First published in World Review (Brisbane), Vol. II, No. 2, July 1972
THE ULTRA-RIGHT wing has been a constant, if weak and ineffective element in Japanese politics since the American Occupation ended in 1952. Despite its roots in the nationalist aspects of Japanese tradition, and despite the crucial role which ultra-rightists societies played in Japan's slide into militarism during the 1920s and 1930s, its actual influence in the postwar period has been slight.
The almost ludicrous failure hitherto of the rightists (as we shall call the ultra-rightists groups) has been the result of a number of factors inherent in the postwar political situation.
Foremost among these is the fact that in the past twenty years Japan has been undergoing rapid economic, social and political change. The economically depressed, politically unstable and socially rigid nation that was Japan in the 1930s took refuge in chauvinistic doctrines based on the subordination of the individual to the state, ordained that subjects should unquestioningly revere their Emperor (who nevertheless reigned but did not rule) and exalted the 'way of the warrior' (bushido). Today in contrast, Japan can boast a prosperous and dynamic economy, a much more individualistic social system and a political system which, despite its obvious defects, has proved quite stable and effective and to a surprising extent democratic. The revulsion against war which followed the 1945 defeat and the subsequent popularity of semi-pacifist views has been a real factor in postwar Japanese politics, even though the situation is now changing to a certain extent. Until recently (and to an extent still now) Japan's relative isolation from the storms and stresses of international power politics has meant that it has been possible to observe at least some of the spirit, if not the letter, of article 9 (the 'pacifist clause') of the 1947 Constitution.
The changing balance of the great powers, and the emergence of Japan as a major economic force in her own right, together with the strategic retreat of the United States in Asia are tending to break down Japan's postwar isolationism. What direction Japan will take in the next few years is problematical, but there