New Revolutionary Agenda: The Interwar Japanese Left on the “Chinese Revolution”

Tatiana Linkhoeva, New York University
L to R: Ōsugi Sakae, Sakai Toshihiko, Yamazaki Kesaya, Yamakawa Hitoshi, and Kondō Eizō. Source: Wikipedia Commons.
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To achieve socialist revolutions in Asia, the Third Communist International (Comintern) recommended to Asian revolutionaries the strategy of a united front comprising the proletariat and the national bourgeoisie, which would prioritize the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle. The early Japanese Communist Party (JCP) (1922–1926) resisted this recommendation, which lumped together colonized India and semi-colonized China with the only empire in Asia, Japan. The JCP insisted on the priority of the domestic national struggle, arguing that without toppling the imperial government at home by means of a socialist revolution, there could be no dismantling of Japanese imperialism and therefore no Chinese Revolution. After the outbreak of Japanese aggression in China in 1927 (the first Shantung intervention in May of that year) and the rise of popular nationalist support for the empire at home, members of the Japanese Left recognized that they had failed to properly engage with Japanese imperialism in Asia. Based on Comintern archives and the writings of leading Japanese Communists, this article argues that, as a strategy to rebrand and redeem itself in the new critical situation in Asia, the Japanese Left began to regard the Chinese Revolution as the only path to liberation, not only for Asia but for Japan as well.

Keywords: Japanese Communism, Chinese Revolution, Comintern, Japanese imperialism