On the Defense of Culture (文化防衛論)
Table of Contents:
Part 1: Essays
The Counterrevolutionary Manifesto
Supplement to the Counterrevolutionary Manifesto
On the Defense of Culture
An Open Letter to Hashikawa Bunzo
The Logic of "Moral Revolution" - On Paymaster Private Isobe's Posthumous Manuscripts (This is about Isobe Asakichi, one of the leaders of the February 26th, 1936 attempted coup against the government).
The Status of Freedom and Power
Part 2: Dialogues
On the Symbolism of Political Action - Iida Momo and Mishima Yukio
Part 3: Teach-ins with Students
Topic: "The Principles of State Reform" at Hitotsubashi University
At Waseda University
At Ibaraki University
A Promise Yet Unfulfilled - My 25 Years (Since the End of the War)
Part 1: Essays
The Counterrevolutionary Manifesto
- We do not oppose all revolutions. We oppose all plans and activities, whether they be violent or non-violent, that seek to link Communism with administrative power. It goes without saying that this includes all plans of, or including, the formation of a democratic coalition government (pro-Communist government). We will not be deceived by the mask of internationalism or of nationalism, nor will we be misled by the methodological deceptions of direct democratic, popular front, or other kinds. We oppose all forms, both nominal and substantive, of linking Communism with administrative power.
- The Communist Manifesto states the following.
"The Communists [...] openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions."
What we seek to protect are the culture, history, and traditions of Japan, because, according to their dialectical materialist interpretation, these are necessarily included in the "existing social conditions" that they seek to "overthrow."
- We proclaim ourselves the last maintainers, the final representatives, and the quintessence of the culture, history, and traditions of Japan that we seek to defend. We radically oppose all forms of thought that allude to a "better future society," because action for the sake of the future negates the maturation of culture and the nobility of tradition, while transforming the irreplaceable present moment into a process towards revolution. To appoint oneself the manifestation of history; to here and now embody the essence of history; to personify the aesthetic forms of our tradition; and to appoint oneself the last - these principles of action are those of the kamikaze, and the kamikaze have left us their testament, stating, "We believe that there will be others who continue after us." It is this idea that is truly and logically capable of opposing that of the "better future society," because the "others who continue" are none but those who have resolved that they are the last. Validity is of no importance.
- 3. We have observed that postwar revolutionary thought has moved entirely in accordance with the principle of the mass of the weak. However violent its expression may be, the ideology of the weak is inseparable from the principles of their groups and organizations. This is a mass movement that spreads uncertainty, doubt, hatred, malice, and jealousy, uses these as the basis of their threats, and, with these, the most base passions of the weak, as its common element, aims at a particular political goal. Under the pretext of empty and conceptually naïve ideals, they come together with the basest passions of the weak as their basis, gain the majority, "democratically" rule all subgroups and sub-societies, and have thereby oppressed the minority and seeped into all areas of society. This is their method.
We take the position of the strong and depart from the minority. The clarity, magnanimity, honesty, and moral stature of the Japanese spirit belongs to us. Once again, validity is of no importance, because we think of neither our existence nor our actions as a process towards the future.
- Why do we oppose Communism?
First, because it is absolutely incompatible with our national polity, that is, our culture, history, and tradition, and is logically incompatible with the existence of the Emperor, and further, because the Emperor is the sole and irreplaceable symbol of our historical continuity, as well as of our cultural and ethnic unity.
The Meiji state, in planning the eclectic combination of the Western political system with the national polity of Japan, adopted the legal fiction of constitutional monarchy. Postwar Japan has been cut off from this eclectic combination and entered into the comfortably distant relations of parliamentary democracy and the symbolic Emperor system, but one can, on the other hand, say that for just this reason the cultural and non-authoritative nature of the Emperor has become clear. What must be recovered is not a grotesque eclecticism, let alone a system as destructive of our cultural continuity as republicanism.
We approve of freedom of speech, the strong point of contemporary Japan's representative democracy, as a means to reveal the true figure of the Emperor, because it is at the point of contact between the maximum acceptable totality of Japanese culture and the Emperor system as a cultural concept that the new, yet old, national polity which Japan is to discover will likely be made apparent.
They use freedom of speech instrumentally, procedurally, and strategically, while arguing that it contains within itself the progressive value of logically encouraging revolution, but this is a mistake. Freedom of speech is the line of mutual compromise between politics and humanity, and simultaneously that which satisfies the minimal instinctual requirements of man. (See "The Status of Freedom and Authority in this volume).
At present, we possess no political system more capable of guaranteeing freedom of speech than multiparty parliamentary democracy.
This purely technical political system, which seeks only compromise, has the fault of being lacking in idealism and leadership, but it is most appropriate for protecting freedom of speech. It alone is capable of resisting totalitarianism as well as the speech controls, secret police, and concentration camps that necessarily accompany it. Consequently,
Second, we oppose Communism in order to defend freedom of speech.
We shall smash the nationalist mask of the Japan Communist Party, that is, the illusion of an unprecedented Japanese-style humanitarian socialism, the first in the world, that will guarantee freedom of speech, because if this experiment (even if carried out according to their words) were to succeed, it is clear that it would immediately reveal its terrible essence, that is, one-party dictatorship.
- Verbal struggle, economic struggle, and political struggle are their well-worn devices, and to propose "dialogue" is already to be immersed in their strategy. This battle must take place only once, and it must be one of life and death. After the battle of life and death, it is history, the values of the spirit, and morality that shall pass judgement. Our counterrevolution is an act of intercepting the enemy at water's edge. This water's edge is not that of Japanese territory, but the breakwater in the soul of each and every single Japanese. Though our enemies be legion, we must strike a blow at the vile hordes of revolution. In the teeth of the slander and abuse, the ridicule, and the provocations of the masses, in order to awaken the worm-eaten spirit of Japan, with these our lives we must strike a blow at them.
We are those who shall embody the aesthetic tradition of Japan.
On the Defense of Culture
Culturalism and Reverse Culturalism
- They say that it is the Showa Genroku, but as far as literary achievement is concerned it is a very dubious Genroku era.
- In this Showa Genroku, in which there is neither Chikamatsu, nor Saikaku, nor Basho, only extravagant customs run rampant. Passion is exhausted, hard realism has disappeared, and no one is interested in the deepening of poetry. That is, there are no Chikamatsus, no Saikakus, and no Bashos. The nature of the era in which we live, despite originally having supposed to have been of a transparency filled with riddles, has been seen through with a riddle-free clarity.
- Why this happened is a long-standing question of mine. We are tired of all social psychological and, on the other hand, psychoanalytic attempts to explain it from the perspective of denotation, industrialization and urbanization, or the rupture of and alienation from human relationships. They are like an investigation into the upbringing of the murderer after a murder has taken place.
- Something has been severed. That the rich tones no longer resound is because at some point a string was broken. In correspondence with this exhaustion of creativity, a form of culturalism has become an essential factor in the formation of public opinion. Indeed, our time is awash with culturalism. Its sticky hands are to be found clinging to the underside of every cultural phenomenon. If we were to define it briefly, culturalism is that tendency which seeks to sever culture from the bloody womb of life and reproductive activity and judge it on the basis of some joyous humanistic achievement. Thus is culture transformed into something harmless and beautiful, the shared inheritance of mankind, like a fountain in a plaza.
- All art that attempts to express fragmented man as he is, however grisly its subject matter, is rescued by man's very fragmentation and transformed into a fountain in a plaza. Because the overall tragedy of man cannot be demonstrated by the addition of his fragments. We think of ourselves as mere fragments and find solace in ourselves.
- Tragedy as well, regardless of its type, because it cannot escape the confines of its fragments, it is not within our ability to escape it. But because those fragments remain, to revel in our inability to escape and to revel in our escape are one and the same.
- The answer to the question of what Japanese culture is has been most appropriately provided by post-war foreign service and cultural bureaucrats. That is, in line with occupation policy, the severance of the eternal links of "the chrysanthemum and the sword." The good, peace-loving people's mild-mannered culture of flower arrangement and the tea ceremony, as well as the bold patterns of the culture of architecture, became the representatives of Japan's culture.
- They then carried out the following policy of cultural navigation. By various laws and policies they dammed up the sources of the life of culture and its continuity, rendered them valid only in irrigation and the generation of electricity, and thereby sealed up the flood. That is, they severed the links of "the chrysanthemum and the sword," applied only such parts as were valid for the formation of the morality of the citizen, and suppressed those parts that were harmful. The prohibition of kabuki revenge dramas and swordfight movies in the early stages of occupation policy is the most primitive and direct manifestation of this policy.
- After a time, occupation policy shed its primitiveness. Prohibitions were lifted, and culture was respected. This was simultaneous with the success of various political and social reforms, and was likely because it was thought that the tendency to revert to the sources of culture had been extinguished. This is when culturalism began. That is to say that it became impossible for anything to be harmful.
- It is like the attitude of art for art's sake of the indulgent consumer, who appreciates culture mainly in the form of works and objects. This naturally presents no obstacle to contribution to political thought as a hobby. Culture was safely managed as an object, and peacefully moved in the direction of being "the shared cultural heritage of mankind."
- We have already stated that its results have been poor. Nevertheless, culturalism has continued to be satisfied with itself, and has become, alongside the progress of mass society, its greatest public face. This is, however, the inevitable result of the educationalism of the Taisho period. Japanese culture became Japan's vindication before the world while also linking up with the values of peaceful welfare within the country. The line of thinking that reduces culture to its welfare value is founded on the humanism of the masses and became the basis for a sham cultural protectionism.
- When we speak of protecting culture, we imagine either the dead culture of museums or the dead lifestyles of peace. These two elements fused and have safely combined. This compound torments us. However, respect for culture as an object, as a cultural asset, as cultural inheritance does not put democracy or socialism to the question, with the exception of the radicalism of the Chinese Communists.
- The Socialist Party's post-accession cultural policy, published last year, states the following.
- 3. The Creation of Culture for the People
- a. Those Who Work Will Make Culture
The aim of the cultural policy of the Socialist Party government will be to guide working people such that they can, while understanding and enjoying culture, become themselves the subject of its creation. The Socialist Party government will reform our culture, in which the professional literati create and the masses passively consume, and develop one in which working people and the educated will together create culture. Workers and peasants will, while working and toiling in their fields, create music, theater, novels, and poetry according to their interest. Superior works will be recognized by and spread throughout all of society. Those with cultural ability will be selected from among the working people and join the professional literati. Television, the radio, and the newspapers will become a stage for the introduction and diffusion of the culture created by the working people. National and public theaters, auditoria, youth and women's cultural centers, and children's parks and halls will be established in large numbers for the use of workers' circles.
b. The Development of National Culture
The Socialist Party government will respect, preserve, and develop the culture and arts passed down to us by our Japanese ancestors. In addition to Noh, Kabuki, Bunraku and the like, we shall respect folk music, folk dance, dance, folk art, folk crafts and so on, treat intangible cultural assets well, and foster the training of their successors. While preserving the forms of these traditional cultural arts, we will develop them by giving them a new life and a new content. We will preserve the former capitals of Nara, Kyoto, and Kamakura while making efforts toward the preservation of the tangible cultural assets of the artistic crafts, the pictorial arts, sculptures, and buildings, as well as the opening and publication of folk materials and monuments to famous, historical, and natural sites. Further, we will prevent the outward flow of cultural assets and shore up our public and national art and other museums. On the other hand, along with the aforementioned preservation of and respect for our national culture, we will also actively encourage exchange with the arts and culture of other countries. (Quoted from November 5th, 1967, eds. Japan Socialist Party Headquarters Office of Propaganda and Policy Council, Study Text No. 7, Looking to Tomorrow Chapter Ten, "A New Man and a New Culture." Author emphasis.
- As a brief perusal of the foregoing should demonstrate, the distinction between a. and b. is expressive of the essence of socialist cultural policy and revealing of the ambivalence of culturalism. That is, a. means that they will tamper with what culture they can, and b. means that they will ignore culture that is not in need of tampering. Also within b., as the section in italics makes clear, the form and content of culture are regarded as separable, and since form itself is harmless, it is further regarded as capable of being filled with useful content. If taken to the extreme, one can see faintly the logical basis for the possibility of something like Jiang Qing's reform of the Peking Opera.
- However, regarding culture that remains simply as an object, just as the Leningrad Opera is of no harm to the Soviets, so are Kabuki, Noh, and all other forms of traditional Japanese culture on the whole harmless. Rather, they a valuable source of tourism, and there is little doubt that the Kabuki actor who is at present a member of the Japanese Academy of Arts can at the drop of the hat be given the title of People's Artist.
- Culture of the sort described in a. is, on the other hand, the object of a new rearing and cultivation. It is self-evident that this will be carried out within the framework of political policy. There is also here an awareness of the fact that culture created by amateurs is far more easily controlled than that created by established professionals. Once the socialist state has gained a monopoly on the means of expression, it can, even without forcing especial restrictions on speech, in exchange for appealing to the average amateur's vanity and desire to publish, easily control content.
- Nevertheless, it goes without saying that it is the culture that is currently being produced that socialism will strictly manage and rigorously police. History has proven that they will show no mercy in this regard. It took fifty years for the Soviet revolutionary government to rehabilitate Dostoevsky, though some view that as having been insufficient. On the underside of those splendid rumors of liberalization, the forward march of repression continued. There are now rumors of Yevtushenko being under house arrest, while three writers - Vladimir Bukovsky, Evgeny Kushov, and Vadim Delone - have been put on trial. In Poland, the staging of "The Festivals of Our Fathers," a tragedy critical of Russia and the Tsar, was prohibited on grounds of being anti-Soviet, thus setting off the student movement.
- The permissibility of the excuse that political controls prevent the enfeeblement of culture, is a contradiction contained within culture itself, and an eternal contradiction existing between culture and freedom. The cause of the enfeeblement of the culture of contemporary Japan is a standing question, and whether it should be healed through the restoration of cultural continuity, or through the positive eradication of culture (revolution) is a debate with no end in sight.
- But, because the culturalism of the so-called democratic camp, and the respect that socialist countries show safe cultural assets both take the outward form of the protection and preservation of tradition, they are easiest to shake hands with.
- Culture is viewed as a formed object from both standpoints. What occurs as a result is well shown by the actions of Marshall Petain, who, in order to avoid the destruction of Paris and the architectural wonders of the Middle and later ages contained therein, handed her over to the enemy. Because Paris is not only a part of French culture, but also part of the cultural heritage of all humanity, friend and foe alike agreed on the importance of protecting it from destruction. However, on the political side of things, one side surrendered to the other and secured the preservation of Paris at the cost of the national spirit. This event obviously led to the devastation of the national spirit, but, because it was an invisible form of destruction, it was, by comparison with visible forms of destruction, far more acceptable.
- If this form of culturalism were turned on its head, for the sake of the formation of an invisible revolutionary spirit like that of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, it would pass for a "reverse culturalism" or "inside-out culturalism" destructive of all visible culture. They are two sides of the same coin. When I spoke with some very young people on television and listened to one pacifist argue that Japan should seek a completely demilitarized peace, that it would be acceptable for us to be massacred without showing the least resistance to a foreign invader, and that it would acceptable for the ideal of the Peace Constitution to be given life in world history by such means, I took great interest in the direct connection between this and the wartime ideology of the entire nation giving their lives out of loyalty and honor. That is, the idea that, if it is for the sake of protecting that culture that is not seen - the soul of our country, and its spiritual values, then it is acceptable that their possessors be eradicated and all visible culture destroyed.
- This wartime phenomenon has, like a positive and a negative, been transmitted to postwar thought. This reverse culturalism is, as has previously been stated, inextricably tied to postwar culturalism. Each in its turn attests to the paradox that is culture.