10 MAY 1935, Page 19


Japan's Cabinet Crises

fTo the Editor of TIIE SPECTATOR.]

Tokyo, April.

SIR,—If the traditional discipline had not enforced a political truce during the recent visit of Emperor Kang-te of Man- chukuo to Tokyo, the Cabinet of Admiral Okada might have fallen by now. As it is, the non-party government has managed to offend, in one -way or another, all the powers on

which it might have leaned : the fighting services, the parties • of the Diet, the House of Peers, and the financial and industrial forces in the country. When Admiral Okada took over the reins of government from his predecessor, he was welcomed as an honest, straightforward, incorruptible man fit to end a period . of successive administrative scandals. Mr. Okada has lived up to his reputation. He is as poor as a church

mouse ; the Emperor himself sent him ri hamper of food and wine for his birthday ; the other. day one of his discarded uniforms was discovered in a Tokyo second-hand shop. During the nine months of Mr. Okada's government there has been a notable absence of corruption affairs. Political circles, however, are agreed that for all his simple honesty the Premier has been incapable of mastering the difficult parliamentary situation.

During the session of the Diet which was brought to an abrupt end last month the government introduced four Bills of national importance. Three dealt with the marketing of rice, silk cocoons, and fertilizers, and were intended to protect the farmer from exploitation by merchants. The fourth Bill proposed to lower the import duties on iron and steel by nearly one half, and to abolish the tax exemption for the exceedingly prosperous concerns of the heavy industry. The passage of all these Bills was prevented by obstruction engineered by interested • powers outside Parliament. When the session closed almost the whole legislative programme of the govern- ment had to be shelved.

A Cabinet allowing itself to be treated in this manner, by a -thoroughly discredited and Powerless Parliament cannot he said to have shown particular political ability. The political parties, rent • by quarrels, and weakened by cor- ruption and inconsistency, enjoy so little popularity that an alternative party government is unthinkable. Whenever the parties are faced with a determined demand, such as the military claims during the Budget debate, they can be made to do exactly, as they are told. The Cabinet was accordingly exposed to violent criticism for abandoning its legislation to such meek adversaries. The Premier made matters worse by telling the assembled Press representatives : "I am a sailor. I do not covet money or honour. I will hold on until I am down before the Emperor's horse. Your criticisms will be to me like water poured on the face of a crocodile."

The government has also encountered strong opposition by its indecision in dealing with the case of Professor Minobe. This curious affair, which throws light on Japan's present state of mind, started abruptly with a fierce attack on the 70-years-old jurist in the House of Peers, of which he is a member. For thirty years Professor Minobe, the leading Japanese authority on public law, has propounded a liberal and democratic theory of the State, involving the idea that constitutional powers are derived from legislation, instead of resting on the divine inspiration of the Emperor. It happens that the present Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Yamamoto, was responsible for the appointment of the distinguished lawyer to 'the 'Upper House. A group of loyalists, looking for a stick to.beat the government, suddenly accused Professor Minobe of Ilse majeste. Leaflets against him were distributed in the.streets ; he was publicly defamed as a" scholar-bandit" and a traitor. Mr. Shoriki, the proprietor of Yomiuri, the largest Japanese newspaper, was severely wounded by 'a dagger attack by a member of a patriotic society after the newspaper had defended Professor Minobe. There is reason to believe that certain military and naval circles are behind the attacks on the famous jurist.

When copies of his books were burnt in ceremonial auto-da-fe by Reservists a number of Peers and Generals attended and Made 'approving -speeches. The government did not immed- iately see the importance of the affair,. and though Mildly

dissociating itself from Professor Minobe's theories, declined to take any steps against him.

Admiral Okada has since tried to save himself by an astute move. Before he adjourned the Diet for ten months, he obtained powers to form a "council for the formulation of a national policy "—a kind of Japanese " brain-trust " including ex-ministers and other experienced statesmen of national reputation. If the political parties should agree to nominate candidates for this council, the government will have built a screen behind which it may hope to weather the present storm. But the scheme offers no lasting solution. Pressure from various quarters, particularly from the services, the patriotic societies, and the industry, is so strong that the government is virtually paralysed. It is significant that the nationalist societies, which after the wave of political murders a few years ago had been effectively suppressed, are becoming active again. The government, having successfully fought subversive movements on the Left, has taken stern action against the reviving lawlessness on the Right. The general trend towards a narrow nationalism, however, seems inescapable. For several years now the public have been deliberately excited by talk about "national emergency" and impending war. Territorial expansion on the Asiatic mainland, both in Manchuria and beyond, has become the dominating note of political discussion.

Supported by the moderating influences of the court, and of Prince Saionji, the last of the Elder Statesmen, Mr. Okada's government has tried to steer a course of domestic and foreign appeasement. They did not have sufficient political skill to hold that course against the powerful nationalist opposition. If the forces of moderation should succeed once again in warding off an openly militarist solution, the most likely Juan of their choice would seem to be the present Foreign Minister, Mr. Hirota, who—apart from the aged Finance Minister Takahashi—is the most brilliant and independent personality in the present Cabinet.—I am, Sir, ar.c., YOUR TOKYO CORRESPONDENT.