Against Japanism
Against Japanism
Mar 9, 2022
Revolution Goes East: The Impact of the Russian Revolution in Japan w/ Tatiana Linkhoeva
Play • 1 hr 48 min

Tatiana Linkhoeva joins the show to discuss her book Revolution Goes East: Imperial Japan and Soviet Communism

Some members of the Japanese ruling class reacted to the Russian Revolution with skepticism and hostility, culminating in the Siberian Expedition. Others saw opportunities in recognizing the Soviet Union and pursuing diplomatic relations, partly influenced by the popularity of Russian literature at the time and by the notion that the revolution will modernize Russia. However, as the communist movement in Japan gained traction and anti-colonial struggles threatened the stability of Japan imperialism, the anti-Soviet faction in the military and the bureaucracy won out, paving the way for the rise of fascism. 

We discuss how the Bolshevik Revolution inspired Japanese anarchists such as Osugi Sakae who were some of the first Japanese radicals to establish contacts with the Comintern, and part of the global network of Japanese revolutionaries building solidarity with other Asian revolutionaries and smuggling radical literature into Japan. They saw the revolution as an anarchist revolution and Lenin as an anarchist who wanted to abolish the state. However, as the Bolsheviks consolidated state power and used violence to suppress the anarchists, their views of the revolution soured, culminating in the Anarchist-Bolshevik Debate. They became increasingly hostile towards organizational centralization and resorted to individuals acts of terrorism. Osugi even supported the Siberian Expedition. Some drifted further right, while others converted to communism and continued to support the revolution. 

We discuss the legacy of Yamakawa Hitoshi who co-authored the JCP’s founding document and later formed the Rono Faction of Japanese Marxists. While the previous scholarship saw the Bukharin Thesis of 1922 as its first document, Dr. Linkhoeva builds on the work of Kato Tetsuro who discovered that this thesis, which famously called for the abolition of the emperor system, was actually written in 1924 and did not arrive in Japan until 1928. This makes the 1922 program the first document and betrays the image of the early JCP as an outsider organization controlled by the Comintern, as well as the claim that the JCP had been anti-emperor since its inception. However, her closer look at Yamakawa’s thought reveals that he adapted the Eurocentric and developmentalist view of world history in which Japan was seen as advanced as western European countries and hence has more revolutionary potential than its colonies, evinced in the JCP's contradictory claim that it supports the Korean struggle for independence, but Koreans are too nationalist and thus ideologically backward. This Japan-centric position significantly diverged from the Comitern’s later critique of Japan as an imperialist country, as well as the defense of the Soviet Union and support for the Chinese Revolution as its strategic priorities. This view was adopted by the Koza-ha Marxists loyal to the Comintern and as such Yamakawa did not participate in the Koza-ha-led re-constitution of the JCP in 1925. Following the re-constitution, the party actively engaged in solidarity work with the Chinese Revolution through the Anti-Imperialist League. However, this work was made difficult by the Peace Preservation Law of 1928 and nearly impossible after the Manchurian Incident of 1931. 

We conclude the interview by discussing the lessons of this history for the left today and the importance of international solidarity.

Intro: Cielo by Huma-Huma

Outro: Parabola Divanorium by Paraj Bhatt

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