Communism in Japan
Soviet tankers halt their advance in Manchuria in the final days of World War II to chat with locals. A Soviet victory would result in a boost for communism in Japan's home islands.
It is not a philosophy outsiders immediately associate with emperor-worshipping Japan: communism. In fact, today's Communist Party of Japan has some 300,000 members and seats in the Diet. This year, the country somberly marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II - and it was Japan's defeat that led to a rebirth, of sorts, for Japanese communism.
But that should not disguise the fact that communism itself has a history in the nation that dates back to well before 1945.
In 1925, Japan and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations. This allowed the Soviets to set up diplomatic facilities and for Communist intelligence forces to penetrate Japan. The worlds of politics, academia, and print journalism were targeted, as were high levels of the military and government.
However, the Peace
Preservation Law - or Public Security Act - was established and was able to halt, to a certain extent, the expansion of communist ideology in Japan. Many communists had no choice but to act under false pretenses, disguising their real ideologies under the cover of democratic socialism - even right-wing extremism and emperor worship.
This situation was dramatically altered by Japan's loss in World War II, and by the policies laid out by the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers, US General Douglas MacArthur.
The postwar era
It is generally believed that MacArthur understood the threat posed by Communism but among his subordinates were a bevy of Communists, New Dealers, and other left-wing activists and fellow travelers who were particularly heavily represented in the Government Section (GS) of General Headquarters (GHQ).
GS was controlled by Brigadier Courtney Whitney and Colonel Charles Kades. In October 1945, these GHQ members dismantled the Peace Preservation (Public Security) Act and the Special
Higher Police. They also ordered the release from prison of 220 members of the Communist Party.
A dam holding back a flood tide of red water had burst.
In the 1949 general election, the Communist Party won 35 seats in the legislature, further expediting Japan's leftward political drift. One consequence of this was that Communists in the upper echelons of the armed forces were able to drop pretenses and emerge openly.
Colonel Suketaka Tanemura (1904-1966), for example, was an elite member of the Imperial General Staff, Army Section. He was one of the drafters of one of the most foolish policies adopted by Tokyo during the closing days of World War II - seeking the mediation of the Soviet Union in petitioning the United States for a peace settlement.
Later imprisoned in the Soviet Union, Tanemura's leftist leanings expanded during his detainment in the Siberian camps, and he joined the Communist Party immediately upon his release and return to Japan.
Another drafter of the hapless plan to seek rapprochement with the Soviets was Colonel Makoto Matsutani (1903-1998).
He wrote in his book The Truth about the Settlement of the Greater East Asia War: "It is difficult to believe that Stalin … was trying to destroy the national polity of Japan and communize the entire country…. Inevitably, the postwar economic status in Japan must move in a socialist direction, and from this viewpoint, as well, it becomes possible to close the distance between Japan and the Soviet Union.
"The seeds of Japan's future political recovery are to be obtained more from the Soviet style of people's government organizations than from the democratization of Japanese politics as envisioned by the United States."
This influence did not stop with the end of the war and the beginning of Japan's pacifist era. For example, Matsutani was the first postwar vice-president of the National Defense Academy. In his memoirs he records that he gathered the "Marx Boys" of the academy for fellowship.
It may be due to the lingering influence of Matsutani that the current president of the National Defense Academy is seen as being pro- China. This is troubling, given that the Academy is a state educational institution of the utmost importance, charged with forming the future core officers of Japan's military.