Kazuo Nimura
Takano Fusataro and His Times

  Chapter 14    Takano Fusataro and Katayama Sen
            - Their leadership qualities -

Katayama Sen, political campaigner

TKatayama Sen (left) and Takano Fusatarô (right), (from the commemorative photograph taken of the  founding committee of the Ironworkers' Union)(from Katayama Sen and Nishikawa Mitsujiro, Nihon no rodo undo [The Labour Movement in Japan]

At the time of the passing of the Public Order and Police Law in March 1900 Fusatarô found himself very hard-pressed, both personally and publicly.   His personal circumstances were adversely affected by the drop in his income due to his renouncing his pay as a full-time executive officer, while in the movement itself, unavoidable differences had developed between himself and Katayama Sen over the questions of the future posture of the movement and of changes in the Ironworkers' Union.   These differences and conflicts resulting from their divergent views of the movement had not of course emerged overnight.   In contrast to Takano, who was opposed to socialism, Katayama had gradually been moving towards the adoption of a clearly socialist standpoint.
    Nevertheless, to begin with, at the practical level there were no great differences between the two men.   They were at one in their urge to unite workingmen on the basis of mutual aid and cooperative stores and to spread and strengthen union organization.   Even when their differences became obvious, they continued to work together and strove to avoid open clashes.   Takano trusted Katayama and greatly valued his capacities.   When he resigned as secretary of the executive committee and decided to move to Yokohama and open the cooperative store, he certainly had Katayama in mind as his successor.
    However, the situation changed decidedly with Katayama's new direction soon after the passing of the Public Order and Police Law.   In No. 57 of The Labor World Katayama published a piece titled "The Way Ahead for the Labor Movement" (Rôdô undô no zento) which strongly called for change in the movement's direction.

    ...With the passing of the Public Order and Police Law, the labor movement, which is already underway, needs to make a change.   Now is the time to resolve to engage in political action.   It is therefore necessary to organize a workers' political party....   In the form of the labor movement, workers engage directly with owners and sometimes have to confront them.   However, if the workers were to have a political movement, in striving to achieve their goals, there would be no need to fear such a clash, and fairly and squarely, in elections and in the Imperial Diet, they would be able to progress steadily towards achieving those goals.   Consequently, the movement must be national, the aims far-reaching.   Compared to such a movement, holding strikes and blocking industrial production will be mere child's play.   Accordingly, we shall need great patience and will need to hold firmly to our principles. The benefits before us wil call for sacrifices but they will provide for a great future for our nation.   The movement should be developed in the following order:
      (1)   Conduct research into national politics.
      (2)   Conduct research into national social economy.
      (3)   Organize a political group dedicated to achieving (1) and (2)
      (4)   Widely propagate political economy and socialist philosophy so as to build a firm foundation for a political movement.
      (5)   Organize an independent political party and conduct a peaceful political movement.
      (6)   As the first step for the movement, put the maximum effort into securing universal suffrage.
      (7)   In conducting the political movement, we should strive to study the Imperial Constitution, which should constantly be the focus of our service as citizens of this imperial nation, keep the Constitution constantly in mind and never forget to conduct our activities entirely within the limits set by the Constitution.

Katayama had always had doubts about restricting the activity of trade unions to economic issues, but what was new about this new declaration was his call for a workers' political party that would embark on political campaigning.   In this sense, his declaration can be said to have been momentous in the history of the Japanese labor movement.

However, it did present a major problem because in effect, it amounted to a denial of the labor union movement.   Instead of continuing the movement of direct struggle against capitalist owners in order to gain benefits for workers, Katayama was now advocating the need for a political campaign for the long-term benefit of the State.   Also, his use of the phrase holding strikes and blocking industrial production will be mere child's play to describe strikes can only be regarded as belittling the labor movement.   Moreover, when union members were in the middle of conflict with owners, the claim that a political movement would be 'fair and square' and 'national' and would obviate the need for anxieties about confronting capitalists implied that the actions of the owners of industry were not 'fair and square'.

Takano Fusatarô had already joined the League for Universal Suffrage and had served as its secretary, so he was not one to deny the need for a political movement.   However, his main goal was to see trade unions firmly established in Japan; he did not at all agree with the notion that trade unions should become the nucleus of a political movement. Nevertheless, he did not directly counter Katayama's argument; instead, he had a long essay titled "On Workers' Unions" (Shokkô kumiai ni tsuite) published in The Labor World, in which he discussed the role of unions and once again emphasized their importance.

The abolition of mutual aid systems - Takano's total defeat

Katayama then went on to propose changes in the Ironworkers' Union's finances, which had fallen into crisis.   The Labor World 59th issue carried an article titled "The Need for Urgent Reform" (Sumiyaka ni sasshin subeshi) which gave an explanation, supported by numerical data, of the circumstances of the failure of the mutual aid system in the Ironworkers' Union and called for the complete abandonment of the system.   The article clearly laid out the current situation of the workers who had received mutual aid up to that point and made incisive criticisms of the faults of the system.   Of the 251 who had received aid, those still paying their union dues numbered just 21, while 65 had quit the union after receiving aid, 57 had had their memberships canceled, 82 were still union members but had not paid their dues for some months, and 26 had died.   These figures created a strong impression that the mutual aid system was not an effective way of binding workers' loyalty to the union.

However, there are grounds for doubting the judgment that the mutual aid system was responsible for the decline of the union.   The system was certainly one factor in the union's financial crisis, but the system by itself did not lead to the union's demise.   It is worth pointing out that the system did alleviate the financial difficulties of over 250 workers.   Also, in regard to the solutions proposed to meet the union's financial problems, apart from the termination of the mutual aid system, there were a number of other options that were thought should be considered such as an increase in union dues or a review of the way in which aid was paid.

As a statement made by one of the leaders of the movement, this article was not exactly appropriate.   Katayama called workers receiving aid and workers unable to work due to illness or injury, "shameless knaves" and castigated them for being "disloyal, lacking in zeal, and with no feelings at all".   However, it was not the case that all of them were deliberately avoiding paying their dues; there were doubtless some who wanted to pay but could not.   Also, Katayama's argument ignored the fact that the mutual aid system had been effective in contributing to the organization of many union members in a short period of time.   It was also surely inappropriate for a leader of the movement to adopt a position which saw 'healthy workers' in opposition to 'workers who received aid'.   Nevertheless, it is a fact that there were some union members who saw mutual aid money as lottery money so Katayama's criticisms were not entirely off the mark.

Takano still did not argue against Katayama's proposals directly but instead, in order to maintain the mutual aid system in some way, he put forward a "Personal Proposal for Reform in the Ironworkers' Union", which incorporated a plan to set up a credit union based on the recently enacted Industrial Unions Act.   Practically, this meant that of the 20 sen union subscription payment, 6 sen would be deducted first to pay to a credit union, an incorporated foundation, and of the remaining 14 sen, 3 sen would go to head office, 2 sen to the branch office and 3 sen as Kiseikai membership dues.   This would leave 8 sen (presumably an error - it should be 6 sen), which would be used for mutual aid payments.   He also proposed that the amount of mutual aid payment for illness be reduced from 15 sen a day to 10 sen a day and that the number of days of sickness and the types of payments made for such cases of sickness be left as they were.

In order to come to a resolution on the question of keeping or abandoning the mutual aid system, a general meeting of the head office committee was held in June 1900. The Labor World reported on the result as follows:

    On June 9 last, as has previously been reported, a general meeting of the Head office committee was held in the upper room of the Head office of the Ironworkers' Union....  A report was given on the state of the finances, and an exchange of views took place on the question of reforms in the union and on the union's future direction in which it was recognized that there was a need to terminate mutual aid payments for sickness and fire damage, and Mr Takano withdrew his own proposal.   There seemed little prospect of being able to effect the Council's proposal either.   On the contrary, as can be seen in the notices column, the resolution was carried unanimously....
   Summary of the resolutions
       (1)   Aid payments for funerals to be altered from 15yen to 10 yen
       (2)   Aid payments for sickness, fire damage and injuries to be stopped until further notice.

Ultimately, Fusatarô's proposal was not supported by the other committee members, and he had to withdraw it, while Katayama's argument in favor of stopping the mutual aid system was accepted.   Only payments for funerary arrangements survived, and at a lower payment rate.   The mutual aid system was not abolished but 'stopped', and while this word suggested that when the financial situation improved, aid payments could be resumed, in the end that day did not come.   For Fusatarô, for whom the mutual aid system was the essence of a labor union and who had argued in favor of maintaining the system, the meeting ended in a complete and utter defeat.

The Ironworkers' Union dissolves itself at its New Year's meeting

The Union had in effect abolished the mutual aid system and had considered Fusatarô's 'reform' proposal to set up a foundation based on 6 sen out of the individual member's 20 sen union dues, but this change of direction did not come about.   On the contrary, this proved to be a watershed; from this point on, the Union lost its substance and became a union in name only.   The last financial report appeared in February 1900, and nothing is known of the state of the union organization after that date. However, the following facts indicate that from summer to autumn 1900 the Ironworkers' Union fell into a state of complete decay.

First is the fact that the financial reports were no longer made public.   The financial situation must have deteriorated to the point where it was thought that publishing the report would have a bad effect on the ability to maintain the organization.   Secondly, after issue no. 64 of The Labor World (August 1900) the activities of the Union's branches were hardly reported anymore in the 'Union Bulletin' column.   The kind of reports about elections of branch committee officials that had previously used to appear ceased to do so, and the following year, 1901, saw the disappearance of the 'Union Bulletin' column itself.
    The third factor was the breakdown of management at the Rôdô shinbunsha (Labor Newspaper Company).   At the Ironworkers' Union general head office committee meeting held on June 9, 1900 the focus of the 'program for reform' resolution that was passed there not only reduced the frequency of publication of The Labor World from twice a month to once a month, it introduced a new levy of two sen a month from each member's union dues as a 'paper cost charge'.   But in fact, the Ironworkers' Union could not pay this paper cost charge, and the Labor Newspaper Company could not afford its printing costs.   It became difficult to publish even once a month.   On September 25th the company held a general meeting of its partners at which it was decided to hand over publication of The Labor World to Katayama Sen personally.
    The fourth sign of the Union's difficulties was the resolutions passed at the Ironworkers' Union head office general committee meeting on October 27, 1900:

    (1) The fixed transport allowance of the secretary of the Union executive committee is hereby discontinued; in future only the actual costs of journeys will be paid.
     (2) Head office will issue written notices to union members who have not paid their dues to press them to do so.
     (3) The elections for head office officials are hereby postponed until the general meeting of next January 1901.
     (4) Until sufficient operational funds have been gathered, money from the basic capital fund will be diverted to pay aid money for funeral services.

These resolutions show all too clearly that the Ironworkers' Union had fallen on very hard times.   The first one - fixed transport allowance refers to the allowance paid to Katayama Sen as a secretary of the executive committee.   The fixed allowance of 15 yen a month was amended to the actual amount of money Katayama had spent on union activities.
    The second resolution is especially noteworthy and shows that the branches, which were the basic units of the Union, had become dysfunctional.   The resolution shows that head office had to assume the burden of one of the branches' most important duties, namely, collecting union dues.   The fourth resolution shows that aid for funerals could no longer be paid from operating costs and that monies had to be diverted for this purpose from the basic capital fund; this meant the failure of the reform plan which had aimed to build up basic capital funds so as to enable the Union to become a legal corporation.
    The fifth point is that the Jan 1, 1901 issue of The Labor World failed to publish any of the customary lists of Ironworkers' Union branch members' names with the New Year's greetings notices.   In 1900 there were three pages dedicated to notices and advertisements; this doubled to six pages in 1901.   In that year the only branch to publish New Year's greetings was the No. 37 branch (Tokyo Arsenal small arms workshop, rifle stock section) which had formed less than six months before.   The new branch's New Year greeting consisted of just two lines and did not include a list of members' names.
    The only New Year greetings published in the names of individuals were those of the Union officials Ozawa Benzô, Nagayama Eiji, Umakai Chônosuke, Muramatsu Tamitarô, and Katayama Sen.   Apart from this, the pages were filled with advertisements for toothpaste, soy sauce, medicines, banks and company notices.   This shows that not only was The Labor World having to depend on advertising income but that the Union's branches had all but disappeared by this time.
    The sixth point is the fact that the branches at the Union's main organizational bases at the Japan Railways Ômiya Works and the Tokyo Arsenal were forced to close due to pressure from the management, as already discussed.

The foregoing facts all demonstrate that by the summer-autumn of 1900, the Ironworkers' Union had fallen down.   This collapse was accompanied by that of Kiseikai, 94% of its membership accounted for the ironworkers, so there was a direct knock-on effect from the collapse of the Union.
    The "Ironworkers' Union" continued in name only for some time after the collapse.   The last documented meeting of the Union was the "Ironworkers' Union New Year Meeting" in January 1906.   The organization was thus in existence for some nine years.   But from 1901, it was in fact no real labor 'union' but, in effect, a group for meetings of the Katayama faction of socialist activists.   The meetings were only New Year gatherings and included only a very small number of ironworkers.   Most of the participants were Katayama's co-workers in his various projects or else socialists allied to him.
    Why did these New Year gatherings go on for so long in the name of the Union even though the Union itself was defunct?   This was because the Union owned the building it had bought at Hongokuchô in Nihombashi ward, and a certain profit was accruing from ownership of the building.   According to the "1903 Financial Statement of the Ironworkers' Union" published in Shakaishugi (Socialism) the successor publication to The Labor World, the building was rented out at 15 yen a month.   Of the Ironworkers' Union income of 277 yen and 79 sen, this profit accounted for 180 yen.   This money was used to publish Rôdô Kaihô (Labor Bulletin), and to defray the costs of holding public meetings and New Year gatherings.

The leadership qualities of Takano and Katayama

Finally, I shall compare and contrast the leadership qualities of the two men who led the Ironworkers' Union and Kiseikai.
    Takano Fusatarô was a nationalist whose inspiration came from a desire to see the development of the Japanese economy and who felt that it was vital that for this purpose, labor unions be organized and workers educated.   This was why he was a consistent 'labor union activist'.   Ever since he had convinced himself of the rightness of Gunton's theories, he had never changed his view of them.   By contrast, Katayama Sen had first emerged as a social reformer, and even as the socialist he later became, continually changed his views and positions.   Of course, Takano responded to changing circumstances within the labor movement, for example by placing greater emphasis on the cooperative movement, and adapted to new situations by re-examining the labor movement's practical goals, but he did this always within the parameters of the theories of the labor union and labor movement that he had first embraced.
    The problem for Takano, who was a practically-minded individual, was that when it came to practical actions, he lacked perseverance.   He was good at 'reading the future' but when he saw difficulties ahead, he tended to quit and head off elsewhere.   This was Fusatarô's major failing.   Another problem was related to this - his lack of any thrusting positivity as a leader of the movement.   Typical of this was his decision to step down from his position on the Executive Committee in January 1898 when the Union had just got launched.   This lack of desire for power can be said to be an attractive personal trait of his but it depended on the circumstances, the time and place.   An organization's leading figure who suddenly decides to step back from that position cannot avoid the charge of irresponsibility.   Certainly there were mitigating factors: he had just got married, established his household and he and his wife were expecting their first child.   His decision to focus on the co-operative store in order to be able both to support his family and continue to work as an activist in the labor movement was to an extent unavoidable.   But at that point the Union and Kiseikai already had over 2,000 members and a combined monthly income of 1000 yen (Union - 900 yen, Kiseikai - 100 yen).   He could have continued with his work as a paid secretary by drawing on those funds from both organizations, but he did not take that option.   His character prevented him from requesting to be paid that way.
    However, this was not a situation where any consideration of pride or appearance ought to have been a factor, when, after all, he was unilaterally taking the important step of giving up responsibility for maintaining and developing the organization that he had finally succeeded in establishing on the basis of his own ideas and his propagation of them to others.   A further problem was that Fusatarô was not sufficiently aware of the Union's organizational failings.   It was simply unreasonable for an organization which drew monthly dues from its several thousand members and distributed relief payments to many of them to be run by unpaid volunteers.   While thinking about how to support himself and his family, he ought also to have reconsidered the operation of the Union's management structure.   It was a labor union, and ultimately, its leaders ought also to have been drawn from the ranks of the workers.   But for such an organization that was unable or unwilling to have paid officials to be led by workers without any assets to their name or the means to support themselves was a mistake from the beginning.   Even if there had been no choice but to have unpaid officials at the time the Union was founded, it would have been important to move to a system of paid officials once the financial circumstances permitted.   This was not Fusatarô's personal problem, it was something that would have been absolutely necessary if the Union were to develop into a real workers' organization.   The best opportunity to deal with this problem arose precisely when it became clear that the Takano household could not sustain itself.   It was most likely that from an intellectual's standpoint of wanting to support the workers, Fusatarô's basic character trait here prevented him from recognizing the existence of the problem.
    Yet another problem for him as a leader of the organization was the fact that although he was a member of the Executive Committee, he set up the co-operative company and then became so busy with it that he was unable to carry out his duties as a executive officer.   The call for a reduction in the number of Executive Committee members was partly prompted by this behavior on his part.
    Another negative effect on the management of the Union and Kiseikai due to Fusatarô's wanting of positive leadership was the lack of real effort to operate The Labor World as the official organ.   On the one hand, this had to do with the forceful and selfish editorial policy of the chief editor and writer, Katayama Sen.   But in not saying and arguing what should have been said and argued at the right time, here too Fusatarô bore no small responsibility.

As a leader of the social movement, Katayama Sen was clearly more consistent and proactive than Fusatarô. It is above all noteworthy that Katayama was an activist who recognized the importance of having control of the first newspaper in the history of the Japanese social movement.   It is unclear whether he was aware of that from the very first issue of The Labor World but in the process of working as the chief writer for the paper, he certainly came to understand the importance of having editorial authority on the newspaper.   What showed this clearly was his proposal, when the continued publication of the newspaper was in jeopardy due to financial difficulties, that he himself should take over the management of it.   As a result, from October 1900 The Labor World was no longer the organ of Rôdô-kumiai Kiseikai; it literally became Katayama Sen's personal newspaper.   For a very short time thereafter, The Labor World appeared as the daily bulletin Naigai Shinpô (Foreign and Domestic News), but this soon folded, and then reappeared with frequent name changes and slight changes in character - Rôdô Sekai (The Labor World), Shakaishugi (Socialism), Tobei Zasshi (Crossing To America Magazine), Amerika (America), Tobei (Crossing To America) until 1908. From the end of 1903 to the beginning of 1906 Katayama was out of Japan and during that period lost his editorial control.   But in 1907 he founded the Shûkan Shakai Shinbun (Weekly Social Newspaper), which continued until 1911, so in effect, from the first issue of The Labor World, over a period of 15 years Katayama persisted with his activities in newspapers, through which he was able to to express his views.

What made it possible for Katayama personally to take on the considerable financial risks involved in running a newspaper was the fact that of the social campaigners of the Meiji period (1867-1912) he had arguably the greatest entrepreneurial flair.   His appearance was unkempt, and as a writer he lacked a fluid style, and was generally thought to be obstinate and awkward.   Certainly, those tendencies were evident in his character, but on the other hand, when it came to organization and management he could be very flexible.   He was no show-off, and without caring for appearances, he would adopt all kinds of suggestions, plans and proposals.   For example, to keep The Labor World in publication, he filled the front page of the newspaper with advertisements and kept The Labor World going by single-mindedly increasing the size of the advertisement columns.   To cover the costs of social campaigning and of his own household he set up numerous enterprises, starting with the Misakichô kindergarden, and his activities such as 'Public Lectures on the Need for More Secondary Schools', the 'Youth Club', 'Sunday Entertainments', the 'Workers' Educational Group', 'Evening Class Meetings' were not only social enterprises but also practical means of raising money to keep his Kingsley Hall going.   Besides these, he created groups such as the 'Conversation and Translation Study Circle', 'The Imperial Social Intercourse Society', 'International Stamps Sale and Exchange', Hissensha (Society of the Warriors of the Pen', a magazine for young writers, and the Tobei Kyôkai (Association for Travel to America); all these ventures brought in money.   As for 'The Imperial Social Intercourse Society', the name alone gives little clue as to what this group was for, but in fact it concerned itself with issues of mediation in the workplace, providing information to those going abroad, and helping children from the provinces acquire schooling.   The Tobei Kyôkai aimed to provide poor students with funds to study in the United States but this too began with the 'The Imperial Social Intercourse Society'.

The Labor World, with its entire front page filled with advertisements, Jan 1, 1901

Naturally, Katayama was unable to run all of these ventures entirely by himself; he employed no small number of people to run them.   For example, the No. 43 issue of The Labor World indicated the names of two staff members in relation to three of Katayama's ventures "Rôdô Shinbunsha" (The Labor Newpaper Company), Kingsley Hall, "Teikoku Kôjunsha" ('The Imperial Social Intercourse Society') and issued an 'emergency notice' that these two men had had no connection whatsoever with The Labor World after August. This likely had to do with the termination of the employment of staff members who had been involved with the placing of advertisements and the receipts of money.

Katayama not only employed people to run his enterprises, he actively sought out the assistance of people who could make up for his own weak spots.   For example, he himself acknowledged that other writers had contributed to over half of his own writings.   On returning to Japan, he soon published Eikoku kon'nichi no shakai (British Society Today) and Tetsudô Shinron (New Views on the Railways) one after the other, but for the former, he said he had "asked an old student [of his] to write up my ideas", while the latter "was written with the help of Mr. Uematsu Kôshô". As for the bestseller he took pride in - Guide to Travel in America (Tobei Annai), Katayama said that "I dictated it to a student - it took 4 or 5 days - and then I published it."

I would like to add here in this connection that the reason for the numerous errors in the book Nihon no Rôdô Undô (The Labor Movement in Japan) by Katayama Sen and Nishikawa Mitsujirô is due to the fact that Nishikawa, who lacked detailed knowledge of the activities of Kiseikai and the Ironworkers' Union, played the larger role in gathering information for the book.   Katayama's other books went out under Katayama's name only, even though others had contributed to their authorship, but the fact that this book was published under the names of both men indicates the weight of the sizeable contribution made by Nishikawa Mitsujirô.

Kingsley Hall, the Misakichô kindergarden, the Labor Newspaper Company

Finally, I would like to emphasize a point made earlier, namely, the significance of the fact that Katayama personally owned the Kingsley Hall.   Originally, this building had been constructed as the 'Head Office of Christian Social Enterprises' with the aid of funds from his Christian friends in America.   But when Katayama moved his focus onto the socialist movement, the building functioned as the 'head office of the Katayama faction of the socialist movement'.   When, as a result of police pressure and financial difficulties, even guaranteeing a site to hold meetings was a problem for the movement, the existence of the Kingsley Hall became a factor of no small significance.   It was not only the household of the Katayama family, but also a workers' educational center and a citizens' night school, in short, a center for labor education and socialist studies - a place that served to maintain Katayama's influence in the labor and socialist movements.

In its kindergarden, its English conversation school, its western cookery classes and in the flower arrangement and tea ceremony lessons organized by Katayama's wife, the Kingsley Hall also functioned as an institute which could manage enterprises that supported people's livelihoods and lifestyles. During the years of 'the winter period' under the rule of the Public Order and Police Law, what enabled Katayama Sen to maintain the social movement without yielding was not just his stubborn character and his faith in socialism.

The original book in Japanese
    This is the English translation of the book   Rôdô wa shinsei nari ketsugô wa seiryoku nari; Takano Fusatarô to sono jidai,(Iwanami Shoten Publishers, 2008.), The Chapter 13   Takano fusataro to Katayama Sen

Translated by Terry Boardman

   This file was last modified on:
November 30, 2014.

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