Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


Kiyoshi Kiyosawa’s Popular Front Theory

Toshiaki, SAKUMA

(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, School of Cultural and Social Studies,
Department of Japanese History)

Key words:

Kiyoshi Kiyosawa, awareness of fascism, the Popular Front Theory, parliamentary democracy, liberalism

The objective of this paper is to present a new analysis of Kiyoshi Kiyosawa’s Popular Front Theory and, furthermore, to propose reinvestigation of the liberal thought that was at its base.

After the February 26 Incident (ni-niroku jiken, 1936), Kiyosawa felt that the military and bureaucracy, which were becoming reckless as political powers, were cooperating to tighten control of citizens. He hoped this would be opposed through parliamentary power, mainly that of the established political parties (the Rikken Seiyuukai [Friends of Constitutional Government] and the Rikken Minseito [Constitutional Democratic Party]).

Kiyosawa’s Popular Front Theory was proposed due to this type of awareness of those times. Kiyosawa’s antifascist Popular Front Theory used the slogan “The Imperial Constitution equals the protection and defense of parliamentaryism,“ and with a core of parliamentary power centered on established political parties, he aimed for widespread mobilization of citizens.

It should be appreciated that Kiyosawa bravely asserted antifascism to protect parliamentary democracy and freedom of speech as the fascist offensive strengthened after the February 26 Incident.

However, Kiyosawa’s Popular Front Theory was not a flexible argument that had the solidarity of established political parties in view. It was a proposal for a popular front that had established political parties at its core. It follows that the infrastructure and labor unions of the Shakai Taishuto (Socialist Masses Party), the solidarity of citizens and laborers, and links with intellectuals and citizens were not included in its ideological range, and no concrete method or tactics were indicated. Unfortunately, it cannot be said that Kiyosawa understood the spirit of a popular front.

This fact may lead to the reverse illumination of the “liberalism as a frame of mind” that was at the base of Kiyosawa’s popular front theory. If Kiyosawa’s liberal thought had been “collaborative liberalism” (Shunsuke Tsurumi), then even if, for example, there were problems with the leadership and policy of the Shakai Taishutou, collaboration with local leaders and laborers who were trying to create regional anti-fascism movements could have been aimed for.

Perhaps we need to reconsider the reality and depth of the “frame of mind” and “collaboration” that are considered to be characteristic of Kiyosawa’s liberal thought.