticism.


If leftist-led organizations did gain considerable popular support, at least in cities, must we also conclude that the demonstrations of May and June marked a widespread outburst of “anti-Americanism”? If the term is meant to include general antagonism to the country and its people, the answer is clearly “No.” There are several different kinds of evidence.

We have already noted the instance of the demonstrators who believed they were going only to the Diet, but who were then led unknowing to the V.S. Embassy, where many promptly lost their voices. John D. Rockefeller IV in an article in Life has testified to the personally friendly treatment he received from demonstrators. Many other Americans could give similar testimony. The most striking evidence is the fact that only after May 19th, when slogans were directed primarily to the domestic political issues of the method of treaty ratification and Kishi’s resignation did demonstrations reach mass movement proportion. Before that time mere opposition to the treaty had not even aroused excitement among Tokyo students, at least outside the hard core of Zengakuren activists.

It must be admitted, however, that after May 19th most demonstrations still included anti-treaty slogans in their repertoire. This, of course, constitutes criticism both of Kishi’s foreign policy and of the foreign policy of the Eisenhower’s administration, with many Japanese feeling that the former is a mere duplication of the latter. But opposition to military alliance with the U.S. probably did not mean for most demonstrators a blanket rejection of all aspects of American policy; it certainly did not imply hostility to the American people.

Though many Americans have not yet grasped this, even opposition to Eisenhower’s visit was not a general manifestation of anti-Americanism, despite the fact that the Japan Communist Party tried hard to make it appear so. Most Japanese who asked for cancellation or postponement of Ike’s trip to Japan did so on the ground that Eisenhower was being used by Kishi to bolster his own political position; they wanted the Kishi regime brought to a close, not prolonged. Though the U.S. Embassy vigorously rejected at the time this interpretation. of the portent of Ike’s visit, it has subsequently been revealed that Ambassador MacArthur had suggested the possibility of postponement to Kishi sometime before the Prime Minister actually asked for it. One might presume that a Prime Minister more interested in Japanese/American friendship, in America’s prestige or in Japan’s international reputation, than in his own political future, would have asked for postponement much earlier.

Some Japanese who appealed for postponement did so out of the fear of the damage which an insult to Eisenhower might do to Japanese-American friendship; among these persons were some of America’s best friends in Japan. The Ambassador’s attitude toward several such persons has not improved his effectiveness as an emissary of good will.

To give balance to the picture it must be added that among hundreds of thousands of demonstrators there were undoubtedly some who harbored pure, unadulterated, anti-Americanism. One instance was reported of damage to an American’s car. But a more fundamental motivation of political extremism, especially in the Zengakuren, a motivation about which we have seen little comment, is nationalism.


The suggestion of such a sentiment among students is usually rejected with a tone of horror by students themselves. The author’s own suggestion has already brought just such a reaction. Often the most basic motives in politics are unconscious ones. It is a popular myth in Japan today that nationalism is confined to the right-wing. The myth is bolstered linguistically by the common use of kokkashugi to refer to “bad, rightist” nationalism, found in Japan, and minzokushugi, “good, progressive” nationalism, usually found only outside Japan. Though the two words do describe different phenomena, they obscure the fact that both are still nationalism.

There is a tendency to forget that ultra-nationalism of the 1930’s arose in part with a “Socialist” label. The classical Marxism so widespread among Japanese intellectuals today provides no ideological justification for nationalism on the left. Thus its existence is not admitted. It has come close to the surface, however, in the heretical rantings of Zengakuren. That they could charge Khrushchev with being the “betrayer of the proletariat” even as they riot against “Eisenhower, the warmonger” is hardly evidence of internationalism. The recent Chinese Communist delegation to Tokyo is reported to have recognized the Zengakuren main stream as kindred soulsnationalism has always been given a respected place in Maoist doctrine-but the Chinese would no doubt find them as difficult to control as have their Japanese comrades.

Historically, of course, the right has given leadership to nationalist movements. Dntil recently the post-war significance of rightist groups was insufficiently recognized, especially by foreign observers. Now goon squads, two stabbings and a successful assassination makes it clear that, while very small in numbers, they are a potent anti-democratic force. Rightist violence has unfortunately long been a tradition in Japanese politics; it is deeply imbedded in the feudal remnants within the national culture. vVe should not be surprised, therefore, that, stimulated by leftist disorders, it has again raised its ugly head. It is encouraging, however, that there has been almost universal condemnation of these acts. The assassin as hero is a disappearing role.

Right-wing boryokudan attacks in June on anti-Kishi demonstrators did not mean support for Kishi’s policies, a fact clarified by the stabbing of the Prime Minister himself in July. Pro-Americanism is hardly an appropriate attitude for groups which suffered a severe setback from U.S. Occupation policies. In fact, Col. Tsuji, the extreme right’s leading Diet spokesman, joined the Socialists in opposition to the Security Pact revision. He opposed U.S. bases in Japan not because he is a “pacifist,” but because he wants to see the forces which defend Japan’s shores marching under the banner of the rising sun.

But nationalism is not even confined to the extreme right and the extreme left. R. P. Dore, the British sociologist, has found in questioning farmers that a substantial majority still agree to statements like: “Such questions as the Rhee Line … will never be solved until Japan gets a powerful army and demonstrates its strength,” and “It’s not China or India, but Japan, which should become leader of Asia,” and “… American troops should be got out of Japan as soon as possible.” Nor are such views found only on farms. They are revealed in indirect ways even by those Japanese in the most international circles. It is perhaps not without good reason that Socialists have persisted in the fundamental inconsistency of advocating unarmed neutrality for Japan while they spent most of their time in Diet debates criticizing the new Treaty on the grounds that it didn’t give the Japanese government more control over the utilization of U.S. bases here. To appeal to both pacifism and nationalism at the same time reaches a wider portion of the populace. Elections are seldom won with consistencies. In 1958 “greater independence for Japan” was a major Socialist campaign slogan, surpassed in importance only by “peace,” “disarmament,” and “improved Sino-Japanese relations” A certain degree of nationalism is almost universal in modern societies today. Though it has a disastrous history here, contemporary nationalism in Japan is not abnormal. Japanese nationalism can in no sense be considered a threat to world peace, nor is it likely to be in the foreseeable fufure. As I.I. Morris has pointed out in Nationalism and the Right Wing in Japan, even those rightist groups that have reemerged since the Occupation have not advocated foreign conquest.

But nationalism, along with the internationally recognized anti-war sentiment in Japan, will continue to be a much more important irritant to Japanese-American military alliance than communism. Given nationalist sentiment, whichever power appears to have the greatest influence over the Japanese government, whichever power has the closest contact with the people, whichever power insists most frequently on Japanese cooperation and assistance — this is the foreign power which will be the object of the negative aspects, of nationalism. For many Japanese of the older generation, who remember the Russo-Japanese war, nationalism means fear and hatred of, Russia. But as long as Russians are not conspicuous in Japan, as long as the Japanese government asserts its independence by resisting the Soviet’s demands jmdprotesting their incursions, nationalist distrust and criticism will not generally be focused on the USSR.

If the U.S. presence in Japan — especially the military one — were less obvious and the U.S. as an ally were less demanding, the rate of verbal fire on Washington could undoubtedly be reduced. This principle, pushed to its logical conclusion, results in the ,thesis that America’s best friend would be a neutralized Japan. But logical conclusions are seldom the stuff of which policies are made. A partial application of the principle could also reap rewards. At any rate, we must not forget that Japan was once a first-rate power. Though most Japanese do not aspire to their country’s previous military prowess, there are very few who would not like to see Japan’s diplomats speak more forcefully and more independently in world politics. Thus any nation which asks of allies that they share its analysis of the world crisis, as well as its formula for solution, will find that inherent in the Japanese alliance is continuing friction of significant proportions.


Nationalism is not only the most important source of this friction, but probably poses in the long run — again linked with anti-war feelings – a more serious threat to Japanese democracy than Communism. Warnings of the danger of Communist take-over in Japan, short of World War III, have not been based on a realistic assessment of the factors likely to be operative in Far Eastern politics in the foreseeable future. Full-scale Communist military invasion could not be halted in limited action either by . Japanese forces. or by a combination of U.S. and Japanese, whether one calculates on the basis of present allied strength in Northeast Asia or of a likely augmentation thereof. For Communist forces to invade on a small scale, and thus risk immediate defeat as well as world war, would be a more foolish decision than the non-Communist planner is able to rely on. The geographical situatjon rules out infiltration or “indirect aggression,” as Nasser tried in Lebanon or the Vietnamese are attempting in Laos. Any military action against Japan would have to be overt and large scale. It is thus Communist strategists’ fear of world conflagration, not primarily the size of forces in Japan, which deters, and will continue to deter, armed intervention here. Communist military action against Japan would either mark the beginning of World War III or be the result of its outbreak elsewhere. Whether the U.S. maintains its worldwide atomic deterrent, which does not depend on Japanese bases, or whether disarmament negotiations are successful, intentional world war is most unlikely.

Furthermore, attempts to predict Japan’s fate on the basis of events in either China or Cuba reveal a profound ignorance of conditions in those countries. Despite strains and frustrations resulting from rapid change and a traditional tendency toward violence, Japan is essentially an orderly society, one, in fact, in which order is still a superior virtue. While disorder was the fertile soil which produced Communist success in Cuba and China, Japan’s longterm threat is too much order. The sneers of Time magazine notwithstanding, efficient and well-disciplined Japanese law enforcement agencies — which include the Self-Defense Forces, or Jieitai, in times of emergency — are quite capable of preventing left-wing violence from reaching dangerous proportions. (Even though they are not always on the alert against rightist assassins.) The question that remains, however, is whether they could do so in the confines of the democratic process.

The re-occurrence of mass demonstrations against the government is a real possibility. Most Japanese commentators believe that the U.S. wants to use Japanese bases for nuclear missiles, a belief reinforced by recent statements of Prof. Kissinger. It is clear from the exchange of notes at the time the revised Treaty was signed that a U.S. decision to introduce missiles would have to be made subject to the approval of the Japanese government. It seems likely that any Japanese prime minister who sought an election mandate for such approval would not receive it, and that if the approval were granted without an election, we would see a political storm in Japan that would make the most recent one look like the lull before. The fear of nuclear weapons was already an element in opposition to the revised treaty. There is perhaps no event in Japanese history capable of generating more intense emotions today than the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The presence of nuclear weapons on Japanese soil, it is generally considered, would constitute an invitation to a repeat performance.

Thus the announcement of imminent or accomplished introduction of nuclear warheads and their installation in American bases would probably set off demonstrations with an even wider basis of mass support than the recent ones. The Communists, like the diligent cultivators of unrest they are, would be able to make hay with the benefit of more Japanese sunshine than they have heretofore enjoyed. Ultra rightist tactics would be both to provoke and be provoked by the Communists. Some violence would be likely. If it reached sufficient intensity the government would feel obliged to use the Jieitai, a step nearly taken last June 18. Military leaders would then be in a position to insinuate themselves into the political councils of government and the first steps would have been taken on the road back to the 1930’s.

The virtue of unity, a corollary of nationalism, would contribute to this outcome in two ways. In the first stage it would accelerate the spread of demonstrations, as efforts were made to foster the image of “a united people rising in protest,” and, after violence had passed a tolerable maximum, it would be used again to justify suppression of leftist activity and the emergence of the military, first “temporarily,” then permanently. In the long run nationalism supports those efforts designed to prevent the disruption of the social fabric. It seems ironic that opposition to militarism, much of it quite sincere, might contribute to militarism’s rise. Violence of the left clearly breeds violence of the right, though the fact is not widely enough admitted. This results from the simple equation, maintained by so many Japanese, between democracy and anti-militarism: a failure to conceive of democracy primarily as method. Thus it is possible that when political groups focus on an end considered “demo cratic,” such as blocking the installation of nuclear missiles, and are impatient to achieve it, the democratic means to that end may be exceeded.

We see, therefore, that in the context of latent nationalism, given an intense anti-war and especially anti-nuclear weapon sentiment, democracy could be greatly weakened by those nuclear weapons ostensibly introduced to defend it. Furthermore, though some might view the installation of nuclear warheads as adding “strength” to the Japan-U.S. alliance, it would certainly destroy much of the popular basis for partnership.

The degree to which such a crisis might actually weaken Japanese democracy would, of course, depend on economic conditions at the time. The recent crisis was kept within manageable proportions largely because of unprecedented prosperity. In the midst of rising unemployment any similar outburst of opposition to the government would probably be much more violent. Unemployment would be the result of any reduction in exports.


Having viewed the conditions which could again touch off a crisis in Japanese democracy, one might become overly pessimistic. But when comparing Prime Minister Ikeda’s cabinet with that of his predecessor, this mood becomes mixed with cautious optimism. Perhaps such conditions will not develop. It appears, for instance that Mr. Ikeda understands the popular expectation that a leader will seek to create and maintain harmony in the Diet. His Justice Minister seems to realize that attempts to strengthen the Police Duties Law would simply stir additional unrest and has thus apparently determined to limit himself to administrative steps which can be taken within the existing law. The Minister of Finance has recognized that intellectuals’ frustration stems partly from an inability to share in the nation’s material progress-in addition to the factors already mentioned-and has thus decided on salary increases for government university professors, and for civil servants as well. The assurance of continuing rapid economic growth has been the broad objective of the new government.

If this is not merely a pre-election stance and these programs are carried to fruition, and if Mr. Ikeda adequately recognizes also the depth and breadth of the fear of nuclear weapons, then Japan’s immediate future will be a peaceful and prosperous one. There is at the same time an indication that some of those intellectuals who participated in spring demonstrations have, on selfreflection, been seeking for more constructive and more consistently democratic methods of expression. The shock of Mr. Asanuma’s assassination may have stimulated both major parties to spurn undemocratic allies and restrain violent minorities on their flanks.

But the basic factors which induce a voiceless majority and violent minorities to live side by side in this “narrow land” still exist. In part they will be remedied only by time itself. Generational differences will narrow, for example, as the catastrophe of war and defeat fade into the background and the pace of social change slows down. The emergence, however, of a strong political group which self-consciously assumes the role of mediator between the two extremes and of spokesman for the middle could speed the remedial process.

DAVID WURFEL, Ph. D., Instructor in Political Science at International Christian University, has specialized in teaching and writing on U.S. Far Eastern Policy. He has resided for more than two years in the Philippines and Japan.

Categories Japan, General politics