Libero International No.5 (September 1978)

libero international 5 cover

Issue No. 5 of the Japanese journal Libero International. This issue concentrates on the influence of the Russian anarchist Bakunin in Japan.

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

PDF courtesy of Sparrows Nest Archive, Nottingham.


Bakunin and Japan

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

1. Introduction

When Michael Bakunin suddenly arrived, via Yokohama, San Francisco and New York, at the London home of Alexander Herzen in the autumn of 1861, governments and financiers all over Europe shuddered at what they saw as the resurrection of the Devil Incarnate. Common knowledge though this fact may be, the time which Bakunin spent in Japan en route back to Europe remains a largely-unrecorded episode. None of the available Western-language biographies or appraisals spare more than a few lines on the subject. Even in Japan there has been no systematic attempt to find out what Bakunin did, though there are odd items about him scattered here and there, mostly dating from before the war. The failure of Western writers working on Bakunin to search for these and make efforts to have them translated is yet another example of the (at best) ignorance, or (at worst) scorn which continues to surround things oriental within the bourgeois establishment.

It is possible to put together what scraps of information exist, though, and the attempt to do so by a Japanese comrade, Wakayama Kenji (see below), has revealed still another problem: the reason for the lack of Bakunin research to date is not simply the absence of materials, but also the problem of getting access to those which do exist. The doors of barbarian Japan opened far more easily to Michael Bakunin in 1861 than do those of so-called research libraries to us common mortals and anarchists in 1978. The details (if, indeed, there are any, which is a point yet to be ascertained) of Bakunin's life in Japan, and no doubt those of other revolutionaries at other times in other places, have become the jealously-guarded property of the academic establishment, who fear inroads into their monopoly of information too much to allow people like us to cross their threshold.

Still, such scraps as are available can be put together to form a rough picture. The following pages are the result of an attempt to do that for some of the existing materials, though there remain a number yet to be read. No doubt there will be mistakes and omissions, but these are best treated by exposure to the light of day.

2. An Enigma, and a Contrast

Whatever its effect upon Indochina, the Philippines, China, Korea, Hawaii, Micronesia and almost any other part of Asia one cares to mention, American imperialism's arrival in Uraga Bay, Japan, in July 1853 was certainly a triumph of fate for Michael Bakunin, But for the forced entry of Commodore Matthew Perry's four heavily-armed 'Black Ships' (two steam-powered, two sail) into the hermetically-sealed world of the Tokugawa shoguns, Bakunin would have remained a Siberian exile until the after-effects of prison scurvy finally claimed his ravaged body. Actually, he might have rendered an additional prayer of gratitude to the Tsar himself, whose messengers, after knocking at Japan's north and west gates for a couple of centuries, finally followed Perry's example and found the front door all but undefended. They subsequently wrung a series of treaties of trade and commerce out of the unwilling bureaucrats of Edo (present-day Tokyo).

Fortunately or unfortunately, Bakunin did not waste any time in supplication during his flight, and idled long enough in Japan only to await the arrival of a ship that would take him out again and across the Pacific. Meanwhile, as far as can be judged, he passed his time upon the first snooker table ever imported into Japan, while sampling the cellar of a hotel bar, also the first of its kind in that country.

Until 1865, when Bakunin's libertarianism was first made explicit in the principles of the International Brotherhood, he was a firm believer in nationalism as a liberating force, and in the revolutionary potential of the oppressed peasantry. At the time of his visit to Japan four years before, the country was not only in the throes of emerging from 250 years' totalitarian isolation under the Tokugawa shoguns; not only experiencing, like Poland twenty years earlier, an upsurge of bourgeois nationalism; but was also a predominantly agrarian country racked by peasant uprisings, Nevertheless, Bakunin, as far as can be seen, made no attempt to apply to this situation any of the energy which he had already so willingly dedicated to the efforts of the Poles and Hungarians, and would later dedicate to those of the French, the Italians and the Finns.

In stark contrast to Bakunin's apparent indifference, the militant Japanese anarcho-syndicalist Ôsugi Sakae, celebrating May Day in Paris in 1923, made strenuous attempts to contact survivors of Makhno's movement; visited striking women garment-makers at a typical Paris sweetshop; harangued French workers for allowing their May 1 festivities to be confined to suburban parish halls; got himself arrested for illegal political activities; and inscribed "Ôsugi was here" on the walls of his dungeon before being finally shipped back to Japan under custody after the intervention of the Japanese embassy.

What lay behind the obvious differences in their ways of thinking? They were, after all, cast in similar situations, even if the condit ions surrounding them, given sixty years of rapid change, were vastly different. However great these differences may have been, it seemed an interesting problem.

3. The Origins of this Pamphlet

In the beginning this piece was to be no more than a translation of a short article in Japanese, 'Bakunin's Stop-Over in Japan' (Nihon ni Tachiyotta Bakunin) by veteran militant Henmi Kichizô, which brought together some of the information concerning Bakunin mentioned already. At that time (early 1976) it seemed to be an interesting sidelight on Bakunin's career, fair enough for the centenary year but, after all, no more than a sidelight since the sojourn seems to have been of no personal significance as far as Bakunin hi self was concerned. It was to have been a sort of cameo sketch.

For one reason and another, we were never able to get around to the printing and publication of the translation. In the meantime, discussions within the Libêro editorial group convinced us that the insignificance of Japan for Bakunin constituted itself something both intriguing and, possible, important. In other words, why did he make so little of what was probably the only opportunity offered any 19th century militant European anarchist to visit the mysterious Orient? What was the motivation that sent him back post-haste to Europe, ignoring even the recent outbreak of a so-called "liberation struggle" in north America? Had he escaped west instead of east, would he have spent two weeks shooting pool as he did in Yokohama? All these things, from the vantage-point of Asia, seemed to us to call for reflection, lest we all get so euphoric over the centenary celebrations that we forget that no person - least of all one who calls his or her self an anarchist - is beyond criticism. An episode hitherto ignored as far as Bakunin's career was concerned, we felt, might just prove to contain the seeds of a fresh consideration of the very word "revolutionary", as well as provide the chance for a new approach to Bakunin the man.

These were interesting speculations, but there was only a very bare minimum of facts from which to draw conclusions. Apart from the article mentioned already, there was just one other easily available 'Bakunin and Hakodate, Yokohama and Kanagawa' by Wakayama Kenji. Part of a collection entitled 'Our Bakunin' (Warera no Bakúnin) published in 1976 by the 'Libertaire' group in Tokyo in commemoration of the centenary of Bakunin's death, it goes into considerable detail about various aspects of Bakunin's stay in Yokohama, even citing two early specialized items dealing respectively with the bar and the billiard table with which Bakunin reportedly consoled himself! Wakayama also traces, by way of various documents, the site of the hotel where Bakunin stayed. Since most readers of this present pamphlet would probably not be in a position to conduct a walking tour of the streets of Yokohama nor would the precise design of the bar add much to our appreciation of Bakunin, it was decided to incorporate only the essential sections of the article and of another, shorter piece since written by Wakayama into the body of the original article by Henmi.

Tagged onto the end of the Henmi article were several loosely-related pages recording Ôsugi Sakae's role in the Rice Riots in Osaka in 1918. Ôsugi's part in these events was pretty-well exemplary of Bakunin's criteria for revolutionary militants - not leaders, but catalysts or stimulators. the article also mentioned briefly Ôsugi's trip to Europe in 1923 to attend an international anarchist conference. The interesting resemblance between Bakunin's incognito flight from Siberia in 1861 and Ôsugi's similarly-incognito visit to Europe sixty years later, was the inspiration for the present pamphlet.

None of us are professional historians with the leisure to while away the days in research libraries. Nor are we experts on either Bakunin or Ôsugi, and concrete aspects of their experience apart from their foreign trips have not been considered unless they had a direct bearing. Research on Bakunin, especially, was hampered by lack of materials here In Western languages.


Japan In 1861

The sudden appearance upon the Pacific horizon of Perry's blackhulled, smoke-belching warships was calculated to send a shook of consternation through the insular Japanese authorities. As a popular tanka (short poem) of the time put it,

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

"Taihei no nemuri o samasu Jôkisen, tatte shihai de yoru mo nerarezu" Translated literally, this would come out something like "Jôkisen (a strong green tea) disturbs our peaceful dreams; just four cups and sleep escapes us night or day"

There is a hidden meaning, however. "Taihei" also refers to the Pacific Ocean; Jôkisen written with different characters and pronounced "shôkisen", means "steamships"; and hall means not only "cup" but also "vessel". The allusion is thus an ironic one to the fact that with just four ships Perry, appearing over the Pacific horizon, was able to put Japan - the Japanese authorities that is - a state of restless agitation.

The effect of Perry's arrival was to launch the first ripples of uncertainty within the ruling Tokugawa elite. The apparent superiority of the culture newly discovered via the medium of the Dutch trading post in Nagasaki, moreover, had already been exciting the interest of upper-class intellectuals. Eventually the elite split over the question of whether to respond to the westerners' demands, and in the midst of the political strife that followed even assassination became commonplace. As for the ordinary people, they too, for reasons they could never fathom, became immersed in a sea of uncertainty and responded in the most fundamental way: by joining forces and attacking the officials who they connected with the new state of affairs.

In the capital, Edo, the struggle between the anti-shogunate forces who, with the emperor himself at their head 1 , opposed opening the country and advocated expulsion of all foreigners, and the shogunate, which by and large favoured giving in where necessary to foreign demands, continued to rage for several years. Finally, only three years before Bakunin's visit, the leader of the pro-foreign faction Ii Naosuke (negotiator with Perry in 1853 and later to fall victim to an assassin's sword) took the fateful decision to Open Japan to foreign influences. Rather than admit the barbarians to Edo, however, the tiny fishing village of Yokohama, where the first JapanUS treaty was signed in March 1854, was scheduled to be rebuilt as the first Japanese port open to foreign trade and the first foreign settlement. Bakunin's Yokohama, therefore, was a bustling new community still echoing with the sound of the carpenters' hammers. Hakodate and Kanagawa had been opened to trade but not residence, and one by one other ports were opened up. The general ban on free movement by West-erners remained, though, and while the business of trade got under way between Western adventurers and Japanese entrepreneurs, political circles continued cutting each other's throats both literally and figuratively.

Outside the city of Edo it is unlikely that this political crisis made much impact. After successive crop failures and the resulting rise in prices, the Japanese peasants' discontent focussed primarily on the hardships which this situation had brought about, Their landlords, moreover - needless to say - did not see fit to reduce their levies on their tenants' produce, and the effect was to provoke numerous risings against the exploiting classes. These risings, however, were always scattered and disconnected, and with the poor communications which characterized pre-modern Japan, probably produced little stir in the capital.

All in all, the Japan in which Bakunin found himself was enjoying the lull before the storm. Unable to move outside the settlement, it must have seemed to foreigners a tranquil spot. It was only in the rears following Bakunin's departure for San Francisco that the storm was to break. The unease which had remained mostly beneath the surrace in the early days of foreign contact then, thanks to the government's trade policies, burst into the open. Levies on the people were increased to pay for the "modernization" programme, one which provided for little improvement in the people's standard of living.

Among the sufferers were the samurai class, whose fixed salary fell f ar below the level required for sustenance, reducing many to penury. 'he natural result was the growth of anti-shogunate and anti-foreign feelings among them, and the presence of a large proportion of intellectuals served to propagandize their discontent and bring the common people into the fray. In 1859 a Russian naval officer, a sailor and Dutch merchant captain were murdered. In January 1861 the interpeter attached to Townsend Harris, the first US ambassador, was cut own in Edo. In July and again in 1863 the British legation was burned. Wherever foreigners were found similar incidents occurred, and were usually sparked off by some trivial transgression of Japanese customs.

Much of the trouble was caused by the unequal treaties forced upon the government by the imperialist powers. Foreign expl ' oitation of the relatively-low gold-silver exchange rate (6:1 as compared to 15:1 elsewhere) produced wild fluctuations in prices. Their import of cotton fabrics and other cheap manufactured goods, as in China, ruined domestic industries. The shogunate, fearing for its survival, tried to restrict trade, but was defeated by the overbearing nature of the foreigners and the hunger for profit manifested by the Japanese merchant class (plus ça change...).

The early stages of the struggle, however, marked by armed clashes, assassinations and counter-assassinations, were no more than a struggle for political survival between the more reactionary diehard clans of western Japan, Satsuma and Chôshu, and the progressive conservatives of Edo. In the course of the struggle, ironically enough, it was the former, originally aimed at the restoration of ancient imperial rule and expulsion of all foreigners, which came to appear more progressive than the latter, which while attempting to move with the times sought simultaneously to maintain the political status quo unchanged. The common people had yet to take any concrete role.2 The rare exception was a socio-religious reaction to the unease slowly settling over the country: the "Eija Nai Ka" movement of 1867.

One morning people all over central Japan and along the "Tôkaidô" route passing through Yokohama woke up to find holy talismans of the Ise shrine, most sacred of all Shinto shrines, fallen from the sky. The strange occurrence, repeated several times in various places, was taken as a message from the gods, and people immediately abandoned whatever they were doing and began dancing and drinking in the street and chanting the phrase "Eija Nai Ka?" (isn't it good!). Many of the groups began to converge upon the shrines at Ise, burning down as they went the homes of rich merchants and village headman who refused to acknowledge of the talismans: that the day of the people had come, blessed by the gods. Others contented themselves with turning the streets of their town into a people's fairground, disrupting the activities of merchants and Passing out sake freely in the streets.

The poor of all countries possess an unerring ability to lay the blame for their hardships where it should lay: at the feet of the rich, their oppressors. The people of Japan were expressing their resentment at the fact that Shinto, originally a popular, natural way of life, had been appropriated by their rulers and turned into a means of reducing them to superstitious quietism. The most prominent of the street dancers were, significantly, women, the most oppressed class in Japanese feudal society then as they remain today. It was. an indication of the oppressiveness and tedium of Tokugawa society that similar outbreaks - mass hysteria, blind rebellion, instinctive insurrection: call them what one will - had occurred on average once in every generation for 200 years. In all of them, moreover, women played a prominent part, as they have done in all revolutionary uprisings.3

The movement possessed no formal leadership and no organizational structure. It was, despite rumours of its being initially instigated by anti-government politicians seeking to create confusion, a totally anarchic popular phenomenon, a manifestation of the bewilderment which the spiral-Ling prices and land taxes had sparked off among the common people, and at the same time a warning that the latter would not take things lying down.

Had Bakunin stayed a little while longer in Yokohama, the "Eija Nai Ka?" movement could hardly have failed to come to his notice. Would he have reacted to it in the same way as he did to the news of the 1846 revolution in France or the 1849 risings in Dresden and Prague?

To sum up, at the time when Bakunin was in Japan there was not only no socialist movement akin to that currently emerging in Europe (since there was no proletariat), but no significant popular agitation at all. By the time they did occur he was gone, and it would be almost a quarter or a century before the first conscious popular rebellion against the state, the 1884 Chichibu Revolt spearheaded by the Chichibu Destitutes' Party (Konmintô) would take place.4

  • 1The Japanese emperor in pre-Perry days had become no more than a figure-head whose continued existence in Kyoto, the traditional capital, sanctified that of the Tokugawa shôguns or generals who eff ectively ran most of the country from what was then Edo, now Tokyo.
  • 2From 1863 to 1867 there were 61 recorded peasant uprisings; the most violent year was 1866 with 32. In 1867 the number fell off to only twelve and, it is said, a kind of calm pervaded the whole country. Soon after that the 'Eija Nai Ka’ movement broke-out (see below).
  • 3E.H. Norman, the Canadian progressive academic, suggested that the anti-Korean, anti-socialist pogrom whipped up by the Japanese govern ment after the 1923 Great Kantô Earthquake (see below) was made easier by the still-powerful social pressures on the people, which had forced them to keep their emotions in check for so long that they seized arty chance for emotional release (in his 'Feudal Background of Japanese Politics', contained in John W. Dower (ed.) Origins of the Modern Japanese State: Selected Writings of E.H. Norman (Pantheon paperback, 1975).

    Norman also worried (he was writing in 1944) that the Japanese authorities would provoke a similar outbreak if Japan was defeated in the war. On the contrary, the zaibatsu (financial cliques) had already arranged the enrolment of most citizens into a home defence corps precisely to prevent any kind of outbreak that would give the Americans cause to rule Japan with a heavier hand than necessary, and to stifle any chances of social revolution before they, the zaibatsu leaders, had had time to ingratiate themselves with their new rulers. The significant fact about the 1867 movement was that there was no open political interference, unlike 1923, when the government and police actually invited people to take revenge on their "enemies" the Koreans and the socialists.

  • 4Also known as the Shakkintô or Debtors' Party. The incident was one of the many which broke out in the early Meiji period in connection with the movement for civil rights. Local peasants, supported by militant liberals, created their own political organization and rais- ed the flag of rebellion against the central government. When the police and troops arrived the peasants resisted, but failed to get support from neighbouring, areas and were forced to flee, The leaders were arrested and executed, while soldiers were allowed to pillage and rape their way through the villages in a way that has not been forgotten to this day.


Bakunin's Stop-over in Japan

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

1. The Road to Yokohama

In 18471 in the midst of a famine that was wasting much of Europe, Bakunin suddenly felt the need for a peasant revolution, as expounded in his 'Appeal to the Slavs'. What sparked his attention was the sight of peasants ransacking the castles of their seigneurs and burning the land registers and other official documents that reified their subjection. His speech at the anniversary that year of the 1830 Polish Uprising, in which fie condemned the Russian government as the enemy of the Polish as well as the Russian people and called for a pan-Slav federation, brought the audience to a white-hot fervour and widely reported. The Russian government, enraged and nervous, demanded his expulsion from France, but in February, with the outbreak of the 1848 revolution, Bakunin was back in Paris.

Finally persuaded to leave Paris by a loan of two thousand francs from the Provisional Government, Bakunin headed east, and by the end of March was in Germany. That May, news of a widespread uprising which had broken out in Prague was brought to a pan-Slav conference then under way in the city. Of all the delegates, Bakunin was alone in deciding to seek out the action rather than flee to his home. When the revolt was put down at the end of May, he managed with some difficulty to his way to Breslau, from where he was expelled first to Berlin, then to Cöthen. In March 1849 he moved to Dresden, where he made the acquaintance of the composer Richard Wagner. In May of that year the Dresden Insurrection broke out.

Bakunin, in company with Wagner, hurried to the public hall where the Provisional Government had set up its HQ. While internal wrangling took place concerning the leadership of the insurrectionary army, a strong force of Prussian troops drew near, and by the sixth of May defeatism had heavily infected the revolutionary authorities. While most of the leadership miraculously disappeared Bakunin remained and fought the Prussian troops alongside the .,.,orkers of bres he was captured finally while trying to escape, but thirteen years later he would have an almost-impossibly coincidental reunion with one of his co-fighters.

After thirteen months' confinement, Bakunin received the death sentence from the Government of Saxony. Since the -overnments of Russia and Austria were also after his head, it was commuted to life, and in June 1850 he was handed over to Austria. At the end of nother eleven months he received a further death sentence, but this too was commuted to life imprisonment. At last, in May 1851, came that which Bakunin had feared most of all, the delivery of his person to the Russian authorities. Three years in the underground dungeons of the notorious Fortress of St Peter and St Paul were followed by another four in the castle of Schlüsselberg.

Even Bakunin's robust disposition gave way under this treatment, and I after eight years of torment his vitality had sunk to the point where he even requested his brother to bring him poison. In February 1857, after his mother's pleas to Tsar Alexander II were finally heeded, Bakunin was allowed to go into permanent exile in the western Siberian city of Tomsk. A year later he married the daughter of a Polish merchant, Antonia Kwiatkowski.

In August of 1858 Bakunin received a visit from General Count Nicholas Muraviev, his second cousin. Muraviev had also been Governor of Eastern Siberia for the past ten years. He was Popular with the Tsar both for having manipulated the weak Chinese government into conceding territory to Russia, and for having opened an important trade outlet by establishing the port of Nikolaevsk at the mouth of the Amur River. -'He was also a liberal, and enjoyed patronizing the political exiles in Siberia (so long as they behaved themselves). Bakunin, as his relative was a particular favourite, and he had already tried unsuccessfully to secure his release from exile. In the following spring, with Murav'iev's help, Bakunin was given a job with the Amur Development Agency at an annual salary of two thousand roubles. As a result he and Anton-, is were able to move to Irkutsk in the eastern province. A plan was 'already slowly taking shape in Bakunin's mind.

That summer Muraviev visited Japan as the plenipotentiary of the Tsar, ,instructed to open diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries. According to Japanese records of the occasion

"In July of the sixth year of the reign period Ansei of the Emperor Kômei, seven Russian warships appeared suddenly off Kanagawa (on Edo Bay). When a foreign affairs official of the shogunate attempted to discover their business he was informed, 'I am Grand Plenipotentiary Count Nicholas Muraviev, Governor of the Eastern Province and a noble of Imperial Russia. As such I do not deign to treat with minor officials. Let a high-ranking official formally present himself.'

"The shogunate then dispatched two second-level officials, Endô Tajimanokami and Sakai Ukyônosuke, who were treated to a banquet on board ship. At the end of it the Joint Ratification of the Japan-Russia Treaty was announced. This followed upon those of the first (1854) and fifth (1858) years of Ansei, when the harbours of Shimoda, Hakodate and Yokohama were opened to shipping."

Having heard from Muraviev of the opening of the Japanese ports and of the frequent calls paid there by American ships (apparently two calls a week on average following the signing of a commercial treaty in 1858). Bakunin had begun gradually to construct a plan of escape. T o escape west through Russia was nigh-impossible, but eastwards... A hitherto inconceivable route began to take shape: to Europe via Japan and America which, if pulled off, would be the longest escape on record! Although Muraviev had been disgraced for his liberal views earlier that year, his successor, as luck would have it, was also distantly related to Bakunin and was relatively indulgent. On June 5 1861, after announcing his departure to Antonia, Bakunin left Irkutsk under cover of company business. He was ostensibly employed by a Siberian merchant to make a trip to the mouth of the Amur, and had received an advance of a thousand roubles. It was a complicated journey, involving first an overland trip to the Amur to find a ship, but after transferring to the river he reached Nikolaevsk on July 2.

Fifteen days later he was safely aboard the Russian warship 'Strelok bound for Kastri, from where he was supposed to return overland to Irkutsk. Quite by chance, however, the 'Strelok' , while passing through the Mamiya Straits separating the mainland from Sakhalin Island, happened to take in tow an American sailing ship the 'Vickery', At the final Russian port of call, Olga, Bakunin managed a smooth transfer by persuading the American captain to take him on board, and by August2 had achieved his primary objective: the port of Hakodate in the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido.3

Just as Bakunin was about to leave Hakodate there was a dramatic moment. On board the ship, whose captain had promised him, a passage to Yokohama, he war taken for an aristocrat and invited to join a banquet being prepared for a "special guest", The "special guest", when he appeared, turned out to be none other than the Russian consul stationed in the city! It was like a cliff-hanger scene from a Marx Brothers movie, absurdly dangerous. Here was Bakunin fiery anarchist revolutionary and avowed enemy of the Tsar, purportedly in Siberian exile, actually sitting in an American boat in Japan!

Bakunin took the situation in hand. He engaged the consul in conversation without waiting to be challenged explained that he was given permission to go sightseeing, and assured him that he would be returning to Irkutsk via Shanghai and Peking. "Then you won't be returning with us?" said the consul (for at that very moment a Russian naval squadron was moored nearby and preparing to set sail for Nikolaevsk). No, for I've just arrived and there are still many things I want to see here", replied Bakunin, and the matter was closed. By the time the banquet was over he and the conSul were the best of friends, and the next morning he sailed, beneath an American flag, under the very noses of officers of the Russian Imperial Navy! It must have been one of the closest shaves of his life (and, had it been ten years later, would probably have ended quite differently; the introduction of the telegraph to Asia in 1871 would have made it a simple thing for the consul to check on the truth of his story).4 As it was he was away and-free, and must have regarded it as a good omen. By late August he was in Yokohama.

2. The Yokohama Hotel

Bakunin, as soon as he set foot on Japanese soil (he was not allowed to land at Hakodate), must have put up at the sprawling 'Yokohama Hotel' (also known as the Hotel Hufnagel after its original proprietor, a Dutchman), for this was then the only lodging-house in Japan catering for foreigners. His name,,however, is not to be found alongside those of his fellow-boarders; the closest to a positive identification is the claim made by Henmi Kichizo to have found a note left by one of them that "a big man, in flight from Russian exile, was also resident" (others have denied the existence of such an entry).

When you think about it, Bakunin, so jumpy as to be startled by the sighing of the wind, was hardly likely to stay under his own name, concerned as he must have been to leave no trace of his passing. An examinntion of the hotel registers of the time, however, reve!als another name, and a totally unexpected one at that: Wilhelm,Heine, the artist who had fought alongside Bakunindn the final days of the Dresden Insurrection!

Heine, after eluding arrest at Dresden, had fled to New York and then to Central America, where he travelled extensively. Returning to New York in 1852, he was signed on as official artist to the Perry Expedition. While in Japan Heine visited the capital, Edo, several t imes _ though it was officially closed to foreigners - and recorded the events and customs of the time with a vivid brush. His four hundred sketches and paintings add colour to Perry's Official 'Narrative of the Expedition of the American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan'. published in 1856, By this time Heine seems to have been forgiven for his youthful escapade at Dresden, for in 1859 he returned to Germany and was immediately invi ted to join a Prussian expedition to Asia, again as official artist. (This was the expedition led by the aristocrat Eulenberg, whose description of the Yokohama Hotel appears below.)

On its way back to Germany from Japan, the Eulenberg Expedition spent some time in China-where, after its mission was completed, Heine decided to part company and make his own way back to America. The first stage of his journey took him from Tientsin to Yokohama, and thus occurred the almost-impossible chance meeting with his old comrade-in-arms Bakunin.5

The emotion and disbelief which must have beset the pair as they bumped into each other in a small foreign hotel in Japan after more than ten years' separation can be imagined. It must have seemed like a dream. The backslappings, the embraces, interrupted only when one of them peered into the otherts face to make sure it was real ... One an exiled revolutionary whose long confinement chained to the walls of reeking, dripping underground dungeons had become a legend; the other an impassioned adventurer who had burned his European boats and gone to live in the New World. Who could ever have grown bored at the stories these two had to tell?

The hotel at which they stayed crops up from time to time in foreigners' memoirs of Japan, as W611 as in histories of Japan's hotel industry, and we can get a little of its flavour from the account of the Prussian traveller Eulenb erg who had stayed there the previous year:

"(It had) a big garden, faced on three sides by wooden single- storied buildings. On one side was the dining room, which joined onto the bar and billiards room, while on the opposite side were situated the living and sleeping quarters. Behind them, facing the main buildings, was a barn. The whole place was hastily put together, the architecture half Japanese-style, half Western-style. The kitchen and cellar were excellent, 10 and the host extremely accomodating..."6

In 1859, immediately after the opening of Yokohama Port, a "hotel" opened nearby what was then the Customs Office (now Kanagawa Prefectural Office), facing onto Honchô-dôri Street. Managed by a Dutchman named Eufnagel, it was Japan's first hotel (as opposed to Japanesestyle inn). "Hotel", though, is rather a misnomer for what was simply a largely-Japanese style house surrounded by a tiled wall. In the big room containing the bar, which also served as a general meeting place for the guests, a black waiter named Macaulay7 apparently saw to their needs.

Evenings were the time for shooting practice, for which it seems the big clock over the door served as target. All in all, the place might easily have inspired many a Wild West drama. In the same room stood the billiard table which, as soon as it was installed, proved a great success as a means of killing time. As mentioned earlier, an early Japanese historian named Itabashi Tomoyuki has looked carefully into the question of how Bakunin spent his time and concluded (since we have not yet seen the original article we cannot vouch for his conclusion) that he probably whiled it away on the billiard table, and also blew much of his money in the bar - the first ever in Japan. More than likely there was not much else for Bakunin to do: foreigners were not allowed to leave the settlement without per-mission, and since it is on record that many other interesting guests were staying there beside Bakunin himself, he probably felt quite at home.

There were eight guest rooms, all of them windowless and unheated, and one traveller left a grumbling record of how almost unbearably cold it could be in the gusty, rainy days of November, In those early days, nevertheless, for the foreigners then beginning to reach Japan with increasing frequency, this was the only place to stay, or even just to rest; no-one visited Yokohama without dropping in at least once at the Yokohama Hotel. Sad to say, the hotel was razed to the ground just a few years after Bakunin's visit, one of the few casualties suffered by the foreign settlement of Yokohama, which otherwise remains today much as it was 100 years ago, It is possible, however, even today to stand on the site of the hotel where Bakunin spent his days and nights.

Among Bakunin's other fellow-residents at the Yokohama Hotel, luckily enough, were the scientist Siebold and his son Alexander, whose memoirs Provide one of the key documents concerning Bakunin's stay in Japan. ,;iebold had already been expelled once by the Tokugawa government as a result of the so-called 'Siebold Affair' of 18298 , but in 1861 had been invited back as diplomatic advisor to the shogunate. In the diary of this second visit we find the following entry:

"In that Yokohama boarding-house we encountered an outlaw from the Wild West Heins, presumably as well as many other inter. esting guests. The presence of the Russian revolutionist Michael Bakunin, in flight from Siberia, was as far as one could see being winked at by the authorities. He was well-endowed with money, and none who came to know him could fail to pay their respects.

3. Across the the Pacific

David Hecht in his memoir 'Russian Radical's Look at America' (translated from Japanese; original title unknown) records that Bakunin while in Japan "perhaps met a politically-progressive American businessman". Not only the identity of thin man, but even the place where Bakunin met him are a mystery. Indeed, one of the greatest difficulties in tracing Bakunin's activities in Japan is to Din him down in one place. Sources differ: while all agree that his first port of call was Hakodate in Hokkaido, James Guillaume's biographical sketch relates that Bakunin went straight from there to Yokohama, while a Japanese source has him instead going to Kanagawa. Max Nettlau's 'Michael Bakunin: a Biographical Sketch' mentions "several" ports, but according to his 'The Life of Michael Bakunin' Bakunin’ Bakunin’ left Kanagawa for San Francisco along with Heine. Since Kanagawa is just along the bay from Yokohama there is a large possibility that Bakunin may have taken a small boat and joined the ship at Kanagawa, or that the ship called first at Kanagawa before making the Pacific crossing. However, there was no settlement there and foreigners were not allowed to reside. As of yet the "Kanagawa Connection" has not yet been investigated, but when it is there is a good chance that a whole new range of evidence concerning Bakunin ' 'a activities might be opened up.

Anyway, the evidence so far indicates that Bakunin left Yokohama in midSeptember on board the American merchant-ship the 'Carrington' bound for San Francisco.9 His fellow-travellers, apart from Heine, included the English clergyman Koo, the discovery of whose diary by Bakunin's biographer E.H. Carr was highly praised by Max Nettlau. Kos says of Bakunin that he was "more 'like a friend than anyone I have met for a long time". Before the voyage ended the two were great friends, Bakunin expressing sympathetic feelings towards Protestantism and telling Kos the story of his life before finally requesting a loan of $250.10

Also on board ship one would have found a Japanese speaking perfect English. This was Joseph Hiko (Hamada Hikozô), a pioneer of the newspaper world in Japan who would later shake hands with three American presidents: Pearce, Buchanan and Lincoln. Pure luck fated these men, as well as H eine, to be on board the same ship as Bakunin when he left Japan, and a closer investigation of Kos's diary, Heine's books (see note 9) and Hiko's unpublished writings promises now leads.

When Bakunin arrived in San Francisco on October 15 he found more congenial company than that of a clergyman and an acquaintance of presidents. It was the time of the Gold Rush, and among those seeking a quick fortune were many Russian and Polish immigrants, some of whom, according to one source, clubbed together to raise the money for Bakunin's passage to New York (what happened to Koe's loan we do not learn). In New York he borrowed more money from an Englishman named Smith, enough to buy a ticket for Liverpool, where he arrived on December 27, six months after leaving Siberia. He entrained immediately for Orsett House, Herzen's residence in London, and the same evening burst into the drawing-room where the family was having supper. "What! Are you sitting down eating oysters! Well! Tell me the news. What is happening, and where?!"

  • 1Section three is a partial and amended translation (with personal comments added) of Henmi Kichizô's article 'Nihon ni Tachiyotta Bûkunin’, to which have been appended extracts from Wakayama Ken-ji's 'Bakûnin to Hakodate, Yokohama, Kanagawa'. It should be said here that the former, though officially credited to Henmi, is actually the work of Mukai Kou, Osaka libertarian poet and esperantist who, after hearing the bones of the story from the ailing Henmi, filled it out and wrote it up himself. Both these articles are based on earlier ones by Kubô Jô and Itabashi Tomoyuki, which will be incorporated into the second edition of this pamphlet.
  • 2Dates of Bakunin's movements at this time differ according to the source. It has not always been possible to verify which are correct, and usually only rough dates have been given.
  • 3There are several conflicting theories concerning Bakunin's escape route from Siberia. The one related here is that given by Masters (Bakunin: The Father of Anarchism), which follows the one in E.H. Carr's Bakunin.
  • 4There is some confusion as to whether this meeting took place in Hakodate or in Yokohama, Masters, following Carr's account, locates it in Yokohama, though most Japanese sources give Hakodate. Herzen's 'Bakunin and the Polish Question' is unclear but seems to suggest Hakodate (Yokohama is not mentioned at all in this account). In any case, a moment's thought suggests that the port could only have been Hakodate. Had the ship in which the encounter with the consul took place been bound for America instead of southern Japan, Bakunin's story would hardly have held water.
  • 5Heine is rather an elusive character, but we took trouble to investigate him since his writings, if there were any, seemed to offer leads for new information on Bakunin. So far we have discovered the following information.

    Peter Bernhard Wilhelm Heine (1827-1885):

    After escaping from Dresden Heine went first to New York, then to Central America where he travelled for several years. The record of this expedition was published in 1853 as the Wanderbilder aus Centralamerika. Soon after that he returned to New York, where he was selected from among several score of applicants for the post of official artist to the Perry expedition.

    After arriving in Japan he made several visits to Edo, possible only because of his position on Perry's staff, since Edo was officially closed to foreigners. His sketches of the city as it was before the foreigners arrived in force are thus a unique record.

    When he returned to New York in 1855 he published several mementoes: a collection of prints entitled Graphic Scenes of the Japan Expedition; 400 sketches which were included in Perry's official report; and his memoirs, Reiss um die Welt nach Japan (Leipzig, 1856). The memoirs apparently proved an enormous success, and were immediately translated into both French and Dutch.

    Two years later Heine published a German translation of the report of the Rodgers Expedition sent by the US government to te Japan, China and Okhotsk Seas, under the title Die Expedition in dir Seen von China, Japan und Okhotsk (Leipzig, 1858-9). in which he also urged the Prussian government to send more expeditions to Asia before the Americans became established there.

    In 1859 he returned to Germany, where he published Japan und Seine Bewohner (Leipzig, 1860). While in Berlin he received an invitation to join a projected Prussian expedition as official artist once again, and was simultaneously given a premium to send back reports for a Cologne newspaper. This expedition, the Eulenberg one mentioned in the text, went on from Japan to Tientsin, and here Heine left to return to America alone; it was while he was waiting in Yokohama for the connection to San Francisco that the historic meeting with Bakunin took place.

    Once back in America he took part in the Civil War on the Union side and was made an officer. In 1864 he published his major work, a voluminous book on travel in the Orient, Eine Weltreise um die nordliche Hemisphare in Verbindung mit der Ostasiatischen Expedition in den Jahren 1860 und 1861 (Leipzig, two volumes), After the war ended Heine was named US consul in Paris and Liverpool concurrently, but after the establishment of the Hohenzollern Empire in Germany in 1871 returned to Dresden where he wrote his last book about Japan, Japan, Beitrage zur Kenntnis des Landes und Seiner Bewohner (Berlin, 1873-80).

    The reason for going into such detail about Heine's life is not for the sake of promoting archaeological research, but in the hope that comrades who can read German - unfortunately, none of us can - be able to look into these sources for information about Bakunin. We hope that you will let us know if you have any luck.

  • 6All quotations have been translated into English from Japanese, and may thus vary from the original.
  • 7Proper names - apart from those of well-known people - have had to be guessed from the Japanese transliteration.
  • 8Philipp Franz von Siebold, a German, had been attached to a Dutch company at Deshima, Nagasaki, from 1823 to 1828 as doctor and naturalist. During that time he received the shôgun's permission to instruct Japanese doctors in Western medicine, and gathered about him quite a body of disciples. On his return to Germany, however, he tried to take away with him forbidden articles such as maps of Japan, and was discovered. After a year's confine. ment he was deported and ordered never to return. His friends and disciples were persecuted and many imprisoned. This was the "Siebold Incident".

    After being rejected for the Perry Expedition, he was able t return to Japan in 1859 after a diplomatic treaty had been sign ed between Japan and Holland the previous year. This time he came as political advisor to the shôgun.

    The five years he spent in Deshima, despite the black cloud he fell under as a result of the "Incident", were very influential for the development of modern medicine in Japan. The daughter born to him. and his Japanese second-wife (sic) later became Japan's first Western-style midwife.

  • 9Some sources give the date of departure as September 7, while others name the ship as either the 'Peterson' or the 'Wellington'.
  • 10Evidently Bakunin had disposed of much of the money he was carr ing when Siebold met him, either on the billiard table or in buying his passage to San Francisco.


Preliminary Conclusions

Bakunin's revolutionary career, though it had almost no conscious connection with Japan, thanks to that momentary contact made possible by the opening of the country in 1853, was enabled to reach its full fruition.

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

Had the Japanese government sustained its isolationist policy of the past 250 years for a few years longer, the growth of Bakuninist anarchism after 1864, the struggles with Marx at the First International, and thus the whole shape of today's revolutionary movement would have been drastically different. The opening of the ports of Yokohama and Hakodate thus coincided perfectly with Bakunin's decision to return to Europe, giving concrete shape to his plan of escape. Had it been otherwise, there is very little doubt that today Bakunin would be no more than another Russian martyr.

Japan, though Bakunin never acknowledged it, hence played an enormous part in his destiny. Some comments concerning his stay there will Put the episode in a clearer light.

The world of 1861 was very different from that of 1923, when Ôsugi Sakae made his trip to Europe. In opening Japan to foreign influences for the purpose of building a strong nation-state, the "progressive" samurai who seized control of the country in the Meiji Restoration of 1868 allowed certain (from their point of view) unsavoury principles in by the back door. By the turn of the century intellectuals like Kôtoku Shûsui had introduced Japanese revolutionaries to the ideas of Kropotkin, Bakunin, Marx and other writers, and along with a massive forced industrialization programme (helped by two imperialist wars in ten years), a radical labour movement had been born Ôsugi Sakae, born in 1885, grew up in this atmosphere.

By 1861, following Perry's gate crashing exploit of eight years before, American ships had become regular visitors to Japanese ports, joining those of Holland, since the 17th century the sole Western nation permitted to trade with the empire. Other nations, like Germany, Russia, England and France, seeking to extend their existing domains in India and Southeast Asia, had also been quick to force the Japanese authorities to allow the opening of consular offices, dazzled by the prospects of unlimited trade and urged on by soul-hungry mission organizations eager to claim the benighted heathens for the one true god.. As an added attract ion, Japan provided an ex~ cellent location of refuelling and refurbishing, both for warships patrolling the Pacific and for whalers en route to the Arctic.

The shogunal authorities, despite their initial fright, had bowed to all this pressure with good grace, but taken care to confine all foreigners to riven areas within certain of the ports open to trade. Hence not only the Yokohama Hotel itself, but even the very area in which Bakunin Found himself was likely to be closed to Japanese, and patrolled by to keep the foreigners from having any unnecessary influence upon them. It is thus conceivable, though not very likely, that Bakunin never even saw a Japanese; if he did meet any it was certainly not under conditions conducive to his -etting a run-down on the state of the nation. This would have to be taken account of in any criticism of Baki)ninls behaviour in Japan, and allowances made accordingly,

Failing personal contact, then, newspapers might have provided a source of information for Bakunin had he wanted any. We followed this up, and found ironically enough, that the first foreign-language newspaper pub- in Japan moved from Nagasaki to Yokohama in October 1861, one month too late to catch his eye. Judging from the quality of other expatriate newspapers, however, such as those published in the Chinese treaty ports , this one, the 'Japan Herald', would not have told him much about Japan anyway, Still, it might have given him a perspective on political affairs into which his seasoned revolutionist's eye might have read the germs of a ripe situation. Unfortunately, though, his visit ended a month too soon, and we abandoned that line of speculation.

One also has to consider, apart from these objective factors, the state of Bakunin's mind. He was on the run, moving incognito, jumping at shadows - certainly, after twelve years' mind-killing and body-racking imprisonment, in no mood to take chances. His identity seems to have been known to his fellow-travellers at the Yokohama Hotel, and he must have feared exposure. It was difficult enough for any foreigner, let alone one looking like Bakunin, to disappear in Japan (and remains so today). His heart, moreover, was already speeding towards London and the revolution in Europe, and he was little disposed to take careful note of the things around him, Thus, despite the strangeness of the surroundings, and the quaint popular customs he could have found had he looked (it seems certain that he must have heard many fascinating stories from Heine), to say nothing of his being in a country whose capacity for revolution was entirely unknown, Bakunin has left no impressions whatever of his stay. This omission is made all the more startling by the fact that Herzen, who after Bakunin's return to London was obliged to support him, suggested that he raise money by writing the story of his escape from Siberia. Bakunin, it seems, could not be bothered.

Finally, there was one more factor which undoubtedly lent wings to Bakunin's heels once he managed to leave Siberia This was the story of the Bakhmetiev Fund. Since the story is related in the major biographies of Bakunin there is no need to go into detail here. In 1858 a Russian landowner named Bakhmetiev had disposed of all his property and gone to London to contact Herzen. His idea was to buy a small island in the Pacific and there set up a utopian community. Before leaving he had left with Herzen a sum of L800 to be used to further the Russian revolutionary movement. Bakhmetiev himself was never seen again, but the money was paid into a joint bank account in London held by Herzen and Nicholas Ogarev, to await a time when it could be put to good purpose. Bakunin heard about the existence of this money from a letter of Herzen's received before he decided upon his escape, but it would probably be too much to suggest that this was the primary motivation for his return to Europe. At the very least, though, the thought of the money lying untouched in London probably made him want to get back there as quickly as he could. When he did get hold of it it was used for the printing and distribution of revolutionary literature in Russia, principally the pamphlet 'Catechism of a Revolutionary'.

With all these things in mind, it has to be admitted that circumstances did not encourage Bakunin to throw himself into the Japanese political scene. Bakunin, however, in all other situations, was not a man to be Put off by mere objective circumstances. He would be a marked man even after his return to Europe, but that did not deter him from immersing himself in revolutionary activities there. One would have expected that the very existence of the void surrounding him in Yokohama would press him to find out more about it. Perhaps he did; but if so, we do not know, Most of all, had Bakunin any real interest in Japan he would surely have left some record of his visit. As far as can be gathered, he Posted a letter from Siberia before boarding his ship, and another from San Francisco, but nothing from Yokohama. If there was no postal service he could have sent a letter in the charge of one of his hotel acquaintances, as other residents must have done. He never mentions his stay in any of his writings, and actually ignored Herzen's suggestion that he write his memoirs. In our opinion, the time spent in Japan (and in America, of course, where an even bigger case could be made out for his staying longer) was no more than an interlude, a chance to relax before returning to where the action really was: Europe.


Ôsugi Sakae

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

1. Ôsugi and Bakunin

"For Kropotkin one feels respect, but not attraction. There is a man who is much dearer to me ... a born anarchist, one so constitutionrilly rebellious that he would have remained a rebel even in an anarchist society. A man who was neither regular nor ordered in his habits, who lived a life which was bohemian and unruly. I cannot help but smile at myself when I reflect upon the life of our ancestor Bakunin."
Ôsugi Sakae

Ôsugi himself was a born rebel, a truly uncompromising anarchist who put his numerous prison sentences to good use by resolving to learn a new foreign language with each imprisonment. Despite his reputation as a thinker and translator in the fields of natural science and human philosophy (he translated 'Mutual Aid' and 'Origin of Species', as well as much of Romain Rolland and several works by the French biologist Fabre), one would have to say that, though it was Kropotkin from whom he drew most of his scientific inspiration. it was Bakunin that exercized the greater sway over him as a man.

Ôsugi, it is said by the few surviving Japanese anarchists to have seen him perform, would come striding onto the stage where he was to deliver his speech, wrapped in a black cloak, his eyes flashing with fire: "I am Ôsugi!'' he would shout. He came across, maybe, as a kind of politicized Mick Jagger-in-his-prime, but the very sight of him at the rostrum was enough to cause the waiting police to allege a breach of the peace and declare the meeting closed. His popularity among socialists was fantastic, and the news of his arrival in some place, as with Bakunin, brought people crowding to meet him and hear him speak.

Ôsugi interpreted Bakunin's dynamism as figuring in the chaotic transitional period between the decline of European feudalism and the rise of modern capitalism; whereas Kropotkin's scientific bent was more suited to (and in fact grew out of) the half-century of relative peace which followed the triumph of capitalism in Europe. With World War I, however, and the revolutions in Russia and Germany, the world had been ushered into a new phase-of disorder which would eventually mean the death of capitalism and the victory of freedom and justice. In Japan, the repression following the execution for treason in 1911 of Kôtoku Shûsui and eleven others had sent what remained of the socialist movement underground. As for Ôsugi himself, a three-year prison spell from 1908 to 1910 had given him the opportunity not only to avoid the 1911 mass reprisals, but also to expand his knowledge. From Bakunin, Malatesta, Kropotkin and Jean Grave, the focus of his reading shifted to works of science and philosophy, and for the next five years or so until the socialists began to stick their heads up out of their holes once more he went through a period of high-powered reading and translation. Then came the war, and a fresh departure in the tone of his thinking.

The revival of the popular movement in Japan after the war - particularly the sudden outbreak of the 'Rice Riots' of 1918 - convinced Ôsugi that the time for action had come again: Japanese capitalism was dying and the people were revolting. Bakunin had ooze beat into his own. From then until the end of his life ^Ôsugi remained a Bakuninist, while advocating anarclao-syndicalism as the most practical method of organization in Japanese conditions. Though he continued to read and translate Kropotkin, publishing Japanese editions of, 'Mutual Aid' (Sôgo Fujo Ron; 1917) and 'Memoirs of a Revolutionist' (Kakumeika no Omoide; 1920), the main focus of his studies was Bakunin. In 1926 there appeared a posthumous reprint of Ôsugis essays 'Studies on Bakunin' (Bakûnin Kenkyû), which included 'The Father of Anarchism'. 'Life of Bakunin', 'Marx and Bakunin', and 'An Examination of the Peasant Problem' (on the Lyon insurrection of 1870). This collection was a companion to his 'Studies on Kropotkin' (Kropotkin Kenkyû), published in 1920.

As the best-known agitator in the country (and No. 1 on the Kempei-tai's death list), Ôsugi, prolific as he was, was never given the chance to set down his ideas systematically. As in the Europe of Bakunin, there was always too much happening, and Ôsugi's natural inclinations, like Bakunin's, led him to the heart of any fight that was taking place. To find the core of "Ôsugi-ism" one has to read between the lines of his many translations or, even better, examine his actions.

2. Ôsugi and the Rice Riots1

The Rice Riots - three weeks of near-rebellion - were the greatest mass uprising in modern Japanese history, expressing popular anger at the profiteering of money-grabbing rice dealers amid the post-war inflation. Most important of all was the fact that the impetus came as much from the peasants in the countryside as from the urban proletariat. A total of around ten million people took part in the "riots". which occurred at 636 points mainly in western Japan and largely in the rice-producing areas. The army intervened in 107 places, including the three major cities Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, where the Burakumin, an oppressed outcaste ethnic class played a militant role. The overall number of-victims is unknown, though the army killed dozens of people during some of its interventions. The number of arrested ran to several thousand, with an indictment rate of 90% or more.

It was established custom in the Japan of 1918 for rice dealers to sell on credit. No matter how poor the family, as long as they had an add~ ress they could count on receiving rice on credit with the understanding that the bill would be settled every autumn and year-end (traditional periods for settling debts in Japan). What was more, the rice would be delivered t their door.

For those unable to pay on the appointed day, however, the results could be dire. Many a family tragedy was sparked off in this way, particularly on the last day of the year; whole households frequently dropped everything and fled before the dawning of the New Year.

Consequently, there was nothing outwardly unusual when housewives In Namerikawa, Toyama prefecture, marched into their local rice merchants' and walked off with their supplies of rice. Although they did not seek to pay, there was no thought of robbery in their minds - who ever paid for rice on the spot? The rice merchants, however, had their own views on the matter, for the price of rice was rising daily, and rice sold tomorrow brought more Profit than today's. They tried to hold on to the rice. The housewives of Namerikawa, angered by the merchants' attempt to hoard the rice, thus merely helped themselves and walked away. The "Rice Riot" only came into being when certain merchants sought to resist.

At the time these events were taking place (early August), Ôsugi Sakae was on a train returning from Kyushu to Tokyo. Upon reading in the newspaper of the disturbances he left the train at Osaka and went straight to the house of Henmi Naozô,2 where the sole topic of conversation became, inevitably, the "rice riots".

"There's going to be some action here in Osaka too, mark my words. Meetings and things are being held all over the place already."

"Ah. Sounds interesting. Where's the agitation going on?"

"Well, I reckon it's going to start down by Kamagasaki a [workingclass ghetto district in downtown Osaka]."

"Right. Let's go down now and take a look."

Leaving their police tails with the impression that they were still talking inside the house, Henmi and Ôsugi changed their clothes and slipped into the street, When they arrived in Kamagasaki, though, they found little out of the ordinary. Even in front of the rice dealers' there were no signs of any people gathering. Only when the went through into a backstreet tenement block did they find a group of women gossiping. One of them, who knew Henmi, Promptly greeted them with a question:

"What do you think then, about these women up in Toyama sorting out the rice dealers?"

"Twenty-sen rice is selling for fifty sen now here in Kama - let's go and get them to reduce it to twenty-five - all of us just walk in and tell them to. That's what we've been talking about just now. We can't take much more."

Ôsugi, who had been standing listening with arms folded, now grabbea Henmi's arm and hustled him out into the main street where they hailed a rickshaw.

"What's up? Where are we going?"

"Never mind, just stick close to me, There's going to be some fun soon."

Getting the rickshaw to wait for them, Ôsugi and Henmi made the round of Osaka's newspaper offices:

"Down in Kamagasaki they've started agitating for rice hoarders to sell all their stocks at twenty-five sen. He and I have just been there and seen it happening. The sparks from Toyama have already drifted down to Osaka!"

This was pure Ôsugi, agitation mixed with bluff. As soon as the editor was sold on the story the pair moved on to the next paper. Before they had even finished their rounds the sensational press had brought out their early evening editions with great headlines splashed across the front pages: "Kamagasaki Rice Dealers Forced to Sell at 25 Sen!!''

Sure enough, by 4 pm that day tens of thousands of People were converging at top speed upon Kamagasaki in search of cheap rice. One after an other they began to crowd into the dealers' shops, but:

"Twenty-five sen!? We can't sell at that price! You'd better try some where else…"

So went the initial response. Soon, however, cowed by the mounting numbers of people, dealers began to sell at the demanded price after all, but instead tried to limit each person to one sho (1.8 litres). After that it was not long before people began helping their selves. There was little the dealers could do about it.

When one shop's stocks ran out the crowd would move off in search of the next, shouting victory cries, milling around on the corners and growing ever bigger until someone shouted the location of another dealer, when they would surge off in the appointed direction. Gradually the agitation spread through the city.

For example, at that very time the lnukai/kidô faction of the opposition National Party (Kokumintô) was holding a public meeting in nearby Tennô-Ji on the subject of - ironically enough - the rising price of rice.

"O-oy! Fuck your public meetings! They selling rice at twenty-five sen!"


"All over the city!"

The hall was empty in seconds.

After gathering in Tennôji Park for a few minutes to get the adrenalin going, the crowd moved off in search of rice, taking in as they went liquor shops and goal merchants. Moving haphazardly about the streets, they invaded every shop they could find until a shout went up:

"The Sumitomo warehouse in front of Minato-machi station is stocked cram full of rice! What are we waiting for!?" No-one paused to elect a leader. The agitation was developing into a full-scale riot, even an insurrection, for Sumitomo was one of the major zaibatsu with close ties to many political figures.

With the approaching darkness the crowds had begun to swell to even greater proportions. When, they reached the Sumitomo warehouse, however, they found drawn up in front of it the 8th and 37th regiments of the Imperial Japanese Army. no less, part of the division based permanently in Osaka. The troops responded to the bamboo staves and stones wielded by the crowd with blank volleys fired over their heads and with bayonet charges. After several hours of similar skirmishes and minor conflicts all over the city, people at last began to drift away to their homes The fire, however, was only dampened, not extinguished, and the embers remained to be fanned into new life the next day.

Henmi and Ôsugi, meanwhile had gone home.3 There they found several local anarchists waiting to greet Ôsugi, including Takeda. Denjirô, Kanasaki Dômei, Iwade Kinjirô, Yoshimura Otoya and Yamazaki Shôjiro.4 Ôsugi, wearing an air of innocence, went back into town once more that evening in their company. His police tail, though there was no evidence of his involvement in the afternoon's events, had suddenly multiplied twenty-fold.

"Thanks!" he told them, "with so many of you to look after me I can relax! OK everybody, we can go sight-seeing without any worries. . . "

Ôsugi, openly delighted, visited every inch of Kamagasaki, responding to the comments of the others with "Uh", "Right!", "I see" more as if he were talking to himself. Finally the police chief who was following us around complained :

"Sensei! (a term of respect] Give us a break, will you! Call it a day. If anything happens, it's awkward, and if HQ finds out about it I'm in a fix."

After a while it was decided to call a rest at an inn run by a sympathizer of the movement.

At the time I was still a mischievous boy of no more than sixteen. I ran about the town watching A the day's events as if in a trance. It was my first meeting with Ôsugi. My initial impression had come when his police tail, strung out in a line behind him, attempted to enter our house along with him:

"You bastards get back down there!"

They all jumped as if they had seen a tiger and fell back immediately to the stipulated twenty-metre distance. The sound of Ôsugi's voice, filled with dignity despite his famous stutter, has rung in my ears ever since.

That night, the gathering having moved to the house of Yamazaki Shô-Jiro, Ôsugi described his impressions of what had happened riots" had cleared the way for a new surge my the popular movement; whatever the authorities' reaction, the people were now uncrushable; their movement had bared its strength for the first time; we ourselves now had to get down to serious work, go even deeper among the people then we had already, and stand in the forefront of the struggle. he had never felt so confident as he did today. The rest of us too, infected by what we had seen and heard that day, discussed spiritedly the various ideas which people raised.

Early next morning , Ôsugi, his face a picture of unconcern, took a train for Tokyo, leaving Osaka and the still-simmering rice agitation behind him. He never, subsequently, touched upon his activities in Osaka that day, nor did he ever mention them to anyone. Henmi Naozô, though the words were on his lips any number of times, also kept his mouth sealed. He could only wonder at Ôsugi's unique combination of careful insight, boldness, and unashamed prudence, The way he described these three qualities was as follows.

In the first place, Ôsugi , after one look, had immediately sized the situation up and selected the most appropriate way of exploiting it. There had been no plan, no strategy worked out on paper, just his political instinct.

Secondly, he selected a method for carrying out his propaganda which was at once the most effective and the most reliable. The newspapers' reporting of the reaction to the Toyama rice riots was suddenly turned into an Osaka problem, ensuring the maximum effect upon their readers. As Ôsugi had guessed, the papers never tried to verify the story.

Thirdly, Ôsugi successfully resisted the desire to talk about his own role in the unfolding of the Osaka rice riots, and never gave way to the temptations of heroism and self-indulgence. Had he divulged the matter to even his closest comrades, there is little doubt that it would have come out one day under police interrogation, and Ôsugi would have been for it. Perhaps even everyone present on that day would have been implicated. Such was the prudence which invariably accompanied even the boldest of Ôsugi's actions.

The rice riots themselves, having started with such a spontaneous flourish, were only too soon put down by the military, Before the flames had turned to embers, the police too were in action, frenziedly arresting people up and down the country until the gaols overflowed. For the people involved, having seen for themselves the power which lay within them, a new sense of self-confidence and arousal meant that there was no returning to the world of yesterday. The shock which they had dealt out to the authorities was inestimable.

The "rice riots" were the signal for all kinds of activities to break out. The socialist movement which had emerged in the early Taisho period (1911-1925), confined largely to a small intellectual minority of enlightened pioneer agitators, now spread to the workers themselves and their families. In 1919, with a large worker following, Ôsugi founded his magazine 'Labour Movement' (Rôdô Undô). The stage was set for the late Taishô movement, one which was to sink its roots deep among the people before being crushed by the combination of military and secret police which marked the opening of the bloody reign of Hirohito in 1926.

At the same time the politicians, following the fall of the govern ment of the time due to opposition pressure, saw the writing an the wall and set about making minimal changes to protect their base. In 1920 the franchise law was reformed by reducing the property qualification from ten to three yen thus increasing the electorate to just over three million. The authorities had survived, but only by the skin of their teeth.

  • 1This section is an amended translation of the final Dart of Hen mi's article, in which he gives his own eye-witness account of Ôsugi's activities during the "rice riots".
  • 2Henmi Naozô: militant anarchist, the father of Henmi Kichizô. In his youth he stayed in America and worked with Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman. He died later in 1923.
  • 3Ôsugi's part in the riots seems to come close to the "behindism" castigated by the Situationist Internationale. A closer reading of these pages though, surely, reveals that what he did was more akin to what - at least in my interpretation of the concept - is called "creating a situation". He did not begin the riot then fade away; he listened to the complaints of the women, then went to the newspapers, and left the people to react in whatever way they saw fit. One could compare it to Durrutti's tactic during the Spanish Civil War, which was, when passing through a village, to merely point out the traitors, explain a few political facts to the villagers, then pass on having created a situation in which the villagers could act as they saw fit.
  • 4Takeda Denjirô: took part in several attempts to popularize libertarian socialism; his elder brother had received life imprisonment in the High Treason Plot (Taigyaku jiken) trials of 1911 in which twelve anarchist militants were murdered by the state.

    Kanasaki Dômei/lwade Kinjirô: both later became communists.

    Yamazaki Shôjirô: died in prison after arrest in connection with the Guillotine Sha anarchist-terrorist group affair in 1924.

    Yoshimura Otoya: disappeared soon after the riots in unexplained circumstances.


Ôsugi Sakae in Paris

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

1. Alias "Chin Chen"

At the fiftieth anniversary commemoration of the 1872 international anarchist conference in St Imiers, Switzerland, it was decided to reconvene in Berlin in February 1923 in order to set up a now international federation. An invitation went out to the anarcho-syndicalist Rôdô Undô group In Tokyo, addressed personally to Ôsugi Sakae, who was already in contact with anarchists in France. On the night of December-11 1922, Ôsugi, after borrowing enough money for the trip and fooling police agents into believing that he was critically ill in bed, set off via Korea and Manchuria for Shanghai, the first stage on his ,journey.

It was only a few months since an irrevocable split had taken place in Japan between the Anarchists and the Bolsheviks (that is, supportera of the revolution in Russia), and the anarchists were seeking to form new international ties instead of the purely national ones they had concentrated upon up to then. Ôsugi himself placed greatest emphasis upon building links with other Asian anarchists and creating an organization which would allow them to cooperate better. He had already visited Shanghai two years earlier, during the anarchists' abortive attempt at collaboration with the Comintern; on this second trip he was resolved to renew the contacts he had first made a dozen years earlier when he enrolled Chinese students in Tokyo into his Esperanto School. Fear of being discovered by the secret police, however, now that his absence from Tokyo had surely been detected, made it too risky, and all he could do was wait for the others to contact him in a flea-bitten foreigners' hostel.

Ôsugi, for obvious reasons, was not likely to get a passport in Japan. Korea having been since 1919 part of the Japanese empire, he had no difficulty in getting as far as the Chinese border, which he presumably crossed by posing as a (dumb) Chinese coolie. The plan from Shanghai onwards was to use the even-closer Chinese anarchist contacts of Yamaga Taiji, another Japanese anarchist and esperantist who had agreed to precede Ôsugi to China in order to help forge him a set of Chinese identity papers. After Yamaga had wasted several days in Paking waiting for the anarchists there to secure the papers, they were finally put together in Shanghai with the help of a doctor, formerly head of the Sino-French Institute in Lyon, Cheng Meng-hsien. Dr Chang also supplied Ôsugi, alias "Chin Chen", alias !'Tong Chin Tangle (both names applied to him by the Paris press after his arrest in May), with a place to settle in France: the address of young Chinese anarchists then studying at the Institute, who then numbered only about ten.1

With this passport Ôsugi, ostensibly a Chinese student going to study in Lyon, left Shanghai on January 5 1923 and arrived in Marseilles on February 13. The next morning, after bidding farewell to one "Madame N" whom he had met on board ship, he left for Lyon bearing a letter of introduction from comrades in China. After a week in Lyon he went on to Paris, where, at the HQ of the French Anarchist League's organ 'Le Libertaire' in the Boulevard de Belleville (shared with 'La Revue Anarchiste' and 'La Librairie Socials'), he was able to meet Coromel, from whom the original invitation had come.

It was a time when reactionary forces all over Europe were flexing their muscles, and the post-1917 euphoria was dying away in the cold light of recognition. 1922 had seen Mussolini's March on Rome at the head of his fascists, while 1923 brought Hitler's "Beer Hall Putsch" in Bavaria. The latter had been sparked off by France's occupation of the Ruhr just a few weeks before Ôsugi's arrival, and the confrontation between the French Left and the increasingly-powerful Right brought about as a result of the occupation remained at its height.

The atmosphere, therefore, was hardly auspicious for the success of Ôsugi's trip, particularly his plan to cross from France into Germany. He arrived, moreover, to find that government persecution in Germany had forced the postponement of the Berlin conference to April. The general conclusion was that it would not open at all, and., sure enough, it was finally put back to an indefinite date. Ôsugi was disappointed, but took advantage of the opportunity to meet the many anarchists then living in exile in Paris. Most Important of all, from the multitudes who had fled or been expelled from post"revolutionary" Russia he was able to get a clearer picture of the state of things there than he could have got in Japan. What he heard confirmed the rumours which had been trickling through, already borne out by the behaviour of the Japanese communists, which had caused the Anarchist - Bolshevik split mentioned earlier.

Ôsugi also seized the opportunity to meet with the twenty or so Chinese anarchists then living, on a half-work, half-study basis, in Paris. Meeting every day, they laid plans for a conference, to be held after the Berlin meeting, which would lay the groundwork for an organization of Chinese anarchist students in Paris. What the fate of this organization was is unknown, but the importance which Ôsugi attached to China's role in the international anarchist movement is clear.

Soon after his arrival in France Ôsugi had contacted an old comrade from the Syndicalism Research Group formed in Tokyo in 1913, an artist named Hayashi. Though Ôsugi had decided upon a policy of avoiding all Japanese while in Europe in order to maintain secrecy, Hayashi was to be the means by which he could keep in contact with the Rôdô Undô group and with Itô Noë, the feminist with whom he had been living for the past seven years, Unknown to him, however, the Japanese government, having lost track of him in China, had instructed its French embassy to watch Nayashi since, as they rightly guessed, he was the first personÔsugi would visit if he happened to arrive in Paris. Consequently, Ôsugi was under constant surveillance from the day of his arrival.

One of the more curious aspects of Ôsugi's stay in Paris was his apparent ignorance of the anarcho-syndicalist Association Internationale des Travailleurs (AIT), whose founding conference had been 'held there the previous December 25 to January 2. As an anarcho-syndicalist him- self, Ôsugi should have been concerned, and ought to have sought to meet members of the organization, but he did not. The only imaginable explanation is that factional squabbles among the French anarchists kept him in ignorance, for otherwise it is difficult to understand his total failure to mention the AIT in his memoir of his French trip.

2. May Day, 1923

Ôsugi and Hayashi, after taking a room together in a cheap Paris hotel, spent their days and nights in the cafes of Montmartre while Ôsugi quietly continued his efforts to acquire a visa to enter Germany. On March 17, after getting wind of the Japanese embassy surveillance, the two moved to Lyon, where also the prospects of getting the German visa seemed more promising. For the next six weeks Ôsugi was confined to Lyon, paying daily visits to the local police HQ, the passports section and the security office. As March turned into April and his frustrat ion became unire irable, he wrote to Ito Nod telling her of his intention to cross the border illegally.

Dissuaded of this plan by his friends in Lyon, who feared the backlash, Ôsugi remained where he was, but his funds were dwindling away and the trip, even had the visa come through, was fast becoming impossible. On April 29, finally despairing of the visa, he left secretly for Paris where he had been invited to take part in a rally to be held in a hall in the suburb of St Denis.

On the morning of May 1 Ôsugi got up to sniff the atmosphere of the city. He was shocked. It was as quiet as the grave. The only distinguishing sight was that of streams of French workers taking advantage of the holiday to depart with their families for the countryside. This set the tone for the rest of the day. Ôsugi has recorded some of his feelings about the state of affairs in Paris in his book 'Diary of an Escape From Japan' (Nippon Dasshutsu Ki):

"... Outdoor meetings had been banned, and no-one seemed inclined to ignore the order, Communist politicians, as well as the bureaucrats of the CGT [Confederacion Generale du Travail] , were terrified of a clash with the police, and did everything they could to keep a damper on things. Consequently, only the CGT's main rally was to be hold in the city centre, while the others, including the St Denis meeting, were confined to the suburbs. Even the protest demonstration against the US government's plan to murder the Italian-Americans Sacco and Vanzetti was forcibly re-routed by its communist stewards into the suburbs."

Ôsugi, when he arrived at the meeting, was not impressed at all. This is his account of it:

"The slogans of the day were explained at interminable length by some horribly self-satisfied orator, while the applause from the audience grew weaker and weaker... 'It's too much! Let's go out and leave him to it!' called someone - a comrade from either 'Le Libertaire' or 'La Revue Anarchists#. But no-one echoed his call, and meanwhile the speaker on the rostrum was urging him to behave himself... I was supposed to meet Coromel after the meeting, but by this time I didn't 'give a damn. I wanted to get up and shout from the platform, 'Let's get outside, where we should be...!'"

Unable to stand it any longer, Ôsugi finally demanded the microphone. The gist of his speech (the original printed version, when it appeared, was so heavily-blue-pencilled by the Japanese censor that it is impossible to restore it) was as follows:

"The history of May Day in Japan is still very short the first demonstration was held in 1920 , and the number of workers who take part still very small. But those Japanese workers are quite clear about what May Day is! Japan's May Day rallies do not take place in the suburbs. They take place in the city centres. Neither are they held in halls for the benefit of would-be orators. They take place in the parks and streets and public squares, and their objective is to demonstrate. Japanese May Day is no mere carnival!"

After speaking for twenty or thirty minutes, Ôsugi stepped down from the rostrum amid thunderous applause and walked outside - straight into the arms of several plainclothesmen waiting there to arrest him. He was then carried off bodily to the nearest police station. When the crowd inside heard what had happened they at once marched to the police station to free him, led by a score or so of women workers. Few knew anything about him beyond the fact that he was a Japanese, or perhapsa Chinese comrade; most knew not even his name. He was just a comrade in need of help. In the scuffle that took place in the street in front of the police station, 100 or so were arrested and many more injured by police nightsticks. Ôsugi himself wrote later of hearing from his cell the sound of the Internationale, followed by that of beating, mixed with that of thuds and screams as the crowd was forcibly dispersed by the police.

While the French newspapers continued to refer to him as a Chinese, the police were already on the scent of Ôsugi's real identity. Ôsugi, who on the advice of Coromel and others had originally insisted that his Chinese papers were genuine, admitted his real identity when he found that the police knew all about him already. As soon as the fact that he was Ôsugi Sakae, Japanese anarchist without a passport, was confirmed, he was sent to the notorious detention centre at La Santa', temnorary home for so many political prisoners. On May 3, following the visit if a man from the Japanese embassy, he was arraigned on charges as familiar today as they were then: insulting a policeman, resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, and being without identity papers. Mean-, while the right-wing press, notably 'Le Figaro', began to use the inci dent to whip up an anti-anarchist scare. The only thing new about it was the variation upon A Ôsugi's Chinese alias, which changed with every issue.

Ôsugi found conditions in La Santa luxurious compared with the insanitary dungeons where he had spent his previous sentences. In a letter, to Itô Noë he wrote, "It's an easy-going place for a gaol. I spend all day lying down on my bed blowing smoke-rings; there're bottles of wine and beer on the table, and I can swig away at them all day if I feel like it."2 Even so, gaol is gaol, and his thoughts went immediately to his family particularly his favourite daughter, four-year old Mako. In order to reassure Mako of his safety he wrote her a poem, 'Mako yo, Mako!', and sent it to her. In it he describes his life of luxury, picturing himself eating Western food, nibbling chocolate and smoking cigars while lying on a sofa.

When his case came up for -trial on May 23, all charges save that of breaking the passport regulations had been dropped, and he was sentenced to three weeks' detention. Since he had already been held since May 1 he was released the next day. Before finally quitting his La Santa cell , Ôsugi inscribed on the wall the following message to posterity:


LE 1 MAI 1923.3

As soon as he stepped through the gates of the gaol he was hustled off to Police HQ and issued with a deportation order. The French government had originally intended merely to dump him over the Spanish border but, at the insistence of the Japanese embassy, agreed to allow him to be sent back to Japan via Marseilles.

With a week to kill before his boat left, and finding that police surveillance had been called off, Ôsugi made up his mind to travel around Europe illegally. Before he could leave Paris, however, a letter arrived from Itô Noë asking him to return as quickly as possible. Apart from complications arising from Noe's fifth pregnancy, it appears that there was friction within the Rôdô Undô group. At the end of the week he gave himself up to the police and, on June 3, 101 days after his arrival, Ôsugi was escorted to Marseilles and forced to board a Japanese passenger ship bound for Kobe.

When he arrived, on July 11 , he was bundled into a small police launch which took him to the local harbour police HQ, thus avoiding the hordes of reporters waiting for him on the quay side. After a five-hour grilling conducted on orders from the Interior Ministry, which was furious at his being able to get as far as Paris without their knowing, Ôsugi was released. He was greeted like a conquering hero, newspapers clamoured for the rights to the story of his secret trip, and amid all the fanfare he and Itô Noë and Mako were able to return to Tokyo next morning by first-class carriage, paid for by the papers, of course.

The last word, however, belonged to the state and the police. Two months Ôsugi was dead, along-with 6000 Korean and Chinese forced-immigrants and hundreds of revolutionary militants, caught in the government-engineered bloodbath which followed the Great Kantô Earthquake that September. His body, along with that of Itô Noë and their sevenyear old nephew Sôichi who had been beaten and strangled to death with his in their Kempeitai cells, was thrown into a well to decompose. In the trial which followed the discovery of the putrefying corpses, themurderer, a secret policeman on orders from Emperor Hirohito, was given ,just tan years' gaol. Released by personal order of Hirohito himself four years later and assigned to "special duties" in Manchuria, he finally committed suicide in 1945 before his crimes could be avenged by the many anarchists after his blood.

For Ôsugi, though rendered a lifeless corpse, there was yet one more vindictive twist of the state's knife to come. On December 16 comrades of the three victims gathered to say one last farewell to their ashes be fore seeing them formally interred (according to Buddhist ritual this ceremony must take place three months after the death occurred). On that day right-wing thugs slipped into the room before the ceremony began, posing as mourners. When no-one was looking they picked up the casket containing the ashes of Ôsugi and fled, and the ashes have never been seen since (needless to say, the police made only a half-hearted search). The farewell ceremony took place, in unprecedented fashion, without the ashes of Ôsugi, while the state laughed up its sleeve,

3. Trying to Reach Makhno

Ôsugil's recollections of his three months in, France give the impression that he was just having a lot of fun, going backwards and forwards between Paris and Lyon, meeting with the Chinese comrades, occasionally staying with 'Madame NO, etc. To some extent this was true. Trying to keep a low profile to avoid being arrested and prevented from attending the Berlin conference, Ôsugi and Hayashi had held aloof from all political activities and become regular customers in the cafes and dance-halls of Montmartre. Ôsugi also struck up a relationship with a young danseuse named Doré.

At the same time, however, Ôsugi relates in his memoirs that he took the opportunity of being in Paris to make an intense investigation of an episode which had been a great inspiration to him: the Makhno Movement in the Ukraine, 1918-1921. Ôsugi regarded the Makhno movement as the most important aspect of the Russian revolution - indeed the only real revolution to have taken place and also one embodying the most important lessons for the Japanese anarchists. On this point he was highly critical of the Russian anarchists for ignoring the movement. His view of Makhno may be paraphrased as follows:

"In their excess of fervour for the $revolution' the Russian anarchists allowed themselves to be used by the Bolsheviks and, dazzled by their revolutionary battle-cries, lost the opportunity for organizing and marshalling the people's strength. Meanwhile the Makhno movement in the Ukraine was aiding and encouraging the creative activities of the peasants and so carrying out the real social revolution. The Makhno movement was not a movement based on anarchist theory, but a spontaneous rising of the peasants themselves which in broadening its bass turned naturally in an anarchistic direction. The role of the anarchists there was not that of leaders, but of supporters, not commanders but catalysts."

Ôsugi's efforts to enter Germany despite the cancellation of the anarchist conference stemmed from his desire to get more information about the movement. "My greatest regret of all concerning my European trip". he wrote later, "was that I had no chance, since I could not enter Germany, to meet the many ex-Makhnovists then living in exile in Berlin, particularly the so-called 'Head of General Staff' Voline." Ôsugi satisfied himself by gathering all the newspaper end magazine articles he could find in Paris, and by talking with whomever he could, and when he returned to Japan put the information thus pained together in his last written work, 'An Anarchist General: Nestor Makhno' (Museifu Shugi Shôgun: Nesutoru Mafuno).

  • 1For more information on Chinese anarchists in France see Robert A.Scalapino and George T. Yu: The Chinese Anarchist Movement, pp. 44-53.
  • 2Standard requirements in Japanese prisons even today require the prisoner to sit all day cross-legged inside a ring drawn in the centre of the cell, facing the door. If they want anything, even to take a piss, they must first ask permission from the warder, who they are obliged to call "teacher" if they do not want a beating.
  • 3Ôsugi's given name "Sakae" can also be read "Ei", and he apparently sometimes used this version to avoid confusion with another socialist militant of the time, Sakai Toshihiko.


Conclusion: On Nationalism

Without attempting to present, on the one hand, Bakunin as less than A revolutionary or, on the other, Ôsugi as a hero (on re-reading the text it sometimes seems that such an impression might be construable), their respective behaviour was, nevertheless, extremely revealing.

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

Bakunin, for all the praise heaped upon him by his successors in the anarchist movement (anarchists in general may be said to be rather uncritical of. themselves and to possess a tendency to be over-lavish with their selfcongratulation - which is what the praise of Bakunin often amounts to), for all but the last ten years of his life was primarily a Slav chauvinist. In a letter to Herzen, for example, written after arriving in San Francisco on October 15 1861, he wrote of "the Polish-Slavonic question, which has been my 'Idea Pixel since 1846....the glorious free Slav federation, the one way out for Russia, the Ukraine, Poland and the Slavonic peoples generally" (emphasis added). He even, during his imprisonment, went so far as to appeal to Tear Nicholas I to attack Western Europe bearing the message of Slavism. and to bring down the parliamentary democracies that flourished there. He hated Germans, he hated Jews (these, incidentally, seem to have been the fundamental reasons for his antipathy towards Marx) - perhaps he even hated Japanese?

In other words, the simple answer in our opinion to why Bakunin aid not spend longer in and retain a memory of Japan is: he was just not interested. That in itself would not put him in a minority of one, by any means, but there do seem to be certain implications which are worth raising.

The thing we are criticizing here is not merely Bakunin himself, for in his Euro-centredness he was the victim of conditioning and anyway, at this stage, still in his Blanquist 'revolutionary dictatorship', pre-anarchist phase. No, the thing which must be attacked, more than any one individual, is the essence of nationalist ideology, and the mind-distorting myth of nationalism as a revolutionary force. Bakunin .himself definitively exploded this myth after he throw off its shackles in the years following his escape from Siberia.

Nationalism does not appear out of the blue: it is the major component of all statist educational propaganda, for the creation of an externalenemy is the state's greatest weapon in its battle against its subject peoples. Nationalism's most vociferous believers in Russia, China, and in present-day Indochina have always been the intellectuals (at least, in those countries which lacked a comprehensive education system; in Japan, where such a system was introduced almost immediately after the Meiji Restoration, the effect was to allow nationalism to penetrate to every corner of the country, with results that need no describing here).

Bakunin was no exception to this rule. During the 1840s, before his capture and imprisonment, his natural audience comprised Polish intellectuals, despite his faith expressed in the downtrodden poor, To appeal in nationalistic terms to the poor to revolt against the established order (as opposed to jingoism, which by mystifying the process of subjection turns the poor into enthusiastic slaves-of the state) is about as effective as King Canute ordering the tide to ebb. But this home truth was not recognized by Bakunin until almost twenty years later. The result of this "conditioning" was his lack of interest in Japan, a lack of interest which clashed sharply with his call in the 'Appeal to the Slavs' (1847) for an end to national frontiers.

Ôsugi Sakae, except for a brief period in his extreme youth, did not embrace the doctrine of the Rising Sun. Indeed, when he was only 21 years old he joined the Japan Esperantist Association, and in the same year, 1906, opened an Esperanto school. His feelings towards international solidarity, already touched upon in the text, may be surmised from his description of himself as a "socialist in translation". He continued, "most of my socialist ideas come from translating European works on socialism and the social movement, which I have digested with eagerness and with satisfaction", A natural linguist, he was proficient in English, French, Italian, Russian, German, and Esperanto.

No doubt, in this self-effacing description he was doing himself less than justice. Still, it should be clear enough that he had managed from almost the very start, to overcome the enticements of the establishment -'perhaps stronger in pre-war Japan than anywhere else, and always backed up by the assassin's sword as Ôsugi found.

There is no question that the contemporary situation had much to do with the contrast between Ôsugi and Bakunin;. The 19th century Slavonic peoples were enslaved to the West by the Austro-Hungarian empire, and to the East by the Russian empire, so that Bakunin could conceive of the emancipation of the Slavs from the yoke of these two great despotisms as a giant step towards worldwide revolution. Ôsugi's Japan, on the other hand, had already defeated China in 1894-959 and was beefing up its jingoist propaganda at the very time when Ôsugi entered the socialist movement in 1903. His initiation to socialism therefore, was by way of a concrete struggle: that of Japanese social!:,t3 against the brewing Russo-Japanese War, and Ôsugi threw himself into it whole-heartedly with his first published article 'To the New Constripts’, translated from a French original in the magazine ‘L'Anarchie’.

* * *

Historical conditions thus played a great part in forming the respective attitudes of Bakunin and Ôsugi. Had their birth dates been switchad around, Bakunin would have found himself operating in a post-world war I Europe where nominal independence at least had been granted to the Slavs; Ôsugi, for his part, would surely have joined in the movement to wrest Japan from the shackles of the Tokugawa dictatorship and thrust it, as a powerful nation-state, into the modern world. in either case their ways of thinking would have been very different from what they were in reality.

The question, then is why the force of nationalism was so strong in the case of Bakunin, and so weak in the case of Ôsugi. Bakunin was an extremely Perceptive revolutionary. His approach to nationalism and the concept of the "Fatherland" is summed up in two paragraphs cited in 'Anarchism and the National Liberation Struggle' by Alfred M. Bonnano, published by Bratach Dubh collective in 1976:

"The State is not the Fatherland, it is the abstraction, the meta- physical, mystical, political, juridical fiction of the Father land. The common people of all countries deeply love their father- land; but that is a natural, real love. The patriotism of the people is not just an idea, it is a fact; but political patriot- ism, love of the State, is not the faithful expression of that fact: it is an expression distorted by means of an ,?bstraction, always for the benefit of an exploiting minority.

"... Only that can be called a human principle which is universal and common to all men; qnd nationality separates men, therefore it is not a principle. hat is a principle is the respect which everyone should have for natural facts, real or social. Nation ality, like individuality, is one of those facts, Therefore we should respect it. To violate it is to commit a crime, and, to speak the language of ..azzini, it becomes a sacred principle each time it is menaced and violated. And that is why I feel myself always sincerely the patriot of all oppressed fatherlands."

These paragraphs (with suitable editing to remove sexist assumptions) could stand as an epitaph to the misguided efforts devoted to the anti-Vietnam War struggle. Yet the fact remains that Bakunin, like other Russian revolutionaries of the 19th century, was primarily a fighter for oppressed Slav fatherlands.

In discussions within the Libêro group we developed the idea that perhaps it was the vastness of the Slav regions that made Slav consciousness so difficult to overcome. In other words, one is governed to a large extent by one's horizons. A close examination of revolutions in agrarian countries like Vietnam or China reveals that the broad majority of peasants were fighting, not for the establishment of a state or even a nation, but to regain the autonomy over their own lives which they had enjoyed in the past. Their horizons, that is to say, were village ones. Such was not the case with intellectuals, whose horizons had been expanded by education to create the idea of a nation or state as the object of political activity. The transformation of struggles for personal autonomy into struggles for "national independence" has been one of the major counter-revolutionary achievements of this century, and the primary responsibility lies with bourgeois intellectuals out to seize the reins of power from the foreign imperialists. Bakunin, to his credit and our advantage, forecast such a development more than a century ago.

Yet, for a long period his own horizons were determined by his Slav consciousness, horizons which set him apart from those Russian peasants whose physical and mental boundaries were determined by their mir or community. The sheer extent of one's mental horizons when one identified with the Slav race as a whole effectively blurred one's vision of non-Slav peoples (compare today the Great Russian chauvinism of the "New Tsars" in Moscow towards national minorities like the Uighurs, Kazaks and so on).

By way of contrast, quite the opposite set of circumstances might be cited to explain the behaviour of Ôsugi Sakae. The awareness of Japan's smallness compared with China triggered off very early in Japanese history a sense of "uniqueness", a defensive reaction which ultimately le d to the national fascism of the 19300 (Wilhelm Reich's "small man complex" on a national scale). At the same time though, while the Chinese have always maintained a strict lack of interest in things non-Chinese, the Japanese, on the contrary, have traditionally been eager to keep abreast of foreign events and ideas. The isolationist policy of the Tokugawa shoguns was a historical aberration brought on by fear of social change; yet even during those two centuries the rulers in Edo kept in touch with developments in the West through compulsory regular visits by Dutch trade missions to the Shogun's palace. Long before, both Korea and China had been taken as models for the shaping of Japanese civilization, and when the Tokugawas' hold was finally broken the sudden rush to absorb Western learning was a return to normalcy rather than the historical. curiosity it is usually taken to be.

Japan, then, was a small country, and the horizons of its educated class narrower than those of the Slav intellectuals. In those early days, Japanese intellectuals on the Right and on the Left saw, nothing strange and nothing shameful in borrowing foreign ideas, if those ideas appeared definitively to be good ones, As time went by, reactionary politicians turned the sense of Japan's uniqueness into a national myth, adorned it with a veil of Shinto and closed the doors on foreign ideas once again. At the time Ôsugi Sakae was alive, however, the West still offered an exciting source of new inspiration. The readiness with which he initially applauded the Russian revolution, sought to absorb the lessons of the Makhno movement, set up his Esperanto school, translated Western writers, and, finally, set out for the international conference in Berlin, can thus be understood.

Ôsugi's Japanese-ness itself made him both open to external influences and eager to take part in overseas activities. Bakunin's Slav-ness rave him an outlook that was at once broad - thanks to the geographical spread of the Slav peoples - yet narrow. That restriction precluded him from responding positively to the opportunity offered by his visit to Japan.



It can be readily seen that little is known about Bakunin's activities in Japan (but, see below). As indicated in the text and in the footnotes, however, there are numerous leads which, if followed up, promise new revelations.

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

Among these are Kee's diary and Heine's post-1861 writings. We would like to appeal to interested readers (particularly, in the case of Heine, German readers) to check out these sources and let us know if they provide any important new information.

* * *

Just as we were about to begin typing the final draft of this pamphlet Wakayama Kenji sent us a dozen or so new documents concerning Bakunin's stay in Japan, including two by the anarchist Kubô Jô and the historian Itabashi Tomoyuki on which both Henmi's and Wakayama's own article draw heavily. The problem was, whether to hold up printing and incorporate the now information contained in these documents into the text, or to publish the original text as it was and put out a further edition later. Although Wakayama urged us to read the new material before publishing the pamphlet, insisting that they took precedence over his own, after discussion in the group we decided to go ahead. We reasoned that, not only were we anxious to put out a new issue after a break of two years, but we had already sent out an announcement to the effect that this pamphlet's publication was imminent (it had in any case been delayed by the failure of a typewriter). Since it would take several months to read and digest the new documents and rearrange the text accordangly, the best idea seened to be to go ahead and print, and that is what vie did. The new edition (or rather, supplemental edition) will, if all goes wall, become 'Libero International' No. 7.



This is the 5th issue of Libero Int'l, coming out almost 2 years after No. 4. The reasons for taking so long are many: reduction of the group to 3 members; preoccupation of 2 of them with newly-experienced father hood; doubts about L.I.s contents; and increasing involvement in other things; plus a new typewriter that broke down 3 times and held us up for 6 months.

Submitted by Spartacus on February 26, 2011

The present issue may not be as visibly pleasing as former ones, but it represents an attempt to go ahead on a shoestring budget & very limited time & resources, on the general principle of "out and paste up",

In order to try to create more feedback, we have decided from now on to include a questionnaire with each issue. Please fill in and return it if you have any comments, or just send it back to acknowledge receipt. Please enclose with it the stamps on the wrapper we're avid collectors! (By the way, why not send any other old stamps to the Anarchist Black Cross? There are people who'd love to receive them!)

On our shoestring budget we have to pay attention to mailing costs, up to half our outlay. From this issue we have cut out all those from whom we have had no response at all since No. 1. If you want to go on receiving L.I. please send back the questionnaire and/or send us an exchange publication.

Since we cannot guarantee regular future publication, we no longer have fixed subscription rate. Ideally, we'd like to send out free to everyone, but our mailing list, even after trimming, runs to some 200 addresses, only 20 or so of which are subscribers, and the cost is extortionate. So if you feel that L.I. makes a contribution to the int'l libertarian movement, please send us whatever cash you think appropriate - no bank cheques please, but IMOs are OK.

To our subscribers we apologize for our long silence, and hope this special issue on Bakunin both raises enough problems and tells a good-enough story to make you forgive us.