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Anarchism was an influential movement in Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries. The anarchist movement was influenced by World War I and World War II, in which Japan played a major role. The anarchist movement in Japan can be divided into three phases: from 1906–1911, from 1912–1936 and from 1945-present day.[1]

Anarchist ideas were first popularised in Japan by radical journalist Shūsui Kōtoku.[1] After moving to Tokyo in his teens, he was imprisoned in 1904 for breaking a press law. In prison he read Peter Kropotkin's Fields, Factories and Workshops, and following his release he emigrated to the United States, where he joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). After returning to Japan in 1906, he spoke to a large public meeting, held on 28 June 1906 in Tokyo, on the ideas he had developed while in the US. A number of articles then followed. He wrote, "I hope that from now on the socialist movement will abandon its commitment to a parliamentary party and will adapt its method and policy to the direct action of the workers united as one".

In the following years the anarcho-communists concentrated on spreading information about anarchism by means of oral and written propaganda. The conditions under which they operated were very difficult, and facing continuous harassment by police, some anarchists considered turning to more violent methods.

In 1926 two nationwide federations of anarchists were formed. The anarchist movement in the following years were characterised by intense debate between anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists. During the Invasion of Manchuria, the state began to silence internal opposition; a new wave of repression ensued. Although the anarchist movement adopted many strategies to survive, the state was determined to succeed. With the beginning of the World War II, all anarchist organisations in Japan were forced to shut down. The anarchists had to maintain a low profile, hiding their political view from the public.

After the end of the war, Japan was under the effective rule of the United States. Heavy investment and a rapidly growing economy were accompanied by a clamp down on trade union autonomy. Although the anarchists re-organised, they found it difficult to flourish in these conditions.

Today the anarchist movement is much smaller than before.

See also

Notes

Further reading

  • Graham, Robert (2005). "Anarchism in Japan and Korea". Anarchism: a Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume One. Montréal: Black Rose Books. ISBN 1551642506. 

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