The plight of the peasants under the commercial-industrial elites and traditional ruling classes in the countryside caused an emergence of rightist radicalism, and this agrarians’ patriotic sentiment was used by the militarist leaders who hoped for their expansion abroad. The Japanese village structure, which suppressed open conflict, contributed the landlords’ leadership among the peasants.
In the 1930s, some forty percent of the total Japanese population engaged in silk growing. Sericulture was an important source of income for two million farmers, and the landlords expressed their traditional patriotism called “Nohon-shugi.” However, the real economic power was not the agrarians but the industrialists. The great firms in the cities virtually controlled almost all the market and absorbed the benefit made by the peasants for themselves.
This system contributed to the growth of peasant anti-capitalism, and the landlords helped their anti-industrialism aiming to keep the peasant frugal and contented – in a word, in his place.After the depression struck both rice and silk production, the Japanese peasant life was devastated. The land lords’ lives also were damaged by the depression since they were the real sellers of rice. These rural elites still encouraged the anti-capitalist sentiments among the peasants, and the leaders were largely supported by the peasants who sympathized with the patriotism. The peasants blindly followed their leaders, but the peasant’s relation to his superior is the product of historical circumstances.
This passive attitude of the peasants originated in the structure of the Japanese village. The landlord remained the unchallenged leader of the peasant community.Thus, the local leaders could exercise their politics over the overall peasant community. The peasants, not only passively obeyed to their leaders’ wealthy, were discouraged to make any conflict or discussion. They were obedient recruits for the army who remained apolitical. Only the ownership of landed property, therefore, “managed village affairs, though larger ones might leave this chore to others, exercising their authority from behind the scenes.” Given their large population, the agrarians consequently contributed to the expansion of Japanese nationalist extremism.
The agrarians’ main theme was hostility to the plutocracy, and the government was incapable to control their movement. The 1930s military hegemony was characterized by its dependence on big business, or zaibatsu. Industrial output rose from 6 billion yen in 1930 to 30 billion yen in 1941. Thus, with the rise of heavy industry, the big business firms virtually dominated all industry to feed the military to carry out their political program.
The army’s self-sufficient base of operations in Manchuria also needed more advanced technology to industrialize the area. The army learned that they needed industrial assistance in Manchuria by cooperating with the industrialists. Furthermore, the industrialists were not inclined to patriotism, but the nationalism was the convenient tool for their business to proceed smoothly. Both big business and the army needed public patriotism to support industrialization of the military while the agrarian radicals were left have bitter hostility to the plutocracy and the senior military officers.
The cabinet became unable to repress the growth of the agrarians’ anti-capitalism, and the agrarian radicals began to seek overthrow of the industrialists among the cabinet politicians. The assassination of Premier Inukai on May 15, 1932 was a symbolic coup by the radical right-wings and peasants’ resentment against the cabinet. The assassination was carried out by a mall group of young peasants. For them, the ruling class such as businessmen and politicians were the enemy who were responsible for Japan’s agrarian misery. Former Finance Minister Inoue and Baron Dan, chief director of Mitsui, were among the victims they killed before the plot was uncovered. They explained their purpose as the destruction old ruling system and the salvation of Japan under the patriotic radicalism. Therefore, the social structure imposed on the peasants was a basis for their radicalism. Japanese were forced to rely more on traditional elements in their culture and social structure in facing both the economic problems of industrial growth and the political problems that accompanied this growth.The agrarian rightists’ frenetic Emperor Worship was, although its base was the product of historical circumstances, installed by the upper classes. Japanese ruling classes got their way to lead the whole Japanese nationalism in order to secure their business as war. Japanese totalitarian political and social institutions avoided the costs of a revolution. However, because of the policy, Japan easily turned to be fascist nation.