The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

No. 3380

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a memorandum20 entitled “Mobilization in Japan”, prepared by Mr. Max W. Schmidt, Third Secretary of the Embassy.

[Page 608]

The memorandum deals with a movement now in process the importance of which is daily becoming more manifest. The word mobilization has been used in relation to this movement only for lack of a term which would be concisely descriptive of conscious effort, under the control of a central directorate, to rationalize and integrate all aspects of national activity. All nations, including even those which firmly rest on democratic principles, are today alive to the impossibility of conducting a major war without coordination of national resources, and as brought out in the memorandum, practically every nation has today some plan for coordinating its industrial, economic and financial resources to be put into effect in the event of war. The plan now being put into effect by Japan, however, is not intended to be merely for the duration of the hostilities with China: it is being instituted at this time for the reason that Japan, perhaps more than any other important Power, would be unable to conduct a major war without drastic coordination and control of resources; but the trend toward national mobilization had set in before the hostilities began. The memorandum makes entirely clear the ultimate objectives of those promoting and developing this movement, and if they are to have their way—and no competent observer will hazard the definite prediction that they will not—a change out of all recognition of the economic and industrial systems may be expected. Indications of an alteration in fact in the political structure are also present: the political parties are completely impotent and there is much talk—and much confusion—about the setting up of a national party.

These far-reaching changes have naturally given rise to the definite conclusion, especially abroad, that Japan is evolving into a totalitarian state. There is nowadays a too-common habit of placing political movements into carefully divided categories and of attaching to each movement some familiar and currently used designation. As drastic as are the changes to be carried out under national mobilization, we do not believe that there will emerge a state which in its superficial aspects and in many of its functional aspects, will be on all fours with Germany and Italy. It is unlikely that the national polity will be altered or that there will be material revision of the organic laws of the several branches of the Government. Nor do we think it likely that a personal dictatorship would be tolerated. We envisage rather a retention and strengthening of the Emperor cult, and unification of the various elements which now rule the country, perhaps eventually taking form in an organization by which the masses and all forms of national activity will be regimented, coordinated and integrated. What is evolving is totalitarianism, if one insists on using that term, but it will be totalitarianism sui generis.

I have complimented Mr. Schmidt on this memorandum, which is based largely on source material, there being available nothing on the [Page 609] subject in any foreign language and surprisingly little by way of interpretation and commentary in Japanese. By dint of application and industry Mr. Schmidt has laid down the basis of further and continued study of an important movement the end of which is not in view.

Respectfully yours,

Joseph C. Grew
  1. Not printed.