Risen Against Gravity


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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

SCAP --- Post-war recovery of Japan immediately after WW2

What the heck... don't think I can finish this long essay in half an hour..

oh well...


Japan’s post world war 2 situation did not look promising. Most of her major cities lay in ruins. About 30 % of her industrial capacity, 80% of her shipping capacity and 30% of her thermal power were destroyed. Industrial production was only 10% of pre-war levels. Territories were all lost. There were food shortages and inflation. However, the Japanese accepted the presence of foreign troops as people are urged by the government to gracefully accept defeat.

Allied forces were to remain in Japan for 6.5 years from August 1945 to April 1952. General Douglas MacArthur was promoted to become the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). The aims were to help Japan recover from war, as well as the demilitarization and democratization of Japan, converting its wartime economy to peacetime economy. From 1948, this included strengthening Japan’s economy. The creation of SCAP and the aims reflected USA’s concerns about the growth of communism in China and Europe. The costs of helping Japan amassed US$400 million by 1947.

Major political changes were made. During the pre-war, there was a deep reverence for the emperor since ancient times. In theory, he was seen as divine and ruled Japan. In reality he just accepted advice of ministers and had little influence over policy making. As part of westernization, a Diet or parliament was created. Members were chosen by the emperor, and thus, not democratic. However, the Diet’s power was limited and Japan continued to be ruled by officials and the old ruling class. The military also had lots of power. After the post war, Japanese had surrendered, asking only that Emperor Hirohito be allowed to retain his title and authority. Allies accepted this on condition that he takes orders from the SCAP. Under constitution, the Emperor had to renounce his divine status and also had no power over the government and could only act in matters of state on the advice and approval of the Diet.

The Diet became the highest organ and the cabinet of the state. It consisted of the Upper and Lower Houses, with the Upper House having 150 members voted on 6 year terms and the Lower House having 457 members voted on 4 year terms.

The Prime Minister and his cabinet were drawn from the Diet. All of them had to be civilians and not militarists. Cabinet followed the British modal and was responsible to the Diet. Both Houses had to be fully elected to prevent perpetuation of the old ruling class. Different political parties were also encouraged so that different views could be expressed.

Under the new constitution, the Judiciary was made independent. Governors of prefectures were made elective. Local governments were democratized and given more power. Japan was required to renounce the use of force and war, leading to its demilitarization. The Japanese Empire was dismantled, with 7 million Japanese troops and civilians brought back from mainland. Armed forces were disbanded, weapon stocks destroyed. This includes the seizure of private arms. All activities with militarist overtone were banned. War industries were restricted. The 25 war leaders including Tojo were tried by an international tribunal. 7, including Tojo were executed. Others were imprisoned. 200000 former military officers and high officials in government were purged and were forbidden to enter into the government again. As a result, new men were brought in and also made democratic reforms easier.

Economic changes were also carried out. Land reforms, which aimed to breakup landownership monopolies held by the Zaibutsu as well as strengthen economic and social positions of the middle class. The Zaibutsu were powerful families with huge business combines and controlled 80% of Japan’s business. 1946, land commissions were setup by SCAP to select land for buying and resale to tenant-farmers. Resident landlords have to sell part of their land to the government, cultivating the remaining piece of land. Absentee landlords (landlords who don’t live on their land) had to sell it to the government. SCAP gave technological advice and financial help. Farm size was also limited to prevent concentration. As a result, tenancy decreased, dropping from 46% in 1946 to 10% in 1950. Standards of living in countryside increased.

Zaibutsu were broken up, destroying over-concentration of power. Families were removed from ownership, control and position. Shares were confiscated and sold to middle income families. SCAP tried to break up the combines into smaller companies and introduced business fairplay by setting up the Fair Trade Commission, issuing regulations to prevent monopolies. However, when SCAP left, many Zaibutsu firms had reunited. Thus, the measures to destroy these zaibutsu were ineffective. Japan’s political leaders were closely linked to the Zaibutsu. USA did not understand the nature of Japanese capitalism. In the end, in 1948, the Zaibutsu were allowed to reform.

Trade Unions were set up to strengthen democratic forces as well as bring about a more equal distribution of wealth. Law was passed in 1945 to guarantee workers the right to organize strikes and engage in collective bargaining. In 1946, a grievance procedure for settling labour disputes was setup. 1947, a Labour law, which sets a standard for worker’s safety, working hours, sanitation standards, accident compensation and also the restriction on women and child labour. Thus, workers acquired protection and rights that were used to be denied to them. Number of union and union members also increased. However, unions soon became pro-communist, with some being dominated by communist leaders. So, in 1947, Unions received a setback when SCAP intervened to prevent a strike. SCAP allowed the Japanese government to restrict employees of state-owned companies from striking. In 1949, a Trade Union law was passed to ensure democratic control and prevent a possible takeover by the more aggressive Communists.


hmmm... I must really think of a way to shorten this....

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