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.