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Asia is speeding towards State Socialism.

Far East Contents

 By Gareth Jones,  
Bangkok, Siam, May 1935

Asia is speeding towards State Socialism.  Throughout the East the rulers are watching Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Roosevelt and they are trying to make the State all-powerful.  They wish to build factories and dig mines controlled by the State.  They are battling against private enterprise and are creating all-mighty Government machines to dominate economic life.  They are saying good-bye to the Nineteenth Century era of capitalism and opening the doors to State control, just as President Roosevelt is putting business under the watchful eye of the Government.  The countries of Asia are working out their New Deal. 

They are curious, these Eastern Rulers.  They drive the Communists with troops into the mountains and execute those whom they find.  They send secret police agents to worm into the plans of the Socialists.  They fill their cells with followers of Karl Marx.  They brand left wing thinkers as purveyors of “dangerous thoughts” and even put some to vile forms of torture.  Yet they adopt some of the very ideas whose champions they condemn to death. 

The ideas of Hitler varied with the ideas of Stalin are finding a fertile soil in the countries of Asia.  A fiery nationalism is wedded with Socialistic ideas.  Militarism rampant marches side by side with hatred of capitalism.  That is what I have found in travelling in Japan, Philippines, Java, Siam and even in old individualistic China.  Let me give text and word for this declaration that Asia is speeding towards State Socialism. 

Beneath the surface in Japan there is going on a fierce strugg1e against the big bankers.   The hatred of the ordinary Japanese for the financiers is much greater than the American Westerner’s loathing for Wall Street.  The Army in Japan is frankly an enemy of the capita1istic interests and wants the State to be all-powerful.  There are thousands of young officers who curse the commercial spirit of the big businessman and who say that lust for money is ruining the country.   They condemn such vast concerns as the Mitsuis and the Mitsubishis (who are the Rockefellers and the Mellons and the J. P. Morgans of Nippon) and say “down with capitalism! Down with profit making!”  There is the same spirit of antagonism to capitalism in Japan as there is among to followers of Upton Sinclair, of Huey Long, of Father Coughlin and of the La Follettes.  The difference lies, however, in this, that in America the anti-capitalists are the unemployed and the impoverished midd1e class, whereas in Japan they are the Army, virile, powerful, self satisfying, burning with nationalist passion and willing to die for the Emperor 

While the Japanese hunt down the Socialists, therefore, they have many radical ideas and the soldiers are proud of these radical ideas.  They have a dream of a Japan where industry will be run by the State and where inequality of wealth will disappear.  They want the new State, Manchukuo, to be the field where they will experiment.  Watch Manchukuo, therefore, it is going to be the greatest State Socialistic country after Soviet Russia.  The soldiers there are determined that their new territory which once belonged to China, shall not be the happy hunting ground of private capitalists, but shall be developed along State Socialistic methods.  Already there is a State railway, the South Manchuria Railway, with steelworks and factories and coalmines. There is a State monopoly in oil which makes Standard Oil and Shell furious.  There is a State monopoly in opium which is doing a vast business and the salt is a State business.  Who knows?  Perhaps before long North China will be that strange political creature, State Socialistic Empire under Emperor Kang Te, and Peking may be the capital of an Imperial Socialism or, if you like, a Socialist Imperialism. 

If we move from Japan to the Philippines we will see there in the new Commonwealth the germs of a State Socialistic Dictatorship.  Read the Constitution and there you find that the Philippines will be able to adopt Socialism gradually.  It puts vast powers into the hands of the Government.  t can confiscate land by paying compensation.  It declares that the land and the mines belong to the State.  It foresees a period when the State will run industry.  It makes it possible for the Government to take factories and mines out of private businessmen’s and be run by the State.  It claims a. right over the gold and the chromium, the iron ore and the whole wealth of the Philippines.  It fights against large estates and limits the holding of newly acquired land to something over a one thousand hectare.  Before we know it the Philippines will have become a country where the Government rules business. 

Let us go to the Dutch East Indies and we see there a few germs of State Socialism.  Although the Communists have been crushed and their leaders banished to far-off islands, where their only audiences are the cocoanut trees, which may sway and nod but can do little else.  The Government is trying to get a grip over business life.  No new enterprise can be set up without the permission of the Governor General.  Goods must be imported through certain importers only.  Private capitalism, however, still reigns supreme in the Dutch East Indies, where Royal Dutch Shell, the rival of Standard Oil, is powerful with its rich oil fields in Borneo. 

Our next country is Siam.  No one would expect to find that this land of Buddhist Priests in their yellow robes, of white elephants which are no more white than the waters of the Mississippi in flood, and of rites thousands of years old, would have ideas of Socialism.  It is only three years since Siam (like England in the middle Ages) was an absolute Kingdom where the Kings ruled over the life and death of each of her ten million subjects; where gorgeous robes, dazzling golden thrones and brilliant royal umbrellas made Bangkok, the Capitol, the most fantastically g1ittoring City in the world, and where a few hundred Princes dominated the country.  Who would link Socialism with the simple country folk of Siam, who believe in the spirits of trees and of flowers and. of mountains? Yet listen to what one of the great politicians of Siam clad in brilliant blue satin robes, told me: “We are moving towards a moderate type of State Socialism.  We do not want State ownership but we want State control of industry.  One reason why we want state control is to prevent out industrial life being dominated by the Japanese and the Chinese.” 

The Siamese want with the help of the State to push forward the building of industry. Just as every nation in Asia now wants to buy less from America and Europe and produce all themselves.  The Siamese want to see smoke stacks and factory walls rearing proudly above the shacks of Bangkok. 

From Siam I travelled to China, the most individualist of countries, where all are for the family and none are for the State, where the Government is so corrupt and changeable that the idea of state control seems ludicrous.  Even in China, however, I found that State Socialism was attracting the minds of some rulers.  In the stubborn South the Cantonese leaders are playing with ideas of setting up State factories.  They hope that State will produce all that the people need and they have already a cement monopoly.  But to quote a foreign observer: “They are taxing the people so much in order to set up State industries that the people will have no money to buy the products of the State Socia1istic factories.” 

These attempts will probably fail in China.  The politicians are too beset by the vices of putting the State’s money into their own pockets, of placing their families in the best positions and of failing to create order.  They will regard State factories as a wonderful means of making money, before they retire to live in opulence under the protection of the British in Hong Kong or guarded by foreign bayonets in Shanghai. 

In every country I have visited in the Far East the rulers are toying with a nationalistic, militaristic State control.  Will the twentieth century see a Socialistic Asia, which will be able by its industry and discipline to conquer the Markets of Europe and America?


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