Blamed for tragedy – Kita Ikki (北 一輝, 3 April 1883 – 19 August 1937)
For every tragedy or war in history, mankind needed someone to blame, someone to serve as a cause for something bad. One of these “convicts” is Kita Ikki, a rightist socialist. Today, some people openly represent him as the father of Japanese fascism, a person that personifies evil. Well, my take on him is neutral, since his thinking is deeply impinged by his humble, agriculture origins.
When we look at his person, his works and prophecies, we see that the role of the military groups is vital – he claimed that military extremists should carry out the revolution, to free the emperor of all corrupt and vile influences from politicians at that time. It was an original idea, but a risky one to be propagated when the entire nation struggled with political stability.
Kita saw clearly the distress and misery of Japan, some would say. He believed that among the military groups, the young officers that came from the countryside, from poor and heavily exploited farmer families, should take up weapons and free the emperor of corrupting influence and creating a totalitarian state. The problem was simple – military was still in the middle, between the people and the Emperor, so Ikki’s utopia was impossible. In history, there are always intermediates and chain links – there were rarely direct lines. The operators are busy… don’t hold up please.
However, what is the essence of his philosophy? Since he graduated from the prestigious Waseda university, his interest in socialism rapidly grew. Kita Ikki was an active writer of books and pamphlets and a short- time supporter of Japanese early socialist movement, but ceased to follow them in time, believing that they became opportunists, but retained the belief in socialism. However, there is one big difference in his view of socialism – the one that Karl Marx created got old and moribund, so Japan needed a “new” one. His book “The Theory of Japan’s National Polity and Pure Socialism” presents a “personal” form of state socialism for Japan, without the theory of the class struggle. If this was radical and unorthodox, his major work “An Outline Plan for the Reorganization of Japan” goes beyond – here he claims that Japan should unite the entire Asian continent under her rule and resist the West. This claim is the reason for coupling him with fascism and imperialism.
These scenarios and predictions require the “Improved emperor’s rule”, a principle that would abolish the constitution and the lower house of the diet, allowing the emperor to communicate with his people directly making him the “People’s Emperor”, but due above given reasons it didn’t come true. Military could easily exploit this to their advantage, bending it at their leisure.
The result of his influence was a horrific element: the famous 2-26 incident that transpired on February 26 1936, with the ideas of Kita Ikki being engraved in the minds of young officers that executed a coup d’état against the high-ranking politicians. The coup was a tragedy and marked most of them for death and Kita Ikki has been considered as one of the fifteen ringleaders. They were shot for treason and their ashes were never sent to their families. The dates of these executions also drifted into obscurity.
So, there you have it folks. Was he really a bad guy is an individual question – for me, he is merely a neutral figure, since the processes that were set in motion by that time were imminent as soon as the military took a more active and aggressive role in politics. It was a thin line between ignorance and reason at the time, so there is a possibility that he was wrongly understood, but then again, Kita did regard the military as the key factor in the establishment of the “Improved emperor’s rule”, so there is a bit of a paradox in his philosophy that the emperor should rule as a totalitarian monarch, but still he couldn’t command the military…. it goes in circles.
Was he a saint or a sinner? A good question indeed…..