Thursday, January 10, 2013

Japan Takes A Dangerous Step Backwards Towards Fascism


Abe's new cabinet-- as far right as his grandfather's fascist cabinet during World War II

In the lead up to World War II, Japan had it's own homemade brand of violent fascism-- and it wasn't a coincidence that they were allied with Germany and Italy.
Until recently very few Japanese historians hesitated to describe the Japanese experience in the 1930s as fascist. Most interpreted it in Marxist terms as a last-ditch defense by monopoly capitalism, while also stressing that fascism had special characteristics in Japan. As Abe Hirozumi puts it, 'it goes without saying that fascism is the special form of preventive counterrevolution in the general crisis of capitalism,' adding, however, the significant gloss that 'the role of fascism is not just the negative role of suppressing the revolutionary movement and shutting off the growth of anti-establishment: forces, but also that of positively drawing off the nation's energy and turning it towards foreign aggression. In Japan, because party cabinets had already carried out the negative role in part, the role of fascism was mainly oriented towards the latter.' In support of such assertions, Japanese historians have pointed to features, such as terrorist violence, fierce opposition to communism, authoritarian government, totalitarian ambitions, and virulent nationalism, which Japan shared with Germany and Italy in the 1930s.

...Not only were Japanese nationalists exceptionally oriented towards the past, many of them were strongly influenced by particular Japanese intellectual or religious traditions. Kita Ikki, for instance, who combined socialism with radical nationalism and whose writing was a major influence on the young officer movement, was devoted to Nichiren Buddhism, the most nationalistic of all Japan's religious sects. Like the Oyomei school of Confucianism, Nichiren tended to be associated with radical forms of the Showa Ishin mentality and to be more influential in the outer and less urban regions of Japan. Where Shinto, a much less intellectual religion, had an influence, it too was usually linked with the radical right. Orthodox Confucianism, in contrast, was promoted by the establishment as a support of conservative authoritarianism. Among the urban educated elites, liberal values continued to be held, though often in muted form. However, it should be noted that many of the Japanese ultranationalists who most closely resembled European fascists also had a predominantly Western-style education. Such was also the case with the 'revisionist' or 'renovationist' bureaucrats, who favoured government reorganisation and the extension of government controls over the economy. Younger bureaucrats, moreover, were likely to have received some impression from Marxism during their time at university, and that could easily lead in a national socialist direction.
The Constitution imposed on them by the American occupation was supposed to tamp down fascism-- while keeping them virulently anti-communist. It's been a tough row and Japan's new fascist-oriented government wants to dump that constitution and let their freak flag fly. I bet you're not hearing about that in the American media. The new issue of The Economist carries a distrubing piece about how far to the militarist right the new cabinet Shinzo Abe put together is. He sounds like a teabagger with all his nationalistic tripe about "taking back Japan."

Grandson of a fascist Prime Minister, Nobusuke Kishi, under Tojo during the war years, Abe was first elected Prime Minister in September, 2006, but was forced to resign because of unpopular policies and a series of scandals after one year. A few weeks ago, December 26, his party won a landslide victory and he's prime minister once again. His new cabinet is so far to the right that it's beyond anything we've experienced here in the U.S.
Fourteen in the cabinet belong to the League for Going to Worship Together at Yasukuni, a controversial Tokyo shrine that honours leaders executed for war crimes. Thirteen support Nihon Kaigi, a nationalist think-tank that advocates a return to “traditional values” and rejects Japan’s “apology diplomacy” for its wartime misdeeds. Nine belong to a parliamentary association that wants the teaching of history in schools to give a better gloss to Japan’s militarist era. They deny most of Japan’s wartime atrocities.

The line-up includes Hakubun Shimomura, the new education minister, who wants to rescind not just the landmark 1995 “Murayama statement,” expressing remorse to Asia for Japan’s atrocities, but even annul the verdicts of the war-crimes trials in Tokyo in 1946-48.

Mr Abe has made no secret of his wish to revise three of the country’s basic modern charters: the American-imposed constitution of 1946, committing Japan to pacifism; the education law, which Mr Abe thinks undervalues patriotism; and the security treaty with the United States, under which Japan plays a junior role. To describe the new government as “conservative” hardly captures its true character. This is a cabinet of radical nationalists.

Mr Abe knows that few ordinary Japanese share his appetite for a root-and-branch makeover of the nation’s post-war architecture. He therefore has good reasons to focus on the economy in the coming months. His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior partner, New Komeito, triumphed in December’s general election, winning two-thirds of the seats of the lower house of the Diet, Japan’s parliament. Elections take place in July for the upper house, now controlled by the opposition, led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Though voters have shown themselves nothing if not volatile, solid economic management could win Mr Abe the upper house, too. He would then have the strongest governing mandate in years.
A turn towards aggressive militarism, fascism and nationalism is the last thing the world is looking for from Japan. And truculence towards China isn't something the U.S. should encourage or even put up with.
Calling the cabinet conservative misses its revisionist obsessions. It is far from meritocratic, with half the positions going to MPs who inherited Diet seats from their families. Worse, its members are gripped by a backward-looking, distorted view of history that paints Japan as a victim. The great majority of cabinet members favour visits to Yasukuni, the controversial Tokyo shrine that honours war criminals among the soldiers, and reject Japan’s “apology diplomacy” for its wartime atrocities. Almost half of them want school textbooks (which already downplay Japanese atrocities) to be rewritten in ways that obscure the militarism still further. Mr Abe is, alas, steeped in this stuff: his grandfather oversaw occupied Manchuria’s development in the 1930s.

The revisionists’ real argument over perceptions of Japan’s wartime conduct is that their country was treated to victor’s justice. They reject the pacifist constitution that America imposed. Japan was cast as a junior partner, they maintain, and neutered at home and abroad. The education minister, Hakubun Shimomura, says that the years since the war have been a “history of Japan’s destruction”; he and Mr Abe talk about overturning a despised “post-war regime.” This is a baffling portrayal of the economic miracle-- overseen by the LDP, no less-- that brought peace and prosperity to the region.

In a part of the world that specialises in victimhood, this is dangerous. If Mr Abe rescinds Japan’s 20-year-old apology to wartime “comfort women,” he will provoke South Korea. The stakes are even higher with China, whose own idea of victimhood is also nourished by its manipulation of history. China is now stoking tensions over the Senkakus. Last month a surveillance plane buzzed the islands, the first recorded Chinese incursion into Japanese-controlled airspace.

This puts America in an awkward spot. Mr Abe, despite his views on the constitution, wants to cultivate closer ties. When China is aggressive, Mr Abe needs its full support. But that should not extend to rewriting history or provoking China (let alone South Korea). This cabinet is a bad start.
UPDATE: Japanese Fascists Provoking A War With China... Again?

Obama needs to make it clear to Abe that his crazed fascist government isn't dragging the U.S. into a war with China. He needs to calm down and settle his dispute peacefully not gin up the rhetoric. AP:
Japan says it may fire warning shots and take other measures to keep foreign aircraft from violating its airspace in the latest verbal blast between Tokyo and Beijing that raises concerns that a dispute over hotly contested islands could spin out of control.

Japanese officials made the comments after Chinese fighters tailed its warplanes near the islands recently. The incident is believed to be the first scrambling of Chinese fighters since the tensions began to rise last spring.

According to Chinese media, a pair of J-10 fighters was scrambled after Japanese F-15s began tailing a Chinese surveillance plane near the disputed islands in the East China Sea. China has complained the surveillance flight did not violate Japanese airspace and the F-15s were harassing it.

It was the first time the Chinese media has reported fighters being mobilized to respond to Japanese air force activity in the area and comes amid what Japan says is a rapid intensification of Chinese air force activity around the islands, where Japanese and Chinese coast guard ships have squared off for months.

Though there have been no outright clashes, the increased sea and air operations have fueled worries that the situation could spin out of control.

Such concerns have grown over official comments suggesting new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet are considering the use of "tracer" fire as a means of responding to airspace incursions. Tracer rounds are designed to burn brightly to get the attention of a pilot who may have missed other warnings due to a radio malfunction, while also indicating that the aircraft firing them is prepared to take further action.

...Chinese and Japanese media have suggested Tokyo is publicly floating the possibility to test China's reaction.

The escalation of tensions has worried the United States, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton saying on Jan. 18 that while the U.S. doesn't take a position on who has sovereignty over the islands, it opposes "any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration."

That brought a sharp retort from the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Jan. 20. The comments "ignore the facts" that the islands are China's inherent territory, spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement that urged the U.S. to adopt "a responsible attitude."

In Beijing last week, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said China is on "high alert" and suggested Japan is escalating the tensions over the islands, called the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan. Taiwan also claims the small isles, which are uninhabited but may be surrounded by valuable underwater natural resources.

"Chinese planes and ships are exercising normal jurisdiction in the waters and airspace surrounding the Diaoyu Islands," spokesman Hong Lei said. "We are opposed to the operations of Japan's planes and ships, which violate our rights around Diaoyu. We are on high alert against this escalation."

As is often the case, Chinese media quoted military academics with a much more fiery response. "Japan's desire to fire tracer warning shots as a way of frightening the Chinese is nothing but a joke that shows the stupidity, cruelty and failure to understand their own limitations," Maj. Gen. Peng Guangqian of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences was quoted as saying by the China News Service and other state media.

"Firing tracer bullets is a type of provocation; it's firing the first shot," he said. "Were Japan to dare to fire tracers, which is to say fire the first shot, then China wouldn't stint on responding and not allow them to fire the second shot."

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At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shades of Tom Clancy's "Debt of Honor" novel!

At 3:18 AM, Blogger Daro said...

There's a book that excellently describes the hidden dynamic in Japan, "The House Of Nomura" exposing the resurgent old families. After 15 years living in Japan I left still thinking this book nailed it. The keiretsu of Mitsubishi was one of my clients and I found the group chilling in its unreconstructed sense of fascism. They make the Koch brothers look like Chairman Mao. And their five divisions have been endlessly growing in power via government favouritism (Industry, Chemical, Realty, Banking and Electric).

Toyota, Nintendo, Hitachi, etc. etc. All these family houses are the ones who dream of the glory days of Manchurian domination overseas and serfdom back home. If you think I'm exaggerating, consider this: since the end of WWII there have been only 2 (TWO) companies in Japan that achieved global size that weren't already established business clans (zaibatsu). Sony and Honda. All the rest are old, old money.

Get the book.

At 4:11 AM, Blogger John said...

So, "The new issue of The Economist carries a distrubing piece about how far to the militarist right the new cabinet Shinzo Abe put together is."

I presume the Economist presented this info in a giddily celebratory manner.

John Puma

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Megaman_X said...

I thought we were done with Shinzo Abe in 2007


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