894.00/931: Telegram

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

606. 1. Fleisher’s interview with Matsuoka, part of which was telephoned to New York this morning for the Sunday issue of the New York Herald Tribune, came about in the following manner. Without appointment Fleisher called at the private residence of Matsuoka and was told that no interview could be given prior to his taking office. When informed, however, that according to custom no interviews could be given to local correspondents individually after he had taken office, Matsuoka talked to Fleisher for over an hour although some 15 Japanese were waiting to see the former.

2. After discussing Japanese-American relations and placing the responsibility for adjusting those relations on the United States which must abandon the idea of preserving the status quo in a rapidly changing world if relations are to be improved, Matsuoka talked along the following lines “for background” not for attribution.

3. In the battle between democracy and totalitarianism the latter adversary will without question win and will control the world. The era of democracy is finished and the democratic system bankrupt. There is not room in the world for two different systems or for two different economies. The one must yield to the other and totalitarianism will achieve universal control. The talk of helping Japan with money and credits is a fallacy owing to the difference in systems and economics. What will come after totalitarianism, which will probably last for several centuries, we don’t know but totalitarianism will unquestionably win now.

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4. Matsuoka said that he saw the present war coming 6 years ago. He began preaching a single party system for Japan but was a voice crying in the wilderness and people thought him crazy. Now the political parties in Japan are clamoring to have Konoye establish a single system. Not months but years will be needed to weld Japan into a totalitarian state, but Japanese totalitarianism will be unlike the European brand. It is contrary to the Japanese character to be coerced into adopting an idea. Concentration camps would be futile. The people would fight back. Fascism will develop in Japan through the people’s will. It will come out of love for the Emperor but the people cannot be forced. It is because of the special system in Japan with the Emperor at the head that the Japanese state is better adapted than any other state to unify the nation in Fascism. The public demand for a single party system shows that the time is ripe.

5. It is clear from the circumstances of the interview that it was impromptu and not planned and that this revealing of Matsuoka’s mind and philosophy is significant. Fleisher drew the impression that Matsuoka is more intensely pro-Axis than any other Japanese with whom he has talked. It nevertheless remains to be seen whether he will be disposed toward finding a reasonable basis for improving relations with the United States. I hope to send a more comprehensive analysis of Matsuoka’s attitude and outlook by next pouch.25

  1. For the Ambassador’s memorandum of conversation on July 26 with the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, see Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, Vol. ii, p. 104.