Robert Scalapino: The Japanese Communist Movement, 1920–1966. University of California Press (CUP) 52s.
Though ‘a contribution to the rand Corporation’s continuing program of research undertaken for United States Air Force Project rand’, this is a useful book, on an important subject which certainly deserves better than the put-down entitled ‘From Martyrdom to Nuisance’ pronounced by the Economist.
Professor Scalapino has shown himself, particularly in Parties and Politics in Contemporary Japan, to be an acute analyst of Japanese politics, skilled in explaining internal party developments, faction fighting and suchlike. However, this volume suffers from exactly the same defect as the Cole, Totten & Uyehara book, Socialist Parties in Postwar Japan—viz. it almost entirely omits information on the economic conditions of workers, students and others who joined or sympathized with the left-wing movement, or on the complex historical circumstances which produced colossal exploitation with considerable submissiveness in Japan. Scalapino alludes to the fact that certain elements for a potential Left policy had been pre-empted by the conservative movement, but there is not nearly enough on the wretched conditions of the working class, the educational system, the life-employment system and other fundamental features of Japan. It is because of this lack of essential background material that the Economist reviewer (who must know a little about Japan) can continue to view the Japanese Communist Movement the way he does: first as ‘martyr’ (implying that there was indeed a great deal to get worked up about, but little that could be done—i.e. the existence of a highly oppressive system) and then as ‘nuisance’ (implying that there is nothing at all to get worked up about now, but that somehow there are people who just won’t stop grumbling). Such an attitude is only possible in an atmosphere of complete disembodiment. Scalapino’s book is helpful because it sets out a lot of facts. Further he has interviewed a great many of the leading politicians and theoreticians involved. Yet there remains an apparently fundamental incapacity to understand and appreciate the Japanese Communist Party for what it is. A critical reading of the book is needed—until the history of this remarkable movement can be written by the left itself, rather than by the us Air Force.