Tillich Relates His Impressions Of Japanese Political Situation

Professor Gave Lectures At Time of Tokyo Riots

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article, an excerpt from Professor Tillich's informal report on his recent lecture trip to Japan, appears by special permission of Dr. Tillich. The full report was not intended for general circulation.

Dr. Tillich's trip lasted from May 1 to July 10, and was the result of an invitation from the Committee for Intellectual Interchange in 1959.

There were abundant occasions to encounter both the political and religious realities, the religious ones because I was introduced into many of them as a visiting theologian, the political ones because I was in Tokyo during the most critical three weeks of last June. First, my impressions of the political situation: They are the result of many talks with people and foreigners, who were deeply involved in the events and their interpretation in the world press.

I may sum up my ideas about the situation as follows: First, the demonstrations were neither anti-Western nor anti-American. Second, the demonstrations were organized by the Communist student groups under leadership of its most radical (often called "Trotskyite") majority. Third, the vast majority of the participants in the demonstrations were non-Communist students, often accompanied by their professors and workers under the leadership of the two Socialist parties. Fourth, the motive of these groups was a double one, the fear of becoming involved in a new war by the security pact, and the hostility of the whole left against the undemocratic attitude of the Kishi government, especially the way it pushed through the pact. Fifth, the anti-American acts of violence were caused by the impression that Eisenhower, through his intended visit, had become a tool in the party politics of Kishi.

These statements require some comment. One must first point out that there is an astonishing pro-American feeling in Japan. MacArthur, the victor and commander of the occupation forces, is almost a Japanese hero. They do not forget that he has liberated them from the hated Tojo government, a name which has a sound similar to that of Hitler in Germany, and they have not forgotten that he has given them a constitution which is democratic yet does not remove the symbolic function of the emperor. This basic feeling was in no way changed by the recent events, but there was some resentment (and in Americans even more than in Japanese) about the informed, over-simplified American official interpretation, as well as newspaper versions giving the impression that there is only one cause for everything negative: Communist propaganda. But propaganda can merely bring out what is already latently present. Great relief was felt by both Americans and Japanese when some senators and some representatives of the State Department corrected the first misleading reports.

Negative Response to Communism

The attitude of the vast majority of the Japanese people to Communism is negative. Even the left-wing socialists are anti-Communist. The radical student movement has been rejected by the Communist party as too independent (although it was supported in the demonstrations). But there are some particular elements in the Japanese situation which I learned to understand. The first one is the relationship to China of 1500 years' standing. China is called "the Continent." It is the ultimate source of Japan's culture and religion. Many important Japanese scholars study Chinese history in all cultural and religious aspects and contribute from the Asiatic side to the East-West encounter in Japan. The founders and saints of the great Buddhist sects are Chinese. China is the mother, she remained the mother in the Chinese-Japanese war and she has not ceased to be the mother in spite of her being conquered by Communism. This emotional element should not be underestimated. (Nothing similar is true in their attitude towards Russia).

With respect to the participation in the demonstrations, one could see that many students and others participated because of the emotional thrill they got out of it. But here also an additional factor cannot be made into the main factor without a distortion of the whole picture. Surprising for me and many others was the predominance of students in the demonstrations. We were told that the students consider themselves as the future leaders of the nation much more confidently than they do in America. They will become the "mandarins" in the social hierarchy and they are sure of it. This is a totally un-Marxist feeling and dependent on the memory of the bureaucratic hierarchies, both in Japan and China. Some Japanese observers were very glad that the events awakened the students from their political indifference. Without a passionate support by at least some important groups the young Japanese democracy cannot develop. This explains also, at least partly, the participation of a large number of professors in the demonstration, indirectly and directly. Many of them were moderately socialist and tried to exercise a moderating influence. Only a very few of them were Communist.

These points are illustrated by the fact that on the day of the most violent demonstrations my lecture on "Religion and Culture" in Tokyo University (June 15) was overcrowded in a large lecture hall and the students listened attentively from 3:30 to 6 before some of them went to the demonstrations, while I with other professors was the dinner guest of the President of the University (who later came into trouble with the government through an anti-Kishi statement).

About the feeling that the Kishi government has tricked the Diet by undemocratic methods into the acceptance of the security pact with the United States, I cannot say anything which is not public knowledge. But one cannot deny that during the critical weeks both sides used unparliamentary methods, More important is the feeling that the security pact will draw Japan into a war with the Communist powers and the desire for peace is very strong in everybody. Therefore, the change of the American policy from disarming Japan (like Germany) to rearming it (like Germany) has produced some bitterness, especially because the status of disarmament was a vital part of the constitution given to Japan by MacArthur. But beyond this the geographical situation of Japan, which makes it an outpost of the Asiatic continent, awakens the desire of this ninety-million nation to change their function and to become politically independent. This is probably naive in view of the present world, but it is emotionally understandable.

All these considerations show that there was no hostility against Eisenhower even in the deeply regretted violence against Hagerty. He would have been greeted triumphantly if he had come from a moderately successful summit meeting and a friendly visit to Russia, as planned. Without this background--as highly responsible Japanese realized and immediately expressed--he ceased to be, as somebody said to me, a "messenger of peace" and had become a tool of reactionary and, as many still feel in Japan, militaristic party politics.

The desire of the Japanese people to reach democratic maturity is, amongst others, expressed in the fact that Japan has not only one of the greatest number of regular newspaper readers but there are also magazines of high standing with a very large circulation. Two of these magazines gave me a dinner followed by two or three hours' interview which, on the basis of a tape-recording, was edited and published in the magazine. The questions were political and cultural.

Some friends regretted that I came into the critical period and were afraid that something might happen to me. The latter was out of the question. It could have been possible for my lectures to have suffered under the disturbances, but even this was not the case; students as well as professors were more open to the ultimate problems to which the world historical and national problems pointed. And for me, it was a first-rate introduction into the social and political situation of the Far East, and a new look at the world political situation generally.