Japanese Fascism

Richard Sims looks at Japanese fascism in the 1930s.

Seigō Nakano
Seigō Nakano

The 1930s were the most eventful and turbulent decade in Japanese history since the 1860s. Its early years witnessed the assassination or fatal wounding of two prime ministers, the murder of two other prominent public figures, the plotting of two abortive military coups, and the ending of governments headed by party politicians. In foreign policy there was a decisive rejection of international co-operation as the Japanese army engineered the seizure of Manchuria and Japan withdrew from the League of Nations. In 1936 radical discontent among young army officers burst forth dramatically in the February 26th Incident, an attempted coup in which more establishment leaders were killed. This marked the peak of violence, but when Japan stumbled into war with China in 1937, the trend towards totalitarianism quickened pace. Trade unions were suppressed, with an Industrial Association for Service to Country taking their place, while in 1940 the political parties were dissolved to make way for the Imperial Rule Assistance Association. As Japan entered into alliance with Germany and Italy in 1940 and then slid towards war with America and Britain, there were, unsurprisingly, no open voices of dissent.

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