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(JAPANESE POLITICS and SOCIETY, to 1927 – continued)

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JAPANESE POLITICS and SOCIETY, to 1927 (4 of 9)

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Economic Recession and Political Reaction

The economic competition from abroad that for Japan had vanished during the World War returned after the war. Exports declined and imports increased. Financiers had made too many unsound speculations and expansions, and some banks faltered. There was financial panic, widespread business paralysis and an upward spiral in prices for consumers. Unrest in Japan grew. The success of the Bolsheviks in Russia and the increase in agitation by Japanese labor alarmed Japan's business community. In 1920 – before a Japanese Communist Party had been formed – those siding with the interests of Big Business aimed their hostility against socialists, whom they associated with Russia's Bolsheviks. And they attacked liberal trends, which they also labeled as Bolshevik. There was an increase in hostility also toward perceived foreign influences: night clubbing and jazz, against modern girls (translated as mogos) and modern boys (translated as mobos).

Patriotic societies were growing. One of these, the Doka Kai society dated back to 1913 and had been founded by university professors. Like Europe's emerging fascists, the patriotic societies opposed class struggle in favor of national unity. Some of them opposed the existence of parliament. Some opposed what they saw as the corrupting influence caused by money and industrial wealth. Most of them supported their nation's traditional religion and the belief that the emperor was godly and sacrosanct. They called themselves "chivalrous patriots." And some of them were willing to use physical intimidation against scholars, politicians or financiers who were friendly toward democracy. And there were those willing to use violence to intimidate anyone they saw as willing to weaken the Constitution or disseminate "dangerous thoughts."

The interests of businessmen in keeping military budgets low clashed with the militarism revered by the patriotic societies. For the sake of sales abroad, businessmen had an interest in hearts and minds – good will – rather than use of military force. But businessmen were making less of an issue of good will abroad than they were of their friendship militaristic patriotism. In 1921, Big Business called in the army to break strikes, and some businessmen were beginning to favor rightist organizations that they had previously regarded as their enemy.

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