Ikki Kita

In this Japanese name, the family name is Kita.

Kita Ikki (北 一輝 Kita Ikki?) (3 April 1883 - 19 August 1937) was a Japanese author, intellectual and political philosopher who was active in early Shōwa period Japan.


Born on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, Kita Ikki’s real name was Kita Terujirō (北 輝次郎). He audited lectures at Waseda University in Tokyo, and while a student was attracted to socialist ideas, meeting with many influential figures in the early socialist movement in Japan. This movement was, however, full of 'opportunist' and other statist currents (from the ideas of Abe Iso through Yano Fumio's 'Shin shakai' [or 'New Society', a Utopian novel that is claimed to be socialist] to even the waverings of Katayama Sen, who wobbled over who he wished to win the Russo-Japanese War, plumping at times for an opportunist stance: in short, for the Japanese state to win it. The 'Shakai seisaku gakkai' or Japanese social policy school followed very much their authoritarian and statist Bismarckian and von Schmollerian German forebears in arguing for as well as being very practical in their implementation of extending state controls from above, including the social insurance policies that were adopted by Bismarck to nip in the bud any further expansion in the mass revolutionary socialist party in the Germany of the late 19th century).


The socialism that Kita espoused in his early period was a statist brand of socialism (or right-wing Romantic anti-capitalism) that had nothing in common with any Marxian notions of 'socialism from below' (as analysed by, for example, Hal Draper, who contrasts this current to its opposite, 'socialism from above'; however, the well-respected Japanese labour historian Stephen Large also employs this conceptual couplet of 'socialism from above and from below' in an important book on the inter-war Japanese socialist movement; John Crump's stirling research on the origins of Japanese socialism would also lend support to this in spirit, for he essentially argues that, in any sense of breaking with capitalist socio-economic and political relations, none of the early Japanese socialists of the late Meiji period consistently did this in their theory or in their practice).

Kita was also attracted to the cause of the Chinese Revolution of 1911, and became a member of the Tongmenghui (United League) led by Song Jiaoren. He traveled to China to assist in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty.

However, Kita was also interested in the radical right wing and thus he was likely influenced very early on by Uchida Ryohei, disciple of Toyama Mitsuru, and the right-wing ultra-nationalist current in the form of the Kokuryukai (Amur River Association/Black Dragon Society), which was founded in 1901. This ultra-right-wing current has a history traceable back to the Genyosha (Deep Ocean Society/Genkai Straits Society) of 1881, which was founded by Tōyama Mitsuru. Tōyama, with many contacts in the Japanese establishment over a period of fully half a century, in turn claimed to be the rightful successor to Saigo Takamori, who pushed for Japanese expansion to the Asian mainland in the early Meiji era (note the arguments over 'Seikanron' in respect of Korea that 'the great Saigō' was intent on pursuing, even offering to go to Korea as a kind of sacrificial lamb to the slaughter if it would prompt war with what was only a rather feeble and weak 'hermit nation').

Indeed, Kita - a holder of views from almost a decade earlier that were already remarkably similar on Russia and Korea to those espoused by the Kokuryukai - was sent by that organisation as a special member, who would write for them from China and send reports on the ongoing situation at the time of the 1911 Xinhai revolution. In his book on Kita, George Wilson tries to play down or de-emphasise all such matters, but taken together with the bellicose and aggressive early essays that Kita had written when barely out of his teens - all of which were entirely unknown to Wilson who published his work in the late 1960s - these facts clearly tell us something very significant about the nature of Kita's wide-ranging intellectual and political allegiances, yet very specifically about the many ultra-nationalist influences on him. Or if not influences, then at least his clear ultra-nationalist propensities.

The ultra-nationalist Uchida Ryohei had written a highly inflammatory anti-Russian book in 1901 called Roshiya bokoku ron (On Decaying Russia). Research is currently underway to uncover whether Kita had read this work. However, it would seem from Kita's inflammatory article called 'Tut-tut, those who oppose the war [with Russia]' that he had a lot in common with Uchida on the Russian question (as well as little time for 'those idiots' who opposed the Russo-Japanese war) and thus, linked to that, a lot in common with Uchida on the questions of Japanese expansion into Korea, Manchuria and Mongolia. In addition, Kita's first book, the Kokutairon book (the one purportedly on 'pure socialism'), was banned upon publication. Some have argued from this to assert that Kita must have been deemed a radical threat from the left to the government. However, the case of Uchida's book can be cited in this context. His anti-Russian diatribe was also subjected to a ban upon its appearance five years prior to Kita's own suppression by the highly authoritarian Meiji state. The government had a predilection for banning books irrespective of whether they stemmed from the right or from the left of the political spectrum.

It can be argued from a reading of these thinkers' two early works that they were both of the right in the positions they adopt in their books. These two ideologues of the Japanese radical right wing did not enter the stage from the left.[citation needed]

By the time Kita returned to Japan in 1919, he had become very disillusioned with the Chinese Revolution and the strategies offered by it for the changes he envisioned. He joined Okawa Shumei and others to form the Yuzonsha, an ultranationalist organization, and devoted his time to writing and political activism. He gradually became the leading theorist and philosopher of the right-wing movement in pre-World War II Japan.

State socialism

Kita first outlined his philosophy of state socialism in his book The Theory of Japan's National Polity and Pure Socialism (国体論及び純正社会主義 Kokutairon oyobi Junsei Shakaishugi?), published in 1906, where he criticizes Marxism and a working class-oriented socialism as outdated and instead relies on an exposition of evolutionary theory that owes much to Social Darwinism (Kita explicitly states in this book that Mencius is the Plato of the East and that Plato is to be preferred to Marx, both of which chime with the state socialism/Confucianism from above concept, but also with the state authoritarianism that Karl Popper objected to in Volume One of his Open Society and Its Enemies). Kita's second book is entitled A Private History of the Chinese Revolution (Shina Kakumei Gaishi).


His ultra-nationalism appeared in various articles he penned from 1903 to 1906, while he was still based on Sado. It reappeared in his last major book on politics An Outline Plan for the Reorganization of Japan (日本改造法案大綱 Nihon Kaizō Hōan Taikō?), first published in 1919, and republished in 1923. The common theme to his first and last political works is the notion of a national polity (Kokutai), through which Japan would lead a united and free Asia (pan-Asianism). Under his later plan, a military coup d'état would usher in a more or less totalitarian regime based on direct rule by a strong and powerful leader such as the Emperor, who would suspend the Constitution, and radically reorganize the Diet to be free of 'malign influence'. The new ‘National Reorganization Diet’ would nationalize certain strategic industries, impose rather minimal limits on individual wealth and private property, enact a land reform to benefit the farmers and thus strengthen Japan to enable it to liberate Asia from Western imperialism.

Historians argue about what Kita's political stance was. Taken at face value, he appears to have created a hybrid of fascism, state socialism or 'socialism from above', agrarianism and militarism. Although his writings call for Japan to liberate Asia, he also calls for Japan to embark on overseas expansion due to increasing population pressures.

"Japan's population has doubled in 50 years, and if expansion continues at this pace we will have to feed at least 250 million people a century from now on, which means that we will be forced to acquire more territory."

This blend of seemingly opposing philosophies and contradictory goals (masking a deeper consistency from the time of his early articles: he calls for Japanese expansion to Korea and Manchuria, as well as for militant war with Russia and Britain, whom he dubs 'landlord nations', with Japan a so-called 'proletarian nation') was reflected in various forms throughout early Shōwa period Japan. This eclectic blend is one of the reasons why Kita has been hard to understand. Some have argued that this is one of the reasons why it is next to impossible for historians to agree on Kita’s political stance, though Nik Howard takes the view that Kita's ideas are actually highly consistent ideologically throughout his career, with relatively small shifts in response to the changing reality he faced at any given time.

Arrest and execution

Kita’s last book (the Outline Plan) exerted a major influence on the Japanese military, especially the Imperial Japanese Army factions who participated in the failed coup of 1936 (the February 26 Incident). After the February 26 Incident, Kita was arrested by the Kempeitai for complicity, tried by a closed military court, and executed.


See also

  • Sadao Araki
  • Seigo Nakano
  • Shōwa Restoration
  • Japanese nationalism
  • Japanese literature

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