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Political thought of Kita Ikki : the logical link between his critique of the national polity and his advocacy of war Osedo, Hiroshi


Ever since the Meiji Restoration, Japanese political leaders, under a strong impact from the West, had urged the complete abolition of feudalism. By the turn of the century, they had consolidated their political power by means of putting the Emperor system on a firm footing, and had introduced and considerably developed a modern capitalist economy. Opposed to these radical changes were the socialist and right-wing movements, but for different reasons. The socialists, whose theories were based entirely on European ideas, opposed the authoritarianism of the Meiji government, and in international politics supported pacifism. The rightwing movements criticised the government for its pursuit of extreme Europeanisation, and for its bourgeois and liberal ethos. They also encouraged Japanese territorial expansion into Asian countries. Because the socialist movements were suppressed by the government, the rightwing ones gradually came to hold the initiative among Japanese social movements. Kita Ikki was a radical opponent of the authoritarian form of government, but was also a vigorous advocate of Japanese imperialism as a means of overcoming Western imperialism. These two positions, usually held by two antagonistic sectors of Japanese society, were logically linked in Kita's thought on the basis of his belief in social evolution and the class struggle. He criticised the theory of the national polity for its misrepresentation of Japanese history and social change. For him, the Meiji Restoration had accomplished a legal revolution, which led to the establishment of a kōmin kokka (public state), in which both the Emperor and the people owed their rights and duties to the state. He believed that an economic revolution alone would suffice to bring about social democracy in Japan, a revolution which could be carried out peacefully by means of the ballot. Total class war was unnecessary. But contrary to pacifist socialists, Kita encouraged the international class struggle as the only means of abolishing the "age of imperialism." Evolution in the international world had not yet reached a point whereby a World Federation could peacefully settle conflicts among nations. By 1919, however, Kita had become an advocate of a coup d'état in order to overthrow the corrupt government, and, by means of the Emperor's prerogatives, to hasten economic change at home as well as pursue a revolutionary policy abroad. The central theme in this study is the logical link between Kita's critique of the national polity and his advocacy of war. Because of the latter, as well as his support of a coup d'état, Kita has been labelled the "ideological father of Japanese fascism." Post-war Japanese scholars have concentrated on these "negative" aspects of his thought, and neglected the "positive" ones, namely, his critique of the national polity. Some criticise him for alleged conversion from a socialist to a fascist. This study avoids the fascist label and argues against the notion of changes in his fundamental ideas. Kita's actual writings, especially the recently published ones, reveal that throughout his life he adhered to the basic ideas of social evolution and class struggle. Both remained the foundation of his critique of the national polity as well as his advocacy of war. Kita was never an orthodox socialist, even in his early years, nor a fascist of any kind, even in his later years. His support of a coup d'état was a tactical change made in the light of his critique of the national polity and advocacy of war, and was meant to speed up developments at home and abroad. In the light of post-war democratic development in Japan, Kita's critique of the national polity should be evaluated "positively." The general failure to do so has been due to his advocacy of war and a coup d'état. But if the two strands of thought are logically dependant on the same premises, one cannot have one without the other. The only way to accept Kita's critique of the national polity and at the same time criticise his advocacy of war, is by recognizing that Japan is no longer in the position of a semi-colonised country, and that even though colonised countries may justifiably revolt, they are not thereby entitled to become colonisers themselves. If this is recognised, the recent ideological alliance between Kita and the new left cannot be regarded as harbouring a danger of a fascist revival.

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