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New International, March–April 1951


Abel Baker

Books in Review

Second Phase in Japan


From The New International, Vol. XVII No. 2, March–April 1951, pp. 121–122.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Occupation of Japan: Second Phase
by Robert A. Fearey
Published by the Macmillan Company, N.Y., under the Auspices of the Institute of Pacific Relations. 1950. $3.00.

One of the by-products of the Japanese occupation has been the steady stream of articles and books on Japan. There has also been a notable development of statistical standards so that such information is quite reliable. The present book is one of a group of studies sponsored by the I.P.R. and is actually a supplementary study to Edward M. Martin’s The Allied Occupation of Japan which covered “phase one” up to 1948.

When the Martin book first appeared the value of a study of so short a period could be questioned. Now it can be seen that the occupation divides itself into three periods, each with its own guiding principle. From August 1945 until about the middle of 1948 a number of reforms were introduced along the lines of American political practices which had the effect of liberalizing Japanese society and of creating a fluid and hopeful political atmosphere. This was during the era of international “good feeling.”

By 1948 the Cold War tension dominated relations between the U.S. and Russia and this found its expression in the actions of both the occupation authorities and the Japanese Communist Party as well as the Russian representatives on the Far Eastern Council in Tokyo. The CP began a campaign of strikes, some of which had solid economic motivations, and all of which were politically inspired. In March 1948 MacArthur broke the second general strike and by July restrictive decrees on the right to strike had been issued by the Occupation. This second period, then, is characterized by an end to reform, whittling away at the liberal measures previously enacted, the restoration of reaction to dominance over the state machinery through the Yoshida government and the establishment of America’s needs in the Cold War as the decisive criterion for all the Occupation activities.

Still a third phase was opened with the Korean War in July of last year, with Japan being openly utilized as an American military base. The political direction for the present is toward the securing of permanent bases in Japan thus reducing that nation to a strategic satellite of the American Bloc. Internally MacArthur’s and the State Department’s aim is stabilization of reaction in power with increasing discretion allowed that tendency to nullify the early reforms.

In a sense, then, this book is already more dated than the author could possibly have anticipated. The primary concern of American policy in Japan now is for a peace treaty which will give legal sanction to its military position in the islands and at the same time obtain the approval of the other, more wary Pacific states, such as the Philippines and Australia to the rearming of Japan. As assurance to these other countries, a Pacific counterpart of the Atlantic Pact is proposed which would integrate Japan into a larger military system. The next period will see the progressive militarization of Japan under U.S. auspices. The internal balance of the country will change accordingly and the Occupation will throw its weight on the side of restoration to power of the generals and admirals. It thus appears probable that the Occupation will liquidate its own reforms in this sphere.

However, this will not be so simple a matter. For one thing, the labor movement which has grown to such substantial proportions, and which has only recently freed its largest unions of the Stalinist incubus, stands in the way because militarization is a direct threat to the unions and it means the destruction of painfully established labor standards. A large body of opinion in Japan sees no future in any treaty arrangement which is made with the U.S. and its friends and which is rejected by the Stalinist bloc which surrounds Japan. They see in this only that their country will become an inevitable target for Stalinist attack. And the largest number of Japanese are in dreadful fear of the return of the militarists to power.

This book is, nevertheless, an excellent summary of events and policies pursued by the Occupation during “the Second Phase.” The author’s approach is scholastic. He pursues objectivity with great avidity, making a strenuous effort to exclude his own biases. Thus, after outlining each policy and describing its development and application, Fearey gives a careful catalogue of the reasons which prompted the policy and the arguments against it. He concludes each section with a “balanced view” giving his personal judgment.

It is interesting that Fearey’s own conclusions are highly tentative. This is not a natural diplomatic indefiniteness (Fearey is an official in the State Department), but in this writer’s opinion, a sober evaluation. For possibly the best commentary on the reform aspect of the Occupation is the uncertainty that any of it will be retained as the presently installed political reaction is given its head.

The best example of this trend is in the basic field of land reform. Fearey’s treatment of this subject is excellent. He points out that while the Occupation has forced through a real agrarian reform, reducing the area under tenant cultivation from 46 per cent of the cultivated area to 12 per cent, and creating a new class of peasant proprietors, the political power of the landlords at all levels of government remains essentially intact. As a result there has been flagrant sabotage of the reform by the Japanese State. The government put off registration of the new land deeds so that even though the peasant had bought, and in 70 per cent of the cases paid for his new land, the legal title to it was not registered and therefore was not finally legalized. This holds true to this day. The government has clearly indicated that it does not consider the transfer of land to the new owners as final and it has shown a definite desire to institute a counter-reform.

If this is true in so palpable a field as land reform one can easily understand why in such fields as education, local autonomy and police powers the early reforms never were more than skin deep. The “second phase” saw an end to reform efforts and the whittling away of those established earlier; What is more, while production rose, now, six years after the end of the war, it has still not regained its pre-war level even though American subsidies to the tune of 300 million dollars were poured in last year. There is no solution in sight for the underlying problem of how Japanese capitalism can solve its contradictions without an empire, cut off from the Chinese market and deprived of American subsidies. Japanese capitalism was so wedded to militarization and empire that it has been left rudderless and in chronic crisis by its defeat in the war.

While Fearey is quite hopeful of the economic future of Japanese capitalism he has performed an excellent service in assembling the facts for a realistic appraisal.

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