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Watch Out for Japan

Black Star Over Japan

by Albert Axelbank
Hill and Wang, 230 pp., $7.95

Japanese Imperialism Today

by Jon Halliday and Gavan McCormack
Monthly Review Press, 272 pp., $7.95 (to be published in September)

The Fragile Blossom: Crisis and Change in Japan

by Zbigniew Brzezinski
Harper & Row, 153 pp., $5.95

The Weary and the Wary: US and Japanese Security Policies in Transition

by Robert E. Osgood
Johns Hopkins, 95 pp., $5.00

One of the clearest and least equivocal signs of the changing pattern—to say nothing of the confusion and disarray—of current international politics is the way everyone is suddenly becoming preoccupied with Japan. For twenty years Tokyo remained in the background, apparently happy with the role the United States assigned it in the postwar world, while attention concentrated on the actions and reactions of Moscow and Peking. Today the roles are reversed. I am not the first, and I shall certainly not be the last, to discern some disconcerting analogies between the position of Japan in the world today and the situation it found itself in when it launched its drive into Manchuria in 1931. As I pointed out in my previous article, 1 there is a large and growing body of commentators anxiously scanning the Far East and trying to predict which way Japan will jump. The purpose of the present article is to put their views into some sort of historical perspective and assess them accordingly.

On the surface it is easy to see the reasons for this new preoccupation with Japan. Albert Axelbank is concerned about the gathering evidence of a resurgence of Japanese militarism. Jon Halliday and Gavan McCormack perceive in Japan’s new-found economic strength the basis for a revival of Japanese imperialism. Zbigniew Brzezinski discerns “a kind of identity crisis” in Japan and believes that “serious strains are developing” which “will be reflected both in Japanese politics and economics.” Robert E. Osgood foresees “a basic revision of U.S.-Japanese relations” and “a fundamental redistribution of power in Asia.” In the background, and common to all, is the much discussed question of the connections between Japanese government and industry and their impact on political decisions at home and abroad, and the political imbalances which have enabled the right wing to retain power, with one short interlude, for twenty-five years, although by 1969 more than half the Japanese voters had registered their wish for fundamental change and a renovation of Japanese society.

All this is familiar enough. The question is whether it is adequate. I have no particular wish to pick holes in these sober and painstaking commentaries. Halliday and McCormack, in particular, have brought together an impressive body of material which even those who distrust their Marxist interpretation would be foolish to ignore. Japanese Imperialism Today is by far the most informative and in many ways the most penetrating analysis that has come my way so far. Nevertheless my doubts remain. If the four books here reviewed are a representative sample, my conclusion would be that they tell us much, but not enough. Like so much political commentary, they deal with symptoms rather than with fundamental causes. Japan, after all, is not the only country suffering from an “identity crisis,” nor is it the only country seeking a redefinition of its relations with the United States. What is missing, or so it would seem to me, is the realization that Japan is not a case apart but is caught up, like the rest of us, in a crisis involving the whole capitalist world.

Missing also is any serious consideration of the historical dimension. Robert Osgood warns us against false analogies with the prewar world. No doubt he is right. Nevertheless, if we wish to understand the international situation today, and Japan’s place in it, the last thing we can afford to do is to neglect the past. If, in 1931, the world was confronted by the crisis of capitalism, since 1971 it has been confronted by the crisis of neocapitalism. In the wake of the financial crash of 1929 the liberal world order somewhat shakily patched together after 1918 perished irretrievably; in the wake of the dollar crisis that loomed up in the last agonizing months of Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration in 1968, the international order set up under American auspices after 1945 is obviously coming apart. And once again Japan is not going to stand idly by. Its vital interests are too deeply involved. Indeed, as the world’s third industrial power, it is more deeply implicated this time than last.

For Japan, as Brzezinski points out, “the post-war period ended abruptly in August 1971.” The cathartic stroke, as everyone knows, was Nixon’s abrupt reversal of America’s China policy without consulting or even warning Tokyo—a blow that can be compared to the Nazi-Soviet pact of August, 1939. Certainly it toppled the Sato government as surely as the rapprochement between Germany and Russia toppled that of Hiranuma. All of a sudden the US-Japanese “partnership” began to look as hollow as had, thirty-two years earlier, the Anti-Comintern Pact. But if, predictably, the political issue hit the headlines, far more fundamental for US-Japanese relationships were Nixon’s drastic measures to defend the ailing dollar. These hit out all around, but no one, least of all the Japanese, doubted that the target was the yen.

For Japan, August, 1971, was a traumatic experience. It was also disturbingly reminiscent of the 1930s. Then, also, at the first blast of the cold economic wind, the Western powers had withdrawn behind tariff barriers (Hawley-Smoot and Ottawa), imposing quotas and excluding Japanese goods. The result, according to Sir Victor Wellesley of the British Foreign Office, was that “Britain’s economic nationalism alienated the Japanese from the Anglo-American economic world order and intensified their push for hegemony in East Asia.”2

August, 1971, was also reminiscent of the 1930s in so far as it seemed to indicate that Washington was not going to worry unduly about Japanese interests and susceptibilities when it came to making a deal with big brother in Peking. The twenty years of euphoria in US-Japanese relations following the Korean War may have dimmed memories, but the shock of finding itself in the back seat being driven in the wrong direction was not new for Japan.

As Akira Iriye has pointed out, fear of diplomatic isolation was a constant theme of Japanese policy in the 1930s. Never quite absent after 1922, when pressure from the United States and the Pacific Dominions forced Great Britain to jettison the Anglo-Japanese treaty of alliance, it became a nightmare when the British and Americans ganged up against Japan at the London naval conference in 1930. This was the beginning of alienation between Japan and the West, of “a foreign policy which discounted the necessity of co-operation with the Anglo-American nations,” of the search for economic and political self-sufficiency. What it meant in practice was seen a few months later when Japan moved unilaterally into Manchuria.

If in the 1930s it was the gathering economic crisis that exposed the fragility of the whole existing international system and drove Japan to embark on what James B. Crowley has called its “quest for autonomy,”3 conditions in the 1970s are not so different. Nixon’s China initiative apart, it can hardly have inspired Japanese confidence when, with the collapse of the so-called Smithsonian settlement at the beginning of 1973, the US and the enlarged (and swollen-headed) EEC got together in Paris, with scarcely a nod to Tokyo, to patch up the monetary float. Nor can the Japanese have been reassured when the old Atlantic hands, meeting in Amsterdam in March, 1973, in a futile attempt to paper over the cracks in the European-American relationship, pointedly rejected a proposal to include Japan in the debate. These, no doubt, are only signs of things to come; but they are signs the Japanese are unlikely to ignore.

A month later Henry Kissinger launched his appeal for a new Atlantic relationship, “in whose progress” (he somewhat condescendingly added) “Japan can share.” The reception given to Kissinger’s proposals in Europe was tepid, to say the least. In London The Times tartly rejoined that “US problems lie at home.” In Paris the French minister of agriculture once again spelled out the danger of allowing the United States “to dictate its terms to European countries.” The Financial Times, meanwhile, launched an attack on Japan’s policy of unloading its “vast surplus of foreign exchange” by direct investment overseas, and poured scorn on Kissinger’s contention that “the problems of European defense and of Japan can be meaningfully dealt with within the same framework of Atlantic partnership.”

In fact, Kissinger’s references to Japan were so perfunctory, his idea of somehow linking Japan with the United States and Western Europe in a single “common enterprise” so imprecise, that they can only, as Joseph Kraft immediately pointed out, have suggested to the Japanese “a get-together of the old boys’ club to which they might be admitted as servants.” Japan might be the second economic power in the capitalist world, and well on the way to being the first; but it was only too obvious that Tanaka counted for less in its councils than Pompidou or Brandt, or even grocer Heath.

If there is a feeling of insecurity in Japan and a sense of racial discrimination—if Japanese believe that, though for the moment they are tolerated as “honorary whites,” this is a temporary phase which will not endure—it would be difficult to argue that Japanese apprehensions are groundless. For one thing, as Brzezinski points out, the Japanese are acutely aware of the vulnerability of their key sources of supply. In 1971, according to Halliday and McCormack, there were only around twenty days’ supply of most industrial raw materials in the country and oil for forty-five days. No one, of course, is threatening Japan’s access to raw materials at present; but when we recollect the decisive part the oil embargo played in 1941 in the Japanese decision for war, it is not surprising that the question of how best to protect Japan’s vital overseas interests—the question that haunted Japanese policy in the 1930s—has again come to the fore.

Nor is it surprising that the terms in which it is posed are much the same. Japan’s geopolitical situation has not, after all, changed fundamentally since the 1930s. As the Sato-Nixon communiqué of 1969 explicitly observed, Korea and Taiwan, particularly the former, are still regarded as a necessary buffer on the outer Japanese defense perimeter. In regard to Korea at least, it is no secret that Japan would not hesitate to move in to protect its interests there, if need arose. The position in regard to Taiwan following Tanaka’s rapprochement with China is less clear. Eventually perhaps Tokyo may be willing to sacrifice Taiwan, if it proves a necessary price to pay to secure closer relations with Peking. Certainly there is no sign that Japan regards itself as committed to the Kuomintang regime in Taipei.

In addition, there is the wider question, debated incessantly in 1940 and 1941, of ensuring Japan’s economic needs. As Halliday and McCormack point out, Japan is extremely conscious of European-American control over the world’s mineral resources. It is no less conscious of its economic interests in Southeast Asia and of its dependence on oil imports through the Straits of Malacca. Because of its agricultural and mineral resources, Southeast Asia is, in Osgood’s words, “critical to Japan’s industrial economy.”

Japanese interests in East and Southeast Asia therefore fall into two, or perhaps three, concentric and overlapping zones or circles. First is the immediate defense of the homeland and control of the neighboring islands, Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan, and Habomai in the north, and Okinawa and the Ryukus in the south. Second come Korea and Taiwan, also considered to be part of Japan’s defense perimeter, so much so that it has been a cardinal principle of Japanese imperial policy ever since the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 to keep them out of hostile hands. Finally, there is the “outer ring,” stretching from Thailand in the west to Indonesia in the south, an area not directly related to military security but of vital importance for Japan’s economic well-being. If Brzezinski is right in maintaining that defense of this area implies “the creation of a zone of Japanese political and economic pre-eminence,” it requires no deep historical knowledge to perceive that such a zone, comprising Burma, the countries of Indochina (Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam), Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, has more than a superficial resemblance to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere proclaimed in 1940 by Prince Konoye.

Against this background it would be easy to conclude that Japan today is embarking, or about to embark, on the same sort of expansionist policy as it undertook in the 1930s. This is certainly the impression conveyed, in their different ways, by Axelbank and by Halliday and McCormack. It is also a view that has gained widespread credence in popular and semipopular journalism. The tone was set in 1971 by an unidentified member of the Nixon cabinet who told Time magazine that “the Japanese are still fighting the war, only now instead of a shooting war it is an economic war,” and added for good measure that their aim is first “to dominate the Pacific and then perhaps the world.”

Whatever their value as prediction, these alarmist statements rest on a crude and untenable view of the history of the 1930s and a false sense of continuity. In substance they reflect an uncritical acceptance of the conspiracy theory embodied in the Tokyo war crimes trials, which has recently been resurrected, against the consensus of expert opinion, by David Bergamini.4 That is why it seemed important, in my previous article, to show the inadequacy of this interpretation of Japanese history. Japan was not engaged from 1931 onward in a carefully staged conspiracy “to dominate the Pacific and then the world”; it is not engaged in such a conspiracy today. But that does not mean that it is not confronted by many of the problems that led it step by step to war between 1931 and 1941.

Whether they will do so this time is a matter of speculation in which I have no wish to indulge. Few things seem to me more pointless. That is why I am rather lukewarm about the attempts of Osgood and Brzezinski to analyze the alternatives open to Japan and to plot the likely outcome. Not, of course, that their careful, measured analyses are not worth reading, if only as a counterweight to the more alarmist books of Axelbank and of Halliday and McCormack. Osgood is surely right to insist that the widely expressed fears of Japanese military expansion and nuclear adventurism are at present “overblown.” What he and Brzezinski are concerned about is something different. It is the possibility of Japan going it alone, or, even worse, seeking (in Brzezinski’s words) “some sort of grand alliance with China.” Their books, in other words, are really a plea, addressed to Washington, for American policies which, somehow or other, will tie Japan to a capitalist alliance with the United States and the European Economic Community. Kissinger’s speech of April 23, without much doubt, was Washington’s reply.

The first thing to say about these proposals for what Brzezinski calls “a more rational and cooperative effort” on the part of the advanced capitalist powers “to help the less developed countries”—Kissinger more bluntly speaks of “insuring” the industrialized nations’ “supply of energy” and other raw materials—is that they embody nothing new. The idea that Americans and Japanese should “march shoulder to shoulder” to develop Asia was a platitude of the interwar years. As Axelbank reminds us, it was advocated by Franklin D. Roosevelt himself. In fact, as we all know, the United States and Japan did nothing of the sort, and the first question one is left with after reading Brzezinski’s “recommendations” is whether policies that were a conspicuous failure in the 1930s are likely to succeed in the 1970s. I can see no reason to suppose that they will.

In this respect, I think that two observations deserve to be made. The first is that the crisis of neocapitalism is still in its early stages, and it would be a fatal error to try to assess Japanese reactions to it on the basis of the present situation. If we make a crude comparison with the 1930s, then we may say, with all necessary reservations, that we stand, roughly speaking, in 1933, and there is a long way to go before we reach (if ever we do, which I doubt) anything like the situation of 1941.

Second, the crucial issue is not, as seems to be widely assumed, Japan’s relations with China and the Soviet Union. These, no doubt, could blow up suddenly—for example, if the present regime in South Korea were to collapse. But the “threat” from China and the Soviet Union is, as Osgood admits, at best “hypothetical,” and far more immediately threatening for Japan are the signs of disarray and conflict within the capitalist world to which it belongs. These also are in their early stages, and all we can safely say is that the situation will become clearer when the present uneasy lull on the monetary front breaks down and when, as most people seem to expect, the next round of talks on the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) scheduled for the fall of 1973 reveals the deep and irreparable fissures in the capitalist camp.

Here again comparison with the 1930s is instructive—think only of the London monetary conference of 1933! Throughout the 1930s, war between Japan and the Soviet Union seemed by far the most likely eventuality. It did not materialize. Nor, contrary to common opinion, was the “China incident” decisive. What led Japan to its gamble of 1941 was the conflict with the West over Southeast Asia and the fear of a Western stranglehold—“a feeling,” as the United States ambassador in Tokyo told Stimson in 1932, “of pressure being exerted…from the outside,” against which Japan, if it wished to retain control over its own destiny, had no alternative except to take up arms.5 That similar pressures were being exerted in 1972 is, to say the least, nobody’s secret.

This incipient conflict of economic interests between Japan and the United States and between Japan and the EEC, and of course between the EEC and the United States, is probably the single most important factor in the current world situation. If Osgood’s analysis seems rather thin and unsatisfying, it is because for all practical purposes he ignores it and sticks instead closely to the purely political and military aspects. For him, “the determining factor in the future of US-Japanese relations” is “Japan’s view of its security interests.” He may be right. But I suspect that Brzezinski is on firmer ground when he suggests that “an economic squeeze,” produced by American pressures, is the factor most likely to induce in Japan either “a crash program of military development” or a “new orientation” of foreign policy, or both. Hence his conclusion that it is “the United States that can turn Japan away from the United States, since Japan will not do it as a matter of rational choice.”

As good Marxists, Halliday and McCormack also emphasize the importance of economic factors, but not, it seems to me, without a certain equivocation. On the one hand, they recognize—quite rightly—the “intense pressure” on Japan “from its capitalist rivals,” led by the United States; on the other hand, their Marxist interpretation forces them to depict Japan as “essentially” an obedient pawn of American imperialism, “tightly knitted into America’s reactionary network” in Asia.

Whatever may have been the case in the 1950s and 1960s, this view is difficult to swallow today. No doubt they will say that the ambivalence is not their invention, but rather that it reflects the dilemmas confronting Japan since 1971. This is true enough. It is also true that, other things being equal, the Japanese ruling classes see more profit in cooperation with the United States than in conflict. The question, of course, is whether other things are equal, or how long they will remain equal. But in view of the economic crisis that has been building up since 1969, it is not easy to be optimistic. For Japan today, the essential fact is not the close alliance with the United States which was the basis of Japanese policies from the days of MacArthur to those of Rostow, but rather the “imbalances” (as Brzezinski terms them) and tensions which are so clearly building up in American-Japanese relationships.

The point I have been trying to make is that, today as in the 1930s, the crisis is much more one involving the capitalist world as a whole rather than Japan in particular. We shall not understand it if we approach it in narrowly Japanese terms. To stress, as Brzezinski does, the “ambivalent strand in the Japanese psyche,” as though somehow it were a decisive consideration, too easily creates the illusion that all will be well if something can be done to cure this unfortunate Japanese psychological condition. Not that the Japanese are not plagued, like all the rest of us, by their own ambivalences and uncertainties. This does not alter the fact that their reactions will be conditioned—naturally, in their own particular way, just as the reactions of Englishmen, Frenchmen, or Americans will be conditioned in their own particular way—by the objective facts in the situation, in other words by the way the economic crisis develops (or does not develop). And for this reason the no doubt well-intentioned prescriptions put forward by Osgood and Brzezinski seem to me not merely beside the point but in some respects positively dangerous.

Consider, to take but one example (but it is a pretty crucial one), Brzezinski’s insistence that Japan “must learn” that foreign investment “can be mutually beneficial” and “does not lead to foreign domination.” Put that proposition to any European today, even to a West German—put it, above all, to a Frenchman (what, after all, is Gaullism about?)—and they will roar with laughter (rather bitter laughter) and refer you to Servan-Schreiber’s passionate denunciation of American monopoly capitalism.6 Unjust, of course, and ungrateful; but ingratitude is the essence of politics, and in any case we are no longer living in 1949. What Brzezinski is demanding, not unlike Cordell Hull in his day, is that the Japanese should take an American view of the world and what is good for the world, which is precisely what Japan refused to do in 1941. In spite of Henry Kissinger’s efforts, I do not think it is going to be easier to sell that proposition today.

Nor, I cannot help thinking, does it go very well with Brzezinski’s other assertion that Japan will have to “abandon” its protectionist policies anyhow, because—“to put it bluntly”—its relative weakness vis-à-vis the United States leaves it “no option but to concede.” What effect this combination of the stick and the carrot is likely to have is anybody’s guess, but I cannot think it is likely to endear the United States to the Japanese. Nor was John Connally’s offer, when he visited Tokyo in 1971, to help Japan “promote its exports to Europe”—in other words, in exchange for “voluntary restraint,” to dump on Europeans the Toyotas and Datsuns, to say nothing of the textiles and television sets, the US does not want—likely to endear either the United States or Japan to Europeans. Not surprisingly, even as I write, the newspapers carry reports of steps taken by the three Benelux countries to “curb” Japanese imports.

What needs emphasis, once again, is the similarity to the situation in the 1930s. Then also Washington was exhorted, as Brzezinski and Osgood exhort it, to pay heed to Japanese susceptibilities. Then also it was argued that Japanese and Western interests, if only both sides would realize it, were complementary, or, as Axelbank puts it, that there was “too much at stake for Japan and the United States to drift far apart.” Then also it was believed—hence the embargo on scrap and oil and the freezing of Japanese assets before Pearl Harbor—that in any event Japan’s economic vulnerability would force it to toe the line. All, as we know, the very opposite of what actually happened. To see how a great country reacts when it is told—“to put it bluntly”—that it has “no option but to concede,” there is no need to look further than the debates on Japanese policy in 1941.7 I am not suggesting that the situation of 1941 is going to be repeated—nothing, I think, is less likely—but I do suggest that the experience of the years 1931-1941 is more relevant than theoretical speculation about the future shape of American-Japanese relationships.

The obvious limitation of such speculation is that its authors are often more concerned with making the world fit an American prescription than with an objective appreciation of it. Brzezinski’s book, for example, ends with a plea for the United States, Japan, and Western Europe, the three “pillars of possible global stability,” to get together in a “staged movement toward a free trade area.” I will not express an opinion about this vision of a brave new world, except to say that it looks to me suspiciously like a line-up for the new cold war—the cold war between the “haves” (including eventually the Soviet Union) and the “have nots”—with the “community of the developed nations” ganging up against Latin Americans, Southeast Asians, and other “lesser breeds without the law” to keep them in their place.

What concerns us here, however, is the feasibility of such a scheme. It might conceivably have worked—indeed, to a considerable degree it did work—between 1950 and 1970. For the lean years which began in 1970 its relevance is less evident. Today, instead of a “community of the developed nations,” there is cutthroat competition (witness the almost indecent rush from all sides to get in first in the Soviet and Chinese markets); instead of a “movement” toward “free trade,” there is growing protectionism. As Roy Jenkins recently remarked, we no longer have a world monetary system, instead “we have a chicken running round with its head cut off.”

For anyone with memories of the monetary chaos of the 1930s, the consequences need no emphasis. Already in 1972, according to Halliday and McCormack, Tokyo formulated tentative plans for a yen bloc, competing with the dollar in Southeast Asia. It was a little ahead of time, but not perhaps so far ahead as people find it convenient to believe.

In all this it is only too easy to put the blame on someone else. Europeans blame Americans; Americans wax eloquent (and so do European consumers) about the iniquities of European agricultural policy. At the height of the monetary crisis a London newspaper asserted in banner headlines: “The responsibility rests on Japan.” To judge by some of the comments, one might almost have thought that the crisis was a yen and not a dollar crisis.

I am not, of course, suggesting that the Japanese are innocent, any more than they were innocent in the 1930s. Japanese policies have certainly contributed their share to the monetary crisis, and these policies reflect the way relations between government and business have developed since the war. These developments are well known and hotly debated, in Japan itself and elsewhere, and there is no need to discuss them here. For present purposes only two things need to be said. First, concentration on export industries and the amassing of huge export surpluses, at the expense of the Japanese consumer—to say nothing of the destruction of the environment through the heedless pursuit of economic growth and higher profits—are not the only possible ways forward. But, secondly, so long as the Japanese establishment, which has a vital interest in perpetuating the system that has given it such power, remains in control, though there may be modifications, there is unlikely to be any radical change of orientation.

Nevertheless these problems are not only or especially Japanese problems, and we shall get nowhere by simply throwing stones at our neighbors. Japan is not the only country where big business influences the processes of government; it is not the only country pursuing the idol of economic growth at all costs. The crisis is a crisis of the capitalist system, or (if you prefer) of developed industrial society, in which we are all involved. It has not yet reached the stage of sauve qui peut, and perhaps it never will, but if it does it will not help—though many will do so—to accuse Japan of ambitions to “dominate the Pacific and then perhaps the world.”

In theory it is not difficult to think of escape routes from the crisis that is building up. That, in fact, is what the twenty “wise men” of the IMF and other experts in other international institutions are busy doing right now. That without doubt was Henry Kissinger’s intention in the address he delivered to the Associated Press on April 23. Kissinger’s speech, with its sobering picture of “protective policies,” “turbulence” and “rivalry in international monetary relations,” and the “prospect of a closed trading system,” was an extraordinarily acute premonition of the age of “friction,” “regional self-interest,” and “divergence” into which we are moving. Where it fell short was in making the sort of positive proposals which command a hearing. The outcome may be some resounding platitudes to which all can safely subscribe, similar to the Atlantic Charter of 1941. Whether it will lead to appropriate action is a very different question.

The reason, fundamentally, is that the changes the situation requires go well beyond the call for “unity” that is the burden of Kissinger’s message. They include among other things a long, hard look at the fetish of self-perpetuating growth, and involve the whole shape and structure, to say nothing of the purpose, of the existing social and economic system. Kissinger is undoubtedly right when he says that they “require above all a commitment of political will.” But one has only to consider the strength of vested interests, the capital investment to be protected, and the conflicting claims of national priorities, to realize, as Osgood pessimistically foretells, that policy is more likely to follow “the line of least resistance” than “enlightened…consideration of analytical alternatives.”

Halliday and McCormack profess, predictably enough, to believe that change will be enforced by the “militancy” of the Japanese working class. I wish I could convince myself that their faith in popular action were more than lip service to conventional Marxist orthodoxy. There is, indeed, widespread disillusionment in Japan with the consequences of untrammelled growth and a revulsion against the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Nevertheless Axelbank is surely right when he says that the prevailing ethos in Japan today “is neither left nor liberal but archconservative.” In a postscript dated October 3, 1972, Halliday and McCormack are noticeably less sanguine in their assessment than they were six months earlier. Tanaka, they write, “has neither the inclination nor the ability to reverse big business’s entrenched policies…. Repression against the students and increasingly reactionary policies…can be expected, with chauvinism and militarism being more and more stressed.”

Nor is Japan the only country where conservatism and sectarian nationalism are in the saddle. Far from the workers of the world uniting, it is organized labor that in the United States is in the vanguard of the movement for restrictions on imports from Japan. As in the 1930s economic strain and political reaction march hand in hand, and failure to solve the problems of neocapitalism—problems entirely different from but no less severe than those of capitalism in the 1920s—is bound to have political repercussions. What they will be no one can tell. All we can say is that the crisis, if it comes, will span the world and will be as unpredictable in its consequences—and probably as gruesome—as the crisis that ended with the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But do not conclude that capitalism will collapse; it has deep roots and powerful tentacles.

  1. 1

    “Hitler and Hirohito,” New York Review, May 31, 1973. 

  2. 2

    Wellesley’s statement is quoted by Bradford A. Lee, Britain and the Sino-Japanese War (Stanford, 1972). 

  3. 3

    James B. Crowley, Japan’s Quest for Autonomy (Princeton, 1966). 

  4. 4

    Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, by David Bergamini (Morrow, 1971). 

  5. 5

    The statement by W. Cameron Forbes, the US ambassador in Tokyo, is quoted by Richard W. Van Alstyne in The United States and East Asia (Norton, to be published in October). 

  6. 6

    The American Challenge, by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber (Atheneum, 1968). 

  7. 7

    Japan’s Decision for War: Records of the 1941 Policy Conferences, edited by Nobutaka Ike (Stanford, 1967).