On the Fascistization of Bourgeois Writers

On the Fascistization of Bourgeois Writers

ブルジョア作家のファッショ化に就て
(Burujoa sakka no fasshoka ni tsuite)

by MIYAMOTO Yuriko (宮本百合子)
Originally appeared in Jiji Shinpō (時事新報), January 1932.

1.

In the January issue of “Central Review” (中央公論 Chūōkōron), not one proletarian novel was put in its proper place. With the exception of Central Review, bourgeois journalism has boycotted the majority of proletarian literature. But the true state of affairs cannot be ascertained from this alone. Because the January issue of “Proletarian Literature” (the Japan Proletarian Authors Alliance’s bulletin) sold six or seven thousand issues not long after it hit news stands.

With regard to the fact that Central Review has purposefully released a January issue without even one proletarian literature story, the questions of what is class culture and what importance does opposition have are clearly shown to be of the deepest importance.

Before discussing the rise of fascism in the literary world, the reason I speak of bourgeois journalism is that, as even Nakamura Murao understands, for many years now the so-called literary world itself has been moved within journalism. To be even clearer, the literary world, originally a special culturally-independent nation, has not existed for some time now. Natsume Soseki was a celebrated Japanese author, as well as part of the bourgeois intelligentsia. ——Which is to say, each writer is tied to their class by their own umbilical cord. And accordingly if the class to which we are connected controls journalism as a cultural propaganda tool, it is only natural that the authors and writers, big and small, who depend on that control will defer to it. If bourgeois journalism is fascistized, then bourgeois writers will be fascistized. This correlation is not one that can be broken. And yet, the fascistization of bourgeois writers does not appear in a simple form. Just as the strategy and tactics of bourgeois journalism are infinite, the reactionaryism of bourgeois writers is also infinite.

The bourgeois popular literary luminary Naoki Sanjugo, who has just had a polemic called “Declaration of Fascism” published in the Yomiuri, and Mikami Otokichi have been given the title of the heads of grassroots fascism. This is a rather interesting affair. Naoki Sanjugo, in a typically stubborn way, shows anger with the middle-class intelligentsia, who point to fascistization as well as humanitarian crises but do not clearly align themselves with the left or the right, proclaiming: “I find nothing terrifying in this world. And I’ll show you by becoming a fascist.” And though it may be the basis of Naoki’s rather pedestrian view on life, as might be expected from a thinking man, he shows a faint understanding of fascism’s temporary nature by shrewdly setting a one year time frame for his own fascistization. Naoki and Inukai Takeru‘s attitudes have in common flashes of cleverness and a fundamental foolishness.

When Inukai Takeru wrote for White Birch, he was a humanist. Nonetheless, as he grew, he came to see the flaws of humanism. That he knew that a half-baked humanism is useless when it comes down to brass tacks is part of Inukai Takeru’s foolishness, but putting his humanism behind him to become his father’s secretary and then take his place in the Seiyuukai is the embodiment of the bourgeois ideology, which is limited in scope, and of his conclusive confession of his class status. Naoki is the same. It’s all well and good to go so far as to grind your teeth at the attitude of the unorganized intelligentsia who hesitate to define themselves as being on the left or right but make no practical effort, but the bourgeois thinking man has lapsed into his cleverness, and along with the Naoki-esque discussion of scientific purpose embodied in his “Diary of Youthful Behavior”, while stamping off in all directions he has marched into the fascist camp.

It is particularly interesting that when he said, “I’ll become anything, anything at all,” he did not become a communist but a fascist instead. Indeed, he could not have become anything, anything at all; he could only have become a fascist. But when this kind of conman declares that he’s a fixed-term fascist, people have to laugh.

2.

When I read Naoki Sanjugo’s declaration, I remembered a story from long ago.

A yokel met a goblin on a terrible mountain path. The goblin had finally escaped from the realm of the beaked goblins. He had a great red nose and eyes like burning torches. The goblin had been watching the yokel.

“Oi, insect. Prepare to meet your fate! Mmm… I can’t wait to eat you.”

The yokel was shaking in his light yellow work trousers, but he managed to say this:

“Oh, y-you, you must be a goblin. The goblins I’ve heard about in stories must have been like you, then. I’ve heard ever since I can remember that if you meet a goblin you’ll be torn limb from limb and eaten. A-and there’s nowhere to escape in these here mountains. I know I’m going to die. But even a yokel like me has one last wish. Will you not hear it?”

“Oh, what the hell, make it quick,” said the goblin, generously.

“In the stories, they say goblins are really flexible creatures. Since I’m going to be eaten anyway, I want to see whether you are really a goblin or not before I die.”

“That’s easy. Tell me what you want. Whatever it is, I’ll do it,” the goblin said and laughed loudly.

The yokel bowed. What he requested was:

“I’d like to see you turn into a cedar, larger than any of the cedars on this mountain.”

At once the goblin turned into a giant cedar, towering over the yokel. He patted the goblin cedar’s trunk again and again in wonder.

“Wow, ‘at ‘ere really is great. I can die happy now I’ve seen such a sight.”

“So, was that enough for you?” said the goblin cedar, sounding self-satisfied.

The yokel asked the goblin if he would turn into a very, very big stone next.

Finally the yokel said to the goblin, “From your shadow, I’ve seen you become the largest of the large, what I always wanted to see. My last request is just that you would turn into something very small. If you would turn into a single poppy seed that I could hold in the palm of my hand, I could die with no regrets.”

The goblin, contempt on his face, said, “All right. I’ll turn into whatever you want,” and turned into a tiny poppy seed in the palm of the yokel’s hand. Taking joy in the fact that he was a human himself, the yokel put the poppy seed in his mouth, gnashed it between his teeth, and the next day, shat it out.

Perhaps Naoki Sanjugo has never heard this story?

3.

Additionally, as a form of fascistization of bourgeois writers, seemingly, there are a lot of people who have begun to write liberal (or perhaps revisionary) works and are clearly on the path to fascism. For example, while Makino Shinichi’s Zeron and some of Kawabata Yasunari’s works, etc., on the surface show an escape from an individualist reality, they personally shield their eyes from the realities of class conflict which pop up like fireworks these days, simultaneously cutting the readers off from a scientific world view and perfectly playing the role of fascism’s crutch. Gunji Jiromasa has clearly proved that his own pen is the military’s pen; when Literary Struggle‘s (文芸戦線 Bungei sensen) Satomura Kinzou became correspondent for Renovation (改造 Kaizou) serving as the military affairs reporter, he wrote up “The Heroic Tale of Second Lieutenant Sakamoto” without any class-based criticism about it whatsoever, eloquently showing that the Social  Democratic Party and the Labor-Farmer Party, just as much as the democrats, are nothing other than servants of the bourgeoisie. Just as clear as these examples are, fascism in culture and the arts are definitely all tied up together on one side of a boundary line, but the other side of that line is no pretty picture either. Take a look at a magazine or a newspaper, or perhaps even listen to a conversation in a coffee shop—the will of the masses who have chosen to crush fascism and its pervasive influence includes opposition.

In the arts, the struggle against fascism must actually be fought in the most everyday, detailed way, and that struggle can only lead to the proper development of proletarian literature.  This means the establishment of a world proletarian journalism. The Japanese Proletarian Culture Alliance’s publishing house has an important class duty to carry this out.

Each proletarian cultural organization, each particular branch, is determined to accumulate knowledge about proletarian cultural tactics. We are beginning in earnest mass cultural activities with the correct meaning behind them. But in fairness, the writer’s association’s struggle against fascism has had a tendency to be rather slow off the block. Aside from “Fascism” by Tokunaga which is being released this month, no outstanding works which represent the artistic struggle against fascism have yet appeared. A fascist just might think, “Hmph, what’s that?” upon observing this phenomenon.

However these days the writer’s league is working at a fast pace and the acceptance of the cultural demand to reflect the lives of the struggling masses of today has led club activities and literary magazines to be invigorated.

We must acknowledge this, without fear of our own slowness to act or our inexperience in tactical matters. Because in our case, to acknowledge one imperfection is to overcome that imperfection.

Because the bourgeois economic mechanism has at its heart inconsistencies which cannot be removed no matter what, bourgeois culture is simply on a downward spiral.

Unlike the bourgeois ideology which fails to recognize fallacies as fallacies, the proletarian world view which is capable of scientifically dissecting and criticizing the bourgeois ideology, as well as engaging in strict self-criticism, has the correct dialectical basis.

And unlike fascism, however much it may triumph, the establishment of a proletarian literature is a task which has been assigned to us all.

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