Revolution, Nation, and Asian Brotherhood: The Russian Revolution of 1917 in Imperial Japan

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 11:40 AM
Williford C (Hilton Chicago)
Tatiana Linkhoeva, New York University
The Russian Revolution of 1917 and communist ideology had a great impact on the intellectual, political, and cultural landscape of interwar Japan, yet this topic has been largely understudied. The Russian Bolsheviks initially hoped that Japan, as the only industrially advanced country in Asia, would be a fertile environment for a communist and anti-imperialist revolution, and thus encouraged revolutionary networks between Japanese radicals and colonial subjects. The first contact with Russian Bolsheviks was initiated by Japanese anarchists, who became inspired by the new communist supranational vision. This paper examines the early relationship between Russian Bolsheviks and Japanese anarchists and socialists, which were often conducted via Korean and Chinese intermediaries. Tracing the lives of Japanese socialists who traveled to Irkutsk and Moscow in the early 1920s, this paper explores how Japanese socialists acquired a sense of participation in a common, world-historical, anti-imperialist social struggle. As they advanced their new vision of Asian proletarian brotherhood, they attempted to build regional networks across East Asia by forming ties between Russian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese socialist radicals. The Russian Revolution thus pushed the issue of conflict between loyalty to one’s nation and loyalty to a supranational community to the forefront of concerns among Japanese leftist writers, intellectuals, and activists.