Individual Eleven Essay

(Written 2011)

The life and works of Sylvester

The bible of the Individual Eleven, Patrick Sylvester’s book Reflections on Nations and Revolutions: Collected Preliminary Essays on Revolution, obviously deserves important notice for our analysis to be relevant, as it provides us with the best chance of understanding major phenomena and principles within the entire anime. But this analysis is extremely difficult to conduct, as there is such little information about those essays given in the entire anime’s plot and exposition. We have not one direct quote from the essays, and the references to its topics leave us with little imagination to understand its content; we’ll simply need to do our best with what we have, and take lots of indirect evidence as to maintain some sort of credible product assessment.

We can start with the essay titles, of which we are given: The Rise of the Third Estate, Breaking Free from Domination, A Farewell to Kings, Aspiring Towards Socialism, Eve of the Rapture, Parting Ways with the Gods, Castro and Guevara, Twelves Years of Nihilism, and A Return to Principles; and we also have Sylvester’s essay on the Japanese May 15 Revolution.

The essay mentioning the aspiration of socialism, going alongside a picture of Lenin on the internet text, is obviously talking about the Russian Revolution (1917); and the essay of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara is axiomatically talking about the Cuban Revolution (1959). The first of these essays may be the English Revolution, of which there was the break down of feudalism and the new bourgeois class – not a class associated with monarchic or aristocratic or theocratic forces but instead based on the principle of liberalism – first rose into bring a force in human society; not a monarch, not a peasant, but the bourgeois was a third estate that had risen up into power in England. A ‘farewell to kings’ may be a reference to the eradication of the French monarchy during their revolution (1792), the end of the monarchy and the instalment of the liberal slogans (a repetition of empty rhetoric of freedom and fraternity, taken straight out of the US revolution) and a totally bourgeois governmental republic. ‘Breaking free of domination’ is probably the American Revolution (1776), in where the American colony states were able to get rid of their British dominators; instead of being overruled by the British, they wanted to be an independent republic, and so they fought the war of independence so as to break free from British domination. Other than those essays, it’s unclear what the revolutions in topic are, and so we cannot connect each essay to each revolution so to make a clearer understanding of the formula that is getting used – there are plenty of other revolutions that are well worth writing an essay on, such as France 1968, Iran 179, Poland 1981, Germany 1918-1923-1928, etc. ‘Twelve years of nihilism’ may be in reference to the twelve years of Nazi Germany… though the Nazi’s coming to power was hardly a revolution or any sort of progress in human society, much more like falling into a pit of reactionary barbarism. A return to principles might be the working class rebellions that occurred throughout the eastern bloc throughout the late 1980s that saw to the collapse of the state capitalist Stalinist USSR empire, where the Berlin Wall fell and the pseudo-workers’ states were brought to an end; Sylvester not being a Marxist by some petty-bourgeois anarchist, calling it a return to principles instead of the collapse of barbaric tyranny but with no actual material improvements.

Scholarly academia in the universities versus political activism in the real world

One thing is clear from the very nature of Sylvester, as well as the tiny pieces of biographical information we are given, is that he is a revolutionary romantic and scholarly student. Normally for political activists, ie revolutionaries, the revolution is the process by which a new society can be formed, and the focus to all the affection and admiration lie in the new as having replaced the old. In the Russian Revolution, for example, all of the admiration is on the egalitarian democratic soviet society that existed post-revolution from 1917 until 1923 – there wasn’t a romantic obsession over the revolution in-and-of-itself, but instead seeing that as the process needed to be taken to eradicate Tsarism and capitalism and to install socialism. The exact same can be said of the French and American revolutions – nationalists love to talk about how wonderful republicanism is, and how the new nation was such a wonderful place to live in, and they don’t merely obsess over the Jacobin acts during the taking of power. Sylvester, instead of talking about things like a normal political activist would – the problems with the current society, the prospects of how a future new society would not have those problems, and the method by which the people can transform the present so to make that new society a reality; etc – he focuses only on the revolutionary transformation process, the process by which a society changes, as one set of rulers are kicked out and a different set come into power. As we are told, in one of those brief pieces of biographical information, when he witnessed the May 15 incident in Japan, it sparked something inside of him: he was then compulsively driven to learning about revolutions, studying them and learning. He dreamed of being a revolutionary himself: he would have idolised the revolutionary leaders, such as Lenin and Castro and Guevara and the Jacobins, and viewed their behaviour and something he would lust over emulating. And he somewhat did try to live out a life of a revolutionary leader, getting himself involved in the Romanian Revolution, but only to find himself killed before he could make a contribution to the revolt that was happening.

A true ‘man of the people’, someone who spends time talking with working class people, listening to them speak and learning from their feelings, will know that it is material conditions that drive people’s actions. Workers are first and foremost concerned about the subsistence of their lives: Do I have a job? Am I making enough money to feed my family? Is my house a stable and secure environment? Are there any mortal threats to my and my family’s lives? It’s those questions around material conditions that drive ordinary people, what they do and where they go; and if revolution is to ever happen, it will through those material circumstances. And for revolutions to ever occur in human history, the major ingredient in catalysing the event will be material circumstances and how they force upon the actions of the otherwise silent majority (the horrors of Russia caused the 1917 revolution; the misery of Batista is what caused the Cuban Revolution; the terror of the Shah caused the Iranian Revolution). Workers are not concerned with revolutions in-and-of-themselves, but only seeing revolutions as the vital and unavoidable process by which we can eradicate the problems of the old society, and install a new society where those problems no longer exist.

And therefore, for any true revolutionary, be they Lenin for example or someone else, they have to be connected with the real world and the working class, viz talking to them and listening to them and watching them, and then learning from them so as to better understand them and to become a better revolutionary leader in the process.

An utterly different story is told when we take a look at Sylvester and his behaviour and his associations. All of this seems to be signs of a man who remains isolated from the real world, kept in an ivory tower, from where he views the world and tries to understand it. He appears to be some sort of petty-bourgeois middle-class university academic, someone who sits in a large room, surrounded by books about facts and transcripts from speeches, and can only understand revolutions by a never-ending reading of the details. An academic naturally hates how he’s so hidden and disconnected from the real world – he’s never had to be materially connected to the real world (ie wage-slavery, having to work to make money so to feed the family; exploitation; oppression; etc, etc). He has no real power, and so nothing he says or does has any impact on people and things around him – and is, henceforth through that inferiority-complex, driven to make an impression onto the society around him. Sylvester knows that when he dies, because he’s a no-name middle-class academic with nothing special to offer anyone, he will be forgotten into the depths of time, perhaps his name mentioned once somewhere deep into a useless and unread book stored in an empty and uninviting library somewhere, and his name will be kept out of the true pages of history; the true pages of history, where the human races faces crossroads and goes into new directions, will never mention Sylvester’s name. And so Sylvester longs to be revolutionary leader, to commit some sort of act that is amazing and great and tremendous, something that truly does affect the crossroads of human history; something so amazing that he will be remembered as a hero and have books written about him long into the future. For someone who suffers such an individualistic outlook upon himself, as per his existence is only validated when he in turn achieves mountains, he will naturally be driven into a psychotic emptiness as he continues to live his pointless and pathetic academic life.

Revolution in-and-of-itself; the old unwanted society; the desired and wonderful new society

Just take a look at what Hideo Kuze had to say, during episode five, driving in the truck just before his attempted assassination of the prime minister. It’s unclear if he’s directly quoting Sylvester, paraphrasing him, or simply giving his own personal opinion of the issue, but anyway he says the following:

‘If one were to give one’s life as a revolutionary leader, that life would be sublimated into something transcendent. In death, a hero meets his mortal end, but he gains eternity.’

(Episode 5 – Inductance)

This quote totally epitomises what is meant by academic obsession with trying to gain societal recognition despite having never achieved anything. Kuze doesn’t appear to care at all about anything of material substance, the lives of the refugees, the lives of the Japanese working class, even his own life, etc, all he cares about is whether or not his name will be remembered in the history books. His mortal life is short and small and irrelevant, and entropy is forever making his death approach, and so the only hope of gaining immortality is for him to successfully die as a revolutionary hero. It’s that obsession for recognition which appears to have driven Sylvester and Kuze do something tremendous and amazing, and by doing this they will be remembered in history and society will know of their names.

That quote from Kuze reminds me, particularly, of the Cuban Revolution and the life of Che Guevara. Any analysis that was to take a look at Che’s life, look at the pros and cons, and to make an examination of this life, must focus itself onto the material reality to which Che had an influence on – in short, he was a major figure and played a leading role in the Cuban Revolution, forming the new society of Cuba post-Batista, and therefore we should judge Che’s life by the new Cuban society he was able to create. In short, people should be held responsible for what they do, and it was Che who helped get Castro into power and this new Cuban nation to be born. Was this new Cuban society an improvement for the Cuban people? What advancements have been made for them? What setbacks have the people suffered because of this new society? An honest person, who cared about the Cuban working people, would focus on the material conditions, comparing life under Batista and life under Castro, and place the responsibility onto that leader who made the revolutionary interchange between one society and the other. A dishonest person, someone who was obsessed with revolutions and cared nothing for the ordinary people around him, would instead focus only on the tremendousness and brilliance of having a revolution, about how Cuban society was transformed by the acts and deeds of the revolutionaries, and would then conveniently ignore all of the material reality, ie what happened to the Cuban working class after 1959. Che romantics love to focus only on the revolution that he was successfully able to bring forth, and they shower him with rhetoric and speeches about how amazing it was for him to carry out such a revolution, and yet they ignore it when reports come in about Castro repression and exploitation. Those Che romantics are forever hypocrites if they refuse to acknowledge the oppression and despotism that the Cuban working class suffer under the Castro Cuban state.

Karl Marx verus Patrick Sylvester

I’m thinking that there might be a tinge of Karl Marx within the persona of Sylvester, much more the Cold War mythology of Marx than him the actual person who did actual things. Sylvester is made out as a very academic, scholarly professor who wrote these wonderful essays on revolution, reflecting the inside passions for revolution he felt. But then, just as he was getting himself involved in the Romanian Revolution, he died – it was this single act of actually getting politically active which saved Sylvester from being discredited as nothing but a book-buff. Sylvester was complemented for his work and writings, not because they provided revolutionaries with a guide to action, but that he used beautiful prose and clever metaphors, and so his essays were a pleasure to read; the Individual Eleven then try to convert his writings into actions, and it ends in disaster for them. The moral of the story, we are led into believing by studying Sylvester, is that mountains of literature based on political ideas is one thing, but actually translating it into actions that can revolutionise the world and change society is another.

Compare Sylvester with Marx. Karl Marx – if you read the Cold War literature, listen to neo-cons and liberals speak of him; allow yourself to be swallowed in by the lies and myths and I-love-capitalism cant – is made out as a scholarly, son-of-a-rabbi, philosophically-inclined thinker who wrote these gigantic books on political economy and philosophy, but never actually did anything in real world, just spent his whole life in the London Library. This myth is a way of isolating the Marxist ideas from real practical reality: “Sure, Marx was a genius and wrote these wonderful books, but his ideas and theories are only good in paper, and can never be translated into actions in the real world. The world isn’t like as Marx envisioned, and so his ideas are useless. He was a genius, of course, but an empty genius. He himself spent his whole life in libraries and academic halls, never actually meeting workers or speaking to them, and he was actually elitist towards them. Marx himself was never a political activist, and so it hardly makes sense for his writings to be used as tools for political activists to use. And then it was Lenin, the fool who couldn’t tell the difference between good ideas and a practical assessment of the real world, decided to put Marx’s ideas into actions – with horrendous consequences, viz the rise of Stalin and Soviet Union terror.”

I have no way of advancing this mythology any further, exploring the ideas deeper, or actually debunking the Cold War mythology (Marx was not an academic, but a political activist too; Lenin based his theories on practical evidence; Stalin’s rise to power was a counterrevolution, not a revolution; etc), all of which I would otherwise do; but since it’s time to now move on to the next topic, I’ll leave things here. My actual point was to show the similarities between Sylvester and Marx, and I’ve been successful in doing that.

The May Fifteen Incident, acknowledging it

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the May Fifteen Incident that occurred in Japan some eighty years ago, understand what happened, who did what when, look into what dialectical class forces were at play during this incident, and to see what overall historical affect this had on Japan coming into the 1930s where we saw a massive change in their political and military behaviours. By looking into the political importance of this incident, we can better judge as to how important Japanese culture has placed value on this incident, how it has affected the Ghost in the Shell anime’s producers, and how much it has affected the fictional Patrick Sylvester as he wrote those essays on revolution. After all, according to the plot, Sylvester originally wanted to write an essay on the incident, and to include it in amongst the other works he had written about the other revolutions in human history – however, he could not bring himself to write it, and include it so, because he didn’t believe that the May Fifteen Incident was a revolution (which it wasn’t). Torn, unable to come to grips with what a revolution was, and what this incident would otherwise qualify as, Sylvester is left unsure about what course of action he’d ought to have taken.

Here now, we have the Wikipedia entry for this historical incident:

‘The May 15 Incident [in original text this was in bold] was an attempted coup d’état in Japan, on May 15, 1932, launched by radical elements of the Imperial Japanese Navy, aided by cadets in the Imperial Japanese Army and civilian remnants of the League of Blood Incident. Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was assassinated by 11 young naval officers. The following trial and popular support by [the] Japanese population led to light sentences, strengthening military factions, weakening immediately the rule of law, but also, in the long term, the young Japanese democracy.

Background [sub heading, in bold and large]: As a result of the ratification of the London Naval Treaty limiting the size of the Imperial Japanese Navy, a movement grew within the junior officer corps to overthrow the government, and to replace it with military rule. This movement had parallels in the Sakurakai secret society organised within the Imperial Japanese Army. The naval officers established contacts with the ultranationalist Inoue Nissho and his “League of Blood”, and agreed with his philosophy that to bring about a ‘Shōwa Restoration‘, it would be necessary to assassinate leading political and business figures. In March 1932, in the ‘League of Blood Incident‘, Inoue’s group only managed to kill former Finance Minister and head of the Rikken Minseito, Inoue Junnosuke, and Director-General of Mitsui Holding Company, Takuma Dan.

Incident [sub heading, in bold]: On May 15, 1932, the naval officers, aided by Army cadets, and right-wing civilian elements (including Shūmei Ōkawa, Mitsuru Tōyama, and Kosaburo Tachibana) staged their own attempt to complete what had been started in the League of Blood Incident. Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was assassinated by eleven young Naval officers (most were just turning twenty years of age) in the Prime Minister’s residence. Inukai’s last words were roughly “If you spoke, I would understand” to which his killers replied “Dialogue is useless”. The original assassination plan included killing the film star Charlie Chaplin, who happened to be visiting Japan at the time. When the prime minister was killed, his son Inukai Takeru was watching a sumo wrestling match with Charlie Chaplin, which probably saved both their lives. The insurgents also attacked the residence of Makino Nobuaki, the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, the residence and office of Kimmochi Saionji, head of the Rikken Seiyukai political party, and tossed hand-grenades into Mitsubishi Bank headquarters in Tokyo, and several electrical transformer substations. Aside from the murder of the Prime Minister, the attempted coup d’état came to nothing, and the rebellion as a whole proved a failure. The participants took a taxi to the police headquarters and surrendered themselves to the Kempeitai without a struggle.

Consequences [heading, in bold and large]: The eleven murderers of Prime Minister Inukai were court-[martialled]; however, before the end of their trial a petition arrived at court containing over 350,000 signatures in blood, which had been signed by sympathisers around the country to plead for a lenient sentence. During the proceedings, the accused used the trial as a platform to proclaim their loyalty to the Emperor and to arouse popular sympathy by appealing for reforms of the government and economy. In addition to the petition, the court also received a request from eleven youths in Niigata, asking that they be executed in place of the Navy officers, and sending eleven severed fingers to the court as a gesture of their sincerity. Punishment handed by the court was extremely light, and there was little doubt in the Japanese press that the murderers of Prime Minister Inukai would be released in a couple of years, if not sooner. Failure to severely punish the plotters in the May 15th Incident further eroded the rule of law and the power of the democratic government in Japan to confront the military. Indirectly, it led to the February 26 Incident and the increasing rise of Japanese militarism.’

(Wikipedia – May 15 Incident (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_15_Incident). Italicised words are as per the original text. Every word has been left as it was written in the original, including leaving ‘right-wing’ as is and not editing it into ‘Rightwing’. Quotation marks have been added on to the conversation between the prime minister and his assassins, because it is easier to read. American-spelt words have been edited into their Australian direct equivalent spellings. What shocking grammar this has been written in!)

And here we have a little more Wikipedia on discussing Japanese history. It’s written:

‘During the 1910s and 1920s, Japanprogressed toward democracy movements known as ‘Taishō Democracy’. However, parliamentary government was not rooted deeply enough to withstand the economic and political pressures of the late 1920s and 1930s during the Depression period, and its state became increasingly militarised. This was due to the increasing powers of military leaders and was similar to the actions some European nations were taking leading up to World War II. These shifts in power were made possible by the ambiguity and imprecision of the Meiji Constitution, particularly its measure that the legislative body was answerable to the Emperor and not the people. The Kodoha, a militarist faction, even attempted a coup d’état known as the February 26 Incident, which was crushed after three days by Emperor Shōwa. Party politics came under increasing fire because it was believed they were divisive to the nation and promoted self-interest where unity was needed. As a result, the major parties voted to dissolve themselves and were absorbed into a single party, the Imperial Rule Assistance Association (IRAA), which also absorbed many prefectural organisations such as women’s clubs and neighbourhood associations. However, this umbrella organisation did not have a cohesive political agenda and factional in-fighting persisted throughout its existence, meaning Japan did not devolve into a totalitarian state. The IRAA has been likened to a sponge, in that it could soak everything up, but there is little one could do with it afterwards. Its creation was precipitated by a series of domestic crises, including the advent of the Great Depression in the 1930s and the actions of extremists such as the members of the Cherry Blossom Society, who enacted the May 15 Incident.’

(Wikipedia – Fascism in Japan– History of Japan; (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Japan). In the original text, words were spelt in their American spelling, but have been edited into their equivalent Australian spelling.)

Wikipedia is not the only people who have something to say about this piece of Japanese political history. We also have the anime itself, Ghost in the Shell, who can describe to us some of the details of the Incident, talk about which key factors were most important in Sylvester’s thinking, and focus attention away from the peripheral and onto the decisive. Here is some of Iskawa’s description of how the May Fifteen Incident took place:

‘An event of significant consequence took place on May 15, 1932. That’s a day when a group of young navel officers, army cadets and farmer sympathisers – who had been swept up in a whirlwind of nation-building fervour – decided to take radical action. The central figures of the plot succeeded in assassinating the prime minister at the time. As a result,Japanplunged headlong into an era of domination by militarists. You can’t justify what those officers did – it was a heinous act of terrorism, plain and simple – but it’s what happened afterwards that symbolically illustrates the importance of this incident. After the assassination of the prime minister, the eleven young army officers who participated were apprehended and brought before a military tribunal. But once the trial got under way, things began to take a strange turn. Based on the solid conviction in their beliefs, the defendants, who were barely in their twenties, started to make statements with tear-filled eyes, declined any defence, saying that they were prepared to die. When they did this, it had quite an effect: the judges, the soldiers on the prosecution, the press, and the people in the gallery, all found themselves sympathising with the young men, and began weeping too. What’s more, the leniency movement, which had been unable to see much of the trial, gained tremendous momentum after the prosecution delivered its closing arguments. By the time the verdict was handed down on September 19th, 350,000 petitions had been sent it. Public opinion, which had been displaying ultra-nationalist tendencies, reached fever pitch when a box full of eleven fingers – an amount clearly representing the number of defendants – were mysteriously delivered to the courthouse.’

Togusa: ‘So after these eleven young officers killed the prime minister, a kind of nationalism began to spread, one that celebrated them as heroes. It’s an essay authored by someone who was fascinated by the details of the events. I’m willing to bet that the more he wrote about the people involved in the case, the more strongly he identified with them.

(Episode 5 – Inductance. Because this is a translation of Japanese prose in to English, it’s understandable that there’d be so many grammar problems in the writing. Italicised words have been done so by me – JM.)

On can easily take those remarks, of which I have italicised from that quote above, and use that to plot out an intellectual and mental scheme for which Sylvester used to help him write his essay on the incident. I’m not going to bother, because I believe the interesting parts about him lie elsewhere and not there, but somebody else could without too much problem or worry.

It’s never actually made clear as to the cause to this high tension and political instability that is inJapanat that moment, but the Great Depression is not a bad guess. If therefore, the economic hardships are causing problems across Japanese society, making the standard of living lower, making the number of poverty-sufferers and hunger-sufferers increase, then it’s not unlikely that extremes of actions will be taken correspondingly in hope of alleviation, often by small people in spontaneous ways. The assassination of the prime minister was a clear cut act of terrorism, carried out by a group of army officers that clearly identified themselves not with the democratic collective will of the Japanese majority, but with the emperor and his aristocratic establishment force. This act of terrorism was a blatant act of trying to devolve Japanese society back into the absolutist monarchy that it once was, and away from the constitutional monarchy that it was at that moment (and still is presently at time of writing). Because these officers were all Rightwing, and all saw stability and reassurance as the most important values to be upheld, they obviously looked to the man that could enforce authoritarian rule, who could eliminate the enemies of the Japanese motherland, and could return the country to its former glory before the Depression; such as young immature children put blind faith in their parents to ‘make everything better’ it they ask for help, Rightists too believe that the emperor will be able to ‘make everything better’ if they ask for his help. The concept that an entire nation of people, or at least 350,000 people signing the petition, which is a decent amount of people, would oppose justice and defend terrorism against a prime minister, is a hard concept for people like us to grasp – in our society today, there is so much liberalism, no much law-and-order ideological reinforcement, and a constant barrage of respect and obedience towards parliamentarian politicians, that a rejection of all this seems totally impossible. For us, from our point of view, looking at the events inJapanare more like fictional scenes from a movie than genuine pieces of historical events.

It’s also important to see the different class forces that were at play during that time, and how they were each unable – because they were not strong enough – to resolve this situation by asserting themselves into power, and then using that power to impose forceful stability everywhere. For starters, the bourgeoisie had been badly weakened thanks to the Great Depression: their profits were down, their capital was low; their ability to accumulate wealth, exploit the working class, gamble money on the stock exchange, were all gone. With the bourgeoisie at such a pathetic and weak state, it’s unsurprisingly that they were unable to bring greater legitimacy into the parliamentary system – for example, providing money to a party to help them win an election, to thereby provide the public with a figurehead symbolic distraction, and to give them some false hopes for a while, calming everyone down for at least a few months.

Secondly, the working class was also weak, because they were the ones who suffered the greatest amounts of pain thanks to the Depression: with massive unemployment, lower wages, less stable jobs, higher foods prices, etc, etc, they were in no power capable of collectively organising to become a powerful political force. And without the working class able to provide Japanese society with a political force, this was the only hope of some progressivism coming into play within the political conversation, ie workers are the most progressive class in human history, and without them being active and playing a role then only the Right can dominate the conversations at hand.

And thirdly, the key class that still had power was the military – because, even in economic crises, guns are still guns. Often, the military personnel are recruited out from the rural poor, peasantry and lumpenproletariat, which makes them much more sympathetic to the public opinion and the innocent sufferings, which then makes them more likely to disobey their officers’ orders to commit acts that they believe are morally justifiable to therefore help others who are in similar situations to they. However, the officer ranks of the military are from the middleclass aristocratic cliques, often sons of the rich business men and wealthy merchants, who seek to gain further power within the government by having their children climb up the ladder of power inside of the military: these people are middleclass, who have no connection with the toiling and suffering masses, and are totally loyal and obedient to their nation, commanders and their emperor. It’s not uncommon for the former, the lower ranks of soldiers, to mutiny and side with the people – just think of the Russian Revolution, where commanders and officers were killed, and the soldiers created soviets in where they self-organised themselves in the hope of advancing the revolution upwards and onwards. And with the latter, because officers are so committed to the military victory of their nation, and they feel no emotions towards the suffering millions of the masses, they are unwavering in their commitments to achieving victory for country, emperor, and the rich business men like their fathers – they are so committed to victory, so unwavering, so bold and brave in their patriotic pro-militarism, that if some other social or political force gets in their way and blocks Japan’s road to success, for example parliamentary democracy, they will be unafraid in taking drastic and extreme measures in so seeking to rectify this problem and eliminate this road-block. From that point of view, what those officers did wasn’t that surprising, because their class status and scientifically understandable ideology has confirmed this.

With the bourgeoisie, working class, and soldiers all too weak and incapable of acting fast enough to take power in this unstable and difficult political situation, the vacuum is taken up by the officers, who grab hold of the opportunity with glee. There is the single deciding moment, the actual Incident, which is the precedent needed as the excuse to allow for the entire regression to take place across the entire country, as it does.

Let’s move on to the other sections of the discussion that need to be made.

What happened in Japan was hardly unique for those times. In the 1930s, the extreme Right was dominating over the entire world, crushing liberalism, socialism, democracy, the working class, and human rights. Following the Great Depression, all of the latest advances of human society, that had been made over the last fifty and a hundred years, were ripped away; the whole world plunged into a pit of barbaric reaction, the like of which is hard to compare with. Country after country fell into the hands of the extreme Right: in Italy, there was already the fascist government of 1922, and so it was already in the pits of misery waiting for the others to catch up; Germany, who experienced three failed socialist revolutions over the course of the previous fifteen years, suddenly had the ultra-nationalist, anti-socialist, anti-worker Nazis in power; Spain had a civil war, where the fascist militarist Franco came to power; Portugal too fell into fascism; France and Britain and the US all came very close, with powerful Rightwing black-shirt organisations growing tremendously powerful during that period of time; Australia also had fascists, with Sydney nearly taken over by their forces in the early 1930s; and Romania also fell into the hands of extreme-Right militarism. And let’s not forget that Joseph Stalin’s bureaucratic counterrevolution had just been completed in the Soviet Union Russia, as he’d turned that beautiful, optimistic socialist society into an autocratic, bureaucratic, tyrannical piece of mass oppression; it was time for the Moscow Show trials, where Stalin was to kill millions of socialists (especially Trotskyists), effectively wiping the country clean of anyone who had the politics to potentially overthrow him, thus fortifying his rule over the so-called republic of soviets (even though no soviets existed anymore, thanks to Stalin and the civil war destroying them all).

During a crisis, just like the Great Depression, the extremes of politics are more powerful, with Right and Left dominating the proceedings and the centre being exposed for its pathetic emptiness; the dialectical class struggle becomes larger, more intense and more unstable than ever before, as there is less breathing space for workers and capitalists and so fighting is the only option forward for them; and we see events occur every month that wouldn’t occur in a year of normal life. The state, which is used as a way for the bourgeoisie capitalists to oppress and control the workers, becomes less capable of succeeding in its tasks – the crisis makes its bureaucracy bulky and clunky, which makes it totally useless and a huge problem when the workers start to fight back against the repression.

When the extreme Right start to become politically active and get more reactionary in their rhetoric, and start to organise their forces to conduct political activity, this is always in a regressive response to the human progress that had occurred in human society over the decades. Liberalism, secularism, parliamentarianism (ie quasi-democracy), republicanism, etc, were all institutions that were more progressive and improvements from theocracy, monarchy, dictatorships, absolutism and theological constitutionalism (ie the holy writ of the Bible is exactly the same as the laws of society). Of course, liberalism is still a way of keeping capitalism in power and a way of preventing the working class for developing a revolutionary consciousness, and so obviously all socialists oppose and criticise and despise everything that liberalism is and has ever stood for – the liberals who use secularism as a disguise for anti-Arabic racism, use republicanism as an excuse for imperialism, and use parliamentarianism to justify their inanity, are all rotten garbage and socialists will oppose everything they do. However, just in comparing liberalism with monarchy and theocracy, it is indeed a step forward for humanity and should be supported.

And so extreme Right politics is about arguing that liberalism and republicanism are disgusting and have failed – with the Great Depression going on, there’s plenty of evidence to make the case that it has failed – and that society must regress and return back into the safer, more secure roots of absolutism and theological constitutionalism. In Germany, one of the early propaganda points that the Nazis used was the end of the monarchy: before, there had been a king, but following 1918 it became a republic; the Nazis thus had that rhetorical point as a rallying cry, arguing that republicanism must be stopped and that Germany must return to its faithful roots of the royal family. In the US today, we see the Tea Party and Christian Terrorists making the argument that America isn’t a republic, and that in fact church and state are interconnected, and that the constitution should be based on (ie interpreted through) theology; America was founded on republicanism and secularism, so as to break free from monarchy and theocracy, and now the Tea Party want a return to monarchism and theocratic rule… John Adams and Thomas Jefferson must be rolling in their graves listening to this reactionary nonsense vile from the Tea Party Rightists.

The Rightwing loves a strong military, and adores the proposition of having a militarist state; they use rhetoric like ‘strong hand,’ ‘stable government,’ ‘leadership’, ‘discipline,’ etc. During the Russian Revolution, while the Leftwing Bolsheviks were calling for more democracy, more rights for workers, more land for the peasants, an end to the imperialist chauvinist world war, the ultra-Right on the other hand wanted democracy to end, workers to have no rights, and for the imperialist war to continue; General Kornilov tried to have a military coup take place, where the democratic soviet government and the liberalist provisional government would be eradicated and replaced with an autocratic, ruthless, repressive military dictatorship. Here is a snippet of a Kornilov speech, filled with nationalism, autocratic boldness, and unwavering power (the kind of stuff that makes Rightwing reactionists shiver with glee and smile with happiness and hope):

‘“The army is conducting a ruthless struggle against anarchy, and anarchy will be crushed… By a whole series of legislative measures passed after the revolution by people whose understanding and spirit were alien to the army, this army was converted into the most reckless mob, which values nothing but its own life… there can be no army without discipline. Only an army wielded by iron discipline, only an army that is led by the single, inflexible will of its leaders, only such an army is capable of achieving victory and is worthy of victory… The prestige of the officers must be enhanced… There is no army without a rear… The measures that are adopted at the front must also be adopted in the rear.”’

(Tony Cliff – All Power to the Soviets: Lenin 1914-1917 – page 281. That quoted speech came from, according to Cliff’s citations on page 394, from RP Browder and AF Kerensky’s book The Russian Provisional Government 1917 – Documents.)

And so with Japan in the middle of a fit of extreme Right sentiments, caused by the same political and economic crisis that had the rest of the world associating themselves with fascism and various colours of the same, it’s not that surprising that these kinds of behaviours took place. Democracy (ie parliamentarianist quasi-democracy, in socialist terminology) had failed, liberalism had failed, and this symbol of human progress had only plungedJapaninto a worse state than it had been before. As such, reactionary forces wanted the country to regress backwards to the good-old-days when there was no prime minister or parliament, and there was only the iron disciplined, undemocratic, willed strength from the monarchist emperor. The prime minister was executed, public sentiment pulled towards sympathy with those Rightwing terrorists, and then mass monarchism started to dominate Japan as the people begged for the iron will of a leadership that wouldn’t sit around with boring, stupid do-nothing politicians.

This was the kind of political environment that the country was in, which gives us a reasonable understanding to why the rise of the militarist dictatorship successfully took place. Willed on by the extreme Right, an anti-democratic and ruthless military government came into power, and then the country plummets into the pits of barbarism that are comparable to Germany and Romania. Within four years of the May Fifteen Incident, there was Japan’s genocidal and racist invasion of China: a mass torture and murder campaign, tearing up the country, destroying cities and killing anyone they could get their hands on, raping every woman, committing barbaric Ukraine-like human rights abuses. The militarist Japanese invasion and mass genocide across China is still one of the most sensitive and difficult-to-talk-about issues when it comes to Japan-China relations even for today now.

When the Right become politically active, start to be more aggressive in their anti-human-progress rhetoric, and start to take action with the intention of pulling human society backwards into barbaric reaction, this is what will happen. An assassinated politician: cheered on in the streets, as their anti-democratic, pro-military, pro-emperor sentiments whip the country into a craze. And then this Japanese militarist state commits human rights abuses all across China– these are the kinds of atrocities that can occur when the extreme Rightwing are power enough and able to get into government. We should all be aware of what happened in Japan in the 1930s, all remember those tens of thousands of dead Chinese victims – and if the Right start to politically organise in our country, we do everything in our power to prevent it from successfully happening.

Let’s make a promise to ourselves to do this.

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