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Asian Anarchism

1. Introduction

The first two chapters highlight the characteristics of Asian anarchism that made it a vibrant and compelling tendency of thought and activism in the beginning of the twentieth century.

In Chapter 2 we explore a distinctly anarchist sensibility that found expression through a loose web of independent periodicals, written by students across China in the 1920s. While their press runs were generally very brief, the efflorescence of such texts nevertheless points to a deep resonance of anarchism in the Chinese social context. This essay is an investigation into how and why anarchist ideas were voiced in these periodicals, followed by a discussion of the social and political significance of the anarchist movement to China's twentieth-century.

China experienced a tide of anarchist activity in the May Fourth era, which ran from the end of the first world war to the middle of the next decade. Particularly in the early part of the 1920s, many young people were so inspired by anarchist political critiques and cultural and social insights that they began publishing their own radical journals. Although many of these publications lasted only an issue or two and their content was largely derivative of existing writings, they proliferated in the universities and large cities across China. Many of these publications are lost, frustrating the few attempts to document them. These journals form part of the story of anarchism's development in China and demonstrate its relevance to modern China. They tell us much about what aspects of anarchism were most attractive in China and to what extent anarchism influenced China's political climate in spite of the growing Communist hegemony of the period's politics.

Chapter 3 continues with the story of Atarashiki mura in Japan. This historical investigation sketches the contours of the historical period that is the background for the New Village Movement while telling the story of the Movement itself. It describes how the Movement functioned, considers its intellectual roots, and elaborates on what this means for the historical study of utopian politics and interwar Japan.

The last two chapters are explorations in analytical history, examining why the anarchist movement in Asia began to wane, and treat the tendency as a historical phenomenon that was only limited in its appeal.

Chapter 4 analyzes the reception of the communalism in China in the context of the powerful currents that contributed to and shaped it: the New Village Movement, anarchism, and Communism.

Chapter 5 investigates how anti-terrorism discourse materialized in the repression of left-wing dissidents in the case of so-called "Taisho Democracy" in Japan in the 1920s. By now a famous example of government suppression pursued in the wake of a national disaster, the Japanese government severely curtailed civic freedoms and actively persecuted anarchists, communists, and ethnic minorities during a period of martial law instituted following the devastating earthquake in the Kanto region in 1923. Making full use of this opportunity for the unrestrained use of state force, the military and patriotic vigilantes massacred thousands, including the most famous anarchist of the time, Osugi Sakae, his partner, Ito Noe, and his 6 year old nephew. Subsequently, this brutal precedent was formalized in the infamous Peace Preservation Law of 1925, which stated that any threat to extant political institutions would be illegal, and subversives would be rounded up and punished. As a reaction against the perceived threat of world revolution, this law outlawed the advocacy of communist land reform, targeting Japanese socialists specifically. I contend that "Taisho Democracy", which was an attempt to liberalize the Japanese political system, maintained itself only at the expense of increasingly repressive policies. The militarization of the state and society which occurred throughout the 1920s was followed by rabid nationalism and imperialist expansion in the 30s, resulting in Japan's role in the Axis tripartite in the Second World War. The history of Japanese totalitarianism in the 1940s is perhaps familiar; I hope to shed light on its historical development in the anti-terrorism discourse of the 1920s.

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