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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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- Spring '13