Why did democracy give way to militarism in Japan? L/O – To identify and examine how Japanese democracy was undermined and why it collapsed in 1932

Why did democracy give way to militarism in Japan? L/O – To identify and examine how Japanese democracy was undermined and why it collapsed in 1932 Why did democracy give way to militarism in Japan? L/O – To identify and examine how Japanese democracy was undermined and why it collapsed in 1932 - Start

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Why did democracy give way to militarism in Japan? L/O – To identify and examine how Japanese democracy was undermined and why it collapsed in 1932 - Description

Why did democracy give way to militarism in Japan? L/O – To identify and examine how Japanese democracy was undermined and why it collapsed in 1932 Japan between the Wars Between 1918 and 1932, Japanese politics went through a period known as ‘ ID: 763142 Download Presentation

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Why did democracy give way to militarism in Japan? L/O – To identify and examine how Japanese democracy was undermined and why it collapsed in 1932




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Presentations text content in Why did democracy give way to militarism in Japan? L/O – To identify and examine how Japanese democracy was undermined and why it collapsed in 1932

Why did democracy give way to militarism in Japan? L/O – To identify and examine how Japanese democracy was undermined and why it collapsed in 1932

Japan between the Wars Between 1918 and 1932, Japanese politics went through a period known as ‘Taisho Democracy’. During this time, politics experienced growing democratisation and liberalisation, yet ultra-nationalism held an increasingly ominous hold on many.The economy also fluctuated between periods of post-war boom and bust which only served to exacerbate divisions within society, creating fertile ground for extremism to grow. These tensions within Japanese society manifested themselves in foreign policy which swung between international cooperation and military expansionism. The historian Andrew Gordon thus puts a label on this contradictory period by calling it an era of ‘Imperial Democracy’. It would end with the death of democracy in 1932. Emperor Taisho (Yoshihito) 大正天皇

To what extent did democracy develop? By 1918, the democratic principle of rule by parliament had become established, rather than rule entirely by Meiji oligarchs. In September 1918, in response to food riots across Japan, Yamagata Aritomo appointed Hara Kei of the Seiyukai Party as PM in what became Japan’s first cabinet government made up almost entirely of party members, rather than establishment figures. Yamagata Aritomo山縣 有朋 Hara Kei 原 敬

To what extent did democracy develop? Hara’s government was remarkably stable, helping to end workers’ unrest by suppressing left-wing groups. This earnt him the backing of conservative elites who were happy for Hara to lead a popular, reforming government as long as left-wing action was contained. Hara Kei 原 敬

To what extent did democracy develop? Yet the tendency for reactionary measures by the Genro was always apparent. Hara himself was assassinated in 1921 and his finance minister Takahashi Korekiyo was appointed PM until he resigned due to in-fighting in 1922. Over the next 2 years, the remaining Genro appointed non-party PMs who stuffed their cabinets full of members from the House of Peers! Takahashi Korekiyo高橋 是清

To what extent did democracy develop? By 1924, the two main parties – the Seiyukai and Kenseikai – and the smaller ‘Reform Club’, joined forces to contest the election on a ticket of return to ‘normal constitutional government ’. Their coalition won with Kato Komei of the larger Kenseikai appointed as PM. The Kenseikai by the mid-1920s had formed itself into a more left-wing party than the Seiyukai and they campaigned for more radical reforms as a way to ensure social order. Kato Takaai加藤 高明

To what extent did democracy develop? In 1927 they re-branded themselves as the ‘Minseito’ Party or People’s Politics Party and parliamentary government continued until 1932, alternating between the two main parties.Thus, by the late 1920s, Japan had transformed itself into a modern democracy with party government . Yet they had done this with the willing acquiescence of non-party elites like army and navy leaders, who through the Emperor-centred political order, could exert undue influence on the entire political process.

To what extent did democracy develop? As long as party government subscribed to the aims and wishes of these elites , there would be political stability. But after 1930, the political consensus between politicians and the elites diverged due to differing foreign policy solutions to the economic problems besetting Japan. Generally, the Minseito favoured co-operation in foreign affairs whilst the Seiyukai wanted a more aggressive approach with unilateral action to achieve Japan’s aims. Emperor Taisho (Yoshihito) 大正天皇

Why did Authoritarianism persist? Role of Emperor - Emperor could still exert influence on political life. Constitution enshrined Hirohito as both sacred and sovereign and he believed that the Monarchy stood at the apex of the Constitutional order. This all meant that the Emperor’s views were taken seriously . In 1927-28, he forced PM Tanaka Giichi to resign his post due to his poor handling of military adventurism in China. Therefore elites could shape foreign policy through their manipulation of the Emperor’s will. Emperor Taisho (Yoshihito) 大正天皇 Emperor Showa (Hirohito) 昭和天皇

Why did Authoritarianism persist? Independent Military - According to the Constitution, the military and bureaucracy bore no accountability to parliament.Military leaders thus used this is a license to act independently of the Prime Minister and Parliament. This they increasingly did beginning with the assassination of Zhang Zoulin in 1928, through to the invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and later the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937. Zhang Zoulin 张作霖

Why did Authoritarianism persist? Imperial State – Both the Privy Council and House of Peers were two institutions that could influence government foreign policy. The Privy Council was created in 1899 as a body to advise the Emperor . Its ultra conservative members were appointed for life and could steer the Emperor to oppose policies. The House of Peers membership, deriving from imperial appointment, also took a pro-Empire ultra conservative view on most things, and could block and delay government policies.

Why did Authoritarianism persist? Senior Statemen / Genro – This group of elder statesman, mostly former politicians and military leaders, exerted a huge influence on the entire political culture.Through custom and informal influence, they would advise the Emperor on choice of Prime Minister . Thus throughout the 1920s, Prime Ministers continued to be appointed by the elites according to their criteria.

Why did Authoritarianism persist? Political Terror – Even in the 1920s, political terror compromised parliamentary government on a regular basis. PM Hara Kei was assassinated in 1921, and attempt on Emperor in 1923 when he was regent. Hara’s assassin was angered by perceived corruption – Hirohito’s was a left-wing activist. Public opinion often favoured the attackers, which set a dangerous precedent for influencing politics.Hara Kei 原 敬

Why did Authoritarianism persist? So despite moves towards greater democratisation, authoritarianism was embedded in the Constitution . Political power thus rested with those elites from the military, business, and royal family who only allowed democracy to function when it suited them. Therefore the social order was maintained as long the elites were in agreement . Yet after 1930, economic and foreign issues would cause divisions over how best to maintain national power and social order. And it would be the authoritarian elites who would win the debate over liberal reformers.

Why did Authoritarianism persist? A further factor that contributed to growing authoritarian and reactionary politics was the growth of extremist movements .Left-wing politics grew increasingly popular, especially after the introduction of universal male suffrage in 1925. Socialism, anarchism, feminism, labour rights and even communism became popular amongst university intellectuals and the working class.

Why did Authoritarianism persist? Whilst these movements do seem to indicate a growing liberalisation of the political system, they weren’t tolerated for long.The 1925 Peace Preservation Law limited freedom of speech and the left-wing saw no huge increase in the vote in the 1928 election. These growing shoots of left-wing extremism, in reaction to the perceived corruption and inequality of society, also inspired right-wing extremism.

Why did Authoritarianism persist? Ultranationalist societies were nothing new in Japan with Uchida Ryohei’s ‘ Black River Society ’ of 1901 attacking democratic ideas. Yet the movement grew and found an outlet amongst the increasingly dissatisfied officer class in the 1920s, which led to a rise in political assassinations which further undermined democracy.Kita Ikki was the most influential right-wing intellectual whose 1923 ‘Outline Plan for the Reorganisation of Japan’ calling for a new Imperial restoration to suspend the Constitution and re-distribute wealth. Uchida Ryohei 内田 良平 Kita Ikki 北 一輝

The Influence of Economic/Social Issues Whilst Japanese democracy already faced rising reactionary authoritarianism, economic and social challenges in the 1920s would catalyse these trends, culminating in the decline of parliamentary democracy by 1932.During WW1, Japan had benefitted from an economic boom as its industries increasingly supplied the preoccupied Western nations. Exports increased dramatically.

The Influence of Economic/Social Issues Yet after the war, there was a slump as demand fell. The price of rice also crashed which impacted on farmers. These trends exacerbated inequality within Japan, especially the rural/urban divide. By 1927, farming family income was just 70% of what office workers earnt. The 1927 Banking Crisis further damaged small businesses, whilst the monopolistic zaibatsu continued to grow. This fostered increasing dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties, as many sought solutions in ultra-nationalist beliefs.

The Influence of Economic/Social Issues The 1929 Wall Street Crash and Depression then served to bring these tensions to ahead. Exports fell by 6% from 1929-31 and unemployment rose to 1 million. This only served to increasingly radicalise the population. With international trade falling, calls for expansion in China to capture its own ‘ imperial market ’ became increasingly seductive to elites. This idea had the benefit of freeing Japan from an overreliance on British and American imports, as well as solving overpopulation within Japan.

Growing Ultra-Nationalism The economic crisis of 1929 therefore exacerbated trends which were tearing apart the Japanese economy and social order . Young military officers became increasingly frustrated.Angered by the failures of parliamentary democracy, military cutbacks, and the growing threat of Nationalist China, they became increasingly radical in their aims. The Kwantung Army in Manchuria was perhaps the most radical thinking. Officers saw themselves as the vanguard of a coming war with the West. In 1928 they assassinated Zhang Zoulin in China in an attempt to weaken Chiang Kai-shek. Zhang Zoulin 张作霖

Growing Ultra-Nationalism The London Naval Conference of 1930 also angered ultranationalist when Western powers refused to agree Japan’s demand for increased tonnage ration of 10:10:7Protests by ultranationalists within the navy led to a weakening of the legitimacy of the Minseito government. This anger found an outlet in a wave of political assassinations from 1930-1932. PM Hamaguchi Osachi was the first in November 1930. Hamaguchi Osachi 濱口 雄幸

Growing Ultra-Nationalism In February and March 1932, the finance minister Inoue Jun’nosuke was killed along with Mitsui zaibatsu chief Dan Takuma.These young officers who carried out the assassinations viewed the political system and capitalist elites as corrupt enemies. Ishiwara Kanji, Colonel in the Kwantung Army, was one such officer who saw war as inevitable.In September 1931 his forces used blew up a portion of the southern Manchurian railroad and used this as a pretext to taking the whole of Manchuria. Inoue Junnosuke 井上準之助 Dan Takuma 團 琢磨 Ishiwara Kanji 石原 莞爾

Growing Ultra-Nationalism By December 1931 Japan had taken over the province, renaming it ‘Manchukuo’. PM Inukai Tsuyoshi was forced to accept the take-over and he failed to punish those responsible.On 15 th May 1932, he was also assassinated in an attempted coup. It failed but democracy ended. Prince Saionji and military leaders refused to allow the Seiyukai to form a new cabinet. In an attempt to end the wave of assassinations and placate the extreme-right, Admiral Saito Makoto was appointed as PM of a national unity cabinet. Only 5 out of 15 ministers were from political parties. Inukai Tsuyoshi犬養 毅 Prince Saionji 西園寺 公望 Saito Makoto 斎藤 実

Why did democracy not succeed? Political – the Meiji Constitution carried within it too much ambiguity which allowed conservative elites to oppose greater democratisation and enabled the army to act independently.Economic – rapid industrialisation had created a cleavage in society between economic winners and losers, often split by rural/urban. This undermined confidence in government.Social/Cultural – rapid improvement in education and Westernisation in urban areas led to an increasing urban/rural social divide, which ultranationalists exploited. Great Depression Assassinations & Manchuria End of Parliamentary Democracy

Debatable Questions Could Japanese parliamentary democracy have continued if the Wall Street Crash had never happened? To what extent was the failure of democracy the fault of Japanese elites?Could a strong left-wing movement have prevented the decline of democracy? What could the government have done to ensure this? Was democracy doomed to failure? To what extent was the decline of democracy due to the nature of the Meiji Restoration itself? Should we even consider the Taisho Period as an era of democracy? Or was it merely a façade?


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