TAKANO,Fusataro, Labor Notes from Japan: Labor Report from 19th Century Japan(16)

Labor Report from Meiji Japan (16)

  Labor Notes from Japan

TAKANO, Fusataro.

      HONGO, TOKYO, JAPAN, June 20, 1898. ......History repeats itself. The stormy path of the western labor movement is to be traversed again in this country. As noted in my correspondence of last March, the inimical attitude assumed by the Japanese police authorities against labor movement becomes more apparent as the movement progresses. No longer their obstructive tactics are limited to covert actions. In fact, the mask was thrown off and pronounced attitude of opposition was taken by them. Their first act of open hostility was prohibition of the demonstration meeting of the Rodo Kumiai Kisei Kwai, an association under whose auspices the labor movement in this country was and is carried on.

According to the original plan adopted by the committee of arrangement of the association, it was proposed that on the morning of April 3, last, all the members of the association, 2800 in number, were to assemble in front of its headquarters building, then to proceed to Uyeno park where a ground was provided for the purpose of holding open sports. This innocent recreation, for it was nothing else, on the part of organized workers was prohibited on the ground that it will tend to augment the revolting spirit already manifest among our working people, and on that assumption it was taken as an element of disturbing the public peace. How the meeting came to be regarded as an element of disturbing public peace while meetings of unorganized workers and students of public and private schools, similar in nature, are not so regarded, the police authorities do not propose to explain, but as the statute law confers upon them a sole and absolute power to judge what constitutes a disturbing element of public peace, there is no way but to obey their despotic mandate or to be fined, on violation of it, a sum ranging from five to fifty yen. Conscious of their yet feeble condition of organization and of destitution of political influence to protect them from further assaults by the police which will come as an outcome of incurring their wrath by the failure of cheerful observance of their dictates, the organized workers concluded to bear the brunt silently on this particular occasion. The time of retribution, however, will soon arrive when organized workers will stand with mighty force and deal to those who merit it, a blow of vengeance.

The time is fast approaching when we shall gain our perfect sovereign right with foreigners in this country by virtue of the operation of revised treaties which are to come into force during the coming year. It was thirty long years since that we were suffering under that preposterous stipulation called extraterritoriality in the treaties with western powers, under which the sacred right of judicature was withheld from us. Humiliation we have silently borne and sufferance we have patiently endured so far under the original treaties made us naturally averse to any further sacrifice on our part, even if such a sacrifice is to be made in order to insure smooth inauguration of the revised treaties, and consequently any prospect of such a sacrifice will greatly lessen our enthusiasm for the approaching occasion of national rejoicing.

Indeed, it is with a considerably heavy heart that we here record a threatening danger that is about overtaking our working people as a consequence of the operation of revised treaties. Some two weeks ago the Yokohama Central Police Board instructed the inspectors of the local police stations to pay special attention to the conduct of the lower orders, and to sternly repress all exhibitions of hostility towards foreigners, either in the form of abusive language or of assault.

It is claimed by the authorities that manifestation of anti-foreign spirit, under whatever form, is extremely inadvisable in view of the approaching operation of the revised treaties. While we praise the instruction as a wise measure of precaution, we entertain a grave fear of its actual enforcement. In fact, there is every reason to suspect that this instruction will be so interpreted as to trample sacred rights of native working people in the treaty port.

It was only a few days after the issuance of the instruction, a local police authority prohibited peaceful parading in a foreign settlement of 650 native cooks, waiters and boys, who are employed by the foreign residents of the port in celebration of their newly-formed union. This parading on the streets of settlement was taken by the police authorities as a form of exhibition of anti-foreign spirit on the part of those native employes. Now, if holding a peaceful parade is a manifestation of anti-foreign spirit, it would be an exhibition of still stronger anti-foreign spirit, in the event of a strike inaugurated by those native employes. Undoubtedly on such an occasion the police will leave no stone unturned to suppress it, and arrests and imprisonment of strike leaders will be the order of the day. In other words the actual enforcement of the instruction will jeopardize the interests of workers by protecting greedy foreign resident employers in their acts of selfishness and avarice. If this practice will be allowed its full sway, the position of resident foreign employers in Japan will soon become most enviable, so that even the most greedy American capitalists will covet their position!

American Federationist, V, No.6 (August, 1898),pp.118-119

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Edited by NIMURA, Kazuo @http://nimura-laborhistory.jp