…the True Spirit dojo…

Most Japanese intellectuals and activists who grew up in the early years of the twentieth century read Marx.  They read him as the sons of  fathers who had made the only successful revolution in over a century: Europe had had the French revolution, but since then nothing: just a year of failed revolutions in 1848.  And they read him as a new generation of shishi, who were helping the Chinese make a revolution: helping them throw out their emperor and make a republic 1).

Prince Fumimaro Konoe 2), who was the last prime-minister to attempt to avert the attack on Pearl Harbor,  studied Marxist economics at Kyoto University.  The agrarian communitarian-anarchist, Tachibana Kozaburo, who took part in the attempted May 15 1932 coup d’etat, based his rural co-operative activism on readings in Marx, Spengler and Henry George 3).  When the Pan-Asianist popularizer and activist, Okawa Shumei, founded the Rosokai in 1918, one of the founder members was Takabatake Motoyuki, who was in the process of translating for the first time Das Kapital into Japanese.

But it is no accident that once the Russian revolution started to build its planned economy around mass-industrialization, and once Das Kapital was translated, most Japanese ‘progressives’ (in their terms !) began to incorporate traditional village self-rule,  and old-style esoteric and Taoist structures into their thinking.

The fact is, that to the samurai, whose education and “direct experience of reality” included a Taoist understanding of energy, the  Feuerbach Theses must have read like a Neo-Confucian work of the Wang Yang-Ming school.  But once they realized that Marx did not include a knowledge of the eight trigrams in his “human sensed and felt reality”,  they simply down-graded their opinion of him, and started work on their own synthesis.

The hardest thing for us to get past, as we look back at these years, is the reality of what happened when the zaibatsu (large corporations) and the Tosei-ha prevailed, prosecuted their resource-hungry expansion into South East Asia, failed to make peace in China, and attacked the United States.

And the absolute normality in Japanese history of people in the military leading a reform movement.

1) see The Japanese and Sun Yat-sen,  Marius B. Jansen
2) he led the legislative struggle to introduce universal male suffrage in 1925.
3) Farm and Nation in Modern Japan, Thomas R.H. Havens, p.236

Comments are closed.