Japan in the 1930’s Part I

The Manchurian enterprise (1931-32) revived the dominance of the military over the civilian element in the country and marked the resumption of the imperial expansion policy in a grand style, also imposed by the enormous and rapidly increasing demographic pressure. From that moment a new Japan appeared to the world, prey to violent unsuspected internal discord, but at the same time dominated, in its foreign action, by a formidable willpower, regardless of internal obstacles or international difficulties: period, therefore, of decisive importance for the future of the nation, such that it can be compared to the great revolution of the Meiji era.

According to SOURCEMAKEUP.COM, the internal struggles take place beyond the usual party competitions, as they do not involve one program with an electoral background rather than another, but the system of government itself. The discredit into which parliamentary institutions have fallen in the opinion of a part of the population, the alleged enslavement of national interests to party interests, the excessive power of an invisible plutocracy, the failure to solve great national problems, have produced large sections of the country a ferment of the gravest magnitude. In the field of foreign policy it found nourishment in the disappointments produced by the naval treaty of London (April 22, 1930), which maintained Japan’s inferiority in terms of naval armaments vis-à-vis the British Empire and the United States. and that it was approved with extreme difficulty (so as to cost the life of the head of the government who had supported him); and the negative results of the policy of submissiveness towards China at the time. This discontent took over, putting itself at the head, the military element, held until then on the sidelines of political life, supported by the agricultural classes (from which the cadres of the army and navy come out), by very strong groups of fighters, by nationalist associations (Ko-chi Sha, Gimmu Kai), from factions with a fascist or Nazi tendency, detached from social democracy, organized by the ex-socialist Akamatsu. They demand a return to traditionalist nationalism, on the basis of direct contact between the people and the sovereign, considered as the supreme expression of the nation-family, the establishment of an authoritarian government, the suppression of parties, the full solution of the rural problem, greater social justice; in the field of foreign policy, an energetic, imperialist action, especially towards China, a colorful action, in the thought of many (Araki’s followers), of a vague pannipponic mysticism. The strong manner employed in Manchuria and Shanghai and the challenge to the West, crowned with success, somehow justified these new currents of international politics and strengthened the influences of their supporters, determined to impose them in every other field, as well as with every means, by those among them, belonging to reactionary associations, of a more or less violent degree. Thus arose the grave political and social unrest of Japan.

In the face of this tension, new ideas were taken into account in the formation of the various governments which succeeded one another in power from 1931 onwards. All had a national coalition character, with limited party representation. But the ardor of the struggle, continually fueled by new facts, did not diminish: the enunciation of the Minobe theory (named after its author), according to which the sovereign is not the origin of the laws or is above the state (as tradition states), but it is its supreme institution: the violent discussions at the Diet on the interference of the military element in domestic and foreign politics, the removal or resignation of senior officers and the Minister of War (as a consequence of such debates), the attack on Minobe, forced to leave the Chamber of Peers, the increase of the representatives of the proletariat in the elections of 1936, the victory of the Minseito party, notoriously supported by high finance and big industry. In this atmosphere, the most serious event occurred in the history of the nation after the armed uprisings of the first years of the Meiji era. On the morning of February 26, 1936, a thousand and more soldiers, commanded by about twenty officers, attacked and murdered the former prime minister, Admiral Saito, the finance minister Takahashi, the head of the Education Department in their residence. soldier, Watanabe, Grand Chamberlain Suzuki. The head of the government escaped death only because he was mistaken for his brother-in-law, who was killed in his stead. The massacre had to extend to other characters, who managed to escape. But in a few days, and without any more bloodshed, the revolting movement was extinguished. Thus the Hirota ministry, succeeding the Okada one, skilfully liquidated the consequences of the sedition, was able to devote itself, with an acute sense of reality, to the study of a complete plan of radical reforms, not excluding those advocated by nationalist currents, as they responded to the actual interests of the country. Strong opposition, the unpopularity of certain proposals and bitter parliamentary discussions precisely on the interference of the armed forces, led him to resign (January 23, 1937), without having been able to carry out the substantial part of his projects. A ministry, chaired by General Hayashi, under the illusion of being able to do without parties, he had to withdraw in the face of the result of a new electoral consultation, which confirmed the trend towards an increase in proletarian deputies and the hesitation of considerable sections of the population to completely put aside the parliamentary regime. Since June 1937, a government headed by Prince Konoe (former president of the Chamber of Peers) has been in power, also of a national character, with limited representation of parties. But the difficulties of the internal situation remain, and no solution is looming: the serious international complications have only appeased them.

Japan in the 1930's 1