Tsubouchi regarded shingeki as part of the overall

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Unformatted text preview: and that it would be necessary to eliminate the many feudal elements in Japanese society before any consideration could be given to a proletarian takeover. Still another critical issue of interpretation for Japanese Marxists was the role of imperialism in East Asia. In his East Asian thesis, designed primarily for China, Lenin identified imperialism as the principal enemy of Asian peoples and called for the Communists among them to cooperate with the nationalist movements of bourgeois democrats (for example, Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang in China) to expel foreign imperialists. But because the Japanese were themselves by this time among the major imperialists in East Asia, Lenin’s thesis had little applicability to their country. The Fruits of Modernity 291 Even if there had been ideological agreement, the Communist movement stood virtually no chance in prewar Japan, for popular sentiment was hostile and the authorities were unrelentingly harsh. With the approach of the 1930s and mounting Japanese involvement in military adventurism on the continent, the movement was ruthlessly destroyed. Despite the failure of the Communist movement before World War II, Marxism as a creed held a powerful intellectual appeal for the Japanese. Indeed, one of its major difficulties appears to have been that it was largely monopolized by intellectuals and was not effectively presented in a practical, programmatic way for workers. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, the proletarian writers formed the dominant school in literature, and though we may regard this as a commentary on the low state of writing in general during these years, it is also proof that this school was successful in firing the imaginations of some people with both the Marxist doctrine that social relations can be analyzed in scientific, material terms and the Marxist dream that a workers’ utopia lies in the future. Kobayashi Takiji’s The Cannery Boat (Kani Kòsen, 1929) is regarded as one of the finest works of proletarian literature, and an excerpt from it will show the kind of crude propagandizing that inevitably emerged from writing stimulated by such ideological zeal. The book tells of a comme...
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