The Social Imperative of Pacifism in Postwar Japan

Shimizu Ikutarō and the Uchinada Movement

Author: Rikki Kersten

Abstract:

Postwar Japanese history is often analyzed from the perspective of peace and democracy. Both ideas represented an interpretation of the war experience on the part of postwar progressive thinkers that saw postwar pacifist activism assume an anti-State character. But another important part of this intellectual context was its pro-society inclination. Social agency and autonomy became the main objectives of postwar progressive thinking, and it was this that drove the intellectual activism and advocacy of postwar pacifist movements. But how did intellectuals conceptualize society, and what were the consequences of this conceptualization for the actual development of pacifist movements? Through examining the intellectual leadership of postwar pacifist movements we can begin to appreciate how the peace-democ-racy paradigm actually worked. A pioneering thinker in this respect was Shimizu Ikutarō, who was a central figure in Japanese pacifism in the 1950s, and a leading activist in the first anti-base movement at the village of Uchinada in 1953-54. It was in the context of this movement that Shimizu developed and articulated his ideas about society and peace. In the process, he revealed the dissonance in his thinking concerning “commoners,” and commenced his own intellectual disintegration as a progressive thinker. The consequences of the Uchinada protest for postwar popular and intellectual movements for peace would be formative, eventually leading to the cataclysm of the failed anti-security treaty movement of 1960.
Regions: East Asia
Countries: Japan

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September 2006
© Arthur Jones, PhD