Guy A. Aldred Archive

Pioneers of Anti-Parliamentarism
Chapter 14
From Kotoku Correspondence

Written: 1940.
Source: PDF Scans from; OCR'ing and editing from
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source:; 2021

We do not believe in treasuring every word that a man writes, even though he enjoy and merit the repute of being a thinker. Consequently we do not propose to publish, in full, the letters sent by our Japanese comrade to Albert Johnson, the veteran Anarchist of California. The following excerpts tell the simple story of Kotoku's scholarship and earnestness in the cause of truth, even whilst jailed and under the doom of his coming execution.

Tokio, November 25, 1904: "I feel very happy to inform you that this picture (Peter Kropotkin) was reproduced from that which you sent me, and is published from Heimin Shimbun office, a Socialist weekly. I have been prosecuted on the charge of publishing a treasonable article and sentenced to five months' imprisonment. When this card is in your hands I will be in Sugano Prison of Tokio."

Tokio, December 30, 1904: "Both as a source of argument and reference, Mr. Ladd's work, 'Commentaries on Hebrew,' should be of great value for me, because I am an atheist or agnostic, and always fighting against the dogma of Christian and all other religions...

"As already informed, I was prosecuted by a barbarous government on the charge of inciting to the alteration of the Dynastic Institution, and sentenced to five months' imprisonment, but I soon appealed and second trial was postponed until January 6.

"Beside this I was sentenced on 20th inst. to a fine 80 yen, on the charge of translating and publishing Marx's 'Communist Manifesto.' What beautiful Japanese Government is! Is it not quite same to Russian despotism?"

Odawara, Japan, August 10, 1905: "Five months' imprisonment not a little injured my health, but it gave me many lessons of the social questions. I have seen and studied great many of so called 'criminals' and became convinced that the governmental institutions--court, law, prison--are only responsible for them--poverty and crime.

"Among the many books which I have read in the prison were Draper's 'Conflict Between Religion and Science,' Haeckel's 'The Riddle of the Universe,' Renan's 'Life of Jesus,' and so forth. Besides I repeated again two interesting books which you sent me--Mr. Ladd's 'Hebrew and Christian Mythology' and Mr. Kropotkin's 'Fields, Factories, and Workshops.' (By the way, Mrs. Ladd often mentions Buddha as a Chinese philosopher. It is true that the greater part of Chinese population is not Buddhist, but Buddha or Gautama is not Chinese. He was born in India. He is Hindu. Several centuries after the death of Buddha his religion was introduced into China.)

"Indeed, I had gone (to Sugana Prison) as a Marxian Socialist and returned as a radical Anarchist. To propagate Anarchism in this country, however, it means the death or lifelong, at least several years', imprisonment. Therefore, its movement must be entirely secret, and its progress and success will need long, long time and endurance."

Tokio, October 11, 1905: "our weekly is still suspended and our office has been compelled to dissolve ourselves owing to the barbarous persecution and financial difficulties.

"I'm now intending to organize the Japanese laborers in America. There is no other means to get freedom of speech and press than to quit the soil of the state of siege and go to a more civilized country."

Same date: "I have decided to start on the N.Y.K.'s ship, November 14th, for Seattle and San Francisco, with my nephew,"

San Francisco, May 29, 1906, 5 p.m.: "I cam here to-day (afternoon).... I will stay in Oakland till June 1st. On that day were are going to hold a meeting for the organization of Japanese Social Revolutionary Party at the Oakland Socialist headquarters."

(Kotoku's sojourn in America lasted only a few months. He organized the Japanese working-men on the coast and return to his native land to continue his propaganda work.)

Japan, December 18, 1906: "Dear old Friend and Comrade--The winter has come, the leaves have fallen. It is however, very find weather. The sky is blue, the sunlight warm. So I am very happy at my village home.

"My wife went to the law court to attend as a hearer to the trial of Comrade Osugi this morning. Comrade Osugi is a young Anarchist student and a best friend of mine ... now under trial on the charge of 'violence of the press law.' He translated an article title 'to the conscripts,' from a French Anarchist paper, and published it in Hikuri, Japanese Socialist paper. This anti-militaristic deed was prosecuted by the public officials. I am now anxious to hear the result of the trial. I think it will be probable the sentence of several months' imprisonment and the confiscation of printing machine. How good law and government are!

"The most comical fact of the results of the late war is the conciliation (or rather embrace) of Christianity with Buddhism and Shintoism. The history of Christianity in Japan was, until now a history of horrible persecutions. The Japanese diplomatists, however, earnestly desired to silence the rumors caused and spread in Europe during the war that 'Japan is a yellow peril' or Japan is a pagan country,' suddenly began to put on the mask of Western civilization, and eagerly welcome and protect, and use it as a means of introducing Japan to European and American powers as a civilized Christendom. On the other hand, Christian priests, taking advantage of the weakness of the government, got a great monetary aid from the State, and under its protection they are propagating in full vigor the Gospel of Patriotism. thus, Japanese Christianity, which was before the war the religion of poor, literally now changed within only two years to a great bourgeois religion and a machine of the State and militarism!

"The preparation for the Socialist daily is almost completed. I hope the daily will have a success. The Japanese Socialist Party consists, as you know, of many different elements. Social-Democrats, Social Revolutionists, and even Christian Socialists. So the daily would be a very strange paper.

"Most of our comrades are inclined to take the tactics of Parliamentarism rather than Syndicalism or Anarchism. But it is not because they are assuredly convinced which is true, but because of their ignorance of Anarchist Communism. Therefore, our most important work at present is the translation and publication of Anarchist and Free-though literature. I will do my best, and use our paper as an organ for the libertarian propaganda.

"In China, the rebellions and insurrections are spreading. The social and political conditions of China are just the same to that of Russia in the last century. I think China will be, within the coming ten years, a land of great rebellion and terrorism. A group of Chinese students in Tokio is becoming the center of Chinese Revolutionary movement."

Yugawara, Sagami, May 3, 1907: "During the last few months I was very busy, owing to the persecutions of the Government. Now that our daily has been suppressed and our many comrades have gone to prison, I have no work, no business, so I got leisure to write. I am now alone, at an inn in Yugawara, a famous watering place, one day's ride from Tokio. I came here to improve my health and am now translating a pamphlet, Arnold Roller's 'Social General Strike.'

"My book, in which are collected my essays on Anti-Militarism, Communism, and other Radicalism, has been prohibited and many copies seized by the Government, but the cunning publisher secretly sold 1,500 copies before the police came ....

'I am going to translate Kropotkin's works."

Tokio, May 28, 1907: "The case of 'Heimin Shimbun' was decided. The publisher and my editor were sentenced to imprisonment on the charge of publishing my speech.

"However, I, the speaker, was found not guilty. It is very fortunate, but strange.

"After the suppression of the daily, we have no organ. Few comrades are going to start a weekly, but they are devotees of Parliamentarism, so we cannot expect very much from it.

My mother came back from my native town and is living with us. She is sixty-seven years of age."

Japan, December 6, 1907: "Japanese Socialist movement was split at last to two parties--Social Democrats and Anarchist Communists, shall now produce many, many Direct-Actionists, Anti-Militarists, General Strikers, and even Terrorists."

Japan, February 3, 1908: "you will be alarmed to hear that Comrades Sakai, Osugi, and four other comrades were arrested on the eve of January 17th (Friday) in Tokio. I would have been arrested also had I been there.

"On the last summer we organized a group 'Kingo-Kwai' (meaning the Friday Association) and held meetings on every Friday. The police began soon to interfere, and the meetings were often dispersed without any explanation. On the eve of January 17 the meeting was dissolved and all attendants were dispersed. But when the police forced several comrades who remained there to have other conferences to go outdoors, they protested and a quarrel followed. The light went out. They struggled in the dark hall. The Comrade Sakai stood upon the roof of the house, from where he spoke brilliantly to the people on the street and severely attacked the police's violence. The police drew down Sakai, and other comrades stood in his place. So six comrades were at last taken forcibly by about thirty policemen to the police station. In vain, many crowds struggled to prevent their arrest

"They were soon prosecuted on the charge of violence of the 'peace act' and are now under the trial"

Japan, July 7, 1908: "You will be alarmed to hear that a wholesale arrest of Anarchists was made in Tokio.

"In carrying through the city two or three red flags on which the letters 'Anarchy' or 'Anarchist Communism' were written, fifteen or twenty of our comrades conflicted with sixty policemen who tried to seize the flags. After a severe struggle, fourteen comrades were arrested and thrown into prison. Among them are Comrade Sakai and four young girls. They are now under most barbarous treatment, it is said, and any interviews or communications with them are prohibited, so we cannot know what condition they are in. We are only waiting for the day when they will appear before the court."

Tokio, August 19, 1908: "I came back to Tokio again to prepare for the publication of our new organ. My health is better now. Comrade Sakai and thirteen other men and women are in prison."

Japan, April 11, 1910 (Last letter of Kotoku to Albert Johnson): "I was compelled by the political persecutions and financial difficulty to retreat into this Yugawara, Sagami, about seventy miles from Tokio. During the time I was in Tokio the policemen always followed me. All my business and movements were so illegally and cowardly interfered with by them that I became unable to get any livelihood.

"I came here three weeks ago. I am writing a book in which I mean to assert that Christ never existed, but was a myth; that the origin of Christianity is found in pagan mythology, and that most of the Bible is forgery. In writing this I owe much to Mr. Ladd's and A. Besant's books which you sent me.

"Received many daily papers in which the details of the great strike are published, and a copy of the Firebrand. I thank you very much for them. The Firebrand is a very good magazine I think.

"Miss Kanno is with me."

(Suga Kanno, friend of Kotoku, after his separation from his wife, Chiyo, on account of political differences. Madame Kotoku did not accept Denjiro Kotoku's Anarchist beliefs. She remained a parliamentary Socialist. Suga Kanno was martyred with him on January 24, 1911. Writing from prison to an American friend in San Francisco, she said: "I have lived for liberty and will die for liberty, for liberty is my life." She was the daughter of a member of the Japanese Parliament and went into exile for her principles.)