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Ever since Japan's seclusion was ruptured by the Western nations in 1853, domestic and international politics have been interwoven for the Japanese. Slogans used to mobilize succeeding generations convey this interconnection. Thus, the forces that eventually overthrew the feudal regime in 1868 rallied around the cry "Revere the Emperor and Expel the Barbarians." The Meiji government (1868-1912) socialized citizens for Westernization, industrialization, and empire building under the slogan "Rich Country, Strong Military." Militant expansionists of the 1930s and early 1940s, equally concerned with renovation at home and autarky abroad, paired creation of a domestic "New Structure" with establishment of a "New Order" overseas. They saw the solution to domestic ills in the creation of a broader imperium in Asia, which they glossed with the rhetoric of "Coexistence and Coprosperity."
Although Japan ostensibly pursued a low posture diplomatically after Word War II, the intimate relationship between international and domestic politics remained central. Again, catchphrases capture this. Immediately after the war, exhausted Japanese were rallied-and frequently inspired-by an idealistic agenda of "Demilitarization and Democratization." From the outset these ideals were recognized to be inseparable: destruction of the militarized state was essential to democratize Japan, and only the creation of a genuinely democratic nation could prevent the danger of future Japanese militarism. Once formal demilitarization had been accomplished, the enduring goal became to create and maintain "Peace and Democracy." Even exhortations such as the popular postsurrender slogan "Construction of a Nation of Culture" (Bunka Kokka no Kensetsu) were understood to be synonymous with the paired ideals of peace and democracy. For example, when Prime Minister Katayama Tetsu addressed the first Diet session held under the new postwar constitution in 1947, he concluded with an appeal to advance toward "the construction of a democratic nation of peace, a nation of culture" (minshuteki na heiwa kokka, bunka kokka no kensetsu).
These key terms-democracy, peace, and culture-were subject to reinterpretation in the years that followed, and culture, by and large, was uncoupled from the other two. Throughout the postwar period, however, a large portion of political policy and contention continued to be contained, like a crackling electric current, within the polemical poles of peace and democracy. These are not rhetorical ideals peculiar to Japan, but they assumed a particular vitality there. Peace became the magnetic pole for both legitimization and criticism of external policy; democracy served the same function for highly contested domestic issues. And postwar controversies over military and international policy almost invariably became entangled with internal struggles concerning power, participation, national priorities, and competing visions of fairness, well-being, and social justice.
Where the actual structures of postwar power are concerned, two additional and uniquely Japanese phrases command attention. One is the "San Francisco System," which refers to the international posture Japan assumed formally when it signed a peace treaty with forty-eight nations in San Francisco in September 1951 and simultaneously aligned itself with the cold-war policy of the United States through the bilateral Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. To the end of the Showa period, which effectively symbolized the end of the "postwar" era for Japan, the country continued to operate within the strategic parameters of the San Francisco System, although its global role and influence changed conspicuously after it emerged as an economic power in the 1970s. The second phrase, coined to designate the nature of domestic power relations, is the "1955 System." Here the reference is to a concatenation of political and socioeconomic developments in 1955, including the establishment of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which governed Japan uninterruptedly over the ensuing decades. More generally, "1955 System" signifies a domestic political structure characterized by an internally competitive but nonetheless hegemonic conservative establishment and a marginalized but sometimes influential liberal and Marxist opposition.
Like all fashionable political phrases, "San Francisco System" and "1955 System" obscure as much as they reveal. Both Japan's incorporation into U.S. cold-war policy and the triumph of the conservative \ were evident from the late 1940s, when U.S. policy toward occupied Japan underwent a so-called reverse course, in which emphasis was shifted from demilitarization and democratization to economic reconstruction, rearmament, and integration into the U.S. anticommunist containment policy. The real genesis of both systems is thus much earlier than a literal reading of the popular labels would suggest. Moreover, the domestic as well as international milieu in which the Japanese operated changed constantly during the postwar period, and dramatically so after the early 1970s. From this perspective, it is argued, both "San Francisco System" and "1955 System" have an anachronistic ring when applied to the years after the mid-1970s or so. And, indeed, they do.
Still, the two phrases remain highly suggestive for anyone who wishes to recreate postwar Japan as history. They reflect a worldview, looking both outward and inward, that was defined and described (and criticized) by the Japanese themselves. And, like all popular phrases that survive for more than a passing moment, they capture-certainly for Japanese analysts-a wealth of complicated and even contradictory associations. They are code words for the peculiar capitalist context, overseas and at home, in which postwar Japan developed. They are closely associated with the impressive international and domestic prosperity Japan attained between the 1950s and 1980s. At the same time, they evoke the internal schism and tension and even violence that accompanied Japan's attainment of wealth and power. For Japanese, "San Francisco System" and "1955 System" vividly symbolize the intense political conflicts over issues of peace and democracy that characterized Japan's emergence as a rich consumer society and powerful capitalist state.
Essentially, these conflicts pitted liberal and left-wing critics against the dominant conservative elites. At the peak of their influence in the 1950s and 1960s, these critics constituted an effective minority, capable of capturing popular imagination and influencing the national agenda. By the mid-1970s, though, the Left appeared spent as an intellectually compelling political force. Partly, the opposition simply had lost some of its most fundamental arguments: prosperity at home undermined the critique of capitalism, and economic superpower status abroad discredited the argument of subordination to the U.S. economy. Partly again, however, the antiestablishment critics had won some of their arguments or, more commonly, had seen their positions on social and geopolitical issues effectively co-opted by the conservatives. Despite polemics of the most vitriolic sort, postwar Japan never was split into completely unbridgeable ideological camps. The pro- American conservatives nursed many resentments against the United States, for example, while the liberal and leftist "internationalists" were susceptible to nationalist appeals. Schism in both camps, as well as accommodation between the camps, were thus persistent subtexts in the debates over peace and democracy. This ideological softness, as it were, helps explain the transition to the less polemical decades of the 1970s and 1980s. As the debates over peace and democracy receded, their place was taken by a rising tide of neonationalist thinking that stressed Japanese uniqueness and superiority. Although this late-Showa cult of exceptionalism had Japanese critics, it tapped a line of thought with strong left-wing as well as conservative roots.
Contention over global and domestic policies did not disappear in the last decades of Showa. Rather, it took different forms. Although Japan's emergence as an economic superpower resulted in undreamed-of influence, it also created unanticipated tensions-not only with the United States and the European community but also within Japan. At the elite level Japan's new capitalism spawned new contenders for power and influence within the conservative establishment. And at the popular level the almost catatonic fixation of the ruling groups on industrial productivity and economic nationalism stimulated citizens' protest movements that eschewed doctrinaire ideologies and focused on specific issues such as quality of life, environmental protection, community services, and the like. Less sweeping in vision than the earlier "peace and democracy" struggles, such extraparliamentary activities represented a new kind of grass-roots democracy.
In these various ways, it can be said that Japan entered a new stage in the early 1970s. Yet the old military and economic imbrication with the United States symbolized by the San Francisco System remained at the heart of Japan's external policy. The conservative hegemony-the bedrock of the 1955 System-continued to rule Japan, juggling more balls than in the past, bickering and backbiting within its own ranks, but in no real danger of being removed from center stage. And the great issues of peace and democracy, however muted by prosperity and national pride, remained just beneath the surface. Was the new superstate really democratic, really a constructive force for peace? In the 1970s and 1980s, as the old debates faded from the scene, these questions were asked from new perspectives by the world at large.
These broad areas of concern-the San Francisco System, the 1955 System, the conflicts within them and linkages between them, and the uncertain world that Japan stumbled into as an economic, financial, and technological superpower beginning in the 1970s-are addressed in the pages that follow.
The intersection of "peace" and "democracy" in postwar Japan begins with the Allied occupation of 1945-52 and its evolution into the San Francisco System. Under the U.S.-dominated occupation, defeated Japan was initially demilitarized. The Imperial Army and Navy ministries were abolished. Former military officers were purged from public life, ostensibly "for all time." Under the famous Article 9 of the 1947 constitution, Japan pledged to "forever renounce war as a sovereign fight of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." What this meant, it was explained at the time, was exactly what it seemed to mean. As Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru put it, taking a colorful metaphor from the days of the samurai, under the new peace constitution the Japanese were prohibited from picking up even two swords in the name of self-defense. At this early stage Yoshida and his colleagues anticipated that for the foreseeable future Japan would fare best as an unarmed nation dedicated to restoring peaceful relations with the rest of the world, including China and the Soviet Union. Its security, the earliest scenarios went, might be guaranteed by the United Nations, or by a Great Power agreement, or if necessary by a bilateral agreement with the United States under which the main islands of Japan were protected by U.S. forces stationed elsewhere (possibly including Okinawa). This was not to be. The peace treaty signed in San Francisco in 1951 was in fact generous and nonpunitive, including no provisions for future international oversight of Japan. Under the Security Treaty with the United States, however, Japan agreed to the retention of U.S. military bases throughout the country after restoration of sovereignty and was understood to have committed itself to rearmament. The United States retained de facto control of the Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa, which by then had become its major nuclear base in Asia, while "residual sovereignty" was acknowledged to lie with Japan.
As anticipated, because of the military alignment with the United States, which Japan agreed to in order to regain its sovereignty, the Soviet Union refused to sign the peace treaty. Neither the People's Republic of China nor the Kuomintang regime on Taiwan were invited to the San Francisco conference, but subsequently, contrary to its hopes and expectations, the Yoshida government was placed under severe U.S. pressure to establish relations with the Kuomintang and join in the containment of China. In the terms of those times the peace settlement at San Francisco was thus a "separate peace." In the years that followed the formal restoration of sovereignty to Japan in April 1952, these cold-war arrangements remained a central focus of opposition by domestic critics of the government and a source of friction within the U.S.-Japan partnership itself. At the time the Security Treaty was negotiated and came into effect, U.S. projections for a future Japanese military focused on ground forces and were exceedingly ambitious. The Japanese were told they should create an army of 325,000 to 350,000 men by 1954-a figure larger than the Imperial Army on the eve of the Manchurian Incident in 1931, and larger than ever actually was reached in the postwar period. It was assumed from the outset in U.S. circles that Japanese remilitarization should and would entail constitutional revision. This assumption emerged in secret U.S. projections in the late 1940s, before the Americans actually began rearming Japan, and was first publicly emphasized by Vice President Richard Nixon in November 1953. For many reasons-including not only fear of economic dislocation and social unrest in Japan but also fear that the zealots in Washington would go on to demand that Japan send this projected army to fight in the Korean War-Yoshida resisted these U.S. pressures and established a more modest pattern of incremental Japanese rearmament. Privately, he and his aides agreed with the Americans that constitutional revision would have to accompany any rapid and large-scale military build-up, and they argued that such revision was politically impossible at the time. After all, only five years or so earlier the Japanese had seen a war-and nuclear weapons-brought home to them. This, indeed, was and remained the critical card: because of popular support for the liberal 1947 "peace constitution," constitutional revision remained politically impossible in postwar Japan.
As counterpoint to the permissive agreements on remilitarization reached between the U.S. and Japanese governments in the early 1950s, Article 9 thus survived as an ambiguous but critical element within the San Francisco System.
Excerpted from Postwar Japan as History Copyright © 1993 by Andrew Gordon. Excerpted by permission.
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