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We admit that great force and violence, including the Hiroshima bomb, have been employed by the Allies, and we make no more apology for that than does a decent innocent citizen walking home … and his family employ the use of force to prevent his life from being taken by an outlaw.36 Even the judges had difficulty ignoring the evidence of Allied atrocities, since the court sat in the city of Tokyo, devastated by fire-bombing at the cost of some 150,000 lives. Dutch judge Bernard Röling said ‘it was horrible that we went there for the purposes of vindicating the laws of war and yet saw every day how the Allies had violated them dreadfully’.37 One of the more obvious cheats in the Tokyo War Crimes tribunal was the fact that the Emperor himself had not been charged. MacArthur, and other US authorities claimed that the Emperor was just a figurehead – a naïve character, preoccupied with his hobby of marine biology, who did not really understand what was going on around him. Inside the court prosecutor Keenan tiptoed around all mention of the Emperor. In private most of the court’s officers would have said that this was not true.
Another problematic aspect of the court’s deliberations was a relative lack of evidence of China’s suffering under the Japanese occupation. Prince Asaka who had been the commanding officer at Nanking was not charged because of the informal agreement that members of the Royal Family had immunity from prosecution.
The tribunal’s weaknesses were thoroughly exposed by the Indian judge Radhabinod Pal. Justice Pal issued a minority judgement, in 1,235 pages detailing the destruction wreaked by the atomic bombardment. He argued that the colonial powers had no right to
judge an Asian government and that their war crimes were as bad, if not worse than Japan’s:
In my judgement … it is beyond the competence of any victor nation to go beyond the rules of international law as they exist, give new definitions of crimes and then punish the prisoners for having committed offences according to this new definition.
This is really not a norm in abhorrence of the retroactivity of the law: it is something more substantial. To allow any nation to do that will be to allow usurpation of power which international law denies that nation.
A trial with law thus prescribed will only be a sham employment of legal process for the satisfaction of a thirst for revenge.39 As in Nuremberg, the central charge was that of waging aggressive war against peace.
However Justice Pal raised an objection. If waging war was in any circumstances a crime, then, he argued, the colonial powers would always dominate the east. ‘At any rate in the present state of international relations such a static idea of peace is absolutely untenable’, he wrote. The reason was that ‘dominated nations of the present day status quo cannot be made to submit to an eternal domination in the name of peace’.40
From Purge to ‘Red Purge’
As with Nuremberg, the Tokyo trials ran in tandem with a procedural ‘purge’ of ‘militarist’ supporters of Japanese expansion – drawing in some 200,000 people between January 1946 and May 1948 when it was called to a halt. These men were made to stand down from important positions in government and in industry, but unlike the position in Germany, were not detained in large numbers. In the first year of MacArthur’s rule as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers his administration struck a left-wing note. The General Headquarters ‘plan for extending the purge to Japan’s financial world was’, according to Yoshida Shigeru, postwar Japanese Prime Minister, ‘of a most comprehensive nature’.
Yoshida added that ‘had it been enforced to the letter it would have certainly played havoc with our whole economy’. Indeed there were ‘those who referred to this operation as the moral disarmament of Japan’ – meaning that it would have wrecked the country as an economic power.41 In the event, the purge of business was moderated, and later a series of appeal tribunals undid most of the original judgements, exonerating 177,000 by 1951.
As well as purging rightists, the Supreme Commander’s HQ liberalised trade unions.
He also shocked the Japanese leaders by legalising the Communist Party. Prince Konoe told Yoshida Shigeru that ‘one of the most serious results to be feared’ from the defeat ‘was a communist revolution’ – though the communists could only muster five per cent of the popular vote. That was a sign of the elite’s paranoia about the strength of the communists, but also a fair indication of the prospects of social instability. A perplexed Yoshida tried to see things from the point of view of MacArthur’s ‘New Deal’ inspired advisors: ‘the Allied powers considered Japan as a police state in which the rights of man were not recognised and the freedom of citizens was trodden under foot, and the communists were therefore victims of an inhuman regime’. Where the Allies could have got such an idea was something that Yoshida could not imagine. The communists, so impressed by the change in their fortunes called the allied forces the ‘army of liberation’, though soon they had cause to change their minds.42 MacArthur took over responsibility for Japanese society just at the moment the economy was collapsing under the weight of fighting the war and the American bombardment.
Hirohito’s empire had been cut down by 81 per cent, from 773,781 square miles to 146,690.
Eighty per cent of the textile industry was shattered, coal production was one eighth of its peacetime level and ‘there were few phones, fewer trains and virtually no power plants’.
Inflation was running at 1000 per cent, and production collapsed.43 By Yoshida’s reckoning the 1945 rice harvest was just 77 per cent of what was needed to avoid starvation. Half way through 1946 food rations were either delayed or broken down altogether up and down the country. MacArthur cabled Washington to call for 3,500,000 tons of food. When they quibbled the Supreme Commander replied ‘give me bread or give me bullets’. MacArthur managed to get 510,000 tons of rice belonging to the Australian forces in Japan released to avoid an immediate disaster. Food shortages continued to dog Japan under MacArthur’s rule: new austerity measures were launched in 1949 and in 1950 the Korean War led to more shortages. Wheat was finally taken off the ration in April 1951.
Food shortages were just one of the problems that were leading to growing disorder in the country. On 19 May 1946 trade unions called a ‘food May Day’. There were very large but mostly peaceful demonstrations in Tokyo and other cities calling for larger food rations and higher wages. There were workplace occupations, too, and demonstrators called first for the resignation of the Shidehara government, and then of the Yoshida government that replaced it. Protestors even forced their way into the imperial palace demanding to see Hirohito.44 Trade union militancy accelerated and in August 1947 a National Congress of Industrial Organisations was formed with 160,000 members and a radical leadership – a serious rival to the official, company-union General Federation of Labour with some 850,000 members.
The new union called a General Strike.45 Faced with the challenge of organised labour the Supreme Commander lurched to the right. After the 1946 food protests MacArthur issued a ‘Warning against Mob Disorder or Violence’ which spoke of a ‘growing tendency to mass violence’. MacArthur spoke about ‘undisciplined elements’ who threatened ‘orderly government’. Moreover, if the Japanese government would take no steps to bring ‘disorderly minorities’ and ‘minor elements’ under control, then the Supreme Commander would intervene to ‘control and remedy such a deplorable situation’. MacArthur likened the trade union leaders to the deposed ‘feudalistic and military’ leaders. Later that summer MacArthur again attacked ‘strikes, walkouts, or other work stoppages which are inimical to the objectives of the occupation.’ On the anniversary of the surrender MacArthur warned of a ‘conflicting ideology which might negate individual freedom, destroy individual initiative and mock individual dignity’. The Japanese should reject the ‘slanted propaganda’ of the ‘extreme radical left’. When the radical unions threatened the General Strike in January 1947 MacArthur banned it, saying ‘I will not permit the use of so deadly a social weapon in the present impoverished and emaciated conditions of Japan’. In July 1948 MacArthur went further with a law that banned general strikes outright and the ‘prohibition by law of strikes by government employees’. On 1 June 1949 another new law withdrew the employers’ obligation to recognise unions. Later, the Yoshida government following MacArthur’s road put in place laws that let the government ban strikes while disputes were settled by a ‘Labour Relations Commission’.46 As MacArthur and his Japanese cabinet reversed the liberalisation of labour laws, so too did they reverse the political freedoms of their radical critics – first and foremost the Japanese Communist Party. MacArthur’s May 1945 statement warned the Japanese people against the alleged ‘mass violence tactics of the communists’. In February 1949 MacArthur threatened the suppression of the communist press, and then in April saw in the Organisational Control Law, which, in the emerging ‘Cold War liberal’ style, identified the threat of left and right. The law ‘prohibited all ultranationalistic and anti-democratic political associations whether of the Right or the Left’. By May 1950 MacArthur said he no longer considered the Japanese Communist Party a ‘constitutionally recognised political movement’ – and around the same time the Communist Party reversed its political position and opposed the US occupation. In June MacArthur’s General HQ told the Japanese government to extend the purge to leading communists. On 18 July 1950 the communists’ publications were banned and the leaders went underground, after warrants were issued for their arrest under what became known as the ‘Red Purge’. Prime Minister Yoshida explained in his memoirs that ‘the purge in private enterprises began with the press and radio and was gradually extended to industry in general’. Six hundred communists, sympathisers and other radicals lost jobs in the media, followed by 10,000 industrial workers sacked. With the purge of government employees, teachers, postmen, town hall clerks and others the total victimised came to 22,000 and in 1952 the supervision of radicals was handed over to a Public Safety Investigation Agency under the Subversive Activities Prevention Law.47 As the communists fell under the Supreme Commander’s dragnet, so too did other ‘subversives’ – notably Japan’s large Korean minority. A General Headquarters staff study on Koreans in Japan thought it best that that they be encouraged to repatriate and their political affiliations monitored with the goal ‘to rid Japan of as many Korean communists as possible and prevent their re-entry into Japan’, and the ultimate goal, said US Political Advisor to the Supreme Commander was ‘reducing the size of this difficult minority group’.
Korean ethnic schools in Kobe and Osaka were closed, leading to rioting. Koreans were accused of playing a key role in organised crime, and placed under police scrutiny. Prime Minister Yoshida was glad that the League of Koreans in Japan ‘was dissolved and its property confiscated’.48 Under the San Francisco Peace Treaty the Allied occupation came to an end on 28 April 1952, by which time Japan had been transformed into a US-style Cold War police state. Douglas MacArthur moved on to his controversial role in the Korean War.
Chapter Thirty From World War to Cold War As we have seen General Patton wanted to carry on the war by invading the USSR. In the end there was no Allied invasion of the Soviet Union at the end of the war, nor indeed could there have been. The American army, like most, saw a collapse of military discipline at the end of the war that meant they were in no position to invade anywhere. Troops who had been pushed to the limit were ready to go home. America’s rise to globalism through the Second World War had been remarkable. The US had moved from being the world’s foremost economic power to being the world’s foremost geopolitical power as well. The world’s pre-eminent power of the nineteenth century, Britain, had been reduced to the status of America’s loyal lieutenant. The other challengers to the established order, Germany and Japan, had been defeated. As the new hegemonic power in world relations, the US was still dependent on its allies.
The Allied Military Government of the Occupied Territories was US-led, but still relied on its allies, Britain, the Soviet Union, and more latterly France to exercise authority. In October 1943 the British Conservative politician Quintin Hogg wrote in Foreign Affairs about the future of Europe The two immediate factors of the situation in Europe after the defeat of Hitler will be the necessity of military occupation and European relief. We—and I mean the United States, the USSR and the British Commonwealth—will not be driven to these acts by vindictiveness or sentimentality but by the sheer logic of events. Some will not like the policy they entail. All will have to accept it.
…there will be an insistent cry for food. Homeless people will demand houses. War prisoners and foreign workers from German factories will ask care and lodging on their way borne in places which cannot accommodate them. Factories will be closed. Chaos will reign everywhere. The one unifying force will be the armies of the United Nations.