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CRUMP, John. "Anarchist Opposition to Japanese Militarism, 1926-37"
Bulletin of Anarchist Research
Article published on 17 July 2010

by r-c.
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(The following is a paper which was read to the symposium on pre - war Japanese militarism at the annual conference of the British Association for Japanese Studies, meeting in Sheffield in April 1991. Although written for an academic audience, it might be of some interest to anarchists. Note that all Japanese names are given in the customary East Asian fashion. That is, family name followed by personal name.)

To judge from the conventional accounts, one could be forgiven for believing that opposition to pre-war Japanese militarism was confined to the Communist Party of Japan and a handful of liberal critics of military aggression. For example, the Communist Party of Japan’s official history states that ’it was only the Communist Party of Japan that upheld the banner of opposition to the war of aggression in China’, to which it adds that ’the Tenno-system Government’ was not only concentrating its attacks on the destruction of the Communist Party of Japan but also extending its hand of persecution to conscientious liberalists’. [1 ]

This paper demonstrates that the anarchists in pre-war Japan constituted another core of opposition to militarism until the state destroyed their movement in 1935/6. Moreover, anarchist anti-militarism was in several respects more coherent than either the Communist Party’s or the liberals opposition to military expansion. The Communist Party’s anti-militarism was flawed because of its alignment with a militarised and expansionist USSR, while the liberals were in the anomalous position of accepting capitalism but opposing its inevitable consequence the military defence of economic interests. By way of contrast, the anarchists’ opposition to militarism was never compromised by alignment with any nation-state and was underpinned by a consistent rejection of capitalism.

Of course, there were individual anarchists who succumbed to the nationalist fever and became apologists for Japan’s military expansion, just as there were members of the Communist Party and liberals who ended up as turncoats. But the anarchist movement as a whole steadfastly opposed militarism, suffering unrelenting persecution and eventually being suppressed for doing so. This paper resurrects the largely forgotten history of anarchist opposition to militarism in prewar Japan.

Anarchist opposition to militarism has a long history in Japan. Kotoku Shusui, the father of Japanese anarchism, fearlessly campaigned against the Russo-Japanese War in the columns of the Heimin Shinbun throughout the life of that newspaper from 1903 to 1905 and Osugi Sakae was imprisoned in 1907 for having translated for the journal Hikari an anti-militarist article ’Aux Conscrits’ which had first appeared in the French journal I’Anarchie. In this paper, however, I shall concentrate on the period extending from 1926 to 1937.

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