THE rioting crowds that clamored at the gates of the Japanese Diet building in May and June and the throngs of Zengakuren students who snake-danced wildly down the streets of Tokyo and swarmed over Hagerty's car at Haneda Airport have given pause to many persons in both the United States and Japan. To Americans, who saw these scenes on their television screens, it seems that Japan stands irresolute at a way station between the Communist camp and the free world. Many Japanese who participated in this drama or watched it unfold on their own television screens feel even more strongly that their country stands at a crossroads of history--but to them, the diverging roads lead, not to Communist or democratic camps, but to somewhat vaguer goals labeled "peace" and "war" or "democracy" and "Fascism."

It is perhaps this sharp contrast in images of the situation between Americans and Japanese that is the most alarming feature of the recent crisis. Never since the end of the war has the gap in understanding between Americans and Japanese been wider than over this incident. Almost to a man, American observers express bafflement over the violent Japanese reaction to the revised Security Treaty with the United States and Eisenhower's scheduled visit, while Japanese intellectuals appear frustrated over their inability to explain their attitude to American friends. After 15 years of massive contact, Americans and Japanese seem to have less real communication than ever.

One point on which all would agree is that, whatever the basic motives and immediate inciting forces, the demonstrations and riots of May and June were expressions of wide opposition to the Security Treaty and any military link with the United States. Virtually all of the demonstrators would have liked to see at least a postponement of the ratification of the treaty, and the great majority wanted the treaty killed and the present military link with the United States, together with the existing American bases in Japan, either eliminated at once or else ended in stages.

It is not hard to surmise what the results of such a policy would be in East Asia. A Japanese repudiation of its alliance with the United States might stir up a momentary pro-American reaction in such strongly anti-Japanese and firmly pro-American countries as South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, just as the enforced cancellation of Eisenhower's visit to Japan seems to have heightened the enthusiasm of the welcomers in these countries, who gloated that now, at last, Americans could see who their real friends were. But even in these countries, to say nothing of the less committed areas, the long-range reactions would undoubtedly be most unfavorable to the United States. Neutralism, if not open pro-Communism, would be shown to be the obvious "wave of the future," and a scramble to get on the Communist bandwagon would probably soon follow.

At the same time, American defense potentialities would be drastically reduced throughout East Asia. This might not be true in the field of nuclear weapons--only a person with classified knowledge could speak confidently on that point--but it certainly would hold for limited wars with conventional weapons, which seem to be the more present danger in the Far East. It would probably be folly to attempt to stem a second attack from North Korea on South Korea if the United States lacked the backing, not so much of its bases in Japan, as of the great industrial facilities available in Japanese ports and cities. Bases in Okinawa, Formosa and the Philippines offer no real substitute for the latter. Thus, an unfriendly Japan or even a strictly neutralist Japan might well mean the inevitable withdrawal of the American defense line to the mid-Pacific--with all the vast political consequences this would entail for the whole of East Asia.

The present situation in Japan, however, does not lend support to so gloomy a prospect--at least in the near future. In spite of all the frenzy of May and June and the torrent of extreme statements it let loose, Japan's actual foreign and domestic policies have remained on a surprisingly even keel. Although vast crowds of highly aroused people, sometimes running into the hundreds of thousands, demonstrated day after day for more than a month, only one person, a girl student at Tokyo University, was killed; Kishi stoically sat out the storm, and the new Security Treaty came into effect on June 19 without further parliamentary debate; the bulk of the opposition, that is, all but the extremists who have all along advocated the forceful overthrow of the government, have accepted, with irritation but also with resignation, this fait accompli, as they call it; the Japanese public as a whole has recoiled in distaste and fear from the violence that accompanied the anti-treaty demonstrations, just as it has reacted unfavorably against political violence each time that it has occurred since the war; both sides are loud in their insistence that parliamentary procedures must be maintained; the daily press, which has tremendous influence in Japan, has adopted a very moderate, judicious tone on the recent disturbances and the disagreements that lie behind them--in rather sharp contrast to the more inflammatory stand it took in the early days of the crisis; three elections for governors in rural prefectures have shown the local voting appeal of the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party scarcely dented by the opposition Socialists, who had the backing of the Communists in two of these elections; Ikeda, who succeeded Kishi as party chief and Premier has been favorably received by the public and seems to have its confidence more than Kishi ever did; and it is taken for granted that the general election for the Diet, expected in November, will result in the usual clear victory for the Liberal-Democrats, who, it is predicted, will not lose more than 30 seats to the opposition, and possibly no seats at all. In other words, the normal orderliness of the Japanese public, aided by the vacation atmosphere and the muggy oppressiveness of summer, has caused the confusion, excitement and anxiety of May and June to subside more rapidly than seemed possible at that time, and there is every prospect that the governing party, which is solidly committed to the present defense relationship with the United States, will stay in power for the foreseeable future.

These conclusions may be comforting to Americans, but they do not warrant writing off the May and June crisis as a tempest in a teapot. It was a sign of a huge current of discontent within Japanese society--a frustration with present trends and a strong sense of alienation from the existing order. This current has broken surface from time to time in the past, but never so clearly or forcefully as in the past few months. It cannot be disregarded, for it is made up, not just of the formally organized Socialist opposition, centering around the trade-union movement, but also of the bulk of Japan's intellectuals and college students--that is, the would-be ideological pathfinders and the generation to which the future Japan belongs. There is little prospect that their views will prevail in Japanese politics in the immediate future, but their victory at some future date seems not just possible but probable. It is for this reason that the growing gap between their thinking and that of Americans is a truly frightening phenomenon.

American views on the Security Treaty and the recent disturbances in Japan need no explanation for an American audience, but it might be best to set them forth briefly as a prelude to a consideration of the views of government and opposition elements in Japan. The prevailing American attitude might be put simply and bluntly as follows:

Japan is an industrially important country located dangerously close to the borders of both the Soviet Union and Communist China. In Communist hands, it would give overwhelming strength to the Communist movement throughout Asia, but, allied with the West, it could give great economic and political support to the whole cause of democracy and freedom in Asia. The Japanese people, however, still reacting strongly against the terrible suffering they brought upon themselves in the last war, are staunchly pacifistic and refuse to devote more than a mere 10 percent of their national budget to defense. The United States, therefore, has been forced to carry the main load of defense for the islands, as well as for neighboring areas. But, recognizing the desire of the Japanese to stand on a more equal footing with the United States, the latter has been willing to negotiate a new Security Treaty, which makes substantial concessions to Japanese desires. For example, the new treaty, unlike the old, is limited to a mere ten years, and the United States agrees to consult before employing elsewhere its forces stationed in Japan.

Although the Kishi government, which negotiated the new treaty with the United States, was firmly based on close to two-thirds of both the popular votes and the seats in the Diet, the opposition Socialists seemed determined to stop ratification of the treaty by fair means or foul. Less than two years ago, this same minority opposition managed to block passage of a bill giving to the present pusillanimous police force powers more comparable to those exercised by the police in other democratic countries. A repetition of this sort of victory for the minority would seem a travesty on democracy--especially since large elements in this minority are openly pro-Communist and thus are in no sense believers in democracy. It seemed quite possible that this would happen when the Socialists attempted on May 19 to stop a vote to extend the duration of the Diet by a sit-down encampment in the halls of the Diet building, imprisoning the elderly Speaker of the Lower House for six hours. Kishi, therefore, was probably justified, even if not politically wise, in clearing out the encamped Socialists by force late that night and in then ramming through in the next few minutes both the extension of the Diet and the ratification of the treaty, even though there was no debate and the opposition minority was absent.

The mammoth demonstrations which followed (so the American view continues) were an undemocratic effort by minority elements--city people as opposed to rural and town dwellers and the intelligentsia as opposed to the common people--to force their will by non-parliamentary agitation on the duly elected representatives of the people. The original organizers of these demonstrations were clearly anti-democratic elements. In the forefront stood Sohyo, the largest of the labor organizations, and Zengakuren, the union of university student-government associations, which can claim to speak for 270,000 of Japan's 630,000 college students. Sohyo, though usually a formal supporter of the Socialist Party, is distinctly pro-Communist in its international stand, and the leadership of Zengakuren is split between violently battling Communist factions. If many of the demonstrators in May and June were themselves sincere believers in democracy, then they were showing themselves naive dupes of international Communism in lending support to non-parliamentary agitation led by these obvious enemies of democracy. Kishi is to be praised for having withstood this sort of pressure and for having seen to it that the views of the majority prevailed in this matter of vital importance for the future safety of Japan.

While many Americans would, no doubt, object to one or another of the above statements, as a whole they represent the overwhelming American response to the situation and actually are not far from the thinking of important elements among Japanese businessmen and government leaders. Still more of the conservative economic and political leaders of Japan would probably object to certain aspects of this analysis, while accepting others. They would be more inclined to criticize Kishi's tactics in handling the crisis. In fact, several of the Liberal-Democratic Diet members refused to take part in the surprise vote on treaty ratification. Many would be inclined to stress Japan's desire for peace and for friendship with Communist China, while not denying the need for defense. Most would probably emphasize the importance to Japan of trade with America and the resulting need that Japan go along with American policies, thus making their own support for the treaty more a matter of necessity than of free choice.

The attitude of the rank and file of Liberal-Democratic voters would undoubtedly be even less clear-cut. The desire for peace and neutrality runs deep in Japan. Those with direct responsibility for international policies have had to face up to the hard realities of the international situation, but the further one moves from these positions of immediate responsibility, the less realistic becomes the appraisal of the situation and the stronger the emotional demands for peace and neutralism at any price. A large proportion of the Liberal-Democratic voters might join the opposition Socialists if given a chance to vote solely on the question of the Security Treaty.

But, when rural and small-town Japanese vote for their governors, local councilmen and Diet representatives, other things loom much larger in their minds than foreign relations and complicated treaties. They are much more conscious of the new roads, bridges and subsidies for local organizations provided by the Liberal-Democratic politicians. Under their aegis, Japan has enjoyed six years of unprecedented prosperity and economic growth. Last year alone, this growth amounted to an almost incredible 16 percent. A consumers' revolution is taking place--most spectacularly in rural Japan, where television sets, washing machines, motorcycles and powered agricultural machines are now taken for granted. Marxist class dogma and the hyper-theoreticalness of the Socialists have little meaning to the hardheaded farmers and small-town residents of Japan. In their eyes, the excesses of the city eggheads and smart college boys in the recent rioting probably went a long way toward nullifying the appeal of the peace motive in the anti-treaty agitation. Like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, especially in times of prosperity, the farmers and small-town dwellers of Japan have been voting conservative and show every sign of continuing to do so.

II

The opposition to the Liberal-Democrats and to their policy of alliance with the United States is of two types. At the extreme left stands the Communist Party, which can usually muster only around 2 or 3 percent of the vote, and the communistically inclined shimpa or "sympathizers." These extremists, though few in number, give a strongly radical tinge to the whole opposition movement because, as dedicated activists, they tend to dominate organizations whose general membership is much more moderate. Zengakuren and Nikkyoso, the main teachers' unions, are outstanding examples of such Communist-led groups. The nature of the opposition of these Communists is clear, as is their cynical attempt to use parliamentary government as one route by which to achieve the type of dictatorship in which they believe.

The bulk of the opposition, however, consists of supporters of the Socialist Party and of the recently formed Democratic Socialists, who stand a little closer to the center. Most of these people are sincere believers in democracy and are devoted to the ideal of international peace. Though much less publicized abroad than the Communists, they are vastly more significant. Not only do they outnumber the communistically inclined at least four or five to one, but they show a capacity for growth, whereas true Communist converts have in recent years been a steadily shrinking band. The moderate opposition may prove to be the political wave of the future, and only through skillful manipulation of it could the Communists ever hope to come to power.

To understand the attitude of the moderate opposition and its outburst of protest in May and June one must first look at the historical background. Like most other people throughout history, the Japanese are much more conscious of past blunders than of future dangers. An authoritarian, militaristic government during the 1930s suppressed Japan's nascent democracy and led the nation on a course of imperialistic expansion that ended in complete, shattering defeat, dramatized by the instantaneous destruction of two whole cities by atom bombs. Remembering this history, many Japanese feel that their most urgent task is to battle any sign of resurgent Fascism or militarism. Thus, the augmentation of the powers of the police seems to them, not a routine measure to combat crime and public disorder, but a sinister plot to restore one of the main and most hated weapons of the prewar Fascistic militarists.

Similarly the Security Pact with the United States, which in their eyes amounts to a military alliance, seems the first step back toward involvement in imperialistic world rivalries, made all the more perilous by the development of new and more terrible weapons, of which only the Japanese people in all the world have had a true taste. Neutral abstention from senseless Russian-American power rivalries would seem the only reasonable course. Naked defenselessness would be safer than partisan involvement in a war in which neither side can have any real defense.

Involved in the treaty question is the problem of the new Japanese Constitution. Article 9 of this document states that the Japanese "forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation" and that "land, sea and air forces, or other war potential, will never be maintained." Despite this idealistic declaration, which has the fervent support of a large part of the Japanese people, the Liberal-Democratic government has reconstituted a Japanese army, navy and air force, under the name of Self-Defense Forces, and, what seems even worse to the opposition, is doing its best to tie Japan to one of the two great military blocs now fighting for supremacy in the world. The revised Security Treaty, though ostensibly an improvement over the old, is felt to be worse for Japan, in that the Japanese had no responsibility for the earlier one, since it was imposed upon them during the Occupation, but the new one is of their own making. Thus the new Treaty's provision for prior consultation on the use of American forces stationed in Japan, far from being a gain for the Japanese, merely involves them more fully in the dangerous game of power politics.

Article 9 has been the focus of proposals for Constitutional revision, which the opposition views with even greater alarm. A few may concede that there is something to the Liberal-Democratic argument that a country cannot give up the right to self-defense, but most look upon conservative proposals to revise Article 9 as merely the opening wedge in an effort to emasculate the whole Constitution and undermine the democratic structure it supports. Conservative arguments that the Constitution needs revision because it was at least in part dictated by the American occupation authorities, they look upon as pure chicanery, since to them the Liberal-Democrats seem blindly pro-American and, therefore, obviously not sincere in this argument.

The violence of the Socialist opposition on such issues as strengthening the police, negotiating a new Security Treaty, or revising the Constitution, can be explained only by the opposition's assumption that the leadership of the Liberal-Democrats, if not the party as whole, is dedicated to recreating the authoritarian, militaristic system of prewar Japan. To stop this, they feel, forward-looking people must be constantly vigilant and must be prepared to exert extra-parliamentary pressures if necessary. This is particularly true since Japan, they feel sure, is far from being a true democracy. However perfect the external forms may be, the inner realities are not there. The Japanese people, accustomed to centuries of authoritarian rule, do not have natural democratic reactions. Japanese society is still hopelessly "feudalistic," by which they mean that a high degree of social inequality and authoritarianism still remains in personal relations in the family, in education, business and government, and the individual still lacks the habit of depending on his own independent judgment. The Liberal-Democratic majority in the Diet, therefore, is not really the expression of majority desires so much as the result of skillful manipulation of the less awakened strata of society, through traditional channels of authority, through a judicious parcelling out of economic favors, and through open bribery. Under these circumstances, mass demonstrations and extra-parliamentary pressures are justified to prevent this somewhat bogus and highly suspect majority from forcing the enlightened minority back into the despicable prewar system.

This whole attitude is symptomatic of the dangerous ideological gulfs that exist within Japanese society. These gulfs may be the inescapable result of the tremendous rate of social, political and ideological change over the last century, and particularly during the past 15 years. Change has been so rapid that the Japanese have temporarily lost a central core of ideals on which all groups can agree. Change of course has been rapid in the West, too, but the speed has been sufficiently slower in countries like England and America so that the various groups in society have not lost this unifying core of ideals; therefore they do trust one another's sincerity, if not their wisdom. In Japan, on the contrary, businessmen and intellectuals seem to speak different languages. There is little trust and respect between them. The gap between generations is even greater. Young people feel that their elders simply do not understand. The fact that the "main stream" group of Zengakuren is engaged in bitter fighting with the Communist Party can be cited as a typical example of youth revolting against the older generation--even when the two are on the same side.

Since the opposition to the Liberal-Democrats expresses itself as Communist and Socialist political movements, it is reasonable to ask what is the economic background for it. Naturally the labor-union core of the Socialist Party can be explained as a manifestation of clashing economic interests, but this does not apply clearly to either the intellectuals or students. Intellectual and white-collar workers in Japan, as in other economically advanced countries, are finding their relative economic status sinking in comparison with that of both management and labor. Japanese students also are under very heavy psychological pressures from primary school onward in the tremendous competition to excel--first in passing entrance examinations to the more desirable schools at each educational level and then in passing the examinations that lead to the relatively few promising jobs in government or business. But a rapidly expanding economy has definitely eased the economic pressures on intellectuals in recent years, and employment prospects for college graduates have recently taken a sharp turn for the better. The strong sense of dissatisfaction with society and alienation from it on the part of these groups, therefore, is all the more significant just because it has become further exacerbated at a time of unprecedented prosperity.

Though Marxian theory does little to explain the ideological cleavages in Japan, Marxism as a belief is undoubtedly an important factor. Japanese intellectuals and students tend to think in Marxian terms. Why this should be so is a difficult question. One reason may be that Japanese intellectuals, reacting against an extremely pragmatic society around them, have tended to be overly theoretical. In the latter part of the nineteenth century they took eagerly to the rigid theoreticalness of German thought, abandoning in large part the Anglo-American schools of philosophy that had at first attracted them. In the 1930s only the Marxists, armed with their rigid dogmas, stood up firmly against the wave of hyper-nationalistic mysticism that inundated Japan. The idea became firmly implanted, therefore, that Marxism, rather than liberal democracy, was the chief enemy of militarism and authoritarianism. The poverty of the American Occupation in theory--for all its practical reforms--did nothing to correct this situation. The result is that, for many Japanese intellectuals, Socialism and democracy are closely intertwined concepts; businessmen, as "capitalists," are suspect by definition; and the Communist countries, for all their deplorable excesses, are vaguely felt to stand on a higher political plane than the democracies.

Naturally this results in a very different picture of the world situation than that prevalent in the United States. Democratically inclined students and teachers, fearing "capitalism" and "imperialism" more than Communism, see no reason why they should not make common cause with the Communists against the "forces of reaction," and they even welcome Communists as leaders of their organizations, because the latter are so "sincere" and active in the cause. Anti-Russian sentiments remain strong, but the attitude toward China is very different. Feeling deeply their geographic propinquity, racial affinity and, above all, their cultural relationship to the Chinese, the Japanese have a tremendous yearning for the reestablishment of friendly contact with China. Culturally, China is their Egypt, Greece, Rome and Renaissance Italy combined. An unspoken but keen feeling of guilt over Japan's wartime conduct in China heightens this attitude of friendship. China as a Communist nation greatly increases Communism's appeal in Japan, just as a Communist Russia weakens it.

Given this background, one can understand what happened in May and June. For the past two years there has been a rising sense of frustration in the opposition, because the Socialist vote, which previously had been gaining steadily, has been showing signs of levelling off into a permanent minority of about one-third. The fault for this probably lies with the Socialists themselves for being too class-bound in their appeal and too theoretical, unrealistic and negative in their criticism of the Liberal-Democrats. But the result is a dangerously unbalanced political situation in which the majority has little worry about losing to the opposition, and the latter, despairing of ever winning, becomes increasingly frustrated and therefore more extreme.

A combination of factors this spring helped to aggravate feelings further. The Security Pact in itself is as hot an issue as exists in Japanese politics and one on which many Liberal-Democratic voters lend support to the opposition. The U-2 incident, followed closely by the break-up of the summit conference and the cancellation of the Russian invitation to Eisenhower, dashed Japanese hopes for peace and heightened fears regarding the treaty. This seemed to be a particularly unwise time to anger the Soviet Union and Communist China, Japan's two great neighbors, both of whom had made harsh and threatening statements about the proposed treaty. To many Japanese, Socialist efforts to delay action on the treaty, even by sit-down encampments in the Diet, seemed completely justified, particularly since Kishi seemed evasive in answering questions about the treaty and the Socialists could point to several slight irregularities on the part of the Liberal-Democrats in committee hearings on the treaty and in the actions of the Ways and Means Committee.

When Kishi, in response to the May 19 sit-down, pushed ratification through by an immediate surprise vote, the reaction was truly explosive. Even those who were inclined to criticize the forceful tactics of the Socialists felt that Kishi's offense against parliamentary procedures was far greater, and many others decided that Kishi had intended all along to resort to this underhand tactic in order to have the treaty go into effect automatically a month later, in time for Eisenhower's visit to Japan on June 19.

Whatever Kishi's motives may have been, the timing of the surprise vote brought Eisenhower's visit directly into Japanese politics. Increasingly it appeared to the Japanese public that the visit was aimed at lending Kishi support and at helping to push the treaty through against popular opposition. American insistence that Eisenhower would come willy-nilly, while largely determined by fears that a cancellation would be regarded as a triumph for international Communism, looked to the Japanese like obvious willingness to interfere blatantly in domestic Japanese politics. The inclusion of Japan in a tour to the Philippines, Taiwan, Okinawa and Korea was commonly interpreted as proof that the United States regarded Japan as merely another "semi-colonial land" in its Far Eastern defense chain.

What had started as a violent but straightforward attack on the Security Treaty by a fairly limited group rapidly expanded after May 19 into a tremendous, mass outburst against Kishi, against Eisenhower's visit, and for the immediate dissolution of the Diet so that general elections could be held to obtain a new popular mandate before so controversial and perilous a step as ratification of the treaty should be undertaken.

The demand for dissolution of the Diet was by no means unreasonable. One could argue that, in an ideal democracy, major political decisions should always be referred to the voters. In practical politics, however, the party in power naturally tries to avoid an election on any relatively unpopular aspect of its program. To Western observers, Kishi's refusal to dissolve the Diet seemed quite natural, but all elements in the opposition and many conservative voters as well rose in righteous indignation at what they considered Kishi's arrogant refusal to heed "the voice of the people."

The fury of the anti-Kishi sentiment needs some explanation. Unlike a popularly elected President, or even a British Prime Minister, who is the unchallenged head of his party, Kishi had achieved the Premiership as the leader of one of several bitterly feuding cliques among Liberal-Democratic politicians. Thus in his own party many persons were prepared to welcome his fall. And to the opposition he was the personification of all that they feared most. As an old-line bureaucrat and a member of the Tojo Cabinet that had led Japan to disaster, Kishi seemed to many Japanese a resurrected Tojo or a Hitler.

Reports of the demonstration in the Western press naturally emphasized the leadership taken by Communist-dominated groups, the hiring of some of the demonstrators, the participation of many people simply to avoid the censure of their companions, and, most of all, the acts of violence of the Zengakuren zealots. All these points were true, but to the bulk of the Japanese participants they appear only minor aspects of the movement, more than offset by the use of hired rowdies by certain rightist groups. To the opposition, the demonstration seemed a great and noble expression of popular will. Undoubtedly the vast majority of the demonstrators went out into the streets because they felt that Kishi, in his refusal to dissolve the Diet and in his ramming through of the treaty ratification, was trampling on democracy and leading Japan back to rearmament and war. The student bodies of the universities, for once answering the Zengakuren call, turned out almost en masse. Strollers on the city streets and stay-at-home housewives joined the parades. The faculty and students of five Christian universities of Tokyo organized their own demonstration. Though they paraded some 6,000 strong, they were so careful to avoid inflammatory placards or any sign of violence that their effort went virtually unnoticed by the press.

One interesting feature of the demonstration was that, despite the violently anti-American stand of the Communists and despite the tremendous opposition to the treaty with the United States and the visit of Eisenhower, there was no general anti-American feeling. All observers agree that the demonstrating crowds showed not the slightest sign of hostility toward individual American observers, and almost all Japanese intellectuals who had contact with Americans showed an almost pathetic eagerness to explain the "true situation" to their American friends. My own impression during the aftermath of the crisis is that I have never seen Japanese more genuinely friendly toward the United States.

The May and June outburst, though politically a complete failure, has left a curious sense of excitement, even euphoria, among intellectuals. Since they feel that the greatest weakness of democracy in Japan is the apathy and political inexperience of the people, they view the mass response of the city crowds, and particularly of themselves, to the political crisis as symbolizing the beginning of "true" democracy in Japan. The university students have enthusiastically switched to a "back to the village movement," by which they mean an effort to stir up greater political consciousness in their home communities. In as much as this effort is aimed primarily at the polls, it may indicate a much healthier political phenomenon than snake-dancing parades. Many intellectuals regard the recent demonstrations as their first practical encounter with politics and argue that if, as foreign critics point out, the weakness of the opposition is its theoreticalness and unrealism, then this marks the first step toward a more realistic approach to political problems.

It must also be recognized that the May and June outburst in a sense centered around the demands of the minority that its view be given serious consideration. The rights of the parliamentary minority have been institutionalized in some countries, as in the curious phenomenon of the filibuster in the United States. The Japanese through this travail may be working out a balance between majority and minority rights that may prove a distinct contribution to democracy--at least as it exists in Japan.

It is easy enough to point out flaws and dangers in the views of the opposition. No one can say what is in the hearts of individual Liberal-Democratic leaders, but the actual political record in postwar Japan and the attitude of the general conservative-voting public would indicate that the fears of the opposition about the Liberal-Democratic Party are grossly exaggerated. Moreover, in a country like Japan in which spontaneous democratic reactions are not yet firmly developed, any recourse to violence or emotional public outbursts seems dangerous. Violence obviously breeds violence. The stabbing by inflamed rightists of Kishi and Kawakami, a Socialist Diet member, at the height of the excitement illustrates the point. Violence by the opposition seems the most likely way to stir up the very rightist reaction that they seek to prevent. And most Western observers are discouraged by the naiveté of the democratic opposition in its acceptance, not only of Communist support, but even of Communist leadership. One can even detect a dangerous tinge of élitism in the intellectuals' unwillingness to accept the conservative vote of rural Japan as a valid expression of majority opinion--an élitism that harks back to an old and most undemocratic tradition.

Much of the opposition's attitude also seems based on unformulated but firm premises that are obviously wrong. One is the assumption that Japan now, as in the past, has an all-powerful government, somehow imposed from the top down. This was more or less the situation up through the age of General MacArthur, less than a decade ago. Intellectuals and the press are apparently so accustomed to this situation that they visualize their role as merely one of criticism. Perhaps, as a result of the recent crisis, the press and some intellectuals have come to realize that, now that government policy is controlled ultimately by popular opinion which they themselves help shape, criticism must be both responsible and realistic.

Another unspoken assumption, I believe, is that American defense of Japan is part of the natural order of things. Few intellectuals seem to have given serious thought to the question whether Japan can maintain true neutrality and independence without first rearming. None seems to have pondered what the Japanese would do if the decisions on nasty international problems were left up to them. They have given no thought to whether or not they would attempt to stop a new Communist aggression in Korea. And yet such difficult questions might well arise whether or not there were a Security Treaty. The chief opposition to the new treaty has been concentrated on Japan's increased responsibility for the American military posture in Japan; the attack has not been a frontal one on American defense itself. In other words, Japanese intellectuals have not realistically faced the logical conclusions of the course they advocate.

III

All this reveals a weakness of communication between the Western democracies and opposition elements in Japan. Though the latter include the most fervent supporters of peace and democracy, their thinking is so far removed from that of their counterparts in the West that sometimes no real dialogue is possible. On top of the ever-present language barrier stands an even higher barrier of unspoken assumptions that make true understanding difficult.

We can, of course, say that the fault lies with the Japanese intellectuals for being so unrealistic, but the fault also lies with us for failing to understand what is in their minds. The shocking misestimate of the situation in May and June on the part of the American Government and Embassy in Tokyo reveals how small is our contact with the Japanese opposition. It is natural that our Embassy should have more contact with English-speaking businessmen and with conservative political leaders, who not only stand in the positions of responsibility but also share more of our point of view on world problems. But we should know enough about Japan to realize that a great gulf in thinking lies between these people and the intellectuals and others of the opposition. The latter are right in their charge that the close contacts they once had with Americans during the Occupation no longer exist.

No one can say what the historical upshot of the recent disturbance will be. One could argue that it has offered a sign of the growing gap between the party in power and its opponents, of rising tension and violence that can only end in a leftist revolution or a Fascistic suppression of the opposition. The intemperance of arguments lends support to this thesis. A major economic recession or heightened world tensions would naturally increase the possibilities of this outcome.

Under present conditions, however, a more realistic appraisal might be that the obvious distaste of the Japanese public for violence, the rapid quieting down of the situation, and the sudden judicious balance shown by the press, all indicate that Japan's practical politics will probably continue on its remarkably level course, despite the verbal storms that rage around the ship of state. One might even give some credence to the views of the intellectuals who see the mass demonstrations as strengthening grassroots democracy and increasing the realism of an overly-theoretical opposition.

One factor that should be borne in mind is the appearance soon on the political scene of the first truly postwar generation, that is, the first group of college graduates which has received the whole of its education since the end of the war. The greatest change in Japanese education has been at the elementary level, and therefore these first products of postwar elementary education are of special interest. The discussion method and study-project system have made them a much more outspoken, individualistic and self-confident group than their predecessors. But just for this reason, they feel all the more alienated from their elders. Their self-reliance could easily turn into revolutionary impatience. On the other hand, their outspokenness and independent outlook could contribute to the strengthening of true democracy.

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  • EDWIN O. REISCHAUER, Professor of Japanese History, Harvard University; Director, Harvard-Yenching Institute; former Special Assistant in the Office of Far Eastern Affairs, Department of State; author of "The United States and Japan," "Wanted: An Asian Policy" and other works
  • More By Edwin O. Reischauer